Back home, back from DebConf – And, hopefully, cleaner than ever!

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 08/10/2010 - 00:44

So, DebConf time is over once again. The two weeks worth of fifty weeks waiting are left behind once again, and it's back to get back to normal. DebConf was great — Yes, it always is, and that's what we are all saying, but hey - Seriously! Being in the same building than 300 crazed developers is always fun, and it's always better than last year's fun. A good highlight this year is that, given the number of Free Software and Free Culture groups that exist in USA's north-eastern coast, we had the opportunity to join a large crowd which has never been part of DebConf. Also, I must agree that the USA bid for DebConf was aiming to attract as many Debian people (developers, maintainers, or just happy users) which had not yet been to a DebConf before as possible. And it was a great success! I finally met several people I have long read in the mailing lists, in blogs or in IRC. A much higher proportion than usual, I'd venture to say. Another interesting phenomenon /methinks is that this year's DebCamp started much more staffed than usual: I arrived on the first day, Sunday 25, and there were ~40 people there already; I don't have the actual numbers, but we quickly grew, and the number started to stabilize past mid-week, only to (sharply) rise in the weekend, in time for DebianDay and DebConf start. Great time!

But, they say, nobody can go to the USA without buying some sweet toys, right?

Well, being the proud owner of six very hairy cats, I have thought into entering the looming and weaving industry... But cat hair, while abundant, I have heard is untreadable... Maybe due to the indisciplined, natural and independent personality of the cats (catonality should I say?)...

So I had two choices: Clean up my home quite often, or live in a –literally– hairy mess.

Enter choice #3: The Roomba!

I had been waiting to buy this thing for several years, as they refuse to send to Mexico or charge Mexican cards. So, I walked across Manhattan and got my very own robot cleaner!

For my further surprise, although I have not yet tried it (I don't even have a suitable cable yet), I found this:

Yay, the Roomba is actually hackable (via a 7 pin miniDIN serial port)! Wikipedia says that:

Roomba comes with a Mini-DIN TTL serial interface, which is incompatible with standard PC/Mac serial ports and cables, both electrically and physically. However, third-party adapters are available to access the Roomba's computer via Bluetooth, USB, or RS-232 (PC/Mac serial). New, 500-series, and 410/420 series Roombas upgraded with the OSMO hacker device allow the user to monitor Roomba's many sensors and modify its behavior. The Roomba Open Interface (formerly "Roomba Serial Command Interface") API allows programmers and roboticists to create their own enhancements to Roomba. (…)

My first impressions? Well, the Roomba lazily charged its battery throughout the day today, and was hungry and ready when I arrived home. It is a but louder than what I expected, and –of course– my cats were not thrilled by the presence of a eighth animated and apparently sentient being at home. Their initial reaction was –of course– to be verrry alert of the thing. Twelve eyes were constantly pointing at the Roomba while mine alternated between them. As they measured the thing's speed and (I guess) inferred its movement patterns, they started escaping upstairs – A flat, round thing with no legs to be seen will not likely be able to climb the stairs. And they were completely right. At first, only Chupchic remained downstairs. After a bit, I went up to show them the Roomba didn't jump on us to eat our brains, and after a bit, Santa and Macusa joined. The Roomba roombed for maybe 90 minutes (this space is large, and decided it was enough... And slowly, the rest of them started coming down.

I would not say Roomba's cleaning is perfect, of course. Its room discovery algorithm is funny, and it even seems it's based on the mere chance of covering most (never all) of the space it has to clean. I had, of course, not fully studied it (after a single run, how could I?). It does make a honestly good attempt at cleaning under coaches, chairs and tables. It collected a fair amount of dust (on a house that seemed quite clean to me, I cannot imagine what would happen on a messy one). I have not yet played with the virtual walls (infrared transmitters which limit rooms as if a door was closed), but given the size of this house (and that I don't want it to clean around the cats' designated bathroom area), I guess I will end up using them regularly.

During DebConf, I heard one bad (stupid useless noisy thing) and two very good (it has radically changed my life) comments on the Roomba. I hope to shift the balance towards 3/4 and not towards 2/2!

Anyways... Thanks to each and every one of you. DebConf is great. Always great. Always a success. I cannot even thank specific teams. Debian Rules, and DebConf Rocks!

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carocr's picture

Woooooow!!!!

I must say, I really would like to see this thing hacked.. we could use it for bowling? attacking women using reeeeeally high heels just for fun? Well, I want it... I'll wait until you get bored.

gwolf's picture

I don't really know...

(First of all, Caro's comment is not to be read as sexist, being her a woman and all — Aggressive, perhaps. But then again, that's Caro for you ;-) )

I'd have to check how would the Roomba detect the direction for a woman with reeeeeally high heels, unless we attach an infrared beamer to her ankles. The Roomba is blind, and finds its way around by bouncing on objects.

I was rather thinking into building into it a "Pong" mode, and using the virtual walls as paddles, or something like that :) But other than that, so far I have not yet thought what would I hack on it.

ahioros's picture

tengo un amigo

Justo un amigo me mostró estos robots él tiene dos, uno para animales que sueltan pelo y otro más sencillo :-D quiero uno para jugar, se ven interesantes.
Happy Hacking!

reg's picture

ni conozco aun a la maquinita

ni conozco aun a la maquinita esa, pero ya le tengo cariño (por mas ruidosa que sea). siempre es bueno cuando la tecnologia simplifica ciertas cosas pesadas de las vida .... como por ejemplo la limpieza!!!!

Tuareg's picture

te habría pedido.

De saber que comprarías uno, te habría pedido uno para los gatos que tenemos ahora en casa.. :-(

gwolf's picture

No te lo hubiera traído, sorri :-}

El aparatito en cuestión ocupó parte importante del espacio de mi maleta, y no me hubiera cabido el segundo... Así que qué bueno que no me lo pediste, porque te hubiera dejado muy desilusionado con una promesa rota ;-)

Toxcatl's picture

Estoy como loca por saber

Estoy como loca por saber como funciona el aparatito este!! Y aun mas desesperada ¡por tener una!!!
Al menos aqui si se pueden comprar sin tener que irse a la otra punta del mundo, solo que tienes que ahorrar varios meses para que no te desequilibre el presupuesto.

gwolf's picture

No está tan caro...

Y por lo que veo hasta el momento, verdaderamente vale la pena. Mi modelo es de los más económicos, me costó 200 dólares... Incluso asumiendo que tú lo consiguieras en 200 euros, hasta 250, es bastante aceptable.

Eso sí, no sé qué tan longevo pueda resultar en presencia de niños y esas cosas ;-)