Twenty Sixteen in review


I don't often do reviews of the year but it's been such a year for ups and downs; in personal life, in the life of the country and in the small things I've been doing technically. I figured I'd make this month's post a quick review and update on things that have been interesting, and things that are coming up that I've not yet spoken about. I'll try and keep most of the things technical.

I'd say this year was dominated by a passing of technologies and starting of new projects. I've put to bed my PXLjs WebGL library and although it didn't go where I wanted it to go, I'm stil pleased with the result and I learned a fair bit from it. I've picked up a fair bit of know-how in the javascript world, which is handy, but also is a place I don't really want to return to very much. At the same time, the new version of the EMF Medical report Form was a great success but is unlikely to go any further sadly. Nevertheless, it has started me on a road of Android development which is no bad thing, as there are a few programs I'll be needing in the near future that don't exist.

I've started winding in newer technologies like Vagrant, Singularity and Go into my workflow. Contrast that with the return of Fortran and there has definitely been an expansion in the number of tools I have to use on a daily basis. I definitely feel the skill is in choosing the right tool for the job. I've meet a few folk who remind me of my younger, idiotic self, who would evangelise something like Python to the n'th degree. These days I get to play the older, grey-templed man who relaxes and pulls whatever tool he likes down from the shelf. It's a liberating feeling. Despite that, I'm trying to keep an open mind and find the good in these new fangled approaches to the craft. Containerisation (which I learned a fair bit about at FOSDEM) is definitely on my radar.

EMF2016 was the best EMF camp thus far, in my humble opinion. I enjoyed helping out and had a really good time catching up with a lot of good friends. I suspect EMF 2018 will be even better. Plans are already underway and I hear people are already thinking of what installations they want to build.

Brexit and the US elections have really dominated things this year. Spending a late evening with a bunch of paramedics till 4 in the morning behind the Shangri-La stage at Glastonbury was not a great way to hear that the UK decided to leave the EU. Still, the whole experience has been really eye opening and has made me think of things I want to spend my time building that might actually help. To that end, I've started a new project called Echochamber, based on my latest experiments with NLP and Twitter. More on that in the near future.

Speaking of the USA, my wife-to-be and I, are moving over to the States in the new year. It'll be an interesting time across the pond and no mistake. From a technology point of view, I expect to see my VPN traffic go up considerably. I'll certainly need to be on my guard when it comes to privacy issues and net habits. Things are unlikely to be much better here in the UK either, what with the new laws coming into place. On the plus side however, HacDC seems like a great hackspace to be a part of, and I look forward to joining up with them. The American outdoors is fantastic too and there will be many chances for astrophotography which is very exiciting. After early adventures in Morocco I'm keen to do a lot more photography, and since the eclipse will be pasing over the continental US, I'll be in exactly the right place.

Truth be told, nerd wise I'm moving away from Computer Science. 2016 has been a rough year for a lot of reasons. I've felt that programming and comp.sci has essentially become a place I've been to, seen change, and not liked where it's heading. For the last half of the year I've been focusing on a bio-informatics degree with an idea to do more in the way of scientific research. Having a computer engineering background is a really big asset in the sciences and many in the biology field don't have good software engineering skills. I think you either have that machine love feel or you don't. Certainly, it can be obtained but I figure I can be of benefit there and with a bit of work, I can get my head around all the stats and squishy science. More than ever, it seems like the time to work on good projects.

Wedding plans have dominated the last part of the year. Of course, we had to have nerdy wedding invites though there will be more nerdiness to come. It's an odd thing, trying to organise a wedding when you are a bit socially awkward and are much happier with a soldering iron than a champagne flute. Never-the-less, it's going to be a good one I figure. I think we need that going in 2017.

2016 has had some really good points for me, but on balance, it's been pretty poor and I'll be glad to see the back of it! Lots of people are suffering and the progressive future seems oh-so-far away. I figure it's time to look in the mirror and ask what part each of us played in that and what we can do better? There's a lot of work to be done in 2017 I feel and a lot of good needs to happen if we want to keep aiming for that brighter future. Expect more blogging, more useful tools and code and more reports from the other side of the pond. Bring on 2017! I'm ready for you!