Storing Arduino code in the cloud

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Earlier this week I blogged about some of the stuff I’d been doing with Arduino and I mentioned that my code is up on GitHub. What I didn’t mention is how it got there…

I use the Arduino IDE on a netbook running Ubuntu Linux (other development tools are available) and, a few weeks ago, I stumbed across an interesting-sounding hack to store sketches (Arduino code) in the cloud. The tool to make this happen is David Vondle’s Upload and Retrieve Source project. There’s a good description in Dave’s blog post about the project that clears up parts I struggled with (like: the location of the gistCredentials.txt file, used to store your GitHub credentials and which is found in the ~/.arduino folder on my system; and that you also need the username to be included in a comment inside the sketch).  Of course, you’ll need to create an account at GitHub first but you don’t need to know anything about the various git commands to manage source code once you have created the account.

The only downside I’ve found (aside from plain text passwords) is that there is only one project for each Arduino – if you re-use the Arduino with another circuit, the new sketch will be stored in the same gist (although the version control will let you retrieve old sketches, if you know which is which)


Creating a SharePoint calculated column that uses information from a lookup column

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few months ago, Klout suggested I knew something about SharePoint. I laughed at the time but the last few weeks have seen me spending far more time working on a couple of SharePoint-based systems than I would like, so maybe Klout is less of a measure of social influence than one of future gazing…

…anyway, back to the point.

SharePoint lists have the ability to include columns that are lookups from other lists. That’s really useful when building a system with several lists of related items, for example Technologies and Vendors. I use a lookup on Name from the Vendor list to populate the available entries for a Technology item’s Product Vendor column.  That’s all fine but I also have Product Family, Product Name and Product Version columns. And then there is a Similar Products column – for which Product Name is not a clear enough lookup – I need a combination of Product Vendor, Product Family (where present), Product Name and Product Version – For example a concatenation of Microsoft + Office + SharePoint Server + 2007.

Creating a calculated column (Full Product Name) for the “in-list” (Product Family, Product Name, Product Version) is straightforward but certain column types (Lookup, Person, Group) are not available for calculated columns. I believe this is because they are based on internal SharePoint IDs, rather than the information displayed.

The workaround seems to be to create an additional text column and a workflow in SharePoint Designer that sets a value in this field.

The workflow (which I named Set Product Vendor) is a basic workflow with one step. That step has no conditions (i.e. it applies to all items) and an Update List Item action which updates the Current Item to set my new column (Product Vendor Plain Text) to the Technologies:Product Vendor value (using the fx button to select).

Now, when creating a new item the lookup is used to select an existing Product Vendor but the plain text version of the field can then be used for calculations, like the Full Product Name. The formula for my Full Product Name column is:

=IF([Product Family]=””,[Product Vendor Plain Text]&” “,[Product Vendor Plain Text]&” “&[Product Family]&” “)&[Product Name]&” (version: “&[Product Version]&”)”

This is used to create a single line of text.

The logic here is that a Product Family value might be empty. If it is, then I take the Product Vendor Plain Text value and add a space, if it’s not I take the Product Vendor Plain Text Value and the Product Family, adding spaces to separate, then (regardless of the previous condition), I add the Product Name and the Product Version (with some additional text around it).

Unfortunately, whilst the workflow can be triggered manually for an item (which is what I did to test it), or on item creation/update, there is no way to run the workflow on all of the existing items in a list.  But, like so many things in SharePoint, this also has a workaround. By viewing all items in SharePoint datasheet view and making a minor change to each one (for example adding an entry to a temporary column that can then be removed), this will update the item, triggering the workflow.

The bonus of all of this is that I have now updated my Similar Products column to be a lookup on Full Product Name instead of Product Name and, because it works on the item IDs, the entries are now correct, with no data cleansing required on my part.

Installing Ubuntu 12.04 on an old laptop without PAE

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Initially perfect for young children (portable, cheap, small keyboard), the screen resolution (1024×576) on my sons’ netbook is becoming too restrictive and, with no Flash Player, some of the main websites they use (Club Penguin, CBeebies) don’t work on the iPad.  Setting up an external monitor each time they want to use the computer is not really practical so I needed to find another option – for now that option is recycling my the laptop that my wife replaced a couple of years ago (and which has been in the loft ever since…)

The laptop in question is an IBM ThinkPad T40 – a little long in the tooth but with a 1.5GHz Pentium M and 2GB of RAM it runs OK, although hundreds of Windows XP updates have left it feeling a little sluggish. Vista and 7 are too heavyweight so I decided to install Ubuntu (although I might also give ChromeOS a shot).

Unfortunately, the Ubuntu 12.04 installer stalled, complaining about a lack of hardware support:

This kernel requires the following features not present on the CPU:


Unable to boot – please use a kernel appropriate for your CPU

So much for Linux being a lightweight operating system, suitable for use on old hardware (in fairness, other distributions would have worked). As it happens, it turns out that this is a known issue and there are a few workarounds – the one that worked for me was to use the non-PAE mini.iso installer (I wasn’t prompted to select the generic Linux kernel, but I did have to select the Ubuntu Desktop option).

Once Ubuntu was installed, Joey Sneddon (@d0od) has a useful article on the OMG! Ubuntu site listing 10 things to do after installing Ubuntu 12.04 – this helped with things like installing Codecs, Adobe Flash and better Libre Office menu integration – now to see how the family gets on with a non-Windows OS… I suspect the kids will hardly notice the difference.

Upgraded the “traffic lights” in my office already

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last night I wrote a blog post about the “traffic lights” for my office. The trouble with the original setup was that the light was set to a particular state until I edited the code and uploaded a new version to the Arduino.

I was so excited about having something working that I hadn’t actually finished reading the Arduino Programming For Beginners: The Traffic Light Controller post that I referenced. Scroll down a bit further and James Bruce extends his traffic light sequence to simulate someone pressing a button to change the lights (e.g. to cross the road).

I worked on this to come up with something similar – using a variation on James’ wiring diagram (except with 2 LEDs rather than 3, and using pins 11 and 12 for my LEDs and 2 for the pushbutton switch), I now have a setup which waits for the button to be pressed, then sets the red LED, until the button is pressed again (when it goes green), etc.

My code is available on github but here’s the current version (just in case I lose that version as I get to grips with source control…):

Red/green LED indicator with pushbutton control
Based on

// Pins for coloured LEDs
int red = 11;
int green = 12;
int light = 0;

int button = 2; // Pushbutton on pin 2
int buttonValue = 0; // Button defaults to 0 (LOW)

void setup(){
// Set up pins with LEDs as output devices and switch for input

void loop(){
// Read the value of the pushbutton switch
buttonValue = digitalRead(button);
if (buttonValue == HIGH){
delay(15000); // Wait 15 seconds before reading again

void changeLights(){
// Change the lights based on current value: 0 is not set; 1 is green; 2 is red
switch (light) {
case 1:
case 2:

void turnLightGreen(){
// Turn off the red and turn on the green
light = 1;

void turnLightRed(){
// Turn off the green and turn on the red
light = 2;

Now I’m wondering how long it will be before the kids work out that they too can change the status (like pushing the button at a pedestrian crossing!)…