Monthly Archives: April 2009

Robot Men

Lish sent me an ominous warning — “it’s happening!*”

The incident took place in June 2007 at a factory in BĂ„lsta, north of Stockholm, when the industrial worker was trying to carry out maintenance on a defective machine generally used to lift heavy rocks. Thinking he had cut off the power supply, the man approached the robot with no sense of trepidation.

But the robot suddenly came to life and grabbed a tight hold of the victim’s head. The man succeeded in defending himself but not before suffering serious injuries.

“I’ve never heard of a robot attacking somebody like this,” [prosecutor Leif Johansson] told news agency TT.

* The human-robot apocalypse that is.

Speaking of robots (TikTok), Nefarious and I have been reading Ozma of Oz (you can click here to download a great PDF of the book, complete with gorgeous illustrations). We’re about half way through it right now and it’s a big hit. Whenever I read these older novels, I worry about their accessibility — I find Alice in Wonderland pretty unreadable for example — because much of the writing is quite archaic and, well, boring to a modern reader, let alone a young reader.


I had a doctor’s appointment today — long story about unpleasantness that went on while they were taking my blood to make sure my liver is still working — that made a slight change to my current prescription. What’s quite interesting to me is how very slight differences in the formulation of Oxycodone-based painkillers — for example, two Percocet is quite different from an Oxy-IR, which is quite different from Oxycontin, even though they all have the same basic ingredients. I had some trouble finding a pharmacy that had the new prescription in stock, so I thought to myself, which pharmacy has the most Tang behind the counter? I remembered that the pharmacy in the world’s grimiest mall is also a methadone clinic, so they are well stocked in all pain killers.

Oh, and I think everyone is bored of my JavaScript ramblings by now, but I did some experimenting with integrating sound into the Bing-Bong! game. I used a series of <embed>’s which contained the sound effects, four for each sound. The reason I did four for each sound is for polyphony — it cycles through playing them sequentially, so if for example, you hit a bunch of bricks in quick succession, you hear more than one hit. That said, it was a failed experiment for two reasons — first, it really slows down load time (except, ironically, on IE, which is quite fast), and second, there’s some degree of latency (1/10 of a second, maybe more), which makes it essentially impossible to sync the sound effects to the game. That said, it’s given me some ideas for other amusements, and if you want to see it or check out the code, here’s the link. I might play with it more in the future and see if I can solve things…

Javascript 7-segment RGB LED experiment

Before I get into what this entry is really about, I wanted to share a scary piece of JavaScript with you — here’s some code that checks what other websites you’ve visited (in all browsers that I tested). The idea and implementation isn’t mine, and it’s done quite simply — by examining the link color. If it’s visited, it’s got the “visited” color. If not, it’s got the “not visited” color. So it can’t actually read your browsing history, but it could certainly check if you’ve visited competitors and so on, and of course it can do it all in the background, for thousands of sites, without you even knowing it. Scary stuff… I’m sure that many advertising networks do it.


In the theme of funky Japanese watches (and continuing JavaScript experiments), I read somewhere about the idea of using RGB 7-segment LEDs to display the time by writing hours, minutes, and seconds to R, G, and B separately — overlaying them in different colors in the same space. On one hand I thought, that’s a neat idea that might work, but on the other hand, I thought, that’s going to be very hard to train your brain to see on something as low resolution as a 7-segment display. So I wrote a quick set of Javascript functions for controlling virtual 7-segment LEDs and tested the idea.

And yeah, very hard to read! That said, after having to look at it a bunch (tested it in Chrome, IE, and Firefox), maybe it would be a fun watch to build. Either way, maybe the Javascript is useful to someone.

Oh! And… check out the blurry version. In a lot of ways it’s much cooler. It’s exactly the same code, just using different images (well, actually, the same images, just blurred in a photo editor!).


Beautiful Machines

Monsters, not. I’ve posted their airships before, but these “robot penguins” are almost indistinguishable from the real thing if you’re not paying attention — the way they move is so fluid and natural. And simple — it looks like only a few servos are needed to control them. Now we just need to see them team up with Deep Flight and build submarines — imagine this split with the Innespace dolphin boat. Crazy fun.

Hanging in the studio

I started this morning by putting up a swing and a trapeze bar with rings, adding to the knotted rope ladder that’s already up. The swing is actually higher than the ones at all but the biggest parks! It looks a bit shoddy, I know, but the ropes should support a thousand pounds, so my biggest thing to keep an eye on is whether the I-beams fray them at all. Nefarious has a friend coming over tomorrow who I hope will be suitably impressed.


That big room with the swings is the least finished room so far — it’s got tons of unpacked stuff, garbage, and miscellany scattered about. We’ve got the living room 90% done, and as you can see from the picture (which you can click for a much bigger version) I did some serious ladder climbing to hang paintings twenty or so feet up. The concrete floor — which I’m told is seriously reinforced with metal, as this was once a munitions factory — is a bit uneven so it was a little scary up there!


Other than that, I ordered a cool TouchShield kit yesterday, so when that gets here I’m very much looking forward to starting work on some microcontroller programming — I’m planning on using those skills to really do a great job of the submarine and hovercraft projects.

R/C Video Tank

Today was Nefarious’s sixth birthday (Caitlin baked a cake)… Among other presents she got an R/C tank that has a video link in it (a camera on the tank, and VR-esque glasses that you wear), so she’s in military industrial complex training already — smashing the tank into me while I hear her cackling like an evil genius from another room.


We also scootered down to one of the new parks we have pedestrian-distance access to… A bit grimey, but not without its charms I guess. Unpacking is coming along nicely and the studio is starting to take shape. It’s nice having space for all our books again, and I installed a PS3 media server so I have easy access to my entire collection of music and movies (before I copied stuff onto a memory stick as needed). Anyway, it’s slowly coming together. I’ve got a new game on the way too, and I think I’ll continue in my trend of relatively minimal computer use and get to sketching.