Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The essence of good discipline is respect

For christmas I got Andre Agassi's autobiography 'Open'. I've been a fan of Agassi for years and was really excited to read it. I was shocked that the first thing I learn about him is that he hates tennis. I couldn't believe it. But I learn from the book why.

I can't say I enjoyed the book because it's full of so much anger. I feel I'm more interested in who Andre has become than where he has come from. I get that he had a lot of troubles while he was young like many people in sport and was forced into tennis rather than being given a choice.

I stuck with the first half of the book then just plain got bored. After reading about winning or losing 4 or 5 slams I've pretty much heard it all.After hearing him slag of most of the people on the tennis circuit, again, I've pretty much heard it all. I don't need a play by play account.

Maybe the book changed its tone later on but I didn't detect any change whilst skimming it. The last 20 or so pages ended up being what I'm really interested in. Unfortunately the book has put me off Agassi as a tennis player. He's another example of someone constantly trying to prove himself, rather than realising he has nothing to prove. He was one of the mosted gifted of his generation and at times achieved the level that Federer achieves now.

I can accept that he was simply maturing. Sports, these days, are a young persons pursuit at the highest level and  the book describes a young man maturing. I just want to hear a lot more about the man who built a world class teaching facility for the poor of Las Vegas and through foundation. The dreams he has for the school, it's staff and pupils. What has tennis and it's fame and notoriety taught Andre that he wants to pass on to these kids and his own children. What can his generation teach the next.

I found something I really like near the end of the book (p382). The code of respect the pupils and Andre recite every day before school.
The essence of good discipline is respect.
Respect for authority and respect for others.
Respect for self and respect for rules.
It is an attitude that begins at home,
Is reinforced at school,
And is applied through life.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Laws defined in biomechanics

Reading sportex medicine issue 18 oct 03.
There are now a few laws that can be applied to functional rehabilitation through biomechanics.
Wolfes law, davis' law, sensorimotor control and the specifity of muscle training. Also known as said or specific adaptation to imposed demands

Finally I've seen two laws defined for sports science. Finally they're coming up with laws.

Woolfes law
Bone remodels according to the forces imposed upon it.

Increasing the force transmitted through bone causes it to increasee its density and mechanical strength, whereas decreasing the force transmitted threough bone e.g immobilisation, bed rest, causes it to decrease its density and mechanical strength.

Wolfes law also states the specificity principle. That the remodelling is speicific to the area where force is applied and the type and degree of force applied.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Simple web tutorials

some people I know are very new to the web and computers in general. So I like to help out by giving some tips and tutorials. Thought I'd start putting them up on my blog to help share and because a big part of learning is about immersing yourself in the environment and letting yourself adjust.

So this is about introducing the concept of blogs to people and how rich they are in information.

Once you start using mail regularly your inbox will quickly get so full you have trouble finding mails and conversations. That's when it's time to start using the search box at the top of the gmail screen more effectively. Gmail has the ability to find all mails sent by someone (from:), sent to someone (to:) and many other rich features.  There is a full list of search terms, but lets just start with finding all mails from a friend:

  • in the search box type 'from:' then start typing your friends email address. You may see a list of addresses matching the letters you've typed. this is 'autocomplete' working for you. If so, click your friends address. 
  • When you have 'from:yourfriendsemailaddress' in the search box click 'search mail' or press 'enter'
  • You should now see a list of all the mails from your friend. magic!!!
You can use all the other search terms in exactly the same way, so now I've shown you one you can do them all. It takes a little practice but if you get no results remember there are always other searches to run or places to look to find what you're looking for. So don't fret just Google or ask some one who knows. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Can Golfs handicap system work in tennis?

Just been playing tennis. I've always wanted a handicapping system like that in golf to help each player compate themselves fairly given different skills and abilities.

Then realised new tech like fitbit and other wearable activity monitors could do this by helping me limit the shots I play or the speed I run to match my opponent.

I have learnt to do this anyway to make the rallies last longer. At first it seems boring because I'm constnlantly holding back but I've just realised I should be using this time to developer my own strategic skills.
It's rare I play someone of my own skill. I'm not particulalry brilliant I just don't know so many people who arte able to play. So it's actually more fun to bring the physical parts of the game back down to equal levels and emphasise strategy to win.

I'm finding it a really useful way to develop my game further but also help my ftriend imrpvoe at thew same time.
The tech could just automate this by telling me when I exceed a certain speed, even telling me when I should act tired and go slower or something.

Then I could just focus on playing the game to these new rules and enjoy the challenge of winning on these terms
Comparing to golfs handicapping system is important because I find many people, guys in particular, don't like the idea of handicapping. Yet these same guys play golf which has handicapping built right in. So I wonder how golf managed to instil the idea nd whether this comparison helps people understand its benefits.

Listening with big ears

Been hearing about etherpad recently. Decided to check it out. then came across a great article describing the main points to coming up with world class product features. Just had to pass it on. It's my philosophy exactly.

I've talked about points like this in previous posts like

Old age: Wear and tear or lack of use?

Does old age represent lack of use and practice or wear and tear? I think
both but it's assumed wear and tear is the biggest contributor. I don't see

Get confident in tight situations by practicising what can go wrong

The best way to train is practicing what can go wrong. You'll end up more confident when things are difficult.

Managing risk is a key skill of life.

The essence of the article is that in every aspect of my life, my ability to manage the inevitable risks determine how successful I am. So learning to manage risk. No matter how big or small should be a core life skill you work on

The thymus gland. Prevent disease improve life and longevity

I saw a statistic on a web feed showing reasons for death. Most things on the list can be linked to infections and disease. So could the ability to fight disease determine life length and quality?

Should we focus on improving natural immunisation and use the thymus properly while young. Or consider  keeping the thymus large by training it.

Taking this further I just saw an article linking the thymus with the idea that well-trained immune cells keep HIV in check

Got some food to use up but don't now the recipe? try supercook.com

Heard from the gadget show about the supercook.com website. Just checked it out and was impressed within the first minute. Why? Cos I have some fresh broccoli at home that I didn't know what to do with. I know.. I know it's just broccoli but recipe books don't list all the things you can do with broccoli and since it's fresh I didn't just want to boil it and serve. I want to do something special.

I had some ideas but I heard supercook gives you tons of ideas. I tried it and it did. 2000 ideas. And that's after I narrowed things down by adding a bunch of other ingredients. Signed up in a flash. All the ingredients I'd added were still stored. Turns out that I could make 30 or so of the recipes listed with the few ingredients I'd added. So I've added a bunch more ingredients and now I can make 569 recipes right now!! How cool.

A few things I'd like to see is how long each recipe is going to take both in preparation and cooking. that helps me pick the recipe for my mood. sometimes I want quick easy food. Other times I'm in the mood to cook.

So far though I'm seriously impressed. It's been so user friendly and helpful.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

How does our food get processed.

This is a big question I've always had, just like everyone else. I've learnt a lot over the years from working in several meat factories to topics during a levels and later on.

Adding to that I'm watching the series jimmys food facts on bbc. It really brings home the quality of the food accessible to us today. I feel we have no real idea how good it generally is and how the standard has risen for the masses compared to years ago.

I've just been watching how eggs reach our shelves and didn't realise how much is known about getting quality eggs and picking the best and safest to eat. Also how the waste is used in many other products such as cakes and pastry.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Learning Google wave

ok, Just like everyone else right now I'm getting into Google wave. So thought I'd put what I've found here.

Long term I'm trying to figure out how to record this all in wave (simple) and publish the wave to my blog (Harder) then I can truly write once, in wave, and re use anywhere.

I've started this process by trying to embed a google wave into a blog post. No luck yet but I'll keep trying.

For now I thought I'd link to the wave keyboard shortcuts for things like Shift then Enter = click done button and space when viewing a wave goes to the next unread post. found another list of keyboard shortcuts. Most are the same but with some useful differences like ctrl+space when focused on wave panel marks all messages as read

Obviously I'm going to have to learn the terminology too.

There also has to be a section on 'What is the point of wave?' since that's the question everyone asks.
I can see so many 'points' to it I just can put them down. The more I use it the more reasons I find to use it. The only issue for me is will it stay around? I think it will but it's very early days.

Anyway daniel tenner has put together an insightful analysis of wave that I discovered reading the public wave 'Ides for wave in learning'. Reading this post I'm wondering whether this is also Google subtle, or blatant, sales pitch to companies considering switching to Google services. There are growing rumours that gmail will switch to wave sometime in the future. Therefore any company who opts for gmail now can look forward to the option of wave later. those that stay with other providers may have trouble retro fitting wave later on. Just a guess but it's interesting.

Monday, 30 November 2009

embedding a google wave

Just seeing if I can embed a google wave into a blog post. Apparently it's possible.

There's a wave for ideas in learning that's embedded in jared steins blog.

doesn't seem to be working for me right now.

Any way there's a discussion on this and I can see that waves can be embedded so I'll just keep plugging away until it works. Point being I love the idea of writing on wave and publishing on my blog. Just seems a way to transition.

What I should really do is try embedding on a local html file first to get it working in a controlled environment. Then figure out how to transfer to my blog

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Evolution among us

To explain the things happening around us I like to learn from history. I feel so many lessons of past ages can still be applied today and tomorrow if you yake the time to apply them properly.

What older lesson is there than that of evolution. It's always applied to the context of biology and how we have arrived at this current juncture.

Well, I like to see evolution as a tool of analysis and apply it to more than biology. To juxtapose it against revolution. When I do I see that we're evolving on a global scale in so many ways. Our judicial and financial systems grow to adjust to the increasing globalisation and amazing technology that's now prevalent.

Evolution describes mass extinctions as environments and ecosystems change and the creatures and food chains that depended on them are replaced by news ones adapted to newer ways of life.

Archeologists are coming to accept that dinosaurs died out over hundreds of millions of years as multiple changes to the environment occurred that they couldn't adjust to.

Yet crocodiles and frogs apparently survived unscathed. They were bult to survive. What's special about them?

We aren't completely sure but in the case of the crocodile their cold bloodedness which allows them to survive almost a year on just one meal would be distinct advantage against warm blooded creatures that typically feed every day.

The relevance to legal and financial situations such as markets for me is that all the models on which these and all other systems depend relate to the environments and in effect ecosystems that they have been designed to support.

Well, there have been so many political, ideological, technical and social changes throughout history, particularly in recent years, that the environment that everything exists in is just changing so fast its threatening to change ecosystems faster than they're able to adapt.

Entire markets such as software and hardware are based on business models that now, with open source and cheap production methods, seem archaic, even anachronistic. For me it truly feels like we're entering an exciting new era simply because the people can adjust faster than the organisations and policy so the naturak order and food chain can't keep up.

By food chain I mean large markets with entrenched monopolies. The holes in the old business models are becoming ever so apparent and the jsutification for the status quo is constantly challenged.

Just like the large swathes of private land that were given over to the public in the uk around the 1900's. Land which was once off limits to only a few but is now open to all to enjoy. Closed markets such as the phone industry, news and others are now being opened up, and barriers to entry are changing.

This means a different food chain and natural order is emerging and it's totally fascinating being around to see it happen. Mainly because things are so open now

Take gadgets for example. New scientist describes evolution of gadget design. The independent did their own take on gadget evolution.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Augmented reality

Just inspired by the relatively new field of augmented reality wanted to start another ongoing document to record what I find out.

Just google Augmented reality for sport and found a fascinating article on making moving pictures stop and another on playing along with the real world.

I dont' have time to add more right now but even the first page of results and the articles above seem mouth watering.

Ok, had to google augmented reality vision (will try glasses and contact lenses but vision covers both) and found
Augmented reality contact lenses give you Terminator-vision then found BMW Augmented Reality Glasses Help Average Joes Make Repairs which has an amazing video

Ooh this really is exciting. It's very much part of my future dreams coming trye. I don't think I'm the only one. I keep thinking about how to learn things myself and teach others. I like to give visual demonstrations but also see what I look like performing a task. Get 360 views etc. I want to help peple do this for themselves too cos I think we all learn so much faster this way. Even when I'm cooking it would be amazing to see what jamies oliver does as though he really were in the room.

Well, it seems like that's really on the radar. Don't know when it will be consumer grade but the tech definitely seems to be getting.

Ok, there's also a game called Cannonballz and it's become part of google earth. The video is just mind blowing.

Watching this and seeing that it's just two/three video streams of the same situation merged into one with software. I think this is what we're seeing so much more of in films these days and probably where they got the money to progress it as far as they have.

Wowee. I really think we're in a time just like when cars, electricity, planes and all the other inventions were coming of age in the early 20th century. these technologies are old hat and well understood now but must have been so forward thinking and hard to understand then.

I hear that cars weren't allowed to go over 5mph and had to had someone walking in front of them to ensure this. Just because people were scared of what they can do. Now cars rule the road and pedestrians beware. How things have changed.

I'm really excited to see how much life will change with these new technologies.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Old money vs new money

Another key topic in any age, but one ever present in this digital one. Right now you have the battles between apple, microsoft and google. A small version of old money v new money but also Rupert murdoch and print media v Google.

For me it's all about wealthy people and orgnisations, who have a lot to lose, trying to block the new outfits with new ideas in a new age with new approaches, that may threaten the stranglehold of the incumbents.

We've been seeing this for centuries. Often very similar stories. The old money sticks together knowing they have strength in numbers and protect their keys to power and influence. The new guys have to earn every win and constantly prove thenselves worthy of everyones trust. The old powers abnd approaches have become entrenched so they're assumed to work and be the best.

It's a fascinating thing to watch because as far as I can see Google have the best stranglehold of all. They make all their money from advertising. They have a virtual monopoly that grows by the day. They don't have to provide a huge support and distribution network. Sure they own a lot of servers and pay for a lot of bandwidth but the internet itself is free to send traffic on, unlike distributing newspapers or machines.

Google have no helpdesks or on call engineers for consumers yet they run 24 hours a day across the globe. Everything they do is automated reducing costs massively. They have a virtual monopoly on searching and the ads that go with it plus their syndication of ads is so advanced they can be placed on pretty much any part of a web page or application. There are already ads in gmail, how long before they're on gdocs.

I'm open to being wrong but I feel Googles emphasis on web applications, developing and monetising the internet and being the largest and most capable player is a very strong asset to have in this competitive environment. I can't imagine google has the same overheads in support and infrastructure that its main competitors do and that would go a long way to increasing margins and competitiveness long term.

That's my view at the moment. But then analysing companies and markets isn't my forte. I just feel that many things on the web are now offered free. And I've already wondered 'in a world where everything is free. does payment come through advertising?'. If that's true then Google are very well placed.

Revolution vs evolution

This topic comes up time and again. What's more efficient? It seems that everyone only talks about and accepts one or the other as a course of action. Socialism or capitalism, overhauling the education system. I don't see it that way and I don't implement a one sided approach in my life.

My time honoured approach is a simple mix of evolution, constant iterative steps towards the next goal making and correcting mistakes along the way with managed revolution at appropriate stages. In software I evolve things by learning new tricks and approaches and then revolve over time by switching to a whole new framework or application.

In tennis I do this by learning simple ways to improve strokes but then have a revolution when I discover whole new tactical philosophies or that I can play left handed. I don't forget my previous skills, rather and I learn to accommodate all I've learnt.

So I constantly go through evolution and revolution. I've also written a separate post explaining that evolution is among us

The inner game of tennis or inner game of life

Reflections on the inner game of tennis. I read it many years ago. I'm now re reading it. I feel like looking back over what I have learnt since and what it reminds me of.

for starters P17 has a quote. 

The backhand can be used to advantage only on a tennis court,  but the skill of effortless concentration is invaluable in whatever you set your mind to.
The correlation for me is not just abiout tennis. It talks about life lessons which I've been learning. Particularly over the last 10 years or so. I think it started with my A levels. They were the first time I really tried hard over a long period of time for anything. I got such great results I seem to have adopted this approach for everything since.

The last few years for me have been about learning not to try so hard all the time and to trust myself more. It's funny that already in chapter 2 this point is picked up.

P22 there are quotes from Dr T. Suzuki who wrote zen and the art of archery. Makes me feel  I should read it as it inspired this book.

Got a bit further into the book and got inspired to check out the inner game web site. Found the history page which gives background to why I use the inner game principles in all aspects of life and also why sports science combined with education is such a powerful set of tools.

Then found a wonderful article explaining how the inner game can apply to work not just tennis. It reflects just what I've been doing my entire career. Applying the principles you learn through sport, those of maximising human performance, I find the lesson of the inner game I've learnt through my love of sports and sports science. Sicne it's about achieving results in any situation I naturally apply this to work.I find I get great results. 

From my searches I also discovered a new sport psychology site that has articles on the inner game.  

Thanks to you tube I also found a video in two parts of a tennis lesson just 20 minutes in length showing the inner game philosophy delivered by Tim Gallwey. I just love to see people learn so fast.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Agile and Waterfall development methods. Where do they fit?

Just got a mail from AgilePM which contained a fantastic article titled Project Managers vs. Scrum Masters; Agile Project Management Matures.

Including it here because, although I didn't get time to read it in full, the essence I got was a clear and well thought out explanation of how good agile teams put collaboration, communication and negotiation as their key skillset and that agile methods work when you learn how to apply them to the situation. How don't throw the baby out with the bath water. You learn to adapt your methods to the task and particularly the environment you face.

Agile methods are good when things are quickly evolving. When the solution you're asked to build is different from that which you end up building because changes happen during the building process. This has been the case on all projects I've been involved in. No matter how large or small. It's becoming more like this. Waterfall methods still have there place. for me they are good for small discrete tasks where there isn't much room for change and they work very well. But at a wider level I manage things in an active, agile way. It's the only way I can see that fits it all together in the end simply because the pace of change is such that waterfall just can't keep up.

I think my conclusion would be that waterfall is great for the small individual tasks. I use waterfall to complete them. But putting a whole project together requires more agile skills. The tighter the deadlines and more complex the task, the more I need agile approaches to keep it all in order.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

What I want in a car

I'm sitting in the car waiting for my wife to do some crimbo shopping. I'd normally be bored but with.my g1 it's not a problem. I've got podcasts on my listen app and loads of news in newsrob. I've also got full web browsing.

Ah, that's where the problem start. News rob,for som inexplicable reason wants to download each article when you click the title. Yes, I have enabled offline content etc and there's plenty of space on my phone.

I'm up the city centre so I should have a 3g signal. Probably do but the g1 isn't recognising it, I'm also on 3 which is just about the worst coverage I've ever known. With vodafone I used to get a signal up a hill in the middle of nowhere. With 3 I can't get one in my own home in the middle of a city. Whatever.

Anyway what's this got to do with my car? Basically it's that I wish they'd make more use of the hunk of metal that it is. Surely it's great at attracting radio signals and could enhance the mobile signal for me somehow. Point being that when inside my car what if the signal could be enhanced by the body of the car. Maybe this isn't possible with physics but I feel it's worth putting out there in casse some one could figure it out.

That would truly make my car so much more useful to me and in turn make my life more fun. If a car or accessory made this possible i'd want it. 

Friday, 20 November 2009

Developing mobile web apps

I can't believe I haven't already written a post like this but a quick search implies I haven't so here we are.

It's going to be a running post that gets updated over time. Much like all mine at the mo cos things constantly change and I don't have the time to do a complete doc in one go.

The overall them in this article is, why invent the tricks if you can learn them from some one else.

Anyway, I've just got back into fixing a few css bugs for desktop apps. I've got some mobile work coming up. I've got experience on supporting desktop issues and realised my confidence comes from knowing where to go to get help. Isn't that always the way. I don't know all the answers but I know where to go to get them.

So I thought I'd start an article to record some of these reference points for my future use.

My first look lead to a browser compatibility chart for mobile phones which, if anyone has ever used one, helps put all the quirks into context. the underlying issues start to become obvious and you can figure out which browsers will have which kind of problems. It's also useful to pinpoint which browsers are out there and common for mobiles so you can figure out which ones to support.

The search also uncovered a W3C dom compatibility - CSS object model view chart and Mobile compatibility tables.

You might wonder why I've referenced quirks mode. It's because I've always found the site to be very reliable. It cares about standards and creating sites that work well on all major browsers in a standards based way that's maintainable. That's my set of requirements for a good reference.

That's all I have for now. The mobile side of web dev is still relatively young. Hopefully I'll add more as I go along.

edit 20091120
already got something to add. PPK, the guy behind quirks mode, on mobile quirks and practices. Haven't even started using the @media query or looked at w3c widgets. Ok, I'm clearly on a role. Google presentation: the open web goes mobile. haven't viewed the presentation. Just eyeballed the transcript. Noticed the idea of checking via js for a small screen width and implementing appropriate js as a result. Obvious when you think about it.

also found out about phonegap which states it is
an open source development tool for building fast, easy mobile apps with JavaScript.
I'm planning on using GWT to do this, assuming it's possible now or in time, but a framework built for mobile web apps. Bring it on. the video looks fascinating. . They've got tetris like games using gestures built from javascript.

update 20091214
Just came across http://www.css3.info/ a useful site for info on css3 and http://stopdesign.com/ for great web design tips. Just found out that Douglas Bowman who runs stop design has worked for the likes of Google and Twitter among loads of other cools companies and is gerat at tips that provide maximum impact with minimal code that make things discoverable.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Will google voice ever come to the UK?

That's the question I've been asking ever since I got my invite and found I couldn't sign up cos I'm in the UK. Boo. Still, lagging behind America is becoming the norm for Google services.I don't blame google, it's natural they'd get it working in their own back yard first. I'm just jealous to hear people using it and saying how great it is.

Turns out I'm not the only one wondering either.  I don't want to signup by trickery but I do like. what did surprise me is that there are already companies providing a similar service to Google voice in the UK. Switchboardfree seem interesting and have got me thinking. Firstly I might look into signing up. I just don't want to pay much more than I already do and I need to know I can still use it when I change contract.

It also shows that Google voice has a viable route to market in the UK which until now I thought would be a minefield. I'm really getting the impression that Google buys innovative startups to achieve such enormous growth so quickly, that's the standard technique all companies use isn't it. Thus the presence of atleast one but probably several just raises the question which one will Google approach or have already approached?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The new trend in wireless health sensors.

In searching for devices with wireless health sensors I'm starting to uncover that we're really on the brink of these things going mainstream. I'm really getting excited about it. I've mentioned the Fitbit elsewhere as a consumer grade version. Everytime I search now I'm finding more and more developments and products reaching maturity.

Under the term wireless body area networks (WBANS) reports that the market for wireless personal health sensors are set to takeoff and wireless health has killed the stethoscope are growing in number. I find the new term for mobile health (mHealth) has popped up along with many others,

This is the emerging trend that supports so many of my goals. So I plan to update this over time. first I want to get a fitbit to see if it can do what it claims to well enough. I want this to be part of my mobile phone so I don't have multiple devices to carry around but the android roadmap is not being kept up to date so I can't see when this might come.

For now I just accept it's a young emerging market that, I think, will quickly gain ground and support.

I've just read a little more about SPINE (Signal processing in node environment) and it's actually quite exciting because they talk about porting SPINE to Android, maybe as soon as 2.0. I looked a little further in their manual and see that the code for sensors actually matches that used in Android implying that porting may not be as difficult as I first assumed. their code is java based, their just using tinyos instead of android. So maybe there is possibility.

I'm looking for something open source, unfortunately specknet is not, something that fits android, something with a community, and something I could use soon. SPINE fits three of these requirements at least so it's the front runner for me at the moment. The only concern I have is that there has been no news update since september 2008 so I need to confirm the project is still running.

Well I'm even more impressed with SPINE. I contacted Roberta Giannantonio to find out a bit more and see if they're still work on the project. I received a response almost immediately welcoming me and thanking me for me interest. Sounds like a really nice bunch of people to be working with and I love it when people get back really promptly to a random request like mine.

It seems they still chat via mailing lists so I checked out the developer archives. the most recent post is november 13th 2009 so it is active. One post on total energy unit is, for me, an exciting hint of things to come. This is exactly the kind of thing I want because I want to understand howe playing tennis and other sports affects my body. I want tools that will help me analyse this.

Roberta confirmed that part of the spine community has plans to run on Android. First I want to learn more about spine lab.and then see what it is I can contribute.

edit: 20100202
turns out the area is also  known as mHeatlh. I found alist of mobile hand held health care devices and open platforms and http://www.androidmedapps.com/index.php/category/health-informatics/

Monday, 16 November 2009

Tracking daily life

I really want to track the acitvities and things in my daily life but I also want to have a life rather than spend all my time monitoring it. This implies I need tools to help me and do the donkey work.

I'm interested in fitbit but that's not enough. I'm really interested in wearable sensors. So far I've been looking for the terms to search for. Some simple google searches include

Then I realised I want to 

I've also found a list of terms related to this area. A bit in depth at the mo but gives specific terms and phrases to search on.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Teaching with video games?

There's a huge debate right now about whether video games can be used for teaching. As usual the powers that be just completely miss the point. They ask the question, what value does it add?

As a digital native who's played video games since he was five I think I've learnt more from videos than just about anything else so I look at every other teaching medium and see what it lacks. So I come from a very different standpoint. I've seen 10 yeat olf dyslexic kids grasp really complex problems and solve them with beautifly simple solutions that really taught me something.

They could do this with a computer game because game design is about buiklding discoverable interfaces that humans can intuitively master with the minimum of description. Games must be easy for young kids to pick up and master yet keep a childs attention for hours.

As a growing kid, my capacity grew just like my peers so we evolved our choice in games yet what we could understand and master was limited simply by the designers imagination and budget.

What I'm saying is that games and their designers already know how to teach intricate concepts in fun exsciting ways, through limited interfaces and keep attention for a long time.

Ok, you get it I believe in video games as learning and teaching tools.

I teach tennis. Would I use it to teach tennis. I've just played the top spin tennis demo on ps3 and, yes, I would. Already the basic tutorial is teaching the very concepts I've been teaching, timing is more important than power, footwork and balance better than speed and aggression.

I've been following the fifa series since 1994 across multiple platforms. I've seen it evolve so much and what I notice is the increased realism and focous on teaching that comes from realism. By playing the game I learn in real time the basic and even very advanced aspects of tactics , training, mentality and everything else.

I also think sports and games reflect real life if you think about it in certain ways. I feel you learn life lessons, not just those specific to the games. Like how to deal with adversity, pressure and competition.

So games is the way to go in my eyes. Everything else will slowly learn to be as good

Living a healthy life. It's survival of the fittest

Living a healthy life. It's survival of the fittest has been re-produced at my new blog Cell Your Sole.

I've spent my life learning how to balance lifestyle with health. Everything I learn points to being active on a mental, physical and spiritual level. The activity forces you to grow. The lack of it leaves you to decay.
I've been struggling with the common assumption that health comes from what you eat not what you do. It's the message you get everywhere but it doesn't fit what I see and learn.

Now I think I can explain why and use an age old theory to explain it. Darwin said it was the survival of the fittest. He didn't say it was survival of those who eat the best. That's it. The basic theory of evolution states that we must be fit for purpose. I take this to mean we must live lives that make us fit. Health comes from making our lifestyles fit our environment. Finding and consuming the right food is part of it but making our bodies capable of dealing with the effects of the lifestyle is much more important.

I think everyone forgets that wild animals do not control the soil and growing conditions of the food they eat. They just develop the ability to get the nutrition they need from what they're given and deal with the by products. That's how nature deals with it so that's how we should if it's going to be sustainable.

Humans have had the same problem for millenia too. We learnt to cultivate the land and move to find good soil but have only very recently had the power to completely change large sections at will.

That's what I've been struggling to put together. A simple line that puts this all in context and shows how activity is fundamental to all life. I think that now I have it.

In a world where everything is free does payment come through advertising?

I'm always fascinated by the future and I'm hearing time and time again that kids these days are living in a world where things most of us are used to paying for are now assumed to be free. So a whole generation are growing up expecting something for nothing and they have the ability to get just that.

To be honest I believe it's true. I think as progress marches on it's greatest impact is to render things free or virtually so to the consumer. Education for youngsters in the west is free and a human right. It's paid for but not by the children. Basic health is the same in many developed countries. Tv, radio, free newspapers. There's quite a list once you start to think about it.

But we all know these products and services still cost money to run and have business models behind them.
Education and health services were once wholly private but are now often state owned with state funding. The balance of which often threatens to change depending on who's in power but we've all got used to the status quo and seen enormous benefit because of it. It's possible web technologies could be financed in a similar way. I believe some scandinavian countries are starting to enforce the right to a decent internet connection for each citizen and may lend a state hand to achieve this but I think most governments would rather let the market model deliver than intervene themselves.

For me there are two basic market models of funding that fit perfectly for software and the whole of the internet world as it stands. These are subscriptions and advertising. Placing adverts within software isn't actually new it's just not that wide spread. The tech is there. Google make 97% of their profit through adverts and have extremely sophisticate methods of providing them within software.

I see them within gmail all the time and they don't bother me at all. As a consumer I'm inherently mistrustful of an company or developer that has access to my private information but no business model. One that provides ads is being open and honest about how they fund the service, in theory. One that doesn't makes me wonder whether they're selling my details on to balance the books.

Facebook is a perfect example. They place ads across their main pages. We're all used to tuning out. Yet I hear that all these apps that keep popping up and getting me to sign up have complete access to my personal information. I then hear that some may be selling on details to thrid parties and when I find out the information these apps are privy to I understand why they go to the trouble. As a consumer the only problem I have is that this activity is hidden from me and I have no say.

that's why I believe that as the internet matures and we all begin to understand how it all works we'll start to develop a clearer census of which business models we'll trust. I don't expect a complete revolution. Instead an evolution of existing advertising and susbcription models to support web based content and functionality.
For basic content you'll see ads just like we do in gmalil and yahoo. If we'd rather not have ads we might pay a subscription. I also expect a blend of the two just like many of us do for tv. We get the premium content in all it's high quality and full on ness and we accept the ads that come with it.

I think this is the future mainly because everyone can understand it, is used to it and trusts it on a basic level. It doesn't require massive change in industries, just an evolution in everyones thinking. We just figure out how and where to put the ads and distribute the money. I'm sure that's probably already been figured out. I don't see a need for a large overhaul of anything to move to this approach because it's really been there from the start. It's just becoming more sophisticated.

I also see it as the best model for anyone who wants to solve a problem but doesn't have big resources. We'd all rather put all our effort into solving the problem, we just need a little money to pay for the tools and time we need. If we could just sprinkle some ads here and there we wouldn't have to charge the consumer. So they get a free app. The temptation might be there to sell private data but that will be dealt with through other channels like the feedback mechanisms already in place. We're all getting smarter about these practices. Protecting reputation. By keeping consumer trust is how brands are built and where the real money is.
So using an off the shelf ad model to fund your solution you can spen say 2 hours setting up the ads in your software and the remaining hours, say 40 for a hobbyist putting something simple together. And you might hope to get 10-20 bucks a month from it.

It's not hard to see the attraction for a developer. I always rate free apps above paid for because I expect lower quality for free. As long as the ads don't get in the way I'll accept glitches and slow features and other niggles when I haven't paid but the second I do my attitude changes. Even if it's just £1 or so. I expect that bit more because I've handed over my hard earned cash.

Handing over payment also raises concerns of support and ownership. If I pay £1 or £10 what am I getting. Is it a lifetime license or just for a month. Do I get free upgrades, enhanced support?
All these issues are fine for large companies to deal with but the lone developer who also has a day job. This is all a bridge too far. All he wants to do is get his solution out there and see a return. If he starts with ads first he can release free software quickly. There are no barriers to consumers getting his product and he can see a return almost instantly. He has no obligations to the consumer except to do what he said he would which is solve the problem he said he would.

This all makes for a much simpler, streamlined model for the start up large enterprise alike and it's a tried and trusted model. Adding in subscriptions muddies the water but is also well understood so feasible.
The point to all this is that for mass market stuff simplicity usually wins. As I see it these are two relatively simple methods for monetising products that are getting easier and easier to implement. So I expect it will be very soon that this will become the norm and also fuel a huge array of solutions.

Either way I've put my stake in the sand. It's giving me focus on how to make my dreams come true. I just need to put ads in any software I write and then explain to people why they're there and how it benefits them in the long run.

Edit 20091208
Adding to this I just read a fascinating article suggesting that adverts targeted to our 'cognitive style' are just around the corner and will increase advertising effectiveness.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Is the web becoming accessible?

Been wondering for a while how to deal with accessibilty over the web once we really get into riach internet applications because that means tons of javascript. Current screen readers, as far as I know, just don't deal with javascript well but we can't make the leap into rich apps without it.

My assumption is that big players in html and the web have known this for years and are working hard to sort this. It's been on my mind to find out what that is. I expect it to e developing screen readers that bridge the gap, developing standards to follow. Building the capabilities into browsers. that kind of thing.

Well I'm now able to put my first bit of research up due to the wonders of youtube. I noticed this video on gmail accessiblity whilst watching a wave demo.

I learnt about accessible rich internet applications(aria). My interest is because I want to use and build with the google tools gmail is based on and so their accessiblity is important to me. Great to know this is on the web roadmap because it's going to be hard to get support for developing the next step in web apps with out built in support for accessiblity.

I'm  hoping to expand on this over time and find out how to make web sites accessible, what tools you need and what standards to follow.

edit 20091208
I mentioned this to the accessibility expert at work and was kindly given a whole bunch more links related to ARIA. Apparnetly NVDA is a windows based screen reader that support ARIA. Unfortunately we both agree that best practice is currently to provide non javascript reliant functionality and that the jump from web page interaction to desktop-like interaction will be a big one for many users with accessibility challenges.

From a wider set of links on accessiblity I found webanywhere, under assistivetech which seems more up my street. Screenreading software in the browser that requires no install.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

How does google end product life?

For me that's one of the key questions. Google has so many wonderful products but I'm going to be pretty darned annoyed if I invest a lot of time and trust in a product and then find it gets pulled and I lose everything.

Well now that Googles maturing it's starting to retire some of its products. Google Notebook is one of those. So how have Google handled this. They've posted an article explaining their reasons and transition strategies for those concerned. Fair enough.

I have a google notebook account with a couple of notes in it. I never really got into using it but, heck I want to see if the export works cos what happens for notebook may happen for gmail and gdocs when their end of life comes up. It's scarey but these crucial apps will get retired at some point.

So I followed the advice to export to gdocs. it failed. I got this error.

Server Error

The server had trouble completing your request, but this is probably a temporary error. Please try again in 30 seconds.

I tried 3 times. I kept getting the error. Checked, yep I can still access gdocs. All is fine.

Ok, don't panic can I export to html? assuming I can still import this to gdocs. Ok I get an html page with my notes in. yey. But I then have to save the page in my browser and upload to gdocs. Did this and the uploaded document has lost all its formatting. I tried updating the html. No change. Bunner. So now all the effort I put into organisation like putting the labels and titles in the right place is gone. Let alone how do I get them into tasks.

It's not a complete bust for me. I don't expect perfection. End of life of less popular tools is part of life. I'm happy that I have an html version. so I've got my data in a standardised format. It could have been a lot worse.

It's just not quite as useful as I'd hoped. So far my concerns with Google are about important and export. I can now export all docs in gdocs. Great but I've found errors in most files exported. In most the data is effectively lost. In gtasks I can export a list but not the notes and dates that form part of the list.

These are all niggly things but they all form my impression of trust worthiness of the product and the people behind the product.

so my conclusion is that Google is better than most at doing this at scale. But they still aren't up to my expectations.

Appjet and etherpad
With googles recent acquisition of appjet I see that they've implemented a quick conversion of etherpad accounts, which run on appjet, to google wave accounts. The content being transferred automatically. It's nice to hear that the etherpad code will be open sourced and that the user base was made aware of the plans and given a chance to feed back. Ultimately though. the users don't get a choice to use etherpad as they intended. They now must use wave. they just get to hope that wave works like etherpad pretty soon. I wonder how that will turn out.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Living the dream

This article is a continuation of the process I'm going through of achieving my dreams. Some parts of this process I want to share on blogger partly as a record and partly as a way of getting support and advice. The essence is that I'm spending these years learning more about how to live the dream I want in a sustainable way. by recording and sharing this I get to help others and learn from them.

At the end I'll have a load of documents and concepts I can easily repurpose. I'll just have a whole load of high quality content I've built over time that I can then use to pass on the knowledge I've gained.

A simple summary of what I want to do is to combine the disciplines of sports science (human performance) with artificial life to provide models and simulations and eventually games where people can explore and learn what their body has to offer and how to use it well. A playground where you can make all the mistakes you want and figure out a lifestyle that will make you strong

I'm on a personal journey figuring out how to live life in balance. How to eat really tasty enjoyable food that's also good for me. Being really active yet having time for the quieter things in life. I don't think anything I've read or heard answers all the questions that I have about how to do all this. How to live the life I want to live and have the health and fun I really want.

My a levels and degree were the formal part of my search but I've been following this learning curve all my life. Now we have the internet I want to begin recording and sharing what I learn.
I've always held the view that humans are designed to learn. It's in our blood. It's why we're so successful. When designing tools to make learning easier I feel that learning and teaching is about humans first, technology second

There are lots of areas I'll cover but I'll start with an older article I wrote about what factors make us kick the bucket? I'm glad I wrote it because it gives context to my belief that our mind body and soul need activity and that in understanding our bodies better we'll then figure out how to evolve our lives to suit the current ecosystem, environment and climate in which we live. In finding facts from correlations I take this further to suggest that finding the balance in life to all the things we have control over is what will ultimately keep us happy and healthy.
I believe strongly that The way you think defines what you will achieve. Thus the way you think people learn defines the way you will teach. I believe that we are built to learn. I was excited to find Sugata Mitra, has shown that kids can teach themselves. So if we're born to learn surely we just need to find out how to facilitate this with all the new technology and knowledge that's around.

I also subscribe to the idea that pictures paint a thousand words. To take this further, video often paints a thousand pictures. Almost literally if you consider frame rate for a ten minute video. So I was really excited when I came across a site full of medical animations through http://www.osteoporosis.net/osteoporosis-2.html. I think they're all free to view and pass around. If so I definitely want to check out more.

To take this even further we must consider that you can only consume words on a page, view images and watch a video. You can't really interact with these mediums. You can't test theories and ideas and explore boundaries. You can learn about theory but you can't put it into practice. Until now you had to go elsewhere. Recent technology such as computer games use words, images and video throughout but also offer the chance to interact and experience the theories in context instantly. They foster experimentation and exploration of concepts and enable a greater more detailed understanding that can be personalised to each individual.

The book got game by beck and wade. Explores the impact gaming and gamers is having on learning right now. I agree with James Gee that computer games can teach schools some lessons. I'm passionate about Innovation in learning. What I'm pushing for is using new technology to make learning more intuititive and personalised. to get the teacher back to being a mentor that understands how to help the student achieve the learning they need. Working on a computer helpdesk I didn't know all the software I supported very well but I was always able to connect the caller with a solution that helped them achieve what they needed. That's how humans and their tools can work in harmony. Our tools have simply grown in all areas. so our relationship with them should adjust. My preference is for the humans to do what they enjoy most. Mainly see learning and teaching as a conversation. The tools take care of the bureaucracy.

The technology can now deliver richer concepts and experiences with consistently high standards. It can also personalise the experience to each user.

My philosophy is that living a healthy life is about survival of the fittest. My point is that in the 60's we were all a lot fitter. We ate slightly more aswell. That''s what stats from most large studies will tell you and also what is pretty obvious. How many people bike/walk to work any more. Were elevators and lifts so common in the 60's. Did everyone stay inside and watch tv. We;'ve just got a lot more distractions and conveniences that don't require much effort. If we're already eating less than we used to then if we continue to eat even less, which is what's always encouraged, then we'll just not get enough vitamins and minerals. If we're more active then we can eat a bit more and still even manage to lose weight. We just need to have fun ways to be active that compete well with all the other distractions that are out there.

Another missed benefit of being active is that it keeps us prepared for daily challenges and

I also notice that western society really embraces the ideal of pushing yourself to the limit. Live fast, die young. That's why we've achieved so much. In pushing ourselves too far. do we do irreparable harm? I wonder whether this mentality underpins the alarming rise in health problems we seem to face. I can't fail to notice that the lifestyles that don't have such problems with heart disease and cancer such as france (the french paradox) and Mediterranean countries also seem to embrace relaxation and taking your time as a way of life. Achieving what you can achieve. In essence they give themselves time to recover.

Taking this further I've begun to see that evolution is everywhere. We assume that evolution applies only to nature yet I see its principles playing out all around us. So I wonder whether we can learn about natures evolution from the evolution that we're creating.

Another aspect is the idea that all aspects of ageing are inevitable. What we're slowly finding is that we have a lot more control over how we age than we though. One article that caught my eye explains research that implied our dna blueprint doesn't change too much when we get older. Basically if our basic blueprint doesn't change then we should still be able to be fit like we used to. Of course we won't achieve the same heights but there are many examples of seniors people exceeding the fitness of those half their age. This is research to back it up.

I also came across a story about a village fisherman which puts some of this into perspective.

Being a software developer I like to take information and make it useful. So I've been looking into tools to help gather information and make it accessible. And I also believe that If you're going to do good science, release the computer code too. When it comes to health I can't find any basic processes such as the krebs cycle that have been modelled using software and then made public through open source. The basic processes behind our bodies are well understood and documented. Why haven't these patterns and concepts been transformed into computer models that anyone can interact with and explore? This is public knowledge that can help us all understand ourselves in more depth yet it isn't prioritised.

The challenge that's on my mind right now is: How do I grow my own food in a garden used to exercise our dog?
I'm not interested in growing all my own food. Just as much as is practical. I've been thinking for a while about creating a small vegetable patch. Right now we're lucky because we have a plum tree at the end of the garden that produces lots of plums each year. The problem is that most of the plums contain maggots so they're not very appetising. I'd rather find a natural solution to this than use pesticides. I also need something that my dog isn't going to chew or run into. Another problem is that my wife can't stand wasps so I can't use anything that attracts them.

Kind of a tall order but that's the point I like a challenge and I believe in fitting solutions to our lifestyle, not the other way around. The advantage would be that every year I get a bunch of free plums and get to try lots of different plum recipes.

So if anyone has any ideas then please comment. I'm guessing the maggots come from flies so I might look into something that will eat the flies before they lay their eggs. Not sure if that's the right angle though.

You'll notice that a large part of what I'm trying to do is evolve the process of teaching. to make it a experience of personal discovery where you are in control. I found a recent post by Jeff Jarvis explaining that current educational approaches are designed for an age of consumption and factories. New technology is opening up opportunities for greater interaction between teacher and learner. Encouraging more collaboration and communication and ultimately bringing more of the human elemnts back into learning. For example you could begin assessing what students don't know, their biggest weaknesses and helping them work on those to balance their knowledge. rather than just finding out what they do know.

There is so much to learn about our bodies that we need faster, more enjoyable and more personalisable approaches to learning to ensure the messages get through and are understood.

Another question I'd like to address is where is lifelong learning? I see opportunities all the time where this could be implemented at little cost and huge benefit but the need and benefits just don't get appreciated.

Debating and discussing are fundamental aspects of learning and teaching. I don't believe that you should accept everything you are told or read. You should learn who to trust, what theories and concepts hold water. The only way to do this is to understand debating and understand that much of what you learn is part of a wider discussion. Understanding the context it has within the discussion, strengths and weaknesses of any material or concept help you decide whether you consider it a truth. Each person must make their decision what they consider a truth. I heard of a concept named 'Teaching naked' which takes a different spin on technology. The tech is used to help students prepare for each lesson. Giving interactive games, podcasts etc for each student to take advantage of. The lesson is a discussion where the knowledge and concepts each student has learnt are put to the test in debate. The teacher facilitating the discussion. Helping the class through their analysis and debate.

This is why I want to create learning objects that encourage interaction, exploration and experimentation. I want to show that everything has multiple angles at which it can be viewed and I want to encourage reasoned debate. Software is wonderful for bringing principles to life and freeing up your creative potential to exploring these truths.

I've just published my first idea for modelling nutrition. Have so many related to this I don't know why I haven't published them before.

TV over the web

Within a year I think I will be watching TV on my TV through the internet not the sky plus box that I do at the moment. I'm really happy with the TV that I get through my G1 phone but the size of the screen and all that goes with it does limit what you can do with it. It's not like you can sit around your phone with your wife and watch transformers is it.

I've been looking at this for a while with interest but the main limitation with every service I've found is the need for flash. My G1 doesn't support flash yet so I can still only watch inernet TV through my laptop which isn't the most comfortable experience. I just want to kick back and not have the sound of the fan in the background.

My initial research turned up some interesting results:
Online TV

I'm a tennis fan. The tennis specific stuff I found with a few comments added is:

Watch sport at http://www.getsport.tv/

also buy slingbox and media streamer to view it on gphone or moxi digital or aubox(android set top box only in japan)

All this is research from the last few months. Just today I came across a post on free internet tv which gave a link to VEOH and another post lnking to http://tv.blinkx.com/. The first thing that's obvious is the need to fill out lots of ad based promotions before you watch. That's annoying. I expect ads to be included but would prefer them to be like google ads and around, or even intersprsed with, the content. NOt something I actually have to fill out. I just couldn't be bothered. Also because I feel this is circumventing copyright rather than paying for licensed content I wonder what else these sites are doing. It's not far from this to find a virus or other unwanted application downloaded to your machine so I'm a bit wary about these sites.

Anyway. This area is quickly evolving. I don't think it will be long before the model becomes clearer and clean simple ways of providing tv over the web will be provided. I'm impressed how much is possible right now. I get the impression that it's about a year or two away before I can genuinely watch most tv I want to watch through a web browser linked to my tv. 

Lets see if we can find that answer sooner. 

Friday, 6 November 2009

Android keyboard video and mouse (KVM)

It occurred to me a little while back as it has to many people that with an external jeyboard, video and mouse you could essentially turn your android, or other smart phone, into a portable computer with a 500mhz or so processor. When the faster 1ghz processors come along it really would be a useful bit of kit.

All you need is a way to connect these peripherals. I've looked into usb based devices but heard comments that bluetooth is the way to go. Neither route it supported in Android at this point and it's really a quest to see which would be implemented first.

The advantage with usb is that the handset could power the device. I carry a spare battery(only £7 each so why not) so I'm not as scared of battery drain as others, problem is the amount of wires needed. Bluetooth (BT) sounds great but the one headset I purchased didn't work with the phone I bought it for so I'm not experienced with bluetooth and scared about battery drain and compatibility issues. I also don't know how well BT handles multiple devices. My guess, given the G1's limited hardware, is not as well as we'd like. However bluetooth might be the one to watch for the future.

There seem to be some hacky tips to pair android with bluetooth keyboard/mouse

edit 20100112
Looked a bit further into this. Specifically at the ability to get the video from my mobile phone onto a larger screen.

Obvious answers are to get some kind of video out. Might look into that either in my next phone or a usb to video out adaptor.

Found the mtube II mid and archos 5 tablets. The prices are coming down but you've still got to pay for the screen, battery, processor, hard drive etc so you really just want a tablet anyway. If it had a bunch of other uses like gaming, particularly web gaming. Still though I'm wondering why bother since I already have a laptop. Why pay for all this extra juice and power when I have a phone capable of dealing with that. I really just need a bigger screen for it.

Celloiviewer is a tv that supports wifi. At 32" and 26" it's a little too big to fit in my pocket and I expect it's pretty expensive.

More interesting are media glasses
Lumus have a range and so do myvu. In terms of prices myvu crystal original all in one package is $199.95. Kind of affordable. It also just needs a video out. It's designed for the iphone so atleast this means it's meant for a phone.It'll also work with anything with a video out so it'll work anywhere. Potentially I can hook it up to my PS3. that sounds like a cool idea.

Android tips

I love android. there are loads of tip sheets already out there but I want one that fits me so I've got my reference in one place.

Copy and paste: As well as using Menu key + C and menu key + V for coipy and paste I've just discovered you can copy using the highlighting feature. this works in the gmal app anyway. have used similar in other apps too. Press shift key and touch anywhere on the screen to begin highlighting. Drag the highlight to the end of the selection and stop touching. Your selection is now copied to the clipboard

Sometimes I get the bus to work. I wish I could find a way to make it a little cheaper if I used it more and more flexible so I could easily chop and change buses.

I only use it 2-3 times a week so not much. You can get things a little cheaper by paying in advance and getting a free card but then you've got to use it a lot.

It occurs to me that the bus companies are missing a trick. Why can't I buy a card that logs the trips I use. Then they could run promotions where I get my next ride free if. Take 4 trips in a week. Or a take two trips get the third half price. You get the idea.

We see these offers in business all the time so they must work. We see lots of initiatives to encourage sales but I've never seen one on the buses.

Must be a different mindset in the people that run them I suppose. Shame. I think this wouldn't be that hard to implement in this day and age and would encourage use of public transport.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Flash without Flash for a timeline of artifical life

I just had to blog this. I think flash is really useful but it's propietary and inaccessible on so many levels. So I love efforts to achieve flash like effects without using flash. I just just visited livingmatter.org and saw their timeline feature. Wow. Worked in chrome and firefox for me. Gets me excited about where the web is headed.

it's also about artificial life and computer simulation which are two important topics to me. So i couldn't help but promote the link love.

I didn't realise at first but it's actually an embeddable widget. Now I'm even more impressed cos I can embed it below.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Why I love to teach everyone what I know

I just realised why I love to teach everyone what I know and give away all my secrets.

When people consider who is the greatest in any sport. Rod laver or roger federer in tennis for example. It's a common phrase to say that you can only beat what's in front of you.

Since each sport has improved immeasurably over the years it's hard to know how players from past eras would fair these days.

My hunch though is that they would still be the best in the world because they'd find a way to compete.

That's why I want to pass on everything I know because I want to raise the standards in the areas I compete in. What's the point in holding knowledge when you could share it and achieve so much more. By letting go of your achievements you have incentive to reinvent yourself again. Others get in front of you and you get to learn from them. You thenhave the fun of catching up and over taking them.

Only when you show you can keep up with any contender in this way can you truly be considered the best. Because you always found a way to be the best.

What I like most is that you never stop improving. That's got to be good for everyone. Surely

Useful browser plugins

Just going to list the browser plugins I find really useful. Just as a reference really and to spread the lurve. Since Firefox is the main browser that accepts plugins it's going to be weighted to that side for now. Come on Chrome hurry up and support plugins and extensions.

I've just come across a suite of of extensions collectively known as exploitme. They've been recommend so I'm just installing them now. They're focus on checking site security, which as a site developer I could do with tools to help this. they were recommended by someone who came back from a php security course. Let's see how they work out.

I run a lot of the other standard web devvy extensions such as web developer toolbar and firebug but I don't have time to list them all in depth. The basic list is:

  • FEBE and CLEO
  • Web developer toolbar
  • exploitme (suite)
  • Firebug
  • Fireftp
  • All in one sidebar
  • Page speed
  • xmarks

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Free tools to backup your online accounts

Thought I already had an article covering some of this. Couldn't find it though. so putting it here for now.

I just came across a lifehacker article detailing free tools to backup your online accounts. just had to share it cos it's my #1 concern with cloud computing. since I'm committed to the cloud it's now about covering the down side. that being what if I lose my account for any number of reasons. As long as I have a recent backup I'm not completely screwed.

So the question is, how easy is it to get a backup of all this cloud based stuff?

for Google docs I'm impressed. I initially thought I could only backup a folder at a time but I clicked on the my folders view to see the root folders. Selected all using the drop down, right clicked in the pane, chose export and got a zip containing all files I have in gdocs. I clicked the email me option since it was going to take a while.

I've found some small niggles. there seem to be a problem with unordered lists in word documents. They don't copy properly. Instead you get a big blank section that goes over multiple pages. I haven't looked further to see what other issues I found.

I also found that file names with characters that aren't allowed for files in windows like ':' cause errors when unzipping. I didn't check to see if these files were actually included when unzipped. But I can fix this by never naming a file using these characters. Would be simpler to have an option in gdocs to list the valid characters that invalid ones will be switched to but that may come in time.

Overall though I'm just really happy that Google Docs are taking this issue seriously and built right into the tool an export function. I'm just waiting until it's more solid but atleast I have some kind of backup with a promise of something better.

Just read about Googles Data liberation front. A project designed to give access to data back to users. I hope this takes things forward.

I've recently signed up to backupify.com and set up daily backups for gmail, gdocs, facebook, twitter and a few others. All seems great so far. I've got a bunch of backups. The help articles seem really helpful. they explain that the restore process is different for different applications. Some allow full restore. Others don't have a restore. But either way you'll atleast have your data. finally I've got some peace of mind.

Came across and article on how to: escape from Google. Seemed to go through the backup process and restoring to other services.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Innovation in learning

Working at a university is, for me, a dream. Don't get me wrong. The places I've worked before have been great but I'm a born learner and I love teaching when I get the chance. To be clear about it my degree and a levels centre around education, physical education but education all the same. So I spend my days now working for an institution where my hobbies are becoming my work. Yay.

Well... of course it's not all roses. I'm kind of impatient and I want to learn the way I learn. Not the way everyone else learns. I know there are similarities but I do get frustrated when the learning process feels more difficult than it should be.

My career has revolved around the web. creating applications to be used online. Web 2.0 technologies are becoming pervasive with many mainstream tools now incorporating them. the main advantage for me is that everything is becoming more personalised and fits around me more rather than the other way around.

That is, everything except those industries where market processes and the competition they generate don't play such a strong role. Education is a prime example. Everything I've seen that's developed by main stream educators for the mass market has simply been old technology delivered using new technology. Take text books. all we get now is digital books an about 2 million different formats. So online feels just about the same as offline. Just with a shiny screen and a battery life. Education does realise that it's essentially still dominated by rudimentary text based technology.

So how do we take this forward? What can we do to connect the potential of the technology with the potential of the material? That's what my real life goals are about. Knowledge is about freedom. Up til now gaining a vast wealth of knowledge has been confined to those with access. those without good reading skills, who have disabilities, without the means to get the necessary books. The list goes on of people who find it hard to enhance their knowledge and learn how to apply that knowledge to improve their circumstances.

My dream is also about personal achievement and ability. I've spent my life learning what I can do as a human being and applying it to achieve my goals. I've found it enriching and freeing. I now believe I can genuinely achieve anything I set my mind to simply because I'm human. The technology that comes with being human, the amazing senses, fantastic brain and all the rest are millenia ahead of the technology humans have made themselves.

I believe strongly that a greater knowledge of our minds, bodies and souls will make us better at both getting what we want and being happy when we get it. I feel this kind of knowledge of say knowing how to eat foods you love, maybe even indulge yourself, yet be healthier and fitter than you used to be, can add real balance to your life.

My basic plan is to find a course I love either on our institutional vle or on the open version at openlearn. Go through it and begin studying it. The difference being that I will look for areas that I think I could bring to life using technology. I'll come up with some rules about costs and sustainability and whatever but the point is rather than just saying what I don't like I want to reinterpret the content and show how technology could bring it to life.

I intend to do this in my own time at first and have already begun learning about Google Web Toolkit (GWT) in preparation. Longer term I'm looking at how to continue this in my work time. I've heard about the 20% time that Google employees get and also that 3M apparently has been doing something similar for years. How would be do that in a university given their funding structure? I'm not completely sure but I have ideas around pushing this idea as research and thus there may be funding available to research new ways to bring content to life. Particularly because I believe this is an emerging field and this area is at the forefront and most in need of investigation.

How would it fit with the current VLE?
We use Moodle. And we have a lot of people and courses already on it. So it's a pretty good system as it is. Problem is that getting Moodle to do anything other than what it's designed for isn't the easiest thing in town. My simple answer is to not make any changes to what we have. Rather find ways to make it simple and secure to connect Moodle to other applications and solutions. If that were the case I could just build something separate and then hook into Moodle in the way we all agree. This is the standard approach across the web and ensures that if my solution isn't ready or whatever then we can just hook into another one that is.

It also means we wouldn't be affecting the underlying stability of the current solution (Moodle). By being essentially separate we benefit from loose ties and can develop at our own pace with our own goals. We just get content from the Moodle solution and report back as necessary.

Will one person have enough time?
That's why I'm looking at GWT. Moodle and most development tools or frameworks involve too much heavy lifting. You have to be an expert in and write bunches of code for html, javascript, css and lots of other technologies. You then have to test on all the major browsers, screen sizes, input devices. The list just goes on and on and it's growing by the week.

GWT does so much of this work for you, or that's the theory, leaving you to focus on what it is that you were trying to do in the first place. So firstly I want to see if GWT is up to scratch. My plan is to learn the basics then bring a small part of my favourite course to life. Make it interactive, mobile and fun. Above all make it easier to learn and apply the underlying knowledge.

if GWT isn't up to scratch then I'll look for something else.

I'll just keep updating this document as I intend it to be the basis for my proposal.

Ultimately I just want to scratch my own itch through technology. if I create little solutions that make my life and learning easier. I'm certain I could make this available for others with ease. That's the plan anyway.

I've also just discovered the term 'Technological determinism'. Now I realise there's a term for the opposite to the way I work and think. Humans come first. Technology is just a product of human work that can help or hinder future work or pleasure. That's not a definition it's just my view. Everything I develop is written by a human for another human to use. So the technology should adapt to the human not the other way around.

To add to that I think it will be a long while before we genuinely begin to improve on the technology the average human is born with. We have visual capacities to create 3d, full colour, real time worlds within our minds yet our eyes (cameras) are not up to the standards of those in a cheap phone. Our in built software is so well developed we can differentation individual people and conversations from a massive of noise in a lecture theatre. We don't have human made technology that can do that, for free. We even have the ability to fix and fuel ourselves using simple items that lie around. Current technology always needs human intervention for this. 

What I see is that we need to develop the technology we create to a point where it matches the technology we are born with. Only then will we truly realise just how quickly and effectively we learn and only then will we start achieving our real potential. 

So, in essence,

Rejecting technological determinism should be a mantra in our professional conversations. - danah boyd

Play, taking a break and it's benefits
I couldn't think which place was best to put this thought. Here seemed good. I feel strongly that the brain works like a muscle and thus training methods used on muscles and the body must apply to the mind and vice versa.

I feel that training specifically for one sport makes you good at that sport but can make you weak or umbalanced for life and other challenges. A tennis player often develops more strength and coordination in one side of the body than the other. A sprinter is great at running forward but what about side to side, around corners. that's needed in other sports. What about your core fitness. Do the activities you undertake keep your back, your shoulders and other areas in the right shape to sort the garden out or fix your car?

If they don't, and worse, if they leave you prone to injuries then you've got problems. This is why I play touch rugby and football aswell as tennis. it doesn't give me complete all round fitness but it does give balance. I also just play for fun a lot of the time. Competing when I feel like it, not all the time.

I think the mind is the same. No matter how hard I try to concentrate sooner or later I'll need a break. the longer I've been doing so the more my mind is open to distractions. thing is I often get a lot of work done after these distractions. I also find that when I focus on one problem for a few days or longer I feel other skills get a little less honed. Just like with my body.

I wonder whether this implies that it's better to vary your work and habits to keep all your skills and faculties in shape. Otherwise you'll have an amazing ability to complete the task you've been occupied with but will be out of practice for other things like playing around, relaxing and dealing with other types of problem.

Just a thought