Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vision Command XP Install

Mostly noting this for personal reference (I'm still rushing to set software up for this weekend's show):

I originally tried the approach prescribed at this site: to get Vision Command running. All 5 files were ran, but when it came time for the registry update, I ran into a bug because apparently I didn't have RIS 2.0 in the default install directory (RIS 2.0 is on there, of course, and thanks to Cary selling me a new USB IR tower on the cheap, I got it to work again shortly before I started again in trying to install Vision Command).

After that failed, I tried following the advice seen on this website (the second result for "vision command xp" on Google): - so far, so good, but it's rebooting now. We'll all see soon enough if I'm able to successfully launch an air-guitar system before Saturday's really the last big goal left.

Oh, and before anyone starts wondering: Yes, I tried doing the properly nerdy thing and interfacing an NXT with the Logitech SDK. I didn't get very far, and I figured this program could be simple enough just to try in a kid-oriented graphical language. Sure, I don't get to do anything to show off my fancy Computer Science college-learning, but at some level just the novelty of having a working LEGO guitar player controlled by air-guitar playing children is already exciting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome LAML Listeners

EDIT: This was originally posted on January 11th, the night the show was taped. I am moving this forward a bit so that it will still be current when the show is aired (I suspect that sound problems on my end are a big part of the delay anyway, so I'm sorry if the below now reads as overkill).

Welcome LAML Listeners! This is my project blog. Not all of my projects are LEGO-related, but there are many LEGO-related projects blogged about here (and plenty more that I need to get around to covering here in the near future).

As noted on the podcast, I write about other people's models over at LMOTD and at Brick Town Talk. I also have a flickr account where I occasionally post some ideas and finds. The two models I have on flickr that I mentioned are Futuron Labs and the stool.

The robotic band does not have a name yet, and needs one. Feel free to send your ideas for robot band names to

A blog for the robotic band will be made once a name has been chosen. I hope that that blog will also grow into a place for showcasing other musical models and bands (there are other musical Mindstorms ideas out there, just not many people who try to do everything to flesh out a band that way).

Of course, the stuff on LAML about this is something of a leak - I suspect we'll see video crop up from a few sources once LEGOPalooza happens.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

LMOTD Behind-the-Scenes notes

While I'm not entirely sure I'm going to be back up-to-regular-speed on LMOTD for a few weeks yet (this is a very busy time for me for a number of reasons), I am thrilled to report that my laptop is now back in working shape. The miraculous recovery is just as strange as how it suddenly became nearly unusable - I accidentally bumped it with my toe before we brought it into the shop, and after the toe-hit, everything worked again.

I now have an idea for a future project - testing the ability of my toes to fix electronics. Something similar seems to work with kicking things for some people, so maybe there's actually something to this. (Kidding.)

In the interest of making sure I don't mess up any tax stuff, I was asked again earlier about the "money" I've "made" blogging on LMOTD. While I was there, I found a report option for the top ten items, and I thought it looked interesting. Perhaps even interesting enough to fill in for a proper top-sets-voted-on-by-you-my-readers top 10 list. I decided to just take a screenshot and post it to flickr. I might regret posting this - it's something of an "inside" view into the world of LEGO blogging. You can actually see how much money I made blogging last year if you add it up (hint: not much, but enough for me to consider running a contest at some point in the future). You can also see how some of the data is pretty useless - UNKNOWN is listed by many sets in these reports, and you have to know the items numbers to figure out what you're seeing.

So far for this year, I've had a few people buy Star Wars sets and one person buy a Taj Mahal through the site. Not a bad start to a "slow" season.

I never used to believe that nearly half of all sales happen during the Christmas rush, but even when I was trying to blog about music and barely getting any traffic (and using Amazon's affiliate service primarily instead of focusing on LinkShare), I started to see that trend come out. Most of the items on the "top 10" list are there because of December purchases.

It's also worth noting that there's a bit of delay before they actually credit a "publisher"'s account. The Black Friday deals in particular were noticeable, because several of the popular sets were backordered and the commissions were not put in until the orders had shipped. Mid January is really the EARLIEST a list like this can be done.

Funny sidenote: anyone else notice that some of the other LEGO-related blogs started to run more event announcements for events the authors weren't involved in shortly after TCBX got hefty coverage on LMOTD? I suspect that even though we don't all read each other, there's a bit of copy-catting going on. Of course, mentioning that seems silly now that we all use the BrickJournal calendar, but it's still hard to miss. I'd be interested in seeing - for comparison's sake - similar top-10-items reports from some of the other bloggers in the community. The most popular item on mine was only bought 4 times - how many of the same item do you think The Brothers Brick sold?

Just to reiterate, since I was questioned about earlier comments on sponsored links: I don't really need to see anything, and it's none of my business how you run your site, where the money goes, etc. I read/use most of these sites anyway, even if I don't link to them directly much. I've also been known offline to encourage people to use sponsored links from whatever site they'd like to support, as a way of helping out the AFOL (Adult Fan Of LEGO) community. I know my place as someone hosted by Google/Blogger and not someone who is paying to keep a private server hosting the site. I really have no harsh feelings on any of this stuff - the only thing I see in LEGO-related blogging that bugs me is when people who don't follow the hobby post things that are outrageously off-base and/or forget to credit the builders whose work they're featuring.

I don't expect to make Behind-the-Scenes a regular feature, but I'm happy to field questions if anyone has them (beyond the usual ones about what RSS is and what affiliate services I use - I'll get around to writing about those properly eventually, and then treat whatever I write about that as a FAQ for blogging in general. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that that people who "don't get it" will use as a starting point).

Neurodiversity Article Spotted in LEGO's Internal Magazine

I know that I shouldn't have been able to get my hands on this, but it's thrilling nonetheless. Of course, it's not available online - or to the public (this magazine is only for the company's employees) - at all, and I'm not even sure if I'm technically "allowed" to see it (since I'm not an employee) - but it was still exciting to see.

The article was about video game testing and debugging done for the LEGO company, and they spent a few paragraphs out of the (IIRC) 4 pages focusing on how this one guy has an Asperger's diagnosis, what Asperger's and autism are, and how he's better at the job because of it. Granted, it's nothing I haven't said before, but it still surprises me when I see these things in print - not many people have much interest in these issues, and usually when they are covered, it's aimed towards parents and doesn't give a fair impression of autistic adults. Even though I am, of course, familiar with LEGO UK's work with the NAS last year, and with LEGO's overall excellent record of designing toys that autistic kids love and can learn from, it's still exciting to see the company take the initiative in talking about neurodiversity and employment.

I suspect that LEGO is trying to avoid getting involved with the politics of this, and the backlash tied into that. Those of you who follow politics likely saw the recent dust-up where an antivaccine lunatic on the Huffington Post confused (a "social" site about various causes) with (the Obama administration's active democracy tool) and then proceeded to launch into a looong rant about how those of us who focus on autistic adults really just hate children (based on bringing in reputable pro-neurodiversity bloggers). I think it goes without saying that no toy company wants to get involved with that sort of negative PR, regardless of how discredited the quack touting it is.

Of course, the really funny part is that anyone wanting to pick at Obama for supporting initiatives that benefit autistic adults but not research into vaccines or less-than-solid medicine would have had more than enough ammunition on his campaign's website last year (in spite of all the "more affirmative action for black people" rants in the media, his actual policy of aggressive affirmative action for employment of people with all sorts of disabilities went unnoticed). While it's still shocking to see any company take a side on neurodiversity, we totally got the first national politician to take a stand on the issue into the White House. Frankly, the whole thing seems surreal, even as I try to keep my expectations realistic as to how much will actually get done.

On one last LEGO-related note, they've also gone all-out on celebrating the Obama inauguration in LEGOLAND California's Washington DC miniland. I'm probably going to write about that properly for LMOTD sometime tomorrow. To be honest, with any of those huge layouts, there's always a huge issue with not having enough photos. Politically, I'm inclined to be excited about the moment and tell everyone to check out the display. As a LEGO fan, I kind of want to wait until someone else LEGO-obsessed can get a few thousand photos and name most of the "guests" shown in the celebrations. This layout will be out for a few months - surely some of the best photos (and videos) are yet to come. As a reasonable person who recognizes I'm reading too much into things sometimes and then blogging about them, with all the potential for embarrassment that brings, I'm also interested in knowing if past Presidential inaugurations - or other transitions of power in the world - have been documented in miniland form. Sure, Obama's a "rockstar" and all that, but in terms of poll numbers in the election, he actually didn't get that much of a landslide - doing other swearing-in ceremonies in miniland form may have actually made more sense (except, of course, that this is happening now and is still exciting - and frankly, game-changing. People who don't like Obama will take advantage of his open-government ideas to their own ends anyway, and politics will, at least in the short term, have to adjust a bit to work with that). Of course, it's worth pointing out that the last time there was a clear landslide in a US election, there was no LEGOLAND park in the US. For what it's worth, the official spokespeople are saying that the inauguration display is supposed to educate youngsters about government (personally, I'll believe it when they release a minifig-scale senate playset - but then again, the lack of diversity in our political figures would likely not inspire kids the way LEGO likes to...but I suppose the gender balance is much different! Just saying...).

Sorry if you're not into this stuff, but I don't have a proper political blogging outlet and this serves as a bit of follow-up on a poorly-written earlier post. I've decided to go ahead and cover my political "projects" here and I've started tagging (or "labeling", whatever you prefer) the related posts as such. This should work for now, since I don't get into politics too much and I'm actually not very opinionated on most of the "hot button" issues (call me crazy, but I'd rather focus on issues I might be able to do something and stay away from partisan bickering when possible).

Gas update

$1.769 a gallon
279.1 miles
13.247 gallons
21.0689 miles per gallon

Trend over 2008 (with laughably few data points - ignore this):
8/21/2008: 20.85
11/16/2008: 23.03 MPG
1/14/2009: 21.07 MPG

With any luck, this year won't see the absurdities that last year brought and I'll be able to gather more data.