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Bytemark at LRL 09
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How I came to work at Bytemark

At the end of September, I left my job at Bytemark where I’d worked for the previous 6 years.

I’ll be sharing more, about the future in due course, but I was reflecting on my path to Bytemark.


I first was introduced to technology by the #manlug IRC channel, where I quickly became affiliated with the local fundamentalist free software group (and not ‘open source’), launched by Matt Lee. Matthew gave the first talk of that group about – as I seem to remember – how lack of open source cpanel was a big issue.

Lots of members of that IRC channel were Bytemark customers, and one (later, briefly) even went on to become an employee.

I remember going to LugRadioLive 2008 – where Bytemark had installed LTSP on some servers and figured out some way to run Team Fortress on them via WINE or something. For their efforts mbloch and employees [at the time] ahowells & lupine were given some kind of miniprize of tshirts by the LugRadio crew.

Bytemark at LRL 09

Bytemark at LRL 08

Around that time I was helping one of the largest Manchester tech community events to date, and managed to persuade Matthew to sponsor it (eg I asked, and Matthew said “yes”).

One of my two first jobs was as a contract Xen sysadmin for BBC R&D, (relying heavily on Skemp‘s work on xen-tools !), and also for a VoIP provider. When we needed a virtual server, and the VoIP company’s existing hosting supplier couldn’t provide Ubuntu because their bought-in virtualisation platform didn’t support it, I emailed Matthew to go to York and have a chat. We were very nervous about hosting VoIP servers in a datacentre in those days.

We went on to buy several servers, and I spent several months annoying the support team with correct and incorrect diagnosises of networking issues that may or may not have related to Bytemark. (I was a bit like a monkey with a sword using mtr at that point – I knew it was powerful, but I couldn’t always point it with the right end).

Around the middle of 2010, I was subscribed to the dolphin emporium mailing list, and looking for something technical, with clearer troubleshooting possibilities available. VoIP call quality issues are surprising tough to do automated monitoring on, and it seemed like there must be more clear-cut types of technical problem to diagnose. My thought was that web hosting had to be easier – either the web server was there, or it was not – nobody could complain that only half the page was there, or that it sounded like it was underwater.

I tried to get into M247, Melbourne, (M247 said no, Melbourne said they wanted more Windows experience), considered approaching some others, and then I saw this Bytemark job posting on the debian-uk mailing list.

I remember feeling terribly underprepared for the job interview. I knew about ~1/3 of the technologies mentioned, and had used very few of them. This was my dream job, but I felt the chances of me getting it were.. “slim”. But y’know, you gotta try! The first time I read about Varnish and caching proxies was on the train to York for the interview!

My sense is that the interview didn’t go ‘well’. I didn’t complete the technical task within the timeframe given, and I was conscious of that and pitched myself right at the low end of the spectrum.

A few days later, my heart leapt when I got an email offering me a job. I accepted and celebrated with a curry.

And so with the start of November 2010, so began my time at Bytemark in the office in Turing house.

If you’d told me then, where I’d be in 6 years time, I never would have believed you. But that’s for the next blog post!


Feel free to check out my LinkedIn profile.

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Portraits: Where I become a ‘published’ photographer.

As I mentioned, I almost never post photos of people, because it’s always an unnerving process with much too potential to cause conflict.

Therefore, I was very careful to seek full permission to publish this photo, but since it is already been published in various places (excitingly possibly also being my first photo in print media?) and was taken specifically for the purposes of distribution, things are much easier.

The context is obviously the exciting things happening at work, and so we needed some photos to illustrate this. It’s surprisingly difficult to take “exciting” photos, of something that’s rather intrinsically unexciting – two people standing in an empty room – without props – but that’s what we needed to do. I don’t really have much experience of shooting these kinds of environments, indeed, shooting indoors isn’t something I do all that much, and if I do, there’s usually something genuinely interesting happening to photograph.

However with Steve‘s help and suggestions and some clever trickery triggering some external flashes, I managed to come up with this:

Bytemark's new Data centre: Matthew Bloch and Pete Taphouse

Bytemark's new Data centre: Matthew Bloch And Pete Taphouse

I was shooting with my 5D, with the 24-105 f4 and you can see all the conditions in the EXIF info.

I really like how I managed to get the space in using the wide angle, but still have the interesting subjects – and by not having them stood side by side, make it looks slightly more interesting.

If I was going to recreate it, I’d aim the flash up a bit, and see whether we could get the faces lit slightly more appealingly, or see whether various different arm movements made it even more interesting, but all in all, I’m quite pleased with it.