The most productive weekend of the year started on a high note, when I got a
new 17" flat panel monitor. It's not terribly fancy (actually scored quite
low on many reviews), but I like it, and the price was definitely right. I
was hoping for black, but all I could get was grey. That doesn't change the
fact that the screen is infinitely better than the one it replaced.
At the time time, I took apart, cleaned, and reconstructed an old HP
LaserJet 4. Aside from its fuser, all parts are in mint condition. The fuser
works, but is starting to display signs of wear and tear. Still, it's
amazing that a twelve year old printer replaced our five year old printer
due to quality reasons.
Friday evening, I went to see Team America. It has to be the
funniest movie this year. There were parts where I was worried about passing
out due to lack of breathing due to hysterical laughing. In so many ways the
movie was controversial and "over-the-edge." I suppose that's what I liked
about it. That, and its more than passing similarity to the
On Saturday, I took my little sister to attend an orchestra show for
children at the National Arts Centre. Last time I went, I was impressed with
the level of quality, but I wasn't terribly entertained. This time was
different, as the theme was "space", and the Canadian Space Agency's Marc
Garneau was the special guest. He did a really cool presentation on his
missions in space, in a way that the kids could understand. Best of all, a
live, full-orchestra performance of Also Sprach Zarathustra and the
Somewhere this weekend I also found time to do a lab report and
assignment for school, clean my room, and cut my own hair... you know you
don't have much hair left when you start cutting it yourself. Strangely
enough, it turned out great.
Quote of the week: "Dyslexics of the world, UNTIE!"
] | posted @ 03:34 | link
Today was a momentous occasion, as after a two weeks of long, hard work,
my IC design project came to a temporary conclusion. The conclusion is
temporary, because although the design is finalized, there is a
month-long fabrication process before students get to test their design
in real NMOS silicon. Then there is also the project report, which is
due soon thereafter.
Carleton has a small fabrication facility that can produce fairly
simple chips. This project is NMOS simply because of the time
constraints and the relative complexity of producing CMOS logic (several
more masks and layers). Nevertheless, I find the entire process very
exciting. The class associated with the project is definitely amongst my
The chip design was permitted an area of 230λ by 230λ, where λ=2.5μm.
This means that my whole project has an area of 5.75mm by 5.75mm. That
would make it the smallest project I've ever completed. My tuny initials
would only fit sideways in the bottom-right corner, and even then I
couldn't close the "P" properly! My record for the longest time in a lab
was reached today: I spent 11.5 hours with two 5 minute breaks
finalizing this chip.
(230)(2.5μm) = 0.575mm. Thinking about this after the fact, the entire
classes projects fit in an area smaller than 5mm by 5mm.
] | posted @ 03:22 | link
Hacking the Xbox
I finally finished reading Hacking the Xbox by Andrew "Bunnie" Huang.
I consider this book to be the de facto textbook for getting anywhere
with the project. Though all of the chapters were very interesting, only
several will actually be used to develop the "CarBox," seeing as there
is no reason or desire to further knowledge of the Xbox's security
system. Regardless, the book covered many aspects of what will be
required to have the unit operate with a touchscreen device, network
device, and other peripherals.
Last weekend I ordered the original version of MechAssault,
which is needed to install Linux on the Xbox. I was hoping to have it by
this weekend, but it did not come in time. Hzopefully, it will be here soon.
I intended to go out this weekend and enjoy the fall colours.
Unfortunately, since my IC design project is due on Monday, I spent all
of Friday and Saturday at school. When I left Saturday morning, the
trees were still rich in colour. When I got back in the evening, strong
winds had knocked most of the leaves off.
Though the colours today were not as brilliant as a few days ago, I
decided to go for a walk in the Beaver Pond park. By this time next
year, the whole area is supposed to be obliterated in favour of
constructing more houses.
I got a few nice photos of Luna the Dog. She turned one year old this
] | posted @ 03:31 | link
Hugin and Harvard
Shortly before leaving to Boston I discovered a very powerful panorama
tool called Hugin. I thought I would give it a spin doing a 360° view
from the corner of the courtyard between Memorial Church and
Widener Library at Harvard University.
The image is made up of 17 separate photos. Some of the initial
images were of drastically different different brightness. In
particular, one of the photos of the three windows near the right was
extremely dark. I am very impressed with how the program managed to even
out the image.
I think the 'dip' in the middle of the panorama is due to me tipping
the camera down toward the couryard. In the future, a tripod would
probably be handy. Also, it would be very beneficial to have more
overlap in the pictures. The recommended value is 20%-30% overlap; in
some cases I only had 10%. Those are the seams that are more clearly
The program also seems to be designed to make decisions on its own. Once
enough reference points are placed, Hugin predicts where additional points
will go. If you make a mistake placing a point, it warns you based upon its
calculations. If a gap is left between two photos, and then the correct
photo is placed in the gap, it seems to figure out the details fairly
accurately and shape the added image accordingly.
Overall, the results are great. I can see myself creating more
panoramic shots in the future with the help of Hugin. It really is a
Quote of the week: "Extrinsic semiconductors are intrinsically useless." (Professor Tom Smy, Carleton University).
] | posted @ 02:27 | link
Two Difficult Days
The two days since the long weekend have been difficult.
Yesterday, while entering my Networking Theory class about 20 minutes
late, it occurred to me that people were writing a midterm. I had no
idea that there was a test scheduled. Due to the familiar subject
matter, I probably achieved a decent score anyway. Later that evening,
staying awake through the music elective was difficult.
Today, nothing went quite right. My morning lab was excruciatingly
boring Object Constraint Language. Later, trying to finish my IC
design I was stuck on a stupid PSPICE error for two hours. I didn't
manage to solve it either. Then I skipped the silly Software Engineering
class (yay, more OCL!). A four hour meeting in the evening was
unentertaining; thankfully I brought a wireless access point with me.
The most interesting event of the day was in the morning, when
someone discovered a small package full of white powder. Of course, the
Hazardous Materials squadron was called in, as well as the Ottawa Police
Explosives Unit. As the photo shows, there were at least two firetrucks,
two ambulances, two police cruisers, a special police truck, and
Carleton police vehicles. In the end, it turned out that someone
accidentally left a packet of flour after performing experiments on
various scaled-down thermo-dynamic storage containers, designed as part
of an engineering design project. I, for one, was amused.
] | posted @ 03:57 | link
Gnome Summit 2004: Boston
This Thanksgiving weekend was spent in Boston. I went there mostly
because of the Gnome Summit, but also because it could provide me with
the small vacation I needed.
I drove to Montreal, where I was supposed to pick up Kamil. He was
forced to take a later plane, and by the time we left Montreal it was
almost 22:00. By the time we got to Boston, it was 03:00. By the time we
found MIT, it was 04:00. Boston is the most difficult city I've driven
around. No use in getting a hotel at that point, so we slept in the car
next to a graveyard.
In the "morning", we went to get breakfast at a local diner. The
craziest thing happened: Chris Lahey of Novell, whom we both recognized,
came in to have breakfast too. What are the odds? This was a good thing,
because he gave us definite instructions on how to get back to MIT.
Just down the from the diner there is a YMCA in a very, very old
building. It definitely had character. Showering after sleeping in a car
is a good thing.
We arrived at the crazy new MIT Stata Center:
The "Dr. Suess Building"
Inside the main auditorium
The Gnome Summit Beacon
The day went by very quickly, there were several good discussions
about how to make Gnome more attractive and marketable so that it
remains competitive as software, as well as interesting to work on and use.
That Saturday evening, Kamil and I drove around to every hotel within
40km North of Boston. As a matter of course, all of the hotels were
full. Not to make the trip too cheap, we made sure to pre-book a hotel
room for Sunday evening. But Saturday sleeping was done in the car in a
The 1994 Mazda Protege car-bed, through open trunk
Yet another trip to the YMCA for general bodily maintenance. One of
the cool things on Sunday was a show-and-tell for what people have been
working on in Gnome. A few interesting projects included Gamin, a new
GUI editor called Stetic, and a very interesting poem generator
by Jon Trowbridge. In the demo, he checked off several word-source books
in the options, including something about sex, a Sherlock Holmes novel,
and a Linux kernel book. Here is the great poem it generated:
Her hand. Remeber, too secure, a real
effect were to become a couple of
examples and converted to a stand.
The place? In fact, her hands. The boy, the whole
remaining shaft. A few descendant, and
recover it. The time. Sometimes the case
in more. The two devices to a mere
detail. The door behind her death began.
I presented Celestia. It seemed to make an impression on many people
visually, though I tried to focus my presentation on how it's a true
exercise in portability, seeing as it runs on so many platforms. Even
keeping the autotools files in working order is a challenge. One way or
another, it was a decent presentation.
That afternoon we took a break and went to visit Harvard, since the
MIT campus really is not that breathtaking. Harvard's definitely is. The
buildings are old and beautiful. I took many 360° panoramic shots of the
courtyards. Hopefully I can get a chance to assemble them soon.
Sunday evening we slept in a hotel! A real bed!
Monday morning there were presentations on improving Gnome's
performance and how the Linux kernel will help. Around noon, Nat showed
up with his Sony Aibo robotic dog. It was fun to watch and
We couldn't stay for the closing event because of a need to drive
back home. Stopping twice, it took me 7h22m from the Stata Center
parking lot to my garage. The total trip was 1632km in length. I look
forward to next year. Right now, I need sleep.
] | posted @ 03:52 | link
Xbox and USB, Continued
With the remaining female end of an Xbox USB cable, as well as the male
end of a broken cable, I decided it would be interesting to try doing
the opposite of what I did last weekend. Upon soldering together the
cable ends, I plugged a controller unit into my new PC.
The controller is a standard USB hub (since it has room to plug in
other accessories), as well as a somewhat less standard joystick.
Searching the internet, I quickly came across drivers and it worked
fabulously. A quick game confirmed that everything works as it should.
This cable may prove helpful in debugging Xbox accessories in case
they do not seem to work, when Linux is on the Xbox. The accessory with
the standard USB end could plug into the Xbox adaptor, which could then
plug into this new adaptop, bringing it back to standard USB. Though
seemingly pointless, it might help find an error somewhere along the
way. For now, it is fun to have a game pad connected to my PC.
My supervisor has asked me to keep a web log of progress on this
project, so this entry is part of the new Xbox section of my log.
I am currently in the search for the MechAssault game needed
to gain entry into the unit. Looking at the stores, the game sells for
about 25 dollars, but is the fixed "Platinum Hits" edition. This one
is patched to prevent the installer from working. There is also a strong
possibility that my Xbox has firmware that makes this process more
difficult. If that is the case, I will either have to find an older used
unit, or go directly to the hardware modification. Either way, I will
have to rent the original version of MechAssault from the rental
store to find out.
I am over half way through reading Hacking the Xbox. The
chapters get more and more interesting. I am currently reading about the
internal hardware encryption methods the units use. I am glad that this
part has alrady been figured out by others.
The RAM! The RAM Is Here!
And so another month has gone by. The test was not as bad as I had
imagined it. More importantly, the RAM finally came in. Of course, this
happened the night before the test. That resulted in not much
This RAM is crazy in every way. Very shiny. I have never spent over
$500 on RAM. I don't know that I ever want to. Is it worth it? This
stuff is heavy, weighing almost as much as my hard drive for the two
sticks. It must be mostly because of the thick copper plates covering
the chips. Even the name of the memory is big: "1GB Dual-Channel PC3200
DDR400 ECC Registered RAM". Let's not expand the acronyms.
Installing WindowsXP on this thing was painful. It actually
required a floppy drive with SATA drivers. When F6 is hit as
instructed for additional drivers, it gives no feedback for about 30
seconds. I must have tried 5 times before letting it sit for that long.
And that was just me giving up. I installed Windows by giving up.
Windows didn't support any of the hardware out-of-the-box, even though
the motherboard design is about two years old. Games run amazingly:
smooth, high-resolution... perfect.
Currently, Linux is installing. I decided to go with Gentoo for
several reasons. Firstly, I need X.org, as well as software that will
work with as many multimedia streams as possible. Secondly, the
processor was given to me by a Gentoo guy, so it feels right to have
Gentoo on it. Debian's pure64 is very tempting, I intend to give
it a try in due time. All hardware works out-of-the-ISO with Linux.
I'm very excited by the wireless project at school. It seems as much
a social thing as it is technical. Basically, as we put more and more
access points up, more and more people come to our door to ask about the
network or offer to help out somehow. It's an interesting phenomenon. We
seem to be piloting this sort of effort on campus.
] | posted @ 06:21 | link
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