A Great Day Flying

Today was a very good day, though the weather was somewhat cold, it was probably the most fun I’ve had at the airfield in a while (probably since the summer vanished). First of all, the Road on the way was… well… Interesting…


getting up the slope wasn’t hard, we were in Chris’s 4×4, it didn’t even think about it… Then the airfield was somewhat snowy too, having got all my stuff out of the car, it was just a sea of white with some stuff in the middle…


Still, we got the BBQ running, and off for a flight, my first flight was OK, but my landing wasn’t. after getting one skid on the bit we had compacted, and the other skid on the bit we hadn’t, it decided to sink into the ground at an interesting angle. I didn’t take off from here…


My second to last flight of the day, was the first time I had flown with other aircraft in the air (I don’t yet have my A-Cert), The other helicopter was close at times, but he had to be, as this is why…

That’s right, the other helicopter was filming me hovering, despite hovering being frowned upon on the main strip, there was only us two flying, so that’s ok, and I wasn’t going to start throwing it around the air and expecting Scott to keep up with the camera (and I don’t have the confidence to, of course).

and my final flight of the day before my fingers fell off due to the cold, was short, mostly because I couldn’t quite see how much fuel I had left, I didn’t know how much battery I had left, and on top of all that, I was getting somewhat cold. However, it was also filmed (Thanks again Scott).

On the plus side, I was dressed for the weather, which is more than I could say about some people in this weather.

It's a bit cold...

After that, I decided to pack up, but before I headed of, I did have to film Chris try and do some touch-and-go’s with his FunJet. of which, it didn’t quite end how he wish, but it did give us alot of enjoyment. Here’s the footage of thos, I hope it makes you laugh as much as it did us.

First, some successful touch & go’s;

(I know it says Part 3, but actually it was first)

Then, what happened next….

and the results of it…

It has to be said, I do enjoy weekends like this, I hope yours was just as entertaining.

Problem after problem…

So far, I have not crashed my Nitro Helicopter, The Nexus, due to anything I have done. Which is good. However, there has been problem after problem with it, I’ve had the switch malfunction for the radio electrics, I’ve had the tail rotor pitch rod snap, I’ve had the servo on my elevator malfunction, I’ve had an engine problem that resulted in getting through 4 glow plugs in 2 weeks, and today I had the data cable to my Pitch servo break in flight.

Fortunately, today’s incident I had done 2 figure 8′s, an I had just come in to a hover over the ‘heli-pad’ (this is a clear ‘H’ in all the snow that I had created with the shovel) I was about to land when the wire broke, and fortunately, because the servo still had power, it went into fail-safe (moves the servo into 0 position) and it thumped to the ground. I was only a foot off the ground at the time so no further damage was caused.

Here’s a picture of the broken wire
servo wire

I guess it’s good that all the “crashes” have been due to faults, but it does take a kick out of your confidence when things like this happen. Still. It’s all fixed (replaced the servo) and ready to go again, but as there’s just over an hour of daylight remaining, I’ll just leave it until tomorrow. Hopefully these problems will become less and less, I’ve had some nice flights with this one recently, and hope I get many more in before it’s killed off.

A bit of weather

I think it’s safe to say there has recently been a bit of weather, but why does the country grind to a halt! I spent 40 minutes this evening watching a neighbour trying to get his car out, I did not go and help, because I have no time for lack of common sense. You have a rear wheel drive BMW, you haven’t attempted to shovel any snow atall and it’s higher than the underside of your car, go figure. I spent 15 minutes shovelling the drive-way this morning, and about 3 seconds getting the car out. I still made it to work.

However, Thanks to all the people that took the advice to not venture out in the weather, you all left the roads clear for me. My shovel was used for my car once, and that was in the foot of snow at the office. other than that it was used for other people (they were all in the same carpark, and one of them was in a 4×4).

I also spent an hour this evening clearing part of the road, the part infront of my house. if everyone did this, the entire road would be clear very quickly, stop waiting for the council to clear it up, pick up a shovel and do something about it!

well, rant over. now, go enjoy the snow, and if you can’t get to the office – and do shovel snow and then feel the need to sit down, have a look here: http://revk.www.me.uk/2010/01/what-cant-get-to-office.html


Happy new year!

Well, I just thought I’d wish anyone that reads this a happy new year. Another year is over, and we have only 2 years until the end of the world if you believe the media, so lets make the most of it, it’s time to let your hair down and do everything you promised yourself you would do last year.

2009 has definitely been a bumpy one with a falling out with a very good friend at the beginning of the year it really did get off to a bad start, we are  however talking again, this took alot of work, but I completely understand why we fell out (and it really was mostly my fault), now we are speaking again, I would do anything in the world to keep it up.

I hope you all fun and joys in the next year, you never know, maybe, just maybe, this will be the year for me to celebrate Christmas…. I do have most of the year to decide if I’m celebrating it, though. :-)


A Gift from an ISP!

How many different ISP’s are there in the UK? – too many, really. However, There’s some very very bad ones, and there is also some very very good ones. I chose my ISP for many reasons, one of which was not cost. I am happy to pay extra for a better service, and a better service is what I have. There’s many things they do right, they enjoy doing it, and at least most of their customers are incredibly greatful for the quality of service they give.

Anyway, I got home from work today, and hanging in my letterbox was a package from my ISP (AAISP) I open it up, and they have sent me a gift, it is possibly common, or at least, was 10 years ago to send customers tea coasters in the form of a CD for their latest software (AOL). My gift is still a tea coaster, however it is actually a tea coaster, and not a CD. here’s what it looks like.


Well, I’m happy with my gift, partly because now I won’t get mug-rings on my desk anymore, and partly because of the comment written on it, which is very true, and why I don’t use NAT (if you don’t know how a network works, you probably have NAT!).

So this is to say Thanks to Adrian and the team at Andrews & Arnold.

(so you know, it is Laser engraved Welsh Slate)

Basingstoke FTTC Trial(?)

Ok, I’m a tad angry now. BT announced earlier this year that they would be trialling FTTC in Basingstoke, Myself and a few other people I know have been waiting almost impatiently for this, due to the lack of speed and constant line drops.

The line checker to find out what connection people can get was updated with eMLC on Friday 27th, so that ISP’s could see the FTTC on the list, however, it didn’t show up for us!  Is this a mistake? Did they leave us out?

After much frustration, communicating with my (extremely helpful) ISP and a few other people, we have found out that BT are NOT enabling my Cabinet, or any of the Cabinets connecting people I know in Basingstoke, So, what/Who ARE they connecting? it seems a very small percentage (only 77 cabinets) in Basingstoke are actually going to be connected to FTTC, and most ISPs won’t even be trialling it, well, unless there’s someone on the Board of directors in town, anyway (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/30/rake_broadband/).

“In Basingstoke, for example, 50% of telephone lines are more than 6km from the exchange, and in Hampshire as a whole a quarter of postcodes get less than 1Mbps.” (Source:BBC : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8068676.stm)

Logic and common sense would dictate that one would update the cabinets in the areas already well known for poor broadband, like Hatch Warren, Beggarwood and Chineham, but no!  They are installing cabinets in a lot of areas with already reasonable coverage, What sense does this make?

Myself and a few other people in Basingstoke, some who run businesses or work from home have vented our frustration to the person in Basingstoke & Dean Council, who is liaising with BT/Openreach of the roll-out in Basingstoke. We have also been in contact with the Gazette’s news desk. by this afternoon people were getting the response of “you as well, huh?”

Anyone in Basingstoke wanting to vent about this, in-fact, even if you are not particularly interested in having high speed FTTC, but think others should be entitled to have vaguely decent internet in Basingstoke (where, of course most places get less than 2Mb), Then Please. Contact Andy and the Gazette – I won’t put their numbers on here, but you can ask me for them and I shall reveal all, The more people that complain about this the sooner they come to their senses and actually do a REAL trial.


Windows 7 & Ubuntu 9.10 – Which one’s right for me?

well, There’s been a lot of articles about Windows 7 Vs Ubuntu, but I have found all of them completely uninteresting. For starters, most people don’t particularly care if their system takes 35 seconds (ubuntu) or 48 seconds (windows) to boot. because it takes at least 3 Minutes to boil the kettle. Anyway, those that know me, know that I am rather bias towards Linux. However, in this view I will try and be as un-bias is I can. I did say “Try”. A lot of the articles on the internet about Windows Vs Linux doesn’t step on the most important part for any normal user, not the geeks, I’m talking Joe Bloggs sitting at home. or – My Girlfriend who doesn’t really care what they’re system has, as long as it works.

First of all, Lets look at the Default Desktop of each. The default Windows Desktop does look very nice, from an “eye candy” approach. of course, Linux can be skinned to look just like it, but I’m going to focus on the out-of-the-box experience, look and feel, applications, and usability.

Let’s ignore the Eye-Candy for a moment. Both desktops pretty much have the same features, Both allow you to have a background of your choosing, both display a clock, both have a menu and both have a taskbar. so let’s call them about even there.

On the Application front, Ubuntu does win hands down. with the default install including Office applications, Internet Chat client for almost every known chat service and a web browser, where Windows includes it’s Internet Explorer, MSN Client, and no office Applications. however, if you are writing the odd document, Microsofts Wordpad is sufficiant. If, however, you do want more office applications on your Windows platform you can go out and buy Microsoft Office, alternatively Open Office is available for Windows for free as a download, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money for it. Finding and installing software is very painless on Ubuntu, with it’s new Ubuntu Software Centre, this is laid out very nicely for non-technical users, and is as simple as clicking on the application you want and clicking “Install”. This is something Windows is still lacking, however, at least you can go to the shop and buy software and know that it will work.

Firewalling is quite important these days. despite most people using a NAT network (which I won’t get into how much I hate, right now) . Windows Firewall is quite aggressive, and the difference between “Public”, “Work” and “Home” networks can sometimes be unclear. for instance, if you have a system at home, and want to share files between the computers, you actually want to choose a “Work” setup, otherwise you can’t share those files. Ubuntu however has it’s firewall set to allow everything by default. I still don’t like this fact, and if anything at the least it should only allow Related packets in by default, This is a trivial thing to do in setup. yes, Linux is a lot more secure than Windows, however, Nothing is secure without a firewall. one thing I would like to see installed by default in Ubuntu is a firewall builder that is User Friendly – and they do exist, and they’re in the package manager, so in my opinion from a “default” install Windows is better here, despite it’s options being confusing. but all Ubuntu would need is 2 firewall rules, and changing the Default for INPUT, and they would then be about even.

Lets move to Hardware support. This is something that a lot of older windows users look at with glee. but they shouldn’t. There is still a lot of people that believe “Linux doesn’t support much hardware” – well, actually this isn’t true, it does, right from the oldest SCSI scanner you have up to the latest greatest Graphics and sound cards, and everything in between. However, Windows has very good hardware support for alot of the latest devices, but not so much for older hardware. However, if you are buying a new computer (and if you’re thinking about Windows 7, you probably will be) then actually, it makes little difference between the 2. most devices that people have will work on both latest Operating Systems. Like Camera’s, Card Readers, ETC. Bluetooth Mice and keyboards work without any issues in both Windows and Ubuntu, and are equilly easy to configure. Likewise for connecting to Wireless networks or University 802.1x encrypted networks. these things are easy to do in both.

When deciding which of these Operating systems you should go for. ask yourself these 2 questions: 1) am I buying a new computer anyway, 2) what do I want to do with the computer. These questions play an important part in the choices. Let me explain, If you are not buying a new computer, then make sure Windows 7 will work with all your hardware, if it won’t then you might want to think again. Secondly, what you’re doing with your computer is very important. If you are going to be playing the latest greatest games, then you probably don’t want Ubuntu. although Game support on this is getting better, Unfortunately persuading game manufacturers that they should be writing games for Linux/Ubuntu is a rather difficult argument and is generally stuck in Catch-22 (there’s few games for Linux so people don’t play games / don’t use Linux, people don’t use Linux because of the lack of games) Working for a company that writes software for a multitude of platforms, I really can’t see their argument for not doing it. If you’re just going to be browsing the Internet, then actually it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Facebook works on both.

So, Which one is right for me?

Yes. that’s my answer, “Yes” – they both are. they really are both very close to each other. If you want to install and straight away write documents and use spreadsheets, Use Ubuntu, if you want to install and play games, use Windows. it really doesn’t matter. The only note I will point out, is that if you chose the Ubuntu route, then from the Software Centre, Install “Firewall Configurator” (gufw for the more advanced users) , run it, click “Enabled” and set the default to “Deny” and you’re good to go. this will configure the firewall up so nothing gets in, but anything you do won’t be blocked. advanced users will be configuring their own firewalls, so isn’t a big issue for them.

Whichever one you choose to install, I hope you enjoy your experience.

And, Apologies to those that were looking for more argumentative points in one direction or another, I’m trying to approach this one from a usable state, and not with “this one is better because…” this argument has been going on long enough, and there is room for both of these operating systems in todays world of computers.


A bad weekend for flying

Well, it was going to happen sooner or later, my first crash of a Helicopter, and this weekend, it did.

I had bought myself a small electric Helicopter, these tend to be harder to control than the larger petrol ones, so figured it was a good thing to use to push myself a little more. hovering it was fine, I can do that, it’s not a problem. I had a day of flying on Saturday, having bought an extra battery for the electric, so I had 2 batteries for that, and got through a tank of fuel on the Nexus. having re-charged one of the batteries for the electric, I started to push a little more, I was doing small-low circuits with it before, this time I started going a bit faster, as it came in fast, I pulled back to slow it down, and the rotors hit the tail boom and down to the floor it came… it took me a moment to work out what had just happened, I’m still not sure why exactly it did that, as it shouldn’t. but new parts are ordered, that’s only £20 – and it should be flying again by Tuesday (internet orders, have to wait for delivery – ho humm) – all I can say is, I’m damn glad it wasn’t the Nexus, because then I’d have been seriously gutted. I just have to work out why it hit itself once it’s re-built.

On Sunday, I went back up the airfield, this time only with the Nexus. Neil gave me some spacers, so I could put my nice new Carbon Fibre rotor blades on – and they look really nice! once they were on, I had a quick hover, but there was a couple of issues, the tracking of the blades was out, and the head speed was too high, well first job is to get the tracking roughly right, with a guage, next step is to get the head speed slowed down, and then to finely adjust the tracking. while sorting the head speed (we wanted this at 1750 RPM – as this is “optimum” for these rotors) we got it right, and I made a mental note of the display of my receiver so I knew exactly where to set the “max” power. – if you’re interested that was 55% throttle. job done, so move the collective stick down and…. wait… it’s not doing anything… I have no control at all. The Heli had decided to turn the electrics off! so, my toy that I really enjoy was now a sitting duck, with rotors spinning at 1750 RPM, engine running, and no control! Neil ran round telling everyone that the machine was there and has no control, and all we could do was wait for it to run out of fuel… and 30 minutes later it finally did. fortunately the pitch was still too low for it to get off the ground, but had the wind picked up, it could have gone anywhere.

The good news is that I did get the settings for the head speed – though, this will change slightly once it’s in the air, and there’s some friction on the rotors. but it’s roughly there. I have sorted the switching off problem (seems the switch was faulty – and was hard to turn on, but very easy to turn off again – just a light touch and it went off, so it most likely vibrated to the “off” position.

Next I need to sort the tracking out, and check my Gyro. the Gyro has been a hard thing to setup, but little point in messing with it until everything is set up right, otherwise you only end up changing the gyro again. though, I might replace this with a better one before long.

all in all, a bad flying weekend. however. I learnt more. I stayed calm when there were big problems (and dangerous problems) and I’ve had my first crash. I’m sure there will be many many more, I just hope not with the Nexus!

Thanks to Neil for his help. was much appreciated.


Messing with Brainf*ck

Well, a couple of nights ago, I started toying with Brainfuck, for no reason other than I was just bored.

I was talking to a colleague about a Brainfuck interpreter on my Nintendo Wii, this was just a little bit of fun, but yesterday, he couldn’t sleep, as some of you may know, I work for a company that writes an APL Interpreter, so we’re not new to strange languages. What’s more obscure than APL, well, there’s loads of them, and Brainfuck is one of these. But how could we make use of obscure languages together? well, as Nic couldn’t sleep, he decided to write a Brainfuck Interpreter…. in APL…

For those that don’t know Brainfuck, here’s “Hello World!” in Brainfuck.

I’m not going to show all the code in here for the Brainfuck interpreter, as it would make my post huge, but it’s here (note, this doens’t actually show what APL can do, and makes it look like a procedural language.)

because APL Uses it’s own Character set you may need Apl385-Unicode font to actually read some of the code. that can be grabbed from the download area on http://www.dyalog.com

In the mean-time, here’s a quick screenshot of Brainfuck in APL in action:


And in the interest of saving some arguments, some will point out that ⎕←’Hello World!’ is _NOT_ Hello world in APL – I used this to show the same output – as interpreted, this is ok, as a program, I agree. it isn’t. – also note that I shortened the function name to “bf” just because that was easier to type :-)

Who knows. Maybe the “bf” function will be included in Dyalog. just for a little bit of fun. Well, it is, isn’t it! :-)


UK Internet with BT 21CN

Well, I’ve not posted for a while. and there’s good reason too. I’m always a big fan of Technology, the way it’s moving and what it brings with it. The Internet is one of those things that has been moving relatively rapidly (though maybe not so much for the normal home-user). However with my ISP, I do get to test some nice connections (sometimes) and connect to test networks, with test routers and so on. I even run a router that I have written a bit of code for, so that I can run my IPv6, VPN links, Fail-over connections & some customised routes (including a tunnel system to have IPv6 on my laptop no matter where I am in the world).

Anyway, For those that don’t know, In the UK most of the lines are supplied by BT, This means if you want internet you can choose any supplier you want, but many of them will be using BT lines to your house, and BT equipment to hook it all up. This, however isn’t too bad, or rather, Wasn’t. BT have been rolling out their 21CN network, which I am connected to, this is supposed to be next generation ADSL, when it was first installed, it was OK, and around a month ago it became unusable. My ISP (AAISP) has been attacking BT regarding this problem, and I’m not alone with the problem, there seemed to be a number of people on my exchange that had the same problem. this is what I get on my line:

Jason Line Graph

The Green bars (going up) ar latency on the line, the higher that bar, the slower things are to respond.
The Red bars (going down) are loss on the line – the lower this bar the less things that get to you
The White is a line disconnect
and the green dots are download (from the internet), and reddish-brown is upload (to the internet)

As you can see, if I tried to download anything I got latency (went slow) packet loss (things just didn’t get to me) and line drops. not to mention my download speek was around 50K if I was lucky on a 4mb line. BT have access to these graphs, and persisted for a very long time that there was nothing wrong with the line. Anyway, a couple of nights ago, they admitted there was a problem, and nailed it down to a Cisco IOS bug in some of their routers, and they did some test work on my exchange / BRAS last night, this took them around 45 minutes and all of a sudden my line was alot better. and I could download at my full speed.

This problem with BT (along with a few others) that seem to show just how incompetent BT are at times has pushed my ISP to look into other  wholesale LLU providers, as an extra option on the BT infrustructure. Although I’m not exactly a fan of some LLU providers from what I’ve seen of BT, could they possibly be worse? probably not.

just to note: this isn’t the case that this problem existed, I can deal with that, technology has it’s problems. What I can’t deal with, is companies like BT that have sole control over fixing them, saying there isn’t a problem when they have been given the evidence to show that there is a problem.

I will be looking forward to the FTTC rollout, and will be testing it. Lets hope BT can do a better job with that than they have done with 21CN

BT Have finally fixed my line (actually they did this last week) and everything has been working again, and of-course I’m getting my full download-speeds again. still – I’m waiting for FTTC and my ISP have signed up for Be* LLU wholesale – so I may switch to this to get away from BT for a short while. – This turned out to not be a bug in the code, but they had over filled the pipes from Basingstoke…. Thanks BT, Nice going…