Elite Dangerous, Control panel

Elite Dangerous, I love it as you might have gathered.

But while playing with a nice Hotas joystick and keyboard is great, I find it somewhat breaks the sense of immersion when you need to use the keyboard or joystick buttons to do things like engage your landing gear or deploy your cargo scoop.

What I needed I said to myself was a control panel, something with switches and buttons.
And there are a number of such things available, but I thought I’d have a go at making one for myself.

To that end I purchased a Teensy 3.5 micro-controller which would act as the brains for my panel. In particular one reason for taking this particular board was the presence of an SD card reader. This will allow me to store my key mappings on an SD card meaning I can easily change the functions of the switches without having to reprogram the controller.

The next major issue I had was finding a housing onto which I could mount the switches. And while a good number are available online, none really fitted the size (and price, yes I’m cheap) for what I had in mind. 

But where there is a will there’s a way. 
So using some spare MDF I had at home. I fabricated a housing to take the switches.

Count the holes, that’s twenty six of them. Six latch switches and twenty buttons.
That should cover me for most cases, anything else can be handled by the joystick.

A quick run of the plane and some sanding to take the edges off, followed by a quick spray of black paint.

Here you can see the tangle of wires connecting the switches to the micro-controller.
Don’t even try to solder these, spade connectors are the way to go.

I’ve not yet wired up the led’s for the buttons, so it’s going to become a lot more crowded in there soon. 

On the bottom you can see the micro-controller and SD card holding the mapping file I’m using, that’s a 8gb card holding a 1kb file. Memory has sure gotten cheap. 

Finally here’s the assembled panel, not perhaps as pretty as the commercial products. 
It works great and thanks to the configuration file is highly adaptable for use in both Elite and other simulators (looking at you Star Citizen).

Elite Dangerous – More Generation Ships

It appears Generation ship are like double-decker buses, you spend ages waiting for one to show and then a load appear in a row. In this case four, the Lycaon which we visited in the last update, the Hyperion, the Odysseus and the Venusian.

LIke before I’ve included the major milestones needed to reach these vessels and as before the backstory for each ship is shown at the end.

Elite Dangerous – Generation Ship Lycaon

The recent Commanders expansion pack along with the introduction of multi-crews also saw the introduction of new mega-ships amongst which was a number of generation ship.

The first of these discovered was the derelict ship ‘Lycaon’ a ghost ship drifting on a solar systems edge. I decided to take a spin over and take a look for myself and see what the story behind this ship was.

I’ve included all the major points you need to hit in order to find this, along with story of what happened (there’s a spoiler warning before for those who like to see these things first hand).

Photograph Organisation

Like anyone who has had a digital camera for any length of time organising your photographs can be a time consuming and frustrating matter. I recently decided to try and bring some order to the collection of numerous folders I had accumulated over the last number of year. Since it might be of assistance to someone here’s how I set about doing it.

My photo’s had at this stage been spread out across multiple drives and folders, some lumped together in logical groups based on the particular occasion (for example weddings, parties etc), while others simply where dumps of the SD cards as they where used.

To stamp order onto the collection I decided to break my collection down into folders divided up into year and month collections, where I wanted to view them in grouping by occasion I decided to leave that to the album software be it Google Photos, Shotwell or whatever. But on disc they would reside in a single directory sub-divided by year and month.

This would help minimise the collisions of names since it was unlikely that similar filenames would be used in the same year/month combinations.

Having settled on a tree structure, the next step required automating the process of extracting the image metadata and copying the image files into the appropriate location.

To that end I made use of the excellent ExifTool, which while a command-line tool is excellent at processing media files for the sort of information I needed to extract for these files.

Once I had installed the software I created a simple batch script to process the contents of a directory and copy the files to a staging area. In my case the staging directory was “d:/stagingImages” which can be changed to your own particular requirements.

The script file exifcopy.cmd is shown below:

@echo Processing [%1]
@exiftool -o . "-Directory<filemodifydate" -d d:/stagingImages/%%Y-%%m -r %1

With both the above script and exiftool executable placed in the same folder, I can add that directory to the systems path to allow it to be be picked up by the command prompt.

Simply calling exifcopy with the source directory as a parameter will cause the directory in question to be queried and it’s contents copied to the staging directory in the structure detailed earlier.

To make the process even move straight forward I also added a new context menu for explorer to allow me to do this with a simple right click of the mouse. The script called CopyImagesToStaging.reg is shown below.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Copy and organise images"

@="CMD.exe /C exifcopy \"%1\""

Now by simply right-clicking a folder its contents would be queried and any images copied to the staging folder.

The updated staging directory contents can then be simply copyed to whereever your images are stored.

Fugitive – Two player card game.

Cue tiniest violin music.

One of the biggest hindrances to playing board or cards is getting both time and people to play these games. And while I have a number of games which work well with three or more players, I’ve a very limited amount for just two players.

Luckily I’ve been introduced to a nice two player game which only runs for ten to twenty minutes, ideal for the lunch time session. 

So let me introduce you to Fugitive, a two player card game of deduction and bluffing.

The theme of the game is of a fugitive attempting to escape the investigator pursuing them by reaching their get-away (the 42th card).

Game play consist of the fugitive playing a hideout card each turn which can be up to three values greater than the last played hideout. The deception comes in that they may play any number of additional cards on top of this card to take them past the 3 step limit, though not all cards are necessarily used as part of the move. Allowing the investigator to be thrown off the scent.

The investigator for their turn gets to attempt to catch the fugitive by nominating a card number which if used as hideout must be revealed (along with any additional cards associated with it).

Should they identify the fugitives current hideout they get to apprehend them.

The cards to beautiful illustrated as can be seen in the samples shown below and additionally as a nice touch if you lay them out in sequence it illustrates the story of the pursuit.

The portrait of an artist (without talent).

There’s some nice offers running in the Steam VR anniversary special running through this weekend. 

I’ve most of what I wanted already, but one which I hadn’t picked up was Tilt Brush.

It’s a funky wee application from Google which lets you paint in 3D. At full price it was just a bit rich for my tastes but now that they’ve lowered it to €13.99 I decided to pick it up.

Stand back and be astonished at my first wondrous offerings.
If this software malarkey doesn’t work out I’ve a fall back option… the dole.

I know you’re spechless.

Guns of Icarus : Alliance

Those of you with a passing interest in Steampunk related games will undoubtedly have come across Guns of Icarus Online the steampunk themed multiplayer game of airship combat.

Guns of Icarus Alliance takes the initial team based combat and moves it from its PvP origins to PvE co-op play. Now rather than the combat  between player controlled Dirigibles, the players all work together towards a common goal against a computer controlled adversary.

And speaking of those Dirigibles that’s where it gets interesting, each is manned by a crew of four players including the captain. Game play consist of the Captain steering the vessel, while the other crewmen man the guns and attempt to maintain the various parts of the ship as they become damaged.

Alliance brings into play a persistent battlefield, where each of your battles counts towards advancement for your particular faction on a world map. As you play you earn points which you can also assign to battles to increase your factions advancement.

It terms of actual game player it can become quite a frantic and unforgiving affair as shown in the video below. Damage quickly escalates and if ignored can quickly bring down the ship along with all those on-board. Team-play is essential to keep the ship afloat.

If you already own Guns of Icarus Online you can upgrade with a 25% discount, while those who don’t have the base game can pick it up on Steam for €19.99 which includes the original game.

So is it worth getting?
With Steam the only score that counts is have you asked for a refund. While it’s not a perfect game, in this case I haven’t. There’s potential there and when it works it’s really engaging.

As to the shortcomings, personally I’d like to see more interaction and backstory being driven on the persistent world side. There’s a rich backdrop to the game which I can’t help but feel is not getting fulled realised, I’m hoping that will come.

The other issue is length of time it can take to get a game running. The player count is not that large so getting the necessary numbers can take a while for a game to start. It also doesn’t help that no-one wants to do captain (guilty as charged myself).

But that  said Alliance due to its co-operative nature and use of computer controlled opponents doesn’t suffer from this as much as the PvP side of the game does, so it’s not a deal breaker.

And for those of you with a more steampunk literary bent allow me to also recommend “The Aeronauts Windlass” by Jim Butcher. It’s the first book in a new series set also in a steampunk environment featuring airship combat between various noble families.


I’ve been arranging and running board and card games sessions for quite some time now and without a doubt one of the post popular games for both new players and veterans alike is Citadels.

It’s a deceptively simple game. The aim being to build a set number of districts (eight) which triggers the end of the game. After which the total value of the districts along with a number of bonuses from the spread of district types, first player to build eight districts, etc. are accumulated to determine the eventual winner.

The turns preceding this consisting of the players taking (changing) character cards which confer abilities to both hinder other players or assist the player. The channel being attempting to infer what the others will play and how to react accordingly.

My own version now a number of years old had become somewhat battered from constant transportation and play. So with the release of a new version of the game in 2016 I decided it was time to refresh my deck and purchase an additional copy.

The first thing you notice is that the game box is considerably larger then the one which preceded it. The preceding versions box would have been a third of the size, which made it much more convenient for transporting it for example down to the pub for a quick game over lunch.

As can be seen from the image above there’s a good bit of unused space and we get to see one of the biggest changes for the game; the addition of tokens for particular play variants.

The new cards are beautifully illustrated, with the character cards  a good size larger than the previous versions which had matched the district cards sizes. A word to the wise here, get card protectors on those character cards quick, they are the ones which get the greatest wear.

The characters and districts from “The Dark City” expansion are also included along with some new additions.

The crown marker has been remodelled  replacing the previous wooden version, much more regal. And as we all know in our games having that crown means first dibs on the “Assassin” and all the mischief that entails.

I’ve a games session coming occuring soon in which I’ll get to try out the new variants, but even without those it’s a solid upgrade to an already excellent game.

Planet of the vampires

My current pastime on weekend mornings is watching old science fiction movies from the 60’s and 70’s, and yes they typically are as bad you think. That’s kind of the ‘charm’ of them.

But every now and again you unearth something unexpected, a forgotten gem and that in this particular case is “Planet of the vampire”.

Somewhat misleadingly titled since there are no vampires to speak off on said planet, the story concerns a crew of a spaceship which investigate the mysterious signal emanating from a volcanic planet.

And if that sounds familiar to you, that’s not the only surprising similarity you’ll find with a much later alien film. But we don’t want to give away too much since it’s worth watching for that woo moment when you start to see certain iconic set pieces.

It’s well worth a watch if you’re a fan of sci-fi and old sci-fi in particular, the film is visually stunning in HD, with its sets and costuming. Though as you’d expect from a film made in 1965 the tech’s a bit off, but surprisingly doesn’t look as dated as you might expect.

All in all, I really enjoyed.