Archive for June, 2013


This week is going to be another busy week. The first reason is that the week back to work is usually pretty busy and I still have a few loose ends to tie up for the semester – mostly a few final pieces of work to mark and preparing things for the exam boards and external examiners. Then I’ll be making sure everything is ready for next week when we will be hosting schools with a Raspberry Pi event. I’ll be doing my learning python with minecraft stuff and Rob will be following up with some cool IO demonstrations. At least that’s how the plan looks now – things might change. I’ll also be spending at least one day on a fun and extremely exciting adventure – but more about that next week!

Minecraft Life Simulation by Jason Milldrum

Minecraft Life Simulation by Jason Milldrum

Towards the end of the week I’m hoping to get some time to look at optimizing the code from Jason Milldrum’s Game of Life Simulation. I was looking this code over myself as I’m hoping to use the same concept for TeenTech next month (so many thanks and much kudos to Jason!), and I have identified a number of places for optimization. I’m by no means an expert in Python – but I know enough to get by, and enough other languages to be able to say “in such and such you can do this – can I do this in Python?”, and I know how to use Google reasonably effectively 🙂 Then I thought to myself that this might be a good exercise for students. Reading and understanding other people’s code is a good skill to have, and one we maybe don’t practice as much as we would like. Students have a habit of settling for something that works, but concentrating on something that works fast can completely change your algorithm. Anyway, I thought I might extend this challenge to our students (or anyone) with a Raspberry-pi. I hope Jason doesn’t mind, and I’ll be sure to send him a message when I’m done, which will hopefully be at the end of the week.

My last, but by no means least point of business in this post is to remind any of the last three thing game participants to thing about entering them into the side competition that was organised by Windows 8 Game Ambassadors John and Josh. After a week away I’m not sure whether our team’s offering will make it, but rumour has it that David Parker has been working away on our “Electric Maze . . . in Space!” game so there is still hope yet!

Advertisements

After a flurry of activity at the end of semester 2 things start to get a little less hectic now as students head off for summer. When marking student demonstrations, and giving feedback the thing I undoubtedly say more than anything is “the key to programming is practice”. I would urge any student to keep practicing over the break because you still have a lot to learn, and you certainly need to keep up to speed for the second year.

To help you, take a look at the Code Kata (thanks to Kim for emailing me the link). If you’ve just started to learn programming some of these issues might be a bit advanced, but that’s ok. Just thinking about these problems is still a valuable exercise. Also, realise that there isn’t always a right answer – just different answers with different benefits and shortcomings.

Code Kata : How to become a better developer

In my view you are never really done learning programming. Aside from the 1000 hour expert thing – which means I still have a fair few thousand hours to put in – in programming there’s always a new technique, new language, new paradigm, new hardware etc to move on to. The amount there is to learn is always expanding. That’s another thing I like about coding – there is always something new to learn.

One thing that I’ve not blogged about over the past few months is becoming a dog fosterer for Oakwood Rescue. The problem with kennels is that they aren’t particularly good for dogs, especially when dogs are looking for a new home. Dogs in kennels often suffer from stress, and sometimes get sick and lose a lot of condition. Sometimes dogs are in pretty poor condition when they come in to kennels. It’s certainly not ideal when a dog is looking for new owners.

That’s where dog fostering comes in. Instead of living in kennels we give dogs a temporary home whilst they look for their forever home. We’re able to make sure that the dog is looked after on a one to one basis. We can train the dogs to behave and socialise them with people as well as our two pugs. It’s very rewarding to see the change that the dogs go through, and I’m certain that many of the dogs we’ve had would not have been so easily rehomed if they were living in kennels. It’s also very sad though because you can’t help be get attached to some of the dogs. My wife and I have had the “should we keep him/her” conversation a few times now, but it always comes down to the fact that if we adopted a dog we would have to stop fostering.

Anyway, here are our foster dogs so far:

Oscar was our first foster dog. Oscar was stressed in kennels, very nervous and was losing weight as he
had a poorly tummy. The people who adopted Oscar had actually already passed him by, but when they were able to see him with people that he knew and trusted they changed their minds. This was a really strong signal to us that we were making a real difference.

Oscar just chillaxing

Oscar just chillaxing

I took a real shine to Gizmo, but he had a few issues with our pugs, Molly and George. It wasn’t long before he moved on and made way for Buster.

Gizmo waiting for a treat

Gizmo waiting for a treat

We think Buster had been homeless for a long time before he arrived at Oakwood dog shelter. Despite this though he was a really friendly dog who loved to snuggling up with people as well as pugs. Buster was the first dog that we considered adopted ourselves.

George, Molly and Buster at the park

George, Molly and Buster at the park

Since we’ve had dogs we’ve sectioned areas of the house off using baby gates. When Molly barks at birds on the green or anything with four legs on the television she often has to spend some time in pug prison! These barriers were nothing to Bruce, who could jump over them effortlessly. Bruce was very thin when we got him, but he soon started putting on weight. He had some skin problems and a poorly tummy when we got him and we had him a while, all over Christmas in fact. It was really nice to hear that when he was taken to the vets just after he was adapted his condition had improved so much that the vet didn’t realise he was the same dog. Bruce also made me appreciate how little the pugs poop!

Bruce in his winter coat

Bruce in his winter coat

Dana was another really friendly dog that loves people and just wants cuddles. She got on really well with Molly and George, and loved going to the park and chasing around with George in particular. We were very sad to see Dana go. She was another one that we thought about keeping.

What do you mean "not on the couch?"

What do you mean “not on the couch?”

Next was a very handsome puppy called Max. He did what he was told and is extremely clever, and
has tons of energy. We had him for just a few days before I went to GDC and by the time I got back he has gone.

I was trying to sleep!

I was trying to sleep!

Then we had a puppy. He was so young that he didn’t have a name when we got him, so we got to pick a name for him. We called him Smudge. As he was a puppy he was a bit of a biter and we had to be sure that he always had a chew toy to hand to stop him chewing something he shouldn’t.

Smudge - just a tiny puppy with giant flappy ears

Smudge – just a tiny puppy with giant flappy ears

Fostering dogs is sometimes hard for a number of reasons, but it’s always rewarding – especially when you get to see new pictures of the dogs, looking healthy and happy in their new homes.