Archive for October, 2007


Monday, October 29th, 2007

skype and 3People who follow me on twitter will know that I skived off work today to go up to London for the launch of the skypephone – the new mobile phone launched by skype and 3 today.

I got to see the new phone, hear presentations from top execs for skype and 3, and even have a quick chat with them afterwards.

We got to meet some of the product managers and developers, and were given an interesting demo of the products – walking us through some of the features. one of the presentations

And at the end of it all, I was given two of the phones to take away with me (to borrow for three months).

All this is by way of disclosure, so how much you will trust what else I have to say will depend on how easy you think I am to buy with free coffee and gadgets 🙂


HackDay (and more) at IBM

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I blogged about my HackDay projects last night, kinda assuming that everyone would know what I was talking about, and what “HackDay” meant. But so far not a single friend or family (outside IBM) has understood, so I’ve had to try and explain it a few times.

As with many times where I get to explain about things that I get to do at work, people have been impressed and surprised with the variety of stuff that goes on at Hursley.

Even just this week, whether it’s the presentation I gave last Wednesday to a group of NEET young people on how to write CVs (as part of a mentoring program that I got to start with Hursley’s support), or going up to Bransgore in the New Forest for a day this week for a team environmental volunteering challenge, I like that I can feel proud of what we do. And that doesn’t even include the big annual things like running a National Science Week educational event for hundreds of local school children.

We do some cool stuff. Friday’s HackDay was no exception.


Tracking my petrol usage

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I filled my car with petrol today.

Not normally something I’d blog about, but I wanted to write a quick post about because I don’t see many people using it.

The idea is fairly simple – a web app that you use to record when you fill your car with petrol, that can then work out useful figures like your average mileage and car’s fuel efficiency.

I came across it because you can update your record from twitter, and any excuse to find another way to use twitter is always good. 🙂

screenshot of my page

It’s fairly American-ized, so I have to remember to read “miles” everywhere it says “kilometers”. But I quite like it. It’s interesting to see that I do about 9 miles per litre on average, and that if I carry on like I have been in the last few months, I will spend about £390 a year on petrol.

Once they get more users and a bigger store of previous updates behind them, I can see this being a useful information resource. They record the make and model of your car with your updates, so imagine people looking to buy a car being able to see actual real-life fuel efficiency figures for the models of car they are interested in?

I don’t know how far they are from having a database big enough to be able to produce figures with a reasonable degree of statistical reliability, but it’ll be interesting when they do.

HackDay – hack attempt 3 – a ‘social camera’

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

It was the afternoon of HackDay… and I’d tried a couple of hack ideas without a massive amount of success. I wanted to have something functional to show by the end of the day, so thought I’d give something easy a try.

I’d spent quite a bit of the morning getting to know the Windows Mobile camera API, so I thought I’d try and use it in an application.

My Windows Mobile cameraphone comes with a basic camera app. Then you can do what you want with your photos.

The idea
I thought I’d try writing an alternative camera app that makes it easier to do some things with photos – such as uploading to flickr, posting to a WordPress blog, sending by email, and so on.

Without sounding like a Kodak advert, photos are more fun if you can share them. Anything that makes that easier could be a good thing.


HackDay – hack attempt 2 – screen brightness

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

After my less-than-entirely-successful first hack, I started a second idea yesterday afternoon for the IBM HackDay.

Windows Mobile smartphones include a screen brightness control. When indoors or in low light levels, you can turn the screen brightness down to maximise the battery life. When outdoors or in bright ambient light, you need to turn the screen brightness up in order to be able to make out things on the screen.

The idea
The plan was to write something that would use the camera in my cameraphone to work out the ambient light level. And then use this to programmatically alter the screen brightness as appropriate.

It takes seven screen-taps to change the screen brightness – so it’s not very quick. Something that did it for me would improve the usability of my phone.


HackDay – hack attempt 1 – a wiki sync

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Yesterday was IBM’s fourth HackDay. My first project attempt of the day was to try and ‘hack’ our internal wiki.

We have an internally hosted wiki software on the intranet. Anyone is free to create a new wiki, and these wikis are used to manage anything from work projects and teams to community projects.

The idea
The plan was to write something that would let you have a local copy of a wiki – a copy which lets you read and edit an intranet wiki while offline (or with only Internet access). The idea was to have the ability to sync this local wiki to the intranet-hosted the next time you are on the intranet.

The thought was that sales or service IBMers who work at customer sites might not always have access to the intranet.

And even with Intranet access, I thought that some tasks – such as looking something up quickly – might be better-suited to the quicker access you could get from a locally-hosted mirror.


Shortest app yet – Windows Mobile reset

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I have to reset my Windows Mobile PDAs depressingly often. Both the HTC Universal and Advantage seem to need resetting every other day or so.

This has one big problem. You can lose stuff if you’re not careful. From Windows Mobile 5 onwards, a lot of data is kept in memory for performance reasons – written to persistent storage periodically. If you reset before this has been done, you can lose the most recent data.

For example, if I get a text message, then reset the phone, that text message will almost certainly be lost.

The trick is, if you need to do a reset you switch the phone off, leave it for 20 seconds then reset it. Normally, after being idle for a bit the phone will write pending data to storage.

This is a bit unscientific, so (after losing stuff from Outlook again today) I looked for a software way to ensure recent stuff is saved.


A PowerShell command you should avoid

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

While I was writing my presentation on PowerShell, I did one spectacularly dumb thing which I thought might be fun to share.

I was doing some screen-captures for use in slides, to show how you can stop a process.

What I meant to type was:

Get-Process notepad | Stop-Process

Get me all of the notepad processes, and pipe them to Stop-Process which will stop them.

But stuck deep in PowerPoint slide-producing-hell, my fingers ran quicker than my brain and what I actually typed was:

Get-Process | Stop-Process


Fancy taking a guess what that did?