Red Echo

April 30, 2008

I want to drive this motor, which expects 18-24V and draws between 100-400 mA, from a set of four AA cells. I think a PT5049 may be the right solution: minimum input is 4.75 volts, output is 20V, and it can supply up to 0.5A. If I am reading the schematic correctly, the only external components required are a couple of capacitors.

April 29, 2008

My desk at Microsoft

standard keyboards and twisted wrists

Why is the number pad on all keyboards positioned on the right? It gets in my way: I use it almost never, but I use the mouse a lot, and the number pad creates distance between the normal part of the keyboard and the mouse. If I center the keyboard comfortably in front of the screen, the mouse hangs out way off to the right of the desk; consequently I generally type with my hands a little bit to the left. If the number pad were on the left, you could keep your hands centered on the keyboard most of the time, but the right hand could drive the navigation keys and the left could operate the number pad. This would be a bit less convenient for left-handers, but I suppose they could continue using any of the millions of keyboards using the normal layout. I’d be happy to drop the number pad entirely, in fact, provided I could keep the navigation keys. In fact, drop the mouse, too: what I really want is a laptop-style keyboard and trackpad, all packaged together as a single unit.

postscript: it appears that the keyboard I want actually exists.

post-postscript: it appears that the Adesso keyboard basically sucks. What I really want is of course this Apple keyboard, plus a trackpad (and I don’t really want bluetooth, but I can put up with it if necessary).

April 28, 2008

Work is starting to be fun. I have some real bugs to work on, and the build environment no longer seems so unfamiliar. I think it helps that I spent the last couple of years debugging mostly with stack traces and printf() calls; it doesn’t take long to get up to that level of competence with a new tool set. The commute situation is also improving. I’ve been carpooling with Lesley and Mez, and now that I have a better handle on the route and the traffic levels, it takes no more than half an hour to get home.

I spent the evening working on the jacket for MJ, and mostly got the left sleeve in. Set-in sleeves are still a big challenge for me, but I am pretty happy with the way it looks now. The epaulets look great and I am feeling very happy about this project. Once I have the other sleeve in, the body is done, and it will be time for pockets and lining.

April 27, 2008

I made a lot of progress on the jacket for MJ today. There are still a lot of details remaining, but I have the whole body of the jacket put together now, and the sleeves are ready to sew in. The sharp, uniform-style look is really starting to come through, and I am very happy with the way the “lift-the-dot” snaps look. They are not excessively difficult to open and close, either, which is something I had worried about.

April 26, 2008

I can’t find my camera! Boo.

April 24, 2008

Shpongle is performing live in London this October. That’s “live” as in “with a full band”, too, not as in “DJ set”, which means it is almost certainly going to be something special.

I started assembling the MJ-jacket last night; I made both of the center front overlapping pieces, with the button-straps across the outer layer, and sewed together the three right side pieces. It was late, and my machine was acting up, so I left the other side for later. It is looking good so far. I decided that lines of piping down the major front seams would add too much noise, so I’m going to skip them and use a line of topstitching instead. Similarly, I’m thinking about making the collar out of the dark accent blue, like the center panels it will abut, instead of the lighter main blue, to reduce the contrast its seam creates.

April 22, 2008

Top down operator precedence parsers implemented in Javascript

April 21, 2008

Microsoft, beginning of week two: I got my first two bug assignments today, basic get-to-know-the-code sort of things. I haven’t quite figured out the build process yet, but I’m getting closer.

I skipped pool tonight and did some work on MJ’s jacket instead. I made the last round of changes to the pattern, after watching her try on last week’s muslin via Skype, then cut out all the main pattern pieces. Tomorrow I’ll apply interfacing and probably start sewing things together.

April 20, 2008

Thank you, Sony: due to the popularity of blu-ray players, 405 nm (violet-blue) laser diodes are now available for $50 (if you are willing to take apart the replacement laser assembly) or $80 (for just the diode). RGB laser assemblies, here we come!

April 19, 2008

I’ve spent the afternoon sewing. I am nearly finished with a new long-sleeved, crew-neck shirt, made of tan fleece and burgundy ribbing. I tried a very similar design in cotton stretch knit, but had a lot of problems with fit, and the collar simply would not sit the way I intended it to. The body of the shirt came out much more smoothly this time around, but I’m still having trouble with the collar. It’s a lot closer this time, and I can see a couple of adjustments that should make it work well enough, but this collar is still more of a challenge than it seems like it ought to be. Oh, well, next time I’ll get it right.

Once I’m done with this project I will take a little break, then do some more work on the jacket for MJ. The prototype basically fit her, which is great, but the pattern needs a couple of adjustments.

April 17, 2008

Tired. Driving to and from work is a surprisingly large drag.

Met the rest of the team today. Positive impressions so far.

I don’t really want to talk about work here. Maybe it would make sense to set up a blog on msdn; a lot of the other VB/VS/C# developers have them.

April 14, 2008

I just finished my first day at Microsoft. I did no actual work, met nobody from my new team, have yet to receive my employee badge, and did not even enter the building I will be working in: the entire day was spent in a series of HR presentations. I heard about more internal web sites and company services than I can even remember, much less describe or locate. The group of people Microsoft hired today was larger than the entire staff of all but one of the companies I have ever worked for.

My heart sank a bit when I pulled off the freeway and thought about having to spend so much time on the eastside, but I’m excited enough about the work I’m going to be doing that I am willing to deal with it.

Every now and then I like to travel back in time and have a conversation with my nineteen-year-old self, sitting in his apartment in Munich. It’s amusing to imagine his reaction to this one.

April 12, 2008

More progress at the Rocket Factory

I started off by finishing the loft floor: all the panels are screwed to their joists, and I cut some long, thin strips to fit into the edges. Then I built a stair unit up to the platform for the loft ladder. It is mounted on hinges so we can swing it up and out of the way when we’d rather have more work space. After that I demolished the rickety, cobbled-together shelf across the west wall, and built a new work table to go in its place. It was a productive day. I keep thinking of my grandfather as I work on this place.

My sister Joanna just posted a video of her fire performance from Wednesday. So much fun to watch her go!

April 11, 2008

After finishing the vest for Jenna, I launched straight into my next project: a jacket for my sister MJ. I skipped the darts this time and made the pattern out of curved panels. It’s a structured, detailed sort of garment, so the seams will be stylistic elements, and I’ll topstitch them with contrasting thread. For now, I’ve basted together a simple muslin, which I will send off to MJ for a test fitting; in the meantime there is a lot of work to be done creating the center panel detailing.

After Adam finished work, we met up at the Rocket Factory and continued working on the loft floor. We bought a bunch of plywood, wrangled it into position, and screwed it to the joists. I’d still like to do a lot of finish work up there, and the ladder is still missing its bottom three steps, but at least it’s complete enough to function as a storage room.

April 9, 2008

Finished Jenna vest

April 8, 2008

I’ve been doing too much recently to have time for writing about it. After working at the Rocket Factory on Saturday, I went home and spent a few hours setting up for a party. We divided the basement up with gauzy curtains in shades of red and purple – dark and rich and really pleasant. The party was a good time with some good friends and lasted until some time after dawn. Michael H. brought his decks and played upstairs.

Sunday was basically all about recovery. I slept for most of the day, helped clean up, then went over to Adam and Janet’s place. I cooked up a simple pasta and we watched the rest of Project Runway season two.

Yesterday I did a whole bunch of sewing. I tightened up the fit on a little stretch knit shirt I made for myself the other day, then fixed the lining on the Jenna vest and finished the other arm-hole. It still needs hemming and buttonholes, but it’s much closer to finished. Then Dawn came over and we did some more work on the lining for her fur coat – we cut apart the old lining and cut out equivalent pieces of the new fabric, then sewed up a few of the seams. After that, pool.

Today was all about carpentry, and my muscles ache. Adam had to work so I decided I’d just build whatever I could manage solo. I hung all the remaining floor joists, then framed the passage between the floors. This was all I’d originally intended to accomplish, but once I’d gotten that far I just couldn’t stop, and got to work on the ladder. I built the upper part of the ladder and the halfway-platform that will double as a storage area. At this point I was aching and hungry, and had used up most of the remaining scrap wood, so I decided to leave the rest for later. The lower part of the ladder will have a cool hinge mechanism to provide access to the storage area. It shouldn’t be more than half a day’s work for Adam and I to finish the floor and move all the storables out of the main work area.

Tonight I’m going to have dinner with my housemates – delivery from India Express, I think, since we are all too tired to cook.

Floor joists and ladder finished

April 5, 2008

Progress at the Rocket Factory

We’ve erected the new floor beam and hung three joists. There are ten more joists to hang, but we’ve done the hardest part of the work now.

April 2, 2008

Continuing progress on the vest for Jenna: now it has a collar and a lining. I had planned epaulets and side pockets, but it looks sharp as it is, and I don’t want to overcomplicate it. Maybe I will just add the buttons, finish the hems, and call it done.

April 1, 2008

Time for a job change

I signed on at Real Software seven years ago with a mission to write a shiny new modern compiler for REALbasic. It was two years before we shipped the new compiler, and a few years more before it became something you could call “shiny” or “modern”, but it worked and it took us where we needed to go. I kept on refining the language and improving the compiler, and while my dreams have always outreached Real Software’s resources, the code has come together well over the years and I am proud of what we have built.

It is time to move on. I will start work at Microsoft on April 14th, joining the VB.NET compiler team. I am excited and can hardly wait to start. VB is the most widely used programming language on earth, and I’ve been stealing its ideas for years. My primary responsibility will be compiler architecture – it will be a very similar position to the one I had for most of my time at Real, in fact, but with more resources and far more customers.

There are quite obviously a lot of changes on the way. It’s been seven years since I last worked in an office and almost nine since I had to drive to work. I’ve always been a Mac (and sometimes Unix) guy; I know very little about Windows and have never used it for my daily work. But whatever – I’m ready for something new. This will be a great step forward in my career, there will be tons of smart people around to learn from, and I’m thrilled by the idea that my work will affect millions of people.