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.


August 2009

August 13, 2009

Bad programming?

Filed under: Commentary,World Wide Web — Bob @ 6:04 pm

walmart smallI was looking for something on walmart.com this morning. I don’t particularly want to shop at Walmart (I personally think it is a very bad idea to economically support Walmart) but I was looking for an example of 1/4″ automotive pinstripe tape to send to someone via email, and it seemed the big-box-store sites might have what I was looking for. They don’t have it, at least not on their website. I struck out at other places too, seems this kind of product is too trivial to put onto a website. Oh well.

Then I noticed the upper right corner of the walmart.com page containing the message “Welcome back, null. Not null?” (have a look at the picture I included above, and click the picture to see the full size version). This amused me and also reinforced the notion that programming is somewhat hard. The details matter. Or at least they should. Apparently not at Walmart though. You see, “null” is a value that is is programmer-speak for “no value available.” The programmers who create the walmart.com website apparently aren’t clever enough to test for this condition and respond appropriately. Dumb.

August 9, 2009

Vancouver Robotics Club

Filed under: Machining,Robots — Bob @ 1:36 pm

Today was the monthly meeting of the Vancouver Robotics Club. There were some really cool projects to see. I took my Tin Can Tools Hammer project along to show everyone what I’ve been working on. Most recently I’ve been connecting it up to a touch screen using I2C. When its done I’ll post more about it.

4-legged walkerJames brought a beautiful four-legged walking robot project. Its still a work in progress but as you can see from the photos it is very well crafted. Here is a movie of it walking. James describes it as “swimming”. He wants to redesign it to add another servo to the lower leg to enable more precise movements and better walking. I’m sure it will be amazing.

Ian brought his hacked Roomba to show off, here is a movie of it wandering around the floor. At about the 6 second mark you can see him driving it from his tablet computer; his Rooma has a Bluetooth link, and he wrote some custom software to drive it around. Later in the same video (around the 10 second mark) you can see my Metal Insect robot wandering into the frame. For a while Ian was “herding” it around the room!

By the way all of the video was taken with my iPhone 3GS then resampled in QuickTime Pro to be a reasonable size download. Neat!

August 7, 2009

Its a dirty job alright

Filed under: Commentary,Humor — Bob @ 5:27 pm

Sometimes real-life is so much funnier than any comedy troupe could ever make it. Tonight, during the evening news on television, I caught an advertisement for Ford trucks. The pitch-man was Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel program Dirty Jobs.

If you aren’t familiar with Mike or his program, the basic premise is that he tackles those very undesirable jobs. Some examples include cleaning sewers, disposing of dead animals in a factory, or cleaning portable toilets.

Yep, selling American-made vehicles probably is a job nobody else wants to do.

August 1, 2009


Filed under: Electronics,Games,Robots,Work — Bob @ 10:57 am

From the exceptionally low frequency of updates to this site this year you’d think that I have nothing interesting to post about. Not true. Things have been exceptionally busy at work, and I’ve also managed to find some interesting things in my pursuit of building robots.

I took a trip for work to the Sophos HQ in Abingdon, United Kingdom a couple of weeks ago. Its just outside of Oxford, and its a great place. It was really nice to meet people I’ve been talking to (over the phone) for quite a few months now, and the week I spent there was incredibly productive. This was the culmination of a lot of work since spring, and it seems like its only getting more busy now through the summer.

For my robotics hobby I picked up a Hammer board from Tin Can Tools. This is a development board built around a Samsung processor with an ARM 920T core. I have this crazy idea of making a Line Maze robot that runs Linux for the Seattle Robotics Society Robothon event this October. Seriously!

The other major “toy” is my new iPhone 3GS. I’d been waiting for the new model to come out, and I even took time off from work to go stand in line on the morning it was released. I really like it, definitely another solid Apple product. I’ve slowly been re-incorporating Apple products into my household: a 15″ MacBook Pro, a Time Capsule, and now an iPhone. It is just so much better than my previous phone (Motorola Razr) and its also much better than any other device I looked at including the Blackberry product line and the phones running Google Android. I’ve got the iPhone SDK installed and have started writing my first applications. Learning Objective-C is nifty although it makes my brain hurt a little after so many years of writing C++ and Perl/Python/etc.

The day I bought my iPhone I left it with Eileen and I went out to play golf with a friend. By the time I got back she had fallen in love with it too, and demanded we go out and buy her one. So now we are a two-iPhone household.

Golf. Yes, golf. I’ve been playing pitch-n-putt (par 3) golf with people from work this summer and having a great time. I’m not that good but still its a great way to be outside and includes a small amount of physical activity. I don’t think I’ll graduate to playing a full-size course but these short courses are a lot of fun. We’ve lived around the corner from a course for a number of years but never been there. Now I will often get home from work, pick up the clubs and walk five minutes down the street to play nine holes. Lots of fun!

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