Wednesday reports - as and when

Nice to hear the projects are tootling along nicely, (especially without my input) thanks for the update Ed

We had a really positive and energetic session on Wednesday (2020-01-29) which was once again an experimental early start. Ten people I think - unless I missed someone! Some introductions were in order as not everyone had already met.

As Will was away, three or four of us tried to follow the instructions to bring up our local Pi-based data collection server, with only partial success. But we felt we’d learnt something, and no doubt the exercise will help us improve the documentation. We did get an air quality sensor working, on the LAN, taking measurements, and it was contacting the server, but was not succeeding in getting the database updated.

Paul brought in a nicely aged Amstrad PC, with two floppy disk drives for different disk sizes: the later hard shell 3½ inch and the earlier actually-floppy 5¼ inch. This is a machine he uses to rescue or copy older floppies that people discover, but it has developed a hardware fault. We might look at this in a later session. (This model of PC dates from 1986. But still not the oldest computer we’ve had at a session!)

Danny posted a video which shows an experiment with Arduino and a couple of infrared proximity sensors:

There was certainly some activity with the two in-service 3D printers (not both ours) but I’m not sure what. I did accidentally unplug one of them but it turned out to be idle at the time.

Danny has been buying some bits, as we gain experience in what’s needed, and so there was a bit of plugging things together to make sure everything works as it should: we got a new HDMI screen for a Pi, so we have a cheap and cheerful computer setup if we need one. There are still some odds and ends to be bought.

Hi all, it’s George here! Looking forward to getting our set up sorted on Wednesday.

Any photos from yesterday? (I missed it…)

See working prototype of air sensor. The team managed to hook it up to data logger. So this should give us a weeks worth of reading by next session.

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I turned up on Wednesday 26th having been away for a couple of weeks. Had my Spectrum Next to show (but not to demonstrate) and swapped that experience with the homebrew Theremin/Laser Harp which is neither of those things, but is the rudiments of a musical instrument, being Arduino-powered and descended from the experiments last seen with a pair of infrared distance sensors.

Also on Wednesday we had some progress on displaying Air Sensor data, and some progress on a booking application such as might be useful for a Toy Library.

And we saw a progression of 3D printed inserts for a weatherproof enclosure which can house the Air Sensor parts - an alternative to the plumbing-supplies solution we know of.

Here’s a very small photo album:

In the meantime there’s been a Sunday event - see this report from Danny:

Thanks for the updates chaps. By the way, I may not be with you physically. However, rest assured, my ‘force’ is with you spiritually…

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Just to note that we’ve held two Wednesday sessions remotely. We tried two different approaches: Twitch the first time, and Zoom the second time. Expect to see some kind of writeup about the process. In both cases we had just 4 or 5 attendees - we’ll try to publicise better next week, but most likely it will be Wednesday at 7 as usual. Keep an eye on the forum!

We just had our third remote Wednesday session! Rather than innovate, we stuck with Zoom for now. Mainly we caught up with how we are and the new living conditions. Danny talked us through some very interesting work he’d done, to provide an absolutely minimal database for volunteer coordination: Google Form for the data entry, Google Sheets to hold the data, Saved Filters to publish selected views, and a Google Slide published to the web as the interface to the care providers. Brilliant! Will started to describe a somewhat more scalable approach using Firebase, but we ran out of time.

(aside from my feeling of aaaaahhhrrrgghh why I’m I finding a bunch on new stuff - https://fireship.io/lessons/)

Just playing about with Firebase - this is my instance of their hello-world hosted page, with nothing wired in from the database yet, but authentication etc. ready to use:
https://test-cf288.web.app/

I changed some stuff, so I’ve moved it over to Playing with Fire[base] & Svelte

Just a quick report on last night’s video get-together. We had six attendees, three of them for only part of the session, which probably ran for about 90 mins. For me, that was absolutely fine: it felt like an informal get-together with people dropping in and out according to their interest and availability. We kept in touch with other, and we shared some updates on progress with things we were doing (including some volunteering, community help, and anti-virus help.) We also shared some links, and spawned a few updates on the forum. I’d be happy to do the same again next week, to see more people, or about the same number, or to see any kind of show-and-tell if anyone has something like that to offer.

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Another quick Wednesday get-together on Zoom - five attendees, and we chatted about 3D printing (for art, for healthcare, and as a possible Share offering); about making up and installing two or three air sensors in the town centre while traffic is really quiet and the air is presumably unusually clean; and about AI, Machine Learning, and Artificial Life. (See here for some links)

Hey folks,
We had an email from the town council who would like us to setup 6 air sensors with a website to extol the virtues of our cleaner air. They’d like us to hash together a proposal.

E.g
What do we need?
How long will it take
What are dependencies
What is vision

Please join tonight if you fancy shaping this!

@laneige1990 @Snowy @p.j

Just a quick summary of this week’s video meetup: just five of us this time, we had a quick check-in and catch-up on what we’d been up to, and then spent a chunk of time on the air sensor project - we have now put in a proposal, it’s with Anna at the Town Council, and hopefully we’ll hear back before too long.

Hi all,

I’m very sorry about the lack of communication recently, work has been so manic I haven’t really felt up to it since I’ve really needed to relax in the evenings.

I’m very much still a part of this and I will let you know when it all calms down. I hope you are all well and staying safe during this time.

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That’s absolutely fine - good to hear from you and hope to see you again in due course.

Last night we held (mostly) real life meet up - six real people and one virtual person Zoomed in. So that was legal! It was our second real life meetup during the pandemic, the first being a picnic in Victoria Park and this recent one being similar but in a private garden - so we could have a fire, for the semblance of heat, and use of a toilet, should it be needed. In both cases Will has kindly collected pre-ordered food from Lungi Babas at the station.

We can’t, of course, do any technical making or tinkering in such cases, but we did have a good old chat, covering pyromania, pyrotechnics, various technologies and their failings, and a bit about ongoing Tech Shed activity and possibilities for future Wednesdays.

It was all very convivial and satisfactory.

We thought we should introduce some kind of spotlight session within the weekly meetups, where one of us gets a chance to demonstrate or speak about something that interests them and might interest others. In a 15 min slot there will only be time for the most rudimentary demonstration, but that should be good for the absolute beginner and can be followed by a free discussion. By keeping things short we hope to keep the burden of preparation to a minimum.

Good virtual meetup last night: a new format, with relatively brief reports from the two groups (Clean Air Frome and 3D Printing) and then a ‘spotlight’ discussion kicked off by Paul (@qscons) on the topic of assembly language and machine code programming. We touched on computer history, computer architecture and the teaching of computational thinking. Some links turned up during the evening:

@qscons was particularly taken by the macro assembler available for the IBM 360 architecture, and the conveniently powerful instruction set, especially Base & Displacement addressing mode.

@Ed_S recommended Matt Godbolt’s Compiler Explorer for exploring assembly language output for a variety of architectures from a variety of compilers.

@will mentioned a remarkable and amusing presentation on anti-reverse-engineering:


and the abstraction-busting security fail known as Row Hammer:

@Ed_S mentioned the “One page computing” challenge in computer architecture, and a thread on a forum all about CPU design and criticism.

@joe mentioned he’d been following Ben Eater’s 6502 computer on a breadboard:

@Ed_S recalled a tiny computer simulation on the micro:bit

@Ed_S shared a blog post on some performance problems:

@danny shared some tips on home office setup:

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Another good virtual meetup last night. This week we spent a bit more time on project updates - specifically, see Joe’s thread on the Pop-Up 3D Printer idea.

@qscons and @Al_B shared notes on free website possibilities - seems good if people can make their own, when their needs are simple. Example 1 and 2.

@Laurentius shared a campaign link, and I’ve started a meta-response thread here.

@joe noted there’s a sale on at Pi Hut.

And then I went off the deep end a bit talking about some reverse-engineering of 1970’s chips which I’ve been following. @will and @joe had some thoughts about the applicability of machine learning to the problem: @will found some relevant papers and links: 1, 2, 3, 4 and suggested searching for [machine learning for reverse engineering of Integrated circuits].

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At yesterday’s meetup Joe did a spotlight on 3D CAD modelling, making it all look very easy. His preferred solution is Fusion360, and he shared a link to the free personal edition. Al asked about the best choice for a Code Club kind of application, and Joe recommended the free, in-browser Tinkercad.

Will showed off the latest enhancements to the Clean Air Frome statistics (might not yet be live) and we discussed further work.

Danny’s been looking into Observable, a live-coded in-browser data visualisation lab.

Ed shared a video on Boosting Stop-Motion to 60 fps using AI and we talked about various visual enhancement demos we’d come across. Will shared some findings in the etherpad:

Related to the stop-motion smoothing:

“Motion Magnification” or "motion amplification: MIT [1] and [2].