I’m not even 40 and I’m a grumpy old man already. Here’s a letter I’ve written to my local council about a road in South Manchester, which people like to park their cars on when they shouldn’t.

Dear Chris, Rosa

Chris: Thanks as ever for engaging with my recent posts on Twitter regarding Palatine Road and the local road/cycling infrastructure. The conversation has been enlightening and entertaining, and I’m very grateful for your responsiveness.

[Chris Paul is one of the local councillors for my ward and a frequent champion of cycling matters]

Rosa: I’d like to take this opportunity…

So a while ago I got one of those little pink MacBooks. It’s a grand piece of kit and a significant upgrade from my 2010 vintage 11" air. This is roughly my twelfth mac since 1987, I guess that makes me count as an old-timer…

Dear Jeff,

I’d like to add my voice to those who have already contacted you about the referendum result.

Like many I’m deeply upset at the outcome. I am heartbroken by the consequences; both immediate — the rise of xenophobia, the economic and constitutional uncertainty, and long-term — the loss of freedoms, protections and opportunity afforded to every person (irrespective of nationality) living in the UK.

I’m glad that intelligent, cosmopolitan Manchester showed its colours and that we voted firmly to remain — on that I’d like to congratulate you and the remain campaign.

However I do not “accept” the…

I like trains.

Actually it’s not so much the trains, it’s the railways. Where they go, the possibilities of getting to places, the routes and the bridges and the tunnels and the view through the window on the ever changing landscape.

It’s also the people and the conversations and the unexpected connections along the journey.

Tomorrow morning my family and I shall be hopping on a local train into town, taking the WCML down to London, and thence a Eurostar to Paris for a long weekend. The journey will take 6 hours and 9 minutes door to door — or…

Look! Here’s a video of me talking about Boardcam at Bettakultcha in Manchester — and going into the whys and wherefores of it.

My previous post about Boardcam (now known affectionately as Chris) mentioned that it would be rather nice if the image could be cropped down to remove our dining table, condiments and other kitchen paraphernalia.

Unprocessed camera output

We start with the raw image out of the camera and are looking for the largest rectangular shape in the image. That should be a breeze for OpenCV. Only I’ve gone and made life difficult for myself:

  • The border of the board…

… my GCSE tech/electronics project was the “Wonder Waterer”.

It was solving a real problem.

My family normally went to France for the best part of the summer, and plant maintenance during this time was a genuine problem for us. We’d come home to at least one tray of desiccated geraniums despite deputising it to the neighbours. Plus I had taken a teenage interest in psychedelic horticulture – which my parents seemed to tolerate with mild amusement.

It consisted of a wooden box containing a power supply and a circuit board of my own design, hooked to a sealed metal…

At the end of the last post about my BoardCam project I had a semi-working setup. My home brew thing was producing live-ish photographs of our whiteboard which we can access from our phones when out of the house. Unfortunately that included pictures at night when the lights were out.

Simulated darkness

So, what do we do about this? In the absence of a dedicated light sensor (which totally would be another way to do it) we need to figure out the overall brighness of the images we are taking and discard any which don’t meet a certain level.

For purposes of…

This is probably blatantly obvious, but the Internet of Things is not really about the Things. Startups are not really about whatever product or service they are making. They are about the money, and changing the behaviour of people in order to extract money from them.

That money could come from directly selling the things, or subscription services and consumables (eg content, razor blades) atop of the things. And there’s the data — by using the behaviour derived from people via the things one feeds it back into the loop of the product’s utility and offers services to third parties.

So we have our low-tech whiteboard and want to turn it into a Thing. Our core requirement is as follows:

I want to be able to see the board when I’m not in the house.

That should be pretty easy. All we need is a webcam pointing at the board and some way to view the images from outside.

Of cabbages and kings

I could have grabbed an off-the-shelf webcam… There are many Things out there designed for surveillance or as baby monitors and so forth. However they are all geared by way of software to their own applications and not necessarily very hackable.

Running a household is an exercise in project management.

At least, that’s how we see it. I (Sam) am a software engineer and my wife (Sarah) is a nurse, so both our professional lives are all about getting shit done — and finding good ways to get said shit done.

Shortly after moving in together, we installed a large dry-wipe noticeboard in our kitchen. We figured it would be useful, and that if nothing else we could write cutesy messages to each other on it. It has become the one source of truth for our household. We hold a board…

Sam Easterby-Smith

Consulting Creative Technologist and Earth Mother. http://easterby-smith.com

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