thebeebs | December 2009
Learn the art of website security

Avoiding the Etch a Sketch Ending

by thebeebs 23. December 2009 09:22

etch Sometimes you take a look at a program and think: wouldn’t it be much easier to start again rather than build on what is already there. Starting with a blank canvas on which you can draw your own idea is tempting, because the perfectionist inside you wants to do things your way.


I remember being 10 years old and trying to draw a tractor on an etch a sketch, I gradually started at the wheels and tried to get the tread right, but I kept messing it up and shaking the damn thing and starting again. After about 2 hours I'd managed to produce a really cool looking tire but then I realised I made it too big to fit the rest of the tractor into the screen.


My friend in the meantime had managed to draw a picture of a house and a little drawing of a guy breaking into the upstairs window, his picture wasn’t incredible but it was finished. My tractor wasn’t anywhere close to being finished but I reckoned it would take me another few hours tomorrow. The next day I was bored of the tractor and started to draw a house with a guy trying to rob it.


In all my years of etch a sketch ownership I don’t think I ever finished a picture and I never got any good.


If you want to be good then you need to avoid starting again. Using what you already have and building on it will produce a better result than throwing everything away.


I’m going to redesign this blog over the next few weeks, but I’m trying hard to avoid an etch a sketch ending, I’m going to build on what I have and get some value from all that previously expended energy.


Now I'm not saying that I expect the design to be better in quality terms then if I started from scratch, but I bet I will actually get it done by following this approach. I don’t want to end up with another half finished picture of a tractor.


The perfect watch

by thebeebs 23. December 2009 06:48

retro-casio-watch The best present I've ever received was undoubtedly a watch, given to me by my Girlfriend Michelle. I don’t remember receiving it or opening it, but I remember loving it. It had everything, it was Swiss made, had an automatic movement, a sweeping hand and a dark pearlescent face that reeked of stylish understatement.  If you turned it over, the makers had placed a glass window on the back, so you could see the movement, which fascinated me. I don’t know how many times I stared through that window, mesmerised by the workmanship, skill and dedication that must have gone into it’s production.

At the time Michelle was my girlfriend but now she’s my fiancé, perhaps in no small part because she is fantastic with gifts. Where as my gift ideas are usually formulated in a service station 5 minutes before  I'm supposed to be attending a birthday party; Michelle will think for months about the perfect gift, weigh up all the options and purchase something that is such a good fit, it would leave the tailors of Savile Row with an inferiority complex.

Which is why after 4 years of loving ownership, I was filled with dread when I woke one morning to discover my watch wasn’t on my bedside cabinet. The night before I’d been travelling home on a coach, it was late, I was tired and as always I took my watch off and put it somewhere for safe keeping. For the life of me, I couldn’t think where, I checked my jeans, my jacket, I turned the house upside down. Then over a cup of coffee it hit me like a slow bullet: In a moment of stupid, drowsy abandon, I'd placed it in one of the coaches ashtrays.

I never found the watch and every time I looked down at the fading tan line that had replaced it, my heart sunk a little lower. I wanted a watch but I couldn’t afford a replacement and despite looking everywhere I couldn’t find the same model.

After three long years without a watch, on my 27th birthday, Michelle bought me a new one. However, this time the watch was a little simpler. It was a Casio F-91W quartz digital watch, designed not by the Swiss but by the Japanese (Not exactly a powerhouse in watch Manufacturing). To say I was little disappointed was an understatement, it seemed unimaginable that I could sink to the lowly watch level of the £9.99 Casio F-91W… I used to be someone, I used to be part of the Universal Geneva watch club, I used to belong.

Reluctantly I wore the watch, I suspected it was Michelle's cheap way of registering her annoyance that I'd lost such an expensive one before. In the back of her mind she was probably thinking “There, you can’t be trusted with a real one so you can have this toy”.

In the next few months something rather strange happened, I started to fall in love with this watch, it was accurate, it was handy, It told me the date, I could wear it swimming, heck it even had a light. It was everything my old watch had been but in one way it was better, it wasn’t trying to impress anyone; it was trying to tell the time.

Now when I look down at my wrist, I don’t just see a watch I see a truth. It’s a truth I apply to every aspect of my work as a developer; Great products don’t have to be exclusive or complex they just need to serve their function. I also realised that Michelle hadn’t been taking a jab at me, she bought me exactly what I needed and her gift buying prowess remains to this day.

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Aligning objects and making space Equal in Expression Blend

by thebeebs 16. December 2009 02:56



Sometimes you have a selection of Textboxes that you need to align and tidy up, here’s how you do it.


To align objects in Blend lasso the objects or hold down shift and click each individual object then right click Align > Left Edges .



There is no easy way I can find to equal the space between each object like you can do in Windows forms applications. But what you can do, with the objects selected, is right click then Group Into > StackPanel


You can then, with the objects selected, change the bottom margin property to some thing like 50 and it will create an equal margin between all of the selected objects.



That leaves you with the desired result, nicely aligned and evenly spaced textboxes.



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