Friday, August 01, 2008

Robots at Work

Quick note: I've spent much of this week getting our downstairs apartment ready for a new tenant. We own a two-family, and we just lost one set of neighbors and have someone new ready to move in. That's the good part. The bad part is, it's amazing how much grime accumulates in just a few years, even when people are taking good care of a place. So...I put the robots to work. Two iRobot Roombas (Snarf and Red Leader) did the sweeping—and man, did they pick up a lot of dirt. Then the Scooba (Nemo) set to work washing the floors—freeing me up for such fun work as cleaning the stove and refrigerator. (Ugh.) Those little mechanical guys earned their keep this week, for sure. Let's hear it for robots!

I know, I know—I should have taken some pictures. Thing is, I was busy cleaning the stove, you know?

Soon I hope to get back to more inspiring endeavors, such as getting the first three Chaos books into shape for free e-book release.

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At 7:59 AM, Blogger VictoriaB said...

I have some video of Romeo's first exploration of our dining room and bedroom, which I will generously donate to your blog if you wish. It's about as exciting as watching paint dry, unless you are really really into the idea of robots doing some of the cleaning. But it's the real thing: live nude Roomba!

You didn't tell me you have a Scooba! I am seething with envy.

Peace, V.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Charlza said...

We have a Roomba now! Well, it's a used Discovery model that Steven's Aunt had given his mother. They never used looks like it may never have been used at all. The battery wouldn't hold a charge, so I found instructions on how to 'reset' the battery. The 3 days of charging are up tonight. If the little guy won't charge after this, I'll get a new battery for him.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger VictoriaB said...

Congratulations, Charlza. Not to be outdone, we acquired a Scooba a couple of weeks ago. I've run it just about every day since we got it and my husband now declares our kitchen floor a "thing of beauty!" It shines as it never has before (mostly because it sure didn't get washed every day in life pre-Scooba).

Jeff, while looking for some help with the Scooba (it's great but it's temperamental, which is why I named her Diva) I discovered that you are a poster on one of the few public discussion forums about iRobot products. It does feel like a kind of tribe -- Roombas and Scoobas aren't for everyone, but for those who are willing to be patient with gadgets -- witness Charlza, patiently waiting for three days for a battery to charge! -- they really are life-changing. Romeo the Roomba does what I won't do, which is vacuum the living room every day. I am willing to change his diaper daily in return for this service. (That means empty his little dirt bin and shake the dust off the filter, in case you non-Roomba folks are wondering.)

Peace, V.

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Congratulations to both of you on your new robots! Charlza, I hope your battery takes with the reset. (It never worked for me on problem batteries.) I've learned that these NiMH batteries can go bad just from sitting uncharged on a shelf. If you do have to buy a new one, the best price I've seen recently has been on Amazon.

Victoria, you went for a Scooba! Mazeltov. If you ever encounter a problem where it flashes "Check Tank" when you turn it on, even with the tank full, I have just the thing for you. (A syringe and a piece of aquarium tubing works great for a fast prime.)

The thing you need to know about Roombas is that you really need to keep them clean. I have to type up a set of instructions for my various robot-owning friends, but in brief, don't just empty the bin. Take the brushes out for cleaning and clean all around the brush deck and *under* the brush deck and around the wheels and sensors. What I do at least every 2 runs is to grab the regular vac with the crevice attachment, and spend five minutes cleaning the guys around all the moving parts and sensors. You can also take it outside and blow canned air through the works, but I try not to do that too much because of the chemicals.

Victoria, I still have a 2nd bot waiting for you, just haven't had a moment to work on them!

Bots rule!

At 9:35 AM, Blogger VictoriaB said...

Jeff, I've already learned how to give the Scooba a blow job -- I use my turkey baster. In fact I blew out one turkey baster already and had to get a new one. My quest now is for some answers about Scooba battery care, as I have read much conflicting advice. Charge it and leave it in the plugged-in charger. Or take it out of the charger when it's charged, as leaving it in the charger will damage/deplete it. Or leave it in the charger but unplug it. Or don't. Or something else.

The Scooba is a surprise every day. One day it will work perfectly, right to the intended end of its cycle. Another day it will get stuck under the toe kick of the cabinets, and run down its battery trying to get unstuck. The next day it will go to exactly the same spot, get stuck, and unstick itself immediately. Then another day everything will be fine, but Diva suddenly stops, announces that she is finished, and plays her "empty my tank!" beeps, but she has only gone through half the solution in the Clean tank. Yesterday her battery suddenly ran down about 3/4 of the way through the cycle. Who knows what today will bring?

I already took your advice about keeping the Roomba clean to heart, though you have successfully guilt-tripped me into going over it carefully with the regular vac and the crevice tool. I'll be happy to have another bot whenever you can get it ready, Jeff. It would be good to have one to use in the bedroom come winter, when our forced hot air heating system is circulating dust throughout the house 24/7.

Peace, V.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger VictoriaB said...

Another thing, Jeff -- Romeo is suddenly unable to dock himself once the cleaning is done. He rolls up onto the dock but then bounces off again immediately. How can I help my poor confused bot? He's showing signs of early-stage dementia. Kind of like me.

Peace, V.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Charlza said...

Thanks for the tips!

Alas, the is as dead as the proverbial door knob. I'll look at the batteries after payday, because I really want [Roomba to be named at a later date] roaming, cleaning, and and torturing my cat. (chuckle)

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Victoria -- Try cleaning the sensors on the dock and on the bot. (I think on the Roomba it's the little lighthouse thing on the bow that senses the docking port.) Also, try shifting the furniture slightly. I think sometimes there are IR reflections bouncing around the room that confuse these guys. My Discovery in my office (Red Leader) was determinedly trying to mate with my chair the other day, while in docking mode, going precisely 180 degrees in the wrong direction. I forcibly turned him, then he went straight to the dock.

Re the Scooba batteries, it seems that no one knows. I leave mine in the Scooba, but if it's not going to be used for a couple of weeks, I unplug it after it charges, then plug it in again a few hours before I need it. The standalone chargers are apparently the ones to watch out for--they don't sense when it's charged and can kill batteries if they're left on too long.

Mine, too, sometimes gets stuck under the toe kick. And for other odd behavior--sometimes it might be dirt in the pickup tank. When I rinse that, I shake it really well.

We've got a big pile of syringes here (sans needles) left from a treatment for Hermione. Aquarium tubing fits perfectly over it and over the port on the Scooba. I discovered that you don't have to use water to prime it; air works just as well. In fact, it's seems that it's not really priming per se; we're just unsticking the pump diaphragm, as far as I can tell.

Charlza, I think you can get a battery for under $50, but be sure you buy a new one. And be sure to let it charge for at least 16 hours before the first run.


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