Talk Tech on Third Thursday – September 2016

Spotted any interesting tech this month? Or have your tried something out and are dying to tell people about it? Well, whether you’ve got something to share, or if you just want to listen to what’s new, then coming and Talk Tech this Third Thursday with us!

So, what is this all about? Every Third Thursday we get together to talk about new and emerging technologies. Topics are always varied, based on who turns up and what’s new but over the last few months we’ve discussed IoT (Internet of Things), Bitcoin, Robotics, Android, Tech Startups, Augmented Reality and all sorts of other topics. It’s an open invitation, everyone is welcome, so feel free to bring a friend or colleague along.

We’re meeting at Bar George this Thursday 15th at 12:30. Hope to see you there!

Talk Tech on Third Thursday – June 2016

This Thursday is the Third Thursday of the month and as we’ve been doing for a while now, we’re meeting up for a Techie lunch to share the latest news, talk about our new gadgets and share problems, solutions and whatever is new in the tech world. The topics of conversation tend to be varied, depending on who turns up, but we’ve talked about social media, cryptocurrencies, augmented reality and a host of other technologies. The main topic is always technology, though we tend to skid into adjacent topics from time to time.

It’s an open lunch date, anyone can join us. And we always have a varied group, from people specialising in tech, to others who run start ups to others who spend their time building systems and solutions. So if you want to meet some interesting folk, please come and join us. Bring your gadgets, bring your problems, but above all, bring your stories and exploits.

We’re meeting at Bar George in Douglas between 12:30 and 14:00 this Thursday 16th June. And if you don’t have time for lunch, just come and grab a quick cup of coffee. Hope you can join us!

Check out Jibo: the social robot

Here’s an interesting one. It’s a little robot called Jibo that can be your digital assistant. It’s fixed in one place but has a multitude of sensors to help it find out what’s happening in the world around it. It can see, hear and speak thanks to a couple of webcams, 360 degree microphones and natural language processing and can learn from the world around it to adapt to your daily patterns and actions. There are a couple of offerings that claim to do all this, but where Jibo is different is in that it communicates using moves and displays that are emotive and expressive to help make it more social and relatable. You can sign up to learn more at their website here: Jibo

In the meantime, if you want to learn more and figure out how to build for it, there’s an SDK available to figure out how to access Jibo’s motors, speech technology, facial recognition and tracking, touch input technology, and more. It also gives you an easy way to build Jibo Skills (robot applications) through animation and behavior editors. Check out the SDK at the Jibo Developer Portal.

In the meantime, check out this video showing how to use the SDK

Thinking about the customer – Why Sure no longer works for me

Had an interesting experience this weekend, so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts, after all that’s what a blog is for, right? And it’s about time I picked up writing again.

So, here in the Isle of Man we have 2 telecoms providers, Manx Telecom and Sure. My main phone contract is with Manx Telecom, but I also have a Sure PAYG to use when I max my data allowance on my contract. This lets me tailor my billing as I only turn on my Sure connection when I need it; but it also lets me compare coverage across both providers and other fun stuff (like using the Dual SIM capability in my One Plus phone).

So this month I hit my allowance limit and bought myself a £5 Sure credit one evening as I usually do when i run out of data. They run a promotion where a purchase of £5 credit gives you 500Mb of data, which is usually more than enough for a the week I had left for my new allowance to kick in. So imagine my surprise when I got a text the following morning telling my my credit had run out. I checked my data allowance, but had only used 23Mb of data, no texts and no voice minutes. Popped into the shop for clarification, got told that my phone’s data usage report was inaccurate and got another £5 credit. Within a few hours I got another text telling me that my 500Mb data had been used up. My phone now reported that I had used another 5Mb of data. What was going on?

The staff at the shop didn’t really have a clue, but doing my own bit of digging I found out that earlier this month Sure instigated a policy that charges a minimum of 0.5Mb data usage every time your phone connects to their network. According to their press release this is supposed to be happen once you’re outside your bundle, but my guess is that this is what’s consuming my bundle without my actually using it.

So, the staff at the shop recommended that I keep my data switched off when I’m not using it, that way my data bundle won’t get used up. Now, my expectation for a modern connection is that it’s available all the time. My phone goes to sleep to conserve battery, but wakes up regularly to see if I have new email, new Facebook messages, new tweets, new instagram messages, and a whole host of other things that require it to be connected. When I pointed this out to Sure staff he recommended that I keep turning my data on every 5 minutes to see if there are any messages, then turn it back off again! Can you imagine trying to use a modern phone in this way?

So, feels like the end of the line for me with Sure. If they don’t understand an ‘always connected’ use case and I can consume 500Mb of their data while my phone reports it’s only sucked down 23Mb, then i can’t use their service any longer. Any other Sure users out there reading this post? Does your data usage seem insane?

Third Thursday – November 2015

Third Thursday has come around again and as Jabberwocky doesn’t have their big space any more, we’re moving to Bar George where I’ve booked us a table at 12:30. We’ll try this out and if it works well, we’ll keep this as our regular Third Thursday meeting place.

In case you’ve never joined us before, Third Thursday is a forum for tech enthusiasts to meet up and socialise over a meal or a couple of drinks. We started life as the Social Media Club but gradually morphed into a group of friends who meet to network, talk about technology and share what we have learnt over the last month. We still discuss Social Media, but also talk about phones, operating systems, cryptocurrencies, mapping and whatever the flavour of the month happens to be. I’ll bring along an Augmented Reality demo that Microgaming built this month, just to spark some interesting conversations.

We’re a pretty open group and welcome anyone new who wants to join us. So, if you’ve never been, have something to share or just want to learn a bit more about the technology that surrounds you, then come and join us. We’re at Bar George at 12:30 on the 19th November. Hope you can join us!

We’re building a Fablab!

In case you haven’t heard us talking about it while at Code Club, we’re currently building a brand new facility for the Isle of Man, a Fablab down at Ronaldsway. This has grown out of the small Makerspace we run during Code Club, A lot of projects that have been attempted just don’t fit into a ‘2 hours a week’ slot and need more effort. We’re also limited on space and wouldn’t have been able to host some essential equipment like a laser cutter and other big equipment. This is intended to be a resource for the community and is currently being built by people volunteering their skills and time to make it happen. Here are some pictures of the space we are trying to create:

 

We’re currently at pretty early stages with this and are looking for help to build this resource, particularly from tradesmen (electricians, plumbers, joiners, etc) who can accelerate what we’re doing. If you can help with this or can help fund some of the supplies we are using please contact owen@codeclub.im or kurt@micta.im. The more people involved, the sooner we can get this facility up and running. We’re extremely excited about this project and can’t wait to start teaching how to create and make, not online in a virtual space, but also in the physical world.

Development in the Cloud

My mate John introduced me to a fantastic platform today called Cloud 9. It’s a cloud based development platform that gives you an IDE you can develop on and share with others. You can pick your configuration and start working within a few minutes, using a Docker based Ubuntu Workspace that can be configured any which way you wish.

I gave it a test and rolled out a WordPress environment in a few seconds. After a few minutes I got bored and spun up a node.js environment, again in a few seconds. A few minutes after that, I started up a Ruby on Rails applications, just to see what that would look like. I was extremely impressed how easy it all was and how quick I could access a wide range of environments.

Cloud 9 has a range of pricing options allowing you to spin up faster and bigger dev environments, but the entry level choice is completely free. In fact, I’m planning to use this for our PHP course at Code Club!