CanSat Limerick Finals 2015

CanSat 2015 (Limerick Institute of Technology) from Engineering LIT on Vimeo.

I recently had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to local secondary schools through the CanSat program. The competition offers secondary school students a unique opportunity to participate in a real space project by building a CanSat – a simulation of a satellite which fits into the volume of a soft drinks can.

CanSat is a joint collaboration between ESERO Ireland (European Space Education Resource Office) and Cork Electronics Industry Association (, and is co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. The Limerick regional final was held by Limerick Institute of Technology.


Remember to fill in “What to test?” on new Testflight builds!

If you upload a new prerelease build to Testflight iOS 8, you need to fill in the “What to test?” textbox under “Testflight Beta Information” before your build will be released. It’s obvious the first time, but not for updated builds. There’s no indication that you need to fill this out for the build to go live, even if it’s something you should do it’s something you might miss.

Digital Amnesia

A new phrase to describe the purchasing of a physical product when you already own the digital version, but forgot that you had it.

Record SSH session on Mac

This applies to recording a SSH session initiated on Mac OS X.

Sometimes it is useful to record your SSH session for debugging purpose and sometimes just to remember exactly what you did when playing around with new technologies on your VPS.

The ‘tee’ command on Mac (and Unix/Linux or course) will route standard input and output through it, and save anything that passes through to a file. So you can pipe any command through ‘tee’ and have your interaction saved to a file. Fabulous.

$ ssh | tee /tmp/output

Very useful.

Beware unofficial sync cables

My 4S is my daily phone and I use it for development too. When I got my new MacBook Air however, it wasn’t connecting properly. It connected and disconnected rapidly, vibrating each time, iTunes throwing up 50 messages saying the device was no longer available, Xcode the same. This was frustrating, my 2008 Macbook still worked with the 4S, but the new MacBook choked on it.

I bought a load of cables, none of them official Apple cables, none of them worked. They weren’t all cheap either. They’d charge from the power adapter but nothing more. In frustration today, after months of this crap, I decided to pay €20 for an official Apple 30-pin to USB Cable.

It works, flawlessly. Lesson learned Apple.

Hostile user support

There is a growing trend in startups to outsource their help desk / tickets to third parties. I’m a user and I just had to deal with one of these help desk ‘solutions’. In order to file a support request I had to create an account on the 3rd party site. This was fun.

I have the option of using Twitter, Facebook or Google to log my request, all of which require too many unnecessary permissions. I also have the option of creating an ‘e-mail’ account. Another account I don’t need. Just to post a little support request. I have to give my e-mail, and pick a password, but not just any password, an enforced complicated bastard of a password which I’m guaranteed to forget. In fact, I probably already have an account for this site that I can’t remember. Then I had to enter a captcha, and then I finally get to post my question! Yay!

Then I get to confirm my e-mail address by clicking on a link in an e-mail that they send me!

I’d be interested to know how many people abandon a question at the forced account sign up? I know I’ve done it a few times. This time, I actually need the product I’m looking for support on and don’t have a choice. If I wasn’t invested in the product I’d nearly have cancelled my paid account and just went elsewhere. It was easier than asking for help.

Is there a solution to all this? E-mail only password-less log-in! If I want to become a member of a community, I will. If I just want to figure out what “Can’t load project” means, then just let me use my e-mail address as a reference and stop bugging me. Please.

All the screenshots

I set up a new Android tablet for a friend to find that next to the home button there is a screenshot button. Who in their right mind decided that this was a good idea? What were they thinking? Where were they when the idea came to them? Why did they think the average user would need to take screenshots to frequently as to put a button on the main menu bar?

I’ll just go into settings and disable it. No setting to disable it. A quick Google leads me to believe that the simple fix is to, get this, flash a custom rom, no thanks, I’m not explaining that one or taking responsibility for it.

So now, my friend has an Android tablet which has a screenshot button next to the home button, which is very easy to hit by accident. The home button isn’t even centered. Oh, it’s just taking screenshots I hear you say, what’s the big deal. It takes a screenshot and shows the screenshot in a little polaroid border and then swishes off screen, every time.

Other than that it’s a very nice tablet.

Bad Phishing

This is quite possibly the worst attempt at phishing that I’ve seen recently:

I clicked the link out of professional curiosity and was greeted with the following:

They managed to include the wrong link in their e-mail. I wonder did somebody lose their job for that mistake? I corrected the mistake and BAM, fake PayPal login.

Jawbone UP: The UPpening

I had previously said that I’d follow up my Jawbone Up initial impressions with a more in-depth review. Reading back on the initial impressions I think that I covered the basics fairly well and I suppose at this point all that’s left to do is review my own personal use.

I’ve kept using the UP with the exception of a few weeks here and there where I misplaced the charger because it’s a good ten days between charges. This is obviously both brilliant and annoying. It’s so long between charges that the charger has been packed away or is at the bottom of a bag or still attached to some USB plug somewhere. It’s not a major problem but it would be nice to have a standard charging mechanism, though I can see how that would compromise the design of the UP. The ten day battery life is very convenient though. Jawbone sell additional charging cables for about $10 so it’s not the end of the world if it goes missing.

The sleep tracking is good but there are some inaccuracies. It’s reasonably accurate with the start and end of your sleep, but waking up during the night isn’t really reflected in its recordings unless you flail your arms around a bit or get out of bed. It really made me realise that I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I had convinced myself. That alone was worth the asking price.

Related to the sleep tracking is the stand out function of the device. The smart alarm. The UP gently vibrates to let you know that you should get up. It can wake you up when your sleep cycle is the lightest. This is quite possibly the second nicest way I have ever been woken up, it makes a regular alarm clock seem violent in comparison. The only problem with it is that once you the alarm off, it’s off for good. I still have to set a backup alarm on my iPhone just incase, but the UP’s alarm is very effective.

I haven’t really bothered with the food tracking aspects of the Jawbone, I have yet to find an app that makes food entry easy. I tried for a few days and gave up on it.

The step tracking is accurate and useful. Measuring the steps has lead to me taking the long way around to get places and taking the stairs more. There’s nothing more to say about it really. I don’t exercise much beyond walking at the moment due to an ankle injury which but the exercise entry is fluid.

The most annoying feature of the UP is as follows: When you want the Jawbone to track your sleep, you must long press the button to change to sleep mode. If you have forgotten to sync or, like me, want to double check your alarms are set correctly, the UP reverts to daytime mode without telling you! Change to sleep mode, check alarms, day mode. This has lead to numerous nights sleep that have been unrecorded. When a state change is explicit I expect it to always be explicit. It took me far too long to figure this one out. I had myself convinced that I was changing the mode in my sleep.

The Jawbone UP is definitely worth the money if you’re interested in what it has to offer. It’s unable to track sleep apnoea, one of the reasons I was initially interested in sleep tracking, but the rest of the sleep functions are great. There are better apps to track your diet. Overall I’m very happy with it.