Monday, 22 December 2008

Friday, 19 December 2008

Arduino Open-Source Micro-controller

Neat little open source micro-controller for robotics and electronic arts projects. Keep wondering how you could hook Halo up to some external robotic device so as to give her a presence in the atom world in the same way that our avatars give us a presence in the digital world. What would you call such a thing? Is it still an avatar?

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Monday, 15 December 2008

Adding Features to Halo

Good day working on Halo. Amazingly quiet - the pre-Christmas lull I hope. New features added included:

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Images & Video of Stars Orbiting Milky Way Black Hole

Stunning images and video of the heart of the Milky Way. Never realised they were resolving the individual stars there. The image above is only 1 parsec across - just short of the distance from us to Alpha Centauri. Particularly striking as I'm reading Incandesence by Greg Egan which is set there.

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Tabbloid - Personalised PDF newspaper from RSS

Love it. Been meaning to do something like this myself in C# so I could wake up to my own newspaper. Must give it a try.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Video: 15 Minutes of Sony Home

Sony Home video. Looking very nice, just those scene transitions and awkward gestures. Love the shadows. Assume the ghosted avatars are waiting to download, or are they non-friends?

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Will the Moon and Mars be Virtual Worlds' Coronation?

moon landing

In the UK it was the Queen's Coronation in 1953 that drove TV's into the mass market, as people bought sets purely to witness the historic event. Perhaps virtual worlds will become de riguer when man returns to the moon, or first lands on Mars.

ln 1969 I was 8 years old. I remember sitting on the floor of our school corridor with the rest of my school watching the grainy black and white images of the first moon landing. At the time TV technology was over 50 years old.

In 10 years time humans might return to the Moon, and in 20 years we might land on Mars. Are we really going to experience this event primarily through a technology which by then will be 100 years old?

The most interesting alternative (well beyond the simple re-packaging of a headcam feed to a wrap-around headset display) are virtual worlds.

When that astronaut (or taikonaut) steps out onto the Moon I (and you) could already be standing on the surface waiting for them.

NASA are already out to tender for their own virtual world. But this won't just be one world, but also a virtual Moon, a virtual Mars. As we collect more and more data about these worlds their virtual analogs will become ever more accurate. Scientists will gather in them to plan missions, analyse data, and decide on the next move or dig of a robot explorer.

But when the landings come these worlds will be crowded. The mission specialists will have their private world, the rest of us will have our own public instances, as crowded or as private as we like. Some might immerse us, forcing us to wear spacesuits and move in reduced gravity, others let us party around the virtual BBQ.

Using video or other motion capture analysis the movement of the astronaut will drive the million copies of their avatar. We'll watch from wherever we want to stand, we'll hear the words as they are spoken, and watch their actions as they do them.

For some this may seem less real than video. But both are just streams of data - and digital video (particularly with emerging object based standards such as MPEG7) has no monopoly on, or even claim to, truth. And in the virtual world you will be immersed, not just viewing but part of the action, it becomes subjective not objective.

Of course Mars offers an additional challenge - lag. The Moon is only 1.2 light seconds away. Mars is 200 - 300 light seconds away. As a one way experience that will be fine, but it disrupts the two-way experience - particularly important for the astronauts, their controllers and scientists, and perhaps even their families. The solution to this may be the flip situation - we virtualise ourselves as an AI based personality construct and run ourselves in the virtual Mars on the astronauts servers on Mars.

So perhaps my grandchildren will remember the return to the Moon or the first Mars landing not as something they saw on a screen sat on a cold wood floor, but as something they experienced unfolding around them.

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Real vs Virtual

Jim Purbick of Linden Lab has a slide headed 'beware false dichotomies' when comparing Work and Fun. I'm thinking  that I should use the same slogan when people start comparing Real and Virtual. The true opposite of Virtual is not Real but Physical. We are back to the Nicholas Negroponte split between the world of Atoms and the world of Bits. Our experiences in the Virtual World can be just as real as in the Physical World. We work with real money, real people, real relationships, real emotions, real time, real brands, real reputations and real risks in both spaces. And the opposite of Real? Perhaps it's Imagined? Or Fictional? Or Unreal? Or perhaps, devoid of context, it has no opposite - everything is real in some way.

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Friday, 14 November 2008

Listen to Fish on Friday - Planet Rock


Listening to Fish on Friday on Planet Rock, hosted by Fish of Marillion fame. Great programme, great music, and a presenter who's not afraid to play entire album sides.

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Indian probe lands on Moon's surface

India's first Moon probe has made it. Apparently it' sent back pictures but they haven't been released yet.

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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ushahidi :: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)

Interesting site using SMS and Google Maps to report civil rights incidents in Africa's hotspots. Be great to mash-up with our Virtual Briefing Hub

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Survivors - BBC TV - New Series

The new imagining of Survivors starts on the BBC this month. The old 70s series was stunning - even when we watched it again on video a couple of years ago. Let's hope they haven't ruined it.

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Thursday, 6 November 2008 - diavlogs - Jaron Lanier on AI

Neat concept - one on one interview by webcam. This one is Jaron Lanier
Microsoft Corp., University of California-Berkeley, and Eliezer Yudkowsky
Singularity Institute, Overcoming Bias.

Thanks @mendicott for the heads-up

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The Loebner Prize from a judge's perspective

Interesting view of the Loebner/Turing from a judge this year. His approach is very much to find out if the bot is a human or not, rather than to see if he can have a "normal" conversation. Again this pushes me to the belief that we shoudl have a tiered approach to this:

- test where testers don't know there are any bots
- test where the testers know there are bots but have "normal" conversations
- full gloves-off test

His questions were very much reasoning tests of the third kind:

- if we shake hands, whose hand am I holding?
- I have a jewellery box in my hand, how many CDs can I store in it?
- he four capitals of the UK are three, Manchester and Liverpool. What's wrong with this sentence?

How many times do you ask those in normal conversation?

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Michael Wesch's "A Vision of Students Today"

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Kevin Kelly: Predicting the next 5,000 days of the web

Mmm. This was hailed as being on a par with the Machine is Us video, and EPIC 2015 but its a bit more portmanteau than that. In this interesting but not earth shattering ramble he talks about Kurzweil's "Internet is as big as the brain" idea, Negroponte's Bit/Atom worlds, Internet 0 (the Internet of things), Berners-Lee's Semantic Web, Kevin Kelly is Exec Editor at Wired.

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Sunday, 26 October 2008

Chatsworth - Sotheby's at Chatsworth

marc quinns planet

Nice morning looking round the Chatsworth House "Sothebys in the Garden" exhibition. Best two pieces were Mark Quinn's huge floating baby (called Planet - a 2001 reference?) and Zadok Ben-David's Sunny Moon - which close up was just a circular puzzle-cut tree, but form a distance became a stunning 3D image of a tree/wood - a great perception trick.

Sunny Moon - Zadok Ben-David

Flickr set

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Eightbar comment on my mirror worlds presentation

Nice post by Ian Hughes/ePredator from IBM on the EightBar blog about my mirror worlds presentation at Virtual Worlds London

"The post lunch session began for me with the "Rise of Mirror Worlds andMirror World Applications". Now dont get me wrong I like mirror worlds,but I was more taken with the sort of augmented mashup approach thatDavid Burden of Daden took in showing the mirror world potential thaninitially the approach of Alex Wrottesly of Near and Mirko Caspar ofMetaversum (Twinity).Alex was basiclaly coming out of "pseudo stealth" and sharing the Nearconcept of a 100% accurate model of a city with managed shop fronts andinteriors for all the parties involved in the real place. Twinity wasshowing virtual Berlin and the sort of activities and popularity ofhaving a real place to socialize in.
David showed google maps mashups with aeroplane arrival data and layering of reality with augmentations from various places."

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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Conference 2.0 - a post #vwlondon rant

After 2 days at Virtual Worlds London I am more convinced than ever that we need to find a new approach to conferences.I've been watching the unconference movement for some time, and it was great that Virtual Worlds Europe emerged phoenix like from the cancellation of their venue as an unconference. But I am sure that there is more to Conference 2.0 than that. I work in the highest of tech, and go to conferences where others are as tech'd (or even more tech'd) than I am. But Conference 2.0 need not be the sole preserve of the geeks - although that is probably the right place to start.

I would love to just work with some conference organisers (and speakers and attendees) to try and start with a clean sheet and think what a Conference 2.0 conference would all be about.


So what should Conference 2.0 be like? Well lets start with the retrofits - the things we can do with changing the current "big room" format to much:

- shorter presentations - does anyone need to speak for more than 20 minutes, watch the YouTube video or visit the web site or talk to the presenter if you need more
- have free wifi - otherwise we can't do most of the things that follow
- have lots of mains sockets for charging laptops - otherwise we can only do the things that follow for 60 minutes
- an effective back-channel. Twitter is emerging as a great way to let the audience comment on presentations and discussions mid-flow, and to talk about the subject themselves, and to contribute their knowledge. If your audience isn't Twitter friendly use a bespoke IM solution, or even SMS - BUT WHICHEVER YOU USE HAVE A BIG SCREEN DISPLAYING THE FEED THE WHOLE TIME (and an echo screen for the presenters)
- if you're using Twitter promote the hashcode (eg #vwlondon) before the event so delegates can hook up and start networking before they come
- beware of using conference specific networking systems - people only have so much time and you're better off bringing your event to their space (Twitter, Facebook etc) than having your own. And if someone is Twittering etc the conference then it will hit their own network as well.
- publicise YouTube and Flickr tags so that everyone can access all the post-event media
- in panel sessions have someone Googling whatever is being talked about - web sites, projects etc and show this on the big screen - and have their searching fed through to delicious or another bookmarking site so the audience can refer to it later
- have panel chairs who know the audience (easy if informed by Twitter), and can challenge the audience as much as the panelists

The neat thing is that most of the above won't cost you a penny (apart from the electricity and wifi bill).


Then we need to start opening the conference out a bit. With most of the conferences I go to the real business is done in the break-out spaces. So:

- make sure you have lots of spare comfy seating (close to mains power and with WiFi)
- relay the conference into the exhibition are and comfy seating areas (many delegates will prefer to watch the conference from here whilst they deal with real work - yet can still contribute through Twitter)
- make sure that tea and coffee are available THE WHOLE TIME, not just at breaks

Exhibition spaces? Still not convinced about the best way of handling those if your event is big enough to warrant a shell scheme type system. But how about:

- poster displays like academic conferences, encouraging a lot of people to put some basic information up for minimal cost, but they can hang around their poster or have their mobile/Twitter ID prominently displayed for easy content
- let all exhibitors have a slot in an exhibition area presentation area


Now what about making the whole event more democratic:

- let the audience decide the content. put the potential speakers/topics up on the web months before hand and let your audience vote for speakers (but ok, keep the keynotes for yourselves)
- have at least one stream which is an "unconference" - people sign up to speak on the day, just choosing from the available timeslots - they can even enter details on the web there and then so your on-line programme is up to date

Hell, why not run the whole conference as an unconference? It can, and does, work. Shouldn't your golden rule be that everyone who comes to the conference contributes something?


So far so safe. If you know what I do for a living then you know what's coming next....

Take your conference virtual. By this we mean:

- create a conference space in a virtual world (eg Second Life). For fun make the space reflect the topic not a conference room (Annual Conference of Sewer Managers or Gut Surgeons anyone?)
- stream the video and audio of the speaker into the space (OK this may cost if you're not already videoing the event - but if not why not - you can put the video content up on the web, an create a podcast with the same material)
- either stream the slides in as well, or have a full slideset in the virtual world (gives better quality but needs to be synchronised)
- have a member of you team in both the real and virtual space - so they can relay questions from the virtual space to the real conference
- ideally have a video screen showing real life attendees the virtual attendees, and a video feed into the virtual space showing the virtual attendees the real attendees (either as projected screens or as "virtual mirrors")

By setting up a parallel event in a virtual world you can:

- let delegates save carbon, energy and time by attending virtually
- let delegates who couldn't travel to the event still attend
- let virtual delegates network with each other far more efficiently than if they were each watching web site video feeds - and we're even finding now that the virtual networking is more efficient than the physical networking
- use automated networking tools like Intronetworks in ways that we can still only dream of in the real world (each avatar being told its % interest match with every other avatar in the room!)
- have an event which can live on afterwards - and where visitors can still benefit from serendipitous networking with other late-comers

Of course you still need to make money, and at the moment most delegates will still prefer to come in the flesh - but we are getting to the point where we have enough experience of delivering a good virtual event that delegates would be willing to pay real money to attend them.


Now all that might sounds like a great leap forward (and a great challenge), and I'm sure if you did all this you'd have a far more effective conference. But all we've really done is bolt stuff on to a format that probably goes back to the 19th Century. We didn't change things when vu-foils came in,  we didn't change when Powerpoint came in. Please let us change now Web 2.0 and virtual worlds have arrived.

What I would like to see is a root and branch review of how we hold these events. And we've got to start with the audience and what they are trying to achieve. Are they there as passive recipients of knowledge (not sales pitches), are they there to learn, are they there to contribute, or to interact and network? And what constraints do they have in terms of time, cost, energy? And what are they going to do when they get back to the office - I've always felt I'd like a day after each conference just to work out how I spread the stuff I've learnt back at the office - how great would it be if I could use the virtual space to hold my own mini-best-of conference with the event video and commentary all to hand? Then we shouldn't think about venues but about how we can use formats and technology TOGETHER to create the best possible pre, during and post conference experience for our delegates. Only then should we worry about the venue - and my guess is that venue will not be the cavernous halls (or concrete sleeping bags as we used to call them in the Army) of most current conference venues (if I see one more chandelier I'll scream).

So that's it, that's my rant over. Please conference organisers read this with an open mind and try and find time to have a hard think and a good look at the technology before you hold you next event. Yes your delegates might still rate your conference as good - but unfortunately most of them don't know just how stunning it could be.


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Monday, 13 October 2008

Google GeoEye returns first photo

Google sponsored Google Eye satellite has returned its first pictures, which promise to bring even higher resolution to Google Earth/Maps. Another step forward in the commercialisation of, and public access to, space.

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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Spending the weekend looking at fuzzy logic

Be interesting to see how we can build this into the AI emotion engine - and probably useful for the motivation engine too.

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Monday, 29 September 2008

SpaceX Falcon 1 gets to orbit

SpaceX Video

SpaceX finally got their rocket to orbit at the fourth attempt. Mind you they got to orbit at about 300km, 3 times as high as Spaceship One/Virgin Galactic.

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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Return to Retsmah Crossing!


Between PICNIC08 and the JISC event today it seems like Active Worlds might be making a bit of a comeback - it could certainly give Schools and maybe FE an alternative to SL without the age issues and with a simpler interface and PC requirements.

So I decided to set out and have another go at finding my old home in Alpha World (the main communal world). I failed miserably at the same task about 12 months ago - I new it was in the NE, but Alpha World is about 14000 km by 14000 km! And I knew it was on a train track- the crossing that gives it its name. At first I flew North from the centre looking for where the main drag met the rail road, but to no avail. Eventually I found the new Alpha World map ( Zooming around that I finally found something that could be a rail track, TP'd to it and it was, but not mine. I flew and Tp'd along it but it gave out after only a few 100 km - but I did find a sign that mentioned Retsmah. I then found a big rail junction, and checked each rail out of it, looking for stations and TP'in in to check. And then I was there - Retsmah Crossing. And right by it, where I left it ( I built it on Mon 13 Aug 2001 it says) was my first virtual house.


The little pond was there too, and the space cube (an early visualisation experiment). In suitable cyberpunk fashion all the screens were showing snow - "the sky the colour of a TV set tuned to a dead channel" - the URLs pointing to files on that are long gone - I wonder if they' reappear?


So now I've found it it's probably time to sign up again - or even try and reactivate the old account and build something new and personal on AW before we do something corporate on AW Europe.


Oh, and the grid: 2847N 624E. Make sure I don't forget it again!

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Wednesday, 24 September 2008



Just getting to the end of 2 days at Pre-PICNIC and PICNIC in Amsterdam Unfortunately I've got to head back to the UK tomorrow, but MUST make the whole show next week. Mainly been here courtesy of the Eduverse team - thanks Rob - but been great to get out and see some of the other stuff too. A few random notes:

- The PICNIC club in the old gasometer is great, free wifi, coffee and power
- The QBIC hotel, one step up from a capsule hotel, is great
- Good chat with a Dutch philosopher working in teen second life on daemons as part of the Self City project
- must check our externalism and Hermann's work and externalism
- lots of people using unity
- DrDoug Pennell (SL) from Ohio SU doing some stuff on virtual patients and AIML
- Cutter IT Journal
- 3dexplorer, alatdyne and
- philip rosedale really shoudl have been a revivalist preacher or the new Cliff Richard
- oh, and the donkey carries GPS and a web cam and is lifelogging its way across Europe guided by children

Now for supper!

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Friday, 29 August 2008



Last day, last crazy activity, Having spent one day in wet suits and 2 days in climbing harnesses I suppose it made sense to combine the two. In our swim gear and lycra thermals and with wetsuits strapped to our backs we hiked for 1.5 hours up alongside the River Carol's canyon. Then we had lunch, kitted up - wetsuits, climbing harnesses, helmets and walked own to the river - sitting in it to acquaint ourselves with the 7.5 degree water! Then it was of down the canyon. Apart from just striding or swimming through the water there are 3 "moves". First is the abseil. We did 2, each about 10 - 20m, with via ferrata type traverses to get into position. Then down the abseil, usually alongside a waterfall. Only difference to a normal abseil is that the rope stops about 2ft form the bottom - you just let it run through the figure of eight and fall into the water! Next up is the slide, just cross you arms and just ride the water chutes down - usually with a dunking in the next big pool. The final move is the jump. In this case they ranged from 1m to 10m - I did two of the 5m jumps, Ruth did up to 3m. As you plunged into the pool you felt like you sank deep into the water until the bouyancy of your suit brought you back up to the top.

After about 1000ft of descent we got to the bottom of the canyon. The day is billed as the best of the week, but in some ways I, and I think a few others, thought it was a bit brief. Being in the canyon was wonderful and we had too many too long walks around the "boring" bits. It would have been nice to just stay in the water the whole way down, just wading or swimming or small jumps or chutes. Forget the macho jumps, just enjoy the canyon!

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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Via Ferrata


Les Escaldilles - Llo

Probably the most physically demanding and un-nerving thing I've ever done (ditto Ruth). We had the options of the AD or D+ route (it goes F/PD/AD/D/TD/ED - although one web site I've found say the routes there are PD and TD!) - either way we did the hardest! The route climbed 259m in a length of 800m as it went diagonally up this big rock face. There were basically 4 types of terrain/pitches: a very few bits of walking/easy scrambling where you needed little protection, lots of traverses where you were using natural small rock ledges and grooves but with some sort of metal handholds, a few corners highly exposed where you had to step around to the next traverse, and finally a number of vertical climbs of 5m - 20m where you had metal rungs  which were sometimes obliquely spaced. The AD and D+ shared all the top 2/3rds. But the D+ start included a 20m overhanging vertical climb with a sloping wooden plank at the top - which looked flat from below but was a complete nightmare when you got to it. Ruth was pretty much pulled up this bit by the instructor  (she rapidly fell out of love with via Ferrata, but after about the 1/2 mark really got into her stride and enjoyed it). I thought I'd never be able to raise my right arm again my muscles felt so burnt out (and we were only 1/3 the way up). Protection was by two slings and carabiners - but you clipped these onto a fixed metal cable which was only attached (and so would stop a carbiner)
every 5m or so, so from the vertical climb you' slide 5m before the carabiner stopped, and then the sling had about another 5m of shock absorber built in so you'd then fall another 5m before you stopped!

Just to add to the fun most of the fixing points where you had to unclip and clip form the line (one carabiner at a time of course) where right on the crux moves! All this was about 60m above ground level - straight down. I thought exposure was going to be a problem, but you were so focussed on just trying to hang on and get up the only chance
you had to look around (and take photos) was on the easy bit. Needless to say we were all very relieved when we got to the top!

Once back at the town we soaked in the hot tub for an hour or two and had a cafe and crepe at the local Salon de The.

Canyoning tomorrow then home, but after today it should be a doddle
(assuming I've got my strength back and I'll be giving the water jumps
> 5m a miss anyway!)

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Mountain Biking

A really nice ride, 17km, a bit on road but mostlyforest and hill tracks through horses and cows and cowbells, with justenough roughness to get the adrenalin going and put the training intopractice. I'd guess about 1000m of descent (we started at 2100m). Lunch in the smallSpanish town of Lilvia (there's a Spanish enclave around the town which is about1/2 mile from the real Spanish border as apparently it declared that its town charter overruled the Treaty whereby this bit of Spain was ceded to France). We got back to the hotel about3ish and all the younger kids have been sat in the hot tub (its now5.20!), so Ruth's had a good afternoon anyway (mountain biking not really being her sport!).

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Monday, 25 August 2008

White Water Rafting and Hydrospeeding


65km/1h30m bus ride down to the River Aude for the white water rafting.
Wet suits, helmets, and lifejackets and a paddle. 6 to a boat, plus a
guide.First 5km were Grade 3 rapids, but obviously not exciting enough
for the guides so we played games like practising man (or in our case
Ruth) overboard, capsize drills and all being made to climb to the top
of a 10' rock and jump into the water and swim across the river. Then
we had 2 km of Grade 4 rapids where there were several 2-3' drops where
the raft just plunged down into the water - Ruth at the front squealing
with delight. We also rammed a good few rocks when the front of the
boat would just fold up and throw Ruth back! This last section was
canyoned with the high road wall on one side (the road about 20-30'
above) and a high natural cliff on the other side. Quite stunning.


Then we caught the bus back to the start point and had lunch. For the
afternoon we got thicker wet suits, bigger lifejackets, flippers and
our "hydrospeed" - a cross between a float, a board and the prow of a
ship. You put your arms into it and clench your hands then lie down,
most of your chest on the float. Then you do the same route as we did
in the rafts but with nothing else to protect you from the rocks. You
go in groups of 6 again with the guide leading the way - although often
when she fell back to check on people Ruth ended up leading the way
through the rapids once put on the right line. Needless to say you got
pretty battered as you hit or bounced off rocks- the worst being the
ones below the water line which passed under the float but caught your
knees! Also often when you tried to flip your flippers the water was so
shallow you just cracked your knees on the bottom. After the first 5km
about 1/4 of the group opted out of the Grade 4 section, but Ruth was
determined to do it. The second section
was a lot rougher, the big drops just pushing you right under water -
but we all came through it, tired and bruised. Ruth immediately
declared that she wanted to do it again - but luckily that wasn't an
option. My only real injury was right at the end when following Ruth up
a steep dirt slope to the car park she dropped her paddle and I stopped
to try and pick it up but slipped and came down hard on the top of my
leg - it still hurts!

For supper we went to one of the recommended cheaper resaturants
(generally everything seems expensive) but they did a good Prix Fixe
for Euro 13 with a salad starter, galette and crepe. Just right. Ruth
and I bought the french version of Harry Potter in the bookshop and
spent supper trying to translate it - I think we're four pages in!

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Sunday, 24 August 2008

Gorges de la Caranaca


Nice first day. Simple continental breakfast then out to the boulangerie and charcuterie to pick up lunch, and a market stall was just setting up with fresh peaches too. About a 40min drive down very windy roads to the Gorges de la Caranca. We then did the 4km round trek climbing about 500m, mostly in the shade since the gorge is both deep and heavily forested. At one stop there was a small rockface which had been bolted. Simon (the guide) asked Ruth if she could climb up to the second bolt, which she did and then traversed across whilst he spotted her. Was good to see how confident and professional she was moving on the rock, running her hands over it for the holds. Then one of the older boys was goaded into trying it, he almost got to the second bolt but then fell off, Simon only just controlling his fall! Needless to say no-one else wanted to be shown up by a 12yr old girl! On the return leg the path is cut straight into the rock (in the photo of Ruth you can see it on the far side of the Gorge) with huge drops and no railings (just a rail on the inside to hold on to!). Then lunch and then on to the Bain de Saint Thomas, a thermal hot springs which feeds three shallow swimming pools and the water is 36 degrees. Very relaxing.


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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Video: The MoD challenges schools & colleges to compete for robotic defense contract | Technology |

Video report from the Guardian on the MOD Grand Challenge which was won by Team Stellar/Cranfield using a mix of robotic aircraft, helicopters and mini-tanks.

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Chilas


Today they were pushing on to Chilas, probably only passing through Gilgit. From Chilas though they should be able to see Nanga Parbat in the distance.

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Wall in SL

The Wall in SL

As my Twitter stream shows I watched The Wall production in SL. Quite stunning and really began to show how a virtual world can be used for performance.

I've uploaded some photos to Flickr.

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Virtual ROTW - Karimabad

eagles nest hotel

Actually not a Google Earth/Flickr photo but from the hotel web site where they are staying - the Eagles Nest, nestling in the hills above Karimabad/Baltit in the hamlet of Duikar. The hotel is just by the Ultar Glacier, and has a fine view of the Lady's Finger peak.

I actually spoke to Deb for 60 seconds on the phone to sort out a bank issue. She says that despite initial reports saying they may have to stay 2-3 days in Karimbad whilst the road is cleared from a landslide they should now be able to move on tomorrow.

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Friday, 15 August 2008

Virtual ROTW: Karimabad

Haltit Fort that Deb mentions is just visible on the side of the mountain.

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Thursday, 14 August 2008

Virtual ROTW: Taxkorgan

Stone City in Tashkurgan

Didn't have any idea why they'd be stopping here til I saw the photos.


Taxkorgan in Tajik means "The Stone city"
It was so named because the Stone City is just 100 meters away from Taxkorgan Tajik
Autonomous County,
The history of the City can be traced back to Han Dynasty about 2000 years ago.
It was the Capital City of the Puli Kingdom,one of the 36 states in Western Region
under the jurisdiction of Han Dynasty.It had small scale at that time.It had been gradually
expanded during the Wei and Jin Dynasty. After Tang Dynasty had united the Western
Region,The Pamirs military office were set up here.At the beginning of The Yuan Dynasty
,the people went in for large-scale construction to build the city.During the Guangxu's reign
in the Qing Dynasty,The Puli Office had been set up and the City was restored once again to
to the scale we see the present day.

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Unveiling the Astrocube


About 20-25 years ago I found a copy of any early home programming magasine called the Liverpool Software Gazette. In it was the listing a programme for the Apple II for Stargate - an app which let you view the starts near the earth as a 3D cube - or even watch the night-sky from Sirius. I didn't have an Apple, but did have a BBC Micro so I rewrote it for the Beeb and released it into the public domain. A few years later I bought an Atari ST an rewrote it again.

And now I've brought it bang up to date in Second Life. The Astrocube on Daden Prime is a big 3D box within which we can plot astronomical objects in 3D. We've already got it loaded with closest stars, brightest stars and exoplanets. The one I really liked though was the 100 closest galaxies. It gives a real sense of a) the distance between the galaxies and b) the huge galaxy clusters which are out there.

We'll be posting a video to YouTube and a URL shortly.

Andy why, after 20 years and the Internet is my best source of data still the star atlas which came with GDWs Traveller 2300AD RPG?

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Rise of the rat-brained robots - tech - 13 August 2008 - New Scientist Tech

I can remember speaking to Prof Warwick about this and some other interesting applications of the "technology"about 9 months ago - interesting to see it now maturing.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Virtual ROTW: Karakul Lake

Karakul Lake

Warning: Stunning scenery approaching as they head south from Kashgar into the Karakoram. That is Mustagh Ata 7546 m in the distance. Check out the panoramic photo.

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Virtual ROTW - Kashgar

Sunday Market Kashgar

They made it! Unfortunately they missed the Sunday market (above) which was what most of the schedule was predicated on :-(

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Irkeshtam Pass?

irkeshtam.jpgStill no news since they were refused entry to China on Friday. Hopefully they got through today - but in the mean time here's some shots of the truck park which is the Irkeshtam Pass.Trucks waiting at Irkeshtam on the way to China

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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Sary Tash

sary tash

Of all the new places I've learnt about this trip I think that Sary Tash is the best. 3000m up in the Pamirs (the Roof of the World mountains), this small village sits on a vital T junction between the roads North to Osh and Uzbekistan, South to Karakul and Tajikstan, and East to Kashgar and China (the way the team is heading). Of everywhere it appears to be the place that still exhibits spirit of the Silk Road and the Great Game. The Lonely Planet guide even says its still rumoured to be on the major smuggling routes in and out of Pakistan to the south east.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Osh

Zicht over Osh vanop Salomons troon

Osh has this wonderful peak - Sulayman Mountain - looming over it. Next it's south into the Pamirs - the Roof of the World mountains.

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MAGIC Interactive Map

UK Government public GIS system, some interesting data sets and good resolution rural mapping

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Llangennith Surf Report, Surf Forecast and Surf Webcams

Tracking the surf ready for our surf school this weekend

Not wonderful, but probably OK to test our paddling, and Sunday looking better.

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Martian Rumours

Some interesting rumours running around about what Phoenix may or may not have discovered and which has been so far held back from the water announcement. I'd guess it will end up being very technical, but you never know....

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SpaceX Falcon Fails

Pity that Falcon failed for the third time. Mind you I still can't help feeling that rockets like this are very C20 and by now we really ought to be onto the spaceplance versions such as the X prize winner (and soon to be Virgin Galactic) SpaceShipOne and the WhiteKnight 2 carrier vehicle (unveiled last week):

The video from the second failed launch is a great view of what its like going into space as a rocket - complete with stage and fairing separation. Pity it never made it to orbit either.

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Sunday, 3 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Samarkand 2


Deb said that they were heading off to see the Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum complex today - which includes the Stairway to Heaven set of steps.

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Are there somewhere islands....

Found it. It's in the short section that plays as they play on the beach at Herne Bay (really Sandbanks/Studland in Dorset).

Are there somewhere oceans
Rivers still run down to
Oceans deep and briney blue where china clippers soar

Are there somewhere oceans
Boys still run away to
Flying fishes jump for joy and the roaring Forties roar

Are there some where dreamers
Drifting on the high road
Are there somewhere caravans, approaching Samarkand

Are there somewhere dragons, leprauchans and centaurs
Unicorns and Camelot and Never-never land

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Saturday, 2 August 2008

Virtual ROTW - Samarkand

Registan place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

What place more evocative of the East is there? For me the cult-ural reference will always be the line from the theme to Dominick Hide (the best BBC SF ever):

Are there somewhere islands?
Over the horizon,
Hidden by the morning mist, forever out of reach.

Are there somewhere islands?
Where the coco ripens
Wild canaries in the palms, a foot print on the beach

Are there somewhere mountains?
Talked about is whispers
Himalayas, mountain men never dared to climb

Are there somewhere mountains?
Where the tiger dances
Hillsides sweet with temple bells, half as old as time

(weird, just played it through and can't find the Samarkand reference, will have to watch the DVD tomorrow to find where it is - the finale version obviously has different verses!)

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Friday, 25 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Uzbekistan Border


Really into the desert now, and hopefully they can get across the border in a day - I wouldn't fancy camping out there. GE shows the whole area full of tracks radiating out of distant oases, it looks like craters on the moon.

And this is the border post, note the trucks queuing on the Kazak side.


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Like my old Newsglobe but on steriods. Done by CASA who did the 3D London, and who like our Google Maps in SL.

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Beyneu

It's an Italian camel, Roman.

The landscape is suddenly desert - although the camel is probably a bit of a give away! Looking on Google Earth Beyneu (about the size of Moseley, we checked) has a whole bunch of buildings with bright red roofs - metal anti-rust paint I suppose - perhaps Deb's can enlighten us. It also looks to be at a major rail junction, one back to Astrakhan, one further S into Kazakhstan and one on to Uzbekhistan which it looks like the road follows pretty closely.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Kazakhstan

Interesting as they cross into Kazakhstan there are lots of things to note:

  • They are now very much in Asia, not Europe
  • It's harder to find the red dots of Flickr photos, this one is probably 50 - 100 miles from their real location
  • We don't know their real location - this is the first time since they set out that they are "somewhere", in this case between Astrakhan and Beyneu, probably camping
  • They have been gone 2 weeks, a fifth of the time
  • They have visited 10 countries out of a total of 15
  • They have traversed 52 degrees of longitude, out of a maximum of 79 degrees
  • The mad dash across Europe is at an end, now they can enjoy exploring asia

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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Astrakhan

roofs in Ashtrakan

Astrakhan, and Europe is being left behind as the deserts of central Asia approach.

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Monday, 21 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Volgograd (Stalingrad)


Forget the two below, judging by Steve's post this is the one they mean, far more like it! (but still find the one below possibly more interesting and moving)


Volgograd War Memorial

Holzunov monument

Holzunov Monument

They did get to Volgograd last night after all. Deb talks about "There is the most incredible memorial to the Russian dead of the Battle of Stalingrad" - I guess its probably the first picture above having looked on Google Earth, although I must admit I'd expected something more like the second (also at the memorial), although it may have even been the more grecian looking thing.

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Climbing at Froggat


The girls and I had a nice afternoon climbing on Froggat - the first time I've taken them out climbing on my own outdoors. We couldn't find the climbing guide in the cottage so we've no idea which route we were on, but they both did two climbs each, and not easy by the look of things. It didn't even rain, although it was a bit blowy belaying up on the top.

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Virtual ROTW - Sea of Azov


Given Deb's text (see is sounds like they only made the Russian border today, not yesterday. So here's a nice pick of the north coast of the Sea of Azov which they'll have been following all day (and yesterday probably).

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Saturday, 19 July 2008

Virtual ROTW - Rostov-on-Don

Facade clock Rostov (Russia)

And into Russia! Facade clock in Rostov overlooking the Don. Another major Russian river, just upstream of where is flows into the Sea of Azov.

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Friday, 18 July 2008

James Wagner Au talks to Abi

abi and hamlet

James Wagner Au (aka Hamlet Au) bumped into our Abi chatbot when visiting our sim recently and wrote a lovely piece about her in New World Notes.

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Virtual ROTW - Mariupol

A very industrial looking place down by the Black Sea.

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Thursday, 17 July 2008

Babylon 5 in one song and video

Great stuff. The whole 5 seasons of Babylon 5 in one song and vid. Annotated description at:

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Virtual ROTW - Kherson, Ukraine

Kherson seaportDown by the mighty Dneiper, close to where it flows into the Black Sea, and to the Crimea. The Dneiper had some special significance in Warsaw Pact/Nato days and was I think the setting for many a big Pact exercise, when it was probably standing in for the Rhine.Still no news from the team - arriving to late to find cybercafe's I guess. Next rest day is in Volgograd, Russia.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2008