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I sometimes come across stuff on the web that catches my eye

Jedi weapon on your Mac ...another motion sensitive application

MacSaber icon: MacSaber application iconThere seems to be an abundance of motion sensitive applications out there... and none more fun than this one!

read... "MacSaber: Turn your Mac into a Jedi Weapon"

Making your MacBook Pro one of the most expensive toys you can buy.

However, there is one other purpose of MacSaber, and that is it also acts as a spirit level, which probably makes it one of the most expensive tools you can buy too.


COINS Three Peaks Challenge completed!

Challenge completed!

This past weekend has been one of the most physically challenging experiences of my life, having just climbed the three tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales as part of a team to raise money for CARE International. The weather just couldn't have been better, the lasting sunshine meant the views from the mountains were simply breathtaking and spectacular.

Ben Nevis: grueling climb to the top, especially the last hour which was exhausting walking on icy snow to the summit. Yet had the most stunning views by far.
Scafell Pike: tricky walking across a field of boulders, which were wet and slippery. Tough mentally too, as two sections required a descent before the next climb up and to the summit.
Snowdon: much more gentle apart from the initial steep climb, and the ridge walk. We started climbing this mountain at 5:50pm, which meant we weren't down until 11:00pm, walking much of the path in darkness.

More Three Peaks Challenge event photographs.

See results and timings from all the teams - we weren't the slowest on any of the mountains, but one of the slowest overall. For us, it wasn't about finishing first, but completing the challenge as a team. One of the team member, Mieke, commented:

"Seven went up, seven came down"

I'd like to thank people who sponsored the team using the online Just Giving site. If you haven't yet sponsored me or the team, and would like to, it's not too late. All proceeds go direct to CARE International, including any Gift Aid which is automatically added. This is a great cause and worth noting that 91% of all money raised go directly to supporting projects and saving lives.

In the weeks leading up to the event, I helped to produce this short film "Challenge Poverty, Challenge yourself" which explains how the COINS Three Peaks Challenge event raises funds to change the lives of many hundreds of people around the world.

Want to take part in a CARE Challenge Series event?


in Training: Snowdon

Yesterday, the Stepping Stones team climbed Snowdon, (see photographs), the tallest mountain in England and Wales. Sadly the weather wasn't good enough to reach the summit, and we stopped with about 1km to go. Our guide, Ian, was very experienced and he made an excellent call. Along the route, he gave us plenty of advice for walking, equipment and preparation.

If you haven't yet sponsored the team for the Three Peaks Challenge event, please do so here. There is a Black Tie and Walking Boots Ball arranged for the 22nd April - if you wish to attend, please mail me using the email address above. This is to raise money for CARE International. Many thanks to those who have already sponsored me / the team... Gerald, Dave and Gina.

Another conversation this evening led me to consider how dangerous or safe mountaineering is in relation to ironing... hmmm, you can make your own judgements here! Check out Extreme ironing...


Three Peaks Challenge event, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon

The staff here at Stepping Stones have formed a Three Peaks Challenge team to raise money for CARE International. The Challenge involves climbing the three tallest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales. We have only 24 hours to complete the challenge, and includes a fixed 10 hours travelling time between Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - it's a tough event to achieve in the timeframe allowed.

Our team have been in serious training since early February, climbing the local landscape, known as the 'Jumps' in Churt, Surrey and Butser Hill in Hampshire, consisting of a long drag to the summit and is the tallest hill in the area. I'm spending most evenings in the gym to build up my physical and cardiovascular fitness. At the end of the month we have arranged to walk Snowdon as our first attempt at climbing a mountain as a group.

I have decided not to use a traditional paper based method for collecting sponsorship, and instead using the Just Giving website to handle the transactions. Money is sent directly to the charity, Gift Aid is automatically added to the contribution which makes lots of sense from an administrative perspective - whilst collecting the maximum funds possible.

Some information about why we are raising money for CARE International...

"CARE International is a global humanitarian organisation working with over 45 million disadvantaged people in 70 of the world's poorest countries .... its programmes promote positive and lasting change and reduce long-term dependency. CARE also provides emergency food and shelter to survivors of natural disasters, wars and conflicts."

Sponsor me to complete the Three Peaks Challenge event as a member of the Stepping Stones team.

Any contribution, however small, would be much appreciated. Thank you.


Research into online gaming: How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Sasha Millwood led a very interesting action research project today to research the impact of strategy games on learning.

Sasha's research question is:

How do strategy games help learning, particularly in historical studies?

Six researchers met online, using Apple's iChat technology. We spent 2 hours determining the correct network settings for establishing a multiplayer game (Rise of Nations) across 4 different locations. Internet gaming is not new, and has been around for several years, yet the protocols used to establish reliable connections without a Gaming server, is complex and troublesome. So many factors are involved, from people's individual computers, to their broadband connections and how their routers are configured, each being potential points of failure. We worked our way through a maze of technologies and acronyms:

  • NAT - Network Address Translation - allows individual computers to share one public facing IP address
  • DMZ - De-Militarised Zone - a network range that bypasses any firewall and port blocking
  • uPnP - Universal Plug and Play - facilitates device-to-device interoperability
  • Port Forwarding - allocating individual ports to bridge between the public and private IP address range

and is totally dependent on the capability of each router. Eventually we found our way, only to discover dire game play speed where each computer halted as it waited for the host computer to send data.

Ben's strategy was to ensure all machines were set-up within a DMZ, another thought was 'Wouldn't it be nice if all routers were uPnP capable' ... ha!

We have consistently failed to create a multiplayer game with more than two players, without the continual stalling of game play. Has anyone found a solution to playing a multiplayer game of Rise of Nations?

Eventually, we admitted defeat, and we resided to playing two-way multiplayer games, or joining games hosted on the same local network. This didn't force a change in the research question and so several games were played and we have yet to report our findings back as we await the survey form from Sasha.

Well done Sasha for getting us this far.

Just in passing, one 14 year old researcher from Stepping Stones, commented...

"I'm having the time of my life here"

...a lovely moment.

  above: extract from online chat in Rise of Nations game

Mission Accomplished! - Monty captured and released

For those of you who are keen on following Monty's progress, here are his final moments of freedom being caught on MouseCam.

(click for video)

When I arrived home, I promptly drove to a woodland area nearby and released him into the wild. Here he should enjoy a better diet away from chocolate, cheese and peanut butter. All the best, Monty!


Say 'cheese' - baiting, trapping and webcams

After four months of trying to catch a lone mouse, I've taken to stepping up the challenge of catching him alive. In fact he's been living with me for so long, that I've named him Monty, and worse, he's started to become more of pet than a pest.

We all have different views and opinions, but four months ago I took the decision to catch the mouse using a humane mouse trap. I seem to have the most determined, craftiest mouse ever since records in crafty mouse behaviour began.

Each night, I have baited the traps, yes, four traps - and now, using two different types of trap, with a variety of different of bait, including chocolate, cheese and the latest bait, peanut butter.


Each morning I wake to find a half eaten chunk of chocolate sitting at the other end of the room, with the trap still set! Even when I set the trap in the most precarious position (so that trap door is more sensitive to movement), Monty still manages to grab the bait, leaving the trap still set. I've steadily increased the challenge, from small, easy to carry bait, to larger more awkward bait to carry. Whatever I've tried, Monty has been successful. It doesn't matter if the bait is wrapped, Monty will happily unwrap the Christmas tree chocolate, leaving the wrapping neatly shredded in a tidy pile. The chocolate inside, is found several human strides from the shredded foil.

A good question is 'How does Monty manage such a feat and allude escape?'

This brings me onto my next campaign... EvoCam which is a superb piece of software that captures still frame images and creates timelapse videos where their file size is incredibly conservative (see some earlier timelapse video work with EvoCam during the Pirate BBC Essex project

Here I can at least capture the moments of Monty's visit and how he escapes whilst I am sleeping. Check out MouseCam - if you spot him... you'd better yell!

I'm still not sure what the best bait for catching Monty is, peanut butter is where I am now.. I dislike peanut butter ordinarily, but I suppose it doesn't much matter what I like or not.. it's what Monty likes that matters most. Has anyone had any experience of seductive bait for mice? Any strategies for catching mice are welcome.


The iWipe - give your Apple Mac a new lease of life

Whilst looking on the Internet for bathroom accessories, I stumbled across this:-

See the how-to on building one for yourself.

Hmmm. Not a bad price either.


12,000ft views: skydiving in New Zealand

Nick and I left Christchurch and headed off to Queenstown today looking for fun and adventure. Two hours into the journey, through some stunning scenery, I tasted my first glimpse of what was to come. Yep... as apprehensive as I was, I went skydiving. Never before had I considered such an activity. My sister Catherine has done it for charity, and survived - it looked spectacular from the film she had had recorded.

Once in the light aircraft, there was no way back, the only way down was to leap out of the aircraft door. It was a tiny single prop aircraft made from metal no thicker than a tin can... the smallest aircraft I've flown in. In fact the worse bit was kneeling next to the closed door without being strapped onto anything. In fact, I felt the most vulnerable as I was the only person left in the plan who wasn't wearing a parachute... the pilot had one, and my tandem jump instructor had the one which was to take us both safely to ground. Hmmm, things weren't looking too good at this point I thought.

The leap from from the doors was petrifying, and the feeling of falling lasted for a split second. The 30 second freefall was thrilling until the parachute was deployed (just at the moment I was thinking the ground is racing ever closer.) You do get that feeling of going thrusting upwards at the point the parachute is set... and yes, huge stresses placed on the equipment and you, but the buzz and thrill just increase massively before reaching eventual calm and tranquility and you have the scenery to admire.

Landing was awesome... a gentle glide downwards followed by an almost stationary landing. It was a terrific buzz and would recommend the jump to anyone who gets the chance. A bit pricey... and I probably subsidised the solo jumpers a little... but I'm not counting... I'm in New Zealand to be worked hard but to have a little bit of fun too.



Ok, I just don't get it...

What is it about a pineapple that girls think they are to die for? Am I missing something?

If you've received a pineapple as a gift... I (think) I need to know about it!


Little Britain Challenge Cup 2005

Between 8th and 11th September, COINS entered a yacht for the Little Britain Challenge Cup sailing event for companies involved in the construction industry.

Here are some photographs from the three days, though sadly most of it was spent waiting around due to a distinct lack of wind. The team consisted of employees, guests and clients of COINS, some with lots of sailing experience, some with very little. All in all, we learnt lots - with me in a new position on bow, I learnt how to set the spinnaker, gybe the spinnaker, prepare the genoa for hoisting, as well as on lookout for other boats during the start procedure.

Our best result was 3rd! (but that was for the quiz held on the opening night!)

Now that we have a good feel for the event, we are looking forward to taking part next year.


Gina's Endometriosis Fund Raising Barbeque

Gina Revill organised a fantastic fund raising event for the Endometriosis Society which took place yesterday afternoon till late at Lambourne End Farm.

A good friend, Ian Terrell ran the charity auction - it was excellent fun watching people bidding for items, some of the more popular items included a jar of Scrumpy cider, electric guitar, wine, scooter and a sheep's skin. The whole event raised £600 - well done Gina! A quiz night is being organised for early in the new year.


You know you're a geek when....


King Danny I - of an as yet unnamed country

This is totally whacky... yet curiously, this website is the beginning of a new television series on BBC2

Kind Danny I, is looking for new citizens to join his newly formed country, so new, that it hasn't a name yet, though it does sport its own national anthem (which is very amusing!), with dance moves (!) and a national flag. Cool huh? this guy is off his head, but I admire him for what he's achieved so far. Some 23,117 citizens as of this moment.

So, what are you waiting for, Become a citizen, today and tune in next week for the launch Citizen TV!


UltraSMS and txt message to my blog site

I have spent some time installing and developing a web interface to UltraSMS. UltraSMS is a little application that reads SMS (txt) messages from mobile phones and stores them in a MySQL database. It runs on Mac OS X or Linux and interfaces with several phones using Bluetooth or a serial cable connection. Tim Ellis of Ultralab developed this software, well worth a look.

This application has been used several times, most widely known for its use in Pirate BBC Essex, a local radio station celebrating 40 years of Pirate radio.

You can experiment with this tool by sending messages to my blog entry by txting anything you like to 0044 7811 636 738 You should see the entries appear, almost instantly, in the sidebar to the right. Remember to hit refresh first!

Please don't worry, your number isn't displayed anywhere on this website and before you ask, it costs the same as it would to txt anyone else, there are no hidden charges!

The neat thing about the UltraSMS application is that it is very cheap to get going... all you need is a mobile phone with a SIM card, preferably Bluetooth enabled since then you don't have to worry about cables and connections, and a Linux / Macintosh computer. That's it!

I have used the application when speaking at conferences - useful for collecting people's contributions and for the audience to post their questions as I'm speaking. Simple but effective. Though this is a photograph of a SummerSchool presentation event, you can see how people's contributions are added as 'stickies'. This 'stickies' user interface was developed by another member of the Ultralab team, Alex Blanc, using Flash.


Grocery Store Wars... Join the Organic Rebellion

Watch the clip, Grocery Store Wars - Join the Organic Rebellion

Love the organic vegetable characters, Chewbroccoli, Tofu D2, Obi Wan Cannoli


Jonathan's photographs

A collection of Jonathan's photographs, (work in progress)


Local Google... new development from the Google labs


Photos from New York


Parking in New York


Snail Art...


Dyson takes the hoover to the next level


Modifying Macs and creating home entertainment systems


My eBay experiences.... Renault Megane / Laguna Foglights.....



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