Surface Pro 4: Episode 2

OK, I decided that I was confident enough to use the Surface Pro for my Open Day presentations at Nottingham today. All the software operated as expected! I used Bluebeam PDF Revu 12 for PDF annotation, Pen Attention to highlight the pointer, and X-Mouse button so that I could programme the middle mouse button to give the keystroke I need to toggle the highlighting on and off. I also used Gunnar Andersson’s excellent software WZebra (see to help with my fun morning talk on strategy for the board game Othello.

I am trying to decide on the best screen resolution to fit with the local data projection facilities. Currently I am trying both 1280 x 800 and 1280 x 960. Either way I sacrifice a bit of the Surface Pro screen. At the moment I prefer 1280 x 960 in order to have the full height available.

I like the way that the device detects the pen and can then ignore touch. That way I can continue to use the touch facility when I want to. On the other hand, sometimes I accidentally touch the screen with a hand/finger before the pen is close enough to the screen to disable this, with random results. This is no major problem so far.

I do keep accidentally clicking the right click button on the pen. I haven’t yet found how to disable this completely. By default Bluebeam activates the lasso tool when you right-click during inking, but I have turned that off and it now doesn’t matter if I accidentally click that button while writing.

Sometimes I found the device changed orientation without me deliberately changing a setting. It took me a while to realise that it has a genuine physical autorotate feature: just picking it up the right way round will sort out the orientation (and picking it up a different way may change the orientation to something you don’t want). So I am happy with this now.

My problem with the wireless regularly becoming inactive has gone away for now. I expect this will come back, and so I had still better try to find out what setting is behind this. It may be a power management setting: I saw something about this online while Googling on a related issue.

I should try out Camtasia and also Echo360 personal capture soon. (Perhaps the issues I had previously with Echo360 personal capture will be resolved when I use the Windows Surface (or by upgrades in the software since I last tried it). However, I wouldn’t want to use the device’s webcam for the video footage of me (it is too scary when a pen approaches the tablet!). As the device only has one USB port, I will either have to use a USB hub, or else change to a Bluetooth mouse, if I want to attach a USB webcam too. (I quite like the reliability of a wired mouse at the moment!) Comments and suggestions on this are welcome!

Surface Pro 4

I am now trying out a Surface Pro 4. I have installed Bluebeam PDF Revu 12 on this for now, along with Kenrick Mock’s latest version of Pen attention for Windows 10. I’ve also attached a wired USB mouse, and I am using X-Mouse Button Control to get the required toggle keystroke {ctrl}{alt}{f9} from the middle mouse button.

I will report back as and when I iron out a few wrinkles!

(OT) Fine Art Degree Show, the University of Nottingham

My wife, Uta, is graduating this summer at the end of her BA (Hons) Fine Art degree at  the University of Nottingham.

The Fine Art Degree Show (including some of Uta’s work) opened June 11th and finishes on Sunday 3rd July.

See for details of the show, and for more of Uta’s art!

Frag doch mal die Maus!

As part of our attempt to bring up our children to be bilingual, we all mostly watched German TV when the children were young. One particularly good programme was (and is) the entertaining and informative “Die Sendung mit der Maus”. I learned something new every week from that programme!

This evening we watched some of a spin-off evening quiz programme Frag doch mal die Maus! (Currently available at questions are quite interesting and fun.

At one point the teams had to estimate the number of blades of grass (main stem only) on a football field. I won’t reveal the “official” answer they suggested, but I will say that the two teams’ estimates differed by a factor just over 40. But how should you judge the winner here? In this case, the lower answer was “closer” numerically, but not of the correct order of magnitude, while the other answer was of the correct order of magnitude, but further from the official answer numerically. I thought that answer was better, but I think the other answer took the points.

(Would it be better to take logs?)


Challenging General Relativity

My colleague Thomas Sotiriou has sent me the following information about recent public engagement outreach events he has been involved in, with videos available.

We had two outreach events in the last few months. One was about gravitational waves and the other was a series of four public talks celebrating the centennial of General Relativity. All talks for both events have been recorded and can be found here (together with more info about the events)!outreach/c10aq

Swiss cheeses

My readers may know that I do a lot of research on Swiss cheeses (though being mathematical, they tend to have infinitely many holes) [Note added: the Swiss cheeses, not the readers!].



My latest joint paper on Swiss cheeses with my research students Sam Morley and Hongfei Yang, Abstract Swiss cheese space and classicalisation of Swiss cheeses , has just been published in Elsevier’s Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications. Thanks to funding from the EPSRC, this article has been made Open Access, so anyone can access the final published version free of charge at

Of course much of the material is beyond the level of the typical undergraduate course. Nevertheless, students in 3rd/4th year might get something from looking at this. Abstract Swiss cheese space itself is really just a product of a sequence of standard spaces, but with elements interpreted as sequences of centres and radii of “abstract” discs. The two basic elementary geometric lemmas could probably be taught at GCSE!


Selected links

I have compiled a somewhat biased selection of links which I issue at the maths outreach events I run at the University of Nottingham.

Here is what I provide at the moment!

Some useful and interesting links, selected by

Dr Joel Feinstein, Outreach Officer,

School of Mathematical Sciences,

The University of Nottingham

You may also find it useful to look up some mathematical topics on Wikipedia!