Transitions

After 2.5 years at my current company, ClearMotion, I have decided to move on.  I will be starting a new job as Director of Software at Endeavor Robotics on Nov 27, 2017.

Endeavor Robotics is a spin off of the iRobot defense business unit.  They have a large portfolio of existing products on the market as well as some pretty impressive developments in the pipeline.

Overall, it’s always a tough decision when making career moves.  These companies are where you spend most of my waking hours.  After carefully weighing the pro’s+con’s, Endeavor seems like the right move to make.  I’m very excited about this new chapter in my career and looking forward to joining the team!

 

Pittsburgh, and first ride in a self driving car!

This week I visited Pittsburgh, PA to attend the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) career fair.  This was my 3rd or 4th time to this career fair.  These fairs are a great way to find amazing interns and fresh grads.  I’ve had great luck w/ CMU students, which is why I keep coming back!

I went with a few coworkers and we stayed in an Airbnb that had a pretty awesome view overlooking the city.

The buildings in Pittsburgh are very strange.  Everything looks rundown from the outside, and the siding on many houses is a strange mishmash of clapboard, brick, tile, and other materials.  Also, the houses are extremely close together:

We attended the fair all day Monday and Tuesday, which was pretty exhausting.  There was a line of students behind everyone in the booth, all day long.  The basic system is to meet as many students as possible at the fair and then pick the top ones to interview on campus on Wednesday.

We met w/ probably hundreds of kids and ended up interviewing around 20-30 on Wednesday.  From there we are planning on making offers to about 5-10 of the top ones.

We met some great candidates and I’d say overall the trip was a success!

At the end of the day on Wednesday we were heading out and grabbed an Uber.  Uber has been testing self driving cars in Pittsburgh for about a year now, and recently they have opened them up to anyone.  In the app you can’t select a self driving one, you just have to get lucky.

The trip started by our vehicle flying past us, so far not so good.  We grabbed a pic before the trip:

Inside the vehicle there are two displays, one in the front and one in the back.  There were two drivers in front, there to help out if the car got into a jam and couldn’t drive on its own.

In the back seat there was a display that showed a live shot of the lidar data and object recognition.

Currently the pickup and drop off process is done by the human driver.  Once they get going they put it into autonomous mode.

Overall the self driving mode was very cautious, probably too cautious, which resulted in a jerky ride.  If there was any pedestrian or bicycle traffic nearby it was hit the brakes pretty hard.

There were several intersections where the car went out of self driving mode.  I’d say less than half of our 20 min drive was autonomous.  My guess is they are several years away from being completely driverless, but it is inevitable that the tech challenges will be overcome.

Definitely a highlight and great way to end the trip.  Can’t wait to see these things all over.

 

 

Cape Canaveral, Florida Trip 2017

This week the whole family went down to Cape Canaveral, Florida to watch Michele’s rocket launch up into space.  Lots more info on the satellite that she worked on can be found here.

Michele headed down on Tuesday with all 3 boys.  I headed down on Thursday night so I could get some more days of work in.  Everyone headed back on Monday.  In addition, Michele’s dad and wife spent the weekend with us.  Less than a year ago they moved down to Florida, so it was good for everyone to catch up!

We spent Friday hanging out at the hotel pool.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn at Cape Canaveral.  The hotel had awesome amenities (arcade, indoor playground, pools, lazy river, water slide, etc.), but the room kinda sucked.  All five of us aren’t used to being crammed into a couple hundred square feet for a week!

Here’s some pics of the hotel pools:

After dinner, we then went to a gathering of people that worked on the mission.  They had presentations from various military personnel.  Eli was fascinated by these presentations.  The event was held in this very cool building that looked like a wave and was overlooking the launchpad.

The original launch time was scheduled for 11pm.  After the 9pm presentations we found out that the weather wasn’t cooperating and the launch was delayed until 2am!  This was definitely a concern w/ the 3 boys.  We ended up going back to the hotel room and hanging out until about 1:30am.

We then headed out to the beach and watched the rocket launch off from a pier.  It was so cool!  Overall I was super impressed by how well behaved the kids were!

On Saturday we slept in late.  We then spent more time at the pool.  In the evening Michele and I got to spend some alone time and go hang out with some of her coworkers, then went out to dinner.

On Sunday, we pretty much spent the entire day at Kennedy Space Center.  This place is like Disney for geeks.  We got to see an entire Saturn V rocket, visit launch pads, touch moon rocks, see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an Astronaut, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Some pics from the space museum:

On Monday we all headed back home!  Overall it was a great family trip.

 

3D Printer

For Eli’s birthday (he turned 9!) we got him a 3D Printer.  We settled on the MonoPrice (MP) Mini 3D Printer V2.  It seemed to be the lowest cost entrant into the 3D printing world that also had good reviews.

Overall setup has been kinda a pain.  I had to download Cura and figure out the correct settings for the printer.  There’s no documentation, so I had to google it.  There’s actually a nice Reddit page for the printer that has been super helpful.  It took me several days to get things set up.

Printing time is a lot slower than I was expecting.  It’s typically 3-4 hours for a small figure.  Also, I’ve had the printer stop half way through for no apparent reason.  In general the firmware on the unit is a little buggy.

On the positive side, the quality of the printed items is awesome for the price.  This is going to be a great way for Eli to explore his engineering side.  Also, the Thingiverse site is great.

Overall this printer is definitely not ‘kid ready’.  Even once it’s setup, you have to download CAD from Thingiverse (or a similar site).  Import the CAD model into Cura, adjust it as necessary, apply the printer settings, save it to a file, put it on an SD card, start up the printer, preheat it, then start printing.

If someone came out with a fully integrated ‘itunes store’ where you could just click a print button it would be a huge step forward.  Maybe the printer can be integrated as a printer in chrome and you can print directly from the thingiverse site?

For now I’m having Eli just pick items out on Thingiverse and I’m taking care of the rest of it.

BBS Nostalgia

I just recently re-watched the documentary on BBS era computing called “BBS: The Documentary”.

You can watch the series on youtube here:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgE-9Sxs2IBVgJkY-1ZMj0tIFxsJ-vOkv

I found this movie to be a great summary of what it was like when I was growing up using a computer, before the Internet became popular.

It turns out there are still a great number of BBS’s running to this day.  You can connect to them via the telnet protocol.  An excellent telnet client for visiting BBS’s in “SyncTERM”, which is available here.

Once you have a client, you just need to get an address of a BBS.  There are various websites that have BBS listings, a good one is BBSlink, which is here.

It’s great to be able to log into these systems and play many of the games from the 80’s+90’s that I wasted countless hours on as a kid!  I have started to create some project pages (linked to from the top) which have some ANSI images from various BBS’s and programs I wrote back in the day.

I’m sure i’ll be posting a lot more about BBS’s in the future.

 

Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones Unboxing

I have a trip to Mexico planned this week for work.  My current Bose headphones, QuietComfort 3, have worked well over the years but they are starting to deteriorate.  Also, the more I travel the more I have been annoyed with this issue they have where there is a nasty feedback loop if I rest my head at an angle and block the microphone.

After a recommendation and demo from a coworker, I decided to purchase the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones.  These suckers are not cheap at $350, but I was so impressed by the noise canceling capabilities, wireless feature, and overall sound quality, I had to get them!

The headphones arrived from Amazon today and I was super excited to try them out. Continue reading “Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones Unboxing”

New BBS Project Pages Posted!

I added a couple new pages w/ lots of screenshots of ANSI graphics from my BBS sysop days!

Click the links below to check them out!

http://daveweatherwax.com/projects/bbs-days-1994-1996/tales-from-the-crypt-1994-1995/

 http://daveweatherwax.com/projects/bbs-days-1994-1996/ding-1995-1996/

New Project Pages!

I just created a couple new pages for some personal projects that I’ve worked on many years ago.

The first is the Lucid Inducer, which is a lucid dreaming induction device.  I pretty much get mocked by anyone who sees this thing, but it actually works!

Also, I’ve been going through my VERY old project files, and came upon a treasure trove of personal coding projects from the 90’s.  I posted one of them, Stewvoo, which is an ANSI art viewer from 1996!

You can find links to the project pages in the navigation bar at the top.  I hope to fill out more projects I’ve worked on in the coming weeks.

Let me know if you find any of it interesting!

 

CES 2017 – Trip Report!

I was super fortunate to be able to attend CES 2017 in Las Vegas this last weekend!  For those that have been hiding under a rock, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is probably the largest tradeshow in the world, with close to 200,000 people gathering in Las Vegas for all things tech.

Most of my focus on the trip was around checking out the various automotive OEM’s and suppliers and meeting with various partners and vendors.

Overall the size of the automotive presence and, in particular, self driving cars and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) technologies, was staggering.  I walked around for 2 days and didn’t even get a chance to see all the vendors, never mind experience the various demos (e.g. taking a ride in various self driving cars, etc.).  Overall I probably got to experience about 25% of the show.

The signs are all very clear at the convention, self driving cars are actually here, it’s not hype.  Well, the tech is here, we’ll see about the regulatory and consumer acceptance side of things over the coming years.  The impact to the economy will be undoubtedly huge, as massive amounts of jobs are displaced (all taxi, uber, and truck drivers gone to start).  Those industries will become more efficient (24×7 trucking, no need for drivers to sleep, for example).

Consumers will shift to viewing driving as a service (already happening now with Uber in urban areas) and car ownership will become less prevalent, which will result in poorer auto sales.  Our time will be freed up from driving during our commute, which will no doubt be replaced by doing more work, checking emails, etc.  I’ve always found that the promise of more leisure time from increased advances in technologies never materializes, only to be quickly filled in by more work.

Regardless of what the future holds, damn the tech at CES is off the charts!  I got to see the brand new EV from Faraday Future (brand new OEM in California).  This vehicle is tricked out with everything including facial recognition and machine learning, full self driving tech, and a 60 degree reclining seat so you can relax while your car is driving you to your destination.  Check out their website at the link above for the complete specs.

Another company that really impressed me was HERE, a mapping company that is setup to be the mapping database for self driving cars.  Image processing, including object recognition, have come a long way and are now being productized by various suppliers.

Here are some pics of the show:

 

Tonight’s bedtime story, C programming!

A couple weeks ago I gave Eli (now 8) my first programming book, “C By Example” from Que.  The original edition I had was from 1992.

From the time I first laid my hands on a computer I was hooked.  I devoured giant books like these on MS-DOS, QBasic, C, Pascal, and x86 Assembly language.  By the time I was in 8th grade I had written many large programs and was proficient in all of the above languages.

Eli is definitely cut from the same cloth.  He first got interested in Kindergarten when each kid has to complete an ‘hour of code’ (from code.org, a great site by the way).  He’s extremely curious, much in the same ways I was at his age.

I started showing him a little simple python code, where he could prompt the user a question, check the results, show random text, etc.  He’s really excited about it, but I still think the mental concepts are a little out of his reach.

So, for bedtime reading, we’ve been going through this book starting at page 1.  It’s pretty entertaining given how outdated the book is (25 years old, gulp!)  Computers were so much simpler then.  The book really starts with the fundamentals of how a computer works from a low level.

I’m finding that a lot of Computer Science programs don’t even teach low level languages anymore.  A typical CS program will start with Java or Python as its initial language.  Most schools don’t even teach C unless you are pursuing an EE degree.

While it is great how quickly you can become productive in these languages, something is definitely lost when you don’t learn the fundamentals of how a processor, memory, and disk work.  I’ve noticed that many entry level engineers are impatient and just want to ‘make things work’, rather than understanding how things work.