Ok I’ll explain the attention grabbing headline later, but first a burning question. How fast is too fast?
Following some recent criticism of excessive passing speed by wb Jena, the big CRT display boat I and others helm around the London area, I wrote round to fellow volunteers, not all of whom are experienced boaters, reminding of our obligation to pass moored boats at a slow pace. Now you have to bear in mind that Jena is not normally used for pleasure or leisure cruising. Usually she has to be delivered somewhere by a certain time, and at this time of year, with it getting dark early, the schedule can be quite challenging. Add to that the proliferation of moored boats around London and you can begin to see the problem.One volunteer went as far as to say that because Jena was on a job and on a deadline, she had the right to keep a move on.
Well I don’t know about you but I can’t agree with that. Passing another boat at such a speed that it may cause it to bang about, or pull out the mooring pins is to me unacceptable at any time, working or no. “Well how fast is too fast?”, asks my frustrated friend. Aah well, that all depends doesn’t it? If the canal is shallow or narrow, then it might be tick over. If the canal is wide and deep then a couple of mph might be ok. My answer was to say that you have to watch the boats you are passing and you adjust your speed so that you don’t pull them about as you pass. So I don’t always agree with the common signs telling you to pass at tick over as that is sometimes unnecessarily slow. Tickover on Herbie is barely a crawl. Any comments for me to pass on to my volunteer colleagues would be interesting and welcome.
Now then, what’s all this python business? Well really it’s because I can’t resist an attention grabbing headline. No I have not been wrestling snakes, but I have recently been teaching myself Python which is a popular computer language. I confess that over the years I have done a fair bit of programming in other languages too, but one I’ve not used before and I quite like it. In this instance I’ve been using it to program the BBC Microbit, which must be the coolest little gadget I’ve seen in years. I bought one for Grace to play with, which she does, but I liked it so much I bought another one for me. If you have two of them they can talk to each other.
As you can see, it’s tiny, but don’t let that fool you. I’ve used it to make a compass, an infrared burglar alarm, a messaging pager, a voltmeter, a scrolling Christmas message display, a light meter, a stopwatch, a thermostatic fan speed controller, a spirit level, a thermometer, a pogo stick bounce counter, a mobile phone finder and a lot more I can’t recall right now. What I need to do now is to think of things to use it for aboard Herbie. I’m sure there are loads of applications.
You don’t have to learn Python to do this stuff. Most of it can be done with a really simple lego block type approach which is literally child’s play. Yes, and I do mean literally. You can pickup a Microbit for about £13. School kids aged 12 are getting them for free. For most of the things I have listed above, you don’t need anything else at all, except a home computer to programme it from. You can even program it with a smartphone or tablet. If you are Christmas shopping for cheap presents for your friendly Nerd or Geek, look no further. If anyone lese out there is playing with Microbits and inventing boating gadgets with it I love to hear from them.