Yes, thank you. You’re very helpful.

September 21st, 2016

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It’s ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ today

September 19th, 2016

I missed last Saturday’s ukulele meeting at Swallow Hill, which had ‘Pirate Songs’ as the theme, because I wasn’t quite feeling up to it. I fell asleep so quickly Friday night that I didn’t get my CPAP on, and I woke up Saturday irritable and tired. Meh.

I don’t have much to say that’s new or unique, so I’ll just point to a couple of posts by someone else (caution: likely NSFW).

There’s a joke here somewhere, and I think it’s the code

September 19th, 2016

I’m working on systems software for a new ARM Cortex-M3 board, and right now, I’m trying to get the SDRAM interface working. I’ve never done SDRAM interfacing before, and it’s pretty complex, compared to most processor subsystems I’ve worked with before. There’s a lot of detail you have to handle. The library that came with the compiler includes initialization routines for most, if not all, of the processor subsystems, and the external memory controller (EMC) is one of them.

I’ve taken the configuration for an existing board (one that I don’t have) as my starting point, and modified it for my hardware. It hasn’t worked.

I’ve starting taking a “deeper dive” into the code, and I have a lot less trust in it than before. I’m not certain the configuration for the existing board actually works, now that I’ve looked at things in more detail. Part of the problem is that some comments are inconsistent with the code, and others are just plain wrong.

For inconsistency, there are three places where the comment says that a delay is needed. They’re implemented with busy-wait loops, with a comment that it would be better to use a system timer. For a 100 microsecond delay, an empty loop is executed 1000 times. For the first 200 microsecond delay, an empty loop is executed 1000 times. For the second 200 microsecond delay, an empty loop is executed 80 times. I’ve got some calculations ahead of me, it seems.

For being out-and-out wrong, another section of the code has a comment that if the external device has a 32-bit bus, use a burst length of 4. If the external device has a 16-bit bus, use a burst length of 2. According to the processor reference manual, the EMC will use a burst length of 8 for a device with a 16-bit bus (which my hardware has).

Finally, some of the values in the configuration structure are populated using predefined constants combined using shifts and ORs. When I work through two of the key values manually based on the predefined constants I’m combining, I come up with values of 0x27 and 0x1380. When I look at the structure in memory, it contains 0x23 and 0x280. I haven’t figured out yet how that’s happening.

I’ve only just found these problems; I haven’t determined how they’re occurring. I just needed to rant about it.

DirecTV has just lost a customer

September 12th, 2016

I’ve always had occasional reception problems with DirecTV, in this house, anyway. Their website claims that on rare occasions, extremely bad weather can cause very short losses of reception. My experience is that anything more than a light drizzle will knock out reception completely, often for hours.

Back at the end of July, I started seeing my video go blocky on all channels, with accompanying audio garbling. It’s the sort of thing you see when you lose sync in decoding a video file. My initial suspicion was that the antenna had become misaligned, and the receiver wasn’t getting a full data stream. I called their support line, and we went through various fixes for about an hour. I had to cut the call after an hour because I had to get to a class, but the last thing they recommended was doing a local reset of the receiver (they’d already done a remote reset). That apparently cleared things up for about a month, but it could have been coincidental, because the problem came back about a week ago.

It started with messages stating that the receiver was looking for a satellite signal, but that would go away after a few seconds, and nothing was affected, anyway. After a day or two of that, my video became blocky, with garbled audio, just as before. Tonight was the first time I had a long-enough block of time to call for support, because if your problem isn’t addressed by the FAQs on their website, you have to call them on the telephone.

After explaining the situation to the person who answered, I was told that I had to provide my cellphone number so that I could receive AT&T texts and other notifications. I didn’t realize that I had AT&T services, because I don’t, but they’ve apparently bought DirecTV, and you can’t get help without giving AT&T your cellphone number.

She did a remote reset of my receiver, which didn’t help, and I didn’t expect it to. While that was in process, she tried to upsell me on NFL Sunday Ticket and an $8/month warranty to save $50 if a service call needed to be made. I declined both. I like football, but I’ve been watching it less in recent years, and the last service call I required was when I had DirecTV installed when I moved here almost a decade ago. It’s also pretty tacky to try to sell me premium services when I’m asking for help because basic services aren’t working.

She then asked me to disconnect and reconnect all of the cables, which I had done back in July, and which had no effect. Next, she told me that I needed to get a technician from my television’s manufacturer to make a service call and determine what the television’s problem was. I told her that it was not a television problem, because shows that I’d recorded on the DVR prior to the problem’s recurrence could be watched without problem, the over-the-air antenna did not show the problem, and watching DVDs did not show the problem.

She reiterated that the required next step in troubleshooting was to have a technician from the manufacturer examine the television.

I hung up. I’ve been contemplating getting rid of DirecTV for a while, and the fact that I can expect neither reception nor service has tipped the balance for me. I’ll drop by the local office tomorrow after work and let them know – I’m not going to sign up for a new account on their website just to cancel service. Probably can’t do it online, anyway.

9/11 – Remembering both of them

September 11th, 2016

Today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. Glenn Reynolds has his remembrance here, including a link to his original coverage of the events.

Esquire magazine has an article on the falling man, whose picture has been downplayed and hidden (to the extent that one can hide something on the internet). It’s not the only one. I remember seeing video of Palestinians dancing in the street and handing candy out to children in celebration. You can’t find that anymore. You can find denials that it ever happened, though.

It’s also the 4th anniversary of the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. All the more tragic because it was , and I doubt that we’ll ever have a better explanation for the U. S. government’s response than, “feckless Democrats.”

Star Trek Significant Date

September 9th, 2016

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast episode of Star Trek. I would have posted about it last night, but my evening was otherwise occupied – I had two hours of dance classes, and when I came out, I discovered that my car had a flat tire. I pulled out the spare, removed the lug nuts and jacked up the car, then found out that the tire wouldn’t come off.

I ended up getting home late after having to wait for an AAA service truck. According to the driver, who used a rubber mallet to break the wheel loose, it’s a design flaw of my vehicle that the wheels “rust into place” if they’re undisturbed long enough. I’d plan on keeping a rubber mallet in the car for the remaining wheels, but my mechanic told me this morning that I need new tires before the winter snows, so those wheels will come off next week, anyway.

I guess I should have done this post during lunch yesterday in order to have it posted on time. Ah, well.

So, as I mentioned, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first time Star Trek was broadcast. Many people don’t remember how much trouble there was getting the episodes produced and keeping it on the air. NBC didn’t really know what to do with it, and nobody was confident that the show would be a success. Gene Roddenberry even wrote lyrics (that were never used) to the Star Trek theme music, just so that he’d get half of any royalties. When Alexander Courage, the composer, confronted him about this, which reduced his royalty payments by half, Roddenberry told him, “I have to get money somewhere. I’m sure not going to make it on the profits from Star Trek.” So much for foresight.

As for NBC’s support of the series, I remember an anecdote from one of the books about the early days of the series that highlighted the troubles they had with the props department – for one scene on an alien planet, Roddenberry asked the props department for an alien plant. Props sent up a potted plant of the sort you would find in an office. Roddenberry sent it back, and told them he wanted an alien plant. They sent up another normal potted plant. The cycle repeated another time or two, at which point Roddenberry uprooted the plant, turned it upside down, shoved it back into the pot, and told them, “That’s an alien plant!”

The show also had trouble finding an audience – NBC cancelled it after the second season, and it was saved through a massive letter-writing campaign instigated by the Star Trek fan clubs. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to save it that way the second time NBC cancelled the series, so the “five year mission” only made it for three seasons.

I never got to see all of the original series until it was in syndication, which is when it actually became really popular. CBS had the series, The Wild, Wild West, on opposite Star Trek, and it was the viewing choice of one of my brothers. As we only had one television for the entire family (things were different back then), we’d alternate which show we watched based on who wanted to watch which show. He was better than I was at persuading our sisters to support his choice.

There may still be an episode or two from the original series that I’ve not seen – I think The Tholian Web is probably one of them.

It’s my birthday

August 31st, 2016

… and it’s been a good one. Good enough for me, anyway.

At work, I managed to solve some problems in code I’ve been developing for a new board. It still doesn’t work, but I keep telling people that clearing one set of problems and ending up with another is still progress. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s true.

This evening, Marion took me out for sushi at Namiko’s. Very good sushi, and we believe they have the best gyoza around. I stopped for ice cream at a candy/ice cream store that Eater Denver rated as one of the better ones in the metro area. After we returned home, we played a game of Scrabble. That wasn’t as much fun – the letters we drew weren’t cooperating to make words.

My thrilling life, right? It’s fine by me; I’ve never been much of an adrenaline junkie.

R.I.P. Gene Wilder

August 29th, 2016

I’m sorry to hear this. It’s time to watch his classic movie roles again.

He was a funny, funny man. I read this anecdote several years ago, and it points out his comic genius.

wilder wonka

Such a deal!

August 25th, 2016

Canadians now pay more in taxes than on food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Have they checked with Sandy Berger?

August 25th, 2016

FBI files linking Hillary Clinton to Vince Foster’s suicide have disappeared from the National Archives.