Lock Stock Pomodoros

I give you Pomodoros with a Lock Stock film quote at the end of each one.

I’m a little obsessive about timers (see bottom) and the other pomodoro timers I’ve tried failed on different counts.

I’ve tried to cram everything I find useful about a timer.

Firstly spacebar to start/stop. The timer should be something that sits in the background and requires minimal attention. So a quick ctrl+tab to get the the pomodoro tab and then hit space and then back to your work.

Secondly the timer appears in the title bar and it appears first. Then you can easily see that it’s running so that you can still see the timer when you have lots of tabs open.

Thirdly there’s a start and stop. Possibly this flies against what a Pomodoro timer should do. However any timer I have I want to be able to start/stop/reset. That’s just what a timer should do, it’s annoying if it doesn’t.

Fourthly the timer has to notify you properly when the pomodoro finishes. This is achieved through a buzzer and a browser notification. Notifications sometimes don’t work or you don’t see them so you need the buzzer backup. Sorry IE folks your browser is still terrible and can’t handle the Javascript Notifications and I can’t be bothered to fix it when it’s just for a personal project.

Fifthly a count of the pomodoros is useful to know how many you cranked out in the day.

Sixthly, a bit of browser responsiveness goes a long way.

And that’s it. No more please.

Well except I needed to put something in the notification so I jazzed things up with quotes from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. If you can’t take the ‘c’ word at least once then this timer is not for you.

For those who got this far. I started with the most basic timer I could think of that still had a simple start-stop mechanism. Then after staring at the jquery code I’d copied I realised I could make a generic jquery ticker function. So I can tick 25 minutes down and then tick the pomodoro count up 1 each time. The rest is a codged together front end on top of that.

Linux Mint Dual Boot

It’s not supposed to be this painful.

I finally (9 months after first attempt) got a UEFI dual boot working.

TL;DR Follow one of these:


I’m calling Linux Mint my lucky charm as that was the first one I got working as a Vagrant desktop and it’s worked perfectly now that I’ve sorted out the other issues.

Having read and re-read so many articles – there were three final things I had problems with/didn’t understand:

  1. Unetbootin was creating blank USB drives fixed by using universal-usb-installer as recommended by both articles above
  2. UEFI bootable USB stick Universal USB works fine (you can create a UEFI only one by simply extracting an ISO using 7-zip and just copying the files, which ignores the extra step that also installs a MBR file (I think))
  3. Booting to USB when the BIOS is set to UEFI In Windows hold shift and click ‘Restart’ (fucking magic) – this point is buried as almost an aside in the main article above:

To boot from USB, will have to choose boot from USB option from within Windows itself. Either with PC Setting (like for UEFI) or pressing shift key while clicking on Restart.

Point 3 is also in the wonderfully in-depth article.

The rest seemed quite ok as I had the rest of the BIOS settings / fast boot options correct.

Once I got the USB stick working, I ran the check disk once and then went into the live Linux Mint. The first happy thing was that the Wifi was working straight off – which wasn’t before with Ubuntu. I then followed the tweaking4all guide to create:

  • first a root (/) /ext4 logical partition
  • leaving 8GB (8191MB, to equal the RAM size) of space for the swap logical partition.

After Linux Mint installed – basically everything was perfect. Where as the tweaking4all guide talks about running the ‘Boot Repair’ program from Mint before restarting. However I took a gamble based on the itsfoss article that a reboot should work. And it did.

The GRUB bootloader was happily installed into the EFI ‘partition’ (not sure if that’s the right word) so that now starting the computer shows the dual-boot screen.

Then booting Linux Mint works perfectly fine – and again the Wifi was working. As was the other major obvious one of the power button working.

As a minor anecdotal point – the booting times (Lenovo Yoga 13, Core i7, 8GB RAM, SSD) for Mint vs Windows was 20s for both to get to the desktop after logging in. There goes my theory of how gloriously fast Linux is to load. I guess that just isn’t the case with Ubuntu based systems.

Now to blat Mint and see if Fedora is any faster.


Scrum unsucked

[Photo credit: darkmatter]

I’ve been reading into Scrum closer recently and it just seems like a horrible corruption of an inspirational idea, that could much more easily be integrated into normal project practices.


I love the agile principles. I’m repeating them here for my own benefit, I like a good list as much as the next.

  1. Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Working software is the principal measure of progress
  5. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  6. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  7. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  8. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
  11. Self-organizing teams
  12. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

Each principle makes sense, even if, perhaps, it isn’t attainable.

Their manifesto is harder to figure out, but still has a great aspirational feel to it.

We value this Over this
Individuals and interactions Processes and tools
Working software Comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration Contract negotiation
Responding to change Following a plan

However importantly note that the second column is still valued, but just not as much as the first.


Now read the Scrum Guide™ (TM!). Scrum just seems like a conversion of agile concepts into sucky word project management.

I realised I’d already got it wrong with what a sprint was – I thought it was two weeks work. They suggest that it should be a month’s worth of work – which makes sense, but why not just call it a month’s worth of work – or if it’s going to be less just call it an increment.

Anyway I read through the Scrum Guide and here’s my unsucked version of their main concepts.

Scrum Guide™ Unsucked agile guidelines™
The Scrum Team The Team
The Product Owner The Client
The Development Team The Developers
The Scrum Master The Project Manager
The Sprint The Sprint (it isn’t actually that bad a word) / Increment
Sprint Planning Planning
Daily Scrum Talk
Sprint Review Sprint Update
Sprint Retrospective Sprint Review
Scrum Artifacts Documents
Product Backlog Issues
Sprint Backlog Sprint Issues
Increment Completed Issues
Artifact Transparency Simplification
Definition of “Done” Happy Client

Can I have a word…

Scrum style

“Shall we go over the Sprint Review later? I’m not convinced that the Product Backlog contains all that we require for the definition of done. The Daily Scrum this morning wasn’t great as the Scrum Master had to get the Development Team to better explain their progress to The Product Owner. We need to make the Sprint Backlog artifact more transparent as The Product Owner feels we haven’t followed what we agreed at the last Sprint Retrospective.”

vs sane

“Shall we go over the Sprint update later? I’m not convinced that the issues contain all that we require for the client to be happy. The talk this morning wasn’t great as the Project Manager had to get the developers to better explain their progress to the business. We need to simplify the Sprint’s issues as the client feels we haven’t followed what we agreed at the last Sprint review.”

Please let the first type of conversation cease.

New Relic monitoring for Server, Virtual Host PHP and WordPress

New Relic offers completely free server monitoring (CPU, RAM, Network I/O etc) and limited (24 hour retention) PHP application performance monitoring (detailed error logs, PHP vs MySQL load times etc). Its far better than monitoring tools I’ve seen and very useful for trying to figure out any problems with WordPress which can be quite heavy in different areas CPU vs RAM vs Database.

Server monitoring

New Relic have excellent docs on the server installation, but this is a summary of the commands, N.B. the YOUR_LICENCE_KEY needs to be changed:

sudo sh -c 'echo deb newrelic non-free > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/newrelic.list'
wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install newrelic-sysmond
nrsysmond-config --set license_key=YOUR_LICENCE_KEY
/etc/init.d/newrelic-sysmond start

PHP monitoring

There’s again useful New Relic installation notes:

sudo sh -c 'echo deb newrelic non-free > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/newrelic.list'
wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update

This is all repeated from the Server section, so the only actual line required is:

sudo apt-get install newrelic-php5

This asks you to give an Application Name – the best format to use is [vhost domain];[server domain] where the server domain is used as a kind of parent filter for all vhost domains.

PHP vhosts applications

This doesn’t quite work for Plesk installations as we want a per-directory application performance indicator. This assumes that we’re using the Apache php mod rather than FastCGI as we’re putting PHP ini settings in apache config files.


This guide ( was the perfect starting point. The application names they suggest are really useful e.g.

[vhost domain];[server domain]

Changing the application name

If you make a mistake with the application name you can change it. Just follow this document (

Apache Virtual Hosts

I have a manual setup on a dev server – so I needed to modify the /etc/php5/conf.d/newrelic.ini file to comment out the appname.

I could then add the variables into the /etc/apache2/sites-available/* apache config files with

php_value newrelic.appname ";"

WordPress W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache offers a basic integration with New Relic through its API.

There’s a couple of links for this:

W3 Total Cache assumes that you’ve setup the PHP application. What is non-obvious is that you need an API key and not your licence key. Via a WordPress SE answer, you can then enable API access (Select (account name) > Account settings > Integrations > Data sharing > API access) and use the generated API key in WordPress Admin > W3 Total Cache > General Settings > Monitoring section (wp-admin/admin.php?page=w3tc_general#monitoring).


Second hand bicycles

In response to a blog post ‘Why I keep fixing my bike‘ about the risks of buying a dodgy second hand bike, I wrote the following comment. It’s something I’m quite passionate about so worth storing on my own blog…

I have bought at least 7 bikes second hand through either ebay or gumtree all without problem. Every bike has been exactly what I was looking for. I wouldn’t buy off an ebay seller with only a small repuatation – and almost all sellers I have seen when searching ebay have 100+ reputation.

I think the chances of getting a lemon are quite small, but you always have to be careful.

With a bicycle you are predominantly paying for a decent frame as the rest can be replaced. Its fairly unlikely that the frame will have been damaged. So buy bikes that have well made frames e.g. Cannondale. I’ve purchased a Specialized, Cannondale, Merkx, Orange, Klein and Marin bikes. Most of the bikes I bought would have had a new value in excess of $1000. I’d be most wary of buying a Specialized bike as they are the most common and the current Specialized bikes I’ve seen have very poor welding on the frames.

Certainly don’t go buying cheap branded bikes new bikes e.g. and shop’s own brand. If you’ve got very little money you can pick up old retro racing bikes for less than $100.

Limit your search to only bikes that are near buy (i.e. 30 minute drive) so that you don’t waste much time.

There are many things you can look for:

  1. Has the bike been stored inside – if you see a photo of it hanging up in a garage on its own rack its a pretty good bet that it has
  2. Buy ‘fixed’ bikes without suspension as the suspension can be expensive to replace
  3. Look at the type of gears that it has
  4. Check how detailed the spec of the bike is – does the person list exactly all the components – this gives an indication of how much the person cares about the bike
  5. Do they state where they bought it from
  6. Do they display high quality images of close ups of the gears, the joins of the frame where cracks appear
  7. What have they been using the bike for
  8. How often do they clean the bike
  9. Ask what year the bike is from as well as the exact make and model – then hopefully you can find a reference to how much the bike was when it was new.
  10. Check the welding on the bike frame – how clean are the welds. You shouldn’t be able to see the welds – as that means it was a cheaply made bike by machines and never finished off.

Dos command history

One of the nice things of Linux is the command history – it stores typically the last 1000 commands or so and its saved every time you log out.

DOS does have this through the doskey /history command (but only for current session) and you can relatively easily append this to a file:

The tricky bit is having this done for you on log out.

Via a Stack Overflow question on bash_history you can get close, using doskey macros which appends to a file on exit.

This only works for the current session though so you need to create a shortcut that runs the command each time with the following Target:

Then you just have to remember to type exit each time…

Shortcut target

Shortcut target


I also found three useful commands – but they’re only for your current session. Hat tip to Nifty Computer Tricks:

get last command
current list (use left/right arrow keys to paste to the command line)
auto-complete (type the first few letters)

Update 2 – Some extra love for the DOS prompt…

If you’ve got this working then I’ve added some extra basics. First you need to install Git (and I suggest you do it using the Chocolatey package). This includes the best versions of gnu commands compiled natively for Windows.

Add the Git usr bin directory to the path e.g. C:\Program Files\Git\usr\bin.

Then download my !.bat / history.bat gist:

Put the !.bat and history.bat into the Git usr bin directory too. These assume you are saving the history to %USERPROFILE%\history.log.

Then you’ll be able to do commands like history | grep mysql to list all your mysql commands in history.log with their line numbers. Then call ! 123 to execute the specific line of the history.log file.

Update 3 – Clink love

Martin Ridgers’ Clink is an awesome tool to behold. That adds the correct ! command to the DOS command prompt. Buuuuuuut… it doesn’t include a history command. So save the above history.bat file to C:\Windows\System32\history.bat (it doesn’t have to rely on GNU Tools / Git) and uncomment history_file=%localappdata%\clink\.history.