My First Adventures with the RaspberryPi

My darling wife got me a RaspberryPi for Christmas, probably because I couldn't stop going on about it.
Here's one:

The first reaction from most people since has been "What does it do?" to which I have struggled to give an answer to...as it can do so much!

First off, its a hands-on mini computer that can always be on due to low power usage (5V).  This means possibilities such as a webserver for either web or your LAN.

Second, its educational. It comes with basic Debian linux installed, so its a good way to brush up on those skills which I have found I needed more of recently, especially as Google Cloud Compute also runs off Debian. It also comes installed with Python and Mathematica (its only a question of time before I put R on there too)

Third it has ok graphics for its size so could function as a media server, serving up films and music.

Forth it has many sensors you can attach to it, such as IR sensors, Bluetooth iBeacons, cameras or voice activated systems. I was thinking some kind of voice activated gadget system, accessible via a web interface, or hooking it up to TechnicLego and making it part of a robot brain :)

The units cost about £40 each with accessories, which means with some skills you can replicate more expensive gadgets and have fun trying, and many people once they find a fixed function buy another one to look for more uses. Since I got it I have also bought a 7 Port USB Powered Hub, as the RaspberryPi can't power things such as external hard-drives on its own.

So far I have put the RaspberryPi next to our Wifi Router so that I can now:

  1. Connect from the web through our building Firewall via reverse SSH tunnelling, by connecting to a Free Tier Amazon linux box and forwarding ports via the always on connection (nefarious applications talked about here)
  2. Setup remote desktop and SSH so I can control the RaspberryPi from my MacBook Air.
  3. Started up an internal LAN homepage, for use in our flat.  I'm hoping my talented web designer wife can make us a web-portal gateway for useful things we may need such as calendars.
  4. Hooked up an external hard drive to create a cheap alternative to Apple's TimeMachine for our MacBooks
  5. Mounted a 32GB USB stick to experiment with network storage using Samba.

All of which I'd have had no clue about unless I had got the gadget, so this is all WIN for me at the moment :)

Once these basics are done, I'll consider these next projects:

  • The aforementioned brain for a LegoRobot
  • A timelapse webcam
  • A home greeting system - wave your phone at a sensor, a screen lights up with a personalised homepage
  • A webcrawler gathering data for a specific project
  • Home automation, although will need more gadgets to control...

Any other ideas?

    My Recording Setup In The Bunker

    I have been fortunate to find a place in a studio bunker near Rigshospital in Copenhagen, which is one of the nicest spaces for music I've played in.  Website here, if you are also looking for a music practice room in Copenhagen: http://bedrockmusic.dk/

    A couple of pictures below of in and out:

    They were made during the Cold War, so feature radiation baths, 6 foot of concrete surrounding us and two thick steel doors keeping us in, or people out.  We had a JCB working above us last year, and didn't hear a thing.

    With the excellent and fine drummer Cem we have spent half a day a week ish recording some original tracks, for our own sanity and amusement.  Our sound lies somewhere between naïve rock to prog indie, and we'll probably never pin it down. 

    Between us we play guitar, bass, drumz, 80s keyboards and laptop synths, and usually one of us drafts a song at home and we attempt to record live parts at the Bunker.

    We record using Ableton Live 9, which improves every iteration and is just easy for me, running on my MacBook Air plus an external HD, which copes fine up to about 20 tracks before I need to start freezing tracks.

    This connects to this sexy USB audio interface from Roland, an excellent Audio and MIDI interface

    We usually feed in with two Rode-NT1As


    ..and a ShureSM57 I found in my Dad's shed for the snare.

    I have no amp here in Denmark yet (shipping for my old one was a lot of money) so at the moment I'm DIing straight into the interface, for some good results.  An amp simulator comes with Ableton 9, and I think for live gigs (which we hope to one day) I may even keep that setup if I need to hide my out of practice playing behind space FX :)

    We have around 6 songs nearly done, and an aim for 2014 is to write one song a month.  I'll publish separate posts with some SoundCloud links (which Ableton9 auto uploads to) to some draft songs soon (scary), but feel free to follow me there too: https://soundcloud.com/m-edmondson

    SEO Is So Boring

    SEO is so boring, and you think so too which is why you're reading this post.  Let me validate your feelings, with my personal reasons gathered from being involved in the industry 8 years. 

    The main problem is that the SEO blogosphere talks about the same things every two years, with the same conclusions. These are:

    1. Paid Links are evil/good.  Actually, Google wouldn't care either way if its algo could surface content without paid links, but until then they use FUD to make SEOs eat each other.  The newish link disavow tool crowdsources this in a marvellous manner.
    2. A website starting with M and ending with Z will publish a "revolutionary" SEO tactic that will "transform" the industry, to help justify its subscription to its users.  Those user's and other invested interests will post things like "Its fucking amazing!!". Other SEOs will point out that its crap. The publishers are happy just to be talked about whatever.  If they are lucky, Matt Cutts will comment pointing out what they say is indeed, crap.
    3. A Big Brand will be penalised for some SEO tactic.  They will come back again in a fairly short time, much shorter than if it happened to your website, for example. This will be due to them spending lots on AdWords, despite Google public denials. Outrage.  Google penalties are political, deal with it.
    4. SEO is dead.  People confuse an SEO tactic with SEO.  Google discount one method due to spammers taking the piss - see guest blogging, infographics, directories etc. Those SEO's and non-SEO's who relied on that tactic, mostly link building to paper over unoptimised websites, find they have no more ideas, and decry SEO's death.
    5. Rebranding of SEO. Every so often, SEO will have its name changed by industry leaders, to try and disassociate with the above.  There will be discussion on why, how and what anyone cares other than the company trying to own the new keyword space.

    Another major problem is that every SEO blogger/consultant/agency will at some point decide to run a content campaign as "content is good for SEO".  This means a proliferation of half-arsed reheating of SEO content, which range's from paraphrasing Google help files to program manuals with "for SEO" tacked on the end - "Excel2012 for SEO", "Using Twitter for SEO" etc. etc.  or perhaps its just the old standard X number of ways to do Y.  Bite-sized content designed for amateurs, written by the unqualified, since those who have time to maintain a heavy schedule of SEO publishing, don't have enough time to do actual SEO.  The best SEO's I've met hardly had time to tweet once a week. 

    Finally, for a lot of companies that need SEO help, even these days its still the fundamentals that need looking at - title tags, duplicate content etc., which for very large companies can be a nightmare to correct. A lot of SEO opinions on the web work fine if you're running a Wordpress blog, but once it gets to a certain level of SEO its mainly about prioritisation - what things should you concentrate on to get most impact to bottom line revenue? 99% of the time its not going to be some secret SEO tactic, but getting an SEO fundamental correct, and its very rare this prioritisation is talked about - there isn't much more to say.

    Don't be so negative

    Ok. 

    There are some interesting developments fuelled by search engines, mainly Google, for which the SEO industry feeds off of for its food scraps, another source of resentment it seems to some SEO bloggers. 

    SEO for non-Google is interesting.  Yandex and Baidu have different models and philosophies, and optimising for the new searches in say AppStores, LinkedIn or Facebook offers new avenues.  

    Google's move away from top 10 result search page towards its mission to be the Star Trek computer is exciting, and services like Google Now, Google Glass, and semantic technology combining to become the Internet of Things sounds like SEO's will become more like data curators than data manipulators.  

    Likewise the move towards treating SEO holistically as part of a user journey, rather than a last touch channel, holds interest from an analytics viewpoint.

    I don't mean to change anything with this post, and am probably contributing to the problem putting it out there, but at least I will have something to point to in the future when asked about the latest SEO fad.

    Copenhagen Gable Murals

    When I first started to cycle around Copenhagen, I noticed a lot of the gable walls held spectacular murals as public art.  In the UK I only saw this occasionally, in the more art-prone cities such as Bristol or Brighton, and I can't recall one at all in Falmouth, probably due to conservation orders.  


    I started snapping away at these murals with the aim of one day doing a collection, which I'll start publishing here, hopefully with a little blurb and map link to where it is. I’ll also replace some of the pictures as I get better shots, but there are also loads I haven't yet got.



    My New Blog Home

    I've decided to start up a new blog at markedmondson.me

    It will be about everything I am up to, and I think worth writing down. 

    I'll write it primarily for my friends, family and colleagues in the industry.

    I'm experimenting with merging my business and home-life personae on one platform.  Traditionally I've separated these out, such as my work (@MarkeD_NB) and home (@MarkedAtHome) twitter accounts, but I want a more rounded presentation of myself here.  

    So, my dear readers, some of these posts may not be very interesting, but perhaps some will.  It'll probably cover topics such as:

    • Life in Denmark for an English ex-pat.  I think it best if I practice writing these in Danish, fordi det er god for øve mig.
    • What's it like to work with digital analytics in a European agency?  Its pretty exciting, for me at least.
    • I will shyly share my music endeavours, when I get them to a state they are 90% finished.  (All my songs end up being 90% finished)
    • I'll comment on SEO/Analytics trends, if its not been repeated ad nauseum on other blogs.
    • I'm doing a lot more programming recently, in particular R, Python and JavaScript.  In particular, Machine Learning is a keen interest at the moment, I'm considering entering Kaggle competitions.
    • I'll curate links to web pages around the web that cover my interests, ranging from history to gaming.
    • I'll probably have a gadget section, as I've recently acknowledged my gadget addiction. Most recently this covers the Adventures of the Raspberry Pi.
    • I keep up to date with our boundaries of science, in particular Cosmology and meta-physics.  I'll probably embarrass myself with pseudo-science posts. 
    • I may write some personal for family posts, under password protection.

    I had a blog before running on Posterous, but it got bought by Twitter and then closed down.  This blogging platform, PostHaven, is run by the same creators and holds a lot of the same features I liked in Posterous, but promises to be permanent by charging $5 a month, so will never seek to be bought or hold advertising. 

    This appeals to me - perhaps the content that published here I will be able to read in many years time, and I can marvel at how much, or little, I have changed.  Or, maybe AI robots in the future will be created by distilling a person's social media activity to make us immortal, and this can be the source for FutureMarkAI 3014!

    Below is a picture of me in Cornish Kilt at my brother's wedding.  Just for the record. I don't often wear kilts, not even Cornish ones.