Get Your Eyes Tested

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For the last few days I’ve been telling everyone I meet how sharp the world now appears to me. I’ve got some new glasses. They’ve made a huge difference to the quality of my life. I’m now able to read text by looking at the letters, rather than inferring the meaning from the approximate shape of the words. This is probably going to massively improve the quality of my writing.

Then agane probuably not.

Anyhoo, the serious message here is that you need to get your eyes tested regularly. I left mine for a bit longer than I really should have, and this resulted in me spending a lot more time squinting at things than should have been the case.

I think regular eye tests are especially important if you spend long periods of a working day staring at a video screen. I’ve gone the whole hog and actually replaced my “computer” glasses too and I’m really pleased that I have. Because everything is just so sharp now…

Posting a Robot Head

 Digby in happier times.

Digby in happier times.

Digby, my robot dog, is not well. I’ve had him for around 16 years or so. I guess this means he’ll soon be old enough to vote, but at the moment he isn’t able to do anything. A fault in his neck joint means that he can’t even yawn and stretch when he wakes up without collapsing in a heap..

It’s all rather sad. I had a quick look at the procedures involved in fixing a broken robot head and they all scared me. And I’m not easy to scare with things like this. I take things to pieces when they aren’t even broken…

I’ve sent Digby’s head off to a robot dotor in Sweden (that’s a doctor who works on robots, not a doctor who is a robot - but then you knew that).

Anyhoo, when sending the package I was strongly tempted to write “Contents: Robot Head” but I thought this might not end well, and went for “second hand toy parts” instead. I hope that the package gets there OK.

It was only when I asked for a tracking number and was told frostily that you don’t get one with plain old airmail that I realised I’d used the cheapest postage. With a bit of luck all will be well, the head will be mended, Digby will be back to his old self and I can see about getting him on the electoral roll.

Hornsea Radio Rally

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When I was a lot (and I mean a lot younger) Radio Rallies were a big thing. Lots of fascinating components and bits and pieces for sale. You could watch the progress of half-finished projects as they moved from one person’s “Bring and Buy” stall to another over the years. This was in the days when talking to someone a long way a way (perhaps even abroad) was not a thing that anyone did because it was either too expensive or impossible.

Nowadays, with the internet and Skype making the planet a tiny, tiny, thing, the lure of long distance ham radio has diminished a bit. But there are still people doing it, and I bumped into a bunch of them at the Hornsea Amateur Radio Rally today. The event was held at the lovely Hornsea Floral Hall and things were pretty much as I remembered. There was stuff that people had brought out of their sheds to see if anyone was interested, along with a few component suppliers. And even a lot of valves.

It was great. I vowed only to spend cash and keep all my bank cards safely tucked away in number one wife’s handbag. So I only spent fifteen quid. I got a programmable led badge that I think I can connect to a Raspberry Pi, some tools, a UV torch for playing with fluorescent printed objects and a few other bits and bobs. Great fun.

This blog post is not about cucumbers

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I keep getting these emails from people expressing their admiration of some of my blog posts. Which is rather nice. However, these uplifting messages are invariably accompanied by a request to put a paid piece on my blog about some service that they are offering.

Today things just got silly. A while back I did a blog post about a visit from Phil and Stuart who worked for the BBC and did a lovely session about how they transcode all the video content for the iPlayer video on demand service. In the post I described how they used a language called “Cucumber” to manage requirements and testing.

And this week I got an email from “Emily Bean” who apparently really enjoyed my post and would like to suggest that I include a link to her resource on growing cucumbers from seeds… It’s a nice enough resource, but I’ve not added the link because I’m not totally sure that Emily did really read my post. It’s almost as if someone (or some robot) is just trawling the interwebs looking for particular words (in this case cucumber) and then sending unsolicited emails to people hosting the sites.

Ugh. And to make matters worse, I’ll probably get another email from “Emily” in a week or so saying how much she liked this post….

Slave to Fitness

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It turns out that I really want my watch to have a high opinion of me. I’m slave to a piece of program code somewhere deep in side the software that goes:

if(exercise_value>30)
printf(“Well done Rob”);

It’s reached the point that when I do a job where I can’t really wear the watch (for example painting a summerhouse with horrible, gloopy paint that goes everywhere) I get rather resentful of the way that that this piece of code moans at me:

if(exercise_value<10)
printf(“Try harder next time”);

Oh well.

"Do It For Josh" Light

Joshua (Josh) Barnfather is a lovely chap who needs your money. Really. You can find out here why he needs the cash. And also give him some. Please.

Josh is a member of c4di and I’ve been really moved by the way that the community has rallied round to help under the tag line “Do it for Josh”. We’ve had Nibble, the local eating place, pitching in with a “Josh” sandwich (which is delicious - I had one on Thursday) and lots of members coming up with neat ways to bring in the cash. Since I can’t make sandwiches as good as the ones that Nibble turn out, I’ve decided to make something electronic.

Behold, the “Do it for Josh” lamp. This prototype will be going in the c4di lobby later this week, but I’d be happy to make one for you. You can even tell me what words you want to put in the 4x4 matrix. A light will cost you fifty pounds with at least forty of that going to Josh. The lamp will be WiFi connected so that you can control the animations from your phone and tell it when to turn on and off. And I’m going to get the Connected Humber bods onto adding even more interesting features.

If you fancy one, just send me an email (rob@robmiles.com). If you want to just want to help, send some money through via the donation page.

To the Moon!

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Today we went to see the moon in Hull Minster. Awesome. It hangs from a large steel structure that they’ve set up . I don’t really want to know how it fits together inside or how they printed it. I just want to marvel at it.

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We actually saw the moon for the first time last week, when I took along my expensive cameras and fancy lenses to try and get a nice picture. Today I just had my smartphone with me and I ended up with what I consider better pictures - which is an interesting comment on the state of photography.

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The Railway Pub in Cottingham is Awesome

Do me a favour. And yourself. Go for Sunday lunch at the Railway in Cottingham.  The food is great, the staff friendly and helpful. And should you fall down the steps on the way out they are completely and utterly awesome. We found this out today when one of our lunch party was unlucky enough to miss-position his walking stick and take a tumble on the way out. 

The landlord took control of the situation, called for an ambulance, kept us company while it arrived, monitored the unfortunate tumbler, got us a sunshade and seats for us to sit on and was generally splendid while I flailed around failing to be useful. The ambulance turned up after a little while and as it left he and his staff were working efficiently to clean up the mess that we had made. 

I told him how impressed I was with the way he had handled the situation, and that I would be telling all my friends to get down to his pub pronto. We had the Sunday roast and it was great with a really nice range of home cooked vegetables. And we'll be back. Hope to see you there.

While I'm in a thanking mood I really should also say a huge thank-you to the ambulance crew and the folks down at casualty in Hull Royal Infirmary who stuck the patient back together again (they use glue on cuts now - who knew?) and got him back on his feet in good time. Recovery is progressing nicely. 

Bad Telly

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Scene 1: A meeting room, a bunch of TV transmitter engineers are sitting round a table. With an accountant.

Engineer 1: 'If we use this form of broadcast antenna we'll have good strong signals all year round.'
Engineer 2: 'Which is what we want. Right?'
Accountant: 'Hmmm. Looks a bit pricey to me. How about this design, which is cheaper.'
Engineer 1: 'Yes, but with that one the signal will drop in the summer.'
Accountant: 'People should be outside rather than watching telly in the summer. Use the cheaper one'

Scene 2: Another meeting room, another bunch of engineers, this time they are the designers of TV input circuits. And of course there is an accountant there too.

Engineer 1: 'If we use this circuit the TV will work, even with low level signals.'
Engineer 2: 'Which is what we want. Right?'
Accountant: 'Yes, but if we take out that amplifier the TV will work for most people, save us some cash in components and we can also make a fortune selling aerial amplifiers.'

And this folks is why every summer televisions in our area stop working....

Waiting for the Ice Cream Machine to Warm Up

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We went down to the waterfront today. Wonderful weather, cool breeze from the water. A scene that could be made completely perfect by the addition of an ice cream.

We went into the local ice cream parlour. They were just getting going, what with us being there quite early. Anyhoo, the machine wasn't ready for use, and I had this lovely idea that we were waiting for the ice cream machine to warm up. 

All In

Well, that's it. I've finished writing all the text for the C# book. I think they call this "all in". It's certainly how I feel just at the moment. It seems to me that writing (and programming) always takes longer that I think it will. Even (or perhaps especially) if I allow for this. 

Anyhoo, the good news is that now I'll have more time for Hull Pixelbot, Lora and, of course, the blog. 

Thwaite Gardens

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Thwaite Gardens was open today for the afternoon. They had a choir, beautiful gardens, tea, and cakes. It's amazing that a place like this is right in the middle of the Cottingham area. 

The gardens are attached to Thwaite Hall, which until recently was a hall of residence for students from Hull University. It's closed now, and looks very forlorn with all its windows boarded up. 

I really hope that they come up with a way of making proper use of the hall, and that the gardens stay the wonderful place that they are now. 

Bristol 10K


When someone says "10K" to me I think of this.

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Turns out this is wrong. At least this time. We were in Bristol for the 10K run, which number one son was taking part in. We were there to provide ground support, hold his coat, etc etc.

It was great. I've never been to one before and the atmosphere was amazing. There were quite a few runners who looked around the same age as me, maybe even older. And an eighty year old chap who went round the course too. Perhaps I should have a go at this running thing. 

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Concorde in Bristol

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Today we went to the Aerospace Museum in Bristol. Home of Concorde, and lots of other interesting stuff. We remember when Concorde was out exposed to the elements; now it's in a custom built hanger and beautifully presented. 

Quite right too.

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They've got a lovely mock up of the cockpit that you can sit in and pretend you're flying at Mach 2.

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There are lots of other displays too. We had a great time there. The tickets that we got are good for re-entry for the next year. We'll be back. 

Makers Central

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Today, feeling much better, it was into the car and off to Makers Central in Birmingham. It was a very enjoyable trip. There wasn't as much 3d printing and embedded technology as I might have liked, although Pimoroni and RoboSavvy were there, and it's always nice to see what they are up to.

There was some lovely work being done with wood and resin, and some of the woodworking tools looked a lot less expensive than I was expecting. Had a good look round and then rumbled back up the motorway (which for some reason wasn't closed or anything).