Category Archives: Computers

iPhone4 Guitar interface

Apps such as Garageband on the iPhone allow you to record your guitar noodling and play about with various effects. But first you need to get the guitar connected to the ‘phone.

Looking about on t’internet, there are loads of instructions on how to build a guitar interface for the iPhone, but most involve butchering existing cables.

As the cost of the required AV cables is stupidly high, I decided to just buy the bits and have a go at making one from scratch.

So, lets have a look at what we need:

A 3.5mm 4-pole jack – plugs in to the iPhone


A 3.5mm stereo socket (case mountable) – for headphones


A 1/4″ mono socket (case mountable) – for the guitar input


Some 3 core shielded audio cable. Sadly, Maplin fucked up and sent me 2 metres of the wrong cable, despite them looking totally dissimilar and having completely different catalogue numbers.

Anyway, sod Maplin, I’m prototyping here. I’ll make do with bits from my wires box.

The first thing to do is solder the cable on to the horrendously fiddly 4-pole plug.  Get the most difficult thing done first, that’s my philosophy.


The pin out for the plug now looks like this:


  1. Green – (Input)
  2. Yellow – (Ground)
  3. Orange – (Output Right)
  4. Red – (Output Left)


Wrap it all up in the casing that came with the plug, and get a “pigtail” lead:


Originally I wanted this lead to be about four inches longer, but this will have to do for the moment. (You can insert a joke here if you really want).

Next, solder up the stereo socket. I went for the same colour code for Ground/Outputs.


Finally, solder-wise, its time to connect up the socket for the guitar input.

Following the same colours from above:


And here it all, all breadboarded up for testing:


After buying a small case, I discovered it was too small to mount the 1/4″ mono socket in, so I had to look about for an alternative.

I haven’t found anything handy yet, but you get the gist.


An old 35mm film container prooved to be the best case I could find. So, now it looks like this:

2014-09-03 22.00.44 2014-09-03 22.00.49


A Minor Gripe With World of Warcraft

While Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is for the most part a well thought out and utterly brilliant game, I have two minor gripes with it. Neither are really concerned with the gameplay, and neither really affect the world. They just annoy me.

So, I’ll start with the first one, as is traditional in this sort of thing…

Technology is not consistant within the world. You can handwave all you like about Gnomes and Goblins being insane and providing lasers, bombs and all that kind of stuff, but as far as I’m concern it doesn’t matter.

Let us look at what the World has to offer:

We have motorcycles:



planeAn underground mass-transit system:


rocketWe also have Airships, Submarines, Airbourne aircraft carriers, Speedboats, Tunnelling machines, Tanks, Exo-skeletons, and semi-sentient Robots.

What we dont have is trains. Yes, trains. Good, old-fashioned, steam trains.

But, you might be thinking, why should there be steam trains on Azeroth? Well, because there is a toy one you can buy in Dalaran:

toytrainAnd if there is a toy one to annoy other people with, why shouldn’t there be a real usable one? Maybe from Stormwind to Redridge?

And as for annoying people with a toy… well, this really used to upset people:

But now they just seem to join in and play:

I said two irritations didn’t I? Well the other one is this. There is an item called the Cooking School Bell, which summons your student (Nomi – no relation to the goth comic character Nemi):

cookingbellAs you will see in the following video, it isn’t a fucking bell!

Ranting over. For now

Daleks Never Retreat

I’ve thought again about the problem of not being able to do bi-directional motors on the Dalek Project when using just one Piface Digital.

Why should the motors need to run backwards? Daleks never retreat! The only controls I’m going to need are Forward! Advance Left! and Advance Right! (and Exterminate!)

Looking back (which is something that Daleks can’t do anyway), the whole full movement thing came from my idea to build an Arduino Turtle (which was based on an idea developed from a Spectrum project from about 1985) viagra without prescription. But a Turtle is not a Dalek. Sure, they both have a hard shell and two driving wheels, but that is where the similarity ends.

So now we just need a web interface to control the Dalek’s movements forward, and to the sides a bit. All the while we need to be able to see what the Dalek sees from the on-board camera


The Death of Windows XP


Microsoft is set to discontinue their support of the Windows XP operating system on April 9, 2014. Finally after nearly 13 years, they’re going to give up on their most stable product to date.

But what does it really mean for those of us who actually have to run software that won’t run on newer versions,  can’t afford to upgrade to a never version, can’t afford the hardware to run a newer version, or just plain prefer the XP UI to later versions?

It won’t stop working

Well, XP is not going to stop working. Microsoft are stopping support for it. That means that it will continue to work (unless they suddenly turn into total Shitehawks and remotely disable every XP system in the world – not impossible, but totally improbable).

There will be no new updates

Remember that annoying shield icon that you’ve been ignoring for months, as running updates slows down your game of Solitaire? Well pretty soon it is going to be time to pay attention and run every outstanding update.

Really, if you have the time and resources, I recommend doing a complete XP install on a new drive, updating to SP3 and then applying all subsequent updates. Then taking a bit-for-bit copy of that and storing it somewhere safe for if you ever want to install XP on a new machine. Extreme, I know, but you may thank me later. Maybe you’ll be able to sell it on eBay one day.

Of course, if Microsoft issues a “Service Pack 4 – The Goodbye Edition”, you wouldn’t have to do that.

Your system security is going to suffer

Of course it is. Microsoft are going to concentrate on all the security holes in their newer operating systems, rather than fix problems in something that they haven’t get any revenue from for six years. Microsoft are in this for the money, not the love of what they are doing  (unlike most of the people involved with Linux).

Sadly, another bunch of people who are in for it for the love of what they are doing (and maybe some money), are the ratbastards that create all those viruses, trojans, and bits of malware that will seriously feck up your computer if you come into contact with them.

With Microsoft stepping out of the picture, these pissweasels are going to see a whole bunch of easy, unprotected, targets. And like a bunch of hillbillies seeing fish in a barrel, the shotguns are going to get fired.

But still, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. If your router if configured correctly, you really shouldn’t be liable to random attacks on your IP address. Most routers by default “lose” any incoming connections that aren’t connected to outgoing requests, but if you’ve set up port forwarding then you may expose yourself to a problem.

Personally, my router forwards all unknown ports to a VAX/VMS system that records every attack attempted, and then gives me a list of IP addresses to block.

Then you’ve got the multitude of third-party virus protection options, none of which I will name, as I have an equally low opinion of all of them.

I’m going to swear shortly. I’m warning you now, as it will be in bold and in a bright colour. The message is important and needs to burn itself into your conciousness, so I think I’m allowed in this case.

After faffing about fixing machines for people for bloody ages, most of the time taking trojans and viruses off machines that allegedly had good virus protection (see my distain above),  here is my shortlist of things not to look at:

  • Porn sites. Really, didn’t you realise that an advert you click on could install a virus on your machine?
  • Gambling sites that you haven’t seen on TV.
  • Any advert that says “You have a new message”/”You have just won an iPhone” etc. Don’t fall for that.
  • File sharing sites such as Frostwire, Limewire etc. Just because it looks like an mp3 music file doesn’t mean that it isn’t really hiding a virus. Really, if you must download stuff illegally, do it on a Linux system.

If you continue doing any of the above, you are a FUCKING IDIOT and shouldn’t be allowed a computer in the first place.

Your games may stop working

Well, it all depends. I play World of Warcraft a bit, and my graphics card has just been taken off the Supported List. It is also off the Vista supported list. As of the next update, I’ll have to buy a new machine to play. That is a worst case example. It probably counts for Diablo too.

If the company does downloadable content, check with them.

Office won’t work

If you’re still using Microsoft Office, get OpenOffice. Free, and it is as good as the Microsoft product.

So what are my options if I want to stick with XP?

Well, it depends. If your machine never sees the Internet, like my emulation games machine, just carry on as before.

Otherwise, sort the router out, stay off the dodgy sites, and just “be careful out there”.

And if I want a new OS?

Well, obviously the only alternative is going to be some breed of Linux. For a beginner, I’d have to recommend Ubuntu.

I really hope this is helpful to some people. I’ve tried to dial down my normal level of sarcasm to zero for this.

Raspberry Pi Camera Module (of the Dalek)

So now I’ve bought the Camera Module for the Raspberry Pi. I got mine from Amazon, mainly as I was putting in a big order and was drunk enough to tag it on to the end.

<a href=" important source.png”>raspberry-pi-camera

Getting the damn thing set up and streaming video through a web page was a Pain In The Arse (which I know about)!

The only resource I could find that worked was Miguel Grinberg’s guide, but I still had problems with that. I suggest that you read his site, as it contains a lot more information. My version, below, is a quick run through, more for me to refer back to than anything else.

1. Build and Install the software

Run the following as root:

$ apt-get install libjpeg8-dev imagemagick libv4l-dev
$ ln -s /usr/include/linux/videodev2.h /usr/include/linux/videodev.h
$ wget
$ unzip
$ cd mjpg-streamer-code-182/mjpg-streamer $ make mjpg_streamer
$ sudo cp mjpg_streamer /usr/local/bin $ sudo cp /usr/local/lib/ $ sudo cp -R www /usr/local/www

2. Start the Camera and Streamer

Starting “raspistill” as suggested in Miguel’s guide dumped a lot of text to my xterm, making things really annoying, so I installed “screen” and ran the Camera software and the streamer in a different “screen”, which would also keep running after I logged off the machine (follow the oncreen prompts when you see them):

$ apt-get install screen
$ screen
$ mkdir /tmp/stream
$ raspistill --nopreview -w 640 -h 480 -q 5 -o /tmp/stream/pic.jpg -tl 100 -t 9999999 -th 0:0:0 &
$ LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/lib mjpg_streamer -i " -f /tmp/stream -n pic.jpg"
-o " -w /usr/local/www" & 

Dropping out of “screen” ( CRTL-A CTRL-D ) and back to a command prompt, and its all done.

3. Viewing the Stream

Fire up your favourite Browser (which I hope is Firefox) and access the site generate by th Pi. As the eventual goal of this whole thing a Wifi controlled toy Dalek drone, the hostname is “dalek”. Thus, on my network the address is:


You’ll have to substitute dalek for either the name of the machine on your network, or the IP address, eg:

You should be getting a web page with instructions on how it all works.

Short Version:

To grab a single from the camera:


To grab streaming video:


There other things you can play with, but those two are the only ones relevant to my little project.

Finally, an example of a still picture from the camera:

(Once again, full credit to Miguel Grinberg and his excellent guide.)

The Arduino Dalek Is Dead – Long Live The Raspberry Dalek

Well, it has been nearly two years since I looked at the Dalek project.

Last time I was looking at using a Raspberry Pi to control the Arduino, which would in turn control the motors in the Dalek.

Since then, I build my own Shield to fit the Arduino (and munged up the circuit design, rendering it useless), repurposed the USB camera that I bought to use in a security system, moved house, and generally forgot about the whole thing.

I’ve had a rethink over the last few days about the whole thing, and looking back on past ideas, I’ve come up with some better ones…

I’m replacing the Arduino with a PiFace Digital. This will solve most of the power problems. That, along with a Camera Module designed for the Pi will cut down on the USB sockets needed.

Pi with Piface Digital
Pi with Piface Digital

Next, for connectivity, I’m only having a WiFi dongle on the Pi, and a wired Ethernet socket on the outside case. Anything else is really going to be superfluous.

The question is, though, should it act as a WiFi hub, or should it connect to my existing network?

As the Piface Digital only has two SPDT relays on board, I’m going to use those to control the power on/off for the motors for now, just giving me forward movement for now. Eventually I plan to enable bi-direction operation on both motors, as was the case with the Arduino Dalek project before I made a balls-up of soldering the circuit. This time I won’t be trying to cram it all onto one small board, so it won’t be as hard to mess with.

A problem I have come across is that, unsurprisingly, the Piface Digital does not have any analogue inputs. This is going to make the distance sensors difficult to implement for now. I’m sure I’ll come up with something though.

So, for now the immediate goals are:

  • Get the motors working in one direction.
  • Get the Pi to either connect to my existing wireless network, or act as a WiFi hub

This how I start World of Warcraft

First of all I have to make sure that anything like Dropbox, Google Drive et al isn’t running, as for some reason Warcraft has a shit-fit and refuses to load if they are running.

Next, I fire up WoW Launcher and wait for five minutes.

Before clicking on “Play”, I have to make sure that Task Manager is up and running.

After that, I wait another five minutes to get through the loading screen and log in procedure.

Then I log in and wait for the character selection screen. After selecting a character and clicking “Enter World”, I wait until the progress bar hits about 7/8 then tab to Task Manager and wait until Wow.exe stops taking up 99% of resources.

Then I tab back, see a scene that my character should be in, but isn’t. I hear a “Bong!” and everything freezes.

I can’t tab back to Task Manager, or do anything else. So I but the PC into Hibernate mode.

Once everything is down, I bring the PC back up from Hibernation. Task Manager is visible, and I kill WowBrowserProxy.exe.

Seven times out of ten this results in my World of Warcraft client working fine and running really fast.

As for the remaining thirty percent of the time: the PC immediately reboots and I’m back to stage one.



Computers I miss (and why I miss them) (Part 1)

I’ve owned and used a hell of a lot of computers over the last thirty years. Some were rubbish, some were great, and some were just bafflingly useless.

At some point in the ownership of most of them I’ve hit a “sweet spot” and found something that I’ve not managed to do before or since. Here is a list, in rough chronological order.


Commodore VIC=20

The first colour desktop computer, apparently.

The Shat!
The Shat!

I got this for Christmas in 1982. It was awesome. I learned to program in BASIC on it, and later 6502 machine code. I built a hardware interface to control relays for it. I hacked games on it. I wrote games on it. The first game I ever wrote was a version of Snake for the VIC.

As late as 2000 I was still using the thing, and even wrote a WAP client for it. Sadly, shortly afterwards, it became seriously damaged while moving house and had to be scrapped.

Why I miss it: It was the machine the set me on the road to the future…

Sinclair ZX Spectrum+

Just like a Spectrum, but with a slightly less crap keyboard.

The Spec!
The Spec!

My second computer. A Christmas present in 1984. I spent a lot of time with this one, mainly playing Sabre Wulf (somewhere I still have a hand drawn map of the game).

I did two of my school projects on this machine. One was a Quill based adventure game for my Computer Studies course (parts of which I’ve re-used in various games), the other was a motor/hydraulic control system for which I eventually built my own interface board (parts of which lived on).

Why I miss it: The ease of the I/O interfacing using port 32 (the port used by the Kempston Joystick), Sabre Wulf.

Amstrad CPC 6128

Possibly the best thing Amstrad ever made.

The Sugar
The Sugar

Acquired in ’86 as a Christmas present. This was the first computer that I owned that actually made me money. Not a lot, but some. I wrote a game called Star Bores using the Professional Adventure Writer. It made beer money. (cut to 2013 – I’m still working of a Java implementation of the PAW interpreter).

I sold the thing in 1991 for £50.  I needed a PC.

Why I miss it: Gryzor, CP/M, PAW.

To be continued…