Andrew Kember

Cloud technologist. Wily old man with excellent packing skills.

GMail Cleanup

Gmail has four tabs of email: Inbox, Social, Promotions and Updates. I’ve trained Gmail to put important messages in the Inbox, but Promotions and Updates are streams of ephemeral information that I don’t want to maintain. I glance at new messages there, and read what I want. I’m writing a Google Apps Script to regularly archive those email streams.

May 16, 2021 · AK

Pancakes (American-style)

My wife, who’s an accomplished cook and baker, scribbled out a simple recipe to help me make pancakes. I took that simple instruction and had fun turning it into this monster.

March 14, 2021 · AK

Raspberry Pi temperature monitor

I want to monitor the temperature in all the rooms in my house. Why? I like comfort and efficiency. If I know the temperature of each room in my house, with periodic measurements…

March 13, 2021 · AK

Commonplace book

A commonplace book is a scrapbook of wisdom. I’ve been hunting around for this concept for a while. Journals are about past events and reflection…

March 7, 2021 · AK

Autonomy, mastery, purpose

Motivating people - allowing team members’ intrinsic motivation to flourish - is about granting them…

March 4, 2021 · AK

Star Wars Films UK Classifications

One of my children is playing a Lego Star Wars games, but without having seen any of the films, she’s struggling with context. I had forgotten that the rating certificates were so low: Title Rating Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Parental guide: Violent. Robots die too, but Binks does not. Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Parental guide: Violent. Lightsabers cauterize....

May 6, 2015 · AK

Performance reviews at work - make them count

I’ve had performance reviews every year for the last twelve years - it’s part of the job when you’re a full time employee. I’ve been fortunate in getting on well with all of my managers, but some reviews have been rather blah, blah, blah. They’re worst when I’m nervous, or overly optimistic. They’re least useful when my line manager is mildly, generally disapproving or provides vague platitudes. I’ve spent the last decade learning how to improve on that. Here’s what I’ve learnt. ...

April 29, 2014 · AK

Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

Engaging and beautifully orchestrated. The plot turns are revealing rather than shocking. Throughout the story, there is a very pleasing linkage between earlier details and later events. Chekhov’s guns are each fired.

March 22, 2014 · AK

The Devil's Waters - David L. Robbins

This is a fun, gripping special-ops military adventure. I liked the way Robbins told similar parts of the story from two characters’ perspectives, while still keeping the plot developing and the action going.

March 12, 2014 · AK

Boneshaker - Cherie Priest

Boneshaker is an intriguing steampunk story with a strong female lead. Character development is full enough to fulfil the purpose of the narrative, without detracting from the pace of this adventure story. Use of steampunk technologies is carefully reined in, with no exciting props dropped in at the last minute to save the day.

September 7, 2013 · AK

On The Extinguishing Of URLs

In a dimly lit room that smelled of solder, I peered into a CRT monitor. The Internet was growing up, Textism was a cool blog, but Dean Allen was yet to publish his first F-bomb. Business websites were changing publishing technologies with reckless abandon, and the links the world made to their pages were becoming outdated. ...

August 25, 2013 · AK

Decorators: A neat way to modify functions

In Python, decorators are a construction that help reduce boilerplate code, enhance the maintainability of our code and address the separation of concerns. A decorator is a statement just above the function it decorates. Here’s a simple example so you can understand what I mean: ...

April 3, 2012 · AK

Ubuntu home server: Notifications by email

This walkthrough tells you how to provide an email service to daemons on a home server so that it can send emails to a server admin’s Gmail account. Key: Actions look like this, results look like this and commands you enter on a terminal look like this. Replace [my_username] with your login on this server e.g. andrew. Replace [external_FQDN] with the domain name that you use to access your server from outside your local network....

March 16, 2012 · AK

Sansa clip volume problem

I recently updated my Sandisk Sansa Clip firmware and found that the volume was dramatically reduced. ...

July 15, 2010 · AK

Removing Landscape advert from Ubuntu login

To remove the text that says: Graph this data and manage this system at while keeping the useful system information, edit the script that puts Landscape information into the message of the day (MOTD): ...

November 24, 2009 · AK

Can't run Crashplan desktop under Ubuntu

I’ve installed Crashplan on my Ubuntu server (it installed its own JVM) and now I’m trying to start the Crashplan desktop client using X11 forwarding. I get: ...

November 9, 2009 · AK

Batch file comments

In Windows batch files, you can use a double-colon (::) as a comment. I’ve just spend a few hours trying to figure out why my batch file says, “The syntax of the command is incorrect.” when I run it. The answer? I’ve got a :: comment as the last statement after a group of IF statements. Obscure? Yes. Flaky? Certainly. Oh — hang on, it might be because I’ve got the :: before a for statement....

September 5, 2009 · AK

Google Chrome OS for Non-Techies

As a techie type, my ears pricked up when I heard Google announce their intention to release an operating system. I like noodling around with new software when I get the chance, but my main interest in Google’s Chrome OS is not for me. It’s for people for whom the phrase, “Open Explorer and go to your Documents folder” is filled with intrigue and mystery. ...

July 8, 2009 · AK

Nokia developing phone that recharges itself without mains electricity

Nokia developing phone that recharges itself without mains electricity Radio waves. It charges itself with radio waves. Am I having my leg pulled?

June 17, 2009 · AK

Find regular expressions

“Why don’t my regular expressions work with the ‘find’ utility in Linux/Ubuntu/Unix/Cygwin/Posix-environment?” Short answer: You need -regextype posix-extended E.g. To find files with either of two file extensions, use: find . -regextype posix-extended -regex '.*\.(xsd|java)' Want to know the differences between POSIX Extended Regular Expressions and basic ones? Read this excellent resource about regular expressions. Want to test your regular expressions, live, in the browser? Try Regexpal. Similarly, use egrep instead of grep to enable extended regex functionality and use sed -r instead of sed....

April 6, 2009 · AK

The problem with Truecrypt and Keepass

…Is that there’s no back-door. If I forget the passwords, I’m stuck. I wouldn’t change them for the world – they’re both great pieces of software that I use lots. It’s just that my sieve-for-brain can’t remember the Access Codes. I end up with old Truecrypt volumes, file containers and Keepass databases lying all over the place. Still, they (clearly) don’t contain anything important, because I haven’t missed them.

March 17, 2009 · AK

Sterilising water for feeding babies - is boiling enough?

Our thirteen-week-old daughter had a very slightly dicky tummy, which was enough to make us wonder what the cause might be. One of the first things we needed to rule out was dodgy water in her bottles. ...

August 1, 2008 · AK

Bash prompt

I always forget how to make my bash prompt just the way I like it, so here it is for posterity. In ~/.bashrc: ...

July 29, 2008 · AK

REISUB - the gentle Linux restart

According to Lifehacker a frozen Linux system that’s not responding to the Ctrl-Alt-Delete three-finger-salute can be restarted more safely than by pushing the power button, which is usually the next step. ...

April 23, 2008 · AK

Obscure python urllib2 proxy gotcha

This is going to be very obscure, technical and humourless1, so unless you suspect your environment-set http proxy is messing with your python, you can stop reading now. This is actually two problems, and three solutions. Problem 1 My python script bombs out with: File "c:\Python23\lib\", line 506, in proxy_open if '@' in host: TypeError: iterable argument required Solution 1 Your http_proxy environment variable must include http:// at the start....

November 21, 2007 · AK

Does Alcohol Really Boil Away In Cooking?

“Don’t worry, there’s no alcohol in this red wine sauce — it’s cooked.” Heard that before? It’s the accepted wisdom about hot food made with alcoholic drinks. However, all is not as it seems — the accepted wisdom is wrong. In this article, it’s explained that baking or simmering for 15 minutes leaves 40% of the alcohol. 1 hour of cooking leaves 25% of the alcohol. The raw taste of the alcohol very quickly fades when the food is heated, but a large amount of alcohol remains....

September 30, 2007 · AK

Creating a self-signed SSL certificate

There are some really long-winded ways of creating a self-signed SSL certificate for Apache out there on the Intarweb. Most I don’t understand well enough to implement, and the few that were simple enough to implement didn’t work. ...

September 12, 2007 · AK

Never Smint your dog

I’ve just been reading about Xylitol, the sweetener used in Smint, Orbit Complete and lots of other sweets and chewing gums. ...

May 31, 2007 · AK

How long should I keep my financial records?

I’ve got stacks and stacks of statements at home, because I thought I had to keep them, for tax assessment purposes, for seven years. I’ve just done a little research, and found that I can recycle rather a lot of that pile. ...

June 4, 2006 · AK

No smoke without... cigarettes?

“Which aspect of cigarette smoking is bad?” Is it the addiction to nicotine, or is it the harmful chemicals that go along with that?

August 8, 2005 · AK


I shall be getting baptised this Sunday. ...

July 1, 2005 · AK

Three Minute Silence

Yesterday, most of the country paused for three minutes at twelve o’clock to remember the victims of the tsunami and earthquake disaster. ...

January 6, 2005 · AK

Big plans

The wonderful news of the last few weeks is that Lisa and I have got engaged!

April 18, 2003 · AK

Hair today

I have the tune to “Happy Birthday” in my head today. So far, it’s not a problem, but I would like to replace it with something that doesn’t repeat quite so often. Jingle Bells perhaps. ...

March 13, 2003 · AK

And the beat goes on

Back from Greece, had a great time despite the British weather.

March 10, 2003 · AK


While driving to work, it’s quite amusing to study the contents of passing lorries (extra points for livestock) and we’ve noticed a worrying trend. How can it possibly be economically viable to drive around a lorry full of mud? ...

February 27, 2003 · AK

Diamond Geezers

Hurrah! It’s nearly Christmas!

December 23, 2002 · AK


Kalashnikov surfing Axe axioms Posterior politics —Some people, eh?—

December 23, 2002 · AK

History in song

In the shower: Dire Straits I go checking out the reports Digging up the dirt You get to meet all sorts In this line of work. Treachery and treason There’s always an excuse for it And when I find the reason I still can’t get used to it. ...

December 20, 2002 · AK

And there was much rejoicing (Yay!)

Meeting the deadline Buying the last present Eating Robin’s minstrels

December 19, 2002 · AK