Category Archives: Just for fun

Web Services Go Greener

You may have noticed fuel prices going up. You may also know that Web Services are now located in the Durning Centre and that the building has received an award for its power saving features.

Ever mindful of the environment, Web Services have gone one step further and installed the next generation, leading edge clockwork servers. These servers will provide a constant service as long as I remember to wind them up every morning.

Wind them up! – get it?

Check the date!

How do I know if it’s Christmas?

Photo-A-Day #822b 07/09/07Its Christmas eve. Are you excited? In less than 24 hours Santa will have been, scoffed his mince pie and glass of port 😉 and gone on his merry way.

So just how long do we have to wait for Christmas?

If you Google “Christmas countdown” there’s a whole slew of sites with count down clocks (including some really old ones that I suspect were written as “my first javaScript program”). No, No, No, No, NoOne of the best, and very popular within Web Services, dedicated to the Christmas countdown has to be isitchristmas.com. Quite simply, every visit is met with an emphatic “No” until Christmas day. For rss die-hards there’s even a feed. You just know you’ll have to get the laptop out tomorrow just to see that is, in fact, Christmas. I’m sure, yule you’ll fit it in despite the present opening, bucks fizz, snowballs, Christmas breakfast, table laying, bird roasting, gut-busting pudding, family rows, tears, Queen’s speech, 3 o’clock film, mince pies, flat batteries, karaoke, Quality Street, After Eights, home-made sloe gin and droopy paper hats.

That’s for tomorrow. If you’re a believer (and you’ll only get a stocking full of sprouts if you don’t believe) or you have kids, you may also be interested in tracking Santa’s progress. HumbugYou’ll also find games for the kids to play.

Happy Christmas from Web Services, Edge Hill University. Now where did I put those humbugs?

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Number 19I wonder how many of you this year have visited a bookmakers and put on a bet for a ‘White Christmas’, not many I would imagine or maybe I’m completely wrong, one thing I do know however is as its more of a sure thing this year I can’t imagine any of them paying out. Well imagine my surprise when I visited a few betting sites just to see if they were taking bets on a ‘White Christmas’, do you know what, they are but at much lower odds! Pretty much an inevitable conclusion to expect one flake I would say, at least for this year.

Practically anywhere in the UK has roughly a 90% chance of seeing snow in the winter, it very rarely falls at Christmas (generally in January and February). However apparently it does occur approximately every 6 years.

I’m sure we all remember last year’s Christmas, 2009 and the start of 2010. The gritters had been out too early after the councils had not anticipated a big freeze, certainly nothing like we had seen previously since 1986. (I was 12 years old then and remember fondly the skiddy patches that would last for weeks). Britain was covered with thick lying snow which easterly winds had brought over the previous week. Travel over much of Britain was badly affected by ice and snow on the roads, and made more slippery by partial daytime thaw followed by overnight refreezing. It was the first white Christmas anywhere in the United Kingdom since 2004.

The second big freeze of this winter, due to start this week, is likely to last for as long as a month, putting the country on course for a winter which could be even colder than the notoriously treacherous 1962-63. This year however has been the coldest start to a winter for 100 years; bitterly cold winds from the ­Arctic will without doubt bring a blanket of snow to Scotland, the North, London and the South-east on December 25th. Wales, the South-west and central England will probably be a winter mix of sleet with snow on higher ground. So there you have it almost proof that this year will be a really cold, white Christmas. So wrap up, stay safe and warm and have a Merry Christmas.

No more kissing under the mistletoe!!

I have heard this warning before in the last few years from conservationists but it appears now to be a more serious issue; the future supply of traditional English mistletoe is under threat. Why I hear you say; mistletoe thrives in established apple orchards and if you follow conservation then you will know that our apple orchards have been in serious decline for the past 60 years, this has great impact on our traditional mistletoe.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub, mainly apple trees but it will also grow within birch, hawthorn, lime and poplar. If left the mistletoe will eventually kill its host so it has to be managed, regular cutting will protect the host tree as well as ensuring a crop of mistletoe each Christmas time. Most mistletoe seeds are spread by birds; they eat the seeds and then spread them throughout the tree branches in their droppings. Mistletoe was often considered a pest that killed trees and devalued natural habitats, but was recently acknowledged as an ecological keystone species, an organism that has an excessively persistent influence over its community. A broad array of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming the leaves and young shoots, transferring pollen between plants, and dispersing the sticky seeds.

All is not lost however, The National Trust want you to help by buying home-grown mistletoe in the run-up to Christmas, which means asking where the mistletoe is sourced from when you buy it. Allot of our traditions we have lost over the years and it would be a crying shame if mistletoe disappeared as well.

There is so much more to mistletoe than its “romantic role”, buying mistletoe helps traditional British cider apple orchards thrive by removing mistletoe from the trees, so you are doing 2 things, helping a tradition to continue which in turn helps apple trees to flourish and let’s not forget it keeps us kissing!!

Lego Printer

While the problems we’ve been experiencing with printers over the last couple of days are no laughing matter, this Lego® printer is quite cool:

I know this is so before-the-summer but I thought it was appropriate today 🙂

Street View trike on campus

Google Street View trike on campus

Back in March, Google added Ormskirk – and most of the rest of the country – to Google Street View. Today we were visited by the Google Street View trike to take imagery of the Ormskirk campus. Unlike roads which are photographed using a car, private property like university campuses and Disneyland Paris are photographed using a trike allowing them to get along footpaths.

Most of the campus was covered today in just an hour or so but it’ll be somewhere between a couple of weeks and six months until it’s live on the website. Until then you can check out a (very) short video of the trike on campus:

QR Treasure Hunt

Yesterday, Learning Services launched their Code Breaker Challenge – aimed at getting new (and returning) students to find their way around the facilities and try out a bit of new technology along the way.

It makes use of QR Codes – 2D barcodes that can be scanned with a smartphone.  The payload of a QR code can be quite flexible – it can contain text, a web address, contact information or even send a text message.  In this case it launches a web page on the Learning Services blog – chosen because it’s already mobile friendly for a number of common devices.

There are four locations to scan – start in the entrance to the University Library.  Give it a go and you could win a £50 Argos voucher.

From my point of view this is a really interesting trial. Awareness of QR codes – while certainly not universal – is growing and as I’ve mentioned before on this blog we’re now in a position where significant numbers of students have modern phones with free or cheap data.  QR codes in themselves are not a solution to any particular problem we have but they have some interesting potential uses in connecting physical and virtual information.

Many companies are starting to use them on posters, cans of pop and all sorts of other places – the 2d code blog has some great examples of QR codes popping up in unusual places.

There are loads of QR code readers available for lots of different devices – i-nigma suggested on the LS blog is one of the better ones for iOS (sorry, I’ve only tried on iPhones!) but to find one for your phone type tigtags.com/getqr into your mobile’s browser to get suggestions.

Return to Argleton

A few months ago I got a very curious phone call from Lawrence Grizzel, a producer for Punt PI on Radio 4. He was interested in doing an episode of the Steve Punt show about Argleton, the town that doesn’t exist that’s been covered to death on this blog for nearly three years!

Steve Punt interviews Mister Roy for Punt PI

The two of them were to travel up from London the following Friday and wanted “Mister” Roy Bayfield and I to show them the way to Argleton. How could I refuse? I rejigged some plans and worked out I could just make it back from Liverpool to the Stanley Arms in time to meet them.

The interview went fine – we led the way down the road to the field labelled “Argleton”, discussed how it was found and a couple of hypotheses with the landowner and Steve Punt then headed back to the Stanley to consume a pint of the specially brewed Argleton Ale.

The beer tasted a little like it hadn’t been allowed to settle and I’ve not seen it since so maybe it didn’t really exist.

The episode finally aired last Saturday and although I’m currently on holiday in Crete, I managed to listen again to the show.

It’s the first time I’ve heard the show and was pretty impressed. The show told the full story of Argleton from visiting the location to following up leads at the British Library, with cartography experts and even managed to secure an interview with Google and TeleAtlas.

It’s worth listening in, if only to hear my 15 seconds of fame but there’s a couple of interesting points.  Firstly was the guy when asked “so computers can’t tell the difference between virtual and reality” responded “correct – do we?” and secondly the new information offered by Google and TeleAtlas.  Namely that they can’t track down how Argleton (or Mawdesky or the other errors in West Lancashire) were added.

The cynic in me might suspect that their data source was slightly dubious but I’ve no proof.

Anyway, back to my bottle of Mythos and the barbecue!

Can you tell me how to find Topshop?

A couple of weeks ago my Twitter Search alerts for “Ormskirk” picked up the following:

Katie on Topshop

I was intrigued so searched Google Maps for “topshop near ormskirk” and sure enough, not one but two mystery Topshops were marked on the map.

Topshop near Ormskirk

Obviously this isn’t the case so why are Google showing them on the map? The addresses of the shops match Dorothy Perkins and Burtons – both other brands in Arcadia Group, owners of Topshop – but that doesn’t explain why they’re there.  As with Argleton, it may well be another case of Google mining data from whatever sources they can get their hands on and forget the accuracy.  I’ve reported the problem to Google, let’s see if they fix it.