Talking to satellites

Starting work on SpaceCom  to enable error free communication between satellites and the ground using the  NASA TC SPACE DATA LINK PROTOCOL CCSDS 232.1-B-2


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New Mexico Senate Webcaster

Every session of the New Mexico state senate since 2009 has been webcast using a computer application designed and coded by SpeakerToRobots.

The chair recognizes one of the senators. When the senator begins to speak, one of three cameras has already swung into position and is webcasting the perfect image. The application stores over 50 preset positions for each camera, automatically selecting and moving the cameras into position whenever the speaker changes, using the VISCA protocol over RS232.

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In the 1980s this Canso flying boat was photographed over the Gatineau Hills searching for ore deposits using a new electromagnetic system called SWEEPEM.  Built in the 1940s to hunt submarines under the North Atlantic, the aircraft’s ability to flow low, slow and long was ideal for detecting metallic ores buried deep underground.  I developed the signal processing and real time control software for SWEEPEM and operated the system aboard the Canso for the calibration flights.  In this article written for Survey Magazine and published in 1985 I described the work.



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A showcase for some recent work on real time signal processing

There are five applications comprising the heart of the software in this system:

  1.  Mixer which does the signal processing
  2.  GUI which helps the user to edit the 100 plus configuration parameters
  3.  PDG which produces the pretty graphs seen in the showcase video
  4.  WV ( waveform visualizer ) which enables user to monitor and “teach” the Mixer how to identify cardiac signals.
  5.  Unit Tester

Added together these have 40,000 lines of pure code, excluding comments and white space.


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Nana is a cross-platform library for GUI programming in modern C++ style.

v1.5.5 was released this week and includes a small contribution from me that allows application code to set the default width of text entry fields.

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Hour of Code

Two little kids with big grins came to fetch me.  Roy and Kasha looked as delighted as I felt to be rescued from the grey busyness going on among the grey adults in the school admin office.

Up the stairs and along the corridors lined with lockers, just like the ones seen in tv shows, the classroom held two dozen more kids grouped in threes and fours.  Their postures were terrible.  It was not just that they slouched.  Their arms and lags stuck out at odd angles like rose bushes that needed pruning, many heads were resting on desktops just as if they had marched for a week to get here and faces were sheltered behind a hand or shoulder as if they were so many shy Victorian maidens. It was all a bit of a shock for someone who was last in school in rural Scotland where we sat in ordered ranks, backs straight and facing forward.

So, anyway, I launched into my introduction. When I am working on Computer Science I call myself ‘Speaker To Robots’.  I write code that lets people control their robots.  Robots speak one language and people understand a completely different language, so they need me to help out.  Let me tell you about a few of the robots I have spoken to …

Glancing around the untidy heaps of limbs that were my audience, I was caught by a bright flash of white from every pair of eyes.  I realized that they were all paying close attention. Suddenly I was enjoying myself.

I finished up. Time for you to talk to some robots yourself.  These are the characters that move around and interact in the world of Minecraft.  The world is not real, it is a simulation, but the robots that populate the world are real robots – they work in the same way as real-life robots and you can talk to them, control them, in just the same way

They plunged in without hesitation.  They zoomed.   The room filled with a happy hubbub. These kids knew what they were doing, they were focused on getting it done, and with a speed that astonished me the puzzles were ticked off.  I wandered around looking for someone who was stuck, but really I only needed to offer praise.

The best thing was the energy and application.  The kids were busy trying this and that.  No-one was hung up on what I have seen so many adult novice programmers hung up on: looking for the problem.  Instead of sitting, waiting for inspiration to strike, they were busy.

It was a short hour and when the bell rang they all rushed off for lunch.

Hour of Code



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A bus trip planner application for windows desktops coded in C++11, capable of finding the optimal trip between two locations through the Nottingham City bus network in less than 2 milliseconds.


  1. User inputs an unlimited number of bus timetables.
  2. User inputs walking times between bus stations.
  3. User request timetable and walking times to be read from input files, OR from database constructed from input files entered on previous run of application.
  4. User inputs real time deviations from timetables, indicating current route departures which are running early, late or have been cancelled.
  5. User inputs trip specification:  start time, start location, destination location.
  6. User chooses interactive mode.  In the default batch mode, program reads timetables and calculates one trip.  In interactive mode the timetables are read once and the user can enter multiple trip planning requests.
  7. Application calculates shortest trip from start to destination, including necessary transfers between routes and walks between stations, taking into account any real time deviations using the Dijkstra shortest path algorithm.
  8. Display shows total trip time.
  9. Display shows wait at start station
  10. Display shows each station stop on trip
    1. Time.
    2. Route number
    3. Station location
  1. Display shows, when necessary to transfer to another route
    1. Wait time
  1. Display shows, when necessary to walk between stations
    1. Walk time.
    2. Wait time.

Download complete documentation

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