Whiskey and Gambling in Seattle


One of the lovely things about the MVP Summit is the "appreciation night" that they organise for us each time we come. It's nice to be appreciated. This year we all descended on a whiskey distillery to sample a few, eat some good grub and maybe do a little light gambling. Great fun. 

 Betting the farm (the dealer got 19)

Betting the farm (the dealer got 19)

The best gambler of the night earned a substantial donation to a charity of their choice. I was not the best gambler of the night. In fact it all served as a salutary lesson for me as to how fast you can burn through money, even if it is fake...

 Beating the odds at roulette

Beating the odds at roulette

 Action at the blackjack table

Action at the blackjack table

 Fancy a whiskey?

Fancy a whiskey?

A great time was had by everybody. Thanks to the folks from Microsoft for setting up such an excellent event. 

Satnavs 0 Snow 1

I thought we were being so clever. with our planning for the journey to the MVP summit.  Booking a hotel close to the airport  and ravelling a day early seemed like a good way to handle "The Beat from the East meets Storm Emma". What could go wrong?


There are only a few roads between Hull and Manchester airport. And this afternoon they were either broken or impossible too get to. I chose to use Waze as my navigation weapon of choice. It's supposed to be able to detect road closures and automatically route you around them in advance. 

What it is not supposed to do is send you off the motorway and then back on at the same junction, put you into a half-hour queue to get onto a road that turned out to be shut, and send you down roads so scary that you turn back trembling. 


Once we'd, rather sensibly in my opinion, not driven down the road marked as closed, Waze proceeded to try and take us back the same way. Idiot code. You;d think that a satnav would be able to reason that if I've not used the road, there's probably a good reason for this. At very least it should ask a question "Is the road you just tried to use blocked?" and then use the answer to get us where we want to be. 

Actually, I think the whole sorry affair threw up my rather worrying reliance on technology. In the "Good Old Days"(tm) I would spend a few minutes with the map before heading out. That way I'd know if a particular direction is a good idea or not. Nowadays I just wait for the navigation to catch up.

Oh well. At the moment we are in Leeds buying train tickets for the last leg of the journey.



We had another superb Hardware group meetup at c4di tonight. Two new members, plus a host of others braved the horrid snow to come and talk tech. I was telling everyone of my problems with my soldering iron, which had come un-soldered (see above) leading to some nice "Catch-22" issues (in the end I bought another iron and mended my "proper" one).

Plans are afoot for another soldering evening, and a "build your own LoRa node" event too. Turns out that it's all happening..



Snow looks great on christmas cards and on pictures from other people However, when you have it outside your house for long periods of time it is a bit less fun.

Hopefully it will be gone before our marathon journey to the airport on Friday. We're flying out to the MVP summit on Saturday so, being a cunning chap, I've booked a hotel around a mile from the airport, just in case the roads are bad on Saturday.

Littlebits R2D2 Droid


As another celebration of my writing prowess,, and because they were 20 pounds off and because,well, I don't have to make excuses to you do I, dear reader, I got a Littlebits Droid inventors kit. I've not built it yet, but I have had a play with the controller board. It's actually very neat.

Best bit for me is that the speaker is inside the robot (unlike the Lego Boost robot which plays the sound from the controlling tablet or phone) and it is packed with authentic Star Wars sound effects. For the price it is actually pretty good value for a Star Wars branded product.  Looking forward to making it. I think I'll paint mine white so that it looks like a "proper" one.

Talking about robots for the children's university

 Showing of "Transparent Terry", one of the robot crew

Showing of "Transparent Terry", one of the robot crew

We had a bunch of folks from HEY Children's University come and see us at c4di today. It was great fun. I was showing off how we can put programs into robots to tell them what to do, and that a program is just something that takes in something (a distance from a distance sensor)  does something with it (run away if the distance is less than 100 mm). 

They were a great audience and I hope that a fair few of them get into software, robots and other stuff that can change the world. 

I said I'd put some links on here to resources. You can find out about the Hull Pixelbot (the robot I was showing off) here. You can find resources to build your own Pixelbot here. If you really do want to build a robot, come along to our hardware group meetings (there's one next Thursday). Sign up here

Kickstarting Hull's Smart City

 Paul Foster taking networks. 

Paul Foster taking networks. 

Well, that was fun. And exhausting. We did two Smart City events in one day. The morning event was all about getting people together to build a network, and the afternoon was all about the tech of LoRa. 

Both events had awesome attendance, lots of sensible discussion, and we even managed to fit in a bit of planning. As far as I'm concerned, the outcomes are:

  • We are going to get Lora gateways to cover the area as a first step towards building the Smart City infrastructure. There are already some commercial/proprietary LoRa gateways opening up in the region which would be a fantastic platform for industry strength applications, but from a community perspective an open one based on The Things Network would make a very good start. If you're not sure what LoRa is, read the attached slide deck....
  • We are going to start up a community effort building LoRa network devices. Lots of people seem quite keen on this. Once we've got the bits together we'll set up a happy afternoon where we'll build some network endpoints and get them going. Then we can start looking at using the devices to solve problems. 
  • We are going to set up a "Smart City Steering Group" to get all the interested parties together, share what we are all doing and try to put together a strategy that will start with LoRa and move on to consider other technologies including how to make some of the data gathered into open data. 

If you want to see my slides, which tell you all about LoRa, you can find them here.

I'm really excited about this. I think it could be the start of something not small. If you didn't make the events, but you want to get involved, feel free to contact me directly (put a comment on this post or message me via Twitter or email me or stand on a corner and shout loudly). 

"The Expanse" is rather good

The Expanse is a great big lump of space opera that must have cost a fortune to produce. (I tried to work in an "The Expense" gag here, but I couldn't make it work. Oh well.)

The spaceships are some of the best I've ever seen on TV and the narrative is rattling along at a furious pace. Set all around the solar system, a few hundred years into the future,  it has earthers, martians and belters (folks from the asteroid belt) at the brink  of interplanetary war.

There's political chicanery, space battles and some rather unsavoury extra-terrestrial stuff oozing around the place. Some bits of the plot seem to get a massive build-up and then disappear, but there's more than enough going on to keep you occupied now that Star Trek Discovery has finished its run.

c4di Hardware Group Monster Meetup


Actually we didn't have any monsters turn up. But we did have a lot of people. Hayden was running a soldering masterclass. I was talking about Hull Pixelbots to a whole bunch of students who turned up to find out what we're about. Brian showed off a work in progress which simulates Hull Pixelbot movements in a nifty Python program. And we did some work with one of our youngest attendees, who's trying to make a remote controlled missile launcher (but only a small one).

We were playing with these super-cheap wireless devices. Connect a transmitter to an output pin on an Arduino, wiggle the pin up and down, and the receiver will wiggle an output up and down at the same time. So you can send messages wirelessly from one Arduino to another.

In the past I've not had much success with these, but we tried the RadioHead library and it seems to work rather well, We're going to look into adding a carefully crafted antenna to try and improve the range. And have a look at other wireless options too. 

It was great fun. If you fancy coming along,  the next one is on the 1st of March starting at 6:00 in c4di. 

"The Culture" is really good

You've got to be pretty sure of yourself to allow someone to write a farce about what you're doing. Or brave. Or something. But the Hull City of Culture team did it. "The Culture" is a behind the scenes look at just what goes on in the offices behind those fancy slogans and artistic happenings. There are some lovely nods to the buzzwords and whatnot that come with organising something like Hull City of Culture, but all credit to the team for letting it all happen. And hats off to Martin Green, the head honcho of City of Culture, who actually turned up to take part in the performance that we saw. 

 "The Culture" is a proper farce. Double meanings, mistaken identity, hiding in cupboards, bawdy bits, the lot. It also has a genuine, beating heart at the centre. The cast do a great job of bringing the play to life. Their energy never flagged from start to end. And it wasn't until right at the end, when I wondered where some of the actors had got to for the curtain call, that I worked out just how many roles each cast member played. 

I'm not sure if you'll be able to get tickets to see it before it finishes its run, but if you can, I think you'll have a really good time.