Saturday May 30, 2009

Maker Faire

Despite the fact that I am about to embark on 5 days of intensive geek time I seem to have spent the one day of I have off this week at yet another geek event. This time for geeky hobbies.

I had arranged to meet an old friend and his family who live in the valley for the day. Although see him reasonably frequently because he travels to europe on business I rarely get to see his family. He suggested that we meet at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Although he sent me a link to the web site I did not get a chance to read it before I departed so I had no idea really what to expect. On the train ride done to Hillsdale across the aisle from me sat a father and his young son (nearly 6!) and it became clear that they were heading for the same event. The father proceeded to read to his son the agenda for the day and some of the attractions and it started to become clear that I was on route to yet another type of geekfest.

Seriously though it was a great day out with a huge and diverse range of different displays all based on the common theme of people making things and have passion about what they made. The scale model radio control battleships that fire ball bearings at each other and try to damage and ultimately try to sink each other was very entertaining and popular. The electronics and construction hall and the robot hall particularly appealed to me and the make and launch your own solid fuel rocket was a huge hit with the kids. The display of bonsi trees and demonstration fascinated my friends wife. The sections on sewing and embroidery were of little interest to any of our party but were still busy and the range of weird and wonderful vehicles dotted around the site and traveling around the site provided continual amusement and interest. We particularly liked the psychedelic trike towing a trailer draped with tie dyed cheese cloth which we nick named the Hippy Davidson. The one that amused me the most and disturbed me slightly were the group there who designed, build and rode around in motorised Cup Cakes. Picture below.

For anyone who lives in the area particularly those with children I think it makes a great day out and indeed I spent all day wishing that my kids were there to share it with me.

Saturday Feb 02, 2008

Back in a Kayak

I promised in a previous post  that I would update you on my return to white water kayaking. It was MAGIC!!! It was the first weekend in December when I found my self loading my gear and boat into a mini bus and trailer in a car park in Pangbourne on a VERY cold wet and windy Friday night ready for a long drive to North Wales. The following morning the gales and rain were added to by sleet and snow as I found my self somewhat nervously waiting to get onto the water. River levels everywhere were extremely high and the Tryweryn was on full release. I have often heard the expression "... it's just like riding a bike...." and yet when I purchased a new mountain bike a few years ago after a 15-20 year gap it took me several attempts before I was able to look and feel as if I was not going fall over any second. The kayaking however was completely different. Excuse the pun but it just all came flooding back to me. It felt great.


Since then I have been on the weir at Hurley. I am planning to post further articles on kayaking to my personal blog.

Tuesday Dec 04, 2007

My New Toy

I have recently got back into kayaking, something that I spent a considerable amount of time and money on in my teens and twenties before this was overtaken by other expensive and time consuming "hobbies" such as a house, a wife and kids. The kids however have reached an age where they wanted to have a go and so we are all going. Surprisingly it seems to have all come flooding (excuse the pun) back to me and I am having great fun.

As part of this I have treated myself to a brand new waver rider kayak for surfing and whitewater. 

So far I have only had it out on flat water on the Thames at Pangbourne but I am planning to head off with Adventure Dolphin to North Wales to canoe on the Tryweryn near Bala. It is a considerable number of years since I last canoed there so I will let you know how I get on.

Friday Oct 05, 2007

The Computer Swallowed Grandma

I found the following poem in the magazine of the Reading University of the Third Age and I thought that it deserved a wider audience.

The computer swallowed Grandma
Yes, honestly it’s true
She pressed ‘control’ and ‘enter’
And disappeared from view

It devoured her completely,
The thought just makes me squirm
She must have caught a virus
Or been eaten by a worm.

I’ve searched through the recycle  bin
And files of every kind
I’ve even used the Internet
But nothing did I find

In desperation, I asked Jeeves
My searches to refine
The reply from him was negative
Not a thing was found ‘online’.

So, if inside your ‘Inbox’
My Grandma you should see
Please ‘Copy’, ‘Scan’ and ‘Paste’ her
And send her back to me!

Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

Brain Teaser

There are two interconnecting rooms. In the first room that you are currently in there are three light switches. In the second room there is a light bulb. One of the three switches is connected to the light bulb and the other two are not connected to anything. You may pass from the first to the second room just once. When you arrive in the second room you must state accurately which switch controls the light bulb. It is possible to be 100% accurate. There is no way to be able to see into both rooms at the same time and there no way to operate the switches while looking at the light bulb. There is also no windows in either room (either in the walls or in the roof).

Wednesday Jul 04, 2007

An Interesting Maths Problem

I encountered the following problem a number of months ago and spent a couple of days mulling over it before I managed to get the answer. I thought I would post it here so other could enjoy stretching some of the lesser used parts of the brain, Have fun.

Three gentlemen go to a restaurant for Lunch. At the end of the meal the waiter tells them that the bill is £30 so they each give him £10. The waiter takes this to the cashier who says "No, no, no, you have got it wrong the bill was only £25 here is £5 to take back to the gentlemen". On the walk back to the table the waiter thinks a) £5 does no divide well by 3, b) The gentlemen do not know that they have been over charged and were happy to pay the bill that they were given and c) they may or may not leave a tip but I can't be sure. So he pockets £2 and gives each of the men £1 each explaining that there was a mistake in the bill (but not telling them them by how much).

Q1) Now each gentleman paid £10 to start and got £1 back so how much did they spend on lunch?

A) £9

Q2) So how much did they spend in total?

A) £27

Q3) Plus the £2 in the waiters pocket makes a total of?

A) £29

So where is the additional £1?

Friday May 25, 2007

Techlnology Lifecycles and the QWERTY Keyboard



On a recent enforced stay in hospital imagine my excitement at spoting the in bed entertainment unit. Resembling something like the in flight control systems of a Star Wars spaceship it hung temptingly in the corner. Unfortunately due to the nature of my injury, an eye infection, I was unable to make use of this high-tech gizmo for several days.




The device itself offered access to TV channels, e-mail and web. Initially, I took a subscription to the device to enable the TV channels to help fight the boredom of being in hospital, as my eye infection began to improve I was able to make use of the web access.

This was when I got to thinking about the progress of technology and the different speeds at which it is adopted and its lifespan. Here I was is lying in a hospital bed with full access to the treasures of the World Wide Web, and what was I using to control it with a QWERTY keyboard. Perhaps the contrast was made more significant by the difficulty I was having in being able to focus on the rather small QWERTY keyboard, or perhaps, the contrast was made stronger by the podcast I had just watched about the birth of the World Wide Web.




The QWERTY keyboard was invented in 1868. Its main purpose was to ensure the optimum operation of the typewriter mechanics rather than optimising the interface between man and machine. Over the years various standards for the QWERTY keyboard have grown up in various countries around the world. Also, the mechanics that the keyboard was designed to protect have completely disappeared. Yet it still is the most popular interface between man and machine. The only interface that can possibly claim to exceed its use is the numeric keypad of a mobile phone with predictive text and few would argue that this is a more efficient interface. Despite several attempts through history, to design a more efficient user interface the QWERTY keyboard still seems to survive. When will it be replaced?

To bring this story back up-to-date. I was however unable to purchase the speech recognition software, which I am now using to dictate this posting, over the Internet from a hospital bed to be delivered to my home on the day I was finally discharged.

The next time someone wants to start a debate with the assumption that all technology has a limted lifespan and therefore it is only sensible to consider what comes next now you may want to remind them of the QWERTY keyboard which has long out lived it design goals and it's reason for being and yet continues to see much innovation! 

Thursday Jan 04, 2007

Super Hero Test

The link to this was taken from Dave Levy's Blog but I thought it would be fun to post my personal results as well.

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Friday Dec 01, 2006


Well I have finally taken the plunge and started a blog. After discussions with many of my colleagues and friends I have been convinced that there may be others out there interested in what I have to say.

From reading other peoples blogs it appears that the widely accepted first posting is to give some information about myself so here goes. I have a more complete career history posted at linkedin but a quick update on my current status. I have been with Sun Microsystems since April 1995 in a variety of different roles within what is now called at Sun Microsystems the Customer Engineering Community (basically the customer facing technologists). My current role is as the Lead Architect and Chief Technologist for the Global Account team looking after Reuters @ Sun Microsystems. I have been doing this role since September 2004.

My real passion for what I do comes from two key areas. The first is the application of technology to solve problems or build a business. Technology in the abstract interests me but will not hold my attention for long until I can see it applicability in everyday life. The second driver is what many people refer to as the “Net Effect”. That is when you connect things that have a function and or intelligence together the result of what they can achieve as a network exceeds the sum of what they could do individually.

 I also have an interest in gadgets. What those gadgets are changes with time but my current favourites include my Palm Tungsten TX and my Video iPod. The recent aquisition of my iPod started the route to discovering PodCast and Video PodCasts.

Although I have spent my life (except the first 6 months) living in England I have travelled extensively for both work and pleasure around the world. Indeed I recently manage to literally fly around the world.




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