SA MICROPROCESSOR GROUP INC.
(last updated on September 18, 2015.)
NOTE: This web site will eventually close. Please go to http://samg.net.au in future.
- REGISTRATION FEE: $5 per year to be paid prior to each calendar year in the period June to December.
NEXT MEETING: Please go to http://samg.net.au
*** The long term SA Microprocessor Group Inc Chairman, Rick M, has decided to step down after organising more than 300 meetings over 30 years by providing many excellent guest speakers, many members' presentations, and interesting visits such as the very memorable visits to the Flinders University's Nanotechnology laboratories and the Philips' silicon foundry. In addition, he negotiated bookings for the various venues that we used over the years when we outgrew some or needed less room at other times, supplied various reports as required by various bodies, maintained publicity primarily via newsletters and our web sites, collected fees and made rental payments to the various venues by maintaining our various banking arrangements and insurance policies, managed the group through a number of critical periods, represented the group at WEA Clubs' Committee meetings, and interfaced with the OCBA as Public Officer.
The retiring Chairman wishes to thank those who contributed over the years to the success of the group and wishes those who follow the very best for the future, especially during next year that will be our 40th anniversary. Crucial to that future will be recruitment, particularly younger members, through interesting activities likely to attract them.
It must also be acknowledged that it was only through the generosity of Andrew and Supremeit that this web site has been made available to notify members of coming meetings and report on ones past. Many thanks for that.
In 2001 after fire destroyed the South Park Bowling Club rooms that we had been using for meetings we were faced with winding up the group. Fortunately, and through connections with the CEO of the WEA at the time, we were offered the use of the WEA rooms as part of the WEA Clubs Inc organisation that had been provided to other clubs that had formed from classes held at the WEA although we were never part of any such classes. This arrangement has continued since 2001 and it has only been through the generosity of the WEA that we still enjoy the use of their rooms and still exist as a group at all. It must be acknowledged that we are most grateful to the WEA for the use of their rooms as well as the publicity they have provided from time to time to our group.
At the June meeting there was some discussion about the transition to new office bearers at the next AGM. Several members indicated they would be willing to fill the vacancies.
Also, make sure you read the April 10, 2015 meeting report further down.
With the two World Wars being in focus at the moment, particularly with respect to the ANZAC Centenary from WW1 and the later involvement of ANZACs in WW2, it might be of interest to look at the cryptography that was used during WW2. The recent film "The Imitation Game" tells the story of Alan Turing busting the Enigma Code. There are also 2 books written by cryptography rivals during WW2 who were Leo Marks in London who wrote "Between Silk and Cyanide" and his German counterpart H J Giskes in Holland who gave the account from the other side of the war in his book "London Calling North Pole". Giskes broke the British codes and captured almost every agent who landed in Holland, Belgium, and Northern France. For years Giskes successfully fooled the allies into believing their agents were safe and operating normally. As a programming exercise we can try some actual messaging using software instead of the hand coding/decoding used at that time by large groups of young women based in the SOE in London and the European agents (who were actually in the hands of the enemy!)
If you are reading this you will already be aware that we have lost contact with the http://samg.yi.org redirector web site. This affects all those members who wish to see what is on and other things such as printed brochures and web links advertising our activities,as well as contact with presenters. Make sure you use http://samg.supremeit.com.au and BOOKMARK it until the situation is restored (although fairly unlikely now) or some other solution is found. Also, the official new start time is 6:30pm, but not everyone has been contacted, so we will continue to start at 7:00pm until further notice.
Also, any members are welcome to join those dining at the Seven Stars (about one block west of the WEA) or the Earl of Aberdeen 316 Pulteney St Adelaide (also known as Coopers Ale House) on Hurtle Square from 5:45pm prior to the meeting. The venue this time will be the Seven Stars.
Howard advises that members who wish to can now read old Byte Magazine issues at archive.org but be aware that each issue's pdf file is around 250 MB in high res complete with ads and all. Other formats such as epub are in much smaller files, but . . . well, see what you make of them.
the new website
PAST EVENT REPORTS:
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - BYO equipment night.
FRIDAY AUGUST 14, 2015 - Meeting was held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Peter G demonstrated a network interconnecting an Udoo module with an Uno module. Each of these modules consist of an ARM CPU section that boots to any of a range of Linux O/Ss. Both modules also include Arduino-type hardware. This enables users to run a conventional GUI interface with screen, keyboard and mouse on the ARM-based section that can then be used to program the Arduino sections to control any of the normal range of Arduino plug-in "shields" that may contain timing sensitive tasks that the ARM sections can not handle properly in real time. These are the modules that are suggested for future group projects.
FRIDAY JULY 10, 2015 - Meeting was held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Comparing Wordpress and Joomla for Setting Up and Maintaining Web Sites. Eric C has been setting up and maintaining web sites in both Wordpress and Joomla from when these packages were first released in 2003 and 2005 respectively up to the present day. Both packages are free and used extensively throughout the world with millions of users. Eric described many of the features of both aided by Power Point slides. He concentrated mostly on Wordpress because he is more familiar with it and it has more of the features that he considers would suit our needs. (This web site you are presently reading is maintained in Joomla although Eric sees some evidence that Wordpress may have been involved at some time.)
FRIDAY JUNE 12, 2015 - Meeting was held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - General meeting to discuss Group Project Proposals. Following on from Peter G's proposal for a group purchase of Raspberry Pi, Udoo and/or Neo modules for use in group projects some possible activities involving these modules were discussed.
FRIDAY MAY 8, 2015 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - A Group Project Proposal. Peter G has been investigating and subsequently demonstrating some Udoo products at recent meetings. Peter discussed a proposal for a group purchase of these Udoo modules for use in group projects.
Before attending the meeting members were asked to look at these 2 sites:
FRIDAY APRIL 10, 2015 - Amateur Radio and Microprocessors. As most of you should know this group was originally started entirely by Radio Amateurs who were members of the Wireless Institute of Australia, or the WIA. Then, when the group started to attract non-radio members in addition to the original Radio Amateurs and was growing into hundreds of members exceeding the capacity of WIA lecture rooms it was eventually decided to operate separately from the WIA. However, as microprocessor development has gradually plateaued out over our nearly 40 years of existence and microprocessors have become just another commodity, interest has declined to the point that the group membership is now down to where no more than a handful attend meetings. Other microprocessor groups are suffering a similar decline in membership. This was discussed at the meeting with the options of continuing to decline as our ageing membership continues to decline, or rejoin or co-ordinate with the vibrant Amateur Radio fraternity that is growing at an amazing rate and is attracting all ages and genders with so much scope for microprocessor applications that we could contribute to such as designing and building payloads for recent around the world balloon experiments launched from Victoria and/or the proposed balloon release of a supersonic glider in Queensland. Unfortunately, the few that attended the April meeting have no interest in volunteering to help run the group as Chairman/Meeting Organiser or any liaison with the Amateur Radio groups but, instead, want to remain on our present course.
It has just been announced that from the 5th of April, Amateur Radio Licence fees are $51 for a 12-month renewal. This has almost halved the annual fee to about where it was more than 20 years ago.
For those who attended Daniel Headland's talk on TerraHertz lensing this is another application of extremely high frequency radio waves, this time to RFID tags but at a somewhat lower frequency than 1 THz (0.3 mm). The new chipless RFID technology is a high data-capacity mm-wave barcode system operating at 60 GHz (5mm). This means that although it is much smaller than any other commercially available chipless RFID tag it can still contain a relatively large amount of data and information. The research team at Monash University is led by Dr Nemai Karmakar, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering. They have been developing chipless radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that can be printed directly onto products and packaging including postal items, drugs and books, potentially making this new technology cheaper, smaller and faster than any other tracking system on the market.
FRIDAY MARCH 13 - Demo and Discussion of Arduino "Shields" that can be applied to Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Udoo Modules was presented by Peter G. Peter introduced some of the modules at the AGM but there wasn't enough time to fully appreciate what these can do. Peter gave more details and describe more applications of these shields at this meeting. It is hoped that at least some members will follow up on more applications during the year.
Examples of projects based on the expanding number of cheap modules and the software that goes with them are a VoIP Server based on the Raspberry Pi running Asterisk PABX software that provides communications between smart phones and/or PCs all with their own phone numbers. Another example is the very popular computer version of Lego called Minecraft that runs on a Raspberry Pi. It is also hoped that the Python language that has been adapted for programming the Pi and Android will be presented.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 13, 2015 - ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING was held at WEA 223 Angas St Adelaide -Results for the SAMG Committee for 2015. Chairman: Rick M, Treasurer: Eric C, Secretary: Phil K, Auditor: Terry S, Committee: Col H, Chris B, Peter G, Mark S.
Congratulations to all those who were elected.
FRIDAY DECEMBER 5, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Daniel Headland, Electrical Engineering University of Adelaide - A Presentation on Terahertz Diffractive Optics. For his PhD, Daniel Headland is doing pioneering research into the possibility of using the TeraHertz (THz) part of the radio spectrum for telecommunications to hopefully relieve the increasing commercial pressure on other regions of the radio spectrum with the promise of much better security from evesdropping, much higher density of users in a given space such as individual communications within classrooms or offices, and at far greater bandwidths to each user than are now possible.
Generating any power in the THz region of the spectrum is quite difficult. You are lucky to get even a few milliwatts. Considering that THz waves suffer very high attenuation in air from water vapour and only small signals are available to work with anyway, then one of the main aims of Daniel's research is "beam control" to increase the effectiveness of those low power levels by using low loss lenses or related methods more akin to handling light than radio where conventional antennas, connectors, and cabling are simply not practical. Then, the ability to dynamically and electrically steer the beams over as wide an area as possible will allow spacial as well as frequency separation of, say, individuals with their phones moving about in a room. Furthermore, the attraction to use THz waves is because they are non-ionising and are very safe to use around people who are located in a confined space over long periods such as a workplace.
Daniel uses off-the-shelf equipment to generate and detect these THz frequencies because the main aim of his research is to look at ways of focusing and steering the waves rather than investigate their generation or detection. However as background, 1 THz at a wavelength of 0.3 mm lies between conventional radio and visible light in a largely unexplored region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The equipment Daniel uses to generate signals (albeit inefficiently) pumps a cell of suitable material with pulsed laser bursts to produce THz waves at only milliwatt levels. Daniel explained that using band-gap transitions similar to lasers are not used because they would only work at very low temperatures close to absolute zero. The production of THz waves should occur when electrons transit between very high orbits, but since that is very hard to control there is a much more likelihood that they would drop to lower orbits and produce unwanted frequencies instead. Similarly, it is beyond the capability of semiconductor amplifiers to work at THz, so they are also not used, and are unlikely to be used, in this region of the spectrum. Some mixing of lower or higher frequencies to produce THz waves in non-linear devices such as diodes can produce low power in the THz range, however, vacuum tube devices such as traveling wave tubes or even magnetrons might produce more usable power levels in this part of the spectrum. Work is in progress to design these. The detection of THz waves to complete two-way communications at THz frequencies is also difficult. This is presently done by mixing incoming and locally generated frequencies to produce intermediate frequencies that are then processed in much the same way as any other communications' systems.
With the aid of some excellent slides, Daniel proceeded to describe the aim of his research that is to make diffraction lenses and other devices to provide beam control to columnate THz waves into "pencil beams" and steer them. The well-established methods of using conventional refractive lenses using glass or similar material with refractive indices different from air for visible and near visible light can be used, but they have high attenuation at THz frequencies. Instead, Daniel has confined his research to alternatives, primarily diffractive lenses. Daniel showed examples developed by some other researchers of diffraction patterns fabricated by etching silicon or gold deposited on silica using routine semiconductor manufacturing techniques. These can provide polarisation changes as well as beam focusing. Etched gratings can provide changes to a beam's direction with an angle determined by frequency and the geometry of the grating. One particularly exciting variant of etched patterns is the use of "cylindrical sub-wavelength holes" etched through dielectric slabs of silicon deposited and sandwiched between flat silica substrates. Special etching and assembly processes have been developed to achieve satisfactory results suitable to work in air. The bonus is that internal reflection provides lossless transmission through these lenses at frequencies determined by the geometry of the holes. So far comparison between the simulations and the results don't quite match to the extent Daniel wants possibly due to shortcomings in the fabrication process where alignment and good electrical contact is difficult.
Other ideas that Daniel intends to explore are:
- Topological passive antenna arrays using formed polymer
- Active beam steering using phase change materials
It was this last idea that the audience tossed around in an interesting "think tank" session. For those interested, while some of the suggestions would most likely work, at this stage other less expensive methods will be tried first. The enthusiastic contributions made by the audience closed off a very fascinating presentation that Daniel generously gave us. Best of luck with your continued research Daniel and maybe you can bring us up to date sometime.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 14, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Associate Professor Peter Veitch, a member of the Physics, Optics, and Photonics group at the University of Adelaide - A presentation on High Power Lasers.
Prof Peter Veitch from the Department of Physics at the University of Adelaide is very actively involved in the research and development of high powered LASERs and the associated precision optics with particular application to the detection of gravitational waves using interferometry. In addition to his duties of research, lecturing and supervision of PhD students, Peter is Chair of the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy (ACIGA), is General Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Conference on Optics and Photonics 2015 (ANZCOP), and is on the Council of the Australian Optical Society. The University of Adelaide was the third university in Australia, established in 1874, and has always enjoyed a very high world ranking in the fields of Science and Medicine, so this presentation was one we looked forward to.
In his presentation to us, Peter described how Einstein and other physicists in the early 1900s proposed that gravitational waves should exist and radiate out at the speed of light from such objects as binary stars when space-time is disturbed as they orbit each other. Supernovae may also radiate gravitational waves. In the relatively short history of Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy no direct detection of gravitational waves has been achieved even though there is some indirect evidence of them from other observations. Most of the possible gravitational wave sources are so far away from us that they will only have an extremely small influence on the detectors that are trying to detect incredibly tiny dimensional changes that are only a fraction of the diameter of an atom. These small changes have to compete with noise from such sources as Shot noise in the detectors and in the randomness of the photon emission in the lasers, thermal noise (Brownian motion) in the equipment, seismic activity, sea and even tree motion from wind in the vicinity of the observatories. Many of these noise sources will be avoided by ESA's gravitational wave detecting satellite when it is launched in the near future. Conventional astronomy using light and other electromagnetic radiation can only see a small part of the universe due to obstruction, mainly from dust, whereas Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy can theorically see much more because gravitational waves should pass through the universe unobstructed.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, is presently the most sensitive and the most likely to detect gravity waves, especially as the LIGO equipment is still undergoing rapid evolutionary development. LIGO observatories are located in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana. Detectors consist of two, approximately 1 metre diameter, tubular arms under vacuum, 4 kilometres in length, set at 90 degrees to each other, with LASER beams running the entire length. The gravitational waves will cause one arm to stretch ever so slightly while it shortens the other. The optics needed for this are complex requiring extremely high precision that has only been possible with the best available technology and manufacture at many locations throughout the world. Peter described the construction of the high powered LASERs that he and his group have been developing, mostly in the range of 10 to 100 watts, using rare earth Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnets).
Peter went on to describe some additional uses for the research that he and his colleagues are doing on high powered LASERs in industry, medicine, and ground based optical telescopes. Ground based telescopes can now perform as well or better than space telescopes such as Hubble by using LASERs to remove atmospheric wobble, but with the advantage that no one has to go into space to make lens changes, fix gyroscopes, make additions, do maintenance, or install redesigns - these can now all be done at ground level.
Peter's presentation drew out many questions from the appreciative audience. Let us hope the LIGO project and Peter's contribution to it leads to the successful confirmation of gravitational waves soon.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 10, 2014 - *** SPECIAL MEETING *** held at WEA - It was pleasing to see so many attend our Special Meeting. Lots of ideas were tossed around and quite a few said they would like to contribute to the management of the group in the hope that the group can continue on into the future. Those members who volunteered will be nominating at the AGM in February 2015. We now expect most of the vacant office positions to be filled in future.
One area that needs immediate attention is recruitment that will be pursued as quickly as possible. Another area that needs attention is the lecture program that needs to be interesting to attract new members to enrich the group. Some of the general membership may be co-opted to arrange future meetings.
So, in close to 40 years of operation it looks like we still have enough interest among us to continue.
After the Special Meeting, Peter G demonstrated the Udoo system - see http://www.udoo.org This stunning new system comes with either a dual or quad core ARM 1 GHz CPU with 1 GB of RAM that boots up to any of the many versions of Android or Linux operating systems from a 4 GB Micro SD card. It is designed to interface to Arduino boards and/or their many "shields". After booting up from an SD card, the Udoo can then operate from a hard drive. It uses HDMI for video with pointing by either touch screen or mouse. It has connectors for analog sound input (for mic), stereo sound out, and a camera interface. Software is extensive with either all the Android or Linux aps available. There was not enough time to fully demo this system so Peter is likely to provide another demo next year. This would be an ideal system for a group purchase with follow up presentations by members at other times. With the same performance as conventional computing systems, but with much lower power consumption and far smaller size, then without doubt now this is the sort of platform we can expect for desktop as well as other computing systems in future.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" - Phil showed us MESS (Multi Emulator Super System) software in operation, see http://www.mess.org/ that allows emulation of many early games' consoles. MESS runs on any PC and emulates hundreds of consoles and probably many thousands of games. Whatever you think of computer games, the money involved now exceeds that of the film industry that in turn drives even more computer development. Another useful link is http://microbee-mspp.org.au Due to the unfortunate disruption to Phil's presentation he may complete or add to his presentation, hopefully, some time in future.
FRIDAY AUGUST 8, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" - Pico Storage CRO Demo. Chris showed us a 100MHz Pico storage CRO unit that connects to a PC via USB. It showed up some obvious fault in an audio sig gen, and then Chris used the Pico to optimise a software loop on an ARM Cortex microcontroller module.
The demo had two main purposes:
a) To see how well the oscilloscope handled multi-MHz frequency signals
b) To demonstrate how minor changes to embedded software can significantly improve performance
An ARM mbed board with a Cortex-M3 microcontroller was programmed to generate a square wave output at one of its pins. The initial attempt produced a signal that was ~ 4.5 MHz. The assembly code that was generated by the Oberon compiler was inspected. This information and some inside knowledge of how the compiler generates code pointed to some simple optimisations. Subsequently, the program was modified to make better use of the ARM's 32-bit registers. The result was a final output frequency of about 40 MHz, or nearly 10 times improvement.
FRIDAY JULY 11, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" - Videos, Pictures, Circuits, Web Pages, MP3's, Articles, or Hardware of Technical Interest. Some of us have been accumulating items of technical interest as videos or other forms. We viewed examples of "A Method of 3D Printing by Polymerising Liquid Resins with a Video Projector" and "Remote Radio Controlling a Cockroach". There was another video of the first human-powered pedal helicopter that flew a few feet above the floor of an indoor sports stadium.
FRIDAY JUNE 13, 2014 - Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Raspberry Pi as the Basis for Possible Group Projects. The Raspberry Pi, or "Pi", is a credit card sized $38 computer built from smart phone or tablet components. The Pi can do just about anything desktop or laptops can do, except a bit more slowly at approximately the same speed as low end tablets. The Pi uses a single core ARM processor at 700 MHz with 1/2 GB of RAM. The internal Graphics Processor Unit, or GPU, can run full-screen, 1080 x 1920 full-motion video. Power is supplied from a 5 Volt phone charger. Inputs and outputs are two USB sockets, HDMI or analog video and audio, a 10/100Mb ethernet socket, a digital camera socket, and unlike phones or tablets it has an analog/digital I/O header for controlling things. Of course, you need to add a screen, keyboard and mouse unless you have some application that has been prepared to boot without the need for one or more of those such as a web server. The card itself minus screen keyboard and mouse consumes less than 5 watts.
The Pi has been configured to boot off an SD card from any of a number of operating systems, mostly Linux-based. Presently the most popular and most developed O/S is Raspbian derived from Debian Linux with LXDE as the GUI. Raspbian has a free, on-line Linux repository consisting of software that has been converted from Intel Pentium to ARM binaries to give you a big start with things like software development using almost every computer language ever devised, the complete Open Office suite, lots of video stuff, web servers, and control and monitoring systems. Some of this was be demonstrated at the meeting. A lot of the potential of the Pi is yet to be realised and that is what makes it so interesting. There is plenty of scope for us to do lots of hardware and software development especially for controlling things over the internet and/or where low power is needed.
So, could this be the basis of group projects? A group purchase of a batch of Raspberry Pis for members who want to participate would be about $38 each for bare board assemblies, or about $45-70 each for ones in a clear plastic case. Would you be interested? If so, let us know.
One application demo'ed on the night was a WiFi connected web server. This also demo'ed hard drive storage to store everything except a small bit of boot code stored on an SD card (presently a system requirement).
FRIDAY MAY 9, 2014 - Meeting to be held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Printed Circuit Boards, their Design Software, & their Manufacture. Chris told us of his experiences using Eagle PCB software and getting his PCBs manufactured in one-off or greater quantities in the USA, including drilling vias, at surprisingly low cost. In fact, the cost is often so low there is no point in trying to make PCBs yourself any more unless you particularly like doing it. Chris showed us how he used Eagle software to make several boards that he passed around for close inspection. The wireless module has worked out very well. Eagle software is readily available free for small boards and at some cost for bigger boards in Windows, Apple and Linux versions.
Adam similarly had a number of boards of various complexity produced using DesignSpark which is a free download from RS Electronics. Adam used vapour phase soldering on at least one board with Peter R's VPS gear that he demo'ed some years ago - remember! Adam got his boards cheaply manufactured in China in one off quantities with quite amazingly fast turn around. Adam also brought a very complex "security locked tinny container" that he has printed since the March 3D printer demo.
FRIDAY APRIL 13 - Two subjects were covered that were:
- SDR, Software Defined Radio. The discussion covered some popular designs such as SoftRock and a new, much simpler hardware design using readily available chips costing under $4 total. Also, briefly included in the discussion were antennas and I/Q (in-phase/quadrature) software.
- Satellites. This year is the 40th anniversary of the oldest, still operational, man-made space object ever! It is AMSAT OSCAR 7. Two of us were part of an international team that designed and built the telemetry section of it. This year also marks the launch of 200 Sprite 3.5 by 3.5 cm micro-satellites assembled by universities and senior high school kids in the UK and launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS 3. They all transmit on 437MHz using a CDMA network.
FRIDAY MARCH 14, 2014. Meeting held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - 3D Printer Discussion and Presentation by Adam W. Adam brought his 3D Printer and had many, seemingly endless examples of objects printed on it such as replacement parts for broken items, electrical connector strips, circuit breaker enclosures, IC pin straighteners, and many gismos to demonstrate the range of things that can be printed. Adam had lots of videos and pictures of other examples. Some members of the audience raised the issue of printing things such as human organs for transplant, and the not-so-successful attempts to make guns.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 14, 2014. Annual General Meeting to be held at WEA "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide starting at 7:00pm. - This is the night we elect the committee and discuss meeting topics for the year. Here is a suggested list of topics that you should consider that you can add to or provide alternatives to at the meeting.
3D Printing & Arduino boards - invitation to local group to demo.
SDR - dongles, kits, or build from local parts, SDR S/W.
Open Street Maps - edit your own maps, how to install on GPS H/W.
Phones & Tablets - O/S's, costs, apps, privacy.
Invite Adelaide Uni to provide another presentation.
"Byzantine Generals' Problem" as applied to computing.
Raspberry Pi - O/S's, S/W development, peripheral H/W.
Python - as used by Raspberry Pi and across other platforms.
Malware, ransomware, phone & PC hacking, privacy.
FRIDAY December 6, 2013 (week early due to Xmas) from 7:00pm in Cottage "B" at the WEA 223 Angas St Adelaide - Presentation by Prof Murray Hamilton, Head of Physics at University of Adelaide, on a Meteorological Instrument using LED's, the physics of which, is related to atmospheric optical phenomena. The talk also covered Lidar Remote Sensing of cirrus clouds and water vapour.
As Prof Hamilton pointed out, the complex physics of water in its many forms seems almost unlimited and much of it is still being discovered and a lot of what is known is still unexplained. In just the solid form of water there are a myriad of patterns and varieties of snow flakes and ice. Then, in its liquid form, water frequently super cools down to as low as -30 degrees Celsius at high altitudes, even in the tropics.
Because water in its many forms has such profound effects on weather and the climate it has a huge effect on the world's economies, our food production, air transport, and almost every aspect of our lives. A better understanding of the behaviour of water is crucial to meteorology and accurate weather forecasting. Consequently, Prof Hamilton and so many other researchers world-wide are devoting so much effort to its study. In Prof Hamilton's case, he is developing an instrument that can be flown on balloons or aircraft to measure the backscatter of a blue laser at different polarisations. His device records the backscatter in clouds together with GPS and other data during its flight. This data is used, in conjunction with other data obtained by other means, to identify cloud composition and other atmospheric phenomena.
Apart from Prof Hamilton we had Ian and Mark in the audience who have spent long periods in the Arctic and Antarctic regions contributing to our knowledge of weather. Photos that Prof Hamilton showed us gave some appreciation of the spectacular scenery and the drama that these regions can produce.
Another area of research being undertaken by Prof Hamilton is the use of Lidar that, as well as being used for remote sensing cirrus clouds and water vapour, is also used for such things as correcting atmospheric distortion in ground-based optical telescopes. In this case a laser is projected into the high atmosphere where it encounters sodium atoms left over from, mainly, meteor strikes. The laser causes the sodium atoms to produce harmonics and mixing products among which is orange light that is used by earth bound telescopes to dynamically adjust the shape of their lenses to remove atmospheric "wobble". This method allows ground based telescopes to produce results at least as good as telescopes out in space such as Hubble.
Following on from this highly informative and fascinating presentation Prof Hamilton hopes to arrange other presentations and visits in future through the Adelaide University. It is certainly hoped that they can be arranged.
FRIDAY November 8, 2013 at the WEA - "Voxiebox", a uniquely different 3D Display System being developed in Adelaide. Gavin and Will, have been developing Voxiebox, a completely unique 3D Display System, that provides the viewers with full colour, still or motion images that float in space like the hologram of Princess Leia generated by R2-D2 in the first of the Star Wars series. All viewers get an image that depends on their vantage point. Unlike 3D films such as Avatar where everyone in the audience gets exactly the same view with a vantage point determined by the film's director, viewers of this system can independently look around the back, on top, or underneath the images regardless of what other viewers are seeing. In their presentation, Gav and Will first provided the background to this very ambitious project. They described that in their quest to display true 3D they had explored a number of possibilities with modest success until they arrived at the present highly successful system that they have dubbed "Voxiebox". In the process they have recruited a number of experts, particularly games developers, from around the world. Their 3D demos included 3D chess, 3D Pacman, and a lot of 3D rotating wire-frame images such as aircraft and mathematical 3D surfaces. They wish to concentrate most of their future effort towards gaming where the result is most spectacular and most likely to be commercial, although they admit applications to sports' broadcasting, the medical field and possibly architecture could also be winners. They also hope to scale the system up in size in future. While the following links can only display in 2D you might get a bit of a feel for the system. Read and see more at:
FRIDAY October 11, 2013 at the WEA - SPOT WELDING USING ULTRA CAPACITORS - Spot welders have been used for welding sheet steel, copper, aluminium and brass for many years. Internally, traditional spot welders consist of banks of large electrolytic capacitors that get charged to several hundred volts that are then discharged through a transformer. The transformer steps the voltage down to around 5 volts to produce several hundred amps to make welds with plenty of sparks that even Myth Busters would be proud of! Adam (and NOT the "Adam" from Myth Busters) has recently got several ultra capacitors that can do much the same thing as traditional spot welders but without the transformers or high voltages. Ultra capacitors have incredibly high capacitance and very low internal resistance that make them capable of delivering the kinds of currents at about the same voltage as traditional spot welders.
Adam has made considerable progress, but is not quite to the stage of being able to demo spot welding. One factor he is faced with is that the capacitors have voltage ratings of around 2.6 volts maximum. The voltage for welding should be a bit higher, so Adam has arranged capacitors in series and parallel configurations to provide 16000 Farads (yes, that's "Farads") at 5 volts or, the same capacity as a single ultra-capacitor, but at twice the voltage. Adam ran into trouble assembling the array of very low on-resistance FETs, but expects to have that fixed shortly so a future demo is now likely.
Then, in the discussion, the question of energy storage was raised and the effect of the Capacitor Paradox. Much vigorous discussion took place and has been the subject of many emails since. For the record, the Capacitor Paradox arises where a charged capacitor is discharged into an uncharged capacitor of the same capacitance and the total energy in the system is halved, so where does the other half go?
Also at the October meeting an up-converter was shown and discussed that can be used in conjunction with the Software Defined Radio demonstrated last month and in June. Some features were the double balanced mixer using hot carrier diodes, the Chow overtone crystal oscillator (unique to bipolar transistors) and various sources of spurious signals and their reduction by cleaner local oscillator sources and front end analog filtering.
FRIDAY September 13, 2013 - Software Defined Radio or SDR. The general theory of SDR was described and demonstrated by Rick who said SDR was a triumph for maths, modern electronics and software engineering that, considering the complexity and demands on maths, electronics and software, he never expected to see in his lifetime, but now he has. For those who saw Peter's SDR demo in June and Rick's demo at this meeting and would like to try SDR out for themselves without the need for the special version of USB TV dongle using RTL2832U/E4000 hardware plus the installation of compatible software then here is an alternative that uses no more than your web browser, although you will need Java. Java is already included with most recent browsers, but may need to be installed and enabled for older browser versions. Go to http://websdr.org The listed sites simulate communications' receivers capable of resolving AM, FM, upper or lower SSB, and morse code in various bandwidths at various locations around the world. For those not familiar with receiving SSB you will find it needs some practice to resolve the "Donald Duck sound" into recognisable speech. Most sites confine the frequency ranges to just amateur radio bands. The "waterfall" display is particularly useful for seeing the activity on the various bands in order to select a signal (notice that most of the waterfalls fall upwards!). Because these sites are at various locations around the world you get the experience of having a tunable receiver on the desk in front of you with apparently the antenna somewhere else in the world. The systems can handle many users simultaneously and independently with each user having the illusion of being the only one doing any tuning or listening. The download data rate is fairly low at about 10 to 20 KB/s.
FRIDAY 9 AUGUST 2013 from 7:00pm in Cottage "B" at the WEA 223 Angas St Adelaide. - BRING YOUR VINTAGE EQUIPMENT NIGHT. If you have any old computer equipment and/or software, especially computer games, that you are prepared to bring along to the August meeting to show us and hopefully tell us something about and then maybe even get it to work then we will be very pleased to see it. The 3 hours we have for the meeting will determine how long we will be able to allow for each talk and/or demo. As indicated at the meeting last year when this was proposed you can choose to take any equipment home again or donate it as part of the proposed Flinders' Digital Archaeology Lab. that needs a collection of functional hardware to facilitate research into digital preservation.
FRIDAY 12 JULY 2013 -TRANSCRIBING ANALOG VINYL RECORDS AND TAPE RECORDINGS TO DIGITAL CD/DVD FORMATS.
Chris has been transcribing analog vinyl records and tapes to digital CD/DVD formats as well as supplying the software to do it as part of his business activities for some time and told us about his experiences at our July meeting - see http://www.cfbsoftware.com Chris did the software development in Borland's Delphi Pascal. The software that Chris developed has been included in the commercial package pictured above. More details of the package including much of the material Chris covered describing how the software works is available at http://www.amazon.com/Xitel-HFL-I1-X1-INport/dp/B0000DEB82/
If you have any vinyl records or analog tapes that you want to listen to in future then time is running out. The players are getting old and eventually will fail and you won't be able to replace or fix them. The vinyl recordings themselves will accumulate more scratches and get damaged from worn needles while tapes will get stretched, tangled, broken or simply fade as time goes by. So, before it's too late you should embark on a rescue mission to save them.
FRIDAY 14 JUNE 2013. - COMPUTER MODULES ARE THE NEW ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS. Peter Gheude has always been an enthusiastic participant in most new technology, particularly electronics. Peter's most recent experience has been "re-purposing" (not to be confused with "re-possessing" - although that could also be true!) a lot of the now cheaply available items such as the very tiny TP-Link WR703N MODEM/Router. At about $AU25 you get the all the necessary hardware that you can reprogram into a very low powered server with the ability to control things over the 'net. With the right interface and software Peter showed us how he did this by accessing the internal program memory and reprogramming it. This is the kind of activity we will be seeing more and more of as the ability to build electronic devices from discrete components becomes increasingly difficult as the necessary components for that kind of construction dry up. You certainly can't expect to be making multi-layered PCBs populated with surface mounted parts yourself at prices anything like $25 in future. However, Peter showed us his surface mount soldering station that he has used with some success, but it's certainly not easy so be prepared for some failures. For more on this subject look up http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/index. Peter went on to show us a $20 USB TV dongle that he has re-purposed as a radio receiver with built-in spectrum analyser that receives just about every form of radio transmission in the range from about 20 MHz right through to more than 2 GHz using the dongle's internal frequency synthesiser and DSP. See http://rtl-sdr.com as a good start on software defined radio and the software needed to re-purpose TV dongles as general purpose radio receivers. Other items that could be considered for re-purposing are phones, tablets, inkjet printers, scanners, optical mice, keyboards, and games' consoles.
FRIDAY 10 MAY 2013: Visit to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) at Kent Town. This well attended visit was conducted by Scott from the Bureau who is in charge of their maintenance team that maintains the equipment that gathers the weather data throughout South Australia and large areas of the Pacific. A lot of the equipment operates totally automatically and sends in the data consisting mostly of temperature, pressure, rainfall, and wind speed & direction. This data is sent in by a wide range of communications' methods from dial-up to satellite. Most of the equipment is land-based, but other sources of data come in from volunteer observers throughout the region, regularly launched weather balloons, and commercial airlines. There is even one weather buoy located in the ocean off the cost of Kangaroo Island. In the server room it demonstrates just how computer equipment has shrunk both in size and increased computing power - many racks are now empty yet the data volume has increased significantly. All this contributes to the accuracy of weather forecasting that now extends out to 7 days that we see daily in the media and well into the future with a high degree of accuracy. On the night there was a lot of activity to provide wind and rain forecasts to the fire fighting activity at Cherryville so obviously we had only a brief look at the operations' room. You can always see more weather forecasts and statistics on Australia's most visited internet site at http://www.bom.gov.au We also had a good look at the items on display from the Bureau's former East Terrace site and other museum artifacts in cabinets located around the very interesting architecturally designed building at Kent Town.
FRIDAY 12 APRIL 2013: The April Meeting presenter was Adam Webb who has been assembling the hardware to make a 3D SCANNER. Adam told us what progress he has made, what methods, the accuracy, the likely costs, and what's possible for the home builder. Adam's interest has been aroused by his involvement with 3D printing at the Innovation Lab where he hopes to apply the device. Adam demonstrated a related device, his home-built laser range finder, as a large scale example. That device uses two lasers: one laser simply acts as a visual indicator of where the device is pointing while the second laser, an infra-red laser, does the actual range finding. Adam continuously displayed the range in cms on his overhead projector. It was pointed out that the range finding method uses triangulation rather than transmission delay that, at the speed of light, would simply be too small to measure with any presently available method. Adam has since discovered that the CSIRO have been doing much the same thing and you can see the results of their "Zebedee" at their web site.
FRIDAY 8 March 2013: Meeting was held at the WEA's "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide. We had a preliminary look at the Raspberry Pi, we looked at some more aspects of SMART PHONES & TABLETS that we weren't able to adequately cover at the AGM. We also discussed Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, or UEFI, and its introduction with the release of Windows 8 and its effect on the hardware you buy from now on and how it affects other operating systems that you may wish to run on that hardware in future.
FRIDAY 8 February 2013: Annual General Meeting was held in WEA's "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide where we re-elected the officers from 2012 for 2013 unopposed. A number of your suggestions for this year's meetings program were accepted and will be used in this year's program preparation. Also, because we are part of the WEA and have been invited to participate in this, the WEA's Centenary Year, we will consider some of those suggestions for any possible contributions.
FRIDAY 7 December 2012 - WEA's "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide.- SMART PHONES & TABLETS. These devices now dominate the sales in electronic goods. If you own one bring it along and it will be interesting to discuss its features and apps. If you do not already own one (or more) yourself you can find out what is available and what they can do. Additionally, they present an opportunity to include software development in next year's program, something that has been somewhat neglected in recent years.
FRIDAY 9 November 2012 - Australia's Digital Heritage and What Needs to Happen to Remember and Preserve It. Assoc Prof Melanie Swalwell from Flinders University wants to add to an already extensive collection of Australian and New Zealand digital computing heritage before it fades away. She conducted an interactive session with us where she described the aims of the project and we related as many aspects of our own computing experience as possible. Melanie wanted to know what the attraction was, what we bought and used, what we designed in hardware and/or software, what we used it for, what happened to it, and what books/magazines or other sources we used. Items being collected include computer hardware, software, discs, books, magazines, source code listings, personal experiences, photos, games and game consoles. Either personal and/or commercial hardware and/or software will be accepted. Phil brought his Educ-8 and its documentation as an example of the sort of things wanted for the collection - if he can ever be persuaded to part with it! This was an interesting departure from our usual meetings and one that worked well. It is hoped to follow up next year with a "Vintage Computer Gear" night. Melanie hopes to conduct more detailed sessions with us in future perhaps on a more individual basis.
FRIDAY 12 October 2012 - 3D PRINTING - Pix and John from Hacker Space, after a gruelling round of demos and talks on 3D printing at the recent Science Week's "Science Alive" expo and at the Royal Adelaide Show, very generously gave us an outstanding presentation at our October meeting.
To most of us 3D printing is an exciting brand new technology, but as Pix pointed out, it has actually been around for quite some years in industry in various forms only to emerge now as a low-cost manufacturing process suitable for personal use. Pix described the "Reprap" as one of the earliest personal open source 3D printers. The Reprap "Darwin" model was developed by Dr Adrian Bowyer of the University of Bath in the UK and released under a GNU General Public open source free software License in 2007. The Darwin was followed by the Mendel in 2009. Other 3D printers that Pix described were Makerbot's "Cupcake", the Replicator, and the much more expensive, Objet.
3D printing combines mechanics, electronics, electrical, CAD software and polymer chemistry/physics to produce objects in a wide variety of shapes, although with some restrictions such as size (presently limited to lie within about a 4 cms cube) and limited to shapes that, for example, have adequate support to prevent the molten filament from sagging (known as "bridge failures").
Pix described the 3D printing process as starting by designing objects with some Computer Aided Design, or CAD, software such as Openscad, Tinkercad, or Blender to output an stl file. Then software such as Skeinforge converts the stl files to Gcodes to describe the objects in layers to drive the 3D printer assembly from a PC.
The Gcode is processed by the printer's electronics that commonly use modules such as the Arduino series combined with power transistors to drive stepper motors to move a print head heated to about 200 °C to feed ABS or PLA plastic filament from a roll to print the objects layer by layer. By printing directly onto heated glass shrinkage during printing can be avoided and it makes removing completed objects a lot easier.
The rolls of plastic filaments are usually either ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), or PLA (polylactic acid). Care must be taken storing PLA because, over time, it can absorb moisture from the air so that when it is heated this moisture can turn to steam and interfere with printing.
John showed us his Reprap 3D printer and a wide range of objects that he has printed on it and Adam gave a brief survey of the free 3D printing facilities being offered to the public by the Adelaide City Council at their Grote St Library.
The intense questioning directed to Pix and John and the close inspection of the 3D printer and the objects printed by it clearly indicated how much interest this presentation generated.
FRIDAY 14 September 2012 at WEA's "Cottage B" 223 Angas St Adelaide - Adam Webb's update on the Compact, Low-powered Ethernet Web (or "Webb") Server that he has been developing for some time. This ambitious project has been satisfactorily prototyped, debugged and now reached the point where kits can be assembled. Anyone with an interest in remotely controlling or logging any process over the net will find these an ideal solution. With such low power consumption these servers can be left on-line indefinitely without any significant power costs.They are also a good introduction to setting up and using web servers.
FRIDAY 10 August 2012 - A FURTHER LOOK AT PROJECTS FOR FUTURE GROUP ACTIVITIES. We decided at the June meeting that new PICAXE kits with the latest, cheaper, faster chips with lots more memory and a wider choice of peripherals combined with vast internet resources are the best choice for the Hindmarsh workshops provided we can find a source of cheap USB-to-serial converter cables to program them. A fresh costing is now being made. We have yet to select a suitable assembly or assemblies for some future hardware/software group projects. The choice so far is from Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and ARM based systems.
FRIDAY 13 July 2012 - A LOOK AT PROJECTS FOR FUTURE GROUP ACTIVITIES -There are lots of low cost board assemblies becoming available now such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and ARM based systems. The days of hand assembled systems is coming to a close and being replaced by machine assembled boards covered with tiny surface mounted components leaving the connection of peripheral sensors and output devices driven by suitable software to system designers and users such as us, At the meeting we considered a number of board assemblies and kits for possible use at the CSIRO's Double Helix Club workshops at Hindmarsh. After some deliberation it was decided to review the cost of the PICAXE kits for the Hindmarsh workshops now that component prices have dropped dramatically together with big increases in memory size, clock speed, and many more added software functions. The one remaining obstacle is finding cheap USB-to-serial converters for programming the PICAXE chips now that RS232 serial interfaces are so rare. The decision to recommend a board assembly for internal club use has yet to be made.
FRIDAY 8 June 2012 - TEST YOUR PC WITH A LIVE LINUX USB MEMORY STICK - Hayden from the LSGA (Linux Supporters Group Adelaide) has a widely varied background that includes working for Telstra on the first computer controlled trunk telephone exchange system, the 10C. Hayden previously gave us a talk in 2010, but in this presentation Hayden described what Live Linux CD/USB's are, where you get them, and how you test with them. He booted up a "Parted Magic" distro (or distribution) of Linux from a USB stick that featured Parted Magic as the main application plus lots of other applications to help partition, backup, fix and otherwise maintain hard drives. Parted Magic can handle almost any format, partitioning scheme or operating system including Windows and Linux. It has nothing to do with the similarly named Partition Magic. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn't see the Kaspersky Rescue Disk in action, but maybe that can be for another time. Obviously there is a lot of interest now in Linux judging from the enthusiastic audience questions. The handout notes covering most of Hayden's talk will be made available on http://linuxlsga.net/about.html where more Linux material is presented. You may also look HERE
for a more detailed explanation of the kernel. It is worth noting that Linux is presently enjoying spectacular success with just about every web server running Linux and now about 2/3 of all phones and tablets running Linux under the name "Android".
SATURDAY 26 May 2012 - KIDS' ELECTRONICS WORKSHOP. Another workshop was held at the Hindmarsh Complex (formerly the Hindmarsh Council Chambers) on May 26, 2012. This time the construction kit was a "LED Sled" that provides a car lighting system for a toy car including headlights, taillights, and turning indicators. This was the most demanding project so far so more time was needed. Nevertheless, nearly all participants were able to take home a working kit. You can see the project details and the kinds of results at http://www.wennig.com.au/LS-1.html
FRIDAY 11 May 2012 - ARM : THE RISC PROCESSORS THAT POWER ALL THE TOP END iPADS, iPHONES, ETC. Chris Burrows programs these chips as a significant part of his business and described the hardware and software development systems that he uses including software he has developed himself. Chris has concentrated on the latest in the ARM chips, the Cortex-M3 series, and the older ARM7 family. Chris's major contribution to ARM has been the development of a complete software IDE that features the Oberon language (another Pascal-like language developed by Nicklaus Wirth) to enable programming ARM development systems. Chris demonstrated how, instead of simply always looking to upgrade hardware to improve performance, frequently you can improve performance by better algorithms in an example where he got a sample of software to run hundreds of times faster with a better algorithm. You can look up the following links for more information on the ARM chips and how they are being applied. ARM, Astrobe, Coridium Corp, Embedded Artists, NXP, Olimex.
The ARM has now reached the stage where today it outsells everything else because it is very low cost, very fast, has low battery consumption and lots of memory. No wonder it was chosen for iPads, iPhones, etc. One development card Chris uses costs as little as $15. Then there is the ARM based "Raspberry Pi" system at $35 being promoted by the BBC for UK schools that is essentially the guts of an iPad on a credit card sized board. You just plug in a TV, keyboard, speakers, mouse, ethernet cable and USB 5V power from a phone charger to give you just about everything you need as a general purpose computer system. See the site and watch the videos HERE. See Wikipedia and view lots more videos on Youtube. (Unfortunately, the demand for the Raspberry Pi is astronomical and probably you will have a wait about a year to ever get one).
FRIDAY 13 April 2012 - POD-CAR SYSTEM FOR ADELAIDE.- John Foley presented a proposal for an electric Pod-Car system, initially for the inner Central Business District of Adelaide, but with the aim to eventually extend it throughout all Adelaide suburbs. The system uses many small, approximately 3 person maximum, Pod-Cars that run on elevated steel tracks. The cars are powered by linear electric motors under the control of centralised computers to provide the most direct, unimpeded passenger service at an average speed of about 60 KPH from pick up station to the nearest destination station with stations spaced about 600m or less apart. The cars are dispatched on-call similar to taxis, but instead are driverless. The system is expected to be cheaper to install and operate than competing systems and move far more people in a given time.
The cars have pneumatic tyres to reduce noise and vibration with one pair of wheels attached to fixed hubs at the rear and with a movable front pair to enable track selection at junctions. Other electric power, separate from the cars' propulsion, is picked up from the track to provide the cabins with air-conditioning, lighting, music or whatever for passenger comfort. The elevated tracks' electric supply, in addition to supplying all the cars' needs, can also provide auxiliary services such as street lighting.
Many alternative systems use single end-to-end tracks without junctions that radiate out from some central city hub. Other systems can have junctions using change-over points to determine the route. What sets Pod-Cars apart from these other systems is that the tracks can have many junctions throughout the network with every car's route determined by turning the front wheels under computer control to maintain constant speed and traffic flow. Consequently, Pod-Cars can significantly reduce traveling time to adjacent or nearby suburbs by traveling at constant speed and without the need to go through a central city hub.
Being driverless and more personalised this system, in addition to ordinary commuting, will allow cheap and safe pick up and delivery of school children, or the elderly, or the handicapped without involving some parent or other adult. Pod-Cars will also remove many of the fears and risks to vulnerable members of the community who presently are reluctant to use public transport systems, especially late at night. Additionally, without drivers or drivers' time and wages involved Pod-Cars can make fast, cheap deliveries of up to 300 Kg between factories, warehouses, shops, and homes, in fact, any source to destination, even garbage collection and disposal.
John's presentation stimulated a lot of lively discussion. If the Pod-Car system can really deliver all it promises then it will be hard to beat for future city transportation be it in Adelaide or elsewhere.
FRIDAY 9 March 2012 - IMPEDANCE ANALYSIS - Josh McIntyre, Technical Director of TrewMac Systems Pty Ltd will describe and demonstrate an impedance analyser that his company sells. You are strongly advised to look up the TrewMac web site prior to the meeting to get the most out of Josh's presentation. (NOTE: This meeting is in the Adelaide Arts Festival period so venue access and parking will be difficult. One way to ensure minimum inconvenience is to allow at least an extra 1/2 hour to park possibly further away than usual.)
Saturday 18 February 2012 - KIDS ELECTRONICS' WORKSHOP - Another Kids Electronics' Workshop was held at the Hindmarsh Science Centre (old Hindmarsh Council Chambers) in two sessions from 11am - 1pm and 2pm - 4pm with a total of over 60 kids completing the construction of "Tilt Torch" kits that involved soldering. It was a joint venture of Aztronics and Wennig. The torches have several functions that apart from their use as a torch includes their use as an emergency floating flashing beacon so the units have to be water-proof. Nearly all kids finished their torches, got them checked and tested in the 2 hours. Details of the Tilt Torch are at http://www.wennig.com.au/TT-1.html Those that completed their torches with time to spare were able to try the radio controlled boats also from Wennig.
FRIDAY 10 February 2012 - ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING - Election of officers resulted in a few changes - Chairman/Treasurer: Rick M - Secretary: Adam W - Editor: Cliff H - Web Master: Andrew B - Committee: Col H, Peter G, Mark S, Chris B. The any suggestions for meetings will be pursued during the year.
FRIDAY 2 December 2011 - NBN ROLL OUT TO CUSTOMER PREMISES - Col Huckel showed us and described much of the equipment we can expect to see in our homes or businesses when the NBN comes up our streets. Col also provided demonstrations of cleaving and splicing optical fibre joints that at least one member tried for himself. Even with all the very best and expensive equipment it certainly demonstrated that quite high levels of skill are required by the operator to get acceptable results. This complemented Internode's John Lindsay's talk earlier in the year.
Col has supplied these useful links to check out :-
Try this web link to NBN Co In-Home Wiring Guide (presently unavailable while it is being updated) :-
General User Guide info :-
NBN Information pack :-
FRIDAY 11 November 2011 - COMPARING DOS, PSH, AND BASH COMMAND LINE INTERFACES - Greg Bishop from the LSGA (Linux Supporters Group Adelaide) compared and contrasted the capabilities of DOS, PSH and BASH command shells used by the MSDOS, Windows and Linux operating systems. Those of us not familiar with console commands were impressed how powerful command line shells can be even though they vary between different shells and operating systems. Greg used an example that listed the totals in descending order of every word in a very large sample text file. As it happened, Linux was very fast, PSH somewhat slower, with Windows' CMD quite slow. Users who have tended to rely entirely on the GUI interface realized there are a lot of things GUIs simply do not do that shell programs can. Greg's presentation enlarged on the LSGA talk introducing Linux last year.
FRIDAY 14 OCTOBER 2011: - SOLAR PANEL EVALUATION SOFTWARE - Howard Harvey demo'ed his software to evaluate the long-term cost of home solar panel installations amortized over, typically, 20 years. Howard has written the program in Delphi Pascal so that in a spread-sheet like manner the various parameters can be overwritten causing all the other dependent values to be recalculated. Howard says that the solar panel salesmen he has shown it to prefer it to the software they have been using. Apart from this particular case, Howard's software provides a good example of what Delphi can do.
FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2011: - QR AND BAR CODES. - We had a look at QR and Bar codes. Here are a QR and Bar code examples to decode.
The following lists software that was used for encoding and decoding on the night except for qrencode that was missing from the demo machine. All the listed software runs on Linux and, in some cases, there are versions that run on Windows. The demo showed how good decoders can dredge the correct codes out of some very cluttered backgrounds.
There is a good description at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_code with plenty of references at the bottom.
FRIDAY 12 AUGUST 2011 - Because there was not enough time to have a close look at the Maximite at the July meeting then we had a closer look at one of its functions at this meeting. We used the Maximite to write the date, time and mains voltage to an SD flash card at 1 minute intervals. The results were pasted into a spreadsheet and graphed to show how the mains varied over the hour or so of the demo. Other results over a week or so were shown. The voltages measured showed that the 230 volt + and - 6% standard is not being observed.
The Maximite kit is preprogrammed to run a variant of GWBasic, has a number of interfaces (USB for I/O and power, or VGA or composite video plus P/S2 keyboard). It can read and write to Flash SD cards for up to 32 GB of data and/or program storage, has 128 K of RAM, and 500 K of internal flash for program storage. The main features of this kit are very low power (about 1/2 watt) and plenty of analog and/or digital I/O that makes it ideal for portable battery powered long-term data logging as well as many other applications.
The other activity on the night compared the light output from a variety of incandescent and compact fluoro lamps by using a "grease spot" photometer. There was probably more audience participation than we have had at any previous meeting. Thanks to all those who participated.
For those interested in the spreadsheet results of the lamp tests at the August 12 meeting click HERE. For those interested in seeing an acceptable graph of mains voltages over a day click HERE. For those interested in the mains to logger interface circuit click HERE. For those interested in the method of calibrating the Maximite for data logging mains voltages click HERE.
FRIDAY 8 JULY 2011 7:00pm, WEA Cottage 223 Angas St Adelaide - Chris Burrows gave us a report on his recent trip to Zurich Switzerland for a conference as an invited guest to give a presentation on the Oberon-07 programming language as it applies to the ARM series processors. Oberon was developed by Niklaus Wirth who has developed many languages, Pascal and Modular being probably the best known. Chris met and spent some time with Niklaus and had the rare opportunity to see the original development system, still in working order, that Niklaus used to develop his original code. Chris also took plenty of photos during his trip that he shared with us. Chris showed us the video of Niklaus Wirth's presentation. Niklaus seemed very much at ease with English and gave much insight into how he and his colleague developed the languages they are so famous for. A fascinating sideline was to see the very unusual venue at the very top of the huge VisDome, Main Building (Hauptgebäude, HG) ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Some links to Oberon sites are:
Oberon Day www.oberonday2011.ethz.ch
Embedded Artists www.embeddedartists.com
NXP Semiconductors ics.nxp.com/microcontrollers
FRIDAY 10 JUNE 2011 - ***VISIT*** to Flinders University for a Mobile Phone-to-Phone Towerless Network presentation by Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen who is in charge of this project.
The method Dr Gardner-Stephen and his team has developed makes use of the WiFi hardware that is included in most of the new mobile phones combined with software that his team has developed. It provides a phone-to-phone alternative to the GSM system that all mobile phones normally use that totally depend on phone towers and a working telephone network to be operational. Some particularly interesting features of this system are that the phones use their normal telephone numbers for making or receiving calls and every phone that is switched on and is either in standby or in conversation can relay other phone calls to extend the network well beyond what would be possible just between two phones by themselves.
This project has generated a lot of interest in the wake of recent disasters such as Australia's bushfires and floods and the earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan when the power and normal telecommunications were all wiped out. This method of communicating will still operate in those circumstances enabling emergency services to talk to and more quickly rescue many disaster victims that would otherwise perish. The ABC TV's "New Inventors" program featured this communications' system in a recent program.
FRIDAY 13 MAY 2011 - (1) Software for the PIC32 USB Development and the Maximite Kits and (2) In the light of April's NBN presentation what does it mean for such things as where will your ONT be installed, what route will the street to house fibre cable take, and what equipment will need to be replaced or can some of it be reused? If you have a separate ADSL Modem connected via an ethernet cable to a router or router/wireless unit then you should be able to simply ditch the Modem and then just reconnect the ethernet cable to your new ONT from the WAN port on your existing router or router/wireless unit. But if you have a combined ADSL Modem/router/wireless unit then it may be more complex. With no WAN port on your router/wireless unit you could simply connect your ONT to one of the ethernet ports on your router (although the ethernet cable has to be "twisted" because you are connecting client to client). Tests show some equipment works this way and some does not. How do you test for this? What do you do about firewalls, filtering, etc.? With the NBN project due for completion in 5 years then you will need to give the NBN's effect on you some thought very soon. Places like Willunga are being installed now with Prospect and Modbury about to begin. Do these areas include you? Also see NBN report further down this web page under "Past Event Reports".
FRIDAY 8 APRIL 2011 - JOHN LINDSAY, GENERAL MANAGER REGULATORY & CORPORATE AFFAIRS INTERNODE & AGILE, presented us with a very detailed and comprehensive whirlwind tour of Australia's National Broadband Network, the NBN, that is presently being installed throughout Australia and in which Internode is a very active and integral part. John revealed to us how Internode's network, together with its world-wide partners, reach way beyond Adelaide where Internode is headquartered and extend throughout Australia, Asia, North America, the Middle East, and Europe.
As far as Australia's future local Internet access is concerned, and as John described and illustrated with some excellent photos, it will be mostly implemented with the Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) option using a Passive Optical Network (PON) where single-mode fibres from (usually) the local telephone exchange are extended to passive optical hubs. Each fibre's 1.2 Gigabit data stream is then split into 16 fibres for serving up to 16 customers' premises. The fibres will be terminated at the home or business end on Optical Network Terminals (ONT) to provide at least one ethernet and one phone connector at data rates of up to 100 Megabits/second. To prevent eavesdropping among the 16 who share the last passive optical fibre section encryption will be used on the downstream data feed.
The ever growing amount of home and business equipment that will be able to use the NBN include the things we are very familiar with such as PCs, laptops, smart phones, wired LAN and WiFi networks, etc. John showed us some less familiar items that will make use of the NBN's high data rates such as Femto Cells that are short range IP wireless phones, and Slingbox, a TV relay device, that can capture free-to-air or cable TV and relay it anywhere in the world (for the very homesick maybe?).
John was inundated with questions that he easily handled, although neither he (or anyone else) can be sure what customers will pay for an NBN connection just yet. As for "Who needs the high speeds of the NBN?", John said that video in its various forms is expected to be the main reason, even though the main use of the Internet is presently HTTP as the daily data usage graphs showed us. John emphasised that the NBN will completely replace existing copper cables with no other choice to the end user once the NBN goes down their street. Copper cables are rapidly reaching the end of their life and the choice has to be made to upgrade to an all-fibre network for phone and Internet access or continue repairing and extending the existing copper network. The government has chosen to go with an all-fibre NBN.
John said, apart from his busy schedule, he still likes experimenting with new hardware and writing code so he is particularly pleased with his recently successful solar panel controller design.
We are very grateful to John who, in spite of his heavy workload, was prepared to give us this very timely presentation on the NBN. We hope that you, John, enjoyed the evening as much as we did.
Here are some useful links:
FRIDAY 11 MARCH 2011 - AN ELECTRONICS' GOODS MARKET SURVEY - On Friday March 11 we looked at some of the huge range of electronics' goods presently out there in the market place such as notepads, notebooks, laptops, desktops, iPads, iPods, LCD monitors, games consoles such as Wii and XBox, TVs as monitors, fixed phones, cordless phones, home phone networks, mobile phones, Skype phones, LCD TVs, plasma TVs, HDTVs, 3D TVs, projection TVs, portable TVs, USB TV dongles, settop boxes, PVRs with DVD recording, PVRs with hard drives, PVRs with DVD and/or hard drives, PVRs with networking, DVD and/or Blueray players, portable DVD players, photo frames, external USB or eSATA hard drives, external USB burners, USB memory sticks, SD memory cards, networking wired and/or wireless, ADSL and ADSL+ MODEMS, mobile broadband dongles, cameras still and/or video, GPSs, Bluetooth peripherals such as headsets, portable MP3 music players, voice recorders, DAB radios, corded and cordless mice and keyboards, USB video cams, inkjet and laser printers, networked printers, scanners, ink cartridges, all-in-one printers, LED torches, laser pointers, plug packs, NiMH battery chargers, to name just a few.
Many good and bad experiences were discussed. It was a good opportunity to assess what choices we should make for our future purchases.
FRIDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2011 - Annual General Meeting - The February AGM elected our committee and set out the meeting agenda and other activities for 2011. Several vacancies were filled.
A number of potential meeting subjects were discussed.
A project to design a sound warning system for electric cars. The Chairman of the Electric Vehicle Association of SA (EVASA) who spoke to us last year says that a lot of countries are now legislating to make it compulsory to fit electric vehicles with some sound generator to warn people that an otherwise nearly silent electric vehicle is near. Probably a good starting point would be something that sounds similar to a normal car probably determined by vehicle speed. Just turning up the radio may not qualify. This need has become urgent and could be a way to give the SAMG a somewhat higher profile.
Another item also involves electric cars. It is possible we might get a look at and a talk on one of the top of the range electric vehicles this year - more later.
Video, and HD video in particular, has become an almost essential companion for travel and holidays these days. The problem arises when you find out that the video format for HD video is *.m2ts that is not easily handled. We should have a much closer look at the available alternatives for viewing, editing, converting and storing the various video formats.
With the rapid growth of "apps" on many portable e-devices these days there is an opportunity to do some software development ourselves. If you have a great idea then what is involved in implementing it? With this in mind we should do more on computer languages such as C, C++, Python among others.
This web site has MIRRORS at http://samg.yi.org and http://samg.supremeit.com
CLICK HERE for meeting reports continued . . . . .