Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fun On Friday #159: Christmas Game

Thanks to one of my fifth year pupils for introducing me to this game: Snowline

Though, it has to be said, the fifth years were powned by a second year pupil who managed to complete the game in a 40 minute period. (The fifth years only got as far as the second last puzzle!)

And if you finish Snowline, try Snowline 2.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Computer News

My friend Mags told me ages ago that she had started a weekly computer news spot with her classes and that the pupils enjoyed it so much that they started creating their own news spots when Mags didn't have time to prepare them herself. I always liked the idea, so I stole it... and I've been delivering a weekly news spot to my senior classes all this year.

Each week, I have put together a four slide presentation on an item of news that caught my eye, and after I've shown it to my classes, I've been printing it out and posting the pages on the wall outside my classroom. I was pleased one day to overhear a second year pupils saying to his neighbour that he'd forgotten to read the computer news.

For some time though, I've been meaning to publish the presentations online... And at last, I got around to doing so:

If you click on the Options icon (looks like a little cogwheel) and choose "Open speaker notes" you will be able to see more information about the topic.

I made the mistake, at first, of starting the lesson with the computer news but I found it was getting longer and longer each week as the pupils realised they could keep me going for ages by asking questions and making comments. So now, I end the lesson with it instead!

So far, it seems to be going well. I enjoy picking the topics and putting it together and recently, the pupils have started suggesting topics themselves.

What do you think? A worthwhile exercise or a waste of time for all concerned?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strathclyde Christmas Lecture

Raspberry Pi and Aduino: Pioneers of Open Hardware
Duncan Smeed - University of Strathclyde

{Live capture of Christmas lecture}

Computers of Christmas Past

Duncan Smeed's first experience of computers was as an undergraduate using the university's mainframe computer but the Rapberry Pi is now powerful enough to emulate those mainframes. His first home computer was the Dragon 32 and he recommended looking at The Register's history of the Dragon 32.

Also talked about the first British laptop - The Liberator - which was designed for the Civil Service.

Christmas Present

It was suggested that Luxor Jr from Pixar was a major influence on current computing - inspiring and showing what was possible. For example, it inspired projects such as Lamp which is a physical computing student project:

This project is possible thanks to Open Source Software and Hardware.

CERN have adopted an Open Source Hardware approach, so that anything they develop can be built and developed by others. The Arduino Uno is another example of Open Hardware. Anyone can download the diagrams etc. and build their own. More generally, Open Design is building items, not just computer using open source philosophy See for example the RepRap 3D printer project and various cases for the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi Foundation was set up by academics who re-mortgaged their homes to set up it up. It has been hugely successful and they are on track to sell over one million Raspberry Pi devices by the end of the year. The Raspberry Pi is over 3000 times more powerful than the Dragon 32 from the 1980s and is significantly cheaper: £30 compared to approximately £800 at today's prices. The increase in power puts it on the right place on the Moore's Law curve.

An aspect of Open Source projects is the communities that support them. With the Raspberry Pi, there are: the official forums; user generated wikis; the suppliers (Farnell and RSS) provide information; user generated videos; and magazines (MagPi magazine sought funding through Kickstarter and now has more than enough backers and money to produce a print run of the magazine). There are a number of user generated SD Card images that have been developed so you can use the Rasperry Pi as a media centre.

Some examples of student projects were shown. For example: a key safe that only opens if you pass a breathalyser test; T-Shirt message display system; robot laser tag game.

Christmas Future

Chris Anderson and the Maker Movement. "Hardware is the new software!" See for example, FabLab.

Open Software, Open Hardware... Open Learner - get involved!

Example video of Raspberry Pi in the MAME cabinet. University of Manchester have a Raspberry Pi Bake Off.

Various YouTube videos can be found on Raspberry Pi projects.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Not my usual style of music but I felt I had to share this:


Cross-posted to Feedback.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fun On Friday #157: The Tache-on

This may be my last Tache related post of 2012. Rather than mess about with all that waiting for hair to grow nonsense, I think I might use the Tache-on next year. The results were quite impressive:

The donation page is still open, so it's not too late to give to male cancer charities.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fun On Friday #156: The End Of The Mo

Thirty days... and it's time for the mo to go. Here then are the edited highlights:

It's not too late to donate to Movember. And not that I want to be grumpy... but Internet chums (with two honourable exceptions) have been conspicuous by their online giving absence, so get clicking and get giving!