Friday, December 14, 2007

2007 Books in Review

Howdy all! I thought there might be some interest in seeing the books I read this year. So! Here's the list and my brief comments.

William Gibson - Neuromancer
My first exposure to the cyberpunk genre was Stephenson's Snow Crash (thanks Jessica!) and The Diamond Age.  I really enjoyed Neuromancer, especially considering it's as old as I am (published in 1984), and some of its predictions were pretty close to the mark.  (4/5)

George Orwell - Animal Farm
I didn't get to read this one in high school, and I'm glad I picked it up.  Definitely a reminder of the dangers of those who would deny our freedoms.  (4.5/5)

Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five
Kara suggested I check out Vonnegut.  This was a great read and was a cross between science fiction and satire with an anti-war theme.  Definitely check it out.  (4.5/5)

Dan Simmons - Hyperion
Several travelers seemingly independent stories about the mysterious Shrike of Hyperion come together to form a well-woven SF tale.  The only downside is there's no ending... so it's really (secretly) part 1 of 2!  But, I'm sufficiently hooked that I'll be picking up The Fall of Hyperion to finish the story.  (3.5/5)

Issac Isamov - I, Robot
A novel by the SF master, I, Robot shares some themes with the recent movie, but it's really a different story.  It's really a collection of short stories that share a moral theme of the three laws of robotics.  Definitely a classic.  (4.5/5)

Orson Scott Card - Shadow of the Giant
A story about Bean and his adventures as the Hegemon of Earth.  If you've read all the Ender series books up to this one, go ahead and read it.  It does advance the Earth-bound plot (and Card's political views) while being a fun read.  But it's nothing compared to Ender of Speaker for the Dead.  (3/5)

China Mieville - Perdido Street Station
Erin suggested this "steampunk" novel and I'm glad she introduced me to the genre!  Mieville reminds me a lot of Gaiman in his writing style, and that's a good thing.  Reading this adventure made me feel like I could see every detail in New Crobuzon without feeling like I'm reading pages of description.  This one has elements of SF and fantasy with magic and strange creatures.  Mieville has a great command of the language and a skill for weaving a story.  Check this one out!  (4/5)

Roger Zelany - Lord of Light
I really enjoyed Zelany's Amber series.  Zelany wrote this book first and has been out of print for some time.  I saw it on the shelf with a pull-quote from Gaiman on the front cover and I couldn't resist.  This is definitely an interesting story based on another world where the original settlers from Earth have set themselves up as the gods of the Hindu pantheon.  We follow our protagonist Mahasamatman (Sam), Binder of Demons, Lord of Light, against those who would deny humanity the technology and science of Earth.  (4/5)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back from Victorville

Hello all! I'm back from the 2007 Urban Challenge. We had a great time in Victorville and DEXTER had a great showing to become a national semifinalist in the competition. I posted detailed updates to the Team Case blog so in case you missed it, you can read about our experience there. There's a story about Team Case in this week's Observer, there is some video of DEXTER posted to TG Daily's blog, and there's an article in Wired about DEXTER's organ transplant during the national qualifying exam.

Film crews working for the Discovery Channel were also on hand to film our progress in the Urban Challenge. Team Case and DEXTER will be featured in a Discovery Channel special airing in Feb. 2008.

For now, it's time to put my nose to the grind-stone again to finish up my Master's thesis. I'm also starting my career search in earnest, so if you know of any companies looking to hire a fresh graduate with a background in analog microelectronics, sensing systems, and autonomous robotics in the May 2008 timeframe, please point them to my website and resume. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

1st Day in Victorville

We all made it out with our luggage intact to Victorville on a pleasant flight. The hotel is fine. We also have a super awesome RV that would make Robin Williams envious. We will be working on unloading DEXTER and setting up base camp today. I have the illustrious task of making sure all the computers and sensors on DEXTER and in the "lab" are set up and working. Joy!

We can see the wildfires from our hotel up on the hillside maybe 10 miles away. When we came up through the valley, there was smoke everywhere. There were also maybe 5-10 overturned tractor trailers on the highway from high winds. It's a pretty awesome sight.

The weather is great. 80 degrees, dry, and sunny during the day, and down to maybe 50 degrees at night. I'll post more soon with pictures!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Packed and Ready for Victorville

Well the time is finally here! DEXTER is already in Victorville, CA for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge and Team Case will be joining him tomorrow. We'll be traveling with a menagerie of computers, sensors, cabling, and electronic gizmos. Plus, what's more fun than getting up at 4 AM?

I will be blogging the event for Case at the official Team Case Blog.

For tonight, I still need to pack my bags and try to get some sleep - but I will check in when I get to California! Wish us luck...


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dexter is on the move!

We ran a demo of Dexter on the Case Quad last week. There are some great photos posted on Flickr. Go check it out!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another project wrapped up!

I can really feel the end of my stay at Case approaching now. Just yesterday, I got the software I have been writing for the Motion Studies Lab of the Cleveland FES Center to a feature-complete state. I still need to deliver some additional documentation and some final touches, but for the most part it's finished. The software will control Copley Xenus linear actuators to provide stance perturbations to subjects standing on a force plate and being monitored by a VICON motion capture system. Their goal is to create a model of standing perturbation response for use in a closed-loop FES (functional electrical stimulation) or prosthetic standing system. The goal of my software is to make it easy for technicians to run the experiments and collect the resulting data for further analysis.

Getting this project done is great - I am winding down my commitments at Case as we move towards end-game, that is, graduation. It feels good to have done it right and let them move on with their research too! And by the way - I'm glad I wrote it in LabView. It's really the best environment out there for serial communication interfaces and data collection!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dexter is In!

It's official! DEXTER and Team Case has been selected by DARPA as one of 36 semi-finalists in the 2007 Urban Challenge (PDF). DARPA Director Dr. Tony Tether made the announcement via an online webcast today.

We did some testing with Dexter today at an abandoned parking lot in Highland Heights between thunderstorms today. A Discovery Channel film crew joined us to capture our reaction to the good news.

In other exciting news, Matt LeVan also managed to get Didi stuck in a big ditch / hole at the testing site. Fortunately we extricated her just before a huge downpour!

I also took a few shots of the clouds rolling in. It was actually a beautiful scene before the rain started.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Good Times

This past week has been pretty intense. The highlight is that a film crew from the Discovery Channel spent three days with Team Case and our robot car, Dexter. We got a lot accomplished during the time they were here and hopefully I will get some airtime when the show airs in February! It will be a 6-episode special featuring 10 teams and the actual competition which takes place in November. The next big milestone is August 10th - that's when we find out if we passed the DARPA site visit.

Then, yesterday I hosted a fun party with a lot of the guys from college - Gerv, Vanv, Steve, Scott, Nitin, Paul, Jack, Jamie, and Nick all showed up for a day of Texas Hold Em, Munchkin, Guitar Hero, Second Option and Smash Bros Melee. It was great to get (almost) the whole group back together for some nerdly good fun.

I've got a lot to take care of this week. My chip should be coming in soon, so I need to make sure everything is ready for testing. I will also be working on my linear actuator controller for the Motion Studies Lab at the VA, bringing the new SICK LMS FAST LIDAR unit on-line for Team Case with streaming distance and reflectivity data, working on my thesis, and keeping up my PerceptIS (tech support) and ENGR 210 Circuits TA responsibilities. Well, you can say one thing about me -- I'm used to working hard!

Also... I emulated my sister and dropped my oldish Kodak digital camera... I attempted repair and thought I was successful... until I tore a little data ribbon cable (d'oh). So I bought a Canon Powershot SD1000 to replace it. I looked at DSLRS also (like the Canon Rebel XTI and EOS 30D) but I decided to put off the $1000 camera until I have a steady job. Go me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fly Guy

Howdy folks. Check out this cute flash game/novelty : Fly Guy. It was a much needed 10 minute distraction for me today!

Monday, May 21, 2007

IC Tape-Out Joy

Hey folks! Sorry for the post embargo recently. I've been working on my IC tape-out. Oh yeahhh L-Edit. I'm looking forward to a much-needed break this weekend: a trip to Colorado Springs for my step-brother's graduation from the US Air Force Academy. Dr. Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense is the keynote speaker. Kara's coming too so we'll have some fun exploring. Pikes Peak and The Garden of the Gods are on the itinerary.

Ok. Back to HSPICE!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dexter Video and Article in the PD

Heya folks! Check out the article in the Plain Dealer: Robotic automobile's driving skills put to test. We've recently completed a video shot of Dexter passing static obstacles and navigating a closed course using GPS and LIDAR, available in mov, wmv, or mpeg-1 formats. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Synergy and Spanning Sync

Here's a hot tip I read about over at PVP Online: it's called Synergy and it lets you share your keyboard and mouse with two (or many!) computers. It works with just about any platform (Mac, Windows, or UNIX) over the network! It's great for my desk at work where my MacBook sits to the left of my dual-monitor PC workstation. This way I can treat the Mac screen like a 3rd monitor in terms of keyboard and mouse, but it is still running Mac OS X locally. There is a system preference GUI wrapper for Synergy on Mac available as well called SynergyKM. It also gives you a menu bar item so you can see its status at a glance. The configuration is a little clunky, but you only need to do it once.

On another note, a program that I have been beta-testing for quite some time is finally ready to rock an roll! It's called Spanning Sync and it allows you to do 2-way syncing between iCal on your Mac(s) and your Google Calendar account! Changes made either in GC or in iCal show up in both. It takes advantage of Apple's built-in sync services. A 15-day trial is available and they are charging $25 for a 1-year subscription or $65 for unlimited usage. I've become addicted to it from the long beta period, so it looks like I will be buying this one - it's too darn useful!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Scott Adams and Brain Remapping / Alternate Feedback

Good afternoon folks! I've got an inspirational story to share with you. Scott Adams, author of the famous Dilbert comic strip, lost his ability to speak conversationally due to a condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia about 2 years ago. NB: This is the same disorder that Diane Rehm of NPR has. He retained the ability to speak in front of crowds and in presentations, but could barely say anything at all off-stage and when there is a lot of background noise.

About 6 months ago, he regained his speech by repeating a rhyme at a higher pitch, but later relapsed after coming down with a cold. A more recent posting details his progress with two routes: botox and another form of therapy with which he has had more success. Basically the issue is that Scott feels like he is speaking much louder than he actually is so his brain turns down the output volume. The therapy he went through trained him to hum at a certain pitch to get going on words, and feel for facial bone vibrations to get his volume correct.

The brain is an amazing thing... read his article and be inspired (or at least amused!).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Telekinetic Contest

I found this today while Stumbling (friend me as bradleycwru). It's a stop-motion film featuring Tony vs. Paul. in a telekinetic battle.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dexter at the Auto Show, in the News

Hello all! It's a busy week for Dexter, the Case Urban Challenge Team's autonomous robot! Dexter has made it all the way to the I-X Center for the Cleveland Auto Show! I had the pleasure of speaking with nice Clevelanders about Dexter at the show today, as you can see in the pictures below.

Dexter also got some great publicity this weekend - we made the front page of the Plain Dealer! The article, Case's Dexter (the robot car) steers toward fame, fortune is available online in its entirity and I recommend you read it! It's very well-written and factual. Big props to John Mangels, the PD's Science Writer for getting it right! They also made some killer graphics for the article, including a beautiful depicting my LIDAR scanners:

Also, a video about Dexter, narrated by our own Andy Allen and featuring Dexter in the snow, is also up on the PD's web site [direct link]. All in all, a fun day in Cleveland for the Case UC Team and Dexter!

And, in case you missed it, the Observer wrote a nice article on Dexter back in November, Case enters DARPA challenge.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Transparent Screens

This is very cool: Transparent Screens! I am going to try to make one and post it here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Domains and Hosting

I got my yearly web hosting renewal message today, and it reminded me how good a service DreamHost is. With the basic service you start out with nearly 200 GB of space and almost 2 TB of bandwidth, which increases weekly. I use it to host my site and my dad's company's site, Farnsworth Engineering. Also lots of other goodies for free like PHP, a unix shell, CGI, SSI, CVS, subversion, WebDav, and more.

Also, I created a referral code, BRADLEYCWRU1. Enter it at checkout if you decide to try it for $5 off any package. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Well, I finally got my hands on a Nintendo Wii! If you aren't familiar with the system, it's cool because of its slick user interface. I've always been a fan of good UI design (go figure, I am a Mac user after all...), but Nintendo really got it right with this one. The litmus test? Mom and Al play Tennis, Bowling, and Golf on it all the time! I never thought my mom would become a gamer. Of course, I should have taken the hint when she started playing DDR with me...

Anyway, the Wii Remote, or "Wiimote," has a three-axis accelerometer built-in, as well as absolute positioning on-screen as a pointer thanks to a light bar and IR communications. The remote also speaks Bluetooth, so there's no messy wires to get in the way. That is, unless you bring in your other hand with the Nunchaku controller. Not all games use it, but it adds a D-stick, two triggers, and another gyro. Zelda makes pretty good use of it, and it's integral to Boxing.

Oh, and it has 802.11g to connect to my home network and has a decent web browser based on Opera.

Now if only we can teach Al not to charge the TV when he wants his Mii to charge the net in Tennis!