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

Vespa Adventures using NAVV navigation software

Having recently bought a Piaggio Vespa for getting ourselves around town, where it's quicker than driving by car, we are now finding ourselves having weekly adventures. It's great fun and feels like we have the freedom to go anywhere, anytime, much like cycling but with far less effort!

On my push bike, I have an iPhone mount for tracking journeys using Trailguru. It's a brilliant iPhone app and records the route using GPS positions and places these on a map for reviewing after the cycle ride. It provides data on top speed, average speed and far more usefully, total distance travelled.

I bought a mount for the Vespa too, this one is an enclosed mount to keep the iPhone dry in wet weather. Not only is it really easy to attach to the handlebars, but it is very quick to place the iPhone inside, keeping it safe and snug. With the lid closed, the iPhone is still completely useable, with all the buttons available as well as the headphone jack. Although the screen has a protective cover, the iPhone is still touch sensitive. Perfect really. I bought my iPhone 4 case from Mobile Fun.

I'm now running a SatNav app called NAVV for UK+Ireland. It's a really cool app and has all the features of a fully fledged SatNav box. The software includes the complete maps for UK and Ireland, so it doesn't demand a connection to the Internet to download each new area, unlike Google Maps.

NAVV does the usual warnings of travelling faster than the speed limit, as it knows the stretches of road you are on, as well as those roads undergoing roadworks where there are additional speed restrictions. The driver is also made aware of traffic camera alerts.

I have considered other SatNav apps for the iPhone, but these are either horrendously expensive, £30+, feature-less or just sluggish which isn't ideal.  I'd definitely recommend NAVV to any iPhone user. A feature I'd love to see in the app is a way in which journeys are recorded so they can be reviewed or overlaid onto a Google Map, much like Trailguru.

Here are some screenshots from the NAVV software.




USB Power straight from the Car

This handy little gadget simplifies and stylises the charging of iPhones and iPods in the car. It's tiny and fits almost within the cigarette charging socket itself which is pretty neat. I've owned cars with wires sprawling across seats, wrapped around gearsticks and dangerously tangled around handbrake levers.

With this new car adaptor, permanent cables should be a thing of the past. Buy online from Maplins.









We are the people we've been waiting for...

This film, directed by Lord Puttnam follows five young people who attend mainstream schools. It highlights how out of touch schools are in providing children with the skills they need in a vastly changing, 21st Century world. We are already a decade into this new Century and yet we are still switching children off of learning.

The film discusses how different things might be if children were to study subjects that interests them. In the UK we are on the cusp of developing a new curriculum, under the Curriculum 2011 initiative where schools have the autonomy to write their own curriculum, at last, freed from the Literacy and Numeracy frameworks.

Could Curriculum 2011 be the turning point, where we give our children a chance to once again have a love of learning? I hope so. I'm certainly inspired by this film, which is why I've shared this with the Senior Leadership Team who will have a significant role in shaping our new curriculum amongst many others on the committee.

Another inspiration comes from the new Portland Academy which promises to deliver a truly 21st Century learning environment and uniquely, an all-through nursery, school, college and university. Pupils will enter aged 5 and leave at 21, which will be brilliant for all those children where learning is otherwise lost making their way through the school system. Literally wasted, as children in traditional schools make the transition through each phase, proving that they really can demonstrate those earlier skills again and again, often being less challenged than they were when they left. The new Portland Academy changes all that. How fabulous. It is a remarkable project and one that I think will see the greatest transformation of learners who will be amazingly ambitious and confident in their abilities.

Once again, Sir Ken Robinson is spot on in his thinking, relating much of what he said at TED in 2006 to where he sees the future for our young people.

Watch the film, it's here in full.



The Inconvenient Truth about Education - a 21st Century documentary about the future of learning and schools

Lord Puttnam and Michael Barber have masterminded a documentary which reflects on this rapidly changing world where Education is struggling to keep pace with the needs of todays and tomorrow's society.

If you subscribe to 21st Century Learning and not to 'one size fits all' this might be the documentary for you. You can order your free copy of the film online. I have.

Get Interactive at Parents Evening

Learning Conferences are intended to be a 3-way exchange of information about each pupil from the teachers, parents and pupils' perspective. Pupils are encouraged to attend Learning Conferences as the conversation is centred around them, the learner.

Occasionally there is some anxiety shown by both parents and pupils when they attend, for a whole variety of reasons, although mostly through concern to ensure they ask the right questions and feel that they are being supportive to the learning of their child.

One brilliant way of breaking the ice is to be play a short game. Both parents and children found it very entertaining as parents tried to guess which self-portrait belonged to their son or daughter.

Not only that, but parents got a view of how well their child can draw.

After the parents have tried to guess the portrait, the reveal takes place to see if the name on piece of artwork is their child.


What other ice breakers have teachers used at Learning Conferences?




Flat-pack, foldable plug and built in iPhone charging socket

I'm really captivated by sleek, flush fitting designed hardware at the moment having just rewired and installed wiring in my new house. Looking back, my old house was just the prototype for much of what I'm doing now except without so many wires visible.

To create an automated home setup which includes controlling the central heating boiler, PIR security and TV recording and streaming devices around the house, there's quite a bit cable running under the floor, between walls and through ceilings. Keeping the cables hidden is quite a challenge.

Chargers are often the worse with long cables, most of which is left hanging or laying around.

Maplin Electronics sell a UK 13A plug socket with a built in USB charging socket. A neat solution for de-cluttering any kitchen or lounge. Reasonably priced at £14.99.







This week, I also spotted that designer, Min-Kyo Choi has won the Brit Insurance Design Award 2010 for creating a flat-pack plug. See photo above. I really liked the way several plugs can folded up and still plugged into a specially designed multi-way plug. Really smart thinking.

Check out the YouTube video....


iPhone Power Station - power to the people and phones

The iPhone travels with me everywhere I go. Most days it gets a lot of use from listening to music, taking photos, checking travel and weather reports, accessing email, diary, administering servers and my home (more on this later!) Some software on the phone drains the battery more than others, such as using it as a phone, or the GPS and Google Maps where data is constantly being downloaded. Often the iPhone struggles to even last the day without a top up or connection to my computer. Some days, this just doesn't happen as I'm constantly moving here there and everywhere.

I know about the battery 'jackets' you can buy for the iPhone, but I hate them, mostly because they make the phone chunky and who wants to lose the beautiful design?  No, I needed something I could just plug in, even momentarily and didn't rely on needed to be connected to the mains. There are hundreds of iPhone accessories out there, but few really make the grade.

The Mobile Power Station seems to be a pretty smart solution. It has a dock plug which is simply connected to the bottom of the iPhone with a simple battery level indicator to show how much charge is left in the device. It charges the iPhone and on a full charge will completely charge the phone in about 30 minutes. Of course the phone still works albeit with something piggybacked onto it.

When using Trailguru on the iPhone for tracking distance travelled on my bike this weekend, the iPhone rarely manages to complete a 2hr cycle because the GPS and screen power is just so draining for its battery. However, with the Mobile Power Station plugged into the iPhone which is mounted in the handlebar cradle it's just perfect. It's very inexpensive too.

Charging is simple, simply connect to a standard iPod/iPhone charger and if piggybacked into the iPhone, the charger will charge both.


Up-levelling for Raising Standards in Writing

One of our Year 4 pupils, Ryan brought me some of his creative writing to show me and it suddenly struck me that he wasn't showing me the first draft of his fantastic writing but something quite different.

Ryan was, in fact, proud of his skills in editing and improving his own work through a process called, Up-levelling which involves reviewing the work and subsequently making amendments and additions to the writing. Needless to say I was very impressed. It's not an easy skill to find errors with your own work and then annotate it, especially for a pupil like Ryan who is conscientious and has high expectations for everything he does. 

One of my roles at Kings Road Primary School is to continually review 'what we do' and measure / analyse the the impact of 'what we do.' At the beginning of the academic year I introduced to staff Next Step targets which was founded on our earlier work to improve the Marking and Feedback policy. This earlier work was about providing pupils with greater quality feedback for improving their work. Next Step targets is a snug fit, as it lays out a pathway for children to know how to reach higher National Curriculum levels and the criteria is broken down in sub-levels. So far this is working extremely well and pupils are becoming very savvy at knowing what there Next Step target is and what this means for their own improvement and development.

What is significant about Ryan's work is that he is already beginning the next process which is to review work-in-progress and look for how he can improve this work to reach another sub-level or two. The information for improvement comes from the Next Step targets which are in every child's Writing and Numeracy books. This higher order skill is very much in the arena of pupils having a deeper understanding of learning and how to improve. Powerful stuff.

Useful hints:

  • Enlarge pupil's work from A4 to A3 using the photocopier.
  • Encourage pupils to write on alternate lines.
  • Provide pupils with level descriptors so that they know what the features are of each sub-level.
  • Pupils work in pairs, introduce the concept of 'critical friend' or 'reviewer.'
  • Edit in another colour so that the edits stand out.

The Next Step targets alone are having a significant impact on raising standards and achievements with a greater proportion of pupils achieving a sub-level or more than in previous years when comparing term-on-term.

There is much more innovation to come and this will lead to further impact on learning. Exciting times ahead.

Apple iPhone cradle for VW Golf TDI MK5

Many people will know that for years I've been using a simple technology to mount my iPhone on the dashboard of my MX5 and now, the Golf TDI. It's been great, simple, clean, effective and simple to attach and remove the iPhone from the dash. However, the time has come for a rethink.

After a time, the velcro fastener wears and the adhesive weakens, so I've been checking out iPhone accessories to see what alternatives there are. I've found this product... Brodit Passive Holder with Tilt & Swivel.

This comes with a bracket for fixing to the dashboard, but this means drilling holes which I'm never keen to do as at some point I will want to sell the car on.


To overcome this, I found another product called a Brodit ProClip which is made by the same manufacturer and uses an innovative clip which makes use of the tiny gaps in the dashboard between the plastic panels. A special tool is inserted to open the gap whilst the clip is pushed into position. The clip simply locks into place.

Fab, no holes, no drilling, no damage.



Installing the XCarLink adaptor for iPod, iPhone - VW Golf V (MK 5)

The XCarLink adaptor is simply a box which interfaces between the iPod or iPhone and the CD radio head unit. The adaptor unit about the size of four match boxes and has two cables leading from it. One of the cables connects directly to the iPod or iPhone, the other to the CD changer port on the back of the head unit.


These instructions explain how I fitted the XCarLink adaptor into my VW Golf V (MK 5) TDI SE (2005)

The cable from the adaptor box plugs straight into the available CD changer socket on the back of the head unit. Before connecting, I ran the cable from the bottom of the centre console to behind the CD radio unit. In order to do this, the cigarette lighter and ashtray needs to be removed.

  1. Remove the gearstick cover. It pops out easily with little force needed.

  2. Beneath the cover reveals two screws. Remove these and the ashtray and cigarette lighter unit can be lifted up and out. You'll need to disconnect the cigarette lighter cable and ESP cable (if fitted.)

  3. I identified a suitable spot for locating the XCarLink interface unit beneath the ashtray and cigarette lighter unit.

  4. I routed the cable from the XCarLink interface box to the iPod / iPhone down a gap between the carpet and the centre console.

  5. Once all the cables are in place, switch on the CD radio and test the setup before putting the gearstick cover, centre console and dashboard back together.

  6. I use a piece of velco (the soft furry piece attached the iPhone) and the hooks attached the the dashboard. The iPhone isn't very heavy and the velco works well to support the iPhone in an upright position and within easy sight and reach for both the driver and passenger.

This was an easy install and took less than 45 minutes to complete from start to finish.


Good luck and enjoy!


I've checked out new iPhone accessories since posting this blog to find a suitable mounting system for the iPhone. See my later blog entry for more.

How to remove RCD 300 radio from Volkswagen Golf V (MK 5)

I spent this evening learning how to remove the CD / Radio head unit from my VW Golf V (MK 5) as I intended to fit the XCarLink iPod adaptor. I couldn't find much information about how to remove the radio, so thought I'd best fill the gap. I've added as many photographs as possible to illustrate each step.

My car is a VW Golf TDI SE (2005)

  1. Remove the rubber anti-slip mat which you'll find in the tray on the top of the dashboard. It can be taken out by gripping between your fingers and lifting.
  2. Underneath the mat there are two screws which have Torx screw heads. You'll need to have some Torx screwdrivers to unscrew both screws.

  3. Gently prize the tray away from the dashboard. I found a couple of flat-head screwdrivers wedged in at each corner seemed to do the trick.

  4. The top most section of the instrument facia can now be removed. This contains the ventilation grills. Lifting the section from the back, then work your way forward. Again, gentle persuasion with a flat-head screwdriver helped. The section is held firmly at the front with clips which can be released by sliding the panel upwards towards the roof. The section then separates and it can be lifted and placed to one side. Note that you can't remove it completely as a cable prevents you from doing so.

  5. Two further screws are uncovered. Unscrew these to allow the front facia from around the CD radio head unit to be taken off. Again, working from the top, gently prize the facia forward working from top to bottom down one of the sides.

  6. Four Torx screws hold the CD radio head unit in place. Once again, remove these screws and the CD radio can be pulled forwards.

After removing the CD radio head unit, I set about installing the XCarLink adaptor. Read my instructions for fitting the XCarLink adaptor and cables.

Travel Power

Modern day travelling brings with it demands for recharging portable devices. So many hostels provide minimal power points so we're glad to have brought a multiway short extension lead.

Memories of splicing and joining a multiway lead with an international plug attached one very late night, five years ago on a learning technology trip to Thailand reminds me of this top tip.

Luckily with iPhones and iPods in our bags, they share a universal charger which leads me to wonder why we brought so many!? Oh well.

It's a pity that even though we both have Canon cameras, the battery formats are subtly different and therefore require separate chargers, sigh.

USB has provided us with a huge advantage of sharing common connectors and cables. Lets hope that technology manufacturers will follow the European Commission's lead who have already agreed a standard for phone chargers. About time.

Spectacular Sunrise on Mount Sinai

Setting off at 1am this morning we took the camel path up to the summit of Mount Sinai, some two and a half thousand feet. It was a gentle 3hr climb, finishing with 750 steps where famously many believe God spoke to Moses.

An hour or so later saw the most beautiful sunrise, the colours emerging over the mountain featured horizon was unforgettable.

I was surprised at the rapid rise of the sun and how quickly light reflecting from the sky lit the mountain ranges which surrounded us.

These pictures struggle to capture the setting and atmosphere as nearly 300 people gasped at the sight of the sun peeking over the crest of mountain tops.

Breathtaking. An adventure not to be missed if ever you are in this region of Egypt.

Giza Pyramids

Having just visited the pyramids at Giza, it's interesting to reflect on the significant effort gone into building one, nevermind nine! Also, isn't it staggering how something unique and different really matters. I suppose seeing one pyramid is like seeing the hundred or so across the country.

If we want our schools to reflect an innovative and creative curriculum how do we get that view across to everyone outside? Designing aesthetically pleasing and different buildings is only one aspect of what's really needed.

Without considering how we present the inside out, much of the amazing work that goes on inside our schools to the local community is otherwise lost. Our schools contain some of the best talent in the world. Why hide it from view? The Egyptians haven't.

Doughnut Factory Outlet

After being a bit late for watching a film at the cinema, Sarah and I managed our disappointment by visiting Krispy Kreme which were properly yummy, although sadly we could only manage a few.

We were captivated by the setup which, if you've been before, consists of a servery, pay counter and the doughnut factory itself.

I love seeing beyond the end product where so much of what we consume is hidden or masked from view. So much is lacking in our own education system about process and manufacturing that often our children aren't clear about where their food comes from. At Kings Road Primary School we've begun a Food 4 Life programme which gives children experience of growing and cooking.

Schools could follow Krispy Kreme's lead and open up their kitchens with glass panels so that children can see food being prepared and cooked. Could other aspects of school life be made more transparent? Easily. The challenge is there for us all. Ultimately it's about creating the best learning opportunities for our children and what better way than use the places where they learn.

(oh and in case you are wondering this is the first blog entry in nearly a year. Crikey, hopefully this iPhone blogging app will help.)

Going for Gold

Last week, on day 1 of the new term I had a delightful conversation with one of my pupils. After a disruptive session the conversation went a little like this:

Jonathan:  Were you in control of your behaviour just then?

Pupil: Yes of course.

Jonathan: So if you wanted to stop being disruptive at that moment, could you?

Pupil: Yeah, suppose.

Jonathan: So why didn't you?

Pupil: Well, it's a bit like this, y'see, I think I'm just a little bit excited - it being the first day back and stuff.

This is clearly someone who is very aware of his behaviour and the impact it has, but perhaps someone who maybe can't hold back. I had a one-to-one chat with him about the strategies he has for coping with ADHD earlier this week. He had very few to offer, so I asked if he knew of anyone else who also has the condition. He replied, 'Michael Phelps'.

After a bit of research on the Internet we found that Michael Phelps had been diagnosed with ADHD as a young boy and at the age of seven, started swimming as an outlet for his energy.

This conversation hit home and together we are now exploring a list of activities that he could use to help him find a way in which to release pent up energy.

Could this boy reflect upon his own needs and 'Go for Gold' in his own and unique way?

Davitt's Learning Event Generator

After following a link to John Davitt's New Tools website earlier this evening, I noticed that John has a really cool tool on the front page. It's called Davitt's Learning Event Generator and looks like this:

Of course you'll have to play with the interactive version and press the 'roll' button a couple of times to see the seductiveness of John's thinking. I love the concept and the intention of getting teachers thinking 'outside the box' about how what they have been teaching for years and years can embedded in children's lives and learning, differently.

Here are a few rolls of my dice:

do how a light works as an illustrated diagram

do glaciation as a 10 second movie shot on a mobile phone

do life cycle of tadpole as a tableau maybe with Playmobil/clay models

Just wonderful and perfect for illustrating how we at Kings Road Primary School need to continue to develop our Creative Curriculum project at my phase meeting tomorrow.

Location, Location, Location - Geotagged photos on Google & Yahoo Maps using iPhone 3G

At the beginning of August I attended the Essex International Jamboree in Thorpe-le-Soken. This photograph was taken at the closing ceremony using my Apple iPhone 3G. This device has a built-in GPS receiver and is able to determine the exact position for latitude and longitude whenever required.

Usefully, location information is made available to the camera application when taking photographs with the iPhone. The latitude and longitude information is stored in the photograph's EXIF header within the file.

Using Yahoo Map's API, the EXIF data can be read and once interpreted, a location pointer can be layered on a given map.

Ultimately this means that viewing sets of photographs can be location specific. Imagine browsing your library of photographs by location. Using a map of the world I could easily find my photographs scattered in far away places including New Zealand, Thailand, Caribbean, and America.

Of course, this isn't new technology as such. Placing photographs on a map has been achievable for some years and the process of 'geotagging' images with location data is well understood by many. What the iPhone does is make geotagging very straightforward as all the location information is stored automatically at the point of taking the photograph. All that's required now is for a piece of software that can interact with the mapping API to do the rest.

With a little bit of work I was able to develop a little module that allows the location of geotagged photographs to be displayed on a map. So you kinda get a "I was 'ere" tool that shows exactly where you were standing when the photograph was taken. Unfortunately, this uses Yahoo Maps rather than the very impressive Google Maps interface - but hey, nothing is perfect.

...oh, and to see the map you'll have to view the full blog entry.

EXIF File Header information from ExifTool on Mac OS X

I've recently got quite excited by photographs that have been geotagged with location information. This is an example of EXIF file header which can be found in files. I have highlighted the GPS location information which is stored by the Apple iPhone 3G.

ExifTool is useful tool. It is essentially a file editor that enables this information to be modified.



ExifTool Version Number 7.41
File Name jamboree-small.jpg
Directory /Users/jonathan/Desktop
File Size 28 kB
File Modification Date/Time 2008:08:30 23:54:50
File Type JPEG
MIME Type image/jpeg
JFIF Version 1.01
Exif Byte Order Big-endian (Motorola, MM)
Make Apple
Camera Model Name iPhone
Orientation Horizontal (normal)
X Resolution 72
Y Resolution 72
Resolution Unit inches
Modify Date 2008:08:01 20:21:27
F Number 2.8
Date/Time Original 2008:08:01 20:21:27
Create Date 2008:08:01 20:21:27
Color Space Uncalibrated
Exif Image Width 360
Exif Image Height 263
Gamma 2.2
GPS Latitude Ref North
GPS Longitude Ref West
Compression JPEG (old-style)
Thumbnail Offset 191
Thumbnail Length 5904
Date/Time Digitized 2008:08:01 20:21:27+00:00
Profile CMM Type ADBE
Profile Version 2.1.0
Profile Class Display Device Profile
Color Space Data RGB
Profile Connection Space XYZ
Profile Date Time 2000:08:11 19:51:59
Profile File Signature acsp
Primary Platform Apple Computer Inc.
CMM Flags Not Embedded, Independent
Device Manufacturer none
Device Model  
Device Attributes Reflective, Glossy, Positive, Color
Rendering Intent Perceptual
Connection Space Illuminant 0.9642 1 0.82491
Profile Creator ADBE
Profile ID 0
Profile Copyright Copyright 2000 Adobe Systems Incorporated
Profile Description Adobe RGB (1998)
Media White Point 0.95045 1 1.08905
Media Black Point 0 0 0
Red Tone Reproduction Curve (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Green Tone Reproduction Curve (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Blue Tone Reproduction Curve (Binary data 14 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Red Matrix Column 0.60974 0.31111 0.01947
Green Matrix Column 0.20528 0.62567 0.06087
Blue Matrix Column 0.14919 0.06322 0.74457
Image Width 360
Image Height 263
Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
Bits Per Sample 8
Color Components 3
Y Cb Cr Sub Sampling YCbCr4:2:2 (2 1)
Aperture 2.8
GPS Latitude 51 deg 51' 18.00" N
GPS Longitude 1 deg 14' 32.40" W
GPS Position 51 deg 51' 18.00" N, 1 deg 14' 32.40" W
Image Size 360x263
Thumbnail Image (Binary data 5904 bytes, use -b option to extract)


BSBS - Brightlingsea School of Boat Speed

I've been using the excellent GPS Tracker software on my iPhone 3G device to track routes and positions. At the weekend we competed in a pursuit race, which, due to the staggered start time and coupled with the fact Cracker is the fastest (sailing) boat in the harbour, our race is VERY short. We had other complications too, including a very low tide meaning we couldn't even get to the race course until moments after our race started (!)  and a flat engine battery meant it was always going to be tough to win!  However, we had guests on board and it turned out to be just good fun. It was also good to be back in Brightlingsea again having spent much of the season on the South Coast in Cowes and Ramsgate.

In two weeks time, we are off again - to West Mersea this time to compete in the annual Dabchicks Regatta. In fact it was exactly a year ago when Geoff came aboard and together we formed what he affectionately calls 'the engine room'. Amongst his other phrases, many of which can't be mentioned here (!), was BSBS (Brightlingsea School of Boat Speed). We did well that year and elevated ourselves into the quite unique club which we now know as 'BSBS'. Wish us luck!

"We are the engine room", eh Geoff?

BBC iPlayer Downloader for Apple Mac, Linux, Windows, iPhone

Whilst the BBC are still dragging their feet with providing Windows only versions of their iPlayer software for downloading programmes, I've been using an alternative solution.

Paul Battley has found a solution using Ruby script run as a command line application. This is a cross platform tool that will work on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. There is a GUI interface as well, though the author recommends using the command line which works perfectly well within a Terminal window.

./iplayer-dl --pid-list=download.txt

The downloader is able to handle bulk downloads through creating a list of programmes using the PID identifier in a text file.

Download the latest iPlayer Downloader software. On a Mac you'll need to have installed Apple's Xcode development environment.


Wii Remote Hacks for geeks

Ever since Sir Ken Robinson spoke about Creativity and learning at TED, I've been keeping a watchful eye on subsequent presentations.

Johnny Lee captured my imagination, maybe because he's a geek as well? Johnny has begun to explore ways in which the Wii Remote can be applied to other situations where a device able to track movement using infra-red opens up new opportunities.

The accelerometer on the iPhone 3G opens up new possibilities in much the same way. I love playing Cro-Mag Rally for example, where the phone becomes the steering wheel. Having a spirit level on your phone rates quite high on a scale of geekiness.

That aside, Johnny has discovered that you can use a $40 handheld device to create an interactive whiteboard. He found that the Wii Remote has a powerful infra red camera in the tip of the controller. By putting an infra red LED inside the tip of a pen, the Wii Remote can detect movement across a projected surface. Very neat. An interactive whiteboard for the cost of about £30.

Johnny continues by demonstrating how the Wii Remote can detect head movements by tracking an infra red LED attached to a pair of glasses and in an instant, find yourself moving within a 3D environment. This is definitely one to watch.


A one-stop shop for product information and advice

With so much consumer choice for home electronics equipment, it's a minefield for anyone trying to decide what device to buy. My neighbour was looking to buy a mobile phone recently and found it incredibly difficult knowing what which manufacturer and model to purchase. With over a thousand mobile phones to choose from, this isn't a straightforward decision. 

Searching around a bit, I stumbled across TestFreaks. It aggregates reviews from several different sources, many of whom are written by consumers. Each device is rated against several criteria, design, value for money, features, ease of use, and performance. These vary depending on the device being reviewed.

I've been looking at buying a games console so that I play some of the latest games which are somehow all available for consoles rather than Macs and PCs.

Why not look for reviews of your next consumer product?



InstaMapper GPS Tracking on iPhone 3G

I'm having a lot of fun with InstaMapper's GPS Tracking application on my iPhone 3G. The client application takes live GPS data from the iPhone's position and transmits this to their servers at regular intervals. Using GPS positioning, the iPhone software can calculate the speed at which you are travelling and also the heading as a bearing.

However, it isn't until you log in to the InstaMapper GPS Tracking website and analyse the data that the iPhone has transmitted, that things become really interesting.

After a recent trip to the Lakeside Shopping Centre to collect a repaired MacBook, I looked at the data recorded. Journey time home was 20 mins from start to finish, travelling at an average speed of 48 miles per hour. The InstaMapper site also overlays each GPS position when data was transmitted onto a Google Map showing my entire journey to and from the Centre.

...and of course, using Google Maps as the mapping engine, it can also be viewed using the Satellite view.

I've started to cycle more regularly and next time I shall take the iPhone with me to track the route, speed and distance travelled.

Unfortunately, with Apple's policy on not permitting 3rd party applications to multi-task on the iPhone, the application only transmits data when it has been launched and is the running foreground application. This means you can't have the device constantly uploading GPS data - which is a real pity as this would then become the ideal anti-theft security system. Well, it wouldn't stop the iPhone from being stolen, but you'd be able to track the device quickly and within just a few metres. I'd love to see InstaMapper creating a variant of their tool which perhaps just uses a Unix application which runs in the background and posts GPS data - it doesn't need a GUI. Is this possible?

There are inherent dangers of having a device posting GPS data of course, not least having someone close to home knowing exactly where you are at every heartbeat. Hmmmm.  Or, as in this case, being busted for growing Cannabis plants

Time to blog

It'll be unfair for me to say that I haven't blogged for ages because I haven't had the time to do so as I've had the same amount of time as I have always had. I hate the expression 'I just haven't had the time to...' because that really means 'I've chosen to do something else' which is ok really - life is a busy place to be and we each have different priorities and needs.

That said, although my blog may have experienced the odd piece of tumble weed, my online presence as been as busy as ever - I'm just spread around a bit (!)

I couldn't begin to recount everything that has happened in the last four and a bit months, but you might try skimming through some of those 'other' online places.

I've invested much of my time building a Kings Road Primary School community, involving pupils in Year 4 initially and gradually bringing others into the online space. Building online learning communities is not a trivial task, and requires a fairly careful balance of ingredients for trust to be gained and responsibility understood. I'm delighted to see the fruits ripening as pupils are confidently posting articles whilst developing an understanding of language and audience.

The Orion Online site is thriving too. Take a look at some of our recent activities:

The mobile blog is pretty full-on, and kinda tells it's own story of where I've been and who I've met along the way. Using the iPhone 3G to blog is not only a delightful tool to use, but have began tagging photos with GPS location information. Watch this space for more on GPS location tagging.

...and of course there is also my online presence on Facebook and currently features my sisters wedding, she looked stunning. Take a look: album 1 | album 2



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