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MMPIS (Part III)

Quote

See Also: MMPIS (Part I), MMPIS (Part II), and MMPIS (Part IV).

The MMPIS should also be somewhat whimsical. We like to be serious and safe at Milwaukee Makerspace, but we also like to have fun.

Buried in the deepest regions of the Milwaukee Makerspace wiki (actually it’s just in the ‘Miscellaneous’ section) is the quotes page. The quotes page is filled with insightful wisdom and… ok, many of the quotes are just amusing. At least to me, or other members.

Any member can get an account for the wiki, and therefore any member can add a quote to the page, and some have! I thought about scraping the page for quotes, but some are really long, and some I don’t find as amusing, so every now and I then I grab new ones I like and dump them into a text file. Then there’s a simple PHP page which reads in the text file, randomly grabs one, and outputs it. That’s what you see. (I’d share the code but to be honest if you’ve ever written any PHP at all, this should be a five minute exercise.)

Here’s a collection of some of my favorites. And yes, some of mine are in there, but they were added to the wiki by others, not me.

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It’s a sign!

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Brant, the President of Milwaukee Makerspace, has a great saying:

“Perhaps we should solve it as all great problems are solved. With a sign.”

I don’t know if there was a problem, but I made a sign anyway.

Skugga Lamp

I started with this IKEA lamp known as the “Skugga” which I picked up at the Z2 Rummage Sale for 2 bucks…

But there is a bug in this sign! It seems to promote coffee, and I don’t drink coffee. That’s an easy one to fix, because… hackerspace.

Logo

I grabbed a copy of the (new!) Milwaukee Makerspace logo (thanks, Mike!) and did a bit of editing, and loaded it into the Silhouette Studio software so I could cut some vinyl.

Coffee? Yuk!

Luckily the coffee thing has a white piece of plastic behind it that will work perfectly for us… All we need to do is stick the vinyl to it.

Weeding

The logo has some nice stitching around it, which can be troublesome when used at smaller sizes, and while some got pulled out of place during the cutting, it didn’t matter for this application since we were using the reverse. (If I’d wanted the positive, this would have been messy!)

Weedy Bits!

I used masking tape to pull up many of the tiny pieces. For the rest I used a sharp new X-ACTO knife. (I also stuck it right into my finger, because I miss being an undergrad in Graphic Design.)

Oops!

I didn’t notice until later that I lost part of the “m”… oops! Well, vinyl can be that way sometimes. I could always cut a new “m” piece in the future.

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Milwaukee Makerspace Lighted Sign

Here’s our finished light-up sign, which now resides at Milwaukee Makerspace. I think I should have made the vinyl just a little bit smaller, but hey, it looks pretty good for a late-night, rush-job project.

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MMPIS (Part II)

Info Screen

See Also: MMPIS (Part I), and MMPIS (Part III), and MMPIS (Part IV).

MMPIS is semi-related to reMMinderbot, in that it’s meant to actually provide helpful information. reMMinderbot lets us know (via email) when there is a meeting, or if we haven’t blogged in a while, or when the monthly cleanup day is coming. (It has to remind us of that twice! On Wednesday and Saturday before the actual Sunday we clean.) There’s lots of Perl and cron involved in reMMinderbot.

reMMinderbot is also supposed to send an email telling us what’s on the calendar each day. This occasionally works. I’ve been writing code to deal with calendars for way too long. It’s sort of a nightmare. The iCalendar format is best described as Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey.

There’s an old saying:

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.”
Now they have two problems.

Parsing iCalendar files can be like that. Luckily, Perl has a module for everything! So iCal::Parser was pulled into service. Unluckily, it has bugs. iCalendar can be tricky. There are repeating events, but they can have exceptions, days they don’t actually happen. I’ve seen weird time zone issues, and differences between clients. Anyway, it’s all wibbly wobbly.

Our original Perl code grabbed the calendar file from Google, parsed the file, and then output the upcoming events to a file that is then included in the main page. As I said, though… it doesn’t always work. So I decided to scrap it.

In an ideal world, we would just clone the calendar page on the web site and display that. There’s just way too much Javascript on that page though, and it takes too long to render. I then remembered a web application I used years ago, so I turned to PHP iCalendar.

PHP iCalendar

PHP iCalendar manages to display things properly! All events revealed! Though the monthly view is not what I want. Nor is the daily or weekly view, but… At the bottom is a “This Month’s Events” section. We can use that!

List of Events

I took the files that showed the monthly view and started hacking. I stripped out the unneeded HTML, edited the CSS to get what I wanted, and it was pretty close, but… it was just displaying the current month’s event. This would mean that if there was an event on the first of the month, you’d never see it until the first of the month, which is silly. Digging through the PHP it was just a matter of changing things to look at the current month and the next month. Not 100% perfect, but an acceptable solution.

Right now it’s looking two weeks ahead, so you’ll get any event for the next 14 days. This is what you see below.

MMPIS Events

I may play around with setting the viewport to be 1920×1080 and then using overflow: hidden to better use the space on the screen, but I’ve also got the issue that I’m doing development on a 1280×720 screen, so I may need to do some CSS stuff depending on the screen size, if that’s even possible. (Also, to pick a nit, the resolution of the TV I am using today says it is displaying 1360×768.)

Anyway, the PHP iCalendar solution has been working so good I’ll probably roll it into reMMinderbot’s calendar code. It’ll take a bit of Perl-fu to do the right thing there (multiple servers are involved) but it should be a major improvement. (Hopefully.)

What’s that? You can’t wait for Part III? It’s coming…

Stay Tuned!

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MMPIS (Part I)

MMPIS

See Also: MMPIS (Part II), MMPIS (Part III), and MMPIS (Part IV).

I typically write about a project after it’s done, but I thought I should turn that around and start writing about a project much closer to the start. So here’s Part 1 of the story of the MMPIS, the project more formally known as the Milwaukee Makerspace Pi-powered Information System, which is a kiosk at the makerspace which will provide members (and guests) with useful (and silly) information.

First, the name… We have a history of naming things with acronyms and/or using an many “M”s as possible, such as: HMMMMMM, M6 (Milwaukee Makerspace Morgifying Marble Manipulation Machine), M4 (Milwaukee Makerspace Maker Mobile), reMMinderbot, M2C2 (Milwaukee Makerspace Can Crusher), MMLC (Milwaukee Makerspace Lighting Controller), and of course, BADASS (Beer Automated Dispensing And Security System). I choose MMPIS because it’s fun to say. I nearly went with MMKIS (Milwaukee Makerspace Kiosk Information System) but unless I’m outvoted, I’ll probably stick with MMPIS.

I’ve long had an interest in digital signage and kiosks, so after my recent Sir Like-A-Lot project, I felt like pursuing a kiosk for the Makerspace. We had a Raspberry Pi that had been floating around waiting for a project, and there’s a huge TV that jason g. brought in that we used only occasionally. Those two pieces and a few other things were all it took. Well, that and writing some code.

The heavy lifting is all provided by Screenly, and actually, it’s the Open Source Edition of Screenly. (Also on GitHub.) Screenly is a pretty nice open source kiosk application. I’ve discovered a few bugs, and have some feature requests, but it definitely works. I’ve been meaning to check out Concert and Xibo as well, but I’ve not dug into those yet.

The first group of screens is pretty simple, here’s a few grabs.

Info Screen

Here’s the main screen (for now) which tells you where you are (duh!) and shows the date and time. It also tells you where to park, has a quote from the wiki, and shows the upcoming events. Well, some of them. We’ll get into that in Part II.)

Park!

We’re also showing our Parking App to let members know which side of the street to park on. (This, as every other screen, may change in the future.)

HMMDMMH

We’ve also got our How Many Members Does Milwaukee Makerspace Have? page. The HMMDMMH page uses our member management software to let us boast about this impressive number.

What's Cookin'?

Prepare Thyself for Making

The last two are just graphics that live on the Pi that runs Screenly. All the others are web pages out there on the big old Internet. Oh, I should note that the pages need to be fairly simple. Large, complex pages utilizing Javascript or other heavy lifting don’t do very well, due to the lightweight nature of the Raspberry Pi and the browser Screenly uses.

OK, that’s our intro to the MMPIS. In the next installment we’ll get into the events that the MMPIS shows, or should show.

Stay Tuned!

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Lazzor the Snowflakes!

Snowflake Designers

For the Holiday Make-A-Thon at Milwaukee Makerspace we came up with the idea of using Snowflake 2.0 so people could design their own snowflake ornament that we would then laser cut for them.

We had two computers running and instructed people how to use the app. We had to make sure people didn’t overlap the lines, as each line would be seen by the laser cutter as a place to cut, and people would end up with a pile of little wood pieces instead of a snowflake. We also found a bug where you could drag a node off the screen and then not be able to reach it to drag it back. Besides those little issues, the app was great, and lots of makers had interest in download it and playing with it.

Oh, Lance did all the laser cutting, and he was kind enough to add the person’s name, along with “Christmas 2013” to the back of each ornament, and a hole to hang them. Since it was a minimal amount of etching, and then just two vector cuts, things went pretty fast, which is good, because I think we made over 80 snowflakes!

Here’s a few of the designs people came up with during the event.

Snowflake

Snowflake

Snowflake

Snowflake

Snowflake

Snowflake

Snowflake

I’m tempted to dig into the code a bit and see if I can tweak things with Snowflake 2.0. Not surprising, but it’s been a year since I played around with snowflakes.