Blog Archives

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….).

Interesting Statistics

just doing my regular peruse through the backend of my site to make sure stuff is up to date, spam is blasted (not that i get much feedback anyway) and otherwise things kept ticking over, even if i dont have anything to say at the time, i have experienced sites being hacked by not keeping stuff up to date so always spend a few mins checking very regularly.

Google Recent Visitors Map for

Google Recent Visitors Map for

i was briefly looking from my wordpress stats and saw the map of recent visitors and was quite intrigued by the places where some people have been visiting from.

people have visited from as far and wide as china and chile or canada. so apparently i do reach a global audience, the most common posts they seem to hit are my geeky ones, so it looks like they are set to continue for now 🙂

its been an interesting 2 weeks for me. I had a number in mind of how much to put into the Newfrontiers brighton conference offering, and during the thursday night worship and prayer time, i felt God tell me the number needed doubling. I thought my original number was sacrificial! i was thinking at the moment how was i going to do it, but Marie told me “God will bless you more than that”

the reason i didnt say much about this before now is because i realise that in the last 2 weeks i have had more freelance work than before the conference and have including some new semi regular clients – semi regular in the sense that they dont take up my monthly server management services but keep asking me to do server stuff for them 🙂 God has blessed me more over so far with work that has already paid back what i gave into the offering!

One particular project i am working on which is quite exciting is helping a church friend improving the SEO ranking of the website for her business, you should all take a look over at 🙂

Quite a few exciting things in the pipeline over the next few weeks and months including Zim in less than 1 month!!!

for those interested in the plugin i use for stats on my blog, i use wibstats by a fellow christian Chris Taylor

DISCLAIMER – i dont just choose wordpress plugins because the author is a christian, i choose the best plugins available for the job and for that Chris really deserves some credit with his Wibstats plugin

Back again!

well its been a while! Lots has happened recently, from my last post people will no i lost internet because of Sky’s idiot customer service team trying to upsell us a service we already had and then screwing up the upgrade as well. it took 6 weeks to get internet back online and i have to admit not having the internet at home made me get more things in order and as a result this blog became less of a priority.

the blog will continue to be less priority to me than other things but i will try and update it a little more. in other news i moved it to wordpress as i realised i wasnt ever going to use the extra power of Drupal on this site – I love the power of Drupal but i am a strong believer in using the best tools for the job and in this case WordPress wins it.

i have also changed server now too, i used to use debian and webmin/virtualmin but i got fed up with the hassle of managing it so moved to a slightly more powerful server and switched to Cpanel at the same time. i have to admit going back to Cpanel is a comforting thing. i have to say that it wouldnt have been possible if it wasnt for the flexibility and power of i was able to setup the new server in parallel to the old one and gradually move data over and switch dns over, once i was done i was able to delete the old server and delete the old nodes and recieve account credits for the unused portion of the nodes for the month – all in all it hasnt cost me much to move (probably a pound or 2 minus cpanel licensing)

also most people will have been used to my blog being on, this is now redirecting here (the content is the same) as i thought my name was a better url to have. thats all for now, trying to save my news up for other posts 🙂

How do i do it!

so how is my site built, its quite simple really.

i use Drupal which is a CMS system that uses PHP and MySQL its module based so that you can extend the functionality really quickly and fairly easily, this setup is reasonably simple and uses very few non “Core” modules.

some important modules that i would reccomend for anyone seriously working with drupal are:

1. CCK (Content Creation Kit)

not so much a module but a set of modules that allow you to do so much more with drupal by adding fields and the ability build custom forms as one example, its power is really shown when you combine it with Views, the best kind of overview for CCK can be found at:


this is a module that can help you improve the way you display almost anything in drupal, it is essentially a smart query builder that allows you to present almost anything within drupal how you require it.

3. Wysiwyg, TinyMCE, IMCE, IMCE Bridge

these 4 modules combined make actual content creation so much easier, from a simple editor interface that resembles a basic version of your favourite word processor(TinyMCE – not actually a current drupal module), combined with easy file upload and picture management from IMCE, and producing good posts with zero HTML coding makes life a lot easier.

there are so many more good modules out there, and these are by no means the only modules you should use when building a drupal site, but they are a great base point to start from.

at some point i will point out some other great modules and give a life update soon, but for now its late and tomorrow i have to do some consultancy work for my local church which will involve the setup of a brand new dedicated server for all there web needs and emails, its going to be fun.

All Change please!

If your taking a look here and have visited previously, you will have noticed 2 things:

  1. New look
  2. A new post (yes this one!)

well yes you guessed it, i am kind of back! i have been thinking for a long time that i needed to give my site a long overdue update and sort out, even if only to stop the daily emails informing me that there is an update to drupal (the backend of the site)

as my work for Newfrontiers involves a fair amount of web work and the fact that i needed to create some sort of portfolio of my skillset (web and otherwise) having just finished the build of my first official website set to go live within the next week or so (more info later)

i thought about putting it here, sadly my choice of domain name several years ago just didnt feel appropriate (i was just a motorsport and racing game mad kid back then! – to some extent still am!) so my solution…

obviously my new site is still under active development (i only got the domain today!) but i am happy to say that i have my first working instance of the drupal multi-site functionality so only one update to do each time 🙂 so as i obviously have 2 sites now i thought that i need to layout my idea and plan for them.

i want this site to very much remain as my ramblings and other personal stuff, i dont want to say how often i will post (i will try as regularly as i can) and what i will post, but i would like to post anything and everything from my goings on personally, to random geek things i have learned or discovered or just plain random postings.

my other site will very much be a showcase of what i have done and can do so will have content relating to that (so geek stuff mostly!) i dont particularly want to run 2 seperate blogs so i will see how things pan out with regards to how i develop the new site.

this post is already too long so i will cut it short here, i already have a fair few things to say but i figure holding a few things back will give me content when i cant think of any and also build some suspense 🙂