Pat's Log
Sat, 26 Feb 2005

Reading Week
20050225 Reading week is mostly over, unfortunately. As always, it feels as though much less was accomplished than should have been. I've done a fair deal of school work, and I've made some progress on the car project, but it seems rather insignificant with all that is left. Most of the week was actually spent moving 8mm tapes to DVD, with proper editing and chapter setting. I have to say, the picture quality of the old Sony 8mm is quite superior to the new JVC DV, though the DV-cam does allow for very good live transcoding to a computer. Using the 8mm via S-Video to DV-cam to PC via FireWire, the results are far superior to all the capture cards I've seen.

I normally don't post Windows screenshots, but this one is pretty good. I normally consider it quite crucial that the operating system knows how much of a basic resource it has access to.

Today's Air Farce had a good quote: "An Amsterdam university has discovered that yawning can be considered an invitation to having sex. Now, that's pretty good. But it's even easier to wait until they're asleep."

I'm starting to get a little worried about where the car project is going, whether I have enough material to write a report about, whether what I consider project material actually is, etcetera. What worries me more is that it doesn't feel like the usual procrastination.

[] | posted @ 04:54 | link

Project Progress and Setbacks
xbox/20050225 This reading week was to be used for completing several key phases in the Dashbox project.

An initial goal of the project was to produce a plugin or some sort of application that could communicate over OBD-II to the vehicle's CPU and extract meaningful statistics about its usage. While this is an attainable goal, my vehicle is a year too old and only contains a non-standardized OBD-I interface. This means that custom hardware would have to be built to communicate over the interface, and it would be useless to others. Therefore, this component of the project report will be more of a research area. In searching for relevant information, I came across a professor at who is currently doing a project with his students whereby a USB OBD-II interface communicated via a kernel module. Also, has OBD-II tools, without a GUI. These tools would be a good candidate for existing serial port hardware.

Progress has been made on another component of the project, the relay-mouse status sensor. This plan has been modified to use a USB mouse, as it makes more sense then using a serial-USB dongle. The daemon is nearing completion, with the ability to execute and terminate programs based on button status. There is no fancy IPC, though such a facility could be implemented to communicate with the DashUI element. I cannot see any use for this, however. The software and hardware should be completed shortly.

Two software elements that should be examined over the next week or so are the high-contrast/visibility GTK theme, and the project web page. As more and more content is added, it would be good to house it somewhere. A web page could also focus the work in these final stages. There is little over a month left to complete the whole project!

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:41 | link
Mon, 21 Feb 2005

Week of Hell
20050221 Last week is the week known as Week of Hell, in that everything is due and all midterms pile up upon one-another. This week is break time, and next week is essentially more of the same, since there is nothing due and midterms are over for the time being. I am slowly recovering after last week's barbaric schedule.

Battlestar Galactica continues to impress. However, this week's episode showed a scene from Cylon Occupied Caprica, where a Scotiabank logo stood out at me, even though the clip was only a few seconds long. Further digging indicated it was just a completely unmodified photo of Vancouver. I'm surprised they didn't take the logo out.

Plans for this week include major catching-up on 4th year project goals. The draft of the final report is due in a matter of weeks, so I really should be nearing completion. There is also a large pile of groupwork to do. I just hope everything goes well during the remaining five-or-so weeks of university classes. There are many loose ends to tie up.

[] | posted @ 19:16 | link
Sat, 12 Feb 2005

Yey For Physics!
20050212 Today, completely out of the blue, I decided to hook up the old record player to play The Sting album. After setting the thing up, I lied down on the floor in front of it, and was completely absorbed by patterns that flew by on the rim of turntable itself. I remember being completely mesmerized by the effect of orange light on this pattern since my first memories.

This time, I noticed some reference to 50 and 60Hz frequencies on the source of the light. It took a good five minutes to figure it out, but, based on a simple demo from Grade 12 Physics where a strobe was used to "stop" spinning things, I figured this was the same thing. Sure enough, closer inspection revealed that the light is not from an incadescent source, but rather a Neon tube flashing at that annoying 60Hz that hurts my eyes. It took a few minutes to figure out what actually controls the strobing so that it can be slowed to a stop: the fine pitch control. So, with a 60Hz electrical system and a 33 RPM record, the third band has to remain motionless when at the correct speed for the correct pitch.

I suppose I could have just asked my father about this and would surely have gotten a satisfactory answer. As a kid, I always figured this was just a decoration, much like the digital spectrum displays on modern amplifiers. It was fun to solve this twenty year mystery all by myself.

[] | posted @ 05:30 | link
Mon, 07 Feb 2005

Fog in February?
20050206 In continuation of crazy winter weather, the drive back from the yearly R/C boat meet at the pool in Perth involved navigating some very thick fog. Most of the way was as pictured, though about 2 kilometres from home I had to slow down very suddenly because I couldn't see more than 3 metres past my hood, nor either side of the road, or even the salt-dried median line. Fog in February! That's a first!

Today, I did decals on the Polar Lights Enterprise kit. Unfortunately, they did not turn out as well as expected. Apparently, more glosscoat was needed, to make the surface smoother. As it is, the decal film silvered quite a bit. I've never done a model with so many decals, so this is definitely a learning experience. It still looks decent.

I also watched last night's Battlestar Galactica episode. That show is truly amazing. Their well-written scripts along with exceptional acting, and intentionally Steadicam-less shots with computer graphics to match are fresh. I would expect no less from the developer of the series, Ronald Moore, the same man who made Deep Space Nine a great show.

Speaking of Star Trek, it is finally official that Enterprise is being canceled. If this had been late September 2001, I would have dismissed the show as a complete fluke. While genuinely drawn in by the initial first-season teaser, featuring Superman by Five for Fighting, I thought the prequel idea was terrible. The show didn't even have "Star Trek" in its title. After three-and-a-half years, the show is starting to get good. All modern Treks have gotten good somewhere between seasons 3 and 4, Enterprise being no exception. But, at 1.6 MUSD per episode, no one wants to foot the bill. Now, assuming standard production schedules are followed, the sets should be torn down in March. Sound stages that have been exclusively Trek since 1978/79 will be cleared, and that will probably be the end of Star Trek.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Sat, 05 Feb 2005

A Mild February
20050204 After a very cold January that created erratic weather across the entire continent, February has come in unusually warmly. Normally the coldest month of the year, the weather over the past few days has been hovering around the freezing point. If not for the giant snowpile (where all City of Ottawa snow ends up), this photo could just as well have been taken in July. There is even a hint of haze in the air, which is very unusual for winter.

This school week has felt very productive. In Monday's DSP class I had to create the tune Country Gardens using nothing but sinusoids in Matlab. The requirements were that the sound be attenuated so that there is some flavour to the melody. So, things like attack and echo were implemented. It is good to understand how these things work. Next week marks the start of midterm season.

Quite possibly the funniest thing I saw this week was at the Unicentre convenience store, where shelves were stocked such that tampons were right next to Fisherman's Friend mints. I wonder if that was on purpose.

[] | posted @ 04:55 | link

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