September 23rd, 2003

classic beard

giant killer robots

I often tease zacheiss about the extent to which the machine-room-sysadmin parts of his job would be made easier by telepresence robotics. At least part of this is my upbringing - no, I'm too old for saturday morning giant-robot cartoons [Wile E. Coyote is my personal saviour], but I had a friend who worked for Unimation, and so I got exposed to the Puma arm and various other 3-space tools as far back as middle school, which gives me a skewed perspective on just how mainstream these things are.

So, what would be a useful machine room robot? Note that the goal here is not to replace the staff, or even to do a better job at normal things - the goal is to reduce the number of off-hours operations that actually need someone physically present.

It needs to:

  • Get around the machine room

    • without running over people

    • without damaging trailing wires

  • manipulate cables

    • including fiddly ones like rj45's with tabs, and coax

  • load and unload tapes (here the fact that the drives are already robotic might help)

  • read "blinkenlights"

  • read monitors

  • tap at keys

    • keyboards

    • reset buttons

  • operate from ground level up to the top of a full height rack

  • operate in a low-bandwidth fallback mode in case of outright network outage

  • be reasonably failsafed against network problems

Of course, the cost of such a system might be prohibitive, or at least might not balance well against the value of the service it provides, especially in a resource-challenged environment... but I don't care about that, it doesn't make it any less interesting a problem, and I feel like checking out how far this particular tech curve has gotten anyway.
  • Current Music
    someone saved my life tonight - elton john
classic beard

weather control

Does Belmont Hill actually have an influence on local weather? The cambridge side of the slope (where rt 2 comes down into alewife) seems to have more than it's share of heavy rain for any given heavy rain storm, but I don't know if that's just an observer effect. Likewise rt 128: does rt 128 itself influence local weather conditions, or just mark them (in a trailer-park like manner) because it was built at least in part in natural valleys?

Related conceit: "I want to build something that has an observable influence on local weather." (No, not really - but the NASA VAB did come to mind.)

Unrelated conceit: "I don't want a funeral - I want a lengthy FBI investigation"
  • Current Music
    the rain king - counting crows
classic beard


The FrogPad arrived this morning. Haven't had time to plug it in though, between lengthy limegerbil posts and attempting to concentrate on actual work. need... more... caffeine...
  • Current Music
    the rain pelting the windows