Barcamp Blackpool: A Quick Writeup
Well, i'm currently relaxing in my room after fantastic day at Barcamp Blackpool. I've never been to a Barcamp up here so I didn't really know what to expect from the people of the area, because as you know the people really do make the Barcamp, but I was pleasantly surprised. Les Pounder and Lalita D'Cruze kicked the day off, they've gone to great lengths to provide a large schedule for people to talk in and even a full lunch and dinner service for the attendees. As per usual the Barcamp bugs set in when the projector failed to work after the first few slides, not like it actually affected the introduction at all.
A common thing we see now at Barcamps is community tables, accordingly this was the first time that Barcamp Blackpool has tried it but it was packed full of interesting groups and projects. A few hackspaces made a appearance with their 3D printers, showing off some of the items you can create and also some other smaller projects they've been working on. As to be expected the other sponsors had a few stalls as well, packed with goodies and information about their businesses, Tim Dobson was there with the Bytemark stand who re now becoming common features in the Barcamp community (mostly due to their excellent sponsorship of UK geek events).
The first talk I stumbled into was a demo of social games on tablets, a few interesting games were demoed on the iPad, pointing out whats done right and what doesn't really work. I have to admit I ducked out of the session early to have a wander around the stalls, accordingly it was stacked full of a few innuendos later in the talk.
After a short break and a wander around the hotel I jumped into another talk. Concrete5 is a interesting PHP/MySQL CMS system where the actual site is the UI for updating it, much like how Google Analytic site view works you can login to a administrator mode and click and update parts of the site in a WYSIWYG fashion, with all the fluffy extras of versioning and a full publishing workflow. If you want to keep a site up to date with a simple interface to work with then this is the one. I'm considering using that on a new version of St. Mary's website, allowing them to update the site with relatively low effort on their part.
Afterwards I stepped out into the main area to watch the "Geek Fit" talk by Kian Ryan, which was essentially a introduction lesson in fencing. I have to say it went down a storm, with about 20 people taking part and even more watching the outcome. As you can imagine people got a little excited about hitting people with plastic swords, but Kian kept everyone in line. I think a few people will be waking up with sore muscles tomorrow as it seemed like quite the workout for all involved.
Paul Brook gave a small but interesting talk on using a cheap Amatel board and flashing it as a Aurdino device, the interesting part is that these board are USB key side and provide all the outputs that you'd expect with the exception of the analog I/O. One attendee also mentioned that you can unsolder the USB socket easily and the size can be reduced to just a tad larger than a 50 pence piece, excellent for tiny embedded projects. The boards themselves can be picked up easily from modtraders but the interesting part is that with bulk purchasing you can get the unit cost down to £4 each. Further details can be found on the Leeds Hackspace blog.
The Shrimp is a ultra-low cost Arduino compatible board created out of the need to provide a cost effective Arduino for use in schools in deprived areas, as time goes on budgets are being slashed for schools making it difficult to justify the cost of a £16 Arduino Uno for use in the classroom, with this costing around £1.40 for the components and 86p for the breadboard to build it on it makes it affordable for schools to spend money on and give the students something to take away with them. cefn gave a live demo of constructing one of their kits and how to use the standard Aurdino IDE to program it. Thankfully he only had one minor problem when a wire came lose, but otherwise it was a perfect setup and demonstration. I highly recommend any tinkerers to check out their site and look into the project.
Afterwards the guys organised a full buffet dinner and entertainment, with Alex Martindale giving a small comedy sketch talk called "Clive Sinclare ate my childhood", then followed by Dan Lynch and 20lb Sound doing a set. I didn't stick it out to the end but what I heard was excellent, I sneaked off in the last few songs as being up since 6am really took it out of me.
So i'm all hold up in my hotel room, which is surprisingly better than I expected, the room looks like its been recently redone, well, the decorating that is as the furniture is still a little shabby, A interesting side note to end this on, this is the first post i've done mostly on my Nexus 7 using a bluetooth keyboard, and surprisingly its working well, except where it refuses to switch to a English (UK) keymap. I've probably missed quite a bit of what went on today, but nothing can beat actually attending these type of events and getting involved.
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