Dorkbot Austin!

Natalie and I went out dorking tonight 🙂 The dorkbot made it’s second appearance in Austin tonight at Cafe Mundi. There was some great geeking going on .. I think we missed the first presentation though (got there around 8:30).

First one we saw was Joel Greenberg showing off his nifty homemade mic zeppelin. According to my links, I read about this back in April, but didn’t realize he was from Austin. (Note to self: checkout his podcast )

Next up was Rich LeGrand and his Lego-bot with a Gameboy brain. Basically, he put an FPGA and some flash memory on a card that fits in the Gameboy Advance cartridge slot, which lets the GBA brain talk to sensors and motor controllers and cameras and all kinds of roboty goodness. For a demo, the bot spotted a loose lego piece, wheeled itself over, grabbed the piece, and moved it to the other side of the table. It was also able to learn and repeat and little dance — you push the thing around the table, and it senses the movement through the motors, records it, and plays it back. ( video! )

The Austin Robot Group had the last two presentations: Eric Lundquist explained the Babbling Head and had it sing a few songs, and Vern Graner demoed the controller board/prototype of a funky spin-art game-type-thing they’re making for the next First Night Austin.

All kinds of Neat Stuff[tm] .. we’ll have to go back next month. (I heard they had a homemade Tesla coil last month!) I managed to catch part of the evening with the voice recorder on my iAudio. I’ll try to clean it up and stick it online sometime in the next few days.

[tags] austin, austintx, geek, dorkbot, dorkbotaustin, nerd, robots, robotics[/tags]

vehicle update

I don’t think I’ve blogged about it much, but you may have heard already, either from Natalie’s blog or in person. Anyway, about a month ago, I was on my way to work and I got rear-ended. The other driver had insurance and pulled over with me after it happened, so already this was much better than the first time I was rearended (summary: hit-and-run at a red light, probably drunk driver, totaled my car, my uninsured motorist coverage paid for it).

About 2 weeks ago today, I dropped my car off to be repaired at a body shop owned by the dealership where I got my car. The rear bumper and most of the rear door needed replacing. Overall a nice place, professional staff, mostly painless. Even had a rental agency on site, which was good since Natalie was out of town when I dropped it off.

The rental I got was the 4-door version of the Mazda 3 (mine’s the hatchback), with a 4-speed automatic (mine’s 5-speed manual). Interesting comparing the two, but I was glad when I got to pick up my own car last Friday.

Unfortunately it’ll be going back in soon, due to a couple of new “features”:

  • The hand-hold on the bottom of the hatch (where you grab to close it) was installed backwards.
    I can fit my hand in it, but it angles up instead of down, so it’s harder to grip
  • The rear window wiper was also installed backwards. Natalie and I hopped in the car Saturday morning to head to the farmer’s market, and since it was raining I hit the front and rear wipers .. front worked fine, rear disappeared from the rear-view mirror and attempted to clean the bottom (metal) half of the back of the car. Yes, instead of swinging right to left (and up) over the window, it swung left to right (and down). Looking at other 3’s this weekend, we noticed they all had the rear wiper on the right side when idle .. not mine .. oops.

UPDATE: took the car in Monday morning and they fixed both problems in less than 15 minutes. Car is back to normal now – yay.