Hull Blogs

Aggregated posts from University of Hull students

Damn Dirty Apes

So Three Thing Game (http://threethinggame.com/post/2018-05-05-the-event/) took place last weekend and much fun was had by all. That link was an article I wrote chronicling the event including all the winners. There were a number of other great games made that didn’t place and hopefully they will all make their own blog posts about it because this is my blog so I want to talk about the great game that I made.…
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Using Github Pages with Hugo

In a recent post about blogging and CSBlogs (http://goparker.com/post/2018-04-23-csblogs-and-blogging/) I mentioned that I have been playing around with using the static site generation tool Hugo (https://gohugo.io/) with GitHub Pages (https://pages.github.com/) as a means of hosting various websites at no cost. Here I explain how it is done.…
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Three Thing Game award

Yesterday, it was nice for the Three Thing Game and the Bored? Games! events to get some official recognition for the benefits that they provide to the student experience.…
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Adding files to source control

Today I have been frustrated by a perennial problem of mine which is forgetting to add a crucial file to source control. Consequently, a program that I had wanted to show off today won’t build.…
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CSBlogs and Blogging as an employability tool

This is a post to proselytise the virtues of blogging with respect to getting your first job (and possibly ones to follow). I also want to reintroduce CSBlogs http://csblogs.com/ to the Hull Computer Science students. More on both below. The picture is unrelated but begs the question, Who’s a pretty tabby tiger?…
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Joining SIS at Hull

In December I interviewed and was a successful applicant to become a member of the SIS (Student Information System) Transition Software Tester Team at the University. I joined the SIS team at Hull to gain industry experience working with delivering a large project which is evolving. I also wanted experience working in both testing and live environments and prepare me for working in the future, as well as adding to my studies with real world experience (as life doesn’t follow the textbook!) Although software testing isn’t the field I want to go into after University, the agile methodology with everybody gaining an understanding of and the ability to do every role I find really useful, and think it gives team members a better understanding of their colleagues’ abilities. In addition to this getting a perspective from what a tester sees will allow me to become a better developer. Last Monday to Wednesday the team went on the BCS ISTQB Foundation Testing course which was really interesting and covered the fundamentals of testing asking why should we test, how do we define the objectives of testing and the types of test we can do. I also achieved the qualification after passing the end exam. We also discussed how every project is different and agile does not suit every project so each project needs an individual analysis and looking at how we can manage testing in a team. Although the course was aimed to assist us in our overview of testing, I’ve found it really insightful overall in understanding how large a process creating or updating software is, which has widened my understanding of the software lifecycle. This also has assisted with my Software Engineering and HCI module as we’re now going over in lectures some of the content we discussed in detail in the training. You can see more about what I did here (including a quote from yours truly) …
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Banking on future technologies

Time for one last post of 2017! Happy New Year I joined Monzo, a challenger bank in September as a better way to manage my money when moving to University and to allow me to be able to track my spending to see where and when my money was going. My initial money management plan for the first week was keeping a pile of receipts and just paying for everything using my Santander Student Account; this was foiled by the fact that as with all conventional banks, it takes 1-5 days for spending to actually appear in my account by which time I’ve already gone over-budget, as well as Sainsbury’s Locals not providing itemised receipts for my shopping (saving the planet but meaning I don’t know what I’ve bought when I look back). At the start I was only really interested for the instant push notifications, and ability to make notes and add receipts for purchases on the prepaid MasterCard allowing me to see in a timeline where and when I’m spending money. In the last month they’ve moved me over to a real Current Account with a MasterCard Debit; as a bank it’s almost perfect for me (it just needs Apple Pay, which is believed to the in the works). Where the real interest comes though is in the technology that sits behind the bank Where legacy banks really fail is their underlying architecture, with RBS’ outdated infrastructure causing their Santander deal to fall through and an outage over Christmas in 2012, and Lloyds HBOS implementation costing around £1.3bn to join their two legacy systems, which are too expensive to replace. Although these banks are trying to keep up with nice looking customer facing apps and revamped web interfaces, however the systems sat behind these interfaces date from the 90’s and earlier and struggle to keep up with the modern way banks are used with contactless and card for almost all payments which can be seen as less than half of consumer payments were cash in 2015. What attracted me to Monzo is their use of AWS and building their scalable platform on modern cloud-computing technologies, the same provider used by Netflix, Spotify, AirBnB and thousands of other tech companies use. If your social media apps can update in an instant, why shouldn’t your bank balance be able to? They’re also ahead of the curve on an API for banking too, where under the European Payment Service Directive (PSD2) all banks are required to share data with the user and other companies if the user allows which is in the works and should be released for all legacy banks in 2019. API access will revolutionise the way that we bank, with me challenging myself yesterday to write an app to access Monzo’s (Beta API) getting my JSON feeds of accounts transactions, and individual transaction information to give me an amazing amount of detail. My code is now on GitHub, it has a Flask web interface and fetches all my transactions, sorting whether they’re purchases, incoming and outgoing payments and changing their colour depending on this as well as fetching the merchant’s icon if they have one and display it to the user. There’s so many other things I can and want to implement on this though, like using MapBox to plot all transactions on a map, and using something like ChartJS track what types of shops money is being spent at. Overall, it’s a really interesting technology (for me anyway) to have my hands on my own data and allow me to process it and use it as I want, instead of just having a list and a statement as I do with my other banks and will let me plan and work out my money so I’m not spending the next 3 years eating just pasta! …
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Clearing Video

A while back I was asked by the digital marketing team whether I would feature in a promotional video for Computer Science and here it is! It speaks to the quality of the answers that I gave to their questions that what you see here is a subset of the whole of my ramblings.…
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Hello, again

It’s been a while, 88 days to be exact (that’s scary). A lot has changed; namely the fact I’m now living across the country, after a stressful few August weeks I’m now studying Computer Science at the University of Hull, in the UK’s City of Culture 2017. It’s been a big move, and pretty weird to be honest, but exciting to discover somewhere new. The course is pretty interesting, in semester one we’re studying Computer Systems (essentially how computers work), Quantitative Methods for Computing (Maths around computing) and Programming 1 (basic programming in C#). Everything is just happening so fast on the course at the moment though; as every day blurs together and I’ve completed almost 40% of some of my modules already through assessments, scary! I dived right in with WelcomeFest at Hull and had some pretty cool opportunities including seeing Scouting for Girls, the historic side of Hull and getting videoed writhing in a giant tube (0.30). Registration was a bit of an odd experience, with three identical lectures that didn’t really say much, and it took over a week to get my ID card so I could get in places, but after that it was more interesting! I’ve also tried to take part in as many things beyond the course as I could, like meeting with the BCS on my second week for an informal review, joining BCS, becoming a Course Rep, going to two talks on power stations (one of which was accidental) and becoming one of the founding members of our new BCS Student Chapter/Computer Science Society. I’ve also got my first software development related job, becoming a Student Tester for Hull University on their new student information system, which I’m very excited for. There are some more blog posts planned for here soon, but at the moment I’m always busy with something to do. I’m excited for what I’ve got to come. We also have loads of rabbits around our accommodation, which is nice (see right) – we also have 2 cats, 3 squirrels and a fox, it’s like a (slightly underwhelming) nature reserve. …
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How does online location work?

What is geolocation Locating devices online can be done in a variety of ways, one of the most popular ways for this is by using IP address. You can check your own IP here and get quite sinisterly close in some instances to your home address. IP geolocation works by somebody looking up what your IP address is and comparing it to an official database of who holds which IPs, service providers who hold these IPs may give more accurate data of the physical location (or exchange that you’re linked to), at least for BT customers being as accurate as town. You’ve probably seen something similar to the image to the left, as with online media rights they’re often sold on a per-country basis (why most new films on Netflix aren’t available in the UK whereas they may be in the US, as they’re sold off otherwise - often to Sky). Enforcing different versions of websites or blocking them altogether is done by your IP - through geolocation, which is how some people are able to circumvent it by using a VPN or proxy in another country (although this is usually against the terms and conditions). What is triangulation Triangulation is something you’ve probably seen in an action film, when trying to track someone down but it isn’t really as complicated as it seems. When phones are located using masts triangulation is used as it only requires a powered SIM, as opposed to the phone actively sending location. Triangulation was succeded by triliteration which is more accurate as it brings modelling into 3D and allows location to be narrowed down, but for this purpose triangulation is easier to explain. Looking for the central point between the three masts a central area can be found in which the device is located, however if a provider’s masts are spread apart greatly it can mean that the potential area in which the phone is in is hundreds of metres, and not very useful. How can greater accuracy be reached? WiFi Geolocation adds an extra layer to location information as by crowdsourcing or collecting the location of WiFi antennae, your location can be accurately worked out based off the names of the SSIDs and base stations around you, this means that location is improved indoor where GPS isn’t very useful due to being blocked by walls. Collecting local wireless location information is done in a number of ways, by Google for example either by Google StreetView car which travels around both photographing the area and collecting hotspot names and by the Google Maps Android app storing the names of nearby base station names and reporting their location to Google, so they can be used in future for location. Apple does the same with iPhones, collecting the names of nearby hotspots in the background and reporting their location to Apple. I remember in 2011 taking a photo on an iPod Touch away from home and wondering how it was tagged with location when I had no WiFi and later realising it was by through this location. It’s an extremely convenient way to get more detailed location as there are far more WiFi base stations to triangulate against than mobile masts. How does my phone do it? The table below compares the advantages and disadvantages of each method of locating   IP GPS Triangulation WiFi Hybrid + Works if ISPs provide locations Can be accurate to 30cm Good for accuracy if masts Useful if in urban area Best of all - Dynamic IPs make pointless Can be blocked by buildings Virtually useless if few masts Network names need to be re-recorded Still not 100% accurate iOS and Android use hybrid systems to locate users through GPS, Triangulation or WiFi to work out where a user is, as each system has significant advantages. Without WiFi location, tracking within buildings would be next to useless. This combination allows for location to be quickly established, like Google’s emergency GPS service which allows for the emergency services to receive the most accurate location in an emergency. …
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What happens to old phone numbers?

An interesting question of logistics, is that of phone numbers and how they’re handled in the UK, how’re they managed and what problems does increased connectivity bring? Context In the UK SIM cards are not per region, all mobile numbers are in the form 07XXX XXXXXX, whereas in North America they are per-area, in the UK whether you’re in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Island your phone number will be of the same form. When you get a new SIM card from a new phone company, either pay as you go or pay monthly, you’ll be allocated a new phone number or you’ll have the option to bring your old number if you have one. But if you choose a new number, what happens to the old one? The Number Shortage Smart Meters, soon to be commonplace in the UK require a SIM card to connect over the Internet (a big problem with the Internet of Things (but that’s been discussed in a previous post), meaning that 27 million [ONS] additional phone numbers will be needed just for Electricity and a further 27 million for Gas, meaning that 54 million additional phone numbers would be needed for these devices to connect to the internet. As a result, Ofcom are considering adding additional digits for these devices numbers to potentially free billions of additional numbers. The shortage of phone numbers is added on to by the hoarding of inactive numbers by providers, where only 15.4% of O2’s 152.3 million numbers active and EE with only 20.6% of 133.6 million SIMs active. (Source) Phone Number Deletion The actual management of numbers isn’t managed by Ofcom (the UK’s phone regulator, networks are only told to use numbers ‘effectively and efficiently’. As a result, how long until your phone number is deleted depends on your service provider, but your number being deleted only happens if you haven’t made a call, text or accessed the internet on your device within the following amounts of time: This point are when your number is deleted, your credit is usually deleted and SIM card cancelled before this point. Source EE O2 Three Vodafone 180 days 6 months 6 months 6 months Number Reallocation There are no real rules on reallocation of numbers either, the only law is that they are quarantined for 6 months, but variation from this can be seen in that my own old Vodafone number from 5 years ago is still disconnected and not reallocated.\ When the phone number stops being yours however, it waits in quarantine and then returns to the reallocation pool where it will either be returned to an inactivate SIM (as can be seen by tills in supermarkets) or a new person’s contract. There are problems with reassigning numbers if people have had them previously even if they have been left disused for a year. Repeated nuisance calls or texts from people looking for the previous owner will only ring once but spam callers or even debt collectors could try to contact for years to come. Fringe Cases Phone numbers are provided in blocks of 100,000 to providers when they start to run out of numbers. You can be see the blocks each provider owns here or you can reverse lookup your own here. But if you have phone number with EE and then port it to O2, the number returns back to the original provider (O2) to be reallocated. Overall Ofcom expects providers to responsibly manage their numbers responsibly and reallocate their existing numbers before asking for new ones. The rise of the Internet of Things devices through devices such as smart meters or even 4G equipped CCTV cameras are going to require a rethink of the number allocation system, and potentially giving these devices longer numbers or a different type of identifier. …
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Telematics - good or bad?

Telemetry car insurance is on the rise in the UK, it’s the only way for a teen to get policyholder insurance without paying an insane amount of money. These policies can really work in your favour by rewarding non-extreme driving habits with reductions in future premiums or money back quarterly. These policies can really work in your favour by rewarding non-extreme driving habits with reductions in future premiums or money back quarterly. However these policies can limits you to the time of day you can actually drive at and penalise driving at antisocial hours with increased premium, bringing your daily score to 0/10 if you drive past 10pm. Telematics is not just there for judging your driving ability though, the data it collects is stored by the insurance companies and processed as big data. In the long term, this could cost more as learns your driving habits and could potentially compare your speedy cornering to another driver who was involved in collisions and deem you a higher risk – and give you a higher premium. For anti-theft, the tracking of location can be useful but as another internet connected device with a SIM card in, it’s just another connected device waiting for vulnerabilities in it to be found. Driver’s histories will be handed over by most providers to the Police in the event of an incident and nobody is sure who actually owns the data (whether the individual or the insurer. If all driving data was shared with law enforcement there is potential risk that millions of drivers would start to receive penalty points for minor crimes. At the moment data is stored in different formats between providers so it isn’t exchangeable, but an insurance industry who shares driver data and behavioural analysis per person could result in far higher premiums as insurers will know exactly how you drive and think before they quote you. The black box is also usually attached to the car’s internally under the dashboard and will continue logging and building profiles even if your insurance provider changes, potentially affecting your future quotes. The danger of networked OBD2 installed telematics devices is highlighted here. This diagnostic port connects devices to the CAN bus (Controller Area Network) and all areas of the vehicles operation. As shown in the example, if a Man in the Middle attack was performed on the devices, cars could be hacked and remotely controlled; any hacker would essentially have superuser access to anything electronic on the car, in some cases even steering and brakes, something you really do not want. Overall telematics can make driving affordable, however depending on your provider your driving could become more costly in the future. Once again there is also the threat of another network connected device turning against you, and insurers should look at what devices they’re fitting in customer’s cars and whether they have inherent vulnerabilities. …
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