Feb 2010 Minutes

Feb 20th RBMO minutes:

Topic: VNC demo and remote control of robots
Len had several devices running VNC (Virtual Network Computing, a platform-independent remote access and control protocol). He controlled his notebook computer with his iTouch.

Dale had an Arduino board running a simple web server, connected to an Ethernet-to-WiFi gateway. The board gave a webpage that allowed a computer running a web browser to turn an LED on the board on and off. Several of us connected via WiFi and successfully toggled the LED.

One item mentioned was the "plug" computer, a Linux-based Ethernet I/O low-power (compared to a traditional desktop PC's) computer the size of a wall wart that plugs into a power outlet. It's meant for general-purpose home use (firewall, P2P/web server) but would be a powerful controller for a robot. Len mentioned "mini ATX" PC motherboards available from Fry's as another robot brain.

Relevant websites for VNC:
For Plug Computing and PC motherboards:

Feb. 27 Regular Meeting minutes  (incomplete due to the secretary arriving late):

Show and tell:
A "Unicycle" Lego line follower was demonstrated that works well even at sharp turns. The drive, steering and line sensing were all done at a single front wheel, much like the front wheel of a tricycle.

Main Program:
A demo of Ironcad 3D computer-aided design software was presented by Kevin DeVol of Ironcad.

Ironcad imports many standard 3D model filetypes, does motion analysis but has no stress analysis or tolerance analysis. It can do photorealistic rendering and animation, but no physics. For programmability it has API's for Visual Basic, C++ and C#. It runs in 1gig RAM for entities of reasonable complexity. Ironcad runs on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7, and uses openGL.

Base price is $4,000. Light version is $1,300. Student price (no commercial use) is $138 at http://studica.com. A free 30 day trial version can be downloaded from the website at http://ironcad.com.

Sources for fabrication include http://quickparts.com and for sheet metal folded into parts http://www.accufabinc.com. Tutoring/training videos and info are free at the Ironcad website and on http://youtube.com. The demo was very well-received.

The meeting recessed to Chick-Fil-A where discussion included unintended high voltage electrostatic buildup in industrial equipment, coil guns, rail guns, nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, and other dangerous things. Also mentioned or otherwise relevant websites:
Mecurial source/version control:      http://mercurial.selenic.com/
Fogbuzz bug tracking:                 http://www.fogcreek.com/FogBUGZ/
Bugzilla bug tracking:                http://www.bugzilla.org/
Bugnet open source bug tracking:      http://www.bugnetproject.com/
Interactive Periodic Table:           http://www.ptable.com/
Obligatory dangerous electronics URL: http://4hv.org

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