Data Portability for Educators

This is the slides I used for the Educational Jisc event. The event went really well and although there are over 80 slides, I managed to wiz through them in about 30mins, leaving plenty of time for questions. Someone commented they were pretty blown away and would need to review the slides again because there was just so much information to take in. Another lecturer, commented that she will spend more time in the future looking at eula's and data portability features before recommending them to students. So a good result all round.

Yes there was a geekdinner about Dataportability which I was part of. Imp has put up a complete video of the night which I'm not going to watch ever (hate watching myself on video). Enjoy.

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DataPortabilityAndMe videos

So finally I have edited and re-encoded my videos for the DataPortabilityAndMe video project. Now before you all moan about the quality or the very strange eye movements. Bear in mind this was shot while in Hamburg at about 2am in a hotel room while I was trying to talk clearly but not loudly, as to not wake my neighbours. I had also just come from a girl geekdinner where I was drinking wine and just finished a espresso before turning the camera towards myself. So yes generally not the best of conditions but I just needed to do it, or the nerves would have gotten hold of me and I would never have done it.

The quality is a little poorer that expected because I had finally run it through 3 different encoders. At the start it was shot on my Sanyo HD1 camera at HighDef 720p resoultion using the lower quality mpeg4 codec (I wish I'd used the higher quality one now). The footage was copied from SD card to hard drive and transcoded into Mpeg4 video and Mpeg1 audio so Kdenlive could edit the footage without the audio error I was getting when importing straight from the Sanyo HD1 footage. So after editing using Kdenlive (which I have to say is one of the best desktop editing tools for gnu/Linux at the moment) I exported the video in a range of video formats for uploading to In the end I found it easier to just output from Kdenlive using Divx and Mpeg3 audio then once again transcode that using VLC into Mpeg4 which Blip could understand. Yes its a pain but I finally got there. Next time I would convert once to HDV files and encode again before sending to bliptv.

Some of you might have noticed I also shot two videos. DataPortabilityAndMe (Large version) is me talking for less that 5mins and the longer version where I quote “wax lyrical” (yes I wish I had not said that too) is called DataPortabilityAndMe Adhoc Talk (Small version). Enjoy and let me know what you all think.

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BBC’s Ashley Highfield joins the Gnu/linux geeks

Jono Bacon points out things to Ashley

Nope its not April 1st. Yesterday George Wright and Jono Bacon setup and installed Ubuntu 7.10 on Ashley Highfield's laptop. I was there with my camera to capture everything as it unfolded. Don't worry, people this isn't the end of the coverage. Expect blog even more blog posts, audio from the install fest and if Ashleys up for it, video in the near future. So thats 601 users now Ashley? No but seriously, good step, lets hope Ashley enjoys using Ubuntu and learns more about this mystery operating system which makes you really think differently…

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Catching a Bouquet at a friends wedding…


…Not a good idea. I blame Jo Twist for calling me towards the front and Suw for throwing the bouquet straight at my head. I swear I only catched it to avoid being hit in the face with it. Thanks Kevin and Suw for a great wedding and thanks to Jo and Stephine for the advice with what to do with the bouquet.

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A blast from the past: Persistence of Vision Raytracer

Povray rendering glasses

I was listening to FLOSS weekly with the guy who actually created POV Ray (persistence of vision raytracer). It was amazing to listen to because, I along time ago use to run it on my old Atari ST. At the time I never had access to anything else, and frankly everything else was simply crap in when compared to PovRay's efforts. I believe there were all of about 4 3D rendering programs on the Atari 16bit platform and to be honest the ability to write images and animations using a simple notepad application was insane but ever so useful at the time. After a long while I built my first PC which was a 233mhz beasty and PovRay was one of those benchmark software which I used to prove to myself the investment. I could only dream how fast it would be to render scenes on my current workstation and laptop.

The author of POV Ray in the podcast talks about how he made the software freeware and wrote a basic license saying your welcome to modify it but if you do make a change please send it back to the author. This was before the word open source was around and even before the web had taken hold, so POV Ray was distributed on floppy discs, CDs and BBS. It was written before licenses like BSD, GPL and Apache were common, although PovRay 4 is going to be rewritten under the GPL 3 license.

PovRay isn't dead actually there starting to add some well needed features like native mutliprocessor support. In the past you would specify a part of the final image to do on one machine/cpu and the other bit on the other machine/cpu. This may sound very bizarre for a heavy duty raytracing engine but when you had a room full of computers like we sometimes had at college, it meant we could run renders of sizes like 1600×1200 and split the picture up into 4 pieces of 800×600, which were then run over 4x Pentium P133 machines.

The other thing I loved about PovRay was its realism, for year and years I argued that 3Dstudiomax, Lightwave, etc's results were poor compared to PovRay. The main reason was that this applications use to render results not raytrace them. This was why PovRay took so long to render scenes, like the one above. But for the hardcore, PovRay also had true Radiosity support

Actual writing PovRay scenes involves picturing in your mind 3D space and then mapping things based on that space. We use to graph things out on a graph paper and then translate it into C like syntax. It sounds more difficult that it actually is and before long your up and going. I just wish I could find some of my old scenes. Oh the language is a turing-complete language that supports macros and loops. So you can most of the time program effects using maths and logic that by hand.

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Kevin Rose talks about Data Portability on Diggnation

So it started off about the facebook applications on any site and their global javascript library. But before long Kevin Rose is informing Alex about the advantages of this move for Facebook and some of its users. Kevin then points out that its disadvantage is for the users because its still tied to Facebook. He briefly mentions OpenSocial then starts talking about DataPortability. During the following 3-4 mins Alex challenges Kevin about and its Dataportanility stance and to be Kevin admits he's all for dataportability in This is obviously very fitting looking forward to the announcement a while back that Digg joins the Dataportability group.

For someone whose one of the founders of the Dataportability group, I've been quite quiet about it. Don't get me wrong I'm lurking a lot and I already have my fingers in certain dataportability pies. You may have seen some data portability videos around, well I'm glad to say I have completed mine and I'm just trying to edit mine with Kdenlive and Pitivi but not having much luck. It seems Kdenlive doesn't like my Sanyo's Mpeg4 audio format. So I need to convert them first into something else using VLC. Pitivi is strange and does weird things to the video, which means it won't play in much including the great VLC.

Big thanks to Kevin Rose for allowing me the permission to clip this video and put it up on Blip.TV. Originally not only was I having problems with encoding but Blip kept removing my video because I was breaching Revision3's Copyright. So after a brief email to Kevin directly, he replied yes but he would have liked to have seen the video first. I told him if he doesn't like it I will take it down.

There is also now a Geekdinner about Data Portability in London. If your interested in this subject and in the area of London on Wednesday 27th Feb, come along for a good debate about the whole project and subject.

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Cloverfield what a nice suprise

Cloverfield cover - Statue of Liberty with head taken off

So I watched Cloverfield one night while in Hamburg and it suprised me. I actually enjoyed it and liked the rough camcorder style of the whole film. But I really wanted to watch it big and in the cinema. So I did at my local Odeon in Greenwich and enjoyed it even more. I'm no saying this is the best film ever made or anything but if you just sit down and enjoy it, you certainly will. Its also not a turn your brain off movie either, its got some clever bits to go with the physiological horror of not know what the thing is or what its capable of. Thumbs up from me, but go see it in cinemas before watching it at home, this movie was made for the large sceen only.

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The Real Hustle goes stateside

The real hustle

Not only have they decided to move the Real Hustle to Las Vegas (yes you can watch it now on iplayer) part 1 and part 2 but TruTV or as it use to be called CourtTV have bought the rights to do a american version of the popular UK show. Shame they got some Magician and actress to join Apollo Robbins whos actually good at what he does. Anyway you can watch most of the shows on the real hustle site.

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Software I’m using on ubuntu

Since switching to Linux, I've been feeling my way through a bunch of different free and open software. Some of the software I've picked up from when I was using Windows, others have been replacements and even in some cases I've picked completely different software for things I've never imagined.

  • QTM blog editor
  • Hamachi VPN
  • Liferea RSS reader
  • Amarok music player/manager
  • Skype
  • Gossip and Gajim instant messengers
  • Gnome Do launcher
  • Blueman Bluetooth manager
  • Blue Proximity scanner
  • Conduit
  • KeepassX password manager
  • Screenlets widget framework
  • Specto notification application
  • Tomboy Notes personal wiki
  • Inkscape
  • Gimp
  • Thunderbird and Evolution email clients
  • Firefox browser
  • Jungledisk
  • Tellico collection manager
  • Timevault backup manager
  • OpenOffice
  • Eclipse IDE
  • Jungledisk
  • Virtualbox
  • Azureus
  • icecast

I am missing a decent RSS reader like Particls but generally everything is covered.

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Home server campaign

Mommy, why is there a Server in the house

I only saw this today when Nicole sent me a link. Believe it or not, you can actually buy this book on Amazon and this User comment made ginger beer come out my nose, although its a tad unfair to slag off the kids.

This is the crap that Balmer reads to his deprived kids. This is really sick. If I gave my wife a home server she would divorce me. If this really came from Microsoft, I lost all respect for them. I would say the same thing if it came from Apple or Linux.
But it is kinda funny in a Britney Spears train wreck sort of way.

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The Trojan malware arms race

Geekdinner with Dr. Richard Clayton

So after the London Geekdinner with Doctor Richard Clayton from Cambridge University, (you can watch the videos here 1, 2, 3, q&a or listen to the audio in total here.) I had a little wonder around the net to see what I've been missing out on since I moved to GNU/Linux.

And as expected the battle over adware, spyware and trojans has grown into something extremely serious. A friend at work keeps talking about the problems she has with her windows machine. The things she describes sounds like trojan activity but I can never be sure, so I'm not quite at the point of saying to her reinstall Windows fresh again. (We actually rebuilt her machine over the Christmas period already, because things were so bad she couldn't login). However after hearing about this banking trojan on Security Now recently. I'm reconsidering my advice.

Not only does it Trojan.Silentbanker steal your passwords, but it can perform a man in the middle attack on SSL connections, rendering the secure nature of SSL totally useless. It can also modify HTTP and HTML, meaning when you log into your bank and try and pay your bills it will replace your bill details with ones of the trojans chooses. Yes click that button to transfer funds looks legitmate but it will go to a off shorebank you've never heard of. It can steal cookies, certificates, cache passwords and change your DNS settings on the fly. So type in your banks url and the browser gets sent to a site which looks like the banks site but actually its not. To finish off it automaticlly updates its self and for some reason can install it a midi driver which screws around with your sound. Maybe to play the sound “kuchhing” when you finish that hijacked transation?

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eMail problems Fixed

If you have emailed me in the last 2 days, I may not have got it because I'm experiencing email issues at the moment. It should get fixed soon, but right now its best to ping me on one of my gmail addresses. End of public broadcast.

This has been fixed, and it wasn't my host's fault. Actually it was me forgetting to set remove the proxy settings. I wish Thunderbird and Firefox would support global/operating system wide proxy settings as its painful to change it multiple times when connecting to the BBC network.

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