Saturday 31 March 2012


Yet another use for the British-designed (by Acorn, originally) ARM chips is this machine for solving Rubik's cubes. It is not exactly slow!

Bridging the Network

The bedroom Acorn RiscPC computer I have here no longer communicates across my network here, ever since the old Telewest Cable modem failed and was replaced by a four-port "hub" (nothing to do with airports!) with wireless capability.

Now, four wired ports were never going to be sufficient for my needs as I had things then, so I have the two portables both operating over wireless networking and the wired connection from the one in "Mission Control" (as I call this room) has been removed.

The other one, located in the bedroom, I had already set to wireless networking, so no change was needed.

However, the other bedroom computer (ha ha! Take that, Modesty Blaise!) – a RiscPC – had previously communicated with my eight-port LinkSys router via a pair of Belkin wireless devices, one plugged into the RiscPC and the other into the router.

The router will not work with the Virgin hub (at least not with the limited tinkering I have done so far) so my new idea is to wire the bedroom RiscPC into the portable's network port and use that machine (in RISC OS emulation mode) as a "bridge" between the wired and wireless networks. It will be interesting to see (a) if this works at all and (b) if the bedroom RiscPC is visible only on the connected portable or is transmitted across the whole network. I suspect it might be the latter, but haven't yet reached the point where I can test it.

Why not?

It's because that RiscPC has only a 10Base2 (BNC connector) network interface. I have a gadget to convert the signal to 10BaseT (RJ-45/UTP) which I have wired up, but I can't find the mains power unit for it. There is relatively little still boxed up here, but I have spent a whole afternoon untangling various cables from one packing box and it wasn't among those.

Okay, so I shall carry on looking during the next couple of days, and no doubt report back what transpires. As I backup these "secondary" computers only monthly, on the first day of each month, it would be handy to have this working by some time tomorrow (1 April)!

UPDATE: I've found the power supply for the gadget, and the bedroom RiscPC and the hard-wired portable can now see each other; but that is all. Not a problem: I shall simply 'pipe' anything to or from the RiscPC via the bedroom portable, which is no trouble at all. Indeed, this gives that machine more work to do, which is no bad thing.

Monday 26 March 2012

What's a GertBoard?

This demonstration should give you an idea...

Yes, it's a hardware interface add-on for the Raspberry Pi. It reminds me so much of the sort of thing my brother and I (mostly him) built ourselves, back in the early 'eighties at the family home in Morden. The row of LEDs and the momentary-contact pushbuttons are so reminiscent of a very basic computer (with 1 kiloByte of memory!) built into a silver-and-green casing that I had, with a Motorola 6800 CPU at its heart.

Ah, those were the days! The memories the GertBoard thus brought back to me were quite powerful, and reminded me of just how much I still had to learn in those times.

Anyway, we are now some thirty years on, and still the spirit of "breadboard innovation" and experimentation lives on. It really is important for the future, to help prevent stagnation in some of the fields in which the technology can continue to flourish and develop.

Sunday 25 March 2012

RIP Jocky!

"Here comes Jocky up to the Ochee, looking stocky and feeling cocky!" – Sid Waddell

Here's a tribute from a couple of years ago to John Thomas Wilson whom we all knew as "Jocky", and who left us today after a period of ill health. He was just 62, my own age as I write this...

Saturday 24 March 2012

Couch and Potatoes

I've had a couple of requests for photos of my lounge, because of the nesting tables I recently bought from nearby Argos, and actually quite enjoyed assembling. Here are some views of the finished products in situ...

The nesting tables in place, with coasters and TV etc handsets
The string holding this large picture up has snapped, so I'm looking for wire!
That large picture will be hung on the wall behind and above the sofa

The dining table is here set for one, but is easy to re-configure for 2 to 4

Friday 23 March 2012

Head in the Clouds

Well, only for ten minutes a day, to watch the new Cloudbabies programme on CBeebies.

After all, who does look after the sky and all that is within it?

Okay, so the basic premise is a bit daft, really, but it's quite enchanting in its own way – and I've decided that I'd like to have my own skyhorsey!

The artistic design of the programme is of a similar type to that of Octonauts, which is ideal for this purpose. Unusually, the whole programme is produced within the UK, unlike other series where the animation is done in overseas places such as India (e.g. Everything's Rosie) or Canada (where Waybuloo's CGI is done).

For me, it'll be good to know, when I next go out in the sunny midday, just who it was who polished the sun to give off such a brilliant shine; who brushes Fuffa Cloud every day; and at nighting-time I shall be looking out for Little Star in the heavens – provided he has woken up in time, that is!

The Dimbledance

This dance would certainly have livened up at least the opening moments of what was a rather dull BBC Question Time yesterday evening...

I was co-moderating contributions as usual, and am now getting sufficiently skilled with the somewhat clumsy "producer's console" that I was able to participate myself much more than I had done previously as a moderator – it had been essentially one or the other but not both together (not helped by my evening medication beforehand).

David Davis was very good indeed, even getting a fair amount of applause from the (bussed-in public sector-plus-students) strongly Left-leaning audience, and Melissa Kite was generally okay too. Despite all the (increasingly blatant) wangles, fixes and other manipulations to rig the programme to suit their own political agenda, even their carefully-selected audiences have over the last few months often failed to behave as Auntie had planned.

It's yet another (and in this case big) indication that the British public has turned a corner and is waking up to reality with greater understanding, aided by the Information Age's everyday facilities that are nowadays available to all, readily and relatively cheaply. At Question Time all the plotting and preparation still pay off to some extent, but the trend appears to be consistently in the direction of "less effective".

Thus even the current polling high for Labour (at last more than a point or two lead) – which is largely because of inertia in the sheer mass of the public-at-large – will probably collapse again within the next few weeks; and this time it might even vanish altogether and permanently.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Tweet of the Day – 18 March 2012

From one David Round, in response to Stuart Hill's...
"Rory woke up especially to watch Homeland. He says it's up there with Sopranos and Waybuloo."
He (very sensibly, I thought) tweeted back...
"I was starting to lose faith with Homeland, but if Rory says it's up there with Waybuloo then I may need to reconsider..."

Saturday 17 March 2012

Parish Notice – 17 March 2012

I am trying out a few configuration options to see what they do and to consider whether any of them should be kept, or discarded after a try-out period. Therefore if something changes, do not be concerned. It might go back again a day or two later, if I don't think it's worth keeping.

One change I've made, here and elsewhere, is to remove references to Medway's bid for City Status, as that is now all over – until the next time...

I've also checked this 'blog's posting statistics: I'm now up to 3,086 posts here, and 2,677 published comments. That might surprise readers, that there has been an average of a little under one comment for every post – or perhaps it might be easier to visualise as one comment for each of seven-out-of-eight posts (actually 86·7%).

Okay, Guido (for example) gets hundreds of comments to most of his posts; but that is to be expected, and a lot of the comments there are just 'noise'. I'd rather have a higher quality of commenting, but do not aim to attract or encourage commenting at all, as it happens (apart from the occasional request for contributions, which don't tend to produce any results, contrarily!)

Although I trundle along quietly enough here, this 'blog is more widely read and more notice is taken of it than many visitors probably realise. It's how I work best: putting facts out there into the public arena, exploding myths, spreading awareness – that kind of thing.

There is a lot of mis-information being put about by those who are well aware of its falsity, and it is only right and proper that such deception is countered by those of us (and there are quite a few about these days) who are known for "playing it straight". Add a fair degree of breadth of topic, of knowledge and of personal experience, but also add in some lighter material for variety and entertainment, and we have what I hope is a place that is worth visiting on a regular basis.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Most Astounding Fact

Not only are we in the universe, but the universe is in us too. As Delenn told John Sheridan in Babylon 5, "We are all made of star-stuff"...

Saturday 10 March 2012

BBC Micro 30th Anniversary

A celebration event for the BBC Micro-computer's thirtieth anniversary is being held on the 25th of this month, in Cambridge (where else?) – see the event's website for fuller information.

It'll be great to have not only the co-founders of Acorn Computers Ltd, Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry, but also Sophie Wilson and Pref Steve "Furby" Furber there, as well as Eben Upton of Raspberry Pi fame.

Thus the thirty year span from the original Acorn Proton to today's ARM-based hardware platform will be covered at this very special event.

I don't expect to be able to go myself, as the tickets are too expensive for me to be able to justify, but wish it well from a distance instead!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Solar Activity

A warning of "space weather" likely to affect our planet to some degree over the next couple of days (Thursday and Friday). It's nothing particularly serious, but useful to know about in advance...

John Takes The Biscuit

You know the 'wrong' biscuit that's always included in a selection pack of biscuits for cheese? Yes, the semi-sweet one, described as "Wheatsheaf digestive" on the ASDA selection box.

I originally thought it was a strange inclusion, and others I have spoken to have had that view too.

However, I have found that it goes quite well with some cheeses, and I'll nowadays have it as (usually) the second to be consumed of a selection of (typically) four.

I have found it goes well with Double Gloucester, Brie, Gruyère and mature Cheddar – no spread, just the cheese and the biscuit, ideally washed down with something appropriate to the particular cheese. No doubt there are other cheeses that are OK too, though not blue cheeses, I have found.

After several years of enjoying this combination, though, I can state that it's definitely worth a try – but don't put any kind of spread on it!

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Six-Minute Fuse

It's amazing what happens in places such as Gillingham High Street during Medway's annual FUSE Festival. Oh, and you can meet Sparky and Magma there, this year's event being held at various places around Medway from 17 to 19 June 2012.

Here's a little of what happened last year...

In The Night Garden – Live!

I have been aware of a stage version of In The Night Garden for a little while now, and have today found the promotional video (below) UPDATE: There's another one, which I have now added below the first.

I don't know what the future plans are for this tour, but I suspect it'll run for years!

It's obviously impossible to do entirely without visible puppeteers, so it's fair to say that the show's producers have done well with (for example) the Tombliboos. I wonder if, and how, the Pontipines have been included...

As for which show: I'm not sure whether I'd personally prefer the Ninky-Nonk show or the Pinky-Ponk one. Ah, decisions...