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2015

After we all enjoyed such a deeply nostalgia trip down through the circuits of time over on the micromemories blog, MicroMemories of a Silicon School Day, I thought you guys would love to join me in wishing the wonderful 16-bit sensation, the Commodore Amiga, a very happy 30th birthday!

 

All Hail the Amiga A1000

Amiga-A1000

It was on this day, 23rd July 1985, that Commodore first released the Amiga A1000 to the world of home computing. This was the forerunner to the even more popular A500, which went on to sell a staggering 6 million units across the globe.

 

This was the only model to sport the famous Amiga check mark logo on its casing, and boasted a Motorola 68000 CPU running at just over a speedy 7MHz. Also, this original model was the only one to ship with 256KB of RAM, which could be extended to a whopping 512KB by plugging an expansion board into the base unit. Power computing in the comfort of your own home was finally a reality!

 

It was released with much fanfare on 23rd July 1985, when Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol were drafted in to help the world celebrate the birth of 16-bit home computing. It weighed in at a not-inconsiderable $1,295 for the base unit alone, and you could add $300 to the price tag if you also wanted a monitor (which was recommended). Still, it performed admirably for many years to come, even in light of cheaper versions released shortly afterwards, making it a worthy investment for hackers of the day.

 

My Amiga Amigo

Here's how my computing education went (keeping in mind that it was entirely driven by games):

  • 1981: Philips Videopac G7000 (AKA, the Magnavox Odyssey 2)
  • 1984: ZX Spectrum
  • 1986: ZX Spectrum +2
  • 1988: Commodore Amiga
  • 1990s onward: You know. Like, consoles and stuff, until I eventually broke down and bought a PC near the millennium. Whatever. I still had my Amiga!

 

I still remember the first time I saw an Amiga. At the time I was used to the 8-bit blocks of Spectrum gaming, and the deluge of colours and torrent of eye-blasting animations and deep gaming experiences verged on the unbelievable. It's not an easy thing to put into context these days, as all those chunky pixels have blurred together, tamed by time. But take my word for it; the step up between 8-bit and 16-bit gaming was mountainous and breathtaking.

 

My Spectrum -- my previously beloved Spectrum -- became immediately defunct. Returning to it after glimpsing an Amiga-driven future was like going back to playing with a hoop and a stick. It's appeal, much to my own dismay, evaporated in an instant. There was no other option than to buy an Amiga. It was a simple matter of salvaging my gaming sanity.

 

And salvage it the Amiga did.

 

Halcyon Amiga Days

Here's a list of my top five Amiga games of all time:

  1. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
  2. Lords of the Rising Sun
  3. Rocket Ranger
  4. Populous
  5. Xenon II: Megablast

 

Speedball-2

Of those, it was actually Rocket Ranger that ushered in my Amiga obsession. A friend of mine had bought the machine early in its life (looking back, it must have been somewhere around launch day), but I'd never taken the time to check it out until he loaded up that sensational Cinemaware title.

 

I devoured all of Cinemaware's games in the years to come, alongside those of the Bitmap Bros. and Bullfrog. And many others, naturally, too numerous to mention.

 

Indeed, what I need now is dragging right back down Memory Lane. Beautiful reminders of the Amiga's pixelated prowess.

 

Tell me all about your introduction to the Amiga, and don't forget your list of top five games!

 

This is important stuff on such a seminal anniversary, as I suspect there aren't many contemporary computers that'll be celebrating their 30th birthdays decades from now, so let me hear you cheer for Commodore's stalwart system.

 

To the fore, Amiga-nauts, and relive! RELIVE!

micromemories

Introduction

Up until yesterday, I’d not seen a programming language which would go from a graphic oriented (pseudo Scratch-like) environment to a conventional source code view, from browser based execution to microcontroller execution, to mobile phone app execution. It was possible however to achieve all of this within a matter of hours!

 

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TouchDevelop is a programming language created by Microsoft – it can instantly run in a web browser if Internet connectivity is available, otherwise it can be locally installed too to run as a local web server. I tested a quick local install on Linux but of course it can be installed on Windows too.

 

TouchDevelop will be used with the micro:bit that Element14 and the BBC have developed together with Microsoft, ARM, Freescale and others as well as product champions including the IET and Cisco.

 

What can it do? How does it work?

Some key characteristics are:

• Browser based development environment (private server, or public cloud)

• Cloud storage of your programs

• Development environment optimised for touch interface for rapid copy/paste/delete and so on

• Forward/backward conversion between graphical block coding and text coding at any time

• Run anywhere - in a browser (i.e. any platform) or on hardware (microcontroller or mobile app for Android/IOS/Windows Phone)

• Will be supported for the micro:bit

• Open source – run local copies on any platform and OS (Linux, Windows, etc), and fork it and improve it!

 

This is how to use it to write code:

how-to-code.png

 

The nice thing is that programs can be developed anywhere and retained in a cloud provided you have a suitable account (based on delegated authentication so it doesn’t have to be a Microsoft account).

Although the install instructions were for Windows, it was relatively straightforward to install on Ubuntu and get coding.

Here is my attempt at turtle graphics:

touchdevelop.png

 

There is also Arduino capability (see example code screenshot below) that can convert your program into C++ that can be used by the usual Arduino software tools – I didn’t get that compiling on Linux but I see no reason why this wouldn’t work with a little effort. The instructions for Windows are all published. With some more effort, other microcontroller platforms could in theory be supported since the output is standards based C++.

arduino.png

 

The screenshot above shows the blocks-based code view – clicking on the ‘plus’ symbol inserts a line. The syntax in blocks below changes dynamically as you create each row of the program.

Another option is to target your mobile device; if you have Android Studio and Apache Cordova installed then this is a quick affair (and I’ve never written a mobile app before) - here is the turtle program running on a Nexus device simulation:

android.png

 

As a personal opinion I think it is a far easier-to-use language than Scratch or Python, and the libraries and development environment are geared for modern scenarios where people want to be able to write code rapidly anywhere on any machine, even touch-based machines (e.g. iPads), and still have the flexibility to convert to the (relatively) low-level C++ so that native code can be built too, to run on as many different platforms as possible including resource-constrained ones such as Arduino.

 

Summary

The above was a very quick examination of TouchDevelop’s main features and what it could do. No real steps recorded since I was just exploring, but I think it is highly interesting and worthy of further investigation.

 

I think it is extremely powerful to have a single, simple language to learn for young and older people, and yet be able to target so many scenarios. The ability to write and access the code easily from any device is a significant advantage too.

 

A Getting Started guide will follow and will be indicated here so click on the Bookmark button if you’re interested to read it.

Access Raspberry pi GUI and command line from your windows machine using SSH and VNC

At times you might face a situation when you cannot connect your Raspberry pi to a monitor ,like in a situation when you actually don't have a monitor or when you have your pi working in a project like say a weather monitor and it is not possible to physically access. There is a possible solution to this using SSH  and VNC(Virtual network computing) and you only need to satisfy one condition for this and that is you should have your pi connected to the network using LAN or wifi. Here in this post i will show you how to do this.

 

Step1: know the IP address of your pi,

for getting the IP address there are several methods you can follow any of them

Method-1

If you know the admin password of your wifi router open your browser and enter the adddress of your router it is generally if you enter 192.168.l.l in your browser on a computer connected to your router you will be prompted or admin password and username once you enter it you can get the IP addres of your connected devices

Method-2

If you donot have admin details of your routerConnect your android phone to your home network .install an app like wifi inspector from the google store and run it it will give you the ip address and mac address of al the connected device. This is the simplest method.

 

Method-3

This method require good understanding of commands and network.

In the command prompt

you can use ping raspberrypi and it will give you the IP address it may or may not work for you.

you can also use netstat -r in the command prompt this will give you IP address of all your network routes and one of the ip address in the list will be of your pi but for this you need to be sure that the pi has successfully connected to the network.Or else you can use a software like nmap.

 

 

 

Step2: Download putty. It is a small softwae that lets you establish an SSH connection.Run putty and type this IP address of your pi in the host name under the sessions. and click open

 

 

Then login using login ID and password. Default is pi and raspberry respectively.

 

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Step3: install VNC server using the command sudo apt-get install tightvncserver

 


Step4: type tightvncserver to start the server socket.It will prompt you for password enter the password. this password that you will set will be required to be fed into the VNC client.It would also ask you if you would like to set another readonly password press N to dismiss


Step5: Setup a socket by using the command vncserver :1 -geometry 800X600 -depth 24
(The part after the 1 is optional)
Step6: Install a VNC client like the real VNC view https://www.realvnc.com/download/viewer/

 


Step7: open putty enter the host IP(the ip of raspberrypi) in the host field under sessions. Then go to tunnels under the SSH tab.add source to be 5901 and destination to be hostIP:5901. then click add.Finally  click open.

 

 

Step 8: log in into the pi using putty
step9: Open real VNC  view. Under the VNC server name add localhost:5901. click connect. then click continue on the next popup.

 

 

 

 

 

After this you will be prompted for password. Enter password that you have setup while setting up the vnc server and you will get the screen of your Pi.

 

#MicroMemories Commadore 64 Plug and Play competition Terms and Conditions

 

  1. 1.       This prize draw is run by Premier Farnell plc (Premier Farnell or we (including our or us) on the following terms and conditions. Anyone who enters this prize draw is referred to in these terms and conditions as entrant or you.

 

  1. 2.       In entering this prize draw you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions applicable to this prize draw at any time (the T&Cs). Please note that this includes agreeing to your name and town and country of residence being disclosed as a winner if requested by any other entrant in accordance with 6 below.

 

  1. 3.       Premier Farnell reserves the right to change these T&Cs from time to time and amended T&Cs will be posted on the STEM Academy area. Please refer to this area for the most recent T&Cs at any time.

 

  1. 4.       This prize draw will be run during the period from 11:00 GMT on 7 July 2015 until 11:00 GMT 27 July 2015(unless Premier Farnell decides to change the start or end time or date in accordance with these T&Cs).

 

  1. 5.       This prize draw is not open to:

 

  1. a.      Anyone below the age of 18 years;

 

  1. b.     Anyone who is a public sector employee;

 

  1. c.      Any person who is a resident of a Restricted Country (see 10 below};

 

  1. d.     Anyone who is an employee of Premier Farnell, any company in the Premier Farnell group of companies or any agency representing Premier Farnell.

 

  1. 6.       To enter the prize draw, entrants must post on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus using the hashtag #MicroMemories. Any post which includes material which we consider to be offensive, abusive, derogatory, inflammatory or likely to cause offence will be excluded from this prize draw.  Premier Farnell’s decision on this will be final and no correspondence on this issue will be entered into.

 

        No purchase is necessary to enter this prize draw.

 

  1. 7.       There is one prize ot be given away and one winner will be chosen at radom. Winners will be notified via element14 Community blog post and will be asked to Direct Message via Twitter, Facebook or G+ with their address details, full name and phone number and username (for verification) within one week  of announcing the winners.  They will have one week to claim their Prize and supply their contact details and any other information Premier Farnell requires to secure compliance with these terms. Premier Farnell reserves the right to withdraw any unclaimed Prize at its discretion and to select a replacement winner if it sees fit. Details of the winner may be obtained by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to: element14 Community, Canal Road. Leeds. UK. LS12 2TU, UK.

 

  1. 8.       The winner will receive a Commodore 64 Plug in and play games console worth £50.00

 

  1. 9.       Winners must supply a valid postal address and contact name in order to receive a Prize. The Prize will be sent by Premier Farnell’s usual delivery methods. Premier Farnell is not liable if the Prize is lost or damaged in transit. Premier Farnell reserves the right to refuse to supply a Prize in the event that doing so would be in breach of any import or export regulations to which Premier Farnell is subject or if any licences or permissions are required to supply or ship a Prize and in such event the relevant Winner will be disqualified and no replacement prize will be provided.

 

  1. 10.    This prize draw is not open to residents of:

 

Australia

 

Belgium

 

Denmark

 

Israel

 

Italy

 

New Zealand

 

The Netherlands

 

Norway

 

Poland

 

Portugal

 

Russia

 

Spain

 

Sweden

 

Switzerland

 

who are ineligible to participate in this prize draw due to local requirements. Each of these countries is referred to as a Restricted Country.

 

  1. 11.    No responsibility will be accepted for entries which are not received for any reason, including technical error. Premier Farnell is not responsible for hardware or software failures of any kind; lost or unavailable network connections; failed, incomplete or garbled computer or telephone transmissions; typographical or systems errors; problems or technical malfunctions of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems, servers, providers or computer equipment; or technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or any combination thereof. Premier Farnell is not responsible for any injury or damage to entrant's or any other person's computer related to or resulting from this prize draw or other telecommunications malfunctions, which may limit an entrant's ability to participate.

 

  1. 12.    Premier Farnell reserves the right to verify the eligibility of any winner before a Prize is sent and may require proof of identification and age. If Premier Farnell suspects fraud or misconduct, (including without limitation any attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the prize draw by cheating, hacking, deception, or other unfair practices or intending to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other entrants or our representatives) or a winner or potential winner does not meet the eligibility requirements, his or her Prize may be withheld or withdrawn and another potential winner selected. The eligibility requirements include the requirements of 15 below.

 

  1. 13.    To the extent that we may lawfully do so, we reserve the right to withdraw or amend the prize draw or extend the period of participation in our sole discretion, including (without limitation, in circumstances where such withdrawal or amendment results from events beyond our control or is undertaken to comply with any law or regulation binding on us in any country. Premier Farnell will not be liable for any such withdrawal or change to the prize draw. If, for any reason, this prize draw is not capable of running as planned due to infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud or any other causes beyond our control, which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of the prize draw, we reserve the right at our sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the prize draw.

 

  1. 14.    Entrants and winners are responsible for all applicable taxes, duties or other charges payable in relation to this prize draw or any Prize.

 

  1. 15.    You may not enter the prize draw if, by doing so, you may cause Premier Farnell and/or you to be in breach of any agreement (including but not limited to any contract of employment) to which you are a party or in breach of any duty, law, regulation or rule having the force of law to which you or Premier Farnell may be subject. Premier Farnell reserves the right to disqualify any entry made in breach of this condition.

 

  1. 16.    Premier Farnell respects the policies of employers which forbid entry to and/or the acceptance of prizes by their employees. If requested to do so by Premier Farnell, a winner must obtain signed authorisation from duly authorised senior employee of his or her employer confirming the winner’s permission to accept the Prize.

 

  1. 17.    The Prize is not supplied with the benefit of any warranties from Premier Farnell and is only supplied with the benefit of any warranty which may be provided by the manufacturer of the relevant item. All further warranties or representations are hereby expressly excluded to the fullest extent permitted at law. Without limiting the generality of this exclusion, Premier Farnell hereby excludes all and any liability arising out of the prize draw or the acceptance, use, quality condition, suitability or performance of the Prize, even where arising from Premier Farnell’s negligence.

 

  1. 18.    Premier Farnell does not exclude liability for death, personal injury arising or damage to property from its negligence, or for breach of Part II of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, for fraud or for any matter in relation to which it would be illegal for Premier Farnell to exclude or attempt to exclude our liability.

 

  1. 19.    Any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with it or its subject matter shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales and you irrevocably agree that the courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction to settle any dispute or claim that arises out of or in connection with this prize draw.

 

  1. 20.    Please address any queries relating to this prize draw to socialmedia@element14.com

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To mark the launch of the new BBC Micro:Bit we're giving away one Commodore 64 plug in and play!

 

 

Step 1: Think about your own memories of the BBC Micro or any other retro computer like the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64

 

 

Step 2: Register/Login and Comment on our MicroMemories blog or share on social media using #MicroMemories http://www.element14.com/community/groups/stemacademy/blog/2015/07/07/micromemories-of-a-silicon-school-day

 

Step 3: Relax! And enjoy reading all the different #MicroMemories and we'll pick on winner from everyone who participated

 

You can be as simple or creative as you like: send pictures, shoot a video anything you want to tell us your #MicroMemories. Everyone who comments on the blog post or social media using #MicroMemories will go into the random draw to win the commodore 64 Plug in and Play console- Good Luck!

 

 

For full Terms & Conditions of the competition click here

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Today the BBC unveiled the design of the BBC micro:bit, part of the BBC’s Make it Digital initiative, at an event for its partners in London. element14 is a major partner in the project to produce one million BBC micro:bit to be gifted to each Year 7 (or equivalent) aged children in the UK in the Autumn.  What is the micro:bit - watch this BBC video for more information.

 

Tony Hall introduces.jpg Sinead Rocks Head of BBC Learning introduces partners.jpg

Tony Hall Director General of the BBC kicked off proceedings                                  Sinead Rocks, BBC Head of Learning unveils partners

 

element14 plays an important role in the partnership because of our proven expertise in managing similar projects designing and manufacturing development kits for similar projects in our strategic alliance program.  This project is a great example of the activity required to bring a new board to market.

 

element14 became aware of the project back in February 2015 and put forward a proposal to support with the design, cost optimisation and manufacturing of the board. At this stage there were a number of unknowns and element14 was invited to engineer away this uncertainty acting as arbitrator between the needs of the working group and the practicalities of manufacture.  Our role in the project is is to take the prototypes for the BBC micro:bit based on the ARM mbed reference designs in the mbed Hardware Development Kit (HDK) and optimize them for mass manufacturing. 

 

microbit-01.PNG

 

Design

Internally and through acquisition partners we have the skills and expertise to bring a board like the BBC micro:bit to market.  The initial design called for a complex and expensive routed design. However, because of the quality of element14’s V-score process, the cost of the board was able to be significantly reduced, without sacrificing the quality of the finish.

 

Visual appearance was also important on this board.  In most development kit designs the appearance is secondary to the functionality but as this board is aimed at children it needed to be both functional and friendly.  element14 worked with the BBC, ARM, Microsoft and design company Technology Will Save Us to understand the aesthetic and usability considerations of the board, and assist with realising the manufacturing realities behind these design decisions.

 

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Cost Optimisation

Cost optimisation is key to all board designs.  Suppliers will have an idea of cost and retail price per board before the project starts.  In this case the BBC was aiming to reduce the cost of the board to a point where, through the contributions and donations of the projects’ partners, the board would be provided at zero cost to every 11 and 12 year old in the country.  To assist in this, element14 was able to use its considerable influence with various supplier partners to leverage economies of scale to benefit this project.  This is possible in higher volume production runs, but with smaller projects this can be more difficult.  This economy of scale is applied to all our development kit designs to ensure the boards are created to be commercially viable.

 

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Dara O'Briain Introduces the new BBC micro:bit

 

Manufacturing

The project has to be manufacturable at scale.  We were able to work with our many manufacturing partners to find a suitable organisation to manufacture the board in the quantities that are required, and within the aggressive timelines of the project.  In this case we are working with IO Note in China.

 

As the design was being created in the UK, to avoid unnecessary delay, initial prototypes were manufactured in the UK. This allowed the partners testing early prototypes and writing the key software components to to de-bug quickly and move onto the next stages of the design; we call this quick turn manufacturing. Once the prototype is approved the next step is to manufacture a first batch of 10 – 20,000 boards, which will be sent to early adopters to test.

 

Final mass production will occur shortly after and the million boards should be in schools in the autumn.

 

Gary Atkinson, Director of Emerging Technologies at ARM said: “The BBC micro:bit will prove a huge hit with young people as the uses it can be put to are truly exciting, including creating new Internet of Things devices. Ultimately it’s success will also depend on its life beyond the 2015/16 rollout, and the original micro:bit design by ARM and its partners combined with the optimization excellence of element14 has ensured it is a highly affordable product that can create a niche for itself in the education market.”

 

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You can see from this very short snapshot that there are many layers to designing and manufacturing a new board. Hopefully you can also see how element14 has supported managing the manufacture of a project in time and at cost through its considerable market experience.  Our role in this project as well as those with our strategic partners is to turn the initial idea into a manufacturable reality.

 

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The element14 team with Dara O'Briain

L-R Elena Guseva, Mike Powell, me (Richard Curtin), Dara O'Briain, Jonathan Smith