Control Matters
SPLat Controls' aperiodic newsletter

7 Jan 10
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Through a strange series of online events during the Christmas break, I became aware of an organization called Kiva provides micro-loans to entrepreneurial individuals around the world, in both developed and developing countries. Through Kiva it is possible for anyone to make a small loan to a selected individual to assist them in a micro-business venture. Lenders typically provide $25. Individual contributions are then lumped together by Kiva to form loans to entrepreneurs of typically $350 to $1500.

Encouraging the enterprising individuals in a community must be one of the best ways of lifting the prosperity of the whole community. Micro-loans are a proven effective way of giving them a needed boost. The repayment rate is very close to 100%, meaning any money you lend can be re-loaned to someone else when it is re-paid after a few months. Check it out - it's a great way to make a difference.

By the way: Happy New Year. Here's hoping 2010 will be a better year for the world than 2009.

David Stonier-Gibson

In control - Stuff about or related to control systems

Do you use Finite State Machines?

If you are involved in programming machine controls you owe it to yourself to learn how to use Finite State Machine (FSM) programming concepts. FSMs are the most powerful technique for programming controls that have to respond to external events (i.e. inputs) in a way that is appropriate to the machine's current state.

I see many people who fail to use FSMs when it would be very much to their advantage to do so. I suspect the problem is that FSMs are often presented and described in a way that makes them appear complicated, and as something suitable only for boffins and geeks. In actual fact, the idea behind FSMs is extremely simple.

I just spent a big hunk of the Christmas break writing a new tutorial on FSMs. It covers the subject in a way that hopefully is easy to read and digest. Please take a look. All feedback gratefully accepted!

Finite State Machine tutorial

Out of control - Nothing much to do with controls, (but interesting)

Meccano Magic!

Would you believe a computer built using Meccano? Would you believe a Meccano computer used for serious military research?

The Meccano Differential Analyser No. 2 is a mechanical analog computer that was built around 1935. It was reputedly used by Barnes Wallace to perform computations during the development of the bouncing bomb, which was highly effective at destroying important German dams during WW2 and seriously impacting the Nazi's manufacturing capacity.

The machine now resides in New Zealand, at the Museum Of Transport And Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland. It is currently on display. You can betcha I will be visiting it when I get a chance to get over to NZ!

You can now program SPLat hardware in C, with our free RTOS. Click here for details.

At a recent real-time Java conference, the participants were given an awkward question to answer:

"If you had just boarded an airliner and discovered that your team of programmers had been responsible for the flight control software, how many of you would disembark immediately?"

Among the forest of raised hands only one man sat motionless. When asked what he would do, he replied that he would be quite content to stay aboard. With his team's software, he said, the plane was unlikely to even taxi as far as the runway, let alone take off.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Albert Einstein

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© Copyright 2010 SPLat Controls Pty Ltd. This communication does not constitute professional advice