Frequency of Updates and Placeholders.

This post is a sticky, it will remain at the top of the page for the time being, new posts will continue to appear below it, so keep an eye out.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I have a hard time keeping on the update-a-week minimum, but I do try and go back and fill them in as best I can to cover what’s been going on, and I’ll continue to do that.  Just fair warning; Fallout 4 is about to come out, so I may never be heard from again, until there’s a way to send blog posts from within the game.

Also, a note on the media placeholders: Those are to remind me of images I still need to rescue from my doomed storage array or that are still working their way through my processing queue, part of my massive backlog.  I had something like 6+ months of posts that were piling up in draft form simply because I didn’t have the pictures for them, so I made this placeholder and started publishing instead of piling.  It’s not ideal, but life’s imperfect.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled silence…

So I’ve had a lot on my plate these last couple of months, a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of balls in the air, [insert additional metaphors here]…  And of course, my finances being what they are, it’s slow-going acquiring the tools and materials that I need…but things are starting to come together.  I’ve got a series of blog posts that I’m putting the finishing touches on, about undertakings that are finally coming to fruition, or projects that can finally begin, all of which are very exciting.

For now, I’ll give you the quick hits:

  • A feature on prop making, which will involve the 3D printing, post-processing, painting, and weathering, of a Fallout 4 prop.
  • Tutorials on cleaning up and post-processing 3D prints, and possibly on tuning printers for the best output. (The former is easiest to explain and can overcome pretty much anything, whereas the latter is very dependent on individual printers and slicing engine/software…so I might just scratch the latter entirely except to mention some resources to check out.)
  • A beginner’s guide to airbrushes, by a beginner…less of a tutorial and more of a ‘here’s what I’ve learned from my mistakes, so you don’t have to make them’.
  • Finally some electronics stuff, because the ESP8266 is the coolest chip ever made, and you can have a wifi-enabled microcontroller that’ll probably run off a potato-battery, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee!
  • Some talks about how 3D printing can be used to improve basically anything.
  • A couple cool projects I’ve been working on.

Now, all I have to do…is actually write about any of that shit. ┐(シ)┌

Well, I’m shooting a lot of video, so unless I want all that HDD space to be used up in vain, I’ve gotta do something.

Week 17, 2016 – May Acquisitions

I’m getting the ball rolling on a lot of stuff this month, from the MAKE COOL THINGS livestream and YouTube channel, to some prop making, to maybe even doing a little work on a simple fun little game project I’ve had in mind for a while.

Streaming

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 — ($74.95 – Amazon)

I bought one of these back in April, and it is an absolutely fantastic webcam, I wanted to have two more, so now I’m half way to that goal! The price keeps fluctuating though, and that’s pissing me off.  The first one was $69.99, this one was five bucks more, and the rest of the sellers on Amazon were selling it for $80-$90…  I’ll post more about the cameras later!

Xsplit Broadcaster, Premium License, 3 months — ($24.95 – Xsplit.com)

Xsplit is a great and uber-professional piece of streaming software.  OBS Studio is a fine piece of software, especially for free, but Xsplit is amazing. The license applies to both Broadcaster which is the full-featured general purpose streaming app, and Gamecaster, which is the more turnkey solution for streaming PC and console gaming with overlays and webcams, etc. I had wanted to get a 1-year license for $59.95 because it’s a much better deal, but I ran out of money… Oh well.

Like the webcams, I’ll do a more thorough writeup on this later when I talk about livestreaming.

Prop Making

Rust-Oleum 249086 Multi Purpose Primer, Red Oxide, 12oz — ($3.98 – Amazon)

Here’s a great wet/dry-sandable all-surface primer, it was available for $3.98 as an add-on item, and I was going to get the matching gray primer so I could alternate between red oxide and gray when sanding, but just as I was about to check out, the gray went up to $10+non-prime shipping. :(

Dupli-Color FP101 Scratch Filler and Primer, Gray, 11oz — ($8.35 – Amazon)

This is a high-build automotive primer recommended in the notes on some of Bill Doran’s prop videos, and likely the perfect primer for the first pass on a 3D printed prop.

Rub ‘n Buff Wax Metallic Finish, Silver Leaf, 0.5oz — ($6.37 – Amazon)
Rub ‘n Buff Wax Metallic Finish, Antique Gold, 0.5oz — ($5.90 – Amazon)
Rub ‘n Buff Wax Metallic Finish, Autumn Gold, 0.5oz — ($6.14 – Amazon)

I’ve heard Adam Savage mention Rub ‘n Buff several times in various prop making videos, and after watching this video (indexed to relevant bit) I knew that I just had to have some, especially considering some of the things I have in mind.  The ‘Silver Leaf’ is amazing, it’s a totally perfect ‘metal’ finish.  The swatches online showed ‘Antique Gold’ to be the lightest gold, so I got it hoping it’d be a good ‘brass’ color, but it ended up being rather dark and reddish.  ‘Autumn Gold’ however, will make for a decent copper, just as I’d planned.  I’ll have to get a tube of the regular ‘Gold Leaf’ and see if that’s a brighter/yellower gold.

Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic, Burnt Umber, 2oz — ($8.79 – Amazon)

Something else brought to mind by Adam Savage’s video, was the need for a good general purpose weathering and grime paint… So I ordered a tube of heavy body acrylic in Burnt Umber.  There were a few other colors I wanted, but these are rather expensive, so for the time being, it’ll have to do…plus I’ve got a bunch of bottles of matching medium body acrylic already, so if I need to adjust the color any for something, I can.

3M Wetordry Sandpaper, 9-Inch by 11-Inch, 400 Grit, 5-pack — ($6.35 – Amazon)

Because you can never have enough sandpaper… Especially real sandpaper.  Ugh, that crappy Chinese stuff I bought that one time… The plastic just gummed up in it, and it got everything I sanded dirty.  NEVER AGAIN!  From now on, I swear I’m only buying 3M.

Hyde Tools 45395 Heavy Duty Rubber Sanding Block — ($5.09 – Amazon)

I bought one of these last time I stocked up on supplies, and I still haven’t had a chance to use it, but it can’t hurt to have more than one. (In fact, it’s probably a necessity!)

Game Development

RPG Maker MV — ($52 – RPGMakerWeb)

Just minutes after I had lamented my inability to afford RPG Maker MV during a conversation, I received an email from Degica telling me there was a Golden Week sale on and I could get 35% off RPG Maker MV, not only that, but by getting it from the official store, I’d get a standalone copy AND a complementary Steam key…effectively getting me two copies, for almost $28 off the regular $79.99 asking price.

One of the things that makes MV so much better than VX Ace is that it can publish your game for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and even HTML5!  That was the one feature that made it a must-have as far as I was concerned.

Pay What You Want: Hardcore Game Dev Bundle — ($15.14 – stacksocial)

This bundle of game development courses included:

• iOS & OS X Game Development: From Start to Store in Swift
• Game Developer Business & Legal Guide: Run an Indie Studio
• 2048: Build Your First Complete Game with C# & Unity
• Master Unity By Building 6 Fully-Featured Games from Scratch
• Learn to Code in Game Maker Language
• The Complete Android Marshmallow Development Course
• The Complete HTML5 Mobile Game Development Course
• Build iPad, iPhone & OS X Games for SpriteKit in Swift
• Game Development Using Corona SDK with ASO & Ads
• JavaScript Programming: Learn by Making a Mobile Game

That second item really caught my eye. It’s not often you see a course on the legal aspects of game development.  I took a quick look at it, and it seemed to cover things like licensing, contracts, NDAs, IP and Trademarks, working with lawyers… And it has real-world examples and interviews with a lot of smart people sharing their experience. (Including Gabe Newell of Valve.)

Virtual Reality, Unity & 3D Game Developer Bundle — ($24.99 – stacksocial)

This bundle included:

• Learn to Code by Making Games – The Complete Unity Developer
• Virtual Reality Designer – Understanding VR & Creating Apps
• Learn 3D Modeling – The Complete Blender Creator Course

So yeah, not getting nearly as much bang for my buck, but I figured I had to have it because it covered developing for Virtual Reality, and it had a course on Blender…and– while I am probably a lost cause –maybe somebody in my family stands half a chance in hell of learning how to use that utterly impenetrable program, with the help of this courseware.

Week 16, 2016 – Clickity-Clack! My Adventures in Obnoxiously-Loud Typing!

It’s probably no secret that I’m an inconsiderate jerk…for that reason, I love mechanical keyboards and how incredibly loud they are! Kidding, kidding! …mostly.  I love mechanical keyboards though, I used to use nothing but the holy grail of old-school keyboards; the IBM Model-M, a ‘buckling spring’ keyboard, and the original PS/2 keyboard…because, duh, it was the keyboard that came with the IBM PS/2. Loud as hell and built like a tank, made out of other smaller tanks, made from an alloy of adamantium and mithril.  Anyway, when you spend over a decade on the computer 18 hours a day, typically on no less than half a dozen IRC channels at any given time, eventually you’re going to need an ergonomic keyboard or your hands are quite simply going to drop off at the wrists…

This meant giving up my glorious Model M…and for about another decade, I’ve been stuck using Microsoft Natural keyboards… Capacitive, rubber-dome based keyboards…  They’re garbage, and they feel like garbage to type on.  But what exactly is the alternative?  Anyway, I go through a keyboard every 2-3 years because I simply start wearing out some keys– Oddly enough, the “U”, “F”, “K”, and “C”… (Kidding, kidding! …mostly.) –and it’s really annoying, and they’re expensive, and they still feel like complete garbage to type on.

Enter The ErgoDox

The original ErgoDox was a keyboard designed by Dominic “Dox” Beauchamp in October 2011, based on the key64 keyboard. (You can find the original GeekHack forum thread here.) Now, even though I’d seen it a couple times, it was just so bloody expensive that I wasn’t too excited…but I knew it was the kind of thing I desperately needed.

…5 years later…

I’d been introduced to Massdrop a while back, and through their group buys, I managed to reacquire the greatest writing implement known to man, and level up one of my important Vault Dweller skills.  So, when the opportunity presented itself around the end of January, I got on board the group buy for the Infinity ErgoDox by Input-Club.  It makes a number of improvements over the original, including the addition of two RGB-backlit LCD screens, one on either half, which can display information such as which ‘layer’ the keyboard is currently in.  See, the ErgoDox isn’t just fully customizable, but it’s got this crazy firmware setup where instead of just having an ‘Fn’ key layer like a laptop keyboard, you have the base layout and 7 additional layers that can be locked, shifted into, or locked for just the next key-press, etc.  And it’s left/right side independent.  So, even though it drastically reduces the number of keys versus a standard 104/105 key layout, you have limitless possibilities.

It was $199.99 with switches (plus another $39 for keycaps), I got it down to $155.99 for just the keyboard kit, because I was going to buy switches and keycaps separately…the latter would turn out to be a mistake however…

It’d be 4 months before the ErgoDox shipped, so I had time to source other items. A little while later, another group buy popped up, this one for Gateron Switches. (Clones of the standard Cherry MX mechanical switches that are held in such high regard by gamers and typists alike.)  Of course, I didn’t really know what type of switches I wanted… Though I kind of figured I wanted ‘clicky’…  That’s when I learned about ‘switch testers’, and oh hey, there was one on Massdrop!  A switch tester is just a means of holding a bunch of different key switches so that you can test the feel.  What was really cool about this one, was that for an additional $9 they were offering a PCB to turn it into a functional USB keypad. (Including keycaps, the PCB, and shipping, the total was $35.87) Now, obviously it wasn’t going to arrive in time for me to figure out which Gateron switches I wanted, so I bought a small one off Amazon with just Cherry MX switches and sort of guesstimated.

In the end, I went with Greens, because they’re clackers, and because they require the most force, and I’m a fairly heavy-handed typist.

So, in February, the switches arrived.  In March, the switch tester arrived. And finally, just this last week, the Infinity ErgoDox arrived.

EDIT: This is interesting.  So apparently, the switch tester was supposed to ship with the version 2.0 of the PCB, but they shipped the old one… So, at no additional cost, they sent us all a replacement, which turned out to be the brand new version 3.0, fresh off the production line.

Next Time: To Infinity ErgoDox, and Beyond!

Stay tuned for my next post on this subject where I’ll have a writeup on assembling my Infinity ErgoDox kit, the NKPC Switch Tester– including videos, I hope! –and probably some crazy mods to one or both of them.  (Not to mention some other mechanical keyboard goodies!)

In the meantime, the like-minded clickity-clacky among you might be interested in the Mechanical Keyboards subreddit, or the Mechanical Keyboards community at Massdrop!

Week 15, 2016 – Baka Wins a Thing!

I’ve been trying to catch Bill and Brittany Doran’s terrific twice-weekly Twitch streams as often as possible. They are the dynamic duo who comprise Punished Props, and the streams are always entertaining and educational. (Holy hell that’s an almost obscene overabundance of alliteration!)

This past Tuesday, Britt was the only one in the shop, and she did a stream where she cast a medallion of the Hearthstone symbol in different materials…then she gave them away to three lucky viewers. (Well, two lucky viewers, and a glitterbomb victim.)

mct_placeholder

Here’s mine! Cold-cast copper spritzed with a patina solution to oxidize it! :D (I haven’t taken the picture yet, d’oh!)

I was so blown away when the chatbot randomly picked me for the first drawing, because of how interested I am in cold-casting!

Anyway, read more to see the video… Read more…

Week 10, 2016 – Props, Propaganda, Programming, and Projects.

First of all, let’s take a moment to talk about prop making;  It’s something that I have a real interest in but I can never seem to afford moldmaking and casting supplies…  Well, I’m not going to let that stop me from making some props before I have the ability to duplicate them.

Right now, my biggest obstacle– putting aside money issues and for the moment just looking at what I have –is the surface quality of my 3D prints.  To that end I spent some money on some basic necessities like Bondo body filler, Bondo spot putty, some quality automotive wet/dry sandpaper, and a sanding block.  Bill Doran has a great video on using Bondo, and his video on preparing mold masters also contains some applicable info.

Propaganda! By which I mean videoblogging!  I just got a cheap little steadicam thing for my video camera so I can do handheld shots that are actually stable.  It’s really quite something.

Programming! I’ve got some cool Arduino ideas I want to play with, one of them is inspired by this cool post I found about making an Arduino Wi-Fi scanner that displays the SSIDs of open wifi APs on a little OLED display.

Projects! I’ve got a 3D printing and prop making project in the works based on my current favorite videogame; Tom Clancy’s The Division, which inspired an additional project which I can’t talk about right now… ;D

Gonna be pretty cool though!

A Winner Is Me!

I’m a slave to memes, get over it.

So, out of the blue, I got a package this morning… I wasn’t expecting a package at all, let alone one from Digi-Key, because while they may be one of my two go-to domestic suppliers for electronic components (The other being Mouser), I hadn’t even ordered anything from them!

When I opened the package I got quite the surprise.  I was greeted by a brand new extra-shiny Fluke 117 ‘Electrician’s True RMS Multimeter’, and the appropriate soft carrying case… (Total retail value: about $225, not including the Digi-Key logo stickers. ;P)  Needless to say I was ecstatic, my best multimeter is some Chinese bootleg that– while it has served me well enough –I can’t vouch for the accuracy of like I can a Fluke.

Yessss! A real multimeter!

Yessss! A real multimeter!

Okay, I had however taken part in a contest via their Twitter account, as I have many times in the past.  The contest was a series of ‘word jumble’ puzzles, one every day, all week.  Each jumbled word had circled letters that made up the answer to an initial question… And the whole thing was rather fun, though I really wonder where they got the puzzles…it’s like there’s a book of ‘Electrical Engineer Dad Jokes’ out there.  Example: “Q: Why was the capacitor angry at the marketing department? A: It’s not a farad.”

In case you aren’t enough of an enormous NERD to have gotten that– count your lucky stars –the joke is: farad (unit of capacitance) -> homophone of ‘fair ad’ -> etc. (cue sad-trombone.wav)

Yes, they were all terrible puns and wordplay like that.  Seriously, is there a book of those? I want it in case I ever need to torture somebody to death without leaving any evidence.

Amusing aside: Out of curiosity I tracked the package, and it was shipped the afternoon of the second day of the contest…which pretty much means I had to have been the first day’s daily winner. :D  There was an overall grand prize as well, a stunningly-expensive Fluke ‘ScopeMeter’…a portable full-color digital oscilloscope.  No idea who won that, though. (Obviously not me. And frankly, if I had I would’ve sold it on eBay, bought a cheap bench scope, and used the difference to help fund my business.)

Lost but Never Forgotten

Posting some art I’m generating from mechanical drawings of my old projects.  This is a subject that will come up again soon, I promise. ;)

pendant_blueprint

[More to come!]

Week 05, 2016 – How Soon is Now?

Okay, I got off to a slow start this year.  But things are looking very promising.

First things first, on a sad note one of my internet comrades, Tim Lazicki, had his house burn down on Christmas.  Some of us banded together to make a new PC for him… It seemed like the appropriate thing to do, after all if it weren’t for computers and internet access, none of us would know him…and his absence due to no longer having one had not gone unnoticed.  (I’ll write a separate in-depth post about this later.) Anyway, working on a new computer for Tim inspired a few other projects which I will be posting about…

The new year also marked my acquisition of a video camera.  The quality isn’t the best without super-duper lighting, which I don’t yet possess, but it’s a hella nice little camera… A Canon VIXIA HF-R62.  I got it very cheap right before Canon debuted the R72…which seems like a thinly-veiled excuse to go back to getting full price on a camera… Since as far as I can tell it is all but identical to the R62 in every way.

I plan to start shooting YouTube videos regularly… Things would go a lot easier if I got some contributions to that end, and I will be making a Patreon and a couple different Amazon Wish Lists once I start posting videos.

I’m going to replace my previous ‘brain dump’ post type with “What’s On The ‘Bench?” videos, where I do a 1-2 minute (each) pitch about any ideas I have or things I’m working on.  This way I can try and both gauge and garner interest in nascent ideas in a more natural and conversational way than simply writing a post about them.

I got so sidetracked with stuff after removing the stock bed of the laser cutter that I never got around to draining the water or doing anything about the coolant loop, and now I think there’s algae growing in it… FML  Oh well, these things happen.  I ordered some Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate to add to the coolant loop, that oughta take care of the stuff.  (Good thing I hadn’t finished the coolant system and added all the water yet.)

Things are getting started, I would expect videos to start showing up any time now.

Subscription-Based Licensing; You’re Doing it WRONG, Autodesk!

Well, here it is, exactly one week before my birthday, and looking at Autodesk’s site this morning, I stumbled across a wonderful little present they’ve decided to give me; as of the 31st, they will no longer offer the perpetual licenses that I have been hoping to one day be able to afford, opting instead for an equally unaffordable subscription plan. Fuck me, right?!

As far as I can tell, they won’t even be offering suites anymore. (See update at bottom!)  You used to be able to get a whole suite of apps, such as 3D Studio Max, Inventor, AutoCAD and a ton of others, together for, what? Nine grand, one time? Now, you’ve got to pay like $1,900 a year just for Inventor.  Which is fine for all their big corporate customers who make all their software purchases without a second thought anyway, but any individual who isn’t a student is basically fucked.  Leaving people like me with no choice but to continue ‘stealing’ their software.

Yeah, I know, “What could some unwashed underachieving poor like you possibly know about such things?” Well, for starters, I can do the maths*, so that makes exactly one of us, Autodesk.  I also know that when Adobe launched Creative Cloud in May 2012, and went Subscription-only a year later, they didn’t try to put the screws to their customers and make it too expensive for individuals and micro-businesses.  An individual can get the whole fucking Creative Cloud suite– which actually has more apps than the old Creative Suite ever did –for $49.99 a month.  That’s affordable.  So affordable that it’s actually less trouble to go legit than to keep pirating it. Think about that.  Adobe made the Creative Cloud so inexpensive that it’s literally not worth the hassle to steal it.

And you tell me, even with such low prices…how’s Adobe doing?

learntomaths

Spoiler Alert: Their stock price has almost TRIPLED since they began offering Creative Cloud,
a subscription plan so cheap that even poor-ass people like me can afford it.

 

And because some people just have to be taught visually…
additional art courtesy of Google Finance:

moreartthanmaths

(Click to embiggen.)

 

 

* Oh, right, ‘the maths’… I almost forgot.  How many people out there do you suppose pirate your software, Autodesk? What if you made the subscription price more reasonable and even just ten percent of those people started paying for it?  Well, you know what they’re paying you now? In the immortal words of the hero of Canton:

“Ten percent of nothin’ is, let me do the math here…
nothin’ and a nothin’, carry the nothin’…”

 

 

UPDATE: Okay, so it turns out you can get a Suite subscription, the site was just harder to navigate than it should have been and there’s some UI/UX people who need to be shot out of cannons.  Not that it really matters, I mean, sure a whole suite is maybe $2,000 to $3,200 a year, instead of $1,900+ a year for one friggin’ app…but $160-260/month still isn’t affordable for the kinds of users I’m talking about. Plus, there should be an a la carte suite option so people aren’t saddled with a lot of apps they’re not going to use just because they want more than one app at all.

Week 50, 2015 – Quick Update… Quick like a Laser!

A blog post, on time?! Is it an illusion, or am I one miracle closer to sainthood?! (Is there an evil equivalent of a saint?)

I still haven’t posted the November Acquisitions– which ought to be a hell of a post considering I spent $2,500+! –nor the December Acquisitions… (Blame Fallout 4; 130 hours in and I haven’t touched the main storyline. great game!) So just bear with me for a moment!

Yesterday I finally got the stupid exhaust duct out of the laser cutter, having long since removed the original bed.  This required that I completely remove the XY table assembly.  I wasn’t too keen on doing this, but it turned out that it couldn’t really go back any way but how it was because of the tight tolerances. One interesting thing of note; the holes in the enclosure’s mounting flanges were properly made as part of its construction…but the ones in the XY assembly were very roughly drilled in the steel U-beams with no cleanup, I really don’t get it.  It’s like the whole XY assembly was handmade and put into an off-the-shelf machine enclosure. The cut-out in the rear beam for the exhaust was rough-hewn with some manner of saw, too. (And not even deburred!) In a perfect world, I would have taken the XY assembly completely out of the machine and cleaned those up, deburred the edges, and so on…but life’s imperfect.

Anyway, now I have to align the mirrors… I needed to do it anyway because I hadn’t after receiving the unit, but now that I’ve taken the whole bloody carriage out and put it back in, I definitely have to do it.  There are some helpful 3D-printable tools for this, which I will link to down below.

After that’s taken care of, I can find the focal point of my laser and that will help me determine how to mount my new honeycomb bed.  I ripped out the shitty old bed which was utterly useless, and now with it and the exhaust duct gone, I can cut/engrave basically the entire space within the XY table area… That’s like 12×14 inches, certainly a fair sight better than the 9×12 the machine is supposed to do*, and it sure makes the 12×12 sheets of birch plywood I picked up more useful.  (*And the work-holding clamp in the stock bed had a capacity of like 2.5×6 inches or something absurd like that, and you only got the 9×12 if you laid something on TOP of that.)

Though, after everything is back to normal, I’m going to want to install my new air-assist head and high-quality 18mm Zinc-Selenium lens… The air assist will aid in cutting by blowing smoke out of the way of the beam, as well as helping to keep stuff from getting deposited on the lens and mirrors. (And blowing out small flare-ups.) The lens is purported to give a 15-20% increase in power over the regular lenses they were selling, and I’m sure those are already a little better than the stock lens.

Doing that will of course require me to readjust the bed height to account for the new lens height and focal length…but such is life.  I don’t want to do all my upgrades at once and then try to figure out why everything’s gone to hell.

Links!

Here’s some helpful links for laser cutter users.

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