Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Obsidian Theme for Visual Studio 2008

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I’ve become a fan of the obsidian theme for notepad++ (even though I know it comes from other locations as well), because I feel like the theme is a lot easier on my eyes. So I’ve had to start using Visual Studio a bit more lately, and I adjusted the fonts/colors to match the notepad++ obsidian theme (with some variation, of course). I’ve exported the settings, and you can use them as you wish. I haven’t fully explored the settings yet, but this seems to do it for much of the stuff I run into. If you have adjustments for this that makes it better, let me know!

Download here

WebDMA 0.2 Released

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

WebDMA 0.2 is now available for download at the WebDMA project site. Using C++ operator overloading, WebDMA provides proxy objects that your application can use as normal variables which can be manipulated or displayed by your application via a configurable jQuery/javascript powered AJAX-enabled Web 2.0 interface hosted by an lightweight embedded web server. Its really neat, and really useful for tuning/debugging our FRC robot. Of course, it works on Windows/Linux too.

This is a better packaged version of WebDMA, with a few feature improvements. Of particular interest to FRC teams, I have released an installer that installs the object files for WebDMA on your robot, and copies the header files to the needed locations for Wind River. There is also a sample program installed for Wind River as well that allows you to control two motors on your robot with the web interface as a demo. All you need to do to use WebDMA on your robot is install the install package to your development computer, and then run the install program to copy the necessary object files to your robot.

While this is very easy and painfree for beginners to install and use, of course I must give you this disclaimer since a program installed by the installer writes directly to the robot to install the object file:

WARNING: The provided installer will WRITE DIRECTLY TO YOUR ROBOT and modify files on it via FTP.

While I have tested this and this works just fine for our team on our cRio with no ill effects, I cannot be held responsible for your robot. This installer is not sanctioned or associated with National Instruments, Wind River, or FIRST Robotics. In particular, this may void your warranty, render your cRio useless, and COST YOUR TEAM A LOT OF MONEY.


But seriously, it works just fine for me though. And if you have problems, let me know. 🙂

Boost.Asio Tech Talk Slides

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I gave a presentation at work about Boost.Asio, and it came out reasonably well, so I figured I would post the slides here. Its a brief introduction to Asio and what one might use it for. Also has some basic concepts and patterns one might use while programming with Asio. Aimed for a technical audience, but nothing too detailed though.

Boost.Asio Tech Talk Slides (PDF)

Free disk/sector editor from Microsoft

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This is just a random note that I’ve actually known for quite awhile, but I figured I would post it online somewhere where others could find it. Apparently Microsoft made a disk editor thing called ‘Disk Probe’, which came in the NT Resource Kit. I had found it available to download standalone a really long time ago, but it doesn’t appear to be available anymore. However, you can find it in the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Support Tools available from Microsoft’s download website.

Its a bit weird (at least, the NT version was), but its pretty useful if you ever find yourself playing with raw disks and you need to access them from inside windows in a pinch.

XSMELL: C++ XML creation library

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I’m taking a workshop at work taught by David Abrahams, and he briefly mentioned this thing called XSMELL, which apparently allows you to write XML-like things in pure C++ code. From the README:

Congratulations! You have in your hands the MOST BRILLIANTEST C++ XML CREATION


And you no longer have to worry about generating malformed XML! After spending
hours fighting obscure C++ compiler errors, you’ll be 100% certain that your
XML is correct.

Definitely amusing. 🙂

Middle button in X

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I’ve always been a fan of PuTTY, the Windows terminal emulator. Its extremely simple to use and is one of the main reasons I like using windows to maintain linux systems. One of the biggest things I like about PuTTY is that it allows you to copy on highlight, and paste into the window by right clicking. It saves so much time and is really easy to use.

So when I moved my desktop to Ubuntu this summer and got rid of XP, this has really been one thing that I really miss. However, I just found a blog post that explains copy/paste in X, and that a similar system actually exists system-wide, except it uses the ‘middle’ mouse button instead.

Seriously, this is an awesome feature that I did not know about, and definitely am going to take advantage of. Now I just need to remap one of the extra buttons on my mouse to be the middle one so its more convenient to use…

WebDMA demo video

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

If you read my previous post, I was talking about this new open source library I’ve created that allows you to embed a web server in your C++ application so that you could modify variables inside of it. I had created it for our FIRST Robotics team so that we could use it to tune things on our robot (and its been extremely useful for that) and use it for simple data acquisition. Of course, driving a robot is nothing more than changing variables… so I thought it would be a neat demo to set it up so that it could be driven by the web interface. 🙂

Here’s a video of our robot being controlled via the WebDMA interface:

And theres a (non-working) HTML version of the interface (though, its no longer the exact one that is on the robot, but its close) at

Boost Asio and Boost Thread patches for vxWorks

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

The FIRST Robotics Competition is using the National Instruments cRio platform for the robot controller this year, and the operating system on it is vxWorks 6.3. After we participated in the competition, I had gotten a great idea involving putting a webserver on the robot so that it would be easier to tune various parameters on the robot (which I will be releasing soon).

I decided to use Boost::Asio for the networking layer since I had been meaning to write something using it for awhile anyways, and since its portable I could do the initial development on my home computer and then easily (at least, ideally) transfer it to another platform. I also decided to use Boost::Thread for the same reason. If you haven’t used Boost before, I highly recommend it — it has a lot of well-written and useful C++ header-only libraries.

Unfortunately, vxWorks is a bit different than ‘standard’ POSIX/*nix systems, so there are a number of patches one needs to make to Boost 1.38.0 in order to compile. I’ve submitted the patches to boost, so hopefully by the time 1.39.0 rolls around you won’t need this. 🙂

You can download the full patchset needed from my FRC resources page. Download it.

I’ve also posted bugs on the Boost Trac site: #2917, #2953, #2955, #2956, #2957, #2958, and #2959

Another solution to the Singleton pattern in C++

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

So, while working on the Kwarqs robotics code, I found a useful solution to implementing the singleton pattern in c++ that I believe avoids the static initialization fiasco (with a small restriction) *and* doesn’t leak memory.

What I’ve created is a template class that takes a pointer to a pointer at construction, and deletes the pointer as it is getting destructed. While you cannot guarantee when the class is created due to static initialization issues, from what I can see the C++ standard does guarantee that all intrinsics are initialized before other items are constructed. By using a pointer to a pointer, we can guarantee that the location of the object will be the same (and thus destruction will happen correctly), and provided we initialize the static variable to NULL we can also guarantee that initialization will happen correctly.

Warning: A key assumption made by this class is that the static object is only accessed during the normal scope of the program — ie, the object that this class contains a pointer to a pointer to should not be accessed by anything that could be called after main() is complete. For some code bases, this can be very tricky to enforce.

Usage of the class is quite trivial:

SomeType * SomeType::m_instance = NULL;
StaticDeleter someTypeDeleter(&m_instance);

// example singleton initialization
SomeType * SomeType::GetInstance()
	if (SomeType::m_instance == NULL)
		SomeType::m_instance = new SomeType();
	return SomeType::m_instance;

And the implementation of the static deleter is also quite trivial (but I’ve provided a downloadable version as well), check it out:

// (C) 2009 Dustin Spicuzza, released under modified BSD license

class StaticDeleter {

    StaticDeleter(TypeToDelete ** ptr2ptr) :

        if (*m_ptr2ptr)
            delete *m_ptr2ptr;

    TypeToDelete ** m_ptr2ptr;

Download it now

I has a whiteboard!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

So I was talking with a co-worker on Friday, and he mentioned that a friend of his has walls in his kitchen that he can write on using dry erase markers. It sounded really cool, but I said that I did not have the space for such a thing. However, I was sitting at my computer on Saturday when I realized that there was this *giant* empty space on my wall… so I started googling and decided to go get some tileboard from Home Depot.

And I found some stuff called “Thrifty White Tile Board”, which is approximately the same thing as a dry erase board, except I guess they take less time to wear out. It was 8ft x 4ft, and fits perfectly in the space where I had room (though, it did not fit in my car.. ). As you can see from the picture below, its worked out well so far!

The giant $12 whiteboard I got from home depot

The giant $12 whiteboard I got from home depot

Note: Yes, I realize the grammar for the title is bad.