Freesteel Blog » Euromold 2010

Euromold 2010

Friday, December 24th, 2010 at 9:43 am Written by:

Martin skipped Euromold this year, leaving me to brave the journey across Europe. The train from London to Brussels was an hour late, causing me to miss my connection.

He did help me buy the tickets, which were in the form of four grubby sheets of self-printed A4 paper, all purchased separately. Normally this is a disaster because, unless you book the journey all in one chunk, your late arrival from the previous train is not their problem. However, this was Euroland, and all it needed was for the person at the help-desk to rubber stamp the paper with “Hop on next train” for all the unnecessary problems of being on the right train at the wrong time to be neutralized.

The next train was more than an hour late (though two hours in Brussels Midi seems like a lifetime) and I shared a seat with two other guys on the same journey as me from London to Frankfurt whose planes had been cancelled. The corporate strategist had waited in Heathrow airport for 11 hours and four cancelled planes before giving up on that mode of transport. I shared my timetable of on-going connections from Cologne.

Cologne’s idea of a toy nativity scene is a bombed out church.

The train to Frankfurt was deserted. The whole German Mastercam reseller network was staying in the IBIS hotel right by the station instead of the one miles beyond the festival hall in a wasteland.

Other than that, it was the same as it ever was.

Euromold is like a small town municipal Xmas.

The stock of same plastic santas come out of storage and are all tied to lamp posts and dustbins. It must be done.

I must have seen the following swank stand from Tebis every year for nearly two decades. Euromold is a timewarp. It’s not a show where you have to be seen in a different costume every year.

The software is all the same too, more or less.

I don’t do selling. I do work. I experimented on some aspects of toolpath algorithms, regarding filtering them by z-planes (it’s ragged) and noticed some glitches with a 0.1mm stepover on the demo part.

Right, I said. I’m going to get this fully debugged if it’s the last thing I ever do.

I was not sharing a hotel room, which meant I could stay up as late as I could working on it. And I put in all hours of the following morning. And stood on the stand working hard on it too. It was the usual ResolveAmbiguities in joining up the segments of the scallop contour within the same cell bug of which there are hundreds of variations, and then about five other minor issues that were unrelated.

It’s possible to fix almost any CADCAM geometric bug within a few minutes. But there’s fixing something so that this example now works, and there’s fixing it properly so that the underlying problem doesn’t rear up again in another example. And was this underlying problem one you didn’t anticipate when you wrote the algorithm?

Because I am not just a coder for hire, and retain a stake in the result — which means I get a benefit if there’s fewer bugs in there in five years time that I won’t have to fix not because I am no longer working on it — I fixed it good and proper.

Three days later I had it all fixed.

I deleted all my debugging code (print statements and partial toolpath exporting and visualizing functions), got onto the internet and checked the code in. Then I ran it one last time, and everything was wrong again:

I muffled a scream.

It took half an hour to assure myself I hadn’t unintentionally overwritten all that work with the old copy on the internet.

I could not find out what had gone wrong. Remember we’re using Subversion version control, which doesn’t allow for local checkins. With a distributed version control like Mercurial I could have checked in my changes hourly as I made them, and then uploaded the whole timeline to the server at the end. As a result, I couldn’t just roll back an hour of work to recover the debug code and track down what I had accidentally changed. I had no idea. Time to rebuild my debugging process and press through the operation. I fell asleep at 4am.

Finally, on the train back I cracked the problem and got the toolpaths to look lovely again. (Can’t remember what the problem was, but it was not a mistake.)

The upshot of it all was I had fixed half the scallop bugs on record in the process following this session.

Now for the other half.

Tom has invented a new regime. All bugs assigned to me will be hidden, so when I log on to the ticket tracking system there will be only one bug there, which I will have to fix. When I eventually close it, another one is going to appear in its place. And so on. Keeps the mind focussed. At the moment when you’ve got about 50 queued up on the page, there’s not much incentive to fix any of them in particular, because you’ve then still got about 50 on your list to fix. What’s two percent really worth? You get used to ignoring them. Especially when there’s other stuff to be done.

Back in Brussels Midi I waited for my train, marvelling at just how ridiculous this crowd of english speaking tourists in front of me sounded, with their one frazzled tour guide, who was identified by a red ribbon tied to her suitcase, trying to get them on the train to Berlin. I overheard her tell them the time of the next train, the platform the needed to go to, and watched them eventually mince off like a crowd of people on holiday with not a care in the world. The tour guide was left behind beside a big stack of abandoned luggage, including some posh camera equipment. She attempted to remain serious and patient. I watched the clock face above her ease towards the departure time. The tour guide slowly backed away from the pile of luggage abandoned by one of her charges. A minute later she marched back in and stood guarding it again. It was beginning to get stressful. Was she going to miss the train and leave everyone to go to Berlin on their own, or was she going to deliberately lose this luggage? She walked slowly away again, looking back over her shoulder. Then she marched back into the waiting room a few seconds later.

I couldn’t take it any more. “Do you need help carrying this to the platform?” I asked.

“Just how long does a guy take to go to the toilet. He left me here with his bags and was only going for a minute.”

We took the luggage to the main concourse to give a better head start. It was getting towards the last 60 seconds before her train was due. I promised I’d look after this stuff, knowing that I could always deposit it at the left luggage and get a receipt. It felt like I was waiting for quite a while. The luggage had a name tag on it. Ed Miller. I think he was from Kansas. I began to see if I could phone the number on the label. Then I spotted a hurried looking man in a felt cowboy hat going into the waiting room. “Ed!” I shouted. “Follow me!”

I assumed he would be good at chasing some random guy who was running away with his luggage.

I met eyes with the tour guide on the platform as the train arrived and caught the down escalator right away. I’d obviously saved her day big-time.

And I felt great too.

But there’s no feeling that two more hours in Brussels Midi isn’t going to completely wear off.

1 Comment

  • 1. Darrel replies at 11th January 2011, 4:15 pm :

    Hello Julian

    I work for Little Lakes Machine and Tool in Ontario Canada.
    We are researching cam softwares (we use camtool right now). We like some of the features of vero especially the adaptive roughing. You have raised some concern about the future of vero. If you have any advice about finding the best cam software for us or specifics about vero or any other software I would be interested in what you have to say. I am also interested about the possibilty of open source cam in the future. Hope to hear from you.

    Thanks Darrel

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