February 12th, 2007


The stars were mis-aligned

After most of the rain had subsided, we decided to head out to do a fun multi. Our eyes had fallen on "De prins op het witte paard" ("The prince on the white horse"), a multi of 7km that has won some awards.
We found the first waypoint with the box containing the (laminated) sheets with the instructions on how to proceed further without too many problems -- but we took a (short) trip back to the car to get an umbrella, because the rain had started up again.

But the second waypoint remained out of our grasp. We must have spent half an hour walking around in the area the GPSr pointed to as the spot. We must have seen the underside of every tree, but we could not find the promised hint... So finally we decided to give up on this one for today.

On our way back, we took a detour towards Hersendeler, which we had now solved to get the right coordinates. But again, we were unable to locate the cache. According to the GPSr, the cache should be located... right in the middle of the pond.

Muttering dire curses under our breath, we went home, without a single find to log...
When we keyed the coordinates into Google Maps, we found that the GPSr had been tens of meters off! Maybe someone in the US had been twiddling with the knob to distort the GPS signal a little too enthousiastic, or perhaps the sattelites were in such a constellation that minimised correct triangulation... Perhaps we'll never know.

Maybe next time, we'll check the reception at home -- if it's mispointing wildly, it's nice to know before travelling to the cache location.
animated me tinkering with leds

Using physical devices for team-building for geographically separated teams

I have been made the manager of a team that is going to build the document models for a client of ours. Six people will build the models, distributed across two, perhaps three, physical locations, hundred kilometers apart.

Building team spirit may be a challenge.

When I visited TOJ last tuesday (I had a lunch date with my former room mates), they told me of a bug-hunt that was organised to iron out the bugs of the product. They had placed a laptop with a large red button in the public room, with the buglist projected on the screen with a beamer. If you fixed a bug, you could press the large red button and a (very loud!) siren would sound to signal your accomplishment.
Brilliant idea -- one that I am going to steal wholeheartedly.

Last year, I made buttons for coronanl's anime music quiz during the Abunai anime convention. Quite similar to the Winamp Control Box, simple buttons connected to a serial port, with a small VB program to read out the lines and to trigger some action when the button is pressed.
So I am going to make two buttons. I have a colleague who has the right accent and voice to shout "Another model made!", and he has agreed to lend his cooperation. Add a small PHP script so that the VB programs can check the progress at the other locations, and you can hear whenever someone finishes a model at one of the other locations!

Unfortunately, the model builders from the client work on 'Network Computers', which are basically dumb terminals running a Citrix client. The software on the Citrix server doesn't have access to the USB or sound of the NC, so I can't give them a physical button. I can modify the VB program to react to a button click, and simply convey the information visually -- but it won't have the same 'feel', I'm afraid.
Still, we'll have that button in the project room in Nijmegen. The higher-ups loved the idea, and it's a fun project to do in a weekend.