RoboNUC recap

Just to put the current status in one place;

RoboNUC is a full PC based ( I use Windows 8.1 but I’m sure Linux would be happy on it) Robot, using an Netduino (or Arduino if you prefer) to attach sensors and such.  It currently has a LIDAR attached to the main PC via regular USB and the intent is for me to learn SLAM. The PC Robot software is also running OpenCV vision processing, to locate … perhaps orange cones. Indoor or outdoor, encoded motors provide dead reckoning.  Outdoor a USB GPS can also be used.  Of course SLAM will make localization in either environment very precise.

RoboNUC was designed.

roboNuc

Parts were purchased for around $1000 (the LIDAR adds $400). Half the price of a very similar commercial Robot (and at least 4 times as powerful).

And laser cut by Pololu.


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The software is coming along nicely. Color object detection is working, and tested running on the NUC.  50% processor utilization WITH OpenCV vision processing and all other framework elements running.

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The LIDAR has been added.

RP Lidar in C# :)

 

Google Trusted Store

What are some of the things you can do as a Google Trusted Store?

Well, you CAN advertise inventory you do not have.

You CAN automatically add additional items that were not ordered, then discount the item that is not in stock by the price of those items.

You CAN issue a refund for only the out of stock item, at the discounted price, thereby selling items at full price that were not ordered.

You CAN claim to have offered the buyer a ‘gift’ card for his inconvenience, but never do so.

You CAN claim you have spoken to the customer, and never do so.

I will not say anything negative or positive about Newegg as a Google trusted store, only facts. You can form your own opinion.

Update: In what seemed like a perfect co-incidence, Bill Maher’s current closing monologue , addressed how 80% of the jobs in the US are ‘service’ jobs, and yet the service that is being sold is mostly ‘too big to care’.  That pretty well nails the issue on the head in my mind. The business profit model of 2014 is; how much shit can we get away with.

Newegg finally offered the promised ‘gift’ card, after again reporting them to Google. The card may only be spent with them, and within 90 days.  Obviously by spending only with them, it’s true value is considerably less than the face value. It was $25, which is also the price of the SD card they added to the order and billed me for.  Bottom line is I still did NOT get all of my money back, and that does not include money I spent at Newegg and elsewhere for accessories for an item I will not receive (over $300).

RC test driving

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Update: LIDAR Ordered :)

Update: I know it does not look like much, but there is actually a decent size framework in place.

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Find the orange cone, coming soon :)

Arduino Ethernet – USB device not recognized

Ok, first things first. I am NOT a huge Arduino fan; Not because I dislike the device, but more because I dislike the hype and blind worship that surrounds the device. These days I quit engaging in arguments over which is better for learning robotics; a LEGO NXT or an Arduino, but I still believe the LEGO beats it, even the older versions, hands down.

But I was asked by a friend how to use his Arduino, to turn on and off various LEDs from a remote location.  He already had an Arduino and an Ethernet shield, and an ethernet cable routed to where it needed to be, and I commented “that and an hour of MQTT coding and you should be good.”  I recently started using MQTT for the new robot project and love it.  It is lightweight M2M, easy to use, and works on everything.

So little did I know, the MQTT code did take less than an hour, but I spent almost 3 days trying to get a debuggable Ethernet Arduino environment working.  If I powered a Arduino Ethernet with just a USB cable, Ethernet would never initialize. If I used external power, Ethernet would do fine, but then I would get ‘USB device not recognized’ when I attached it to my PC. I Googled. I Binged. I cussed.

The problem was reported back in 2010, and NO solutions. A design flaw (tying RESET to GROUND instead of floating) had been fixed that corrected the error for some.  Plugging into a different USB hub fixed it for others, and a different cable fixed the issue for a few more.  Mine worked fine if USB was the only power, so I was pretty sure it was not a cable or hub problem. A friend suggested I disconnect the USB power pin, since that might create a ground loop issue.  The more I read looking for an answer it occurred to me; the ftdi chip gets power when the external supply is connected, and does its initialization thing, but there is NO usb cable connected at that point to listen.  Then later, when the USB cable is attached, a power on reset DOES NOT occur. So for other reasons, removing the board supplied power to the USB cable made sense.

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I tried it and bam, it worked. How is it that a) people live with this to begin with?  It is a simple design flaw, fix it.  b) Those that know better never published the solution? Is it a trade secret?

This is the kind of thing I dislike about the community. They prod along, developing robotics code, without a debugger, even an archaic printf style debugger, smiling all the while.  Folks, this is not how progress is made. This method of software design was shown to be a bad idea, in the 60s. We had source code level debugging and single stepping with COBOL in the 70s. The robotics community is a decade behind that.

And then, there are those who would do IPC on serial connections, rewriting the code every time they need it <rolling_eyes/>

New robot

So, I might have something to keep me busy this weekend. Good thing, traffic around here (Seattle) has really become a nightmare.

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update:  Test fitting some parts :)  I’m happy so far. A few livable mistakes, but nothing serious; who would have thought the NUC is not square, by a few mm? I don’t think it’s spec’d that way, I will have to go look again. So, it sits sideways instead, no big deal.

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Update: Where is that autowire robot when you need it?

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New meetup group

I had a FPV meetup group that was doing OK.  But it seemed liked interest was dwindling, so I started doing more Robotics stuff.

Washington FPV, Multirotor and AP

Seattle, WA
44 Droners

No politics. No AMA. Just get together to BS, and share places to fly.

Check out this Meetup Group →

Then on June 23, 2014, the FAA ignored a previous judges order, and unilaterally declared ANY and all flying with FPV was illegal. I do not think they have the legal ground to uphold a court challenge, but I also know I do not have the funds to test that theory.  As an ‘organizer’ of a FPV oriented group, I was a sitting duck.

Personally, I also think they are correct in their intentions.  R/C flying was fun and cool when it was fringe hobby. But the technology and popularity has advance to a point where it can be dangerous to the public.  I know many responsible hobbyists who would not do anything to endanger the public, but every day I am reminded of the brain-damaged idiots, who would buy a DJI self leveling phantom, and go fly it in a downtown public park over crowds of people. It is time to just stop. R/C Flying should be restricted to designated and liable flying areas .

And I think it should extend to over kill regular RC as well. Tim, I love ya man, but do you really need to fly an air-cooled 4 cylinder gas, that is as big as a Volkswagen?

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So anyhow, I moved on. I swapped my FPV stuff on to a ground oriented chassis, so I can still play. And I started a new meetup group, oriented towards robotics. Please check it out and join if there is an interest.

Emerald City Robotics

Seattle, WA
2 Droid Masters

We like Robots! Not 3D printers, there are plenty of groups for that already. Not blinking light Arduinos, also plenty of existing groups. Not soldering, although we probably …

Next Meetup

Emerald City Robotics Monthly Meetup

Sunday, Jul 20, 2014, 2:00 PM
2 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Free and Open Source

Liars

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No option to say no.  Just compile it myself right? Don’t kid yourself, this is nagware at best, no source.

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From the included GPL;

The licenses for most software are designed to take away your freedom to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public Licenses are intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software–to make sure the software is free for all its users.”

This program does none of that. It is not free, and they do not provide any source code. It is an example of the slime rampant in the open source community.

Adobe, Following the Microsoft Stupidity Model

So June 2014, Adobe releases new creative cloud apps – to everyone all at once. Does anyone with over a 3rd grade education think that would be a good idea?

(After a day of waiting for the Creative Cloud App to not lock up) It installs new programs names, mostly. But not for some (like Bridge), the user is left to guess what is what. I assume it used new names because the odds of something actually working is pretty slim.

I opened Speed Grade to look, it looked identical to the last one. It is not a new version, it is a few bug fixes at best. And probably more bug additions than anything. I opened a folder with video, and it crashed.

Let’s look at Lightroom. It is supposed to be 5.5 but the splash screen says 5 (then I notice 5.5 in tiny letters). It automatically opened my previous custom catalog, does this mean it is safe to uninstall the previous non-creative-cloud-installed version? I doubt it, but we will find out the hard way.

I look at prelude – no difference, same program.

Adobe never bothers to QA the Windows side of the house anyhow, so I am not surprised. Windows users just generate the most money for Adobe, not that Windows users are important in any other way.

Ok, so I can uninstall some of the old programs that I do not use – like After Effects. Nope, no uninstall from the creative cloud manager. Go to Windows control panel for the uninstall – double click inDesign, 10 minutes to uninstall – that is friggen longer than it took to download and install, WTF?

Uninstall old illustrator. WTF it wants to uninstall the old and the new versions? No consistency. Prelude, only uninstalls old version. Wait old InDesign is still there? I already uninstalled it. Oh, it requires a restart – none of the others do, but inDesign must have some system level driver files, yeah right or the install writers didn’t bother to really try.

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I can tell, this is a rushed together, untested, barely a bug fix release. That cost me a ton of money. Time to really start looking elsewhere, and switch to the Photoshop only license.

All in all, I would say my experience with the Cloud has been miserable. Adobe has slowed their update cycles, included less in them, reduced QA in the process, and managed to squeeze 2-3 times as much money out of me. They force me to pay for all the programs because they know; I’m not buying them otherwise. And as long as they keep 1 or 2 of their apps decent enough to use, I’ll give in to the outrageous pricing.

update: BTW, uninstalling the old apps via control panel, does NOT remove them from the creative cloud app, it still thinks they are installed.  Realistically, I’d think I’d hold off a month on this update, it is pretty bad at the moment, and seems to do very little.

Update: OMG! Even though it was never a problem, speed grade always handled GoPro footage correctly – it now actually plays!! This is a huge bug fix, err I mean new exciting feature!

In general JKL key handling is much smoother. Another nice bug fix … errr  …. new feature.

Update: After using the new programs for a while now, I can reiterate my recommendation to wait.  I can crash most programs easily, and have lost a couple hours work in doing so.  The new bug fixes, err new features, are nice to have, but the instability is a joke.

Does this blank app serve any purpose other than to take up disk space?  If so, it is not real obvious how that works;

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The current Microsoft

I know some developers that work at Microsoft. I’d be embarrassed. I guess I should not be surprised that ‘no error’ would cause a rejection for Windows 8.1 Store Apps.

I’ve been at it for days, trying to get the app submitted to the app store. Look Microsoft, the reason you do not have any apps is you have a terrible horrible hideous process for submitting apps. The process locks up, falsely report errors when there are none, and is difficult to navigate.  Not to mention it is overly restrictive / not thought out to begin with. Ever hear of Quality Assurance, focus groups, user feedback? How does a small developer accomplish any of these with a Windows Store App?  Ms was built on the small developer, quit screwing us over, you and you are alone are driving me to Google and Apple. You have good technology, but then you hog tie it with stupidity.

Update: like the store lady in Skyrim says when you are leaving, “Finally”

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And then when an App does make it through, it is fairly obvious no real human spent any time on it. Nothing was verified. Quality was not inspected. If it passes the poor automated tests, it gets rubber stamped and put in the store.

Robotics, hahaha