The art of doing a Kludge, and how to fix it after …

“You will remember the hacks you’ve done in your project, until you fix them” (Ovidiu Serban 🙂 )


Def: Kludge: noun Computer Slang. A software or hardware configuration that, while inelegant, inefficient, clumsy, or patched together, succeeds in solving a specific problem or performing a particular task. ( synonym with hack in programming)


Note to all my readers: I cite from myself because in most of the cases I do a quick’n’dirty hack instead of doing things the right way. Almost every time, I regret it.

For the past days, I was struggling to resolve some of the problems generated by the hacks done in the past. Currently, me and Alina, we are building a robot, that could serve as a development platform for our future algorithms. Since we did not had the patience to do all the things the right way, mainly because we wanted a working prototype as soon as possible, we did a lot of hacks (we are quite good in using plastic ties and glue). In most of the cases, using nuts and bolts would be the preferable solution, but still … why to drill holes and find the right screw position when using a plastic tie takes you a couple of seconds.

The whole adventure started: I had to redo the motor fitting, back wheel fitting and now I found out that I did some ugly hacks even at the electrical part. Since I saw that this approach is a very bad one, right now I’m taking my time. I’ve learned from my mistakes and now I have to be proud of every step I make.


Inspired by Alina’s custom laptop stickers, I’ve decided to make something custom by my own.

Probably you know Arduino, which is sleek, small, trendy and intelligent. OK, think about the opposite, except the intelligent part and you would get … Harduino. It is the first version, I have to agree, but I’m quite happy about what I’ve obtained: an extension case for Arduino, that leaves room for sensor extension and coupling, serial communication with my motor board and power for everything I have in mind. Also, it comes with a resistant case for any shock, in case you would think of an application in which dirt or even water is involved. Did I mentioned that the case cost me around 3 euro ?

As always, I have some pictures attached.

There are actually two jokes I’ve made about this project: one is for french speakers and the other one is for romanian ones. In french, “Le Harduino” would have the same pronunciation as “Le Arduino”, so a french speaking guy would not make the difference. Also, in order to understand the second joke, in romanian, you would need a bit of a cultural/linguistic background … but maybe I would explain it in another episode.

Home made custom interior tracks

Price: ~ 20 euro

Since I saw the outdoor tracks made by hardmouse and amando96 I’ve been thinking about building the same concept, but for interior. The challenge for interior is to cover the bolts so that they won’t screw you new carpet. So, here is my secret mixture:

  •  2 bicycle chains, each one spitted in half to produce the support for each track. Be carefull that for splitting chain you need a special tool ( very cheap on amazon), because othervise you will end up frustrated that you cannot split it
  • 2 bicycle rubber tires ( I used the interior rubber, but I believe you can use the exterior one if you want)
  • some plastic bars for building the internal structure of your track ( I used 3 * 1 m @ about 3cm)
  • nuts and bolts, any flavor you prefer

Here I attached some pictures. Enjoy !

Ubuntu Sound Jungle

This wants to be a funny post about the Ubuntu Sound System, which sounds more like a jungle rather than an ordered system.

1° OSS was replaced, because it was considered old … but a lot of applications still used it by default, or only it. A hand full of smart people created the OSS ALSA wrapper, which is one of the first problems in the cloud

2° Because adding support to every sound card is a crazy thing, some nice ppl considered that it is safe to connect PulseAudio to ALSA system … what is the worst thing it could happen, right ?

3° In Ubuntu 8.04, one of the magic decisions taken was to replace the ALSA mixer, with a more error prone client-server architecture, called Pulse Audio. Since a lot of the existing software still use ALSA by default, instead of simplifying the problem, some wise guys decided to create a virtual interface of ALSA for PulseAudio, that acts like a client. Now, as you can see that PulseAudio is used just as a mixer for ALSA and maybe 2% of the Ubuntu users know how to program applications using PA and/or use it in a distributed manner

4° PortAudio wants to offer support to sound on every OS. Very nice dream I would say, but let’s have a look of how is accomplished on Ubuntu … PortAudio connects to the ALSA interface, which is in fact a virtual device connected to PulseAudio, which is connected back to ALSA infrastructure. Great !

*° It’s even funnier when you think at the fact that every new audio system that will be developed should offer support for ALSA, PulseAudio or PortAudio … because every developer is building his API base on his personal affinities:e.g. in speech recognition research, Julius used OSS and ALSA … on Ubuntu 10.10 it crashes, but theoretically it runs properly if you connect it straight on the ALSA interface. OpenSmile uses PortAudio and so on

The solution: One of my friends in Romania has a favorite quote, “If something is not working, you have to demolish it and build something new with your lessons learned from the previous mistakes”. You cannot build something reliable on moving sands !

UBBots 2011 – the CandyBot

We had an excellent edition of UBBots this year with our newest release, the CandyBot. It was realized by me (Ovidiu Serban ) and my girlfriend ( Alina Miron ), with a lot of help from Calin ( Calin Lihet ) for the exterior design part and my father (Mircea Serban) for the structure part. The idea came from Mihai ( Mihai Oltean ), but we made if happen :). I shouldn’t forgot to mention Mihai Palermo for his attention some technical details concerning the robot.

The setup is simple: one IRobot, 2 sets of speakers ( one white, one black ), one IPod for the voice, a lot of paper and duct tape … and I believe the images will talk for themselves.

Enjoy also all the media releases from the UBBots website:

Quote: I, Robot – the movie

I found out this on IMDB, while searching for a good quote for my blog. Enjoy it:

” Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a… canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: Can *you*?

Source: I, Robot on IMDB