Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

So what happens when your full time employment disappears and for a little over a month you are a stay-at-home Dad like I’ve been? You stay busier than ever and build really cool shit!

20161204_084604

I gotta say that as far as my modding goes, this has been the most productive and fun month since the days of the Cross Plane and it feels good to have the time again to be doing this. That said though, my new full time job will be starting up Wednesday, but it’s much much closer to home than my last one and I’m finally out of Corporate America which had been digging at me for years. So now I won’t come home hating my life nor will I be spending two hours of my day in the car just to get there and back. Time to mod will be less than it has been, but there will be more of it than there was for certain!

Also, once this project pictured above is completed (look for a dedicated post about that in the coming week), I’ll be starting on a new N64p Commission for You Tube & Twitter personality, Mithzan. This will most likely be the highest profile system I’ve ever done and I’ve taken steps to insure it will be the best work of mine to date. What those steps are I cannot say just yet, but shortly you will see a big upgrade to the capabilities of DB. Some exciting stuff coming down the road here very soon!

Last night I finished off a small side project that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. Though not a complex project or visually remarkable, this new tool will help out a lot in the future as I dive into new systems and try new things with the old. So yes, I basically just made myself a 3D Printed TV to mount on the wall in front of my work bench.

20160603_204051

20160604_104205

The screen itself is a 5.6″ 4:3 Ratio 480p screen which plays nicely with older consoles and since older is what I’m usually working on, it seemed the logical choice. (plus I that’s all I had to work with anyway). A good benefit though is this can take VGA and HDMI input as well as composite so there’s a wide range of possible uses for this. The bummer though is this screen board did not have audio output, so anything HDMI will be a pain to test audio with. However, there is an L&R input for composite or VGA (or anything audio for that matter) to goes to one of RDC’s original SmaIIamp boards, which in turn power the speakers. I had to add a 5V step down reg though as the reg on the screen had 1.3V, 3.3V and 12V…pretty useless as far powering an amp that requires 5V to run. Oh well, had a few spares kicking around to I used one of them up.

20160603_203438

20160604_091150So again, all in all, not a very complicated project but hopefully a useful one. This took probably 3 hours to design, 8 hours to print and 4 hours to wire & assemble and has probably $120 worth of parts and materials. So all in all, not that bad…could have bought one for cheaper I’m sure, but where’s the fun in that?

Next, an update on my current N64 Commission. It’s moving along, though a bit slower due to the above project as the test box was/is needed for the systems completion. The front half is just about complete though, but I decided that the tact switch board for the screen and audio controls needed to be made into a real PCB as well and those are currently at the fab shop getting produced.

20160528_115537

20160528_190447

Now the back halves need the same loving attention. Currently they are sitting on my desk covered in filler that needs to be sanded, refilled, sanded, primed, sanded primed, painted and clear coated…with a few more sanding in there somewhere. But yeah, that’s where things stand right now and I hope to start work on this again very shortly. Thanks for checking in!

 

Alright, so I’m pleased to annoucne the SG-N64 is now For Sale on Ebay. This went live at 3AM this morning and already has a bid which is a very encouraging sign!

I also made my 3D Printed files for the system available online at My Mini Factory. So if anyone is interested in downloading and giving this system a rip, feel free to give it a shot!

But with the coming sale of the SG-N64, I was able to finally order my new CNC driver which is what I’ve needed to get my big machine working again. Rather than pretend I know what I’m doing in the future, I’ve opted for the tried and tested, all-in-one package that even though is more money, will actually work the way the machine was intended.

The GeckoDrive G540 shown below is an example of what I’ve ordered. This takes the guess work out of single drivers and three step USB conversions to just a single interface for all 3 and run by the parallel port like my old system. I can’t wait for this to come in so I can finally….finally get my shop back up and running again! I do have a couple projects I’m still working on and requests have started to come over on the new RFQ page, so things are moving forward!

g540

 

Gear VR

So with the holidays coming to close and the new year in full action, I realized its been yet again a couple months in the way of a meaningful post. Truth be told, the time just hasn’t been there to make progress on my shop, therefore no new projects have been completed either. So in the interest of keeping the blog from stalling, I figured I’d post my first thoughts about a new Christmas present I gave to myself and received yesterday.

As some of you may know, VR is about to take the main stream by storm, with the heavy hitter Oculus and their flagship product, “The Rift” leading the way with its upcoming commercial release. But another product they had been working on with Samsung is the Gear VR headset, which essentially takes the power of the new Samsung Galaxy series of phones and turns it into the main display and processing center for a completely mobile VR experience. This had been released in beta forms for the Galaxy Note 4, but has been re-released for the more updated 6 phone series and I recently just picked up the Galaxy 6 Edge, pretty much for the sole reason of using it with this headset.

oculus-home

The initial boot up was quite simple. As soon an you plugged your phone into the unit, it told you to take it out and install the required software. This happened automatically after that and took about 20 minutes because my Internet connection sucks. But once all the software was installed, and the tutorial was complete, the menu showed itself in the middle of a huge room and the sense of presence this gave me was much more than expected from a headset for $99. It was almost immediate as to how quickly the interface was learned and ease of use the touch pad and back button were to give you a basic input function.

Though this unit can’t give the full VR experience that the Rift will do when it comes out, for 360 Degree photos and videos, this has been a remarkable experience. Just in a day I’ve been too Rome, Paris and Florance. I’ve flown with the Blue Angles and surfed through a blue tunnel wave in the Pacific, road on a speeder on Tatoonie and I’m just scratching the surface. Once my Internet connection is improved (installing Fiber tomorrow), I’ll give the Oculus video a try and see how it feels to have a whole movie theater to myself.

All in all I’ve been very impressed with this headset and it’s getting me even more excited for what the big boys are going to bring to the table when they start shipping. One thing is for sure, though we will still never be able to be in two places at once, these headsets and VR are going to make getting somewhere else a great deal faster.

To my friends, Beta, Aux and Tchay, you guys have done a remarkable job with this in the past few years and I though the original basement is gone, that meet-up allowed me to meet some great people who in turn have put out some amazing products. I look forward to the time I can get out to the west coast again and see what else you guys have brewing!

IMAG2207

Well on the heels of the worst month ever as far as progress goes, I started on the rebuild of my CNC’s control box. This involves putting all the components of the CNC control box and the PC itself in to a single enclosure which will become the main HUB for the machine. I did this last time with my other machine only it was a table top controller and was made out of wood and sheet plastic. This version is a bit simpler as it’s just using a standard electrical pull box as its housing.

What’s nice about this is as well as consolidating all the components into a single enclosure, I’ll be wiring everything to a single AC input and breaking it out internally to the 3 power supplies that are needed to make it work. The above pic shows the front face plate that I 3D printed for the main power, the pump and the computer.  The pics below shows the full assembly and that will be mounted to the pull box.

IMAG2218

IMAG2219

 

Have to admit I’m happy with how it turned out an hopefully over the next week or so I ‘ll be able to get this machine up and running again so I can finally stop moving backwards.

The Chaos That Has Been My Modding Life

The Chaos That Has Been My Modding Life

maxtor-hdd

That picture about sums up what my past few weeks have been like in the basement, which all stemmed from upgrading to my new CNC machine. Never has one event lead to such a pain in the ass chain of events that have ended up costing me a hard drive, hundreds of dollars, countless hours of lost time and a complete shake-up of a system I had down pat and knew my way around. So let’s explain how my month went with a list of noteworthy events.

Event 1: The New CNC Machine Arrives

Now it goes without saying that any new machine you bring into your shop is going to take some time to arrange and set up properly. This was certainly the case with my new machine as it was about 4 times the size of the old one and had a couple components that the other one didn’t all which required space. So I had to do some hard remolding of the space set aside to accommodate. That was fine, I knew that was coming and was ready for it. Within a week I had the whole set-up ready and was getting ready for some test cuts.

Event 2: The New CNC Machine Get’s An Upgrade

It was soon after though, I realized that the stock machine really was not equipped the way that I wanted it to be, i.e. I was having trouble getting the machine calibrated properly and went searching online for answers. Long story short, after much conversing with the forums and You Tube users, I decided to upgrade my Stepper Drivers to make the machine cut smoother and be more reliable that the stock version. That was the plan. So after shelling out $140 for the new stepper drivers and spending another week wiring and re-positioning the configuration of the physical control box, my machine ended up completely dead.

Event 3: The New Upgrade Needs an Upgrade To Work

This is where I started to get really pissed. Why weren’t they working? Well, as it turned out, the stepper drivers I put into the control box required a different interface between what I was using before (a 25 pin parallel port) and what they needed to interface with the computer. I was going to have to get a USB converter so the stepper signals could be powered via 5v USB connection. This converter (a UC100) cost $120. I shelled out the cash for that, hooked it up and installed the driver software…and guess what. My G-Code software which I had been using with my old system was too outdated to be compatible with the USB converter. Soooo….

Event 4. The Software Upgrade to the Hardware Upgrade for the Machine Upgrade

Are you seeing a pattern yet? Basically it’s been in the form of a giant middle finger waiting for me at every step of this process. The fortunate part about this upgrade though is that the software the converter needed was a free upgrade, or at least I could get by with the trial version. This new version of Mach3 was about 15 releases ahead of what I was using, but all seemed to be well and good. The program was compatible with the interface, and I could jog my machine so from a functional stand point, everything was in at least working order, though not dialed in. But it was time for a test, so I prepared a .dxf file for cutting, opened the new version of Mach3 to import it and oh, sorry, that import feature which was the key to my whole CNCing operation was no longer a part of program. No, now instead of Mach3 being a simple editor for G-code, i.e. being able to program your layer order, feed rates, depths and spindle speeds, it was now only a g-code reader that you had to load up a .tap file with all that already pre programmed. So yes, you guessed it, I needed yet another piece of software to take my .dxf file and turn them into usable .tap file.

Event 5. The Software Addition to the Software Upgrade

By this point, my head is feeling like it’s going to explode. I mean how many f’ing things am I going to have to buy and relearn to use this thing? Oh but the deal got so much sweeter like a when a carton of milk goes sour and you take a giant swig. The 2.5 axis drawing programs are plenty out there. Some are free which have decent features, some are professional with far more than I’d ever use and some meet in the middle. The program that I found to be the most intuitive to me was one called Sheetcam TNG. This worked very similar to my old 2D Design program I used to use, but this was designed for CAM applications and I quickly fell in love with its features and ease of use. Problem was, the full version was $110, another chunk of change I was getting liberated of. So I bit the bullet, paid for the license and…paypal confirms you have just paid soandso $165USD…wait WHAT?! Son of a bitch…it was 110 Pounds (GBP). OK whatever, I’m done even being mad about this anymore.

Event 6. The Meltdown

With everything that had happened within that month, it finally looked like everything was all in a line and all I was going to need to do was do some fine tuning to get my machine to function smoothly and accurately.  But the fates were again kind to someone else and a total bitch to me, and as I was about ready to install the license file for Sheetcam on my main computer, (the one that controls my 3D printer and is pretty much my life line) the screen made a blink…then another blink, then a great big hue of blue flooded my office, with the pale white words of “Fatal Error” overlaying my monitor….no no no, please no.

Event 7. “Thank you for calling Dell Tech Support, my name is Allen, how may I help you?”

First off, your name is not fucking Allen!!! Second, though I have nothing but praise for the tech support that helped me out, the results ended up being something I could have done myslef if they still shipped backup copies of the OS. But, the back story goes that whatever happened to my computer, it wiped out my OS completely. So after spending a couple hours running diagnostics on the hardware in the machine, it was determined to be a software issue and because my machine was past it’s 1 year warranty, guess what. I needed to purchase a software contract to get the system software so I could bring my system back to life. A $240 software contract. Somehow FML just didn’t do how I was feeling much justice and I was soon FMLing my afterlife as well.

Event 8. The SSD Upgrade

Because we couldn’t be sure at the time if I’d be able to salvage the data on my drive that went down, I decided that it would make more sense get a new Solid State drive to replace my main drive for a fresh install. May as well point out that was $100. Turns out this was the right move because as it was later discovered, my main drive was more or less failing because of a mechanical issue….which really really sucks because if all that data is gone…I don’t even want to think of it. I mean most of my work files and all my CAD/CAM and modding stuff is all saved and backed up on Google Drive so that is secure, but my pictures, my iTunes, my videos were all on the main drive because my back-up drive had crashed a few months before and I was still extracting the raw data and going through that. So the HD has been sent to a professional to see if I can get that recovered which I hoping works. So here I was with a fresh install and all the windows updates and drivers installed. Time to install my most important program, Solidworks. We’re sorry, Solidworks has encountered an installation error and has to close.

Event 9. The Reboot of the Reboot

How can this be? It fucking worked perfectly before, why in the holy hell would it not work on a clean install? Well as it turns out, after hours (and I mean hours upon hours total with this computer meltdown alone) I had to format my new drive and reinstall the OS and before uploading any of the new Windows updates, then install the program. This worked and the process of updates and reinstalling all the software programs started again.

So this has been my month and if I had gotten to Event 10 I’m sure I would have had a mental break down, all because I wanted to “Upgrade” my set-up. I haven’t had the heart or want to tally up the total losses this one event has cost me, but for everything that has gone into this, I better get the best work of my life out of it. This has taken me to a whole new level of frustration and pain out of one of the things that kept me sane and brought me joy (aside from baby and wife). I suppose though seeing what I persevered through does show a devotion and love for the work I do, so hopefully in the near future it will pay off.

I still haven’t got the settings perfect on my machine and I probably have at least 1 more upgrade to go before I get it there, but I think I’m over the hump and within the next couple of weeks I’ll have had a few successful tests that I can regain my confidence. But if I have to endure something like this again, there will be a big fire sale in Bradford for anyone interested.