Welcome to Bob & Eileen's web site. Bob generally blogs here while Eileen blogs over at her site. You can see our photos from here or click the little camera in the upper right corner.


December 2006

December 5, 2006

Stop Using Microsoft Word

Filed under: Software — Bob @ 10:26 pm

Microsoft suggests you should stop using their product due to security concerns. Really. Read their Security Advisory here.

I might be exaggerating their statement a little bit, but they really do say this:

Do not open or save Word files that you receive from un-trusted sources or that you receive unexpectedly from trusted sources. This vulnerability could be exploited when a user opens a specially crafted Word file.

User beware.

It’s already an accepted fact that end-users do not (and probably cannot) differentiate malicious email attachments from safe email attachments. But never mind, Microsoft is sure that you will be able to figure it out. Right. Fortunately it’s unlikely this potential exploit will be widely abused before anti-virus vendors (like the one I work for) can respond.

In case you think you’ve been a victim of this potential attack, Microsoft reminds you there is no charge for support incidents involving security updates. Hopefully lots of people will call them.

Graphical LCD Project

Filed under: Electronics,Robots,Software — Bob @ 10:13 pm

cfax_large.jpgI’ve been playing with the CFAX 128 x 64 pixel graphical LCD from Spark Fun. This is a really nifty graphical display that includes a four-wire resistive touch screen and white backlight. The picture here (click it to see the larger version) has the backlight turned off and you can see it’s still pretty visible.

I decided to write some simple code to draw text and rectangles. The picture shows that stuff pretty well. I also got the touch screen logic working but that isn’t really demonstrated in the picture.

I’ve hooked it up to an AVR Mega 88 on a prototyping board, which gives just barely enough output pins to drive it. I will probably switch to a 40-pin Mega 16 to complete my experiments, as I want to use it with my on-going CAN project; it will require a few more i/o pins that what the 28-pin Mega 88 has available. The idea is to make the LCD available to all CAN nodes in a larger, multi-processor robot suitable for the SRS Robomagellan contest or something similar.

The display has its own memory buffer for the 128 x 64 pixel grid and also has about ten different icons above the top row. It’s pretty simple to interface, and fortunately Spark Fun has some useful sample code here. I also found some sample code from the original manufacturer here.

I also found a nifty article in a recent Circuit Cellar that gave me some inspiration. Look for the issue that covers various video, LCD and LED display projects. My long-term goal is to assemble all of my AVR software into an open source package under the GPL. When I get around to doing it I’ll post it here.

More Thin Man

Filed under: Machining,Robots — Bob @ 9:39 pm

ttm.jpgI just finished uploading some more photos of the most recent minisumo project The Thin Man. You can see the whole project here.

This was one of my more ambitious projects and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. There is more work to do though. I’ve got to find a new, stronger battery that will still fit in the same form factor as the original one is just too weak for the latest GM11 motors I installed.

And I will probably make a new circuit board, those wire patches just look too ugly and I want to improve the layout of the line sensors and will probably raise the forward-looking sensors slightly.

And I really, really need to write some good software for it. I never did figure out what was wrong with the sensors at Robothon, but I’m sure its a software problem.

Hope you find the project as interesting as I did. The next likely competition I will enter will be the Western Canadian Robot Games, typically held in May every year in Calgary. I went out there this past May (pictures here) and had a great time but next year I will have a really cool minisumo to show off!

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