Friday, March 20, 2015
One image was an AND gate, another of an OR gate from 2N2222 transistors, the model that's practically free. I got 50 for $1, ebay by way of China. Great deals if you don't mind waiting a month, and by the time they arrive, I've forgotten I've ordered them. The most expensive parts are the pushbuttons to represent inbound signals. You know, the one thing we still make in this country.
I don't have the time or energy right now to write this up into a coherent lab. I'll just bring a handful of 2N2222 transistors, wires, and 10K resistors just in case that changes in the morning or they're sufficiently determined to play with wires instead of me talking about the history of programming.
Also, I put together a 3-component IR detector: photo transistor, LED, and resistor to keep the LED from burning out. And a battery pack. It's way too much fun to point a remote control at it and push buttons to make the LED flash from across the room.
I definitely need more sleep and less coffee.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
One day, you realize the running count of dollars per day until the next payday is painfully low, then the next, you get your tax refund much earlier than expected, with the means to buy some more stability and cushioning against the next emergencies. And maybe better planning around periodic difficulties before they turn into emergencies.
One day, you start to think life has settled down just a little. The next day, you're standing in a foot of snow in the woods at sundown, frantically following footprints in the snow and unsure if they lead to your child in crisis, or whether your child stayed on the road you were following, and is back safe. When there are two paths in the road, I'm both willing and condemned to follow the less traveled one.
In a moment, life changes, and suddenly you realize that somewhere back, you took a wrong turn. Google Maps on my phone does a great job of putting me back on track. Not so easy for offline life.
There's the moment when you realize that the bad in your life does far more to harm those around you than the good in your life does to help others. Sorry, life is asymmetrical and badly skewed, and hoping that the good you do will somehow outweigh the bad looks more and more to be just a poor excuse to avoid hard truths.
Sometimes I wonder if following the proverbial well-trodden path is safety or stagnation. I guess it's how downside risk is evaluated and awareness of a life without crises and emergencies. Life is what we make of it, I'm reminded.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Sunday, January 11, 2015
What they call "winter break" is rapidly ending with the traditional end-of-break cold. But a good time to catch up on reading, or at least some bad TV. Diving into some electronics projects, CAD, and 3D printing has been refreshing, since it's been a while since starting something different from the usual.
When the day started with trying to unclog the dishwasher, this isn't so bad. Or at least watching Netflix documentaries is preferable to bailing out 3 gallons of cold filthy water from the bottom of the dishwasher. The syllabi revisions can wait until tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Fast forward more decades than I care to think about, and suddenly I find a thing that lets you turn lights on and off and program it. Well, now it's on like Donkey Kong. Sort of. The modules are undocumented, but at least the chip number is visible, and Googleable. There you can find a number of forums of other people who bought these things and are trying to figure it out, with an occasional engineer to point out some critical information. Though this information is often buried in a discussion board on StackOverflow or a more Arduino-related site. It's a fair amount of digging to figure out what pins to connect and a corresponding sample program to interact with it.
There are a lot of hurtles. Often these things don't work as the previous StackOverflower outlined because yours is a little different from what was described. Or you read the part number wrong. Google the thing that went wrong along with the chip part number and whatever pins you can read. If nothing else, it's a chance to learn some science. The part HMC5883L that I still can't get to work right, points to Magnetic North- I had never thought of it as a 3-dimensional measurement, but it is. Which means more math and physics than I had planned for the day, but that can wait for another day. The larger board next to it is a tiny Arduino clone, from China, for about $2.50 including shipping. I haven't gotten that to work either, since it relies on me connecting a couple of other parts correctly to connect it to the computer, which I would need, in turn, to help me figure out why it's not working.
So this sort of issue can be called a "Bootstrap" problem- bootstraps to put on your boots. Though it's a bit more circular than that. In the back of my mind is the premise of the Maker stuff, a company build around magazines and kits for hobbyists and (allegedly) kids. Except unless you have a parent who's an engineer and a hundred bucks sitting around, you're not really the target demographic.
So, how can this stuff be made more accessible? If the Internet of Things is going to be the Next Big Thing, how do we learn this stuff?
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
If there's one thing I learned in the course of the dissertation, it's that "writer's block" (at least for me) often is the result of trying to write one thing while thinking about something else. Basically, the logjam of ideas that don't want to flow the way they're "supposed" to. When I backtrack and Google "writer block logjam" there are a wealth of opinion posts about this being an actual thing.
Then I stumbled on games, gamification,and the like. I discovered to my surprise that my Intro Java class really liked a test class using Alice. So, why not. Not the easiest thing to shift gears suddenly from one set of course plans to something else, a class example for a course I TA-ed for about 6 years ago. But it's Alice and I was a Java developer for several years before the cut-and-run to academia.
Is there anything here to knock off my publication requirement for the year? A study about how Intro Programmer course students like Alice over Notepad++ isn't exactly going to get me into a first-tier publication, since it's no longer 2002 outside. But, there's a question out there somewhere after churning through the stack of PDFs I've compiled recently.
Given my general inability to play any sort of computer games for the past 3-4 years, with life events and the aftermath, it seems that learning about games is likely to be my way back into that realm.