Last Updated: August 2018



"Who are you?"

I'm a British computer programmer in his late 20s that's probably best-known for writing tutorials in Linux Format magazine and winning a fancy prize from the Royal Television Society. You can see more about my career to date on LinkedIn.

I originally started this blog in 2007 as an assignment for a sixth form college module. It's gone through various incarnations and still continues to this day.

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"What do you sound like?"

In case you ever wondered... here's my voice in ogg and mp3 formats.

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"Why can't I friend you on Facebook?"

See this blog post. In short, I disagree with their business practices and don't enjoy using it.

I went through two accounts between February 2008 and July 2017 but I no longer have one. Anyone claiming to be me on that site therefore is an imposter.

If you want an incentive to stop using Facebook yourself, here's a great article about how the company is abusing you for profit and ruining online journalism in the process.

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"Can I find you on Twitter?"

Yes, but I use it only for limited purposes. My handle is @bobstechsite.

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"Should I join Mastodon?"

Yes! Check out this awesome guide from @[email protected] containing good advice for beginners.

If you like it, keep an eye out for the Qt client I'm planning to write for it called "Mastodome". The latest details at the time I wrote this FAQs page are on this blog post.

What excites me about this particular social network is that from the ground up it discourages "gamification", mass broadcasts, outrage culture, spam bots and one central authority chasing profits being able to decide which rules count for which accounts. It also encourages people to see more than just a feed of accounts they follow and helps everyone be their more authentic selves.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect. I think there needs to be a way for people to migrate their account between servers and a way to retrieve your account if a mod bans you. But the principle of a federated network built on free software is a good one, and it's fast developing its own rival community and identity.

If you find this site interesting, you can follow me via @[email protected].

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"Do you use Skype, Google Hangouts or WhatsApp?"

I used to use Skype, but no longer. Richard Stallman makes a good case for why we shouldn't be using it, but the main turn-offs for me were its half-hearted support for GNU/Linux and the fact it forces you to have a Microsoft account. (This shouldn't be confused with "Skype for Enterprise", which is really a re-branded version of Lync. I use this on company-owned machines if my employer requires me to)

As for Google Hangouts, it sounds like it might be on the way out anyway. But I also don't like the idea of forcing people to create a Google account just to talk to me.

I would love to use Signal and Telegram for E2E encrypted text messaging, but both have flaws and lack enough critical mass to be useful. I reluctantly use WhatsApp but I'm keeping an eye out for something better.

I also use Discord for gaming chat and catching up with old friends, despite it being an electron app and having an annoying tendency of tracking system activity.

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"Are you still a 'Linux' guy?"

Yes, absolutely! I've spent many years using LTS versions of Ubuntu, but started distrohopping after switching to 18.04 LTS and not getting along with it. I now use Debian 9.

I document Oracle Linux and the tools it runs as my day job. After work I tinker with old computers and Raspberry Pis (among other things, like occasionally writing for Linux Format magazine and hosting my own Ghost blog).

Finally, when it comes to smartphones I'm running Android 7.0 on a 2017 model Samsung Galaxy A5.

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"When did you start using GNU/Linux?"

My initial contact with this operating system was running a live copy of Mandriva 2005 from a cover disc stuck to the front of a magazine called Personal Computer World. The teen-aged me ran the live CD on the family desktop to tinker and experiment, but I don't remember doing anything productive with it.

The first version of GNU/Linux I was brave enough to commit to hard disk as part of a dual-boot setup was Ubuntu 7.04 "Feisty Fawn" in July 2007. This mostly happened because the good laptop my parents bought me to celebrate the GCSE results I'd just achieved wouldn't run Vista Home Basic properly.

The first distro I installed in a solo-boot configuration was Ubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon". I played games on an XBOX 360 console and did VB.NET programming on the Windows XP desktops in my sixth form college, so it wasn't a problem for me to use it as my main OS at home. My only complaint at the time was the fact I had to uninstall pulseaudio and hack the alsa driver to get my laptop's soundcard to work, but I think that was fixed (for me at least!) in 8.04 "Hardy Heron".

Around 2009-2012 I remember jumping between Ubuntu and Fedora as my main distro of choice. I also vaguely remember tinkering with OpenSUSE and Mint for a while in 2013. However for the last 5 years I've largely stuck to using the long term support versions of Ubuntu for native installs. Now I'm on Debian!

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"Wait... you don't use Arch or Gentoo?"

Nope, although I do know how to! In fact, I've written about them before for Linux Format magazine.

Mostly I'd say it's a combination of laziness and a lack of patience. I don't want to have to define my entire system up-front or spend more time maintaining the operating environment every time there's an update than actually doing productive work.

If you use either of those systems and love them then that's fantastic. But I'd rather just install Ubuntu (or similar) as a base system and customise it as I go.

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"Vim or Emacs?"


I should stress though that I'm not particularly partisan about this. I was pretty much forced to learn how to use it at work because it's the de facto standard tool now when you SSH into a server or VPS to edit config files.

There's no shame in using Nano or gedit. If they work for you then keep using them!

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"Which web browser do you use?"

Around 2005 I started using Mozilla Firefox, and aside from the occasional blip where I spent some time with Opera I've largely stuck with it.

When my trust was shaken in them in December 2017 I spent some time with GNU IceCat (a fully-free fork of Mozilla Firefox).

I have also been known to use the Tor browser at times too.

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"What's your favourite programming language?"

  • Python for producing quick and dirty scripts. It's also a great starting language for newbies, and I also like using it for prototyping UI applications before I write the core logic in something else.
  • Java because writing web-based middleware and API microservices with it was my meal ticket for five years. If you know Java you'll never be out of work as a programmer because it's the lingua franca of the industry.
  • C++ because it strikes the right balance between developer control and OOP principles. I also recommend it to newcomers who want to learn how to use a debugger, manage memory competently or sharpen their syntax discipline as the build tools and natively-compiled applications don't forgive sloppiness. You can also write great cross-platform "signals and slots" MVC applications thanks to the Qt framework.

I've used C# and Ruby too in the past but I haven't had much cause to use either of them recently, other than to maintain other peoples' code. I also miss using PHP, but the web development community seems to have moved on from that now.

This blog runs on NodeJS, so I've had to learn the basics to hack the custom template I use for this site. Go is also a language I'm interested in learning when I find the time.

Languages I dislike are Scala because you need a mathematics degree to use it properly and Rust because it's kind of obnoxious towards developers trying to use it. I'm also not a fan of JavaScript because it's a complete mess! JQuery is doing its part to fix some of the problems I have with it, but client-side JavaScript is used for so many bad purposes nowadays it's probably safer to just block it from ever running.

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"How do you get your email?"

At home I use Evolution mail.

In fact, this is probably the longest standing technology choice I've made. I started using Evolution in 2007 when I first began using GNU/Linux and have continued to do so since. Although judging by the way the community has shifted I may eventually have to switch to Thunderbird instead.

My mail is currently stored with Mailfence, which is a very cool Belgian webmail service with a focus on privacy and encryption.

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"Are there any easter eggs on this website?"


I bought for an obscene amount of money off a domain squatter a few years ago. Thankfully the other extensions for this vanity domain were a lot cheaper to acquire, and they all redirect to this Ghost blog.

Also for the 10 year anniversary of this blog I produced a modern remake of the 2007 site and made it available via for a brief time in 2017. If you're not a fan of client-side JavaScript and AJAX requests, here's the code for you to review before deciding whether to try out that site or not.

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