Last summer the charity CORE, the Centre for Osteopathic Research and Excellence, signed me up to help run their tech hack day sponsored by a prominent multinational bank. I couldn’t resist. More than ever, we need to push technology learning for everyone. (read the press release)
The ‘Tech in Health Day’ has three aims: to fulfil the sponsors’ objectives of imparting new technology skills to children; to promote new healthcare software applications; and to build awareness for CORE, a new and radically innovative charity aiming to provide affordable osteopathic care whilst undertaking valuable research into chronic pain and illness. The event entailed a 1-day workshop for Key stage 3 students.
The first event was held at Hackney New School on the 20th of October 2016. Students from the school and the bank volunteers raced against time to create pain monitoring and alleviation devices. The students and staff of the school were incredibly talented asked great questions and produced a fabulous hack. They were very kind in their write up.
You will see from the presentation below that we had organised a demo to create a Micro:Bit’s step-o-meter and WordPress site. From which the teams consisting of students and volunteers came up with a range of different applications (also listed in the presentation). The winning idea as chosen by our esteemed judging panel was a posture corrector, using not one but two Micro:Bit’s.
Every year I get an invite to Digital Toybox the end of year London Met undergraduate show hosted by the fabulous Fiona French. This has been the first time I have been able to go for a number of years. The quality has improved as the has the variety of games. Board games, 3d printing, robots as well as animation and game tech.
The stuff that inspired me to get back to my own digital toybox included
“A long time ago we saw the internet coming along and had no idea what it was about and we started doing work for other people” Daniel founder of figleaves told me this week. We had organised a figleaves reunion party to celebrate the Fifty year end. We also wanted to celebrate the internet company where in 2008 I met Anne Currie, Catherine Hall and Ross Fairbanks and many others who have worked together in various ventures since.
Daniel started an e-commerce platforming company and acquired the figleaves brand to show case the platform. As early pioneers of e-commerce every aspect of the business was new and exciting paving the way for what is now the largest area of growth on the internet.
“I knew about kickers and bra’s” Daniel told me. I think he did.
On invitation by emerging new talent Eleanor Litten I attended the Free Range Exhibition this weekend. London based Eleanor Litten is a Graphiste and Illustrator. She specialises in mixed media illustrations using lino print, and technology such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Her awesome illustrations compliment any published material. Also she must have the coolest domain name crouching-pencil.org.uk. Her piece in exhibition is a meditative publication. I could easily have spent my time curled up in a corner consuming the illustrations. However that wasn’t an option as this is UK’s largest graduate art and design show and there was a lot to see.
A couple of pieces really caught my attention. Following the the buzz of creating my last film Free Pixel I have to mention John Peters Bamboo Phone. Much has been reported about the material scarcity in mobile technology. To reduce the use of indium and nikel the Bamboo phone uses electronic ink screens and a bamboo case. John Peters is a 3D designer who studied in South Indian International Schools and Cornwall.
The variety of design, architecture, photography, fashion, art and illustration will keep you enthralled, and with so many ideas fully conceptualised you may even find your next recruit or big idea or both.
The first thing I noticed was the space. I had suggested that we meet at the entrance and found that space ran arched around the back of the orchestra pit. As there were two potential rendezvous point my first experience of the show was racing through the elongated round. I felt like the protagonist of a 1980’s cyber film set inside a game.
14 massive projected video games screens and their associated noise kept me company. I really wanted to grab a board and skate through the space with the show on. According to Arcangel’s website “Barbican install was made especially for their crazy big space” so sadly this was one you had to experience in person. Each screen showed a bowling game where the bowler threw a gutter ball each time. We worked backwards starting from games made in 2000’s. By the time we hit games made in the 1990’s the thing that was most striking for me was the varied emotions of the characters on the screen. As we weren’t the player and knew the outcome, it was easy to simply compare screens. The onscreen bowlers were angry, frustrated and sometimes distraught by their awful bowling. One constantly dropped the ball on his foot and was in massive amounts of pain.
There were a relief to hitting the games made in the 1970’s. The emotions had gone and that simplicity of game play was highly watchable. Like extreme sports the quick repetitive nature of these basic games brought through that feeling of the being in zone trance even though we weren’t controlling the games.
Once nudged out of my trance it was the bell shaped arch of realism of the games that struck me. Somewhere in the late 90’s the games were closest to a realistic bowling experience. The pins were reset after each attempt. Other lanes were occupied. The on screen bowler was truly distraught. Early games couldn’t do this. More recent games didn’t bother.
For me the most fascinating thing I wanted to take away and learn was how the games were controlled. Arcangel describes his games as “hacked”. It would be an easy task to film the game as it is played. However Arcangel chose a more complicated approach. Each game was controlled by a chip.
The show moves to NYC is late May and it is worth checking out.
… and waving your arms around. Bob Rhubart in his May/June Oracle Magazine article more seriously argues the role it was about communication. Some listening but a lot of explaining.
Rhubart also suggests the software architect role is little understood. This isn’t surprising often the role depends on the personality of the person doing the role and the characteristics of the company in which they work.
Software Architecture (or Technical Design Authority as it was called when I was training) in a large technical organisation such as Fujitsu, BT and Oracle is very much focused on designing new solution to a set of requirements and documenting. At News International the Architect in effect decided if the project could go ahead by designing a solution that was costed and sent to New York for the financing. When I designed a new version of MySun for 2010 UK elections I spoke to the chaps in The Sun newspaper once and all my explanations was poured into a single document which was read by another architect signed off and probably never read again.
In smaller or project focused companies the architect get the chance to deliver the project, either coupling the role with business analysis or lead developer. There is heaps of communications in a role like this. The excellent architect at Iris Digital who created my recent London 20212 mascot web based games was constantly communicating between me the client our hosting suppliers and his own creative teams. Weekly detailed phone calls, documents and answering questions on email, this architect was certainly explaining a whole lot as Rhubart puts it.
In the end it all depends on personality of the person. The worst architects are always the ones who refuse to explain the solution, don’t make the time or worse assume the audience is too stupid to understand. It is sad but I see this happen far too often.
Thankfully there are great software architects out there and whatever style of software architect they may be, it won’t be long before you see them describing their solutions by drawing lots of boxes or waving their arms to show their latest creation.
Unpack into a directory and move into your directory
Open a Terminal
cd from your home directory into the new directory (cd rubygems-1.3.X/)
run: sudo ruby setup.rb
It appears that Ruby on Rails has changed a lot between versions. So starting the server was harder than the Internet said it would be (as script/server approach has become defunct). So I spent some time getting confused by online tutorials, such as Apple. Installing XCode from the Apple Developer Center however was useful.
Next I wanted to create a basic HTML Form where the Controller catches and processes the results. I got most of what I needed from an online answer. However I needed to know that creating the controller is done at command line using
rails generate controller Searches
and then place in the following code.
class SearchesController < ActionController::Base
lookup = params[:lookup]
@models = Model.find_by_lookup(lookup)
And place in the following code for the view.
<% form_tag searches_path do %>
<%= text_field_tag :lookup %>
<%= submit_tag "Submit" %>
<% end %>
I adore Enterprise Architect. I have used a vast array of tools for software and network modeling but none make me as happy as opening up Enterprise Architect. Partly it is because I love UML. However I take a lot of ‘stick’ for this adoration. My friends often mock me suggesting I will one day draw diagrams for getting us all a drink in a brewery. I can’t help it. Once, while working with a design agency on a paid pitch for the iPlayer interface, I was asked if the stick men could wear outfits.
I am now a Mac user and am porting across my copy of Enterprise Architect. First I have had to install Wine using WineBottler. A double installer. Jolly clever. I dragged the wine box into the folder and then the glass of wine. A nice boy on the YouTube said that I could have dragged both together.
Once done there should be a ‘Wine Box’ icon in the application folder and a glass of wine near the wireless bars. Download the Enterprise Architect exe file and execute it. Wine will kick in, ask a few questions and install it for you.
To run the application, so far I have just used the wine glass and opened up a “File Manager” traversed down to the application folder got cracking. Probably heaps nicer ways but I must get to work on my model before my client complains.
German philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term Axial Age to describe similar revolutionary thinking which appeared in China, India and what we now call the middle east. My understanding of the period running from 800 BCE to 200 BCE is shaped entirely by Karen Armstrong‘s incredible book The Great Transformation. As I read Armstrong’s book Buddhism I wonder if we could be at the start of another Axial Age bolstered and supported by the Internet and other forms of technology.
There are non religious ideas and human organisation that arose through the Axial Age and as these break down with the advent of the Internet it will be anything but the same going forward. Technology has already pummeled, shaped and reinvented key systems of human and idea management. Many of which were created well after the Axial Age ended. We, humanity, are rethinking books, libraries, agriculture, banking, music, news dissemination, film and television to name a few. However it is the things that have been left unscathed so far that worry, scare and excite me. These were the bedrock of the Axial Age and if these change, we may see a complete change in the direction of humanity. Evolution perhaps ? I am thinking about such diverse trends as story telling, trade and governance.
Let me take trade as an example (not least because e-commerce is currently my stock in trade). Trade can be traced back to prehistory. Hammond in his book Smart Retail explains simply, that once man has taken care of his family and community, and had surplus produce, he would then embark on trading what was left. From this activity markets and merchants were born. Producers sold what they produced and peddlers “a chancery bunch’ would purchase goods that they could resell at a profit. Markets become permanent shops. By the end of the Axial Age shop chains were formed. A lack of trusted workers and long-distance travel maintained the shape of this kind of retail till the 19th century. However excellently simple Hammond’s history of retail, his statement that “the Internet is just a development of catalogue-based mail order and don’t kid yourself that it isn’t” is hilarious. Websites that allow customers to search product catalogs might indeed make Hammond’s point. Companies that provide markets online such as eBay and Amazon have done really well. Virtual worlds that copy real world practice have also done well. However this surely is just a starting point. The Economist explained how Robert Jensen a development economist at Harvard University surveyed the price of sardines along Kerala’s coast before and after the introduction of the mobile phone. Free flowing information about price and availability from the market out to sea allowed the fishing community to meet supply and demand more effectively raising their profits but reducing the cost to the consumer.
Could the future of the Internet be the development of transparent and fair market places ? Certainly it will become more than products in database. If so, is that revolutionary thinking in itself ? Or will that lead to more revolutionary thinking which will change the way we organise ourselves ? If is difficult to know, this is just a single blog piece and we are very much inside the eye of the storm. Well maybe to the left of center of the storm. Also Armstrong introduction in The Great Transformation should give this dreamy question a realistic kick. “Perhaps every generation believes that it has reached a turning point in history”.
Perhaps. However we are in a transformative age. That maybe this transformative age may mimic the original Axial Age.
Our research also led us to Displax product Skin. It is completely transparent and works on surfaces that are also transparent such as glass. This hardware operates via a grid of nanowires embedded Skin’s polymer film. Each time a user makes contact with the surface “a small electrical disturbance is detected allowing the micro-processor controller to pinpoint the movement”. Probably not likely to make a great mobile phone in the near future. Unless we carry glass screen around with us at all time. mmm maybe.
For a different take on mobile phones what about one that projects tactile images onto the surface of the phone. The New Scientist described one in Sep this year.
So then we turned our attention to projection technology. Firstly I was inspired by this Ted Talk which shows how a mobile phone and projector can be combined to make an extensible device.
And also from MIT is this device which hasn’t had nearly enough online buzz about it;
Are you going to the US within the next two years ? Then get your ESTA thingamajig now while it is free. According to Martin’s Money Saving Expert a bill has been passed in the US Congress which has given permission for a “cover the cost” charge on ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The charge is expected to be $10. See Article
I applied for an ESTA recently and it is a rather basic website which asked similar questions to the ones asked from you on the plane on a bit of paper (not even a whole sheet) supplied to you by smiling airline staff as you try to sleep. So in effect we will now have to pay because something that was probably not adequate for the speed of modern life, or modern security threats, and required a small forest, but free has gone electronic.
So how do you decide what price to charge ?
Reading the requirements issued in Congress I would suggest they need a secure web server that could scale for peak usage. The application would gather the data from the form, storing it in a datastore and then moving it as quickly as possible away from online hackers. Once safely out of hacking way it can then be combined with other databases and any data analysis performed. All that stuff in the document about combining biometric data can be done here . To take payment you would need a light weight e-commerce platform or such like and don’t forget the form has to be managed in a CMS so it can published in lots of languages quickly. As a high target high profile online system once up and running the system has to be continually maintained and monitored.
This is a complicated system and would take some money to build and lot more to run not to mention any human admin or reporting that will be required. Based on this unscientific analysis my initial reaction, of how can you now charge for such service, I now ask why not claw the money back from each application? In fact $10 seems a little low. However the Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Thompson back at the start of systems implementation suggested that failing to implement ESTA properly may discourage certain travelers from participating, causing additional strain at embassies but one assume the implications could be more complicated. Read Statement.
So it is probably priced to cover some costs but not deter people from making the application.
I wish them luck and I hope that they planned for the application rush before the payment starts.
Update: Just got my 3rd ESTA for $15, what a shiny website it has become.