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Embedded World

February 28th, 2015

I spent a few days last week at the Embedded World trade show in Nuremberg, Germany. Ostensibly to chat to some suppliers – no one else was available πŸ˜‰ – but also to check out new technology and the like. It was the first time I’ve been to one of these events and I really enjoyed it, although after a day and a half of traipsing around the enormous convention centre I’d pretty much had enough. Executive summary: Internet of Things, Internet of Things, Internet of THINGS.

Friend Blodgett will be pleased to note that MathWorks are alive and well and touting Matlab to embedded systems developers everywhere!


As someone who is an avid collector of branded pens and other corporate tat such an event is a very dangerous place. However I managed to exert and a small amount of self control and limited myself to filling one Perforce tote bag with junk. Special mention must go to this pen from computer-on-module vendor Portwell for this beautifully presented pen (and their wonderful logo). Also this arty ruler from PCB manufacturer Circuitive complete with 10% discount voucher on the rear.


These people are either at the wrong show or demonstrating the terrifying fully automated tractor of the future.


Circumnavigation of High Wycombe

February 22nd, 2015

Like a modern day Magellan I set off yesterday on an epic quest to circumnavigate High Wycombe. The town is only a few miles north of where I live but I have only ever visited it a handful of times. Having seen it from all sides I have reached the conclusion that it is very hilly: my route had 2.5km of height gain!

Pedants might point out that my route wasn’t actually a circumnavigation, but a real adventurer takes no notice of those people. Just like they shouldn’t listen to weather forecasters who predict cloud and rain: look at the clear sky!


This is at Harpenden house near the start of my route north of the town.

One of the low points came around mid-afternoon, walking on a messy footpath between the M40 and the local ASDA. But then I went through a dark underpass leading to open fields on the other side. I thought it made an interesting photo:


New Character

February 15th, 2015

Dear China,

The character θ›‹ for “egg” is confusing and illogical! I have recently invented a vastly superior character which I wish to offer royalty-free. If 鸟 “bird” + ε±± “mountain” = ε²› “island” then obviously 鸟 + η”Ÿ “grow/birth” = “egg” (or perhaps “chick”). I have drawn below: please include in all fonts immediately. kthxbye.


Happy Cow

February 1st, 2015

I met a really friendly cow while I was out today near reading! Here he is munching on some straw and sinking into the bog.


I walked around a slightly epic 25 mile loop north of Reading which meant I didn’t get back to Henley until after dark. However, that meant I could test out the the LED head torch I got for Christmas!

The weather was miserable for most of the day: cold, windy and cloudy. But there were some bright moments, like here in the morning in Henley:


Brown Cheese With Jam

January 31st, 2015

I was in Oslo again this week which is usually a cause for celebration as it’s the only place I know of where you can sample my favourite caramelised cheese by-product: brown cheese! Normally I have a few slices on bread like a regular cheese. This time however I was chatting to a colleague about brown cheese and he said the real Norwegian way was to have it with jam! And oh it’s so good! Brown cheese is strangely sweet so it goes rather well together. Tasty tasty breakfast.


The weather was pretty horrible most of the time I was there. In a brief break from the snow/rain/sleet I wandered out to take a picture of the opera house.


I stayed in the same hotel as last time which has epic views over the city.


A huge public transport innovation has occurred since my last visit: there’s now a ferry from the city centre to the office! It even works with the cashless bus ticket app thingy I used last time. Unfortunately the last sailing in the morning is at 8:30. πŸ˜•


Windsor Castle

January 25th, 2015

I originally visited Windsor castle years ago when I first moved to this area. However I forgot to blog about it. One of the benefits of being a local resident is that you get in for free! A good thing too, as I don’t remember it being that good last time.


One of the problems with Windsor castle is that large bits of it are often closed. Like St George’s chapel, which the Queen was using last time. However by happy coincidence it was open today and some bits I visited before were closed for renovation. So I think I’ve seen the lot of it now.


Afterwards I visited the Royal Borough museum in Windsor Guildhall which by some oversight I’d never bothered to go in before. I’m rather fond of the one-room municipal museum and this one is trying its best with a limited collection. However the highlight was a free impromptu guided tour of the rooms upstairs. This is the one where Prince Charles and Camilla got married a few years ago:



January 24th, 2015

I went skiing for a few days earlier this week with work. I’m pretty sure the last time I tried skiing I vowed not to do it again. Unfortunately I forgot that when I signed up to this trip and predictably it was very cold and I fell over a lot. Oh well, at least the spa was fun.

This is where we stayed in Sauze d’Oulx in the Italian Alps.


Perhaps the best thing about skiing is the Chinese word for it – ζ»‘ι›ͺ – literally “slippery snow”, which sounds about right.

First Adventure of the Year

January 11th, 2015

2015, time to go adventuring again! Today started off pleasant so I got the train to Marlow and wandered up towards West Wycombe in roughly the reverse of a route I did last year.

Here’s a little wood near Marlow. The morning at least, was nice and sunny.


Bin cat is not amused.


Once I got to West Wycombe it had clouded over. Here’s the mausoleum on the top of the hill.


On the way back I came across this very excited piggy! He was oinking and running all over his pen.


GnuCash Quotes for UK Unit Trusts

January 3rd, 2015

In the past I’ve tried and failed to get GnuCash to automatically download stock quotes. At the moment I have to type them in manually which is an excruciating chore. Unfortunately the documentation for how to do this for non-US funds is patchy and the only feedback you get is an unhelpful “computer says no” pop-up.

But today I finally got it to work! Hopefully these steps will save someone else this pain…

  1. Find out the fund’s ISIN code: this is normally on the fact sheet somewhere. It should be a long alphanumeric string starting with “GB” like “GB00BMHTPT71″.
  2. Open the securities editor for that fund. Paste the ISIN code into the box labelled “Symbol/abbreviation” not the one labelled “ISIN, CUSIP or other code”: that’s just there to confuse you.
  3. Select the “Get Online Quotes” checkbox and then the “Unknown” quote source. Then search through the enormous unsorted list in the drop-down for the “ftfunds” option. It should look something like this:
  4. Open the price editor and click “Get Quotes”
  5. ????
  6. PROFIT!

If that doesn’t work you could try the command line tool gnc-fq-dump. (That’s how I figured this stuff out in the first place.) For example:

$ gnc-fq-dump ftfunds GB0001036531
Finance::Quote fields Gnucash uses:
    symbol: GB0001036531         <=== required
      date: 01/02/2015           <=== required
  currency: GBP                  <=== required
      last: 2.268                <=\       
       nav: 2.268                <=== one of these
     price: 2.268                <=/        
  timezone:                      <=== optional

Firefox Back to Normal

December 30th, 2014

I’ve been stubbornly ignoring the recent updates to Firefox and using 24 ESR instead as the new Australis changes ruined what was a perfectly nice minimal UI. The biggest problem for me was the inability to move the address bar into the title bar: once you’re accustomed to this having it hanging below is a heinous waste of screen real estate.

Today I decided to give the new ESR version 31 a go and after half an hour or so tweaking with Classic Theme Restorer I managed to make it look like my old Firefox! The “customize” interface now lets me drag the address bar up into the menu bar and get rid of that giant “back” button. For reference, here’s version 24:


And here is what I’ve got in version 31: