Configuring and integrating a new Crying Machine: initial report

We recently took delivery of a second Crying Machine.

The new model is significantly smaller and more compact than our old Crying Machine. (Frankly we’re astounded at the miniaturization in the new one, especially when the units are compared side-by-side. And we thought the old one was small!)

The new unit has a slightly different build and coloring than our first machine. (Some customers might complain about inconsistent quality, but we’ll give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to artisan batch production.) Like our last one, this newest model came out of the box with a fully-functioning klaxon and wastegate assembly, though it’s not totally plug-and-play: you still have to do a lot of troubleshooting, reconfiguration, and systems integration to get things running the way you want.

After three weeks, we’re still ironing out the kinks in our unit. For example, we wanted to run our Crying Machines in a failover configuration (i.e., only one unit should be crying at any given time, with the second unit ready to take over only if the first one shuts down). But we still haven’t figured out how to sync the two units correctly, so they often run in parallel instead. This is particularly irksome if we’re transporting both units in the same enclosed vehicle, and their alarms go off simultaneously. Then we’re caught trying to troubleshoot two Crying Machines, our Barking Machine, and at least one of the Swearing Machines all at the same time. This failover behavior might have something to do with our daily scheduling algorithm getting thrown off during the new unit’s initial break-in period. (And let’s be honest: we’ve never really been able to get our morning batch routine running consistently anyway, what with socks, hats, and other peripherals strewn about our staging area, and the mad scramble to get all units powered up, fueled, configured, and deployed in the proper sequence.)

We’re also still working out the correct feed rate on the new machine, so after three weeks our fueling process is still a bit ad hoc. We’ve found that the new machine often develops an air bubble during fueling. (Vapor lock? A loose vacuum hose?) A series of taps or thumps on the back of the unit is usually enough to burp air out of the system and reset it. However, sometimes fuel overflows and is ejected with little or no warning.

Luckily the new unit goes into standby mode pretty quickly and readily–specially in transit–and we’ve already figured out how to put it into standby mode if it panics–a job that goes much easier when we’ve managed to load it with enough fuel to last through a long recharging period before the next reboot. (One lesson learned the hard way: don’t forget to empty the accumulated dump files and reset the wastegate assembly before attempting a shutdown!) In contrast, our older unit often gets stuck in a Why-loop before we can get it into standby mode, especially if we miss the recommended evening shutdown window. And if we’re not careful our older unit can go into full system meltdown before we’ve had a chance to start the shutdown routine; at that point we just have to let it spin up and wind down on its own, and hope for the best. (I’ll chalk that one up to a programming/operator error; we’re still learning the ins and outs of proper system management, even after almost three years with our first Crying Machine!)

One other nice feature of the new unit: it’s backward compatible, so most of the accessories and peripherals we already have for the first Crying Machine–transport buckets, slings, swings, white noise generators, diapering systems, cladding, etc.–work just fine with the new one. And luckily our legacy Barking Machine/perimeter alarm system has self-calibrated to accommodate the new addition. (Good thing, too: we removed the tags from the new machine almost as soon as we got it home. And then of course the belly-button thing fell off and got lost, voiding the warranty. So we can’t really return it at this point anyway, even if we wanted to.)

Meanwhile, our older Crying Machine is refining its own meltdown algorithm, and perfecting its higher-language whining and other communications protocols. More on that in a later post….

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