Month: February 2014

Workshop update 2, and Raspberry Jamboree this week

Last week I recieved the funding off uni to get going with buying my kit, so duly I emailed a few sellers I’d not got a quote from just yet, and since I was up North this last weekend, took a detour into town to speak to Paul from Pimoroni about the kit and how much education discount I could get off.

After pulling out everything I needed (I felt quite a lot like a kid in a candy shop standing infront of baskets upon baskets of Adafruit stock…) which amasses to:

37 gemmas (1 for emergencies/showing what to do, 36 for the guides)

72 neopixels

4 conductive thread bobbins

a lot of snaps so that I can reuse the gemmas and LEDs

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All the swag

Paul told me Pimoroni does a 20% educational discount, but were additionally willing to give a further 10% as a company donation, which I’m dead chuffed with. Yeah team Sheffield!
A big thank you also to Gareth from 4tronix who offered a discount for the GEMMAs and to Ben at Phenoptix who offered a discount on my kit, aswell as Proto-pic who do a 10% student discount as standard and were willing to let the kids I’m working with have that discount too – it’s hard to try and balance out all the electronics companies around rasPi and hacking so that I do business with everyone, but rest assured it was much appreciated, just easy to go into town and pick up everything at once. Pimoroni also have hypnotic powers that force me to spend more money there…
I’ll try and make sure I use a few different sellers if poss in future to spread the love.

Anyway, I’ve now soldered up 2 of my neopixels and a GEMMA so that they have snaps on the connections I need:

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For anyone struggling to solder these on to the neopixels I’ll probably try and post a video going through what you can do to get them on there – I’ve only done one test kit as it were so that I can check whether the connections are all ok, after which for two solid weeks I’ll be in production line mode. Unfortunate since I don’t have any weekends to bomb through them all in…

On to my second piece:

RASPBERRY JAMBOREE IS THIS WEEK *YAY*

I’ve just written my slide deck for my talk, which is on community spirit which is pretty much what’s brought me on from shy little Charlotte to…slightly less shy Charlotte who’s a lot more proud of her own accomplishments and passionate about volunteering to make the next generation more technology savvy and have less of a gender imbalance.

I’ll be speaking the thursday afternoon, and I’ll also be on the OCR stand advising people on tinkering with the GPIO, wearable technology and my crowd funding project. I’m trying to get rid of business cards so please take one from me if you see me.

There’s also the birthday party friday night, which has so much free swag I’m drooling just thinking about it, so if you’re going to the jamboree make sure you get a birthday party ticket.

If you’re not going to the Jamboree, particularly students who’ve told me they want a raspberry pi, then you should be ashamed of yourselves. Kay?

Link is here, and video on last year’s jamboree is here:

Big Data, Security and Twitterbots at HP Bristol

One of the great many things I love about Bristol is that there’s a lot of big companies here, and strangely, a lot congregated around a tiny little place called Filton, which funnily enough, is where I work…

HP is one of these such companies, and for me the fact it’s HP Research is even better, since R&D is one of the pathways I think would be interesting to pursue when I’m all done at university.

Anyway so this evening for the February Girl Geek Dinner, I headed over to HP Bristol for a talk on Big Data, Security and Twitterbots with Miranda Mobray who’s worked at HP for most of her career.

First off, she started talking about what is Big Data, and said 3 things define big data:

Volume: Well, it’s big. I can’t remember the actual amount but a few thousand terabytes and you have a big data set. Congratulations!

Velocity: data you want to process within a few hours, not a few weeks. This obviously causes a problem considering the sheer size of it…

Variety: data that’s in more than one format…which err isn’t strictly true? If you have data that’s in more than one format you’re just going to convert it to one singular format before starting processing to make it easier, so what does it matter if it’s not all in one format…

Miranda mentioned how a lot of recent searches on google about Big Data included “hadoop”, which is a programming language which is great for parallelism which would solve a few problems – however, a programming language is not the be all and end all of fixing a problem: 2 things stand in the way of this.

1. If your data set is getting exponentially bigger (the amount of data on the internet, in 2012, doubled every 18 months. Now it’s a heck of a lot faster than even that statistic), the algorithms need to scale, and therefore, parralellism is all well and good, but if it’s only designed to handle today’s amount of data, tomorrow’s will make it tip over…

2. Ultimately, if you don’t know the right questions, all you really have is…a big data set, so analysing the data is an even bigger problem than just from a technical perspective of “how the hell do we work with this”. Kind of like asking Deep thought what the answer to the meaning of Life is…

Miranda then went on to talk about the data processing related to security that she does at HP, particularly relating to attacks from DNS events. Some of the statistics – HP collects 120,000 DNS events per day, and they hold the data for 90 days – this is around 2 Petabytes of data. Whilst there’s an automated system which throws away 98% of this since a lot of DNS data isn’t relating to an attack or even figuring out if there was an attack, this is still quite a lot. On average there’s 1 bad event in 1 million DNS events, so for HP that’s…7 events per minute. The security team therefore have to have a way of suppressing or automating the clean up – so either they get notified about a bad event, then it gets put into the backlog for them to deal with later, or the user in question gets an automated email suggesting they get rid of the bad stuff on their machine.

In the break Miranda asked for questions and the usual topics such as NSA, GCHQ and various reports about how much data Facebook gives to other websites, and how HP and Miranda in particular are hoping to make sure their practices are ethical. This brought up the “Netflix Report”, in which Netflix published movies people had rented. From this collated data it was found the analysers could figure out the person’s name, based on their movie habits, which is erm. Quite scary.

On went the next section of the talk, discussing twitterbots. A few statistics:

11% of twitter users in 2011 were bots.

8% of links on twitter are bad…I don’t know if this is current.

40% of bots will get followed back on twitter, but only 20% of friend requests from bots on facebook get accepted – if the bot has mutual facebook friends, it’s 50%.

Miranda spoke about the types of twitter bots – scandals, marketing, even the Internet of Toaster bots and detailed cases where they’d been banned, such as one of theRealDonaldTrump accounts. Interestingly, speaking of the scandal bots which pick a female celebrity and say “dead/pregnant/naked!!!” with a link, Miranda mentioned she’d asked if it were possible to sue the owner of the bot for this kind of malicious tweeting – apparently, it’s not illegal which is kind of strange.

Trying not to creep us all out, Miranda also mentioned bot accounts such as ISSAbove and the Internet of Things usage of twitter, and other people brought up their own bots they’d made for service reasons, such as scraping twitter and the web for any mention of their favourite basketball teams or scores, and flight bots which allow you to request the next flight time and cost for various journeys.

Overall very interesting, and a great excuse to have a nosey at HP! I apologise for how lengthy this is since I haven’t really summarised…but I really found the whole talk very interesting, and I might even look at Hadoop as next on my “programming languages to try” list.

Wearable workshop update

Budget total now from crowdfunding + from uni support is…well…it’s a lot. I’m so humbled by this entire process. It’s still ongoing if anyone wants to throw some more money in, I promise I won’t spend it on a Caribbean holiday – in case anyone reading this doesn’t know what I’m on about, this is a wearable tech workshop involving GEMMAS, batteries, LEDs and conductive thread for some guides in Bristol.

Since camjam at the weekend, I’ve been starting to look at how I’m going to do this workshop.

This consists of actually figuring out how to plan out the workshop, and suddenly bricking it going “OH GOD, I’M DOING THIS ON MY OWN” and drinking copious amounts of red wine. I am planning on talking to the guide leaders about how best to support the workshop, because every guide unit has 4 or 5 people on hand if I remember rightly, so that should help, but it’s still getting quite daunting. If anyone wants to help with this and has a full CRB done (and can be in Bristol on a tuesday night..), give me a shout. I know of one person but that’s like it.

I thought funding would be the hardest part. I didn’t really consider much further than that, to be honest, and now that I am, I’m very glad I’m not putting any sensors into this project. That would add a level of complexity too far above an hour’s session.

Anyway, aside from the activities above, I’ve managed to make a bunch of flashcards, which when the deadline of crowdfunding is over will go out to the people who put in £20. I think I will probably plan out a second workshop with sensors and some code for doing so, so that these resources are actually worth £20, and also so that I can justify posting resources that work on my blog, or giving them away freely.

In all honesty, I didn’t think anyone would or could be generous enough to donate £20…I’m still flabbergasted I have to take a photo of Charlie, sign it for him and post it to Hannah Dee…

I’ve been speaking to a bunch of people for advice on resource creation – it’s times like these I like having a big circle of hacker friends who do good stuff to inspire people, because this is my first time organising anything. haha. Organising, me…this is probably an awful idea.

I’m mulling over these ideas for workshops as additions:

Colour sensor

Add a colour sensor to the aforementioned gemma workshop. This kind of depends on when and how FLORA code will be ported to GEMMA, and whether I’ll have to do it myself, but I like the idea of showing kids that say, if you make a pair of earrings, you can easily make it so they’ll flash in the colour of the outfit you’re wearing without reprogramming them.

If the code is hard to port, I’d have to buy extra FLORAs…heh…

Temperature sensor 

Same basic principle, but change the LED colour based on how hot or cold it is. This one would be reasonably simple to put in because of the tindie board SquareWear, which looks awesome – they’re about £15 (not including postage) each and include a temp and light sensor, and also an onboard RGB LED. So if you really wanted, this would actually just require 1 board.

Before going for anything, I’m going to try out and repeatedly run the current plan with various groups, once I get the organisation for any future ones done – right now I’m focussing on getting this one done. Eventually I’ll put up some form of poll/form to gauge interest on people wanting me to cart my kit over to them (assuming it’s around Bristol/somerset/gloucester or else the North and you’re happy to wait till next semester…)

I know from David’s workshop that it’s all about finding out what works, and you’ll never know till you actually run it and find out “nope they don’t have time to do all of this”

 

CamJam!

Yesterday was the lovely camjam hosted by Tim Richardson and Michael Horne. I feel like in terms of the UK, there’s 2 big hubs of raspberry pi community goodness – Manchester and Cambridge, with lots of little jams in between. This is quite natural since Cambridge is the pi home, and Manchester is a reasonably big city in the North which has a lot of technology companies in residence.

Anyway, quite a lot of the southern community I’d not met unless they bothered to go up to Manchester, but equally from talking to everyone on twitter they feel like my family and conversations flowed with everyone.

Since I’d not actually planned to go to Cambridge this weekend (friend’s birthday celebrations moved to this weekend), I didn’t have a ticket but walked in with the lovely Craig and David who’d given us both a lift, and got recognised by Matthew who runs Raspberry Pi Beginners, a youtube channel, and therefore got told “you can just go in” (being e-famous has it’s privaledges :P)

There were quite a lot of electronics sellers, as per usual, including Ryan who’s board is now already sold out on Adafruit, with plenty of flashing lights from phenoptix – successfully avoided buying myself the cylon display because there’s literally no reason for owning it other than “YAY BATTLESTAR GALACTICA STUFF” (some would argue that’s reason enough…) – and a 65kg robot from PiBorg – video soon to come. When asked “why did it need to be this big?” the response was “go big or go home” which is the correct answer for everything. I told them to sell tickets to get a ride round the car park on it at the next jam since it has a lid you can sit on, for which I’m taking a cut of 50% and shotgunning first ride. We did however decide anyone riding it would need to sign a disclaimer form…

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David Whale’s infamous networking workshop (which debuted at the volunteering day back in December in Stevenage) went down a storm and me and Craig helped him out with the demo at the beginning – I love the whole plan of the workshop because it’s basically what we studied at the beginning of second year’s module on Networking which shows how viable it is as a workshop, and because the demo is great to help anyone learn how the Internet works which most people pretend to know, but actually don’t. It’s also stupidly fun to play around sending each other messages on bits of paper down pieces of string in front of a class of 32…

myself (left), david (center) and craig (right)

myself (left), david (center) and craig (right)

I gather Carrie-Anne’s sonic pi workshop went well (though that was in the morning session so I wasn’t there), and got chance to have a chat with her about how my wearable tech workshop’s going and about the future of it.

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A few other people took an interest in it especially since my hair was partially illuminated by my GEMMA earrings.

me

A lot of people worried my hair would catch fire…

Wearables are always a great conversation starter and a few people asked for advice on powering them and a couple of kids I explained how they worked. I got talking to Hamish from the University of Sheffield (who currently has a kickstarter for mobile power supplies for the raspberry pi – see here) about help organising running my workshop in Sheffield when I’m back North which is really useful and I’ll definitely be trying to do that, and a few people congratulated me on getting the funding.

We also discussed distinguishing each other at raspberry jams – I’m relatively easy to spot because my profile picture on twitter is me (I’d also tweeted a photo of myself that morning, see above…), and I’m female + talk at jams (COME ON LADIES TALK MORE), so most people who came up to me knew who I was but I wasn’t always sure who I was talking to – for instance Gordon Wheeler came up told me not to buy any electronics or I’d “sew them to a bear and leave them on a train” before I even knew that was Gordon…One option is for everyone to wear their twitter handles, which Simon Walters already does, but my personal preference is everyone wears a different colour LED/name label and then tweets what colour they are at the next jam because you can never have enough LEDs. You could also have a list of LEDs to names listed alongside the jam programmes.

However this basically suckered me into running a workshop to make those badges at the next jam so maybe it’s not such a good idea 😛

Michael Horne’s picorder was also cool to see – the tricorder from Star Trek but on a Raspberry Pi – a great combination of lots of little sensors rolled into a simple project he wanted to do. Zachary’s robot was a cool little project, I need to get on with making my own since I have yet to review Ryan’s fabulous board, I’m just waiting on my parts to come from Proto-Pic.

Another great project I saw was AberSailbot which is a robot sailboat for a competition in the US, made by a few second year Computer Scientists from Aberystwyth (I think I spelt that wrong…). Aber has a special place in my heart after Lovelace Colloquium because Hannah Dee who lectures there runs Lovelace, and also gave me a great boost with my wearable tech workshop funding as well as Amanda Clare, another academic at Aber, so I mentioned them and told the boys to get some videos of it in action. (I also know several female students there who are awesome, but sadly I just talk to them on Twitter now occasionally). They’d managed to get funding from several companies including the Raspberry Pi Foundation and ARM to get over to Boston last year, and are doing it again this year which is super awesome.

Overall a very relaxing day, not speaking or stressing about live demos, and fab to meet so many people – on Friday I also popped in to Pi Towers which is a 10 min walk from where my friend lives in Cambridge, but pretty much wasted the afternoon watching really stupid videos. Ben and Ryan really shouldn’t be paired together…

I may come down to the next jam if possible or at least a CamJam in the future since it’s a really nice atmosphere (as all jams are), but it’s all time and money dependent, so we shall see.

Below is the timelapse Zach made – see if you can spot yours truly…

Photo credits go to Andy Batey for the photo from the Networking workshop, and to J. Teigland for others.

Slowly bringing my blog back to life, one post at a time.

Yesterday (writeup on CamJam to come once Zachary finishes something he’s sending me…) I was discussing with a few people my blog problems, and remembered the fabulous David Whale (@whaleygeek) was a subscriber to my blog, and therefore got an email every time I blogged, so in place of google cache I poked him to email me them all.

Dutifully, he did, and the ones I’ve recieved (I think I have another copy of my twitter blog somewhere to post too?) I’ve now posted with the opening header “from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…”, so mega huge super happy thankyou to the legend that is WhaleyGeek.

Whether or not I’ll be moving on from wordpress.com to self hosted again, I now have all of them in a form I can export and import to other wordpress blogs, and hopefully I won’t be such an idiot not doing backups next time.

I have some more to add from my laptop which is a Cpanel backup of my previous hosting (pre june 2013), but I need to extract those…

6 months down, 6 months to go

23rd January, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

I’ve now been working for around 6 months at Airbus, and questions like “are you going to do the Grad scheme” keep popping up from the graduates I know. I get mixed opinions whether I should do it or not from graduates, and whether it’s actually right for what I want after I leave uni.

Think I’ve said this before: I’ve no idea.

What I will say though is it’s been a good 6 months, and I’ve grown and got more focussed – having less hours in the day to sit watching random stuff on E4 means I hack with code and projects more because I know my time is precious.

I had my interim review with my supervisor and another colleague last week and we went over what I’ve done so far, which was good, particularly as I should be having a similar review with someone from university in a couple of weeks, as this showed me “hey…I’ve done stuff here”. In total the “stuff” is 2 big techy projects that save Airbus a fair amount of contractor funds, both of which have taught me a heck of a lot about python and interfacing with other programs, a couple of intermediate ones that were easy and great because I came up with some new ideas to make it better and proved to myself I could figure out how to do them, and some training early on on interpretive python which I’ve mentioned previously.

Of the bigger projects, 1 is reasonably simple to get through, and in fact I think this week I’ve done a big chunk of what I need to get finished so it should be ready to get released soon (it’s an add on to an already released program which runs some mega calculations locally that are normally done remotely on a super computer) so I’m quite proud of that.

The other is a little more complicated because I have to talk to Engineers from various ends of the site and whilst all Engineers have to do a certain amount of code these days, there’s one thing that’s popped up from this project: the user never knows what they can get from the programmer, and the programmer doesn’t know well enough what job they’re trying to achieve to put the requirements in by guesswork. For the vast majority of applications anyway. And this is the biggest setback to the project, a long with some big complications in manipulating CATIA data (CATIA = 3d CAD program that’s very big, very slow and used in Airbus), but if I knew exactly what the requirements were then it’d be easier. Hah. hahahah. hah.

This is why people should do internships, because uni tries to simulate this but it’s the most frustrating thing and uni can never teach you it quite as well as asking an Engineer “what units do you measure this in and is this calculation important” “I don’t know, ask the person who made the tool before you”. *facepalm* (the task is some CAD modelling and it’s kind of important to know what the focus is, whether it be correct volumes or perfect positioning, or both, and what data they want to get out of the program…no one wants a fuel system with a hole in the middle…)

It also gets students used to the politics of a corporation and that you’ll have to one day work with people who aren’t the same type of person as you, and are, for the most part, a lot older than you but you need to figure out how to empathise and how to build up a rapport with people, even if they’re nothing like you. It also gives you a foot in the door when you leave uni, and tells you what the company is like if you’re considering working for them later on. I’m still getting used to it all to be honest and I never quite know what impression I’m leaving on the people around me, I find it quite hard to know what to say in certain situations and whether I should be introducing myself to everyone or speaking up (I’m pretty quiet most of the time) but at least I know my code works…sometimes. It’s definitely made me add to my list of questions at job interviews following uni (“what’s the atmosphere like” “what’s the team like” “what’s the social side of things like”) and given me a peek into the world of plane building 😉

It’s also difficult to know what to ask, and whether I should be trying to push for stuff that’s more varied: I’ve also had the chance to work with the team manager to make some service models for presentations which was nice to get a bit of variation, although a little stressy as I had actual deadlines for that task…On my list of objectives for the future from the review my supervisor suggested working with support on the toolkit my internship is based on which should be good. I know most of the other team work as support or managers for different bundles and applications, which isn’t what I want to be doing, realistically, so I’d mostly rather be sticking with python…eeegh. It’s a tough one to call.

This is what I like about the idea of the grad scheme, as placements last 3 months (over the course of 2 years so 8 in total) so you move round and see what areas you like and fit into, whereas the internship isn’t so much like that.

My supervisor’s been pretty good in general, and particularly he pushes me to go to meetings even if they’ve got nothing to do with my work: whilst sometimes they’re…erm…not quite as interesting as programming, it’s shown me how much financial stuff and paperwork everyone has to get through and this last week (and back in september), a chance to see Airbus HQ in Toulouse which is OMG-MASSIVE. Bristol looks like a piddly little site compared to Toulouse…I feel incredibly humbled by the opportunities I’ve got at work and it’s been an amazing experience.

Oh, lastly: my team has 3 intern spaces this next year and I’ll still be there in july as a friendly face…I don’t know if applications are still open but anyone who fancies a year in Bristol should deffo apply 😉

Projects with the GEMMA microcontroller

19th January, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

A couple of months ago I mentioned Trinket, which is a broken out ATTIny85 microcontroller with mini USB support for £7. A very similar board is the GEMMA, which are produced by the same company (Adafruit) but made with wearable tech in mind, so therefore the pads are bigger and the holes are big enough to fit a needle through.

I originally bought 3 GEMMAs and two Trinkets (1 3.3v and 1 5v) and thought I’d managed to break most of them as the information on the right way to set everything up is err…scattered. As a calmer-downer to anyone else struggling: Most of your problems will be how your environment(laptop) is set up, and if you don’t have a windows PC…then well…you probably won’t have much issue.

The projects so far

My main project I wanted to make initially were the earrings Becky Stern did as a wearable tutorial:

I then modded them to have pacman themed animations:

<iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/Jaa8iP4GnWA&quot; height=”315″ width=”420″ allowfullscreen=”” frameborder=”0″ align=”center”

This is pretty simple (but pricey) as they were simply a gemma, neopixel ring, battery, 3 short wires and a couple of earring hangers, and the code is reasonably simple to look through so I fiddled a bit. I don’t like the ghost themed anim so I’m going to try and improve that, but if anyone wants my anim code let me know 😉

Secondarily I got another gemma for Babbage:

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Babbage is the raspberry pi bear, so a teady bear with a tee with the pi logo. HE SO CUTEEEEE. Anyway I got this guy from the Pimoroni Adopt a Reject program (*which doesn’t actually exist*) because whilst visiting with Sven Nuttall who’s also a pi nerd and also from Sheffield, we noticed there was a reject basket holding 3 Babbages which were “rejects” as the quality came out a bit…weird.

Anyway, I decided he needed a wearable stuck to his shirt, but unfortunately erm…

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I burned it…

Yeah. I’m probably going to have to redo the whole thing and rethink it. The idea is to make him my compass, so if I’m travelling north the top LED will light up etc as there’s a small compass & accelerometer in the shirt as well, although there’s as yet no code for GEMMA and that sensor…

Problems setting up

Aside from the issue I had trying to set up arduino on my surface, there’s several things that caused me to struggle. First I’ll go over what errors I got:

no device connected or some equivalent – means you’re not in the bootloader. Keep the button pressed down until about a second before the arduino IDE hits “Upload”.

Device does not recognise the command, content mismatch, device malfunctioned: problem with your avrdude.conf file, or the avrdude.exe file. Note that on a windows PC this will probably make your GEMMA’s bootloader light pulse for 10 seconds, stop and do another “Unplugged” noise but still have the light lit, and then repeatedly do the same process again and again. Don’t panic. It’ll get fixed the next time you program it correctly.

bootloader light just comes on, but not brightly and doesn’t pulse You’re screwed. Well…I think. I’ve just hit this with one of my GEMMAs and it no longer shows up as being plugged in…so erm…yeah…I think this may need a reprogram – to fix this you have to follow the adafruit repair the bootloader tutorial.

Tips for getting past them

If your error is in the second grouping above (command not recognised etc), then first off, try the avrdude method (link to tutorial here). This reassured me my gemma actually worked and was pretty quick.

Then, I personally went through and deleted everything (winAVR, arduino downloads, drivers, avrdude copies) and started over – downloaded the Adafruit package of Arduino (link), redownloaded winAVR and checked what I needed to change. This forum post was really helpful – I downloaded the trinket zip attatched, copied the avrdude.conf inside the arduino IDE (err…arduino/windows/hardware/tools/avr/etc/avrdude.conf) into the system wide location (for me that was C:/WinAVRfoldername/bin), copied the avrdude exe file from the download and placed it in the hardware location for avrdude (don’t remember that off the top of my head), modified the avrdude.conf ATTiny85 speed to 40000 (for the exact location of the line inside avrdude.conf see the forum post link)  pressed upload on my sketch and…it worked!

 

I’m next planning on testing the signed driver for win8 so hopefully on my train to Hull next weekend I can do some on the go programming…

2013: A year in review

27th December, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect over 2013…I’ve changed and come so far from where I was 12 months ago. It’s scary but it’s been a lot of fun. So let’s review what stuff I’ve done:

4 pi events attended: These have definitely been the biggest change, I’ve learned so much more about electronics and programming for them and whilst it’s mainly been for raspi, it’s also got me thinking about smaller applications and stuff that’s not so user friendly, aka microcontrollers. It’s quite nice now looking at my “airbou” A380 and knowing what I have to think about to get it to fly, and having that desire to crack it open and change the program on whatever the current microcontroller does. I’ve met some of the nicest people from travelling around to attend pi jams, people who’ll happily drive you back to Bristol when you’re stuck in London and give you a bed for the night even when it’s not for a pi event or to help them out with anything. And then there’s the people who donate electronics and their own merchandise just because you write and blog and help other people out with cool stuff. The hacker community, akin to my department and coursemates, is such a lovely community to be part of and I’m so glad I took the opportunities I was poked into doing by Alan and various other people, even if my demos might never ever go as planned…

My first real job in industry: 12 months ago did I think “heh this time next year I’ll have moved to Bristol and started working for a major plane manufacturer”? No. No I did not. But it’s so much better this way and it’s been an exposure to an industry that’s not all about manipulating a database, and really has made me realise fully that I could end up in any job, any sector and any country I wanted to, because you do a google of almost any company and there’s something there to do with computers. Airbus has been a really great confidence, skill and personal growth boost and while moving hasn’t been plain (heheh plain…) sailing, I can’t imagine having done third year and skipped it, and there’s certainly no way I would have been thinking “you know what, I’ll apply for the Airbus graduate scheme”. It’s also been an awesome opportunity to discover a new city, and an easy way to get used to industry as there’s around 60 or so interns working for Airbus who are my age, and more in Rolls-Royce next door. Bristol’s got so much opportunity for engineers and artists alike and it’s definitely on my list of places I’d settle down in given the chance after uni.

On top of that, I’ve learned python thoroughly and feel confident enough that it’s on my CV. Anyone thinking “maybe I’ll learn python” should definitely go for it, because akin to C#, it’s growing in popularity.

4 women in IT events attended: I’m aiming to try and make sure I keep the right balance between girls events and regular IT events, but these have been a really great way to meet some new people who are like me, and made some new twitter friends, and why the hell shouldn’t I take opportunities I’m meant to go for? These have taken me to Microsoft’s HQ (could have gone to Vodafone’s in the new year but I fancied a little break) in Reading, Nottingham Uni CS dept where I got to hear various career talks and talks about what the academics do in research, and more recently to Queen Mary University of London to hear some IoT talks. They’ve all been so inspiring and I’ve met someone awesome or several awesome people at every event.

Became a STEM ambassador and done my first event: It’s quite weird being looked up to by high school students as a 20 year old, I barely feel like I’m out of there, but the event at Stevenage was a really great day and I do really love teaching people something new and seeing them pleased with their handy work. STEM ambassadoring gives you the ability to do that without being a teacher which would be far too stressful for me. I’m hoping in the new year to go and talk to some guides about what I do, which is particularly inspiring to me because I was a brownie and I think had my pack requested STEM ambassadors it’d be far more fun, and I’m also going to run a workshop using wearable tech because I know we used to love making stuff in brownies. So I’m hoping it’ll be lots of fun and a few of them will choose to follow my lead and join the ranks of awesome Computer Scientists.

Aaaand the less technical stuff

Met my penfriend in person in Wisconsin: I traveled over to visit my friend Ellen who I’d met on neopets and remained friends with for several years through letters, got to travel around Wisconsin and meet some really great Americans (and see a real Independence day parade!). This next year she’s hopefully coming back over to Europe and making a stop to see me up in England before touring the continent. I really do love meeting people from the tinternet and being able to stay with someone who actually lives in the country you’re visiting is so much more fun and realistic to what it’s like than being a regular tourist…the only downside is, like my trip to Paraguay a few years ago, it hurts so much more to leave and dragging myself through Chicago airport alone was pretty painful.

Went to the Game of Thrones exhibit in Belfast: Belfast’s a nice city to visit, though a lot smaller than I was expecting, and the exhibit was a lot of fun with my friends. Aaaand it only cost around £100 travel and hostel included.

Saw the Gromit Exhibition and a bunch of other cool shit in Bristol: Reason #1 to live in Bristol: we have Aardman. If you haven’t seen my photos, living down in the west country meant that I got to see all 81 gromits which were for the Grand Appeal which raises money for Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Stuff I hope to get better at next year

Sticking to 1 thing at a time: Pimoroni recently said on twitter about a project “we’re makers. It’ll always be 90% finished”. This is a really bad habit I need to get out of, and I intend to do that by first finishing my Java app for my phone, and then moving on to other stuff. With having less time I seem to have grasped this easier, but I do need to go back and tie up loose ends with everything ranging from doing a proper video of my ranger project working, to my twitter LCD getting tidied up and parts of it re-coded as I lost most of the thread code (which I hadn’t yet blogged about properly…), to waywayway back, the games I produced with Adam, Ryan and Josh being cleaned up and completed so I have stuff that says I can finish something and we have actual stuff to download on betajester. I said last year I’ll “finish what I start”…I’ve not really managed that this year…

Confidence and networking: Confidence is kind of a hard one to crack…I don’t actually know how confident I seem, once I get talking to someone about something I’m passionate about I can go for hours, but with networking I think I need to apply Dr. Sue Black’s rule: “speak to one person at every event”. Normally this happens naturally with folks starting to talk to me (I have no idea why…), but there’s occasions where I’ve been too intimidated by speakers to actually go up and say “I found this interesting, could you give me tips how to get to x?”. I also need to get used to handing out business cards because I have around 245 I need to get rid of…

Asking for help: I hate asking for help in person. Part of it is fear of confrontation and part of it is pride. Ok, most of it’s the first one. I do this at work, I do this at conferences, and it’s really silly. If you see me at a jam or a hackspace looking stressed and looking around, it probably means I need help, but I’m scared to ask anyone even though I know most people in the room would jump over a desk to fix things for other people (I would. Maybe. if the desk didn’t have stuff on it…). So I want to get rid of this and get impulsive to say “I need help” the minute I realise it, rather than sitting there over-thinking it.

Raspberry Pi Bakeoff

13th December, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

Yesterday was the big pi bake off at north Hertfordshire college in Stevenage, where kids from high schools in the local area were invited to learn some coding on the raspberry pi.

There were three workshops – one on set up, one on hardware and the one I helped out with, networking.
The day started with arrival and meeting up with Ryan and David and then helping to set up a bunch of pis, then setting up and testing my demo, which took a little while and some further help from Ryan as my serial cable decided to register on my laptop as a mouse…
Ultimately I got WiFi working and my app running on boot so that I didn’t need to know the IP address. I checked I could change the LEDs via my surface and then left them down in the atrium and went upstairs to get ready for the oncoming students.

The sessions themselves started with a roleplay showing the way the internet works (concepts I only properly learned in networking last term) with the kids shouting the buzzwords on David’s flashcard (not including “Charlotte” though the kids got a little confused by my name and what I represented, a server…), the kids setting up their pis with support from the volunteers, and then changing their IPs to static and starting writing a chat program, first connected to themselves and later connected to the pi pair next to them via an Ethernet cable.

Overall it was a fun and exhausting day, and I think I managed to put out most of the fires the kids were having getting going.
It inspired me to try and get something organised in the new year in Bristol, not quite as big but something because it is such a rewarding experience teaching them to code and seeing their excitement when they get to talk to themselves via telnet (the same excitement I remember in the networking lab), and when I get back something in Hull.
A weird moment happened when a child turned looking for a teacher, saw me and said nervously “Erm can I go to the toilet please?”…I’m not old enough or wise enough to be a person to ask that question – having kids look up to you like that is kind of weird when I barely feel older than them…

Things to do before I finish in Bristol

11th December from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

This was going to be “things to do next year” but that seems a bit like “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” kind of attitude. I did have a list somewhere on here but I think I’ll limit it a little. Anyway here we go!

1. Actually go to a Bristol digital/web folk/ruby/python meet up. I joined several meet up groups when bored/alone and the only one I’ve dared to go to is the games hub. I’m still a bit intimidated attending and knowing I’ll be the only girl, I have to be honest, but I really need to stop doing that…also since I’ve had friends I’ve got less motivated to go to stuff.

2. Make a simple app for my phone. I’m thinking of doing a weasleys clock – if you’re not familiar, in Harry Potter the weasleys have a clock tracking where family members are. Whilst idk if I can afford all my family members GPS modules plus controllers for them, my two sisters have smart phones so I’m figuring writing an app tracking myself would be a good place to start. Eventually I’ll infiltra-i mean ask permission to test it with my family.
The app would also be a good way to start in android development as I do need to do some Java and location services are used in lots of apps.

3. Look round UWE/Bristol electronics departments. Whilst its unlikely I’ll be back for masters as they’re more pricey at Bristol, no harm in having a nosey.

4. Start practising numerical reasoning. I suck at these tests and they’re important if I want to get onto a grad scheme, so I want to have them cracked and get into practising repeatedly by the time I’m back at Hull. To any other comp sci students, and also students from other courses like finance and business, you should also do this. I know many companies use them because I did a lot applying for summer placements and flunked pretty much all of them. I’m OK at maths, but not quick maths. I don’t intend for this to stop me from getting my dream job after university (I still don’t know what that is) as it did with summer applications.

5. Have a list of masters courses and graduate schemes I will apply to in September time. One of my friends said to me “stop stressing so much about what you’re doing next you have loads of time”. Erm. I don’t think that’s true. As well as experience the year down here has made me pause for thought and focussed my brain. When I get back I know for a fact grad schemes for 2015 will close by at minimum December, and if you apply on or close to the deadline the position may already be gone. As I don’t know if I want to leave or study a masters, I’m applying for both and seeing what turns up. The only thing I know I want is something exciting, like python for NASA (yes I have googled it. I need to be an American citizen to do that -_-), so please feel free to fire jobs that sound cool my way. That’s not yo say I won’t look at less spacey jobs, but I want something that I’m excited to work on.

I think that’s enough for now. I could go to 10 but I don’t think I’d check them all off or I’d forget.