What got me interested in tech

I recently was asked to write a piece for the BCS (this is the professional organisation that many UK techies belong too formerly known as the British Computer Society, but now more global). I have been the chair of the Animation and Game Specialist Group for a few years and obviously I have worked with elements of game tech for a good few years. That includes now at 451 Research with the elements of Augmented and Virtual Reality having an impact on the world of IoT. AR is the User interface for IoT, and is built with game engine workflows and tools as much as any leading edge game.

The piece has a stack of things that seemed to come together and influence my to be interested in tech, much of it Sci-Fi based. In a world where we didn’t have this sort of access to technology we have today, but just enough to hint at where we were heading.

Feel free to go and have a read and reminisce here with The Memoirs of a Bedroom Coder. I had pondered writing a factual book about what influenced me and this weird career path I have taken but I bundled some of those attitudes and thought up into Reconfigure and Cont3xt in science fiction instead. (Which will be free from Saturday 24th August – 29th August) if you can’t bear to part with 99p/99c to read them.

Meanwhile, this weekend whilst checking out the awesome cars at Carfest South on Sunday, the family will also be enjoyed some live music by 80’s icons, Boy George & Culture Club and The Human League. So I am sure my (nearly) 52 year old brain will be flashing back and pondering the future at the same time.

If you need me the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend I will be mostly with my head in an Oculus Rift or PSVR enjoying the fantastic No Man’s Sky update bringing it to VR after 3 years.

Or, out in the garden playing the US CornHole game, chuck bean bags 30 feet into to hole in competition. Its a real sport you know! Its as low tech as I am going to go :).

Pro Cornhole
Cornhole World Championship

Florida line up

We just got back from a family holiday in Florida with 2 weeks of almost constant theme park. That also means 2 weeks of constantly standing in a queue it would seem. However, it’s all part of the experience.

We also experienced some pretty amazing weather. The hot and humid climate would occasionally burst into wet and wild thunder and lighting storms. I was often looking at the weather radar and it was incredibly quick to arrive and depart and very localised a lot of the time.

Overall Disney won over Universal in terms of the best ride/experience (Avatar:Flight of Passage) and the longest queue, for that at over 3 hours. It also had some really nice park food, again at the Avatar Pandora restaurant, a cleverly themed family style meal got a big thumbs up.

Dinner Pandoran style

Universal seemed to have the slowest food preparation and also was having all sorts of problems with its flagship Hagrid ride almost permanently shut and the Hogwarts one we went on after a horrible queue that someone fainted from the heat and had no support from Universal staff, then the ride went on to break half way through and as we left there was no indication of getting to go around again to make up for it.

Having said that, universal Hulk and Spiderman are still very good and the Harry Potter train between parks is really well done too.


NASA (A non park day) is always amazing, the scale of the rockets and the achievement to go to the moon 50 years ago is amazing.


Since we last went of course SpaceX now have their own platforms there and had recently performed a launch. We saw a shuttle launch back in 2000, but they are long gone unfortunately.

For all the fancy tech I still really enjoyed a game of Pool in the villa, occasionally just solo practicing potting all the balls in a no rules kind of way. I managed to clear the table on 19 strokes after being stuck on 22 for a couple of hours 🙂


Another cool experience was he free roaming real world integrated Star Wars experience by The Void company. Something I can heartily recommend!


I managed to get picked on at the Monsters Inc laugh show and got a sticker for my troubles.


It was seemingly having an orange tshirt, but I was happily going off brand and sporting my Speedball Brutal Delux retro game shirt 🙂

Magic kingdom

This was part of a theme as I tended to be completely off brand with the shirts. My favourite was taking Judge Dredd to Disney.


Though I was on message going to Dave and Busters with a Pitstop retro shirt on 🙂


Predlet 2.0 was somewhat freaked out after the excellent Rock n Roller Coaster but somehow enjoyed the spine crushing mission to mars at Epcot


We had some cracking food outside the parks too. I hardly cooked all week, except steel cut oats or eggs in the morning for breakfast. This Sushi was amazingly good.


Day 1

We all really enjoyed it and whilst I don’t ever want to stand in a queue again I know I will. Its a lot easier with Wifi and an Iphone and older kids that amuse themselves 🙂


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 🙂

Headbanging Easter

I had not got around to posting for a while despite lots of interesting things happening in the World. Primarily this was because on Easter Sunday whilst cooking a roast dinner somehow I managed to slip on oil on the kitchen floor and head butt the work surface on the way down. I/we think this is what happened as I was pretty concussed and the family did not see me go over. They just knew I was on the floor and there were garden peas all over the place. I seem to have been heading to drain the saucepan, but didn’t quite make it.

I knew I was not OK but kept saying I was in my confusion. There was no blood and the bump had not formed yet, but I was driven too Basingstoke Emergency room. I was seen very quickly as head injuries or the level of confusion I was exhibiting need sorting out quickly.

I was asked what happened, but I didn’t really know, also if I had been drinking, which I hadn’t except for a sip of a G&T. I was too busy preparing a meal for 6 of us. I got sent straight to a CT scan and when that was all clear I was discharged but told to not be left on my own for the next 48 hours in case of any complications

The advice was to rest, and so I went from doing lots of exercise ever day to almost nothing.

Slight break in activity
Not much activity!

That first week was a very strange experience. I likened it to being stuck on a very long flight and sort of zoning out. I watched loads of movies as I couldn’t face playing any video games. However, I can’t actually remember which movies I watched, or if I can I can’t think what happened in too much detail. It is hard to tell if this was the brain impact or the stress of thinking about the incident.

Even more strange was the following weekend I realised I had missed buying Mortal Kombat 11 on release day. I went to get it and saw that I had in fact bought it during the week at some point. I then had to check my credit cards to see what else I may have purchased. Luckily not anything else!

Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11

That made for a doubly troubling state to be in. I was busy trying to piece to gather the gap in my memory of Easter Sunday, and the following days. Working in a job as an industry analyst where we need to remember what we see and hear it felt a bit like being a footballer breaking their leg. You know it will get better but will it work quite the same.

I started back doing light exercise, but didn’t go to Choi Kwang Do classes for a few weeks. In part this was to ensure that I did not get any bumps on the head (not that I would normally) but also I was not feeling up to driving.

Luckily with work it was a bit easier to do bits and pieces. Eventually things seems to be pretty normal. I was/am still wary but got back to it.

My first big test was driving 100 miles to Coventry to present to the BCS branch there. The driving was not the worry as much as just not being able to enthuse and deliver a presentation. However, it was game related and on a subject I live all the time too. It seemed to work, I was still able to do that. I drove home right after. When I got home I was totally shot though. Usually presentations take a lot of energy out of me because of the way I do them, but this was quite heavy.

The next big test was a conference in Cork. Flying really had me thinking, wondering if being pressurised was going to trip something. I was lucky it was a short flight though, less time to freak out about that. Also on arriving I was there with Christian Renaud, and we went out for a meal and a chat so I got to exercise my brain a bit in a normal situation. I did find I forgot a few things more than usual in general chatter but in part that probably always happens. Every slight stutter in my though patterns though I was analysing.

At the conference I was on a panel at one point and had to do some quick fire answers on artificial intelligence and industrial IoT. That seemed to work too though I think. The rest of the event went well. I took copious notes rather than relying on any short term memory.

One eventing we went and watch the awesome John Wick 3 and I can say I remember everything that happened in that still. So that’s a good progress marker.


The following weekend was my daughter’s 16th Birthday so a lot of things going on including a meal out to celebrate with her and some of her friends too. I don’t think I went to weird chatting.

Then I was back on a plane again and an 11 hour flight to California. I was off to the 10th Augmented World Expo. A full on event chatting with vendors and also meeting friends from a long time ago, back in the 2006 Metaverse days. My enthusiasm for the space of course carried me through, but equally made it all a bit tiring. Luckily I could pop back to the room in the hotel and just take 5 mins every now and then.

Reconfigure and Cont3xt were also free for the week so I did let everyone know 🙂 too.

#AWE2019 San Jose augmented world expo
Headset museum (extra exhibit at AWE2019)
#AWE2019 San Jose augmented world expo
#AWE2019 San Jose augmented world expo

The hotel on the last night had a fire alarm that had us all out on the street at 1am, which is never good. No-one was hurt and about an hour later we were back inside.

I got back on Sunday afternoon, so Monday was mostly jet lag and doing expenses. No idea what happened Tuesday either. Wednesday I wrote a report which flowed nicely. The tiredness of jet lag masks most things. Yesterday (Thursday) though I had a hectic morning with doing a school run twice, early morning food shopping too. Then I had 2 back to back inquiry calls, where our customers pay to talk to us. So you have to be with it for that. At the end of the second one I couldn’t remember the name of a few companies, and then felt a little off. In part I thought this was because I was also trying to get back onto the diet regime again and maybe that was too soon. I ate a bit more healthy food and went to Choi. That all seemed to be OK but still felt a little off. Again, this may not be related but you start to doubt yourself I think. I felt a little off this morning too but dived into a report and avoided too many distractions. I think this will pass and is just another kick form the jet lag. It makes sense that it takes as long to clear jet lag as it does for the amount of time you are away.

Anyway, well on the way to normality again, whatever that is. I think like all injuries there are elements of feeling recovered but then overdoing it but exercise seems to be a good thing, lots of blood flow to the brain and positive thoughts.

All in all this could have been a lot worse, if I had still been 20 stone instead of 15 (and less soon) then the angular momentum of that additional weight might have knocked even more out of me.

Watch out out for oil on the floor. It reminded me of this public safety film, one of the many we had to watch in the 70s

Maybe time to bring these back ? 🙂

Games programming – 1984

A wonderful hashtag #MyFirstGamesJob has been doing the rounds. Whilst I am not totally in the games industry, I am not exactly not in it. I tweeted that my first games job was writing a C64 lunar lander that was selected to be printed as a listing in the magazine Computer and Video Games. I had be reunited with a copy of it back during the Wimbledon days at IBM (15 odd years ago and hence lost again!) but now it is sitting online in the wonderful Archive.org

the first 2 pages
the last page

They appear in the issue 28 from 1984 ! the full document is here https://archive.org/details/cvg-magazine-028

I got a whole £10 and a copy of the magazine. The C64 was my second home computer after the ZX81 and really set me on the way to being a programmer and doing al the things I have done in my career.

I had a different back story to this xmas gift one but that’s OK, the writers and producers did what they needed to 🙂

I still lover the analogue nature of gravity simulation and thrusters in Lunar lander. It was a go to genre to try and learn any new machine or language. Also in this version I couldn’t;t get the sound chip to do a long booming noise, it kept only clipping and making a splutter, so I changed the description to say it was running out of fuel. (Need must sometimes 🙂 )

So here’s to 35 years of being officially being a techie, a programmer, a geek and of course a minor celebrity 🙂 I am going to have to get this into book 3 somehow.

(UPDATE 10/4/2019- Thankyou so much to Mark Hardisty for spotting this link to the game with images and a listing 🙂 the internet is fantastic isn’t it !) Going to go get and get the emulator running!

C64 Planet Qwarrk

Target Met

Its March 29th 2019 and I am really happy to have hit my initial weight target after my 800 Kcal/per day plus loads of exercise especially my Choi Kwang Do training. My use of Nutracheck on my iPhone to track everything, my Nokia/Withings Wifi connected scales tracking weight and body composition, my Hykso punch trackers keeping my punch power tracking and my Apple Watch keeping the rest of the activity recorded and my heart rates all logged. In addition I have been eating many of the same things I have always eaten and having little impact on the cooking I need to do for the family. All there to get me to 94.8Kg down from 120Kg at Christmas.

Now I switch to 5:2 – 2700Kcal 5 days a week and 600KCal on two other days, plus the constant exercise. Another interesting experiment in the journey.

I have been really interested in seeing and feeling my speed and power increase in my Choi training and the image below shows the increase in contact speed in general over the last few weeks. I had stepped up training before my 2nd Dan Black belt a while back but this is even more significant as my mass is decreasing and Force = Mass * Acceleration. The indicative impact speeds have gone up due to more to the speed than to the application of weight. Here the total across both my hard pressing PACE drills (2min,1min, 30sec, 15 sec) and my general training and experiments in tweaking technique sees the total average impact speed over the year rising. So it’s gone from 9.5Mph to just over 11Mph. The leap Jan to Feb was higher too.

The individual sessions here below on days right to left and timed top to bottom as the full on impact drill (with kicks too that are not tracked) show a general overall increase balancing number of punches and speed. The last bottom right session dropped a little but that is something to work on next time. The last 15 seconds are at max heart rate when already worn out from the previous sessions. It was still 25 punches (plus some kicks) making contact in 15 seconds.

Having all this tech is awesome 🙂 Lots of IoT measurements to tweak. Now with a new Apple Watch (series 4) I bought to celebrate I will get even more accurate data too on the rest of the moderate exercise and impact on heart rate etc.

Looking forward to a bit more food during the day on 5:2, it seems an awful lot to eat now!

I can haz FPV drone

Father’s day saw my headset count++ with the google cardboard style parrot headset for the iPhone to let me fly the Mambo drone and its camera. Its great fun as you would expect. Unlike VR where you move your head to see you end up keeping still as you have to move the drone, but it is like sitting on it. For a little drone its very fast about 10mph according to some of the logs it generates.
I also used Swift playgrounds to program it to fly under code control on the iPad. Which is awesome too. Writing code, flying drones and VR headsets seems like some sort of perfect geek storm to me.

Internet of Training – Hykso

My hand mountable punch trackers from Hykso arrived last week. I can’t quite remember when and where I pre-ordered them but I have been looking forward to trying them out. They are designed for boxers and so geared around punching but I figured that they would be able to respond to our Choi Kwang Do techniques, which include punching of course.
Internet of Training #hykso will see how they cope with Choi
The two sensors, one lights up red one lights up blue need to be strapped to the back of the hand just behind the wrist. I bought some hand wraps but they are a lot of faffing around and I found that my gel hand protectors with the larger wrist wrap hold the sensors nicely. The only problem is that I like to wear my fitbit for hear rate data, and that sits just behind the wrist too. So i placed the left one a bit closer up along the hand.
Pairing on IoS was straight forward, wakes them up with a tap and then assign to a hand.
I tested them just after a class so I was warmed up but in my own dojang. I dived right into a 2 minute PACE drill punching Bob and the bag, to realise I had actually set a 2 minute until we start recording delay. Some techie I am !
So after being even more warmed up I tried again, this with another 2 minute mix of punches, palms and knife hands. It certainly counted all the punches, something that is very hard to do at speed. That in itself is a useful extra training aid especially in the punch for 2 mins, count then, now punch for 1 min and try and get more than 50% of the last count, repeat for 30 seconds and a 15 second blast.

It can be distracting to get lost in numbers, but equally it provides relative indications. The app generates these images for social media, but internally shows a lot more detail, a speed, counter and “effort” monitor breaks down punches and power punches, which I think are anything not an inwards punch in Choi.
What I did notice in the graphs were my “intensity” score dropped mid session but thats when the speed rocketed up. As we often point out in training the more relaxed you are the more velocity you can punch with. A counter intuitive but effective way to focus on effort without effort.
Next I tried just the deceptively powerful reverse known hand for a few seconds. This number may be because it is confused as the hand angle on contact compared to a round punch but to go from 8mph average to 27mph strikes is very telling.

I have seen this on other equipment watching a 3rd dan get triple what most of use could register on an instrumented shield with a reverse knife hand. So for pure contact it is very effective. I suspect elbows, one of my favourite to drive a shield holder back would be along those lines but they are unlikely to register as an impact on the accelerometers in the device. I am not complaining as these are boxers tool not martial arts tools.
If the data is tracking movement and streaming it it would be really interesting to be able to profile moves such as a block and still count them. That would need an open Api or some data export but I look forward to giving it a go.
It fits with the other work I had done exploring using the Kinect
Once I get these darn wisdom teeth all extracted and sorted I can get back to proper training heading to EE Dan (2nd) and these will definitely be a tool in my conditioning arsenal. Lookout Bob!