Brewing at home: John Wright’s Orange Pale Ale

For a while now I have owned ‘Booze’, a River Cottage Handbook on making your own booze written by John Wright of River Cottage fame. It is an excellent book for people that want to start brewing beer at home and are interested in the River Cottage way of doing things; making honest and simple but tasty foods in your own kitchen using everyday tools. The book also covers making wine, cider and strong liquor infusions but my main reason for buying was the brewing of beer (and of course being somewhat of a River Cottage geek).

Booze: River Cottage Handbook No.12 by John Wright

Booze: River Cottage Handbook No.12 by John Wright

Read on to see our brew diary.

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Why you should stop sitting

After I graduated in 2007 and started my desk job I began to sit at a desk for 9 hours a day. Then some more sitting on the train. The weekends and evenings were spent sitting at my desk at home playing World of Warcraft or working on pet projects or whatever. I did exercise, but this was mostly cardio.

I started to have bouts of  what they call nonspecific lower back pain. These would last for a few days after which I resumed my sitting. I even got a Varier kneeling chair which got rid of bad posture but still had me sitting on my ass all day.

What I did was constantly putting strain on my lower spine while not engaging any muscles at all, ignoring warning signs, letting my core get weaker and weaker.

In October of last year I probably (probably because I never got an MRI to 100% confirm it) suffered one or more herniated or bulging discs pinching nerves in my lower back. It presented itself as a sort of cataclysmic meltdown event; after a few days of moderate back pain I suddenly found myself on the ground writhing in agony, not being able to stand or walk. It felt like a truck had ran over my legs. After the worst of it went away after a few days I discovered I could no longer lift my foot and that some of my toes were numb.

I went to a  physical therapist that started me on a program to strengthen the muscles of my lower back and legs. This has helped to remedy the cause of the disc bulge but didn’t do much to cure it; I have since had some relapses that while not exactly bringing me back to square one have cost me 6-8 weeks of constant pain in my leg each time. Only now I have the feeling I am starting to get out of the woods, the numb toes however persist to this day and I need to be extremely careful in my movements to not pop the bad disc again.

You absolutely do not want this. Sciatic nerve pain really really really sucks.

If you have a desk job, particularly if you write code for a living and sit still for multiple hours at a time:

  • Stop! sitting! now!
  • Start standing. Ikea sells a reasonably priced standing desk.
  • Walk as much as possible. It’s free exercise.
  • Start the day with a simple leg and lower back stretch and exercise regime (which is a more technical way of describing the girly stuff  known as yoga)
  • Start drinking enough water throughout the day. If you are a developer you are probably not doing this.

 

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CSS Refactoring

At Minddistrict we sell SaaS services to mental healthcare professionals. They use our app to treat patients online.

We recently decided to refactor our CSS using current best practices.
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On wireframing

Some companies use dedicated staff and  software like Axure to very accurately design a site or application before a single line of real code is written. If you don’t have the skills or the time or the inclination to do this kind of detailed wireframing you can still benefit from doing some low-res work. These are my thoughts on this:

1. Wireframes communicate scenarios

Do not attempt to build a prototype out of wireframes. You can’t really mimic the workings of an entire app with them. Simple tools like Balsamiq allow you to make links from one wireframe to another, perfect to show how a specific feature works by making the scenario a visual experience, but they lack (for reasons of simplicity) the option to use templates. This means that if one menu option changes which you have used in 100 wireframes you have to change each of those. Not pretty. Constraints like these force you to keep it simple and use the right tool for the right job.

2. Wireframes are bad containers of knowledge

Stakeholders will realize they need certain features when they see the story you tell them through your wireframes. Do not add these features to the next iteration of the wireframes only, in two weeks time you will have forgotten what the button was for. Write it down somewhere and change your scenarios.

3. Wireframes do not facilitate the creative process

Unless you pair wireframe, the act of wireframing is not the best way to come up with creative solutions for problems. You have to dedicate part of your mental resources to operating the tool and things you come up with will always be in the constraints of the resources (eg widget libraries) available to you. If you need to do some creative designing and problem solving, ask your colleagues for an hour of their time and take them to a whiteboard. Whatever you come up with then can be transmogrified into wireframes.

4. If you write frontend code just as easy, do that

A lot of UX/IxD gurus state it as a fact that programmers are all engineers who find nothing important but beautiful code, are all mildy inflicted with Asperger’s and don’t know anything about user friendly design. This is why designers need to meticulously design every aspect of a software project before the engineers can start coding. This is of course nonsense. I think being able to write code and being able to come up with usable designs are not mutually exclusive.

In large companies the production of wireframes is part of the way they do things and it’s perfectly ok to spend a lot of resources on that because it’s the client who pays for it. In a small team without a dedicated group of design people it’s nonsense to first spend hours wireframing and then build it in real code if the latter is just as easy. Just build a mockup in real code. Just be prepared to kill your darlings.

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GROM iPod interface in a Volvo V40

We drive a phase II Volvo V40 which came with an awesome soundsystem (HU-1205) but no native support for iPod/iPhone, which meant having to burn CD-Rs if you want to hear your own music. No more! I bought a GROM iPod Adapter Direct Interface V3(GROM-I3-VOL01) and (ofcourse) installed it as soon as it was delivered. Here is what you do:

1. Remove the radio from the mount and disconnect the cables. BE SURE TO KNOW YOUR RADIO UNLOCK CODE. BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
2. Prise the cover of the fan/climate control panel off with a flat screwdriver (see 1 in the image below)
3. Unscrew the 3 screws that hold the mount in place (see 2 in the image below)
4. Find a spot to stow the GROM unit (big red arrow).
5. Attach cables as shown in the install guide that comes with the GROM. Be sure to disconnect the battery before splicing the power wire (safest is to disconnect the negative pole).
6. Find a place to lead the wire that connects to the iPod. Our radio mount came with a little shelf to put change and whatnot in, I drilled a hole in the top of that and led the wire through there.
7. TEST! IT!
8. Screw the radio mount back into place and put back the cover on the fan control panel
9. Put the radio back
10. ROCK N ROLL!

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Use Ubee EVW3200 Modem in bridged mode

Dutch ISP Ziggo recently sent it’s customers a new modem to use with their increased-speed (docsis 3) lines. It turns out this is a modem + (wireless) router combination. This is great news for the bulk of customers since they can do away with their shitty Sitecom wifi crapola. Some people however have invested in their home network-infra and do not want this unasked-for feature. But surprise: there is no straightforward way to disable the routing and put the device in bridged mode. The good people at http://ziggo-gebruikers.nl/ told me the Ziggo helpdesk can login to your modem and remotely flip the hidden switch for you.

So I called them and was met with the usual incompetent and pedantic stupidity these services pour out over the unsuspecting customer. Defeat. At this point I was getting ready to cancel my account at Ziggo and try my luck with XS4ALL (The occasional downtime I can take but I can’t stand stupid -at least not from people who are supposed to be the experts).

This afternoon someone at http://ziggo-gebruikers.nl/ suggested a do-it-yourself way of getting the device to give your router a WAN IP:

  1. Lookup your ‘old’ router’s MAC address. It’s usually stuck on the device itself somewhere.
  2. Open the advanced settings page on the admin-backend (default: 192.168.178.1)
  3. Go to ‘Gateway’ > ‘Options’. There you will see ‘Passthrough MAC Addresses’
  4. Add your router’s MAC address to the list.
  5. Connect your router’s WAN port to the LAN1 port on the Ubee.
  6. Profit!!

Your router will now get a WAN IP and you can use the internet as before.

Note: the Ubee itself squats your old IP and still does routing on it’s own little LAN. So it’s not really ‘bridged mode’ but more bridged-as-a-sidedish. Your old router gets an IP in a different range but it seems to be a valid dynamic.ziggo.nl address.

Credits to Magnetra at ziggo-gebruikers!

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