Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What wasn't meant to be

Continuing from where I dropped off on my last post, things went smoothly at work that night and that Sunday found me at my parent's timeshare on a vacation they had been trying to plan since its inception early last year. It had been postponed and canceled several times and up to the start of May all three[Mother, Father and sister] of them had dropped off the trip. Things changed for the best and it was only my mother who couldn't make it as she went to visit her roots, China, with her 103YO father and is still in her homeland.

160 degree lakeside view from the entrance at the Hilton Grand Vacations club. Click here to view the large version on my panoramio page.

It was a pretty nice hotel, the best I've been to with my parents. This place was not friendly to us walkfoot folk though, that massive lake in the middle meant endless amounts of walking to get anywhere on the property. Spending a few days in Orlando as a tourist was a very welcomed change of pace. I live in Jamaica and after spending 7 days there I came back with a tan, I forgot how much I loved having a pool access at my front door.

It is back to reality for me as I went back to work this week. I haven't been back to my main office yet so I haven't gotten back into my usual groove of things. It is depressing, the next time I take some time off work it will probably be used for study leave[hopefully I get into the MSc. program].

Saturday, May 09, 2009

On the horizon

Anybody knows this view and where it was taken from?

  • I got a bill via email from my attorney last week and it looks like they are finalizing the transaction. It has been a long time coming, I've been waiting about four months now and it looks like I should be able to move in to the new apartment next month. Anyway the bill was fat. 1/2 stamp duty, 1/2 registration fees, my lawyers fees and other misc fees left my once health bank account empty. Seriously I could use the closing costs to purchase a car, this money would have been so much better else where. That is water under the bridge for now and I am just eagerly waiting to get my keys and tell my landlady to chuck it.
  • Who remembers when I told my boss I wanted his job? Well it is clear that he isn't going anywhere soon but recently other possibilities have presented themselves. Yesterday my boss and my boss' boss' boss[big boss] were casually talking about the lack of a supervisor for the team in Barbados. The big boss proposed that I go there and take that role and I instantly told him sure I would be interested at which point in time he pointed out that he was dead serious and I confirmed that I was up for the challenge. It would be interesting if I can get it, the job will have to be posted and I would have to beat all other candidates in Barbados who may apply for it as they would get preference but at least I know the people who are making the decisions already think that I am capable.
  • I have to go to work later, starting at midnight. The last time this work was attempted, the vendor's engineers corrupted our database and what was to be three hours of work turned into eight. This is not going to work tonight as I have to wake up tomorrow at 6am to head to the airport for the first flight. I hate travelling when I'm not well rested but I was requested to come in at the last minute and I have some fat bills to be payed. Let us hope that all goes well and I can be in and out in 30 minutes lol.
Definitely interesting times ahead. Time to go pack.

Friday, May 01, 2009

micro controller woes

A couple of years ago I bought a little circuit(pictured top left) that had two relays controlled by a 315MHz radio and a range of 1500 feet. Luck was not on my side or maybe just misused it didn't last a week, it just up and stopped working. I just threw it in my box of electronic parts and forgot about it until I got my micro controller and started to rummage for interesting circuits to interface with it. It was a good thing I didn't throw it away as a closer inspection revealed a radio daughter board that could potentially be used with my micro controller so I swiftly soldered it off.

I had no idea if this piece of the circuit even worked but I carried my bits and bobs to work and started to plug up the breadboard. When I pushed button 1 and 2 I got the led to blink rapidly but it was continuously fluctuating when no buttons were pressed. I made the assertions that it was background noise and that the circuit outputted a +5v square wave. I went to work writing the C code to prove my hypothesis and read data from the radio. I was able quickly get some code to dump thousands of ones and zeros as it just sampled the input pin each couple of clock cycles.

It took me quite a while to figure out what to do with the 1's and 0's but eventually I massaged them into something usable with the help of gnuplot.

This first graph shows a wide view as I pressed button 1 four times. The outcome looked good like there was something usable there.
I zoomed in a bit more and got this second graph, yup a detectable cycling signal was definitely there.

The only thing left to do was determine if the other button produced a similar signal with a different detectable signature and the bottom two graphs showed the signal from the two buttons magnified to a similar point of interest and there was my different but detectable signals where clearly visible. Eureka!

The next problem is to develop C code to detect those two signals in a stream of bits. I wrote my code but it was not triggering when I pressed the buttons. I soon realized I was suffering from the observer effect in which my code to detect the patterns as I sampled the data output from the radio added delays in the detection that changed the signal signature.

I wished I could turn back the hands of time and pay just that much more attention in school, it would have made dealing with all of this a lot easier. I eventually got the circuit matching the signals and it was mostly reliable. Button two triggered all the time and from far distances but button one worked when it felt like. Mission accomplished so I packed my stuff and sent it back home. Of course I attracted quite a bit of attention from my co-workers again during those couple of days while developing the code for it. Those who thought I was working on a bomb before when I was working on the timing circuit eyes definitely popped open a bit wider this time when they saw the remote control. I pulled out the antenna a bit more just to mess with them lol.