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Jamie Balfour'sPersonal blog

I know it's been a while since I last updated Velocity Web Server (VWS) and it's partly because of a lack of time but also because of my lack of commitment to the project in the first place. 

The last few months have been really centered on the rebuild of the DASH project, which has become so much more than it used to be but also have been focused on the latest versions of ZPE which have come on really well over the last few months. There have also been some issues with ZPE that are still on going and needing fixed, which has drawn a large portion of my development time. Don't forget on top of all of that, I run a business!

Velocity is next on my sprint board and will get some time again very soon.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in General

The celebrations had been running for two hours but are now coming to a close as New Zealand now enters 2022, with pretty much the rest of the world, including us, still in 2021!

Happy New Year New Zealand!

The start of 2021 was unfortunately spent with the country in lockdown again which was very difficult for me personally as I was living at my parents' home but was also getting ready to move away from there so I had boxed some of my stuff. This lockdown also got me slightly anxious about moving out and whether or not I would be able to get in this year since the builders were working fewer hours and there were fewer of them working on-site because of lockdown. Sadly, because of this lockdown, I didn't do a huge amount of exciting things in January.

February on the other hand was the most exciting month of the year for me. First of all, we had one of the nicest snow spells in a long time, with quite heavy snow that lasted a few days before disappearing entirely. This is the kind of snow I like - it's not hugely disruptive this way.

But then the biggest and best news came along on Tuesday the 9th of February when I was phoned by Taylor Wimpey to be told that my house would be ready for me to move into by the 19th of February. There was suddenly a mad rush for me to get things organised for this move in, I phoned my solicitor, my bank and lawyers and informed them all of this. I then made final preparations and arrangements for this date, including getting my deposit in one place.

Not everything went to plan, however. As much as I had done everything, and the bank (Barclays) had done everything they needed to do, by the time the 19th of February came along and I was to move in, I got a phone call from Taylor Wimpey to say that they had not yet received any funds from the bank. I kept phoning Barclays to see why this was the case and for some reason, an administrative error had occurred on their side that meant that they hadn't processed it properly and fully yet. Anyway, Taylor Wimpey couldn't give me the keys to the house due to this, which is understandable. However, Taylor Wimpey did give me the keys the next day so that I could have a look around my new house on the premise that come Monday I would be able to move in. Monday came and again the bank took their time and it wasn't until 30 minutes before Taylor Wimpey closed that the bank released the funds and I finally got the keys at 17.40 (actually Taylor Wimpey aren't even open on a Monday, it was thanks to the estate manager that I got the keys).

You can find out more about my moving in here.

March saw me return to the office on certain days which was nice but also very scary at the time as well. May was an excellent month for innovation with the new slides section being added to my website which is powered by but also my own built slide viewer that adds functionality to my slides like never before. Further to that, and also released in May, the section provides a bunch of tools that can be used within these slideshows.

June was excellent for ZPE, with the new TYPO v2 system being introduced which is miles more efficient and effective than the first version, the new let keyword was added meaning that variables no longer had to have a $ sign at the start of them and many bugs were fixed. 

July was great for my house when I got my loft boarded giving me the extra space to move along some of the stuff from my parent's house. Stuff in my loft now is mostly just boxes, Christmas stuff and sentimental boxes. July was also an awesome time for my family since we all went to Plockton for two nights - exactly 10 years from when we first did it (except my dad wasn't there the first time). This was the first family holiday we've had in a while and was the first time we had a proper day away since I moved out so it was really nice. The journey up to Plockton was amazing again, going up via the A82 over the Rannoch Moor, past Glencoe and Fort William. On the way back we visited Eilan Donan Castle - something we planned to do in 2011. We were not disappointed and all really enjoyed touring one of the most interesting castles in Scotland. Whilst heading south we visited Spean Bridge, which is now one of my favourite locations in the whole country, and the Old Station Restaurant. Whilst there we decided that we'd like to head back via the A9 and so we went back via the A86 as we had also done in 2011 as well. This road is one of the most beautiful roads in the country and we passed Loch Laggan. We decided to stop at Loch Laggan and have a look at its beauty and amazing sands. As a result of this stop, I asked my father and brother if they would be interested in camping here the week after next (I had mentioned it prior to this but never figured out if they were serious about it) to which they both eventually agreed.

We decided to go camping at Loch Laggan on the 30th of July. Prior to this, I bought a new tent for us, a sleeping bag, and a couple of additional camping gear. When we left, I didn't realise but my dad also brought his own tent (the reason behind this is more insidious and void for this post). This was the first time we'd been camping in over 15 years as a family (well my mum didn't come but it was the first time two members of the family shared a tent anyway!) so it was quite incredible but also really good fun. The fun however stopped when the night came. As a result of me cheaping out on my sleeping bag and not obtaining a decent mat to sleep on, I got very cold throughout the night. Loch Laggan is near Dalwhinnie - one of the coldest parts of the UK - so it's totally understandable that it was so cold. I was so cold that I was sure I was experiencing hypothermia since my heart rate dropped to 39 beats per minute at one point and ended up having to huddle up with my brother in his pod in the tent (thanks to my Apple Watch for warning me of this). We decided to leave quite early the next morning 

Sadly, August of 2021 was not such a good month. It started off with my mum and I going to Loch Katrine (which we last visited some 15 years prior). After returning home we decided to look at booking the bikes at Loch Katrine for an hour or so. This was something we've both wanted to do for a long time. We went up there a few days after and it was a really great day to be cycling. But when I got home I got the fright of my life when I discovered two legs poking out of my chest and realised I had a tick - my very first one too. I immediately called my brother who had had plenty of experience with them in the past. My brother passed on lots of tricks in dealing with them to me in the past but all the training I had had had had no effect - I was just too scared to attempt to remove it myself.

Also near the start of August, I had my very first dinner which I had friends at. And by friends, I'm talking about my two oldest friends, Nick and Calum. This was a really nice evening and the first time I had seen Nick in a long time. I made a nice spaghetti and both enjoyed it I believe. This was to be the first of many dinners!

In terms of work, it was an exciting month of the year since it would be the first time that I had ever returned to a school after the summer holidays since starting teaching and was the first time I returned to a homeroom class as well. It was so nice to return to all those happy pupils! However, on the 27th of August I, unfortunately, tested positive for COVID19 and ended up hospitalised on Monday. This has been my worst experience in hospital, and it was nothing but the anxiety and worry of being back in hospital that made me feel this way. I ended up self-discharging and getting out much earlier than was originally planned. You can read more here.

By mid-September I was out of the hospital and began getting back to my normal self, but with the support of my mum, who has been one of the most important people in my life throughout all of these different traumas that I have been through. Friends were also a big part of my recovery, and it was good that my friends knew when to support me and when I needed to be left alone (I felt that there were times I needed people throughout my recovery and then times when I needed to be on my own). I slowly began to get back into the things I enjoyed prior to COVID such as programming and web design and development and by the end of the month, I managed to make ZPE faster than before with major performance improvements.

Mid-October 2021 was the first step to get back to work after COVID and was a slow and gentle ride to start with that helped me ease into it again. Unfortunately, during this time I was still experiencing problems from COVID. My heart rate was averaging around 130 beats per minute every day and neither my doctor and I could not figure out what caused this. As well as that, my body started to act a bit weird and my fingers and feet were constantly getting pins and needles in them - apparently, this was a result of a B12 deficiency caused by either my COVID jag or having COVID. October 2021 was also my first Halloween in my new home which was extremely exciting for me! 

During November I had my first family dinner with my aunt at my place! This was another exciting moment in the history of my house. But it didn't end the way I wanted it to with my brother and father falling out (as always!) and my brother getting very angry and leaving. Also during November I finally got the new TV I needed to get (as some of my readers may know, my previous TV bought just two and a bit years prior was just a temporary solution whilst living at my parents' house). My new Samsung QN95A is an amazing TV that compliments the room and is one of the best purchases I've made. I got it wall mounted professionally at the end of the month as well and it looks stunning in my living room. I also got an Apple Watch Series 7 after toying with the idea for weeks. This is my first 4G enabled smartwatch which has allowed me to do a lot more than before.

December was without any doubt the best month of the year for me. I think this is because I felt like all the jobs needing to be done around the house had finally been done and my house was finally there (I mean there are new things I am wanting to do etc but all the main things were done). As well as this, my smart home was finally working as I wanted it to, my home phones (SIP phones) were all set up and I was finally feeling very satisfied with everything. I also felt this because I felt very relaxed for the first time since having COVID and felt that things were going the right way again. I managed one full week at work plus a full three days on top of that. Christmas wasn't amazing since I fell out with my dad in the first 30 minutes and decided to head on home to my own house (I regret having to do this but it wasn't possible for me to stay when my dad was having a go at me about everything). But my mum treated me, my dad and my brother to tickets for a tour of Glenkinchie Distillery - something we actually got the year before for Christmas but had to be cancelled due to COVID. This was an interesting tour and was the first time in a long time I had been back to the bar there (I used to go quite a bit when I lived with my parents since their house was near). You can see photos of it here. To finish off the year, I completed The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask once again - a personal tradition since 2005. 

And that's it. The end of 2021. Goodbye 2021, a good year for me overall and I'll never forget all the positives that came from this year. We can now welcome in 2022.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in General
new year

ZPE 1.9.13 is now available to download from my website, or directly from ZPE using the --update command. 

ZPE 1.9.13 is another excellent update adding four new built-in functions, two major fixes and the new map data type.

It's worth the download!

I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas for 2021! 

Tools like highlight.js are fantastic, until you need to add your own language as I did when I developed ZPE/YASS. highlight.js is also quite heavy and also, it's not developed by me! 

All of these reasons are why I chose to write my own syntax highlighter and I immediately thought to myself, it cannot be that hard since I've written a language parser myself. How right I was! 

Introducing Zippidydoda (it will probably get a new name soon). Zippidydoda gets its name from the fact it was designed to work originally with ZPE (pronounced Zippy, the nickname for my brother's hamster Henry) which was also a nickname for Henry. It's fast, it's customisable from JSON, it works in tandem with PHP which makes it ideal for me and it also allows for such easy customisation.

You can see Zippidydoda in action on my ZPE Online which you can find here

Based on the performance of the Zippidydoda parser, I will drawing inspiration for the Zenith Parsing Engine v1.5 as well as my DASH Boost parser since it is so unbelievably fast as well as lightweight and very manageable.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in General

I have recently made a big decision that DASH v2 will now be hosted on GitHub. For the first time ever, I will be making DASH's source code available on GitHub. This will allow me to invite others to assist in the development of DASH v2. It is currently private with plans to make it available to the public by February.

Further to DASH v2 being hosted here, I am also going to be removing the ZPE UI feature from the main runtime and making a separate object which will be more manageable and easier to update, which will also be open source and available from GitHub. 

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in General

A couple of days back from now, I received an email from the contact form on my website. This email enquired about when DASH 2.0 would be released. At that point, I had no way of directly answering this person since I was in the middle of fixing a bug that has been bugging me since I switched my own install of DASH to using a symbolic link (DASH 2.0 works with symblinks no problem now). The issue was resolved by moving image uploads from the tmp folder to the assets folder of the install (I will post more later). Since this bug is fixed, DASH 2.0 is once again ready for release. However, I have yet to decide just how to release it.

I want your thoughts on this. Should I release it on GitHub or similar, or should I release it through my website? Use the get in touch or comments below to let me know what you think. 

The following is a short video on why desktop Linux distrubtions suck. It's very true as well.

I found in 2017 this whilst clearing out my old 1TB hard drive in my computer in a folder named Blog Posts - 2009 and thought I'd post it on the date it was written. I'm actually amazed at my writing skills back then too!

I'm almost at the end of my time at Ross High School, I thought I'd look back on my last few years here. I've had a great time here and want to point out a few of the great teachers that have inspired and helped me on my journey.

I'd like to start off with my Computing Studies teacher, Mr Tennent. Mr Tennent has been an inspiration to me throughout the time I've been a pupil here. He allowed me to take on in class support with his S1 class last period on a Friday which gave me an opportunity to be a teacher which as you may know, I've always wanted to do. Mr Tennent was there for me when I was locked out of my school account during my Advanced Higher Computing project that I could have failed had it not been for him. He's one of those teachers who is easy to get on with, can chat with me about geeky things and is also good at what he does. He's a real people's person. I really want to stay in touch with him.

Mr Laird cannot be forgotten. He was inspirational beyond any other teacher and will always remain as my joint favourite teacher with Mr Tennent. He was brilliant and he and I were in tears when he left. He taught History to S1s and then he was a Modern Studies teacher. I'd have probably picked Modern Studies if he was still here. I'll never forget him.

Then there's Mr Stanfield, who has been truly brilliant for me this year. The man is an absolute legend. I'd be failing Physics as my own teacher Mr Laud is fairly useless and doesn't really seem to teach us anything in Higher Physics! In fact I failed the first NAB but Mr Stanfield helped me revise and I ended up passing it on my second attempt. Mr Stanfield has been my Physics teacher before after the amazing Mr Morrison left us in Standard Grade Physics. He helped me get a strong 1 for Physics back then. Now he's giving me extra tuition period 6 on a Thursday which is so great. I cannot thank him enough for the help he has given me this year.

Then there's Mrs Barbour who has always been a really nice caring person. Before becoming my teacher, she was the one who ran the History Club which I really enjoyed going to in my first year. As my History teacher in S3 and S4 and then the second part of S5 and now all of S6, I've known Mrs Barbour for a long time and she's always been supportive of me. She was also a fantastic History teacher and has been the best of the four English teachers I have had this year (well Ms Edmonds it utterly useless and very unfair too - don't get me started on that)

And then there's my favourite English teacher, Miss Gould. Miss Gould has been my English teacher from S3 to the end of S5 and she's always been one of the nicest teachers to me. We always had a great laugh and I'll never forget the way she said hostel instead of hospital last year. I also will always remember the day when I kept telling her she needs to type faster and she turned to me and said "Jamie, will you just do the typing?" and I was commissioned to do the typing of the stuff that was going on to the board. Everyone in the class, including Miss Gould, mouthes were wide open at the speed of my typing. Haha

My Business Management teacher for S4 and S5, Mr Potter is also fantastic. He's such a cool guy and also one of those teachers I feel like I'll stay in contact with after I leave school. I also really hope he comes to my leaver's party as he'd be great fun to have then! JP as I have always referred to him as is one of my favourite teachers of all time.

There's also Mr Punton, my Maths teacher in S2 and for Int 2 Maths last year. He helped me get an A for a course I did one year prior and didn't manage to get anything from. Int 2 Maths was so easy this year because of him (and I actually got a very strong A, like 98%). He was also a very cool guy. He was an amazing teacher and taught things in such a good way.

My final mention is Mrs Collins. Mrs Collins was my ICT teacher only S1 and S2 but she was a great teacher. She also was very supportive of my brother when he was in S3 and has helped him in Computing Studies. I always really liked Mrs Collins.

A few more teachers who I also should mention:

  • Mr Murdock
  • Mr Gill
  • Miss Hird
  • Miss Williamson
  • Mrs McNaughton
  • Mr Carrol
  • Mr Falconer
  • Mr McCallum
  • Miss Philp
  • Mrs Wheeler
  • Mrs McKinnley
  • Miss Woodhead
  • Mr Morrison
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