I think it would be fair to say I don't have much luck when it comes to washing machines. If you've not been with me on my previous adventures into the land of soapy water, have a read here of what's happened before.
For those of you who aren't washing machine aficionados (why wouldn't you be?!) you may not know that there are only really a few brands who manufacture these machines, they are then rebadged with different company names and sold. For example, Whirlpool own Hotpoint and Indesit - they come from the same factory, share the same parts and generally just have different bits of plastic on the front to differentiate the brands.
Why is it relevant who owns each brand? Well, after the fun I had with AEG last time, I did my homework and went for a brand that really was different to try and avoid the quality control issues that had plagued me previously. Sadly, however, I managed to go from a brand with a reputation for poor build quality, to one with a reputation for burning down houses.
"Not to worry!" I thought. Surely, a global brand who have very publicly just had to recall a lot of machines and pay a lot of compensation to people with rather blacker homes than they'd perhaps like, would have introduced some seriously stringent checks on their production lines and made changes to ensure things like this never happen again. They have a reputation to rebuild!
I even joked about it at the time. "What better time to buy one than after a bit of a scandal!"
Yeah. About that....
So roll forwards 18 months after purchasing a new Indesit washing machine and I'm stood in the kitchen when "POP! POP! POP! WHiiiirrrrr........"
"That's not a healthy noise for a washing machine to make."
Now, it may surprise you (it won't), but being the saddo that I am, I'm quite into electronics and repair/right to repair so I knew enough straight away to know that those noises were electrical and something had very much just met its maker inside the machine. A few seconds later and the smell of smouldering electrics fills the air. Time to whip the machine out.
A picture does indeed tell a story. In the image above you can deduce exactly what's happened and why. The result is not good for a company which has promised it no longer makes incendiary washing machines.
For those of you struggling, here's the trail of clues:
This machine, then, was quite literally a time bomb from the moment it left the factory. It also highlights a few really annoying things.
So, I did indeed look into repairing it, only to find that the parts I would need are on sale, from specialist outlets, if you're lucky... for the price of a new machine. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why there is a long, long way to go before we actually tell the truth about the situation and that's that the lobbying power of large multinationals has meant that we cannot get affordable parts, we cannot fix things ourselves and we will continue to make a never ending mountain of waste because companies are more than aware that if we start fixing things then we will stop buying new things and that, as they say on the trading floors of stock markets across the world is "a bad thing."
That is why I had to buy a new machine. Well, that and the fact it was stolen from outside my house within 3 minutes of taking it out...
One distinctly unfortunate side effect of a global pandemic appears to be that video conferencing software and its associated behaviour are now considered acceptable norms and its so entrenched in our day to day lives that Microsoft have decided to integrate Teams into Windows 11.
There's nothing wrong with the concept. Using things like Skype of Facetime can be incredibly useful for keeping in touch with family or friends who live a distance away from us, but on a day to day basis, as a matter of routine it's a drag. Worse still is that there exists a certain type of person that we will all come across in our lives and that is the one person who believes that all problems must be solved by calling a meeting. Indeed, they love meetings so much that meetings are called to arrange future meeting schedules and if, god forbid, something could be communicated in a single paragraph via email, they can and will arrange a meeting for that too. Just in case we need to discuss important things like contingencies for minutiae such as who should be on tea making duty should the office be plagued by moths, the cat hasn't been put out and it happens to be a waning crescent moon. Teams and Zoom have normalised their behaviour, made it more acceptable to the point where there doesn't appear to be an end in sight for that awful phrase "I'll send you a teams invite!!"
No, please don't, whenever it is I'm fairly sure I have an appointment with a historic re-enactment group and have volunteered to have my legs very realistically sawn off by a 19th century "surgeon" in preference to sitting for another second in front of a webcam, listening to stuttering audio, looking at your blurry face and wondering when you'll notice that actually I've turned my camera off again and gone out to mow the lawn instead whilst you talk to yourself.
In fact, we all know that's what "online learning" was. It didn't take long to figure out. After giving the first lesson or two a proper go and wondering why no one seemed to answer questions it quickly dawned on us that the reason was because there was no one there to answer questions, all the students had logged in, turned their camera and microphone off and promptly disappeared to watch Homes Under the Hammer instead, and let's face it, Dion Dublin has a lot of staircases to show you. So much for "turn your cameras and microphones off to avoid disruption." We were blissfully undisturbed by any interruptions whether we wanted them or not.
...and this is just the point really, we have learned the hard way in recent times just how impersonal technology can be. We are not designed to sit behind a camera and be ourselves. It removes our personalities, stifles spontaneity and takes away all those subtle queues and interactions that we take for granted when we're together in person. I'd go so far as to say that over exposure to online only socialising is more damaging than not being able to interact with anyone at all, via any means.
I am forever banging the drum for usability and sensible design in software (we can all remember how much I enjoyed being a HSBC customer). Sadly, Microsoft have done another terrible job with Teams. I'm not anti Microsoft and it's very easy to criticise software that doesn't do what you, and you alone, want it to do when it's designed to perform an incalculable number of different tasks for millions of people. Generally, I don't find Office, Outlook and Windows standing in my way on a day to day basis. Anyone who can remember 1995 will tell you the fact we don't all reinstall our operating system every two weeks is testament to just how far Microsoft have come in terms of making decent software.
But Teams is not decent software. It's horrific. Just nothing you do in Teams is clear and in an effort to make up their mind about whether it's a desktop, mobile or tablet application, they've managed to make it none of those things. I could go on for some time about the number of horrific ways in which it works (not to mention them changing their pricing model for some of the features we all used when they realised half the world was about to use it and they could profit from a pandemic...) Instead, lets just focus on one "feature" which really baffles me.
Most people have a work and a personal life. I know. Imagine that, a teacher who doesn't just finish the school day, get back in the cupboard and plug themselves in to recharge for the next day. Who knew we had a life?!
Due to this, we have a work account and Teams is connected to it. No problem here, it works, pulls all your meetings and other things down without issue. Now imagine, someone invites you to a teams meeting using your personal account - maybe you're organising something, doing an interview... you need to add your personal account.
On an iPad, you just tap a couple of times, switch account and all is well. Desktop? Nah. On the desktop version for Windows 10, you click to add an account, it asks you to sign in and then... it literally tries to take over the world. I tried it yesterday and it inexplicably decided that because I used Windows Hello to log in, it also had to associate this new account with my local account which I use to log into my laptop with. Why? God only knows - you know what would be sensible? Log me in to the app and leave the operating system alone? But this isn't possible, there is literally no option to skip this step - if you do, it simply refuses to sign you in.
Out of curiosity, I followed it through and Windows promptly turned me into a woman, changed my profile picture and set this account as my Windows log in account.
How? How is it possible in 2021 to write software which is just so monumentally broken? In no way can you justify an app which has such a broken account switching implementation as Teams does. There also can be no excuse for an application which decides that if you log an account into that then it will also take over your operating system as well?
Teams is an abomination and I welcome the time I can uninstall it safe in the knowledge I'll never have to use it again. Video conferencing was a sticking plaster during the pandemic and it's time we ripped it off and returned it to the uses it was designed for. Microsoft will perhaps one day then get back to important things like... I don't know, fixing the fact that they still haven't fixed the fact that when they decided to leave Control Panel behind that it's still actually there and Settings is so unfinished you're often unceremoniously dumped back into the old control panel, but that's a topic for another day...
The next unit of A Level lessons are now online and free to download/use. Please see the A Level -> Lessons link in the menu above.
Obviously, the last year has been turbulent for most of us and as such the site has not seen a great deal of activity. In light of the fact I'm currently creating and sharing resources for the A Level CS and GCSE Business courses at the same time, whilst updating resources for the new J277 GCSE, there has obviously been less time available for updates here.
In the near future I will aim to upload these lesson resources as time allows but I cannot see when I will have the chance to update the revision materials alongside. Considering large chunks of it (nearly all of it) are still relevant, it shouldn't cause too many issues.
Keep an eye out for updates as and when they happen.
The first "unit" of our A Level re-write for the OCR Computer Science course has now been uploaded.
There's links in the A Level section above, or alternatively, directly below this post:
In the current climate, with exams being cancelled and our attention being turned to what will happen over the coming weeks, there is an increasing burden to set or adapt work that is suitable for home use, especially for KS3.
As a result I'm making available my entire current KS3 scheme of work and lesson resources.
We use One Note to deliver our lessons normally, so we're already in the fortunate position of being able to work online as matter of routine. However, anyone can take any of the lessons out of these One Note files and use them for themselves.
As usual, all that I ask is that you do not modify and then upload these resources anywhere else - you are free to use them, modify them yourself but not to upload modified versions.
I've combined all the lessons in to one single notebook which you can download here.
My friends, we find ourselves in uncharted waters. I've spent this week telling all my students that, no matter what, their exams would absolutely be going ahead and we have to carry on our preparations as normal. I said this because... I genuinely believed it couldn't possibly happen any other way.
I watched the statement to the house by Gavin Williamson (the Education Secretary) earlier, nodding along at the expected closure of all schools from this Friday. As the cancellation of exams was announced I genuinely watched open mouthed. It cannot be overemphasised how unprecedented this is. I cannot think of another time when examinations have not gone ahead - even during wartime, education continued to function and children took final examinations.
I am genuinely devastated and upset for those of you who have come on what is an intense journey together over the last two years. We've been through it all - the daunting prospect of 20,000 word reports and coding challenges for Year 13 students, the endless repetitive practise of past papers to hone our exam technique and ensure that everyone recieves the recognition their ability deserves. We've been through the lows of mock exams where some of you may have felt like you were staring at a sheer cliff face with no obvious way of climbing it when results came back far lower than you may have anticipated.
Then there's been that slow dawning, especially in Year 11, that with the right focus, the right amount of dedication we were getting there. My Year 11 group this year have done things they never thought possible and please, understand this - you are an absolute credit to yourselves and I have recognised every one of your efforts. It has been so obvious the sheer hard work you've put in alone, with your families and together as a group and we've seen the fruits of your labour. In the last mock window your results all improved, you'd not just begun to climb that seemingly impossible cliff face, you were nearly over the top and in the clear.
We've all put in so much of ourselves to prepare for what is undeinably one of the most significant points in any persons life. The process of taking your final exams and recieving those results is life changing and a defining moment for each student as an individual and to have that opportunity taken away is unimaginable. Whether you achieve "academic excellence" and sweep grade 9's across the board, or whether you walk away with a deep sense of unfulfilment and grades that you may not be happy with, it cannot be denied that those feelings set a course for the rest of your life. In some it will breed a renewed sense of determination to succeed regardless of what a piece of paper may say, in others it is a validation and vindication for years of hard work and sacrifice which no doubt secures the path to further education and future success.
The fact that you are going to be awarded a grade from "somewhere" means that the next step in your life is probably not compromised in any way - you will be able to move on to college, 6th form, apprenticeships or elsewhere, but it is what you've lost in these coming months that can never be regained which saddens me the most - you are victims of a devastating world crisis that just happened to pass you by at the wrong time.
There are wider implications here too - it is not unreasonable to suggest that the country will find itself winding down, locking down even further over the coming weeks. It would not be absurd to think in two weeks time we could find ourselves in an Italy/China/Spain situation where the streets are empty.
You are at an absolutely golden time in your lives, especially from a social point of view. The time you spend with your friends and, dare I say it, even us as staff in school, makes a huge impression on all of you in your most formative of years. There is every chance that you will miss the chance to have those final goodbyes, the leaving speeches and assemblies and the prom nights. These are the moments you've earned, that you deserve that will no doubt become collateral damage in this situation. I would urge you all to find sensible alternatives! Year 11 and 13 are a time not only of looking to the future, but also of closure on part of your past - and what a time it has been.
It wasn't supposed to be like this and we are clearly not going to be back in school this academic year - if exams have been cancelled then the government is clear - their models show there's no way we can get back together within a few weeks, it is going to be a period of months.
I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise to all of my year 11 and 13 students what a genuine pleasure and privilege it has been to have the opportunity to guide you through two of the most important years you can have in your lives. In Year 11 I honestly felt like we were going to do something special this year, you were really about to pull it out of the bag when it mattered the most - every single one of you without exception. I'd like to thank you sincerely for your efforts and also for choosing my subject (and for being my self help group when I'm telling you stories about nothing at all). I hope to see many of you next year for A-Level.
To Year 13 - you are genuinely one of the kindest, close knit groups of students I have ever known and it's actually a positive to know that your routes to higher education are now practically guaranteed - you deserve it, even if your coursework was horrendous in the main. I will still never get over the games where "you can kill the enemies" only everything is invisible and suddenly you die. You really did invent a new genre of gaming - frustration through absurdity.
Let's finish on a positive note - you are out of school now to save lives. There cannot be any misunderstanding here, cut out the noise of the ill informed and those who are mad enough to actually still read and believe newspapers - the science is clear. Closing schools is part of a much wider effort to slow society down, we are trying to prevent vulnerable people from dying of a disease we will soon be able to cure with vaccines. You are sacrificing your time now so these people may have the time they deserve to spend with their families and friends without the fear of being in a life threatening condition in hospital. In my opinion, whilst I don't want schools to close, it is the right thing to do if it saves lives and stops the NHS from reaching saturation.
We are living in a time when no one knows what to do. The top scientists and medical experts across the world are learning as they go along. The economy world wide is on its knees and people are living in abject fear - fear of the disease itself, fear for their children and families, fear of losing their jobs, livelihoods and income. All of these fears are very real. Fear makes us behave irrationally and do things that, from the outside, can appear stupid, odd or selfish.
Be kind to each other - before you voice an opinion, ask yourself what underlies their behaviour, why are they doing the things they're doing? Make it your priority to stick together, to look out for each other and above all look out not only for your physical health but your mental health as well - stress is high right now and your parents, carers and loved ones may look ok on the outside but on the inside many may be terrified. Be mindful of that when you're raging about something insignificant and give people at home a chance to breathe, take stock and work out what to do next.
We'll survive, but my friends the world is about to look very different to the one we knew only a few months ago.
Stay safe, stay kind.
More free posters! These are designed to give students a very visual overview of the following GCSE options:
See the post below for editing instructions - these are fully customisable Publisher files so feel free to change as you see fit for your options. Remember, you will need to download the "transport" font for these to display correctly, this is an open source font and so can be distributed freely.
The content on this website is free for anyone to use and will always remain free simply because I fundamentally believe in the principles of comprehensive, free education.
Sadly, however, it has come to light recently that a number of the resources available here (and also some older materials from our KS3 provision) have been uploaded, used and claimed by other individuals as their own.
That's not ok.
There is one key thing to note here - you can only do this if you attribute us/me/this site - in other words, acknowledge that these resources are not your own.
You also cannot sell our resources or derivatives of my resources for profit. This goes against all of my principles.
The reason for this is quality control. I take great pride in the standard of my work and I constantly review and update these resources as I find things I'm not happy with, as I learn from experience and as I simply think things need to be refreshed or changed. For exmaple, I'm practically re-writing unit 2 of the GCSE as we speak becuase I don't think it's good enough. You will be able to get these resources for free as usual.
If you upload our resources, claim them as your own or share them as your own then the people you share with are getting a poor experience. They do not know the origin of your files, nor will they benefit from the constant improvements we make. To see comments on websites from teachers praising these lessons as "outstanding" actually makes me sad - they're not outstanding and that's why we've since moved on from delivering them in that form.
Bottom line - please don't give your students a second rate experience, please don't steal resources and claim them as your own.
If you do not understand the Creative Commons license, mentality and philosophy then click the massive image below. Just because something is given away for free does not give you ownership or copyright.
Being as careers appears to be high on the education agenda recently, I decided to put together a display which can be used in classrooms to highlight the pathways from Year 7 all the way into a select number of careers. It's not designed to be a super informative infographic, literally something which is useful to have, starts a conversartion and clearly shows the fact you have clear paths through school into technology based careers.
It's designed to be printed out at size A0 using a plotter and the file is available to download below. A few notes if you want to use it yourself:
To create new "signs" to add to your display, don't bother trying to grab an image or SVG and then adding text over the top, you'll never quite get what you're after. Instead use rounded rectangles and add text to them, then set the colours using the RGB colour codes available as linked above.
Hopefully some of you will find this useful. If you don't have a plotter, you can go thoroughly old school and get publisher to print it out as a series of smaller pages that you can then tape together. I'd suggest laminating them first if you go down this route!
So, some three years ago I made the fatal error of buying something without having done my homework first. In this case, a very, very expensive washing machine made by AEG called the "Lavamat Turbo." For Google robots and anyone else who may be suffering the same fate and would like to read my tale of woe, the model number of this particular pile of junk is l61470wdbi.
What's wrong with it, then?
Well, it's a two pronged attack from this beast - not only is it terribly made from a reliability and construction quality point of view, but it's also incredibly poorly designed.
Last night, it died for the third time. I'm not sure that one breakdown per year qualifies as decent quality in anyones book, but consdering how ancient I am and the fact I've never actually managed to break any other washing machine in my life, this must be some kind of indicator as to just how appalling this particular machine is. Oh, and I'm fully aware how old I sound recounting my illustrious, long history of washing machine ownership, but there's definitely a technology angle here so bear with me.
The fault, then, was an interesting one. Turn the machine on, select a program, press go. The door clicks, all the lights look happy. As you would expect, I then walked away thinking nothing more about it - the days are long since gone that watching the washing machine cycle to completion was a form of family entertainment...
Then it struck me how quiet everything was. Too quiet. I went back to find the timer happily counting down to itself but literally nothing happening at all. No movement, no water, no swishing of laundry. Eerie silence.
What's wrong here is this - the machine was doing two things:
"Ah! But if it's faulty what can you expect?!"
Being unable to believe anything is fixable only by a professional, I started poking around the internet for answers. It turns out that this machine has error codes. How useful! Yes, if only they actually appeared on the display. This is where, from a design and software engineering point of view, things get really stupid. I learned the magic incantation and performed finger acrobatics on the buttons to reveal the magic error - E41.
What's wrong here?
This is just plain stupid. It cannot even be argued that hiding the error code in some way helps prevent confusion or even protects customers from coming to some kind of harm - it's information! Nothing more. Why decide that some errors can be displayed and others are only for those who have sworn an oath and gone through the sacred order of the washing machine repair person, complete with complimentray rubber seal crown?
Some of the errors it will show you are comedy - there's one called EFO which tells you the water is leaking everywhere. This is one of the errors they could've hidden. I know this becase when this very machine flooded my kitchen it was very, very obvious what had happened...
It is these inexplicable design choices that make my brain boil. I keep going back to this point - Steve Jobs was a genius because he recognised the need for complete and utter design consistency. The need for items to behave in such a way that you never needed to ever encounter a machine behaving in a seemingly random or inexplicable way. Like it or not, this washing machine would never have made it to production if he'd been inclined to design kitchen appliances.
When designing a system, choices are made. Somewhere, at some point, someone consciously made the decision that this machine would have a comprehensive set of diagnostic error codes to help the repair process. However, they also made the decision that this valuable information should be hidden and that the machine should just pretend nothing is wrong?
So what's actually wrong? Well, E41 means that probably the door latch is in some way broken. Either that or the main control board has fried itself. This is one of those "worth a punt" situations because the door lock is £13 and for once I don't have to hump a machine that weighs more than an elephant out of a cupboard to try and fix it for once. The part has been ordered and we'll see what mess I get into when I fail to reseat the seal round the door properly.
The machine that keeps on giving once decided to flood the kitchen. This is something that shouldn't really happen on a grand scale. Would you like to learn about washing machine electronics and control? Of course you would.
I was surprised to learn that the way in which a machine judges the amount of water that is inside it and when to turn the tap off, is not by measuring the flow of water in to the machine - which just seemed to be the way to do it in my head. Instead, there is a small rubber hose inside that has a pressure sensor on one end. As the machine fills with water, the air pressure increases until the sensor reads a certain amount and the control board shuts off the supply.
This is actually quite a reliable way of doing things until. that is, the rubber hose gets a hole in it. This "shouldn't" happen, but it was pub time in the AEG factory when my machine was built and they couldn't be bothered to attach it properly so the drum rubbed a hole in it.
No problem - the machine has a feature to prevent this very problem! It's even part of their sales pitch, the machine is intelligent enough to cut itself out should it suffer any failure in the water department. The question is... why did my kitchen flood then? The answer is wonderful.
Inside the bottom of the machine lies the answer to this "intelligent" function. It's a piece of polystyrene. When water escapes the machine the bottom of the machine floods, the polystyrene floats up which clicks a switch that tells the board to cut the water and turn the drain pump on.
Brilliant. Such a simple solution! With only one minor problem.
The problem is that the bottom of the machine isn't water tight, meaning a lot of water has to accumulate around it before the little float can do its job. Furthermore, the float has to raise about 1cm before it triggers the switch. Trust me, 1cm deep is a lot of water outside of the bath...
In a world where devices are becoming more and more "smart" and more connected for no reason other than "we can" (why I need a wifi washing machine I do not know) there is a desperate need for us to understand that simplicity is still the number one most important factor when designing anything electronic. The fact is we shouldn't forget that the very word "appliance" means something that should be plugged in, maybe have one button pressed and it just goes and does the job it was designed to do. A lot of the time we are trying to solve problems that sumply don't exist or create "convenience" that is verging on the absurd (smart lights anyone?) for the sake of selling kit, rather than actually adding value.
The day my house gets smart lights and an internet connected fridge and washing machine is the day I buy a large set of wire cutters and go on a snipping spree to rid myself of the madness.
Latest Site News: