Friday, February 29, 2008

My Friend in Her Kitchen


I have a friend who bought an condo 18 months ago, and has already had 3 kitchen fires. This picture made me think of her.

Google Banners

Google's doing us proud. A frog for Leap Day and Leeks and Daffodils on the English and Welsh sites for St Davids Day.

I wonder if Google have an archive of their splashes.

Succuli

I think we all know what is meant by succuli.  The term is usually used to mean "succulent plants".  It goes well with cacti.

Thing is, spell checkers keep rejecting the word, so I Googled it, and went to www.m-w.com and dictionary.com, even Wikipedia.  Nobody accepts it as a word.  The term seems to be in common usage, and as a descriptive linguist I would have to say the word exists.  Is the word really so new?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Peter Bowles in Harry Potter movies?

As I was watching "The Avengers" (Dial a Deadly Number) last night I suddenly realized Peter Bowles has not yet been in a Harry Potter movie!

Why is this surprising? Apart from a few major roles such as in "Vice Versa", "To The Manner Born" and "The Irish RM", he pops up in one offs all over the place. He just seems to be the sort of Brit Actor who should be in the Potter movies. I can't really think what role to cast him in. He has dashing looks, but not leading male role caliber. He has a sly suaveness which can be coupled with a boyish nature and a cold sadism. Oh, he would be great on either side. Just who should he be.

I knew he'd played multiple baddies in the Avengers. I didn't realize he actually made appearances in Cathy Gale, Emma Peel and Tara King vintages. I know at least two of those he was one of the bad guys. As for the other two, who knows.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pretty good day...

I am contracting for a friend at the moment.  He is a hardware engineer, and writes all his code in assembly language.  I've learned that portability and re-use are more important than performance in most situations, and have opted to work in C.  Having said that, C compilers can be tweaked for code size or performance, and do a very good job at both (even if there are some surprises).

Today is an excellent example of the power of C over assembly language.  We have a family of products that are HCS08 based (Freescale 8 bit).  We have a legacy product which we were rolling into the new product family, it is HCS12 based (16bit MCU).  The two processors have differing bus architectures and some differences in memory map internally.
The only real change to the product was swapping from a proprietary 1 wire bus to differential RS485.  I just implemented the 485, and our associated protocol, on the HCS08 based platform.  It was quicker to take the 485 C code from the newer designs and add the LCD driver, than to take the assembly language LCD driver, and add an assembly language version of the protocol.  I was surprised I got 90% of the functionality in one day.

There is one other consideration.  "Processor Expert".  This is a tool that Freescale distributes with it's tools, and this does a lot of the bootstrapping for you.  Every new IO I added, the PE would build accessor functions for me.  So to set the RS485 enable, the low level code was buried from me, and the "Bean" had a common interface.  It makes it too easy.  Still this is what we need for an aggressive time to market.  The MCUs show re-use of IP between families.  We have to do the same at our level.

That's twice in as many weeks I've seen an assembly code job be reduced to 1/10th the time by using C instead.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Fire Brigade



There are a couple of my firemen here, but the rest are my sons.

We decided that we should have a good mix of guys in the bunch. That's me in the front row in the old fashioned parade uniform, and behind me is Pippin Reed, the brigades first female fire fighter.

Next to me is Sam Sinister, and you will see Anakin on the back row, he was involved in a nasty accident last year. I never noticed before but Digger is both in the middle and the left edge formerly of the Dino Attack squad (or is that Dash of Alpha Team).

At the time we took these photos we didn't have enough flesh coloured heads to do the full team. Our Mace Windu also had a light up light sabre, and consequently didn't have a removable head. I could go for a better mix now, replacing the Alpha Team, Knights Kingdom and others with Starwars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter heroes.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gung Hey Fa Choy


Interesting point to note.

Google are recognizing the Lunar New Year by a distinctive banner logo today.

However, in the UK, Google are just having another day.Is this driven by Britain being more insular? Or it because of recent immigration troubles in the UK, or is it just a lack of awareness?

Google.com are located here in the South Bay. With large Asian populations (Chinese in SF and Oakland, Vietnamese in San Jose) locally awareness is much greater. Is it a Silicon Valley thing, or is this universal across America?

On further investigation, the new year splash in on Google's regional variants for Hong Kong, China and Korea.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Steampunk Lego Building Contest

So over on reasonableclever.com they are having a Steampunk in 50 pieces or less contest. I wanted to make something, and came up with this dirigible in 80+ parts.
video
It's a shame I went over on the parts budget. Also, being so top heavy it was totally unplayable. The balloon also kept pulling loose. Still I have a smaller flyer and a crawler tractor that I could enter.

The balloon/gas chamber was going to be made from our Hogwarts Castle tower pieces, but since they are built into a fairly classy rocket-ship at the moment, I elected to use the tires from the M-Tron recovery vehicle. The gantry to hold it up was again second choice, I was going to make cables from the portcullis from Hogwarts, still the rigid structures from the police station helipad seemed to Victorian.

Before adding the balloon, I was in fear of looking too much like a Wookie flyer, one of the many steam-punk elements in the newer Star Wars movies.

Finally our pilot. I was going to use the leather flying helmet from Anakins star fighter, but elected, after thinking about Jasper Morello's Strange Geographic Expedition, to just use a German troop from a recent Indiana Jones Lego set.

A fun 45 minute build, and a 20 minute photo shoot before tearing down for building instructions.