Exploding cows in Minecraft…

Last weekend I was at Womad festival, helping kids fire exploding cows from catapults in Minecraft. Not my usual line of work as CTO, or typical festival experience for that matter!

I was volunteering with Devoxx4Kids who organise events worldwide where children can develop computer games, program robots and also have an introduction to electronics. CERN had invited Devoxx4Kids to take part in the workshops happening at the Physics Pavilion.

We ran 3 packed out workshops across the weekend, with children ranging from about aged 6 to 13. While there was a whole range of knowledge levels, almost everyone was familiar with Scratch — and they most definitely knew far more about Minecraft than me!

Warm up before a session!

The workshops involved writing some Java using Minecraft Forge and Eclipse in order to introduce a catapult into the Minecraft world, understand the impact of angles on how far the catapult could fire, and ultimately throw some surprisingly explosive animals!

As volunteers, we were split around 50:50 between those that had a technical background or not — it wasn’t about showing off our own technical knowledge — more asking questions and helping the children stay on track with the activity. A particular shout out to Cesar and Dan, whose hard work meant the rest of us could just turn up on the day!

It was humbling to see how well our attendees all tackled the challenge — their thoughtfulness on variable names for their animal of choice, and somewhat more destructively, delight at changing how big an explosion to create when it landed!

While it was only a small taster, hopefully it reinforced the realisation (for both parents and children!) that by coding they can actively change the world they experience in these games, and perhaps continue to grow an interest in technology.

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Upcoming (Free) UK Developer Events

There’s so many great events coming up all around the UK at the moment – and best of all, they’re free. If you haven’t tried one yet, check out the UK developer event listings to find one near you. Here are just a few

db4o: An Embeddable Database Engine for Object-Oriented Environments

Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 19:00 – 21:00 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. FREE (Scottish Developers)

Jim Paterson describes the key features of db4o, and shows how to save objects in the database, use the db4o query mechanisms, control transactions and object activation, refactor databases, replicate data to a relational database and use db4o in a web app. You will also find out about extensive the developer resources provided by the db4o community.

Microsoft® SharePoint® Server 2007 – Capture The Opportunity

Friday, 12 October 2007,10:00 – 14:00 in London,United Kingdom. FREE! (Content and Code)

Discover the multitude of solutions offered by a Microsoft® SharePoint® Server 2007 platform. Enjoy interactive breakout demonstrations as well as a buffet lunch. Demonstrations will focus on: data capture, enterprise content management, document management, search, forms server as well as business intelligence, dashboards and KPIs.

The Lost World: Win Services

Monday, 15 October 2007, 19:00 – 21:00 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Free to members. Non members can attend 2 meetings FOC. (NxtGenUG)

Intrepid Explorer Liam Westley takes a trip back in time as he dives into Windows and looks at developing Windows Services. Remember those? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed they’re all around us in the development world, but hard to see and hard to capture with a debugger! Liam shows us how we can make our lives easier when writing and working with Windows Services including some of the differences between NT and Windows Vista Services. Other gigantic things to see on the night : Pizza-o-sa…

MSDN: What’s new in Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Fx 3.5 for the Web Developer

Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 18:00 – 21:20 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. FREE (Microsoft)

Come along and find out what’s in store for both the ASP.NET platform and Visual Studio in the upcoming release. As web developers, there’s a lot to get excited about including many features you can take advantage of in your existing projects.

SQL 2008 Your Data, Any Place Any Time

Thursday, 18 October 2007, 09:00 – 13:00 in Bradford, United Kingdom. FREE (Black Marble)

Black Marble present a seminar on SQL2008 with an Introduction for
IT Managers. This outlines the change in emphasis from “words and
numbers” to “sights and sounds”

Future of Web Apps in London – (plus 20% discount!)

Future of Web Apps have a run a great set of events in both the US and the UK – and there’s one coming up in London on Oct 3-5. Just to give you a taster, there are speakers from

  • Digg
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • WordPress
  • FeedBurner
  • Yahoo
  • Adobe
  • Microsoft

Not bad eh? Even better – Developer Fusion has organised a 20% discount off the full ticket price, which brings the two day conference pass down to less than £200. Give me a shout too if you’re going to attend – I’m planning to make it.

Free Silverlight Training

If you’ve been wanting to get up to speed on Silverlight but haven’t had the time yet – then you might be interested in this. Developer Fusion has teamed up with InnerWorkings to offer some totally free Silverlight training, to all Developer Fusion visitors.

We’re also got, amongst others, a 15% discount on DevelopMentor training, and 10% discount on the source code and hosted version of Gemini (from CounterSoft) – the bug tracking system that the team behind dotnetnuke use. More details are available on our free member benefits page.

If you have any feedback, or offers of further discounts to our visitors, just get in touch!

Microsoft Generational Roundtable

I took part in an interesting debate today, organised by Microsoft, discussing the latest generation of new graduates, their role in the IT industry – and how they shape it, or are shaped by it. The discussion covered a broad range of issues, and definitely got those brain cells working! Some of the things raised were….

  • How our current education system stimulates (or fails to stimulate) innovation, and whether educational institutions – at all levels – could do more to support this.
  • Establishing closer ties to business, at university level if not earlier – so students can engage with not only academics, but tap into the experience and knowledge of individuals with years of experience in the industry
  • How can we address the huge gender gap in the IT industry – can leading women within the industry to try to break down some of those preconceptions by engaging with potential students at an early stage?
  • Moving towards a increasingly flexi-time, telecommuting business world – will businesses that fail to adapt to accomodate their employees needs struggle to hold on to staff? How will this affect working hours?
  • Looking forward to the next 5-10 years and how technology might further change the way we work.

All in all, a very good morning, with some very interesting folks!

Developer Fusion Community Editor

I'm back in the UK now, after a 6 month jaunt around the world (photos, for anyone who is interested!). 

Now that I'm back, I'm going to start looking for someone to help me keep on top of the article and code submissions for Developer Fusion, so that I can hopefully focus on getting some new community features up and running (and hopefully back to some more regular blogging too). If you know anyone who'd be interested in doing a few hours a week (paid!) editing these submissions, then please do get in touch.

Hopefully see some of you at the next UK MVP Open Day!

Do you run or attend a User Group?

If you’re involved in a User Group (in *any* country), I’d encourage you to submit information about your group to Developer Fusion at http://www.developerfusion.co.uk/members/submit.aspx – you will then be listed within our directory of resources; like these .NET User groups that we’re already listing. I really want to try and give everyone as much publicity as possible!

You can even go one step further and submit information about your upcoming events too. Any problems, just give me a bell.

I’ll be adding improved filtering to help visitors find user groups and events near them very soon.

Developer Fusion reaches 1/2 Million Unique Users/month

Forgive me for sounding my own trumpet, so to speak… but this is a significant milestone for me! Developer Fusion has reached over 500,000 unique users* in the last 30 days, which is great news, and the first time it’s broken this (albeit artificial) barrier. Next target: 750,000! Many thanks to everyone who helps out or participates in the community.  I’m really hoping running the site can become a full-time thing now, which should loads more useful features for all our visitors.

In other news, after a few teething problems (ie, pulling my hair out for the last 48 hours), the forums are now using Community Server 2.0 RC1 – keep an eye out for the final release from the Telligent team on 20 Feb. Great stuff!

* Source: Google Analytics

Developer Events in January

Just thought I’d post some information about upcoming developer events in January dotted around the UK! If you haven’t been to one before, why not give it a go?

  • Ian Griffiths on C# 3.0
    Thursday, 12 January 2006, 18:30 – 21:00 in London, UK (London .NET User Group)

    With the covers barely off on C# 2.0 we are planning on kicking off the new year with a talk from Ian Griffiths on C# 3.0 – especially LINQ. I will have a fuller session description soon, but in the meantime this is a date for your new diaries.

  • The Developers Group Meeting
    Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 12:30 – 18:00 in Hammersmith, London, UK (The Developers Group)

    With talks on Design Patterns in .NET 2.0, Software Engineering Tools and the Lone Developer, The Fastcode Project and Using Classes to Replace Datamodules for Database Applications in Delphi Win32.

  • VBUG: VS 2005 Launch
    Tuesday,17 January 2006,19:00 – 21:00 in Glasgow, Strathclyde, UK (VBUG)

    VS 2005 &.NET Framework 2.0 launch is the major event of 2005. Every kind of application development has been enhanced with must-have features. Every kind of development & every kind of developer has compelling reasons why this is a must-have upgrade. In this session we will try to cover several weeks of training in a couple of hours including Generic & Protected Class & SQL Server 2005 Express.

  • VBUG: SQL Server 2005 Security
    19-19 January 2005 in Newcastle, UK (VBUG)

    This will be invaluable to SQL Server Developers who have found the interaction with SQL Server security frustrating & for SQL Server Database Administrators who have battled with Developers over imposing a security regime. Microsoft have worked hard to find a way for both sides to meet & agree on a security model that gives flexibility to the Developer and Security to the administrator.

  • The Mobile Workforce: An Overview
    Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 14:00 – 17:00 in Leeds/Bradford, UK (Black Marble)

    We will be exploring how to benefit your mobile workforce through the latest advancements in Mobile technology, and how to successfully integrate a mobile solution into your current business strategy. Products covered include Mappoint 2004, Windows Mobile and the Server side for mobile products.

  • VBUG: VS 2005 Overview
    Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 18:30 – 21:00 in Shipley, West Yorks, , UK (VBUG)

    VS 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0 launch is the major event of the year. Every kind of application development has been enhanced with must-have features. Every kind of development and every kind of developer has compelling reasons why this is a must-have upgrade. In this session Phil Winstanley will try to cover several weeks of training in a couple of hours . . . If anyone can, Phils your man

  • VBUG: Threading with Annie Matthewman
    Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 18:30 – 21:00 in Almondsbury Bristol , UK (VBUG)

    This session examines scenarios where you might want to use multi-threading & the common traps developers fall into when first trying to use it. It will look at how the .NET Framework exposes threads with worked examples in VB.NET

  • MSDN TechTalk: Introduction to WinFX
    Thursday, 26 January 2006, 18:30 – 21:00 in Reading, UK (Microsoft UK Ltd)

    WinFX is the new programming model for the Microsoft platform, bringing the power of the Windows Presentation Foundation, the Windows Communication Foundation and the Windows Workflow Foundation to .NET 2.0. This session will provide you with an overview of these technologies so that you can start to develop applications that take advantage of their capabilities.