This week saw the quiet launch of something big.  A new crowd funding platform that welcomes any project no matter where in the world you are!  How can they remove such a limitation?  Well by using a globally recognised currency that anyone can use, that of course would be Bitcoin.

Just one of several projects on the brand new crowd funding site.

Just one of several projects on the brand new crowd funding site.

Bitcoin StarterBitcoin Starter is like any other crowd funding platform such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, the difference being that it only accepts Bitcoin payments as contributions to projects!  Other than that, the main rules stay the same.  Anyone can submit a project, they write up their aim and they post it on the website saying how much they’re needing, what they’re planning to use it for and how long they have to raise the funds.  If the target isn’t reached, the money is returned to the people who pledged it and if it’s successful, the pledgers get rewards for their help.

So what’s so great about using Bitcoin rather than dollars, euros, pounds, yen or indeed what ever currency you’re used to spending?  Well for starters, no matter where you are in the world, your Bitcoin is usable and you don’t have to go through any lengthy process to open a bank account to use it.  In fact, you don’t need a bank account at all, just a Bitcoin wallet on your device.  If you don’t trust yourself to keep your Bitcoin safe on your device you can keep one online too but the important thing is, anyone can have one and trade online.  It means that money can be sent instantly over the internet without payment providers taking large costs and without so much banking regulation (money is sent directly from user to user).  More people are able to raise the Bitcoin they need to start a project, regardless of country, age, ability to open a bank account, everything!

Bitcoin is the worlds fastest growing currency, when I first started investigating, 1 BTC cost 48 GBP, now it costs 90 GBP and is fast heading toward £100 and that’s in just a couple of weeks.  The rapid growth shows just how much people are trusting this new currency, especially after a rocky start with some pretty nasty press.  My next post will be more about Bitcoin though, this one is about Bitcoin Starter.

As I say, it’s been a quiet launch but the creators have been kind enough to invite me to seek funds for My Agility Board on launch, therefore, My Agility Board is on the front page and looking for funds to help it expand.  There are also other projects such as those seeking funds for a photographer who’s dream is to go to Pripyat in Ukraine so that he can photograph the home of the Chernobyl Disaster and another wishing to raise funds to buy Tablet computers for educational purposes in the world’s poorest areas.

It’s been a very quiet launch and it’s taking off very slowly but I’m sure as the Bitcoin community grows, so will BitcoinStarter.com, it’s definitely one to watch!

Type Voicer speaks each word as you type it.

Type Voicer is an extremely simple app that simply speaks what you are wanting to say as you type it.  Just type any text and it will speak each word as you type it.  If you want, you can also choose for it not to speak as you type.

You can download Type Voicer by Clicking Here.

Dundee Radio Android Apps

21st February 2012

The Discover Radio App is available in the Android Market Place

One thing that I find irritating about internet radio, is the fact that it is well designed to be listened to on your computer, but not on your phone.  Smartphones actually play internet radio very well, the issue is that for most, it is a little tricky to first of all, find a media player that can play streaming audio but then, it’s even more tricky to find out the internet radio address for the station you need.  These addresses are rarely publicised visually and require digging through website or playlist code to track down.

The station that I was having issues with was Dundee University’s own Discover Radio.  After tracking down the address for the radio stream, I found it tricky to find an easy to use player on Android that I could just feed this address.  This seemed odd to me as the Android MediaPlayer class can play these streams natively.

So I decided to make an Android App to do this for me.  The Discover Radio App is now available to download from the Android Market Place.

A few tweaks of the code and the Strathclyde Fusion app was made available too.

With a friend of mine being a DJ at Strathclyde University’s Strathclyde Fusion, I’d already become irritated by the lack of web player on their website, the link provided to listen to their station only produced a windows media player playlist which, when I’m working on my Mac, is not natively supported.  So with a few tweaks to the code, out came the Strathclyde Fusion app too.

Now Discover Radio, being a student radio station, has a habit of going off air, mainly at night or on Sundays when there aren’t enough students on campus to keep it running.  With this in mind, I wanted to listen to my other local radio stations, TayFM, Wave102 and TayAM.

The Dundee Radio App lets you listen to all four of Dundee's radio stations.

Once again, no apps existed for these stations and so I compiled all of my efforts into one single app, Dundee Radio for Android will allow you to listen to all four radio stations native to the fair city of Dundee.

You know what, I use the public boards feature that I created on www.myagilityboard.com too much.  I think it’s far to useful to withhold from users.

In my previous post I mentioned that the Free Public boards would only be available for a limited time, I’ve changed my mind.  These will always be a feature available to every signup on My Agility Board as standard, enjoy.

I’ve found myself using My Agility Board more and more for projects. It started as just a quick website to fix an issue with the assortment of Stickies apps that come with various operating systems by putting them online (in the cloud for those of you who fall for that kind of sales speak) so that I could get hold of them anywhere, on my PC, My Mac, my Smartphone and my Tablet.

But I’ve discovered that I’m using it for my own projects. My Honours Project for instance has had all the tasks that I had to do on it transferred onto My Agility Board. This pet project has suddenly become something actually useful.

And it’s not just me, I have friends in my class who have done the same, they’ve started using the site to keep track of their own projects and to keep notes, therefore I have updated the database to encrypt everything, make sure it’s private should anyone manage to get a glimpse of the data stored. My friends also managed to suggest an important new feature too, the ability to pick note colours.

One thing I decided would be useful would be the ability to share my board with people without having to give them the password, this would be really handy for showing how a project is progressing or just for taking notes and showing them to friends and colleagues.

Of course, I wouldn’t want everything to be public, just the notes I wanted to share. I’m so sure that this would be useful that I think that people would be willing to pay for the feature, however, for now, I’m giving it away to everyone who signs up so that I can get some understanding of how much people use it. An example of the public board for the username “myagilityboard” can be found at www.myagilityboard.com/myagilityboard.

So to summarise the new features since my previous post:

  • Ability to make boards public, limited time only free lifetime pro accounts to all new users.
  • Colour coded stickies, choose from 8 different colours.
  • Compatibility with Internet Explorer, it’s not pretty but it works.
  • Encryption, your notes cannot be read should someone manage to get into the database.
  • Various bug fixes.

Just sign up to get your own free sticky notes board.

One of the most basic techniques of Agile is the use of a board with sticky notes on it to represent things that are to be done, in progress or have been completed.

I wanted something that could represent this Agile Board online, something free and simple, so I’ve created www.myagilityboard.com.

To get your own free sticky notes board online that even works on touch screen devices, just go and register and get going.


Get your FREE Stickies Board

Update:  I’ve added the ability to change note colours and will soon be launching a feature that allows for you make your notes public to the world if you want.

Chip Counter for Android

3rd October 2011

Available In Android MarketChip Counter is a free app, now available in the Android Market Place, that lets you set the values of different coloured poker chips and then simply say how many of each one you have, giving you a quick and instant total of how much you have.

Update: Chip Counter now has a handy Poker Hand Ranking Screen for people who struggle to remember them all.

Just say how many of each chip you have and touch the "Calculate" button.

Recently I’ve started playing poker with my friends and every time we do this we get to the end and as you do, we start counting up our chips.  Problem is, we always made mistakes and would end up counting and recounting our chips, adding up the total in our head or digging out pieces of paper to keep track of our progress.

Ok so maybe we’re just not that fantastic at mental maths, I’m a computer scientist, not a mathematician, so I thought “surely there’s an app for that?”  I grabbed my phone and searched, there was not!  Or at least, not one that matched my search terms.

Now we have just been working on a project at uni which resulted in us deciding to make an Android app so I had literally just taught myself how to make Android apps and seeing as the idea of counting chips like this was really, ridiculously simple, I figured I’d just write it.  So here it is, Chip Counter for Android.

When you open it, you’ll see a selection of eleven different coloured chips, just put the value of the chips that you want to use (I only needed four of them) and hit save.  Now, when ever you open the app, you’ll see your selected chips, just type in how many of each chip you have and touch the “Calculate” button.

I hope you like it, I may make it look prettier later but for now, it does the trick.  (Update: have now made the buttons and title bar have a gradient and curved corners.)

Chip Counter now has a handy screen to show you different poker hands that can be reached through your menu button.

Getting in the Market Place

I’ve only very recently switched to Android and of course one thing I knew about the Android Market Place compared to the Apple App Store that I’ve been using for three years is that it is a lot easier for developers to get in.

The first and most obvious thing is that to become an Apple iOS developer, I have to pay $99… every year.  Android on the other hand is a $25 one off registration fee.

There is something that bothers me about Android though.  In the Apple App Store, I know that every app has been checked and approved by Apple.  This means that Apple believe it is safe for me to use it.  When I submitted my App to the market however, it was instantly available to download!

Now on some level, they don’t need to be as thorough as I have to place in my code exactly what permissions my app needs (in this case, none) and so there’s not as much risk, people know what they’re getting into, i.e. they know that an app will be looking at their contacts or that an app needs location data.  But that’s not stopping me from lying about everything else.  My app might not have been a chip counter, what if it had been filled with hardcore pornography?  (it is not).  It does make me take a second take though, I’m sure I’ll be more careful about what I do and don’t install on my phone in future, now that I know that anything can get in the market place without people looking at it.  Or perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

What do you think?  Should the Android Market screen all apps?  What if it raised the cost to developers?

Accessibility Module In Action

Accessibility Module In Action

Many users find it difficult to read black text on a plain white background, or indeed in other combinations. By changing the background colour and text size, they can enjoy an easier online experience.

While working at Tayside Police on my Summer Work Placement as a Student Intern, I have taken it on myself to improve the accessibility options of their website, in doing so, I have written a javascript that allows the user to change the page style and increases the text size of the site.

The script works by changing the ID or the text size attributes of the page body and storing this in a cookie on the clients browser. This way, the user’s options are reflected across the site, where ever the module is included and not just the page they selected it on.

Ok, the title may be a little deceptive, while you only need to insert one line of code to insert the module and get the text size options to work, you will need to type several lines of CSS into your spreadsheet, something that any good web designer will have no difficulty with.

The module requires you to add CSS Style IDs for the following five options which will be applied to the body tag of your page: whiteOnBlack, yellowOnBlack, blackOnYellow, blackOnPink.

This could be as simple as creating an ID for each one and specifying the text and background colours however, you’re likely to find that some elements of your page will require a little more tweaking. For instance, for this site, I also had to specify colours for links and to create different background images to fit in with the new themes.

#whiteOnBlack {background-color:#000000; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Inverse.png); color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack #twitter_feed {list-style-image:url(twitter-inverse.gif)};
#whiteOnBlack a {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:link {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:visited {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:hover {color:#919396;}
#whiteOnBlack a:active {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:visited:hover {color:#919396;}

#yellowOnBlack {background-color:#000000; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Inverse.png); color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack #twitter_feed {list-style-image:url(twitter-inverse.gif)};
#yellowOnBlack a {color:#FFFF00;}
#yellowOnBlack a:link {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:visited {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:hover {color:#FFFF00;}
#yellowOnBlack a:active {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:visited:hover {color:#ffff00;}

#blackOnYellow {background-color:#FFFF66; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Transparent.png);}

#blackOnPink {background-color:#ffdddd; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Transparent.png);}

In the case of the much more complex Tayside Police site, nearly 100 lines of CSS were required for each colour scheme.

One thing to remember is that absolute text sizes cannot be changed by the module, so if you’re wanting a text size to change properly, make sure you specify it’s normal size in your css as em or percentages, not at points or pixel sizes. That said, this can work to your benefit. I didn’t want the module to change the large title text at the top of my site so I’ve set these with absolute pixel values.

Once you’ve created your new styles, download the package linked below, which includes the script as well as the images for the buttons, then all you need to do is insert the one line below to add the javascript to the pages where ever you want it to appear.

<script type="text/javascript" src="/Accessibility/Accessibility.js"></script>

Good luck and please comment if you’ve used this script, I’d love to hear how it’s being used.

Click to download accessibility module.

Screenshot of Game In my third year, I was asked to create a 2D game using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio. Whilst learning how to do so I had to make up sprites, drawing graphics is not a strong point of mine so I used this as a major part of the game story line. I also wanted to make this game accessible to users who wouldn’t normally be able to play games. At the Dundee School of Computing Christmas Lecture 2009, Dr. Deborah Fels from Edinburgh’s Napier University demonstrated her research in inclusive games and this concept really caught my interest leaving me wanting to try something similar myself.

The audio assisted version of this game, I believe, is entirely playable by the blind. One sound is used to notify the user when an enemy ship is in their path and another noise is played to notify the user when an enemy bullet is approaching.

Battle of the Crudely Drawn Dimensions

Battle of the Crudely Drawn Dimensions is a side scrolling game based in a world contained in a dimension where everything appears to have been crudely drawn in a package such as MSPaint. Unlike side scrolling games from our own dimension, this side scroller is inverted in terms of direction. Our own player resides on the right hand side of the screen whilst enemy ships appear from the left hand side that we must shoot out of the sky.

Download Game

Download Audio Assisted Game