Speaking – on Self Learning Web Development in 2017

In February I spoke at London Web Standards and West London Coders events. I have spoken before (on email development and also on learning new things) many years ago, so it was nice to get back into the swing of speaking at well organised events with an engaged and knowledgable audience.

I wanted to highlight how different the learning experience is for a front end developer today compared to 10 years ago when I started learning development. Using devices, access to the source code and the complex tools we use in modern development as examples of where things have changed, not necessarily for the better when starting to learn.

The video for the talk is online to watch at https://vimeo.com/215200653, as recorded at the London Web Standards event and Tom Morris took detailed notes which you can read at https://tommorris.org/posts/9474.

Both event were well attended and my talk prompted some great discussion and I hope inspired some people to continue to learn web technologies and not get disheartened by stumbling blocks that appear during the learning process.

From the reaction to the talk in person and online, I think that I was not wrong in my assumptions and the experience has changed and is not necessarily going to inspire new developers, especially those who are learning in isolation without support on hand whenever needed.

If you need any help learning web development, you can always let me know on twitter and I’ll help you any way I can.

Code Club’s Desert Race Game – with physical controls

Playing Desert Race with a Makey Makey

IMG_1822_small

Equipment

Tin Foil
Cardboard
A banana
A courgette
Wire (about 4 metres)
Makey Makey
Desert Race game
Tape (gaffer or something quite strong)

Simple Diagram

Simple wiring diagram for Desert Race.
Simple wiring diagram for Desert Race.

Setting up the game

  1. This is a pretty easy conversion – all you need to do is change the keypress on the lion to “when W key pressed” to allow for the limited key inputs on the makey makey:

    What to change the lion script to in scratch.
    The updated script on the lion sprite.
  2. If you have completed the bonus challenge to add boosts to the game, you could extend this and make another input using the makey makey, something else conductive (like more fruit) and a piece of wire!

Setting up the controllers

  1. To make the foot pads, cut some cardboard in tin foil, big enough for 2 little feet to fit on (or big feet if you’re making it for big kids!).
  2. Using some tape, secure a length of wire, stripped of insulation at both ends, to the cardboad, the wire needs to be around 1 metre in length, to allow it to reach the makey makey and the foot pad on the floor.
  3. Cover the cardboard with some glue (I used spray mount) and cover the whole of one side of the cardboard (but not the bare wire) glue. Cover the cardboard with tin foil. Making sure that the wire you secured to the cardboard is touching the tin foil (and not covered in glue!).
  4. Attach the wires from one of the foot pads to the W key on the makey makey (the lion pad) and the other to the A key on the makey makey for the parrot, remember which pad is connnected to which key (I marked my pads with a lion and parrot image to make it easier).
  5. Next take your items of fruit of vegetable (it’s fruit just for novelty value) and insert some wire (again about a metre and stripped at both ends) directly into the flesh of the fruit. Sercure the wire with some tape so it won’t fall out the fruit too easily.
  6. Attach the wires from both pieces of fruit to ground on the makey makey.
  7. Plug in the makey makey to your computer running the scratch game Desert Race (with the updated key press as above).
  8. Now just press start and with shoes and socks off, hold the fruit in your hand and run/jump up and down on the foot pad to make your character go! The faster you run or jump, the faster the character will move!
  9. And finally, don’t forget to explain how the Makey Makey uses electrical current and creating a circuit to make the characters move!

 

 

 

Dear Jan Etherington, an open letter

Today the cycling community are rightly up in arms for one of the worst researched, offensive and completely untrue articles I have read in a long time. It was by you, Jan Etherington. For reference, this is what I am writing about: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9562836/Wed-just-grown-to-love-cyclists-and-then-Andrew-Mitchell-had-to-come-along.html

So, as you appear (from the article) to be lazy and need some help with facts, I thought I would clear some things up.

The “stoic girls” included Olympic Silver medallist Lizzie Armistead. Easily found on Google.

We don’t all run red lights. Try this for some decent journalism on the topic: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/14/cycling-red-light-jumping-iam-survey. Yes, some cyclists do, but one thing that does make me angry as a cyclist is those on two wheels that DO run red lights.

You say I believe I am from a superior race? How have you possibly come to this confusion? I think it’s much more likely that you are sneering at cyclists from your stationary bus, car or taxi on the way to your job, which it seems you don’t spend too much effort on anyway. I’m sure somewhere I read journalists have some responsibility. Maybe this might help you http://assembly.coe.int/documents/adoptedtext/ta93/eres1003.htm, although I am not sure how official that document is.

You say cyclists believe YOU (who says that you hope you cause us to fall off, hence risking death) are a lesser mortal. On the evidence of the article, you are.

I also live on the Olympic cyclists route.  Did you bother to ask if any of the cafes would be happier with less business? I’m sure the Box Hill cafe appreciate the roaring trade helping fun the National Trust. I’m pretty sure they are happy. Even if you are not.

Here is an absolute fact – if I had no spatial awareness I would have been seriously injured a number of times. Most recently a month or so ago when a car over took me and swerved in front (a right hook, FYI), hitting me. Luckily I anticipated the incident and stopped before I was seriously hurt. Who had no spatial awareness in that incident I ask?

You say we never stop to enjoy the scenery. Well I regularly stop to enjoy scenery while riding and often take a photo too.

As for your method of crossing the road, I would seriously recommend you look back to your childhood (stop, look and listen) rather than “try to amble across the road”. I’m sure electric cars will stop you from ambling across the road. Or would that be the vehicle driver’s fault too?

You say this in your article:

I make it a rule always to say “Good morning” to these belting bikers. With any luck, it will take them by surprise so much that they’ll slow down, or better still, fall off.

Do I misread this as you actually admitting to attempted assault, or worse, actual bodily harm? I would happily let the police decide on this if you are unsure. It sounds quite threatening at least. By the way, I am extremely offended by it.

Regarding my lycra I never actually planned to wear any until I found how mor comforatble and how much it helps against the wind, quite logical reasons for my outfit I think. Same as I wear football boots for football, I wear nice padded shorts for cycling.

This has turned into a much longer letter than I imagined, so I am going to down my keyboard and relax for a bit.

Yours,

Matt

The Rufous Head Speed Calculator

My good friend Rufous has the amazing headspeed calulator, which is currently being rebuilt into JavaScript from PHP for me so that Rufous can use the calulator on his posterous blocg but I also saw it as a chance to build a smartphone app.  This is mainly a test of the embeddable version:

 

My Anywhere Working Tips

Since going freelance I have had the opportunity to work in all manner of places, from in small coffee shops to multi million pound agency premises.

During this time I have learn a lot about working from anywhere, so here are my top 5 tips. Hope they help you as much as they help me.

  1. Plan location times in advance. If you know that you have a long day ahead of you – find somewhere that won’t kick you out in the middle of a complex tax. Nothing worse than being 30 minutes from finishing a project and Starbucks closes in ten minutes. Use a natural break to move early and find an alternative.
  2. Keep a spare. Of EVERYTHING business critical. I have 2 Macs, my old one I could have sold, but I have kept it and it serves as a back up machine. If my day to day machine dies at 9pm, with a deadline to hit, it isn’t the end of the world.
  3. Use CVS/Back up everything. I use Git. In tandem with the last post, make sure that all your code is backed up, versioned and always safe. And commit every change. Even if it only serves to remind you how you did something in a month or three.
  4. Talk to people. There is far too much value in talking to people, learning from them and just generally relaxing from your focussed task fro a few minutes. You may find advice, opinion and driection from the most unlikely sources.
  5. Don’t work. Just because you can work remotely, doesn’t mean you always have to be on the clock. Set your own hours by all means, but if you spend all your time being available and ready to work, you’re not living your life. Remember, my favourite saying: “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

Now – I better get back to work! Or pop into my kitchen for a snack and a coffee. Life is good.