Tracking Outages

Back in 2004 I found that my ISP had outages where we would not have an Internet connection for a while. That was… a lifetime ago. Well, 16 years ago, anyway. You can see the mention of it in my Connection Report post. I guess I started with checking every 30 minutes, but I eventually changed that to every 15 minutes. As you can see above, I eventually changed it to every 5 minutes because in the last 6 months I’ve seen that we sometimes have very short outages…

And then I thought, why the heck am I looking at connections when I really want to look at “no connections”, so I rewrote the Perl script that’s been running via cron for 16 years to check for no connection instead.

So now I check every minute for an outage, and if there is one, we log it. Now, I know there are more efficient ways to do this, and there’s probably a better way to run this, and there’s probably an open source monitoring solution that will do 100 times what this little script does, but… I don’t care.

Sometimes I care more about hacking together a solution for myself, and messing around with it every now and then, and actually, you know… writing code for the sake of writing code.


Fight COVID-19 with 3D Printing

I was talking to Caleb the other day and I mentioned how my favorite thing happening was the pairing of 3D printing nerds and people sewing masks collaborating because the sewers want bias tape makers and you can easily make them on a 3D printer. I swear I heard someone I know cry out “Finally! Having six different 3D printers will pay off!”

But seriously, Caleb wrote it up for MAKE, 3D Print This Simple Tool Now, To Help Local Sewers Make More Masks for Covid-19, and yes, it is a useful tool. I’ve probably given away over 50 of them in the last week.

Like others, I had started by printing visors for face shields, but I then jumped into the efforts we’re spearheading at Milwaukee Makerspace to produce a high volume of visors by milling HDPE on CNC machines. It’s faster, and the material choice is perfect for cleaning, disinfecting, and reuse, which may not be the case for 3D printed visors. (But, hey, if a 3D printer is all you’ve got, print away!)

So what is “bias tape” anyway? I will admit, I am not much of a maker when it comes to sewing, but these photos from a friend help illustrate how you use this thing. It’s for making the straps of a face mask that has ties on it. I guess elastic is running out, and some hospitals don’t want elastic, so you make your own bias tape with this thing.

Cut your fabric to size, pin it to your ironing board, run it through the device, and iron it down… then you sew it. (I think I got that right.) Also note, I did not design this. Someone mentioned they were printing this 4cm model so I just offered to help by printing more. I then cajoled a few local friends with 3D printers to also start printing them… we’ve made a lot of them now.

Last week when I was printing them like mad I was doing one at a time so I could grab it off the print bed, toss it in the box on my front porch and always have the box well stocked, as people were coming all day long to get them. Typically you might fill your print bed with 9 or 12 or 16 and hit print and come back 12 hours later, but I wanted these out fast, when there was demand, so one at a time made sense. (Plus, I’m working from home and a break every 35 minutes to walk to the printer helped me get my steps in!) I asked a friend to print some and he said “Yeah, I’ll have a bunch in 6 hours” but we had people wanting to pick one up ASAP, so…

While the full bed does make sense for overnight or if you’re away from the printer, I eventually switched to “one at a time sequence printing” where my printer will print 4, but not all at once, it will print one, then move to an empty part of the bed, print another, etc. This allows me to grab one off the bed as soon as it’s done, and the printer keeps going without me having to hit print again. This is great because even though I monitor the printer, I might be on a long call or doing something else where printing one at a time isn’t ideal.

The two groups I’ve been giving these to are The Masked Sewists for SE Wisconsin and Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors. Let me tell you, these sewing people have quite the maker network happening! They’ve got drop off points, tips & tricks for making, and they are sharing and encouraging each other. My favorite post was one that said “Finally! I can use all the fabric I bought for imaginary projects.” I think many makers can identify with that statement.

The other things I printed last week were these PAPR connector parts. I got a message last week from a guy who said they were working on this Open Source PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator) project, and wanted prints to make molds for resin casting the parts. I printed four sets so he could send them out to four teams to work on. I haven’t heard back on their progress yet but I wish them well.

Oh, one last story! I got a message on Facebook from a lady who wanted one of the bias tape makers and I said “Come get one! They are on my porch!” and she said “I’m in Florida, can you ship one?” So I asked where in Florida, and she said Orlando… so I got her in touch with my pals at MakerFX and they printed one for her. Maker Network Activated!


Acrylic Bender

I made an Acrylic Bender. If you are one of the people who appreciates that joke, I appreciate you. I mean, it’s an Acrylic Bender, not an Acrylic Bender, an Acrylic bender, or even an acrylic Bender

Sheesh! Look at that face… it’s a face only a mother could love. Seriously folks, this “Acrylic Bender” joke is like six years in the making. I really hope you appreciate it.

I etched the acrylic as I usually do, with LightBurn and the RasterLaser upgraded with a Cohesion3D board…

After etching I applied some black Speedball block printing ink and spread it over the surface, pushing it into the etched areas. I then wiped it off the top surface with toilet paper… Just kidding! I used paper towel. (That joked will not age well.)

Thank you for reading this post, meatbag… also, bite my shiny, metal plastic ass!


Affinity Photo

Let me start by saying that I’ve used Photoshop for the past thirty years. That’s three decades of using an application. I actually cannot think of an application I’ve been using longer than that. My Photoshop abilities probably helped me get my first real job. That said, my days with Photoshop might be numbered.

As you may know, the world is moving to 64 bit computing. Apple’s latest OS will no longer support 32 bit applications. Since I am not a fan of renting software, I still run Adobe Photoshop CS5 on my Mac OS X 10.12 and 10.13 machines. In 10.14 it will not run. A friend of mine at Adobe told me to “join the cloud” and that I would see lots of new and amazing features, but to be honest, with what I use Photoshop for these days, I don’t need the new and amazing features…

So I’ve got a copy of Affinity Photo, and I’ve been using it, and it’s pretty good, and at some point I’ll dump Photoshop completely (probably when I upgrade to 10.14) though I’ll still use Photoshop if working at places that use it. (And yeah, I rarely trade PSD files with others, though if I need to, Affinity Photo can read & write PSD files.)

I tried Pixelmator years ago but it never really grabbed me and made me feel like it could be my everyday editor, but I’ve actually been very impressed with Affinity Photo. It’s close enough to Photoshop but has its own personality. There are a few things I’m still getting used to, but I am trying to use it anytime I would normally launch Photoshop in an effort to train myself.

Will all new software (let alone something you’ve used for decades) it’s often a matter of getting used to things that are slightly different. Like using Windows when you’re used to a Mac, or Canon when you have a Nikon… I’m getting to memorize some of the key commands, and I find a few things annoying, like not putting the focus on the first value in a dialog so I need to remember to hit the tab key before I start typing. Little things, nothing big… The important part is, I can do nearly everything I want to (or need to) do with Affinity Photo that I would have done with Adobe Photoshop.

While I am a huge fan of open source, I’ll also pay a reasonable price for non-open source software if it fits my needs and there is not a viable alternative in the open source world.

If 2020 has done anything so far, it’s introduced me to a lot of new software (and services) through my various jobs and projects this year. I’ll probably post a bit more about software in the future, as it’s been a long time since that’s been a regular feature around here.


Multicolored Laser Etching

If you want a true to life banana you can’t just laser etch something, you need to go that extra kilometer to make it multicolor. (Of course real bananas need not apply.)

I didn’t go large this time, I went small… How small? Here’s a quarter for scale. Oddly enough, I did not find a banana in the house to use for scale, as they’ve all bean eaten, or frozen, so a quarter will have to do.

I etched some dayglow green acrylic using LightBurn and the RasterLaser upgraded with a Cohesion3D board…

Here’s a plain old green banana that has been laser etched. Look how lifeless and colorless it appears! It’s almost downright unappealing. I dare say we should consider slipping some color into place. It’s probably what Warhol would do.

I took some good old Speedball block printing ink and with my finger (inside a nitrile glove) rubbed ink across the surface. I then took some paper towel and wiped it off. It stayed in the etched part pretty good. Good enough for this first test anyway…

Here’s our multicolored banana with some edge lighting. I should try proper acrylic edge-lighting to see what the results are…

Here’s a view of the edge without extra lighting. This is 3mm acrylic. I’m thinking next time I’ll try additional coats of ink with time in between to dry.

Here’s another photo of the banana with a quarter, but the quarter is out of focus and in the foreground because it feels forelorn because it knows it is not a banana and will never be a banana, and for that, it mourns silently.

Enjoy your banana!