18 June 2013

Linux Sucks

One of the to-do items from the SRR challenge was to learn Linux so I could investigate Robot Operating System and then use OpenCV for vision processing.

Linux does not make this easy and I am rapidly getting frustrated with it as I always do when I try it.

I downloaded and installed Debian Wheezy to get the latest version. It is up and running.

I used the package manger to install Eclipse CDT. Except it is a version of Indigo (3.8) not Juno. Grump, grump, grump. I tried to update Eclipse the other day on another box. There are NO clear instructions on the web on how to do the install over the old version and get it into the menu system.

At the same time I wanted to install Mozilla Thunderbird for email. Nope, not in the package manager and it downloads an archive, not a package. Grump, grump, grump.

Google Chrome downloaded okay and with only one false start I got the package manager to install it.

Even should someone walk me through getting those applications installed I shudder to think of what it is going to take to (1) get ROS and OpenCV setup and (2) get Debian running on all the rover's PCs and running my code.

17 June 2013

Rover Names

When I got the 4 computers for the rovers I still had not come up with a good names for them. Loading Windows XP I simply called the first one Mystic One. That led to the others being Two, Three, and Four. The more I used that name I liked it and started referring to them collectively as The Mystics. That is their name now and I will use if for the team name next year: Team Mystic.

The name obviously comes from Mystic Lake Software, my DBA. After Shari and I decided I was retired - I promised to have a warm supper on the table for her every night - I wanted to create a DBA just in case I did pick up some kind of work. Behind our house - and across a street - is a small park with a lake - Mystic Lake. That felt like a good name so I used it by simply adding the "Software". It conveys that aura of mystery that pervades software.

Back from the SRR, links and an EMMY!

Back home after an awesome experience at the 2013 NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge. I posted on Facebook to capture the activities of myself and the other teams. It was an intense week and with seven days of travel involved getting there and back I am still not ready to jump full speed into much of anything.

If you visit the Mystic Lake FB page take a look at the pages I liked from there. They are either vendors I have used or additional FB pages associated with the SRR. A few of the teams are there. If others have FB pages I am not aware of them.

I do not use Twitter but if you search for #srrbot you can see what was tweeted by others.

The SRR is one of many NASA Centennial Challenges. Challenges of this type have a long history in aerospace. Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic is probably the one most well known. He won $33,000 for meeting the challenge.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute hosted the challenge. They were very good hosts providing 3 meals each day so the teams could work continuously. That also provided an opportunity to talk with some of the other teams. At all the other times the teams were heads-down working on their robots.

Friday local school kids visited, saw NASA exhibits, the teams demonstrating robots, and were generally exposed to technology. A group of high visibility social media users also toured the robot pits to talk with the teams and see the robots.

On Saturday, NASA and WPI hosted Touch Tomorrow to showcase NASA and robotics. All the teams demonstrated their robots at times throughout the day. The crowds, and especially the kids, liked seeing the robots perform.

All through the week NASA360 was there talking with us and taking pictures and videos. They were a great bunch of guys to have poking their lenses at us. There are some terrific photos and videos. To cap it off, NASA360 won an emmy for their TV show about last year's SRR: Robots, Rocks and Rovers. In May they won a Telly award for the same episode.

Here are some links to photos and videos:
https://pictures.lytro.com/NASAHQPHOTO/pictures/658265
NASA photos from all days.

(Tom had way too much fun putting shots of the Mystics in trouble in these.)
NASA360 Rover Madness
NASA360 Kicking 'Bot

Video from Mystic Two - taken from the camera on the rover.
Photos of the other teams.
Photos of us and the Mystics (pending getting them organized.)