A brief foray into explosions

Every year, myself, my family and some friends get together on New Year’s Eve, have a lovely meal and at midnight, let off the obligatory fireworks. Their house is surrounded by farmland so we have a huge amount of space, making operation of larger fireworks possible, but we’ve in past years stuck to firing the larger end of garden fireworks (category 2).

This year, tired of the inevitable mucking around with unreliable gas lighters at midnight, we decided to take a look at electronic ignition systems and upgrade to category 3 “display” fireworks. Continue reading A brief foray into explosions

Getting started with XRF modules and LLAP

Months ago I picked up some radio modules – specifically the XRF radio modules from Ciseco. They’re about ¬£10 a pop and are in theory very simple to use. This is… almost true. In the end my modules sat dormant in my component store, and the OpenKontrol gateway I got from them at the same time was never assembled, owing to some missing parts for the ethernet module and abysmal documentation for the entire project – it’s still sat on my desk and will probably migrate to the bin eventually. This theme of abysmal documentation is unfortunately consistent across all of the Cisceo product lines, which is a real shame since they make great bits and pieces¬†in theory. I really do hope they’ll pull their finger out and fix their documentation.

All that aside, last week at work, we had a two-day event for physical prototyping and I decided that I’d try and get the things working – and after a day or so, succeeded. This post is a brief introduction to how to get the modules working as advertised. Continue reading Getting started with XRF modules and LLAP

The ntpi: accurate time with a Raspberry Pi and Venus638FLPx

One of the things I’ve always loved to tinker with is time sources and synchronization. Typically this has been tied to sensible things like the Network Time Protocol and designing and maintaining time distribution systems for broadcast networks. Lately though I’ve been toying with ‘real’ time sources – GPS and MSF broadcasts. This is a quick tutorial on how to set up a Raspberry Pi, which at only a few watts makes for an economical time server, to talk to a Venus 638FLPx GPS receiver (available from Sparkfun on a suitable breakout board here). Continue reading The ntpi: accurate time with a Raspberry Pi and Venus638FLPx