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Showing posts from 2009

IET Mars Rover Lecture

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On Wednesday me and my faithful sidekick Adam went to the IET Annual Prestige Lecture. To cut a long story short I have prepared the evening in the form of a flow chart. I think it more clearly sums up the evening......


After looking into the facts I realised this night was possibly less about the IET Mars Rover lecture and more about going to the pub. However, I couldn't be sure on this fact and would have to analyse the evidence further by a second trip into town to see the IET Mars Rover Lecture. As the lecture is an annual event I shall perhaps put it on the back burner.

Ah the lecture. Held at the Royal theatre (the well known bastion for the Notts intelligentsia), there was a fairly dissapointing turnout really.The hall was only about 1/2 full and 3/4 of that 1/2 were old boys in smoking jackets. I didn't let that bother me particularly, nor the fact that I had forgotten my glasses and that me and Adam were sharing his when important slides came up (a ridiculous accomodati…

The Windows 7 Experience Up to Now

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Ah well, I have been running Windows 7 now for a good couple of weeks so thought it may be prudent to breifly share my experiences.

Is it that different to Vista? In terms of how it looks, it is definitely an evolution rather than a revolution. The general look is more or less the same really as are many of the functions such as being able to hit the start key and then filter for the app / file that you want ect.. The control panel is more or less the same as well.

The big obvious difference is the task bar, the programs have now been grouped together underneath icons which can hold several instances of a program (for example a load of Excel workbooks under the Excel logo or a load of IE windows under the IE logo).


I think I really like this feature. I say I think becuase just recently it has been annoying me a little bit. It definitely means you can have lots of different programs open without the desktop and taskbar feeling to crowded, the only thing is it turns some jobs into 2 clicks…

Busy boy!

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By the gods themselves I have been a busy boy lately!

The teaching has been going well. I have been teaching A2 Computer Science at a nearby 6th form college now for coming up to 3 weeks. It has been quite tough in that I have had to relearn things I thought I would never have to know again and some of the things covered in it I don't think I ever did cover.

Up till now I have just covered abstraction, interfaces and Algorithms and how to measure them (Big O Notation and things like that). I was quite nervous about teaching some of the content as I am not very confident with my maths. However the kids on the course are very switched on which takes the heat off me a little bit. The official book for the course is this. In general I wouldn't recommend the book. It over complicates things and uses fairly poor examples. It also has some of the nastiest psuedo code I have seen. They should have just gone for machine code it would have been more readable!

Apart from the teaching I have…

Home Automation

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I would love to get into some real good home automation. I think the technology is there (or at least almost there) to make some really cool things now.

It would be great if there were microphones set throughout the house so you could just say "computer.. do this" or "computer.. dim lights.. set dinner party mood" or "computer activate house alarm for downstairs" when you go to bed. Windows Vista has some good voice recognition that is heavily underused. I have got some good results after giving it rigourous training. Of course it still occasionaly does some blunders but it is getting there. Like wise no use is made of the speech API really either. I think with these 2 combined you could do some very interesting things.

One place is in the kitchen. There are already usages of LCD television screens in kitchens ect.. but really these should be computers with voice recognition ect.. so that you can say to it, "Recipe for Lamb Rogan Josh Curry" for …

Posture

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I have decided to give a posture correcting strap a go for my back. As some will probably know I fell off a cliff 2 years ago and had some extremely serious injuries and obviously I am still recovering from them. The biggest thing that gives me grief everyday is a back neck and back. It doesn’t help that I am sat at a computer almost all the time. Anyway I saw this in the back of a computer magazine and thought I’d give it a try. It’s not something I would normally do but when you back is on fire you will try anything! Here is the website and below is the product. I will left you know how I get on with it when it arrives!

Velosos 5Qs

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We covered an interesting thing today on the Emarketing course. The general feel today was an introduction into writing persuasive content and how you engage the customer / reader on your website (although the same ideas apply off the web as well).

The main idea to get a customer interested in your products and services is engage in an internal conversation in their heads. The idea is to give them content that they can identify with, makes them think about themselves and what they want and need and then suggests a solution to them (ie: your product / service).

There is a person called Veloso I after a bit of digging I assume it it this Maria Veloso. They have 5 big questions that were pushed as a great framework to write content. We call them the 5qs!


What's the problem? Identify the problem with the customer in the text, or explain a situation that helps them identify their own current problem.
For example, you currently don't have all the sports channels on television so can…

Results for HND

Got results for my HND through now. I did quite well so I am pleased now. I found most of the course fairly easy but the final year Software Development Project was a bit of a bitch. Obviously, as with any programmer, the easy bit is writing the software and the hard bit is the write up.

Got 93% (1st) for it anyway so I can now relax.......

Ah relax! What a joke. You know that will never happen. I am still doing the UCPD and also need to sort out the Masters application ( I have had an acceptance email but not the official letter yet).

Still working on the Emarketing course at the moment. The course is really good but I have been on them for quite a while and my only worry is that my work are getting a bit bored of my day release shenanigans. I am still yet to find the inspiration to help my company though. I think much of the course is based around having traditional services or products to sell. It's often not that simple with Software though.

I have one more course to do after this…

Ubuntu Server or not

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Ah I really want to have a mess about with a LAMP set up as I have no experience of setting one up or of working with PHP. Not that I want to move into that realm properly as I love ASP.NET stuff too much I think (even though some peeps would say that the Drag and Drop stuff is evil).

I think a basic appreciation of the dark side would be really good as if I ever wanted to host my own stuff I could save a serious amount of money buy using PHP instead of ASP.NET.

I have a day off today but just don't know if I can bring myself to get busy setting one up. I have a spare computer that is just sitting there waiting to be used. Argh!!! but age of Conan is also so tempting.

Better go and get some coffee and decide. For the time being I am just reading up on some AI theory with Artificial Intelligence: A modern approach it really is a good textbook!

That said I think I am prepared to do anything that does not invoplve tidying up my messy house and doing some washing. The washing machine is c…

VBA Data Connection Problems

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Although I try and avoid the use of VBA now where I can. It can still come in really handy for the occasional app. I created a reporting tool that collects stats from various web pages that we have and then displays them in a way that is nice and client friendly. Apart from a couple of niggles it works really well. The biggest problem I find when programming Excel with VBA is that when something changes it can be a bit of a pain to make the changes in VBA to cope with it (such as a design change in the spreadsheet, moving of columns ect.. ). We are moving over to a new project management / development tool at the moment and as a result my report has had to change what data it collects and where from. Whilst making the change I realised that I had made a foolish error and was not properley cleaning up my data connections when finishing the update (not to mention a couple of other problems). I had been deleting the connections but not the named ranges when doing the tidy up. Anyway, in …

Paired Programming

Have a day off today and just having a quick sit at the pc. Have been doing paired programming at work. Something I have been reading about in Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck.

I think it has been working out really well. We took it in turns to write code with one doing the the tests and the other satisfying the tests. Whilst this is undoubtedly good practice I find it strange that it has to get a special mention in programming circles in a way. When I was doing CAD and estimating work we would always sit together, work out the costs, draw it up together and talk about what we were doing ect. I think that was one of the fundamental reasons why I learnt so much about construction in a small space of time.

I definitely think the paired programming gave me a better understanding of how to approach Test Driven Development. Up to now I have approached unit testing the other way round by writing my code and then writing unit tests to cover it. I think that is the main reason why my …

Course updates

Overview
If you know me then you will know I am a big fan of doing courses. I never stop! The latest in my summer of CPD is the Emarketing course from Axis Centre in Nottingham through De Montfort Uni. It forms part of the UCPD I have been studying towards over the summer. I have started it today and it is one day per week until the end of July.

On another note, I have been looking at what course I was going to do next year in September. I currently have a HND in Computing but have found it almost impossible to do the Top Up to the Bsc (Hons) in the evening. It's really annoying. The universities sometimes have no idea about the needs of people working in business. Anyway, the reason I wanted to do the top up was so I could finally get on to my long awaited Masters course in Artificial Intelligence. Just on the off chance after someone at work suggested it to me, I applied directly to do the Masters at DMU and sent along my CV ect.. I got an email back last Friday saying they felt I…

Professional Membership

I have just applied for professional membership from the BCS (British Computer Society). They are a professional body that looks over the UK IT industry. They have quite a few members (approx 65,000). Although there are other IT professional bodies (IAP and IMIS for example), I feel that the BCS represents IT a little better.
I have been a student member for some time and although I haven't really got the most out of it as of yet. I think the biggest problem with this sort of thing is that there are so many people in IT against it. It's a rather strange industry in that sense. Other industries have well established professional bodies and have chartered levels that people try to attain. For example accountants always strive to become chartered. I think perhaps some people in IT don't want to be regulated because they don't want their unprofessional conduct revealed.

People seem to automatically think of these organisations as out to get you or out to steal your money or…

So busy

Ugh finished one course but am still currently engaged in another course. It's called a UCPD (university certificate in professional development) through De Montfort Uni. The place where they do the training is called the Axis Centre in Beeston Nottingham. They offer quite a few different courses and if you do a certain amount of them it adds up to this UCPD.

The reason why I am doing this UCPD is that I have decided to make an effort to to some continuing professional development every summer. Not to mention it means I get one day off work per week for a while :-)

I did an MCP course there a couple of years ago and they are very professional and know thier stuff. One thing I find really annoying is the complete and utter lack of reasonable priced professional courses in the Nottinghamshire area that people can attend to develop thier skills in IT.

I am not talking about doing an A-Level or even at HNC/HND level, but short courses that are aimed at professionals trying to develop thi…

CabControl Project

I have just finished a project for the HND I have been studying for in the evenings through De Montfort Uni. The project was a year long module similar to a normal dissertation.

My project was based upon a mock Taxi Firm that required a management application to track Accounts, Taxis and their drivers. All in all the project went well. I started off with a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do for it but as time crept up on me I found that I had to cut out some of the functionality that I would have liked.

One piece of functionality I was able to keep in was the tutorials for the product which can be accessed through a browser form in the application (the app had to be Win Forms). The browser plugin looks to a page I created on Google Sites to accompany the project. To be honest neither the site or the vids are great but I did it more as an example of what can be done. Alternatively I could have embedded Windows Media players into forms to do a similar thing but with a browser it means…

New Books

I have a ridiculous amount of books about computers including hardware, software design, HCI and much more but have two books on the table at the moment which I feel are probably going to be some of the most important books I need to read to help in my career as a developer.

They are:
Domain Driven Design - Eric Evans

Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture - Martin Fowler

Obviously this is just my opinion at the moment. I thought it might be a good idea to blog about the books as I am reading them. Maybe it will help sink in what I am reading. So that is what I am going to do!

Wading through Jam

Ugh. It's a Friday afternoon and I have found myself wading through a serious amount of Jam. I have been working on an internal system of ours for some time (C# ASP.NET MVC). I have come across numerous problems with the latest development work I have been doing.

The problems I have come up against a numerous. For example I have 2 controllers that are related as they have the same ancestor class but they are slightly different. Now the easiest thing to have done is to have written 2 complete classes but the amount of duplication would be bad programming so I had to find out a way of getting round it. The way I have got round it is by creating a base controller class for them both and then using generics to get round the problem of the shared methods that were in the base controller.

As I almost finished the job I came to a realisation that on the view that I was developing, a user would could fill in information, then navigate away to add some data on another interelated view but wo…

Using Linq and generics with a Repository

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I have been creating a final year project piece for my part time study that I have called CabControl. Basically it is a piece of Taxi rank software. The design is made much easier as we only have to account for account work. I have tried to make the work I have done as close to commercially useable as possible however there are some obvious omissions and that is mainly because I have to do it in spare time in between a million other assignments and interests.

The course language is in VB.NET and the database we were advised to use was an Ms Access one. I could have done it like this and sure, it would have been easy but I really wanted to learn something out of this so I asked if I could use some more funky up to date technologies in mine and so have used C# .NET 3.5 and all that it includes.

One thing I really wanted use was the Linq to SQL classes. A lot of people have not taken to this in favour of NHibernate (including my work place) as the Linq to Sql has some questionable features…