“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”

March 2007

Federated Access Management Animation

We’re moving house at the end of next month. I’m told that the new neighbours have been told that I’m “in computers” and that they are all looking forward to meeting us. Hopefully this doesn’t mean they want me to fix their broken Windows machines.

The good news is that if I need to explain what I actually do on the identity side of things, the JISC have just come to my rescue by producing a new animation explaining federated access management. The voice-over is pitched at a fairly non-technical level, and the little animated <Subject>s act out the scenes with a surprising amount of expression and a fair bit of wit. They remind me a lot of the little green guys in Darwinia, in fact.

This is not the sort of thing you’d use to communicate with a techie who wanted to know the difference between Browser/POST and Browser/Artifact, but it’s a pretty good introduction to some of the basic ideas for everyone else.


[2018-02-15: relinked via the Wayback Machine]


Blast from the Past

This 1986 Promotional Video for Computer Science Dept, Edinburgh was made a few years after I graduated, so I don’t think any of the thin, bearded, bespectacled computer scientists in the film are actually me. I can recognise a fair number of my old friends and colleagues, though (djr, rwt, gdmr, gb), and of course many of my favourite toys are featured.

Two 300 mega byte hard disks, eh? What riches!

[Updated 20070409. The video has been made private, so you may find you can only access it by talking to the uploader directly. Sorry about that.]


As soon as I first saw them mentioned on Boing Boing back in September, I knew that I’d have to at least try some of the new USBCELL batteries from Moixa. I bought a pair this week; here are some initial impressions.

Essentially, these are cut-down AA size NiMH rechargeable cells with a flip-off top concealing a standard USB plug and internal charging circuitry. You plug them into a spare USB port, they charge. A charge light comes on to tell you something is happening: they start blinking when they are 90% done, the light goes off when they are cooked. This takes about 5 hours from empty: an overnight charge plugged into your laptop, for example.

As about 30% of the length of the cell is taken up with the USB plug and its cover (held on by two little elastic cords), the capacity is much lower than modern NiMH cells at around 1300mAH. By comparison, a standard cell (at perhaps 20% of the price) might be 2100mAH these days. The cells are a little fatter than standard, so although they worked fine in my Garmin GPS they won’t fit in a Maglite AA torch.

So if cost and capacity are so much worse than a standard cell, what’s the attraction? If you’re travelling and are already carrying a laptop but need a couple of rechargeables for some small device like a GPS, you can just take these and leave the NiMH charger and the power adapters at home.