One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…


Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you. Earlier this week I made great progress with Maxwell and it looked like everything was coming together. The initial unpacking, inventorying, and assembly had very few problems.Then I hit the wall.

My initial thought was to do all of Maxwell's software development on my desktop system upstairs. It has about 180 gigabytes of networked storage that I can access from my laptop downstairs, and is relatively fast. Like all of my current PCs, it runs the Japanese versions of Windows, and, since it's a little over three years old, it's running Windows 2000 instead of XP. It's a Sony Vaio and includes a lot of Vaio specific bells and whistles, so I'm very hesitant to upgrade the operating system, as much as I would like to do it.

Everything should have worked fine, but...

In order to talk to the Parallax BOE (Maxwell's brain), I tried using an old USB to serial adapter cable that I had used years ago to interface to a serial printer I used to own. My PC recognized the new hardware/cable, but for some reason didn't have the driver installed. It turns out that the original manufacturer of my adapter cable had been taken over by Xircom, and then Xircom was bought out by Intel... After a lot of searching I managed to locate what appeared to be the right Windows 2000 driver, but when I tried to install it my system kept giving me the same old error message.

Then I tried a brand new adapter cable that I purchased from a PC parts shop near the office. Same problem even with the new adapter and a new driver down-loaded from their website. So, I decided to move Maxwell and the rest of the stuff downstairs and try again using my laptop.

This was deja vu all over again. My laptop runs Windows XP, but didn't like the adapter cable any more than it's desktop cousin upstairs did. I tried various permutations and combinations, and only managed to raise my blood pressure and frustration. Finally, about 1:00 am in the morning, I shut everything down and decided not to work on it again until I got some sleep and could tackle the problem with a clear head.

Last night I didn't have any free time to dig into the connection problem, but I did manage to quickly pull my desktop system away from the wall and confirm that it has a built-in RS-232 port. Tonight or tomorrow I'll try connecting Maxwell up that way. It's not the optimum approach since it means that only my desktop system will be able to talk to Maxwell, but if it works at least it will get Maxwell up and running. Sooner or later I'll have to fix the core problem though if I want to communicate with Maxwell and his children (yet to be conceived) outside of my home office. 

You might also enjoy:

  1. Arrival
  2. Maxwell – A Robot's Genesis
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