Friday, June 27, 2008

This time it will not take 4 weeks

... to count the vote in the Zimbabwean elections. I can only wonder why that is. But I suppose the answer is a dirty white-lie. Is that an oxymoron, or deos it take one to create this situation. I am not sure that the MDC are a party that is really it is baked up to be sometimes. If I had a vote, I would rather have stayed away or spoiled my vote, because neither party is fit to rule, least the MDC at this point. So what can we do? nothing Zanu hold the peoples best interests in mind and their priority to feed the masses of loyal citizens who are leaving in a steady stream as we read this. Can MDC actually run a country, I doubt they have the guts.

Why do we even bother sometimes? is the world a fair place? It's at times like this where going home to RSA is just so senseless.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Comedy of errors

One is never too sure whether you get your moneys worth, but for a laugh, it's got to be a string of things going wrogn . It starts with
  1. Register new game online, registration screen wants my street-address, so I fill in the normal -number "1234" -street "icicle lane" -state "south pole". Never ask me for my address unless it really is your business or you are a cop.
  2. Next, the form crashes telling me I made a SQL error, normally users are not interested in: see dictionary (sql = school, shortcut to a word school)
  3. ...I send off a mail to their support, the auto-response has a subject-line "2K Games USA Techncial Support", this is only getting sweeter. so I am at least laughing now.
  4. The support login screen has been designed for visual impaired computer-gamers, see where I filled in my e-mail address in some kind of yellow. (browser = IE, with the form auto-fill on).

I log in, and get to manage my support query no problem, one more happy user.

Please do not get me wrong, I think they are a great crowd, and I want to do business, just not on the comedy-circuit. If you had a good chuckle recently why not decipher the little yellow box above and drop me a line.

Sunday, June 15, 2008 is land-filling

I am inclined to think they have shares in a disposal company. Why do we need such a big box for some solid-state electronics like a USB wifi dongle? The original Belkin box (contents and inner-box shown) can surely fit into the 'container' about 10 times over. My biggest worry is how does the postie deliver these? By van of course, its not safe to carry huge junk like this around on a bike.
It's not all evil mind you, I just ordered some more stuff of Amazon today, lets see if they are going to add a 'save-the-planet' delivery option next to 'super-saver' and 'express'. I really would like it if other mail-order stores could take up this challenge too.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Last day at work

(image: copyright zaphodikus)

Some thoughts on my last day at work. It's a strange feeling to be 'unemployed' for a few days. I must say it is not the same as a bank-holiday at all. I have 2 boys to look after every bank-holiday, it's no party I tell you. Deja vu? not-really I only ever did this twice before, the first time was packing all my stuff into a 2L ford station-wagon and driving from Cape Town to Johannesburg. I battled a bit in Johannesburg, but at least I had a job to go to, and I must admit there are always things I would have changed. But one thing I would not, I was not glad to be rid of the old place at all. You always think to yourself, at last I am getting out of this wretched place, and away from all the work that I hate. Hey, for some of us, work is fun, challenging, learning or stretching and something I generally want to enjoy 50% of the time. The other 50% is pure hard work (normally mental effort for most of us).
(image: copyright zaphodikus)

When the fun things get less, or you see something where you can do more - that's when you need to move out of the comfort-zone. At heart I am a comfort-zone man. I like to tune my environment to suite me. I have learned lately that it really is more and more 'who you know, not what', and this pushes the work-focus onto working with people more often, and doing it better. Strangely most engineers are right-brain thinkers, not left-brainers getting all creative on you, as a right thinker, emotions in the workplace is not my forte'.

Leaving my Job in RSA at Adroit was hard (doubly because I was leaving the country too), and as always the last day still feels funny - it's not something I want to do again and again, so last Thursday was hard, luckily my login is supposed to lock me out after 4:30, so I had a hard deadline (well I assumed that even if my network account is still working, that it's a bad time to be working hard). So I was lucky to have some code to prototype and hack together and keep me busy on my last Symbian day. I would have been disappointed if I got pushed to do extra work-things in a hurry, I mean what motivation is there to build something of quality?
Bad things in my experience at Symbian were the total flood of people to deal with, the difficulty in getting help and documentation, and then the huge open office. Day 1 was overwhelming to be honest. I mean working at Adroit was not easy either, we did not have as much easy access to training - but we had a lot of code-ownership responsibility over time. Chance to grow was less, but the tools all worked without complaint - something I never experienced while working with the arm tool-chain script was a feeling of peace when hitting that compile->link->rom button. Sure, App-level development on Windows is no cakewalk either, but the support is so much more accessible.

(image: copyright zaphodikus)

I like to keep the work door open if possible, I have met lots of very clever people (I am told I'm also clever, but I'm actually lazy so it cancels out) at Symbian. It's quite scary when you have all the clever guys in one room, and Clear Com will be no different I imagine. Next posting is all about how great sometimes is.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New Timed Posting Test

OK so this is simply a test-post, it should not count, but it will. Now does that count? Hmmm anyone got good guidance on creating help-files that can squash into a small file?

Going just a tad Batty

Yesterday we took the boys off to the Donarbon waste management site open-day. Getting a bit of info into my skull about 'friends of the earth' , Cambridge county etc., and generally technical detail on how things work - they have an annual open-day, it was pretty good display with lots of agencies putting up demos, and a site-tour, which seemed a strange thing, but the site is right next to our village, and hey, it's batty really, I will be working in the office-park right next door in a fortnight. Managed to get a replacement green box! Yay. Must go again next year, the site-tour sounded like great fun.

We have a bat-box, I have a bat-book by Phil Richardson, and well that and trying to build a basic bat-detector is turning into a bit of a mission of fun and learning. I have a lot to learn about the maligned creatures that inspired the vampire legend. UK bats munch mainly insects, not fruit, and there is really a lot that we have been misinformed over these tiny night-time clean-up squads.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Weekend project - nightlight

It's a simple project, build a night-light because the bathroom lights are blown out and I am renting so not included to climb into the ceiling and DIY. The boys need a night-light to get to the bathroom with, so I normally leave just 1 globe on in there. I broke-up a 'power-saver' downlighter with about 50 leds in it, not a bad price for superbright leds which can cost 80p each; if you do not count all the time and fussing with broken glass, splinters, serious desoldering etc.
(above picture looks blue on account the camera, and the leds being on very dim)
OK Drilled holes 5mm into the enclosure, wire them up with 1KOhm dropper, but in a series parallel network - all connected to a dumped phone-charger wall-wart i found as the supply.
Next we drill a hole in the back of the enclosure to allow the ~12Vdc cable in, and epoxy the enclosure to the top of the wall-wart. Normally this would create a heating problem, but I'm in a cold country.Since it's proved the PSU is good enough for the light-output need (tested on Saturday night as a burn-in), we move to the automatic light sensor - all prototyped on the project-board. You can see how I decided on a double-decker circuit arrangement. I only did this because I have a mental disease, no other reason at all. Besides the easy way was too easy.

Finished assembly with transfer of components to the veroboard. Because the LDR is a very flimsy model, I soldered a paperclip into the board on one side, covered it in heatshrink, and bent it to make a kind of stand-off before soldering the other leg of the paperclip into the far side. It made a very strong handle to which I epoxied the LDR - you can just see the 'window' on the right at the bottom of the enclosure. Lastly to stop junk and anything poking into the enclosure I stuck a clear window into the box to cover the hole from inside.

One assembly trick I also like to use when moving stuff from project to vero is to use a IN4007 diode clamp or similar across everything - I find that the 1 in 10 times that you work on the circuit while live and inadvertently cross power wires it will save your (I assume you do not use a 10Amp PSU. LOL) semiconductors.

The prototyping; you can see the flimsy LDR sticking up on the left. Apart from junkbox, recycled and bulk-bought resistors the onlybits I paid for are the LDR, LM741 and the enclosure.
Want a diagram?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Search plugin update

My idiots-guide search plug-in how-to-add-search-engine-to-ff in 15 minutes was great, but missing an icon. THe problem was FF stores the icon in a base64 text tag - needed to convert my bmp to a base64 text - if you have a codeproject login, go here image-base-64-converter - download the sample app, run it, paste the output (there's even a nice button in the demo that pastes the text to your clipboard).

Paste it into the XML file in the right place, (the IMG tag) and viola!