Spa Classic 2015 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

My father and I have been to many a racing event including Le Mans, Silverstone, Nürburgring, Mondello Park and the Isle of Man to name but a few.

We’d never been to Spa, but this year that changed: we went to the 2015 Spa Classic in his 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL.

We watched numerous classes, ranging from Minis and Cortinas to historic Le Mans winners. The atmosphere was relaxed and the public were allowed to go pretty much anywhere, so we also got up close and personal with a number of the cars as they were being prepared – and some later repaired – by their respective teams.

A highlight of the visit was being able to take the car for a few laps around the circuit. Although the 1972 CSL was fast for its day, clearly it wasn’t going to be much competition for new Porsches and Vipers...

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The 4 Good Things

The BBC’s Future Media department promotes the use of four key principles across its engineering teams, known as “The 4 Good Things”.

The interpretation of these principles tends to vary a little across each team, but generally speaking they provide a consistent approach to software development across a number of different projects, platforms and languages.

Here are those four principles along with my personal interpretations.

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Why Visit Dolgellau is written in English (and not Welsh)

Around once a month or so I receive an email or a message on Facebook asking me why Visit Dolgellau is written in English and not Welsh. It’s a tourist-focused website that I set up last year to promote my home town and the surrounding area.

Some seem to think that it’s an Assembly-backed website (which I take as a compliment, given the website’s humble background!) and are curious as to why it isn’t bilingual as a matter of course like the others. But others are clearly nationalists who simply hate anything that isn’t Welsh and this post is intended for them.

1) The role of Visit Dolgellau is to promote Dolgellau and the wider area as a tourist destination. In general, people who visit Wales tend not to be Welsh (because Welsh people already live here).

2) The website’s analytics da...

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Visit Dolgellau

Although I live in Manchester now, originally I’m from a little town in Wales called Dolgellau. Dolgellau is a market town in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, and is set in the southern part of
the Snowdonia National Park at the foot of the Cadair Idris mountain range. It’s a beautiful place – a fact that is only made all the more apparent now that I live in a city – and whenever I show anyone any photos I am always told how lucky I was to have grown up with such surroundings.

Back in 2004, a graphic designer colleague and I were asked by the Partnership – a guild of local businesses basically – to develop a website for the town. We enthusiastically accepted the challenge but soon discovered that politics and conflicting ideas within the Partnership made any kind of progress extremely difficult...

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The Pied Piper of JavaScript

For a couple of years now, JavaScript has been encroaching into territory traditionally held by Flash. At the BBC’s TVMP department, news of set top boxes making the switch to JavaScript seems to be an almost daily occurrence as manufacturers fall over themselves to jump onto the JavaScript bandwagon for alleged “faster development” and the mythical “build once, deploy everywhere” utopian ideal.

I’ve witnessed the repetition of such claims myself. “We’ll be switching this product to JavaScript in the near future because – obviously – it’s faster” a product owner once said, followed by the nodding heads and murmurs of agreement of other non-developers.

The reality for those of us who have not succumbed to the merry tune of the JavaScript Pied Piper’s flute is that “build once, deploy e...

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Anthony Humphreys vs. Trespass Swift 200 pop-up tent

Over the weekend I was at the Silverstone Classic event with my father and his close friend Anthony Humphreys. The three of us often go to events like this: we’ve attended events in Ireland, the Isle of Man and even France.

For this event, Anthony had purchased a Trespass 200: a new wonder-tent that he proudly proclaimed could erect itself in seconds which would allow him to sit back with a beer while we were still putting ours up. And that’s pretty much what happened. Two days later though when it was time to go home, it was a very different story.

I had watched videos of people struggling with pop-up tents on YouTube some months before and was quietly confident that Anthony was going to experience the same difficulty...

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The Halo Framework (AS2)

Before work on the BBC Events application could begin, a framework was required that would provide the team with a foundation on which to build a robust, memory-efficient app that could be re-skinned for future events.

I completed the majority of the work in an intensive 3 days which allowed the rest of the team to begin work on the app itself. Embellishments were applied over the remainder of the week.

The core framework is designed around the BBC’s One Service UI which is a drive to use a consistent UX across all current and future products.

It allows for efficient use of specialised components which are created and destroyed at runtime based on what the application requires to render each feed...

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The Xenon Embedded Media Player

At the end of November last year the BBC launched the Connected Red Button service on Virgin TiVo, along with updated versions of the iPlayer, News and Sport apps. This package also consisted of a fifth release: an application that is both integral and vital to each of the above apps, yet few are even aware of its existence!

Xenon is a brand new embedded media player that was developed specifically for AS2 embedded devices such as Virgin’s TiVo, to be used by applications like iPlayer, News, Sport and any other such applications that the BBC develops in future.

The development of a new player was actually driven by Connected Red Button...

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Review: SoftPerfect Connection Emulator

Company: SoftPerfect
Product: Connection Emulator
Price: From $149.00

While working on the BBC Sports app for Virgin TiVo, it would be safe to say that I encountered more problems than one would expect to on such a project. Some of them seemed to be bugs in Adobe’s StageCraft (Flash Lite 3.1), others seemed to be inconsistencies in the implementation of the Flash player on the box and still others came from unexpected content delivery network behaviour. As a result there were a number of feature-related tasks that turned out to be more difficult to implement than they perhaps should have been, and as a team we spent a number of days in total investigating causes of unexpected and/or undesirable behaviour in the app that resulted from these issues.

Still, this post isn’t about reflecting on...

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BBC Sport app launches on connected TVs and Virgin TiVo

Just over four months have passed now since I started contracting at the BBC – four months that have flown by like days!

Today the primary purpose of my contract was released into the wild: the BBC Sports F1 application for Virgin TiVo. The public release of this application means that I am finally allowed to talk about it which is a great relief because not being able to talk about such an exciting project was really quite difficult!

The application enables users to watch all the BBC’s interactive coverage for major sporting events such as Formula One, Wimbledon, Euro 2012 and London 2012 with live streams, on-demand video and other additional content.

More information can be found on the BBC’s internet blog.

Finally, if a picture is worth a thousand words then a video must be worth a tho...

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