15th June 2013.

I haven’t added any thing to this blog for quite some time … I have been rather busy. Basically my wife went into  the UK hospital system with a broken leg and was discharged  as a raving lunatic due to a condition that developed while she was in hospital. More recently she had a forth fall, broke nothing and was admitted into a mental hospital to fix the ‘morphine induced psychosis’ caused by the first hospital.  A couple of months later she is discharged from that hospital with the psychosis apparently fixed …. But is now a physical wreck weighing 37.2 kg,  refusing to eat because she wants to die to escape the acute pain that has been developing over more than a decade.
The current policy of the NHS is enable patients to leave a hospital as soon as possible and do ‘after care’ in the patients home … or nursing home.  Either way it gets rid of an embarrassing problem of having patients hogging a hospital bed that costs £250 a day,  because of an inability to to actually fix the problems that they are causing.  So fixed or fucked, it doesn’t matter, they cease to be a problem to the hospital. To avoid any legal come-backs they have go through the charade of having a Care Package Assessment (CPA) meeting, to ensure that it is seen that they have done the bare minimum to avoid subsequently being sued for neglect etc.. If  the patient has less than £23,000 in assets, they only pay part of the care costs once out of the hospital. If the patient has more than £23,000 in assets then they are responsible  for all of their future care costs … until they are suitably impoverished by this system. If on the other hand they have never worked, never saved, do not own their own home  and did bugger all to provide for their future … it is OK, because the people who have worked all their lives, saved until it hurt and paid their way in life …Will have to pay for it.
Of course you cannot simply kick people out of hospital that are still ill … because it would look bad in a court room. So when ejected, individuals from the local health team keep an eye on the patients. In my wife’s case the hospital discharged her without notifying anyone and two weeks later we ran out of medication for her. OK eventually the system woke up and those responsible got their fingers out of their collective ass’s and now things have settled to a once a week visit, on a good week. It is a ‘going through the motion’ exercise. I suppose the idea is to allow the prime carer to unload all their fears and the patients symptoms in the hope that something will be done and not sue anyone. Since her discharge from hospital, there has been a lot of me talking  about my fears, a couple of people pretending to listen and not a single bit of action to change anything. The whole thing is a farce and this is not the medical system I have paid for all my working life. While this has been going on without a diagnosis that would produce an effective prognosis, my wife is declining in front of me. The time for me to panic has long been passed … she is now weighing 37 0 Kg and wants to die and because she wants to die she does not want to prolong things by eating etc..  Do I really have to watch her weight go down day after day, knowing full well that this is going to kill her ?. There is no excuse because her NHS ‘support’ team know exactly what the situation is and from weekly visit, to weekly visit, there is only talk, talk, talk and no effective action.  I will only say this …. If you accept the pay for the job .. You also accept the ultimate responsibility for it.

17th March 2013.

I have been looking at survival again to see what is still missing. The end result is four new projects including Squawk. Two are related to H5N1 masks and the last an idea for making snares more ‘humane’.  
It is ironic that the very people who talk most about survival, have probably never once in their lives had to kill what they eat. I can imagine them having vapours at even the sight of a dead animal and a tin opener the closest they ever got to making ethical decisions on the food chain.  They somehow manage to disassociate the meat they buy in the supermarket … from the gory  business of killing animals, in the same way they  protest against war and still support governments that are only too willing to sacrifice the last drop of someone else’s blood … for  the sake of ‘political expediency’`.  If politicians had to lead from the front in the wars they start and be the first to die in the wars they start, the world might be a better place !.
I haven’t had a look at H5N1 (Bird flu) lately so I was a bit surprised to see it is rearing it’s head again in China, Vietnam,  India, Cambodia, Mexico and Holland.
14th March 2013.

Spent some time last week taking another look at the ‘survival’ scene.  Nothing much has changed since the bird flu scare of 2002 and the paranoid still persist in talking about WROL (without rule of law) completely ignoring all the evidence that an opposite situation will more probably  occur, namely EROL (excessive rule of law).  Three new ideas for projects came out of this, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.  
We have had a couple of days of sunshine, so it enabled me to get out into the workshop  and finish the two tools I was making and they work fine, so that leaves two machines to make now, before I can move onto a new project.

Forming tool.

Electronic modules from China are piling up, I guess I had better have a look at them … one day !

7th March 2013

The intruder detector is coming along nicely. I did feel at one stage there was something missing and eventually worked out that the conventional way of booby-trapping doors and windows is too time consuming. I mulled it over for a few days before I came up with the solution and now it only takes two seconds, to install, or remove a door, or window booby-trap, so I was quite pleased about that. It does mean I have to build a vacuum forming machine to make the additional parts, but that will give me something to do. At the moment I am making all the special tools and jigs, to turn out the parts.  I have one other machine to make which concerns the manufacture of the line spools.
The device is a ‘perimeter alarm and booby-trap simulator’ … and was intended for military use. However since I started, people have been pointing out to me that it would also work well in the paintball and Air Soft warfare scenarios, as well as for domestic security.  I often think it is funny that when we have thought of every possible use … someone will come along with  something we would never have thought of in a million years. I gave one to a friend and he uses it to train his dog, not to try escaping through a certain hole in the fence !.

27th February 2013.

The events of the last three months just about finished me off, so it was well past time I got myself a ‘distraction’ project.  I thought that I had never satisfactorily solved the mechanical field intruder detector, so I decided to have another go at that. The crunch was always that not only should British fire-arms laws be observed , but also the British Army ‘Ammunition Regulations’ needed to be circumvented, to get any new device accepted into military service. OK so I have done my thinking and come up with some proto-types that are getting increasingly more difficult to fault. So the big question is what next ?.
Well they are always telling us that we can make our fortunes on EBAY and I am wondering if my nondescript little design and product could last longer than day one ?.
Of course any idea, doesn’t just happen and is the questionable end result of hundreds of hours of thinking and thousands of hours of research.  It is generally accepted that only one idea in every hundred stand a chance of working …And then I further demolish my chances by picking an extremely obscure application, that most people didn’t even know about, or care if it existed in the first place !.  OK, so I am a self inflicted injury !.
The interesting thing about any new project is that, it is interesting and breaks new ground. At the moment I am learning about EBAY fees (get some software to help you), PayPal fee calculation and why I have to pay someone else, almost all the profit I was hoping to make for myself !. Is it possible to come out the other end a millionaire ?.  I guess the answer could be yes, provided I can learn to be as dishonest as everyone else, which means I will probably fail … but then again it is only a game.  It has taken me into the world of jewellery, wire bending, safety pins, velvet bags, split pins, nails, American exchange rates, O rings, split rings, plastic bags, fishing tackle and cast metal skulls. I even managed to work in 100 “Make love not war’ medallions !. Of course I do not know what I am doing … and don’t really care.

2nd February 2013.

One month after her last fall she was discharged from hospital and on the same night had another fall, fractured her pelvis and ended up back in hospital !.  A month later she was discharged again … With ‘complications’ and  they are ongoing.
Being a 24/7 carer does not leave much time, or energy to think about hobbies, but slowly I am getting organised and have started thinking about projects again.  One that I wanted to do, was to replace some mechanical intruder detectors I had lent out which had not been returned (they turned up today).  Since I am short of time, I sent off for a dozen ‘bang mechanisms’ (pressure off type toy booby traps) from the USA, in the hope that I could modify them to work with a trip wire.   I think I have a working solution and will do an article on it. This also led to some thinking about field deployable  wireless PIR intruder detectors and started looking at wireless modules for this application. To give me something to play with I have ordered about seven  TX / RX module pairs from China and strangely for me … they are all legal in UK !.  I have started an article on the new programmable wireless modules, in the hope of learning something about them.
Some of the applications I look at may seem a little weird, for example I am trying to find a way of adding an external webcam to tablets. Ipad is hopeless of course in this respect, so I have been looking at a Nexus 7 tablet.  Legend has it that a UVA compliant webcam, will work with the nexus 7 … otherwise forget it Hi!.  Now my ipad already has two cameras in it, so why would I want a third  ?. The answer is  I want to see behind doors … and that means a small camera on the end  of a remote cable  that can pass through the English letterbox !.  It is a follow on from my lock picking days where all of the locks, safety chains, bolts etc can all be opened  through the letter box (providing one has the specially designed tools I have designed and made).
Why would one want to do this ?. Well imagine the little old lady who locks her front door, pushes all the bolts home, and hooks up the  security chains …  then goes to bed and dies. It happens all the time, so non - destructive entry is used to gain entry for the carer’s, police or ambulance brigade. At the moment I use 10 mm diameter snake video camera’s  plugged into a 17” laptop (on the end of a 15 metre long USB cable.  Now the resolution of these web cams is such that you get pixilation of the image if you attempt to screen them larger than post card size, so a 17” laptop is an ‘over - kill’ in both weight and size. So considering a 7” tablet as the display, makes good sense.  Well, it does to me anyway Hi!.

1st October 2012.

Last Friday my wife had a bad fall and her condition got worse and was taken into Winchester Hospital .  As she cannot talk things got a little confused in the A & E department, so they tackled the injuries to her head and neck first with a CAT scan. Then  she indicated that her leg hurt, was X-rayed and it was found that her leg was broken just below the hip ball joint  ...  After some agonising I signed the papers for an emergency hip replacement operation, which was not without a lot of risk, because of her age and ‘fragile’ condition.  It is going to be a long haul but everything looks promising at the moment. Hopefully if they can build up her reserves she nay be  transferred closer to home.
Her lack of speech is a major problem.  I had ordered the parts from China to make a proto-type communication device, so I had better dig them out and see if I can make something work !.  Her physiotherapist suggested chalk and a slate !.  Unfortunately her hands and body shake so violently, I cannot read her writing anyway. She can peck on a keyboard so I am going to try it that way, with an LCD readout.
A cased set of Forstner bits arrived in the mail today for the slingshot project.  Not sure when I will have the time to  try them out.

22nd September 2012.

I highlighted the dangers to pedestrians at the top of Mead Road on this site and recently the council tasked sub-contractors  to improve the situation.  Paths are now widened at that point, roads narrowed and the drop curbs moved … all at considerable expense to we poor taxpayers.  After the works was done a council official visited the site and remarked on what a ‘big improvement’ it was.  Unfortunately the council bod’s completely missed the point here and the danger remains !.  The original problem was that if you are walking into town … as school children and mothers with push chairs do … you cannot see if there are any vehicles coming up Mead Road, unless you step out into the road to see !.  After the expenditure of all of that money, you still cannot see if any traffic is coming up Mead Road !.  The reason is the same as it always was.

Before the work was done   …

After the work was done …

This photograph was taken in the spot where a mother with a push chair would be standing, to see if it were safe to cross the road. It is the same view point a user of a mobility scooter use to see if it were safe to cross the road.  Now, how is it I can see this, but a council ‘expert’ cannot ?.  ‘A big improvement’ … my ass !.
For the full story of  Salisbury Road mismanagement see “Saving Andover” on this site.

20th  September 2012

Scroll saw number three arrived today, almost in one piece and eventually working !. Amazing !.  The copier carver machine is coming along nicely with most of  master / blank  rotation mechanism  components made up.

14th September 2012

A week ago, I ordered a scroll saw on EBAY. On arrival it didn’t work so the company replaced it, with one in even worse condition.  The British have a lot to learn about running a successful business !.
Finished off the welding jig project today and I can feel the carving copier project calling me !.   It should be interesting, as the end result  will be a compromise between grip design and the number of axis the copying machine needs. Anyway, I have entered the thinking stage of the project and it will be interesting to see where it leads.
The tubular band sets arrived from China.

8th September 2012.

I have been working on the slingshot project, learning as I go along. I tend to do a lot of thinking before things get practical, so it was only yesterday I found out that it is almost impossible to get birch multiplex board in UK, certainly in the relatively small quantities I need for proto-type work.  A full board would be enough to make over 200 slingshots at £86 a sheet. That probably sounds expensive but it only works out to about 50 pence per slingshot. Made up bands from China add another 80 pence to the cost and considering board cut slingshots sell at around £20 each, they offer good profit margins for the Zante application.
The day before I found out I could not buy birch multiplex board, I had ordered a new scroll saw, for cutting up the proto-types and also a stack of blades.  Ever so slightly frustrating ! .
I wrongly supposed that multiplex would be unavailable on Zante,  as I found a supplier on the island, a few days ago.
So at the moment  the work on the multiplex designs has come to a halt, so I have been working on some ideas for producing steel frames and have been making up MIG welding jigs etc.  I have also decided to make up a two axis  copying machine to turn out 3D ergonomic hardwood handles, which seems like a logical next step of development, from board cut designs. Since I can’t get multiplex I guess I will have to make the ‘masters’ for the copying machine from solid aluminium.

28th August 2012.

Is honesty a sin ?.  An honest opinion can hurt and even kill. An honest opinion can deprive another of their lively hood, their happiness, their reputation, destroy their family,  and the very reason for their existence.  
22nd August 2012

Twenty two years ago, today ….  I was supposed to get de-mobbed by the British Army after 23 years service. It was supposed to be 22 years but I lied about my age when I was 12 to get into the Cadet Force and again when I was 16 to get into the Territorial Army. I told the truth when I joined the real army and that was how I ended up with two official birth dates !.  A bit later, I found out that I had the possibility of one of three surnames as well !. Since you are not allowed to be killed before you are 18, I got an extra year added to my sentence !.  
Spent a couple of hours today making a start of clearing out  my 3 metre square shed, so I can use it for woodwork.  I now have a steel bench in there, and a band saw I have to do some work on. The router table can go in there as well … to keep the sawdust in one place.  Then when I find some material I hope to turn out some sling shot handles …. Which just goes to show how desperate I am for something meaningful to do !.  Since I have a habit of questioning most things I had wondered if the classical Y fork handle arrangement was really the best ?.  From a pure physic’s point of view it does not look like it, but who knows ?.  The other question was … ‘is it possible to ‘aim’ a  sling shot if one did not have the skill or time to learn to shoot one instinctively. Some people do have an amazing ability to hit tiny targets at long distances …. But I am probably not one of them !.  I would also like to have a look at designing a reflex ‘rifle’ that can shoot 12 mm lead balls, or arrows. I have in mind a ‘pump action’ design, for cocking it.  The action may be a bit on the slow side for arrows, but OK for the lead balls. Probably a good starting point would be a 40 - 50 pound pull with a 4 - 5 foot ‘pull’. In practice it would partly resemble a cross bow trigger mechanism and the pouch cord / clip first cocked into place on the top of the weapon. The flat bands then go forward in the normal manner but are not terminated at the  front of the weapon, instead they pass over two barrel shaped rollers and then come back under the weapon to the cocking  ‘pump’ handle, which has the ability to slide backwards under pressure and at the rear of it’s travel locks into place in the rear position.  The advantage of this would be that on loading the pump handle would be in the forward position, but still applying a small amount of tension to the bands. When the pouch is ‘cocked’ on the top of the weapon, the bands get their first ‘stretch’  whilst still allowing an easy loading action.  The next stage is to place the butt of the weapon into the stomach and pull back on the under pump handle until it engages at full pull. The weapon is now cocked and ready to have the shot, or arrow fitted and then fired.  The advantage is a two stage pull, both against the stomach, which give maximum leverage (probably up to about 80 pounds) which is impossible with a conventional slingshot. It also separates the cocking action from the firing action allowing maximum accuracy. It also has a less obvious advantage, in that since it is easy to bring the weapon to full draw in anticipation of a shot … one does not have to walk around with it at full draw all the time. If you would like to know how important this is … stretch a band with a spring balance and watch what happens to the ‘pull’ with time.  It might also be argued that it also tends to overcomes the problem of reduced power with cold bands.
Why do I think that the above method may not be suitable for arrows ?.  Well for speed, a bow string will be faster than a flat band, on any day of the week. In the above case, I also want to run the bands around two pulleys to get the rear draw and experience tells me  that however well I do this, it is going to slow things up when the weapon is ‘fired’.  There are many factors involved, but they mainly involve Newton’s Laws of Motion.  If such a project had a purpose I would suggest it would be to establish if usable accuracy over 50 meters could be obtained, with a terminal  energy of 50 foot / pounds ?.

15th August 2012.

In all of my life, one thing that I have never done, is to learn how to shoot a slingshot properly !.  When I was a kid I used square elastic and before that was available they used rubber cut from an old inner tube.  Although tubular latex had become the standard, more recently people have gone back to flat bands cut from a sheet of natural latex. So I am thinking about making one up that uses the flat bands, as soon as I can get my hands on a suitable material for the handle.  The latex sheet isn’t a problem because they sell it on EBAY.
Since I only want it for target shooting, I plan on using glass marbles instead of  the more common lead balls. A bag of 151 marbles costs only a pound in money.. I also need to make up a 10 metre range with some self righting targets … just in case I hit one !.  I figure that two flat bands on either side should give me about 24 foot / pounds of energy, which in UK is twice the power permitted for air rifles.  As far as I know, the catapult is the only remaining   ‘weapon’ that we are allowed to own without a license (The apocalypse zombies are going to have a field day here !, because only criminals have pistols in UK).  As far as I can make out, the targets for 10 metres need to be 6 cm in diameter.  The interesting part is going to be how to learn to aim. Little things please little minds !.
All the other  projects lay dormant at the moment. I have a load of security devices I have to make  but I seem to have run out of interest … maybe it’s the bloody awful weather we are having this year.
I have been keeping an eye on medical progress related to the use of mobile phones.  Parkinson’s disease can now be diagnosed using a mobile, also pneumonia , ear infections and lying !.

14th August 2012.
It almost slipped my notice that this is supposed to be the year that the world ends !.  I guess that assumption must be based on the idea it has to happen sooner or later and that a miss-interpreted Mayan calendar carved into stone just happens to end in 2012.  Maybe the carver just got drunk, wandered off and ended up as lunch for an anaconda that did mot mind eating with trade people. Then again, it is August and the bird flyways are open for business again … which does remind me it is as close to bird flu season as we are ever going to get … until it is too late.  The culprit of course is the H5N1 virus that caused a minor scare a few years ago.  Yes H5N1 did kill off a couple of hundred people world wide, but to get it you almost literally had to have oral sex with an infected bird. The problem was basically an inefficient virus which needed to actually get into the receptors in the lower tract, before they could really start an effective move on the human immune system. You see bird flu does not kill us, our own immune system does.  To be a really effective virus, it has to be able to work with the receptors in the upper tract, ie the mouth and throat. Of course the nose is also connected to this same system, so it becomes a second entrance to the human body, for an enhanced virus. There is still some doubt about the eyes and the ears.
For some time we pessimists have been waiting for H5N1  to get together with H1N1 and exchange a few genes.  H5N1 kills about 60% of everyone who gets it, but it is very difficult to get ‘owned’ by it in the first place, because of the lower receptor problem. H1N1 on the other hand is highly contagious and many of us get affected by it every winter … we suffer a little … but survive. The big fear is that H5N1 and H1N1 will get together for a little interchange of DNA material … and we end up with the mother of all viruses, that could wipe out about two thirds of the population of the world.  How will they get together ?.  Well some animals, such as pigs and horses are susceptible to both H5N1 and H1N1, so if an infected  bird shits on their food and a human sneezes on them, you have what the enlightened call a “mixing bowl” and an end of the world scenario … as we know it. Unfortunately the birds are not going to be on our side when they get infected and simply die. The reason for that is that many bird species, ducks and some  wader specie for example, have already come to a sneaky accommodation with H5N1 and can survive it,  to spread the virus. Isn’t nature wonderful ?. This means that every bird, that lands on your garden, vomits, or shits on it, has left a viral and deadly legacy that can remain pathogenically live, for weeks, if not months in moist conditions. Will it happen ?. Well it already has in a laboratory in the Netherlands.
Then of course, we have the economic end of the world crisis due to an economic collapse. In a world built on debt … the crunch has to come sometime and when it does … each nation will view it from their own point of interest. War, is merely an an extension of the political aim,  but in  the nuclear age there can be no short term winners …. But there may be those betting for the long term.
A Chinese curse, is … “May you live in interesting times !”.  I am not convinced that we are there yet, but I do think we are moving fast in the wrong direction … if you don’t believe me … ask the polar bears where they can park their ass now !

22nd July 2012

Eye, eye … what’s going on ‘ere then ?. Made some progress with the eyeball project. I think what’s left is to couple up the two model aircraft servo’s to the eyeballs , then strip it down for cleaning and perhaps a polish. I still have to mount the second servo, for vertical movement.

I decided to use the children’s PIC development board to power the two servos, which will plug straight into the board.  Then I need to write a program to exercise the eyeballs. I will set the limits of travel in software.

21st July 2012.

Still raining !.  Well I decided it would be too difficult experimenting on myself and observing at the same time, so I decided to build a pair of computer controlled eyeballs. To make them work properly they have to be mounted in a double gimble arrangement.  I wasn’t overly happy with the Mark 1 version. Basically, I forgot what I was supposed to be doing and the end result  tended to be more humanoid (and complex)  than was desirable for my purposes, so I am building a Mark II version at the moment. The lateral servo has to be built into the inner gimble, whilst the vertical servo operates the outer gimble.  I have not done any metal working for awhile and I have to admit I had even forgotten how to switch the lathe on … no kidding !.
As I have said elsewhere, I have a son  and a grandson who is autistic, both high functioning.  The grandson is 9 years old and did not have a computer of his own, so I decided to get him an ipad as there are 887 autism app’s in the ipad app store.  Because I expected a stream of questions about the ipad, I decided to get myself one as well. That was two mistakes instead of one !..  The ipad turns out to be an entertainment centre  aimed solely at selling Apple products such as app’s, itunes music, video’s etc and makes it really difficult to interface with the real world. On reflection  it would have been a much better idea to get him a laptop that he could use as a tool, rather than an expensive toy. Maybe Microsoft’s Surface tablet running Windows 8, maybe another possibility.
A neighbour is off on holiday again and to guard his home in his absence he has …. A £600  Internet based CCTV alarm system, which does not work very well, because it is still in the box !.  So we have had to revert to 1850’s technology and I have been planting mechanical intruder alarms around his property. These are an  almost invisible nylon trip ‘wire’  devices that fire 0.22 black powder blanks. I designed these devices after a request from the RAF, as they needed something cheap and effective to protect aircraft deployed in the field.   Knowing the mentality of the services I thought in advance, that ammunition regulations would kill the deployment of these things dead, so with tongue in cheek I designed a really nice one that fired 0.22 LR  blanks and another one that fired kiddies caps … which one do you think they went for ?.

2nd July 2012

They say that it is going to stop raining this month  …. Or was it this year !.  Not a single person showed any interest in the Summer drop in science activities centre, so that is now  cancelled. I could have gone ahead on my own, but there seemed to be no point.
Looking for a new project I latched onto autism spectrum disorders (ASD) , which I know absolutely nothing about, so plenty of scope to learn something new.  This led to a need to consider what was involved in non-invasive eyeball tracking.  Now if I got the kids course right then it should include the tools to tackle this problem, which it does in the form of retro-reflective Infra Red sensors ….well done me !.
I normally think of eyeball tracking as precisely determining what the eye is looking at, but in the first application it only boiled down to detecting which quadrant the gaze was focused on … which cuts out the need for complex circuitry. Now I have no idea if the objective tests I am thinking about will work  and in one sense it really doesn’t matter. What it will do is give me some practical experience in the subject. What I am thinking about is a pair of ‘spectacles’ that the subject being tested wears. All the spectacles do is monitor whether the eye is looking to the right or left, up or down and that is sufficient for the test with two target lights because I am looking for a step response as the eye first acquires one light and then the other alternatively. What I am interested in is the response time.
I propose to do it by focusing an invisible Infra Red light source on the outer corners of the two eyes.  IR light sensitive detectors in the same positions will measure the amount of light reflected by the eyeball. Lets consider the left eye on it’s own. If the eye is looking to the left then the  IR light is focused on the relatively dark pupil and Iris so only a little light will be reflected (I hope) because  most of the light will be absorbed by the eyeball. Now consider the case where the eyeball is looking to the right. The light is now focused on the white of the eye, absorption is minimal and the reflected light a maximum. So hopefully we will get a logic 1 / 0 response  from the sensor that indicates gaze left or right. Now since both eyes move together we only need one sensor set up, per axis, so if we needed to,  we could rotate the right hand sensor assembly through 90 degrees and that would  give us an indication of whether the gaze is up or down. So if we felt the urge we could now group four target light into a square formation and the hardware should tell us which one the gaze is dwelling on.  Of course in real lift the eyeball is subject to ‘jitter’ but we could filter that out in software.  Well that’s the general idea, all I have to do now, is to make it work …. Groan !

11th June 2012

After getting rid of the Vista operating system on the laptop and installing XP professional, I have been transferring over to it the children’s project.  Basically I am ready to run the project now. The move wasn’t without problems but everything is sorted and working now.  
There has been no progress in finding an empty unit for the kid’s drop in science activity centre in Andover and since the  weather forecast is that the rain will continue into July,  it looks impractical to think about holding it outside. All I can do at the moment is prepare and hope that something turns up.
While many people simply accept  scientific progress, I am invariably impressed by human ingenuity. Just recently I have been looking at ‘laboratories on a chip, but these have been of the electronic type.  Yesterday I was reading a news release about the Biochip which can do up to 10,000 simultaneous measurements. Instead of electronic elements the chip contains a complete laboratory of pumps, valves etc at nano-level. I used to design machines that detected disease in human blood , Downs syndrome, DNA replication and sequence engineering  but the Biochip really is a quantum leap forward.  Basically work that previously could only be done in the laboratory, can now be done ‘in the field’ and this will really accelerated research in fields such as medicine.  Already the structures of Ebola and H5N1 (Bird  Flu) have been solved using the Biochip.

8th June 2012

Attended the ‘Save Andover’ public meeting last night and it was very much as I expected.  It might have gone down better if it had been held in a pub !.  I came away thinking that ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a pigs ear’ !.
The colour detector turned up, but it will be awhile before I have time to turn it into a project. The total number of modules, or lessons is now up to 60.
I got talked into having a look at safe combination locks of the S & G type and opening aids.  The average three wheel safe lock  usually has about 10,000,000 possible combinations, but for various reasons only about 25,000 are ‘useable’.  Since these are scattered,  a Microcontroller would be an obvious choice  to order the search sequence for a ‘brute force’  attack, where every combination is tried.  Even so, it would be an extremely  time consuming way of finding the correct combination, so most safe crackers aim at detecting the wheel gates with the fence, as a short cut. It still takes  half an hour, or (much) more for a very practiced person to detect the combination this way, providing no anti-pick devices have been incorporated in the safe locking system.  The physics of designing a safe lock opening  device are quite interesting and the subject side tracked me for a couple of days. I have written up a page on the subject under “Locks”.   

1st June 2012

I am sure that I must have had a more frustrating day in the past but I simply cannot remember it.  Spent the day talking to Mall managers, council officials and a computer repair shop …. that can’t … even after three tries  !.  
One of the ultrasonic range finder modules turned up today, reminds me of my grand father. I have been trying to have a conversation with it for nearly half an hour now !. I probably will not use this one, as it only has four pins against the usual five and may not match up with the ranging and distance display module.

28th May 2012

I needed a 17” laptop for presentations, but the only operating system available at that time was Vista and I have to say I hate it and today I decided to do something about it !.  I ordered another copy of XP !.
I had a chat with a lady at the DHSS this morning about NEET’s and benefits.  Nothing really new was raised but afterwards I began to think that the parent problem, child problem, NEET problem and long term adult unemployment  were all a part of the same natural progression.  Societies failure, parent failure, education failure,  short term employment, long term employment, care.  What I am wondering at the moment is if we did everything we need to do from now on, how many generations would pass before those preventative actions  took effect ?.  I think at least three generations, but I don’t think it will happen, so although 2012 may not be the end of the world, it may produce the realisation that it is ‘coming your way soon
That reminds me I have not looked at H5N1 and H1N1 lately, I do hope that they get on better together than Panda’s … I just love ‘End of the world’ parties !.

27th May 2012.

I used to think that every school should have a scientific icon at it’s entrance, to remind children what  their education and future is all about.  A large coloured ball sorting machine might do it, because it involves just about every aspect of their education.  What reminded me about this, was that yesterday I bid for and won, a ‘colour detector’, which is four LED’s and a colour sensor chip on a small PCB.

As  with most Chinese electronic modules there is no data for it, but it apparently converts colours to frequency.  The big question is how many colours can it reliably detect ?.  Past detectors can usually handle about 4 - 5 colours and usually things start to get a bit more complicated if you want to detect more, so it will be interesting to see how well it functions. The challenge will be the large bag of plastic sand pit balls, I purchased earlier, which has about ten different colours. Optimum detection distance is supposed to be 10.0mm.  This is the sort of project that never ends because the challenge is always there to improve on the previous results. It is also a ‘challenge’ project that allows schools to compete against each other, on a national basis.
I also ordered the Doppler RADAR module, which has a human detection range of about 20 metres. The reason I added these two extra lessons is because they are simple to use and get working. They will also broaden the scope of a NEET’s  work folio, and hopefully make it more impressive to any prospective employer.
One thing that is missing on the market at the moment, is a cheap miniature motion triggered single shot camera module, with an external electrical  ‘release’, rather than a mechanical button.  On the subject of cameras a few months ago you could buy a miniature 2 hour DVR  for about £4, but the same models now cost about £14, direct from China.  There will come a time when they will price themselves out of the market, because people like myself buy loads of stuff from China simply because it is so cheap, but if prices continue to rise I will probably get a lot more selective.  Buying  direct from China has always had the disadvantage  of the long postal delay and if we couple that with  the sharp increase in some prices and a depressed world market, it does not bode well for China’s growth.
Isn’t the weather great ?.

25th May 2012

It occurred to me that the  PIC project was  ideal for a NEET application, so have written up a page to educate myself on the problem. Like so many others, the roots of the problem lie deep.  I guess success could be defined as getting at least two NEET’s set up and employed.   Whereas the children’s project had to be seen to be done, a NEET project cannot be public  because of the stigma, shame, lack of autonomy and low self esteem associated with being unemployable.  
I have been looking at the current generation of programmable  multi-band  wireless modules and decided that an RS232 version would probably be the least painful to implement, however the basic modules offer an interesting challenge.   Ordered some more modules to expand the ROBOT vision part of the course. I think I ought to throw in a Doppler RADAR module as well.

11th May 2012.

The ‘Save Andover’ saga continues in the Andover Advertiser, but no where else it seems.  Local business man
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