Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 + Mac OS X Lion

I'm trying to get child number two interested in Lego Mindstorms (brought on by my own recent interest in the Arduino microcontroller). I've had Lego Mindstorms since the late 90s (RXT 1.0). Nothing says fun for a college-aged married couple like playing with Legos while watching TV. 

Currently, we have the Lego Mindstorms NXT 1.0 kit, which is a few years old. The last time we used it (2 years?), it worked great. Yesterday, Owen was excited and flew through the building of the first model. We sat down at his Mac (that still had the Mindstorms software installed) and naively thought it might just work. Nope. It quickly crashed. A quick investigation revealed that since Leopard, Mindstorms and Mac OS X have no lost love. There is a flurry of various trial-and-error discussion topics on the web. Lego offers little help.

First, it became obvious that we should upgrade to the latest NXT-G 2.0 software. This was difficult to find (even on Lego's website). I ended up downloading from a Dropbox link here. The source  is from this discussion thread. It turns out that this is version 2.0.f5. Unfortunately, on our rip-roaring 500kb/s internet, this full ISO image required several hours.

Today, I sat down to install it (quickly?). Three hours later, I think I found the recipe that worked for us:

  • Mid-2007 iMac (Intel Core 2 Duo)
  • Mac OS X Lion (10.7.3)
  • Full Lego ISO image (2.0.f5)
    • I used the link above.  However, I've since discovered that it's also available from Lego, but not on their Downloads page (why would it be there).
  • I did not apply any of Lego's patches from their support files.
  1. Uninstall old Mindstorms NXT software, if necessary by dragging it from the Applications folder to the Trash Folder.
  2. Uninstall Adobe Flash.  
  3. Double-click ISO image to mount it.
  4. Execute the Install program.
  5. This will take a few minutes and then will restart your computer (do they think this is Windows or something?)
  6. You also need to upgrade the firmware on your NXT.  Download the 1.31 version from Lego.
  7. At this point, I was able launch NXT-G just fine.
  8. I connected a USB cable to the NXT and upgraded the firmware smoothly.  I then removed the USB cable.
  9. I am now able to communicate with the NXT via Bluetooth just fine.  Lots of people have had issues with this, so maybe I'm lucky.  I'm definitely not upgrading to Mountain Lion yet.
Bluetooth limitations: The only limitation I have found is that I can only communicate with the NXT from my (administrator) account and only if I use the Default profile in NXT-G.  If I try to use the kids' accounts or make NXT-G profiles for the kids, bluetooth doesn't work.  Not great, but better than constantly re-connecting the USB cable.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If an engineer decides to park his car

If an engineer decides to park his car on the other side of the garage when it's below freezing outside...

He will definitely decide it's also time to reprogram the built-in remote in his car for both garage door openers...

If he decides to reprogram the remote, he will want to read the manual (yes, real engineers read the manual).

If he gets the manual out, he will notice that he has never fixed the loose glove box latch.

If he gets a screwdriver and flashlight to fix the loose glove box latch, he will certainly decide he should investigate the leaky cabin air filter that Car-X never really fixed last winter.

If he decides to fix the leaky cabin filter, he will have to find a good You Tube video to walk him through dismantling the passenger side of the car.

Before he dismantles the passenger side of the car, he might just decide to see if the filter cover is loose. Wah la!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fun With Sump Pumps

While reading the otherwise lackluster News Gazette this morning, I encountered this "eerily similar to my life" column : And Not A Drop To Drink. It recounts the author's recent sump pump failure in her well pit.

Here's my two parts

In March, shortly after buying Mudpies 'n' Fireflies, my mom was visiting to help out for the weekend. While I was doing the lunch dishes, the water pressure dropped momentarily, but then came back. The city boy in me said "Hmmm. No big deal." The logical engineer and experienced country boy in me said "That's not right."

So, after lunch I went out to check on the well. Lo and behold, there was a good three feet of water in our well pit -- above the pressure switch and the pedestal sump pump. The electrical engineer in me was surprised to find the open-motor sump pump happily pumping while fully immersed. The rubber check valve had blown off the plumbing, so the pump was pumping right back into the pit. After shutting off the power (220V + 3ft H2O + Jonathan = bad things), I set to work.

Once the water was pumped down (spare utility pump for just such events), I replaced the pressure switch (also had a spare) so that the family would have water again (Ethan tends to freak out when the toilet doesn't work). Shockingly, when I plugged the sump back in, it started pumping (with a little smoke). Problem solved.

About 9:30 in the evening, I thought I would check on things before bed. Good thing I did because the pump had tipped in the other direction and was stuck on. So, in a blowing snow storm and in the dark, I managed to anchor the pump to the concrete wall. Problem solved (again).

Fast forward three months... After mowing on Saturday, I was spreading the sump hose out when I heard the unmistakable sound of a running motor in the well pit. I pulled off the top and some smoke drifted out. I quickly got the ladder, climbed down, and found the sump had finally given out. Fortunately, I bought a new submersible pump in March in preparation for this day. It seemed straightforward to swap pumps, even in the impending dark. Of course, the fittings didn't match and the new pump didn't fit right in the hole. I composed a short-term solution, but will be down there later in the week after visiting Lowes.

Thanks for the inspiration to write this Mary.

Here's a picture of the well pit (full top off) from when we had our well flushed a couple of years ago (I don't ever get to work down there on a sunny day or even during the day...usually only cold wet or snowy evenings):

From Well Flush

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reminder Why This Blog Exists

Remember when I used to update my blog on more than a quarterly basis? I was just looking through some unpublished posts that I really should have finished. But, a couple of them have since been updated, so maybe I'll revisit those.

Anyway, my blog has been lacking because we've had a busy spring (who hasn't?) we have 75% of our boys in baseball/t-ball. Ethan also just finished spring soccer season. Kimberly is the new committee chairwoman for Cub Scouts, the treasurer for baseball, and a newly elected member of the Heritage school district. Now, I really am just the man behind the woman...way far behind.

The most exciting news, yet also life changing crazy, is that we bought the children's consignment shop in Homer. We are officially small business owners. Friends of ours owned this store and another in Monticello, but wanted to sell the Homer store to be able to do some other things. We have spent the last three months shuttling kids around to various schools, daycares, and activities so that Kimberly can work. We're also taking a crash course in how the retail industry works: wholesale, inventory, advertising, website design, accounting, employees, and many other fun topics.

We finally released our website the other day, so check it out: If you're in the area, stop in for a cold soda!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Wedding Dancer

We recently attended my brother's wedding.

Initially, my grandmother had to pay Ethan $5 for him to dance after my mother turned down his financial proposal. However, that $5 seems to have tripped his dance circuit because he danced non-stop the rest of the evening. Here are just a few select clips:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Techno-Geek Mishap

From Misc

Apple TV: $99
Converters and cables to connect Apple TV to 10 year old HDTV: $105

If only I realized that our tv could only do 1080i, but not Apple's 720p...

Time for a small upgrade.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where to vote

Hopefully, everyone voted today.

I voted this morning on my way to work. Then, this afternoon, I got a voicemail from the Champaign County Democrats (I live in neighboring Vermilion County) reminding me that the polls were open until 7PM and that my voting location was the Urbana Civic Center. Um, no.

We haven't lived in Urbana for 10 years, and even when we did, we never voted at the Urbana Civic Center. Looking at the county clerk's website, it looks like our old polling place has not changed. I'm glad that I knew where to vote.

For what it's worth, Cunningham Township in Urbana and Vance Township in Fairmount probably could not be much more opposite on the political spectrum. We probably don't count as "average" voters out here.