Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 9

Some people came over for Halloween. I live on King St. just off 6th Ave. (Avenue of the Americas for you tourists) and have a good vantage point from which to see the Village Halloween Parade.
At one point, there were four kids in my living room, with the parents all out on the fire escape. To entertain the kids I showed them my physical computing projects. Scout, the 7-year-old girl, was dressed as, as she explained, a "half-robot half-cat". We briefly discussed the Island of Dr. Moreau, then I showed her my robot monster hand from last Friday. She held it carefully, then looked up at me and said, "Oh. You're an inventor."
I've never felt so proud.

Then I put on the Wallace and Gromit video. My one babysitting technique is to always have some cartoons at hand. That, and lots of NyQuil on hand.

The company with which I have a consulting gig, ACM (The Association for Computing Machinery) had their servers hacked on Halloween. They're an obvious target for script-kiddies. But dealing with the mess has been a pain in the butt. The IT guys had the real hard work, but they've since implemented a bunch of security measures without telling anyone what they are. So when our scripts no longer run, we have to figure out which library is missing, or whatever.

I have the dreaded Red's Class Presentation next Tuesday, so this week I guess I'll have to focus on that at the expense of my other classes. It's odd that ITP has such a cult of personality with Red Burns. In industry it would be seen as a bad thing to have the visionary still at the helm after 25 years.

My brain is now officially full. The only way I can learn anything more is if I forget something else first. Unfortunately, I'm not able to selectively forget (if I could erase my knowledge of the complete lyrics to the Gilligan's Island theme song, I would be able to learn maybe two or three new facts about electronics) What would be really nice would be to have a month or six weeks to implement what we've learned so far. Then we'd have a better platform and context from which to absorb new ideas and information.

I didn't do the lab assignment for this week (the serial stuff). But I worked with some other people (looked over their shoulders while they explained what they had achieved) in the lab. Some people were getting smiley faces and hearts and stuff, while others were getting actual numbers. I assumed that the special charcters were because of a baud rate mismatch, like what was demonstrated in class, but even when everything was set to 9600, some people still got the smilies.

Part of me regrets not doing more this week, but then I realize that this week's journal, although short, is still longer than some other students' journals, with all their weeks combined.

Next week I have to do the tech presentation. I sure hope Matthias and Koichi have the initiative to work without my leadership. I'm not going to be able to put in much time before Wednesday of next week.

I looked at the web server log for these journals. They've gotten hundreds of hits in the past few weeks. I look at them to make sure they uploaded properly, and Jeff must look at them once a week, so there must be lots of other students getting something out of these. I say to you all: "Hello World!"

This collaboration stuff is interesting mostly because of the social dynamics. Only after working with someone can I realize who's the slacker, the neurotic, or the prima donna. I have a slight problem in holding on to my ideas even after I realize they're no longer appropriate, but I think I have that under control. Some of the best advice I've gotten regarding writing is "kill your babies" meaning that just because you love some little piece of crud you made, you should be able to discard it and move on. I knew one illustration professor who made his students rip up their homework at the end of each class.

In terms of final projects, I'm beginning to get a sense of who I may want to collaborate with and whom to avoid. At they have a quote: "The only constant factor in all of your failed relationships is you."

Matt Slaybaugh
ms171 at