Raspberry pi power

This is a video of a raspberry pi controlling my Sony Alpha. This is going to be the basis of the time-lapse dolly I am making.

The pi will be controlling both the shutter release as well as the motor powering the dolly carrying the camera. Using a pi to do this has the advantage that I can ensure the dolly is still when the shutter is fired.

Homemade astronomy builds

Astronomy can be massively expensive, £10,000s! But thanks to IoT, micro computing, AWS and eBay it can be a lot cheaper.

I am planning to build a few items that would usually cost lots.
1. Time-lapse dolly
2. EQ tracker for long exposure wide-field astrophotography
3. All-sky camera

I am going track the projects from concept, through design and to completion. Cost and source of all the parts will be included to help others not make the mistakes I make!

Building the credible technology team

We all want to converge into the business and be an essential driver in the business. But how do we get that place and the voice to influence across the business?

There is an expression in technology, ‘keeping the lights on’. What this means is you must deliver the core of IT and your credibility.

If you deliver the core you will make colleagues in the business not notice you. Not being noticed is the first step to credibility.

So you have done the hard work, operations are delivering every day. How do you take advantage? How do you spark that meeting, conversation that puts you on the path to credibility.

The first thing to do is not talk technology, set an agenda for a meeting that is just about the goals of the business unit you are talking to. Deliberately avoid technology and talk about what business outcomes are important to the organisation.

These conversations should demonstrate you understand the overall goal of the organisation and how the unit you are meeting fits within it. Keep it simple all you need to do is spark conversation. You will need to listen and listen hard. Work on the skills that will make you an active listener. Listening has a primary purpose that some people seem to miss, listening is about learning. Too many people listen so they can reply and show how awesome they are. Listen to your peers in an attempt to empathise with the challenges they face and look for the technology elements that will support them through solving these challenges.

If you can get into this position you face an even bigger challenge, BRM. Business relationship management is how you captures these business conversations and turn them into initiatives and good quality technology strategy.

More on BRM and then transition in the coming weeks.

2017 – year of the geek

2016 wasn’t the greatest year, dumbing down turned into outright lies which enabled the post-truth series of events that are going to shape the world.

2017 need to be the year of the geek! We need complexity and the truth more than ever. We need graphs and statistics. But what we need more than anything is exponents of this truth that can make it accessible. Our current crop of politicians are fearful of this. They seem to fear the people shaping their own future. I see this as arrogant and dangerous.

People are not stupid they are busy, they are busy being absorbed in their own world of work, ego and facebook. The challenge is to break into this and communicate in the same way.

I don’t pretend to have the answer but I am going to work hard to challenge everyone around me to be better informed and to prepared to challenge me.

2017, Bring it on

New role

So I have a new job!!!! Yippee

OK, so now the reality is that I need to turn up and perform. I plan to track my effort sin this blog, along with some other posts.

What I need from you is feedback, what do you think of my approach? Could I be doing it better, Would you do it differently? Why would you do it differently?

The aim is to help other in new roles start delivering quickly!

First post is going to be about the 30-60-90 day plan!


I recently attended the E2BN education technology conference at Wyboston lakes. The conference was the first I had attended in my role of co-opted governor for Vale Academy. I was really surprised at the quality of vendors as well as the products on show, I may have taken a card for a few product to use at work!

Keynote – David Cameron @realdcameron – Developing Technologies to Support Learning

Firstly no it not that one, this one was far more interesting!

Some speakers grab you from the first word and David certainly did that. This energy for quality education is apparent straight away. But as he progressed a theme emerged that I have been looking at in my professional capacity and will be following up in my educational role.


Culture is very important for creativity, engagement and productivity. Schools of old were cold and imposing, I certainly didn’t want to go in let alone learn. But this is changing. Schools are looking to be a bit more like Google and Facebook. Developing a culture that nurture the natural talents of kids and encourages them to learn by being kids. The school I work with is starting to do this by embracing the outside spaces within the school grounds. They have developed an area that has a bug hotel. It has been featured on the RHS school gardening website https://t.co/yZR38q1gJK.

The garden has a second purpose. There are kids who have self confidence issues and need a bit of help developing this. Vale has looked at this and developed a program that provides a slightly different culture for a 15 mins or so. These kids have 1-2-1 sessions with a teacher/staff member. This allows them to talk about whatever they like without have to compete for attention in a classroom. Quite simply it provides something a classroom cannot.

This idea of culture is starting to move into the classroom as well and it is something that I want to look at in the coming year and how technology will support this.

Session 1 – Christine Jack @jackcl – Using Educational Technologies to Support Teaching and Learning in the Early Years

In the early part of the session Christine presented in depth evidence for and against the use of technology in the early years teaching. I fell into the for camp but only with a couple of added thoughts.

  1. Technology isn’t a a magic bullet for not teach properly. Technology uplifts good lesson planing and provides cross over into the technology element of the curriculum.
  2. Parents need to understand the balance and purpose of technology and devices. They are not a replacement for talking, participating and encouraging kids.
  3. Technology can a link between schools, teachers, kids and parents but it doesn’t replace a good dialogue.

The second part of the session I got my first view of early years technology. The main item of interest was the TTS BlueBot. A cool little bot that can be controlled using very basic logic from buttons on the bots back, iPad or a control unit using domino like bricks to create instructions. Easy to use for both pupil and teachers these bots can be used to encourage the use coding in other subjects. You can use the bot as a pointer for answering questions in other subjects, such as driving it to the right number to solve a sum. This a brilliant way to start to develop the concept of coding as a powerful problem solving tool.

Afternoon session – Cyber Security for the 21st Century and Beyond – Rhian Kavanagh @RhiKavok

A wonderfully engaging and informative talk by Rhian on cyber security but so much more! Using great content and production Rhian managed to capture the essence of good teaching and apply it to the subject of cyber security. Take note CSO’s and CIO’s out there, this is how to do it!

Covering the basics as well as some cross over to other curriculum areas she managed to add weight to the simple principles of security. Mange your identity, if it is too good to be true then it is and if you follow these two simple rules the web is less of a danger than some will have you think. I wasn’t unfortunately convinced about the use of the dark web but it did make me want to understand it better than I currently do.

The overall feel was that the web, tech and iOT are brilliant, wonderful and full of potential but with enough warning to make you think before you dive in.

I particular like the origins of the 419 scam section and the use of the phrase ‘self selecting idiots’.

The conference was really interesting has given me quite a few ideas for technology and learning tools to discuss with the other governors in the comings months.

Kanban for kids

Kids are kids right? Why do they need Kanban? Let them play and get in trouble. Well yes but they are the future, they are the next generation of pioneers, leaders and doers and they need the tools to be able to do this.

Kanban is as simple as one card a time, that’s the beauty of it. So why can’t kids learn how to use it? I think kids can and should learn it. With the growing level of kids with digital devices why not empower them to use apps available on these devices.

So I think you may have guessed I am using Kanban with my kids at home. I have three kids two girls (5 and 8) and 1 boy ( 9 months). He doesn’t have any cards! We run a really simple board based round simple tasks and homework. The cards have scores so they know which ones have a higher value and can be done first. And they have a target number of points to get in a week.

Reward is an obvious part of this. I am sure you have all seen the photo of a note saying complete your chores to get the wi-fi password. So reward is the obvious carrot to use. It could be pocket money, screen time or even the wi-fi password.

There are a few hidden extras in this. Simple addition is being done to add up the task values, get them to do it on the whiteboard. Get them to write the cards out as well. Get them involved and they will  end up running you!

Another extra I have added is constant feedback. We have some smiley and frowning face magnets that the kids use to show which tasks they like and which they don’t. Talk to them about the ones they don’t and they will become smiley ones!

Conclusion. Teach them skills to organise. Make arithmetic and literacy part of the process. Most of all make it fun and reward them for progress!


#SITS16 – rekindling the relationship between the business and the service desk

So I only managed the one session at #SITS16 before I ended going back to the office.

It was very good session hosted by Simon Kent (@kent2112) of Sollertis (http://www.sollertisltd.co.uk/) and it challenged how technology people see and place themselves in the business.

The theme was engagement and how technology teams need to so by converging with the business. I couldn’t agree more, but what are the key factors in doing this.


The culture you create as a technology leader needs to be about business outcomes. You need to focus your teams on profit margins, transformation goals in HR, sales targets and many other none technology goals. If you look beyond server performance and start to think about how that performance may win a pitch or complete transaction at a rate that will maximize profit on a product line you are adding value.


Who to speak to? Where to start? This is a pretty big challenge we have put out there! I have previously used a simple matrix of business roles and technology team members to try and cover as much ground as possible without overlapping. Collect and organize this information, provide direction and steer about the information you need. You will find a natural progression starts. Solve the problems in hand like my laptop is slow and we don’t have enough keyboards. Use this to win trust and credibility. Then you can start to talk about what are the department goals and strategy. Deliberately avoid talking technology at all cost and talk about how you will make their business unit look awesome!

Digital is your friend

Digital is important, so do it well and so will your colleagues in the business. It may they do it better than you, if so use their skill to enhance the service they use! In the media business I work in the teams with technology skills within the business are well ahead of us on that but are very willing to help!

ITIL works but to a point

This was the biggest take-away I had from the session today. You will get to a point in your journey when you will need to leave the world of ITIL and move to a less technology focused approach. When you get to this point don’t fear it, it is a measure of success. So how do you know when you get to this point? For me it was when someone came to me in a flap about a pitch and all they talked about was the outcome they wanted, but they didn’t talk tech, they talk business goal and objectives. They wanted us to help win the business!

In summary

Win credibility by doing the basics. Talk to the business as if they are part of your team, treat them as peers and respect their opinions on technology. Aim to make the other business unit look great, if they see you as a peer they will give you credit. And as a technology leader you need to be able to link every decision you make to a business outcome or the overall business strategy.


A technology trade show isn’t top of most  technology professionals things to do this week. But I think it is all in the approach. 

  • Plan what you want to see.
  • Book some sessions. Even if that means paying for them.
  • Set some goals, we all do that well right?

I have done this and one of the goals is to blog a few words, honestly, about each session. I may even stick a few picture up on here and Twitter.

And I fall else fails there is infosec next door!

My blog on technology, agile and how to approach it. A bit of astronomy as well