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Electronics/Computing
   

 

There are only 10 types of people in the world...
those that understand binary and those that don't.
— Unkown

I didn't finish school, never went to college, and hardly drove past a university—never the less I was employed in various hardware and software engineering capacities over a period of 20 years until I retired at the ripe old age of 45.

So I think I can lay claim to at least some skill in computing although I'm not an expert in any one field, more a generalist with interests and experience in most fields from widgets to Windows.

I've written applications and/or worked on code and/or designed hardware using the following languages and processors...

  • C
  • C++
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • VB6
  • VB.NET
  • Forth
  • Pascal
  • COBOL
  • Paradox PAL
  • Z8x assembly
  • 65xx assembly
  • 68xx assembly
  • 80x86 assembly
  • PALASM
  • HTML
  • TCL
  • 2900 bit-slice machine code

And probably a few more I can't think of right now. I'm not saying that I'm proficient in all these any more, I worked on some of those platforms 20 or even 30 years ago. These days my coding is almost all C. Despite being an early adopter of C++ when it first came out I've not done much since so those skills have atrophied somewhat, but I'm getting back up to speed on C++ now.

I've ported a large product to many diverse platforms including UNIX, IBM, and Burroughs mainframes. I worked for large multi-national businesses like PRIME computers and SPL, and also two-man bands like Torrens Industries and Nichols Research (who I'm sure you've never heard of).

All in all I loved working in the IT industry and marvel that people have paid me well over the years to do what I would almost have done for nothing. I would work long hours then come home, grab a bite to eat and a beer, then go into my lab and continue doing the same work only on my own projects. Seldom did I get to bed before 2am.

Since retiring I have kept my hand in by continuing to write software and develop hardware, there is still hardly a day goes by when I'm not developing something on a computer although these days I'm usually in bed by 1 because I live off solar power and the batteries are getting low buy then.

What are my skills now?

Hmmm, good question. I would say my skills are about equally spread between digital hardware, PCB, and firmware design; probably with a bias towards the first two.

As such I have a good grasp of the embedded design process from the first AND gate to the last semi-colon so for example I won't design a board with 8 IO pins spread over three ports when they are used to drive the segments of an LED display, I'm well aware of the trade-offs between the hardware and software sides of a project.

I can also get by with simple analogue design and layout, was a dab hand at VB6 (remember that) and can hold my own with many aspects of web design such as PHP (this site is an example).

I am also becoming reasonably familiar with both LPC and SAM 32-bit ARM processors and I've done a lot of documentation over the years, in fact tech pubs was my main task in my last day job.

 

 

 

 

   

Circuit design and schematic capture.

 

 

 

 

   

PCB design.

 

 

 

 

   

Embedded firmware.

 

 

 

 

   

Embedded firmware.

 

 

 

 

   

Documentation.


Contract work

I did well in IT and don't really need to work so I'm not actively looking, on the other hand a little bit of pocket money never goes astray and I am always keen to do something interesting. So if you have a hardware or software project you think I could help with get in touch.

As you may know in theory we are permanently traveling around Australia and have been for about 12 years, however with the comms available these days this is not an impediment for most types of development.

Anyway we have currently dropped anchor on our land near Bundaberg in central Queensland and plan to stay stationary for the next two years or so.

As client and designer how do we communicate and exchange ideas?

With current technology it's quite practical to interact in real time even if we're physically located on opposite sides of the globe.

I interact with clients mostly using Skype, chat only though, with occasional video/voice but the bandwidth required is too much for my data plan to do that regularly. That said if you're paying me properly or picking up the tab I will make an exception.

With Skype it's easy to drag and drop files, photos, drawings, screen shots etc.

I recently started using the online whiteboard site Vyew.com. This allows real-time interaction with drawing, highlighting etc over an existing diagram, blank page or whatever.

I have created an example white board page here

http://vyew.com/126986/Example

Note that these white boards can be used at the same time by all concerned or at different times if time zones don't coincide as well as we would like.

And speaking of time zones, I'm at GMT+10, I tend to be up working until about 2AM so that helps align me with people in the US, UK and Europe.

See my contact page for contact details.

How much do I charge?

OK let's get this in the open up front, it may save both of us some time. I've spent a lot of the last year working for slave wages for reasons I won't go into, but I agreed to the contract and I'll see it through. I won't do that again, if I am to work for nothing it may as well be on my own projects.

So, before you ask be prepared to spend US$50 per hour. Is doesn't matter what I'm doing, if it's on your behalf that's the price. Now I don't know everything (yeah I know, that's hard to believe but I'm trying to be honest here), even in the fields we're talking about here, so if I have to learn something new to implement your design I don't charge for that time, after all I gain new knowledge that I can use in future.

Also if I get stuck on something that I feel I should know I'll stop the clock, once again you are paying for my knowledge, if I encounter something that I'm not as knowledgeable as I feel I should be you shouldn't have to pay for me to get up to speed.

And finally if the job is simple I may be inclined to set a fixed price so you know in advance what your are up for. An example might be a PCB design from an existing schematic, unless there are severe restrictions on the design I can look at it and say $500 or whatever I think is reasonable for the job.

Let's be honest, if you have a working project on a breadboard with no documentation then you are at best 10% of the way to having a real product. As they say in the classics, the first 90% is hard, the next 90% is even harder.

Just researching the exact version of a NAND gate required can take 20 minutes, and that's normally such a small part of a design it hardly rates a mention in dispatches.

To use another famous saying, you can have Fast, Good and Cheap, pick any two.

How about we offer you shares in our iThing? Maybe, what are the chances of your iThing ever making any money? Statistically the chances are (rounded up) 2/5ths of 5/8ths of bugger all. On second thoughts just pay me and I'll buy shares should they ever become available.

Jeez you're a grumpy old bugger. Yes I am, that's a bi product of having been there and done that. But I do have a soft side, why just the other day I swerved to miss a kangaroo on the road. But I don't want to waste my time with every Steve Jobs wannabe looking for a free worker. That said I routinely give advice to people with projects, I do this for free and it's worth every cent. So ask away, don't be put off by my bluster. Heck I may even become really interested in your project and want to join your team, even to the point of working on it for nothing but a promise of riches in the distant future, that's just not the default mode.

 

Just for a laugh

Yours truly featured in Embedded Designer recently. Readable version here.

Plus PULSE magazine did a spread on me and the project I was designing at the time, namely BUSnet and MAXX, two systems designed for monitoring and control of commercial to light-industrial installations.

This system was never built but it lives on in ArdweeNET and the Quub, two projects I'm currently working on.


I did this "Are you a geek" test.

My computer geek score is greater than 100% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Guess I'm a geek.

 

   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright © 1973-2013 Rob Gray, All rights reserved.
PO Box 450, Gin Gin, QLD, Australia.
www.robgray.com