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“Windmills Do Not Work That Way!”*

The life and hobbies of a firmware/software developer.

Trying some different things
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zanedp
The intrusive—and sometimes bordering on NSFW ads—have driven me away.
I'm trying out Blogger. Follow me over at http://zanedp.blogspot.com

Poisoned by Google Reader
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zanedp
I was just reading a book, and tried to turn the page by pressing "n" on my keyboard.


Google Reader is great. I discovered it while working on my thesis. It's a great way to make your procrastination more streamlined.

Windows start-up sound
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zanedp
Just what is the Windows start-up sound supposed to be alerting me to? Definitely not that the computer is ready to use. It would be more useful if it didn't play until after all the start-up "things" have finished launching, and the computer is ready to go.
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Cygwin vs. Windows
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zanedp
I spend a lot of time trying to get Cygwin and Windows to get along.

Don't Panic!
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zanedp
"Don't Panic!"

A haiku I just wrote to myself:
You will fail, sometimes.
You will disappoint, sometimes.
Normally, you won't.
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My Name is Earl: I've got a master's degree
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zanedp
One of my favorite moments in the TV series "My Name is Earl" is when Patty the Daytime Hooker says, "What have I done with my life? I've got a master's degree."

Amazon has a clip of it: http://www.amazon.com/Our-Cops-Is-On/dp/B000NI8GAK/ref=pd_vodsm_B000NI8GAK
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Stupid Ads
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zanedp
The advertisements I have to sit through to read my own LiveJournal Friends page has sound.

Not cool. Not cool at all.

New iMovie: Boo
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zanedp
New iMovie won't open my old iMovie projects. Boo. Hiss.

Dear Apple, quit being crappy. You gave us HyperCard and then took it away, bit by bit. Seems you're doing the same thing with iMovie.



HyperCard was awesome. I wouldn't have been a Computer Engineer if it hadn't been for HyperCard. Bill Atkinson is one of my heros. I hope he's not a jerk.

City Kids/Northerners
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zanedp
Don't use/remember/understand the expression "sweat like a horse."

Don't realize that "reckon" is a real word.

Don't understand that "Might could do something" means something different than "I might be able to do something." Apparently, we got this construct from our Scots ancestry.



There are tons of others. These just came up recently and were on my mind.

LiveJournal
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zanedp
I'm finding the "sit here and watch this ad before the journal entry loads" advertising here on LiveJournal annoying.

Seems like a lot of my other friends on here have left. Is it time to jump ship?

New iMac
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zanedp
Last week, I got a brand new top-of-the-line iMac.

It is great.

The screen is gorgeous. I don't just mean it's "big" (which it is at 27" diag.): I mean the graphics are beautiful. On my Dell at work, I can see columns of pixels running down the screen. Not on this thing. White is white, not white with tiny stripes. It really puts that Dell monitor to shame. And, my co-workers lust after my fancy Dell monitor. This iMac's screen is absolutely superior.

The colors are beautiful.

It's super fast.

I'm freaked out (in a good way) to see VirtualBox running Windows applications side-by-side with Macintosh applications. I mean, their windows are interleaved: Windows is "rootless" to use X11-lingo.

I got the wired keyboard with numeric keypad rather than the tiny wireless keyboard. I use numeric keypads often, and have never once cursed a keyboard that has one (though, my roommate has. yep, he's reading this). It's a very flat keyboard. Almost like a laptop keyboard. I don't love it, but I don't hate it. I think I loved my last Apple keyboard. And the one before that. This one is very quiet.

It came with a Magic Mouse. I tried it. Doesn't fit my hand. So, I switched back to my Logitech, which I love. The paint is coming off, and I've replaced a switch in it, but I keep using it because it's just great. "Logitech Wheel Mouse" or "RX250" shape. Perfect.
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New Mouse
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zanedp
I ordered a new mouse this morning. It should be here next week!

Update April 3: Got a tracking number for its printer.

Yeah, I really do think: Need new lyrics for Alanis Morissette's "Ironic"
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zanedp
Last night, my sister Kristen and I had fun making up new lyrics for Alanis Morissette's "Ironic."

We need more. Please post some here.

Here's a couple to get you started:

Replace: It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
With: It's six silver bullets when all you need is a stake.

Replace: It's the good advice that you just didn't take
With: It's the piece of cake that you already ate
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I'm so out of the loop: HyperThreading (SMT) is back.
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zanedp
I'm shopping for a new computer, and didn't even realize that "HyperThreading" (what has been called "SMT" for ages by "academics") is back.

The Intel Core i7 has HyperThreading. And, of course, SMP: 4 cores per chip!

Wee! With that much power, I'll be able to edit my photos before I even take them!


My current computer is from 2002. Its instruction set was designed from the start to be 64-bit, and is big endian ("network order"). It seems weird to be shopping for a computer whose processor's original instruction set was 4-bits. Then 8-bits. Then munged to 16 and 32 bits. AMD, at least from a passing glance, did a good job of making 64-bit much more sane. Kind of weird, though, that there's only 16 architectural registers. My favorite 8-bitter has 32, but to be fair, some of them can't be used for all instructions (there's a split in the middle where some of them don't work with some instructions).
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PlantUML
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zanedp
I'm a fan of PlantUML, despite some minor english translation problems:


PlantUML allows you to quickly write :





Edited on March 30, 2010: Added the word "minor" above.
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Embedded.com - Guidelines for writing efficient C/C++ code
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zanedp
This is an article I stumbled across today.  I'm a fan of using stdint.h, and I like this explanation of why and when to use the different types.

Can't open Excel files by double-clicking them
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zanedp
I've had a problem with my work computer that when I double-clicked a spreadsheet file, Excel would launch, but the file would not load: just an empty instance of Excel would come up.

Here is how I fixed it:

From the “Office” menu in the upper left, click “Excel Options.” (It’s at the bottom of the menu, in a button.)

Click “Advanced.”

In the “General” section, uncheck the “Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE)” box. (circled below)



I don't know how that box ever got checked in the first place.  
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That goofy "I before E" rule
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zanedp
I've never remembered the "I before E" rule. It's always seemed so arbitrary. This video from Merriam-Webster Online makes me feel less retarded for thinking it didn't make any sense.

I Before E Video
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Bonjour for Arduino
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zanedp
I was looking into writing something like this in December. Come January/February and someone else has already done it! I'm gonna try this out soon.


Bonjour/Zeroconf for Arduino

Things I'll Enjoy Remembering from 2009
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zanedp
Taught a graduate class in embedded systems. I really enjoyed it. Learned a lot.

Had a major birthday. Saw an undersea movie at the IMAX in 3D that morning with my roommates (found the ticket stub while cleaning my room yesterday).

Went to Cancún with my daddy and my sisters. We had a great time!

Got an "industry" job. I'm loving it.

Oh, yeah... I joined the "Chuck Norris" kickball team!

PWM
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zanedp
I ordered some scuba gear during the sales last weekend. One of the items I purchased came with a free 1W LED flashlight (the yellow one on this page).

Yesterday at work—just for fun—I hooked the two lines going to the LED to my oscilloscope. Below are a couple of the screenshots I took of the signal.

The light has three brightness settings. This first screenshot is the "middle" setting. To vary the perceived intensity of the light, the LED is very quickly turned on and off. In this shot, you can see the the voltage is "high" for ~50% of the time, which means "half intensity." The yellow line is the analog probe's signal, and the red line at the bottom is the digital logic value (1 or 0, on or off).


In this screenshot, you can see that the voltage is "high" for only 25% of the time: that's the lowest brightness setting.


This technique is known as "pulse width modulation" or "PWM." You probably see it happening all over the place, and don't even realize it. Lights that fade on and off are probably using PWM.

For many circuits, you can use PWM to simulate analog output voltages on-the-cheap. For example, if your microcontroller can output 5V digital signals, you can simulate a 2.5V signal by having the output pin be "high" for half the time, and "low" for half the time (5V * 50% = 2.5V). For 1.25V, have it "high" for 25% of the time, and "low" for 75% of the time (5V * 25% = 1.25V). The percent of time the signal is "high" is called the "duty cycle."

Yeah. This has been covered a million times on the net and in books. But, I liked my screenshots, and decided to post them.

FlexNet Saves Gahanna Customers Thousands of Dollars
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zanedp
Go Sensus!



FlexNet Saves Gahanna Customers Thousands of Dollars
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Better Off Ted - Hulu
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zanedp
The whole series (first season) is on Hulu until Dec. 9. You should watch. Very funny.


Better Off Ted - Hulu
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Embedded.com - The Use Of Assertions
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zanedp
There are things we are supposed to do that we don't. Exercise. Avoiding fast foods. Use the assert() macro. Exercise is a real pain that requires time and effort. Fast food can save time, and is carefully designed to seduce us. But asserts take little time or effort, and yet are as rare as the spotted owl. The Linux kernel sports just one thousand invocations of the macro in three million lines of code, an assertion density of just one per 3KLOC.

Historically, though, there's been little good evidence they are effective. Till now. In a paper from Microsoft Research the authors compared the relationship between the density of the assertions and code quality.

Embedded.com - The Use Of Assertions

A follow-up to my "Adventure Paper" post
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zanedp
A while back, I mentioned National Geographic Adventure Paper.

After some more use, and more submergings, I have additional information to add.

At least with my HP ink, over time, the red starts to bleed and fade, and blue starts to show through onto the other side of the paper.
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