Archive for May, 2008

Final Year Project Results

I collected my final year project result today. The project was based on the reading and recognition of roadsigns, for those of you who have forgotten (apologies for the lack of updates on the roadsigns blog).

I’m pleased to announce that I got a grade of 71 which equates to a first.

Obviously I’m very pleased with this result and it really has made the hard work worthwhile. It was far from a trivial project and presented some interesting challenges and learning experiences, but I feel the work will stand me in good stead for the future.

All this means that I’m now a mere two weeks away from getting my final degree grade and completing my time as a student of Leeds University School of Computing. Time certainly does fly.

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More of the same

Could this round of plugin updates spell further breakages for those running WordPress legacy? Given the admitted lack of testing on anything below 2.5, something is highly likely to go wrong with at least one of these plugins.

I’m sure Lester’s efforts to release these updates will be well received, after all I use a number of his plugins and have had to hack around with some of them to get them working and have noticed a degree of unnecessary code duplication as well – I’m sure I’m not the only one. Its just a shame that yet again we have an update in which legacy support seems to be lacking.

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Trainline Fees

Back in the day I used to use a train tickets website called QueueJump. That was taken over by thetrainline.com and while underreported at the time, broke data protection laws as a result by porting QueueJump’s database directly to thetrainline.com without ever notifying users that this would be done as part of the takeover (notice of the takeover was given to users by e-mail). I know they transferred the database because I could login to thetrainline.com with my QueueJump details and see all my information there without ever having registered.

Still my issue really isn’t about the data protection problem. thetrainline.com run a secure site and I started using them for tickets and was a happy customer, until recently when they decided to start charging for everything under the sun.

If I pay for tickets and elect to collect them rather than having them posted, you would imagine I’d pay for just the tickets right? Wrong. With thetrainline.com you are charged £1 for having your tickets posted (fair enough) or 50p for collecting them from the machine. So hang on then, my ticket didn’t really cost £44 did it? No, because if I’d just paid £44 I wouldn’t have been able to get my mitts on the damn thing. The actual ticket price was £44.50.

Sadly this covert thievery doesn’t stop here, or at least it has started not to in recent weeks. Whereas previously, after having consented to be robbed of 50p you would be able to pay for the tickets with your debit card and be done with it, they have now started to charge 50p for paying with a debit card (note the words “debit card” – credit cards historically have always come with a charge, debit cards have not). So now the actual cost of my ticket had reached £45. Again, if I’d decided not to pay the 50p for card fee, I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on the tickets which they claim only cost £44. So in fact these £44 tickets actually cost a minimum of £45.

Now you might argue that an extra pound on a £44 ticket is not that much of a surcharge, and I guess I’d agree with you, I make it a little over 2%, but the serious problem arises if your ticket costs less than that because the surcharges are actually static. So if I travel to York and book in advance, as I regularly do, my £5.50 ticket with a young persons rail card will actually cost £6.50, a staggering 18% surcharge!

I am shocked and appalled at the way these charges are being levied on customers. If a retailer is feeling the pinch, they should increase their prices, not keep them the same and then sting the customer at the end of their transaction with a whole bunch of surcharges to make up for their losses. There ought to be a law against this kind of thing.

It occurs to me as I finish this post that there may in fact be a law against this kind of thing. If there is, can someone let me know so I can report these thieves.

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Gooey Inside

Listening to this just made me go all gooey inside. Its a wonderful piece of jazz music, an excellent live performance from candy Dulfer on saxophone and Dave Stewart on guitar. The tune is entitled “Lily Was Here”.

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AVG at it again

I wrote back in 2006 about AVG’s crafty tactics to get you to part with money you didn’t need to part with and it now seems they are at it again.

Last night I logged into my Windows box and was greeted with a pop up from AVG saying that version 8.0 is now available. I know this to be true because I recently grabbed a copy from their website to install on my new laptop (which I have yet to write about here). The thing is though, if you clicked any of the links in the pop up, you landed yourself directly at a check out to buy the full version 8.0 security suite. There was no link to the free version anywhere, unlike the last debacle where it was merely hidden in a next to impossible to find location.

In the end the only way I could find a link to the free version was to actually go directly to free.grisoft.com and click on a series of links there. It simply wasn’t possible to get at it through their pop up reminder or the resultant pages. Now obviously I understand that they need to make money, but they do that through their corporate sales and other such deals. Surely they don’t need to be so under-hand as to dupe home users who are legally using the free version into buying the next version “in order to stay protected”, when there does in fact exist a free next version which will do just the same? If they really are losing money then they should stop releasing the free version altogether.

Whats to bet that customers who are duped into paying for the next version then later realising that they could have got it for free won’t be given refunds? Its simply not good enough.

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Nick Rickrolled

It was Nick’s last lecture, it was the last SY32 lecture, it was our last lecture. We had to do something to make the event memorable and fun. We plotted and schemed a little bit and decided that we would Rickroll Nick during the lecture. Chris and I arrived 30 minutes early and setup a laptop computer and speakers under the lectern and concealed them with an old poster we found lying about. We had previously configured a scheduled task on the laptop that we configured to play “Never Going to Give You Up” at half past the hour.

Once everything was setup and the lecture theatre once again appeared normal we left, went to grabbed a coffee for 10 minutes and then came to the lecture like normal. Everything was going as it always does and then blam, 30 minutes in, the song started playing. Stunned silence for all of about 2 seconds, then a surprised look from Nick and hugh peals of laughter from the audience. It was priceless.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nick for being a great lecturer and personal tutor throughout my time at the School of Computing and say that quite simply, life wouldn’t have been the same in the school without him. He will doubtless be greatly missed by all students who are staying on.

Nick wrote about what it was like to be Rickrolled on his blog

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Surface Computing

Its not often I praise Microsoft but here is a product that I just can’t wait to have a play with. “Cool” just doesn’t do this device justice. I don’t necessarily agree with all the uses Microsoft suggest for surface computing; they focus too much on the business, advertising and marketing uses and not enough on the collaboration side, but I certainly do think this technology has a future.

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Calendar 1.2 Beta 1 Release

So, here it is, Calendar 1.2 Beta 1 finally seeing the light of day! I’d like to thank everyone for their patience in waiting for this, I hope after giving it a try you will feel the wait has been worthwhile. The final release will come two weeks from today, after people have had a chance to test the software and report bugs in the comments field of this post.

So, before I get to the actual release link, some house rules. There will be no support for this release. If you choose to use it live, that is your shout, but if you break something or someone hacks you, its your fault and you will have to deal with it. What I am after here is bug reports and comprehensive testing. Comments about how well the tests are going, problems, bugs, security flaws are welcome. Such comments should be made in the comments field of this post only, nowhere else. I’m not taking comments and questions by e-mail because there will most likely be too many. Thanks for understanding!

Ok, so the Calendar 1.2 Beta 1 release is here. Instructions are in the readme.txt file, please read this first, especially if you are upgrading. If you are upgrading you should ensure you backup your blog and your current install of Calendar, including the database. You may very well need this if there are unforeseeable problems, or if there is an issue with the beta such that the upgrade feature fails and causes problems. Again, you test this at your own risk and while I can’t see any problems with it at my end, that doesn’t mean you won’t. If you find a problem, report it, I’ll fix it.

A final note is that those of you with keen eyes will note the Event Categories feature is missing. I don’t have much spare time as you all know so I’ve decided to leave this out of the beta because I don’t want to release something which I know to have issues due to the lack of time spent on it. During the beta phase I will work on this feature and it will make it into the final release. If testing is required of this added functionality then a beta 2 will be released instead of the final version in two weeks meaning the absolute final release will be 4 weeks from now. I hope however that because the categories feature will use much of what is being tested in the beta already, an additional beta will not be necessary.

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Calendar Sneak Preview

I’m now running the development version of Calendar 1.2 on my publicly visible development server. You can see it running on Lara here. Comments are of course welcome, those who suggested features will no doubt spot some of them in action. Two screenshots are shown below to give you an overview of the new admin panel which you are not able to see on the development site.

Some keen eyed viewers will no doubt notice from what is visible that only one feature, “Event Categories”, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, remains to be implemented. Its close folks :)

Calendar Management Screen

Calendar Configuration Screen

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Top 100

So it looks like my Calendar plugin is in the top 100 list of WordPress plugins. This is a pleasant surprise and makes me wonder how much higher up the list the plugin might go when the new features go live. Thanks to all who use my plugin and have offered suggestions for its future development – its success is down to you.

In the light of seeing the plugin about to hit 10,000 downloads I’ve decided that the beta of the new version will be released when the 10,000 figure is hit. Comments will be invited from users on the blog post announcing the beta and any bugs reported will be fixed. When two weeks of beta testing have elapsed, the new version will go live :)

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