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Computing Nirvana!

There was a real chance that today would have been the third day in a row that I hadn’t written a blog entry! I try to miss only one day maximum, after two days I start to get a bit anxious. Three days without blogging would be a disaster!

So what has lead to this most unexpected lack of dedication on my part? Actually I have been involved with a couple of interesting projects recently which have used up so much time that I’ve not had a chance to write a blog entry.

The first was a programming project I am working on (in fact one I have been doing parts of here and there for about 6 months now). I got to the point in this project (which is a complex client/server web-based database system) where I needed to create graphs of the data so I decided to write a graphing module which uses Javascript and works in web browsers.

Making graphs is fun because they look pretty and users tend to react positively to them because of that. Its also a good demonstration of how its possible to do almost anything in a web browser now – things which could only be done in “real” programs in the past.

The other big thing which has been using up time is a science fair project I have been helping my son with (well actually I’m more than just helping but that’s common enough with these things). The project is to test the power output and economy of batteries.

I set up a cool experimental system with a webcam capturing a time-lapse movie to monitor some torches we set up. Four torches used four different types of battery and we monitored them for several days to day how long they would last.

I thought maybe 2 or 3 days would be enough so I set the time lapse to do a frame every 5 minutes for 5 days. After 5 days even the cheap batteries were still going strong so I had to start another set of 5 days. Eventually the torches went for more than a week. Its amazing how long even AAA batteries will power those high efficiency LEDs.

The second experiment was to test batteries in a high drain device. I thought a model RC car would be good for this so we decided to run one (an Aston Martin DB9 – you might as well have some class) around a 40 meter track I set up. The first batteries did about 25 laps and I thought the alkaline batteries might double that. Well the car took off like a rocket – twice as fast – and was still going 200 laps later. The more expensive alkalines powered the car for over 11 kilometers which took almost 2 hours to complete!

I stored the results, did the analysis, and drew the graphs using Numbers – Apple’s new spreadsheet program – and it was so nice. So much easier to use than Excel although it still lacks some of Excel’s advanced features. So I now use Pages instead of Word, KeyNote instead of PowerPoint, and Numbers insetad of Excel. So I’m completely free of badly designed Microsoft software. That’s computing nirvana!

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