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Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 20, 2014 @ 04:20 AM | 2,453 Views

There is going to be a quad copter/drone delivery service, but not what you think. It would be impossible for a quad to fly from the distribution center to a house, with current technology. What is going to happen is a truck dispatching a quad the last 50 ft to deliver to a front door or some kind of target the customer prints out on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper & sticks to the door.

Current technology is good enough to just barely make it more efficient for a very highly maneuverable flying robot to do it than to have the driver get out of the truck. It would require another robot in the truck to load the copter. The navigation sensor of choice would be Vicon on the truck guiding it to a landing site within visibility of the street.

It would require another layer of route planning beyond the current street algorithm. It would need a database of every floorplan or lidar on the truck to do final route planning to the door. As unlikely as it is, the same thing happened to garbage men riding on the backs of trucks. That became automated, decades ago.

The ultimate plan of flying from the distribution center would need something much more reliable & bigger. A current, gas powered copter could probably do it at great expense & with a few crashes. It would fly above the destination & dispatch a smaller copter the last 50 ft. The problem is going to be solved, but it's hard enough to ensure a few years of job security.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 17, 2014 @ 03:55 PM | 17,640 Views
Netscape Navigator 7.2 (5 min 17 sec)

Things were so different, in those days. The Netscape server room had about as much computing power as a modern phone & far less bandwidth. The PC was king. Jobs were for life.

The big ass PC application was king. Thousands of menus had to be literally driven by the user. Everything a developer wrote was visible. Nowadays, it's all hidden & automated. There are maybe 2 menus.

The Facebook app has virtually no user interface, but 54 services in the background. Each service has probably 50 developers. All of its functionality is automated. The Google Play app has 22 services, but virtually no user interface. All the stuff that would have taken a user going to a menu in 1999 now only becomes apparent in the rare case a service can't figure out what to do & pops up a notification.

It doesn't feel very individualized, in a world where what everyone writes & thinks is now determined by an algorithm.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 16, 2014 @ 02:30 AM | 2,639 Views

When used carefully, it doesn't show annoying animations, popups or make you wait for additional bits to load, when you scroll down the page.

Accessing it through jquery has been required for any kind of day job, since 2011. jQuery adds around 300kb to every page load & is another layer of indirection, explaining why web apps are so slow. It theoretically reduces the amount of porting between browsers, but trying the various jquery demos showed similar browser incompatibilities to pure javascript.

Javascript behaves so differently on each browser, it's not really portable. There is a subset of math functions which seems to be portable. The DOM trees are vastly different. Chrome seems to have the most bits working.

It's very slow for analyzing just 32000 data points & the user interface is always going to be clunky, no matter how much tweaking you put in. It's a practical way to analyze small sets of data, when polish doesn't matter.

After much refinement, a GPS analysis tool emerges. It does everything you need, but no-one else ever implemented. It mostly works on any platform, with no need for installation, libraries, compilation, or waiting.

Then, the reality of why we have a cloud & all the investment money in cloud startups emerges. 1st, it has to be called cloud instead of web to avoid another .com collapse. 2nd, getting the data from a phone to the web app is a real pain. The PC...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 14, 2014 @ 09:52 PM | 3,472 Views
The RC car empty & 7.5V did 8 minutes on the fastest downhill & 8m24 on the uphill. It had increasing numbers of steering glitches. Didn't completely discharge the battery or survive the full 10 miles, this time. These RC car runs are intended to go until the human drops, rather than battery depletion. The temperature was 80F at starting time & 77F at finishing time, with a strong north wind. The Danville run was 50F with no wind. This route had fewer stops than the Danville route.

That brought it to 76.2 miles & its 1st broken TO220.

The rebuild was the crustiest circuit ever. Dave Jones would have a fit. All that weight to avoid paying up. Not sure how we ended up in a world where the only BEC with fully adjustable voltage is from Castle Creations & requires a proprietary protocol which no-one ever bothered to reverse engineer.

Fully built buck converters with the required parameters are rare things. It might be a very unique application to want constant output power, variable speed, making the car slow down on hills.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 12, 2014 @ 07:46 PM | 2,460 Views
So the US of F offered admission in Fall. Depending on how the GPA is calculated, they would award an MSEE in 3 years either barely or easily. Mathematically, it would happen.

The alternative is Cal State Bakersfield, which would award a BS in computer engineering in 2 years. It would be cheaper, but require another 2 years somewhere else to earn an MS. CSUB hasn't produced any admissions decision yet & traditionally given decisions only after it was too late, but you never know. The difference between waiting until August for a decision or moving back to USF now is a matter of a certain amount of money.

The US of F is not Stanford, Georgia Tech or even the U of F & it's emotionally harder in the short term. The internet streams endless, random, contradicting noise on these matters. There is a big difference between what the top 1% puts out & what the bottom 99% puts out.

Generally, the more broke & miserable you are, the more advice you give. In studying many businesses formed after 1973, it would seem the top 1% never follow the popular advice & they're all products of rich dads. 1973 was the cutoff for a worker to accumulate wealth or be utterly dependent on a rich dad or extremely lucky lottery tickets.

A wealthy man once said "Listen to everyone. Follow no-one." That sounded like the best advice. Lacking a rich dad, accumulating any kind of wealth is all but impossible, but you are definitely going to be working for a long long long long time, so you better make sure the time is spent doing what you want to do.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 11, 2014 @ 12:46 AM | 3,075 Views

The search for a better throttle stick led back to the picco-z encoder. It definitely had enough reinforcement to do the job.

...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 10, 2014 @ 12:10 AM | 2,834 Views

There was an interesting story about a solar powered refrigerator that used direct solar heating instead of a photovoltaic. Daytime heating & night time cooling powered 1 cycle of a vapor absorption cycle every day. The cycle was at 1 pressure. The vapor absorption cycle was the dominant method, in those days. It was far less efficient than a photovoltaic turning a compressor, but much simpler.

That was actually a pretty depressing magazine, not in how obsolete the technology was, but how they were trying to solve the same problems that we're still trying to solve today & how their means during the great depression were not unlike modern times. There were miracle tools which promised to revolutionize manufacturing & put every man in business for himself.

The dominant DIY project involved resourceful use of very low cost junk, without any money or tools. Despite so many decades of new tools & the economy supposedly being a step above the great depression, most of today's DIY projects are still made by resourceful application of the cheapest junk from China & no money or tools.

Gender roles were the same as today. Gadgets, inventing, science, & tools were all aimed at the men. Cooking, cleaning, & home making was all aimed at the women. They were a lot more transparent about it, but comparing to reveals the same separation behind the...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 09, 2014 @ 07:44 PM | 3,079 Views

During another 5.5 miles, tried moving the camera farther back to get the front tires to wear less. It made steering unusable & didn't affect speed. Either have to recalibrate the steering or keep the weight centered. A wood piece as a landmark for the steering buttons was worthless. It was impossible to differentiate the wood from a button. That brought the car up to 66.5 miles.

An RC car exercise coach could probably make money. It would have to also collect location data, uploading it to a cloud service for sale to real estate developers. That's the big thing. Exercise tracking startups make a living by selling all the data.

Merely 20 years ago, junk mail factories spent a lot of money for databases of addresses. Once actually spent a lot of time trying to extract a database of addresses from a CD-R that was used for fixing & translating addresses to barcodes. It was a way to learn C, but it could also have made a lot of money, if it worked. Now, it's the same game, but with databases of absolute locations created by the population itself instead of a database of addresses created by the post office.

Have never put anything expensive on the car without a lot of shielding. It has to withstand a bike or car impact. A phone would be very expensive.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 08, 2014 @ 12:51 AM | 3,039 Views

So the hand controller disintegrated. There was a too much horizontal stress on the throttle controller for it to not have the reinforcing enclosure it used to have.

...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 07, 2014 @ 05:02 AM | 3,352 Views
So the blocking item in the lightsaber drone game was a lightsaber that could sense a laser impact.

The dollar store had exactly 2 of the cheapest tubes of plastic.

...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 05, 2014 @ 10:19 PM | 3,168 Views

They remind me of Red Hat & VA Research, long long ago, in a galaxy far far away. They're revered corporations, by the community. Their employees think they've all hit paydirt & they're always going to be there. They're not officially rivals, but when the sh*t hit the fan with good buddies Red Hat & VA Research, heads still rolled.

Unlike Red Hat & VA Research, I don't think any of the rank & file employees have any stock options. They definitely don't have the benefits we had. The motto for generation Y is your reward is doing something influential that benefits the community, not making money. It was very different in the old days, when we were there to get rich. Our generation was still heavily influenced by the baby boomers.

Both CEOs work their asses off. They look like it in their videos. Nate rarely goes on camera, but Limor goes on several times a week, for hours after already putting in full days. She must be sick of widget boards, but still manages to muster some enthusiasm while rattling off some teardowns & emails. Her new England accent still sounds a lot like, "Ghostbusters whaddya want!" by then.

It's definitely true that in toys & widget boards, you can't make money in design & fabrication. All the money is in the retail part. That might not be true for the highest end hobby grade solutions, because Horizon Hobby still has some money coming in...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 04, 2014 @ 10:56 PM | 2,974 Views

Debated whether or not getting up early, driving 50 miles, waiting in line to see a bald guy in a C-5 & seeing a static display of an F-22 was worth it. Considered just making videos of the propeller flights. Washed the car, then decided there was too much to do down here. It would have ended up a short stay, but it would have produced video of the crash. Between a crash at SFO, a stowaway in SJC, a crash over San Pablo bay, & this, there have been a lot of incidents in this area lately. They could all be symptoms of a lack of money in 1 particular area.

Now some large diaphragm microphone testing.

Coding Sucks: Why a Job in Programming Is Absolute Hell (13 min 33 sec)

So the decision was made to try to make more progress on the human vs. drone concept that has been proposed since 2009. The idea has revolved around an autonomous flying opponent fighting a human. The problem has been finding a game which doesn't destroy parts. The ages old idea of a drone vs. lightsaber from Star Wars was never practical, because what would the drone shoot that a human could intercept fast enough?

In order to make it playable in real life, the drone clearly needs to shoot a sustained laser beam & measure the time taken for the human to intercept it with a lightsaber. Then it needs to move around & point the laser somewhere else. The trick all games use is to make the pattern...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 03, 2014 @ 11:58 PM | 3,477 Views

Goo Tube recommended some electroluminescent paint videos. The idea of entire everyday objects glowing was intriguing. It was like an episode of Ducktales where Gyro Gearloose tried to make the lightbulb obsolete by inventing a paint that made everything else glow. It looked too good to be true because it probably was.

A company called Lumilor made a lot of noise in 2013, claiming to have invented a sprayable EL paint, but has never sold it or shown it used in large quantities. The largest applications have been motorcycle tanks. There are no videos of it being applied, only videos of someone spraying something on top of an existing phosphorous coat, then blowdrying it to life.

Lumilor is probably rebranded Dupont Luxprint. The only way to get a part coated is to send a part to Lumilor for them to paint. That's your biggest clue that it's probably a rebranding of something old.

Dupont Luxprint appeared in 2010 & hobbyists began using it to paint small EL panels. Once saw Jeri Ellsworth trying to use it & wondered what the point was. After seeing the world change in the last 4 years, the ability to have entire buildings glow could be 1 of the things which is going to change the way the world looks.

Most likely, the phosphor has to be brushed on. The part they're spraying in the videos is a translucent conductor. That has to be coated again in a clear coat to protect it. The order of layers in a glowing motorcycle tank would be

1) insulation from bike frame
2) silver paint conductor
3) multiple dielectric layers
4) phosphor
5) translucent front conductor
6) clear coat

The translucent conductor needs to have wires every 5cm. The phosphor is extremely expensive & not sold in small quantities to individuals.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 03, 2014 @ 12:07 AM | 2,523 Views
After 6 months of waiting, it finally opened.

Many an asian kid looked inside, in the months leading up to it, but in the end, it wasn't what you think.

It was nothing but another home decoration store.

...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | May 02, 2014 @ 02:02 AM | 3,452 Views

The Google Ara is going to be a big deal. They have a good record of actually delivering the development kits they announce, even if they never become real products. The Nexus phones, Nexus Q, Chromecast, & Google glass were always seen as nearly finished products sold as development kits intended for hackers. The same model of releasing nearly finished products as development kits was followed by Occulus Rift to great success, as least for stock market valuation. It's probably going to be a lot more common.

To be sure, the Ara is not going to be as miniature as a normal phone, but it is going to be extremely miniaturized compared to buying the same modules from Adafruit or Sparkfun & building a phone that way. Making phone level miniaturization accessible to robot projects is going to make autopilots a lot smaller.

It’s definitely a case where the intended cell phone user is just for marketing & the real consumer is going to be someone who wants to connect phone modules to microcontrollers. A standalone LTE transceiver that can plug into a microcontroller would be a game changer. There’s never been any standalone module beyond GSM.

A standalone camera with the quality of a phone cam would be huge. A standalone Linux board for a phone would instantly blow past any current single board computer in miniaturization. The devil is in how much interfacing the unipro bus will cost & how much those phone breakout boards are going to add to the size.

The only disappointment is for all the years we’ve had standalone GSM modules, no-one has ever gotten one to talk to another over its 2 mile range without requiring a cell phone plan. Any LTE module would be equally crippled.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Apr 30, 2014 @ 03:22 AM | 2,691 Views
In looking for an ideal language for analyzing biometric data, have now tried Javascript, Java, C++, & Python. The problem is the data needs to be graphed on a large monitor for the best results, but should also be graphable on the phone it's recorded on for a preview. Javascript offered the best hope of portability. It clearly is more portable than any other option, but it's going to need a lot of glue to load kml files on the phone. It might need to suck data directly from the logging app. Would say the javascript will never run on a phone, but have only the potential.

The mane problem is navigating a timeline showing curves for instantaneous velocity & altitude. The timeline has to zoom horizontally & vertically. The curves need variable amounts of averaging. There are billions of javascript chart libraries, which all suck in some way or don't work.

It's going to be nowhere near as smooth to navigate as C++. If it was 2011, a simple C++ program would have been the obvious choice. It could have been written in a day, reusing 20 years of past knowledge. It wouldn't have run on the phone, but nothing probably ever is.

It's clear now that all substantial software projects are going to run in web browsers. The non portable stuff is going to be limited to small data collection apps. Most every job is going to require javascript. We live in a world where 1 language can't do everything. It's not very efficient to need to stay on top of Javascript, Java, & C to move data from an embedded system to a phone to a web browser.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Apr 28, 2014 @ 08:32 PM | 3,098 Views

After another software tweek, the interval training program calculated exactly the same distances as mapmywalk, so at least that part is using a dumb quantizing filter. Did 8 * 0.25 mile repeats with 60 second walking breaks. They went from a 7m4s pace in the steepest downhill to 7m28s in the last one, when I felt like throwing up.

Quite slower than when the software errored high & also 1 interval less. The free version of mapmywalk couldn't show any intervals because it has to graph all 11.3 miles in 790 pixels. Being able to do proper interval training, with distance based work periods & time based rest periods, by radio waves is a whole new world.

Reading reviews of the many competing exercise tracking gadgets lead to Have now run across many guys who went straight from high school to supposedly very lucrative careers in IT. Not sure exactly how successful they really are, but they tend to have the same things in common. They're all in 1 specific area: network consulting for large corporations. They're hired as contractors, set up websites, networks, passwords, & provide a higher level of customer support for the tools than a call center. They do all the standard e-commerce stuff that Microsoft advertizes shouldn't require hiring IT consultants. They normally work for the government.

They don't design computers or deal with electronics design. They don't design exercise tracking gadgets, UAV's,...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Apr 27, 2014 @ 06:21 PM | 2,331 Views

For the 1st time, ran with the RC car fully empty, 3Ah battery, 7.5V, until battery exhaustion. Without the camera, GPS showed it doing 8m10s miles uphill & downhill. It was extremely intense. Would probably have to lower the voltage if it was any faster. Started feeling the nausea after 6 miles. Tire wear was much less. It still hit the wall when the battery died after 10 miles. It was much easier to drive without having to realign the camera after every bashing. That run contained the fastest 5 miles ever.

With a move back to Fl*rida almost sealed in, the question was what do to in the last weeks of Calif* that won't be possible afterwards. When the signs of impending career freeze appeared in 2009, spent a lot of time driving. All of that is now covered.

Fl*rida will involve a lot more indoor track, treadmill, or nighttime running. It's surprising that there's actually a 100 mile event down there.

Have been hitting a wall after 30 miles. The electrolyte/hydration/sugar balance becomes harder. More time has to be spent walking & eating. For all the money spent on fitness tracker buyouts, no progress has been made on nutrient measuring. Foot pain has been the other issue.
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Apr 26, 2014 @ 06:21 PM | 2,421 Views
News flash, the 2nd application to UC Irvine was blown away in a flaming rejection. It was a free application, so I figured what the hell. It's definitely a referendum on how dumb you are & how your career was a coincidence of very good economic times & very few applicants, but getting the government to pay for a second swing at a home run is never going to be easy.

For all the praising of paying taxes to equalize the wealth, all the money eventually goes to the top 1%, in government as everything else. Everything that went from a free market to a government program eventually became just as scarce as it was in the free market & is now a mandatory contribution to the top 1% instead of a voluntary contribution.

With that, there was 1 more public school in Calif* with an unknown but unlikely success. The formal rejection just made that one more likely to be rejected too & made it easier to pay for the return to Fl*rida. Returning to Fl*rida is the academically easiest option, but emotionally hardest.

Living in Calif* is hard, make no mistake. You've either got long commutes or have to be the best of the best in your career. If you invested in rental properties in your 20's & are now pulling out massive amounts of rental income, you're the best of the best in that. If you inherited a business from the capitalist era , you're the best of the best in that. Downloading whatever the latest compiler is & writing an open source program doesn't cut...Continue Reading
Posted by Jack Crossfire | Apr 24, 2014 @ 07:31 PM | 2,727 Views
It's been probably 30 years since the last science project which had utterly no point. Helas there are many people who do make stuff with absolutely no point & show it at maker faires. The ideas are still mounting.

Recording & playing back video from cassette tape, using a soundcard, ancient cassette deck, & software. There's a large stockpile of useless cassettes whose content is now freely downloadable in higher quality. You could probably get 64x64 10fps B&W out of it.

Wireless router with 400 mile range, using either optics or very short packets over ham radio. Cell phone data for under $75 is still worthless, so there might be some point in some kind of extended range router.

Camera based on a single photodiode & pinhole assembly that mechanically sweeps in an X/Y pattern.

There was an idea for an extremely large reflector that focused light from a very small point in the sky onto a photodiode. It would use the earth's rotation to scan in 1 axis & mechanically scan in the other axis to make a picture.

Spinning XV-11 Lidar mounted on a panning servo to make a 3D map of a room.

Fixed XV-11 lidar on a pan/tilt mount to make a higher quality map of a room.

The ability to capture an exact replica of a place in 3 dimensions is the successor to photography. It's so far from being done conveniently that it hardly ever comes up. Setting up a modern quad copter for aerial mapping is not convenient. It's equivalent...Continue Reading