Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 16th May, 2007

A Busy Week

I've now come down off my hectic week, so I can report on what I've been up to:

Thursday at the CLUG Programmers SIG meeting we had Bob Edwards from ANU talking about elementary microcontroller programming, in this case the range of PIC chips. I didn't know the difference between a Von Neumann and a Harvard architecture until now, and it does make sense when you're talking about microcontrollers to have processors that are slightly more complex but can guarantee instruction execution in one or two clock cycles that RISC guarantees, and also avoids some of the security problems with mixing instructions and data in the same memory.

There's a whole bunch of extra little oddities about PIC chips, too: only eight stack levels, a bit that can be set that will prevent you from reading the contents of instruction memory back (but will still allow you to flash it) for code security, bank swapping, compiler warnings that are still there even when you're actually doing the right thing, and more. Once I've finished some of my other projects, I may get around to working on some of my microcontroller-based hardware ideas.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent running the Canberra Irish Set Dance Weekend 2007. It was very successful - we had around 70 people show up over the weekend, eight sets of eight people dancing on Saturday Night, and a huge increase in the number of interstate visitors (including two people who I only found out on Saturday had found out about the weekend because of an article in "New Idea" that I'd never seen or heard about, but am requesting from the library). The food was a great success, the sets we learnt were well suited to the intermediate-to-advanced calibre of the dancers, and overall people's comments were very positive. The most suggested improvement was to have the dance run later and/or longer; but amusingly there are a couple of people who think that a four-piece band can pack up all its equipment and get out of the hall in about five minutes, and won't mind being replaced by CDs... Getting the band to play for longer is hardly a problem.

On the weekend, I'd talked to a couple of the teachers and interested people about another project of mine, the Set Dance Music Database. This is mostly driven by my Rocket library, which is now capable of displaying a table, displaying a form for editing or adding a row to a table, and validating the form and adding or updating the data to the table as appropriate. It also does a bunch of extra stuff - nice human-readable, sort-on-click field headers, 'computed' fields, drop-down menus in forms for lookups, and much more. I've yet to write up the full POD interface for it, and it's not as efficient as a custom-written page (of course), but it makes making pages easy - it follows the 'gradual improvements' idea that I believe Rails uses: show something simple by default but then allow the user to add more complexity without great effort.

Now to get back to recovering from my continuing throat infection, working on my laptop case cover, and playing Supreme Commander. Yes, Tim Connors, as shameful as it is to play computer games that are less than a year old, I balance it by other paeleophilia :-).

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