First signs of salvation

So my search for offline web design tools mentioned before went down a number of blind alleyways. I re-acquainted myself with a number of tools that I’d used in the past, which don’t seem to have moved on from the past. They mostly failed in a number of ways – unable to import existing pages seems to be one of the real Achilles’ heal for many of them.

Then I discovered a class of tools called “prototyping tools”. These were much more like it. Again none of them do all that I’d like in a way that I’d like, in fact a lot of them are in alpha or beta state with some functions missing. However, they do enable very rapid building of pages while leaving them free to tweak. Also, there are a lot of them based on the Bootstrap framework which ticked a very big box for me.

So where I am at the moment is trying out Pingendo for an extended period, and so far it does most of what I need. Imports existing pages – check. Quick to add sections and see what the result is – check. Easy to copy and paste from one page to another – check. A little flakiness on occasions – check 🙂 (mostly exhibited as not being able to save a page, it tries to save it as a css file rather than html). Definitely a good start, and I have a feeling that if the Bootstrap 4 supporting version works well I’ll be using it to update the various pages I manage. Yes there are lots of other prototyping tools, and I’m sure I’ll try them too at some point…


B***** to WordPress

Well, that was a relatively short-lived project (see “Drinking the Kool Aid” below). I converted my personal website to WordPress run on my own hosting provider. I even started hosting a friend’s site (for the estimable Swakeleys Home Guard Club ) using the same mechanism. It wasn’t long before I discovered one of the challenges of self-hosting WordPress. All of those scripts are quite vulnerable unless you really keep your eye on the ball with updates and only using really trusted plugins.

I didn’t and I couldn’t. And within weeks both sites were tampered with, and effectively brought down. Backing up and restoring proved to be ineffective too, and in the end I ran out of time to fix it and reverted to (mainly) static sites. I feel bad since I did in fact lose data in my zeal to try and fix it, and in the end it was mostly my fault. But I would consider myself reasonably savvie, (30+ years in enterprise IT), and the number of moving parts meant keeping it under control proved daunting. I’m sure it can be done, and should I try again then I’ll take a bit more time to understand the potential risks. I can also appreciate the business model of Weebly, Wiz, GoDaddy and all of the others, to make this truly “simple”.

In the meantime, back to hand-coding the pages, albeit with some help from Bootstrap, with my fingers burned, but fortunately no serious economic consequences.

Anyone know of a good – STANDALONE – web page editing tool, without too high a learning curve?

Always new music to discover. 

At this time of year I’ve often been attending the fabulous Harrogate Wind Chamber music course (now held in York). The vagaries of scheduling mean that some years the course coincides with one of my other favourite events, the Great British Beer Festival, as it does this year. 

So I’m thinking about what I might have been playing if I were in York, and as luck would have it our regular wind quintet has a meet up scheduled for next week. I’m hoping to re-acquaint myself with the Partita by Irving Fine as well as introduce it to my fellow quintet members.

Harrogate has always been somewhere to discover unfamiliar music, and so without a recent visit I’ve had to find other sources. The clarinet player in our quintet is always unearthing some of the more obscure compositions for the ensemble, so much so that I don’t think we’ve crashed through the same piece twice in the 18 months or so that we’ve been meeting. I’ve also returned to a rejuvenated resource, Brandt’s Woodwind Quintet Site. Rejuvenated mainly because Andy Brandt has retired from full-time professional playing and continues to augment this wonderful site way beyond his original “list” from over 40 years ago. While the listing of quintet compositions and arrangements is unparallelled, he’s now adding historical essays about the development of the ensemble. Highly recommended. 

As a result of this I may spring a new piece (to me, anyway) on the quintet next week. The Quintet Op. 52 by Theodor Blumer has somehow escaped my attention until now. Tricky, but sounds worthwhile… 

Drinking the Kool-Aid®

I suppose it had to happen. I’ve been tootling a while here with a WordPress blog for a while, so it was perhaps only a matter of time before I took a bit more notice of the software that was enabling this. I discovered that it’s an open source framework that’s expanded to form a mid-strength (my interpretation) web content management solution. Not only that but the hoster I chose a while back for my other sites provides all of the right tools to run up an instance in a trice. I even have a NAS that can install it too, so I started there with a local version, discovered it was quite easy to use, and within a week I’d converted one of my sites entirely to WordPress. It is of course very different to the old version of the site – converted is probably not the the right word. I copied some of the old data into the new framework, tried a few templates, found one I like and there we go.

So, for the record I’m using the Radix theme which allows me free rein to use the Bootstrap framework I’ve been happy with elsewhere, and the site is very much a testing ground before I attempt to take on a proper job with the amateur orchestras site. Next step for that site is to try some form of database, but I may need a day or two 🙂

Oh, and is there a blog on the personal site too? Well, sort of. It’s called “Latest Bit Of Kit” and it’s where I add small snippets about gizmos and doo-dads I’ve bought and tried. You can find it here.

Is music a competitive sport?

Following hot on the heals of the announcement by the BBC that they are going to commission a “Choir of the Year”-style competition for amateur orchestras (here), there has been a fair amount of discussion and debate about whether this is a good idea. Or is it simply another cheap-ish way to fill air time by using participants who don’t demand media-style salaries?

In real life, nearly everything is competitive in one way or another, either directly or implicitly, leading to a hierarchy of price/cost/importance/prestige*. The BBC in particular has a long track record in musical competition, including the “Young Musician of the Year” started in 1978. There are legion other musical contests – Cardiff Singer, Leeds Piano, etc etc. The very act of auditioning to play in an ensemble is competitive. It’s a way of life for Brass Bands.

Is this then the start of the same process for orchestras? Traditionally, in Great Britain at least, non-professional orchestras were often somewhat different. For one thing they are made up of a mix of complete amateurs, music teachers, semi-professionals and often a professional conductor and/or leader. Often they rehearse with available players and supplement the numbers with paid musicians come the concert. The way the competition is currently arranged will exclude many ensembles – more than 40 but less than 75 members, for example – and the amount of time required may well interfere with the normally running.

I’m still trying to make up my mind whether I think it’s a good idea. I know that my regular orchestra (< 40 regular players) will not be participating. I’ve long used the term “amateur orchestra”, but the term “community orchestra” is a far better description in most cases – a local group for local players. Should a community be competing?



* take your pick

A short history of my favourite music

A friend has inveigled me into exposing my history of music-listening via a series of Facebook entries. I decided that actually it would be fun to add them here, where I can get a chance to expand them.

Here’s the first:

Day one of musical memories.

Glenn Miller

String of Pearls – Glenn Miller and his Orchestra

This was on a 78 we used play on an old portable record player in the loft at home in Sittingbourne. There’s a little piano “tinkle” at around 2:00 which used to sound like someone dropping a glass, but the up to date rendition makes it clearly sound like a piano. The great thing about the 78s were that they were so thick and heavy there was little danger of a sub 10-year-old damaging them more than they were already, other than by accidentally dropping it out of the loft hatch (never did, of course).

There were several other old vinyl records we used to play, but this was probably the best music. Others you won’t be seeing included “Six White Boomers” (1963 A side, the B side was “I’ve Lost My Mummy” – I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out the artist); “Milord” by Edith Piaf (never really liked that one), and an usual 10-inch long player of a Slavonic dance or something (struggling with that one even with the internet)


It’s as I feared (or maybe hoped)…

…no-one is reading these words:


Perhaps it’s time I should advertise.

Will I ever be as smart and witty as the TED presenters?

I’ve recently attended a local TEDx event. It was a supper meeting, food punctuated with video replays of food-related TED lectures. I’m happy to report that the food we ate (Nepalese*) was excellent, the company enjoyable if a little naively optimistic for this old cynic.

As for the lectures, they were, as is usual for TED sessions, entertaining and thought-provoking. They seem to me to be almost the equivalent of those comedy events at The Apollo theatre, but for the “thinking” middle classes. The audiences on the recordings were as far as I could see contrasted with the supper club audience – mostly older, greyer. But I can’t help seeing the lectures as pure performance, designed to elicit a specific emotional response to the material at hand. Clearly science and innovation for the media-savvy 21st century.

Good or bad? “Interesting”, to use a loaded English word. It’s clear the speakers care about their subjects, probably the main reason they are interesting.

Now all I need is something I can wax lyrical about.

* Rising Green cafe, Corsham Street. Check out the momos on Wednesday lunchtime.

We still can’t sort

Sorting data is one if the core processes of modern IT. (and please don’t even THINK if pronouncing that last syllable to rhyme with fleas). So imagine my surprise this week to find in an internal application, which allowed you to sort the various columns, the following date sort:

April 2016
Aug 2015
May 2015
Sep 2015

Yes, that’s right, sorted by the first alphabetic letter of the month. Doh

For Once I Like The App

Just in case there is anyone reading, you may have noticed a recent “flurry” of activity here. This is almost entirely due to the installation of the WordPress app on my android-based phone. It’s a model of simplicity that makes it easy to create blog entries spontaneously.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, and I’m absolutely sure I’m not the first to notice. In general I’m not a fan of the plethora of single purpose apps which simply replicate function from a Web site. Naturally some websites are better than others when it comes to interaction with the smaller form factor, so a dedicated app can be the answer.

In this case, kudos to the WordPress team. The only bad news is more of this stuff…