2011 retrospective and plans for 2012

These retrospective posts are annoying aren’t they – kind of like the xmas round-robin letters?! However, I wanted to do one again, because it helps me keep track of things, where i’ve been (and when – it all becomes a blur..). So, as I did with 2009, 2010 and 2011, I wanted to revisit the list from last year and see what happened and what didn’t.


  • Buy a new Bass Guitar and play the hell out of it – I did just that, although it still needs a load more playing. I think initially I started focussing too much on kit and trying to compose and remix stuff and generally ending up stuck in front of a computer, which was something I was trying to avoid! So this is carried over – but with the goal of having a jam or two in a room with actual humans rather than garageband. Not sure i’m ready to commit the time to a gigging band yet, though it certainly appeals..
  • More “work from anywhere” adventures. I worked from a few different places, but in doing so, came to the conclusion that I wish I was just on holiday and could actually spend it with my wife and son and leave my laptop shut! I’m now working full-time at Potato, office-based, which I have to say i’m enjoying, though I get to travel to London fairly regularly, and hopefully other places, so still interested in mobile working tech. I actually plan to merge the content from my seperate mobile working blog into this site
  • More blogging! – including some personal blogging – um.. I think I blogged a bit more – certainly after moving this blog over to eatStatic. I hope to keep this up and improve my output – one thing i’ll be doing is stepping away from the firehose of twitter for a bit again, and try to get my thoughts and opinions down in considered blog posts rather than the rapid-fire train-of-thought (with compromised punctuation!) that twitter encourages.
  • Attend at least one web conference – this nearly didn’t happen until a last minute decision to attend WebDevConf in Bristol, which I enjoyed a lot. I’m happy to say that i’ve got a ticket for new adventures in web design, so this goal will be achieved early in 2012.
  • Get further than “hello world” with Django – I’m certainly further than hello world now! My first few months at Potato were like an intravenous injection of Django, and i’m now proud to introduce myself as a Django developer rather than just a web developer. I’ve still got a lot to learn though, but all new personal projects will likely be Django from now on, rather than PHP.
  • Use and understand some technologies that i’ve been ignoring – as ever, there’s always new stuff on the horizon, but my first goal is to finally learn regular expressions properly, having successfully ignored them for the last decade!
  • More on-site freelancing for agencies – ditched for obvious reasons! I was actually a full-time on-site freelancer for potato before I went full time, so it’s clear that this one worked out for me in 2011.
  • Keep Trading and survive the recession – I achieved that this year, but I guess now this point needs changing to “keep employed”!
  • Launch a web app – In a very low key way I achieved this by making my eatStatic library/ blog engine public this year. However, even though i’m pleased with the way it works, i’m not intending on developing it any further, as i’ve already started on another blog engine for Too Old To Skate using Django, mainly as a learning exercise. I think maybe this goal should be changed to “do not start any more blog engines”? Now i’m out of freelance, 2012 is really going to be all about the work/life balance and not spending evenings with my face stuck in a laptop, but on the other hand I have a few ideas floating around…
  • Relaunch Too Old To Skate – See above. as ever, an ongoing project.
  • Attend at least one BarCamp – Failed. These type of informal events are the ones i’m interested in though – hacknights, barcamps, skillswaps, anything which is run for the fun and community of it rather than profit.


  • Skateboarding! – this isn’t new, but 2011 was the most lax year since I started skating regularly again, so need to get skating while my knees can still take it 😉
  • Learn to touch type – I’ve been saying this for years, but it’s about time I stopped typing with two fingers like someone playing Daley Thompsons Decathlon on a ZX Spectrum..
  • Be more proactive with geek socials – Bristol has a great geek/ design community, but I seem to have completely missed most of the face-to-face stuff recently and want to change that.
  • Practical Skills – growing things, making things, fixing things – not sure exactly what yet but it’s all about the analog at the moment…

Notes on deplying django with virtualenv mod_wsgi and apache on ubuntu

As i’ve exclusively been using app engine in my day job at Potato, I haven’t yet had to deal with deploying a django site on my own Ubuntu server yet. I knew that I would be using virtualenv, apache and mod_wsgi, but hadn’t yet worked out how this is done.

Rather than repeating it all here – I followed most of the steps in this blog post.

However, there were a few points where things didn’t go to plan:-

First of all I got the ubiquitous mysql_config not found error when attempting to install:-

pip install mysql-python

So, apparently the solution is to install libmysqlclient-dev:-

sudo apt-get install libmysqlclient-dev

However, if you get this error:-

error: command 'gcc' failed with exit status 1

You need to install python-dev:-

sudo apt-get install python-dev

Posted in Uncategorised

Too Old To Skate rebuild

too old to skate screengrab

A month or so ago I took toooldtoskate.com offline as it seems that it was being used as a spam relay. It was running an ancient unpatched version of wordpress, so this came as no surprise. I thought it would be a good opportunity to rebuild it using django. So yet another django blog engine has sprung into existence – all really simple stuff though, just a couple of models and some class-based generic views, a familiarisation exercise rather than an attempt to build a wordpress clone.

A work in progress, as ever..

To Do

  • Commenting (i’ll integrate disqus)
  • Filtering by type/ channel (e.g. video and author)
  • Merchandise (I will sell at least one mug, in 2012 I swear!)
  • Blogroll/ links

Setting up apache on osx lion

For general website/ PHP development, I like to have multiple local sites running from my Sites folder using virtualhosts. Up until now i’ve usually done this with Xampp, but after hearing that the version of apache shipped with OSX 10.7 is fairly useable out of the box I thought i’d run with it.

First of all I uncommented a couple of lines from /etc/apache2/httpd.conf.

To enable PHP5:-

LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/libphp5.so

To enable the use of virtualhosts:-

Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

I can then create virtualhosts in /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf like so:-

<VirtualHost *:80>
DocumentRoot "/Users/rickhurst/Sites/sandbox"
ServerName sandbox.macbook.local

Then to serve a local site from http://sandbox.macbook.local add a line to /etc/hosts:- sandbox.macbook.local

One issue that took me a while to figure out was that I was getting a 403 error when I tried to use AllowOverride All, which lets me use .htaccess

I found the answer here. Basically, the options line needs to be set to “Options All”:-

<Directory "/Users/rickhurst/Sites/">
Options All
AllowOverride All
Order allow,deny
Allow from all

(The above rules are added to a file /private/etc/apache2/users/yourusername.conf). Remember to restart apache after making these changes!

mysql_config not found osx

This always gets me when I try to install mysql-python on osx using pip:-

$pip install mysql-python

(ugly traceback, ending in:-)

EnvironmentError: mysql_config not found

Googling round finds that most people suggest editing a line in MySQL-python/site.cfg (wherever that is..), but my preferred solution is add the following line to my .profile:-

export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/mysql/bin

This works for me – for a mysql installed from a package on mysql.com

Running Google App Engine SDK on OSX lion

OSX Lion comes with python 2.7 as default. Although App Engine will run on 2.7, it is safer to develop on the version of python that your live app engine instances are running on, which in my case is python 2.5 currently.

From a fresh install of Lion, I did the following:-

Installed xcode via app store

Installed Google App Engine SDK for Python, by installing google app engine launcher (This contains the SDK and a launcher app).

Installed mac ports

In a terminal:-

sudo port -v selfupdate
sudo port install python25
sudo port install py25-pil

This means I can start my django server on python 2.5 using:-

python2.5 manage.py runserver

However if you want to run dev_appserver.py it will still try to use python 2.7 (which, unless you’ve installed it into your default python, will be without PIL)

you can use macports to set the default version of python:-

sudo port select python python25

Finally, you might want to set Python Path to /opt/local/bin/python2.5 in your Google App Engine Launcher preferences




Update: after upgrading google app engine SDK to version 1.6, I was getting an import error “No module named _ctypes”. I have now upgraded to python2.6 and this fixed the issue.