Thursday, 31 March 2011

Underground House


I had this idea about an underground house. Not an original idea I am certain! However I had a small twist on it. It would be cool if the house were built off site!?

The plots of land then could be prepared at the same time as the houses themselves were created offsite. Once the ground work was completed the houses could be delivered to site in sections of 2 or 4 and then lowered into the plot. I suppose there would potentially be issues with hooking up the various mains but I am sure this could be worked around. the only thing you would have to get used to is having no real windows. However we could get round the light issue in two ways. You could have light holes that mean daylight is reflected into the house anyway and the other cheeky thing you could do is simulate windows with some sort of mirror trickery. I am sure it would make for a very warm cosy house.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sketch Designs - Modular Houses

Just a model I have been working on tonight.?


The Rustler


This was my first time ever eating a Rustler burger. My excuse? They were on offer at the local coop. The result? Not as bad as I expected. Will I have one again? I don't think so. I already have enough terrible vices without eating these monsters.


After listening to .Net Rocks with Scott Millett this week I felt a renewed enthusiasm for trying out some BDD. I downloaded Specflow and got straight on with the screen cast they have on their website. The video acts as a good introduction into how to get up and running in Specflow. Interestingly it also gave me a better insight into how bowling works. I have never really thought about it. I normally just wang the balls down the lane until the game is over!

Specflow introduces the idea of writing the specification first. It uses a specific language called Gherkin which comes from Ruby land. You will need NUnit installed as well. An example of it is: 

[edit: NUnit is what I have used up to now but Specflow is compatible with other testing frameworks aswell. See the comments section below.]

Feature: Passwords

In order to have a strong password
As a new user or existing user changing my password
I need to check if my password is alphanumeric and is greater than 6 characters

Scenario: Password only comprises of characters

Given I have entered "nottinghamforest" as my new password
When I press save
Then the system should reject the password
And say "The password must be alphanumeric and greater than 6 characters"

It's a fairly straight forward language. Although I really want to use it for a new mvc project I have in mind and I am not quite sure how to write out features and scenarios for things like "The user clicks on the drivers link and can then view a list of current drivers on the system...". I am currently cruising the Google Group for Specflow though and have spotted a couple of examples that might help me.  I have previously been doubtful of Specflow and this specification malarky before, favouring just writing unit tests in a certain way instead. For example WhenCreatingANewPassword.ThePasswordMustBeAlphaNumeric. However after messing about with this for 2 days I can really see where this might come in useful. 

I had a go at my own clean version of BDD using Specflow by making a very simple password strenght checker project. The winning thing about it? I wrote the spec on my netbook in notepad++ last night whilst watching Terminator 2. No coding was done. I then brought it into work this morning, put the feature file in. Added the steps file (which was very short because I reused them with regex helpers) and then implemented what I needed to do. I could really see the benefit if you had a client that had a domain expert that was also a bit of a power user. They could easily get into the rythm of writing / amending features for your project.

I have uploaded it to GitHub (which is also a first for me!). So you can check it out there.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Foot Cake

I went to visit my mum and had to take a picture of this cake she was making for someone. A friend of hers had asked for a cake for this wife. His wife is a?chiropodist?and so he thought it would be amusing to have a rotten foot cake. My mum wasn't over enthused about it especially as she quite likes the recipient. To make up for it she also made her a nice little cake to go along side it as well!


Cab Control

Received another call today from a company interested in my Cab Control Software. Basically it's taxi management . The software needs a re-write to get it from Windows Forms onto the web. I have great hopes for the software. It really just needs to time and ingenuity pouring into it. I have loads of ideas for it but just have so little time. 

It currently has this functionality which I'll need to get across: 
  1. Add drivers and Taxis and keep track of their contact details, addresses, licence details, CRB checks and eligibility to work in the UK.
  2. Basic account management functions, such as creating a customer account and putting the account on hold. 
  3. Add Bookings for drivers and customers
  4. Creating reports for customer accounts that could be exported as a CSV file for billing purposes. 
  5. Creating reports for drivers to know how many pickups the drivers had made.
  6. Query the bookings for enquiries and police check up reports.
  7. Provide management tools to check MOT and Service details on Taxis
But I am hoping to add at least these ideas to it as well:
  1. Improved booking facility so when making a booking the booking administrator can see which drivers are currently working and which are not currently on a call or are nearby for a pickup. 
  2. Ability for drivers to be booked in when they are signing on and off a shift.
  3. Customer facing interface so that companies and potentially individuals can sign up with a taxi firm, make bookings, change contact details and monitor the usage of their account with taxi firms. 
  4. Improved ability to query, monitor and report on Taxi condition and MOT/Service dates and expiry.
  5. Improved ability to query driver details and report on licence expiries and other details such as points on licence and subs paid owed to the firm.
  6. Ability for taxi firm to track and report on drivers and any that currently owe subs.


There are many other improvements that could be added in the future. These are just some initial ideas. Another area in the future that would be interesting to take Cab Control Online into would be to develop handheld software (either for Windows Phone 7 or Android)  so that both taxi drivers can keep track of their next booking and that customer accounts could book a taxi. 


Anyway, I have written a little proposal to my director and am hoping if we can decide that money can be made from it then I will be able to code it at work through Open Projects. I have some ideas on cost models as well but they are my business ;-)
Here was the original introduction to my Cab Control program....


There are quite a few videos about the programming behind it and how to use it that you can find by visiting the website.


Share the darkness.

I recorded Share the darkness by the Sawdoctors on my webcam Microphone. The quality is actually quite good considering. I then got a load of photos I had from parties at my mums house over the years and put them into Windows Movie maker to make a video for it. Most people haven't really changed on the pictures over the years except some of the kids. It's funny because some of the pictures go back to 2000 right up to last year. I think I have the same clothes on! Not surprising as I have had the same clothes since I was a teenager! They're tight as anything now!! I did this about 3 months ago actually but was reluctant to put it up as I don't like my singing voice. But since I am posting at an alarming rate since quitting twitter I thought I may as well.?


Total Recall Recut

Sung by Quatto.

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

Monday, 28 March 2011

Arduino Controlled Fan

Just downloaded this video from my camera. It was an example of using an LDR to provide a resistance value based on the amount of light it received. We then took that value and used it to set the speed of the motor on the fan.?


Obviously this is a really simple little project. It only took a couple of minutes to set up and test. Good fun though.

El Frog - Latest Photosyth

This is my latest photosynth. I love the pointcloud this creates.?Absolutely?wicked.?

Arduino Sunday MkII

I went to the Arduino day at Nottingham Hackspace on Sunday again. Generally it was more of the same although I probably got a little more out of it this time as there was less time spent being confused. It was a chance to give the netbook (Dell Netbook) a good run for its' money and it did pretty well. I am beginning to more and more annoyed with the ubuntu netbook remix however. Its' inability to use the built in 3g model is annoying, there a several weird bugs in it and it occasionally freaked out whilst just trying open a menu. On the plus side, the size of the laptop is such a boon it makes it all worth while. I wouldn't relish having to lug my other laptop (Dell Inspiron 6000) about.?

The day was good. I didn't see many new projects from the last time but some brilliant progress has been made on the hackspace itself, with some interesting chairs from a cinema, some good desk spaces and some other additions. One of the founders Dominic (indeed another Dom!), was looking for new members. I must say I am always tempted. The rule is that you pay however much you think you should pay but just don't take this piss. It's hard to know how much I would actually go down to the place though as my time is so so limited anyway. It's something I will continue to think about. Once my course is over for this semester I may consider it. I might even consider it just as a place to go and study in peace and quiet.?

Anyway, the pics from Sunday are worth checking out.....

Motorola MC65


We have a new PDA in town now. As a replacement for the army of MC9000 and MC70s that are in the field and are being discontinued, we now are moving up to the Motorola MC65. I have had the new handheld for about a week now and have been impressed so far. It's a great improvement over the MC70. I have no idea how the numbering system of the Symbol / Motorola devices works. I assume there must be several ranges such as the 50s 60s and 70s.?

Anyway the?PDA?has windows mobile 6.5.3, a better touch screen and is faster. Much faster. The skin that has been put on the OS has also applied to our software and I think it makes it look much cooler. We had several problems in adjusting our software so it would work with the new MC65. First was the change in resolution. The MC70 has a much lower resolution than the MC65s and as some of our screens were not using the auto scale settings in the form and some of the buttons on our forms were created at run time rather than design time, this posed a bit of a problem for us.?

Ultimately the main way to handle the form resolution changes is to ensure you forms are auto scaling?

Me.AutoScaleDimensions = New System.Drawing.SizeF(96.0!, 96.0!) Me.AutoScaleMode = System.Windows.Forms.AutoScaleMode.Dpi

I calculated the size of the controls that were being generated at run time by taking sizes off the controls that were automatically being sized correctly at design time.?

There were a couple of other problems as well, the speed at which the?PDA?goes was causing some problems when we were using a FileInfo object. When we do an over the air update of the software, there is a certain degree of file handling and the deletion of a file was being reached before the garbage collector came and got rid of the FileInfo object. Without a significant rework there wasn't a nice way to do it so we had to manually gc collect which was a bit of a stinker.?

Every morning our users carry out a download to get the latest stock movements to the?PDAs?for scanning. This is a fairly large chunk of information generally and can often take up to 7 minutes on the MC70. Not so on the MC65. It managed to do the exact same download in just over 1 minute. It made for very interesting viewing because we had always thought the transfer of data was the biggest killer, however it looks like just handling the large datasets that were being downloaded was a major contributer to the slow speed of the old?PDAs.?

The final problem is a real sneaky one. The test unit (in the picture) we had to develop on had an alpha numeric keypad. When you press either the Yellow or Blue function button on the Keypad, a small blue or yellow circle replaces the keyboard icon on the screen. For some reason this stops you from programatically showing the on screen keyboard, causing a crazy exception. When we tried the same thing on the numeric version the problem was not there. Luckily we are getting in the numeric versions and so decided to let some other poor soul worry about this.?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Online Javascript Beautifier

Listening to a .NET rock podcast with?Kent Alstad?has made me think about the evils of large Javascript files and performance related to this. I have never really thought about minifying Javascript but I suppose it makes sense! ?Obviously I have noted the JQuery librarys do this and looking at source on the Google home page shows the same.?

I found what seem like decent minifiers and beautifiers.

Think this is probably something I need to start considering!




I was walking home and came across this graffiti. The music changed to something spooky immediately after passing. That's when I realised this was no ordinary sign. I pity the soul that disregards it.

XML Literals in VB.NET

I noticed this video by Beth Massi on the video tutorials page. It's a great peek at xml literals in visual basic. If you are committed to VB.NET then this is a most excellent boon. One concern I may have is that if I am looking at changing over to C# in the future then dealing with a load of xml literals is going to make like that little bit harder. But if/by the time it comes round to that there may be a bigger and better way of lording it up over xml anyway.

Worth a watch. -> xml literals in VB.Net I would have embedded the video but silverlight didn't seem to work correctly on Posterous so you will have to just follow the link. 



Thursday, 24 March 2011

Possible Components Resource, especially for schools.

Good source of Electronic Components for Schools? larger children as well!

After an unsuccessful trip to Maplins yesterday I found this site which seems to primarily cater for schools. However I think they will deliver to anyone. Seems like a good resource if you are looking for bits and bobs...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Keeping the design process sweet

This video is from a company called Rusty Monkey about their design process. I think it makes a great example of how too many cooks made the food taste like feet.

[vimeo w=400&h=300]

Manage design projects the Rusty Monkey way. from Rusty Monkey on Vimeo.

Pex for fun

Found this interesting site to help you practice solving algorithms.?
Comes out of Microsoft Labs. You can also get an add in for visual studio which is pretty cool.?

Only problem is I found most of the questions on it really hard which probably says something about my programming skillz! On the plus side it's a great idea for me to practice them then!

Javascript JQuery

One other quick thing whilst I am thinking about it. The blog also pointed me towards this Paul Irish article. 10 things I learned from the JQuery source. Interestingly my boss had actually pointed me towards this site last week but I hadn't taken a proper look and had just saved the page for later. Thought I would post it on here so I didn't forget to watch the video later.

[vimeo 12529436 w=400 h=225]

Paul Irish : 10 Things I Learned from the jQuery Source from yayQuery on Vimeo.

Douglas Crockford, Javascript Videos

I heard about a series of videos by Douglas Crockford whilst listening to a Scott Hanselman podcast yesterday on Javascript ()

I have read this book but I don't think it soaked in nearly enough. Interestingly the book was my first ever Kindle purchase. I must say I have mixed feelings about reading it on the Kindle. I was hoping for a better experience :-(

Anyway the link to the videos is below:

Well worth a watch in my opinion. 


Tuesday, 22 March 2011


An article on LifeHacker gave this widget which highlights code in your google chrome browser.



Ah but hold on, it requires the following permissions: Your data on all websites

I am sure it needs to do this for a genuine reason but I just don't like this message. Notepad++ carries out syntax highlighting without going off to a server somewhere I would hope it could be done in a Chrome extension. Anyway, don't like the message. I think I will avoid for now.




Processing Language ported to Javascript

After pointing a colleague to the Processing language (which I had begun to look at after reading about it in the book - Making Things Talk) they in turn pointed me towards this site ->

Very impressive job!
On another note, reading the Making Things Talk book I really really can not recommend it enough. Excellent book for all electronics enthusiasts and tinkerers. 

Nottingham Arduino Day

Looking forward to going to the Nottingham Arduino Day. I went to the last one and saw some very interesting projects there! My actual projects amounted to little more than sensory projects such as measuring light. Really that was all I was after though so I was pleased. Looking forward to another day of it. I think I will get down to Maplins on the Saturday first to get some new components to toy with.?

Above is the link in case you are interested in attending.?


World History in Video

History of the world, via Wikipedia

Saw this on Gizmodo, not sure if the information is just taken from the English speaking Wikipedia or not. Goes to show how little involvement Africa seems to have had on in terms of creating Wikipedia articles though!

[vimeo 19088241 w=400 h=200]

A History of the World in 100 Seconds from Gareth Lloyd on Vimeo.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Brilliant Picture

I love this Robot in place of a Fridge.?

Tshirt Ideas - Star Trek Themed

I want to get a load of tshirts made up for work. These are some of my ideas so far.?
Star Trek themed!


Friday, 11 March 2011

An interesting SPAM story.

Got this great email today:?


It is indeed my pleasure to write you this letter, which I believe will be a surprise to you as we have never met before, and
I am deeply sorry if I have in any manner disturbed your privacy. Please forgive this unusualmanner of contacting you, but this particular letter is of exceptional and very private nature. There is absolutely going to be a great doubt and distrust in your heart in respect of this email, coupled with the fact that, so many individuals have taken possession of the Internet to facilitate their nefarious deeds, thereby making it extremely difficult for genuine and legitimate business class persons to get attention and recognition. There is no way for me to know whether I will be properly understood, but it is my duty to write and reach out to you.

My name is Mrs.Vivian Salem, wife of late Salem Nasim in Iraq, some years ago, I lost my husband Nasim and three children Husam, 15 years old,Wasim, 12 years old and Merna, 6years old, this Happened when a Combatant Military Tank shelled our car as my family attempted to flee heavy fighting in Baghdad, View the Website below for detail

Story of how I lost my family .

Before my husband and my Children was killed, he Deposited the sum of $31.6 million ( Thirty one million six hundred thousand Dollars ) with a Security & Finance company in Asia. I had contacted a Diplomat who was attached to the United Nation Peace keeping forces in Asia and has assured me of assisting me to move the Boxes through Diplomatic Cargo,ONLY if I had a PARTNER to receive it on my behalf .

All I need from you is to receive the Fund as my husband business Associates and Invest the fund into any Lucrative Investment in your country.I will remunerate you with 30 % at the end,but most of all is that I solicit your trust in this
transaction and will not want you to betray me at the end Please in your reply to this my private email

(, include your Mobile number ,Home telephone number and your residential or company address for easy Communication.

Thank you,
Mrs.Vivian Salem

An interesting twist on the old African millionaire ploy. In the words of MR T, I pity the fool!?

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