Thursday, 17 December 2009

Ircona



I've just realized that I've never given any information about the company I'm working for.

To copy straight from the Ircona website
The IRCONA team is responsible for delivering a range of complex products to market both on time and to plan.

These products have generated in excess of $400M in revenues over the past eight years. We have worked with customers throughout the world, including Europe, USA and Japan, in providing Specialized Design Services.

Ircona is a world leader in high speed processor based design for SuperComputers Servers, Single Board Computers, Embedded Processing, Communications, Remote Management (embedded within products) and High Reliability.

IRCONA is also a world leader in high end complex BIOS customizations and a development partner for Phoenix Technologies, a world leader in BIOS solutions.

We are located in a 15,000 sq. ft., state of the art facility, in West Dublin, close to the M50 and Dublin Airport.


Our main services are BIOS customization, Outsourced Development, Neatshore DEsign Services, Test Services and iTess Services. We have a range of highly qualified engineers who have been working together for the last 10-15 years. Although Ircona itself is only about 8 years old, the majority of the staff here used to work for the R&D section of Stratus Technologies working on Fault Tolerant systems such as the Continuum ftserver range. With this kind of history and symbiosis as a team, we are one of the best, if not the best in the market at the moment for outsourced development and BIOS customization.

In the last year, we became the Master Distributor Phoenix Technologies in BIOS customization, which puts us in a great position for BIOS, UEFI development at both OS and embedded levels.

We are also currently hiring the following positions and we don't hire from recruitment agencies.

Marketing Executive, Graduate Level
Graduate Engineer Embedded Software
Graduate Engineer Hardware Design

So, if you think you got what it takes, have a look at the website, contact us at info[at]ircona.com and good luck.

Monday, 23 November 2009

KOTOR2 Gaming issues on Win Vista 64bit


Ok, so I've been driven demented since I bought this game. It was pain enough that it took me 4 CD's to install the game, but when I installed it, the game ran once before it decided not to work again. The error I kept getting was that it needed some NVidia Detonator drivers 45.23 before it would work. Now I searched the web and tried to find these drivers for Vista 64bit. I eventually found it, downloaded it and installed it. Tried to run the game again, still no work. I updated my drivers for my graphics card. Still no luck getting the game to run. I can't even update the game at the moment as it tells me it can't find the update file.

So in the normal fashion, I decided GIYF (google is your friend), I googled the error I was getting and I came across some official Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 forums. Their first recommendation which helped to find the core of the problem, is to turn off sound in the configure menu. The game can now be played without problems, however without sounds. Playing the game without sound is unnacceptable though. I actually found out the issue is actually with the file mss32.dll. This is the Miles sound driver that is used in the game. The forums recommended downloading another version of this file. Unfortunately, their links were dead and I only found one arhaic version of this file which made no difference at all. So assuming that the game is using the same driver as it's predecessor, KOTOR1, I decided to try something mad. Now I've just recently finished the first game, so I still have it installed. I decided to copy the mss32.dll file from the KOTOR directory into the SWKOTOR2 directory. Tried to launch the game again and lo and behold it works without a problem. I've now progressed a fair amount in the game without seeing any problems.

What I don't understand is, that the version of mss32.dll for KOTOR2 is 6.6.7.0 and the one I replaced it with is 3.0.0.0. In my thinking, I would assume this would not work, however, I was wrong. So anyone having a problem with KOTOR2, try the older version of mss32.dll, it's much better than playing the game without sound.

Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra


On Saturday night, my lovely girlfriend brought me to see Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra. Now I've been dying to see Bill Bailey for some time, I've seen a load of his DVD's: Cosmic Jam, Part Troll, Tinselworm and many more. He's a very well spoken, talented, musical genius. He always tries to intertwine music and comedy and he does so in a magnificent fashion.
In this Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, he has gone one step further to making his show almost completely musical in nature. He tries to educate people like myself who can't tell the difference between an oboe and a trumpet. He brings us around each instrument and uses popular music and theme tunes from shows to help us remember and understand the magic that is the orchestra. Memorable moments include Mr. Bailey introducing us to the Oboe with the a classical piece, he then gently strips away all the instruments to show us that the oboe was in fact playing the tune to Staying Alive by the BeeGees.
From Nokia ring tones to the theme tune of Emmerdale Farm and Alpine cow bells, he shows us all that orchestral music makes everything sound epic.

An incredible show, I'd recommend it to everyone.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Yesterday I got the best email ever in the world. EA finally sent me an invitation to take part in their Beta program for Command & Conquer 4. It's the final in the Command & Conquer series. As far as I know, EA are only handing out these invitations to contest winners. The contest was to come up with the name for the final game in the series. Now I know my entry was Tiberium Twilight and the winner was Tiberian Twilight. So I'm a little unsure about how I got it. Still though, I'm happy as Larry. Unfortunately I'm under an NDA with EA, the only information I'm allowed disclose is that I'm a part of the Beta Program. I'm not allowed mention anything about what new units, gameplay or anything to do with the game.
I will however let you know that it is shaping up quite nicely and I will thoroughly enjoy being part of the Beta Program. Believe me, when it's finished it will be well worth the wait.

I believe I will go ahead and pre-order the game as well, when it is released. With the pre-order comes an autographed photo of Kain. I can't wait.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Update: Businees Trips and Gaming


Alright, so I haven't posted in a while. I've been up to my tonsils with my current projects in work and busy with things at home. Things have gone quiet momentarily which I like for the moment. I've changed the look of the Blog Page, I really didn't like the old look, it was too dark and had a bit of a 90's webpage look about it. I still don't like this one too much, I'll eventually have to make my own bitmaps.

Last week I was away on a business trip to Venice. My first business trip ever, I was so happy and excited. I was also mad anxious and worried about being good enough for the task in hand. Basically I was sent to oversee the manufacturing tests for the boards that I helped to design. The test plan was written by yours truly so I was anxious to see how accurate and correct my tests would be. It all went well, I successfully aided the bring-up and I was very successful. One week all expenses paid, huge meals of amazing Italian food and wine, long days of working and I was knackered but very satisfied. I celebrated with a bottle of Venetian Bellini with my lovely girlfriend upon arriving home and proceeded to sleep for as much of the weekend as possible.

Games I've been playing lately. Since last time I updated here, I bought, played and finished Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Starcraft. I just started playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 and I'm very excited to see what the sequel has in store for me. I'm building up for the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic game coming out sometime in 2010.

I've also gone and bought, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. I played the first two and enjoyed them. But that was back in the day of the point and click adventure. Am I beyond that now? Will it still be enjoyable? I'll let you know as soon as I start.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Quick Update

So I've been on holidays for the last two weeks, well actually I got back last Thursday and I haven't blogged up here yet. I'm kinda getting bored of all this blogging at the moment. No one's reading and it's all uninteresting anyways.

News:
Went on holiday to Spain for two weeks, spent two nights in Barcelona, had tapas and paella, then got drunk. Then hit Salou for 11 nights, 7 nights in the EuroSalou hotel, 4 nights in the Valencia Park hotel. We ended up paying something like 50euro a night for both hotels, great price, we were well lucky with some awesome last minute deals. Recession is great for price dropping.
Hit Barcelona again for one last night, stayed in the Kabul hostel, got the tour bus round the city and my bag got robbed on Las Ramblas, the most famous streets of Barcelona for theft. Bag was locked super tight, no idea how they did it so quick and silent. They got passport, driving licence, digital camera, my new glasses and my credit cards. D'oh! Barcelona is now called the City of Thieves to me.
As a result I wont be having many photos up online here for a bit until I get a new camera.

Went to a wedding there at the weekend for a Mrs Cora and Mr. Damien Smith. Used to live with them in their apartment in Northwood, Santry. Thats where I met my lovely girlfriend Ciara. Wedding was fantastic, with a sweets theme. My teeth are still hurting from all the sugar that night.

I'm off again to Lyon on the 22nd with my little brother for his 18th. We're flying to Paris and then getting the TGV straight down to Lyon. It actually works out cheaper doing it this way rather than flying straight to Lyon. It should be fun indeed! More on that closer the time.

I've been given my one month's notice in my current place of residence in Royal Oak. Not because I'm a horrible person to live with, just because they need the room for family staying for a while. Gotta check out Daft.ie for somewhere new to live. Daft has never let me down and always sorted me out with somewhere decent to live. Am getting quite good at picking good spots, lets hope the next one goes just as well :D

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cake

The Cake is a lie!

A very tasty lie, but a lie nonetheless.
Even though it was a lie, I thoroughly enjoyed it and you will too.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

High Density Vs Low Density DDR2 RAM


I've been looking into getting myself some more RAM for my PC. So I looked online and watched eBay for a good price. So I made sure to look out for the exact same as what I have DDR2, PC2-6400, latency timings of 4-4-4-12, speed 800MHz, no ECC and unbuffered. I found an awesome deal with MicroXComputers on eBay, an american company selling 2GB DIMM's for $14 with free postage and packaging. I was well happy. So I bought it, got it all in one piece, threw it in my PC and wondered why it didn't like being in my PC with my two other Crucial 2 x 1GB PC2-6400 DIMM's. Tried it on its own, it worked grand, but in any other mix with the other two DIMM's, it simply wouldn't boot the PC, or it would take an age to get through the POST. I thought to myself, maybe I should have it as a pair instead. But checked around and it shouldn't be a problem.

Anyways, I went back to the listing and noticed this High Density listing it had for that specific DIMM I bought. I spent some time trying to figure out the difference between High Density and Low Density. I found out that Low Density are the better quality DIMM's and the High Density are the cheaper versions.

So you're wondering what are the differences. The difference is to do with how the memory on the DIMM is laid out. Each chip on the RAM DIMM represents a certain amount of memory like 16MB - 256MB. Low Density refers to the density of each of these chips and how they make up the size of the DIMM (1GB = 16 chips of 64Mx8). High Density would have a higher density chip (1GB = 16 chips of 128Mx4). So this must be the reason I can't mix them. I'm assuming the BIOS likes one or the other but not a mix. So I've gone and bought a second one of these high density DIMM's to test around with and get more information out of it.

The easiest way to tell if your DIMM is high density is if there's no name or manufacturer on the DIMM itself. The chips themselves will of course have a manufacturer like Samsung or something. There is no way of telling the difference between the number of these chips on the board as it really all depends on the density of each of the chips and the size of the overall memory on the DIMM itself.

So when looking to buy RAM, make note of the following
1) Speed, ie 800MHz
2) Data Rate, ie 6400
3) RAM type, ie DDR, DDR2, DDR3, RAMBUS (ignoring the older archaic stuff)
4) Density, ie Low or High
5) Latency, ie 4-4-4-12 or for DDR3 7-7-7-20 (otherwise known as the timings)
6) Is it ECC, Registered, fully buffered (slower for servers) or unbuffered.
7) What does your motherboard support?

Here's a quick glossary to the acronyms used above
RAM - Random Access Memory
DIMM - Dual Inline Memory Module
DDR2 - Double Data Rate version 2 (which in its long form is DDR2-SDRAM)
SDRAM - Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory
POST - Power On Self Test
BIOS - Basic Input\Output System
MB - MegaByte (not to be confused with Mb which is MegaBit!)
ECC - Error Correction Code

Monday, 6 July 2009

Tales of Monkey Island

Tales of Monkey Island
Monkey Island has returned yet again for the fifth installment of the series. This time sees Guybrush Threepwood battling against the notorious Ghost Pirate Lechuck yet again as he tries to use the secret powers of the monkeys to make himself a god.

This game is split up into five chapters to be downloaded one a month. It's an interesting concept. I wouldn't mind trying the first one, then if I like it, I'll purchase the next one. Below is a link to Tell Tale Games website where you can sign up and download the game. You better sign up fast as today 6th July is the last day to sign up and get the all inclusive offer to get all five chapters, an exclusive DVD slipcase painted by Steve Purcell, the original creator of Monkey Island, a free TellTale Games episode of your choice and access to an exclusive Monkey Island section of TellTale Games website.

http://www.telltalegames.com/store/talesofmonkeyisland

Belfast Weekend


Just back from a crazy weekend up in Belfast. It was a crazy booze fueled weekend of night clubs, pubs, watching the Lions beat South Africa 29-9, dancing, hostels and that's just the mild stuff. Other parts of the night included talkin to unionists, nationalists, police. We stayed in a hostel with red, blue and white kerbs across the road from the Royal. There was security threats on the train home from Belfast as well, with the run up to the marching season, things were getting hot up there.

I seriously recommend a trip up North, it really is a beautiful place up there, just don't go wearing any Irish sportswear and keep the accent to a minimum.

You should have come, you could have been shot

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ford Fiesta Fixed and roadworthy again

So after a hard day's slog, we finally finished with Ciara's Ford Fiesta. We replaced the wishbone, the steering strut and another part of the steering connected to the wheel. I'm not great with the names of the parts but it wasn't that hard a job.

Unfortunately, we had a problem with the passenger side door being jammed shut. When the car hit the kerb, the wing on the front left chassis must have been pushed back under the car door frame, which is jamming it from opening. My dad's brother in law recommended an interesting technique for fixing it. So here's what we did, we attached a heavy duty rope to the underside chassis of the car, on the front left, just behind the wheel and attached the other side of the rope to a JCB, then we simply pushed the car away from the JCB as hard as we could to pull the wheel back into place. This took about 4-5 pushes. Now the chassis still needed to be pulled back into place so we attached a piece of wood on either side of the underside of the chassis (where the mudflaps go) and we attached a vice grips and the rope again. We did the same push back technique as mentioned above and next thing you know, we can open the door again.

we brought the car for a quick spin before we realised I had forgotten to mention the ball bearings needed to be replaced. This is noticeable when you drive the car, it'll sound like a loud humming noise (like a jet engine) and when you get out of the car, if you feel the very centre of the wheel (with hub caps off), it'll feel very hot. The next check is to lift the car up with a jack and simply spin the wheel. You may need to take the hand brake off so be very careful with this. If the wheel makes any sort of grinding noise, then the ball bearings need to be replaced.

After a quick job on the bearings and replacing the whole suspension strut, we were ready to go and I drove the car home. What an incredible day, sun was shining and we were out getting filthy fixing this car. Loved every moment.

Now off to Drogheda for a 21st, an open bar and a few good mates.

Friday, 26 June 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

So the King of Pop died yesterday afternoon of a heart attack. May he rest in piece. He was a legend in the pop world and there has never been anyone like him and there probably won't be anyone like him again.

On a dark and sinister note, I've noticed strewn across the web more jokes about his death than anything else. Seriously it was like people were just waiting for him to croak to let off these sadistic forms of humour. I won't deny that I've read a lot of them and laughed at most, but still the fact remains, this gentleman has died, regardless of what he was accused of and all his faults, he did write, sing, perform and entertain us in a way that will live with us forever.

Michael Jackson, Rest In Peace

Monday, 22 June 2009

Loan Applications

I got denied from yet another loan application. I'm not sure where I'm going wrong with these applications but it's really beginning to piss me off. Here's a chance for the banks that I've been banking with to give me a loan to consolidate my debts and earn interest off it and they say no.

I'm in full time employment, have paid off loans before and my credit rating over the last 6 months has been pretty good. I'm beginning to wonder is there something written somewhere about me that's not very flattering. I'm eager to get to the bottom of this and sort it all out. I'm very unhappy with not being able to pay off my debts right now and pay a lot less interest.

Currently I owe an amount to MBNA and Bank of Ireland. I'm trying to close my account with Bank of Ireland and my credit card with MBNA. This loan would help me achieve that as I'm losing money hand over foot to their very painful interest rates. By taking out a loan I would save loads of money and my current bank would earn the interest off the loan I would get off them instead of giving the possible money to MBNA and BoI respectively.

More to come on this.

-Mike P.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Fixin up a Ford Fiesta


So here's a project I will be workin on next weekend, the 27th, 28th of June.

My girlfriend had a problem with her nice little Ford Fiesta that she bought in Kelly's of Kilcock. The wheel seized up and she hit a kerb. It sounds like there was a problem with the car before she hit, either way the wishbone in the front left wheel was snapped. There may also be damage to the drive shaft as well, we've yet to find out exactly what the story is.

Anyways, the car was sent back to Kelly's and they gave a quote of 1800 euro to repair the damage. The car cost 2000 euro so you can imagine how annoyed she was with this quote. With a bit of haggling, they got it down to 1400 euro, which is still way too much money for what's involved.

So I figured I'd ask my Dad who knows quite a bit about cars to go inspect the damage and try get a feel if we can do the job ourselves. One quick trip to Kelly's and we figure we can do it. Another short trip to Higgin's Scrap yard (Kilcock car recycling centre) and we found out we can get the part off another car for about 30 euro. To tow the car to my grandad's around the corner could cost another little bit. So all in all the main goal is to get it all under 100 euro which is totally achievable. It's not a huge job unless we find out the drive shaft is damaged. There's also a possibility the gearbox is damaged as well. We hope it isn't as this is a much bigger job to do.

Higgin's scrap yard was amazing, it was like a children's playground for people who like to fix cars and build things. Will post a pic later to this blog to show how cool it looked.

-Mike

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Ideas Ideas Ideas...

So I've got another idea for a little program I want to get cracking on. One thing that bugs me is that I've no clue about what tax I'm currently paying and how much money I'm possible owed or am liable to claim back on.

So my idea is, is to write a small program in Visual Basic which would ask you a few important questions and then give you a run down of all the tax you are liable to pay and what you can reclaim back. Also I want to try and embed a form filling tool which will fill in the necessary forms for you and then you can just print it off.

I've taken my inspiration from the Australian Government website which has a little program which does the very same thing. Taxback.com were offering to do my tax for me at a percentage of what I earned, I originally signed up with them but when they lost all my forms and became a serious pain in the butt to sort things out with, I searched how to do the tax back forms myself. In the end, I found the program on the government website, it sends off the necessary forms, it took half an hour to fill and I made more money back on it that way. If only it was that simple here....

... hence the reason why I want to write the program myself for FREE!!


Check out Australia's e-Tax here and a demonstration of how it works here.

I'm sorry the link for e-Tax is no longer available, but if you watch the demo, it looks pretty cool. The next version, e-Tax 2009, is available to download on 1st July.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Release Date for Assassin's Creed 2


Finally a release date for Assassin's Creed 2. Here's another game I can't wait to get my hands on. The long awaited sequel will have you sneaking and killing in fancy and very cool ways across the city of Venice during what looks like the Renaissance era.

You still play as an assassin living a past life in memory retrieval machine from the first game. The full story hasn't been divulged yet, but I'm really looking forward to it.
See the Assassin's Creed Official E3 Trailer on youtube here!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Release Date for Bioshock 2



Finally a release date for the long awaited sequel of the game that brought us thousand's of leagues under the sea to the awesome city of Rapture. Bioshock is expected stateside on November 3rd and for those of us this side of the atlantic, we get it a few days earlier on 30th October. The game is looking to be a roaring success as you play as one of the original Big Daddy's trying to escape the clutches of a grown up little sister, known as the Big Sister. She's looking recruit more little sisters to build an army.

Playing as one of the Big Daddy's, you'll be able to use the drill from the original game and numerous other weapons. You'll be able to use plasmid's as well, this time you're able to mix plasmid's to send things like flaming bees at your enemies.

If you liked the first game, you'll love this one even more. I'm dying for it's release, alas I must wait and enjoy Fallout 3 for the moment.

Check out an awesome Big Sister trailer here!

-Mike

Fallout 3



I'm slowly getting back into gaming again and what better way than playing Fallout 3. What an awesome game. You play as an escapee of Vault 101, one of the many vaults which helped to protect many humans from the nuclear wars that spread outside. In search of your father, you traverse the wasteland to find him and try and understand what happened to this world which had been hidden away from you for so long. Interesting gameplay and things to do like making your own weapons, specialising as a ladykiller and getting bio enhancements are just some of the beauts of this game. The whole terrain is completely open for exploration and it is recommended to do as many as the side objectives in the game as possible as finding your father, means you finish the game quicker and miss most of the beauty of the game.

There's a moral meter int he game as well, for when you do good and when you do wrong. It's measured in Karma and this affects how you play the game and what kind of person you become. Certain Karma types allow for different gameplay and access to different weapons and missions. So as soon as I finish playing the good guy I'm going to come back and play the game again as one mean son of a b*tch.

I'd recommend this game to anyone who's played Half Life, Bioshock or any RPG's out there. For anyone who enjoys a good story line or for those of you who like to ponder moral dilemnas, then this is the game for you.

-Mike

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

People Per Hour

I think I've mentioned this in my twitter before, but here's an interesting site called People Per Hour.

The basic idea behind it is, people ask a question or request a job to be done (mostly computer related) and others place bids on answering or doing the requested job. Once the bid is accepted, money is then transferred. Great idea. I think I'll keep watch and see if I'm able to do anything with it.

Peopleperhour.com

Ideas Ideas Ideas...

A while ago I was looking at TCP offload engines (TOE) and I thought it was a very interesting idea.

TCP Offload engines have been around for a while. Basically what they do is take processing load off of the CPU by taking the entire TCP/IP stack and processing it within the network controller. Why would you want this?

The rule for any telecomms system at the moment is that to transmit one bit of information to another system takes 1 hertz. When you're transmitting 1000bits (125bytes), this is only 1000hertz, which ain't so bad. However when you scale this up, it gets very large indeed and you'd barely believe how much processing power it takes away from you when you're trying to do other work at the same time and it will inevitably bring the system to a stand still until the transmission is complete. When you think of the likes Gigabit ethernet (1000,000,000 bits per second), this will take 1GHz of processing power from your PC which could be used for gaming or other processing intense programs. This is only in half duplex (single direction). Full Duplex would be twice this which is up to 80% of your systems current capabilities.

The problem with the TCP offload engines is that they are difficult to use and hard to customise to each system. If the telecomms system changes, it will need to be re-programmed to the specific system. This is awkward unless you're using the same system the whole time.

Dell have actually brought systems out in their ninth generation PowerEdge servers.
For more information on TCP OE, check out wikipedias site here.

Ideas Ideas Ideas...


Here's another idea that I've been trying to play with lately.

I've been looking into noise cancelling technology. However they only seem to work on headphones for the moment. I'd like to be able to attach these to the likes of fans where there's a low frequency hum. Noise cancelling only really works for low frequency waves as it is able to reproduce the opposing wave to cancel it.

Just as a quick physics mention here. Waves work in peaks and troughs (they go up and down). To cancel a wave, you must recreate each peak's or trough's exact opposite. This opposing wave must match the original's wave amplitude and wavelength. That's the basics, don't want to go into too much detail here.

Anyway, my idea is based upon PC cooling fans and trying to eliminate the noise of them completely. To build it, I would get one small microphone pointing away from the fan. I may need to add multiple microphones around the fan for this to work completely. Then using a speaker alongside the fan and connecting circuitry between the microphones and speaker we can then produce it's inverted wave.

Unfortunately this is a slightly difficult task. Waves do not just travel in the one direction, they radiate in every direction and this is where the problem lies.
Hopefully, because I just want to cut out the noise of fans specifically, I can achieve this goal without having to do too much work on it.

Ideas Ideas Ideas...

Here's an idea.

How about an in car text messaging system. You know when you're out on the road and you want to contact someone but you don't want to necessarily call them. However texting while driving is difficult, dangerous and illegal. Well how about a system built into your wireless/handsfree kit which uses speech recognition and converts it straight to text. Can't imagine this being a huge problem.

I notice in Toytota's Prius, there's a little screen in the dash to show the cars systems. The text message could be displayed here temporarily before being sent.

I can't imagine this to be a huge problem to achieve.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Bodies exhibition

Bodies Exhibition

I surprised my girlfriend with tickets to go see the Bodies exhibition in the Ambassador on O'Connell street. She'd been dying to go for ages. It's not something I would normally go to see on my own.

We were quite hungover after a night out in the Sublounge. The dark lighting was a little easier on our aching heads. The exhibit was amazing. Everything is taken from real human bodies. Apparently the bodies were all chinese people. The work involved in preserving the bodies and presenting them in the stalls to show off the incredible masterpiece which is the human body. From being able to see the bones of the ear, every muscle in the body, the nervous system and dissections of the body in incredible detail, it really was a treat to be able to see so much.

A few exhibits outlined the damage to internal organs and was enough to put any smoker off their disgusting cancer sticks.

The most shocking display was the fetus section where you could see fetuses at different stages in the pregnancy. From four weeks old to 3 months, it really was amazing, yet very disturbing. I thought it would be an apt display for any anti-abortion campaign.

I'd recommend this Bodies exhibit to anyone. It closes 26th July, so get there quick.

Super Splits

Just found the most awesome drink ever last night. Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and Club Orange, it tastes exactly like a Super Split ice cream! Best drink ever!

Friday, 29 May 2009

iGoogle



I'm really enjoy iGoogle. It gives me daily updates from the Irish Times, New York Times, RTE News, RTE Business, BreakingNews.ie, BBC News and People.com with the latest in news and gossip. I find it a great way to start or finish the day by keeping up to speed with the world around me.

I also have get a photo of the day from National Geographic (Today's Atlatntic Walrus, Canada). They are all really astounding, Google have done some impressive things with their search engine and they keep doing more and more.

The picture on the right is taken from the gadget 1000 places to See Before you Die. It's a picture of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

I recommend anyone to have a look at it at least and see what they think.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Aardvark


A friend of mine recommended me and invited me to Aardvark. He mentioned a little bit about what it was to me so I figured I may as well check it out.

You can add it in different ways into a few messaging services. I decided to add it to my gmail. It adds itself as a contact and you talk to it as you would anyone else in gtalk. The basic idea is that you ask this contact Aardvark a question and it tries to figure what tags to attach to the question before sending it to other people who have these tags added to their profile to answer these questions. Aardvark then asks these people these questions and gives the option to answer it, pass, skip or busy. If the tag doesn't belong to a group it sends it to people who have offered to receive any question if it doesn't have a tag or an answer. I've asked it a few questions now already and I've liked the responses.

One example is: “Does anybody know a good restaurant in Dublin to bring my girlfriend?”

Answer:
Cillian:
Mona Lisa's is a good restaurant on d'olier street that has a good menu, nice atmosphere, won't break the bank and is quite romantic


So check it out, tis a good program and very easy to use. It is new and it won't be able to answer every question you ask.

Check it out at http://vark.com

PC Gaming, I'm back!!



So I finally logged back into Steam last night for the first time in a long time and I think I'm gonna try get back into gaming like I used to. I really do miss the all nighters. I think since I quit World of Warcraft I haven't been able to play like I used to. Plus having a girlfriend and having travelled around the world also changes things a little. No longer will I be a lonely gamer longing for uber nerd girl to touch me or look at me or cyber. Now I've got a hot girlfriend who'll tell me to come to bed instead of playing stupid games, haha.

Anyways, I've added a quick pic here that I added as my avatar last night. It's from Dead Space, a truly magnificent game that I've been playing on and off for a few months now. It's terrible, I bought this game for my brother for christmas and I haven't given it the proper time it deserves. I recommend checking this game out, if you liked F.E.A.R., any of the Half Life series or Doom 3, then you'll like this. It'll send chills up your spine and has a very interesting storyline too. You can also download the movie (Downfall) which gives you the background story to the game. You can find it on youtube in parts. It's a pity the movie wasn't put on the disk along with the game. It's animated and nothing amazing, but it's always good to see some background story before playing.

A little inspiration

Ok, so I know this blog has not been the most inspiring or interesting in anyway whatsoever. So taking a little inspiration from Robin Blandford of ByteSurgery, Why This Blog?, I've agreed with my old college buddy Robin who I studied Telecommunications with, and I think I will stop hiding my ideas and thoughts that I've been trying to store in hidden places all the time to never be looked at again ever and actually write them out. Why not sure? Hopefully someday someone will read them and pay me to stop giving people ideas to use.

Today I was talking with my Dad about how cheap shopping up north has been. Now I know everyone's giving out that we should shop in the Republic so the taxes go into our government and economy. But why? they just go into a corrupt government that is only now seeing all the corruption happening over the last few years. I find it kind of funny to think that when the recession hits, only then do people watch where the money goes, beforehand these big public figures had no problem hiding their dealings by paying everyone off.

Anyways, the idea is a small business idea, until these prices become a little more reasonable, a small logistics company could do people's shopping up north for a small fee and have it delivered directly to your door. Get a big van, do a number of people's shopping for a small fee and you've made a few quid while probably doing your own shopping up north as well, sweet as. We all save a little money and a lot of fuel.

Friday, 15 May 2009

I've finally added AdSense

Let's see if Google will actually pay me for each click on their advertisements on my page. I can't tell you to do this as it is against the rules of AdSense, but do feel free to do so ;)

They got some very stringent rules that they adhere to and since Google practically own the internet, it's probably best not to mess with them.

2nd job

Looks like I'll now be working for Face2Face, spot me in the streets trying to get out to sign up to great charitable causes. Show your good side, sign up with me and I'll buy ya a pint, oh yeah!

More to come on this one, hopefully I'll have a photo of me in uniform next week.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Interview for part time job

I've got an interview for a part time job tomorrow. Hopefully I get it, I need the money. Funds have been crap lately and I can't seem to pay off any of these debts.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Quick update

Yikes' I've been crazy busy the last two weeks now, haven't had a chance to play with my new gadgets yet. I think this weekend I'll finally get to do something with them.

Unfortunately my good friend has an important dissertation to attend to before he can jump back on board of this tasty project. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to do anything with it.

So until the weekend, I've nothing really to say for the moment.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Recieved first items


Ok, so I've received my very first components for our project.
Still awaiting quotes back for the transparent acryllic.

In the pic, you can see the IR LED's, they're purple, the green components are the resistors, they're big yokes and the dark coloured one is the PhotoDiode for later testing.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

First Items Ordered

Ok, I've finally ordered the first batch of items from Farnell. Unfortunately, they only allow orders over 35euro so I had to add a few more items as well. I figured it'd be a good idea to buy a set of noise cancelling headphones as well for my other project.

Anyways, I ordered the following

40x IR LED's, 880nm, SFH485P (16.80 euro)
10x WireWound 51ohm, 5% tolerance, 3W tolerance resistors (3.70 euro)
1x IR Filtered PhotoDiode SFH203-FA (0.75 euro)
for further tests and reducing the overall size of screen.
1x MUX/DEMUX SN74HC4851D for another project (0.75 euro)
1x pair of noise cancelling headphones (15.58 euro)

Hopefully these should arrive in the next few days and I can start taking photos.
I look forward to it.

The transparent acryllic is going to be the tough bit to get. Maybe Stephen has had some luck with it.

Monday, 20 April 2009

FTIR

So I'm beginning a new project which should be fairly cool. It was my good friend Stephen who introduced me to the idea and got the ball rolling on the whole thing. The idea is based on FTIR, Frustrated Total Internal Reflection. What we're going to be doing with this technology is using it to make our very own multi-touch screen device.

Using NUI's (swedish college, not Maynoot) walkthrough on how to setup and build the apparatus. The software libraries have been provided and details on how to build, design and source the whole thing is all documented on their website.

It's looking to be a very interesting project and I hope to start taking pictures of it as soon as we get our components together and start working on it. Current start date is 2nd May 2009.

Watch this space....

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Recession stuff

I've mentioned nothing about the recession and my thoughts about it and how it affects me in this blog yet.

I suppose I should. I just filled out another survey asking me about how my spending has changed since the recession. To be honest, it hasn't really. I went to Australia last year on a whim to chase after my current girlfriend and I racked up a load of debts or about 15,000 euro. That's some amount and I've been trying to pay them off as quick as I can. It hasn't been easy. So I've been fairly careful with my money since I got home anyways.

But the recession has begun to affect me, I've received a 10% pay cut, my PAYE and PRSI deductions have increased. I'm beginning to ask where does my money I pay in taxes go to. How come I'm not seeing the effect of this money and how come the country is still in a wreck of a state?

What would I change in the government?
1) Loopholes allowing people not to pay tax
2) Decrease number of days a year a person has to be in country to pay tax
3) Don't reintroduce college fees. In fairness it only counts for first degree anyways.
4) More money to hospitals, less money to doctors.
5) Loopholes for accountants to keep their money, everyone should have this knowledge and ease of access to these without studying for years.
6) Accountability to bank managers for loss of money, stop bailing out these banks that should be let fall and suffer the consequences of their actions, why let everyone else suffer for their faults.

The Fatcats are running this country and they are in no way innocent of cutting corners or helping themselves make and save money. I'm tired of wanting to spoil my vote come election time because I know the worst party will win and screw us over some more.

The statistics show that 60% of the money made from taxes is made by the middle class workers, the guys and gals who work their arses off from day to day. Not the upper tier of management, not the guys who make all the money and cream the profits come pay day. Not the guys who run this country into the ground telling us we have to tighten our belts as they stuff their faces with another slice of extra large chocolate cake.

Well there's a rant, my first for this blog. My facts aren't always right, but I hope people focus on the meaning and the point as opposed to the semantics and the accuracy of what I say.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

To be updated

I've noticed some odd comments on some of my blogs below and I'm thinking maybe I need to update this page more and get photos into it.

Unfortunately I can't take photos of things I'm actually working on, but I suppose I could take photos of the tools and use photos from other places online.

I also think I need to restrict exactly how much information I give out about what I'm working on as it can affect the Non Disclosure Agreements I've signed with regards the projects I'm working on. Let's just say I'm working on some pretty cool stuff that I'd love to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Ah well.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

This Blog looks boring

So I'm noticing my blog looks very boring and uninteresting. I think I'm going to have to start uploading photos. This weekend is the ideal time to start that.

Might try and fit more into it as well.

Alternate income

So the company I'm working for have finally admitted that we ain't doing as well as we'd hoped. They've gone and announced a 10% cut across the board, no one is free from it. It's very fair but at the same time, why does it have to be me?

Anyways, I suppose this means I'm going to have to up the anti and start looking for an alternate income or maybe even a replacement job.

Also on another note, I hear college fees might be coming back in. Should I try and squeeze out a Masters before it goes full force and ruins any ideas I had of continuing my formal education. Maybe I'm just best using Google as my teacher to find me all the material I need to educate me in the ways of engineering or lead me to sites where I can buy books to sort this out.

Laters

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Business Ideas, ways to make money

Since I finished college I've been constantly coming up with ideas for ways to make things easier and for me to make money off.

A lot of the ideas get thrown in the bin, but there's still a load of them that are fairly viable.

After reading part of Google's founders (Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page) thesis, I'm really beginning to feel that it is part of my destiny to come up with at least one great idea, design it, make it, market it and make money off it. Hopefully I won't just use one idea but many.

At the moment, I'm looking into a number of different technologies to get myself going. I really wish I wasn't doing this on my own, wish I knew someone else who is a hardware engineer about the same age as myself and at about the same level. Most of my friends are software people and any of the hardware guys I've known are off travelling the world or they've changed careers completely. Of the 100 engineers in my year, I would say less than 10% are working as engineers at the moment.

I'm a little skeptical about putting my ideas up here but at the same time, I know nobody reads this blog so there's nothing for me to worry about really.

As one of my friends told me recently, it's in times like these during recession that entrepeneurs are forced to show their true colours. Will I be one of them or am I going to dissappear into the background? Hate to use a cliché but time will tell.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Home Projects

So I've just ordered a decent soldering iron from eBay for about 10euro. After spending 40euro in Maplin the other day, hardly buying enough components to fill my pockets, I decided I need to start buying my stuff online.

Anyways, with regards the soldering iron, I've now got enough tools to get me going on my way to creating and designing my own gadgets. I've a few little ideas that I'd like to get crackin on to see if I'm really any good at this stuff.

At the moment, I'm going through a little book on music projects. I've bought all the components for an electronic xylophone and I hope to have this built by the end of the week. I think Paddy's day is going to get in the way of this though.

My ideal goal is to have a go at noise cancelling technology and from there, I've got an idea, if it works can make me some nice amount of money.

ReWorking experience

Been doing a load of rework lately, it's great, I'm a little scared though. These boards are worth more than ten grand each and here I am with a soldering iron taking lumps out of them. It's all good though so far, I've nearly finished the first set of rework to be done. One day we'll have a fully functional board. Why don't all the components work first time like they say they do in the datasheets??

Ah well, it makes life more fun.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Update on my C++ learning

So I've finally stopped looking through that awful code I've been given to modify. It's a pure mess and to be honest, I don't know enough about either C or C++ to go and try and figure it out. So I've taken a day or two out of messing with the code and got myself a copy of Sam's Visual C++ in 21 days. I'm going to try and do it all in about 3 days, it's fairly simple stuff and I've been through most of it before. I really need the background for this code and for trying to figure out how to find out exactly what's going on and how I can modify it without getting a load of compile time errors.

So I've finally gotten my head around using Visual Studio 2008: Standard Edition. It's a very handy tool when you want to write in C, C++ and Visual Basic. I'm not sure what else it does. Currently I'm only writing out test code in a Win32 project environment just to get a feel for the functions and operators mentioned in the Visual C++ book.

I really should be spending this time watching and learning from the other guys here as they debug the server board. It hasn't been fully powered on yet as we've had some initial problems with incorrect voltage levels throughout the board. We finally got the voltage monitors, so we can actually power up the rest of the board. These were part of the power good circuit and held back the powering up of most of the standby voltages and IC's throughout the board. Current problem lies in the 1.8V we're receiving for the onboard DDR3 RAM, when we should be getting 1.5V. We think the problem lies with the DC/DC convertor and that the internal sense resistor has been modified from it's original settings in the datasheets. I can't say anymore for the moment, but that should suffice for the minute.

Now, back to C++

Now I'm a twitter person

Ok, I've joined twitter, Still don't see the point. I'll give it a few days.
Find me under the name Pyrolith. I'd link, but where's the fun in that?

I've been a member for about 5 minutes and I've got 3 followers already. That's just plain weird, I've nothing to say and even less time to be saying it.

Twittering eh?

Twitter this, twitter that. To be honest, I don't think I'm mad about the whole idea. It's been referred to as a 10 second phone call, except instead of one person, it goes out into the twittersphere (not sure if its a word, but sure why not?). Either way it goes out to many many people.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I get the point of throwing a message out into the void for the sake of joining in with the masses and being able to say that I'm not old, I've joined the latest trend out there, therefore I must be cool.

At the same time, now that I've written this blog, I'm tempted to go and see what all the fuss is about. More on this later.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Board in from manufacturing

So we received our big beautiful board back from manufacturing and it's cool. This is the first project I've worked heavily on, with regards to design, researching components, sourcing components and verifying correct connections. It's a very dense board, there's barely any room for any other additions and everything is packed tight.

Anyways, when a new board like this comes in, the last thing we do, is power it up. There's a whole load of tests that need to be done first. First test is to check what parts are missing throughout the board. Then we must check to make sure that the components that should not be populated on the board are not there. At the same time, where these devices shouldn't be, there should still be a pad if we need to add a component at a later stage of testing.

Next step is to check the orientation of all the tantalum capacitors, ensuring that the positive is connected to the correct power line. Orientation checks must also be done for all integrated circuits, diodes, LED's, inductors, crystals and any transistors or 3 legged circuits by carefully observing pin 1 against the board file (created before manufacturing by our SI team).

Next we need to ensure that there are no shorts between the power lines ranging from 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.5, 3.3, 5 and 12 volt lines. Ideal resistance should be greater than 400ohms, unless there is a sense resistor involved (these need to be worked out exactly), but there should never be a complete 0ohm resistance between any two planes.

Checking these same planes, we verify them against each other to make sure there is no shorts between each voltage plane. Rules go the same as I mentioned above for checking ground shorts.

After all these checks have been and the necessary components have been fixed, it is now possible to power on the board and perform voltage checks throughout the board to verify correct function of all the DC-DC converters.

The rest of the tests after this become much more complicated and specific to each project depending on what IC's there are on the board and the device's functionality and specifications.

All in all, this board is going to be very interesting for me, I know most of the parts already and what they should be doing, so I'm not completely in the dark this time.

3 USB modem (E169g)

Since moving into my new apartment, I've been mad to get broadband in the house. None of the others were interested so I figured now I could get a line all to myself. However, there's no phone connection in my room and setting up a land line broadband connection would cause more hassle and annoyance that I don't want to create.

So I searched around for wireless broadband. I've heard of a few Clearwire, Irish Broadband, Digiweb and a few others. They all seemed pretty expensive to me and I know all about the problems with Irish Broadband (I used to work for them and I will never use them as an ISP, enough said). I didn't really like the sound of any of these. Too pricey, fixed contracts and a service history to cringe at.

Then I found mobile broadband. I'm not saying it's the light at the end of the tunnel, but its a nice little package. The Huawei modems from O2, Vodafone and 3 seem to be the more popular modems out there. Having done a little research, 3 seemed to offer the best pricing and service out there. 20euro a month, E169G modem is free upfront and the day I joined, they had just upped their cap limit to 15GB so I was very happy that day. It boasts download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps (apparently possible to achieve up to 7.2Mbps on online forums). I was told that 3 have a deal with Vodafone and they share their mobile infrastructure. My only worry was how decent a signal will I receive from my house? They were only able to tell me that they cover all of Dublin. I figured that'd be good enough, with a 14 day option to cancel the contract, I went for it.

All went well for the first few days. I was able to download anything I want, no limits on various programs using the net, no blocking of ports. I was very happy until AVG asked me to download the latest virus definitions. Then for 2-3 days I was without internet, trying desperately to unplug, replug it back in, restarting the computer, uninstalling programs that I thought would affect it. I finally gave in and phoned tech support. The tech support guy was very helpful and stayed for full resolution. He informed me that some Anti-virus software programs conflict with the device. I was annoyed to hear this, but figured I don't get much trouble with viruses anyway and proceded to uninstall it. Finished the call and thought all was fine until the next day, it wouldn't work again. I eventually went into msconfig and selected Selective startup (unticked the box where it says Load Startup items) and I've left my PC like that ever since. It works, I'm able to run everything I want and I'm happy for the moment.

Except now I want to be able to use it in my installation of Ubuntu. I've searched the web for some explanations and tutorials (Ubuntu Forums)and I'm going to have a go at it later. I've heard rumours it works faster too. I can but hope. More on this when I get it working :D

Thursday, 19 February 2009

High-side sensing

Ok, I've finally finished those tests for power consumption for the board that has the RF antenna on it. Only difference is, the low-side sensing wouldn't work for me. I forgot I had a serial port connection, which obviously has a ground shield on it, so not all the current was returning through the negative terminal. Leaving me with crappy results in the region of 50mV when it should have been a good solid 2V.

Anyways, for high-side current sensing, the shunt resistor needs to be added on the positive wire. However, adding this resistor on the wire will cause a voltage drop and will decrease the voltage into my device. By how much, you say? Ask Mr. Ohm and his law, (V=IR), it just keeps coming back up. So there's about 2V drop across the shunt. I needed to increase the bench supply by about 1.7 volts, thus compensating the drop and ensuring 12V input to my device. With my negative terminal grounded and all my other connections setup, I needed to sort out the oscilloscope traces. Again, I need to find the drop across the resistor to find the current consumption. I add one probe on one side of the shunt and another probe to the other side. Both probes can be grounded on the ground terminal. Now all you have to do is get the trace on the scope, subtract the differences under different operations and divide by the shunt resistance to get your current. Now I'm finally done and back to my C++ project.

Current Sensing

I've been working another project in parallel with my C++ programming stuff and it's been interesting to say the least. I think I may have mentioned a DVT on a small little board a few weeks back. Anyway, I've been given the task of doing tests on the power consumption of this board. Simple enough you may think. It was, but now it's slightly more complicated.

First off, I just attached a digital multimeter in series with the negative terminal to the DC power supply. I made all my measurements through this, and it worked grand. Unfortunately, we have an RF board attached and when this is powered, I need to measure for current spikes. The multimeter won't catch these as they'll be quick. So I found I need to attach a shunt and an oscilloscope to the works.

Now this is where it all became a little more complicated. I've probably got the worst setup ever, but it'll do for the moment. I started reading up on current sensing and found that if I had a current probe with a torsal ring, I could simply attach it onto the wire (unobtrusively), without worrying about change in voltage. Do I have one? No. So I have to figure out the other way to do this. So I need to setup a low-side current sensing circuit in order to take my measurements. What's low-side? This is where I attach a small series resistor with high power rating, breaking the negative terminal. I also have to connect the negative terminal to a grounding point for accurate results. Then I need two traces, one tracking the voltage across the 12V bench power supply and another across the resistor measuring the voltage drop across it.

Now I've used a 10ohm resistor, 5% tolerance and rated at 1/4W, this is not an ideal resistor to use at all. The value should be as low as possible, with a tolerance of 1% or even 0.1% for accurate results as well as a proper power rating. My circuit is operating at 12V, my current load is roughly 0.2 to 0.3A, which means, my power rating should be 4Watts. I'm way off the mark with a 1/4W resistor. As a result I'm going to lose accuracy due to temperature rise.

Now with a proper setup, I should be able to accurately measure any current spikes by recording voltage spikes and doing the necessary maths using good old Ohm's law (Voltage = Current x Resistance). Currently I'm not finding any specific spikes other than plain noise, so I guess my circuit is ok for now.

Trying to learn C++ fast!

For the last week, I've been trying to learn C++ using Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. It's a great tool and a very useful language to know, as well as a great addition to my CV.

However, I've been currently trying to decode someone else's program in order to re-write one section of the code and it's driving me mad. I wish I could just get some program that reads the code, tries to make sense of the code and then explains in comments on each line exactly what is going on. What I want to add is a very simple little adjustment, but the problem lies with using current variables and placing it in the right part of the code, which means I must have a proper understanding of the part that I want to edit.

So I think I'll cheat for the moment instead, I'm just going to add in code as follows
puts ( "In this section, I'm doing....!\n");

This is a simple piece of code which outputs to the stream the text.

That way when I run the code, I can try and figure out where it does what. It's kind of cheating and nor really learning, but I'm under time constraints and this will do for the moment. Next problem, writing the code I want to use.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Operating Systems I've worked with

DOS 6.22
Windows 3.1
Windows 95
Windows 98/ME
Windows NT 4
Windows 2000
Windows Server 2003
Windows XP
Windows Vista (32/64 bit)
MAC OS 9
MAC OS X
Ubuntu 8.10
Red Hat's Fedora 10
Suse 9.0
openSuse 10.2
openSuse 11.1
Suse Entreprise 10.2
FreeBSD 7.1
uCOS
RTOS's

Programming languages I've worked with

PERL
C
C++
Visual Basic
GW Basic (back in the old days)
HTML (and a few other related ones, dhtml, xml, etc)
PHP (very basic)
Assembly (ASM, 8086 and embedded)
UML



This list is not finished yet

C++ and MicroCodes

So yesterday I was given a new project to get cracking on a program that was originally written to display and update micro codes into a BIOS ROM file. The program is written in C++. I've got a little background in the language, but not enough. So I've got my work cut out for me as some people would say.

So microcodes, what are they? Microcodes are made by the CPU engineer up building of a processor. These microcodes act as a fix or a workaround for errors within the processor. They can be stored in a high speed memory usually embedded into the processor itself. They translate machine instructions into sequences of detailed circuit-level operations. Now Wikipedia says they are not supposed to be visible or changeable by a normal programmer of an assembly programmer but this isn't strictly true. These codes can be embedded into the BIOS ROM and flashed to the BIOS PROM, where the microcodes will then be utilized.

So what do I have to do? My job entails taking the current program we have for displaying and updating these microcodes and adapting it to be able to upload microcode blocks into the ROM that may be larger than the microcodes it's replacing. The current program will overwrite adjacent sectors in the ROM, removing other microcodes. So I'm basically going to be working a fix.

So here I go, I've just finished installing Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and I'm looking forward to doing more programming.

System DVT

SO, over the last week, I've been up to fairly boring monotonous stuff. But given that, I've now got exposure to Fedora 10, Suse 10.2, Windows Server 2003, FreeBSD 7.1 and FreeDOS 1.0. Also got to use a number of AMD BIOS utilities through NDA, Linux Firmware Development Kits and other PCI testing programs.

Basically, I was given a system to run a DVT (Design Validation Test) on. The DVT document was already written up and the tests had already passed on its official DVT. I just had to get up to speed with the technology in order to start a DVT on a newer version of the system.

Firstly I had to log into the system remotely over the RLM console (Remote LAN Module) and log into the console via serial. Then with various commands I had to take dumps of the PCI setup with varying different cards installed and setup. I still have a lot to learn on PCI architecture so my checks of the PCI dump were slow. Since the start of this DVT, I've actually started reading my PCI System Architecture book and I'm slowly beginning to grasp what PCI is all about. Then of course when I finish that, I'll be moving onto PCIe. Plenty to do.

Anyway, part of the DVT involved enabling and disabling Option ROM's. These are devices which are called by the BIOS to add functionality to the PC. The most common of these would be a VGA card. You can see exactly when this Option ROM is called by the BIOS as it is the first thing that comes up on screen. Other Option ROM's include network cards, SCSI cards, hard drives (SATA/PATA) or Fibre Optic Channels.

This brings me to IPL. In order to test the robustness of the system, it was necessary to load a number of operating systems onto a hard drive through the system. So I went through the monotony of installing, loading and configuring Windows Server 2003, Fedora Linux 10, FreeBSD, FreeDOS and DOS from a floppy drive. Other similar tests were booting from a USB key and from a PXE server (which I mentioned before).

All in all a very interesting experience. I'm looking forward to using the new system, but that doesn't arrive until next week when I'm gonna test the crap out of it!

Friday, 6 February 2009

PXE Server Still

Ok, I know I said I'd have more information up about this PXE server, but it's been incredibly awkward and difficult. I think I've found a solution though, instead of using Altiris' Deployment software, I've found some very useful software with the GNU GPL, which means I may be able to pull this off. It needs a little tweaking and it seems more complicated than it actually is.

So here it is, I've currently got my Windows XP system down in the lab. The reason I'm not running in Linux is that I need to have Windows running on this machine at the same time as it is running a licence server for a number of tools we use. Anyway, I downloaded VMplayer.exe, it's free Virtual Machine software which allows you to run an image on openSuse 10.2 (my choice) within a windows environment. Within openSuse, I've installed the PXE server, setup the DHCPd and ATFTP servers and setup the filenames and directories in the /srv/tftp/tftpboot folder. In this folder, I've copied initrd and linux files (32 bit and 64 bit, as an option to boot either) as well as the configured pxelinux.0 file. I'm not going to go into it all now, but so far so good. The board hasn't yet recognised the Linux PXE server. I'm hoping this is actually possible as I'm using the VMPlayer and not a proper installation of Suse. I think this is the last attempt at getting this to work that I'll try. After this, I'm just going to have to get a system all by itself and set it up that way. Sure here goes nothing, I'll keep it posted.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Free Dental checkups??

So I've found out I may be eligible for 2 free dental check ups a year. Conditions are that I've been paying PRSI for the last five years (since I'm over 25, under 25's only need 2 years of PRSI).

Phoned up the Department of Social and Family Affairs on 1890400400, listened to their hold music for ages before I eventually got through to someone. I gave them my PPS number and lo and behold, I'm not eligible! I was told you need 260 weeks of paying PRSI to be eligible, I've only got 235, but they also said they need my P60 from 2008, which means I'm more than likely well over the limit as soon as that is sent in. I love finding out about tax benefits I didn't previously know about, especially since I know I need a filling, my tooth's been killing me for ages now and I just didn't have the funds for it.

I think I'm going to look into more ways of getting my tax money back to me. There's all these benefits that I never knew about, I think it's the tax office dirty little secret that they don't want to admit to. In times like these, every penny is a happy penny in my books :D

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

PXE Boot Server

Right, so my next task is to setup a PXE boot server for one of projects. The reason we're using PXE boot is that on the board, we've no hard drive attached and a network boot seems to be the best and fastest option for booting a number of these boards at the same time using the one PC/Server.

So, what's PXE boot? It's a Preboot Execution Environment (PXE, pronounced 'pixie') which allows the user to boot a computer over a network, usually a LAN (Local Area Network), independently of a hard drive or operating system.

-Update: I've been working on trying to get this PXE server up and going for a couple of days now, I've made progress but I'm stuck at trying to get an operating system booted on the motherboard. This is driving me mad. Firstly I was trying to get an image of Windows (any version), but now I've found I need to boot up using linux. This should be pretty easy and straight forward. However, I seem to be missing one or two key parts of the PXE boot process and the program I'm using doesn't give me all the access I need to make the necessary changes. I may have to change what program I'm using.

Here's a quick run-down. I'm using Windows Deployment Services (WDS). MSSQL is needed to install this. This can be installed in the setup menu of WDS by clickin on install third party software. This will connect to the website and download the best matching version. The WDS includes a PXE Boot configuration tool, Boot Disk Creator, Rapid Install Utility and the Deployment Services Console. Within the Console, I should be able to schedule an Initial Deployment (for first time installations) and load an OS from there. Unfortunately all my options seem to point at installing an OS on the local hard drive. I can't do this. I've got a motherboard thats connnected to our network and has a monitor on it. This is all the access I'm allowed to have and this is all I should need. I need to have the motherboard boot using PXE boot into a Linux environment across a networked installation on a remote hard drive. How hard can that be? It ain't hard, it's just awkward.

Did I mention the computer I have to work off of, is currently a licence server for another application here in the building and has to be running Windows for it to work. So goodbye to the easier option of doing it all through Linux.

Did I mention, I've chosen Suse 10.0 or 10.2 (not quite sure which on yet) as this seems to be the popular one here for the company and most people know it. I know there's a dozen other distributions and I should check them out but for keeping things simple, this is probably the best solution.

So right now, my motherboard gets an IP address from our DHCP server, boots from the PXE server, loads Bootworks, loads a DOS image and then throws me into command prompt. So far, so good. I should be able to get this to work, I'm only a step or two off. I just need to find out what I do next.

I'll give a proper rundown of how it works, when I get it to work, for the moment, this is only a log.

Friday, 23 January 2009

22km ski run on the Vallée Blanche

I've spent the last week here in Chamonix in Chalet Chocolat. It's been an amazing and tough week. My legs are just like jelly now, they've been put through their runs over the last few days. But I have to admit, I think it was the 22km off piste run on the Vallée Blanche yesterday that did me in and has me sitting in the chalet all day today. It was incredible though. We hired a snowboarding guide to guide us through the glacier and all the crevasses. Apparently about 10 people die each year trying to get through the glacier. I'm glad we took the safe route and hired a guide.

The scenery was magnificent and I took a load of photos. It was incredible. I'm hoping to have some photos up on my facebook for most of it.

Right, I'm off back to chilling like a villain in this beautiful chalet.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The PN Junction

The PN junction is the most basic junction type. But this is the basis of how diode's work and in a more complicated fashion, the basis of how transistors work.

But before we start with that, maybe a little bit of theory first. I'm going to start with the difference between a conductor, a semiconductor and an insulator. The theory behind all this is very deep and often not necessary to know. Ignoring a lot of the background theory, when looking at the atomic structure of a silicon crystal, energy levels can be detected. There are many of these levels, but as engineers, we're only interested in two, the Valence and the Conductive bands. Now electrons need to move between these bands for current to flow. In a conductor, these electrons move more freely than in an inductor. The difference is measured in the difficulty it takes in moving one electron from the Valence band to the Conduction band.

This is measured in electron Volts (1eV is equal to 1.9 x 10^-19 Joules). Joules is the unit of energy, for example, there are 2000 Joules in a mars bar, which is 478 calories.

Back to the bands, in an inductor, the difficulty in moving the electron from one to the other is typically greater than 5eV. For Semiconductors, this is ranges from 0.5eV to 3eV. Obviously conductors offer very little resistance and are less than 0.5eV. Three common materials used for semiconductor material is:
Silicon (Si): Eg = 1.1eV
Geranium (Ge): Eg = 0.7eV
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs): Eg = 1.3eV
Silicon is of course the most popular of these three as it has a reasonable bandgap and is easy to manufacture in large quantities with sufficient purity. Gallium Arsenide is particularly useful in high speed devices and military applications.

With this theory in mind, I can now explain p-type semiconductors and an-type semiconductors. Put them together, what have you got? That's right, a PN junction.
In a process involving adding impurities to the above materials, called doping, we add either arsenic or phosphorous to the semiconductor material. These parts will be added in the ratio 1:10,000,000 to 1:1,000,000,000, so you can imagine how precise they have to be (think of the lads in the bunny suits in the Intel manufacturing plant, thats what they do!). So an n-type semiconductor is negative as it has extra electrons, a p-type is positive as it has extra electron holes. Since electrons have negative polarity, this should make sense.

Putting these two types together, you will see the free electrons in the n-type flow to the electron holes in the p-type and similarly, electron holes in the p-type will flow to the n-type, causing what's called a depletion region. For current to flow through this depletion region, a minimum of 0.7V (for silicon devices) is needed to bridge the gap. This gives the effect of pushing the electron up a hill into a higher energy level.

In a diode, because of this PN junction, one side being positive and the other negative, this means that current will only flow in one direction. For the current to flow through, the diode must be put in the right way, this is called Forward Biasing. The inverse is called Reverse Biasing, where no current will flow. Now obviously, when it is reverse biased, current will flow, if you apply an excessive amount of voltage, this is called the breakdown voltage, where the device simply melts and becomes a short circuit.

I think I'll leave it at that for the moment, I don't really want to get bogged down in theory here. Will try and write up Transistors (PNP and NPN junctions) next as they follow on from this topic.

Revising the basics

Back to basics, god it's been a long time, but it's good to throw out a few basics just to refresh. How basic should I go? Lets go mad, back to the super easy basics. Assuming Passive conventions, here's some basic laws.

Ohm's Law: v = Ri
Voltage Source: v = Vs
Current Source: i = Is
Capacitor: i = C (dv/dt)
Inductor: v = L (di/dt)
Kirchhoff's Current Law (KCL): Sum of all currents on a node, with appropriate sign is zero.
Kirchhoff's Voltage Law (KVL): Sum of all voltages around a loop, with appropriate sign is zero.
Power dissipated when vi > 0
Power genereated when vi < 0
Power: P = vi
Energy stored in Capacitor: E = 1/2(Cv^2)
Energy stored in Inductor: E = 1/2(Li^2)

Where, v = voltage, R = resistance, i = current, C = capacitance, L = inductance, P = power and E = energy.

That's just a small refresher. I could go into transfer functions and testing for linearity and some possible equations, but that's way too complicated to show here without diagrams.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Ubuntu

I've finally done it, I've installed Ubuntu on my home system. My Dad had just installed it on his little Atom system so I decided now would be a good time to get back into it again. The only difference between the two distributions is that mine is the 64bit version and my Dad's is the 32bit version. So I'm planning to see how much difference there is between the two versions and if I get much performance out of it.

Just a quick run over of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an operating system based on the Debian/Linux distribution. The word itself, is a zulu word meaning 'humanity', which relates to the ubuntu philosophy "I am who I am because of those around me". It's free and open source software, meaning users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software under the terms of the GNU GPL licence.

Anyways I'm hoping to get more into programming again and get more involved in what linux has to offer. So far, I've installed the main distribution and made the recommended updates. The main problems I've had so far have been trying to update the drivers for my graphics card and my sound card. I've got an nVidia GeForce 8800 graphics card and a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card. Both companies provide Linux drivers that should work. After downloading nVidia's drivers off their website, I proceded to try and install it all, their method is an awkward one, until I found the Synaptic program within Ubuntu which would do the installation for me without any problems. Using glxgears I was able to confirm that the fps went from 433fps to 6800fps which is a signiifcant increase. Now glxgears isn't the best benchmarking tool, but it'll do for the moment, I'll get better tools as I progress.

I thought the sound card was an easy one to install. I downloaded the drivers off Creative's website and installed it as instructed. Then I simply changed the sound settings in Ubuntu to output to my sound card instead of the on-board sound card. This worked straight away. However, after a reboot, it doesn't work, so I've done something wrong somewhere, I just need to figure out what's going on. Looks like I've plenty to learn and plenty to write up about on my way.

For now I want to learn more about Synaptic, it sure beats apt-get for updating and installing new software/drivers.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Gym

So I've just finished a four free day trial with Westwood gym in Clontarf. I got the voucher off entertainment.ie if anyone's interested. I'm feeling fitter and more energised but I've made up my mind that I definitely do not want to join Westwood. The facilities are good, I'll give them that. There's a huge gym area with a multitude of walkers, cross trainers, bikes and all sorts of equipment I'll never figure out. Gym area also includes exercise mats, medicine balls and a running track. It's got a lot. There's also a spinning room (for bikes and spinny things I assumed), a climbing wall and a large indoor tennis court area.

The swimming pool is a whopping 50 metres and can be a little tough to get used to. There's also a sauna, huge jacuzzi, plunge pool, caldarium and steam room as well.

It's a good gym, but for me, something just didn't feel right. To start, there were a load of teenagers, they tend to be annoying alright, but that doesn't bother me. The people who go there tend to be quite rude and not particularly friendly. This doesn't bother me that much either. You have to bring your own mp3 player for the gym instead of just plugging into your own TV screen at each treadmill (like in Northwood gym, my old gym). But the thing that got me is the price, ouch! It's 499 just to join and become a member. Then you must pay 75 euro a month after that. That racks up to a whopping 1399euro in your first year and 900euro for subsequent years. OUCH!

Ok I know you can get discounts for joining, at the lowest, you can join for 75euro and pay only 55euro a month (for off peak times membership, most people can't do this), but even at that, that adds up to 735euro in your first year at the absolute minimum! Now that's still twice what Northwood are charging and 200euro more than most clubs.

My old gym, Ben Dunne's Northwood Gym out in Northwood complex there, just off Santry Avenue is a great gym. I originally joined for 275euro. At that price you can't go wrong. Everyone was friendly. I was helped out with a personal regime very quickly and was asked every now and again about how it was going. The pool isn't 50 metres, nor does it compare to westwood, but for what I'm using it for, it was adequate. Every machine has its own TV with headphones jack, so you only need a small pair of headphones. There's never queues for the machines (maybe for the weights) and there's always plenty of parking outside. It's in an area of little traffic so you're not going mad trying to get in or out. Personally I prefer Northwood, it does the job for me.

On a final note, the gym for me is somewhere I go to keep fit, boost my energy, work out stress and spend some quality time to myself. At Northwood gym I felt I could do this easily and in peace.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Stratix IV FPGA

Yesterday and today I've been working on a schematic involving Altera's Stratix IV FPGA. This is one complicated device to work on.
I'm just doing simple stuff with it at the moment, but very necessary work. I have to go through about 1500 pins, ensure they have the correct pin names, pin numbers and that they then have the correct net names and connected to the correct offpage, if they are connected to an offpage of course. This is a long and boring task, but like I said earlier, it's a big have to do.
Other checks involve checking the voltage reference points and voltage inputs are correct. I'll also have to check the TTL levels on each input/output and make sure they're transmitting at the correct voltage level as well.
With regards voltage inputs, decoupling is a major factor. I've tried to search the web and through numerous books to try and find out whats the best rule of thumb for decoupling. So far, I haven't had much luck, other than 1 x 0.1uF capacitor for every two VCC pins and then one tantalum capacitor. Different voltages need their own seperate decoupling as well.

That's enough from me now, better get back to work, laters.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

JTAG Boundary Scan

During the testing phase of a design, it is often very helpful to be able to test the IC's in your ciruit. One of the best tools for this is a JTAG connector which can perform boundary scans on the IC to help debug a problem or to ensure efficiency. The boundary scan is a method for testing the interconnects on PCB's or sub blocks within an IC. It is also used to analyze pin states, measure voltgae or analyze sub-bloks inside an IC.

Boundary Scan is often referred to as JTAG (from the Joint Test Action Group) which is a specification for boundary scan. A supplement for this contains a description of the Boundary Scan Descrition Language (BSDL). This JTAG interface is often accessed using a 5 pin header (offboard connector). This header will have the following connections:

1) TDI - Test Data Input
2) TDO - Test Data Output
3) TRST - Test Reset
4) TCK - Test Clock Input
5) TMS - Test Mode Select

2 wire device interfaces

I2C (Inter Integrated Circuit)
SMBus (System Management Bus)

I2C is a computer bus invented by Philips to attach low speed peripherals to a motherboard or an embedded system. SMBus is a subset of I2C that has stricter electrical and convention rules. SMBus is used to promote robustness and interoperability.

I2C and SMBus use only two bidirectional open-drain lines, Serial Data(SDA) and Serial Clock (SCL), (DAT and CLK for SMBus). Both have to be pulled up externally. Nominal voltage pull ups are +3.3V and +5V. Both I2C and SMBus operate with a master and slave address to communicate with specific devices in a circuit. The number of devices on any line depends on address space and the capacitance load. Maximum capacitance is 400pF which restricts communication to a few meters.

The I2C and SMBuses are similar and compatible with each other. They can both communicate with each other over clock rates below 100KHz, however the I2C can operate at 400KHz and 2MHz as well.

I could go into clock diagrams here and explain the more intricate parts of both, but I think I'll leave that to a later date.

Infiniband

Today, I'm working with Mellanox's fourth generation adapter device. It's a ConnectX device which has support for virtual protocol interconnect, providing both infiniband and ethernet network interfaces. Eek, that sounds long and complicated. At the moment, it is for me but I'll get the hang of it, I have to.

So, whats inifiniband? It's a swtiched fabric communications link primarily usedin high-performance computing. It's scalable, which means you build a load of them together and connect them all up for greater speeds. The InfiniBand architecture specification defines a connection between processor nodes and high performance I/O nodes such as storage devices. It is a superset of the Virtual Interface Architecture.

I'll have more for you later, now I gotta read the datasheet and figure this all out, then compare it against our very own schematics and log bugs through our bug system, powered by Axosoft's OnTime.

Laters

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Decoupling

Another post today, you'd think I'd leave this thing alone wouldn't you.

Anyways, I'm currently looking at the power decoupling for this QuadPHY I mentioned earlier today. Decoupling is simply a way of preventing undesired coupling between subsystems via the power supply connections. To put simply, if you have two devices working off the 2.5V power plane, you don't want one to start sucking power, leaving the other device short on current. So to prevent this, we connect localized capacitors close to the power leads of integrated circuits to act as a small localized energy reservoir. This will supply the circuit with current during transient, high current demand periods, preventing voltage being pulled down from momentary current loads.

To construct these wells, we use a number of capacitors in series. A surface mounted, ceramic multi layer chip capacitors (SMT, MLCC) are ideal for this situation. However greater capacitance may be needed depending on the voltages and currents being applied.

The rule of thumb with voltage rating for a capacitor is usually between 1.5 to 2 times the voltage being used (this is specified in the Military Handbook 217F. It's freely available online, but it still sounds cool when you're reading official military documents). So if you have a circuit that draws 3V, then it's best to use a voltage rating of 4.5V. Common rated caps come in 6.3V though, so you'd probably use this one instead. The temperature coefficients are very important when choosing the capacitor as well. X5R and X7R are the better quality caps to go for. They're the best priced too. But I'm not going to go into Temperature coefficients here, thats way complicated and not interesting. You can find out more about it on Wikipedia.

Running Car as water hybrid

Been researching running my car with water. Not completely with water. To be honest, not with water at all. Been looking into using this convertor which uses baking soda as a catalyst in an electrolytic reaction which produces a hydroxy gas. Which I'm told is Hydrogen and Oxygen gas with all the strength of water and none of the instability and explosiveness as they are on their own as gases. Then this is simply pumped into the cylinder as it goes down.

The theory behind it is that in a combustion engine, when the cylinder descends, the fuel fills in, but there's an inefficiency her in that it doesn't fill up to the full and as a result mixes air into it, causing dirt build up. By injecting this hydroxy, it can increase efficiency by 33% and produce less emissions as there's less carbon and dirt in the mix, producing steam from the emission of the hydroxy.

How right this is and how accurate is still to be determined. I like the idea but I'm way off fully understanding it and applying it and possibly wrecking my car engine. Still though, I enjoy the idea and want to learn more about it.

Check out runcar-onwater.com, seems a bit dodgy, but an interesting possibility.

Snowboarding Chamonix

Am heading to Chamonix on Saturday 17th January. Really looking forward to it, haven't been boardin in ages and as some of you know, Kilternan just doesn't do it.
Goin for a week with one of my best mates, John McGuinness. Staying Chalet Chocolat, just a few minutes outside of Chamonix. It's going to be amazing!

Since Fiona's death (Fiona being my last snowboard, an F2 Floater, not an amazing board, but we got through so much), I've lost all want to board, but hopefully this trip should rekindle that age old love that I've had for so long now.

Check out Chalet Chocolat on Rude Chalet's website.

Swizzling

What the hell is swizzling?

I've found mention of bit swizzling for this QuadPHY and google won't tell me.

Help me!

XAUI to XGMII

I'm currently working on a 10GX QuadPHY with 4 x 1.2 to 3.2 Gbit/s Quad, Fully Redundant, XAUI to XGMII, 10 Gigabit Ethernet/Fibre Channel Physical Layer Device.

It's difficult to understand but I'm working my way through it.

Whats XAUI you say?
Pronounced 'zowie', is a standard for connecting 10 Gigabit Ethernet PHY to an Ethernet MAC on a PCB. XAUI = 10X Attachment Unit Interface. XAUI connects the PHY to the backplane of the PCB.

What's XGMII you say?
A 72-pin 10 Gigabit Media Independent Interface. This is a standard for connecting full duplex 10GbE ports to each other and to other electronic devices. Composed of 2 x 32bit datapaths (Rx and Tx) and 2 x 4bits control flows (Rxc and Txc), operating at 156.25MHz. With a multiplier of 20X, 3.125Gbit/s transfers are possible. The XGMII connects the PHY to the FPGA.

PHY = Physical Layer
MAC = Media Access Control Layer
FPGA = Field Programmable Gate Array
PCB = Printed Circuit Board