17 February 2019
Weeknotes are quite (deliberately) simple this week.
Over at Highrigg I did a little writing, a lot of talking – some meetings, and one meaty design chat that got us to a good place – and a moderate amount of programming. That code took a project to some much better places: it’s now working off live data, which is easily replaced over time. To do that I had to wrap my head around Knex‘s approach to migrations and querying (which turned out to be largely sensible). I also discovered that whilst I still flail a little in lots of deeply nested React, Typescript on the backend is working out OK for me. I still miss Ruby, though.
And then, not on Highrigg, I:
- finished bagging a bunch of kits and posted them to Thonk (after having my bacon saved by Clerkenwell Screws – what a shop!
- nearly wrapped the design of this SAMD21-based circuit board, and ordered the rest of the parts for bringing it up.
- kicked the tires on some ideas for a programming workshop I’ll be running next month. Nothing massive – 1-2 hours – but using some visual programming tools to explore some key ideas around programming, whilst telling a meaningful story about it at the same time. We’re going to be doing a bunch of logo-ish work in a Scratch-like language, and hopefully go from ‘driving the turtle’ to ‘making programs that make sense to other people’. I think some of the pillars of the session are emerging. I should be writing that late next week.
And look: I did my Weeknotes on time, too.
20 January 2019
Let’s do this again.
…were Christmas. No news, as a result.
… and we’re back in the saddle.
First up: prepping and delivering a second weekend of teaching on Hyper Island MA. I like the second weekend; the students are deep into the brief, we can deliver some more challenging (and unusual) talks and content, and push them a little more in general. Again, loads of great questions and discussions; some great guests, with a workshop from Ultra IOT and a talk from Wesley; and then, at the end, some excellent presentations. So pleased to see how they’d all developed. Every project had at least one straight up “quiet-round-of-applause” from me: some new insight, or technique for presenting material I’d not seen, or an idea for interaction. It was highly satisfying, and I was wiped out by the end of the three intensive days (after a full week of client work).
Somewhere in week 314, before I went back into work proper, I wrapped up the work necessary to launch 16n – an abstract music controller. It’s sixteen faders, that output information in a variety of ways, and it’s up to musicians as to how to integrate it into their setups. Here, have a picture:
Rather than shipping this as a product, I’ve instead made the entire thing open source. The electronics schematics and board designs are CC-BY-SA, as are the panel designs; the firmware is MIT licensed. It means I can still bring them to market in a way, if I’d like, in due course – but for now, the community that’s eager to have them (because this has been in progress for a long while) can get on with making their own. Or, indeed, making them for each other; it’s very much fanufacture made flesh. There’s certainly been a nicely positive response so far – and we made Mouser sell out of the faders, for the time being…
Around that, I’ve been settling into the gig at Bulb Labs: making contacts, meeting people, and thinking by writing and listening. The team is coming together, as are the inklings of the first few projects there. It’s going to be a difficult gig to write about even in my slightly obtuse manner, but perhaps there’ll be a way into it in due course. We’ll make the path by writing, so to speak.
Hello, 2019. Let’s get on with this.
29 October 2018
Lots of time without weeknotes. Oops. But: lots has been going on.
Notably, Lambrigg wrapped up. The final weeks weren’t too crunchy, thankfully: just somesome busy, intense days to get to the finish line. In the final week we designed and wrote a new demo, re-coded both demos so that they could be more easily shared with colleagues, finalised two hardware prototypes, wrote our report and presentation deck, and got the whole thing into a shippable state. Phew.
It’s been a really nice shape of project. A research and development piece beginning – about three months ago – with background research, interviews, design reporting, a bit of strategy, and helping colleagues in the management team develop strategy further. Then, we moved into prototyping some preferred approaches in a manner that could be taken further if needed.
Across the project, I’ve conducted research interviews, done desk research into design and technology, explored possible technical approaches, designed some game prototypes, built software and firmware in Python, Ruby, Java/Processing, and C++. I’ve designed, fabricated and built up two different custom circuit boards that interface with one another, and built end-to-end prototypes that interface with a computer. I’ve produced CAD models for those boards for Tim to design around. By the end, we had turned all that into coherent physical prototypes with working demos.
That feels like a lot. Meaty work.
And then, I promptly got ill with endoftermitis: the come-down after pushing perhaps a wee bit hard. So I was off for a bit, and I think that threw my weeknotes muscle.
Since then, I’ve been working on a few things.
Firstly, decommissioning Holmfell – Erica Scourti’s _Empathy Deck_ – now that the Twitter API no longer supports, well, doing anything fun. We’ve said goodbye, and now we’re working out how best to properly archive a web project. That’s entailed not just taking dumps, but writing documentation for future users on what they are and how to interact with them. For instance, I’ve been turning some of the most significant Postgres tables into CSV – after all, as I say a lot, Excel is the prototyping tool everybody has on their desk, so it’s good to leave things in a state that doesn’t require me.
It also turns out the project generated around 17gb of images in its lifespan, so I’ve been trying to archive that in the most space- and time-efficient way possible. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that a little rsync goes a long way.
Over on Selworthy, we’ve been thinking a bit about infrastructure and operations, and choosing our next focus for incremental, ongoing improvement. I’ve also been prototyping some new interactions, which are going to be much easier to integrate with the existing front-end after the overhaul the team made to our front-end stack more recently.
I’ve started the work around preparing for this year’s Hyper Island Digital Technologies module. This year, it’s more of an incremental overhaul on last year, but it’s been good to start thinking about the structure and narrative of the module up-front. There’ll be more work on that in the weeks to come!
I’ve started conversations about a small R&D project called Sharphaw, which ties together some of my experience and expertise to help a company explore taking the objects they make and connecting them to internet services – a bit of IOT prototyping, a bit of thinking about service design, and fabricating a few things.
And, over on the music technology side: a small production run of kits for Thonk, and wrapping up an open-source community project I’ve been working on for a good while. I’m hoping to release that in week 306!
Phew. That’s a lot. Let’s try to do this more often.
03 September 2018
Fortnightnotes, owing to a long weekend away over the bank holiday.
At the end of week 296, Lambrigg had its own internal demo; Tim and I were cranking fairly hard to get that done – three days of code, audio recording, hasty art direction and game design.
The demo went very well: really well received, clearly understood, and loads of good questions (which is always a good sign). Initially I was relieved – everything worked, we met our goals – but I also left the demo highly satisifed with the positive response and enthusiastic feedback: I thought we’d done a fair pile of work to get it to where it was, and the team communicated that they could see that. So that’s great. Tim and I regrouped at the beginning of week 297 to set direction for the final phase of the project, and that’s now underway.
The bank holiday weekend extended a few days either side for family obligations, and then, just as I got back to work in week 297, I had a day sick at home with a brief headcold. Annoying! I recovered over the weekend, so week 298 begins on Monday (with these notes).
20 August 2018
Weeknotes are quiet at the moment, mainly because I’m fairly head-down and there’s just not a lot to see or show.
Over on Selworthy, I’ve been fettling some issues that involve interfacing remotely with other people’s tools and workflows. That makes the feedback loop a little slow, but we’re getting there, and I’m pleased with the route we’ve taken. More excitingly, we’re working at overhauling some front-end code I wrote a long while ago and bringing it in line with our more modern tooling – notably, better data-binding and more efficient DOM interactions. It’s the last really large piece of legacy code: a significant chunk of the app we’ve just left alone for a while, and now’s a good opportunity to rework it – not just for rewritings’ sake, but also for performance optimisations, and importantly – from my perspective – passing on this large chunk of knowledge to the team. Like much genuine technical debt, it’s been worth holding onto for a while, and now it’s the right time to pay it off.
Lambrigg marches on to an interim deadline towards the end of the month. There’s been lots of fabrication and prototyping – this week, I’ve been wrangling Python, C++, and the finer details of I2C busses to bring things closer to life. I made a decent breakthrough at the end of week 294 that turned week 295 into a week of good pace and functionality development. I even finally taught myself to write C++ classes, which, it turn out, I should have done long ago: they work exactly like classes do in my head, and they’re making things a lot tidier. Hopefully my embedded code in future will become tidier!
And finally, in the minutes between things, I wrapped up a few prototype components for Musuem in a Box; I’m hoping to deliver those for week 296. Some time evaluating specific ICs was well spent, and I think they’ve come together well.