Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Great Profile Pictures by Mandy Charlton Photography

December 8, 2009 01:58 by Andrew Westgarth

Profile Portrait One     Over the last few years when I’ve been fortunate enough to have sessions accepted at various conferences, user group meetings and events, I’ve been asked for a profile picture.  Most of the time I hide behind the picture of the Code Monkey, designed by my good friend and excellent designer, Roddy Lang.  However increasingly I’ve been recognising the need to get some decent pictures taken.  One problem!  I HATE having my picture taken as I’m never happy with the results, be that because of low self image, or the fact that what I see in the mirror is not what I see in the picture.  So a few weeks ago I contacted a local photographer, Mandy Charlton of Mandy Charlton Photography, and set her the challenge of taking some portrait shots of me which hopefully I would like at least one.

I’d been following Mandy Charlton on Twitter for about 18 months and had seen some of her work through tweets and posts on her Blog.  We arranged the shoot on a Sunday morning in Newcastle and spent an hour taking various poses and shots in lots of Being Supported by a Walldifferent locations.  Mandy has the ability to make the subject of her shoots very relaxed and comfortable.  Even better the results are amazing!  I was extremely pleased with the results of my shoot and I was very, very impressed with the speed with which my gallery was available to be reviewed.  Mandy offers a variety of formats for purchase, but I went for digital downloads as they were more suited for my intended use.  The results are in this post, and once again I have to say I’m very, very pleased with them.  Thanks Mandy!

So if you are in the North East and looking for some great portrait shots, family photos, wedding photography, maybes even a boudoir shoot, get in touch with Mandy Charlton Photography – you won’t be disappointed!

Is it Reggie Kray?Or Maybe It's Ronnie KrayHell It Might Even By Stick!

Richard Todd OBE, 1919-2009

December 7, 2009 14:51 by Andrew Westgarth

Richard Todd OBE as Guy Gibson in The Dam Busters I just wanted to write a note to recognise the sad passing of Richard Todd OBE.  It was his excellent portrayal of Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, VC, DFC and Bar, DSO and Bar, in the 1954 film The Dam Busters, that sparked my deep interest in the wartime life of the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron.The Dam Busters Poster

I was saddened to hear late on Friday night of his passing, not only was he a great Actor, in  fact my yardstick for a good war film is to check whether he or John Mills are in the case, he was also a real life war her, having been in the Parachute Regiment and one of the first to land in France on the 6th June 1944.

The Times has an excellent obituary of this true gentleman - Richard Todd: actor who played Guy Gibson in The Dam Busters | Times Online Obituary 

What to be British is “it means fairness, good sense, decency, kindness, politeness.” – Richard Todd OBE

Monkey Decides to Go On His Travels!

July 8, 2009 06:01 by Andrew Westgarth

Nope not me, although I am planning a three week trip to Australia later this year to visit friends, but Timmy my partner in crime.  A couple of Friday’s ago I got to work and noticed that he was missing from his place on my desk and all that was left was this note:

Timmy's Au Revoir Letter

Well he returned to my desk on Monday, so I guess he’s had a bit of fun and is back for a while.  I suppose I’d better take him on my travels a little more often then!  Some pictures of his travels have appeared online:

Collage of Timmy's Holiday Snaps

24 Hours of Firsts

February 28, 2009 20:45 by Andrew Westgarth
The 24 hours I'm currently writing this post in are all about firsts. First I've just got back from my first ever live gig, and first ever experience of Metallica live! I've been to the Sheffield Arena for the latest leg of Metallica's Death Magnetic tour, it was f***ing AWESOME!!!! Can't wait to do it again! Note to self - why has it taken 28 years for this to happen???? WTF!!

Secondly I'm currently sitting in the departure lounge at Newcastle Airport waiting for my flight to Amsterdam and then onto Seattle for my first MVP Summit! Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones in what looks to be a packed week ahead!!

New Year – New Challenge #1 – Project 365

January 1, 2009 15:58 by Andrew Westgarth

In my last post, which wasn’t intended to be my last of 2008, I mentioned that I was looking for new challenges.  Well one of those got underway in December when I changed jobs and started working for Hydratight in their Software Engineering Team.  However the next challenge which I have embarked upon started today.  I have taken my first steps into completing Project365 on Flickr!

What is Project365?

Essentially Project365 is about having one photo for every day in a year.  There are different groups and ways of achieving this on sites such as Flickr, you can choose what you want you pictures to depict.  As this is my first attempt I am taking a photo of what’s happened in my day or selecting a photo which depicts what I’ve been up to.  My first photo, taken and uploaded today was a reflection of issues I’ve been having while installing Adobe CS4 Web Premium today onto a fresh HDD.

My First Picture of Project 365

Dark Shadow Over Day 1

I hope that this, the first of many, will become a great way of seeing what happens in my life in 2009.  I also hope to see my photography skills get better and better as I learn more about setting up photographs and learning more about the capabilities of my camera.  I am starting off with my Fuji FinePix S5600 but will soon be stepping into the world of DSLR’s with a Nikon D40!

Keep up to date with my Flickr Stream and maybe even add me as a contact if you wish and see how my year pans out.

New Blog Design and Updated Content

September 10, 2008 03:54 by Andrew Westgarth

This morning I have put live the new design for my blog.  For ages I have been unhappy with the look and feel of my blog, but as I know my limits :), I was struggling to come up with something to replace the default choice of theme.  I am pleased to announce now and start using, a great new design, courtesy of my colleague Peter Mitchell at Canford.  I am NOT a designer I am a DEVELOPER and therefore I know what I can and can't achieve.  I can often picture what I'd like to see but to create is a whole different ball game.  Thankfully Peter had the know how and has done a magnificent job!.  I thank him greatly for his time and efforts, and now all we need to do is get him blogging too!  I've been itching to use the new theme but had to wait for final fixing and testing.

At the same time of releasing the new design, you've probably noticed a lot of new content appearing, lets just say I have started to free up a lot more time for my blog and I'm really enjoying getting the information out there!  But wait that's not where the new content ends - I've also been working on the following:

  • I've implemented the great Social Bookmarking Extension by Danny Douglas - this adds links to add posts to many of the social bookmarking services quickly and easily.
  • I've updated the About Me page (or rather About Monkey now) with some updated information and a little more detail, including the interview recorded by Gary Short with me.
  • I've reviewed a lot of my posts and updated links and removed long hyperlinks and replaced them with more meaningful titles for the underlying link

I hope you like the new design as much as I do and would love to hear your comments!

My Xbox 360 Doesn't Understand Me!

April 2, 2008 01:48 by Andrew Westgarth

Shortly before Tech Ed Developers 2007 I bought myself an Xbox 360.  I'd resisted buying a new games console for many years, my previous machine being a Sega Master System :-o.  My reasoning behind not buying one was that I don't get enough chance to play games as I'm usually busy with plenty other things, i.e. community events, preparing sessions, research, going to and playing football, going out etc, etc.  I succumbed though because I was able to get hold of an Xbox 360 through an excellent deal on the High Street.  I still don't have many games but I can see the possibilities and when I do get chance to play the odd game, usually enjoy it especially over Xbox Live. Logo I recalled a post by Richard Costall - What's your Xbox 360 Saying? whereby there is a service offered called 360Voice and this enables your Xbox 360 to write it's own blog - so you get to hear what your Xbox is thinking.  I thought it would be quite funny to see what my Xbox 360 would say about my gaming activity, especially as I am not a very heavy gamer.

It would appear my Xbox is not very happy with me, as I have not been on my Xbox for over 31 days now and it's decided to refuse to blog :).  Check out what it's been saying over the last few weeks at I guess it just doesn't understand that it's not the only thing of importance in my life, it also has to battle with VBUG, Community, Speaking Events, Sunderland AFC, Facebook, Twitter.....

NxtGenUG Fest 08 - Thursday June 12th 2008

March 30, 2008 10:58 by Andrew Westgarth

Dave McMahon has just sent through details of NxtGenUG's next conference, FEST 08, being held at Microsoft's Reading Offices on Thursday June 12th 2008.  More details:

NxtGenUG don't do conferences, they just have a good time and FEST08 which takes place at TVP Reading, promises to be in the normal vein of NxtGenUG events.  Great sessions, Pizza and Swag.  The theme this year is "Data Today, Data Tomorrow" and there are new sessions from Oliver Sturm on F#, Dave Sussman on ASP.NET Dynamic Data Controls and Ridgian's BI expert Dave Morrow on SQL Server Analysis Services.  There will be the keynote from Rich and Dave and a brand new gameshow called "Who's Session Is It Anyway?

As before its free to all NxtGenUG members and £49.99 to non-members.  FEST07 was a memorable event last year, FEST08 will be equally memorable. You'll learn some great stuff about Data related technologies, meet some great people, have some fun and leave with a bag load of Swag! Don't miss it!

For more info -

I'm A Recovering Alcoholic!

February 24, 2008 15:31 by Andrew Westgarth

THINK! Drink Driving - Drinking buddyThere, that got your attention now didn't it?  Then the advice I was given a few weeks ago worked!  I am a virtual tee totaller and have always been amazed at how many people respond with complete shock and amazement when I tell them that I don't DRINK!!  I mentioned this to someone in conversation a couple of weeks ago and they said I should respond by saying I'm a recovering alcoholic!  This seems to be quite an extreme measure to take in order to explain why I have made a personal choice.  For the record I am not, nor have I ever been an alcoholic!  I have made a decision not to drink.  I am not a complete tee-totaller as I very, very occasionally will have an alcoholic drink.  My reasons for not drinking are that I usual drive a lot of places, plus I am in the position where I can take it, I am able to have a good time without it.  Plus a lot more of my friends like to have a drink when we're out so I'd rather be the driver in the group.

I don't often write about topics such as this on my blog, as I try an keep it technically based, until I can set up an additional personal blog for my personal thoughts - although should I add my thoughts to this blog - what do you think?  However I was reading a piece in todays Sunday Times by India Knight - Put Shame Back Into Boozing which stirred up a lot of my opinions on the subject.  In todays society it would appear that it is perfectly acceptable, and now considered the norm for a night out on the town to have to result in an individual getting absolutely bladdered, not able to remember what happened during the night, in order to have a good time.  Alarmingly this appears to be the opinion of many age groups, not just those younger than me (I'm 27) but also those older!!  I am not against people having a good time and enjoying a drink.  I am not preaching about the demons of drink all I am saying is that I agree with the article's sentiments and believe that no longer should it be accepted that binge drinking is a norm.  We should look to the examples on the continent, for example Spain, whereby 24 hour drinking is normal but moderated.  I worry that complacency and acceptance of extremes is setting a bad example for our youth, this coupled with the glorification of what I consider to THINK! Drink Driving - Smart substitutionbe bad social examples in the media such as the antics of music stars such as Pete Docherty and more recently Amy Winehouse are having a detrimental affect. 

One other gripe I have is the exhorbitant cost of soft drinks in pubs!  Why does it cost more for a pint of coke etc than for a pint of lager!  Yes this can be the case!  I believe the mark up on soft drinks is massive and that publicans and owners make massive profits on the often vile and incorrectly mixed soft drinks, personally I stick to fruit based drinks.  I can go to a local supermarket and buy a 2 litre bottle of soft drink for anything from 40p to £1.50 yet I can expect to pay £1.50 for half a pint of soft drink in many pubs and clubs!  Some towns and pubs have a scheme for drivers to get their first drink at a bar for free on production of car keys, but not many and even when it is present it's not well publicised.  How about a fair deal for those who chose to drive for their group or who chose not to drink.

My friends accept that I don't drink and I wish I lived in a society whereby others accepted it and didn't react in amazement when I explain my position.  I have very good nights out with friends, I will dance and ride bucking broncos etc and generally have a good time out with friends without a drink and I get to laugh at what they get up to when they're half cut! :-).  Remember myself and other people who choose not to drink can be great to have along in any party as they make sure you get home safe and stop the temptation to potentially drink drive.

Windows Server 2008 has RTM'd!!

February 4, 2008 06:59 by Andrew Westgarth

Great news and well done to all the teams involved with Windows Server 2008 - Earlier today it was announced that Windows Server 2008 has RTM'd

-  Now all I need is for to upgrade their servers and I can get my blog moved to IIS7!!

Also check out a video of Alex Hinrichs talking about shipping Windows Server 2008 on Channel 9 - and there is also an interview with Carlos Aguilar Mares, Development Lead on the IIS team, which I recorded for VBUG whilst out at Tech Ed -


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