Gas station without pumps

2017 December 1

Unproductive day

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:35
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve had a very unproductive day today.

  • I spent all morning responding to an IRS letter about my 2015 taxes—they wanted an extra $4000 from me, but they were wrong on everything they were asking for.  They claimed I hadn’t reported some of my income: it was on Schedule C (they may have been expecting it on Schedule D, where it would not have been subject to self-employment tax).  They wanted to charge me tax and penalties for withdrawals from my 529 college savings plan, though the qualified expenses (counting just what I paid directly to UCSB) exceeded what I had withdrawn. I had documentation for everything, but it took hours to find it all, print it, write a letter, and mail it.
  • I spent an hour trying to buy tickets to the Actors’ Theatre performances for 2018. The purchase was a simple one: I wanted 2 season tickets to all their shows, plus an extra ticket for the two opening nights of 8 10s @8.  When I went to Brown Paper Tickets, I couldn’t figure out how to specify which shows I wanted tickets to (the subscription purchase had a menu with only one date selectable).  I called their help line (twice—the first time I had not moved up at all in the queue after over 5 minutes), and found out that the subscription tickets only allowed selection of dates after the subscription had been purchased, as something called “pass management”.  There was no indication of this anywhere in their brochures or on the Brown Paper Ticket site.  So I tried again, but when I got to pass management, it told me that I was selecting dates just for the 8 10s @ 8 2-show package, and did not have the number of tickets I needed.  So I called their help line again.  It turns out that the 2-night package for 8 10s @8 doesn’t use pass management—instead you have to buy the ticket twice, with the different dates.  I had the person on the phone cancel that order (it had already been charged to my card) and made a third attempt at purchasing the tickets.  This time I managed to get the tickets I wanted, though there was no e-mail sent acknowledging the dates that I had selected and no e-mail sent for the cancelled order.  This has got to have been one of the worst ticket-ordering experiences I’ve ever had.  Both Brown Paper tickets and Actors’ Theatre are at fault for a very user-unfriendly experience.

In other news, yesterday I got a new third layer laser cut for robot and I soldered up the processor board.  The third layer probably should be cut once more, because one of the mounting holes for the beacon board is partly blocked by the supports from the 2nd layer.  But the beacon board can be mounted with just one screw holding the other standoff and a bit of tape to keep the standoff that can’t be screwed down from rotating, so I probably won’t bother.

I also got the processor board soldered last night:

The processor board was much easier to solder than the other board, because most of the wires are just short jumpers from header pins to the female headers holding the Teensy 3.2.

I do have a diode separating the 5V on the Teensy board from the 5V input from the first layer. This is to prevent power-supply fights if a USB cable is plugged in for reprogramming. I am a little worried that I hooked up the post-diode 5V to the interface pins for the beacon-detector board, which also has a diode to prevent power-supply fights. The double diode drop may be too much—I should probably rewire that pin to be connected to the input 5V instead.

The SPI interface is on the left in this picture, the bumper switch connections are the 3 pairs of pins at the top (though only two are connected to Teensy pins), the run of 4 yellow pins are the encoder connections, and the 4 white pins next to them are the motor-control pins.  Power and gnd come in adjacent to the motor-control pins. The two white-red-black triples on the bottom are for the track-wire detectors, and the 4 white pins next to them are the selection and mux pins for the tape sensors.

Note that this processor board has connections for all the sensors (motor encoders, tape sensors, track-wire detector, and SPI to beacon detector) but the only actuator connections are the drive motors. I have four unused pins that could be used for the ball launchers, but I’m not planning now on building any launchers—there just isn’t enough time left. I’ll be happy if I can get turtle graphics and tape following implemented by next week.

I still need some cables (one 6-wire for power and motor control, one 4-wire for encoders, and one 4-wire for tape sensors), which I was going to make today, but the IRS thing and the hassle with the Actors’ Theatre ticket purchase sapped me of my desire to do anything.



  1. Wait until you have to deal with the Social Security administration. I think they deliberately hire people short of common sense.

    Comment by gflint — 2017 December 2 @ 10:35 | Reply

  2. Whatever you do, don’t accidentally put that beautifully-made project board in your package to the IRS. We would never see or hear from you again.

    Apropos the comment above, my Dad tells me that federal tax returns get even more complicated when you are getting Social Security because of the various limits and penalties for income while retired.

    Comment by CCPhysicist — 2017 December 11 @ 09:30 | Reply

    • I probably won’t take Social Security for several years after I retire, because 1) the lifetime payout is probably better if you wait (assuming an average or longer than average lifespan) and 2) I won’t need the Social Security income initially, having a decent pension, substantial savings, and a miserly lifestyle.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2017 December 11 @ 09:35 | Reply

  3. […] Do a motor-controller-only PC board, with 4-pin or 6-pin headers to the existing processor board. […]

    Pingback by Robot moving, but unreliably | Gas station without pumps — 2018 January 1 @ 10:06 | Reply

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