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Basic pasta sauce

Someone asked on Twitter how I made my pasta sauce, so here it is!


The base of my Pasta sauce is largely this recipe, except I mostly don’t add mozzarella:

At it’s simplest I can make the whole thing for one person in 19 minutes, so it’s great for lunch.


85g dried pasta per person (50g per child). You can use whatever you want, I prefer spaghetti.
1 punnet of good tomatoes, about 225/250g (small ones, eg. baby plum, sunstream etc.)
Small bunch of basil or parsely.
Salt & Pepper
1 clove of garlic
1 chilli, I don’t de-seed
Olive oil


To start, boil some water in a medium pan. Add a decent amount of salt. While the water is coming up to the boil prepare the other ingredients.

First, chop the tomatoes, you can leave the skins on. I chop mine in half, I prefer the texture. It is also quicker. Finely chop the garlic and chilli. Roughly chop the basil or parsley.

As soon as the water comes to the boil, add your pasta. Now heat some oil over a medium heat in a small frying pan. Add in the chilli and garlic. Make *really* sure not to burn the garlic. Before the garlic browns add in the tomatoes then a good pinch of salt. Stir around for a few seconds. Now add in some water. It’s really easy to add in too much, you want just enough to cover the base of the pan, any more and you’ll end up with soup. You can always add more if you need to.

Next, add the basil or parsley. Stir through. When the pasta is al dente drain it retaining some of the cooking water and add to the sauce, stir around. Add pasta water if needed. You should still be able to work out what each of the individual parts of your sauce are made of. If you can’t you cooked it too long and/or added too much water.

At this point you can stir in mozzarella, I mostly don’t.

Slap it on a plate, grate parmesan over it and eat it.


With practice I’ve got this down to 19 minutes for the simple version, you might be faster if you can boil water faster than me. Adding more stuff makes it slower obviously.

Only get good tomatoes. They have to taste of something, if they don’t taste of anything your sauce will be crap. If you can’t get good fresh ones (or they have a gazillion air miles on them) use a *good* tin. It’s not as good and doesn’t work as well with the parsley or mozzarella versions, but it’s better than the alternative.

This sauce is great by itself, but you can add to it as you want. Some black pitted olives from a jar are great. If I’ve got other veg lying around, or more than one person eating I will add that too, depending on the density of the vegetable and how finely it is chopped depends when I add it. Chop it finer to cook it quicker. A good addition to bulk it up is a sweet pointed pepper & celery soffritto. One pointed pepper and 2 celery sticks is about the right balance with one punnet of tomatoes. Fennel and black olive are great too. Just be careful not to overdo it. There’s enough sauce with just the tomatoes for one person, less is more when adding extra ingredients.

If you do add more veg, try to keep the tomatoes per person ratio the same IMO.

In the photo above I went a bit mad and added:

– sweet pointed pepper & celery soffritto
– 1 small bulb of fennel, thinly sliced.
– Bacon*

It was really a bit too much.

*Bacnon! Chop some aubergine into ~1cm cubes or strips, one handful should be enough, think proportional to the other ingredients. Put on some foil, sprinkle salt on, create a parcel (crimp the edges to keep the water in) and oven cook at ~180°C (?, experiment) until just soft. Aubergine is great for adding some a bulky umami flavour in-place of meat.

I think that’s it! Nail the basic sauce then experiment on top of that and you’ve got a handy and versatile base!

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The security of a system is as strong as it’s weakest component

The pad lock that had seized shut on my back gate was proving hard to remove, the hardened steel U was not yielding to my hacksaw. I noticed some rivets underneath that turned out to be soft steel. 10 minutes of sawing and I was in.


Hardened steel U


Soft steel rivets on the bottom


After removing the rivets, hammering off the bottom plate


Bottom plate revealed, lock mechanism removed


Lock open!

Random graph

Random graph, from playing around with RGL in Ruby.
Random graph

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Please, please stop asking, I’ll give you anything!

Me: My order was returned without ever having got to me.
Amazon: I can see that it got sent to the wrong distributor who must have realise this and just returned it.
Me: I see, this has happened twice in the last few weeks, is it going to happen again?
Amazon: I’m sorry to hear that, I’ve extended your Prime by a month free of charge.
Me: Thanks for that, but it seems odd that this never happened before, but has happened twice in a few weeks now. Is this likely to happen again?
Amazon: I’ve upgraded the delivery on your new order to Express, you’ll receive it tomorrow before 1:00PM.
Me: …

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Testing Github commit hook one liners

A couple of ruby one-liners for dumping out the content of a github commit hook payload:

For hooks that use type application/json:

$ ruby -rpp -rjson -rsinatra -e 'set :port, 8000; post "/*" do; pp JSON(; end'

For hooks that use type application/x-www-form-urlencoded:

$ ruby -rpp -rjson -rsinatra -e 'set :port, 8000; post "/*" do; pp JSON(params[:payload]); end'
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New Pi mount, and testing the power requirements

Testing the robot power requirements

Before I pick a battery I need to know what power requirements my robot is going to have so I took it into the hackspace to test. I hooked it up to one of the power supplies then ran all the systems, so Streaming video off the Raspberry Pi over wireless whilst running the motors. I weight it down with a large motor (the big black thing) and then provided resistance, it peaks at about 1.6 amps.

In the video you can also see the new side mounted Raspberry Pi and the base of the ping-pong ball hopper.

Detail view of the side mounted Raspberry Pi and the base of the ping-pong ball hopper:

Raspberry Pi mount and ping-pong ball hopper base

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Downloadable plot hole filler

A response I got from Apple:

Dear Will,

I understand that you have questions about downloading filler for the plot-holes in [the movie] Battleship. My name is Pauline and I will be more than happy to help you resolve this.

I am very glad that you have been able to view the rental “Battleship”, I hope you enjoyed this film and had fun watching it. While I cannot comment or assist with filter for the content of the movie, I would be more than happy to look in to any other account issues you may be experiencing.

It has been a pleasure assisting you today. Should you have any other concerns you wish to raise, please let me know. Have a nice day!



Creating animated gifs with imagemagick

In my last post I linked to some animated gifs I made on my mac. It’s pretty easy if you have imagemagick installed.

Simply get a bunch of images together and use the convert command:

convert -resize 900x -loop 0 -delay 10 DSC_8264.JPG DSC_8265.JPG DSC_8266.JPG DSC_8267.JPG DSC_8268.JPG DSC_8269.JPG DSC_8270.JPG jon_walk.gif

The last argument is the output filename. The options should be self explanatory, but you can check them up in the man page if you want to tweak the values.

Paula Deen riding things

I made some Paula Deen riding… pictures. Because I can. Find more here.

Cloud email service price comparison

Larger interactive versions of all the graphs on this page are available here.

Update: Added Mailgun to the graphs.

Earlier this year I posted a price comparison between Sendgrid, and the then newly available Amazon SES.

Tim Falls commented on the post saying that Sendgrid had updated their pricing:

Since this post was published, we have released a new pricing structure *and* a new service tier that offers more email for less + a feature set and pricing model that you will find very competitive with SES.

That was back in June, so it’s about time I produced an updated comparison. First, lets look at the difference between the old and new Sendgrid prices:

Comparison of old and new Sendgrid prices, click for a larger version

Overall the up-front plan prices, and prices for email over allowance have remained the same, but email allowance within each plan has increased. The exception is the Silver plan where email over allowance has increased by $0.0001/email. New to the lineup is the Lite plan.

More interesting is how these new prices compare to the competitors. I’ve added in Amazon SES, and Postmark too:

Sendgrid, Postmark and Amazon SES price comparison, click for a larger version

The most notable differences here are the inclusion of Postmark, and the the Sendgrid Lite plan that shadows Amazon SES. I’d guess this was added purely to compete with Amazon. As in my last post it is hard to see what is going on with smaller numbers of emails being sent, here’s a zoom on the origin:

Price comparison for small numbers of emails sent, click for a larger version

Here you can see the Sendgrid Lite plan shadowing Amazon and the Postmark costs heading up rapidly.


It seems Sendgrid have just added an ‘Amazon SES’ plan to pull back any customers that would have chosen SES based on price. It’s probably a good move, and it will allow easy transition into their more ‘premium’ plans if you sign up and later decide to change plan.

Given the advertised features of Postmark compared to the price it seems hard to consider using them. They seem to have some fairly well known customers though, so if anyone has used Postmark leave a comment with how that is working out for you.

So which email cloud provider should you use? Use the graphs I made, but price is only going to be one factor, so check what each provider offers. I’ve linked to all the pricing pages below.

Price sources

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