Sunday, 7 November 2010

Check List Manefesto

I've just finished reading the 'Check List Manifesto'.  Good book about how to use check lists correctly to manage the risk in complex systems.  Some ideas:

  • There are two types of check list: Do-Confrim and read-do.  Use them in the correct place
  • Check lists need to happen at the correct pause points
  • You mush test check-lists before rolling them out
  • They need to be fast enough to be actually used.  Focus on dangerous stuff that gets missed rather than being overly comprehensive
  • Check lists are about team-building as much as directly performing QA

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Favourite Kids' Polar Explorers Book

I had trouble finding this on Amazon the other day.  For the record, my current favourite book on polar explorers aimed at children is 'Polar Adventures' by Paul Dowswell.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Moving to BT Infinity Broadband

Tomorrow I'm moving from my Demon ADSL network connection to BT Infinity Broadband.  I wanted to do a quick test to see how much better this made my network link.  I did a few tests:

(1) Simple Ping to the BBC

ping -n 20

Ping statistics for
 Packets: Sent = 20, Received = 20, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
 Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 39ms, Maximum = 40ms, Average = 39ms

(2) Trace Route to the BBC

Tracing route to []
over a maximum of 30 hops:
 1 60 ms 99 ms 99 ms
 2 39 ms 40 ms 39 ms [194.217. 23.69]
 3 40 ms 39 ms 39 ms [194.159 .161.90]
 4 * * * Request timed out.
 5 * * * Request timed out.
 6 * * * Request timed out.
 7 * * * Request timed out.
 8 * * * Request timed out.
 9 42 ms 39 ms 39 ms [] 
 Trace complete. 

(3) Getting a 15meg file from my Rimu Hosting hosted server

  scp -v -P 9999 . 2>&1 | tee time.txt

  Transferred: sent 5408, received 15695080 bytes, in 28.0 seconds
  Bytes per second: sent 193.1, received 560422.6 

(4) Sending a 15meg file from to Rimu Hosting hosted server

  scp -v -P 9999 goo2.tar . 2>&1 | tee time.txt 
Transferred: sent 15694528, received 6008 bytes, in 201.9 seconds

Bytes per second: sent 77736.8, received 29.8

That's the tests done with ADSL. Let's see how BT fibre lives up to its billing tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

VirtualBox Time and Date

Learning point of the day:  I use VirtualBox to run Debian for playing with Python development.  I noticed that the time and date were always a long way in the past, presumably as the virtual clock didn't keep running when the virtual machine was turned off.  The solution was really easy:

apt-get install ntp

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Powerline Ethernet

I've just got myself a pair of Solwise Powerline Network home plugs ( PL-85PE-TWIN_MK2 85mbps).  Despite the 1930's house wiring they seem to be working great so far.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pee-Day and Penguins

Today boy #3 has been in 'special big-boy pants' for the first time.  He did quite well for a first day with only the odd accident.  Over to the wife for coping with day #2.

In unrelated news, I've been trying to get boys 1 and 2 interested in working out the economics of Club Penguin. We've got a stopwatch, and we've been timing how long it takes to earn a certain number of coins on different games.  It is a work in progress so far.  I emailed CP customer support to ask if they would let me have some stats for the overall games, but they said that was a trade secret.  Fair enough, if a little boring, I suppose.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Manga High Maths Games

The Math 4 Love blog has just pointed me at a fantastic looking site for educational maths games called Manga High.  Just setting up our 'school'.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hiking from Llanberis

Just had an excellent day's hike from Llanberis over to Ogwen Cottage.  I've uploaded the GPX trace on to Ever Trail.

We stayed the night in Llanberis at the very reasonable Dol Peris bunk house.  In the evening the Llanberis curry house was too full for use to get in, so we ended up at the Welsh Curry House of the Year 2007.  And very nice it was too.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Towersey 2010

I'm late posting about our trip to the the 2010 Towersey Village Festival.  Here's the things for the memory banks:

  • The children's story teller Tony Wilson was great
  • Met Pete Coe who said that he was trying to get a CD out for Christmas with all the kids songs that he did in the 2009 Towersey kids-club.  Must keep an eye out for that for presents
  • I've been inspired to try to play the guitar in open C tuning of C-G-C-G-C-D

Running Python 2.7 on Debian

Here are some quick notes about how I got Python 2.7 running on Debian.  The pointers come from the Python NW Google Group and the Debian documentation.

(1) Set up the apt/sources.list file as follows:

deb unstable main contrib non-free
deb experimental main contrib non-free
deb testing/updates main contrib

(2) Run aptitude and do an upgrade to refresh the package lists
(3)  I had 45 packages to update so I installed them all
(4) That left me with python 2.6 installed
(5) Searched in aptitude for python 2.7.  Marked it for installation
(6) Aptitude seemed to nicely manage all the dependencies.

With the above complete 'python --version' reports 2.6 and 'python2.7 --version' reports 2.7.

I'll keep the virtual box snapshot of the previous version about for a while just in case.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Fixing the 'Sent Mail' Boxes

The wife now sends mail from Thunderbird, the iphone natively, from the iphone safari browser google application and the full google website.  When she does this the 'sent' mail ends up scattered all over.  Here's how I fixed it so that all the sent mail went to the same place:

  1. First of all I went onto the gmail website, found all the sent-like folder and amalgamated them all into one. I had
    • [imap]/Sent
    • [INBOX]/Sent
    • [INBOX]/Sent Items
    • [INBOX]/sent-mail
  2. Sent a test mail from each location to find out where it went
    • The full google website went to the correct google sent folder, unsurprisingly!
    • Thunderbird went to the google sent folder and to [imap]/Sent.  I changed this to [Google Mail]/Sent Mail, which fixed the problem of the duplicate
    • The iphone native app put sent in just the google folder
    • The iphone google app also put the email in the google folder
  3. Check that all the clients look at the correct place to find the sent mail
    • The google full and iphone apps saw the sent mail correctly
    • The iphone native app was getting confusing with the old sent-like labels.  I deleted the labels in gmail and then it all made much more sense
    • Thunderbird didn't really have a good solution.  The 'Sent Mail' was under the [Google Mail] folder in the tree which was a little confusing

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Camping in Wales

Last weekend we had a great time camping at the Llyn Gwynant campsite.  It had nice fields roped off from cars, we could hire canoes to go on the lake, and best of all they allow open fires.  The wife and kids had a great time doing experimental cooking.

On the second day we had a very nice, and kid friendly walk up to Llyn Idwal.  Finally on the way back we stopped off at Penrhyn Castle.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Iphone and HTML5 Canvas

My father-in-law wants a program to mess about with the Mandelbrot set. Ideally this should work in a browser from the iphone. I'm thinking this would be a good little project to try out using the HTML5 canvas element. Any one know how well HTML5 canvas is supported on the iphone Safari browser?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

#1 Son at the Opera House

Waiting nervously for #1 son to appear in a show at the Manchester Opera House. He's doing a medley of songs from the Lion King after a week of drama school.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Electoral Disappointment

I've just got off the phone to Manchester Council. It turns out that members of the public can't be present to witness either the count of votes or the declaration of results. I'm disappointed and rather flabbergasted. Doesn't that seem odd? I would have liked to take my son in to see democracy in action. Turns out democracy doesn't let me.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Monday, 3 May 2010

Inspirational Maths TED Talk

I highly recommend anyone interesting in teaching mathematics to watch this fantastic TED talk by Dan Meyer.

UK Election Party Quiz

I've just done a very interesting online quiz to figure out which party most closely matches your views in the forthcoming UK general election. In reality I'm a single issue voter about freedom in home education...i.e. I'm voting not-Labour.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

EconTalk about Education

Just listened to a great EconTalk podcast about the ways that testing and choice have undermined the US education system. Very interesting stuff. It seems to me concerning how the UK's 'Every Child Matters' mirrors the US 'No Child Left Behind' without really questioning the evidence.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

MS Word Non-Breaking Hyphen

He's a quick MS Word short cut to remember: If you want to insert a non-breaking hyphen you type CTRL+SHIFT+HYPHEN.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Second Email Post Test - With Photo

By way of a second test of the Blogger email feature I'm sending this one in with a photo attached. This is the boys with small animals at the highly recommended Reddish Vale Farm.

Testing Phone Blogging

I've just set up the post-by-email feature on Blogger, so this is my first attempt at a post. I'm trying to free myself of tie-in to Twitter, Buzz etc.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Soldering at MadLab in Manchester

Several of us went to the two soldering workshops run by Mitch Altman at MadLab in Manchester last week. We had an excellent time. Someone from the HACMan group has just posted a link to photos from the soldering sessions.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Rope and Anchor in Woolston Quick Review

We went to The Rope and Anchor in Woolston for Sunday lunch today. We were our three kids (2, 4 and 7) and the Grandparents. The food was traditional faire but done well. The staff were friendly and the service very efficient. The prices were also most reasonable. Great for a family pub lunch with the grandparents. Look elsewhere if you are after a sophisticated gastro-pub.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Animation Competition

Manchester University CS department is running a schools animation competition. Despite the wording in the rules, it is open to home educated children in the UK. I've been taking a look at the acceptable animation tools before trying them out on DS #1.
Allowed tools
AliceAlice is available as a free download from www.alice.orgDesigned to be a tool for students to be introduced to Object Oriented computer programming.
ScratchScratch is available as a free download from to teach basic computer programming concepts.
Adobe FlashFlash is available for download as a free 1 month trial from AdobeEveryone knows what flash is.
Serifhttp://www.serif.comSerif DrawPlus is a drawing and animation program from Serif Ltd.
GreenfootGreenfoot is available as a free download from www.greenfoot.orgGreenfoot is Java-based programming environment for novice programmers
I looked at Scratch on the grounds that nobody got dumber by picking MIT. Before I could get any examples working I had to get the Java plugin installed for Chrome. That was a big download, so I moved on to Alice.
Alice looks really promising. In particular it has a version just for younger children called Story Telling Alice. I downloaded, unzipped and ran the tutorials. In a few minutes I was merrily scaring the pants off a small boy with a field full of spiders. What looks really interesting about Alice is that while the interface uses a lot of text, you can click and drag the words, hence no typos.
I'm going to stick with Alice for a while and see how far I can get.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Moving Email to Google IMAP

I'm moving our family email service from Spamcop to Google Apps for Domains. The main driver is that I want to have multiple email addresses on the domain, one for each family member, and that is just not an economically viable option with the Spamcop pricing model. My wife uses Thunderbird with IMAP to sync her mail. I wanted to swap the mail server underneath Thunderbird without my wife noticing. My plan was:
(1) Migrate the Spamcop IMAP folders to Google
(2) Test out the Google IMAP settings on my own version of Thunderbird
(3) Move my wife's Thunderbird settings and re-sync the client
I'll keep the Spamcop account around for a while before cancelling as a fallback position.
(1) Migrate the Spamcop IMAP folders to Google
I started following the Google reference guide to IMAP transfers. I soon discovered that my Google Apps for Domains standard edition didn't allow me to do the transfer. Luckily Google was offering me a free 30 day trial of the premier edition so I signed up to that and then kicked off the transfer. The Spamcop settings I used were:
Server Name:
Port: 143
IMAP Path Prefix: <left empty>
Allowed connections = 1
With these settings in place I set the transfer off running, and went off to install the Thunderbird client on my PC. The next day everything had migrated fine.
(2) Test on my Thunderbird
Setting up my account on Thunderbird was very straightforward using the Google settings for IMAP.
The tests of reading the folders worked fine. I added in the Google SMTP settings and then sending mail worked fine as well.
(3) Move my wife's Thunderbird settings and re-sync the client
Having convinced myself that I had everything working I updated the settings on my wife's Thunderbird client. Initially the folders list didn't populate, but restarting Thunderbird fixed that. I don't think my wife will be able to tell the difference. I'm going to leave Spamcop running for a few months before cancelling the account.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Art of Star Wars Review: Disappointing

The boys and I looked in on the Art of Star Wars exhibition in Manchester and unfortunately I was really underwhelmed. It was clearly set up to sell rather safe Star Wars Art (I thought it dull, kids thought it ace!) to people with £600 to spare per picture. It is a small gallery with about 15 acrylic on canvass prints. There was nothing by way of a narrative and the uber-cool member of staff gave us a look of "make sure they don't touch anything" then went back to his MacBook.
I wouldn't make a special effort to go along.