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Posts tagged ‘software’


Octoprint WIFI Hotspot

Having extensively used both Astroprint and Octoprint, I’ve been using Octoprint for the last few months for the extra features it has. Like telling you how much space is left on the SD card, being able to send directly from Slic3r to the printer and so on.

Astroprint could do the same things since it’s really nothing more than a pull of Octoprint with a beautiful GUI and limited controls. However it’s also targeted at a completely different audience so…who knows.

Until today, one of the things that annoyed me about both of them is their inability to create a WiFi hotspot should their normal WiFi network be absent.

I tend to bring my printer to demo’s and the only way to connect it is via USB. Which works, kinda, but Repetier Host and Pronterface are somewhat dodgy on the Mac so there’s starts and stops in communication. Whereas connections with both Octoprint and Astroprint never miss a beat.

As I said, today that changed…

I found this complete step by step description of how to do it:

Painless Wi-Fi for OctoPrint

In short, you create a list of ALL the known WiFi spots that your printer might encounter in a special file. When Octoprint starts up it tries all of those links and if none of them are found, it then creates it’s own WiFi hotspot.

You do need to download a more recent stable image of Octoprint that is configured to use the special list of Wifi hotspots, but that’s not hard to do.

You connect to the printers hotspot, and talk to the printer with an IP address of in your browser. It works perfect. The best thing is that it’s a password protected WiFi hotspot so just anyone can’t connect to your printer during demo’s and create havoc with it.

Kenneth gave credit to the original creator of method here. This information was available last May, but in all my Google searches I never found it.

I’ve since downloaded both pages and saved them as PDF’s.

Just a little nugget of info…certainly the individuals have my sincerest thanks!


Memory Lane & Bunny Trails

It’s the darnedest thing sometimes. You’re working with some “new’ technology and all of a sudden, bingo, you’re transported back who knows how many years to something from your past.

Happened just yesterday. I was looking for emulators that ran on the Raspberry PI and next thing, I’m at Adafruit’s web site looking at a Mac OS 7 emulator.

Mini Mac Pi

Running on a 320 x 240 TFT display inside a PLA 3D printed case. Talk about RETRO…

Now I remember getting the Mac in 1985. I was actively programming the TRS-80 Model 4 at the time and the company who was selling my software was doing the documentation on a Mac. When I sat down at the Mac in their office to do some documentation changes, I could see that the Mac was a great system for doing the docs so I went out and bought one. I had zero interest in programming a Mac at that time.

Then I wondered what other emulators did the Rasp PI have. Naturally I looked up to see if a TRS-80 emulator was around for it. Which of course turned up this post.

Ah yes the TRS-80. I started with a Model I in 1978, writing in Basic. Ugh. Needed a printer. My first printer was a behemoth Model 15 teletype (from WWII to give an indication of age) with a machine language driver you had to load every time you booted the computer.

M15 KSR 3a

Course this was a Baudot printer which means you didn’t send it ASCII, you sent it five level code, that tickled a relay at a whooping 300 baud. And it printed. Solid steel, heavy as heck. Noisy. Mine didn’t have the keyboard.

Which is how I got started programming in machine language. Someone wrote a driver for the TRS-80, non-relocateable, and if you wanted to change it, you needed to learn how to PEEK and POKE commands. Not to mention learning how to read machine code.

For whatever reason Z80 machine code was fairly easy to learn for me. I never wrote another line of Basic code after 1980. I wrote Z80 assembler until 1992.

In the mid-1980’s I decided to write a program for profit. I had done all the market research, I saw the need, I wrote the code, marketed it. I sold three copies. Wow. LOL. The problem was twofold, first I went for profit, second I had no intention of ever using the program myself. Since then I have never written a program that I did’t intend on using myself. I.e. money has never been a motivator behind writing software. Granted I’ve sold a lot of software since then too, but I needed it and therefore use it myself, apparently others needed it too and have bought it from me.

One of the most successful programs I ever wrote at the time was my BBS (bulletin board software; a precursor to the internet that wasn’t around at the time) and a terminal program called FastTerm. As of 2011, some were still using my FastTerm program in emulators to connect to DEC systems. Or whatever. I dunno. Last FastTerm I did was 1991 if I remember right.

Someone even wrote blogs about how to use my YMODEM protocol in FastTerm. And the screen shots, yep, that’s me. Notice the play on the Mac menu/desktop system.


But I had the Mac and in 1988 I started programming for it. At the time that started because there wasn’t exactly a lot of terminal programs for the Mac, let alone ones with X and Y modem protocols so as a bit of a challenge I wrote one. It wasn’t like I didn’t know how it worked.

Course this started me programming the Mac and I’ve been programming it ever since.

I did write 3 or 4 programs for Windows over the years, but the programming environment wasn’t exactly friendly, API’s were limiting and it got in my way more than it helped me get the task done. Thus I never pursued it, just stayed with the Mac.

Of course when you start programming so long ago, you get a work flow and it tends to stay with you. Versioning Control was something I never did because I was programming before it came in vogue. Heck I was programming before ethernet got to be a mainstay. When I write software now, I can create umpteen versions of a piece of code in a day or hour for that matter. When I did investigate VCS, I spent more time making notes about what version did what than writing code.

So for me, I start the day with a “Save As” new version number on the filename. If that version works like it should, I do another Save As, increment the version number, carry on. In my mind I can rewind or reopen any version prior, but the way I debug as I write, I’ve rarely ever had to do that. Maybe that comes from writing machine code in the early days…

Now I write piles of code for the Arduino because it’s the part I love best about the whole thing. Code controlling something in the real world. A visual example of working code if you like. This is no doubt why I have absolutely been enthralled with my 3D printer. I can design something and then turn it into a real world whatever with my 3D printer.

For as much as technology has “evolved”, coding hasn’t changed much and frankly neither have some of the protocols. Serial for example. I was programming modems via that in 1980. Shows how robust it is. Actually electronics hasn’t gone off the deep end either. True you have micro controllers in places where discrete components used to live but Mr. Coffee has been around a long time too, so in many cases, same old, same old but with new skin on it. Lift the hood, same old.

So that’s how memory lane can descend into bunny trails in a matter of minutes. Smile worthy though.


Octoprint, Astroprint and Wireless – Oh My!

One of the not so nice things about owning a 3D printer is the fact that it’s tethered to your computer. With a USB cable. Probably a short one. And if your computer goes south as you’re working on it at the same time as you’re doing a print job, well, it does tend to expand ones vocabulary.

In some cases a tethered 3D printer means you need to clean your stuff off the table so dinner can have a place to be served. Providing your have an understanding spouse. Who wishes you had a faster printer. And to save you the time, no, this will not work as a ploy so you can BUY a faster 3D printer. Nice try sparky. Don’t ask me how I know this.

According to the USB 2.0 specifications the cable length can be 6ft 7in to 16ft 5in.

My experience with cables is that unless the cable is well made, i.e. properly shielded and decent sized wire inside, you want to stay with shorter cables. But, I’ve seen a 10 foot cable with a USB extension cable jammed together to make a 20 footer plus in some cases. Followed by a question of why the printer “seems” to have an issue printing. Hint, it’s not speed, it’s noise and signal degradation.

I see a lot of long USB cables that would serve better as jump ropes than for reliable data transmission.

If your printer setup is in that particular kettle of sardines and you need a longer cable, do yourself a little favour and look for an ACIVE USB cable. I have a 20ft active cable that works just peachy.

Of course the dream of many is to get the printer released from the computer altogether. As in wireless. And that’s the gist of this article.

When I started down this rather 4×4 rocky road, I had a great a mythical vision and a tankful of dumb. A dangerous combination to be sure but since when did that ever deter anyone?

I started by looking at the problem. Wireless. I have lots of plain RF and RF UART modules. We’re talking short range for the most part. Should be a snap. The Arduino MEGA in the Kossel has spare serial ports so I could shoe horn into the USB port one (TX0/RX0) or I could use some of the unused pins on the MEGA for raw RF.

I modified the Marlin software and stuck these in.


Insert first rude awakening here. The modules I used are one way only. Turns out that the software in Marlin sends an OK after it processes each line of G-Code. When the host that’s sending the GCode doesn’t get the OK, it waits. You know, like forever. While I was burning some of the dumb from my tank, I also found that these things can manage 4KB per second.

To put that speed in perspective think dial up modem speeds. From about 1982. Good. Got that out there.

The Kossel wants 250,000 baud. Time to look for something that will do that. Next up, I tried Bluetooth (HC-05) and I actually got the thing working. Course there was no way in the real world it was going to work at 250K so I started to crank the speed down.

Two new problems reared their ugly behinds. The first is when you get a speed that the Kossel will run at, you find that there’s a delay in the transmission rate in Bluetooth. So you send GCode, the MEGA immediately (it seems like it anyway), sends back OK. The HC-05 does not like to be pestered this fast. Better for slow speed mice and keyboards. Secondly, there’s a buffer in the HC-05 of 20 bytes.

Rude awakening number 2. But I’m on a roll and really burning through the dumb fuel now!

To make this short, after trying numerous other RF “things” I came to the conclusion it is like the engineering triangle. You have cheap, fast, reliable. Pick any two.

Abandoning RF, I decided to tackle a 3D print server idea. Repetier has host software that you can run on a computer that is connected to your 3D printer but it means you are tossing a full desktop/laptop computer at the problem. Fail.

Which led me to the Raspberry pi.

An all in one Linux based SBC (single board computer). Dreamt up by some guys in the UK as a solution to a problem that they seen. I mean all you have to do is connect up a keyboard, monitor, power supply, and a powered USB hub. Heck, a second hand computer has to be in the same ballpark for cost and a heck of a lot more friendly than Linux/Python and Scratch. It’s like “instant water!”, just add water, stir and you’ll have….wait for it…water.

I picked up a Rasp pi B+ Model 1. I didn’t even know there was a model 2 with double the ram and faster speed.

Try to imagine what happened when I put Octoprint on the lowly pi and watch it stutter PLA. Now apparently this combination works for some, but at the same time trolling through the various forums it certainly doesn’t work for a lot of people. I am one of those.

Jason, one of our fellow FVMakers, was kind enough to loan me a Model 2 Rasp pi to try out. Stuck Octoprint on it and was printing in a matter of minutes. Admission, Linux is for nerds, I am a nerd.

See, at this point, I was down to less than half a tank of dumb. Things were indeed looking rosy. Ah ha. I thought I had the solution. Nah, just setting myself up for the next head banging session.

I ordered a couple of Rasp pi’s MODEL 2’s from Adafruit, along with various Wifi adapters.

Then I got a WooToo powered USB 3 hub from Amazon so I could power everything. You read that correctly.

The pi runs off 5V input but cranks it down to 3.3V internally. The USB ports on the pi are severely underpowered and I’m told there is a fuse on the input to the pi that makes sure you don’t draw too much current via the USB ports. I don’t want to find out.

So how do you know you’re sucking too much power? Turns out the pi, if you plug it into an HDMI monitor and boot it up, will show a colour rainbow icon towards the top right of the monitor. I had a Wifi adapter, USB keyboard plus mouse and I was seeing this “blinkin'” icon during my tests.

The Raspberry pi only has 600ma of current available and that is shared for it’s four USB ports. So the design team on the pi made some rather goofy choices since USB standard is 500ma per port. But hey, it’s Linux. So hackable. You can modify the pi’s boot up config to give you 1.2A. Course at this point you just might need a fan. To cool the pi’s voltage converter because I don’t think it was ever designed to handle that amount of current.

Finally down to a reserve tank of dumb, I finally sat down and started to read specs. Because the internet is full of such accurate information.

If wireless 3D printing is your goal, here’s what I found works, reliably. And fast. Notice which one is missing? Good.

There are other Wifi adapters for the pi. I tried several different ones, all of them a LOT smaller than the Ourlink one. First thing I found was they drew more current and the range on them was pathetic. Great if your router is in the same room, not so good otherwise. And really, these dongles all cost about the same anyway.

The Kossel doesn’t plug into the PI’s USB ports. It goes into the powered hub. I found when I had the Wifi dongle and Kossel plugged into the pi, the LCD display on my Kossel would flicker. I don’t see this as a good sign.

Now that I finally had all the hardware, it was time to try out the software. First I tried Octoprint. Download it from a precompiled IMG (image), dumped it onto a microSD card and good to go.

Right. In an alternate reality.

See the catch is the microSD card. Although some SAY it will work on as little as a 4GB card, forget it. Get a 8GB card and make darn sure it’s a CLASS 10 card. The Rasp PI site says class 6 is a good trade off, but I found the class 10 cards work better than the class 6 cards do. The main difference is the class 6 card works slightly better when dealing with lots of small files. Whereas the class 10 handles larger reads and writes better. GCode files aren’t all that small…

Some class 10 cards also sport UHS-1 (3) as in ultra high speed. I had a lot of trouble with some of these cards and I can’t find any info from Rasp themselves that say they even support this higher speed card.

The next order is an SD card formatter. No, not the one that’s built in your computer. One from the SD manufacturers. And if your card supports it, use the option to optimize the card format.

Good the card is formatted. Now you need the downloads:

Read the text on the site, if you’re using Wifi you need to edit a file on the SD card after you write it.


Astroprint (astrobox)

Oh wait, how do you get those images on the SD card? Right you need more software…

For Windows – Win32DiskImager

For Mac users – ApplePIBaker

Essentially select the image, select the card, write. Make a coffee while it’s doing it.

If you wrote Octopi and you need Wifi you’ll need to edit a file on the card.

In my case the easiest one to get running is Astroprint. It starts up as an open access point, you connect it to, configure it to connect to your Wifi router, reboot it. Do a few settings, good to go.

Octopi, not so easy. Lots more settings, not mobile or tablet friendly. But there’s vids on setup works a lot like Repetier Host.

I’m not going to review the two packages, but I’ll tell you that Astroprint is a fork of Octoprint. The main difference is in three areas. Complexity, control, and features. If you want MAX control and feedback from your print job, Octoprint. Hands down. Octoprint will even do time lapse videos of your print job, not to mention realtime video streaming of your job (about 5 or 6 seconds lag).

If you want to send a GCODE file, start the printer, then go about doing something else. Astroprint. Hands down.

Both of them are easy to access via your LAN or WAN if you want to open up a tunnel in your router and use an access password. They use Apple’s Bonjour (zeroConfig, mDNS). This is built in every Mac out there, but you need to install it in Windows. If you use iTunes in Windows you probably have it already installed. Or you can download it directly here

Running your browser and typing in astro.local or octopi.local will bring up each servers control pages. So you can control the printer, upload files to the sd card to print, or directly to the SD card in the Kossel…well, Astroprint doesn’t always like the SD card in the Kossel so I don’t have one in mine.

It’ll take a few seconds to connect to the pi server, if you need it faster, I don’t know what you’d do to speed it up. If Octoprint is busy with a print job, I found I can make it stall for a split second when I connect. I have a hunch that because it’s streaming live video that sucks all the CPU power up from the pi.

Astroprint does no do live streaming but offers you the option of plugging in one of those old USB cameras like Logitech makes and selecting to do a still capture at that moment.

A popular feature of Octoprint is the time lapse photo ability. It takes a series of photo shots as your print is happening. These look great on YouTube when compiled into a video but beyond that I don’t really see much of a use for it. Plus the jpeg streaming that the pi does tends to tax it’s wee little processor. Even the PI 2. Enter overclocking for the PI. I don’t do it.

Using either server via a browser is simple, but Astroprint is far better designed for mobile browsers. Octoprint doesn’t have the same capability. Thus controlling your printer from a phone or tablet is easier with Astroprint.

One of the better reviews I found online for Octoprint vs Astroprint is this one. The thing to keep in mind that it’s more like an arms length review. There’s no lifting the hood to see what makes it tick, nor any real world tips or techniques. Or things to watch out for. I like to kick the tires on these things and see what rattles.

I ran each one for a month and put both through their paces. In my humble opinion neither one of them is perfect. Both have flaws in different areas. Therefore you have to examine each to figure out exactly what the most important parts are for you and then use that setup.

In addition I found that you really don’t want to leave them running 24/7. I have my PI 2 setup along with the Kossel on a power bar. When I want to print, I power them all up at the same time. Both Octoprint and Astroprint work more reliably for me that way. In not doing that, I found the Octoprint would lose it’s connection via USB to the Kossel, and Astroprint would screw up the controls if I cancelled a print job. REBOOT….:-)

There are still things I am trying to figure out, one is the amount of SD card space left when you send a design to print. Octoprint makes this easy, Astroprint I have no clue. It says nothing about available space that I have found.

Lastly, for whatever reason, printing from the computer via a USB cable is faster than having the PI with the servers to do it. It makes zero sense at all to me why this should be, but timing the same print job always takes less time coming from the computer. Just weird.

There are other 3D print servers that run on a PI as well but not free of cost. Like PrintToPeer. While the software appears to be open source, you need an account with PrintToPeer so need an internet connection where you send your STL file, they slice for you, then send it back to your printer for printing. Judging from the web site it looks to be aimed more at commercial applications than home users.

Setting aside the cost of whatever a PrintToPeer account is, connecting to the internet so I can control a LAN based 3D printer sitting 10 feet away me means they must have found my empty dumb tank and possibly a few others and overfilled them for their own use. Words “self reliant” have been lost on these guys. I just don’t get it. But they aren’t the only ones doing this net/cloud based stuff for your local control. Honeywell and Accurite do as well. They should pay you for doing their market research.

Hopefully you got something from all this info, because I’ll tell you straight out that the water’s pretty murky when it comes to print servers. There’s a lot of time when you feel like your row boat only has one oar. Hence when you see the caption that says, “Untether your 3D printer for $35”, you want to do a oar count.


3D Benchy – Netfabb – Printer Torture Test

Apart from replacing a nozzle on my Kossel, recalibrating it, testing PETG (which is weird stuff) and doing a LOT of PLA printing, I’ve also been testing wireless printer control options. Specially AstroPrint and OctoPrint. But I’ll leave those for another day.

Today, it’s once again, Benchy time. Benchy, for those who have never heard of it, is a 3D printers worst nightmare. It’s small, complex and shows any weak areas in your printer setup/calibration in a heartbeat. Frustratingly so.

I printed one, ages ago when I was cutting my teeth learning the in’s and out’s of 3D printing. It printed, but it wasn’t nice. It’s out at the FVMaker space if you want to see it. Take a look at the photo and you can see the bow has some areas where the PLA shrank and you can see the bridging is a mess.

IMG 0366

Keep in mind I’d done a lot of 3D printing up to the point when I first printed the 3DBenchy. So I assumed that the print would be a walk in the park. Nope. More like a stumble in the dark.

First thing I found was Slic3r didn’t like it. For some reason I couldn’t fathom, other than Slic3r, like most open source software, isn’t perfect and makes its own limitations fairly obvious. Secondly it showed me that there is a direct correlation between printing speed, PLA brand and PLA temp. Every printer I have looked at will get to some point where it does the best job it can given its current settings. Go above or below those and quality becomes an issue. My Kossel is no exception.

At the time I thought I could slow the print down because laying hot PLA over hot PLA was part of the problem. So that was about as wrong as one can get. What you really need is cooling somehow. My Kossel kit like everyone else’s has no provision for cooling. Thus, on small quick prints you are doomed before you even start.

Second, but only slightly less important is the PLA brand I print with. Some brands flow fabulous. And some don’t. You need to find the temp they work well at and remember it. Some brands will print and flow well, but tend to ooze every time you get near a border jump. Strings are the indicator. Thus the secret is, which is not brain surgery, find a brand you want to stay with and tweak the daylights out of it for your printer.

I’ve done numerous software (Marlin) tweaks for accuracy and trust me, you can tweak Marlin until you’re blue in the brain and it still won’t be perfect. For example, tweak the Z setting, it will affect the X, and Y. And vice versa. It would be super nice if there was a way where it could tweak itself sort of like a marble in a funnel concept so it would be 100% accurate. But it’s a delta printer, pendulum swinging plastic squirter. Be happy if you get close to accurate.

Anyway, back to Benchy. I’d just replaced the nozzle in my Kossel. No, I didn’t wear it out, the PLA broke off inside the printer head and I had to take the whole thing apart to get it out, just as easy to replace the nozzle. I spent a little more time than usual re-calibrating the printer to get dimensional accuracy. So when 3DBenchy appeared on Thingiverse, I thought what the heck. I’ll try it. Again.

Just checking on Thingiverse, 386 people have printed the little brute out. Wander through some of the prints made and you’ll see some good, not so good and prints (where the person is pretty happy) but it’s a good thing that plastic floats because Benchy wouldn’t hold out the water.

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 10 47 48 AM


Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 10 48 54 AM


Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 10 52 11 AM

Only this time, I changed one thing. I added a fan. No, not on the print head, a big 100mm fan off to the side of the bow so it was blowing right down the bow line of the boat.

IMG 0866

And then I just let the chips fall where they may… for printer settings… this is what was suggested:

  • Scale: 1:1 (unmodified in size, from bow to stern #3DBenchy.stl measures 60.00 mm).
  • Layer height: 0.2 mm
  • Infill: 10%
  • Print speed (extrusion): up to 50 mm/s
  • Print speed (travel): up to 150 mm/s
  • Print nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm

The Benchy web site gives you the dimensions that your finished print should be. Pull out your digital micrometer and prepare to drive yourself nuts. If you’re so inclined…

My only variations were that I set the infill to 25%. It’s my default infill I just left it. The speed I left to what I normally use for print jobs. I didn’t slow it down or speed it up.

I first tried slicing the 3DBenchy.stl file in the download but Slic3r had some issues with it. Like 3,000 errors that were “fixed”. I never understood what this error was so I figured it was time to figure it out.

I have a group of friends who live in this 3D world and they said it’s that some of the triangles in the objects overlap. Slic3r has trouble dealing with that so it tries to repair them. They also strongly suggested that if that happens, don’t let Slic3r fix them, use a piece of software called NetFabb to do it.

So….. off to find Netfabb. I downloaded the BASIC version. Ran it, did some registration that was required and then opened the Benchy file. It takes about 5 mouse clicks to fix an object:

1. Click on the + icon.

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 42 10 PM

2. You’ll see some results show up in the dialog, some in RED. Click the UPDATE button to fix those.

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 42 29 PM

3. You should now see 1 shell as you see below. If you see more than 1, well, don’t use the file…

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 42 41 PM

4. At the bottom right corner, you’ll see an Apply Repair button (skip the auto repair button). Click it:

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 42 50 PM

5. A new dialog will appear asking you what to do with the old design. Toss it:

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 42 59 PM

6. In the “parts” list right click on the “part” and a submenu will appear. Select Export as STL.

Screen Shot 2015 12 28 at 4 43 19 PM

Netfabb will use the same name as the file you loaded but will add (repaired) to the name. I see this as a good thing. Oh, Netfabb might also pop up one more dialog to ask about the “accuracy”, just click the okay button to have it fix that too. Usually only happens on some STL files.

Open this new repaired file in Slic3r or whatever you use for slicing and there should be no repair error messages generated.

I have used Netfabb now a number of times to fix Thingiverse files or files that I have modified that give the slicers fits. The basic version has worked perfectly every time on those troublesome STL’s.

Here’s the old Benchy (hard to see the mess of the bow):

IMG 0365

And the new Benchy with the fan running:

IMG 0870

While they might appear similar in the photos, when you physically look at them in your hand, it’s day and night.

So there you go. Small prints benefit from cooling. You don’t always need to mount some uber fan on the print head, and NetFabb can be your best friend.


Minecraft Torch – 3D Style

With Christmas looming in the not to distant future I usually start looking for gifts that aren’t exactly mainstream. Of course the easiest people to shop for are kids. Their world is leaps and bounds wider than any adult.

My granddaughter is no exception to this rule. She is pretty much tethered to her iPad playing Minecraft. Now to be honest I don’t get what the fascination with Minecraft is for kids. Having said that it’s been a long time since I was a kid, but I do remember getting all agog when ColecoVision appeared with the same pixelated graphics in their games…

As a Thingiverse lurker I find a lot of things that people have done, which of course generate ideas for what I can do. Sort of an enhancement if you like. The first thing I did was a Minecraft torch. Really it’s a big piece of PLA with a flashlight hidden inside.

There is the body, screw in insert, flashlight, and top. The original came from Thingiverse as an Scad file. You enter in your own flashlight dimensions and it generates the part based on that. And to a point it works okay. But if you want something a little better fitting, like most of the stuff from Thingiverse, you learn to edit it yourself.

Thingiverse Torch

My torch is very much the same, but I changed the inside housing that the plunger fits into so it holds the flashlight in place better. Printing the torch and parts took about 7 hours total. So not fast but it came out pretty good.

First time I ever used the “Vase” mode in the Slic3r software and it works fabulous!

IMG 0676

Assembling the torch is a matter of dropping in the light, screwing in the holder and plunger.

IMG 0679

And then pressing the plunger to turn it on…

IMG 0680

I printed the top in white, single wall thickness and it’s amazing how much light it actually gives off. It would even be good enough for a reading light on a power outage.


3D Design

Discovery. It’s a fun thing. Sometimes rather eye opening as well.

As a long time Mac user; since 1985 if anyone really wants to know, I’ve watched as the Apple OS matured, bloated, got better, changed directions, and fell off the tracks more than once in all those years. They aren’t perfect by a long shot, after all authoring a complete OS with all the supporting apps is more that a few lines of code to get right.

However having said that probably the number one usage of any computer is a web browser and email. Thus those would be the areas where if you’re going to make a difference and show off what you can do, that’d be it. To the point there’d be no use anyone developing anything similar.

Sadly, Apple is a ball dropper when it comes to both of those. Safari and Mail are the weakest “links” in their software app chains. Both run like an under inflated tire on the 30 year old family sedan. However just like that tire, they’ll get you there, but it’s not a warm and fuzzy experience.

Now the precursor to all of this was that I was designing in 3D for the Kossel. While I could use a native app, it was actually easier to use Tinkercad. A free online service for designing 3D widgets…so to speak. Open an account, design, download STL, slice, print, repeat….

Tinkercad runs in a web browser and uses, what else, WebGL. As do a lot of online web game engines. You’d think Apple would be on top of this since they seem to be more in the entertainment field than useful tool arena, but, nope. Turns out a 3rd party browser blows their doors off.

To illustrate the difference, I used a online service called Unity and their WebGL test online. In a browser, just like Tinkercad uses.

The computer in this case is an iMac, late 2014, 27 inch, i5 3.5GHZ, 8GB of memory. Here’s the results in Safari:

WegGL Safari

I have been using Safari with Tinkercad all the time and while I noticed a few hiccups, performance was still pretty respectable.

For fun I ran the same test with the latest Firefox:

WebGL Firefox

The numbers clearly indicate that Firefox is the browser of choice for Tinkercad, even if you never use it for anything else.

When I was using Firefox the whole design experience was buttery smooth.

But admittedly Safari did work. My thought then turned to my older MacBook Pro. A MID 2012, i5 2.5GHz, 13″, 4GB.

First off Safari:

WebGL Safari MBP

Then Firefox:

WebGL Firefox MBP

Ah yep. Safari on the 2012 MBP, Tinkercad was unusable. With Firefox, it was definitely usable.

Rather than just take my findings, here’s the link to the WebGL test I used at Unity. Run it in your own various browsers and see what performance differences you find. When you find the best, use that with Tinkercad.

Unity WebGL Test

I’ve never owned a Windows computer but perhaps there is differences there as well. Might be worth checking out too if you’ve found dodgy performance in Tinkercad.


Bluetooth HC-05 Mac Programmer App

After spending time writing a sketch for the Arduino so I could program the HC-05 Bluetooth modules, I had a mind tweak that the same should be able to be done with the Mac here. And since I’m a Macintosh programmer by nature, why not.

That’s right, there’s now an App for that.

I tried a couple of different USB to Serial (TTL) adapters and the one that worked the best and most reliable was the CP2102 from Silicon Labs. The 2102 is a USB to UART bridge chip. You can find these littered on FleaBay for a couple of bucks.

I used some Dupont jumpers to connect the HC-05 to the adapter:

IMG 4125

Wiring wise it’s this:

  • CP2102 —> HC05
  • 5V ——-> 5V
  • GND ——> GND
  • TX ——-> TX
  • RX ——-> RX
  • 3.3V —–> KEY

There are no connections on the CP2102 RST or the HC05 STATE lines.

Notice the TX–>TX and RX–>RX. If you’re thinking that’s not quite right, in the real world it’s probably not. In the fantasy world where the Bluetooth modules are made, the labels indicate where the signal is SUPPOSED to go. So the TX pin silk screen on the HC-05 means it’s supposed to GO to the TX on the UART adapter. Apparently some not so terribly bright engineer thought this might be a simpler concept for the unwashed masses to grasp. News flash for them, if your IQ is higher than an Alaskan winter temperature, this is dumb labelling.

Thus, be aware that if you use different Bluetooth modules, you MAY find the labelling is different. Just saying…

A close up of the connections:

IMG 4126

If you’re wondering why the KEY connection has 3.3V going in it, it’s because in order to get the HC-05 in command AT mode, you need to make the KEY line HIGH when the HC05 powers up. Since there’s a 3.3V output on the USB to Serial adapter, it’s easy to do that.

The Macintosh program to program the HC-05 can be downloaded from THIS link. Unzip the file, put it in your Applications folder, wire up the modules, plug in the USB to serial adapter to the Mac (install the SLAB drivers if you haven’t already) and then run iBT.

Note, when you plug in the USB to Serial adapter and the HC05 powers up in the AT mode, the LED indicator will blink, slow. Very slow. About every two seconds, on, then off.

In the Preferences tab, just match your settings to these, and then click the Bluetooth ON button.


Switch to the Bluetooth panel and the information should fill in for you. If it doesn’t, “sum ting wong”. Recheck the wiring. Once properly wired you’ll see the window values change, as the carnival barker used to say, “Before your very eyes!”.


Change what you want and click the SET button beside that option to update the HC05. iBT will write JUST that data to the HC05 for you. If you get an error, iBT will report it.

The UART setting is the Bluetooth wireless connection speed NOT the programming speed via USB. With USB these modules are always 38400,N,1.

A lot of these modules come with a passcode of ‘1234’, but the Mac’s normal default is ‘0000’, so you might want to change that.

The Set Default button will reset the HC-05 to this:

  • Device Type: 0 (Class)
  • Inquire Code: 0x009e8b33
  • Mode: Slave
  • Serial (wireless): 38400,1,N
  • Passcode: 1234
  • Name: H-C-2010-06-01

So there you have it. HC-05 programming from your Mac made simple. iBT written by Mel Patrick is NOT public domain, but freeware. It may be used by anyone but may not be sold or hosted on any other site.


Arduino Programming

I tend to read the Arduino forum on a semi-regular basis. As such, I find that there’s a lot of interest in the Arduino from people who obviously don’t have the first clue about what it takes to write software, let alone wire up an Arduino. “Blink” is about their limit.

Interestingly enough, a lot of interest is from “school”. Someone has a class project and stumbles across an Arduino and jumps in. To the deep end. Without a life line. And they can’t swim.

Thus a common thread runs something like, “I wanna do this or that and I need help on how to do it”. Generally speaking the “this” or “that” is so vague anyone short of the Great Carnac can in no way answer the question. To most of their credit, the savvy of the Arduino forum do give it their best shot anyway sometimes, but also they don’t suffer fools all that well should it become obvious the person is way out of their depth.

As an Arduino newbie myself not all that long ago and in spite of the fact I’ve been writing software since 1978, I found the documentation for the Arduino typical of a lot of “open source” material. In my opinion, about two cuts above pathetic. Not to mention the scads of libraries and variations thereof that can drive you nuts and poorly or not documented as well.

I was looking through the forum messages and I spotted one about using a temp sensor to control one of those PWM (pulse width modulation) computer fans. Since I’d just finished building one for myself, I decided to read the topic.

And there, it all it’s glory was the best answer I’d ever seen. You might think it’s a little nasty, but really some people actually want you to do all the work for them rather than Google and educate themselves on how it could be done (there’s always examples for Arduino stuff).

So this had me laughing so hard I hurt…

Arduino Truth


House Address – NTP update

After running the house address since the middle of September I’ve came across some interesting things.

The first was that the internet time server I was using apparently doesn’t like to be abused. While I could “ask” for the correct time once every four to six hours, once you add a few more Arduinos that also ask for the time, the server would send incorrect data.

I did a fair bit of searching and from what I could find, yep, that can happen. Matter of fact, they can even simply stop sending to your IP and that happened as well. I couldn’t get an update.

Which of course lead to the fact that there are a limited number of NTP servers in the world and with everyone banging away at them it of course would overload them. A suggested action was to use the pool of NTP servers:

In their words:

The project is a big virtual cluster of timeservers providing reliable easy to use NTP service for millions of clients.

The pool is being used by millions or tens of millions of systems around the world. It’s the default “time server” for most of the major Linux distributions and many networked appliances (see information for vendors).

The idea of course is that the load of serving up the time gets spread around. And I can say it works great. For the Arduino it’s one simple line change (the IP is for the US time server pool):

One thing of note is that you should use the pool of servers that reside in your country. I tried using other IP’s for the pool servers around the world and have trouble with some of them. Once I found the IP for my country, presto, worked like a champ. I also changed the time check to once a day.

The second thing I found was that while my sunrise and sunset routines worked fine, I’d forgotten about testing for Daylight Savings Time when setting the clock. Doh.

I modified the original NTP setting code “ntpAdjustRTC” for the DS1307 since I didn’t need all four of the time setting info it gave, just the current time. At the end where it shoves the time back into the RTC, I adjusted for DST based on my DST check (also found someplace on the net; I didn’t write it so credit goes to whomever did).

Thus the house address is back in operation, updating it’s time, working out sunrise and sunset correctly and glowing that soft blue glow throughout the night. The only change I probably should have added while I was in there working on the code was a hard override to turn on the address. I have a soft override one via a web server built in, but a hard switch would have been a better idea…

Oh well, House Address version 3…maybe


Pop eMail Checker Revisited…

From time to time I tend to go back over my Arduino projects to see how they might be made better. After all, I’m no expert on Arduino programming so there will always be room for improvement..

In the original POP email checkerI was using an Arduino Mega 2560 because it had lots of memory and ram space so I could download the complete headers and then parse them for what I wanted. Mainly the subject line. At some point of editing, the original sketch stopped working and I kept getting the headers in two sections. Some careful debugging showed me that the headers I was now interested in had grown in size from about 350 bytes to almost 3K. So THIS is why it was starting to fail when it worked originally.

The Arduino choked on the huge size for sure. I couldn’t figure out how to read the whole header someplace and then rip out what I wanted… So, time to reinvent the wheel…

I started by thinking I could write the header to an SD card and then read it back. Nope. Not working right. Next up, in the stream try to read in in small blocks. Say about 256 at a time. To me that should have worked, it didn’t. Not sure why either. It should have to my mind…but ti would miss parts of the stream.

And then…I found this gem tucked away in the Stream section:

if (client.find(“Subject: “)) {// did we find a subject line

This reads in the stream to look for a Subject and then I get it to read until the EOL to grab the subject text itself.

Works perfect, WAY faster than what i had before. Now if I wanted to extract several things from the stream, I’m not sure that I could do that. You might be able to read to find a specific header, then read something inside and so on sort of nested sequence to do it. I haven’t tried it that way so I can’t say for sure. And of course the documentation for the “.find” command is not exactly going to say anything exactly useful…

Any way, I’m using WAY less program space, far less ram, the whole program is far faster. Thus, it was a good thing that I decided to revisit the code.

The Arduino still fascinates me…it has become my “TinkerToy” for fun!


Blog Me Up Scotty…

After trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to paste some Arduino code into the blog yesterday, I came to the sad realization that for that Mac and all its wonderful ease of use and friendliness, its blog clients simply suck. Big time.

Mac blog clients either force you to write in HTML with keyword highlighting (and they call that a “feature”)… or some limp form of WYSIWYG that supports about a dozen tags and that’s it. At present I’m using ecto and for the most part it works quite well. But for putting in code, it screws up the tags and spacing beyond all belief. I suspect I could write the blog in HTML, which really gives you a strong idea of what the heck you’re writing…not or put up with Rich Text Format. That also screws it up just as badly.

I emailed ecto “tech” support to ask about how best to approach this problem and haven’t heard anything yet…

On the PC platform there’s scads of bog clients, with Live Writer probably being the king of the heap. No doubt because I do believe it’s free but still.. for the Mac, there’s a few, each with their own pros and cons. And in this programmers opinion, all done poorly in too many areas.

This causes some head scratching and pondering as to why… My feeling is that it has something to do with getting income off writing a blog client. A blog client is probably a “niche” market and since I write software that fits in that category I know just what you might expect from it in return. In short, not much. So you’d have to do it for yourself and hope enough others wanted it to at least repay some of your efforts in writing one. And no, I have no intention of writing one myself. That’s not my area of interest.

Apparently I am not the only one to notice a dearth of decent blog clients for the Mac either. There’s any number of articles about the six or eight we do have, and scads of forum postings about how we need a good one. Really.

I found a unknown blog client (to me anyway) called Qumana that I might press into server to see if I can get it to handle the “code” days…for the remainder I’ll continue along with ecto.


Arduino GarbageMate

I have no idea what it is about the Arduino that constantly calls to me, but it’s a simple fact that it does. Sometimes in odd ways…

Recently our area has decided to replace the traditional garbage collection (can and a blue recycle box) with a more elaborate garbage, recycle and organic can. Providing you can call something that holds 55L a “can”…we call them bins now…

We get a booklet showing what kinds of stuff goes in what bin and what kinds of stuff doesn’t. Actually quite well written, for a change. The little catch is that all three bins are never picked up at the same time. The organic waste is picked up once a week, but the recycle and garbage are picked up on alternate weeks from each other.

Thankfully we got a little calendar that’s good until the end of the year so we know what goes out on what day. And, naturally that got my “Arduino sense” tingling…

I searched for scheduling libraries, time alarms and all sorts of things to make implementing my task a little easier. But the more I looked at, the more I could see that these were not going to work as I wanted. As it happens I wrote some Macintosh diary software that just happened to have event scheduling in it about 15 years ago and I’ve managed to keep it up to date over the years. Just for personal use now.

So I fired it up, looked at the two or three routines I’d need to do simple cycle based scheduling and…two functions later it was in the Arduino sketch. The easiest way to schedule is to have a known start date in Julian. Then you use modulo to figure out if the current day lands on that day….but first, the Julian for Arduino:

Next you need the function that takes the current day and compares it against the repeating cycle:

Last you define the event itself:

Then a simple check to see if the collision works:

I used a standard Arduino UNO, DS1307 RTC, Wiznet 5100 ethernet, LCD and three LED’s. I built it in a cardboard box and presto, away we go. My testCycleDay routine works sort of perpetually. You can go back in history or ahead of the actual event date and see if whatever it was happened then. So if you have a 38 day cycle, you can go back 10 years and see what the dates are in that cycle. Or ahead 7 months and do the same.

I learned a few things while doing this. First off the reason for the internet is to keep the RTC with some form of accuracy. I have three RTC’s here, one works perfect, one will drop the hour setting a couple of times a day (goes out an hour), and the other runs slow by several seconds a day.

For the slow one, that’s probably the crystal and capacitor. For the one that drops the hour, I suspect there’s something wrong with the DS1307 chip itself. Essentially these aren’t worth fixing since they are dirt cheap in the first place. Although maybe I should say cheap because the last bag of dirt I bought for potting was kind of pricey…

Nothing fancy, but it works just peachy. The LED’s will be glowing (the day before the trash pickup) all day and will go out that night to wait for the next cycle. Theres a bit of info in the LCD display as well. Whether Day Light Saving time is on or not, the blocks on the bottom left will change each time the Arduino connects to the time server to update the clock and there’s an ROG on the display (shows only -OG right now) in the event something goes amiss with an LED…
Ultimately, a nutty but fun project…like all things Arduino..

LED Tester Software

While looking for circuit drawing software, I happened across an app that I’d gotten for the iPad a while back (and promptly forgot about having)…

It’s called iCircuit and talk about slick. While it still doesn’t have ALL the bits and pieces for doing schematics, it’s got a good deal more than Fritzing plus it does allow you to “run” the design. You can scope various points so it’s very much like the old Circuit Maker.


It’s in RUN mode on the iPad 2, you can see the switches that are closed, the current draw at that point. To open or close a switch you just click on it.

The plain schematic looks like this and you get a parts listing out of it too. I was pretty impressed with it.

Constant current.png


Led Test Schematic

Finally found a piece of software that allows me to at least do some basic drawing of a schematic. The software is called Fritzing.

This is not a review of the software, just my personal impression of it.

I think it’s designed for taking a circuit that you’d build on a strip style board, which creates a schematic (of sorts) from what you lay down. From there you can create a PCB and save it as a Gerber plot. A high percentage of the examples of it in use show it coupled with the Arduino devices. I suspect that’s a lot of it’s background and judging from the lack of “core” components you can work with on a schematic, it seems to bare that out.

When I design circuitry, I don’t normally work on anything overly complex, I start with a schematic. From that point, I can almost always turn that into a PCB by hand without too much work. When you do it this way with Fritzing, you get some interesting results because that’s not the way it was designed. But then I’m old school too. I was designing PCB’s before there was software to design PCB’s and “auto routing”….

So here’s what I managed to “draw” in Fritzing. First off, you’ll see that I have switches S3 thru S8. Actually in my circuit that’s a rotary switch. But there’s no rotary switch in Fritzing. Matter of fact in Fritzing the “input” section is pretty skimpy. DPDT? Nope. Pushbutton? Nope. And on it goes. While you have the option of defining your own parts, one look at the multiple steps required to do this and it pretty much cures you of that idea.

Which is not to say that Fritzing isn’t useful, it’s remarkably good at what it does. However, if you’re schematic based like me, you’ll find it lacking in a lot of areas. So keep in mind that it’s free.

LED Constant Current Tester.jpg

Ages ago (we’re taking in the early 90’s) I used a piece of software called “Circuit Maker” from Microcode Engineering for my Macintosh systems. Not only could you draw a work schematic but you could “run” your schematic and put scope points on it to watch logic signals change. Of course resistors or capacitors didn’t affect the circuitry for “simulation” it was just logic gates. But you could set propagation for those gates. I built a lot of digital circuits in those days with that little program. I still miss it.

Eventually, Microcode dropped the Apple Mac support and continued to develop for Windows. I think they’re up to version 5 now.

After that I ended up using Canvas from Deneba Software and I had an electronics symbol library that I could draw schematics with. It wasn’t bad either. Course if you started to move parts around the wires came apart pretty quick because there weren’t any real points. Then Deneba got tired of Canvas and flogged it off to ACDC who didn’t give a squirt about the Mac clients. The software was let lapse and one of my most used drawing programs went the way of the DODO bird. If Lion would run Rosetta I’d still be using Canvas 8. But in another Apple’s infinite bouts of “we know what you want more than you do”, Rosetta is gone.

Finally I used OmniGraffle and its electronic symbols to draw schematics. And it worked, but I never seemed to get really comfortable with it to continue using it.

Softwares nature is to be a good revenue generating machine and if it’s not, it’s dead pretty fast. There’s scant few hobbyists like myself that program for fun and little to no profit. Unlike many, money has rarely ever been a motivator for what I do. Regardless of what it is. I write software that I need. Turns out other people seem to need it too, but writing for profit is something I only did once, a long time ago and I never did it again.

Any way, I’d love to see something like Circuit Maker for the Mac again….hey, I can dream can’t I?

So then, probably like a million others, my schematics are drawn on the back of a coffee stained napkin in an all night donut shop…


It’s a weird industry…

As a guitarist I find the music industry has changed a great deal over the 47 years that I’ve been playing. Yet, at the same time, many things haven’t. I mean, well, there’s still good guitars and bad guitars and as highly subjective as that is, only your own ears can tell the difference. What some players regard as “awesome” sound, the same number will cringe at.

Electric guitars themselves haven’t actually changed much beyond two different woods, with different density, that vibrate and get picked up and at some point, usually, amplified. The resulting is again subjective to each individual. But guitars aren’t what has caught my “ears”…

It’s pedals, amps and software….oh my…

As noted by a previous blog, slapping “vintage” on a pedal doth not make it a “vintage” pedal. Calling a new pedal a direct copy of the old one, is only possible if it is indeed a direct copy of the old one. In many cases, those parts are long gone and there’s no way to “clone” the original. This goes along with the fashion idea that everything built before 2000 is boutique and commands a price to reflect that. Maybe, maybe not…

Amps are another sticky wicket. Take Fender amps. All those wonderful amps in the 1960’s are now be “reissued”. Are they exact copies of the originals? A side by said comparison would say otherwise, but if you can’t do that, you’d be convinced that it’s the same amp. So it’s whatever you like.

Enter in the new “software” systems that emulate these oldies. Software that runs on your computer or iPad/iPod and allows you have to instant gratification from all those wonderful amp, cabs and effects. Except that if you do an A/B comparison you face the obvious fact that although the emulations are good in some cases, they aren’t the originals.

Take the 1963 Fender Spring Reverb that was a staple way back when (and still being made). Every company that makes a reverb pedal has taken a “shot” at producing a “spring” reverb (Boss has because they know the tube unit is too pricey for many). Again, though it’s still subjective, to my ears some come close, while others might as well omit that fact they even have a “spring” setting.

Software, to my ears is no different. Run it through five different sound systems, you get five different sounds. Because that’s what you have to do to get the noise out of the software. Unless you play with headphones, in which case I suspect you’re the target market (and nothing wrong with that either if it works for you). But some of us like to play without headphones one so sound is what we’re quite critical of.

I’ve used Amplitube, TH2, GuitarRig and I find I go right back to a real physical amp, one solid state, one tubed. To my ears they sound light years better and as old fashioned as I might be, I’ll keep using the original gear. Hence, I’m not a target market.

So this:


is not this:


Nor is this:


The same as:

65 Twin.jpeg


Sqwerl Lives…

I’ve been working a new application to program the Highly Liquid MIDI decoder (MSA-R). The new MSA a substantial upgrade over the previous unit and it’s the main controller in my iPatch unit. Working on both the Mac and Windows versions (which makes me really appreciate the look and simplicity of the Mac) I have it about 90% done. There’s still some firmware bugs in the MSA-R K version (3.0) that need to be ironed out (or flattened, depends on how you view software bugs)…

But firmware bugs aren’t my issues. That’s up to Highly Liquid to fix and publish a some update code. Which, incidentally isn’t happening as timely as perhaps it should. The MSA-R have been available for over a month and there’s no word on a time line for the firmware fixes. So I made some work arounds in my code to compensate and it’s not pretty but it partially works.

This brings up an interesting thought too. When software/firmware is released, just how fast should bugs be addressed and fixed. In the case of my own software, I developed Mels Bug Fixing Axiom:

“The amount of time it takes to fix a bug is inversely proportional to the amount of time it took to find it”

I found the problems with the MSA-R shortly after starting to write the code to program it. Thus, it’s anyones guess as to when the update is coming…

At any rate, here’s a sneak peek at Sqwerl. Why Sqwerl? Simple really. The previous MSA-R version was programmed using “Moose” and anyone who knows TV history from the 60’s knows that you can’t have Moose without Sqwerl…


Blog Wars…

In the great scheme of things blogging from the iPad is just so handy…from the desktop, not so much. For the desktop, “ecto” is the choice I made to get the job done. While not the best there is, it works reliably, and it’s quite simple to use.

Going back to the iPad for a second here, the blog apps for it are just plain horrible. Even Word Press HD for the iPad is bug ridden and if it actually works, it was due to more good luck than anything else. Thus there is a serious void here that some developer needs to fill. Its patently obvious what’s out there now doesn’t work worth beans.


Blog Software – Network Thingie

Wabbit Wavings has been, thus far, published using nothing but the WordPress App on my iPad. And for the most part has been fairly painless (except for that dull feeling in the ends of my fingertips from pressing on the iPad keyboard)…but the current version is a little buggy and an update it forthcoming so I’m looking at other solutions as well.

For example, there are times when I’d like to be able to do blog entries from my desktop Mac as well. And so starts the task of finding software that works on the desktop and doesn’t cost the standard arm and leg. Which, as it turns out is fairly non-existent…

None the less, todays entry is made with MarsEdit, probably the most expensive of the bunch.
One of the things I tend to do quite often, for whatever reason, is install networks. Either wireless or wired. Sometimes in homes, offices, well, the usual gamut of places. So you end up with questionable cables and wiring to deal with.

What would be handy in these cases is a simple way to test ethernet cables or wall wiring to ensure that the electrons will actually move from point A to point B, unimpeded hopefully. Of course, a proper network tester is quite expensive and overkill for a simple GO – NO GO tester that I’d like. Which ,of course, brings us to eBay and it’s seemingly endless cesspool of Asian made geegaws.

But this one caught my eye:


Cost? A whopping .99 and $1.99 to ship it. Even came in a simulated “leather” bag. I figure if nothing else and it was a dismal failure I could always use the box and build my own. It’s billed as testing both RJ11 (telephone cables) and RJ45 (ethernet). So after a long wait, I finally get it. It runs off a 9V battery and, surprise, it worked. Sort of. So in the spirit of the EEVBlog, I didn’t actually use it, I took it apart…


Not exactly rocket science here. Two transistors running as a extremely low frequency multivibrator, a 4017 decade counter and some indicator LED’s. The other piece of the tester is a couple of diodes and the same LED’s. Probably the nth degree of the “KISS” design I’ve ever seen.

While probing around, none too carefully, I managed to let the smoke leak out of one of the transistors so I replaced them with a pair of 2N3906’s and had it operational (if that’s a word you could use with this device) in a minute or so again.

Now what I noticed is that the CMOS chip enables the LED’s, counting through them so if there is a short or wiring order problem, you’ll see it reflected in the LED. As I said, go or no go. But the 4017 is a “decade” counter, meaning it counts to 10, but in ethernet there’s only 8 leads. So for two counts, nothing happens. Since I test far more ethernet cables than phone style, I tied the Q8 output to the reset pin so it only counts through the eight leads. I also added a resistor and switch to slow down the count cycle (which moves quite fast so it was hard to get the order of cross over cables sometimes).


I stuck the whole thing back together and for the $3 I spent on it, it’s been quite handy for testing. And no, considering the soldering and build quality I couldn’t advise anyone to use it for other than the simplest testing. The eBay ad says it will test Cat 5 cable. I’m thinkin more along the line of Cat .1 cable…


The Moose is loose

I finished up the Midi control software today for the Highly Liquid Midi relay controller I built. Also managed to find a willing soul to help me beta test it. At the end of the testing phase I’m just going to give the software away any way.

The main Moose window:

As it happens I am also getting a Midi Cpu from Highly Liquid. This is a programmable Midi message generator. I’ve got an idea that with this and the MSA I can also make a standard and Midi controller looper pedal. Now that would be slick.



I spent the entire day doing a make over of my Journal program. I added functionality to sync with iCal both way, with some caveats, but it does work and looks a heck of a lot better than it did.

Here’s a before and after photo:


Now when was that…

A long time ago, like twenty plus years ago when I was in the active work force, I was a shift worker. Something I never minded doing, but if someone asked you what you were doing on such and such a date, you generally had no idea.

So I wrote a shift workers calendar, made a web version so other people could use it and gave it away to the world. You could see at a glance when you were working, what shift it was for any date you wanted. It was slick but a one trick pony.

Along came Apple with iCal and people started to use it. As a generic application it worked, but it was ugly to setup shifts. Some improvements have been made to it over the years but it’s still not what I’d call user friendly.

Any way computers progressed and I’ve updated my program any number of times over the years. Around 1998 I decided to add a personal diary to it and enhance the calendar portion. Thus Journal was born out of the digital bits and pieces. I put it up for sale, but never really cared if it made money or not. I needed it for me. Although my goal was to write in the Journal, I never really did it much. So that part languished.

Carol started using it at some point (2003 I think), more than me actually, and uses it as a day timer, which it’s not, and types a daily diary entry. Where she finds bugs or problems, I fix them. She’s good at finding things…

Since we are both getting a iPhone, she said it would be really nice if I could write the same app for the iPhone. But the iPhone is a different market, everything goes through iTunes and I have no idea how to write for it, nor the costs in volved.

Which leads me to the gist of this rant and rumble. What if I could read and write to the Macs iCal and that could be viewed on the iPhone? If you added an event on the iPhone, Journal would pick it up and vice versa. So two days and about 14 hours later, I had it working. True you don’t get the Journal diary entries but the calendar was hers and mine main interest anyway.

Apparently retirement has completely killed my programming skills…here’s the results from Journal, iCal, and the iPad (don’t have the iPhone yet…)