Open source Gamification services

The United States’ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has made some of its internally-developed gamification software available for free on GitHub under the MIT free software license.

Developers may find it useful as a tool for configuring a server to track “gamification” systems like points or badges against user accounts on apps or websites; at the very least, it offers interesting insight into how the NGA is using game design tenets in its training programs

“The use of badging and awards recognizes what achievements matter most based on agency priorities, and rewards the user in the context of their work.”

The NGA claims it is releasing this software on GitHub to “increase the impact of government investments by providing developers with the opportunity to take things in new directions.”


Sony release their Authoring toolkit on GitHub (


sony stool


Release of tehir authoring server (

ngage oinr

Oculus networking engine RAKNET  (

RakNet is a cross-platform suite of C++ networking technology that’s capable of supporting a variety of platforms, including PC, current- and last-gen consoles and multiple mobile operating systems.

Unreal developer network –




Goal Line technology

I saw this article recently and it is a great time to show our school kids a real world use of ICT and computing relating to a serious sporting event.  The full original article is linked at the end of this blogpost.

There’s been no short supply of controversy around this year’s World Cup, and now the actual tournament has kicked off—and after that rather iffy penalty awarded to Brazil in their first match against Croatia in the first game… we can expect to see some on the pitch too.

In a recent blog post it was also shown that Anonymous are hacking websites and systems relating to the World Cup which is also another ethical, moral and legal issue to bring to the attention of students.   The post suggest that “Coming good on its promise, hacktivist collective Anonymous has knocked out a number of websites belonging to World Cup 2014 sponsors and Brazilian government over the last two days, in protest at the epic funds spent on the competition. And that could just be the start of the hacks.

According to multiple sources, a slew of sites, including Hyundai, the Emirates Group, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency and the host country’s Department of Justice, were yesterday taken out by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, where networks are flooded with traffic by attackers.”  – source is here for the original post

Hacker News Bulletin highlighted further sites targeted today by Anonymous Brazil, which is running the campaign, called OpHacking Cup. They include the Brazilian government’s official World Cup page and the Ministry of Sport, with some apparent success in disrupting those services.

But this year, there shouldn’t be any dispute over one pretty vital point of the game: whether the ball is in the goal or not. With so few goals scored in a match, you might think it wouldn’t be too hard to notice when it actually does happen, but recent history would prove you wrong. Just go back to the 2010 World Cup and poor Frank Lampard’s woefully uncounted non-goal goal. The England player clearly kicked the ball over the goal-line—which is, after all, the one thing he and his pals are paid millions to do—but somehow the referee didn’t see it. England lost the match

The company who is at the centre of this project is Goal Control.  The promo video can be seen here

The company has also claimed that the system is totally unhackable;

  • First up, there’s no internet connection, which removes a whole host of potential vulnerabilities. “Another important fact to point out is that our transmission code of the sender is extremely secure and has got a frequently changing encrypted code,” Dittrich explained. “We are not using the wifi/LAN frequency band of 2.4 GHz.”
  • The system doesn’t actually sit on the goal-line, or the pitch at all. The 14 cameras are mounted around the stadium, seven for each goal, to give a full view of the whole penalty area. When the ball enters that space, they track it continuously from seven angles. If it crosses the goal line, an encrypted message is sent to a watch that the referee wears. Within a second of the goal, the watch vibrates and sends a visual signal, and that’s all the info they get: It’s meant to be a simple, yes/no confirmation.

But what if the ball was halfway over the goal-line. Would it be able to make the call? “Halfway is no goal—of course!” GoalControl spokesperson Rolf Dittrich said. “Only when the ball passes the goal-line completely, the system sends a vibration and optical signal to the officials’ watches. The accuracy of goal detection is about 5 mm!”…. I wonder how long until someone takes that half-centimetre to task?

The company also makes a product called GoalControl-Replay, which is an intriguing hint at where football technology could continue to head. After a goal recorded by the goal-line system, it renders a virtual image of the ball on the pitch, which could be shown to spectators to show the goal-line view. While it’s not suggested that particular function could be used by officials to question decisions, it certainly nods to the argument over whether football should also start using video replays so controversial referee judgments can be challenged. Like if a soft penalty is awarded because a player dives at the lightest touch from an opponent, for instance.

While GoalControl is only intended to be used at the goal-line, Dittrich suggested the technology could be put to other uses. “Because of the fact that the system is camera-based, additional applications are conceivable,” he said.

Article originally posted here by the fantastic Vicky Turk



Hacking our senses

Some schools are pumping music, noises and fragrances into the classroom to see if it improves exam results – could it work? (REPOST from BBC Futures)

What did your school smell like? Was it noisy or peaceful?

It might not seem important, but a growing body of research suggests that smells and sounds can have an impact on learning, performance and creativity. Indeed, some head teachers have recently taken to broadcasting noises and pumping whiffs into their schools to see whether it can boost grades. Is there anything in it? And if so, what are the implications for the way we all work and study?

There is certainly some well-established research to suggest that some noises can have a detrimental effect on learning. Numerous studies over the past 15 years have found that children attending schools under the flight paths of large airports lag behind in their exam results.

But general noise seems to have an effect too. Bridget Shield, a professor of acoustics at London South Bank University, and Julie Dockrell, now at the Institute of Education, have been conducting studies and advising politicians on the effects of all sorts of noises, such as traffic and sirens, as well as noise generated by the children themselves. When they recreated those particular sounds in an experimental setting whilst children completed various cognitive tasks, they found a significant negative effect on exam scores. “Everything points to a detrimental impact of the noise on children’s performance, in numeracy, in literacy, and in spelling,” says Shield. The noise seemed to have an especially detrimental effect on children with special needs. `

Shield says the sound of “babble” – the chatter of other children, is particularly distracting in the classroom. Architects that fashion open-plan classrooms in schools would do well to take this on board. “People are very distracted by speech – particularly if it’s understandable, but you’re not involved in it.” This phenomenon is also known as the irrelevant speech effect, she says, adding that “it’s a very common finding in open-plan offices as well.”

Whether background sounds are beneficial or not seems to depend on what kind of noise it is – and the volume. In a series of studies published last year, Ravi Mehta from the College of Business at Illinois and colleagues tested people’s creativity while exposed to a soundtrack made up of background noises – such as coffee-shop chatter and construction-site drilling – at different volumes. They found that people were more creative when the background noises were played at a medium level than when volume was low. Loud background noise, however, damaged their creativity.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons, says psychologist Dr Nick Perham, at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, who studies the effect of sounds on learning but was not involved in the study.  Firstly, he says, sounds that are most distracting tend to be very variable.  A general hum in the background suggests a steady-state sound with not much acoustical variation. “So there’s not much there to capture your attention – nothing distracting the subjects,” he says. At the same time, the background noise might cause the subjects to be in a slightly heightened state of arousal, says Perham. You don’t want too much or too little arousal. “Medium arousal is best for good performance. So it might be that a general hum in the background gives an optimum level of arousal.” With that in mind, Perham suggests there may be some benefit to playing music or other sounds in an art class or other situations where creativity is key.

Many teachers all over the world already play music to students in class. Many are inspired by the belief that hearing music can boost IQ in subsequent tasks, the so-called Mozart effect. While the evidence actually suggests it’s a stretch to say classical music boosts brainpower, researchers do think pleasant sounds before a task can sometimes lift your mood and help you perform well, says Perham, who has done his own studies on the phenomenon. The key appears to be that you enjoy what you’re hearing. “If you like the music or you like the sound – even listening to a Stephen King novel – then you did better. It didn’t matter about the music,” he says.

However, it’s worth considering that music is not always helpful while you’re trying to work. Trying to perform a task which involves serial recall – for instance, doing mental arithmetic – will be impaired by sounds with acoustic variation, which includes most types of music, says Perham. (Except a few, like extreme death metal.) Songs with lyrics, on the other hand, are more likely to interfere with tasks that involve semantics – such as reading comprehension. “The task and the sound are important, when you have both of them using the same process then you get problems,” he says.

So, it seems that schools that choose to screen out disturbing noises and create positive soundscapes could enhance the learning of their students, so long as they make careful choices.

This isn’t the only sense being tweaked to affect learning. Special educational needs students at Sydenham high school in London are being encouraged to revise different subjects in the presence of different smells – grapefruit scents for maths, lavender for French and spearmint for history.

Less research has gone into the idea of whether scents can help with cognitive performance, although there have been intriguing findings. In 2003, psychologist Mark Moss, at Northumbria University, carried out a range of cognitive tests on subjects who were exposed either to lavender or rosemary aromas. “Rosemary in particular caught my attention as it is considered to be arousing and linked to memory,” he says, whereas lavender is considered to be sedating. Moss found that those who were smelling lavender performed significantly worse in working memory tests, and had impaired reaction times for both memory and attention-based tasks, compared to controls. Those in the rosemary group, on the other hand, did much better than controls overall in the memory tasks, although their reaction times were slower.

Why might this be? It’s perhaps not surprising that smells affect memory, given that the brain’s olfactory bulb is intimately linked to the hippocampus, which deals with learning. But Moss suspected there was more to it. To explore the pharmacological effects of rosemary on the body, he drew blood samples from volunteers who had just undergone cognitive tests in a rosemary-infused room, and found that they had elevated levels of a compound called 1,8-cineole in their blood. Previous research has shown that this compound increases communication between brain cells, which might explain how it improves brain function.

So, as you finish reading this story, take a moment to tune into your senses. Close your eyes and take a few nice deep breaths. What can you hear and smell? The answer, it seems, may affect how much you learnt in the past few minutes.

Blackbox technology – How do they work and what about the cloud?

I am not a pilot, I am not an expert on aircraft systems however I do have a technical background.   As a regular air traveller and after the recent Malaysian airways crash I asked myself :

1. How can authorities lose track of a Boeing 777 plane in an age when an iPhone can be located in seconds (Thanks Susan for inspiring me to think of this….)

2. Over the last several years, airlines have been installing satellite-based Wi-Fi systems for passenger entertainment that could also be used to facilitate data-streaming,  It’s bizarre that we technology so passengers can pay to watch live TV, access emails and call BUT these are still not utilised for safety purposes.

EC_IFE2_Wide.jpgImage from :

Setting the scene

According to reports : “On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 departed Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, heading for Seattle, with a short stop scheduled in San Francisco. Approximately one hour and 45 minutes into the flight, a problem was reported that the plane’s “stabiliser trim“. After a 10-minute battle to keep the plane airborne, it plunged into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. All 88 people on board were killed.”

With any plane crash, there are many unanswered questions as to what brought it down. The investigators turn to the airplane’s flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), also known as “black boxes,” to find answers. According to records, in Flight 261, the FDR contained 48 parameters of flight data, and the CVR recorded a little more than 30 minutes of conversation and other audible cockpit noises.

In my experience as a passenger, many airlines are now regularly allowing the in seat charging of and use of mobile phones and have plane based WiFi (for example Ethiad).   I have recently flown on several long haul and short haul flights and connectivity is much improved.   The internal communications systems such as ACARS regularly  use data transmission so the technology is there and usable although would probably need to be upgraded.   The airlines may however object as although data storage is practically too cheap to measure, data bandwidth – especially on satellites, which would be required for coverage over oceans and the poles is expensive (about 60p per kilobyte).

Streaming the data?

Firstly cost.  These devices cost $10,000 and $15,000 …is  a cloud based solution viable at this cost?

Secondly, How much data does the black box (FDR/CVR) actually record?  88 operational parameters apparently.

The global Iridium network, which covers the entire globe with 66 orbiting satellites, could probably accommodate the bandwidth needed to transmit at the very least the 88 operational required parameters from the 8,000 or so commercial flights at any given moment. Krishna Kavi, a professor of computer science at the University of North Texas, estimates that the worldwide demand would be about 64 megabits per second (Mbps) and of this only a portion of which would have to be sent by satellite. Using different assumptions, Seymour Levine, an inventor who has devised his own telemetry, estimates the maximum bandwidth requirement for aeroplanes as being around 25 Mbps and the total storage requirement for a day’s worth of data at 100 gigabytes — a quarter of the speed of a fast broadband connection and less disk space than an iPod Classic.

This really is a poor use of technology….and one that I feel will need to be addressed after the current accidents ImageThe technology over time

Originally developed by David Warren from Australia (see the video  the black boxes recorded data on Magnetic Tape.  Currently they use use solid state technology.  All of the data collected by the airplane’s sensors is sent to the flight-data acquisition unit (FDAU) at the front of the aircraft. This device often is found in the electronic equipment bay under the cockpit. The flight-data acquisition unit is the middle manager of the entire data-recording process. It takes the information from the sensors and sends it on to the black boxes.

ImageSensors and the technology

The devices are powered by 28 V DC and use solid state technology.   Solid state uses stacked arrays of memory chips, so they don’t have moving parts. With no moving parts, there are fewer maintenance issues and less chance of something breaking during a crash.  Planes are equipped with sensors that gather data. There are sensors that detect things such as:

  • Time
  • Pressure altitude
  • Airspeed
  • Vertical acceleration
  • Magnetic heading
  • Control-column position
  • Rudder-pedal position
  • Control-wheel position
  • Horizontal stabilizer
  • Fuel flow

Magnetic-tape recorders can track about 100 parameters, while solid-state recorders can track more than 700 in larger aircraft.

Data from both the CVR and FDR are stored on stacked memory boards inside the crash-survivable memory unit (CSMU). In recorders made by L-3 Communications, the CSMU is a cylindrical compartment on the recorder (as shown above). The stacked memory boards are about 1.75 inches (4.45 cm) in diameter and 1 inch (2.54 cm) tall.

The memory boards have enough digital storage space to accommodate two hours of audio data for CVRs and 25 hours of flight data for FDRs.

Voice Recording in the cockpit

There are several microphones built into the cockpit to track the conversations of the flight crew. These microphones are also designed to track any ambient noise in the cockpit, such as switches being thrown or any knocks or thuds. There may be up to four microphones in the plane’s cockpit, each connected to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR).

Any sounds in the cockpit are picked up by these microphones and sent to the CVR, where the recordings are digitized and stored. There is also another device in the cockpit, called the associated control unit, that provides pre-amplification for audio going to the CVR. Here are the positions of the four microphones:

  • Pilot’s headset
  • Co-pilot’s headset
  • Headset of a third crew member (if there is a third crew member)
  • Near the center of the cockpit, where it can pick up audio alerts and other sounds

Most magnetic-tape CVRs store the last 30 minutes of sound. They use a continuous loop of tape that completes a cycle every 30 minutes. As new material is recorded, the oldest material is replaced. CVRs that used solid-state storage can record two hours of audio. Similar to the magnetic-tape recorders, solid-state recorders also record over old material.  (In the case of the Malaysian Airline  flight MH370 then I would assume this data may have been recorded over during its 7hr flight and miss vital recordings when the issues may have appeared 5hrs earlier?)

Locator Beacon

If a plane crashes into the water, the locator beacon sends out an ultrasonic pulse that cannot be heard by human ears but is readily detectable by sonar and acoustical locating equipment. There is a submergence sensor on the side of the beacon that looks like a bull’s-eye. When water touches this sensor, it activates the beacon.

The beacon sends out pulses at 37.5 kilohertz (kHz) and can transmit sound as deep as 14,000 feet (4,267 m). Once the beacon begins “pinging,” it pings once per second for 30 days. This beacon is powered by a battery that has a shelf life of six years. In rare instances, the beacon may get snapped off during a high-impact collision.

In the United States, when investigators locate a black box it is transported to the computer labs at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Special care is taken in transporting these devices in order to avoid any (further) damage to the recording medium. In cases of water accidents, recorders are placed in a cooler of water to keep them from drying out.

Getting the data off the device

The black-box manufacturers supply the NTSB with the readout systems and software needed to do a full analysis of the recorders’ stored data.  If the FDR is not damaged, investigators can simply play it back on the recorder by connecting it to a readout system. With solid-state recorders, investigators can extract stored data in a matter of minutes. Very often, recorders retrieved from wreckage are dented or burned. In these cases, the memory boards are removed, cleaned up and a new memory interface cable is installed. Then the memory board is connected to a working recorder. This recorder has special software to facilitate the retrieval of data without the possibility of overwriting any of it.

A team of experts are usually brought in to interpret the recordings stored on a CVR. This group typically includes a representative from the airline, a representative from the airplane manufacturer, an NTSB transportation-safety specialist and an NTSB air-safety investigator.

Benefits of using a more effective system would probably result in improvements in:

  • Communications – including that with Air Traffic Control
  • Surveillance improvements in case of accidents
  • Navigational improvements

Other options

Military airplanes and helicopters used in offshore exploration have flight-data recorders that can eject with a parachute in a crash. They emit a satellite signal that immediately transmit the aircraft’s identity and location. But adding an ejection system on a commercial jet would probably require an expensive redesign.


My prediction on the future for this technology

Simple enough, live data transferred from cockpit to stakeholders (Aircraft manufacturer to analyse data in real time, mechanics at airfields for maintenance, Air Traffic Control, NTSB and the airline).  A further more radical modification could be to remotely control the aircraft (using a one time key from aircraft to airline to ensure security and restrict hacking) brining it back to land on perform an emergency landing as necessary however electrical faults  may deem this impossible.

Probable issues:

  • Hacking of data  – potential terrorism?
  • Cost of bandwidth (rather than storage)
  • Infrastructure development for cloud technology or wireless data transfer
  • Backup systems and system redundancy
  • Connectivity in remote areas due to lack of network coverage (burst transmission –
  • Ethical collection of data for pilot performance management / recording of crew voice recordings
  • Pilots Association may not agree to this streaming (they also opposed the introduction of the black box!)


In a year or so I predict this data will be live streamed and stored in the cloud with redundant systems on board as needed initially this may start with triggered transmissions of data.  This would allow for more data to be stored and used for maintenance and be available immediately (unless this systems itself were to breakdown).  The better compression and encryption algorithms developed now mean there is no real reason why this would not be could not be used.   These systems are old and have not been developed taking account of newer internet enabled technologies.


Photos from : L-3 Communication Aviation Recorders

Further sources:,


Meet The Man Who Solved The Mysterious Cicada 3301 Puzzle

It’s the most baffling and enigmatic mystery on the Internet with promises of “epiphany” if you solve it. But just how hard is it to crack the Cicada 3301 puzzle and who’s behind it?


Two years ago, a cryptic message started appearing on message boards across the Internet. Claiming to seek “highly intelligent individuals,” the Cicada 3301 puzzle challenged visitors to find a secret message hidden in the image that accompanied it. Just what is Cicada 3301? And what happens to those that solve the puzzle? To find out, we talked to the man who solved it.

When it showed up on January 4, 2012 the mysterious image contained a simple message in white text on a black background:

“Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in the image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few who will make it all the way through. Good luck.”

It was signed “3301.”

And so began the hunt to solve the mysterious Cicada 3301 puzzle, one that recurs each year and has left cryptoanalysts and hackers scratching their heads.

A Multifaceted Enigma

Joel Eriksson is one of the few known people to have actually solved it since the first challenge appeared online.

“I stumbled upon it on one of the image boards the first image was posted to in 2012,” says Eriksson, a 34-year-old cryptosecurity researcher and developer from Sweden. “Unfortunately, I didn’t see it until some time after it was originally posted, and thus had some catching up to do,” Eriksson says. “Initially, I just thought it would be a nice little brainteaser. I’ve always been interested in anything that can challenge me, and I never give up. In the case of Cicada, the puzzle in question turned out to be a lot more than I thought it would be when I started it.”

Tackling the puzzle would lead Eriksson to rely on a host of skills from steganography to cryptography, to an understanding of ancient Mayan numerology and a familiarity with cyberpunk speculative fiction. As he worked his way from solving one piece of the puzzle to the next, the journey would lead him to discover that the answers lay not just in the digital domain, but in the real world: From clues left on the voicemail of a Texas telephone number to flyers taped to telephone poles in 14 cities around the world. The quest would ultimately return to the deepest layers of the digital world: the dark web.

From Reddit To Texas To The Dark Web

To understand how hard Cicada is, one only needs to look at the complexity of each clue that leads to successive parts of the puzzle–all which need to be completed in order to solve the Cicada mystery.

From the first image that was posted, Eriksson used steganography software to extract a message encoded with a shift cipher, where each letter of the text actually corresponds to another letter. Once he decoded the cypher, it revealed a URL where another image of a duck was posted. Here, he used steganography tools to reveal a hidden book code of a list of two numbers separated by a colon. The book code led to a Reddit URL with Mayan numerals on the top of the page. Eriksson noticed that several posts by a user using a pseudonym seemed to consist of encoded text. This text was the “book” the book code could be used to decode. But to find the cypher he needed to find the key first, which he gleaned from translating the Mayan numerals.

The now decoded text of the anonymous Reddit user’s postings revealed two images, both of which Eriksson used steganography tools on to find hidden messages with riddles inside them. The answer to these riddles were strings of digits that was a phone number in Texas. Calling the phone number led to a voicemail that read, “Very good. You have done well. There are three prime numbers associated with the original final.jpg image. 3301 is one of them. You will have to find the other two. Multiply all three of these numbers together and add a .com to find the next step. Good luck. Goodbye.”

Looking at the metadata of the image that started it all, Eriksson thought its height and width dimensions could be the other two numbers. He did the math and landed at a URL which had another image of a cicada and a countdown that told him when to return to the site.

When the countdown was over, the cicada image was replaced with strings of digits that looked like GPS coordinates. The coordinates led to telephone poles in countries around the world, including in Spain, Russia, America, France, Japan, and Poland. Due to geographic limitations, Eriksson had to rely on other people on the Cicada 3301 trail in those parts of the world. What the locals found were physical posters with images of a cicada and a QR code.

Eriksson scanned the QR code, which lead to another two images, inside of which were more hidden text, including text from what Eriksson found was the William Gibson poem Agrippa. Noting that the text referenced prime numbers, Eriksson surmised that perhaps the book code he used on the text found on Reddit might reveal where to go next if he used it on the Gibson poem. It worked. He was directed to an address on the anonymous Tor network.

However, by the time he arrived, Cicada 3301 had put up a message stating that they were disappointed in the groups of people that had formed to share parts of the puzzles they discovered without any one member completing all the steps along the way, as Eriksson had done.

Had Eriksson seen the first image as soon as everyone else did, and having solved the Cicada 3301 puzzle on his own, he would today know what laid beyond the Tor site Cicada had set up.

“It was quite disappointing,” Eriksson says. “Especially considering that the people who registered in time were mostly ones that had not actually solved much of the puzzles themselves. People were sharing solutions and collaborating a bit too much.”

But for Eriksson the time and effort it took him to beat Cicada weren’t a total loss. He solved every step of the world’s most baffling Internet enigma in just under three weeks and in the process gleaned a lot of insight into who or what Cicada 3301 is.

Who’s Behind Cicada 3301?

Ericksson’s impression of who might be behind the puzzle changed as he went along.

“Getting a phone number to call after solving one of the pieces of the puzzle was the first hint that this might not just be the work of a random Internet troll. This was definitely an unexpected turn,” Eriksson says. “The plot thickened even more when receiving a number of GPS coordinates. I also can’t help but to notice that the locations in question–USA, Poland, France, South Korea, and Australia–are all places with some of the most talented hackers and IT security researchers in the world.”

Cicada’s identity is one of the most hotly debated topics among people who try to solve the group’s now annual puzzles. Theories range from global banks that might be trying to set up new digital currencies to political think tanks to nefarious groups of hackers with anarchy on their minds. The most popular assumption, however, is a government intelligence agency like the CIA, NSA, and MI6 that may be trying to recruit talented cryptoanalysts like Eriksson–something Eriksson doesn’t think is likely.

“It is actually quite common for intelligence agencies and similar organizations to use non-traditional forms of recruitment, but in those cases they usually announce it officially rather than hiding their identity. One such example was the GCHQ challenge “Can you crack it?” a few years ago. It required deeper technical skills than the Cicada 3301 challenge, but the scope was much smaller and it required a lot less time to solve. If intelligence agencies used something like the Cicada 3301 puzzles to find people to recruit, they would probably end up with a lot of people that are not really interested in working for an organization such as theirs.”

So if it’s not an intelligence agency, who does Eriksson believe is behind it?

“It is most likely an underground organization, not related to any government or intelligence agency,” he says. “Based on the references in their challenges–the Agrippa poem by William Gibson, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake, The Book of The Law by Aleister Crowley–and their constant references to prime numbers and the like, they are likely intellectual, anti-establishment, ideologically driven and they seem to be valuing logical/analytical thinking highly. They seem to share a lot of ideology with the cryptoanarchy movement, and old-school hackers.”

As for the complexity of the puzzles, Eriksson says that Cicada wouldn’t even need to be that large of a group. “It really only takes one dedicated person to plan it all, but if I had to guess I would say it’s probably three to five with one of them being the main driving force. They probably spend about one to two months on setting everything up before each year’s puzzle. I think it’s possible to set up similar challenges in a much shorter amount of time as well, but not with as great attention to detail as Cicada 3301.”

What’s most interesting is that, though Eriksson didn’t make it in time to be allowed through the last door, presumably a few select others did. This begs the question: Why aren’t those people talking? After all, if you’re smart enough to crack the Cicada puzzle, wouldn’t you want to brag about it and become the hero of the hacker world by revealing who’s behind it?

Eriksson says there have been some leaks, with people claiming that they are or have been part of Cicada 3301–but the problem is that none of them can be confirmed. However, he doesn’t think the identity of who’s behind Cicada will ever be revealed–even by a bona fide winner.

“I don’t think that Cicada 3301 would reveal everything about themselves directly–or at all,” he says. “They would probably only reveal their purpose or their ideology, and what they expect from you as a part of the group, and then use anonymous means of communication to keep their identity hidden.”

“Regarding the desire to tell the world, I think that it depends on how you’re wired and what drives you. In my work as a security researcher for some very secretive and sensitive clients, I’m used to keeping secrets. If you are working for a cause you truly believe in, I don’t think keeping your mouth shut is that hard. The challenge for Cicada 3301 is to figure out which ones that truly believe in their cause.”

Advice For Current Cicada Hopefuls

This year’s Cicada 3301 puzzle is currently going on, having revealed its start to interested puzzle solvers with an image of a cicada that read: “Hello. Epiphany is upon you. Your pilgrimage has begun. Enlightenment awaits. Good luck. 3301.”

As no one is yet known to have solved the 2014 puzzle, the current Cicada hopefuls out there could learn a thing or two from Eriksson, who says he is not working on this year’s puzzle.

Though you don’t have to be a cryptoanalist savant, it doesn’t hurt to have years of logical and analytical training. “Logical and analytical reasoning has always come naturally for me,” Eriksson says. “I started reading when I was four years old, I started programming when I was seven. My parents knew nothing about computers, so I had to learn everything by myself.”

Eriksson says that due to his background in IT security, the cryptography and steganography related parts were actually quite easy. But when it came to the more esoteric references to poetry, literature, prime numbers, and number theory, “I believe my general interest in brain teasers and puzzles have been quite helpful,” he says. “Also, in a lot of cases, I felt that Cicada 3301 and me seem to have a very similar way of thinking. There is something much deeper going on than just the puzzles per se.”

As for his advice for this year’s a future Cicada cyber sleuths?

“Make sure that you have a good understanding of every part of the previous Cicada 3301 puzzles. If there is a subject you are not already well acquainted with, take your time to read and learn more about it. Try to solve as much as possible of the earlier puzzles by yourself rather than just reading through a write-up. For parts you do read, make sure you understand each step completely and try to think about how you would have arrived at the same conclusions by yourself.”

“Last but not least, enjoy the ride.”


Games Based Learning (Further reading)

There are many links and resources that are useful case studies when it comes to Games in the classroom.  Here are some amazing ones:
Gabe Zichermann: How games make kids smarter:Check out Gabe Zichermann’s TED talk to find out how video games can actually make kids smarter and better problem solvers.
Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks:Check out this video to see how you can turn a cheap Wii Remote into a sophisticated educational tool.
Professor Henry Jenkins on games-based learning at SxSWi 2009:MIT professor Henry Jenkins discusses why he thinks games are great learning tools in this video from SxSWi 2009.
Game-based Learning:This video offers an excellent introduction into the idea of game-based learning, exploring how digital games can share enriched learning experiences.
Games and Education Scholar James Paul Gee on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy:Learn about game learning from expert James Paul Gee, who explains the idea of situated and embodied learning, and how to helps students learn about problem solving.
Katie Salen on Game Design and Learning:Quest2Learn’s Katie Salen explains the philosophy of using game design for learning in the classroom in this video.
John Hunter: Teaching with the World Peace Game:John Hunter explains how he puts all of the world’s problems on a plywood board and uses the “World Peace Game” to encourage his 4th graders to solve them all, engaging them in learning and teaching complex lessons.
Game for Good Design Camp:Gaming in education comes full circle in this video from Generation Cures Game for Good Design Camp. Students learn about science, technology, engineering, and math while they design video games that help others learn.
Immersive learning: it’s game on!:Find out how immersive gaming environments can be useful for students and educators.
Stuart Brown: Play is more than fun:Dr. Stuart Brown discusses his research on play, explaining that gaming and play are important to healthy childhood development into adulthood.
What is Game Based Learning:Check out this video to find a brief introduction to game-based learning.
Game On! How Playful Learning Works:MIT’s video explains how playful learning works in an anywhere/everywhere state of play.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Joel:This video case study explores Joel Levin’s work as a school technology integrator, following him as he shares MinecraftEDU with second graders in New York City.
Game-Based Learning:This video explains the application of game-based learning with video presentation and resources.
Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman:Paul Andersen’s classroom is a video game, and you can learn how he puts video games to work in AP biology.
Video Games and the Future of Learning:Jan Plass and Bruce Horner lecture in this video, explaining the research and science behind video games and their future in education.
Game Based Learning in Special Education:Andre Chercka discusses his experience with game-based learning and how it can be applied to special education in this talk.
Steve Keil: A manifesto for play, for Bulgaria and beyond:View this talk to find out why Bulgarian Steve Keil thinks play is so important to education and society, and how we can reinvent learning to better share a sense of play.
Mission Impossible Physical Education Game:Check out this fun physical education game to see how kids can come together to think critically and work as a team.
The Gaming of Education:In this video, you’ll see how gaming can help kids learn and engage more deeply, and enjoy “The Great Brain Debate” as experts question whether gaming in education negatively contributes to digital information overload.
Brenda Brathwaite: Gaming for understanding:Game designer Brenda Brathwaite discusses how she created a game to help her daughter better understand the concept of slavery.
EdmodoCon 2011: Game Based Learning:Watch this video to see how high school teacher Hyle Daley integrates educational gaming into curriculum.
Integrating Games-based Learning: A Conversation with Tim Rylands:In this video, you’ll learn how to integrate games-based learning in your classroom.
Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and play:Designer Tim Brown explains how important play is to creative thinking, offering great ideas for bringing play into our lives and classrooms.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study: Lisa:Check out this video with 4th grade teacher Lisa Parisi as she uses freely available games from BrainPOP and Manga High to challenge them in math and science content.
Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world:Jane McGonigal’s talk explains how we can harness the power of gaming to solve real-world problems.
Nolan Bushnell Talks About Making Learning a Game:View this video from Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as he talks about changing the way kids learn in and out of school with gaming.
Game-based learning: what do e-learning designers need to know?:What makes educational games different? This video takes a look at what e-learning designers have to do differently when it comes to learning games.
Dawn Hallybone, Teacher, Learning Without Frontiers, London:In this video, British teacher Dawn Hallybone shares her strategies for bringing commercial video game technology to learning in order to motivate her students and improve educational outcomes.
Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!:Sir Ken Robinson shares his ideas for a radical shift in learning, bringing personalization and creativity to education, and allowing kids’ natural talents to grow.
Games and Learning in the Classroom with Teacher PrantikaDas:Follow this Microsoft Most Innovative Teachers Forum winner as she explains how she uses games to stimulate learning in her classroom.
Net Gen Ed: Game-based Learning:This video from Net Gen Ed explains the fundamentals of game-based learning and how to use games for educational purposes.
A Vision for 21st Century Learning:Check out this presentation on game based learning to better understand the ideas behind immersive learning environments.
Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning:How do you get boys interested in learning? Encourage them to play video games. Ali Carr-Chellman’s talk explains a great plan to engage boys in the classroom by bringing video games in.
Gaming in Libraries Class:See what Paul Waelchli has to say about teaching through game learning in this Gaming in Libraries course.
Ian Bogost on Serious Games:Get gaming expert Ian Bogost view on what serious games can do for education and beyond.
School Mods: Gaming the Education System:Jonathan Schneker’s talk is all about how video games can actually help us learn.
Education & business find uses for Serious Games:This piece from Euronews explains how computer games are breaking beyond entertainment and moving into the education and business world.
Game based Learning-How computer games and their design can be used in schools:Watch this video from the Festival of Education explaining why computer games are an essential part of 21st century curriculum.
James Paul Gee on Learning with Video Games:Gaming expert James Paul Gee shares his insight into why video games make great learning tools.
Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain:Watch Tom Chatfield’s TED talk to find out how games engage and reward our brains to keep us going for more.
Consolarium on BBC News: Gaming in Education:Scottish educators explain how the Nintendo DS is making a difference in engagement and educational attainment for Scottish students.
Dr. Paul Howard-Jones – Neuroscience, Games & Learning:Dr. Paul Howard-Jones discusses the science of game-based learning as he explains how gaming engages the brain in education.
Welcome to the Digital Generation:This series of videos from Edutopia explains great ideas for teaching today’s digital generation.
The Money Game:In this financial education game, students learn basic money management and wealth creation principles, making personal finance education fun and easy.
Brenda Laurel:Brenda Laurel’s talk on games for girls offers interesting ideas for getting female students more engaged in game learning.
Game-Based Learning in Higher Education:Game-based learning isn’t just for kids. Watch this talk from the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching to find out why and how game-based learning can be used for higher education.
James Paul Gee on Grading with Games:Game-based learning expert James Paul Gee explains how kids can learn, and be graded, with games.
Teaching with Games: GLPC Video Case Study: Steve:Technology instructor Steve Isaacs discusses how he uses video game design and development in 7th grade curriculum, developing 21st century skills and helping to motivate students.
Douglas Thomas on Video Game Learning: Interacting with Media:Watch this video from the MacArthur Foundation to find out how video games can serve as powerful learning tools for students
This is a cross-post from content partners at

BETT 2013

What to look out for:

Prof Brian Cox keynote 12:30  Feb 1st
Tim Rylands 10:30 Feb 2nd
Sugata Mitra 1230 Feb 2nd

Learning Together area with

BETT video conferencing day 31st Jan lots of cool people doing seminars from 1030 until 1430

SEN zone – I am hoping for better things this year from SEN zone.  Last year was a little disappointing. 

Technology training live has lots of training on all day 30th jan from ipads to science and maths

Learn live MS theatre
Weds to Sat.  Again lots of fun stuff from seminars on BYOD…cloud computing and all that jazz

Learn live – sponsored by NAACE
Lots of cool stuff from people such as Leon Cych, Steve Bunce Miles Berry, Penny Patterson, Eben Upton, Tony Sheppard, David Rogers,l

Learn Live SEN also looks fab on Weds 30th January

The schook leaders summit at BETT has some really interesting strategic people from DfE and inspectorates across the world. 

Exam boards
WJEC stand f106 ..get some computer science resources

SMART technologies are on stand c240 and are showing new multitouch projector LightRaise 60wi

Learn live – Jan 30 to 31st Higher Education is quite good and has many good speakers talking about VLE, blended learning, MOOC’s, eportfolios, digital reputation (pete yeomans)

Learn Live – Learning at work 30th to 1st Feb.  BBC Academy and so on.  Good if you are CPD lead in corporate world too.

Links uk

…..and as its the new year im looking at

#ICT500 Rethinking ICT

There are some amazing posts from many esteemed colleagues, teachers and advisors on rethinking ICT. I am assuming, as a reader, we are aware of all the reports, discussions and the plethora of groups who have staked a claim to support ICT and computing but lets cut to the chase. I know we need to speak to learners, I know we have blank canvas and I know I am doing what I always hate..solutioneering but here goes.

A balanced curriculum with entitlement for all students. The content will have a mix of flavours as does science education does with biology, chemistry and physics. We need ICT users ..but proficient users…actually expert users. We need people to make software too and get a real interest in how it works. We also need to keep students safe and make them aware of the risks as well as experience the benefits across the school and at home for learning in, and beyond, the classroom.

Do we need spreadsheets, databases..I would say yes
Do we need word processing and publishing ..of course
Do we need games development and design ..yes but I would say the the systems life cycle is applicable to this as well as app development.
Do we need a Internet use and safety? that has to be inherent for all year groups
And so on…..

What’s new then dan?……well NOTHING BUT EVERYTHING

What? I know, well what I mean is that the core we had was already there. we now have the option to really move on. Lets use open source as an example. Free to use, distribute, change, share, update and evolve. We can feel safe in the knowledge that we can use all kinds of tools to promote these skills.

A few things worry me though:

Assessment and transferring between key stage to build upon prior knowledge and skills.
Skills versus capability ..Please let’s not go back to claim or ECDL.
ICT staff training and ‘it’s easier to use this off the shelf one from Pearson etc’

Finally…..just remember what’s wrong…when Developing your curriculum think about what you really hated teaching and what kids didn’t enjoy, but down stray away from the hard stuff or the mundane.. However the process to evidence such as printscreens which STILL drive me crazy. Take OCR nationals And DiDA for example..let’s move more to the DiDA model of electronic eportfolio of work and description of the process rather than mind numbing before and after Printscreens of OCR.

anyway I have probably missed some stuff out here but tried to put a more practical angle to allow this. I hate typing on an iPad so sorry for any typos.