Staying on the line with a homebuilt robot

Friday, November 25th, 2005
Amy and Wendy recently decided to build a test platform to further develop their programming skills.


Specifically, they wanted to build a robot to follow a line. They emailed me this video clip of their latest LEGO robot following an electrical tape line around grandma's kitchen. (See below.) Programming a robot to follow a line can be a challenge. I'm proud of Amy and Wendy for taking the initiative to learn how to solve this problem on their own.

Learn more about their robotics team, The LEGO Mountaineers, here.

Click on the podcast link below to watch the video.

Baskets of Bread

Thursday, November 24th, 2005
Many years ago, my wife put together this display for our home. Five loaves of bread and two fishes in a simple basket. Her purpose was to create a powerful visual reminder of how God provides for our needs in the same way that He did when he multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the crowds.

- Loaves and Fishes.jpg

It's so easy for us to fall into a cycle of thinking about what we do not have, yet we are richly blessed. We have a father that loves us, cares for us, and will never abandon us. Our heavenly Father loves us so much that he has provided for all of our needs, even to the point of extreme sacrifice just so that we would not miss out on the most important aspect of life. It's easy, however, to get distracted from what we really need and think about what we do not have or what we want. Specifically there are times when we may think that we do not have enough ___ [fill in the blank; money, house, things, faith; hope; love, etc.] yet God provides abundantly, according to our need.

Continue Reading "Baskets of Bread" »

Don’t forget to pack your suit, Michael

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005
OK, Michael, we've been verbally jousting long enough. For your next visit to California I'm planning a different kind of adventure. Rather than hang out in the digital sandbox doing geek stuff, I think we'll do something else for fun but you'll need to bring your own suit ...  

Jousting in PMC1.jpg

I don't want you to exceed the weight or size restrictions for international flights or have any trouble with airport security, Michael. Just pack your suit and leave your sword and lance at home. We'll pick up some weapons locally.

Continue Reading "Don't forget to pack your suit, Michael" »

LEGO Mountaineers earn top award

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005
This weekend, our Robotics team competed in the FIRST Robotics competition in Manhattan Beach, California. Preparation for this year's competition was very different from all previous years. Due to a medical situation in our family, our team was unable to meet as a team after our first meeting. Rather than skipping the competition, the girls decided to split up the projects, with two of the girls working on the robot design and programming locally while Amy and Wendy worked on the research and presentation project remotely.

Mountaineers research presentation

This weekend, the LEGO Mountaineers won the top award for their research and presentation on how undersea robots can be used to help restore the kelp forests. Amy and Wendy even built a mock-up of their proposed solution to demonstrate how it would work.

Continue Reading "LEGO Mountaineers earn top award" »

YABHTU Validation, and I’m to blame

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005
Many months ago, while researching what others had to say about their Tablet PC experience, I coined the term, YABHTU, to describe folks like Marc Orchant, Warner Crocker, James Kendricks and others as they shared their experiences with their new Tablet PC. I wanted to experience the same, but I remained skeptical. Little did I know that this simple term, intended to keep me from having to type out "Yet Another Blissfully Happy Tablet User" each time I wrote about it, would become an internet phenomenon.

Now, Warner and Marc write that YABTHU, has made the urban dictionary.

Continue Reading "YABHTU Validation, and I'm to blame" »

How hard is it to digitalize a book?

Monday, November 14th, 2005
Many people have written to ask me how long it takes to create a searchable PDF (PDF+Text) document from a book. This weekend, I decided to time the process outlined here.

Book scanning is the most time-consuming method of digitizing paper. Unlike loose pages, which can be scanned using a sheet-fed scanner, book pages must be manually turned for each scan. A specialize book scanner can help to greatly reduce time it takes to make a quality scan. A traditional scanner is impractical for scanning more than a few pages.

I scanned a nine chapters, totalling 154 pages of text, including illustrations, and diagrams, for an average of 4.7 minutes of total time (manual scanning + conversion to PDF + OCR) per chapter. The average per-page processing time is approximately seventeen seconds (rounded up).

Here's the breakdown:

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Thank You, Go in Peace

Friday, November 11th, 2005
Today, I attended a Veteran's Day memorial with my family. It was an opportunity to recognize the men and women who courageously served our country in order that we might enjoy the freedoms that we have today.


It was sobering to see the dwindling numbers  of retired solders in the honor guard, standing at attention, representing each of the branches of our armed forces. I'm proud to be an American. More importantly, I was humbled to think about what it costs to be an American. I grew up as an Air Force kid and I tasted a sense of patriotism that I've not seen often since moving to California twenty-five years ago. It's not that there aren't patriotic people in California, there are many. it's just that I don't often see many deeply patriotic people - the quiet ones. The ones who understand that freedom is not free.

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Groove, MindManger & OneNote Tips

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005
MindManager and OneNote offer a compelling solution for brainstorming, visual mapping and digital note-taking. Unfortunately, they are not [yet] well suited for distributed group contributions.

I've come across a few posts about how people have creatively used Groove to handle file-sharing of MindMaps and OneNote Notebooks at the file-level.  I read that MindJet and Groove once had a formal relationship to develop tighter integration between their product. Unfortunately, information that I could find reference old versions of both products.

I'm curious to know if any of you are using Groove in conjunction with OneNote or MindManager. If so, perhaps you would like to share some of your best practices.

PS. Lots if interesting news on the home front. Busy with development at eProductivity.NET. My Paperless Tablet project is progressing very well ( I'm actually closer to YABHTU than I expected); and I've captured notes about my document scanning experiences. I hope to share these soon.

Before I recommend a new technology to a client, I like to try it in-house. My goal is to learn the ins and outs of new technology and software so that I can recommend the best configuration to a client. This means a lot of learning and experimentation. Often, everything comes together, just as I planned. Sometimes, the pieces just don't quite work well together. This weekend was one of those times.

20051107 - Software loading in the digital sandbox.jpg
The digital sandbox, this weekend.

I spent much of the weekend with a long-time colleague, Russ Chung, configuring a high-performance server for a productivity development project I'm working on.
Continue Reading "Sometimes, I get burned so my clients won't have to" »

Problem with RSS feed - please be patient

Friday, November 4th, 2005
This blog is running the latest version of DominoBlog. I'm helping Steve test several new features. Please be patient while he helps me sort out the RSS issue. Thanks. Eric

How to convert a book to PDF+Text

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
One step on my paperless challenge mind map is to convert my 1096 page "Law for Business" text book into a searchable PDF file. Why PDF+TEXT? Beyond the obvious ability to search for text, Adobe Acrobat allows me to highlight text and then review only the highlights as a summary. (See yesterday's entry on highlighting Acrobat documents on the Tablet PC).

My book scanning station

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System performance discovery on my Tablet PC

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
For months I've been battling an irritating and elusive slow-down whenever I would attempt to do operations that involved windows explorer. Some times, these delays could be as long as 45 seconds. This became the source of tremendous humor to my friend, whom I shall not name, who, as a result, suggested that I was a deProductivity Specialist, not an eProductivity Specialist. (Sticks and stones, Michael)

Anyway, the short version of my discovery is that I found that I have either a bad SD card (which I usually keep in the SD card slot) or perhaps a problem with the built-in SD card reader in my M4. In any case, I removed the card and now my system zips along.

Apparently, as best as I can tell, the corrupt card (or reader) created a problem for windows explorer as each file operation causes explorer to consider all available devices, resulting in a significant delay when a device does not respond properly.

I don't think that this is the cause of all of my slow-down problems, but I now believe it's at least a major player.

Has anyone experienced this?

Acrobat comment markup using the Tablet PC

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005
Special thanks to fellow paperless challenge partner, Tracy Hooten, of The Student Tablet PC, for her detailed post showing me how to collect highlights made in Acrobat on to one page for quick and easy review. (See my previous post: "The Perfect Tablet PC Highlighting Application")

I was speaking with Eric Mack and he mentioned his search for a program which kept track of what you highlighted. It didn't dawn on me until then that Acrobat may be an answer (though not ideal). If you've used Adobe Acrobat 7.0 before, you likely know that you can mark-up your PDF files by highlighting text, underlining text, and adding comments. By selecting a commenting option and using the comment list/summary, you can give yourself a list of every word you mark up.

20051101 - Acrobat Comment markup Screen Shot.jpg

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I use SyncToy to synchronize my files with a USB stick for safe-keeping. SyncToy is a free utility from Microsoft that helps you copy, move, rename, and delete files between folders and computers quickly and easily.  Now that I'm working paperless, I've become more paranoid about backing up my work. SyncToy is a big help.

Not long ago, I tried to post a thank-you and feedback to the developers of SyncToy, but the Microsoft web site crashed in my IE 6.x browser. After 3 attempts I gave up.  I kept the list and I've decided to post it here in case it might inspire other developers, too.

Continue Reading "Feedback I tried to leave on the SyncToy web site" »
I've received many requests for my paperless challenge brainstorm map. I've updated my original post with links to my source file, created in MindManager, and a PDF file of the map.

       For non-IE users, click here to download the MindManager map
       For a PDF version, click here