Monthly Archives: December 2008

New Years Resolutions for 2009

It’s hard to write these without it looking like some kind of ‘appraisal’ and I question the worth of those at work as it is, so OTTOMH here’s a few simple non-controversial objectives that spring to mind…

1. Get back into going to the gym, Tai Chi and Pilates – I’ve been working silly hours recently and my gym visits and sessions with my trainer have ground to a halt – fitness is really important to me, so before I get even more unfit and overweight…

2. Think of a useful Perl project and get going. I’ve been neglecting my coding for a while = very bad!

3. Finish my ‘David Bowie Owl’ painting and get cracking with some others. I love art and painting is really therapeutic for me, so I need to find time to get back into it.

4. Go to bed earlier – I’ve got into the bad habit of going to bed at about 2am, this is because I seem to think better and be more productive at this time, consequently I have a hell of a job getting up in the morning!

5. Play more games and think more about gaming generally. All my friends know I’m really into games, but I don’t do enough analytical thinking about the application of gaming IMHO – or I could do more ;-)

6. Travel more, even if that means going on my todd!

7. Read & share more books – I’m not getting enough knowledge in there (taps noodle)!

8. Come up with a really cool and original idea for an event – not as easy as you think when everyone’s putting them on these days ;-)

9. See more of my awesome friends & family, as I’ve been a bit neglectful – meep!

10. Create more quality video for the web – there’s a whole world out there and not enough opinions / thoughts / creativity being recorded & shared – video is the way to go – rokk on people!

11. Carrying on from Ant Miller’s discussion at BarCampBrighton3 – think some more about ‘A BBC Micro for the 21st Century?’ what this could be and how do we inspire and encourage peeps of all ages in the UK to be inquisitive about tech and look ‘under the hood’ to play and innovate?

12. * Research / promote / encourage women in tech: ladies, we’re here and doing it large – we need to be seen and counted – don’t be shy, or feel like you don’t have something to say – lets make ourselves visable at conferences / research / orgs / depts/ academia and challenge attitudes from the basics upwards, such as the national curriculum and career stereotypes!

13. Life / work balance – I enjoy my job so much I don’t know when to stop sometimes, I need to define my own time and get on with stuff like everything on the list above!

Do let me know if there’s anything blindingly obvious that you think I should add to my list – though pleasant suggestions only, please ;-)

Happy New Year 2009 to you and yours – hope it’s a great one!

* It’s not that controversial, it’s very reasonable actually and necessary – miaow!

Festive frivolity: a handbag for my DS!

I’ve been looking for something to keep my Nintendo DS in for a while, but hadn’t found quite the right case. I’ve also been carrying my games round in a tatty old piece of envelope = not good!

Anyways, I found this handy handbag in Selfridges London’s HMV concession priced at 9.99UKP – it’s rather lovely, and has a nice side pocket for my games. I plumped for pink checks, but it also comes in other colourways such as blue and IIRC green. It’s very stylishly finished and if you’re into such things the DS logo features no less than three times if you include the zip tags!

..I’m sure I’ll be posing nonchalantly with it at the next DS:London meet ;-)

Winterval 2008 = fe fi fo festive gaming fun for me!

Seasons greetings, I hope you had a lovely holiday! I did, thanks and have 3 new games to wibble about – here’s some first impressions :-D

de Blob – Wii
In a city called Chroma, there’s trouble afoot – it’s been taken over by the INKT Corporation, who for whatever reason have taken all the colour away and made everything dull and grey! You are Blob (literally) and your quest is to liberate the city from the doings of the INKT Corporation and make the place lively and colourful again by running into paint cans and throwing yourself at buildings, monuments, trees and the inhabitants, the Raydians – but watch out the Inkys are after you! It’s a fun and cute game, some time has been spent on the construction on the various areas and scenes which is nice. Gameplay is broken down into separate challenges that are surprisingly compelling. I’m still getting used to the controls as it’s pretty difficult to control yourself as ‘de Blob’ with the anologue stick on the nunchuck and I’m flying around all over the place, so the effects can be a bit manic. Also, I need to work out how not to skip the back story at the start of a new game. It’s quite addictive and I like it a lot :-D

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – DS
It was a bit of a hoohar to get hold of this game, I couldn’t find one in the length of Oxford St, this I was told was to do with Woolworths being the distributor and because they’d gone bankrupt supplies had run out – not sure if this is true though! I found a few in Rathbone St CEX, but decided that a mark-up to 50ukp for a 29.99ukp game was a bit, um, too entrepreneurial for my purse ;-) Anyways finally got one from Argos after scouring the internet. This is the first in a trilogy for Prof Layton & there’s lots of fun puzzles and brain teasers as you help him and his assistant Luke find the ‘Golden Apple’ in the village of St Mystere. For me a nice touch is the cartoon image of Citroen 2CV they travel around in – just because I like em, though wanted the Prof & Luke to hurry up talking me through the back story though, so could get to the games. The characters are somewhat grating at times, actually – esp Lukes adult-child mockney accent (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/2/13/)! The brain teasers are classic schooly ones, eg weights, matchsticks and stuff, so if you’re like me you’ll be scratching your head a lot and reaching for the hints – excellent fun if you’re patient enough to figure em out ;-)

New Zealand Story Revolution – DS
First released in 1988 by Taito as an arcade game and also on NES, Amiga, C64, Master System, ZX Spectrum, Sega Mega Drive, PC Engine, (to name a few) a version of this platform game has now been released for the DS by Rising Star Games. It stars Tiki the Kiwi – a little yellow bird who’s quest is to find and free his friends from the clutches of a naughty sealion. The game play involves running about collecting fruit, jumping, shooting enemies and floating about on little balloons. It’s lots of fun and incredibly cute :-D Actually, I probably should stop talking in such twee terms about this game, as the original was rather difficult and whooped the ass of seasoned, non-twee gamers! The makers of this version did add a few extras particular to the DS, it’s mostly d-pad / button gameplay instead of touch screen, so I got a bit confused when unexpectedly I needed to use the touch screen to spin a door handle. Oh yes, I’m looking forward to meeting the pink whale! Oh also quite excited about multiplayer mode, esp for the next DS:London meet up :-D

Haylp!

Here’s the pink ice whale boss – meep!

Hope Santa brought you some nice games too!

PS. I got a cheeky book from Cia: ‘My Grammar and I (or should that be ‘me’?) by Caroline Taggart & J A Wines – I think this might be a poke at my 1337 writing skillz – hrumpf – he’s lucky I didn’t throw it at him – the cheeky cat ;-P

PS2: Over the last couple of days, there’s been an abundance of Nintendo DS ads on TV for the ‘100 Classic Book Collection’ – it’s a nice idea in some ways, eg lots of classics to choose from and wonderfully portable for us tube sardines, but not sure if peeps will want to shell out for this when they could use Project Gutenberg for free (or by donation) & like me have a GP2X that has a reader. I won’t chastise Nintendo too much though, as anything that gets people reading, or new audiences into learning by play, is a good idea in my book (fnar) – I bid thee goonight (00:57am yawn) ;-)

Adventures with ubuntu & mobile broadband on my Eee PC

I’ve been trying to get ubuntu on my Eee PC 1000 for a while now. My first attempt didn’t go too well – I tried to install it from a USB Flash stick, but strangely it wouldn’t boot or install from it – doh!

I’ve now borrowed a USB CD drive from one of my colleagues (thanks Ru), and in the first instance burnt ubuntu eee onto disc and installed it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite right: the wifi wasn’t working properly and then it just crashed. I then decided to investigate other versions and have ended up installing Intrepid Ibex (8.10) with some upgrades and a custom Linux kernel ( Intrepid one from www.array.org) to get the wireless working. I must say I prefer the Ibex interface to the ubuntu eee look.

The other thing that needed investigating was how to get my new Orange Mobile Broadband dongle (icon 225) working. I decided to splurge out for one of these as I travel a lot and it drives me bonkers when I can’t get wifi access at conferences and on public transport.

Anyways, as the dongle only comes with set up apps for Mac and Windoze I need to find something extra to get it to work on the Eee PC. Basically as the dongle modem acts like a disc by default it needed a little application to switch it into modem mode. After some googling and fiddling to get it to work, the app I’m using is called ozerocdoff and was downloaded from www.pharscape.org and works a treat – yay! Thanks to Cia for helping me :-D

London Backstage Communities Network Bash

Thanks to everyone who came to the London Backstage Networking Bash last night / this morning. I had a lovely time although I didn’t actually get to spend much time with anyone. Not coz I didn’t want to but just because I was too busy – either unpacking/setting up stuff, fiddling with a walkie talkie, liaising with the venue staff, crawling under tables/hunting for obscure male /female jacks in bags or finding a t-shirt in one of the combination of sizes.

The party fun of an event planner is pretty lonely. It’s very sober (no alcohol for me all night) and not very social = not one I usually experience. I felt pretty guilty all night as I left half constructed conversations or hellos with good friends – being tapped on the shoulder & breaking off to answer a question, find something on another floor or reset the Skype. I was really torn and I had to leave my usual time for my friends at the door to cut off and just *do* things, as it were… I felt like I had wonky eyes all night – talking to friends, but having a roving eye on the peripheral… From the time I got there at 6pm I spent all night without a drink, lipstick check or time to go to the loo. Really!

Not to worry though because it wasn’t *my* party – it was a hello and thank you for all the lovely people who had are involved with the Backstage communities and had made the effort to cross London and the home counties, on a really shitty night of torrential rain for the east end of London. Everyone was lovely and no-one moaned about the weather, the distance or the fact that we didn’t have any booze sponsors this year.

I loved watching people interact over Skype to say hello to peeps at the Backstage do in Manchester. As there was music going on (thanks Dom) they found inventive ways to communicate such as games of hangman – reversing letters to construct hellos and questions such as ‘Where is Ian?’

A nicer bunch of people you couldn’t find. They’re all fabulous, clever, fun amazing people (and I say that most sincerely) I love you all and give you a big *hug* (okay now I feel emotional) – meep!

I want to say a *HUGE* thank you to Brendan Crowther, Dominic Travers Sarah Mines, Gareth Davies, and Ciaran Anscomb for being generous with their time to help get the kit there, DJ, set up, look after the door and our lovely guests!

I *heart* my geek…

..says one of my favourite geek t-shirts, I’ve worn it to death for about 5 years.

At work we have a staff newspaper called Pravda Ariel and of course being the BBC, a lively letters page. This week the featured letter, standing out in bold white text on a deep purple background was one that particuarly interesting to me.

One of our colleagues from FM&T, a software engineer, had written in because he was less than happy…

His letter started off by reminding us about one of our BBC Values that we have printed on the back of our staff pass:

“The keyword ‘respect’ is noted as a BBC value on the back of your BBC pass. ‘We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.’

– this is great, lovely, beautiful even, and I don’t think I work with anyone who would disagree with this.

But, getting back to the the crux of the letter:

“Software enginneers and computing professionals in the BBC are frequently labelled with demeaning and insulting terms, like ‘techies’ and ‘geeks’, by members of staff in other professional discaplines’.

“I find it upsetting to hear these disparaging terms in the office and feel it sad that there is a growing acceptance of the use of these labels among staff – even among the profession itself in an attempt to ameliorate the terms. They are even used in BBC output, such as the Click programme.

“The terms are typically used by staff in non-technical roles who, I feel, are getting away with blantent office bullying and professional one-upmanship which is damagine to the moral and self-esteem of staff in crucial technical roles.

Well, I nearly fell off my chair, exclaimed a big ‘WHOA’ and scanned the letter a again *and* again to take it all in, as I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. I happened to be having lunch with three colleagues who work for the World Service (for the record, three software engineers, who are culturally, gender and age diverse, FWIW) and read the letter out to them – they were quite surprised by Andrew’s thoughts too.

I totally disagree with the sentiments of this letter, as I actually like the word ‘geek’ I think it’s cool, endearing and inclusive. I talk about ‘geeking’ all the time, ‘geek stuff’ and to ‘geek out’. I think that it’s origins may be a bit odd and unclear, but if it was negative at school, I think we’ve now successfully reclaimed it and made it our own.

However, I have debated the word ‘geek’ on more than one ocassion this with my other half. He’s been programming since he was 8 years old and suffered at school from negative connotations of this word and prefers the word ‘techie’ (which is also mentioned in the letter, but I haven’t even got on to yet). My SO doesn’t like the word ‘spod’ either and is a bit mystified that 6 years ago I belonged to a group of programmers who met on IRC and liked to call themselves ‘The Spod Corps’. Anyways…

Without hesitation I can categorically state that I’ve never heard the word ‘geek’ used in a pejorative, demeaning or bullying way at work or for ‘one-upmanship’ – a term I personally hate, so there you go! In my experience it’s always been used with affection and respect.

My current favourite TV programme is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and follows a bunch of guys who could be described as ‘geeks’ and pokes fun at their everyday social, um dilemmas as high functioning chaps who might be on the edges of the social spectrum and have issues with everyday stuff such as socialising, girls or sarcasm. It’s light hearted and pokes fun at things we all see in ourselves sometimes, especially geeks. Some people might take offence at it, but then if you take offence at that, you should take offence at the IT Crowd too, which has a similar slant to social inclusion of geeky types but I don’t know any geeks, techies, hackers, programmers, coders or spods that do take offense at it.

If you look for dictionary meanings to the word ‘geek’ , you’ll find a multitude of explainations ranging from the derogotory, to the most positive – you can go from Urban Dictionary to OED So from a gerzillion definitions, heres one from Ask Oxford which is pretty standard – it’s both positive and negative, but the negative is mainly historical.

/geek/

• noun informal, chiefly N. Amer. 1 an unfashionable or socially inept person. 2 an obsessive enthusiast.

— DERIVATIVES geeky adjective.

— ORIGIN from the related English dialect word geck ‘fool’.

…and I’m going to compare this with the first entry in Urban Dictionary

1. geek

The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult
The geeky kid now owns a million dollar software company

So there you go. Yes, yes, I know – there’s good *and* bad referals, but I definately use the good and hey, isn’t a lot of it about syntax and intonation – how you say a word? Bad is good, good is bad, wack, blah, ew (disclaimer – I’m not good at getting down with the kids on street talk)!

I could go on about this for another couple of hours, as I feel I’ve only just started on this and addressed only the tip of the iceberg as we could talk about all sorts of social inclusion / exclusion stuff about geeks and education and cultural aspects, etc, etc, etc… But I’m late and I’ve got a geek party to organise, so right now it’s the blog or the party – and I don’t want to let down a huge bunch of geeks! I’m a geek and I’m proud – so Yay! Woo! Hoopla!

BTW, I’m wearing my ‘I *heart* my geek tshirt today, so come and chat to me about it – tell me what *you* think!

PS, I’ve also got a t-shirt that says ‘geeKISSexy’ and I’ve had no complaints about that one either ;-P

PPS I now know what my next BarCamp discussion or similar is going to be about, so thanks for inspiring me – perhaps we can meet for coffee and discuss? :-D

PS x3 Just before someone invokes Godwin’s Law – I wouldn’t call someone a geek or any other term if they didn’t like it and asked me not to!

Backstage networking event: ramping up to Saturday!

Just 48 hours to go till the Backstage networking do and it’s going to be great – more soon!