If you followed the last news thread, you have probably seen we had some problems with the Pick and Place files for the PCB that needed to be solved - as well as having issues moving the cases, batteries and other parts from Craig to me in Germany

1. The tale of the lorry and the snow

Once upon a time there was a man with a weird hat.
He had boxes of full of treasures: Plastic cases, batteries, Wifi antennas and other, weird things (that most people wouldn't consider to be treasure at all).
One day, he lost that hat. While it's not important for our story, he was never again seen with this hat on any video again - which made many people sad.
But, as said, we won't care about that here - we care about his treasure.

In a land far, far away, there lived an EvilDragon. He wanted to grab the treasure of the man without the weird hat.
Somehow he managed to agree the man to send him all his boxes of treasure.

However, the boxes where too many and too heavy for the man without the hat to transport them himself.
He tried to get help from someone named UPS.
The next day UPS came - but the transporter he had with him was way too small.
He tried to load all the treasure boxes into his transporter anyway. However, it didn't work. They were too big and too heavy.
So he went home, promising the man without the hat to return with a bigger lorry the next day.

The next day came. It was cold. There was a lot of snow coming from the sky. UPS didn't come. He delayed and delayed - and finally, the man without the hat saw him in the distance - his lorry stuck in the snow.
Somehow he managed to get his lorry out of the snow and finally arrived at the home of the man without the hat.
It took an hour to load all the precious treasure boxes, and when he tried to leave for Germany... his lorry got stuck again.

It was getting dark, and UPS sure was scared - but somehow he managed to get the lorry out of the snow.
Therefore, the treasure boxes are on the way to the airport, headed for Germany.

Short story:
Craig tried to ship the Pandora parts he had to Germany. Yesterday the UPS driver had a too small transporter - and today he was fighting his way through piles of snow.
However, he managed to come and pickup all the stuff. So all the parts (cases, speakers, WiFi antennas, hinges, batteries, etc.) are now on the way to Germany.

2. Server slowdown: Script kiddies had fun playing

You probably noticed that the server today was unbearable slow. This was thanks to some random scripts sending tons of requests to apache2 and using up 90% of the apache2 Server.
I didn't have much time to look into it and after installing some useful mods (that didn't help much here, sadly), I finally found mod_evasion which worked fine.
Thanks to notaz for some help here. The server is now running fast and fine again

3. The fight with the Pick and Place files

This was the main concern of the last few days - and cost a lot of nerves, work and time.
As you know, we have ALL parts needed for the prototype run at Global Components already. Thanks to the GTA04 team, we even got the memory chips in time.
Then, Thursday morning, Global Components started to program the machine. Loaded up all the needed files and also loaded the Pick and Place files into the machine.
To those who don't know:
Pick and Place files are simple text files that have all the coordinates for every single part which is being put on a PCB in it.
The program which is used by the designer spits out these files automatically, so nothing could go wrong there... well, that's what most would think. We thought so as well.

However, when GC imported these files into the machine, all the parts were completely messed up.
Why? Well, some quick googling revealed it: It looks like there are different ways to define the coordinates of the parts. Some use Pin 1 of the component as coordinate, most use the center of the part as coordinate.
If you try to import Pin 1-Coordinates as Center-Coordinates, everything is messed up.
The funny thing is: The text file doesn't say ANYWHERE what coordinates it uses. It even has a header where it defines the units and the coordinates origin - but it doesn't include the information, WHAT type of coordination is uses... the only way to find that out is to load it up and see if it fits.

So, okay. MWeston used 1pin-files whereas the SIEMENS machine only eats centroid-files. So we had NO way of using these files.
We were busy for the whole day looking for solutions. There exist some programs that could recreated the PCB with components and export centroid files, but it turned out the only really proper way is when the PCB designer himself changes the coordinate type for every part and exports them...

Well, that's what MWeston did... it took hours and hours, but finally, he created ALL the needed coordinates for every part (511, to be exact) and exported them into new Pick and Place files.

That has happened, we got the new files. GC already got them and will probably hack them into the machine on Sunday, so we can finally start the prototype production on Monday / Tuesday (probably Tuesday).

There's only one thing I'm scared about: The leadtime for the bare PCBs is about 4 weeks... and the bare PCBs are being produced in China.
Chinese New Year is coming, and it might be hard getting the boards before the Chinese New Year... which would delay the planned production by 2 weeks.
Nothing is set yet - we're in contact with the bare PCB company and are trying to find a solution.
They know it's urgent and we have a high priority - so they might be able to finish all 1000 or at least 250 - 500 of the needed bare PCBs in time.
But that's something we can't tell for sure before the prototype testing run is finished and working.

Nikolaus Schaller (the designer of the GTA04 PCB) calmed me down during the last days - always telling me with a smile: "Such issues are perfectly normal before the main production run. It's very complex work, it's very rare nothing happens."

Thanks again to him for his help

Well, so another issue solved - the new files should now work fine (we'll find out within the next few days) and then it's finally time for the prototype run.

I've also got some neat surprises for you - but I'll keep quiet about them until christmas