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Radio Roundabout

Radio Roundabout

The past couple of years we’ve done stupid Christmas things for our friends. Two years ago it was Things Our Friends, last year it was DataDecs, but this year you’re all our friends. (Up to a maximum of 1,500 simultaneous connections. Or so. Engineering aren’t sure.)

Because: on Friday 3pm-5pm GMT (that’s the breakfast show for you people on the West Coast) we’ll be hosting a special festive radio show live on the web. Songs, requests, weather, traffic news and special guests including Matt Biddulph, Matt Sheret and others to be named later. Plus – a special show-within-a-show appearance from Shift Run Stop. All live, you have to be there, no podcast, no listen again.

Festive resquests can go to @radioroundabout. Most details will be there. Then, 3pm Friday, get your eggnog latte and your mince pies together, put your feet up and gather round the warm fire of MOR that will be Radio Roundabout.

DEXTR – Twitter for your second screen

One of the things we’ve been thinking about recently is screens. In Russell’s blog post from last week he alluded to a little thing we’ve been using for a while but hadn’t quite finished off for public consumption.

All the chatter around the fantastic BERG/Dentu films last week reminded us to get it out the door, and here it is:


DEXTR is a full screen Twitter client. It shows one tweet at a time, filling the screen. And it accelerates and decelerates depending on how fast your Twitter stream is going.

It’s a bit of an experiment. A way of learning about ambient screens — seeing what works and what doesn’t. Is it too bright, too fast, too annoying? Or maybe just too quiet and forgettable. What’s the right kind of screen, in the right kind of place to put this on? And does anyone even want anything like this, or are we trying to fill all these media surfaces with something, anything?

There’s one known problem – iOS devices turn the screen off after a few minutes of inactivity in Safari. There doesn’t seem to be a way around that for web applications – we’ll have to wrap it in a proper iOS application to stop that.

We’ve got some ideas about how this could develop, but for now this is a beta, and we’d love to hear what you think.

Innocent AGM Cam – The Science Bit


It’s Saturday morning, and I’m remotely watching a policeman walk along Goldhawk Road taken by a man wearing a climbing helmet with an iPhone sellotaped to the front. More specifically, I’m at Innocent’s AGM, loitering around to make sure that the headcam we built stays working. And it seems to be so far.

This seems like a good opportunity to talk about what it is, and how it works. In true Really Interesting Group style, it’s one of those projects that isn’t rocket science, but combines a few thing that are “recently easy” (ubiquitous mobile data, easy to develop mobile software) to create something new, and dare I say it, interesting.


You’ve seen Russell’s industrial design, but let’s talk about the software. It’s pretty simple: a custom iPhone app that snaps a photos at an adjustable interval and upload it direct to Flickr. Then there’s a site that polls Flickr and Twitter and interweaves the updates into a stream.

Every time a photo gets taken, we resize it in memory, add the timestamp and location to the EXIF headers, write it to disk, and queue for upload.

Most of the Flickr upload code was ripped out of Noticings, where its proved to be fairly robust. Dealing with variable data reception is the hardest part. For a start, we’re resizing images down to 800×600 at 60% quality. This brings the file size down to about 80KB, rather than 800KB or so that the full size images would be.

The biggest problem I can see so far is that occasionally duplicate images get uploaded. This is because the 3G data connection can timeout out in the period between finishing sending the file to Flickr, and Flickr resizing the photos and returning a successful response. Next time, I’d use the asynchronous upload API, and poll for the state of the previous uploads before continuing.

But you don’t get much chance to battle test these things, and having duplicate uploads is safer than unproven asynchronous upload code.

The battery life was slightly less than we hoped – in a test, the 3GS did a full burn of the battery in 2 hours 50 minutes, whilst taking a photo every 3 minutes and uploading to Flickr, but without GPS. With an external battery pack and the screen brightness set to minimum, we got that to just over 6 hours including GPS, but it’s still going to need charging if the headcam is going to make it all the way home.

Luke has just upped the interval to 1 minute for the duration of the event, so lets hope that the data connection doesn’t lag behind.

We’d like to release the iPhone app for the headcam – it needs some polishing up, but hopefully you’ll see it in the App Store before too long. Climbing helmet and sellotape not included.

And you can follow all the updates during the day on the