Hull Pixelbots at the MVP Community Connection

Today it was just a simple matter of driving to London, running a few robot races and then back again. And it all went beautifully. The event was held at the RAF Museum in Hendon. So I put the postcode into the satnav and headed out. The journey down was smooth enough, and after a while I was all set up, with just a bit of nervousness about the network connectivity. 

As it turned out, we had a few races and at least one winner. 

This is one of our happy winners, with his winning robot. After the racing it was back into the car, enter another postcode (the one for home) and head back. I got into Hull just after midnight. It was great to meet up with a bunch of folks that I'd not seem for a while and talk "proper shop".

Thanks to Claire for inviting me. 

Amazon Look

So. Amazon have launched the "Echo Look", which is a basically a webcam linked to Amazon which has AI powered fashion sense. Apparently you can use it to tell you if your outfit "works" and take photos that look a bit like fashion shots if you squint your eyes.

I'm not a fan. Are people so desperate for validation that they will now take the opinion of a deep learning AI machine in preference to their own?  And moreover, a machine that has an agenda strongly aligned with selling stuff. If so, I'm afraid the human race may be doomed.

In an attempt to save humanity I therefor present the Rob Miles Deep Learning AI Powered Fashion Guru. Simply run this program each time you want to try out a new look (you may want to change the name).

Windows 10 Creators Edition Clean Install

So yesterday I did a clean install of Windows 10 from a memory key. It was for my HP Sprout, which had got itself into a big of a pickle after I upgraded the hard drive. 

I booted from the memory key and up came the setup program. It had a slight whinge about all the partitions on the disk and so I thought I'd get rid of everything. If you press Shift+F10 at the disk management menu in the Windows 10 installer you get yourself a command prompt. Which you can use to load the Windows Disk Partition Tool, diskpart. So I did.

The Windows disk partition tool is strong magic. Like, make your system not work any more and all your files vanish magic. It lets you specify the fundamental arrangement of the storage areas on your hard disk. The Sprout had all these recovery partitions and weird bits and pieces lying around which I really didn't want. (and of course I'd made a backup). So I used the "clean" command. 

I've not used it before, previously I've removed and merged partitions by hand. But clean makes it much easier. Scarily so. I was expecting some form of confirmation dialog when I issued the command but no, it just went ahead and cleared the drive. Windows 10 then had a shiny empty disk to go to town on, and it did. 

The Windows 10 installation process is now very slick. It's fast too. I had a working operating system around 10 minutes after cleaning the disk. And it rounds off the installation with a chat from Cortana to set the final options for your machine. 

I like the Creators Edition very much. The only downside I've found so far is the fact that the old style command prompt has been replaced with the new fangled PowerShell. The command prompt harks all the way back to MS-DOS, and I really like that. PowerShell is way, way, better, in many ways, but I must admit that for me the command prompt is nicer. However, if you get the PowerShell prompt you just have to type CMD and press return, and your command prompt is back in all it's glory....

Feed the birds

I think the name was carefully chosen to inspire confidence

I think the name was carefully chosen to inspire confidence

We're embarking on a bit of garden renovation. I'm not a fan of gardening. It seems to me that you do it and then, after a year or so, you have to do it all over again.

Anyhoo, one thing that we seem to need is a bit of grass where there is presently just tundra. We've put down a bunch of seeds with a really impressive box (see above). I don't think SMART actually means that the seed has a Bluetooth interface, but it wouldn't it be awesome if it did.

Hull Raspberry Pi Jam

Today I was in Hull doing a bit of shopping. As you do. I also dropped into Hull Central Library to give Matt a pixel for his Hull Pixelbot. He's written a lovely blog post about building a robot last Thursday, and I thought I'd give him something extra to work with.  Matt was helping at a Hull Rasp Jam event.

Libraries have changed a bit since we used to take the kids every week to swap their books for different ones. There are still books there, but you can also find crafting sessions, people playing chess and  Raspberry Pi events too. Great stuff. 

I wasn't able to stay long at the jam, but it was great to see lots of people engaging with technology and having fun doing it. I'll try and make a bit more time for the next one. 

Hull Pixelbot Code Version 3.0

The latest version of the Hull Pixebot Code engine is now available on Github. You can use this to download little programs into your robot where they are stored and interpreted. It makes controlling your robot a snap (said the man who wrote it). 

You can get the latest version of the code here

You can get the latest documentation here.

This is a stepping stone on the way to a full scripting language which will run inside the Hull Pixelbot. This version provides support for variables, simple expressions and conditional execution. It is designed to provide the execution engine for the script that I'm working on.

I'm quite proud of it. 

Build a Robot in One Day

The team at the start of the day. Click through for a 360 degree view

The team at the start of the day. Click through for a 360 degree view

Well, that was fun. By the end everybody had a robot moving around and using a distance sensor to notice things. Thanks to c4di for hosting, Robin for providing invaluable support and everyone for getting so absorbed in their building that they forgot two coffee breaks and I had to order them out of the room for lunch.......

Intense concentration....

Intense concentration....

Washed Up Car-go

One wonderful thing about Hull being City of Culture this year is that lovely little artworks are springing up around the city. You have to look quite carefully in the car park of The Deep to find these ones. Based on perfectly ordinary cars (which will be driven away and sold at the end of the exhibit) the Washed Up Car-go is a musing on just what you find if you go down to the beach today.

I don't think these are factory fitted options

I don't think these are factory fitted options

The installations contain projected video and sound effects which come from sea-shell speakers. Well worth seeking out.

Sea shell speakers by the sea shore...

Sea shell speakers by the sea shore...

Hull Architecture

I must admit that I've never really thought of a place like Hull as having architecture. It's just got lots of nice buildings.

However, I've found out a lot more about the area from this book, which even told me who designed the place I'd spent nearly 40 years of my life working in at the university.

This version was published in 2010, which means that it was just in time to be able to give the low down on places like The Deep.

It's a great reference and even has guided walks around the city. If you're coming to Hull for something City of Culture related, and you want a well written, well researched and good to read guide to where we live then it is well worth a look. 

Fast and Furious 8

I've no idea how we ended up in the audience at one of the first showings of Fast and Furious 8 tonight. I think a Meer cat with some half price cinema tickets had something to do with it, but even so....

Anyhoo, it is a fun film. With some jaw dropping car sequences and a fantastic sequence involving a child in a baby seat plus a bunch of gunmen. And the usual mix of former enemies joining together to face a larger foe. Etc etc. It seems to me that this time the franchise has turned its attention to the GI Joe style of movie, with cyber crime and super soldier antics on top of the car mayhem. 

If you're a fan of daft films made in a universe where the laws of physics don't actually apply properly, and you like a big helping of cheese with your dialogue then you'll love it. 

NASA Space Apps Challenge at c4di Hull

I love hackathons. I actually won a prize at one once. And at another I was part of a team that won a special "most ambitious failure" award (perhaps less impressive). I also love hackathons because they are so good for those that take part. They broaden your skills, let you try out new ideas, meet new people and stretch yourself a bit. They look good on your CV, you can talk about them at interviews. And you get to eat pizza. Lots of pizza.

I'm helping to run a hackathon at the c4di at the end of April. It's in partnership with NASA, and the winners of the Hull heats are entered into the NASA round of the competition for consideration for worldwide acclaim. There'll be a bunch of space related themes that we aren't allowed to tell you about just yet, and all kinds of fun things to do.

It's over the weekend of the 29th-30th of April. You can work all night, or you can nip home for a few hours sleep (which is what I'll be doing). We'll be working at the c4di down at the waterfront, so if we are lucky we should get a nice sunset and sunrise over the water to spur us on.

You can sign up here, and you really should. I'm after team members; get in touch if you fancy working with me.

Sorry about this

I was gardening today. As you do. Got to thinking about the mad scientist who tried to clone himself. He used a new technique, where you start at the top of the body and work your way down. Everything was going fine until he'd just finished the neck, but when he tried to do the shoulders it all went wrong, with arms and legs in all the wrong places. Ugh. He turned to his assistant and said.....wait for it....

"I knew I should have quit when I was a head".