DPRG Website gets a New Look

I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks helping with a major renovation of the DPRG website. Susan created some new graphics and we came up with a nice, simple layout. We’re using 100% XHTML 1.0 and CSS for the new site. So far it works great in both Mozilla and IE. Opera is a bit flaky when it comes to rendering W3C standard CSS but it’s maybe 90% there. The hard part is just the sheer number of pages and images. There is around 150MB of content on the site and it’s still very much a work in progress.

All the work on the DPRG website has sucked me back into the hardware side of robotics. I’ve got two new toys to play with. I went by New Micros, Inc. last week and picked up an IsoPod development kit and an MCORE board. The IsoPod is an based on a Motorola DSP5680x DSP that provides 40MIPS of processing power
and a ton of I/O on a tiny little board. To fully utilize it requires the use of IsoMax, a new FSM-based realtime programming language that New Micros developed. Since I’m a diehard C programmer, I also picked up the MCORE. With a 16bit Motorola MMC2107 M*CORE processer
running at 33MHz, it’s not nearly as powerful as the IsoPod but gives me the advantage of working in a familiar language. Well, I should say it will give
me that advantage once I prod GCC into compiling code for it. New Micros only provides Forth for the MCORE. But GCC 3.2 supports MCORE as a target, so
I’m trying to get a Linux-to-MCORE cross-compiler working. Should be interesting. Motorol created a Windows-to-MCORE cross compiler using a much older version of GCC, so I know it should be possible. And both New Micros and Motorola have offered technical assistance. I’ll provide more details on it as I progress.

Susan has a new claim to fame. She has for a while maintained what is probably the best online discography of Robert Shaw’s work to be found. As it turns out, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus seems to agree. Their discography Link now points to Susan’s page. I think this means she now maintains the official Robert Shaw Discography.

Experiencing The Slashdot Effect

We were on the receiving end of the slashdot effect last Tuesday. The timeline went something like this:

00:22Roger Arrick emails a link to a web page he just finished about his new computer chair.

09:59 – I finally check my email, and click up Roger’s web page. Recognizing Slashdot material when I see it, I email him back, warning him that I’m going to submit it.

10:36 – I give Roger’s server a quick review to see if anything needs patching or upgrading. I find a couple of minor security updates and install them.

11:10 – Story submitted to Slashdot

11:33 – Story accepted

18:36Story is posted by CmdrTaco (is a 5 hour delay normal between accepting a submission and posting it?)

18:37 – MRTG graph shows our bandwidth utilization maxed at 100%, where it stays for the next 6 hours. Fortunately, it’s after business hours so other clients are mostly unaffected by the slowdown.

00:30 – Bandwidth finally drops below 100%. Roger’s Linux/Apache server never skipped a beat, serving all requests that could get down the pipe to it. I tried hitting the box from my cable modem at home and it was really slow but working. There were a few complaints on Slashdot from people who couldn’t see the site so I’m sure some requests weren’t making it through. Several mirrors popped up pretty quickly.

07:00 – Suprisingly bandwidth usage started climbing again about 4am CST and we are maxed out again this morning. The story has a way to go before it scrolls off Slashdot’s front page.

10:30 – The story finally scrolls off the front page and hits start slowly dropping off.

Hits on Roger’s server remained much higher than normal for another two days but things are mostly back to normal now. Roger received a pile of email during the course of events and will probably be posting the more interesting items on the page over time. The most surprising thing in all of this was how many Slashdot readers didn’t understand CmdrTaco’s ^H^H^H humor.