Week eight has been spent almost entirely in the workshop. I’m looking back at my optimistic project plan for the past seven days and wondering was I on drugs or something. Had things gone to plan, the scanner + coasters + website prototype would now be five days in situ at the hostel. As it stands, the scanner is now at CIID doing an overnight run to make sure the software is stable.

Why this massive departure from the schedule? Well, I completely underestimated the time it would take to get it together. There’s no-one else to take the blame. The electronics were finished on Sunday evening, but the sanding/priming/fitting of the box was not finished until Wednesday.

Some setbacks occurred thereafter, the chute I had built for the coasters was painted black to provide a neutral background, but this caused a huge delay in the capturing of the image as the camera needed to adjust from looking mostly at black (very dark) to beermat (very bright). I re-made the chute.

Add to the problems the fact I’m running this project on a 2008 Asus EEE PC running Windows XP. Every possible problem that could have occurred in Processing/Arduino/Windows has managed to rear its head, and I’ve been tapping away at those tiny keys for days trying to get the maximum performance out of a crappy system. It’s important, to my mind, to use this small computer so that the prototype can sit, self contained, in the hostel for a few days to a week.

Wednesday brought the last of the spray painting, and the coding began. I got the system to a point where it was successfully capturing and uploading images to a web server. Thursday I mounted the electronics inside the box, added a cute little service door to the side, cut and began painting the new drop chute and got the domain name set up. Prepare yourselves universe, www.post-a-coaster.com is about to go live.

Friday meant decorating the screen I sourced (Grazie Marco!) to take it from mid-90’s beige to much nicer white acrylic. I redesigned the coasters, with a little help from Alix Gillet-Kirt (Merci!). This process brought a de-facto logo into being and the choice of a couple of fonts, which will help me give the whole thing a bit of visual cohesion from here on out.

Friday night I delivered 40 new coasters to Sleep in Heaven, getting the ball rolling again. I had hoped to leave the scanner with them this weekend, this will not be the case.

All hell broke loose in the software at the weekend, some optimization helped, but work done on Sunday morning on a different windows box just refused to function on the EEE PC and had to be completely reworked.

Now, Sunday, with panic having firmly set in, the “Coaster-Toaster” is sitting in CIID, turning over the cycles and trying not to crash. I’ve got it “calling home” every ten minutes to make sure it’s still alive – a trick from my days at Noho and The Farm back in Dublin. If it does go down I can hopefully log in remotely and sort it out. It’s a rough ol’ windy night, don’t want to have to make a journey in the event of a crash if the weather stays this way this week.

Speaking of this week… tomorrow I’ll (if tests go ok) bring the scanner to the hostel and leave it there. I’ll provide them with more coasters if needed. Then it’s on to phase two – the birds and the xbees – prototypes for which have been gathering dust. The plan is a little more complicated this time, and capturing the event is essential. At some point this week I want to go to the hostel and shoot some interviews with staff and guests about phase 1, if things go horribly wrong with phase two I’ll at least have that in the bag.

Oh yeah… and the CIID plague got me. I’m coughing chestily like an 85 year old chain-smoker. Can’t wait for this to end, really, and for the party to start with my CIID peeps.