Monday, April 27, 2009

Pretty good weekend!

This past weekend was the Trenton Computer Festival. Unfortunately the economy sucks and very few vendors came out. Even the 'junk yard' was smaller than in years past. There was a few things that I found that I was happy with. First I picked up a Heathkit Microcontroller Learning System (it has the Motorola 6808 on it). It still works, not bad for $10. Then there was the Netgear WGT624-V3 (unfortunately it can't run OpenWRT on it - RATS!), I found one for $20 but offered $10. I later found them for $40. :-) There was a huge portable Osborne 1 but I have no room for something that large. Other than that the show was a bust and I couldn't get my friends to stay for the conferences and robotics competition (ARGH!). I later heard that there was a computer show in Edison and they had a lot less than TCF! The economy really sucks thought there are plenty of signs of recovery in the area (despite the big three auto makers).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Benjamin Franklin one of the founding father's of open source? ;-)

Around 1742 Benjamin Franklin improved on the existing design and manufacturing of cast iron stoves. Instead of patenting his ideas he placed them in the public domain. In his Autobiography his preference in such matters: "As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." This spirit is often felt by others and is alive in the open source community. When I started programming in the early 80's programs were placed in the public domain. Many were ignore after all who needed another C pretty printer? I can only hope something I've worked on has some value for future generations. At least I can say I am part of the community. :-)

Now before anyone suggests my American cnetric view of the world is clouding my logical thought, it's not. I am certain that people before Benjamin Franklin were doing the same kind of free idea sharing. I'm certain that it probably dates back to prehistory. It just happened to be that I was doing a term paper on newspapers and began reading quite a bit more on Benjamin Franklin. I consider him one of my heroes, along with Albert Einstein. I also understand that my heroes are human, that they have human frailties and that they made mistakes too. So I'll praise what I like and ignore the rest.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I told Juha (from OpenRemote) I was looking at Netbooks and that I had become particularly interested in the Samsung NC20 Netbook. The price ($550 US) is a bit steep as you can purchase a normal laptop for the same amount (Hmm). Anyway it has a good screen 1280x800 and it's only a little smaller than the IBM T43 I use for work, which I'm very comfortable with. It looks like the US battery (5900mAH) will last at least 5 hours. Oh, back to Juha. He mentioned the AlwaysInnovating Touchbook. It's an ARM based touch screen computer, as opposed to an x86 computer. It runs an OS called Touch Book OS which appears to be Linux based (based on OpenEmbedded). It can run 10+ hours on its battery. At $399 I'm not sure what to make of it. For a kitchen touch screen with 1280x600 that's pretty good! For a traveling Netbook, I don't know. Still it's good to know. :-) Wish I had the budget for both but I'll need to decide on one for my studies. I may need to travel into Manhattan and I'd prefer to have just the netbook as opposed to a notebook, pen etc., for class.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My Bol-Bot (robot) has arrived!

Yesterday was one of my better days. I worked from home in the morning attempting to get some required training done for work. The training required the use of a joystick to complete various tasks. It's really a neat training package but unfortunately, as usual, I found some rather interesting bugs. In several spots I could get the software into a deadlock. To finish task A you had to do task B but I had an item that needed to be let go but couldn't because task B was not complete. After several hours of frustration I manage to complete the training. To cheer me up the postman delivered to me a nice new Bol-Bot Kit (small robot base). After many hours of frustration I got to spend some time checking out and assembling the kit. It as therapeutic, relaxing and easy to put together. The CD that came with it is meant to use Microchip's MPLAB and their student version of their C18 C Compiler as the bots CPU is the Microchip 18F6520 chip. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Microchip CPUs. In assembly language they're tricky to use. But when using a language like C or BASIC then thing are much easier. Of course the chips are cheap, easy to get, easy to use and have lots of features so it's not like I'm going to walk away from them.

As usually when ever I put something together I put up a page describing what I did. This time is no different. I've create a Linux/Bol-Bot page to explain how to setup the Bol-Bot environment under Linux. At the moment I've only put up the Makefile that compiles a test program. I haven't compiled a Bol-Bot program yet and, of course, not downloaded anything. I have leads and I'll post them when I get time (hopefully in the next few weeks).