Sorting Lego

February 25, 2012 at 3:50 pm (interesting, kids, odds) (, , , )

Lego.  Can you have too much?  Possibly.  It appears at least to be a question that my family is slowly attepting to answer …

Of course past a certain critical mass, you get to the point where it is almost impossible to build anything, as you have just too much to sort through to find a piece.  Couple this with the trend for increasingly specialised parts in a much wider range of colours and you get to the point where you know you have the part in question, but you also know its just one or two of … well … quite a lot, so you tend to give up before you even start.

Hence sorting Lego is kind of mandatory.  But it takes a long time and when all is said and done you are basically attempting to reduce disorder and chaos (and everyone knows how fruitful that is!)

So what do to … can Google help?  Hmm, maybe.  Here are some examples.

This shows some promise – it sorts based on size and shape.  It seems quite accurate too.  But it is very slow! At this rate bricks would never be sorted faster than they were used, so this really isn’t likely to solve the issue.

This ones a little faster, but doesn’t look like it has a huge range of bricks it recognises.  Still sorts on shape and colour – thats quite impressive.

Now the concept behind this one shows some promise.  Its not sorting lego, just beads presumably based on colour, but it looks like the kind of design that might scale up.

This is probably the most comprehensive one I’ve seen yet – but with 7 NXTs, 28 motors and 37500 bricks … well, it still only really sorts a subset of bricks.  Still its quite amazing to watch.

But you know what?  This one is just a work of art.  One motor.  No programmable brick.  Just cogs, gears, differentials and bands … its the kind of creation that one just stares at in wonderment.  By far the simplest, most elegant lego creation I’ve seen in a long time.  So what if it only sorts 2 by something bricks.  So what that it only sorts on length.  So what that you have to align bricks to load it.  This is pure lego mastery.

So.  Can anyone do better? Or are we doomed to resorting to trained chimps (sorting monkeys?) and bribed children?


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Windows Backup error 80070005 or 800700E1

February 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm (computers, security) (, , , )

This was making me scratch my head the other day – I was trying to backup a Vista machine to a removable hard drive, and the backup kept failing with the obscure error message “80070005 – Access Denied” (or might have said “Permission denied” – something like that).

Update: More recently (Windows 10) it was “800700E1”  (“the file contains a virus or other unwanted software”).

The references I found to this on the Internet seemed to suggest that turning off your anti-virus software whilst backing up would cure things, but I didn’t fancy that route at all.  However that did give me a clue.

Looking at the logs for MS Security Essentials, yes, there was a file that was being backed up that MSSE was blocking by indicating that it contained malware.  So I performed the corrective action (removing the file) and started again. However the backup failed yet again with the same error.

That time though, I watched it backing things up and then realised what the issue was.  Windows creates a copy of everything it will backup and then copies that copy to the backup media.  MSSE was kicking in on the second copy – when trying to copying the backup copy to the removable media.  Consequently when I performed the corrective action of removing the offending file, it was removing the copy not the original file.  When the next backup started, Windows created another copy of the dodgy file and the backup failed yet again.

So, once I had located the original file on the disk and removed it, the next backup worked fine.

I’m not sure why creating the first backup copy didn’t trigger MSSE – maybe creating Volume Shadow Copies is special and happens “under the hood” – hence is not seen by MSSE.  I’m also not sure why MSSE didn’t trigger when the offending file was actually placed on the disk in the first place, but maybe it was a file whose signature appeared in MSSE once it was already installed.

Either way, I managed to ‘solve’ error 80070005 without resorting to turning off the PC’s security defenses.  It may have taken an hour to work out, but I’m sure that restoring after a virus problem from a backup that also contains the same virus would take a lot longer than an hour.

Moral of the tale?  Don’t ignore your security warnings and if the Internet wisdom says “turn off your AV to solve your problem” … well, I strongly recommend you don’t!  Solving the symptoms does not cure the issue.



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The Robot and the Sparrow

February 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm (art, interesting) (, )

I was exploring the world of independent cartoons and a colleague of mine recommended that I take a look at “The Robot and the Sparrow“, by Jake Parker.  Well, I’ve finally gotten around to doing just that and its wonderful.

Its a story of friendship between a robot and a sparrow (as you might imagine), how they become friends after the robot lands on the Earth.  Its a very simple story, but the details of passing seasons and sense of time passing and learning about the world.

I quite liked the frame where the sparrow asks what robots dream about, and when the robot asks what dreaming is, the comment is

“Though the sparrow had a very clear idea of what dreaming was in his own head, he found it very hard to explain.”

As the seasons pass and the sparrow finally has to fly away for warmer climates, we eventually find out what robots dream out.

A very well drawn, simple and extremely charming tale.


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