Cwtch the Bride has hit the big time

Posting here and at is kinda on hiatus at the moment as we have to make our new house liveable. However, I had to come on here quickly just to say that Cwtch the Bride; the wedding blog set up by our wedding photographer Maria Farrelly, and contributed to by my lovely wife Charlie, has been nominated for the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014!

The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards Logo, Cwtch is nominated!


How cool is that?! Congratulations to Maria and all the contributors. So, if you like Cwtch the Bride, are bored or are just a nice person, Vote for Cwtch now!

Las Vegas – The Little Things

One of the perks of my job is that I occasionally need to attend training courses. Doesn’t sound very perky, right? Until I tell you that the courses are held in Las Vegas!

Pretty cool huh? Anyway I’ve just got back from my latest Vegas trip and thought I’d write a post about the the things that are good and bad about life over there; but not the big stuff that really matters, just the small things, as I find it really is the little things that can annoy the hell out of you or make your day.

Let’s start with the bad shall we?

1. Public Toilets

Are Americans allergic to privacy? Or do they just have no one who can hang a door correctly? I don’t know, but with the huge gaps between the toilet stall doors, you may as well not have any doors at all.

Photo courtesy of  because I didn't want to get caught talking weird photos in a toilet.

Photo courtesy of aussiejoyslife because I didn’t want to get caught talking weird photos in a toilet.

On the other hand, should you wish to use a urinal, the partitions between them are huge! Strange no? Maybe Americans think its OK for people to see your junk, but only if you’re sitting down.

2. Card Transactions

What’s that? You want me to sign for this? What is this, the stone age?

The world’s largest national economy does not use Chip & Pin technology, so if you’re like someone who was on my course, and the magnetic strip doesn’t work on your card, you’re going to have some problems.

3. Getting Fuel

If you want some petrol in the US, you need to park up, and go into the petrol station to pay the cashier first. This means you need to know how much petrol you need to begin with, quite a pain if you’re renting a car and are not sure about the size of it’s fuel tank. Some places do have “pay at the pump” but I have no idea how they work without chip and pin. On the other hand, fuel is cheap over there, at around a dollar per litre.

The Good Stuff

1. The Service

“Service with a Smile” is definitely how it works in the US. The oddest thing however, is it feels sincere. Perhaps its the reliance on tips to make a decent wage, or perhaps it’s just the American attitude, but the service staff are just nicer.

2. The Food

McDonalds aside, if there’s one thing the Americans know how to do, it’s eating out. With the diverse climates available across the country, they can grow fantastic tasty ingredients. Their tomatoes and basil are almost on par with that which I have had on the Sorrentine Peninsula.

The four cheese ravioli at the  is delicious.

The four cheese ravioli at the California Pizza Kitchen is delicious.

In Las Vegas itself, You can get a great pasta dish even at the cheaper fast food joints, such as Bonanno’s. You can also get the biggest, tastiest steak you have ever eaten, perfectly prepared, should you visit a more upmarket restaurant. It is also a lot cheaper to eat out in the US than in the UK, making it a pastime you can enjoy a lot more often.

3. The Attitude

We Brits can be grumpy bastards, a crime I myself am guilty of. I don’t know whether it’s specific to Vegas, but the people there are just happier, maybe it’s the weather, or the cheap food, or the cheap petrol. Who knows? But the attitude is contagious.

Could go either way

Las Vegas itself

If you can take someone with you and you’re willing to suspend your sense of taste, to just dive in to enjoy Las Vegas’ cheesy theme parky-ness; or you’re someone who enjoys a bit of a gamble, and you have plenty of disposable cash to assist in your enjoyment; then Las Vegas can be the best fun you’ve ever had.

The view from The Venetian at sunset

The view from The Venetian at sunset

On the other hand, if you’re on your own and a bit skint, this place can get old pretty fast.


iPhone 5 Battery Replacement on the Cheap

If you, like me, have had your iPhone 5 since not long after it was launched, you may be finding that your battery life isn’t quite cutting the mustard any more. (Thanks Apple, everyone has a 24 month contract these days but a 1 year battery warranty is just peachy.)

Seeing this a little too often lately?

Seeing this a little too often lately?
Image courtesy of Tech Debriefs

Now if you go to Apple for a battery replacement it’ll cost you 55 of your finest pounds or 79 of your finest US dollars; pretty pricey, considering you’ve already probably spent £200+ on the phone itself.

Third party replacement batteries are available, but some of the more reputable companies will charge you almost as much as Apple will. So where do you turn?

Head over to Amazon or eBay and you’ll find plenty of replacement batteries for sub £10 prices; “But what’s the catch?”, I hear you ask, “They must be rubbish.”

Well good news! I’ve decided to take the hit for you, and report my findings! As well as give you the benefit of my experience performing the change.

I purchased 2 replacement batteries (1 for me, 1 for Charlie) with included tool kits for £4.99 each from a seller called tomi7866 and researched the procedure for replacing an iPhone 5 battery.

One of the first links you’ll find when you Google the subject will be this YouTube video titled Replace your iPhone 5 battery in 2 Minutes. Don’t be fooled, replacing your original battery will not be this quick, Apple have kindly glued it in with VERY strong double sided tape. In fact I really doubt the procedure in this video, where you’re required to only lift the screen to a 90 degree angle, is even possible at all for your original battery, as prying it unstuck from the case is such a fiddly and time consuming job, it would be near impossible without full use of both hands. Perhaps if you had a helper.

The best guide I have seen is this one from iFixit, which uses the much less fiddly and, in my opinion, safer tactic of removing the screen completely before attempting to remove the battery.

One thing the guide fails to mention is that the best point to begin prying the screen free after removing the screws is above the earphone socket, as there is a small cut-out there.

 It's not a good idea to look at your phone this closely, it shows all the dirt and scratches.

It’s not a good idea to look at your phone this closely, it shows all the dirt and scratches.

The guide also tells you to unplug the battery before attempting to pry it free, however my experience tells me that leaving it plugged in until you actually remove it is a good idea, as it may take a long time to get the battery free, and some electronics can lose data when no power is connected for a significant length of time.

Even when using the guide the key is patience, I’m an experienced electronic engineer, having done some pretty tricky fixes in my time, and the difficulty of removing the original battery still caused me to turn the air blue, as well as break a few of the cheap and weak plastic prying tools that came bundled with the battery. In the end I had to resort to sliding a guitar plectrum (actually part of the bundled tool kit) under the edges of the battery to loosen it enough to slide my stainless steel ruler VERY carefully underneath and lift it free.

This approach worked fine when I was working on my phone, however whilst doing Charlie’s phone I unfortunately caught a flex cable I hadn’t previously noticed and broke it (I’m human, I make mistakes). Severing this cable disabled the power and volume buttons, as well as the silent switch and vibration motor; luckily by enabling “Assistive Touch” in the iPhone’s accessibility options under the general tab in settings, the button and switch functions could be used via the touch-screen until I sourced a replacement flex from eBay user phonestore_uk for £3.50 including p&p. Fitting this replacement flex (again using an iFixit guide) was quite possibly the toughest and most stressful fix of my life as you basically have to dismantle the entire phone to fit it. It did however work perfectly once fitted. So the lesson is: be careful of this flex when replacing the battery.

REMEMBER its important not to puncture the battery as this can cause a fire, so the battery must be removed intact. Also take care not to lever against any of the surrounding components.

If you can help it (unlike me) it is also best to avoid conductive metal tools as even if the battery is unplugged some charge may remain in circuit components, and you don’t want to risk damage by shorting connections. Also you don’t want to add any scratches or gouges to your phone.

It may help you to know exactly where the double sided tape and flex cable are located, as I didn’t have this information, so here’s it’s positioning.

Glue and Flex Position

A couple of weeks on and both batteries are working absolutely fine, with battery life on both our phones returned to like-new levels.

So there you have it, the cheap way does work! But don’t get over confident, or you might end up having to replace a flex cable :S

I accept no responsibility for any damage you may cause to your iPhone if you follow any of the information or guides included in or linked to from this blog and screw up royally. That’s on you bud.

An Update

Hello all,

I thought I’d do an update post as I haven’t really posted much lately, as I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts since the wedding and to be honest, they are still pretty scattered. Charlie and I pretty much did nothing but plan and save for the wedding for the last two years, and now its over we both feel a little unfocused. Hopefully, that will change in the new year as we have a whole load of new things to think about.

We will be looking to buy our first house, which should be an interesting experience! On top of that Charlie shall be putting my wedding present to her to good use by starting a photography course.

Photo property of Maria Farrelly Photography

Photo property of Maria Farrelly Photography

I myself have plans to start courses in music theory, something I have been putting off for years, however that may not be until later in the year, as they seem to follow the normal university semesters. In the meantime I may take some Piano and/or Guitar lessons to improve my existing skills, and sharpen up those rusty ones.

This brings me to, the website my sister Sara so kindly gave us as a wedding gift. We’re hoping to make more use of this site in the new year, posting some of our wedding photos and about our life together as well as our personal projects. I am also thinking about moving the “Charlie’s Quotes” section of this site over to M&C, as although it is possibly one of this site’s most popular sections, it seems to fit in more with the subject matter on the other site. What do you guys think? Vote Now!


Anyway, until my next post I wish you all a Merry Christmas, here’s a card for you.

This and more awesome greetings cards can be bought at  The Oatmeal

This and more awesome greetings cards can be bought at The Oatmeal

How to split a tub of Ben and Jerry’s

How do you split a tub of Ben and Jerry’s? A tub of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream is sliced through vertically with a bread knifeAnd that’s how it’s done! Enjoy.

Webstuff I Like – Hack-A-Day

As you may or may not know; just over a month ago, featured my Electron Tree Bridal Gifts. This resulted in a lot of interest, and literally doubled this site’s overall views in just two days. So I’m taking this opportunity to say “Thank You Hack-A-Day!”, and to add a link to the side bar.

The Hack-A-Day Logo

Hackaday really is a great site if you’re into engineering, electronics, programming or any kind of homebrew design and manufacture; and it constantly amazes me how much ingenuity there is out there.

There really is something for everyone, from Light up Christmas Earrings and Halloween Door Knockers to a Barn Door Tracker for Astronomical Photography and a Refrigerated Draught Beer Station.

Charlie’s Quotes – Flamingos

Charlie’s brain went on holiday briefly the other evening and she asked me this

“Are Flamingos birds? I’m just checking in case they were mammals or something.”

I’ll give her a break as she’s been ill and what with the post wedding blues and all, although I may have to keep her away from the cats for a few days.

How I Nearly Died on Honeymoon

So, Charlie and I are married and back from our wonderful honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy. We had such a great time but I nearly ruined it by having an itty bitty accident on our second night there.

The beautiful setting for our honeymoon

The beautiful setting for our honeymoon

I woke up in the middle of night to answer a call of nature, noticing at the time I was a lot more groggy than I normally would be. However, I shook it off and went to the bathroom.

So, about a second into the deed I realised I was creating quite a bit of noise, and fearing I would wake Charlie I adjusted my aim, to be a little quieter (I’m trying to be tactful here). Still feeling a little groggy I closed my eyes, thinking to myself “Don’t fall asleep”.

Can you guess what happened next?

I awoke on the marble floor of the bathroom, being cradled by Charlie who was yelling “Are you alive?”.

I had fallen to sleep; an instant, deep sleep. I had then fallen, hitting the bidet on my right side, injuring my ribs. This was incredibly lucky, however, as the impact with the bidet had redirected my fall, causing me to twist and land on the floor facing the opposite direction, avoiding any head trauma on the marble fixtures at all.

Also luckily, I had awoken Charlie despite trying not to. She heard my impact with the bidet and, after receiving no reply to her calls, she came to investigate and found me prostrate and unconscious.

Once I awoke, I was confused to say the least, I had fallen into such a deep sleep so quickly that I hadn’t even been aware of the fall or impact, and couldn’t remember the fine details of the period just before falling asleep until the following morning.

Once again I was lucky as the injury I received to my ribs didn’t cause me much of a problem at all whilst on honeymoon, it was sore at times but most of the time I didn’t really notice it. In fact it is only now it is starting to feel more achey.

The resulting bruise from the impact with the bidet

The resulting bruise from the impact with the bidet

I do however believe that had I not hit the bidet and been redirected I would certainly have smashed my head against a hard surface in the all marble bathroom, bringing our honeymoon, if not our marriage to an untimely end.

The moral of the story people is this; Bidets save lives.

Or sit down when you pee in the middle of the night, your choice.

Bidets: Life savers, Beer Coolers; is there anything they cannot do?  Picture courtesy of

Bidets: Life savers, Beer Coolers; is there anything they cannot do?
Picture courtesy of

Electron Trees

*Update 29/09/13. I’m back from honeymoon and have fixed the file downloads, sorry about that, the cause was a conflict between some apps*

*Update 17/09/13. I have been informed that some people have been having trouble downloading the source code, as I’m on honeymoon at the moment I only have an iPhone so I can’t even check the link. Rest assured I will sort it when I’m back in the UK*

*Update 16/09/13. These have now been featured on hackaday. How awesome is that?!*

So the big day has finally arrived and Charlie and I are getting married! Don’t worry I’m not actually blogging from our wedding, this post has been written in advance.

I can now tell you about a little project (actually it was not-so little) we have undertaken, Charlie and I have designed and created some rather unique gifts for our bridesmaids, best man and page boy. Electron trees with their own colour cycling illuminated stands.

Tah Dah!

Tah Dah!

What is an electron tree? Also known as Lichtenberg Figures or Captured Lightning, they are what can be created by firing a beam of high energy electrons at a piece of acrylic and then striking the acrylic with a grounded stud.

The high energy electrons come to rest within the acrylic and form a plane of charge, once the grounding stud strikes the acrylic, a discharge path is created and all the electrons shoot to ground like a lightning strike, burning a path as they go.

An acrylic block being discharged

An acrylic block being discharged

What remains after the discharge is a block with a preserved representation of the path the charge travelled to get to ground, which as well as being an example of a fractal is a beautiful and interesting thing to behold, especially when lit up from below.

An example of an electron tree

An example of an electron tree

Every electron tree is completely unique and, as a linear accelerator is required to create one; they are extremely rare. As one of the clinical linear accelerators where I work was soon to be decommissioned, I had an opportunity to create some.

Most electron trees are square or rectangular, as creating other acrylic shapes is labour intensive and time consuming. But, after finding some acrylic contact juggling balls on eBay; we decided spherical electron trees would be the way to go. We couldn’t think of anything better to give to the people taking part in our special day!

Yep, clear acrylic contact juggling balls, à la labyrinth. I may have done a bad Bowie impression when they arrived.

Yep, clear acrylic contact juggling balls, à la Labyrinth. I may have done a bad Bowie impression when they arrived.

Making the Stand

To best present our gifts we knew we would need a light up stand on which to mount them, and so we headed to Southerndown Beach, near Cardiff; a location Doctor Who fans will know as Bad Wolf Bay. Our objective: hunt down a piece of driftwood that could be crafted into stands for our unique gifts.

After spending a few hours hunting for a decent piece, and watching people walk past in the other direction having found some great lumps of wood themselves, we started to think we would never find anything usable, then we found a piece of tree that wasn’t quite what we were after, but it might do the job.

However, once I started to chop up this log into smaller, usable chunks, I couldn’t believe our luck! The wood had some lovely, colourful spalting running through it, and would make a very attractive set of stands.

The great colourful spalting

The great colourful spalting

The Technical Bit

For the lighting, I decided to use three colours of ultra-bright LED’s, each fading in and out in sequence to create a host of different colours as they mix in different ratios. In order to achieve the fading effect I decided to use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM).

For this application I found the PIC12F1501 Microcontroller; a small 8 pin, relatively new addition to Microchip’s collection with 4 PWM outputs, as well as an amazing amount of further features for such a small chip.

I also decided to add a push-button to allow the user to pause the cycling colours on their favourite, and resume the cycle at any time.

I programmed the microcontroller in assembler using Microchip MPLAB and designed the circuit board using Designspark PCB, in order to save space and make a board small enough to fit in the stand I mounted the LED’s on the solder side. I used a mini USB socket as a power input.

PCB Solder Side

PCB Solder Side

PCB Component Side

PCB Component Side










If any of you would like to replicate these electronics, or create your own take on them, please find the associated files available for download below.


Here are some video’s of the making of the electron trees, stand and electronics, for those of you who aren’t bored out of their skulls yet.


Charlie’s Quotes – A snapshot of the tension in our house

Here is a text that shows the tension and resentment that goes on between Fizzgig and Charlie


Before you’re all like “Why’d you leave that poor cat out in the rain?”, I’d like to point out he was called multiple times and we had to go to bed. The stripey bastard therefore got everything he deserved.

If you’re wondering how Charlie is being so specific about her sleep quality, don’t worry, she’s not some kind of advanced cyborg, there’s an app for that.

 In other news, I retired the original blogspot blog today, with a shotgun, behind the barn.