One project down. On to the next!

So yesterday, I talked about all of the projects I have been doing this year, and how I’ve finished a few. Today I can chalk up another one done.

The laser engraver that I have been reworking is finally running smoothly. The small one I had posted about before has been up-sized to be useful for what I wanted it for in the first place, that being cutting vinyl templates for etching glass. It’s cutting second template right now. Well, not now as you read it of course, but as I write this. There are still some kinks to work out by dialing in the settings, and the electronics all need to go into an enclosure, but the bulk of the work is complete.

Pictures? You want pictures?!? *sigh* Ok, here’s pictures. The original, next to the new version:

IMG_20131006_200858

As you can see, the new one is quite a bit bigger than the original. I haven’t used the whole bed yet, and I may not, since the part you can see in the picture is actually all I need for what I had originally planned. Perhaps larger templates are in my future.

I just looked at the image again, wow, what a mess! That’s boxes from the office, my dog’s feet, an old QuickCam from my Quadra 660AV days, and some plaster molds. As you can see, I still have a lot of cleaning to do in the basement.

What next?

Well, I have the deck still, though I got in all of the posts for the main portion this weekend. Given all the delays with getting holes dug, and family emergencies, I am going to have to get an extension on the building permit. Hopefully they actually give extensions. It’s coming along though, and the octagon’s posts should go in tomorrow, weather permitting. After that are the beams and inspection, before moving on to the joists and decking. That will be my main focus over this next week while daylight permitting.

Work is research right now. I’ve reached out to a friend, Jim Van Verth, to help me with some of the higher order math involved. At least it’s higher order enough to me that I don’t know what the symbols mean. I am sure Jim can shed some light on them for me. Thanks in advance Jim!

I’m also working on AngularJS, since it’s something I’ve been seeing worked on more and more. I have a nice little test project for learning it. It’s an interface to a home kegging system for beer. The original project Kegerface, was php and a flat file with beer information. I’m using it for inspiration, but will be completely rewriting it in AngularJS and running on a NodeJS server. More on that in the future, and links to my Github repo when I’m ready for people to hack on it with me.

Don't forget to wear these. Your safety glasses.
Don’t forget to wear these. Your safety glasses.

Work on the secret project also got done this weekend, and it’s running even smoother now. If I can dial in the base rotation system, I will be just about done with the prototype. I’ll keep teasing you with the details until I can talk about it.

I could keep going, but I have more to get done!

A final note. When working with lasers, don’t forget these, your safety glasses. (With thanks to Norm Abrams.)

I am now the answer to life the universe and everything.

I tried to get this out on September 27th, when it was actually my birthday, but… well, you know how things go some days.

What has this last year been like? What have I gained? What have I lost? What do I look forward to?

As much as the answer just asked more questions in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, turning 42 is no different.

Over the last year at work, I have worked on several great projects. One for a major sports franchise doing an app for SmartTVs. Another for a major creator of yearbooks and rings. I’ve worked on the Randori framework, an open source project that allows developers to work in the language they like (currently ActionScript is supported), and have  it output to HTML5, with abstractions for allowing designers to now have to touch the code. I worked for a large bank, doing enterprise development work that handled billions of dollars of reporting data. I even wrote a book!

At home, I’ve been writing more, and raising my wonderful daughters. I’ve been working on building a deck, which has been no mean feat so far, maybe I can get that done before I am 43. I’ve been working on a secret project that early in 2014 I can talk about. My father-in-law has moved in with us, and my own parents have moved from Tucson to Indianapolis so we can see them more often as well.

It has been a full year.

So what have I gained and lost?

Time, in both senses. When I started working on the book, I had such a short set of deadlines to get the chapters in that I cut out all of my computer gaming entirely. Since I had been playing the Champions MMO, that had been a not-insignificant change. I miss the people there, and the role-playing of the life of a super hero. I don’t miss the time it took from me though. I am constantly surprised still at the amount of time I have for the rest of my life.

I have less time now too, both in my overall life, and in my day to day. How so for the day to day, David? You just said you have more time since you cut out gaming! Well, yes, but a vacuum likes to be filled. That time was filled with writing, with being more with my kids, with other projects, with going to bed at a reasonable hour. So I do have less time, however, I *feel* better about it than I had been. I have been more productive overall, and that makes me feel that time is well spent. Overall, a net positive.

I have slowed down my pace, though if you look at the list of things to do I seem to have increased. The difference has been focus. Doing one thing for a span of time, rather than trying to multitask, has been the key. Right now I am writing, but I have my laser engraver, my deck, and my secret project to work on today. Right now, I am writing, not doing all of those. Which has been the key to getting things done for me, your mileage may vary, but it works for me. It’s why you will see this post, instead of having it sit as a draft for another month.

What do I look forward to?

This year, everything. Life right now is really good. I’m employed, I have a great family, and the projects I am doing have been things have scratched a Maker itch that has been pestering me for a long time now. There aren’t many clouds on the horizon, and I hope that it stays that way. I have always believed that people make their own fate, though I have not always followed that belief. Now however, I am. I have the reigns firmly in hand, and I am controlling this horse called life.

What do I have planned for this year?

Good question! I have a lot of things planned. Not all of them will get done, but I will get to them as time allows. I plan on finishing the laser engraver within the next month or so, as long as nothing further goes awry (more on that in a future post). The deck certainly needs work. I am planning on writing a series of short books on 3D printing, now that the first one is out I realize there is a lot more that I can say on the matter to help people get into the hobby side of things. The secret project definitely needs work. I had a breakthrough late last week, and it was what I needed to get my enthusiasm for it ramped back up.

On the horizon is editing the fiction book I co-wrote with Katherine Guevara-Birmelin, working title of Sky and Storms. It’s massive, and written over email, so it has a *HUGE* amount of editing to do. I have a setting for another fiction novel in my head, spawned by the fallout from having to cancel Vegas After Midnight. Mick still has the fire in him to get his version out, and I encourage you to check it out.

From my desk here in the basement (moved here since the office is now the father-in-law room) I hear the pitter patter of little feet upstairs, which sound much larger than they used to only a few years ago, I know I need to wrap this up. Until next time, so long, and thanks for all the fish!

For those interested in 3D printing, I wrote a book!

Over the past several months I have been working on something. I’ve touched on it a bit here and there in posts about writing a book. Now I can actually talk about it!

The book is called Instant Slic3r. It is meant to be a beginner to intermediate level introduction to the software Slic3r, which is one piece of software you can use in your 3D printing suite of tools. As part of it being an introduction, and in Packt Publishing’s Instant series of books, it weighs in at around sixty odd pages.

Writing it took some effort, and is one of those things that I mentioned in yesterday’s post where I had to really focus. My workload for the book was 2 pages a day, and juggling that with work, family, commuting, and sleeping I had very little time for anything else.

Over the last few years, I have dug deep into the 3D printing community. Learning about various printers, getting in on a Kickstarter for one of my own, researching how they work and how they can be improved. It’s a big area to explore, and Slic3r is a small, though integral, part of it.

Instant Slic3r front coverThe book comes out soon, hence my ability to talk about it now. I don’t have an exact date, but I am told that it will be out and available in 3-4 weeks from now. When I get more information, like links to the book page itself, I will post them.

I hope if you are interested in 3D printing, you’ll pick up a copy. If you want any more information about the book, let me know in the comments.

Oh! Before I forget, I get to show you the cover too!

 

[UPDATE] The book is now available for purchase from multiple vendors. The main Packt site also links to the other places it is available: http://www.packtpub.com/turn-virtual-model-into-a-physical-object-using-slic3r/book

 

Pick of the Day

So this last Saturday, before the rain here on Sunday, we performed a annual ritual around my house. That ritual? Going apple picking.

We’ve gone several years running now, and it’s always been a great time with the family. We don’t go in for the corn mazes, or the other bits and bobs that many of the larger orchards offer. I want to spend time with my kids and my wife, and going to a place like that just makes me want to leave.

A taste of fruitThis is the second time we’ve gone to this orchard. Last year, with the drought, they actually only had apples at the payment hut, but they allowed us to walk through the orchard. After an hour walk, we found a few apples in the trees, and they graciously let us just have them. We also bought some apples from them last year, this year though, had a much bigger crop.

We had arrived just before a larger crowd, and by larger I mean only three other cars. So things were calm and quiet. It was a wonderful sunny day in the high seventies. We went from tree to tree, looking for the apples that were larger and more ripe than the others. The place we go to doesn’t use pesticides on their trees, so we also had to look out for wasps and other stinging insects. There were some, but as is normal, we left them alone, they left us alone.

Erin watched and took pictures while with my youngest on my shoulders, we were able to reach some really nice apples. Handing them from her hand, down to me, then my oldest, and into the bag, it was a great way to bond and develop a memory that we will all share.

After fifteen minutes of picking apples in their honey crisp section, we had gathered over 20 pounds of apples. Nearly 1o kilograms! That is a lot of apples. So far, aside from eating them, Erin has made apple turnovers – of which I have demanded more.

We took some more time to look through the orchard, and took the scenic route back to the entrance and the payment hut. We had a nice conversation about their cider and how the triple beam scale worked for weighing the apples as we checked out. It’s a pleasant place, and well worth the time Erin and I spent with the girls.

Overall, this is about spending time with family. Getting out, doing something beyond the norm, being with the people you are with, and taking things more slowly, at a pace you can really grasp. I’ve spent too much time in front of monitors of some kind, and so have my kids. While this didn’t take long at all to do, maybe 3 hours at most on the Saturday, it is something I will remember for years. Well worth ditching a computer for.