Monday, 15 August 2011

Mr Pfister is now using WordPress

Well its been a good many years coming! I have finally got hosting and a domain name so I am shifting away from using Blogger.

Though don't worry! All my existing posts and all new ones can be found on my WordPress blog available at:

Kona 2012 ...ooh suits you sir!

Kona have recently realised their 2012 range of bikes. Which can be summed up as the 2011 bikes plus about £200 extra. Got to really love inflation!

Though there has been a few stand outs from the crowd, and my eyes are drawn to the Hei Hei 100 being my next Cross Country Full Suspension bike replacing my long time Kona Kahuna and my Downhill Kona Stinky.

Kona Hei Hei 100 looks incredible and weighs nothing

Apart from this beauty, there is always my want of a touring bike and yet again the Kona Sutra looks amazing, though has a price tag ...£200 more than last year, shame really as I can't purchase it as part of the companies cycle to work scheme :(

First things first ...I need to answer the question, do I really need 6 bicycles?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

What would I take if I could go back to Uni

Its always at the back of my mind, the thought of returning to University to complete a masters degree or go on to do a PHD. Then I realise that my job enables me to write code that can help change the world, and what I work on gives me more understanding and knowledge than any university course.

But alas the thought is always there, nowadays having worked I have a bit more money than being the original impoverished student so I thought about the question, what would I take to university if I could start now, especially with the knowledge I have gained by actually going to university.

Everyone needs a bicycle! I found it to be my most valuable procession at university, and having a nice bike gets you noticed. While I was at university I had a variety of Kona's, finally having the completely over the top Kona Stinky. If I were to go back I would definitely have a bit more style and go down the vintage route, investing in the absolutely beautiful handbuilt Pashley Guv'nor. All I can say this bike is one of the most striking and beautiful creations on two wheels that I have seen.
It doesn't take much to guess a sprinkling of Apple products would make it onto the list, first off the new 2011 Macbook Airs actually have the performance that makes them usable. I always found weight is my main issue with laptops so getting one that is light weight but also powerful enough to do video/photo editing and compile large amounts of code is a must. To finish things off I would have an iMac for the room, great for watching videos instead of studying.

My kingdom for a decent cup of coffee. I think if I could of asked for one thing during writing up my final year project it would have been decent coffee on tap.
A lot of great events happen at uni and for some I wish I had a slightly better camera than what was on my phone at the time, usually resulting in a lovely blurred over pixelated image. I recently bought myself a DSLR and took my first steps into the world of taking decent photos, alas I bought the Nikon D3100 which itself is a great camera but is only their 'entry level' DSLR. With what I have learnt now I would definitely upgrade to a more powerful camera such as the Nikon D7000.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Crowdsourcing the London Riots Facial Recognition

Now first of all the Riots that have been happening across the UK have been awful, destorying communities and peoples lives, however as a community there are ways we can help. The police have begun releasing pictures of the muggers however they are usually low quality CCTV captures. In the day and age of DSLRs and hi-def videos on phones there are plenty of source footage on places such as YouTube.

So firstly we need to get at the footage, that's easy enough using the YouTube API and a select few search terms such as 'london riots' and then returning only new results. A great thing about this is the results can already be highly parrallised per video.

Next we need to use the videos, I would imagine querying a central database with video links that are still needing processing. Once a video has been processed and the faces confirmed, it can be removed from the list.

Actually using the video is a bit tricky, though there are lots of tools available to strip the video from a variety of media sites such as YouTube and save them as a usable file format such as mp4.
Now we have the video the fun begins, using such frameworks such as OpenCV we can scan through the video and recognise faces. For each face generate XML metadata for the position on screen, timestamp and video source and save thumbnail of the face to an image file.

Once processed all the data gets sent back to the server where it can be displayed on a webpage where people can submit information or vote on whether a picture has correctly identified looter.

I hope to make a proof of concept website soon but as you can see the concept behind it is simple, but powerful in helping bring community based justice.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

iOS development and PhoneGap

I have spent some time recently working on iOS projects, mainly revolving around displaying web content and doing some fancy stuff with HTML5 such as drawing and annotating on a video. I faced several problems, partly from trying to develop an app using HTML & Javascript and also from the limitations of iOS.

HTML5 ...a work in progress
Now take the HTML5 video element for example. Now I don't want to enter the already heated debate around video formats, I want to talk about the underlying video element. Firstly you would think it would be easy to detect if a video is playing though an attribute such as VideoElement.isPlaying however you would be mistaken, instead you have to:

Check if the Video has loaded
Check if the Video isn't paused
Check if the Video  isn't buffering
Check if the Video hasn't ended
Check if there hasn't been an error

Easy I know... and then there are subtitles, or lack of them, their support is rather hit an miss. I tried to use SAMI subtitles (although I know this is an obscure format, this is what I had to work with) regrettably the video element doesn't support them so I had to develop a way of rendering them myself. That didn't sound so bad to begin with, SAMI is just sugar coated XML, which the XmlDOM parser won't correctly load, horray!

In the end I had to create my own SAMI parser and use transparent DIVs infront of the video element to render the correct subtitles during the videos on time change event. All in a days work!

To make things easier I have started to use PhoneGap, which includes a growing API accessible via Javascript and best of all, allows the programmer to write plugin modules in Objective-C which can communicate with the DOM. This is where I really started noticing the iOS Objective-C libraries are no where near as mature as .Net, I even began to miss importing System.

Monday, 1 August 2011

One man against the world ...again

It feels rather strange writing this post as it was only a year ago since I was writing roughly the same thing, about my experiences from the Imagine Cup 2010 in Warsaw and summarising some of the amazing things I saw and learnt.

In life and computing I have a pretty simple mantra which is the reason why I do the things that I do:
It may be easy to have an idea, but its what you do with it that counts!

While I was in New York for the Imagine Cup I realised change comes about when you think big, think outside the box and have the tenacity to not give up when others may.
Those that built the incredible skyscrapers that dwarfed New York's skyline didn't think "I don't think we need another floor", instead they built up to what was technically feasible and beyond, I try and do the same with software.

Being the only one man team got me noticed, Adam Daniels has done some great press pieces around my progress last year in Warsaw, and this year in New York; humorously entitled 'Return of the One Man Army'

On the technical front, being able to juggle .Net, .Net CF, .Net MF, WEC7, WPF, WP7 and all the other technologies involved to create a solution had challenges, but where is the fun if there wasn't any. Now I enjoy messing around with gadgets; one of the best ways to think up new things so I was surprised how few teams used .NetMF, Colin Miller picked up on this and did a great blog post around my entry on the MSDN .NetMF portal.

On a personal front, I met a lot of amazing people in New York, and had a chance to compete with some amazingly clever chaps from the UK including Damo.

So to anyone thinking of taking part in the Imagine Cup 2012, which for its 10th anniversary is being held in Australia, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Imagine Cup 2011 in New York

Imagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UK
Imagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UK
Imagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UK
Imagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UKImagine Cup 2011 - Team UK

Finally getting round to going through all my photos I took in New York (All 1,500+ of them), here are a few from my Flickr album (with plenty more on the way)