I got my sandbox account today. I had a message a couple of weeks back telling me it was due to arrive shortly, and asking me to fill out a form, and it finally turned up (so if you’re still waiting, it’s probably just because there’s a lot of people to process, and not because of anything you’ve done wrong, as I was beginning to suspect). Sadly I don’t have much time to play with it this week, but I thought I’d pop up a screenshot of the infamous Aunt Rosie translation tool, which seems to be working pretty well (though does throw a few bugs if you cut and paste thousands of words at her, poor thing).
When using BizTalk, there’s often one or two databases you’ll need to access regularly. Rather than hard coding these in parameters of the database methods, a potential solution is to create a functoid which returns the required connection string. This gives you the advantage that should you need to change your connection string, changing it in your functoid will simultaneously update everywhere using that connection string. Of course, once you’ve got one connection string to your configuration database, you can use simple names to access your other databases, since these names can be stored in your configuration database along with the relevant connection strings, making them even easier to maintain.
For anyone who hasn’t seen or heard it, Genius is a BBC Radio 4 show, which recently also aired on TV (BBC 2). The premise of the program is to get members of the public to submit their ideas, after which host Dave Gorman and a guest celebrity “genius” will analyse the idea to determine the intelligence of the submitter. However, these ideas aren’t always the most standard of thoughts or inventions. Ideas such as the Democrabus; a bus where all passengers have their own steering wheel and the bus goes the way of the majority, the Torture Box; a box into which inanimate objects which have in some way wronged you are placed in order to punish them, and Cat Bars; clubs where women sit at a table having a few drinks whilst enjoying the delights of having a cat wander over to their table to be stroked for their pleasure, are just a few examples of the sorts of thing which can be expected. To see some of the televised episodes, look here: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bbc+genius+gorman&search_type=&aq=f.
So, introductions over, what’s this post about. Well, I’ve been busy submitting my own ideas for Genius; though so far have heard no word of a new series. So, in absence of further knowledge, I’ve decided to pop up a post of these ideas for all to enjoy. I hope you do.
The Hover Lawnmower
A device with spinning rotors on the bottom; two things spring immediately to mind. So why not combine these to reuse the rotation, and lose the wheels. This would allow an all-terrain lawnmower, able to cut grass on land or water. Adjusting the shape of the blades to a simple propeller design, and putting a skirt around the edge to focus the flow and reduce grass-throw would make this the perfect pitch preserving device.
Left Hand Man
Like a right hand man, but more creative. Your right hand man is someone who helps take care of all of the tasks you need to do and issues you need to resolve. Your left hand man helps you resolve some of the more design oriented problems, such as choosing the right shade of almost-white to paint the walls, choosing which songs to put on your iPod before jogging, and selecting spices to liven up your chicken pie.
Also available in this range are the right and left hand women (useful if you need to work on several things at once), and the foot range, popular with the upper classes.
The Jigsaw Shredder
Worried about identity theft? Then you need the Jigsaw shredder. This cunning device takes your sensitive documents and turns them into 1000 pieces of criminal entertainment. By moving from strips of paper to puzzle pieces, the task of reassembling the document becomes far more enjoyable. This, you think, may be counter-productive; however it’s actually counter-intuitive. By making the task more enjoyable, you’re encouraging the criminal to take up a new interest, helping to replace their bad habits with wholesome hobbies. Now, I know what you’re thinking. . . what about the edge pieces. If they can get the edge of the document together, they can reassemble my document in no time, making it far too easy to reassemble, thus completed too quickly for the seed of a hobby to be planted. Well, that’s the genius bit. Once a jigsaw shredding has been made, the edge pieces are removed and burnt. This burning of pieces produces enough energy to power the machine (whereas burning all the pieces wouldn’t be environmentally friendly).
Most books about psychos focus on the negatives, but I’m sure there must be a yang to the yin; people with positive mental disorders. This idea came about from my own condition of “polite tourettes”; not a real condition, but a habit of saying words such as “cool” or “awesome” at random or awkward moments (which can be as bad as real tourettes if one of these words pops out just after someone says “my mum just died”)!
I haven’t started writing this book yet, since I haven’t got enough ideas to make it interesting, but I thought I’d pop it on here to see what people thought of the idea.
Other possible symptoms are:
- People hear voices in their head telling them to make tea for people.
- People who can get stuck holding a door open for days, never wanting to go in front of anyone else.
- Not being able to eat whilst listening to someone else talk, as well as when talking yourself.
- The inability to be negative about another person, regardless of what that person’s done.
Most graphics tools these days provide a facility to fill areas using a gradient; an area filled with colour which gradually morphs from one colour to another. However, once an area’s filled, there’s rarely much functionality to work with these areas. Useful tools could be:
- Tolerance Filter: When using tolerance filters, traditionally you can specify that a change is detected when the colour being analysed is a given value away from the selected colour. A more useful tolerance detection would use the tolerance value to compare each step & detect a border where this step is significant. As an example, say the tolerance value is 3 and the selected value is 10, in the following sequence, the area in quotes would be selected: 1,2,4,5,9,10,11,12,10,9,8,7,6,5,4. On the other hand, using the stepped tolerance filter would select the following: 1,2,4,5,9,10,11,12,10,9,8,7,6,5,4.
- Colour Replace: Building on the above, when pasting an area with a gradient, it would be good to maintain the tone of the colour at the various points, so when pasting red over a blue gradient, the blue is replaced with red, but the shading remains the same (e.g. dark in one corner and light in another).
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a modern classic. Many of you will have predicted that I’m a fan of Douglas Adam’s work from my blog title (42 is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, according to a supercomputer built with the specific task of answering the ultimate question). The story follows a man called Arthur Dent, a normal, suburbanite man who unknowingly befriends an alien on earth to write a report for a guide for hitch hikers. Adams creates a number of comedic situations stemming from ideas in science, philosophy and religion, as well as observations from real life (e.g. bistromathics; a branch of mathematics based on the missing amount after a restaurant bill has been equally split and everyone has paid). There are five books in this series, all building on the previous ideas, but without much planning as to how it’s all going to end. As a result, the books get darker and weirder in an effort to bring all of the plot lines to a satisfactory close, and here, the end of the series holds a few unexpected surprises. This has been my favourite book for a number of years, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in science, technology and comedy.
Author(s): Jostein Gaarder
Sophie’s World is one of the most unusual books I’ve read. It starts out when a 14 year old school girl discovers a note in her postbox asking two questions “who are you?” and “where does the world come from?”. In searching for the answers to these questions, the author guides you through the history of philosophy, presenting the main historical figures and key concepts which have been raised over time. Much of the book is factual, but with all of these complex philosophical ideas being wrapped in a fictional story to keep it light hearted and readable. There’s also the slightly worrying sub text of the philosopher’s relationship to his student, but I’ll leave you to read into that one yourselves.
Despite being so unusual, and partly because of this, this book is amongst my favourite books. In the same way Wild Swans made me realise how little I knew about the history and politics of other countries, Sophie’s World has taught me about areas of philosophy I’d previously not delved into.
Wild Swans is a fascinating story following the author’s family history from her grandmother to herself, covering on some of the most interesting years in Chinese history. The story begins in the time of the great warlords, and brings us up to the death of Chairman Mao. This story is both moving and informative. The author evokes your emotions with tales of the brutal and idiotic violence of the mob mentality created under Chairman Mao, and with accounts of what was being done to her parents during this time. She also made me discover how little I knew about China; I knew it was a communist country, and had heard of Chairman Mao and Tianneman Square, but never knew the stories of how these events came to happen, or understood how they could be allowed to happen. For anyone interested in history, psychology, politics, or the world around them, this is a must read. It’s also great if you just want a gripping novel.
This is an idea for an application for portable devices, such as The iPhone or devices running on the Android OS.
By taking advantage of features such as GPS and other technologies allowing you to find a user’s location, it should be possible to write an application which can sound an alarm when you come within a certain distance of a point.
When on a bus journey in unfamiliar territory, you often don’t know when you’re close to your stop. This alert would tell you to get ready to get off in time for you to make it.
When heading home on the train, late at night, you may fall asleep. Having an alert to wake you up in time to reorientate yourself, collect your belongings, and exit at your station could save countless taxi fares and embarrassing anecdotes.
- Auto Default(s):
- In certain conditions, the alert activates itself. An example may be after 11pm, when you’ve been in London, and you’re now following your normal route home (e.g. your location suggests you’re on the train, heading home).
- Default location(s): The points at which your alerts should sound by default.
- Default distance/time(s): The distance / time from the above points at which the alert should sound.
- Default alert: Sound, Vibrate, or something else?
- Time Sensor: Speed can be estimated by looking at the recent change in distance / time. This can be used along with the remaining distance to work out the ETA.
- Periodic Check: To save on battery life, check the current position at intervals. Use the maximum possible speed to work out a suitable interval (e.g assume a top speed of 30mph if there’s only paths, or 120mph if there’s rail/roads between you and your destination).
This is an excellent book for anyone programming in an OO language developing applications of an enterprise nature (e.g. with data, business logic & presentation tiers in multi-user environments). Many of the ideas presented are ones you’ll have discovered for yourself at some point, but having the pattern clearly extracted, and additional points which you may not have considered raised, enables you to see how you can improve your code, and get into better practices. Additionally, by presenting these patterns, you’re given names for these solutions, allowing you to use these terms in your code, making it more readable by others.
The book is easy to read without being patronising, code samples are given in C# and Java, and the author expresses his opinions about each of the patterns presented, guiding you when to use each, and what areas to avoid (with the relevant justifications).