adrift on a cosmic ocean

Writings on various topics (mostly technical) from Oliver Hookins and Angela Collins. We have lived in Berlin since 2009, have two kids, and have far too little time to really justify having a blog.

  • What's Missing From Online Javascript Courses
    Posted by Oliver on the 6th of December, 2016 in category Tech
    Perhaps the title is somewhat excessive, but it expresses how I feel about this particular topic. I'm not a "front-end person" (whatever that is) and feel much more comfortable behind an API where you don't have to worry about design, markup, logic, styling as well as how to put them all together. That being said, I feel it's an area where I should face my fears head-on, and so I'm doing some…
  • Now using a Let's Encrypt certificate
    Posted by Oliver on the 29th of October, 2016 in category Tech
    Last week I got a notification from StartSSL that my site certificate was going to expire in a couple of weeks. Since recently there has been some news (I guess you can check the Wikipedia entry for exact details) that suggests StartSSL is in some danger of no longer being trusted by major browsers, I decided to finally get around to moving to Let's Encrypt for my certificates. When the…
  • Adding Meaning to Code
    Posted by Oliver on the 24th of August, 2016 in category Tech
    This is the product of only about 5 minutes worth of thought, so take it with a grain of salt. When it comes to how to write maintainable, understandable code, there are as many opinions out there as there are developers. Personally I favour simple, understandable, even "boring" method bodies that don't try to be flashy or use fancy language features. Method and class names should clearly signal…
  • Thoughts on creating an engineering Tech Radar
    Posted by Oliver on the 12th of August, 2016 in category Tech
    Perhaps you are familiar with the ThoughtWorks Tech Radar - I really like it as a useful summary of global technology trends and what I should be looking at familiarising myself with. Even the stuff on the "hold" list (such as Scaled Agile Framework - sometimes anti-patterns are equally useful to understand and appreciate). There's a degree of satisfaction in seeing your favourite technology…
  • Easing back into fitness
    Posted by Oliver on the 1st of June, 2016 in category Health
    It has been about 7 months since the birth of my daughter and I think that's about long enough to let myself sit idle due to child rearing. Certainly as the father, I don't have that many excuses as to why I can't become physically active again, and I actually miss running and taking part in the various crazy obstacle races. So, I've resolved to get myself back into shape (without being too…
  • Catching Up
    Posted by Oliver on the 21st of May, 2016 in category Thoughts
    I haven't posted anything for quite some time (which I feel a little bad about), so this is something of a randomly-themed catch-up post. According to my LinkedIn profile I've been doing this engineering management thing for about two years, which at least provides some explanation for a relative lack of technical-oriented blog posts. Of course in that time I have certainly not revoked my Github…
  • Pre-warming Memcache for fun and profit
    Posted by Oliver on the 12th of August, 2015 in category Tech
    One of the services my team runs in AWS makes good use of Memcached (via the ElastiCache product). I say "good" use as we manage to achieve a hit rate of something like 98% most of the time, although now I realise that it comes at a significant cost - when this cache is removed, it takes a significant toll on the application. Unlike other applications that traditionally cache the results of…
  • Running and energy gels
    Posted by Oliver on the 10th of August, 2015 in category Health
    I've been taking part in longer-distance events of various kinds (running, obstacle racing, cycling and most distantly kayaking) for quite some time now and have had various nutritional techniques over the years and for the different events. Something that has been more of a staple for me personally in cycling and running is energy gels, and if you've used them yourself you'll know that they can…
  • It's 2015, and online shopping sites still suck at taking credit card details
    Posted by Oliver on the 15th of June, 2015 in category Tech
    This is a small rant, and the title should already be very familiar to you, if you have paid for anything online in the last 15 or so years. Nothing (or very little) seems to have changed in that time, remarkably. We still seem to be affected by the same range of ridiculously trivial problems - all easily solvable with a tiny amount of Javascript, mind you - and not making any further progress in…
  • It's 2015, and I'm still writing config management commands wrapped in for loops.
    Posted by Oliver on the 10th of April, 2015 in category Tech
    Warning: this is a bit of a rant. Today my team had to migrate our ElasticSearch cluster from one set of instances in our EC2 VPC, to a smaller set of physical machines in our regular datacenter (yes, it's actually cheaper). Both sets of machines/instances are Chef-controlled, which generally I don't have to worry about, but in this case it was important due to the ordering of steps in the…
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