All of my websites have been hosted in the US, since moving to Media Temple back in April 2001. When The Computus Engine launched in 2008 it went straight to MT servers. Uptime has been fine and support has gotten a lot better. I even have hazy memories of a cab ride with the founders through the streets of Barcelona - so why am I moving? Well, a few things have changed this year.
Take privacy for example. You don't have to be paranoid to notice how fast our governments are moving towards blanket digital surveillance. This raises some obvious privacy and security concerns about hosting any data in the US, or the UK for that matter.
The second thing was attending this Worthing Digital talk by James Smith. I hadn't previously been aware of the scale of power demanded by cloud computing data centres. With demand increasing well beyond capacity it's no wonder rolling blackouts are becoming commonplace. As a Long Now member I know this situation is not sustainable in the long term.
So I'll try and keep downtime to a minimum but I'm looking for a new web host. My current front runner is Greenqloud, an IaaS startup based in Iceland. Geographically this offers low latency to both Europe and the US, and politically it's better than either. Crucially though it's entirely powered by sustainable geothermal energy. More news when I have it.
In 2011 the historian David Christian gave a talk at TED in California. His subject was "Big History", the cross-discipline study of history he began teaching in Australia in the early 90's. The course spans multiple timescales to teach the entire history of the universe, from it's birth to the present day.
I've written about Big History before. It solidified a lot of what I'd been fumbling towards with the Computus Engine. It deals with timescales in a cohesive manner and most importantly gives context to the major events.
Two years on and with the support of Bill Gates the Big History Project is about to open it's doors. The website was updated last week and some material was already been released to educators. The course will launch to the public in September.
So I guess the world didn't end. We all survived the Mayan rollover, giggled at those who believed in ancient superstition, and without a hint of irony went on to celebrate Christmas. This was always going to be a vintage year for apocalyptic nonsense but I'm now a little teary-eyed to see it go. Unless Harold Camping or Ronald Weinland know different I think the next big date of doom is Isaac Newton's prediction for 2060. Mark it in your calendar and smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Talking of apocalypse I was, for a long time, a specialist in Adobe Flash. By the end of last year though it was clearly time to broaden into other technologies so at the beginning of 2012 I made a plan to work through my existing commitments whilst looking at other technologies in my own time.
In February I flew out to FITC in Amsterdam to meet Jensa and Marc and get a feel for what the rest of the community was thinking. It was a relief to discover no-one was out of work and in fact everyone was really busy. Whilst there I took a training course with Lucas Meijer, who along with Ralph Hauwert had engineered the Flash platform export for Unity. We really only scratched the surface of what it can do but I was really impressed. Unity is an incredibly versatile and performant technology and it's potential is immediately evident. Whilst I was with Jens I also formally stepped down from FlashMagazine after 12 years. It felt a little melancholy (we have covered it's entire rise and fall) but I think we bowed out in style with a rather good bottle of 12 year old single malt.
Back at home in Worthing things were getting interesting. What had been an informal meetup (i.e ad-hoc drinking) by local digital bods officially became Worthing Digital, an organisation with monthly tech talks and a weekly co-working initiative. In fact the co-working has been so popular that we now have a permanent co-working space in town. I've been working there since December and I can thoroughly recommend it.
Creative technology never fails to inspire me and in the summer I watched live (bizarrely via my XBox 360) as approximately one ton of it touched down on the surface of Mars. An incredibly bold and innovative mission culminating in the unforgettable "7 minutes of terror". I've long had an interest in space exploration so at the beginning of the year I joined the British Interplanetary Society. They have a fascinating office and library in Vauxhall in London which I thoroughly recommend visiting if you are at all interested in the British contribution to space travel.
Much of the space news this year echoed all the way back to my childhood. When the Voyager probes were launched I was no doubt in the cinema watching Star Wars and would never have expected, 35 years later, to find them still going strong and passing the outer edges of the solar system. Mind blowing. This year also marked the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17, NASA's last manned mission to the moon, and with it the somewhat depressing statistic that no-one born after 1935 has ever walked on the moon.
And of course we can't talk about Apollo without mentioning the sad passing of Neil Armstrong; first man on the moon and a true ambassador for the human race. A few weeks ago we also lost the irrepressible astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. His passing made all the more poignant by the somewhat surreal memories of my kids playing in his garden to a background chatter of rocket scientists and sandwiches. Happily though in September I managed to see another childhood hero, the very much alive, James Burke. The sheer volume of ideas and epiphanies he crammed into his final session at dConstruct will live long in the memory.
The Brighton Digital Festival, of which dConstruct is only a part, was another big highlight of the year. John Davey's Reasons to be Creative conference proved just as much fun as Flash On The Beach and with friends coming in from all over the world it made for a very welcome reunion. Another highlight was the Brighton Mini Maker Faire, a celebration of maker culture both digital and hand-made. I took my eldest daughter who had enormous fun driving robots, 3D printing and making mosaics and hot-air balloons. The geek dad in me couldn't resist helping her write her first "Hello World" program on the BBC Micro.
The Computus Engine is a personal project; an ongoing exploration of how time is measured and how new technology might let us interact with it. As with all such efforts it has gone through periods of intense activity and periods of dormancy. But ever since I've had a presence on the web there's one ritual I've managed to keep throughout. Every month since January 2000 I have produced a new desktop wallpaper. Here's a short visual history of that project.
The initial run of desktops were all graphic design experiments of vastly varying success!
October 2001 saw the first calendar of events incorporated into the design.
Photography was introduced in 2002.
Two themed sets in 2003 and some experimentation with more calendar information.
Two sets from various trips and a further experiment with layout.
In 2005 the design settled down to the now familiar top bar.
Since 2010 the calendars have lived here on computus.org.
And finally a sneak peek at next year's set. As usual they feature some of my favourite photos from the previous year and in fact most of these were shot locally on Worthing seafront. Have a great 2013!keep looking »