Monday 31 October 2011

Sloe Gin recipe

Making sloe gin is a bit of a tradition in my family - I can remember helping my Grandpa George pick berries along the valley from their house in France well before I was old enough to enjoy the results, and my Dad has been making his own since they moved house to the country about 15 years ago. I've been making my own for about 8 years, I think - the quantity produced has gone up a bit with the acquisition of one of those 5 litre size whiskey bottles, and a wine-making demijohn, so I can make a good few litres a year now.

Anyway, I've been asked a few times for the recipe for how I make it, so as it's that time of year right now, here's my recipe:
  1. Pick lots of sloes - enough to fill a few bottles
  2. At home, discard any leaves, stalks, insects, shivelled berries, etc that you might have picked with your sloes, and then wash and dry the berries.
  3. Once dried, put in a carrier bag and put them in the freezer overnight
  4. Clean out some old bottles
  5. Take the sloes out a couple of hours before you're going to make the gin - do not allow to completely defrost - they go a bit mushy.
  6. Fill the bottles to about three-quarters full with sloes
  7. From the bottle's volume, add 12.5-15% of the volume but in grammes of caster sugar to the sloes, depending on how sweet you want it to be. e.g. for a 1 litre bottle, I add about 130g caster sugar.
  8. Fill the bottle with gin - I normally use local supermarket's half-decent London Dry Gin.
  9. Put in a cool cupboard, and upend once a week to make sure the sugar mixes.
  10. The sloe gin should go a nice red wine colour, and will be ready to drink after a couple of months, and at its best after more than 6 months
  11. When the sloe gin is ready for drinking, or you're coming up to the next sloe season, decant into a clean bottle through a piece of muslin to remove most of the sediment
In our family, sloe gin is enjoyed with some good quality plain chocolate and a few games of racing demon.

Monday 24 October 2011

Transferring to Google Apps

As some of you know, I've been helping a charity that runs a camp for disabled children, Heswall Disabled Children's Holiday Fund, for nearly 15 years - an organisation that has been very close to my heart ever since - and not least because it was there that I met Clare, who eventually became Mrs Potes in July 2006.

One of the things I do for the charity is do the best I can creating and maintaining their presence on the internet - and I'm no web designer, I can tell you. Until recently, I was using hosting space with my very own hand-crafted HTML - it wasn't bad, but it wasn't that great either, and because of the hosting it was costing money. So in the interest of saving the charity a bit of cash, I started considering the options for replacement.

The domain I use for this blog is hosted using Google Apps, which I've been using for many years now, so that seemed the obvious choice. The maturity of Google Sites (which was added a couple of years ago) meant that I could create the site in a much more WYSIWYG way, and importing the content from the old site took half an hour while I ate my sandwich in front of my computer at work one lunchtime. To complete the migration, I reverted the DNS settings for the HDCHF domain, and added the required CNAME entry for the "www" subdomain, and MX records for email, both of which Google provides you instructions for, and away we went. I'm no DNS expert, but it seems CNAME entries can be used to create domain redirections, and provided the server that they redirect to can interpret the path part of the URL, you can use them in just the same way as URLs referencing subdomains declared using A records (where the hosting server is contacted directly).

As Google Apps basically gives you (almost) all of Google's products wrapped up with a bit of enterprise-y management stuff, and so we've also got the usual range of calendars, docs, gmail, and so on - whether I can convince the other committee members (whose ranks I have just joined) to use them will remain to be seen.

The only downside is that as a UK Charity we do not qualify for the not-for-profits version of Google Apps (boo, hiss!!), so we're restricted to just 10 organisation users - everyone else will have to use their normal email address, enabled for Google use - I hope this won't stop them using the private wiki site, also transferred to Google Sites.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Sprint turnaround day

At work we use the Scrum framework to manage our work (or at least, try to - more about this later, perhaps), and today is sprint turnaround day - review of the last sprint's output, retrospective on last sprint's work, and planning for the new sprint. A fun-packed day of back-to-back meetings.

Sarcasm aside, I do quite like this day - even when our stakeholders pick the review as the time to mention something that should have gone into story capture weeks before. It's a refreshing day - if the last sprint went badly you can put it behind you and move on, and if it went well you can be proud of the functionality being demoed in the review.

However, recently our retrospectives have been going a bit stale. We used to use a traditional good/bad/actions type table, and then switched to a retrospective starfish, but where once all five areas had a few points in each, now we probably get half a dozen points in total. Of course, this could be because our team is functioning so smoothly there's nothing to change. Or maybe not.

So last sprint we did a retrospective on retrospectives. As a result of that, we tried adding a time-line activity to the retrospective, and this sprint we're going to try that again, and also make sure we go back and review last sprint's retrospective notes. We're also going to try not to stick to using just the starfish activity - if we have some actions we need to work on, we'll break those out separately.

The good news is, if we don't like it, we'll just change it again!

Monday 17 October 2011

Two factor authentication from Google

It may well be that I'm late to the party (again!), but over the weekend I was looking at the two factor authentication that Google have made available for all accounts.

Anyone that's done any remote working is probably familiar with RSA Tokens where you have a key ring that gives you a unique number every 60 seconds to use to log in. Using the Google Authenticator app on your Android device (other device manufacturers are available, I'm told), you get the same functionality.

The setup of two-factor authentication is actually pretty simple - first set it up to work via your mobile phone, then re-login and add your device. If your device is also your mobile phone, you'll want to change the phone number used as a secondary authentication device - mine is switched to Mrs Potes's phone.

Once this is done, your account will be expired from all of the connections you had to it (Google Talk, Chrome Sync, Android device, etc.), and as those things ask you to reconnect, you just have to log in to, click on the Authorizing Applications & Sites link, and generate a new password that will then be the password for that application only.

Simple :-)

Friday 14 October 2011

Garbage Collection

Well here it is, the inevitable first post. Like others I know, I've been intending to start a blog for a few years - I even created one called "Half Finished" once - but it was a bit too true to its title, with the first post never actually making it to being published. Lets hope this one lasts a bit better than the previous attempt...

So here it is, anyway. Expect a variety of subjects, including computing, gardening, home life and any other things that occur to me as time goes by.