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'[OT:]The Code,The Client and The PicList'
2003\10\31@074406 by Dennis Crawley

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face
1. - Should I charge to this particular Client the "learning hours"?
2. - Should I release the code to the customer who asks for it?
3. - Should I share with Piclist if I sale the final project?

1. - With "learning hours" I mean the subjects where I don't have any clue
to figure out "HOW TO DO THIS". Resulting in a knowledge that I can use with
profit in the future, with minimal effort. Why I have to charge those hours
to this particular client?

2. - I understand that if you aren't neither "visible" nor "important"
company
and if you are a mere "mortal" person, the code dies when you die, and the
customer won't have support any more. So the request is logical, and she or
he deserves the code. BUT, with the code you are delivering the manner you
resolve issues, you are teaching HOW TO DO things, how can you value that?

3. - This is the starting point for another ethic dilemma that I have about
the
Piclist, say the wonderful "free" help I received. How can I balance? Should
I share my profits with the Piclist if I have success with any project? How
can I measure in dollars which part of the code I recognize form the
Piclist?

If you don't have this kind of dilemma, disregard this mail. (You have a
"callus" in the synderesis, and probably you don't deserves to be here, or
anywhere!)

It's a pity that I can't put this mail in PIC channel.

Good weekend to all! :)
Dennis Crawley
Argentina

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2003\10\31@081030 by Denny Esterline

picon face
Interesting dilemmas all. I had the same conversation at a software
company I used to work for. Sparing you the gritty details, these were
our conclusions:

1. It is fair to charge for some of that time, but not all. The
benchmark we used for estimating how much to charge was (of course
after the fact) "How long would it take me to reproduce it again from
scratch?" Considering the "new" knowledge that usually came to 30% to
50% of the actual time.

2. Source code should be governed by the contract before the project
begins. Our company was generally contracted as "consultants". With
that came an hourly rate and any source we produced was automatically
the customers. A few projects were done with fixed prices, with those
the source code is not the customers (unless it's in the contract).

3. This one's a little different, and I might pose it slightly
differently: If the customer owns the source code, do you have the
right to do anything with it that's not for that customer? (even
including things like reusing low-level routines for the next project)

More to your point I think posting the customers code is bad form, but
being active in the list and helping the next person solve their
problems is good.

-Denny

{Original Message removed}

2003\10\31@085645 by Tim McDonough

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On Fri, 31 Oct 2003 09:42:22 -0300, Dennis Crawley wrote:

> 1. - Should I charge to this particular Client the "learning
> hours"?

If a project will require me to learn about a new technique, process, or tool dictated by the project then I normally include some amount of time for learning in my quote. If I've underestimated the learning curve and it wasn't because of missing information from the customer then I would normally not try to charge. I have gone back to a customer on occasion and said "Look, neither of us could have foreseen this problem. I believe you should cover the cost and let me requote." If you have a good relationship with your client things can be worked out. (This is not a way to get around a poorly researched first quote.)

>2. - Should I release the code to the customer who asks for
> it?

Yes, unless your contract specifies otherwise. Your agreement with the client should always specify these sort of things. In particular if I'm using development tools that I own I state that they are copyrighted items and that the client is NOT entitled to a "copy" but my documentation includes a list of the things I use to generate the executable programs.

>3. - Should I share with Piclist if I sale the final project?

My opinion is that you should certainly not share the entire project. If someone is struggling with a software driver for a particular peripheral chip and I've been down that road before I will usually share it. If someone is trying to develop an algorithm for a process that my customer previously paid for then that's something I would not share.

Tim

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2003\10\31@092103 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>1. - Should I charge to this particular Client the "learning hours"?

One factor in deciding this is to determine your likelihood of re-using what
you have learnt about a particular thing. If it is about a system or process
peculiar to that client, and you are not likely to re-use it elsewhere, then
charging for the time is probably right and correct. In this case there may
be a point in itemising some of the costing as "customer process research"
or similar suitable wording.

>2. - Should I release the code to the customer who asks for it?

As others said, this is dependant on your contract. Go through the PIC
archives for a number of discussions in the last few years where others have
pondered this point. A starting point for your search will probably contain
the word "contract". Also remember that there are circumstances where you
should supply the customer with the code under your contract, but the
copyright of the code may stay with you, and the customer will be required
to protect it as your property. Again check the archives and see there what
others have had lawyers arrange in the contracts.

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2003\10\31@152520 by Dennis Crawley

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face
Thanks Denny, Luis, Wouter, Alan and Tim for your comments, they really help
me to understand the legal, commercial and ethical part of developments and
the Piclist sharing.

Due to my lack on grammar I haven't made my self-clear. The third question
is about the knowledge which came from the Piclist and you cut, paste modify
etc in the code you already are making for a client... But don't worry a get
the point.


I have re-read my original post and I beg your pardon about the final
part... It thought I have erased prior to sent it.
Dennis.

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'[OT:]The Code,The Client and The PicList'
2003\11\03@082526 by Mauricio Jancic
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face
Now that we're on the subject, I would like to know if anyone here on
the PICList would like to share his/her "price list"

Lets imagine a product:
- This product is merely a firmware design job. You have to develop the
code for a PIC 18F252 that outpust 32 bits of BCD codes trough 4 shift
registers. The product, has also a 2x20 LCD display (LCD, of course) two
push buttons and an encoder, like those to select frecuency on radio
equipment.
- With those controls, you where asked to make a menu control for the
outputs. I guess most of you can figure out something on how it will
work, right? Well, ok, now, it will have about 15~20 menu
screens/options/parameters wich you can select and modify. Each
parameter has a range of valid values.
       All the parameters toghether conform a "programm". You will have
30 programs, 10 with fixed values and the rest user selectable. You
where provided with a 10 pages specification, well written, by a
technician, so you wont be dealing with confuse information...

       you will have to design the schematics, but no the PCB.

       You where also requiered to develop a 232 interface that will
allow the user to operate from a remote computer, with a simple programm
that you must also write..... Oh, also a DS1307 RTC is required, since
you must tell the equipment when to start each program.



OK, so now, with this description,which I know that has missing parts
pehaps, can you tell me how much would you charge your customer ?

With and with out the provision of the software and firmware codes.
The price of the final product will be about U$S 1000 and it will be
used to pre-process the incoming audio signal of an AM broadcast
transmitter, so the qtys will be low.

Best regards

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@090019 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> OK, so now, with this description,which I know that has missing parts
> pehaps, can you tell me how much would you charge your customer ?

IMHO you are asking information that I consider quite valuable. How
about giving some inforo yourself first?
- how many hours do you estimate to spend on this job?
- what would be your total price (including risk factor and all other
extra costs)

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\03@090703 by Mauricio Jancic

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face
Yes, no problem with that. I just didn't put my opinion to avoid "noise"
on yours.

I have quoted this job in U$S 1500, wich I think is really cheap,
considering that I will give the customer both firmware and software
codes (as he requested). Anyway the customer tell me this price is too
high.
       I accept that he might tell me that he cannot pay the price, but
I was surpriced when he told me that not only he cannot pay but altough
that the price was too high for such design.

       Ive quoted before, and with succes, but I was always courious
about how will other quote....

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@090848 by Mauricio Jancic

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Oh, i estimate 1~1.5 months of developing time.

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@092344 by Mike Harrison

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On Mon, 3 Nov 2003 11:06:29 -0300, you wrote:

>Oh, i estimate 1~1.5 months of developing time.

Months...?? 1-1.5 Weeks maybe, tops.
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2003\11\03@092556 by Mike Harrison

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On Mon, 3 Nov 2003 11:05:57 -0300, you wrote:

>Yes, no problem with that. I just didn't put my opinion to avoid "noise"
>on yours.
>
>I have quoted this job in U$S 1500, wich I think is really cheap,
>considering that I will give the customer both firmware and software
>codes (as he requested). Anyway the customer tell me this price is too
>high.
>        I accept that he might tell me that he cannot pay the price, but
>I was surpriced when he told me that not only he cannot pay but altough
>that the price was too high for such design.

I would say that price is a little cheap, but not totally out of the ball-park. If the customer thinks it's too much, either he doesn't understand what's involved, or just doesn't
want to pay a reasonable sum for the job.

It's hard to give definite numbers, but assuming there are no complications and the spec is
well-defined before starting, I'd probably quote somewhere  around $3000 for that job.
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2003\11\03@094421 by Mauricio Jancic

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>>Oh, i estimate 1~1.5 months of developing time.

>Months...??
>1-1.5 Weeks maybe, tops.
Well, that brings up another issue. I'm and independent worker. I might
be working max with 1 more person, helping on the software stage, but
the hardware and firmware will be done entirely by me. The time is
bigger than estimated, but not so much. Lets see.

2 days to complete the hardware design and defines wich pin do what
7-15 days to have a PCB board for testing (meanwhile I can write the
software)
1 more week to finnish the details

That’s about 3 weeks, so I double this time for security reassons....

So?


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2003\11\03@095035 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Oh, i estimate 1~1.5 months of developing time.

I would estimate more in the region of 1 .. 3 weeks. Given that you
estimated a lot longer your price is probably wrong for your part of the
world. Here in the Netherlands the price would probably be too low, but
the customer would seriously frown at the elapsed time you calim to
need.

This job seems to contain a lot of repetition and testing/verification.
I would probably try to capture the requirements is some sort of format
that can be read (an verified!) by the customer, and read/processed by a
PC program, producing some sort of output that can be loaded into the
PIC (either EEPROM data, HLL code, or HLL declarations).

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\03@095036 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> 7-15 days to have a PCB board for testing (meanwhile I can write the
> software)

That seems quite long

> That’s about 3 weeks, so I double this time for security reassons....

an estimate that is already long (IMHO) is doubled...

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\03@102937 by Mauricio Jancic

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So i must have missing something, but that the time it would tipically
take me. I develop using a bootloader, I have a PICStart Plus, a 5Mhz
old scope and some other gadgets.
       I usually write down in paper somo sort-of-flow-chart and then
write down the whole code. Then, I start testing, depending on how
complex the code is, each module in separate of the others or the whole
firmware at the same time. Usually have to correct some thing on the
code but It work fine most of the time....


Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@104154 by llile

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Scotty:   "I canna change the laws o' physics, Captain.  It'll take at least 3 hours to get the warp drive back online"

Captain Kirk:  "We don't have much time, Scotty! The Klingons are gaining on us!"

... One and a half hours later ...

Scotty:  "Captain, the warp drives are back online!"

Captain Kirk:  " Warp factor 8!  Good work Scotty, how did you do it so fast?"

Scotty"  I always tell my Captain twice the time I think it'll take. "


This is from memory, but the gist of it follows a script from a Star Trek Episode. (Which, Mauricio, you may not be familiar with in your country)
Engineers, always remember Scotty's rule and quote projects about double what you estimate it will take.  The administrative details, change orders, compiler bugs, contract negotiations,   and 18F parts that won't run at 20MHz will eat up the rest of the time.  Mauricio is on target with
doubling his time estimate.  Perhaps Wouter is more experienced and could do the job in less time.  Or perhaps poor Wouter would lose money on this one!  (I would expect it is the first case. )
Mauricio, if your client says your quote is too high, then your client is
probably a cheapskate.  Many managers try to talk contractors down with these tricks.  This is just bluffing.  I treat that as a red flag and a warning sign that they may not be prompt payers at the end of the job. Two
or three red flags and I'll give them a "no quote".   I have dealt with hundreds of contractors and have never told one that his price was too high, at most I will tell them what their competitors are charging and leave them with the facts.
My lawyer asks for 2/3 of the fee up front when he takes on a job for me, so that is what I charge with customers.  2/3 up front on signing of a contract, 1/3 on delivery.  Subsequent billable hours after that on an hourly basis.  Goofs fixed for free.    Any project after the final delivery that will take more than an hour or two I treat as a new job and send a proposal.  The up-front money weeds out the mad inventor crowd, the
cheapskate crowd, and gets you doing business with more reputable customers.   The contract spells out intellectual property issues and limits my liability.
I know other consultants that just work on verbal contracts.  If the client's word is no good, he is going to screw you anyway, and he has more
expensive lawyers, contract or no contract.

Be ready to sever the relationship with a new client early if it looks like he is not going to be a good client.  This guy sounds "fishy".

-- Lawrence Lile





Mauricio Jancic <spam_OUTjancicTakeThisOuTspamARNET.COM.AR>
Sent by: pic microcontroller discussion list <.....PICLISTKILLspamspam@spam@MITVMA.MIT.EDU>
11/03/2003 11:42 AM
Please respond to pic microcontroller discussion list

        To:     PICLISTspamKILLspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU
       cc:         Subject:        Re: [OT:]The Code,The Client and The PicList


>>Oh, i estimate 1~1.5 months of developing time.

>Months...??
>1-1.5 Weeks maybe, tops.
Well, that brings up another issue. I'm and independent worker. I might
be working max with 1 more person, helping on the software stage, but
the hardware and firmware will be done entirely by me. The time is
bigger than estimated, but not so much. Lets see.

2 days to complete the hardware design and defines wich pin do what
7-15 days to have a PCB board for testing (meanwhile I can write the
software)
1 more week to finnish the details

That's about 3 weeks, so I double this time for security reassons....

So?


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2003\11\03@105128 by Phyllg8

picon face
Lawrence, can you share a list of red flags with the list ?

Thanks
Phyllis

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2003\11\03@105334 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Scotty:   "I canna change the laws o' physics, Captain.
> It'll take at
> least 3 hours to get the warp drive back online"

(snip)

Your cautions about quoting too low are of course correct, but would you
care to give us your estimate in hours?

I think the difference between the OP's estimate and mine is that I try
to break the connection between the amount fo specification and the
amount of actual code by getting the specs into a meta-format, and
making and debugging a 'compiler' for this format. This is a very
personal preference, others might be more comfortable with a more
'direct' approach (which I would prefer too if the amount of work was
smaller).

But the main interest here is how others estimate the amount of work
involved.

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\03@111418 by Richard Kendrick

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face
<great Star Trek stuff snipped>

<snip

>Mauricio, if your client says your quote is too high, then your client
is
>probably a cheapskate.  Many managers try to talk contractors down with

>these tricks.  This is just bluffing.  I treat that as a red flag and a

>warning sign that they may not be prompt payers at the end of the job.
Two
>or three red flags and I'll give them a "no quote".   I have dealt with

>hundreds of contractors and have never told one that his price was too
>high, at most I will tell them what their competitors are charging and
>leave them with the facts.

Usually, if a potential client tells me my quote is too high, I offer to
redo it. The new quote is almost always higher ;-). I have found this
method to be a great filter for eliminating potential clients that would
cost more money than the profit on the project. My experience has shown
me that sometimes it's more profitable to turn down certain clients in
the
long run.

<other stuff snipped>

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2003\11\03@111832 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Usually, if a potential client tells me my quote is too high,
(snip)

But to the point, what would you quote for the job the OP described -
and to avoid confusion due to different hour rates, mention hours, not
dollars.

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\03@113250 by Edward Gisske

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face
Having been in the consulting/independent engineering biz for about  30
years, I can attest to the observations of Lawrence as put forth below.

A few more:

A cheap customer is worse than no customer at all.

A customer that doesn't understand the technology or the magnitude of what
he is asking is worse than a cheap customer.

There is a genetic flaw in software types that makes them assume that they
write perfect code the first time, will have to do no debugging, and all the
algorithms will work as imagined. *None* of the above is true. Read Fred
Brooks' book "The Mythical Man-Month" or any of the "Programming on Purpose"
columns of P.J. Plauger in Embedded Systems Journal or Computer Languages
for some additional insight. Fred says that coding is about 15% of the
effort when writing software. Debugging is 55%. He was talking about
developing the IBM 360 OS in his book. Real-time programming of micros is
*much* harder.

Basement inventors are the scourge of the business. They are the most
demanding and the least reasonable of all clients. They are inevitably so
wrapped up in their idea that they have lost all perspective with regards to
the time, money and effort required to make their fantasy real. Their
understanding of the technology is usually shallow and they have mentally
dismissed all those pesky issues like agency approval, manufacturing,
distribution, marketing, warranty fulfillment, etc. as trivial items that
will all work out.

"It will just take a little work" is a huge red flag. Another is "I couldn't
get along with my last engineer". Yet another is "I have this great idea.
You make it work, I will sell it and we will share the profits"

Doing work on speculation is better than Atkin's for losing weight. You will
seldom eat if you do speculation.

Working with flint axes is for savages. Writing code without an effective
set of tools is also. You cannot write code efficiently without an
in-circuit emulator. Yah, I know, there are some "churn and burn" heroes out
there. They aren't doing it for a living, however.

Marketing geeks are morons. They learn the technology from reading the
magazines that are in the seat pouches of airplanes. They inevitably want
their product wet dreams turned into reality faster than is humanly
possible. They play games like the old "We need it for the trade show next
month" gambit or "We put it in the catalog and now we need to design it." or
" We have been talking about this product for months and have sold a bunch,
now get it started and finished by next week."

So there!

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
.....gisskeKILLspamspam.....offex.com

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@113915 by David VanHorn

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face
>
>Marketing geeks are morons. They learn the technology from reading the
>magazines that are in the seat pouches of airplanes. They inevitably want
>their product wet dreams turned into reality faster than is humanly
>possible. They play games like the old "We need it for the trade show next
>month" gambit or "We put it in the catalog and now we need to design it." or
>" We have been talking about this product for months and have sold a bunch,
>now get it started and finished by next week."

An alarming number of people believe that "Dilbert" is some sort of comic strip, and not a serious day-by-day documentary of the life of an engineer.

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2003\11\03@115228 by Mike Harrison

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On Mon, 3 Nov 2003 10:23:38 -0600, you wrote:

>Having been in the consulting/independent engineering biz for about  30
>years, I can attest to the observations of Lawrence as put forth below.
>
>A few more:
>
>A cheap customer is worse than no customer at all.
>
>A customer that doesn't understand the technology or the magnitude of what
>he is asking is worse than a cheap customer.

I would amend this by adding that this only applies to customers who aren't prepared to learn about
the above things. A customer who knows little but is prepared to admit it is fine. In some cases it
can even be good as they take anything you say as Gospel.
Conversely, a customer who thinks he knows it all, but doesn't is even worse.

>There is a genetic flaw in software types that makes them assume that they
>write perfect code the first time, will have to do no debugging, and all the
>algorithms will work as imagined. *None* of the above is true. Read Fred
>Brooks' book "The Mythical Man-Month" or any of the "Programming on Purpose"
>columns of P.J. Plauger in Embedded Systems Journal or Computer Languages
>for some additional insight. Fred says that coding is about 15% of the
>effort when writing software. Debugging is 55%. He was talking about
>developing the IBM 360 OS in his book. Real-time programming of micros is
>*much* harder.

I'd add that every hour spent in design saves at least twide as long in implementation and
debugging, especially for projects that are likely to be expanded/changed later on.
In many types for work, doing a good, detailed design first makes the coding much quicker, easier
and as a consequence less prone to bugs.
Similarly for PCB layout (manually routed 1 or 2 layer boards) - time spent in careful placement  is
more than saved in routing.
>Working with flint axes is for savages. Writing code without an effective
>set of tools is also. You cannot write code efficiently without an
>in-circuit emulator. Yah, I know, there are some "churn and burn" heroes out
>there. They aren't doing it for a living, however.

I'd totally agree, but if you must live without one, at least make sure your debug-burn cycle is as
fast as possible, and ideally debug on a larger part that allows extra pins & resources for debug
info.

Similarly, a decent scope (digital, with deep memory) will pay for itself very, very quickly for
almost all types of embedded work..
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2003\11\03@115433 by Mike Harrison

flavicon
face
>
>Marketing geeks are morons. They learn the technology from reading the
>magazines that are in the seat pouches of airplanes. They inevitably want
>their product wet dreams turned into reality faster than is humanly
>possible. They play games like the old "We need it for the trade show next
>month" gambit or "We put it in the catalog and now we need to design it." or
>" We have been talking about this product for months and have sold a bunch,
>now get it started and finished by next week."

Marketing people also have no understanding of the difference between the first lashed-up prototype
which just-about works, and something they can go out and sell to earn their bonuses...

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2003\11\03@122321 by Tim McDonough

flavicon
face
On Mon, 03 Nov 2003 10:23:38 -0600, Edward Gisske wrote:

> "It will just take a little work" is a huge red flag. Another is "I
> couldn't get along with my last engineer". Yet another is "I have
> this great idea. You make it work, I will sell it and we will share
> the profits"

My additions to the red flag list...

"All we want it to do is..." frequently accompanied by not so much as a scribbled list of features.

A client with only a general idea who is not willing to pay for the time it takes to define what the thing will or will not do.

Suggestions:

1) Don't include features unless they specifically ask for them.

2) In many cases your perspective client has come to you because they realize they don't have a clue about this piece of the development. In these cases agreeing on a spec may help you legally but you can still be in for a lot of hassles. One way to put the client at ease and give yourself some solid metrics for success is to work with the client and agree upon how the results of your work will be tested to determine that it "works." This lets them define your part in terms they hopefully understand and if they ask for price justifications you can explain based on what they have told you needs to happen for it to work acceptably. A written acceptance test that defines stimulus and required results makes a nice target.

Tim

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2003\11\03@130822 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>My additions to the red flag list...
>
>"All we want it to do is..." frequently accompanied by not so much as a
scribbled list of features.

Yeah, just been there done that, worked from the back of a cigarette packet
circuit. when delivery was getting close it became obvious that the gear I
was developing as a dummy load for them was to become a complete calibrated
piece of test gear. They were told in no uncertain terms "No Way Hosea"

>1) Don't include features unless they specifically ask for them.

This was part of my mistake. The other rouble was they had there own feature
creep in mind as well. :)))

>2) In many cases your perspective client has come to you because
>they realize they don't have a clue about this piece of the
>development. In these cases agreeing on a spec may help you legally
>but you can still be in for a lot of hassles. One way to put the
>client at ease and give yourself some solid metrics for success is
>to work with the client and agree upon how the results of your work
>will be tested to determine that it "works." ...

To help over this bit, is it worth developing the end item in a modular
manner, so that a certain agreed set of minimal functions is provided as a
first step, and then a re-evaluation of the project done, to see if the
continuation should go ahead? Has anyone worked in this manner? I am
assuming that when doing the code for this that suitable hooks would be put
in the code, possibly by using dummy routines that could be expanded during
the next stage.

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2003\11\03@135413 by Jim Tellier

picon face
Tim McDonough wrote:
> My additions to the red flag list...
>
> "All we want it to do is..." frequently accompanied by not so much as a
> scribbled list of features.
>
> A client with only a general idea who is not willing to pay for the time
it > takes to define what the thing will or will not do.
<snip>

That's all true, but there's one more red flag that only surfaces once the
project is underway (or nearly completed): "can you add [whatever extra
feature they happen to think of that day]?  It shouldn't be too difficult!".
 This kind of input, whether it comes from a client, boss, marketing guy,
team-mate or whatever... is often the kiss of death to a project.   My
contracts always contain a clause that says "quote is based on the
(attached) agreed upon specification; any changes to the specification after
[date] will result in a revision of the quote, and possible termination of
this contract".   It does wonders for my sanity and ability to deliver!

Jim
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2003\11\03@141727 by Mike Singer

picon face
Lawrence Lile wrote:
>
> ... I know other consultants that just work on verbal
> contracts.

  Forgive me Lawrence, but this is nonsense, as I see.
If they have worked out verbal contract, what's the problem
to write it down on a paper and sign it? Can't they write
words? Or are they trying not to leave traces making out
something illegal?

Maybe you meant sort of: "I'll do all you want for XX US$
per hour"?

Mike.

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2003\11\03@164909 by Mike Singer

picon face
Another f**king customer in my experience -
The customer's manager, ex-developer, who tried to
work out the task, semi-succeeded in it, muddled desperately
on it; and for this reason finally turned into manager
to govern my participation to solve this task.

After having spent two hours discussing why his solution
is better than mine, we prudently stopped our cooperation.
(The one-sided discussion or monologue: he talked, I listened
to him)

Mike.

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2003\11\03@165946 by Mauricio Jancic

flavicon
face
Have one of those recently, and one day I found myself listening why,
that modification we was trying to make to the predefined spec, wasn't
that hard to make....

He was a system engeneer who once programed a MCU (hobby) he even
explain me how to make the modification, even with out any knowledge of
the programm or language I was using.... Very interesting monolegue that
I know will end with me saying, sorry, cant do it with out re-quoting.

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@173101 by llile

flavicon
face
>Forgive me Lawrence, but this is nonsense, as I see.

Agreed, that is not the way I would do business as a consultant.  However,
I can see their logic.  Hourly billing for a certain scope of work or not
to exceed hours.   A one-man shop can figure that he is unlikely to win in
a fight over contracts with an ex-client, so why bother with it?  There
are a number of guys out there who have worked with established clients
this way for years.  Must be nice to have such good clients.

A good, brief, clear and understandable contract is much safer.

There are certain situations I will hire people under this arrangement
even.  For instance, I have had consultants simply come in to review
another engineers work or troubleshoot a very specific design problem.
This is always with a well-established and trusted consultant whom I have
used many times int he past.  Deliverables are a verbal report, contract
is hourly not to exceed, the consultant didn't design anything so his
liability is minimal, I get what I need in a short amount of time with
minimum administrative costs.  This is not a good arrangement for a
development project or anything complex or a new business relationship,
IMHO.



-- Lawrence Lile





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Lawrence Lile wrote:
>
> ... I know other consultants that just work on verbal
> contracts.

  Forgive me Lawrence, but this is nonsense, as I see.
If they have worked out verbal contract, what's the problem
to write it down on a paper and sign it? Can't they write
words? Or are they trying not to leave traces making out
something illegal?

Maybe you meant sort of: "I'll do all you want for XX US$
per hour"?

Mike.

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2003\11\03@182336 by Richard Kendrick

flavicon
face
> But to the point, what would you quote for the job the OP described -
and
> to avoid confusion due to different hour rates, mention hours, not
dollars.

OK, fair enough. Based on Mauricio's initial design spec, I made
the following assumptions and breakdown for my time estimate.

shift register module: 4 hours

low level LCD routines for 2 x 20 display: 16 hours (assumes I
       don't have these prebuilt, which I do and will reuse)

push button routines: 24 hours (assumes lots of code based on
       context sensitivity)

encoder routines (assume rotary encoder)
       low level: 16 hours (assumes I have to build these, but
       knowing I can probably get something cloneable off the
       Internet)

assume 20 menu screens with each screen customer defined: 5
main screens with each main screen having 3 sub screens menu

navigation module: 16 hours

code to support each screen: assume 24 hours per screen,
       20 x 24 hours = 480 hours

because a 10 page specification is provided, assume context
sensitive calculations of some sort based on user input values
and results to be saved and transmitted through RS232 interface

calculation module: 36 hours

user program module: save and recall: 4 hours each = 8 hours

low level RS232 interface module: 16 hours (assumes I have to build
these, but knowing I can probably get something cloneable off the
Internet)

high level RS232 module: 32 hours

DS1307 routines: 24 hours (never worked with this chip, research time
included)

pc control program (probably Visual Basic for simplicity): 40 hours

schematic creation (assume AutoTrax, Eagle, PADS or equiv.): 8 hours

Initial time estimate: 4+16+24+16+16+480+36+8+16+32+24+40+8=720 hours

I always double the initial time estimate to cover the usual unforeseen
stuff, which brings the adjusted estimate to 1440 hours.

Experience has taught me to add what I call the piss off factor into the
final estimate. This number starts at 1.0 and depending on how things
go,
stays the same or increases. The final estimate is equal to the piss off
factor x the adjusted estimate.

Please keep in mind, it's not my intention to take advantage of a
potential
client, or his naiveté, but sometimes you can tell that the customer
will
be very difficult to work with. That usually translates into a higher
cost
for the customer. And, as I said before, sometimes you just have to walk
away from certain jobs.

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2003\11\03@185658 by Josh Koffman

flavicon
face
Yikes. At the doubled estimate, that's 36 x 40 hour work weeks. That's
over 8 months!

BTW, I'm not criticizing you or anything, just surprised at the times
once they add up. I do love the piss off factor idea!

Josh
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completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete
fools.
       -Douglas Adams


Richard Kendrick wrote:
> Initial time estimate: 4+16+24+16+16+480+36+8+16+32+24+40+8=720 hours
>
> I always double the initial time estimate to cover the usual unforeseen
> stuff, which brings the adjusted estimate to 1440 hours.

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2003\11\03@185907 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Monday, Nov 3, 2003, at 15:22 US/Pacific, Richard Kendrick wrote:

>
> low level LCD routines for 2 x 20 display: 16 hours
> push button routines: 24 hours
> encoder routines: 16 hours
> navigation module: 16 hours
> calculation module: 36 hours
> user program module: save and recall: 4 hours each = 8 hours
> low level RS232 interface module: 16 hours
> high level RS232 module: 32 hours
> DS1307 routines: 24 hours
> pc control program: 40 hours
>
> code to support each screen: assume 24 hours per screen,
>         20 x 24 hours = 480 hours

This last bit - 3 days for each screen - seems quite high to me given
the way that you've
broken down the rest of the project.  In particular, given comm, io,
memory, calculation, and navigation subroutines, I'd expect each
"screen" implementation to be a relatively trivial combination of
those, of the sort you could churn out several each day.  At least,
that's
my experience with menu systems (although, that was on a PC.)  Lots of
time spent getting
a menu system that works nicely, resulting in individual functions that
are very easy.

To some extent, it's your job as a programmer to modularize the SW so
that this IS the case,
since that's where the majority of time in your quote is spent...

OTOH, this mostly indicates that the spec you have so far is
insufficient to provide the quote.  If each screen IS trivial, your
quote is very high.  If each screen is as complex
as you've guessed here (or more so) then the quote isn't high (but I
would say that the
design as a whole has "a problem.")

BillW

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2003\11\03@190112 by Denny Esterline

picon face
1440 HOURS!?!

8 hours / day , 20 work days / month = 9 MONTHS!?!



----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard Kendrick" <KILLspamRichard.KendrickKILLspamspamMITEKCORP.COM>
To: <RemoveMEPICLISTTakeThisOuTspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU>
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 6:22 PM
Subject: Re: [OT:]The Code,The Client and The PicList


> But to the point, what would you quote for the job the OP
described -
and
> to avoid confusion due to different hour rates, mention hours, not
dollars.

OK, fair enough. Based on Mauricio's initial design spec, I made
the following assumptions and breakdown for my time estimate.

shift register module: 4 hours

low level LCD routines for 2 x 20 display: 16 hours (assumes I
       don't have these prebuilt, which I do and will reuse)

push button routines: 24 hours (assumes lots of code based on
       context sensitivity)

encoder routines (assume rotary encoder)
       low level: 16 hours (assumes I have to build these, but
       knowing I can probably get something cloneable off the
       Internet)

assume 20 menu screens with each screen customer defined: 5
main screens with each main screen having 3 sub screens menu

navigation module: 16 hours

code to support each screen: assume 24 hours per screen,
       20 x 24 hours = 480 hours

because a 10 page specification is provided, assume context
sensitive calculations of some sort based on user input values
and results to be saved and transmitted through RS232 interface

calculation module: 36 hours

user program module: save and recall: 4 hours each = 8 hours

low level RS232 interface module: 16 hours (assumes I have to build
these, but knowing I can probably get something cloneable off the
Internet)

high level RS232 module: 32 hours

DS1307 routines: 24 hours (never worked with this chip, research time
included)

pc control program (probably Visual Basic for simplicity): 40 hours

schematic creation (assume AutoTrax, Eagle, PADS or equiv.): 8 hours

Initial time estimate: 4+16+24+16+16+480+36+8+16+32+24+40+8=720 hours

I always double the initial time estimate to cover the usual
unforeseen
stuff, which brings the adjusted estimate to 1440 hours.

Experience has taught me to add what I call the piss off factor into
the
final estimate. This number starts at 1.0 and depending on how things
go,
stays the same or increases. The final estimate is equal to the piss
off
factor x the adjusted estimate.

Please keep in mind, it's not my intention to take advantage of a
potential
client, or his naiveté, but sometimes you can tell that the customer
will
be very difficult to work with. That usually translates into a higher
cost
for the customer. And, as I said before, sometimes you just have to
walk
away from certain jobs.

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2003\11\03@191148 by Richard Kendrick

flavicon
face
>Yikes. At the doubled estimate, that's 36 x 40 hour work weeks. That's
>over 8 months!

What I've found is, unfortunately, it really ends up that way. When I'm
actually working on the project, it is about 80% planning and about 20%
coding. The other time is inserted to handle dealing with the customer,
suppliers and the other details associated with the project.

The time estimate is just kind of answer I'd give without really having
a customer provided spec to work from. A formal quote would probably be
much less, but could be more depending on the circumstances.

>BTW, I'm not criticizing you or anything, just surprised at the times
>once they add up.

It gives me a jolt every time I do it, too!

> I do love the piss off factor idea!

It has saved my derriere many a time ;-).

>Josh


Richard Kendrick wrote:
> Initial time estimate: 4+16+24+16+16+480+36+8+16+32+24+40+8=720 hours
>
> I always double the initial time estimate to cover the usual
unforeseen
> stuff, which brings the adjusted estimate to 1440 hours.

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2003\11\03@191354 by Mauricio Jancic

flavicon
face
Well, actually I quoted 2~2.5 months to my customer and I usually find
myself working 10hrs/day... So that’s 500 hours, and I think that time
as too much.

Anyway, while we are on this subject. This project included that you
give the customer the firmware, remember? Would you make any change to
the math if that wasn't the case?
Suposing you HAVE to give the firmware, would you give him/her the
assembly/C code or just the .hex file?

Have any of you give had any experience you would like to share when
dealing with copyright laws?? I mean, did you ever win or loose any
copyright trial?

BRGDS

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\03@192033 by Edward Gisske

flavicon
face
>
> > I do love the piss off factor idea!
>
It isn't a "Piss-off Factor". It's preemptive pain and suffering
compensation.

Ed

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2003\11\03@193658 by Richard Kendrick

flavicon
face
> This last bit - 3 days for each screen - seems quite high to me given
> the way that you've broken down the rest of the project.  In
particular,
> given comm, io, memory, calculation, and navigation subroutines, I'd
> expect each "screen" implementation to be a relatively trivial
combination
> of those, of the sort you could churn out several each day.  At least,
> that's my experience with menu systems (although, that was on a PC.)
Lots
> of time spent getting a menu system that works nicely, resulting in
> individual functions that are very easy.

It IS high, and I agree the navigation is a trivial problem, especially
once
a person has done it once or twice. That part is the equivalent of just
a
bunch of print statements. It's the underlying code that has to be
processed
that increases the time. I chose to overestimate the task on purpose
because,
IMO there are many unknowns lurking about that I want to be covered for.

> To some extent, it's your job as a programmer to modularize the SW so
> that this IS the case, since that's where the majority of time in your
> quote is spent...

Again, I agree with you. Much of my time is spent optimizing and taking
out
a lot of code redundancy. I don't know about a lot of the working habits
on
this list, but most of my flow charts and code don't work the first
time. As
time passes and more code passes under my fingertips, things work a
little
better each time with less debugging. But, it still takes effort.

> OTOH, this mostly indicates that the spec you have so far is
insufficient
> to provide the quote.

Agreed, hence the CYA estimate.

> If each screen IS trivial, your quote is very high. If each screen is
as
> complex as you've guessed here (or more so) then the quote isn't high
(but
> I would say that the design as a whole has "a problem.")

The problem, as Mauricio stated it, is limited and is bound to have a
few
"gotchas" in the background. It's very similar to my current project, a
PIC18F452 based unit, 2 x 16 LCD, 12 main screens, 14 sub screens, 13
keys,
2 A/D inputs, 3 digital lines controlling another module, 5 LEDs
controlled by a 74HC595, the SPI port controlling 2 other chips, and a
biquad
coefficient calculation module. The initial project definition began in
the
end of September.

I already had an LCD module partially written that covered most of the
available flavors of displays already written that I finished off for
this
project. Most of the other modules took very little time but the SPI
modules
haven't been started yet. One module and it's five context sensitive sub
screens (and underlying code) are making me work a little bit.

With that in mind, yes my thumbnail calculations for Mauricio's task is
VERY high. But, it is a thumbnail calculation.

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2003\11\03@193904 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Monday, Nov 3, 2003, at 16:13 US/Pacific, Mauricio Jancic wrote:

> Suposing you HAVE to give the firmware, would you give him/her the
> assembly/C code or just the .hex file?

I would assume that all "software consulting" winds up with source code
in the hands of the customer.  That's really what they're paying you
for.  If they want just a finished product,
then they should be paying an awful lot less for a 'slightly
customized' version of some standard box that you have on-hand and
mostly already written.

Code ownership becomes interesting.  Some code will be from the net
(and some combination of open source, copyleft, public domain, and
"other.")  Some will be your 'library' code that you wish to retain
"full ownership" of so that you can use it in other projects without
re-writing it, but the customer gets some rights to use it as well
(legally, it may turn out
to be handy if you've published that as freeware.)  And some code may
be very specific to
that customer and perhaps "ownership" should transfer to the (in this
case, the screen
designs ought to, I think.  It would be bad of you to build another
project for another
(competing) customer with the same screens...)   In this day and age,
it's probably a
good idea to carefully identify each type of code before finalizing the
project.  "You
own this part.  I own this over here, but you can use it.  This other
stuff is from the
public domain, but this here is "copylefted".)

(The legal hassle surrounding use of copyleft (GNU source license - the
one that requires
that you publish source code when you use it) is rather large, from
what I've seen (All
use of any form of open source code at cisco has to be approved by the
legal department,
for instance.)  It's not exactly applicable to small embedded systems.
But at least it
raises some interesting issues...)

BillW

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2003\11\03@195147 by Richard Kendrick

flavicon
face
> Anyway, while we are on this subject. This project included that you
> give the customer the firmware, remember? Would you make any change to
> the math if that wasn't the case?

I would at least make a proto board with the hardware to verify it
worked.
It makes me very uneasy to write code for hardware and pass it on
without
ever testing it on the target hardware.

Your initial post stated that the designer would not be responsible for
the design of the final printed circuit board, so my quote would not
have
any hardware to give to the customer, just working code. If a working
board was require, either he would have to do the board design, or I
would at additional cost to him. It was a little unclear from your post.

> Suposing you HAVE to give the firmware, would you give him/her the
> assembly/C code or just the .hex file?

That depends on the prior dialog with the customer and how it was
defined
in the contract about code ownership. At the minimum, he would get a hex
file. The source code, now there is a can of worms. Depends on what
future
relationship is at stake.

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2003\11\04@013715 by Wouter van Ooijen

face picon face
> Anyway, while we are on this subject. This project included that you
> give the customer the firmware, remember? Would you make any change to
> the math if that wasn't the case?

It is obviously better for the client to have the sources. It is better
for you not to supply the sources *only* if you expect future revenue
from them. So inmost cases I provide the sources anyway, often with the
note that I will re-use some existing code and/or create some re-useable
code (explicitly mention those parts!) for which the clinet gets
non-exclusive right of use within this particular project only (or in
some cases: plain non-exclusive right).

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\05@101207 by llile

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My father built houses, not Code.  But he had the same kind of customers
always asking to have something changed after he had built it the way they
had asked for in the first place.  He would charge his client $100 for
each change, plus the time and materials to tear out the old stuff, plus
the  time and materials to put in the changed stuff.  After one or two
changes of carpet color the clients would get the idea.  Oh, Yeah, that
was when minimum wage was about $2 an hour.  By that standard it would be
$300 or more today.

It might be smart to put a clause about change orders in your standard
contract.



-- Lawrence Lile





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Another f**king customer in my experience -
The customer's manager, ex-developer, who tried to
work out the task, semi-succeeded in it, muddled desperately
on it; and for this reason finally turned into manager
to govern my participation to solve this task.

After having spent two hours discussing why his solution
is better than mine, we prudently stopped our cooperation.
(The one-sided discussion or monologue: he talked, I listened
to him)

Mike.

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2003\11\05@102451 by Wouter van Ooijen

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> After one or two
> changes of carpet color the clients would get the idea.

Exactly which message? If that charge was not realistic the actual
message he was getting across was 'you should never have selected me'.
If the charge is realistic the message is simply 'that's what is costs
to make a change'.

Wouter van Ooijen

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2003\11\05@102659 by D. Jay Newman

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> If the charge is realistic the message is simply 'that's what is costs
> to make a change'.

And after seeing several people build houses and doing consulting myself,
that is an important message that the customer needs to know.
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2003\11\05@115000 by Edward Gisske

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I was remiss in my initial "red flag" list:

"Oh, by the way..." is a feared lead-in. Marketing types fancy themselves as
creative individuals that are constrained by neither the bounds of gravity,
power consumption, or in some cases reality. I generally write in a product
definition phase for any project. This I do at a fixed price. All other
phases of the project are given budgetary numbers that are recalculated
after the definition phase. The sentence "Any change to the specifications
as defined in phase one will require a requote" is prominently featured in
the phase one final document. I then trot out my stock sermon about how the
price of infinite flexibility in a design is never to market, followed by
bankruptcy. It is obvious to most folks, but there are a surprising amount
of rookies out there to which it has never occurred. In my experience,
feature creep has killed more products than all other reasons combined.

Bozos with a meager grasp of the technology, but a *need* to put their stamp
on the design are a little weird to work with too. I did a design for a
company about 15 years ago where the president (an ex-county executive
political type) decreed that the design had to have a serial port.  When
asked why, he said that "Everybody has one on their product". When asked
what it would communicate, he said "I don't know, but we have to have one".
The customer pays the bills, so I put one in the design. It was informally
labeled "The President Jonathan B. B***y memorial serial port". Every one of
the products manufactured since has a serial port. There has never been a
line of code in the product to support the port, but it is there and the
pres is happy and secure knowing that it is there. There is an old axiom in
product development: "The VP gets to choose the color". I wish they would
confine themselves to that.

In another case, the product manager gave the decree that he needed the
security of portability for the code in his product, therefore it must be in
C. This product ran a couple of linear actuators in and out with a low end
PIC. When it was explained to him that a 12C505 was not the best vehicle for
C coding, he would have none of it. He now has his code in C and he is
secure. It also cost him substantially more for a program that could have
been done in a page or two of assembler written on a bar napkin.. He is,
however, rapturous in knowing that when the '505 gets replaced with a
PowerPC G5, his code will compile for the new chip. It won't work, but that
doesn't matter.

I could recite war stories forever about the problems that occur when a
customer starts mucking with the user interface. Unlabeled tri-modal
pushbuttons with cryptic pictogram hieroglyphics, warning leds which flash
when an alarm condition is true in one mode, but also flash when all is well
in another mode are just the start.

Aaackk, my mind is exploding!!

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
EraseMEgisskespamoffex.com

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\05@124102 by Mauricio Jancic

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I have a customer, right now, who needed a 4 leds, 90° each from the
other turning on and off one at a time to indicate that the machines
motor is moving. I build him a fast prototipe to test some control
loops, PID control and stuff.

Next week I recived a letter from them complainig about some "important
issues" from the equipment:
- The leds are turning at the wrong speed
- The leds are turning in the wrong direction. (this is important,
becouse the emploes get confused and don't know how is the motor really
moving (!) )
- The buzzer was sounding too loud
- The ok beep from the buzzer should be like beep-beep-beep and not
beep-beeeeeep


Conclution:
               First thing to do for *some* customer is the fancy part
of the project, so the can seat in front of it and say "It looks really
nice" (and then the thech guy tells you "does it work?")

Best regards

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\05@170733 by Robert Rolf

picon face
Edward Gisske wrote:
>
> I could recite war stories forever about the problems that occur when a
> customer starts mucking with the user interface. Unlabeled tri-modal
> pushbuttons with cryptic pictogram hieroglyphics, warning leds which flash
> when an alarm condition is true in one mode, but also flash when all is well
> in another mode are just the start.
>
> Aaackk, my mind is exploding!!

Please sir, can we have more???


IOW I am learning a great deal from this thread, and enjoying it
immensely.

Robert

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2003\11\05@194403 by Edward Gisske

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Rolf" <RemoveMERobert.RolfEraseMEspamEraseMEUALBERTA.CA>
To: <RemoveMEPICLISTspam_OUTspamKILLspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2003 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: [OT:]The Code,The Client and The PicList


> Edward Gisske wrote:
> >
> > I could recite war stories forever about the problems that occur when a
> > customer starts mucking with the user interface. Unlabeled tri-modal
> > pushbuttons with cryptic pictogram hieroglyphics, warning leds which
flash
> > when an alarm condition is true in one mode, but also flash when all is
well
{Quote hidden}

You asked for it!!

\* Philosophical Rant ON:

There are some things that it is necessary to think through carefully when
designing a user interface for an embedded micro product. The PC geeks have
it easy. A CRT and a full keyboard? Way too plush for us bottom feeders.
What we have to work with is almost always an absolute minimum set of
switches and indicators. It is necessary to use them in completely obvious
fashion.

There is a set of things you need to do to make a successful user interface:

**Any control input must have visual, audible or (less preferred) tactile
feedback.

**Modal indicators should be avoided. Indicators should always mean the same
thing, regardless of what mode the product is in.

**"Switch function overloading" should be minimized. For instance, a switch
that does one thing if just popped and another if held for a second or so.
It can be tricky to get the timing right, as people push buttons in
different ways. The real problem, however, is how to communicate just what
that button will do to the user. Not easy....

**If using an alphanumeric display with nested menu items, make sure that
the user can back out of any menu decision. The method used to back out
should be blindingly obvious. Always back completely out of a menu branch
before allowing entry of another one.

**No hidden modes, except for test purposes. The user needs to know what the
button will do before he pushes it. Universal TV/VCR/Sat remote controls are
particularly skanky with respect to letting the user know which device he is
controlling. Test modes actuated by combinations of buttons should not be
easy to do, so the user doesn't stumble into a test mode.

**About 15% of the male population is Red/Green color blind. Be careful what
you do with bi-color leds.

**There are more, and I invite others to contribute.....

More to the point, none of the above is particularly difficult to puzzle
out, even without formal training. Except to marketing geeks! They seem
always to feel that they have their finger directly on the pulse of the
consumer as far as how the device ought to work. So they screw with the
interface and turn it into a dark and stormy goo. Drives me nuts! It is a
constant fight to fend off the heathens. Particularly pernicious is the
almost irresistible urge to add more features than controls/indicators to
make them work. This is why we have the same LED having different meanings
for ON/OFF/FLASH SLOW/FLASH FAST.....Ugly!

I usually have to fend them off by bringing in a "Person off the Street"
cold to see how they interact with the interface when tasked with making the
device do something. Even then, ego often gets in the way of science and
some real interface abortions are foisted on the planet. Think about the
venerable VCR or microwave oven flashing 12:00 or the car radio buttons that
are not programmed to anything...

It is a lonely fight.......

Rant OFF*\

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
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2003\11\05@212443 by Mauricio Jancic

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face
Last month I finished a simple keyboard to open a door, but it also
controls the buglar alarm system and is capable of being locked if
another door is open.... All of that is done with 12 keys (that’s ok in
my opinion) but whats not ok is that all that the user sees is 3 RED
(all red) leds and listen to a buzzer.

Now, if led nro 1 is ON and led nro 2 blinks fast, it means that.... On
the other hand, if led number 2 blinks slow (while led 1 is ON of course
:) it means another thing....

Unfortunatly, the customer didn’t what to listen any reasons "Cost must
be as low as possible"

Bah!

Mauricio Jancic
Janso Desarrollos
Microchip Consultant
(54) - 11 - 4542 - 3519

{Original Message removed}

2003\11\06@002346 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Wednesday, Nov 5, 2003, at 08:49 US/Pacific, Edward Gisske wrote:
>
> In another case, the product manager gave the decree that he needed the
> security of portability for the code in his product, therefore it must
> be in
> C. This product ran a couple of linear actuators in and out with a low
> end
> PIC. When it was explained to him that a 12C505 was not the best
> vehicle for
> C coding, he would have none of it. He now has his code in C and he is
> secure. It also cost him substantially more for a program that could
> have
> been done in a page or two of assembler written on a bar napkin...

Did it really cost more to do in C, or were you just annoyed?  I can
see him
having to pay twice - once to do it in C, and again to do it in
assembler when
the C code didn't fit.  But if the C code fit, then it fit and that
wasn't a
problem.  Trivial code written in C still seems to be pretty trivial...

BillW

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2003\11\06@015535 by piclist

picon face
On 5 Nov 2003 at 14:39, Mauricio Jancic jancic-at-ARN wrote:
<snip>
{Quote hidden}

Beautiful rant. I er um had to fib to a customer once to get his head out of the Cutler
Hammer PLC cloud. I told him I wouldn't guarantee that it would handle the speeds
required to make his machine go faster. The app was not much different from
controlling a linear actuator, which leads me to ask if you've ever been asked to use
PLC's and how you talk the customer into an embedded solution. I've seen a lot of
machines in plants completely controlled by PLC's programmed by technicians. I
even saw an ad in the paper for a "control engineer." The requirements were H.S.
education,  AutoCAD, and PLC experience. Companies get off cheap around here.
That really gags me.

Regards,
Mike

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2003\11\06@052930 by Lyle Hazelwood

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> which leads me to ask if you've ever been asked to use
>PLC's and how you talk the customer into an embedded solution.

I did just that at my current job. Since my boss in an engineer,
I can't just decide which way to go, I have to write up a list of
options, each with costs and advantages/disadvantages, and let
him decide.

The task was connecting a flowmeter to an industrial robot.

"Normal" Method includes a PLC, LCD screen for operator interface,
DC motor speed controller to regulate the flow of liquid, and an
interface card to include the Robot I/O into the show. Cost about $25k

Embedded Option: Pay for a few proto boards and 3 Pic's. I designed
a board that monitors flow rate (without controlling it) and feeds a
speed index right into the robot I/O. The robot "follows" the
unregulated flow rate. I'm proud to say it works at least as well as
the "normal" way, but is more reliable (less parts) and more tolerant
of change (self regulating).
The boss could give a care about the details though. My solution
cost $250. About 1% of the "normal" cost.

At that point the boss decided it might be worth trying. If it works
it would save money. The first board has worked great for about 15
shifts a week for eight months now, and there are 2 backups on the shelf.

Oh, the board includes a serial port and CAN port that are not supported
in software (yet). Just in case they want to add data logging someday.

So I guess the answer is: Offer a better solution for a lot less money.

Lyle

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2003\11\06@053553 by Alan B. Pearce

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>The boss could give a care about the details though.
>My solution cost $250. About 1% of the "normal" cost.

Also a small enough amount to write off as "set-up costs" if it was needed
to fall back to the PLC solution if this had not worked. Would be a lot
harder to justify if your solution had been much closer to the alternative
solution cost.

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2003\11\06@060915 by piclist
picon face
On 6 Nov 2003 at 10:35, Alan B. Pearce A.B.Pearce-at- wrote:

> >The boss could give a care about the details though.
> >My solution cost $250. About 1% of the "normal" cost.
>
> Also a small enough amount to write off as "set-up costs" if it was needed
> to fall back to the PLC solution if this had not worked. Would be a lot
> harder to justify if your solution had been much closer to the alternative
> solution cost.
>
The customer I had was paying maybe $250 for *some* of the PLCs that were in use
in the plant, IIRC, and some were $500. My board wasn't $250, but in Lyle's case,
whew! 25k for the "normal" way. I wish more plants in this area were used to laying
out like that. I'd be milking the cow more often and harder ;-)

Around here, I'd need to show some real advantages if I wanted to use a $250
embedded solution and still get paid well. They do a lot with the PLC alone. I think
the CAN capability would be one good selling point, though.

Regards,
Mike

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2003\11\07@055422 by Win Wiencke

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<Edward Gisske comments in part>
> More to the point, none of the above is particularly difficult to puzzle
> out, even without formal training. Except to marketing geeks! They seem
> always to feel that they have their finger directly on the pulse of the
> consumer as far as how the device ought to work. So they screw with the
> interface and turn it into a dark and stormy goo. Drives me nuts! It is a
> constant fight to fend off the heathens. Particularly pernicious is the
> almost irresistible urge to add more features than controls/indicators to
> make them work. This is why we have the same LED having different meanings
> for ON/OFF/FLASH SLOW/FLASH FAST.....Ugly!

I can't resist adding my rant, so stop reading here if you don't want to
read personal opinion and philosophy.

Writing and marketing do odd things to their practitioners.  In both cases
you have to bare your soul to all sorts of vitriol and criticism.  Writers
because the tale was to racy or not racy enough.  Marketers because the
competition suddenly starts trying to convince your market that green is the
wrong color when you have 60,000 distinctively green hammers on the shelf.

The engineer gets whip-sawed in this.  Sometimes the marketer simply doesn't
have the money for pre-market testing so they hand the prototype around to
any potential customer who'll listen.  The customer in turn has their
appetite whetted for the new gizmo and asks for this or that additional
feature.  Next thing you know the marketer comes back with a list of wants
and you're already stuffing boards according to the old design.

Being responsive and working with the client while still making a living is
something not taught in school.  Clients are hard to get so you can't just
blow off the difficult ones if you want to make the payroll or rent.

IMHO Edward takes the practical approach by making the initial user
interface as sensible as possible -- revision B is not the place to change
the user interface because the prototype is the only tangible thing
marketing has to show.  And as frustrating as it may be for the engineer, I
can tell you from personal experience that there's no harm in bringing in
the "man from the street."

Most business involves taking risks with at best imperfect information to
rely on.  And marketing relies on people's behavior which follows no logical
rules (where else would some people scare the heck out of other people to
"free them from terror?").  Engineering, on the other hand, has the luxury
of at least a few dependable laws of physics and a fairly reliable base of
information.

I'm flattered that you read this far, thanks for your time.

Win Wiencke

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2003\11\07@091006 by llile

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We have a christmas light timer with one seven segment LED as the
interface.  If the decimal point is lit it counts ontime  and turns off.
If the decimal point is not lit it counts offtime and then turns on.
Nobody can figure out how it works if you just hand it to them.  Saved an
LED and some hot-stamp ink, probably US$0.02.

We used to make a microwave with a ten-button keypad, six or seven buttons
specially for coffee, potatoes, frozen moustache wax, and so on, "Start"
"Pause"  "power level"  "defrost" and about 2K of text on the front panel
to tell you what to set the unit on for frozen dingleberries, reheating
chilled axle grease,  boiling hair tonic, melting candle wax, drying wet
cats,  and numbers of other interesting and irrelvant things.


We have another one that just has four buttons:  "15sec" "1min" "5min" and
"Start"     Punch 1min twice for two minutes. Any idiot can use it.

We now have a clock radio that periodically hangs and requires rebooting,
also has field upgradeable software.  A CLOCK RADIO???? Sheesh.

I have fought hard with marketing departments for straightforward user
interfaces time and again and usually lost.

-- Lawrence Lile





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{Original Message removed}

2003\11\07@092850 by Russell McMahon

face
flavicon
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> We now have a clock radio that periodically hangs and requires rebooting,

I didn't know that they had released WIN CE for clocks :-)


       RM

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2003\11\07@101004 by Howard Winter

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flavicon
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Russell,

On Sat, 8 Nov 2003 03:29:46 +1300, Russell McMahon
wrote:

> > We now have a clock radio that periodically hangs
and requires rebooting,
>
> I didn't know that they had released WIN CE for clocks
:-)

It's only a matter of time... ;-)

IMHO, Bill Gates has a lot more to answer for than manky
software - he has produced a climate where consumers
edxpect new features at every new release, of
everything, not just software, and that is the cause of
a lot of troubles!

Cheers,

Howard Winter

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2003\11\07@101414 by Edward Gisske

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[Mike Wrote]>
> Beautiful rant. I er um had to fib to a customer once to get his head out
of the Cutler
> Hammer PLC cloud. I told him I wouldn't guarantee that it would handle the
speeds
> required to make his machine go faster. The app was not much different
from
> controlling a linear actuator, which leads me to ask if you've ever been
asked to use
> PLC's and how you talk the customer into an embedded solution. I've seen a
lot of
> machines in plants completely controlled by PLC's programmed by
technicians. I
> even saw an ad in the paper for a "control engineer." The requirements
were H.S.
> education,  AutoCAD, and PLC experience. Companies get off cheap around
here.
> That really gags me.
>
> Regards,
> Mike
>
> --
> http://www.piclist.com#nomail Going offline? Don't AutoReply us!
> email RemoveMElistservspamspamBeGonemitvma.mit.edu with SET PICList DIGEST in the body
>
I look at PLC's as complimentary to embedded systems, rather than
competition. I use them often for short-run or prototype machines. For any
given application, an embedded system will generally be quite a bit cheaper
than a PLC, once you get it designed, built, and programmed. The PLC,
however, doesn't have any front-end cost in bux or time to get to the
programming phase. PLC's make a lot of sense for the situation where you
have to put together a prototype that may have a bunch of additional air
cylinders, valves, motors or the like added during the design. I do a lot of
work for the cut-flower handling industry. Things like flower bucket water
fillers, washers, underwater stem cutters, etc. This equipment is handling
materials that are not at all uniform. A lot of kluges get added to a design
after the prototype is built to make it all work. My strategy here is to use
a PLC until the design attains some stability, then sell a custom controller
for production. I get paid to do the programming twice. Life is good!

I would rather program in PIC assembler any day than ladder logic, but I do
what I have to. My first engineering job in 1968 was to design relay logic
controllers for automatic assembly equipment, which used panels of 4-500
A-B Bulletin 700 relays to make the machine work. It is amusing to me that I
can draw schematics just like I did 35 years ago and have the same result as
I did then, even though there isn't any clanking or buzzing involved.

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
spamBeGonegisske@spam@spamspam_OUToffex.com

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2003\11\07@110403 by llile

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<Sacrasm = thick>How did you guess? </sarcasm>


-- Lawrence Lile





Russell McMahon <apptechEraseMEspamPARADISE.NET.NZ>
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> We now have a clock radio that periodically hangs and requires
rebooting,

I didn't know that they had released WIN CE for clocks :-)


       RM

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2003\11\07@111441 by Mike Singer

picon face
Howard Winter wrote:
> IMHO, Bill Gates has a lot more to answer for than manky
> software - he has produced a climate where consumers
> edxpect new features at every new release, of
> everything, not just software, and that is the cause of
> a lot of troubles!

  F*****g communists told me that "agonizing" capitalist
"Consumer Society" was invented long before Bill Gates was
born. They fooled me, as I see now from this post about Bill.

  Now these former top communists transmuted into top
worthy capitalists here, top agitators for capitalism being
the best and the only way. Nobody can distinguish them from
their honest western colleagues now.

Mike :-)
(Sorry for the politics)

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2003\11\07@112949 by David VanHorn

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>
>> We now have a clock radio that periodically hangs and requires
>rebooting,
>
>I didn't know that they had released WIN CE for clocks :-)

I have a self-setting atomic clock that I have to set twice a year.

Seems that NOT doing DST isn't an option... @!!@$

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2003\11\07@113725 by llile

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>\* Philosophical Rant ON:

>**About 15% of the male population is Red/Green color blind. Be careful
what
you do with bi-color leds.


>Rant OFF*\

>Edward Gisske, P.E.

Good point, Ed.  Also a big percentage of the over-40 population has high
frequency hearing loss.  Most people over 60 cannot hear their
wristwatches beep.  I used to develop controls, and take them into my
boss' office to see if he could hear them.  I finally settled on pairing
low tones with high tones in a melodious way to satisfy ranges of hearing
ability.

Many of these people cannot hear over 2000 Hz, or 3 octaves above middle
C.  This is the cutoff limit where speech becomes garbled.  If they can
still understand speech, they usually assume their hearing is fine and
don't go in for a hearing aid.  Meanwhile us PIC designers, who often use
low cost piezo speakers with peak responses in the 4000 Hz range, blythely
beep unheard.


-- Lawrence Lile





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2003\11\07@115024 by David VanHorn

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>
>Many of these people cannot hear over 2000 Hz, or 3 octaves above middle
>C.  This is the cutoff limit where speech becomes garbled.  If they can
>still understand speech, they usually assume their hearing is fine and
>don't go in for a hearing aid.  Meanwhile us PIC designers, who often use
>low cost piezo speakers with peak responses in the 4000 Hz range, blythely
>beep unheard.

I read somewhere that 2700Hz was peak hearing response for most people.
I try to keep my beepers around there.

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2003\11\07@115232 by llile

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One reason this thread is fascinating is it dips into consulting business
practices.  I always consider consulting to be my "fall-back" job, I've
done it, will probably do it again, and my current employer is no more
than a long-term client.   One of the reasons I am not doing it now
(besides the fact that someone is paying me a salary)  is stress level, on
both me and my family, given the roller-coaster pay and pressure to work
all hours.  Here are some questions to any consultants on the list:

1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a spouse
with another job where insurance is available?

2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,
a combo?

5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
ICE?

6.  Do you have a standard contract?

7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
allow you to leave the job behind?

8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?








-- Lawrence Lile









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2003\11\07@125949 by Bob Ammerman

picon face
> 1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a spouse
> with another job where insurance is available?

Just play an awful disgusting horrific lot.

> 2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

Not for me too much. But it drives my wife nuts. I've been in business for
20 years now and (praise God) have never been at a loss for work.

> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

It used to. Then I put my foot down and got smarter by learning how to say
'later' rather than 'yes' to some client requests.

> 4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,
> a combo?

Pay as you go.

> 5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
> computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
> ICE?

Depends on what they are working on. Whether they are primarily developing
HW or SW or working on integregration. I used to do all SW, but in the last
several years have branched out to the HW and integration world.

> 6.  Do you have a standard contract?

No. This is probably a mistake on my part.

> 7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
> allow you to leave the job behind?

I have I home office. But I spend a lot of my time at client sites. Many of
my clients are in the computer/software/systems integration business
themselves.

> 8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

I try to keep it under 40, including non-billable time for keeping up on
technologies. However, there are times when I am working under deadline when
it goes way above that.

> 9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
> customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
> alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

Mostly long term customers wanting more work. Some word of mouth.

> 10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
> money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?

I feel I make more doing consulting than I would as a salaried employee.

Bob Ammerman
RAm Systems

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2003\11\07@130608 by llile

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Another question for consultants:

11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is large?


-- Lawrence Lile





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One reason this thread is fascinating is it dips into consulting business
practices.  I always consider consulting to be my "fall-back" job, I've
done it, will probably do it again, and my current employer is no more
than a long-term client.   One of the reasons I am not doing it now
(besides the fact that someone is paying me a salary)  is stress level, on
both me and my family, given the roller-coaster pay and pressure to work
all hours.  Here are some questions to any consultants on the list:

1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a spouse
with another job where insurance is available?

2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,
a combo?

5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
ICE?

6.  Do you have a standard contract?

7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
allow you to leave the job behind?

8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?








-- Lawrence Lile









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2003\11\07@133344 by Mike Harrison

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>> 2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?
>Not for me too much. But it drives my wife nuts. I've been in business for
>20 years now and (praise God) have never been at a loss for work.

Same here - I would often actually prefer to  have less work and more spare time..!

>> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?
Travel is not a major issue in my case as most work is done at home - maybe 3-6 client visits a
month. I also have some customers I've never met in person!

>It used to. Then I put my foot down and got smarter by learning how to say
>'later' rather than 'yes' to some client requests.

Absolutely 'Training' your customers is important! I'm not good at mornings, and  tend to work
10-7ish, and have just about managed to stop people calling at 8:30AM..!
>> 4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,
>> a combo?

>Pay as you go.
>> 5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
>> computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
>> ICE?

Pay as I go - after you have the essentials of a good scope, ICE etc., capital outgoings are
relatively low, until I decide to buy myself a new toy...! If startup funds are tight, you can make do with fairly minimal equipment, or oldie-but-goody
testgear (Ebay can be your friend here,,,!)  , but a decent digital scope and ICE are very high on
the shopping list as soon as you can afford them.

>> 6.  Do you have a standard contract?
>
>No. This is probably a mistake on my part.

No - in fact I have never had any written contract with any customer. However I'm in the UK where
things are generally less litigious. What I usually do is write down my understanding of a
customers's spec and get them to agree it. I also have a few standard terms like I have the right to
withold source/object code until invoices are paid. My feeling is that formal contracts can be a 2-edged sword - most of the time the company you are
doing work for has deeper pockets than you, so if there is a formal contract and you screw up and
they threaten lawyers, you can say  'show me where I guaranteed X in writing' - they can't and the
worst outcome is you lose a customer, probably one you don't want to keep anyhow. If things go bad the other way , the worst case is you have spent time and don't get paid.
>> 7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
>> allow you to leave the job behind?
Workshop at the bottom of the garden - much cheaper, and convenient. Makes it easier to work when
you feel like it (e.g. work over the weekend when you won't be interrupted by phonecalls, and then
go shopping in the week when it's less busy!)

>> 8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?
Almost infinitely variable, depending on what's on, and hopw guilty I feel about not getting stuff
done that's due soon..... I do regular-ish work for about 6 companies.  This is good for variety,
steady flow of work etc., but there are times when they suddenly all decide they need something
doing quickly....!

>> 9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
>> customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
>> alt.suckers.news?  ;-)
>
>Mostly long term customers wanting more work. Some word of mouth.

..and people I've worked with for one company moving to another company.
I did some work for company A - someone left there and went to Company B - I did work for them.
Someone else from Company B moved to Company C - I did work for them. His brother then needed some
work doing for his own company....
I've found that if you do a good job, people come back for more, and they keep your number!
I've never had to actively advertise.
The only other two ways way I've got work are :
1) going to seminars and asking several awkward questions which incidentally show that  I know what
I'm talking about, and subsequenctly chatting over lunch. I've found a few cases of people in
small-ish companies going to seminars hoping that it will teach them everything they need to know
about <x company's products> so they can use them themselves, but then realising that it's not that
simple, and instead asking someone else (i.e. me) to do it for them.
2) Being on the list of Microchip consultants.  
In this, as in most businesses, good people are always busy. Only the poorer ones have to advertise
frequently. I would be very hesitant about giving work to a company who has a regular ad in the
technical press.
>> 10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
>> money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?

Regardless of anything else, I've got so used to the flexibility of working when I want, usually on
what I want, that I  really don't think I could evr go back to working for one employer.
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2003\11\07@133552 by Mike Harrison

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On Fri, 7 Nov 2003 12:04:56 -0600, you wrote:

>Another question for consultants:
>
>11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
>Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is large?
No.
The admin etc. cost of hiring one person is disproportionate.
Also, in this sort of business, the problem can be that the time taken to communicate/document a
requirement to someone else can be a major proportion of the time to do it myself. e.g. I can do a PCB layout from a schematic in my head or some scribbled jottings that only I
understand.
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2003\11\07@151927 by Edward Gisske

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[Lawrence Lile wrote]
>
> 1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a spouse
> with another job where insurance is available?

Suck up and dig deep. It is my biggest expense. A wife with a day job is how
most of the farmers do it around here. Some other consultants in the area
teach part time at the local university just to get insurance. I just pay...
>
> 2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

Lumpy cash-flow is endemic in the biz. The cardinal rule is *pay cash*.
Installment debt forces you to work for people you don't want to. If you
want a toy or a new piece of equipment or a new car, save up for it and then
buy it outright.
>
> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

It can be difficult for a spouse used to punching a time clock to understand
life as a one-man-gang. You work hard when you have work and slack as you
get the chance. I have been able to structure my practice so I don't have to
travel a huge amount. The amount of travel goes up dramatically if you have
a very specialized practice. My PhD consultant friends spend a whole lot of
time on the road. I seldom do, as I am more of a generalist.
>
> 4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,

PAY AS YOU GO!

>
> 5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
> computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
> ICE?

It depends on what you are doing. I have a pretty complete machine shop in
the basement as I consult in both mechanical and electrical engineering. A
minimum for an electronic-only practice is a computer, a plotter, an ICE,
and a high-speed internet connection. Software only geeks can get away
without the plotter. I have a lot of specialized detritus left over from
decades in the biz. If I need something really specialized, I put it in the
project budget or rent it for the occasion. I am also part of an informal
collection of techno-whores that trade around equipment as necessary.
>
> 6.  Do you have a standard contract?

No. I haven't found it to be particularly useful. I write up a very detailed
proposal and acceptance of it is treated as a contract.
>
> 7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
> allow you to leave the job behind?

There are various levels of "consultancy".
**1. The "job-shopper", who will almost always have to camp out at his
customer premises.
**2. The "lost my last job and don't have another one yet" consultant who
often has an office at a customer location as a waypoint to being hired by
his customer full-time.
**3. The "Retired from the biz and doing a little consulting on the side"
consultant usually works out of his home.
**4. Me. I have a home/office/workshop that I designed just for my
lifestyle. It works nicely. The problem with a home office is that it can be
difficult to drill into the rest of the family that just because you are
home doesn't mean you aren't working. Particularly while writing software,
interruptions from family members can multiply the bug count dramatically. I
don't set up on a customer's premis at all. I am much more productive in my
own "nest" surrounded by familiar tools and references and knowing where to
come up with a .01uF disc ceramic at any time of the day or night. My
clients would also be appalled by how I work. I often, particularly while
coding, do manic all-nighters. Other times, if the day is nice, I jump on my
Gold Wing and cycle around admiring the scenery while I consider a knotty
problem or algorithm. Definately not American Industrial Standard Practice,
but it works for me.

>
> 8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

Depends on how much there is to do...

It is useful to differentiate between billable time (BT) and work in
general. I seldom bill over 75% of actual work time. All of the rest of the
things you have to do to stay in biz (like clerical, janitorial or keeping
up with the state of the art) get in the way.
>
> 9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
> customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
> alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

I have not spent a dime on advertising in the 25 years I have been
independent. Circuit Cellar ads and the like seem as though they would be
most likely to bring you biz from the dreaded "Basement Inventor" type (See
my earlier rant on this thread). Referrals are wonderful! You have been
already sold by the referrer, so you generally don't have to work too hard
to close on a job. I have long term informal relationships with contract
manufacturers and Industrial Design shops that bring me into a project as
necessary to do work. This has worked out well for me.
>
> 10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
> money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?

It depends. Some years I am fat, others lean....

>
>11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
>Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is large?

I have not and never have had employees. I am good at engineering, but not
so good at sales. If I had an employee, I would have to spend more time than
I want selling and less designing. I am part of a very loose informal
organization of conultants. We shed work to one another as the skills and
time work out. Sometimes I am the boss, and sometimes the "boy". Student
interns are pretty useless.

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
RemoveMEgisskespam_OUTspamoffex.com
>

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2003\11\07@160837 by llile

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>>11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
>Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is large?

>I have not and never have had employees. I am good at engineering, but
not
so good at sales. If I had an employee, I would have to spend more time
than
I want selling and less designing. I am part of a very loose informal
organization of conultants. We shed work to one another as the skills and
time work out. Sometimes I am the boss, and sometimes the "boy". Student
interns are pretty useless.

I have had good luck with student interns, and I know a consultant who
uses them all the time.  We have an electrical engineering school at the
University in town, and can get a fairly high caliber of BS candidate or
MS cadidate.  I have had projects where I would offload specific tasks on
the intern.  I usually expect a lot out of them, and get a lot, for $13 an
hour.  Although they do all the cooking tests (a boring and tedious task)
they also do some specific bits of code, prototyping, PCB layout and so
on.  However, I am not a consultant and my employer takes on the hassle of
hiring them.  I know another small businessman (not an engineer, a
builder) who uses employees from time to time.  He goes to a temp agency
and says "I want to hire Joe Blow.  I want you to take care of his taxes,
withholding, workmans comp and all that stuff and just send me a bill.  I
want to pay him X amount and I want him to start Monday."  They are used
to this arrangement, basically they are his HR department.

Having said that, I would only use interns on a project-by-project basis.
Make it clear at the beginning that they are hired to do a specific job
for a specific length of time.

I have also had technicians, maybe they could not code so well, but I
could hand them an I/O list from my PIC source code and they could design
and build a prototype circuit by noon and have it laid out in Eagle by the
next noon.   Not from a circuit diagram, mind you, but an I/O list!  I was
3X more productive when my technician was around. That level of skill was
after I had trained them for two years.

Trading work around an informal network is great.  However, I know some
guys who will expand any task given them and try to suck up the client.  I
hired a guy to design me an XYZ module for an appliance, and soon he had
convinced the marketing department, without bothering me about it, to let
him design the whole shebang.  I got to test it a little bit after it was
done, he got to patent it.



-- Lawrence Lile





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[Lawrence Lile wrote]
>
> 1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a
spouse
> with another job where insurance is available?

Suck up and dig deep. It is my biggest expense. A wife with a day job is
how
most of the farmers do it around here. Some other consultants in the area
teach part time at the local university just to get insurance. I just
pay...
>
> 2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

Lumpy cash-flow is endemic in the biz. The cardinal rule is *pay cash*.
Installment debt forces you to work for people you don't want to. If you
want a toy or a new piece of equipment or a new car, save up for it and
then
buy it outright.
>
> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

It can be difficult for a spouse used to punching a time clock to
understand
life as a one-man-gang. You work hard when you have work and slack as you
get the chance. I have been able to structure my practice so I don't have
to
travel a huge amount. The amount of travel goes up dramatically if you
have
a very specialized practice. My PhD consultant friends spend a whole lot
of
time on the road. I seldom do, as I am more of a generalist.
>
> 4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go,
loans,

PAY AS YOU GO!

>
> 5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
> computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
> ICE?

It depends on what you are doing. I have a pretty complete machine shop in
the basement as I consult in both mechanical and electrical engineering. A
minimum for an electronic-only practice is a computer, a plotter, an ICE,
and a high-speed internet connection. Software only geeks can get away
without the plotter. I have a lot of specialized detritus left over from
decades in the biz. If I need something really specialized, I put it in
the
project budget or rent it for the occasion. I am also part of an informal
collection of techno-whores that trade around equipment as necessary.
>
> 6.  Do you have a standard contract?

No. I haven't found it to be particularly useful. I write up a very
detailed
proposal and acceptance of it is treated as a contract.
>
> 7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
> allow you to leave the job behind?

There are various levels of "consultancy".
**1. The "job-shopper", who will almost always have to camp out at his
customer premises.
**2. The "lost my last job and don't have another one yet" consultant who
often has an office at a customer location as a waypoint to being hired by
his customer full-time.
**3. The "Retired from the biz and doing a little consulting on the side"
consultant usually works out of his home.
**4. Me. I have a home/office/workshop that I designed just for my
lifestyle. It works nicely. The problem with a home office is that it can
be
difficult to drill into the rest of the family that just because you are
home doesn't mean you aren't working. Particularly while writing software,
interruptions from family members can multiply the bug count dramatically.
I
don't set up on a customer's premis at all. I am much more productive in
my
own "nest" surrounded by familiar tools and references and knowing where
to
come up with a .01uF disc ceramic at any time of the day or night. My
clients would also be appalled by how I work. I often, particularly while
coding, do manic all-nighters. Other times, if the day is nice, I jump on
my
Gold Wing and cycle around admiring the scenery while I consider a knotty
problem or algorithm. Definately not American Industrial Standard
Practice,
but it works for me.

>
> 8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

Depends on how much there is to do...

It is useful to differentiate between billable time (BT) and work in
general. I seldom bill over 75% of actual work time. All of the rest of
the
things you have to do to stay in biz (like clerical, janitorial or keeping
up with the state of the art) get in the way.
>
> 9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
> customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
> alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

I have not spent a dime on advertising in the 25 years I have been
independent. Circuit Cellar ads and the like seem as though they would be
most likely to bring you biz from the dreaded "Basement Inventor" type
(See
my earlier rant on this thread). Referrals are wonderful! You have been
already sold by the referrer, so you generally don't have to work too hard
to close on a job. I have long term informal relationships with contract
manufacturers and Industrial Design shops that bring me into a project as
necessary to do work. This has worked out well for me.
>
> 10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
> money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?

It depends. Some years I am fat, others lean....

>
>11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
>Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is large?

I have not and never have had employees. I am good at engineering, but not
so good at sales. If I had an employee, I would have to spend more time
than
I want selling and less designing. I am part of a very loose informal
organization of conultants. We shed work to one another as the skills and
time work out. Sometimes I am the boss, and sometimes the "boy". Student
interns are pretty useless.

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
gisskespamBeGonespam.....offex.com
>

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2003\11\07@161708 by Mauricio Jancic

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face
Let me tell you how things work for me, here in Argentina.

>>1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  
>>Have a spouse with another job where insurance is available?

       I pay, too much may be, but that’s the way for me...

>>2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

       Sometimes yes. Specially this days, I have an enormous amount of
bills, and I'm getting a little desperate...:S

>>3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

       I try to keep the job in-house, only travel to take my customers
his product done, one or twice for each project.

>>4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as
>>you go, loans, a combo?
       
       PAY AS YOU GO

>>5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around
>>besides a computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an
>>Eprom burner and an ICE?

       I think that that's prety much that what I have. Unfortunatly, I
have to work with a 5Mhz old valvular scope and a Picstart plus.
No ICE, just bootloader, trying to get and ICD...

>>6.  Do you have a standard contract?
       
       No, like someone said, I just write a very detailed spec, that’s
the best around here, like the UK'er said before.

>>7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the
>>remote office allow you to leave the job behind?

       home office, best, when you just had it from one "no way" code,
you can take a nap and continue on the night...


>>8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?
       
       50 - 60 (its too much ah?) well, I guess I can do it for a while
more, since im still joung (just 23 yo)


>>9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long
>>term customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam
>>to alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

       no need of advertising, well actually, no positive results. I
work with microchip consultand list and word of mouth

>>10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make
>>more or less money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per
>>year?  Per Hour?

       Well, very tight here in my country. I'm trying to get some
overseas jobs, in order to take advantage of the currency conversion, I
mean, in previous messages, I can see that a job I can bill 1500 U$S can
cost (in the us) 3000 U$S and I need about U$S 500 to live (monthly) so
its relatibly good money.
       Unfortunatly, thing are not going very good with economy around
here, so I having now a thigh budget, but I'm shure it will go away soon
(hope!!)

Best regards

Mauricio

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2003\11\07@162330 by Micro Eng

picon face
>
>2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?
of course
>
>3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?
of course
>
>4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go, loans,
>a combo?
pay as you go, and plastic
>
>5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around besides a
>computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom burner and an
>ICE?

depends on the job
>
>6.  Do you have a standard contract?

yes
>
>7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote office
>allow you to leave the job behind?
SOHO
>
>8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?
varies but yes
>
>9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
>customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
>alt.suckers.news?  ;-)
>
That is the hard part....im looking for work right now

>10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or less
>money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?
>

more per hour contract.....employee....more consistant
>
>

_________________________________________________________________
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2003\11\07@163822 by Edward Gisske

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>
> Trading work around an informal network is great.  However, I know some
> guys who will expand any task given them and try to suck up the client.  I
> hired a guy to design me an XYZ module for an appliance, and soon he had
> convinced the marketing department, without bothering me about it, to let
> him design the whole shebang.  I got to test it a little bit after it was
> done, he got to patent it.
>
>
>
> -- Lawrence Lile
>
>
>
You bring up a good point. Stealing my customer by one of my sub-contractors
is punishable by summary curbside execution. He will never work for me
again.

That law, although unwritten, is understood by all of my "work-sharing"
group

If a client that I am working for as a subcontractor from another consultant
wants me to work for him, I won't do it directly. I refer him to my original
contractor and tell him to work through him to get me. I charge just as
much, but the other guy gets to add a bit for finding the customer. If the
customer is asking for me specifically, the cost of hiring me is usually
secondary to him wanting me to get the job done.

Edward Gisske, P.E.
Gisske Engineering
608-523-1900
gisskespamspamoffex.com

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2003\11\07@175125 by Robert Rolf

picon face
> Trading work around an informal network is great.  However, I know some
> guys who will expand any task given them and try to suck up the client.  I
> hired a guy to design me an XYZ module for an appliance, and soon he had
> convinced the marketing department, without bothering me about it, to let
> him design the whole shebang.  I got to test it a little bit after it was
> done, he got to patent it.

Would you have been the one getting the patent if you hadn't brought him
in? Was his patent 'obvious' to anyone 'skilled in the art' or did he
create new intellectual property? Who paid for the patenting and who got the royalty?
Where/what is this guy now?

Patents themselves are not terribly important unless you have the
very deep pockets necessary to defend them.

Robert

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2003\11\07@182239 by Jinx

face picon face
> so I having now a thigh budget

!!!!!! lucky you ;-)

Oh to be 23 and hormonal again

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2003\11\07@200207 by Andrew Warren

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llile@saltonusa.com <PICLISTspamBeGonespamspamBeGonemitvma.mit.edu> wrote:

> 1.  How do you deal with health insurance?  Just pay a lot?  Have a
> spouse with another job where insurance is available?

   When I was consulting, my wife's health-insurance covered me.
   It's a huge expense otherwise, at least in the USA.

> 2.  Is roller-coaster pay a problem for you?  Boom and bust business?

   No, business varied between booming and really REALLY booming...
   Which is a mixed blessing at best.

> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?

   I've heard of people who treat their one-person consulting
   business like any other job -- work 8:00 to 5:00, take weekends
   off and maybe a couple-week vacation every year -- but I've
   never actually met one of those mythical characters.

   For me, the hours were very long, which affected even my
   extremely understanding wife and played at least a small part in
   creating the emotional distance that ultimately led to the
   breakup of our marriage.  Off the top of my head, I can name
   half a dozen other consultants whose experience mirrors mine in
   that respect.

   If you're happily married or you have children, think long and
   hard before entering the consulting business.

> 4.  How do you go about capitalizing the business?  pay as you go,
> loans, a combo?

   Pay as you go.  Debt prevents you from being able to say no to a
   client.

   Besides, you don't really NEED to buy much in that business, and
   if you DO need some special piece of equipment (or software
   package, or whatever) for a particular client's job, he'll often
   buy it, lease it, or lend it to you.

> 5.  What specifically does a consultant need to have around
> besides a computer, a scope, some hand tools, a compiler, an Eprom
> burner and an ICE?

   I didn't need much more than that.  Don't buy equipment or tools
   until you actually have a paying job that requires them; setting
   up a lab and furnishing an office is fun, but it won't lead
   directly to making money.

> 6.  Do you have a standard contract?

   Yes.  I drew it up, then spent a few hours editing it with an
   intellectual-property attorney.  More important than a "legal"
   contract, though, is just ANY written description -- no matter
   how informal -- of what you and your client think you're doing.

> 7. Do you have a home office or a remote office?  Does the remote
> office allow you to leave the job behind?

   I ended up working from an office in my house.  If you're the
   type of person who can leave the job behind at night, you can do
   that just as easily with a home office as with rented office
   space.  If you're not that type of person, a rented office just
   means that you'll have to spend time commuting back and forth at
   all hours of the day and night.

> 8.  How many hours a week do you spend working - 50?  70?

   Yeah, somewhere in there.  More some weeks, less others, although
   I always spent a LOT of time in the office.  If you look at the
   piclist archives from before June of 2000, you'll see by my post
   count how many hours I was in front of a computer.  Looking back,
   it seems like 24/7.

> 9. How do you advertize your business - word of mouth?  Long term
> customers?  Bingo cards?  Ads in Circuit Cellar?  Spam to
> alt.suckers.news?  ;-)

   I got referrals from my local Microchip rep, from other
   consultants and people in similar businesses with whom I'd dealt,
   from the piclist, and maybe one or two directly from my listing
   in Microchip's certified consultant program.  Most of the work I
   got, though, was either repeat business from existing clients or
   referrals from those clients.

> 10. Without divulging salary per se, do you feel you make more or
> less money as a consultant or as an employee?  Per year?  Per Hour?

   You make significantly more per hour as a consultant, and if
   you're fortunate enough to have lots of people who want your
   services, you can make a lot of money real fast by just working
   lots of hours.  You can't work like that all the time, though,
   and there ARE expenses that you don't have when you're an
   employee... And I suppose there could be lean times with no
   work, and there's likely to be at least one client who just
   refuses to pay you.

   Nevertheless, it isn't hard to make more money as a consultant
   than as an employee.  You WILL give up some of your life for
   that money, though, so don't do it if you're the kind of person
   who works to live rather than the other way around.

> 11:  Do you use employees?  Are they permanent, part-time, Student
> Interns?  Do you periodically farm out work when the workload is
> large?

   I would farm out work to other consultants -- or just refer
   clients to them -- when I was too busy to take it on myself.

   I never had employees.  In fact, when I closed down my consulting
   business and decided to take a job as an employee at Cypress, it
   was partly because my consulting business was at the point where
   I'd soon have to hire employees if I wanted it to grow... And I
   just didn't want to be directly responsible for anyone else's
   livelihood at that time.

   -Andy

=== Andrew Warren -- spamBeGoneaiwspamcypress.com
=== Principal Design Engineer
=== Cypress Semiconductor Corporation
===
=== Opinions expressed above do not
=== necessarily represent those of
=== Cypress Semiconductor Corporation

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2003\11\07@201628 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
>> 3.  How about long hours or travel?  Does that stress out your family?
>
>     I've heard of people who treat their one-person consulting
>     business like any other job -- work 8:00 to 5:00, take weekends
>     off and maybe a couple-week vacation every year -- but I've
>     never actually met one of those mythical characters.
>
>     For me, the hours were very long, which affected even my
>     extremely understanding wife and played at least a small part in
>     creating the emotional distance that ultimately led to the
>     breakup of our marriage.  Off the top of my head, I can name
>     half a dozen other consultants whose experience mirrors mine in
>     that respect.
>
>     If you're happily married or you have children, think long and
>     hard before entering the consulting business.
>

But don't forget that a 'real job' offers no guarantee that you won't
have equally long hours  and/or travel issues.  I don't know many
"traditionally employed" engineers that work strict 40 hour weeks
either.

BillW

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2003\11\07@204607 by Howard Winter

face
flavicon
picon face
David,

On Fri, 7 Nov 2003 11:27:57 -0500, David VanHorn wrote:

> I have a self-setting atomic clock that I have to set twice a year.
>
> Seems that NOT doing DST isn't an option... @!!@$

That hadn't occurred to me - I presume you're in the USA?  In Britain we've had the MST transmissions (60kHz
keyed carrier giving the time derived from the atomic clocks at the National Physical Laboratory) for quite a
few years, but of course we are one time-zone so all clocks receiving it set themselves correctly, including
springing forward and falling back when necessary, which is also controlled by the signal (otherwise when we
changed the week / hour that we go to GMT to fall in with Europe, these clocks would have got it wrong).

But what happens with radio-controlled clocks in the USA?  Do you have to tell the clock where it is, so that
it sets the correct hour?  I assume all the states that do, change the clocks on the same day.  Do they do it
at the same moment in time, or at the same hour by their clocks?

Cheers,

Howard Winter
St.Albans, England

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2003\11\07@205021 by Howard Winter

face
flavicon
picon face
Edward,

> >\* Philosophical Rant ON:
>
> >**About 15% of the male population is Red/Green color blind. Be careful
> what you do with bi-color leds.
>
>
> >Rant OFF*\
>
> >Edward Gisske, P.E.

Yes, I don't know whicj idiot decided that green and red were the right colours to use for safe and danger (a
railway person, I assume) but they really messed it up!  Nature's "danger" signal is yellow (ask any bee or
wasp!) and it would have made a lot more sense to use green and yellow as the two signal colours.  Too late to
change it now, though  :-(


Some friends and I were discussing what might be the worst job for someone who is colour-blind, and we
reckoned it was bomb-disposal.  "I'm about to cut the sort-of greeny-reddy-browny wire..."   :-)

Cheers,

Howard Winter
St.Albans, England

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2003\11\07@210514 by David VanHorn

flavicon
face
>
>But what happens with radio-controlled clocks in the USA?  Do you have to tell the clock where it is, so that it sets the correct hour?  I assume all the states that do, change the clocks on the same day.  Do they do it at the same moment in time, or at the same hour by their clocks?

To start with, I don't even know why we do this.
I can't figure why it was ever a good idea to have a billion people set 10 billion clocks twice a year, so a few people could avoid getting up later in the day.

We are in several zones, so the clock has an adjustment for each time zone.
It dosen't allow zones outside the USA. I'm not even sure it allows for Hawaii, which of course is on Alaskan Standard time.

If it was me, we'd all be on GMT.

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2003\11\07@210725 by David VanHorn

flavicon
face
>
>Yes, I don't know whicj idiot decided that green and red were the right colours to use for safe and danger (a
>railway person, I assume) but they really messed it up!  Nature's "danger" signal is yellow (ask any bee or
>wasp!) and it would have made a lot more sense to use green and yellow as the two signal colours.  Too late to
>change it now, though  :-(

It probably came from stoplights, but I'm not sure where they got it from.


>Some friends and I were discussing what might be the worst job for someone who is colour-blind, and we reckoned it was bomb-disposal.  "I'm about to cut the sort-of greeny-reddy-browny wire..."   :-)

I always thought it would be fun to have a bomb wired with red and blue striped wire. (It's always the red wire or the blue wire, in the movies..)

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2003\11\07@212006 by D. Jay Newman

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> To start with, I don't even know why we do this.
> I can't figure why it was ever a good idea to have a billion people set 10 billion clocks twice a year, so a few people could avoid getting up later in the day.

I think that the whole daylight savings time thing came from a joke by
Ben Franklin. Unfortunately somebody took it a bit to seriously.
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2003\11\07@220158 by Denny Esterline

picon face
> it sets the correct hour?  I assume all the states that do, change
the clocks on the same day.  Do they do it
> at the same moment in time, or at the same hour by their clocks?
>
> Cheers,
>
> Howard Winter

You'd think so, but I heard just this week that some state senetor in
Idaho was promoting legislation to move 'fall back' to after Holloween
"in order to help the trick-or-treaters". Just what we need, one state
doing it differently. Arghhh!!!

-Denny

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2003\11\07@221239 by David VanHorn

flavicon
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At 10:03 PM 11/7/2003 -0500, Denny Esterline wrote:

>> it sets the correct hour?  I assume all the states that do, change
>the clocks on the same day.  Do they do it
>> at the same moment in time, or at the same hour by their clocks?
>>
>> Cheers,
>>
>> Howard Winter
>
>You'd think so, but I heard just this week that some state senetor in
>Idaho was promoting legislation to move 'fall back' to after Holloween
>"in order to help the trick-or-treaters". Just what we need, one state
>doing it differently. Arghhh!!!

I always thought the point was to run around in the DARK! :)
Pretty soon, if the PC crowd keeps dumbing things down, the candy will come in the mail, and it will all be tofu.

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2003\11\09@003907 by Eric Bohlman

picon face
On Fri, 7 Nov 2003 15:07:43 -0600, <llilespam_OUTspam@spam@SALTONUSA.COM> wrote:

> I have also had technicians, maybe they could not code so well, but I
> could hand them an I/O list from my PIC source code and they could design
> and build a prototype circuit by noon and have it laid out in Eagle by
> the
> next noon.   Not from a circuit diagram, mind you, but an I/O list!  I
> was
> 3X more productive when my technician was around. That level of skill was
> after I had trained them for two years.

The key to successfully expanding an operation that's become too big for
one person to handle is to understand the concept of "essential job
functions" and "marginal job functions."  Many people think that's a
purely legalistic distinction that arose from the Americans with
Disabilities Act, but it's actually a much broader concept that's closely
related to the way startups either succeed or fail.

Basically, essential job functions are those that make up the "essence" of
a position; if the holder of the position couldn't do them, it wouldn't
really be the position that it is.  For example, circuit design or
programming would be essential functions for an engineer.  Marginal job
functions are those that, while they *might* be performed by the holder of
a position, aren't really part of the definition of the position and could
be shifted to someone else.  For an engineer, answering phone calls,
dealing with the mail, and bookkeeping would be examples of marginal job
functions.

The key here is that if you find yourself overwhelmed and need to add some
staff, you want to add people who can take over some or all of your
marginal job functions, not your essential ones.  In most cases that means
that the first hire should be a secretary/office manager/all-around
gopher. You want someone who can relieve you of having to do the stuff
that doesn't require your special expertise.  Hiring a technician would be
another example, because building up prototypes is really a marginal
function of an engineer's job.  The engineer might particularly enjoy it,
but it represents a distraction from actual design work.

The next step would be to hire people with specialized expertise that's
*outside* your field, like marketing, sales, or accounting people.
However, it's probably better to first use outside contractors/consultants
for such functions, adding employees in those areas only when you've grown
quite big.  Only when you've grown *really* big should you even think of
hiring people in the same field in which you have expertise.  And even
then you should think first of contracting it out.  One of the reasons is
that managing people whose expertise is in your own field is one of the
hardest forms of managing people.  The temptation to micromanage or to
take away the most enjoyable elements of the task can be very hard to
resist, and when you do that, you lose most of the advantage of adding
someone else.

If you get to the point of adding another engineer, it's probably best to
assign him/her to developing test fixtures/test code or other sorts of
"scaffolding" and conducting testing rather than direct product design.
That will help keep out the temptation to micromanage, and will probably
result in better testing because it will be done by someone who hasn't
internalized the design to the extent you have and who doesn't have a
psychological incentive *not* to find problems.

One of the most common failure modes for startups is when the founders
start hiring technical staff while continuing to do administrivia
themselves.  The usual result is that the cash burn rate goes way up, yet
the founders are still overwhelmed to the point that they can't do what
they're best at.  Going from a one-man operation to an organization
requires giving up control, and it's much easier to give up control of the
things that *aren't* nearest and dearest to you.

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2003\11\09@033328 by Lee Jones

flavicon
face
>> it sets the correct hour?  I assume all the states that do, change
>> the clocks on the same day.  Do they do it at the same moment in
>> time, or at the same hour by their clocks?

Daylight savings time and time zones are controlled by United
States Code, title 15, chapter 6, subchapter IX, sections 260
through 265.  The popular name is "Uniform Time Act of 1966".
A Google search returns reference sites having the entire law;
Cornell University (www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/15/260a.html)
is one site I've used.

Section 260a(a) defines daylight savings time as

  "the period commencing at 2 o'clock antemeridian on the first
   Sunday of April of each year and ending at 2 o'clock antemeridian
   on the last Sunday of October of each year, the standard time of
   each zone [...] shall be advanced one hour"

It also allows any state to exempt itself entirely (like the
logical thinking folks in Arizona).

So daylight savings time is defined in terms of each time
zone's local time.


> You'd think so, but I heard just this week that some state senetor in
> Idaho was promoting legislation to move 'fall back' to after Holloween
> "in order to help the trick-or-treaters". Just what we need, one state
> doing it differently. Arghhh!!!

Then the Idaho senator would have to get US federal law changed.

Section 260b specifically supersedes state law and requires that
any state that uses daylight savings time must use the dates and
times proclaimed in the US Code.

                                               Lee Jones

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2003\11\09@230956 by Mike Hord

picon face
>Some friends and I were discussing what might be the worst job for someone
>who is colour-blind, and we
>reckoned it was bomb-disposal.  "I'm about to cut the sort-of
>greeny-reddy-browny wire..."   :-)
>
I can vouch for the second worst thing then- about two months ago
I spilled a sorted tray with around twenty different values of resistors
in it.  Color coded resistors, of course.

Not nearly as dangerous of course, but by the end of it I was ready
to shove the lot in the trash and order a replacement batch.

Mike H.

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2003\11\10@002634 by Michael J. Pawlowsky

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face
That's what Multimeters were invented for!  ;-)


>I can vouch for the second worst thing then- about two months ago
>I spilled a sorted tray with around twenty different values of resistors
>in it.  Color coded resistors, of course.

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2003\11\10@062631 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>I always thought it would be fun to have a bomb wired with red
>and blue striped wire. (It's always the red wire or the blue
>wire, in the movies..)

Ah, someone who has never had to trace a wire in an instrument made by
Marconi Instruments. There all the wiring is salmon pink :))))

Personally if I was making a bomb I would wire it one wire at a time, using
the same colour for everything, then bundle it all together using cable ties
:)) You cannot cut the red or blue, when it is all black wire :))

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2003\11\10@062839 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>You'd think so, but I heard just this week that some state
>senetor in Idaho was promoting legislation to move 'fall back'
>to after Holloween "in order to help the trick-or-treaters".
>Just what we need, one state doing it differently. Arghhh!!!

Try Australia. At least one state does not have daylight saving, and AFAIK
all the other states change on different weekends.

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2003\11\10@132207 by llile

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>Some friends and I were discussing what might be the worst job for someone
who is colour-blind,

Nah.  Sorting resistors by color code is the worst job for the color
blind.  I can hardly tell the colors apart anymore because of the muddy
printing quality and tiny resistors, but I handed a big pile of them to a
new tech who was embarrased to tell me about his colorblindness one time.
What a mistake.

\
-- Lawrence Lile





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Edward,

> >\* Philosophical Rant ON:
>
> >**About 15% of the male population is Red/Green color blind. Be careful
> what you do with bi-color leds.
>
>
> >Rant OFF*\
>
> >Edward Gisske, P.E.

Yes, I don't know whicj idiot decided that green and red were the right
colours to use for safe and danger (a
railway person, I assume) but they really messed it up!  Nature's "danger"
signal is yellow (ask any bee or
wasp!) and it would have made a lot more sense to use green and yellow as
the two signal colours.  Too late to
change it now, though  :-(


Some friends and I were discussing what might be the worst job for someone
who is colour-blind, and we
reckoned it was bomb-disposal.  "I'm about to cut the sort-of
greeny-reddy-browny wire..."   :-)

Cheers,

Howard Winter
St.Albans, England

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2003\11\10@160301 by M. Adam Davis

flavicon
face
The conversation went something like this:
Worker: "I'm late to work because my clock doesn't reset according to
daylight savings time."
Boss: "But our company makes that clock!  Why don't they set themselves
now?"
Passing vender: "Windows CE does that!  We can have a prototype on your
desk tomorrow!"
Boss: "Great!"

-Adam

Russell McMahon wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2003\11\10@160718 by M. Adam Davis

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My atomic clocks set themselves according to DST just fine.  They have
the Time Zone switch on the back, and then an additional DST switch.

Unfortunately, one of them checks the time signal at 11pm, which is
before the 2am DST change, and it didn't change until I pressed the
'wave' button, which forces a time check.  Took a few seconds to change.

The other one did just fine.  I assume it resynchronizes after the 2am
time change.  The DST bit is sent along witht he transmission, so the
clocks don't have to do any real computing...

-Adam

David VanHorn wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2003\11\10@172835 by Howard Winter

face
flavicon
picon face
On Mon, 10 Nov 2003 16:06:42 -0500, M. Adam Davis wrote:

> My atomic clocks set themselves according to DST just fine.  They have
> the Time Zone switch on the back, and then an additional DST switch.
>
> Unfortunately, one of them checks the time signal at 11pm, which is
> before the 2am DST change, and it didn't change until I pressed the
> 'wave' button, which forces a time check.  Took a few seconds to change.
>
> The other one did just fine.  I assume it resynchronizes after the 2am
> time change.  The DST bit is sent along witht he transmission, so the
> clocks don't have to do any real computing...

Indeed, they can't, because the rules change from time to time.  Only a few years ago the UK used to change at
02:00 and 03:00 local, then we fell in with Europe and now change at 01:00 GMT.  There is a bit sent with the
MFT signal which means "Change Pending" for about a day before the change, which alerts clocks to look more
often then usual to see when the change occurs - some clocks only resynchronise with the radio signal every
few hours (once a day in some cases) so they step up to checking  hourly when a change is pending.  Of course,
that's the intention - there's nothing to say that every clock designer actually includes this feature!

Cheers,

Howard Winter

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2003\11\10@210923 by Martin McCormick

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face
       My wife has a travel alarm clock that uses the WWVB signal but
the software is down-right flaky.  In the first place, the weekday
doesn't change at Midnight but will change if you operate any of the
clock's buttons after Midnight.

       Then, on the night before the day we were scheduled to go off
DST, it set itself back an hour and then somehow, got set back to DST
mode during the night, causing it's alarm to go off an hour early the
next morning.

       Maybe, it is broken, but I suspect that every last one of
those clocks is broken the same way.  Since it normally works properly
with the exception of the thing about the week day, I think it is just
bad software in its controller.

       It is a relatively inexpensive, but slick-looking little
travel clock sold by a company that specializes in novel, cool
gadgets, but to me, cool is stuff that really works like it is
supposed to.  This clock mostly works, but the designer botched the
best part of having the WWVB receiver built in.

       I'd love to know how they receive that 60 KHZ signal in that
little box.

       I read about a watch that uses the WWVB signal, but you are
the antenna as long as you wear the watch.  The travel alarm sits on a
night table or some other place and isn't connected to any long wires
or anything that could serve as an antenna.  It must have a very
sensitive receiver with a rod antenna like those found in portable
AM radios.

       I guess when it dies, I'll find out what is in it.:-)

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK
OSU Information Technology Division Network Operations Group

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2003\11\11@102357 by llile

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face
>        My wife has a travel alarm clock that uses the WWVB signal but
the software is down-right flaky.

We stuck a WWVB reciever in a coffeepot, so the time display is always
right.  We really did test these sorts of issues and verified that it
would change days at midnight, change DST at 2:00 AM and so on.

Our unit has a battery backed internal timeclock.  Most of the time, the
internal timeclock chip is what sets the displayed time.  When it can
recieve a signal, it compares the signal against the internal clock.  If
the recieved signal is different, it begins comparing the two for a while.
If the recieved signal difference tracks over time, it finaly assumes the
recieved signal is right and changes.

Many of these clocks just blythely assume the WWVB signal is always right.
However, noise, and the lack of any packetization or checksum on the WWVB
signal can fool a reciever easily. That's why you see your clock changing
back and forth. WWVB has a very poor protocol, IMHO, for transmitting in a
noisy world.

>        Maybe, it is broken, but I suspect that every last one of
those clocks is broken the same way.

It's just software, and as you know edge and limit conditions are the
places where software fails the most.

That being said, ANYTHING you do with radio has an element of
unreliability.  Consider the cr***y service you get on your cell phone.
"Can you hear me?  How about now?" is the most common phrase on cell
phones.  (there should be a button on the cell phone that just says that.)
Yet everyone accepts such poor service.  Expecting a radio controlled
clock to get continuous and clean signals is expecting a lot.

>       I'd love to know how they receive that 60 KHZ signal in that
little box. ...   It must have a very sensitive receiver with a rod
antenna like those found in portable
AM radios.

Yes, it does have a rod antenna, a coil of wire wound around a ferrite.  I
don't even think it is a 1/4 wave antenna.  The signal is quite
unreliable, and coverage is best at midnight.  If you are in Maine or
Florida, your signal strength is very poor but by your email you must be
in Oklahoma.  Reception should be excellent there since it is near the
transmitter in colorado.  If you are in a metal building, forget it.


-- Lawrence Lile
Senior Project Engineer
Toastmaster, Inc.
Division of Salton, Inc.
573-446-5661 voice
573-446-5676 fax




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       My wife has a travel alarm clock that uses the WWVB signal but
the software is down-right flaky.  In the first place, the weekday
doesn't change at Midnight but will change if you operate any of the
clock's buttons after Midnight.

       Then, on the night before the day we were scheduled to go off
DST, it set itself back an hour and then somehow, got set back to DST
mode during the night, causing it's alarm to go off an hour early the
next morning.

       Maybe, it is broken, but I suspect that every last one of
those clocks is broken the same way.  Since it normally works properly
with the exception of the thing about the week day, I think it is just
bad software in its controller.

       It is a relatively inexpensive, but slick-looking little
travel clock sold by a company that specializes in novel, cool
gadgets, but to me, cool is stuff that really works like it is
supposed to.  This clock mostly works, but the designer botched the
best part of having the WWVB receiver built in.

       I'd love to know how they receive that 60 KHZ signal in that
little box.

       I read about a watch that uses the WWVB signal, but you are
the antenna as long as you wear the watch.  The travel alarm sits on a
night table or some other place and isn't connected to any long wires
or anything that could serve as an antenna.  It must have a very
sensitive receiver with a rod antenna like those found in portable
AM radios.

       I guess when it dies, I'll find out what is in it.:-)

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK
OSU Information Technology Division Network Operations Group

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2003\11\11@130554 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> Try Australia. At least one state does not have daylight saving, and
> AFAIK all the other states change on different weekends.

Try this country. Change to and from dst by decree, dates change every
year. Makes setting computer clocks great fun.

Peter

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2003\11\11@132934 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> My atomic clocks set themselves according to DST just fine.  They have
> the Time Zone switch on the back, and then an additional DST switch.

I am intrigued by the propagation of your 60kHz (?) clock. What's the
noise floor like at 60kHz (in a reasonably 'wired' city) ? Just exactly
how low is the s/n on this frequency ? I can't find specs. Assuming the
receiver is somewhat 'normal' and with reference to what noise I see here
it should be something like -90dB sensitivity at 10dB s/n and adjacent
carrier suppression of 60dB (referenced to -90dB). And I am not sure it
would work even then. So what's it really like ? Also I experience total
hashing of LW dx stations here (multipath ? 2000+ km).

Peter

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2003\11\11@144703 by Martin McCormick

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       There is a link that describes the WWVB signal on the NIST web
site.  It is definitely _NOT_ packetized nor is there any kind of
error correction or detection mechanism.

       It takes 1 whole minute to send all the data at 1 bit per
second.  The short wave radio signal is designed to be either humanly
audible or machine readable.  The 60 KHZ signal we are talking about
that sets or tries to set all the "atomic" clocks is only meant to be
machine readable.

       The short wave signal has a throbbing 100-HZ note to it.  If
you listen to that note with headphones or on a receiver with good
audio, you will hear this base note just after the tock sound that
marks each second.

       You will soon realize that the base note is sometimes held
longer than it is other times.  the longest bursts are sync or frame
markers.  Next are slightly shorter bursts that are the ones and then
the shortest bursts are 0's with the short burst there to mark where a
bit should start.

       I've never directly monitored the 60 KHZ signal, but I
understand it mimics the 100-HZ carrier bursts on short wave.

       My general coverage receiver only goes down to 100 KHZ, but I
can assure you that it is a jungle down there.  There is all kinds of
man-made and natural racket that probably does a great job of screwing
up any kind of VLF receiver that doesn't do a good job of checking to
see if it is receiving junk or WWVB.

       These days, lots of things have switching power supplies and
one can hear a lot of wavery carriers that come and go which may at
times be fairly strong on any given frequency.  Video displays tear up
the ether with harmonics from their horizontal sweep circuits and
Mother Nature throws in a few lightning strikes that crackle just like
what you hear on the AM broadcast band.

       I don't know what the WWVB signal does at the start of each
minute, but I think there is some sort of phase shift which always
looks like a frequency shift for an instant.  Otherwise, a WWVB
receiver that wasn't doing much checking could lock on to
interference and think it was receiving the time signal.

       I don't know how strong WWVB is in Oklahoma.  It is obviously
receivable, but we are still 400 or 500 miles from Ft Collins.

       The very slow data rate might lend itself to DSP techniques
which have allowed ham radio operators to communicate successfully,
but very, very slowly, using low power and received signals that are
so far below the noise floor that ordinary detection techniques such
as listening hear absolutely nothing but noise.

@spam@llile.....spamspamSALTONUSA.COM writes:
>We stuck a WWVB reciever in a coffeepot, so the time display is always
>right.  We really did test these sorts of issues and verified that it
>would change days at midnight, change DST at 2:00 AM and so on.

       Wasn't it kind of hard to read through black coffee?:-)

>
>Our unit has a battery backed internal timeclock.  Most of the time, the
>internal timeclock chip is what sets the displayed time.  When it can
>recieve a signal, it compares the signal against the internal clock.  If
>the recieved signal is different, it begins comparing the two for a while.
> If the recieved signal difference tracks over time, it finaly assumes the
>recieved signal is right and changes.

       It sounds like you did it right.  I was telling my wife that I
wouldn't even let something off my work bench if it behaved the way
that clock does.

Cheers.

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK
OSU Information Technology Division Network Operations Group

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2003\11\12@043519 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>        My general coverage receiver only goes down to 100 KHZ, but I
>can assure you that it is a jungle down there.  There is all kinds of
>man-made and natural racket that probably does a great job of screwing
>up any kind of VLF receiver that doesn't do a good job of checking to
>see if it is receiving junk or WWVB.

The very low data rate means you can have a very narrow bandpass receiver, I
suspect many of these are done using a digital phase lock loop, to retrieve
the signal out of the noise. Then using its own oscillator to drive the
clock during signal dropout, and resynchronising as and when good signals
are available makes for an "accurate enough" and self correcting clock.

I want to know what happens to the radio clocks that have the conventional
hands, when switching DST off and on. Do the hands suddenly do a full
revolution rapidly?

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2003\11\12@075901 by Peter Moreton

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Yes, the hands just step really fast to move to the correct position.
(at least on mine)

Peter Moreton


-----Original

I want to know what happens to the radio clocks that have the
conventional
hands, when switching DST off and on. Do the hands suddenly do a full
revolution rapidly?

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2003\11\12@134059 by Howard Winter

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Alan,

On Wed, 12 Nov 2003 09:34:35 -0000, Alan B. Pearce wrote:

>...<
> I want to know what happens to the radio clocks that have the conventional
> hands, when switching DST off and on. Do the hands suddenly do a full
> revolution rapidly?

Mine does - it runs forwards very fast - could be 60x the normal speed, but I've never measured it.  I can't
remember how it goes back - it may go forward 23 hours - I'm fairly sure it doesn't run backwards.

Cheers,

Howard Winter  (about 100 miles from the MFT transmitter at Rugby)

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