Archive for January, 2006

Climate change

Picked up a paper in the union shop today, and splashed across the front page once more, the words of warning on climate change. It seems to be one of those topics we must all talk about, but once we’ve talked about it it’s ok to forget about until someone suggests its a good idea to talk about it again. So the cycle goes on.

In many ways its a worrying state of affairs; that a government can be so preoccupied with economic wealth, stability and all the rest of it, that they put it before the welfare of the very planet without which economic policy would be meaningless. You keep hearing these elusive “target dates for reduced emissions”. To me it’s all some big farce – yet another way of putting things off. It’s a bit like a small child who knows they will get in trouble for not doing their homework, but all their friends don’t seem to be doing it, so they don’t either. Problem is the child gets to the point where they realise they don’t have time to do it and so end up getting in trouble. We would like to think that our government were a little bit beyond the age of small children, but it would seem in terms of their attitude on climate change, they haven’t even left nursery.

Let us not forget however that one must lead by example. What appalls me more than some government behaviour on the climate change issue is the people who sit there in their petrol guzzling range rovers, driving for 100 metres to get to the shops and blaming the government for not acting on climate change. They should get off their asses and walk; total hypocrites.

It’s our planet, and its up to ALL of us to contribute to it’s welfare. Failing to do so will leave us all very sorry, but with no way of return. I for one, don’t want to be in that position; Lets get it right.

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Python project: On pair programming

This is a very interesting notion for me this pair programming lark. I have done many small scale projects (mainly in php and involving output to HTML or MySQl databases, but thats an aside), but none that truely involved pair or group programing. Working with others, sure, but not actually programming as a team.

On Wednesday last week I sat down with Dan in the lab and with a blank text editor screen we went about writing a simple python program; read in data from a file, perform selected calculations on it, and ourput the results to another file. What was intersting is the night before I had read a chapter on the concepts of pair programming, and within a few minutes of working as a pair started noticing all the benefits the chapter had mentioned showing through. Things such as spotting each others mistakes, it being obvious when to change who has control over the keyboard, and sharing the enjoyment when something works, but having more support when it doesn’t along with better ideas for solutions.

I could certainly get used to it thats for sure, after all what small scale developer hasn’t been up at 3am staring at their screen wondering why something won’t work, but as soon as they get an e-mail in response to their issue from their co-worker about it the next day it’s blindingly obvious. Pair programming is like having that e-mail there immediately, but not only that, its a chance to step back from your own code and watch someone else work on it while you act as the external input. Its so many times better than sending “your bit” half way round the world and hoping it “will be ok” when you get it back with loads of code you don’t understand. Pair programming seems to allow you to both fully understand the code, while chomping through it quicker than if you worked on half and half.

I am however mindful of precisely what I mentioned a few lines up; 3am techie sessions (as I affectionately term them) have to be a thing of the past if you are to truely pair program. This will be fine initially, but obviously as deadlines close in, making sure you put the hours in as a team, and finding them for that matter, becomes increasingly important.

On the whole though, I can’t rate my initial experience of pair programming highly enough; for this project at least it looks certain to be a success πŸ™‚

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Up early

Its amazing how good it feels to have succeeded in getting up early this morning. Washing is already nearly finished, room is tidy, and a fair amount of reading has already been covered, and it’s not even 9am and its SUNDAY! A far cry from late nights and lost mornings – hopefully it’s here to stay.

Lately things have been rather bitty. Not much going on, but then quite a lot to do when you sum it all together. I’ve had my first week back at lectures and its been a good insight into what is to come; I like it. Perhaps even algorithms with its wanderings into the realm of psudocode will be of interest to me once the course unfolds, we shall see.

My new hard drive for my pc (lara) is now in place so I’m enjoying much faster and more reliable performance now, not to mention more space and less risk of lost work (phew!).

Evenings out, in particular jazz nights, have been quite slow to materialise here in Leeds, which is surprising. I guess it’s a combination of not really knowing whats on and not knowing too many jazz-heads here. Still, I’m sure things will look up. There is jazz at the Grove Inn in Holbeck near the start of February, so thats probably a good starting point πŸ™‚

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Python project: First meeting

Had my first “meeting” with Dan today to discuss our SE12 python project. I place meeting in quotes because it was really lunch at the union, something we often do, but the subject of discussion was the project, so I guess it counts πŸ˜‰

Although it had been discussed before in passing we properly decided that the project would be to build an application to index and tag MP3 files. We started to outline the core aims of the project and discussed some of the main ideas we would/should draw on to achieve them. In the end, the following main aims of our final program were as follows:-

  • Index MP3 files in a given directory, implementing recursive indexing, and reading the ID3 tags of the files as the index process progresses.
  • Store data gathered from the indexing process (filenames, locations, and ID3 information) in a database rather than a flat file, initially using SQLlite, but ensuring the ability to change the application to use MySQL or Postgres easily.
  • Allow incomplete or incorrectly tagged MP3 files to be manually corrected by way of a user interface. Search options such as finding incomplete files, or files named or tagged in a certain way are to be included to facilitate and improve this process

While these would form the basics of our project, many other ideas were floated, but not seriously considered until the complexity of the project was determined through prototyping or similar activities. They have not by any means however, been ruled out. These ideas consisted of:-

  • Filling in gaps in tags, or re-tagging MP3 files completely using data obtained through file hashing indexed on a central server, such as freeDB or musicbrains
  • Using a GUI interface. This is really a decided feature, but not something we have fully explored in Python. The idea of a web interface was floated, but it was decided a GUI was better and that the use of a database supporting SQL would facilitate the addition of a web based module at a later date were it required.
  • Upon completion and marking the project will be released as open source, under the GPL
  • Allowing an interface with an MP3 player through the selection of tracks by size (eg. you have a 4Gb MP3 player and you want a random selection of your music to be chosen from your library that will fill that size)
  • The ability to select tracks in the library and generate XML based playlists containing those tracks on the fly for export to an MP3 player (software or hardware based). The format of the playlists was undecided, however the idea of using m3u or asx was mentioned.

That was all the project talk really, the only other major decision was to learn through practice and study, as much python as possible before commencing work on the project, especially in the areas where the knowledge was required for the project. This will mostly be done individually. Although the project will be pair-programmed, everyone learns differently, and if we both learn things that are slightly different or learned from slightly different angles, that will merely enhance our chances of success in a pair programming situation with respect to the actual project.

With respect to learning python, we both seem very happy with the syntax and the way it is implemented, and in a brief practice pair programming session in the lab today we managed to roll out code in just 30 minutes which in it’s self could be very useful later in the project.

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Radio to make you proud

As an ex. presenter on University Radio York, and a hopeful for other stations in the future (although I have yet to apply to any), it was really good to hear James Goohead strutting his stuff on my old show, Jazz Blues Fusion, on URY last night and doing a positively superb job.

Music choices were varied and very well selected and organised not to mention talk that was spot on. To hear what is, I’m happy to say, a great continuation, and indeed expansion, of a superb Jazz and Blues orientated show, use URY’s listen again feature.

Keep up the good work mate! πŸ™‚

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Amusing sign

I was on my way back from the uni today when I saw a large red sign in the middle of the road, on a traffic island. It read:

“PLEASE DO NOT CROSS HERE – USE FACILITIES”

Now I don’t know about you, but I have never for one moment thought that finding and making use of the nearest WC was going to help you get accross a road safely.

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Lara gets new screen

Lara now has a beautiful new 19″ TFT screen. When I got it out of the box to install it this evening, my eyes just glazed over – web pages and lines of code never looked as good as they do now πŸ™‚

Picture to come soon when I find the connection cable for my camera….

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First day back in lectures

Today was my first day back in lectures, felt strangly good to be taking in information again – believe it or not I had missed it. Got a whole load of reading to do now, my book lists are quite large in some cases and I want to get ahead of the game. All of the modules look interesting though, so generally it looks set to be a good term.

I get my exam results a week on Friday it has been confirmed, so at least I know when I will hear how I did…

One of my modules is a complete programming project, in python. It looks set to be very good, and guess what, we have to blog about it – yay, a course related excuse to blog! Look out for the new section(s) going up on the site soon for this and feel free to keep track of project progress.

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Code, coffee and soul

It’s back into the lecture theatre tomorrow, and taking me there tonight is some fantastic soul from some of the greats. Its really nice sometimes to listen to music that normally doesn’t get an airing, and when you are doing so you realise just how good some quality soul music can make you feel inside.

I’m on my 6th cup of coffee today (yes, you read that right, coffee, not tea!) as I continue to get a new website finished. The style is ragged, but the functions are really rather good. It should get a good reception. On the plus side the hard work means I have been forced to iron out every last bug that isn’t a “lack of features” issue in my CMS for phpBB. This means I will be realeasing it for real, later this week and starting a DEV thread for it on phpBB. Exciting stuff πŸ™‚

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This is nu York State!

Just got back home after an awesome gig at the Basement Bar in City Screen, York. Went to see nu York State, lead by Danny Gough – an amazing jazz/funk group who really do have a lot going for them. They were also supported by an inspiring soul singer, Jess Gardham. James had been to see her specifically before at a restaurant, and even owns a CD, but I just hadn’t realised how truely talented she was. Really makes me want to dig out some of my soul collection again, not to mention the amazing Sade…

Evenings like this one always re-enforce to me just exactly why I love jazz and music in general so much. I just lost myself in the whole experience and did something I rarely do – danced the whole night! The great thing about it is though, everybody has a go. No one is standing on the sidelines mocking you; its jazz and everyone is enjoying it in their own unique way. I doubt there is much point posting this bit, but if the cute blonde I was dancing with most of the night ever reads this, you were awesome πŸ˜‰

Spoke to Danny Gough just before the gig, and it looks like he will soon release some new tracks, and maybe even a whole new album. He has had quite a few visits to the recording studio, and we all got a sneak preview of some of the music he is intending to release – stunning stuff, keep up the good work Danny! He also agreed to give an interview with myself and other members of the Jazz and Blues Society on URY, so watch this (and a few other) space(s) for news on that one.

My few days of long and enjoyable nights out (seemingly involving either music, drinking and enthralling conversation) is fast running out, but the best is yet to come; tomorrow sees me taking a trip to the hi-fi club here in Leeds with a group of people from computing. That should be really cool, there is a live band and DJs until late. After that it’s moderately speaking back to the grind-stone as my lectures start back on Monday. Ah well, these things can’t last forever πŸ˜‰

A final big shout out to all those people I saw today in York, especially those running the Jazz and Blues Society. Its been a while (too long for some of you) and it was both great to see you and great to see how well you’ve been doing with managing the society and all that entails since I’ve been gone – I’m really proud, you people really are fab πŸ™‚

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