Let’s start a #techmums revolution!






I spoke at the UN Broadband conference in New York a few weeks ago about women and technology and how important technology and education are for the empowerment of women. Neelie Kroes (@neelieKroesEU) the EU Commission spoke there too saying

“Technology can be a game changer for women…..technology is a huge boost for our economies, if we are missing women we are missing out….billion Euros in Europe alone.”

sue phd ceremonyFrom a personal perspective education and technology changed my, and my children’s lives for the better. You may know that 25 years ago I was a single parent with 3 kids living in poverty. I studied maths at college, took a CS degree and software engineering PhD and became a computer science academic.

Getting an education and understanding tech and all its opportunities has dramatically improved not only my, but also my children’s life chances. They have happy, accomplished and successful lives.

We need to give more women the chance to see what opportunities there are in tech. To give them the confidence and understanding that enables them to create a better life for themselves and their families. This is not only good for them, but also in the long run good for the economy.

I’ve recently been working on trying to make this happen. I created #techmums a program of 5 * 2 hour immersive hands on workshops in app design, web design, online security, social media and Python programming with Raspberry Pi. We take mums who are in their own words “afraid of the keyboard” and help them to become tech savvy. e-Skills UK have accredited the #techmums program.

We have run an extremely successful pilot in the UK’s poorest borough: Tower Hamlets, the average female life expectancy there is the lowest in the country at 54. That’s just 3 years older than me.

We have made an obvious difference to our first cohort of #techmums’ lives, Dr Lela Koulouri from Brunel University carried out an investigation throughout the program into the #techmums self esteem, confidence and attitude towards technology. The findings were that not only did the #techmums confidence in and around technology grow, but also their general self esteem.

In the next few months we are going to be running #techmums across secondary schools in Tower Hamlets, and making plans to scale it up and roll it out across the UK.

We are currently looking for funding for the Tower Hamlets roll out and for volunteers, mums and schools across the UK to sign up so that we can gauge interest in a national roll out.

It would be great to have your help and support. There are currently four ways that you can help us:

1.  By donating to our Indiegogo campaign Let’s start a #techmums revolution watch the video and see what the mums say about how it has changed them.



2.  By signing up as a volunteer, mum or school.

3.  By spreading the word to others that you think may be interested in helping us by email, or Twitter @SavvyTechmums

“I’m helping to start a #techmums revolution with @savvytechmums http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/let-s-start-a-techmums-revolution”

or Facebook:


4. By offering us support, advice, contacts and/or advocacy so that we can make sure our campaign is successful. Who could you connect us to?

Changing mums lives changes not only their life for the better but the lives of those around them. This African saying sums up what we are all about:

“Educate a man and you educate one person, educate a woman and you educate a nation”

Let’s educate *our* nation :))

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Interested? Read more here.


Sue BlackDr Sue Black, founder and CEO, Savvify “Engage Enlighten Inspire”


Hardware Hacking for iOS Programmers

The arrival of the iPhone changed the whole direction of software development for mobile platforms, and has had a profound impact on the hardware design of the smart phones that have followed it.

Not only do these devices know where they are, they can tell you how they’re being held, they are sufficiently powerful to overlay data layers on the camera view, and record and interpret audio data, and they can do all this in real time. These are not just smart phones, these are computers that just happen to be able to make phone calls.

Alasdair demonstrating an Augmented Reality application

The arrival of the External Accessory Framework was seen, initially at least, as having the potential to open the iOS platform up to a host of external accessories and additional sensors. Sadly, little of the innovation people were expecting actually occurred, and while there are finally starting to be some interesting products arriving on the market, for the most part the External Accessory Framework is being used to support a fairly predictable range of audio and video accessories from big-name manufacturers.

The reason for this lack of innovation is usually laid at the feet of Apple’s Made for iPod (MFi) licensing program. To develop hardware accessories that connect to the iPod, iPhone, or iPad, you must be an MFi licensee.

Unfortunately, becoming a member of the MFi program is not as simple as signing up as an Apple Developer, and it is a fairly lengthy process. From personal experience I can confirm that the process of becoming an MFi licensee is not for the faint-hearted. And once you’re a member of the program, getting your hardware out of prototype stage and approved by Apple for distribution and sale is not necessarily a simple process.

However all that started to change with the arrival of Redpark’s serial cable. As it’s MFi approved for the hobbyist market it allows you to connect your iPhone to external hardware very simply, it also allows you to easily prototype new external accessories, bypassing a lot of the hurt you experience trying to do that wholly within the confines of the MFi program.

Another important part of that change was the Arduino. The Arduino, and the open hardware movement that has grown up with it and to a certain extent around it, is enabling a generation of high-tech tinkers to prototype new ideas with fairly minimal hardware knowledge.

Every so often a piece of technology can become a lever that lets people move the world, just a little bit. The Arduino is one of those levers. While it started off as a project to give artists access to embedded microprocessors for interactive design projects, I think it’s going to end up in a museum as one of the building blocks of the modern world. It allows rapid, cheap prototyping for embedded systems. It turns what used to be fairly tough hardware problems into simpler software problems.

Turning things into software problems makes things more scalable, it drastically reduces development time scales, and up front investment, and as the whole dot com revolution has shown, it leads to innovation. Every interesting hardware prototype to come along seems to boast that it is Arduino-compatible, or just plain built on top of an Arduino.

Arduino being controlled from iPad

Controlling an Arduino directly from the iPad

I think the next round of innovation is going to take Silicon Valley, and the rest of us, back to its roots, and that’s hardware. If you’re a software person the things that are open and the things that are closed are changing. The skills needed to work with the technology are changing as well.

Alasdair Allan talking at a workshop

Alasdair presenting at a master class on Augmented Reality

At the start of October I’ll be running a workshop on iOS Sensors and External Hardware. It’s going to be hardware hacking for iOS programmers, and an opportunity for people to get their hands dirty both the internal sensors in the phone, and with external hardware.

The workshop is intended to guide you through the start of that change, and get you hands-on with the hardware in your iPhone you’ve probably been ignoring until now. How to make use of the on-board sensors and combine them to build sophisticated location aware applications. But also how to extend the reach of these sensors by connecting your iOS device to external hardware.

Blinking the heartbeat LED of a BeagleBone from the iPhone

We’ll look at three micro-controller platforms, the Arduino and the BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi, and get our hands dirty building simple applications to control the boards and gather measurements from sensors connected to it, directly from the iPhone. The course should give you the background to build your own applications independently, using the hottest location-aware technology yet for any mobile platform.

The workshop will be on Monday the 8th of October at the Hoxton Hotel in London at the heart of  Tech City, and right next to Silicon Roundabout. I’m extending a discount to readers; 10% off the ticket price with discount code OREILLY10. That makes the early bird ticket price just £449.10 (was £499), or if you miss the early bird deadline (the 1st of September) a full priced ticket still only £629.10 (£699).

Alasdair Allan is the author of Learning iOS Programming, Programming iOS Sensors, Basic Sensors in iOS, Geolocation in iOS, iOS Sensor Apps and Arduino and Augmented Reality in iOS. Last year he and Pete Warden caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location, all the time. This caused several class action lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing. He isn’t sure what to think about that. From time to time he stands in front of cameras, and you can often find him at conferences run by O’Reilly Media. He runs a small technology consulting business writing bespoke software, building open hardware and providing training, including a series of workshops on sensors. He sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him, or more frequently provides commentary about them in 140 characters or less. Alasdair is also a senior research fellow at the University of Exeter. As part of his work there he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes which, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.

Damian Conway’s Presentation Skills Course

FlossUK and O’Reilly sponsor a Presentation Skills Training Course to help anyone that needs to learn or feel more confident about “public” speaking. The course will be held in London on April 16th.

When speaking to a small or large audience – to your board of directors, prospective customers, or at a conference – do you want to:

  • capture the audience quickly
  • hold their interest effortlessly
  • educate and entertain them in equal measure
  • sometimes even inspire them?

Damian Conway explores simple and effective techniques for achieving these goals in any kind of presentation.

The first half of the class focuses on preparation, content selection, visual design, delivery, handling questions and effective techniques for presenting various kinds of technical information (code, data, statistics, charts, structure diagrams etc.)

The second half of the course is an in-depth tutorial on improving the ‘look and feel’ of presentation materials – especially Powerpoint/Keynote/Impress presentations. In particular, it demonstrates practical techniques for making your slides not suck!

Should you not yet be convinced, please read An Almost Perfect Present. The author, Mark Keating, MD of Shadowcat Systems Limited,  writes so much better than I do and he experienced Damian’s talk. I sat on one of Damian’s talk at EuroOSCON a few years ago – he had everybody in stitches. Don’t be fooled- what he says is remembered and put into practice. So book now!

From Perl Dabber to Perl Expert – the path to expertise

Dave Cross, author, tutor, and Perl guru,  will be teaching two two-day courses next month –

  • Intermediate Perl, Feb 21st and 22nd

This course is aimed at people who have written a little Perl and who want to add another dimension to their Perl knowledge. This will take you from being “someone who uses Perl” to a “Perl programmer”.

  • Advanced Perl, Feb 23rd and 24th

Aimed at people who have a lot of experience of Perl but who might not have had the time to keep up to date with latest Perl techniques, this course teaches the latest techniques being used by the world’s best programmers. This is the knowledge that will enable you to describe yourself as a “Perl expert”.

Further information and booking form

FLOSS UK and O’Reilly UK Limited are offering one complimentatry ticket at each of these courses and four runners up will get a copy of Programming Perl 4th edition (coming out soon). Do you want to know more? Get a copy of Linux Format, issue 154, on sale today and enter the prize draw!

Hope to see you there!

Andrew Chalkley’s Core RoR: Web Development With Ruby on Rails

Andrew Chalkley’s Core RoR is a comprehensive look at Ruby on Rails taking you from the basics on day one to using it in a variety of professional environments. Ruby on Rails is a full web stack framework, so you have to have a sound understanding of the ins and outs of web development. If you’ve had little to no experience as a web developer this course is probably not for you.

If you’ve dabbled a bit in Rails before but not really understood what’s going on, or if you are a web developer experienced in PHP, ASP or Java and are keen to learn how to build web applications using Ruby on Rails, this is the course for you!

The workshop is scheduled for the 3rd-6th May, 2011 at Skills Matter eXchange in London.

Cost: £1245

More details here: