/now - What am I up to?
- Nottingham Hackspace - I'm currently a trustee at Nottingham Hackspace. There's quite a lot of stuff behind the scenes, always things to improve. This in itself has become a project.
- Milling and Metalworking - I've been learning how to use a milling machine at the Nottingham Hackspace, after reading the first few chapters of (the brilliant book) Building Scientific Apparatus. Gradually getting better - my first project is a proper "booty" for my PDP-11/23+ chassis (housing 11/73).
- Home Automation - This has become a bit of an obsession over the past few years, but sticking ESP microcontrollers in things is simply too fun. It's an ongoing project, sometimes requiring development of new ESPHome components.
- Work - I recently (update: over 2.5 years ago…) moved from an academic position working on deep learning research (where I felt a bit stuck), into an research computing infrastructure at the University of Dundee. It's been quite a big change, but much easier for me to adapt than I thought it would be. Our "mission" is to improve the state of trusted research environments (TREs), providing a secure research computing environment for working on sensitive genomics data.
Sometimes a project is too difficult or I get temporarily fed up of it. This is a pile of those.
- SBD Dowty video card driver - Another PDP-11 card, like above, except the SBD is able to generate graphics. The SBD includes (iirc) a z80 CPU and a fair amount of RAM. It can parse fairly sophisticated drawing commands as well as display bitmap 16 colour graphics. I'm working on a driver for 2.11BSD so it can be used as a frame buffer.
- Vidicon tube webcam - An electronics project! I haven't managed to get a signal from this, but I did wind and test a deflection yoke on a small Russian CRT. My plan is to use an STM32 to capture the video signal and digitise it so an old Russian Vidicon tube can be used as a webcam. I have described my coil winding process on GitHub.
- RL02 drive repair - I know, another PDP-11 project… but the RL02 drives are really cool! The linked blog post went into (probably too much) detail about how they work. It was an attempt to improve my understanding of the drives so I had a better chance of repairing them.
- VAX 4000/300 restoration - This machine is very special to me! The power supply had quite a dramatic and explosive failure, which is a shame because it's known as being very difficult to repair. I have been planning to replace the broken 12V module with some small 12V SMPS. I ended up adding a Mean Well +/- 12V supply inside the main power supply.
2.11BSD driver - The IBV11 is a GPIB/IEEE-488 dual-width
QBUS controller for the PDP-11. I have been adding support to the
2.11BSD kernel for this. Currently it's mostly working but there's still
some room for improvement. I've learnt quite a lot about UNIX internals
with this project, as well as the PDP-11 architecture. It has opened my
eyes somewhat to the impedance mismatch between devices and files - to
put it bluntly, there's a reason why our network cards do not appear as
/dev, where as our serial ports do. The end goal with this project was to obtain an screen capture from my oscilloscope using the PDP-11. It would be fun at some point to try and automate some measurements using this driver.
- Nixie Clock - I think it turned out quite pretty. :-)
Projects To Do
- HP 1630D Repair - While trying to repair my RL02 drives, I needed to dig a bit deeper to understand what the drive thought it was doing. Unfortunately the screen wouldn't turn on when I went to use it, so another thing to fix.
- Home Decorating - Urgh. I really hate decorating.