Saturday, September 13, 2014


Spent yesterday with my youngest niece assembling a 4x4x4 LED cube from Freetronics. That's 64 LEDs to solder. They are RGB LED's, also; four leads each, meaning 512 discrete solder joints to make.

Tough soldering, too. The pads are small, LEDs are temperature-sensitive, and the board had overly generous fluxing. But she really leaned down on it and got good joints and she blew through a good half of the LEDs on her own.

(I had to chip in because we only had a few hours in which to work and I wanted to be able to light it up before we finished for the day).

So I fired up the Arduino IDE to run the terminal monitor program and show her command-line interfacing to the completed cube. At least that IDE was looking somewhat familiar to me, but earlier in the day I was looking at pulling an accelerometer from my DuckNode proof of concept, and ended up first looking through Processing sketches to see if I could see the data coming through the XBee link, then running my old terminal ap to talk to one of the XBee modules directly.

Which, yeah; the "+++" is the escape code for the Hayes Command Set. Which is to say; "+++" alerts the machine that the following serial data are to be treated as instructions to the device itself.

And, no, I didn't remember most of my AT commands. So I was trying to code in a language I'd forgotten, running on an application I barely remembered writing, which is written in a language I'd also gotten a little hazy on.

I'm having this more and more. Especially since a lot of applications don't adhere to underlying GUI standards. It gets really annoying when spacebar drag or control-V does something different in the application de jour than what it does across a dozen other graphics applications. Especially when you are flipping from one to the other.

I'm still trying to get used to The Gimp, which goes out of its way (for legal reasons) to do everything differently than PhotoShop did it. And I'm still far behind on working out Blender. But with the software landscape changing so rapidly, and my own interests also spreading so widely, I'm having to on any ordinary day confront at least two pieces of software with unfamiliar interfaces. And worse -- trying to do something productive on them when time is short and the pressure is on!

I had to quickly set up the Arduino IDE and get it talking to the LEDs we'd just finished soldering before I lost the attention of a sleepy kid. At some point in that same day, I was also diving into Reason to show off a piece of music I'd written for a recent production -- and I haven't had that software open for a month, at least.

Over most of this past week I've had Scrivener, Carrara, Fritzing, The Gimp, and Wineskin Winery open as the projects I've been prioritizing (the Jubal Early gun, and the DuckNode), require I jump back and forth between several of these aps as I plan and develop.

This stuff makes my brain hurt. I need food.

(I'm taking a short break from microphone repairs -- have one of those dratted TA4F connectors open now and you need a clear head and steady hand for those.)

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