Friday, 4 November 2011

Arduino Project - Responce Game

So I was asked to make a board and write a short program for a Game someone is working on. The basic idea is that there are five teams with assigned colours; Black, Blue, Green, Yellow and Red. A question is asked and everyone has to hit their buttons but one the quickest gets to answer. However if they get it wrong it goes to the next fastest.

I have used the Arduino as its quick and easy to program and design for. The display however needs more LEDs than there is I/O on the board. Yes I could have used a LCD but LED are cooler! So we have four LEDs for first, second, third etc and are coloured blue, green, yellow and blue. note for black I'll not light any LEDs so that saves me five LEDs.

The I/O is expanded using the Microchip MCP23008 that work over I2C. Then its a case of pull-ups for the button inputs and then lots of resistors for the leds.

It is all working now and I'll update later with circuits, code and maybe a video showing it working.

NOTE: the dip switches are only for testing.

Friday, 14 October 2011

New Blogging and Review Schedule

It has been far to long since I last posted a blog on my own site however I have been busy posting elsewhere. This has become very disorganised and at times I feel that I have been letting down on some of the site by not getting regular content out.

So as from now on I have set myself my own blogging schedule. As you may know I blog on EngineerBlogs once a week however that has now come to a end. It has been a hard choice to make but I have decided I need focus and that is more on electronics and more technical subjects. I’ll be posting my last blog next week, so keep your eyes open for that. So my new schedule will be committing to blog one per month on DesignSpark and on EE Web where I’m a technical author.

This neatly brings me to element14. Last month I became one of the ‘Ask The Experts’ on the site and this is done in conjunction with where I work at ebm-papst. However I have now been signed up to the element14 ‘Do It Together’ blogs where I shall also be committing myself to one blog per month there too. I’ve never been a great fan of the standard blogging area on element14 as there are just far to many posted each week to get good coverage. However I’m excited to be part of the ‘DIT’ team and my first post should come out any time soon.

As for content DesignSpark will have engineering and reviews, EE Web will be pure electronics hard core stuff and element14 to start will have a theme - but you will have to wait and see what that is.

As for reviews I’ve been really enjoying doing these and its great to get time to try these out. However I need more so let me know if there is something you would like to see reviewed or if you personally have something you would like reviewed.

I’m also hoping to get to do a lot more with these kits too - I have a few project idea’s I want to work on and I’ll be using some of the kits to help demonstrate and get them working. As such I have two project I’ll be writing up and posting here, or somewhere, in full.

Anyway its been nice writing a open post and I really should get time to do this more often. Also want to say thanks to support I get from people reading these blogs and reviews and the feedback.

P :o)

Friday, 17 June 2011

monpjc news

Its been a good few weeks since I last blogged on here which is disappointing from my point of view - must try harder! So here is my ‘monpjc news’ update...
So blog wise I hope you have been keeping up with my posts on other sites. on note I quite liked my post on DesignSpark about using Modbus which I get lots of practice using. Here at ebm-papst its one of them protocols that lots of people use. I also enjoyed writing about how ECU’s work on Formula 1 cars. OK this was some time ago but was a interesting time working with that sort of stuff.
Staying with Blogs I do have some new news for you - from July I’ll be one of the
Technical Authors on EEWeb. This all started a few weeks back when they spotted one of my blogs on EngineerBlogs and asked if I’d be a featured engineer. I said yes and hopefully the interview will be going up soon and will let you know when that and my first article appears.
You may also want to keep an eye out for the short article that will appear on the ebm-papst site as a follow up to the 555 contest. The meter given away went to Tom the overall winner of the contest so you will be able to read more about what he is using it for.
Still to come soon blog wise is a writ up of the amazing Lego Rubik cube solver and that will be posted on DesignSpark. Also coming soon will be a review of the new Microchip chipKIT which I have been given - not certain where this will be posted as I’m letting Microchip decide but I’m sort of guessing this will be on element14 as they stock and sell them.
A fun and interesting bit of hacking this last week at work has been setting up a Linux Ubuntu box to act as a extra backup server. So I have been helping our IT student Carly who is on a gap year to learn Linux and play around with fstab and cronjobs. She has done a wonderfull job getting it all working - who knows she may become an engineer! Its also been a good reminder how powerful Linux is as the tasks we have the machine running are all just written with a bit of script. So much easier than getting this to work on a Windows machine!
Other than that on a personal note some of you will have seen I did a First Aid course with the British Red Cross which was very good and Oh I have finally passed my motorbike test so no longer getting slowed down by my learner plates!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

PHP Pandemonium

Like lots of geeky engineers we have all put together web pages at one point or another. Most of us have come to grips with HTML but lots of degree students are having to complete a unit on PHP with little or no help.
So about four years ago I got myself a old PC and loaded a Linux server onto it and started playing around with hosting my own web site on it. As part of this I found PHP and started to teach myself it along with learning a bit of MySQL.
I was then lucky enough to be part of a recognised course on PHP, SQL and XML at work. This course was great as I could expand on what I had already learned myself and understand more about the options available. PHP is a lot like C in my option so found it really easy to pick up having been programming in C for nearly 20 years now.
However programming takes time. Its not just about learning syntax but also about learning a new way of thinking. So I was really surprised when I was first approached by a uni student though work who asked for help in writing PHP pages that access a MySQL database and display results. My horror was however the lack of help and support the student got.
The course they were taking was a business degree so firstly wondered why they were doing this unit at all. What I found is that there appear to be a number of core units these students go though including learning logic gates.! WTF.? Anyway I now seam to keep bumping into these students now and each time with the same comment - please help!
My issue is not with helping them - I enjoy teaching this stuff even if I’m not a expert PHP programmer. My issue is that the Uni’s are not helping or supporting them to get though it. There appears to be a major lack of guidance of where to start and how to go about programming in PHP. Then once you try adding on layers of HTML and SQL its can all get very confusing very quickly. I can understand that at Uni you should do a lot of research and self learning but come on guys - talk about in the deep end!
My other point I’d like to make is that I have found that each of these students has been put off doing any HTML, PHP or SQL programming ever again. Is this what the Uni’s are trying to do, turn people away from engineering skills?
Engineering really is fun you know and for anyone who has been turned off programming or any engineering - well that because you had crap lectures with no passion!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Return of the Engineer | Error 404

Its been some time since I last posted a blog on here so I guessed it was about time I got back on here.

For anyone that has followed me closely on twitter will know that I’ve been doing a lot of in house training. This has been an opportunity for me to show our sales and technical the full details of our products. Its not like they did not know already but I was allowed to go into a much higher level of detail as to how they work. For some it was all shinny and new, as we have a number of new people on board.

From my point of view its been hard work. I’m an engineer after all so not one for writing training material and standing up doing death by power point. However everyone was happy with what I did and I can say that we, and that includes me, have all learned a lot from the 6 months and 200+ hours I’ve done!

So now that's all out the way I’ve got back to spending time at work as an engineer! YAY ME! and talk about back in the deep end. I now have a major project to get done and few hours left between now and the deadline. So on Monday its going to be full on and I’m looking forward to it!

The other thing I wanted to comment on is our dependence on the Internet now. Friday it may have not passed you by to notice it was the 13th. So to stop the bad luck I filled my bike up at pump number 13. However it seams that Friday the 13th was planning on getting at millions of us.

The first I noticed was that I could no log into blogger. The site was not down but all blogs were offline. There was no hacking of accounts as i had first guessed or DoS attach but natural, if you can call it that, engineering IT issues. According to the official blogger page this outage was caused by maintenance which damaged some data and they then spent ages fixing it - I can just imagine the team of engineers working on this and the Oh Sh.... moment when they saw what had happened.

Latter that day I noticed that twitter started to be serving up lots of images of whales, ie over capacity. After doing a bit of a search I found that lots of people were also getting little or no response from the twitter servers. It also transpired that YouTube also seamed for many to be down too. One comment on twitter read “first blogger and now twitter and youtube, what the hell is happening!” which is funny as they posted it on twitter so it was not down.!?

It seams that none of these sites were effected by any one thing, they just all had their own problems, just all on the same day, Friday the 13th. Thank god they are back online - How would we live without them!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Is it time for mbed yet.!?

Despite last week only being a four day week its been quite exhausting mentally. And even now into and though the weekend I have felt quite warn down. Is it the warm weather we are having? Have I been extra busy and can I go have a lay down on my mbed now.!?

I’ve been busy putting out some extra blogs again this week first starting with a review of the National Electronics Week at the NEC which was good for me as the show allowed me to meet lots of people I normally only get to talk to via email or Twitter.

Then on Wednesday the whole Internet exploded with 555 contest stuff again, OK little over the top, but you get what I mean. Wednesday night we saw Chris Gammell and Jeri Ellsworth announce live the results. I have like all the people involved been very impressed with all the entries and personally feel I could not have matched them. However I did release a blog I’ve had for a while about looking at the 555 Timer and seeing if it could be matched with a microcontroller.

The other news I have is that my son Matthew (13yrs old) who has been playing around with electronics for awhile now has started experimenting with an mbed. He has used the processing language for some time now but been a little limited by it, played with the arduino but I think has fallen for the mbed. His first blog - yes he is blogging too! - is over on DesignSpark and talks about his first project. He is now working on getting the USB and Ethernet stack working so he can make it into a small web server as well as display stuff on an LCD. If only I’d had this stuff as a kid!

I’ve also spent some time looking at blogging and getting me updates out to you all. Blogging is about doing what you enjoy and talking about it but I enjoy the feedback and networking. So after watching a video about using twitter and social media I’m changing how I announce my blogs. I’ll now be using HootSuite to send out a tweet at around noon in Europe and than again at around noon for the USA. This is not about getting more followers - its about giving people the chance to see my blog. As I have stated before the world has lots of time zones and tweets get lost over night. So this way I’m just getting tweets out when your awake to see them.

So the last thing I’m up to apart from trying to get my project pages sorted (maybe I should start!) is to put together a 555 robot line follower which I have now sort of promised Erin I would do - I love a challenge and love robots so will work on this over next week or two.

Stay safe, Paul :o)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Summary of Week | National Electroincs Week | Gadget Show Live

So the last week has been another really busy one with two shows, a seminar, blogs and testing video blogs for Resonance Weekly.

So like most weeks I started by putting together my blog for EngineerBlogs and this week was about how I felt FPGA engineers were being pushed into using the numeric library and not considering std_logic_arth. Not that I was supporting either but was surprised I did not get a single comment especially after the feedback I’d got on DesignSpark from my original blogs. Maybe I was just explaining it too well and everyone agreed with me.!?

A big chunk of the week was taken up with the National Electronics Week (#NEW) and The Gadget Show Live (#GSL2011). NEW was very towards surface-mount and PCB manufacturing which was OK if into that - I’m not. But had a good time meetings and talking to both the RS Components (DesignSpark) and Farnell (element14) teams. I’ve now got to write this up over this week and will post on DesignSpark this coming week. Promise!

The GLS2011 show is live visiting a massive PC World, Currys, Maplin store all in one. All the big Gadget names are their like SCAN, Cisco with Flip Camera (oddly!), NVIDIA and tons more. Again I will get a full blog by the end of the week with some pictures too! I also bumped into the presenters of LadyGeekTV which as yet I’ve not talked about, but I tell you more in a upcoming blog about the great work they are doing.

So you would think that was a enough for most weeks but no because on Wednesday at ebmpapst we had a Seminar. OK I was not presenting but spending a morning on your feet again was very draining but good to meet visitors and customers.

So to my two major Geeky things this week. First off if you get the eTech magazine (issue 6) then you will see that I have an article in it. This time round eTech is all about communications and I’ve done a bit on how you can communicate with modern hi-tech fans and gets lots of information and control out of them - long gone are the days of just switching them on and watching them go full speed.

I have also worked on the Resonance Weekly pilots as last weeks one have really bad audio and people were saying it was hard to understand. So I used a voice over and created an animated host that looks like me. This would have gone out at beginning of the week however it took ages to imports the audio as my files were too big. However I think its quite good this time. What do you think?

So apart from getting all these blogs done I don’t have a lot more to do, but think that's enough for now. Stay safe and tweet you all later.