Easter Collection – digital launch (by )

It is Easter Sunday and I thought it was about time I put Sarah Snell-Pym's Easter Collection out there in digital audio format - ie downloadable tracks. I've been giving and selling copies of it on CD for the last two years though this year is the first time I've put them online for sale.

There is a Face Book event and I'll be giving away some stickers and things and maybe a hard copy - CD's etc...

The whole Album is free to download for the next week though I have priced individual tracks at £1.

A Day of Many Things (by )

I am resting my bones today - I've had a hectic last few days and after a fall and during a bit of a flare up. This means I am doing Easter crafts with the girls and there will be a picnic in the garden.

Yesterday however was a day of many things.

Grey Friars Gloucester

It started early with getting Mary to nursery and Al to work, then me and Jeany walked from Al's office into Gloucester to the climbing wall. Jeany had her second climbing session of the holidays - this time Rock Ratz instead of Rock Mice, which is more challenging for her. Whilst she was in the session I did two hours of course work for my PGCert in Practical Science Communication.

Manga eyes

Then once she was out and we were eating lunch, I did some art practice which is important for both the comic book and my college project. I drew eyes.

(Some of them I made up myself but most of them come from a manga drawing book.

We then went to the library where we bumped into two lots of friends :) Jeany hunted easter eggs in the children's Library whilst I looked at story line, set out and drawing styles in various graphic novels - my conclusion is that I've been worrying too much about my drawings and my story lines are more coherent and less bitty (I think), than those I got through yesterday.

A bit of light reading for my 8 year old

Jean won a wrist band and we moved on as I had a voucher for a free coffee :) We sat in the coffee shop - Jean had picked up a for sale book at the library - just a bit of light reading you understand!

Apparently it is book five of a series and she wants the rest :/

I worked on my college work again and then scripted 3 pages of comic book, Jeany kept nagging me as she wants to know what happens in the rest of it and I'm not writing it fast enough apparently!

Grumpy Cat graffitti in Gloucester

We then picked up a watering can and few other bits, I found a grumpy cat graffiti and we saw street performers though we didn't stop as Jeany wanted to go and read - she has said she wants to be a street performer and she is SOOOOO going to be a scientist. :D

She got mistaken for being 12 a lot - that's 4 yrs older than she is.

Jeany on adventures in Gloucester

We then walked down to Al's office again (Jean was navigating as I'm a bit out of it at the moment - couldn't find the library from the climbing wall!), all bundled in the car to go and get Mary. It was Mary's parents evening at nursery so we picked her up and had a picnic in the park. Al then went off to the kid free parent evening to get the little report and be shown her work whilst I stayed at the park with the girls. I am so proud of my little climber - she really hurtles up things :)

Mary my little climber

They really loved the spiny thing in the park.

Sisters spin

Jean on the spinny thing

I also found blossom to photograph for my 100 Flowers in 100 Days Challenge.

Blossom Bright Blossom and blue Blossom web Blossom

Then it was off to Copa in Cheltenham for a improve/acting/comedy workshop with the lovely Joy Amy - again this is actually part of what I am developing for college. I can't make a production without understanding stage craft and though the workshop was comedy a lot of the skills will be transferable and when dealing with kids being able to improvise is always important.

Whilst I was in learning how to be comedic, Alaric and the girls went off to Cranham to pick up some furniture his cousins have given us for the girls.

It was a busy day.

Home Automation: Phase 1 (by )

I've always had a nerdish fascination with home automation.

There's been a recent trend towards the "Internet of Things" (a.k.a. "IoT"), which is related, but different. The IoT seems to focus more on home devices talking to centralised Web services, which is a hateful model (we all know why: those central services are outside of your control, so unless you're paying a subscription, you are the product rather than the customer; and if they're shut down, your devices become useless; and they can leak your private information whenever they want; and they can take control of your home; and it all falls apart if your Internet connection goes down; and I'm sure there's others).

No, I want to have my house under computer control - but with those computers under MY control. This is something I've planned for for ages, but as with all hardware projects, getting started is tricky; I need to commit to a final design and then afford to buy the parts, and that's scary because I might find out that the parts don't quite work together in the way I wanted. Unlike with software, hardware hacking requires up-front commitment of resources, that can't be backed out of. Scary!

So the trick is to split the thing into small parts, with flexible interconnections, so I can iteratively prototype parts and then connect them up in due course. And this last week I took the first step - building an announcement system in the living room.

Read more »

Thoughts on Programming and Tracing (by )

I was recently pointed at this interesting article: Learnable Programming.

It's a good read, overturning many assumptions the software industry has picked up over the years, and propagated without thought since.

The first part suggests allowing a programmer to trace the flow of execution of a program graphically, using an interactive timeline. My first thought was that this was all well and good, but would rely on every library in the language annotating every operation with information about how to present it - producing the little thumbnails to go in the timeline, or exposing numeric values that can be plotted onto charts. Also, highlighting the "current" drawing operation in red on the canvas relies on those operations being things that affect a canvas; more abstract operations, such as writing to a database (or even generating images to be encoded directly into a file rather than onto the screen) would require a more explicit "object preview".

However, those are not insurmountable goals. And, perhaps, things that can be built on top of my ideas about logging and tracing, making it possible to use such an interface to go through traces of execution captured from production servers, rather than just within a cute live-coding IDE; the trace entries generated by operations in your libraries could, with the help of a meta-library of trace visualisation rules, generate those little thumbnails. However, it would need to be augmented with dynamic scope information provided by the programming environment itself to know which line of code caused the trace event; the kind of thing one finds in a stack trace.

He asks "Another example. Most programs today manipulate abstract data structures and opaque objects, not pictures. How can we visualize the state of these programs?"; so I suggest tgat tge avstract data structures and opaque objects be annotated with code that summarises their state. Many languages have a notion of "return a string representation of this object", generally aimed at debug logging - Python's repr() versus str(), for instance. Perhaps if we moved to expecting objects to return HTML representations of themselves, we could take a step in that direction.

The second part (and I'm taking some temporal liberties here, as some concepts I've included in the first part are touched upon in the second and vice versa) is also inspiring; it looks at the bigger picture, considering how libraries and code-editing environments can be designed to make it much easier for programmers to identify what operations their libraries are making available to them, rather than requiring the first step to be the reading of documentation. It touches on topics such as the dangers of mutable state (preaching to the converted here!), and the choice of library function names to make code using them clear (I'm also a big fan of smalltalk / Cocoa-style function call syntax, and how it might be brought into the Lisp family of languages...)

I've written before that I think modifying software should be a much more widely-practiced activity; and I think that should be achieved through removing unnecessary obstacles, rather than forcing everyone through complicated programming classes. I'm always interested in more thoughts on how to make that happen!

Concept Sketches (by )

Character development for Punku

I have started on the character design and concept sketches for The Punk Universe stuff - comic book, novels et al. Here is one of Punku - remember she is only half human - this is also her in her hardship state ie lack of food and haggered. It was a quick sketch and there are issues with it, like it looked better before I put the shading in and she now looks a bit old but it is a start.

Concept sketch of The Punk

(dear me! The ears!)

Punku's eye

More about this project can be found on Purple Monster.

WordPress Themes

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales