Joint in the Pressup Challenge!

January 3rd, 2016

On Jan 1st 2015 I started the pressup challenge. Starting with 1 pressup, I added one for every day of the year. I.e. on day 60, I did 60 pressups that day. It’s finally new year’s eve 2015 and todays total was 365! Here are the final 50…

If you’re interested in joining in for 2016, you can keep count of your pressups with a quick web-app I made:

Classic Pressup Challenge: Add a pressup each day:
http://repaday.com/add

Alternative Pressup Challenge: A set number each day:
http://repaday.com/set

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Diagnosing Dell OptiPlex touchscreen problem

January 3rd, 2016

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Slightly strange but logical one. We recently used a Dell E2014T 20 inch E-Series Touchscreen on a job. Worked fine until we got it on site and then the screen’s touch accuracy went haywire. On-screen buttons didn’t activate and some areas of the screen caused the touch area to seemingly warp and cause false cursor positioning.

We noticed a slight pattern to the ‘warping’, mostly to the left but also in a strange diagonal. We fired up a paint program and drew lines across the screen to reveal the distorted areas. The ‘ah-ha!’ moment was when we realised the screen was an optical touchscreen. The ‘OptiPlex’ system uses a series of infra-red lights and detectors located around the edge of the screen. By placing your finger on the screen, it breaks several of the beams and your finger’s location can be triangulated.

The distorted lines you can see in the image above is evidence of the screen going ‘wonky’ along definite diagonals. On closer inspection, there were small specs of sawdust in the screen border. A quick squirt of compressed air and the screen was back to normal.

Also, if you’re planning to use this monitor (or a lot of low-cost touchscreens like the the Mimo Magic Touch series) on a Mac, you’ll probably have a issue finding a driver. Apple just don’t seem to support any touchscreen standards. The only 3rd-party drivers we’ve managed to get to work are from Touchbase. They cost money but it may be the only option.

Darth Vader v Citroen C1 up holder

November 29th, 2015

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Someone at Citroen is clearly a Start War fan. This is the cup holder on our 2014 Citroen C1.

Fix for “Vehicle details could not be found” on the DVLA vehicle lookup. Maybe…

November 28th, 2015

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Another random ‘how to’. I was recently trying to check what date my Ducati needed its road tax and MOT. I went to the DVLA Vehicle Check site at https://www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/, entered my reg and make (it auto completed “Ducati”) but received the following:

Vehicle details could not be found

Vehicle details could not be found as it has not been possible to locate the vehicle details, your enquiry cannot proceed and has been cancelled. If you want to check the vehicle record held by DVLA…

Tried another vehicle I own and it worked fine. It just didn’t like the Ducati for some reason. Decided to try a few other sites that seemed to refer to the same database. The MIB at least managed to tell me it was insured. It was a start.

Then I went to MyCarCheck.com at https://www.mycarcheck.com . It’s a paid service but the first step is free and just verifies they can locate the vehicle. On entering my reg number, it returned:

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We have information on our database regarding [REG NUM], a Ducati 748bip-98 (Motorcycle). Check before you buy. Choose a check to proceed.

The interesting bit was “a Ducati 748bip-98 (Motorcycle)”. It seems the DVLA have mashed up the make and the model in their ‘make’ field in their database. Where others just ride a Ducati, I seem to ride a Ducati 748bip-98. Snappy!

Back over the the DVLA site, I entered my reg and “Ducati 748bip-98” in to the make box and it worked!

If this is happening to you, you may want to give it a try.

Yep, a bamboo bike…

November 28th, 2015

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Spotted this beauty in London’s swanky West End last night. It’s a bike made from bamboo. Sweet!

I’d seen them on the TV a few months back being made in Ghana. It was Boomers International in Ghana (http://www.booomers.com). Their ultimate goal is to provide the poor in rural Ghana the means to gain economic freedom. Definitely worth a look!

Want to have a go yourself? Fear not, you can make your own bike right here in Blighty. Check out the Bamboo Bicycle Club (http://bamboobicycleclub.org) and book yourself into a workshop.

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Or buy a kit off the internet from Bamboo Bee for £120: http://bamboobee.net/product/biy-bamboo-bike-frame-kit/

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Don’t fancy making one yourself? There seem to be plenty of pre-made options.

Calfee Bamboo: http://calfeedesign.com/products/bamboo/

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Boo Bicycles: http://boobicycles.com/

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Mekong: https://mekong-plus.com/bamboo-bikes/bikes.html

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Bamboo Bee: http://bamboobee.net/product-category/bicycles/

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BME Design: http://www.bmedesign.eu/b8-series-frames

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ZamBikes: http://www.zambikeszambia.com/products/bamboo-bikes/road-bike/

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Virk: http://www.virkdesigns.co.uk/bamboobikes/

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Apple Maps cars spotted in London

October 5th, 2015

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Look who’s been sniffing out the streets of Soho in London. Hopefully their own maps will do a better job than the pitiful data they bought from TomTom when they first launched in 2012. I’m usually an Apple supporter but even I couldn’t trust it after it gave me one too many destinations in the middle of a lake (yes, this happened twice).

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I still find Apple maps unbearable over-simplified. One way streets, traffic data, building locations and of course Street View are all examples that Google gets right. Apple does have the bizarrely hidden yet mind-bendingly impressive Flyover feature though. It’s not in every city yet but if you haven’t checked it out yet.  but find one that does have it and prepare to be impressed.

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The real play here is the data that people using your mapping app gives you. Google know when you’re in a shop, when you’re stuck on a slow moving road, when you’re at home and most importantly, when you’re doing any of that while clicking ads, reading emails or using any of their home-grown services.

Apple clearly tried to muscle in on the action in 2012 and bought their way in, with obviously (calamitous) results. Seems they are doing it the right way this time. It’s still a rather murky and devious world of data mining but at least I’ll not be standing in too many lakes.

 

Boobshrooms

August 4th, 2015

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Saw these mushrooms in a field in Devon. That’s all I have to say about that.

Puppets, Zoltar and The Great Adverto

July 9th, 2015

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Every year at the Engine Group, we down tools for a day and visit each of the companies on the various floors to reacquaint ourselves with what they’ve been up to (and or ned starters, what they do).

Each year is themed and this year was “circus” so we invented “The Great Adverto” – a nod to the Zoltar fortune telling machine from Big. The idea what to put none other than Robin Wight (the W out of WCRS) in the box as The Great Adverto and have a down-on-his-luck circus master ask for help to turn his failing circus around. Sounded plausible…

As you’d expect, you can’t buy one of these from the shops (or the internet) so it was on with the roof rack and off to B&Q. Here’s an inside look at what it took to make it happen.

Step 1: The trips to B&Q… Thank god we have a staff discount card I could borrow.

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Step 2: The frame…

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Step 3: The panels…

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Step 4: Hand cutting and stencilling the lettering with gold paint…

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Step 5: Perspex glazing and pink silk backing…

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Step 6: The finished box, reduced to panels, transported to WCRS in the wee small hours and reconstructed…

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Step 7: The full setup. With Robin in place straw bails to hide the puppeteer…

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Step 8: Now for the bonkers bit… the puppet supplied by the amazing Dave Chapman. Dave’s puppety arm has appeared in the Muppets Most Wanted movie, CBBC as Otis the Aardvark, Dick and Dom In da Bungalow as cat and, wait for it, Star Wars: The Force Awakens as BB-8). Needless to say, he was the icing on the cake and brought it all together. Properly funny guy.

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So there you have it. From garage to ad-land prop in 1 week, 5 trips to B&Q and 23 cups of tea.

Cheating mobile step counters

May 4th, 2015

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Got involved in an inter-agency stepping competition using an app-based pedometer. It seemed kinda accurate but inevitably, my curiosity drifted towards trying to figure out how to automatically gain steps while watching TV.

Cue my trusty Arduino, a small RC car servo, some blu tac and some precisely tweaked variables. Took a while to find the optimum ‘swing, pause, swing back’ timings. Too quick and it didn’t register the pauses either end. Too slow and it didn’t think it was a complete step. Eventually arrived at the Goldilocks setting. Just right.

Here’s the result. Works with a FitBit too btw.

Persistence of vision test with LEDs

March 5th, 2015

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back in the 1980’s, there was a catalogue called “Innovations“. It was full of all sorts of gif gadgets and nic-nacs. I was always fascinated by a clock that looked like a metronome. As the arm moved backwards and forwards, it seemed to spear the time in light in thin are. This was my first introduction to persistence of vision (aka POV). Essentially you eyes not keeping up with reality and leaving slug trails of light on your retinas.

I had a thought… would it also work if the clock arm stayed still and your head moved from side to side? Could I install a single column of flashing LED lights and create POV images in your vision?

The image above is my first experiment. 9 LEDs in a strip, merrily flashing away and me moving a camera with a relatively slow shutter speed from left to right. It does actually replicate what I saw with my actual, organic eyes but saves on the pounding headache I induced will testing it. Turns out heads aren’t supposed to change direction that quickly.

Here are two other images that show it goofing up slightly as you can get a better idea of what’s going on.

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The slight flaw in my plan was that those clocks (and the funky LED wheels) take advantage of a sync point. I.e. each tick of a clock resets the flashing so that the lights smear in a repeated, exact position each time. With a shaking head, there is no syncing up between the lights and the head. Each time the head moves, the lights may be flashing a different part of the message, so it’s hit and miss as to whether you see the full pattern or some crossover bewteen the start and the end.

Either way, it works. Just go to build one 200 feet tall…