A few days ago the Guardian published an article stating that "the UK's attitude to computer education needs a reboot" lamenting the lack of computing education in schools and saying that if this is not urgently corrected then the UK will suffer economically in the future. The article was not unique as many other similar articles and blog posts have been written along the same lines but sometimes I feel that such articles just feed into fears about the standards in the education system and the UK's place in the world and offer little in the way of practical direction. Yet there is hope - if we confront the issues and acknowledge the vital role of lifelong learning as well as computing education in schools.
Just a short post to say that the "Your MP" application for Boxee has been slightly updated. This is an app that lets people in the UK see how their MP is voting in Parliament from the comfort of their armchairs. You don't need to know who your MP is, all you need is your postcode and the app will do the rest for you.
I am delighted to announce the release of a new application for Boxee: “Your MP”. The details and background to this application can be found in my original blog post about it: “An experimental Boxee app to keep track of how your MP votes” and at the time I said that if there was sufficient interest in it I would develop it further and release it. I am really pleased that there was interest and thank you to everybody who took the time to comment, tweet and spread the word about the app, I hope you enjoy it now you can use it! Since the original post I have added a couple of extra features too.
The eighth of July 1989 was quite a proud day for me. On that day I was handed a certificate to mark my participation in the national finals of the British Computer Society (BCS) Schools Computing Quiz. Our team had demonstrated a knowledge of technology (which is now probably in museums) that was almost on a par with the team that won. It was also the last time I remember having any contact with the BCS, despite the fact I work in IT full time and have done for quite a while. This is not due to any bad feeling, I remember everybody I met from the BCS as being very nice, it's just that somehow over the years the BCS faded into the background. Now I read that the BCS is “in crisis”.
We are experiencing interesting times politically in the UK. Maybe many at one point were happy to elect a Member of Parliament once every five years and pretty much let them get on with it. Talking about politics could make people feel uncomfortable, but a wave of recent events such as the expenses scandal and the Digital Economy Act have started to change that. With the election producing a hung parliament every vote of an MP could make or break proposed legislation, but do you know how your MP is voting? There are already excellent websites where you can find this out, but recently I started to wonder if an Internet TV platform like Boxee could be useful in this area, so I built an experimental “app” to try the idea out. Could finding out how your MP votes be like checking the football scores on Ceefax?
Today for the first time ever I wrote to my MP to ask him to make sure that the UK's Digital Economy Bill is properly debated in Parliament and not just rushed though. This bill contains many controversial clauses, particularly one about disconnecting people from the Internet just because an allegation of piracy has been raised. I'm concerned that if this bill is passed there will be great damage to the future freedom and economic prosperity of people in the UK. I recently joined the Open Rights Group to support their campaign for digital rights too.
The Open University here in the UK regularly coproduces educational programming in partnership with the BBC. Some of these programmes are for a wide audience such as Coast, and other programmes are for more specialist audiences such as The Story of Maths. To catch these programmes you don't have to necessarily stay in and make sure that you are sat on your sofa in front of the TV at a scheduled time, instead you can catch the repeats on BBC iPlayer (sorry - UK, IoM & Channel Islands only). My colleague Tony Hirst recently created a mash up to find the OU programmes from the last seven days posted to iPlayer using feeds from Twitter, iPlayer and a Yahoo Pipe, he then presented the results in a web page. When looking at his blog post on this it struck me that it would be really nice if this could be presented in a way more suitable for a media centre PC connected to a TV, so this would mean nice big fonts, an attractive interactive-TV type interface and ease of use from a remote control, and then I thought it would be even better to feed this into MythTV, integrating seven days of OU programming alongside the rest of your entertainment.