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Showing posts from 2014

Happy moment for this amateur photographer

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I love a challenge. And I get a great buzz when doing something fairly unique.

Please allow me to exercise my bragging right, just for a moment: Many moons ago, one of my photos (evidence, see url) was adopted my Microsoft as a desktop picture in Windows XP.

And yesterday, Google's Santa Tracker did a similar thing, just have a look at Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree. (Or, perhaps you'd like a slightly better version, or some of my other photospheres.) Spot my lovely yellow bike :)
Well - let me use this opportunity to wish you all a very, very Happy Christmas! May it be a fantastic time for you and your loved ones, and may you experience a bit of the original magic of the incredible gift we've all been given.




Hot desk check-in with QR code & App Script

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We’re moving to a new office where we’ll all live at hot desks… a first for this Alfred for… oh… forever. I even had my own desk at school, I think.

We all love change, right? ;)
So - to make this a bit less of a big change for us, I thought of creating a simple app to make it easy to know where my work friends are.
Use case: I walk up to my desk, check in quickly and easily, and then when my friends want to find me, they should have a quick way to do that.
Solution stack: Below is a very quick and simple implementation of just such a tool, using Google forms, QR codes, a simple App Script and G+.
Implementation: Create a simple form with just one question, asking for your desk location. Ensure the form requires authentication from your Google Apps domain.
You could just get people to open the URL and select the desk, which would work. But I'm opting to put QR codes on the desks, each pointing to a pre-filled in form. This means a Googler could simply walk up to the hot desk and scan the …

Saving images from DSO MINI v2 ossiloscope

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At Google, there is a fantastic tool to reward employees for going the extra mile to help... called a peer bonus. It really helps driving the right behaviour.  So - when I recently received one of these, I bought myself a DSO Nano. It's a fantastic little pocket sized oscilloscope that have now been so beneficial in understanding some of the electronics that cross my path. E.g. most recently, I could not get a DS18B20 to talk to my Raspberry Pi A+ (as part of my home automation), but hooking the DSO to the pins quickly made me realise I had a poor power connection to thermometer.
The DSO (Digital storing oscilloscope) should be able to *store*... and it does... but until today I've not been able to get the DSO Nano to write to the Micro SD card.
Well, now it does :)
How? I'm running BenF Firmware v 3.64 I've got a micro SD card that is 2GB (some struggled with more than 2GB)The instructions is, imho not clear on the steps to capture an image, so here are my instruction…

Think small business is easy? Think again.

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I've had a conversation over lunch for a few colleagues about small businesses where I've been closely involved in, and some of the things small business owners have to deal with.



Here are some abbreviated lowlights. Of course the real situation is more complex (and painful!), but I hope this serves as a reminder how remarkable any small business owner is, even if they are just surviving!

Staff In one business, we had a really good engineer, who quickly added a huge amount of business development value over his expected technical role, simply because of who he knew. He introduced us to a patent lawyer who was efficient and quick, he introduced us to a very senior decision maker in the largest customer, he gave us very deep insights into a tender before it was published, he gave us some magic differentiators we did not expect, he even got one of our biggest suppliers from the US to fly over and show us their yet-to-be-launched latest technology. The only hiccup was that this wa…

Google static beam: The explanation

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This video has been hitting the headlines about a strong static electric field at Google... and there are many rumours about what it might be.

I'll tell you what it is:
Even if some long-term Googlers might get jaded and accustomed to this effect to the point where they might not notice it, but I still get it every day I walk into Google... (just like 0xA1F days ago on my first visit while I was still working at Microsoft!). And ask anyone who have been visiting the office... the electric vibe in the office is strong and very much alive.

It's not really just a bit of magic in the air: It's a spirit of optimism, energy, fun, surprise, expectation to make the world a better place... all things that I love about working at Google.

And if you watch closely at the video... I suspect enough Googlers where on the balcony that the vibe just spilled over the edge onto passers by.

If you are sceptical, just swing by for one of Mo's legendary breakfasts... and you'll feel the forc…

Pi in the sky, recording just how hot this is!

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Tada! I've got my Raspberry Pi measuring and storing temperature data in Google Cloud SQL.


And I'm pretty excited that it was possible (even simple) for a simple soul like myself.

For context: I've been working on automating my home with home-grown technology, mostly Arduino (or Atmega328) based, but got more and more frustrated with the pain to connect these different Arduinos to get it anything close to "smart". So, I recently turned my attention to Raspberry Pi: The cost and complexity of Arduino + networking (of any sort) quickly exceeded the price of a Pi.

In moving to Pi, I decided to also build my stuff around OpenHab because it gives me the abstraction I'm looking for to deal with the many different things I want to control. It also gives, for free, Android and Web UIs to help control things. But the action above does not leverage OpenHab yet.

BTW - My electricity bill is extortionately high (because of poor home insulation and design), so anything I…

What happens if you hand a powerful machine to an inexperienced operator?

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I bought myself a beautiful quadcopter. The Hubsan 4x.
Well, I say "myself", but that is one of the perks of being a dad. I could buy it as a present to my son, and "we" can enjoy it together, right?
But of course, before letting him loose on it, I'd need to understand how it works, right?
So, last night I took it out of the box, and had a quick flight inside, then outside our home.
First impressions are filled with awe. It's super quick and responsive, so flying it requires a very high degree of concentration (compared to for example flying the RC helicopter).
After calibrating the copter and seeing how quick it could fly way over the tree tops, I thought a better place to experiment would be a big open space. And so I took it to our local sport field after a good charge.

3 minutes into the first flight, I could hardly see a speck high above the field. Wanting to carefully bring it down, I started to realise that I've got a problem brewing. It drifted…

My favourite device (today)

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I'm privileged to have all the toys. (It's been said that I'd be happy working, even if it'd just be paid in gadgets... but I suspect the bank manager would disagree.)

Over the last 24 hours, I've used my Nexus 5 phone & Nexus 10 tablet, Google Glass, a Pixel and Macbook. (And, there are a few more gadgets at home, just ask my wife!)

I've come into the rhythm of using my Pixel at work, exclusively, now for many years. It's beautiful. And at home, I frequently use the Macbook pro, primarily as I need a BIG screen and code sometimes.

My train journeys therefore see me using my phone or Nexus 10 a lot, but recently I rediscovered my old Samsung Chromebook 550c with 3G. And... it's currently the best way to do a lot of productive work on the train.
It's got fantastic battery life, it's small, light weight, durable and the 3G connection is just incredibly reliable and stable.



So (at least until I put Glass on my face again) the Samsung 550C (or

A long walk to... installing Windows: Why the world needs Chromebooks

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24 hours over the weekend, I've been wrestled with installing Windows 7 on a new machine for my wife. (Her business has "gone cloud" also with their business management system, but the system requires IE (exclusively) for formatting the thermal printer receipts. Doh! If only they used Cloud Printing...)

The install was slightly complicated by the fact that the desktop machine is not super fast (but decent), it came with Linux, and it did not have an optical drive. Also, after the first install, I updated the BIOS to try and solve a driver problem, which eventually caused a blue screen of death, and I had to start all over again. Not fun.

But, even when ignoring all of these issues, the process of installing Windows was so painful (even for someone who has done this a lot of times), that I decided to extract and publish some metrics around this.

Just for context:
these stats all came from the Windows Event logit excludes the first failed attempt to install itI did not ins…

Technology for learning at school

I'm developing a passion for helping kids discover and develop their skill (and first, love) for technology, and as I can't find excellent resources online about this (I'm sure these exist, but I can't find it yet! Let me know if you do know of some...), I decided to start to capture some of my thinking around this.

Caveats: I'm a Google employee, and biased towards our technology. I truly think it's great, and will shamelessly promote it. (But, other than being a shareholder and employee, I'm not compensated on any of the things I'm talking about here.) Also - I have no

First up:
What should be taught? Programming.
I think the most critical thing to teach kids, is how to use technology creatively (rather than just consuming via technology). More music making, than music listening. More poetry writing than just reading. And for the science/maths orientated kids, how to *create* computers, how to code.

One key and interesting hurdle is that technology i…