My Week in the Lab

In my last post I mentioned a hard week at school. I think it is time to post some computer science on this blog. I am taking an embedded system course and I had to make a ball bounce on a screen. Something that doesn’t sound that hard unless you know that I can’t program on the computer that I am using to display the ball. The second catch was that the ball had to be drawn from a FPGA peripheral. I will stop the tech speak now and just show you some pretty pictures.

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My first attempt at drawing a circle on the screen wasn’t quite right but to be far there are circles…

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My next attempt was a little less mind bending. At this point I was going insane from the 90 degree room I had to work in but somehow I kept going although I admit I did look at how much of my final grade this lab was worth (10% for anyone wondering).

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Once I finally got a circle on the screen I just had to figure out how to draw it different places and so to help with that I decided to make a grid along with my circle.

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At this point I was finished with the hardware design (which wasn’t that hard) now just to get software to talk to this lovely ball drawer.

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My first attempt at getting the ball to move from software I was pretty sure I was going to fail and so the result did not surprise me. The basic code for moving the ball seemed to work but it was obvious I was having an overflow problem as the ball would only go in the top left corner in the screen. The weird motion of it getting stuck though I wasn’t sure about though.

I went back to my hardware and found the problem was the stupid software that generated the hardware files automatically so I ran the whole 15 minute process again and had the hardware connect the right amount of bits to my little ball drawer. I was not optimistic when I finally ran the software again but the resulting empty screen was a little more than I could bare after so many hours of working on this and the very few ideas of what to do next to solve my problem.

It was apparent that the problem was on the software end though since the hardware default put the ball nicely in the middle of the screen. I started to figure out how the device driver I was given actually communicated with the FPGA figuring that was where my trouble was. I was in an abysmal mood when I saw it. The example hardware had only needed 8 bits, a byte, so the next address when sending information was just the offset away. In my hardware I needed 16 bits so I could send addresses over 128 to the drawer which is 2 bytes. All I had to do to fix my problem was change “+offset” to “+offset*2”. It was too good to be true. I was so nervous testing it because if this didn’t work I really had no idea where to go from there. I cringed as I installed the device driver into the kernel and then as I ran my little test program. To my relief and sanity it worked!!! I had a ball bouncing nicely around my screen. After a few quick adjustments on where the edges where I was finished!

 

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I want to say I was triumphant and overjoyed I had accomplished my lab but mostly I was just relieved. It was due the next day and I hadn’t eaten all day and by the time I was finished it was past 8pm.

In case anyone wonders the specific technologies I was using were an Altera SoCKit FPGA board with Quartus II and Qsys. It is some pretty cool technology and I am looking forward to working with it some more… just not in a 100 degree lab right before a deadline…

Don’t Make Pizza When You Are Starving

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This is midterm week for I am sure every college student in America. As one of those college students I have had a busy week. I spent most of my day Wednesday in a computer lab and didn’t have time to eat all day. I finally got home around 9pm to a kitchen completely cleaned by my roommate and I felt no shame in messing it up with delicious pizza. I broke out my last pizza dough from last weeks batch which would be the foundation of this monster. Like most pizzas I started with some tomato sauce. The next layer also was standard mozzarella cheese. It was at this point I deviated from the norm with some cooked spinach and what is spinach without some ricotta? This doesn’t seem that odd in itself except I didn’t stop there. The next layer was elbows pasta which I have to top with cheddar and monterey  jack cheese because I love cheese and it is pizza. It was so good and I ate half of it that night. The only thing missing was some mushrooms.

Spinning Wheel Here I Come!

A couple of months ago I was invited to attend Knitting Vogue by a friend of mine who was going to be working at a booth selling knitting machines. Due to a mix up they had some extra tickets to the marketplace so she invited me knowing my knitting passion. It was even better than I expected with knitting and crocheting art and runways and so many people with the same interest as me and, oh my, the yarns they were selling. Every fiber you could think of from muskox, to wool of every breed, to rabbit, to soy, to milk, and on and on. As you can imagine there were a few farmers who do most of their business in craft shows like this one. One such farmer who lived not far from where I am from had her spinning wheel set up to keep her occupied while tending her booth. Her chair was set up with a sheep skin on it and seeing the actual spinning wheel I was so excited.

I have been telling my friend who invited me that we had to learn how to spin (in my mind with a drop spindle) for a couple months now. Now I am might lose a few on you on my reason why. I am pretty obsessed with dogs and mine in particular so my hope was to eventually spin up something with a little of her in it so I could knit with it and have it forever (apparently this idea isn’t knew in my family since my mom still has some fur from the Newfoundland I grew up with).

I started talking to the woman who was spinning on this wheel right before my eyes. My friend quickly pointed out to the woman that I have been dying to learn to spin and she, beyond my wildest dreams, asked if I wanted to try! I definitely could not say no to that. She sat me down and had me just learn how the treadle spun the wheel for a couple minutes (it is harder than it looks). Then she showed me how to draft the fiber and soon I was spinning! She warned me that it would be frustrating, which it was, but I wasn’t discouraged. Now I am pretty sure that it was just for encouragement but she told me I did very well for my first time. I broke the fiber and she showed me how to join more. I made some of the yarn way to thin and other parts way to thick and I had to try and concentrate as my friend kept making me laugh which looked more like a grimace with my concentration.

Pretty Scary

Pretty Scary Looking

 

To my surprise and joy when I had finished her bag full of roving she quickly rolled it up into a skein and handed it to me. Thinking back, what would she do with a small skein of poorly spun yarn? I appreciate it either way though and hope to one day repay her. Here is my finished result.

 

Fail Yarn

Fail Yarn

 

I was obviously enchanted and went straight home to look up wheels. Now a spinning wheel isn’t really something they sell at every corner store or even surprisingly on amazon.com. It took a while but I picked out what I think will be a good beginner wheel at a reasonable price (for a spinning wheel). I had found the Baynes Scotch Tension Spinning Wheel and found someone who sells them practically in my backyard! Well cheap for a spinning wheel is still about $400 which is a bit of change. So after complaining about it A LOT to my poor poor boy friend, who could really care less (his whole family knits and I am sure her is THRILLED he found someone just as enchanted with the hobby 😉 ) , I settled on a drop spindle.

I just got the drop spindle today (well depends when you think today is) finally in the mail along with a few ounces of dyed roving.

Drop Spindle with Pippy Longstocking's Braid

Drop Spindle with Pippy Longstocking’s Braid

I was more than a little excited to try it out. I had already watched some introduction videos on youtube and thought myself relatively prepared. None of the videos really showed how to stop in the middle of spinning so I just kept on going and going and going. The drop spindle gives you a little more time for drafting the fiber before it is spun but I am not sure I could necessarily say it is easier than the wheel. I used the “Park and Draft” method of pausing after charging the spindle and pulling out the next section of fiber. I really have no idea how you are suppose to draft while the spindle is still spinning. I guess that is something for the future. If my thickness is any more consistent than my first attempt it isn’t by much. I will let you be the judge of how I did.

It might be yarn!

It might be yarn!

 

I really have no clue how I am suppose to wrap the yarn on the drop spindle but this way seemed to work alright but then again maybe it didn’t since occasionally the yarn would fall off the top hook and I would have to jump and catch the spindle before too much got unravelled. I am not quite sure what I will make with it. I was thinking of plying it but I don’t have a lot. What ever I end up making with it I will show it off proudly as my first drop spindle yarn.

Yarn Ball

Yarn Ball

 

Thanks for listening to my spinning story!