03 May 2017
The notes continue to be brief in proportion to the busyness of the week!
- I spent most of my time on Selworthy writing export tools for another broadcast subtitle format; challenging, but making lots of headway and understanding the format better the longer I spend with it.
- On Gisborough, we wrapped up a second pass of the content, started to brief an animator, and planned the final push on the project.
- Longcrag is paused whilst I wait for the replacement panels to arrive from Eurocircuits.
However, two prototypes for future Longcrag projects arrived, so I built them up. One was an entirely new board – albeit based on two other existing products – and it worked first time, and also confirmed that the idea for the product was a good one. So that’s something that might move up the production schedule depending on how the first batch of products go.
The other was a second iteration of something I’d made earlier – now ported entirely to surface-mount technology, and fixing a bug in the layout that meant the output voltages weren’t high enough. It works entirely correctly, and is quite exciting – unlike the other Longcrag products, which are my own take on existing ideas or concepts, this one is an invention, and it seems to work well. I built up two of them, and have sent one to a pianist for beta-testing, and to see how another musician responds to it.
Fair motoring, and rolling reasonable well through all the inevitable context-switching.
25 April 2017
Once again, in haste:
- Over on Selworthy my colleague and I licked lots of small tickets into shape, ready for a new deployment shortly. I also broke ground on another challenging binary export format, which is going to be my focus for the next few weeks.
- I took the Twine protoype we’d made on Gisborough and unrolled it into a stack of HTML pages – easier to make accessible, and customise. Twine had still been useful in prodding the interactivity and seeing how to chunk up the writing, though. We’re gearing up for a second round of testing soon on this.
- I spent some time on the Empathy Deck, fine-tuning some of the algorithms and prepping a bunch of new content for a spring clean. That should go live shortly.
- And finally, I had a very busy day on Longcrag. I knocked a bit more of the website into shape, for starters. Then, I spent some time practicing kitting up one of the products: working out how to label the interior bags, how many bags it would need, what should go in each bag to not be confusing, and confirming the documentation was correct for this. I made a set of packing documents for each kit, which would make it much easier to make up these bags. I also bought a set of paper espresso cups to put each bag’s contents into. Lay out 25, fill ’em up all up, tip them all into matching bags, do the next set.
Excitingly, the big order from EuroCircuits arrived: all the PCBs and front panels. The front panels were great quality, but two whole sets of them had a serious defect. I mentioned this to the company, and got on with test builds of two of the kits – both of which were very successful.
EuroCircuits called me the next day, and we talked over the issue. In the end, it looks like it’s an issue their end, and they’re going to re-make the boards; a huge relief, but also made me feel happier about my decision to go with them. They’re pricier than the Chinese alternative, but the quality of product was great, the turnaround time fast – about 8 days from order to 400 boards (50 each of 8 designs) arriving; the software tools they supply are very reassuring, and the customer service was great. This means that next week I can kit up the two complete kits, and prep for the other two to arrive. Nearly there.
And that’s a wrap. Next week: continuing with binary formats, hopefully wrapping up a second pass at some Gisborough content, and continuing to get Longcrag closer to being out the door.
14 April 2017
Week 225 was… not quite what I had in mind.
On Monday, owing to client availability, I rejigged the week to do some Longcrag work. I spent some time working on the site, and running packaging tests.
Longcrag is mainly small electronics kits. They come in a number of bags. What I’ve been doing is the work to confirm how many bags, and what goes in each bag. I don’t want confusable parts in the same bag, and I’d like to keep bag count down, and confirm they all fit in the outer packaging. So I did a dry run for one of the kits. This helped me understand some processes I could put in place to speed up making up the kits later.
It also helped confirm how many bags I’d need, and that yes, the labels I’m using will stick to the small bags just fine. And it helped me work out how to draw up packing sheets, so it’ll be easy for me to make up each small bag for each kit in bulk. A bit dreary, but now out of the way – and much better to have foolproof instructions and references for repetitive tasks, rather than forgetting or getting bored.
And then I went home, and by the time I got home, I was a shivering mess and I went to bed for, effectively, the next three days.
I mainly write about the straight up work of work here; I have a personal site for other sorts of writing. But to write weeknotes honestly this week, I thought I’d acknowledge out loud what happened: I was ill.
Not a bit sniffly, and not tired from overwork; viral and sweaty and no use to anybody. And the only thing to do is to speak to clients, who are all understanding, because they’re people too; remember why we the rates we bill should afford slack both between gigs and derisk time off when we’re unwell (because otherwise, they’re unrealistic); and work on resting properly so we can get back to work.
Back in the studio after the Easter break. Hit the reset button, carry on.
09 April 2017
A few breakthroughs on a few projects today.
Over on Selworthy, I wrapped up our support for exporting to SCC – a closed captioning format that’s particular common in broadcast and DVD environments. It’s been a challenging project: the specification is hard to obtain and decipher; when you’ve done that, the format is obtuse and not designed to be human readable, meaning it can’t be eyeball tested; various implementations to use as references we’ve found vary wildly in terms of quality; and, because it is designed around broadcast devices, a caption takes a varying amount of time to ‘buffer’ dependent on its length. This documentation has been my yardstick, if you’d like some glimpse into my brain for the past few weeks.
Anyhow: we’ve got an end-to-end solution, and I’m pleased with that. Gnarly, character-based programming.
I also spent some time fettling some customer issues, and the dev team spent a little while setting ourselves up with a Continuous Integration server. To wrap up the week, I diagnosed the source of most of our issues with IE11 support – though it’s going to be a little while before that will be entirely resolved.
On Gisborough, I spent some time pulling together some illustration and motion graphics. It’s not my strong point, but at the very least we have something testable, and something that could act as an animatic for an animator to work from. We also finished up a first pass at the third of the three documents we’re creating. This one turned out to be somewhat necessarily long, and also a little tangly – so I prototyped a quick pass of it in Twine, breaking it down into its fundamentals and making the links within it more obvious. This was a hit with our writer, who tidied it up in its interactive form, and we’ve got that to show the team as an alternative next week.
And finally: I wrapped up all the ordering on Longcrag with a slightly large order from Eurocircuits. Large because, though we’re ordering a decent number of boards, it’s actually a small number each of eight different items. Still, that’s in place, and should be here in a week or so. Then all that remains is making up the kits… and then triple-checking the documentation, finishing up the website, taking press shots, etcetera. Busy busy. But exciting! To cap it all, some rather nice marketing collateral arrived, and I did a quick quality-control run on all the knobs to check they had their set-screws.
And that, I think, was enough for Week 224.
04 April 2017
- Gisborough marched on: we finished up a set of revisions to the previous week’s work, and started thinking about how best to illustrate it all.
- I spent some time on Selworthy cranking on a finishing up a particularly challenging file exporter. Despite an initial working prototype, I spent some time tidying up the code and making it much more compartmentalised: easier to test, and also easier to extend in future. I also spent some time trying to fix some strange import errors from other tools, when we tried to load these files into them. I compared ‘golden’ output from another tool with our own, and comparing notes as to what might lead to the issues we’re seeing. By the end of the week, I’d tidied up a lot of my own output and had improved our export files no end – but the inexplicable import errors were still to be dealt with
- With all the components for the first of the Longcrag products here, I fixed them up in their production packaging. The good news is the packaging works well and looks good. With the first 20 products packaged, I spent some time starting work on building a website about the products, and ordering various pieces of merchandise and collateral. The final few components arrived from various distributors, so once the final PCBs arrive, we’re into packaging up some kits – the products are self-assembly – and making sure our documentation is good to go. Exciting, and a little nerve-wracking, to see it all coming to life!