?

Log in

No account? Create an account

[icon] wizgandalf
View:Recent Entries.
View:Archive.
View:Friends.
View:Profile.
You're looking at the latest 10 entries.
Missed some entries? Then simply jump back 10 entries

Security:
Subject:2009 FRC beta testing
Time:11:49 pm
Current Mood:accomplishedaccomplished
Beta testing the new 2009 control system for the FIRST Robotics Competition is turning out to be pretty interesting work. I'm meeting up with a mentor from a nearby team on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in addition to Saturday afternoons to crank through the key testing tasks. We got our test robot driving today, with full pneumatics and motor controls. Thursday's task will be getting the key sensors working for the teleoperated mode PID control loops, and then Saturday we'll start on programming autonomous operation.

The robot side of the platform is basically a slightly customized National Instruments cRIO, and has a ~400 MHz PowerPC and ~2M gate Xilinx FPGA (the latter is used for safety control, so we can't reprogram it). Programming the PowerPC can be done with either LabView or C++. Quite a step up power-wise from the old control system, which used a 8-bit PIC microcontroller running at 16 MHz (with 32K of RAM).

The operator interface (what goes in the driver station and interfaces with joysticks, etc for teleoperation) is actually an embedded Linux device (yes, I've telnetted to it). The good news is that it happily interfaces to all kinds of USB devices, something the old control system never really handled (it was gameport based). The bad news is it takes *forever* to boot up. Like 45 seconds. Compared to the instant-on of the old control system, this just drags. Boot times are also an issue with the cRIO.. 30-45 seconds there as well, compared with the instant-on of the old system. I continue to be amazed that as stuff gets faster, things like bootup times just get far slower. Are the autoprobing protocols so poorly designed they take *seconds* (billions of machine cycles) to recognize what/if a device is there? These platforms in particular are flash-based, so it's not like there's hard drive seek times, etc, either. I can't imagine any hardware I would design of having startup times of over a second.

The wireless connections are pretty sweet. Basically it's all TCP/IP over 802.11a/n. Eats up a ton of processing time on the robot, of course, but with a 400 MHz processor, it has time to spare when we're only updating our control loop every 40 ms or so. The best part of it is being able to have your laptop connect wirelessly to the robot network and download new software, reboot, etc, while the robot is 50 ft away.

Programming the thing in C++ is actually pretty enjoyable thanks to some great libraries developed at WPI (university). I've not drunk the LabView kool-aid yet; I've been programming non-graphically so long (over 20 years) that my brain just doesn't like to wrap itself around LabView. I suspect I'll get the hang of it eventually thanks to my hardware design experience (as LabView is sort of parallel that way) but I'm not sure I'll ever feel truly comfortable in it.

Anyway, it's fun, and I thought I'd share.
comments: 2 comments or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Current state of affairs
Time:09:05 pm
Current Mood:thoughtfulthoughtful
I'm mostly hanging out over in Facebook-land these days for frequent (daily-weekly) updates. Less in depth, but easier somehow (maybe because of the smaller updates). So just to keep this almost (hah, 6 months?) current... what's going on in my life?

- Work, work. Waiting for a big project to come in at the moment (hopefully find out this fall). I've got a nice big hat on waiting for it to come in; we'll see if a) it does and b) if my portion stays in. Then I'll find out how well the hat really fits.

- Vacation. Just getting done with a nice weeklong one with family in the midwest, consisting of portions of IL, IA (family reunion for the 4th), and WI (relaxing in Lake Mills with family, on the shore of Rock Lake). Sorry for not seeing as many of the area residents as I would like; I've been out of town for the majority of it.

- Volunteering as a mentor for a high school robotics team (under the auspices of FIRST (usfirst.org)). We did quite well this past year (my first year mentoring) and I hope we continue to improve our team in the future. The team consists of students from Redondo Union and Mira Costa high schools.

- Hanging out with two fellow mentors from robotics.

- Trying to keep in touch with more distant friends (primarily college buddies). San Diego reunion was a blast, and I'm expecting the upcoming wedding of Matt and Erica will be as well! Facebook helps here too.

- Keeping an open mind in terms of additional ways to meet people. Maybe find some more activities to do (learning to surf? other volunteering?). Want to find a significant other, but still struggling to get over past love lost. Main issue is I'm a friendship-first sort and while robotics has helped with the friends part, it's not led to or yielded any possible opportunities on the love front (yet?). It's weird.. I enjoy spending time doing my own thing, but I feel more lonely at such times than I think I used to feel; I suppose having someone always by your side for a number of years can do that. LA is a big place, and there's obviously people out there, but meeting the right one is a surprisingly difficult challenge.

- Been enjoying the Wii, but particularly looking forward to having my own copy of Rock Band (waiting for me when I get back home) so I can get some practice in. Still haven't grabbed Mario Kart, but the old N64 and Game Cube versions are still fun.

- Books: re-read all of Tamora Pierce's novels again. Haven't yet picked up her newest Tortall series yet; the first one is a bit harder to get into as it's written in a journal instead of her usual novel style.
comments: 2 comments or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:New Year's Fun
Time:11:41 pm
Current Mood:tiredtired
I made it to the Rose Bowl. And the Rose Bowl Parade, which is rather surprising since my flight was not scheduled to arrive until 11:30 AM today, and the parade started at 8. However, I discovered (quite to my surprise) when going online to print my boarding pass at ~5 PM on New Year's Eve.. that my flight had been canceled. And I had been rescheduled on an 8 PM flight that night instead (panic packing time)! Good thing I hadn't really signed up (or paid for!) for any New Year's plans... because I was on a plane instead! I suspect what happened is that all those silly Chicagoans changed their flights, so no one was left to fly on New Year's Day. In any case, my flight was delayed (unsurprisingly due to the weather in Chicago), so we landed almost exactly at midnight in LA (fine way to ring in the new year).

This of course means I have almost no sleep, as I didn't get to sleep until ~2:30 AM, and needed to get up early to get to the parade. Copied Tice's idea and drove to Union Station for parking and took the Gold line from there. Slept in a bit, so I didn't actually get to the parade route until 8 AM, but I arrived just in time to catch the beginning and actually ended up with a really fine spot along Colorado Blvd. Got some great pictures!

After the parade ended, I met up with Tice and Ginger for some lunch before heading to the game. I hadn't bought tickets ahead but found a scalper who sold me a ticket at face value for a very nice seat (row 7 at about the 25 yard line). I got lucky today with minimal planning for both the parade and the game, but the Illini were not so lucky. In fact, for about the first half of the game it seemed like USC was just really lucky with a few things (recovered fumbles, etc). The second half started out good, but then got bad. And worse.. and the 4th quarter just dragged on. Oh well, it was fun to just be there.

After the game, all of us (Ryan and his sister joined the rest of us) grabbed some dinner in downtown Pasadena before heading our separate ways. All in all a fun (and unexpectedly very LA) New Year's Day!
comments: 1 comment or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Lost
Time:09:50 pm
Current Mood:sleepysleepy
I've finally managed to start watching (and thus get addicted to) Lost. Watched the first season in 3 days. The tough part is staying away (e.g. not looking up) spoilers on the net. It's pretty enjoyable, it's definitely growing more and more like a TV multiplayer version of Myst (or actually, Riven) as the mythology develops and characters are added.

Otherwise things are fairly quiet on the western front. I've not started seriously house-shopping yet, although I need to soon. It's going to be a tough decision on whether to buy or not. I've got work's down payment assistance available, but unless I get an extension, I have to use it by mid-April. And with the direction house prices are (finally) going, I'm not sure if I want to buy that early this year. Most predictions are for it to bottom out sometime in '09. The down payment assistance, while not an insignificant amount of money, is a drop in the bucket compared to how much house prices might be falling over the next year.

I'm also trying to corral my assets, one of which has managed to land me in the perfect Catch-22 situation. I have a Treasury Direct account I'm locked out of. In order to regain access they're asking me to get some paperwork signature-guaranteed by my bank (not a notary public). I go to the bank, and the bank says they can't signature-guarantee unless I have a statement for the treasury direct account... which I can't get, as I'm locked out of it! Catch-22. I've called the treasury direct folks, and the guy I talked to seemed surprised the bank wanted a statement, so I suspect my bank is in the wrong, but he didn't directly help me, instead redirecting me to another number I left a message at, and haven't received a callback yet. Sigh.

Oh, and to follow up with my previous message: I did end up getting my luggage back, about 60 days after the airline lost it. Miracles do happen.
comments: Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Eww, travel (this userpic is very apropos)
Time:09:50 pm
Current Mood:exhaustedexhausted
Instead of spending hard earned R&R time up in Wisconsin starting last night, I've spent a total of upwards of 28 hours total in airports and airplanes on Thursday and Friday due to the weather-caused mess at O'Hare. I departed LA at 9 AM Thursday to Denver. And stayed in Denver... and stayed, and stayed.. they actually boarded us onto the (scheduled 1:20 PM local time) Chicago flight once (around 5 PM local), only to stop on the tarmac, turn around, and come back. Ended up canceling not only my Chicago flight, but also 2 others that afternoon. Combined with rippling effects (other flights getting postponed due to planes not arriving from Chicago), over 1000 people were standing in line trying to find alternatives. After standing in line for about 2.5 hours (now 9 PM local), end up managing to get a flight booked via Salt Lake City (8:30 AM departure from Denver) to arrive in Chicago at 5 PM Chicago time on Friday. Spent the night at a Doubletree in Denver ($59, not bad), and was back at the Denver airport by 6:30 AM. Naturally I didn't have access to my checked luggage, so I made do.

The flights on Friday actually went pretty smoothly, arrived in Chicago almost on time. But the story doesn't end there. With so many bags arriving via a different path (and much earlier than me!), baggage claim was a mess. Made more so for me because my bag apparently got stuck in the sorter area, so it wasn't waiting for me. I waited for it, instead. And waited, and waited. Had the people call the sorter area about every 15-30 minutes, with the answer always being "it'll be out soon, they're getting it". Ended up not getting the bag at all; instead we'll have them deliver it, hopefully tomorrow. Didn't leave the airport until after 9 PM.

So now I'm at my parent's. After borrowing some of my dad's clothes (as I don't have any except what I was wearing), my dad and I will drive up to Wisconsin for some VERY well-deserved R&R. We'll probably stay up there until Tuesday morning, so you won't see me online in the meantime. I'll try and get in touch with some of you Chicago folks after I get back on Tuesday.

Only happy note out of all of this is that I'm very glad I had my new laptop so I was distracted during all of this waiting time. Even managed to find plug-in locations (Denver's okay, Salt Lake City is horrible) to keep it charged up.
comments: 5 comments or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:It's over
Time:08:06 pm
Current Mood:blankblank
In case you hadn't guessed by now... it's truly over. Now back to the singles pool for the long search for someone else. It ended in the true bane of all "nice" guys: "I still feel like you are my best friend... and not more."
comments: 5 comments or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Resumes... send them to me!
Time:07:51 pm
My company is in a major hiring spree mode right now, so if Los Angeles sounds like a fun place to live, and you're a EE or CompE of any sort, drop me a note with your resume! We're looking at hiring literally hundreds of people over the next year or so. And the sooner the better... we're understaffed as it is. FYI, if you don't know where I work, we build electronics (ASICs, boards, units, etc) for spacecraft. It's a fun place to work, and not nearly as stressful as most commercial companies.

Note: US citizenship generally required.

In other news, I'm attending DARPATech this week in Anaheim. Pretty cool stuff (for example, they're making the announcement for the location of the urban autonomous driving challenge tomorrow at the conference). The winning car from the Grand Challenge is there too. I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow; it's quite a production.
comments: 5 comments or Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Joining the crowd...
Time:08:45 pm
Totally unsurprising results however :).

Brutally Honest Personality Test ResultsCollapse )
comments: Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Travels
Time:10:56 pm
Current Mood:accomplishedaccomplished
US States I've VisitedCollapse )
Countries I've VisitedCollapse )

Short story: I'm doing good on the US, but I've got quite a ways to go on the world. :)
comments: Leave a comment

Security:
Subject:Supreme Court conservative slant
Time:11:59 pm
Current Mood:sleepysleepy
The recent heavy movement of the Supreme Court towards conservatism concerns me greatly. Scalia and Thomas were bad enough, but the recent collection of very polarized 5-4 conservative decisions is alarming, and it's only going to get worse. How bad is it? Kennedy is the swing vote! This is why it's so important to have non-ultra-conservative presidents; they tend to nominate moderates to the Court (as Congress won't approve liberals), whereas conservative presidents seem to get away with only nominating conservative justices.

All it will take is another conservative justice and we might be looking at overturning Roe v. Wade. That is profoundly disturbing--I think people have forgotten what it was like before abortion was legalized (movies such as Dirty Dancing serve as possible examples). Do we really want to go back to back-alley abortions? Granted it's not so much a problem in states like California, where abortion bans probably wouldn't go on the books anyway, but the federal government has so much power these days that I'd be worried about a nationwide ban. Note that several states have "trigger" laws on the books such as Louisiana's one that would ban ALL abortions (even in cases of rape and incest) as soon as Roe is overturned.
comments: 1 comment or Leave a comment

[icon] wizgandalf
View:Recent Entries.
View:Archive.
View:Friends.
View:Profile.
You're looking at the latest 10 entries.
Missed some entries? Then simply jump back 10 entries