Dear BBC I am a programmer and a presenter let me help

I was very pleased to see that the Tony Hall the new DG of the BBC wants to get the nation coding. He plans to “bring coding into every home, business and school in the UK”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24446046
So I thought, as I am lacking a full time agent in the TV world, I should throw my virtual hat in the ring to offer to work on the new programme that the BBC has planned for 2015.
It is not the first time I have offered assistance to such an endeavour, but this is the most public affirmation of it happening.
So why me? Well I am a programmer and have been since the early days of the shows on TV back in zx81/c64/bbc model a/b/spectrum days. I was initially self taught through listings in magazine and general tinkering before studying to a degree level, and then pursuing what has been a very varied career generally involving new tech each step of the way.
I was lucky enough to get a TV break with Archie Productions and the ITV/CITV show The Cool Stuff Collective, well documented on this blog πŸ˜‰ In that I had an emerging technology strand of my own. The producers and I worked together to craft the slot, but most of it was driven by things that I spend my time sharing with C-level executives and at conferences about the changing world and maker culture.
It was interesting getting the open source arduino, along with some code on screen in just a few short minutes. It became obvious there was a lot more that could be done to help people learn to code. Of course these days we have many more ways to interact too. We do not have to just stick to watching what is on screen, that acts as a hub for the experience. Code, graphics, art work, running programs etc can all be shared across the web and social media. User participation, live and in synch with on-demand can be very influential. Collections of ever improving assets can be made available then examples of how to combine them put on TV.
We can do so much with open source virtual worlds, powerful accessible tools like Unity 3d and of course platforms like the Raspberry Pi. We can also have a chance to explore the creativity and technical challenges of user generated content in games. Next gen equipment like the Oculus rift. Extensions to the physical world with 3d printers, augmented reality and increasingly blended reality offer scope for innovation and invention by the next generation of technical experts and artists. Coding and programming is just the start.
I would love to help, it is such an important a worthy cause for public engagement.
Here is a showreel of some of the work.

There is more here and some writing and conference lists here
So if you happen to read this and need some help on the show get in touch. If you are an agent and want to help get this sort of thing going then get in touch. If you know someone who knows someone then pass this on.
This blog is my CV, though I do have a traditional few pages if anyone needs it.
Feeding Edge, taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to.
Yours Ian Hughes/epredator

Talking heads – Mixamo, Unity3d and Star Wars

High end games have increased peoples expectations of any experience that they take part in that uses game technology. Unity3d lets any of us build a multitude of applications and environments but also exposes us to the breadth of skills needed to make interesting engaging environments.
People, avatars and non player characters are one of the hardest things to get right. The complexity of building and texturing a mesh model of a person is beyond most people. Once built the mesh then has to have convincing bone articulation to allow it to move. That then leads to needing animations and program control of those joints. If it is complicated enough with a body then it gets even more tricky with the face. If a character is supposed to talk in an environment up close then the animations and structure required are even more complex. Not only that but if you are using audio, the acting or reading has to be convincing and fit the character. So a single avatar needs design, engineering, voice over and production skills all applied to it. Even for people willing to have a go at most of the trades and skills that is a tall order.
So it is great that companies like Mixamo exist.They already have some very good free rigged animatable people in the unity store, that help us small operators get to some high end graphic design quickly. They have just added to their portfolio of cool things though with Mixamo Face Plus

They have a unity plugin that can capture realtime face animation using video or a web cam. So now all techies have to do is figure out the acting skills and voice work in order to make these characters come alive. I say all πŸ™‚ it is still a mammoth task but some more tools in the toolbox can’t hurt.
They have created a really nice animated short film using Unity which shows this result of this technology, blended with all the other clever things you can do in Unity 3d. Mind you take a look at the number of people in the credits πŸ™‚

Even more high end though is this concept video using realtime high quality rendered characters and live performance motion capture in the Star Wars universe.

The full story is here direct quotes from Lucasfilm at a Technology Strategy Board meeting at BAFTA in London. So maybe I will be able to make that action movie debut after all. There is of course a vector here to consider for the interaction of humans across distances mediated by computer generated environments. (Or virtual worlds as we like to call them πŸ˜‰ )

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.