3D Printer Part 23: Setting up, troubleshooting and the unexpected

At the end of my last post in this series, we had completed the build.  This post focuses on installation of the software and updating the firmware ready to print, from issues 65 and 76 of 3D Create and Print by Eaglemoss Technology.  If you’ve skipped a part of this series you can start from the beginning, including details of the Vector 3 printer I’m building on my 3D printer page.

If you haven’t already done so, download the correct V3 software from the V3 website.  While you’re there, also get the updated firmware for the Arduino board that powers the V3. Continue reading 3D Printer Part 23: Setting up, troubleshooting and the unexpected

Learning Fortran – a blast from the past

Intro to Fortran – are you tolerably familiar with BASIC?

Over the weekend, I was clearing out some old paperwork and I found the notes from one of the assessed practical sessions at University.  Although I was studying biochemistry, an understanding of basic programming was essential, with many extra optional uncredited courses available.  It was a simple chemical reactions task and we could use BASIC or Fortran to code the solution.  I’d been coding in BASIC since I was a child1 so decided to go for the Fortran option as what’s the point in doing something easy…. Continue reading Learning Fortran – a blast from the past

Creative writing – harder than it looks

Procrastination while writing is easy… Cartoon by Cathy Thorne.

As a child I wrote a lot of stories.  I think my English teachers were disappointed that I chose a Science route rather than literature.  However, just like art, creative writing is something I’ve continued to pursue throughout my technical career (when I’ve felt creative enough!).  I wrote a novel during my PhD that I’ve not yet revisited to see if it’s worth publishing1 and have always jumped at opportunities to write articles and blog posts about the things that interest me.  However, I have had one idea for a book bubbling in my mind for the last twenty years and I have never really had the time to focus on it properly. Continue reading Creative writing – harder than it looks

Writing for other websites

Some of the websites that have published my postsTowards the end of 2016, I didn’t post as much content as I usually like to on here.  While there are all the usual excuses of free time, the main reason was that a lot of the ideas I had were being written for other websites.  So here’s a collection of my posts from the last few months of last year that didn’t make it on here. Continue reading Writing for other websites

Debate the idea, don’t attack the person

Over the past few days, my social media timeline has been full of angry people, predominantly in the UK and predominantly attacking people of note within the UK1.  This is, sadly, nothing new.  However I have noticed a further decline in the quality of debate, perpetuated by the strong emotions of what has happened in the world.  People whose opinions I respect and who normally make reasoned arguments have posted some pretty vile language that is literally “[person] is a [expletive]” in regard to Brexit, the NHS, Southern Rail and a whole host of regional issues.  If this was directed at someone with whom they agreed, then there would be, legitimately, outrage.  Name calling someone is never a valid argument.  Didn’t we all grow out of this at school? Apparently not. Continue reading Debate the idea, don’t attack the person

Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonmic Keyboard

Microsoft Sculpt keyboard
The Microsoft Sculpt keyboard

Anyone who has to sit near me in an open office for any length of time usually comments on the punishment that I tend to give keyboards.  I type (both general text and code) very quickly.  When my fingernails are in good condition (i.e. I haven’t spent the weekend with power tools) this fast typing can make a sound like heavy hail on a conservatory roof.  I’ve worn out keyboards before with one work laptop having to use ascii codes every time I needed to type s, n, j or i1 until a replacement arrived.  It’s not that I’m a heavy typer, just that I do a lot of it, especially as a  hands on manager over the years, I’ve had to write reports, documentation and code, so I’ve learned to be very, very fast at it. Continue reading Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonmic Keyboard

Anything you can do AI can do better (?): Playing games at a new level

Robot hands dealing cards
Image from BigThink.com

Learning to play games has been a great test for AI.  Being able to generalise from relatively simple rules to find optimal solutions shows a form of intelligence that we humans always hoped would be impossible.  Back in 1997, when IBMs Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in chess1 we saw that machines were capable of more than brute force solutions to problems.  20 years later2 and not only has AI mastered Go with Google’s DeepMind winning 4-1 against the world’s best player and IBM’s Watson has mastered Jeopardy,  there have also been some great examples of game play with many of the games I grew up playing: Tetris,  PacMan3, Space Invaders and other Atari games.  I am yet to see any AI complete Repton 2. Continue reading Anything you can do AI can do better (?): Playing games at a new level

Have a resolution to think critically

As we enter 2017, most people will start to think about resolutions – “new year, new me”.  The main resolution seems to be to get healthier: drink less, more exercise, eat better.  Year after year the resolutions will mainly peter out, leaving us all the ability to reuse the same ones next year.  What I’ve seen over 20161 is a worldwide lack of critical thinking.  Social media posts are the main sources of the problem, but recently news outlets have fallen foul of this too.  It worries me that all it seems to take is an image and some text and then something becomes “true”.  What’s really irritating is this has all been made acceptable by saying we live in a post-truth era, without anyone really trying to do anything about it. Continue reading Have a resolution to think critically

Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

Loom.ai can generate a 3D avatar from a single image

“Pics or it didn’t happen” – it’s a common request when telling a tale that might be considered exaggerated.  Usually, supplying a picture or video of the event is enough to convince your audience that you’re telling the truth.  However, we’ve been living in an age of Photoshop for a while and it has (or really should!!!) become habit to check Snopes and other sites before believing even simple images1 – they even have a tag for debunked images due to photoshopping. Continue reading Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

Using OneNote for Open University TMAs

Image from windowscentral.com.

I get a lot of attention when using my surface for note taking at work, studying on the tube or train and during OU tutorials, making full use of multiple notebooks, tabs and pages in OneNote.  I’ve written before about using the surface but following a discussion after my most recent tutorial I realised I hadn’t covered the way I use it along side the OU’s electronic TMA submission process1.  A lot of people on the same maths course as I am tend to use \LaTeX and typeset their marked assignments.  While I am a great fan of \LaTeX and appreciate how clear this is for the tutors to mark, I have always preferred to hand write assignments.  While there is some aspect of writing by hand helping to cement ideas more than those typewritten, the main reason I prefer to handwrite is that the exam is handwritten.  If I don’t force myself into regular, neat mathematical writing then it’s easy to make mistakes in the time pressure of the exam.  Simple things like forgetting to underline vector or matrix definitions can cost marks and if the examiner can’t distinguish a 0 from a 6 then you’re going to be in trouble! Continue reading Using OneNote for Open University TMAs