2012: Retrospective

December 31, 2012

This blog post is *ancient*, and preserved only for historical record.

2012: A year in review.

So.. 2012.. What can I say.. Quite a lot, actually.

When I last wrote an annual retrospective, it was 2011 going into 2012, and I’d just started at Baseblack, one of many Soho-based VFX studios. I had a good 12-odd months there, before the credit crunch hit the entire London VFX industry, and I was made redundant in October. Over my time there I wrote a lot of puppet manifests, built a render farm based on Dell Blade servers, undertook a Hitachi HNAS administrator course, learned how to use Maya, Realflow, Nuke, Shake, PFTrack, Silhouette, and a whole bunch of other VFX packages too numerous to mention. “Oh, your 2D render won’t complete? Did you use Paint nodes? Oh.. Well .. Good Luck With That.” It was a good year. I got my head around 2D and 3D LUTs, Figured out monitor and projector calibrations. Before it all went pearshaped, we’d built a really awesome pipeline, with the help of Paul Nendick, Andrew Bunday, and Michael Nguyen. We had a truly fantastic team. And then it all went wrong.

After being made redundant from Baseblack, I started a new job, which frankly, I don’t enjoy, so the less said about that, the better. Anyone who follows my tweets closely will know what I mean, and why it bugs me so, but I really don’t want to go into it here.

Moving on.

I spent a few weeks of 2012 in Spain, pretty much only in Barcelona, with Giles.. Went to my first Calçotada in Tarrragona. That was a lot of fun. Definitely an experience to be repeated. I visited some roman ruins there which were truly stunning, and made for some great photographs.

In July, I started my own company, Astound Wireless. Basically a name/company to cover the work I’ve done in the year regarding wireless/wired network consultancy and contracting. It all had a fairly odd start. I went to the London Realtime hackathon in April, fully expecting just to build something cool. I turned up, and the organiser explained how they’d been having problems with the wireless, and I stepped up to fix the problem.
The next day of the hackathon, I turned up at the venue with some of my personal collection of routers (basically a Cisco 2625XM, a switch, a whole bunch of access points, and mysteriously, an Axis webcam.) Over the rest of the morning of that day, I built an entirely new network from scratch for the hackathon attendees to use. Two weeks later, General Assembly ran the UnlockLondon Hackathon, and once again called on my services to build their network, which was slightly larger, spanning 2 floors, and presented a new challenge. I brought in yet more gear, I advised the purchase of some more access points, set up their network for the hackathon, and things went well.

Hackathon/unconference/event wireless is tricky. Everyone expects bulletproof, permanent connectivity, which isn’t too tricky if the incoming feed is able to support the amount of traffic. If it isn’t, then some form of traffic shaping/caching has to take place. By the time that I was called in to organise the 3rd hackathon, I’d already started Astound Wireless.
In July, the weekend the Olympics were due to start in London, I was running the network for the MMXII hackathon, sponsored by New Bamboo. I’d originally specced the network for the venue at Central Working in Bloomsbury, for 70-80 attendees. I brought some new kit along, introducing the 5GHz wavelength into the mix, which basically gives immensely better coverage (less contention) for any device supporting the 5GHz spectrum.

In the end, only 20-30 people showed up, so the wireless seemed massively overspecced, and I didn’t in fact end up deploying the caching server(s). Such is life. They shall have to wait for a further deployment in the year to come.

Around about June, I found out about Silicon Drinkabout, a weekly (on a friday evening) social club for startup/small business owners in the London tech scene. In the past year I’ve met some really interesting people through that, and by and large, been to most of the weekly meetups. I’ve discovered that the Salvation Jane is a fabulous café, but kinda lacking in Wifi coverage (Might try and fix that!), and also that there’s a whole raft of pubs in east london, around the Silicon Roundabout that are also lacking in wireless coverage. (Definitely working on those! ;) )

I met a guy called Isaac at one of the Drinkabout sessions, and he mentioned that his product is pretty reliant on decent wireless connectivity, so I started working with him, finding new and interesting ways to leverage existing wireless networks for our own purposes, as well as using my knowledge of infrastructure and systems for his startup’s growth. There’ll be much more of this in the year to come.

Off the back of the Silicon Drinkabout thing, I joined the Digital Sizzle team for the Movember effort. I grew a mostly passable moustache (as in, it made me look vaguely manly, but really failed to grow in the middle bit, so looked kinda silly). The entire team raised a staggering £15,150 in the name of bum and ball cancers (Prostate and Testicular). It has to be said that I only really managed to raise £6.00, but every little helps, right?

Last year, when I wrote my 2011 retrospective, I mentioned that I broke up with my partner, and was finding the London Dating Scene particularly hard going. It should come as no surprise to you that 2012 has been equally FAIL as far as dating is concerned, and I’m starting to wonder if the bottom of the barrel really has been scraped. The one experience that stands out in my mind is having been on one date, and after that, having received more text messages in a week, that I’ve sent in an entire month (about 90). That didn’t go any further, unsurprisingly. I do like my personal space, especially as a guy who’s trying to get a business off the ground, I need my own time and space, and woe to anyone who doesn’t understand that.

So 2012 was a mixed year. As was 2011, actually. Funny that.. Every year, you get a year older, but really, nothing really changes. One of the odd things I noticed a few years ago is that Christmas in itself, as a holiday has really lost it’s edge. I don’t ask for anything for christmas presents anymore, and also I’m not very good at buying shit for other people. I’ve never really had a grasp of what they’d like. All I can estimate is what I think they’d like. Which is often wrong. So it’s either cash, or Amazon vouchers from here on out.

The primary reason I don’t ever ask for anything anymore is that I’m in a better position to know what I want / be able to get it that anyone else is.

It also seems remarkably unfair asking my retired parents for anything with a value over £100. Kinda.

Christmas is now a hallmark holiday (pointless, and designed to cater for those with families who actually give a fuck). I’ve just spent an incredibly happy/peaceful holiday period with my family, but in the same vein, don’t need to know it’s “christmas”, as I could equally spend as pleasant a two weeks in the middle of summer.

Again, I digress, so back to the topic at hand..

2012’s been an interesting year, on reflection. Lots of good things, some bad things, so I’m going to cop out, and repeat exactly what I said for the blogpost this time last year.

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”

Except this year, it feels more significant. I’m exploring more on the business / contract / freelance side of things, and I’m sure as hell not going to yield.

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Written by Tom O'Connor, an AWS Technical Specialist, with background in DevOps and scalability. You should follow them on Twitter