Train: Bristol to Cogan

- edited | 1 comment | trains

Similar to my Bus: York to Leeds post back in 2010, I thought I would do a similar analysis for my commute for the last couple of years.

I took this journey twice each working day for 2 years before moving to Cardiff. I wondered how many miles and hours I have spent on the trains.

The Map


Distance per Journey37.3 miles
Distance per Day74.6 miles
Total Distance74.6 miles x 5 days x 90 weeks = 33,570 miles


Cost per Ticket£12
Total Cost£12 x 5 days x 90 weeks = £5,400
Petrol Costs33,570mi x 35mpg x 134p = £5842.87

Taking the train has cost 92% of what it would have cost for fuel alone if I had used a car


Time per Journey85 minutes
Total Time85 mins x twice a day x 5 days x 90 weeks = 53.125 days

Final percentage for you: the time I have spent on the train is equivalent to 7.27% of the 2 whole years!

HTML Microdata - Event Markup

- edited | 0 comments | website development html5 css3 york

For the 2013 Central Hall Musical Society's production of West Side Story, I was invited to design and make the website to allow registration, cast audition bookings and ticket sales. I used the Foundation CSS and JavaScript framework along with a jazzy font from Google called Alfa Slab One.

There were 2 main things I added in differently to this site compared to the 2 I had previously developed for the Central Hall Society. The first one was from a design perspective, and the the second was microdata.

CSS3 Transformation Animation

For the teams pictures, I added in a CSS3 transform that titled their heads at an angle, where on hover the angle changed giving a slight spin appearance. This was done with a few CSS declarations.

figure img{
  -webkit-transform: rotate(353deg);
  -webkit-transition: all 1s ease;
  -ms-transform: rotate(353deg);
  -ms-transition: all 1s ease;
  -o-transform: rotate(353deg);
  -o-transition: all 1s ease;
  -moz-transform: rotate(353deg);
  -moz-transition: all 1s ease;
  transform: rotate(353deg);
  transition: all 1s ease;

figure img:hover {
  -webkit-transform: rotate(355deg);
  -ms-transform: rotate(355deg);
  -o-transform: rotate(355deg);
  -moz-transform: rotate(355deg);
  transform: rotate(355deg);
HTML Microdata

After writing up the markup and adding the CSS to match the design, I looked at exposing the event data to search engines via microdata.

By adding directly to the existing HTML markup, I was able to identify the event type, the performer, the location and the date.

<section class="row" itemprop="event" itemscope itemtype="">
<header class="eight columns">
<h6><span itemprop="performer">The <span itemprop="location">University of York</span> Central Hall Musical Society</span> presents</h6>
<h1 itemprop="name" style="text-transform:uppercase">West Side Story</h1>
<article class="four columns">
<h2>Week 5, Spring Term</h2>
<h5 itemprop="startDate" content="2013-02-07">Thursday 7th</h5>
<h5>Friday 8th</h5>
<h5 itemprop="endDate" content="2013-02-09">Saturday 9th</h5>
<h4>February 2013</h4>

When the search engine robots index the page, they should be able to pull out the data and use this to provide more relevant results. Google provide a tool to test the end result.

Search result as it appears in Google with event date and location

It was very interesting to see all the types of different things you can markup and expose data for, a list is on the site.

Over The Air

| 0 comments | facebook mobile application ota12 hack day

Last week, Ali and I attended the 2012 Over The Air, a mobile applications themed hackday. It was held at Bletchley Park, home to the National Museum of Computing, among other things.

There was an extremely packed schedule comprising of talks on a whole manner of subjects relating to the mobile web. I managed to attend the talks on QR codes, WebRTC, Facebook Graph API, O2 Labs and the keynotes.

I would have loved to have seen more, however, we had a hack to build.

Ali had an mbed and a GPS/GPRS module that he had used for his solo project. We decided to use the mbed platform as they were at the event with Vodaphone 3G dongles. We created Dude, Where's My Car?

The mbed device, connected via the 3G dongle, sends GPS co-ordinates to the server every few seconds. These appear in the timeline on the website. You can then create a trip by selecting start and stop positions which is then shared with your friends on Facebook using the open graph API. We made actions of going on a trip which had properties including the trip name and geo-location data.

Ali also had a OBD (On Board Diagnostics) interface that connects to a car. Through this device, the mbed could get a number of parameters from the car such as speed, throttle, rpm, engine temperature etc. This data was added to the server along with the GPS and pased through to Facebook wihin the open graph metadata. It was then used to generate averages, minimums and maximums for the car data. All this then appears on your Facebook timeline looking like the example below.

Facebook Timeline Post

We demo-ed our hack to the judges and audience and ended up winning both the Facebook Open Graph Challenge and the Embedded Hardware Hack Challenge. They loved how we took the real-world action of driving and sharing that with your friends.

Android Read Log Permission

| 1 comment | android

When reading this post about the Facebook SDK writing a line to your Android phone's log file, I was interested to see what other applications wrote sensitive data to the log.

The log is available to any application that has the READ LOG permission. This permission is marked dangerous but users are confronted with this message:

Allows the app to read from the system's various log files. This allows it to discover general information about what you are doing with the tablet, potentially including personal or private information.

From what I have seen, that word "potentially" needs to be changed to "most definitely".

On my Samsung Galaxy S2, I found that all my texts and emails were written to the log file in plain text. I even wrote a proof of concept application to read my emails.

I see no good reason as to why applications would need to write any private data to the log. The permission is there in the first place for easy debugging which makes sense, but just writing whole emails and texts to the log makes no sense. When I receive a text, a notification is written to the notification bar which includes the text contents, including the name of the contact - this whole string, for some reason, is written to the log file. Likewise whenever I open an email in the Gmail application, the whole content of the email is written to the log file.

I did try and reach out to Google and Samsung about this issue, but after a couple of weeks have not heard anything back.

Google do not seem to be following their own advice that states:

Application developers should be careful writing to on-device logs. In Android, logs are a shared resource, and are available to an application with the READ_LOGS permission. Even though the phone log data is temporary and erased on reboot, inappropriate logging of user information could inadvertently leak user data to other applications.