Evil geniuses and world domination are 2 of our goals... we also like Dr Who

BBC News – Hearing-aid hackers fine-tuning their own devices.

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It’s a bit disappointing to see the comments from Dr Kevin Munro :

Dr Kevin Munro, professor of audiology at the University of Manchester, was sceptical about Mr Ling’s chances of producing a DIY device.

“They are not the sorts of things you can throw together in a garden shed,” he said, adding that hearing-aid makers invested hugely in research and development to produce the gadgets on sale now.

Could this be the start of a open accessibility  trend towards taking back control of the devices we put in our bodies? This might be the sort of thing that interests Karen Sandler / Jonathan Nadeau

Last Day…

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So – today is my last day at my current employer. – I’m moving on to pastures new. At the end of today I’ll cease working at Trinity Expert Systems, and from Monday will be at OpenGI.

Today has been quite sad really – it feels wierd to think that I won’t be popping back here again. Throughout my career I’ve worked at companies that have been more like families – and Trinity was no exception.

Hmmm pretzels…

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Had a go at making pretzels this evening… here they are just fresh from the titanium bunker atomic oven… a bit ‘caramelised’ but we’ll see how they look brushed with cinnamon sugar…


And here they are covered with cinnamon sugar

Publish and be Damned?

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Today, I listened with interest to FLOSS Weekly episode 207Aaron Newcomb and Dan Lynch were interviewing Denis Defreyne about his product nanoc.  I started thinking – about 2 things actually (which for me is quite good).

  1. Compiling static HTML from markup?  That sounds a lot like dexy – I wonder if the 2 could be used together to document  – for example an API, and include the results (via dexy), automatically uploading that data through file sync to a webhost?
  2. I wonder if you could use that to compile things other than websites?

Aaron also seemed to have the same idea, and Denis mentioned that he had used nanoc to compile some C programs, and had heard of some example where files were being compiled to PDF.

But that only stirred more questions.  I meandered to the coffee machine, and ordered a plastic cup of fresh brew coffee.  I had been wondering if it could be used to package a manuscripts into a Epub file, and I believe it might be possible – the question became one of whether it would add any benefit.

I’m going to put nanoc to one side for the moment, and introduce something new to this blog post – the “novel publishing process”.

Regular readers may notice the the tag cloud for this website shows quite a large preoccupation towards content packaging – I’ll admit it – I’m passionate about content packaging, and have been working on (for a little while now) a pipeline or process to assist the publishers of ebooks.   This pipeline basically describes tools that can be used to fulfill some of the requirements of authors, and at the end I’ll examine if there is a possible place for Nanoc within this process.

  1. Version Management

    Goes without saying – when it comes to being creative on a computer, you’re going to need some form of version control.  During the 2011 NaNoWriMo event, Fab (of linux outlaws fame) used gitorious to store his manuscript as he was working on it.

    Git, BZR, SVN – I’m not going to pick a favourite – all I would suggest is that you play with the version systems available out there, and get used to them, and then pick one and use it.  Equally important is backups.  The internet is full of cloudy backup stores – from Dropbox to Ubuntu One – think about how you would recover your novel in the event of an emergency.

  2. Novel Management

    Here’s where the pipeline gets interesting. You could just start writing a document using gedit – or emacs or whatever your favourite text editor of choice is – however I would suggest that something that allows you to keep track of your chapters, characters etc should be something of importance to the aspiring author, and I think I’ve found one.

    Storybook is an open source Java based development environment for managing your novel. You can write up all your character bios, add research notes, google map locations, images, whatever supports you as a writer. It has a timeline, so that you can plot your character states on a timeline, and even allows you the ability to track which characters are dead, and which are alive. The data is stored in a database file based on SQLLite, and therefore your data is never trapped there.

  3. Layout and design

    Once you have finished your masterpiece you need to take the text, and any other assets and put them into sigil.

  4. Testing

    Publishing will produce an epub file – This can now be tested on an ereader of your choice. Ubuntu offers the ereader product (other e-reader products are available)

    Amazon do make a Kindle Previewer application available for Windows and Macintosh users – I have managed to get it working under Wine – the following hints should help :

    1. Download the Amazon Windows installer from here
    2. Run the installer under wine
    3. Set the default windows version to be Windows XP
    4. It may complain that SWT has caused an issue – potentially install VC2008 runtime, using the terminal line : wintricks vcrun2008
    5. it may crash when loading an epub file – potentially delete ~/.wine/drive_c/windows/winsxs/manifests/*.vc90.*_deadbeef.manifest files (based on a post on wineHQ forum) – this may be because my wine session was set to Windows7


Hands up if you went to see Queen

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Guess who went to see Queen

Changing your mind? A good idea?

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Recently myself and Rachel went to see Derren Brown’s Svengali show at Wolverhampton.  I won’t spoil the show – as that was a request of Derren.  But there was an interesting proposition that occurred during the show.


A contestant was asked to choose a box from a selection of boxes.  Derren explained that it is mathematically beneficial to change your mind if given the chance.

The way he explained it was :

Assume there are 100 boxes in the set – one of which is a winner.  You pick a box at random giving you a 1/100 chance of winning.

From the remaining 99 Derren removes 98 other boxes, and gives you the chance to change your mind.  His argument is that Derren’s box is now 98/100

This is the Monty Hall problem, and as I thought about it on the drive home, I got to thinking – “is it really better to switch?”

I read through the monty hall problem website, and I got really concerned by the solution given to the Monty Hall problem – that it is ALWAYS better to switch.  Here’s my take on the puzzle.


  1. When you are presented with 3 boxes, you have a 1/3 chance of picking a prize, a 2/3 chance of picking a losing box.
  2. Monty now opens a door to reveal no prize.  Monty knows where the prize is, and is able to pick a none prize door – this leaves the player with the door they have chosen and another door that Monty has chosen.The theorists would suggest that at this stage, if given the choice to switch you should, as it is ALWAYS better.
  3. I believe that when you are asked if you want to switch boxes, what is actually being asked is which of these boxes would you like to open?  At this stage you are making a judgement about which is the winning box based on the position that there is a 50/50 chance of choosing a winning box

Let’s use a table to look at this, looking at all the possibilities

Assuming 3 boxes :


Prize Box Choice Monty Opened Switched to Result
1 1 2 1 Win
1 1 2 3 Lose
1 1 3 2 Lose
1 1 3 1 Win
1 2 3 1 Win
1 2 3 2 Lose
1 3 2 1 Win
1 3 2 3 Lose
2 1 3 1 Lose
2 1 3 2 Win
2 2 1 2 Win
2 2 1 3 Lose
2 2 3 1 Lose
2 2 3 2 Win
2 3 1 3 Lose
2 3 1 2 Win
3 1 2 1 Lose
3 1 2 3 Win
3 2 1 2 Lose
3 2 1 3 Win
3 3 1 3 Win
3 3 1 1 Lose
3 3 2 1 Lose
3 3 2 3 Win

This table shows all the possibilities based on the monty hall problem.  From all the 24 scenarios, 50% are winning and 50% are losing scenarios.  Therefore I need to ask : is it really worth changing your mind?

Based on the table scenarios where the player changes his mind are highlighted in yellow, and in those situations – 50% of the time win and 50% fail.

I’m fairly happy with the explanation, but the table of possible outcomes doesn’t seem to support that. Anyone got any ideas?

Moving house

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Myself and Rachel are currently in the process of selling / buying our current / next house (you get the idea).  And because I can’t stand a boring life, I’ve also handed my notice in with my employers to begina new challenge for a different company.


So updates have and will be sporadic – mainly when I’m not painting something, or stressing about the new job.  There’s plenty to do (loads of things to paint and make pretty) and as always, never enough time to do them in.

Hopefully the new abode should have a slightly better office and access to the bunker than I currently have – which will be great.

A Twitter experiment…

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I’d like to try an experiment – I recently stayed in Manchester Central Travelodge, room 421.  If you’re staying in Travelodge room 421, then why not send a quick tweet about what your stay in 421 was like?  I’m suggesting we use the hashtag #mcrcen421 – mcr = manchester, cen = central 421 is… well the room number – you get the idea.

Perhaps then if you were looking for a room at Manchester Central you’d have an idea of which rooms to avoid.  This could be a useful excercise.  I’d also suggest that #travelodge hastag also be used in there.  We could extend the process to cover more and more hotels – possibly even different chains.

Spread the word.


Such a hash tag could be used to obtain a marking – so why not mark the room ?  we could use almost any scale we want – for example 8/10.


Imagine an army of visitors visiting the room, rating the room, taking photos of the room.  We could trend the quality of the room over time, and that might tell us :

  • Differences in room quality over a month (better mid month? start of month? end of month?)
  • Differences in room quality over a week (Better on a weekend?  during a week)

Now the data is in twitter we could write queries to work out the rating for the room over time.


Just a thought…