Natural Disaster Magnet

Hurricane Irene heads for New York
Hurricane Irene heads for New York

I’m no dare devil, in fact, I’m pretty risk averse, and yet I’ve managed to be in the wrong place at the right time to experience some of nature’s most destructive forces first-hand. I’m a natural disaster magnet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not your average storm-chaser. I don’t have a souped up pick up truck, I don’t live in Tornado Alley, and I don’t look like Helen Hunt. In fact, I don’t chase storms – they chase me. Oh, and earthquakes do too.


15th October, 1987

In the UK we don’t worry too much about hurricanes. That’s something we allow the people of the tropics to stress about. We like our overcast skies, summer snow, winter heat-waves, and Autumns which fall sometime between August and July. Sure, we get strong winds sometimes, but that’s rare. So, in October 1987, when the southern coast of the UK started to get battered by very strong winds, famous British weatherman, Michael Fish, put all our minds at ease:



Phew! However, my family and I weren’t in the UK at the time. We were just finishing up a nice holiday in Majorca. And we were about to fly back home. That night. Yikes.

We were the last aircraft allowed through the airspace between France and the UK before it closed for safety reasons. Fortunately, I was only 3 years old at the time and managed to sleep through the entire flight. My mum and dad, meanwhile, were unable to sleep – mostly due to the terrifying lurching, shaking and dropping of the aircraft.

But that was my first meeting with the infinite power of the hurricane.  Continue Reading “Natural Disaster Magnet”

Generation C

gen_cThe new leaders of the free world are Generation C. They aren’t an age group, people born between certain arbitrary years such as Generation X or Y, instead it is a mind-set and an attitude. But the really interesting thing is that they don’t know they’re in charge.

The C Word

The “C” in Generation C stands for many things: curation, community-oriented, connected, creation, computerised, communication and the most important one: content.

Even Google acknowledges that this group exists, synonymously calling them “The YouTube Generation“. They attribute this glossy, if somewhat somewhat proprietary, title to people with a focus on production rather than consumption because they are “YouTube’s core audience”. Elsewhere, Generation C is being acknowledged as a powerful force that can decide the success or failure of commercial and political initiatives. Generation C has replaced the celebrity-endorsement deal.


Did you know there are more voters in the USA born 1980-1995 than all other voters combined? Imagine if they realised what collective political power they had over the systems currently in place which is punishing them for the failures of their forefathers.


The first generation of digital natives

Generation C almost encompasses an age group known as the Millennials – those born between 1984 and 2000 who have no understanding of the world without the Internet, Google, Amazon, smartphones, real-time chat, etc. Forrester estimate that 80% of Millennials embody the attitude of Generation C, but are keen to stress that it really is a mindset not an age group.

Once you start to quantify the attributes of Generation C you begin to see why they are important and realise there is some astonishing human behaviour emerging within this group. Behaviour that is flipping tradition and accepted wisdom on their heads.

Their importance can be seen in the statistics published by Nielsen in 2012 (Nielsen choose to categorise Generation C as 18-34 year olds):



The prevalence of 18-34 year olds using tablets, smartphones, social media, etc. puts them in a position of data-wealth and amazing connectivity. They are opinionated and can share their black-or-white opinions instantly with the rest of the world. They have the same reach as hundred-million-dollar marketing programmes had in the 1990s and many are turning their digital soapboxes into well-cultivated media microbrands. Promoters really promote – they become champions of companies or products – while detractors can be extremely hostile.  Continue Reading “Generation C”

Introducing QuickModules for ASP.NET MVC

Do what he says! He has a giant cotton bud in his hand!

Like you I often spend my weekends writing REST APIs for fun. And like you I am often frustrated by the amount of server-side code I need to write just to expose some data to JavaScript. Boilerplate, boilerplate, boilerplate. Ugh! So this weekend, in between bouts of erratic and unsatisfying jetlag-sleep, I decided to try and simplify the task of exposing an API to JavaScript. Introducing “QuickModules for ASP.NET MVC”, available now as a NuGet package!


QuickModules provides you with a basic, modular framework for hanging API endpoints from. Internally using the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) to load modules, QuickModules gives you the ability to build encapsulated CRUD services without needing to write, or understand, the usual plumbing.

Consumer Experience

As a software developer, and a human (vaguely), I like an easy life, so I’m all about the consumer experience when publishing code or frameworks (see my JavaScript business-object CRUD framework at

In order to ease any concerns you may have I will run through all the steps required (there are very few) to get QuickModules into your MVC application.

Step 0: Open Visual Studio (Duh!)

Step 1: Create a new MVC project



Step 2: Choose an Empty, Basic, Internet, Intranet or SPA template (actually, any will do, but these make the most sense)



Step 3: Notice how barren your project is without QuickModules. 🙁 (I’ve chosen a Basic template here)



Step 4: Install QuickModules using NuGet: Right-click on the References node in your Solution Explorer tree and click on “Manage NuGet Packages”:



Step 5: Search for “QuickModules” and choose “Install”. (Don’t worry if the details and version numbers look a little different on your PC, this is a screenshot of an early work-in-progress package).



That’s it! Hit F5 to run your application. If you’ve chosen an Empty or Basic template you’ll probably get a 404 Not Found error. Try navigating to the sample “Nearby Restaurants” module by adding /QM/Get?ActivityType=NearbyRestaurants to your URL (QM being shorthand for QuickModules of course!).

You should see a list of food places from The Simpsons as a wonderful, unformatted, JSON object array, ready to be consumed by your JavaScript:



But Wait There’s More!

Built into the framework (and optionally supported by your modules) is paging, and filtering. All for the low, low price of $9.95.  (Just kidding, it’s free). Use the LINQ-style Skip and Take arguments to control paging:



And use the Filter argument to narrow the result set down:

quickmodules_9 Continue Reading “Introducing QuickModules for ASP.NET MVC”

One Man and his Hyperloop

Elon Musk
Elon Musk is a man with a plan. (Which he will tell you later….)

OK. You’ve got billions in the bank, a head for phenomenally-successful disruptive engineering, a great business record and a clean sheet of paper. How would you revolutionise transportation? Elon Musk is that man and, tonight, he tweeted that all will be revealed by 12th August. His idea? The Hyperloop.


WTF is a Hyperloop?

That’s kind of the point of Musk’s tweet. It’s top secret. But also kind of a big deal… Elon is not very good at keeping secrets but he always manages to shut up just in time to not reveal everything. He let slip about Hyperloop at the D11 conference, calling it “a cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. “If they had a threeway and had a baby,” he said, before understandably trailing off…

Musk says Hyperloop would reduce travel time from San Francisco to LA down to 30 minutes. The general consensus has been that high-speed mass transit like this would involve tubes containing small pressurised “pods”, the tubes would have all the air sucked out of them so they’re almost like a vacuum, and then the pods would be fired through them, with little air resistance, at high speed. Probably powered by magnets, like the maglev (magnetic levitation) trains in Europe and Japan.

But Musk suggests that this hypothesis is only 50% right.  Continue Reading “One Man and his Hyperloop”

Boeing 777 Crash Lands at San Francisco Airport Killing 2

Boeing 777 Crash Lands at SFO
Boeing 777 Crash Lands at SFO

On Saturday morning Asiana Airlines flight 214, flying from Seoul-Incheon in South Korea, crash landed killing two passengers. This marks the first fatal Boeing 777 crash in its 20 years in service.

Eyewitnesses say the aircraft was low on approach and had a very nose-high attitude right before the tail struck the sea wall at the end of runway 28-Left (28L). The tail section sheared off along with at least one strut from the main landing gear, which is visible in the pictures from the beach.

Similarities to British Airways flight 38

Immediately this resembles the British Airways flight 38 crash landing where a similar Boeing 777 crashed at the end of the runway at Heathrow, however there are several factors that suggest the causes here are different.

The BA038 incident occurred after the aircraft had flown through some unusually cold air causing water in the fuel to turn to ice. As the aircraft approached Heathrow, the relatively warmer temperatures closer to sea level caused some of the ice to be released into the fuel pipes. This ice hit a system known as the fuel-oil-heat-exchanger (FOHE for short) and solidified. This caused a dramatic reduction in fuel flow to the engines and a lack of thrust. The rest is history – the aircraft hit the ground with so little forward momentum that it stopped almost immediately but hard enough to drive the landing gear through the wings. That’s how they are designed – you want your landing gear to fail before the wing fails! BA038 bellied onto the end of the runway and everyone escaped unharmed (except for some minor injuries picked up by sliding down the escape slides).

But this appears to be a totally different problem for one critical reason: the engines on the Asiana Airlines, and associated fuel systems, are different. The FOHE issues that hit the BA flight are specific to the Rolls Royce Trent 800 while the Asiana is equipped with Pratt and Whitney PW4090 powerplants.

Initial Speculation and Conjecture

Personally, I think it’s fairly obvious what has happened here. But I may be wrong.

The key factors to bear in mind are:

  • The reports that the aircraft was very low on approach
  • Eyewitnesses saying the aircraft had a very nose-high attitude before the accident
  • Understanding the override-able nature of the flight-envelope protection on the Boeing 777 (compared to Airbus’s envelope protection philosphy)
  • The reports of a tailstrike
  • The visible damage to the underside of the aircraft, and the collapsed/missing landing gear

These items indicate, to me, a “low energy state” at the latter stages of the approach. What pilots call “low and slow”. Low energy states in aircraft can result in aerodynamic stalls, especially when performing manoeuvres such as turns.   Continue Reading “Boeing 777 Crash Lands at San Francisco Airport Killing 2”

“The Format of the PE Module is Invalid” After VS2012 Update 2 Installed

If you’re a Windows stack developer and you’ve just installed the VS2012 Update 2, which came out last week, you may have suddenly started to see this beautifully impenetrable error message whenever you try to debug a web project: “Unable to launch the configured Visual Studio Development Web server. Unable to start debugging. The format of the PE module is invalid.”


Oh no! Not the PE module!


A bit of Google-fu confirms there’s a coincidence between installing Update 2 and getting this error.

So how do you resolve this?  Continue Reading ““The Format of the PE Module is Invalid” After VS2012 Update 2 Installed”

A Quick Rant about Capri Sun

I have it on good authority that one KGB interrogation technique is to ask people to open one of these shiny packets of interminable frustration.

I couldn’t help noticing how close Capri Sun is to trending on Twitter and I had to say something: Capri Suns are a sadistic experiment to see how much shit consumers will put up with. Fact.



Things that are wrong with Capri Sun:

  • It’s a non-rigid liquid container. Doesn’t that strike you as stupid? I can’t even put the thing down, I have to hold it all the time because it keeps falling over and that problem only gets worse the more I drink because it loses its vaguely flat base and the weight to hold it down. And don’t even think about trying to drink one on a windy day!
  • World’s thinnest, easily-inhalable straws that don’t even have a bend in them to make them less inhalable!
  • A hole in the side which isn’t even above the level of the liquid inside so you inevitably get a dribble on your hands when you “pierce foil with straw”?
  • Really – pierce foil with straw? You haven’t heard of sports caps? Come on guys.
  • World’s thinnest straw that doesn’t even go all the way to the bottom of the stupid, unstable, non-rigid liquid container so you inevitably have to scrunch the thing up to get the last few dregs out
  • 40p a carton, are you insane?


How do you solve a problem like Capri Sun?

Oh. It looks like, somewhere, they already have.  Continue Reading “A Quick Rant about Capri Sun”

Ultimate Plane Geek Toolkit

Fly, Bessie, Fly!!!

It can often be disconcerting for new people who meet me when they realise I’m a massive, anorak-wearing aviation geek. But aviation is something that unites us all. We all board those giant metal tubes with wings with a sense of excited trepidation. We all know the joys of miniature packets of peanuts and/or pretzels. We all hold our breaths as we barrel down the runway at 180mph before escaping the bonds of our mother planet to spend hours suspended at 39,000ft by nothing more than hope and complex equations. And we’ve all felt that interminable wait while a loved one blasts through the troposphere to distant climes praying for that text message to come in saying they “got down safely”. Flying is great and amazing and awesome. So, if you feel the same way, here is the Ultimate Plane Geek Toolkit…


FlightRadar24: LIVE Flight Tracking

The two sites I use for flight tracking are and They each take a slightly different tack to flight tracking.

FlightRadar24 uses a visually-engaging embedded Google Map with aircraft icons floating over it. This information is live and is provided by a digital signal broadcast by (most) modern aircraft called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (or ADS-B for short). This signal can be picked up by ground-based receivers connected to the Internet and contains information about an aircraft’s location, heading, altitude, callsign, airframe registration, etc.



The data is provided by amateur enthusiasts (and a few commercial ones too) but anyone can buy an ADS-B receiver and plug it into the FlightRadar24 system. In fact, FR24 are keen to get greater coverage so are offering free receiver equipment to anyone living in certain areas of the globe. More information on that here.

Some aircraft don’t have ADS-B on-board. In particular, I’ve noticed that FlyBe don’t operate the equipment.

The reason ADS-B came about is to stop Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) from having to rely solely on their ground-based radars. Radar (or RADAR to use its proper name because it’s an acronym, for RAdio Detection And Ranging) is affected by things like weather, distance and electrical faults. So some smart alec decided if you’ve got a $150m flying computer cruising around the atmosphere, why not get it to tell you where it is?

Where FlightRadar24’s coverage stops, I switch over to FlightAware.comContinue Reading “Ultimate Plane Geek Toolkit”