Leaving DuckDuckGo... sort of

06 Aug, 2022

This is a weird one. DDG has been my search engine of choice for a number of years, so I also used it as the search engine for this site (since it's statically generated). At some point over the last 3 (I think) months it stopped working - returning no results for any search criteria. Given Bing provides at least some percentage of DDG's content, I went digging in Bing's webmaster tools and found this...

bing webmaster tools - screenshot 1

(The inspected URL is known to Bing but has some issues which are preventing indexation)

There were a few errors reported but nothing that seems like a major issue (missing "description" meta, etc), and the indexation issue is even more confounding when you click on the Live Url and see...

bing webmaster tools - screenshot 2

(URL can be indexed by Bing)

I fixed some of the most egregious errors, tried getting it to re-index, but regardless, nothing is searchable in DDG...


And nothing in Bing...


But it seems Google has no problem...


As a consequence, I've re-pointed the site search at google search, until I can figure something else out (perhaps Lunr?), but for the moment it seems like I don't exist in my search engine of choice. Sigh.

Python for Kids 2 and LaTeX

30 Jul, 2022

For those who are interested, Python for Kids 2 has been completely rewritten as LaTeX (using No Starch's style); partially in text files, and partially in Overleaf:


Overleaf was great, particularly for the review process, but I have to say working in LaTeX is an order of magnitude better than using a Word Processor - especially when the files are backed by a git repo (which Overleaf provides) so tracking changes is easy (looking back at the history of changes in a file to see what I changed, is a big win).

Can't comment on how No Starch's editorial staff found working in Overleaf (because we haven't really discussed it), but for me it was all positive...


29 Jul, 2022

I've been using feedly since Google decided RSS wasn't a thing any more, and have been pretty happy with it. It wasn't as good as Google Reader, but good enough. The ads are gradually becoming more invasive though, and there's less of the minimalist feel it had when I first started using it, so I've been periodically looking for an alternative.

After finding nothing I was particularly enthused by, in the end I've decided on the slightly clunkier (certainly geekier) option: taking Tim Brownawell's Python-based RSS -> IMAP bridge, and modifying it to suit my needs.

RSS-IMAP reads feed config entries from an email in an IMAP folder, and then loads the feed items as email messages (if they aren't already present in the feed-specific subfolder) - my version reads config from a yaml file instead, and uses a SQLite database to store an index of feed items that have been loaded. Using the yaml file, because I find it easier to ssh onto my raspberry pi (where this is running) and edit the feed items there; than writing a mail, sending it to myself and then copying into the RSS folder. And using a SQLite DB, because that way I can delete feed emails and they won't be re-loaded automatically. SQLite is ideal for this sort of usage, because there's only a single process writing the data, and the index lookup is fast.

The main changes can be seen here:

Or found in the "alt" branch of my fork:

Posting in the unlikely event someone else finds these mods useful...

Long live RSS!!

Announcing: Python for Kids 2nd Edition

29 Apr, 2022

The 2nd edition of Python for Kids is coming October 2022. What's new? Not an exhaustive list, but it has been completely refreshed for the latest version of Python, as well as being updated for the latest versions of Windows and Ubuntu. New Raspberry Pi instructions are there for those who want to use a Pi to start their coding efforts. There are new programming puzzles, updated examples, and a pretty major tidy up of the text in general.

It's spring cleaning, refurbishment and good old spit polish in book form!

If you, or someone you know, are looking to get started with programming, it's currently available from No Starch Press (https://nostarch.com/python-kids-2nd-edition) on preorder, for 25% off (make sure you use coupon code PREORDER when checking out).

BBC micro:bit with Python for Kids

18 Apr, 2022

Janick writes:

My son got "Python for Kids" (the dutch translation) from Sinterklaas last december (Sinterklaas is the local Santa in Belgium and the Netherlands). He really enjoyed it! The weeks following he read and coded almost every day until he finished the book. Some days after, I mentioned we could investigate if he could use the micro:bit he got the year before to control his games. He was really into this idea and we looked for python packages that could make this possible. We didn't find any, and because the bluetooth APIs are a bit difficult to get started with for a kid, I created one myself: https://github.com/janickr/kaspersmicrobit. We both find the result really fun and engaging! It makes the games even more impressive and attractive for other kids (like his older sisters). I hope you like it too!

Glad your son enjoyed the book, and the micro:bit controller looks very cool -- I particularly like the 2-player adaptation of the Bounce game you came up with in the video: