Can’t vs Don’t 

 I seem to find good articles in my daily feed from Medium these days. This one about the psychology of habits, and how to build a stronger will when you – like me – come off a long diet. This written by the guy who wrote the book in my reading queue about building habit forming products.

It’s a good read. My friend Annika was right all along; the habit is the key thing to establish. Saying “I don’t” is a much stronger push back than “I can’t”. Further reading Here

iOS devices, PreSchool Kids and lessons from Africa

Ruby Jane Waring

This is Ruby, our two and a half year old Granddaughter and owner of her own iPad Mini (she is also probably the youngest Apple shareholder out there, as part of her Junior ISA). She was fairly adept with her parents iPhones and iPads around the house months before she was two, albeit curious as to why there was no “Skip Ad” option on the TV at home (try as she did).

Her staple diet is YouTube (primarily Peppa Pig, Ben & Holly’s Magic Kingdom, and more recently Thomas the Tank Engine and Alphablocks). This weekend, there was a section on BBC Click that showed some primary school kids in Malawi, each armed with iPads and green headphones, engrossed doing maths exercises. The focus then moved to a Primary School in Nottingham, using the same application built for the kids in Malawi, translated to English but with the similarly (and silently) engrossed.

I found the associated apps (search for author “onebillion” and you should see five of them) and installed each on her iPad Mini:

  • Count to 10
  • Count to 20
  • Maths, age 3-5
  • Maths, age 4-6
  • 2, 5 and 10 (multiplication)

The icons look like this, red to the left of the diagonal and with a white tick mark, orange background on the rest; the Malawi versions have more green in them in place of orange.

Countto10icon

We put her onto the English version of “Count to 10”, tapped in her name, then handed it over to her.

Instructions Count to 10

Tapped on the rabbit waving to her, and off. Add frogs the the island (one tap for each):

Count to 10 Add Frogs

Then told to tap one to remove it, then click the arrow:

Leave one frog on IslandDing! Instant feedback that seemed to please her. She smiled, gave us a thumbs up, then clicked the arrow for the next exercise:

Add birds to the wire

which was to add three birds to the wire. Press the arrow, ding! Smile and thumbs up, and she just kept doing exercise after exercise on her own bat.

A bit later on, the exercise was telling her to put a certain number of objects in each box – with the number to place specified as a number above the box. Unprompted, she was getting all those correct. Even when a box had ‘0’ above it, and she duly left that box empty. And then the next exercise, when she was asked to count the number of trees, and drag one of the numbers “0”, “1”, “2”, “3” or “4” to a box before pressing the arrow. Much to our surprise (more like chins on the floor), she was correctly associating each digit with the number of objects. Unprompted.

I had to email her Mum at that stage to ask if she’d been taught to recognise numbers already by the character shapes. Her Mum blamed it on her Cbeebies consumption alone.

When we returned her home after her weekend stay, the first thing she insisted on showing both her Mother and her Father was how good she was at this game. Fired it up herself, and showed them both independently.

So, Kudos to the authors of this app. Not only teaching kids in Malawi, but very appealing to kids here too. Having been one of the contributors to its Kickstarter funding, I just wonder how long it will be before she starts building programs in ScratchJr (though that’s aimed at budding programmers aged 5-7). It’s there on her iPad already when she wants to try it – and has her Scratch literate (and Minecraft guru) 10 year old brother on hand to assist if needed.

I think buying her her own iPad Mini (largely because when she stayed weekends, I never got my own one back) was a great investment. I hope it continues to provide an outlet for her wonder of the world around her in the years ahead.

 

Why did Digital Equipment Corporation Fail?

Digital Equipment Corp Logo

I answered that question on Quora, but thought i’d put a copy of my (long) answer here. Just one ex-employees perception from prisoner badge #50734!

I managed the UK Software Products Group in my last two years at DEC and had a 17 year term there (1976-1993). There are a wide variety of components that contributed to the final state, though failing to understand industry trends across the company was not among them. The below is a personal view, and happy for any ex colleagues to chip in with their own perspectives.

The original growth 1957 through to Jan 1983 has based on discrete, industry based product lines. In combination, they placed demand on central engineering, manufacturing and sales to support their own business objectives, and generally ran the show to dominate their own industry segments. For example, Laboratory Data Products, Graphic Arts (Newspapers!), Commercial OEM, Tech OEM, MDC (Manufacturing, Distribution and Control), ESG (Engineering Systems Group), Medical Systems and so forth.

The finance function ran as a separate reporting entity with management controls that went top to bottom with little ability for product lines to unduly behave in any way except for the overall corporate good.

The whole lot started to develop into a chaotic internal economy, albeit one that meshed together well and covered any cracks. The product lines were removed in Jan 1983, followed by a first ever stall in a hitherto unblemished Stock Market Performance. The company became much more centrally planned, and one built around a one company, one strategy, one architecture focus (the cynics in the company paraphrased this as one company, one egg, one basket). All focus on getting VAX widely deployed, given it’s then unique ability to run exactly the same binaries from board products all the way up to high end, close to mainframe class processors.

The most senior leadership started to go past it’s sell by date in the late 1980s. While the semiconductor teams were, as expected, pumping out impressive $300 VAX silicon, the elements of the leadership became fixated on the date on which DEC would finally overtake IBM in size. They made some poor technology investment calls in trying to extend VAX into IBM 3090 scale territory, seemingly oblivious to being nibbled from underneath on the low end.

Areas of the company were being frustrated at the high end focus and the inability for the Executive to give clear guidance on the next generation processor requirements. They kept on being flip-flopped between 32-bit and 64-bit designs, and brought out MIPS based workstations in a vain attempt to at least stay competitive performance wise until the new architecture was ready to ship.

Bob Palmer came to prominence by stopping the flip-flopping and had the semiconductor team ship a 64 bit design that completely outperformed every other chip in the industry by 50-100% (which ended up being the case for nearly 10 years). He then got put in charge of worldwide manufacturing, increasing the productivity by 4x in 2 years.

The company needed to increase its volume radically or reduce headcount to align competitively with the market as it went horizontally orientated (previously, IBM, DEC and the BUNCH – Burroughs, Univac, NCR, CDC and Honeywell were all vertically orientated).

Ken Olsen got deposed by the board around 1992, and they took the rather unusual step of reaching out to Bob Palmer, who was then a direct report of SVP Jack Smith, to lead the company.

While there was some early promise, the company focussed around a small number of areas (PCs, Components & Peripherals, Systems, Consumer Process Manufacturing, Discrete Manufacturing and Defence, and I think Health). The operating practice was that any leaders who missed their targets two quarters in a row were fired, and the salesforce given commission targets for the first time.

The whole thing degenerated from there, such that the company made equivalent losses in Palmers reign greater than the retained profits made under Olsen 1957-1982. He sued Intel for patent infringement, which ended up with Intel settling including the purchase of semiconductor operations in Hudson. He likewise sued Microsoft, which ended up with Microsoft lending DEC money to get its field force trained up on Microsoft products (impressive ju-jitsu on their part). Then sold the whole company to Compaq.

Text in some of the books about DEC include some comments by C Gordon Bell (technical god in DECs great years) which will not endear him to a place on Bob Palmers Christmas Card List (but words which many of us would agree with).

There was also a spoof Harvard Business Review article, written by George Van Treeck (a widely respected employee on the Marketing Notes conference maintained on the company network), which outlined the death of Digital – written in 1989 or so. Brilliant writing (I still have a copy in my files here), and he guessed the stages with impressive accuracy way back then. His words are probably a better summary than this, but until then, I trust this will give one persons perception.

It is still, without doubt, the finest company i’ve ever had the privilege to work for.

Rest in Peace, Ken Olsen. You did a great job, and the world is much better for your lifes work.

Kibo: Teaching Robotics to kids?

Kibo Robotic Kit - Kickstarter

I’m going to be punch drunk on the number of initiatives to support teaching programming to young kids, so my priority is to see ScratchJr make it into UK schools – if indeed the teachers think it would be a positive influence to fire up the imagination of their classes of 5-7 year old prospective programmers on their iPads.

That said, another US initiative has gone live on Kickstarter, this time for Kibo – a robot that kids program with a sequence of command bricks. No compute hardware needed with this – it’s all in the box.

The full details (and funding page) can be found here. They’re already halfway to their target. What do you think?

ScratchJr – programming for kids 5-7 – Fully Funded: yay!

ScratchJr UI

I’m absolutely delighted to report that ScratchJr – a tablet based system that teaches 5-7 year old kids how to program – duly hit its $80,000 funding goal just after bids closed on Kickstarter. With that, we have a version for the Apple iPad and a version for Android Tablets this year, and work is now underway to produce the associated teaching curriculum aids and materials.

Just waiting to get news of the ScratchJr t-shirt I get in exchange for my $45 contribution (which went via Amazon Payments as soon as the end date and successful funding level had been reached). I’ll order one in a size that should fit our 2-year old Granddaughter (and iPad Mini user) Ruby.

Full text of the announcement from the Project Lead Mitchel Resnick here.

If you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend watching the video there. It’s an absolute delight to see kids so young speaking so authoritatively about the projects they have created on this platform at such a young age. The next step is to get Primary School teachers in the UK engaged with this; running something like the Education work we executed at Demon Internet (which got free and useful materials into over 95% of UK Secondary Schools for a cost of £50,000, plus £10,000 for associated competition prizes) would be fantastic, though mindful that there are many more primary schools than secondary ones here.

Three year lease, including support, insurance and warranty, for a tablet costs parents or their schools circa £10 per month over that term for an iPad Mini class device. Whether or not kids end up programming, it nevertheless gives them all sorts of other logic/sequencing skills applicable to a wide number of career options later in their lives.

ScratchJr in Use by Pupil

The older sibling product Scratch, the excellent Sugarlabs work (also being implemented on tablets) and Raspberry Pi also have a solid place, albeit slightly higher up the age range.

So, a gift well worth giving in my humble opinion. And kudos to the ScratchJr team for giving us a platform to fire up the imagination of kids from an even earlier age than before.

 

 

AWS Summit 2014, London. Impressed.

Amazon Web Services Logo

Having been to the Google equivalent a few weeks ago, I went to the 2014 AWS Summit in London today. Around 2,000 of us managed to steer around the RMT tube strike and overall, very impressed.

AWS have a “Windows Desktop as a Service” offering arriving real soon now, giving you both a Windows Server 2008 R2 server plus client software (for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android) for circa $30/month/user. That increases to between $50-$70/user/month with Windows and Office in place. I can see major opportunities for them at that pricing, not least as they appear to have solved the issues around high performance graphics being driven remotely, and have also got things like keypads available on the tablet implementations of the client. You can side load apps into the mix either directly or using Active Directory.

So, I will shortly have the ability to run up a PC and do a 30 trial of the current Windows-only Tableau Desktop Professional for around £20 – so I can at last finish off the story telling end piece of my 12 year long weight/nutrition analysis, without having to buy a Windows PC. Just need to be able to through trend lines through a few different filtered scatter plots now (something I couldn’t do with Google Fusion Tables).

There are also several traditional Licensed Software providers offering server implementations of their product as instances you only pay for when active, and with no long term commits. Jaspersoft and Tableau Server being two such examples (there are many more). Amazon are also offering assistance to other software providers to provide more products under this basis, including helping to drive free 30 day trials.

Much else to be very impressed by, and the differences between themselves, Digital Ocean and Google Cloud Services are fairly stand-out – to me at least. I think i’d know what i’d do to fire up Enterprise volumes for either of AWS or Google, but the things i’d do are very different based on what i’ve now learnt.

The most populous stand appears to be that of Splunk, who were one of my 3-4 “bets for the future” when I was at Computacenter. Talking to them, it now looks like IT Security is now their biggest application area, followed by e-commerce infrastructure flows and lastly by their traditional log file (and associated performance) analysis business. The product now appears to have plugins for virtually piece of data centre, storage and network device vendor log file, and relationships in place with all the key large brand vendors – and of course links into AWS infrastructure as well now.

I didn’t win a Kindle HDX, or the iPhone 5S Telecity were raffling, nor either of the two drones. But learnt a lot, and will be applying the learnings over the next few weeks.

Coding for Young Kids: two weeks, only £10,000 to go

ScratchJr Screenshot

ScratchJr Logo

I’m one backer on Kickstarter of a project to bring the programming language Scratch to 5-7 year olds. Called ScratchJr, it’s already showing great promise on iPads in schools in Massachussetts. The project has already surpassed it’s original $25,000 goal to finish it’s development for the iPad, and last week made it over the $55,000 stretch goal to release an Android version too. With two weeks to go, we are some $15,000 short of the last remaining stretch target ($80,000) needed to fund associated curriculum and teaching notes.

The one danger of tablets is that they tend to be used in “lean back” applications, primarily as a media consumer delivery devices. Hence a fear amongst some teachers that we’re facing a “Disneyfication” of use, almost like teaching people to read, but not to write. ScratchJr will give young students their first exposure to the joy of programming; not only useful for a future in IT, but also providing logic and design skills useful for many other fields that may stimulate their interest. I thought the 7-year old kids in this video were brilliant and authoritative on what they’d achieved to date:

I opted to pledge $45 to contribute and to buy a branded project t-shirt for my 2 year old granddaughter; there are a range of other funding options:

  • $5 for an email from the ScratchJr Cat
  • $10 for your name in the credits
  • $20 for a ScratchJr Colouring Book
  • $35 for some ScratchJr Stickers
  • $40 (+$5 for outside USA delivery) ScratchJr T-Shirt (Kid or Adult sizes)
  • $50 for an invite to a post launch webinar
  • $100 for a pre-launch webinar with the 2 project leaders
  • $300 to receive a beta version ahead of the public launch
  • $500 for a post-launch workshop in the Boston, Mass area
  • $1000+ for a pre-launch workshop in the Boston, Mass area
  • $2000+ to be named as a Platinum Sponsor in the Credits
  • $5000+ for lunch for up to 4 people with the 2 Project Leaders

I once had a project earlier in my career where we managed to get branded teaching materials (about “The Internet”) professionally produced and used in over 95% of UK secondary schools for an investment of £50,000 – plus a further £10,000 to pay for individual and school prizes. In that context, the price of this program is an absolute steal, and I feel well worth every penny. Being able to use this across the full spectrum of Primary Schools in the UK would be fantastic if teachers here could take full advantage of this great work.

So, why not join the backers? Deadline for pledges is 30th April, so please be quick! If you’d like to do so, contributions can be pledged here on Kickstarter.

ScratchJr Logo

Footnote: a TED video that covers Project Leaders Mitch Resnick’s earlier work on Scratch (taught to slightly older kids) lasts 15 minutes and can be found here. Scratch is also available for the Raspberry Pi; for a 10 minute course on how to code in it, i’d recommend this from Miles Berry of Roehampton University.

12 years, Google Fusion Tables then Gold Nuggets

Making Sense of Data Course Logo

I’ve had a secret project going since June 2002, entering every component and portion size of my food intake – and exercise – religiously into web site www.weightlossresources.co.uk. Hence when Google decided to run an online course on “Making Sense of Data”, I asked Rebecca Walton at the company if she would be able to get daily intake summary for me in machine readable form: Calorie Intake, Carbs, Protein, Fat weights in grams, plus Exercise calories for every day since I started. Some 3,500 days worth of data. She emailed the spreadsheet to me less than two hours later – brilliant service.

WLR Food Diary

Over that time, i’ve also religiously weighed myself almost every Monday morning, and entered that into the site too. I managed to scrape those readings off the site, and after a few hours work, combined all the data into a single Google Spreadsheet; that’s a free product these days, and has come on leaps and bounds in the last year (i’d not used Excel in anger at all now since late 2012).

Google Spreadsheets Example Sheet - Ian's Weight Loss Stats

With that, I then used the data for the final project of the course, loading the data into Google’s new Fusion Tables Analytics tool on which the course was based.

I’m currently in a 12 week competition at my local gym, based on a course of personal training and bi-weekly progress measures on a Boditrax machine. Effectively a special set of bathroom scales that can shoot electrical signals up one foot and down to the other, and to indicate your fat, muscle and water content. The one thing i’ve found strange is that a lot of the work i’m given is on weights, resulting in a muscle build up, a drop in fat – but at the same time, minimal weight loss. I’m usually reminded that muscle weighs much more than fat; my trainer tells me that the muscle will up my metabolism and contribute to more effective weight loss in future weeks.

Nevertheless, I wanted to analyse all my data and see if I could draw any historical inferences from it that could assist my mission to lose weight this side of the end of the competition (at the end of April). My main questions were:

  1. Is my weekly weight loss directly proportional to the number of calories I consume?
  2. Does the level of exercise I undertake likewise have a direct effect on my weight loss?
  3. Are there any other (nutritional) factors that directly influence my weekly weight loss?

Using the techniques taught in this course, I managed to work out answers to these. I ended up throwing scatter plots like this:

Ian Intake vs Weight Change Scatter Plot

Looking at it, you could infer there was a trend. Sticking a ruler on it sort of suggests that I should be keeping my nett calories consumption around the 2,300 mark to achieve a 2lb/week loss, which is some 200 calories under what i’d been running at with the www.weightlossresources.co.uk site. So, one change to make.

Unlike Tableau Desktop Professional, the current iteration of Google Fusion Tables can’t throw a straight trend line through a scatter chart. You instead have to do a bit of a hop, skip and jump in the spreadsheet you feed in first, using the Google Spreadsheet trend() function – and then you end up with something that looks like this:

Nett Calorie Intake vs Weight Change Chart

The main gotcha there is that every data element in the source data has to be used to draw the trend line. In my case, there were some days when i’d recorded my breakfast food intake, and then been maxed out with work all day – and hence created some outliers I needed to filter out before throwing the trend line. In my case, having the outliers present made the line much shallower than it should have been. Hence one enhancement request for Fusion Tables – please add a “draw a trend line” option that I can invoke to draw a straight line through after filtering out unwanted data. That said, the ability of Fusion Tables to draw data using Maps is fantastic – just not applicable in this, my first, use case.

Some kinks, but a fantastic, easy to use analytics tool – and available as a free add-on to anyone using Google Drive. But the real kudos has to go to Google Spreadsheets; it’s come on leaps and bounds and i’d no longer routinely need Excel any more – and it already now does a lot more. It simply rocks.

The end results of the exercise were:

  1. I need to drop my daily nett calorie intake from 2,511 to 2,300 or so to maintain a 2lb/week loss.
  2. Exercise cals by themselves do not directly influence weight loss performance; there is no direct correlation here at all.
  3. Protein and Fat intake from food have no discernable effect on changes to my weight. However, the level of Carbs I consume have a very material effect; less carbs really help. Reducing the proportion of my carbs intake from the recommended 50% (vs Protein at 20% and Fat at 30%) has a direct correlation to more consistent 2lbs/week losses.

One other learning (from reverse engineering the pie charts in www.weightlossresources.co.uk web site) was that 1g of carbs contains approx 3.75 cals, 1g of Protein maps to 4.0 cals, and 1g of fat to 9.0 cals – and hence why the 30% of a balanced diet attributable to fat consumption is, at face value, quite high.

And then I got certified:

Google Making Sense of Data Course Completion Certificate

So, job done.  One more little exercise to test a theory that dieting one week most often gives the most solid results over a week later, but that can wait for another day (has no material effect if i’m being good every week!). Overall, happy that I can use Google’s tools to do ad-hoc data analysis whenever useful for the future. And a big thankyou to Rebecca Walton and her staff at www.weightlossresources.co.uk, and to Amit, Max and the rest of the staff at Google for an excellent course. Thank you.

Now, back to learning  the structure and nuances of Amazon and Google public Cloud services – a completely different personal simplification project.

-ends-

Footnote: If you ever need to throw a trend line in Google Spreadsheets – at least until that one missing capability makes it into the core product – the process using a simplified sheet is as follows:

Trend Line through Scatter Plot Step 1

Scatter plot initially looks like this:

Trend Line through Scatter Plot Step 2

Add an “=trend()” function to the top empty cell only:

Trend Line through Scatter Plot Step 3

That then writes all the trendline y positions of for all x co-ordinates right down all entries in one take:

Trend Line through Scatter Plot Step 4

which then, when replotted, looks like this. The red dots represent the trend line:

Trend Line through Scatter Plot Step 5

Done!

Liberating Kids from Stifling Parents – did someone say “Bang”?

Nuclear Explosion Mushroom Cloud

One of the joys of parenthood is seeing the delight in your kids pulling things together using tools available to them – releasing their creativity, and fostering inquisitive nature. It’s natural and is a wide departure from rote learning (where the ethos is to please don’t make mistakes – mistakes are bad!). A real joy comes from them doing something spectacular, having a crazy idea, applying tools/techniques they’ve learnt, mashing up ideas from various sources, testing and iterating until they have – or do – something memorable.

I saw a comment from a teacher this morning where a parent had approached, and asked that his kiddie not be given access to Minecraft on a Raspberry Pi, because he could be destructive in it. I mean, Jesus.

I remember when I was at school, the comedy was watching someone in a Chemistry lesson grab a waste paper bin, turn it upside down, pierce a small hole in the base, place it over the gas tap (that usually supplied gas to bunsen burners), filling it with gas, light the small hole and walk away. After a minute or two, the flame will have burnt enough of the gas and drawn air from underneath to form an explosive mixture, and BANG! A loud noise, an upside down blue mushroom of flame, and a teacher in overalls standing immediately next to the result with his back to it as it exploded. After an initial gruff “Who did that?” and a classmates immediate confession (from the other side of the room), his punishment was to present to the class what he’d done and how it worked. Then a lunchtime picking up litter.

The same guy, by seemingly intelligent questioning of the teacher over a number of lessons, worked out a way of synthesising Nitrogen Tri-Iodide from the chemical bottles close at hand during lessons. This substance is a touch sensitive explosive; the traditional trick was to leave an innocuous slither of it on door handles, resulting in a “bang” and sparks when someone went to open the door. He duly made some, and carried it out of class to the next lesson (Music), that day taught by a student teacher. He left it drying on the radiator, giving it an occasional nudge with a ruler to see if it was setting. About 15 minutes in listening to some classical music – BANG! Student holding ruler, very red in the face with embarrassment. The student teacher just said (with apparent zeal in his interest): “How did you do that?”. Following a brief explanation, the teacher just waxed lyrical about how some of his colleagues at school had sneaked some Chloroform out of Science class at his school, and spread some over the piano before they were to be victim of their teachers piano recital. It just got slower, and slower…

We also had a spate of people screwing two bolt heads into a common nut, filling the gap in the middle with matchstick heads. Thrown into the air, it typically let off a bang on landing. The innovation then was to attach string around the two bolts, so you didn’t have to spend too much time finding both halves afterwards. Main kudos to Nathan Berry, who found a two 1″ bolts in his Dad’s garage and elected to tighten the work with a spanner, bolts held tight with his Dad’s workshop vice. I suspect the hole resulting from it triggering early while he was still pulling on the spanner is still very much there in that garage roof.

So, few detentions. You only got that for suggesting loudly that “titration” was two words, or for mounting the front of Chemistry teachers Mini on bricks, causing it’s engine to scream as he tried to reverse out to go home. If indeed said teacher could pin it on anyone.

Kids find impressive bangs they’ve engineered are very memorable – for all the right reasons. It fires their imagination. Certainly much more so than the most enthusiastic of “beaten-into-ultimate-safety” teacher mixing two chemicals in a test tube and showing delight when they change to another colour. Snore!

These days, parents are scared into thinking their kids are about to be abducted and must be kept off the street (in wide contrast to the distances I covered with friends on my bike – with no mobile comms – when I was young). A result of the tabloid press stoking up fear in parents in their pursuit of selling printed newspapers (statistically invalid – the once in a decade occurrences are normally by a person known to the victim – but that doesn’t sell ink and paper). Or of trying to protect young males from their pursuit of pornographic images; the end result is a generation of kids who are driven to know enough to engineer VPN connections and to use TOR in that pursuit. I’d be first in line to take the law into my own hands if I found anyone preying on vulnerable kids. However, I feel good teaching of children, the setting of acceptable behaviour boundaries, and being there if they feel in any way uncomfortable about anything, is normally enough without smothering their natural inquisitive nature.

I’m a big fan of getting technology into kids hands early. One of my female relatives in the USA is a child minder, and I noticed a post on Facebook logging what her 7 year old customer was doing. Her first post said “This guy has been playing Minecraft for 2 hours. It looks very retro on the screen. Is this sort of behaviour normal?”. A bit later on she posted again to say “He’s now watching Minecraft Videos on YouTube!”. Appears to me a mirror of kids i’ve seen playing Minecraft this side of the Atlantic. It is a tremendous Educational asset that kids enjoy using.

I love the work of the Raspberry Pi foundation, and would help anyone get their kids hacking on that platform using Open Source software. Of Minecraft, which kids everyone seem to have embraced. Similarly impressed with the early work of Seymour Papert teaching kids to program with Logo. Likewise for Sugar Labs, taking their Linux based Software (originally part of the MIT based “One Laptop per Child” project) to millions of kids in developing countries around the world. Tablet versions coming!

Kids around me these days are very touch-based Phone and Tablet native. My 2 year old granddaughter routinely plays YouTube videos, views the Photo Library and plays games on her parents iPhones – and on my iPad Mini. She’s even bemused that “Skip Ad” doesn’t work on the TV when its playing Terrestrial TV Channels. Using my iPad Mini to such an extent that she now has one of her own at our house.

That said, it’s a small part of her world. She thoroughly enjoys nothing more than wandering in the great outdoors and where many other things feed her curiosity. But she has the resources to look things up as she grows – alongside her current diet of YouTube “Peppa Pig” and “Ben and Holly” videos.

This week, i’ve seen some work on a Kickstarter Project on a cut down version of the “Scratch” language called “ScratchJr“, which is being used to teach programming to 5-7 year olds. See this:

Isn’t it brilliant to seeing young kids like this talk with such authority on the work their doing with this platform? With that, i’m contributing money to help them ship that on iOS and Android tablets this year. If you’d like to join me, you can do so at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2023634798/scratchjr-coding-for-young-kids. They are the future and worth every penny.

 

DEC: company long gone, but Corporate Philosophy very much alive

DEC Corporate Philosophy

I worked for Digital Equipment for 17 years. Having done my A-Level project implementing a subset of the Joss language interpreter in PDP-8 PAL-III assembler at Grammar School, I left on a Friday and started at Digital the very next Monday. I ended up running their UK Software Products Group, the source of around one third of the UK subsidiaries profits.

This was the place where you were trusted “to do the right thing” and “to seek forgiveness, not permission”. We even had a Field Service Engineer in Welwyn told to get a part over from Galway Manufacturing to fix a fault in a customers downed DECsystem-10 as quickly as possible, “whatever it takes” said his manager. He chartered a plane, and when his boss found out, he just quoted the “seek forgiveness” line – which was an edict we had from Jean-Claude Peterschmitt, who ran the whole of Europe for the Company.

My Division also had a written policy that said we should always look after current customers before starting to chase new ones. Not to mention that the Salesfolks were not commissioned, so their honesty shone through and we got far more than our fair share of evangelistic senior customers.

Above all, we were taught to throw responsibility to our teams, and to help them grow. And to value honesty above all else, with no retribution if anything screwed up. If it did, it was probably my fault along the way anyway, so a good learning experience.

These traits last with me to this day. I’ve had many fantastic employees, and have pride in what virtually all of them have achieved – be they from my time at Digital, Metrologie, Demon Internet, BT, Trafficmaster, CCD or Computacenter.