Formal Qualifications:

Other skills:

Well, the ones suitable for mentioning on a public site, anyway :-P


Can I fix your computer?:

XShort answer: Maybe. If it isn't something too difficult or obscure.

Long answer: My IT training is in electronics, industrial control, and network. I don't use domestic commercial OSes (Windows, MacOS) at home at all and at work the IT department (which isn't me) takes care of that sort of thing. I do have an Android phone, but generally treat that like the locked-down dumb-appliance it (along with iOS) was designed to be. I know my way around the basics of these sorts of systems, but will generally have to fall back to web-searching a solution and then wading through trying all the useless/obsolete/downright-bad advice the internet is full of until I find or extrapolate something that actually works!

It is much like asking a transplant surgeon to remove a brain tumor - they will be quite compentent at opening and closing your skull but won't have a particularly good grasp of the difference between tumourous and healthy brain tissue or where the vital blood-vessels run in relation to where they are trying to cut in the brain itself! This would certainly be better than nothing in an emergency, but they would be spending more time in a reference book/website than in your head as they did the procedure.

At home I exclusively run on a Linux variant, which tends to be an it-just-works platform for the kinds of things I do (when it doesn't just-work, Linux can be the same sort of quagmire of pain and misery as paid-for OSes seem to be habitually, but for ordinary computer use under Linux, that is fairly rare as long as you stay away from dodgy hardware/peripheral manufacturers who don't seem to understand the established interfacing standards surrounding their own product lines).

Students (meaning ones where I work), certainly feel free to ask if I can help, though. Sometimes it turns out to be something quick and simple, or is an issue I have dealt with before for other students (or myself) so have already done the research. At worst, I can direct you somewhere better for assistance (usually the university IT services on level 1 of the Library, or to what I hope to be a reputable source of online information).

Hardware I Use

BatThe BAT is a Chordable Keyboard.

I have a long-standing interest in alternative input devices, having started building my own (for my Commodor64) around age 14. The 7-key keypad on my desk is able to input (with varying degrees of convenience) any key that a matrix-keyboard can do (and then some). It works by assigning a letter or symbol to a combination of key-presses rather than one symbol per key. It is like playing chords on a piano which is why it is called a chord keyboard, and is a lot easier to learn than it looks. This particular keyboard is the Bat™ by Infogrip. Chord keyboard proponents will often claim that it is vastly quicker than touch typing on a matrix keyboard. Unbiased studies show this isn’t really true: it is about the same. The real advantage is having a hand free to operate the mouse or a 3D controller for a CAD system or Virtual Reality environment.

You used to be able to get a BAT from: http://www.infogrip.com/. But, sadly, it appears to be a discontinued product (though it lasted 20 years*, which is about 40x the time most modern devlces stay in production and supported, so kudos, Infogrip!) Meanwhile, I alreary have circuit boards and prototype codes for my own (improved) version somewhat done, but I won't be doing a commercial release, this is just for my own use: I don't want the headache of supporting something I sell, and have no desire to dump yet more abandon-ware on the world, so I just don't sell things!

*30 years if you count the PS/2 and ADB versions that predate the USB one (My first was an ADB unit for my Macintosh Color Classic back in the 1990's).

I have also played around with one of these: http://www.trulyergonomic.com/ (sometimes a matrix-keyboard is just better for the job [eg, when programming I need access to too many symbolic keys that the InfoGrip chord-map has on multi-chord combos] but I hate those wrist-twisting old raked-key layouts! - the slanted angle of the columns is only there because typewriters used to have lots of metal levers that couldn't be on top of each other; numeric keypads post-date mechanical typewriters which is why they are lined up vertically).

I considered this one too: http://www.typematrix.com/. Very nice looking, but not finger-length-optimised. It would likely make an excellent travel keyboard (except I rarely travel, and don't use a computer when I do).

A note on Layout.

As far as matrix-keyboards go, I am not a great fan of the QWERTY layout. Most of the tales told about the layout are flagrantly false: though, while the key layout wasn't chosen to deliberately slow typists down (to stop mechanical jams) it was laid out to keep commonly-used-together letters mechanically separated from each other under-the-hood (to stop mechanical jams), which does impact efficiency to a minor degree.

The Dvorak layout is the best-known alternative. Most of the stuff about Dvorak being amazingly faster is rubbish: the speed differences are marginal at best. The real (and probably more useful anyway) advantage with this layout is the lower-finger-movement is less likely to cause RSI problems over the long term, so if you are prepared to put in the effort, it is likely still a good way to go. All modern OSes support the layout, and you can buy Dvorak-layout keyboards easily enough, or even just keycap stickers for an existing keyboard.

Another alternative is the Colemak layout which represents a compromise on QWERTY, staying closer to the familiar layout while moving the common problem keys to more sensible locations. It also preserves the location of the common shortcut keys for undo-cut-copy-paste (Z-X-C-V).

In the end the QWERTY layout is not optimal, but is good enough that the benefits of replacing it en masse don't quite outweigh the costs.... But there is no reason an individual can't suit themselves, these days.

The only real issue with alternative layouts these days is that if you have to regularly use other-people's keyboards, you still end up having to have two layouts in your motor memory anyway. One side-advantage of my BAT Chord system is that the motor memory for chords are stored in a different part of the brain, which makes switching back and forth easier for me.


TrakLogitech TrackMan USB

This is a Thumb-operated trackball. I love my TrackMan and find it quite precise for controlling the pointer. Sadly, Logitech doesn't make the wired USB one anymore (I dislike changing batteries far more than I dislike cables!), so I have the newer wireless one at work, but at home I have a wired one on my desk and a second-hand spare I pulled from an eWaste bin, tucked away in storage. My in-use one is getting a bit worn in the rubber palm-support surface and I have replaced two of the micro-switches so far, and the USB cable stops working if bent at a particular angle (fixed by tapeing it in a loop at the weak point until I get around to replacing it), but with periodic dis-assembly and cleaning (mainly of the wheel, to get accumulated gunk out) it is still going after 10+ years!

I also found the finger-operated Logitech TrackMan Marble in eWaste, but left that in the assorted-gear box in my office (for students to borrow to use in their projects) after trying it for a bit. While the left/right symetry is nice, in the end, my thumb is far more precise for rolling that ball around in two dimensions. Fingers are more suited to one-dimensional button-clicking!



Potentially Useful Production Software

Much of which I use myself.

Here is some useful software, particularly for media-artists. I'm sticking to the open-source stuff since it is highly available and my area of specialisation. Being open source, versions generally exist for all mainstream platforms (GNU/Linux, MacOS, MS-Windows ... sometimes even for iOS and Android, these days!):

BBlender is a powerful production-ready 3D animation environment used by amateur and professional content producers alike. It is fully capable of cinematic-quality production. The scope of the program can be a little overwhelming at first! To get started, do the donut! And checkout their PeerTube channel.

HHandbrake is a free video format converter. It supports most file types and codecs. You may hear me curse and swear at the MacOS and Windows versions' UIs. They are frustratingly dumbed-down from what I am used to on the Linux version, and I use those non-dumb options.

Also, it isn't magic, and can't make inherent limitations of the mp4 or mov container formats disapear! I use the mkv media container, but that is a free and open standard requiring no royalties to be paid, so most commercial products ignore it in favour of the demonstrably-inferior paid-for options, and pass the costs on to their blissfully-ignorant customers. So unless you build your own gear, you are probably stuck with that. Sucks to be a modern IT/CE consumer, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AAVIdemux is a free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. I don't really do any fancy video stuff, so this is enough for me.

GGIMP is a powerful free image editor. Probably about equivalent functionality to Photoshop Light (when that was actually a thing). I use this one a lot - all the images on this site were created and/or processed in GIMP, for example. If you are doing heavy-duty graphic design, you will likely need more, but for 99% of people, it is probably all you will ever need.

KKrita. For generating art from scratch (rather than editing existing art or photos: it can do photo-editing, but GIMP tends to be better-suited for that kind of work, and since they're all free...!).

IInkscape is a good SVG (line graphics) editor. I use it a lot for technical diagrams, though it can do much more.

OBSOpen Broadcaster Software is an open-source, multi-platform application for video recording and live streaming. I am not much of a videographer, but I keep general tabs on this software as one day I may have need of it!

LOLibreOffice is a free-and-open-source office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, etc.). It does everything any normal person is likely to need. I use the spreadsheet mostly. Word processing/presentation are things I tend to do in HTML, for which there are far more suitable editors (like the BlueFish text editor, which is also part of the LibreOffice family, though not a poster-app).

TuxLinux is a free-and-open-source operating system. I am not going to recomend it generally, though I do personally find it far less frustrating to use than either Windows or MacOS. It can be a bit of a hairy-mess in places, but it does tend to be a lot less wasteful of my compute resources, mainly because of the lack of spyware and similar user-tracking junk that tends to load up Microsoft products, particularly, and also the 'dumbing down' that is Apple's primary feature. Not that Linux is particularly hard to use, but it does take a bit more effort up-front to get the benefits later on. I use Debian GNU/Linux as it is one of 3-or-4 'base' software sets from which most other 'distros' are derived. Being down at the root, Debian is - by intent - quite no-frills, which suits my needs, but is probably not suitable for newer Linux users. Linux Mint is probably a better version for beginners. Ubuntu is also popular, but I find it so commercial-y one may as well just use MS-Windows and save a lot of hastle with manufacturer hardware support. Modern MS-Windows and MacOS aren't bad systems - just horribly inneficient and tediously-slow, due to all the attempting-to-pretend-a-computer-is-not-a-computer they try (badly) to do. That just annoys me - I'd rather just learn to use an actual computer, and then get on with using it to get my work done! YMMV!