I’m lucky enough to live in a nice neighbourhood in Amsterdam dating from when the Olympics were last in town in 1928. The style of the houses is the know collectively as the Amsterdamse school and is typified by an Art Deco and Expressionist theme - curves, use of repeating lines, horizontal ladder effects, extensive use of marble and occasionally opulent materials all go to give the streets an almost magical character if you’re a fan of the style. These themes are continued in wood, window frames, chimney breasts inside the houses.
While our house is not amazing to look at from the outside it has some lovely detailing in plaster and wood, big single glazed windows and high ceilings which look fantastic but have of course made the place pretty cold and prone to draughts. This goes double for the toilets which both are on external double brick, uninsulated walls that are tiled with a stone floor. Having survived three cold winters with these toilets we (particularly female house members) finally have had enough of their cold beauty and I’ve plucked up enough courage to start to tackle them.
So prompted by impending Winter this weekend I’ve finally made a start on the first toilet with a view to improving thermal performance and make it reasonably modern looking while preserving its Art Deco heritage. Here is a before photo:
Note the beautiful stone floor, the large amount of tiles, the precariously perched sink, the lovely window frame and the hideous glass above the door. It’s a real mixed bag of a room and currently it’s very cold with no heating. My plan is to put in a false wall with 2cm polystyrene insulation along with a free standing corner built floating toilet. Finally we’ll cover that freezing floor with some thin space-age insulation I’ve found and on top of that some form of easily maintainable surface. The sink will be replaced with something sympathetic but less splashy (see the current height of the tap) and we may even put a heated towel rail in there too.
So far, I’ve stripped the tiles and made a start on the plasterboard and insulation. As it’s double brick I’ll have to watch the ventilation as the bricks will still need to breathe out the moisture they absorb if they’re not to freeze and crack. I’ll be saving some of the original tiles for re-use. A lot were already damaged and broken on the wall as they had been applied directly to brick in mortar and patched up multiple times. Despite that though they seemed to come off easily enough…
Next week I’ll work up to replacing the toilet itself, mounting the new sink and finishing off the walls. Then the part I’ll be really looking forward too is the detailing and seeing what I can re-use and save from the room, what I can improve. The intention is of course it should be a lot warmer but I also want this room to become an updated version of its original intention. If I can get it right here then perhaps I’ll get motivated enough to tackle the other toilet, the kitchen and the million other things that will then need doing.
We just came back from a couple of weeks in the sun where I’ve been shown up in the pool by my youngsters. I decided to do a quick straw poll of my (male) developer friends with kids and it became quite obvious that most of us are the worst swimmers in our immediate families – even those with quite young kids. For example I have three kids, the youngest are five years old and I’m the fourth best swimmer in my family. It won’t be too long before I’m trailing everyone. I never had lessons when I was a kid but these days it appears it’s every kids divine right to have swimming lessons alongside a host of other clubs and opportunities for self improvement. So far, so bah, but apparently I’m not the only one feeling the heat. My wife had swimming lessons as a kid and up to a pretty good standard too but I still found her last night checking for local instructors that so she could brush up on her strokes and make sure she doesn’t get left behind in the years to come. So perhaps this swimming deficiency isn’t just something to affect geeks who spent too much of their youth in their bedrooms – perhaps it’s just a generational thing
I’m getting to the point when I’m starting to say “In my day” and “you don’t know you’re born” when the kids take swimming lessons, the internet, computers, the tv, after-school clubs for granted. But in some ways taking them to do these things and yes, getting beaten by them in the pool or at chess or at air hockey or whatever means that I also sometimes get to do new things as well as revisiting my own youth. So it’s a win-win really and for the moment I should just stop worrying about getting left behind.
Plus, just for the moment, I can still snorkel better than the rest of them.
It’s birthday time again and there is a debate going on in the house. We have a young boy, nearly 8 years old. As per most modern, Western (whatever that means) middle class (ditto) households he’s got access to TV, internet, iPod, DS, Playstation – he has multiple access points to entertainment, information, and multiple user interfaces– touch screens, keyboard, mouse pads, motion/Kinect, PS eye etc. We spend our time both encouraging certain aspects of this techno-panopoly and banning him outright from them for pushing the usage boundaries we’ve adumbrated. We want him to be engaged but also to know when to disengage. We want him to run, to swim, to cycle, to play soccer and we also want him to become an autodidactic wizard of the infoverse. Do we expect too much and are we just piling on the pressure by encouraging and at the same time limiting? Should we just get a grip? (That’s another story)
So, we ask ourselves as he sobs at us for banning him from his DS for the rest of the week once again, do we really want to introduce another gadget into the life of this busy little guy? He’s got enough going on already surely?
Well, we talked and we thought and we thought and we talked some more. After all when did I have my first computer? Well I was 10 but I also think we’re way past first computer territory now. Anyway I just got my pi and he dismissed that as ill suited to play Club Penguin. So we can safely assume that there has to be a large play element to this gadget but we also want him to be able to do things like make films and share stuff while not make it so expensive that it’s going to be a liability and for me, it would be good if it wasn’t an Apple product. I want to show him that there is a world outside one hardware manufactuer and one ‘app store’ ideal. In his short life he’s hardly known any other model of sales/distribution and I take every opportunity to show him alternatives.
We considered the new fatboy 3DS, we considered the traditional laptop, we even considered the iPad 2 because it’s still damn good tech and the price is now verging on appealing. The iPad 2 particularly ticks all the boxes however, my personal pecadillos once again surfaced – I didn’t want another Apple product in his life, I wanted to show him an alternative. Also I didn’t want a full size tablet because I want him to look after it. So in the end I plumped for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0”.
I read the reviews and they say – adequate. I look at the specs and they said – fine. I looked at the price and the functionality and I thought – for a kid it offers enough flexibility and it’s something he can carry about and look after for himself. Whether it lives up to my expectations is another thing but as long as it lives up to his and he can do what he wants with it then we’re all happy. You might say we’re willing to give Samsung a chance to impress us.
Sometimes your first thought is your best one. Well this was definitely the case last week as I continued to struggle with getting the Syntax Highlighter working in an elegant fashion with the main GUI thread. In the end – threading was the solution. I perform some quick and dirty highlighting in the main thread which immediately updates the screen and then I also kick off a background job to highlight the rest of the file which is off screen. This works well and works seamlessly allowing on screen edits to pop up immediately and also meaning that paging up and down through the file gives a consistent look to the highlighting with no additonal calculation required. This backgrounding mechanism for syntax highlighting will also lend well to API lookups when we get to that.
I’m overdue for some new videos and of course as soon as I start thinking about putting together a demo I find all sorts of interesting issues and problems. So we’ll see what happens this week. We’re edging through summer and I’m no nearer to either getting the Rosegarden for Windows build finalised or adding the Kinect support back in to Friendlier – I’ve not even had time to play with the last Kinect for Windows SDK released in June. Time flies and I want both of those things sorted before September and before I have to start thinking about Windows 8 and tablet support.
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about developers. Software development has never been as cool as it is right now. Why is it that coding is suddenly cool after years of being stuck in the basement?
Software makes some companies and some people lots of money and some of those companies are spending a lot of money to promote software development as a cool thing to do. Coding is inherently hard and therefore it’s a prized skill with a price tag to match. However coding itself has never made anyone any money. The monetization of coding comes through companies selling that code or through using those skills to improve their efficiency. App stores make money by charging commission on the software that passes through their portal so it’s in the interests of the app stores to promote development of apps that sit on those stores to keep the money flowing.
So with all this money flying about everywhere and the world in financial crisis we’re being told we should be making our kids learn coding so that they can go and get a job and make millions. The reality of which may very well not turn out to be the bed of roses we think it is. So perhaps what we really want to engender is a framework which supports software development and software developers and doesn’t look to force them into a particular niche or model that will restrict their ability to move on later in their careers. We need to be teaching coders that flexibility with ideas, solutions and technologies can be as important as the bull-headedness they have when it comes to bug hunting.
Whatever way it turns out – learning coding is a good thing to try on for size. A few years ago I said that I wouldn’t wish the software developers job on anyone – stuck in an office, enviously watching the sunshine (or rain) outside. However there are a lot worse things you can do with your life – it’s creative, it’s organisational, it’s important, it’s cool, it’s frustrating and it’s occasionally satisfying. You probably couldn’t ask for more (if you’re that kind of person). So perhaps when it comes to my kids I won’t push coding on them but at the same time I won’t shy away from it.
It is what it is.