Finally dumping Ubuntu; for Debian

For years, I had used Ubuntu. Things just worked. People supported it as a ‘default’ Linux OS with regards to PPAs and easy howtos splattered everywhere on the internet.

And then Ubuntu went to that monstrosity, Unity. The rest of the system is pretty spiffy, but Unity is the turd in the punchbowl. Thank goodness I could go back to Gnome 2 and all would be well. For the most part, at least.

But I also have a Windows partition on this machine, which predates my second laptop. It’s a crap WinXP install that cannot connect to secure wireless networks, or to much anything whatever. And I do “Real Work” in Linux anyways, so it’s just sitting there eating valuable HD space.

SO, I downloaded the Debian image.. And all was well. I burnt it to a DVD, and realized that I had gotten the kFreeBSD version!! ARGH!

I’m now downloading amd64 testing as I type this. 22% done @ 1.~ MB/s . Gotta love university networks. Usability updates will commence once I get it installed. Although loading it in a VM shows prettiness. And now it’s installing nicely..


3D scanner nearly functional!

I’ve been working overtime on a lot of projects, hence the lack of updates. My biggest current project is my 3D scanner, which is nearly complete! IMG_20131101_174842Firstly, I’ve had to make some modifications corrections to my scanner platform. First, my “circle” wasn’t. When it rotated, the belt got so loose that it came off the platter. So I had to take off the platter and re-make the circle. And I found a junk pulley I also screwed down on the board.

IMG_20131101_174849Now I have a nearly correct circle.. and I still haven’t any wood putty to fill those holes. But that’s OK. I also have my Arduino Uno on the board now.

IMG_20131101_174854And there’s that nice heavy pulley. And there’s some junk donut thing underneath that I also scrounged.

IMG_20131101_174900From here, you can see a simple potentiometer. And I used that wonderful skit that pairs a pot to the stepper. Everything so far works well. So, let’s continue…

IMG_20131101_175904 IMG_20131101_180420 IMG_20131101_180941 IMG_20131101_180947And, this is boring, but essential. I found leftover plywood and one back of a speaker box. So far, I have the stage and the 3 sides for the back. And for ‘flair’, they all are different heights. But, boring done. DING!

IMG_20131101_185514I had my laser module with bare wires. Initially, they were screwed into a Phoenix adapter and dropped into the breadboard. So, I found a header and soldered the pins so I can plug one into ground and the other into an arduino pin. Ideally, I’ll switch to a PWM so I can control and calibrate strength of the laser. But for the time, it’s on pin 13.

IMG_20131101_194342_4And there’s an example of what my project looks like when active. Obviously, I test one system at a time. In this case, I used BLINK example and stripped the flashing. Yes, my Arduino is now a laser flashlight. I am what the old school engineers fear!

IMG_20131103_112538Now, I needed my camera at a further viewpoint than putting them on that stage. My answer was to scrounge for a hinge and put the webcam further out. So, I found a hinge and cut some scrap and mounted the camera on there. It is, as always, trashy looking and cheap (No, FREE). The extra plus here is it can fold in for storage.

IMG_20131103_112512And here, is what I have as of now. Last tweaks I need to pay attention to are the following:

1. Put laser on PWM

2. Position laser so it doesn’t have a bright red dot somewhere in the camera field of view.

3. Find idea speed for stepper so it doesnt have weird sounds.

4. Working on FabScan software for Arduino and Computer. As of now, it’ll require 2 USB ports or if I can scrounge a powered USB hub.

Continued from

3D scanner platform nearly done!

Today was a tremendously eventful day! I first worked greatly on my 3d printer, but that’s not the subject of today’s post. Today, I nearly finished my 3D scanner platform… and cost me about $4 in total cash spent!

I’m a parts hound. I find a broken printer; I take broken printer. See a scanner pick it up, all the day you’ll have hacker luck. So, I’ve lots of my own collection of gears, motors, switches, LEDs, and all sorts of smaller mounting objects. But, what have I ever made from this junk I collect? Let’s find out what I did.

3$ lazy susan bracketThis is my first part, and the only part that cost money. Remember, I am a cheap ass so I can buy shiny stuffs elsewhere (like wine for the girlfriend). This cost me a whole $3 and some change, and can handle 300 lbs. Gods help me if I put that much weight on this scanner.. although it will be able to hold it. They sold 3 sizes of these bearing brackets, and I chose the smallest. 4 in or something like that.

salvaged motor

And here is a fine example of  a stepper motor with a nice gear train that I harvested from some long ago printer. It’s a M35SP-7N stepper from Mitsumi. There’s specs on the web that are easy to find and (ab)use. So this is my donor motor. And it was free from a dead printer pull. I also got a nice gear belt for a cost of 0$. No clue if it was what went with that stepper and gears, but the teeth on top of that pulley align well.

pencil on string

Here at Bloominglabs, we have a 40W CO2 laser cutter at our disposal. I could have done exemplary perfect circles cut into plywood or acrylic. However, in the sense of being cheap (and wanting others to be able to duplicate my stuff so far), I used a pencil and thin wire to make a circle on scrap wood. Of course, if you have a better circle maker, USE IT! I wanted to demonstrate that I could make it with almost no extra cost or special tools.

So, I found a diameter that I liked for the center platform, and then proceeded to mark it on the plywood. So yeah, I used a band saw, but you could easily use any saw to cut it.


Remember that CNC machine made out of wood that I took apart for those juicy motors??? Well, this base is one of the wood panels from that very machine. Waste not, want not I say. And I took it apart. I was just too lazy to take it to the dumpster :P And I also dropped holes in line with the brackets. So far, so good.


Well…… Those M3 screws I had with my printer look like they were going to work well. That is, until I realized geometries and ended up with an EPIC FAIL. Back to the donor and scrap screw bin to see what I can appropriate for my project. Of course, I do find these nice wood screws (they’re in wood, so they’re WOOD screws).


Now, the fun part is those wood screws I used… Well, they are a wee too long for the 5/8″ plywood I used for the rotating section. But they fit so well otherwise…… So I used metal snips from the space to “make them right”. Which is so wrong, but it worked. Goal: no money outlay for screws. NEXT.


So, from here, I got the turntable fixed on the board. And then, I wanted to put on the motor in an appropriate place: in the corner. I dug out some more “wood screws”, and carefully tension the belt (read: pull hard and screw down). I also used 2 nylock nuts for the back PURELY for spacing from the top as a support. The screws do not actually do anything in the nylock, as it’s like an M8 or something way too big.


Here’s a nice overview of what I have done so far. Do note that there’s the 4 tiny holes in my scanning platter. I’ll need to scrounge some wood putty and fix those. But that’s a small problem; nearly cosmetic.


And I have more parts. I was given the breadboard and I bought the breakaway connectors. As you can see, they were a whopping $0.47 , and I already got my use out of them. So I didn’t count them as a cost in this project. I used so far a total of 5 prongs. And the motor connector was NOT the same spacing as my breadboard. GRR. So, I broke off the nice little plastic, and pulled it off and proceeded to jam the pins in and force-aligning them with the board. VOILÀ! They fit.

Now… The breadboard has stickytape on its back. But there’s NO WAY IN HELL that it’d stick to mostly clean and un-smooth wood. So I used 3 more “wood screws” and locked it in place where you see. Lookin’ good so far.


And I proceeded to do some circuit wiring so far. I’m using IRLZ44N’s for the power MOSFETs. My dead dad had a bunch he gave me. So COOL. They’re something like $1.95 in Mouser, and I didn’t bother to check with Digikey. Cause I have a tube of 50 of ‘em!  So yeah, it’d be $8 here if you don’t already have something to drive the stepper. I used the appropriate resistors as well. The green lines will go to my arduino.  So, this is what my project looks like as of yet.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: crappy circuit diagram. Thanks Fritzing.

crappy circuit diagram

Pidgin with MS Lync makes me cry


My current assignment here at work (which shall remain nameless) has asked me to provide public documentation on how to set up Linux with Pidgin and have MS Lync work with all staff and faculty users. We’re focusing on supporting Ubuntu 13.04 (yippie…) starting from a barebones system.  Yes, I am guiding END USERS how to compile software for their environment, using a Github source code plugin. FML.

I first install Ubuntu in the VM. My god.. This is the first time I’ve touched a 13.x Ubuntu install. This is utter crap. Might as well put the square blocks and emulate the MS experience here too. Oh well.

Read: sudo apt-get install pidgin build-essential autotools-dev pkg-config libglib2.0-dev libgtk2.0-dev libpurple-dev libtool comerr-dev


(taps foot) BORED NOW.
Finally done installing… and now I ./configureand FAIL. The config log demands nss. But what it really wants is libnss3-dev. Grr. Once more, with feeling. The feeling is the pain in my ass.
Oh, now it throws on libxml2-dev.  I’m about ready to tell the knowledge base maintainer ‘Use google chat. Everybody already has it.’…. Gotta do it right though.And I finally make it through the configure tests.. Hmm. No kerberos support. No telepathy support. Hope I don’t need those. So, now it’s time for a big fat juicy MAKE.            (hopes for no errors, hopes for no errors, hopes for no errors)And Make completes in a whole 3 minutes, whereas the build_environment_time was in the 2 hour range. Of course, I did install the OS as well in that block. On my same old failing fan jet engine laptop. And what the hell? The plugin isn’t in Pidgin?!? I probably needed libtelepathy, or something else I missed. Back to the configure board again. I’ll go ahead and nab kerberos as well, just for shits and giggles. It’s only the users’ hard drive I’ll be filling!
And then it complains that I need other libraries, and it’s time for me to go. I’ll have to work on this Tuesday, if I can manage to get a decent environment that I can even compile successfully. Meh. So much for that. Windows inter-operation.

Today was eventful. Printers, printers, everywhere!

During the Public Bloominglabs meeting, as I walked in, there were stacks of printers beneath the windowsill. I knew that this was the cleaning that was discussed. The sprawl of the “cleaning” escaped far outside the door onto the sidewalk. Of course, we did clean this up, but some software dev hacker wanted to do the absolute unspeakable with these 9 printers, many of them laser…..

He wanted to “Throw Them Away”!!!oh god

So, we recused them and set them aside the MAME cabinet we have in the ‘Space. That was Wednesday.

So, today rolls around, and after I dropped off a friend, I saw the email that someone was at the ‘space taking apart the printers for all sorts of stuff. I drop on by, because demolishing plastic printer bodies is my “specialty”.  I was headed there initially for Arduino stuffs, but motors and gears are fun too.

So, I was handed a printer. A junk HP all in 1 printer/scanner. And every screw was a Torx bit. Every last one. And of course, my torx bits are the shot ones on a hex adapter so I can switch them in and out… And all of these were recessed. Waitforit… I have a hacksaw and a hammer!



So, instead of meticulously unscrewing each nasty torx screw, I just ripped the screws and threads off all in one HULKSMASH motion. You can see my handiwork there. Poor printer. Evidently Hewlett Crapard’s printers are these DC motors with opto-interruptors and wheels with tiny black ticks on them. Do note, that is what the _first_ Mendel 3d printer used to control the motors, and they QUICKLY went to using real steppers because DC motors are terrible when you need precision for things like printing!

Of course, that’s why I’m taking these apart; because they are indeed trash with small gems for us parts geeks to use.

Printers Stripped for oozey goodness in motors and circuits: 6  ~  Printers Left: 3

We’re winning.

I finally make it to Boominglabs: Ghetto Line Laser howto

I came last week to Bloominglabs on a Wednesday. And Steve here was running an awesome Arduino class. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Ewww…. Arduino.  Couldn’t I use something more professional like an FPGA, DSP, or a PIC? Well. No. An Arduino works great when you want something dirty and quick. Getting it done […]

On my way to recycling…

Whenever the wine, beer, and alcohol bottles stack up too high, it’s time we plod off to do the dirty deed: doing the recycling duty. Our city has a good service for this, although we have to sort it. BTW, my goal, at least with the plastics, is to grind them up and print with them. That’s REAL recycling. But while on my way there……


But I went to this place here in Bloomington called <a href=>Stansifers</a>. No, their website is nothing to behold, even from the late ’90s. However when you go inside, it’s a blast from the past! They have electron tubes all along one side of the wall. They actually…. NO REALLY have electronic parts like resistors, motors, sensors, ICs, board etching equipment… You name it, and they have it or can get it! They also will do all the ordering from Digikey and Mouser for you.. and it’s usually cheaper than if you ordered it yourself from those same websites.


Well, so I make my rounds in this place. And that entails finding the clearance stickers everywhere. In one aisle, they had Mil-spec wire wound resistors. Another had a 80386 radiation hardened CPU…?!? And they had spools of solder for $23.. Big spools.

LCDs and stuff

So, what did I buy? I found this spiffy set of LCD character and dot displays. The whole package was $21 after tax. There’s no blues, but I don’t like the blues. But there are reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. Nice friendly “DONT KEEP YOU AWAKE” colors.


What will I do with them? Stay tuned here. I have a few ideas


Fresh hacks every day


DIY projects, how-tos, and inspiration from geeks, makers, and hackers

The Cranky Linux User

The Cross-Section between Technology, Open Source, Tinkering, and Cheap-Ass


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