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Edit CSS Stylesheets in style

When HTML first arrived on the scene, we all learnt the language and doggedly typed the code into basic text editors. I remember evenings spent working with SimpleText - back then this was all very novel so we stuck with it quite happily. A few months later, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors saved people stacks of time and empowered those who had not yet mastered HTML.

It seems quite natural therefore that a whole heap of stylesheet authoring applications are now available to make the job of creating and editing stylesheets a breeze. Hal pointed me in the direction of CSSEdit by MacRabbit, which seems to do the job nicely.

I am currently building the database driven website for the Design Council project which is called, rather uninterestingly, Online Metric. Suggestions for a better project name on a postcard please....or, if you prefer, comment on this post. Oh, it might be hepful for you to know that the project is about developing an Online tool for schools to self-evaluate aspects about the school in terms of lighting, furniture, atmosphere, canteen etc. Where appropriate, suggestions and resources will displayed so the school may address these areas.


Classroom of the future

I've just finished writing an article about our visions on the Classroom of the Future for the JMPC Education newsletter which is sent to 10,000 teachers around the UK.

I searched the Internet to read what other people's vision for the Classroom of the Future....I stumbled across this page (Visions for the Classroom of the Future) on the Becta site. Sadly, Becta have done a poor job of date stamping their pages, but I estimate these to have been posted in 2001.

Significant leaders in education have posted their thoughts, including a vision from

Sadly, these visions aren't quite so radical as I would have hoped. David Blunkett used phrases like
"None of this, of course, is a substitute for traditional teaching, but is a complement to it."

Luckily, Ultralab's visions for the Classroom of the Future are far more radical. However, whether they are exciting, radical, innovative or not, they all need to be researched and explored. There is very little being done currently to move this country out of the Victoria era of traditional, teacher-led delivery model.


New Apple iMac released today

Why is it that everytime Apple release a new product, I want one!?

I guess I'll keep dreaming as I listen and watch Phil Schiller deliver the keynote at the Apple Expo in Steve's (Jobs) absence. I looked out for this on the web during the keynote, for some reason Apple chose not to stream this live.


Wireless Broadband is coming.....

...to the village in which I live early next year.

This is a not-for-profit organisation, Essex Broadband who will connect you to the Internet (using wireless technology) at very competitive rates. Installation is about ??100, not cheap, but the ongoing costs are ??15 per month.

Now add the benefit of 3x the speed of normal broadband, commonly 512kbps - this new service aims to supply 1500kbps! I especially like the fact that they hope to provide symmetrical broadband soon, currently the upload speed is only 300kbps (still faster than my 256kbps upload!)

Also, the kit they supply creates a wireless network for your home - how cool is that? A little radio antenna (1m) is attached to the side of your property - that's it. I guess there is a wireless bridge somewhere and the wireless transmitter or basestation, but it all sounds so simple.

The downside of course is that some areas may not receive this service for a few months. Luckily my brother gets the service around Christmas time, I'll get it 2 months later.


What kind of social software are you?

Take a look at this rather bizarre questionnaire which tells you What kind of social software are you?

I am.... livejournal

You show your professionally designed hand coded Moveable Type blog to your collegues and family, but secretly you're writing about internal angst on a Livejournal.


Using the Finder: to talk

Pete Bradshaw and I travelled to Chester to the ITTE (Information Technology in Teacher Education) conference and managed to convince the conference organisers (it wasn't that hard!) that we could present in the free-slot.

Pete and I decided to do a session on the Distributed School concept....and we had little time to put something together.

Having spent two days listening to people present and be driven by PowerPoint presentations..... some of the less effective presentations were as a result of presenters lacking time, either because they talked too much on one slide (cos it was interesting and gained peoples interest) or people interjected (again useful) and this resulted in people either:

  1. rushing throught the remainder of the presentation (missing some key bits)

  2. visibly skipping through what looked like more interesting slides than those that had been shown and discussed earlier, and again, missing important stuff.

.... remembering that presentations can be a bit like teaching a lesson....they have to fit any given time, points could be discussed at any moment and you have to sustain the interest from the participants partly based on their own questions and thoughts.

Pete and I decided to do things a little differently....

think different

I'd been playing around with the concept of presenting a talk using Apple's OS called the Finder and this, it seemed, was the perfect opportunity explore the possibilities. Essentially, the Finder would allow you to present in a fairly non-linear way....you can still have slides in some order, but you aren't constrained by that order. The Finder allows you to jump from one slide to another in any order (drag your folders into the navigation bar on the left hand side of Finder windows.) However, rather more significant is the inclusion of supporting media into your presentation.

the finder

The Finder allows you to select images as the background for any folder (View menu --> Show View Options). Therefore, one folder essentially becomes one slide....but, and this is the smart bit.....you can add your supporting files within it. So....here is a diagram of Distributed School....let me show you a movie in QuickTime, some photos in Preview.... a PDF file.... etc etc.

  • Background images can be made in any application you like, I used AppleWorks.... ideally you want to save the image file in a way that allows you to modify it quickly and easily later. Then, just attach it to a given folder.
  • Media can be dragged and placed within the Finder window, locating relevant resources next to items in the background image. This looks very cool.
  • New Folders can be created as bullet points. You can change their icons to any image you like, make icon sizes BIG (cos they look really sexy) increase the font size of the icon labels (so they are readable)

I created, but didn't use a slide (exactly! - but i could have) which invited people to contribute challenges. So...how easy would that be?
A. Easy. You just create folders and change their names to become their suggestion. Yes, you are limited by the length of a Folder name, but you can move the folders around the Finder window..... so, for example, you could position items in 'agreement' on one side, and 'disagreement' on another.

Another rather neat idea is that you could have sub-issues within issues (folders within folders)

Pete and I are exploring freeware, shareware apps which might add extra functionality to the Finder, there are loads out there. The Finder is very scriptable....AppleScript, Folder Action Scripts..... worth exploring these too.

Together with Expos?? you can navigate between slides and applications pretty smartly.


  • Finder presentations aren't that portable (Mac to Mac is ok)
  • Icons can move around the Finder window, e.g. sort by name, date etc. This isn't helpful.
  • folder names are limited in length so people's contributes are potentially limited...but you probably only want bullet points anyway?


PowerPoint is pants, Apple's Keynote looks beautiful but doesn't go anywhere near being interactive or non-linear. So, what are the options? HyperCard ..... how many people wish for an OS X version? (it's not gonna happen though is it?)

Web pages - used those a few times, but i've always felt it is hard work to put those together and face issues with changing projector/screen resolutions, with modifying content (particularly adding/removing pages - navigation nightmare.) AND.....what's more.....with any of the above, how do you add comments, thoughts, suggestions during the presentation? If there is one feature I'd really like....it's being able to contribute to the presentation right then and there.

Of course, I'm new to presenting at conferences and there is lots to learn.... but there is always lots to tell people and I couldn't imagine not having the flexibilty to make a presentation quickly but effectively, nevermind having the flexibility to present and talk without constraints.

Euro 2004 Goal Watcher

Get the latest Euro 2004 football results on your Mac...

Download GoalWatcher


Telecommunications in Tasmania

Stumbled across a rather useful document relating to the development of Telecommunications in Tasmania.

Tasmania are just a bit keen to create the third 'cluster' for the Distributed School so thought I'd read up a little about their current capacity to supply broadband to rural areas.

...handy, Telstra are onto it already!

What can you spot?

SpotCode is one of the latest ways you can interface your camera phone with the web...how cool? I like the potential for using your phone as your 'identity' on the web. Of course a phone is a pretty useful tool for identity since your phone and number is genuinely unique.


Video conference with Tasmania

Not sure when my feet last touched the ground...

Last week I held a video conference with ministers, policy makers, principals stationed in Hobart and also simultaneously with West Coast Principals in Queenstown. Slightly bizarre video conferencing with two locations. You only ever see one site at any one time...so throughout most of the conference I observed people in Hobart. It isn't until someone speaks (or coughs even!) at the other site that the video swaps to the other site...rather neat.

I talked a little about the outline proposal for the Distributed School - Tasmania are a really great bunch of people, very keen and interested in the prospect of building a school joined up by lots of cool technology. They asked lots of questions and gave some critical feedback which is very welcome, especially if this proposal goes ahead with a cluster in Tasmania and the other two here in the UK.

...very exciting!

Social software: definition and characteristics

Found an article by Jack Schulze who writes about the concept of Social software and lists the common characteristics of good social software...

"Social software's purpose is dealing with with groups, or interactions between people. This is as opposed to conventional software like Microsoft Word, which although it may have collaborative features ("track changes") isn't primarily social. (Those features could learn a lot from social software however.) The primary constraint of social software is in the design process: Human factors and group dynamics introduce design difficulties that aren't obvious without considering psychology and human nature."


NPT Congress: Learning and Leading

Just come back from a two day conference organised by the National Primary Trust, hosted by the National College of School Leadership, in Nottingham. Conference delegates consisted of mainly headteachers and curriculum leaders.

People talk of 'networking' these days, using phrases like "we must network" rather than have a chat or talk, strange. Maybe I'm out of touch! Had some interesting discussions about a future distributed school project that Ultralab are looking to develop and run. The Distributed School is looking to bring education and learning back into the heart of the rural community. A link to a website to follow soon....

Photos to come...


Timelapse Movies from Pirate BBC Essex studio

For those of you who missed the action in the Pirate BBC Essex studio on board the LV18, or those who just want to be reminded of some great moments, here are some timelapse movies.

Timelapse Movies from LV18 studio

Pirate BBC Essex on AIR

The past few days have been fraught with activity in Harwich. This morning (Saturday 10th April 2004 at 9am), Pirate BBC Essex went LIVE on air, beginning with Ray Clark.

After much experimentation and tweaking, webcam images are now streaming live on the Internet. We are using EvoCam to capture images on board the LV18 and from Ha'penny Pier. Images are captured and uploaded periodically, one set every few minutes, another set every hour.

Take a look at the Pirate BBC Essex website for TXT messages and full size webcam images, plus, take a look at images from the past 12 hours....

You can listen to Pirate BBC Essex on 729, 765 & 1530 MW or, as a LIVE Real Audio stream (you'll need to download the Real Audio player)

Pirate BBC Essex wireless link

One of our biggest challenges in this Pirate BBC Essex radio project is getting a broadband Internet connection to the Lightship anchored half a mile from the Harwich pier. The crew on board the lightship need to receive txt and email messages, as well as stream a webcam video to the Internet.

So a wireless link from the exhibition room to the ship would be just the ticket. Luckily there is a line of sight between the pier and the lightship. Wireless CNP has jumped in to help by loaning us the wireless equipment.

Big thanks go to Wireless CNP.

Matthew Eaves and I intend to make a trip to Harwich to test out the link next week sometime.

Google Alert!

Google Alert provides users with regular updates on upto three 'search strings' or 'keywords' of their choice. My top three are 'artist illustrator', 'Jonathan Furness' and 'Ultralab'.

Essentially this service performs these three searches and emails you (sometimes daily) with the details of any new webpages containing these keywords. Handy if you are interested in how your website or chosen keywords are being used on the Internet.

Here's an example of what Google Alert can send you.....

Google Alert has new results which can also be browsed interactively:

| Search 1: artist illustrator
| tracking top 50 of about 330,000 results

48. Delphine B, artist illustrator

With all the Net surfers, the one day old visitors or one evening...
Welcome on my site! Artist, illustrator, portraitist... A whole program!!!


| Search 2: Jonathan Furness
| tracking top 50 of about 4,500 results

36. LTO : Collaborative online projects - summary

... Collaborative online projects - summary. A Day in the Life of??????? by
Jonathan Furness. Explore children??????s imagination and creativity ...


| Search 3: Ultralab
| tracking top 50 of about 23,700 results

35. Topic Exchange: Channel 'ultralab'

part of the Internet Topic Exchange. Topic Exchange: Channel
'ultralab'. ... About the 'ultralab' channel. Also
available in RSS 2.0 (XML). You are not logged in. ...



Backup, Backup, Backup...before a server upgrade

Q. What should you always do before you make any BIG changes to your system?

A. Backup

...and I didn't. In the latest Apple OS X 10.3.3 Server update, some changes were made to the MySQL package, uh oh. Luckily, I think I've got away with it this time, apart from one database table being screwed up. Not a show stopper though - it counted the number of 'reads' each blog article had. Useful data, but I've reset the counters today.

Might be worth reading this....

Data stored in MySQL databases with the version of MySQL that is pre-installed Mac OS X Server 10.3.2 or earlier must be exported and re-imported in order to be compatible with version of MySQL that is pre-installed on Mac OS X Server 10.3.3, in which a byte-ordering issue is fixed.

As with any upgrade install, you should back up your old data. In this particular upgrade, the following process is recommended to convert the data to the correct byte ordering:

Before the upgrade, use the terminal to export the data from your pre-10.3.3 database:

# ??mysqldump -p table > backup-file.sql


# ??mysqldump ??--opt database > backup-file.sql

After the upgrade, and after initializing the MySQL database, import the data:

# ??mysql -p table < backup-file.sql


# ??mysql ??database < backup-file.sql


Pirate BBC Essex update

Steve Scruton, Ian Wyatt, Tom Warmington, Jonathan Furness, Matthew Eaves and Tim Ellis met at ULTRALAB to discuss the progress on the Pirate BBC Essex radio station.

We talked about the broadband connection (supplied by Nitrex Broadband) and the wireless link, which we've yet to get sorted. Here's the problem...we have broadband Internet at the Ha'penny Pier, the ship is half a mile (750m) from the pier....and, you guessed it, we need to setup a link between the two. So far we have explored a few websites, Sharing your Apple Basestation Experiences and Antenna on the Cheap best start saving Pringles tubes now.

We talked about the 'ship's log blog' but figured the crew had enough to do so we'll leave that one for another day. We did at least come to some decisions about the website, TXT messaging and emails.

I learnt from Tom that the BBC have some very strange (tight) rules around the use of their logo! We are wondering if we'll get away with this one!

Read more about Pirate BBC Essex

Pirate BBC Essex Radio Station

ULTRALAB and BBC Essex Radio are working together to celebrate 40 years of pirate radio of the Essex shores, to bring you the BBC Essex Pirate Radio Station. The station goes live in April, broadcasting on medium wave frequencies from LV Eighteen - a former lightship owned by the charity Pharos Trust.

The plan is to transmit a wireless signal from Ha'penny Pier in Harwich to the lightship using wireless base station transmitters. This will allow the radio presenters to receive SMS text messages and emails on board LV Eighteen. We also intend to run two webcams, one streaming pictures of the ship from the pier, the other streaming images of the presenters on board to an Internet website.

There is a sizeable crew already formed, including BBC Essex Radio presenters, Steve Scruton, Ian Wyatt, Tom Warmington, and from ULTRALAB....Matthew Eaves, Jonathan Furness, Alex Blanc and Tim Ellis.


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