Pat's Log
Tue, 29 Mar 2005

Yet Another Birthday
I'm 23. I had a good time with dinner at Red Lobster and then music and drinking at Zaphod's.

As the final five days of class draw to a close, it is amazing how much work there is to complete between now and (approximately) then. I spent the whole weekend working on my Xbox project report. Much procrastination when into that, and I'm not completely satisfied with the state of the current draft. It lacks cohesion and a few sections. It is also pretty sad that the appendices are longer than the rest of the report. I will have to fix this. However, using more advanced features of LaTeX, it looks great.

Throughout the process of procrastination, I discovered Epiar, an open-source game based heavily on Escape Velocity. It currently lacks story-line missions, but otherwise flying and fighting are similar, though distinct from EV. I hope to get involved with this project, perhaps in writing the story and missions.

My other major procrastination point was Sierra game MIDIs. I had the sudden urge to learn how to play Girl in the Tower from KQ6. When I printed out the music, it was very hard to play, being inconsistent in notes being represented interchangeably as sharps and flats. But I am crazy, so I decided to re-write it by hand, but I couldn't quite figure out the actual relative lengths of the notes from the MIDI file. This is because my printout didn't actually show the length of notes, only their relative separations. If there was a quarter note with an eighth half way through, both would show up as eighth notes, even though the first note is actually twice the length. After giving up, I just typed "girl in the tower sheet music" and sure enough, the original composer of the music, Mark Seibert, had simplified sheet music on his site. Now I have a timing reference. I also found Squirrel With The Power, a fun little remix of the original tune.

All in all, a productive, if not for school, weekend.

[] | posted @ 20:50 | link
Sat, 19 Mar 2005

Iron Ring
20050318 At long last, after four years of intensive education, I was deemed worthy of receiving the mark of the engineer, the Iron Ring. The entire day was centered around this highly secretive ceremony. There was much drinking, remembering the past, colleagues who did not make it, and meeting those who have graduated in recent years who have gone on to the routine of endless daily work.

The ring, now stainless steel in favour of wrought iron, represents the ideals and ethics of engineering. I feel the years of hard work much more complete with it than I could with any diploma. I also felt closer to my whole graduating class than ever before. It may be surprising, but that's what happens when you focus your goals on achieving that one thing. I feel I have not been as forthcoming socially as in the last few years, mostly because of increasing business, but I got the impression today that people understood all of that.

It was a good day. I am ready for the much anticipated "home stretch."

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Fri, 18 Mar 2005

Poster Fair
xbox/20050317 The project poster fair was on Monday. I decided that it would represent the deadline for all of the aspects that were on the to-do list in the presentation.

As such, over the two weeks preceding the poster fair, I invested a total of about 60 hours of time. While not by any means technically advanced, the power control unit represented a lot of that time, and it certainly represented many hours of learning Atmel microcontroller technology and how to actually design simple circuits with transistors. Looking back, it seems completely straightforward, but there was some resistance in moving from lecture-hall theory to actual design.

The poster show went well, the demo mostly worked. Of course, not when the professor came to see it. Report-writing is slated to start any day now. I seem to be well-off in terms of quantity of content. The quality is also present, but it could still use some polish. An end is in sight.

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:55 | link
Thu, 10 Mar 2005

20050309 I haven't drawn anything meaningful on paper in at least four years. So, when the opportunity came about to draw a building in renaissance style for Art History class, I took my time. Though the day was extremely busy, I managed to fit in 2.5 hours of drawing. The drawing pictures a residential building combined of four or so buildings designed by Palladio. Only after the assignment was submitted did I notice a few perspective errors and missing lines, but the experience was still refreshing. I should draw more often.

[] | posted @ 04:45 | link
Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Microcontroller Success
After staying up half of the night, the program for the Atmel microcontroller power control unit was deemed satisfactory. Then I spent half of today ironing out glitches inherent to moving from the test chip to the real one (they are different models). After all of that, it only took 15 minutes to build a breadboard prototype of the final circuit. Though the prototype is designed to work on only 5V, it should not take long to modify it to handle 12V and build the final unit.

These past three days have been extremely educational.

[/xbox] | posted @ 03:11 | link
Sun, 06 Mar 2005

Critical Mass
xbox/20050305 As the project deadline quickly approaches, I have been spending considerable time putting my ideas into motion.

Last week I decided that the power control unit, while simple, would benefit from being microcontrolled. I have spent a good portion of this week researching the options, and concluded that the Atmel Tiny series is perfect for this and other applications. It is amazingly versatile, simple to program, and conveniently has an on-chip clock (other chips need an external crystal). After programming, literally all that is needed is Vcc, Vss, and any inputs/outputs. Having spent over 20 hours so far practicing writing software for it, I am completely inpressed with this chip. The software will be simple to write, and the hardware will hopefully be easy to design.

Additionally, some time this week was spent creating the GTK theme for DashUI. A reference engine, HighContrast, is being used. The goal will be to thicken up borders so that they are several pixels thick, and possibly modifying the colour scheme so it is not as high contrast as it was originally designed to be. This still needs work.

Lastly, library research was performed to obtain research about ergonomics of vehicle multimedia hardware and its interaction with humans. Two excellent books were found: Automotive Ergonomics and Human Factors in Driving, Seating, & Vision. These books contain invaluable information and considerations regarding revolutionary human interaction mechanisms, as well as numerous related safety studies.

[/xbox] | posted @ 04:59 | link
Fri, 04 Mar 2005

That Was Then, This Is Now.
20050303 I had my grad photo taken this week, and the proofs were made available today. I decided to compare this graduation photo to that of high school. It is remarkable what four years of stress can do to a person. I decidedly prefer the high school photo. Receding hairline, cheek bags, and eye circles all contribute, also the more dramatic lighting of the high school photo makes it the winner. However, it is possible the real print of university photo will be more decent and have better contrast than the proofs.

Last night I accidentally lost all of my Mozilla settings while deleting ".mozilla" in the wrong directory. As such, it seems to be a good time to switch to Firefox and Thunderbird. Both of these programs are in many ways more refined than old Moz, but there are several things that bug me:

  • Slower starting new mail, opening new browser, etc. That's a result of separating programs.
  • Lack of "Open in new tab" option on links in eMails. The programs don't seem to be able to invoke actions in each other.
  • I keep hitting Ctrl-N in Thunderbird and getting a new mail message instead of a browser window. Key consistency is important.
  • EnigMail seems to be missing from Thunderbird. Will have to hunt down.
Only 14 days until Ring Day. I'll make it. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

[] | posted @ 04:59 | link

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