Writing a Book

Back at work today. The thing that is keeping me busy over the summer is book writing. I've signed up to write a new book to teach programming. The content is loosely based on the World Famous C# Yellow book, but with a heavily practical approach. The aim is to teach people how to write programs that they could use to impress their friend. And their mum. 

The book is going to be in colour, with pictures and everything. I'll post some sample pages as soon as I can. 

C# Yellow Book Code Samples

Due to popular demand (somebody asked me) I've added a whole bunch of code examples keyed to the C# Yellow Book content.

I've upgraded the Kindle edition of the Yellow Book (which you can buy here) to include references to the examples and you can download all the code from here.

Oh, and don't forget that you can also get our entire First Year programming course (slide decks, labs and assessed coursework) along with everything else from my C# teaching site here

C4DI Startup Event

This overhead view of the new C4DI building was stolen from an awesome video by Jon Moss. Click through the image to view it.

This overhead view of the new C4DI building was stolen from an awesome video by Jon Moss. Click through the image to view it.

We are really lucky to have C4DI in Hull. And it is going from strength to strength. It provides homes for new business, advice for existing ones and links nascent companies to investment.

As you can see above the new home for the C4DI is coming along a treat, and they've got some great events planned for the future.

On 30th July they are having an event aimed at startups. If you want to test the water with an idea you've been working on, find like minded folks who might want to go into business with you or just find out how C4DI can change your life (it's already done this for quite a few of our students) then you should come along.  Sign up here.

Hymers School Summer Students Visit

We had some visitors today all the way from China. They are summer school students who are visiting Hymers College in Hull.  I did a talk about developing for the Arduino which was great fun (at least I enjoyed it) even though I managed to break one of my props half way through the session.

Thanks for coming folks, and I hope you enjoyed your visit to the university.

San Francisco City Centre

If I'd moved a tiny bit to the right this picture would be completely perfect......

If I'd moved a tiny bit to the right this picture would be completely perfect......

Today we got on the bus and headed to the centre of San Francisco. I really like the way that the city has a proper centre, with lots of shops and other good stuff. The weather was very kind to us (especially by the standards of San Francisco), and so I took a bunch of photographs. As you do.

We went on a boat trip round the bay

We went on a boat trip round the bay

The pier and the skyline looking good

The pier and the skyline looking good

"That" bridge

"That" bridge

First Day in San Francisco

The kind of thing you find in the trees around here...

The kind of thing you find in the trees around here...

It occurs to me that perhaps people don't care about what I do on my holidays. But please remember, dear reader, that I write this blog for me........

We slept very well and headed out first thing for breakfast. The place we are staying is right near the Golden Gate Park which is really lovely.

Conservatory of Flowers - we'll go here later in the week when it is open

Conservatory of Flowers - we'll go here later in the week when it is open

They have this great little boating lake

They have this great little boating lake

We had a good wander round and then staggered back to the flat when the jetlag kicked in....

Holiday Start

Our ride...

Our ride...

Big day today. In more ways than one. It's the start of the holiday (yay!) and it will also be around 8 hours longer than usual thanks to time zones etc. We got off to an early start  which turned out not to be necessary as our flight out of the UK was delayed. But thanks to the magic of computers we were automatically routed onto a later connecting flight and the journey was smooth enough. Particularly when those awfully nice Delta people moved me into a seat with actual legroom.

We are presently in San Francisco, looking for some flowers to put in our hair. Or something.

International Driving Permit - Most Unimpressive

We're heading off on our holidays over the weekend, and in a change of style, I've hired a car. This is because one of the stops is Los Angeles, and apparently you can't get anywhere without wheels in that part of the world.

The travel guides reckon that an International Driving Permit is a useful thing to have in this situation, and since my driving licence is made of paper, very old and falling apart (in other words it has two things in common with me) I sent off for one to bolster my credentials behind the wheel. 

It arrived earlier this week. It is a paper document with a colour picture of me stuck inside. I reckon you could produce a reasonable facsimile of it with a colour printer and maybe ten minutes of effort.

I just hope the relevant authorities are more impressed with it than I am.  

Making Plans with Trello

We're in the middle of planning an ambitious holiday, along with a whole bunch of domestic renovations. The idea is to get all the heavy lifting done while we are away, so we can just stroll back into a shiny new bedroom and other bits and bobs.

At least, that's the plan.

I've been using Trello to help manage all the ins and outs. It's free and wonderful. You create a Board (which equates to a task - for example Holiday or Bedroom) and then add Cards to the board. Cards can have content (lists, notes, attachments and links) and you can move cards around the board into different categories, for example "To Do" or "Done". Boards can be shared amongst fellow Trello users (love that phrase - wish I could work mellow or yellow into it too) and the system keeps track of who said or did what. 

There are Trello applications for most devices, but I reckon the Web client is pretty much the best way to use it. Everything syncs up in real time - although this can be embarrassing when you are stood in the pet shop with zero signal trying to get the card that tells you what kind of guinea pig food to buy. 

I really think that Trello is now my go-to place for this kind of thing. Outlook tasks are OK, but not very granular and tricky to share. Trello just seems to work. 

Update: Having spent some time making plans at home before heading to work I find that I've forgotten to put my watch on......

Colt Express Board Game

Maybe I should just give up my day job and turn into a board game reviewer. Might be nice. 

Anyhoo, today I was given a copy of Colt Express as part of the Father's Day thing. I also got an amazing book. But that's for another day, and another blog post. 

The box says that each game takes around 40 minutes to play. Our first game took a bit longer than this because the first thing we had to do was assemble a little cardboard train that is the playfield. The pieces are beautifully drawn and fit together very well. And the box cleverly turns into a set of compartments so that you don't have to dismantle the pieces, you can just pop them straight in the box when you have finished playing.

The game has an interesting mechanic. Each round a player builds up a sequence of moves from a random selection of cards their character gets. Some moves are open, others are secret. The good news is that if your moves go well you get to pick up the valuables in the carriages or, better yet, punch someone and pick up the loot that they drop. The bad news is that if they do the same to you first, your move sequence gets thrown out of whack and you end up punching thin air and shooting at shadows. 

This is our little train. Players can gather inside the train and punch each other or go onto the roof and shoot at each other. And you get free bits of cactus to help build the atmosphere.

Each player has a special skill (although for the one I played it didn't seem that special to be honest) and the little train works marvellously as a fighting arena. I didn't win. But I really want to have another go to see if I can have more success next time. 

Elite Dangerous looks really rather good

It's nice to find a game that mentions your home town on its main screen.

It's nice to find a game that mentions your home town on its main screen.

I got an email in the week telling me that Elite Dangerous was now available and that I could install a trail version on my Xbox One just by clicking a link.

So I did.

Me and Elite go back quite a ways. To BBC machines with Cub monitors and Cumana disk drives. To hours spent learning how to dock with the space station so that you could sell your wares and earn enough money to buy a docking computer. To finding out that every now and then the docking computer crashes and you end up smashing your ship up anyway. 

There were games on the BBC machine before Elite that had 3D graphics. But Elite was the first one with "hidden line removal".  Hidden line remove stops an image looking like a wire frame model and starts to make it look "proper" 3D.

Elite was awesome. As a technical and artistic achievement that ran in a tiny amount of memory it was almost as far ahead of its time as the spaceships you could buy when you played it. The targeting view was superbly realised. And it just worked.

I lost quite a lot of my time to Elite. 

Elite Dangerous does a good job of building on its predecessor. The graphics are awesome looking and for the most part smooth (although we did have a few episodes of choppiness). 

We played for the free first hour that you get in demo mode, and then I actually ended up paying for the full game. 

An Unbelievable Gas Bill

I'm not sure what a naughty hacker could do with my gas meter number, but I'm taking no chances....

I'm not sure what a naughty hacker could do with my gas meter number, but I'm taking no chances....

I got this thing through from the Gas Company asking me to read my meter. They keep sending meter readers round during working hours and finding that I'm not at home.

Who'd have thought?  It's almost as if I had a job that kept me out of the house during the week.


Anyhoo, I went into the garage and took a snap of the device.  I then copied the numbers into the web page and was promptly told that my numbers were unbelievable. There are two possible ways to interpret this:

  • Our gas use has been so high that I've "wrapped round" the meter.
  • Our gas use has been lower than expected because last year I bought a Nest heating controller. 

I really hope it is the latter.

eBay refunds in actually works shock horror

Campus looking good today

Campus looking good today

Some time back I bought something on eBay. It never arrived. I heard nothing. Very sad. I wore black for a few days.  As you do.

It wasn't a hugely expensive item, but it was irritating nonetheless. So I took up the matter using the eBay resolution centre. And the great news is that after pressing a bunch of buttons the eBay judgement computer (or whatever they use) has decided to give me my money back. Which is nice.