Friday, August 17, 2012

What do I carry in my Backpack?

I was on the airplane yesterday scrolling through my RSS feeds and came across Adafruit's blog post, Asking Readers about what they carry in their backpack as people got ready to go to school.

so here it goes... 


What's in my backpack?
My backpack at the Alamo in San Antonio while I was there for the ASEE Conference. 
My backpack is a combination of a purse, demo-box, life line and project transporter. At any moment the contents can drastically change, but for the purposes of this post I've decided to highlight only the things that are regulars (or have been in my pack for longer than a week). 

First, my backpack... is simply awesome. It's called the Off-Grid from Voltaic Systems (a really neat company that makes rugged solar panels) and was actually my second bag from them.  Some of the high points. 

1. It has multiple pockets that can really carry almost everything that I need to.  I like to compartmentalize things, and having the options where to put things is really nice. 
2. I can split the solar panels between multiple packs instead of just using the one that it came with (they expose the junction box for you to re-wire if you want). 
3. It fits, even fully stuffed, under the seat in front of me in the airplane. 
4. It has a wire from the panel pack to the shoulder pocket, so I can charge my phone AND use it with headphones (thank you for that). 
5. I can detach the front panels and take them with me even if I need to leave my backpack behind (e.g. Picnic at the park). 
*I'm going to limit my gushing about Voltaic Systems because easily this post will become all about my amazing backpack. Instead, I'll get into the contents!

First things unpacked- Sitting at Gate 16 at the St. Louis Airport. 

1. The back section

a. My personal laptop 13 Inch MacBook Pro  Neon Green is kinda my colour, so I have a cover + a keyboard cover on it. 
b. My work laptop. It's some version of a Dell. It runs Windows 7 now. The only reason why I use this one is for Code Composer Studio, National Instrument's LabView and to do official VPN things. I did get a skinit sticker on it that shows the TI portfolio. Once CCStudio becomes compatible with Mac then I'll stop carrying this thing around and just use my regular mac computer exclusively. 
c. 1 copy of Space Games Kenneth and his sister told me a story about how they got seriously into programming when they were children because of a library book. Curiosity got the better of me so I ordered a version of the book. I've been going through some of the games and love it. I'm hoping to write a couple of these myself one day. 
d.  Amazon Kindle DX with Otterbox Case-  around Christmas time they had a huge sale on and I got one of these for 200! The Kindle (original size) was my favourite piece of technology. Getting it's big brother has also been just as satisfying (and useful!) Primarily because it's large enough to read datasheets and manuals. 
I like the otterbox case (only complaint is there is no screen protector).
e. Plain old composition book: I use these to do my speedwriting and just idea dump. After school supply season is over you can get these at target for $0.25. I go through one probably one every two weeks. 
f. MoleSkine Voliant XLarge Notebook: this is where I do my creative planning or note taking.

2. The Middle Section

This is probably the most interesting section of my backpack. 

a. My Favourite Battery Pack:  Energizer XP4001 This is my life saver. It power kits and it powers my phone. I like this particular pack over all of the other ones I've tried because there are two USB ports. 
b. Charger for above battery pack: I did label and put my phone number and email on the charger.( I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally left this charger and had it returned to me. Moral, make sure to put your phone number on your adapters!)
c. charging adapter for Work Computer. 
d. Misclaneous Kits. (covered below)
e. My Sonic Screwdriver- Pen: What girl doesn't have one? :-)
f. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen- Charcoal Medium Nib: My favourite pen... that I've had for years. Here's a fun post to explain this weird affinity. 
g. Slap Bracelet ... that is also a ruler 
h. My headphones: Foldable Darth Vader Headphones  using the Apple Core Wire Keeper 
i. macbook charger
j. lipgloss
k. chap stick
l. Sony bloggie HD Camera
m. hairbrush
n. FRAM For Dummies book I'm reviewing. 

a.The expanded Slap Bracelet I got into trouble with TSA for storing it like this. (Apparently it looks like a knife blade when going through xray. Make sure your slap bracelet is rolled up if you are planning on flying. )
b. My accessories box (covered below)
c, d. Kits box 2 (boris on the cover)
e. Sun Glasses (prescription but I never seem to ever use them because I am seldom in the sun ;-/
f. My real glasses
g. Beaglebone Tin
h. My Pens Box (covered below)
i. The Launchpad Box: I found this card container at the container store (that is perfect so this will fit in the back pocket of jeans).
j. My mobile hotspotL A life saver for internet wherever I am. 
k. car keys
l. Badges for Both the TI sites and the National Sites
m. Toothbrush and paste
n. My Livescribe Pen 

3. The Kits I carry

a. BeagleBone revision A6 in the A5 Special Edition Tin.
b. Anaren AIR Module for the MSP430 It's the node part of a demo I have for my Chronos Watch
c. MSP430 Launchpad for the Launchpad in the Wild Photos, 
d. Captouch Boosterpack 
e. The Happy Earplug: An inside joke that began with an earplug that had a smiley face put on it. 
f. 5529 MSP430 Kit- Prime kit for education I'm testing some of the lab exercises on. 
g.  Hotel Key card- I forgot to return a while ago, but have found useful as a scraper or prying tool. 
h. Short IPhone Cord: Oddly useful. 
i. various adapters for Voltaic Backpack
j. Square Reader: For taking payments at seminars. 
k. Voltaic Battery Pack that came with the backpack
l. C2000 launchpad just released
m. C2000 LED Booster Pack
n. breadbaord
o. Ardunio uno

4. The Pens Box
a. pen holder (it's actually a sushi holder I found at the 100 Yen Store when I was visiting the Tokyo office)
b. Extra ink refills for the livescribe pen
c. Eraser and sharpener (although no wooden pencils...)
d. Post-its. 
e. The best give away ever. ADI had these mini screw drivers that were pen sized you could change the heads from. I haven't been able to  this yet. 
f. Sharpies: dark blue and black. Also super useful in a pinch.
g. Pen I stole: From the waiter in the Dallas Ft. Worth Airport Chili's... that I never got around to taking out. 
h. Drawing Pens: for better doodles or when I'm feeling artistic
i: I forgot this letter...
j: Various Japanese Mechanical Pencils: I think japan has some of the neatest stationery. I always pick up a few in the gift shop when I am in Japan. 
k. My favourite pencil of all time- it's a drafting pencil I've had since University.
l. Appropriate Pencil refills (0.7mm for the drafting and 0.5mm for the Japanese Pencils). 
m. This pencil actually belongs in the below box 

5. The front pocket + Accessories Box

a. Mini Tweaker Speaker, USB charged and powered. Surprisingly loud. 
b. Extention cord ZipLinq 
c. Retractable iphone cable
d. retractable mini mouse originally I had it for the BeagleBoard XM demo, but ended up using it as it's a really good mouse. 
e. USB Memory Stick: given to me because it turns into Anakin Skywalker #bestgiftever
f. mini pen if I run into a spot where I forget mine. 
g. retractable Ethernet : these come with all of the Stellaris Ethernet Kits
h. Retractable Audio
i. USB female to USB micro male (needed for the Stellaris LM4F Kits). 
j. Retractable USB: Male to female extension
k. USB micro charge only (needed for the WiFi Hot spot, like the iPhone short cord, this is useful when charging off the battery packs. 
l. USB charger with 45 degree angle for USB Mini good for demo kits and also the Voltaic Battery pack
m. USB Micro Cable (for kindle and data USB Micro). 
n. another skipped letter... 
p. Game Piece Carry Case  bought at the container store. 

before dissembling.

Proof it all fits.

getting ready to get on the plane with my bag.

Happy Earplug :-)

So that's what's inside of my backpack!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My first try at videos... building a story.

So this is an experiment in building a story for Marketing reasons.

One of the common problems I find when I address students is a general misunderstanding on who and what Texas Instruments (the company I work for) does.
So I set out to make a presentation that would address that.

 I am reaching beyond the normal audience that our Marketing Communications normally goes for and this type of messaging may not be of value to the core customer base. After all, it is very simplistic, but it's end goal (in my opinion) is to establish a baseline.

I wanted to try creating this type of presentation on my own for two reasons.

  •  I could tweak and test it without costing thousands of valuable Marketing Communications budget/time and 
  • To test if I was able to build a compelling TI story on my own.

So, this video/presentation came into existence.

Here are just some of my thoughts:
-It's better to go simple rather than complex. It's easy to get into the complex details quickly. Rather than having to stop the momentum of the message and have to backfill.

- It's far better to show versus tell. Using photos and animations to enhance your message.

-Timing is critical in trying to get this to read like a conversation. However, I think I needed to figure out Keynote's timing a little better ... seems a little fast when looking at the video.

-I attempted to appeal to the broader cause... what is our company all about?  I think a lot of times people underestimate the desire to have a cause bigger than themselves to align to. This was the message I was grasping for.
 I call this message the "Tell Grandma what you do" appeal. I come from a family of non-technical educators, so to get them to understand that Texas Instruments is actually NOT a calculator company... is really a stretch. However, they understand materials, understand inventing... and if I give them the broader cause... their imagination will fill it in.

So, here's the first of the three videos. I will post the others as I finish and get them fine tuned.
I'd love to get comments on it (if anyone is reading).

Side Note* This is the first time I used Apple KeyNote to make a presentation. 
I have to say that Apple did a really good job in making it pretty intuitive in how easy it is to make videos.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What I really think when I see an Error Code in Code Composer Studio

I have another blog where I like to post little short digestible tid-bits I find when I'm trouble shooting or dealing with documentation with my tools or students.

At the time of posting that one, I had to restrain myself from putting my translations next to each of these.

However, in this post I've put my thoughts in. (Perhaps because I'm hoping I'm not the only person who feels this way and am looking for the Code Composer equivalent to a Gym-Buddy).

 My inner voice is typed in green. 

/*Begin Post*/
TITLE: Code Composer Studio V5 Error Codes
Not sure anyone else is like this but I hate it when I get an error code in debug/run and can't figure out what it means. This possibly could be helpful. Really, it's a nice sigh of relief if I manage to do a compile without a million errors called out. Almost as if Code Composer is giving me a little shout out, "Yay, you actually know what the heck you are doing.".
Embedded in the MSP430 C/C++ Compiler guide there is a chart. Not sure why this was so hard to find, but it's there on page 36 in document 

  • fatal error indicates a problem so severe that the compilation cannot continue. Examples of such problems include command-line errors, internal errors, and missing include files. If multiple source files are being compiled, any source files after the current one will not be compiled.   I am a  moron and I forgot to copy a big chunk of the header file or probably mis-typed the include files...
  • An error indicates a violation of the syntax or semantic rules of the C/C++ language. Compilation continues, but object code is not generated.  I cannot type and possibly suffer from a form of typing dyslexia. 
  • warning indicates something that is valid but questionable. Compilation continues and object code is generated (if no errors are detected).  That Rockstar feeling when I get a clean run... a little diminished. Almost like winning a beauty contest but only because the competition was disqualified and you were the only contestant. Hey, most times I'll take it though. The minimum would not be the minimum if it was not acceptable to ... well the compiler, but that means I have no breathing room for any errors. 
  • remark is less serious than a warning. It indicates something that is valid and probably intended, but may need to be checked. Compilation continues and object code is generated (if no errors are detected). By default, remarks are not issued. Use the --issue_remarks compiler option to enable remarks.  I am glad these are suppressed. I already have the in-line editor that gives me enough grief... not sure how I would feel about additional error flags in the debug window...

    Typical *sigh*

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

underestimating colour...

I am completely and utterly into the colour neon green.

So much so that recently, Kenneth, to get me a gift to impress me--got me a neon green iPhone charger.!
Something as mundane, but every day as a phone charger; being my favorite colour was enough to make me smile all day.
The kiwi green iPhone charger from the wonderful man in my life
Which is what prompted me to write this post.

I would have gladly paid an extra few dollars to get a neon green iPhone charger over the standard white one.

The concept that a colour could make all of the difference in a purchasing decision may be lost on some, but I contend that colour choice and appeal is a crucial option decision for any company hoping to market to a broader audience. 

Take a look at what apple did in it's comeback with the iBook and iMac!

If someone asked me... I would take a lime green ibook any day (even though old and probably slow). 

I speculate that, 
Colour is the easiest and fastest way for someone to express their individuality/creativity. 
After all, if I were to try to appeal to a large audience-- I'd think the fastest way to do so is to allow them to have a say (customise the product).

Maybe a good way to give it a try would be to release a "special edition" of your product...
Example: Xbox releasing the HALO version of the xbox 
or Kitchen Aid and all of their stand mixer colour versions. 

In my every day job... I work a lot with Microcontroller development boards. 

What I work with...

As amazing as the technology is... it's not the presentation people fall in love with. 
So if I could have a request for those people who are making these development boards... I wish that colour was a bigger factor in your designs.

ESPECIALLY if you are working on an entry level boards-- that is targeted at someone is being introduced to electronics. 

After all, every company releases the standard Green PCB (although I love green, it's really pretty mundane after a while):

Snapshot of boards from TI's eStore. All standard green.

Take a look at this to a company called 
It's not that their products are THAT revolutionary, after all there are other products out there that are just as modular, and appeal to the same type of audience (e.g. ModKit). However, what got me hooked and clicking to support was the fact that they had incorporated colours into the overall marketing of their product!


So...  Here are a few things I'd like people who make kits to consider:
Allow people to express themselves by customizing, either through add on functions (like covers, or enclosures) or through offering other colour options. 

From a marketing standpoint, use colour to call attention to your products.
For those in my industry--this is particularly important if you actually specialize in being a semiconductor manufacturer-- and releasing development boards to market is a "necessary evil" to get your product out. It's important because the board is essentially the "face" of how you would like someone to perceive the product (chip). 

For example: If everything on the table is either standard pcb green, black or red... go for something exciting like Purple!, or release a special edition of your board ( I bet you'd be surprised by the excitement it brings).

Overall point-- don't underestimate how much lift you can get from giving a few colour options.
I (if anyone is listening).. would like to have a neon green development board next :-)

*disclaimer, if your product is simply awful, no colour will really make it any better...