Categories
Tech Reviews University

Spiders, Sunday & Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review

Spiders

Last night as I mentioned in my previous post I went to spiders with the Rock Society of the Hull University Union and Jess. It was totally different to any club or venue I’ve been to before. Its essentially a big house and garden in the middle of an industrial estate with 3 rooms, each dedicated to a different genre of rock, our favourite of which was the 60’s-80’s room which played classic bands such as Madness, The Selecter and The Ramones. We were also happy with the great variety of cheap drinks available — notably a special called The JUGular — a 6 drink jug containing two shots of your choice, two liquors and loads of soft drink — in our case Coke! It was so tasty, but also incredibly alcoholic! Yum.

Today

Today I spent most of my time in Cottingham and Hull City Centre — with Jess — finding a reasonably priced place we could both eat which with her being vegetarian that was somewhat difficult. Eventually we settled on a small pub which offered a Sunday Roast Carvery for me and a Veggie burger for her. After that we spent a lot of time enjoying the compact, yet full city centre in hull which offers many shops, resturants and facilities. After only being here a week I can safely say Hull doesn’t deserve the reputation it gets, its an enjoyable place to live with great night life, friendly locals and a buzzing atmosphere. Unfortunately Jess also left tonight at 6:30 after a fun filled weekend of clubbing and student life! Fortunately ill be able to see her soon when she comes back to see the amazing Specials in just under two weeks!

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango running on the HTC 7 Mozart

As I posted yesterday I bought a HTC 7 Mozart, originally running Windows Phone 7, on O2 as part of a 24 month contract. Since then I have upgraded the phone to Windows Phone 7.5 using the slightly hacky method documented on WinRumours. The update has bought a lot of functionality that was missing from the original 7.0 release of the OS. Most notably custom ringtone support and multi-tasking, all of which are very well explained and reviewed on Ars Technica, so I wont delve into those so much — however I would like to bring to peoples attention some of the lesser of the 500 updates which I feel have a great impact!

Messaging Improvements

The first thing I noticed when changing from 7.0 to 7.5 was perhaps one of the smallest changes to the OS — Emotions in text messages, whereas before the operating literally showed a string of symbols such as “:-)” if you selected a smiley face from the emotions keyboard it now shows some cool, single colour mango styled faces or icons depending on what you typed. Here is a collation of all the emotions produced by 1800PocketPC;

Windows Phone 7 Mango Text Emotions
Windows Phone 7 Mango Text Emotions

Another small but notable improvement was the fact that the phone now uses two different tones of your accent colour to differentiate between incoming and outgoing messages, rather than just using left and right. This is excellent UI design and makes reading texts a much more enjoyable experiance.

Other Aesthetic Changes

Another small aesthetic change is the improvement of the XBOX Live logo, which is now a lot more suited to the Metro Design the OS uses, before it felt ugly and out of place, but now it feels like a 1st rate application on the device. Yet another UI design change I like is the fact that Internet Explorers UI is now all at the bottom of the screen, rather than the top — this allows for a larger viewing area and in my opinion looks better. (IE also went from being based off of IE6/7 to IE9, a massive HTML5 powered difference 😉

Overall Feeling

Windows Phone 7.5 feels complete. In a nutshell it is what 7.0 should have been and is easily my favourite Phone OS due to its simple yet pretty look, mass of features and future potential (due to hopefully an influx of customers when Nokia release their device, and therefore an Influx of money hungry developers). I would definately recommend this OS to anyone — from tech savvy to totally technophobic — because it is simple enough for normal use (internet browsing, sending texts, making calls) but also extremely flexible for those who want a little more from their mobile device.

Thanks for Reading
Danny

Categories
University

First Practical Session, Surprise Girlfriend Visit & Asylum

So yesterday I had my first practical session in the Fenner Building labs. This was an enjoyable session that included navigating around the internet systems, registering for several external sites related to our course — including one which automatically recognises plagerism in text and code — and writing a few simple programs, including the obligatory “Hello World”. Unfortunately this also included an A-Level/Level 4 level maths test, having only taking GCSE maths this proved to be difficult and i scored a poor score of only 29%, so now I know I need to really work on my maths.

The session lasted for around 2 hours and then I was free to leave and collect my new HTC 7  Mozart — a Windows Phone 7 device. I spent much of the rest of the day updating it to mango, adding my email accounts and music and generally fiddling with it. I also had the experience of bringing my huge Antec 500 case desktop on a bus to get the networking issue I have had for the past week fixed, it was embarrassing having so many people look at me as if to say “That’s not a laptop”.

Later that evening Jess’ mum offered to pay for her train faire to get to Hull to visit me, and within hours of finding out she was coming I was at Hull interchange station to greet her! It was great to see her 🙂 We went home, had a few drinks and then went to see Sarah Cox at the Asylum night club at the Students Union. It was great fun and included drinking more than a few snakebites (and Malibu for Jess)!

Today we went to the Student Union for food and then on into Hull to go to the shopping centre and generally hang around. It was good fun and it included seeing the piano man shown in the video above! Hulls regeneration including the building of that shopping centre is really good and it is actually a great place to visit for the day, especially if you like fish!

For now however I’m off out to a HUU Rock Society meeting at the Spider rock club in Hull City Centre, followed by a trip to the Students Unions (in)famaous Brassik night!

Thanks for Reading,
Danny

Categories
University

More Orientations, Meeting my Supervisor and The Computer Science Welcome

(The XBOX Kinect Set Up at Today’s Computer Science Welcome)

Today was my second day of Orientations. Today’s first was all about the different opportunities each sub-department in the Computer Science Department offers. Of particular interest to me was SEED Software, a software development company owned and run by the Computer Science Department. The company has designed and developed a multitude of software from iPhone applications to perhaps most importantly BRIGID. BRIGID is a software system used by many fire brigades around the world (Including Australia and every brigade in Humberside) which helps to dispatch appliances and allows Emergency operators to see in real time the position of said Appliances, its simply amazing that students — alongside full time paid developers — have helped to create such an important piece of software.

The reason SEED is of such interest to me is because as a MEng Computer Scientist in my 4th year I will be spending one day a week working at SEED with real customers and developing real code for real applications. This is exciting as it will give me a real edge in the jobs market as well as allowing me to get stuck in to some real work.

Talks were also given by the Artificial (Alien?!) Intelligence department, showcasing a £2,500 robot which simply navigated itself around the Lecture Theatre and made annoying noises when it located something it couldn’t drive around. The scientific visualization department treated us to a model of a toilet and explained to us how people go about working out the speed of water flow in code rather than making and wasting money on a prototype toilet. Dr. Lee taught us what is actually meant by the term Computer Generated Graphics and explained how it is applied in more different areas than ever before.

Another introductory talk I found particularly fascinating was one provided by the resident expert in computer languages. Once you think about it it is amazing that people can actually communicate and understand each other so easily and its even more interesting — if not more so — that we now understand this enough to be able to teach computers to do it to a greater or lesser extent.

The second Orientation was provided by Rob Miles, who by some miracle managed to mention his blog only 3 times in an hour! 😉 The talk was all about how the course will work, the systems the department use and about communicating with the staff. Each section of work will start with some lectures, there will then be some tutorials and practices to follow this up and make sure everyone is up to speed and understand what is going on.

The CS department uses several systems on campus to get work done, allow for electronic handing in of code and allow for student – lecturer communication. The main system is powered by Microsoft Sharepoint, a system which I have used previously at Manshead Upper School and I find to be quite reliable and feature rich, using share point we can check timetables, lab times, download powerpoints and update our personal development files, unfortunately one gaping hole in the version of sharepoint the unversity uses is that it doesn’t allow for uploading of computer code to have marked — for this the department uses the bespoke eBridge university web application.

After the joke filled session had finished I went to see the O2 people in the student union, with whom I have signed a new 24 month contract to get a HTC 7 Mozart, 500Mb internet a month (unlimited in reality, but it is slowed down after 500Mb — no overage charges), unlimited texts and 300 minutes. Unfortunately the evil O2 people had forgotten to bring my phone (which I ordered yesterday) with them.

This left me with a few hours to kill before I met my supervisor, Dr Gordon. During this time I visited the SU and my flat at the lawns. The meeting with Dr Gordon was pretty good as it provided insight into how to get pastoral support should I require it at any time in the next 4 years and also provided me with someone to get a decent reference from once I leave in search of a job.

The highlight of the day however was the Computer Science Welcome which was held in the grand Staff Building in the centre of the campus. On entering we found 4 gaming systems set up, at the front was an XBOX with Kinect — which was very amusing to watch and somewhat embarrassing to play, especially as i couldn’t work it out due to its unresponsiveness. In the centre of the room on one side was Rock Band and on the other a Playstation 3 with Move and next to that 5 LAN connected Ubuntu Bsced PC’s running some indie games provided by FreeSide — who also provided a talk and I signed up to. Even further down the massive hall was a Wii running the classic Wii Tennis, which I won 3 games of!

FreeSide are a student run association who provide the student population of the university a free as in beer & speech open source system including web servers and beastly PC’s with up to 8GBs of RAM. The entire system now works on a 1GB connection and so I will certainly be checking out any opportunities which arise with the organisation!

After the Freeside talk Rob Miles led a quiz which my team eventually won by 2 points! The prize was a photograph to be posted on Rob Miles blog and a big box of Celebrations which went down very well!

All in all it was a good day, and I cant wait for my first practical lab session tomorrow as well as getting my new Windows Phone, which I’m sure I will get round to reviewing at some point!

Thanks for Reading,
Danny

Categories
University

Archery and Societies

(Unfortunately it was somewhat difficult to take a picture of me holding a bow and arrow, so here’s one of other people ;))

An integral part of University life is learning to do new things — its the entire reason I and everyone else is here, but this doesn’t stop at the subject you take or even academia entirely. This is where the Athletic Union and Societies step in and provide extra-curricular activies, trips and a great way to meet new people.

The AU had an event yesterday where all the different sporting teams showed up and tried to woo some new members into joining. As more of a geek than a sportsmen I wasn’t too interested, however I did pick up a free archery taster session leaflet which I used later today. Today was the turn of the societies, there was a good turn out with societies ranging from course specific — such as the Law Society and the Business Society — to political societies — such as Labour and Conservative — to religious societies such as The Islamic Society and the Christian Society. As you would expect there we’re also some random Societies such as HUGS (The Hull Union Go-Karting Society). Only two of those available really interested me, these were ComSoc, the computer society, and the Hull Rock Soc who organise nights out to local rock gigs and meet up to talk about rock music, fashion and news.

Today I decided it would be fun to give the free taster session of Archery a go as I had a day totally free of lectures. I met with the people who run the society at 1:45 outside HUU and we were lead to a large field on the other side of the campus which had 4 targets set up on it as you can see in the above picture. We waited for around half an hour for more people to turn up and then we were given the all important safety talk. Essentially do as you’re told and don’t hit anyone. After this we queued in front of one of the ranges, dependent on sex and height and then had to wait to take out thee shots. I missed the target with my first (I was holding the bow in a slightly cack handed fashion) and hit the outside blue and inside white with my other two arrows. It’s definitely a society I’m going to consider joining, I really enjoyed it.

After the archery I was starving so I went and had lunch and a pint of coke at the Sanctuary bar in the Student union, a hickory chicken and chips, a great choice! Whilst in the union I saw the O2 people, who are offering student deals all this week in the union on new contracts and PAYG phones. Being in desperate need of a new phone and coming to the end of my contract with the diabolical Orange I decided to opt for a 24 month contract (at £24 a month after haggling with the salesman — down from £27) with the HTC 7 Mozart Windows Phone 7 device. It looks like a beautiful phone and I shall review it once I receive it tomorrow!

Since then I’ve had a phone call with Jess and a Skype video chat with my family, both of which were very enjoyable. Tonight I plan to stay in and get on with some web design work I’ve been putting off for a while.

Thanks for reading,
Danny

Categories
University

I’m now officially a University of Hull Student!

Today was my second proper day at the UoH and I must say I’m loving it so far! Today I woke up about 8:30, got ready as fast as possible and ran for the bus which took me to the university for about 9:05. Once I got there it was a mad dash to the Wilberforce building (Lecture hall 2) for our Academic Induction — this provided us with information on Safety, Members of the Department & Professionalism (effectively telling us the actions taken against people who plagerise or are consistently late or not in attendance). The faculty of Science comes down very hard on such people.

The Wilberforce building is built in recognition of a famous hull resident William Wilberforcewho helped to abolish the slave trade. Supposedly the building was built in the shape of a slave ship so as to remind people not to go back to those ways. I for one, cannot see it.

The Wilberforce Building
The Wilberforce Building - Can you see a slave ship?

After the induction Sean, Rob and I had an hour to kill until our next meeting so we decided to check out what the gym facilities are like on campus, we we’re semi impressed. It is better than the council owned facility in Dunstable, but not nearly as good as the facilities as DW sports.

After we had our tour round the gym we went and sat in the SU garden for a while to kill some more time. 11:15 rolled round pretty quickly and we were back in WI-LH2 for a Year 1 orientation which was all about Personal Development & Professionalism — which the university takes very seriously, as it makes study better during the time at Hull and makes the likelihood of getting a job much better too. The meeting concluded around 12:05 on the subject of maths and the impending exam, which is on Friday — I cant wait. Sigh.

After being in WI-LH2 for so long it was nice to be in the open air of the Student Union Sanctuary Bar Garden for an hour and a half whilst we waited to officially register with the university and receive our student ID cards — during this time I ordered an individual size margarita pizza from the Sanctuary bar, it was really tasty and fantastic value for money at £2.70.

Registering was simple, really professionally handled and seamless. It took all of around 5 minutes to show them my proof of student loan for my tuition fee and give them all the information they needed as well as collect my card.

After we had registered we had a quick look round the Sporting Societies tent — I’m not massively into any sports but I was eustatic when I recieved a voucher for a free shoot at the archery range! I Immediately texted Shaun who is a pro archer.  Once we had seen all the stalls and received all the millions of handouts we headed back to the Lawns on the bus — two turned up at once, which was pretty good as it meant all the people waiting outside the uni got home quickly (for once!).

Once I was home I dropped my stuff off in the flat and proceeded to go into the Village of Cottingham to buy some passport photos for my Residents Card which will allow me to use the bar and resturant facilities in the Lawns Centre from here on in — I took this opportunity to also get some cash out. The walk to and from Cottingham is a pleasant one as the village is actually quite pleasent, rather different to the usual image people depict when they talk of Hull, and Humberside in general.  (Interesting side note – the Lawns are in East Yorkshire, whilst the University is in the new county of Humberside)

Since then I’ve had dinner and now I’m sitting in my flat writing this blog entry. Here’s the view from my flat right now (5:53pm)

View from the Lawns (1)
View from the Lawns (1)
View from the Lawns (2)
View from the Lawns (2)

Later my entire block are going on a pub crawl to 4 bars and a club with our Freshers Parents (the people who look after us from the year above and get us acquainted with local activities during freshers week). Hopefully that will be as good fun as last night, which I spent with some quality lads from Nicholson Block A – where my friend Sean lives. Chase and status “played” a DJ set, but it was essentially watching people dance to a CD with an MC constantly shouting “Wheres the mosh pit?” over the top. Pro Tip: there wasn’t one.

Asylum before Chase & Status
Asylum before Chase & Status

Anyway, thats all for now, I’m really happy I’m enjoying freshers week!

Thanks for Reading!
Danny

Categories
University

Register, Register, Register

(A map of the buildings at The University of Hull – of which I visited 3 – the Robert Blackburn, Hardy and Ferans)

Well, last nights trip to the acoustic night didn’t go too well. We waited for a bus for 45 minutes before deciding to back down and just go to The Lawns Centre Bar instead. It was a good night, with card games, quizzes and metal music in the background — hopefully it’ll be a frequent occurrence.

Today was the first weekday I have been at the university so this of course meant registering to my department and registering for a GP ‘oop north’ here in Hull. I got up about 8am, which for me is early and almost surprising!  I proceeded to have a shower and get dressed and made my way to the bus stop with my flatmate Rob and my friend from back in Dunstable — Sean, both of which are also taking computer science.

We got to the massive Robert Blackburn building about 10 O’clock and went to room 312 to get our departmental as well as university registration forms. This consisted of around 6 pages of personal details and took around 20 minutes to fill in. We did this in the great surroundings of the Student Union Pub garden (which also had a wi-fi connection for my laptop once we’d finished to research foo fighters albums! Awesome!)

After all the forms we were feeling pretty peckish so we went to the great ‘Quickbite Cafe and internet lounge’ in the SU. I had a cheese Jacket Potato and a glass bottle of Coke zero – possibly the perfect lunch?!

After we had our fill we headed to the Hardy building — Lecture hall 1 for an induction and explanation of the course (including telling us how if we wanted to do internet services, we should be in scarborough!). This answered a lot of questions and also allowed us to sign up to the British Computer Society — The Chartered Institute for IT. This was exciting and I think it’s excellent its included for free as part of the course here at Hull.

After this we had another 1 hour break to kill before going to hand in our registration materials and collect a timetable and course handbook, both of which are vital! This only took 5 minutes for me, but sean was at the back of the queue and it took almost 3 hours for him! I got really lucky.

Rob and I were discussing on the way out what day we had to register with a local GP (a compulsory part of staying in uni accommodation and joining a course — as well as a vital safety precaution). Fortunetly  we passed a sign telling us it was today and showing us directions to the Ferens building where the GP registration was taking place.

Chosing a doctor involved looking at the services offered and location — I opted for New Hall Surgery as it was close to my halls of residence here at The Lanws as well as allowing me to make appointments online, which is a very useful feature. Signing up took a further two forms! Fun, Fun, Fun!

That was the end of my day as far as academic stuff goes.

When I got back to The Lawns I went on MSN with Jessica and took a few phone calls from my family. Half way through this I had dinner at the Lawns Centre, which included getting my new Residents card and paying £3 for the privilege. I have to go and get some passport photos tomorrow to complete it.

Tonight I’m going to see Chase & Status — a Pop Dance group, not really to my usually punky taste. I’ve seen them before and thought they were crap because they had more guest singers than songs!  Literally. Hopefully they impress me a little more tonight!

Peace!

Danny

Categories
University

Friday/Saturday/Sunday

(Mum, Ruby, Dad and Michael at my new Flat at the Lawns in Cottingham)

Well, I havn’t updated this blog for a few days now, which I’m annoyed to say! So I’m going to cover the last 2 days — and today in one post.

Friday

Friday was an emotional night, my last one in my home town of Dunstable for at least a few months – the last time I’d see my family for around 6 weeks, and the last time I would see my girlfriend for at least 3 weeks. I was sad to say goodbye to the people who mean the most to me, but I know its necessary for me to go further with my education and hopefully have a better life as a result, and have good fun whilst I’m at it!

My family and Jess were obviously upset too, which I found hard to deal with as I love them so!

Saturday

My Computer Set Up at The Lawns
My Computer Set Up at The Lawns

Saturday I woke up at around 7:30 to get my final packing sorted and the last few pieces into the car, about 45 minutes later we set off from Dunstable to Cottingham a village just outside the City of Hull where my student accommodation is situated. The journey took us from 8:15 till 11:30 including a stop for a Burger King breakfast, which was good going on the travel front and tasty on the food front!

I then proceeded to meet the warden and get a key from my room, as well as get my stuff out of the car and move in. Within minutes of saying my goodbyes to my family I was chatting to another Computer Scientist and a chemist who were staying on the same floor as me, which was nice. I invited them in for a drink and we started chatting.

Later our entire block went to dinner together, which was nice and we had Pie, chips and new potatoes! A Right northern meal, which was wicked (and came with the northern delicacy– gravy) ! An hour or so after dinner we met our ‘freshers parents’ — two students from the year above who were to show us around, tell us the rules and then escort us to Asylum, the hull student union night club. Clubbing isn’t really my thing so I sat in the beer garden with a few friends I’ve made. It was great fun.

I came home around 12 because I was so tired from such a busy day and I wanted to chat to Jess, which I enjoyed. As soon as i hit my bed I fell asleep, which was a pleasant surprise compared to my normal insomnia.

Sunday (Today)

Today I woke up around 9:30 and just chilled in my room on my own for a few hours to catch a breather from the constant pounding of information I’ve had since I got here. At 11:30 I met up with my friend Sean who also went to Queensbury Upper School with me in Dunstable, and was in my AS/A2  Business class – we went to the Freshers Fair – which is basically a tent full of companies advertising themselves by giving you free stuff. Wicked.

I got:

  • A DVD of Public Enemies (from Microsoft for playing higher or lower and getting 8 right!)
  • A free half chicken at Nandos (for playing higher or lower and getting it WRONG)
  • Loads of leaflets
  • Dominos promotional stuff
  • A big wall chart with all of HUU’s events for the year!
Later I’m going to go to an acoustic night at the Student union, which will be fun and I’m going to get a relatively early night due to the fact my course starts at 9:30 and it lasts till 5 with only an hours break! Intensive first day or what!?
Anyway, thats all for now
Danny.
Categories
Web Design

This town is becoming like a Ghost town…

Sometimes you can only express your feelings toward a town with Specials Lyrics.

Traditionally my group of friends have had their weekly night out on a Thursday night – its toward the end of the week to get you in that relaxed weekend mood, the pubs are fairly full and most importantly its student night — which means cheap drink and more money left over for KFC! Seens as I leave Saturday it was evident that tonight would be my final night out in Dunstable.

I spent it with these Jokers!

My lovely girlfriend Jess and two of my close friends, Sam and Shaun — the picture sums them up perfectly.

However, these were the only people out – not just in our group of friends, but pretty much the only people out in the (usually) busiest pub in Dunstable. It shows how much of a difference the exodus of University Students makes to the town, and in just two days I’ll be one of the many who have left.

In lighter news we’ve finally managed to get round  nameserver issue which was preventing users from being able to access worldwide lighthouses — A website my brother and I work on (he provides the content, I work on the back-end systems and produce a custom content management system. Hopefully the new version of the site which is built with mobile browsing, HTML5 and faster server-side processing should be ready before I leave or shortly after.

Thats all!

Danny

Categories
Web Design

Final Days…

Today is my final Wednesday in Dunstable for a few months, and possibly the last wednesday where dunstable is my perminant residence. This is both exciting and unnerving, a relief and a worry. Though I’ve moved house once before I’ve always lived in Dunstable so this will be one of the biggest changes I’ve ever gone through. As well as change of location I’m moving away from my Family, Girlfriend and Friends — all of whom are incredibly important to me.

The last two years of my life have certainly been the best so far, I’ve made some incredible (hopefully lifelong) friends, met my girlfriend and generally had a great time, so moving on without these people with me is daunting, however I can’t wait to meet new friends and discover more about what it is to be an independent adult – as well as have great fun and learn more about Computer Science.

So, I have two days and nights left before I leave at 7am (ish, depending on my ability to wake up) Saturday morning and I intend to make the most of them, spending lots of time with those dearest to me (even though a lot of my close friends moved away last weekend).

This all sounds gloomy, even though it is in reality the start of possibly the 4 most exciting years of my life! So in other good news I spoke to the bee keeper man again today and provided him with some examples of my previous work — namely http://www.semiskinned.co.uk and http://www.worldwidelighthouses.com Hopefully he’ll get back to me either tonight or tomorrow and ask me to carry on with the project, which will be great news!

Thats all for now – thanks for reading,

Danny.

Categories
Web Design

Welcome to Danny – Computer Scientist

Hello,

Welcome to my small portion of the internet, I’ve been intending to start blogging for a reasonable time now – and during this time of change I thought it was as good a time as any. The time of change is of course the change from living at home with my parents in Dunstable to starting university in Hull.

I was inspired to start writing — hopefully daily —  by the film ‘The Social Network’ in which Mark Zuckerberg blogs almost compulsively during his time studying computer science (the same course as me!) at Harvard during the initial stages of the creation of Facebook.

I intend to post mainly about my Computer Science studies but also about some web design work I will be doing in order to make a bit of money on the side. Speaking of web design work, today I managed to find a new customer – a local bee keeper who wants to sell his honey on-line and modernize his website, this may result in two websites and a nice bit of money for me. I can’t wait to get on with it!

Thanks for reading!

Danny.