Month: December 2017

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

The Dancing Queen And The Thieving Gits

Last night, we had our work’s Christmas do, in a hotel in Slough. That would account for why my head has been hurting all day.  The downside to a free bar, I s’pose.

Inexplicably, my legs are also aching. I think might have over done it on the cucarachas.

But, it was a good time and everyone seemed to enjoy it… even if much of the music was unrecognisable to an old fart like me. 

I admit to losing all faith in the DJ, when I told him toward the end of the evening, that it was about time he played Come On Eileen. “I don’t have it”, he said. 

Don’t have it?!  What sort of party DJ doesn’t have the  Midnight Runners’ greatest party hit?  A staple of every decent party playlist, surely? And my signature dance tune, to boot. They missed out on me busting some serious shapes, to that one.

Their loss.

But, there was also a walk-around magician. Everyone knows just how much I love magic and illusions, so he really made my night… although he probably thought I was a pain in the arse, following him around all night.

And there was a fight at the end of the night, which always rounds up a party nicely, I think.

I stayed over in the hotel, to save faffing about with taxis, etc, and it was great to be able to just stagger upstairs at the end of the night.

But, it nearly didn’t happen.

You see, I went up to the ATM to get some cash beforehand, but it refused to give me any. It was dishing out tenners willy-nilly to everyone else, but not to me. So, I phoned the bank. “Ahh, glad you called, we’ve been trying to contact you. We have put a temporary stop on your card due to some suspicious activity.”

“Riiight”, I said. “What kind of suspicious activity”

“Did you make a payment of five pounds to a company called TI Ltd, this morning…”

“No”, I said, stopping him in mid-flow.

He carried on though: “… followed by a payment of fifty pounds, one hundred and then two hundred pounds?”

I most definitely did not”, I stated. “I’ve never heard of TI Ltd. Who are they?”

“They are an online gambling company” he said, matter-of-factly. 

“Definitely not me. I don’t gamble. Never have.”

“This is why we have stopped your card.”

“But I need money. I’m going out tonight and need to pay for my hotel.”

“We will put a new card in the post to you.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t help me tonight.”

“Sorry. Is there anything else I can help you with?”, he asked, brightly.

Back at work, I went on the scrounge; begging people for money. Twenty quid here; a fiver there and, before long, I had eighty quid. That should be enough: it’s a free bar, so no money required there and the room is fifty quid. Sorted.

I checked in and handed five of the new fancy ten pound notes to the male receptionist. He looked disdainfully at the money resting in his hand. “It’s a hundred pounds”, he said, “Fifty pounds for a deposit”.

I explained that I didn’t have another fifty quid in cash. “You can use your card”, he said, and so I explained that it didn’t work. He shrugged his shoulders at me and handed my fifty quid back. He then watched as I spent the next twenty minutes, vainly trying to get hold of anyone on the phone who might be able to help. Eventually, he took pity on me and handed over the key to my room. “You can bring me the deposit later”, he said.
Thankfully, I promised him I would do so and then scarpered off at speed, with no intention of going back later.

I don’t know how the thieving bastards got hold of my card details, as I am always very careful with it, both online and otherwise, but it has certainly caused me quite an inconvenience.

If my new card doesn’t come through soon, Mrs M might have to pay for her own Christmas present!

Mutt News

We had a few concerns about Saber’s back leg: she would often cry out in pain if she put a lot of pressure on it and she didn’t like it being touched. So, knowing how German Shepherd dogs can be prone to problems with their hips, we booked her in for a check-up at the vets.

The vet checked her all over and said she was in fine form, but that there was some obvious tenderness around that particular leg. She suggested an X-ray, to see if there was an issue. At 300 quid, I wondered whether we could just take her up to the hospital, but apparently not. Saber was duly booked in and earlier this week, Mrs Masher took her back to the vets.

This time, she saw the owner of the practice, the venerable Julie. She checked Saber over fully, from head to toe, even sticking a finger up her fanny to check whether she was in season or not (well, that was her excuse for doing it, anyway). Then she got Mrs M to take Saber through the doggy obstacle course that they have in the back garden. She watched how she walked, trotted, turned and jumped and then declared that she doubted there was anything wrong and that an X-ray was not needed. Result! That’s a handy saving, just before Christmas!

However, she did say that we are giving her way too much exercise at this stage in her development. At nine months-old, this dog has so much energy and we now have to cut her exercise regime down by more than half!

It’s for the best, but the poor thing cannot understand why I don’t take her in the woods anymore and let her chase the squirrels. 

The bushy-tailed vermin, on the other hand, are probably quite glad of the respite.

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑