Monthly Archives: March 2019

Weeknotes 12

25th March 2019 – 31st March 2019

More feeling rough, still too much Brexit news, and some progress on my projects.

Client work

A busier week, although still feeling rough which slowed progress.

Cloudflare is looking better for the client I am testing it for and seems to knock about half a second off their page load time now it has settled in. I’m now working out whether to use it on their standard domain or register one for their static assets (CSS, images and so on.)

I finally actually managed to get access to another client’s new server… but only using Windows 10, which I have on a very underpowered PC I use for testing. This is far from ideal as I don’t want to cart around two laptops whenever I need to work on that site, and the PC is really too slow to comfortably develop on. I’m currently waiting for their support to come back with enough details that I can get a VPN client for OSX working to connect. OSX has VPN software built in, but I’ve tried all the options in it and can’t get it to connect to the firewall the host has set up. I’m still finding this very frustrating.

Mixed in with this, various small updates for all my clients, and testing work that Laura did for them.

My projects

After a motivating talk with Dave at the Farm, I managed to get a chunk of work done on Brisk. I’ve still got a bunch to do on it, but it feels good to get some more, very useful features in and work towards getting in some changes one of my beta testers requested to match how she works.


Better than last week, but still not great. I hurt my knee doing a walk in the Downs with my son’s Cub group on Thursday night and was in pain until something clicked back in to place on Saturday. This leads me to think I have the same problem in my knee(s) that I do in my hips, which isn’t great. Before I’d blamed my reoccurring knee problem on wrenching it when ice skating a couple of years ago. I have to hope that it’s really just that coming back, but I need to get it checked at some point.

Several days at The Skiff helped with productivity, and thanks to family help and Tom going to a special music event one day after school, I got more work time than our schedules would suggest this week.


A chunk more 30×500 is now under my belt. I’ve got a few more stages to do then I want to sit down, finish a chunk of content for the Farm site, then get on with researching what to write for Brisk.

The Farm

We were back in the Caxton Arms this week, and I was back driving so no beer for me. Numbers were down a bit again at only 15. My notes are…

  • Looking for the right kind of marketer
  • Brexit votes
  • American tax forms
  • Building vs marketing an app
  • You need to understand some marketing yourself even if you get someone else to do it
  • Mutual client project catch up
  • Google Cloud Talent Solutions
  • Changes of management at a client/employer can be problematic
  • Scheduling your time effectively
  • Wanting to become a better writer
  • Procrastination
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Embuggerance
  • Client troubles
  • Trying to find time for building your own app/assets


The Downs walk on Thursday finished at the same time as the ISS was visible, causing my excitement from Tom which transferred to the rest of his pack. I had Tom all weekend as Katie was working. I got Garageband working on my laptop so he could practise what he learnt using it at a special music event at our local secondary school on Wednesday.

The highlight of the weekend was going to Robots Live in Burgess Hill, to see various remote controlled ‘robots’ fighting, as per the TV show Robot Wars (once again cancelled, which was how the Robots Live touring show started many years ago.) As well as enjoying the robot battles, Tom was delighted to get a chance to drive a tiny version of one of the fighting robots thanks to a member of one of the teams generously letting a lot of the younger members of the audience have a go on several robots under his watchful eye.

We’ve been to the show three times now and the STEM links to building robots is getting mentioned a lot more than it used to, but if this is the sort of thing that encourages kids in to science and engineering, that is all for the better. It’s not all just seeing 100kg lumps of metal throwing each other around, honest.

Here’s a blurry photo of some of the robots fighting in their heavily armoured arena…

Robots fighting at Robots Live in Burgess Hill

Reading: I’m very much enjoying Ancillary Mercy and I’m going to be disappointed to leave the characers behind when it finishes.

Writing with: Started on a Fountain Pentel, then kept bouncing back to the Zebra Z-Grip Max I have on the go as it’s almost empty. I’ll probably stick with the Zebra until it’s done next week, then work out what I’m switching on to.

Writing in: I finished the Lemome notebook I started the year with and started a Flying Tiger bullet journal dot grid A5 notebook. The paper isn’t as thick and good as the Lemome, but at £6 it was a bargain and I think better than the Leuchtturm1917 notebooks I’ve had in the past. Minimal ghosting meaning I have a chance to use both sides of the page which is difficult in a Leuchtturm and nigh on impossible in Moleskine with the pens I’m currently using.

Weeknotes 11

18th March 2019 – 24th March 2019

A week of feeling rough and juggling projects, with too much Brexit news in the mix.

Client work

Client work was slow as I was feeling rough and tired all week with a low level cold. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting to talk about – fixes to bits of a Twitter integration for a client, checking Laura’s work with Google Cloud Talent Solution for another client, and checking whether it was worth putting Cloudflare in front of the site.

I finally got access to my client’s new server… almost. They have a new server, but actually getting at it is being a frustrating set of roadblocks. When they got their first server from Host My Site, we received a document listing how to access the site. Now they’re owned by we get details in a web based dashboard, which don’t actually list what to do with them, and after a lot of faff so far I have some VPN software that works in Windows but not OSX, and still no knowledge on how to get to the web server itself. Highly frustrating given they are not a cheap service. I’ve got outstanding requests with their support which will hopefully be answered tomorrow. I will be delighted if it turns out I’ve missed something obvious from their support section.

On the Cloudflare front… I’ve set up two domains pointing to a test site of the client’s site, one using Cloudflare and the other not so I can benchmark response times between using Cloudflare and their standard setup. We get a very small benefit if using Cloudflare, but very little as the site uses Cookies and if you do that, Cloudflare doesn’t cache the HTML page itself. It does cache the static assets (image and Javascript in this case) but we already have those on long browser cache times so don’t get a great benefit from also being on the Cloudflare Content Delivery Network (CDN.)

Happily, Cloudflare have a generous free version so this testing has just cost some time. I’ve got a couple more things to check, but I don’t think we’ll need it for this particular project.

My projects

I host my friend Richard’s blog, and it had broken on the hosting I had it on. I’d been meaning to move it off, and this was a good time to do it. It hit a problem when I moved it to some of my Cloudways hosting where WordPress, the software it was running on, wouldn’t update itself. Working out how to fix that also lead to me fixing it on my own site, which I wrote up here.

So, Weeknotes 9 finally get a photo of my son at his air rifle shooting competition.

Otherwise – a little work on Farm things but no where near enough on my own projects.


Badly hit by feeling rubbish, and far too much Brexit news which triggered some interesting conversations at The Skiff, but were not good for focus. My hip pain was variable but seems to be getting better now with a mix of walking and physiotherapy exercises.

I ended up working half of Saturday to catch up due to low work rate and juggling family things. I hate working at the weekend but am getting pushed in to it with Katie’s shifts being bad for business at the moment.


Very little time on 30×500 this week, although some time on building up content for the Farm using it’s teachings. Need to get back on this horse next week.

The Farm

We shifted to the Evening Star pub this week as our usual venue the Caxton Arms had a charity pub quiz on taking up the whole pub. It made a nice change, and I got a lift so was able to have some of their lovely Dark Star beer.

There were 17 of us at the meeting this week. My notes on what was talked about…

  • Laravel App Containers – good idea or not?
  • PHP-Slow log
  • Moving a site from Laravel 4 to 5
  • Debugging Laravel
  • Rush rates
  • Structuring your work to fit in other work
  • Apollopad writing (web) app
  • NanoWriMo
  • Bookcrossing
  • Finding time for non-client work
  • Scrivener – good or bad?
  • Marketing problems
  • 30×500
  • Oat beer – no enzymes so how does it work?
  • Brexit mayhem
  • Cloudflare not making much difference – good sign or not?

I had a nice catch up with Dave Child from about what to do with the bootstrapping group I’ve lapsed on running, and about business in general. A lot of this week’s Farm was talking about clients or projects I’m involved with, which was fine but I missed some of the more relaxing side of the event.


Some helping son with making a space themed game, which Katie put a lot of effort in to both on the getting a nine year old to do something front and organising the building of it. We shifted Mother’s Day to this weekend as Katie will be working the day itself.

Reading: I gave up on The Powerbook and took it back to the library. I’ve started Ancillary Mercy by Anne Leckie, the third part of her Imperial Radch trilogy. It’s started well and page count-wise I’ve read as much in 3-4 days as I did in a few weeks of reading Powerbook.

Writing with: A Zebra Z-Grip Max gel pen. Great on the right paper, but it’s unfortunately scratchy on some including the Fabriano pad I leave at The Skiff. I think this is due to it being old and the gel ink starting to degrade a bit. I’ve a few left of this discontinued pen so I hope the others are in better condition as it’s a lovely pen when it works.

Solving a WordPress update problem on Cloudways hosting

I have several sites hosted on Cloudways, both my own and access to clients ones. I hit a weird problem where WordPress on some sites would update fine automatically or through the admin area of WordPress, but it would not on my own site.

Recently while moving a friend’s site across different parts of my hosting, I found the problem.

Cloudways gives me two levels of SSH account to access the sites on each virtual server. A ‘master’ account which can access the files on all sites and an account on each website which can only access that particular site.

For my own site I hadn’t bothered making an SSH account for it, I just used the master account to upload the files. Not having an SSH account seemed better for security, even though you can turn them off quite easily.

This meant PHP did not have enough permissions to overwrite the files when it came time for WordPress to update itself. For the Farm site, I’d given Haze a website-specific SSH account to upload the files, and that version of WordPress could update itself without issue.

So, I made an SSH account just for my site. Ah-ha, I thought, rather than have to delete the site and re-upload it with the new account, I’ll use ‘chown’ to reassign the files to the user I’ve just created. But… no dice. Something either in their setup or my commands wasn’t working.

Rather than spend even more time faffing, I deleted the site and re-uploaded it using the new details. Now WordPress can update itself with no problems. [Update:] See below for a comment from Mustaasam from Cloudways with how to solve this with a few clicks rather than deleting and re-uploading.

If you’re a Cloudways customer and are having problems with WordPress not updating itself, check how you uploaded the files in the first place. You can do this by using SSH to view the site and ‘ls -la’ to list all the files and which account owns them – if it’s your master account, try deleting the files and upload them again with your site specific SSH account.

Thanks go to Tony Crockford and Matthew Beck for helping me with WordPress and pointing me in directions that eventually lead to me working all this out.

Weeknotes 10

11th March 2019 – 17th March 2019

A variable week as I got back on the school run wagon, and juggled various projects.

Client work

Tuesday involved a day at the Skiff so Laura and I could work on a Google Cloud Talent Solution integration for a recruitment client. I rediscovered how awkward Googles interface is for their IAM section, but at least they’d fixed some problems it was having at the end of last week.

The server replacement project for another client is finally going ahead, which will suck up the time I have allocated for that client next week. Moving their sites shouldn’t be a massive job, but I have had my fill of that already this year! Still, it needs to be done, and such is freelancing life sometimes.

I also helped a client with setting up Facebook pixel tracking on their site and hoped to get tracking on particular links being clicked working, but am having problems with the way we update their pages. We use TinyMCE to allow them to post formatted text easily, but when I try to add in some small bits of Javascript and an onclick to a link, TinyMCE strips both out and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way around this – all searching has lead to people suggesting changes to the TinyMCE core file, which I’d rather avoid as it’ll break whenever it is upgraded. So I need to spend some more time researching that and finding a workaround.

One of my long term wishes is to have social sharing links which don’t involve running a lump of Javascript from services like AddThis, as they are often selling access data to networks tracking people across lots of sites to build up behavioural data. I managed to put a bit of work in to setting up direct links to the sharing boxes of Twitter, Facebook etc, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get the user experience particularly good at this point so I may have to abandon the changes.

This lead me on to discover that Twitter’s ‘TwitterCards’, the preview they give of the page you link to in a tweet, had stopped working for one of my clients. After some investigation it is because Twitter’s crawler which reads the meta data holding the card on your site is very twitchy about SSL settings, unlike the other big social networks. It doesn’t like the SSL setup we’ve got on the old Windows server the site is on. As the site is about to move, I’m going to revisit this after the move in case just upgrading to a newer IIS fixes it.

Also on was some stressful things I don’t think I can talk about publicly yet. And finally, some chased overdue invoice money appeared, which is always a good thing.

My projects

I failed to fix image uploading to this blog. I thought it might be the security plugin getting in the way, but disabling it made no difference. I tried to install another version of WordPress in another directory, that had the same problem. Different WordPress sites on the same hosting do not have the problem. Permissions on the files look right. Currently, I’m stuck.

I published How to become a UK freelancer on the Farm site, and to the /r/freelanceuk subreddit. The article answers a question I/we’ve received quite often over the years and I saw pop up on a forum recently. I’m gladdened to see the HMRC now allows you a long time to register as self employed, when I went freelance it was easy to miss the deadline if you didn’t know about it as it was only a matter of weeks. Now you’ve got many months in which to register correctly.


Was not quite where I wanted it to be, but not too bad. I think I have the start of a cold that’s going around my area, which has knocked things a bit, combined with some stress, and a bundle of school runs. I’m still adjusting to working out where my productivity should be considering I’m now missing a chunk of my work days.

An increase in hip pain towards the end of the week was knocking things as well. I had this last week and thought it was due to carrying my computer back and forth to the Skiff in my rucksack, now I’m not so sure. I’m adding some physio exercises in to my days to try and keep on top of it.


A useful amount of time on 30×500 this week, which was great. I’ve been studying how to match the language I write help in with the particular language of the people I’m writing it for. Interesting and something I’m going to have to practise a lot to get good at.

The Farm

There were 18 of us at the meeting this week. My notes were…

  • Brexit votes
  • Putting sites live on time
  • Being paid from abroad
  • 3D printing
  • Learning as procrastination
  • Paying solicitors extra just to get them to do their job
  • Larachat – very good for Laravel
  • Brighton Python group
  • The pain of waiting for a visa
  • Boustrophedon (e.g. Braille)
  • Devops on Digital Ocean VPS
  • Learning how the brain works through brain damage
  • Writing up projects to show your experience
  • Are what we can conceive limited by our language?
  • Fishing

I felt I had to nag one of our members quite a lot as he’s suffering from feeling he needs to learn more and more of a framework rather than concentrating on getting in client work. He’s very intelligent and capable, and will do a good job when he finds the work, so I feel this is a version of procrastination. And one I’m effectively guilty of in other areas, so it’s a conversation I need to have with myself too.


My son spent a night away with the school, which was great for us! It was very odd not having him thumping around upstairs when he’s supposed to be getting to sleep. I’m not sure he particularly enjoyed it but it’s an important part of him becoming more independent, and generally we only hear the complaints about school life so I’m hoping there was plenty he did enjoy we haven’t heard about yet.

Reading: I’m slowly progressing through The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson. I’m not gelling with it so far, but am going to persevere for a bit longer. I think part of the problem is I’m trying to read it when I’m very tired and I’m missing some of the subtext.

Writing with: A Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4, a very smooth, fine writer. It’s been great and I was running down to the end of this one as it was almost empty and I was hoping to finish it off, but now I think the ball has come out of the end of the nib as it won’t write unless I blow down the end of the refill. This may be related to my son nabbing it for some drawing, but he’s not heavy handed enough for that to be a problem. I was using the rubber grip from an old Zebra Z-Grip Max to cover the horrible grip of the G-Tec, which you could use as a grater, which has shifted me over to a working Z-Grip for next week.

Weeknotes 9

4th March 2019 – 10th March 2019

A full week working in Brighton and being Skiff Captain, and a bit too much client work.

Client work

A chunk of the week was investigating problems with one client site, which kept slowing down to the point it would be completely unresponsive. I’m not sure we’re quite to the bottom of all of the problems yet, but two of them were a set of nested loops calculating something for their home page which needed separating out in to something that could run occasionally and be cached, and some old code left in a very heavily used Controller which was accessing a newly rebuilt table and storing lots of data in memory unnecessairly.

I discovered the new server the site is running on has a “php-slow” log, which has been very helpful in tracking down problems. It list the processes behind any script that’s taking more than a few seconds to complete, and where it is in a script it’s running when it passes that time.

Also in client work, there was setting up a Twitter developer account for an integration Laura and I have been working on for another site. The client having used many of their email addresses for other Twitter accounts meant I was stalling out on finding an email address they could use for their nominated account as Twitter only wants one account per email address. In this case I often use + in an email address to make a new looking email, e.g., which Twitter accepts fine. Unfortunately the client is using Outlook365, which doesn’t support this format. In the end I registered a new Gmail account for it, although long term the client might get another email address set up themselves.

Plus, a few meetings, planning the next lumps of a couple of projects, and general work stuff that’s not very interesting.

My projects

No where near enough time on my projects this week, I planned out some articles for the Farm website, but did not get any written as the urgency of my client’s server problems swamped everything else.


Scheduling bigger blocks of time as mentioned last week does seem to be working. Further gains were probably down to Katie having a week off and handling all the school runs and after school time for our son, so I had a lot more work time than usual.


Once again, not enough time on 30×500 this week, this time because of not handling my client time right. I’m going to reserve some bigger blocks of time for this next week

Skiff Captain

The coworking space I use in Brighton has a volunteer position called the ‘Captain’ where a coworker helps out as part of The Skiff. As I could be in a lot during the week, I took the chance to be Captain as I hadn’t done it for a few months. I’m going to post about my first and second Captaincy’s separately, but the short version is: did less than before, felt the lower stress route was a bit more enjoyable.

The Farm

There were 17 of us at the meeting again this week. My notes were…

  • Deep React.js chat
  • Dan Abrinov’s React stuff is brilliant
  • Getting fed up with a client
  • Udemy courses – variable but some are great
  • Decorating
  • Lots of people still want to meet the people they’re going to have work for them
  • Going freelance on the side of full time work
  • Slow solicitors
  • Taking opportunities when they occur
  • Server problems
  • Has Brighton been ruined by remote landlords?
  • Climate change and Dubai
  • Managers not being able to cope with known unknowns in project planning
  • Digital nomadism as a coping strategy for Brexit
  • Finding work via networking
  • Are there any good freelancer platforms?

Family life

Along with the usual family life, Tom went in for an air rifle shooting competition between all the local Cubs packs. He only tried shooting for the first time a few weeks ago (which I managed to miss off of my weeknotes.) It went well, in that most pellets hit the target, and he enjoyed it.

Boy shooting an air rifle with instructor nearby

Reading: Finished The Three Electroknights, which were odd and beautiful stories. Started The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson, although I’m not sure it’s going to stick. The cover of the version I’m reading is rather less racy than the one linked on Goodreads, probably because I got it from the library.

Writing with: J Herbin rollerball, loaded with Diamine Chocolate Brown ink. Good, if a bit scratchy sometimes depending on the paper.