jc blog - tales of a modern-day nomadic hunter-gatherer

Follow jcomeau_ictx on Twitter This is the weblog of Intrepid Wanderer. You never know what you might find here; graphic descriptions of bodily functions, computer programming secrets, proselytizing for the antichrist, miscellaneous ranting and kvetching, valuable information on living off the land... if you don't share my rather weird interests you may want to try slashdot instead.

You can consider my Del.icio.us links an extension to my blog, as are my LifeTango goals and my other to-do items. My to-buy list is also public, but only for sharing any useful ideas that might be there; I'm not requesting charity, neither do I offer it.

You can find me easily in google searches, as jcomeau, jcomeau_ictx, or jcomeauictx. There are lots of other jcomeaus, but AFAIK I'm the only jcomeau_ictx out there so far.

If you want to comment on anything you see here, try the new Facebook comments, reachable by clicking the "[comment]" link at the end of each post. If for some reason that isn't working, go ahead and email me, jc.unternet.net. You know what to do with the first dot. Make the 'subject' line something reasonably intelligent-looking or it goes plunk! into the spambasket unread.

This RSS feed may or may not work. Haven't fiddled with it in forever. RSS Feed


With the completion of sendcom (see Makefile), my remote control of the music and amplifier (old car radio) is complete, for now. I'd bought a relay at Radio Shack yesterday for $10, but couldn't find it when I got back home, dammit. It was a 2P2T, good for switching between the outdoor and indoor speakers. Oh, well. It would also be nice to be able to control the volume remotely; seems to me there's already a Windows command-line utility for that, but I can't remember where. [comment]


It's been years since I played with transistors. I figured out how to write a simple program to turn on port B bit 0, the pin just West of the Northeast corner if the dimple on the ATTINY2313 is to the West, here. I also had to edit the include file. But then the fucking relay wouldn't turn on. I had the 12V going to the (open) collector, the emitter going to the relay, and PORTB1 going through a 100 ohm resistor to the base. Only 4.something was getting to the relay, and it wasn't activating. Damn. Transistors amplify current, not voltage, and for some reason the relay needed well over 4 volts to activate. So I rewired it, with 12V going to the relay, then the ground side of the relay through the collector-emitter circuit to ground. It fucking worked! Sending a "0" over the HyperTerm connection, 9600 baud with no hardware handshaking, turns off the relay, and a "1" turns it on. Tomorrow, probably, I'll run the wire over to where the radio is set up. Eventually I might add a second, DPDT, relay to switch to the outdoor speakers, and modify the program to take anything from "0" to "3". [comment]


Finally did a more complete reverse-engineering of Futurlec's AT90S2313 development board, since I can't seem to find a schematic or useful source code anywhere. Here's the disassembled test program, partially commented, which compiles with AVRA to an identical binary to the one pulled from my board using PonyProg2000. Now I just want to hack it down to a simple on-off switch, for now, to remotely turn on my radio. Kind of like an X10 controller. Of course I can reprogram it later to do something more useful, but lacking optoisolators, I need to have something to connect the laptop, running off the inverter, to my 12V power system. It's a no-no connecting the AC neutral to DC ground. [comment]


Got a rabbit yesterday morning, then the afternoon hunt was a failure. No consistency.

Baby horned toads are running around now. Prickly pears that have been artificially watered -- there's been no rain since last fall -- are growing tender new lobes. The bright green of the mesquite leaves provides a stunning contrast to the darker creosotes. I love this desert. [comment]


My birthday wasn't bad by any means, but I wouldn't say it was one of the best days of my life; on the other hand the following day definitely ranks as one of the worst. I can't go into detail right now, but let's just say I've had a fresh taste of hell, and I'm getting back into my projects with a newfound enthusiasm.

I'm still planning on attending the Maker Faire and Kinetic Sculpture Race, though. Already bought my Greyhound ticket to San Fran. [comment]


Carrying a small flask of diluted Dr. Bronner's can change your underarm stink from intolerable to merely objectionable, by just pulling your shirt out under each arm, pouring a little on, and rubbing it in. I'll have to get me a flask for my next trip. I tried coffee and pure alcohol before that, with only temporary results. This seems to last a while. Presumably it's neutralizing some of the uric acid. [comment]


Found a way to reset the DSL router without physically going down to the community center... just telnet to it, login as root, type 'reboot'. Came back it about a minute.

I've been trying to build the unofficial development kit for the iPhone/iPod, using the instructions at HackInTheBox.org, but the LLVM build alone filled up the rest of my Linux partition, about half a gig, before it even finished compiling. What a load of shit! When am I ever going to get off my butt and restore some sanity to the software world? A complete FORTH-like development system should be small, fast, and easily extensible without all these layers of crap. But it seems like an elusive dream... [comment]


I'd never actually figured out how to get songs onto my iPod Touch until this morning, and then found out the damned thing won't play them! Googled around till I found the fix: Settings | General | Reset | Reset All Settings. Yes! Now I have music too... [comment]


More ultralight/ultracompact backpacking ideas... how about a fold-flat coffee cup made of Gore-tex, two layers with insulation between? It would beat the hell out of the Orikaso. Or a plastic cup with a removable bottom; you wear the cylinder on your wrist/forearm, and put the flat bottom part in your pocket. It can screw in with a coin.

Also thought of a possible way to start doing cartwheels or backflips. Make something adjustable with grab bars about shoulder width apart; instead of going all the way to the floor you only need to go as far as this support. Once you get comfortable in a handstand at that level, adjust it lower. [comment]


Finished my second catchment barrel yesterday morning, finally. And today I upgraded MPLAB to version 8.02; sure enough, a whole slew of new problems emerged. After making the relative path to the proper include file, P16F917.INC, and the board still not showing any LEDs lit, I looked at the port numbers in the code as opposed to the board... the code was using port C for output, and the LEDs are tied to port D on the PICKit 2! After fixing that, the damned thing worked again. Now I can do everything from within the IDE instead of having to switch to the separate program.

However, there's no rush. I canceled the order of coffee plants from those dumbfucks at Henry Fields who sit on the order for days and don't respond to emails. When I get back from Cali (Maker Faire and possibly Kinetic Sculpture Race), I'll order some from Gurney's and see if I fare any better. So I won't really need my automatic watering system till June sometime.

I also think I figured out the problem with PayPal. A vendor on Amazon, from whom I bought the foam-filled tires for my dirtboard, consistently fails to complete the transaction on time, and the funds are silently returned to my PayPal balance. Thinking I'd simply forgotten there were funds available, I promptly spent the money... then when the vendor re-ran the charge, I was left with a negative balance. So even with PayPal you can go wrong. And they don't even offer the possibility of an alert when that happens. Fucking financial institutions. None of them are worth a shit except for Bank of Internet, from my experience, and even they won't protect you from accidental overdrafts. [comment]


Fiddle-farted around with MPLAB until I got it halfway working. The goddamned thing still won't power the target board for more than about a half second. I have to run the PICkit 2 program instead, for that purpose, and each time I change programs I have to install different firmware into the programmer. Workable, but a pain in the ass. I guess I could download new versions of both, but I'm afraid of running into even more problems.

Some of the things that I had to do, before I forget... made a batch file, mpasm.bat, to set up the mapped drive for avoiding the 62-byte path limit imposed by the debugging .COD files; then, because PICkit 2 was grayed-out as a programmer option, had to click Configure | Select Device..., then PIC16F917. After that, it became available. Possibly the option for providing power to the target is in some setting here, but damn if I can find it. Also had to change the clock setting in register 2007h from XT to INTOSC. I must have left it at XT when I was testing the crystals last year.

MPLAB automatically downloads firmware 1.10.7 into the programmer, and I have to manually upload 1.20.0 into it when running the PICkit 2 program.

No luck with rabbits this evening, even though I got pretty close to two different ones. I only had two bolts, and a pen I was hoping would function as one; so I spent too much time looking for my bolts, and the rabbits got away. I almost always miss on the first shot. Robert DeNiro probably wouldn't go hunting with me. One neighbor suggested I just set up a watering hole, and a blind, and pick them off when they come to drink. A nice idea, but I'd still better go hunting even so, to maintain and hopefully improve my skills; nomads don't always have the option of setting up things like that, and I can't let myself become too domesticated.

Feeling much better after getting laid this afternoon. Too many days without sex makes me depressed and/or grumpier than normal. [comment]


Yesterday morning's hunt bagged no rabbits, but when one just disappeared while I was stalking it, I was forced to notice something I'd never observed before. In the middle of some mesquite bushes, there's a nest made of densely-packed, dead, pieces of mesquite branches and twigs. I don't know if the rabbits build those or some other animal does, and the rabbits just use them as hideouts. I noticed another one later that day, tried to shoot a bolt into it, and that's when I realized how dense they are. And I got two pieces of mesquite thorn in my finger getting the bolt back out.

Last night in a dream there were some big white spots of infection on my upper body. I lanced them, and about a liter of blood came out, full of maggots of varying sizes. But I survived it. That part of the dream may have been from seeing the maggots on the moose in Into the Wild the other day. It was an OK movie, but not a keeper. I'm deleting it from my to-buy list. [comment]


Another rabbit tonight. I've been bragging I've got it down to a science, but I know better than that. A lot of it is "luck", our strange way of saying the gods are throwing things our way. I lost all 5 bolts this time, but I went around and paid 25 cents each to the people who've been finding them for me, and found one myself, and now have 3 for tomorrow's hunt. [comment]


This will be my first blog post from my iPod ultraportable, wearable, waterproof computer, ssh'ing to one of my servers and using vi.

Yesterday at dusk I got another cottontail with my little "toy" crossbow. The trick to success seems to be to not waste shots on those who aren't ready to die; wait for one that lets you get real close, say 10 to 15 feet, after the first shot. Making a loud whistling noise sometimes seems to help. They then just sit there, waiting for the kill. Eventually, even with my poor marksmanship, a bolt will connect, and they lay there squirming until I hold them down with one foot and drive another bolt into their brain. [comment]


On the bus to Deming today, I was thinking about the "personal airbag" idea I'd want if I ever do anything crazy like paragliding... and I thought, why not, instead of something inflatable, have some kind of ultralight exosketon, say of carbon composite tubing, with springs connecting the legs so I get the same effect? Something to think about anyway...

That Corre Caminos bus changes the whole dynamic of the region; I could conceivably live on my lot, 12 miles southwest of Deming, now. The bus runs past the Sunshine pawn shop, only 5 miles from my little half acre. [comment]


Got a rabbit tonight at sundown; skinned, gutted, and chopped it up, and shared it with my neighbors for supper. Took me about 5 shots before the sucker was dead, but then I was already pretty buzzed.

Making a little progress on several different projects. Got 4 new puncture-proof tires on my dirtboard, am adding more pieces to my HPV, made my first bottle block, imperfect but usable... things are coming together. [comment]

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