Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Project "Thomas Watch" enabling Autism using radio's

My Son Thomas, is 11, he has autism and is struggling with his independence a little bit.

He likes to ride his bike around the street, but sometimes get distracted or goes off a little far.

I do stand outside and keep an eye on him, but when he goes around the block, those 5 minutes or so out of sight can be a little bit nerve racking, knowing he may get distracted or head off somewhere without letting me know.

I found on EBay the Baofeng 888 no thrills UHF radio for under £10 each delivered.
I set them up on the PMR frequencies and have successfully shown Thomas how to use them

The box contains 2 radios, docking station and USB charge plug, rubber duck antenna, wrist strap and also additional headset / microphone 

I added the Autism Awareness stickers to the radio, in case Thomas is approached by anyone or needs to make them aware of his condition. It just a quick added visual for the general public.

The handset is fairly small, no display to distract from its main function and is easy t use (even little hands) Volume is loud and clear as is the microphone. You can set up CTCSS and DTS to keep out interference as needed. You can also enable VOX (voice operated PTT) if needed.

My idea is now to share radios with friends and neighbours in the street to help keep an eye on Thomas, but it also goes the other way around that we can keep an eye on the other children in the area.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Egham Raspberry Jam hosted by Gartna in Staines Middx. Sunday.

Oscar (red) Leo (Blue) looking at a few of the projects

Bob taking a look at the raspberry pi controlling LED colour and brightness

Oscar and Leo learning about how electricity conducts and makes a sound, Scratch and raspberry pi  

Some coding in scratch on the raspberry pi, to make the octopus make a sound, several channels available, also some hidden features which make the onscreen octopus miaow and moves (hidden features)

Oscar and leo using a BBC microbit with geo sensor to control a toy crane (tilt the controller to control)

Oscar with the BBC microbit controlling the crane project.

Oscar playing SNAKE using a BBC microbit as a tilt controller

Leo blowing a fan to create a graph using a BBC Microbit

many sensors and displays.

Bob playing a game on the smallest LCD I have ever seen BBC Microbit

Close up of the LCD screen

Oscar playing rubic's cube via the raspberry pi Python code, notice the LCD touch screen 

Changing colour and rotating 

Oscar and Leo found retropi on the raspberry pi 3 and played happly for an hour on Mario cart and super mario 64 ;-)

Oscar controlling a raspberry pi rover with a wireless controller

Tiny LCD close up in high res.
High res Oscar and Leo on the BBC microbit controlled crane

James took an oppertunity to play radio / satellites

Kempton park radio rally on Sunday

Bob M6FLT using the Arrow satellite antenna at Kempton park on Sunday.

James M0JFP Meets RSGB Region 10 Manager Mick G4EFO at Kempton park rally
Spot the YOTA badge ;-)

James M0JFP in front of the ATV van at the rally 

James M0JFP with the arrow antenna working SO-50 from Kempton park rally.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Thinking of sharing your raspberry pi image, Save time by shrinking the image first (also some security tips)

Considering sharing a Raspberry Pi Image, or using one?

When you think you have a great Raspberry pi image and you want to share it to the world for testing and comments, there is nothing more frustrating that an oversized image which takes ages to download and even longer to install on the SD card.

First lets get rid of the packages we don't need and take up the most room from a default raspberry pi image

sudo apt-get remove --purge libreoffice-*
sudo apt-get remove --purge wolfram-engine

Now we need to make a copy of your SD card (image)

Credit to Andrew Oakley:

Making the Image

Let's start by making an image. Pop your SD card in your PC's card reader. Most likely the file manager will open a window or two. Close these windows if so.
Now find out where the card is mounted. Go to a terminal session and type:
df -h
You'll see something like:
/dev/sde1                   56M   20M   37M  36% /media/aoakley/boot1
/dev/sde2                  7.2G  3.8G  3.0G  56% /media/aoakley/ec2aa3d2-eee7-454e-8260-d145df5ddcba
The important thing is that you now know that your SD card is on /dev/sde . It has two partitions, /dev/sde1 and /dev/sde2.
Your system might mount the card somewhere else, such as /dev/sdg or even /dev/sdb. Make a note of where your card is mounted and use this wherever I use /dev/sde , /dev/sde1 or /dev/sde2.
Let's unmount this but leave the card in the card reader. This will let us take an image.
sudo umount /dev/sde1 /dev/sde2
Obviously if yours is on /dev/sdb or /dev/sdg or whatever, you'll need to type that in appropriately. It is highly unlikely that your SD card is on /dev/sda unless you're mad enough to do this entirely on a Raspberry Pi. Typically /dev/sda will be your hard disk or SSD, so don't mess with that.
sudo might ask for a password. Check that you really, really haven't typed /dev/sda unless you really, really know what you're doing, then enter your password.
I use dcfldd for making card images, which is a replacement for the old dd disk duplication program. dcfldd has a number of improvements, most notably a progress meter so you can see it working, and be confident that it hasn't crashed.
Install dcfldd if you haven't already got it (it won't hurt to try to install it again):
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dcfldd
Now take the image. Again, change /dev/sde to wherever your SD card is mounted.
sudo dcfldd if=/dev/sde of=imagename.img
You can change imagename to whatever you like - I use YYYYMMDD dates and names, so 20151009-tutorial.img for example.
The image will start to be taken, together with a nice progress counter (which you don't get with old-style dd ). When it finishes there may be a pause before you get the command line prompt back - give it a minute or two to flush the cache.
Once finished, you should force a synchronise of any outstanding input or output (there shouldn't be any, but just to be sure), then the card will be safe to remove.
sudo sync
You may now safely remove the card.
Next, let's change the ownership of the .img file. The image file will be owned by root (because we used sudo). It's probably a wise move to change the ownership to your user. For example, my username is james but you'll need to change this to your username:
sudo chown james.james imagename.img
We use james twice because we are changing both the ownership and the group.
Okay, you've got an image file; you have backed up your SD card. But it's probably quite a big file - as big as the SD card itself. Let's start making it smaller.

Using a simple script

next we need to copy a script and make it executable on our system.

Credit to Andrew Oakley here: 
as it is his script we will be using.

copy or download the script from this link:

create a new file in your home folder (on your linux box)

escape a (insert)
edit paste
escape : w q (escape save file and quit)
chmod 7777 (modify file to be executable)

Now test the file runs ok type: sudo ./
should get the following output:

To run the script simply type: sudo ./ image.img smallimage.img

Once it finishes running (minute or so) we get the following output

as you can see we now have  a new image which is .2GB smaller, results will vary, the above was just run on the standard Jessie image (without removing the office and other packages)

Security warning!!!!

A word about distributing images on the Internet.
Remember if you have used the image with any personal information (e-mail, web browsing, etc.) then all of this history will be in the image file. you e-mail account, any saved user names and passwords, this is quite scary.

Similarly, if you download a shared image be aware this could contain programs which collect and share your data. any old script could be running in the back ground and sharing all sorts of personal information back to the  distributor.

One very quick fix is to ensure the public and private SSH keys are changed so that no one can get access to your Raspberry Pi computer remotely.

  1. Become root, or append ‘sudo’ on the front of all the following commands.
  2. Delete old ssh host keys: rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*
  3. Reconfigure OpenSSH Server: dpkg-reconfigure openssh-server
  4. Update all ssh client(s) ~/.ssh/known_hosts files otherwise you’ll get the REMOTE HOST KEY HAS CHANGED error message.

Online / Web based Kiwi SDR WSPR monitoring stations at your disposal

The new KIWI SDR allows users to share their station on-line and allow us to log in and tune around.

Go to the follow web page pick a location / SDR you want to use

On most of the stations you will have the control panel in the bottom left side of the screen, this will allow you to change band and mode, some of the HF stations have a box for extension, the last optin in there is WSPR and you can open a web based WSPR monitor. This could be useful to see if you are spotted at all?

Select WSPR option and the box below will also open on the screen.

Firstly select the band you wish to monitor.
Note if you choose to upload, the owners details are used. On some systems its quite slow to get the data decoded (3 minutes plus) but as you can see we do get some results.

If you visit the WSPR net web site you can search for the websdr call sign (in our case KH6ILT)

As you can see the spots have been uploaded and you can see good graphical representation linking each spot back to its location.

This is by far the simplest way we have found to pop up a WSPR monitoring station thanks to some dedicated SDR owners and to Kiwi for the software (and hardware of course) support.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Wendover woods, looking at a SOTA site

As it was good Friday, I decided to take the Children on a bit of an adventure and head over to Wendover woods near High Wycombe / Chilterns / Amersham.

This is a national Trust site, has good facilities including on site lots of parking for about £4, reasonable toilet, and a cafe.

The Children are kept entertained by a large play park, several trails, which they can take part in building camps and searching for the infamous Gruffalo 

This stone is placed t mark the summit of the hill.

Leo and Oscar with their ice creams ...

Bob M6FLT with his home made 2/70 yagi and the Arrow antenna (CQ sats)

Bob M6FLT using the HF in the mobile, much needed coffee break and warm up

Thomas, Leo and Oscar found the Gruffalo after a good long walk 

James M0JFP listening to the ISS talking to a school in France....see below:

James M0JFP Arrow antenna and baofeng handie working So-50

The arrow antenna taking a break....