Archive for February 2013

I only visit 4 websites…

I’ve noticed this for some time now, but a quick ctrl-h confirmed it for me…. basically I don’t actually visit very many websites through my browser (desktop or mobile) anymore. My web history for the last month shows that I’ve regularly visited only about 4 sites:

Obviously that’s not to say I don’t use the internet, I certainly do, through using email (thunderbird on my laptop and K9 for mobile email), twitter app on my mobile (ok, I don’t post to twitter that much, but I do follow and read what others have to say), github, my RSS reader (using TT-RSS running on my laptop), youtube (either via youtube android app or through my media server), and various work-related sites/apps (usually that I’ve developed myself), but I find it interesting that there are very few websites I now access directly via my desktop web browser.

I now assume that most people reading this will be doing so either via an RSS reader, or a link from twitter or facebook.

Is this just me, or is it a general trend for everyone?


Can anyone do DIY tech?

New clip from the BBC Click programme about hackspaces, visiting the Nottingham Hackspace where my brother spends a lot of time – he appears in the clip at about 3min30:

For more info about the Nottingham Hackspace see:

New Mums for Mums website



Today Mums for Mums launched their new website, they are a local charity in Mekelle – see their new website for more info about what they do! Just before I left my VSO placement I was helping them update their website to make it easier for them to post up news stories and keep it up to date, but we didn’t get chance to make the new WordPress-powered site live. However, over the last few months, Kat (from the UK) has been volunteering with Mums for Mums in Mekelle and has got the new site updated, re-designed and given training for the staff on how to post up news stories and maintain the site. It’s really great to have the new site finally up and running!

Relatively musical

Here are a couple of videos from some of my more musically talented relatives:

Seafret – my cousin, Jack is the singer:

more info on Seafret  and an interview, and Duck Baby (my uncle, Mike, the singer, is Jack’s dad)…

Finally, a bit less musical, my brothers LED stickman costume:

Stickman LED costume from Matt on Vimeo.

Using Android Text to Speech

To help some of the health workers use the mobile learning application – especially those who may have trouble reading English, we thought it may be useful to give them the facility to have the page content read out using text-to-speech. This has been quite easy to get set up and running (basic instructions), but a couple of things I found may help others trying to get text-to-speech up and running in their apps:

  • I found the onActivityResult method was not being called, but this was due to my variable “MY_DATA_CHECK_CODE” not being set to 0 – once it was set to 0 it worked fine. Also if I used the built in “RESULT_OK” this didn’t work either. See here for more explanation.
  • I wanted to read out the HTML from a webview widget and I thought I’d need to write a load of code to strip out the html headers, tags etc (otherwise the names of the tags and attribute get read out too). But actually it was really simple, using the line: “android.text.Html.fromHtml(instruction).toString()” (more)

It all seems to work quite well, although with the built in voices I find it certainly sounds computer generated, and if I set the speed of the voice to very slow it sounds drunk. So I’m a little unsure if it’s really going to help the health workers, but it’s not taken me much time to set up and maybe it could be useful for some of them.

Raspberry Pi and Gertboard

As well as playing around with building a media server on my Raspberry Pi, I’ve also just been soldering together my GertBoard kit:

It was quite easy to solder together, despite it being a long long time since I’ve done any soldering. At first I thought I’d messed something up since when I plugged the Gertboard into my Pi, if I touched some of the jumper connections just behind the LEDs, the LEDs would go on and off as I touched the jumpers. I assumed that I’d made a short circuit somewhere, so I tested with my multimeter and it seemed one of the surface mounted resistors had no resistance. So I unsoldered this and then tested again, but still with no resistance.

After a chat with my (electrical engineer) brother he explained that the resistor in question (at position R23) was rated at 0.1 ohm, so it was highly unlikely that my basic multimeter would be able to measure such a small resistance and that actually I should just solder it back and there was probably nothing wrong. The explanation for the flickering LEDS “is due to the fact the are not in any determinate state (floating), hence they will switch on/off a bit until they are plugged into a correct logic level to set them either high or low (rather than floating).”

Once all was put back together, I tried some of the demo python scripts (from and all worked exactly as expected. For info I preferred to use the python version of the libraries as I have much more recent experience with python than I have with C.

Thought I would post up this info here in case anyone else with a similarly low level of soldering etc comes across the same issues, although it seems that the Gertboards will now be sold ready assembled. Now I’ve still just to figure out what project I should make with it!