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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Christopher Thomas' LiveJournal:

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Sunday, December 31st, 2017
8:23 pm
Data Logger Milestone, Incremental Drawings, Holidays, and Procrastination

  • Got the revised data logger hardware design done, and ordered parts. The boards came in before the holidays, but the components were delayed due to problems with the purchase order. That's been sorted out, and I'll put the new boards together this coming week.

    They're designed to work properly with the old firmware, but to benefit from new firmware whenever I get around to writing that.

  • Made incremental progress on the drawings. The only silver lining to how late they are is that the person who'd be building the enclosure is also still working through his own task queue. These should get handed off early in January, and it'll likely be built by approximately when we'd want it (end of February/beginning of March).

  • Got holiday cards and letters drawn and duplicated. The mailout went out just after Christmas, but before New Years, which is better than a few past years. Gifts that were delivered in person did have cards and letters, which was my main goal.

    There are still three cards left to send. One I need to write a braille letter for, another I need a properly confirmed address for, and the third is waiting until I've done proofreading that I'd promised that person. The first two, at least, should go out early this week.

  • Boardgaming/Ars Magica meeting has been postponed to the 6th or possibly later, due to illness (the host and his family are taking turns being sick). This will get sorted out soon enough, and that particular set of gifts exchanged in early January.

  • Holiday activity the first: working on the Ars Magica character sheet LaTeX documentclass. There's still one known bug, but most of the features work properly (the revised version automatically tracks experience, which was a feature I'd wanted for a while).

    Holiday activity the second: the Pathfinder modpack for Minecraft. I'm still playing it for the time being, but its pacing is a bit rough (different goals take very different amounts of time, without being in any particular order). Getting a nuclear reactor online made life much easier, and getting a quarry up means I now have near-unlimited raw materials even without dimension-hopping (which I did use to get diamonds and quartz, but which now isn't needed).

    Holiday to-do activities that are not likely to be finished: archiving anoter web site that I read, and writing a proper "merge multiple directory trees" script to consolidate all of my files (which will make backups much easier). Fimfiction math is also on the backburner.

  • Plan for Monday and Tuesday is relaxing. Wednesday starts the work week. Priority work tasks are the drawings and the data logger. After that, there's one more mechanical widget that needs drawings, but the software _must_ take priority (as the Big System needs to be shipped to the US by mid-February at the latest). This coming weekend is boardgaming, hopefully; the fallback date is the following weekend.

Now, relaxing and bed.

Current Mood: tired
Monday, December 18th, 2017
12:10 am
Task Shuffling, Holiday Logistics, Game Prep, and Knitting/Crochet

  • Eventually backburnered the drawings, and switched to the revised data logger task (which I'm not burned out on). This is sub-optimal, but I wasn't getting much done on the drawings by the end of things, so it's still a net positive. Drawings will resume later this week (the data logger design is already submitted for fabrication).

  • Finally got the last of the paperwork needed to file the conference trip claim; this will also get done this week. I should be reimbursed some time in January/February.

  • Got some of my holiday shopping done. There are four items left to acquire; three are straightforward, and the other isn't terribly difficult either (but will arrive after Christmas).

    Badgered everyone who's getting something for me to use the online list this year. Had one (1) person do so. I am not amused. Badgering will resume shortly (there's a real risk of double-buys if they don't do this; that's why I implemented an online list in the first place).

  • Still haven't drawn the holiday card or letter. I at least know what these are going to _be_ now, but exhaustion is not conducive to artwork. Deadline panic might be; we'll see.

  • Finished the third co-worker hat, and also finished revising the Luna wall-hanging. Next up on the handicrafts list is finishing the chart for the fourth hat, getting it approved by the recipient, and seeing if I can hand it off before the end of Friday (not terribly likely). The fifth hat's contents are known, but I haven't even started the charting process for it.

  • D&D is still happening, and is still fun. The next session for that will be in January. Additionally, Ars Magica prep is now officially on; I've been having fun with my character for that (his familiar will be as fire-happy as he is).

  • Plan for Monday is ordering parts for the data logger, submitting the conference claim, and actually drawing the card and letter. Plan for the remainder of the week is enclosure work and hat-knitting. Gift acquisition will happen too. Plan for the upcoming weekend is gift delivery.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, December 3rd, 2017
8:39 pm
Deadline Slide, D&D, Knitting, Holiday Logistics, Math, and Minecraft

  • Had serious deadline slide on the enclosure drawings. Partly this was due to them being more complex than expected, partly this was due to other tasks competing for time, and partly this was due to burnout. I'm mid-way through the second of four drawings.

  • Continued gaming with the D&D 5e group in my building at the university. This is still fun, though it's very much old-school high-magic/high-fantasy D&D. I'm also slowly making progress on a 5e character sheet documentclass; this will hopefully be in usable shape before the end of the year.

  • Completed the second co-worker hat in my knitting queue; the third is in progress. The co-worker who's getting the third also asked for an additional one, and one other co-worker is still procrastinating about getting me information about what they want their hat to look like. This should keep my knitting queue full until the end of the year.

  • Finally finished the Luna wall-hanging. This is going to get further modifications to add a loop for a bar at the bottom (so that it has a weight to help keep its shape when hanging), but that's a straightforward task as long as I don't run out of yarn for it. Photos will be taken/posted after that point.

  • Started planning holiday gift logistics. I still have no idea what two thirds of my recipients want; shaking them down for that information is high on the priority list, so that I still have time to get the gifts themselves. Another friend's gift will require research and inquiries; that process has barely started. Drawing this year's card also has to happen, if I want it to arrive before 2018. Stay tuned!

  • Was pointed towards a statistical analysis of fanfiction on one of the sites that I frequent. This turned into a conversation with the author who did the analysis. The end result is that I now have their dataset and am in the process of writing scripts to do several analyses of my own (and we're still having a discussion about various approaches used for this). The results should be interesting no matter how it turns out.

  • Gave up on the Regrowth modpack for Minecraft. It was fun for a few months, but the endgame involves a lot of grinding and also involves at least two different quests of types that I don't enjoy. Started the next modpack on my list (Pathfinder) instead; so far it's kept me interested.

  • Plan for the work week is drawings, as well as prep work for making new/revised copies of an earlier widget I'd built. Plan for Thursday includes gaming. Plan for the upcoming weekend is also in theory gaming, though that may get pushed back again due to various people being ill. Auxiliary tasks for the week involve clearing a number of minor chores off of my plate, and putting together documentation for the Nightmare Moon statue (so that it can be handed off to its new owners).

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Saturday, November 18th, 2017
11:44 pm
Conference, Boardgaming, Lack of D&D, and Minor Burnout

  • Attended the conference without incident. This was more productive than I'd expected: I now have a much better idea of the spectrum of vendor offerings available than I'd gotten via the internet. While this doesn't change the design of the first-generation Big System, it does strongly influence near-term and longer-term upgrade paths.

  • Also attended a seminar on AI (mostly "deep learning" style, presented by the Alpha Go team). I'd read a moderate amount about this before, but getting details of their architecture choices and integration approach was interesting. I'm strongly tempted to write a "Reversi" AI based on it just to see how well it performs compared to more conventional implementations.

  • Ended up with sleep schedule disruption and minor burn-out at the end of conference week. As a result, I didn't get the enclosure drawings finished (this is at the top of the priority list for this coming week). Even with one day written off as a result of this, my vacation day count is still up by one due to working through last weekend at the conference.

  • University D&D didn't happen, either before or after the conference, due to other group members being away due to conference-related travel. In theory, we're having a session this Thursday; we'll see.

  • Boadgaming happened. Boardgaming was low-key but decent. Got face time with Tony and Bryan again, and got to try "Diplomacy" again (and had my fill for the next little while; losing was not particularly fun).

    There's talk of starting up an Ars Magica campaign even with just us as players; we'll see how this goes. More players would still be preferable, but we've all already asked our immediate acquaintances and have come up empty.

  • Plan for Sunday is downtime and errands. Plan for the upcoming work week is the enclosure, followed by consolidating notes from the conference trip. D&D will in theory happen as well, and possibly a flyby for maintenance at the mad science club. The upcoming weekend is uncommitted so far, and will hopefully also be downtime; we'll see.

Now, puttering and bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, November 5th, 2017
7:09 pm
Hat, D&D, Slide Show Figures, Gaming, and Conference Prep

  • Finished the hat for the co-worker who was graduating, just under the wire. It was well-received. There are two more co-worker hats in the queue (one with details specified, and one that I'm waiting on pictures for).

  • Divided my time this week between planning tasks and making slides for a presentation Prof. W. is giving at the end of the month. The slides are about half done. Next up after that is more vendor-tag and detailed drawings for the shielding enclosure.

  • Started preparing for the conference trip that's coming up. Mostly this involved shopping for clothes (done) and ordering business cards (ordered, to be picked up on Monday). At some point I'll have to get a new suit, but that can wait. New dress shoes might happen earlier (I'm undecided).

    Material-wise, I'm not presenting, so the only preparation needed will be going through the programme and vendor list to pick priority individuals/events for networking. The actual work will happen at the conference itself.

  • Sat in on my first session with the grad student D&D group. This was decent; they're new to gaming but have a good grasp on the basics. My character was well-received and contributed usefully, which bodes well for future sessions.

    Next up on that front is making a LaTeX version of my character sheet, and drawing a somewhat better sketch of the character.

  • Boardgaming happened. Boardgaming was decent. The game of the evening was Pandemic. We seem to have finally figured out a reliable strategy: Ignoring all but the worst infection points, and focusing all of our efforts on developing cures as soon as possible. Even if the board is being overrun by plagues, we still win if we have all four cures in-hand before the outbreak track reaches the bottom.

    Scientist/Researcher/Medic was the combination we used for most of these attempts. Other roles seem to be geared towards games with more people, though we could probably swap out Scientist for Dispatcher and still win (dispatcher pilots the Medic, Researcher takes cards from the Dispatcher, while both sit in Atlanta).

  • Plan for Monday is picking up business cards, and pinging vendors. Plan for Tuesday is work per normal. Plan for Wednesday involves D&D after work, plan for Thursday involves a maintenance flyby, and Friday involves packing for the conference.

    Work-wise, the item I'm most worried about is software for the Big Project, but the hard deadline for that isn't until the new year.

Now, relaxing and bed.

Current Mood: exhausted
Monday, October 30th, 2017
4:38 am
Hardware Validation, Incremental Software, Knitting, and D&D

  • Got the hardware validation done. The only item giving me trouble is the Big System's tape drive, and the trouble is fairly minor (its sustained data transfer rate is two thirds what it should be, which is still enough for our purposes).

  • Made incremental progress on the Big Project's software. I'm at the point where I'm going to have to start one of the major tasks in it (taking apart a nontrivial vendor/open-source application and putting it back together under my own build environment). This will likely take a couple of weeks; we'll see.

  • Made incremental progress on playing vendor-tag for pieces of the Big System's scientific hardware. This should ramp up again next week (when the vendor making the next major piece gets back to us).

  • Started refilling the knitting queue, finally. Of three co-workers who got back to me, two want hats. The first (for a co-worker who's graduating soon) should be finished by the end of the week (when her defense happens).

  • Learned that a group of students has been running a D&D campaign literally one door down from me. I now have an invitation to join said campaign; this is something that I've really missed. They're new players, but seem to have a good handle on the basics. They're playing 5e, and initial impressions from the book and from chargen are that it's pretty much a simplified variant of 3e (in particular, pruning skills and assuming basic competency without explicitly listing them). The advantage/disadvantage dice mechanic looks interesting too.

  • Plan for the work week is coding and miscellaneous tasks (lecture slides and mechanical drawings). On Tuesday I'm taking half a day off to set up Nightmare Moon again and hand out candy. Thursday after work is D&D. Tentative plan for Saturday is boardgaming, though I have to confirm that with the rest of the group.

Now, the work day.

Current Mood: sleepy
Saturday, October 21st, 2017
7:30 pm
Enclosure Milestone, Paperwork Milestone, Computer Milestone, Conference, and Ponies

  • Finished detailed "concept drawings" for the revised enclosure. These show how everything is put together and are to scale, but lack annotated dimensions and don't show the placement of every last screw hole (which will be needed for the final drawings).

    I'm currently waiting on a feasibility check from the person who will be manufacturing it before proceeding further. That should happen within a week or so.

  • Finally got all of the TN-1 visa paperwork in hand, and confirmed what I'm supposed to do with it. The biggest annoyance so far is that I'll have to bring several difficult-to-replace original documents with me in case customs asks for them. I'm told that they _do_ ask for them.

  • Got all of the parts for the Big System's computer hardware. This involved ordering a couple of replacements for pieces that weren't quite right (one cable and one mounting shelf, so nothing horribly expensive). I've done functionality checks on everything except for the scientific equipment, with results more or less in-line with what I expected. Final tests on the tape drive will wrap up by Tuesday.

  • Was told that I should attend a US conference happening in the first half of next month. This is doable, but will take prep work. The trip itself is booked, but I need to get new business cards, maybe another tie and a couple more dress shirts, and I have to prep my notebook for travel (paring it down to work-related-only configuration, or maybe even less than that); likewise with my USB sticks. I use my phone as a phone, not a PDA, so it won't have anything sensitive on it.

  • Saw the MLP film. It was flawed, but still decent. I'm not likely to watch it again, but I'm not sorry that I did watch it.

    Spoileriffic critique cut-tagged.Collapse )

    I have a number of other quibbles, but the ones above are the big ones. That said, for fans of the show, it's still worth seeing.

  • Plan for tomorrow is a brief grocery errand, followed by Minecraft. Plan for the upcoming week is email tag for a couple of work-related projects, a little bit more paperwork/documentation, the last of the hardware tests, and resuming software development. A laser maintenance flyby is also schedule. Plan for the following weekend is relaxation and Halloween prep. Game day isn't happening until the 4th, and even that is tentative.

Now, Minecraft, relaxing, and bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Monday, October 9th, 2017
8:30 pm
Cable Design, Enclosure Redesign, Software Progress, Slacking Progress, and Pie

  • Got further handshaking regarding the widget-cabling that was in principle going to be finalized a month ago. It looks like we've finally arrived at a design that satisfies our requirements and that the vendor can make. Realistically, this means we might get hardware delivered by the end of this month or early next month.

    There are two additional substantial subsystems for that widget assembly that need to be designed, but it's getting there, at least.

  • Got enough pushback from the people we'd wanted to manufacture the enclosure that Prof. W. revised the requirements, and we're going with a design that more closely matches their fabrication comfort zone. Making drawings for this is one of my priority tasks for this coming week.

  • Made incremental progress on the Big Project software. One small piece of it was finished by the end of the previous week/beginning of last week, and another small piece is incrementally progressing. Prof. W. has tentatively approved my implementation plan, though I expect there to be change requests once he actually starts working with the software.

    At this point, given the other tasks being juggled, I'm aiming for a minimum-functionality prototype by the end of November.

  • Had a long weekend. Enjoyed the long weekend. Long weekend highlights included making pumpkin pie (it's Canadian Turkey Day today), poking around at Minecraft Regrowth (I've found another grindy part), poking around on the shared-game server (I've started another spaceship), and dusting off another "archive things I care about from (web site I use)" script project (in progress but still lots to add).

  • Plan for the upcoming week is enclosure drawings, additional coding, touching base regarding two other widgets, and making a laser maintenance flyby. Plan for the upcoming weekend _was_ another boardgaming session, but that may end up postponed due to a scheduling conflict. In general, this coming week is business-as-usual.

Now, puttering and bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Monday, October 2nd, 2017
8:35 pm
Incremental Coding, Incremental Hardware Install, Boardgaming, and Laser Class

  • Made progress on the piece of the Big Project code that I've been working on. There's still a fair ways to go with it, and many more pieces after it, but development is more or less on schedule still.

  • Got most of the remaining hardware pieces (I'm still waiting on "cage nuts" with a different threading), and assembled all but one of the computing and measurement widgets for the Big Project. After a bit of wrangling, the computers all have their OSs installed and _seem_ to correctly detect all hardware, but that won't be rigorously tested for a little while yet.

    The scientific instruments haven't even been powered on yet. Testing them properly will have to wait until the first code milestone (unless I test them on a workstation first).

  • Detour for this month: continuing to try to line up manufacturers for the shielded enclosure. So far, one of the people we'd wanted involved says that they don't do the type of fabrication we want, and another person it was suggested that we consult with doesn't see why we're doing it this way at all (they're making different assumptions about requirements than we are).

    This will get sorted out in due time, but it'll take a while. Everyone involved is quite capable; the problem for the moment is that we're not all agreeing about the project requirements (which dictate the specs, which dictate the design, which dictates the manufacturing methods). _After_ that's sorted out we'll have to figure out who's actually going to build it.

    It could be far worse; right now it's still in "normal expected delays" territory.

  • Met friends for boardgaming again, finally. This was a nice, low-key evening, and also involved trying out the host's new pool table. The next visit is tentatively scheduled for later this month.

  • Taught the "how to maintain the laser cutter" class people had been asking about. This was enough of a time investment that I'd really rather not do it again, but most of the people who expressed interest now know how to do it, so it should be needed again any time soon.

    I've put the detailed lesson plan up on the makerspace's wiki, so if it does get run again I won't necessarily have to be the one doing it.

  • Dusted off multiplayer Minecraft again for the first time in a while. My current project is a revised version of the spaceship one. It's midway between my previous two (unfinished) spaceships in complexity, but should be much more attractive to visitors (which is the main point; I don't need a spaceship for myself).

    Upcoming projects also on the table are long-range teleport links between other players' distant sites (which I finally have a decent theme for), and a starting/tutorial room for new players (as a friend may be joining soon, and having teleport links to known-free areas to start out will also be helpful).

  • Plan for the work week is coding and the last of the hardware assembly. Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime. Plan for the following week is likely trying to get the scientific equipment talking to a workstation, and then talking to my Big Project code. Plan for the weekend after that is tentatively gaming with friends again, and possibly also a movie trip (FiM and the new Blade Runner are both on my to-see lists).

Now, puttering and bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017
11:29 am
Illness Week, Work Week, Minecraft, and Computer Wrangling

  • Spent the week of Sept 4th sick. It was just a cold, and it cleared up faster than it could have, but it still took me out for that time and burned half of my remaining vacation/illness days.

  • Did, however, spend more time working through Minecraft Regrowth. Several (automated) quarries later, I now have the materials I need to complete the gardening quests. I'm about two thirds of the way through the bee quests, finished the Blood Magic quests (though there's a lot more to pursue there if I want to), and am considering a Wither run (the golem method sounds safe and there are a couple of things I'd like Nether Stars for).

    Remaining quests are the corruption-based Thaumcraft quests, the Botania boss-fight quests, the remaining half-or-more of the Witchery quests, and then the Outer Lands dungeon fights (which I am not looking forward to). So far, the modpack continues to keep my interest.

  • Spent the week of the 11th dealing with a variety of work tasks. The last of the paperwork for the US work visa has been acquired and submitted; I'm now waiting on my old university to send a replacement diploma (to prove I've gotten that degree). One of the widget-related tasks involving a vendor is still dragging on, but it doesn't require much intervention on my part (just making sure that what they plan does actually meet our requirements). The majority of the week was spent on software development for the main project (the one I was hired for), which is going well so far but which is still quite a ways behind the originally-desired schedule. This will remain my priority task through the end of October (unless more firefighting tasks come up).

  • Continued trying to get Vectric's CAM software running under WINE. Continued failing to accomplish this (old versions reportedly run, new version crashes on startup, after successful installation). Tried to install one of my old licenses of WinXP on a virtual machine. That failed too, because IE can't access the internet (even though Firefox and "ping" can from that install), and Windows goes through IE (and only IE) for updates _and_ for registration (so I couldn't even activate the XP instance).

    Finally broke down and bought an external SSD and a license of Win10. Win10 is being installed on a virtual machine as I type this. I am not amused.

  • Plan for this weekend is relaxing. Plan for the coming week is software development, and a functionality check of the hardware for the big project (the rack to mount it all in arrives early in the week). Plan for the following weekend is boardgaming with friends on Saturday and teaching a course on maintaining the makerspace's laser on Sunday. The week after that should be more of the same, plus baking a cake for a co-worker's presentation dry-run. The MLP movie comes out on Friday of that week, so I _might_ make a trip to see it over the following weekend (waiting a bit for reviews and for the crowds to thin out is more likely).

Now, virtual machine wrangling and Minecraft.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, September 10th, 2017
6:45 pm
Incremental Enclosure, Paperwork Chase, Software Annoyances, and Minor Illness

  • Made incremental progress on the enclosure design. Prof. W. has spelled out why the extra feature he wanted is needed, and I've drawn a diagram showing how all of the pieces of the enclosure need to fit through the door of the room. I think we're on similar pages now.

  • Continued chasing paperwork for my work visa for visiting the US. This is currently held up on getting one of my diplomas re-issued (I found the other two, but they want copies of all three). This will take at least a couple of weeks and will involve running around (I need to get an "I lost the original" form notarized before they'll send me a replacement diploma).

  • Started coming down with what looks like it's going to be a nasty cold. This isn't the end of the world, but it'll take me out for 1-1.5 weeks based on previous history. I don't want to spread it to co-workers, and I'll be on the "pretty pony princess" medication combo, so going into work while sick is a Bad Idea.

    There's still a slight possibility that it's runaway allergies. I'm going to pick up appropriate work materials on Monday to take home just in case it's the real thing.

  • Tried to get XP running under VirtualBox so that I can use CAM software under Windows. Trying to run an image of an old XP partition failed, most likely due to boot loader issues. Making a fresh install worked, but IE point-blank will not connect to the internet. This is an IE issue; Firefox worked fine when I copied the installer over, and "telnet google.com 80" followed by "GET" gave web-page results.

    This is a problem, because Windows Update _and_ license-key registration exclusively go through IE. The install will deactivate in 30 days without that (unless I want to hassle tech support by phone).

    So, I may have to spend $150 on a new OS license to run the $200 CAM software I bought that had been reported by third parties to be WINE-usable. I am not amused.

  • Amusing subway diversion: Deriving the laws of motion in a rotating reference frame (centrifugal, Coriolis, and Euler forces). I was shown how to do this in undergrad, did it for fun at least once after that, then forgot how to do it (made two failed attempts). I've finally figured it out again.

    Next up will be Kepler's Laws, which we were also all shown in undergrad.

  • Still poking at Minecraft. Still in the grindy part. Two chunks' worth of quarries later, and I have one but not both of the stockpiles of rare materials I'll need. I should have enough of the second material soon enough.

    Auxiliary task has been pushing out NetherNet corridors to link various sites. The first treasure-map site had a very mediocre treasure, but also came out right next to a cult-worship site, which I'll need for the endgame. The other two treasure map sites are farther away and involve extending tunnels through open air, so I'm holding off on them for now. A shorter open-air tunnel is almost done, though; this will link an outpost that I'd built a while back but haven't visited recently. There's an NPC hut nearby, which I'll investigate (these NPCs trade, but I might not be able to trade for the items I want).

  • Plan for Monday is a token amount of work, and synchronizing my work-materials USB key. That plus my notebook plus a handful of reference papers will be enough to let me work from home if anything urgent comes up and if I'm lucid enough to do so. Plan for the remainder of the week is either work (if this is a false alarm) or recovery-downtime (if I'm actually sick). Plan for the upcoming weekend is boardgaming if I'm ok, and lack of boardgaming if not. Priority work tasks are the enclosure followed by touching base on older tasks followed by starting the software task; queued non-work tasks are getting CAM software working and then doing the routing-pockets test I'd come up with last week.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sick
Monday, September 4th, 2017
3:34 pm
Enclosure Progress, Documentation Search, and Minecraft

  • Produced a first draft enclosure design that Prof. W. is reasonably happy with. We're still wrangling over some of the details, and I've deferred a fairly difficult part of it to an add-on component, but progress has been made.

    Lining up vendors and opening communications with the preferred contractor is next on the list.

  • Made progress on work-visa paperwork. I _think_ all of the required forms have been filled out, but I still have to get supporting documentation. Transcripts for all three degree programs will be straightforward and fairly fast. Diplomas, not so fast. I've found two of them, but I might have to get the university to re-issue the third, which will take weeks. I've asked my parents to look for it among their keepsakes; hopefully it'll turn up there instead.

  • Got an approximate inventory of the remaining totes-to-be-sorted while searching for the diploma. The good news, which is also the bad news, is that I can probably find about a dozen boxes' worth of stuff to throw out to make the storage room usable again. The reason that's "bad" news is that it means I have at least 20 boxes of materials to sort in order to get there. This will hopefully wind down before the Christmas break.

  • Failed to get Vectric's CAM software working under WINE. It installs fine, but crashes immediately when it runs. Rather than fight with WINE, which is a poorly-documented nightmare if it doesn't work the first time, I'm going to try running an actual Windows XP install under VirtualBox. The old hard drive image I'd had failed to boot, so I'm going to have to dig out the install media and license keys for this and try on a fresh virtual-partition. Wish me luck.

  • Did, however, find a test pattern that should work for debugging the problems I've been having with the makerspace's router. Hopefully this will get sorted out (or at least diagnosed) next weekend.

  • Continued fussing with the "Regrowth" modpack for Minecraft. I've been exploring the last two magic systems (out of four), and have been making progress, but the modpack is definitely more grindy than it was closer to the beginning (though still nowhere near as bad as Agrarian Skies). I've found one of the three rare ores I'd been missing, but I still need to scrape together enough of the other two to complete the "make seeds that produce materials for you" quests.

    After that, I can either go for boss fights that still look unpleasant, or explore the "evil" side of the Thaumcraft magic tree, which involves sanity-loss (status effects and spawning in enemies, in practical terms). Neither of those is particularly appealing just yet.

    On the plus side, steam-powered quarries in the Nether work fine and are very convenient.

  • Plan for the work week is enclosure and chasing paperwork. I may also ping the vendors for the two nominally-designed components to check up on status. Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime and possibly router work. Following that, I'll likely have to start the main software project that's been on the horizon at work, and relaxation-wise boardgaming might start up again.

Now, Minecraft and bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Monday, August 28th, 2017
7:13 am
Adapter, Design Tweaks, Requirements Gathering, Minecraft, and Carnival

  • Finished the adapter widget, and also machined a case for it. The case did not come out very well, but it'll be easier to file off relevant pieces of the current one than to machine a new one. Partly this was due to a design oversight (not leaving enough clearance between fitted parts), and partly this was due to the recurring issue with pocketing on the router (it walks, which leaves design pieces out of alignment).

  • Continued discussing implementation of one of the "finished" pieces of last month's widget. This is approaching final form, but until I hear back with a finished layout, I'm not going to count it as "done".

  • Started the process of requirements gathering for the enclosure design. I _think_ I have most of the mechanical information I need before contacting vendors (who will have their own mechanical constraints), but there's at least one sticking point already (making it narrow enough to fit through a doorway, which will help a lot but which Prof. W. doesn't like).

    This will be an easier sell if I can lay out exactly how much effort and expense a multi-part unit will involve, so that he can decide on his own that that's not worth it.

  • Visited the CNE, an end-of-summer carnival held around here. The last time I'd gone was about 15 years ago (as part of a group event), and the last time I attended _regularly_ was probably 30 years ago (as a kid).

    Several things I learned:

    • MSG and sugar are a strong memory-trigger. Carnival food reminds me of happy times (even if I can't eat it any more).

    • I'm still afraid of heights. The cable-car, the bigger roller-coaster, and the ferris wheel were the main offenders in that regard. I have no regrets, but this does help me know my limits for future trips.

    • I get motion-sick more easily as an adult than as a kid (or I'd just forgotten getting motion-sick as a kid). The worst offenders were ones I hadn't expected: swing rides. These look tame, but because they're driven by a rotating carousel, you get a slow spinning motion in addition to the up-and-down motion. This did not agree with me at all.

    Still definitely worth doing for nostalgia's sake.

  • Continued playing through the "Regrowth" modpack for Minecraft. I'd seriously underestimated the amount of time involved in the quests; the pace has slowed down considerably, so even though I'm about half way through the quest trees (or more), I'm probably more like a third of the way through the play-time.

    The current item I'm stuck on is finding three rare ores in the hell-dimension. Two of them I have, but not in sufficient quantity to grow magical seeds for them, and one of them I haven't found yet (it's the lynchpin of the second-to-last quest for that particular chain). On one hand, now that I can build (and power) automated quarries in the Nether, this may go a bit faster. On the other hand, that brings its own major annoyances (babysitting the generator, babysitting the quarry, and filling in all of the lava that gets uncovered during mining). The last item can be cheated around by exploiting a bug that lets you create water in the Nether, but I'd prefer not to cheat if possible.

    The main _upcoming_ difficulty will be boss-fights. The quest trees I've unlocked so _far_ involve two major boss fights and one mini-boss fight, and I'm sure there are several more of each. These have never been my forte (and I don't have the "Minefactory Reloaded" needle-gun this time).

  • Plan for this week is enclosure work and a makerspace maintenance flyby (delayed from last week). Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime and handshaking over when the next game day will be. Plan for the following week is scrambling to finish the enclosure design and line up contractors. After that is (hopefully) work on the software that I was nominally hired to write.

Now, the work day.

Current Mood: sleepy
Monday, August 14th, 2017
6:35 pm
Design Milestones, Filler Project, and Minecraft

  • Reached milestones on two of the three components of the widget; these are now with their respective vendors for comments prior to fabrication. If I don't hear back from them by the end of the week regarding generating quotes, I'll ping them again.

    The third component is deferred until I have final design details regarding it from Prof. W. These should be in-hand by the end of August; in the meantime, it's mothballed.

  • Dusted off an old project as filler/downtime work: an adapter for one of the older widgets I'd built for the lab. This is progressing well, albeit more slowly than I would have liked. The goal is to have all of the code functional by mid-week (at which point I can think about making another custom housing for that part).

  • Received more parts for the Big System. In theory I could start hardware compatibility testing for it now; in practice, that's deferred until after the design work for the shielded enclosure is done. In theory, that winds down at the end of this month, but in practice I'm already two weeks behind on that schedule due to schedule creep on other tasks. We'll see how this actually goes.

  • Spent the weekend as downtime, with Minecraft. Long story short, "Regrowth" is still fun, but it may be even longer than I'd assumed. I'm getting a bit worried about the late game and endgame, as well, because there are several tough boss fights in the quest book. This should be manageable with strategy and by looking at how other people have defeated those bosses.

  • On a broader note, I've noticed that I've done almost nothing productive on hobbies for the last month, and precious little in the months before that. As far as I can tell, the work schedule and commute are hitting me harder than I'd thought; when I'm home, even on weekends, I'm exhausted. This says I should prioritize moving closer to work when the situation allows (and should continue being strict about getting enough sleep in the meantime).

  • Plan for this week is filler widget, and then resuming the project planning for the shielded enclosure. Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime. Plan for next Monday is a video chat with Prof. W. to discuss the shielding plans to make sure I got all of the requirements right.

Now, puttering and bed.

Current Mood: exhausted
Monday, August 7th, 2017
8:13 pm
Week of Revisions and Weekend of Downtime

  • Spent the week with back-and-forth design discussions for two of the three components of the widget. These are now approaching final form, about a week later than intended. I have approval on the mechanical design of the holder component, which allowed me to revise the cable component to a version that's easier for that contractor to make. Hopefully-final drawings for that go out Monday. The positioner component also needs tweaking, but this is very minor (and drawings for that can go out Monday too).

    After that, I might finally be able to work on the nominal task for August (the EMI-shielded experiment enclosure).

  • Took the holiday weekend as all-downtime, as I was seriously burning out at work and having sleep issues that weren't helping. Both are much better now, though the acid test will be whether my sleep patterns remain stable during the week.

    Did get a token amount of work done; the Dragon magazines are now bagged and packed, and I have a written list of the missing issues. The inventory list has been sent to the two prospective buyers. If neither wants it, it's time to learn how Ebay's selling interface works.

  • Primary slack activity was the "Regrowth" modpack for Minecraft, again. My previous time estimate seems to have been fairly accurate, I think; I'm now around the half-way point. For most of the weekend I've been obsessively breeding up every plant type to perfect quality: this is overkill, but works fine as a background task (it's a series of short tasks with lots of waiting in between, so I work on other quest-paths while the waiting happens).

    The main changes since last week are that I now have mid-level mana generation infrastructure in place (so I can fill a mana pool or two without it taking a vast amount of time), and I now have a large basement full of industrial equipment (most of which is devoted to producing coke and/or steel; coke is what's powering the mana farm _and_ the industrial equipment).

    I'm still enjoying it. The next major tasks are setting up an effective mob farm (I finally have one, but it's fairly slow), and mining the Nether in earnest. The next major _quests_ are working through the two or three other magic systems in the game (I've done most of Botania and started Witchery; I need to do the rest of Witchery and then get started on Thaumcraft and Blood Magic). The last two magic systems in particular may end up being a time-sink. We'll see.

  • Plan for the work week is finalizing design arrangements, dealing with a handful of other small items that Prof. W. has flagged, picking up shipments that are due to arrive, and then taking the enclosure document out of mothballs and getting it into workable shape. Outside of work, there will be another makerspace maintenance flyby on Thursday. This coming weekend is un-allocated so far, but I should probably catch up on all of the errands I've been putting off. Hobby items on the agenda are finishing weaving in the ends on the Luna hanging, designing the next test item for the router (a gear train), and possibly un-mothballing the fic I'd proofread three quarters of for an online acquaintance.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, July 30th, 2017
9:35 pm
Incremental Design and Incremental Minecraft

  • Made progress on the design of the three inter-related parts of the widget for work. The support frame and cabling have been heavily modified, though it looks like the subsystem I finished last week will stay unchanged. Negotiations over how exactly the cabling will get implemented should wrap up by mid-week, at which point I can get back to drawing up designs for the other two parts to send to our mechanical engineer for sanity-checking.

  • Finally got around to identifying all of the remaining unsorted boxes in the storage room. The goal of this was to find the missing issues in my Dragon Magazine collection; these are now identified and have been merged with the rest of the collection.

    There are more gaps than I'd like, but I still should be able to offload it without too much trouble.

  • Finished the border on the Luna hanging. As far as I can tell, the tension is right this time (though I should still doublecheck). Next up is weaving in the ends and fixing one interior mistake (loop that wasn't tied), and then I add loops to the edges for hanging-rods and it's done.

    Finding a place to hang it is left as an exercise.

  • Continued poking at the "Regrowth" modpack for Minecraft. I've hit the first pieces that are grindy (making a ludicrous amount of magical essence and making a ludicrous amount of charcoal), but these aren't nearly as bad as AgSkies was. The essence problem was easy enough to solve by breeding crops to maximize their stats, and the charcoal problem is in the process of being solved by having a reasonable-sized tree farm (rather than just a handful of trees for occasional needs).

    The quest paths branch more than I like (I favour a more linear game), and there are a number of "complete this for the sake of completing it" tasks (which get tedious), but overall I'm still enjoying it quite a bit.

    I'm between a quarter and a third done, I think, so this modpack has around 100 hours of gameplay in it.

  • Plan for the upcoming work-week is finalizing the widget and handing off fabrication to the two contractors involved. That will finally allow me to un-mothball the RF enclosure design, with the goal of handing _that_ to a contractor by the end of the summer. Auxiliary goal for this week is to build a print server for work, so that the printers can be password-protected (something keeps spamming them).

    Non-work plans are finishing the Luna hanging, then deciding which of several pen-and-paper tasks to un-mothball.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, July 23rd, 2017
9:28 pm
Week of Design Work and Weekend of Downtime

  • Spent the week working through iterations of the first subsystem of the mechanical widget that will be needed for the experiments. This is now very close to being done, thankfully; it needs to be drawn up and then go out to our mechanical engineering contractor for sanity-checking. Once I know what tolerances he's comfortable making it to and what the actual final dimensions are, I can spec out the second subsystem (the support frame). That should go much more quickly.

  • Pushed back the RF enclosure task to next month. Realistically, it'll take a full month to do, and realistically, the mechanical widget will eat the rest of this month. Prof. W. has been advised and is okay with that, as far as I can tell.

    Remaining tasks on the mechanical widget are drawing up the first subsystem per above, designing the second subsystem (leaving a couple of the dimensions as free parameters), and designing the third subsystem (cabling and mounting for the widgets this interacts with). That gets drawn up and sent off to a different contractor for sanity-checking, hopefully before the end of the week (ideally mid-week, but that's less likely).

  • Slacking task for the week: trying bookbinding again. The makerspace has a "stack cutter" type paper cutter, and it turns out to work quite well for trimming book edges. Next up, if I'm feeling brave, will be making hardcover-style covers. I'm not in any hurry to do that, though (softcover with book tape on the spine has worked fine for me so far).

  • Weekend _plan_ was to sort a few boxes, do mechanical design for another machining test (a gear train, so that I can be sure I have a handle on those before doing the clock), and then going in bright and early one morning to machine said gear train (the shop is empty on most weekend mornings, which gives me a comfortable amount of elbow room).

    Weekend _reality_ was sleeping in and then trying the "Regrowth" Minecraft modpack, which has been addictive enough to keep me occupied all weekend. It's a "quest"-style modpack, giving a number of incremental goals to be accomplished and giving rewards for accomplishing them. So far the pacing has been decent; we'll see how the midgame and endgame go ("Agrarian Skies" turned into a long enough grind-fest that I've never finished a game of it).

    Current sticking point is figuring out how to get fire essence/fire seeds/fire rune. There appears to be a chicken-and-egg problem that may require a trip to the Nether to work around. We'll see.

  • Plan for the upcoming week is work, with a makerspace flyby on Thursday for maintenance. Subway activities are rereading a (novel-length) fanfic I'd enjoyed, and working on the Luna wall-hanging (I redid the part I'd used the wrong colour for, so now I just have the border to do, and it's done). Upcoming weekend is downtime and hopefully getting things accomplished that I didn't do this weekend.

    Boardgaming with friends has been postponed until September due to scheduling conflicts.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: exhausted
Sunday, July 16th, 2017
9:31 am
Mechanical Design and Mechanical Fun

  • Continued with the mechanical design task from last week. The fiddly part of it is close to being finalized, though I may end up having to revise it or make it larger to meet other design constraints. If I can keep its current density, it actually surpasses our design goals for the unit, which was a pleasant surprise.

    Whether it ends up being manufacturable, or ends up having design flaws that become apparent in service, is another issue. I should ask Prof. W. about commissioning a machine shop to make an enlarged-scale mock-up so that we can check this before ordering the real thing (the real thing is tiny enough to be quite difficult to make).

  • Didn't touch the mechanical design task that's due at the end of this week. I'll ask Prof. H. about pushing it back on Monday.

  • Finally got around to implementing a fun mechanical design project: using the makerspace's router to cut gears. I've confirmed that these can be made at reasonable scales using the tools I have available, and I've confirmed how much I need to offset the surfaces so that everything turns and meshes cleanly (0.005 and 0.010 inches for gears and hubs, respectively, though gears work fine at 0.010 as well).

    The next step is confirming that I can use "dowel pins" as axles (and measuring the clearances for those too). After that, it's time to start building that clock. This will be nifty.

  • Returned to the group Minecraft server, after a few weeks' absence. Still not particularly motivated for the big projects, so I implemented two small projects (building a long-range teleport link and adding a portal to one of the host's art projects to the nether-rail network). In the queue is a nether-net link to a village claimed by one of the newer players, but that's on hold until I get their formal permission.

    In order to encourage people to travel the normal way, the teleport links are designed to be tedious to use. The one that's currently up uses a "Labyrinth" pattern (the meditation-type, with a single winding path that takes a while to walk). I've considered putting a "Towers of Hanoi" puzzle-lock on to another one, but I'm still thinking through how to implement that in Minecraft.

  • Got a pingback about my concerns from Feral 2016, finally. I'll look at this later today (now that I have timeslot that's free when I'm fully awake, rather than having to rush off to work immediately). Best-case, all is fine and I'll happily attend in 2018. Worst-case, a falling-out occurs.

  • Costed out attending Further Confusion. This is tempting, because I've enjoyed it in past years, but not tempting enough to drop $3000 on. I can afford that now that I'm on salary again, but it will represent 2-3 swanky pieces of equipment, about 10 medium-sized projects, or about 30-50 small fun expenditures that I'd have to not make in order to attend the con.

    It's still tempting. The deciding factor would be if I had several friends who were attending it whom I'd be able to see again (right now, 5 are in the area, only 2 are known to be attending, and they're usually not available for in-person stuff).

    The cutoff for getting a hotel room is somewhere between "book right now" and "book a few days ago", so I'll likely just push this off until the 2019 con, with my debts paid down and my employment situation for 2018-2019 sorted out.

  • Plan for today is relaxing. Plan for the upcoming week is mechanical design, and in-person meetings with Prof. W. now that he's back in town (skype had horrible problems). Plan for the upcoming weekend is boardgaming with friends. The following work week will likely be overflow from the second mechanical design task, and maybe a chance to do that embedded hardware stuff as a break.

Now, a day off.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, July 9th, 2017
10:21 pm
Work Miscellany, New Machine, Machining Plans, Birthday, and Pony FAQ

  • Juggled several tasks at work over the last couple of weeks. The fun part was researching several options for improved hardware for the data logger widget I'd built (of which at least two new variants are desired). I've found candidate processors and two candidate RTOSs to run on those processors. Most of that development is shelved for now, though, as there are higher priority tasks on the table.

  • Did a fair bit of mechanical design for an adapter widget for some of the scientific equipment we're in the process of ordering. This is still ongoing; I've just recently learned of several more design requirements, which turned about half of the previous work on its ear. Part of what I'm finalizing will be relevant for the equipment order itself (they're customizing pieces for us), so this is currently my highest-priority task.

    I'm not actually sure it's _possible_ to meet all of the requirements as I presently understand them, but it's still worth a shot. The fallback plan is to ask Prof. W. which requirements he wants to relax to get a design that's actually buildable (he'll be open to that if it comes to it, but I have to make a sincere effort to fold them all in first).

  • Installed and configured OpenWrt on the router I'd bought; it's now my firewall. The schedule for this was bumped up due to the old firewall (a PC) finally dying a slow and lingering death (as near as I can tell a fan failed but it's under low enough thermal load that it would still function for a while).

    Also installed and configured my new desktop machine. It's a small-form-factor mini-pc, so "bolted to back of monitor machine" is more accurate. It also has enough RAM that I should be able to run all of the Minecraft modpacks that I want, and enough grunt _and_ decent enough graphics drivers that I'm no longer frame-rate-limited (even in full-screen with lots of overdraw). This is nifty.

  • Started planning out a couple of machining projects. Plan the first is a clock, because sooner or later everyone builds a clock. This one has the gear train in a linear arrangement around the circumference of the dial, so there should be lots of interesting parts whirring away in full view when it's done. Estimated time to completion is a couple of months, mostly due to other tasks competing with the limited free time available.

    Project the second is the gramophone record scribing project. The good news is that I have it rendering vector graphics of record grooves, finally, and I also now have the "diamond phono point" stylus I need if I want to use CNC machines to do the work. The less-good news is that the shop's laser cutter software point-blank refuses to even load something with this many line segments (though the CNC machines are okay with it), and that I'll need to make a fairly complicated mounting jig for the stylus before trying the CNC machines (the material surface isn't flat enough to just keep it at a constant height), and that I'm going to have to do further software tweaking because right now there are at least two different situations where it'll produce tracks that a phonograph needle won't follow.

    It's still fun, and these problems will be resolved in due time.

  • Gaming happend, finally. Gaming was nifty. Because I had my birthday recently, the host brought out cake, and I got to pick the game of the evening (a playtest of the Space Station 13 RPG again).

    They also got a small Twilight Sparkle party balloon. I was touched. I also took photos (it was adorable).

  • Wrote up a very short introduction to MLP-canon for people who aren't already familiar with the series. This is three pages so far, which is much longer than I'd have liked but should still be acceptable (it's large type and is split up into bite-sized pieces discussing different topics, each with their own picture, so it's not a wall of text).

    The motivation for this is the fact that I've dropped off a few of my favourite fanfics with the host, who informs me that at least one of his stepkids enjoys reading and might be tempted by neat-looking books left out. We'll see if anything comes of it.

  • Plan for the work-week is finishing a small embedded widget upgrade that's on my desk, and then nailing down revised specifications for the mechanical design mentioned above. This has to be done soon, because in _two_ weeks I have to have a draft ready for a completely different mechanical design project (though realistically that one can be delayed with fewer bad things happening). Also on the agenda is a makerspace flyby on Thursday for maintenance. Plan for the upcoming weekend is relaxing and possibly more sorting-of-cruft. Plan for the week afterwards is continuing mechanical design tasks.

Now, bed.

Current Mood: sleepy
Sunday, June 25th, 2017
8:46 am
More Detours, Incremental Computing, Job Option, and Missing Con

  • Made incremental progress on software abstraction and work visa paperwork, but spent most of the week dealing with additional high-priority short tasks. These have been mostly squared away, but there are still at least two items left to finish before I'm back to the big project.

    On the plus side, a lot of the short tasks contribute to the groundwork for system upgrades down the road. Among other things I'm getting my feet wet with hardware description languages and FPGAs again.

  • Got (almost) all of the parts for my new desktop machine. Missing items are a power cable (on order from Digikey now), and a network patch cable (which I can pick up from a store near work on Monday). I had to downgrade my monitor (the new machine uses HDMI, which the old monitor didn't have), but this is tolerable (and I can always buy a better one later). The new machine is a small-form-factor one with a VESA mount, so it sits on the back of the monitor iMac-style, which frees up even more desk space.

  • Finally started going through the OpenWrt documentation in earnest, and picked up a known-supported router to load it on. This is intended to replace my gateway/firewall machine, which is now shutting itself down intermittently (I suspect it's running without its CPU fan now). Once I have the procedures for this down, this may also be useful at work (the sensor network widget uses a router with stock firmware, which has already caused minor problems).

  • It looks like I'll be missing Feral this year. I'd been holding off on registering until after a complaint I'd filed from last year was dealt with (or at least acknowledged), but it looks like Feral has now hit the attendance cap (for the first time ever). Even if I got a phone call resolving the issue today (and apologizing for the late reply), it's unlikely that I'd be able to register (the waiting list is undoubtedly long). I'm disappointed with this (I've been attending since 1998 and the last one I missed was in 2003), but I'll live. Another attempt at contacting concom will be made this weekend or during the week.

  • Got an expression of interest (not an offer yet) for hiring me for a permanent position. Up-side: This is pretty much my dream-job, for several reasons. Down-side: This is in the US, in a state that as far as I can tell is doing its level best to live up to every negative "southern-US" stereotype. I'm told that the city itself isn't so bad, but it's still not an easy decision.

    Thankfully, I don't have to make a decision now. I'll be at my current position through the start of 2018 at minimum, and the prospective employer is nowhere near the point where they're extending a formal job offer.

  • Plan for today is relaxing, possibly doing more CNC work, and in theory phoning FeralCom (as email and their web form haven't gotten responses). Plan for the upcoming week is a meeting, more software design and prototyping work, and a makerspace maintenance flyby on Thursday. Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime. The weekend after that will be boardgaming, for the first time in a while.

Now, getting the day's tasks underway.

Current Mood: sleepy
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