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February 2018
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Joys of travel

As you can tell from my blog, I love travelling.

I have a motorbike, push bike, car (ICE and EV), canoe and am reasonably happy to use public travel though buses and trains do tend to make me travel sick ūüėÄ

I used to love flying, I have had two flying lessons though after 29th Jan 2009, I am unlikely to be allowed a flying license.

The reason I am writing this is to share my travelling experience yesterday.

Tuesday I flew to Edingburgh for a business meeting.  Very uneventful, unusually, the A12 was perfect and I got to Stansted by car with no issues.  The flight was on time and while security was its fun self, I got someone to pat me down in the secluded little room.

When 9/11 first happened, body scanners and my pump were reasonably happy together.  I had a 3rd gen pump and the manufacturers were happy that the airport body scanners did not pose an issue.

As I have become more of a cyborg, that is less convenient.¬† As the loops have closed, the manufacturers of the various equipment are less happy about the effects of full body scanners on this increasingly more sensitive equipment.¬† The pump makers have never been happy about putting the pumps through xray machines but now I am wearing CGMS, that’s pretty moot.¬† The sensors are really not up to it and at ¬£45 a shot, I cannot afford to lose one for a trip.

Security people are also much less happy about a risking in public or indeed by members of the opposite sex (though I suspect happy for a gay woman to risk down a female suspect)!

So now I have to waste time having to sign a waiver and go off to a private room.  It takes about 47mins end to end (if women are around to do the task).  During daylight hours slightly less.

It doesn’t help that I travel alone much of the time for business.¬† Since my bike accident in Aug, my face needs gunk to try to minimise the scaring and promote the muscle healing that is still going on but my smile is becoming more symmetrical gradually :) ).

I am twittering for help.  I have nothing to hide, I am happy to be frisked and wiped down in public but my clothing is not helping to prove that argument.

This is what I need:

  1. A dress which can switch to being transparent with a hole to allow my pump to pass through it, velcro closure for that port would be ace.  A pocket for the pump too would be good.
  2. A decent bra without any metal lacy enough to show I am not hiding anything but that covers others modesty.
  3. I can wear pants/knickers to save blushes especially for when I am menstruating.

Is anyone sitting there with the imagination and willingness to help, please?

You sound really busy, how do you fit it all in?

Working mum, full time specialist in my company, STEM ambassador, advanced motorcyclist, mentor..

I ask for help!  I cannot do everything, so I employ a cleaner.  I have a good relationship with my endocrinologist, my GP and my pharmacist, who help me to keep alive.

I do plan.  I do prioritise.  Sometimes, I have  to say, not today, how about tomorrow/next week/next month?

I get three days a financial year from my employer which I use to be a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) .¬† I get to say which things I do, and as time is precious I do pick the big bang things.¬† The sessions I’ve really enjoyed have been talking about what it is like to work as a software engineer, computer scientist or a manager in my company.

For me, as a youngster starting out and making the choices about subjects, college versus university, A levels versus BTEC, apprenticeship versus job versus further and higher education, would have been invaluable.  I should have left school at 16 but thought my only real choices were A levels.

There are always choices: it is up to us what we do with our time!

For me those priorities are my family, my work, my friends and then everything else.  To allow me to do that, I take care of my body and my mind.

Have a happy new year!

Two wrongs do not make a right

We moved into our current home in 2013.  I had watched it being built in 2006 as I learnt to ride my motorbike and remembered the disappointment when I realised it would be a chalet bungalow.  What a shame!

When we were looking to move in 2012, it was on the market and the photos did not really do it justice but I remembered looking round it on a cold late November day.  Like our previous house, it had a surprisingly big back garden.  Unlike our old place it had a laurel hedge surrounding three sides of the garden.

You either see the growing prowess of laurel hedges as a boon or a pain.  Our back garden backs on to a main road, the A1214, and despite having to cut it often to keep on top of it, the privacy is wonderful.



Early on we decided to keep that. The hedge on the right side of the house, again backing on to a road, we have “lollipopped” as seen below. The benefits are many, much less to manage for the plants and it does “bonsai” them!

That left the third edge, growing in front of a drive to our neighbours house, these seemed to be the oldest part of the hedge and on the day we moved in, it reached nearly 8′ in height.

I spent three months researching how to remove a 13 piece laurel hedge.

Not a trivial exercise.  I started by getting the hedge back under control Рhaving had a hedge a couple of houses ago, I had loppers, trimmers and shears.

Once the hedge was at 5′ high, and a house warming party later, I started, over five weekends, de-foliating the trees.¬† Five black bin bags full of material we couldn’t put into our compost bin (diameters matter when it comes to branches) I had some stumps.

It’s that an awful lot of effort?

When it comes to managing hedges and trees, there are discussions regarding species on whether they can be coppiced.  In the days before central heating and ready supplies of coal or gas to heat houses, wood was managed to provide heating material.

Plants like laurel have a readily rising sap which means whatever the time of year, cutting a branch off signals the plant to produce new growth at that point or any available junction point on the plant.

This makes it really hard to kill laurel if you decide you change your mind about wanting it.

Having cut the trees down, I poisoned the stumps.  Everything I saw a piece of new growth, I cut it off and poisoned the remaining stump.

Six months after the initial dose of stump killer (yes, seriously, that’s what it is called), I had a bunch of dead stumps.

That takes us to early 2015.¬† Life stalled the project for a while but as the poison is pretty good as it doesn’t contaminate the remainder of the soil, so I grow pansies, spring bulbs and Persian buttercups.

Summer 2016.

This summer has been amazing in the garden.  Having left the laurel stumps for a couple of years, the time was ready to remove them from their bed.

The previous summer I had bought the tools of the trade, a mattock and pick axe.

Unlike a spade, the mattock has a couple of blades to help the wielder to get underneath the roots of the plant to be removed. Once you have that access point, a pick axe can provide a little more leverage (GCSE physics is your friend here).


Root ball

Root ball

Stump zero

I pick my quiet weekend.¬† Sunday morning, while my husband was cooking the chicken, I started work with my mattock.¬† Forty minutes later it still was in its place.¬† While there is no single long tap root, laurel does send out some “bracing” roots.¬† A pair of secateurs soon releases the roots and with the help of my husband and son, we soon have the root ball separated from the ground.

A hole and a mattock

We do three more that afternoon before calling it a day.

The next weekend we do five more and finish the job on the third weekend.

We manage to salvage most of the hyacinths and Persian buttercups but the violas were lost – they had done really well since I planted them last spring but with the heat, did not like being out of the earth that long.

Clearing up and making right was realively easy – the fence was checked and any loose nails hammered back into place before winter.

Our Leaf is used to take the stumps to the dump – each wrapped in a black bin liner.

So you have ground zero, now what?

I met a motorcyclist yesterday and talked over my wish to have a deciduous hedge with cottage gardening (i.e. my salvaged bulbs) on the lower levels.  More of a haven for wildlife that the laurel and something that changes with the seasons.

I’m putting in the order for the 10 beech trees early next month so everything is ready for spring.

There are some wonderful webpages on hedge management and using a hedge for the production of firewood, I particular enjoy reading Christoper Long’s site.

Possibly not this site but the long hedge round the back garden could be put to good use…




The big game changer

Things have been pretty busy this past year.¬† But the announcement of Tesla’s Model 3 has made a big impact in Suffolk.¬† I know three people who’ve put down the deposit for one.

The Model 3 looks really interesting not least as it will be a game changer for the Leaf and i3.¬† These bridge the gap between the popular Renault Zoe and the Model S and X from Tesla, in terms of price and performance; let’s be honest, range.

Life has not been static since we bought our Leaf in January 2014: the i3 came out six months later with its optional range extender and of course the hugely popular Mitsubishi PHEV hit the shelves just before it.

Nissan responded with a 30KW/h battery in 2016 and a faster charger but it still appears to be a poor cousin of the Teslas.  At least the Leaf had price on its size.

Money isn’t everything!

No it isn’t.¬† Health is, great relationships with family and friends and of course an interesting career.

However, a roof over your head and food on your plate are next on the list.

The Leaf does everything I need it to really well.

A test drive of a Model S really highlighted that for us.¬† The Model 3 is much closer in price to the Nissan.¬† The range is bigger and its promising a good range of toys that you can’t buy for the Leaf.

See, range matters!

Mmm, that’s what I thought.

When the Tesla and Chevy Volt hit America, their version of the AA (the America Automobile Association) prepared for the worst in 2011, AAA Introduces Roadside Emergency Charging for Electric Cars …

Only, there was a stunning lack of demand, in fact people were much more likely to run out of petrol (which is easily carried as spare fuel) than they did electricity in EVs.  To such an extent, that five years later
AAA discontinues Emergency Electric Vehicle Recharge Service …

Nissan offer us two weeks’ loan of an ICE car each year.¬† We’ve never used it.

The Leaf gets much more worried regarding range than we do and largely, its estimates are reasonably good.¬† We’ve not run out in 30 months (yet?).¬† I haven’t even had to learn special skills to get the most out of the range: it drives like a normal vehicle.

We’re MOTing the vehicle in January – yes, it does still need one!¬† There’s no exhaust to rot, no fuel injection system to recalibrate, very little to mechanically go wrong.¬† We get it serviced with Nissan who are a short walk from the town centre and our house.¬† The Leaf drives like it did the day we took it home that first day and I find it difficult to justify using anything else to get to work.

What’s not to love?

The 28 day problem

The past five weeks have had some interesting learning code wise :)

Normally, smime messages are signed with the public key signature embedded in the message.  It allows quick and simple verification of who has sent the message and whether that signature is valid against a root certificate.  The root certificate is typically held in a certificate store, an encoded file indexed by certain attributes of the certificate.

This practice is commonly found throughout the internet.  In fact the code I inherited on the 1st April which was tested and working, was doing exactly that same, cut and pasted, formula.  The author may have been the one who initially posted Рthat has been lost in time.  A reasonably clear example is given here: Explore a bouncy castle store object.

If the certificates are not held in a file based certstore and the public keys are not held in the sent message, these techniques fail.  The case I am displaying here is against an Active Directory certificate service.

Instead, you end up with this: extract the signature from the message into a SignatureInformationStore, for each signature get the information regarding the certificate used, use that to query the active directory certificate store and then verify the signature against that relevant certificate.  The certificates may be proven against the associated root certificates and any certificate revocation lists.

LDAPCertStore certStore = new LDAPCertStore (new LDAPCertStoreParameters (host, port));

SignerInformationStore signers = smimeSignedMessage.getSignerInfos();
Collection c = signers.getSigners();
Iterator it = c.iterator();
//in our case there is only one signature

SignerInformation signer = (SignerInformation);
X509CertSelector xcs = new LDAPCertSelector();
xcs.setIssuer (signer.getIssuerDn());
xcs.setSerialNumber (signer.getSerialNumber);

Collection <X509Certificates> certCollection = certStore.engineGetCertificates (xcs);
//as there is only one cert!
Iterator thisCert = certCollection.iterator();
boolean verified = (signer.verify(new JcaSimpleSignerInfoVerifierBuilder().setProvider(“BC”).build(;

At this point you can then verify the certificates using standard methods.

The big thing here is the use of the X509CertSelector.  You cannot use signer.getSID() as the LDAPCertStore is not an extension of CertStore which has the ability to select the certificate based on the getSID values from the signature.

Instead you need to understand what is available from the signature that you can use to select the unique certificate.

Here endeth the lesson.

Actually… This does not have any error handling and you are going to need that for the cases where it doesn’t work.

Coming of age

One of the things you forget as you get older is when certain things not only kick in (legal sex. cigarette smoking and drinking) but also that you not only have the means to prove your identity easily (credit cards are always my fav. as legally you cannot have a credit card in your name under the age of 18 although it establishes nothing else about you).

On Friday I got a letter from HMRC asking if my son’s name was what we registered it as at birth ready for his national insurance card (for the non-UK residents, that’s his social security number).

At 16, he can legally work and receive recompense for it which will be subject to tax and national insurance.

Of course, noone in the family is carrying this document as we head to the local cinema to see Suicide Squad (pretty romp), BBFC 15.

Which means when an over officious usher asks to see my son’s proof of id to say he is over 15, we don’t have anything on us.

Apparently, we can have a refund of his adult charged cinema ticket, but because he is not carrying id he cannot go into the film.

They would accept a photo of an out of date passport so long as it did still look like him: does not that make you feel that this cinema is holding up there end of the bargain and trust afforded them?

After all, cinema ticket costs £9.40, a passport costs £46.

At least the rich 15 year olds can go and see an over 15 film!

It’s been a while

Life with the Leaf becomes the norm pretty quickly and you do just take it for granted.  Since we bought the Leaf in Jan 2014, I cannot imagine using an internal combustion engine for my daily commute.  In fact, my beautiful motorbike is failing to rack up miles as a result.

A rhythm is established on when you charge, when you take it easy and when you enjoy the smoothness and the power available just as in any other car with an electric motor.

You get used to having the information at your fingertips about how you are driving and how you are making the most of the cheap fuel powering your car.   You get very used to not having the judder and delay from an internal combustion engine.

You get used to the economy, which is predictably yours.

Sounds ideal…?

To the most part it is.¬† If I don’t want the hassle of taking a risk in my normal weekly commute, I charge the car when I get home during the summer.¬† The beauty of this is the sun is providing the electrons being stored in the battery.¬† It makes the most of what we’re not using.

Over the summer, I have been reliably achieving 4.50 miles/kWh this month (in fact, more than 4miles/kWh since March).  This is pretty impressive compared to the winter and makes my journey to work (and back of course), at a price of 12.21p per kWh, means I have a journey of 15miles (to the nearest whole mile), costing 40p to the nearest whole penny.

The costs for 2016 so far are £68.83 to cover 2,293 miles.  Which is 33p a mile.

The cost, if I buy the electricity from my energy provider rather than use what is being generated by the PV cells, per week of travelling the 74 miles (not rounded) is £2.01 (to the nearest penny).

The journeys I have made to London for work, cost a little more than that, although you could argue that I do charge the car overnight at 12.12p per unit to the tune of 20 kWh or £2.42 at least once.

We’ve been through this before!

We have.  Things, they are a changing.  On the 1st July (I know that is twenty days ago, I have been a little busy with one thing and another), Ecotricity is changing how their Electric Highway works as per

Instead of being free, the price for a 30 minute charge is going to be £6 :o.

Unless you are an Ecotricity customer.  In which case it will be free.

Where’s that web page again?

Looking forward to having a break and the joys of Java programming

Doesn’t sound like you!?

Mid-March, I¬† found myself in the position of taking on a team which was considered failing (doing amazingly clever stuff, but not delivering to time scales).¬† Great people and coders but not measuring up to expectations.¬† Which wouldn’t have been so bad, but I was heading out on leave for 3 weeks in a bare two weeks time.

The team over the previous three weeks had lost a key member who really wasn’t happy in post either.¬† When asked, the incumbent team felt they were being asked to do the impossible.¬† The environment was dated (as were some of the approaches) and the team got together once a week to say they hadn’t been able to progress things.

In the two weeks before I disappeared, I assessed what was being asked and whether it was indeed impossible (burn charts are your friends here).  Having the proof, I was able to secure more resources.  The team leader I was replacing was not a happy bunny, to put it mildly.  I re-factored the plan with the new team members and took the lowest priority (in terms of time of delivery) out of the immediate time frame.  (The team may have got enough time back to bring that back in, it has all gone that well).

I started daily stand up meetings and disappeared skiing, like you do.

Standard project management stuff… so what?

Mmm, if only things were that simple.¬† I have brought in continuous integration and published test plans (got caught out when told things were working when they weren’t, so we have formal, shared test plans now).¬† We have software signing mechanism across the piece too against very standard mechanisms away from a home brew solution.

I like the wider team and their approach, but it’s felt difficult to progress when the incumbent members of the team still believe it’s impossible and are openly grumbling about the changes.¬† Emotionally it is quite draining.

I have moved the project dramatically from a best efforts part time project to a fully focused software engineering standard one.

Mostly it has worked: in fact the person paying for the project is happy with the changes – more transparent, good progress and good interlock.¬† It’s not perfect, but every step seems to be in the right direction.

The team themselves have stated they like the framework and find they have focus and the information at their fingertips so they have control over their work load.  They have flexibility and the space to deliver.  The plan is reviewed often and communicated out to the wider group.  Which has allowed everything to progress.

Still not finding the issue?Java logo

Java – my fundamental issue is Java.

I first picked up Java in 1996 at university and thought, OK, quirky, not as portable as promised, but if I ever need to, I have a string to my bow.

In 2005, I moved in to the Research teams in BT and was looking at Java.  Eclipse and Netbeans to be honest, producing graphical maps to enable heterogeneous data types to be accurately mapped and produce the transformations between the two data types.  I became the expert pretty quickly.

The great thing about it, was I was starting the objects (Java is an object orientated language) from scratch and therefore able to control the entire environment from the ground up.

I am a test driven programmer, so I build a test harness (with the tests applicable to prove the result) and then get on with it.

Only, it was never quite that simple, and I quickly progressed to using Java beans in a Tomcat environment.  I am still a big fan, 65% of my website is still programmed in JSP containers.  Deployment is simple, what is coded in one environment may be proven there and run any where there is a compatible server.

It has to be said, I do very little out of choice in the command line with Java.

Let me guess, you’re programming in Java this time?tomcat

Only without any of the niceties.¬† (This was the project I was told was working and basically didn’t.¬† I got it built (yeah, small miracle) but found in Java 1.8 it had a VERIFY.ERROR against the JVM.¬† Great, had to re-factor against the JCE provider, there’s best part of a week there.)

I have inherited some code built on JCE running from the command line.  It was written in a couple of hours Рnot exactly ground breaking code, but standard protocols being used in the right place.  It builds, it looks great but I cannot seem to set the security provider explicitly to ensure the right libraries and bindings are used each time.  Not good.

So I went back to the drawing board and instead of using JCE, I tried a JNDI interface.  Which worked beautifully and very reliably but I cannot bind the objects I want to use to talk to AD 2008.

I was missing a setting in my (this is what I mean about containers, none of this is documented anywhere for the project!).  When that was in place, it worked.  Once.

I have even done a line by line comparison of everything I have done.  No changes of consequence between when it worked and when it is not.

It’s annoying and a problem and I know I have the answer in my reach.¬† But I look blind and stupid and I am really not.

Out of the whole team, I am the one holding everything up.¬† [Except I am not: because I have worked closely with the test and delivery teams and made absolutely sure I haven’t].

I miss Tomcat too.  Everyday.  When I build something in Tomcat, it just works.

Right this moment, I am going away to get my mind off the problem.  I have two weeks holiday to think about anything else.  Must stop thinking: C# anyone?

Have a great evening :)

What a mess?!

Not many people know this, but I am an European first, British second and English third.

As someone living in the UK, that doesn’t come close to describing me, but it is at least a start.¬† I believe in free speech, the politeness of an orderly queue and in driving on the left hand side of the road.

I share a common history with the entire world and love when diplomacy is the first port of call instead of a gun.¬† “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war”.

I don’t believe in petitioning for a 2nd referendum vote even though the side I voted for lost.¬† I believe we have a duty to make this work, for not just the people in the UK today but those who come after and a leading light for the world.

I do believe our voice in the world will be quieter and more difficult to hear as we no longer have access to the democratically elected seats that form the European Union.

That just means we talk louder for freedom, justice and love of our beautiful world and all who live in it, man, woman, child, mammal, reptile, bird, fish, etc.

Happy Friday x.

Thank you

As a working engineer, may I say a big thank you to the recession.  (Slightly tongue in cheek).

No longer will managers have doubts that women on their return to work from maternity leave need to be there.  The house price boom, university fees and the multitude of other direct incentives to holding down a job while your partner does so is no longer a matter of straight choice of simple wants.

If you can, you do.  The woman does need to not only make it work but make it succeed.  They are far more likely to have backing at home too.  Everyone is invested.

The guys are now much more invested in their partners having successful careers, there is no doubt in a woman’s decision to follow an actual career rather than coast and struggle.

Businesses can no longer afford to squander such talent either.

Of course, it isn’t perfect but it’s a big start.