Executing Gummiworms The trials and tribulations of a grumpy curmudgeonly old git


Holiday Competition

CAM00323Earlier this year I started work on writing a holiday quiz but due to the circumstances beyond my control e.g. wife & I spending most of the last few months doing reasonable impersonations of typhoid mary & having every kind of -itus you care to name and doing a bit of tech editing and co-authoring  that i just never got around to writing the quiz. However, I do want to do something if only to be able to clear out some space in my bits and bobs boxes and my odds and sods drawers so i've decided to have a "how many words can you make from this sentence" competition. The prize is lousy, some Raspberry Pi stickers, a Parallax RFID reader, a little USB blinky LED thing, a couple of patches, a 3G Dongle, USB SD card Reader, a LEV Circuit V1.0 kit and whatever else comes to hand when i'm packing the box to send to the winner, probably a Zipit Z2, an unknown circuit board with at least a Rabbit CPU on it and ???.

The rules are quite simple.

1. My decision is final

2. Any complaints see 1

3. No cheating

4. I can change the rules at any time

5. make as many words as you can from the given sentence, highest number of valid words that are in MY dictionary wins. But i'll accept both American and British spelling.

6. In the case of a tie then i'll (or i'll ask someone to) use the tie breaker question to decide

7. You have until 1 minute past midnight on the 1st of January 2014 to enter.

ok so the sentence to use to make as many words as possible from

"The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and can do amazing things."

[ok that should give lots and lots of words]


and the tie breaker question is the best sentence that contains the phrase Raspberry Pi that says why it is great, or what you have done or are doing with it or just happens to mention the raspberry Pi :)


"______________Raspberry Pi  ____________________________________"


Good Luck & Happy Holidays


OSHW Document Jam

oshw-logo-200-pxIn 26 days, the weekend of April 26th the OSHWA, Open Source Hardware Association, is holding a Document Jam at ITP-NYU in NYC to help standardize and improve the how Open Source Hardware projects are documented so that others can replicate them and so that future generations of hackers, tinkerers and makers won't lose the knowledge previous generations have discovered. Unfortunately i'll probably not be able to make it and I really don't have the skills that will be needed as although I am often asked to help friends by proof reading and idiot proofing, I am darn good at it too even if I do say so myself, My super power is that i'm a tiny bit of an OCD pedant when it comes to typos & grammer in other peoples documents. I really don't have any hardware skills other than following instructions and even then it'll probably take me a few goes to get it right & even though I could probably help with some of the documentation and design stuff I really don't do well in crowds so Hack-a-thons & Jams are things I try to avoid. I can cope with crowds in large open spaces but i'd be a gibbering wreak anywhere else.

However if you think you can contribute, the problem statement is here and the how to contribute is here and if you have an account on Trello you can help with some of the pre-event stuff here. I'm not seeing many people using the Trello board so if you think you can help check it out and start using it.

The Guidelines for Participation to the First OSHW Doc Jam can be found here




Happy Anniversary Raspberry Pi

rp.o_qrcodeA couple of days ago I realized that I hadn't written a blog post in a while and had been working on one about using a "hacked" Vonage vPhone usb dongle on the Raspberry Pi but as today is the 1 year anniversary, I won't say birthday as it was released on the 29th of February of a leap year, of the Raspberry Pi's release into the wild I have decided to just say "a hacked Vonage vPhone works really well on the Raspberry Pi, use the right tools to delete the CD partition and repartition & format & you have a nice orange usb dongle with a headphone jack & Mic input with 256MB of flash storage on it to put your windows, mac & linux IAX/SIP softphones on" and instead write a quick blog post about the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi in case you've been living in a cave for the last 18months or so is an approximately credit card sized (i think they are off by a couple of micro-millimeters on one of the dimensions, but don't hold me to that) 700Mhz ARMv6 based SBC with USB, HDMI Out, Composite Out, Audio Out, SD card for storage and OS, in the http://siedc.org/wp/ case of the Model B Ethernet and depending on model & revision 256MB or 512MB of RAM that sells for $25/$35 plus local Tax, Shipping & Handling.

Originally designed by Eben Upton et al for the purposes of halting the decline in the level of programming & engineering skills of students entering the UK's university system, in particular those entering Cambridge as by tradition Cambridge University's courses of study have an extremely compressed time span and if you aren't already at a reasonable level of knowledge & skill you'll never get through it in one piece, and as a side effect increasing the size of the pool of skilled programmers and engineers available to industry. Basically Eben & his colleagues wanted to reproduce the effects of the reasonably easily available tinkerable with Home Micros in the 1980s had for British industry. I think they are not only succeeding with that aim but have also had some unintended consequences. They've created a whole new niche of computing device, the small and tiny usable general purpose computer, spawned several new businesses (and helped others expand), including case manufacturers, add-on board manufacturers and at least a couple of authors. They've also put the Maker community in the spotlight and made the general public aware of it's existence and they've sparked the interest of young and old alike in learning, building and doing things especially together. There is nothing that warms the heart more than seeing a video of a youngster with their father, mother or grandparent building or programming something together and getting it to work.

This time last year I wrote a quick blog post about how the Raspberry Pi launch broke the internet :) http://russelldavis.org/2012/02/29/how-to-break-the-internet-in-10-easy-steps/ This year the blog post should really be titled "How the Raspberry Pi saved the world", over dramatic i know but  in some ways it does feel like it.

So Bravo Eben, David, Pete, Jack, Alan, Robert and not forgetting  Liz, Mooncake, James, James, Dom, Alex, Clive, Gordon & Rob

See you this time next year.



I’ve joined the Darkside

I'm not a big fan of Apple and although I do have a  Blueberry iMAC and an SE20 stored in the cat's room & I have had an Apple II & Apple IIe or IIc, which is the one that was about the size of a box of chocolates and had a handle?  all of which were found on my garbage days perambulations. I normally wouldn't have any interest in anything Apple as I think they are overpriced artsy-fartsy hardware that just doesn't appeal to me. However,  the HP laptop that I got in 2008 has spent the last 3 & a bit years slowly dying, (DVD burner not working,  track pad not working, half the usb ports not working, several keys require a mallet to press, overheating, webcam busted, speakers very quiet, bios is the typical crippled HP bios...) and in the last few months has been hanging on only because I am a master at the art of   bodgery & jury rigging through the judicious application of duct tape,  little bits of metal, and cardboard. So when a friend asked me if I wanted his old Macbook Pro2,2 that although very beat up and scuffed still worked and was surplus to requirements I immediately said that "yes please" as you can never have too many computers :) and I thought if nothing else SWMBO (who lusts after Apple hardware) would like it or I could install Linux on it and use it  for listening to BBC Radio 4, watching videos and an SSH/VNC terminal for logging into my other computers (mostly my Raspberry Pi) & servers.


In a bit of a funk

Last April (2011) I had to spend a few weeks in hospital due to a reoccurance of some health problems I had between 2006 & 2008. To cut a long story short, and to avoid upsetting anyone's breakfast with the grisly details I had Pancretitis, Gastritis & Duodenitis with complications and had to go NPO for several weeks which is a right PITA especially when you have 2 pounds of Red Leicester that are begging to be eaten in the fridge.

Since then I have been in a bit of a funk. I had several new toys to play with, a couple of programming projects to complete, blog posts to write up and some other miscellaneous projects on the back burner but I just couldn't face them. I did a lot of reading, 574 ebooks and counting, hanging out in IRC & MUC and forum visiting but I just couldn't work up the energy or enthusiasm to deal any real work.

I have decided that this situation can't continue so I am taking a couple of days break from the various forums, irc channels and muc rooms I visit and hiding my nookcolor while I try to shake myself out of this funk by forcing myself to finally setup my work area again and setup my UberTooth One, CyberCortex AV & Hercules eCafe netbook, finish up the various programming projects I have on the go and by writing a few blog posts. Hopefully this will work as otherwise I will have to take the drastic measure of turning off the Internet and going outside :) and it's a little bit cold, wet and windy out there at the moment.


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Update to the Christmas Quiz

All the winners now have their prizes in their sticky mitts so the quiz is now officially over. However, I was quite pleased with the response so i'll probably do another quiz in a couple of months. If I have enough stuff in my odds and sods box i'll offer prizes again otherwise it'll be one just for fun and I promise no almost impossible number sequence questions (unless I can think of a really evil one) as no one got within 500 yards of the correct answer although one person (David Ross) was almost on the right track as he did guess it was something to do with prime numbers.


The winners were (in order).

1.  Stephen Christie (Brand New Zipit Z2 + Spare battery)

2. David Ross (Timex1000)

3. Vincent Hyde (2 x Palm Z22 + assorted cables and palm psu)


Answers to the Christmas Quiz

I received about 10 entries into the Christmas Quiz and I'll go through them in a day or so and let those who won know and get their details. In the meantime though here are the answers.


  1. The Camputers Lynx
  2. There were lots but TRSDOS, NEWDOS, LDOS are three of them.
  3. It was exactly the same size as a 1DM coin and fit and worked in all vending machines but was worth a lot less than 1DM.
  4. Pascal
  5. It's the Z80 mnemonic for load, decrement, repeat e.g. a block move
  6. "Beating the system: Hackers, Phreakers and Electronic spies" by Owen Bowcott and Sally Hamilton (Bonus Point: The Groucho Club)
  7. Althh, M&T, RUB..... (I was on retty much all of the german chatsystems so hard to get wrong)
  8. Corrupt Computing UK aka CCUK
  9. Types of hop
  10. This one was what most of you will consider a bit of a cheat although it was possible to workout if you are into things like prime numbers. The correct answer is 391 As that is the number of carmichael numbers in the range of  number with 9 digits. You can read more at http://www.kobepharma-u.ac.jp/~math/notes/note02.html -- 1 person actually got that right :)
  11. Althh and acorn.com -- they were/are IPSS nua's
  12. Gartree High school & Gartree Prison
  13. 1810 & 1814
  14. The series was called Science Fiction, The Episode was called Spycatcher, The director was Derek Jones, The producer was Susie Gautier-Smith and the book it was based on was Clifford Stoll's The cuckoo's egg.
  15. Equations of uniformly accelerated linear motion
Have a Merry Christmas and i'll contact the winners in a day or so.
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A hint for question 10

I've had a few emails and a couple of pings via IM that Question 10 is really hard :) It is supposed to be but maybe it is a little too hard after all. It is possible to work it out but you probably do have to know something about a certain branch of mathematics and probably just happen to know the answer.


So here is a clue to help you on your way. ROT13'ed so that people who don't want a hint can ignore it.


Gur frdhrapr vf eryngrq gb n cebcregl bs n pynff bs vagrtref engure guna gur vagrtref gurzfryirf orvat vzcbegnag.


Hopefully this hasn't made it too easy.

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I’m in a Quizzy kind of mood

I'm in a Quizzy kind of mood so for the hell of it I thought i'd set a couple of questions. No prizes this time just the right to be a smug wotsit for a couple of hours.

Answer in the comments section.


Q1. What's the next number in the sequence and why? 2, 10, 18, 36, 54, ...

Q2. What's the next number in the sequence and why? 9, 17, 35, 53, ...


Should be easy and Good Luck

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Christmas Quiz


I've decided to set a Christmas Quiz, there will be at least one prize (something zipit related) for the person who gets the most answers correct and if I can find anything suitable in my bits and bobs boxes then i'll have a couple of runners up prizes too.

[Update: So far I have decided that the prizes will incl. A Zipit Z2 with extra battery, A Timex 1000, An unidentified PCB that has a Rabbit Z80 clone on it. More updates as I go through the boxes and find stuff that is suitable.]

[Update2: I decided to add the Palm Z22's to the available prizes as i haven't got around to doing anything with them, i have a couple of other old pda's too and if i can find them i'll add those to the pile as well. So it looks as if i have prizes for 5 people so far.]


  1. No one related to me can enter.
  2. My decision is final.
  3. Closing date for entries is December 24th @ 00:00 -5GMT.
  4. If more than one person has the most correct answers I will ask a tie-breaker question. If it is still tied then I will flip a coin or roll a dice.
  5. My decision is final!!!
  6. Entries are to be sent via the contact page but you can whine about the questions in the comments of this post.

Ok on to the questions. Some of the questions are computer related, some are about me (so have you been listening?) and some are just random things that popped into my head when I was thinking of the questions. Some can be found via google, bing.... and some you'll just have to know and a couple I hope are impossible.

  1. In the early 1980s (1983ish) there was a British made home micro that's BASIC had floating point line numbers. Name that micro?
  2. Name three operating systems that ran on the Tandy TRS-80 Model3 micro computer?
  3. What was special about British 5 pence pieces when going to West Germany in the 1980s?
  4. What programming language is named after a French philosopher and mathematician?
  5. What does LDDR do?
  6. In the late 1980s I helped with a book about hacking & phreaking. Name the book and the two authors? (Bonus points if you can name the location of the launch party).
  7. In the 1980s I used several chat systems in West Germany. One was called Altger. Name two others.
  8. In the 1980s I was co-sysop of the hacking section of a BBS in England. Name the BBS? (Thanks to it's sysop and his sense of humour it became quite famous).
  9. What are Fuggles, Goldings and Bullion?
  10. What is the next number in the sequence?  0, 1, 6, 9, 27, 62, 150, ...
  11. Where would 026245400050233 and 023422230016102 take you?
  12. I went to high school at a school that had the same name as a maximum security prision. Name the school and the prison?
  13. When were Foxton Locks built? (start and end date)
  14. In 1990 I was a consultant and actor in a 30 minute documentary for YTV (part of a series). Name the series, the episode name, the director, the producer and the book it was based on. (Bonus points if you have a copy on VHS or DVD and can make me a copy)
  15. Final question and i'll make it an easy one. what are the SUVAT equations?
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