This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ideas 'n stuff

Having a weird few days of doing prototyping, brainstorming, experimenting and thinking and talking with cool people in Manchester and Glasgow, and today, though I am a little sore headed and tired, the hangover seems to be distilling some cracking ideas.

So, in an effort to estanblish 'prior art' ona few things, here are this mornings top ideas:

Arduino breakout sheild built into a notebook cover.

I've got this recycled pcb notebook, but wouldn't it be great if I could plug an arduino into it and use it as a giant breadboard, with LCD matrix and other stuff built in. Pages from the notebook could be used like the Oomlout breadboard overlays. This is a cracking idea, and we could just build it!

Wood Lathe app on the iPhone.
Use the accelerometer to drive the bit into the wood as is spins, the vibrator to give a feel for the bite. Choose woods, make designs, trade your turnings. Have the screen fill up with wood dust so you have to shake and blow it off. It's all nice, it's a delight. You can take it to a meeting and legitimately call it a workshop.

Other great things I have learned this week:
Only two tube stations contain no letters from the word Mackerel (AHA! No correction- there is no "Bow" station- so there's only ONE!)
The longest word you can make from the top row of a qwerty keyboard is 'typewriter'
The international space station runs on GMT

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Day at KW

After 60 years my dept is quitting it's historical, hysterical head quarters- the much vaunted, dodgily vaulted Kingswood Warren. And today is my last day on site. There's a mix of emotions here- actually rather a strong mix due to some very sad news we heard this morning, which I shan't go into here. Relating to the move though, one can't help imagining one hears snatches of Elgar's "Nimrod" echoing down the halls.

As a place to work, KW (as it's known to it's denizens) has charms and quirks a plenty. Huge spaces purpose built to shoot and show films, and converted decades ago to demonstrate television. Grand meeting suites with oak panels, and bay windows opening onto the croquet lawn. Here too was, for many years, the core of the BBC's onlne presence, built out of the sheer bloodymindedness of our now Cheif Scientist, Brandon Butterworth.

[Edit- I've just had a walk around the old site- and a grumble about the past is not the right send off]

What I won't miss about KW:
  • Having no clue what's happening in the rest of the BBC ever.
  • Missing lunch by 5 minutes.
  • The lingering debilitating depression of the Varney/Highfield era.
  • Vile tea and coffee.
  • No mobile reception.
  • Baking in summer, baking in winter (the central heating pipes liquid magma direct from the earths core to every single room)
  • Long tedious deeply depressing conversations about previous senior management in the canteen.
  • Empty offices and corridors echoing with the rattle of dismantling equipment.
What I will miss.

  • The Ceiling in A-Block reception.
  • That there's almost always a secret short cut from one place to another (it's great fun to finish a presentation to a room full of invited guests and then disappear through a hidden door!)
  • Mullioned windows
  • Flying rockets on the feild
  • Deer and fauns in the morning mist.
  • Seeing colleagues knocking mud from the allotments off their boots in the hall
  • Long facinating deeply technical conversations about everything from linear induction motors to victorial optical intruments in the canteen.
  • Always finding new rooms I never knew existed.
  • Bowling googlies on the lawn.
  • Carols in the snow.
  • Yoga in the club hut.
  • The Canteen Staff- stars one and all.
I know I never made the most of this place. I don't know if I could have. It seemed it had been here for ever, and we would never leave, but in an hour, I'm off.

* I joined R&D around the time of this lowest ebb, so much of this is hearsay, and in the interests of legal boilerplating, it can be read as a largely fictionalised account of the past.

CC Attribution to Rainrabbit for the mullioned window pic- one of very many lovely shots of KW from Rain.