Monday, 30 November 2009

MI5 - Careers for you?

There's a job going in Business intelligence in MI5. Have a look - you might find some stuff out about their use of IT. £45k as well...

There's a whole range of Day in the Lifes that you might want to take a look at. For example:

MI5 - Day in the life of Sara in the Language Unit - shows you how they might use IT skills on a basic level

MI5 - Adam from the UNIX team - lots of geekyness here

You should check the general Day in the Life link above - you'll get all of the possibilities. Well worth five minutes of your time.

Oh, don't forget - you're not writing a careers magazine. It needs to be a newsletter about how organisations like this might be using ICT...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

How cool is Apple?

OK, it's probably my age.

I can think of no other reason (well, apart from the splendid ubiquitousness of Stephen Fry and his ability to influence the interwebz for the better), but Apple and their stuff is increasingly cool. Forget Santa, it's Steve Jobs I want to send a wish list to...

Anyway, I happened to be in the Apple store in Norwich yesterday buying a gift for someone and was officially impressed by technology. Not all the Apple kit in the store (although I want it - all of it...), but the payment system was pretty froody for starters. None of those old fashioned till thingummies - just a wireless credit card scanner attached to each worker. Cool.

Even cooler, the server then asked me if I'd like my receipt e-mailed to me. Good idea - I'll only lose the bit of paper anyway if something goes wrong, whereas I can handily file the e-mail away for a year. I was expecting to have to give her my e-mail address but, no, I'd clearly used my credit card on iTunes so she could access their database and quote the address at me straight away.

Saves time, money, paper, me losing something and is pretty darned cool all round in my book.

Now, that's what I call progress in an ict rich environment

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Graduate in Second Life

Interesting use of Second Life - the online multi-user thingy.

Good distance learning stuff as well. And not the OU doing all the leading in this sort of thing...

And an interesting linked article from a couple of days ago: What happened to Second Life? Interesting study of what happens when the hype dies down. Maybe Second Life and co are just too dependent on access speeds and people finding them interesting - and maybe there aren't quite enough geeks to find everything interesting?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Digital Economy Bill

This is starting to get more and more controversial.

It's an attempt by the British government to exert more control over the interwebz - specifically, at first glance, things like file sharing. Quite the extent of the controls which might be applied, however, is interesting - and left rather open by the bill before parliament.

I wonder whether this might be worth looking at from the point of view of regulatory organisations for the Jan 10 exam? It might be pushing things, but it's the sort of topical story that would be worth throwing in as a way of showing that you're nice and up to date (if it will fit in the newsletter that is - don't just throw it in for no apparent reason.

Hannah says dates in Excel are easy

Hannah says, if you want to get an updating date in Excel then it's quite similar to how it works in Access!

All you need is =now() in a cell and it'll sort out the date for you. You can format it to change what's included (Grace says you can also use =today() - but not =date() because that works differently.

You can also, just like in Access, use =now()+7 for example.

Hannah says you get the best of both worlds. Grace, otoh, says sweet niblets.

Transparent backgrounds for images

Ah, this is a common problem.

You have an image, but you need the background to become transparent. Tricky - until now...

I used Pixlr for this - a lovely, free, online version of Photoshop. There's a guide to how to do this in Photoshop at Media College which is where I'm basing this on.
  1. Create a new layer - use the layer box on the right
  2. Unlock the base layer by double clicking the padlock
  3. Select the new layer and move it down to become the base
  4. Select the original layer again
  5. Use the magic wand tool to select the background
  6. Hit delete
That should work to make the background transparent, although you might have to be quite picky about the area you select and you may also need to clean up the image.

When you save the image it HAS to be saved as a PNG - JPG doesn't support transparency.

Jim says you can do this in Paintshop Pro as well.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Tweeting Police

Looks like the cops are now using Twitter (and maybe other stuff) to try to do the whole community policing thing in a more 21st Century sort of way.

There's a BBC article that explains all this and focuses on a jolly nice police person called Ed. He is not, as far as I am aware, a duck. Which is good.
"Posting a message on Twitter warning about a spate of burglaries in an area is a similar concept to pinning up a poster on the local parish council noticeboard."

"Doing either in isolation might be fine, but by doing both we can spread that warning even further."

Almost certainly useful for Jan10 exam.


Greater Manchester police have been signing up users to get Facebook updates on crime in their area. More than 25,000 people seem to have signed up. Sign up! Get the updates!

Some of the links from these articles might be handy to take a look at as well.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cyber war

No, not whatever the name of that game which was released last week: this is proper war.

Article from the BBC website:
Cyber war has moved from fiction to fact, says a report.
Compiled by security firm McAfee, it bases its conclusion on analysis of recent net-based attacks.

Would seem to fit quite well for the Jan 10 exam for Unit 1...

Designing - detail, detail, detail...

The key test for designs (and this is true for exams and portfolios) is:
could I (a skilled user) implement your design exactly as you have presented it working only from your designs and without having to make decisions myself?
In other words: does it tell me everything I need to know?


Size, font, location, colours, macros, formulae. The whole banana. In enough detail.

It's fine to use more than one sheet of paper for each page. You might want one for the GUI and one for formulas for a spreadsheet. You might need another form macros. For a newsletter you may need one for layout and one for style.

The key is: is there enough detail (through annotations) for me to be able to produce it.

Here's one that someone, let's call her "Grace", made earlier.

Yeah, click it: it gets bigger...

It's *just* for the GUI - the layout of the sheet. The detail's OK - but she now needs to go on and get the details of the size for the boxes (by right clicking on her sheet she's designed and getting properties and the size tab), the width of the lines, the colour of the lines and the colour (a bright yellow) of the button.

To define the colour it'd be best to use a quantitative method - like using the RGB. You should be able to find a way of doing this (ask if you can't). In this case you can go to the lines/colors tab and go to more colors and you should be able to get the RGB from there:

Monday, 16 November 2009

ICT Systems - what?

Good question:how do we define precisely what an ICT system is?

Here's one definition of a system:
A set of related component parts brought together to form an inter-connected unified whole to perform some function.
Hmm - so it's a bunch of stuff that comes together to do a job of some kind. The "stuff" can be people, ideas, computers, buildings or anything else - anything can be a component of the system.

So, here's an example of a computerised booking system for a health centre.

You can see the components within the system (the ovals), the boundary of the system (the line) and the idea of a subsystem.

One of the key ideas about systems is that they're connected. The components need to be linked together to perform the function of the network.

So, in the health centre booking example, the patient needs to be connected to the receptionist (via a telephone perhaps) who needs to be able to connect to a computer (via it's interface to access specific software I imagine).

Without connectedness systems aren't systems.

ICT Systems:
ICT systems basically do 3 things in some form:
  1. convey data - move it from one place to another
  2. manipulate data - change it from one form to another
  3. store data - so that it can be used at some other point
Here's a system map of a system for sending SMS messages from one user to another.

Another way of drawing this is as a flow diagram:

In this diagram User 1 keys the SMS message into their handset. The handset stores the message and manipulates it into a form which can be sent electronically (i.e. into binary code). The handset then connects to the SMS network and conveys the message to the message server where it is stored. The server then conveys the message to the receiving unit (perhaps via other parts of it's network) which stores and manipulates the data before alerting the user that they have a new text message.

The information will also be manipulated (and then stored) to work out how much to charge the users of the system - and data held on the server will be updated to reflect all of this.

Summary Bit:
There's the ICT system: components working together to convey, manipulate and store data to achieve an aim.


OK, so Spooks, the BBC take on MI5 (not 9 to 5...) might be total tosh in reality terms (and the political subtexts in it are 'interesting' in themselves), but for a newsletter aimed at final year students it might prove an interesting hook for a story or two.

I'm not suggesting you take anything in it all that seriously, but it does strike me as a way to grab a readers attention (look at how the OU article I linked to in Killer Instinct uses popular culture as well).

From a audience needs point of view I think I'd like articles which grab my attention and make me want to read them. Lucas or Ros from Spooks would do that I think...

Available on series catchup on the BBC iPlayer at the moment (and it really isn't *that* scary you know...)

Online money laundering

Interesting to read that an economic area of opportunity appears to be online money laundering.

The ways of tracking this would logically be useful for the Jan 10 Unit 1 exam. It's quite an interesting 'hook' for a story as well.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A PC for old(er) people...

Interesting idea - the SimplicITy (what is it with sad names these days?!), designed specifically for users aged over 65.

Apparently 6 million over 65s have never been on the internet. Big deal? Well, yes: especially as more and more things are only available on the internet these days (or are more easily available on the internet anyway).

Worth a look for target audience stuff and adaptive technology (how you adapt technology for specific groups). Help the Aged has some things to say about that as well. Again, worth a look (heck, we all get old eventually - trust me...)

Useful, as well, I think for some tips on how to design simple to use GUI systems. Always helpful to see some good ideas of that kind of thing.

A good thing I think. Even uses a Linux desktop option...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

How to misunderstand the interwebz...

Sometimes big companies puzzle me.

There's this internet thing, yeah? It works pretty well. Stuff is easily available - you go, click, read/listen/watch and then go someplace else. Fine.

Now, what happens when you run across a site that requires you to log on? If it's offering something unique or interesting then maybe you might bother to register and put up with their spam.

But what happens if you have to pay to get that content?

I dunno, maybe I'm just cheap, but I reckon that 99% of the time I go someplace else. Particularly if it's something, like the news, that I can get free just as easily and just as good.

So, maybe someone might want to explain that to Rupert Murdoch - obsessed as he seems to be with making money from the internet (other than the advertising space he can sell). Seems like access to all the Murdoch press (the Times, Sun etc...) will be restricted to those who are willing to pay for it.


It's not as if news and comment isn't a plentiful resource on the interwbez, what with all those bloggers and so on who seem happy to comment on just about anything (cough). Or as if there aren't plenty of competitors out there who will give you the news for free - let me think, oh yeah, there's that BBC thing.

Here's the thing: the internet works best when it's free. Make your money from adverts or some sort of premium content (in the Murdoch press? - yeah, OK...), but if you don't let me in to get the basics then I am going somewhere else.

Hannah says how do I find the command button in Excel 2007

This is specially for Hannah who couldn't find the command button...

Aye carumba!

Killer Instinct

Totally by chance I ran across an article which talks about the use of computers to catch criminal type people - a system called HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System - a strained acronym if ever I read one...).

I imagine there may be other references to it somewhere or other - bound to be as it sounds quite interesting. I've put a version of the article (OK, 3 screenshots stitched together...) on the school system, but the original article is available at (warning: PDF file) - you'll want about page 36.

It is a long magazine and machines may have some problems loading/saving it as some of the fonts used are a bit odd. I certainly couldn't print the whole magazine, although I could print page 36.

The article itself - which is aimed at Open University students - is quite easy to read and access. I think the version I put on the school system even has the reference you'd want stuck on the bottom of it.

e2a: there's a quite useful page on HOLMES on wikipedia. The usual caveats about the reliability of wikipedia apply of course, but it strikes me as a reasonable starting point (I think somewhere on wiki there's an article about how to reference (or 'cite') a wiki page).

This led me to the HOLMES 2 site itself. The external links at the bottom of the wiki page led me to Law Technology News, which might be an interesting place to find some quite interesting things (perhaps).

iWorm - the iPhone gets rickrolled!

Interesting article, not so much for the rickrolling aspect of it, but for the points the worm's creator makes about security.

And you get a picture of Rick...

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Internet and Global Security

Interesting story over on the BBC website about how the UK Home Office is set to require (ask?) your friendly ISP to monitor exactly what you do on the interwebz (UK surveillance plan to go ahead).

Hmm, so there'll presumably find out that the vast majority of internet users are boring geeks then?

Interesting article though, useful for the Jan 2010 exam paper. The links off of it are a good starting point as well.

And there's Radio too...
On a similar theme, it looks like the wireless might be a good source of useful stuff as well.

Radio 4 (yes, I know, I know - I'm old though...) has a programme called Click On. The last two series seem to be available online. The most recent episode happened to be on this evening as I was driving home and had something about some kind of e-fit system which would make identifying criminals (and other nasty people) so much easier. Might be used by the police and all. You can podcast that one.

I also see that an episode from last April (series 4, episode 6) is titled "Clare English explores some of the ways in which technology is being used to tackle crime". Might be useful again for that Unit 1 exam?

Over on the World Service (yes, I know that as well...) Digital Planet might be worth a look as well. There are summaries of each episode available.

I'm thinking: useful way of getting more than one type of source.

Students, students, students...

Some places to look for ideas about the target audience - and their take on careers in the police, legal and regulatory organisations:

The National Union of Students - clearly aimed at students. There is a careers section under Student Life. I'd use this to get some ideas about the way to write for that target audience - the NUS is writing for it's members so they should be hitting that audience spot on shouldn't they?

Prospects is a careers guidance site which is the official partner of the NUS. There may be some helpful content which gives you some ideas about the careers specified in the project brief.

Walkden school's magazine was the thing I used in class and might be worth getting some ideas from.

Target Audience Analysis - Section B

Questions you need to ask:

1. Who is the Target Audience? - describe them in this section. Age, gender, literacy, specific needs, interests, technical knolwedge etc... may all be important

2. What do they need? In terms of the content for the newsletter, the layout and the style. This should stem directly from your analysis of who they are and be specicially linked to points you made

3. How will I give them that in their newsletter? What will you do specifically to meet these needs. Again, everything needs to be linked back to the analysis of the TA. What will it contain? How will it be presented? How, specifically, does this meet their needs?

Again - think content, layout and style.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hannah's Guide to Excel Keyboard Shortcut Heaven

Hannah says...
  • Showing Formulas: Ctrl+Star Wars (the star wars button being the odd one without a name underneath Escape in the top left of the keyboard). Think: control the force... :-)
  • Showing Macro Code: Alt+F11. You might then need to navigate to the different sheets and modules in the left window pane.
  • Spell Checking: F7
Hannah says Cowabunga