The big event was, of course, the Maker Faire in Newcastle on March 13-14th. I nearly didn't get there, though, due to illness just a day or two before. What with that, the office move, and the extra days I worked to prepare time-lapse cameras for a deployment, I didn't get any of the circuits built that I'd wanted to. In fact, on the morning of the Friday, when I should have been on my way, I was still soldering up an RGB cable for the UK101 to connect to the Philips CM8833 colour monitor. So I arrived late, tired and in a rush to get everything ready.
The Maker Faire was a brilliant weekend, as expected. A few people who saw the UK101 told me that they'd either had one, or wanted one, or known someone who had one. The machines behaved well for both days, but the Philips monitor failed on me. I was helped out by the man from the BBC, who found me a portable TV to use for the Sunday. All around were weird and wonderful devices, such as the singing Tesla coils, the Friispray video graffiti machine, robots of all kinds, and a BBC Micro with an ethernet interface. I got a few opportunities to demonstrate the Pisan-O-Matic musical bicycle wheels from Dorkbot Bristol, and see a bit more of the rest of the Faire.
One thing I learnt from last year was not to drive home on the Sunday evening, but to allow some time to see (and photograph) Newcastle. So on the Monday I made the trip to find George Stephenson's locomotive works, close to the station. Then I saw Moseley Street, the first to be illuminated by electric light by the inventor Joseph Swan. Going via the city centre, I made my way to the Discovery Museum to see the steam turbine ship Turbinia. Now, if you look at the museum web-site, it's clear that Turbinia is the main attraction. What is not clear is how much other stuff the museum has, from Joseph Swan's light bulbs to steam engines and turbines, models of ships, cranes and bridges, and the ordinary artefacts of Newcastle life through the years. All in all, I spent the majority of the day in the museum, and was late (again) starting my journey home -- via the Angel of the North. The journey itself went a bit awry near Tamworth when I got tangled up in a diversion off the motorway and onto the ring road, that just took me round in circles.
Having got home, late, tired, etc., I set about finding the fault in the CM8833. It's a PAL and RGB monitor, with stereo sound, and is too nice to just scrap without at least knowing what's gone wrong. The monitor's power supply was shutting down (and whining) due to a short, but where? A little fault-finding with the circuit diagram led (predictably) to the line output stage. I was hoping for a shorted transistor, but the culprit was the line output transformer, an altogether more tricky component to replace. For now, I've just reassembled it, but maybe I should look at it again before the trip to Bletchley Park -- and definitely take a spare monitor this time!
On the FreeCycle front, I've acquired a spare portable TV for use with the UK101 (and made up an RGB-to-SCART cable for it), and I have some laptop bags for the various laptops that I seem to have gained from various sources. I've got some IDE hard disks to upgrade the Apple Mac G4,as well as a keyboard for it. Also got a couple of cordless drill/screwdrivers (but only one with a charger) that may end up as DC motors in some application. I picked up some genealogy CD-ROMs, and was also offered some old Psion hand-helds, which I accepted. One of them is a Revo, which has an ARM CPU and will run Linux. As for getting rid of stuff, well, not so much -- although I did clear out the tree branches from the back garden for use as firewood.
I did get the 10x7 pixel green LED display working for Dorkbot Bristol, but I didn't write a game on it. At the moment, it's scrolling a text message across the LEDs, with no other animation. The refresh for the display is handled by a timer interrupt, though, so as far as the ATmega8 code is concerned, there's a region of RAM that shows up on the display as pixels. I now have the ten 8x8 pixel red square LED matrix displays from Futurlec, but I'll need some more 74HC595 chips to get them working.
Also from Futurlec, I have some prototyping boards and an ARM development board, as yet unused. From Farnell, I have an Atmel ATmega1284 chip, which is a 40-pin DIL version of the AVR microcontroller, but with 16k bytes of RAM. 16k! Nearly as much as a BBC Micro! And it's on-chip, so no RAM-pack wobble!