The Twelve Developers of Christmas: Jamie Paton, Lord Leaping
by Isabelle Groc

Isabelle Groc, December 21, 2012

This month, we celebrate twelve Stackato ActiveState developers who share thoughts about the product, little known facts about them, and what they want for Christmas.

Jamie Paton, DevOps, was born in Crawley, near London, and flew across the pond to join ActiveState two years ago, with a degree in computer science from the University of Portsmouth. He must feel right at home at ActiveState, located on the top floor of the United Kingdom building in downtown Vancouver. Maybe that’s why he stays late at night, working on the release builds for Stackato, maintenance, distribution, and packaging. Jamie works on everything Stackato-related, automated tests as well as Stackato’s core dev, adding new features and components.

A committed practitioner of Kung Fu, Jamie is our Lord Leaping on the Tenth Day of Christmas.

How did you become a developer?

It started with Lego, and since then I have always been hacking and breaking things. My first respectable job was doing freelance web design and development to pay the bills while I was a student at the university.

Your favourite programming language(s)?

Right now, JavaScript and Node.js. It is pretty good for low-level networking aspects. I go back to my first love, Python, for automating things that are more sysadmin based or related to tedious operational tasks.

Who else in the industry impresses you?

I'm getting more interested in network security lately, especially with the challenges a distributed platform like Stackato brings to the table. So I've started reading Bruce Schneier's blog. Most of his analysis is quite interesting without throwing a sense of constant paranoia into the wind. Generally anyone who works in the information security business impresses me as it requires a deep understanding of computer science and how computer systems are built at a low level, including a lot of patience and a meticulous eye for spotting obscure behaviour and patterns.

I also admire Linus Torvalds for his genius and candid no BS approach to building and managing software, and when dealing with other programmers.

What do people don’t know about you?

I studied numerous martial arts growing up as a child, studying the Japanese arts such as Judo and Shotokan Karate. But it wasn't until I went to a Wing Chun class in my late teens that suddenly the style felt much more applicable in street defence, and how the Wing Chun system was designed for close quarters combat that is energy-efficient and can produce devastating effects.

Studying in Canada with my Sifu ( instructor) who has been taught by Yip Man, the Grand Master and founder of Wing Chun, has been eye-opening into the more authentic internal style and proper foundations rather than just practicing rehearsed techniques. It's a fantastic privilege.

Perhaps more striking is how I learnt to become fully relaxed in a fighting situation, and in particular, applied this to my everyday life, including my work. Wing Chun requires you to not actively engage your muscles when fighting, and instead relies on correct positioning, structure and balance, to generate force.

Learning to remain relaxed in stressful situations leaves your concentration and focus intact, so you can tackle the issue at hand without become overwhelmed. A large part of the Wing Chun foundation is controlling the mind as well as the body. You must be able to fully control yourself, before controlling others. My Sifu always says "Use your little idea, not your big idea. You always go back to the big idea." It's actually more profound that you might think!

It can be quite difficult to achieve full relaxation and apply it to other areas of stressful modern life, but Wing Chun has really helped me, as I used to have anxiety attacks at the worst of times. So if I seem too relaxed when I should be panicking, don't worry too much about it, it took years of training :)

What do you do when you are not developing?

I've been playing with the Arduino board. It's basically a modular prototype SoC (system on chip) board. It allows you create your own electronic gadgets or robots (mostly) without the need for soldering or advanced electronics skills. So for weekend DIY projects, it's actually a pretty cheap hobby to produce something useful that will keep you occupied for at least half a day. I buy most my gear from SparkFun, they have loads of Arduino parts and shields. They have a pretty cool blog too.

Right now, I'm hacking on my Raspberry Pi which is a bit more of an elaborate single board computer, with an ARM11 CPU, integrated GPU, SD Flash storage, Ethernet network, USB and HDMI display outputs, which for about $35 is pretty awesome. I'm trying this project out when my spare time permits. It is a combination of four of my current joys of Christmas: node.js, cold temperatures, arduino, and raspberry pi <3!

The Adafruit distro website has some really great DIY project ideas too if you're looking for inspiration.

What do you listen to while you’re working?

I listen to various “chillstep” mixes such as Chillstep Selection #5. It is a nice upbeat mix that never fails to get me in the "focus zone". Chillstep is the cross between chillout/lounge/jazz music and dubstep. I was dubious at first, but it actually works really well. There should be enough in that aural spectrum for everyone!

Best book you’ve read this year?

I have read 1984 by George Orwell for the first time, and I think it is even more relevant today than it was back then.

What do you want for Christmas?

Not to get stuck in an airport when I am travelling back to England over Christmas!

Fighting action photo by Angela Lau

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Isabelle joined ActiveState as a Technical Editor after several years as a freelance journalist, editor, and photographer, and has contributed to a variety of media outlets including PC Magazine, Canadian Geographic, Discover, Canadian Wildlife, Georgia Straight, and Scientific American.