Sunday, April 30, 2017

About RSVPs

I've heard stories and even experienced when an RSVP is sent out and people don't ever respond. RSVP means you're supposed to respond either way: if you're going or not going to attend.

And it's very frustrating when people don't respond. You don't know whether to include them in planning or not. If it's an event at a restaurant, for example, you call in a number of people for an event so the restaurant knows how much to prepare. Or, if it's an event at home, you buy food and prepare for the number of folks who responded. Either way, if and when people who didn't respond show up anyway, there isn't enough food!

We always try to respond to RSVPs right away. We err on the side of going if we have any doubt.
My philosophy has been to prioritize attending events that happen less often.
So, if there is a choice between going to see something that happens once a month and something that happens once a year or once in a lifetime, then the event that happens less often is what we attend.
This policy helps in deciding which events to attend and how to RSVP.
What are your thoughts about RSVPs?

TJBot part 1

Watson TJBot Laser Cut Cardboard
I'm in the process of gathering parts to build a TJBot.

What is a TJBot?
A TJBot is a open source IBM maker kit that was designed by IBM Research. It was made for makers to learn about Watson. It is a project you can make that allows you to experiment with various Watson Services to make TJBot carry on a verbal conversation, respond to commands (like playing a song and dancing to it), tell the time, tell the weather, visually recognize things, and other projects.

Parts list
I'll post more information as I obtain parts and assemble TJBot in future posts. For now, here is the parts list that I've ordered.  I started with the parts list on this page.
(note: click here to see a future post where TJBot speaks)

1.$30 (including shipping)  For the TJBot "Body" I decided to order a laser cut "cardboard" (It's actually a very thick cardboard almost like a child's board book). from Texaslaser.
2. $30 - A Raspberry Pi 3 is the computer that runs TJBot (together with Watson on the cloud). I bought mine from microcenter.
3. $5 - A Micro-SD card - I'm using a PNY 8gb class 10 card that I found at Walmart on clearance. The chart on this page tells which cards work best with the Pi3. The parts list calls for 16gb, but I'm using an 8gb card.
4. $0 - Noobs is available for download here.I just use my laptop to copy files onto the micro-sd card for the Pi.
5. $10  - NeoPixel Diffused 8mm Through-Hole LED - I found mine for less by shopping around. You can find them on Amazon and ebay.  Shipping is expensive. Note: you can't use any old LED if you want it to work with the TJBot software without modification, it must be a neopixel LED and must be "through hole" which is a little more difficult to find and more expensive. You may even be able to get it from microcenter (mentioned above)
6. $3- Jumper wires (see the parts list referenced above) : I have a bunch laying around that I bought from Aliexpress. For example, here are a bunch for just a few dollars at Aliexpress. (Aliexpress is like amazon or ebay ordering direct from China. You need to wait a long time, like a month, for things to come)
7. $20 Raspberry Pi V2 Camera (from Aliexpress)
8. $1.40 Speaker connector: Instead of a USB speaker, I ordered this part to allow me to plug in one of my existing speakers through the USB connector on the Pi from Alisexpress  I read in there somewhere that a USB speaker is better than using the 3.5mm jack on the Pi because with the Pi's audio jack you might get distortion.
9. $1.38 Servo from Aliexpress.
10. $1.38 USB Microphone from Aliexpress.
I can not yet speak to the quality of these Aliexpress items until they are received by me and I try them out. I'll know in a few weeks.
11. $10 Power adapter
CanaKit 5V 2.5A Raspberry Pi 3 Power Supply / Adapter / Charge  -

Note: a colleague of mine took this list and created a GitHub repo to track parts list ordering alternatives at

All told, the total is about $113 US.
There are also places you can get the whole kit of parts (Amazon, Adafruit, and others) for about $150. I suppose for the $50 it's a lot less work than trying to piece things together and save a few dollars by ordering from multiple places.

So, I'll keep you informed how it goes when the parts come in. I've ordered parts before through Aliexpress and I've had very few issues with any of them.

Next Steps
Once I've received all the parts, I'll try them out. If I have time in the meantime, I'll do some of the steps to get the Raspberry Pi 3 set up (here are some great Step-by-step instructions for all the building steps for TJBot). Also, I might get together with someone else from IBM to assemble the TJBot cardboard (There are some great step-by-step instructions with pictures here for how to assemble the TJBot cardboard).

Watch here for future posts...
Any comments here are very much appreciated.