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 emblem in different materials…then she gave them away to three lucky viewers. (Well, two lucky viewers, and a glitterbomb victim.)

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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!

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.

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.

Week 46, 2015 – Radiation and the Stimulated Emission Thereof

A new post? After Fallout 4 was released?! And it’s actually ON TIME?!?!?!  Yeah, I amaze even myself sometimes.

Five days ago, Fallout 4 dropped.  So I’ve kinda been doing nothing but playing that since then…  But that doesn’t mean nothing of note has been going on, because yesterday… This happened.

Excuse the certain earthy potato-like flavor of these pics, I used a Samsung Galaxy S3 to snap them, because I’m sick of not getting these sorts of liveblagging images when I can’t be bothered to set up a bunch of lights and a tripod.  I need a point-and-shoot that can do RAW. :<
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A FREAKIN’ LASER! From China, with cheapness.

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In its new (at least temporary) home between the 3D printer and the NEO-GEO cabinet.

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The inside. I’m going to need a power bed upgrade and an air assist… And I’d like to get rid of that stupid exhaust duct.

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A 40 Watt, water-cooled, CO2 laser tube.

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The second test, after using the laser to engrave the word ‘TEST’… I wonder what it is?

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It seems Vault Boy approves of my use of ‘Science!’ Guess I can go back to Fallout 4 now.

I’ll do a more in-depth look at the laser soon, as well as the November acquisitions post.

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.

Week 41, 2015 – October Acquisitions

Gotta feed that printer! Filament from hell to breakfast, read the breakdown after the jump! Read more…

Week 40, 2015 – Ideate, Iterate, Create!

Sorry, again with the ‘pictures on the way’, I have to clear off the workbench so I can take pictures of a bunch of stuff…so no pictures in this post yet.

Yes, I know the first weekly of the month is usually the acquisitions update…but most of my purchases won’t arrive until next week, so…
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I’ve been busy with a couple projects this weekend, related to some of the stuff I bought– the few bits that are here already, namely some audio rigging for my podcasting/video setup –and I figure this is a good time to cover this bit of process.

As someone who has spent the majority of his adult life ‘almost making things’– always failing for one reason or another –it is not lost on me just how absolutely mind-blowing it is that I now have a literal god damned magic box that just substantiates my ideas from thin air.  (Or more accurately, from the 1s and 0s of the designs on my computer, and spools of plastic filament.)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah. So, I got this cheap little microphone boom, and I got a new mic cable.  First things first, I needed a way to attach the cable cleanly to the boom and manage it.  Calls for some little cable clips, methinks.

Ideate!

btw, I thought ‘ideate’ was a ridiculous portmanteau I came up with, but apparently it’s an actual for-reals word that only sounds ridiculous and made-up. Go figure.

I figured I’d better keep it simple; no point getting flummoxed at this stage of the process by trying to outsmart myself design-wise… So just a simple double-clip. A square clip to attach to the boom’s square tube frame, and a circular clip for the cable.  Out came one of my trusty digital calipers, and soon I had the measurements; the frame tubing was nominally .410″ square, and the XLR mic cable was a little under .250″ in diameter.  So those are the numbers I worked with.

Three minutes later, I had the simple design ready to print.  Dropped it into Simplify3D, warmed up the printer, and 5 minutes later, I had the part.  Fit like a charm! It was slightly loose though, and that brings us to…

Iterate!

One of the wonders of 3D printing is pretty easily summed up in the name of the process/industry it has given rise to; Rapid Prototyping.  Not only does it allow you to near-instantaneously go from idea to reality, but to quickly and inexpensively go through countless design iterations, working out flaws, testing refinements, and so on.  I mean, it costs me $0.11 worth of plastic to print eight of these clips, so printing one, trying it, tweaking some things, and printing another hardly costs me anything, except time…and at 5 minutes a pop, that’s not a huge concern when I can be working on plenty of other things (Or relaxing!) while the printer does its work.  So, anyway… The clip was a little loose on the frame, so I made the dimensions a little smaller.  That still didn’t seem to do it, so I tried again, but now it was too small, and still loose…there was something missing. So I took the first one, and squeeze the legs together– bending them a little –and when I stuck it on, it stayed put. Aha!

So this time, I set the dimension back to what it was, but I designed a 5° inward bend on the legs. (I had also, in an earlier iteration, merged the outlines of the circle and square completely, to make the cable lie flatter on the boom…the original design only had them overlap 50%.)

Create!

Knowing this design was as perfect as it was going to get, I printed eight of them.  About 30 minutes and 1.8 meters of filament later, I had them, and they were great!  They still don’t stay put on the frame perfectly– not like on the cable, but the cable has a really ‘grabby’ rubber surface –but they’re no longer loose enough to slide around under their own weight.  Maybe I should try dual-extrusion printing them with a NinjaFlex inner wall to grip the metal tubing.  (I still haven’t received my Teflon tubing yet, so I haven’t reassembled the left extruder…)

Week 37, 2015 – Everything’s (not) Ruined Forever!

So… That went well.

I ended up with a hard plug of PLA in the teflon tube of my printer’s hotend, and trying to clear it I mangled the teflon tube.  Of course, to get even that far, I had to completely disassemble the hotend.  And since I was doing that, I figured it was a good time to replace the thermocouple on the left extruder. And since I was doing that, I figured I’d do some upgrades I’d been planning on. And since I was doing that, I figured… Yeah, the slope just kept getting slipperier and slipperier.

Things didn’t go terribly as you can can see in the few pictures I took…  Nonetheless, things were not working correctly.

Dual-extruder assembly removed from printer.

Dual-extruder assembly removed from printer.

 

Old thermocouple unplugged from MightyBoard.

Old thermocouple unplugged from MightyBoard.

So, I got it back together, with some modifications…  I like the replacement top plate… The 3D-printed strain relief for the cable bundle and the pneumatic press-fittings for the PTFE bowden tubing are fantastic additions.  However, the spring I used in the new 3D-printed extruder was not up to the task and was simply not capable of extruding anything…

Partially re-assembled extruder.

Partially re-assembled extruder.

I ended up disassembling and reassembling the whole thing two or three more times before I got it back up and running.  Still, I’m not happy with the hotend barrels I got off Amazon, they have PTFE linings with a 2mm ID and 4mm OD, and are threaded full-length.  The original barrels only had threads at the end, the rest was smooth, and used PTFE tubing with a 2mm ID but a 3mm OD, and the temperatures and behavior of the new parts were very different.  Also, the original nozzles butted up against the barrel, but the PTFE tube extended down into the nozzle…  The new barrels’ linings don’t stick out…but I do have additional nozzles designed to interface like that…so I put those on there.  Nonetheless, I’m going to try and get some 3mm OD tubing.

UPDATE 2015-09-16: Teflon Tubing Trials and Tribulations.
I couldn’t actually get PTFE tubing via Amazon Prime, so I had to order it from China– meaning it will be here whenever it bloody-well feels like it –and instead I ordered some PFA tubing that was rated for the same temps as PTFE.  Anyway, that’s a god damned lie, because when I went to print PETG, the god damned PFA tube liquified.  Not ‘melted’, not ‘distorted’ or ‘deformed’…it straight-up fucking liquified, leaving a quarter-inch blockage of rock-hard PFA in the end of the barrel.  Managed to get printer back up and running by using one of the new nozzles, and the old barrel, and cutting the original PTFE liner so that it’d fit. (And thus removing the part that’d been all crinkled up.)

Melted PFA tubing.

Melted PFA tubing.

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