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Personal Blog

Some of my followers will know that the last two weeks have been my first two weeks as a teacher and I've got to say, I've had the best two weeks of my life!

I've never been in a job where every day I come in excited about what I'm going to do in the day and feeling like I want to go back in each and every day. I've also never had a job where my lunch break doesn't feel too short because I like going back to work afterward.

Nothing has ever excited me as much as being a teacher in secondary level education!

I thought I'd take a bit of time to look back at my 2017 a bit earlier than normal, but focusing only on the technology side of things and what's happened this year.

This year has been an incredible year for me technologically, as I've learned way more than any other year before. This year, perhaps the biggest gain for me was moving to a virtual private server (VPS) for my website. This gave me the technical knowledge that I never ever had and allowed me to learn server admin stuff. I now know a lot more about Linux servers and the Apache web server and, as a result of this, have started a business hosting websites for clients that I build websites for - something I wanted to do years ago. As well as this, I've learned to tinker the performance to get it right for my website and my clients' websites.

This year also saw me get my first job, working at Maglabs, which was a great place to work but I was just so anxious that I wanted to take the next step and ended up working at DH Systems after just six months at Maglabs. I only ended up at DH Systems for one month really before deciding that it would be better if I took time out for my health. As a result of the timeout, I actually ended up drawing up a business plan and formed Jambour Digital, which I'm very happy to have done. The company isn't quite active yet, but I've got plans to get it up and running in the new year.

I've also learned a bunch of new technologies such as C++, React.js, Angular JS, Node.js and Symfony 2 this year. I've also learned a lot more about Linux command line and now spend most of my day with a Bash Terminal open on my Mac - an incredible difference compared with last year. 

Perhaps my biggest achievement this year is Dash. Dash was originally named BalfBlog at the start of this year, but it has since become so much more than what BalfBlog was and needed a name to reflect that. Even as late as May of this year, huge improvements were coming to BalfBlog and eventually Dash to make it the incredible piece of software it is!

Another thing that I'm working on now is ZPE 2.0, which is being written in C++. Whilst I wouldn't say I'm near finishing it, I would say it's progressing quite well. 

I must not forget to mention setting up my own personal branch exchange for a SIP phone! Yes, this year has finally been the year that I have ditched my standard telephone and taken on a SIP phone instead and I now have my own business phone line. There was a steep learning curve with it but I got there eventually.

I also finally got my Razer Blade Stealth, the only ultrabook I've ever wanted to own! As well as this I got myself another similar device (well in the sense it docks into a more powerful system) with the Nintendo Switch, which to date may be the greatest console around.

The last few weeks I have posted a few negative things on my blog and I'm not normally a negative person. I'm looking to 2017 in a positive way - that it will be a good year. 

I want everyone who reads my blog to know it is my intention to make 2017 a good year, especially for those who read my blog or my website. I'm in a much better way than I was a few weeks ago and I'm looking to 2017 in a positive way.

It is also this year that I am moving into my own house, if my mortgage is still valid by the time the house is ready for me to move in.

The MySQL tutorial on my website will be finished by the end of January and I will begin my next tutorial(s) which will focus on JavaScript and the other, which is a completely different type of tutorial, will not focus on a programming language but on Design. The latter tutorial may focus on web design or just in general design, since although I am primarily a programmer, I have a lot of experience with design as part of being a web designer as well. I have also recently purchased a book that I will be using for inspiration for topics in this tutorial (I sometimes base topics in my tutorials on chapters or sections from books, but the vast majority of the time I tend to write my tutorials based on the order which I believe is best). 

I also mentioned that I would be going back to doing YouTube videos and I still intend to do that later in the year. My intention with my channel is possibly to do a vlog thing where I will talk about the things in my life every week. I do not know if people will find it interesting or not but I'm considering this as it was suggested to me by a friend who thought it would be cool. We'll see.

Anyway, I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2017!

Although this post may not interest anyone, I wrote it all the same. You see I like to look back at my year toward the end of the year. 

2016 has been a pretty bad year for me, and I think in general for quite a lot of people. However, in this post I'm going to look at the positives in the year too, since there were also many of those in 2016.

First off, January was a good month. I started working at Knox Academy for the first time, a school I'd always wanted to work at. I really enjoyed working here, as much even as at Ross High School where I'd been working before. I was doing something I really loved voluntarily every week twice a week. Fourth year of university was also one of the best years I ever had at university. My courses were really great and it looked like I was on target to getting a first class degree too. However, the loss of the amazing David Bowie was quite a big shock to the world. Then just four days later one of my favourite actors, Alan Rickman (Harry PotterLove ActuallyDie Hard etc.) passed away too. And let's not forget Sir Terry Wogan who since I was a child had been doing so many great things for charity, in particular Children in Need. 

February came along soon and it was one of the worst months of my life. I was told on the 15th of February that my MRI results were bad and that I needed to get surgery. Towards the end of February I went through a bunch of tests. I was also turned down for teacher training by two of my three universities I applied for.

At the start of March a biopsy which showed that there was nothing to worry about. But the surgery did damage me, I had headaches for days on end and huge pains in my head over and over again. I also worried about how I was going to complete my degree. Admittedly, by the end of March the plan was in place to help me finish my degree and I was on route to getting it again. Also in March, Ronnie Balfour Corbett passed away, 

April was not much better for me, I spent most of that month recovering from surgery. Although towards the end of April I did go back to teaching. I also finished my dissertation during April.

In May I submitted and presented my honours year poster, marking the end of my time at university. Towards the end of May I got an interview with the last of my universities for teacher training. The interview and presentation I had to deliver went very well and both of the two members of staff said that I was perfect for teacher training. As soon as I got the conditional acceptance from them, I went ahead and phoned up the college I was going to go to for catching up on my Higher English I needed to pass the conditional requirements of the university. Even after phoning them just two days before where they had 'plenty of space' they had completely run out. This meant I had a conditional acceptance that I could never meet the condition of. However, on the 30th of May the degree classifications for Computer Science were released. I was amazed to see that I had a First Class degree. It was honestly one of the most amazing feelings ever! 

June was a good month, perhaps the best of the year. A few days after the degree classifications were announced our grades for our fourth year second semester and dissertations were released. I got 7 As and 1 B for my fourth year, and 82% for my dissertation. A couple of days later I was emailed by my mentor congratulating me but also asking me if I'd be interested in a PhD. Without thinking about it too much, I said "I'd be interested in a PhD so long as it matches what I'm interested in". I considered it a backup plan if I didn't get in to teaching. I also went ahead and started applying for jobs in the industry, just in case, although at that time (and things have changed now) my heart wasn't really hugely set on a job in the industry. I graduated on the 21st of June 2016 and it was one of the best, yet saddest days, of my life - I saw a lot of my friends for the very last time but we were celebrating. Also on the 21st of June I was told I would not be able to get in to teacher training without Higher English, and was given all the evidence to prove it. On the 29th of June I was officially accepted on to the PhD I had applied for.

July was another month of relaxing for me, and of course my birthday. I had a good July, admittedly too relaxed but I spent a large amount of time working on BalfBlog and improving it, with version 2.1 being launched towards the end of July. However, I also was told that the house I had the deposit on was now completely possible, since the mortgage I had applied to was now possible too.

August was another month of relaxing, and a week away up in Perthshire as always. It was an exciting month for me because I knew that I would be starting my PhD in a few weeks. 

September was obviously the month I started my PhD. It started off very quiet, I did really know what I was doing. I felt quite lost. At the end of the first week I seemed to feel like I was part of it however, with my supervisor treating me to lunch and explaining how the first week always feels like that. Week 2 of my PhD and I was helping at my first ever conference. I really enjoyed this, plus I got to see inside the new gym at the university. The conference allowed me to see just how these things work and how they benefit the subjects of the research so greatly, with many of them praising the work of the researchers. I also met two really good friends in September; Lewis and Ana, who have both been very supportive of me over the last few months and I couldn't have stayed without the two of them (it'd have been very boring). I also began lab helping again, something I thoroughly enjoy doing

In October I was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia (which I have obviously obtained from treatment, which is what my doctor also believes also), which explains why I have difficulty reading for long periods of time. Dyslexia has not affected me in a huge way, since I can still write, spell and read, it just makes it more difficult for me to concentrate on reading for long periods of time. However, finding out that what I originally thought was true was very discouraging for my PhD. On top of that there was a nightmare and disaster going on around me, since there was a huge problem with one of my friends. I'm not going to explain it for obvious reasons, but it had a huge effect on me. For the first time in 2016 I was actually feeling depressed again. However, there were still some good things in October, with the Computer Science department celebrating 50 years, and a fantastic dinner and lovely evening (where I got to meet Alex Balfour, the man who brought the first Computer Science degree to Scotland at Heriot-Watt). 

In November I felt I had to go back to my bank to double check on the mortgage. To my disappointment, the bank had now changed their mind and were not prepared to give me the mortgage they had been able to get me before. My PhD, paying in a net salary, was not enough for the house any more. As a result I started to get bad feelings and felt that this house was too good an opportunity for me to miss and that I need to think about myself rather than what others think for the first time. This house means a lot to me, and I may never get another attempt at such a good offer again, so I have to pursue it. On top of that, I felt really down because of the situation in October and felt like the PhD was no longer for me. After discussions with my parents, friends and a few others, I decided to stay with the PhD but apply to jobs. I made a promise that if none of the 20 jobs I applied to wanted me, I would stick with the PhD. I think a lot of that worry about the PhD did stem from the fact that I began to think about what I was doing and whether I could stick for the four years that I was being told it would take (when I applied it was 3).

December was a good month to start, with me feeling a lot more motivated about my PhD and getting on with it again. I got my scan results on the 7th and they were good again. I was also phoned by the bank to tell me that would be able to offer me a mortgage, but I'd need to increase my deposit by £3,000. However, on the 12th of December I got a seriously bad spell of a little bug. This bug meant I was unwell for a whole 2 weeks, and I actually had to go to hospital at one point because it was so serious. I finally recovered fully and was eating again on the 21st of December. It didn't end there however, because the bug had put me in to depression, and perhaps the worst depression I had ever had. I just could not shake it. We also found that our lovely little hamster, Henry, has a couple of tumours and not long left to live. We were all devastated by this news. Christmas Day arrived and I was still not feeling great. I enjoyed Christmas as always, but it was perhaps the worst Christmas ever due to my depression. Sadly also on Christmas Day, George Michael, one of my mum's favourite singers, passed away. On the 27th I went away for a night up north and it seriously fixed me. Just that one night away was enough to get rid of my depression this time and so I was cured. And here we are now. The end of the year. At the moment I am not working and not doing anything but relaxing and, as I do every year at this time, completing The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask once again.

I'm hoping 2017 will be a much better year, and as I once said, the odd years are always much better than the even ones for me.

Yesterday evening I was informed that I was to become a PhD student! This is very exciting news for me, as some of you may already know I was always planning on doing this at some point (albeit originally when I was about 35).

My job as a PhD student will be researching the problem of keeping children with ASD safe while online. Research will be my main role here. As Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said:

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. 

Or as Neil Armstrong said:

Research is creating new knowledge.

My plans to become to get a PhD are real again! Maybe at the end of this I will get to be a doctor or whatever! 

Today I graduated! This is the happiest day of my life and I'm so very proud of what I have achieved to this day!

Back in 1997, when I was aged 6, I got my first computer. I quickly learned the ins and outs of it and was very into writing my own stuff and really enjoyed writing stories. As I was using my computer more and more I took an interest in how it works. By age 9, I was very interested in computer hardware and how they worked.

In my first year at high school, I realised that I was really good at working with computers and people were coming to me for computer help more and more (including my teachers). It was then that I decided I want to do something related to computers. I always knew I wanted to go to university so I put two and two together and in 2009 I applied to several universities to study computer science with Heriot-Watt being my top choice. I was accepted and my course began in 2012. 

My time at Heriot-Watt university has had its ups and downs and I've needed support from time to time. At Heriot-Watt support is always there for those who ask. I had a friendly bunch of lecturers who were always on your side and there to help. 

I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me at Heriot-Watt but I'd like to specifically thank a few people including Lorriane Vallance, Dr Tessa Berg, Dr Helen Hastie, Professor Rob Pooley, Professor Andrew Ireland, Dr Fiona McNeill, Dr Jenny Coady, Dr Santiago Chumbe and Professor Greg Michaelson. I'd also like to thank Professor Judy Robertson and Dr Sandy Louchart for their support in my first to third years, who have since moved to other universities. 

I’d also like to thank my friends and classmates, particularly Jonathan, Merlin, Mark and Sharang who stuck with me through thick and thin in the last year, as without them I would not be celebrating this day.

To me personally, there is no greater sense of achievement than what I have now achieved! I've finally finished my four long but fun years at Heriot-Watt University and have recently learned that I have achieved a First Class Honours degree. 

I cannot tell you in words how proud I am to have achieved this! 

I also posted this to Twitter: 

I'd like to also congratulate all my friends and thank them for supporting me through this time! I really couldn't have done this without all the support from them.

On the subject of support, I also must thank my lecturers for their support as well, since there is absolutely no way I could have done this without them.

My poster is finished. This means I have done all of the work other than presenting my poster and I have finished all of my uni work. :-)

I now feel epic and that I can finally relax! Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout my time at university. 

I'm finally done with my dissertation and whilst the last few months have been a disaster, my dissertation is, in my eyes, one of the greatest things I have ever produced! I'm nearly finished my degree too so I can have a relaxing few weeks to recover from everything and get back to a bit of stress free normal life.