Life, it’s never dull.

[Warning: This is an update post, and may ramble a bit. Carry on!]

Things at the tail end of this year have certainly been interesting. Interesting times indeed, in all of the senses of the word.

You’ve read hear about some of the things that have gone on, and if you haven’t I invite you to take a look. I can wait.

Back? Good.

In addition to family health issues, building a deck, participating in HoNoToGroABeMo, and the normal things like work, raising kids, etc. I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve been working on my Secret Project, though much less of that lately. I’ve built a 3D printer, the PrintrBot Simple, and it’s printing nicely now. I’ve also been researching Machine Learning and Adaptive Bitrate Streaming, trying to see how the former can work with and for the latter.

Over this last week, things continued to be interesting.

On Monday, I was told that my new MacBook Pro had arrived and on Tuesday I had it in my hot little hands. I’ve been working with it and my Windows desktop off and on since then. I will have a post soon about the reasons why I switched to a Mac from Windows, and how my switch has gone so far. A teaser: It’s going pretty well, with the normal bumps of getting used to the different places for the things I normally use.

Tuesday night, I found a fairly heavy package sitting on the kitchen counter when I got home. I have been expecting my Kickstarter order of my FATE Core and FATE Accelerated books (along with a few others) to come in soon, but this package was far too heavy and large for a few books. What could it be?

To my great surprise, I found that the 3D printer parts for the Eventorbot had arrived! It had been over a year since I backed that Kickstarter, and given that the creator had disappeared for nearly three months, I had resigned myself to never seeing it. The creator had a bout of depression, and in my opinion, was overwhelmed to an extent that he stopped communicating. Which unfortunately made the problem worse.

So now I have parts for a second printer. So what will I do with it?

Well, I’ve written a book on 3D printing, I enjoy learning the technology, so I’m diving into it deeper by putting out a 3D printing show. My friend and former co-producer on The Game Master Show, will be joining me as I delve into the current events of the 3D printing industry, and tackle subjects both beginners and experts of the subjects can learn from.

Is that all? Nope!

Tuesday evening, Erin called me with news about her father. He’s doing much better, still not great, but he’s sitting up, eating, and has a positive attitude. The ICU nurse let Erin sneak the girls in to visit, and he really perked up when he saw them, vowing to get better and get out of the hospital so that he could be with them more.

So after a very interesting several months, more good things than bad are starting to happen. I’d like to take credit for planning it, for navigating my way through the storm, but I can’t. I tried my best to make my own luck, but it wasn’t all me. It was a combination of people, of supporters, of genuine luck (that’s what you call it when you can’t pin down the butterfly that caused the events).

So the light is shining. The deck is nearly done. My beard does itch (go donate!). It’s a good time right now, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the start of new year just after.

Life. It’s never dull unless you let it be.

HoNoToGroABeMo – or – How Not To Grow A Beard Month

So for the last few years I was only able to watch on the sidelines as my beardless brothers took the fight to breast cancer by growing their beards for breast cancer research. This year is different. This year, I am back in the normal office, and my face is back in the race!

HoNoToGroABeMo has been a tradition for the last six years, growing like… facial hair on a grown man. Ok, so my simile and metaphor abilities are hampered at the moment. It was started by Kris Johnson in a tradition similar to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then added to by others, and built upon by Bob Voegerl to build the site that now houses the event.

The past two years were won by my protege, Peter Dilillo. He is taking a much deserved hiatus this year, and so it is up to me to continue his streak.

I’ve been doing my blog posts in video form over on the site, and they can also be viewed on You Tube. So if you want to fill your head with Follicle Facts, want to watch me being somewhat silly, or just want to support our cause and donate to breast cancer research (which you should do anyway), head over to the following links:

HoNoToGroABeMo: http://honotogroabemo.org

YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/honotogroabemo

Donation page: http://www.fundraiseforbcrf.org/vandermore

Comment, subscribe to the YouTube channel, read the posts on the site, have fun, and help us grow the best beards these faces can. I understand that facial hair grows better with donations!

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.

As of late, this saying has rung true for life. The meaning in English: All hours wound; the last one kills. It is seen on sundials, and is found in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which by the way is where I first remember learning it. Life isn’t all like this, of course, but at times like the one I and my family is going through, it certainly feels like it.

My father-in-law has taken a turn for the worse and is in the hospital again. We are having a very hard time making sure that he takes care of himself. We hope that when he is released he will again come stay with us instead of insisting to staying at his home.

It’s not an easy thing for me to talk about, and not something that I usually talk about here. It is something that I am pushed, to do otherwise I won’t be able to deal with it productively.

There isn’t much we can do other than hope for the best and plan for the worst. His room is still made up in our house, and he seemed to enjoy the time when he was in it.

In my own personal beliefs, life should be fought for, cherished, something you only ever get one chance at. It boggles my mind how some people waste it, or are content to be miserable while living it. Even if you believe that there is life after death, why would you want the life you are living to be miserable?

Quality of life, the oh so subjective standard that we look at people who are terminally ill or toward the end of their lives, is terribly important. It is the last chance to enjoy what time you have left, with yourself and those you choose to spend it with.

This post hasn’t been entirely lucid, I know. This is one of the things that has been weighing on my mind of late, and causing my thoughts to scatter. I am hoping by putting some of these things down here, that I can focus on the things that need doing.

It’s a dark tunnel right now. I feel that it’s going to get darker before I come out into the light. Right now, each hour hurts. The difference for me is that I embrace that pain, make it my own, and see it through until the end. Since there is so much more worth seeing and doing. Erin has a saying she loves from a movie. Unfortunately, I don’t remember either the movie, or the actual quote, paraphrased though it’s: “Another sunrise, another day alive.”

Those are the mantras I live by. To live, and love, life itself.

Thanks for listening.

3D Printing: The Stepper Conundrum

Today’s conundrum from my 3D printer has vexed me for three days now.

So, an update since the last one.

Last time, I estimated I was at 60% complete with the build and needed to finish that, install the firmware, get the filament, and begin printing. Well… that was almost what I had to do.

I’ve completed the physical build, as much as I can but more on that later. I’ve installed the firmware and tested that it works with the software on my computer. I’ve even attempted to do a test print to start calibrating the settings. Oh, and I got the filament (after ordering the wrong type of plastic the first time).

Filament, just realized that some of you might not know what that is. Filament for 3D printers is basically thread made of plastic. Really thick thread, but it comes on a spool and is fed into the 3D printer like thread into a sewing machine. It comes in two main sizes 3 mm and 1.75 mm. I am using the 1.75 mm, since it has been found to work better than the 3 mm filament. which sometimes overwhelms the heater that melts the plastic.

So anyway, that’s where the problems started.

The trouble presented itself as an inability to push the plastic out to be printed. It comes out like frosting from a cake funnel, or like toothpaste from a tube, and is supposed to be layered up, one on top of the other, until you have a completed object.

At least that’s the idea.

You see, there’s a motor that pushes the filament into the extruder (that’s the toothpaste tube). The motor is a special kind, called a stepper motor. Named that because it can take individual steps of rotation, unlike most DC motors that just spin. Because it can do this, it can push just a little, or a lot, of plastic through the hot end of the extruder in measured amounts.

Mine however, was not doing that.

What it was doing was pushing a little of plastic out, but then reversing direction and pulling the filament back, then pushing it back in or pulling it out more, depending on fate and whimsy. It wasn’t so whimsical for me though. The melted plastic cools very fast, but ends up leaving little spiderweb threads of plastic as it comes out. I went through a fair amount of plastic in the last three days troubleshooting things.

Something said at work today, along with thinking about all of the settings are available finally led me to the solution.

I had tried everything I could think of over the last few days. Switching stepper motors, switching driver circuits, changing the amount of plastic to be extruded. All of those things done one at a time to see the result of the change, and making note of how it improved or made worse the problem. At work yesterday though, one of my co-workers was wrestling with an issue and it was suggested that while he was going through the same process as I was with the 3D printer (it’s a common troubleshooting process for code), that perhaps he had more than just one problem to fix.

This was no surprise to me, having just come off another project where I was tracking down a bug that led to several other bugs being uncovered and needing fixing before I could fix what the client actually wanted fixed. It wasn’t until I got home and looked through the firmware that I realized there was a setting I missed.

Going through the calculations, I realized that the stepping code wasn’t set correctly for my printer. I adjusted that, but still had a problem. It was a bit better, but still would reverse seemingly at random. I switched stepper drivers again, and voila! a working stepper motor.

So long story short, I have a solution for my problem, and as soon as the new stepper driver arrives, I will have a working printer.

I’m keeping the bad driver board for now, to learn from and see if I can eventually fix it. Right now though, with the deck, the secret project, the 3D printer, NaNoWriMo, and HoNoToGroABeMo coming up, I have enough on my plate to last through November!

If any of you have any questions or suggestions about 3D printing, or stepper motors and their drivers specifically, feel free to drop me a line in the comments.