element14 + Build Updates

So it appears that I am this months Member of the Month over at element14. Quite a surprise, no acceptance speech or anything though. Instead you get this old photo

Coming soon is the UK Maker Faire 2013 in Newcastle, I’ll be there, will you?


Build Updates!

The pep build is slowly coming on. Currently onto smoothing out the shell and getting the ears cut and built to go on. Need to find a suitable way to construct the lenses for the eyes.

New project is to build a guitar amp, and as a side project an Atari Punk. This started off well, until discovering I had forgotten to order a few heatsinks for the PSU. Fingers may have been slightly cooked.

What I’ve been up to…


Pep build, a set on Flickr.

Following on from the element14/Texas Instruments Ultimate Road Test, it was time for a little break. The solution was to work on something I’ve been planning a while. There were so many options for what to do, but in the end, there was only really one choice, the ever popular Storm Trooper.

Cue a good few hours work cutting out and joining the pep files (Naturally, I ended up finding on without the tabs on. That was fun…), next step was to reinforce it all. The simplest way was polyester resin and fibreglass. A bit of a messy job, but it seems to be working well. Next step is to remodel the areas that need it (Milliput and body filler), and after that is to paint it. This may take a while, but worth it.

For a first attempt, it isn’t going to be screen accurate, maybe next time though.

Quick Survey!

Survey Closed: No More Entries Needed

Should only take a minute, thanks!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

New Project

New project up now! Read about it on Behance

Next versions may be available for sale. Get in touch if you are interested!

Mini Project

New mini project up today. Following a request on Twitter from a researcher looking for a search application, I was curious and started writing my own. A few hours research (Mostly rebuilding git after a machine rebuild) and a basic design and program is ready to go. Although it has a few issues and some missing features, the tool takes a query from the command line and returns the 15 newest results. These are then outputted to a CSV file for later use. To take care of the heavy lifting, the Twitter4j library is used.

Want to try it or contribute it? Have a look at the repository.

Hidden Science Map

Think scientists are just stuck in labs all day and follow all the stereotypes? Well you are wrong! Slightly. No promises about some of the stereotypes…

To prove this, the Science Council launched the Hidden Science Map project. The map, aimed at school children is designed to show that scientists, engineers and technologists are everywhere. They play the same sports as you, shop in the same places you do and have ‘normal’ lives.

If you are a scientist, engineer or technologist, I urge you to sign up and get yourself on the map to help promote STEM careers!


Over the past year I have been working on a project using purely Arduinos. Now that this project is nearly over, I have decided to take the optional step of taking it further.

The plan so far is to still use the Arduino environment, but load the code onto a custom PCB. This should allow the software to remain the same while allowing a massively reduced version of the hardware (The current modules can be compared to bricks). To do this there are two options, an FTDI cable/chip or to program the uC directly. While FTDI chips are cool and everything, I decided against it with the option to include on at a later stage in the process. This left the option of programming the uC directly.

To do this rather than go for a nice AVR programmer such as those produced by Atmel, I went for the altogether more fun option and went with Adafruit Industries’ USBtinyISP. As usual, Oomlout showed off and got it packed and shipped allowing it to arrive 2 days later, and in their usual way, Adafruit did the same with an excellent kit.

To the kit! So what do you need to make it so simple? Aside from the usual tools (This was one of the few times I wish I had an actual PCB vice and not just some helping hands and a spare finger), I’d highly recommend having some good music on and some milkshake. Why? Why not? Everyone should have a decent beverage while working. Based on the weather and the general mood of the day, milkshake seemed appropriate. Assuming you follow the instructions and read them (Yeah, I didn’t do that the first time on one or two sections…), the kit is easy to build with everything explained where required. If there was one thing I’d recommend, it would be to have some bluetak (Or equivalent) handy for when you solder the headers.

What happens when its done? COmpleted USBtinyISPWell you get something that looks like this. Your next step as you may have guessed is to test it and use it. If you plan on using it with your Arduino to add a bootloader, you may become slightly confused by how to connect it. The best guide to tell you which way to plug it in can be found on the Adafruit forum here. It provides pictures and descriptions just to make the whole process easier.

If you are starting out with this side of working with microprocessors, or even if you are experienced, you will no doubt find this fun and educational. Congratulations to Adafruit for producing such a useful tool and well done to Oomlout for working so well to distribute it over here!

Arduino Information

Once upon a time there was a page of links relating to Arduino and general electronics, since then it has evolved into something slightly more. There is no space for general links, information about tools, tutorials, projects and maybe even some resources for the above!

If there is something you think should be added or changed, say so here!

Arduino Guide


Use Arduino or another platform and want to make your own PCBs? Even if you don’t and want to use create your own for another purpose?

The first step is to design the board. One popular way for hobbyists is to use a program known as EAGLE. The free version provides the ability to design simple boards to a specification suitable for professional production. At a glance the program can be a bit confusing for new users, however help is at hand.

element14 and TinkerLondon have got together to help out. On Saturday 15th May 2010, the two companies are working together to put on a workshop in London. For £10, you get a full day introduction to the tool.

More information can be found at

A plan?


So a while back, there was a mention of plans for something aimed at making the life of developers/tinkerers/others easier. Particularly those who use who use I2C. Now as we all know I2C can operate with just one device on the bus, which is all fairly simple, but what if you need more? You need to build a bus!

Yes this can be done easily on breadboard, and is just as simple on perf board (strip board or whatever you care to call it), what about when you want to implement it? Or you just want something slightly better for say… teaching? Well one option is to go and make your own PCBs, or another is to find someone who already has. I2C PCB

Over the past few months in a few moments of spare time (and alot of waiting), I have produced a quick solution that may be of interest. This simple PCB provides a data line, clock line, power lines and a spare line for you to use with whatever I2C devices you wish. Including is space for the pull up resistors where needed and a power LED (Note: this LED should have a resistor on board, but was missed off this version). This version, almost as demonstrated by the errors in it and missing features is just a proof of concept.

However, if there is enough interest, there is a chance a production run could be done for a suitable price. If you are interested, leave a comment!


Got questions? Just ask! This is just the start and suggestions are always welcome.

  • Is the source available?

    Currently the source for this is not available as I do not wish to put something out there with such errors or a lack of documentation. It may however become available later.

  • Is a sample available to test?

    Maybe…If you are really interested, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. The board may be free, the postage may require a minor contribution depending on location and how nice you are


Got questions for me about anything (Other than the above!)? Ask them here or in the comments! The best ones may even get posted.


So in a passing conversation on twitter, the subject of geeky fashion came up. For any one that knows me, you’ll be aware that the closest I get to anything with style is a fancy design on a t-shirt. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t pass up advice from something of an expert. In this case, Carla, and her blog MessyCarla: A Fashion Blog In Size 16

In terms of geeky guys, take a look at This

Don’t forget to check out her competition!

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