There’s a major thunderstorm passing overhead right now. The noise from the rain hitting the roof of our building sounds like loud applause. Ten minutes ago it was warm and dry outside but that’s Texas weather for you. I’m working late again tonight and I’ve been nervously watching the lightning strikes all around the area and hoping one of them doesn’t take out our power. I replaced the batteries in two of our UPS units this month, so we’re probably ready for it if it happens.
Susan is working late too. We took a little break earlier and tried another of the new restaurants that’s opened here in Deep Ellum. There seem to be new ones opening all the time. Tonight we tried Crustaceans, a creole/cajun place. It’s actually the reincarnation of a New Orleans restaurant that was destroyed by hurricane Katrina. The owner, chef, and some of the employees ended up in Dallas and a local organization helped them re-open their restaurant here in Deep Ellum. It’s the real thing. If you’re in the area and like that sort of thing, definitely check it out. In the past week we’ve also tried Tarantino’s (Italian food, a bit expensive but very good) and Kim’s Cafe (breakfast, burgers and sandwiches – so so).
The website design business is booming lately, leaving me not very much time for more fun things like robotics. The latest group robot project at the DPRG is proceeding nicely without me. I’ve been working on my own robot off and on. Just as I finally felt like I’d wrapped my head around PID algorithms and got some working code, I managed to toast the 68332 on my MRM board. I’m guessing it was a static discharge. It’s a surface mounted 132 pin PQFP chip; not exactly something you can replace with common household tools. I ordered a few new chips, though, and a friend with a hot air rework station is going to swap out the bad one for me.
Yesterday Susan and I braved the scattered rain to attend Dallas Artfest 2005. It turned out to be overcast and cool but only a tiny bit of rain fell. Susan found some interesting jewellery and it made a nice break from work.
I’ve been working with David Anderson in porting his robotics library for the MRM board to gcc 3.4.3. I’ve added a little code of my own in the process and I’m using Doxygen to produce pretty web-based documentation for the whole thing. We still have a ways to go but I’m hoping to release the completed library as a DPRG project in a month or two (under GPL of course).
We saw Hitchhiker’s earlier this month and found it sadly disappointing. It appears to have been adapted to the big screen by people who had no clear understanding of Douglas Adams brand of humor (or British humor in general). It almost appears they didn’t understand it was supposed to be a funny story and tried very hard to turn it into an action movie by excising anything remotely amusing from the script. Even worse, they frequently removed the setup for jokes but left in the punch line or left in the setup and removed the punchline, making the story incomprehensible (or at least very non-funny) for those who hadn’t read the book, heard the radio version, or seen the TV adaptation. The one redeeming moment was when the real Marvin made brief cameo appearance. I suspect everyone reading this has seen the movie by now but if you haven’t, save your money and buy the very nice DVD of the BBC television version which is a lot more fun.
We also saw Revenge of the Sith. What can I say. At least it’s finally over. It was better than the last two but I’m afraid the original version of the first movie is the only one that was really fun as a stand-alone story.
I’ve had some time to start working on mod_virgule again. My highest priority is porting it to the Apache 2 module API so I can finally ditch Red Hat 7.3 on the robots.net box. I’ve almost got a clean compile but it’s going to take a little while to get it debugged and stable before I switch robots.net over.
I’ve been doing some C programming lately on the MRM board, which uses a Motorola 68332 CPU. It’s not exactly a new chip but I think the last Motorola I did much development on was an HC11, so it’s definitely a step up from that. The board ships with an ancient GNU gcc 2.95.3 and equally old versions of binutils and newlib. So, my first problem was building a new cross tool chain using gcc 3.4.3. That done, I’m now begining to work on code that uses the TPU to generate pulses suitable for controlling R/C servos. Next up may be talking to one of those Logitech cordless PS2 controllers.