Archive for the ‘(Uncategorized)’ category

If things were a little different

July 30th, 2011

A while ago I was playing with some fonts used by large brands and using them for another company name for fun. There are some more I did just after that but never quite got round to uploading until now.

For anyone reading this blog outside of Tyne and Wear the British Rail text is in Calvert produced by typographer Margaret Calvert for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Dorkbot NCL and Maker Space

July 2nd, 2011

Sorry for the short notice on this but Brian and I will be giving a presentation at this Monday’s Dorkbot NCL about Maker Space, Newcastle’s first hacker space. Hopefully we will also have a good discussion around how to take things forward.

If you did not know Dorkbot is a geeky show and tell and in addition to us Alex McLean will be taking about live coding as a performance.

More details on the Lanyrd listing and the Maker Space web site and not forgetting the Centre for Life’s web site. Please come if you can.

My silly second blog is back. :-)

May 27th, 2011

I used to have a second blog of daft photos and the like hosted on that was closed down by Six Apart last year. My intention was to move it elsewhere but I never quite got round to it. Eventually I managed to get it moved across to the Posterous platform with a few issues that needed working round. Today I managed to get most (but not all) of the bugs sorted that included the need to edit every one of the 400+ posts. So…. please have a look at my Posterous (formally Vox) blog.

Update: In February 2013 Posterous was closed down by Twitter. An archive copy of my Posterious blog is now on this web site.

Tyne Tide Times 2011

May 18th, 2011

For a couple of months I am hanging out in an office on the Newcastle quayside with a view of the River Tyne. Being an office totally devoted to work we have been discussing the high and low tides quite a lot. Eventually we downloaded the 2011 Tide Tables PDF from the Port of Tyne web site for no reason what so ever. As I am learning Python properly now I set myself the academic challenge of extracting the high and low tide times from the PDF and placing it in a CSV so I can do something more interesting with the data if not more useful. If you wan to do the same then please have a go.

Update: The time in the file is Greenwich Mean Time. For British Summer Time add one hour from 2am March 27th 2011 to 2am October 30th 2011.

More travel mashup changes

February 26th, 2011

After a phone call with a senior manager at TrafficLink this week I have been informed the BBCs travel feeds that were offered as part of the BBC Backstage initiative will be switched off in a few days. As you may have heard there is another political issue associated with this change that I will not be touching on here while staff at BBC are investigating it further.

In the short term all mashups will continue to work as normal. When the feed currently taken the BBC data stops I will switch over to the Traffic England feed that is licensed under the Open Government Licence. The Traffic Scotland link is only experimental at the moment but I hope to have this added to the feed soon. Wales and Northern Ireland may take a little longer to add.

If you need any help, support or another data source for your project please get in touch and I will see if we can help.

Update: The Traffic England and Traffic Scotland feeds are now fully functional and the old BBC feed is feeding the Traffic England data.

Can you recommend a new laptop?

December 3rd, 2010

About a month ago my good old Sony Vaio laptop started playing up and kept crashing and refusing to switch on. It has served me well over the last 5 years but it is now time for an upgrade.

The trouble is that I am a bit out of the loop when it comes to hardware and I could do with your advice and recommendations. I need a laptop that is good for a variety of development. Some of this is for the Windows environment but this can be dine in a virtual machine if needed. I think a decent keyboard without a strange layout is my main requirement.

I have had a good experience with my last two Vaios so would like to stick with them, but there are not any in the range that tempt me at the moment, and they are not cheep, so I am looking at other options.

Suggestions so far, with reasons why I have not just gone with it…

  • Apple MacBook Pro – Expensive. Nice hardware but really expensive.
  • Dell Vostro – Can be really nice machines, but really bad experiences with defective hardware and Dell support on many occasions. Would not want to buy direct because of it.
  • HP – Nothing really wrong with HP and we had several at the office. Just a bit boring.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad – Used IBM ThinkPads in the past and was not overly taken by them, but that was a long time ago.
  • Toshiba Satellite Pro – Again nothing really wrong, just a but boring.

So, what would you recommend and why. Also what else should I be looking out for in terms of processor, chipset, or anything else.

My OTAP travel data mashups are closing down

November 25th, 2010

For almost 6 years I have had an experimental mashup using the OTAP feed from the National Traffic Control Centre running. This feed is being closed down at the end of the year so my mashups based on it will stop working when this happens. If you don’t know what on earth I am talking about then this will most likely not affect you.

All other Google Earth mashups including ones based on the NTCC and BBC public feeds continue to run and are available to everybody.

Off road points on Google Maps

November 8th, 2010

You may know that I play this odd treasure hunting game called Geocaching and nowadays we often use Google Maps to help locate a cache (or the treasure of you prefer). This blog post is a solution to a problem we have when using Google Maps to accurately plot a location. If you no need to accurately plot a location on Google Maps then you probably want to stop reading now.

Recently a friend and I were looking for a Geocache and typed the coordinates in to Google Maps on the iPhone. The point was located on the map at the side of the road, but the treasure was really in the field. This happens on the PC as well, but on the PC a green arrow points at the coordinates while the traditional red marker points at the closest road.

This is a bit of a problem for us but after giving this a bit of thought I figured a way to get Google Maps to put the pin at the coordinates we type in. In short the solution is to add a ” (X)” to the end of the coordinates. Whatever is in the brackets is the waypoint name and can be almost anything.

I will demonstrate by marking the middle of a field, or most specifically, Parliament Green in London at “51.500628, -0.126815”. If we search for “51.500628, -0.126815” we get pointed at the road next to it (you will need to zoom in to see). By adding the text to the end and searching for “51.500628, -0.126815 (Parliament Green)” the pointer is now in the middle of the field where the coordinates are actually pointing.

Update: After Google updated there app this hack does not work, but it will work with Google Earth. I have blogged an update here.

Over The Air 2010 : Hole Mapper

September 25th, 2010

Over the air is both a mobile development conference and a hack day back for it’s third year. One of the problems with such a vast conference is that there is just no enough time to do everything so this year I decided to skip most of the sessions to concentrate on the hacking side of the event.

I started off with the desire to work with location services in some way and came up with the idea of creating an app to crowd source the locations of post boxes and cash machines. In the end I got side tracked by playing with open data from Ordnance Survey and the Direct Gov web site and created Hole Mapper, an application to report pot holes in the road.

The concept was simply to work out where the user is and to direct them to the relevant council web page to report the problem pot hole. I was very keen to have a simple interface with the minimum interaction. The final solution has a single screen and single button but these are only required for demonstration and the app could take you direct without even this page. In a perfect world the app would tie in to FixMy Street but currently they do not have an API.

The solution is written in HTML and Java Script (or HTML 5 if you want the buzz words) and asks the browser for the users current location. This location Is then used to do a search against the Ordnance Survey open postcode data. The complicated part of the project was converting the millions of postcodes to a geometry system that I could do a simple search on using WGS84 lat long coordinates. I then simply ask the direct gov web site for the relevant local authority web page using the postcode and redirect the user to it. Later on I also added a check to see if we were in the UK that was so I could use another API and enter the hack in another category for some prizes.

On the Sunday morning I asked my followers on Twitter to test the code where they were. This worked really well as I had lots of valuable test data in but a few minutes. Thank you all. The down side of this is that when people started to use it and come the demo my servers IP address was being denied access to the Direct Gov web site but luckily I was able to demo from my laptop and it is working again now.

The good news is I won something and somthing big at that. I won the Orange Mobilise Challenge for helping transform volunteering in the UK and the prize was a shiny new iPhone 4. :-)

My twitter followers will know I have had a few, well a lot of problems with Orange Mobile getting the phone up and running. The good news is that it is running on wifi (I am writing this on it now) and GPSR, and dream of one day being able to use 3G. I really really appreciate the prize Orange, honestly I do, but I would also like to use it.

Anyway… It was a good couple of days, I have a shiny new iPhone, and am quite pleased that Hole Mapper is working and will undoubtedly form the base of some interesting projects in the future.

Geek Steam BBQ 2010

August 10th, 2010

Following the success of the Geek Steam BBQ last year we have decided to have another one this year on the same bank holiday weekend. This is a very informal social event where we have a BBQ and have the opportunity to ride scale model steam trains. It is free to attend. You can bring your own food and we will supply the charcoal. More details are available on the Geek Steam BBQ web site. If you can you should come along.