A little bit of web design

I was looking at Mark’s my365 page as he’s also doing a daily photo project, and rather liked his presentation on there.

So last night I put my mind to developing a few lines of code to try to put something similar together. So a bit of Perl code to parse the XML from the RSS feed (yes it’s technical, but fun in a geeky way) from my flickr oneaday feed and I was able to put together a web page of my own which automagically updates whenever I add a photo to the oneaday set on my iPhoto album on my mac (which synchronises with flickr).

Suzy helped me out today with the CSS for laying out the page and in the end this tutorial on floats was also very helpful to end up with my oneaday gallery.

I’l probably tidy it up a little in the future, but it’s not bad for a few hours of work, especially when I consider how long it is since I coded in Perl and php. Definitely a worthwhile exercise, it helps to keep the coding muscles in trim, and I’m teaching web development tools in a couple of weeks.

Join the FSFE

Are you interested in Free Software, then why not join the Free Software Foundation Europe?

I’ve been a member for a number of years now, and it keeps you in touch with the goings on in Free Software with a European emphasis.

If you want to join, then click the link here: https://fellowship.fsfe.org/login/join.php?ref=richship

Oh, there is a little bit of a competition at the moment to refer new members, and the winner gets a cooking session with the Fellowship Coordinator, and that sounds kinda fun.

FSFE fellow Button

IRC in aber

Especially for freshers…

There is a technology called Internet Relay Chat, which for many years was one of the few ways of interacting with your friends and colleagues around the world on the internet. Now we have lots of IM clients and protocols, but the cool kids all still use IRC.

There is a long and colourful history behind IRC at Aberystwyth, but to summarise (you can read the gory details in other places) bitternet is dead.

IRC is alive and well at irc.aberwiki.org.

Get yourself onto a Sun machine, start up a terminal window and type the following…
*** Connecting to port 6667 of server change.this.to.a.server
*** Unable to connect to port 6667 of server change.this.to.a.server: Unknown
*** Use /SERVER to connect to a server
/server irc.aberwiki.org
… lots of joining stuff here…
/join #fresher
… stuff…
Hello I am a newbie

You may find yourself in a quiet empty channel, or it might have other folks around. If you feel really brave you might want to try joining #aber, but beware, here be dragons and *shudder* graduates of the department. You need to have a well developed sense of humour to survive for long on #aber, but it is worth the effort getting to know the regulars.

You may want at some point to graduate to another client with different features, but before using scripts, beware they may get you kicked or banned.

Also, get aquainted with http://www.aberwiki.org/ it is a fount of useful (and pretty useless) information.

Enjoy, and see you around


FOSDEM geek-fest

Sitting here at FOSDEM, nursing a slight hangover from lots of Belgian beer last night at the Delerium Cafe in Brussels. they reputedly have over 2000 beers on the menu, but that’s still not enough for every one of the 4000+ geeks here to have a different one each!

It’s already been an interesting weekend, and it’s not lunchtime yet on Saturday.
The talk on How a Large-Scale Open Source Project Works is about to begin, so I’ll post this, and update later.

Arduino model railway control

I’ve been playing with a couple of Arduinos for the last week, and doing some physical computing, interfacing with real devices from the microcontroller. It’s been interesting doing some low level electronics again, and it was a great feeling about half an hour ago to have the model railway running under computer control – using the laptop to send commands over the USB port to the Arduino, which then does PWM to control the speed of the train.

There were a few hiccups along the way – not least of which the Arduino crashed repeatedly when the train started moving – it appears that the power pack I was using didn’t like having its load being PWMed, causing voltage problems. I resorted to running the Arduino off the USB supply, disconnecting the common 12V power input to the board, and just using that external power pack to provide power for the direction change relay and output to the loco. Make sure that you keep the ground connected though, as the Darlington TIP120s need that to be common in order to work.

The eventual use for this project is to automate the model layout in the Corris Railway Museum, and allow visitors to put coins in a slot and the train will then run for a number of returns depending on the coin put in. More coins – the train runs a little quicker. The software allows for reed switches at either end of the line for reversing, as well as reed switches for stations.

The hardware driver circuit is shown here in the schematic below (I know it’s pretty rough, but it’s as good as I can do at short notice), and photo of the really dodgy looking breadboard prototype.

The diodes are 1N4004s and the caps are 0.1μF to protect against reverse current from the inductive loads.

MRCC1Breadboard MRCC1

Stop telling me about bum_tnoo7@hotmail.com

Please people, stop telling me that bum_tnoo7@hotmail.com (or bu_tnoo7) is a hacker and I shouldn’t add him to my facebook account.

It’s already wasted far too much bandwidth, the message itself that is forwarded is technically rubbish, and you yourself are being used by the “virus” as the propagation mechanism.

Oh, and before I get a load of comments on “how do you know”, “what makes you an expert” – I teach a course on hacking to the Masters courses, and if you don’t believe me, then do some research yourself – http://www.sophos.com/security/hoaxes/facebook_hacker.html


If you receive this or a similar message, please do not forward it to your friends and colleagues. Forwarding unsolicited chain letters wastes time and bandwidth.

Always know where your towel is!

I’m currently writing a “must bring these things” letter for our new intake, so that they can bring along the right stuff on the Outward bound weekend, and found myself including the phrase “Always know where your towel is!” Then I started thinking that a lot of these undergrads will not even understand where the phrase comes from, so in the hope of educating the next generation I am posting this here:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value— you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you—daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence, a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.”

And I did actually use a HHGTTG quote on my data structures and algorithms exam this year too.