MonthApril 2010

Barcamb3 – A weekend at Redgate

Well I’ve finally caught up with myself after the weekend in which I hung out at the Redgate Software offices in Cambridge for Barcamb3. Barcamb3 was the 3rd Barcamp to be held in Cambridge and was organised by Lee Theobald and Vero Pepperrell and sponsorship was provided by Redgate Software, Paypal, Taylor Vinters Solicitors, Opportunity Links, Code Institute, Studio 24, Idea Space, Squizzle, Proactive and Cam Tech Net.

First day assignment at Redgate Software

Sessions I attended on Saturday

Personal Data and the Law – Drew Winlaw
Drew Winlaw from Taylor Vinters Solicitors gave one of the first talks of the day which revolved around your personal data and how the law comes into play. Drew discussed a number of things including Personal Data, The processing of that data, “Relevant filing system”, Data subject access requests, Confidential references, Legal advice and privileges, New monetary penalties and Cross border transfers of data.

Hi Jaxing links with JQuery – Jake Gordon
Jake Gordon works over at which provides yearbook solutions to schools and colleges across the country. In this session Jake gave a demonstration of the site and how they are using Ajax to do cool stuff. He discussed the problems that they’ve had to face getting JQuery to work with certain things and how nothing is magical or secret when implementing Ajax into a project. Jake also talked about XHR requests, Bookmarkable URLs, IE and the YUI Browser History Manager.

How to give feedback online – Alistair
Alistair gave a round table discussion on how we should give feedback both online and offline.

Autism and the legal justice system – Jamie Knight
Jamie Knight gave a very interesting session regarding Autism and the legal justice system and how they helped him when he needed it most. He talked about the process and considerations which need to be taken such as Transport, Pre-visits, Video Connections, Safe Rooms and Middle-men.

Open Government – Dave Briggs
Dave Briggs gave a talk around the 4 elements of open government on the web. He covered topics such as Engagement, Open data and transparency, Collaboration and Co-creation and how the internet is not just another channel.

Test Driven Development
Michael Brunton-Spall and Tiest Vilee paired up for this talk in which they discussed pair-programming and Conway’s game of life. They also talked about un-balanced pairs and the pros and cons regarding pair-programming.

DevOps – Gareth Rushgrove
Gareth gave a session on DevOps and how it’s not just about deployment. He recommended tools such as PuppetLabs and Cucumber Nagios and discussed how these can make your life a lot easier.

Getting inspiration for photography – Me
After giving this session at Barcamp Bournemouth 2 a couple of weeks ago I thought I would give it again at this Barcamp. Instead of me explaining it here, it’s probably best if you go over to my write up of the session.

Drupal for good
This was a round table discussion on how a couple of guys are using the Drupal CMS to build Mountain Rescue Center websites. Topics discussed included How the site was put in place, The problems that they faced and Project Management.

Networking through the day

Sessions I attended on Sunday

Introduction to GIT – David Thompson
David Thompson gave this session on GIT covering What it is and what it isn’t, DVCS, GIT/=SVN and DAG. He also covered topics such as Pushing and Fetching, Hashes, Blob Trees and Commits, Built in branches, The Index, Quick repositories and Rebasing.

Desert Island DVDs – Which Films would you take?
I gave a small session in a hope to get people talking which revolved around the choice of taking films with you to a desert island. The answers given from the attendees were interesting.

Geolocation and Beer – Neil Crosby
Neil Crosby gave a demo on a weekend project that he has currently being working on called which allows you to find beer close to your current position. He discussed the technologies used such as Static Google Maps, Translating of Lat/Long, Finding the user’s location, How to keep the user and the Google Local Search API. The slides for this presentation can be found over at slideshare.

80s Computers – Leeky
Leeky gave a fun talk on what computers he grew up with and the possibilities which they gave.

Creative Macro Photography – Caz Mockett
Caz Mockett gave this session based around creative macro photography. She showed the possibilities of Macro photography and covered topics such as Lighting, Focus and Depth of Field, Household Objects, Food and Drink, Natural World, Playing with scale, Abstract eye, Rainbow week and Thinking around the subject.

Wire Framing in Google Docs – Me

Whilst reading the YDN blog the Thursday before the event I noticed that someone had created a set of stencils which could be used for wire framing in Google Docs. This was a very simple show and tell session just to make people aware that there is more options out there for companies which are looking for a free wire framing alternative.

Vero Pepperrell wraps up the weekend

I really enjoyed this Barcamp and Redgate Software were great hosts. A big shout out and thank you has to go out to the organisers, sponsors and of course the attendees for making the weekend what it was.

Not yet a girl, not yet a woman

Not yet a girl, not yet a woman

Getting inspiration for photography

Some people have asked me:

“Martin, how or where do you get the inspiration to get out with the camera?”.

I have to say this is an interesting question and I decided to give a session about it at Barcamp Bournemouth 2 a couple of weeks ago and planning to do it again at BarCamb this weekend, but for those of you out there that either missed Bournemouth 2 or will miss BarCamb then here is a blog post explaining were you can also get inspiration from.

Go out and watch some movies

I regularly watch films either at the cinema or in the house. By watching movies you can see directly through the director’s eyes to see what they were seeing at the time. Directors use a number of angles or special effects in any one film and the techniques in films can be easily transferred to photography.

Pick up a newspaper and start reading

A newspaper photographer needs to tell a story within one or two shots. By looking at the images to an article in a newspaper you can see how the photographer was thinking. This can include the position of elements, and the use of different perspectives in the image.

Wedding Photojournalism

I’ve photographed a couple of weddings now, but before each of the weddings I looked around Flickr for some inspiration. Think of different ways of doing the same old shots, break out of the box and try something different. A favourite of mine is asking the couple to show you the “finger”, the ring finger that is!

Loose yourself in the streets

Whilst walking around a city that I’ve never been to before, I love nothing better than to get completely lost and getting off the usual streets. By doing this I can normally get 2 to 3 times more photos as I can find things such as graffiti in back alleys and also find bars/restaurants etc. which are tucked away.

Find a protest march

Protest marches are a great place to get photo journalistic images if a large number of people attend. If you leave a protest march without any images, you’re simply not trying hard enough!

Browse websites – Think Flickr Explore and

I spend a lot of time browsing the likes of Flickr for photographic inspiration as it is made up of people from all over the world, from different ages and backgrounds. A photographer who has given a lot of inspiration to me over the last few years is Thomas Hawk, who is aiming to upload 1 million processed images before he dies. Another website which is great for photographic inspiration is Utata. There are various projects on Utata such as Photographic stories in which a user may upload a set of 5 images and tells a story relating to them or a project called Iron Photographer which really makes your brain tick.

Hang out at events

I attend events quite a lot including Barcamps, Makerfaires, Chinese New Year and Music gigs. When I go to these events I will try and take photos of everything, again think outside of the box, don’t take photos of what everyone else is taking as you want yours to stand out above the rest. I try to come away from an event with a mixture of portraits, photos of the event itself and goings on around the fringe.

Prime it up and limit the kit you take out with you

Recently I’ve only been shooting with a couple of prime lenses. It’s a way of challenging me to find different shots as I can’t stand in one place to zoom in and out.

Take away the colour

You don’t have to do every image in colour. A lot of my portrait shots end up being black and white simply because they seem to look better and have a lot more character to them

Play with colours

Completely opposite to the previous point is playing with colours. Try to find contrasting colours in your image and use a colour wheel as a reference point.

Commit yourself to a project 365

A few people I know have taken part in “Project 365” and have either completed or well on their way to it. Unfortunately in the past I’ve never had time to do one myself, but from what I’ve heard, it’s a challenge, gets your brain ticking and you feel a sense of reward afterwards. However if your name is Alistair, you can take it even further than 365 by having a duck!

Go Macro

If you’re a Canon user I would recommend going out and buying the EF 100mm 2.8 Macro lens. It’s one of my favourite lenses that I own and it also does great portrait shots. The photo above was taken in Durham through a shop window. Macro stuff is also great if the weather isn’t too good outside. You can always find something around the house to photograph.

Change your angle

Get up high, get down low, look above, look down, look behind you. A great way of making your photos stand out above the rest is changing your perspective.

Use different settings and press buttons!

Even after having a DSLR for a few years, people will still stick to the “green mode” or automatic mode. Experiment with different settings, explore the menus that are hidden away. If the brown stuff hits the fan, you can always reset the camera to the factory settings.

Go photo walking and make friends

If you get the chance, get involved in a photo walk. I’m regularly out with the guys from the Newcastle Photo Walk group on Flickr and have made some good friends through this. Photo walks are also great for socialising with people whether it being having a drink or grabbing a bite to eat. They are also good for trying out other people’s kit for example swap lenses and try something different.

Explore the world

This can be done one of two ways, either use transport such as plane, bus etc or just do it from the comfort of your own home using Flickr World Map.

Rules are there to be broken

This can apply to both photographic rules such as “Rule of Thirds”, “Correct ISO” or just rules in general. Sometimes you have to break the rules to get the pictures!

NE Bytes – SQL Injection attacks and Office 2010

Ben Lee and Jo Noble

Last night I attended the NE Bytes event which was held at Newcastle University covering SQL Injection attacks and a sneak peak at the new Microsoft Office 2010.

SQL Injection attacks and how to avoid them – Colin Mackay
Colin Mackay, an MVP and event manager gave a talk on SQL injection attacks and how to avoid them when developing your applications. He explained that SQL Injections are nothing new and how they been around for quite a while now and to avoid them. It was also pointed out that you need a multifaceted approach to lock down your application. Colin talked about how attacks can be separated into two categories mainly 1st and 2nd order attacks and how you should trust nothing (even paper forms). He then went on to discuss how stored procedures can provide an extra level of security, but they also have their downfalls. Towards the end of the talk he discussed Dynamic SQL in SPROC, ORMs and why you should hide your error messages.

A sneak peak into Microsoft Office 2010 – Ben Lee and Jo Noble
Ben Lee and Jo Noble paired up for the next talk in which they discussed and gave demos of some of the new upcoming features in Microsoft’s newest release of Office. The following features are the ones they hit on most and I have to say they look rather cool.


  • Broadcast Slideshow – Broadcast your slides over the web
  • Enhanced inbuilt image and video editing features


  • Conversation View
  • Mail Tips
  • Ignore Conversations
  • Social Connectors


  • Backstage – A live print preview feature!
  • Easier ways to insert screenshots


  • Sparklines


  • Enhanced Outlook Integration
  • Linked note taking
  • Searchable images and audio

Ben then talked about App-V, Microsoft’s Application Virtualization technology and some of the benefits it can provide including how it can be used over cross platform and the ability to roll out software updates to a central location. He also talked about App-V delivery, using App-V server and SCCM Integration. Towards the end of the talk Ben discussed Sequencing an application and licensing considerations.

Barcamp Bournemouth 2

Over the weekend of 10th/11th April the second Barcamp to be held in Bournemouth took place at Bournemouth University with over 70 participants in attendance. The sponsors of this year’s event were: Red Web, G3 Show, BCS, C4L, Fibreband and Squizzleapp.

Digital Economy Debate

Sessions I went to on Saturday

Usability vs Accessibility – Phil Heywood and Luke Guppy

In this session Phil and Luke gave the pros and cons of Usability vs Accessibility and how they should be carefully considered in web projects as one may conflict with the other. They gave examples of the downsides of JQuery and what we can do to improve the accessibility if people have Javascript turned off in the browser.

Smashing Mag sucks or how to blag it as a webdesigner – Rich Quick

In this talk, Rich gave examples of application websites that were obvious rip-offs of each other in terms of design and content. He also questioned who is to blame for designs looking the same, the designer or online articles and tutorials.

Creativity – top 10 tips for better brainstorming – David Burton

In David’s presentation he gave the understanding of creativity, how it works and how we can get the most out of brainstorming. He went through the fives types of creative behaviour including Fact Finding, (Re) organising, Improvising, Meaning and Maverick and how people can sometimes shift between them. He also went through how we can come up with freshness and new ideas.

Rolling a turd in glitter, 10 steps to design awesomeness – Damian Proctor

In this talk Damian examined various websites and different design techniques in each site and how they are used effectively. The 10 steps that Damian talked about were: Power of 3, Leading the eye, Creating emotions with elements, Contrast, Hierarchy of type, Whitespace, Unity, Depth, Grids and Colours.

Chat roulette – Dom Hodgson
You know the score.

The rest of Saturday night was spent generally hanging about and playing a few games of Werewolf including probably the best game I’ve played which had Cristiano as the moderator and no werewolfs were involved. Lets just say it made for a very interesting game.

Cristiano bowls

Sessions I went to on Sunday

XSS with JQuery – Kevin Prince

In this presentation, Kevin showed how we can use widgets across sites using JQuery and JSON and how XSS isn’t always evil.

Get Inspiration for Photography – Martin Cunningham

In this session I gave examples of how we can get inspiration for photography when you aren’t really inspired to get out with the camera.

Version control with Git – Abizer

In this session Abizer talked about version control with Git and commands that can be used to make life easier when dealing with version control.

Lightning talks – Various Speakers

A session including various 5 minute presentations given by a number of speakers.

As always for these types of events a big thank you to the Organisers, Sponsors and the Attendees. Oh and also Dom and Heather for the cups of tea in Leeds.

Barcamp North East 3

The weekend of 20th and 21st March saw the arrival of the 3rd Barcamp North East to come to Newcastle which also marked the end of Newcastle Science Fest, a ten day event which aims to increase the North East’s enthusiasm for science and to encourage the younger generation to consider a career in the science field.

Barcamp North East 3 was held in the Center of Life, Newcastle. A contemporary science and learning center just round the corner from Newcastle Central Station.


Sessions I attended on Saturday were (not in any particular order):

Paypal Hacking – Tim Nash
Tim Nash gave a talk on the PayPal API and how it can be used in your own projects.

Finding Creativity – James Rutherford
A discussion on how designers, developers and other creative types find creativity in the everyday world.

Scaling :: Scaling
A presentation on how could be upscaled for higher performance on the web.

Real Time Web or having a socket in the browser – Alex Kavanagh
Alex gave a talk about real-time updates on the web using Django, COMET, STOMP and Morbid Q and the issues that he has faced.

Alex Kavanagh talks about The Real Time Web

80s Video Games Anonymous – James Rutherford
A round circle discussion and quiz about 80s video games

The Modern Day Interview – Martin Cunningham
After being on the job hunt for 3 months now, I decided to give a session on the modern day interview and the ups and downs of job hunting. The main point of the presentation was to say that we need things like standard ways of doing things such as job application forms as one is never the same as the other and how interviews need to be brought down a notch and not be so formal.

How to impress the ladies with JQuery – Rich Quick
Rich quick gave a session about the basics of JQuery and where beginners can find resources to help them out. Rich’s slides for this presentation can be found over at

Pulling women with Jquery - Rich Quick

Dr Horrible’s Singalong – Everyone
A singalong to Dr Horrible’s Singalong blog which was created exclusivly for Internet distribution.

Powerpoint Karaoke – Dom Hodgson
A favourite session of mine as it is always so funny and yet so random. After volunteers have been chosen, they each must present an impromptu random presentation which they know nothing about. A very parody based session as it presents the absurdity that many business presentations are.

Usual Barcamp games such as Werewolf
A question I will never let down after this Barcamp: “Martin, are you the seer?”


Sessions I attended on Sunday were (not in any particular order):

Breakfast at Spoons
A few people including Dom, Tim, Leeky, Cristiano, Melinda, Carolyn, Heather and myself went for a breakfast to start the day in Wetherspoons not too far for the venue.

Stop taking photos – Chris Neale
Chris gave a talk on why cameras and laptops should be left back at home when attending conferences and events. The argument was that when you take technology to a conference it takes you away from the event and not as much enjoyment is to be had. Also the other side of the story was do the photos taken of an event really portray the day to other people.

Get off your arses, no exercise required – Tim Nash
In this talk, Tim explained some of the projects that he had worked on and how you can make money out of niche ideas.

Chat Roulette – Dom Hodgson
Dom held another round of chat roulette on Sunday afternoon. Following from what Dom had previously said to me on the Saturday, I had to go along to this session to see what it was all about!

Chatroullette with the Dinosaur

Daily Dragon, the upstart friend of Mr Duck – Caz Mockett
Following on from the Duck365 project that Alistair has worked on, Caz has decided to do a Dragon365 with a little purple dragon called Dai and it’s lion friend Leo. This talk was an introduction to the project and a show and tell of the pictures that the dragon is currently up to.

On the Sunday afternoon I hung around for a few drinks, then Caz, Alistair, Carolyn, Tim and I went for a Japanese meal, this was then followed my Tim, Carolyn and I heading back to the Head of Steam for a few more drinks before they travelled back down to Leeds with Dom and Heather.

Barcamp North East 3 was yet another awesome weekend. A big thank you should go to the people who helped out such as Yahoo Developer Network, Microsoft, Center of Life, Newcastle Science Fest, SuperMondays and of course Alistair who organised the whole thing.

A big shout out should also go to the attendees: Alex Kavanagh, Alistair McDonald, Brian Degger, Sarah Degger, Ian Simmons (Center of Life), Stewart (Center of Life), Carolyn Jones, Caz Mockett, Chris Neale, Cristiano Betta, Danni Matzk, David Batty, Dom Hodgson, Heather Burke, Eric Nelson, Harry Palmer, Ian Puncey, James Rutherford, Robert Lee Cann, Mick Cunningham, Melinda Seckington, Neil Crosby, Mr Duck, Dai the Dragon, Peter Bull, Rebecca Parker, Rich Quick, Richard Hyatt, and Tim Nash for making it such as great weekend.

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