ramblings of an electronic engineer.

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Japan Trip 2016

Around 3 weeks ago I arrived back home after traveling around Japan for 17 days. Overall the experience was incredible and included many firsts for me, for example first time traveling to a country that speaks a different language.

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I traveled with my sister whom had made two trips over to Japan before (one to present a paper at a thermodynamics conference, the other for a holiday) so I was in good hands and managed to get away with only knowing a little Japanese. In fact I recall my japanese vocabulary consisted of the following words: good morning, good day, good evening, thank you, excuse me, yes, no, please, numbers (one, two, three etc…), seriously, idiot, how are you?, goodbye and me too. It’s interesting exactly how far you could get with just knowing some simple dialect and pointing to things though. At any rate most Japanese people know at least a little english and the most trouble I got into was accidentally ordering two different chicken burgers at Mc Donalds instead of one.

Over the course of the trip we traveled over a great deal of Japan, very broadly we arrived in Tokyo and traveled to Hiroshima, Onimichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Kawaguchico/Mt Fuji, and Tokyo once more. Each city I found was unique in it’s own way and I’d happily visit every one of them again if given the opportunity. Anyway for this post I thought I’d share a few overall impressions and observations I had during the trip that I found to be particularly noteworthy.

After first arriving in Japan the infrastructure of the cities and suburbs really surprised me. My initial expectation was that everything would be quite modern and incorporate lots of electronic smarts but in actual fact save for a few exceptions their building and transit infrastructure looked like it was all build in the 80’s and 90’s and had not been upgraded much since. It’s not that Japan doesn’t have any modern technology, Osaka for example has some very new modern consumer buildings and the Shinkansen are obviously quite modern but it was definitely my observation that these were in the minority.

From my understanding there was one a time that Japan had a reputation for having the cutting edge technology and was the place to visit for the latest gadgets and electronic goods. However visiting and looking around at the goods sold at places like Yodobashi camera in Akihabara this just isn’t the case anymore. The goods available are pretty much the same that are available back home in Australia.   I think this isn’t indicative of that there is less innovation happening in Japan and Asia than before but rather that the global market has opened up a lot more through distribution and new products are offered everywhere at the same time. After all why not release a new product in 10 countries rather than just one if you can? I will say to Japan’s credit their department stores such as Yodobashi do have a lot more range all in one place compared to anything I’ve experienced back home (I suppose it’s possible when you have a 10 level store though).

Finally it was interesting to experience the difference between rural Japan and more populated city areas. This is partly why I was interested in visiting Onimichi. During the train ride to Onimichi it was immediately obvious that the station announcements were no longer repeated in english nor any of the graphics translated. It makes sense that english would be less prominent the more rural you travel and I’ve heard similar experiences by friends that have visited other countries but nether less it was interesting to experience firsthand.

Anyway I feel I’ve written enough for one post and as I start to review and edit photos (I’m about halfway through currently) I’m sure I’ll think of some other interesting things regarding Japan later. Look forward to sharing more in the future.



By the way hopeful content will start becoming a little more regular soon, for the past two/three months I’ve been having some issues with my main computer BSODing randomly which hopefully will be resolved soon. Besides this I’ve gone ahead and repaired by old macbook pro so I can start doing some writing on the train to and from during my lunch break at work. We see if it becomes habit or not.

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AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol


In case you weren’t aware over the past week there has been an Go tournament running between 18th world champion Go player Lee Sedol and Google’s AlphaGo program developed for their DeepMind neural network. Go for those not aware is an ancient chinese game of area control where players take turns placing stones on a grid and attempting to create a territory that occupies more than half the board to win. What’s interesting about Go compared to other abstract strategy games like chess is the number of possible different games is staggering  (10761 compared to that of chess which is estimated at 10120 possible games).

In 1997 IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue successfully won a chess tournament against the reigning world champion Garry Kasparov winning 3½–2½ . Deep Blue used largely a brute force method to determine moves that went and searched down a possibility tree to a typical depth of 6-8 moves (sometime up to 20 or more depending on the situation) in order to pick an optimum move. Looking back to Go the number of possible games is far to big to attempt a brute force attack so instead AlphaGo has a large database of 30 million moves which it will search through and select a few promising moves, it then will work those moves down a Monte Carlo tree and evaluate each move with a “value network” and “policy network” thereafter selecting the move that has the highest success of improving it’s odds in the game. Interestingly enough AlphaGo doesn’t necessarily choose the moves that will increase its margin of winning, if it is negligibly lower risk to pick a move that wins by a small margin then one that would win with a higher margin it will pick the move with the less risk. (For a more information on AlphaGo watch this video)

So far 4 games have been played between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol with the first three been won by AlphaGo and the fourth by Lee. I’ve watches parts of the first game between them and also the third on the weekend during the live stream. While I haven’t played too much Go (I’m beginner level to amature at best) The livestream is quite easy to follow with a running commentary of the game by a Go professional that shows possible future plays and evaluating each player’s position throughout the game. I’d highly recommend you go watch some of the 15 minute summary videos if you’re at all interested.

A livestream of the 5th and final game starts today at 1pm here.

Links to Summary Videos: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4.



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Pi Day 2016

Honestly Pi day this year sneaked up on me and I was only reminded by a few promotions from electronic distributors in my inbox this morning. Unlike previous years I don’t really have anything special planned in order to celebrate, however I can say that over the past few years doing work in acoustics and electronic design my appreciation for the mathematical constant has increased greatly.

So happy Pi day everyone.



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Build: Fallout 3 Microfusion Cell

I absolutely love the Bethsaidas Fallout franchise having fond memories wandering around the wastelands of Fallout 3 many years ago and nowadays the epic  Fallout 4 landscapes. Since playing the game for the first time I always remember having an affinity towards the futuristic energy weapons that appeared in the game. These were typically powered by either energy cells or for higher powered weapons, microfusion cells.


I have a few projects in the pipeline that require weathering applied to them so in order to practice I found a microfusion cell model off Thingiverse then went to town printing it and applying the base coat paint layers. To weather the part I  got out some acrylic paints and mixed up some black and brown/dirt tones thereafter diluting them with a little water. With a rag on hand I applied the paint over various parts of the model then wiped off most of it leaving some of it in the cracks and crevices.

The detailing of the prop was applied by stenciling off the part with painters tape then spray painting with the appropriate colours. This step is where I failed in some regards by not checking any reference material for the decals on the game models but kinda making it up as I went along. So I wouldn’t say this prop is a 100% replica but nevertheless I’m particularly happy with how it turned out in the end. Should I remake this model I’d definitely look into creating a water slide decal to apply to the prop.




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2016 Update

I had meant to write this update at say  the beginning of the year, then failing that at the beginning of the Chinese new year, and well too bad. Now it is.😛

Looking back on last year I got to do some really cool stuff I’d been meaning to do like traveling to Sydney for Maker Fair, learning to 3d print stuff, and further exploring my hobbies and interests. However for all the stuff I blogged about there were at least three things I could have but didn’t and also some stuff I started but never finished.

So looking at this year I plan to more or less keep on going with the goals I set last year for this blog, that is: sharing work on projects, reviewing books, posting a few blog series and sharing photos I have squirreled away on my hard drives. In particular when it comes to projects I’m putting more emphasis on working them through to completion and reducing the already large pile I currently have on my plate. So far it’s going pretty well with a few out of the way which I’ll write up in the near future. I’m also wanting to put more time towards working on more electronic design projects as my professional work is currently geared to more mechanical work than electrical. I guess we shall see how the year pans out🙂

I suppose this is also a good time to announce I’m off to Japan later this year. Come the last week of June my sister and myself are flying off to Narita then travelling around for 16 days visiting Hiroshima, Onomichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Kawaguchiko, Mt Fuji and Tokyo! I hope the trip goes all smoothly and I look forward to experiencing Japanese culture and scenery.

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Build: Lego BB-8

Ever since the first trailers for the new starwars movie I was very excited for the new droid BB-8. A little after joining the BB-8 Builders Club Facebook group (which is one of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of) member Henrik Lorentzen posted a really cool Lego BB-8 build to the group along with assembly instructions. 2 weeks later and 5 parcels from bricklink later this guy was then  sitting on my desk.😀


Henrik also happens to have this model listed on Lego Ideas  so it has a chance of been made into an official kit which is really cool. Upon writing this small build up I also found out that a second revision of the kit has been released with a few extra bits to make the model posable. I might be up for another order of parts soon😛


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