Gredos mountains

p1000688Have just spent the weekend up in the Gredos mountains (about 2.5 hours drive from Madrid), hoping to escape the heat of Madrid (it’s been over 36c most of the last week). It was still really hot even up in the mountains, but fortunately there were plenty of places to swim in the river to cool down. On Saturday during the day we spent a few hours walking up Senda de la Garganta de Bohoyo. Then in the early evening we went up to the Laguna de los Caballeros (about 4-5 hours walk), where we slept out just in our sleeping bags – even though it’s over 2000m up, it was warm and dry enough to sleep out, following morning we returned the same way, stopping off for a swim before heading back to Madrid.

Generating documentation for OppiaMobile

This afternoon, I’ve been figuring out how to produce some nice documentation for the OppiaMobile Django server. I recently got the Django app published on PyPi, at: (it’s still very much under development, just in case you’re inclined to install!), so wanted some docs, especially for the installation, upgrading and REST API.

Using Sphinx, I successfully got it to build a local documentation set of html files, but rather than manually post these to a static website evry tiem I update, I looked to use ReadTheDocs to dynamically create my documentation from my source code on Github. My first mistake was to assume that ReadTheDocs would just read the built html files… it doesn’t… it generates it’s own set of docs from the Sphinx /docs/ file.

So although my first attempts at building the docs from ReadTheDocs appeared to successfully complete, I was getting errors in the build output log about not being able to find my Django settings, modules etc – so the documentation was only partially complete, since it had skipped over any of the .rst files which linked to Django modules. I eventually found the answer to set up a local file in my docs directory and edit my sphinx slightly – details here.

So I now have the documentation upa nd running at: – although at the moment the docs are rather sparese at the moment – I need to spend some time getting these written correctly.

Visit to Addis, Raspberry Pi and OppiaMobile

I realise it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything up, over a month. Usually I like to post regularly, but I seem to have got a little behind, probably mainly because much of the work I’ve been doing recently hasn’t been particularly blog-worthy (project set-up, documentation, paperwork etc).

I was recently back in Addis for a couple of weeks, we still had funding for travel left from our previous project so needed to use it or lose it. We spent quite a lot of time with AMREF and the Ministry of Health, we’re hopefully going to be running a project with them – but I’ll give more news on this once the funding is properly confirmed. I also had chance to catch up with a lot of people, although we only stayed in Addis, no trip up to Mekelle. Addis is changing very quickly, every time I go there are many new buildings (either completed or under construction), and this time they’ve started to put in a tram system (not sure when this is due to be completed). What was interesting was the number of smartphones around now, many people now have one. OK, this was Addis so maybe the situation isn’t the same out in the rural areas, but it is a big change from only 18 months ago. One of the master students from Adama Uni who I met up with estimated that over 30% of the students in his class now have (Android) smartphones, up from 0% about a year ago.

I’ve also been working a bit with my Raspberry Pi, I got one of the camera modules, so have been having a play around with that, creating some time-lapse videos and a motion dectection (using this script), but as yet nothing quite good enough to post up here.

Finally, I’ve been doing some work on the OppiaMobile Android app and server. For the app there were a few bugs that I needed to get fixed up, and are now released over on Google Play, but the main work I’ve been doing is to restructure the server side. Before the focus was all on quizzes and the mobile learning courses seemed to be hidden away. So I wanted to reverse the focus so the course became the main focus, I’m in the process of putting up the updated site at:, but I’m still working on it right now so not everything may work. I’ve also been learning about how to package up and distribute django apps (reference) and I now have a first verison of the OppiaMobile server side released onto the Python Package Index, at:

Mallorca – Caving and Canyoning

P1000449I just got back yesterday from a weeks trip to Mallorca with the caving club. We had a really great trip, 12 of us from the caving club rented a house in Santanyi and we spent most days either caving, canyoning or on the beach. Mallorca has some really fantastic caves and canyons. We were lucky to get permits to visit Vallgornera – it’s a protected cave and only a handful of permits are issued each year (more people climb Everest each year than get permits to visit Vallgornera) and has some really fantastic formations. More info about Vallgornera and photos of the formations. After we landed in Palma last Saturday, we headed straight to the cave, arriving at about 7pm and got out of the cave at around 6am the following morning, so we had the next day relaxing.

As we were such a large group it wasn’t really feasible for all of us to do the same activities each day, so usually we split into different groups to do different activities.

On Monday we’d planned to do two caves, but ended up spending most of the afternoon wandering the fields in the fog and drizzle looking for the entrance to one, which we didn’t end up finding, so we only did L’Avenc de S’Embut

Tuesday we spent canyoning at Mortitx, it was quite a walk (2 hours) just to get to the start point, but then even longer for the return journey, it took us around 5 hours to walk/climb back from the end point, up cliffs and along via ferratas with some really impressive views of the canyons and sea.

Wednesday was a day at the beach in Cala Falco, then Thursday was a long day canyoning at Sa Fosca (Torrent des Gorg Blau). It’s a really impressive canyon, very narrow in parts and walls 300m high, with one section of about 2-3 hours through a cave, with over 30 rappels in all. The walk at the end leads to Sa Calobra beach. Sa Fosca is reckoned to be one of the best canyoning trips in Europe.

Friday was spent being a tourist, visiting Cuevas del Drach and having lunch on the beach.

Healthcare videos running on standard mobiles


Many people have asked us about how to run the videos we’ve demonstrated in the OppiaMobile app on standard mobile phones (not Android smartphones), so this afternoon I had a go at converting the Basic Skills video from Global Health Media Project to run on my old Nokia 6230i (I’m not sure exactly how old this phone is as I got it second hand over 6 years ago). The original low-res version I downloaded from the GHMP website was 33Mb, which is too large to fit on the 32Mb MMC card my phone has, but with a bit of conversion I was able to get this down to just over 5Mb and still be good enough quality to watch on the small screen. For those interested the full technical details of how I converted the videos is below. If you’d like to download the final 5Mb version you can get it here.

Here’s a video of the video running on my Nokia, I’ve also show the basic skills video running on the HTC sensation – just to give a comparison with screen sizes and video/audio quality:

There are lots of reasons why we’ve focused on using Android phones for OppiaMobile – but I’ll leave them for another posting.

The technical details for converting the videos:

For my first attempts at converting the videos I used WinFF (note that I use Ubuntu on my desktop so all the details below is specific to this OS), this converted the videos fine and they played well on my laptop, but when I copied over to my phone I wasn’t getting any sound. Turns out that my phone doesn’t support the AAC audio encoding format, but AMR encoding. To get WinFF or other video conversion tools to process the video with AMR as the audio encoding, I needed to compile ffmpeg with the opencore-amr library. Follow these instructions to do this on your machine.

I then also found this tool for converting videos: Mobile Media Convertor. My first attempts weren’t too successful, I kept getting the error message “Error while opening encoder for output stream #0:1 – maybe incorrect parameters such as bit_rate, rate, width or height” then when I finally got it to convert it still didn’t play on my mobile. Finally I got it figured out and the settings I needed to use in mobile media convertor were:

Audio Frequency: 8000
Audio channels: 1
Video Size: 176:144
Audio Codec: libopencore_amrnb

To set these, press the ‘advanced’ button after selecting the ‘Mobile phone – 3GP video’ conversion option.

Using these settings (almost 6 minute) video was down to 5.3Mb – the quality isn’t great when viewing full screen on my laptop – but it’s perfectly fine for my Nokia phone.

New OppiaMobile video

I’ve just uploaded an updated OppiaMobile preview video, showing some of the changes we’ve made over the last couple of months, especially with the updated interface design and with our platform name. I’ve also launched the OppiaMobile website, so has some extra information pages especially for course authors and for developers.

For those interested, I used an Android screen recording app to create the video – was easy to use and could record my voice at the same time (though it requires a rooted phone to work). With the previous demo videos I’ve made of apps running the mobile, it’s always been tricky to get my digital camera to focus on the screen properly and also so there aren’t reflections from the mobile screen. Although I think it looks good, I think I still prefer videos where you can see the whole phone and it being manipulated. One issue I found was that when I was demonstrating the videos running, they automatically play in landscape mode, but the rest of the video is in portrait, so I needed to cut and rotate this part of the demo. I’d be interested to hear if you think a video of the full phone (and my hands) or a screencast recording is preferable as a demo of the app.

Canyoning near Cuenca



Photos from a days canyoning in Portilla near Cuenca…

Caving in Cañon del Rio Lobos

Photos from our weekend caving trip to Cañon del Rio Lobos (near Soria), visiting Sima de las Taínas, Sima MA-11 and Cueva de los Candelones I:



Finally… a name for our mobile learning app: Oppia Mobile

oppiaSince we’ve been working on our mobile learning app, we’ve not really had a good name for it, and have just been referring to it as ‘our mobile learning app’, and we really wanted to come up with a nice name for the platform. Selecting and finding a good name is pretty tough, especially  a short one that isn’t some convoluted acronym. We also didn’t want the name to be specific to a particular field (such as health), as although most of our current content is health related, we can also use the platform for other subject areas (such as the Open Education MOOC).

So… the name we have settled on is “Oppia Mobile”, for info ‘oppia’ means ‘to learn’ in Finnish, and as far as we can tell it doesn’t mean anything strange or bad in any other language – but please let us know if it does.

We’ve registered the domain, but currently this just redirects to the app download page in Google Play. I’ll get a proper site set up in the coming weeks. It feels good that we now have a name we can use to refer to the platform.


Semana Santa en Granada, Nerja y Malaga