20170305_111519

Rhea Grace Downing, 3-3-2017, 6Lbs 14oz, 19″ Long

So Friday was a hellofaday as my wife and I welcomed our second child into this world, little baby Rhea! (Ray-Ah) Yes, I’d known she was on the way for quite some time now, but you’re never prepared for the phone call that today is that day. I went into work early on Friday, March 3rd around 6:45 AM to help with a big job and at 8:10 the call came that it was time to go to the hospital and as it turned out, it wasn’t a moment too soon. We arrived at the hospital (which is an hour away from where we live) and were officially admitted at 10:07 AM. At 10:41 AM she was in my wife’s arms on the bed….a window of 31 minutes. I mean god damn…this baby girl wasn’t fuckin’ around.

All things considered, this was as good as anyone could have hoped for and we are again blessed with another beautiful and healthy baby which makes all these hobby creations seem the pale in comparison.

That said…yes, what’s going on with the projects? Well for the last several months now I’ve been working on an N64p commission which is finally finishing up. This took way longer and had more problems than any other I’ve done to date because I tried utilizing my new Form 2 to test it’s limits. I’ll never again do a 3D printed portable the way I did this one, but the learning curve was worth it and once this project is closed up and completed, it’ll still be one of my finer works and for good reason.

But more on that when it comes time and on the subject of time…suddenly now I’m realizing I’m going to have next to none with two kids and a full time job. Simply put, once these couple of projects finish up, I’m not going to have the time to do any full-blown, from-the-ground-up portables anymore…not that I’ve done anything new in quite some time anyway. But I’ll be changing the commissions page a bit to gear toward the N64 almost exclusively as I’ve got pretty much everything already down to turn them around fairly quickly now which for awhile will be the only thing I have time to really work with.

So yes, I’ve got a couple fun projects that will be released soon and hopefully another started before the end of the month. Lotsa work to do between then but at least I can say I’m not bored!

2000 You Tube Subs!

Posted: 01/17/2017 in Uncategorized

2k-sub

Pretty freaking cool to see that rounded number today. I dunno, it’ll be 7 years ago next week since I started my You Tube channel and yes, I’ve compared this to some of my other modding buddies before which these numbers don’t hold a candle to a single video of theirs, but it’s very cool to see the “slow but steady” pace start to flare up a bit. That being said though, with my current project utilizing the new equipment the basement has acquired and the customer this project is going to, I’ve got high hopes I might finally push through these doldrums that seem to have been trying to deter me from achieving the success I’ve been reaching for in my work.

It’s a good hope anyway but these next few weeks will see if all these improvements that have been made will pay off!

But…on a more sober note and one that makes all this post pretty much meaningless…this is my first post since a high school friend, loyal reader and genuinely amazing person on so many different levels….left us….#Matthew Boyce, you were the personality that every being should encompass. Truth and Rebellion against none-truth…you knew very young there was the gritty, there was the hate and there was something you could do about it…and you did. I’m going to miss you man…really I am. It makes no sense to me why the best are taken from us the soonest…perhaps they are needed elsewhere…good thought to make someone feel better, but it still doesn’t numb the cut for me. RIP man…

2017….I wish these years would slow TF down, they seem to be adding up faster than I’d like them too lately. A lot has happened, more than what a lot of celebrities wanted to be a part of it seems, and a lot more is on the way. Christmas was great, (started watching the old Home Improvement episodes again as I got my old man the complete collection) and the New Year was peaceful and absent Maria Carey since boycotting the ball after Dick Clark croaked.

But, that said, it’s been a roller coaster ride over here. New job, new baby on the way, no consistency to the daily grind…yeah there’s been a lot to take in recently, but among all that, I’ve been moving forward as best I can with DB.

So, as eluded to before in the past post, DB has acquired some very cool new improvements. About 3 weeks ago, after sealing a new commission for Mithzan Productions, I finally pulled the trigger on a new SLA 3D printer I’ve been wanting for years. Downing’s Basement is now the proud owner of a Formlabs, Form 2 SLA 3D printer!

Unlike my other 3D Printer which is a fairly standard FDM printer, this machine is a Stereolithography (SLA) printer, which means there are no materials extruded, rather a beam of UV laser light shoots up from the bottom of a liquid resin containment tank and hardens everything in it’s path onto the build plate. This goes on one layer at a time and once one layer finishes, the build plate steps up a notch and the process begins again. And because there are no motors or anything pulling an extruder, there is no friction on the build surface so micro geometry is possible. It’s a truly amazing machine.

The unboxing video above shows off what one can expect when opening up the base package and there really wasn’t a whole lot of set-up involved that required any in-depth discussion on how to do it. A few thoughts on the purchase and we’ll start with the good.

Print Quality – Absolutely amazing! As the pictures below show, the tolerances and clean finish of the parts are stunning and save a great deal of time with post production. There still needs to be a fine sanding done to the parts, but no major filling/sanding work like is present with FDM prints if you want to have a smooth/clean finish. Also the resin sands extremely well, better I’d say than ABS.

20161208_064007

My first print, an NES D-pad that I designed a few years ago. This was also the first print I did on my FDM printer. This is before the alcohol rinse and still on the build plate, but you get an idea of the quality this thing produces.

20161210_195311

SLA vs FDM. The red buttons were done on my standard 3D printer, the black on the Form 2. Though the pic isn’t as clear, you can certainly see there is a big resolution difference between the two. The Z/R/L characters are actually printed into the part with the SLA.

20161213_201226

Same as I did for the Breakout Box on the Hesline, this replaces the front face plate on the JB-58 from poly case with what I need for the extra controllers and the HDMI port. Though I was able to use this, this part was technically my first fail because of the lines right above the HDMI opening. Those were supposed to be flush, no idea why it did that, but they sanded down easy enough.

20161222_200827

But as far as detail goes, this thing can’t be beat. That’s a .03″ x .05″ spacer line on the top edge there so that when the two case halves come together, there is a small gap that makes it look just like an injection molded part. Truly amazing precision.

Ease of use and multiple materials – The other big selling point for me is that there are several different kinds of resins that can be bought that support several different features. For example, there is a flexible resin that would act very much like a contact pad for a gaming controller’s buttons, which would allow me to print my own contact pads making the need for tact switches obsolete. There are also Cast-able and Tough resins that one could even make small Injection molds out of. And the interface and the software are very easy to learn and navigate. It’s a very versatile machine on so many levels.

However, with the good come the bad but I use that word lightly because this machine was not designed with a hobbyist in mind, it was designed for the working professional who needed to turn around true-to-form prototypes. So, ergo, most of the bad I’d give against this machine has to do with the expense.

COST – This is by far the biggest investment I’ve put into the shop and it’s only because of the number of jobs I’ve got lined up for portable commissions that I was able to pull this off. And it’s not just for the printer itself, but the resin per liter is 10X more expensive than a Kilo of filament and that’s just for the basic stuff. Granted right now I’ve used up almost 1/2 a liter of resin in over 3 weeks, printing almost everyday, so you do get some mileage out of a liter. But the fact that the resin tanks are considered consumable and will last for about 2 liters of resin needs to be accounted for. On top of this, if you wanted to change resin colors or material type, you’d need a new tank and probably a new print head so you wouldn’t have to clean off the material from the one your using.

Speed and Build Size – The speed is the other peeve. With a laser no wider than a human hair, printing at 100% infill, you can imagine that you’re only going to get one print set for the night and have to take care of finished part in the morning. Finishing is also a bit of a chore because it requires a 10min alcohol bath to clean any uncured resin from the part, and then a recommended hour long UV tanning session under a salon nail light to fully harden the part. The build volume is also a bit smaller than optimal which in this most recent project made me take on a more modular approach to the casing.

But again…this was not built for hobbyist, this was built for professionals and the price of precision is a high one. It was a risk to take this on but I feel the benefits it’s going to bring to the shop will pay itself back in good time. I’m very excited to see what else comes of this and how it improves my projects in the future!

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!

So it may have taken a great deal longer to complete than anticipated, but my latest N64 Portable Commission has been completed and is getting ready to make it’s trip to “The Land Down Under”. The Hesline 64 is by far the most complete unit I’ve done to date as far as N64p’s are concerned and I’m very pleased with the final outcome…I actually don’t want to part with it, but alas, it must go to the one who paid for it.

Of course, though I’ve done many of these at this point, there’s always at least one problem that I run into with every build and this one was no different. But of course, because this was an European PAL region system, I had to import the N64 itself to for the build and of course, it was going to be the one thing I fried during the process. That caused many hours of frustration and an extra expense due to having to import another board from the UK. Thankfully a modding buddy of mine under the lid of ElectroModder from the UK was kind enough to source a couple boards and tear them down so the shipping was minimal to get them over here.

As I said before though, this is the most complete unit I’ve done to date as it utilizes almost all the features that one can cram into a portable and applied a lot of new building techniques which include using all custom PCBs for the buttons as well as a custom controller board and audio amp. The inclusion of a Breakout Board that is connected via HDMI cable also allows for the user to both Play and Charge the system at the same time as well as incorporate full Multi-Player functionality which I’d never done before.

hesline-thumb

Technical Junk

Specs:
• Original PAL N64 Mother Board, Trimmed w/Expansion Pak
• 5″ 4:3 TFT Composite Display
• 2 – 25mm, 32Ohm Speakers
• 2 – 3.7V 5000mAh Li/Po Batteries in Series for 7.4V Output, 4 to 5hr Battery Life
• Hardwired Original Memory Card/Controller Pak
• Custom N64 Controller Board by RDC
• Custom Switchable Audio Amp for Speakers/Phones by RDC
• Custom 3.3V Regulator PCB by RDC
• Custom Tact Switch PCBs by RDC
• 5 Part 3D Printed Enclosure
• 1 – 5mm Barrel Pin Connector for Wall Power
• 1 – 2.5mm Barrel Pin Connector for Battery Charger
• HDMI Jack for Play/Charge and Multi-Player features using included Breakout Box.
• External Breakout Box includes a 12V, 2Ah DC Adapter for wall power and a 7.4v Smart Charger for the Li/Po batteries used in the handheld. It also houses the three other player ports so full multi-player gaming is possible. Lastly, there is an A/V output on the back of the box for standard RCA video out to a TV for full sized TV game play.

20161008_132729

The A/V, Play&Charge and Multi-Player Breakout Box

 

20161011_194909

I went with an HDMI connection because the number of pins they have by default in a small footprint. Also, the data speeds these cables are designed to handle are much faster than anything this will put out and the shielding provided in the cable makes interference very minimal for the travel length of the cord. I also used three lines each for the wall and battery power because a single line wouldn’t cut it for the amount of draw it’s pulling.

 

20161012_195647

An example of the amazing work that RDC does, essentially this a full N64 control board on a 1″ x 1.5″ footprint. This makes the whole process of placement and wiring so much easier, even if the trade off is stripping an original controller and swapping the components to this board. Wiring is so much easier now and the space saving is huge.

But yes, the build process is shown in the video’s slide show as well as explained in full detail afterwards. It’s a pretty long video but there was a lot to cover on this and I like to be as detailed as possible. This will probably also be the last commission I do for awhile as I have a few other projects I’ve been working on for awhile now that I really want to get off my desk. Time is also super limited these days which has been pretty much the norm, but if things free up a bit, than I might start taking more.

Hope you enjoy, this has been a fun and challenging project but I think it came out beautifully!

Also, please check out the Build Log over on the Bit Build Forums!

cropped-mini

Doom

It’s no real secret that since the beginning days of First Person Shooters like the original Wolfenstein 3D, I’ve been a fan and have watched them evolve over the years and see how they seemingly push the boundaries to our tech limits of the time. And my love for these games has exploited a consistent weakness of mine when it comes to wanting the full experience these games have to offer.

Doom_1993

In 1993, at the ripe old age of 11, the original Doom came out to some extreme reviews that put it as a game changer for all First Person Shooters, and the hype was right. Nothing had ever been seen like this at the time and everyone wanted to get in on it. However, the age of personal computing and the full access to the Internet was still years away, even having a computer with enough power to run the game was asking quite a bit. For the longest time I had to resort to my friends, grandmother’s computer to play it. Eventually we did get a PC, but our first one wasn’t until 1997 (our first computer was a Mac) and by that time, the Doom glory had faded, though Doom II and Final Doom had made appearances and I think Doom II was the first game I played on our first PC. One could also argue that I was the reason we got the PC because of situations like this one, just wanting to play a game that I couldn’t anywhere else.

Doom 3

Then, in 2004, at the age of 22, the biggest remake to any video game franchise at the time was coming out! Doom 3 was promised to be the most advanced FPS of the past decade and for all accounts, Doom 3 remains to be one of my all time favorite games ever. But…all that excitement and next generation power required something that I yet again, did not have the ability to run. Starting college that year, I had bought myself a decent HP lap top for classes at the time, which only had integrated graphics and audio, which for the most part was fine. However, Doom 3’s specs for back in the day were astronomical, Requiring a P4 processor, a 256MB video card, 1 Gig of RAM and 2.2GB of Hard Disk Space, and also required Windows XP or 2000 to run. Cell phones from 4 years ago made those specs look archaic, but back then that required a beast of a machine to run. So again, I was going to have to resort to a friends machine or I could do something about it…and finally, at 22 years old, I could! This is where the trend started to get expensive and no other game can ever say it cost me over $2000 to play & own because the purchase of a copy of Doom 3 for $49.99 ended up tacking on a Dell P4 XPS Gen 3 tower with a Nvidia 6800 256MB Graphics card, and 19″ Flat Panel Display. I had finally found my “BEAST” of a machine, but the financial drain of a college student was tough and though I told no one, I actually bought most of this system with a student loan refund check…sorry mom.  The rest was paid for by selling my old laptop…

DOOM-4-3

So fast forward another 12 years and Doom 2016 has shown it’s gritty teeth in an all new re-boot of the classic Doom experience. Shedding the skin of the 2004 Survival Horror take to the franchise, 2016 brings the whole run and gun of thousands against one game play into the 21st century. And so far, my experience has been very positive, but again at the time of purchase, my system was under powered and so begins the trend again of upgrading my gear just to be able to play the latest Doom title to the fullest. This is why I’m glad my wife doesn’t read my blog posts all the way through.

The Cost of Perfection

Though now almost 34 and being able to get higher quality and more powerful hardware has been easier, I still did not have the “beast” of a machine I needed to run Doom 2016 to the quality and frame rate it was meant to be played at. However, this time, the investment to get to this point was reduced from a full PC tower set-up to simply a new Graphics card and new 4K monitor.

The Nvidia GTX 1070

20160627_161907

The little brother to Nvidia’s GTX 1080, the 1070 is a powerhouse in it’s own right, rocking 8GBs of DDR5 Memory and is the most power GPU I’ve ever owned. As you can see, this thing makes the 2GB Nvidia GTX 750TI that came stock with my XPS 8700 a couple years ago look like a babies toy. And for all accounts, as far as today’s demand for GPU power are concerned, it really is. I’m not going to do a full review or get into the detailed specs, but though the GTX 750TI would run Doom smoothly, you could certainly tell it was straining to keep above 30 frames while only on High Quality graphics settings. But after putting in the 1070 and updating the drivers, the difference was instantly clear. At 1080p, the frame rate was well above 60FPS with all options maxed. Things were going to get better though, as the final upgrade was the addition of a new 27″ 4K Monitor that took this experience right over the top!

The P2715Q 27″ Ultra 4K Monitor

20160628_185226

Arriving last night, I hooked this bad boy up and once again felt like Christmas! This was my first monitor upgrade in 3 years and coupled with the new video card, my PC gaming and 3D Modeling capabilities have been given a huge boost! I was instantly amazed at the smooth quality the combination of the two provided, even for a game as demanding as Doom.

Actual game footage taken with my cell phone.

Actual game footage take with my cell phone.

All in all I’m very please with how these upgrades have taken the gaming experience up a a few levels and it’s that the release of a Doom game is the catalyst in taking the jump into higher, more powerful machines. Though it does cost me a bit of coin to experience, I think of them as capital improvements as well and for what this kind of tech would have cost just a couple years ago, patience has saved me a lot when getting me to a set-up I am happy with.