Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Creating a Themed Chess Box Video

The point of this video was to inspire you, if you want to do something new, not to give up. Try, try again until you get it. I hope that came through. If not, watch it again, and keep saying "I can succeed if I keep trying."

It should be mentioned that, at size, this chess set is hard to actually play with, especially if you suffer from a condition I like to call "big meat hands". It's possible to fix this if you scale everything up by 150%, but that has a huge impact on print time, not to mention making the case impossible to print on a mini. However, that is the only part that won't print on a mini, so maybe borrow some time on a bigger printer.

The topic of laser cutters vs 3D printer is one that I defiantly want to make a whole video about, so I'l save that discussion until then.

I considered a 3D printed chess board for this set, but it never really materialized in my head. But when I got access to a laser cutter, suddenly things picked up and I had a ton of great ideas. In the process of making the laser cut chess boards, my initial idea was to have the white square be a masked picture of the original TARDIS control room (very white), and a picture of the latest TARDIS control room (very dark) mapped to the black squares. That turned out very confusing to look at. So I tried with the old interior on the dark squares on one half, and the new interior to the dark squares on the other half. That helped a little in black and white, but after etching it in acrylic, well, let's just say that motivate me to take things in a different direction.

I decided I needed something more simple. I went out looking for TARDIS wallpapers that were mostly dark and with few details so that something might survive the etching process. I found one on Deviant art that felt promising, tried it out, and it worked great. Getting it to work in acrylic had a bit of a learning curve, since with acrylic you're almost etching in white so the image has to be etched functionally in negative, but any areas of solid etching was causing trouble with the acrylic that I was using because in order to get the white to appear on it I needed to keep the plastic covering on. I understand now that this is not the case for all acrylic and is instead something that I had to endure necessarily if I had just gotten some better acrylic. Nevertheless, I managed to make it work on both wood and the acrylic I had and I was pretty happy with it.

What I didn't like, though, was that I was relying on someone else's artwork for my project. Never mind that this whole thing is one big IP violation, I didn't need copyright mucking things up too. So I decided I needed to make my own TARDIS wallpaper in a similar style. Infact, to keep copyright at bay, I didn't even want to use an existing TARDIS 3D model for the render. So I started with the TARDIS model I was using as a rook in the chess set, straightened the sides out and cracked the door a bit (a little features I've been adding to my TARDISes for a long time), and used that to create a render of the TARDIS. Making renders and making 3D models are two different skills, and I still have a lot to learn about texturing and rendering in Blender. However, I recently learned about shadeless textures, which, with the skills I already had with texturing, allowed me to make a pretty sweet two tone render of my TARDIS model. Then I took it into photoshop, put that on a starry background, added a sun to highlight the edges of the black-on-black TARDIS, and the result, I think, was pretty sweet.
Click for full size suitable for wallpapering

It's still retained some of the whimsy of the source model, which I feel will make it match better with the pieces in the set. It's certainly not accurate to the TARDIS in the show. It's more of a parody of the shape of the TARDIS. That probably won't save me should the IP police come knocking, but the BBC has been pretty cool about not coming down on fan art.
I am planning selling these on my Etsy store, which brings the conversation to the topic of my blatant disregard of IP, especially in matters of Doctor Who. This has come up in the past. How do I justify selling unlicensed merchandise based on someone else's IP? This is not a topic I'm ever going to do a video on because, honestly, I have no defense. Legally I'm in the wrong here, and no defense about building their brand, or giving it my own spin, or anything can justify the fact that should the BBC decide to, I would have no recourse. I am currently afloat in what feels like a safe harbor, sailing along side so many others next to the big ship BBC. It's quite a party in these waters. But it's just an illusion. At any moment, that big ship could unload their cannons on us.

With that in mind, I should probably remove the trademarked logos from either side of the chess board. Original artwork of police boxes and cartoony 3D characters are one thing, but logo is probably less defensible. I will miss them.

Oh, and CCTree, thanks for the filament. Check them out on Amazon:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Anet A8 Fire Risk and Marlin Upgrade Video #SaveTheSexyCyborg

Upgrade your firmware. Make sure Thermal Runaway Protection is on. Be safe.

This video was honestly a little rushed. I felt a bit behind the 8 ball with so many A8s catching fire in so short a time. Had I unlimited resources the illustrated description of the thermal runaway problem would have taken a different form, but as it is I hope you enjoy by hastily scribbled drawings. Maybe I'll do that again in the future.

It's been a turbulent week. A week of upsets. A week of triumphs. And a week of losses.

For those who don't know, while the community was putting market pressure on Creality to convince them to release their source code changes in the form of a boycott, Naomi Wu, aka @RealSexyCyborg, was employing her connections with the Creality CEO to advocate for us, translate our demands and the consequences thereof in a way that could be understood and accepted, and turn what could have been a disaster into the best possible outcome. Without a doubt, without Naomi's influence we would likely not have the source code from Creality that we wanted.

Meanwhile, Naomi was having a trial of a different sort. It's been documented more completely elsewhere (recommended reading), but the short version of the story goes like this:
  • A news agency of the loosest sense, called Vice, wants to interview Naomi Wu.
  • Naomi agrees, with the stipulation that they avoid details about her personal life as that could put her at risk in China where personal freedoms are different.
  • Vice puts personal information in the interview anyways. Information that could put her at risk.
  • Naomi felt threatened and, in a video explaining the situation, revealed personal information about the reporter who interviewed her. Information that could have been found with a google search by anyone.
  • Vice leveraged her doxxing of them to lead a legal attack to cut off her financial options, getting YouTube to remove her videos and getting Patreon to cancel her account.
  • Naomi, without a legal team of her own, is basically left without recourse. 
While I acknowledge the legal complexities of the situation, I side with Naomi on this one. Vice wasn't trying to make the world a better place. They were stirring a sensational pot that was started on 4Chan by nerds who couldn't stand the idea of a girl playing in their sandbox.

Vice's goal was seeing if the theory, that Naomi isn't the genuine article, was true. Users on 4Chan believe that behind the fashion centered maker there is a white man calling the shots and using her for his own gain. It's a ludicrous theory that only appeals to the sorts of stereotypical nerds who are, quite frankly, making us all look bad. That Vice gets their sources from 4Chan should have been a clue about the sort of journalism one can expect from them. 

However, in China, a claim like this would make her high profile on social media unacceptable. The accusation of "Western controlled" in one often associated with detention and this has happened to much less vocal and lower profile women.

I've written about Naomi in the past. You only need to watch one of her videos to realize that any claims like this about her intents are completely false. I believe she's the genuine article. But even if the 4Chan claim is true, what does it matter? Who cares if she's doing this of her own accord (which I believe she is) or if she's got someone behind her telling her what to do (which I highly doubt), the influence on the community is the same. If one girl decides that being a girl and being a maker does not need to be at odds with each other, I consider that a win for us all, regardless of the motive behind it. Not only that, she can now add "GLP advocate" to her resume. 

For this Naomi has been targeted by a sensational news organisation who put her at risk for a story, and then shut down her livelihood for turning their treatment back on them because she feared for her safety. In my opinion, Vice does not deserve the protection of the law and Naomi does not deserve to be railroaded. We need Naomi way more than we need Vice. 

I'll admit, some of her videos were a little uncomfortable for me to watch. But while I don't always agree with what she does, but I will defend her to the end for her right to do it.

So what's to be done? Do we have any hope of facing Vice and their lawyers on their field of battle? Is there another front this can be fought on? Is there any way we can get Naomi back into the game? I'm open to suggestion, because I want to #SaveTheSexyCyborg.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Creality CR-10S and GPL Violations

Quickly shot, minimally edited, definitely rambley and long. I hope it doesn't entirely suck.

I know that a lot of people feel very strongly about this. Thing is, I also feel like people are making hasty decisions that they'll regret. And while I originally wanted to just let it blow over, some comments on my videos kinda got me thinking.

The comments that started the ball rolling on this response were as follows. First on my Hot End Shout Out Video Pinkpink Blueblue said:
And then on my March MadMess Review gfodale laid it down with:
This was going to be my plan. Make a video, explain that we can't win this fight and that there was no point to it, so stop worrying about it and go make cool stuff. And the "go make cool stuff" bit I forgot to say in the video, but I still feel that way. If this whole thing is getting in the way of you making cool stuff, then drop it, it's not worth it.

But then I discovered that Creality released a response video and my jaw hit the floor.
The rest is me unboxing a CR-10S. I think I've said enough about how this video affected me already.

Now that the CR-10S is out of the box, I should start voting for next month, but I think I have a surprise for you guys coming soon. Spoilers follow: I've been working on the TEVO Tornado, so I may do a head-to-head video in a few weeks. So far the CR-10S is setup and printing in under an hour. So far the TEVO has had a ton of work done on it and it's produced one crappy print that broke on the print bed. So far, my opinion hasn't been swayed much.

Though I will say, TEVO fixed the problem with the CR-10 driving it's filament too close to the Z-screw. So it's got that going for it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hot End Shout Out Video

Yesterday, I started the process of editing the videos I had previously recorded. I had a video from before March about Cura's new dynamic layer settings with a side not about using Cura with the Neva. That one didn't have the punch I wanted and it had some audio problems. So I threw it out and started editing the video I recorded for the Hot End, and that one suffered from bad audio and too many side topics, so I threw it out. Then I sat down banged this video out in a few hours. Technically that makes this video take 2, which is always better.

Prompted by a video that you can't currently watch, I now want to do a lot more shout outs. This one was obligatory, though I hope it doesn't sound like that. It's not that I don't want to send viewers to John and Anthony. I guess I just expect that the overlap of our audiences in a vin diagram would basically be a circle.

To save myself time in the future, here's a list of channels I want to do shout out's for in the future, in no particular order:
Granddad is an Old Man
Make it and Fake it
Improper Engineering
Print Geek 3D
Miaka's Creations
Sugar Charm Shop
Odin Makes
How I do it
Making Down Unda

I may have to combine some of these or I'll never get to them. I'm thinking a "Come back to us" segment for channels that haven't updated in a year or so.

Are there any channels that you think the world needs to know about?

Monday, April 2, 2018

How a month of Hardware Reviews changed the way I make videos

The Community survey has a limited number of slots for options, so I had to pick my top 5, and we'll cycle in the others with the next month. Go vote now to tell me what to do:

As this month of hardware reviews wraps up, I've had some thoughts I'd like to share. You wouldn't think that a little thing like this would be a landmark project in the history of my channel, but it may very well have ended up being. The lessons I learned and the way this affected my workflow has been too numerous not to take a second and enumerate.

There were two of factors that motivated March MadMess. First of all, I really did have a lot of 3D printers to review and they were getting in the way, physically and mentally, of what I wanted to do. I was trying to figure out how I was going to get through them. I had a plan to focus on one a week, and try to get them to a state that I could do my usual positive note review, but that just wasn't working. Then my contact at GearBest made a personal request that I help him make more sales. He asked directly for more videos. And that's when it clicked. You want more videos? I can do more videos. Screw making a nicer video, you are getting more videos, good, bad, and uuugly.

And it had the desired effect. I've cleared space in my workspace and increased commissioned sales. However, there were some unintended consequences as well, the long term effect of them may not finish shaking out for a while.

So here's a few things I learned from March MadMess:

Don't Vlog Angry

March MadMess was born out of frustration. Frustration for the mess of 3D printers piling up. Frustration for not having time to give any one of them the effort they deserve and frustration over having printers that just don't work. However, I didn't really admit that to myself until the TEVO Tornado non-review. I got roasted in the comments for that one, and rightly so.

Though I will say that some of the abuse from TEVO users was a bit over the top and unnecessary. What is it about TEVO users? Is it just because you invested so much in to getting your sub-par printer working that you either have to defend it or admit you made a mistake? Hmm. Nevertheless, the advice and direction is appreciated.

Apparently I'm the idiot

The thing is, no one is an expert on everything, even if he is pompous enough to call himself "professor". There's a lot I don't know. And even my attempts to get help to solve these printer problems, outside of these videos, fell flat. But the comments section of these videos have been most instructive. I don't think I ever appreciated my audience as much as I should have. I will not make that mistake again.

I think going forward, I think I'm going to do more videos of work-in-progress projects and ask you guys to help out.

Most of these printers were evaluated since the beginning of the year

I felt like I've been sitting on some of these printers a long time, and some of them I have been, but gathering pictures for the reviews I discovered that most of these printers were evaluated in January and February. Then I remembered that at the start of the year I set a goal to do one hardware review a month. So I'd open one up, putting it together, try them out, have them fail. since I was trying to do a review a month, I'd put them aside and open another one, only to have it repeat.Soon I had nothing to review but a pile of unfinished evaluation units.

Neva was the first to force the issue. They wanted a review quickly. So I reviewed their printer as it was, just like they asked. Well, maybe not just like they asked. But I don't give up editorial control or give my content to a 3rd party for any reason. That's why their review, while technically a part of March MadMess, was before the official announcement. 

After that, though, it just made sense. If I didn't have to keep fighting with machines that weren't working, I could just review a bunch of them. If I didn't have a good experience, why waste my time hoping it'll turn around. If it turns around, I can always do a follow up. And some of these printer will get that experience.

Going forward I'd like to focus on just one printer at a time until I can either decide it's worth pursuing or decide to take it apart, and then move on to another one. No more jugging a dozen projects. Well, not hardware projects anyways.

I am not going into sales any time soon

I'm no sales man. Never have been, and never want to be. I'm not going to promote something I can't believe in. I'm not going to tell you the up sides of a thing with my one hand while hiding the possible downsides behind my back. I'm not above a little click-bait, but I always strive for honest click-bait.

When GearBest asked that I spam my videos with the links to every 3D printer *they* wanted to promote, regardless of whether I mentioned it in that video, or anywhere at all, which included I've only heard of. My response was a very polite but firm reassuring of my stance that I would not be spamming my audience. I still feel my first duty is to the viewer. As a compromise I put some of those links in the write-ups for the videos and referred people to those write-ups as often as I could in the videos.

In the end, I think this worked on several levels. First of all, I had a number of people comment that they didn't know I did these write ups, but that they really enjoyed them. That made me feel good. But also, those who visited the blog post were a little more dedicated and more likely to have the dedication, not just to make an impulse purchase, but to be a thoughtful, long-term customer. Fewer return, fewer negative reports, better PR. At least, that's what I'm telling myself is going to be the result.

Lots of people weren't reading these write-ups

And now they are.

When I started making YouTube videos, my thought was "Hey, maybe I can use this to drive people to my blog". You can even see in my early YouTube videos, there was a huge link to my blog plastered up there. But as the metrics for my YouTube videos went up, and my metrics for the blog more or less remained steady, eventually the blog became in service to the videos. However, I couldn't help, over time, having my blog posts get longer and more deep. Case in point, this one.

Now it's coming back around and I'm making an effort to refer people back to the blog again.

Oh, and this month, I realized I didn't have a link to my most current book in the sidebar. Fixed.

My time is more limited than I want it to be

With as many videos as I produced this month, there was no spoons left for actually doing 3D printing projects. A running 3D printer is a happy 3D printer, and none of my 3D printers are happy right now. I need to give my Davinci Color a good head cleaning before I can use it again. And I haven't really had time to test any of the 3D printers beyond what I did before March.

The shed space is also a problem. That shelf behind me is about 6" higher than I need to to fit all these large format and delta printers that I've got to keep happy. But more on that in a second.

I think I've got enough bandwidth for one experimental printer at a time. So from now on, as I said, that's probably all I'm going to do. Allocate some time for fiddling, and just keep working on one machine until it's where I want it, and then move on. If I hit a point where it's time to do a review and I haven't gotten very far on it, I'll make some kind of video about it. Perhaps a topic video while I fiddle with it, those seems to go well.

I am in badly need of some upgrades

I've never run my 3D printing channel like a proper business, or even like a proper YouTube channel. It just never made sense to me to invest in high end recording equipment, like Joel or Angus or Devin did. It never made sense to me to invest in a setup that can output 4k video like Tom does. Of course all those channels are much more successful than me in a very short time, but I've gotten here without any debt or over extending myself, and it's been mostly self-supporting up to this point.

Still, I'm frustrated that the audio and video quality of my videos aren't what they should be. My interview with Isaac prompted me to invest in some better mic equipment, generously donated by GearBest.

But my shed is also in need of a major structural overhaul. It's a mess. The printer desk is too high, or the shelf above it is too low. It's got holes that let the sun and mice in, and there's hardly any corner of it where it's safe from UV light, which makes the FLSun S Complete a tough one to run. If I can raise some funds, I might be able to get some proper siding and insulation. Heck, while I'm dreaming, maybe I'll be able to tear the whole thing down and rebuild the ultimate YouTube recording set/storage area.

I wonder if IconBuild would like some publicity?

Positive reviews generate sales, Negative reviews generate cred

It's interesting to me that both positive and negative reviews have their place. In the past I avoided making reviews too negative, because I was worried that it would prevent people from sending me additional review units. And maybe that's the case. But those negative reviews also seem to make the positive ones mean more. People appreciate that they can tell when they're getting good advice, because they know you won't hold back on the bad.

Unless you're knocking TEVO for no good reason. Then you just get blasted.

The bills are paid

Interestingly, a month of videos with links to where you can buy them resulted in a lot of commissions. Who knew. But it was, in fact, enough that this month's bills are covered. Not bad for a part-time job.

This point alone is the most difficult one to come to terms with. I don't want my channel to be all hardware reviews all the time. But when your financial burdens are eased by doing a thing, it's hard not to do that thing again and again. Of course, I can't exactly just jump in and do hardware reviews all the time for a number of reason. First of all, I'm out of hardware. Secondly, as I mentioned before, it takes time to properly test a piece of equipment. And it takes time to make a video. And it takes time to do projects. And this is only a part-time gig for me so I have to choose.

Still, this makes me feel like I'm standing at the head of a fork in the road. And while this isn't the path I want to choose, the way ahead has a certain appeal. I think it's unavoidable that hardware reviews are going to be a part of the future of my channel, but I'm going to have to go about them in smart ways.

Let's take one last look at those links:
Gearbest is also having a huge event for it's 4th Anniversary. Check it out:

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Mooz 3 in 1 Maker Machine - March MadMess

This thumbnail references the classic meme known as "Shoop da Whoop".

I may have been a little bit generous with this machine in the video. The truth is there's a lot of issues with it, but it's only of the only machines I know of, at this price, that enables home users to 3D print, laser etch, and route. And maybe if people were more excited about this, others would jump in and help make it happen again, and we'd have machines like this cropping up all over.

But is the Mooz a great product? Besides the points I listed in the video, I've got a few bullet points to gripe about:

  • Unnecessary interchangability
  • No wire management
  • No folder organization for files
  • No help sourcing materials
  • CNC router mess

Why are the arms these interchangeable, self-contained things? What does it benefit? I know that theoretically it could be reconfigured to be a delta, but why would anyone do that? Maybe if they were lego simple to take apart and put back together, but this thing is held together with a ton of screws. It is not meant to come apart. So why enclose the motor, drive screw, and limit switch in a uniform case that you can't modify? The only thing it does is limit the size this machine ever can be, and that's not a good thing.

The wire management on this thing is non existent. Behind it's pretty front is a mess of wires like I haven't seen since the 90s behind my parent's entertainment system. Honestly, this thing makes the CR-10 look good.

When organizing your files on the SD card, you'd better not put things in folders, because the file system can't read them. Yup, anything in a folder is invisible to that fancy touch screen system. And on a machine that can switch functions, the ability to organize files, at least by function, would seem a no-brainer to me.

There's nothing in the manual or on their website about where to source materials, or even a suggestion of what materials to use. You're on your own here. Never mind that if you buy a sheet of wood or whatever, and it's too big, this thing isn't going to help you cut it down.

I'm more than a little concerned about the mess of sawdust that this thing is going to produce, falling into the modular axis block used for the Y. How am I supposed to clean that out and will this thing get gummed up?

This all adds up to one big question: Did anyone at Dobot actually used this machine to make anything? It's like they proved the concept, and started the kickstarter. And while I feel like this thing has some possibility, I could use some help seeing it. Maybe Dobot needs some help seeing it too. I'm reminded of stories about Makerbot having a printer on every associate's desk and them excitely using these printers every day. They were their biggest fans. IS Dobot their own biggest fans? Maybe not for this machine. Though they seem pretty excited about their robot arms. ... Actually, I'd be pretty excited to have one of those robot arms.

I invested far more effort into editing this video than its blown out white levels deserved. A 20 minute video needs a little something to keep it going. So I tried zooming in, adding text, images and even funny sounds, and then I noticed the chickens were being picked up by my mic, so every time I heard them I added a little something to the video. If I could just get my quality consistent, high quality videos, high quality audio, and good editing all in the same video all the time, I would be able to run with the big boys.

Look at my links. My links are amazing
Gearbest is also having a huge event for it's 4th Anniversary. Check it out:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Geeetech E180 and the Future of 3D Printing March MadMess video

Basically, I'm saying I want a MP Select Mini to have this touch screen.

As mentioned in the video, see the Neva writeup for my rant about heated build plates.

If you're an avid follower of the blog, you might have recognized the rant about the 3D printing becoming more appliance at the start of this video as having it's genesis in the post about the JGAurora A5. There are probably going to be other times where I start to form an idea here, and then it makes it's way into a future video. So keeping up on the blog is a great way to get a sneak peek into future video topics.

If you're not an avid follower of this blog, you probably aren't reading this, so there's no point in my going on about that.

In this video I failed to mention the ecosystem that Geeetech is creating with their easy print app and web site. I failed to mention it because I never got that far. I would love to play wit an app that you can choose from a pre-curated set of plated models and start printing right there, control your printer from your phone and show off what's it's doing easily. And I appreciate that you can still control the pritner without it, because if I had to whip out my phone every time I wanted to pause a print... let's just say I've been there with octoprint and I don't like it. For this app alone I am willing to crack open this printer's replacement and give it another chance.

Part of me is wondering how their implementation of this idea is going to let me down, too, though. I've been hurt, bad.

Links here.
Gearbest is also having a huge event for it's 4th Anniversary. Check it out: