The Sideeffects of Sun SPOTs
By seapegasus on Feb 22, 2007
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.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!