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Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, who astonishingly never won a Nobel despite having ideas that we don't even have the technological capability of verifying (yet?), has died at the age of 76. He not only devised some unbelievable (and often contrary) theories (such as "Hawking radiation"), he also had the ability to communicate the big theories in a way that made the rest of us feel like we might be on the verge of understanding amazing things.
But, alas, today, on Pi Day, we mourn the passing of the one guy who might have managed to suss it all out. And with that one singularity caused by his death, the entire of humanity has dropped a few IQ points.

Thank you, Stephen.



That mysterious thing I've been working on... Well, as you may recall, I have been learning the Japanese syllabaries - hiragana and katakana. The thing is, I've been "learning" for about eight years.
So I thought, if I made myself a learning/testing program, maybe I can improve by using that?

The end result is the first release of KanaTutor, which was quietly uploaded to !Store on Monday. I didn't make any fanfare or announcement as... real world stuff is happening which takes precedence. So here's a little bit of fanfare.


KanaTutor is not a one-stop way to learn Japanese. You need to have some basic familiarity with what the kana actually are, why there are two sets for pretty much the exact same sounds, and why ふ, ぶ, and ぷ are entirely different things.

When you start KanaTutor, an あ will appear on the icon bar. Clicking on this will open the choices window:

Your first aid for learning is the learn kana option. You will be asked which kana you would like to learn (hiragana, katakana, or both) and whether or not you want the dakuten (with a " like symbol - ぶ) or handakuten (with a ° like symbol - ぷ) variations. Finally you'll be asked if you want to see them in order, or randomised. When you have made your choice, the learning window will open:


For quick reference, you can view a table of the kana. Click the "Switch" icon to switch between hiragana and katakana:


Where KanaTutor can help is if you go into test mode. The options here are similar to the learning, so if you only know the basic katakana you can test yourself on those and not worry about the rest. You can choose whether you would like to be tested from kana to sound, or from sound to kana. Finally, you can choose a test length.

Here is an example of being tested from kana to sound:

And here is an example of being tested from sound to kana:


And, finally, if you should score 90% or better, you'll be shown a random "useful kanji" from a small selection. This is just a little extra thing so you can get to recognise some very basic kanji - you aren't tested on this and can ignore it completely if you aren't interested.


The first release is available on !Store now, so start it up and look for KanaTutor (it's FREE), or head over to to get your copy of !Store...


Geek toys

I bought a book on how to build geek toys from a place called Noz. It's a shop that specialised in end-of-line, surplus, and otherwise messed up goods. You never know quite what you're going to find, given that mom once bought a book that was the first three chapters repeated four times.

So, the geek toys book. Has some nifty little things - this is amusing:

But, then, there's this. Which might be the reason this book was in the Noz:

Yeah... So to cook a hot dog, just take it, stick a fork in each end, wire the forks to a plug, shove in some random LEDs and then plug the thing into the mains.


I'm not going to ask "what could possibly go wrong?" because I think it's more a case of "what could possibly go right?".



Your comments:

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Pieter, 16th March 2018, 08:19
Congratulations with your KanaTutor! Wish I had RISC OS to try it. Since you already put some kanji in it, will you add more of those? It would be a useful flashcard system from zero up. Hope to speak (or write) some Japanese with you someday.
David Pilling, 29th March 2018, 03:16
I suspect you only get the Nobel if your theory has been verified by experiment. Perhaps that was the problem.
jgharston, 18th April 2018, 03:29
Do you use a Japanese layout keyboard with RISC OS? (Or as I would call it, a proper BBC layout :) ) What keycode does the Yen key generate? I've been developing USB keyboard drivers for the Beeb, and have just received a japanese keyboard from my nephew in Hong Kong. I know the Acorn keycodes for all the other japanese keys, but not Yen (see

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