12 June 2017
Only two projects worked on this week.
Selworthy continues at a steady cruise. I worked up getting FFMpeg to send progress reports to the browser, fettled some new video encoding routines, and fixed some bugs with one of our formatters that were having knock-on effects in surprising places. I also continued research into a major refactoring and overhaul of a key system.
The big news this week was on Longcrag, which is pretty much ready for launch. Lots of little bits on it this week: shooting product photographs; prepping marketing materials; double-checking guides and documentation; finishing a website; filming a demonstration – and then all the edit work on that film. On Thursday, I shipped a box of products to a retailer, so I guess I’ve well and truly pulled the cork out of that bottle. It’s likely the first round of products will go on sale next week. More news then. Gulp!
05 June 2017
Gosh. Fell off the weeknotes wagon again, eh?
It’s been a very busy month, and yet most of its focus has been fairly linear: pushing forward on a variety of projects.
Selworthy is in a moderate motoring phase. We’ve got a new tech lead that I’m slowly handing over to, and he’s taking on a lot of the day-to-day responsibliities. I’m focusing a bit on some R&D and that means I’m up to my neck in browser and encoders and the horrors of discovering what turn out to be bugs in infrastructure.
Gisborough wrapped up in week 232: we had a final few weeks of writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more – and then fettling all our content architecture before deciding to add more writing in the final week. But we shipped on time, and it was a great team – and hopefully I’ll be able to link to more about it in due course.
Longcrag has taken longer than planned, owing to the fullness of my calendar. Lots of sticking tiny components in bags, repeatedly; writing and rewriting copy; slowly getting on top of build documents; making films and editing said films whilst video software crashes all around you; the final 10% taking way too longer. Nearly there: nearly there with product in the world. Terrifying/exciting all at once.
Along the way, I’ve done some minor Wapley fettling with Richard, getting it into a testable state and battling the limitations of mobile browsers.
And I’ve done a bit more invention on the next phase of Longcrag – breadboarding up one new product and sketching up another, and leaving them to percolate whilst I work out if they’re any good or not.
When I’m deep in client work, weeknotes can be a bit fractal: a month can look the same as a week, from far enough away. In some ways, that’s a good sign – it means the work has scaled a bit – but it also means that some of the blow-by-blow is more challenging to write about. It also often means that I tend to leave admin to the weekends, and that means it tends to get forgotten. I think I should be aiming to do the admin, but make it simpler. Perhaps, for this shape of work, weeknotes aren’t super effective. I think we’ll try to stick with them for a bit.
And hopefully I’m about to hit cruise control for a little: some projects are winding up and I’m going to leave a bit of slack in the schedule for serendipity, prototyping, and so forth. (I’m also in New York for a week from the 19th – get in touch if you’d like to sya hello). But for now: a couple more weeks of getting Longcrag out and wrapping up Wapley.
08 May 2017
Quick notes, but notes nontheless:
- On Selworthy, I wrapped up work on our latest export format and got that deployed to production. I also did battle with handling video with non-square pixels correctly. That was an adventure – and a pile of learning to do – but we got somewhere good in the end.
- On Gisborough, we committed our final content changes before a second round of testing. I also spent some time porting the application from “a directory full of PHP files” to a self-hosting Sinatra application, mainly to make it easier to host on PAASes like Heroku. This didn’t take very long, but gosh, Apache and
mod_phpis a pretty handy prototyping environment and some days I miss its easy availability.
- On Longcrag, my correct set of front panels arrived from Eurocircuits, and I built up the remaining test boards. So far, so good: I identified two mistakes on the boards (simple component values) that can be solved through corrections in the build document. I ordered the replacement parts, and next week, kitting up begins in earnest.
03 May 2017
The notes continue to be brief in proportion to the busyness of the week!
- I spent most of my time on Selworthy writing export tools for another broadcast subtitle format; challenging, but making lots of headway and understanding the format better the longer I spend with it.
- On Gisborough, we wrapped up a second pass of the content, started to brief an animator, and planned the final push on the project.
- Longcrag is paused whilst I wait for the replacement panels to arrive from Eurocircuits.
However, two prototypes for future Longcrag projects arrived, so I built them up. One was an entirely new board – albeit based on two other existing products – and it worked first time, and also confirmed that the idea for the product was a good one. So that’s something that might move up the production schedule depending on how the first batch of products go.
The other was a second iteration of something I’d made earlier – now ported entirely to surface-mount technology, and fixing a bug in the layout that meant the output voltages weren’t high enough. It works entirely correctly, and is quite exciting – unlike the other Longcrag products, which are my own take on existing ideas or concepts, this one is an invention, and it seems to work well. I built up two of them, and have sent one to a pianist for beta-testing, and to see how another musician responds to it.
Fair motoring, and rolling reasonable well through all the inevitable context-switching.
25 April 2017
Once again, in haste:
- Over on Selworthy my colleague and I licked lots of small tickets into shape, ready for a new deployment shortly. I also broke ground on another challenging binary export format, which is going to be my focus for the next few weeks.
- I took the Twine protoype we’d made on Gisborough and unrolled it into a stack of HTML pages – easier to make accessible, and customise. Twine had still been useful in prodding the interactivity and seeing how to chunk up the writing, though. We’re gearing up for a second round of testing soon on this.
- I spent some time on the Empathy Deck, fine-tuning some of the algorithms and prepping a bunch of new content for a spring clean. That should go live shortly.
- And finally, I had a very busy day on Longcrag. I knocked a bit more of the website into shape, for starters. Then, I spent some time practicing kitting up one of the products: working out how to label the interior bags, how many bags it would need, what should go in each bag to not be confusing, and confirming the documentation was correct for this. I made a set of packing documents for each kit, which would make it much easier to make up these bags. I also bought a set of paper espresso cups to put each bag’s contents into. Lay out 25, fill ’em up all up, tip them all into matching bags, do the next set.
Excitingly, the big order from EuroCircuits arrived: all the PCBs and front panels. The front panels were great quality, but two whole sets of them had a serious defect. I mentioned this to the company, and got on with test builds of two of the kits – both of which were very successful.
EuroCircuits called me the next day, and we talked over the issue. In the end, it looks like it’s an issue their end, and they’re going to re-make the boards; a huge relief, but also made me feel happier about my decision to go with them. They’re pricier than the Chinese alternative, but the quality of product was great, the turnaround time fast – about 8 days from order to 400 boards (50 each of 8 designs) arriving; the software tools they supply are very reassuring, and the customer service was great. This means that next week I can kit up the two complete kits, and prep for the other two to arrive. Nearly there.
And that’s a wrap. Next week: continuing with binary formats, hopefully wrapping up a second pass at some Gisborough content, and continuing to get Longcrag closer to being out the door.