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Doctor Who?

You gotta love a programme that can credit "The Doctor" with four different names - the First Doctor (original), the First Doctor (modern incarnation), the Current Doctor (on his way out) and the New Doctor (for the scant few seconds we saw her for).

It was good to see, even for just a moment, the girl who totally knows how to work a fuzzy jumper:

(image from BBC One South SD broadcast - can I take her home?)

And, of course, while we have an hours worth of sci-fi fluff about virtual people and frozen time (with an underlying premise that is surely the stuff of nightmares), we all know this was being watched for the pleasure of having three different Doctors in the same programme (two at the same time), with lots of "mythology" gags like how the remake sexed up the Tardis (wasn't the plain-white-with-circles-on-the-wall a blast from the past?) and how The First Doctor got away with having opinions that would cause people to recoil in horror nowadays, plus managing to tactfully slip in a "Spoilers!" gag (in a rather serious bit of dialogue, no less).

But this. This was the real reason people were watching:

(image from BBC One South SD broadcast)
Her only dialogue - oh brilliant! - and not in a British-ironic sort of way. Of course, it then went horribly wrong, leaving us with a cliffhanger that... when's the new series? Next autumn or something like that?

Of course, this will give the writers plenty of time to revive the series. Steven Moffat is leaving the series as well. Some will no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief, but I think the reality is that any programme written by committee will have strong episodes and weak episodes. It remains to be seen how Chris Chibnall (the replacement) will fare, though I should in all seriousness point out that even Joss Whedon cocks it up sometimes. Buffy. Season Four. "The Initiative". What a load of crap. A University Secret Society that would have barely made a single episode stretched through an entire season since "Riley" was the current love interest. That said, "Hush" was a good solid episode. So I hope that the upcoming episodes of Dr Who go back to the sci-fi roots and try to come up with some solid stories instead of "making a point" (this last series' partner-in-time was a lesbian, much was made of it, but when you get down to it, apart from kissing water-girl a few times this really didn't have much impact on the character or the series itself).
That said, the Doctor has generally had female companions (of one species or another), so if the Doctor is the same "person" in different bodies, surely ending up in a female body shouldn't change this? ☺

As for it being a female doctor - there's little a female character can't do that a male one could, asides from maybe participating in a dick waving contest - but then this is pre-watershed TV so that wouldn't happen. I'd love to see River Song turn up. She was going through life in the opposite direction to The Doctor, so she's already seen this. Failing that, I'd love to see River Tam turn up... just because... you know, neither the Doctor nor the companions are actually much good at kicking ass. Indeed, the only person we can count on to hand out pain when necessary is Strax...


Christmas Dinner

Here's what I cooked:

A half of a Fray Bentos Chicken and Bacon pie, some pre-cooked roast potatoes (just heat up in the oven - lovely), and a frozen veg mixture of peas, green beans, carrot, and onions. With a good cupful of Bisto chicken gravy thrown on top. Yummy! Plastic cutlery and paper plate because after spending some time preparing it all, I didn't fancy any more washing up than was strictly necessary. With the environmentally lamentable disposable stuff, that left me with one solitary saucepan to wash. ☺
In order to enjoy the tastes of the meal, the water was from a bottle of Speyside Glenlivet - a special (and ridiculously expensive) bottle of water from the The Braes of Glenlivet in Moray country in Scotland. If you haven't figured out why, would it help if I pointed out that my surname is the other way of spelling "Moray" (these days: one's a name and the other's a place).

Mom queried the "meat" inside the Fray Bentos. Which was kind of cute. She has yet to understand that it's basically a soggy attempt at long-life puff pasty over top of a lot of yummy gravy, with just about enough meat-like substance to prevent them getting taken to task by Advertising Standards for claiming there is meat inside. There is. Just. If you look hard enough. But, really, it's flavoured gravy with a sort of pasty on top. Open the can (yes, it's a tinned product, if you've never heard of it before), put it into the oven for a little under half an hour, then tuck in...

I had a chilli beef one today, and will have either beef and onion, or "just chicken" tomorrow.
It's a sort of tradition. At an English food fair, I stock up on Fray Bentos and then enjoy them while on my Christmas holiday.

I'll leave the llamas and zebras and camels and crocodiles to the French. ☺


Maplin robotic arm

Since there was nothing worth looking at on TV, I decided to write a simple script interpreter to allow arm movements to be planned in advance and replayed.

Here's the result:

(once again, David Pilling claims first! ☺)

The script for all of that is as follows, with annotations in green:

; youtube
; This script is the one shown on my video:

Move the arm to a position so we can rotate the base
E U 400       Move Elbow Up for 400cs (4s)
S U 400       Move Shoulder Up for 400cs (4s)
Rotate the base and then move arm until pen is in range
B L 550       Rotate Base Leftwards for 550cs (5½s)
S D 100       Move Shoulder Down for 100cs
E D 200       Move Elbow Down for 200cs
Turn on the light, then grip the pen
L   1         Turn LED (light) On
G C 120       Close Grip (for 120cs)
D   050       Wait for half a second
Lift the pen clear of the cup...
E U 300       Move Elbow Up for 300cs
B L 300       Rotate Base Leftwards for 300cs
E D 200       Move Elbow Down for 200cs
...and drop it down the back of the computer ;-)
G O 100       Open Grip (for 100cs)
Light off now
L   0         Turn LED (light) Off
D   050       Wait for half a second
And finally undo all of the above to return the arm to parked position
E U 200       Move Elbow Up for 200cs
B R 770       Rotate Base Rightwards for 770cs
S D 260       Move Shoulder Down for 260cs
E D 385       Move Elbow Down for 385cs
X             All Stop - we're done.

The script format is quite simple. A character describing what to move, an optional 'P' to select between pulse and steady motion, a direction of movement, and a counter (number of pulses or number of centiseconds to move).
There are three additional commands - one controls the LED (light), one is for inserting delays, and finally one to "stop everything" (which should be used at the end of the script).

Here is the command table:

Command Pulsed? Direction Count
B(ase) P if pulsing L(eftwards) or A(nticlockwise) Number of pulses if 'P' (1-9),
or number of centiseconds to move (001-999)
S(houlder) U(p) or D(own)
E(lbow) U(p) or D(own)
W(rist) U(p) or D(own)
G(rip) G(rip)/I(n)/C(lose) or R(elease)/O(ut/Open)
L(ED) '1' to turn LED on, '0' to turn it off
D(elay) Number of centiseconds (001-999) to delay
X Everything off

Some notes:

  • There is quite a bit of motor slew. Moving something in one direction for 400cs won't necessarily be fully 'undone' by moving 400cs in the opposite direction. You will notice the odd timing in the final four movement commands of the above script. This was determined by trial and error.
  • Because of motor slew, pulsing for 'n' times will move a larger distance than pulsing once (with a delay) for 'n' times. Experimentation may be required.
  • Pulse counts are a single digit from 1 to 9.
  • All centisecond delays must be expressed as three digits, with leading zeroes if necessary (in other words, from 001 to 999).
  • The script does not support multiple concurrent motions (in other words, moving the arm and the base at the same time). This is possible in hardware, but it would require a much more complex script system to achieve.
  • You can write your scripts as above (everything nicely lined up, lots of whitespace) or you can condense then into a single chain of commands. Please note well that some things you might get away with (such as specifying a delay of "50" instead of "050") in the verbose format will cause the condensed format to fail. This is because you must exactly follow the specification in the condensed format (actually, it is because the whitespace skipping routine allows us a little bit of unintentional freedom, for " 50" is treated the same as "050"...).
  • Some commands have multiple direction mnemonics. That is to say, "Base Leftwards" is the same as "Base Anticlockwise", and "Grip Grip" is the same as "Grip In" and "Grip Close". Pick whichever mnemonic makes the most sense to you.

Using this script interpreter, you can do funny things like getting your robotic arm to pick up a pen and drop it down behind something. Unfortunately everything will need to be scripted, tested, and tweaked in advance, because the lack of positional reporting means that neither the arm nor the computer actually know where the arm is; it's just blindly following commands.
That isn't to say you can't do some clever stuff if you put your mind to it. Just don't expect to be able to recreate a chess-playing Mechanical Turk...

Here's the script interpreter: (archive, 14.3KiB)

Leave a comment here, or on the ROOL forum, to let me know how you get on.



Your comments:

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Rob, 9th January 2018, 21:33
The (rebooted) Doctor ... One of those programmes I watched every week, being excited by most episodes, disappointed with few, until I hit an episode that just turned me off completely. For me, it was the Reset Button one. An entire episode of drama with main characters being killed off and everything, finishing off with the Sci-Fi version of "and then he woke up." That was the killer for me. I'd tried watching a few since, including the first Capaldi episode, but the magic was gone, and he did nothing for me. I'd totally forgotten it was even still going ... Maybe when Mrs Doctor is on screen properly it'll be different, and I'll give it a try again. If I remember. 
I've looked at the Maplin robot arm, but no sensors or feedback does seem to make it a little pointless. Maybe you can add some? Hack the rotational sensors our of an old ball type mouse to measure the rotation, perhaps?
Rick, 9th January 2018, 23:35
The reset button - that was one of the previous Doctor's final episodes, wasn't it? Yeah, I remember them lampshading the hell out of it by calling it something like a big friendly red reset button. Didn't make it any less annoying though. 
I hope for a good episode of the series, but don't set my standards too high. A creepy girl and sudden trees episode could have been good, but was utterly ruined by the bollocks that it turned out to be. I think Any and Rory deserved a better ending. I think they had a good actress playing Clara but they totally dropped the ball with the whole Impossible Girl thing. And I'm still not entirely certain how soggy gay girl turned up and rescued Cyberman-companion. In a series where the contrived punches you in the face regularly, that took contrived to a whole new level. 
It's probably just as well I'm not involved in writing episodes or we'd likely end up with something based heavily on Japanese horror (The Grudge, Ring, Dark Water (and of course I mean the originals and not the painful remakes)) in which THE DOCTOR LOSES. Nyahahahaha!

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