Rob at the Insider Dev Tour

 Click on the image to register

Click on the image to register

This is big news. Oh. Ahem.


Microsoft are rolling out an Insider Dev Tour next month. There are around 30 events all over the world, with 2 in the UK. One in London and one in Manchester.

I'm very pleased to be able to report that I'll be presenting at the Manchester event next month, on the 20th of June. I'm doing a session on Machine Learning, really looking forward to it. You can find out more about the Insider Dev Tour here. You can sign up for the Manchester event here

Comicon 2017


Ever since happy times spent at the Collectormania events in Milton Keynes many years ago, I've had a hankering for a bit more comic book madness. So today we headed off down the motorway to Comicon 2017 at Birmingham. It was great.

There were lots of people in "cosplay", which I guess is a posh name for "dressing up", but some of the costumes had to be seen to be believed. There were even entire families heading out in character. The atmosphere was great, and I even ran into a bunch of ex- students. At a Comic Book conference? Who'd have thought?

It was great fun, and I'd love to go again next year. There were some really impressive "steam punk" outfits around and I fancy having a go at that.....

Rob at "Pint of Science" on Monday Evening

I'm doing a bit of talking tomorrow night. It's as pat of the "journey inside the human body" part of the "Pint of Science" talks in Hull. I'm going to be talking about whether or not we can make "Artificial Brains".  It's a look at artificial intelligence, computer software, killer robots and what we should really be afraid of.

And there are giveaways. You can sign up here. (please note that the 37 on the screenshot above might be out of date soon - especially when people find out that I'm coming along....)

Tick Tock Unlock Fun and Games

 I can't post any pictures of the puzzles or the room, but they did have this rather nice Tesla in one of the arcades in Leeds..

I can't post any pictures of the puzzles or the room, but they did have this rather nice Tesla in one of the arcades in Leeds..

Went to Leeds today for another birthday treat. We had booked a go at Tick Tock Unlock, a locked room escape experience where you have an hour to complete a mission which involves puzzles, cooperation and some really cool padlocks. 

It was great fun. There were five of us and I like to think that we turned into a well-oiled puzzle solving machine. We managed to get out within the the allotted hour and the chap in charge reckoned that we did really well, only needing three clues. (but I bet he says that to all the groups).

The setup is very smooth and well organised and the puzzles themselves are nicely paced so that you get plenty of things to do as you piece together the clues that will get you past the final door.

If you are looking for a novel experience which is great fun then you should have a go. We'll certainly be having a go at another one. 

BJSS at Hull

BJSS are a great bunch of folks. I can say that because I've met quite a few of them. They came over to Hull from Leeds to run a programming challenge event type thing in our computer labs. With free pizza and drinks. It was excellent. They posed an interesting task and the students who came along set about solving it. Then they wandered around giving comments and advice on coding and having chats about CVs etc. 

It was great to have a professional perspective on problem solving. I even had a little go myself, until my natural laziness took over and I reverted to chatting with the BJSS folks about board games and stuff.  As you do. 

The students that came along had a great time, and any time BJSS want to come by it would be lovely to see them again. 

Rob != Winner

Well, my suspicions were correct. Three minutes of unfocussed content does not a Famelab winner make. Even if you add a gadget.

I got the email today saying that I've not made the top six. I'm actually quite relieved about this. From what I saw of the entrants we have some proper science folks who are keen on presenting the subject that they are passionate about. The local final is in Hull soon. You can find out more here, and I'd advise you to go along if you can.

Famelab Beckons. Or not.

 A not so secret weapon

A not so secret weapon

Today was the day that I made my Three Minute Pitch for fame at FameLab. The idea is that you speak about something scientific for three minutes. No more. No less. No computers, no script. Just you and 180 seconds. 

Of course I cheated.

Turns out that you are allowed props. The night before the talk I put together the little device you can see above. It uses LittleBits devices to create a timer. It uses two rows of lights that increase as the time goes by.The bottom row fills up over the three minute and the top row fills over the last thirty seconds. It was actually quite fun to make. I used the Arduino LittleBit to make it work. I'll post the program later. 

The timer worked out fine, but I don't think I've made it to the final. Everyone else was doing hard core science stuff, you know, origins of the universe and serious stuff like that where I just did my piece about how Computer Science is the bestest ever subject.  I think if I want to make it in this field I need to come up with some slightly more focussed content. 

Anyhoo, the great thing for me was to see lots of enthusiastic people talking science in front of an appreciative audience. Great stuff. 

Careers and Internships Events at Hull

Gaming: 27th January 2016 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Development: 24th February 2016 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm

There is still time to register for the two events we are holding this year. The Gaming one is next week  and the Development one runs in around a month or so. 

These events are for students at Hull University who want to find out just what software development is going on and meet up with the folks doing it. If you are a First or Second Year you should be looking for internships and summer placements. If you are a Third or Fourth year you should be talking to people with a view to employment. There is a lot going on in the development space and this is how you can become part of it. Everyone who attends as a conference delegate will get a set of business cards and some other conference goodies. We'll have talks from industry and stands from companies. And maybe some free pens.

Register here by 12:00 on Monday 25th of January to take part. 

Enter FameLab - I have

I've signed up for FameLab. I think you should too. Being able to handle yourself in front of an audience is a terribly useful skill. If you are going to start, it's best to start small. FameLab gives you three minutes to fill with something scientific that you feel passionate about. The Hull heat is on the third of February 2016 and you can find out more and sign up here

I'm going to speak about why Computer Science is the most important subject of all. Should be fun. 

Tiny Christmas Bash

We had the smallest Christmas Bash ever this year. I think this was mostly due to poor planning on my part. Our bash clashed with an excellent, and very well attended, event organised by Hull ComSoc. 

Anyhoo, pizza, mince pies, crackers and fun was had. We played a bunch of silly games, including the awesome Masquerade, a newcomer called Two Rooms and a Boom (which is great fun). Exploding Kittens, Skull and the ever popular Coup

There was so much going on that we managed to overrun by an hour. More bashes next year. 

Fun and Games at the Black Marble Event

 Some of the audience. And some of my toys...

Some of the audience. And some of my toys...

Black Marble are a great company. The do lots of splendid free events for software professionals. And, since they've booked a venue and sorted out all the logistics, they run sessions for schools and colleges at the same time. They get a bunch of speakers and we talk about technical and professional issues. I've been lucky enough to be invited to present a few times, in the past I've taken Una my 3D printer along, amongst other toys. 

Today I didn't really do a technical talk. Although we had some technology of course. I was more concerned with the business of making a name for yourself. My line on this is that advancing technology is replacing many of the jobs that we used to do. It seems to me that in the future you'll have to get used to changing what you do as machines get better and better at doing things that people do at the moment. This means that the only thing that will be constant during your career will be the brand that is you. I've gave lots of tips about building your brand; you can find the slide deck here.

During the talk I also touched on fun things that you can do including playing with the Arduino embeded device. I said I'd put some links to resources. The Arduino I'd recommend is a kit from Sintron which you can get from eBay. Just search for Arduino Sintron. It's around 25 pounds and really good value:

There are loads of resources on-line, once you've got the kit they send you a link to lots of them. There are some Arduino tutorials here that I wrote a while back.  You can get my C# Yellow Book here

I did my session twice, but I only remembered to take picture of one small part of the audience. Sorry about that. Anyhoo, thanks to Linda and Boss for setting up such a great event. Great fun.

 I promised a panorama of the entire second sitting audience, here they are

I promised a panorama of the entire second sitting audience, here they are

If you are looking for Open Source projects to engage with you can take a look here

You can find Charlotte's Twitter feed here.

Super Smash Christmas Bash

Today we had our Christmas Bash. This is usually a fairly quiet and select gathering, what with a lot of coursework being due and folks going home for Christmas. But we still found enough people to get through 128 pounds worth of pizza, which is a success of sorts....

Thanks to Adam and his advance purchasing power this event had a strong Super Smash Bros theme. He had managed to get a complete set of amiibos as prizes (including the much sought after Villager amiibo) and set up a tournament for folks to win them. We also had the lovely folks from Platform Expos with their network of Xbox One consoles playing Titanfall. Lob in Halo collection, Super Mario Kart and a wordsearch and you get a pretty good night's worth of entertainment. 

 A tense moment in Titanfall

A tense moment in Titanfall

If you have any fears about the survival of Nintendo or the future of their Wii U console I really don't think you have much to worry about. From the reaction to the 8 player action (and the fun I had playing it too) I reckon they are going to be fine. One hard core PC gamer left with a newly acquired amiibo and a plan to try and get a console for Christmas. Great stuff

 The winners with their prizes

The winners with their prizes

Of course we had a wordsearch. Of course some people came along, sat down with it and spent all their time finding words. And one of them won a prize.

 A worthy winner, but still some words left to find...

A worthy winner, but still some words left to find...

We were having so much fun that we forgot about the timings and the event ran on for quite a while after the finish time. And we will definitely be having another Super Smash Bros session next year. There are more pictures of the event on Flickr. You can find them here

Christmas Bash is Coming

The Christmas Bash for 2014 is coming and it is going to be a corker. We are going to have Wii U Smash Bros 8 player, with amiibo prizes, Team Fortress 2, Xbox One, Playstation 4, board games, word searches, pizza, mince pies and a super bumper hyper mega wordsearch which might include the words super, bumper,hyper and mega.

Tickets will be on sale in the Departmental Office on the Third Floor of the Robert Blackburn Building from 2:30 pm on Monday 8th December. Numbers are strictly limited.

Dates for your Diaries

There are lots of really interesting things happening in Hull over the next few weeks. Here's a selection.


SendGrid move an awful lot of the world's email for a lots of really big customers. Visit their roadshow at C4DI on 22nd October to find out what they can do for you. With free beer and goodies. Sign up here

Platform Expos brings together console makers, developers, artists and gamers for a festival of gaming from 14th - 15th of November in Hull. Find out what is going on and get tickets from here

This is a day long hacking event on 21st November at The Kingswood Academy 

You can find out more, and sign up here

This is an evening event where you get together with friends and family and work at solving technical challenges. Lots of fun.  On the 21st of November at The Kingswood Academy.

You can find out more and sign up here

Spend a full day (21st November) at Kingswood Academy finding out more about the wonderful Raspberry Pi computer and what you can do with it. 

You can find out more and sign up here

Dates for your Diaries

I've been sorting out dates and stuff for the next few weeks. Here are a couple highlights of the things coming up soon:

Rather Useful Seminars

Rather Useful Seminars start this week with a session about the Arduino device, and why you should buy at least one. You can find details of the seminar program at

Anyone at Hull can come along, they are always at 1:15 on a Wednesday afternoon in Lecture Theatre A on the ground floor of the Robert Blackburn Building. If you fancy giving all, or part of a seminar on something you find interesting and other folk might like to know about, get in touch with me.

Three Thing Game

The date and time for the next Three Thing Game has been set as overnight on Halloween, from 31st of October to 1st November. Microsoft and MonoGame will be coming along to take part and MonoGame will be doing a special, spooky, session about the new features they have added to the framework. You can get extra prizes by using these in the games that you make during the competition.

The itinerary for Three Thing Game is at

Registration for the competition will open next week. 

Manchester //publish event

 Nice sendoff at Hull Paragon station. What you see here is famous poet (Philip Larkin) and ex-Hull University librarian bedecked in Hull Tigers colours in honour of our appearance in the FA Cup Final tomorrow.

Nice sendoff at Hull Paragon station. What you see here is famous poet (Philip Larkin) and ex-Hull University librarian bedecked in Hull Tigers colours in honour of our appearance in the FA Cup Final tomorrow.

I spent today at //publish in Manchester. The idea is that like minded folks get together and get around to publishing applications and games they've been working on for a while. I have an agenda of sorts. I wanted to get some traction on my Windows 8.1 versions of Cheese Lander and Robs Red Nose Game. But mainly I wanted to talk to Peter about Bluetooth with a view to getting my Wedding Light controller working on Windows 8.1.

There were a bunch of folks there when I arrived at MadLab. They were all working away and I settled down, exchanged a few remarks about cheese (as you do) and then got cracking too. Peter took a look at my Bluetooth code and made some suggestions which resulted in it all suddenly working. So I can now control my wedding lights from my Lovely Lumia 1520 and also my Lovely Surface Pro 2.

Next step is to make a "unified" app (one that runs on both Windows Phone and Windows 8.1) and make it available to anyone who want to control their lights (or anything else) from these devices. I've got until the 1st of June to finish it off and get it in the store if I want to stand a chance of winning a prize. Hint: You can claim a prize too if you get your application submitted before this date.  There's still time to register here

At the end of the day we had presentations of the applications that had been published during the day and winners were picked. Apologies for not noting any names, but you know who you are and a picture is worth a thousand words. Right?

 And a butterfly collector (is that lapidopteral?) app earned the writer a Lumia 1520 (it's almost as if It is being pulled from Peter's hands....)

And a butterfly collector (is that lapidopteral?) app earned the writer a Lumia 1520 (it's almost as if It is being pulled from Peter's hands....)

 A really impressive 3D Tetris game won the a Dell tablet

A really impressive 3D Tetris game won the a Dell tablet

Thanks so much to Microsoft for organising //publish, Peter and Pete (they are different people) for setting up the Manchester event and the folks at MadLab for making us so welcome (and putting on such delicious food at half time). 

And I even managed to sneak out at lunchtime and buy a pair of trousers..... Great stuff.