Snakes and ladders: end-game rules

My 5-year-old son is mysteriously keen on a Snakes And Ladders game we have, but there is often some discussion about what the ending rule should be. The winner is definitely the person who lands on square 100 first, but what to do if you roll a number which would take you past square 100? There are two rules we play: You win. You bounce back off the end of the board. E.g., from square 98, a roll of 6 would take you: 99, 100, 99, 98, 97, 96. Photo © Nick Fedele. CC-BY-SA-2.0 Empirically, the game takes way longer if you play the ‘bounce’ rule than if you play the ‘win’ rule. But how much longer, on average? It turns out that

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New video: stop-motion with sound!

A stop-motion animation with a bit of a story — one friend goes to visit another friend. And also sound! Animators: Jude and Zach Voice actors: Jude and Zach Camera operator: Meg Post-production: Ben (To put it together, I used Openshot again, but found it buggy and crashy this time, and the freeze-frame effect was quite fiddly to use. I also looked at kdenlive, which was in many ways much better but its freeze-frame effect didn’t seem to work if you used a clip more than once.)

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Encoding video for Archos Vision 14

© 2008, Blender Foundation : CC BY 3.0www.bigbuckbunny.org The kids had taken a few videos which they wanted to put onto their Archos Vision 14 portable media players, but the supplied software is Windows-only and wouldn’t run successfully under Wine. The example movie on the device (Big Buck Bunny) had in its metadata a comment that it had been encoded with mencoder, so I thought there was a reasonable chance that Archos’s clunky-GUI’d software just called out to mencoder to do the actual work. Running Archos’s AVIConverter on a real Windows XP machine and watching via Process Explorer revealed that this was the case. Grabbing the command-line and trying it under Linux worked: mencoder -noodml \ input-file.avi \ -of avi -o output-file.avi

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Meg’s book: Laura’s Troubles

For Christmas, my daughter Meg gave me a hardback book which she had made herself (with help from Bear), using one of the many on-line design-your-own-book outfits, Pixum. Pixum provides a Linux version of their book-design software, which is notable and encouraging. But I could see no obvious way of exporting to PDF, and wanted to send a soft copy to my parents. The file format used by Pixum’s software is XML, and it wasn’t too tricky to work out enough of the details to produce a reasonable facsimile in PDF, using various Python packages (ElementTree, Python Imaging Library, BeautifulSoup, tinycss, ReportLab’s Pdf Library). I was not able to get the text positioning to exactly match the original printed version,

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Braille in National Aquatic Centre lifts

I was wondering about the Braille signs in the lifts at Dublin’s National Aquatic Centre, and it turns out they are in German (courtesy of the Wikipedia entries on German braille and Braille patterns in Unicode): Open doors ⠞⠳⠗⠀⠡⠋ Tür auf Close doors ⠞⠳⠗⠀⠵⠥ Tür zu Alarm ⠝⠕⠞⠗⠥⠋ Notruf Curious. See also this xkcd (thanks to Oliver Nash for the pointer).

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Raspberry Pi, Squeezebox, phone line

Motivation Long ago, I built a circuit which enabled a PC to monitor the phone line, and control the music system in our old house. Whenever somebody rang, it would pause the music, and announce the caller using voice synthesis. It was cool. Details are on a pre-blog page. Alas, when we moved house, the hardware got lost, and ever since, we have had to manually pause the music, and look at the tiny display on the phone to see who was calling. I had been meaning to reinstate the automatic system for ages; it had actually been quite useful. Photo © Flickr user GijsbertPeijsCC-BY-2.0 The other motivation for this project was as an excuse to play with the Raspberry

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UK government consultation on Open Standards

Back in June, I submitted a response (also as pp.35–39 of a PDF on the Cabinet Office’s site) to the UK’s consultation on open standards in government. Today I received an email notifying me of the conclusions to this process. I have read through the UK government’s ‘Principles’ document, and the following snippets are quite encouraging: ‘Open’ includes ‘royalty-free’ I think the big one is the inclusion of ‘royalty-free’ in the requirements for a standard to be ‘Open’: 2. Open standard – definition … Rights – rights essential to implementation of the standard, and for interfacing with other implementations which have adopted that same standard, are licensed on a royalty free basis that is compatible with both open source and

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