All posts by shuggill

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 5 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 33 posts. There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 739kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was October 10th with 30 views. The most popular post that day was 5 reflections after 12 days of being a Dad.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were huggill.com, facebook.com, bigextracash.com, wiki.netbeans.org, and tryje.info.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for wordpress business contact, kernel_data_inpage_error, moving business contact manager database, sam huggill, and bcm 2007.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

5 reflections after 12 days of being a Dad October 2010

2

Moving Business Contact Manager to the network March 2009
4 comments

3

New House, New Baby and a Geek’s Home Office October 2010
2 comments

4

The Future of Desktops and Web Development November 2010

5

About December 2007
2 comments

The Future of Desktops and Web Development

[tweetmeme source=”shuggill” only_single=false]

For the past twenty years the IT industry has been dominated by one company, Microsoft, and for good reason. They developed awesome software which helped to bring computing to the masses, and with the birth of the internet they impressed upon us all the Microsoft way of thinking: we are the experts so we build the entire system (OS, Desktop Packages, Server Tools, Networking) and you, the user, drink it all in. A whole industry of expert support grew up around it and many users became IT experts over time as they toyed with their new hardware and the latest releases of Windows.

On the flip-side was the Linux way of thinking, which is far less integrated and less centrally controlled. We provide a base platform (the Kernel) and on top of that uber-geeks contribute single function utility applications that make everything work. The end user (or system builder) can then choose and customise every item to suit their needs.

Bill Gates’ vision for the 90s was to see a PC in every home. Now that we are well into that vision, what will be the compelling vision of the teens and twenties ahead of us?

Being a web developer requires that I have a number of specialist tools for the job: an IDE to write and debug code in, some basic graphics packages, browsers to test in, some form of source control and database management. Also being a professional I need an email client, contact management/CRM, calendars, project management tools, document editing tools, invoicing tools and financial management tools.

I’ve long been a Microsoft convert. My first programming language was Visual Basic, and I’ve cut my professional teeth writing ASP and ASP.NET web applications. However I also have extensive experience with PHP, Linux and MySQL. To run all of my professional life I currently have:

A desktop PC and a laptop both running:

Windows 7 (OS)
MS Office 2010 (Documents)
Visual Sutdio 2010 (.NET IDE)
SQL Server 2008 R2 Express (Database & DB Management)
Mercurial (Source Control)
Paint.NET (Graphics)
– Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, IE 9, IETester (covers IE6, 7 & 8 for testing), iPhone Emulator
Netbeans (PHP/Ruby IDE)
IIS (.NET and PHP webserver)
MySQL (Database)
phpMyAdmin (Database Management)
– I use Google Apps for email and calendars
– I use Basecamp for project management
– I use Highrise for CRM

That’s a lot of software to maintain, keep up-to-date with and sync between my two main workstations. And if I’m not at either of those machines, I’m limited to email and calendaring on my iPhone. Whilst I can work in most places using the laptop, it’s a fairly specialist set up.
I would guess that the same is true for most web developers out there.

The advances in technology (and in many other areas) are possible because new layers of abstraction are added. For application developers new operating systems and CPUs give more options and capacity to do greater things – they increasingly:

– know less about the underlying technology
– assume that it is there and “just works”

With the advent of cloud computing the notion of “it just works” and “it’s in the cloud” are ever more enhanced. Sites can use services like OAuth to provide authentication from some of the major service providers (read: Google/Facebook). Disk space, CPU, servers are all becoming commodity items and web developers are increasingly in the position of not caring about the underlying hardware. In fact, it’s more than a case of not caring – it’s becoming essential not to care, as you need the time to focus on building great applications in this competitive marketplace.

Development frameworks are also making it much easier to get on and build applications. ASP.NET, PHP and Ruby (to name a few) all have well matured and generally very good frameworks available which speed up development no end.

When you start working with these frameworks you start to not care about what’s inside, or how the function “buildInputBox” was written – the fact is you start to rely on the simple fact that it is there and it works. You trust that whoever wrote the underlying framework, designed that CPU or built that cloud hosting platform knew what they were doing and optimised it for you. With all the time saved from not having to compile Linux kernels, write monkey code (e.g. buildInputBox) and design a redundant hosting platform, application developers can invest much more into creating great online experiences.

To this end I have started questioning two things: what will the future of desktops look like, and how we will build the next generation of applications?

Let me attempt to share some thoughts on these.

My vision is not orientated around a company, or the Open Source / Closed Source argument. I don’t expect everything to be free, and in fact serious business cannot be sustained through the free models – there has to be a revenue stream (and I’d rather it wasn’t all advertising based). Also, business critical operations require an incentivised commitment to service, and what better incentive than money?

I think the day of the desktop OS as a rich environment is dead. Why do I need to run 20 different applications, keep them all updated with patches and new releases and go through the awful pain of a system rebuild every 6 months? Most of my work is now connected to other systems in some way, all via the Internet. If I unplugged my network cable and tried to work I would probably last about a day before I needed to connect up either for testing, collaboration or just to get some help.

My future PC will be a highly powered web browser. I will connect to everything in the cloud, and the browser will be my cross-platform standardised access point to it all. This means that I can literally work from anywhere. No one will expect to be working without an Internet connection. More and more environments are meeting consumer demands by providing Wi-Fi access points so that we are always connected.

From my web browser I will be able to do everything listed above. It will become a new layer of abstraction. I will assume the PC “just works”. I will be able to access everything from different types of device – my tablet, my smart-phone, my laptop, a computer interface built into a table in a cafe.

This poses some interesting opportunities for companies of different sizes. The big boys will fight it out to run the infrastructure needed for all of this – i.e. the servers, connectivity and base services (like authentication) that all new applications will rely upon.

I have no doubt that the likes of Google and Facebook will be positioning themselves to become baked in as a layer of abstraction – their challenge will be reminding people that the infrastructure is crucial and needs to be paid for.

For small application developers however this is an exciting time. There will be much less to be distracted with – maintaining computer systems, patching software and limiting where you can work. It’s all infrastructure that should just work.

Everything in the Cloud

The new world is outsourced and cloud based. Although this means perhaps more disparate systems (e.g. how do you share contact information between Basecamp and Highrise?) these challenges will be overcome by new standards and another layer of abstraction – all of your contact information will live somewhere and just “be available”. Code will be written and tested in the cloud, since it’s going to be deployed there anyway. Designing will move beyond the confines of Photoshop into sketching and then building out into simple web prototypes.

The next generation of applications will start to make full use of the over-powered desktop PCs that are sitting in everyone’s homes and offices with bags of unused capacity. Web applications will be able to reach out of the browser and touch the hardware devices that the user has. Facial and audio recognition will be possible as authentication methods and drawing devices will make roughing up ideas quick and easy. Browsers will provide simple interfaces to these items, no more arcane Active-X controls or specialist plugins.

Web Browsers

On the subject of browsers, they are all starting to converge. The long cry from web developers to adopt standards is starting to be heard, with the major web browsers supporting most of the W3 standards. Instead of differentiating on their level of compliance (which is now frowned upon if they don’t), browsers will have to distinguish themselves on speed and user facing features. However these will most likely fade as the features will all need to be web integrated to provide a seamless user experience across machines.

K.I.S.S.

The future is about making things simpler. I want to have less in my brain about technology. I want it to work, so that I can have time to come up with great ideas, solve difficult problems and rapidly build stuff. I don’t want to write another buildInputBox function. I don’t want to recompile Linux to get the latest PHP version working. I don’t want to take my 1U servers down to the datacentre and be my own hosting company. I want hosting and provisioning to be seamless – when I need more resources I just click. I want to be able to work anywhere in the world, and to log on to a PC and have my entire desktop in front of me, even if it means (for the moment) five different web applications firing up.

Yes I want choice, but just as I want electricity to my home, provided the price is right, I don’t care how it gets here or how it is produced*.

* Within reason! I do care about green energy, what I mean is I don’t care about transformers and the national grid and power lines and heat loss because the current is too high.

Instead I want to choose to build an app that does this or that and get on and build it as quickly as possible. We don’t yet know what new things we will be able to create when we have these new layers of abstraction in place, but I’m sure it will be cool and fun and add value in new ways.

New House, New Baby and a Geek’s Home Office

Three months ago we found out that we were expecting a baby; four months ago we bought our first house.  Take a peak at what we’ve been up to…

P1040735

The Stats

In three months we:

  • Moved house (with the help of some great friends, until mid-night!)
  • Painted over 200sqm of walls and ceilings
  • Fixed 15m of new skirting boards
  • Replaced 5 light fittings
  • Had 26sqm of new carpet laid
  • Fitted 25sqm of laminate flooring
  • Had a new en-suite bathroom installed
  • Filled a hole in an outside wall (one of my favourite jobs)
  • Removed a kitchen unit to install our dishwasher and did the plumbing (also fun)
  • Made 10+ trips to Ikea (lots of meatballs enjoyed there)

The Geek’s Touch

I had to add my own touch to the house, so here are the highlights:

Idea PaintIMG_0368

I wanted a big whiteboard in my home office to be creative on, but then I thought, why limit it to a board, why not use an entire wall?  The folks over at IdeaPaint made this possible.  I now have a 4sqm whiteboard to dump all of my ideas on to!

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Cam

IMG_0366 Some of my family live overseas and there are times when I am away with work.  What better way to share the first months of our baby’s life with family then a webcam monitoring the cot?  I chose the Y-Cam Black, an awesome IP camera (also supports WiFi) and InfraRed for night-time activity.  I’ve fixed it to the wall with a cable connection to the network.  All you need to do is forward a port on your home router and the Y-Cam does the rest.  Password protected of course.

 

 

D-LAN

IMG_0367 We just upgraded to Virgin 10MB broadband, so rather than lose more than half of it over at best poor WiFi, I decided to invest in Netgear’s 85MB PowerLine D-LAN solution.  These handy little boxes plug into the mains and give you a decent wired network connection anywhere in the house.  They also work across different ring mains and I have even got one in the garage for a future project.

 

 

 

 

Home Office

The home office was my little project, and I put some time into it as I’m now going to be spending a considerable amount of time each day sat in there. I repainted all of the walls and made a nice feature wall using Dulux Intense Truffle Feature Wall paint.  I fitted a new Ikea light and lots of Ikea Billy storage.  We got given a very nice futon which you can see in the photo – currently in use to get some sleep in-between the baby waking up!

As mentioned before I have an awesome whiteboard wall and some subtle touches to give it a slick feel (e.g. the fancy low-profile black light switch).

IMG_0369

All-in-all we’re very pleased with our new place, and grateful to everyone who helped us get it ready in time!

New House, New Baby and a Geek’s Home Office

[tweetmeme source=”shuggill” only_single=false]

Three months ago we found out that we were expecting a baby; four months ago we bought our first house.  Take a peak at what we’ve been up to…

P1040735

The Stats

In three months we:

  • Moved house (with the help of some great friends, until mid-night!)
  • Painted over 200sqm of walls and ceilings
  • Fixed 15m of new skirting boards
  • Replaced 5 light fittings
  • Had 26sqm of new carpet laid
  • Fitted 25sqm of laminate flooring
  • Had a new en-suite bathroom installed
  • Filled a hole in an outside wall (one of my favourite jobs)
  • Removed a kitchen unit to install our dishwasher and did the plumbing (also fun)
  • Made 10+ trips to Ikea (lots of meatballs enjoyed there)

The Geek’s Touch

I had to add my own touch to the house, so here are the highlights:

Idea PaintIMG_0368

I wanted a big whiteboard in my home office to be creative on, but then I thought, why limit it to a board, why not use an entire wall?  The folks over at IdeaPaint made this possible.  I now have a 4sqm whiteboard to dump all of my ideas on to!

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Cam

IMG_0366 Some of my family live overseas and there are times when I am away with work.  What better way to share the first months of our baby’s life with family then a webcam monitoring the cot?  I chose the Y-Cam Black, an awesome IP camera (also supports WiFi) and InfraRed for night-time activity.  I’ve fixed it to the wall with a cable connection to the network.  All you need to do is forward a port on your home router and the Y-Cam does the rest.  Password protected of course.

 

 

D-LAN

IMG_0367 We just upgraded to Virgin 10MB broadband, so rather than lose more than half of it over at best poor WiFi, I decided to invest in Netgear’s 85MB PowerLine D-LAN solution.  These handy little boxes plug into the mains and give you a decent wired network connection anywhere in the house.  They also work across different ring mains and I have even got one in the garage for a future project.

 

 

 

 

Home Office

The home office was my little project, and I put some time into it as I’m now going to be spending a considerable amount of time each day sat in there. I repainted all of the walls and made a nice feature wall using Dulux Intense Truffle Feature Wall paint.  I fitted a new Ikea light and lots of Ikea Billy storage.  We got given a very nice futon which you can see in the photo – currently in use to get some sleep in-between the baby waking up!

As mentioned before I have an awesome whiteboard wall and some subtle touches to give it a slick feel (e.g. the fancy low-profile black light switch).

IMG_0369

All-in-all we’re very pleased with our new place, and grateful to everyone who helped us get it ready in time!

5 reflections after 12 days of being a Dad

[tweetmeme source=”shuggill” only_single=false]

1. Learning how to do many tasks with only one hand available

Making a cup of tea, filling a bowl with warm water, making and buttering toast, typing on a keyboard (I’m writing this on the sofa with one hand whilst the other is pacifying my son in the hope of sending him off to sleep), unfolding a nappy, doing the gardening, building an extension (obviously some things I’m still learning how to do).

2. Being productive during unsociable hours

When you’re awake between 12am and 7am it seems like a waste just to sit there in a comatose state and keep saying how tired you are.  Find something to do which is beneficial in some way and can be done with one hand (as above) and can easily be moved around the house as required.  One night we spent an hour together writing a list of baby equipment that we still needed – I recorded it all on my iPhone.  I always keep my Amazon Kindle handy and it is light enough to hold in one hand and I can choose between books depending on my mood.

3. Your face is replaced by that of your child

Perhaps this is a desperate attempt to remind yourself of why its worth being so tired/broke/lacking time, or a conversation starter to help explain why you missed the last 5 minutes of the conversation, but pretty quickly your face on all digital mediums is replaced by that of your child’s. The background wallpaper on your phone is a photo of your baby (probably asleep, to give you hope that if it happened once it can happen again); your desktop wallpaper becomes a whopping great photo of your child doing something fun, so that when co-workers come over you can accidentally minimise all windows to show them; your Facebook and Twitter avatars are photos of your child, probably being held by you so long lost friends don’t think you’ve just come out of cryostasis.

4. Sleep becomes the new gold in your personal trading account and you get it whenever and wherever you can

Firstly, 6 hours of sleep becomes a great night, and can give you a psychological boost for the entire day (you forget about the cumulative effect of a lack of sleep from previous nights).  You then take any opportunity you can to sleep.  I don’t during the day, as I have things that I want to get done.  But by the time 8pm arrives we’ll try and squeeze in 2-3 hours of sleep before the rest of the nights begins.  Finally, you no longer feel socially awkward at nodding off at a friend’s house. Last week we went out and I grabbed two hours sleep on their spare bed.

5. You derive great enjoyment from seemingly small and unimportant moments

What you previously would have considered a bit gushing and immature, you now cherish and recount whenever possible.  The other day we were winding our son after a feed, which usually involves sitting him on one of our knees, one hand holding his chest and the other gently tapping his back. After looking at each other for no more than 1 minute in conversation, we looked down to see that he had fallen fast asleep. Perhaps it is the effect of tiredness (a bit like being drunk) which gives rise to great amusement from small things, or, as I like to think, they are magical moments of life happening before you – simple yet beautiful.

That’ll do for now – time to make a cup of tea, update my Facebook photo and get some sleep!

Web Development Toolsets – PHP vs. .NET IDEs

I’ve been writing code for the web for 10 years now, and in a (full-time) professional capacity for almost three and a half.  I’ve worked extensively on the Linux Apache MySQL and PHP (LAMP) stack as well as in Microsoft’s ASP.NET.  This post is a helpful summary of my experiences developing in both worlds, and what you need to focus on your job.

Important information on operating systems: I carry out all of my development on Windows, so you’ll not find any suggestions or reviews of software for Macs or Linux here.  If you’re one of these people, why not write up your own review?

Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

Let’s be honest, we all started out in Notepad, writing angle brackets in long hand and making extensive use of Ctrl+C.  However once we graduated from the single scripted site, managing multiple files and object oriented links between them soon left us lost in a sea of notepad.exe windows.  To curb this problem, and many others, software vendors developed IDEs, to incorporate a number of development tools into one application.

My favourite PHP IDE – Netbeans

If you write any amount of PHP code then you’ll want to get comfortable in one of the many PHP IDEs out there.  In the last two years I’ve spent many hours bashing keys in Netbeans IDE.  Whilst this application is written in Java (which undoubtedly makes it dog slow at times), Netbeans have dramatically improved the performance in the last few releases to the point where most features are finally usable!

Debugging

Remote team debugging does require screwing around with XDebug and Komodo Python Debug Proxy, which I did manage to get working on a Linux development VM.   However it has proved to be a little temperamental, requiring frequent restarts.

Source Control

Netbeans includes integration for SVN Source Control and this works pretty seamlessly – you can commit and revert from within the application, as well as see which files are under source control and their status.

Code Navigation

With the right hints in your code, you can jump between classes with Ctrl+Click pretty quickly.

Summary

I have toyed with other IDEs, notably phpDesigner, however Netbeans has been my favourite (free) IDE, and has served me very well.

My favourite .NET IDE – Visual Studio 2010

Much has been written about Visual Studio 2010, so I’m hesitant to try and add to the endless blog posts detailing every feature of this application.  All I will say is that it is an incredible piece of software.  It runs like grease lightening, it has a database explorer, browser and designer built in, as well as an extension model for a variety of useful add-ons.

Debugging

Even since my days of programming in Visual Basic 6, step-by-step debugging has been the most productive way to debug, rather than the old “Made it to here” debugging output.  You can attach to remote servers, or simply fire up the built in development web server to step through your code, with watch windows and full stack traces to hand.  This debugging experience is head and shoulders above that of Netbeans.

Source Control

Whilst you can get some source control add-ins for Visual Studio, my impression is that use of the Team Foundation Server is quite heavily pushed.  I have yet to find a good HG (Mercurial) add-in, so I hack away on the command line to feel like a real programmer.  On this item, Netbeans is my winner.

Code Navigation

When combined with IntelliSense, it beats Netbeans hands down, purely due to the speed and variety of options.  You get hinting at method parameters, namespaces to include as well as class properties, methods and events.

Summary

No serious .NET developer would use anything else, and as Microsoft make their express editions freely available, there’s really no excuse not to be using Visual Studio if you’re writing .NET code.

The Final Word

My overall development experience is much slicker in Visual Studio 2010; it feels like the right tool for the job, and it is so quick that I never feel like it gets in the way.  Netbeans is more of a necessary evil for development, and it often feels like I’m having to kill time whilst waiting for things to happen, or have those moments of keystroke regret when you see the “scanning for indexes” message in the status bar.  But compared to Notepad, it is so many steps ahead that I’ll just have to keep putting up with the performance issues.

Web Development Toolsets – PHP vs. .NET IDEs

[tweetmeme source=”shuggill” only_single=false]

I’ve been writing code for the web for 10 years now, and in a (full-time) professional capacity for almost three and a half.  I’ve worked extensively on the Linux Apache MySQL and PHP (LAMP) stack as well as in Microsoft’s ASP.NET.  This post is a helpful summary of my experiences developing in both worlds, and what you need to focus on your job.

Important information on operating systems: I carry out all of my development on Windows, so you’ll not find any suggestions or reviews of software for Macs or Linux here.  If you’re one of these people, why not write up your own review?

Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

Let’s be honest, we all started out in Notepad, writing angle brackets in long hand and making extensive use of Ctrl+C.  However once we graduated from the single scripted site, managing multiple files and object oriented links between them soon left us lost in a sea of notepad.exe windows.  To curb this problem, and many others, software vendors developed IDEs, to incorporate a number of development tools into one application.

My favourite PHP IDE – Netbeans

If you write any amount of PHP code then you’ll want to get comfortable in one of the many PHP IDEs out there.  In the last two years I’ve spent many hours bashing keys in Netbeans IDE.  Whilst this application is written in Java (which undoubtedly makes it dog slow at times), Netbeans have dramatically improved the performance in the last few releases to the point where most features are finally usable!

Debugging

Remote team debugging does require screwing around with XDebug and Komodo Python Debug Proxy, which I did manage to get working on a Linux development VM.   However it has proved to be a little temperamental, requiring frequent restarts.

Source Control

Netbeans includes integration for SVN Source Control and this works pretty seamlessly – you can commit and revert from within the application, as well as see which files are under source control and their status.

Code Navigation

With the right hints in your code, you can jump between classes with Ctrl+Click pretty quickly.

Summary

I have toyed with other IDEs, notably phpDesigner, however Netbeans has been my favourite (free) IDE, and has served me very well.

My favourite .NET IDE – Visual Studio 2010

Much has been written about Visual Studio 2010, so I’m hesitant to try and add to the endless blog posts detailing every feature of this application.  All I will say is that it is an incredible piece of software.  It runs like grease lightening, it has a database explorer, browser and designer built in, as well as an extension model for a variety of useful add-ons.

Debugging

Even since my days of programming in Visual Basic 6, step-by-step debugging has been the most productive way to debug, rather than the old “Made it to here” debugging output.  You can attach to remote servers, or simply fire up the built in development web server to step through your code, with watch windows and full stack traces to hand.  This debugging experience is head and shoulders above that of Netbeans.

Source Control

Whilst you can get some source control add-ins for Visual Studio, my impression is that use of the Team Foundation Server is quite heavily pushed.  I have yet to find a good HG (Mercurial) add-in, so I hack away on the command line to feel like a real programmer.  On this item, Netbeans is my winner.

Code Navigation

When combined with IntelliSense, it beats Netbeans hands down, purely due to the speed and variety of options.  You get hinting at method parameters, namespaces to include as well as class properties, methods and events.

Summary

No serious .NET developer would use anything else, and as Microsoft make their express editions freely available, there’s really no excuse not to be using Visual Studio if you’re writing .NET code.

The Final Word

My overall development experience is much slicker in Visual Studio 2010; it feels like the right tool for the job, and it is so quick that I never feel like it gets in the way.  Netbeans is more of a necessary evil for development, and it often feels like I’m having to kill time whilst waiting for things to happen, or have those moments of keystroke regret when you see the “scanning for indexes” message in the status bar.  But compared to Notepad, it is so many steps ahead that I’ll just have to keep putting up with the performance issues.

Internet Explorer 9 Beta 1 Review Roundup

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IE9 was a trending topic on Twitter yesterday, and remains today.  Like most keen-to-early adopters, I couldn’t resist putting “work” to one side for a moment and hitting http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ to download the beta 1 release.

IE9 on the taskbar

Required Updates, already?

Yes, the first installation step reports that it is downloading and installing Required Updates.  First impressions count big, and handing out the message that this beta product already has a large number of required updates is surely a faux pas.

Come on Microsoft, get over the rebooting

To my extreme disappointment you have to reboot your machine after installation.  For many installs at this point I would defer the reboot, and promptly forget to check out the new program.  As Betrand Le Roy tweeted, “IE should try much harder not to be the ugly duck anymore.”.

Initial Observations

There are many blog posts out there detailing the new features of IE9, so I won’t repeat them here.  Check them out for yourself:

Installation REPLACES YOUR PREVIOUS IE install.  So be prepared.  I use Microsoft Expression Web SuperPreview for Windows Internet Explorer (they should have called it MEWSPFWIE) to do cross-browser testing.  However, since installing IE9 I’ve lost all browsers except IE6.  I asked the question over at the SuperPreview forums and I’ll update this post as and when I get a reply.

And while you’re reading, check out this interesting IE Blog post on the evolution of the blue e: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2010/09/16/internet-explorer-9-logo-visual-refresh.aspx.

A brief note on peerages, titles and other prefixed nomenclatures

A peerage is a collective of persons of the nobility assigned by the sovereign.  Peers are divided into five ranks (in order of importance):

  1. Duke
  2. Marquess
  3. Earl
  4. Viscount
  5. Baron

How do I gain a peerage?

As I understand it peerages are only gained by inheriting them or by being given one by the Sovereign.  I also understand it that peerages can only be given to judges or ministers.

How should I address a peer?

  • Duke – your grace
  • Marquess – the most honourable
  • Earl, Viscount, Baron – the right honourable

Any peer, with the exceptions of Dukes and Duchesses may also be referred to as Lord or Lady.

How does a peer get into the House of Lords?

Until 1999 all persons holding a title in the English peerage automatically entitled the holder to a seat in the House of Lords.  In 1999 the House of Lords act was passed which in removed the hereditary nature of entitlement to a seat in the House of Lords and moved to a system of election by preference for new appointments.  As I understand it the votes are made by the current members of the House of Lords.

What about honours?

These are assigned to various individuals for outstanding achievements or contributions as decided by the Sovereign on the New Years Honours list and the birthday honours list.

Further details:

http://www.parliament.org/

http://www.honours.gov.uk/