The reason our site has been going down

I have just read the following article and I urge all WordPress owners to do likewise. Take a look at https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-protect-wordpress-from-xml-rpc-attacks-on-ubuntu-14-04 as this explains why we have frequently run out of memory…. I shall be putting this into practice and writing more about it later, as this is a critical issue for this site. I was originally blaming Digital Ocean for these issues but that would now seem not to be the case at all!

What are you working on at the moment?

I am a massive fan of WordPress and especially the app. I can use it to catch up on what other people have been writing, I can use it to write whilst on the go. I especially like the fact that I can see who follows this blog. So this post is all about you guys? I know you’ll reply!

I am curious, occasionally nosey even but I am intrigued to learn more about the people I follow and whom follow this blog via WordPress Reader.

I shall start off by telling you about what I’ve been up to….

Well apart from getting ready for Christmas. I’ve been busy at work with my current contract client, Premium Credit. We are building an admin app for insurance brokers. My part has involved learning about some new Javascript based technologies, not just React and Redux but also a certain amount of functional programming. That is a complex thing to get your head around, mainly because you have to unlearn what you know! One of these days when I understand it enough, I shall write about it here.

I must spare some more time for photography and other things, I do feel a bit like all work and no play right now…. Christmas break beckons!

Contracting and my business

I have been contracting now for a long time and thought that I should write more about my experiences in working this way, as I am sure that many people would perhaps find such information of use. It has it’s good and bad points as with many things in life. Thankfully I can say with confidence that most of the time, it is all good. However I can now say that contracting has become just part of what I do or I should say, what we do.

Nick Lewis Ltd is no longer a one-man band, in fact it never has been to be honest, as Tina my Wife plays a big part in it’s running. You may have read via an earlier blog post that we took on an apprentice back in September and he has been doing really well. He is picking things up quickly and doing a great job at writing up his college course notes along the way.

Since taking on Daniel, I have had to strike a balance between running the legacy side of the business and building up what is known as HeadForCode, our new trading name. I will ultimately be looking at doing less contract work in order to focus on more of a consultancy led business model.

How does contracting work?

I have been contracting since 2002, taking a break between 2007-2010 to become an employee for a company (mostly due to health issues) and then returned to contracting almost 7 years ago.

The best way to become a contractor is to setup a Limited Company. I know that you can do it in other ways, such as operating through an Umbrella Company but I can’t vouch for any of those routes. It is for this reason that Nick Lewis Ltd was formed. The next thing we recommend you do is to find yourself a good Accountant and in our case we opted for Crunch, who have been excellent over the last several years. You pay a set fee each month and in return for that you get your own Account Manager and a wealth of valuable services, including the very good web app for administering your accounts. Trust me, when it comes to VAT, Tax returns and Year Ends, you will be very pleased that you chose them.

Finding work is the next bit and we tend to rely on Agencies for this. There are times that I wish there were other ways. Don’t get me wrong, we work with some good agents but there are a hundred-fold bad ones. I do get quite frustrated with taking calls from some of them, expecting to learn of great opportunities but only to realise that they are just harvesting CVs.

Yes that is a “thing” I am afraid to say. I often remind myself that many of these companies are just agressively seeking to make as much money as possible out of placing people with blue chip companies up and down the country.

I have done contracts at a number of big and small firms, here is a list of the main ones:

  • Transport for London
  • The AA
  • Zurich Insurance
  • B&Q
  • Gladstone MRM
  • Save the Children
  • GiveSmart
  • Premium Credit (PCL)

I started at Premium Credit back in June on a 3 month gig, I was extended in September and this week have just accepted another extension that will keep me in gainful employment until the end of April 2017. I must say that Think IT have been brilliant and here are my main (loved) agencies!

  • Spectrum IT
  • Stott and May (Glenn got me 3 contracts back to back)
  • Think IT

If you aren’t on this list, then sorry, you just need to be a little more compassionate about your contractors, remember we are not commodities!

Getting Paid

Important, very important but I have heard horror stories of some people not being paid, at all. I have for the most part been very lucky. The only time I had an issue, was when I worked with a company who hadn’t issued me with an actual contract…. suffice to say never work without a contract. You must always agree to terms on how you will get paid, when and how much.

Most of the time I work to a day rate that is agreed with the agency at the start. You keep a timesheet along the way and at the end of the month, you raise an invoice to be submitted to the agency. They then invoice the client, the company that I’m working with. The end-client pay the agency, often with a margin added on top which then gets split between you and them.

Website back online

Apologies to anyone who recently tried to visit this site only to be greeted by a message stating, “Sorry a database connection cannot be established”. I had no idea until I wanted to look something up on my own site. Now I have to say that this issue plagued another WordPress site of mine, hosted on Digital Ocean and it became a major issue. I ended up rewriting the site using a different technology and hosting on a different server altogether!

I will keep a close eye on this…. If it happens again, I am going to have to re-think things a little bit ­čśŽ

Quick post! I am an Uncle!

What a week it has been and a beautiful one too. My dear brother and his wife officially became parents. Baby Izobelle was born on the 29th. We shall get to meet her for the first time over Christmas when we fly out to Malta on Boxing Day. To say we are excited about the trip is an understatement!

We shall be staying for 7 nights and my parents will be out there just ahead of us. I have to say my Parents are eager for the 22nd to come along, as that is the day they fly out. 

First heavy frost


This morning it is very brrrrrrrrrrr. A quick glance at my weather app tells me it’s -2c out here today. So whilst walking towards the train station, I had a little bit of time to take a photo of Farnborough Hill School and it’s very frosty grounds. 

This week I’ve discovered a wonderful iOS app called Filmborn, that enables you to emulate classic film formats from the likes of Ilford, Kodak and Fuji. I used it for this photo and I’m going to play with it a little bit over the coming weeks. 

Winter is a tough season to get through at the best of times but braving the cold to take pictures is well worthwhile in my opinion. On days like this you can’t beat the light and the beauty of frost. 

The weather forecast this morning mentioned snow up in the North. Some say it’s going to be a harsh winter this year. 

Electric Cars

I have been very busy of late and haven’t published anything here on the blog at all. I have just watched this today and this blew my mind. The whole concept is clever, not just the engineering aspects of the Riversimple car but the business model too. I hope to see more of this kind of thing developing in Britain, we need to be more like…. dare I say…. the Americans, as they are doing a stellar job it would seem in the technology stakes these days.