Retrovision 2009

dsc_1298Last weekend was our yearly meeting in Oxford. The entire weekend devoted to playing computer games, drinking and eating. Originally Retrovision started out as a place for anyone to visit and play retro games for fun, but has now changed into a private function for members of Llamasoft’s web forum – YakYak.

The pub we take over – the Folly Bridge Inn – is now well known for its rather excellent mixed grill dinners, of which I ate two (but not in the same sitting!).

I had a great time meeting everyone again, and through the magic of free wifi provided by the guest house I stayed in, managed to upload some photos each night and stuck them on my picasaweb account. I’ve got a few more I want to process and will put them on my photos website later.

One of the yearly attractions at Retrovision is a selection of games created by people from the YakYak forum. This year saw Sheep Snaggers by the almighty BeerCave Software, and Lazer Grazer by Lamptonworm. Sheep Snaggers is Sinistar, but with sheep and is written in Python and has an amusingly trippy attract screen. Lazer Grazer is pure insanity that involves controlling a small sheep that has to collect falling blue blocks of laser, but avoid falling red blocks of laser. The higest score reached so far is 184.

Writeup of my holiday in Spain is complete

As some of you might remember, I went on holiday to my parents’ apartment in Spain during the beginning of August (which doesn’t feel like a month ago!) and have just finished collecting the diary entries and photos that I took. Follow the link below to begin reading. It has been split into several pages, one per day with a few pictures in each. I’ve done it as pages, rather than diary entries so that it doesn’t get lost.

Last year my parents bought an apartment outside Orihuela in Spain. It’s now finished and they have been going out to it every few months, bringing back photos. During the summer I also went out there for just over two weeks with my dad to see what it was like. We also went into the Sierra Nevada mountains to do some walking. In keeping with the last time I went to Spain – when I was about six – I wrote a diary and took some photos.

Spain 2007


I’m off to Spain for three weeks. Staying at my parents’ apartment, which should be good. It has food, washing machine, a telly and the usual stuff people come to expect from an apartment.

No Internet though…

I just looked at the call charges on the Orange website since I had the crazy idea of doing GPRS for things like Skype and the odd bit of web browsing. Well…

costs of using your phone in Spain

  Service   Make/Send   Receive    
  calling   70p   30p   per min  
  text message   30p   free   per message  
  photo message (up to 50kb)   60p   free   per message  
  photo message (over 50kb)   75p   free   per message  
  video message   75p   free   per message  

per MB  
  3G data   £8.00       per MB  
  Video Calling   70p   30p   per min

I think I’ll be giving that one a miss then! £8 per meg is a little steep…

Mega Giant House Move Update

I got sidetracked by being overcome by boxes and having no phoneline for a few weeks, so here’s what’s been happening…

I hired a van from the 25th to the 27th of June which was, coincidentally, the same time that the weather thought it’d be really fun to rain constantly. The 25th was spent mostly sat in the van on either the M62 or in a mega giant queue leading down to my house. Only I wasn’t allowed to drive to my house as the road was shut. The slightly irritated policeman told me to turn around and find some other way to my house. I had to make a five mile detour just to get around a roadblock 50 metres from my house. There was another block the other end of the road too, but I ignored that one.

Thankyou people who helped me move house, I think I’d still be doing it now otherwise 🙂

The rest of that week was spent using the van to take my old house and move it into my new house. It took forever as I’d not packed everything into boxes, mistakenly believing that it would be quick to move things. Ha! no, it’s not… I did two van trips and four car journeys before the house was empty. I left behind a washing machine and a wardrobe.

On the 29th I went to a conference set up by the school I’ll be working at. They gave me a laptop 🙂 They gave me a laptop that was severely locked down to the point where I had to become quite creative at connecting to my local network.

The following week was spent unpacking boxes. So many boxes… if it takes two weeks to pack, it takes three to unpack – especially when you have a large kitchen, but no storage in it. I do have a mysterious dungeonlike place under the stairs though. Most of my stuff is now neatly packed away or piled in corners. I went to the recycling centre (tip) yesterday to get rid of a ton of shit left from when this house was done up before I moved in – the builders had filled the bins with wire and pipes and then left two bags of rotting rubbish outside too. That smelled great when I tried to move it and ants came out the bag.

BT turned up a week later to install my phoneline, which was nice. My laptop denied having a modem in it though, and wanted to connect to the Internet to find drivers. I resorted to visiting my cousin and letting my laptop talk to the Internet there. Once back at home it was all happy again and I could use awful dialup to go on the Internet… only I couldn’t as I didn’t have a new ISP yet!

Using the phone and my dad I signed up to Be Internet, plugged their dialup details into my laptop and reconnected with the world. Be made my Internet work on Monday, I’ll write about that separately.

So yeah, in the past three weeks I’ve managed to move house and it’s great. I do not have people living above me, the ones at the sides are normal, nice people who talk to me. I have a garden, somewhere to put my car and windows in every room. Of course there is random damp patches on some of the walls and under the kitchen floor there is a small lake, but I’ve taken that to be normal now. I like the view out my windows at the back, it’s a field, some trees and a little hill. The hill is really a rubbish dump, but they seem to be covering it over with soil gradually. I looked on Google Maps and it stretches quite far. The local council should really get more intune with recycling, I have a green bin for normal rubbish (err what?) and a brown bin for cardboard and paper only. I can take tins, glass and plastic bottles to Sainsbury’s but nobody seems that interested in plastic meat trays or sodding plastic bags.

I took millions of photos while moving, but since I’ve stolen the RAM out of my server I have nowhere to put them. Some have been uploaded to my Flickr account though and they’re what you’re currently looking at.

When I finally get the RAM I ordered off eBay I’m going to set up Apache on my server, allow incoming connections and turn it into a webserver. Once that has been done I can use it to store all my photos and selectively put some of the nicer ones on my gallery. It’s quite a bit of hassle getting photos online, I want a nice and simple method that doesn’t require farting around with lo

ng and error-prone HTTP uploads.

My house came without a fridge or washing machine so I’ve had to buy both of those. The fridge came three days after moving in, and my washer is due to arrive tomorrow. This is good since I’m running out of clothing and my bedding could do with a wash. The best part is the house has a normal electricity meter – no more walking to the local shop to buy tokens – good job since the local shop is a Post Office five minutes down the road, or the middle of town.

Click on any of the images to view my Flickr photostream.

We are go!

Today has been a very productive day. It began with me phoning the estate agent and being told everything was OK and that I could move in on Saturday. I can go tomorrow to get the keys and pay the first month’s rent (in cash!). Then I phoned British Gas and told them I was moving, they just told me to phone back on the day and they’d sort it all out. Must remember to take a meter reading first.

After that I phoned BT and got all that sorted out. This line will be turned off on Wednesday, and then some time between then and the 4th of July the new line will be turned on. They’ll try and do it from the exchange and SMS me if it works, otherwise an engineer will have to come on the 4th to do something.

Next on my list was my ISP who I want to change away from. I sent them a message using their website, and while stuffing things into boxes received a phone call. This was a really strange call, the bloke was from my ISP and essentially he was trying to convince me to stay by doing me a “favour”. This favour consists of not cancelling my account, but dropping it to a £9.99 one instead for two months. Why? Well, when I moved here last year they paid my house moving fee but cleverly didn’t explain that I then had to stay with them for a year before that fee is wiped off my bill. The man on the phone said that instead of paying £47 now to settle the moving fee, he could keep me as a customer until the fee expires and then shut my account – or decide to sign up again, he was quite hopeful I would do this.

So instead of paying £47 to leave, I’m paying two lots of £9.99. That’s assuming I want to leave them still, you know I might decide that since they were so nice to me I might come back.


The rest of today has been spent stuffing things into boxes, stacking the boxes and then restacking them when it looked like they’d fall over. It’s a bit like Tetris, only the boxes don’t go away when I make lines. There is lots of glass things and bits of computer that must not get damaged. The picture frames are proving to be hard to pack – being both fragile and large.

Oh, and my trolley appeared today. It looks like it should do the job OK. God knows it’s going to get enough of a test on Sunday when I buy a fridge and freezer. And a bed. And retrieve a chair. Did I mention I have hired a van too? This is going to be a fun, but expensive weekend. I’m off to bed now, there’s not a lot else to do since it’s in boxes 🙂 Had a bit of a worry when I thought all my mugs had been packed, but then I found one so I can still make tea.

Tomorrow I have to pay for the house, collect a van and then park it outside somewhere and hope some of our less intelligent locals don’t think it contains stuff worth stealing.

End of the 6am Starts

My final placement has finished. No more will I have to endure getting up at 6am and staggering about the house for fifteen minutes just to wake up. I’m off until my proper job starts in September so expect to be completely nocturnal by then.

Kids are strange. You fall into three categories – people the like, dislike or couldn’t care less about. Being in the first category is a handy way of keeping them under control, and it’s weird the way they’ll decide if they like you or not. Sometimes they decide you’re likeable simply because you don’t shout at them all the time.

Now I have a week to put all my files in order, sort through the work I should have done six months ago and generally make sure I am ready to have everything assessed. I see a week of typing and organising ahead of me; dividers and sticky tabs have been bought for the occasion.

My new school are holding an induction day at the end of next month. In fact a lot will be happening next month as I need to find somewhere to live again and then move. Currently I’m on the scrounge for things to put into an empty house – handy things like tables, chairs and settees.

Guess what…

Keep reading…

Last night I set out to write a world class lesson plan for my interview today. Something different, something useful, something that shows I can make kids remember things.

Hmm… well group work goes down well, they can find me information about parts of operating systems, different types of GUIs. They can do a few past exam questions. We’ll discuss it at the end. Yeah.

Or with some modification I can take my laptop running Linux in, show them that and actually demonstrate the difference between a GUI, CLI and a menu based interface. We can then compare and contrast Windows and Linux, GUIs and command lines. Do a few questions and explain what the examiners are looking for. Even better, bonus points for doing something different.

So I set off at 6:15 – never arriving late to an interview ever again, I was due there at eight. I obviously arrived at 7:15, bang on the target time Google said. Oh well, half an hour of web browsing on my N800 helped to pass the time. And then in I went.

Laptop was connected to projector. Laptop didn’t like the projector. X config file was edited and the projector behaved itself. Then my USB drive didn’t like the school’s computer until a real teacher logged in. Right, objectives are on the board, lesson plan is on the desk. I know what I’m doing, I know who I am… go go go!

And the lesson went well, even with two people doing proper formal observations of me. The kids sat there in complete non-comprehension about GUIs. They couldn’t even tell me what kind of user interface Windows was.

Right… I see a problem here, can I fix it? Can I get the kids to at least recognise a GUI when they see one?

Well yeah, I can. It took an hour and a lot of repetition, and examples. Being able to boot my laptop and show them a real, live CLI was useful.

The lesson ended and I was given to the IT techies for a while with the comment of “he’s technical too, tell him about this place’s computers”. They have site-wide wireless networking with roaming capabilities, staff laptops, a new tape loader that isn’t working properly and people who ring up and moan about their pc not working. They aren’t BOFHs, give IT teachers higher privileges than regular teachers, and generally aren’t afraid to show off their system.

Eventually the school remembered I existed and asked me into another interview. This one was full of people very high up the school foodchain. I’m fairly sure there was a governor there too. We had a talk, I had more tea. They offered me the job, I took the job and signed some contracts.

Yeah, I got it 🙂 I start in September.

So it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

University want me to talk to the rest of the ICT trainees about interviews and getting a job since I’m supposedly the first person to do so. That’ll be another odd experience on Monday.