Thursday, February 8, 2018


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rebuilding the quad. 4 in 1 esc tryout

Trying out a 4 in 1 ESC. FETs look a bit weedy but we'll see how it goes. Also added the camera and vtx.

Right angle SMA VTX mod for mini quad

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Project Transputer

Project Transputer is coming along nicely.

I repurposed the board from another project. It's got Bluetooth and Wifi modules already mounted and 5V and 3V regulators.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From little Acorns..

Just reading some of this:

I don't really want to get too involved with the arguments about it, but for what it's worth...

I've been programming for a living since leaving school in 1987. My first job was programming which was rather unusual at the time. In fact I started programming for my uncles company before leaving school and had been programming for a few years before that.  I didn't learn programming from school, I learned it at home programming my ZX81, which was about all you could do with it, but that was a good thing I think.

I got interested in computing from several sources, I was already interested in electronics and some of my friends were too and some had computers.  My school had a lunchtime computer club where pupils got involved with setting up the BBC micros and RML 380Z's and had small programming projects they worked on.  All this created an interest and a desire to get my own computer. I remember it took a bit of talking my parents round to splashing the £100 on it, and my uncle helped with that argument.

I spent a couple of years programming my ZX81 and later Spectrum and BBC (I did have  games on tape & disk as well - not all programming). I think it was the fact you had to almost construct the basic machine, connect tape recorders or disk drives and had just a command prompt that forced a certain level of ingenuity to get any reward from the machine.  But you did get a reward when programs worked or you found a new way of getting the machine to do something. Myself and my friends also used to have fun programming the demo computers in Boots and WHSmiths.

Which brings me on to the Raspberry Pi.  There has been a desire to try and recreate that era of discovery and ingenuity that the BBC Micro and early home microcomputers generated.  I think that's where the RPi is coming from and it's a nice cheap introduction to computing.  But it still takes a certain type of person to get properly interested in it.

  I saw an article the other day (can't find the source now) which was about making the Raspberry Pi even easier to use.  I balked a bit at that.  I personally think that's the wrong way to go. If you want something easy to use then there's plenty of cheap Android tablets for that.  I think what it needs is to be more basic perhaps running some more basic OS that drops you into a command prompt much like the Beeb did with languages on hand.  Possibly even something like the RiscOS OS from the Archimedes.  (These OS's are practically bullet proof).  But they provide the basic raw materials for learning about computing.   Once those are mastered the desire for more complex OS's and programs may well grow and the RPi would be able to grow with that. 

I have to assume that schools are running computer clubs but I'm not sure what form they take these days. Perhaps that's an area that might be used to get kids interested in programming again if it isn't already. Probably better than forcing everyone to do it. From my experiences with my own children and with quite a number I met when I took my BBC Micros to Maker Faire, kids love using the old machines, some were appalled that they didn't have Facebook, but most liked the basic games and some even had a stab at programming.

I think all is not lost (yet).


//images from

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Amazon AWS basics in Rails

Listing Amazon EC2 instances

# Class for VM's 
class Vm
  include ActiveModel::Validations

  validates_presence_of :name, :status

  attr_accessor :id, :name, :dns, :status
  @@ec2 =

  def self.all
    return @@ec2.instances.inject([]) { |m, i|
      tags = i.tags.to_h
      name = tags['Name']
      m.push, name, i.dns_name, i.status )

  def initialize( id, name, dns,  status )
    @id     = id
    @name   = name
    @dns    = dns
    @status = status


Listing Amazon S3 buckets

# Class for S3 Storage
class Storage
include ActiveModel::Validations
validates_presence_of :name
attr_accessor :name
@@ec2 =
def self.all
return @@ec2.buckets.inject([]) { |m, i|
    m.push )
def initialize( name )
@name = name

AWS Config

  :secret_access_key => 'xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx',
  :access_key_id => 'YYYYYYYYYYYYYYY',
  :region => 'us-west-2',

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Handling and Tyre wear patterns

Racing last night at Bashley the car was still quite unstable. For the last few races I have been changing one setting at a time to pin down which are making improvements. So far I've stiffened the front springs, moved the shock positions on the rear and toed out the steering a little. The car was better but still quite hard to tame the back end..
If you look closely at the tyres you can just about make out that the insides of the tyres are a little duller meaning that the majority of the cars weight has been on the insides even during dynamic handling. This is a big clue to start looking at the camber adjustments.
Camber is the angle of the wheel relative to the track looking from the front of the car. 0 degrees means the wheel is dead vertical. -5 degrees means the top of the wheel is angled toward the centreline of the car. A little negative camber can be useful, but evidently I had too much. I rather unscientifically reduced the amount and in the next heat the car was far more controllable with more power going to the track.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NADARS Newbury Radio Rally

Each year on Fathers day the Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society organise their rally which has been at the Newbury Showground for the last few years.

For anyone not familiar, radio rallies or hamfests as they are sometimes known are a show organised by an amateur radio society. They usually take the form of a field with trade stands, a club stand and a car boot section. There is often a very varied mix of things on sale from old wartime radios, military surplus, old broadcast equipment, telecom equipment, components to computers and all manner of bits and pieces.

 This has always been one of the nicest rallies and one which has been on my list of favourites since about 1993, so I thought I'd share a few photos of the day.

We got there a little late, but it was still a good day. I picked up a few bits for the DATV station I'm planning on building, an NDS CSR820 MPEG2 IRD and some L-Band filters and splitters. I also met an old friend which was nice.
It was a bit of a drive (4 hours) but still happy I went.

73 de M1BSC :-) 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maker Faire Newcastle 2011

 Maker Faire Newcastle, UK 2011

Last week Makers and Hackers from all over the world converged on the Centre for Life in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne for the UK's third Maker Faire.  Maker Faire is an event organised by O'Reilly's Make magazine to bring together art, crafts, technology, engineering and science projects and to celebrate and encourage the Do it Yourself mindset.

The BBC's Research and Development and Television Platforms groups were there meeting the public and making friends with other Makers. We had several exhibits ranging from the fun Blink-o-tron with its trapped Weeping Angel, Conduct your own orchestra to the more serious Universal Control which allows subtitles to be sent to mobile devices.

 The Maestro demonstrates in an entertaining way our ability to interface to the Microsoft Kinect and to use thedata provided to control video playback. Basically you use the baton and move your hands in the manner of an orchestral conductor and you can control the volume and tempo of the music.

We also showed a concept device which presented a different way of accessing the BBC's Radio archive. The 'Wayback Machine' is designed to look as much like a traditional radio as possible, retaining simple controls, but allows the date and time to be 'tuned' in.

An example of the BBC's collaboration with Newcastle University was also on show with the Tune Table, a device which was developed by one of the universities students while on placement with R&D.

The Tune Table was built to explore the control metaphore and investigate its applications for areas such as video editing.

We also tried to entertain (and sometimes scare) some of the visiting children with our Blink-o-tron and its trapped Weeping Angel from Doctor Who.  This is an example of some basic microcontroller hacking using an Arduino, some LED's and some pieces of plexiglass which works on he principle of Pepper's Ghost. Don't Blink!

There was also a homebrew tapeless camera system on display which lead us nicely into conversations about how the BBC are moving towards using systems such as INGEX and the Digital Media Initiative (DMI).

We also met with and talked to a great many members of the public about the work we do and we dealt with many enquiries about our employment opportunities at BBC North in Salford.

What the other bloggers are saying:-

  Video: Brendan Crowther, Laura Chalmers, Ian Calvert, Bruce James
  Photos: Bruce James
  Blog: Bruce James, Yameen Rasul
  Organisation: Max Leonard, Yameen Rasul
  On the stand: Max Leonard, James Barrett, Tom Bartindale, Bruce James Andrew Bowden, Ian Calvert, Mo McRoberts

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wayback Machine visits Maker Faire

Getting the Wayback Machine ready for Maker Faire.

Since the last update the radio has gone through some drastic hardware changes.  There is still an Arduino driving the LCD and user interface but the backend has been replaced by a Beagleboard running Angstrom Linux.  This has enabled the radio to stream and play MP3 files and also allows the use of Wifi or 3G data dongle.

BBC R&D North visited Maker Faire in Newcastle on the 12th and 13th of March 2011.