I've been writing code professionally since college, and was writing about writing code even before that. Rather than writing about writing about writing code, it seemed easier just to collect everything I'd written into one place. This is that place. Or rather, it will be. If you're looking for the blurb that began "Sean has worked in most areas of the IT industry …" it's now in the about section.

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

May 21, 2017 03:30 PM

Like most things in life, the state of contemporary society is mirrored by Batman's choice of car stereo.

In the carefree days of the sixties, the Batmobile was an open-topped vehicle, proudly displaying its in-car entertainment:

Smiling authority figures would make light of someone making off with your motor …

… let alone entertain the notion of a Breton topped ne'er-do-well filling his swag bag with a factory-fitted Motorola.

Two decades later, the world has become a dark and untrusting place. There's no such thing as society, and physical measures are the only way to ensure you won't come back to find a smashed quarterlight and your Blaupunkt off down the boozer.

Yup, by the end of the eighties, even the Batmobile can't be left in a public place without deploying armoured shielding …

… while mere mortals have to make do with quick-release HiFi, lugging 5lbs of LCD-tuned auto-reverse technology to and from the car like a high-tech handbag.

But, by 1992, Batman returns with a dashboard user interface containing four buttons beside a display device …

… coinciding perfectly with the appearance of security coded radios in Josephine Public's dashboard,

... ( Where does he get those wonderful toys?)

Serving Suggestion.

March 6, 2014 11:09 PM

9½ years ago I rudely forced Shim to write a Flash front end to my insane multi-threaded high performance (1000 moves per second, 15,000 simultaneous users) web-based game engine.

Sadly, two days ago, the machine that provided the connection between Shim's client and my server was switched off - forever.

Fortunately, back in the mists of time, Shim had made two excellent decisions:

Firstly, although the spec required the server address be hard-wired into the client, he made it sneakily overridable by a config string (handy for debugging).

Secondly, he didn't put a limit on the size of the tag we used to identify sessions. When we built the system, my server tracked sessions with a GUID; nowadays we've all got a bit more bandwidth - so why not just send the session itself?

So - 9½ years later - with absolutely no changes to Shim's code - we were able to quietly switch out the back end.

Obviously, I had to rudely trick m'colleague Martyn into doing all the hard work necessary to completely change the way the engine worked - so as of today it's no longer running on a single server hidden in the back of a broom cupboard, but rather it's

... ( Serving Suggestion.)

Dish of the day

December 22, 2013 10:12 PM

Microsoft's best-kept secret has just impressed the hell out of me yet again.

For the last seven years I've been using Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) for all my telly and telly-recording needs. Back in 2006 I bought a USB remote control, stole a USB Freeview dongle from Jim, and plugged them both into a hand-me-down PC.

It all worked brilliantly until the recent high winds reconfigured my receiving apparatus:

Rather than muck about with ladders in tornado season, I decided to do away with the aerial. I swapped the Freeview tuner for a FreeSat version and plugged it into a Sky minidish I'd rescued from a skip.

It's been twenty years since I installed a satellite dish; back then you either needed to peer through a window to see the signal strength on a telly, or have an accomplice yelling directions as you waggled the LNB back and forth.

With MCE, all I needed was a phone and a broom.

Since my satellite receiver is a PC, it can share its screen anywhere - including mobile devices - so I could watch the signal strength in one hand while whacking the dish with a broom handle from the comfort

... ( Dish of the day)

The Persistence of Memory

March 13, 2011 04:55 PM

Some time in the last century, a neighbour asked whether I'd be able to help out the owner of a local independent video rental shop - whose computer "wouldn't turn on".

The machine itself was unremarkable - an IBM PC clone, running DOS. Or rather, it would have been running DOS if it could see its hard drive, which it couldn't. Suspecting a loose cable, I popped the cover to take a peek at the 3.5" full height drive. Rodime; 20Mbytes; ST506 interface - exactly the same make and model as my own system at the time.

My personal drive dated back to my student days - bought at a local computer auction, I'd assumed that's why on very cold days it would need to have its platter manually rotated before it would spin up.

The shopkeeper had no idea what I was talking about when I explained this. Nor any idea what backups were, whether he'd ever had any, and could I just make it work please because he couldn't run his business without it.

This is the point where it's sensible simply to offer one's condolences, and move on. So, naturally, I set about removing the drive from the PC and pointing

... ( The Persistence of Memory)

Wiki wiki wah wah

June 9, 2010 11:28 PM

Spurred into action by a painful afternoon watching a client cope with html markup in much the same way that a fish copes with being on the deck of a trawler, I tracked down Text::MediawikiFormat, slipped it into my MovableType text formatter module, and dropped it in the plugins directory.

With the addition of quick-and-easy post-processor to tidy up the output (so £ encodes as £ links link and images img), formatting content is now rather more manageable.

For posterity, here's the extreme subset of Wikimedia markup I used to test the code …

You can italicize text by putting 2 apostrophes on each side.

3 apostrophes will embolden the text.

5 apostrophes will embolden and italicize the text.

(Using 4 apostrophes doesn't do anything special -- the last pair are just 'left over ones' that are included as part of the text.)

... ( Wiki wiki wah wah)

Accentuate the negative.

December 15, 2006 07:23 PM

Yoz suggested that I get "Multi_Key" working on Windows, as a much faster/more usable alternative to symbol pickers and Alt+random-number-bounce.

Problem is, accented keymapping is completely broken on PCs.

There's been a compose key feature in Windows since NT 3.51, and some apps - e.g. Xara Studio, Memento - use it correctly:

ctrl-colon o -> o umlaut

ctrl-comma c -> c cedilla

ctrl-caret e -> a circumflex

But, nnggggh, the compose key assumes you have a US keyboard:

ctrl-doublequotes n -> eñe

So, if you have a UK keyboard, it's:

ctrl-at n -> eñe

Meanwhile, if you *do* have a UK keyboard, then there are no less than five ways of getting an e-acute:

ctrl-alt-e (but not in Word or Outlook - you get a Euro sign. Works in Excel, Outlook Express and everything else)

alt-gr-e (works in almost everything, including explorer, but excluding command.com)

ctrl-# e (compose key - only in sensible apps - e.g. not notepad, Outlook or Outlook Express)

alt-0-2-3-3 (works in almost everything except command.com)

alt-1-3-0 (Doesn't work in Xara Studio, works in everything else including command.com)

So, nice as it would be to implement a compose key, I think there's very little chance of it actually making things any simpler!

... ( Accentuate the negative.)

A sad day for comedy.

October 5, 2005 01:37 PM

On the South bank of the Seine stands the La Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner before her death.

Across the water, to the North, is the last Renaissance fountain in Paris - La Fountaine des Innocents, sculpted by Jean Goujon.

In 1792, access to the old quay connecting the two locations was closed. The sign posted remains to this day, observing that one couldn't be in La Conciergerie and Innocent at the same time:


Over the years the phrase became corrupted, which is of course how we got the old English saying ...

'ave your cake and eat it.

RIP Ronnie Barker, 1929-2005.

... ( A sad day for comedy.)

The Whole Shebang ...

April 26, 2004 05:01 PM

The phrase I was actually looking for was The Whole Enchilada - but the article sat around so long as a title with no content, I thought I'd keep it here for sentimental reasons (and for Google).

( The Whole Shebang ...)

Darkness Won't Engulf My Head ...

April 26, 2004 05:01 PM

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Donec vitae enim. Suspendisse sollicitudin erat vel neque tristique consectetuer. Donec ut nunc et orci tristique condimentum. Sed sollicitudin, lectus at dictum mollis, enim tortor tincidunt lacus, quis fringilla metus justo vitae elit. Curabitur nec magna non ipsum dapibus dictum. Aliquam pulvinar eros non elit. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Duis venenatis venenatis libero. Fusce bibendum. Fusce vitae turpis sed leo placerat tincidunt. Maecenas fermentum. Fusce eu metus eu elit hendrerit facilisis.

... ( Darkness Won't Engulf My Head ...)

Explain to me again how gas bills may be used to predict intelligent life ...

August 26, 2003 10:27 AM

From my gas bill:

Total gas used: 9 Units = 284 kWh

We convert your units to kilowatt hours in the following way:

gas units used x imperial to metric conversion factor [2.83] truncated to one decimal place x volume conversion factor [1.022640] x calorific factor [39.4] divided by kilowatt hour conversion factor [3.6] = kilowatt hours used.

Anyone else reminded of the Drake Equation?

... ( Explain to me again how gas bills may be used to predict intelligent life ...)

Can't see the wood for the EPEs ....

June 2, 2003 02:00 PM

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Donec vitae enim. Suspendisse sollicitudin erat vel neque tristique consectetuer. Donec ut nunc et orci tristique condimentum. Sed sollicitudin, lectus at dictum mollis, enim tortor tincidunt lacus, quis fringilla metus justo vitae elit. Curabitur nec magna non ipsum dapibus dictum. Aliquam pulvinar eros non elit. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Duis venenatis venenatis libero. Fusce bibendum. Fusce vitae turpis sed leo placerat tincidunt. Maecenas fermentum. Fusce eu metus eu elit hendrerit facilisis.

... ( Can't see the wood for the EPEs ....)

Rosabeth Moss Kanter: "Rules for Stifling Innovation"

July 10, 2002 10:34 AM

I came across a photocopy of Rosabeth Moss Kanter's "Rules for Stifling Innovation" that had been doing the rounds at Xara eons ago. It was surprisingly hard to find it on the interweb, so thought I'd quote it here.

From The Change Masters: Corporate Entrepreneurs at Work US edition and UK Edition.

( Rosabeth Moss Kanter: "Rules for Stifling Innovation")

There is manual over-ride switch in the bathroom.

July 24, 2001 01:47 AM

(With apologies to Yoz).

I am in Birmingham, in a room on the sixth floor of the City Inn Hotel, and there is manual over-ride switch in the bathroom.

No, really. A shiny silver Grohe shower control, with calibrated temperature and pressure controls. Clearly shamed by Eddie Izzard's safe-cracking routine, the designer has done the unthinkable. The shower actually works.

Turning both dials fully anti-clockwise gives a nice warm 40ºC jet strong enough to make people with pretty decent domestic plumbing feel at home.

And that's when you use the manual over-ride.

Remember the sequence in "Roxanne" where the fire crew are lifted off the ground by the hose? Release the safety catch, set the Grohe on full pressure and you can make the whole stainless-steel showerhead and its metal-clad tube hover at waist-height like a landspeeder. Honestly!

And if you hanker after the showers James Bond endlessly took in the novels (or you're a fan of saunas) depress the over-ride switch on the other dial, steam yourself silly, and then crank back it to the other extreme for the complete 007 experience.

It's very refreshing, when a week hardly goes by without one of us sending an "OFFS" email, to find something that actually works. Properly.


... ( There is manual over-ride switch in the bathroom.)

"I hear you singing in the wires -- I can hear you through the whine"

August 24, 1999 07:25 PM

Sometimes you have tunes in your head for no reason, and sometimes they're omens.

The Wichita Lineman popped into my head in the middle of a meeting, and I was trying to remember "I hear <something> in the wires".

Perhaps there's a D-notice on old 60's country songs, as searching the web drew a blank, so I forgot all about it -- until I was back home and Jane 'phoned to let me know she's back in the country. I happened to mention the tune, she burst in to song and we ended up duetting. And she knew that Glen Cambell sang it, and armed with that, we found the lyrics, and sang the whole thing properly. Followed by Daydream Believer.

After she'd hung up, I suddenly realised why a song about wires popped into my head ...

... ( "I hear you singing in the wires -- I can hear you through the whine")

Water, water everywhere ...

August 11, 1999 10:17 AM

Arrghh! Our office has flooded! We've had to put the servers on duckboards.

Luckily, there was a *very* large pile of cardboard boxes which appear to have acted like sponges and saved all the expensive electrical gear from any damage ...

... ( Water, water everywhere ...)

90% of accidents ...

July 26, 1999 06:12 PM

Good news: I no longer have a 1960's style gas fire in my living room.
Bad news: I'm going to have to call these folks http://www.aar.co.uk tomorrow.

... ( 90% of accidents ...)


July 26, 1999 09:14 AM

Hurrah! A week of not going into the office! This will of course, ensure one of two things:

a) It chucks down with rain.
b) My ISDN line will pack in.

I have backup plans for both of these eventualities. Both involve hammers.

In the mean time, I've got quotes for my fireplace, collected a copy of the electoral roll from the town hall (so now I know where to forward all the mail I've been mis-sent), sent forms off to the DVLA and been for lunch with Julia and Ian (who has his DNA article in PCW today).

I'm about to get a quote for repointing the brickwork around my fireplace, and take the old gas fire to the tip. Hurrah!

... ( Holiday! )

As hot as my pants ...

July 3, 1999 11:04 PM

Thank heavens. The thunderstorm that my pressure-change induced headaches have been predicting over the last few days has arrived, bringing with it a welcome temperature plummet and a cool summer shower to enjoy from my secluded patio.

Watching the sky flit from black to white, feeling the rain course over me - this is what it's like to be alive! Only the yelps of confused car alarms snap me back to reality.

Earlier on in the evening, back at TDV Towers, our room was so unbearably hot we we had to take refuge in north-facing shade of the newly-vacated orange office to plan the next stage of the guide ...

... ( As hot as my pants ...)

Life mirroring art.

June 14, 1999 06:01 AM

Don't talk to me about fleding petunias.

... ( Life mirroring art.)

Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very, frightening ....

June 2, 1999 07:55 PM

Thank heavens for uninterruptible power supplies! There's a storm over Covent Garden right now, and a huge thunderclap just made Phoebe's UPS kick in and go beeeeeeeeeeep.

OK, admittedly, the h2g2 site was only running on battery power for under a second, but I'm still grateful.


( Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very, frightening ....)

Clippety Clop!!

May 31, 1999 07:30 PM

Hurray! I went out for a hack today - first time in months - and I managed to avoid any "fair-weather rider" jibes by arranging a torrential downpour :)

Wow, it was great to be back in the saddle again - I'd forgetten how smooth Tiger's canter is, and that coupled with the chance to chinwag with Karen again made my week. I had to lay flat out on the study floor for about an hour afterwards before I could get the energy up to cycle to honorary-niece Lara's birthday party. Just as well, as I needed all my strength when I arrived, as the main birthday prezzy from Ian & Julia was a climbing frame and slide for Lara and Elizabeth to share. Despite the soggy garden, Elizabeth insisted ("again! again!") on making full use of the new installation, so I played chaperone while the rest of the adult attendees stayed sensibly inside.

No sooner had the last of the guests gone home, than Jim and Bernadette arrived - so it was almost midnight before I left. Oh well, another day without housework - I'll have to take advantage of the bank holiday Monday I suppose.

Finally fed up with IE4's frame redraw bug, I've just installed the patch, so this entry is also the first test ...

( Clippety Clop!!)

Right said Fred ...

May 31, 1999 06:49 PM

Finally wired the new lighting in the study!

It's the only room in the house with no crawlspace, so it took two of us - Michael (who'd only stopped by for a cup of tea) to feed the cable up through the ceiling, and me in the loft space above the bathroom shouting directions while reaching across to the study with a pair of cutters taped to a pole to form a makeshift cherry-picker.

Incredibly, I snagged the target on the first attempt, and it actually took longer to climb in and out through the hatchway than it did to pull the cable through!

That's the very last piece of old rubber-insulated wiring replaced, and once I've blanked off the original wall-mounted lamp, I can put bookshelves all along that wall. Fab.

Still have to make an aesthetic decision about the living room lights though ...

( Right said Fred ...)

ISDN rocks!

May 29, 1999 05:07 PM

Irony of ironies, I haven't really had chance to play with my shiny new pipe. No sooner had I borrowed Ian's TA and hooked it all up, what happens? Ursula goes into a complete sulk and won't even take my call.

As everyone else is far too engrossed in high-level Half-Life sessions to answer the 'phone, I decide to hop on my bicycle to catch the penultimate train of the day into London to see what the problem is. Having fixed it, I end up staying in town for two nights, so this is the first chance I've had to twang the wires.

With the TA properly configured, incoming calls are working, and I can also connect at either 64k or (if I want to forgo simultaneous voice calls) 128kb.

The biggest improvement though is the almost instantaneous connection time. It's so nice not to have my machine yowling at me for half an minute like an urban fox having his way with R2D2.

Thanks Ian!

( ISDN rocks!)

Inebriated Visitors.

May 27, 1999 11:42 PM

Es ist Renata letzter Tag morgen, also erlosch ein Bündel TDVers auf die Fliesen und ist gerade voll vom Beifall zurückgekommen. Gut denke ich, daß es Beifall irgendwie ist. Es ist sehr laut, was auch immer es ist.

Glücklicherweise da Shim mir die Wörter des fischartigen Song gerade gegeben hatte, konnten wir alle, es zu singen. Dann mußte Sri Haar Darren schnüffeln, singen James Brown's Öffnung Anmerkung von "I Feel Good" und engagiere mich im Klingekampf vollständig hinunter die Treppe. (Wir haben ein gegen den Uhrzeigersinn-aufwärtstreppenhaus. Solches Detail ist in den Klingekämpfen wichtig).

Kurz nach dem Verschüttet.werden weichen die vordere Tür, sie summte herauf die Wechselsprechanlage informierte mich aus, daß Emma snogged gerade einen kompletten Fremden in der Straße hatte. Kein Wunder Jason verließ in solch einer Hast. Sein 30. Geburtstagbeteiligtes sollte Spaß sein, wenn irgendwelche dieses Masseerscheinens

Selbstverständlich erinnert sich niemand an ein Wort von diesem morgens...

( Inebriated Visitors.)

And they swam and they swam ...

May 27, 1999 03:52 PM

... right over the dam!

How does the song start? It's about little fishies, and you're supposed to do the hand movements like them swimming past.

No one here knows either ... it's been driving me crazy!!

( And they swam and they swam ...)

It's in!

May 25, 1999 02:36 PM

The nice BT engineer was busy outside at 9am, making sure there were enough wires going to the pole outside my house, so he didn't bang on the door until just before 11, to let me know we had to wait for the cherry-picker. I'd been forewarned - Michael pointed out on Sunday that there's a band of red letter 'D's on the pole - apparently this means the pole can't support a person's weight, and shouldn't be climbed. It's handy having mates who used to work for BT!

So, cycled round to Ian and Julia's for lunch, picked up the ISDN PCMCIA Gold Card, dropped it round at Jim's (his ISDN went in no problem) and was back for 1pm, at which point the nice BT chap (also called Ian) and his colleagues discovered that I only had a single pair going into my study.

(I knew this, as it was only replaced last winter after I'd complained that the rain and wind were creating dreadful line noise, and the missing wires had caused Michael to raise his eyebrows).

So, back up the cherry picker, snip goes the old analogue line, in goes the two-pair, and in under five minutes the analogue's back again, with a sparkly digital sibling joining it half an hour later.

Now all I need is something to plug into it :)

Shame Tim's installation didn't go as smoothly. Still, at least he has a Tube station ...

( It's in!)

Online again (ISDN day -1)

May 25, 1999 05:45 AM

Hurray! Back online at home. Despite receiving a letter from BT saying that the ISDN fairies are due later this morning, I phoned the number on the letter, and had the following conversation ...

BT Bunny: I'll need the order number, sir.
Me: I've just given it to you.
BTB: No, that's just the job number for your line.
Me: It says order number here.
BTB: Do you have contact numbers for those other sites?
Me: 01xyz pqrstuv, and 01abc ghijkl
BTB: Those are residential numbers sir. There's no work booked there.
Me: Hang on, what about 01xyz mnopqrs?
BTB: That's residential too. No work booked there either.
Me: That's the site I first gave you.
BTB: Erm, well I'll still need the order number.

And so on. So before leaving the office I grabbed a forlorn USR 28K Sportster. Of course, it has no power supply or leads, but a bit of poking with a multimeter revealed it needed a low-voltage AC supply. Luckily, I have 12V halogen lighting at home, so I’ve tapped a feed off that, the downstairs ‘phone has donated its line cord, and a pair of dissected dongle-danglers have become a home-made gender-changer.

NT detected the modem no probs (why do Sportsters always think they’re Swedish?), and a quick search of the old installation’s backup revealed the .ins file with my Gateway account details. I wonder if tomorrow will go as smoothly?

( Online again (ISDN day -1))

Tristram Shandyland

May 20, 1999 05:17 PM

I would say "I can't believe I haven't updated my journal for two weeks", but I can.

For a moment I wondered if I should write some code to retroactively post, but decided that would probably take me even further into Shandyland.

So, rather than going home and eating chocolate cake, Tim's just suggested eating Pizza here and going through a bunch of articles. He's also accused me of being a slack bastard for not updating my journal. Pah.

What's worse, I haven't replied to all the nice things that the folks on the DNA forums said about me. Perversely, I normally read and post there from home, but since I installed a big new hard drive and did a completely clean system reinstall on my home machine, I've not put my internal modem back in.

I've always been suspicious of internal modems, and I suspect that this one in particular has been the root of my machine hanging. So I'm waiting for the ISDN fairy to come next week.

Speaking of big hard drives and things, what a fun bank holiday weekend I had - apart from making a return visit to TCR to swap one of the 13G harddrives that was faulty, the machine shuffling went like a dream!

I can't believe how cheap storage continues to get. In a month's time, people will probably be smirking that I forked out £400 for a pair of 13G drives, but as they replaced 20G of drives that accumulated over the last two years at a cost of about a grand, and I'm quite happy.

By the end of the long weekend, h2g2 had a twin sister, and our office was immaculate. While walking through Covent Garden market I was the seized by the urge to buy decorations for home, but after drilling holes in the office walls to put up the whiteboard, I went crazy and hung the art too, then one thing led to another and I'd Hoovered and tidied the office. The transformation caused Jaws to drop on Tuesday morning - especially as I'd deliberately not mentioned here in the journal what I'd been up to ...

( Tristram Shandyland)

What a hectic few days.

May 1, 1999 02:59 PM

Things are beginning to calm down a little at last. Well, not for our poor servers, but at least the humans here at TDV are getting chance to catch up on their sleep.

As if in recognition of our high spirits, the sun came out for the first time in weeks, and walking back from a combined lunch/what-should-we-all-be-doing-next-meeting, Covent Garden felt like the best of all possible whirls.

I cycled down to Tottenham Court Rd (London's electronics Mecca) to grab a couple more drives for our hungry servers, and arrived back to hear the news of another terrorist nail-bomb attack.


This time it was in Old Compton Street, which most of the h2g2 development team know as the home of Ed's Diner, whose roller-bladed deliveries kept us going in the busy pre-launch weeks.


( What a hectic few days.)

Going live!

April 28, 1999 03:49 AM

It's almost 4am. We've gone live.
We'll be live on British Television in under 14 hours.
I can't believe we did it.

... ( Going live!)

No Baftas for us :-(

October 30, 1998 03:13 AM

Update - 2nd March 2005 - we won a BAFTA this year!!

Sadly, we were pipped to the post in both categories - "MindGym" got Comedy, and the Interactive Treatment award was won by "StageStruck".

If it's any compensation, Riven (who were sharing a table with us) had 3 nominations, and didn't get any awards either. And neither did the cuddly Barney toy (which was publicly hissed during the nominations). And if schadenfreude doesn't cheer you up, the 24-carat chocolate Baftas that I stole might.

Emma's buddies at Real World on the table opposite us netted two awards - Moving Images (beating Riven) and Sound (also beating Riven), while Rare won the special award for contributions to the industry, meaning we actually saw the creators of "Sabre Wulf" and "Knight Lore" by flashlight if not in daylight.

Other happenings of note - NTK were singled out by host Stephen Fry in the nominations for the Bafta Interactive Entertainment Awards (News & Magazine Award), saying that it was a testament to the <hyperbole> of the web that NTK could compete with the big players like the BBC, CNN & The Telegraph.

The Beeb (who won) very wisely had a jazzy showreel for nominations video wall, while

... ( No Baftas for us :-()

I hear you knocking ...

January 0, 1900 12:00 AM

"Computer XYZ cannot be managed. The Network path was not found".

netsh firewall set portopening tcp 445 smb enable


... ( I hear you knocking ...)

copyright ©1998-2018 Sean D. Sollé.

... an appreciative round from the crowd.

Duck-billed backup source

No Self Control

Night Storage Heater Controls

Atlanta Raves

Douglas, Mary, Sean and RH

Stones have been known to move ...

Morwenna poses as a tree