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BLOGical Thoughts Archive

April 2017

Sunday, 30 April, 2017

I am working on an update of the cookbook for the Teardrops and Tiny Travel Trailers forum. It has not been updated in two years and I find myself with enough time to do the update. I should be finished with the base document sometime this week. It will take me a bit longer to do the EPUB version.


The package I received at the USPS was indeed the 3D printer I ordered. Since assembling it, I have printed numerous parts and have learned a lot about what not to do. Here is a picture of two of the parts I printed, attached to the printer.

The white part on the left is a mount for the Y-axis limit switch. The original was broken during printer shipment. The white part on the right is a strain-relief for the cable connected to the hot-bed heater. Without that, the cable could pull itself out of the hot-bed.

I've also done a cell phone cover, a tool holder and a bomb-bom (cartoon figure). I am learning how to use a CAD program so I can design items on my list of parts.

To see a 29 second video of the printer in action, click here.


Quote of the day:

We used to have Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs.
     Dickel Afflockett (from YouTube's buzz1151 videos)

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Tuesday, 25 April, 2017

I received a USPS package on Monday that contained two spools (2kg) of plastic filament, which is the material you feed to 3D printers to produce parts. One is gray ABS plastic and the other one is 'transparent' red PLA plastic.

I have another package waiting for me to pick up at the post office, which I suspect is the actual printer itself. Why they sent it via USPS is a mystery to me.


I have an old Raspberry Pi model B+ which I was using as a bit torrent server. Since I don't really do a lot of bit torrents anymore, I have decided to repurpose the Pi.

I downloaded and installed a Raspbian-based O/S called OctoPi for the RPi. It has a program called OctoPrint installed, which allows me to use the Pi as a browser-based control board for the 3D printer. All I have to do is plug it into the printer's USB port and I should be able to control the printer from any computer in the house via WiFi. I should also be able to view the status of the current print from anywhere.

I also ordered and received a camera for the box. I intend to use the camera to monitor prints, as OctoPrint allows you to do that.

The next step after that would be to configure my local router so I can see all this from outside my LAN. One thing at a time, though. First, I need to assemble the printer...


Quote of the day:

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a bit longer.
     Henry Kissinger

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Friday, 20 April, 2017

I found a brand-new, radically different 3D printer project on YouTube. It is still under development, but it will be able to create objects that are literally 10 times the size of current printer capabilities. Here is a promo for the device.

RepRap is short for replicating rapid prototyper. Many 3D printers are reprap, meaning they are an open design and you can freely copy all or part of them. Except for the metal and electronic parts in it, the Helios printer consists of all 3D printed parts. So the machine will probably cost on the order of $400 to $600 (cost of stepper motors, electronics, etc). It is kind of based on some of the assembly-line robots the car companies use. If you want to see more, go on YouTube and search for 'reprap helios'.

My 3D printer has not shown up yet, but I'm prepared to put it together (it's a semi-kit) and I have at least seven items I would like to print already.


I don't know if any of you have ever watched the original RoboCop movie or the short-lived Max Headroom TV series, but the current status of our country exactly mimics both of those. TV judges, live murders online, stupid 'reality' TV shows, all add up to where we are today. To quote Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between." How true that is.


Quote of the day:

The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
     Anatole France

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Sunday, 16 April, 2017

You all know I don't like the frequent updates of Firefox, and was reluctant to re-install it. Yesterday, I was watching Joe Collins on YouTube talk about installing a private Firefox. Basically, you are installing it from Mozilla.org instead of from your distro's repositories. The program still gets updates, but they are done in the background without interrupting your workflow. I am going to give this a try.


I ordered a Creality CR-10 3D printer from Gearbest.com. It should take a week or so to get here. In the meantime, I have ordered some filament for it so I can actually print stuff when the printer gets here.


I found my snowplow skid, just like every springtime in the past. It was under a snow berm in my front yard. That berm is still not quite gone, but enough of it has disappeared to reveal the skid. When I get it back on the plow, I am going to wire the clip so it won't come off.

I put the skid back on the plow, but I don't have the right-sized clip to hold it in place. It turns out the hole on that skid is smaller than the one on the other skid. I bought a clip that was too big.


Quote of the day:

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.
     David Letterman

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Wednesday, 12 April, 2017

I am close to purchasing a 3D printer. I have a few parts that I could print with it for my classic cars, but there are many more people in the classic car crowd that could benefit from a printer. For instance, Jim and Sonya Hebert are restoring a 1923 Dodge Brothers Roadster. They need things like door handles and hood lock retainers. These things could be easily printed with a 3D printer in ABS plastic, which would provide strength and durability.

My only problem is where would I put a 3D printer? I have a house full of stuff from 33 years of accumulation and just don't have a good spot to put it. I have to think on this.

In the meantime, if you want to see the printer I am thinking of getting, check out this video:

Note that gearbest.com has a better price on this printer than Tiny Machines 3D. Also note that you can print objects using 1.75mm PLA, ABS, TPU, Copper, Wood, Carbon Fiber, Gradient Color, etc. Very versatile and at $400, it does a far better job than the cheap Prusa knockoffs that sell for less than $250.


The other day, I moved from the Firefox web browser to Chrome for several reasons; the main one of which was the update policy for Firefox. It seems I will have to switch back, though, as Chrome cannot do some of the things that Firefox plugins do (like downloading YouTube videos and blocking pop-up advertisements).


Quote of the day:

Ignorance can be fixed; stupidity is forever.
     Michael Burton

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Friday, 7 April, 2017

Some of you may know that I bought an Arduino microcontroller board, and that I am getting back into programming with it. I also got a small OLED as a display for the board. Using the Arduino Uno and the SSD1306 OLED, I wrote a small program to query and display each bit of the 3 I/O ports on the microcontroller. I used a library called ug82, which supports that display. Here is the program.

/*
 * 1st_text
 * 
 * Purpose: Monitor all digital port pins and display their state
 *   on an SSD1306 OLED
 *   
 * Written by: Michael Burton
 * 04 April 2017
 */

#include <Arduino.h>
#include <U8g2lib.h>

#ifdef U8X8_HAVE_HW_SPI
#include <SPI.h>
#endif
#ifdef U8X8_HAVE_HW_I2C
#include <Wire.h>
#endif
// All Boards without Reset of the Display
U8G2_SSD1306_128X64_NONAME_F_SW_I2C u8g2(U8G2_R0, SCL, SDA, U8X8_PIN_NONE);

// Ports are labeled 'B', 'C' and 'D'. Start with 'B'
char pn[2] = "B";
// line holds the pin status for each port
char line[9] = "B0: HIGH";
// pin numbers for each group. Note that there is no C8, so it has a dummy ID.
int dport[3][8] = {{14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 9, 10},
                   {23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 1, 1},
                   {2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13}};

void setup(void) {
  u8g2.begin();
  u8g2.enableUTF8Print();    // enable UTF8 support for the Arduino print() function
  u8g2.setFont(u8g2_font_5x7_tf);
}

void loop(void)
{

  u8g2.setFontDirection(0);
  u8g2.clearBuffer();
  for (int pin_num = 0; pin_num < 8; pin_num++) // 8 pins on each port
  {
    for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) // 3 ports
    {
      pn[0] = 'B' + i;
      strcpy(line, pn);
      line[1] = char(pin_num) + '0';
      line[2] = '\0';
      if (digitalRead(dport[i][pin_num])) // get pin status
        strcat(line, ": HIGH");
      else
        strcat(line, ": LOW");
      u8g2.setCursor(i * 42, 8 * pin_num + 7);
      if (!(i == 1 & pin_num == 7)) // print if not port C pin 7
        u8g2.print(line);
    }
  }
  u8g2.sendBuffer();
  delay(1000);
}

The language is C, with influences from C++. This is something I had no trouble getting back into. I have an idea for using the Arduino for a project, and this coding helps me get back into the swing of things.


It's getting to be that time of year again, when we can spend time outdoors. That means I am starting to get busy taking pictures of classic cars and posting them on the Phuddy Duddy Cruisers web site.


Quote of the day:

Sometimes I sit quietly and wonder why I'm not in a mental asylum. Then I take a look around and realize: maybe I already am.
     Anonymous

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother

Tuesday, 4 April, 2017

The final power bank box I ordered came in yesterday. I have now used 20 of the 18650 batteries I recycled from laptop battery packs. I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 70 batteries. Maybe I should give them to Grant, who is building an 18650 battery pack for his electric bike.

The power banks I now have will take care of all my portable power needs for the future. There are six of them, and here are the specs

No. of Cells Capacity Controls Output Cost
8 ~18,400 mah LCD panel 5V, 1A/5V, 2A $4.17
6 ~12,600 mah LEDs 5V, 1A/5V, 2A $3.92
4 ~8,800 mah LEDs 5V, 1A/5V, 2A $4.65
1 ~2,200 mah LEDs 5V, 1A $1.07
1 ~2,200 mah LEDs 5V, 1A $1.07
Solar/LiPo 8,000 mah LEDs 5V, 1A/5V, 2A $11.88

These are sufficient to power all my USB powered devices, as well as my component tester, frequency counter and Arduino board.


I hardly ever go to the movies anymore, as most of the stuff they pump out now is just so much crap. However, I may end up in a theater this summer to see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The trailer makes the movie look a lot like The Fifth Element, which is one of my favorite flics.


I have bitten the bullet and installed the Chrome web browser. I have imported all my Firefox bookmarks to Chrome, then I uninstalled Firefox. My main reason for this is the number of 40MB updates I kept having to do for Firefox.


Quote of the day:

The fact that there's a "Highway to Hell" and only a "Stairway to Heaven" says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.
     Anonymous

Silly sign of the day:


Free/Open Source Software


Hobby Stuff


Security Theater/"Intellectual Property"/Big Brother