Its alive… and no fire, and no magic smoke escaped!

Well, a few achievements unlocked today:

  • Purchased a new multimeter, far better than the old one I have had for a few years.
  • Got the Arduino fired up and built the first few test circuits (blinkie lights, servo motors, skynet world domination robot uprising). Its really not rocket science, is it! Just need to learn the code, and fully understand the hardware used. I can see this taking off quite quickly. Grabbing the components out of the bags in this kit is like seeing old friends for the first time in years… but tell me, have they made the text on the PCBs and components smaller, or is my eyesight really that bad? mmm…
  • The final process run of my DEFCON Road Trip video should be finished by the morning. 1600 miles over 4 days played back in just over 18 minutes, Las Vegas -> Death Valley -> Yosemite -> San Francisco -> PCH#1 -> Los Angeles -> San Diego -> Las Vegas, all in glorious HD. The twisty bits can give you a headache at that speed, but the sections heading out to Las Vegas on the last day look like you are on a rocket ship! I will post a link to it here when I have uploaded it to YouTube on Monday.
  • Played Portal for more than the usual 30 minutes before wanting to hurl, which is new record. This may have been due to the ginger extract supplements I took earlier today to help motion sickness. Sadly, they really only delay the onset of feeling sick, and I lasted just over an hour before I had to give up. Its only Valve/Source based games that screw me up, everything else is mostly OK. I have tried changing the FoV, higher/lower screen res, sitting nearer/further away, light/dark room, with or without my glasses. Nothing seems to really help :(

This last item has left me feeling more than just a little unwell this evening, so I think its time to retire to the bed with my tablet, and talk rubbish on twitter until I pass out!


DEFCON 20 Shoot

I have been fortunate over the last couple of years to be sent by the company to DEFCON in Las Vegas. Before I first went, I asked what it was going to be like, and the response was either “It will be like nothing you have ever experienced before” or “It will be whatever you make of it, get involved!“. And you know what? Both those responses are 100% correct.

This year, I did try to get far more involved with a lot of things, and although I was never the life and soul of the party, I was certainly a long way outside my usual comfort zone (which is usually just keep quiet and watch/listen).

So, as part of my “getting involved”, I ended up taking a lot of video of the DEFCON Shoot, which also allowed me to get to handle a lot more weapons than just the handguns I used last year. And yes, I am in this video somewhere :)

Many thanks again to Deviant Ollam ( for organising another great shoot event, even better this year with Wednesday PM and Thursday AM sessions.

Cambridge MakeSpace

I have been following the progress of MakeSpace in Cambridge for a while, and am so glad its starting to take shape now.

This is one of the major reasons why I am starting to get back into making things, and learning about stuff. It will give me the chance to meet people face to face, pick their brains about issues, help others if I can, and be able to make bespoke hardware items that you just cant buy.

Its still in the planning and painting stage, but the building lease has been agreed and signed off, and the MakeSpace founders are busy deciding how best to fit the space out. Cant wait for the space to open 24/7 with RFID entry system, and available for non-founders to use.


Where do I begin, lots of questions, and some great people


Now I have that out of the way, welcome to my blog. It will hopefully give me somewhere to allow me to document my return to geekiness. In this quest, I will be calling distant and vague memories of electronic projects of the past, problem solving abilities, playing with stuff until it works (or blows up), and the foolishness of some very kind online and real life friends who have said they would help me along my path to find some of the past I have lost, and heading into new areas I have yet to experience. To friends old and new, I thank you in advance for the dumb questions I will ask into the future :)

My background is networking, firewalls, VPNs, IRIX/Linux support, and have been in that sort of role for a long time. Before that I did some C coding for in-house tools, a stint as a 3D animator on Lightwave/Imagine/Alias/Maya, and some A/V processing. So, the range of things I have been involved in has been quite wide and varied at work.

I did some personal coding a few years back as a “I know I can do this, but no idea how” kind of project. I created a touchscreen application for Windows that provided an easy to create custom game controller than would allow multiple screens of button, and send raw keyboard commands to the game. It was written with flight sims in mind, but it kind of spread to anything that requires a lot of buttons and controls. Its still in use, although I stopped supporting it a long time ago.

One hobby that really has taken a back seat over the last year or so is my Astrophotography. It ticks so many geek boxes in one go… computers, peltier cooled CCD cameras, high quality optics, cables, USB, power supply issues in cold/wet/dewey/icy conditions, alignment of the mount to the celestial north pole, autoguiding with a second camera, image processing, post processing in Photoshop… ah yes, ticks so many boxes. Sadly, I havent really done any astrophotography for nearly a year now, but hoping that will change as winter comes round and the longer darker nights roll in (if the cloud ever clears!). Anyway, feel free to go take a look at some of the things I have imaged over at my other blog:

So, its time to get back into the swing of my geekness with projects that I have had running around my head for a while, and other things I want to discover more about just because I can. Who knows where they will lead… i certainly don’t, but thats half the fun. On my list is (in no particular order)

  • Electronics, Arduino, Phidgits, Raspberry Pi, etc
  • Stepper motors and Servos (I have a specific project for this!)
  • Offensive Network Security (Penetration Testing, secure coding, writing own exploit code, etc)
  • Learn to code in something more than just the Perl I am used to
  • Some projects for my astrophotography

To start with, this week I have ordered a Raspberry Pi kit for my dad (who requested it), and a Sparkfun Arduino kit for myself, both of which should be arriving next week. Sadly I am moving house next week, so I doubt I will get much time to play with either of them, but its so satisfying to know that they are on their way, and I have something to play with “soon”.

The house move will also mean a new layout for my office, so a few days getting it all cabled up, get the router, NAS, switch, etc all sorted. I am in an area that is getting BT Infinity very shortly, either FTTP or FFTC (depends on location), so lots of lovely bandwidth to use and abuse.

Once settled in, its back to my personal projects listed above, and anything else that catches my eye along the way (need to make a to-do list for this, or I`ll lose track of what needs to be done). I also need to start looking after myself better than I have over the last few years, so more exercise, mostly cycling to start with so the extra weight I carry doesn’t destroy my knees like it did last time I tried running (yeah, that didn’t go quite to plan!).

A new start for a whole bunch of things, some listed here, some not. Lets see how things go.

And, again, a huge thank you to all my friends who have been (and continue to be) supportive of me, my thoughts, my opinions. If I have asked your advise about something techie and I haven’t used that advise yet, I haven’t ignored it or brushed it aside, its all been stored away for later use when I get time (otherwise what was the point of my asking you in the first place?)

And thank you to all my virtual friends on twitter who I have never met, who put up with me following them, and for some reason, follow me back… I guess it takes all kinds :)