Last Updated: January 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...

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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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"Why can't I find you on Twitter?"

Those accounts have been deleted too! Anyone claiming to be me on Twitter is also an imposter.

I did use the site for a while (January 2009 to November 2017) and was happy with the number of followers I accrued. However I had grown to dislike the way the site's algorithms seemed to be geared towards making me angry all the time and I was fed up with having to tip-toe around random angry egg profiles and spam-bots. The mobile app's constant prompts for attention and weird non-chronological shuffling of tweets in my news stream didn't help either.

The last straw for me was when Twitter responded to criticism that it doesn't apply its own rules consistently by supplying two contradictory explanations for it and then adding more rules they probably won't apply consistently either. Given the well-documented consequences of their past negligence I didn't feel this was good enough.

I do miss some of the awesome people I connected with and the platform Twitter afforded me. However, regardless of Mastodon's success or failure I have no interest in returning to that site.

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"Okay... 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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"Is there anything else you're boycotting?"

I no longer consume meat, fish or animal products. That started in November 2017 with a month-long Vegan challenge. I'm quite proud that I got through my first vegan Christmas without any problems.

Visiting the USA any time soon also seems unlikely. I've heard a lot of horror stories about how "welcoming" their border agents can be, so I doubt I'll be planning any holidays there! (If I ever get sent over by my employer I definitely won't be bringing any personal electronic devices with me).

There are also certain companies I avoid because of their shady business practices or the poor customer service I've experienced from them in the past. I'm not going to "name and shame" them all publicly on this web page though.

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"Are you still a 'Linux' guy?"

Yes, absolutely! The majority of my home computers run Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, or a variant of it like Trisquel or Lubuntu.

For my day job I develop Java middleware that runs on GNU/Linux boxes in the cloud. After work I tinker with old computers and Raspberry Pis (among other things, like writing for Linux Format magazine and hosting my own Ghost blog).

In November 2017 I also joined the Free Software Foundation as an associate member. It seemed about time, given I've spent over a decade benefiting from free software and open source technologies!

Finally, when it comes to smartphones I'm running Android 7.0 on an old Umidigi Max (although I mostly use F-Droid and am very selective about which apps I install). I expect to replace this device with a Purism Librem 5 some time in early 2019.

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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.

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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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What will you do when Ubuntu ditches Unity?

As mentioned before I normally stick to LTS (long term support) versions of Ubuntu. The reason I was happy to use Unity as a desktop environment is because I'm not a fan of Gnome Shell. In fact, whenever I've spent any time using Gnome 3 I often revert to fallback mode to make it less annoying.

After trying out a few different options I think I will be shifting over to MATE on most of my machines later this year as it seems the best fit for me and the way I work.

My laptop will be getting a fresh install of Ubuntu MATE 18.04 LTS around May 2018, and once Trisquel 8 is ready my Dell desktop will be upgraded too.

The PC I'm still thinking about is the gaming rig under my TV that acts like a Steam machine. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS will still be supported with maintenance upgrades for the next few years and thanks to big picture mode there's no real reason for me to upgrade it just for a new desktop. I will probably just leave it "as-is" until I start having trouble running games I've paid for.

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"Have you considered KDE?"

Not seriously, no. I'm tempted to try it out in a virtual machine just to see what's going on with version 5.x, but that's as far as my curiosity extends.

Last time I tried to use KDE full-time was a pretty hellish experience. 4.x looked very pretty but was all kinds of buggy!

I definitely enjoy developing cross-platform applications with the Qt framework though. I'm glad the end result doesn't look out-of-place on modern GTK-based desktops.

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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.

Since December 2017 I've been using GNU IceCat (a fully-free fork of Mozilla Firefox) as my primary web browser.

I use ABrowser (also a fork of Mozilla Firefox) on boxes running Trisquel.

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"What's your favourite programming language?"

Pascal! But no one uses that anymore. It makes me sad...

While VB.NET was the first language I ever learned it was C++ that convinced me to become a computer programmer. This is why I'm excited about doing more stuff with Qt & C++ in my side-projects.

I guess I also have to say Java and C# too. Writing enterprise middleware systems with those languages and their related tools has turned out to be my primary "meal ticket".

When it comes to web development I'm one of those strange people that likes PHP. It has been a while since I dabbled with it though, so I probably need to spend some time getting to know Laravel a little better.

Finally I really like how easy it is to pick up Python and just start hacking things together with it. I'd recommend it to any new programmers interested in trying it because they will get something useful running and start debugging it before their enthusiasm starts to wane.

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Which fancy new languages do you like?

So, to list the current "flavour of the month" languages the technology industry is getting excited about at the moment: Scala, Kotlin, NodeJS, Go & Rust.

I think Scala will carve out a niche for enterprise microservices, AI and big data analysis. I doubt it will usurp Java as a general purpose language, but it's worth learning.

I like the idea behind Kotlin, but it's definitely geared towards Android app development. The problem is there are so many mobile app development platforms already and the interesting stuff is happening in the cloud now, so I think it could have a limited shelf-life.

While it might be mixed into some Java codebases in coming years (in the same way Groovy has been because of Grails apps) I don't think it'll ever replace Java. Instead I believe the good ideas Kotlin brings to the table will be incorporated into future versions of Java in coming years.

NodeJS deserves its popularity, but I'm skeptical about the fact it's tied to Chrome's JavaScript engine and sometimes needs more than one package manager to pull in dependencies. I also question the wisdom of making a client-side language run server-side, but it seems to be working well for this blog!

I really like Go as a language. It's got a shallow learning curve, a decent-enough garbage collector, offers really nice shortcuts for C programmers and makes concurrency operations much easier. I hope it starts to see some wider adoption across IDEs and development tools.

Rust on the other hand is the one language I'd like to see fired into the sun! It's often pushed by its evangelists as "a replacement for C++" (I've heard that one before!), there's a surprisingly high learning curve and the language designers seem to be working on the assumption that programmers are idiots that need protecting from themselves. I also suspect the oft-cited speed improvements in Firefox Quantum mostly emerged as a result of replacing legacy code, not Mozilla's arbitrary decision to use this language.

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"How do you get your email?"

At work I have to use Outlook (boo!) but 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.

It's always one of the first pieces of software I setup on a fresh Ubuntu install, and I'm genuinely interested to know why they chose to start pre-installing Mozilla Thunderbird instead. It's not better!

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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 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 whitelist that site or not.

Finally I'm working on a Gopher version of this blog. I'll add a link to it in this answer once that particular joke project ready.

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