Friday, October 1, 2010

Head Scratching

Gee, with most of my work being so boring lately, I jumped at the chance for an away mission, even though it was on very short notice. My customer was informed late yesterday that the robot at the metalworks factory was not in production today. She requested my attendance. Any excuse to get out of the office for a bit.

The network problem on the data acquisition PC was so completely in-your-face today that I was able to isolate it. The NIC on the DAQ PC is busted. I think. Maybe. I can't be sure until I swap the SBC which is not exactly conveniently located on the robot. We have a spare SBC but I decided I should test it first, as it has been booted in a few years.

I should clarify that this network problem doesn't affect production at all, which why I'm being rather blasé about it. The network on the DAQ PC makes the software maintenance more convenient, nothing more. Without the network, a keyboard and monitor must be attached to the DAQ PC, and software updates must be copied directly onto a compact flash. As some one the people performing the software maintenance, my interest in fixing the problem is strictly self serving. ^_^

In order to understand why the software for the new sensor does not work, my customer gathered sample data from the old and new sensor for comparison. The samples are captured using a Python script which is talking directly to the DAQ hardware via a SWIG wrapped library provided by the hardware manufacture.

Unfortunately the data indicates there's some really weird stuff happening which left us with a lot of head scratching. The users want to start using the new sensor soon but it was difficult to commit to a time frame, given all the head scratching.

Head scratching notwithstanding, it was good to get out of the office for a few hours. I had enjoyed watching the plant's maintenance staff retooling a huge hydraulic press next to the robot I was working on, but just as they were getting to the interesting part, my customer and I had to leave. Nuts! My customer couldn't figure why I found it so interesting. ^_^

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