First try with the 3Doodler


I backed the 3Doodler project back in March and in what must be a Kickstarter first, the folks at WobbleWorks have delivered well ahead of schedule. Today I got an email with a tracking number, I was pleased to find it had already passed customs and even more pleased when it arrived this afternoon.


Caroline and I got it running with no problems, though I think some practice is in order. It may not suit me, lacking an artistic skill, but it’s a lot easier to setup than a makerbot!


My only complaint is that it does seem to eat the PLA – we played with it for less than 5 minutes (just long enough to take a photo) and we went through a 25cm piece. I think the flow may be slightly inconsistent.. I’ll update once we’ve had chance to play some more.

Quick and dirty automatic old file deletion

I’ve started using my VPS to store stills from my IP cameras. It’s easy and quick – I’ve got a script running on my openwrt router that fetches the stills periodically from 8 different cameras. Whilst some support FTP upload, others are less well connected (hence the need for the script).

Unfortunately whilst I was away, without Internet last month, the storage on the VPS filled up with these images taking down most of the services running. This was the quick and dirty fix I managed to implement using on my phone:

This code adds a daily crontab that uses the ubiquitous find command to simply delete old files. In this case I’ve used 10 days, but you can get flexible with the mtime option if you check the man page. We use exec as this doesn’t expand the entire list of found files so avoids “argument list too long “issues.

Couple of caveats -

  • I ran it as root, because that’s what I had.. Many users are ingrained with a fear of the root; but I consider it a personal preference which is best debated elsewhere.
  • You should use  crontab -e to modify your cron files as it verifies the syntax.

Being able to do these quick fixes is what I love about linux. I highly recommend following bash one liners on twitter - who also have a QDB style website.

Coins for 2014

We’re still in the first week of the year and thanks to parents and other family my 2014 coin collection has had a great start.

2014 Coins

The 2014 definitive coin set.

A few years ago I came into ownership of my grandfather’s coin collection. Since then I’ve been working on cataloguing the various not inconsiderable quantity of currency; mostly from the commonwealth but ranging from ancient to modern times with a few imitations thrown in to make things interesting. It’s led me to develop my own collection – like most people, I began with the change from my pocket, but more recently have sought out proofs and piedforts.

Last year I invested a fair amount of time tracking different coins down so decided from now on I’ll do things thoroughly form the start. To that end, I’ve signed up for an

My coins to start the year off with:  2013 Dinosaurs PMC, 2014 Lunar Horse 1oz Silver PNC, Silver/Gold Guinea Anniversary, 2014 Definitive Set, 2014 Definitive Set, Harry Potter Noble Collection coins, Miscellaneous bullion coins.

My coins to start the year off with: 2013 Dinosaurs PMC, 2014 Lunar Horse 1oz Silver PNC, Silver/Gold Guinea Anniversary, 2014 Definitive Set, 2014 Definitive Set, Harry Potter Noble Collection coins, Miscellaneous bullion coins.

annual subscription to the Royal Mint’s premium coin collection – the definitive set, with the addition of a number of commemorative coins and a collector’s medal all in distribution alloy. It’s a fantastic presentation, if a little pricey, though I see all of the coins in my collection as an investment.

Continuing with the 2014 collection, I got the first of the new Lunar year coins as a PNC. It’s a lovely 1oz silver coin. I enjoy PNCs as they usually have a wealth of historical information, though this one is a bit lacking in that respect. It does come in a nice, tactile envelope though.

Lunar Horse 2014 PNC



The Noble Selection produces a fantastic display of coins from the Harry Potter films. These are weighty though only plated with their respective metals, but a very nice addition to predominantly muggle collections.

Galleon, Sickle, Knut (Gold, Silver, Copper plated).

Galleon, Sickle, Knut (Gold, Silver, Copper plated).

I’ve also taken the opportunity whilst I was in a buying mood to pick up a small amount of older silver bullion coins (4.5oz) whilst prices are fairly low as well as the 2013 Dinosaurs PMC.

350th Anniversary of the Guinea

50 Shades of Grey for Android

This week I’m doing Technocamps work with AppInventor (a visual programming tool for Android development) at Coleg Ceredigion.

I’ve been playing around with some simple demo apps to introduce ideas and really wanted one that had swiping actions. So I made 50 shades of grey.

When you swipe left or right, the app increments or decrements the intensity of grey – providing 50 distinct shades of grey.

Alt42 50 shades for android

Alt42 50 shades for android

I’m not adding it to Google play, but you can download the source code here and the apk here.

Simply upload the .zip file from the “My Projects” page of AppInventor. Find more about AppInventor, and get started, here: I have some professional concerns about AppInventor as a viable development platform, I also dislike the term “app”. Nevertheless, it is certainly fun.

You need to enable USB dev mode on your android device (under settings, varies slightly for phones/tablets) If you’ve got an HTC make sure you install HTC Sync, for a Nexus install the Nexus drivers. Avoid using the emulator unless your computer is fast (you might need to increase memory allocation to the JVM).

Alt42 50 shades for android

Alt42 50 shades for android

I hope it’s a nice simple example for anyone looking to integrate swiping action into their apps. Here’s a few other quick ones:

Sarcastic 8 ball:

Coin Toss:

Homework Excuse Generator:

Student Recipe for Gazpacho Soup

I recently returned from a short stay in Malaga where I discovered a fondness for Gazpacho soup. Since the weather is still plenty hot here in Aberystwyth I decided more Gazpacho soup would be nice. Unfortunately none of the shops seem to sell it, and the only place I could find online is Waitrose, so I decided to make it myself, with the ingredients I have at hand.

I don’t do much “cooking”, mostly just heating. So I don’t have a vast array of ingredients, fortunately the recipe for Gazpacho varies and is quite flexible. Here’s what you need for some pretty tasty, if slightly inauthentic Gazpacho:

  • 1 Morrison’s cup-a-soup (tomato)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree (gives us a better tomato taste and consistency)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup (makes it slightly sweeter)
  • pinch of salt (all recipes have a pinch of salt for some reason)
  • 1 tablespoon mint sauce
  • 2 drops of Z Nothing Beyond hot sauce
  • cheese
  • bread

Don’t worry about the measurements too much, I made them up as I was just throwing things in without paying much attention.

Make the cup-a-soup, place it in a bowl, add all ingredients apart from the cheese and bread. Add chilled water (and/or additional puree) until desired thickness and flavour is achieved. Place in fridge.

Once it’s chilled, dice the cheese and prepare the bread per your preference for dipping. Scatter the cheese on the soup and serve.

The two important things about this recipe are the Z sauce and the mint sauce. Z sauce has a fantastically fruity flavour as well as some heat. The mint sauce will cool it down quite a lot and the two work well together. Get the hot sauce here:

I also invented a new cocktail which looks quite colourful. Watermelon juice, mango absolut and blue curacao:

I’m not a robot. I am a unicorn.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to deliver a cut-down version of a new Technocamps Aberystwyth module on artificial intelligence to a group of year 9 girls. It was good fun, and since the session (which I gave 8 times in 2 days!) was short (30-45 minutes) everyone stayed focussed on the subject matter and I think it was well received.

I found a useful video to show that sums up the Chinese Room and Turing test in 60 seconds. It’s from the open university, voiced by David Mitchell and on youtube:

After a few moments discussing the concept of intelligent computers, I set them loose to play with chatbots like Cleverbot and Jabberwacky (though it would have been nice to have the Loebner winning Rosette).

There was lots of good stuff, cleverbot began to respond to ‘bore da’ and ‘shw mae’. Some students entered extremely philosophical (and in my mind, dangerous) trains of though – it was nice to see that enthusiasm.

Sometimes these chatbots are quite good.. but often they become wildly absurd for no particular reason:

User: Have you been on a stem course before?
Cleverbot: No.
User: Oh #.
Cleverbot: You really bot? Or you person who write thise.
User: What?????????/.
Cleverbot: You ever danced with the devil in the pale moon night?

Othertimes it works quite well, I’m impressed it recognised this joke:

User: Why did the hedgehog cross the road?
Cleverbot: I don’t know.
User: To see his FLAT MATE :D:D:D.
Cleverbot: Tell me another joke.

And of course, there are always users who get distracted from the point of the exercise.. cleverbot doesn’t usually understand though:

User: Do u have nipple erections.
Cleverbot: Yes.
User: Have you been on embarasing bodies about that.
Cleverbot: No.
User: You should.
Cleverbot: Why?
User: To stop your nipple erections.
Cleverbot: Don’t play silly games if you want me to talk sensibly to you.
User: I wanna talk dirty;).
Cleverbot: I don’t understand persian.

I enjoyed the sessions and think the new artificial intelligence module is nice and flexible. Unlike other modules it introduces real computer science concepts, but doesn’t necessitate programming, a task that can be arduous for a lot of students.

This is what figurines should look like

I got an Ezio figurine today.. it’s epic.

Absolutely no movement, just an awesome pose and fantastic detail.

I have very few figurines.. they seem to be much less common and are generally prohibitively expensive. In contrast, I have quite a few action figures.. they’re just not as good. Whilst they tout the various posable limbs and accessories, this typically leads to unnatural poses that just don’t look right, which is a real shame.

Batman has to lean against a wall. Catwoman looks uncomfortable. Harley Quinn looks alright, but only because she clips onto a base.

I’m really pleased with this new Ezio figure, much cheaper than typical figurines like my Mystique and looks great on the shelf.

Backstage with SuperTed!

So today whilst looking for food at the Urdd Eisteddfod, I saw a distinctive cape whisk through a doorway. Intrigued, I entered the S4C tent and enquired – was it true? Was SuperTed here today?!

As it transpired, yes, he was! But I would have to return later for the song and dance session.

Unfortunately the place was littered with small ones. I waited patiently and defiantly in the rain, watching strange people, giant eggs and Postman Pat. After some shoulder barges and toe stepping I got to the front, but my path was still blocked my children and my cries out for a hug from SuperTed were drowned by the noise of mothers telling their children to put their coats on.

However, my luck change when I pestered the S4C staff just as SuperTed ran away again. One lovely woman grabbed me and ran me backstage where I got to have my picture taken with SuperTed! The magic was briefly spoilt as SuperTed had just removed her(!) head, but I try not to think about that.

SuperTed was a bit bewildered as I went into full fan boy mode, but he did well and we posed whilst the helful S4C folks took pictures. Thanks all! SuperTed is my favourite childhood show and means a lot to me.

Also, I did Technocamps stuff (that’s why I was there in the first place). Unfortunately most of the Technocamps material doesn’t work well in these situations – it’s hard to draw people in quickly. The demobots previously mentioned work well, but we’re getting more robots for tomorrow. I’m also going to flirt with Peppa Pig (I make a tremendous pig snort sound) to help grab us some attention.

I schooled Techniquest on why their Towers of Brahma, aka Towers of Hanoi was used in early computer science to teach the fundamental concept of recursion.