Automated Broadband Monitoring on Linux

I’m trialing a 4G home broadband router at the minute to see if it can give me decent upload as apposed to the 1mbps I currently get so I thought I’d look into automatically running speedtests.  Here’s how and it turned out to be quite simple.  Caveat, this runs on Linux.

There is a really handy command line util for running which is a Python script.  To install it run: “sudo pip install speedtest-cli”

If you don’t have pip or python installed run this: “sudo apt install python-pip”

This will install pip and the prerequisites, one of which is Python itself.  Next up, in your home directory, run “speedtest-cli –csv-header >> speedtest.csv”.  This will create an empty CSV with only the headers in it.

Next up, and finally, run “crontab -e” and enter “*/10 * * * * /usr/local/bin/speedtest-cli –csv >> ~/speedtest.csv”.  Thanks to this thread for giving me the answer as to why it wasn’t working to start with.

That’s it!  Every 10 minutes a speedtest will be run and the results appended to the csv file.  Load it up in a spreadsheet program and job done.

It isn’t a long term solution as that csv will get unweildy after a while but this is a two week trial so not an issue.  I’ve an aging Raspberry Pi B hooked up to the router and will check the results in a day or so to see what the connection is like without anything else on it.

Preview Blackmagic Intensity Pro Input in VLC

I’ve a Blackmagic Intensity Pro capture card in my machine at work, initially we were going to capture video for webcasts from a professional camera but that never came to pass.  It’s been sat in my machine gathering  dust soI thought it would make quite a nice virtual monitor for embedded devices.  As I’m playing with Raspberry Pis more at work it’s an idea way of not having to faff around switching inputs on my monitor.

Required software:  VLC and the Blackmagic drivers for the card.

Plug your HDMI device into the capture card, looking at the back of your machine it’ll be the one closest to your motherboard.  This may work for DVI capture too, I’ve not tried it.

Open VLC then File -> Open Capture Device.  Select Declink Video Capture, enter 1920×1080 for the video size, click on Advanced options and change the aspect ratio to 16:9.  Click on then click play and you should have a picture, albeit slightly laggy.  I’m using it as a virtual monitor so not an issue, if you are capturing a stream from a console it may be irritating.  I used to have a way of minimalising this when capturing from a webcam but can’t remember it, if you find out please leave a comment and I’ll update the post.  To reduce lag, click on “More options” and set caching to 0 ms, seems to have done the trick for me.

This one was more a note for me for the next time I try to use the card for this use and have forgotten, thought it may be useful for others.

Update:  To shortcut the whole process, this works nicely as a command line and if you create a shortcut to VLC and pass the arguments in accordingly you can open straight into the stream:
vlc dshow:// :dshow-vdev=”Decklink Video Capture” :dshow-size=1920×1080 :dshow-aspect-ratio=16\:9 :live-caching=0

Pretty sure if you change the device to the name of any capture card or webcam this should work, not tested so your mileage may vary.

Lego PVR Case

The new PVR I built back in May didn’t have a case at the time and though I had lofty plans to make a beautiful wooden case with laser cut lid it turned out to be beyond my skills at the time.  Instead I did what any self respecting maker would do and bought a bag of Lego off eBay and built a case using whatever I ended up with.

It was a little tricky as there weren’t many large or even small base plates in the bag but I made do.

The case has a large hole under the motherboard and in the lid, this is to create a chimney effect to help the case keep cool.  To start with I forgot to add feet to allow air to actually get to the underside of the case, after I spotted a few high temperature alerts I realised my mistake.

Satellite Applications Catapult Inventorthon – Bring Your Own Disaster

Videowall – (Operations room) 18 1080p screens, eight dual monitor workstations

The Satellite Applications Catapult are very lucky to have the facilities they have and believe they have the potential to help save lives. To that end they’re opening their toy box for everyone to play with to try and do just that at their next hackathon. The premise is simple; in a disaster scenario, how would you use their facilities to best help those in need?

They have some data from the recent Nepal earthquake to work with but if you have a scenario of your own then feel free to being your ideas with you. Some of the ideas we’ve had are so far include;

  • Earthquake/natural disaster response
  • Coordination of people/aid
  • Search and rescue

They have a great range of kit at their disposal including;

  • Two videowalls, both with 24 cores, 256GB RAM and at least three NVidia Quadro K6000 graphics cards each. One has 28 720p monitors at 9562×3072 and the other a whopping 18 1080p monitors to a resolution of 11512×3240! These graphics cards have 12GB RAM and 3072 processing cores EACH!
  • An Oculus Rift DK1 – a virtual reality headset
  • Two Kinect 2 for Windows sensors – These are the new sensors based of the Xbox One design, each can track six people with full colour and depth support, they also have an excellent microphone array.
  • A Leap Motion sensor – this enables incredibly fine gesture tracking to help create more natural gesture based control systems.
  • Multiple large touchscreen devices – These include a number of electronic whiteboards with pen support and two four screen mini-video walls.
  • A Microsoft Surface Table – The SUR40, not to be confused with a tablet! This is a table PC that supports not only 50 simultaneous touches but also tag support, a great example of what it can do is NUIverse
  • A Microsoft Gadgeteer Kit – including loads of modules, this platform allows for rapid prototyping of hardware devices and includes GPS and GPRS (2g mobile data) support.
  • A van decked out with sat coms kit (I’m calling shotgun for the Zombie Apocalypse)
  • Raspberry Pi and Arduino devices – small microcontroller boards that can be programmed to perform functions without need of a full PC
  • 3D HD Dual Projection Facility – A large (5.5m x 1.9m) 3d HD projection system that can be used by up to 34 people simultaneously
  • Ovei Multimedia Pod – a multimedia pod that includes a surround sound system
  • AIS transceivers, a safety of life at sea transponder system
  • 3D screen
  • Parrot AR Drone – This can be controlled via wifi and has GPS and cameras on board
  • A transparent rear projected touchscreen


Satellite Applications Catapult, Harwell Campus
Dual 3D HD projector suite
Videowall (Saturn) – 28 720p screens.



The rest is up to you!

The event will be held at their office at Harwell Campus on September 12/13th, you are welcome to crash overnight too. To register for the event click here and add yourself to the group and event on Facebook to join the discussion!

Bluetooth Headphone Upgrade

 I’ve a trusty paint of headphones I’ve had for ten years or so and used to use them when playing my electric drum kit, the long cable was particularly useful at the time but now I use them almost exclusively at my desk the cable is proving a pain in the neck.  I have a Bluetooth headphone adapter I use at the gym so figured a simple hack may be in order.

I shortened the cable, added a loop for the adapter to clip to and job done.  The end result is closed back headphones that, with an extension cable, can be used as normal and a headphone adapter I can still use at the gym.

WP_20140204_005 WP_20140204_006

Simple enough but fantastic sound quality and functionality by combining a few things I had lying around, saved my buying a new pair of wireless cans and gets more life out of kit that was underutilised.