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The service having id "facebook_widget" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.


Pixoh - Editing pictures online

Pixoh - Great online tool... and does most of what you need for simple image manipulation.

Current functions include:

  • crop
  • resize
  • rotate
  • adjust, brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue, saturation
  • saves edited image in a range of formats, gif, jpg, pdf, png, psd, tif
  • also, save to Flickr

There now needs to be some way of interfacing this tool with content management systems so that users can edit images within their own sites, eliminating the need to store the image somewhere and subsequently link to it. Flickr comes the closest through using RSS.


Google's recent additions to services, tools, and interfaces could form the next community platform

This website, Simply Google (from Confusability) shows just how extensive Google has become with its range of services and tools. Google's software is very well implemented and deployed.

What I'd like to see now is how all these tools fit together, in some sort of diagram. The connections between Google Maps, Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Calendar are clearly signs of how a Google Community platform could exist in the near future. However, it needs some sort of adhesive to join these tools together before this can happen.

Some of the elements are already there:

Identity: Google Mail accounts...
Notification: RSS (XML) connections, in search results... calendar event items... blogs... news
Navigation: Google Search tools which are extensive, including a range of media, text, audio, video, images
Individual space:
Some notion of discourse: Google Talk (synchronous) | Google Mail (asynchronous)

This diagram, produced in November 2003 whilst working at Ultralab, shows our thinking about the components of online community software.

larger version

I wonder if Google has a community-ware product in mind or just a strong adhesive?


Google Calendar

No surprise really, Google is rapidly rolling out its portfolio of social software tools, so quickly in fact that this feels like a weekly event nowadays.

The latest offering is Google Calendar - a very capable online diary tool, which uses Ajax for excellent interface features.

Significant features include:

  • drag and drop interface (Ajax technology), very intuitive and easy to use.
  • adding, editing, moving events is snappy, just as you need it to be. In fact, I found it noticeably quicker than Apple's iCal diary application. This alone makes Google Calendar attractive.
  • Synchronises with Apple iCal standard... (though only in one direction... from GCal to iCal)
  • imports your existing calendar files from iCal or CSV format files.
  • Share your calendar with groups of people, and set security options about who can see what events. Uses RSS (XML) and iCal format files.

I am very impressed and seriously considering using Google Calendar over my existing setup, using Apple's iCal client software and Mac OS X server software with WebDav running for web accessible diary and sharing.

Read what others thought...

...and how to subscribe to a Google Calendar from Mac OS X iCal.

Here is my public Google calendar in RSS format showing events this week.


Paparazzi! for screen grabbing websites

I often think a list of bookmarked websites are such an uninspiring way of presenting your favourite sites, and quite often I can't associate the website's title with what I am looking for anyway. What I need is a way of browsing my favourite websites with a thumbnail view of the bookmarked page. Paparazzi captures the website page as a graphic which I could then AppleScript to build a single page of bookmarked sites, with images.

I used this application recently to create an offline website for use on laptop computer in the absence of an Internet connection, when applications like SiteSucker and WebSucker wouldn't work for certain sites.


Outdoor screen for displaying children's digital portfolios to the local community

Ever since the early stages of designing a brand new school, Stepping Stones, there has always been a desire to allow the local community to see some of the wonderful work that takes place inside the school.

The solution lies in bolting a large flat panel screen to the outside wall, with a cable running to a computer situated inside the school and which provides a rolling display of the children's digital portfolio. One of the major concerns other than protecting the screen against the environment, heat, cold and moisture, is security. How could we ensure that the screen we mount on the outside wall of the school building, be secure - especially to the opportunist?

Perhaps a CCTV camera would provide enough of a deterrent for the would-be-thief to reconsider their proposed actions?

As you might imagine, most screens are designed for indoor use, but I have found one LCD screen which might just be suitable for our needs.

"The 32"

Google acquires Sketchup, and plugin for Google Earth

Google announces that they have acquired SketchUp, the powerful 3D modelling / design software. Google maintains their promise to provide SketchUp for educational establishments.

"We believe that supporting education is important. Google is committed to providing students, educators and institutions with low-cost or no-cost software licenses and resources. We think that SketchUp has a place in every classroom, dorm room and student laptop in the world. After all -- we live in 3D. Why shouldn't we start thinking and teaching that way?"

It seems this new acquisition provides the way forward for a stronger relationship between Google Earth and SketchUp, beyond the existing plugin allowing users to create 3D models of buildings and place these on the Google Map... how cool is that!?

Must get some of our Stepping Stones pupils working on this, many of who have already some experience of using SketchUp.

Safari, Macromedia Flash Player plugin and Rosetta

Uncovered another nasty gremlin using Intel MacBookPro machine - installing the Macromedia Flash Player Plugin for Safari was impossible. Each time I ran the installer, it appeared to install plugins into the correct places... indeed, Flock and Firefox could access the plugins ok, but Safari repeatedly failed to acknowledge they were present. See Macromedia's test page.

Reading a forum on the Macromedia alerted me to the need to 'check' a checkbox in the Application 'Get Info' --> General panel. It recommends ticking 'Open using Rosetta'

Works fine now of course.


PowerPC software compatibility with Intel Mac

My transition to the new Intel Mac Book Pro has been reasonably seamless - nearly all the current applications work fine under Rosetta (Apple's software emulator enabling PowerPC applications to still run) which does an awesome job.

However, I've stumbled across problems running Apple's Remote Desktop software - it isn't compatible. Users will note that it continually says 'The Remote Desktop Administrator software is out-of-date". Checking the Software Update tool doesn't provide any updates despite the suggestion to do so.

This rather useful page outlines what software is compatible, and what isn't. See also Mac Fix It information.

Some applications are a bit sluggish when launching, but in fact at a comparable speed as my old G4 PowerBook 1.25GHz. The operating system is noticeably faster - and with Intel optimised apps, this will become a little screamer. I love having the iSight camera built into the hardware, and with Apple's PhotoBooth software - this becomes a lot of fun to use.


Turning MySQL data into utf-8 from latin1

Recently, I found myself moving a MySQL database from one MySQL database server to another, causing all sorts of problems, mostly with random characters being replaced with foreign characters. I determined the problem to be related to how the data was encoded, UTF-8 or latin1... and worse, sometimes a mix of the two, arghh.

I thought I had it bad, but think I've escaped lightly,

Derek Sivers writes...

"Did a raw data dump (mysqldump) of the data to a regular text "dump.sql" file.
(85 tables, millions of rows, an 8 gig dump)"

60 hours later, here is Derek's solution.

Derek continues...

You'll be glad you did some day."

Technology really shouldn't be this hard.


No comment: take heed of error logs and messages

Having moved my blog to another location following my departure from Ultralab, I was blissfully unaware that I hadn't copied across some dependancies that made 'captcha' comments (y'know, the little graphic containing letters to verify a genuine post) work on the comments form. Arghhh, and so I began thinking how rubbish software is for not alerting us to the fact that something isn't working...

Well, it's not surprising to learn that actually the software was doing a very good job of alerting me to the problem, the error log was full of people trying to comment, but unsuccessfully :-(

A note to us all, check your error log file periodically and find out what your web visitors are trying to do, but failing at. Big apologies to those who have tried to comment, but couldn't, also, thanks to Juli for emailing and pointing out the issue.

Hope there aren't too many bugs...    


Citizen journalists

I received a telephone call from a journalist from the Today programme on Radio 4 wanting to understand more about citizen journalists and blogging. He stumbled across this blog site and made contact.

I compiled a quick brainstorm and this is what I sent him (if you have more thoughts, please add them here):

Why have people adopted blogs:

  • empowers people to have freedom of speech, a voice, a space on the Internet
  • easy and quick way of disseminating / publishing on the Internet
  • invite like-minded individuals to comment, allow discussions to take place, online
  • promotes autonomy, creativity and reflection

Labour MP uses a blog to talk to his constituency.

This is an example of citizen journalist Frankie Roberto, reporting on the Whale which entered the River Thames a fortnight ago. The articles he had written were submitted to Wikinews who he helped cover the news.

Other instances, London bomb attacks, Tsunami relief effort are big examples of citizen bloggers. I'm struggling to find citizen journalists in Essex who blog news. Open to suggestions, please add comments below.

Ultraversity researchers blogs (undergraduate researchers engaged in action research using blogs to disseminate their research findings)

eDemocracy project - download the e-Democracy proposal which we tried to make happen in Great Yarmouth)

Amy set up a blog site following her time with UItralab as a work experience student, now set up a blog for her four year old brother, Archie (possibly the youngest blogger?)

Wikipedia might help here... particularly the links at the bottom of the page. See: Citizen journalists on Wikipedia.


Naace podcasting at BETT 2006

Although BETT runs for a final day, today, I have had a wonderful two days at the show supporting Naace members, and the odd non-naace member!) with podcasting. For many this was their first experience of what it means to podcast. They left the stand with a greater understanding of both how you might use podcasting in the world of education and learning. One Naace member described how she can now demonstrate podcasting to a team of teachers at a school on Tuesday - yikes!

I worked alongside Stephen Powell, Jane Down and Maureen Gurr in the Naace Lounge.

We used Apple's iLife '06 software to podcast, GarageBand and iWeb. Listen to all the podcasts or
Subscribe to the feed

Teleport Replay

My digital television provider, Telewest, has made available its new service, Teleport Replay


This new service allows users to access the past weeks' television programmes, on demand. Telewest records several programmes for a select number of channels including the BBC and Bravo. This is breakthrough technology for the home user, there is no local recording device in the home, all this is streamed down the fibre optic backbone of the Telewest network.

I love being able to forward, rewind and pause the recorded TV programmes.

There is no additional cost to the consumer for this service, unlike the Telewest TVDrive which is a soon-to-arrive Personal Video Recorder (PVR) package for recording TV direct to a home device. This looks like a really exciting development which might overcome my PVR, Evolution TV blues.


Domain Name Transfer, painful experience

Having been a loyal customer with for the past three years, and been a strong supporter of their Control Panel and Technical support services, I have chosen to transfer this domain, to

My two reasons for doing this are:

  1. are cheaper to re-register each year
  2. has a better control panel which supports numerous creation of sub-domains.

The Easily control panel only allows 3 subdomains to be created, although they will be upgrading this capability shortly to allow users to submit more.... hopefully infinitely more.

Rather disappointingly, you may have noticed two days downtime for whilst this process was in full swing.

The process involved in transferring a domain name is not particularly complex, but involves several organisations working together.

Both Easily and 123-reg responded well to the initial request, the transfer is still in progress and should be complete in the next 3 days. However, since the WHOIS record was updated with new Nameservers for, the domain hosting company hadn't created a record in their name servers pointing my domain to my server.

I was dismayed when the 123-reg technical team didn't respond to my initial emails requesting support. Their 50p per minute telephone number wasn't working either. In the end I bombarded their team with emails asking for help, until someone replied with some advice.

Sadly the advice suggested I should wait the 5 days for the transfer of domain name as it was 'preferred' that their nameservers weren't amended until the process had completed - nevermind the fact I was running a live website that hadn't expected to be unavailable for so long.

The upshot is that the team have kindly pointed the sub-domain to the right server, and we are back online once again. Welcome back, campers!

I am still waiting for the full transfer or domain name from one company to another and access my new control panel, but at least my visitors are active once again.

It reminds me once again to get the best package with the right level of support, anything else just won't do.


Optorite Laser Mouse

Every so often I get the chance to play with some new piece of kit... call me geeky, but it's kinda fun. This time I have an Optorite Laser Mouse from Kinnovation to play with.

The mouse looks rather sleek and space-age. Although slightly bulky, it's not really a portable mouse as such, but one you'd have by your side on a work surface. However, from an ergonomic perspective, this one ticks all but one of the boxes. The thumb sits comfortably in the curvaceous groove, with a click switch just above it. The index finger and third finger rests beautifully above the right and left mouse buttons. A roller ball switch sits between the two mouse buttons.

I'm hoping Kinnovation begin work on a mouse for left-handed people... something that I believe is a essential - we simply don't do enough to cater for people's individual needs. Maybe the company have left handed mice for sale, but this isn't obvious from the website.

One other thing that I like about the mouse is its weight... it weighs very little. The lightweight design makes using the mouse a dream. Tracking is very sensitive, but this is easily adjusted by the operating system's control.


Hot fridge anyone?

I've always wondered whether fridges could be made more efficient...

This fridge uses excess heat from the condenser (usually on the back of most household appliances) and directs this to a 'hot plate' situated on top of the unit.


Google Talk

Okay, so Google have just released their latest service, Google Talk - this is yet another Instant Messenger chat service but with computer to computer voice telephony as well. I'm slightly concerned that Google is looking like another Microsoft or Tesco - a one place stop for all your needs. In some ways this is nice... take Apple's iLife suite of applications... I enjoy having them all work seamlessly together - but I'm not sure I'm ready for Google to rule the (Internet) world, just yet.

Interestingly enough, the uptake of IP telephony has been slow, apart from local telephone networks set up in offices, yet we've had Skype and Sipgate for some time now. If you remember the take up of Google's search engine several years ago, this could spark a real shake-up for BT and other telephone providers if the same success if achieved with full release of Google Talk.


Plone 2.1 rc1 installed, working and Subversion

I'm really excited having just managed to download and install Plone 2.1 rc1 (release candidate 1) and all this after a long day yesterday with Richard Millwood and Matthew Eaves, working together on the new Ultralab website...

Plone is a content management system (CMS) or framework (CMF) as it is termed by the people at Plone. Essentially, Plone allows you to build complex websites where the data or content is stored within a database. This helps to organise your data or represent it in whichever way you please. Plone is particularly strong on building a sense of community, with a sound notion of Users and Groups and Privileges system, and is one of the defining factors why we are building the next Ultralab website and Ultraversity Portfolio/Community spaces using this tool.

Over the past 2 months, there has been an enormous learning curve to master - and we aren't there yet, but with each challenge, we seem to learn something new. Some things are still a mystery... like getting the FeedParser (RSS) to function from within ContentPanels (a Plone product) One of the most significant struggles is learning a new programming language, Python. Luckily, it is said that Python was a language developed to help people learn about programming. Shouldn't too hard then if you don't mind all the dots. !

So far we have been developing on Plone 2.0.5 and with Plone 2.1 (set for release on August 1st, now August 15th) - just around the corner, our recent concern has been, 'Will our development effort be wasted or lost during the upgrade process?' Currently, the latest version doesn't have a 'package installer' application and relies on downloading the binaries for install using commands such as

./configure; make; make install

Also, I've learnt about Subversion (a software application to manage version control) Thanks to Chris Davis, I've managed to make sense of the download and installation of Subversion. Thanks Chris. The web is just so handy for finding and learning new things.

This has led to me installing Zope 2.8.0, upgrading my version of Python to 2.3.5, installing Darwin Ports (whatever these are!) and using Subversion to download and install Plone 2.1 rc1

Now all I need to do is find out what happens to our development work when we import the site into the new version of Plone.

see also:


Routemaster Bus... on the road to digital creativity

Stepping Stones and the National Hemiplegia Organisation have recently purchased an old London Routemaster RM bus from

The intention here, rather like the Computer Bus on the Isle of Man, is to provide more opportunities for children to become involved in digital creativity projects, using video, animation, graphic design applications.

So far the bodywork has been re-sprayed, and work to the inside of the bus is set to be carried out anytime soon. The most pressing need right now is to brainstorm the layout for the inside of the bus. It will need to accommodate working spaces for children using computers, which are likely to be portable Apple iBook computers. The bus must also ensure that wheelchair users can access at least the lower deck and this means that the upper deck can't have an exclusive facilities or technology which isn't accessible from anywhere else.

So your thoughts please, we have a double decker bus to design and construct. This is an exciting opportunity and we want to get it right.

Sound Advice on BBC Essex

I have just returned from the BBC Essex Studio. If you are interested in what Matt and I had to say live on air with listeners talking about computer start-up issues, copying music from vinyl to computer and troubleshooting a computer which doesn't hold the graphics card setting, then download and listen (4.2MB) to the audio recording. (This is a heavily compressed .3gp file, you'll need QuickTime for it to play. To download, right click or ctrl click the link)

sound_advice.mp4 (4.2MB)

There were some quite tricky questions (!) from the listeners, and towards the end, the phone lines were heaving with callers wanting to ask their questions, pity the programme ran for just the hour!


BBC Essex with Simon Baldock 'Sound Advice'

Matthew Eaves and I have found our way onto BBC Essex's Sound Advice programme with Simon Baldock

The programme will feature a discussion about blogging and podcasting plus the usual phone-in with listener's computer problems.

How to listen to BBC Essex on the Internet


Google Page Rank status in Firefox

Just found a Google Page rank extension for Firefox. It's an easy extension to install - just click the link to install in a Firefox browser. You might have to tell Firefox that it's okay to allow this to be installed (security feature which you'd rather have than didn't)

With the advent of (Tiger's) Dashboard widgets, I've chosen not to install Konfabulator and the Page Rank Widget... I figured that one set of Widgets is enough for anyone... plus the floating panel was either always hidden behind browser windows or on top getting in the way!

Read more about Google Page Rank. Stephen Powell refers to it as a measure of Google Juice...

Google 'satellite' maps


Learn3K - Learning for the Third Millennium



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