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DMI News

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Good news

January 04, 2003 16:36

So I troll radioshack to see if I can't find a decent price on another RC car, since if I never get around to fixing the other one, some people will never stop complaining about it. Of course, it'll take a few hours at least to configure a new car, and that's an event I'm not really looking forward to. But there I am, sifting through a pile of boxes of on clearance toys, and lo and behold, sitting at the bottom of the pile is the exact car I have already, probably been sitting there for two years now, and marked WAY down from its original price. So I obtained said vehicle and should have it converted and running tonight sometime. Now I HAVE to get the transmitter fixed. :)

Oh, and it was my birthday yesterday, just in case anyone missed it.

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Some Solutions

January 03, 2003 18:43

As an experiment, I moved the message feature to a less obvious place. I now get 10 messages a day, and most of those from people I already know. So either my plan has worked, and people read the site and can't come up with anything to ask about it, or they give up and leave before finding it. Either way, my problems have diminished. Still, there was a certain convienence to having an instant feedback feature, but its useless if it gets abused.

I've also been playing with some clipart. Got some ideas on how to convey where I live, what time it currently is, and a few other tidbits of info without having actual text, this way people will probably notice an outline of Texas where they'd never read about it before asking.

I'll be taking down the outdoor Xmas stuff tomorrow, although the indoor stuff will stay up year round. I've gotten an initial pass on the software rewrite done, now I have to add relaying and threading to it, in an effort to support more simultanious users. Then I'll start adding wait queues and locking.

I've been doing some preliminary design work on omnidirectional robots, a prelude to the quakebot and other projects. While the onboard computer, along with a high speed uplink is the primary cost involved in any of these projects, any effort to reduce the cost of those would be beneficial. Then I'll have to get involved in mapping and navigation algorithms. Fun stuff.

I'll start trolling ratshack tomorrow to see if I can pick up a decently priced rc car on clearance. If I find one that will work well, I'll buy it and hopefully have a working model going by the end of the weekend again. Then I just have to see if I can afford the transmitter.

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Stuff

December 29, 2002 21:38

Hope everyone had a Merry Xmas. Hope everyone's going to have a good newyears. I got a dvd player for Xmas. And ONE dvd. Not that I really ever intend to use it, but people have been bugging me for months now that I need to have my tv online. So I figure I'll rig up the dvd player and vcr so you can play with it. I rarely, if ever use them, so it won't have much of an impact on me. I already purchased a universal remote for the express purpose of doing exactly this. Now its just a matter of getting a computer in range to stream the video and audio. I'll let you know.

I have come to the rather obvious conclusion that practically NOBODY reads this site. While nobody is REQUIRED to do so, I suppose I expect as a matter of common courtesy people will at least make a 60 second effort to figure something out for themselves before bothering somebody with the same questions... over and over again. The funny thing is, as long as there are pictures describing it, nobody seems to have a problem figuring it out. But plain english seems to baffle people.

So I have a few options here. I can just remove the message feature. There are plenty of ways to chat with me. It made more sense back in the day when I didn't have the chatroom available. Now it has become more a source of annoyance. And not so much for me, but for everyone else who has to endure it. It was a very convienent way for people to send me a quick message, or to answer a quick question. But it's gotten out of hand.

My next option, is to simply remove all text from the page. Turn everything into icons. People seem to have no problem figuring out pictures, but it's pretty obvious that I can't expect them to read. I don't know why the world has been forced to reduce itself to picture books and eyecandy, but that seems to be the way it's going. It wouldn't be so bad if the most useful features of web programming weren't so abused. I can't tell you how many people have popups disabled, then they complain because the chatroom link does nothing. Nobody reads the alt tags, which I have over every icon, explaining what it does.

However, catering to the lowest common denominator isn't really want I want to do either. I pride myself on the fact that there's someplace in the world that intellegent people can hang out. I keep the chatrooms clean from leetspeak and playground punks who've recently discovered new curse words. If this means that the bottom 10% of the foodchain feels left out, so be it. I should spend my efforts on making things more fun for the other 90%. Instead, I waste most of my time trying to appease those who have nothing but ill will to return.

So expect a few changes in the near future to help some of these problems. And have a happy new year.

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Coverage

December 17, 2002 11:24

Lots of radio and internet features about this site over the last week. Yahoo placed me as the #23 website of the year. Lockergnome also featured the site in their weekly newsletter. WRIF in Detroit and two local stations, WBAP and KRLD have interviewed with me. There is a major TV station that is also discussing a 5 minute segment. Don't expect the traffic to die down anytime soon.

I'm still recoding the lampserver program. I'm hoping by the end of this weekend to have it finished, at which time I'll release the source again. It will now use configuration files for all of the program's features, to make using it a lot easier than being foraced to sift through my heavily hardcoded mess that it was before. It will also have relay features and a few other useful features.

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Updates

December 09, 2002 14:54

As I'm sure you can see, I've gotten some of the lawn ornaments set up on the front lawn. I may or may not add some more. In any event, I'll need to get more extension cords and another power strip first. They show up pretty nicely during the day, although the light is pretty strong at night and the excessive glare makes it difficult to tell what it looks like. As with the other external lights, they won't operate between midnight and 6 am.

I'm trying to move the office cam to another computer. Keeping it on that windows box is going to drive me nuts. I've got two options. Either to install it on the other windows box that is within reach or to get some extension cords for the rca cable and power and connect it to my linux server instead. However, if I end up doing that, I'll need to do some more tweaking with the video settings. The bttv cam in the living room has some annoying edges on the image I would prefer to get rid of first. I will also take the opportunity to install a new network card in the primary server and a new soundcard. However, this will entail some downtime for the primary server which controls pretty damn well everything. At some point I might need to consider having one of my other linux boxes function as a mirror, although with the primary filesystem down, I'm not sure how much this would help. I'll just get it back up quickly. :)

I've modded the camserv program to allow for dynamic captions controllable by people other than myself, or at least myself from a remote location. Once all the cams are converted I'll be able to send a message to all cameras at once, and in the future maybe even specific replies to a single address only, so others don't have to wonder about a message they don't have the full context on.

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Stuff

December 05, 2002 02:45

I'm in the process of recoding the lightserver, almost from scratch. This is the program that handles all active device activity. Lights, sprinkler, rc car, cam rotor, etc. I'm cleaning the code up, adding a configuration file to make it easier for others (and myself) to maintain, and redesigning some things to make it more efficient and therefore be able to handle more connections. As it is, more than about 15000 users a day will cause it to do funny things as it gets more than several requests per second to handle various devices, not to mention all the state requests. Since the X10 lamp commands take up to a second to complete, simple math tells us that when I get 5 such requets per second, it won't take long before something breaks. New revisions should help some of these problems. I'll also be adding a relay feature so a server can relay a specific command to a server on another computer, allowing a single server to handle all incoming requests and farming out those that belong elsewhere.

I've taken a preliminary look at the RC car. Since one of the transistors is smoking, I'm quite certain that it accounts for at least PART of the problem. Now its just a matter of fixing it. The PE200 and PE201 transistor part #'s seem to be hard to come by and although I can reverse engineer the schematic to figure out the pinout, I have no idea what the other specs on those transistors are. Since they drive the motors and have heatsinks attached to them, I'd imagine they're designed to handle quite a bit of power, but internet searches on those parts reveal nothing useful. I'll probably eventually buy a few $0.50 transistors, plug them in there and see what blows up and in what order. Hopefully luck might be on my side and I'll get it working again. If not, I might see if I can't find another car of the same model. Its been two years since I got this one though, and Rat Shack certainly isn't stocking it anymore. I could always pick up another one after Xmas and mod it instead. Gotta wait for the clearance prices first though.

Got the phone tap working, and it works well. Right now its output only, so the computer can stream both sides of the phone conversation, but it can't feed audio back into the conversation. That should be a simple modification however. Once I have a computer in a decent position with a decent soundcard and drivers that work right, I'll try getting it permanantly connected so I can easily stream certain calls.

I've modded the camserv source code slightly to allow for displaying a caption dynamically from a file. This will allow me to easily update the caption on all cams (at least those using camserv) at the same time, so when someone sends a message to me, they can read it no matter what cam they're watching. This will also allow a select group of people to be able to control the captions as well. I am presently the only one who can answer questions to people who refuse to join the chatroom, despite my pleas to do exactly that. This will make things less combersome. I might hack further and fix it so captions can be directed to a specific user, nixing the common problem of answering one person's question then having 19 others wonder why I said some obscure statement to them. Now... if only I could selectively flip off only one person.... :)

I've currently got one set of Xmas lights outside. I'm planning by this weekend to have some lawn ornaments on the lawn that are also controllable. Not certain how many yet. Its tough getting more than two modules on a single power strip. Not quite sure what I'll do about another external camera. I found a nice inexpensive black and white camera that would work perfectly outdoors, but its b&w. That's not a huge crisis though, and a limitation I'm sure everyone will be willing to live with. Things will show up better at night besides. Color cameras don't work as well in the low light.

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89X Interview

November 27, 2002 07:41

Had my interview with 89X out of Detroit. They're going to air it on Monday, although I'm not sure when. So if you're up there, be sure to catch it.... if you want.

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Lolly is NOT dead

November 26, 2002 01:38

She's alive and well. This site and the people who frequent it have been the victim of a cruel and sick sick SICK fucking joke. I'm not entirely sure who exactly is responsible for this, and I'm not about to jump to conclusions at this point. I'm more creeped out about it than anything else.

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THE LAB CAM WORKS!

November 25, 2002 13:06

About damn time too. Reinstalled the OS from scratch just to get a decent working kernel. But it works now. Happy days. Now I just need to put a rotor on it too so you can see more of the room, or add a second cam to the room or something. I'm sure I'll come up with something. I'll add capture features to that cam and maybe streaming audio as well. Just need to get another mic. I've aimed the cam so it points out the door back into the office. I might manuver things a bit so the cams are able to see each other. So many possibilities! :)

New project. I have all the parts needed for the phone interface (I hope) as well as enough parts for one segment of the marquee sign. Sometime I'll sit down and do a bunch of soldering. Once the phone interface is working, not only will I be able to stream my phone calls, which is of only moderate amusement, but it's the first stage of other projects, like the telemarketer tarpit.

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More Progress or the lack thereof

November 22, 2002 09:11

First of all, there are now Xmas lights outside, and the ability to control them. You can see them from the front door cam, although they probably won't show up well in the daylight. They have been currently rigged to not work between midnight and 6 am, to hopefully reduce the annoyance factor for my neighbors. They're just random, blinking Xmas lights.... yeah!

As for something slightly more strange.... I've got two computers. One of them has USB connections on the motherboard. They're clearly labled USB1 and USB2. Not something I'm likely to get confused about. Ok, but apparently the computer itself has NO idea they exist. No mention of it in the bios, no software can detect them. Nada. Ok, so its a fluke.

Got another computer. When I had windows 95 on it, it detected the USB ports, and couldn't do anything with them, but it DID find them. So I presume that THIS motherboard has usb connections on them. I scoured it. Inch by inch. There is NOWHERE to connect the USB ports to. Nothing. To say this is odd, is an understatement. I'm just annoyed. The only thing keeping a cam out of the lab is the lack of a computer with a usb port.

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