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A busy year of events – Roundup of 2011

As a lot of you may know I travel the country to attend hackdays, barcamps and other geek events. 2011 was a very busy year, being away from home most weekends, so here is a quick roundup of what was a very fun year indeed!

Culture Grid Hackday | Photos
A 1 day hackday held at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle. The events aim was to bring together developers and museums to see if they could create new and exciting projects by using museum data currently held in the Culture Grid and the Tyne and Wear Museum Archive.

Think Visibility (March) | Photos
A 1 day conference held at the Alea Casino, Leeds this event focuses on SEO, Affliates and Marketing in Web Design and Development. The event is organised by Dom Hodgson and Heather Burke, the 5th Think Vis conference to be held in the city with both the pre-party and after party being held in the casino.

MakerFaire | Photos
Returning to The Centre for Life, Newcastle for its 3rd year in a row, the Makerfaire headlined the Newcastle ScienceFest. The event is based around arts, crafts, engineering, science and the DIY attitude.

Barcamp Barnsley | Photos
A 1 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment, the 3rd to be held in Barnsley at the Digital Media Centre.

Linked Gov Data Hackday | Photos
A 2 day hackday held at LBI London, Brick Lane. It brought together developers and designers to work on creating new ways to utilise UK Government data and to air a voice as to which datasets should become available in the future.

Barcamp Sheffield | Photos
A 2 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment, Barcamp Sheffield 2011 took the Barcamp ehtics back to its grass roots.

Geeks of London Geek Trip – Geeks go to a country | Photos
In April, Prince William got married to his commoner gal in London. Geeks of London decided to organise a trip abroad to escape the crowds. The venue was Delft in the Netherlands. Highlights of the trip included an International Hackday and a trip to Amsterdam to celebrate Queensday (The Dutch certainly know how to party!)

Newcastle Green Festival | Photos
A 2 day event revolving around being “green” held in Leazes Park, Newcastle. Also included a main stage with numerous bands playing over both days.

Barcamp Nottingham | Photos
A 2 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment. Held at the HackSpace, it was the first event of its kind to be held in Nottingham.

Sunderland Airshow | Photos
Returning yet again to the Seaburn seafront, the free event saw the Vulcan bomber making a rare appearance.

Leeds Hack 2011 | Photos
Hacking Northern Style, a 2 day hackday held at the Mint Hotel in Leeds.

Barcamp North East 4 | Photos
A 2 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment, the fourth Barcamp to be held in Newcastle, this time around being held in the Star and Shadow community cinema.

Think Visibility (September) | Photos
Think Visibility 6, again held at the Alea Casino, Leeds. Pre-Party was held at the Mint Hotel and After Party held at the Casino.

Geek Steam BBQ | Photos
A small group of geeks descended on the raised model railway track at Colney Heath, just outside of London for a day of riding steam trains and socialising around a BBQ.

Barcamp Media City | Photos
A 2 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment. Held at the BBC, Media City in Salford.

Charity Hack | Photos
Returning once again to the Paypal HQ in London. My 2nd, it brings together, charities, developers and designers to create innovative new ways to raise money for charity.

Over the Air | Photos
A 2 day hack day based around mobile development. This year it was held at the famous Bletchley Park. A scorching hot weekend spent mostly outside on the green lounging around on a bean bag socialising wih friends old and new. Not everyday you can say you’ve camped in front of the mansion!

DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper! North | Photos
Instead of attending this conference as a delegate I attended it to photograph it. A 1 day Microsoft based community event held at the University of Sunderland. Think Barcamps but with sessions and speakers already scheduled.

Barcamp Blackpool | Photos
A 1 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment. It returned once again to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Paradise Rooms.

Barcamp London 9 | Photos
A 2 day “unconference” all about learning in an open environment with a halloween theme. Held at the City University London.

Culture Hack North | Photos
A 2 day hack event held at Old Broadcasting House, Leeds. It brought together, developers, designers and cultural organisations to explore new ways of working and the exciting possibilities presented by cultural data.

….Not to mention all of the other stuff such as meetups here and there plus meetups with Newcastle PhotoWalk.

Handy Tools for IT Pros

My day to day job as IT Helpdesk Engineer requires a lot of fault finding on customer systems, especially Windows based. In this post I’ll run through some of the tools which I use the most to fault find these issues and to save time (which is always a good thing).

Microsoft SSL Diagnostics Tool
Can be downloaded here, it provides an easy way of fault finding SSL certificate issues in IIS and it provides human readable output.

Test Exchange Connectivity
Bundled as part of Microsoft Exchange 2007 and upwards this tool allows diagnostic of end-to-end scenarios, which goes through each and every step of incomming and outgoing mail. If you are still running Exchange 2003 then the same tool can be found here.

Microsoft Sys Internals
Created by Mark Russinovich this set of tools (which the list goes on for ever) will allow in depth fault finding, diagnostics and generally a whole lot of time saving. Docs and downloads can be found here.

Can be run from the command line. Gives you a whole load of information about the computer such as OS version, memory etc. Tip: Very very handy for finding the uptime of the machine.

Lets face it that Windows blue screens arn’t very human readable. Use this tool to read the minidump files. It can be downloaded from here.

When doing RDP sessions onto multiple servers during the day it can be difficult to find the correct server in your taskbar. This tool allows “tabbed” windows, much like firefox. Also it has a favourites section which allows you to create a list of customer servers and you can export it for another engineer to use. RDTabs can be found here.

Microsoft’s automation framework which allows you to do a number of automation tasks through the command line such as creating users in Active Directory. Powershell is bundled with Server 2008 upwards, but can be downloaded from here.

A free and better alternative to Windows Notepad. Can be downloaded here.

Free SSH client for Windows if you ever need to work on *nix boxes. Can be downloaded from here.

Can be run from the command line. Very usefull if you need to get serial numbers from Dell servers and computers. Official bumf can be found here.

PC Login Now
Is a bootable linux CD which can be used to “blank” a local user password on a computer if you need to get access if a user doesn’t know the password. ISO can be downloaded from here.

HFS Explorer
A free tool which can be installed onto Windows and be used to read Mac filesystems in Windows. Runs on Java, can be found here.

Linux Live CD
Such as Linux Mint or Damn Small Linux, can be used to read Windows Filesystems if you need to retrieve data from a Windows machine which isn’t booting.

Nirsoft Produkey
Sometimes product keys get lost and you need a way to retrieve them from a computer before re-installing Windows. Please note that sometimes Antivirus products can give a false positive reading. don’t be alarmed by this a unblock it. Product keys can then be saved to a text file for future use. It can be downloaded here.

Use this tool to get rid of any Malware which may be lurking on thre computer. Malwarebytes can be downloaded here.

Google – The most useful tool of all!

Cannot print via Terminal Services on Windows Server 2008

A support ticket was recently logged with us saying something along the lines of “When using the Terminal Server we cannot print to the printer in our office”.

This a first seems quite a simple fault to resolve… but is it?

The usual simple stuff was checked such as are the printer drivers both present on the Terminal Server and the clients machines which they were. The printer was mapping correctly from the client computer over to the Terminal Server but when the user was clicking Print on the Terminal Server, nothing was happening, not even anything showing up in the printer queue. The most unhelpful point regarding this fault is that nothing is either logged in Event Logs on the Terminal Server or the client computer, so fault finding on the issue takes a bit more thought.

After bringing the computer back to the office where I work and trying to print onto a different printer, but using a different Terminal Server it printed out fine…. This must mean that it was a configuration issue on the Terminal Server itself.

After some googling into the issue the following recommendations were found:

  • Ensure that Client Printer redirection is enabled in Group Policies
  • Users are able to print locally directly to printer
  • LPT Port redirection is enabled on the Terminal Server
  • The group “Everyone” is allowed full access to C:\Windows\System32\Spool folder on the Terminal Server
  • Ensure that RDP is version 6.1 or 7.0
  • .NET FrameWork 3.5 SP1 is installed on Client and Terminal Server

All of the above were true. It turns out that it was an issue with the Terminal Services Easy print driver taking presidence. To disable this setting, edit the following Group Policy Setting:

Computer Configuration/Policies/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Remote Desktop Services/Remote Desktop Session Host/Printer Redirection/"Use Remote Desktop Easy Print Driver first"

Set it to disabled then carry out gpupdate/force.

Users will now be happy as they can now print.

Cleaning the sensor on a Canon 5d

Recently whilst shooting and processing images I have noticed a number of dust spots on my images. Since i bought my Canon 5d second hand about a year ago now I thought it would be a good idea to clean the sensor becuase chances are the owner who had it before me probably hadn’t cleaned it.

I carried out a bit of research on the topic of cleaning the sensor and there were a lot of people out there that said basically don’t do it and send it off to Canon to be on the safe side. However there were also a large amount of photographers out there who had done it themselves. I decided to give it a go.

All you need to clean the sensor is sensor swabs and some optic cleaning fluid. These both can be found on Amazon (Sensor Swabs and Optic Cleaning Fluid).

Once you have these, carry out the following steps.

  1. Make sure that the battery is fully charged.
  2. Remove the lens.
  3. Turn on the camera.
  4. Press the menu button on the back and navigate to Sensor Cleaning.
  5. Select the OK option, this will expose the sensor.
  6. Get a sensor swab and put a couple of drops of cleaning fluid on it.
  7. Wipe the sensor one way, turn the swab over and wipe it back.
  8. Turn off the camera.
  9. Throw away the dirty sensor swab.

An there you have it, I was very impressed how quick and how painless this was to carry out, rather than having to post it Canon, having to wait and probably having to pay a hell of a lot more money!

Hackcamp London 2010

Hackcamp London

Over the weekend of 12/13 June 2010 I had the pleasure of attending HackCamp London held at the Google Canteen in the London offices.

Originally I had signed up for Barcamp London 8 which was going to be held over the same weekend however the venue for the Barcamp had pulled out last minute leaving the organising team having to find another venue. After a large amount of Twitter activity and meeting with past venues a venue couldn’t be found in time which would be willing to host the Barcamp. This proved a problem as a lot of people had booked travel and accomodation for the weekend. It was said that if the Barcamp couldn’t go ahead there would be a posibillity of a another event taking place, this is where HackCamp Lodon was born as Google had stepped in last minute offering the canteen in the London offices but only for a small amount of people.

The Saturday started off very early for me as I had to get the 5:45 train out of Durham to arrive on time. Once I arrived at London Kings Cross I met up with Dom, Tim and Carolyn who had travelled from Leeds and we made our way over to the venue.

The event kicked off with speakers from each of the sponsers showcasing their APIs including a presentation from Matt Harris from Twitter who I have to say defended the heckling very well! As this weekend had marked the Queen’s birthday we had a great view of the flyovers including the famous Red Arrows. Hacking started at 1pm, which would continue for another 24 hours to 1pm on Sunday.

My Hack I struggled to come up with a hack before the event, but on the train journey down whilst browsing through photos on Flickr, I came up with an idea. Currently Flickr uses Yahoo Maps to map photos on the world map. I was interested to see where “Explore” photos were on a map (again flickr already does this, however not very well). My hack would include using Google Maps (It would have been wrong not to as the event was held at Google), getting the geotagged “Explore” photos (using YQL) and plotting these on the map, but showing all information for that photo, not just the limited amount which Flickr currently shows. This proved more difficult than first thought. First of all it relies on people actually geotagging the photos which not many Explore photos are, and secondly just for one photo, it is an immense amount of data which is brought back. I spoke to a few people and they thought this would be a good hack,however by the submission time on the sunday, I still didn’t have it finished, but would endevour to complete it in my spare time at home.

Hackcamp London

2pm on the Sunday marked the submission deadline. Each hacker who had submitted their hack then had to give a 1 minute presentation, no longer. Here is a list of hacks which were submitted:

Browser to Phone – Simon Maddox and Sam Minchin
Like ChromeToPhone, but for iPhone. And any browser.

Gu Recipies – Lisa Van Gelder
Recipes app that takes recipes from the Guardian and the Observer and makes them easily searchable by ingredient.

Twitterbox – Foo
A file system built on top of twitter using tweets + annotations to store the data. This implementation comes complete with files, directories and of course a means to synchronise real folders + files against this online store.

Twitter Mood Checker – Carolyn Lyn
Carries out a sentiment analysis on your recent tweets.

First in Line – Dom Hodgson
An app to stop ticket scalpers… those bastards…

Dragboard – Richard Boulton
Explore articles and news on the web by following a trail of entities extracted. Then put them on a board and drag them around to make it look pretty.

GiggyFind – Team A
Don’t get lost on the way to see Britney or Metallica

The Queen’s birthday surprise – Tom Scott
Video hack, cheap joke.

Browse my Tweets – Johan Uhle and Konstantin Kaefer
Allows you to fulltext search your own tweets and filter by content type (e.g. only find tweets that have YouTube videos).

Over Achievers – Cristiano Betta
Real life achievements, for those of us that want prizes every day.

Tarrif Finder – Glyn
A Firefox plugin that tells you how much some thing will really costs to import. For example before you buy from ebay usa it tells you if you need to pay import tariff and VAT and how much that would be.

Tweeted videos over XMPP – Thesmith
Videos that get tweeted about get resolved in URIplay and stored in appengine (to deal with Twitter down-time) and staggers their output, via XMPP, to who-ever wants them.

Worldcup 2010 – Melinda Seckington
A spreadsheet to keep track of her family’s WorldCup 2010 football pool which she can publish on her blog.

Gigamajig – Team GigJunkie
The Gigamajig is an Android app which looks in your device’s media library, finds the most common artists by count of music files, then searches GigJunkie’s API for upcoming gigs close to your last known location.

iPlayer Twitter Sync – Tom Lea & George Brocklehurst
Watch something on iPlayer and and view your friend’s tweets, but shifted in SPACE AND TIME to align with your iPlayer viewing pleasure.

Pianoe – Seyi Ogunyemi
Collaborative real-time piano playing.

HTML5 Audio DSP – Team Badger
Reading waveform data from the HTML5 <audio> tag, we have built a <canvas> based spectrum analyser and are working towards true parametric EQ. It’s realtime javascript DSP, baby!

iGigs – Nik Fletcher
iGigs finds nearby events from the GigJunkie API. It also analyses your iPhone’s iPod library and finds gigs based on the artists in that.

Tron – Continental Savages
Play an all-HTML5 multiplayer game of tron lightcycles while listening to your mflow stream and seeing which gigs the artist you’re listening to is performing at nearby. You can even buy tickets!

Over engineered LOLCats – Tom Lea
Made Rails stream responses while keeping templates. This is the start of a working BigPipe like thing, but more importantly it allows us to create a near infinite stream of LOLcats by streaming the page as we crawl the site. This is totally pointless!

Copy protected PDF thingy – Matt Copperwaite
Glyn from the ORG wanted an easy way to detect if PDFs from FOI requests were copy protected or not.

Chip In – Leo Tong
iPhone web app based on jqTouch that allows users to donate micropayments via PayPal for now and potentially and ideally a quicker method like the new PayPal iPhone libraries, background SMS, in-app purchase or a bespoke payment system like Amazon’s, so that users don’t have to reenter things like credit card details or phone numbers each time.

Steve Smith – Loner
iPhone app for gig junkie api thats actually an html5 web app.

Streaming audio to the iPhone / iPad / iPod – Michael R. Lorek
Delivering an audio stream to the iPhone / iPad / iPod native in HTML5, or alternatively utilizing the Flash player on other devices.

Mapnificent: London Weekend Night Buses – Stefan Wehrmeyer
Shows you areas that you can reach with London Night Buses on the weekend from 1am to 5am.

Hack Camp Logo – leipie
D!rTy Qu!c|< hAcK: Lego Logo in the kitchen.

Feedfern – loleg
This is a web site widget (to be published as jQuery plugin) which combines Buzz feeds with news from Bloggers Against Hunger in an innovative visual presentation overlaid with site content.

HackCamp animated logo – N00b
3d logo of hackcamp by making in the Quake 3 engine, using GTK radiant. and then edit it in 2 video programs, virtual dub, and live movie maker.

Barcamp Barnsley

On Saturday 22nd May I attended Barcamp Barnsley, the first Barcamp to be held in Barnsley which was sponsored and supported by the following Digital Media Centre, Enterprising Barnsley, Northern Net, BMedia, Green Communications and Screen Yorkshire. Attendance for the event was lower than what was expected with only about 60 participants turning up on the day.

Sessions I attended during the day included:

JQuery, your new best friend – Michael Heap
Michael kicked off the sessions by doing a quick introductory talk to JQuery and how it can be used in projects to make things easier such as Zebra Tables etc.

Geocaching, The GPS Game – Alistair McDonald
Alistair talked about Geocaching, a treasure hunting game in which you use a GPS device to find hidden caches. He talked about what makes it so addictive, the rules around Geocaching and the different types of caches available.

Linux from Scratch – Seb James
In Seb’s talk he went into describing the Linux From Scratch project and how he has used it to build very minimal Linux distributions for use with CUPS. He also mentioned some of the common pitfalls which you have to avoid when using Linux From Scratch.

Getting inspiration for photography – Me
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. You can read my session here:

Geocaching Trip – Alistair McDonald
Following his earlier session which introduced Geocaching, Alistair had decided to put a session on the grid which involved going out and trying to find a cache near the Digital Media Centre. Unfortunatly the cache couldn’t be found.

Running a Barcamp session – Marc Johnson
Due to the low number of sessions which were on the grid, Marc decided to do a talk about holding a Barcamp session, and what methods could be used. He also asked questions such as “Why wasn’t there may sessions on the grid?”.

Modern Day Interview – Me
Following the troubles I had of getting a job between the months of January – May, I decided to hold a session about job hunting and what people can expect in the modern day interview. A lot of discussion and views were given from the audience as some of them had been in the same situation.

Powerpoint Kareoke
Again due to low number of sessions being held throughout the day, Alistair and I decided to hold a Powerpoint Kareoke session to fill the last space on the grid. As always, a fun session to finish off the afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, I thouroughly enjoyed Barcamp Barnsley. I enjoy every Barcamp I go to. However I found this one went very “slowly”, by that I mean there was a very small choice of sessions to attend and I couldn’t really “get into it”, no one was willing to put sessions on the grid and I feel if it wasn’t for Michael Heap, Alistair and I putting on two sessions each and even putting other sessions on such as lightening talks and Powerpoint Kareoke just to fill up the grid, this Barcamp would have been a bit “dead”.

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.

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