It’s just a doorbell

We had a new door fitted here at the family home/offices of Feeding Edge Ltd. With it we needed a new doorbell. It used to be we had a choice of a few mechanical rings and buzzes but the digital age brought MIDI like ringtones. I had always wanted to build a “record your own” doorbell but never got around to it. So I was very happy to wander into Homebase and see the Byron Wirefree portable MP3 door bell unit.
G33k doorbell
It is a normal doorbell, but with a USB port and the ability to play a 10 second mp3. Of course having this choice is actually tricky. What do we do now, what can we put on there. Music is not a great choice as it may be confused with the radio. I did try the hook for Geekin’ by Will.i.am “get your geek on get your get your geek on”. However I then went for a rich set of sounds from Star Trek and used Audacity to edit up a mash up of messages from star fleet and red alerts. It is very effective though I am not sure the entire family share my enthusiasm.
There may be an embarrassment factor to opening the door when the bell has been rung and the red alert is still going off, followed by a self destruct message πŸ™‚ we will see how it goes. I can of course always change it.
A managed to capture a bit of it in a Vine πŸ™‚ You need to click the unmute top left for the full effect otehrwise its just a flashing light πŸ˜‰

I guess next would be a playlist of sounds and door tones? Any suggestions? I might get the Predlets to record a chorus of “Door! DOOOOR! Dad!!!! DOOOOOR” πŸ™‚

Is this my weirdest article? – Flush 9

Sometimes an idea gets stuck somewhere in the back of your mind. It sits there and occasionally raises its head to bother you. One way to sort it out is to write it down, and even better share it with others. Sometimes though these ideas and thoughts bundle themselves together and if you think at an abstract level you can link them and get them all out in one go.
That is how I ended up writing the latest Flush Magazine article where I go “From Koi carp to the Xbox One in a Parkour style free run of ideas”. It was really about the Xbox DRM sledge hammer solution but it did seem to offer a pattern or a modern fable to consider with technology adoption and replacement.
My words have once again been beautifully presented by @tweetthefashion some fantastic art work and presentation wonderfully in keeping with the odd direction this article took.
Have a look here page 110 on but also don’t forget the rest of the magazine πŸ™‚

InfoQ – virtual worlds interview – me again :)

As I was on the roster as the rather excellent Goto conference I was asked by Ben Linders a few questions on virtual environments and where they fit in the world of software engineering. This turned into a slightly longer interview and has just gone live. It is always interesting to frame the answers about virtual worlds into a slightly different context or industry but of course when it comes to the software industry, the fact that this is software anyway has a nice meta element to the conversation.
The article is live here.
Along with my super g33k bio picture πŸ™‚
It is also cool that you can now just search “epredator” on infoq and tadah! πŸ™‚
I guess this may seem more of me going on about the same things, but there is a reason for that. These technologies make a huge difference to a lot of use cases. I am getting more calls and questions again about how these may work (post bubble). Ignoring the possibilities for anyone or any industry could be costly this time around. I just want to help πŸ™‚

Not just handbrake turns – GTA V

The original Grand Theft Auto was a great game. A top down scroller with cars that had very pleasing handbrake slides as you zoomed around the city in a sort of glorified PacMan variant. That sells it a bit short but as the creators called it that once I think I can :).
There is a complete history here on Games Radar.
gta 1 via games radar
I loved the top down scrolling car action not least because I had written a few demos along that sort line.Not least the cars game that was part of the developer kit with the old firms “BIG” proof of concept for in game micro transactions back in 2004 (yes they should have stuck with it but what can you do !)
So when the 3d versions of GTA started to produce more variety, but definitely keep that level of fancy driving it was fantastic.
I always have marvelled at the size of the free roaming worlds in many of the games. They just get bigger and bigger. They are not random either they are designed, intricately designed! The entire metaverse now though becomes a backdrop for narrative, not just sliding around. The good thing is though, you can ignore the story and just have some fun razzing around in cars listening to music.
If you are not a gamer and you have not watched this new video of Grand Theft Auto V the fifth installment and the latest and greatest I urge you to give it a look. Just to get a feel for the scale of these games. I am sure GTA V will not disappoint, they have just got better and better, more and more varied. They are a fantastic achievement in games and technology too.

The future of food, flies, soup and printed pizza – Flush Issue 8

The new issue of Flush magazine has just gone live and this time I joined in the food theme of the magazine.
As usual thankyou to @tweetthefashion for putting together such an amazing looking publication. I also know this was a bit of a trauma with some of the tech and file corruption all playing their part. It is there now though πŸ™‚
Page 87 on is my little contribution.

Being a company called Feeding Edge I always thought I would give myself the opportunity to move to a food based business or set up a restaurant. However this was an article about new types of food, the challenges we have for feeding the planet and some of the science and art of food that is coming to light.
I often put little tag lines into sections and my favourite was “waiter there is a fly in my primordial soup” in the section about farming algae for food.
It is probably not for the squeamish, but it is the first time I have combined Candy Crush, Michelin Starred Noma, the UN, insects, “organic side streams”, Danny Baker and 3d printing into a single article πŸ™‚
Anyway see what you think.
The full magazine is here and you can download or read it in any number of forms. It joins the ever growing portfolio of subjects on my writing page
Each of these often end up as a talk too, so I guess I best get keynoting whilst you read the apple news stand version too:)

Goto; Amsterdam part 2 of 2 –Some Choi then Makers gather

Day 2 (part 1 is here) of Goto started very early in the morning for me. I woke up and thought, hmmm I should do my Choi Kwang Do stretches and patterns, not realizing it was only 5am. Still it made me feel pretty good after the slightly heavy night out previously. Conferences are weird time shifts too, the intensity of being in conference mode needs something to balance it and this did. Besides I was going to be talking about Choi in my presentation and I had not been to class since the Saturday. It was now Wednesday!
Room with a view and an iMac  :)
So I entered the morning keynote pretty refreshed and ready to hear some interesting things.
The twitter wall was up and running again, as were my tweets. The wifi was rock solid the whole conference too !
Twitter wall #gotoams that was a well timed shot :)
First up was Martin Fowler, author of many books I have owned and read on patterns, UML etc. He had picked a couple of his talks that he has in his kit bag. For pure software engineers these were probably very useful. Schema’s still being there when there is no Schema made sense as at some point anything needs a structure put on it.
The tracks for the day were, It’s all about the people, stupid, Agile Closing the Loop, Hard Things Made Easy, Mobile, Case Studies, Legacy Systems and our Emerging interfaces track.
I stuck with the It’s all about the people, so that I could hear Linda Rising (@risinglinda) talk again. She talked about the power of the agile mindset. This was nothing about the Agile development approach, but really about human motivations and how they get messed up depending how they are addressed. Linda cited an experiment that gave an easy test to a group of students. After the test the group was divided into to by a subtle difference. This was not revealed until the rest of the story had been told. Instead Linda introduced Fixed and Agile thinking groups. Fixed being of an attitude that any task, intelligence, talent etc cannot be improved, you stick with what you have got and make the most of it, versus an agile mindset that is not fixed but is intrigued and motivated by the challenge and the effort aiming to improve.
In the story the fixed group were asked if they wanted to take a new easy test or a new hard test. They all chose easy again. The effort/agile group chose harder tests, thriving on the challenge.
There were several elements to the research that had been done that Linda recited, but it showed that the fixed mindset tends to measure itself against others being worse, assuming it can’t improve it maximises others flaws. The agile mindset looked for challenges, understood that failure was a learning experience and enjoyed the entire process comparing only to themselves and wanting to coach others to join them.
Now it turns out the only difference in the groups in the experiment was that the fixed group were handed their results and told that they were very clever. The agile group was handed the results and told they must have worked very hard. There are lots of examples of this but also that the fixed thinking tends to be destructive. The “rank and yank” approach of Enron and other corporates that seek to measure and find “the best” cut the others out etc. which leads to a set of people only wanting to not be in the bottom of the pool. This was compared to organisations like Southwest Airlines who seek to grow people, help them get better at whatever they do.
This is all out there in research, that is obviously ignored as it is a bit scary. However, linking back to my morning Choi exercises, in CKD there is no competition.We all want to learn, we want to grow and improve ourselves and help others. Nothing is ever wrong, it is a way to learn to do it better. Instructors are helped to understand how ti give positive re-enforcement and to praise effort. I don’t often hear “you are brilliant” used about people in the art, instead “that was a great effort”. Find you limit and push a little past it, then a little more. Just strive to get better not be the best. it is so simple and effective and it works.
(It has got me pondering an evolution of my blended learning piece of the pitch that features CKD and dive more into the similarity with how to do any good team growth and nurturing based on the CKD experience.)
The next presenter was Simon Brown on Sustainable competence – the people vs process and technology. This was more of a consulting experience presentation, but about the same subject. How and where it works to let people take an agile approach. It also was important to point out that Agile as a buzzword did not mean quick nor sort it out without the complications of design, build and test. In fact the examples were all of how teams that trust one another and are self organised take time. It is something that needs to be trusted to get on with itself. I had flashbacks to previous teams and how we tried to do that (without the Agile word). Always a corporate control freak would try and crush it at the wrong time.
A spot of lunch and then it was me. 50 minutes of cool stuff collective, games tech, 3d printing etc. It is my same slide deck, in a slightly different order but it is here and if you were there it might make sense πŸ™‚ I felt the crowd were engaged and enjoying it. There were some interesting shows of hands, or not to some of my questions to see who did what where. 80% of people knew about 3d printing but the viral nature of reprap was a surprise to many.
I was really glad that all of us presenting had some freaky and interesting things to say but in particular next up after I had shown some custard pies being thrown (usually quite hard to follow) Daniel Hirschman @danielhirschman had more than enough to follow that madness. He has several angles to his work. As an artist and physical designer he has a different perspective to developers. However he also wants the world to learn to code, to be a maker to hack. This is a very cool combination. He is a fan of the Arduino and of processing, and builds real things with it.
This was fantastic, all built with arduino and some other hacks to make a corner shop a musical instrument for a beer advert by his company Hirsch and Mann ltd. Check out the other work, like the Turin interactives at the science museum.

However he also showed lots of the work too of his educational company Technology Will Save Us that makes kits with arduino and alike to let kids or any makers play with an idea and build some interesting things. His final mad example was Bright Eyes. Which he got a kickstarter going for and raised some funds

(We speculated that Andy Piper would have been one of the backers, and yes he is :))
These came out later at the party. They were very popular.
We then changed tack to several lightning 10 minute talks. We had kinect for shop windows being demoed, Dan (@mintsource) showed a clever web sockets sort of local network distributed pub quiz with real prizes. I missed out by 1 point on a prize grrr. Dan also showed Leap motion working.
I did a quick piece on Unity3d and hospitals it was great to be able to talk a bit about code and how it worked. For my own brain it was good but also to not just be the crazy virtual world guy πŸ™‚
It was a maker fest really πŸ™‚ It all seemed to fly by and lots of people wanted to talk afterwards to it seemed to hit the nail on the head.
I had not mentioned this conference had lots of breaks, good 30 minute ones. Not a quick 10 minutes to dash to the next talk, but ones to stop, chat, reflect etc. It’s pacing was really good. They have been doing it a while though.
The final keynote was different in that we all stood up. The chairs had gone. The speaker was Mike Lee @bmf He was talking about the App universe after the big bang. It was a war story presentation, and he admitted to being a bit jet lagged after the alternative WWDC conference he had run. He is ” Mayor of Appsterdam” and brought a typical ebullient American delivery but blende with a love of the art and culture in Amsterdam. His main thing was “don’t make games” basically he was saying it is not going to make you rich and it is too hard. He is making games, he is suffering for his art. He managed to get his plug in at the end, but as it is an educational game, or at least one that tries to blend learning and fun it is worth a look. It was entertaining and depressing in equal measure, but finished with the line “lets go drink beer”.
We all stayed at the venue for a while as it was meet the speakers time, and as a speaker I was there to be met πŸ™‚
Then it drifted back to what must have become a very expensive bar bill at the hotel.
As mentioned the Brighteyes came out, but the also went head ot head with a Google Glass rig (and won)
Google glass meets kickstarter #brighteyes #gotoams
It was also very cool that the father of OTI and VisualAgeSmalltalk and Java Dave Thomas also took to them πŸ™‚
Behind the lens flare that's Dave Thomas (visual age) wearing led #brighteyes 100+ LEDs playing patterns #gotoams
Anyway I had some awesome chats with people, made some great contacts, enjoyed what I heard and had a great trip.
So thankyou again Gotocon and trifork

Hurry up and help me speed up please BT

When we moved house recently, and hence the base for Feeding Edge I was on BT Infinity 70mb broadband. It was great, a great service and fast and reliable. On moving to Basingstoke I checked that the exchange for the house was Infinity enabled, it was. I couldn’t check the property as it didn’t have a BT line at the time.
As soon as we moved in and got a real phone number I ran the checker again. It said May 2013 was the likely time. As May passed it then said June 2013 and now it says “between June 2013 and July 2013”.
I realize it is all down to phone cabinets being enabled for FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet). I can’t even find our cabinet to check maybe that is the problem. It all seems to tantalisingly close to get back to 70mb again, yet registering interest on the BT site may not really be doing anything to make it happen. Maybe a bit less money on the adverts and a bit more on the rollout please πŸ™‚
I am not sure how much there is to do, what the economics of it all are but it must be relatively doable or the checker wouldn’t keep making up a month?
As a business, and a techie one being able to shift data around is really quite important to me. I will be back on the top tariff as and when they sort it out. If anyone knows anyone who can point me at another way to make this go a bit quicker that would be great.

****Update 14/6/13
As I had tweeted about this it was great that @BTcare spotted it and contacted me. As a customer it is great to know that someone is bothering to listen. The answer may eventually not be the one I want to hear, but there is certainly some activity to try and find out a little bit more on the status of any line upgrade. That is really good. Thankyou BT πŸ™‚

**** Update 25/7/13
I got a reply about the cabinet from NGA equiries
Dear Sir,

Thank you for your enquiry about fibre broadband. The current cabinet is full to capacity and in order to increase the capacity we need to install more interconnection cables to the existing telephony cabinet. However, to do this we would normally install a larger casing onto the telephony cabinet to accommodate the cables. Unfortunately, we cannot do this as the local council will not give us permission, as they state the cabinet is in an unsafe permission. Therefore, we have proposed to move the cabinets, but again, the local council are refusing permission for this also. We are continuing to work with the council and I have highlighted your problem in the hope it will add momentum.
As there are people who move in and out of the area, they may also terminate their broadband service, effectively creating spare ports. I would advise that as the engineering work will take some time, that you regularly contact your service provider to see if an order will progress utilising spare port capacity if available at that time.
NGA Enquiries

I am now asking Basingstoke council if that is true or what I can do to sort it.

****update Dec 30 2013.

Having talked to the council it seemed that no planning application had been made ever to upgrade the cabinet. Somewhat frustrated I wrote an email to the (outgoing) CEO of BT. Somewhere along the line it got handed to a very helpful person in openreach. He was able to give me more information on the status and try and get to the cabinet upgraded. Just before xmas 2012 I tried the order system again and this time I seemed to be allowed 70mb Broadband. So I placed the order for completion on 30th Dec 2013. I was a little nervous the website had changed and it was not able to actually tell that the cabinet was full. However, the engineer turned up, installed and it is all working now.
I thanked my contact in openreach, though it may bt the work has yet to be completed it was just lucky someone was moving from BT. So I am happy with this much faster broadband, but hope that any actions will help anyone else.

Xbox One – not all bad

I missed watching the Xbox One live reveal video last night. Generally these overly rehearsed American corporate tele prompter fed things are pretty long, drawn out and less than optimal experiences. So I went to Choi instead obviously!
xbox one
I came back to see what the generally vibe was and it seemed quite negative. Partly because of a focus on TV and web integration not on games, and where it was about games it was Call of Duty and a new dog character. However having watched the replay there were some gems of information in there that I found interesting.
The first was “The Kinect understands the rotation of your wrists and shoulders and can even read your heartbeat.” It seems the new Kinect 2.0 is a much more advanced device. A wide angle field of view and a HD image of the world. Whilst the focus seemed to be “look how good skype video calls will be” there were some images of the new kinect skeleton and tracking. It looks fast, assuming it was live. It also showed some fast combat moves as well, combined with some subtle yoga moves. All looking great if we can get at the tech for things like Choi.
**Update added the wired preview of all the kinect abilities πŸ™‚

The multiple references to cloud were generally about storage, as is often the case. However there was a reference to the processing in the cloud that can occur. i.e. servers. “bigger matches with more players, living and persistent worlds”. So we have the chance for some real persistent virtual worlds and games to exist on the console in a well managed way. These exist generally in PC land with Second Life, Eve-online and World of Warcraft. There have been the odd foray into proper MMO territory on consoles, such as the new Defiance tie in, and playstation Home. Now though it looks like this, assuming the games companies can adjust to it, will bring a new generation of game to the consoles.
Of course we can expect more of the same for a while after launch but I think the xbox one just pips the ps4 at this stage in the race. Though I do agree Microsoft could have been a bit less corporate and just blasted out there in an informal way and told us all things in a different way. I think if you put the PS4 and Xbox One reveal next door to one another and swapped the logos you would have not been able to tell any difference between the too. Its a box it goes fast and it does stuff connected to other things.

Almost a re-launch here we go

After what has seemed an age we have finally moved family home (and of course the base for Feeding Edge). It has meant a lot of down time work wise. Packing shifting, unpacking all takes real time out of the day. The biggest problem had been a lack of internet. This is somewhat essential for an online business! At the previous place we had superfast broadband with BT Infinity FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) about 70 Mbps. When we moved house I checked the local exchange and it seemed to be Infinity enabled. In putting in a house move request though it was not possible for BT to determine if they could re-do infinity until the phone line was enabled, but could give 2-8Mbps broadband. It was also going to take 2 weeks to enable the line, i.e. after we moved.So I took the off the net time to sort out all things house related.
BT Broadband
On wednesday the ASDL router lit up and data was once again able to flow, albeit at 5Mps to all the various machines. I was a bit surprised that the phone didn’t light up too. As it was now enabled I thought I would phone BT and check what was going on. The helpdesk was adamant that I did not have internet enabled as the phone line was not connected yet. They insisted that I must be picking up a neighbours wifi not an ADSL line. I was not overly worried about that but I was attached to ADSL I was looking at the router admin pages, the light was on and we were on my wifi network and I had looked up the number to call and the status page using that internet.
All I can assume that happened was a very kind engineer had been trying to sort out the phone and broadband, there was clearly a tech fault with some element of the phone number but they patched in broadband (which is actually more use that a phone line these days). The BT checker says we can’t get Infinity yet, though does say it will be available May 2013. As it is May 2013 I really hope we get hooked up soon. It is very hard to go backwards in capacity and it is certainly going to slow me down a little.
Either way the phone got fixed and by Thursday this death star was fully operational (well on reduced power really).
Friday I got to try the new quicker route to London and went to talk about some more medical related training development building from MMIS.
So Monday, today is the first proper day of the new, but the same Feeding Edge. I am still here taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to. The digital doors are open and let’s see what this part of the adventure brings us.
Already though next month (June) is looking pretty busy.
I am speaking (along with the wonderful Lisa Feay ) and attending the Irish Symposium on Game Based Learning

Games based learning

Games based learning

I am also heading to Amsterdam to talk Blended Reality Learning at the GOTO festival

GOTO Amsterdam

GOTO Amsterdam

So it’s all go, all the same, yet brand new πŸ™‚

Rez Day again – Reflection on 7 years of joy and pain

All the joys of trying to move physical home and my focus on training in Choi Kwang Do, plus the Predlets being on holiday meant my Rez Day in Second Life nearly passed me by! It has been just over 7 years now since diving into SL and that has been a catalyst for a great number of changes and opportunities (and quote a few threats) in my life and the lives of many of my friends and colleagues.
I am still amazed at the power of what happened back in 2006 the power of people to gather and share in a virtual space. The creativity and buzz is something that many of us will never fully experience again.
This may seem crazy but this formed part of a customer briefing on security!
We really didn’t know the potential(which is still there), we just knew that exploring code and shapes, interactions with people etc was going to take us somewhere. I mean what do you do when your scripted space hopper rolls away into someone else space?
Postcard from Second Life
There are not many pieces of software that you can look back on and say that of. Of course the software, the networks etc was just an enabler for people to communicate and explore.
I have a collection photos of real events that happened in world. These are as memorable to me as any other photo or holiday snap. Real people doing real things, just mediated through bits and bytes.
I am still amazed though at the fear and negative vibes that many of us endured, and in some cases still do from the actions we took online with one another. It is hard to see why, when something is actually so positive it needs people to act against it. Not act against Second Life but against the freeform organisation of others. I doubt anyone who as experienced this will ever be able to fully share the full details of their particular lows. Many are deeply personal. Those acting to destroy such a positive wave of energy know full well what they were doing, who knows they may think they have won some fairground prize. In reality they have lost something and probably strengthened something and in a way done us all a favour.

What do we take as a positive from that though? Well anything that generates that much passion, both for and against it is not just another fad, another niche. It is obviously tqping into some deep needs in humans to either communicate and share, to gather together, or on the other side of the virtual coin to control and break things that they do not understand.
Unfortunately as it was the people not the software that was the problem, it was the people’s potential that got attacked not the bits and bytes.
2006-2009 was a technology bubble for virtual worlds, it was also a cultural bubble. We had to go through that and experience the joy and pain of it all in order to be here for the next wave. Culture takes a while to change but we are seeing much more sharing, much more open source. A realisation the power is in people not organisational structures. You can have a balance. You can have rank, a meritocracy. You can have rules but yet creative freedom within them.
What happened for a small portion of us in Virtual Worlds back then called eightbar was that we all worked to improve our own understanding of what the potential was, but in doing that we wanted to help others who were on the same journey. It was not about money or power. It was not about glory or control. That is hard for many people to understand who were not feeling the buzz.
I am now able to reflect on what we did instinctively for the good of the art so to speak but seeing how the martial art I study works. This does not feel a tenuous link as the conversations we have resonate with 7 years ago for me.
A martial art is a meritocracy. Through your personal goals and willingness to better yourself at your own level your earn belts. In Choi Kwang Do this is not through beating people or competing. It is not through negative comments of how badly you are doing, how much you missed a target. Instead it is active encouragement to enjoy mistakes to evolve and reach a goal. Lining up in belt rank order is never to say those with the higher belt are better. They are more experienced but they still learn, they still add to their skills. This is where it may lose some people though. We have control. A person, usually with lots of experience, will run a session. They will give commands, set tasks. We do them. It may seem regimented, yet each person is aiming to improve their technique, to learn and evolve. The person in charge at the time is also improving their own knowledge through observation, helping others with positive pointers. People step up to lead and are allowed to lead because they have earned the respect of everyone. However they never, ever apply any ego to that.
If I was to head back to 2006 and the wave of awesome virtual world discoveries, the teamwork and the sense of adventure we all had I am pretty sure I would do it all again. For me now, having seen another very positive gathering of humans trying to explore something exciting, yet applying some structure, I may have been able to help us be something a little stronger to deal with those less enlightened individuals. Maybe even to help them achieve more. The martial art is focussed on defence against a threatening force though. With out the potential for threats, without a counter to all this positivity it would not need to exist. So maybe we just enjoyed such a productive and interesting time because were were up against some people who were not so interesting or productive πŸ™‚
This year I still did some work in Second Life too. I was part of a build of a hospital experience that was about dealing with a mass influx of patients. The doctors and hospital staff (real ones) had to decide which patient to move where to make space for the sudden influx. There was a lot of code I had to design and put in place to be able to make patients deteriorate, take time to move from one place to another. Deal with multiple decisions, provide visual feedback etc. We did all this in order to help lock down the requirements. Then went on to build a web based version networked with voice too in Unity3d. We have then used it to inspire some kids too, we even added a few friendly dancing zombies. Kids love zombies. It is a fine line between playing and being serious. Virtual worlds and games bounce across that line, twist it, warp it and sometimes rub it out all together. Still they can be used for so many reasons and why wouldn’t you?