Friday, 25 November 2011

New Business selling SnowSocks, doing a Masters and everything else

I've been incredibly busy the last while. There's a small part of me thinking I might be stretching myself beyond what I can possibly handle. But I think I'm well able for all of it. Who says you can't start up a new business while working a full time job and doing a part time Masters at night in Electronic Design Engineering?

My Masters has been proving very interesting so far. This semester I'm studying Digital Synthesis Modeling as well as Research Development Techniques and Problem Solving. For the Digital Synthesis Modeling, I've been using a Basys2 reference board to learn how to program in both VHDL and Verilog. The first three assignment proved difficult enough and a great basis for the fourth (capstone) assignment. The first three were: 1) Led flashing 2) Sequence Detect using switches and buttons 3) Implementation of Seven Segment display. The fourth assignment is the truly interesting one though. We have to design and implement a uP (microprocessor) connecting to an onboard SRAM, that sends and recieves data to and from the SRAM. This will prove difficult and may not even be possible on the Basys2 Board. Sure we'll see what happens. We also have to learn to script using command line scripting in DOS, Perl and TCL for complete automation of the synthesis process.

The Research Development Techniques and Problem Solving module has also proved very interesting and is a welcome break to all the technical work in the digital synthesis modeling. For the problem solving, we've looked at problem solving techniques including TRIZ, the nine-windows, 40 inventive principles, the contradiction matrix and many many more. We were also given a KAI test and I got a result of 95, which means I'm equally Adaptive as I am Innovative. I'd have to give loads of references here on what exactly that means, but I don't have time for that.

My new business venture has proved very very interesting. From ordering my stock from overseas, to customs and VAT, to advertising, marketing and selling at the markets, I have learnt so much so far. I still have a lot more to go as well. So far it's going really well and I hope to increase my sales in the coming weeks. I'm basically selling snow socks.

Here's my companies website ( have a peak, I appreciate any and all feedback on the site. I appreciate it even more if you purchase one of my top quality snow socks from me.

I'll write more about the difficulties I found setting up the business and everything over the coming weeks, maybe over christmas I'll have time to write this all up.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Pension on Hold and Learning about Money!

Yesterday I requested my pension be put on hold indefinitely. Our account manager was none to happy about this and reminds me that I'll lose out on my company contribution and my tax relief. This a load of sales crap in my opinion. Now I don't claim to know a lot about how they work, but the company contribution at the moment is tiny, about €16 per month, I'm ok with losing that, no biggie. The tax relief thing is a bit of a sales pitch as well. Sure I don't pay tax on it now, but when I claim my pension back when I'm older, I'll have to pay that tax back (probably at a larger rate than now, looking at how the tax rates keep climbing). So basically, it's only really a deferral of tax payments.

Once the hold is placed on my pension, I asked for a copy of my current pension details. I've only been paying into my pension for about 16 months now, my total contributions are about €2800 and the current value is €2600. So, while I've been paying into my pension, my pension fund manager has been losing it. Seems like a wise choice to leave the pension completely. Why pay to lose money? They get paid regardless, for playing around with my money.

My goal is to use the extra income from my pension and make it grow for me. I've a long way to go with learning about stocks, shares and investing, but I hope to blog a bit about it and what I've done so far.

At the moment, I've been reading a few interesting books. These include:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Rich Dad Poor Dad 2: Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki
Think like a Champion by Donald J. Trump
The Art of War: Sun Tzu
The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett and George Soros: What You Can Learn from the World's Richest Investors

I've also been playing Cashflow 101 (a board game about money and personal finance) with a few friends. You play as a rat in the rat race and the premise of the game is to break out of the rat race. You get a budget sheet where you keep track of your income, expenses and investments. The only way to break out of the rat race is to get your passive income to exceed your expenses each month. You're passive income consists of dividends from shares, cash made from rental properties and other investments. It's a great game and I'v learnt a few things from the two games I've played already. Majority of the terms, properties and opportunities are all American based, but the lessons learned are the same. Basically, don't lose money.

On another note about money, I've been experimenting with Trading and I downloaded a demo account for Forex Trading, through ShareWatch's website. I had a brief goof around with it last night. You get 50,000 in your balance to start off with and you can buy and sell shares based on the real market at the moment. There's a huge number of options to choose from when viewing the graphs (looking at line graphs, max/min lines, candlesticks) and you can set up your own strategies for buying and selling and give you alerts when to sell and when to buy using the likes of MACD and DMACD and a number of other strategies. It was interesting. I was only able to buy and sell currency symbols and to be honest, it just feels like gambling. Like a good mate of mine says, it's 50/50, it's either going to go up or it's going to go down. There's as much prediction in this as there is in palm reading and horoscopes.

I'm trying to learn as much as I can and I'd love to hear what other people think about these books and the board game and their experiences with investing, so please feel free to comment below. Just keep it relevant and to the point.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Rich Dad Poor Dad Stock Success Workshop

I just attended another one of Rich Dad's workshops last night. This time it was based on Stock Success. There's usually one of these a year and this one finished up yesterday. I attended one last year as well, it was based on property flipping and financial independence.

Robert Kiyosaki is the author of a large number of books called Rich Dad Poor Dad, I've read the first 2, but there are so many out there. They all teach you that there is another way to make money and make the money work for you. Live within your means and invest your money instead of spending it on liabilities (like houses, cars, boats).

My previous views of stock trading were minimal at best, here's a list of what I thought originally.
1) You need a stock broker to buy and sell stocks.
2) You can only buy and sell stocks.
3) To know what way the market will run, you have to look at a lot of financial records.
4) You can only make money when the market is good
5) You can only make money when the stock price goes up
6) I'd seen programs from it, I had tried one, ACM trading but I found it overly complicated and I was overwhelmed with where to start.

Last night, the speaker Liam Gilmore, who's a business owner, trader, property investor, public speaker and a CIPD qualified trainer gave us all a taste of how easy it can be to trade stocks. Basically he proved all my previous thoughts beforehand were incorrect.

There was a lot mentioned last night and of course there was the big sell for the full 3 day course to work with a guy named Alistair Crooks, (a professional stock trader) who guides you through all the different strategies to trading on the market safely. The course is €577 and more than likely worth every penny. Unfortunately, I have neither the time or the money for it at the moment (I know, a poor e

One of the most interesting things I learned last night was the MACD. This is a technical analysis indicator which can help you buy stocks quickly and with confidence. Another useful tool. Along with this, we were shown how to read the graphs and how to know when to buy and sell. Along with this, a few other terms were mentioned, but I won't go into here: resistance lines, support lines, limit order, bullish breakout, bearish breakout, double top, doji, inverted hammer and shorting.

There's 4 different types of traders
1) Position Traders - 2 - 3 Weeks between buying and selling
2) Swing Traders -> 2 days to 2 weeks between buying and selling
3) Day Traders -> 1 Day between buying and selling
4) Scalpers -> 5 Minutes between buying and selling
Swing Traders are a great place to start and Scalpers is the highest earnings and goal to aim for.

The biggest things to take away from the night were
1) Keep your emotions in check, the two strongest emotions in trading are fear and greed. With the right knowledge and education, you can overcome these and make money safely.
2) Need the ability to make a decision and make it quickly and correctly.
3) Ignorance is expensive
4) Education is one of your greatest assets, so build it and use it
5) Believe in opportunity and yourself
6) Value Knowledge - always learning
7) Take Action, make decisions
8) Number one influencing factor in failure is Procrastination!!

For more information, see the website below about Rich Dad Poor Dad and Robert Kiyosaki. I really recommend reading any of his books or his workshops, they are incredibly useful. Don't forget to act on them though, too many people read the book, go to the workshop and then do nothing.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Getting it all going

A month later, I haven't done much else with my solar cells. I took three of the smaller ones and connected them together (correctly this time). I measured a small enough voltage of 0.75V, which is barely enough to overcome the threshold voltages on a transistor or diode. Not a great result, but I'll try more and more.

The main reason I haven't done much is down to the tools and equipment I have. I'm using an ancient old UngarMatic soldering iron. The tips is burnt to a crisp and a single point. Buying new tips is not easy for this model so I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new one.

Now I'm just waiting for my order to come in from Farnell. I bought a Duratool 50W soldering station. It looks fairly good so I'll see how it holds up. I've also bought a number of through hole diodes, resistors, capacitors and a few DIP PIC controllers and ATTINY micro controllers as well. So hopefully I can have a few new things made in the next month or so. Watch this space, more to come soon.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Solar Panels

Wow, it's been 5 months since I posted last. I really got to get back on the blogging thing again.

Quick update, I've finished the first year of my Master's. I'm not doing particularly well or even as well as I'd hoped. I just finished a module in RF design and Digital Systems Design 2. I had 6 assignments for RF and 2 large assignments and a IEEE paper to write for Digital Systems Design 2. I may upload some of these at a later date, once I clean them up, improve on them and then I can use them as part of my very own portfolio.

Last year I bought a number of broken photovoltaic cells for about $20 on ebay and I never got around to using them, due to lack of time and space to do so. So on last Tuesday night, I finally got around to starting it all. In the picture at the top of this post, you can see my test setup. I built the wood panel from 1 90cm x 60cm hard back board, 2 x 90cm rails and 2 x 45 cm rails. I've left gaps on either side for wires to come out, in case I want to place plexiglass on top to use outside.

Now as you can see in the picture on the left here, I've made quite a stupid mistake here. I've wired the solar cells in parallel, instead of in series. This means that the voltage will only be a fraction of the total possible voltage and this fraction decreases with every cell I attach. For two cells, 1/V(total) = 1/V1 + 1/V2, which is halved for two cells, a third for three and so on. Currently the measured voltage indoors under a fluorescent light is about 150mV and 20mA, which is nowhere near the results I need. I went out this morning to see what my new 3 cell panel would work and I got a reading of 565mV with 150mA. Much better, but still way below what I was expecting. By placing the cells in series, The voltage will be additive and the more cells I add, the greater the voltage will be.

Tonight, I think I'm going to keep my parallel 3-cell and I'll build a 3-cell series as well so that I can compare the results and show the difference between the two.

I'll have more on this over the next few days, watch this space.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Fallout: New Vegas

So I got Fallout: New Vegas for Christmas and with exams and assignments and all that crap, I only got a chance to play it for the first time properly over the weekend. I'm hooked.

It carries on from the world of Fallout 3, except now you're travelling the Mojave desert after the nuclear apocalypse. You start off as a courier having been dug up from a fresh grave and revived by the local doctor. Your mission, find the package that you were nearly killed trying to deliver.

It's quite different to Fallout 3, I feel it's lost some of it's personal touch with none of that find your daddy stuff from Fallout 3, but after playing most the weekend, I've found this has made it better in this aspect. There's a number of different factions and if you complete missions for one group, you'll acquire fame and they'll like you more. Kind of like the system they had in Grand Theft Auto. When you acquire a companion to follow you through the Wasteland/Mojave desert, there's a companion wheel type of thing, similar to what I've seen in Crysis, however it's awkward to use and is quite often a pain to use.

It is quite different to Fallout 3 in some places, where it almost seems like Obsidian had decided to add in features from Borderlands, Grand Theft Auto, Duke Nukem(hookers and gambling) and Crysis. All of which are great games, so that's all good. But there's also a degree of realism with the Hardcore mode, where ammo has weight, you gain realistic experience and you don't get to feel invincible once you gain sufficient levels. Also in Hardcore mode, you suffer from hunger, dehydration, sleep and all the other effects from Fallout 3. This gives a realistic feel as you can drink crazy drinks that keep you awake longer but effect you in other ways, almost like drinking a Red Bull in real life, sure it makes you awake now, but it will also dehydrate you. It can get annoying every now and again, but an interesting game dynamic to work with.

It's not all shooting, but shooting isn't the only fun you get to have. You get to play BlackJack, Roulette, Slot machines and Caravan(a wasteland card game).

One weird thing I've noticed, either I'm doing something wrong in the game, but I've come across a few of the women who openly tell me that they're lesbians. Dunno whether to take that as a good thing or a bad thing. It definitely seems like a more adult geared game than Fallout 3 did. This one ain't really for the kiddies. In saying that, it's still harmless.

If you liked Fallout 3, then you'll like this game. I really recommend it. It is far better than the DLC's for Fallout 3, which were good in their own right, but New Vegas is a solid game in and of itself. Another thing I enjoyed was that I got the retail game but I was able to install it through Steam which made me smile :D

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Oooh, LRDIMM's

Found this online, Load-Reduced DIMM's. They're the next step after RDIMM's (Registered DIMM's) and FBDIMM's (Fully Buffered DIMM's), offering even more bandwidth and speed to your system.

Read more here What is LR-DIMM?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Purchasing Music to download

For some strange reason, I'm finding it hard to purchase a copy of the Tron legacy Soundtrack for download. I don't want the CD and CD case cluttering up my already messy room. I've tried the official Tron Legacy sountrack website I can only download the soundtrack if I live in the US. For european sales it's CD only. I tried Amazon, there's geographical restrictions if you're not based in the UK. Not to mention, even if you are a UK citizen and travelling abroad, these restrictions apply as it is based on your IP address.

I've done a quick Google search for downloading a copy of the soundtrack and the only option I have is to use iTunes which I will not install as I've trouble with it before and I don't like using it. Surely they have some competition?? I can't believe in this age of the internet that if I want music I still have to purchase the CD and rip it to MP3 on my PC or just download it illegally.

Why is it harder to download legally than it is to do it illegally? And when I say hard it's next to impossible. This is just retarded!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Exams coming soon

Apologies I haven't written here in ages. I thought it would be a good idea to do a Masters in Electronic Design Engineering. It has so far swallowed up all my free time. I've learned loads though. I've completed 2 Digital Designs, 1 for a simple sequence detect on a wire interface, the other on an auto-baud rate detector using Finite State Machines, Flow Charts, Timing diagrams and Design Flow Diagrams. It's been hard, it's been very hard. I've 3 more assignments due in at the moment. 1 of these has been running a lot later than I ever intended.

My exams start next week, Tuesday and Thursday and I really don't feel prepared enough to get the best grade that I think I can get. Best get the head down and sort that out.

The two modules I've undertaken are Digital Design and Software Engineering. For my software engineering module, we've just covered the basics of Object Orientated Programming with some Design and Architecture. I've completed a number of labs demonstrating the basic principles. It's the two main assignments that I'm proud of. The 1st one an FIR/IIR Filter which takes an input, applies a formula based on a text file input and outputs the various results into an output file. In effect the FIR filter removes any signal above 10KHz. Filter program is written in C++ using Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. See below for results. I think I saturated my IIR filter and the equation need some work, however I proved the filter works.
The top signal is the initial input signal, produced by 3 sine waves of varying frequencies. The second signal is the result of the FIR filter and the third wave is the result of the IIR Filter.

My 2nd program was written in Java. I basically had to write from scratch an emboss filter with a vertical edge detect filter and output the results. See below for initial image, emboss and vertical edge detect. I don't think my code was perfect, but it was close enough.