Google Plus One LogoSo Google Plus has recently launched. This is basically Google’s take on Facebook, it’s designed from the foundations around the concept of privacy in a way that actually makes it part of its normal usage. No more worrying about statuses that you’d rather your parents not see.

In similar fashion to Facebook’s Like buttons, +1 is the term for Google and I have conceded into adding a +1 button to my blog’s pages, you can see it at the top along with the equivalent Facebook and Twitter buttons. But in what way have I conceded?

Well, as we’ve discussed before, I use Google Apps. This means that my domain name, andybarratt.co.uk has its MX records pointing at Google. So I have Gmail but my email address doesn’t end with gmail.com, it ends with andybarratt.co.uk. I also have my calendar and contacts on Google so by using this email address on my iPhone or on my Android phone, I have everything synced up (for free I might add, hint hint Apple).

But here’s the thing, we can easily agree that Google Apps users are among the most loyal Google customers, many of us are in fact paying for the premium services that Google offers, yet Google never includes us in their beta tests. Surely loyal customers like us should be the first people to be included, not the last. I want very much to be able to use Google Plus but I can’t get near it, even if you invite me, I can not get in.

Google promise to be bringing Apps users access soon and I suspect this is true but it’s easy to be wary. After all, Google Buzz was never offered to us in the end and the same promise was given there too.

So I have a confession to make, yes, I have added a +1 button to these pages but, I have not tested it. For all I know, it simply does not work.

XKCD comic about Google Plus

XKCD's take on Google Plus

 

My name is Andrew Paul Barratt, I’m a student of Applied Computing at The University of Dundee and on the 21st of May 2011, I tweeted the identity of a man who has a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair as Ryan Giggs.

Tweet: -cough cough- Imogen Thomas -cough cough- affair -cough cough- Ryan Giggs -cough cough- Screw your injunction! -cough cough splutter-

There exists a paradox in the campaigns for internet freedom, the campaign to protect the privacy of ourselves and others online and the campaign to be able to say anything about what we want, who we want and how we want. I say this to show that we recognise that respect for privacy is of great importance however, the use of this to put limits of our freedom of speech is a place where the line must be drawn.

In the United Kingdom, an injunction can be sought after by those wishing to keep matters of their personal life private by denying the press from publishing details of said matters. A super-injunction is much the same but goes one step further in that it denies the press from making public the fact that an injunction even exists.

Recently, Ryan Giggs, a footballer who has played for Wales and been honoured as an Officer of the British Empire (OBE), claimed a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair with ex Big Brother Housemate, Imogen Thomas.

After his name, previously known only as CBT, was leaked on Twitter, calls for prosecution were made, igniting a rampage of rebellion with thousands of people, including myself, tweeting and retweeting Giggs’ name again and again.

On the 23rd of May, at least 75,000 had published his name and Member of Parliament (MP) John Hemming stood in the house during discussion on privacy orders and named the footballer, thus using his parliamentary privilege to break the court order. It’s worth noting that parliament is always broadcast live on dedicated national television channel, BBC Parliament.

Mr Hemming asked whether it was right to carry on supporting injunctions that it was clear that the population of the United Kingdom had no support for, referring to them as “a law that clearly does not have public consent.”

And so the key point was addressed, in a democratic country, where the government that makes the laws is chosen by its people, how can a law that goes against our freedom of speech have ever been allowed to exist? I for one, will not support it.

Today, the 25th of May 2011, Twitter’s European boss, Tony Wang announced that they would hand over the names of all those who had revealed Ryan Giggs’ affair and that all of them would be on their own to defend themselves, “whether that is a motion to quash the order or to oppose it or do a number of other things to defend themselves.”

Well my decision is to oppose it. I will not delete what I tweeted and I will not be made silent. It is our freedom of speech and it is my right to defend it. Injunctions that deny our right to say what we like are, in my opinion, illegal and I will campaign to see an end to them.

Project Hera Avatar

I’ve been getting some funny looks these past few days, these are usually due to weird whining noises coming from a large model airplane sitting on my desk in the labs.

The plane was bought for my brother when I was eight years old, fifteen years ago, it was already several years old and he never flew it. Always fascinated by it, I took it out of my mother’s attic a couple of years ago and brought it home with me to Dundee where it has resided under my bed since.

A couple of weeks ago I took it out and realised just how simple the mechanisms controlling the plane were. Inside, are four, simple, 180 degree servos, one for each controllable part: throttle, ailerons, rudder and elevator. Nothing was soldered, it could all just be unplugged and replugged however I liked. So I’ve plugged it into an Arduino.

Each servo has been mapped to a different pin on the Arduino and I’ve written functions with understandable names for each control (banking, pitch, yaw, throttle).

The plan is to have an accelerometer or giro (haven’t worked out which one yet). If the plane starts to roll left, it’ll automatically set the ailerons to bank right. If it starts to nose dive, it’ll set the elevator to climb. Next I’d have a compass, if the heading is due north and the plane starts turning, the rudder will be told to correct this. This should sort out a nice little autopilot/cruise control.

I’m doing much of this as my project for the Yahoo Hack Day that we have each year here at Dundee University’s School of Computing for third year students.

This happens to be an Internet Programming assignment so I’m throwing in tweeting. When the plane makes an adjustment, it’ll send a tweet to let us know, hopefully it’ll have GPS so it’ll also geotag them. See Project Hera’s Twitter Feed Here.

This poor plane is around twenty years old and has never been named so I have done her the honour of calling her Hera, after the Greek Goddess of women, marriage and most importantly, the sky and the starry heavens.

Hera is a twenty year old plane which through Arduino, is being given a new life.

My latest project for third year was to recreate twitter in Java using Hector and Apache Cassandra.

The name Cassandra comes from Greek mythology, she was granted the gift of prophecy by Apollo who was in love with her. Hector was Cassandra’s brother.

In computer terms, Cassandra is a No-SQL database, originally created by Facebook, that is fully scalable. Hector is a Java Class Library that is used to interface with it.

You can interface with Cassandra directly in Java however, Hector is supposed to make the whole experience a lot easier. It builds the relevant code to interface with Cassandra. Much like we use SQL to interface with other libraries.

The thing about Hector isn’t so much that it is over complicated (and believe me, it is), the problem with Hector is that is is undocumented.

In Java terms, documentation doesn’t mean having a document that explains what everything does and how to use it, it means that special comments have been placed in the code to do that for you. When using an IDE like Eclipse or NetBeans, we can see the various methods and classes available to use along with a description of what they do, what parameters they take and what they return. In the case of hector, the writer has put nothing like this and the parameters its methods take are always along the lines of “arg0, arg1, arg2, arg3″ as opposed to meaningful names like “keyName, columnFamily” and so on, thus making it even more difficult to write for.

After a lot of stress induced headaches, I have completed my twitter clone in the for of “Quotes,” a site used for posting quotes you’ve heard or read. These could be exerts from books and music, things you’ve heard on the news or even just something funny or meaningful you heard your friend say.

The entire site makes use of JSP pages and Java servlets and when quotes are taken from the database, they are rendered in JSON, an XML like system that uses a C based structure in the same way as Java, C#, C++ and many other languages do.

The JSON is then read by a JQuery script that prints it onto the page.

You can currently view it working on our JSP server here at the Dundee School of Computing at http://jspnet.computing.dundee.ac.uk/quotes/

I have also placed all the code in a GIT repository that can be found on GitHub at https://github.com/apbarratt/Quotes

I’d love to continue development of though will have to look into running costs as Java and Cassandra hosting costs money so I’ll warn you now, if you do decide to register on Quotes, there’s a chance it may not be there forever.