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Those who have visited France may be aware of a shop called Noz. It's a weird place where end-of-line and forgotten stock is piled up and sod cheap (well, used to be cheap, not so much these days). You never know quite what you'll find there.
One of the things I found was a neglected half-dead rose plant buried under a pile of rubbish. Well, the rubbish was those one-eyed policeman things that was produced to tie into the London Olympics. Yeah, the Noz is that sort of place.

I don't know - did I feel sorry for the rose? I decided to buy it, bring it home, give it a pot and some dirt and daylight (!).

It said thank you:

The flower opens a brilliant yellow and matures into this wonderful peach colour. The scent is lovely but delicate - it isn't a pungent rose. But it's pretty to look at.


Sounds of the 80s

Apparently the summer sales in France (heavily legislated, it isn't like DFS!) are going to be cut back to only being four weeks as of next year. This is unlikely to be a problem as it's mostly rubbish these days (I've seen local supermarkets offering on SALE! stuff that I don't recall them stocking normally, so I suspect crap gets shipped in just so there's something to sell).
In these sales, I usually go to Distri-Center and Gémo to buy shoes, shirts, jumpers... I don't get much tech stuff these days as it's mostly stuff like accessories for a decade-old console, or an endless supply of Bluetooth speakers (I already have three...).

Something that took my fancy was on Amazon. A three CD compilation of 80s music, for €3,99 and Prime delivery meaning I order on Saturday night and it'll turn up on Monday (it did).

A lot of the classics were present - I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Don't Stop Believin', Waiting For A Star To Fall, The Final Countdown, and what 80s collection or inspirational montage sequence wouldn't be complete without John Farnham's You're The Voice?

The thing is, while a lot of the expected tracks were present, the list is even more notable for all of the things that were missing. I guess this is what happens when a major music label puts together a compilation - it's not The Classic 80s Collection, it's The Classic 80s Collection that Sony have the rights to.

Ask yourself - if you were going to put together a definitive '80s compilation, shouldn't the playlist include Erasure, the Pet Shop Boys, Prince, Kate Bush, Madness, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Bananarama, Queen, Madonna, Fine Young Cannibals, REM, and Simple Minds... and that' just off the top of my head.

Where are such songs as:

  • In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins and the infamous drum part (remember the Cadbury gorilla hamming this to hell and back?)
  • Enola Gay - OMD
  • The Whole Of The Moon - The Waterboys
  • Tainted Love - Soft Cell
  • Sit Down - James
  • Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses - playing on Eagle 80s as I write this!
  • (Don't You) Forget About Me - Simple Minds and the ending theme of one of the best movies of the decade
  • Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners unashamedly singing about wanting to cop a feel
  • With Or Without You - U2 back when they were serious musicians
  • The River - another of The Boss' "it's all gone to hell" stories
  • Like A Prayer - Madonna who went overboard in taunting Catholics (watch the video) while making a racial statement
  • Happy Birthday - the quirky Altered Images
  • Birthday - The Sugarcubes, and the odd video and Björk's singing might obscure the fact that there's something iffy going on between a fifty year old bloke and his five year old neighbour - WTF?!
  • Fairytale Of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl delivering the true spirit of Christmas: you're a bum, you're a punk, you're an old slut on junk, lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed, you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas you arse, I pray God it's our last - best "reason you suck" lyrics ever.
  • Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
  • ? - that one where Prince just starts screaming at the end, it's so over the top it's absolutely the part you're waiting for in the entire song
  • Father Figure - George Michael
  • Take On Me (A-ha and that infamous comic book video
  • Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi read the book "Springteen for Dummies" and aced it
  • It's A Sin - Neil Tennant hadn't "come out" yet, but it was pretty clear what was going to go down when we have the sublime defiance of his Catholic upbringing set to an overblown high-energy opera complete with the obligatory creepy chanting Monks, proper Latin (!), and crashes of thunder. Tennant 1, religious dogma 0.
  • Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel and a very memorable video (that won the most MTV awards ever, and is MTV's best animated video of all time; plus loads of other awards)
  • Here Comes The Rain Again - the Eurythmics demonstrating that Lennox and Stewart absolutely nailed melancholy.
  • Atomic - Blondie
  • Every Breath You Take - Sting, making stalking seem sexy
  • Straight Up - Paula Abdul
  • Nikita - Elton John's take on Russia
  • Under Pressure - the great combination of Bowie and Freddie Mercury
  • Money For Nothing - Dire Straits, and the video that launched MTV Europe as well as causing no end of controversy for the use of the word "faggot" (which didn't seem to affect The Fairytale Of New York thanks to refuge in audacity).

Those songs, also, from memory - which is why there's no R&B or rap (I don't much like either). Funny, I don't think I could reliably list that many songs from this decade...

Anyway, look, find me a CD compilation with all of that lot and we can consider it to be a serious contender for being an "80s collection".
I guess, until then, I'll just have to rip the songs off YouTube. Situation normal.


One final thought about the eigthies - this very day thirty four years ago. The world's biggest music concert Live Aid and thanks to the magic of Concorde, gave us Phil Collins both in London and Philadelphia.
Just a shame it was put together by a sancimonious prick that didn't think to include one single African performer. Indeed, looking at the setlist, it was down to America to include The Four Tops, Run DMC, and Patti LaBelle. The British side was as white as white could be.



One of the industrial dishwashers at work has broken down. Getting it fixed is proving to be a little tricky as it seems as if the company (SASA) no longer exists.

So, as a thought exercise, I sat outside with Cat and a cup of tea and thought about what might be involved in getting this thing working. Essentially it is a mechanical device. The wash action is managed by a heater (to keep the water hot) and a pump to suck water from the drain/tank and push it through an 'X' shaped washer arm that spins under the pressure. This water is constantly recycled.
The wash cycle normally lasts from one to three minutes depending on who has been fiddling with the controls. After that, there's a brief pause for drainage before a rinse cycle kicks in. This rinse cycle is a much lower pressure affair, so at a guess I'd say it was a valve like in a washing machine connected to the water main. As there's a temperature control, it is likely to be some form of direct on-demand heating that warms up the water as it passes through.
The smarts? Well, that'll be some sort of processor based device, but it doesn't need to be anything special. Back in the olden days this could have been a 6502, a single 6522 VIA, some sort of ADC, 1K of RAM and maybe an 8K EPROM (with most of it unused!). These days, pretty much any little ARM microcontroller would do the job.

Here are my hastily scrawled notes (on a cereal box propped on my lap, so excuse the awfulness of the writing):

I have chosen to push the LEDs and buttons off to some digital I/O running via IIC. This is because many such devices can handle IIC in hardware (so less hassle than timing bit-bashing), they don't need to be accessed that frequently (the LEDs once per second, or when user changes something) and the buttons can be read as infrequently as four or five times a second. It reduces a lot of I/O pins down to merely two.
Two ADC channels are needed for the two water temperatures, but the ADCs don't need to be fast or particularly accurate (I don't mean that it can be wrong, what I mean is that if we're going to be measuring water temperature in degrees, eight bit accuracy will suffice).
Finally, that leaves some I/O pins as inputs (switches and things) and outputs. The switches will probably need to be buffered and debounced; while the outputs will need to pass through a solid transistor (MOSFET?) to activate a relay that is likely to switch mains to some fairly meaty devices like heater elements and pumps. As this thing is industrial, it is unlikely that the element is your standard 2.2kW device. Indeed, the other (larger) dishwasher has a plate suggesting that it consumes 36kW maximum, but it has larger heaters and multiple pumps. I haven't seen an obvious rating plate on the smaller unit. It's probably hidden around back somewhere.

This leaves how to tie all the pieces together. For that, some pretty simple processing is required. Essentially it boils down to a configurable state machine: do this, then do this, then do this. I say cofigurable as the user can choose whether or not to apply the wash/rinse cycles. It's also a little stupid in that it would happily do a twelve second cycle of nothing if you set it going after telling it not to perform either the wash or rinse cycles. I know, I tried. ☺
There will need to be some autonymous actions, like checking the water temperature and switching the heater on/off, ditto the water level; as well as some basic safety actions like not running the cycle if the door is open or the machine is empty. I bet half of my readership could prototype that in BASIC in under an hour.

I am not going to mention anything to my bosses. I was ignored many years ago when I offered to fix some of their... interesting... translations. Their mindset is that they would prefer to employ somebody with a piece of paper giving a qualification in speaking English rather than, say, somebody who's native language actually is English. I guess that's why the packaging on some stuff still says "yellow of egg" (literal translation from the French) instead of the more common "egg yolk" or even the more English word order of calling it "egg yellow" (like "egg white", as few people call it "albumen").
So it stands to reason that they'll hire a trained monkey rather than some random geek that thinks about this sort of stuff for fun.

Secondly, if I'm doing embedded-device style work, I'd expect something more than the near-minimum wage I'm on now. I'm seen as "that weirdo foreigner that cleans stuff and doesn't like talking" and I'm totally okay with that. But if my role changes to be something different, so should my salary. I don't mind an amount of flexibility, but there are limits...

Thirdly, I would imagine their insurers would have a nervous breakdown at the idea of some dude so much as looking at a soldering iron without twenty years of university and countless stupid bits of paper. After all, the original dishwasher mounted the entire door assembly onto two bolts (one each side) stuck into the metal side panel with no structural support whatsoever, so it's not as if this thing was designed by geniuses. The Maintenance guys had to weld in some bracing.

So, instead, if they cannot get the piece that is needed, I would imagine they'll want to bring in some expensive well trained monkey who will launch inquiets and conduct études that will take weeks and then write up a spec the size of a novella (billable hours, dear boy) eventually resulting in some half-assed thing that I'd be ashamed to attach my name to, and walk away with twice what I make in a year.
I'm not bitter. I'm just cynical and somewhat annoyed because all I want is a damn dishwasher that works. But life in industry doesn't work like that. I've seen enough stupid to know - like the pick'n'pack machine that dropped more product than it packed; and was utterly flummoxed by sticky things - we humans have nothing to fear from our Robot Overlords if they can be defeated by the instruction to "pick up a sticky tart and put it in that box". The girls can do maybe one every 4-5 seconds. The robot... couldn't do one. And was too stupid to realise that when it went to pick up another while still holding the first. And so on. It was so much fail.
We don't have that machine any more. I wonder how much that experiment cost... Oh, yeah, and it did its optical recognition (of the position of the box on a moving conveyor belt) using a monochrome video camera and some software that ran on an embedded version of Windows. It was probably a bunch of off-the-shelf frameworks bolted together with... whatever they use now VisualBasic has gone out of fashion...

Still, it was a way to pass an idle half hour while enjoying tea and fresh air and a furry creature going "rrrrrrrrrrr" nonstop.



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Gavin Wraith, 13th July 2019, 21:20
Tak for rosen. Not one of the songs you mention have I heard of. If you would like to hear a parrot singing to raaga kesturi do listen to Really beautiful.
VinceH, 14th July 2019, 09:32
"? - that one where Prince just starts screaming at the end, it's so over the top it's absolutely the part you're waiting for in the entire song " 
Sounds like you're describing "Let's Go Crazy". 
"Let's look for the purple banana until they put us in the truck... no no, let's go, let's go CRAZY" 
Or something like that. 
VinceH, 14th July 2019, 09:57
Or, looking at the track listing for Purple Rain*, you could mean The Beautiful Ones - but Let's Go Crazy was one of the singles. 
* One of the first LPs I ever bought.
David Pilling, 14th July 2019, 18:08
New things are the preserve of the gifted amateur, the person with no training. My grandparents generation wired up their own houses, by now it would be illegal if I tried. 
I designed my first web site 25 years ago, but by now children have grown up wanting to be web designers, gone to University, and spend their every waking hour designing web sites. 
There is the fact that some web designers will have come out of Uni with third class degrees, and one might pick them off, but setting up in competition with the entire field is a losing proposition. 
So it goes with dishwasher engineers. 
Whirlpool and tumble dryers, bankers and the financial crisis of 2008. The era of the amateur is over. 
Gavin Wraith, 15th July 2019, 14:11
When the Dean of Sciences at Sussex University asked me to be chairman of a new department of Computer Science, in 1985, I protested that I was only an amateur. _Aren't we all_ he said. Actually no, but I accepted on a temporary basis anyway. Alas, my days as an amateur are long over, but I am sure the era continues alright. There are always new things to be explored.

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