Martin Joiner's Blog

Confessions of a binge thinker
Posted on June 21, 2013

Bristol geeks and their remarkable spec keyboards

This Bristol geek has paid over 130 happinesses in order that his fingers experience the satisfying recoil of a Buckling Spring keyboard. Often described as the 'older' style, back in the 90s you could expect one of these as standard with your new IBM PC but these days you actually have to make an effort to own one. For professionals who spend the majority of their day at a computer it's a small investment for a user interface that is both tactile and satisfying on the ear. Additional bonuses include it's ability to register a greater number of keys depressed simultaneously, enabling button combos that are simply not achievable on your common-or-garden device. +4 geek points awarded. +1 bonus point for having a ginger beard.

But woah! Here comes Gavin (photographed at Bristol Web Folk Hack Night), trumping Zac by having the same buckling spring setup but this time with no markings on the keys.  Because...  well isn't it obvious?! Seriously, I have no idea. +8 geek points.

But out-nerding both of them is Brizzle's favourite div lopper, Nic Alpi who uses a keyboard with the buttons in the wrong place. He explains: the backspace and return keys are positioned in the center and the buttons are aligned in vertical columns which is kinder on the wrists and more comfortable to use, leading to greater accuracy. It takes a few hours to get used to.  +10 geek points awarded and a further +2 for wearing a HJKL vim evangelist t-shirt (he didn't even know I was coming to snap his picture, he actually wears that t-shirt normally).

Who didn't make this list? Not included here is the über hipster who actually uses a typewriter (yes the ones that hammer an ink-infused ribbon against the surface of the paper) to compose letters and the guy I met at Bristol Hackspace who has hacked a BBC Micro to a Raspberry Pi enabling him to send Tweets on a device built in 1981. Why not included? Because no matter how fun and quirky these exercises are, they just ain't practical for getting things done. And if there's one trait that can help explain the recent rise to power and great sexual magnetism that geeks are currently enjoying, it's their practical abilities to succeed.

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Posted on June 17, 2013

Bristols Biggest Bike Ride 2013

"This is what motorways will look like when we run out of oil" I joked. But seriously, the pleasure of cruising along a wide stretch of road, surrounded only by other peddle powered vehicles is bliss. Bristol's Biggest Bike Ride took place yesterday (Sunday 16th June) and it's the most peaceful gathering of 5000 people you will ever see. If you'd like to see Bristol council equip the city's roads with proper cycling facilities sign the petition at

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Posted on June 8, 2013

Scotch On The Rocks 2013 in Edinburgh

My employer sent the dev team up to SOTR13, a 2 day web conference in Edinburgh. Talks ranged from the technical to the philosophical and comical with titles like "HTML5 Mobile App with Phone Gap", "Quit your boring 9-5er" and "Zombie Code: How to suvive an apocalypse". I learned a serious amount of very useful knowledge and met some great contacts.

Photographed above is us, the development team. And yes contrary to prior stereotyping Scotland does have sunshine. However in balance I must mention that due to my massive dirty ginger beard I blended in with the native to such an extent that two teenage girls actually stopped me in the street and asked me for directions to the sexual health clinic. I am actually not kidding. I like Edinburgh, I will visit again.

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Posted on June 1, 2013

Bristol IT Megameet

The Frenchay campus of Bristol UWE was the location and the graffiti in the toilets did not disappoint. Elements of the Megameet did though but that's alright because the organisers are honest about it's fledgling nature and keen to improve. Many of the presenters were first or second-time speakers so there were some awkward audiences watching embarrassed presenters hurriedly attempt to fix broken demos. However in contrast I enjoyed a slick talk by local developer, Frank West who convered my area of expertise, front-end development.

One confusing aspect of the Megameet was the unnecessarily long (or maybe just unnecessary) award ceremony that took place at the end of the day. Drop that, help the presenters tighten up their talks and the event will be fantastic. I will attend next year, I may even volunteer to help.

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Posted on May 27, 2013

Painting at Upfest 2013 in Bristol

Bristol's urban paint festival, Upfest, was fantastic this year. On the Friday night I joined a whole bunch of artists in painting the shop shutters on North Street, Southville. I painted the shutter on the side of Rare butchers. Knowing this piece was going to be displayed for at least a year I stuck with an image I have done before and saved my experimentalism for the main day.

The finished piece.... Many people asked if I cut the stencils myself. It's not a stencil.

On the Saturday I painted my finger legs image. I was working next to the mysterious Louis French; nice guy.

Amazing atmosphere. I recommend everyone get behind this fantastic festival.

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Posted on January 20, 2013

Werthers Original Vodka

Stick 330 grams of Werthers Original butter candy in with a litre of triple filtered vodka and wait a couple of weeks. If you're a graphic design geek, make a label too.

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Posted on October 3, 2012

Adobe Create the Web conference in London

My developer colleagues and myself sitting in the audience at Adobe Create the Web confernce held at Vue Cinema, Leicester Square, London yesterday. The day was basically a keynotes talk by Adobe covering their new Adobe Edge suite of products with a couple of non-Adobe employed speakers thrown in for balance. Get details at but my personal highlights were the following:

  • Adobe are pushing for Custom CSS filters to be supported by future browsers
  • SoundJS is a Javascript library attempting to make xBrowser compatible sound possible!/SoundJS
  • Adobe Edge inspect making xPlatform, xBrowser, xScreensize testing easier allowing you to connect all manner of devices to your developer machine and Refresh, Navigate, take screenshots, and inspect developer console. See

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Posted on September 22, 2012

Storywalks Mobile Web App Beta Launch

Recently I have been collaborating with Chris Jelley and yesterday we launched the Beta version of the Storywalks web app. The mobile site contains a list of stories where on first load all the chapters are locked and cannot be read. You then walk to specific GPS locations to unlock each section of the story and read the words to your little ones. The project funded by SAW (Somerset Arts Week) was a success but that's not to say we didn't come away a list of bug fixes and improvements.

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Posted on August 15, 2012

Bristol inspired live art battle in Taunton

I have been living in Bristol for a few months now. I decided to take some of the city to my home town of Taunton. So I held a live art battle in the style of a Secret Walls event. This was a test, a trial run, a first attempt as I dip my toe in the water of live performance illustration.  There were supposed to be 2 battles happening that evening but one contender dropped out so Sam, Ferg and myself combined for a three-way so to speak.  We totally over-ran on time and the finished piece lacked a back-fill. But all things considered this was pretty successful for a first attempt.

Thank you to Russel Scully for providing the screen grabs.

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Posted on July 11, 2012

Cheap bicycle repairs and second hand bike parts in Bristol

I prefer to keep old things running by making small repairs rather than replace the whole thing at the first sign of wear. I also hate bullshit sales patter and prefer a down-to-earth talker. This is why I was so happy with THE BUNKER in Bristol. It's a small red brick building on the north bank of the river, right next to the pedestrian bridge by the Create centre. With just a chalk board for a sign and an outdoor workshop that ceases to exist when it rains, the proprietor, Harvey (seen here replacing a headset), has unwavering dedication to recycling and good bike maintenance.

I bought a second-hand pannier rack for £15 and 2 sets of brake pads for £5 each. He lent me his tools and let me fit it all there and then. Exactly the price and level of service I was after. I couldn't be happier. Go there next time you need a fix.

View The Bunker Bike Workshop Bristol in a larger map

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