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Zimbabwe Life – 4 Months In

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, it’s a testament to how busy its been for me with work, church and life.

I thought I’d give an update on African life 4 months in as it’s the new year, its been interesting to look back on the last few months and compare the differences to life in the UK.

I’ll try and not rehash too many of the details that Marie shared in her last post.

So we have been in Zim a little over 4 months now, I have to say all the negative stories you hear about Zim are probably a little over blown by western media, sure there are some problems but I wouldn’t say they are as bad as western media makes out.

We’ve been blessed enough that we live in an area with very few power cuts and I mean perhaps 2 mins every other week or so compared to 12 hours a day that some areas get. I think this is because we probably are on the same power feed as the local hospital in our area.

Water hasn’t really been an issue for us with the exception that you cannot safely drink straight from the tap, we have a borehole (2 actually) which supplies drinking water for the complex, but its not enough to run the general water supply for the whole complex, which means the main water pipes are fed from a tank which is kept full with a mixture of Borehole water, Municipally supplied water and even the Swimming Pool when the municipal supplies are not working (which is fairly regularly at least in the winter months which are June through September). As you can guess chlorine isn’t good for you and it’s commonly known that the municipal water is not to the same standards compared to the UK. This is mostly down to the infrastructure not being as reliable (burst pipes, no power at treatment facilities etc). The water situation hasn’t been too much of an issue for us, we have our containers with which we go to the main borehole tap and fill for drinking water and for the puppies, which is luckily by the side of our house which is convenient. The only real challenge has been remembering that I must spit the water out when rinsing my mouth out after brushing my teeth (I used to have a quick drink after rinsing my mouth in the UK).

As I mentioned, work has been pretty hectic the last few months. I’ve made some changes as well in recent months too, I was previously spending a lot of my time working with Frederick Townes, Willie Jackson and the gang at W3 EDGE who are the main go-to guys to go to when you want WordPress to scale. It was a blast but unfortunately it was ultimately taking way too much time away from spending it with my wife and doing some of my own project based work (not directly in the WordPress/Internet sphere).

While I was working at W3 EDGE, I had the privilege to take a trip down to Cape Town in October and speak at a WordCamp Conference. I spoke on how to scale servers for maximum WordPress performance. It was quite a geeky and very tech focused talk but it went down well from feedback from others. I put the slides up on slideshare and the video has been uploaded to YouTube, unfortunately the audio quality for the first few minutes of my presentation was a bit poor but it picks up further in. Hopefully I’ll be able to do another talk at WordCamp Cape Town in 2013.

So even after wrapping up with the W3 EDGE team it turns out I was still very busy, some new hosting clients came in looking for more capacity for their magento store, as they were paying a rather hefty amount to Rackspace each month but not getting the amount of scale they desired. Scale roughly can be thought about as the amount of traffic a site can take based upon certain factors – for example when I mention scaling up a site, it could mean adding more servers into the equation or adding resources to the existing servers or just optimising the existing gear so it can do more in the same hardware, and so on. I won’t bore you with all the details, if you do want to find out more, please do take a look at my business website and contact me there 🙂

So Christmas has been and gone, perhaps the most exciting thing in the run up to Christmas this year was getting to be involved with our church’s (ONE Church) large missional event. This year it was called “Christmas Unrapped”. It was a mix of traditional carols, a 5-10 min gospel message and a play/performance combining Spoken Word, Dance, Acting and even some Bollywood, all in the Avondale car park (there’s a reasonably large Indian population within the Avondale area). I was originally only put down to do some lighting design and lighting on the day, but quite late on it was realised that a lot of the technical side of things was not arranged yet at all. So I got promoted to Technical Director and ended up arranging and organising all the technical aspects of the event from Power, Sound, Lighting and then running Sound on the night. It was definitely an eye opening experience and may have given me a few grey hairs in the process, but looking back I really did enjoy it!

Christmas itself was nice and quiet, I was able to take just over a week off which made a real change to the fast pace busyness of work and was really relaxing, spending lots of time with Marie, enjoying the quiet moments while they last, and playing with our puppies! We can’t really call our dogs “Puppies” for too much longer as they are over 6 months old now and just recently got spayed, which was a little bit traumatic for them but Salt & Pepper have both bounced back nicely.

In just a few days that quiet will be all but gone for the most part & I don’t say that as a negative point. Our baby is due on around the 28th January, so it literally could be any day now. In some respects its still a bit surreal that I’m going to be a dad in a few days time (because I haven’t really had much to do in the last 9 months), in some respects its quite scary to think another human life is going to be totally dependant on me (& Marie) for absolutely everything, and in some respects its quite exciting and I look forward to the challenge. I’m certain that as I learn stuff, I’ll share here as time allows as well as share as many photos as I can, here or via facebook.

I’m going to leave it there for now, hopefully we won’t be so tardy with updates in the future (I say that now….).




Fireproof – Review (Kind of)

Marie and I watched a film called Fireproof last night. One of Marie’s work colleagues lent it to us, it’s a Christian movie and at first I thought it was going to be a cheesy movie about some bible story or just plain bad acting. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to watching to start with.

The film is basically about a couple who after 7 years things are just drifting apart to the point they consider divorce, The main character Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is challenged by his father to take on the “Love Dare” for 40 days rather than just signing the divorce papers and while it starts hard he sticks at it. He hits rock bottom around day 20 when his wife Katherine Holt (Erin Bethea) tells him that she no longer loves him. At this point he speaks to his father who comes down to visit and shares the gospel with him and he gets saved.

Now that he is saved he has a new heart to continue on the Love Dare through to completion and beyond even though he hasn’t been shown any appreciation up to that point. The film culminates in the (somewhat expected) ending of his wife coming to him and saying “Something’s Changed in you & I want that too!”

While my brief synopsis doesn’t really do much for the story or the film itself I can say it was excellent and quite moving in places, I dont want to give too many of the story points away, but at times it was humorous, especially the tabasco sauce drinking scene! and at times it was very moving, when Katherine suddenly realised who paid the $24,000 to supply her Mum the right bed and wheelchair she needed after suffering a stroke.

I did particularly like the similarities in the middle when Caleb was asking his Dad, how can he (Caleb) love someone despite constantly being despised and rejected – Remind you of Jesus much?

For sure the acting is not hollywood level, but its not bad either, it’s pretty respectable and it did lack the cheesy cringe factor that I’ve witnessed when seeing some other christian videos, they even apparently filmed it on location in 30 days!.

Watching the film left me with an interesting thought and in many respects a warning to myself and probably any other married couple – marriages don’t just break up overnight, they break up slowly over a long time, so subtly perhaps that you probably don’t even notice something is wrong until its often too late. In fact the DVD extra features includes a music video and the film itself has as part of its sound track, the song by Casting Crowns – Slow Fade, heres the chorus:

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

This really got me thinking how easy that could happen to Marie and myself if I’m not careful, it’s not one big mistake that would cost me my marriage one day, its would be a systematic and constant assumption that “everything is fine” or making compromises for things that really shouldn’t be compromised in the first place.

For example in the film Katherine talks about the “trash” on the internet that he views, and there are further references to it, and it basically means looking at porn. while i would consider myself blessed that I don’t struggle with that temptation anymore it got me thinking is there anything that I do that might be considered to be valuing more than my wife? it’s a good reality check to make sure I am keeping anything like that in check, like the desire to always have the latest Apple gadgets like the iPad or Working too much.

The film is a good reminder that marriage is hard work and there are times when it’s not easy and it’s not just about feelings sometimes but just as much about making conscious decisions to love someone even when its hard, probably one of the cheesiest lines of the film was “Just because you fireproof your home, it doesn’t mean fire wont come to it” such a great reminder that yes as you work on your marriage, it doesn’t guarantee you safety from tests and trials but it should warn you not to get complacent

So I guess my review ends with a warning to any married couples out there to keep checking on your marriage and making sure there’s nothing that would cause you to make compromises on it or your partner. I’d actually recommend the film as well as a good watch too!

The film ends with this song, Love is Not a Fight by Warren Barfield, and I think it does a fairly good job of summing up what love (and by extension marriage too), i thought i would post the lyrics up:

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It’s a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave

So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We’ll work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

To some, love is a word
That they can fall into
But when they’re falling out
Keeping that word is hard to do

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

Love will come to save us
If we’ll only call
He will ask nothing from us
But demand we give our all

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for

I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It’s worth fighting for

I’ll end with this question, Is your partner worth fighting for? and if so, Why aren’t you fighting for them, even when the times are good as well as bad?
That reminds me of the Mark Driscoll line: “if you don’t date your Spouse, Somebody else will”
My answer: I’ll fight until God calls me up to make his websites run fast!



Africa United

Went to see Africa United over the weekend with Marie, Marie told me it was supposed to be an accurate portrayal of Africa. the opening sequence when Dudu (Eriya Ndayambaje) makes a football with a condom it made me sit up in my seat straight away as i knew this film just wasnt going to be any ordinary film. The story is that of 3 children’s road trip across Africa to Johannesburg for Fabrice (Roger Nsengiyumva), a football prodigy in the making, to be able to go out on the pitch for the opening of the World Cup. They get on a bus supposedly heading to the Rwandan capital for an audition but end up getting on the wrong bus and thats where there journey begins, they head through several African countries and have to fight the odds with so many things such as wildlife and bad guys threatening there journey and they pick up a couple of friends on there journey.

They hitch through Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa to get there and it includes many issues other continents would associate with Africa: AIDS, child soldiers, lack of schooling, war and prostitution. But it deals with them in a matter-of-fact, occasionally light-hearted fashion. I have to say it was a sobering storyline. The film was excellent and from the limited exposure i have to Africa i have to say it is pretty accurate. Considering that the main 5 actors of the film were children i have to say that the film was very well done, and its great to have a different storyline for a change rather than the usual hollywood stories where all too often sex or violence feature in some way.

We had quite a debate after the film because the one thing it got me thinking is although its an accurate portrayal, the bit that got me was Africa’s belief that condoms will solve the HIV/AIDS problem, when in reality it wont, it only treats the symptoms when the root cause is hearts need changing. Sleeping around seems to be so prevalent in Africa and all condoms do is seem to say that its ok to do that as long as you where one you wont get HIV, i honestly believe that a heart change needs to happen before the HIV/AIDS problem is going to be reduced. God is needed in so many hearts to convict them that sleeping with more than one partner is wrong before this problem will get anywhere near going away. its sad to see a generation being destroyed because of this.

I will close with this, you really should go and see this film if you dont know what the problems in africa are, in one sense it cant capture the true scale of some of the issues in africa because it would make a very dark and depressing film, however it does highlight some of the big issues in a positive way which is so refreshing given that we only hear about these stories so often in a negative light or once or twice a year at fundraising events. It’s quite exciting to actually see positive culture shaping films making mainstream cinema




Inception – Great film

Marie Surprised me last night by taking me out to Bombay Bicycle Indian Restaurant in the holland park area, i can say it was awesome food, excellent service and an all round great restaurant, we were leaving at 8 and decided to see what was on at the cinema in Shepherds Bush and decided to see Inception.

Just as a rough guide of what inception is from the cinemas this is Vue’s description:

Blockbuster sci-fi thriller written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a professional thief with a difference: the spoils he goes after are not material objects but the thoughts, dreams and secrets buried in the minds of other people. This rare talent has cost him dear, rendering him a solitary fugitive stripped of everything he ever really cared about. When he is offered a chance for redemption by reversing the process and planting an idea rather than stealing it, he and his team of specialists find themselves pitted against a dangerous enemy that appears to pre-empt their every move. Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-star.

the film was very cleverly put together and had me on the edge of my seat throughout (although that could have also been the not so comfortable seets at the Shepherds Bush Vue cinema!) the actors played brilliantly and i really did like the love tragedy aspect of it, it almost made it a modern shakespeare equivalent it was written so well. The film did take a few minutes to really get going though and they perhaps could have gotten things moving faster but all in all it didnt detract that much.

The story was complex and at times i got lost in the details because the film was very detailed and it covered virtually everything, it almost made me think was this real or not. the ending was very cool too, wont spoil it too much but it leaves the imagination running high of the possibilities as it leaves just one question unanswered which runs through the film via the character of Leanardo Di Caprio’s Wife.

all in all a very good film to go see on a saturday night, as much as i get annoyed when people are noisy in cinemas, it was great to go see a film where the screen was mostly full rather than being only 1 of 5 or 6 people watching, there is something different about watching a film in a full cinema screen over an empty one.




VPS.NET – 9 Months in

thought i would update on my progress with VPS.net as i have been with them a little bit longer and i also have a couple of clients and friends that i have helped here so by proxy have had the chance to experience a wide variety of setups and situations, including managed support

last time i reviewed them (see: http://antsomerset.co.uk/2009/09/29/vps-net-thoughts-and-review-kinda) i talked about pricing and some of the issues regarding IP’s and logins etc. firstly it might be appropriate to give an update on new key features, changes etc since last september. firstly nodes have been given a 50% boost, instead of 256MB ram and 400Mhz CPU you now get 600Mhz and 376MB RAM all at the same price! Introduction of Zones within regions to seperate local servers, Rsync Backups as well as snapshots, licensing manager and pricing for litespeed, softaculous and rvskin, free hostbill, FusionIO, delayed storage upgrades on node increases, Akamai CDN, By the Minute Billing and therefore crediting for unused node time and a host of other smaller backend adjustments and lots more new templates to play with including CloudLinux, ClearOS and FreeBSD (Beta still) with Windows imminently expected.

coming back to my last review i pointed out an issue with wanting to reinstall a VPS if a mistake was made or to try a new OS you had to delete and recreate and there was no gaurentees of keeping the same IP address – glad to say this was resolved very soon after with the handy reinstall vps button on the vps screen:

with this function you can create either from the same template originally used – a manual backup you created a template with or even a whole new template and with any of these options you keep the original IP so all the server licenses that you may have had for that specific IP are retained, which is a huge time saver for people.

second issue pointed out previously was security and with regards to vps.net staff needing access to servers/vps.net account, since then there have been a slew of improvements including pin based authorisation for key tasks via sms. and also the ability to leave server details securely in a support ticket (without the root password being seen in plain text in the middle of your support ticket) this has allayed a lot of my fears with this aspect.

support over the 9 months or so has been up and down, i guess like any normal team you have good days and bad days, generally support is very good, sometimes not so, and the issues usually are speed of response or support agent not understanding/reading the actual issue/requirements and therefore not giving relevant and correct advice. as a kind of quality control feature the team have now released a report to manager button which is very good for highlighting times when the team are very good or bad so that they can be given more beer or beaten with a stick depending

uptime again has been variable, they have suffered from some quite huge DDoS attacks and as a result learned from the problems and made the correct adjustments and policy changes to eliminate them and i can say that the service has stabilised massively since that time. there are some outstanding niggles that seem to happen with stability and range from Hypervisors locking up and your server going offline but not self healing again, to other san related incidents (with which no self healing currently happens if its SAN related) but they are being addressed and seem to be very minor when you consider the sheer number of VPS’ operated here (pretty sure the number is way above 10k)

Akamai another new addition to VPS.net in that you can get very very favourable pricing for akamai (pretty much worlds biggest and best CDN), i have the chance to use this for my main work job currently and it has been a large improvement in site load time and taking load off the server for the ChristChurch London podcast. i cant fault this addition at all.

there have been lots and lots of features and changes for vps.net and as i write about them i remember more so i could easily turn this into an never ending article but will close it off with what i think are one of there biggest updates and most significant, firstly is by the minute billing, this just means that your usage is tracked by the minute so that if you decide to delete a node mid way through your billing month, you will get an account credit for however many Minutes, Hours and days that deleted your Node early, this is obviously not convertable to cache but it certainly brings VPS.net in with services like Amazon EC2 and in fact makes them even better  and more competitive than such services.

the next big thing which is not yet officially been launched but has been talked about and is literally very imminent (i wouldnt be surprised to see the open beta pop up any day) is windows support at long last! obviously details yet to be released but it sounds like the only extra charges to use windows will be licensing (so existing nodes will work fine) this could very well shift a huge move in the server market as very few companies i know do windows hosting well and even windows vps hosting at that. like the Iphone 4 this is likely going to turn into a game changer.

so 9 months in, still a true VPS.net fan and totally happy with the service i get happy to stay for another 9 months or more 🙂




  • Blog Post: Education - ,
  • on a serious note happy to help with helping get things out on race weekends i rent a server just for times such as these ;),
  • wow amazing - did not realise demonoid was back was back!!!!,
  • have you considered private trackers like iptorrents? would love to assist if i can as i don’t want to miss my fix!!,
  • I say keep pushing them here with magnet links!,