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Spooky Stuff

Posted 2012.07.15 6.53 in Pointless Blather, Spiritual by Stephanie

Do you ever have those dreams where you’re basically attacked by paranormal stuff? You know, where objects in your house are thrown at you, and stuff is moving all around you and you can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t?

I don’t really like those dreams.

This morning I was dreaming that stuff was being pulled off my walls, like pictures and stuff like that. It was floating in mid air, then came flying across the room at me. Then when I tried to grab my cats and go, I couldn’t tell which ones were mine as there were too many cats around and my eyes were blurry.

It got kind of intense so I woke up. Glad it was just a dream.

Went to the kitchen to make some coffee, and sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, perfectly upright and unspilled, is a single jar of spice.

What. The. Fuck.

I keep most of my spices on the back of the stove, and the rest of them are all there untouched. There’s a neat little gap where this one used to be. It’s been taken off the back of the stove, and placed neatly in the middle of the kitchen floor. I don’t even see any spillage along the way.

Yes, it does cross my mind that one of the cats did it. Except they don’t go up on the kitchen counters any more. Well for sure Misha doesn’t. And Pixie – while I’m making coffee, she’s sitting in the livingroom, at the kitchen door, crying and won’t come into the kitchen.

Like she’s afraid to come into the kitchen, now she’s looking at me as if she wants to know if it’s safe.

So great, now I’m feeling a little uneasy. At least there’s coffee.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Posted 2012.07.12 10.10 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

So twelve or fourteen hours into playing with my custom circuit board for the ISEB-6 Mark II, and I’ve been compiling a list of the things I did well, the things I did poorly, and the things that were just plain dumb.

The Good:

  • It ‘works’, more or less. That is, the uC functions, I can upload programs to it, and it accepts and runs them.
  • The screen works. This is more than just a hardware thing, as I had tweaked the library to use hardware SPI rather than software SPI, to get about a 50% bump in speed, and this was the first test of that library mod that wasn’t on a breadboard.
  • The buttons and indicator LEDs work.
  • The LiPo charging circuitry works.

So all in all, there’s some legitimate successes there. On the other hand, there’s some oopses too. Somewhere between submitting the board for fabrication, and actually receiving the boards back, I started to realize my mistakes. Having the board and testing it, confirms some suspicions and adds new problems to the list.

Starting Over from Scratch

Read more »

Testing! Pow!

Posted 2012.07.11 23.58 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

All my pent-up impatience just came buzzing out all at once.

With my shiney new circuit board in  hand, I started soldering up the bare minimum for testing – LiPo charging circuitry, voltage regulator, ICSP port and FTDI port. And indicator LEDs.

So far so good, the voltages were good and the LEDs worked ok. Mind you, I didn’t use the good LEDs on this. No, I already knew there’d have to be another revision because I made some mistakes on the boards…

Anyhow, power tests were passed so I added the micro-controller — an Atmel ATMega1284P — and an 8MHz resonator. Tricky soldering – the pins on the micro controller are 0.4mm wide and have 0.8mm centre-to-centre spacing. There’s 11 to a side.

My two biggest concerns at this point were that a) I might have botched up the soldering, and b) I might have totally botched up the circuit board when I laid it out.

So I plugged a programmer into the ICSP port and tested it, and presto! I had communications!

My plan was to continue using the Arduino IDE to program for this, and fortunately there was already a ‘duino based on the 1284p, called the Sanguino. Unfortunately it isn’t up to date with the latest (1.0.1) version of the IDE, and I’ve migrated everything to 1.0.1 so I ended up not using the Sanguino setup.

The only thing I did was take their 1284p bootloader, and modify it to match my board layout. Then I created my own 1284p variant in the IDE and set it to work with my customized bootloader.

I had done all that last week and without any way to test, so my first real test today was to burn my bootloader. This worked (so the microcontroller, resonator, and ICSP were definitely working correctly) but I could not write sketches from the IDE so I wasn’t sure if I had screwed up the FTDI port or not.

Further testing however revealed that my 57600baud bootloader was too ambitious for the 8MHz clock speed. At 19200baud the bootloader runs just fine, albeit slower.

So another passed test! I had working power, a working micro, working ICSP port and working FTDI port.

Next thing was to plug in a screen. That was slightly challenging as my big blunder with this board was laying out the screen at the wrong size – the holes on the board are too narrow for the holes in the screen. And I didn’t want to hook the screen up permanently since the board isn’t final. So I put in some female headers, and bent a few to fit in my misplaced pin holes.

And voilla! The screen works!

Lots of successes for a single night, but I’m not going to continue populating the board. I’ve left off all the sensors as they’re the most expensive parts (gps + compass + humidity + pressure = $85). I have to go back to the ‘drawing board’ and start fixing all the mistakes I made on the board.

I’m also running some additional tests, as I’ve noticed some problems with the ADC readings (analog, eg. temperature and voltage) that shouldn’t be happening, and I have to figure out if they are software or hardware.

Still, not bad for a single night – and it gives me stuff to work on for the next few nights.

I Hate Waiting

Posted 2012.07.11 8.45 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Waiting is always the worst part.

I don’t like to think of myself as impatient (although I surely am) but rather, waiting is where you lose momentum, or get distracted and something else comes up that catches your attention.

I’m the person who’ll usually kick in the extra few dollars for the rush shipping option. Unless the rush option is outrageously expensive, or isn’t available, or isn’t really ‘rush’. Or if I figure it won’t make a big difference because it’s something small that shouldn’t take very long to get through.

Anyhow, so the thing is I’m waiting for my circuit boards for the ISEB-6 MkII and I was really hoping they’d be here Friday.

Then I was really hoping they’d be here Monday.

Then I was really hoping they’d be here Tuesday.

I’m not faulting OSHPark – they’ve been great, excellent communications and the boards were finished and sent nice and quickly. It’s the mail that’s holding things up.

There hasn’t been any mail delivered here so far this week. I can’t remember if there was any mail on Friday.

It happens sometimes. I never know if there was legitimately no mail, or if the carrier is taking a wee holiday. Like when I first moved here, it was about 3 years before we had mail delivery on a Monday. That can’t be a coincidence, that there was simply no mail for anyone on the block on any Monday. It seemed a lot more likely that someone was just taking 3-day weekends.

Anyhow, I’m frustrated and impatient. I want to solder stuff; I’ve got the stuff, but I’ve got nothing to solder it to. Adding to my frustration is that I’m pretty sure the boards will have at least one mistake on them, and there’s at least two features I want to add/change.

Which means I’ll have to assemble one, identify and fix what’s wrong, tweak what needs tweaking, create a new schematic, order new boards, then be right back into the waiting game again.

Next time, I think I’ll try the rush shipping option.

UPDATE

It came it came it came it came today! Along with a few days’ worth of mail. But forget the other stuff. The OSHPark package came! Yay!

World Tesla Day

Posted 2012.07.10 8.00 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

July 10th is Nicola Tesla’s birthday. Tesla was under-appreciated during his lifetime, and for a long time after he died. Lately he’s getting more press, which is good, but late.

Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943)

You can read some factual stuff about Tesla here, and some fun and factual stuff about Tesla here.

One thing about Tesla that stood out to me in his biography, was that he invented the alternating-current electric motor. That is, a motor which spins around and around in one direction, while powered by A/C electricity, which moves back and forth in both directions. According to his biography, he invented it after overhearing a couple university professors saying that such a thing was simply impossible and could not be done.

Incase you don’t realize how big this is, here’s a very short list of things you plug into an electrical outlet, that exist because Tesla invented his motor: Air Conditioner; Washing Machine; Dryer; Dishwasher; Blender; Food Processor; Electric Pumps; Vacuum Cleaner; Sewing Machine; Power Tools (drills, saws, milling machines, lathes, routers); Elevators; Escalators.

So in other words, basically every modern convenience in our homes and factories, exists thanks to Tesla setting out to proove a couple university professors wrong.

Not only did he invent the A/C electric motor, but from what I have read, Tesla didn’t actually make any money from this invention – he gave it away, because he thought it would benefit mankind.

So next time you turn up the air conditioner, blow-dry  your hair, or mix up a daquiry in the blender, stop a moment and think about the man who made it possible. Despite his brilliance and all his gifts to the modern world, he died broke and alone, unappreciated in his own time.

Thank you Mr. Tesla. Thank you for everything.

I’ll make some sparks and raise a glass.

Doom

Posted 2012.07.09 11.12 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Bump in the Night

Posted 2012.07.05 22.27 in Pointless Blather, Spiritual by Stephanie

Ah the joys of things moving by themselves.

Sitting in my livingroom, in the dark, watching tv. The cats are both asleep – one on the sofa near me, the other in the bedroom.

Then I hear the sound of something moving, a little shhhhhhh noise from behind, followed by the slap of something hitting the floor.

Oh look! A package of film has been pushed off a shelf and fallen to the livingroom floor!

None of the other film has been disturbed. None of the cameras have been moved either, fortunately.

Just one little package of film, was slid off the shelf to fall on the floor.

That’ll give me something to think about when I try to go to sleep tonight.