(Llano de la Paciencia)

  "Why won't you let me go home?
  This is the worst trip I've ever been on"
    -- The Beach Boys

No, that is not a reflection of our attitude these days, it is just a quote of the first words I was greeted with this morning while driving a truck up to the hilltop. Gotta warn people not to leave such "inspirational" material in the cassette players in our trucks.

Today was actually quite busy here. We had a TV news crew on hand for the morning and early afternoon, a photographer and his assistant all day, a practise run for the "driving by phone" events during the next two Fridays, and visits from the Chilean infantry and representatives of several national historical museums. With our native Spanish speakers offsite today, it was quite a workout for those of us who only learned it in high school. The odd thing about working with TV crews out here is that we almost never get to see how the video reports come out, since there is no known television for about 100 kilometers.

Naturally, with all the press around and the pressure of a demo, the communication system chose today to go bad. We found that it was difficult if not impossible to keep the (ethernet) network connection going while Nomad turned. The primary source of error was our compass, which needs to be recalibrated whenever the nearby magnetic field configuration changes; as it did when we secured the right front wheel which is less than a meter below the compass. Fortunately, later in the day we were able to recalibrate it successfully. Our compass is a type that is primarily used on boats, and the calibration procedure is to spin it around in a slow circle without bumping it; easy in a boat, not so easy in a rocky desert. Still, we managed it on a flat dirt area, and things are looking good.

Until now we have been relying primarily on our wireless ethernet network to transmit information from the robot. But now we have installed enough software and hardware on the relay station to enable us to use a lower bandwidth omnidirectional modem; the plan is to use this link for telemetry and commands. This will make it much easier in the future to deal with loss of the high bandwidth ethernet conection. There are still some routing issues to be resolved before we start using it fulltime, but it should prove quite useful.

As of today, we have the following running totals for autonomous and safeguarded driving. Persistent problems with the user interface bridge have delayed more consistent use of the safeguarding code.

15 June - 11 July '97
Autonomous 9725 meters
Safeguarded 5883 meters

Last Modified on: Tue Jul 15, 1997