Monthly Archives: July 2019

Celebrating Apollo Moon Landing 50th

I am old enough to remember the moon landings, just… I was just coming up to 2 years old and I remember wearing a cardboard box on my head bouncing around the lounge in front of the TV. Every time I see images of the event or hear the radio transmissions I still get a shiver down my spine. It seems a general thing that we don’t remember much before 7 years old unless they are very impactful. For some reason this stuck with me and even if it is just because I have been told it happened I can still see it and feel it and it still triggers a wave of emotions. It’s pretty much what started me on the “how does this work then?” that led to whatever it is I am now as a Doctor of Technology 🙂 It is why I write lunar lander programs as a first thing on any platform or language to see what they can do. From the ZX81 and C64 onwards. It was impossible to resist getting the Lego creations lunar lander model when it popped up.

To celebrate 50 years since the moon landing
Apollo 50 Lego

I spent this Sunday building this. Lego is very therapeutic and of course whilst I was building it was having this waves of memories and feelings and thought about how important space travel is to science in general.

There are a lot of pieces to this build and I thought it might take me a couple of days, but I started for a few hours in the morning, then we popped off to a very energy sapping Choi Kwang Do black belt tag martial arts grading (as you do) and I carried on after that. So I think the total build time was about 5-6 hours. Back in 2011 the Millennium Falcon I got after it had been on our TV show (Cool Stuff Collective) took me over a week several hours a night, but that was because it had already been built and then broken down so the pieces were not in the usual number bags to divide them up.

Millennium falcon pieces

This went on to be played with by very young predlets and did not survive the process with the Lego being mixed into the general pile I believe 🙂 The Lunar Lander will not suffer that fate.

Apollo 11 Lander Lego build

It is a wonderful thing to build and it is amazing how much of its detail gets hidden away, but you see it as a builder. As much a journey as a destination.

It eases you in building the lunar surface with the crater.

Apollo 11 Lander Lego build

Then the main lander base with its legs that was eventually left on the moon. Some nice fuel tank detail that eventually almost disappears.

Apollo 11 lander Lego
Apollo 11 lander Lego

In the side pods are opening doors to show the camera that captured the descent down the ladder and the retroreflector that was left on the surface of the moon to allow scientists to determine the range of the moon by firing a laser at the device.

The core habitable command unit is the last piece, which includes a hatch for the crew to get in and out of the piece that would eventually take them back up to the orbiting platform before being jettisoned to orbit the moon and finally crash land again.

The end result with its sticker and the gold bricks representing the gold foil works really well.

Apollo 11 lander Lego
Apollo 11 lander Lego

The full build step by step (well chunks of it) are in this album on flickr.

That wasn’t the only reminiscing this weekend either as my Kickstarted GoCube arrived too, taking me back to the 80’s this time instead of the last 60’s.


This wonderful version of the puzzle is instrument and knows where all its pieces are and what way up it is, an app can guide you to solve the puzzle, set you specific challenges, time you or even play tunes with it. The teaching though is really good. Much less frustrating and more rewarding than the original 🙂 Yay for tech and IoT 🙂

VR is now finally normal in our house with Oculus Quest

Clearly VR has been sort of normal in our house for many years but it has generally needed me to have left something setup or be asked to get it ready to experience. A while back I got rid of the spare bed in my office and put up a bunch of shelves to clear space specifically to let me have the Oculus Rift and it sensors permanently and easily available (I have a new desk for the windows laptop now BTW. However the Rift is still on a PC that needs to be logged into and the chair I sit and work on all day need to be wheeled out of the way and, well I am pretty much always in the room working or not there to help because of work travel. So we have high end great quality VR, but it’s not used very much by anyone else. It would get used if I set it up in the kitchen (pretty much the only other space clear enough room scale VR, but that setup had to be transient, making it a bit of a pain.

3 days work. Much better room now. Still not finished
Full sweep of room setup

The Oculus Go got a bit of interest a while back but because its only 3DoF it is not as engaging as full VR once you have tried that. It is still great for watching movies though.

Oculus Go

The Predlets have seen VR and got to use it since the original Oculus DK1 over 5 years ago they are 12 and 16 now !

We have the PSVR, but the PS4 tends not to get used very much in favour of the Switch and the Xbox. We do have some more recent accessible VR on the Switch with the Labo kit. Which has proved a fun thing, but not getting everyday use as there are other things to do on the Switch.

Nintendo Labo VR for Switch
Nintendo Switch Labo VR camera.

So I was very pleased when the Oculus Quest arrived on release day back in May that it got a bit of family interest.

Oculus Quest

It is a very impressive piece of stand alone VR kit. It may not have quite the grunt of the £1500 gaming laptop and Oculus Rift but it has the same feel and smoothness with full wire free standalone 6DoF VR along with full hand controllers.

It has an almost permanent place sitting charged and ready to go in the Kitchen. Here it is next to the toaster.

Oculus Quest in situ

It has become popular with elemming and the Predlets all just occasionally picking it up and having a go. A firm favourite is of course Beat Sabre but Predlet 2.0 likes Job Simulator, he even asked me to get that one specifically. Also Box VR get used a fair bit as we are all being meeting our movement rings on our apple watches. Predlet 1.0 favourite not the Rift was The Climb and I am happy to see it is due to make an appearance not the device. I am still very enamoured with SuperHot VR. It along with Beat Sabre are some of the best VR experiences I have had.

Is it worth the £400? I would have to say very much a yes. It adds nicely to the collection of 10 or so headsets I have gathered over the years and is very much a state of the art expression. The pick up and play nature of it (it even remembers the guardian set up after you take it off and put it down somewhere else (the guardian is the boundary you draw around your play area to let it warn you if you are near a wall). This all adds to it just working and being a family friendly device.

The only downside at the moment is that it uses only 1 facebook logon, i.e. mine. Some fo the games then assume there is only one user and don’t have multiple slots for save games. So yes all those high beat sabre scores are obviously mine 😉 I am sure they can fix that and I hope they do.

Anyway well done Oculus. Love it!

Cooking with insight

I just took delivery of a new kitchen gadget, this MEATER+ thermometer.

IoT cooking with connected oven thermometer

I had been meaning to get one for a while but was reminded about them during a conversation with predate 1.0 about what IoT actually is and what I cover in my job as an analyst.

It’s a clever piece of kit, it sits in a joint of meat or fish whilst it is being cooked and tells an app remotely what the internal temperature is, so you can get things just right. It is actually a bit more clever than it may seem though. It is really two thermometers one inside the meat and one outside testing the surrounding ambient temperature. That means it can do some calculations and present on the app predicted the predicted time a temperature is reached. It factors in resting time too in the time and the ready indicators. I cooked a chicken breast yesterday for the first time with it, and it had around 5 minutes of resting time once it came out of the oven where it was clear to see the meat was still cooking and getting hotter internally. The chicken came out brilliantly juicy and perfectly cooked. The external temperature sensor is also good because clearly a simple dial on a cooker setting may be a few degrees off one way or another so this instrumentation is providing an actual not a would like to be temperature.

What is also clever is that the wooden block the unit sits in when not in use is also its charger. For the the + version I opted for this block also acts as a bluetooth and wireless repeater, so you don’t have to stand next to the oven with your phone and app to check it. That is a bit frivolous but I like the idea that the holder was also a bit more functional.

The girls are away on New York for a few days for Predlet 2.0 and I have the place to ourselves, and I can experiment a bit more to see what difference it makes with a few smaller meals.

I do a lot of cooking of all sorts of type but I have never cooked a Beef Wellington, but now I think I have to to fully test this gizmo. Beef Wellington is of course notorious for being over or under done as the meat is encased in pastry and you can’t give it a little slice to see if its ok. I will wait until the family are all in one place to do that though.

This may sound like some sort of advert, but I just bought this myself because I like cooking and I like tech. It’s been around a couple of years I believe. Hmm, I am hungry now. Which is a pity as I am back not the Fast 800 track for a few weeks 🙂