Planet HantsLUG

April 19, 2017

Steve Kemp

3d-Printing is cool

I've heard about 3d-printing a lot in the past, although the hype seems to have mostly died down. My view has always been "That seems cool", coupled with "Everybody says making the models is very hard", and "the process itself is fiddly & time-consuming".

I've been sporadically working on a project for a few months now which displays tram-departure times, this is part of my drive to "hardware" things with Arduino/ESP8266 devices . Most visitors to our flat have commented on it, at least once, and over time it has become gradually more and more user-friendly. Initially it was just a toy-project for myself, so everything was hard-coded in the source but over time that changed - which I mentioned here, (specifically the Access-point setup):

  • When it boots up, unconfigured, it starts as an access-point.
    • So you can connect and configure the WiFi network it should join.
  • Once it's up and running you can point a web-browser at it.
    • This lets you toggle the backlight, change the timezone, and the tram-stop.
    • These values are persisted to flash so reboots will remember everything.

I've now wired up an input-button to the device too, experimenting with the different ways that a single button can carry out multiple actions:

  • Press & release - toggle the backlight.
  • Press & release twice - a double-click if you like - show a message.
  • Press, hold for 1 second, then release - re-sync the date/time & tram-data.

Anyway the software is neat, and I can't think of anything obvious to change. So lets move onto the real topic of this post: 3D Printing.

I randomly remembered that I'd heard about an online site holding 3D-models, and on a whim I searched for "4x20 LCD". That lead me to this design, which is exactly what I was looking for. Just like open-source software we're now living in a world where you can get open-source hardware! How cool is that?

I had to trust the dimensions of the model, and obviously I was going to mount my new button into the box, rather than the knob shown. But having a model was great. I could download it, for free, and I could view it online at viewstl.com.

But with a model obtained the next step was getting it printed. I found a bunch of commercial companies, here in Europe, who would print a model, and ship it to me, but when I uploaded the model they priced it at €90+. Too much. I'd almost lost interest when I stumbled across a site which provides a gateway into a series of individual/companies who will print things for you, on-demand: 3dhubs.

Once again I uploaded my model, and this time I was able to select a guy in the same city as me. He printed my model for 1/3-1/4 of the price of the companies I'd found, and sent me fun pictures of the object while it was in the process of being printed.

To recap I started like this:

Then I boxed it in cardboard which looked better than nothing, but still not terribly great:

Now I've found an online case-design for free, got it printed cheaply by a volunteer (feels like the wrong word, after-all I did pay him), and I have something which look significantly more professional:

Inside it looks as neat as you would expect:

Of course the case still cost 5 times as much as the actual hardware involved (button: €0.05, processor-board €2.00 and LCD I2C display €3.00). But I've gone from being somebody who had zero experience with hardware-based projects 4 months ago, to somebody who has built a project which is functional and "pretty".

The internet really is a glorious thing. Using it for learning, and coding is good, using it for building actual physical parts too? That's something I never could have predicted a few years ago and I can see myself doing it more in the future.

Sure the case is a little rough around the edges, but I suspect it is now only a matter of time until I learn how to design my own models. An obvious extension is to add a status-LED above the switch, for example. How hard can it be to add a new hole to a model? (Hell I could just drill it!)

April 19, 2017 09:00 PM

April 18, 2017

Debian Bits

Call for Proposals for DebConf17 Open Day

The DebConf team would like to call for proposals for the DebConf17 Open Day, a whole day dedicated to sessions about Debian and Free Software, and aimed at the general public. Open Day will preceed DebConf17 and will be held in Montreal, Canada, on August 5th 2017.

DebConf Open Day will be a great opportunity for users, developers and people simply curious about our work to meet and learn about the Debian Project, Free Software in general and related topics.

Submit your proposal

We welcome submissions of workshops, presentations or any other activity which involves Debian and Free Software. Activities in both English and French are accepted.

Here are some ideas about content we'd love to offer during Open Day. This list is not exhaustive, feel free to propose other ideas!

  • An introduction to various aspects of the Debian Project
  • Talks about Debian and Free Software in art, education and/or research
  • A primer on contributing to Free Software projects
  • Free software & Privacy/Surveillance
  • An introduction to programming and/or hardware tinkering
  • A workshop about your favorite piece of Free Software
  • A presentation about your favorite Free Software-related project (user group, advocacy group, etc.)

To submit your proposal, please fill the form at https://debconf17.debconf.org/talks/new/

Volunteer

We need volunteers to help ensure Open Day is a success! We are specifically looking for people familiar with the Debian installer to attend the Debian installfest, as resources for people seeking help to install Debian on their devices. If you're interested, please add your name to our wiki: https://wiki.debconf.org/wiki/DebConf17/OpenDay#Installfest

Attend

Participation to Open Day is free and no registration is required.

The schedule for Open Day will be announced in June 2017.

DebConf17 logo

by DebConf team at April 18, 2017 07:00 AM

April 16, 2017

Debian Bits

DPL elections 2017, congratulations Chris Lamb!

The Debian Project Leader elections finished yesterday and the winner is Chris Lamb!

Of a total of 1062 developers, 322 developers voted using the Condorcet method.

More information about the result is available in the Debian Project Leader Elections 2017 page.

The current Debian Project Leader, Mehdi Dogguy, congratulated Chris Lamb in his Final bits from the (outgoing) DPL message. Thanks, Mehdi, for the service as DPL during this last twelve months!

The new term for the project leader starts on April 17th and expires on April 16th 2018.

by Laura Arjona Reina at April 16, 2017 04:40 PM