Adapter, Diagram Detour, Minecraft Shenanigans, and Storage


  • Manufactured the second adapter without incident. Part of the design could have been thought out better (having to use stand-offs to make the board-and-case screws fit securely), but overall it was a success.

    Using different settings reduced but did not eliminate the "walking left while pocketing" problem.

  • Nominal task for the last two weeks was getting the abstraction layers for the Big Widget's software sorted out, prototyped, and documented. In practice, I spent at most half of my time on that, because lots of mechanical drawings had to be produced for an order with a different vendor. That's now done, and I'm back to abstraction-layer tasks (the planning is non-trivial).

  • Minecraft updated to version 1.12, which needs Java 8. The version of Mint on my home desktop does not have a Java 8 package. Rather than upgrading this machine, I've taken this as an excuse to get the new machine that's been on my to-buy-eventually list for the last half-year. The last piece of it should arrive tomorrow, at which point the install-and-configure dance can begin (there are several configuration steps I'd like to automate, so I may hold off on installing the new machine until I've done so).

  • Finally got a storage unit, on account of having a steady paycheque now. Two of four sets of shelves have been set up in it, and I now have more floor space at home. I've moved most of the "low-hanging fruit" (things that were already sorted that are either archival or that are only used one a year); the next step is to throw out my academic magazine collection, sell, give away, or throw out my Dragon Magazine collection, and throw out or donate most of the "I might wear these some day" clothes. After that I'll be in position to triage the rest of the unsorted boxes.

  • Ordered more end mills. This time I'm getting a corner-rounding bit and a couple of ball-end bits, which will let me make cases that don't have sharp edges (as well as let me machine sloped surfaces with less-obvious staircasing). These will either get used when I'm asked for the next adapter at work, or will get used when I finally dust off the "Arduino Atari cartridge" project.

  • Plan for today is downtime. Plan for the work week is abstraction documentation and work-visa paperwork. Plan for the upcoming weekend is downtime and/or project time. The next makerspace maintenance run is the Thursday after next.

Now, relaxing and bed.
  • Current Music
    "Dragon Warrior Theme With Lyrics" (Brentalfloss)

Adapter the First, Adapter the Second, Network Shenanigans, Routing, and Minecraft


  • Built adapters for the data collection widget. Found that the isolator chip wasn't working, and so wired up a straight pass-through variant with shared ground lines. This worked, thankfully, but it would be nice to know why the isolator didn't. I've checked layouts other people used, and they're consistent with what I implemented.

  • Routed a fancy custom case for one of the adapters. This failed to mate properly, because the router jogged left during pocketing operations. This was probably due to a poor choice of settings on my part; in the meantime, a bit of manual rework on the case returned it to usable condition. I'll try again some time this week with the case for a different adapter (designed Friday, being fabricated now).

  • Got the hardware list in more or less final shape. The current step is figuring out networking at the new site, which involves negotiating with three different entities within the university. Two of the three are now on the same page we are, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

    We still have to arrange power, which will be its own headache.

  • Started discussions about what kind of work visa I'll need to go down there to install and troubleshoot the system. Two different departments have two different opinions on this, and at least one of them wants me to be able to predict troubleshooting dates in advance, which is hilarious. I'll probably end up going to the US consulate to get an authoritative answer within the next week or two. At the end of the day, there's only one entity whose opinion matters, and it isn't either of the groups I'm talking to.

    Writing up an iron-clad description of what I'll be doing comes first, though.

  • Visited friends for boardgaming last weekend. This was pleasant, and I look forward to doing more of it.

  • Continued poking at the shared Minecraft game. The Secret Railway is now finished, and I've also built a demo version of the Rupee Maze. This involved a dome template for another player to copy (as I really don't want to build the giant dome myself); the template covers a little more than a quarter of the dome's area (a 90 degree wedge that they can replicate and rotate). A cut-down version of the maze is inside of that. The command-block and note-block systems are in place, so entering the maze (stepping over one pressure plate) resets the reward clearing, and entering the reward clearing (stepping over a second plate) materializes the treasure chest, plays the Zelda "secret revealed" jingle, and removes the reward pressure plate (so you can't just repeatedly walk over it without exiting the maze first).

    This is exactly the sort of simple but nifty project that I enjoy on shared servers.

  • Plan for Sunday is box-sorting (now that the barbecue food is out of the house), possibly case-routing (if I can get there early enough to not overlap clean-up night), baking (angel food cake cupcakes) and downtime. Plan for the work week is the second adapter, visa shenanigans, and continuing to write the design document for the software for the big data processing system. Plan for the upcoming weekend is boardgaming night and downtime.

Now, bed.
  • Current Music
    Futurama theme

Cancelled Barbecue, Work Board Design, and Minecraft


  • Learned that the barbecue venue will be closed through the end of next month, as it's still mostly-underwater. The downside is that the barbecue is cancelled this year; the good news is that I learned about this early enough that I hadn't bought most of the food, so I'm not out as much money as I might have been.

    Some food (frozen food and non-perishable drinks) will be a loss (it's mostly going to lastmx if he gets back to me about pickup); the rest of the money spent this year was on infrastructure (new barbecue, upgrading old and new barbecue, new cart), which will be used in future years.

    Upgrading the barbecues went reasonably well, though I may have to tweak how I've attached the new countertops. That's easy enough to do, and not urgent, so I'll defer it to later this summer or to next year. The new wheels work very well.

  • Spent most of the work-week on the vendor search. This is closer to completion; we could order a working system right now, but I need to finish speccing parts from alternate vendors so that we can show due diligence. It should be possible to place the order from next week onward.

    A more serious concern, though, is how to power the system. Maximum rated load for all of the bits is 4-12 kW (smallest version to biggest), which means that even without hitting the maximum we'll trip breakers if we try plugging it into the wall. Worse, the UPS - which we do need, and which has to be the fancy redundant type - needs a high-amperage 240V or 208V connection. Getting that installed will be a major headache.

    That said, I should be able to build and test parts of the system with wall power until the final installation is sorted out.

  • Spent Friday on a backburnered task that was suddenly declared high-priority: making another adapter board for the old data-aggregation widget. This is now done, with the design sent off for fabrication, but there's still a fair bit of work to do (assembly, routing the case's holes, finding where my SMT capacitors went or ordering new ones, and then finding out what mistakes I made in the design and patch-wiring them).

    This was an interesting change of pace. It's the sort of thing that I'd have really enjoyed if I'd had twice as much time to do it.

  • Carefully identified where the antenna loop was in my proximity keycard, then punched a lanyard hole in it. Missed the antenna, hit the chip. Egg on face ensued.

  • Continued poking at Minecraft on the shared server. I'm about three quarters done with the "Secret Railway" linking art installations another player has built. The railway isn't the secret; the nature of the art sites is (they're supposed to be discovered by exploration). I've clearly marked the railway as containing spoilers, which has been deemed satisfactory.

    Finally started building my own command-block spaceship, too (another player made one months ago). We'll see how this goes.

  • Plan for Sunday and Monday is relaxing, with a possible detour to the makerspace to try a couple of routing projects. Plan for Tuesday through Friday is work. The week may also involve another makerspace flyby (to route holes in the adapter widget enclosure, or to route a fancier enclosure directly), and to a store that sells plastic stock (the best thing for me to be machining at the moment). Plan for Saturday is visiting friends for boardgaming and/or Space Station 13. Plan for Sunday is downtime.

Now, relaxing and bed.
  • Current Music
    Doctor Wily Fortress Music (Mega Man 2)

Vendor Progress, Camera Milestone, Barbecue Prep, and Barbecue Uncertainty


  • Continued with the vendor search. We have a good idea what we'll need for the scientific equipment, so my next task there is coordinating with a vendor who will be making us custom equipment to make sure we get exactly what we need. Computing equipment is also in the process of being finalized, but I still have to go over the equipment list to make sure I'm not forgetting anything and that we know it'll fit into appropriate rack space.

    Among other things, I've learned that a properly-specced rackmount UPS is the size of a mini-fridge and weighs about 700 lbs. This has altered my estimate of how much space it'll take up.

  • Was asked to finish patching the old camera widgets and update the manual to the point where it could be given to users. This is now done, and I look forward to having actual user-test results from that system (so that I can find out what bugs are still around).

    Another thing that was still around was test footage someone else had captured, that really shouldn't be left on that device. A lot of the experiments we deal with have confidentiality rules around them, so managing this kind of data is important. That'll get dealt with on Monday.

  • Continued with barbecue prep. I still have to book the van and book the water taxi; that'll happen this weekend, or Monday at the latest. The barbecues have both been brought to working order and tested, and I have fresh propane; I still have to refit the shelves and wheels on the barbecues, which will happen today and tomorrow.

    Tomorrow I'll also have to make the first grocery run for the barbecue. This will be non-perishables and freezables (juice, water, and lots and lots of frozen burgers). This may come back to haunt me, because...

  • Learned that the barbecue venue is still closed, and will remain so right up until the holiday weekend. If the lake hasn't drained by then, the closure may be extended - which will leave several dozen people without a barbecue to go to, and me with an absurd amount of food that I can't use.

    Friends who do barbecue have offered to take the frozen burgers off my hands, and I can likely send some of the drinks their way too. Difficulties will occur if the situation is still uncertain when I have to buy the perishables (Thursday/Friday-ish). Those may end up getting written off if there's a last-minute cancellation.

  • Started looking into what I'll have to do if the barbecue keeps growing. The good news is, the current venue should still be usable in some form; that said, we may end up having to change some of the events we do, which I'm not happy about. I'll look into this further during the summer after the frantic scramble to host this year's barbecue is over.

  • Plan for today is more barbecue work. Plan for Sunday is barbecue work, grocery shopping, and phoning around for logistics. Plan for Monday and Tuesday is work. Tuesday evening and all of Wednesday will be spent driving my father to a vacation spot out of town, as I'm presently the only person available to do that (I've already booked the time off of work). Thursday and Friday (after work) and Saturday will be spent on a mad scramble for barbecue prep, Sunday will be the overflow day for that, and holiday-Monday is the event itself.

Now, puttering, prep, relaxation, and bed.
  • Current Music
    "Psyche Rock" remix (think "futurama theme")

Vendor Search, Preliminary Design Work, Crochet Progress, and CNC


  • Continued addressing work tasks on several fronts (multitasking seems to be the normal mode of operation here). Mostly I've been tracking down vendors and vendor offerings for the various pieces of scientific equipment and computing equipment that will be needed for Prof. W.'s new project. The scientific side of things is mostly done, and procurement will start soon; for the computing side of things, I still need to lay out the configuration options and present lists of offerings from specific vendors so that Prof. W. can make the final call.

    Backburner tasks include designing the experiment's physical setup (non-trivial and about half done), and finishing debugging and documenting the camera widget (most of the way done for debugging, half way done for documentation).

  • Found a reasonably good way to combine variants of "intarsia" and "stranded colourwork" techniques for crochet. Also found a good way of adding a border that doesn't cause the workpiece to curl (that happens when there's a size mismatch combining different crochet styles). This made a redo of the Luna wall hanging the best option, and that's now been started. I estimate that it'll take about four more weeks of subway time to finish.

  • Attended the makerspace's CNC course, finally. I'm now ostensibly qualified to use the router and the Big Mill unsupervised, though in practice I'm going to ask the owner of the mill to shoulder-surf, as mistakes on that piece of equipment would be Very Expensive.

    I have lists of projects that I can make with both tools, so this was definitely a worthwhile investment.

    It also gave me a bit more confidence for setting up and playing with the third-hand benchtop mill I'd bought. That's on the books for after the barbecue.

  • Plan for today is barbecue prep and relaxing, not necessarily in that order. Plan for the week is work per usual (and putting together a purchase order for some of the experiment equipment, so it can be prototyped). I'll also be booking a cargo van for the barbecue and asking ahead about water transport. Plan for Saturday is gaming with friends, and plan for Sunday is most of the final barbecue prep (buying freezable and non-perishable food items, especially).

Now, tea, and a hopefully-relaxing-and-productive day.
  • Current Music
    "Pillar Custodes" theme (If The Emperor Had A Text To Speech Device)

Settling In, Nifty Hardware, Crochet Experiments, and Incremental Minecraft


  • Started settling in to the new work routine. So far this is going well, but the commute leaves me with very little free time during the week (I'm exhausted by the time I get home, so evening time isn't terribly productive). Fortunately, I do get a bit of relax-time on the subway (per previous routines).

  • Relax activity for the week: Crochet. I'm still looking into whether it's better to repair or to remake the Princess Luna wall hanging that was damaged by washing. If I can find a better way of doing multicolour crochet, I'll redo it. The two test swatches I've made so far have had mixed results: it looks ok carrying one colour in behind (total of two colours), but more than that tends to look bad. Next up is trying a variation of intarsia (a knitting, rather than crochet, technique where each patch of colour gets its own ball of yarn instead of carrying one ball across), and after that I may test a couple of other denser approaches to crochet that will leave carried strands less visible. We'll see how this goes.

    I've also done a for-fun crochet project: another pillow case. This one has a series of nested squares and diamonds (and has taught me how to join crochet pieces diagonally). I'm unlikely to use this myself, but my parents seem to have an endless collection of throw pillows, so it'll likely wind up with them.

  • Work this week has been divided among several tasks. The most interesting of these was looking into networking and storage hardware for Really Large Data Sets. It turns out that the "networking" part of that is now affordable: 10-gigabit ethernet gear costs the same as gigabit did back when I first adopted that. The "storage" side of things is still in "buy a car" territory for high-throughput drive arrays (the consumer-grade ones don't have sufficient bandwidth), and likewise for entry-level LTO tape storage jukeboxes, but this is still well within budget for the project (the data-gathering equipment is the expensive part). I'm looking forward to getting experience with this.

  • Continued poking at Minecraft. A fellow player produced a new map, which allowed me to make an updated plan for the SeaLab art installation with accurate dimensions. If I play my cards right, this will involve less work than I'd feared (at least four structures can be cut-and-pasted, which will also take care of a lot of the remaining terrain modification as water gets pasted too). In the meantime I've finished the incomplete corridors from last week and added a flower garden pod.

    My latest "diversion from domes" project is starting the rail links between another player's semi-secret art installations. These are intended to be found, but to be found via exploration, so the rail link is separate from the primary rail network (one level down) and is clearly marked as containing spoilers.

  • Plan for today is downtime, a bit more box-shuffling, and the first mailout for the centre island barbecue. Plan for the upcoming week is compiling the rest of the vendor-offerings list for the big project and continuing work on several side projects. A meeting will occur on Monday to clear up exact priorities. Plan for the upcoming weekend is boardgaming and/or pen-and-paper Space Station 13.

Now, the second half of the weekend's relaxation.
  • Current Music
    "Gemini Man" stage music (Mega Man 3)

Paperwork, Optics, Minecraft, and Contract


  • Got the paperwork backlog for Prof. W. done and handed in. Some of this will need my signature, which will either happen on Monday or will happen when Prof. W. gets back from his current trip. The pay claims should be processed without trouble; it's the reimbursement claims that might get held up. I'm pretty sure my receipts are in order this time, though.

  • Got offered a formal contract earlier than expected; this too will get signed on Monday, barring last-minute complications. As long as I don't mind continuing to live with flatmates instead of getting my own place, I should have enough leeway to spend small amounts of money on fun while still banking about 20% of my income (for when I'm between jobs and looking for an industry position again).

    I miss having my own place, and I'm not looking forward to a 1h45m commute, but I'm still in a much better position than I was without the contract.

  • Reinstalled and realigned the laser optics for the makerspace. This involved just as much swearing as I'd feared, but the laser is working again. I've also taken photographs of the hard-to-get-at optical element so that replacements can be ordered if necessary.

  • Continued poking at Minecraft. 14.5 out of a planned 26 structures are now up for the underwater base, and I've long since gotten construction fatigue. Now that I have admin capabilities, I used the copy-and-paste operator to clone the skeletons of the three newest structures I'd built, but it's still a substantial amount of work (I'm just hating corridors instead of draining domes, now). Next up on the hate list: landscaping/terraforming.

    In the meantime, though, I've been taking on small side projects as a change of pace (other server users are helping with this by bringing projects to my attention). Three new rail stops are in place, on two spur lines. I've also been giving thought to my own spaceship project (another user made one a while back, and I've been trying to figure out how to address some of the UI issues). So, multiplayer Minecraft is still fun.

  • Made "easter-egg souffle" again this year (souffle with food dye, to make it look like it was made with painted easter eggs). Took photos this time, so I can subject others to the results without having to bake it for them. One co-worker has seen it so far, and the gaming group will likely get exposure later this month.

  • Plan for the upcoming week is settling into the new lab for contract work. After settling in, wrapping up documentation and debugging for the previous project is at the top of the list, followed by high-level design and specification work on the new project (accompanied by research so that I know what the options are). Plan for Thursday also includes a makerspace flyby to check on the laser. Upcoming weekend is downtime (I have a sculpting project in progress).

Now, bed.
  • Current Music
    "Gemini Man" stage music (Mega Man 3)

Contract Slog, Loose Ends, Space Station 13, and Minecraft


  • Continued the process of wrapping up contract work. The hardware modifications are now all done, and I have about a week's worth of work left before reaching the second-last milestone for the documentation (that last one will be a doozy, though). The main task on my plate before Tuesday's meeting is paperwork. Following that, there's the documentation, resolving three low-priority software bugs, and one more hardware modification and the projects are wrapped up.

    Prof. W. has expressed interest in hiring me for a longer-term contract to work on a follow-on project. I've expressed interest in doing so, but it'll be a little while before this is signed and sealed. I'll still need to find an industry position eventually, but this will still be a pleasant change from living month-to-month.

  • Finally did my taxes. Also dusted off about a year's worth of filing that needs to be done; this is now in progress. Part of this is filing for the contract work, and part of this is filing for the art project I'd helped with a while back. After all of that's sorted out, I'll probably take a stab at the "sort and reduce quantity of stuff in storage" backlog. That's tentatively scheduled for the last two weeks of the month (flatmates are going on vacation, so I'll have space to spread boxes around for sorting).

  • Boardgaming day happened. Boardgaming day turned out to not involve boardgaming. Instead, we had another playtest of the Space Station 13 pen-and-paper RPG project. This went pretty well, and I got useful feedback on things to add and to change with the manual.

  • Continued working on the Minecraft underwater-base project on a friend's server. I now have 10 domes built and 2 partly-built out of a planned 26. I've also build a dome on land with an art installation and command blocks, used to manipulate the time and the weather. Among other things, this prompted me to move up the schedule of the requested land exit from the underwater base, so that's in place too (along with an underground rail link between the base and the surface access, and a portal to the nether-rail network on the land side).

    There are four plinths in the dome, with buttons that let you raise the sun, raise the moon, clear the skies, and stop/start the flow of time. These have banners for sunbutt, moonbutt, rainbowbutt, and Doctor Whooves. Pushing the buttons plays the first two bars of the MLP theme, the next two bars of the MLP theme, the first bar of the Rainboom theme, and about a bar and a half from the middle of the Doctor Who theme, respectively. The dome is in Celestia's colours, and there are plinths in the middle with coloured-block "elements" on pedestals.

    This is exactly the sort of project I like - small enough to finish in a day or two, complex enough to be nontrivial, and with lots of opportunities for little artistic flourishes.

  • Plan for today is tackling the contract paperwork backlog. Tomorrow is overflow time for the paperwork, and a contract meeting. The remainder of the week and the weekend will probably be documentation. Thursday is an off-cycle makerspace flyby to realign optics in the laser cutter (which has been moved, requiring the hardest-to-align optics to be taken out to avoid damage during transport). The next contract meeting after this one will be two weeks from Tuesday, and will hopefully involve final handoff of deliverables; the next boardgaming day has yet to be scheduled.

Now, more tea, and paperwork.
  • Current Music
    "Duck Tales" title theme

Contract Progress, Sleep Shenanigans, and Incremental Minecraft


  • Handed off the first batch of infrared cameras per plan, and also patched contract widgets to mitigate some of the effects of the reported bug. Still haven't been able to actually duplicate that bug with my own tests. Duplication will probably require the exact hardware that the problem was encountered with.

  • Started modifying the second (and hopefully last) batch of infrared cameras. This plus documentation plus auxiliary widget reworking is what's on my plate this week for contract deliverables. So far I've been making decent progress.

  • Began building the underwater base on the Minecraft server. Four buildings have been deployed so far, out of an estimated 25 or so. These have gotten a good reception, but it remains to be seen how much tourist activity they'll get.

    Minor annoyance: Having slimes spawn in one of the livestock structures. They don't attack the livestock, and they aren't a serious threat to players, but they _do_ trigger pressure plates that may let the livestock out. This is tolerable.

  • Continued rotating my sleep schedule around. I'm now on normal-ish time (waking up early and going to bed early), but I'm exhausted for the last 4-6 hours of my "day". This will resolve itself in due time.

  • Plan for the week is contract work. Plan for the upcoming weekend is a boardgaming visit. Plan for the following week is a contract meeting and hopefully wrap-up of most of the remaining contract deliverables. A makerspace maintenance run will happen as well.

    After that, the job search will have to start in earnest.

Now, puttering and bed.
  • Current Music
    Graduitous Space Battles battle music

Souffle, Convention Flyby, Sleep Precession, and Incremental Contracting


  • Contract meeting happened. The new task has been deprioritized (though it's still on the books), so most of the week's effort has been with paperwork (half of the items are done), documentation (one auxiliary chapter added), and infrared work. All of these will continue into next week, though there should be an interim deliverables hand-off at this coming week's meeting.

    Also got reports of a potentially-serious bug. The conditions to duplicate it haven't been nailed down yet, but I should at least be able to alter default behavior to be less destructive when it happens.

  • Started wrapping my sleep schedule around again. The good news is, this seems to work reliably: I can change the time I wake up by having 25-26 hour days and precessing it. The downsides are that the properly-aligned schedule lasts at most a couple of weeks, and that I keep very odd hours during the realignment process.

  • Stopped by FE briefly. Mostly this was for a dinner trip with friends (one belated birthday and one social call), as I didn't have knitting to donate this year and I also didn't have the free time to spend this time around. This went decently, and I might be in a better position regarding time, motivation, and knitting next year; we'll see.

  • Made souffle, finally. Added generous quantities of peas and ham this time, and tweaked the spicing a bit, with good results. This has been documented for future use. The more experimental work (for the chocolate souffle project) is still sidelined, for now.

  • Finished building the last of the prototype Minecraft structures for the SeaLab project. These didn't come out perfectly, but they're close enough that I'm ready to start implementing the real version once the last building is transferred to graph paper.

    I've learned a few lessons that will be helpful for future projects (mostly "keep track of available vertical space from the start" and "plan all buildings' profile views at the same time to avoid having to jog connections up and down").

    Implementation will likely take a month or two of real time, as I'm not going to work on this daily (that would be asking for burn-out).

Now, grocery run, puttering, contracting, and Minecraft, not necessarily in that order.
  • Current Music
    "Himalayas" stage music (NES Duck Tales)