2nd Place!

August 9th, 2008 NASA, robots

Success! Slobotics has officially taken second place in the 2008 NASA Lunar Excavation Centennial Challenge. While no team achieved the ambitious goal of meeting the 150kg target, we did manage to put on quite a show and prove our engineering abilities. Since that was our stated goal going in, we’re stoked.

Some quick details:
25 teams registered
16 teams attended the competition
8 teams actually competed
4 teams managed to move from the starting position - yes, we were one of them

After the official competition, we had the opportunity to demonstrate both our behavioral algorithms that allow autonomy as well as our digging mechanism. Without rocks in the regolith, our robot performed spectacularly, meeting design expectations in most cases and exceeding them in others. Although we’re all completely worn out from the crazy prep time leading up to the event, we’re ready and excited for next year’s competition.

On a personal note, I have to say that I’ve sincerely enjoyed the intereactions with each and every person I’ve met as a result of this event. Professional, intelligent, and kind - everyone. Already, I’ve considered meeting everyone a priviledge - only moreso as our path forward inevitably involves interactions with some of these great people.

Pictures and links on the official page.


March 29th, 2008 robots

So things are really starting to take off in robot-land. A team of Cal Poly engineers (alum), including myself, are officially forming SLObotics as a company to develop and market new technologies relating to the fast-evolving field of robotics. Right now we’re focused on our design for the upcoming NASA Centennial Challenge this summer, but we’re also well into the development of our first product. We’re especially excited because of recent developments with Cal Poly. After realizing that NASA was holding a national competition on Poly’s campus this summer, and also realizing that Cal Poly had no entry, the dean of the College of Engineering approached us and asked SLObotics to officially partner with the College and represent the University. We’re both grateful and stoked at the opportunity, especially when we started talking about our longer-term goals for SLObotics. Needless to say, having access to the resources at Cal Poly will help get us off the ground much faster than trying to go it alone. So we’re stoked. Now it’s just a matter of taking care of all the details and somehow managing to squeeze the W2 job in there somewhere. Things are definitely looking up though!


February 21st, 2008 encryption

So encryption is good - mostly. In every case where you want to prevent people from getting at your data, it’s awesome. Problem is that for average Joe user, it’s pretty dang easy for them to be prevented from accessing their own data. Microsoft has done the world an injustice by implementing their lame password “protection” in things like Word. Now, most normal people expect that any computer nerd can retrieve their stuff for them if they lose the means of accessing it themselves. I’ve seen some pretty good expressions after explaining to people that it was statistically impossible (future quantum computers aside) for me to retrieve their data after they forgot their password to an encrypted volume. In steps TrueCrypt 5.0 with full disk encryption. Since you can create a backup of the original header file that was used to encrypt the disk the first time ’round, it’s a pretty simple task to restore it later if the user loses access. This is a wonderful turn for the practical implementation of full disk encryption with only three drawbacks.
1) No hibernation. (sucks, but sleep should be fine)
2) No automated installs that require reboot.
3) Performance.

On this note, I decided to perform a few tests to see just how much of a performance hit FDE causes. The full results are available, but the quick summary is that FDE causes an overall drop in performance of about 10 percent. Not bad considering what you’re getting out of the deal.


February 4th, 2008 power, Internet

So I’ve always known the potential of the web. You can post something and millions, if not billions of people have instant access to it. The power here is immense - but it’s all so big and until recently, I’ve not had any metric by which to measure this.

Back to that in a moment. First, a though about numbers:
Take 6 billion for example. Since that’s the approximate number of souls on planet Earth right now, I was curious to bring that number into perspective. If I wanted to meet everyone, assuming I was fast and it took me 5 seconds to say, “Hi. My name is Brian.” and then hear their return greeting, it would take me over 950 years just to say hello. Clearly, if I want to influence people on a grand scale with anything significant, it has to be pursued with a one-to-many approach.

In steps the Internet. Everyone knows that “the Internet has the potential to spread information quickly,” but what does that mean in context? Back to the point:
On January 31, 2008, iFixit received one of the first MacBook Air units and we quickly descended upon it and had it broken down to it’s constituent pieces in no time. We took pictures and looked up information about its innards to gain insight into its workings. All the info was neatly packaged and published as a signature iFixit tear-apart guide. A press release was issued and as was expected, many web sites around the globe ran the story. Traffic to the iFixit article alone was just shy of 200,000 unique visitors in the following 48-hour period - and that was just the actual site. Millions eventually will see (and probably already have seen) the pictures and read the news that I helped break. Yes, I was just a contribution, riding on the coat-tails of giants, but still, millions of people saw the pictures that I helped take. Millions of people thought it interesting enough to read what I had to say about something. I really don’t mean to sound all “look-at-me-I’m-so-great”, but that’s crazy. Simply crazy.

So now I have a new appreciation for the web. I’ve seen its potential first-hand and it’s a bit daunting. I guess it’s no different than any powerful tool in that it can be used for great good or great evil. It’s all about who’s at the reigns.


January 4th, 2008 nerdy

OK, nerd moment - although I’m dang proud of it! The crazy storm that’s sweeping through took out the power, but wasn’t able to phase teh interweb. Laptop, wireless, cable, and cell phone are all still alive and kicking. So gone are the days of “ooh, the power’s out, what do we do now?” Except for not having refrigeration or lights, everything essential is still in full swing. Yeah for UPS units! Now I just have to figure out how to charge my electric scooter…

F1rst P0st!!!

December 27th, 2007 Uncategorized

Finally, I have a place on teh interweb to call home. <sigh>

Now on to business…

Here you can read about my thoughts on life, technology, and if you’re lucky, love. I think you’ll find them intriguing, if not a bit bizarre. There’s a line in there somewhere - dividing between crazy and genius. I try to ride it as much as possible. As a warning, I have a tendency to rant about things that I (believe to) know a lot about and come off as pretty arrogant sometimes. Most of the time I actually know what I’m talking about. If I don’t, I won’t waste your time.

In addition to a place for me to journal/rant, I plan to make this a home for all of the cool projects I’ve worked on in times past - as well as current and future endeavors. So pull up a chair, grab some munchies and take a stroll through the mind of me. It’ll be fun - trust me.