Want your Own Cloud?

‘The Cloud’ has been the hot new thing for a few years now, the average home user or small business probably has no idea what this means, but if you use for example Dropbox to sync files across several devices, or send large files to other people, then you’re using ‘The Cloud’. Likewise photo sharing sites and off site backup systems. Earlier this month (Dec 2013) IT security expert Graham Cluely blogged:

“Replacing all instances of the word “cloud” with “somebody else’s computer” might make organisations stop and think about the security implications of cloud computing.”

Certainly made me think. And being interested in free open source software I went searching for a ‘cloud’ I could keep under my control. There are several options:

1. Keep all your data on your own machine(s) on your own property (or properties). That is a different kind of risk, I have several machines, but they are all on the same property so a disaster could easily wipe out the lot.

2. Enter into an agreement with a friend to provide each other with off-site backup facility. It’s feasible but PCs on ADSL don’t make great servers, and you have to trust your friend to run a tight ship and not muck about with your data. It would to difficult to use for synchronizing mobile devices.

3. Use space provided by a webhost company. Of course we’re back to trusting “somebody else’s computer” but at least it’s a server you control.

So option 3 it is then. I already have a domain (this one) hosted by Perfect Hosts so I created a sub-domain on it and install OwnCloud, free open source cloud software. In addition to off site storage OwnCloud has the ability to sync calendars, photos and other data across all your devices.

Installation is a breeze, but then I got stopped in my tracks because to keep things secure OwnCloud expects your webserver to offer https (with an ‘s’ for security on the end) and that relies on you having an SSL certificate, which is expensive. Fortunately Perfect Hosts offer the use of a shared certificate free of charge, but it’s Christmas and it’s a small company so I’ll have to wait. More later…

Blogging for money

I don’t blog here very often because to be honest I prefer to write for money. However I’ve recently been employed as a ‘ghost blogger’ by a PR company writing a techie blog for the marketing manager of an IT company who’s too busy to write his own. The downside is it goes out with his name on, so not ideal for the portfolio. If you’re an editor, PR or hard-pressed marketing manager looking for a tech blogger, contact me and I’ll give you details privately.

More Biofuels work

Two new commissions today for 24th Sept:

1. Sustainability – NTA 8080 certification system recognised by the European Commission, one of the few recognised schemes, along with the ISCC, that is not only applicable to biofuels, but also to solid and gaseous biomass. 2500 words.

2. Aviation fuels from biomass -a general look at the role biomass will play in creating renewable jet fuels. 2000 words.

Better start the background reading then…


I will Blog More. Probably. Maybe.

I’m updating my website, new theme, some new pages, some old ones deleted, some edited. Just noticed my last blog post was 10 months ago. I should do more. But they’re funny things blogs. Some are just vanity, some commercial ones are just banal, some are just designed to attract clicks and win a few pence in advertising revenue. I try not to be vain, or banal and I don’t have adverts on my website because it is there to advertise me, I don’t want potential customers being distracted.

Once you take out the vain, “I’ve just been approached by a major online agency to edit their new site”, the banal, “I’m hoping the window fitters will call soon about making good around the new windows” that doesn’t leave a lot to write about. But I will. Probably.

Medical Devices

Long ago I was in the St John Ambulance, as were my father, grandfather and my kid brother. Biology was my favourite science at school and if I’d been smart enough I’d have liked to have gone into medicine. Now I seem to be a regular contributor to writing mostly about medical IT and other technical stuff. Here’s a selection.

Medical Device and Pharmaceutical supply chain management.

Logistics, Asset Management and Traceability

Silicon Valley Effect

The next one is about intra and inter-hospital data transfer, making sure patients’ details from many different departments and different establishments are available to the medics that need to know,

Supermarkets are so 20th Century

Once again there is a possibility that someone will develop a supermarket in Llangollen. Once again a few people get seriously wound up in support or in opposition. And once again the prevailing mood seems to be one of resignation. A belief that if the one of the big supermarket chains wants to build in Llangollen they will, so why argue? Its the sort of fatalism we used to sneer at in other nations; Britain, and Wales in particular, was fiestier than that.

Continue reading “Supermarkets are so 20th Century”

Qhotels Cambridge Belfry

Our daughter was married on Saturday (4th Dec) so my wife and I stayed at the Cambridge Belfry hotel from Friday – Sunday. Several other members of the party stayed for varying numbers of nights during that period. Those I have spoken to were in varying ways disappointed by the experience. Fortunately the wedding itself was elsewhere and went very well.

On Friday night my wife and I had dinner in the hotel restaurant with my wife’s aunt. According to the company website, “Food is something we are passionate about at QHotels”. The prices are much higher than restaurants we normally use, so we were looking forward to something special.

I started with a paté. It was described a ‘parfait’ but was more like a rough country paté. Not bad, but 50p worth of paté and a couple of bits of toast is a disappointing start to a meal. My wife and her aunt had melon. It was frozen. So frozen the aunt was unable to separate hers from the plate. How hard can it be to slice a fresh melon when required? Fruit tastes much better at room temperature, even chilled it loses flavour. Frozen is just incompetent.

For the main courses we had steamed white fish, bland but OK for an elderly aunt. Chicken and Mushroom tagliatelli, with the mushrooms missing and Caesar salad with Salmon. The latter consisted of lettuce (iceburg I think not romaine) an over-liberal supply of (presumably bottled) dressing, a few soggy croûtons that had absorbed twice their weight in dressing and the thinest salmon fillet I have ever seen.

I can’t judge the Traditional Cambridge Cream since we’ve never had it before. It’s not as good as a basic Crème Bruleé in a fairly average bistro though.

And so to bed. With the noisiest heating system I have ever heard. Eventually we realised where the noise was coming from and turned it down a bit but but didn’t make much difference. We slept very little.

The following morning I asked for a change of room. The duty manager gave me the key cards for one on the same corridor. It had the same problem. I returned to the desk. ‘Oh,’ said. ‘Well, there might be a random noise in any of the rooms’. I asked for one without. In the end he found one where the heating went quiet if you turned it almost off.

Breakfast was as poor as dinner the previous night. The first spoonful of grapefruit tasted of soap. It may have been a badly washed spoon. I speared a piece on a fork to give it a chance. It was tasteless and far too cold.

My wife loves scrambled eggs and mushrooms. Normally. The company website praises their cooking, “Every dish, from a simple scrambled egg to the most tantalising pan-fried fillet steak, has more than just a little je ne sais quoi.” Well in the case of the scrambled egg, the quoi qu’ils ne savent pas would appear to be dried egg. Hope that clears up the mystery. The button mushrooms were tinned and stewed.

I went for fry-up option. Pretty average supermarket standard sausage and bacon, a nicely done fried egg, it’s only fair to mention that, and a couple of tepid hash browns. Reheating from frozen is so tricky to get right.

We packed hurriedly and the hotel staff moved the bags whilst we were out. Of course they left the heating almost off, so when we returned after midnight the room was cold.

We cranked it up for a while, got ready for bed then turned it down. It was better. Cool, but better.

“…no Cambridgeshire hotel comes close to The Cambridge Belfry in Cambourne.” It says on the web. If that’s true it can only be because there is no Travelodge nearby.

I sent a version of this to on our return (Monday 6th December). I haven’t had a reply yet. I phoned on Monday 13th, customer relations was away from her desk. I left a message. She hasn’t called back.