• Week 240

    31 July 2017

    Settling into a busy August with a degree of plate-spinning. What plates are spinning?

    Over on Selworthy, I’m wrestling with maths to make it even more accurate – specifically, frame-accurate – despite the best attempts of browsers and software.

    Over at Foxfield, we’ve sold out of one product, the others are selling well, and I’m gearing up for a second range of products and a restock of the first. I’ve also written up the first in some occasional Foxnotes with more details.

    I wrapped up a bunch of work for Good Night Lamp (pending feedback), and had some meetings with a few other people.

    Doesn’t sound like a lot, I know, but easily enough for a week.

  • Weeks 236-239

    24 July 2017

    Travel and holidays mean weeknotes were pushed to the wayside. So let’s get back on top:

    My focus on Selworthy shifted to beginning to prototype the major back-end change I’d been planning for a while. So far, a quick spike reveals it’s a definite improvement, but there are lots of curious issues that are challenging to debug because of all the places issues could lie – many of which are effectively sealed boxes. Lots of arithmetic, programming, and staring at video specs going on over here.

    I kicked off some work for Good Night Lamp addressing some feedback on the tooling I’d worked on for them, now that it was in the wild and they’d had some experience with it. A few new features, a few refactorings, and lots of polish and quality-of-life improvements for the team that use the tooling. That’ll probably wrap up in week 240.

    I wrapped up the last patch of work on Gisborough by bringing it all up-to-date with the new Doteveryone branding.

    In week 239, I finalised some details around a month-long course I’m planning to run in October – more on that shortly, I hope.

    And the launch of Foxfield Instruments went well, largely. One teething snag: I’d shipped an incorrect component in one of the kits. I fixed this by sending replacements down to Thonk, and then getting in touch with the keen customers who’d already bought the affected kits. That’s helped me discover the spread of them – even though I was fixing a problem, exciting to learn that Foxfield kits are in the US, Russia, Switzerland, and beyond.

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    I spent a lot of week 236 putting together a lot of prototypes of potential new Foxfield modules to take to Brighton Modular – they arrived whilst I was away in week 235. You can see many of them in the central row of the case above. The exciting news is that all of them worked, and several of them turn out to be Rather Good Ideas. So hopefully we can bring more of those to life in due course.

    And finally: Week 238 was another week off – one that, unlike week 235, had been planned in a while.

    Back to our regular schedule for a bit, now.

  • Week 213

    23 January 2017

    Continuing the trend of brief weeknotes that are at least on time:

    • My time on Selworthy was spent working on overhauling some commonly-used UI, to make it feel slicker and more app-like without losing some of its webby nature. That’s nearly done – we’ve been testing it on the staging server – and otherwise, I worked on some bugfixes and planning.
    • I’ve nearly wrapped up my time working for Good Night Lamp – I spent some time this week integrating feature requests from the team based on their workflows and feedback, and also integrating a final API method. The tool is nearly good to go, I think.
    • Had a quick meeting about Gisborough and we decided to reconvene in week 214 – it looked like the team needed to do some more internal clarification on what this might be.
    • Met up with Erica to talk about some forthcoming maintenance work on the Empathy Deck which looks like it might have its life extended a little.
    • My main work on Longcrag involved staring at some spreadsheets to try to work out wholesale and end-user pricing (and understand what margins on the whole endeavour to plan for). I think the pricing is reasonable. Next on the list: emailing some people about the project before it goes any further.

    In non-project-related news, I tidied up the studio a bit, rearranging the desk with a new shelf for test gear and better, colour-balanced lighting. The new lamp is having a good effect on mood and workspace already. And to cap it all: I finished – and paid – my tax return. Admin!

  • Week 212

    16 January 2017

    Focuses for Week 212:

    • Good Night Lamp – I spent some time patching and adding features to the tooling I’m working on following feedback from the team who are going to be using it.
    • Selworthy – spent a couple of days wrapping up features from the end of 2016, fixing some bugs, and starting a minor UI overhaul of some key functionality.
    • Spent an afternoon workshopping with doteveryone – hopefully more to say about that in due course.
    • Longcrag – redesigned lots of frontpanels to correctly fit jack sockets, and to use vector logos throughout. I redesigned a possible product for the second phase of releases, wrote some more documentation, and wrestled with some firmware for a prototype – which got to a good place by the time I was done.

    A busy first full week, spread between a range of clients and my own work.

  • Weeks 210-211

    9 January 2017

    I was out for all of Week 210, because it was Christmas and New Year, and downing tools is very important (and necessary). Turned out to be an excellent break.

    Then, in week 211, I spent much of the time ramping back up for 2017 – thinking a bit about what’s to come in the year, working on some small projects and continuing my own product development work. To that end:

    I spent some time really pushing Longcrag on. I built up a new prototype on a breadboard, and it proved markedly superior to an existing one, so I’m probably scrapping one of the five products under the Longcrag umbrella and replacing it with this one.

    I also spent some time continuing to plan out packaging approaches. This was helped by inheriting a surprisingly good USB thermal printer from Tim at Sensible Object (who are upstairs from me), and using this to prototype labels. That’s going to work well, I think.

    The final 10% of Longcrag is taking frustratingly long – it’s lots of small bits that need pushing forward – but it’s going to be good, I think, and right now, I’m trying to emulate the best producers I’ve worked with in terms of thinking how to get stuff into the world.

    I also spent some time in the ramp-up to 2017 working on Blackdown, the follow-up product to Longcrag. I spent an afternoon really prodding the firmware for Blackdown, and made a lot of progress – both in that it functions correctly, and in that it functions interestingly. My investment in the oscilloscope last year once again paid off – the usability and clarity of good tools is always a reward, and in this case, it made possible observing critical timing in the order of milliseconds (and quantifying the drop in latency as I optimised code). I’m really excited with where this object could go.

    Finally, I continued my work on tooling for Good Night Lamp. That meant getting the tools live into a production environment, adding some more features, fettling bugs, and talking to the team about their needs and then doing the best to integrate a minimal version of their current process into the tool. It’s coming to life nicely.

    Over the weekend, as is often the case, I sat down and thought about goals (rather than resolutions) for 2017. Some of those are work-related, and I feel like I’m going to be reviewing them roughly quarterly to see what I’ve done, what’s likely to prove impossible, and what needs to be added.

    For now, though: onwards!

  • Weeks 206-209

    23 December 2016

    And that’s 2016. Final set of notes for the year, then:

    Selworthy is in a really good place. Spent some time co-ordinating moving some DNS around and setting up a new splash-site that other people can maintain, which meant wrestling with the state of WordPress development in 2016, and also thanking my many lucky stars for all the work we did moving our operations to Ansible. There was various fettling of existing installations, and also some rough edges on prototype functionality smoothed out.

    I spent an afternoon with George at Good, Form and Spectacle wrapping up some work we’d be doing together.

    I also spent a few days working with Alex on building out some simple but vital tooling for Good Night Lamp – hoping to wrap that up in the new year.

    Lots of movement on Longcrag. Over December, all the prototype boards and panels arrived. The boards are definitely a success: they all function well, with no minor functionality bugs; they also all have clearly labelled silkscreens and will definitely be buildable which is important for DIY components. The frontpanels – my first iteration – will probably need a second pass; some tolerance need easing up, some silkscreening needs adjusting, but they’re very, very close. I’ve also started writing build documentation for them, which is going well but going to take another pass or two – and that’s all helped confirm the BOMs are correct. Not spent much time thinking about packaging; that’s for next year. But I’m excited where this project currently is – we’re into that “final 10%” which is going to be a bit of a hump. But: exciting!

    And of course, a few conversations about next year. I’m hoping to step back from Selworthy next year, and whilst I have a few collaborations in the calendar, and possibly some work early in the year, if you’re interested in the space I tend to operate – between software and interaction, thinking through making, making culture – you should get in touch.

    All the best for 2017.