Do you want to work on BlueJ/Greenfoot? We’re hiring!

The BlueJ/Greenfoot team are quite a small outfit (currently four people), but we are looking to hire two more team members.

The official job advert is here, but there’s a better starting point if you’re interested: Neil, one of our team members, has just written a blog post about these two new positions. Read this first, and then get in touch if you think this might be for you!

The Blackbox servers are here

Here they are:

blackbox servers

The new Blackbox servers (and one more for BlueJ)

These are the two servers that will run the Blackbox project. They are two Dells, each with 12 cores (24threads), 32G RAM, 2x 500G HD to mirror OS and 4x 2TB HD to get a 6TB Raid 5.

In the picture are actually three machines: The two Blackboxes are at the top. Below that, somewhat smaller, is a new server for our research group. Currently, we are running one machine that serves the BlueJ website, the Greenfoot website (including the Greenfoot Gallery), the Greenroom, the Blueroom, the CAS public website, the CAS Online site, the two book websites, our source repositories (subversion) for BlueJ, Greenfoot, and other projects, our trac site, various mailing lists, and a whole lot more. And all that on a machine that’s about seven years old with a whopping 2GB of memory — my laptop has twice as much!

A quick update

I know that some of you are waiting for the next Joy of Code episode. We are a having a little pause.

Just a quick note to reassure you: I have not stopped — there is more to come!

I am at a conference in the US (SIGCSE, in case you’re interested), and I have been travelling for over a week now. I will be on the road a little longer.

But the Joy of Code will continue when I’m back, in a week or so. Until then: Play with Greenfoot! Program! Enjoy!

US now charges entry fee at the gate

I just discovered that I now have to pay to enter the USA. Just like when entering Disney Land. But cheaper.

I am planning travel to the US again soon, and have been going through the paper work. For a very long time, travellers who entered the US on the Visa Waiver programme (i.e. most European countries) had to fill in a famous green form on the plane with some details. Then, at the beginning of last year, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency went modern: The paper forms were replaced with an online registration form collecting roughly the same data. (Well, for about a year we had to fill out both – the online and the paper form, but that’s been phased out now. The paper form is gone.)

Now, my ESTA registration, as it is called, has expired, and I have to apply for a new one. Which I just did. Only this time, it cost me $14.00.

The registration process now starts with this instruction in the first paragraph:

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

On the next page, it explains the interestingly named Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009:

The Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a fee for the use of the ESTA system, comprised of $10.00 for each VWP applicant receiving authorization to travel to the United States and $4.00 for the processing of the ESTA application. Applicants who are denied authorization to travel to the U.S. under the VWP will only be charged $4.00.

So, they are charging me four bucks for the pleasure of using a web form. And then a $10 entry fee if they decide to let me in. And I thought the point of using web interfaces to collect information was intended to make the process cheaper

And we have to be careful in filling it in, too:

If information is entered incorrectly, the applicant may be charged additional fees to reapply.

I am not quite sure whether I should be annoyed at having to pay to cross a border into a country where I don’t require a visa (and having to pay for using a few hundred milliseconds of processor time on a web server!), or whether I should be happy to get all the delights of such a big country for only 10 dollars…

Highs and lows of flying in the USA

I am on my way back home from a visit to the US right now. Two things just happened in the last few hours:

  1. On my flight from Atlanta to Boston, I had internet access on the plane! Woohoo! That was the first time for me that I saw that working. The previous blog post (“Comparing Scratch, Alice and Greenfoot”) was actually written and posted while at about 30,000 feet somewhere over the east coast of the US. I could actually escape watching the romcom they showed on the in-flight movie system, and do something interesting. (At least for me.) A toast to technological advancement!
  2. Going through security here in Boston (where I’m now sitting in an airport “pub”), I was selected to go through the backscatter scanner. As some people before me, I opted out. So I got a very intimate pat-down. Sigh.

Now, I really like visiting the US, but I’d feel a lot happier if I didn’t get treated like a criminal each time. The routine finger printing every time I enter here already rubs me up the wrong way, and now this.

Technology in used a good and in the wrong way.

On Sabbatical

I am on sabbatical. Yes, I will have one year study leave without teaching at home! This is the first time I have done this. As of now, I officially have time to concentrate on my research for a while.

I fear that I might have too much planned already. What started out as a thought of a quieter, less busy year is already turning into what looks like a very busy time. But that’s okay – there are things coming up that I enjoy doing.

First, from today, I will be in Berlin for a while, teaching a block course at the Freie Universität Berlin. I will then teach the same material there again in long form in Spring next year, when I’ll spend three-and-a-half months in Berlin. During my time there, I am planning to work with the department on improving teaching techniques, material and tools.

After my initial Berlin stint, I am planning to spend some time trying to build up a network of Greenfoot Hubs and to write – jointly with David Barnes – a new edition of the BlueJ book. And we are planning a lot of work on Greenfoot as well. More on all of that later, I hope.

Who knows, maybe this also means that I will be able to update this blog more often, and to provide a little more regular updates of what we are working on.

For now, it’s time to dust of my slightly rusty German. My plane lands in an hour, and there should be a good German beer waiting for me somewhere.

Alan Turing finally receives an apology

Alan Turing (Photograph: Public Domain)

Alan Turing, one of the true great minds of computing history, has finally received an official apology from the UK government. There is no doubt that he shaped computing history, that he was hugely influential in the code breaking efforts in the UK in the second world war, and that his treatment by official institutions after the war was appalling.

It is great to see both his contributions and the injustice done to him openly recognised.

Now we just need to go on to save Bletchley Park