archive for the Technology category


Me,Technology Saturday 20th October 2007

So I all moved into my new place. The move was pretty painless, mainly thanks to the help of my Mum and Dad who came up for the weekend. My Dad drove a van we had hired and we got everything shifted fin two trips. Got my ADSL from Be activated within about four days and after some firmware updating shenanigans with the modem I’m all up and rocking. I did manage to trash my desktop PC in the moving process though, so I’m taking it as an excuse to upgrade to an uber-rig. I’m getting a dual core Pentium and 2 gigs of RAM (which is crazy cheap at the moment). Check out some quick snaps I took of my new place on flickr.


Future of Web Apps

Technology,Work Wednesday 3rd October 2007

Mark, Al and myself are all in misty London for the Future of Web Apps conference which has been pretty good so far. Apart from the 4am wakeup and 6:30am flight from Edinburgh. We’ll see how long we last at the party tonight which has free adobe-sponsored beer…


The new Landrover?

Technology Saturday 15th September 2007


Does it come in black?


Howto: Facebook status on your blog

Technology Sunday 19th August 2007

Note: there are many different ways to to this. This is my personal approach.

Facebook provides RSS feeds for lots of things. One of these is the “Mini-feed” on your own profile. This can then further be filtered by “Status Stories” – this just being your own status updates in an RSS feed. Sounds promising…

Grab the URL for the RSS feed of this page. Now, we can’t just fopen() this URL in PHP as facebook are sneaky. They verify that the User-Agent is an actual browser or feed-reader. My approach was to use wget and it’s --user-agent parameter to pretend to be Internet Explorer. Dump the resulting XML somewhere and then parse out the inner HTML of the first <title> element. This is your current status. Easy.


Eben Moglen & GPLv3

Edinburgh,Technology Saturday 7th July 2007

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Scottish Society for Computers & Law annual lecture by Professor Eben Moglen entitled “The Global Software Industry in Transformation”. It was a very interesting lecture, mainly about the version of the “GNU General Public License” or GPL as it’s commonly shortened to. Eben is a computer scientist turned lawyer is a fantastically gripping speaker. Valley Technology (my employer) I am proud to say was a major sponsor and publicist for the event. Some of the guys I work with worked very hard recording audio and video from the event which is now up on to watch/listen to. I also took a couple of pictures which are on flickr.


State Of The Map

Design,Technology Thursday 28th June 2007


My logo design for the Open Street Map conference “State Of The Map” has been chosen as the favourite entry from the sea of other submissions (two). Apparently it’s going to be on tshirts and everything, how exciting! Unfortunately I can’t make the conference but I’ve recently been getting very enthused about Open Street Map. A couple of weeks ago I saw an Edlug talk by Chris Fleming and was inspired enough to go out and buy a GPS device. I got a Holux 236 pretty cheaply off It’s a tiny wee unit that has no display, but can communicate through usb or over bluetooth. So, I can run a java app on my mobile that connects to the Holux and receives the data stream automagically. It all Just Works, most of the time. Here is a random route that I’ve run through GPS Visualizer to get some KML that is then plotted on our old friend Google Maps.


One Laptop Per Child

Technology Wednesday 23rd May 2007


Good article about the One Laptop Per Child project over on SvN.


Laptops n Linux

Me,Technology Thursday 19th April 2007

I have a laptop! A venerable IBM T23 with 512MB RAM clocked at a mighty 1133Mhz. I got it off ebay, something which lots of people have since said is usually a really, really bad idea. Apart from a crack on the back it does the job and is built like a tank. It came with an apparently legal install of Windows XP but I’ve installed ubuntu linux alongside it. So far I haven’t needed to boot into Windows for anything, all my hardware is supported in ubuntu. The install process was also incredibly smooth. You boot from a live CD and then the installer runs from inside the live CD version of linux. You can then muck around with the gnome default games (blackjack etc) whilst the installer is completing! I did have some strange issue with lilo not installing the first time, but I ran it again and it worked fine.

The PCMCIA wi-fi card that came with my laptop was pretty crappy and didn’t seem to be supported in linux. I shelled out a whole £10 for a new one that I knew was supported and it has been working fine. I also had to replace the battery as the charge only held for 20 mins, the seller freely admitted the battery wasn’t tested (ebay speak for broken) so it was to be expected. Ubuntu is the most user friendly linux distribution I’ve every installed. They obviously have actual people thinking about usability and being friendly to less experienced users. I’ve since ubuntu-orised my server box at home as well. It makes sense to just run one distribution.


Google My Maps

Technology Saturday 7th April 2007

Google have just released a really useful (geeky) addition to the already excellent Google Maps. My Maps allows you to easily create custom maps with your own markers, points, polygons and notes placed wherever you want them. All of this was possible in the past but either required hacking about with Javascript or use of some third party tool. Here is a map I quickly knocked up to show my current and new work-places in relation to home. More help on creating your own maps is available in the Maps help section.


Highland Fling

Design,Edinburgh,Technology Friday 6th April 2007

Well, the Highland Fling is over!

It was a great day with very interesting speakers covering a great range subjects but centred around Web Standards and “Progressive Enhancement”. Progressive Enhancement (as I understood it) is the opposite to “Graceful Degradation”. If you plan your project with the bling included and then go back and undo the bling to provide functionality to less advantaged users (Graceful Degradation) then 9 times out of 10 you won’t get the time/money to actually undo the bling. If, on the other hand you plan your project so that you get the core functionality working across the board and then add the bling, you’re much more likely to finish with a system accessible to all. This was the message I got from Norm from Yahoo’s talk. It’s a shame he had such a bad throat, he could barely talk!

Some other good speakers were:

The intro by Jeremy Keith – an excellent speaker and drew lots of parallels with literature such as Pattern Recogniton and Neuromancer. Props!

Andy Budd’s talk on the future of CSS was exciting but about the only thing widely supported in CSS3 currently seems to be the opacity elememt. Other interesting elements that will be supported eventually are border-radius for rounded corners and box-shadow for drop shadows. The Advanced Layout module looks like it will blow the current css layout methods out of the water with it’s grid system for layout and re-ordering of the content. Slightly dis-heartening was Andy’s complaints about the workings of the CSS Working Group: the snail-like pace it operates and the possible influence of Big Business on it’s decisions.

Drew McLellan’s talk on Microformats was a bit dry but still good to see them getting pimped.

James Edwards came across as the Grumpy Man of Web Standards with a talk about when to use Ajax (never, if he had his way). He had a point though, and hopefully people will take notice and not just do Ajax for the sake of it.

Andy Clarke ended the day with a nice chatty presentation about what exactly “Progressive” enhancement is, relating it to progressive in the music world. Some interesting anecdotes from the world of freelance designers including a snippet from this standard contract that explicitly lists the browsers a site will be compatible. Also very nicely designed slides, as you’d expect really. Andy also sits on the CSS Working Group as some kind of invited member, he talked of his frustrations with the slow process but also made good points that the working group has to consider not just CSS used for screen rendering and the can of worms that internationalisation is.

There are people I’ve missed and lots of stuff I’ve forgotten already but there are lots of others writing about the Fling. Where do I sign up for next year?