Repair all the Things!

Imagine if there was a somewhere within walking distance of where you live that you could take your faulty, ripped, wonky and broken stuff to get it repaired?

This is exactly the idea behind “Repair Cafe” – and there just so happens to be one in Southampton!

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The Repair Cafe operates from the United Reformed Church in Shirley High Street on the first Saturday of the month, every month from approx 10:30am to 1pm. It is run with calm efficiency by Angela and staffed by a small squad of volunteers who attempt to help people fix things of every shape, size and description.

What kinds of things? Bikes, vacuum cleaners, laptop computers, FM/AM radios, phones, hair straighteners, sewing machines, jewelry, clothes… and probably other stuff I can’t think of.

There are also people who need help with software problems – which could range from how to download and edit a Word document to changing the font-size on their email software.

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In the most recent one in November I saw someone bring in a Betamax Video recorder. These are no longer made having lost out to VHS (which itself lost out to DVD, which itself has lost to Bluray…) It was looked at by a volunteer electronics engineer.

This comprehensize toolbox was custom-made  by the owner Neville. Very cool.
This comprehensize toolbox was custom-made by the owner Neville. Very cool.
An example of ingenuity -  this is a homebrew headtorch with magnifier lenses!
An example of ingenuity -
this is a head-torch with built-in magnifier lenses!

Yeap – you get very kind professional people giving their time for free at these places. Although I could not repair that myself, I helped this particular person by looking up local companies that do BetaMax to digital transfers – and they left happy :)

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I’ve been volunteering at the last two Repair Cafes and I can tell you that it gives a warm fuzzy feeling to help people in your local community. You also get a buzz from being a bit of a “superhero” because there are things you may know or do that might be like magical super-powers to others.

Henry vacuum cleaner getting some TLC - this picture also points out a cup of tea and brownie - did I mention that volunteers get a token for one cup of tea and cake for FREE?!?
Henry vacuum cleaner getting some TLC – this picture also points out a cup of tea and brownie – did I mention that volunteers get a token for one cup of tea and cake for FREE?!? This puts the CAFE in Repair Cafe

I mentioned Angela earlier who is the organizer. She told me that there are plenty of people in other areas of Southampton who would love to be able to bring their stuff in but are unable to drive – or would find it awkward to take their broken vacuum cleaner or bike on the bus!

I known that Angela is keen to get a repair kitchen going in the area of Bitterne.

So, this blog post is a call-to-arms to anyone out there willing to chip-in to attain that warm fuzzy “help the community” feeling I talked about.

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Be a local superhero and get in touch with the organizer Angela via email

Learn more:

Southampton Repair Kitchen on Facebook

Transition Southampton – ideas for sustainable living around Southampton

PS: I cycled to the Repair Cafe despite the rain (makes it interesting!). My slightly dodgy rear brake was looked at by the friendly bike guys – thanks guys!

In Praise of my Home Town of Southampton

When we look at the news today we often see terrible things happening in other parts of the world. Some of these are environmental (tornadoes, floods) and man-made (war, conflict). If you’re reading this in West Europe or North America you are in the top-tier of humanity in benefiting from life in a prosperous, peaceful society. This is a thought that we don’t dwell on enough in our busy daily lives. So… with that in mind, I thought it is way past time that I write something about my home town: Southampton.

OK, so technically my home town is actually a small village on the outskirts that isn’t in Southampton at all (it’s in the borough of Eastleigh – voted one of the best places to live for quality of life in the UK). Let’s not split hairs though – Southampton right? Southampton.

One of my favourite things to do is to get on my bike and cycle from my village of West End into Southampton city centre. I normally plan this to get a delicious cooked lunch or to go see a movie – or both! From the city centre you can roam around and be along the waterfront featuring huge cruise ships, survey the modern West Quay mall from the surviving ancient city walls or take a wander through an intact Tudor house and garden.

I normally do one of two routes – these Google Fit track maps roughly shows the routes – I like the second one because it takes me through a fun twisty bit through Southampton University and a pleasant track in Southampton Common. The other route takes you along the River Itchen and right by St Marys Stadium. I like to switch between the two.

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The Southampton Common portion of this track is inaccurate for some reason :/
The Southampton Common portion of this track is inaccurate for some reason :/

Anyway, it was on just such a trip recently that I decided to take photos to illustrate some of the amazing places of my home city.

So let’s imaging we’re starting off on a typical bike ride from my village of West End – this is a village with a generous green space nearby called Hatch Grange. It’s most famous inhabitant was Sir Barbe Baker also known as “Man of the Trees” for his outstanding contribution to tree conservation.

This photo (not by me) shows the spectacular avenue of tree’s in Hatch Grange during autumn:

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Let’s me detour into a mini-priase about West End village itself – from reading alot of stuff from MMM recently, he advises living “within a mile of your house” to help decrease your consumption footprint. I feel lucky where I live because in 5 minutes I can walk to the local supermarket and get everything we need for a weekly shop. There is also a super-friendly local barber (shout out to Bob the Barber at Beales ), a bakery (viennesse fingers!), a post office and even fish & chips for those Friday night splurges :)

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West End is hilly in places and that means you get some good views over the rolling hills of Hampshire
West End is hilly in places and that means you get some good views over the rolling hills of Hampshire

So back to the bike ride – I’m going to post some random photos I took from the latest ride/walk. Please check the captions for the narration ;)

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My journey took me by a boxing gym and I had a friendly chat with the owner who let me take some photos - those boxers have to be fit to move that tyre
My journey took me by a boxing gym and I had a friendly chat with the owner who let me take some photos – those boxers have to be fit to move that tyre
There is a cargo train railway connecting the docks to the wider rail network - it is always a rare sight when it is in operation and so I snapped a few photos of  the seemingly endless carriages
There is a cargo train railway connecting the docks to the wider rail network – it is always a rare sight when it is in operation and so I snapped a few photos of the seemingly endless carriages
I passed bt St Marys Church - this is near to where Southampton FC had it's original ground hence why they are nicknamed "The Saints"
I passed bt St Marys Church – this is near to where Southampton FC had it’s original ground hence why they are nicknamed “The Saints”

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The Holy Rood church is one of four major churches and it's damage from WWII is very visible. It commemorates those of died at sea.
The Holy Rood church is one of four major churches and it’s damage from WWII is very visible. It commemorates those of died at sea.
There is a long stretch of road from the watefront right through the spine of the city called the QE2 Mile - named for the royal cruise ship. This anchor for that might vessel rests here along - I caught a double-rainbow in the background :)
There is a long stretch of road from the waterfront right through the spine of the city called the “QE2 Mile” – named for the royal cruise ship. This anchor from that might vessel was donated to the city and rests here near the Holy Rood church. I caught a double-rainbow in the background :)

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Southampton has a lovely big central park which looks very striking in the autumn. Look closely and you can even find some interesting looking wildlife...
Southampton has a lovely big central park which looks very striking in the autumn. Look closely and you can even find some interesting looking wildlife…

Probably my favourite places to eat is Mettricks – this is a locally-owned small chain of tea & coffee houses. What I like about them is the fact that they source ingredients from local farms and that they make sure to treat their staff like family. This means to get happy staff and good service and from going there for the last year I can certainly verify that. It also just has a nice cosy atmosphere and the coffee is superb. Best in Southampton in my humble opinion. Below are some photos from the Guildhall branch – this is probably my favourite one because of the spacious upstairs seating area. Try the Met fruit’n’oat bar for a nice after-meal dessert :)

Here are some photos – notice the bookshelf of board games and the trndy lighting. The walls feature cherished photos of the Mettrick family.

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On having breakfast at the Old Town branch, I finally completed this card showing that I have visited all four Mettricks branches around the city thereby earning me a free coffee. It was a fun way challenge and got me out further out on my bike to reach the Woolston branch :)
On having breakfast at the Old Town branch, I finally completed this card showing that I have visited all four Mettricks branches around the city thereby earning me a free coffee. It was a fun challenge and got me further out on my bike to reach the Woolston branch :)
The Guidhall all shiny and fresh after the rain shower
The Guidhall all shiny and fresh after the rain shower – Mettricks can be found across Guildhall Square just to the right…

Sometimes you find weird and wonderful events in the square – this photo from late August shows “Dinner in the Sky”

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Southampton Central Mosque
Southampton has a self-sufficient Muslim community as evidenced by the large and modern central mosque
This tourist map shows most of the interesting features of the city centre
This tourist map shows most of the interesting features of the city centre
John Le Fleming, major of Southampton  in the 14th century, looking out over the city walls. I wonder what he would make of the city today...
John Le Fleming, major of Southampton in the 14th century, looking out over the city walls. I wonder what he would make of the city today…
21st century modern restaurants on the left... ancient Medieval defence walls on right
21st century modern restaurants on the left… ancient Medieval defence walls on right

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These pictures show a pub that has capitalized on the city being the maiden port of the Titanic and several restored Medieval buildings - the merchants home is definitely worth a look.
These pictures show a pub that has capitalized on the city being the maiden port of the Titanic and several restored Medieval buildings – the merchants home is definitely worth a look.
This stained glass window features four of Southamptons most famous churches - two of which feature in this blog post. This is from St Michaels church which is the oldest Medieval building in the city.
This stained glass window features four of Southamptons most famous churches – two of which feature in this blog post. This is from St Michaels church which is the oldest Medieval building in the city.

That is all for now – in the near future I’ll do a “Part 2″ from the other cycle route and snap some more photos. Then there are Southampton’s speciality shops (whole-foods, retro video games and more) to write about. Until then, let me know in the comments what you like (or don’t like) about your home town.

Financial Independance through Bad Ass-ity

I’ve been thinking a lot about financial independence these days.

One thing that has spurred these thoughts is the two periods of annual leave I took in August. During this time I didn’t go abroad, I did not go hiking to Everest and neither did I stay out late, ending every night in a drunken stupor (I don’t drink anyway). I pretty much stayed in Hampshire enjoying the simple things like walking, cycling, catching up with friends, personal projects, the odd spot of eating out and the occasional trip to London.

It was kind of bitter-sweet towards the end of each annual leave because sometimes it felt like another week would be good. Not that I hate my job, far from it, the thing I like most about my work is the people I work with – a bunch of well-balanced, talented, friendly dudes.

All this got me thinking… what would I need to do to perpetually be on annual leave? eg. have an income from something that pays ALL my expenses and simply allows me to live a fairly simple life as described above?

A bit of Googling turned up the blog of Mr Money Moustache – also known as “MMM” or “Triple-M”. I urge you to check out his “Start Here” post but in a nutshell, his idea is pretty simple: by living frugally and saving 50% of your take home salary you can be financially independent in 10 years.

OK so there is a bit more to that. For instance, living frugally might not sound like fun to some of you reading this: What about the latest iPhone I want to buy? And that car I desire? Or the latest videogames? Or that all-expenses guided luxury vacation to Veneuzela?

Well, there is nothing that terribly wrong with those things. But MMM’s point is that those things do not necessarily bring you lasting happiness. They bring short term happiness definitely but as someone who has owned a nice, fast car after a short while it becomes “just another car” – it stops being special. Then you need to save up for another more expensive, faster, more polluting car in order to get the same buzz! The scales to many things such as phones all the way up to houses and private jets (!).

The things is, after absorbing some of his posts and listening to several interviews with him on YouTube (link below) – I feel I have arrived at some of his conclusions independently and know them to be true. I’m not financially independent though – MMM is well ahead of me on that front. He retired at age 31 and by all accounts has a very happy, fulfilled life with a wife and one child all living at under $25,000 a year (that is about £18,560 in UK money).

So what do I mean by “arrived at some of his conclusions independently”? Well, here are some things I do that are in tune with the “Moustachian Way of Life” (thats what fans of MMM call it)…

* cycle as much as you can to get around – it is good for you, fun, exhilarating and you can discover some amazing short-cuts and places not far from your home.

* do not spend more than you can afford (except on big, important purchases things like your home… and maybe your car)

* if you want something, try to make use of what you have – or sell something first to justify it (I did this with video-games, complete it and sell to fund the next one – I enjoyed games much more this way)

* eat a sensible diet, preferably home cooked/prepared with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables – minimize processed food

* keep eating out to an occasional treat, not an everyday things

* if you prepare your own lunch then you can save a lot of money in a year… and you will really value eating that cooked lunch at the canteen on a Friday when you allow yourself a day off from tuna sandwiches :)

* move more – walking to get your groceries, doing your own garden work and home improvement, do not employ a cleaner

* keep fit and active, you can get your own home gym (used weights from Gumtree/eBay etc) or fit exercises into your life in novel ways

* read real books by real authors – the internet is largely advert-driven and aside from authentic writings from blogs like MMM is not something to read for self-education

* realise that spending and consuming is not a long-term, sustainable recipe for happiness

* live life in balance – consume things in moderation, do not be overly frugal

* save money where you can, in other ways be generous, especially spending on friends & family

* avoid world news topics and worrying over geo-politics you have no control over

* try to avoid convenience (eg. take the stairs rather than lift)

Do you identify with any of the above? If not, then I would urge you to try some of these things even as an experiment.

If you want to get the MMM message in a nutshell then I recommend you listen to this fascinating 30 minute interview. The key thing is that MMM is not “anti-money”, he admits of his own weaknesses which in his case is a luxury home (but attained with hard-work and developed largely by his own hard work in doing it up!). His blog message is “anti-waste” and to shine a light on the problems of over-consumption in modern American society. He seems to be very authentic in his position of being very happy living on relatively modest means – and I believe him.

Anyway, the list above shows how I’ve arrived at this mindset already. Especially the idea that consuming more shiny things does not really bring lasting happiness. That is not to say you should go without basics. However the feeling of getting shiny new car will fade after a while into just a desire for something reliable to get you from A to B. Therefore it is best to go for something sued and sensible. For me a new car does not excite me unless we’re talking a BMW i8 – even then I know the “wow” feeling will probably last a few months or so and then fade into “just another car to maintain”.

I think as one gets older, we get wiser. We know ourselves and what we can sustain, what makes us happy and what does not. You can leverage this ability to focus on the what makes you happy/unhappy to cut out the crap and double-down on the stuff that truly brings happiness. Try to calculate how much you would save over 10 years if you cut out some “expensive indulgences” and replaced them with “bad-ass” versions of them – this can range from your daily £5 latte coffee, your new expensive mountain bike (which you hardly ride anyway) to your new VW Golf which you bought on credit thinking it a good deal and “just what everyone else does” ;)

You also realize that “less is more” and the relentless march towards “faster, more convenient, smaller, cheaper” does not necessarily mean “and better for you”. Case in point: I still use a dead music format: MiniDisc.

Yep – I really enjoy MiniDisc even though I can’t fill discs like an mp3 player and I savour the time taken in crafting a disc with music I sourced for free in legal, ways. Less is more. You’d never see me with a Spotify subscription ;)

I’m not perfectly frugal though, neither am I “mustachian” (a term that describes the teachings of MMM). I could do more of my own home improvement projects. I really admire people who do their own major home improvement like Mr Money Mustache. I am making some small changes in that direction though.

Over to you, give me examples of your own “bad-assity” in the comments!

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

It’s no secret among my family and friends that I absolutely love the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. In my opinion there is not a bad film among them, they all set a high standard.

WARNING: This review has spoilers for the movie!

For me what sets Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 apart is the emphasis on family and what people really mean to each other. With this comes emotion and feelings – both negative and positive. The movie really does “hit one in the feels”. Aside from that, this is a Guardians movie so you can count on a visual spectacle along with a healthy does of comedy.

One thing they wisely avoided was showing the Guardians crew all getting along fine without any friction. That would have been boring and unlikely – and too early, this is only the second film. However showing them as hostile and unlikeable would be too much at the other end of the extreme.
In the opening act we find them being sarcastic to each other but each character takes a little time out from the battle to show concern for baby Groot. It neatly shows how they all have a heart while still showing badass-ity.

"Hi :)"
“Hi :)”

In the first film we discover that Peter has an unusual heritage and so it is good that we are given a glimpse into Peter’s origin a bit more in Vol 2. Going back to 1980 is also skillful way to weave some well-known music tracks into the story.
Although the progression of Peter finally meeting and getting to know his Dad was interesting, in my opinion it took second fiddle to the other story arcs – those being the redemption of Yondu Udonta and the real source of Rocket’s bad attitude.

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The Rocket arc was good to watch as it involves the two biggest ego’s in the team – those being Peter Quill and Rocket Racoon. Of the two, Rocket is to me the least likable because Peter seems to genuinely want everyone to get along.
It seems something is preventing Rocket from getting too close to anyone. He keeps his a-hole act up almost all the way through until Yondu see’s through it (it is one of the best character scenes by the way).

I’m not going to do a scene-by-scene breakdown in this review but suffice to say the climax is every bit as good as the first movie – but in a different way. In Vol 1 we had an Infinity Stone so the final battle had to be something worthy of such a powerful artifact. In Vol 2 though we have Peter finally realizing how to tap into his celestial heritage to the tune of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. Just hearing those first few simple notes of the track, with all the other sound effects dimmed, was enough to give me goosebumps.

OK, so I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit I cried at several points during the movie.

I mean how could anyone not shed a tear at Peter’s simple eulogy for Yondu? Certainly not Chris Pratt and I’m sure those tears were not CGI.

There is also a touching scene with the Guardians passing baby Groot to each other, nurturing him in a totally un-self-conscious way while Cat Stevens “Father and Son” is playing.

One thing I noticed is a small dialogue change between the theatrical release and the home release. This being Yondu referring to Rocket as “boy”. In the theatrical release, I’m pretty sure he referred to Rocket as “rat”.
I have a feeling that because “rat” is rather cold and rude, by calling Rocket “boy” (in the same way he does to Peter) it kind of reinforces the father-figure-by-stealth role that Yondu occupies during the story.

All the Guardians get their particular moments with perhaps Drax being a little neglected. He is in one of my favourite scenes though – we get an idea of what’s going on inside his mind when Mantis does an empath touch on an externally calm and reflective Drax …she is immediately overcome by a wave of sadness and loss :(

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It was good to see Gamora and her sister reconcile. I felt that little arc was a nice counterpoint to Peter and his father. I really like how Karen Gillan delivers the line “All you wanted was to win, I just wanted a sister!”

I really loved some of the ridiculous moments like Peter asking everyone for tape as a fierce battle rages around them and Drax asking if scotch tape would do (despite not carrying scotch tape himself). Let us also not forget baby Groot bringing back a desk in an innocent attempt to interpret Yondu’s instructions.

When all is said and done, I can’t really fault the film that much but if I try then I probably have two niggles:

* Yondu was perhaps too brutal in his revenge against his Ravager crew. Taking out “Taser-face” I can understand but the whole rest of the mutineers? If you think about it – there is a mass slaughter going on and it is only made light of from being put to Jay and the Americans – “Come A Little Bit Closer”!
I guess the preceding scene where they killed the Yondu loyalists and beat-up baby Groot goes some way to show how they “deserved it” but still… it was pretty cold. On top of that, three-quarters of the ship gets destroyed in the process.

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* I didn’t quite buy-in to the Sovereign being a real threat with their drone space armada. They seem too comical to me. By the way did anyone notice the 80’s videogame sound effects used by the fighter craft pods?

"You suck Zylak."
“You suck Zylak.”

Did anyone else realise it was Michael Rosenbaum as the voice of the “crystal ravager guy” who appears as Sylvester Stallones lieutenant? The character name is Martinex. Rosenbaum played Lex Luthor in the Smallville TV series. I really like that these well-known actors have been added to the MCU pantheon along with Michelle Yeoh and Ving Rhames as Ravager captains. I can just imagine other actors telling their agents something like this: “listen, if Marvel Studios call tell them it’s an automatic YES.”

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Liked the introduction of the Zune as the next logical step from the squished Walkman (although I would have loved to see him given a MiniDisc player – mainly because I still use the format!).
Cracklin tells him everyone on Earth is listening to them these days which is an ironic reference to the Zune actually losing out to the iPod and being discontinued through lack of sales.

Now one thing about the film puzzles me. I didn’t get is the brief exchange between Peter and Rocket near the end during Yondu’s funeral.

Rocket: “He didn’t chase him away.”

Peter: “No.”

Rocket: “Even though he yelled at him. <pause> I was always mean. <pause> And he stole batteries he didn’t need.”

Peter: <looks quizzically for a moment at Rocket> “Well of course not.”

I didn’t quite get it – is Rocket talking about Yondu or himself? Can someone explain it to me in the comments below?

The post-ending scenes were a delightful treat. Especially Cracklin trying out the prototype fin to control the arrow. It also looks like we’ll see Adam Warlock in Vol. 3? Will he turn out to be a “conceited douche-bag” like his creators?

In the final act of the movie, Yondu tells Peter that he uses his heart to control his arrow – I feel James Gunn approached crafting this amazing slice of pop culture in the same way. A supremely worthy film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

No one better squish _my_ Walkman...
No one better squish _my_ Walkman…

Sublime Text 2 on Debian Linux

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As good as GEdit is, sometimes you want the polish and power of a actively-maintained, fully-functional text editor that excels at both coding duties and regular note taking – especially in Markdown.

For this reason, my choice for the last few years has been Sublime Text 2 – which although is available on a trial license is well worth paying a personal license for.

It’s available for Linux, Windows and OSX/Mac. Here I detail how to install from the tarball on a Debian Linux but the same instructions will work on any Linux flavour.

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Update: I have written a script to automate these steps and you don’t even need root access, take a look here

Step 1 – Get tarball

Grab tarball from website www.sublimetext.com

Step 2 – Extract to /usr/local/src

You may already have your own preference on where you install third-party software on a Linux system (/opt perhaps?), so this is an optional step. However if anything comes as a tarball then I prefer to install them in /usr/local/src

First make it owned by you by changing to root and running this:

chown <username>. /usr/local/src

while we changing directory ownerships, lets do the same to /usr/local/bin (we’ll come back to this in a bit)

chown <username>. /usr/local/bin

Now we are ready to extract the freshly downloaded tarball to the directory

tar -xjvf SublimeText2.tar.bz -C /usr/local/src

Step 3 – Create a launcher

In order to easily launch Sublime Text like any other installed app, we now create a symlink from the Sublime Text 2 program to /usr/local/bin – this will mean that we can launch Sublime Text 2 by simply invoking `sublime_text` on the command line:

cd /usr/local/bin
ln -s /usr/local/src/Sublime\ Text\ 2/sublime_text

Next create a .desktop file for Sublime Text 2 like this:

╰─○ cat ./.local/share/applications/sublime_text.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Name=Sublime Text
Type=Application
Comment=GUI Text Editor
StartupNotify=true
MimeType=text/plain;
Terminal=false
Exec=sublime_text %U
Icon=sublime_text.png
Categories=TextEditor;Utility;
GenericName=Sublime Text

Then set an icon for the launcher, luckily these are already provided in the tarball:

cd /usr/local/src/Sublime Text 2/Icon 
cp 128x128/sublime_text.png ~/.icons

…and thats it! All being well, you can now tap the “overview” key (mapped to Windows logo key) and start typing “sublime” and it will match Sublime Text 2

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…and from here you can drag it into the Favourites bar

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A Weekend at OggCamp August 2017 in Canterbury, United Kingdom

Imagine a technical conference with a twist – all the talks are delivered by the delegates. In other words, the talks are delivered by the normal everyday people who have turned up at the event. Amazing as it seems this idea is not new, this format of conference is known as an “unconference”.

One such unconference is known as “OggCamp” and it occurs every year in the UK. You turn up to face a blank conference schedule and a bunch of post-it notes with a marker pen. To offer a talk is simply a matter of writing it on a post-it and placing it under your preferred slot as below…

The unconference takes shape... ticks signify votes for talks offered on post-it notes.
The unconference takes shape… ticks signify votes for talks offered on post-it notes.

There are a variety of talks “slots” so some pople talked for 20 minutes, some for 45 minutes and there was a special slot for “lightning talks” – no, not talks about the atomoshperic electrical disturbances :) they are… well check the image caption below for an explanation.

Lightning talks are short talks lasting no more than 5 minutes with only one audience question allowed. It's an oppurtunity for some "off-the-wall" topics but the ones here are all pretty standard :)
Lightning talks are short talks lasting no more than 5 minutes with only one audience question allowed. It’s an oppurtunity for some “off-the-wall” topics but the ones here are all pretty standard :)

I went to the most recent OggCamp in Canterbury and this article blogs my experience about it.

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Firstly, I cannot write this article without mentioning the amazing host city of Canterbury – it has such amazing character and some of the streets look like they are out of Harry Potter. There are names like Sun Street, Mercer Lane (a “mercer” is an old English word meaning “trader in textiles”), Butchery Lane and St Radiguns Street.

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There is the famous Canterbury Cathedral of course (which incidentally seems like a sister cathedral to the one in Winchester) but arrayed around it are various Roman-era walls and forts through and under which modern 21st century roads still run! It was a eye-opener driving into the city for the first time. We had really good weather that weekend and I must have done ~5 hours of walking around the city and venue at Canterbury University. Of note is one metal bridge over the river Stour between where I was staying and the city centre – I have coined it the “Bat bridge” because during the evening I was treated to a frenzy of flying bats making the most of a plentiful supply of insects hovering in clouds under the trees!

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Back to OggCamp – the talks mainly feature on what is known as “free culture” – what that means is any creative work that is shared in an open or free manner. One famous example is the Linux operating system but there are a wide ranging as are the talks.

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The stand-out talks to me were one guy who made his own programmable dance floor made up of hundreds of home-brew LED lights with a ping-pong ball acting as a diffuser. Another was a project called matrix.org which seeks to create a two-way bridge between different forms of communication networks (eg. Slack and Telegram). Yet another was on how to keep mentally healthy in a digital world.

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The attendee’s tend to be an interesting lot too – there are  children, semi-retired people, slightly awkward middle-class white male nerds and among them are some friendly, pleasant and really likable dudes (hello Tom if he’s reading this! I watched “Logan’s Run” and “Ex Machina” as you recommended). This to me is one of the reasons to go – to be among decent quality people of a like mind who share some deep interest in this amazing free culture movement. The sharing of ideas and cheerful chats over a beer, lunch or just a coffee while waiting for a talk to start.

My talk went well with it being shown in the main auditorium (photo below) so I had a massive projector screen and premium sound system with which to showcase our work on Project Nemo.

The translation project talk was not all my own work. I have to credit the project leader, “DragonSpike” for his support and time in my preparation for the talk – he not only spent time helping me refine my slides but also put together a special game-play video to showcase the translation work of the International Edition. I salute you sir! Check out the project blog for his thoughts and musings on the project.

Here is my mid-flow talking about Project Nemo. If AC3 were real, I would have Rena, Erich, Fi and Cynthia sitting in the colour-coded seats behind me. Dision would have been invited but the military prison would not have given him a day release :/
Here is me mid-flow talking about Project Nemo. If AC3 were real, I would have Rena, Erich, Fi and Cynthia sitting in the colour-coded seats behind me. Dision would have been invited but the military prison would not have given him a day release pass :/

One observation about OggCamp is that I was encouraged to see female attendees and some non-white folks too – I feel this is important to promote these kinds of events and culture as “open to all” and hopefully to discourage a homogeneous population.

Canterbury University campus grounds - this looks like the kind of place they would film an episode of Star Trek: The Next  Generation
Canterbury University campus grounds – this looks like the kind of place they would film an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation

The venue was excellent – it was Canterbury University. All the three talk rooms were close to each other and accomodated everyone who wanted to attend. Each had good working audio-video and there was always a crew member on hand in every talk. Very well-run and professional indeed.

I also discovered that the canteen was opened just for the event and we benefited from a hot meal both days – yumza!

In terms of people numbers, I think I detected a smaller number of folks compared to the last one I went to in Oxford. I would estimate 150 people. I think the location was a factor and the fact that some of the bigger names in the podcast/Opensource scene (eg. Linux Outlaws, LUGRadio) were not in attendance.

So a big, big thanks to John “The Nice Guy” Spriggs, Mark Johnson and the rest of the crew at OggCamp for such an amazing event. <austrian accent>”I’ll be back.”</austrian accent>

All in all a very enjoyable weekend and I want to thank my AirBnB host Paul for making a comfortable stay for me. Check out his property if you’re ever staying in Canterbury.