I let myself be drawn into a discussion about the physics and principles of time travel and got told that if I wanted people to 'get' the story, I would have to do a lot more explaning.
Perhaps I will have to go through the story with a fine-toothed comb: for each part, determine what it is I want to tell, and how. The story so far has grown 'organically', and that doesn't make for tight plot (just look at Roger Zelazny's second Amber cycle).
I also have decided not to participate in this year's advanced writing course. I haven't written anything in a month -- and I'm not missing it. I do want to finish the time travel story, or perhaps start a new story, I do want to keep writing. But I have a lot of other projects that I also want to spend time on.
As such, I do not feel that I will be able to devote as much time to writing as is needed to get the maximum benefit from the advanced writing course. I'd rather save that experience for sometime else, when my writing skills have matured, when I can devote time to writing.
Right now, I'm working on communications between the PC and the microcontroller. The circuit with the MAX232 works pretty well: I can use a modem program like Hyperterminal to communicate asynchronously with the PIC. I'm writing a morse-encoder: you type in your message, and the PIC blinks a LED to produce your message in morse.
Tip for everybody who wants to program microcontrollers: do not confuse the Z and the C bits of the STATUS register, 'cause your program will exhibit lots of weirdness if you do. The Z bit is set if the last operation produced a zero, the C bit is set if the last operation caused an underflow. Spot the difference.
I saw there are low-profile PCI cards with two serial ports on 'em. I will need a serial port to drive the track display and another one for the remote control sensor. The cool thing about this card is, that the second serial port is on a separate header -- so I can connect the track display internally! No cables looping back into the case!
I ordered the AOpen H340A as housing -- it has one exposed 3.5" bay, which is perfect for the track display! I found plexiglass bay fronts with legs -- I will get me the "Smoke"-version, which (I hope) will hide the electronics from view but will show the lighted digits behind it. Then I only have to glue my stuff to the legs and screw the complete assembly into the case!
However, my stuff still hasn't arrived from Techcase. I mailed 'em to ask what was happening (my order has been 'In bearbeitung' for two weeks now). I got a mail back from the sales manager, who was shocked to find that my stuff hadn't been sent out yet -- he is going to look into the matter, so we'll see what happens.
One of the top brass at the company I work at went to the US for his vacation. He bought a DVD from some jazz orchestra there -- but of course he couldn't play it on his DVD player at home because of the region encoding. Region encoding limits our legitimate rights as consumers: we buy the DVD like a good consumer, yet we are not allowed to enjoy the contents back at home.
Of course, I couldn't let this slide. I explained to him how region encoding works, and that there are ways around it if one knows where to look for 'em. He's not a technical guy, so he didn't want to fiddle with special codes for remotes and stuff like that, so I offered to copy his DVD to a region-free DVD+R. He took the offer, but when he tried to play the disc, he found out that the player doesn't like +R's...
Then he told me, half-jokingly: "Maybe I should give you the player, so you can fiddle with it and fix it up for me!" I offered to do just that -- so friday evening, I lugged a Philips DVD-952 back home with me. With my Palm, OmniRemote and the information on this page, I had the player region-free in 10 minutes! Another job well done!
This morning, I dropped by a friend of ours. He has a Pioneer DV-350, for which there is another OmniRemote hack available. I had tried before to hack his player, but was unsuccesful back then. But this new information spoke of some sort of 'internal counter' that needed to be decreased in order for the hack to work. Some reports spoke of 50 tries before the hack worked -- so perhaps we hadn't been dilligent enough.
I made sure that my Palm's signals were received by the player: I trained the power button, and the player did turn off when I pressed the button on the Palm. Then it was a question of repeatedly pressing the '0'-button. Not much happened, and after quite a few button presses, my batteries ran out. I pillaged the batteries from the TV remote, and when I turned on my Palm, it immediately began sending again (apparently it shut itself down mid-sequence or something). And lo and behold: the player shut itself off, and when I turned it back on, it played the R1-disc I had taken with me!
The only remaining problem is that the TV displays the NTSC-image in black and white -- but that's a problem he will have to figure out for himself!