Neil's News

Hard Drive Crash

15 June 2009

On Monday the elderly G4 MacBook which serves suffered a severe hard drive crash. Fortunately I keep reasonably good backups. It will take me a few days to acquire new hardware and bring the site back up. In the mean time I've redirected the domain to Google Sites.

Update: I've purchased an MSI Wind PC to be my new web server. It is small and apparently uses three times less power than a conventional desktop. This website will be resurrected as soon as the $4 IDE-SATA dongle arrives for the hard drive.

This Thursday I'm leading a group of Google volunteers who will be fixing computers for inner-city residents of San Francisco. I've been away from the real world for several years so I'll be very interested to observe what kind of problems people currently have with computers. Have they found that pesky 'any' key yet?

Update: Apparently things haven't changed much. The first gentleman dropped his computer on the desk and complained it wouldn't start. The error message was "Invalid system disk, replace the disk, then press any key". I removed the floppy disk and it booted fine.

The next gentleman brought in a keyboard for repair. It was so gunky and sticky that several of the keys no longer functioned. Ewwww...

If you are in San Francisco this weekend and want to witness some robotic carnage, drop by Fort Mason and watch the robotic battles at RoboGames. I'll be there demoing my robotic bagpipe chanter.

Update: The RoboGames got off to a bumpy start. My robot bagpipe chanter was weak, underpowered and couldn't hit the right notes. It wasn't long before I discovered that the electricity supply was only giving us 97 volts AC. Everyone else had switching power supplies so they didn't notice, whereas my old linear transformer was only performing at 80% of expected power. A long chain of extension cables to an outlet in another part of the building solved that problem.

Here's a quick video I shot of my robotic bagpipe chanter during the show:

The chanter is surprisingly reliable; other than a hose joint that needed re-gluing it has run problem-free for four straight days. The only upgrade it needs is an onboard microprocessor to control the tempo. Microsoft Windows is pathetic as a realtime controller since it drops the occasional note and can't keep a steady rhythm.

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