Tag: Software

  • SuccessWhale.com Discontinued as of Today

    As far as I know, SuccessWhale is not being actively used by anyone any more, so I have chosen not to renew the domain name successwhale.com when it expires today. Like most of my past web-based projects, it will continue to live on at an onlydreaming.net subdomain, in this case sw.onlydreaming.net, but will not be actively maintained there.  As well as its graphical web interface, SuccessWhale also has a back-end API that used to run on a SuccessWhale subdomain. This has now moved to https://successwhale-api.herokuapp.com/. The OnoSendai Android client already uses this address for the API as of update 479, so you may need to update.

  • Automating the Roast Dinner Timing Chart

    Against all my expectations, the most popular page on this website (at least, the most visited) turns out to be “The Great Roast Dinner Timing Chart”, which was my attempt to help newbies at the revered British art of the Roast Dinner get their timings right. I first posted it over eight years ago—in the intervening time I have cooked a lot of roasts and tweaked my timings a bit, so it was in need of an update.

  • A Sea Battle Update?!

    “Sea Battle” was a casual 2D real-time strategy game that I put together in a few days back in 2010, and documented in a series of blog posts at the time. It’s lain dormant ever since, but I picked it up again today while bored and made a couple of tweaks.

  • Exploiting Conde Nast Magazine Subscriptions (for fun and profit)

    I have a pile of unopened subscription copies of Wired UK piling up in the hallway, so this evening I decided to try cancelling my subscription. It looks like you can only do that by email or over the phone, but for other subscription changes, such as change of address, the Condé Nast parent company offer a very helpful website. Rather too helpful.

  • Migrating to Octopress 3

    Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me dither about whether to re-style my website after the very appealing (to me) Tufte CSS. The sidenotes with their wide bar didn’t work particularly well with my blog format, but I’ve taken on some of the major style elements, and unless you’re reading this via RSS, you can see the results in front of you right now.

  • Preparing to Leave Heroku

    An email today announced a beta test of some new features that Heroku are “excited” to introduce. New service levels are available that include a “hobby” tier that does… exactly what the old “free” tier used to do. For $7 per month per app!

  • "Archive by Year" Aside for Octopress

    (Note: This code is designed for Octopress 2. My website now uses Octopress 3— the Jekyll plugin works just the same, but Octopress 3 sites can use the jekyll-archives gem to generate proper archive-by-year pages so should not need the bookmark ‘hack’ shown in the first code block.)

  • The End of the Road for SuccessWhale’s Facebook Support?

    My SuccessWhale application has long supported both Twitter and Facebook social networks, despite both networks’ relatively developer-hostile stances. The worst offender by far was Twitter, with it’s 100,000 user limit that has deliberately crippled many third-party clients in order to drive users to the official website and app, which make money for Twitter through adverts. While I was never under any delusion that SuccessWhale would be popular enough to reach 100,000 users, it’s not a nice thing to have hanging over your head as a developer.

  • Fun with Playbulb

    Playbulbs are colour LED lights sold by a company called Mipow. They come with an iOS and Android app that can set their colour and various patterns via Bluetooth. There’s no security on them whatsoever, so any nearby device can connect and change their colour. That seems pretty bad — especially when you consider that as well as the small “candle” style lights we have, they also sell room lighting versions that play music and can probably flash fast enough to trigger photosensitive epilepsy. Controlled by your neighbours!

  • All-Terrain Raspberry Pi!

    Another year, another childrens’ toy with a Raspberry Pi needlessly attached to it.

  • Fun with Parental Controls

    Now that our son is getting older, it’s inevitable that his computer use is no longer closely scrutinised — we no longer need to be hanging over his shoulder, showing him what to click on.

  • Adventures in Emoji

    Yesterday, a friend of mine started me on a quest that was to be filled with despair. It started innocently enough.

  • SuccessWhale 3.0 Released

    It turns out that my previous post about SuccessWhale, bemoaning how it had stagnated and become more trouble than it was worth, was just enough venting to kick me up the arse and get me going again. And so, not long later, I am proud to announce the release of SuccessWhale version 3.

  • Like Father, Like Son

    I knew the day was coming soon, when my son would decide that he wanted to make his computer do something new, something a computer had never done before. I thought that like me when I was a little more than his age, he’d sit down in front of his computer and type his first “hello world” in some child-friendly language.

  • State of the Whale Address

    It’s no secret that the current state of my SuccessWhale social network client is not a good one. It currently exists in three forms:

  • Raspberry Jammin’

    Last Saturday was the Linux User & Developer Raspberry Jam event at Poole RNLI college. I took the tank, of course, and Joseph too — worrying all the while that he’d be the youngest kid there by about ten years, and he’d get bored within half an hour.

  • NaNoGenMo: A 50,000 Word Target I can Meet

    One of the ways in which a number of my friends spend November is participating in National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo”. This is its 15th year, in which some 300,000 amateur novelists signed up to write their hearts out over the course of 30 days.

  • Whatever Happened to the Generic PC?

    It doesn’t seem that long ago, perhaps only five or ten years, that you could buy or build your own computer and do whatever you liked with it. If you bought it, it would probably come with an operating system, but if you didn’t like it you could download another one and use that instead.

  • Your System is Compromised

    I’ve spent much of the last few months resolutely not commenting on the NSA spying scandal, Edward Snowden, PRISM and all the other revelations that have been published by the Guardian and the New York Times recently.

  • The End of Westminster Hubble

    Three years ago, after a two-month secret development period working with my old school friend Chris, we announced Westminster Hubble.

  • The Last of Last.fm: Seven Years in Pretty Graphs

    I started using Last.fm back in 2006, in the final months of my time at University, and have carried on using it up until a few months ago, despite coming to the conclusion that I should stop back in 2011. Although the social media narcissism of “everyone must know what I’m listening to!” is no longer appealing in these days of over-sharing, I kept my Last.fm account around for its free “recommendations” streaming services until deciding earlier this year that a Spotify subscription was a worthwhile investment.

  • Announcing: "Can I Call It…?"

    There are a whole host of decisions involved with starting a new software project. What’s my target audience? What language shall I write it in? Which libraries shall I use? And of course, “What shall I call it?”

  • Fuck it, Let’s Remake TweetDeck. Only Better.

    It’s no secret that, since the launch of version 2.0 back in July of 2011, my SuccessWhale social network client has stagnated somewhat. It had reached that point at which it did everything that I needed it to do, and so my enthusiasm for updating it kind of disappeared.

  • Alas, Poor TweetDeck

    It should have been obvious when TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter back in 2011 that it wasn’t long for this world. Even more so when the only significant update in the intervening period was to remove a feature (handling tweets over 140 characters).

  • Ingress and the ELI5 Test

  • Lament for Web 0.1

    With every passing day, my Facebook feed is spending more and more time informing me that old school friends “like Amazon”. (No shit, really?) In the background, it’s fiddling our feeds, showing and hiding entries according to what it thinks is relevancy, and also what it thinks is profit for itself. Game spam is constant. On the other side of the fence, Twitter is trying to force out the third-party clients that made it great, so that it can monetise its users more easily.

  • "Goddamnit, PHP", Episode 587

    If any of my readers are also SuccessWhale users, you may have noticed that for the last few days, clicking the “Conversation View” button for a tweet has resulted in a message declaring that you have tried to look at a “protected or deleted tweet” even though that is plainly not the case.

  • The Need for Mobile General Computation (aka, why I’m stuck with Android)

    My mobile phone contract has well and truly hit the “18-month itch” stage – although I still have six months until an upgrade is due, I can’t help but look at adverts and scan gadget blogs and think “ooh, I want one of those”.

  • On Very Small PCs

    With my recent acquisition of a Bluetooth keyboard added to the PowerSkin, my phone has completed its transition from thin, attractive polycarbonate slate to the monstrous assault on product design you see before you.

  • App Idea: CatchUp

    Here’s some initial design ideas for a location-aware chat app that, as far as I am aware, has significant new features over and above existing mobile chat apps (iMessage, WhatsApp, BBM etc.) and existing location-based functionality in apps (FourSquare, Facebook check-ins, Google Places).

  • Don’t Call Yourself a Programmer

    As a twenty-six-year-old software engineer – I shan’t use the word “programmer”, for obvious reasons – who’s only ever really had one job, I probably ought to refrain from posting an opinion on this post:

  • Skeuomorphism Must Die!

    There have been a lot of rants around the internet of late about “skeuomorphism” in software, largely targeted at the latest versions of Apple’s operating systems. They’ve almost all been negative, possibly because designers hating on the concept are the only ones who felt sufficiently incensed that they looked up the name for it. I’m afraid I’m going to do nothing to buck the trend.

  • Love / H8 (A Review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview)

    Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 8, is now available in “Consumer Preview” form – a release designed to let potential customers know what to expect from it when it launches in around six months’ time. It’s probably a very good idea to give it six months to soak in, because just in case the tech media has entirely passed you by, it looks like this:

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Java Swing

    For those looking for a quick introduction to laying out Graphical User Interface components using Java’s Swing technology, this guide may prove helpful. (But probably not.)

  • Towards a Simpler Desktop

    In one of my previous blog posts, “Designing for Granddad”, I examined some of the user interface features that cause my grandfather issues when using his computer, and left a few hanging questions as to how we software designers can make our apps less confusing to the novice computer user.

  • Designing for Granddad

    Slate’s recent article, “2011 Was a Terrible Year for Tech”, coins the term “mom-bomb” for the moment that technology journalists declare a gadget so easy-to-use that it is actually useful to people who aren’t technology journalists:

  • Of Software and Magic

    Lightning crackles through my hind-brain, adenosine receptors lighting up in sequence as caffeine molecules finish their long journey from the hillsides of South America to the grey mass of proteins from which spawn consciousness. My eyes open wider, and with them my mind. Fingers flicker and dance across the keys of mankind’s most arcane device. Thoughts, ideas, visions flash across my mind, patterns forming for just milliseconds. Then they explode through neural pathways, twisting and contorting muscles that touch keys across the tiny portion of the real world that is still required for man and machine to work in harmony. Then on again, electrical pulses once more, completing the journey from pattern in flesh to pattern in silicon.

  • In Praise of Partimage

    For weeks now, I’ve been attempting to wrangle Symantec Ghost, the corporate cousin of Norton Ghost, to back up and restore the contents of a partition on a RAID. I’ve fought with device drivers, manually built Windows PE images using WAIK with Symantec’s outdated instructions, fought off continual pestering from a probably well-meaning call centre operative, and significantly contributed to the drinks coaster industry.

  • SuccessWhale is Terrifying: VPS Edition

    Just under two years ago, my SuccessWhale Twitter client was gaining new users at a steady rate and, as I noticed with alarm, was about to blow through my then-limited bandwidth allowance.

  • Announcing: SuccessWhale version 2.0!

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internet, I am pleased to announce that SuccessWhale version 2.0 has just been released and is now live on sw.onlydreaming.net.

  • UI Through the Eyes of a Child (Part 1/n?)

    My son is at the age where every question starts with “why” and everything, no matter how obvious, is to be questioned.  I regularly get asked about various iconography and bits of user interface that seem intuitive to me, but to someone without many years of experience are clearly not.  Through his eyes, I am beginning to understand the issues faced by new users of computers, mobile phones, and so on.

  • Previewing Android’s New Market

    Google has a new version of the Android Market app on the way, and just like every other tech blog in the world, here’s a preview.

  • IE6, WordPress, and Dick Moves

    For years, anti-IE6 sentiment on the internet has been rising – and justly so. It’s ten years old, and cares so little for standards that web developers often have to code for it specifically. Quite reasonably, they – we – are a bit fed up with that. Successive versions of Internet Explorer have become much better at standards support, and it would be great if every IE user would just upgrade to IE9 tomorrow.

  • A Place for Google Plus?

    “Google+”, Google’s new stab at social networking, is doing the rounds of tech news sites today. So what’s it like – if you scored an invite, should you be using it, and if you haven’t yet, are you missing out?

  • The UI of Least Resistance

    I was working up to a blog post on Ubuntu’s new “Unity” interface a couple of days ago, but repeatedly stalled when it came to making a point. The only point I could come up with was essentially just “I don’t like this”, which isn’t the greatest of subjects for a blog post – to say nothing of the hundreds who have trodden that territory before me.

  • In Search of Document Control’s Holy Grail

    Just over a year ago, our site was sold by its owners to another parent company. In the run-up to the sale, we had been slowly making ourselves a new intranet based around Microsoft SharePoint. After the event, SharePoint kicked off in a big way, with more and more projects and teams starting to use it for their file storage.

  • Promises Fallen by the Wayside

    Nearly six months ago, I sketched out some ideas for a site then called “healthi.ly”, since renamed to Daily Promise. In time I coded it up, made it public, and made the same commitment I have to other sites in the past – 20 active users gets it its own domain and investment of time and effort. Less than that, and it goes how it goes.

  • Preaching and the Defence Industry Choir

    CertificateThis week at work has largely been taken up by a Usability training course, borne out of the HMI team’s desire to have at least some sort of formal training in the area, rather than just being chucked in a team together because we were the only people that gave a damn that users liked using our software.

  • In Search of Source Control’s Holy Grail (part 2)

    Hello opinionated lazyweb denizens!  Let’s see if you can help resolve today’s office quandry (or at the very lest, tell us that we suck and we’re doing it all wrong).

  • SuccessWhale: Considering the Reply UI

    What was once my simple Twitter client, SuccessWhale, is undergoing a lot of changes in the build-up to version 2. One of the biggest changes is the support for multiple services, of which Facebook is the first to be integrated. This, combined with the Twitter website’s new design, brings into question SuccessWhale’s “reply” UI.

  • UX is in the Radio

    This morning, on the daily hour-long moan-fest we call “commuting”, we engaged in our normal pattern of radio use – working our way across the entire spectrum several times, not finding anything particularly appealing, before at last settling on the least annoying option. Then, a minute and a half later once that one not-too-bad song had finished, repeating the whole cycle again.

  • Madness and the TableModel

    What follows is a lengthy rant about a particularly annoying situation in some of my code. Programmers, please let me know – is it the toolkit that is mad, or is it me? Everyone else, feel free to skip it! 🙂

  • Adventures in the Diaspora Ghost Town

    Diaspora*, for those unaware, is a distributed and privacy-conscious social network currently in development by students at New York University. It raised $200,000 of funding via Kickstarter back in June, and is currently in alpha testing state. By virtue of my pseudowife’s donation, we have been sent both the developer preview software itself, and invites for the Disapora “pod” at joindiaspora.com.

  • Announcing: Daily Promise!

    After a couple of weeks of development – documented here, here and here – I think I’m ready to call Daily Promise version 1.0.

  • Daily Promise: Avatars Everywhere!

    After a couple of days and one frantic family-free morning, Daily Promise is getting near completion. Here’s what’s new since last time.

  • Daily Promise: Coming Together

    Despite the lack of response to my earlier post, in which I floated my design concepts for “Daily Promise”, boredom won out in the end and I started coding anyway.

  • Stuxnet is in the hands of Bad Guys?!

    Hey! Do you like fear? Do you like bullshit headlines? Well, has Sky got an news for you! “Super virus a target for cyber terrorists”, which bears the even more fascinating <title> tag of “Stuxnet Worm: Virus Targeted At Iran’s Nuclear Plant Is In Hands Of ‘Bad Guys’, Sky News Sources Say”, is their latest fantastical fearmongering piece. Let’s butcher it together.

  • Daily Promise: Design Sketches

    Current flavour of the month of some of the geek crowd, “Health Month”, is a social network of sorts on which users compete to achieve certain health-related goals. Each month, each member sets a number of goals for themselves to achieve. Its core mechanic is health points – you start with 10, lose one every time you fail to meet a goal, and players who perform well can heal you.

  • Sea Battle: Of Ships and Submarines

    The distinction between surface ships and submarines in Sea Battle has turned out to be a more thorny issue than I originally imagined.

  • Sea Battle: Here Comes the Science Bit

    Another day down, and somehow Sea Battle is remarkably close to the finish line. (No idea what I’m talking about? See previous blog entries 1, 2 & 3.)

  • Sea Battle: That’s what Guns are for!

    Another day – or three, in this case – brings another ton of functionality for Sea Battle. (Previous posts: 1, 2)

  • Sea Battle, now with more Processing

    Nearly a month ago now, I blogged some sketches and ideas for a game I felt like writing. masterofwalri made a passing reference to Processing in his comment, and having heard people mention it in the past, I figured I should check it out.

  • Alarm Apps, and the Lulz that can be had

    I am in the middle of creating an Android app that’s a kind of super alarm clock. (God forbid I should have less than six projects on the go at once.) In the run-up to your chosen alarm time, it pulls down various feeds from the internet so that it can wake you with news, weather and traffic information. A typical wake-up message might be:

  • For the Discerning Lady or Gentleman, SuccessWhale version 1.1

    The sudden proliferation of peoples’ syndicated tweets from sources such as Foursquare and Fallen London annoys me far more than it should. Any more sensible old grouch would pick up his pipe, don slippers and write a strongly-worded letter to the local newspaper about how this ‘checking in’ business is corrupting society.

  • Game Idea Spam Time!

    One of the games I remember liking from what I was shocked to discover was 11 years ago was Warzone 2100. It’s actually one of the rare examples of an Abandonware game that’s been taken and updated on by a loyal community – over a decade since it was first released, they’re working on version 3.0. (You can download it from here, completely free.)

  • The Next Step for Ambient Data

    In one of my previous posts, “In Which I Bemoan the Tech Level in the Navy”, I discussed the possibility of layering radar and targeting data as a heads-up display (HUD) over a ship’s Bridge windows – not necessarily to speed up reaction time as a fighter pilot requires, but just to remove the layer of separation between data and reality.

  • In Which I Bemoan the Tech Level in the Navy

    My job, in the main, is to produce HMIs (human-machine interfaces) for equipment that’s mostly sold to the world’s Navies. Which is great – it’s a job I love, and appear to be reasonably good at. We toil away for months or years, producing a nice GUI with lots of clicky buttons, and usually, customers love it. Often the reason they like it so much is because the interface it replaces, the interface of their old gear, is a bunch of giant battleship-grey painted cabinets adorned with half the world’s supply of little flicky toggle switches. In a lot of situations, just being able to replace dedicated hardware with a general-purpose computer is great.

  • a thousand words: Finishing Touches

    The vast majority of user-reported bugs and requested features on “a thousand words” have now been sorted out. As requested by my co-conspirator Eric, we now have an ‘adult content’ filter based on a date of birth field in users’ profiles, and a ‘report’ button to bring problematic stories and pictures to the attention of the moderators. There’s also a DeviantArt-style “request critique” option to let users know what kind of comments you’re looking for.

  • a thousand words: Alpha, Beta

    “a thousand words” has now reached a stage where every feature that I give a damn about is implemented. Thus, we’re opening it up to a limited beta test to iron out the wrinkles and get a list of any features potential users would like to see us launch with. If you’re bored or simply have a love of breaking other people’s shit, head along to http://athousandwords.org.uk and see what hell you can raise. As the Big Red Box Text warns you, really don’t submit any work of fiction you care about, just in case some kind soul finds an SQL injection vulnerability and trashes the database.

  • a thousand words: Hot Profilin’ Action

    A few days’ laziness (by which I mean a few days’ Starcraft) have passed with not much work being done on “a thousand words”. That came to an end tonight, with a productive evening resulting in a working profile system so that users can now add and display personal information, change their registered e-mail address and password, etc.

  • a thousand words: GETting and POSTing

    Another day, another bunch of functionality added to a thousand words. With the main public-facing interfaces largely complete, I have moved on to the guts of the site’s user interaction. The site now has working, but ugly, implementations of:

  • a thousand words: First Sketches

    With the main browsing UI for a thousand words up and running, it’s time to bore the world with more pointless trivia before moving on. Today: design sketches!

  • a thousand words: A New Timesink has Arrived!

    Somehow unable to cope with actually having free time of an evening, I have taken on yet another project which will doubtless push me deeper into the dark, untamed wilds of the internet, the land stalked only by the mysterious beast known as the “web developer”.

  • The Technology of Westminster Hubble

    For anyone interested (yes this is mostly for you, @HolyHaddock), Westminster Hubble is written in a combination of PHP and JavaScript, with a MySQL database as its backend.

  • Announcing: Westminster Hubble!

    Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I am proud to announce the release of a new website. This is what I have been winding up most of my Twitter followers for the last two months by referring to it only as “Super Secret Project #1”. Its name is Westminster Hubble.

  • Farewell, Dynamic Democracy

    Back in April, the Digital Economy Bill was rushed through the wash-up procedure of the outgoing government without the due debate and consideration that I and others believe such a far-reaching bill deserved. My disillusionment with the government decision-making process over the following week led me to set up and announce a new site, called “Dynamic Democracy”. It was an experiment to see what would be discussed if everyone was involved – on an anonymous basis – rather than just our elected representatives that often do not do a good job of representing us anyway.

  • Tiring of Lock-In

    My main argument against owning an iPhone, despite their shininess, has been one of vendor lock-in. Once you have an iPhone, you are virtually compelled to also use iTunes, as it won’t sync with anything else. And that dictates your choice of operating system and primary media player, both of them towards software that I’d not otherwise pick (Windows or Mac over Linux, and iTunes over virtually anything else).

  • An Experiment in Dynamic Democracy

    Dynamic Democracy

  • An Ode to Sharepoint

    At a loss for other, more pleasant subjects to blog about, I will instead write about my nemesis, that being that has brought naught but pain to my life. I speak, of course, of Microsoft Sharepoint.

  • All Bugs Are Shallow… Except This One

    In his essay “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, Eric S. Raymond coins the phrase “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” – meaning that with enough testers and enough programmers, it is possible to diagnose and fix any software bug.

  • The Web’s Syntax Problem

    As @aefaradien notes, the web has a syntax problem. It’s this: A user wishes to post something complicated – text with links, formatting, even inline graphics. They go to a website and are faced with a text box and a flashing cursor. What do they type? What syntax will help them achieve their goal?

  • Breaking Out of Twitter

    Earlier this evening, @HolyHaddock linked to an entry on Brian Hurt’s blog entitled “Why I Quit Twitter”. In it, he argues for his leaving Twitter on the grounds that it is not a good place for debate and extended discussion:

  • Semicolon Rage

    Yesterday, I had a simple if statement. It looked like this:

  • SuccessWhale is Terrifying

    On 29th August, I released my PHP/JavaScript Twitter client, SuccessWhale. I would like to take this opportunity to say HOLY FUCK.

  • So Farewell, Psion 3a

    No idea why the hell I bought a Psion 3a a lottery ticket? Check out my previous blog post, “Coming of Age”.

  • Coming of Age

    Yes, she's legal.

  • OMG WTF CPP

    Allow me to share with you one of the most bizarre and infuriating login forms I have ever seen. This is it, the one for CPP Identity Protection.

  • Announcing: Full Width Facebook Lite

    Do I blog anything these days apart from new software? Oh well, here goes:

  • Announcing: SuccessWhale!

    For the last few days I’ve been working on a simple web-based Twitter client, to fill the void between the simplicity of Twitter’s own web interface and the broken-in-IE6 complexity of BeTwittered and Seesmic Desktop’s web interface.

  • Software Development: Experiment 1

    Yesterday Morning

  • PLFF Team Picker Now Online!

    In a fit of last-minute coding, I’ve produced version 0.1 of my automated team-picker for the Premier League’s Fantasy Football game. (If you’re intending on playing, you only have 12 hours left to get your team in before the start of the season!)

  • Review: HTC Magic

    Mostly at Mark’s request, but possibly also of interest to others: A review of the HTC Magic. I’ve had mine for 6 days now.

  • TFF Team Picker went Cloud-wards

    For the three of you who care, my Telegraph Fantasy Football team picker just got fiddled with.

  • TFF Team Picker hits v1.0!

    After a spree of lunchtime coding today, my Telegraph Fantasy Football Team Picker has finally hit v1.0.

  • Gunboat (Early Preview)

    As part of my irrational desire to teach myself OpenGL programming, I’m making a game that’s (currently at least) called Gunboat. It’s a fairly slow-paced 2D shooter that has the player in command of a ship, protecting a harbour from an attacking fleet.