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.