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James Gardner

Welcome! I'm a web developer and technical consultant working in London and Oxford and living in Bedford. I'm involved with the Pylons web framework (and wrote a book about it). I run my own company, do a lot of diving and am currently interested in open source, carbon, Physics, walking, Python, embedded devices and generally understanding the various ways people interact online. I've been working with Richard Noble for the last year on a start-up code-named Dolphin Click which I hope to be able to tell you more about soon. More recently I've also been collaborating with Chris Adams on a project we've code-named Carbage which is a platform to help groups of people in offices reduce their carbon footprint. You can read a bit more about Carbage here. An index of my latest blog posts is here.

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Latest Updates

Wed 11th August 2010Diving trip to Lyme Regis.
Sun 1st August 2010Diving off Selsea.
Thurs 1st July 2010Went to an excellent lecture by oceanographer Sylvia Earle at the Southbank Centre.
Thurs 10th June 2010Launched a real-time energy graph on the homepage of the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Thurs 27th May 2010It's OK not to write unit tests.
Sun 2nd May 2010Arstechnica LVM snapshots guide. Backing up sparse files in place". rdiff-backup. Images of the oil spill from Nasa.
Sat 1st May 2010Had a very pleasant day out in Rye with Roland and Tom, took the high-speed train from St Pancras.
Fri 16th April 201010 simple Google search tricks.
Thurs 15th April 2010Simon Singh is victorious over the Britich Chiropractic Association - they've dropped their case! Whilst this is excellent news there are still many other scientists and journalists being prevented from rightly speaking out against bad science. The three main parties have promised manefesto commitments to reform libel law so we need to keep up the pressure by getting more signatures.
Thurs 15th April 2010The volcano in Iceland next to the route I walked along last year has errupted, stopping all flights over the UK and stranding Patrick in Germany! Glad I wasn't still in Iceland when it happened.
Sun 11nd April 2010I've finally moved to London!
Fri 2nd April 2010Makes me proud to be British. Buckingham palace guard playing Star Trek TNG and DS9 medley. As one of the comments says, "May the Queen live long and prosper". Via Patrick.
Wed 30th March 2010Finally recovering from the norovirus, very nasty little virus. Don't come near me for another day or two!
Sat 27th March 2010Met Sarah and Boggie at the Dive Show. They were both very patient helping me try on drysuits but in the end I only bought an underwater torch!
Sun 28th February 2010Rest in peace Uncle Anthony who died from cancer today
Wed 24th February 2010Rest in peace Chris Reichardt, a colleague and good friend who lost his battle with Cancer on Monday
Sat 20th February 2010Funnily enough this news article from 1995 debunking the internet actually highlights some of the problems that still exist.
Fri 8th January 2010Economist article on why the term "Eastern Europe" doesn't really apply
Wed 6th January 2010Chris and Malcom are both wrong (article about Malcom Gladwell and Chris Anderson's discussions about Free).
Thurs 31st December 2009I'm in Val Torens in the Franch Alps. I travelled down here with Roland on the Eurostar and overnight train from Paris. Less carbon than flying and so much more relaxing. I twisted my ankle the Friday before last so can't snowboard but have had a lovely time reading some books, thinking about my company's values (3aims Ltd) and enjoying the beautiful view from the appartment. Happy New Year to you all!
Mon 14th December 2009 Writing is thinking
Sun 13th December 2009 Grandpop's 90th birthday (photos here).
Sat 12th December 2009 Great evening with James and friends at Oxford (All Bar One and OFS), photos on Facebook.
Tue 1st December 2009 Computers don't save hospitals money
Tue 1st December 2009 Today's top tip: if you find idle SSH sessions seem to expire if you leave them for a few minutes, add these lines to your /etc/ssh/ssh_config file and all will be well again:
ServerAliveInterval 15
ServerAliveCountMax 3
Sun 29th November 2009 Had a fantastic weekend with Dave, Jahlia and Alex celebrating Thanksgiving and joining in secret cinema.
Sun 22nd November 2009 Built a twitter page for the Age of Stupid website.
Sat 21st November 2009 Roland sent me these amazing photos of the martian landscape
Roller disco goodness for Mel's party!
Wed 18th November 2009 Got a current cost device running on a bifferboard and sending data to central server!
Sat 7th November 2009 James, Tom, Roland and I only managed one round of Shogun this time!
Web 5th November 2009 Some people are reporting problems with Ubuntu 9.10 but I'm not too surprised. This is the last release before the long term support version so I'd imagine Canonical are pushing all the new technology into this one so that it gets a proper test before the next one. I'll upgrade, but not for a month or two.
Thurs 5th November 2009 The Bifferboard is fantastic, exceeding all my expectations.
Went to the Castle with Chris and Richard and to celebrate caught up with Patrick and Andy in Surbiton.
Wed 4th November 2009 Met up with Masha at the Candid Cafe. Although it is next door to where I work it is the first time I've been in!
Tue 3rd November 2009 Met with two friends of Richard to discuss them helping with our joint business.
Can highly reccomend the Restaurant Otto Lenghi in Upper Street, Angel. It is a bit pricey - 10 pounds per tapas-sized dish but is very, very good.
Sat 31st October 2009 Hacked the Door at Kings Cross and played with a bifferboard which will power it! Found the Python pexpect module handly for interacting with SSH from the command line.
Dave and Jahlia's Halloween Party. Carved some pupkins!
Sat 24th October 2009 Found this cut together video of Nick Griffin quite funny.
Mon 19th October 2009 Web Squared By Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle. Their views on Web 2.0 five years on.
Sat 17th October 2009 Finished reading Robinson Crusoe, here in Split, Croatia.
Thur 15th October 2009 Just finished the last day's diving here in Vela Luka with Croatia Divers. See the dive logs and the photos
Fri 2nd October 2009 Had to go back to the Dentist with a lot of pain in my bottom left wisdom tooth after a filling on Monday. Have some anti-biotics, hopefully they'll do the trick
Wed 23rd September 2009 Just come back from Hackspace where Matt Biddulph did a talk about iPhone development. Good of him considering news that TechCrunch is reporting his company Dopplr has just been sold to Nokia for $15m-$22m!
Also got the Carbage code deployed at the Hub thanks to the help of Nils! It's very exciting because we now hive live data about the energy use in the building.
Interested to read that France might insist that all photoshopped images of models must be marked as such. I'm really in favour of this as I'm totally fed up seeing "perfect" celebrites plastered all over everything, this might help bring us a much needed dose of reality.
Added a page showing some of the websites I used to run.
Tue 22nd September 2009 Went with Dave to the London viewing of the global premiere of the film The Age of Stupid in Covent Garden, London. I highly recommend watching it because it does a great job of framing the situation we are in now and how urgently we all need to change our behaviour to prevent serious social, economic and environmental diaster in the near future due directly to the Earth's changing climate. The film attacks the mentality that says "everyone else is using up loads of energy so why shouldn't I?" and a person in the future looking back at us and wondering how we could all be so stupid given the now widely accepted science which says that unless we as a planet stabilise growth in carbon emissions in the next few years and then rapidly reduce them as fast as they have grown over the previous century we will end up raising the Earth's temperature by more than 2°C which in turn will trigger melting of the permafrost releasing methane causing run-away climate change we won't be able to control. Find out more at Not Stupid or commit to cutting 10% of your personal carbon footprint in 2010 as part of the 10:10 campaign. Most importantly, a global conference to replace the Kyoto agreement is taking place in Copenhagen in December and it is vital agreement is reached on cutting emissions. If you are very interested you can also read the IPCC reports (they are the intergovenrmental panel on climate change) but I haven't done yet.
Mon 21st September 2009 Get a deleted file from mercurial:
$ hg log --template "{rev}: {file_dels}\n" | grep test_mail.py
541: unfinished/experimental.py unfinished/fields.py ... unfinished/test_mail.py
$ hg clone ./ ../rev-540
$ cp ../rev-540/unfinished/test_mail.py /path/to/where/you/want/test_mail.py
Just found that some of the emails to my old pythonweb.org address have been going to an account I haven't been checking, I've got from 25,000 down to 104 but if I haven't replied to an email in the last 12 months that could well be why! I'm going to try to respond to the ones which still require attention during this week!
Reminded of the Pypefitters and EggFreezer
Sat 19th September 2009 Weekend with the whole family as Ian comes to visit and mum is back from Spain
Fri 18th September 2009 Great to catch up with Joe Place and James Paulin at Victoria
Wed 16th September 2009 Scientists have found a rocky exoplanet
Tue 15th September 2009 Visited Oxford to discuss a new R&D system for the Trust and the BRC there.
Sat 12th September 2009 Had a fun day at Heather's work party shifting a skips worth of sand in a wheelbarrow along an intricate layout of scaffolding planks and chipboard. Update: Arms are still aching 2 days later!
Wed 9th September 2009 Just heard that a version of the smoking pack years calculator is likely to be used in the next version used by all UK GP surgeries!
Sun 6th September 2009 Just back from the Biddenham Show. Also found this funny: If Architects Had to Work Like Web Designers (via Reddit)
Sat 5th September 2009 Back from the Isle of Mull after 6 days great diving. 4 different wrecks, lots of crabs, squat lobster, sea squirts, dead men's fingers and anenome. Read the dive logs here.
Mon 31st August 2009 Just come back from diving the Hispania and Thesis off Mull. Lots of mackerel fishing by the Japanese contingent of the club!
Sat 22nd August 2009 Jon's stag do in London. Great to catch up with Jon, Adrian, Nick, Tom, Rich and Patrick.
Thurs 20th August 2009 London hackspace at the Hub. Got live flash charting working of a current cost device. Oh, and enjoyed a tortilla and beer!
Sun 2nd August 2009 Like the proposed interface desgin for Firefox 4
Sat 1st August 2009 Just heard my brother Ian has been off work with swine flu for the last week. Get well soon.
Fri 31st July 2009 Congratulations James and Aims on your engagement!
Thurs 30th July 2009 Released new versions of CommandTool, SiteTool and Gallery.
Tue 28th July 2009 Got back yesterday from a 4 day hike on the The Laugavegur Hiking Trail in Iceland from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) with David and Alex. Photos here.
Fri 17th July 2009 A new site called Real Time Carbon launched today. It's a collaboration between AMEE, Demand Logic and Dynamic Demand which allows you to work out how much carbon a given unit of energy costs at the moment via a real time feed. If you've read the Tea Light Page you'll know that at certain times there is more power in the national grid than at others so it is better to use electrcity when there is spare capacity. Also, since some electricity is produced by buring coal and some by wind power the amount of carbon produced per KWh changes over time. The new site gives you the data you need to use electricity at the least environmentally damaging times. Expect a patch for the Tea-Light soon to use the new feed!
Thurs 16th July 2009 I've been shopping to prepare for my forthcoming trip to Iceland to walk the Laugavegur trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. Bought an MSR WhisperLite Internationale petrol stove and bottle (first use photos here), 3 Rohan polyester walking T-Shirts, 3 pairs of lightweight Rohan "Goa" trousers, a Rab stretch fleece, lightweight head torch and de-hydrated food. Now I just need some work to pay for it all!

On a completely different note, here are some interesting questions which highlight ambiguity in the GPL
Wed 15th July 2009 Geek Night 13! As always, very interesting talks and great to catch up with everyone. Darwin and I would also like to announce Snow Conf 2010, a developer conference which combines tech, ski and snow. It is likely to be held somewhere easily accessible in Europe in January. If you think it is a good idea, just get in touch, they'll be more information later. Also, if you would like to talk at the conference we'd be pleased to hear from you.
Sat 11th July 2009 Had a fantastic day out for Charles's stag do. Karting at Daytona was superb fun (twin engine karts, 1.3Km trac and 1:18 lap times make for a great combo), the Jaipur restuarant has exceptionally good food and Milton Keynes really surprised me as an absolutely excellent place for a night out.
Fri 10th July 2009 Was invited by Phil Kershaw to the British Atmospheric Data Centre at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire which I visited today. They store both emperical and model data for climate predictions and make it available to scientists all over the world. A lot of their software runs Pylons and AuthKit with OpenID so I went along to see how it all fits together. Really enjoyed meeting everyone including Bryan Lawrence and would love to visit again if an oppurtunity presents itself. Bryan links on his blog to a page containing some interesting climate predictions. If you aren't really aware or concerned about climate change yet you should have a look at these maps of the UK.
Thurs 9th July 2009 Got my certificate as a full member of the Institute of Physics today.
Sat 4th July 2009 Some interesting links: Stephen Hawking on Life in the Universe and possible future evolution - a really interesting summary of how humans came to be and how the role of information might shape our future. The Myth of the Original Creator - an article about how re-mixing and creating derivative works is the norm and the notion of the "author" actually creating the work is a relatively recent invention. (My own book was released under the GNU Free Documentation License so that it could be re-mixed and re-worked and I'd like to see this happen more often.
Fri 26th June 2009 Spent some time exploring the Google Web Toolkit today. Unfortunately it doesn't work with a 64bit Java Virtual Machine, you need to install a 32bit version and a load of 32bit dependencies (but the instructions don't tell you this) and it works by analysing actual Java code to generate the JavaScript so won't wotk with other JVM-compatible languages. All in all I wasn't very impressed but since I don't really like abstractions .
Sun 21st June 2009 Had an excellent dive trip to Wittering with Akiko, Naoko, Chris and Phil. We dived the T Pot and Mulberry Harbour off the South Coast with Wittering Divers. It's the first time I'd been on a rib and they are great fun.
Sat 13th June 2009 Finally got around to setting up some secure mercurial repositories using a GoDaddy SSL certificate. Also had a great evening bowling in Brick Lane with Adrian, Dave and Alex. Must remember to order "fishy smelling pork" (unless that's Alex making it up!) next time I'm at a Chineese.
Sun 7th June 2009 God. As I write we have more MEPs (1) from the British National Party than from the Liberal Democrats (0). Let's hope we don't get any more.
Fri 5th June 2009 I encourage you to read this article and Support Simon Singh who is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for an article he wrote in the comment section of the Guardian newspaper. At stake are our right to open scientific debate and the ability of journalists to critisise organisations who make scientific claims without providing any evidence to back them up. I can't find the original article but there are plenty of articles about it going around.
Fri 5th June 2009 Just come back from another couple of days working in Oxford at the John Radcliffe R&D Department. I can highly recommend Pickwicks B&B in Headington (but don't tell too many people, I want to be able to get a room next time!).
Mon 1st June 2009 Chris Adams and my entry to SiCamp, Carbage, was not one of the shortlisted few ;-(. We are a little disappointed but it gives us more time to refine the ideas and make a better job of the execution.
Wed 27th May 2009 Finished reading Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Heard some good things about the book but failed to see either what was new about it or where the coherent theory about tipping points was. The book is nearly 10 years old so its possible that whilst these ideas were revolutionary at the time that they are now just widely accepted. Either way I enjoyed the book as a collection of interesting case studies and would recommend it on that basis anyway.
Sat 23rd May 2009 I've finally achieved an ambition I've had since I was about 16: to own a Tera Nova Voyger tent.
Fri 22nd May 2009 Had another very enjoyable day working at the John Radcliffe today (was there last Thurs too) and afterwards went with Chris to a Cameron Direct meeting a Larkmead school in Abingdon, Oxford. I came away with the impression that I'd be very happy to have David Cameron as our next Prime Minister, he came across as very straightforward, clear thinking, widely knowledgable and in touch. Although Conservative ministers are virtually all rich white men, Cameron made the point that reforms he's put in place mean that if they win the next election there will be 60 women and 10 non-white people. That's a start but however credible David Cameron is (and he is), I don't think the Conservatives as a whole will be credible until their membership better reflects the membership of the country (in gender, race, backgound and income) and Cameron knows this. I'm not sure who I'm voting for but a major consideration is that the Liberal Democrats have been shown to be correct on every important issue (the war in Iraq, the economy etc) and so seem better qualified to govern than parties who have badly mis-read things (notably Labour of late) or have failed to oppose those things adequately (the Conservatives).
Thurs 21st May 2009 Enjoyed the TV programme "This Week". Very interested to see how much talk there is of huge electoral reform off the back of the MPs expenses debacle.
Sat 16th May 2009 Today's dive trip to Wittering was cancelled (Force 7 gusts don't make for comfortable travel in a rib) and Wolfram Alpha launches and can integrate things faster than me (no real challenge actually!) but can't yet seem to generate a PDF about caffeine vs. aspirin.
Wed 11th May 2009 Lego Imagination
Wed 9th May 2009 Had an epic Shogun battle (the 1986 board game) with Tom, James and Roland in Victoria and saw the new Star Trek movie at the Tottenham Court Road Odeon. Totally geeked out..
Wed 6th May 2009 Added a few new posts: a rant about barriers at St Pancras station in London, some notes on using ImageMagick and ffmpeg for a photo gallery, my first sighting of the Pylons Book in the wild, and probably most usefuly, a fairly detailed tutorial on using subprocess in Python.
Sat 2nd May 2009 5:02am Just got back from a superb night out with Jahlia, Dave, Alex and Greg at Coronet in Elephant and Castle. Flourescent glasses, glow in the dark paint and German electronica make for an excellent combination.
Thurs 30th April 2009 Finally got around to posting an introduction to Arduino. The tutorial explains how to build a "tea light" which glows green at the least carbon-costly time for you to be making tea.
Wed 29th April 2009 13:03 Note to self, always open your take-away pasta carbonara the right way up or you will end up with a lot of plain-tasting pasta to start with and then a lot of cheesey bacon at end!
Tue 28th April 2009 12:45 Ahh! Typed rm *.py when I meant rm *.pyc to prepare for an hg ci and after an hg add. Lost the file I was working on all last night while the train was delayed. The ext3 filesystem doesn't support undelete so I'm currently doing a binary grep of the entire disk in case fragments of the file still remain. (During the grep the load average was so high the clock took 52 minutes before it updated).

While looking for solutions I came across an online Python 2.5 decompiler and a commercial company offering a costly Python decompilation service. For Python 1.5-2.3 there is also decompyle, a command line tool.
Mon 27th April 2009 Stayed late after work and got the 10:25pm train from St Pancras. Unfortunately an earlier train apprantly caught fire (although there's no mention of that on the National Rail site) and caused damage to an overhead power line. It took me nearly 7 hours to get home! Luckily I had some battery for the first hour or two so got some work done.
Sat 25th April 2009 Missing out on a surfing trip with Darwin to concentrate on getting up to speed with some work. Not totally convinced it is the right choice. Being productive though.
Wed 22nd April 2009 12:04 Hopefully getting my new bike wheels today, the delivery has come in, Cycle King are checking the contents now to see if it includes by two racing bike wheels. Update: Yep, now busy assmebling the bits.
Mon 20th April 2009 Got Mel's designs for my new startup implemented in Dreamweaver for Richard to work on the copy for.
Sun 19th April 2009 Planned to have a working weekend but have ended up writing a 157 page guide to RAID1, Encryption and LVM2 for Debian Lenny!

Sat 18th April 2009 Found that reStructuredText doesn't render field lists with more than 14 characters in the name correctly. See the blog post.

Finally got my Android G1 phone working. It has been locked since April 15th because I couldn't remember the username for my Google account and neither t-mobile nor Google could remind me. Turns out if you are willing to lose all your data you can do a master reset by holding down the power and home buttons for 20 seconds then pressing Alt+w. After that you can create a new Google account and the phone works again!

Sun 12th April 2009 Had a great day at Jahlia's Birthday/Easter party (even painted an egg and did a jigsaw) but both my bike wheels were stolen while the bike was outside so I had to walk back to St Pancras with just the frame! I was quoted £248 to replace them in London, £130 in Bedford. In fact it would be interesting to document just how many thousands I've lost due to bike thefts over the years. Bike theft is by far the worst crime I've experienced and in that respect I count myself very lucky.

April 2009 Welcome! You may well have noticed a rift in space-time has transported this site's design all the way from 2002 into 2009, banishing the horrible green wordpress theme en route. I intend to maintain the site in the same way I did from 1999-2002, using hard coded HTML and static generation to free me from the constraints of modern web publishing tools. It will be interesting to see how the experiment goes.
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