Daytrip to Margate

About three weeks ago I bought a log flume from a seller on Ebay. It was definitely an impulse buy. The auction was due to end one evening and I put in a cheeky bid expecting it to be declined and woke up the next day to find I was the new owner of a used log flume for £120.

When I told my colleague at work he also temporarily lost his sanity and bought a roller coaster car from the same seller based in Margate. These things really don’t come up for sale very often and we both felt we could create some crazy projects around VR using these.

After some difficult communication with the seller, we finally departed Slough on Sunday at 8.00am to drive the 100+ miles to Margate to collect both items.

It was a cold day with snow on the ground but we made good time and arrived around 10.30am in my colleagues van. The seller was still on holiday in the U.S but his colleagues were on hand to show us the items. It immediately became clear these were very large and very heavy requiring 4 or more people to lift and there were two of us. After an hour and half of lifting, winches, ratchet straps and to be honest Chris’s lifting ability more than mine, we managed to get the rollercoaster in the back of the van and turned our attention to the log flume. It was quickly obvious the log flume was too big and heavy to fit in the van with the rollercoaster. I remembered the seller was also offering some smaller log flumes for the same value and after a quick discussion it was agreed we would take one of these instead and again loaded in the van after some time and effort.

By this point it was early afternoon. Chris’s van has no heating and after loading these items we were cold and thirsty. We were told of an indoor market called the Old Kent Market where we could get some refreshments and walked around the corner to see what they had to offer. Its a fantastic little indoor market with lots of character offering food and beverages and some small indoor market stalls. We had a lovely coffee and warmed up then visited a couple of the antique shops nearby before making the 2 hour journey home in the fresh snow.

The last picture shows my log flume hidden in our server room at work after loading into the lift and taking it up to the first floor.


Arcade Machine Project Part 1

This is the start of another arcade machine project inspired by something similar I saw being sold on Ebay. It was an arcade system using Jamma or Raspberry Pi made using recycled wood.

I found someone selling old pallets on Ebay for a £1 in Slough and bought 3 thinking this should be more than enough wood for the job. The intention is to break up the pallets into strips of wood, remove any nails and then sand and varnish. I will then cut the wood to make a table top arcade machine big enough for a at least a 19″ TFT monitor or whatever else I can scrounge. I will buy some arcade joystick, buttons, speakers and then I haven’t yet decided whether I go down the usual Raspberry Pi route or with some sort of Jamma/MAME system, perhaps even one of the Pandora boxes that come with hundreds of game ROM’s already built in and can be bought cheaply from Ebay sellers?

Total cost to date £3 for pallets

More to follow…

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Nerf’ing Good fun

Bought this a few weeks ago from Argos for about £15. A Nerf gun with battery operated firing that can fire up to 10 rounds in quick succession from its revolving chamber. Works up to about 20M and can be fairly accurate. Certainly accurate enough to annoy some of my colleagues although everyone has fired it in anger at some point.


Sunfounder DIY Arcade Kit

I first saw these online some time ago but they have been out of stock or quite expensive to get hold of in the company. Finally, Ali Express had a fantastic deal on and it was actually cheaper for me to buy from them with shipping from the US.

Bought this in January for $35.99. Cheaper than I can get in the U.K. Delivery was quoted as up to 40 days but I think I had to wait for about 10 days so was very happy with this.

This is a kit to make an arcade machine using a Raspberry Pi computer. It comes with everything you need except the Raspberry Pi and the software including:

1 x Arcade Joystick Kit (screws and fixing plates included)

6 x Arcade Buttons

1 x Paper Box

1 x 8G Micro SD Card

1 x Raspberry Pi GPIO Reference Card

1 x Guide Brochure

Several Wires

The box arrived well packaged and already looked funky from the outside. I decided to take this into work and get my students to help build it and learn some maker skills. Beow is what the kit looks like when taken out of the outer packaging. You can see the precut holes for buttons and joystick with the colourful artwork. Although this is just a printed cardboard box it still felt fairly rigid and like it will take a reasonable amount of abuse.


Once opened there is some foam packing to keep everything in place and momentarily hide the goodies underneath.


This quickly gives way to the goodies inside. Everything seemed well packaged and in separate compartments to make it easier to identify everything.


Here’s the contents:

The buttons just push fit into the precut holes in the box.


You then need to take the four screws out that secure the top plate of joystick so it can be fitted into the top of the box:


The kit even includes a little GPIO reference board that slips over the pins to help ensure you connect the wires correctly – a nice little touch.



After this, its time to connect the buttons and joystick together. The Raspberry Pi just sit sin the bottom of the box although we plan to secure it better using some sticky pads of some kind.



And the finished hardware setup..


Follow this guide for downloading and installing RetroPie onto the free SD card supplied with the kit. Don’t forget you will need an SD card reader/writer and Etcher installed on a PC to write the RetroPie image to the SD card.

The kit comes with full instructions to help set up the Raspberry Pi and the controls..


I will update the post later this week when we finish the setup and copy some game ROM’s (legalley owned of course) onto the RetroPie setup. More to follow….




















Kickstarter – Raspad

I think this might be my 10th crowdfunded purchase from Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I have bought a couple of different Sunfounder products in the past to make Raspberry Pi based projects and usually find them excellent although not always easily available in the U.K – see previous blog posts.

Saw this advertised some time ago and as soon as they launched I had backed them within a couple of hours. Considering how many Pi based projects I make in a year, I think this will help me to complete projects in some sort of all-in-one development environment that’s also portable. Cant wait for mine to arrive. I will post an update to this post when mine arrives with my first impressions.


Ao, Lets go

…. or not as seems to be the case. The advert looks good. A huge range of products and good prices. However this is another company with poor customer service. I expect things to go wrong sometimes but its how the company put’s things right that counts.

Ordered a Sony PS4 console from ao and received an email notification that it would be delivered three days later. This is quite a long time these days as companies like Amazon deliver next day typically.

I was off work on the day they said they would deliver the item and patiently waited for it to arrive. I used their parcel tracking service and saw that my delivery was the third delivery in line. Then 2nd, then expected in a few minutes. This is good, I thought, real-time delivery tracking.

Then I get a phone call… I thought this would be the driver struggling to find our address. No, it was a lady from their logistics office who told me the drivers had forgotten to load my parcel and with barely an apology (she clearly did not care at all) said it would arrive on Saturday, two days later instead.

So, I contacted their customer services team, eager to express my feelings and hoping they would make more of an effort to resolve this matter. Below is their rather stock reply that certainly didn’t make me feel like an important customer:

Good Morning Paul
Thanks for getting in touch. I’m very sorry to read of the issue you had with your order. This is certainly not the experience we want any of our customers to have and I sincerely apologise that this has been the case.
It is very rare that an item isn’t loaded onto a delivery van and our Delivery Team do all they can to avoid this happening. Your comments will be passed onto them so that this failing can be investigated and further improvements made.I have checked your order and can see that the delivery is rebooked for tomorrow. Please extend our apologies to your family member and I hope you will consider shopping with us again so that we can show you the true AO experience. If there is anything else I can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

I sent a second message in reply to this and just explaining that as they had done little to resolve this situation, I would not being doing business with them this time let again in the future. I used their rather strange cancel my order link where you have to manually enter your personal and order details and below is the 2nd response:

Good Afternoon 

Thank you for getting in touch. I’m very sorry to read that you wish to cancel your order. It is understandable following the issues you recently had with your order.Since your email, I can see my colleague Callum has already responded and it seemed that the delivery had now been rebooked in place for tomorrow (3rd March).At this present stage we cannot cancel the order until the goods are rejected at your property therefore if you still no longer require the PS4 then we’d recommend that once the drivers arrive that you do not require the goods and they will send these via return. Should you wish to keep the order then we’d recommend still accepting tomorrows delivery. In addition to this, we will also honour a 10% discount off your next order due to the inconvenience. This can be applied simply by quoting your new reference and current reference in the subject field. I hope the above explained is ok for you though if you wish to discuss in more detail, don’t hesitate to ring in or respond direct to this email.

So now apparently I cant even cancel the order. I did a phone call from the delivery driver on Saturday and I told him not to bother coming to my property as we wouldn’t accept the delivery as they had forgotten to load it onto their van a few days before.

It would have been nice if they had at least offered to send a replacement the same or next day but another two days wait when this was meant as a present. I had taken time to spend at home waiting in. They could perhaps have offered a small discount as some form of compensation? Anyway, if you want your item in less than a week and don’t want to waste your time sitting at home, you might want to rethink ordering anything from this company. I’m sure there are lots of customers who have received their orders and are happy with the price and service received but I also expect their to be just as many customers like me.

As a final epilog to this situation, I just read a guide from suggesting I am entitled to co compensation from them for taking time off work to wait in for the parcel. They supply a template for claiming the compensation. I think I will send this and see what happens?

Gakken WorldEye Globe Display

I bought this on Amazon as a Japanese import with some vouchers I received for my birthday. Its is a spherical HDMI display with built in speaker that I plan to use with a Raspberry Pi based project. It comes with a number of videos supplied on a USB stick for demonstration. These unfortunately are in Japanese.

It cost about £150 in February and is quite large and comes supplied with a 2 pin adapter. I had a 2 pin to 3 pin UK adapter lying around and used this to convert the voltages. It has a built-in speaker and comes with a round remote for navigating its menus. The display is quite readable in normal lighting but looks better in a dim room.

The globe fits into a stand that lets you adjust the display angle.

I will make an update to this blog post when I find time to connect it to one of my Raspberry Pi projects.