DevXS 2011


On the 11th November, I went to the JISC event DevXS. As I am a fan of the Dev8D events held every February, and this event is for undergrad and postgrad students I thought it would be a great chance to meet some very talented computer science students from all over the country.

This event was set to cover the whole weekend, and instead of a focus on teaching sessions like Dev8D, it focused purely on competitions in which teams are given 24 hours to implement their projects in a ‘code marathon’.

Friday Night

As there were a few of us going from UWL, I decided rather than travel to Lincoln alone, I’d go with one of my colleagues, which like me wanted to explore some of Lincoln during the day before the evening event registrations. Have to say I was fascinated with the Cathedral, Castle and Roman remains. I think that after the brief look I got, I would like to go back to explore more of the city.

After some exploring, Malte and I went to registration and then went on to get the hotel keys for the hotel room. The evening was then filled with food, socialising and drinking. The organisers created a game called bingo, which required the person to meet people and see if the statements contained in their grid fitted that person and then get a signature. Once all the grid statements were signed you shouted “bingo”, got a badge and got another drink ticket. This proved a very good way of getting everyone to talk and get to know everyone. After the food and drink, me and another of my colleagues went into Lincoln town to experience the nightlife.


Have to say I was rather hungover for the morning, but still ready to get going on one of the competitions. Because there were only 4 of us from my institution we decided to form a team named Team UWL. We decided to try and do a bluetooth system for distribution location based information and events, as part of the Freshers App competition. During the day they had an array of sweets and drink which was good, and we got a good lunch. In the course of the day there were several keynotes, but to be perfectly honest other than the magic show in the evening, I’m unsure how many people really were listening to them.

The Venue

What I found amazing was the amount of people still working hard at 2am, the atmosphere was great, and proved a great way of getting help and support from lots of people. I found also the tip to use f.lux given in the midnight keynote to be fantastic. My team managed to keep programming until about 02:30.


In a somewhat funny way, the organisers put “Wham – Wake me up before you go-go” on the speakers to wake us up. There was a great breakfast, and a final rush to try and get everything working and finished in time. If you view our git repo featured in the last post you will see the amount of activity increasing closer to the noon deadline.

We then had to pitch the idea of our work to the whole hall, as a way of the everyone including the judges to see our projects explained, in 60 seconds or less. This was a great way of hearing and in some cases seeing some of the fantastic work done by everyone. Sadly my team had trouble getting both parts of the system to work together but we have agreed it would be great to continue the work.

Overall I had a fantastic weekend, met some great people and now looking forward to Dev8D 2012.

Anyone interesting in knowing more about the event, go to

Dev8D 2011


For my third year running, I have attended Dev8D. I was hoping that even though I had a great time last year, can it get better? Well the answer to that is yes! Since having a tiny exposure to Scheme, I decided to try some of the code labs learning different functional languages.

On the first day, I attended the Erlang course (session 1 in the morning, and session 2 in the afternoon). This session was excellently done, obviously by a professional trainer. Being I had only done alittle bit of functional programming previously I was surprised how quickly I was able to keep up and start doing stuff. I have to say I am very impressed at Erlang’s ability to deal with processes, I think I spawned 100,000 processes in just over 2 seconds! Also I liked how easy it is to send messages between processes and give responses, no wonder Facebook use it for their chat system. I also went to the Python session, this language was interesting (though I was slightly miffed at the concept of no atomic types and everything is a object idea).

On the second day, I attended the Kinect Hacking session. I really enjoyed this session as it really shows great potential for interesting HCI in many different areas. I didn’t personally get involved but more took a backseat on it, as I didn’t have a Kinect with me and the hacking software seemed slightly ropy and I didn’t want that all on my macbook. I found it great how it mapped out arms, I just wished I had the chance to see the helicopter flying with the Kinect! :(. For the afternoon, I attended the clojure session. This session was great, where by we were taught the basics of clojure using a squareroot example program. This was very interesting and insightful, though have to admit heavy on my head. I have loved learning something new at this event.
Overall this year was somehow even better than last! And I can’t wait until the next.

Dev8D 2010

Last month I attended for the second year running the JISC supported Dev8D event in central London. For this year because of my change to a PhD, I had a bit more freedom to when I could attend so I decided to go two days this year instead of just one, concentrating on Thursday and Friday. What I found amazing, was how much the event had grown since last year! I’ve haven’t seen so many people like myself in ages, was really nice.

On Thursday I chose to attend the expert lighting talks in the morning with the Cloud Workshop in the afternoon.

Picture of Cloud Computing Workshop at Dev 8 D 2010

Cloud Computing Workshop

In the exper talks there a few talks in particular that stood out to me, firstly the talk about genetic programming, secondly the talk about web security which I took notice of some of the tips they suggested!

Arduino Workshops – Friday

These workshops were by far the coolest thing I’ve done in a good while! I attended two workshops, one for beginners in the morning and a more advanced workshop for the afternoon. In the morning we got a talk about the hardware and how to do very basic programs like getting a single LED to flash and also using a speaker to make very sounds, with one group able to program their arduino to make the Simpsons theme song!

Below are some of the things I worked on in the advanced workshop, including multiplexing LEDs and driving a motor using the arduino

Overall I had a great time, and look forward to next year. Hoping there to be more Arduino workshops.

Dev8D :: Thursday 12th February



Today I went to the dev8D event sponsored by JISC at Birkbeck University. Though the event is being held over the duration of this week I was only able to attend today. Today the main agenda was community activities with discussions into real life systems and how they can continue to grow.

In the morning there were two sessions running;

  1. Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) including Blackboard, Moodle and Sakai.
  2. Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) including library catalogs.

I chose to attend the session on VLEs. The talk/discussion facilitator was Sarah Sherman, where we were told about the various systems used including a talk about a single blackboard instance that is ran and shared with 6 brands and how this is managed. A talk was then given about Imperial College’s web ct system, though was quite surprised to see that they used it for short question assessments, though the fact that no wiki was being used didnt surprise me.

A close look was then done for LSE’s system which runs on Moodle. I was quite surprised to see that well since college the layout of Moodle had been kept the same (the college i studied at implemented a VLE running Moodle). The moodle system still is a flat structured system will alot of the functionality being on the homepage. The system is used for content delivery, discussions(class and group) and presentation tools. Wikis are not used because of the lack of power and turnitin is not currently used.

The VLE used by Cambridge was then domonstrated, which was Camtools for their current system and their currently in development Sakai system.  The interface of the Sakai system was similar to the Blackboard V9 with the draggable widgets, though it was said that those system provides the user with the option of changing the layout to their preference, only approx 4% of the userbase had actually done this.

Blackboard V9 was then presented. This version I felt had a slightly improved interface to V8 that i have been using at University currently. Some of the new features included allowing the user to move the screen widgets to different parts of the page which is also implemented on the Cambridge systems. There was further work to make the system easier to manage and help make tasks easy to be carried out by academics. There were also features that had been improved on since  V9 including the wiki system.

Some interesting discussion was brought including talking about using a single blackboard instance for more than 1 brand. Though it was mentioned that you can not have more than one customisation of the system for one instance. Perhaps this maybe sorted in the future?

Lunch was then served with an array of different sandwidchs, that definately put a smile on my face! Just sat around chatting to a nice bloke from Southampton University and talked briefly about Remora which I am involved in.

For the afternoon sessions I chose to attend the talk/discussion on Collaberation Tools including Instant Messaging, VoIP and various online cloud-based tools including Google Mail and Google Docs.

This talk was very interesting with talks from Westminster University and about how they moved their University wide email system to Google (Though perhaps quite a funny turn with the 2 1/2 hours downtime that happened yesterday). This talk did show that money can be saved by using services over hosting your own systems but then there comes a problem which some including myself is an extremely important matter, trust.

Some people could already express concern at the amount of reliance on Google for their email and documents that what happens if Google decide to either charge you or perhaps use your sensitive data?

The talk then basically turned in a grilling by a security consultant from darq# which was very interesting to be inbetween. Some talk was given into the advantages of using Instant Messaging and VoIP tools such as Skype, and disadvantages including the problems with bandwidth if your an unlucky soul to become a “super node”.

Overall I enjoyed myself alot and got to speak with some very interesting individuals. Perhaps Happiness did come of this event?