Using a Raspberry Pi as an Access Point with Windows 10

I've got a few things running for my TechDays sessions next week. They are working fine on my home network. Now, I know that the conference will have WiFi, but in my experience this can be problematic. Sometimes they use browser based authentication steps which are hard to replicate on a device with no screen, keyboard or mouse. 

But I have a plan. I've got a portable access point that I use on occasions just like this. I know exactly which shelf it is stored on, in a nice little case and everything. So I go and grab it. Of course it's not there. It's not anywhere. Blarst.  

However, I do have a Raspberry Pi 3 which I was planning to take along as well. And it turns out that it will work as an access point too. And setting it up is a dead doddle. I started with the howto here. That got me the Windows 10 IoT Core Dashboard which is an awesome little program that will create an SD card to use to boot your Pi and then take you through connecting and configuring it. The great thing for me is that it lets you use a "naked" Pi, with no keyboard, mouse or screen. All the configuration can be done via the browser based control center. 

If you want to turn your Pi into an access point just head for the IoT Onboarding page you can see above, select a suitably obscure SSID and password and then save them. (I'd advise against the defaults). After a reboot you should have an access point which clients can connect to. 

If you want to share the wired network connection from your Pi you have to actually turn this on. The user interface here is a bit rubbish to be honest. There's nothing I could see that indicates if the sharing is on or off, and you have to make sure that you connect the right adaptors at each end. Which is why you might find the screenshot useful. Just select the items that you can see in the "Access point adaptor" and "Shared network adaptor" and then click the "start shared access" button. And then it all just works. Awesome. 

One tiny gotcha. On my Pi the SSID gets a bunch of hex characters added to it.  HullSSID would probably change to XY_HullSSID_ED50. Browse for the WiFi connection with another device before you put the text into a client program.

Building a Joke Alarm for Techdays

I'm doing a couple of sessions at TechDays next week. I'll be showing off a few HullPixelbots and a "Joke Alarm Button" device. The idea is that if I every say anything funny I can press the button and tell the world via Azure. I've no idea how I'm going to test it. 

I've fiddled with the software and now it's time to build the hardware. I've had the box for ages. It is large, yellow and has a big red button on the top. Today I thought I'd put something behind the button. The active component is my favourite device of the moment, the Wemos D1 mini. So I got one, programmed it up and connected it to the light in the button, expecting a light to brightly illuminate the button in an "impress the audience" kind of way. 

It was rubbish. A weedy little led that I could hardly see.

By now I was coming to the conclusion that today was going to be one of those "hard fought" days. By that I mean that everything I try to do will be difficult. Pin numbers will be wrong, leds will be wired the wrong way, some things won't work. And I'll probably burn my fingers at some point. 

First thing I tried was to add a little amplification to the led. The esp8266 is a wonderful device, but it doesn't put out much power. So I popped in a transistor to add some amplification and waited to be blinded. I wasn't. So next I found a larger led. Still rubbish. By now I'm getting worried. There's no point in turning up with hardware if it's not going to impress. 

So I fell back on technology that's served me well in the past. I dug out one of my neopixel rings and dropped it inside the button as you see above. Of course this was difficult. I had to dismantle the button. Then I had to fit the ring. The screws that I used fouled the button movement so I had to resort to the glue gun to fix the ring in place. And of course I burnt my fingers. Then I assembled it the wrong way round, wired it to the wrong pins and generally failed all over the place. But eventually I got a happy ending. 

The neopixels can display lots of colours, but of course the thick red plastic button means that only red works well. Never mind. I can do fancy animations and you can definitely tell when it's lit. 

The button switch itself was easy to wire up, although at one point my test software convinced me that it wasn't wired correctly. Anyhoo, I'll get the software hooked up tomorrow. 

I just hope things won't be quite so difficult. 

Old Tapes and Tidy Code

Did some tidying up today. The experience with my office has taught me a valuable lesson. 

"If you don't know you've got something, you might as well not have it"

I've been looking for things I didn't know I had, and then chucking them out. It's going quite well, what with two trips to the tip so far. 

This is one thing that I definitely know I have, and so I'll be keeping forever. It's my prized Sony TC-270 tape recorder. It might not look much, but thanks to its snap on speakers and ability to play music for several hours non stop (and quite loudly) it made me, if not a god amongst men, at least someone who could get the party started in my younger days. 

Apparently it was made at a time when all silicon transistors was something to brag about. It contains about twenty or so. 

Update: Done some digging. Just 18 transistors and 4 diodes. Your phone probably has several million. And they're silicon too.  

Hull Scooterists

There were some scooters down at the Hull Marina today. The Hull Scooterists were heading off on a charity run and they'd gathered in the sunshine before setting off. Some of the scooters were awesome. I took some pictures and of course the shot I really wanted to get came out blurred.

Note to self. Just because it looks sharp on the camera screen doesn't mean that it is actually sharp. 

But these lights came out OK. 

In one era and out the other

Well, that's it. My office is eerily empty. I've filled around thirty bags with rubbish and I've handed my keys in. Technically I'm still on the payroll of the university until the end of the month, but I'm not really working here any more. It's been very strange to watch the people around me planning for a whole bunch of things that I'm not going to be part of. 

I'm going to miss so many things about the university, particularly the staff in Computer Science and our amazing students, but I've got one or two silly plans (some of them involving cheese) and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when I start with them.

Of course I'll still be blogging. And maybe even the odd podcast and other things. The new C# Yellow Book will be out next week (apologies for the delay, it's been a busy week) and I've got some other ideas in the pipeline. It's going to be rather liberating to be able to spend time on stuff that I find interesting, and you can be sure that I'll be writing all about it. 

Leaving Do

Click through for the full 360 degree experience....

Click through for the full 360 degree experience....

We had my "leaving do" today. Organised by Helen with her customary efficiency and good humour. There was tea. And cake. And great people. I been working at the University of Hull. But the folks I've been working with are what has made it worth sticking around for 38 years. 

They are all awesome. I made this point as I said thanks to everyone for my lovely leaving gifts (posh pens, a silver photo frame and a lump of credit to spend on gadgets at Amazon. They know me well...

Some things in life I worry about. But as long as we have such a wonderful bunch of folks who care about what they are doing, the future of Computer Science in Hull is in great hands. 

Amazon Echo now in the UK

I've mentioned the Amazon Echo before. It is rather nice. Up until now the only way to get one was to import it yourself, which is what we do. Works a treat, as long as you are OK with only knowing the weather in Seattle. 

Anyhoo, after my positive review Amazon have decided to release it in the UK. Which means all kinds of useful UK services including trains, news and weather. I'm not completely sure how much of the american version will work once there is a "proper" version of the device in the UK, but even with it's slightly truncated feature set we've found it pretty useful. 

Cheese Yellow Book back from the printers

We got the latest copy of the C# Yellow Book back from the printers today. We had a whole bunch of copies printed for the new first year course, and to give away on Open Days. 

This is the "Cheese" edition. The changes are mainly evolutionary. Thanks to everyone who contributed comment and pointed out mistakes. The pdf version will be going live later in this week. Then I'll update the Kindle version. 

Paltry Post Office Pixel Parcel Provision

A Hull Pixelbot needs a pixel. The clue is in the name. Actually, having played around with it for a while, I think it needs a lot more pixels. I started using the 16 pixel rings but I found these both easy to destroy and rather pricey. An expensive combination. So instead I've tracked down these 12 pixel rings on AliExpress. They are slightly larger than the 16 pixel ones, they have fewer lights (the clue's in the number folks) but they work very well. 

And you can get five of them for eight pounds 17 pence, post free from China. Result. Mine arrived last week. Unfortunately I wasn't at home at the time, so they were sent to the Post Office parcel depot for me to pick up.

In "The Good Old Days" (tm) the depot was on the side of the Post Office where I live, so I could have my parcel after a short walk. Today, thanks no doubt to "the total commitment of the Post Office to a quality parcel delivery and collection experience for all its customers", the parcels must be picked up from a depot which is a thirty minute drive away, with a tiny car park and, from the postcodes I heard being given by the folks ahead of me in the long queue, serving the entire city of Hull.

 Ugh.

If the Post Office is in any way concerned about losing its parcel business then this is exactly the way to go about it. Nothing wrong with the two poor folks serving the queue of about 20 people that had accumulated by the time we got there on Saturday morning - they were making the best of a bad job, but only a person powered by a spreadsheet could have come up with such a stupid and inconvenient "improvement" in the way I get my post. 

Hull Pixelbot Problem Solving

We had a great time at the c4di hardware meetup last night. We had some more new faces drop by, including one family who were out for a walk around the waterfront and just came into see what all the fun was about. This was great for me, as I was able to try out some HullPixelbot arenas that I'd made up.

The idea is that you get a robot, an arena and a programmer interface that makes the robot move and turn. And then you have to navigate the robot from the start to the finish. 

The one on the left is quite simple, except that you don't know what the numbers used to control the robot actually mean. 

Anyhoo, we managed to navigate the above arena and make the robot stop in exactly the right place. Then we moved onto a more complicated one and then I got clever, tried to make the robot retrace its steps and had it turn the wrong way and nearly fall off the desk. On well. 

The great news for me is that the folks who happened to drop by left with a kit of parts for the robot chassis and the intention to come back with a completed robot for the next Hardware Meetup. 

If you want to come along the meetups are open to anyone who fancies a bit of hardware fun and games. You can sign up here

Reboot in The Conversation

I really like The Conversation. It's driven by content produced by academics from around the world and it provides a good read on a huge variety of subjects. Occasionally they ask me to write bits and bobs for them. I've just written something about what happens when you reboot your computer, and why you have to do it. You can find the text here

If you want to hear me talking about reboots, and telling one of my favourite jokes in all the world, you can find me on the Conversation Anthill podcast here

And, just to prove that I'm a complete media mogul, you can find a printed version of the article in the i newspaper today too. 

Coding is Fun at Techdays

Well, that was fun. Turns out that you can drive down to Reading, do a TechDays session and then drive back all in one day.  It was quite hard work, but it was nice to visit Thames Valley Park again. I've been there quite a few times over the years.

Anyhoo, the session was a hoot. Thanks to Martin for doing an excellent job of keeping me on the straight and narrow. The sessions were all recorded and should be released onto Channel 9 later this week. 

Preparing for TechDays tomorrow

I'm doing a presentation at TechDays Online tomorrow. So of course tonight I'm working on the code for the final demo. I've got three copies of Visual Studio running above. One talking to the robot controller Arduino, another driving the robot network esp8266 and a final one building the Universal Windows Application that will control everything. I've not had so much fun in a while. 

I'm on tomorrow at around 4:00 pm. Tune in and find out how far I got........

..the robot with two brains....

..the robot with two brains....