Every now and then I get bits of information from home. Usually it’s my mother giving me an update on a long-forgotten neighbour or acquaintance. Tonight it was the death of someone I went to school with.

Michael Duffin was one of those guys who was in and out of my social circle throughout school. The kid I remember is probably a very different character to the man who was murdered in the early hours of Saturday morning. Nevertheless, the brutality of people and the fragility of life make you stop and think.

When you leave school, you imagine the people you left behind. That their lives go on in parallel to your own, and they generally follow that pattern of education, relationship(s), kids, career, mortgage. Not necessarily in that order, but you get my meaning.

When someone from your past turns up dead, you think about the decisions that led to that point. Was it a walk to the shops? Staying in the bar for one more pint? Moving to a new town? But you can’t stand still, you’ve got to live your life whatever happens. The future – contrary to popular belief – isn’t written.

As far as memories of Michael go, I have a picture in my head of a generally happy kid, eager to please and to fit in. I vaguely remember a food fight in the cloakroom (outside Harry Kennedy’s class) in Primary School where he ended up getting sprayed with what seemed like a thousand lemonade bottles. I think the later years in secondary school he struggled a bit (didn’t we all), and eventually he fell off my radar. But like I said, you always assume that your school friends are out there somewhere, getting on with life.

And it stops you in your tracks when you find out they’re not.

Funny how I have this overwhelming urge to say goodbye to someone I haven’t seen in around 14 years. The best I can do is offer my condolences to the family.

It's been a week of challenges in the new job.

Running as part of a distributed, multi-site network is the part of the job that I knew I would thrive on, and that's exactly what's happening.

Because our staff spend their time between various sites both in the UK and abroad, they're mostly laptop users, and mostly connecting to different parts of the company network.

I've discovered a number of long-standing problems this week that have been bugging people. The remote site I visited on Tuesday, the user who couldn't connect to a remote share, deploying a new AntiVirus across my local site. Basically interesting stuff and problems I'd become disconnected from over the last couple of years.

It's nice to walk into a firm, discover lingering problems that have been around for months or even years and resolve them. These are the 'wins' that make IT work worthwhile. And as I said before, the people here are appreciative of the work I'm doing.

These early days are full of challenges, as I learn more about the network, resolve and document issues. Having challenges and rising to them is all part of the fun!

The new job's going exceedingly well. Do you know what the best part is? I'm feeling engaged again. The work I'm doing is directly helping people and they're genuinely grateful for it.

I hate to have to say it, but toward the end of my time with CFR, my work had become less than challenging.

This came into sharp focus for me today as I visited a site in Doncaster that was having problems. While I was looking forward to going to the mainland, inwardly I was a little worried that my hardware skills had become rusty.

I didn't actually have anything to worry about. Within about an hour I had the PCs back up and running (and it wasn't an obvious fix either). Having quite a few hours to kill before my return flight, I resolved a number of other niggles the site staff were having and provided them with a bit of advice on other aspects of their network.

As for the new company (who shall remain nameless), they're a joy to work for. Encouraging, informal and friendly. And global. Being part of a global IT team is great fun and great experience. Maybe it's the manufacturing environment, but what I do seems to make a difference – you can actually see it.

Being presented with a spanking new laptop and mobile phone on the first day didn't hurt either, let me tell you. And I've cut down on the web design work at home for the moment to focus on blogging, which is going quite well. I think my writing output is improving in leaps and bounds.

So, the title of the post was meant to reflect what I was doing today. But it also reflects how I'm feeling…

Well, today was my last day at Cleaver Fulton Rankin. I had worked there as IT Manager for almost 8 years. It would have been a full 8 years in September.

Leaving a job after such a long time is an odd feeling. On one hand, you've been there so long that being anywhere else seems alien. You're part of the furniture, one of the old-timers. On the other hand, there's something refreshing about a new start. All that history, years of developing a network and resolving problems, are at an end. A new challenge is on the horizon, new system, new people.

As a last day, it was pretty eventful. People in the office suddenly realising that they needed some piece of information before I went. Suppliers calling to wish me well and maintain some contact at the new firm. Colleagues stopping by to chat for a minute or two. Then there was a nice bit of server drama as the file server needed a reboot and we subsequently discovered it was reporting a disk failure.

Talk about testing closure to the limit! It's hard to walk away from a network that you've tended to for 8 years. But it had to be done.

So, I take a break tomorrow and spend a little time with the family. Hopefully we get the weather for a day out. Then it's off to the new job on Thursday, which I'm really looking forward to.

I did a site visit a few weeks ago and have a mental note of some of the areas that need attention, some things I need to know. But all in all, I'm looking forward to the experience. I'm not daunted or intimidated, just excited about being given a challenge to rise to. One thing I've realised over the last weeks at CFR is that the job wasn't challenging me anymore. I'm looking forward to changing that now. 

I noticed that the last entry on this blog was in March. A long time ago in blogging terms!

The last couple of months have been frighteningly busy, with web design work coming in to the point where I'm turning work away. I'm also having a bit of a blast with the music blog.

At first, I was going to cover mostly mainstream pop and rock acts, but after digging around social music sites like Virb, PureVolume and MySpace, I decided I might like to become champion of the unsigned! Well, maybe not champion, but I discovered some acts of a quality that should be in the charts, but somehow have been overlooked.

So, I've spend some time getting in touch with bands and artists that I liked and reviewing them for the site. In an ideal world, this type of blogging will draw attention to Unreality Music and hopefully make it an invaluable resource in the unsigned talent niche!

On that note, three artists I'd recommend to you (if you're of a rock/metal persuasion) are Throw The Fight, Silversun Pickups and Stuart Revnell . I did a short email interview with Stuart – a helluva nice guy and a talented singer/songwriter/producer.

Final note: I really like Drupal as a content platform,I'd love more time to get familiar with it and customize the theme to my liking. I did a wireframe a while back that I'd love to implement. Oh to have the time.

Haven't posted here in a while, but there's a lot of good stuff going on with Unreality TV and I wanted to share it here.

Unified Themes

Since we decided to launch companion blogs to Unreality TV, we decided to create a professional template, which you can see at Unreality Music. Over the coming weeks, the entire site will be unified with this theme. I think it's one of the most professional I've ever designed, with a little help from the guys who wrote the Sandbox theme for WordPress.

New Blogs

We've been working on the music blog for a while, and we'll be putting together the Primetime blog very soon. I want to get down to blogging a bit more as well, since it's what piqued my renewed interest in blogging again! The music blog will be my big thing, and I want to cover unsigned acts as well as mainstream music. those visitors who come for mainstream music will discover some interesting new acts!

New Advertisers

We've been trying a couple of different new advertising schemes which are yielding great results. I'm glad they're doing so well. I'll maybe cover these in a future post.

Unreality TV has experienced some excellent coverage in the news recently as a result of the Jade Goody/Shilpa Shetty race row. Lisa's taken a lot of calls from radio stations, TV and newspapers looking for her take on the situation and to find out what our readers are saying.

The most interesting was earlier last week when she got an email in the early afternoon last week asking if she'd be available for an interview with Channel 4 news. Now, this turned out to be More 4, a Channel 4 sister channel – not just as mainstream/large audience share. But anyway, great to receive the call!

At first she wondered how they'd pull off an TV interview, with us living in Northern Ireland (the disadvantage of running a UK entertainment website like Unreality), but they arranged for studio time down at the UTV studio on the Ormeau Road. Lisa was less than amused at how the interview was conducted – the satellite feed was one way, so she was looking into a camera in an empty room as the voice of the interviewer came through the headset!

The media attention has given us greater hope for the site. Contrary to popular belief, press releases and mentions in the news don't have a massive effect on web traffic, at least not in the short term. We're hoping that the media exposure will make Unreality an established brand and perhaps the initial exposure will snowball. Who knows?

The last week has been an incredible learning curve for us, but a valuable one. Onward and upward!

Wow. Drupal 5. Launched today, installed this evening. I’ve got to say, this platform raises the bar for me. Drupal always seemed to go to great lengths to be user unfriendly. However, with this release, they’ve tidied up the back end, explaining what most of the functions are, which is brilliant. They’ve also got a darned sexy new theme which you can colour customise with a neat little colour picker and which then regenerates the CSS and graphics files on the fly. Plus, you can choose different themes for front and backend, which means that you can visually distinguish the public and private parts of the site. Very useful. I’m itching to give Drupal a good thrashing in the wild and am resolved to use it for my next great website idea (choose from a long, long list!). I definitely want to see how this platform ticks, both as a blog system, CMS, forum and whatever else it does!