Welcome


This site originated back in 2001 after I purchased my first micro heli (Ikarus Piccolo) and began learning to fly helicopters. It then evolved ( as I did) to cover my further interest in RC helicopters and other RC models such as tanks and boats, together with my son's interest in RC cars the site soon filled up with lots of info. Since then its expanded and now covers all my hobbies and interests, something of a blog but still very much based on RC and Modeling interests. I'm hoping that the trend will continue and that the site will still be of interest to all those who visit it. I welcome any comments or requests and try to reply within 48 hrs of receiving e-mails. (Ideal screen settings 1920 x 1080)

 

MK4 Vivarium Controller

Most of my electronics projects have been based around PIC micro's including my controller for the four reptile enclosures. A friend is very pro Ardunio and has been trying to get me to move over to the dark side for ages. Well as I wanted to experiment with a colour TFT screen, and had time on my hands I hooked up the screen and downloaded an example sketch and could instantly see where this could go. I soon had the time from a DS1307 being displayed on the TFT screen, than the temperature from a DS18B20.... I could feel another project coming on :)

One issue I have with the current MK3 controller is that it uses a serial board to display data from the PIC to a 128 x 64 GLCD which often hiccups and doesn't update, so a re-boot of the controller is required. So this directly driven TFT would be the ideal solution, plus the colour makes it more interesting visually. So a plan was put together, and with the help from my friend Ricky the code was developed over weekends and evenings of a six to eight week period.

I had the project running on a solderless breadboard for several weeks before designing a PCB that would plug directly into the Mega2560 used to develop the project. I sent the gerbers off to PCBWay in China and in less than a week received the boards shown on the right. - This is the eighth project that I've had PCBWay make boards for and I can't say enough about the super quality standards of the final boards, and the quick turn-around service they have. Excellent is the only word I can use.

I'm just waiting on some components and then I can build the first board and see if my design works !

HEQ5 Mount Issues

The other day I thought I would see how the sun looked, so powered up the mount from the 13.8v bench PSU, booted the PC, placed the solar filter on the scope and slewed to the sun. A few moments later I could smell electrical burning coming from the area under the desk around the PC / PSU - I bent down to check the PC and as I did glanced at the PSU to see that it was still showed nothing untoward such as a massive current draw, which it wasn't. Showing little over an amp being drawn. However the PSU then went POP and the display went out. I disconnected the wires to the mount and removed the unit.


I needed to park the scope so I got a spare 12v -2amp wall block PSU from an old network switch and connected that to the mount. I tested with a DVM to confirm 12v (11.97 to be exact) was being provided. Regular visitors will know that I use EQMOD to control the scope and as it still displayed Long / Lat/ RA / DEC info etc, suggested the mount was communicating with the PC, but I couldn't hear that audible high pitch whine from the mount, and using the gampad or PC the mount fails to move. I did however hear that initial clunk you get when you first power on the mount, so power is getting to something, although manually turning the motors there was no difference in resistance when power is turned on or off. I tested with a DVM and I was getting 5v (or close enough) on the main board connectors at various pins. It was also confirmed by the developer of EQMOD that as EQMod can communicate with the PC via serial the main board was functional as it communicated directly to the PIC on the motherboard. As this suggest the main board is functional and the PIC micro was running the issue was else where.

I posted the issue on a forum and received a private message from a guy who used to run his own astronomical business. He suggested replacing the two 470uf capacitors (shown top left of the image on the right). As I had two suitable replacements in the electronics box these were swapped out and the board reinstalled. Pleased to say this fixed the board and the scope is now fully operational - the cost - less than 50p !!

Wireless Microphones

An opportunity presented itself at the end of November 2017 which was too good to miss. A friend and serious astronomy imaging specialist was invited to give a talk at his local village hall. I suggested that it would make a good opportunity to video it and make some DVD's available for anyone who missed the talk. He agreed and then I realised that running metres of cable for a corded microphone would be a problem. The answer was to get a set of wireless microphones.

I spent a few days searching the internet and watching review / comparison videos on youtube before settling down on the K&F Concept M8. This was also very reasonably priced so my mother treated me to an early Christmas present.

These arrived the day before the talk, so testing was limited, but the small amount of testing I did manage proved that they gave a rich sound with good sensitivity. I arrived at the venue and set the camera up at the rear of the hall. The hall could seat 60-70 people comfortably, which resulted in my friend being around 50 feet or so from the camera. The mic was placed and the receiver attached to the camera. I monitored the audio via some headphones, and was pleased to hear that the quality of the sound was clear with no interference.

The resulting video was edited down to two 40 minute productions, which included animated diagrams and images in post production which were then inter cut with the live footage with audio overlaid. The two productions were then burnt to DVD and tested. Duplicated form this master DVD was produced and the first batch of DVD's placed on sale at my friends local pub.

Anyone looking for a low cost wireless microphone then I recommend the K&F Concept M8's

Lighting Controller Project

 

Having a fair amount of spare time on my hands whilst recovering from a broken ankle I looked at projects that I've had floating around in the back of my head and started putting them into practice. The first project was to revamp the dolls house lighting module to make it more generic for use in other sectors. I also needed to make it smaller as I am looking at selling these so needed to reduce costs. A few mornings with DipTrace and I hade redesigned the PCB to use a 16 x 2 LCD display, and 8A MOSFETs. The final layout can be seen on the right.

Once the design was checked, the board was ordered from PCBWay who operate a fantastic service and I've used them for all my PCB manufacturing projects. At the time of writing this update the boards are half way through manufacturing.

The controller uses an 18F2620 PIC, DS1307, PCA9685 and eight dual 8A MOSFETs to give 16 independently programmable lighting channels, each with 4096 dimming levels. Originally designed for use in our 10 room 1/12th scale dolls house, this can now be used for model railways, raceways, or professional displays where automated lighting is required. Connecting the outputs to a SSRs could permit the switching of mains lighting, although that is something that is outside the scope of the project.

YouTube

 

Back in March 2017 I had the urge to get back into the hobby of making video recordings and opted to upgrade the 15 year old camcorder. The old one wasn't even 16:9 wide screen let along HD !

So after a lot of deliberation, and to future proof myself, I opted for a 4K Panasonic HC-VX870, and have been very pleased with what it's produced so far. I've added a Rode microphone, and a couple of accessories, and purchased Power Director 15 to do the editing with. This was also one of the reasons I chose to build a new PC rather than try and upgrade the old.

Most of the content produced has been around the rebuilding of some PCs, and documenting various rail tours through the area, including steam hauled trains.

I have a Youtube channel where content is uploaded - please feel free to have a look and subscribe