Much as I tried to ignore mobile technology, the world didn’t agree with me, so when I eventually ended up with my wife’s old iPhone the tinkerer in me naturally wanted to develop an app.
Fortunately I’ve done some Mac/Cocoa work in the past, so I was already used to using Xcode and Interface Builder, and most importantly the Objective-C way of doing things – and was able to knock-up an app that piggy-backed on the data returned from my Datafeed Studio PHP application to build a fast price comparison utility for retail products.
Cardiff University CMS
As a former student of Cardiff University I was delighted to take on a Java contract as the Lead Developer in building a CMS and web front-end for it’s main web site.
This was a nerve-wracking project, as the media agency that won the project was experienced in .NET and Cold Fusion, so it was a big ask to develop a new Java CMS from scratch, including WYSIWYG editor, bilingual support, etc. and a complex moderation workflow – all within a few months!
Fortunately, all came together in time for for the fixed-deadline of the new academic year – and my contract was extended to take in the development of an additional “CourseFinder” J2EE internal application, that allowed staff to administer courses, subjects, schools, etc.
The EBR (European Business Register) project has the aim of integrating all the national business registries of European partners into a common register / data format.
As part of my work at Companies House I was given the duty of building the UK gateway to the EBR network – which was all nasty C based libraries and ASN.1 format over the wire at the time.
Several European partners were also unhappy with the complexity of integrating such software on their systems, and, my technical director suggested that I write a functional and technical specification to replace the existing software.
Fortunately my specification, based on open Java, XML and Web based technology (this also must have been one of the earliest REST v SOAP battles to be won for the former!) was accepted, and Orchid won the contract, which funded new premises in central Cardiff.
Companies House Direct
During my time working for Orchid Telematics Ltd (now part of Companies House itself) I worked as an application developer on the high-profile Companies House Direct website.
When I joined the service was undergoing severe performance problems (using a system that was developed to serve the French minitel service – definitely not geared up for the web!).
After working around this by using C/C++ for some components, I eventually introduced a modern Perl (mod_perl) based architecture for the sister (non-subscription) Companies House WebCHeck site, the underlying architecture of which was ultimately migrated to the main site.
Datafeed Studio is a commerical self-hosted PHP application that allows internet / affiliate marketers to consolidate products from different retailers into a single database.
From this database they can then extract products for use in other projects, e.g. in price comparison listings using a PHP/XML API, or using the built-in online store generator / WordPress plugin, all managed by a backend CMS.
A client required a way of automating the creation of a large and complex spreadsheet that was being done manually based on information from ESPN’s CricInfo site.
To do this without tedious manual intervention I created a Ruby script using the Nokogiri Gem to do the heavy lifting of the web scraping and parsing, and the WriteExcel Gem to generate the Excel spreadsheet (preserving the special formatting the client had).
Eventually a simple web interface was added allowing the client to enter which cricket tournament series to download (which called the Ruby script as a background task).
The Voucher Database is a companion project written in Ruby on Rails that I developed for my commercial PHP application, Datafeed Studio.