DannyBrown.net updated

DannyBrown.net on Mobile and Desktop

The website on both Desktop and Mobile platforms

Recently I’ve updated my website, dannybrown.net, to remove out-of-date information and make it easier for users to get to content they need.

Rather than having a list of projects I’ve completed and an over-the-top introduction the site now consists of a short introduction and a few rectangular tiles for commonly accessed information from the site — namely this blog, my CV, my LinkedIn profile and a contact email address. Any information that was previously on my website is in those resources.

In addition to the changes made on the client side I have also enabled IPv6, SSL and a Content Delivery Network via the free service provided by CloudFlare. IPv6 support will allow people who don’t have an IPv4 address to connect to my site without issues — which is important seen as we’ve technically ran out of IPv4 addresses. SSL will encrypt traffic between the user and my CloudFlare system and the Content Delivery Network will mean that my content is stored closer to the physical location of many international users resulting in faster download speeds.

On my server side I have also updated my configuration to allow for the use of dannybrown.net/cv and dannybrown.net/blog so you don’t have to remember dannybrown.net/cv.pdf and dannycomptuerscientist.wordpress.com respectively.

In the future I’m hoping to run this blog using the Ghost Blogging Platform hosted in the same Microsoft Azure instance as my static html website. This will allow me to have the same HTML/CSS theme on both and use all of the lovely features provided by Ghost. Currently I don’t think ghost is quite ready for my usage, due to the large amount of posts I have which have image galleries (which ghost doesn’t support) and the lack of two-factor authentication for logging in. However, these issues are currently being worked on and I hope to make the switch soon.


MODE Assessment 1 Coursework Result – 72%

Eclipse Epsilon on OSX

At The University of York each module has a four letter code, MODE stands for Model-Driven Engineering. MODE is one of the first modules I have taken as part of my MSc in Advanced Computer Science. The lecture series has actually already finished because modules here are only 4 weeks long, as opposed to 12, but have many more lectures per week.

Model-Driven Engineering is the process of developing software with models as first class citizens, which can then optionally be used to generate code.

In our coursework we have been using Eclipse Epsilon, a package developed here at The University of York, to develop a metamodel of a Media Library, a set of constraints for that metamodel and finally some queries to find out information about any model which conforms to that metamodel.

The coursework consisted of a number of firsts for me:

  • My first coursework completed entirely on Linux and OS X
  • My first coursework report written entirely in LaTeX
  • My first mitigating circumstances — unfortunately I missed quite a few lectures due to acute appendicitis.

Fortunately after my small bout of bad health I quickly managed to catch up with the program of study and managed to submit my coursework 6 days after everyone else. A few days ago I got my results back and am happy to say I got 72%.

At masters level rather than awarding degrees with a classification such as 1st class, upper second class etc. degrees are awarded as either:

  • Pass (50-59%)
  • Pass with Merit (60-69%)
  • Pass with Distinction (70%+)

Therefore this mark was a pass with distinction, a good start to the degree!

This coursework was worth 40% of the module overall and I am currently completing the second coursework which builds on top of this and requires us to build a graphical editor and reporting system for our metamodel.

I will of course keep the blog up to date with this module and the others I am currently enrolled on.


Imagine Cup World Finals 2014

Imagine Cup 2014 - All Competitors Photo at the Space Needle

I’ve been very lucky this year because I’ve had a rather busy Summer Break. Rather than sitting around being bored I was fortunate enough to be in an Imagine Cup world finalist team, and then spend a month road-tripping around the United States with my friend Rob. The only downside has been that I’ve been unable to blog about it all! So I’ll try to catch up on it now.

This years Imagine Cup World Finals were held in the wonderful city of Seattle, Washington, just a few short miles from Microsofts headquaters in Redmond, Washington.

I arrived in Seattle and met with the rest of the UK team, with whom I had only ever spoken to online. Our team was called Vanguard and we developed a product called Ripple, a Windows Phone application which allows you to contact people close to you — simply put, a location-based social network. I had developed both the consumer-facing front-end application and the back-end web services.

The Imagine Cup UK Team, from left to right - Mikky, Femi, Danny (me!), Guilliame, our MS representative Rebecca, and our mentor Callum

The Imagine Cup UK Team, from left to right – Mikky, Femi, Danny (me!), Guilliame, our MS representative Rebecca, and our mentor Callum

Microsoft had clearly already shown an interest in the product by making it the winner of the UK heat and promoting it to the World Finals, our job for the first few days of our trip in seattle was to make a splash on the world stage by presenting a complete business-and-technological pitch as well as provide live hands-on demonstrations to both the judges and the public.

The first two days of being in Seattle were manic, sub-five-hour-sleeping days, packed full of pitch writing, code changes and endless pitch practices.

On the third day we presented our application to the world finals judges for the first time, and for any team — let alone one that had only met face-to-face 48 hours prior — I felt we did pretty well. The team laid out the problem cases that the application resolved, a monitization strategy, and some figures on the potential market size. I presented an outline of how our system worked, some of the unique features and algorithms, and a live demonstration.

Later on the third day we had a showcase at the Microsoft Redmond campus for people on-site to try out our applications and provide feedback. The first thing I must say is how beautiful Microsoft’s campus is — it’s really green, with lots of trees and plants, and very inviting. Its definately somewhere I could see myself in the future.

The Blue Angels fly over Microsoft HQ in Redmond

The Blue Angels fly over Microsoft HQ in Redmond

The Imagine Cup took place on the same week as Seafair, a festival of boat racing, air shows and fireworks in seattle. Here you can see the Blue Angels (the american equvilent of the Red Arrows) practicing over MS HQ.

Erik Martin's Selfie using Ripple

Erik Martin’s Selfie using Ripple

A particularly proud moment at this showcase was when Reddit’s General Manager — and one of TIME’s top 100 most influencial people in 2012 — Erik Martin took a selfie using the application I had built.

Day four rolled around quickly, after a night of fixes and changes based on the feedback of people at the Microsoft showcase — which was the first time the application had been used extensively in public. Day four was all about showcases, but the first one was to the judges so we pulled out all the stops. The judges were really useful and gave a lot of feedback about the application, business ideas and development practices. Later in the day we were fortunate enough to be invited to meet Steven Guggenheimer, the man in charge of developer experience at Microsoft. The one thing that stands out to me from day 4 of the event was how surprised both the judges and Steven was at how much we had managed to accomplish in just under 2 weeks of development time, with only one developer. Many of the other applicants had been writing their applications for years.

Day four signalled the end of the competition matters for us, we just had a while to relax and wait for the results. In this time we kayaked (and fell into…) Lake Washington and had a few beers with both the locals and our fellow competitors. It really was great fun to meet people from all around the world who are as passionate about development and technology. We also had time to look round the Microsoft Employee store and catch the fireworks at Seafair.

 I found these T-shirts way funnier than I should have done

The results of the competition were accounced at the Washington Convention Centre in front of several thousand microsoft staff. Myself and the UK team were the first people in so we got to sit in the front row with Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO), Alexey Pajitnov (Inventor of Tetris), Erik Martin (GM, Reddit) and Hadi Partovi (Code.org, Co-founder) which was really cool.

Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I think everyone in the team can be proud of how much we did in such a short space of time, and with the limited resources at our disposal. I’m thinking of probably entering again next year with a team of my own, and I would encourage everyone else to do the same.

I’d like to thank Microsoft for the amazing oppertunity, both to be in the competition and to visit the beautiful city of Seattle — below you can see some pictures of the UK team exploring the city in the 2 days we had before our flight back to the UK :)


America Roadtrip Summer 2014

Road tripping in LA

I was going to write a blog post about my month travelling around Arizona, Nevada and California with my friend and fellow computer scientist Rob Crocombe, but frankly I don’t think I could improve on what he’s already written. So, if you want to read about all the exciting places I went this summer including:

  • The Grand Canyon
  • Las Vegas
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Griffiths observatory
  • Disneyland Anaheim
  • The Pacific Highway
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Silicon Valley
  • Alcatraz

and much more, then make sure you click across to Robs blog posts and pictures:

Blog and Pictures of Arizona

Blog and Pictures of Las Vegas

Blog and Pictures of Los Angeles and Southern California

Blog and Pictures of San Francisco

Thanks to rob for such great work on the blog and images, and of course for coming along and having a great time in the USA.

MSc Advanced Computer Science Module Choices

ACS Module Choices

Yesterday I chose which modules I wanted to take throughout my time here at The University of York whilst studying for my MSc in Advanced Computer Science.

Our course consists of 80 credits of taught content over two terms, delivered in 8 modules worth 10 credits each, and 100 credits worth of research project (known as the Project for Advanced Computer Science or PACS for short) over the summer term and the long vacation.

At York modules are taught in blocks of four weeks, each term consisting of two four-week blocks and a ‘free’ week between them. Assessments are taken at the end of each four week block.

Term 1 (October – December)

Block 1

Evolutionary Computation (EVCO)

This module covers genetic algorithms, genetic programming, evolutionary strategies, and co-evolutionary frameworks, in other words any computer algorithms or systems that are inspired by natural evolutionary systems.

Model-Driven Engineering (MODE)

MODE will introduce the theory, principles and practices of model-driven engineering.


Block 2

Concurrent & Real-Time Programming (CRTP)

The CRTP module will have us using the Real-Time Specification for Java to develop real-time embedded systems.

Constraint Programming (COPR)

Constraint Programming tackles problems such as timetabling, scheduling, allocation, planning, configuration, layout and routing — such problems are known as finite-domain constraint satisfaction problems (FD-CSPs) and require a different approach to other problems due to the large search spaces they can create.

We will use a language called MiniZinc to meta-program a set of constraints for problems to be solved.

Quantum Computation (QUCO)

QC provides an introduction to the cutting-edge world of Quantum Computation and will explain the promises and limitations of its usage as well as some of the algorithms expected to gain performance or indeed only be possible on quantum computers.


Term 2 (January – March)

Block 3

Quantum Information Processing (QIPR)

Quantum information processing takes off where the quantum computing module finishes and introduces the theories of quantum communication (which could guarantee against snooping), provides more information about the qubit, and explains the weird effect of quantum teleportation.


Block 4

Adaptive and Learning Agents (ALAS)

ALAS is and artificial intelligence module which covers both machine learning and intelligent agents.

Static Analysis and Verification (SAVE)

This module covers the use of state-of-the-art techniques for verification of object-oriented programs. As with all of the modules taught at York this is in Java.


I’m really looking forward to studying all of the modules listed, particularly Evolutionary Computation, Concurrent & Real-Time Programming and both Quantum modules. The block 1 modules start on Monday 6th October, just 4 days time. I can’t wait. :)


Starting at York

York Student Card

Five days ago I arrived at The University of York, prepared to start my life as a postgraduate — studying an MSc in Advanced Computer Science. It feels like it was only yesterday I was writing a similar blog post about starting my BSc at The University of Hull.

During my first week I’ve basically been settling in, meeting new people and fixing up odds-and-ends, such as joining the gym. I’ve also been on a few nights out with my fellow postgraudates, and everyone seems pretty friendly and good fun :). York has a Graduate Students’ Association, which is like a seperate student union for postgrads, and so far their events have really helped me to meet new people.

Tomorrow all postgraduates will be officially welcomed by the Vice Chancellor to the university in a ceremony in the university’s central hall.

Saturday is the official start of freshers week, when the undergraduate students will join us on heslington east — which I’m looking forward to because it’s a bit of a ghost town here at the moment.

On Monday I’ll have my first official contact with the Department of Computer Science itself, with registration, a welcome lecture and an introduction to the labs.

I can only hope I am lucky enough to have as great a time here as I did in my undergraduate degree at Hull :)

I will of course keep the blog up-to-date on my time at York.

Graduating and Being Awarded the Departmental Prize

Walking past the chancellor as part of the graduation ceremony

On the 14th of July 2014 my degree was officially conferred to me at a graduation ceremony at Hull City Hall.

The day started off with a lunch inside the computer science department at the university, which was a nice opportunity for my parents and siblings to see the labs in which I’ve done a lot of my work over the past three years.

Whilst we were at the lunch I was called up in front of the other students, and their families, to receive the departmental award. The award means that my name will be shown on a golden plaque inside the social area of the department and I will receive £100 from the university. It will be quite cool to have a plaque inside the department, especially as I recognize a lot of the names on the board already as being our current lecturers — my name will be in good company. I received the award for having the highest overall grade of a graduating student — at 86.05%.



After lunch my family and I made made our way to the Guildhall in Hull City Centre where I picked up my cap and gown.



We then made our way to the City Hall where the actual graduation took place. Rob Miles, one of my lecturers from the first two years of my degree, explained how the process of graduating worked. We simply had to walk across a stage after our names had been called and nod at the Chancellor of the University. Behind us were some of the lecturers from Computer Science, Maths & Physics and The Hull York Medical School — all of the departments who had people graduating that day.



Once the graduation had taken place inside we went outside for the traditional slate throwing with the town crier. He was rather funny.

Preparing for Cap Throwing Outside

Preparing for Cap Throwing Outside

Once all of the pomp and ceremony was over my family and I went for dinner and then the drinks started flowing with my brother and university friends out in a few pubs in old town, and then the Piper Club on Newland Avenue.

My degree certificate, and shield, on my living room wall.

My degree certificate, and shield, on my living room wall.

The day after my graduation was my birthday, so its been a truly brilliant few days. Thanks to everyone involved, you know who you are!