Error messages seen at Storm in 2011

We work with a wide range of technologies, frameworks and tools at Storm and that means we’re working with new things and learning all the time.  As any developer will tell you, there are two critical requirements that make learning a new tool easier: good documentation and good error messages for when you inevitably get it wrong.

2011 has been a year of many new things and we’ve seen our fair share of error messages.  Some of which were just a little bit more…. special…than others.  We’d like to share these with you, so that when you’re writing your next library, toolkit, plugin or whatever, you take time to think about the error messages the mere mortals using your code will see!

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2011: A polyglot programmers journey

At Storm we like our developers to be polyglot programmers. We believe knowing a wide range of languages, APIs and toolsets makes for better programmers and ultimately, better deliverables for clients. It means we can pick the most appropriate tool for a task and deliver an excellent final product. As the old saying goes, ‘if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’ – and that’s bad.

So, what have I learnt this year to add to my programming arsenal?

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Things Storm bookmarked this week 14/12/11

This week..

Scott: “An awesome video showing a cool proof of concept using 500 sensors with very small time delays to capture the path of small pulses of light travelling through objects”

Adam: ”I recently discovered nCrunch – a very elegant way to automatically run .NET unit tests within Visual Studio and have a visual indication of test coverage. Simple. Effective. Brilliant. Also, I’ve been diving head-long into my first major Ruby on Rails project this week and have found the Rails Guides massively useful”

Dave: ”Some amazing use of CSS3 to create lighting effects in the browser”

Andrew: “A nice practical article I’ve bookmarked on the the importance of UX sketching. I find a lot of value is added to fleshing out ideas on paper, it’s a far more transient process than jumping straight to Photoshop and recommend it to anybody that doesn’t sketch out ideas in the preliminary stages of a project”

Paul: “If you are a TextMate user you’ll know we’ve been waiting rather a long time for TextMate 2.0. Yesterday MacroMates (two years after announcing it was “almost ready”) released an alpha of TM 2.0, with a blog post over here. It’s still a way away from completion, but there are some nice features, like automatic downloading of highlighting grammars, and smoother installation/updating of bundles. And the project draw has bitten the dust. Despite being an alpha release it seems pretty stable. Good enough that I’m using for work and home.”

Mike: ”Although I tend to get funny looks when I talk about non-digital stuff here at Storm HQ, I’m a massive fan of tangible stuff like old-school print. Things like this excite me – so I was totally delighted to read “Twitter by Post” from my friend Giles Turnbull. He’s ace. You should follow him and stuff.”

Storm news roundup 09-12-11

Our favourite web(ish) stories from the week…


“Google has released an open call for social networks (read Twitter & Facebook) to start participating in a new project called Analytics Social Data Hub.

The new project is ‘a free platform that social networks and other social platforms can use to integrate their activity streams— like +1, votes, and comments—with Google Analytics’. Sounds pretty awesome to me and will add a rich new layer to the already fantastic information you can pull out of Google Analytics.

Google already has Google Plus, Digg, Reddit and a few others signed up, but to make the service really worthwhile, they need deals with Facebook and Twitter.”


“Two related news stories signal interesting times ahead for the world of ebooks.

Both the European Commission the US DoJ are investigating the so-called “agency” pricing model for being anticompetitive. This seems self evident to me. The idea that a publisher should get to set the *retail* price that a store charges for their books has always seemed wrong, whether it’s a dead-tree or ebook. The idea that Amazon cannot sell me a book cheaper (while still paying the publisher the same) because that would somehow “devalue” the book is frankly ludicrous. The book publishing industry is increasingly looking even more self-destructive than the music and film industries.

Amazon fired a small shot across the bow of the self-same publishing companies with the launch of KDP Select (KDP = Kindle Direct Self-Publishing). Self-publishing authors who sign up agree to let their books be put in the Kindle Lending Library and will receive a share of $500,000 based on the number of times there book is borrowed. So if 1% of all loans that month were for your book you’d make a reasonable $5,000. There’s a 90 day exclusivity period, but that seems a small concession. After having the KLL snubbed by the major publishers last month, Amazon has clearly decided that it is deadly serious about becoming a publisher in its own right.”


“So, I can’t claim to be a Siri expert, but I have played with it – and wasn’t a fan what so ever. Interestingly, I picked up on this article on the chron blog – the general feeling is that Siri is clearly a fantastic idea, and that Apple has a fantastic opportunity to hone the technology for inclusion in later devices such as Apple TV’s. However, Siri’s rough edges make it feel like a real ‘beta’ product, and Beta isn’t something that Apple ever really lets the public near.”


“So hard to choose between new Twitter homepages (yawn), new Google products (yawn) and Europe (yawn). My favourite thing of the week isn’t really news, but it is a real-time stream of Wikipedia edits. Ace.”


“Microsoft are taking on the Apple geniuses, with their Answer Desk online service. While it’s been a feature of Microsoft stores in the US for a while, it’s now available online and lets you buy training, “Tune-ups”, Virus removal and software support. All seems a bit of a waste of money to me, really, but i’m sure it’ll be useful to less techy folks!”


“Check out this TED video about Captcha and some of the ideas around how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good”

Things Storm bookmarked this week 07/12/11

This week…

Andrew: “The latest chapter in Apple’s ludicrous legal action against all and sundry has emerged this week, culminating in perhaps the stupidest of their legal challenges yet- asserting that certain aspects of their iphone designs should be protected under intellectual property law and that Samsung, whom they had taken legal action against, should have avoided Apple’s unique design traits, which they described as follows:

Front surface that isn’t black.
Overall shape that isn’t rectangular, or doesn’t have rounded corners.
Display screens that aren’t centered on the front face and have substantial lateral borders.
Front surfaces with substantial adornment.

So there you have it, only Apple are henceforth allowed to produce rectangular mobile phones, sorry other mobile tech companies, back to the drawing board with you. I hear triangles are pretty cool”

Kat: “I liked this, and can think of a few people it would make a good Christmas present for…”

Adam: “So, last week GCHQ posted the Can You Crack It challenge to find potential candidates for new cyber spys. It didn’t take too long for Dr Gareth Owen of the University of Greenwich to solve the tasks and post a full explanation. Some of the details are quite fascinating.

However, rumours are now circulating that there may be a hidden 4th task within the puzzle – perhaps even the ‘real’ challenge. GCHQ have strongly denied this is the case, but I’m not convinced. After all, they wouldn’t be very good at spying if they handed over all their secrets, would they!? And only the very best are likely to find this hidden task.”

Liam: “Following on from our recent love on Twitter Bootstrap, a new tool has emerged for base frame working, called Foundation. It gives you a bunch of prewritten code that makes building prototypes and foundation styles, effects and animations easy”

Paul: “As a Ruby dev, MacRuby is awesome: it lets you write native apps for OS X in Ruby. Here’s a campaign to encourage Apple to let us all use Ruby to develop iOS. Internally Apple seem to quite like Ruby as it shares a lot of concepts (but thankfully not syntax) with Objective-C, so there is some hope that this might just happen”

Mike: ”Music + hacking, probably them bestest combination of stuff in the world. Techno Is The Word.”

Dave: “This week, I bookmarked a prototype screen that creates the feeling of texture. Thats all there is to say really..”

Scott: ”The difference between Batman and Superman

Christmas has arrived at Storm HQ!

The tinsel is out and the tree is decorated, which can only mean one thing – parties! 

And this year we’ve got plenty to keep us occupied. Some of our team have been busy helping to organise the Bath Spark Christmas meetup which is on 6 December. We also recently designed the group’s new logo. 

Straight after Bath Spark we’ll be going to the BathCamp Christmas Spectacular on 7 December. We’re sponsoring the festivities so we can personally guarantee its going to be a fantastic night! 

Last but by no means least we’re having our very own Storm Christmas party on the afternoon of 16 December – we’re going to be out and about in Bath so if anyone would like to come and meet the team for a drink drop us an email. 

Storm news roundup 02-12-11

Our favourite web(ish) stories from the week…

Adam and Liam both went for the CarrierIQ thing:

Adam: “This week the world found out about the hilarity that is CarrierIQ. The ‘usage pattern analysis’ software that should be capturing data on how users use their phone to help device makers improve future models, is in fact doing a little bit more, from Daring Fireball:

‘On HTC Android phones, the Carrier IQ daemon logs the following: every number you press in the phone dialer, every key you type on the keyboard, every SMS message you receive, every URL you open in the web browser, every app you open, all media playback, and your location. There is no visible sign that this is running, the process is hidden from the process viewer, and there is no way to turn it off.’

Lovely. Heads must roll surely? Perhaps we should take the carrier bosses out and shoot them in front of their families :-)”

Liam: “…reports suggests that 150 million devices have been shipped with software by Carrier IQ, with no one really sure what exactly the software does – but on HTC devices it’s been found to log every single key press, including your passwords, and then transmit data to Carrier IQ. The US government is now getting involved trying to figure out what is being logged by which manufacturers and devices, but I suspect this is going to become a much bigger story once that information is known


An interesting bit of news from the folks over at YouTube – A rather large update to their video analytics services. According to Youtube the reports are now even more detailed, allowing you to ‘have a more precise understanding of your content and audiences.’ There are also some new features in the form for Audience Builders and Audience Retention stats. For anybody looking for an overview, there is a lovely infographic over hereor for a full run down, head over to this article.


“55 seconds, apparently, is the time the average man spends standing at a urinal – a total of nine months over the course of their lifetimes. Makes perfect sense, therefore, that someone has invented a urinal-mounted, urine-controlled game. Right….? Right…?”


My favourite news story of the week has to be the UK intelligence agency GCHQs unique recruitment drive for new spies- by inviting would be code crackers the chance of an interview by breaking a cryptic code online.

The single page website began popping up on social networks earlier this week, the site depicting a series of seemingly random numbers and letters, along with a submission area for the hidden word.

The site follows a government statement in the 2011 Intelligence and Security Committee’s annual report, in which there was expressed a concern about GCHQ’s inability to “retain a suitable cadre of internet specialists to respond to threats.”

A friend of mine, who holds a position within a government intelligence agency, offered an interesting perspective of the story, telling me that the limited numbers of specialists within GCHQ may have something to do with the fact that such positions offer salaries of £21,000, while similar positions in private companies can fetch over £60,000. He commented that in his opinion, if the UK wants to keep up with the big boys it will have to pump a little more money into the intelligence sector than is currently being allocated.

Welcome Scott!

A quick yet exciting announcement from Storm HQ – we’re delighted to welcome Scott McGinnigle to our team! Scott has joined our strategy team fresh from completing a degree at Oxford university that gave him excellent skills in data analysis which we’re putting to use here at Storm.

“I’m really looking forward to my time at Storm! The quality mix of office sounds from Xmas Dubstep through to Rick Astley and Stairway to Heaven has so far been keeping me sane, so if this continues I’m sure it’s gonna be a lot of fun!”

Whilst we suspect that much of his time will be spent neck deep in Google Analytics, he’ll be coming along to the upcoming BathSPARK and BathCamp events this Tuesday and Wednesday, so feel free to pop along and say hello.