Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scratching the Programing Itch

There is a cool little language called "Scratch", which is build using Squeak, which is a version of SmallTalk. Got it? Good. Anyway, it is basically a "Lego" approach to programming for kids (and kids at heart) from the brains at MIT. Very easy, very fun, and very capable. Here is the result my my first attempt:

Press the space bar to hear the cat. Cool, eh? Here was how it was built:

On the left are the "building blocks". In the middle are the program steps. On the right is the output. You can actually change the program while it is running, and see the immediate results. Well, it impresses me anyway.

And, no. This is not what I'm doing at work! I'm learning Linux, Python, and something called Enterprise Available Software Applications.

And yes, I got carried away with the hyperlinks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

These "Hot Dance" instructions were for the Dance-Dance-Revolution Game we bought for our dear old departed PlayStation several years ago. I've highlighted the highlights, but there are gems throughout (you can click on it to get a full size version if it is hard to read).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corvallis Bicycle Picture

In line with my blog about the computers I've owned, I was thinking about doing it for my bikes as well. Here is one of my first. I'm the one the far right.

But seriously, take a look at their outfits and the flag on the wall (click on it to get a full size version). This is supposed to be on 2nd street in Corvallis. I don't think the building still exists.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blueberry as a Fall Color?

Yes! These are the blueberry fields near the Peavy Arboretum. They are gorgeous in the morning sun this time of year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spy Photo

If you've ever thumbed through an auto magazine, you've seen the "spy" photos of cars under development. Here is one of a new model bicycle. Note the lack of brakes and chain. They must be just checking out the handling. It has got nice lines, but I doubt that goofy looking handlebar setup will make it into production.

Wait, is that front wheel from a Bob trailer????

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sticky Friday

I saw this web on the way into work this morning. It is hard to do it justice with a camera. Truely beautiful.
This image is inverted. You can see the building I work in, framed by trees!

Third and last trip out to see the web. Self portrait a-la-web-dew! I wish I had more time and a better camera!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've Been Framed!

I haven't had a lot of time to work on the bike, so it is progressing rather slowly. I read an interview with the original designer, and he said they were putting 80 hours into a completed bike. Now I know why they are so dang expensive! I'll probably have twice that in for half as good a bike. At least I can say I built my own bike.

I've about got the frame completed, minus paint. I just put in the brake bridges and relocated the cantilever pivots. Click on the top picture to get a better look at my wicked good brazing skills. It'll look better painted, trust me. I'm going to prime it to keep it from rusting, and build it up so I can ride. I've got to finish it before the rains set in so Sweet Polly Purebread can have her garage back!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Byte About Me

0 - My first introduction to computers was in the late 70's at the university where my dad worked. They had a room full of teletype terminals which were connected to a big computer in some other room. They had a user account that would run games if it wasn't too busy. We played a text game called "Star Trek". It would print out what the surrounding quadrants had in them, and you typed in your commands. We used a lot of yellow continuous feed paper. We made up for it by recycling the paper-punch programming cards for craft projects.

1 - In grade school, they had a Tandy TRS-80. The designers of the "Trash-80", as it became to known, thought they could sell 50,000 units. The company decided to only make 3500 because they figured if they couldn't sell them, they would use them themselves. They eventually sold 250,000 units. I programed the TRS-80 to show a WWII submarine with waves moving past it. How is that for foreshadowing?

10 - My first computer was a Sincair XZ-81. I paid $99 for a kit, but they ran out of kits, so they sent me one assembled, which would have cost $149, for the same price. Amazingly, you can still buy a new kit for $200. It had 1 kilobyte ram and ran at 3.5 MHz. It saved and loaded programs on a tape recorder. I programed it to show balls bouncing according to the effects of gravity, and simple orbital paths.

11 - It is a good thing they sent the XZ-81 assembled, because latter I paid $300 for a microcomputer kit, which, when I was done soldering it together, let the magic smoke out of the power supply and I couldn't get it to work. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help, so I threw it in the trash. I delivered a lot of papers for that experience.

100 - In highschool they had about a dozen Apple IIs. They were all connected to a thing called a "hard drive" which could store and retrieve 5 megabytes of data. Man that was a lot. My project was a program where you could save text messages which could be retrieved later by other users, kind of like "electronic mail". I don't think I ever got it fully working, but it was a neat idea.

101 - My next computer, which luckily wasn't available as a kit, was a Radio Shack color computer. I think I paid $399 for it. You can get one on Ebay now for $23 + shipping. It came with 4 kilobytes of ram. I got bored with programing in Basic because it was so slow. I taught myself assembly language and made a counter than ran so fast the first digit was a blur. Man that was fast. I later upgraded it to 16 kilobytes because my programs were getting larger.

110 - When I was in early in my Navy career, I bought a Commodore 64. They retailed for $595, and are now available on Ebay for about the cost of shipping. It was the first computer I owned with a "disk drive". The external drive was almost as big as the computer itself. I think I mainly played games on it. I once got so mad when playing a game that I took the disk out and cut it up on the spot. Solved that problem.

111 - When I was stationed in Hawaii, I bought my first laptop, a Toshiba T1000se. I think I payed well over $1000 for it. I don't see any listed on Ebay right now. It had 4 megabytes of memory and ran at a blazing 9.54 MHz and had MS DOS 3.11 in ROM so it booted quickly. I mainly used it to play submarine simulation games like Silent Serice II and 688 Attack Sub, which is kind of crazy considering I was living on a sub at the time. Toshiba latter sold some CNC technology to the USSR which allowed them to make advanced submarine propellers. There was some kind of boycott, and I was a bit embarrassed about owning it. I ended up selling it for $50, which is what it cost me to replace the battery to get it ready to sell.There you go. Eight bits (a byte, get it?). Catch the binary numbering? I didn't even make it into the Windows era. Oh well, tune in latter and I'll tell you about the hand-me-down 3-GHz, dual-CPU Xeon, workstation they gave me to run Linux on at work. Talk about fast . . .

Now I'm thinking about going back for another try at the ZX-81 kit. Maybe I can keep the magic smoke in this time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Modeling as a Third Career.

Actually, that is as a computer modeling technician. What does that mean? You can use a computer to model the characteristics (physical, thermal, electrical, fluidics) of just about anything. And it is cheaper and faster than building and testing the real deal. So, that makes it possible to test, refine, and narrow down design possibilities before building physical models to test. It seems everything at HP is now "faster, lighter, cheaper". Well, not lighter, unless you are talking about head count. In the recent round of restructuring we just sweated through, most groups lost positions, while the computer simulation group gained positions, me being one of them. I hope that is a good sign.

If you consider my 20's in the Navy as my first career, lasting twelve years, and my 30's at HP in chemistry as a second career, lasting twelve years, then this will be my third career. Let's hope it last as long as the others. It is interesting to note that most of the job requirements for this new position were met by either hobby interests (linux, embedded electronics, and programming) or secondary (and voluntary) job experience (database management and web applications). I guess that just points out the need to keep learning at things you enjoy.

P.S. The image is the visualization of a computer model of a bat in flight. Geeky can be cool. I'm not sure if they had any modifications in mind or went on to test the real deal.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wicked Cool Movie

I dare you to watch at least the first ten minutes of Six-String Samurai. It is on Netflix "Watch instantly". It is rated PG-13 for "martial arts and swordfight violence".

I can't believe this movie went ten years without finding me! Destined to be a classic.

See ya in Vegas.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sling Seat

The quickest way to spot a home-make recumbent is the seat. A lot of times they are made of wood with foam padding, or have a "lawn chair" look. I decided to build a version called a "sling seat" because it looked good, and more importantly, looked comfortable.

The frame is made from electrical conduit tubing, which is available in several sizes at most hardware stores. The only drawback is a zinc coating which needs to be removed before heating since it gives off toxic gas. Other than that, it is pretty easy to bend and work with. The plans on the web actually give full size printouts, which make it easy to get the right fit.

The covering is made of a material called Phifertex. It is a vinyl covered nylon mesh, and is designed for outdoor furniture. It is extremely strong and rip resistant. Its main advantage is allowing sweat to evaporate from your back while you are riding.

Instead of sewing the material onto the frame as the plans suggested, I used grommets and lacing. That will allow it to be adjusted to the right tension, and allow it to be easily replaced.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What TV Shows to Watch This Season?

Its a new season of shows on TV. What are you guys watching?
Here is what we are so far:

With the kids:
My Name is Earl (questionable)

Ken, Without the kids:
Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Unit

Looking into:
Night Rider (questionable)
Pushing Daisies