Red Nose Day + Three Thing Game + Pink Tutu : What could go wrong?

A note for your diaries folks. On Friday 13th of March I'll be doing one of my (in)famous Lectures in Rhyme in aid of Comic Relief. You can find out more (and sponsor me) here. You can also marvel at the strange distortion of my face in the picture. Or perhaps I always look like that. Ugh. 

Anyhoo, after the fun and frivolity of the lecture we'll be embarking on a Red Nose Day themed Three Thing Game. We'll have "rent a thing" events and allow you to exchange your real money for extra "Bank of Thingland" pounds to get more auction winning powers.

My fundraising target is £1,500. If we reach that before the event I will do the lecture wearing a pink tutu. Apparently you can get away with a lot of stuff in the name of charity.....

Sooo Close.


By a combination of RFID tag sales for the prize draw and accosting people who were injudicious enough to turn up at the lecture carrying money (I did let one lad keep his bus fare home though) I was able to take 210.90 pounds in cash down to the bank this morning and pay it into the prize fund.

Added to the amount given by my wonderful sponsors, this takes the total to 984.98. Just fifteen pounds and two pence short of me having to wear a tutu for the lecture.

Talk about precision planning. Go me.

If you haven't got round to sponsoring me and want to send me over the edge, so to speak, you can still donate at:

Red Nose Day Fun and Games


Some of the audience, before the show started. Profuse apologies to the folks on the very front row. For some reason I didn’t point the camera in your direction.

Today did not dawn in an auspicious manner. I went into work prepared to put the starting touches to the presentation (only kidding, it was actually mostly written, but I have a policy of never finishing a talk until just before I really need it.). Anyhoo, I plugged in my shiny Sony and got all manner of USB “in and out” sounds. Truly, my machine was playing the hokey cokey with all my devices. A dance which ended with a bunch of unknown USB devices in Device Manager. Oh well. My first thought was my keyboard, but experiments indicated otherwise. USB hub then.

Ho hum. Time for a reboot. So I shut the machine down. And found I had 14 updates outstanding. Arrgh. This of course made my machine unusable for a lot longer than I had planned for. Wah. And when it came back, of course the USB drivers for the Gadgeteer (the thing my Lecture in Rhyme was all about) had broken. After another reboot (five updates that time) I managed to get something to work. By now we were about fifteen minutes from the presentation. No pressure.

Anyhoo, thanks to an awesome audience I managed to get through it all. Even when the demo failed because of lingering USB issues. Fortunately “The Door of Mystery” worked fine, and picked key number 71.


This is the lucky winner. I look a lot more pleased than him, perhaps because I’ve finished the lecture.

There are videos of the lecture, but they are kind of meaningless without the slide deck. I’m going to spend some time this weekend making a “director’s cut” with a narration that will hopefully make more sense.


Thanks to every one who sponsored me, the folks who turned up and had their pockets emptied, and apologies to the three people who wandered into the lecture theatre just after we had started only to have me point at them and shout “NEW PEOPLE. GET MONEY FROM THEM!” Apparently they turned tail and left in a hurry. I hope they’ve stopped running by now….

Red Nose Day Rhyming



I spent a big chunk of this evening writing poetry. Thanks to Carl for his donation, which gets him into the script.

As long as I can find something that rhymes with “Carl”.

If you want to sponsor me, and who doesn’t, then visit:

If we get more than 1,000 pounds then I will wear that tutu. You can find out more about my previous Red Nose Day triumphs here and here.

We will definitely video the lecture, and who knows, some of the students might try to live stream it too. Keep coming back here, and to my Red Nose Day sponsor page for news.

Red Nose Day Door of Mystery


Sometimes a good idea can take away your entire Sunday.

“The Door of Mystery” is an unique fundraising idea that takes the old style, simple, raffle idea and turns it into a new, high-tech, complicated form. To take part all you have to do is buy one of our special “Red Nose Day” tags for two pounds and then take it to “The Door of Mystery” at my office in the Robert Blackburn building to find out your entry number. Then, at the presentation on Friday we will build a “Door of Mystery” machine of our own and then use it to pick the winner of the competition. The prize, courtesy of Microsoft Research Cambridge, is a Gadgeteer kit of your own.

The tags contain an RFID chip which is read by a Gadgeteer board inside the door unit. The unit contains an SD card with a list of RFID values which are mapped to entry numbers. Show your tag to the door and it will tell you your magic number.


This is the guts of the prototype device. I’ve cannibalised my Tweet Printer case to use for the project. I’m going to print a proper one later. If I get round to it.


I’ve got 100 RFID tags to sell for Comic Relief. Each one has been keyed to the system and you can buy them from the departmental office. Perhaps we’ll think of other uses for them over time..

You can sponsor the whole shebang over at:

Red Nose Day with Gadgets


I’m doing it again. For more money. If you want to see a show that has laughter, tears and pathos (and that’s just the hardware demos) then you should come along.

You should also sponsor me at:

I’ve set the target really high, at 1,000 pounds. But if I get that much I will do the entire lecture wearing a tutu.

And just to let you know, I have sooo got the legs for a tutu.

Red Nose Day Pictures


Some of the audience, watching me code under pressure in rhyme

Jamie Wins a Phone

Jamie picks up his winnings. Don’t I have big elbows?

Agnes Picks up her phone

Agnes was the winning bidder of the second phone. This is where the money changed hands….

We’ve done the final tally and it turns out that adding together the sponsorship money, the cash taken on the day and phone auction we ended up raising over 1,260 pounds for Comic Relief. Great stuff. Thanks to everyone who helped. To Microsoft for providing some lovely prizes and an awesome phone, to Adam and Mike for sterling technical support and the audience, for laughing in most of the right places.

You can find a video of most of the event here: I’m trimming the live recording together at the moment, should be available soon. If you have any pictures of the occasion then I’d love to see them. Put them on Flickr tagged Robinrhyme.

Many apologies to the hapless lecturer in the session before mine, who must have been perplexed as to why there was a huge number of students in silly hats waiting outside, and a nervous bloke trying to get in and set up some cameras and stuff…

And now I’ve got a First Year tutorial. Not in rhyme, thank goodness.

Red Nose Day

Well, I did my lecture. Thanks to everyone who came along, it was fun. I’ll post the video tonight, once I’ve got it off my little camera. If you have any pictures or video of the fun and games, please get in touch and I’ll set up a group somewhere to share the magic…

We did rather well on the day:


..what it is all about. I’ll take it down to the bank later today. If you want to add to the pile, just drop by my office or sponsor me at:

I hit my target, and so I’ve moved it up a bit.


on 2009-03-13 20:51 by Rob

We've counted all the money, and it turns out that the bucket had two hundred and fifty eight pounds 11 pence in it. All through the afternoon people were dropping by who couldn't make it to the lecture and they were dropping more cash in. Thanks to all the staff and students who were so generous. We are going to take the cash down to the bank tomorrow and this should bring the total earnings to well over 500 quid, which is ace!

I've put the lecture slides up here.