Saturday, 30 January 2010

K9 Web Protection

K9 Web Protection is a free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts parents in control of the Internet so that they can protect their children. So says the webpage: .

I signed up – downloaded it, it failed.

I restarted for a second time as the site suggested and it seemed to kick in alright. Twitter and You Tube pages that were open in the browser were blocked, filtered. I tried AOL video – that was filtered.

I went to Google images and typed in Sex - okay -  the pictures are fine, naked people but nothing to offend, upset etc., it could have been lots worse and this has still got Google’s moderate filtering on, as it told me!

A poker game website was blocked, making home-made explosives was blocked, E-bay and Amazon are not blocked. So usual, normal household use of the internet seems to be fine, except maybe for video sites, my guess is that I could put exceptions and allow them if I was confident they would not be abused!

So far it does seem to be a fairly effective filter.

I went onto the website, typed in my password to alter/ view my settings. This in itself good because offspring will not know the password to get on and do this!
There are several views of what my computer has been up to – I can see the sites I tried to visit that it filtered, and the ones it has let me access. I can set the restrictions and website exceptions if required.


This is a very comprehensive system, it also tells you if someone is trying to get past the proxy :-) a favourite teen sport!!  A very effective, free filter to help internet control with older children and teens in the home!

Now - to get it off again... Tweetdeck, Twitter and Facebook seem to be really struggling!

Post script
I needed my password to remove it and it promptly e-mailed me to tell me the filter had been removed and what to do if this was not intentional!

E-safety and children browsing the web

1. Zoodles

Whilst attending an e-safety course last summer I picked up the paperwork for Zoodles meaning to have a very good look at it. I did not spend much time on it after realising it is a paid for service and for the home not schools.  I am always pretty sceptical about whether parents feel that they can afford to pay for these services, or whether they feel that being with their child whilst on the internet and restricting the amount of time on the family computer is a better alternative.

This week my attention was drawn to it again through Twitter and I resolved to really have a look, rather than just read through the paperwork which is all I did last summer in the end.
I registered a child, downloaded Adobe Air and downloaded the Zoodles toolbar – this was not all as easy as it sounds though – see confirmation e-mail:

Thank you for your interest in Zoodles. Our system shows you are just a couple steps away from having an incredibly safe and educational environment for your child to play and learn in. To get fully up and running all you have to do is install the Zoodles browser. To install the Zoodles browser please follow the following these 2 steps:
1.    Install Adobe Air by going to:
2.    Now install Zoodles by clicking on this link:
After installing the browser your child will be able to play with hundreds of fun and educational games in an incredibly safe environment.

 The first time I clicked on the link it took me to “Woody’s Games.”

I started to play and realised I had failed, there was no difference at all, I was just visiting kids’ sites on the web. I went back to the e-mail – I had clearly missed something – this time I clicked on the link I got “The page you were looking for does not exist.”
I had to poke about to find the Zoodles toolbar, it was on page.

Once installed it showed great promise, the browser covers the whole screen taking away any elements of clickability, if that is a word :-) There was nothing left for me to click on apart from "my" games. I played lots of those, tried some other links that popped up on these web pages, such as “Parent Vacation,” “Parents and Teachers,” and got taken back to four games on the Zoodles browser.

Suddenly I realised that my Tweetdeck notification had popped up several times, the next time it appeared I clicked on it – and – oops! My whole bottom taskbar bar showed all of the programs open on the computer and Tweetdeck opened up on screen.

Fine – lesson learned - as a parent using Zoodles I need to close any programs that have a pop-up facility, close Skype, MSN, Tweetdeck, the “freebie of the day” notice – maybe more, things that I often ignore, close, respond to – depending on the situation at that moment. If I leave any of these open Zoodles is not secure.

Another thought – alt and tab – yes it does what it is supposed to do – I can cycle through the programs open quite easily, access any program and could escape out into the web in just a few seconds.

Okay I am an adult, I know how to get around a computer! I also experienced a huge sense of frustration that I could not click on the games and videos that looked good on all of the sites I was able to visit and know that any childre will try to escape after just a few minutes. About 25 seconds after I started clicking randomly on the games menus on the pages I was allowed to visit the Zoodles toolbar stopped responding, I minimised it and went out onto the big bad web all alone.

No filter system is 100% safe and the best answer is always going to be to sit with children whilst they are on the web. I know for some this is totally impractical but to have the computer in a family room where it is clearly visible from lots of places enables parents to keep an eye on what is happening whilst carrying on cooking the dinner etc!

Had I paid Zoddles to keep my children safe from internet harm I may well have been lulled into a false sense of security and handed over the browsing welfare of my child to a tiny, not 100% secure program. Had I chosen instead to play with my children on the computer for a few minutes each day – until they got bored and moved on to other toys, outside activities, playing with friends etc., and talked to them about things that we saw and places that are good to visit and maybe not so good and why, they may have started to learn the value of the web and a little about keeping safe in that environment.

Thank goodness my children have grown up and playing with my grand-children on or off the web is a joy to share. I use the Google's Moderate filtering setting for my browser but would use the Strict filtering if I had children here using the internet frequently.  See Google's filtering notice:

Many users prefer not to have adult sites included in search results (especially if kids use the same computer). Google's SafeSearch screens for sites that contain explicit sexual content and removes them from your search results. No filter is 100 percent accurate, but SafeSearch should eliminate most inappropriate material.
You can choose from among three SafeSearch settings:
•    Moderate filtering excludes most explicit images from Google Images results but doesn't filter ordinary web search results. This is your default SafeSearch setting; you'll receive moderate filtering unless you change it.
•    Strict filtering applies SafeSearch filtering to all your search results (i.e. both image search and ordinary web search).
•    No filtering, as you've probably figured out, turns off SafeSearch filtering completely.

For little ones I would happily use the free version of Zoodles knowing it is a fairly safe environment filled with games, I have left it on my computer and will try it out with my grandson but I would not depend on it to keep any children safe! The complete breakdown of pricing and what the premium service offers is

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Second Visit to Patron

Last night I made another visit to the art gallery at Patron. Being met by a beautiful white peacock somehow gives a sense of peace and beauty which is contrasted starkly by a dark angel peeping into the house through one of the balcony doors. This time I looked closely at some of the exhibits. All of them deserve a mention but here are some of my favourites.

The first is a centrepiece – called Angelicus Illuminatus.  It is a musical box figure who turns whilst music plays. She seems to be holding a globe with a glowing heart inside it - maybe holding the love of the world in her hands? To start or stop the action and music one has to touch it, the music is pretty and gentle, the figure exquisite. Being a very basic builder myself  it is hard to imagine how anything so precise and beautiful can be made.

Moving over to the desk is a charming, whimsical build, again beautifully detailed, of a cup and saucer with coffee in it, cigarettes and an ashtray on the desk beside an animated cat turning the pages and reading a book about quantum mechanics – lovely :-)

I moved into the next space, can’t say room really as it is all open plan. In that space is a grand piano for visitors to play – so long as you want to play Schuman’s Scenes from Childhood. Behind the piano is a beautiful table created from black marble – The Noveau Libertine Table.

I spent some time in the meditation area, then  pushing the physical ornament called Sea Dreaming around. The whole build deserves several visits to look closely at its component parts. Apart from the gallery objects the setting, use of light and water, buildings are all lovely. It is truly a delight!

Monday, 18 January 2010

A visit to Decay

Decay is a new Second Life build by Toxic Menges. Its main feature is basically an old building falling down and decayed. It is incredibly atmospheric with rain, thunder and lightning as well as stutters banging etc. The sounds and recommended sky effect all add to the feeling.

An ancient, dilapidated well stand askew in front of the house and an old, rusty chain with an anchor still attached hangs in front of the waterfall. The whole landscape screams of neglect, with twisted, dead trees and barren land.

In complete contrast there is a beautiful sculpture called Aqua Seadryke, high rope bridges leading to a pair of thrones and a windmill that all give creedence to the idea that it has been built as a film set or for photographs.
It is a real mixture of decay and beauty – a rather wonderous and very effective mixture.

At the back of the house is a bus stop saying catch a bus to no-where – it goes to Chasseforet where there is an amazing build of the Wooden Horse of Troy. The is build is still under construction but well worth a visit.
To visit you need to be a member of Second Life then you can follow the slurl 

Saturday, 16 January 2010

BETT 2010

I have just got back from the BETT 2010 and what I have been most impressed with is the 3D projection technology. One of the set ups was a rear projection screen demonstrated by 3Ducation, the start of the demonstration was shocking to at least two of the five people there, but having watched Avatar in the last few weeks I was expecting something similar to happen. I was attacked pretty viciously by a wasp ;-) however after the 3D for effect display we were treated to a virtual field trip to the International Space Station and that was really something to see. One company at least is using this technology to train mechanics and they wear touch sensitive gloves and are able to strip down and rebuild a motorbike. For lots more information and techie stuff visit Arrange a trip to their demonstration room to see what it is all about in far more detail. One of the wonderful things about 3D visualisation is that all pupils see the same image, if I see a brain and travel through it layer by layer, so does every other person in the room. A second demonstration was very similar, just as entertaining and educational. The front projectors I saw last year but the ones I saw this year do seem to have improved making them a viable teaching tool.

I spent a fair amount of time in the “Future Learning Spaces” area developed by RM. They have new resources, extra to what they already show at their REAL Centre the most impressive being the Immersion Room, if that is what they call the finished version. The area has four or more projectors projecting, in this instance, a seascape. We had stingrays, starfish and crabs swimming around in the floor area, and they reacted to touch, as one tried to step on them they swam away rapidly. Sharks, pretty fish and a killer whale swam around the wall, there were many other effects, it was wonderful and I can imagine it working for writing, music or art inspitation, to stimulate pupils with Special Needs and probably lots more motivating ideas but I have not really had time to even think about it yet. If a school buys it apparently the manager is trained to make the scenes so it can be used to the extent of the schools’ collective imagination.

I went to look at new e-safety resources and found a fair few. One that I have already worked through and can recommend, at no cost, is the ICTcpd4free, anyone who is not already a Naace member has to register to do the course but it is well worth doing. It is aimed at UK schools but the lessons learned are for all. Best of all of course is the fact that it is free and that one access it at any time and work through at one’s own speed.
I have more e-safety software to evaluate over the next few weeks.

Anyone who is used to thinking about ICT with the Early Years will already know of talking tins and electronic photo albums. Talking tins, developed initially for use by blind people, are small plastic cylinders that have built in ten second voice recorders and sit in the top of tins of food in the supermarket to tell the buyer what is in the tin. Used by the very young they make lovely, fun tools to record children’s voices to add to displays etc. They have been so successful that the company who make them have done a whole set with all of the sounds recorded in them, they go with a software which is used to develop early speech, reading and spelling. For information visit Making Phonics Fun at where you can also see the new Talking Photograph Album. This now has a 100 minute capacity and the voice recordings are stored on the removable SD Card which allows one to save and transfer recordings from the Album to computer, or visa versa, record sound files from the computer to the Album.

New Software at BETT 2010-01-16
Almost the first thing I spotted was the new version of 2Create a Story which is one of my all time favourites for little ones. Now it is 2Create a SuperStory. It has loads of extra added functionality – each part can be animated instead of one animation per page. There is already a super log about this program
What I like very much is that the pupils' stories can be saved as flash files then uploaded to the Learning Platform to share with parents and each other. Another superb work of art from 2Simple :-)  I usually get the first new software copies as they are posted with my name on but I picked this one up with a colleague who has two young children so lost it immediately!

There is more.... later :-)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Snow Week - Jan 2010

Having been snowed in to some extent for a week now life has taken on a slightly different pattern to what I consider ‘normal’. As soon as there is any sign of life in the house the birds are lined up along the hedge watching and waiting. The robin comes and peers in through the conservatory willing someone to go out and feed him! Having had the wood burner going from late afternoon to late night everyday one of my first jobs has been to clear out the ashes ready to take them outside but no-one dare step outside without birdie food. They have cost a fortune in wild bird seed and eaten pretty well anything we put for them.
At the start, after the first big snowfall I put a big wooden board out on the snow with seed and water on it. The birds went from small tree to hedge crossing over it but not daring to go down on to it. They swooped and grabbed bits as they passed over but that was all.  Over the week they have got used to it and know it to be a food station. Now it is mobbed all day.

This morning I went down to pick up train tickets for the weekend – the snow is not as deep on the road as it is in the garden but the lack of gritting has made them virtually impassable. It is so pretty it is hard to recognise the damage it does and how much it costs the country in lost income, lost business, lost sales, lost work days, insurance claims etc..

Virtual Hallucinations in Second Life

I visited the Virtual Hallucinations build by James Cook, MD MS, and promptly received a warning and information about the build, it was clearly going to be a pretty harrowing journey!

From a notecard:
“The virtual hallucinations project seeks to educate people about the mental illness schizophrenia.  About 1% of the population will develop schizophrenia during their lifetimes. It usually strikes in the late teens or early twenties, and is very debilitating.
People with schizophrenia have "disordered thought" or difficulty maintaining thought processes. They develop delusions, like the belief that the police are after them. They also experience auditory hallucinations, typically one or more voices speaking to or about them. About 25% of people with schizophrenia also experience visual hallucinations, typically distortions of the environment around them.
This clinic building is based on the hallucinations of two specific people with schizophrenia. They were interviewed in detail and gave feedback on early designs for the hallucinations. While the hallucinations are not glamorous, they fairly accurately reproduce these patients' experiences.  You should get a sense of just how intrusive the voices of schizophrenia really are.”
Nash Baldwin

To walk into a bathroom where one sees themselves dying in the mirror and hears voices saying “You’re dead, dead, dead… “ is chilling and quite disorienting.

 Trying to walk along the corridor on the stepping stones, after the floor has fallen away is weird. I did this several time and even in a virtual world, knowing it is going to happen the dread of the floor falling away and adrenaline rush as it happens is quite odd – I should have no fear of this and it can’t hurt me – but the sudden dread still struck!

In the television lounge the TV started to talk to me, not a program but the voices were coming from it.  I stood listening to the TV talking to me, I was being ordered to get the gun and shoot them (the police) as well as myself, again I know it is not real but was struck by how unpleasant it was. All of the ongoing voices are quite scary…. the voice saying how ugly and worthless I am, the language and the venom with which some things are said, it is all pretty bad!

Seeing the transformation of the “Partnership for Recovery” poster present itself with “Partnershit face Recovery” demonstrating how words get transformed on text makes compulsive watching as is the constant movement of things such as the laptop computers.

This is a very powerful build and gives a pretty disturbing insight into what living with schizophrenia could be like. To visit you need to be a member of Second Life then you can follow this link:

Coincidentally I watched the film A Beautiful Mind again last weekend, being snowed in and looking for something to keep her occupied my daughter put it on. In the film Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr., a math prodigy was able to solve the most amazing problems that baffled the greatest of mathematical minds, he should have had everything, but his life was dogged by years of suffering through schizophrenia. Crowe’s portrayal of a man getting to grips with reality is quite amazing, again that was a good reminder of what it is like to live with this disability.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

My son's view of me?

Hmmm - is this what he really thinks :-D  Love it!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Due to my unexpected snow day I visited a few new sims in Second Life. I spent a little while enjoying the virtual Woodstock, fascinated by psychedelic textures used to create a real hippy space with free clothes, beads, peace signs and “spirit of the heart” jewellery.

The sim is brightly coloured, very entertaining and has at least two rather wonderful art galleries. The first is a whole gallery of images from the 60s onward, the work of photographer Kim Gottleib-Walker but all copyright – so daren’t show any of them :-)  The collection features a young Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix , Bob Marley and more, it is a very interesting exhibition with some lovely and unusual photographs that I have never seen before.

“Kim Gottlieb-Walker graduated from UCLA in the late 1960’s with a BA in Motion Picture Production.  She shot stills for numerous magazines including Music World, Feature, Rolling Stone, Newsweek and People. She worked in the mid-seventies shooting for Island Records, covering reggae performers all over Jamaica. She has worked for over 25 years as a unit still photographer on motion pictures and television, including the early John Carpenter movies (“Halloween,” “The Fog,” Christine,” “Escape from New York” and “Halloween II”) as well as “Cheers” (for 9 years),  “Family Ties” (for 5 years), “Star Trek -The Next Generation and Deep Space 9” and “Bob” (Bob Newhart’s last show) for Paramount television and Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” at Universal.

A Second Gallery is by Citizen Zhao
From a notecard: “Welcome to this exposition that shows some different aspects of a painter's  life :
Outside : The "normal" work of a painter making paintings.... So u will just see my paintings, my RL ones, not digitals
Inside : What I do when I am not painting "normally" :-)
•    Creation of a decorated ceilling
•    Restoration of an old goldleaf frame
•    Restorations of wall paintings and frescos

There is a live music area where there are regular concerts and a dance area, and interactive display featuring a kaleidoscope which is rather wonderful, another display of animated sculptures. It is well worth a visit because of its gallery and rather unusual texture qualities :-) if nothing else. I really like it!"

To see more images visit

To visit the Sim you need to be a member of Second Life then follow this link:

Back to work – or not

Our Lane
Well I started back to work on Monday with a full diary but by Tuesday late afternoon I was struggling! Not with the workload but with the snow. Headed home after the school session finished but it was an increasingly difficult journey. I phoned the family who all had fun journeys but thankfully made it.

The Main Road

Some 4X4s are getting round


Very Pretty

Wednesday morning – with about a foot of snow covering everything it was pretty obvious my little car was not going anywhere. I switched on one of the country radio stations to hear of school after school not opening. When I read through the list I can’t think of a single Oxon school that is open!

Family Cars

My Car

So… went out walking with the dogs to see what was going on, it is all very pretty, the birds were lining up on the hedge looking very hopeful. I put down a big wood board with food and water on it but for about two hours they have been going from the tree to the hedge over the food and not really brave enough to descend onto it. A few have hovered low enough to grab a bit of food but most are not prepared to risk it – now it is snowing again so will soon be buried :-(