Geek

Mark Fischer

10 minute read

This article aims to demonstrate some of the many uses of the Fn::Sub syntax in the AWS CloudFormation service. Topics include:

  • Basic Fn::Sub and !Sub syntax
  • Short and long form syntax
  • Nested Sub and ImportValue statements

Background

About a year ago (Sept 2016, along with YAML support) AWS added a new intrinsic function to CloudFormation: Fn::Sub. This greatly improved string concatenation in CloudFormation.

Mark Fischer

6 minute read

Marc Scott wrote a thought provoking article over at coding2learn.org called “Kids Can’t Use Computers… And This Is Why It Should Worry You” a few weeks ago. It’s a really well reasoned article, and you should go read it if you haven’t yet.

As I was reading through the article, I kept thinking to myself “Yeah, this guy has it nailed. All these people out there have no idea how to use a computer. We should really educate them more on general computer use.”

However, after reading through some of the comments (there are many) and thinking about it some more, I began to disagree with his ultimate conclusion more and more.

Mark Fischer

3 minute read

A recent topic thread on Hypercritical with John Siracusa has been trying to answer the question “are video games an artform where its not possible for a large part of society to enjoy them fully because they lack the appropriate skill”. The example being a first person game where the player can’t enjoy the game because they lack the skill to simple move around the environment and understand the controls.

I only want to talk about a small part of this larger discussion. I agree with the premise that “a large number of people lack the skills to enjoy certain games fully.” Where I disagree with John is when we states that “it’s not possible for these people to gain the skills”.

Mark Fischer

1 minute read

I got my first printed circuit board (PCB) design in the mail today. This is for a pretty simple blinking LED project.

When UITS got its new logo, the dancing circuit people just screamed out to be made into a real PCB somehow. This is what I came up with. I realize using a full Arduino ATMega168 is a bit overkill for driving some LEDs, but I decided that I’d rather get a prototype working this year instead of deciphering datasheets for the smaller ATtiny series for the next 6 months.

Mark Fischer

6 minute read

After nearly a year, I finally finished up putting LED ‘stars’ onto our bedroom ceiling. See this earlier post where I talk about getting it started.

After a lot of soldering and taping, I managed to tape 32 white LEDs to the ceiling of our bedroom, and get stars working. I tried a bunch of different wiring ideas out before settling on simple bare buss wire. I just put some white electrical tape to keep it in place, and tape over any place where the lines have to cross.

Mark Fischer

1 minute read

I’ve been trying out Bazaar, a version control system, lately. One of the things that caught my eye is that the core team develops a cross platform GUI interface for the system. Installing bzr itself was pretty straight forward, they even have a simple Mac OS X installer package for it. Installing the GUI tools was… less intuitive.

There’s some really basic instructions out there on how to do it, but the documentation is somewhat lacking in specifics. Fortunately there’s a great project out there called macports that was able to do 98% of the work for me.

Mark Fischer

5 minute read

With Kirin’s increasing love affair with Elmo, we decided to bite the bullet and get a new TV. Our old TV we got when we first got married, so I figure eleven years is a good run for a TV.

We were replacing an old 28” CRT TV that had a G5 iMac hooked up to it. The iMac was really starting to struggle with playback on full screen h264 movies, so we decided to replace that as well. To be honest, we actually set out to only replace the iMac, but we got side tracked…

Mark Fischer

1 minute read

Since kids imitate pretty much anything you do, Kirin is now getting into electronics projects. Luckily I saved all my kits from when I was a kid, so she doesn’t have to steal my current toys.

Mark Fischer

2 minute read

Playing around with silly electronics again. This time the idea is to put twinkling stars on the ceiling of our bedroom. I’m using two TLC5940 chips to drive LEDs. The chips are capable of 16 channels of PWM, so the stars can fade on and off nicely.

Mark Fischer

3 minute read

I’ve always been a programmer. However, the world of hardware has always intrigued me. I’ve always been somewhat interested in the ability for electronics to actually do something in the real world, and not just push pixels around a screen.

I first heard about the Arduino micro-controller world on an episode of MacBreak Weekly. Andy Ihnatko was talking about it for an upcoming talk he was giving. Basically the Arduino is an open-source micro-controller. It connects to your PC via a USB port. There’s a custom IDE built for it that runs on Macs, Windows and Linux. The basic idea is that you can now easily control simple voltages on pins. Connect them to sensors, motors, LEDs etc, and control the real world from a very easily accessible starting point.

Mark Fischer

4 minute read

Much has been said on the different models for the various online music stores. Here is my personal take.

Music and video are two very different mediums. Music occupies one sense: sound. Perhaps you could say it occupies touch also if you turn the music up loud enough, but sound is the primary sense. Video occupies two senses: sight and sound. As a result, there are certain activities where you can listen to music, or watch video at the same time, activities that occupy different senses.

Mark Fischer

2 minute read

Just in case having our first child wasn’t enough excitement for us, we’ve decided to move as well! We’ve spent 2 years in this house, and while we love the house itself, the location and yard (or lack thereof) has always been a sore spot with us. Our poor dogs are really unhappy with the yard, and we finally got fed up with the neighbors. So we’re moving.

Mark Fischer

5 minute read

A few years ago, I was reading about home automation, and I’ve been hung up on it ever since. You know that stuff that lets you turn on and off lights, adjust your AC, and water your lawns automatically. Ok well the lawn part is silly for us in Tucson, but the rest of it still interested me. The basics of this, X10, have been around for years. I remember when I was a kid looking at the Tandy X10 stuff in Radio Shack. I always wondered why everyone didn’t have this stuff in all their houses. Well after reading more about it, it turns out that the X10 protocol just isn’t that reliable.

Mark Fischer

2 minute read

So I got another virus in my email again today. Now since I’m a mac head, these usually don’t cause me to raise an eyebrow at them, they just go into the trash. However this one piqued my interest… Dear user estranged, It has come to our attention that your Mac User Profile ( x ) records are out of date. For further details see the attached document. Thank you for using Mac!

Mark Fischer

2 minute read

I found this article today I found this article today and it made me laugh. Most of you know I’m a pretty big mac head, so the whole announcement from apple that they will be moving to Intel CPUs has me fairly interested. All in all I think it can be a good thing or a bad thing. I’m betting on the good thing because I’m an optimist. Over the years apple has moved more and more towards standard components (SCSI drives to ATA, standard memory, USB, PCI, AGP, etc) so moving to a more standard processor architecture is sort of the next step.

New Software

New Software

Mark Fischer

1 minute read

So I finally got around to playing with the website tonight. I realized that what I really wanted was a simple place to put up notes, and to allow other people in the family to do the same. So I have installed some new blogging software, and we’ll see how that goes. I have to create accounts by hand right now, so if you want an account and your own blog let me know!