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User Journal

Journal Journal: Open Source software you have never heard of... 2

As an electronic engineering student, I used to believe that I still required windows for some software. Thankfully, it turns out not. I have discovered a really cool project; PiKdev. An all in one solution for writing code for the Microchip PIC family including a powerful built in programmer. And it works almost flawlessly. My only complaint is that I had to compile it from source(and install KDE3 libraries) - there is no Mandriva 2009 package. When I get time, I'll make one. It has all the features I need and more. If only it I'd found it sooner.

It made me wonder, what other really cool obscure niche projects are out there? Anyone paying attention to my ramblings care to point out some?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Gambling with my degree :)

I am doing something rather stupid, but nevertheless interesting. I am not sure what possessed me to do it, but I chose to do a rather strange honours project. I am implementing a wireless (CM)FSK mesh network. Sane so far? Just wait, it gets a bit crazy. I sat and thought, we don't have Oscilloscopes at my university that can cope with frequencies above 20MHz (heck some can't cope above 2MHz), so I was thought, "Hey, there is an ISM band at ~13.5MHz. Why not use that?" After all debugging a system is easier if you can look at the signal anywhere on the circuit...

Data rate? I'll be lucky to get 300bps. Which is fine. Its not a commercial project in any way, its just something I thought would make a pretty cool project to hack around with. Plus I implement lots of blinking lights and some embedded nodes which can be remote controled, which'll make everybody think "wow..."

So, I thought let me implement the whole thing using Phase Locked Loops. Cool so far - one chip and minimal external circuitry becomes a modulator and demodulator. Nice and easy(I hope), especially at such a low frequency and data rate. Now the fun begins; what the heck am I gonna use for an antenna? 1/4 wavelength is going to be 5.55m long! It would be fine, but to implement 4 nodes, I need ~23m of cable... At the distances I'm likely to run, I may as well just implement a wired network... Simple truth - my budget does not support 23m of wire, unless I cannibalize a transformer or something. Besides, its not elegant - its an ugly hack. And I don't have a spectrum analyser to measure the resonant frequency of any loop antennas. Its trial and error and CROs all the way. Here I am worried about ugly hacks when I got very limited time to complete this thing... Anyway, Shorter antennas will complicate the radiation pattern somewhat (I'd like an ideal sphere and to win the lottery) and probably degrade my signal to noise ratio.

I'm selling it to my supervisor as a control/sensor array idea, a use for which it is completely unsuited, since in the ISM band you can never guarantee data transfer.

This is all only interesting if you're a hardware geek/ham I guess. In any case now I've gotta start looking for a challenging, fun, and commercial masters project. Assuming these ideas of mine work and I actually graduate.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Am I a Troll? 4

It recently occurred to me that I may have been unintentionally trolling slashdot. Somehow I managed to pick up positive Karma, but that doesn't particularly interest me. I came here years ago for the tech and science news and the "intelligent" discussion. I did not participate much, and it was quite a few years before I even got myself an account. Which is a good thing, because I used to go through email addresses and lose passwords often.

In any case, I am what many consider a rare (or impossible) creature; a rational intelligent Christian. I have no problem with people of other religions or atheists(you guys are not a religion, no matter how much you try and "convert" me), but when I see my religion misrepresented (how many strawmen do you guys have to make up?) I post. It occurs to me now, that perhaps I shouldn't - it appears to be considered Trolling. After all I only came here for the technical discussions.

In any case, I have observed that a lot of atheists here seem to be very emotional about the whole debate. They hate religion. Which I find incredibly weird. The atheists I know personally don't see hating religion as logical. I mean, why? Sure bad things have happened because of religions in the past. But so what? Its the people in the religions that are normally the cause of all the problems - the religions themselves (with a couple of exceptions) seem to preach tolerance and the brotherhood of man and have the goal of making the world a better place. Most atheists I know respect my beliefs and choices, just as I have great respect for theirs. We can agree to disagree. Why is that so hard for slashdot atheists?

No offence, but with such strong polarization between Christians and atheists, America must be a strange place. Perhaps it is the Christians in America. They have some really strange ideas at times. But still, I can not believe that guys in America have not met at least one sane Christian?

This is not to say I am blameless either. Sometimes I do get a little upset and respond badly, but these days it is rare.

In any case, perhaps I will limit my posts on religious topics from now on, unless I see someone who is happy to have a reasonable debate.

Oh, well. And there you have it, my first journal entry. Thinking about it, perhaps I'm not trolling, more flamebait? Or perhaps its the syndrome of not having a "-1 does not subscribe to slashdot group think" mod. But I am a Linux user(from redhat 4.0 no less)! :}

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