The Sideeffects of Sun SPOTs

Once a fellow student introduced me to the big secret how sysadmins really work so efficiently: If a user asks you a question, start typing frantically on your linux box. Do a quick telnet bofh.engr.wisc.edu 666, then you go "Aah!" and read out loud what the detected cause of their problem was. (And then you go back to playing CounterStrike.) I got curious and connected to the telnet port, and the BOFH oracle told me:

The cause of the problem is: Electromagnetic disturbances caused by sun spot activity.

We laughed and for a while it was a running gag to reply "Sun spots" to every why-question. ("Dude why d'you frag me??" - "Uuuh. Sun spots?")

But it's a fact. Now that Martin Grebac showed us a real Sun SPOT, I completely understand how activities involving them causes disturbances in your work. :-o

As you all know, Sun SPOTs are black. Also, they are cuboid, and about as big as a computer mouse, but about twice as heavy I'd say. What distinguishes them from sun spots (black, big, round, wavy) is that SPOTs have built-in WIFI, a row of LEDs, and of course sensors. With its sensors a SPOT can detect temperature, light and 3D acceleration (i.e. which way it is moving in 3D space). Throw a couple in your room, and bang, wireless sensor network. More advanced users throw them into a twister and shoot a movie about it.

The interesting thing of course is, that SPOTs are programmable in Java. Instead of TinyOS, SPOTs come with a JVM which runs code written for Java ME CLDC, and you write and deploy your app the same way that you do for a mobile phone (e.g. using NetBeans). You extend the main class from MIDlet and use a board object that has accessors like getTemperature() etc, and setters and getters like getLEDs() and led[1].setRGB(...), to give you an idea.

Marting showed us some examples that will be included in the box when it is available in stores: For instance, when you switch a SPOT on for the first time, there may be a demo program running that lights a light in the row of LEDs depending on which way you shake the SPOT -- a nice effect to demonstrate the 3D accelerometer. :-) If you switch on the second SPOT of a set, it recogizes the first one, and Martin showed how you can sync them so the wandering LED light seems to ping pong from one SPOT over to the other. :-D Hours of fun! Perfect gift for a geek! If only they were already for sale... :-/

Well, gives us more time to refresh our memory on threading and to come up with something wicked to use these cuties for.... Hmmmm-- Huh, what? Why am I plotting plans and not working, you ask? As I said: Sun Spots!

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NetBeans IDE, Java SE and ME, 3D Games, Linux, Mac, Cocoa, Prague, Linguistics.

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