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Not fit to serve

Earlier today, I took the British Intelligence Officer Exam 1, it did not last very long:

MI6: Respond by typing QUESTIONS (e.g. 'What can you see?') and INSTRUCTIONS (e.g. 'Open the door')
MI6: Type HELP to read more about MAP, INVENTORY, SITREP and OBJECTIVES commands.
MI6: Patching you in...
AGENT: Being chased by five armed enemy agents.
AGENT: It's either face them in the open or find somewhere I can even the odds a little. Help.
YOU: Face them
AGENT: Please confirm. Don't want another 'reckless' note on my file. Stand and fight?
YOU: Yes
AGENT: You say it, I do it. Wish this woman the best of British...
AGENT: ...
AGENT: ...

AGENT STATUS: CAPTURED, PRESUMED UNDERGOING INTERROGATION - FAILED
OBJECTIVES STATUS: DATA NOT RECOVERED - FAILED
ENEMY OPERATIVES: AT LARGE, UNAVAILABLE FOR QUESTIONING - FAILED

SIMULATION FAILED

Oops!

Footnotes:

  1. Not a real exam. 

Tagged with: fun, james bond - 6 comments

Barcamp Blackpool 2012

Last weekend, Becky and I attended Barcamp Blackpool. The weekend started on the Friday night when we met-up with some friends to experience the sights and delicacies of Blackpool. The Barcamp itself was held on the Saturday, the doors opened at 9am and closed at 1am. It was a long day, but as always when you are enjoying yourself, it flew by. Some of the highlights of the event included:

  • Meeting with the Blackpool LUG folks, they are always very welcoming and a lot of fun. The guys were manning a LUG booth and demonstrating a host of Linux distributions on all manner of machines. Good show, chaps!
  • Meeting with oupsemma, a fellow #! CrunchBang user and forum member. I guess it still surprises me to think that real people actually use CrunchBang. Anyhow, oupsemma is a long-time user, since 2008, and it was good to finally meet her and have a chat.
  • 3D printers. These things are amazing and if I had a spare £400, I might consider purchasing one.
  • @cjdell’s session, “Concrete 5 - CMS, easy to use, made by geeks”. Chris gave a good introduction to Concrete 5 and demonstrated its features. It looks like a really interesting project and I will definitely be looking at Concrete 5 in more detail; I have at least one project that I am considering it for.
  • Hama Beads. A very therapeutic experience, although I was slightly disappointed that no hammers were involved.
  • @BinaryKitten’s session, “Web, Mobile and Lots of Monkeys”. I entered this session without a clue and I was pleasantly surprised. Kat demonstrated Brass Monkey, an Android app that turns your phone into a game controller and your browser into a games console. The concept is a little difficult to explain, so if you are interested, I would suggest giving it a try. Anyhow, the highlight of session came when @ollyclarkdotorg attempted to use his phone to defend himself from an onslaught of bloody zombies. Awesome stuff.
  • @lallyd’s cakes. Mmm… cakes…
  • @alexturgid’s session, “An Introduction to GEOHASHING”. An amusing session about the global phenomenon, Geohashing. Described as a spontaneous adventure generator, it looks like a lot of fun and I will definitely consider giving it a try.
  • FREE FOOD! A fantastic spread, courtesy of the Barcamp Blackpool sponsors.
  • @alexturgid’s session, “Clive Sinclair Ate My Childhood”. Alex did a fine job with his after-dinner comedy session. During his session, he reminisced over a childhood that was spent with early Sinclair computers. This brought back fond memories of my own childhood, although I was always a Commodore kid myself. Anyhow, it was thoroughly geeky and very entertaining!
  • 20lb Sounds, they rocked! Literally.

All-in-all, Barcamp Blackpool was a truly epic event. My only regret, I did not get to attend all the sessions that I wanted to, but I guess that is the nature of an unconference.

A massive thank you to @biglesp and @lallyd for organising it and to the sponsors (FTP Concepts, FARM Digital, Tweetdig, Magic Missile, Bytemark, MediaBurst & Magma Digital) for making it possible. I cannot wait for Barcamp Blackpool 2013!

Tagged with: barcamp, blackpool - 6 comments

All your base are belong to Canonical

Why are you telling Amazon what I am searching for?

We are not telling Amazon what you are searching for. Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root all your base are belong to us. You do trust us with your data already. You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update.

Sorry, I could not help myself. Seriously though, Mark Shuttleworth’s argument is technically correct, but I think he could have made it in a more diplomatic fashion, especially when he starts his next paragraph with:

In summary – please don’t feed the trolls.

Doh!

All joking aside, I do feel for Mark and the Canonical folks. It seems that whenever they try something new which has even the slightest hint of commercialism, they catch a tonne of flak. Yet, I rarely read any praise about the sums of money Mark must have personally invested into the project. To me, it all seems just a little unfair.

Anyhow, regarding the new Amazon feature, I think I can understand why it is being implemented, but as many commentators on Mark’s blog have already mentioned, I think this type of service is best suited to a user’s web browser. Erm, unless the aim is to make money, in which case, it makes perfect sense to incorporate affiliate links into an OS’s GUI.

Also, anonymity issues aside (they don’t really concern me too much), my main concerns would be:

  • vendor favouritism and the possibility that users might not be given, or shown the best deals. I mean, Amazon is normally pretty competitive, but it can often pay to shop around. In which case, a web browser would be the preferred tool.
  • UI clutter. In comparison to performing other tasks, such as opening applications and searching for local files, how often would the average user open Unity’s dash with the intention of shopping on Amazon? I do not know, but I would question the ratio and therefore I would also question whether Amazon’s (or any other vendor’s) products should be featured at all.

That said, in his blog post, Mark also states:

What we have in 12.10 isn’t the full experience, so those who leap to judgement are at maximum risk of having to eat their words later.

So, it will be interesting to see how this develops. Also, if you have not read it already and you are at all interested, Jono Bacon has written a compelling blog post that highlights the benifits of the recent dash improvements. Personally, I think the jury is still out.

Tagged with: amazon, canonical, ubuntu - 16 comments

Less darkness, less clutter, more responsiveness

For a long while, whenever I had the misfortune to look upon my own website, I found myself thinking, “Urgh, it’s a bit dark.” Having such thoughts about my own website was not ideal, so, three days ago, I set about redesigning it. The redesign is now live. For posterity, I present you images of the old design and the new design.

Regarding the process, the actual coding probably took about a full day. The procrastinating over whether to actually perform a redesign of my existing Whird instance, or switch to something more mainstream, such as WordPress, took a lot, lot longer. In the end, I came to the conclusion that Whird serves its purpose quite well, so I decided to stick with it and give my site’s design a bit of a makeover.

Interestingly, or not, when I decided that a makeover would suffice, I only had a few ideas as to what I wanted the design to achieve. I wanted:

  • less darkness
  • less clutter
  • more responsiveness

With this in mind, I completely skipped the creation of any design mock-ups and simply attacked the existing CSS. The first job was to display:none; on every element outside of the main content, including my natty logo, navigation menus and sidebar content. The second job was to reverse the colour scheme. With these two tasks completed, I had already totally changed the site’s design and mentally, I was halfway to achieving my goals.

I was now faced with what was essentially, a very simple design, something akin to looking at a document within an office productivity suite. To be honest, if it was not for the need to have a means of navigating my site, I might have been tempted to leave it like that. But, like all good websites, I really did need to reinstate the navigation menu. It was then, that I decided I could also reinstate my site’s sidebar content, with the help of some jQuery scripting.

Having recently obtained a new Android phone 1, I was inspired to iconify 2 the site’s main navigation menu and use jQuery to help toggle the visibility of my site’s existing sidebar content. I am quite happy with the result and I think I have managed to remove the clutter, but also improve usability, and all with minimal disruption to the existing code.

Finally, I am still working on the responsiveness, but I have implemented the following CSS media queries, which I think should cover most screen sizes and devices.

@media only screen and (min-width: 480px) {
    /* Style adjustments for viewports 480px and over go here */
}

@media only screen and (min-width: 768px) {
    /* Style adjustments for viewports 768px and over go here */
}

@media only screen and (min-width: 960px) {
    /* Style adjustments for viewports 960px and over go here */
}

You know, back in the day, the web used to be so simple!

Anyhow, the redesign is complete (bar the usual tweaks and titivation) and I am quite happy with it. If I have skipped over anything and you would like to know more, or you have any comments or constructive feedback, please leave a comment.

Footnotes:

  1. A Samsung Galaxy SIII, it is like carrying the future around in my pocket (or it would be if Three pulled their fingers out and issued a Jelly Bean update). 

  2. Glyphish Pro icons, as used by the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Cern (which is really what sold them to me!) For an unlimited license, you can purchase them for $25, which IMHO, is an absolute bargain. 

Tagged with: code, css, design, icons, jquery, responsive web design, whird - 18 comments

Anonymous #! love

This morning, I received this anonymous email message:

CrunchBang is amazing! I have a netbook with only 1GB of RAM and it zooms along very fast. I appreciate what you have made, and I would be heart broken if this distro were to ever cease. Please keep it up Mr. Newborough!

I guess it is possible that my recent posts about GNOME might have triggered this. So, to be clear, yes, I really like GNOME, but no, I am not about to stop working on CrunchBang. That said, like many other Linux users, I occasionally like to play around with other desktops and distros. I believe that experimentation is a healthy pursuit, it helps to provide ideas and stops the rot from setting in. At the moment, I am mostly experimenting with GNOME, but it will not be long until I return to using Openbox.

P.S. Maybe now is not a good time to mention my little foray into the world of Windows 8?

Tagged with: crunchbang linux, gnome - 13 comments