Fast Scanner

May 15, 2011 Posted by bob in Building - (Comments Off)

Since I’m moving in a few months to an apartment of significantly reduced size, I am starting to reduce the size of my collection of stuff. One thing I’ve been carrying around is everything from my college career. I have every syllabus, paper, homework assignment, handout, midterm… in total it was three boxes full of binders. This represents tens of thousands of dollars of education, though, and I wasn’t entirely willing to part with it. I started scanning pages with a scanner. I had a process that was giving me up to 6 scans per minute. The quality of the scans was good, but the speed was not fast enough, and there were too many manual parts to the process. I needed something faster.

I realized that a photo of a piece of paper would be faster than having a scanner do it, and if lit well enough and with a good enough lens, it would be just as good as a scanner. I rigged up a tripod with an extended arm to hold my camera, and I put a white background on the desk and marked some lines where the paper needed to be to be in the shot. Since I don’t have a fancy DSLR with a remote, and pressing the button manually was way too much effort and moved the camera around too much, I rigged up a piece of twine so that by pulling down on the twine I could get the camera to take a shot. I tried pulling the string for a while, which was pretty fast, but still not as efficient as possible. I tied the twine to a ruler and used the ruler as a foot pedal, giving me both hands to move the pieces of paper as quickly as possible. The light sources were just regular white compact fluorescent bulbs, placed to put as much light on the paper as evenly as possible.

The resulting contraption bumped my speed up to 15 pages per minute on average. Sometimes it was higher depending on if I was dealing with loose notes or stapled sheets. Having the shutter controlled by my feet gave me a huge advantage, and I was able to fly through all 3 boxes of papers in a few evenings much faster than I expected. Now I have it all on my computer, which should probably still be sorted, but at least it’s not taking up any physical space, and I don’t have to feel any sense of loss when I recycle my stacks of papers.

Four months on my own

May 12, 2011 Posted by bob in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

It’s been four months since I started on my own. The first weeks were a whirlwind of applications and registrations, some of which are still in process. I’ve been building up projects, finding my niche, and getting used to and developing my processes.

In the beginning I started by reading a lot of books; everything from business law to marketing to general advice on working from home. I feel like I’m getting an MBA by fire, but the stakes are a lot higher than being in school.

Here’s an overview of what I’ve done in the last four months:

  • Registered my business with the WA Secretary of State, the WA Department of Licensing, and filed for an EIN number from the IRS.
  • Applied for a trademark on the WYZGYZ name. I still haven’t heard back about that, but the process takes some time.
  • Set up a business bank account.
  • Set up http://wyzgyz.com.
  • Met with a lawyer
  • Met with an accountant

On the other end of the business, I’ve been involved with quite a few projects:

  • Two contracts back to PNNL to continue to work on projects I was doing when I left. This is my source of income while my other projects are still in development.
  • Volunteer development for the Atomic City Roller Girls. I redesigned their site and have been helping them with posting and using it.
  • Working on a project called the electronic scoreboard. I built a second prototype, set up a web site, and am currently looking for manufacturers and getting feedback from users.
  • And a few more things I’m not ready to talk about yet.

Between learning about and getting used to owning a business, my own projects, and my contract work, I’ve been pretty busy with WYZGYZ. I’m not discouraged, though I have had a couple rough days and some tough decisions to make. Rather, I’m excited that I’m doing this, and I have high hopes for what it will become.

Starting on my own

January 13, 2011 Posted by bob in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

It has been long overdue, but I’ve finally taken a giant step in my career. 1/11/11 was my last day working at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. I have left to start my own business, and I’m very excited about it. The last few days have been a flurry of paperwork, but I’m making progress and getting to a point where I can finally start talking about it. Assuming all my paperwork goes through in the next couple days, I’ll officially own my startup: WYZGYZ (pronounced ‘wise guys’).

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with PNNL when I was there. I really appreciated the opportunity to start working on challenging projects and contributing to publications and leading-edge research right out of university. I have many conference and journal papers and presentations, and even a few patent applications through the lab. I’ve gotten the chance to work with influential people at the top of their careers, and travel around the United States to meet and work with dozens of others on some pretty fantastic projects. I’ve learned a lot and become a pretty good software developer. For my first job out of school, the lab was perfect for me.

But there were things that bothered me about the lab; things which ultimately made me decide to leave. First among them was my inability to pursue my personal ideas. It’s ok to own my brain when I’m being paid for it, but there were things I wanted to do that just couldn’t be done while I was an employee at the lab. Second was bureaucracy. Working in a government lab was frustratingly slow, and many times I saw my ideas ground down and starved because they couldn’t get traction or took too long to get funding. The red tape machine is formidable and to me seemed counterproductive to innovation and progress. Finally, there was impact. Over the course of my tenure at the lab, I wrote a lot of software. Much of it was research software that was used for a prototype or a demo, shown to the client, and archived. In the latter half of my tenure I worked on software that did get used, sometimes in some pretty exciting ways, but never beyond a couple hundred users. It seemed like I would never be able to develop a product that could get through all the barriers to find use in the general community and have a meaningful impact on thousands or millions of people. Publications required approvals, and even posting to bulletin boards was regarded with skepticism. For a national resource, it seemed too closed-off.

WYZGYZ is my shot at building a business that has the things I liked about the lab and addresses the things I didn’t like.We’ve also been sponsored by Carlson Knives, so check his products and let us know what you think, .

My company will have three parts: contracting, products, and research. Contracting will allow me to work for clients and generate stable income. Products will allow me to develop my ideas into products that I can market and sell. Research will allow me to explore ideas and either turn them into products or publish them to the community.

Everything is in the very beginning stages, but I have a plan, I have all the resources I need, and I have a lot of hope and motivation and skill to make this work.

Mouse Modding

October 22, 2010 Posted by bob in Building | Computers - (Comments Off)

Last night I made some changes to my mouse; we’ll see if they’re improvements or not. Originally I was dismantling it to clean it. Something had gotten inside the wheel and was causing it to scroll inconsistently. Once I got inside, though, I saw an opportunity to tune it.

First was the clicking on the wheel. This is accomplished with a spring, and is sometimes annoying, especially since I like to give my scroll wheel big long spins to quickly move around on a page. Removing the spring was pretty easy.

Second, I noticed a weight added to the inside. I’m not entirely sure what the weight accomplishes, other than making the mouse that much harder to move, so I took it out, too.

If I need, I can easily put the parts back in, but at the moment I’m rocking a lighter, smoother mouse.

image

Productive Sunday

October 19, 2010 Posted by bob in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

This is a shining example of a highly productive Sunday afternoon. I separated the marshmallows out of the cereal. Then I threw away the cereal. Then I ate the marshmallows. That’s a normal sheet of paper to get a sense of scale.

For what it’s worth, the cereal was stale and wasn’t going to get eaten anyway.

This weekend I was busy. Saturday morning we went to the raceway in West Richland to watch some friends autocross. They weren’t scheduled to go until later, though, so we stayed for about an hour, then headed to another engagement; the Tri-City Wing Wars.

The Wing Wars was a competition among local restaurants to see which one had the best wing. For $5, anyone could enter and have access to unlimited wings from any of the stations, all of which hid their logos and their brand name. People could vote for their favorites, which would be revealed at the end.

In reality, more people showed up than they expected, and they ran out of wings after about an hour. Sadly, I was one of the reasons they ran out. I managed to consume two dozen chicken appendages in that hour, though to be fair I didn’t target my consumption at any particular vendor, though the Parmesan wings were my favorite. I saw a few friends there, but after the wings ran out, so did we, heading back to the track to see if we could see the friends race.

We arrived in time, and Ricky offered to let me ride with him. He has a nice convertible, so I was happy to accept. The helmet, though tight, wasn’t the claustrophobic experience I expected, and having the top down held the heat and gas smell at bay, so I was quite comfortable. The racing itself was a lot of fun, and I felt like the entire time we were pushing the car to the very edge of its capabilities, and that if Ricky pushed it any more or less expertly, we would certainly spin out. It felt like we hit every cone, but in fact he had a great race and only hit two.

Me and Ricky about to autocross

Later, Naomi raced with Ricky, which was fun to watch, and we could all hear her screaming (we assume with joy) occasionally.

Naomi and Ricky autocrossing

Finally, Dan was up, and he let Erin ride as his passenger. She put on her helmet and joined him in the car, a very sporty little thing into which Dan had obviously put a lot of care. I climbed the lookout tower and caught the ride on video; it turned out to be a great run, netting him first in his class for the day.

Dan

Dan and Erin are ready

After the autocrossing, we went to our friend Dimple’s house for pizza and a movie, then went back home.

Sunday morning, I was up early. I had planned to go hiking with Jim and Erin that day (even looked up several mens hiking boots and the best hiking poles compared side by side on review sites and had a pair delivered), but Erin bailed at the last minute, citing work. Jim and I still went, and it took about an hour to get to our destination; the white bluffs of Wahluke wildlife reserve. We chose a path that wasn’t exactly the famous white bluffs but less traveled. Half of our walk was on an old blocked off road, and the other half was along coyote trails that were barely visible. Along the way we could see the whole Hanford area.

Along the way was an old earth mover. The handle wasn’t attached to the door, but it was easy to insert and open. The key was lying on the cab floor. The battery, however, was dead. Still, it was good for a photo.

I took a few panos on the hike, too.

My biggest lesson from U.S. History class in High School didn’t have anything to do with History. It was a lesson that’s stuck with me ever since, and it has affected me in many aspects of my life. Getting things done is really intimidating, until you start.

Within the first month we had our initial assignment, but this was an AP class, not a regular history class. Our task was to write three essays, and we had a week to do it. I went through so many emotions; anger, outrage, frustration, hopelessness. I started to do the work but it was impossibly daunting. There was so much that I didn’t know, so much research to be done. Each question could have been a masters thesis and seemed to require citation of dozens of materials. I remember crying to my dad. He couldn’t do anything for me, though. Ultimately, I got it done, and on time, by just getting started.

My problem, and my major block, was knowing that I didn’t know enough. There was no way I could read all that I needed to to make a cohesive and complete argument. I had to give that up. The trick was to start with a decision already, start writing, then look for supporting facts in my research materials. I didn’t need to find the right answer; I needed to be able to defend my answer. This worked most of the time, because our lectures were usually on the topic of the essays and we had a good idea, but it didn’t always happen that way. Sometimes I would start with a thesis, but in the process discover that it was completely wrong. Since I had already started, and was already in the process, it was easier to go back and modify than it would have been to start over. Eventually I would get to the right answer anyway.

At the beginning of the school year, it took me the whole duration to write the three essays, which were assigned every week, but almost all of that time was just trying to get started. By the end of the year, and for the AP test, I was producing all three essays in under an hour, at roughly 2-3 pages each. Sure, I had gotten better at researching, but I’d also become less intimidated by the assignments.

That’s been a lesson for many things. With skydiving, so much worry and preparation goes into that first jump, but after getting used to going through the motions, it becomes routine, and what seems like an impossible feat to those who haven’t done it yet is just another day for someone else.

The truth is everything is intimidating until you start doing it. Then you learn a lot really fast. Then you become good at it. If we all just accepted that once we started doing something it would be fine, and skipped the intimidation step, life would be a lot easier for everyone.

Jump 29

October 10, 2010 Posted by bob in Skydiving | Sports - (Comments Off)

Saturday morning I looked at the weather and it was not good. There was a good chance of rain, it was overcast, and the ceiling in Ritzville was 7500-9000 feet. My friend and I were supposed to go skydiving, but the weather made it seem like it might not happen. She called and they said it was still on, so we got in the car and drove up there. Once we arrived, I suited up and barely made the next load, and I’m glad I did. We went through some clouds on the ride up, but directly over the drop zone there wasn’t anything, so that was good. It was getting a little cold, but I was also at the door the whole ride. I was the first one out, and it was a great jump. This time I tried a few things; I tried going feet first, but immediately flipped and was on my head, starting to spin. Then I tried doing a couple cannonballs, which is fun because you go faster and you have no control over how you spin. I also played with some flips and turns and generally doing acrobatics and getting back under control, as well as looking around for other divers and getting awareness. My chute opened fine and I turned to watch the others, who were some still falling for quite a ways, which was cool to watch.

I practiced some riser turns before I unstowed the brakes and made a regular landing, this time standing up and on the grass. I was very happy.

I had some help packing my chute, but I wasn’t fast enough to get on the next load, which was unfortunate because that’s the one my friend was on. I watched her get on the plane and take off. Unfortunately for her, the clouds had rolled in overhead and they could only make it up to 7500 feet before they had to get out.

That was the end of the day, and they rolled the plane in to the hangar. I asked the instructor what he wanted me to do before he felt comfortable stamping my license card, and he was ok with it, so now I officially have an A license for skydiving. woo!

Jumps 26-28

Posted by bob in Skydiving | Sports - (Comments Off)

It’s been three years since I’ve been skydiving. Once Richland Skysports closed, I no longer had a local place to dive. It took the desire of a coworker to jump to motivate me to get back into it. I went the weekend before she was supposed to go so that I could take care of all the things I needed to to be able to jump with her the next weekend. After talking to the instructors and getting a refresher quiz, they let me do a hop and pop, jumping at 7000 and freefalling for ten seconds before pulling. It wasn’t the cleanest exit, but I didn’t hesitate to do it. I had no problem jumping out, but I didn’t have the best posture and struggled for a few seconds to get right. It happened quickly enough, though. I had no problem pulling my chute, and was happy playing around under canopy. I was a little high on the approach but still landed on the grass a very happy guy. They showed me a photo of me exiting the plane, and it was very embarrassing how bad my body position was on exit. It was no wonder I struggled on the first jump.

That was enough to satisfy the instructors, though, and they let me jump at 12500 for my next jump. I was excited to practice freefalling, and took the opportunity to do flips forward and backward, a barrel roll, turning, and some tracking. I had good altitude awareness and didn’t have any problem pulling at the right altitude. I landed on the grass again.

I had some help packing my own chute this time, and got back on the plane for the next ride. This time I played around some more with flips, adjusting my fall rate, tracking, and heading control. I had no problem with my opening. The wind changed, and the landing pattern was different; we were going left handed turns, which brought us over the top of the building. I was a little nervous about that and ended up going over the building a little high and overshooting the grass by a few feet. I landed on the dirt and slid to a stop.

There weren’t going to be any more loads, so I paid and came home, ultimately very satisfied with my day. Read my style=”text-decoration: none” href=”http://yourellipticals.com/proform-elliptical-reviews/”>ProForm Elliptical Reviews 2016 and let me know your thoughts on it.

Trying something new

Posted by bob in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted, which is not cool. I’d like to say it was the fault of the technology I was using, and that it was a hurdle, but that’s just making excuses. A lot has happened in the last year. The girlfriend and I have traveled to Vietnam, Thailand, Vancouver, Belize, Guatemala, Seattle, Montana, and a bunch of other places. Work hasn’t been much different, but it’s always interesting. In fact, a lot has happened, but over the course of a year, it condenses quickly into only a couple sentences. This is no longer acceptable, so I’ve decided to change technologies, and devote more time to posting about the things that I do. We’ll see if it works out well.