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June 12, 2010 15:09
Here are pictures from A-Kon. I'll talk more about it later.
May 28, 2010 01:24
I will soon start constructing the new version of the critter. Right now I am in the R&D phase. I have the following goals for this version:
More useful drive system. I'll be using a 2-wheel differential drive (instead of 4) with one or possibly two casters. Due to my inability to locate a suitable gearhead motor/wheel/encoder combination that is also reasonably priced, I will likely construct a gearbox, which will be a royal pain, but will solve most of my problems.
A sonar & IR rangefinder boom that will be fixed to a servo and able to construct a map of the local area and localize itself within it.
Constructed out of more permanant materials. No wood this time. :)
A more rugged frame and better collision avoidance/detection.
Ability to dock to recharge SOMEHOW.
More efficient power supply for the onboard electronics.
In addition, I will design the frame to be less topheavy, so the batteries sit as low as possible. I'm also designing this to be able to handle impacts gracefully, although I'm hopeful that impacts can be all but avoided.
The issues I'm currently researching are as follows:
Searching for a GOOD gearbox construction tutorial. I understand the mechanics of building one, and I'm confident I can do it, but I'm not sure if I can do it well, and I'd rather have a minimal number of false starts. I would consider using a prebuilt gearbox that satisfies all of my needs. However, keep in mind, this robot will weigh up to 15 pounds when completed, so anything developed for a mini robot (which is what most of the available stuff is), isn't going to work. I'm also not building something as big as a battlebot, so most of what's available for those applications isn't going to work either. It's also far too expensive.
Searching for a good supplier of gears. Something with a lot of selection and cheap. I'm going with nylon gears for this stage of the project. Also going to need motors, wheels and shafts, although when I'm not worrying about how to integrate a gearbox and encoder, I have many more options available. The wheels I have on the critter now are nice and would probably work if I bought some more of them. They're 4" in diameter and made of solid hard rubber. However, I'm going to need to find some wheel hubs that have some method of attaching the wheel to the shaft without using superglue or a cold welding compound like I used on the current critter.
I need a material to build the frame out of that is VERY sturdy, but also light, and preferably not metal, at least not entirely. Some type of thick plexiglass would be ideal, provided a 10-12" span can support 15 pounds of weight without warping.
For all of the materials, I would LIKE to be able to find a reasonably local supplier (DFW area). Not absolutely necessary, but it would make my life easier when I'm not entirely sure of what I need.
May 22, 2010 11:00
May 16, 2010 17:08
That's right, I'm going to inventory my stuff. ALL of my stuff. Well, at least the electronic stuff. This is not to be confused by the grocery inventory that has been displayed, unchanged, for years on the site. This will be a meticulous, public, and photographic inventory of all of the computers, gadgets, components, and parts that I own. There are a few reasons for doing this.
First off, it'll probably be a neat project. The object of the day pages that I used to update years ago were somewhat useful in a bizzare and pointless way, but that tended to focus only on things of unique interest, and not necessary the mundane. Yet mundane things need love too. This will expand on that general concept, with a lot more things, and somewhat less storytelling. However, it will also provide a backdrop to discuss what each object does, how it works, how it's used, and some general applications, as well as links to other pages on the site which are relevent to that particular part.
Secondly, I don't always know what I have. Anytime I start some new project, I feel compelled to purchase all required components, since I don't know what I might already have. This way, I'll be able to quickly identify what parts I already have, and more importantly where to find them. And that leads to the third issue.
The third issue, I know I have some stuff, but I don't know where it is. For instance, I have a symbol barcode scanner. I have projects I would like to use it with. I've seen it a few times since I moved here, but I simply can't find it anytime I'm actually looking for it. By going through EVERYTHING I have, I should stumble across it eventually, and at that point, I'll have it stored in an easy to retrieve location for future reference. There's also a camcorder that I modified to control the zoom remotely and I'd really like to find that again too.
A fourth reason, is that I'm constantly adding new stuff. My dad had a lot of stuff. Some of it useful, some of it junk, and I'm slowly moving a lot of it over here, and I'd like to have an inventory I can integrate this new stuff into, along with places I can store all of it.
And finally, if nothing else, it gets all of my stuff organized and cleared off the desks, so I can work. I have a bunch of new projects I'm about to start on, and both knowing where everything is AND having a clear space to work will be important.
The good news is, I HAVE made some effort in recent years to at least get similar and related components grouped together into bins. Power cables are all in one bin, networking parts in another, video cables and assorted devices in another, etc. For the most part, if I know I have something, I have a pretty good idea of where to locate it... usually.
I will likely enter everything into a spreadsheet since it'll be easy to enter and I can export it later to a more convienent format later. I'll also be taking pictures as I go. Descriptions and other information I'll add later after I create individual pages for each component.
April 30, 2010 16:56
April 30, 2010 07:10
All done now.
April 29, 2010 23:27
April 18, 2010 02:16
As most of you don't know, I have two servers for the site. Only one of them is actually used. Yes, I pay full price for a second server that really isn't doing anything except acting as a backup for the first. It's not even a functional backup. It's just a hosted server that I copy all of the data from the site over to on a reasonably frequent basis. I purchased it the same week that my hosting provider had a transformer fire in their facility that ended up shutting me down for 6 days. Since I have paying customers which use the server for email and other things, I decided to always keep an active, functional backup at a separate location, which I could switch over to in a matter of minutes if I absolutely had to. Since then I have also done some work on the site to loadbalance it, such that it can always operate on multiple servers, and seamlessly handle any one of them dying without any impact to the users.
Of course, it costs money. Quite a bit of money each month that lets face it, in all honesty, doesn't really justify its existance. And while loadbalancing would be great for those few times that the site is REALLY getting slammed, the rewriting of most of the server applications has cut way down on the need for peak traffic balancing as well. It's nice to be ready to handle a triple slashdot effect, but it really doesn't occur frequently enough to justify the preparedness, and if I really got desparate, I could purchase a server and have it set up in a matter of hours anyway. If not for a long term, sustained pommelling, whatever do I need it for?
I have also decided to rethink my plans for the documentation project. I've got this lofty, web 2.0-esque idea on how I want it presented, linked to and from, etc. How new articles and documents get posted as news in a blog format, but get archived into a book type format, and have full site searching, automatic linking, banner suggestions, etc. It's all great, and I really think it'll look and work wonderfully. It's also taking a damn long time to implement. In the end, what difference does it make? I just want nice, organized, sharp looking pages that are appealing to those who are searching for them, and a profitable place for advertising.
My ultimate problem is that I've spent a lot of time focusing on how I can make this a functional system for people other than myself. No, I have no intention of marketing this as a tool for others to use in thier own documentation projects. This is all for this site. And I planned on being the only one writing documents anyway, with the exception of my wife. I wouldn't recruit anyone else, since my goal for a lot of this is to generate a bit of advertising revenue, and I can't really justify to anyone (including myself) having other people do work just so I can get paid for it. It also wasn't going to likely speed things up in the development process, although I somewhat deluded myself that it might be the case. But it won't. I know this now, and I've always known it. Any issue regarding the speed of development will 99% be involved with research and rhetoric. Layout, image manipulation, and indexing are activities that take so little time, relatively speaking, that I could do it manually almost as quickly as I would have something do it automatically, and it wouldn't require me to spend another year working on a system to do it to my satisfaction.
In any event, I'm going to go back to cranking out documents without any concern for the long term implications. My wife has her blog, and I will just have her write there and steal from it anything that would fit well into an independent document. We ARE a team afterall, no reason we can't work together on this. As new documents are generated, they will be referenced in the appropriate index file (the howto page, or some other page depending on their subject matter). I will first spruce up all of the documents I've historically had on this site, and finish all of the ones I've created a stub for but never done anything with. Then I will start on the long list of other documents I've been meaning to write for ages but never got started on.
And so, to begin, I've completed the Audio Streaming Howto. Enjoy!
January 21, 2010 09:16
Malware is my friend. My very bestest bestest friend. This all started a few days ago. I had managed to get some spyware on my main workstation... which just happens to run XP. This doesn't normally happen to me. Anytime I have to do something that I feel is suspect, I run it in a virtualbox window. Worst case, if I fudge up my virtual system, it takes me as long as it takes to copy a 100 meg file and the problem is solved. Well, somehow one slipped through the cracks. I'm not even entirely sure HOW I managed this, but I did. Lucky me.
The first infection wasn't a big deal. I got it fixed, but somewhere in the process of fixing everything, I ended up being forced into a reboot that the system never woke up from. XP simply refused to boot. No regular mode, no safe mode, no nothing. Turns out, there's a spare drive in this machine. I have NO idea why there's a spare drive in this machine, and I'd never used it, but it came in handy. I loaded the factory disk on the new drive, comfortable in the fact that I'd be able to move over all my old files once the reload was complete. For the most part, this was true.
Now the fun part. I have this one directory in which I keep install exe's and isos of all of the programs I use on my windows boxen. It's MOSTLY up to date, and whenever I start using a new program, I try to remember to copy it into that directory, but occasionally I forget and programs and iso's end up lurking in various directories all over my network. So I install all the easy stuff, and then I'm looking for one specific application. Well, I find the iso for it...or I think I do actually. I load it up in Alcohol 120% so I can install it... and... oops. That wasn't the iso I was looking for. In fact, I don't even now know what that iso was, or where I got it, or when I got it. The autorun on that iso launched a NASTY little trojan. Of course, I usually disable autorun on EVERYTHING, for almost exactly this reason. I want to view the contents of the disk before I go blindly running things, and if it looks suspicious, and I can assure you in this case it would have, then I would either discard it, or at least first install it in a safe environment. However, autorun made my choice for me.
So after about 5 hours of attempting to remove it and all the extra crap it kept installing, I gave up and decided to just reload the system... again. So now I have original applications, the old installed data, the slightly less old installed data from the short lived installation, and now my newest one. So far, this time, I've managed to remain malware free. Maybe I'll at least get everyting installed before I get hit again THIS time.
On a lighter note, I was featured on the Blondell & Leggett Show. Once archives of the show are available, I'll be linking to it.
And no, I have not yet managed to get my Xmas decorations down. I'll do it this week. I promise! Really! I'm almost certainly positive I'll get to it this weekend.. or very shortly thereafter. At least sometime before April.. or June. Really! :)
December 27, 2009 00:14
That was several days of work, but she really likes it. Still needs a paint job and some cabinet doors, but it's good to go otherwise.
I finally did get a Xmas display set up this year, and although I was hoping for more, at least I did something. I will keep it up until early January. Not sure of the status of that room afterwards, but if it's still cammed, I will set up a couple lights in there to continue to entertain you. Next year, I hope to have an even larger indoor AND outdoor display, and hopefully get the outdoor one cammed as well. Maybe even some music syncing... all internet controlled of course.