Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Collaboratively-Edited mindmap

This mindmap was for getting our collaborative workspace up and running! http://mind42.com/pub/mindmap?mid=7baad7e7-f745-44d4-8ff3-fcedd6288b83

Friday, 27 November 2009

Programming @ 1am

Programming at 1am with a tasty beverage.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Feedback from Facebook, SMS and Email

Hi Sam
Extreme well utilization of space! Basing my feedback on the pictures, I have not seen the room :)
Now you just need more flexibility.

Fixed tables - Reserve fixed setup tables in one corner for stationary computers.

Flexible tables - Eliminate fixed long table plate - replace with movable tables.

Increased flexibility, - for presentations/meetings.

Tall table - Consider 1 x tall table, for working standing/speaking/new seating position, possibly w bar stoles.

Floor - agree w laminate, better for office chairs, light wood.

Wall-mounting - wall-mount as much as possible, gives more space.

Paint and wall paint - high-gloss white, reflects light, gives feeling of more space.

Paint stairs white.

Pipes etc - paint them colorfully to integrate them in the design of the room. (saw this done at a basment office).

Lighting - mix of fluorescent lights (artificial white) and desk lamps (pleasant light) at work stations.

Talk to you soon!

FEEDBACK: Jonathan
I havnt looked yet,
but we need maps, lots of maps! Cnt have an evil basement lair withovt maps!

FEEDBACK: Kaloyan.
Ok a few preliminary points.
Don't we want the largest table in the middle?
Like a kind of conference table? I like that better than it being a small table in the middle.
Secondly I think that 1meter is a bit deep for a pc work station desk. Though at least one wall with a desk could be good for bigger projects. Oh and you forgot the reprap in there :p otherwise I am amazed! You Rock.

Hiya, I think you're gonna feel very crampt in there.
I would keep the table in the middle as looking at each other while gaming is more funny than sitting side by side and lose some desks on the wall. I don't think it's necessary to have all that along the walls.
I think shelving would be more beneficial to keep a group dvd/game collection in and hide away any spare btis and bobs. Storage is always useful.
I think you've got ample desk space with just 2 walls being deskededdeddd. Tx

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


UPDATE: upon reflection, I could actually just hack an Classic 4 prototype from work to do all of the storage (it has some flash memory) and message writing (using keypads) and sending (would be done over serial link to the arduino / radio transceiver rig)! Note: there is also a wifi link for internal communications.
Another idea about shorter range personal messaging over the 805.14 link.

This is a slightly edited re-post of a comment I left on Kal's Blog: http://www.invaderzone.com/

What do we understand by the term: 'off grid'? I reckon it means:
-no power grid
-no mobile phone service/signal
-no telephone service
-no internet

I think we should have a backbone of communication that does not rely on Internet i.e. a radio based network so we could, say, send data over radio links. I suppose this would be very useful if the internet or mobile phone networks went down or just generally for fun!


It would send things like SMS messages over standard radio links using minimal power. So the first thing to say is that means we probably wont use a desktop/laptop because they are power guzzling beasts.

I reckon the minimum hardware needed to do the job is as follows.

Core Specification:
1 x arduino
1 x storage card e.g. SD
1 x radio transceiver
1 x hacked ps2 keyboard
1 x small LCD screen
1 x solar panel
1 x battery bank

this would give the basic hardware platform to send and receive and store messages completely 'off grid'.

optional specification:
1 x ethernet shield for arduino

this could allow a full webserver to be run on the system. Now that would be interesting!

There are several conflicting goals when sending data over a radio link like this: reliability, processing, modulation techniques, security and efficiency etc.

The ideal outcome would be twofish / blowfish / some equally insane encryption on a 100% reliable link which consumes the least amount of power possible. Well this is just not going to happen- firstly, it is virtually impossible and would take an absolute genius if not a team of geniuses to pull off. So I think we should have a more modest initial goal:

Get the link working (unsecured, not optimised for low power)

Later development would consider the following issues:

Issue 1:
The system is powered on all the time?

Solution 1:
Scheduled communication.

Issue 2:
Time synchronisation between transceivers.

Solution 2:
Send SYNC packets between the transceivers.
Most watch crystals drift at 20us/second so we could use that as a starting point to work out the optimal sync period.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

Friday, 30 October 2009

Internet on Netbook via Bluetooth PAN + O2 Unlimited Web bolt-on

This actually runs quite well. A very nice way to use the internet bolt-on provided with my O2 monthly contract.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


This is my first post on HPA Makers,
please have a look at this new webpage:


Twitter + Delicious project tag:


Can't Stop the Signal

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


I am now certain I need to get a free weekend for some router hacking.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

FTDI Bitbang

Have a look at this great article from Hackaday:


This is certainly going to be a mandatory purchase for the lab.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Oh crap

Dammit Kal!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Party time!

Yay it worked.

Blogger test

Testing the private email from my mobile to Blogger.


Testing phone 'Blog this' feature on Sony K610i. It uses MMS.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Time for a redesign of samthetechie.com

Watch this space...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Google Business Centre Message

This is quite an amusing reflection on the difference between engineers and 'communication people' from a recent status message on the google business centre.
The Google Local Business Center is unavailable for the next hour
We appreciate your patience as we perform some routine system maintenance.

More specifically, we're updating 'the backend' (to employ that catchy, catchall moniker coined and lent to us by engineering folks who work on all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes but know we communications folks can't very well say 'We're updating all of the technical fiddly bits behind the scenes' and expect you, an enlightened Google user, to take us seriously or at least not wonder aloud ' Wait, what sort of bits were those again?').

So please check back in sixty minutes. Maybe less, considering the time you've invested in deciphering this message.

Friday, 19 June 2009


I think that the following project by Johnny Lee from Carnegie Mellon University is fantastic and is really making waves in education, with makers, hackers, and general techies.
Latest: made a couple of infrared LED pens for my friend Jesper in Sonderborg (Denmark). It was fun to borrow some labspace at the university for an afternoon.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I have just finished watching: Google Wave Developer Preview at Google I/O 2009
I would like to see more use of google wave as a tool to create 'infospaces' in real-time. So I am going to attempt to tweak the platform to optimise the initial layout of a wave to help structure the contributions a bit and add some intelligent behaviour to facilitate the dynamic presentation of resources (such as links, talking and research points/focuses/ideas) during the session.
For example, I would love to see a dynamic delicious tag cloud as links are added during the session. This would be a fantastically productive way of holding a meeting? I will need some people to test this out with so please get in touch! It is my hope that this project will be the key to all of the others. I think that once you truly 'crack' real-time collaboration and combine it with brainstorming and discussion, you have a powerful design and research technique/process. I think this could help make rapid progress on all of the projects.

My original inspiration for this capability was a New Scientist article I read a few years back. This is the bit that really caught my attention:
We have our wireless computers augmented by video cameras, projectors, and conferencing to remote participants as necessary.

Whenever a topic emerges in the course of conversation, the students instantly google it and introduce any interesting results into the discussion. As we accumulate data, references, web links, ideas, sketches, computer-aided design models, and other relevant material, we record it in a blog-like website that represents our small community's evolving, intellectual capital. The blog is accessible to any of us, at any time, from anywhere in the world.

This sort of creative practice may not seem very disciplined. It may even horrify those who think of teaching as the structured, authoritative dispensation of knowledge. But it is thrillingly intense and it enables us to make astonishingly rapid progress. It works, and I bet that this style of collaborative teaching will catch on.

source: Higher learning, the Wi-Fi way

I am so tempted to call it: 'brainwave'? Is that really lame?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

LED Lighting for the home

I have recently been taking an interest in LED lighting. I am going to order some GU10 LED spotlights and evaluate them over the coming week. This is the kind of performance that can be expected:
In 2008, SSL technology advanced to the point that Sntry Equipment Corporation in Oconomowoc, Wis. was able to light its new factory almost entirely with LEDs, both interior and exterior. Although the initial cost was three times more than a traditional mixture of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, the extra cost will be repaid within two years from electricity savings, and the bulbs should not need replacement for 20 years.[1]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LED_lamp

If it goes well I will look into getting LED lighting for the whole house!


Aim: A platform to allow gardeners to share data and knowledge about cropping times, local conditions etc in an attempt to monitor and optimise food cultivation processes and techniques.

Composting (green and brown waste)
Water Butt (n.b. modify design to allow draining --> prevent stagnation)
Veggie plot plant info packs per vegetable.
Freecycle element: i.e. give away free cuttings, clippings, excess cropped veg or fruit (Wanted, Offered etc.)
Surveying (trundle wheel, camera)
Google Sketchup

Here is an awesome email from Tasha which will really help kick started the garden project.

Ok so here it is!

This is pretty much as far as I can go with your garden. Below is a list of "beds" these "beds" are comprised of plants which get on well together. It is up to you where you place the beds in your garden. As general rules I would advise no straight lines/borders just create soft curved lines that allow the plants to be placed together and also so you can reach the middle of the bed at any given point. During the winter the only preparation I would do is clear that right hand corner a bit so you can use that raised bed and then cover all the areas you plan on using with mulch and cardboard to keep it warm and help kill off any weeds you don't want over winter. Then when you come to plant you just cut holes in the mulch/cardboard and work straight in. I've read that people are finding they get greater yields leaving the soil in tact for many reasons yet to be fully understood by modern science.

1. Nasturtium and Courgette; the nastrutium creeps and traps aphids, attracts predatory insects and helps curcurbits. (I think this would be good in the raised bed so the nasturtium dosn't get completely out of control (also you can eat all of the nasturtium plant)
2. Peppermint and Broccolli; the smell of peppermint repels cabbage fliesand slugs
3. Carrot, onion, lettuce and coriander; onion will deter carrot fly and repel slugs and corianders smell will help repel carrot fly
4. Potato, tomato, basil, parsley, oregano, mint; oregano provides ground cover, basil is said to make tomatoes taste better and mint repels slugs
5. Pea and Garlic; garlic deters rabbits, slugs, aphids, carrot fly and cabbage worms (sounds good)
6. Rosemary, sage, thyme and tarrago; sage deters cabbage fly, aromatic herbs deter slugs, spiky textures do as well (these could be put near the house for cooking convience or put at random in amongst the beds I guess)
7. Pakchoi, spinach, watercress and borage; borage is a magick bullet in companion planting it's said to improve any plant yield
Yarrow increases the essential oil production of some herbs and can be used as a compost enricher (plant all around the garden)
Marigold produces natural pesticidal in its roots and lasts for years in the soil even once the plant has died (again plant everywhere)

I would try to grow everything from seed in compost pots then put the pots straight in the ground when they are big ennough. Tell me what you think for some direction and we can go from there. We need to sort out how you will get mulch, composting, water supply. Also there are tonns of things we could do in the garden to help make the house more efficient. Oh, in terms of design I thought it would be nice if you made the arch trail with something and put a seat in it. I do have a very rough sketch of a plan but I don't have a scanner, so not much use sorry.

Tasha x

p.s. watercress likes water, thought of having a small water feature? If not you can always dig a small trough for it to be planted in so the water collects there.


Aim: achieve a basic level of home automation by having a low-power sub-system being able to switch more energy intensive systems on and off.

Development Milestones

1st: digitally controlled relay
2nd: serial port control
3rd: wireless control
4th: web interface


Aim: This project aims to pull together the requisite information, hardware and software to make a web-based intranet and information point for my home.


Weather: int / ext temperature, forecast, photovoltaic gain, wind speed, humidity int/ext
Time / Date
Calendar: public holidays, house calendar
News --> RSS
Events --> RSS
Power consumption monitoring: Reverse engineer an OWL system.
Local info: Shop opening hours/location, bus/train routes/times, taxi numbers

Good question...

In terms of the data and control structure, I currently see a subsumption layer architecture being appropriate.
There will be sensor inputs, a sequencing layer, a behaviour layer, actuator outputs- see digram "subsumption"


Monday, 4 May 2009


Further to "Feed my delicious mind"...

A workshop I ran a while back entitled: 'An Introduction to Online Collaboration Platforms'.

To my knowledge, this is the first and only computer workshop hosted by the Durham University Engineering Society (note: I would love to run a workshop on ardunio after exams...if you want to get involved then get in touch): http://docs.google.com/Present?docid=dg4dhwgp_12fpkcbv4j

It is a quick presentation with some links to youtube commoncraft videos and some urls with examples of the platforms in use. Click, watch, install delicious and then please share bookmarks with me! username: samthetechie

Monday, 27 April 2009


Aim: Design, Test and Build a fully autonomous mapping robot from lego mindstorms.
Pretty awesome project brief.
This project is just before exams and runs for two weeks so we should really be looking to be working to deadlines and just get on with it. With that in mind...
We are using a software module from a project from a German University to interface Mindstorms with Matlab, details to follow via delicious and by updating this post. This also allows us to control the robot through Matlab, using a serial link over bluetooth.
We are also using Mindstorms NXT for running the introductory demo/example programs.


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Twitter Roll

I have added my twitter updates to my website with the following code:

<div id="tweet"><ul id="twitter_update_list"></ul></div>

and then at the bottom of the page:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://twitter.com/javascripts/blogger.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/samthetechie.json?callback=twitterCallback2&count=1">


Aim: Create a robot controlled by the Classic 4 using omni wheels and dc motors.
This robot would be known as the Classic 4 Omnibot. This would be a hack of the 'Classic 4' theraputic device I collaborate on at work to control some actuators to make a cool robot. So...I think it would be awesome to recreate: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pprk/
with the Classic 4 as the brain.
Here are some pics:


Aim: get to grips with the Jennic Wireless Sensorboard which I am currently borrowing from work.


Aim: Create a custom JTAG connector for the MSP430.

because the proprietary ones simply cost way too much!


Aim: create a charging circuit to usefully harness power generated by solar panels.

This might allow charging AA, AAA batteries or portable devices like Ipods and mobile phones.

An interesting blog post by google: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/should-you-spring-clean-your-solar.html


Aim: generate some electricity from wind


Aim: Use data from gmail to trigger an actuator in my lab.

This may take the form of a coloured LED or something similar.


Aim: Monitor physical parameters relevant to plant growth and put the information online.

This will compliment future projects.


Aim: Create some stepper motor driver circuits which will later allow the design of a robot.


Aim: Allow stepper motors to be controlled over the Internet.
This will be a nice compliment to other projects which will allow integration with various sites like Twitter and Gmail. On ToDo list to write this one up.


UPDATE: Check out Kal's Blog for the latest.

Aim: make a web interface for controlling cheap remote control vehicles.
The first stage is complete, the rc car can be controlled from a serial terminal.
Will post a proper write-up with photos, schematics and details later on this evening when Kal comes over to interface it with his wiimote/bluetooth setup.

Well, I clearly failed to write this up in time.. I cannot do this now as I am back at uni studying for my finals. To cut a long story short I used 4 MOSFETS instead of relays to allow the arduino to switch current through the contacts of a remote control unit for an r/c car. This is due to the low switching current is this case...However, the wiring and programming is relatively simple so perhaps I can quickly explain it?
Arduino outputs (13,12,11,10) are set to digital out. These are set high or low. This applies a voltage, or not, to the gate (middle pin) of each of 4 MOSFETs. The MOSFETs are wired to source their current from the high voltage rail (each of 4 switch contacts) on the remote control unit (with silk screen labels: SW4, SW3, SW2, SW1 respectively). The MOSFETs sink the current to battery GND. The GND on the remote control unit (is also the metal prongs) must also be connected to the transistor ground. You will have to work out the rest until I can do a full writeup with diagrams and photos.

I will upload a really bad video of the initial testing just for kicks...

Here are the photos:


I think I am gonna work towards a custom solution for my blog. I dont like having the template different from that of my main website. Will have a crack when I get some time after exams.


Aim: Free chat over the PMR 446 unlicensed band tunneled through the internet.
This is the PMR 446 gateway that Kal and I setup. On ToDo list to write this one up.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Need some web or IT help?

Samuel Carlisle

Need some web or IT help? If it is to do with online content for the Durham Law School then you're in the right place!

Otherwise please contact the ITS service desk.

w: http://www.dur.ac.uk/its/servicedesk/
e: itservicedesk@durham.ac.uk

Still think you're in the right place? Great!

If our self-service support options like the wiki and status page can't help solve your problem, then I certainly can- just send me an email!

e: law.web@durham.ac.uk

If you require face-to-face web or IT support then please do not hesitate to come and find me during my 'in department' working hours (as shown below):

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Projects Logic

New projects logic. Hmmmm how to do it, how to do it...
Naming conventions
Google Docs

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Nature of Observation

I just watched this http://vimeo.com/2910103.
I began thinking about the subtlety and detail of everyday visual observation that is missed by the persistance of vision, the limit of the human vision system. So here are some random thoughts on the nature of scientific observation- in no particular order.

1) If we have 5 senses with which to experience the world then how should they best be used for the purpose of scientific observation?

2) What improvement in understanding can be afforded by the contribution of each sense in interpreting data? i.e. In which circumstances would it be better to hear voltages rather than see them on an oscilloscope?

3) What are the charateristics of each sense which would suit them to interpreting phenomina? Presumeably the nature of each facet of the human sensory system will naturally match up with interpreting the observations of real physical phenomina due to mathematical similarities of the oberseved and observing systems.

4) Are current sensing technologies well optimised to interface with our sensory systems?

5) What is the effectiveness of enhancing sensory accuracy compared to enhancing the means with which to comprehend by relating to the observations? Or are observations just numbers and constants in equations?

6) Does vision merely represent the highest information to data ratio with which humans can observe the world in most cases? Surely the brain is already optimised to reject 'useless' information for survival. What are the characteristics of this optimisation?
Surely for the best possible observation, the optimisation should be a according to the nature of the properties of the phenomia being observed and not a function of evolutionary specificity of the sensory system of the observer?

7) Is the efficiency for obtaining information about an event:
the useful information that can be obtained from the data about an event over total data obtained
rather than
the data which we have evolved to percieve to be useful over the total data obtained
i.e. are there any evolotionary limiting factors which prevent us from making full use of observations? How can these be overcome?

8) What additional insights could be made if our senses were enhanced or exploited to their fullest potential by appropriate presentation / encapsulation of data to make best use of each sense?

9) Is mathematical analysis the only way to make sense of data?

10) Can observation be improved to facillitate the earlier stages to prevent unecessary analysis?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Snow Day!

I have taken advice from the random eco quote generator on my website.
It told me to work from home, I have complied.

Monday, 2 February 2009


Dear Reader,
I have run into some everyday issues with my ipod. Having found the solutions posted online, I thought I would mirror them here.

Howto: Listen to the iPod and charge from the USB at the same time.
Right click on the icon representing the iPod in my computer and you will be able to "eject" the iPod's fat32 partition which has been automatically mounted and assigned a drive letter.

N.B: Do NOT use the 'safely remove hardware feature'. It's not the same thing as ejecting a disk. Using the 'safely remove hardeware' option turns OFF the power to that device so it can be safely removed. "Ejecting the disk" leaves the power on to the drive.

Kind Regards,

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Feed my 'Delicious mind'

This is a re-write of a blog post that I read on the UK parliaments Lab website. I thought that it embodied the spirit of collaborative bookmarking on delicious so I have rewritten it to invite anyone to share their delicious bookmarks with me.
I found the blog post at: http://parliamentlabs.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/feed-our-delicious-mind/
I use Delicious to bookmark interesting sites/articles/ideas that I come across in the course of our work and my free time.
If you also use Delicious and want to let me know about an interesting article or just some information related to technology, physics, engineering, webdesign, electronics, hacking (the things I like) or things that you find interesting that you think I might like then take the following steps:
1) Add samthetechie to your Delicious network
2) When you’re saving a bookmark, add the tag ‘for:samthetechie’
3) That’s it.
I look forward to seeing what you’re reading…