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The Ritterman Building
The Ritterman Building
The Ritterman

I was recently invited to have a gander at the new £18m Ritterman Building at Middlesex University which provides astate-of-the-art teaching facility for technology and design.

Environmental sustainability is at the heart of the Ritterman building as part of the University’s commitment in reducing our environmental impact. Sustainable features include solar panels, a bio-diverse green living roof and four living walls that cover 110 square meters. The living wall is the biggest in Barnet and has over 3,500 evergreen plants designed to flower at different times of the year to create interest and encourage wildlife.

Living Wall
The living wall at The Ritterman Building

While the building is impressive in itself is impressive, what goes on inside is amazing as I saw when I was shown around by Franco Raimondi and Zara Newman.

Have a look at some of the things you’ll see there:

pepper
Meeting Pepper
3d pottery
3d Pottery
roller coaster icon
roller coaster

 

Pepper Robot
Pepper Robot
Pepper

Meet Pepper. Pepper as you can see is a robot and robotics is a major element in technology education at Middlesex University. Having Pepper, along with Nao and Baxter, allows students to get to grips with programming robots which is a key future skill.

Although these 3 are the popular image of a robot most robot’s are designed for specific purposes so don’t have quite the humanistic appearance they do. Designed to accomplish specific tasks they can vary considerably.

MIRTO
MIRTO

The students start with an Arduino based robot called Myrtle. More technically know as The MIddlesex Robotic plaTfOrm (MIRTO). This provides the framework for developing increasing complexity in robotics, which is the basis  for the more advanced work that follows. If you want to know more about MIRTO take a look at Franco Raimondi’s Introduction and Version 3 update articles.

Smart Factory Lab 2
Smart Factory Lab

Of course not all robots move around and the facilities in the Middlesex robotics and haptics lab are enviable featuring over 100 workstations with equipment and software including CAD/CAM equipment, an integrated flexible manufacturing system, state of the art automation devices, LabView and Multisim tools as well as associated hardware such as NI-ELVIS training equipment and Compact Rio control systems.

Baxter in action
Baxter in action

We have always been impressed with the work that we see coming out of Middlesex through our sponsorship of the First Year Technology prize. There have been some excellent entries (take a look at last year’s winners) and check more info here.

Ritterman Building
3d pottery
3d Pottery
roller coaster icon
roller coaster

You know that you are only moving a few centimetres at most but you really, really do want to hold on! This is project in the basement (along with some other interesting stuff) which links up an Oculus Rift 3d headset with a seat from a flight simulator. With a clever bit of programming you really feel you are on a roller coaster.

And here I am trying to look like I know it’s hardly moving – but really feeling like I’m on the real thing!
me trying to look like I know it's hardly moving - but really feeling like I'm on the real thing!

 

 

 

 

Ritterman Building
3d pottery
3d Pottery
Pepper
Tweets that are printing a pot

When you enter the Ritterman Building the first thing you are likely to see is the 3d pot maker. This is an excellent example of integrating different technologies . While the pot is created using the 3d printer the shape of the pot is governed by the number of tweets that mention Middlesex University – so an intense period can be seen as a bump on the pot.

 

Of course it is not just tweets that can be used, music is another medium that was used to create a pot for Dame Janet Ritterman to celebrate the buildings opening.

3d Pot Wireframe 2
wire frame
Top down view
Top down view
printing a pot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ritterman Building
Pepper
roller coaster icon
roller coaster

Pixel Bitcoin ConceptBitcoin seems to be making the headlines again with the the exchange rate of nearly $1500:1BTC *.Additionally there has been a lot published on Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin- but I’ll cover that in another blog. Having been asked a few times about how to buy Bitcoin I thought I’d give you a quick overview.

First of all you will need a Bitcoin wallet to store your stash. The easiest way to get started is to use a hosted wallet such as Coinbase or Blockchain.info

This will store your Bitcoins and have facilities to receive and pay out.

Now you need to get some Bitcoins to put in your wallet.

Buying Bitcoin

The quickest way is to buy some. If you have a Blockchain.info or Coinbase wallet you can do this after logging in and you can pay for them either by credit card or bank transfer. Alternatively, you can but from Local Bitcoins – this is a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of Bitcoin.

Mining Bitcoin

This is the traditional way of getting your hands on Bitcoin. The simplest way is to use a consortium such as Genesis Mining. Here you can buy a share of the mining operations and as soon as you have accrued a certain amount it is paid straight to your wallet. When you buy enter this code fl4R29 and you’ll get a 3% discount. You can also mine other coins such as Ether and Darkcoin.

How about some Bitcoin for free?

You will find many places that will offer to make you a fortune in Bitcoin – the majority are scams, the old adage ‘if it looks too good to be true, then it is’ is well worth remembering. But there are some sites that are genuine, although none will make your fortune – they will make you a few pence a week if you are persistent enough – but it’s a fun way to put your toe in the water. Here are a couple we have tried and confirmed that they do do what they say on the tin:

Moon Bitcoin : You can claim some Satoshi (1 Satoshi = 0.00000001 BTC) every 5 minutes. It increases while you don’t claim, but the rate decreases the longer you leave it. They make their money from adverts, so there are lots of adverts on the site. You also have to do a Google Captcha each time you claim – that can get decidedly irritating, but we can see why they do it. How rich will you get? Let’s say you are really keen and claim every 5 minutes for about 10 hours a day – you’ll pick up around 3,000 Satoshi a day + bonuses (see below), so lets say 3,500 or 24,500 a week … and that is worth about £0.21 ($0.26) at today’s exchange rate.

This can increase through bonuses that are applied – there is the daily loyalty bonus: you 1% extra for every consecutive day that you make a claim up to 100% – but miss a day and that goes back to the start. The referral bonus, for introducing another customer; an Offer bonus for taking part in surveys or buying something; and a Mystery bonus which is a random bonus added to each claim.

Free Bitcoin : this one is a bit more fun. Here you get to roll the ‘dice’ (which you can do every hour) and the value you roll will determine how many satoshi you win. The number of satoshi is linked to the dollar value of Bitcoin so it does fluctuate (a good way to keep an eye on the BTC exchange rate). The largest prize is worth $200 and the smaller prizes are a fixed percentage of that. On top of this every time you roll get tickets in the weekly lottery and reward points you can trade for bonuses. On top of this you can bet your winnings on the Hi-Lo game where you can choose the odds you play for. They publish the code they use so you can see it’s fair.

Please note that this is for information only and not a recommendation to buy or sell Bitcoin.

* May 3, 2017 16:27 $1481.00 CoinBase

I had a great time at the Middlesex University Scholarship and Awards Event 2016. This was held in the Ricketts Quad – certainly a place to shock and awe.Ricketts Quad at Middlesex Uni

First Year Challenge Winners 2016
Franco Raimondi, Timothy Cole, Nicholas Fitton, Russell Weetch

Systematic sponsors the First Year Challenge Award which is awarded to the winning team of first year computer science students who take part in a challenge building robotics applications. It was a pleasure to meet the winners again, Timothy Cole and Nicholas Fitton who won the award for their smart house project. I’m always impressed by the keenness of the winners of this award and the amount of work that they put in, as well as the staff who support the project Dr Giuseppe Primiero and Prof Franco Raimondi.

This year we shared a table with the winner and sponsors of The David Tresman Caminer Award which provides funding for a PhD project on the history of computing. The award is named after one of the pioneers of the LEO computer that was developed by J. Lyons and Co in the 1950s and widely acknowledged as the first business computer in the World. This year the award,

First Year Challenge Winners 2016
Mr. Peter Byford (LEO Computers Society), Ms. Elisabetta Mori, dr. Giuseppe Primiero and Mrs. Hilary Caminer (LEO Computers Society)

sponsored by the Association for Information Technology Trust, was won by Elisabetta Mori and I look forward to seeing the results of this research.

 

 

When we first developed LiveBase® back in the mists of the 1990’s it was to provide an easily managed  dynamic element for web sites that were, for the large part, static and updated via FTP. LiveBase was first  used to power the news and events sections of the National Trust website and it’s second use was for similar  sections on the Caravan Club website.

As well as providing a multi-level structure, LiveBase also provided the page authors with considerable control over the publication of them such as specifying the earliest date and time they could be displayed. This was a major requirement for news items and allowed the creation of press releases during press embargoed periods, only displaying them when this was past. Additionally, users could set an expiry date after which a page wouldn’t be displayed.

A major aspect in the development of LiveBase was building in the flexibility to allow users to achieve whatever they needed in the presentation of their pages and it wasn’t long before LiveBase was actually being used to manage whole websites – a true content management system, although the term hadn’t really been coined back then.

Although many features have been added to LiveBase over the years (and LiveBase21 is on the way) the key features inherited from it’s early development – such multi level content, page display control and full templating – still provide the core of the system. Seems to keep users happy.

Checkout our LiveBase page here.

® LiveBase is a registered trademark of Systematic Marketing Limited

clownCoulrophobia – the medical term for fear of clowns – is quite common, although not always a pathological fear, you sense they are creepy.

Well it turns out that there is a good reason for this. While psychologists think it stems from their transgressive behaviour (unpredictable and antisocial), neurobiology has a different take and is much deeper.

Exaggerated facial features pushes the clown into the “uncanny valley”.

 

This phenomenon was identified by Masahiro Mori ( a robotics professor ) in 1970 and is used to describe the feeling people get when something appears not quite human.

uncannyvalleySo people are quite happy with robots that look human or look distinctly not human, but get distinctly uncomfortable when they look nearly human. If you plot this on a graph there is a steep drop off at some point, hence the “valley”.

 

Thanks to  Dr Max Pemberton’s column for reminding me of this interesting fact.

Check out Wikipedia for more info.

Naming companies is a strange business. It was 25 years ago that we chose the name Systematic Marketing and it can’t be described as a very scientific process. Of course back then we didn’t have domain names to worry us and so I don’t think anyone had thought of combining a colour with an animal.

When we started the Company it was registered with a name our accountant chose – Anduss if you are interested (whether that was thought about; our names were Russell and Andy; or just happenstance I don’t know).

We needed a real name and deliberated long and hard, but couldn’t come up with anything we liked.

In the end we decided that a particular day was the day. We sat in a café opposite the London office of Companies House with the change of name forms. We then wrote down a long list of words that described what we were offering and kept combining them until we found a shortlist of the ones that we thought explained it.

Systematic Marketing was the winner. We went straight over to Companies house and lodged the forms before we could change our minds. So, not necessarily the most scientific approach.

We have thought about changing it recently, especially when people think we are an agency rather than software developers specialising in marketing systems, but you do get attached these things.

And our first domain name back in the early 1990s was to be systmktg as that was the maximum length allowed.

The Next Web has identified 10 web design trends we are likely to see over the next 12 months:

  1. Longer scrolling sites – as mobile devices become more important there is a switch to longer scrolling pages rather than lots of links
  2. Story telling and interaction – content has always been important but telling a story through that content is a big plus
  3. Absence of large background header images – large header images with text over the top have become the norm. How to stand out? Get rid of the image and just use text
  4. Removing non-essential design elements in favour of simplicity – There is an idea in design that a design is complete when all of the non-essential elements have been removed (#3 could be seen as part of this move)
  5. Fixed width centred site layout – how we always used to do it in the old days, seems to be making a come back, but with modern derivatives
  6. Professional high quality custom photography – that really makes your site unique. We always say that when we take on a web client we like to see that they have a good image library – it makes for a great site (Birmingham Royal Ballet and Sightsavers are great examples)
  7. Flyout/slideout app-like menus – Responsive web design has done this for mobile browsing but it is catching on for desktops. But, while it simplifies the desgn process does it improve user experience?
  8. Hidden main menus – pretty much the same as #7, but maybe not as obvious
  9. Very large typography – needed because of #3?
  10. Performance and speed – for us old hands we have always panicked about this. In our book it isn’t a trend but an essential. It’s probably really needed if you do #1. #3, 4 and 5 are probably the result of this.

what do you think we’ll see over the next 12 months?

See the full TNW article here.