Tag: Technology

Geekness & Howduino

So today (Tuesday 13th) is Embrace Your Geekness Day. A day to be proud (As usual I hope) of your geekness, and maybe even a day to be proud of fellow geeks. Personally, I’m proud to be a geek and I’m happy to say I’m proud of my fellow geeks, such as the wonderful Kitty, the corntastic Josie and of course the guys like Collin Mel and everyone else (Lets not go into the list of those we are not proud of, we all know who they are).

So my question is, what did you do to embrace your geekness and that of others?

In other news, HowduinoNCL is coming up, anyone going? Have anything special planned? My plan is still somewhat…vague, but I’m open to other ideas if someone wants help!

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Updates of a general sort

Science!

Indeed, science! Not just any science, back yard science! Or atleast rented warehouse science. In recent news has been the story of a man who, when not working as a web developer, has developed a fusion reactor. Yes thats right, a nuclear reactor, in a warehouse in Brooklyn. The DIY project itself cost over $39000 with the majority of the bill funded by the amateur scientist. You can read more at your news outlet of choice, including the BBC.

Technology!

If you haven’t heard, it is element-14 first birthday. Happy birthday to them!
As part of this they have been running some trivia quizzes, and guess who won one. The prize was a high quality element-14 t-shirt. Some of the best packaging so far. Compressed down to a smaller t-shirt brick.

Blogs!

Messy Carla’s facebook page has reached 100 fans, I’m sure one or two of you may be interested in making that number higher.
If you are interested in a fashion blog, check out Carla’s at http://messycarla.blogspot.com

Everything Else?

Attention Scum!

No, I don’t just mean that as a greeting, I mean the TV series by Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee and friends (Including Kevin Eldon…). Really, why did it have to end? It was a work of genius. If anyone knows whether it can be found on DVD I’d love to know!

Short blog is short, if theres anything you want to see here next time, speak up. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the weather.

Rant Time.

Todays topic of ranting is dating websites. Don’t want to read? Don’t look.

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Steam, Portals, Facebook Rant, Other!

If you haven’t already seen around the interwebs, Steam, the popular gaming software for PCs, has made its way to Mac. Is this a good thing? Yes! Despite the common misconception, Macs can be used for gaming (Yes yes shock, awe etc. etc.). With the release of Steam, the number of games you can easily find has just gone up. As a result of the recent release, and it being for Mac, the number of games available is limited and currently hangs around 63, and that is just the New Releases. What does this mean for Mac users? Simple. Fun. The current available games are some of the old classics and the newer classics and of course the new indie games like World Of Goo. There is however one other game which has been able to sneak in. For a limited period, Portal is available free. Cool huh?

While it is all well and good that Steam has made it to Mac, I do still have one or two minor issues with it. The first, where is the Linux client? Especially for the indie games! Come on guys, not a challenging one. Second, and slightly more important, is the interface. Sure it is nice and shiny, and like everyone I like the interface to change from the norm from time to time. This however does it but not exactly as well as it could. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but there is something about the way it works that puts me off.

The main thing that sold me? Portal. Why? It sounded interesting and to be honest so far it is, if only in a bahmybrainsdeadandneedsomethingtooccupyme kinda way. It is one of those puzzle games that will get you thinking. A mix of platformer and puzzle with a hint of broken physics and good graphics. Worth checking out. You may be able to expect some form of proper review at a later time.

Rant time. So assuming a good number of you use that facebook thing, can we also assume that at some point recently you have came across one of these groups that requires you to complete a survey, shave a goat and for the odd one you will no doubt also have to touch a sheep in an inappropriate place. Yes? Of course you have, because it now seems that only 1 in 40,000 doesn’t require you to do that (Exaggerated statistics courtesy of the magic world of cheese). Why? Seriously, why?! I don’t care about your ‘survey’/scam. Just let me move on. Yes I know there are sites that still have some of this content available without the need to hit that ‘Like’ button, but I don’t care. This way used to be easier. </ mini rant>

In other news! Birthday times! Yes indeed, this week it was the birthday of a previously mentioned blogger Carla (Twitter). Happy birthday!


ICSP?

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


Election?

So the UK general election is soon, and as such all the wild claims are around. Now one side of it all I’m keeping an eye on is the science and technology side to it. One such area of this is broadband.

Recent claims by government say they want every home to have atleast 2mb broadband. I, and it seems, many others are really quite shocked by this. Such ideas in this age could be compared to saying everyone should have a rotary phone (Not such a bad idea if its this). With the current state of technology 2mb is slow, even for home users. While yes it is true that 50mb such as that offered by Virgin Media is fast, it is still very slow compared to the services available in other countries.

As pointed out by someone in a discussion earlier today, Britain’s consumer broadband is nothing compared to other countries. For example, on average 2mb in this country can cost the consumer around £15 per month and £30+ for 50mb. Meanwhile, if you hop on the plane, Zeppelin or other form of transport and go over to Hong Kong, you can expect to pay approximately (HK)$99 (As the time of writing, this is around £9) for 1000mb broadband. Yes thats right, £9 for 1 gigabit home connection (Source: HKBN).

So whats going on here? Elsewhere you can pay LESS to have more while we are practically struggling to get the whole country to be broadband enabled (I say all, this isn’t going to happen. Not when companies such as BT quote a farmer £64000 to have a broadband connection…). In the event anyone can find some sort of reason why the government and the candidates are seemingly ignoring the obvious on this one, please tell us. I’m sure the country wants to know why they want to give the least possible to everyone when the technology is there and relatively cheap.

Complaint over, next time, why they won’t fund more research into cheese distribution…

Edit:

A friend was kind enough to remind me about another issue that seems to plague British ISPs. Thats right, download limits. (and upload speeds, but that is another complaint). In this day and age, many people enjoy watching videos on the likes of youtube, why are ISPs limiting how much you can download. Lets think about this for a second, watch a few videos, download the necessary OS updates, check your emails etc. That is pushing it when you are limited to 5GB. Yes, some users will not use that much, the majority will however. Yes, some limits can be appropriate for running a website, but for consumers? Really? There is no need for it to be so low. It has been shown by the likes of Virgin and many others that a fair use policy works. If any one can explain this, go ahead, but we already know one excuse is just greed.


EAGLE!

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 http://tinkerlondon.com/what-we-do/workshops/introduction-to-eagle-for-advanced-arduino-users


Ada Lovelace Day

Indeed, today is Ada Lovelace Day. If you haven’t already, go show some appreciation. If you already have, do it again!

Not sure what the day is about? Check out http://findingada.com/

So who is your inspiration? As the day is about showing your appreciation and showing support for women in science, technology, engineering and all the other related fields, I’d write a blog explaining why the named few are awesome. However, partly because I’m lazy, and partly because my brain is fried today, I’ve decided to keep it simple and just list them with a sentence or two explaining why.

In no particular order;

  • Mel – A science, a geek and just plane awesome.
  • Kitty – Crazy geologist with a dinosaur. What more can be said?
  • Radina – Brilliant computer scientist, even if its denied!
  • Limor – For showing theres no limits in what can be done, as demonstrated by adafruit industries.
  • Emma – Despite what may be claimed, she is still great at what she does.
  • Hayley – Great science writer, one of the people behind Geek Pop.
  • Steph – Not strictly a scientist, but wishes she was. Good enough for me! Oh and she remembers a biology course, thats enough 😉

This list is by no means complete as there are just so many names that could go on it. In any case <3 to them all!


Blogs! Science! Science Blogs!

So after this weekends MakerFaireUK and the associated Virtual Treasure Hunt, a few blogs and sites have shown up that are worthy checking out:

Any other sites you think should be on there? Comment and they may be added!

Highlights of the MakerFaire include: all of it.


Science!

So this coming weekend (13/14th March) is MakerFaire UK in Newcastle as part of the Newcastle Science Fest. So who is going? What are you looking forward to the most?

If you are reading this after the event, what did you enjoy the most?


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