Eurodim 2014: a brief report

Eurodim 2014, the 12th Europhysical Conference on Defects in Insulating Materials, was held at the University of Kent from 13-19 July 2014. I have attended the Eurodim/ICDIM series of conferences fairly continuously for the past 30 years; previously I organised Eurodim 1998 at Keele, and helped organise the programme for ICDIM 2008 in Aracaju, Brazil. I had a small part in helping organise Eurodim 2014, although the local team deserve most of the credit (Maria Alfredsson, Alan Chadwick, Emma McCabe and their very capable band of postgraduate students)  !

Over the years the conference series has evolved in its coverage from mainly colour centres to the inclusion of ion transport in solids and wide band semiconductors. The attendance has had its ups and downs, but is typically around 100-200 delegates, depending on timing and location. It features plenary and contributed lectures and poster sessions, and depending on the organisers it can have parallel sessions as well.

This year’s conference included plenary lectures from:

  • Richard Catlow (University College London, UK)
  • Mauro Fasoli (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy)
  • Brian Sales (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA)
  • Philippe Smet (University of Ghent, Belgium)
  • Francois Treussart (ENS Cachan, France)
  • Marie-Genevieve Blanchin   (University of Lyon, France)

There was also a special session in honour of Patrick Jacobs, who died in 2013 and who made such important contributions to our field (see my post about him here). This session included contributions from Alastair Cormack, Phuti Ngoepe, Miguel Moreno, David Smith and myself. Alex Shluger was unable to attend due to illness, but his paper was presented by his co-author Dr S Ling.

There was the usual spread of interesting talks and posters at the conference, and I returned full of ideas for future work. I hope to post about some of these later in the summer, before the semester and the ‘mad times’ return!

The conference had some excellent social highlights, including the welcome reception which coincided with the World Cup Final (Germany versus Argentina, which Germany won, much to the delight of our German delegates), and the conference excursion to Whitstable, which included beer tasting courtesy of Shepherd Neame. And I shouldn’t forget the conference dinner in Darwin College.

Finally, I’m in the process of putting together a gallery of photos from the conference, and they will appear shortly on my web site,

Connecting a USB memory stick/drive to a Nexus 7 tablet

Following my post of the end of last week about using a tablet instead of a laptop at a conference, another unforeseen issue I encountered was how to read a USB memory stick using the tablet. The conference provided all the information on a memory stick, but I couldn’t read it with the Nexus! (It didn’t matter on this occasion because I was able to access the information online, but this might not always be the case.)

So, after a bit of quick research online, I found the solution, which was to purchase a cable which connects the Nexus’s micro USB port to a USB adaptor which you can plug a memory stick into. You can find these on sale online for less than £10 (UK). You then need to install a good file reading app, like Total Commander, from the Google Play store, and download the USB plugin (free for a 30 day trial but then very cheap). It works perfectly, and also provides a sneaky way of expanding the Nexus’s memory!

Foursquare closes another door

With the latest update to its Android app, Foursquare now forces check ins to be done via Swarm (my workround involving uninstalling Swarm no longer works). This means that points are harder to get for frequently checked in locations. It’s still possible to get them if Foursquare itself recognises the location you’re at and invites a check in. But otherwise you have to check in via Swarm, and it’s a points lottery. It remains to be seen if, when the new Foursquare app is finally rolled out, it’s possible to earn points at all!

Tablet shortcomings, or should I keep taking the tablet?

About a year ago I posted about taking a tablet on a research trip to Vienna in place of a laptop. I was pretty positive about the overall experience. At the time I was using a budget Coby Kyros tablet, but it managed to do almost everything I needed it to do. Since then I have replaced the Coby with a Nexus 7, and although I have taken it on some short trips, the conference I have just attended in Canterbury was the first proper test of its capabilities as a laptop replacement. How did it do? Well, the WiFi at the University of Kent was uniformly excellent, so there were none of the connectivity issues I sometimes experience. It was great for email and for reading most attachments, but I made an interesting discovery about reading and writing word documents. I have QuickOffice and Documents to Go installed, but neither were capable of reading, let alone editing and preparing, a document containing Greek letters, equations and symbols. Microsoft Office for Android still hasn’t been released for tablets (although it may appear later this year, apparently). Now, normally this wouldn’t matter, but while I was at the conference I had a couple of requests for resit exam questions. I devised some questions, and then set about trying to type them up. At that point I realised it couldn’t be done with the software installed, and I had to send apologies with a promise to get them done on my return (so a job for tomorrow). I did investigate one work round app, called CloudOn, which seemed to make reading the documents possible (a start) but it’s not available offline, which basically makes it pretty useless to me. So just now I’m wondering if I might have to go back to taking a laptop with me on trips longer than a couple of days. This could be an excuse for an upgrade (and there are some impressive lightweight options available), since my current 4 year old netbook is getting a bit flaky. This needs careful consideration, but I am a bit disappointed that the tablet couldn’t deliver in this respect, at least not yet.

Charged devices and air travel

We have learned in the last few days that passengers boarding US-bound flights from Heathrow and Manchester (and presumably other airports) will have to show that their electronic devices are charged before being allowed to board. This policy sounds simple and possibly even sensible, but it has the potential of causing serious problems to ‘power users’ who may have spent several hours before their flights working, with the result that their device(s) may be low on power by then.

For example, these days I travel with a smartphone and either a tablet or laptop. The tablet (a Nexus 7) has an impressive battery life, but the phone and laptop do not! My phone, a Samsung Galaxy S3,  typically only lasts 8 hours or so between charges, so I carry a spare battery and an external charger. Supposing I have a 12:00 flight from Heathrow to the US, my phone will have been in use for at least 5 hours prior to departure. When the battery gets low I either change it or plug in the charger, but neither of these activities are particularly compatible with going through immigration! And quite what the reaction would be if I opened up my phone to change the battery on a flight does not bear thinking about! So I am very concerned about these developments,  which will no doubt be rolled out to all flights and destinations soon. It will make things difficult for those of us who need to use our electronic devices before, during and after travelling. We’ll see how it affects my next trip.

Another Foursquare workround

In my last post I mentioned that the latest update to the Android Foursquare app forces you to check-in using Swarm. The main problem with this is that you don’t always get points. I thought about this, and wondered about uninstalling Swarm to see if that would get Foursquare checking in back. Yesterday I tried it, and it works, at least for now. You keep getting requests to install Swarm, but they can be ignored!
So for now, and hopefully until the ‘new’ Foursquare app rolls out, this is a solution which at least enables points to be gained for all check-ins.

Foursquare: latest changes to the Android app

I have noticed that the latest ‘update’ to the Android Foursquare app, which I downloaded this morning, now forces you to check-in via Swarm. I had found a workround (see last post) which enabled Foursquare itself to still be used, and points to be obtained, but this no longer works.

Checking in via Swarm sometimes gives you points and sometimes doesn’t. It seems that the Foursquare team’s plan to remove points completely (as they have already done for mayorships) is taking effect. As I said before, this is a great pity. I’ll continue to use it to record where I travel, etc, but a lot of the fun of using it has gone.

Chemistry, Academia, Travel, Technology, Politics and Music


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