Blog-vent Calendar (0/25)


TL:DR I'm gonna do something stupid and commit to writing a blog post every day from December 1st until the 25th. It's kinda like a boring advent calendar.

The Thing!

In the shower this morning I had an idea. Often when I have an idea in the shower it usually fizzles out before I've managed to get downstairs, trip over the cat, feed the cat and boil the kettle. This one didn't though, it persisted all day.

The germ of the idea came by virtue of it being that time of year where people stop doing something for a month (stop-tober) or grow some additional facial hair (movember) and then the recent flurry of black and white pictures with no context I've seen on Facebook recently, something clicked.

I've always wanted to write my blog more but I struggle because I have so many other things to do. So why not make an annoying thing that I can subject my handful of twitter and Facebook friends to? So from the 1st until the 25th of December I will write a daily blog post, like an advent calendar.

What is this all about? Are you okay Hun?

To be honest I've always shied away from this kind of thing, never especially putting myself out there online or participated in the wild west of debate at the bottom half of the internet, but I've always envied those who do. For example, I have one friend who participates in very lively discussion about issues of gender, gender inequality, gender identity and a multitude of varied and diverse topics. Reading the comments and discussions my friend engages in over the last few months I realise I know nothing about these things.

Whenever someone asks my opinion about something I've not thought about my response would often be "I have no opinion on this". Actually this happened a few times with family when asking my opinion or how I feel about something and it wasn't until my partner pointed out to me that responding the same way comes across as quite dismissive of the "something" itself.

I think much of this manifested itself during my History A-Level. I was terrible at forming an opinion because I felt that I could see both (or more) sides of the argument. Whenever my teacher would say something like "what would be Louis XIV's options be at this point?" I would often suggest options no-one would consider as viable (mainly because I always suggested things like war or extreme options). This was not because I thought these were viable, or something that I agreed with, or that I thought it was a good idea, but because I was asked what his options were. The vast number of "options" that could be considered prevented me from making sensible arguments and think this is still the same today. However this helps me write code, because that's what you need to do, consider the odd things that could happen and try to cope with them. A simple bit of code may get you most of the way there;

if(option == "diplomacy")
   martin.opinion = "reformer";
else if(option == "war")
   martin.opinion = "warmonger";
   //no opinion, exit
   return 1;

However you can't do this when discussing an argument with people. Or maybe I could use some AI to do this?

My exposure to blogging have usually been about some system config that someone might find useful or my anger at a piece of software that has caused me some grief. I never blog about anything that matters, and maybe I've never thought too much about topics that matter, instead focusing on things I have to get done that day, week, month, year.

So with all this, I am proudly responsible for one of those annoying posts people see on Facebook! Not that anyone will follow suit because I have sensible friends who I actually know IRL, and they're not stupid.

Also, on a random personal note, I've not had an advent calendar for years, mainly because I don't like chocolate, or maybe I'm getting old.

SeqAn and ReadTheDocs


So you find a typo in the SeqAn read the docs manual and you think "I will be a good citizen and correct it", but before you issue a pull request you want to test that the URLs work. To do this you need to 'compile' the docs, a little like you do with LaTeX. Here we go;

I've done all this on a AWS Ubuntu "14.04.5 LTS, Trusty Tahr" instance for a clean install so you can see only what is required.

Install Dependencies

$ sudo apt-get update

$ sudo apt-get install python-sphinx python-pip git

 Install Sphinx extensions

$ pip install --user sphinx_rtd_theme

$ pip install --user sphinxcontrib-bibtex

$ pip install --user seqansphinx

Go to your development directory, clone SeqAn and 'Compile' the docs

$ mkdir development

$ cd development

$ git clone

$ cd seqan/manual

$ make html


There you go, you can now edit the SeqAn manual and view the resulting HTML pages on your local machine (assuming you're not being daft and doing it on an AWS instance to ensure you get only the minimum dependencies like me).


Pebble; Powered 'til tomorrow....


It seems that 2016 is the year that just keeps on giving. Of the four "most funded" kickstarter campaigns, Pebble takes the 1st, 3rd and 4th spot. With so many failed Kickstarter campaigns it is a real shame that one of the most successful has dwindled in such a way. 

Two things happened today to really cement the end for me;

  • I received my refund for the Time 2
  • After resetting my iPhone today due to the Pebble App locking the phone up, all the health data corrupted and is now gone. Good job it's all mirrored on Apple HealthKit for them to sell to the health insurance companies.

My Pebble Experience

I never liked the look of the original Pebble so didn't really pay attention to it, but when I saw the Pebble Time Kickstarter in 2015 I had to back it and was very happy when it arrived. 


To be honest after the initial excitement of its arrival I just wore it and forgot about it. I never bothered with most of the apps (I installed the ebay and uptime robot apps which were kinda useful for me but the apps on the phone notified you anyway so kinda redundant). The enigma watch-face was great, I left the watch to notify me when something important happened, track how many steps and how much sleep I was getting .... like a weird stalker. I was quite happy with this arrangement, and I could wear it in the shower! Bonus!

The health stuff was pretty crude but when they updated the firmware in preparation for the newer watches to include better step and sleep tracking I was really impressed. This was much better than the HealthKit graphs on iOS (yeah I know, Linux guy with an iPhone, let the flame war begin). So of course I backed the Pebble Time 2 when I found out that it included a heart-rate monitor as I needed that extra graph to go alongside the other two. My heart is racing just thinking about it!

I actually didn't know about the fitbit rumours last week when I thought to myself, "I should check Kickstarter, didn't they say November shipping?" That's when I noticed a couple of people mentioning the rumours, two days later Update 17 was released.

With the refund I received today and the sudden buggy nature of the app, it's time for me to start the grieving process. My Pebble Time, like my Nokia N900 will always be "Powered 'til tomorrow".





Cold outside, I wonder if the Chicken is okay.

Last night was probably the coldest it's been since we moved to Norwich before the summer. On the way home after a day on a stats course I'd not realised how cold it was. I started to get a bit worried since I knew that our chicken is alone in the coop and the door was open. I got in and locked the coop as usual. Since the Sun sets at around 4PM and I don't get home until after dark I knew that the coop would have lost heat, but I didn't know how much.

We only have the one chicken now so that makes me also feel a little sorry for her, so a few weeks back we added the Omlet thermal stuff to hopefully help with this kind of thing.


I already have a Maplin weather station (WS1050) attached to the outside of the coop and a basestation which reports what the temperature is (along with other stuff), and I can pick this up using my SDR to record it (I need to write this up on my blog at some point). Anyway, I got home and realised it was 0.5degC, and it was only 6PM. We also have the Samsung smart things equipment in the house so I thought I'd nip to the shop, grab and extra sensor and put it in the coop to see what the difference was going to be overnight between the Maplin weather station and the inside of the coop.

I got back from my local PC and phone that you can put in a car store (other outlets are available) with a Samsung Multisensor.


Since I needed to change the batteries to the outdoor sensor of the WS1050, I took the time to quickly "calibrate"* them in the house.



So after I was confident that at least in the house they agreed, I put the Smartthings sensor in the coop and the weather station sensor back on the outside of the Omlet run. Then I waited and watched the temperature drop......and boy did it drop...


This also agreed with what the outdoor weather station was saying (although I didn't take pictures of it and wasn't using my SDR to record it, I've not been organised with this stuff lately).

So in a nutshell, here are my thoughts;

  • The Smartthings Multisensor is great (if you already have the smarthings stuff) even though it's not designed to go below 0 degrees C.
  • Smartthings NEEDS to make an outdoor sensor, or someone else should make a Z-Wave one that isn't out of stock everywhere
  • The BBC weather forecast said -2C, it got to -5C
  • The Omlet extreme insulation doesn't keep the coop any warmer than the outside....but there is a caveat. We only have one lone chicken**. Maybe this is only useful if there are several. This did shock me when I saw the temperature plummet to the same as outside, but it shouldn't have as it makes perfect sense.
  • It'd be nice if the smartthings app could graph stuff
  • I really need to write more about the setup of our coop and weather monitoring system using rtl_433, the ws1050 and maybe even a bit on smartthings.
  • Finally, it didn't seem to phase the chicken, she even laid an egg.

*I put them in the same place and checked that after an hour they broadly looked the same, in fact they did calibrate nicely at the temperatures I saw.

**Here is not the place to discuss more chickens, getting more chickens, re-homing this chicken etc etc. Accept that we have one chicken and that's the way it is.


A week or so after this, the sensor completely died and never worked again. It's clear that these sensors are completely unsuitable for below zero operation. This sucks as I plenty of cheaper 433mhz devices work at low temperatures. Come on someone, sort out a ZWave outdoor sensor!

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