Friday, October 31

Halloween Automated Scarer part 2

And so this is the scarer in a box, all finished and connected up ready to spring into action

by either using the QR code or send an SMS to my Nokia 7250i the Python code will parse the incoming SMS. If the message says "scare" it will tell the PIC to scream. The PIC will be scared via its serial port and will then activate the motor back and forth a few times

Once installed in place the motor is linked to four fishing lines two are wound clockwise and two counter-clockwise. What is attached to the lines weighs pretty much the same on each and because they are wound in opposite direction the motor doesn't have to struggle much at all.

That's it really, the code isn't terribly interesting but I would be glad to provide it if needed.
Here is a short video of the final effect.

And this is the sign I had outside my house.

In the end I did not have many customers scared but quite a few took the time to watch the animation and enjoyed the novelty. A witch was particularly interested in the QR code, not even her could think of such sorcery!

Friday, October 24

Halloween Automated Scarer part 1

Me and the family are having great fun this year preparing the Halloween project. I am afraid this time we might have had exaggerated a bit but ... I guess it is too late now, we are nearly done!

Before I upload any pictures of the real thing and, who knows, maybe even a scary video, here is just a teaser.

Neighbours and children hungry for chocolate ... prepare to be scared wohahaha,



Thursday, October 9

IPEXPO second day

Day 2 IPEXPO 2014 Excel London

Before leaving home today I checked the weather forecast. It was mostly sunny and I thought it was a good omen. So there I was on my way to the second and last day of IPEXPO.

My resolution for the day was not to go to any of the talks in fear of the experience from the previous day.
I arrived "slightly" early at 8:00 o'clock when the gates would have opened at 9:30. At least that gave me time to catch up with some work and think of what I wanted to get from today's visit.

It was still sunny when they finally let us in. I knew that today it would have been the last opportunity for exhibitors to get business cards and contacts from the visiting crowd. The race was on!
I got approached already by somebody right at the entrance 30 seconds before 9:30. First beep of the day. Just so that it is clear, each one of these exhibitors was equipped with a bar code reader and my badge had a bar code that would say who I was. So as you are talking to somebody you would see them more or less discretely pull one of those "weapons" out of their pockets and with nonchalance ... they would beep you to death!
It was constant, you talk to somebody you get beeped, they give you a gadget but you get beeped, you go to a talk you get ... beeped, you get stopped by somebody that actually asks you information and ... you get BEEPED!! Well I guess you get it by now, there was no escaping.
As the hours passed it was rather entertaining to see visitors dodging pretty girls holding chocolate and gadgets in one hand and the dreadful weapon in the other. "Get a chocolate! Beep! mwahahaha".

Then there were the freebies freaks. They are a different species, lurking in the shadow they wait until all exhibitors are busy with other visitors to launch themselves in an attach magpie style and get their object of desire. Which in itself is rather sad especially if you consider that since the credit crunch the freebies you get are along the lines of pens and sweets. Who uses that many pens nowadays anyway!

My determination not to go to talks paid off in the end. Getting from one exhibitor to another wasn't easy but I eventually managed to have a good nearly old fashion chat with a few techies (yes they do still exist).

I had a really interesting chat with somebody from Ruckus which explained how different their antennas are from the competition and how does that guarantee a better coverage with less interference and eventually better bandwidth per user. Read this white paper for more.

My main goal for the day was to get more information on mobile users management for the enterprise and my best bets where Citrix and VMware's latest acquisition Airwatch. The acquisition is so recent that the guys from VMware and the guys from Airwatch were actually in two different stands!

Both seem to be offering similar solutions but Citrix seemed to be able to offer a wider scope of functionalities. They were also the only ones that could explain a bit more of what really happens in the back-end, what services need to be deployed, how does the admin GUI looks like and gave a rather in depth explanation of what happens on the mobile device that wants to join ... your private Cloud.

And so it ended. The first day was cloudy with a chance of content, the following day was dodge the beep but it was in fact more useful than the day before.

Am I going next year?

Wednesday, October 8

IPEXPO first day

Day 1 IPEXPO 2014 Excel London

Today was the opening day for the IPEXPO Europe which takes place in London Excel.
This was my first time at the IPEXPO and I did not know what to expect so ... bear with me if I did not get the full gist of it.

The event started with a rather refreshing speech from Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I had forgotten how difficult it is to follow what he says, I guess having your brain running at the speed of light causes some problems with the coordination of the lips. You should really film him and watch him later in slow motion to get all he his saying. Literally a river of words!

I guess the most difficult part to make sense of was about how could it really be possible for big corporations to shape up the future of the web to improve our life and guarantee democracy, I am afraid I was not terribly convinced about the ethics behind the likes of HP, Google, Microsoft, VMware, etc. and how are they going to give us back control on our data and our privacy but mostly how are they going not be tempted to use that same data for things like targeted advertising.
Well, his forecast is for 2050 and ... I believe in miracles and I want to believe in you Sir Tim Berners-Lee!
It was however really nice to listen to him talking about the beginning of the World Wide Web and how his boss Mike Sendall at CERN defined his proposal "Vague but exciting". It was 25 years ago and much happened in the meantime, maybe Mike Sendall was ahead of his time and had already thought about the future we live in today where everything is vague but exciting only we chose a better way to describe it:
The Cloud!
SERIOUSLY! Isn't time to stop abusing that word? The Cloud? What does it mean? Really? When I first heard about it I thought it was going to be a question of a year or so and people would have rebelled to that. Years later we are still using it and the technologies that are described behind the term are as cloudy as the promises they make. Even speakers are embarrassed to use it, they might have one of those clouds on the slides they are presenting but they make their best to actually try to use a different more meaningful word for it. Some might refer to grid computing, some may talk about hosting and so on.
I think cloud was really invented to sell something that had not really been quite developed yet or maybe they thought we could not handle the complexity of what they where offering and hid it behind ... well, behind something sort of foggy so that each one of us could see what they really were looking for.
And so the day went between colourful clouds and little icons moving back and forth to the clouds like little angels.
I am a system administrator at heart and a wannabe geek, back in the days what excited people was seeing a demo of something actually doing things. In the 90s seeing a GUI would give you a feel of what could be achieved with one program or another, seeing a shell ... well, seeing a shell and some scripting in action would get lads howling. Now you get clouds and pretty pictures, you are told a really nice story and frankly with pretty pictures and clouds you can say anything you want without risking too much.
"Say, where do the data go after they are uploaded to that system?"
"To the cloud"
"What will the users connect to when subscribing to that service?"
"To the cloud"
"Where are my servers and how do I administer them"
"Via the cloud"
and so on ...

Honestly I attended a few talks today and I could not quite understand what was that they were selling or more in general talking about. It all sounded like the c word, reduced TCO and yada, yada, yada.
Sometime I am wondering:
"Has information technology lost it?"
These mega vendors are selling us a new era of computing born out of their competition to sell products which are often rushed on the market without having reached the necessary maturity on both their design and their development and I feel as if at times we are no longer sold software, we maybe sold

Tuesday, October 7

Canon IXUS i5 stuck on movie mode

A few days ago I gave my children a Canon IXUS i5 that stopped working a while back. It had always bothered me that it could not be fixed and the more I would see them play with it the more it got me thinking that the problem it was suffering from was neither mechanical nor to do with the electronics.

I had that camera a few years ago from a friend which had asked me to look at it as it seemed to be stuck in movie mode despite which position was the selector in. Replay was movie mode, photos was movie mode.
Very annoying!

It had to be with the firmware and there had to be a way to either reset it or flash it anew.
I opted for the easy way first and tried to reset it. As you can imagine no mention of this on the manual and most upsetting not much on the internet either!

Electronic toys generally have a combination of buttons or keys that can be used to enter hidden features one of which can sometimes be a reset. About an hour later it was clear that this approach was not going anywhere, the camera has 9 buttons so it should have taken me longer but the more obvious combinations i.e. power button + menu, power button + function and some others weren't really promising.

I then decided for a radical approach; take it a part! (© Dave Jones)

It is a shame not to have taken any pictures of the process but frankly ... is it really worth to anybody knowing the step by step process to repair such an old camera?

To cut the story short, after removing the rather obvious screws, you get to expose the main PCB which sits on the front of the camera. Remove all the flat cables and get the PCB free. On its reverse you will find the tampon battery. Remove that for a couple of minutes (maybe much less) and job done! After putting the camera back together the camera is reset to factory settings and the problem is gone.

Little I new that this is pretty much the same procedure to get rid of the "Memory card error" affecting the IXUS 400 and apparently other models of the same family.

Well, this might not be of much help to many but certainly was of great satisfaction to me.