About

About This Blog

My blog is a showcase and a platform for me to share my efforts and endeavours in electronics and related software. By documenting and cataloguing the projects I create, repairs I undertake, reviews and opinions I present, and making this all available I hope it will be at least interesting, useful and maybe even educational for others. As an (important) aside, I have chosen to use video extensively because I want to learn how to be succinct and talk *normally* when on camera – for some reason I seem to struggle to talk to a camera, I waffle, I say “Er” and “Um” far too many times, I don’t know how to leave gaps and I often say stupid or even wrong things, I generally feel a bit dumb when I am on video – doing this blog is my way of forcing myself to get over it – so apologies in advance if the videos are boring or not engaging, I am working on improving my video presentation ability.

Blog Disclaimer

Because this blog focuses on electronics you should know that I am not “qualified” in electronics or in software development. I have not had any formal education in either subject, what I know I have taught (or somehow know) myself, a fact that I am neither ashamed of – nor coy about. However, you should also know that the lack of formal qualification does not mean I do not take it seriously, I do – I have spent a lot of time learning to use, and a lot of money buying my test gear, machines and other paraphernalia that I use, I am IMHO competent and capable, safe and responsible so in that regard I am a professional engineer so I will do my very best to be accurate and factual with my content. I will of course not expect you to take my word for that, you can make your own judgement about my competence and capability if you do watch or read any of my content.

About Me

You have probably worked this out but just in case, my name is Gerry Sweeney. When I am not relaxing with my family and friends or doing my day job (see below), I love to find interesting ways of combining electronics and software to create new, novel or interesting things and I love to share what I learn with others. It’s true I am a geek – but I am also social, outgoing, I have a sense of humour, I am happy to speak about things in front of large audiences of people, I can hold a conversation about football and may other subjects that are not at all geeky and I can even talk to girls I don’t know (but don’t tell the misses!). Fact is though, I like to understand how the world around me works and if I can, I like to try and improve on things that need improving. My own worst personal trait is probably my tenacious, often blind and perhaps sometimes inappropriate desire to do something simply because someone tells me “it can’t be done” – if I think it can be done, I will probably try to do it – I will often fail, and I will openly celebrate failure, but at least I will try.

I grew up in Willesden in London, UK. From a very young age (maybe as young as 7) I was messing with electrical stuff. At that time the way we got music on demand was with a record player – I made my own record player by connecting an old Garrard (white bakerlite) record deck to an old valve (tube for you US folk) reel–to-reel tape recorder – I was only 7 or 8 years old and seeing that work got me hooked – I also electrocuted myself doing that when my mum was not looking – I learned a valuable lesson that day!

For some reason that none of my family (me included) can explain, I had an overly natural competence when it came to practical, mechanical and electrical things that was somehow there, and this was very obviously present (so my folks and family tell me) from a very early age – I seemed to easily understand, I could establish facts I did not know by using facts that I did know to join the dots, and had a high rate of success of getting to the right answer (or maybe it was just me thinking that!). My ability to easily comprehend and physically do stuff was so natural and was driven by very strong and inbuilt intuition. By the time I was in my early teens I was that go-to person to fix anything from TV’s, HiFi, watches, domestic appliances, cars, bikes, engines, house and even commercial electrics, burglar alarms, telephones, CB and amateur radio, video game and slot machines and computers, basically if it was electrical or mechanical and I could take it apart and fix it – I did. I eventually get tired of being the “free community repair man” so I stopped fixing TV’s and turned my attention to a career instead – bizarrely and to the surprise of many that knew me – I did not take up a career in electronics, I did try for a while but no one would interview me without that engineering degree :(

By the time computers were popularising, its far to say that my understanding of electronics lead me to computing because there was an obvious connection, my first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, I was still at school, I was 15 and while my friends were typing programs into their own ZX81 from a listing in a computer magazine, I was soldering TTL chips into my ZX81 to make it program EPROM’s and wondering how that magical UCLA chip in there worked – no one really understood why I used to do that stuff and sadly, Willesden not being a Silicon Valley hot-spot and the Internet did not exist so it was difficult to share experiences and network with likeminded people to learn more – I had to figure it out on my own. To feed the desire to share what I was doing, my parents and sisters were often forced to listen to me tell them “look what I have done” – of course they really did not understand – still it was nice of them to smile, nod and play along for me… thankfully for my family, I do have some great like-minded friends and of course thanks to the power of the internet and youtube there are many people I don’t know with who I share this interest with.

Other things I have done/do myself mostly under my own direction: –

  • I learned to Play Guitar – I have no formal training, started playing when I was 8 (that’s a whole other story), did try making a living playing for a while, plenty of gigs but not a lot of money, great fun but entirely unsustainable and I was never good enough to be a pro so I relegated my playing to fun and recreation only. I still retain my mini collection – I have a Martin Sigma acoustic (now kid bashed but still sounds great), an 83’ Fender USA Black Strat, a 74’ Gibson Les Paul Custom and a 80’s USA Jackson Soloist Pro and a near mint Fender Quad Reverb Black Face Amp from the mid 60’s.
  • I have mostly renovated my own house (and helped others do theirs too), done things such as stripping back to bare brick and re-building, replacing the entire roof structure, internal structural changes with steels and other structural supports, air conditioning, total rewiring, security system, total re-pluming water and gas, decorating (badly and I hate doing it), structural foundations, drainage, large scale concrete hard standing, decking, bathrooms, wet rooms, staircase and all sorts of other general building work.
  • Motorbike riding, road and some track. I sold my ZX6R when my son was born; I was too fond of riding it on its end stop!
  • I was a (not very good) DJ of sorts (80’s wedding/pub style) back in the day when that was reasonably cool.
  • One of my early self-employed jobs was as a breakdown and auto electrics technician; I had a little red van with an orange flashing light and an ad in the Yellow Pages. Reasonably successful and made a good living mostly fitting (at the time brand new-fangled) NEC car phones into freight Lorries and re-wiring BMW’s that where cut and shut (when cutting and shutting was *NOT* illegal before anyone comments :)

My Career Biography Summary

  • Odd Jobs (did not want a real job for a while, got by and got shouted at a lot “get out of bed” by my parents)
  • Auto Electrician/Breakdown
  • Part Time DJ and Band Member
  • Home & Commercial Alarm and Security Systems Install and Servicing
  • Vending Machine Field Engineer
  • EPOS Field Engineer
  • Computer Field Service Engineer
  • Computer Site Engineer and Team Lead
  • Computer Technical Support (Novell CNE, Microsoft MCP)
  • IT Contractor (IT, infrastructure, networking and support)
  • IT Manager (team of 20 ish)
  • Founder, CEO and CTO – Hornbill

About My Day Job

Aside from my family and close friends, the next most important activity in my life is my day job. In 1995 I founded a small B2B software company called Hornbill; I started that company with a friend, with no money, no staff and no work. My goal was to create a successful software company and I had global aspirations, I wanted to create IPR and build a close nit team of professionals and experts to work with, I wanted to do that on my terms which at the time meant no debt, no venture capital or external funding – in other words the company had to make money from the off, and keep on making money – growth would be fuelled out of profits and not debt – a strange concept in the software business. I have worked tirelessly from that day to this to make that happen – I still run and manage that company today, I am CEO and I take that responsibility very seriously, its hard work and has its challenges but I love doing it. Day to day I do everything from operational, strategy, product design and direction, customer escalations, staff management and team building and have oversight of Finance, Strategy, Marketing, Sales, Development, Services, Support and our Cloud operations, mostly today its oversight and guidance, I have a great team of people who make it all work. Hornbill today is a Gartner Magic Quadrant quoted company with over 100 full time staff in the UK, North America, Australia and even Mauritius (ok, its just one person in Mauritius…). We have about 650 customers globally including some very well know FTSE 100 global companies; we invest heavily in R&D and remain financially strong under our own steam. In our most recent chapter, we have built and operate a specialist cloud infrastructure that spans locations in Europe and North America and provide our software as a service for many of our customers and partners. I feel both proud and lucky to work with a team of some of the nicest and capable people in our industry and as team Hornbill we get to work with many outstanding, forward thinking, globally brand recognisable and leading organisations.

If you got this far and are still awake, thank you for reading.

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Copyright (C) Gerry Sweeney, All rights reserved.

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

19 thoughts on “About

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Gerry Sweeney's Blog

  2. Hi, just recently came across this project, will it be available as a kit or maybe the PCB? also there does not appear to be much info about yourself Gerry, would like to learn more about what you do in your day to day job etc

    • Hi Evan, I am not geared up to sell kits so probably not. However, if there is enough interest I was thinking about ordering a bunch of PCB’s and possibly some of the “expensive-in-one-off-or-shipping” components and making them available to anyone interested – just as a way of reducing the overall cost of the project for anyone (me included) that might want to build one. I will update the about page with more relevant personal information, my day job is quite distant to what I am doing here, my electronics knowledge really comes from way back before my working career took hold.

      • Wow, Gerry, thanks for sharing your personal information. My interests in electronics as a lad is somewhat similar and later I also worked in IT. I guessed that you had some involvement in IT but to learn you created a successful global IT company is absolutely outstanding.

  3. 80’s teenager, electronics hobby, motorbikes, guitar, modified Sinclair ZX, “um, err” issues when video blogging………but that’s me I’m talking about, not you! I thought I was unique…..no more!

    • Hi Sérgio,

      I use ITead Studio and custompcb.com both are in the far east, UK companies seem to be far too expensive. There is no perfect supplier though, best to try a few and find one you like/can work with.

      Gerry

  4. “I have not had any formal education in either subject, what I know I have taught (or somehow know) myself, a fact that I am neither ashamed of – nor coy about. ”

    My grandfather, a British Canadian, had nothing but a public school (government) education to his high school level. From there he self-studied and followed a fascination with electronics, working his way up, through the US depression, to service as radio officer aboard Liberty Ships during WWII and from there to industry. He ended his 45 year electronics career with the latter half at one company, Chase Shawmut, which is now Gould Shawmut, with scores of patents for industrial process and induction heating, much of which is likely still present in common household and industrial fuses today. I have always held his example as most admirable and, not just happenstance, our paths have sometimes met.

    He was, I now understand, a “didactic” learner. Someone who learned how to learn on his own, and did so quite effectively. Personal circumstances place me in the same category, yet minus so much accomplishment. Still, I recognize and appreciate the value of practical knowledge and experience gained over time. It is so unfortunate that experiential knowledge is increasingly downplayed; replaced with encapsulated plug-in self-learning, self-diagnosing systems (as one example). Unfortunate as these are ultimately headless horsemen.

    So all this to acknowledge and praise the advantage of practical, experiential education. In your case, having seen many of your video presentations, your engineering skills are top notch. You are methodical, careful, curious, and measure twice before cutting. Thanks for your efforts here on behalf of others. Well done indeed!

    • HI Mark,

      Thats very kind of you to say, I wanted to make sure I did not claim any level of “professional expertise” so that I don’t mislead people. I appreciate the time you have taken to write the comment. Thank you

      Gerry

  5. Hi Gerry. I recently found your channel on YouTube while, like you, trying to self learn electronics. Your presentation skills are great, clear, factual and to the point. I like your style. I would like to know however; where do you get your PCBs made? As someone starting out I find it difficult to find a manufacturer who will make a batch of 10 boards or less when prototyping an idea. Do you ever make your own copper clad boards for example? I live in Ireland so perhaps I can use a company in the UK. I hope to do either electronic engineering or electrical engineering next year as mature student (25) and it would be nice to bring along some boards to show off at the interview, to give the impression of semi professionalism. Anyway I love your channel Gerry and keep the videos coming. Ps. Where are the first 7 power supply videos, they seem to be unlisted? Kind regards Jason aka SeaMonkey.

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. I get my boards made in China, I have yet to find a UK manufacturer that can offer anything like the price point or turn-around for low-volume prototype boards, in reality this type of work seems to be outsourced to china behind the scenes. Now while I will tell you who I use I want to caution you that service quality is *very* variable so you should take this as information rather than a personal recommendation – that being said, for boards only they are both pretty good but your communication with them has to be 100% clear and concise, what would appear common-sense often is not the case. For example, I have been ordering a lot of boards from one supplier, always in black. Then on one order, even after stating black numerous times I had shipped to me 100 green boards – not the end of the world but frustrating. In their defence they acknowledged the problem was at their end and they re-made the boards and shipped them to me at no cost, I was still lumbered with another lot of import duty and delays. Thats the sort of thing that can happen so expect that, but board quality is good, turn-around is generally good and actually they are nice people when you talk to them, in reality $80 for 6 boards is not exactly going to make them millions so the service in many ways is reflected in the price and I don;t think thats entirely unreasonable. Anyways, the two companies I have used are ITeadStudio and SeeedStudio – you can google both to find them. They both have on-line ordering capability and they are both reliable board makers and the quality of the boards are pretty good. Hope that helps.

      Gerry

  6. Hi Gerry,

    Thank you for doing this blog, which I found from “that Aussie blokes” blog. I love the fact that you spend time explaining things in detail.

    I work from home and like to have a Vblog on in the background (it either tat or “Loose Women”).

    In response to Jason aka SeaMonkey looking for small runs of 10 boards, I have started using Smart-Prototyping for my PCBs. They do 10 boards 5cm x 5cm delivered to the UK for less then 10 GBP.

    I use Eagle CAD for PCB design, and they have a Design Rules CAM module which you can download to make sure your Gerbers are correctly configured.

    I run a small company manufacturing control PCBs, and I order 10 PCBs for prototyping (which I may use if I have designed my circuit right !), otherwise I make mods and then order in 100’s.

    I rarely use a breadboard as I prefer the ease and time saving element of going straight to PCB (despite the 3 week delivery time).

    Another firm I have used is OSH park, where you get 3 PCBs for a similar price.

    Both companies offer a good quality product, to slightly higher specification than generally offered at the low cost end, in my view.

    My tips would be: Beware of manufacturers adding unrealistic shipping charges at the last moment and check your design out at mayhewlabs using their 3D gerber viewer before ordering.

    I am not associated with any of these companies, other than being a normal customer.

    Steve.

  7. Hello Gerry,
    i had watched a youtube video on your channel about dark side screen problem on imac.
    i have a mid 2010 imac and have a vertical line problem but this is a bit different. if i focus the screen, i see the very very thin lines ( just like moving pixels) i have never removed the imac screen.
    here is the photo:
    http://i60.tinypic.com/246jrpj.jpg
    what is the problem? any idea?
    thank you

    • Hi,
      I have not seen that problem before. If the pixel errors are always at the same physical position on the screen then it looks like problem on the actual panel. If the problem moves around the screen and is in different places then most likely a video card/memory problem.
      Gerry

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