Reading Geek Night 11 Roundup

By: Tim


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This month's Reading Geek Night was a busy affair: the university students were back in town. As always, there was a fantastically diverse mix of presentations, this month covering the broad spectrum from coding, arts programmes, cinema technology to a worldwide technology competition.

The gathered hoards at #rdggeek11

Chris Alexander: Building plugins for Seesmic Desktop 2

As what can only be described as a a regular at #rdggeek, Chris Alexander has presented more times than anyone else across the various events. This week he dived into Microsoft territory, with a code-heavy look at creating plugins for Seesmic Desktop 2, a popular social network desktop client.

SD2 is built in Silverlight and uses the .NET Managed Extensibility Framework to allow plugins to be written quickly; Chris demoed a simple application which dropped items into the Seesmic feed every 10 seconds, and was a great introduction to how simple it can be to work with a well-built plugin framework.

Chris has put up a quick blog post with links to the various tools and libraries he used, including the source code of the demo plugin he created. More information on building plugins for Seesmic can be found on the developer platform wiki.


There was just the one microslot this week:

  • Chris Bewick drew everyone's attention to his #rdggeek iPhone application, and asked if anyone had any suggestions as to how to improve it. It's available in the app store for free.

Martin Franklin: Creative technology: Art and geeks at South Hill Park

Martin is manager of the Digital Media department of South Hill Park in Bracknell. In a self-confessed "information blitz," Martin gave a good run down how South Hill Park supports digital media through a range of courses, events, podcasts and–more recently–radio shows.

He highlighted the series of Creative Technology weekends that are coming up soon, including:

Loads more information can be found at the Digital Media Centre website. There's also a brief Audioboo recording of some of Martin's talk available.

James Marshall: How it works: The cinema

A former employee at Vue Reading (now moved on to work slightly less unsociable hours for Microsoft) James Marshall has a love for all things film. He led us down the often unseen path of how things run behind the scenes at a cinema: the film (both 35mm and digital), projectors and screens, tracking down illegal copies and other such things as:

  • 35mm film runs are around 1.5'/s, which is close to 1mph; a typical film will contain 2-2.5 miles of film;
  • Films provided in digital formats generally contain around 1Tb of data and can take 3 hours to transfer onto each projector;
  • The silver screens used for 3D films cost £75,000 each!
  • The best place to sit is ¾ of the way back, right in the middle;
  • Yes, they do use night vision technology: two or three times per film someone will come in and check to see if anyone's up to anything they shouldn't be...
  • The watermarking of films means that an illegal copy can often be traced back to the exact cinema and screen it was originally shown in.

He finished up with a few "money saving" tips: using Orange Wednesday (if you're not an Orange customer, just get an old phone unlocked and an Orange pay-as-you-go SIM), Nectar points (500 points = £2.50 at Vue), Kids AM tickets (weekend mornings, 95p per ticket, if you can put up with the kids) and the new "teen screenings" at around £1.95 per ticket.

Ben Nunney: Imagine a world...

Ben is a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, and freely admits that his job title doesn't exactly define his role. In a well-timed presentation (due to the reemergence of the student population) Ben introduced Microsoft's Imagine Cup: a worldwide student technology competition.

Ben Nunney at #rdggeek11

The theme of the competition sounds lofty and ambitious: "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems." The idea is to use the UN's Millennium Development Goals as a guide, inspiring students to create change around the world using technology.

There are five tracks to the competition: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Design, Digital Media and IT Challenge. Ben was eager to point out that to enter, you don't need any experience in your chosen field: simply an idea. For the students whose ideas are accepted, they will be put in contact with technologists, entrepreneurs, developers and other members of academia and industry to help their ideas become reality. And just to be clear: entries don't have to be based on Microsoft technologies!

Ben's in a fantastic position to espouse the benefits of taking part in the competition: his team won the UK finals in 2008, and the contacts he made during the event directly led to him working in his current position; this year he is running the UK's event, and the worldwide finals will be held in New York next July.

If you're a student who wants to get involved, or anyone else who feels that they may have something to contribute to the running of the competition (or even if you don't think you have something to contribute: "even if you're a fishmonger" is a direct quote,) then please get in contact with Ben via Twitter, his blog, by email or by phone on +44 785 441 8672.

Next time

The next Reading Geek Night will be on Tuesday, 12th October (for those wondering how the dates are chosen: it's always the second Tuesday in the month) and will be #rdggeek's first birthday!

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