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=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="">


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:
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:


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.


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!


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):

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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
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?