2014 in review

Another great is coming to an end. A lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun! Here’s a highlight reel for posterity.



Made good progress on our current research project and published 5 conference papers, as well as my first journal paper.

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Gave a talk on Codebits’ main stage for over 100 people and reached 5th place in the projects competition.

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Co-organized FISTA 14, the annual Forum of  IUL School of Technologies and Architecture. The event had more than 200 attendees, with a dozen invited tech companies for two days of talks and workshops.



Gave two robotics workshops to 30 high school students. It’s always awesome to see the excitement in their faces! Also disseminated LaTeX in two workshops organized by our IEEE Student Branch.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to travel quite a lot this year, one of my favorite things to do.

switzerland

Toured the Lac Léman in Switzerland.

tunisia

Visited the Sahara in Tunisia.

ny

Re-visited New York and attended ALIFE 2014.

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Met many great IEEE volunteers at the Students and Young Professionals Congress in Krakow, Poland.

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Relaxed in Matalascañas, Spain.

croatia

Was blown away by beautiful Croatia and met a vibrant community of researchers at Breaking the Surface.

munich

Had a proper Bavarian meal at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

books

I also met my goal of reading  2 books a month this year. Interestingly, I’m moving away from audiobooks and reading more and more physical books.

I think this sums it up. Let’s see what next year has in store!

Installing TP-Link TL-WN8200ND (RTL8192CU chipset) in OS X Sierra (and Yosemite, and El Capitan)

I was going crazy trying to find a way to install the TL-WN8200ND USB Wi-Fi adapter on my Macbook Pro. It seems that Ralink only has drivers up to OS X 10.8, and TP-Link doesn’t even have any OS X drivers available. I finally found a solution in the InsanelyMac forum. Someone was nice enough to port both the drivers and the utility to Yosemite, and it works really well! You can find the archive in the previously mentioned InsanelyMac post, or you can download it from a personal mirror here. All you have to do is install and reboot.

UPDATE: theluxbay in the comments confirmed that it works on OS X Sierra. I have not tested as I no longer use the TP-Link adapter.

Here’s a screenshot of the utility running in Yosemite:

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ALIFE 14 Videos

Recently I was fortunate enough to present some of my recent work at the renowned International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE). I prepared short videos introducing two of the published papers, which can now be seen on YouTube.

 

 

You can access the four papers presented at the conference for free in the conference proceedings:

M. Duarte, S. M. Oliveira, and A. L. Christensen (2014), “Hybrid Control for Large Swarms of Aquatic Drones“, in Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on the Synthesis & Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pages 785-792. Available at MIT press

M. Duarte, S. M. Oliveira, and A. L. Christensen (2014), “Evolution of Hierarchical Controllers for Multirobot Systems“, in Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on the Synthesis & Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pages 657-664. Available at MIT press

M. Duarte, F. Silva, T. Rodrigues, S. M. Oliveira, and A. L. Christensen (2014), “JBotEvolver: A Versatile Simulation Platform for Evolutionary Robotics“, in Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on the Synthesis & Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pages 210-211. Available at MIT press

F. Silva, M. Duarte, S. M. Oliveira, L. Correia, and A. L. Christensen (2014), “The Case for Engineering the Evolution of Robot Controllers“, in Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on the Synthesis & Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE), MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pages 703-710. Available at MIT press

Codebits VII (2014)

Codebits VII

After a year and a half of waiting, Codebits VII finally took place again from the 10th to the 12th of April. Codebits, for those that don’t know, is a 3-day technological event where the 900 (!!!) participants can attend dozens of talks, enter in the 48h programming contest, participate in workshops, and basically have tons of fun. I’ve been attending since the 4th edition in 2010 (you can check my previous posts here, here and here), and each edition has been even more awesome than the previous one. This year it was no exception.


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For the second year in a row, Codebits had a Hardware Den where you could attend workshops on robotics, electronics and Arduino, and ride on the immersive Tron motorcycles (they even made it to Gizmodo and CNET!) with an Oculus Rift, see BeeVeryCreative’s 3d printer in action, or control the RAPOSA robot, also with an Oculus Rift. There was also another edition of the Presentation Karaoke, where stand-up comedy meets random powerpoint presentations that the participants have never seen in their life. Once again I participated in yet another edition of the Amazing Codebits Quiz Show (think of it as the “Who Wants to be a Millionare?” for geeks), but it ended like all the previous ones: elimination in the first round. I hope I’ll make it to the finals someday 🙂

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This year there were a total of 49 talks, in 5 different simultaneous tracks. I submitted a talk proposal about cryptocurrencies, which was accepted. At first I thought I was going to give the talk in one of the smaller stages, but lots of people wanted to attend the talk which got me bumped to the main stage just a couple of hours before. It was friggin’ terrifying! I think it went well, but I still have to check to video to see what kind of nonsense I was babbling about 🙂 At least it generated a very interesting discussion in the end, which was what I was aiming for.

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I participated with David Jardim, Tiago Rodrigues, and Valéria Pacheco in the 48h programming contest, with the Babel Talk project. It consisted of a mobile application that allows users to communicate using their voice with anyone in the world, regardless of their language. The application translates voice from one language to another transparently using several Google and Microsoft APIs. We ended up in 5th place in the jury’s choice category, which was the icing on top of the cake! It’s always an honor to receive an award in Codebits, since it attracts some of Portugal’s best talents in the area of Computer Science. The quality of the projects just keeps getting higher and higher every year, with notable examples such as this year’s winning project, NeLo.

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There are so many other awesome things that happen at Codebits… From the badge hunt, to the lightning talks, nuclear chiliquadrocopters, crowd pong, nerf guns, that INCREDIBLE video mapped intro, free food (and Red Bull!), the GoT throne, world-class speakers (John Graham-Cumming and Christian Heilmann, just to name a couple), people zip sliding over your head, bean bag madness, retro computing area, the amazing organizers, and the friendly people all around that will gladly talk to you about their crazy-ass projects. Codebits is the Mecca of geeks, and it simply has to be experienced. If you have never applied, please do yourself a favour and go to Codebits VIII next year!

NodecopterLX 2013

In October, the first Portuguese Nodecopter event was held in Lisbon. Nodecopter is a hackathon that enables the participants to control real quadrocopters using a programming language. These events started in October 2012, and have since then spread to many different countries. Since there was a big Javascript conference coming up, LXJS, we decided to bootstrap NodecopterLX by inviting their participants.

We had around 35 participants in a total of 11 teams. Luckily, no quadrocopter was harmed and everyone had a blast! There were many demos by the end of the day, and, more importantly, our participants had the chance to learn how to program some cool robots. I’ll leave you with some photos (but you can check all of them over at our Google+ page):

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PS: I’d like to thank our awesome sponsor Flipside, our partners Inspiring, IST, ISCTE-IUL and Instituto de Telecomunicações, Andrew Nesbitt and Gilles Ruppert for being awesome and bringing some extra AR.Drones, and the rest of the team: Daniel Gomes, David Dias, João Jerónimo, Joaquim Serafim, Pedro Dias, Samuel Gordalina and Tiago Carlos. Make sure you follow our Twitter account @nodecopterlx to know when we are preparing the next event 🙂