August 30, 2003

Do you know the way to Yr Wyddfa?

For those who don't know, Yr Wyddfa is the Welsh name for Snowdon. (There is a campaign, IIRC, to get the Welsh name used as the main one, although educating the English [and the rest of the world no doubt] how to pronounce it will be a bit tricky).

Anyway, after enjoying my last jaunt into Snowdonia at Easter, I was looking forward to using even more B-roads to get there this time. My Uncle suggested I took the more scenic route through Knockin (easy to remember because you get to pass the village shop there which is called "The Knockin Shop"...) and what a superb suggestion that turned out to be!

You have to do hardly any of the non-dualled bit of the A5, so you're soon off onto quieter and more interesting driving roads.

So, at the end of the Nesscliffe bypass on the A5, turn left onto the B4396. Follow it through Knockin, at Llynclys it joins the A495 for a bit before diverging off to the right again after Porth-y-waen. In Pen-y-bont-fawr (not to be confused with Pen-y-bont, which you'll pass through first), take the right onto the B4391 all the way to Bala.

This is the best bit of the route, it takes you up into the Snowdonia National Park, over the Milltir Gerrig pass, excellent ascent and descent with a lovely open blatt across moorland in the middle, with plenty of nice corners and hairpins (just keep an eye out for the sheep). Reminds me quite a bit of Hartside Pass, although not quite as good, but Milla's brakes were starting to fade a little as we dropped down into Bala.

In Bala, take the dog-leg straight-on onto the A4212, which is a lovely, fast, sweeping A-road. You can either follow this all the way to the A470 to Trawsfynydd, where you turn right onto the A470 and then left onto the A487. Or, if you fancy more twisty B-road fun, take the right onto the B4391 when it starts again, over to Ffestiniog (IIRC that's where I got stuck behind an electricity board truck, so decided to stop and take a few photos whilst waiting for it to disappear off into the distance). In Ffestiniog you turn left onto the A470 and arrive at the A487 from the other direction, so you hang a right onto it.

Then from the A487, you turn right onto the B4410 (whilst nice and twisty, it's a bit too narrow for any spirited driving), through Rhyd and into Garreg where you take the right onto the A4085. That merges with the A498 to take you into Beddgelert, where it splits off just over the bridge and heads up to Rhyd-Ddu and the Cwellyn Arms campsite, in the shadow of Yr Wyddfa.

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August 29, 2003

Thoughts on UI improvements for navigating grids

Just wondering about UI screens on mobile devices which show a grid of options (or even a list, as that's just a special case of a grid :-). Something like the App Menu on a Nokia 7650. There's a grid of icons for the apps, and you start in the top left corner. Moving the cursor around navigates through the icons, and when you get to the bottom of the screen it scrolls the all the other icons up one position in order to show you the next row of icons.

There are two problems with this, I think.

  1. The focus starts at the top left, meaning that up and left don't have any effect when you first get into the menu. If focus was placed in the middle, then there'd be two more options which were only one move away, reducing the number of "operations" to get to them.

  2. There's less visibility of what's coming next as you scroll to items which are initially off-screen. If focus was initially in the middle of the screen, then you could scroll the icons underneath the focus (rather than scrolling the focus over the icons) and only move the focus icon away from centre when you get to the edges of the entire icon grid. Then you'd get maximum visibility of the next options available as you'd always be able to see where the next move would take you. And you wouldn't have to have little UI "hints", such as tiny arrows somewhere, to indicate that there are more elements off screen because that would become clear to the user as they scrolled around.

I think the main problem with such a scheme would be how easy it is for users to pick up. I think it's fairly intuitive (I remember using it in a plan-view driving game I was playing with many years ago) but it's pretty much the opposite of what systems do now, and so would be fighting the "norm".

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August 23, 2003

Automating the build process

Somehow, I still manage to be surprised when I discover that not everyone else has learnt how to ship software as well as we did at STNC and Microsoft WTGE.

This article on Gamasutra (registration required) promoting Automating the Build Process is a prime example - "The final builds were of a higher quality than manually made builds." Final builds!?!? Something you're going to ship to a customer needs to be completely reproducible in case you have to fix any bugs in it, and producing it manually is just asking for trouble..

A good introduction to why you should automate the build, and some of the things you should include in the automated process.

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J2ME Development Resources

Russ posts some useful links on J2ME development, and through that I found (although unfortunately the menus don't work too well in Mozilla). And of course, there's

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August 22, 2003

Info on the latest phones at

The Phonescoop phones page is a good source of information on the latest and greatest phones, including those not-quite-yet-released.

Update: Russ has posted some more links to other mobile phone info sites, although the feature lists don't seem to be quite as comprehensive (e.g. it just says "Java" rather than "J2ME MIDP 2.0")

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August 21, 2003

I'm in the wrong timezone

That explains why I'm feeling so tired (it's nothing to do with being away for the weekend and then engaging in sporting activities every night this week...) and also explain why, despite our latest motivational-explain-how-we're-going-to-conquer-the-world meeting this morning, there's a distinct air of apathy in the place - it's actually Friday and that means it's
National Slackers Day :-)

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The real history of the Internet

The Lemon: History Of The Internet

"Blogging invented. Promises to change the way people bore strangers with banal anecdotes about their pets."

Note to self: Get a pet so I can blog about it... ;-)

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August 18, 2003

Mobile Devices: One Generation From Useful?

Jakob Nielsen likes his T-Mobile Sidekick, although he thinks that it's [o]ne Generation From Useful.

He argues that we need better filtering of email, so we don't get "bogged down by a flood of non-urgent messages". I'm not convinced that's a flyer - filtering out spam is an obvious win, but it's hard to decide what is and isn't important. And my definition of important will change from situation to situation. Any email app must allow me to still get all my email, but maybe if it was sorted by priority then date that would improve matters.

"To succeed, mobile devices must feel like an extension of your main machine: they must provide what's required, but no more, and add the ability to reach home and grab anything you need but didn't bring." I guess that explains why he wants to filter his email - he still views his desktop PC as his "main" machine. I agree that it would be great if we got mobile devices to that point, but I believe that we shouldn't limit what the mobile devices can do. The aim should really be to get to a point where I can do what I want on any machine, it just might be a bit easier on one with a full keyboard and big monitor.

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August 14, 2003

I'm a peacock

According to LondonMark in his post The art of laughing.

He doesn't mention anything about having colourful feathers stuck in my arse, luckily. And those of you who've seen my shirt collection can pipe down at the back too!

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August 13, 2003

The M25 variable speed limits might actually work

For ages I've wondered whether my attempts to smooth out traffic flow in jams actually improve matters at all. I do it as much because I'd rather maintain a constant speed as an attempt to reduce the jam, but I always thought it'd be a nice little project to write some simulation to show people that although the maximum speed would be lower, trying to keep to an average speed would have a much higher minimum speed (i.e. not stopped :-) and we'd all get there a lot quicker.

From Critical Section today, I found that someone else has already done a load more analysis than I'll ever get round to in SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Traffic Waves, physics for bored commuters. And he reckons that I'm right.

Plus there's a link to this cool traffic simulator which lets you see what happens in different scenarios with different speed limits, and traffic densities, etc.

So leave gaps, and destroy build-ups of traffic with anti-traffic!

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August 12, 2003

Instructions on setting up a Nokia 3650 as a GPRS modem

Using the Nokia 3650 as a GPRS modem - thanks Russ :-)

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The twisty-wisty one's are best!

Lynne's just pointed me at this list of Britain's Best Driving Roads. I've done some of them, but might have to see if I can get a few more in... maybe some on this weekend's trip to Snowdonia :-)

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August 11, 2003

So that's why models in magazines always look a bit artificial

It's because they are. I hadn't realised just how artificial though, but these before and after shots show how much changes!

Real beauty is in the imperfections.

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Alexander The Great

"I do not fear an army of lions, if they are led by a lamb. I do fear an army of sheep, if they are led by a lion." - Alexander the Great.

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August 04, 2003

Which way is the happy path?

In this week's BYTE Newsletter, the article The Software Development Dilemma (subscription required) introduces the term "happy path".

"[T]he "happy path," a default scenario with no exceptional conditions. (The "happy path" concept originated with Richard Harrah, an HP software developer...)"

I like it. There are lots of times that I refer to the happy path when talking about how much testing some code has had, and now I have a phrase for it.

Posted by Adrian at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Inspiring corporate cultural change

Do you think the Royal Mail's "I saw this and thought of you" would be a good mechanism for cultural change in the workplace? Would someone get the message if you sent them one of these motivational posters? I guess you'd have to send this one to everyone else though...

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