2016 Christmas Giving

Each year we make a donation to charities instead of sending Christmas cards.

This year we are very happy to announce donations to the following charities…

Launchpad Reading – A charity that helps some of Reading’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people to turn their lives around and fulfil their potential. Launchpad began as a soup kitchen in 1979 and were known as Reading Single Homeless Project until 2011. Today, they’re called Launchpad Reading. Based in bright premises in central Reading, they provide accommodation, support and education to people in the town who need help.

Sailors Society – An international Christian charity working in ports across the world. Their chaplains help seafarers and their families from all faiths and none with welfare and practical support. They visit ships in ports and talk with seafarers away from home for up to a year at a time; they help them get in touch with much missed loved ones and access medical treatment; they liaise with frightened families when seafarers are kidnapped by terrorists or imprisoned, mostly through no fault of their own; and they build homes and schools and provide grants to bring hope and security to seafaring communities.

OpenStreetMap – A collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. The creation and growth of OSM has been motivated by restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world, and the advent of inexpensive portable satellite navigation devices. OSM is considered a prominent example of volunteered geographic information.

We hope you all have a great winter and see you in the new year.

Feature image by Courtney licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.

2016 Christmas Shutdown

Christmas is fast approaching and we wanted to let you know that Dogsbody Technology will be taking some time off to celebrate the festive season.

Our office will be closed on the following days and response to emails maybe slower:
– Fri 16 Dec 2016 – Office Closed after 13:00
– Fri 23 Dec 2016 – Office Closed after 13:00
– Mon 26 Dec 2016 – Public Holiday
– Tue 27 Dec 2016 – Public Holiday
– Wed 28 Dec 2016 – Office Closed
– Thu 29 Dec 2016 – Office Closed
– Fri 30 Dec 2016 – Office Closed
– Mon 2 Jan 2017 – Public Holiday

During this time any issues will be dealt with on an emergency out of hours basis and we will only be able to support customers who are experiencing a situation where business cannot function without a resolution such as:
– Website / Server down
– Inability to trade online

We will continue monitoring and patching servers as usual over the Christmas period.

We recommend our hosting customers check our status site as usual which will continue to be updated.

If you need to raise an issue please use the standard contact details as calls to our office and support emails will be routed to the engineer on call.

Thank you for your continued support throughout 2016. We hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Five Go on a Hacking Weekend

Last weekend (25th & 26th November 2016) Dogsbody Technology headed off to St. John’s church Hoxton in Shoreditch, London to attend (what turned out to be the last) Over the Air 2016.

Over the Air is an annual 2-day mobile developer event with a mix of technical workshops put on by the community, a Hackathon to celebrate programming & making as a creative discipline, and Lightning Talks to entertain and inspire.

This year the Dogsbody Technology team decided to do their first hack and enter the Hackathon Challenges for the first time – and boy did we have fun! It all started with us finding a 4ft Stormtropper while out shopping which we knew we could improve on! We named it ‘Dolly Stormageddon‘, or Stormy for short.

On Friday morning we packed the car full with Raspberrys Pi’s, Arduino’s, Lasers, Lego, wire, speakers, batteries, soldering irons, microphones, USB dongles, cable ties, SD cards, cables, drills, duct tape, sleeping gear and more! Heading off with a general plan of what we wanted to try and achieve.

After the welcome speech and Friday keynote presentation by Hadley Beeman on the effects of Brexit and Trump to the tech industry, we set ourselves up in the Crypt under the church and got to work.

We had a list of stuff we really wanted to do and a list of nice to haves as we knew time was limited to less than 24 hours!

Nexmo was a sponsor of Over the Air and so we decided to use their SMS API to make Dolly read out text messages. Rob set up the Nexmo SMS API and we used an existing Pushover script to communicate this to a Raspbery Pi which then used Amazon Ivona text to speech software (we picked Welsh) to read the text message out over a speaker we put in Dolly’s leg. This was all scripted/set up by Gary. We even added the function that if someone texted ‘shoot’ it made a blaster noise!

For a good demo you always need lights and movement so Dan wired up a laser pointer to his gun and Jim used Lego to mount a servo and programmed an Arduino to get his head to move side to side.

Finally we added an NFC Tag inside his chest with the number for people to text.

Testing included texts such as “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester” and the complete lyrics to Queens “I want to break free” – which is slightly strange spoken by a 4ft Stromtropper in a Welsh accent!

We entered three categories in the Hackathon Challenges –  The Nexmo APIs Challenge, The Best Hardware / IoT  Entry and The Best Use of Other Features. Below is our Show & Tell! We had exactly 90 seconds to present what we worked on.

WE WON!!!

The Best Hardware / IoT  Hack!! with an Nexmo Honourable mention

We got a pile of new toys to play with from our win and we couldn’t be happier

Dan, Jim, Claire and Rob attended a few talks but the hack took up most of our time, the always interesting and funny lightening talks included a  talk on ’10 stupid stuff I’ve bought on the internet’ (he had to narrow that down from over 40!) which include 1000 plastic ducks and entering an inflatable marathon whilst intoxicated.

Dolly and the Dogsbody Team are now home and the ultimate idea is Dolly will be in our office and alert us when a server goes down..we will rebuild Dolly better, faster, stronger…

Dogsbody Technology would like to say a BIG Thank you to the Organisers and sponsors of Over The Air throughout the years for a great event. We had an amazing time!

 

Feature image by Andy Piper

Dogsbody Technology now offer automatic invoice payment via Direct Debit with GoCardless

Dogsbody Technology now offer automatic invoice payment via Direct Debit through our friends at GoCardless. You can pay our invoices without even having to login into your bank.

The benefits of Direct Debit for Customers

It’s guaranteed
Direct Debit payments come with a guarantee so you’re automatically protected by three important safeguards:

  • An immediate money back guarantee from your bank in the event of an error in the payment of your Direct Debit
  • Advance notice if the date or amount changes
  • The right to cancel at any time.

Read The Direct Debit Guarantee in full.

It gives you peace of mind
Direct Debit is one of the safest and most reassuring ways of paying your invoicing:

  • Payments are made automatically, so bills are never forgotten, lost in the post or delayed by postal problems and there’s no risk of late payment charges
  • Organisations using the Direct Debit scheme have to pass a careful vetting process, and are closely monitored by the banking industry
  • The Direct Debit Guarantee protects you and your money. It’s offered by all banks and building societies that take part in the scheme.

It saves you time
Modern life is hectic – but Direct Debit helps. You’ll find it easier to stay on top of your bills, and you’ll know exactly how much money is going out each month. It also means reduced workload and paperwork for your finance department.

Worried about security – don’t be. GoCardless

  • is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2009.
  • have Military grade encryption – All sensitive details are RSA encrypted, and only communicated over secure channels.
  • Is a Bacs-approved bureau
  • backed by the Direct Debit Guarantee
  • Hold data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998

For other small businesses interested in setting up Direct Debits for their customers, GoCardless was incredible easy to set up and integrate with our account package FreeAgent and we would recommend it for any other small businesses wanting to start making their customers (and their accounts department) life easier.

If you would like to find out how you can pay your Dogsbody Technology Invoices painlessly and automatically via Direct Debit please Contact Us

South East lags behind in youth unemployment

PRESS RELEASE
South East lags behind in youth unemployment

New research out this week shows that the South East is falling behind other parts of the UK in the race to reduce youth unemployment. The study, by consulting firm EY, shows that the South East is now fourth in the league table of regional unemployment, down from second place in 2011.

The disparity in the number of young people in employment is starkest in the region’s key towns and cities, with Southampton, Brighton and Hove and Reading all having youth unemployment rates at higher than the regional average.

But local technology firms are looking to bridge the skills gap that divides young people and prevents them from gaining experience that leads to valuable jobs in the future. Farnborough businesses, Dogsbody Technology and Orcare are both on the hunt for their next apprentice through ApprenticeshipsInFarnborough.com.

Dan Benton, Director of Dogsbody Technology said, “Technology apprenticeships provide a valuable combination of on the job experience and structured learning that enable young people to develop the skills to help drive the growth of small businesses. It’s a real triple win for the apprentice, employer and the learning provider.”

Both Orcare and Dogsbody Technology typically employ school and college leavers with good GCSEs and or A-Levels, but have made a choice to not move onto University.

Advanced Apprenticeships result in qualifications equivalent to A-Levels, and apprentices gain valuable knowledge, skills and experience throughout their apprenticeship, all whilst earning a salary in the region of £150 per week. Alex Meyers, a recent graduate of the Orcare Technology Apprenticeship Programme said, “I was initially attracted by the opportunity to get out into the real world and work on real projects while learning new skills. But now the opportunity to earn a real salary and build up experience has put me in such a strong position in comparison to many people my age.”

The salary potential for someone with a technology apprenticeship and 3 years of experience can be in the region of £30,000, exceeding the average graduate salary.

Paul Marden, Director of Orcare said “In an environment where graduates are taking on astonishing levels of debt and then struggle to access well paid jobs because of an absence of experience, apprenticeships provide a very viable Plan A for young people looking for a route into a technology career.”

The team behind ApprenticeshipsInFarnborough.com are also looking to work with other local apprentice employers to raise the profile of apprenticeships in the local area.

ENDS

Media Contact,
Paul Marden, Director, Orcare Limited. Phone: 01276 817465 / 07796 463728, email: pmarden@orcare.com

Claire Christmas, Project Manager, Dogsbody Technology Ltd. Phone: 01276 818576, email: claire@dogsbodytechnology.com

NOTES TO EDITORS
Apprenticeships in Farnborough (apprenticeshipsinfarnborough.com) is a collaborative campaign to raise aspirations and reduce youth unemployment in Farnborough, enabling businesses to attract local talent.

Orcare Limited (orcare.com) is a Web Design and Digital Marketing Agency based in Farnborough, Hampshire. It specialises in developing easy to use websites that deliver real business benefit using Microsoft technologies to customers across London and the South East.

Dogsbody Technology Ltd. (dogsbodytechnology.com) is a Linux consultancy company based in Farnborough, Hampshire building and maintaining secure, reliable & scalable servers ensuring customers get the best out of technology.

See you at Electromagnetic Field 2016

This weekend the Dogsbody Technology Team are packing up their tents and laptops and heading to Loseley Park, Guildford for Electromagnetic Field 2016.

Don’t know what Electromagnetic Field is – here is a description from their website:

Electromagnetic Field is a non-profit UK camping festival for those with an inquisitive mind or an interest in making things: hackers, artists, geeks, crafters, scientists, and engineers.

A temporary town of more than a thousand like-minded people enjoying a long weekend of talks, performances, and workshops on everything from blacksmithing to biometrics, chiptunes to computer security, high altitude ballooning to lockpicking, origami to democracy, and online privacy to knitting.

To help matters along, we provide fast internet, power to the tent, good beer, and amazing installations, entirely organised by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Tickets were on sale in advance and are now sold out but come back here to see our review of the event next week.

Update: You can now see our write up of Electromagnetic Field 2016.

If you are attending feel free to come say hi and have a drink with us

Like the idea of attending these sorts of event with us! We are Hiring. You could be joining us at our next event :-)

17th Annual SysAdmin Day – 29 July 2016

Today is the 17th Annual System Administrator Appreciation Day – SysAdmin Day for short.

The day is to give thanks to the hardworking skilled men and women who you rarely see but keep your business servers secure, up and working day and night 24/7 365 days a year. These are the people who at 3am when your server has a blip jumps straight on it to check it is OK (much like having a small child only easier!)

If you don’t know who your SysAdmins are then as the great Futurama said…

giphy

If you are interested in joining our crack SysAdmin team then We Are Hiring!

We are off to the pub to celebrate… and catch some Pokémon.

 

Pushover Alerts

Alerts & Webhooks with AWS Lambda

Here at Dogsbody Technology we monitor servers and services for hundreds of clients, you may have read our previous blog post talking about our Warboard and how we make use of it. This blog post covers the other tools we use for responding to incidents and issues real time, our Dogsbody Technology Webhooks.

The main thing we use the webhooks for are Pingdom, Newrelic & Sirportly alerts. When an incident is triggered in Pingdom or Newrelic they will make an API call to our webhook with the relevant information we require to investigate an incident, the webhook will then determine the priority of the incident and send an alert to our Pushover user accounts so we are alerted and can respond to the incident.

High priority alerts, such as site outages also trigger a rotating blue police style light which is accompanied by a siren sound from the office speaker.

 

Office Siren

The Dogsbody Technology office siren

 

We also use the webhooks to notify a user when certain interactions happen in our ticketing system Sirportly, such as being assigned a new ticket or when one of their existing tickets is replied to.

To ensure our webhooks would have near to 100% uptime and we wouldn’t miss an alert, we decided the best place to host them would be using AWS Lambda & AWS API Gateway. These two services combined allow us to run the webhooks with Amazon’s high availability infrastructure while only paying small amounts on a per request/alert basis, which is the perfect type of model for this service.

To put into perspective how cost effective AWS’ pricing model for our alerts is, last month (June 2016) we received 25,282 alerts for all of our endpoints combined. This worked out at a total monthly cost of … $0.10! AWS actually provide you with a free amount of lambda execution time per month which we haven’t even reached yet, we’re only getting charged that 10 cents for the API Gateway.

Let us know if you find any of the services and technologies mentioned above interesting and we can write some more in-depth blog posts on those subjects, and even some guides on using them. The alerts talked about in this blog post come with the majority of our server monitoring packages, so be sure to get in contact if you need any of our services.

The Warboard

The Dogsbody Technology Warboard sits on the wall in our office and allows us to see a detailed overview of the infrastructure we monitor real time, this has proved it’s self to be invaluable for spotting potential issues and remedying them before they ever become an issue.

We’re responsible for monitoring and maintaining hundreds of servers on a daily basis.  Checking the status of this infrastructure manually would be virtually impossible. To make this job easier we use tools such as Pingdom and NewRelic however we still felt the need for a high level overview of all servers.

When there is an issue with either a service failing on a server, or the health of a server deteriorates Pingdom and NewRelic will alert us real time via custom webhooks we have written. These are great for reacting to an issue when it happens, however it doesn’t give us a clear overview of the infrastructure we monitor before an issue occurs, this is why we created the Warboard.

The Warboard is displayed in such as way that we only see the metrics we need to. Services at the top of the Pingdom column are ordered by highest response rate, servers in NewRelic are ordered by the highest metric for each server (if CPU utilisation was a higher percentage than memory, disk usage and disk IO it would be used). We display the Warboard on a wall mounted TV for the whole team to see.

Warboard

Example screenshot of the warboard

In the Pingdom column red checks are checks that are currently down, blue checks are paused and green checks are up. In the NewRelic column red checks are servers that have hit their high threshold on their policy, amber checks have hit their warning threshold, blue checks are servers that are no longer reporting and green checks are servers that have not reached a threshold.

We also have a column for Sirportly, our ticketing system. This shows how many tickets each team member has. Below this is an overview of events in our Google Calendar where we can see upcoming events and scheduled maintenance.

The Warboard backend is all written in Python and the frontend is Python (Flask) using the Jinja2 templating engine. We’ve made the Warboard public on Github, so feel free to contribute, modify it and use it in your own environment if you please.

If you’d like us to monitor your infrastructure be sure to take a look at our maintenance packages and get in contact.

Welcome Claire Christmas!

Claire ChristmasWe are pleased to announce the expansion of our team in the form of Claire Christmas (yes that really is her real name!)

Claire will be joining us as an Office Manager and brings with her years of administration and customer services skill as well as a real passion for cost savings and efficiency.

Into anything Marvel and with a background in working in technology companies Claire spent most of her career at Sun Microsystems where she started as an apprentice and then Oracle after the acquisition.

Claire will be dealing with the day to day admin of running Dogsbody Technology to allow the Dogsbody team to do what they do best – Linux Sysadmin!

When asked what she thinks she’s bring to the company she answered, “other than single handedly bringing the average age of the company up a few years I look forward to adding a female touch”.  We think she’ll fit in just fine! :-)

We’re always looking for new members to join our team, so go and check out what jobs we have available if you think you’d be a good fit at Dogsbody Technology.