Not that much random stuff to report on this week – I’ve been too busy with everything else, quite possibly.
Lovely Sunset over Sydney
On 28th July 2014, Sydney experienced the sunset that almost broke the internet. Too bad, all I had was my phone, although with some tweaking of the exposure compensation, I could get something reasonable from UNSW (click for larger).
From inside the louvres in the Water Research Centre building …
Things are really moving along at Granville, with the bus interchange now seeing some shape as concrete has been poured, the driveway formed, and the awning frames being put up.
After walking around the station a little, I did notice that LED lights aren’t invulnerable to failure – one of the LED tubes have gone “blinky” – possibly due to an LED going open on thermally heating when turned on, or protection cycling on and off.
I noticed that Lidcombe received the same sort of “very diffused” pearlescent covered LED tubes for their retrofit. Central does have a few specially equipped LED light fixtures with a small LED on the side which suggests they are designated battery-backup evacuation lights.
I did meet a Warratah train with a strangely failed current driver unit – it seems to be overdriving one set of white LEDs so hard that they’ve turned “blue”.
There was another set to the left of it which have one of the LEDs failed causing a bit of a “dark” spot.
There is also some rail safety ads going about which I noticed at Central.
More DTRS Bases Go Up
A few more rides around the network, and it seems a new tower has been set up on Platform 1 at Burwood, and another pole is currently in the process of being fitted near Ashfield. For a system based on GSM, you would think that they can achieve greater distances between bases …
What I think is going on, is that due to GSM-R sharing 1800Mhz spectrum with 4G and 2G services, the potential for interference is high. Many phones and bases transmitting often will cause spillover which can desensitize the receiver and raise the noise floor. In order to get a high enough signal level to ensure reliable continuous reception of the GSM-R signal (for Automatic Train Protection services), they have to budget for a higher received signal strength to ensure service continuity and possibly even protection from low-powered jammers.
Loss of signal in a system that utilizes ATP will bring trains to a halt for safety reasons. It’s obviously something they don’t want happening.
Facebook goes Down
Unexpectedly, I wasn’t able to sleep at about 2:08am on 2nd August 2014, and trying to get onto Facebook gave me this helpful error.
Luckily, it wasn’t only just me, but this event was yet another that literally “almost” broke the internet. In fact, it was so serious, people actually called 911 in America … I can’t really believe that.
Fastway – A Fast Way to Nowhere
This week, I was going to receive a package being sent by Fastway. I had no choice as to the service used by the seller, but judging from online reviews, Fastway is really one of the bottom of the crop couriers.
Filled with enthusiasm, I had a package claiming to have been dispatched 21st July, which only turned up on the Fastway system on the 22nd. From there, it got onboard the courier vehicle on 24th, 25th and 28th before finally being delivered on the third day.
I’ve been sitting at home waiting, where possible, for the package to turn up. It was getting so bad, I had to send an e-mail enquiry to them before it actually got delivered. Eight days from Melbourne to Sydney – even Australia Post is faster.
My advice to fellow online purchasers? Avoid Fastway if you can. Unless it’s going a short distance, and you know the franchisees at both ends are reliable.
Recovering a “bricked” Arduino Mega 1280
I don’t know what I did, but while optimizing a PROM dumping program for higher speed, the old Arduino Mega 1280 stopped working properly. The serial port portion was fine, but the bootloader was no longer blinking as it should. I suspected somehow I had damaged the bootloader. Unlike the Uno/Duemilenove boards which have socketed chips, this one is soldered down, so there’s not a “quick fix” of swapping chips as such.
Luckily you can use a working Arduino to reprogram the bootloader into another. You merely need to load the ArduinoISP sketch from the menu, which turns the board into an In-System Programmer. Remember to select the right type of target board (in my case, I only had an a Mega 2560 available), and then load the sketch onto the board. Then you can disconnect the board to make the required connections.
Connections for Unos are well documented, but for the Mega series, you need to do a little thinking. As it turns out, the connections required are:
- 5v to 5v
- GND to GND
- 53 from the programmer to Reset on the target
- 50 to 50
- 51 to 51
- 52 to 52
Then, you can re-connect the programmer board to your computer, and select the target board type in the Tools menu, and select Programmer -> Arduino as ISP, then hit Burn Bootloader. After a few minutes, it should be done and all should be well again :).
Luckily, for me, there wasn’t any hardware damage. I still don’t know why it went wrong on me, but at least it’s not dead!
The New Dick Smith Ad
In watching TV, I came across the new Dick Smith ad, the one that goes “… there’s a smith in all of us. Unleash your smith” or something like that. The one with the kid, on the bike.
I look at that ad, and all I see is irony.
Dick Smith was a shop where we could unleash our smith, but ever since they got rid of all the electronics and componentry, it’s now a place where we can “unleash our smith” in the sense of “here, buy a new laptop or a tablet”. It’s somewhat degrading to think that they’ve “pushed back” the sense of “smithery” to kitting a bike up with a crapload of consumer electronics – nothing really being built. And the kid on the bike is gleaming … all over a load of tablets, speakers, microphones and nothing that couldn’t be snapped together like lego.
Kids these days … *grumble grumble*
Told you it would be a little shorter than usual … maybe I’ll have more but I’ve been working pretty hard as of late …