Archive for the 'Geekery' Category

Walter’s Lego Meth Lab

May 8th, 2011 by Ian

Breaking badWhilst waiting for the next series of Breaking Bad to start (just 2 months now), someone (Orion Pax on Flickr) has obviously been busy. I love the detail on this, especially the bullet holes in the door. It reminds me that, “this is my own private domicile and I will not be harassed….bitch!

via The Brothers Brick

Sheffield BarCamp 2011: The tourist’s perspective

April 23rd, 2011 by Ian
The mighty grid

The mighty grid

For those of you who are similarly clueless as I was, a BarCamp is somewhat of an unconference, “an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment“.  Attendees are encouraged not only to come and listen, but also to talk as well. There were 4 rooms at this event and those who wished to speak simply affixed a post-it note with the title of their talk onto a grid on the wall. I played the role of a ‘tourist’ because I brought nothing to the party: I had never been to one of these events before and being the shrinking violet that I am, simply sat back and took in as much as possible. These events are held all over the world, but at this Sheffield event there were no sponsors nor was there an entry fee. It was arranged with help from the GIST Foundation massive. and hosted at Sheffield Workstation over the weekend of the 16th of April. A great location because a) free Wi-Fi and b) it’s opposite real-ale haunt the Rutland Arms. Unfortunately, due in part to a (reasonably epic) duel-headline tour in the evening by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead and Rival Schools I had to leave for Manchester earlier than I would have liked. I did however promise the man of a thousand Twitter accounts, Jag that I would publish online some of what I experienced. For the pathetically short time I was in attendance I found the BarCamp enlightening, so here is some of what I learnt, and how I could apply it to what I do.

Documentation and Storytelling

The first session I attended was on documentation by Dee Vincent-Day (@deevincentday). Her job is to work with developers and document their work. I do not envy her job. However, it sounds like she has it down and I got the impression that she was a master of social engineering, with a different approach to different developers! I found it surprising (from the discussion amongst other BarCampers) that documentation is often fed into MS Word and propriatery management systems like the infamous Sharepoint. She talked about how although documentation may add to the cost of a project initially, there are savings later down the line, especially if developers move on from projects/jobs. Having been burned by this first hand, I appreciated this. I think it’s great that there is someone who is there to purely help developers document.

Gem (@ruby_gem) presented a more fluffy topic: Stories. Here, I use the word ‘fluffy’ not negatively at all, but the concept of story telling is a higher level concept than my practical-focused little mind is used to. I liked the idea of creating a story for everything (and Gem was adamant that a story can be created for everything). The form of these stories should follow:

  1. As a
  2. I want
  3. So that

Often when I have my UX hat on, the question running through my mind is simply “what do we need”. But these more involved (yet still simple) stories seem like they’d serve me better in communicating with clients, managers and pulling together a spec. The rearrangement of this into “In order to > As a > I want” would better serve some situations. She was also keen on drawing pictures to illustrate needs, but when dealing with more technically minded folk, then a simple table of figures would serve best. (Edit: ‘Writing Stories’ has all been much better explained on ruby_gem’s blog)

Attention grabbing and Mobile Development

For ‘Getting attention on FlickrMartin Cunningham (@martin88) told us the importance of interacting with the community. On Flickr can involve joining groups, providing constructive criticism and favourite-ing others photographs. My personal efforts on Flickr are a complete joke, however the lessons that Martin has learnt can be applied elsewhere. I deal with a lot of organisations who realise the potential and power of social networks and online communities, but they often forget that simply being there isn’t enough. One needs to engage, and Facebook, YouTube or wherever else you think it’s important to promote yourself have equivalents to the Flickr techniques that Martin mentioned. Of course, his flickr account is worth a look!

Trevor Ward (@thewarpedcoder) spoke specifically about the Titanium development platform. As a front-end guy, this has attracted my attention before as it utilises existing HTML/JavaScript skills to produce native applications. However, it was great to see it in action as Trevor walked us through some of the processes. It looked pretty simple, certainly when compared to learning Objective-C! I also didn’t realise the extent to which Titanium can interface with a device’s sensors (cameras, gyroscopes, GPS etc) which is obviously the biggest advantage over mobile-orientated native-web development. It seems like a pretty mature, ordered way of producing mobile apps for both Android and iOS. He was upfront about the limitations (i.e. this isn’t for building 3d multiplayer fps frag-fests!) but I’m left with the feeling that I should spend some time poking around in Titanium. Speaking of gaming….

Collecting stars, flying spaceships

Video Game Bucket List

Video Game Bucket List

Many talks at this BarCamp provided me with things I can take back to my daily work life. Two, however, were simply fun. The first of these was Katie Fenn’s (@katie_fenn) talk on the Space Shuttle. As an aviation nerd myself this was pretty interesting, and it was nice to hear someone who obviously loves the Shuttle take such a critical look at it. Katie detailed the massive cost overruns and tragic accidents but still felt the whole adventure was worth-while. I agree. Katie: I believe your talk is online somewhere but I can’t find it. Send us the link, because it’s worth another look. Liam (@losvaive) took us even further away from earth and into the realms of fantasy with his ‘Video Game Bucket List‘. I hadn’t heard the term ‘bucket list’ before, but apparently it’s a sort of ‘things to do before you die’ checklist. His talk was focused on games that provide things sometimes beyond their design so his recommendations were not the unimaginative stuff like “Killing Talibs in COD 7 PWNZ!11”, but more subtle ideas like “Complete HL2 by only firing one shot” (which is possible, apparently: you only need one bullet to shoot a lock off a door) and “build a giant 1000ft golden phallic tower (complete with balls, natch) in Minecraft“. Incidentally, I’d love to see the screenshot of the latter again. It was simultaneously awe-provoking and terrifying.

My first BarCamp

My first BarCamp experience was excellent. A good crowd, as per most GIST events. I’d re-attend in a heartbeat, maybe as less of a tourist. God knows what I’d talk about but I’d be open to suggestions. I am a little sad that there were a number of talks I missed on such things as QR codes, Fractal Geometry, APIs and more, but I guess that’s the nature of a BarCamp. Thanks to all who arranged and took part in this event and if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented what you were trying to say, then please let me know!

NASA fulfil their employees Star Wars fantasies

March 4th, 2010 by Ian

The latest batch of goodies sent up to the ISS included this cupola, which all true Tie Fighter fans will recognize.

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

Via Gizmodo

Disney cosplay we can all get behind

December 7th, 2009 by Ian

I know I’ve overshot Halloween a little bit, but whatever:

Disney zombies

Via Look at this Frakking Geekster

Geeks and hip-hop

October 22nd, 2009 by Ian

RZA shows off his geeky side in this interview. Jedi mind tricks (not the band), ColecoVision and the usual comic books that anyone who knows about the Wu will be familiar with. It’s nice to hear stuff like:

I’d rather raise nerds than raise gangsters.

(via True / Slant)

Icycle caters for uncrowded niche

October 8th, 2009 by Ian

I know. It’s about time that someone released a game featuring a lonely nude man on a bike too small for him. In the ice. Brilliant artwork ahoy.


A simple yet totally addictive flash mini-game:

Nerd Venn Diagram: Finally, the answer

September 15th, 2009 by Ian

Nerd venn diagram

Looks like I’m a nerd. I border on geek sometimes, but lets not kid ourselves, ‘eh?

(via Laughing squid, via Craig Newmark)

Saved By The Bell: The Columbine Years

April 6th, 2009 by Ian

Saved By The Bell The Columbine Years

by Jude Buffum, via Tiny Cartridge

MF Doom & Ghostface team up for Chinatown Wars

March 15th, 2009 by Ian

The Nintendo DS has always seemed a little bit too ‘kiddy’ for me, but with the release of Chinatown Wars, things look like they’re about to change. This game looks better for the fact that it’s a DS-specific title, not some hand-me down re-jigging of a Playstation title. The stylus seems to be an integral part of the game, rather than some tagged-on annoyance.

What also helps is the presence of personal fav MF Doom on the soundtrack. Oh, and Ghostface Killah. Delicious. Time to get me a DS.

The game is out next week. Check out some trailers etc. at the official site.

[edit: definative review imho here ;)]

Battle of Hoth in Lego

December 22nd, 2008 by Ian

A Battle of Hoth Lego diorama is the next logical step from this previous blog post I suppose. Unless of course you think the idea of a Rebel offensive makes it more likely that this defensive battle is a step backwards. Chronologically. I’ve said too much.

Lego Hoth

Lego Hoth

Feat. AT-ATs, Snowspeeders and the usual Millennium falcon. LEDs provide some atmospheric lighting. The whole set of picture can be seen on the builders flickr account. Once again; nerdgasm.

Via Gizmodo via Brother Brick

One eyed woman wants digital eye-cam

November 13th, 2008 by Ian

Tanya lost an eye in a car accident and was supplied by a pretty realistic looking prosthetic replacement. It seems, however, that she’d like to make the best of a bad situation and ‘upgrade’ that eye. She has put out a call on her blog for engineers to build her an eye with a digital camera that can provide augmented reality. There are a few possiblities; a ‘Terminator’-like display readout perhaps, or maybe just the ability to document her day with a genuine photographic memory. She seems to be gathering quite a bit of interest and I would imagine those with the skill-set to work with these sort of devices would always welcome a guinea pig. The devleopment could turn out to be very interesting.

Chris Morris at CERN

October 22nd, 2008 by Ian

Something about these pictures that I recently stumbled across excites me.

Chris Morris at CERN

Chris Morris at CERN

We have a machine here that, some say, can generate a black hole and destroy the earth and we have the greatest minds in British Comedy: Chris Morris, Simon ‘League Against Tedium’ Munnery and Kevin ‘I’m in pretty much everything worth watching’ Eldon. All in the same room tunnel! I can only presume something amazing is going to happen.

All joking aside, the CERN podcast with these people is very interesting if a lot of the physics usually overwhelms you (as it does me).

Listen (and view) the Munnery / Eldon CERN podcast
Listen to the Chris Morris CERN podcast

Amiga Workbench in Javascript

October 13th, 2008 by Ian

I think I’m progressing at my JavaScript education and then I see something like this in-browser emulation of an Amiga Workbench desktop.

Workbench in JavaScript

Workbench in JavaScript: yes, you can click on everything

Genius. A great way to show off your chiptunes music and demo’s. Just don’t right-click!

Lego + Star Wars = nerdgasm

September 28th, 2008 by Ian

Here is a mini-lego-made Star Wars recreation of a massive battle. X-Wings, AT-ATs, Slave 1 and TiEs swooping over the landscape. This would have made my childhood.

TiE fighter flys past a burning AT-AT

View the full set.