Detecting indoor location using WiFi signal

April 1, 2016

Just published, a devilishly clever algorithm from MIT for detecting the location of an individual using WiFi to within a few centimetres.

This has been a bit of a holy grail in computer science for years and the best solutions still require multiple WiFi nodes effectively comparing notes.

The details are complex, but basically the new approach involves frequency hopping the WiFi signal to obtain multiple measurements of the time a signal takes to travel to another node. These measurements are then combined and multiplied by the speed of light to get a highly accurate result.

Decimeter-Level Localization with a Single WiFi … – Usenix


Social Media for authors

March 9, 2016

I spent the afternoon at the University of Nottingham’s Horizon centre helping a researcher on the CREATe project explore how authors use social media.

This was a fascinating workshop with lots of discussion of the pitfalls and problems of using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest when you are writer trying to reach an audience. Issues up for debate included privacy, keeping work and social stuff separated, dealing with unwanted comments and postings, how to stream different types of updates and coping with the perpetual beta.

Oh, and how to get any writing done when there is social media available.

And, fans of this blog will be pleased to know, there was a decent lunch. It’s been a long time since I had a free lunch.


Barry Cooper and Turing

December 18, 2015

I was saddened to hear of the death of Barry Cooper, a Leeds University mathematician, who specialised in computability, the fiendish maths of proving whether something is calculable. As the Guardian obit makes clear he arguably did more than anyone else to make Alan Turing and his work known to the wider public, and was instrumental in organizing the great computer scientist’s centenary year in 2012. It seems doubtful that Turing would have won a pardon or that films would have been made about his time at Bletchley without Cooper’s initial efforts. He taught at Leeds whilst I was an undergraduate, although I don’t recall attending one of his lectures. You can read more about Cooper’s ideas, research and his championing of Turing at his webpage.

Nottingham Festival of Words

September 16, 2014

FestivalLogoNottingham’s Festival of Words, which I spoke at last year, returns to the city in October. Full details of the line-up, which includes Will Self and Jon McGregor, and tickets can be found at:

Neil Young’s Pono

March 12, 2014

A couple of years ago I wrote about Neil Young’s ideas for a new kind of ipod-style music player that would accurately reproduce the very high level of music quality found in the original studio masters. Over the years he has expressed increasing discontent with the way that ipods and other devices reduce the quality of the artist’s original material and he talks at length about this in his autobiography.

It now looks as if this was far more than Neil day dreaming about what might be possible in an ideal world. He’s announced that the project to build such a device is up and running and seeking funding via the crowd-funding service KickStarter.

The device will be called a Pono – Hawaiian for righteous. As the blurb says:

“What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist’s intention, and the soul of music.”

Sounds pure Neil Young to me – you can read a lot more technical stuff at

December 11, 2013

Microsoft have their very own social network. Who knew? It’s called Socl and seems to be structured more around the sharing of photos, videos and collages of interesting snit-bits, rather than plain old status updates. It has just been released for IOS and Windows 8 phone; Engadget have a review.

British Library may foil Tories plan to delete their Internet history

November 13, 2013

According to Computer Weekly, the Tories have tried to delete records of their previous speeches from the Internet. Various tricks have been used such as robot blockers. However, they seem to have forgotten that the British Library has been archiving the UK Web since the mid-2000s. You can see snapshots of old Tory party sites here.

The Bank of Mum & Dad hits the digital age

October 11, 2013

Blackwell’s latest foray into digital media should prove interesting. The Bookseller reports that they have released an App for students that allows them to order books and then electronically, and automatically, send the bill to their parents.

Blackwell’s digital director, Matthew Cashmore, described the new development as “really cool”. I’m not sure some of my friends whose children are just reaching university age would concur.

I also found myself imagining what life would have been like in my student days if such an App existed. I’m not sure of the full range of stock at Blackwell’s at the time but I’m thinking bills for copies of Lord of the Rings, scripts of Withnail, and Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day landing on my Dad’s doormat rather than Advanced Algorithm Design.


August 7, 2013

I’m loving this. A scale model of the world’s first electronic computer – The Colossus – built from Lego.

See the photo at Telegraph website:


Free Web Crawl released

June 11, 2013

Interesting. A non-profit, Common Crawl, has built massive database crawl of Web and released for all to use. This could be a boon to academic researchers as well as start-ups with new ideas for search engines and so forth. There’s more in MIT magazine: