::::: : the wood : davidrobins.net

My name is David Robins: Christian, lead developer (resume), writer, photographer, runner, gun enthusiast, libertarian (voluntaryist), and student.

This is also my son David Geoffrey Robins' site.

Tom Robins, 1939-2014

News ·Saturday July 12, 2014 @ 20:30 EDT (link)

My uncle, Tom Robins, passed away on July 1 after a battle with Parkinson's. He was 75. Of all my uncles and aunts, most of whom, on my dad's side at least, still lived in the Niagara area, we were closest to him and his family, both geographically—they were also in Fonthill—and not least because he was a Christian and raised his family that way. He liked to work with his hands, and built, among other things, a barn on his property on Hansler, and a rocking-horse that he passed on to us for Emily and Julia when his kids had finished with it. He worked as a Research Technician and a Mill Supervisor at Ontario Paper, and had a natural mechanical aptitude.

The funeral program and hymns supplement (PDFs), courtesy of my cousin David's longtime girlfriend Danielle Elzinga.

Honey and I drove up to be there with the family; we left on the morning of Saturday the 5th. We had originally planned to leave on Wednesday, but ended up staying the week and leaving Saturday. The viewing was Monday (2-4pm and 7-9pm; we went to the later one). It wasn't so much hard to see him, or, rather, not-him at all, but the body we were so used to, but hard to know that the real him was no longer here with us. "You are a soul; you have a body" (George MacDonald; frequently attributed to C. S. Lewis). The funeral and internment were Tuesday, at Scottlea, with a lunch at the chapel in between. "Family remarks" were delivered by Thomas McGarvey (his stepson, reading his wife Mary's remarks), Andrew Grist (son in law), and David (son), as well as my father, his (younger) brother. To a great degree, Tom was responsible for bringing the light of the gospel to their family, such as received it, including my father. I got to meet a lot of relatives I hadn't seen for a long time and some I'd never met. Fittingly, it rained during the internment; the sky wept as we placed flowers on the casket.

We had planned to leave the next day, Wednesday, but decided to stay with my family a few more days. That gave us a chance to visit with my Uncle Chuck (Tom's brother) and Aunt Shirley in Beaverdams, and give him a copy of the funeral program (above), since he was unwell and couldn't be there. We also got to take my dad and mom out to dinner (The Keg) for a belated father's day/birthday. Fortunately I am able to work remotely when I need to (especially since I don't have any minions people reporting to me yet).

Books finished: Knife of Dreams, The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight.

Shooting at ACC with Matt and AJ

News, Guns ·Sunday May 25, 2014 @ 20:51 EDT (link)

At lunch on Friday Matt and I had discussed finally going to shoot at ACC, where I have a membership; I hadn't gone since going with Ron in winter (freezing cold and windy enough to keep blowing our target stands over). Since I was over at AJ's (grandma's) yesterday to figure out some things about the boards, I asked if he wanted to come with, so we made a party of three meeting at 1400 at our place. AJ put his car (Acura TSX) in my garage (avoid dings) and we headed up in the TL. I'd forgotten how nice a drive it was.

I knew from the schedule there was a USPSA match (8-4 officially, using bays 4-8), but they were shutting down as we showed up (and had used more bays). The people in the bay with one of the steel target rigs weren't using it, so we asked if we could share, the rest being busy, and they said they were just leaving anyway, so we unloaded and set up. I brought the Kimber Master Carry Custom, SIG P226, Glock 19 and 34, and Springfield XDM. We shot the steel targets first and then moved on to paper. People had a good time with each; AJ and Matt hadn't shot for a while but managed to consistently knock down plates.

When we got back Matt stuck around and we got a pizza (AJ had to leave) and had beer and he, Honey, and I talked for a while, then I said I had to get back to (Yikes) work… played around with the boards some more that night, got the LEDs to blink, basics like that, although an SDK bug plus the Nordic forums being down put an end to work by midnight (there's a fix attached to a message, but although posts can be read with Google cache, downloads can't be accessed).

Last day at Exacq

News, Work ·Friday May 23, 2014 @ 17:52 EDT (link)

Friday was my last day working at Exacq Technologies (Tyco Security Products). I had been doing some consulting work for a company I heard about through a friend from back at Hilton, and they made me a compelling offer to come on full time. I learned a lot in my position as Manager of API and Integration there, and would recommend it as a great place to work (and they are hiring; C++ client/server developers, and to fill my position, and web/mobile developers with Python/Javascript). I had not been actively looking to change jobs. I managed to finish the things I had planned for my last couple of weeks, including merging in Kerberos/LDAP login and output triggers work, and making a final API release (; password protected—not my call).

The new company I'll be working for is called Yikes (I didn't pick the name), working in the proximity space, and with the hospitality industry to start but with plans beyond that. I'm sure I'll be making posts with whatever interesting events arise with the new company (although I may not be able to mention some names; but that's not new). There are certainly some "best practices" that need to be enforced on various contractors; coding standards, working in branches, and such; we are accumulating a lot of technical debt justified by up-front speed; we'll pay for it eventually and save nothing for taking (these types of) shortcuts. My position is Senior (Software) Development Manager; not much of a team yet, so I'm more running the parts of the system touching Bluetooth (a couple embedded systems and a phone app), doing general architecture, development process, and (still) a fair bit of development, which suits me fine. Like Exacq, we are also looking for C++ developers (embedded experience nice to have) and an EE (RF experience nice to have) if we can find one.

Canoeing on Monroe Lake

News ·Sunday May 18, 2014 @ 23:43 EDT (link)

We decided to take a drive down to Monroe Lake on Sunday afternoon and rent a canoe for an hour. The drive was supposed to be about an hour and a half, and the last hourly canoe rental went out at 1730; so we cut it pretty close leaving near 1600, but we threw some gear in the car and headed down. We made it in good time.

Unlike our Turkey Run canoe float with the flight of wooden steps at the top and muddy embankments on both sides, the canoe rental was right on the edge of the lake; $15 for the first (and only, for us this trip) hour; we grabbed a map, decided to head right because the guy at the store said it was scenic, and shoved off. It was indeed a pretty trip; lots of good spots to stop and have a picnic, if we had one; reminded me of lakes in Algonquin a little, except there were more signs of habitation.

We timed it pretty much just right, and arrived back at just before 1830 (we'd left closer to 1715 but the guy put us down to be back 1830); turned in the paddles and life jackets, and drove back. We may go back and rent (sit on top) kayaks from them some other time, and explore more of the lake.

Books finished: The Wind In the Willows, Callahan's Secret, The Importance of Being Earnest, Don't Make Me Think!, Design For Liberty, Nickel and Dimed, The Wizard, No, They Can't, V For Vendetta, Scratch Beginnings, Bait and Switch, Callahan's Lady, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, Across Realtime, The Green Hills of Earth, Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight.


News ·Sunday January 12, 2014 @ 08:45 EST (link)

Since (American) Thanksgiving, I've been growing a beard in time for the cold Indiana winter (really missing Florida these days). It stood me in good stead for snowpocalypse and the polar vortex. I'm not much for selfies, but I took this so I'd have a photo for some internal work site, which I also used for LinkedIn. Setup was my Nikon D300 on a tripod, 5-second self-timer, in front of a thick black blanket I'd just gotten from Exacq's Christmas party in early December that I hung from my flag stand. Slight levels adjustment in the GIMP. Camera facing down a little to reduce red-eye reflection.

Books finished: Wizards, Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom.

Christmas 2013 in WV

News ·Tuesday December 31, 2013 @ 08:12 EST (link)

We left for WV Tuesday night (17th); since the Tyco acquisition of Exacq, we have to use up all our vacation before the January 1, 2014 switch to Tyco's system, which fit fairly well with the plan to take two weeks for Christmas anyway. I had considered taking the Acura, but decided to leave it safe at home instead. We got in after midnight, and unloaded the car.

On Friday (19th) we went to The Char, a steak restaurant in Beckley, for Honey's birthday, and had cake afterwards at home in Mullens. Honey went Christmas shopping with Emily and her mother on Friday (she took the day off). I did some work from home; working on a parser generator for faster API catchup with the GUI client.

That night I also started building the Hedricks' Christmas gift: a media computer on which they could play Nintendo 64 games (emulated) and others, and watch some older shows (like Perfect Strangers), which we also provided. I bought all the components and we brought them with us: I went with microATX form factor, 8G RAM, a 1T HD, an AMD 3.4GHz (maybe 3.2?) FM2, HDMI of course, and a couple Xbox (compatible) controllers which I could map to the N64 buttons. I had a brief scare that the power supply was dead, but then I remembered the PS_ON pin had to be set high (borrowed a multimeter to check and then when I saw the pinout it came back to me). The case, a XON, was great with regard to fit and connections, except the supplied power cord was a dud, which was a shame because it had a flat head needed to keep it flush with the bottom where it attached. But it didn't look too bad with an alternate. I'll keep this brief since I plan to write more technical details on Code Visions, but I installed Arch Linux for the first time, which was mostly good (systemd took some getting used to), and decided to make XBMC the primary/default app, using Rom Collection Browser to run emulators (I had to put in a small fix for it, and write several small programs to help things along).

Image of
On Christmas Day I opened up a nice pair of slippers to replace a pair that were giving up the ghost (holes and rubber falling off all over, despite gluing and stapling), a set of Sony headphones, and 6 more months of Sirius XM radio for the Acura (yes, including it was a good marketing ploy). Honey got some DS games and some clothes; Emily got a lot of clothes. Honey and mother both got Kindle Fires (mother had one, but Emily only let her use it occasionally).

We went over to papa's for Christmas dinner (early afternoon) later in the day. Emily's massive mound of mashed potatoes can be seen in the pictures.

We left on the 31st, in the morning, just before the snowpocalypse.

I introduced Emily to learn.code.org while we were there, and she was making good progress with it (so did Honey, earlier); she made it through the "hour of code" at least, which her school apparently didn't participate in.

Books finished: The Liberty Amendments, Focus, The Knight, Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming.

Thanksgiving II

News, Auto ·Sunday December 1, 2013 @ 21:14 EST (link)

Since we are close to both families again we get two Thanksgivings; one in Ontario and one in WV. Since we are lending my in-laws my 2000 Toyota Solara, I drove it up after work (leaving around 1630); Honey drove up during he day.

On Thursday we ate Thanksgiving dinner at Twin Falls resort state park, which put on a lovely spread.

Saturday we (Honey and I, Honey's mother, Emily, and her… friend… Josh) went to see Catching Fire, which was pretty decent, although in terms of pointing out the evils of present states rather than a hypothetical one probably didn't do much; the infringements were not subtle: more Star Wars than Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four. On the other hand, American audiences tend to need to be hit over the head with these things, thanks to the wonderful government school system which produces such perfectly indoctrinated drones if parents aren't careful to substitute and supplement.

I had managed to get added to the right VPN groups, finally (the Tyco acquisition messed the network up good; some cameras still aren't responding and the evapi.exacq.com sample server is still not externally reachable, so I was able to check in and do some work on my parser generator ("OmniX"). I hope to work on it as a low priority item and have it ready for 2014 when we'll be doing more work with configuration through the API.

We headed back Sunday after church, leaving at 1230 and getting home around 1930 which only brief rest stop breaks.

Books finished: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, Time Travelers Strictly Cash, The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time.

Duracell corrodes Maglite, but P&G replaces it

News, Technical ·Saturday November 23, 2013 @ 13:10 EST (link)

I went to use one of my mini-Mags recently and found that the Duracell AA batteries I had put in it had corroded so badly that I could only get one of them out; the other one was irretrievably stuck, despite my efforts with various probing tools.

So I searched around and found that if you mail the item to Duracell, they'll fix or replace it; I found several hits on this, so it seemed more than just an Internet fable. On September 27, I sent it off first class with tracking (USPS 9114901123086544325620) to Durcell's warehouse (Duracell, Berkshire Corporate Park, Bethel, CT 06801, Attention: consumer department). Tracking showed that it did arrive; and I included a phone number, in case they wanted to tell me that they didn't do that any more, but didn't hear anything for about a month and a half. heard anything.

I had in fact given up; and was about to write about the poor experience here; but Honey checked the mail later today and found that we had a couple envelopes from Proctor & Gamble, Duracell's parent company. They had sent a $12 debit card to cover the damaged light (I had just added a new one to my cart on Amazon, and that covers it nicely) and a coupon to replace the batteries. I've heard around the 'net that Energizer don't have these issues, but I'm willing to give Duracell another shot (checking them more frequently) since I can replace them for free.

Books finished: I Am a Strange Loop.

Honey's cooking holiday in Canada

News ·Friday November 22, 2013 @ 13:59 EST (link)

Honey was gone this week (Monday to Friday) up to my folks in Canada, to visit with and learn to cook some English dishes (shepherd's pie, trifle) with my mother. She had a pretty good time, and brought back some samples.

A joystick, a trackball, and a gaming mouse

News, Technical, Media ·Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 01:38 EST (link)

A couple days ago, I bought a Logitech "Extreme 3D Pro" joystick; I'd "re-discovered" the '80s game TIE Fighter through some play-throughs on YouTube, but it was really painful with my Bluetooth laptop mouse, so I decided to go look for a joystick and bought one at Fry's. But when I tried it out it was still difficult to fly accurately. I figured I'd give it some time, but also try out a trackball and a gaming mouse, which I'd seen at the store and online when I was looking around. Based on reviews, I selected the Kensington SlimBlade trackball and Logitech G400s gaming mouse.

The Kensington SlimBlade was a beautiful device but the software and site left much to be desired. First, the slimblade.com site advertised on all the packaging materials just redirected to the Kensington main page. Downloading the drivers was a terrible pain; there was a download button on the page for the trackball that I eventually found, but it didn't actually do anything. I had to search the site with Google to find the correct download. Then, when I found the file, it wouldn't install—aborted half-way through. I eventually found it needed to be run as administrator; it didn't know enough to provide a manifest for elevation. Then it worked fairly well.

The Logitech mouse was easy to install, although the packaging was a bit convoluted, and it had some nice software to configure the many buttons to emit equivalent keypresses. Oddly, it came with some weights that could be inserted to modify the weight of the mouse. I guess that's a high-end gamer thing, since it didn't make much difference to me.

As it turned out, I ended up getting better with the joystick and decided to keep it and return the other two (very no-hassle at Fry's; although since they unpacked everything, which is reasonable, I needn't have went to the trouble to put it all back as it came). Part of the trick seemed to be not moving the joystick to the extreme upper left/lower right during calibration, but just a little way; that made control easier.

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