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16th June 2008

2:44pm: Child-free days
Experienced our first properly child-free day on Saturday. An odd experience, as we prepared handed over Louis to the care of his grandparents.

Spent the early part of the morning trying to pack for every eventuality. I was convinced I had forgotten something important. Check bottles, baby milk, nappies, clothes, nappy bags, etc. I keep having to remind myself that they have had over 32 years more experience at this than I do.

They trotted off early with the pram enjoying a sunny day out in East Lothian. We received some photo messages through the day reassuring us that he was happy and cared for.

So with the wee one safely packed off, and 8 hours of quality time, what did we do?

Some last minute shopping for Kate's birthday, as the intended present of a Wii Fit turned out to be nowhere to be found in the land. (didn't the short supply trick also work nicely to Nintendo's advantage when the Wii itself was first launched)

Kate caught up on her first aid course with the Red Cross. I popped in later to offer a helping hand, then later a helping wrist and elbow. Which were in turn cut, broken and scalded. Caught up with the people training at Red Cross which was really nice.

We have both lost touch with many people over the years, as they start to drift away from volunteering projects because of lifestyle changes - jobs, family etc. Easy to do as life becomes busier and time is at a premium. There are so many things to keep up to date with, and it could easily take a lot of time. So it seemed important when Kate got a chance to catch up with first aid qualifications. It gives us a chance to keep those contacts going.

Not so nice was the moment of doubt and slightly embarrassed silence, when at the end of the day I was asked: "so when did you last attend a course yourself?"

... oh, that would be ... um .... ah, *cough*, the same date that Kate did hers ....

I think I may need to pop along for the next course that comes up. Otherwise I might turn out to be a casualty of qualification apathy too.

4th May 2008

7:31pm: posting stuff elsewhere
I've been posting a few things in different places online, including typepad, and flickr. You can track a combined list at friendfeed/digitalsean

Flickr published photos on Flickr 21 hours ago

Louis and Katie

Twitter “Louis nearly lost both parents in J&R, while looking at small laptops. OQO, Asus eee-PC, HTC shift and a little HP too.” Wednesday at 3:01 pm
update: also looking at some interesting presentation devices which I've bookmarked on delicious/digitalsean

Flickr published 47 photos on Flickr

IMG_1706 IMG_1718 IMG_1721 IMG_1723 IMG_1717 IMG_1699 Kate on the Beach

TwitterTwitter “Driving across Florida like a mad astronaut. We even have nappies (for Louis)” Thursday at 7:48 pm

Twitter “joined rezed - a social networking space for SLED members and others interested in education using virtual worlds http://rezedhub.ning.org” April 29 at 3:53 pm
update: Barry corrected me - the official URL is http://www.rezed.org

Blogposted a blog post Filtering your facebook feeds on digitalsean@typepad Wednesday at 4:25 pm

Blogposted a blog post Going offline for travel with Window Mobile on digitalsean@typepad Tuesday at 10:29 pm

Twitter “having a unix tweaking morning - rss + flickr elgg, crontab; git to track moodle development and make it easier to merge our customisations”

Blogposted two blog posts on SUPA Sean Farrell : Weblog

Revamp of SUPA website April 28 at 3:36 pm

Widgitised Web April 28 at 3:22 pm

5:43pm: space centre visit
We took a trip out to the Kennedy Space Centre. Had one busy morning driving across the state like a wronged astronaut, we even had the nappies (for Louis).

Bit disappointed that the Shuttle launch STS-124 was pushed back from 24 April to sometime late in May. We even missed the roll out to the launch pad by a couple of days. But had a good day anyway with a bus tour round the site.

Walking around the real rocket garden showed how much work has been put in to the virtual space centre in Second Life. The replica of the rocket garden is really well done.

Spent the next day floating around playing with Louis in a mini-water park attached to our hotel.
4:37pm: second week on holiday
On holiday and having breakfast by the dock in Treasure Island, FL. I'm catching up with holiday photos and playing with Louis, while Kate catches up with her blog. On Monday we fly to New York and will be there for a week.

Training for the summer school programme has been going well, and covered a lot of material with the summer school teachers. We started creating new avatars and looking at appearance and clothing. Moved on to building and even some basic scripting. Final day yesterday we started to try animations and making a musical sculptures by uploading and scripting the sounds into piano keys.

Useful meeting in the afternoon where the second life trainers were brought together with some of the other people involved in the the summer school programme including Josephine and Dan along with people who work for the Patel Centre composing music and working with young people using music and digital media. It's a much more organic process than a conventional performance course, taking ideas from the young people in the course and sharing and building on them. It seems that everyone is enthusiastic to see how we can bring the different skills and techniques together in an interesting way, and having a series of multimodal performances in the real and virtual worlds.

25th April 2008

3:19pm: back in the digital media grove again
The first lot of pictures are up and online.Elmo in a book

We've also started a separate flickr account for the Kids Connect Tampa project.

Having fun in florida, even though because we are spending lots of time relaxing with Louis in flat, and catching up with things online. I have been starting to interact using digital media again. I know that I been ignoring lots of blogs, email lists and all sorts of things, but had some time to catch up again. Being forced to think about going offline has helped.

So with any luck I should get round to answering emails, posting more pictures, blogging and catching up with other people's blogs during this trip.

2nd March 2008

12:09am: blogging elsewhere about tech and education stuff
I've been playing with another blog for notes about software, mobile phones and educational technology. The personal stuff -- Louis, photos, friends etc will probably continue over here on LiveJournal.

Typepad have a really nice mobile blog client, and I had been tempted to try out their service.

digitalsean at typapad

In case this moves later, the new blog feed is on feedburner as http://feeds.feedburner.com/digitalsean

I'll get a composite RSS feed sorted out soon.

4th February 2008

2:35pm: drinks, pizza, games and birthdays
Feeling a bit tired after first week back at work. Need to figure out this working, taking care of baby and sleeping thing. I'm sure they are mutually exclusive and that only two out of three are possible.

Had a great weekend though. Kate and Louis popped in on drinks after work on Friday, and had a chance to meet all of my work colleagues.

Stu, Chenoa and Locke's offer of lunch got us out of the flat on Saturday. Had a nice time catching up and seeing Dylan and Malina. Later popped in to a few of the sessions at BarCamp, and caught up with Vicky and Ewan Spence during drinks afterwards. Playing a few interesting card games which Ewan had introduced everyone to in Teviot.

Went visiting on Sunday. It's my Dad's 60th this week, and we had a family meal along with my sisters father in law who shares the same birthday. The big thing though was introducing Louis to Marion, who has now been promoted from granny to great-grandmother.

Louis goes to University
Louis goes to university. He appears to be a proper student already, and slept all the way through his first lecture at the back of Appleton Tower Lecture Theatre 1.

19th January 2008

11:48pm: names and photos of our son
Kate and I have a new baby boy. Those of you following on twitter will already know that he was born 00:43 on Monday 14/1/07 weighing in at 4.1kg (9lb3). Sproglet and Kate are both well and came home on Wednesday night. Keeping on calling him Sproglet might look a bit odd on the school register, so we are naming him Louis Alexander Farrell.

We have found the camera, and today had some quiet time to get some photos uploaded:
Day 1Time to get dressedSproglet and Sean

Thanks for all the messages from everyone over the last few days, sorry that I have not replied to everyone directly.

12th January 2008

8:24pm: No news yet, but ....
It would seem that we have a few more hours to wait. Called in to the hospital, and they asked us to pop in. In for a checkup at the Simpson's maternity unit. Sproglet seems to be happy, but he might hold out for another 24-48 hours.

We're both keeping friends and family up to date using twitter. As our flatmate put it, twitter is acting like a mailing list for text messages for us. It is usefully feeding updates to web, facebook and as text messages.


If you don't want to know the result , look away now.

1st January 2008

1:50pm: new years day un-hangover
Happy 2008. I had thought the only way wake up feeling bad on new years day was either to work all night, or to spend the night drinking prodigious quantities of alcohol, in what has recently been termed "scotland's national sport". It appears not - apparently you can get one being responsible and not drinking, simply by staying up late, partying a little and singing too much :)

Feel the need to get out and enjoy the start of the new year and blow away the un-hangover. So vaguely thinking about going to one of the galleries to see some art. The national galleries are open between 12noon and 5pm today are open today in Edinburgh or if anyone feels like doing anything, now or later ...

If not hope you had a safe new year, had fun and didn't do anything you regret
1:49pm: Not long now
2^4-1 (+/- 14)

31st December 2007

10:38am: research for the new year
Been doing more reading and research than I've done in a while. Kate and I haven't really posted much about the impending event. Probably because it has been easier to take things one step at a time - get the practical stuff ready, and not worry about what happens next.

But eventually it comes time to do some reading and start to think about what happens next. My recent brush with doing reading around Nanophysics was not very successful - so here's hoping that bringing up kids will be an easier topic.

So You're Going to be a Dad, by Peter Downey, was a gentle introduction - friendly and comic view of impending daddy-hood to help over the denial and panic stage after the news.

Among the various leaflets from NHS was Ready Steady Baby, which I had been avoiding reading because of the large print and many bright coloured Q&A boxes. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a Ready Steady Baby website too.

Things are a lot closer now, and for some much more detailed advice I've had some rather heavier bed-time reading. The Baby Book, a gift from Barry, weighing in at 700 and odd pages has the appearance and layout of a university textbook. This is a complete approach. Reassuringly so, what with human bodies being complex things, and little ones seem to be doubly so.

22nd November 2007

12:18pm: geek stuff - git and version control
A few weeks ago Mathie mentioned git, a distributed version control system. It's working really nicely from the command line, and is lightweight and really fast.

There's a video of Linus Torvalds talking at Google about why distributed version control is a good thing.

This whole entry is a reminder that I need to fix my broken geek project log - so that I can write entries like the following and not annoy everyone reading it.

You can probably stop reading about now, unless you really want to know the rest.

<geek level="95%">

It allows version control to be added in to track an existing directory structure. In practice git adds just one directory .git, into the top level of a project. All the version tracking data is held in ordinary files within this directory, so no more version control directories scattered all over the project. It also means if you take a copy of the files in .git you have a copy of the whole repository.

I've been able to add version control tracking onto existing projects to track what is going on when other people are changing files by hand, also been able to quickly pull in tarball from external projects and put the files under version control in a really pain-free way.

<geek level="98%">

<div lang="TLH" xml:lang="TLH">
tar xvf whatever-v1.78.tar
cd whatever-v1.78
git init
git add *
git commit

The distributed aspects are nice. Just tried a remote clone operation via ssh - and pulled a copy of the entire repository for our main project from the server onto my laptop in 132 seconds. Not just the current files - the entire history of the files.

git clone ssh://user@host/home/someone/somedir/myproj

Not only that, the copy of the laptop is a complete repository in itself without reference back to the server it can handle commits, branching and merging. Even cloning onto another computer independently.

Commited a couple of changes into my local copy and pulled the changes back and merged then with the copy on the server. It took a few seconds to transfer the changes over, and a quick git checkout to see the changes on the server.



Radio Times style-waiver: Other distributed version control systems are available

Mercurial looks nice too. Ironically one of the dependencies for git is ASCIIdoc, which is being developed using Mercurial. Of course I am sure that the other external libraries, like most other software development projects, are still going to be managed by CVS or Subversion ... so it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, if Git is good enough for Linus to manage the entire Linux kernel and all the branches and patches,... then it's more that good enough to track a couple of thousand files on our project.


21st November 2007

10:44pm: The 3 Shauns
3 Shauns
10:12pm: Surfing at Dunbar
So where would be best to learn to surf - somewhere warm and sunny? Or East Lothian on a cold november morning. Surfing at Dunbar
8:51pm: Gmail and Spam
Managed to grab a screenshot as my gmail spam folder ticked over to 9999 spam emails in the last 30 days. A few minutes later it was up to 10006. But of course that doesn't look nearly as good.
Gmail has caught a lot of spam this month


3rd September 2007

1:11pm: Quechup and FOAF : taking control of the sharing contact details
Edit: this was the last blog post I had written in a while, it was written on 3 September 2007:

This was the day when Gordon brown had been in post for about a month, and we were still wondering about a snap autumn election. Acording to The Scotsman, the Jamacan opposition won the election, and Sighthill drew Angus in a preliminary tie of the 2008 Scottish Inter-County Top Ten bowls championship.

Wikinews tells me that on the same day that Iraqi peace talks between between Sunnis and Iraqi Shi'ites in Finland ended, and a yorkshire man completed his quest to sleep on 163 Scottish Islands

Oh ... and Sproglet was about 19cm, and Kate had a much smaller bump.

Instead of worrying about the large or small events in the world, it was also the day that I had a lot of Quetchup spam, and wrote a random rant about websites which ask for people's email address and password.

... and then I forgot to post it.

There seem to be quite a few spam emails, and emails discussing a social website called Quechup. The only problem is that they didn't mean to send these invitations. There may also be a question of what the website do with any third party contact information in the long term. There seems to be a problem with trust, addressbooks and social websites.

What are you expected to do when facebook or quetchup offer to provide an easy way of finding all your friends from your address book. They provide a nice looking interface and all you have to do is hand over your email password. We all know that this is wrong,giving your password to third party it is much easier for users than other methods.

Facebook seems to be doing it properly, not spamming your friends unless you tick the box asking them to, whereas Quetchup has sent email without permission to people's entire list of contacts including mailing lists. And I note that facebook makes the password based option the first choice and hides the 'import a file' option under 'other email clients'.

I guess we all need to think about whether we trust a service, particularly when giving them contact details of friends and business contacts. Should we do this at all?

It is more of an effort to export a CSV file of contact details, and more effort again to clean it out and then upload it to a site. But perhaps this is a more sensible way to go keeping control of what you give to such sites. Perhaps even the proper way of doing it is to have existing social websites allow you to export a friends file (in FOAF format), and allow you to import it again. Issue still is that the obvious key identifier is an email address, and sharing an email address allows unscrupulous websites to email other people without your permission.

Fortunately the blogging world is good at picking this sort of thing up, and a google search for quetchup is full of blog entries like this one at the moment.
12:02pm: keeping up with my own sites - rss readers
The sites that I am working with are not providing any news feeds at the moment. Oops. This is a problem which I have meant to look at for a while, and after my news feed post this morning I really should do something about this. Without useful feeds, his actually means that I am not keeping efficient track of all of the news and course activities that we are maintaining at work.

I would really like to fix this as soon as possible, especially the public facing news page. We cannot expect people to visit the news page regularly just on the off-chance that something new has happened. I think it is essential to allow people visiting a site to subscribe to information in a flexible way. Tony Hirst from the Open University has some useful thoughts on over at OUseful Info on how education institutions can create opportunities for users to access material in interesting ways using RSS. (including a longer piece entitled 'we ignore RSS at our peril')

For the main site, the next step is to set up a quick screen scraper to grab the current news page, and then to look at how to make this more manageable for the main site.

For the VLE, I need to figure out how to get mooodle to give out private feeds of course activity, forum posts and calendar events in a useful way. It does not do this well at all at the moment. There is a technical and social issue to consider whether to and how to provide semi-private feeds for closed courses, and forums. I note with interest that there is a student project for moodle looking at this in the google summer of code which should be completed in the next few days. I look forward to seeing how far the project has gone.
10:55am: keeping up with all the noise - rss readers and video
Again this week I was surprised to find a couple of technically literate people who spend a lot of time working and away from work using computers who were not using news feed aggregators (commonly known as feed-readers). For me, the RSS feed is an essential way to keep in touch with a growing information space in which I am able to keep track of the things that a lot of different people and a lot of websites are publishing. The common craft show have a really nice video explaining rss in plain english

Through one of my news feeds I see that the news feed aggregator bloglines is getting a little bit of a ajax makeover which you can see on the beta site. Nothing too radical, just making use of the start page in a nicer way, and making things a bit faster. I like bloglines because of the integration with both a mobile friendly site, and also the fact that the offer an API which allows integration with third party clients like egress for pocketpc. Really nice only having to read the same news once no matter how I read it. Also while travelling it was really nice to be able to load up all my feeds onto my phone, and work my way though all my news offline.

Kate still makes a lot of use of netvibes and the tabbed interface, and ability to browse over a lot of feeds is looking quite tempting, especially with their newly released mobile friendly version.

By making sure that your site provides news feeds for articles, comments and all kinds of other activities you will allow people to subscribe and track things in a flexible way. They can get the information on their own terms, and you get an opportunity to feed things out to them and draw them back into the site again when there is something relevant and new.

<!-- #include RSS tutorial post -->

There are a lot of different tools out there to help you manage news feeds, and they allow you to track things on your own terms - on the web they include : bloglines, google reader, netvibes.

On the desktop newsgator has a major presence with products for Windows, Mac, and standalong and outlook integrated feedreaders. Open source side : RSS Bandit looks interesting (includes NNTP reading, synchronisation across different machines), and for the mac Vienna might be worth a look. There's also RSSowl which is cross-platform.

Of course the list on wikipedia entry on news aggregators is a lot more comprehensive.

2nd September 2007

10:54am: 2^7-1

26th August 2007

12:21pm: future of internet
Subtitled: I want my IPV6.

Continuing the talk Vint Cerf reminded TV people about the need for action around the upcoming problem of the limits of existing IP protocols, that by 2011 the last block of IP addresses will be allocated by IANA.

IPv6 looks a nice solution - although it is being rolled out in a top down fashion only very large blocks of addresses are being allocated for large ISPs and very large companies. Inovation in the internet has often happened in a bottom up way, so we also need to consider ways for individuals and small organisations to link into this innovation so that the change has pressure from t grass roots ends of the internet community.
12:01pm: talk by vint cerf at tv fest
Cost of storing bits going down. 1T (1 thousand million bytes) down to 400UKP, have appearance of high bandwidth to home eg. 1Gbit access in JJApan - faster than realtime video download. Also see some interesting user stats http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

Vint Cerf suggests multiple streams of video, text and audio - but with user choice and a smart interface.

I wonder how smart MHEG will be, and how easy it will be for the user to customise the behavior. Consider inflexibility of DVD menus and existing interactive TVs. A question at yesterday's TV unfestival was 'are there hooks and triggers which users and third party software can use to interact with interactive TV in the future?' using blended TV and internet set-top boxes and also personal computers, consoles and other devices.

25th August 2007

2:27pm: licencing stuff for reuse
Jordon Hatcher, an American lawyer based in Edinburgh was talking about creative commons and licensing. He has been involved in the drafting of a Scottish version of the creative commons licences.

He ran through his into quickly and we moved on to a discussion of the uses the licence are being put to, cultural archives, educational institutions and universities. Usual discussions of how academic publishers continue in the face of pre-publishing and open publishing models.

A side comment made in a later session about videos was that Jonathan from planetscicast has had to ask many students to remove commercial audio tracks from the end products. Many students are really enthusiastic about their video productions and make use of the music that they listen to and share to back this.

Although I agree that we should be teaching students about intellectual property and what they can and can't use at the moment. I wonder if there anything that we can do to make life easier for students to be able to legally dub music tracks over their work.

Students have such an enthusiasm. Their work encourages them and others to be involved in film making, and in this can in science. The work is educational and by no means commercial. I'm sure we point them at a choice of music with open licences, but perhaps we could also find a way to quickly apply for permission to use such media. Perhaps an online service click to licence from the rights holder. Perhaps this is even a space which collection agencies can help with eg. Performing Righs Societies in UK.

Just a thought.
1:46pm: science videos
Interesting talk by Jonathan
who is rebuilding the planet science area to introduce student-made videos.

Taking a bunch of video cameras out into schools and letting them loose to make a 2-3minute film about a science experiment. It's available on planet scicast. The hosting website is a bit limited at the moment, but the project sounds great from a student point of view.

Students agree to a creative commons licence, and an archive of high quality copies of the original films are being maintained.

Project funded by NESTA, IoP and someone else. The IoP are using this to pick up where Paperclip Physics left off.

5th August 2007

3:29pm: mysterious flashes seen in the sky
The flash in the sky was probably an Iridium Satellite flare after all - acording to the astronomy site Heavens Above,there was one expected at 05:38 GMT, about 10 minutes before sunrise on that morning.

It's a really nice site, just set up an account and give it details of your location and it will provide predictions about a huge variety of events in the sky both day and night.
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