Review: Emily Eternal, by M.G. Wheaton

When writing fantasy or science fiction set in the far future you can get away with plot devices that are not available to writers describing the current day or near future. It’s normal in fantasy to have magic and world mechanics that would be implausible in the real-world. Far future science fiction can also get away with magic (sorry, “sufficiently advanced technology”). Near future science fiction, in my opinions needs to be a little bit more careful and this is one area where “Emily Eternal” fails badly.

This review includes spoilers.

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Hello Oric! Getting aquainted with the Oric and Oric Atmos

I never owned an Oric computer in my youth, but to Ghene’s despair, I have been aquiring old hardware off Ebay over the last couple of years. I managed to get my hands on an Oric-1 and an Oric Atmos earlier this year but only got as far as powering them on and verifying that they appeared to work.
I recently had a surprising amount of fun loading Spectrum software from tape and since I now knew I had a working tape recorder I thought I should try some of the small collection of Oric tapes I received with the Oric-1.

First up was dig dog and the Oric-1…

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New hardware, old tapes: Loading programs from cassette tape on the ZX Spectrum Next

In my teenage years I must have spent hours listening to strange bleeping sounds and watching flashing horizontal stripes as I waited for softare to load from cassette tape. It’s an experience that I thought I’d left behind me back in the 1980s. However, back in March 2020 the Spectrum Next kickstarter delivered on it’s promise to produce a ZX Spectrum re-imagined for the 21st century. I didn’t back the accelerated version, but had a spare Raspberry Pi Zero lying and for a while I was content with loading .tap and .tzx (assisted by the R’Pi) files and re-living some of the games of my youth. However, I volunteered to help beta-test a program to convert files on tape to .tap files on SD card…

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The Olympus Air camera: The future that could have been

The Olympus Air A01 camera is the first, and as far as I know, only Olympus “Open Platform Camera” (OPC). The concept was interesting: provide a camera that could use standard micro four thirds lenses that was designed to be controlled remotely. The camera is smaller than many of the lenses you can use it with and consists of a cylindrical body with a diameter of 57mm and is only 43.6mm long.

Why in 2020, am I writing about a camera released in 2015? I’ve been having a bit of a clear out and came across some of the 3D-printed accessories for the Air. Having decided not to keep them I felt I might as well document Ghene Snowdon’s and my experience with it.

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Getting started with Nybble the robot cat

I made my own robot dog from a discarded remote controlled K9 (and I still need to write that up). Obviously, I needed a cat to balance things out. The trend seems to be for home robot campaigns on Indiegogo to not end well (looking at you Aido, Alpha2, Buddy, Jibo, Vector); however when I saw the campaign Nybble - World’s Cutest Open Source Robotic Kitten it looked much more grounded in reality. Also, unlike some of the robots I just mentioned it was quite affordable.

I backed the campaign, read on to see what it delivered.

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Review: No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West

My family visited Knole in 2019 and it was there that I first heard of Vita Sackville-West. I was struck by the injustice of her loving Knole and wanting to live there but not being allowed to inherit because she was a woman. Vita Sackville-West was a prolific author and the bookshop at Knole had a number of her books in stock and I decided to read “No Signposts in the Sea” as it felt most accessible to me.

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Getting started with Duckietown

The Duckietown foundation aims to make self-driving technology more accessible by providing an open-source platform and teaching materials.

I backed the Kickstarter campaign and got the material to assemble two duckiebots and some road segments.

I’ve currently followed the steps in the duckiebot manual to assemble my duckiebots and have completed camera and wheel calibration.

Here’s a fairly unimpressive video of me testing the motor trim by seeing how closely the robot would follow the centre line when driven forward. It’s not great but probably good enough when combined with feedback from the camera.

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