Friday, November 30, 2012

Letters and Press Button

We purchased an iPad last year for my son to use and in the year he has become eerily proficient with the touchscreen interface. The educational applications have been very good and still use it for this purpose; however more recently it is being used as a video player... Whilst I'm not particularly against this, I would rather he start creating content rather than merely consuming it.

One problem with being used to touchscreen is the keyboard and mouse paradigm is alien - it must be really weird to have to press a keyboard key located somewhere else. I imagine using a keyboard for the first time would be like writing notes on a piece of paper but the ink actually appears on a different pad.

Anyway, keyboards are here to stay and I want my son to learn how to use a keyboard as well as learn the alphabet (he is already pretty good at numbers). Therefore as part of my Raspberry Pi setup, I purchased a Duragadget keyboard for my son to use, this has large keys, lower case letters and coloured for vowels, consonants, numbers and symbols.

Since I've learned Javascript over the past few weeks it seemed to make sense to use this as a platform for the application. It is a simple program to display an alphabet letter using the same font face as the keyboard (apparently Comic Sans is easier for children to read). The letter is enclosed within a shape coloured the same as the keyboard and will change when the correct key is pressed.

The program will prioritise those characters which have been incorrectly typed already thus helping practice those. After three wrong attempts a new character is displayed, also holding a key down won't generate repeat attempts.

Some future changes include a mode change to allow the display to be driven by the keyboard - i.e. select a key and see it on the screen. Also when 3 incorrect keys are pushed, I'd rather replace it with a character which has had a higher success rate.

The scoring system is all in place, but isn't used for anything other than biasing key selection, I'd like some kind of reward system on the page - perhaps a space rocket lifting off or something...

I was very pleased that my son was very receptive to it, even this early version. I felt extremely proud when he wanted to play "Letters and Press Button" instead of watching Peppa Pig!!

The program is hosted on GitHub at

A live running version of the program is at:

Sunday, November 04, 2012

First Week at Linn

As some of you may know, I changed jobs last week. On Wednesday I was a Java developer and on Thursday I started working for Linn Products as a C# and Javascript application developer.

I've known about Linn for sometime and never thought of them as a software company until seeing them in the sidebar of StackOverflow. Whilst I don't have any Linn equipment at home, it has always been something of interest and I was going to purchase some ceiling Sweetspot Linn speakers last year when planning an extension to my home audio system (we didn't extend it in the end). I was also admiring their Klimax system in the Museum of Scotland; never did I realise I'd be working for them a few months later!

My first day was very unconventional, in the evening when explaining the day I accidentally used the term "a good day out". Perhaps a freudian slip, but that was what it felt like - I really enjoyed the first day and indeed the second. Having never commercially used C# and Javascript I was expecting the day to be mainly theory and learning (which of course happened), but surprisingly I felt constructive, even making a valid contribution to the software!

To begin with I was introduced to the team and my workspace which had a temporary laptop and new monitor (my actual PC required installation and the laptop won't drive 2 monitors). However underneath the monitor sat a Majik DS which I could use; I configured this by hooking it up to the network and installing the Songcast software on the laptop.

I had enough to get started and my new team introduced me to Git so I could check out the project I'd be working on; then proceeded to show me how the components were organised and what technologies were in use. During this time, Gilad welcomed me to Linn and for the third time enjoyed the use of the on-site canteen for lunch. I was given a door access card and also informed that Tim Burgess from The Charlatans was playing a few songs in the afternoon with fellow-Charlatan Mark Collins on guitar and Martin Duffy from Primal Scream on keyboard in the Linn Home and the whole staff were invited. They played 6 songs which made for a great introduction to Linn! Although I am told this is not the norm...

Second day went well now that I knew a lot more about what I was meant to be doing so I could start exploring the project myself and start understanding Visual Studio and ReSharper. I'd also brought my headphones in so I could try out the Majik DS which for the moment I'm using it as a spectacular sound card for my work machine. I'll probably bring in some of my Pink Floyd rips to enjoy over the next few weeks!

The morning included a company wide meeting about how the company was doing and this was used to introduce me to the rest of the Linn workforce along with another new employee. We were to be welcomed in the usual way of not sitting next to us in the canteen! Just before lunchtime we were also treated to some excitement of a fire drill where thankfully the weather was nice so standing in the car park wasn't too bad. At least I was able to practice what I learned during my health and safety induction!

Unfortunately I suspect Linn have set my expectations too high from my first two days there!