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Copy Specific File Types

As I’ve been using Illustrator I’ve found it’s very common to need to reuse elements in new documents. As all of my projects consists of folders within folders many layers deep it can take a bit of time to navigate to the correct folder to find the file I need. I’d also have to make sure I either opened and old file and copied out what I needed without making any changes (or worse, damaging the document) or I would make a copy and open that, but then need to remember to delete it later.

What I wanted was a destructible copy of all my old files I could easily browse through, open, mangle, destroy, etc. with no affect on my workflow. I’ve got something that seems to work for now. (Until I come up with something better.) My original plan was to construct a Perl or Python script to walk the directory and copy any Illustrator files (with the .ai extension) to another folder named EXAMPLES. Before I got started writing code I did a few searches, first wondering if rsync could it, and it can, but it didn’t seem elegant. I ended up reading a bunch of posts about how to do this and I didn’t bookmark the page that had the closest solution, but my script is below.

#!/bin/sh

/usr/bin/find /Users/pete/Projects/ -name '*.ai' -exec cp -p \{\} /Users/pete/EXAMPLES/ \;
 
# copy just the .ai files

Difficult to read the code? See the gist on GitHub.

Yup, the good old find command to the rescue. It’s not perfect, as files might overwrite other files if the names are not unique. In this case if names are the same, it’s probably because I’ve got the same source file in multiple locations. With a bit more code I could deal with that, but again, doesn’t matter for this use case.

The nice thing about this is that I can just create a cron job to run it every night and I get all the fresh files copied into in the EXAMPLES folder ready to reference. The files are (mostly) tiny so it takes very little resources or space.

This is one of those things I’m posting because there’s a 97% chance I’ll find this useful in the future. And if anyone else finds it useful… You’re Welcome! Keep Being Awesome.

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Comparing Macs

I’ve been using Macs for about 30 years (and Apple hardware for nearly 40 years) and I’ve said this before, but I’m not a latest-and-greatest kind of user. I don’t buy the first version (anymore) or the fastest bestest (ever) and I try to make do with the hardware I have. I use the old Macs for various things around the house/shop. There’s a MacPro3,1 running the laser cutter, and a Macmini2,1 used strictly for playing music and the occasional web search.

I still have two “main” computers I use daily. One is a MacBookPro9,2 that has been my “everyday carry” (when I used to go places) and the other is MacPro5,1 I got for super-duper cheap from a video producer friend of mine. The Mac Pro was stuck on High Sierra due to the lack of a Metal GPU, so I grabbed one recently to keep the old box going. I figured it was time to compare the two computers to see what they could do.

I’ll also mention that I probably don’t do as much heavy computing that I used to do. Things that would be “heavy” for me would be some 3D modeling/rendering, a bit of video/audio editing, and processing/editing RAW photos. As I said, I don’t need the fastest most powerful computer, and that’s good, because I don’t have one.

Here’s a quick comparison of the computers:

MacPro5,1 (Mid 2010) MacBookPro9,2 (13″ Mid 2012)
2 x 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.8 GHz Intel Core i5
Intel Xeon E5620 2400 MHz (8 cores) Intel Core i5-3210M 2500 MHz (2 cores)
36GB RAM 1066 MHz DDR3 12GB 1600 Mhz DDR3
Radeon RX 580 8 GB Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 MB

I used Geekbench 5 to get the following numbers:

Score MacPro5,1 MacBookPro9,2
Single-Core 458 554
Multi-Core 3682 1131
OpenCL 46089 992
Metal 50937 183

Whew! Those are some differences in those numbers. My main concern with these two computers is that I can continue to upgrade the OS for a few years, if possible. I just got the Mac Pro up to Mojave (and will get Catalina on it soon using OpenCore.) I’ve tried a few Mojave installs on the MacBook Pro, but they keep failing. I’ve got a new SSD coming to get that taken care of, so we’ll see how it goes.

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Recording Sign

I recently made a few “Recording” signs for Brown Dog Gadgets so that when we are recording or streaming no one opens the doors to the studio. This is one of those projects where I thought about it too long instead of just getting busy making it. And of course, like everything, there’s the issue of it being “good enough” versus being “done” and yeah, I just need to find a middle ground between those two things.

I did a quick design in 2D so I could laser cut some 1/8″ Baltic Birch plywood. I didn’t put calipers on the wood so the fit was a little tight, but nothing a few minutes of sandpaper couldn’t solve. Also, since I painted the pieces it slotted together fairly tight so I didn’t even add the 3mm hardware I had planned on. I’m pretty sure if it falls off the wall there’s about a 50% chance it’ll stay put together versus coming apart. I’ll call that a win.

Josh and I talked about using an ESP8266 so we could control it from the studio wirelessly, or just running power to it from within the studio but in the end I just went really simple (hey, it’s version 1.0) and there’s an ATtiny85 programmed using the Arduino IDE to just blink a string of NeoPixels on and off in red. Simple works and usually gets done… eventually.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll make a version 2 that is controlled via WiFi and use matte paint instead of gloss and actually design in an on/off switch hole instead of drilling it later. Stay Tuned!

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Hammer, Screwdriver, Illustrations, etc.

I use Illustrator a lot when I create guides at Brown Dog Gadgets, but most of my vector work in the past 10 years has been creating files for digital fabrication, so getting back into the “illustrate a thing to make it look nice” has been interesting. I’m about 6 months into almost daily use of Illustrator and I’m now working on making better illustrations.

Above is a hammer I recently illustrated, at home, on my own, for fun. I started with a photo of a hammer as a guide and got the basic outline and shapes by tracing on top of it, then I put it off to the side and used as a reference. There are things I really like about it, and some room for improvement, but overall I think it’s good progress.

Here’s another one, which is (obviously) a screwdriver. This one took about 90 minutes (the hammer was probably a little less) and I definitely could have done more, or come back to it, but part of this process is not to obsess over it, or go back to it again and again, but to sit down, do an illustration and call it done. (Probably 60 to 90 minutes and not more.)

Here’s a recent one I did for work. I needed a safety pin for a guide, so I very quickly made this one based on a photo I found. This is not perfect, but I think it’s good enough. Part of creating guides is just getting it done quickly, so being able to knock these out in a timely fashion is key.

Below is an example of a guide with a bunch of illustrations. This is one of the more complex guides. I usually do the three dimensional view part of it by taking a 2D version and using the shear tool. I don’t yet know if there’s a better way to do it. One of the guides I looked at basically said “Prepare for the shear tool to get away from you and screw everything up.” So, yeah… I’d love to find a better way to do it, especially since the proportions seem off.

I typically use Inkscape for my digital fabrication work, and I did get a license for Affinity Designer which I’ve used a bit, but overall I’d prefer to keep my skills separated and not tied to a specific application, which may mean I have two things to do: Get more familiar with Adobe Illustrator, and also start doing these sorts of illustrations in Inkscape and/or Affinity Designer.

Also, I am open to any critique or advice on my illustration work. (Thanks!)

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More PCBWay Boards

I’ve been working on a number of projects the past few months, and many of them require custom printed circuit boards. A few weeks ago as I was finishing up the design of a new board I got an email from the crew at PCBWay. (You might remember that I had boards made by them a few years ago.)

As luck would have it I was just exporting some Gerber files so the timing was great! I got my boards created by PCBWay and they arrived about two weeks ago. It took me a bit of time to wrap other projects and get things soldered up and programmed, but the boards worked great. Often you don’t get PCBs right the first time, but luckily all my connections were fine (It’s a fairly simple board) but there are a few things I might want to change about the dimensions and the mounting holes.

I’ve been using this as a supplemental USB keyboard. For testing I’ve programmed it to be function keys F13 through F20 (which can then be assigned to key commands for certain applications, like OBS: Open Broadcaster Software.) I’ve also set it up as a MIDI device to trigger sound effects using my SoundProp application. It can also serve as a toggle for your mic and camera in videoconferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. It’s pretty robust in its capabilities.

I still need to finish up an enclosure for it, and then do more rigorous testing, but so far the boards and functionality have been great. (If there’s interest in these devices, I’ll probably drop a few into the Etsy Shop.)