Archive for August, 2006

Calendar added

Keen eyes will have noticed a new link in the sidebar called calendar. As the one line intro states its a page that lets you know what I’m up to and when I’m free. I have introduced this so that everyone who knows me can find out in advance when I might be passing in their direction so meeting up is easier and also so that people who want jobs doing and such know when I am not away somewhere so they can ask me.

All comments on the new calendar are most welcome and suggestions for additions or improvements will be considered. I’m still finalising the interface through which events are added in the admin panel, but when that is finished I will be releasing the code for the calendar as a WordPress plugin for all those who have seen my calendar page and are screaming “I want one of those!”. You can start using my calendar page to find out when I’m free right away though. Enjoy!

Direct link here

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Meal with family

I went out this evening for a meal with my family. I say a meal – it was only pizza express – but it was an evening out none the less. I bother to mention it in my blog because it marked the beginning to quite an interesting situation. This being Hannah and myself both being away at university and my parents having the house completely to themselves for most of the time.

This hasn’t happened in over 21 years (yeah, yeah, my fault I hear you all cry but Hannah has caused it to continue for the last 3 years rather than me ;)) so I guess it is quite a unique occasion. Not only that but it means that the norm will no longer be an evening family meal with at least Hannah (and sometimes me when I’m down South) present, but in fact just my parents. It was for this reason we went out because with me going to Leeds soon and Hannah to York a simple family meal with all four of us will become a rarity rather than normality. I can’t say I’ve really given it much thought until tonight, but I guess for my parents this really is the end of an era.

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New SoC website

The Leeds School of Computing website has had a re-design and put simply, I don’t like it. I’m going to list the problems with it as I see them, and I guess we should consider this the beginning of a bit of a rant too….

Firstly, it is the school of computing and we write programs and code. Syntax should always be correct and well formed. This is not the case with the new site. While the code is well laid out when the source is viewed, there are HTML validation errors, not to mention invalid CSS. Also, shouldn’t we be using XHTML these days? I mean I can understand the old site using HTML, it had been around for ages, but this is all new, surely the coding standards should be up to date as well.

Then there is the URL it’s self. The school of computing had it’s own subdomain, comp.leeds.ac.uk This makes a lot of sense (seeing as the school of computing is an entity within the university), is easy to remember and provides a simple portal for staff and students alike. The new URL is engineering.leeds.ac.uk/comp so it seems an entire department with its own computer clusters which have their own hostnames ending comp.leeds.ac.uk now doesn’t deserve a similar place on the www and has been relegated to a sub-directory. Sure they may be using mod-rewrite and it may still be in the same location, but to us users it doesn’t really cut it – we liked our direct subdmain on the www!

Finally the look of it. We all have our preferences on looks, but the old one was very easy to read. Black text on a white background by default, and only one column of text, with links in ordered/unordered lists and positioned only where appropriate. The logo was also unique. Now there is no logo (just the Leeds one with School of Computing written next to it) and some of the layout is done using tables and the header and footer is done using images. The text is also not as easy to read in the default colours, the format on occasion being dark blue text on a light blue background. In this day and age this just isn’t on really.

Now I don’t want to put the backs up of the people who I’m sure have worked hard on these changes and indeed may still have teething troubles to iron out, but it seems to me the site just gives off the wrong impression of the school of computing; merely a sub-department of the faculty of engineering deserving only of a sub-directory on the www, and employing web designers who wouldn’t know correct HTML syntax and conventions if it hit them round the head.

I *know* this is not true having seen the work of these people in many other places (SIS being a shining example of both programming and web design), but the question is, do outsiders to the department? I think it is this question the webmasters need to ask themselves carefully. Yes the old site didn’t look “slick” or “modern”, but it served its purpose very well, had all the right content, was easy to navigate and easy to read. As I was taught in GI11 – these are the most important factors when designing a website, not slick looks – they should be secondary.

Rant over. I guess at this stage it is worth mentioning that despite the above negatives the pages do still open fine in firefox, respond to browser text size changes and load in lynx. I guess these are reasons enough to be thankful; lets just hope that these flaws are discovered by the web team and rectified, after all there are only 3 main issues and these are rather quick to fix in the grand scheme of things.

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Back from the boat

Just arrived back from a 3 day sail on board Burnaby. The pictures say it all really, but it was a great weekend and James enjoyed it a lot, which was good considering it was his first ever sail. We were blessed with fair weather and good winds so we really got a chance to have fun and relax. As usual though the e-mails and web stuff were waiting for me when I arrived home, but I don’t think it will be too long before I am back at sea again; a trip is being planned for a couple of weeks time :)

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Sailing on Burnaby with James

Sailing on Burnaby with James

A huge set of photos from a sailing trip on board Burnaby. This time we were joined by James hence the increased number of pictures!

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Sailing

I’m off sailing on Burnaby for a long weekend starting tomorrow. We hope to head up towards Harwich and anchor up and just generally have a relaxing time and blow the cobwebs away.

This particular trip is a little different as James is coming along with us and will be getting his first taste of helping to sail a boat the size of Burnaby. Hopefully it will be the introduction he needs to develop a life-long passion for sailing!

Photos are sure to be posted upon my return :)

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Finally! A reason to be on facebook

Well I recently registered on facebook, and while I found I could add friends and maintain a profile they were friends I already had, knew and kept in touch with, posting pieces of information I already had knowledge of onto a profile. My profile is also a direct syndication of my about me page here on this site so it was a bit mundane really.

I could quickly see this becoming boring and not something I wanted to spend much time dealing with when, much to my delight, facebook announced today that they had introduced the ability to add notes to your profile, and one way of doing this is to provide an RSS feed to an external blog.

While the immediate advantage of this is that people like myself don’t have to log into facebook to keep facebook people updated on what I am doing and whats on this site, it may also get me additional readers who weren’t aware I had a website and blog.

These are not however the main reasons for wanting everyone to be on facebook and syndicate their blogs. The real reason is a significant reduction in the requirements on students who have many friends with blogs to use a feed aggregator. You see, facebook also provides a page that lists the latest blog postings from all your friends, and indicates in your friends list who has updated their profile, blog postings being included as a form of update. This is great as before I had RSS feeds for each friend who blogs, and clicked on it to visit the specific posting when it was flagged as having new content. Now I can get all of this on one page – its great!

I knew it would happen eventually – a facebook feature that would get me to use it every day, despite every indication from me that I would register and never return. Still I like to think that rather than prove me wrong, in persuading me to register my friends have actually saved me time, so thanks folks!

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Friendship

Ok, I’ve just replaced my poll with something else, but recently there has been a interesting question up on the site “Does friendship exist anymore?”. Considering the ill thought-out nature of the question I was pleased to see that the majority of voters said yes. If I had worded it better however by saying “Does true friendship exist anymore?” I would have expected much more people selecting the “I want to debate this!” option.

Well, without everyone getting a downer on this and thinking friends are meaningless, allow me to explain. I believe that most of the people we call friends are more mates than friends. They are people we hang out with, drink with, joke with etc. While they are more than casual aquaintainces, do they really qualify as friends?

To try and answer this question I will take my favorite definition of a friend; “A friend is someone you can fully trust”. Think about that carefully. How many of your friends couldn’t keep that secret you keep without telling anyone? How many friends are you scared to tell about something personal you need advice about because you are not sure what they would think/say/do? The bottom line is that if you fully trust someone then you wouldn’t have a problem sharing these things with that person.

I don’t want to suddenly cause you to “downgrade” all your friends to something lesser than they are, because people we have an affinity with and enjoy spending time with should be valued and appreciated irrespective of anything else. What I’m saying though is do we have any special friends, best friends if you like, true friends who we fully trust? In my humble opinion to know a friend like this is to know the true meaning of friendship. So I guess what I was asking in my poll was not if people have friends, but if there exists the environment in this day and age where there is a place for true friendships – are we trusting enough of the people we should fully trust or has the culture of blame, mistrust and back-stabbing over-taken us to the extent where we have lost the ability to readily form true friendships.

Its not a question I can answer in the context of the world as a whole, but I feel for me that while it is more diffcicult to form true friendships than it might be were people more trusting it is most certainly still possible. Feel free to debate these rather incoherent ramblings using comments if you wish ;)

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Golf with James

Yesterday I took a trip out to Batchwood golf course for a quick round with James. It was an enjoyable game, made more interesting by the fact that the whole layout of the course (what holes came in what order, the position of tees etc.) had changed since my last visit. What was odd about the new layout is it seemed to make the round last a whole lot longer and be more tiring as a result. While this can’t have been helped by the fact I took a 30 minute walk to get to the course it was surprising.

We went into town afterwards for a bite to eat and a coffee (well received after the afore-mentioned tiredness) and resolved to play again before I return to Leeds, especially as opportunities to play decrease to zero when I’m at uni. Ah well.

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Family gathering

Today I went along to a family gathering for Grandpam’s 80th birthday. It was really good to see some members of the family which I hadn’t bumped into in ages and speak to those who I often find it difficult to get in touch with due to being in Leeds. Some people I hadn’t seen in so long and/or had been so young at the time of last meeting them that I had to be reminded who they were. I must say its rather embarasing when that happens, but never mind.

While I was tempted to attribute my tiredness at the end of the day to a reduced amount of sleep last night (I picked Hannah up from a club at gone 3am in the morning) I realised that it was running around in the garden playing football with Jack and Samual (the little cousins as we call them) that caused it – clearly it can be extremely tiring! *Makes mental note to drink more coffee before future gatherings where playing football is required*

As with many events I took a fair few photos of the occasion as well.

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