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Jonathan's developments, thoughts and ideas on teaching, technology and learning.

Skyfall: Bond is Back

Bond is very definitely back. Daniel Craig has become one of the best Bond actors there has been and I guess that probably means he will shortly be replaced. When I say, shortly, one of the worst things about seeing a Bond film in the cinema is that you know it will be 18 months or 2 years before watching the next one. I'm a real advocate and simply love this British classic.

Skyfall was simply awesome and one that I could watch time and time again. I found the plot easy to follow, nothing too cryptic and complicated, almost back to the traditional Bond films of Roger Moore and Sean Connery. I loved the way in which stunts drift between fantasy and true to life. Many of the stunts are performed by Daniel Craig himself and this adds to the realistic screenplay that exists.

There were a few tiny disappointments. Having just made his way through a busy Underground platform and onto a packed Underground Tube train, Bond finds himself head to head with an empty Underground train coming straight towards him. There were enough shots, I thought, to try and make that appear a bit more realistic. It's a big feature of the film and I just thought it was lacking there.

Also, the final few scenes where M and Kincade escape through an underground tunnel to safety, only a couple of hundred metres from the ensuing villain, Silva. It was both weak and sad, following the passing of M's character played by the fabulous Judi Dench. Judi Dench has defined M as Daniel Craig has defined Bond. I just hope that he has at least one more Bond film in him.

Plenty of usual Bond humour throughout the film makes this a 'must-watch' movie. Enjoy.

The trouble with WGET... is stopping those pesky output files

I think I must have been plagued for about 5 years with the age old issue of WGET requests creating unnecessary and unwanted empty files following a WGET request. WGET is tool for retrieving files via http, https and ftp via a command line interface.

I use WGET extensively for running cron jobs across the various blogs and websites running on my server. Each time the cron job is run, an empty file, i.e. cron.php is created. If a cron.php file already exists, it creates another cron.php 1, cron.php 2, cron.php 3 etc.

You can imagine after just a few days having hundreds of these breeding like wildfire.

Stupidly, rather than fixing the problem, I created a solution. To run another cron task which periodically deletes the cron files, 

rm /Users/jonathan/cron.*

This kind of works, but then I started using WGET for a whole heap of other tasks, and yes, the output files mounted up.

Half term holidays affords me the space to find these solutions, and it's a simple one.

When structuring a WGET request, simply add


to the request, i.e.

wget --delete-after

Works perfectly and as described. Relief at last.

iPhone 5: a case in point

I'm thoroughly delighted with my new iPhone 5. I say new, but I've had it a whole month since the release date on 21st September. 

With previous iPhones, I've always maintained that to place this beautiful piece of kit inside a plastic case, would be like adding wrapping a Ferrari in bubblewrap, only to preserve the immaculate bodywork. Personally, an iPhone is an everyday device. It will get used, abused and scratched from time to time.

However, ever since dropping and smashing the rear cover of the iPhone 4, and having never really been able to replace the lens cover properly to provide outstanding photographs, I've been more hesitant than to just go 'au naturale'. Therefore I've plumped for a 'bumper' style case just to provide protection to the edges and the glass front face should the worst happen.

The Gear4 case is probably one of the sleekest available. It seems to blend in well with the original design. Not a bad choice for an iPhone 5 case.


RaspControl - Vital Statistics about your Raspberry Pi

RaspControl is a small PHP application for providing a simple web interface for displaying information about Raspberry Pi. Useful because on a headless Raspberry Pi, simply heading to a webpage enables you to get an overview of its state of health.

First, download the RaspControl software from here:

Next change the permissions of Read / Write / Execute permissions by navigating to the RaspControl folder.

sudo chmod 0777 ./
Then run the command to start the server.
sudo ./

Wire-less Care-free Type-more Keyboard

For a while now, I've been searching for the perfect wireless keyboard. Not necessarily for any serious typing, a full size one is needed after all. However, there's something very neat about this particular keyboard, its size.

Originally I thought I'd use this for armchair control over my home entertainment system, a 24" iMac with wireless mouse. It means I can send commands and controls to the Mac using the key commands across the room using its Bluetooth connectivity. It works very well at this and I'm delighted with it.

I then tried pairing the keyboard with my iPad, iPhone, and now the latest, my little Raspberry Pi computer. The Raspberry Pi needs a bluetooth adaptor, but that was easy to source and hook up. Using an iPad 3 keyboard has made such a difference to typing information effortlessly.

What I love most about the keyboard is its function. It comes with a USB cable (for charging) and a small pouch with a lift-and-over end for securing the keyboard. A really nice device, perfect for use in the home and for traveling. Fab.


Raspberry Pi configure screen sharing with VNC

I've spent the past week exploring what my Raspberry Pi can do. It makes a great little server as it's tiny and consumes negligible power, about 3.5 watts. Of course as with any Linux box, there is little need for a monitor, so I've configured VNC to work seamlessly on my Raspberry Pi.

Here's how:


1. Configure your Raspberry Pi with a static IP address.

2. Open LXTerminal and type

sudo apt-get install tightvncserver

Complete the setup as prompted
pi@raspberrypi:~$ vncserver

You will require a password to access your desktops.

Warning: password truncated to the length of 8.
Would you like to enter a view-only password (y/n)? n

New 'X' desktop is raspberrypi:1

Creating default startup script /home/pi/.vnc/xstartup
Starting applications specified in /home/pi/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /home/pi/.vnc/raspberrypi:1.log

3. Create a script to ensure that VNC starts at boot time.

Type: cd /etc/init.d
sudo pico tightvncserver
and add this to the file (you can copy and paste)
# Provides: tightvncserver
# Required-Start: $syslog
# Required-Stop: $syslog
# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 6
# Short-Description: vnc server
# Description:
#! /bin/sh
# /etc/init.d/tightvncserver

# Carry out specific functions when asked to by the system
case "$1" in
su pi -c '/usr/bin/vncserver'
echo "Starting VNC server "
pkill vncserver
echo "VNC Server has been stopped (didn't double check though)"
echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/blah {start|stop}"
exit 1

exit 0

4. Make the script executable
sudo chmod +x tightvncserver

5. Created the correct symbolic links for reboot and shutdown:
sudo update-rc.d tightvncserver defaults

6. Let's test the script. Kill the VNC service with this command:
sudo pkill Xtightvnc

7. And run the new script to start the VNC service:
sudo /etc/init.d/tightvncserver start

and you should see

New 'X' desktop is raspberrypi:1
Starting applications specified in /home/pi/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /home/pi/.vnc/raspberrypi:1.log

Multiple ways of multiplication

Back in the 70s, 80s and 90s children were predominately taught to multiply using paper and pencil methods. In the naughties (2000 onwards) the government, rightly, urged teachers to ensure pupils can use mental mathematics to solve multiplication problems using partitioning strategies. This has had a significant impact and in the last 5 years, we've introduced pencil and paper methods to support mental calculations. The Grid method of multiplication is a very successful strategy for children. In fact, three years ago, two pupils in my class produced this guide to the Grid Method.

How to solve multiplication problems using the Grid method

Of course this isn't the only way, and children find it amazing when they are shown a variety of other ways. I get them trying the difficult methods and evaluating the success of each one. 

Here's how the Chinese solve multiplication problems, 

and interestingly enough, new this week, how Ethiopians are solving the problem.

My First Arduino Project: Ethernet Enabled Voltmeter for Solar Batteries


HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012 10:44:03 GMT
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Connection: close
X-Pachube-Logging-Key: logging.PlG0hXDwYXVgUyvba56H
X-PachubeRequestId: a0b4fdf5d12e25345228f17ad9d2f7ba145601ea
Cache-Control: max-age=0
Content-Length: 1
Age: 0
Vary: Accept-Encoding

If you're wondering what this is all about, well this is the output in the Serial Monitor from my first Arduino Uno sketch, written specifically to capture voltage and post to the Pachube data logging / publishing website.

I have recently become very involved in powering my workshop solely from Solar energy. I have a 12V panel sitting on the roof angled at 38 degrees facing due South, connected to a Solar Charge controller and 4x 125Ah Deep Cycle batteries.

I wanted some way of being able to measure the state of charge of the batteries and have this data logged over time and be accessible across the internet.

Months earlier I had bought an Arduino Uno and Ethernet Shield but hadn't given either much attention, I'd not even written a sketch before and had only read about the possible projects these little microprocessor devices could fulfill.

The hardest task was in writing the software, but luckily I had found two sites on the Internet where I could combine and edit the code to suit my purpose.

One sketch activated the Ethernet Shield and posted data to Pachube whilst the other sketch calculated voltage using a voltage divider with its input on the analog pin 0.

Here is the working sketch.


  Pachube sensor client
 This sketch connects an analog sensor to Pachube (
 using a Wiznet Ethernet shield. You can use the Arduino Ethernet shield, or
 the Adafruit Ethernet shield, either one will work, as long as it's got
 a Wiznet Ethernet module on board.
 This example has been updated to use version 2.0 of the API. 
 To make it work, create a feed with a datastream, and give it the ID
 sensor1. Or change the code below to match your feed.
 * Analog sensor attached to analog in 0
 * Ethernet shield attached to pins 10, 11, 12, 13
 created 15 April 2012
 updated 19 April 2012
 by Jonathan Furness
 This code is in the public domain.


#define APIKEY         "INSERT YOUR API KEY HERE" // replace your pachube api key here
#define FEEDID         FEED ID HERE // replace your feed ID
#define USERAGENT      "Arduino" // user agent is the project name

int batMonPin = 0;    // input pin for the divider
int val = 0;       // variable for the A/D value
float pinVoltage = 0; // variable to hold the calculated voltage
float batteryVoltage = 0;
float ratio = 3.99;  // Change this to match the MEASURED ration of the circuit

// assign a MAC address for the ethernet controller.
// Newer Ethernet shields have a MAC address printed on a sticker on the shield
// fill in your address here:
byte mac[] = { 
  0xDE, 0xAD, 0xBE, 0xEF, 0xFE, 0xED};

// fill in an available IP address on your network here,
// for manual configuration:
IPAddress ip(192,168,1,70);
// initialize the library instance:
EthernetClient client;

// if you don't want to use DNS (and reduce your sketch size)
// use the numeric IP instead of the name for the server:
IPAddress server(216,52,233,122);      // numeric IP for
//char server[] = "";   // name address for pachube API

unsigned long lastConnectionTime = 0;          // last time you connected to the server, in milliseconds
boolean lastConnected = false;                 // state of the connection last time through the main loop
const unsigned long postingInterval = 10*1000; //delay between updates to

void setup() {
  // start serial port:
 // start the Ethernet connection:
  if (Ethernet.begin(mac) == 0) {
    Serial.println("Failed to configure Ethernet using DHCP");
    // DHCP failed, so use a fixed IP address:
    Ethernet.begin(mac, ip);

void loop() {
  // read the analog sensor:
//  int sensorReading = analogRead(A0);   

  // if there's incoming data from the net connection.
  // send it out the serial port.  This is for debugging
  // purposes only:
  if (client.available()) {
    char c =;

  // if there's no net connection, but there was one last time
  // through the loop, then stop the client:
  if (!client.connected() && lastConnected) {

  // if you're not connected, and ten seconds have passed since
  // your last connection, then connect again and send data:
  if(!client.connected() && (millis() - lastConnectionTime > postingInterval)) {
  // store the state of the connection for next time through
  // the loop:
  lastConnected = client.connected();

  val = analogRead(batMonPin);    // read the voltage on the divider  
  pinVoltage = val * 0.00488;       //  Calculate the voltage on the A/D pin
                                    //  A reading of 1 for the A/D = 0.0048mV
                                    //  if we multiply the A/D reading by 0.00488 then 
                                    //  we get the voltage on the pin.                                  
  batteryVoltage = pinVoltage * ratio;    //  Use the ratio calculated for the voltage divider
                                          //  to calculate the battery voltage
 // Serial.print("Voltage: ");
 // Serial.println(batteryVoltage);
//delay(1000);                  //  Slow it down


// this method makes a HTTP connection to the server:
void sendData(int thisData) {
  // if there's a successful connection:
  if (client.connect(server, 80)) {
    // send the HTTP PUT request:
    client.print("PUT /v2/feeds/");
    client.println(".csv HTTP/1.1");
    client.print("X-PachubeApiKey: ");
    client.print("User-Agent: ");
    client.print("Content-Length: ");

    // calculate the length of the sensor reading in bytes:
    // 8 bytes for "sensor1," + number of digits of the data:

    int thisLength = 9 + 5;

    // last pieces of the HTTP PUT request:
    client.println("Content-Type: text/csv");
    client.println("Connection: close");

    // here's the actual content of the PUT request:
 //   Serial.println(thisLength);
  else {
    // if you couldn't make a connection:
    Serial.println("connection failed");
   // note the time that the connection was made or attempted:
  lastConnectionTime = millis();


Last Sunday, the Arduino Uno with piggybacked Ethernet Shield began posting reliable data to the Pachube website. Here are the LIVE graphs produced from this project.


Proving a point, a stylus for iPad

Steve Jobs of Apple was famously quoted in 2010 "If you see a stylus, they blew it" when talking about stylus and handheld devices. Anything separate from a device is subject to failure, simply being lost, forgotten or broken. I think Steve is right.

However, I did consider what benefits a stylus might bring to the user experience and explored using some software called DocAS for capturing my notes on an iPad, during meetings etc.

The mobile phone stylus worked brilliantly, more accurate than using a finger and makes handwriting directly on the screen possible. There are adjustments you can make to the thickness of the writing which is important.

DocAS allows you to open a PDF document on the iPad screen and simply add sketches or diagrams directly onto the screen. Annotations are added in the same way.

The usual functions are possible, saving / exporting / printing as you would expect in any iOS software.

The stylus has a soft nib which makes contact with the screen. The material used means that the iPad's screen is very well protected and won't get scratched. The stylus is also very light, so doesn't add very much to the overall weight of carrying iPad and accessories

My initial view was not to bother with a stylus device, but I think having played with one, it certainly has its uses. I often attend conferences and workshops and where to put notes following these events is troublesome. Having all my notes stored in one place, particularly if these accompany the presentation slides or briefing document. I'll be requesting the presentation slides ahead of the talk from now on!


A Life in Sync

iCloud, Dropbox, IMAP are now the tools of choice for keeping my digital life in constant sync with all the devices I use from iPad, iPhone through to Macs at home and work. It's cross platform, so works on Windows and Linux computers too. Ever since the DVD, USB stick, CD, hard disk, floppy disk, tape and before that, punched tape systems, we've had a desire to carry data around with us. It served us well, but now, at long last we can negate the need to carry anything with us at all.

Dropbox has revolutionised where and how data is available to me whichever and wherever the device is located. Dropbox simply maintains a local folder on 

each computer that you use. As you add files and folders to the 'Dropbox' folder, Dropbox quietly works seamlessly to migrate that information to all theother devices.

What I love most is that Dropbox is transparent, seamless and autonomous in operation, and gone are the days of forgetting to click the 'sync' button which so often caused much heartache when you neglect to do something so simple.

Why not create yourself a Dropbox folder to keep your life in sync.

1. Create a Dropbox account

2. Install the Dropbox software on your iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows, Linux systems and you're good to go.
An added bonus of Dropbox is the ability to share files between friends, family and colleagues. Even collaborating on single files works well. 

iCloud is even more transparent, and actually intends to only keep your own data synchronised between devices. It doesn't have the ability to maintain a folder of files yet it does ensure photos, music, books, apps, calendars, contacts, notes and mail are maintained across all your personal mobile and desktop devices. Again, an awesome technology which simply works seamlessly. I have no complaints it just works.
If you're not already using it, you should. Ensure you have upgraded to iOS5 and you're away.
Also, read more about Share-Gate SharePoint migration for all your education and business needs.

Google Docs and Gold Challenge

This week, I've been busy using Google Docs to create an online spreadsheet that can be updated by our teaching staff at Kings Road Primary School as we begin our Gold Challenge, raising money for Kids Inspire.

What was particularly revealing is that not only does Google Docs allow multiple users to work with the spreadsheets, but it also allows this data to be published in other sites. I played around with using the Graphs function to create a thermometer come totaliser graph as an easy way for our pupils to follow the progress so far and it is this graph that I'm able to publish, keeping all the other sheets containing the names of pupils, private. Essential for any organisation where you don't wish to publish sensitive information.

I've written a news article about the Gold Challenge  and was able to insert a live view of the distance achieved so far. I'm really impressed by just how easy this is to achieve. This is a live view of the distance travelled by the staff and pupils in our school, so far.


Look! No wires. Learning about electricity without wires.

Having attended the Design and Technology Show this weekend at Birmingham's NEC, I came away with an amazing product which I think revolutionises our understanding of electricity and electrical circuits whilst unleashing our creative minds to make some cool things.

It's black and comes in a small jar.

The product is a glue-like paint which just like paint, can be used on any surface you can think of. It dries like glue and is adhesive, which means it can be used to hold things together. However, it also has conductive properties, which makes the product really exciting when combined with electrical components.

As a teacher, teaching electrical circuits to young children often leads to many misconceptions. Whenever we see a circuit presented in a book, very often it's shown as either circular or rectangular. That's difficult to translate into a bulb, battery and a bunch of wires that take on a life of their own.

Over at the Bare Conductive stand I was captivated by Bibi Nelson who demonstrated painting two parallel lines on some paper. She attached an LED light to one end of the parallel lines and placed a 9V battery which straddled across the two lines at the other end. The LED lit as electrical energy transferred through the paint to the LED. Brilliant. 

Of course the conductive paint can be used to make any shapes you like and so the concept of a standard rectangular or circular circuit is replaced by an understanding that circuits simply need to be complete and join up.

Not only can the paint be applied to paper, but it can be painted on walls, concrete, glass, fabric and even skin! (though you'll need a pot of Bare Skin instead!) There are numerous ways of connecting the painted surface to buzzers and batteries, perhaps using paper clips, adhesive copper strips, crocodile clips and even snaps for fabric projects.

Bare Paint is very versatile and there are some really cool projects that you can have a go at making on the Bare Conductive website. Take a look for yourselves and see if there's something you think pupils would be equally amazed by.


Learning Gone Global. Where's your Skype bar anyway?

This video was posted on the EdTalks website just 12hrs ago and already has made its way around the globe through Facebook, Twitter, RSS etc. It's not unimaginable then that learning has gone global too and as Stephen explains in this video, it's not too difficult a concept to consider in our own schools either, is it?

Here is close friend, Stephen Heppell, explaining why he believes the 'structures and strictures of education will be swept aside by the engagement, seduction, delight, passion and astonishment of a new learning world.'

This clip was filmed whilst Stephen was presenting at the ULearn11 conference, in October 2011.

Untie your shoelaces and let's get learning

Today pupils at Kings Road Primary School had the opportunity to take part in a brief online video conference with Educational professionals in Silkeborg, Denmark. It was a little bit impromptu and so the pupils didn't have any preparation time, which I've often found is the best moment for real learning to take place. After initial introductions, Kings Road pupils were simply asked to name one thing that is fab about their school.

Top on their list was the use of new technologies in learning and how it is used to support learning in the classroom. They pointed to numerous examples which was not only insightful but reflective on the impact iPads had made on them.

Next, they mentioned the Strand Organisation, now in its second year. This is 'stage not age' organisation and the pupils are very confident to speak about the benefits this brings. They are particularly appreciative that learning is more focused to their needs and are challenged appropriately without feeling like they are being kept waiting for others to catch up or left feeling vulnerable that they simply aren't able to keep up.

Something else that was mentioned, was the Library. Often considered as a resource that new technologies will soon replace. We have strong counter arguments against that, one of which is that the children really believe in the library and the need to use both fiction and non-fiction books effectively.

As the conference came to an end, Stephen Heppell, who chaired the conference offered something new that the pupils in Denmark have been doing for a while. 'Shoeless learning'

Effectively this simply means children taking off their shoes as they enter the classroom or learning space. Why? Well, we didn't get time to discuss that with Stephen or the Educational professionals, so the pupils immediately set off to find out for themselves. Following a link to 'Shoeless learning' and some further googling for more information, it was clear they were curious to see if it could help them too. The scientists in the group spoke of controlled experiments which they could try on different learners within the class. Does shoeless learning have more of an impact on boys than girls was one question they posed.

Remember the pupils weren't in class at this point, it was their break time, and yet here they are in this 'in-between' learning moment questioning, researching, reflecting, debating and developing a clear set of arguments with which to challenge their class teachers in an attempt to convince them to at least give it a trial. Without provocation, they presented some of the opposing reasons for not 'going shoeless' one of which is health and safety and not treading on a staple or drawing pin etc. These all need mitigating of course, and the risks managed - but of course the pupils totally appreciate that and can immediately find alternative solutions. It's what's termed a 'no brainer' ! This important work continued at lunchtime too, there was no stopping them and yet it all started with a simple question.

Who wouldn't want their school's to be full of learners learning about learning? Today, the pupils honed their skills in...

  • questioning
  • researching
  • reflecting
  • debating
  • convincing

It does lead me to wonder just how much of the curriculum we teach in schools is already scaffolded and pre-prepared. I bit like pre-cast concrete I suppose, heavy, difficult to move, built in set sizes to fit a specific design. However, we haven't argued much against it, because learning does take place but I very much doubt that this is anywhere near as much as something self-directed by pupils with the wisdom and facilitation by the teacher. In the past three to four months, our curriculum has undergone a significant review with a real emphasis on developing Key Skills around a pupil-centric curriculum. Today was proof that this has an enormous potential as pupils really begin to fly as collaborative learners.

I felt proud and privileged to watch learning unfold in a very seductive and engaging way.

Step back, Step up... on the road to Nusa Dua


Rarely when we travel do we head backwards along an already trodden path, but this time we decided we will.

We've really enjoyed the restful and relaxing time that we've had on the island of Bali, reading, writing, eating good food and drinking refreshing beer.

We've booked a couple of nights in the Swiss Belhotel Bay View hotel in Nusa Dua an area we didn't explore too much 10 days ago. The hotel was great, and although not in the hustle and bustle of the town, free shuttles are provided throughout the day to the beaches, Nusa Dua or Kuta. One slight downside is that the shuttles stop early evening, perhaps to encourage you to eat in the hotel's restaurant, which we did find this over-priced and lacking in flavour. It's not expensive to get a taxi back to the hotel, so we will eat out in the town centres when we return.

The breakfast is a big plus, however, and caters for a range of European, Australian and Asian visitors. One of very few places that we've stayed where they had milk for example.

We loved the infinity pool on the roof overlooking the whole Southern peninsular...simply stunning. 

The room are clean with lots of nice touches. Excellent WiFi service extends across the hotel and into the rooms, so the Airport Express basestation can have a bit of a break too.

Overall, at approx. £30 per night the 4-star Swiss-Belhotel Bay View represents excellent value for money. Check out the deals on



To WiFi and beyond...

As I sit and write on the balcony of a Balinese hotel, I recognise the invaluable addition to our 'essential' travel kit. Whilst it might not be part of everyone's kit, it has found a definite use here. Two years ago, I wrote about the 4-way extension which we never fail to bring along with us. Now, there's another piece of kit.

Modern travelling does require use of the Internet particularly if you travel like we do. We don't have an itinary prepared with hotel bookings and travel dates, we tend to go with the flow and move around whenever the feeling takes us. It requires us to have Internet to allow us to do this since nearly all bookings for hotels are made this way. We carry around a Lonely Planet guidebook with some recommendations, but the best deals and availability are found online.

Often reasonably-priced accommodation will promote free WiFi and usually it's usually stated this is hotel-wide and in all the rooms. However, this isn't the case in many places. WiFi is usually available at the front desk and apart from a few seats, that's it. 

The Apple Airport Express is a small brick, approx 10cm x 5cm x 2cm. It is light enough to squeeze into the backpack and with 125V / 240V power supply hooks onto an already available WiFi connection and extends the WiFi coverage. Our Airport Express is dangling over the balcony at the moment and extends the signal into the room. Perfect.


The Airport Express was released by Apple in 2004 and ever since then it's been invaluable. Not only does it support AirPlay at home, but it's become a travelling companion too.

The Balinese Locksmith

Yesterday, we arrived at our hotel close to the town of Ubud called the Lokasari Bungalows Spa and Gallery. It's a busy town and so it's great to arrive at a hotel which lands you in peace and tranquility. In fact, much of Bali is peace and tranquility with it's many statues and constant offerings towards Hinduism through nature-based pallets of offerings.

The view from our hotel balcony is simply stunning which we were almost denied access to since the previous residents had packed up taking the key to the balcony with them. The hotel staff were quick to respond, and no sooner had we mentioned where the key might be, and is there a spare (there wasn't) they had the locksmith pop over.

The little Balinese man arrived with nothing more than a little pouch of tools, in which there were about four or five to choose from.

Within seconds, the lock was picked with a simple pin and basic cut key. He set about dismantling the lock leaving the inner barrel with which his mastery was to about to cut a brand new key. No machines, no template key, just a file and a blank key.

It took him only 2 minutes to make a key, and given the hotel staff were still reassembling the door furniture, he thought he'd make a spare. 2 keys filed and cut within 5 minutes. Amazing.

The Balinese locksmith was curious to know if we had locksmiths in England who could do what he did and manually cut a key from a barrel. I guess we must, but this was nothing short of impressive.

The hotel here is fantastic, one of the best that we've stayed in whilst looking for reasonably priced accommodation (some hotels in Bali can be as much as £1000 a night.) TripAdvisor and other reviews only rate this as 1 star, but what we have here is at least comparable, if not better, than other 2 star places that we've stayed in. I fully recommend this hotel as a place to stay for reaching Ubud town and the sights in middle-Bali.

The staff are friendly, welcoming and very courteous. The modern rooms are airy, spacious and are clean and tidy. Regular (free!) shuttles take you in and out of Ubud town. Perfect.

Lokasari isn't anywhere close to restaurants or cafes so you either need to take the shuttle into the main town or eat at the fairly wide selection of food in it's own cafe. Breakfasts are delicious with fried eggs, toast and the staff even squeezed a rasher or two of bacon onto my plate. Could you ask for much more? I don't think so.

Delicious Delirio Tropical

Travelling gives you great insight into new places that we've never been before, but it is also continually reaffirming of human kindness and thoughtfulness. There are few places where we haven't felt helped or supported.

Earlier on our visit to Rio, we stumbled across Delirio Tropical, a restaurant offering an array of healthy, fresh food along a counter - we knew it must be good judging by the queue of locals outside the restaurant. When in a foreign land, judging whether the locals are eating there is a pretty good indicator.

Last night we found our way back to the Delirio Tropical. It is always friendly and the counter staff patient in helping to choose food. The manager, Ibram, was present and chose to help personally. English wasn't strong, and so he phoned his English speaking sister and we spoke across the phone. He certainly went the extra mile to give us the service he felt we deserved.

The food is simply amazing and 'delicious' which curiously enough almost directly translates into Portuguese. You won't be disappointed by the array of food on offer here.

Anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro, should certainly look out for one of these branches of Delirio Tropical...

Ipanema, Rua Garcia DAvilla, 48

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Location:Rio de Janeiro,Brazil

Synology DiskStation Audio Station

I've had the DiskStation running for a week now and I keep finding a whole set of new features. The device is a fully fledged media server offering a streaming service for a variety of media types, photos, audio, video and even security cameras.

I'm interested in how this device can be used in the school environment to share both learning resources and the digital creativity work that the pupils produce. The latter is such a big issue for me because so much work is created by pupils, yet there are few opportunities where this work can be shared, nevermind even accessed by a wider audience. I think the Synology DiskStation is about to change all that.

Audio Station

Starting the Audio Station service is easy. Simply find the application in the Control Panel and check the box.

Files to be shared are uploaded using the File Browser window. You can establish your own file system should you wish, or simply point your upload to a folder containing the media you wish to upload and the whole process is managed efficiently and effortlessly.

A progress bar shows what items are in the queue and also upload progress.

Once uploaded, you can view the collection of folders and files through the File Browser window.

However, this is only the storage of this media. What about being able to play this media across the Ethernet or Wireless network?

The DiskStation software allows the media to be streamed to device in several ways. Using the web interface, the media can be played through the Audio Station software which is essentially presented with a similar interface to iTunes. A neat solution for cross-platform compatibility since the display will appear identical on a Mac or Windows PC. Furthermore, in a school setting, this requires less training in order to use the software.


What I REALLY like about the DiskStation however, is the way in which multiple devices can access this same playlist. Here is the view on my iPhone 4....



This is staggeringly good. It makes me reflect on how we can simply do away with CDs being used here and there, skipping and jumping because the scratches from heavy and continued usage. Plugging a computer, an iPhone, iPod or an iPad into a sound system would just work. All of this works across the WIFI network.

The DS audio app is the player for the iPhone/iPad/iPod and is a free download from the iTunes Store.

...and finally. What better way of accessing shared music from a central source, than to make it available to the iTunes Streaming Service?

Here is my iTunes application on my Mac listing the contents of the iTunes library...

...and below, accessing and playing the "Shift Happens" film. 


This DiskStation is staggeringly good and so effortless to implement, administer, control and access.

Already, I am uploading videos that pupils have made, films that pupils are watching for the From Screen to Page writing programme and audio that might be used around the school and across the curriculum.

Learning really can be this exciting.

I can't wait to begin exploring yet another feature, which will probably wait until the next blog update!

Synology's DiskStation NAS has arrived.

Synology's new DiskStation DS211 arrived last week. I've been interested in NAS (Network Attached Storage) for some years, and have found a few units which live up to what I consider are the demands of being a useable NAS.

Here is my quick starter for 10:

  1. Fast. Reading and writing data has to be snappy. Since the NAS is likely to be a large central store of a variety of data, audio, video, software installers, backups, fast read/write speeds are essential. Particularly with video when multiple users are watching two different films whilst a TV programme is being recorded.
  2. Access from multiple platforms. Essential in a setup involving multiple operating systems. On my computer alone, it triple boots into Mac (much preferred) Windows (urggh!) and Linux (Mmmm)
  3. Be expandable. My demand for storage space increases exponentially. Simply buying a NAS drive only for it to be full within a year isn't cost effective. A NAS really ought to have two drive bays for expansion.
  4. Quiet and energy efficient. This is one of few devices that is left on 24/7, and for obvious reasons needs to use as little energy as possible when idle.

In addition to the above, this enclosure received a good review in a recent MacUser article and I was interested in the customisable applications that extend the capabilities of the NAS. There are some neat tools that enable the iPhone to connect to the drive and access the media that is stored. More on this in a future blog article.

So, the first job was to install the hard disks into the NAS enclosure. NAS units bought directly from Synology are empty enclosures leaving the consumer to choose which bare drives to buy separately according to their needs.

Opening the white plastic case was simple enough, the side panel slides and lifts away. Bare drives are screwed to the chassis using standard screws, included.

Once powered, the NAS drive springs into life. Make sure the device is plugged into your network router or hub.

Unlike most products, scanning the network to find the dynamically assigned IP address of the drive is usually process, but as I discovered, not only do you need to scan the Quick Setup Guide, but also use the CD to run the Synology Assistant software. Both were easy to navigate. A Setup Wizard guides you through uploading the Disk Station Manager software. It takes less than 2 minutes to install everything.


Once complete, settings for the DS211 are changed using the web browser interface. I like setups using web browsers because it means settings can be changed remotely on any computer without having to download proprietary software. Nice.

Before any of the apps can be configured, a volume must be created. Incidentally, I ticked the 'check hard disk' option and this looks like it might take some time. So, that's where I'll leave this blog. Check back for more later...

Very few ports on the back. 1Gbit Ethernet, 2 USB and Power. Simple.




iPad Arc Aluminium Stand

I adore the iPad and there are plenty of websites, blogs and tweets confirming that I'm not alone. I shall spare you yet another repetition of why this tactile and accessible technology bridges the gap between the techno geeks and the technophobes. However, one essential addition to the iPad wealth of accessories is the iPad stand. I quite often use the iPad on a desk top, or more recently on a transatlantic flight, sometimes to watch films, music videos, gaming or just browsing. Whilst touch screens work are far more comfortable to operate when flat on a table top, conversely they are more comfortable to look at when stood horizontally.

This iPad stand works brilliantly on flight tray or desk top. It's not only stylish, designed and built using the same material as the iPad casing, but it's also incredibly light and easy to transport.

I wouldn't have travelled without it.

iPhone Skype Video calls bring people even closer

Skype have started the New Year with a bang and released an updated Skype app for the iPhone which now includes video calling. Video calling has been around for decades now, and 3G mobile phones brought with them video calling too. Unfortunately the video quality was poor and added little value. The iPhone 4 broke new ground with FaceTime, offering iPhone to iPhone calls provided both handsets were on a WIFI network. This is somewhat limiting, but hey.

Skype have only gone and done the expected with Skype to Skype video calls, and in the case of the iPhone 4, this isn't restricted to being connected to a WIFI network. Skype on the iPhone will now allow video calling between handsets, computers, and anything else that runs Skype and has a camera!

As the New Year arrived, we skype'd Paul, in Australia - he was connected to the net by his iPhone 4 and only with 3G Vodafone bandwidth. 

Of course it was great to chat and catch up, but even better for Paul to show us around his new pad.

The irony of course is that Rob was working, in a newly opened Apple Store in Sydney and unfortunately he wasn't there to join us. So, we'll just have to do it all over again in the next day or two and Sarah and I will be looking forward to it. Who knows, we might even be better prepared with a beer.

What's next, multi-way video calling, surely?

AirPrint from Apple iPhone, iPod and iPad

AirPrint is the new technology that allows wireless printing from Apple iPads, iPhones and iPods.

However this is only available with AirPrint compatible printers of which there are few available at present. As with all new technologies, it's frustrating that perfectly capable devices are destined for the recycling centre just because they lack a particular feature.

AirPrint can be enabled on any printer as long as it's configured as a Shared Printer attached to a computer. 

In my case, a Mac Mini hosts my HP Deskjet printer on the local (wireless) network. 


Using AirPrintActivator software I can make AirPrint work seamlessly from iPads and iPhones running iOS 4.2. 

Download AirPrintActivator and simply run the application which modifies a single system file. For those worried about modifying key system files, the application allows the modification to be activated or deactivated at the click of a button. Perfect solution.












Inspirational Learning Spaces in the Classroom

When I walked into school this morning I noticed that our Year 5 and 6s have started their technology projects. What was even more inspiring was the paper used to protect the worktops. Large sheets of architectural design plans formed a fascinating backdrop on which the pupils worked.

According to the class teacher, the pupils were engrossed in understanding the plans and continued to ask pertinent questions about what they represented. What better way than to provide a technically rich workspace to stimulate ideas and the development of solutions to problems.

I loved it and am a big fan of these approaches to really engage pupils. Fabulous stuff! 

Role play can be so powerful to create the right mood and atmosphere for learning.


Word is out! Dictate your thoughts on the go...

Wow pretty much sums up my thinking when I first explored this new application on the iPhone. 

I've seen and attempted (!) to use dictation software on a variety of systems in the past, all mostly, time consuming and wildly inaccurate. At first, I doubted likelihood of this software being any better, but I installed it and gave it a go!

It's really this simple...

Step 1. Load Dragon Dictation Step 2. Get ready to dictate! Step 3. Dictate!
Step 4. Edit any mistakes. Step 5. Choose an alternative? Step 6. Complete and post.



Inspired by the accuracy of this tool, I'll be introducing it to some teachers tomorrow to discuss how it can support learners who struggle with writing. This of course isn't a substitute for pupils writing, but initially, it will be highly effective at allowing unconfident writers to communicate their ideas, their story without having to worry about how words are spelt or letters are formed. This can be the cause of a huge frustration for young learners, especially those who find writing difficult further into KS2 where their peers are writing confidently and freely.

On further reflection, the dragon dictate software could be a useful tool to support speech and language work, providing that reassurance and reward when pupils are speak clearly and confidently. Lots of potential here I feel.

The software also works brilliantly on the iPod Touch and iPads. Could this be yet another use for these portable devices in the classroom?

How else could this software be used to support learning in home and school? Please add your thoughts here.



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