Book #8 cryptonomicon

After visiting Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing a colleague lent me Neal Stephenson’s “cryptonomicon”, at almost a 1000 pages this was not a light book but it was brilliantly written. The plot follows two timelines, essentially one following the work of Lawrence Waterhouse a war time crytographer (and more). The other following his grandson Randolph (Randy), a gifted programmer. The plot moves around the world with the two men and the story intertwines and is linked through code. The link to Bletchley Park is that Lawrence spends some time working there. There is a wonderful description of Lawrence and his duffle bag arriving at Bletchley station. Both in the US and Bletchley Lawrence is suppose to work with Alan Turing and some of the stories of Turing match those told by the guide at Bletchley Park.
You probably need to be a geek to truly appreciate this book but Stephenson writes so well there is entertainment available even in the description of eating of breakfast cereal.

The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing is based in Bletchley Park, and having spent the morning visiting the Bletchley Park exhibits we moved in to the National Museum of Computing.


The museum is fantastic with so many things I remember that I will write a few separate posts linked to the photos.
There are lots of volunteers around willing to talk in detail about the exhibits, and to listen to visitors’ tales of what they used to use.
Lots of what they have actually works and the volunteers are making efforts to get other things actually working.
It so great that there is a place like this or otherwise we would find that these machines just disappeared.

My Book Awards for 2010

Well having read less this year it should be easier to remember what I liked.

The best fiction has several competing titles but as a very different book I think it should go to: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, the style of writing used bought different angles to the tale.

Best work related goes to: Alex (Sandy) Pentland’s book “Honest Signals – How They Shape our World“. I’m still turning over sonme of the ideas from that.

Best non-fiction is: Levitt and Dubner’s “Superfreakonomics“, it’s so full of interesting things!

To e-book or not to e-book

I like reading books. I read quite a lot of fiction, and some non-fiction including technical stuff in book form. I also read magazines, newspapers, web pages, blogs, tweets etc. But when I talk about “reading” I usually mean “reading books”.

For the last few years I have kept a record of the books I’ve read. Having said in 2006 I wanted to “read more”, I made a New Year’s resolution to aim to read 50 books a year. I have continued with this aim since (actually I’m unlikely to meet it this year – but things have happened that ate in to my reading time).

One of the things that I like about reading is sharing books with family and friends. I really enjoy getting a book from a friend that they say I will like, because I usually do. When I read a book, I have bought, I think who would like to read it next, some books get shared further than others depending on the style and genre.

I like technology and so I am watching the various e-book readers that come out, and thinking that I would like one, but the major obstacle, for me, is the inability to share and so when I was offered a Kindle as a birthday present I decided to say no, even though I know they are wonderful things. However I have downloaded the Kindle App for my Android-based phone and I have read a couple of books on it (Kate Mosse’s “The Cave” and Dennis Batchelder’s “Soul Identity”) and I have found this convenient in that I can read when ever want, and the reading experience is great, but now I can’t readily pass those books on and there are people I know who will enjoy them, but I have rely that they will download on my suggestion.

So maybe we need to look at the financial model behind e-books, and look to see if we could develop this to allow for sharing, I appreciate that publishers and authors need to make a living from books, and so that for people making their work available on a free-for-all is not realistic, but maybe for a small fee I could loan one e-book at a time to a friend?

In Loving Memory

A few weeks ago I wrote a post “My Facebook Digital Legacy“, I’ve now come across a video from Stacey Pitsillides called in “In Loving Memories“. In this video Stacey considers what would happen in Facebook were to ask users to register what they wanted to happen to their profile after death. I like this idea of making the decison for oneself, however I suspect many youngsters would consider it creepy.


My Flickr Digital Legacy

In an earlier post I discussed what happened to Facebook content after the profile owner has died.
Here I am looking at Flickr. In the About Page Flickr describes itself as:
“…almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world…”
It certainly helps me share photos and organise them. I am fairly certain that future generations would like to see some of the photos that their family have posted on Flickr, but I am finding it hard to determine what happens to a Flickr account after the user has died. A search of the Flickr pages has shown some discussion about this topic but unlike Facebook there is no obvious guidance to the bereaved as to what they should do about a Flickr account. So it would seem likely that after someone has died their relatives will not take any actions relating to the deceased Flickr account.
If the deceased had a Pro account that will remain available until the next fee is due, once the fee is overdue then only the 200 most recent photos will be available and the account will revert to a Free account. Amongst the FAQ there is a note:
“If your free account is inactive for 90 consecutive days, it may be deleted.”
Comments suggest that this doesn’t actually happen in that short time period, but most certainly there is no expectation that your photos will still be there for the long term.

So Flickr does not appear to be a good place to be storing the photos that you think your descendants may be interested in.

There is another side of the the Digital Legacy with Flickr, I have loaded digital copies of old photographs, and it seems to be a common thing amongst Flickr users to do this, and so we are creating Digital Identities for family members who themselves lived in a pre-digital age.



Rhizome: Digital Identity Matters

The Rhizome project was funded by EduServ in parallel with our own This is Me. While we took a practical approach of aiming to help people learn about their digital identities by producing and testing learning materials for use by individuals and groups. The Rhizome project was more theoretical with them exploring the construction of digital identities and the socio-technical elements that impact on this online presence. Rhizome have just produced a report of their work and it is available via a creative commons licence.
The report contains a discussion of what digital identity is, including this description:

“Whether we call it ‘digital identity’, ‘online persona’ or ‘virtual self’ we are talking about accumulated electronic data that references us as an individual – the things that we say about ourselves, the things that others say about us, and/or the products of our electronic transactions that are driven by human-machine or machine-machine interactions.” Warburton, S. (2010). Identity matters, London: King’s College London.

The report then goes on to describe individual practice in relationship to digital identity, based on a number of workshops which included a group of researchers and others interested in the topic. There is a short section on Performance and the work of Goffman (my review), linking to the idea of performance of identities in digital spaces.
The case studies presented and the resulting pattern focus on children and the digital identities they may have as a result of the activities of others.
The report is certainly worth reading by anyone that is interested in digital identity, it only touches on so many of the issues that relate to digital identity, and there is so much more things that others have said about digital identity, and that can be said about the topic. But from my perspective that is good, as I do want to write a book on the topic, and this report will be an excellent piece of work to cite.

Software Engineering Awards

This was the fifth year of the Game Challenge for the Software Engineering module (SE1SB5) and once again I was lucky enough to be a judge.

Posts from previous years can be found at:

This year’s entries were of a very high calibre, and promotional material produced was great. Every team presented themselves to the judges and spoke passionately about what they had done. Judging was very difficult because the work was so good, but given a team of judges we were able to pick out winners in each category.

  • Most innovative game concept or application of concept: Amish – Zero Effort
  • Best presentation showing how the game supports software engineering: Breeze Blocks – SENGA
  • Most entertaining presentation: Triangle Square – Killers
  • Best project documentation: How Unfortunate – How unfortunate
  • Best Poster: Synchronize – Project X
  • Special recognition awards for individual contribution: Ed Paul, Alex Farren


2010 2010 2010 2010

Workshop on Programming Phones – Joining Instructions


2.00pm Monday 14th and/or 15th June 2010
in G21

Workshop Call

The workshop call is at

Essentially the sessions are aimed at people who are interested in programming phones, and allowing them to work together, to explore and learn from each other.

For now this is only for people at Reading University, but we could widen things at a later date.

Response to the Call

We have had some 30 people show an interest and we will run the event both days with a similar format, so if you can only come to one session that will be ok.


The programme will start with introductions and groupings, we will cluster around the technologies people are interested in.

Beginners will work through tutorials and those with experience will hopefully support the beginners and identify challenges that they can work on.

Suggested Tutorials


Hello, world



Via the Apple Developer Program see

Windows Mobile

Via Microsoft 


Via RIM  

Resource list:


If you know of other tutorials and resources – add a comment below.


50 Books – Reading not Racing

I started the idea of reading 50 books in a year back in 2007 and have continued through a number of novels, technical books and occasional other things. It is now June 2010 and I have read 15 books so far this year. I have just started a 900 page novel “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts it reads very well but it most certainly can’t be read in a hurry. Books like King’s “Peter the Penguin Pioneer” aimed at children can be read quickly and the occasional one is entertaining, however I do not want to limit what I read to meet the target. So I intend to keep reading and blogging about what I read, I’ll use the tag “50 books”, but I expect that I will end the year short of the target but will have chosen what I read for the joy of reading rather than the race.