SHDC#10!

Time to report on a SHDC, if a little late. We’re up to #10 btw! For some reason I decided it’d be a good idea to start it with something outside…

Once upon a time, I had a nice bike. But I was new to Cambridge, and didn’t know some of the rules. I parked it at the station and went down to London. When I got back, I didn’t have a bike any more…. But I did have part of a bike; they were kind enough to take only the front half!

So as a project, I rebuilt it. New forks, wheel, handlebars, handlebar widgets, etc. Fitting the headset was the hardest part, but once it was all done it actually went better than before. I never left it at the station again after that!

But a few years passed and then some other friendly person decided to do a similar thing, stripping everything from the front again. They were a bit rubbish actually and whilst they got the handlebars (and therefore all the widgets on them), just ended up breaking most of everything else. 2nd time around, I hadn’t really got the motivation, and as such, the remains have ended up a little unloved…

Bring back the Bike!

But it has been long enough that I’m now motivated to try again, and perhaps try and build something a bit different. Fixed gear, single speed, retro 5-speed. I’m not sure yet. But it basically is going to revolve around whether I can reclaim the frame. So to start SHDC, I stripped down the bike. I got the basics off, but failed to get out the seat post. It is going to need some serious leverage (I even tried levering it with a new toy; a “wrecking bar”), so as the cold set in, I gave in and will need to revisit with a B&D workmate or alike. FAIL!

Vicky had a new Asus Eee PC, and was working on altering the interface. Apparently, they provide little documentation on it, so it seemed like an exercise in reverse engineering. Which in turn seemed to involve post it notes. A lot of them. This was just the beginning…
Screen too small?

A new face, Pierre, brought along his box of electronics-to-be. I really liked this; a cool blue box with a load of switches and leds he’d added, but from what I could work out, not really any plan of what the end result was going to actually do. Awesome! It’ll be great to see this unfold. Also made the right impression by bringing cake! I think there is a new rule; all new recruits must bring cake!

Rob was working on his Cycling Computer. He had a couple of 7-segment displays wired up and was making them in to a speedo; just like the speedo in the Back to the Future Delorean:

Now you may remember, 88mph has a special significance in BTTF. Rob had therefore decided 88 would be something special too, but 88mph seems a little bit of a stretch goal for a bike! So we set about finding something a little more appropriate. Behold the new goal; 88 subs/second.

You may suggest subs/second is a made up unit, and you’d be right. But not just any made up unit. It is carefully chosen to be a goal to aim for, with the wind behind you. A sub (sandwich) is 6 inches. And covering the ground of 88 subs/second = 44 feet/second = 158,400 feet/hour = 30 miles/hour. Exactly! We have the goal! But what will happen when hitting 30mph? That is to be seen…

Another new face, Dan, was working on a mail-to-web app; one of those really simple ideas that you didn’t know you needed until you were told the idea, then can’t imagine how you lived without it. The scenario: You have an email with attachements, and you want to point people at it. But you can’t, as it’s in your email account. So forward it to this app, and it’ll put it up on the web for you, emailing you back with details of where to find it. Excellent! Obviously the most important thing was choosing the name; Meet Hugo, the Hippo that chews through your emails at ChompMail!

Hugo @ ChompMail

Emilio was working on his CamSEN website, which in particular is an aggregator of software jobs in Cambridge. This is really interesting, not so much for finding jobs because we’re not looking, but more to find out what companies are around Cambridge and what they are up to. We also meandered in to Python talk around how he was doing it, and a parser called Beautiful Soup came up. Its designed for delving in to HTML/XML, and seems especially good when the markup is malformed. This is the case with most HTML on the internet, which gives you the strange situation that only browsers really know how to display this stuff; most other parsers just barf.

I decided a few days later to build an all-houses-in-cambridge-for-sale-on-google-maps viewer (because all estate agent websites are different, and most are rubbish) as an excercise to learn Python. It was testament to Beautiful Soup and Python itself that I got it up in an hour or so, and adding different agents was a relatively simple job. I’d definitely recommend both.

My project for SHDC was to pimp up my Big Trak. Having brought it back to life in SHDC#9, I felt it needed a little more. I’d got hold of some neon rope (Electro-Luminescent Wire), and was going to give it the full blue neon runners treatment! Here was my first test, putting the neon under the sills. As you can see, it looks a bit rubbish…

Neon Test 1 - Fail!

But some more experiments and it became obvious that adding it as a runner around the edge had much better results. Here is it going in…

Neon going in!

You can see in the picture above, there is a little more going on than just the neon rope itself. You can also see a reed relay which Rob gave me, which I put in so rather than just hard-wiring the neon on, I could make it trigger based on the driver for the photon gun (filament bulb behind blue plastic). Check out the results…

What you have here is no longer a Photon Gun. This is a Photon Plane! Awesome! Now i’ve got to think what the next stage in the Big Trak Pimp process must be.

And so to SHDC#11. Based on the voting so far, looks like we’ll be going for Sat 17th January. If you fancy coming along to the next SHDC, put the date in your diary and join the Mailing List for info nearer the time!

Merry Christmas!

1 Response to “SHDC#10!”


  1. 1 Terry January 10, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Really cool mod; my friend had one of these when we were kids, and it was a real blast. Really surprising that an updated version hasn’t yet been manufactured, considering the popularity of Lego Mindstorms and other advanced toy kits.


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