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An update, I guess

Posted <2021-06-06 Sun 00:48> by Aaron S. Jackson.

It's been quiet this year, sort of, but also really not quiet at all. I'm scrolling through my photo library trying think of something to post and I'm seeing lots of interesting things, but nothing is finished. It's just been that kind of year for all of us I think? Attempting to get back into the swing of things, I think I'll just list a bunch of things I've been up to.

The 3D printer

Some chess pieces printed on my 3D printer.

I purchased an Elegoo Mars Pro 2 3D printer earlier this year. I've since learnt that the first rule of owning a 3D printer is to not tell anyone you have bought a 3D printer. Of course, I am breaking that rule now in a pathetic attempt to write something on my blog. However, it is true. Tell someone you've bought a 3D printer and the first thing they will say is "Cool! Can you print this for me?" Usually it's something too large for such a tiny printer, but I've used it so infrequently myself that I don't really mind saying I can't be bothered. The printer is great and requires fairly minimal setup to get things printing, but I find the clean up very irritating (literally, actually, don't get that resin on your skin…).

On the right I show some chess pieces which were the first thing I printed. The model was included on a USB stick which came with the printer. I suspect these have been heavily optimised for the printer, but have found the quality of my other prints to come out very nicely too.

CRT Deflection

I've spent quite some time learning about electron bean deflection in an attempt to prepare myself what I discuss in the next section of this post. I've found an excellent source of information about this to be Cathode Ray Tube Displays, a mid 1940s book published by MIT as Volume 22 of the Radiation Laboratory Series. There is tonnes of fascinating information in this book and the figures are beautiful, but it has greatly aided my understanding of magnetic deflection. I have been successful in winding a 3D printed deflection yoke using 0.23mm diameter wire. The CRT I am testing on is a small Russian CRT intended for a children's television - its face has a diagonal of around 10cm or so. Partially due to laziness, but also due to the expense of copper wire, I only did 25 windings per side of the yoke, so 50 for horizontal and 50 for vertical. This results in quite a small inductance and the coil will get quite warm after 10 minutes or so.

Playing with Vidicon tubes

I don't know why I didn't stumble across vidicon tubes earlier. A much earlier interest in photomultiplier tubes should definitely have pointed me in this direction, but never mind. The goal of driving the aforementioned CRT was entirely to test beam deflection for the a Russian vidicon tube. Once I had that working, I quickly moved onto the vidicon project. I've been driving the tube using a 1kV module off eBay and the thing is noisy. So far I've only managed to pick up switching noise, but I'm hoping to get back to working on this in the near future and will definitely post about it on the blog once it is working.

Recycling VAX manuals

After my friend bnl died in 2018, I ended up with an entire book case of VAX manuals. In many ways I have enjoyed keeping these around, but such a large amount of paper is both a fire hazard and a waste of space. I spent quite a lot of time figuring out which had been scanned, which were available online, and those which only seem to exist in paper form on my shelves. It turns out, most of the manuals are already on bitsavers or archive.org. Unfortunately, I recycled those. I attempted to find a new home for them, but really, nobody wants a bunch of VAX binders taking up all their space. I've kept all the manuals which have not been digitised, and will gradually scan them when I have the time and resources (as I've done for a few other manuals in this collection).

Attempting to decorate

Urgh. Towards the end of last year I started stripping wallpaper because it was either showing small signs of mould or had been attacked by the cats. I'm very lazy and have left the walls in this bald state ever since. Finally, last week, I started painting the wall in my bedroom which I stripped. It is looking much better and has at least partially motivated me to continue… We'll see.

I sold my car

I bought a car back in 2018 and I have hated it ever since. It feels like the only times I drove it were to take it to the garage once a year for an oil change. Such a huge waste of money. Last month I sold this car. It has not impacted my life in any measurable way since I was basically not using it to begin with. It did motivate me to buy a proper bike lock though, so now I can cycle to Sainsbury's, instead of walking there.

Buying trees

We're all so far from meeting our climate target and it's very worrying. The boomers do not care - they will be long dead before it impacts them in any serious way. Big cars, bigger cars, domestic flights, international flights, bitcoin mining, etc, are all destroying our planet and it's incredibly sad. I feel very guilty about my own carbon 'contributions' and calculated that my PhD and postdoc were responsible for over 23 tonnes of CO2, just from training deep neural networks on the GPU cluster.

I've started to fix this by buying trees on Ecologi. I'm looking forward to watching their virtual representations grow. I should point out though that relative to many people in the UK, my carbon footprint is already below average (if you exclude work). I do not eat meat or dairy and I do not drive - but even so, I am still only slightly below the UK's 2021 target. Let's hope the trees help… I started off with 22 trees but a friend bought 1000 trees for my forest and I couldn't let him have more trees in my forest than I do, so I also had to buy 1000 trees…

I've updated my website

If you visit my website occasionally for some reason, you might have noticed that it has changed! I decided it needed a bit of a revamp and it felt quite refreshing for me too. I guess I don't have much else to say about this, but there you have it.

Oh… The new job

Lastly, in a 1.5 weeks I start a new job - Senior Infrastructure Specialist at the University of Dundee. This is a very massive change from research. I will miss many aspects of my current work and it has been both difficult and sad to say goodbye to what I thought was a set career for me: teaching and research. While I do really enjoy teaching (although I have very little experience), I think in many ways I can make bigger contributions to science by helping other scientists use computing more effectively. So, we'll see how it goes.

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