Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Plus (and more) for Free

If you're a Sony Playstation Network member (and were before they got hacked), you get 30 days of Playstation Plus for free. Plus two free games to download (on up to five PS3 systems attached to your account) and keep forever. (Now, those games, first, they're not very stellar games, unless you count Super Stardust; second, in at least one of them I get advertising when it's loading - the Civic commercial plays in a screen inside my "loading" screen - that's a little weird.) Playstation Plus content you download, for free, is of course only "loaned" for as long as you have your PS+ subscription. (Supposedly this free trial is a non-renewing subscription - guess we'll see on that.)

Now, I also recently came across this little thing for Facebook: "auto facial recognition and photo tagging suggestions." Now, I'm not really sure what the big deal is about FB trying to help people organize the photos. I mean, Google's Picasa web album (free) has had facial recognition capabilities in it for quite a while, but I don't recall any uproar about that. In fact, that should be more of a privacy concern than this Facebook thing - imagine, Google Street View doing facial recognition to pinpoint who is where all over the globe! Speaking of which, I recently passed a Google Street View car on I-10 West leaving the George Wallace tunnel - I'll post a link to it if/when my car shows up in street view. Anyway, back to Facebook - they don't have all the live geospatial info in their system (not yet, anyway, although sometimes that data is contained in EXIF data in JPEG files). Maybe I'm being simple, but I'm not really sure what the big deal is about Facebook trying to help suggest image tags for you. (Please feel free to comment if you have an opinion one way or the other on this.)

So, I'm looking at getting back into FPGA and CPLD programming as a hobby (really enjoyed doing that while I was at UAH). Problem is, my dev kit includes a "parallel JTAG programming cable" - that is, the "old" connection you used to plug your printer into. Tough to find a computer these days that has a parallel port to connect my JTAG cable! (JTAG is "joint test action group" - unfortunately, the acronym became synonymous with the programming cable spec that defines how to connect to, enumerate, program, and debug various programmable hardware devices, such as FPGAs, CPLDs, microcontrollers and DSP chips, etc.) Unfortunately, the USB to parallel adapters aren't suitable for this type of parallel connection, as the JTAG programmers typically use a low-level access that the USB "parallel emulator" can't provide (those cables are really only useful for printers and not much else, like scanners or other parallel connected devices). The Xilinx USB-JTAG cable is pretty expensive ($200 from Xilinx, $130 or so from Digilent), and while other USB-JTAG cables exist (e.g., Digilent has their own, priced at $40), they typically don't work with the Xilinx software (they have their own interface). Probably not an issue, but I'd rather just use the Xilinx suite of tools. Granted, having the USB-JTAG cable is the "right" thing to do, but still.

Another option is a parallel port card for my desktop computer... but then I'm limited to using that computer. And I'd like to have a laptop with a parallel port to use for "playing" with my FPGA and CPLD dev kits. Looking on eBay, can probably get something in the $100-150 range. Still, I'm cheap, and I have four kids, one of which is in college, and another who's a senior in high school this year, so funds have to be carefully directed. Ah, the joys of technical "junk."

Anyway, probably no one cares about this last half of my blog post, and I'm getting tired, so I think I'll terminate this entry now...

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