Monthly Archives: January 2013

Back to university

It’s the final countdown!

Well, today was my first day back at University, or at least I hoped it would be. The weather prevented me from attending my first lecture back of my final semester ever at University. It is an odd feeling knowing that the culmination of four years hard graft at university is now reaching its end. I feel excited, nervous, skeptical, and mostly hopeful. I went into university not knowing a great deal of what I was getting myself into and now I’m leaving with the feeling that this is all I’ve ever known. The added pressure of my daughter being born this December gone is also mounting on me. Sleepless nights are what usually await a new father but I wonder if I can benefit from such sleepless nights and finish assignment work and dissertation work off?

Another four months of university and then I’ll be another “unemployed graduate”. But let’s hope I will be a statistic for a very short period of time and land my dream career job within I.T.

-M^

Website design

A shameless plug and bit of advertising for my girlfriend’s start-up company.

Today, I’ve been asked by my girlfriend to design her a website for her new start-up company Cornelia’s Cuddles. My girlfriend is extremely crafty, not in the “Hey, Kevin Spacey’s character in The Usual Suspects is fucking crafty”, but in the typical arts and crafts kind of crafty. My girlfriend has owned a company before in the past selling cupcakes which was fairly successful but since then, a lot has happened in both of our lives. We found out we were pregnant, had to move from side of our county to another and then obviously our beautiful daughter was born. Because my girlfriend can’t possibly look after our baby daughter and tend to baking cakes at the same time, a new idea was needed for a business.

Example Owl keepsake made by Cornelia's Cuddles

Example Owl keepsake made by Cornelia’s Cuddles

Cornelia’s Cuddles, named after our daughter, produces teddy bear keepsakes for you that are made out of your baby’s vests and babygrows. It is a fantastic way of recycling your baby’s old clothes and turning them into something you can cherish. The website I am designing is very simple and very straight to the point. Unfortunately, it won’t be online until probably the end of the month but for now, Cornelia’s Cuddles have a Facebook page you can subscribe to so that you can keep up to date on new products and also competitions!

Facebook link

-M^

Another project idea

I swear I need to set my office up in the shower!

All my good ideas or inspiration always materialize whilst I’m in the shower. Innovation Excellence investigate this phenomenon here. Anyway, this morning I had a wave of inspiration of finding a way of disguising a PC in my living room. For a while now, I’ve had a low spec PC acting as a media centre where all my movies and TV shows are stored, but in all honesty, it is an eyesore and has horrible blue LEDs flashing whilst it is powered on. The PC has a micro-ATX motherboard which, I think, would be perfect to fit into another chassis or case and make it a little bit more… “cool”.

Nintendo Entertainment System

Nintendo Entertainment System

My idea is simply this: why not fit the micro-ATX into… wait for it… a NES case?! Genius I thought. Being an 80s child, I grew up in the 8-bit world of the NES. It was my first ever games console and I spent hours playing games such as the original Super Mario Bros, the one with Duck Hunt, Super Mario Bros 3 and Kirby’s Adventure.

The only problem I envision at this moment is whether the micro-ATX motherboard will fit into the chassis. If it doesn’t, my alternatives include boards such as the Raspberry Pi or the OlinuXino.

I’m currently watching a few NES auctions on eBay for spares and repairs so hopefully I will have one in my possession to rip apart and measure up the motherboard. Stay tuned =)

– M^

Upcoming projects

Since starting my dissertation project, which I will post details up when it is nearing completion as to prevent any plagiarizing and to keep updates as accurate as possible, I have become more aware and enthused by computer science in general. I have taken on a lot of programming for my dissertation, something that I must confess, am not very good at. To further my understanding, and potentially increase my “employability ” after I graduate, I have began to think of projects that I could complete in spare time, obviously in between work, gaming and being a father. These are some projects that I am planning, and I am currently working on at the moment:

– Point of sale solution

Aim: To become accustomed to using a Raspberry Pi and connecting external components such as a touch screen monitor. Decision needs to be made to use one Raspberry Pi as a server for testing purposes as well as using another Raspberry Pi as a client. SQL database back-end with either a Python or Microsoft Access front-end for logging in and navigating menus.

– Baby monitor

Aim: Using previous experience of using the Raspberry Pi and connecting an external component, further components will be attached to the Raspberry Pi such as a WLAN adapter, 1.3MP webcam, a high definition microphone and external speakers on one Raspberry Pi. Potential to connect LEDs to Raspberry Pi as to simulate sound levels when baby cries. Project will incorporate building a program from ground up that will automatically run when devices are booted. Two Raspberry Pis will be used. Pi number 1 will be situated in baby’s room and will stream video and audio. Pi number 2 will be connected to a T.V or computer monitor via HDMI which parents can switch to if sound is omitted from external speakers and/or LEDs light up. Secure ad-hoc WLAN will need to be established between the two Raspberry Pis automatically when booted up.

– Automatic DTMF navigation

Aim: To create an Android smart phone application that will connect to a company’s PBX. The user will be able to swipe through different departments that the company offers i.e: Sales, Customer Service, Deliveries without having to wait through the automated voice detailing which option to select. App will have the ability to be re-branded to fit a company’s brand such as green for Lloyds TSB, blue for Halifax, black for KnowHow etc. If options change, the app will need to be flexible enough to update to reflect any changes on PBX.

These are just some ideas I envision I will be creating in the next six months and I will post updates of each project as and when they happen =)

 

– M^

Thoughts on Windows 8?

Windows 8, the new Windows Vista?

Windows 8 has been out for a good few months now and any new laptop or desktop comes shipped with the new operating system as standard and the biggest change that has had a lot of people worried (or intrigued if you are relatively computer savvy) is the new start menu. Granted, before I started using the operating system on a regular basis, I was absolutely shocked at the change to the start menu, even further more when I found out that Microsoft had even integrated the Metro UI (the new start menu) into the latest version of Server 2013! A few weeks prior to release, I was given the opportunity to download the full version of Windows 8 for free with me being a student. Part of me wanted to stay with Windows 7, an operating system which I felt, at the time, was about as good as an operating system could get, but another part of me wanted to download the new Windows 8 OS, experience it and then become proficient at it. After all, I felt that if non-computer literate users being chucked in at the deep end were to use the operating system and undoubtedly become proficient at using the OS through frequent use, there shouldn’t be any problems with me using the operating system.

New Windows 8 start menu

New Windows 8 start menu

First impressions

My first impressions were positive. You can link Windows Live/Hotmail accounts to your computer, these then act as your local computer account with the password as well as. Alternatively, you can just create a local account but if you want to link your e-mails as well as, you may as well just link your e-mail address as your local account from my experience. The customization of the operating system colours, especially on the start menu will float a lot of users boats. I imagine the idea behind this would be to ensure some uniqueness to a person’s device, because let’s face it, Windows 8 is directly aimed at the tablet market where tablets all look the same, especially the upcoming Windows Surface.

One recommendation I have for new Windows 8 users is to look up keyboard shortcuts, especially as there is no Start button per sé, some of which you can find at the bottom of this article.

I have spoken to a number of people regarding the switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and a lot of users are finding the transition a daunting step, much more so than switching from XP to Vista or even XP to Windows 7 but with the keyboard shortcuts, time and perseverance  anyone can begin to use the new operating system as if you were a seasoned pro.

One major positive though is the compatibility with a large number of programs. I’ve found that most, if not all, programs I had running on my old Windows 7 installation work perfectly fine on my new Windows 8 installation.

Negatives

During quite intensive usage of Windows 8 over the past few months, I have found a few niggles regarding website compatibility. As random as it sounds, where I live, we use pay as you go utility meters, meaning we top up our electric and gas supply with a card or electronic key which is topped up with credit when we go to a shop. Whilst my girlfriend was heavily pregnant, she began to find it hard to venture outside and top up the card or key if I was either at University or at work so our gas/electricity supplier (British Gas) supplied us with some really handy USB devices which the card or key insert into and you can top it up via their website without even leaving your home. Brilliant stuff we thought. It was until Windows 8 was put onto my laptop. The website isn’t compatible with the latest Internet Explorer 10, and to make things even worse, the top-up website isn’t compatible with Google Chrome nor Mozilla Firefox!! The only way around this was to create a Windows 7 virtual machine and do things that way.

Other websites are also still not compatible with Internet Explorer 10 so expect a few disappointments when browsing the Internet.

Conclusions

This article is very brief and touches on various areas of the new Microsoft installment of the Windows franchise and hopefully gives you a general idea of what you can expect. My personal opinion is this: Windows 8 is a bloody good operating system from a social media perspective and also where the tablet market is concerned. Should you upgrade? Sure, why not? I can assure you, the latest installment of Windows 8 is not another Windows Vista. Windows 8 is a fully bona fide operating system and it genuinely works!

Top 5 Keyboard Shortcuts (in no particular order)

  1. Windows key + C = Charms menu – Allows you to search through installed applications, browse through devices and change settings on your device*. This is also the area where you will turn your device off
  2. Windows key + X = Substituted Start menu – This is probably the closest you will get to the old Windows Start menu now. Device Manager, Control Panel, File Explorer and Run are all accessible here.
  3. Windows key + Tab = App switcher – This keyboard shortcut is a must know. One thing to keep in mind is that Windows 8 now has the ability to download Apps from the Windows Store. These act differently to installed programs. If you do not close down an App, much like a program, it will remain in the background, even if you think it has closed. The problem is, Apps don’t show in your taskbar. Using Windows and Tab allows you to close the Apps down by right clicking on the App you wish to shut down. One good thing about this keyboard shortcut is the ability to snap your Apps to the left or right of the screen which literally takes up a quarter. Ideal of have e-mails or other social media Apps running whilst writing a Word document at the same time.
  4. Windows key + E = File Explorer – Now there is no Start menu for you to go to Documents, and only a solitary icon on your taskbar, you may feel like one of your legs has been taken from you regarding the “explorability” of the operating system. Fear not however, as Windows + E opens up an Explorer windows starting at the Computer screen.
  5. Windows key + D = Desktop – If you’re in an App and want to quickly revert back to the Desktop screen, hit this key combination and you will be instantly transported there.

* – I use the word device in lieu of computer or laptop as Windows 8 is primarily designed to run on touchscreen devices such as tablets.

 

-M^

Aloha!

Hello there and welcome to my new blog. You will find all things technological, computing and general random musings. Firstly, a little bit about myself, I am James “Mastah^” Bates and I am a final year university student at the University of Derby studying Computer Networks and Security. This blog will primarily be used as a platform for publishing my research onto the internet as well as seeking collaborative research efforts with like-minded individuals.

Please bear with me while I find inspiration for blog posts (I’ve never committed to a blog full-time before) and I’m sure I will get in to the swing of posting up noteworthy and interesting blog posts.

For now though, please subscribe and spread the word =)

 

-M^