Macs with the New M1 Chip – Be Advised

I’m old enough to remember when Mac used propriety chips in their computers.   They were called “PowerPC” or PPC.  Proprietary chips mean proprietary code to run them. .  Such as it was with the old OS X operating systems.  Right around 2005 Apple announced it would transition to Intel chips which most of the rest of the world was running on already.  It opened up a new world of software and hardware to the Mac.

People found they could run OS X on Intel PC’s (aka Hackintosh).

Now here we are again 16 years later and Mac has gone their own route and selected another proprietary chip, the M1 which is ARM based and not X86.  When you think ARM, think Raspberry Pi.

The advantages to doing this are MANY.  Apple controls the hardware build and can write tight code for that specific hardware.  The chips are FAST.

THE DOWNSIDE HERE IS THAT YOU LOSE LEGACY COMPATIBILITY.   That old hardware you have connected to USB may not work anymore.  That old hunk of software you love may not work anymore.  Or the software you love may have to run on top of something called “Rosetta 2” which allows Intel apps to run on ARM OS’s.  So there could be hiccups with that as well.

So lets get to my experience: Continue reading

Ortur Laser Maker 2 Review

No shortage of reviews for the Ortur Laser Master 2 and as always I won’t bore you with the things you can read anywhere else, like what models are available and what the real laser power is, etc.  You can get that info anywhere.

This is MY shakedown and I like to bring up the things the layman and weekend hobbyist might come up with.

First of all the cheapest place to buy one is Gearbest. You can get the top of the line (20 watt) for about $290.  So I ordered one.  And I waited and I waited and I waited and the status on Gearbest still showed it not being invoiced.  A lot of people on a lot of forums were saying they waited for months.

You can however just order one on Amazon and have it in 2 days.  This is what I eventually did.  The downside is that it costs like $120 more.  I can live with that.

I got the box which was well packaged and the kit was complete.  Assembly takes 30 minutes or so, however if you were building your 2nd one it would take about 10 minutes.  Translation:  The instructions suck.  I ended up watching an assembly video on YouTube which made the process much, much easier.

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Ortur Laser Master 2 Air Assist

Ortur Laser Master 2

I got one of those Ortur Laser Master 2, laser engraving machines.   This is not really a review of the machine but suffice to say that I think it is awesome.

It is not the end all, be all machine for laser engraving for sure but it is WAY more than enough for most hobbyists.  Also it will do things that technically it isn’t supposed to do thanks to the ingenuity of community of people behind it.

Rather this post is about adding Air Assist to the laser.   In short if material is too thick to cut and takes many passes an air assist system will speed things up and produce much cleaner cuts free of smoke and burning.  In the picture below you can see evidence of burns in the lines and especially where the lines are close like in the “E” and the top of the logo.

Slight burning marks on logo and prominent on “E”

Here is the exact same cut, using the exact same settings, with Air Assist in the pic below.

Same settings with Air Assist

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Logic (Level Shifting) and Shit

I ran a strip of WS2811, 12 volt LED’s in my home for years with a program from Bruhautomation which has kind of long since been obsolete and the author has archived the project.  Served me well for years.

The new kid on the block for controlling LED’s for effect lighting is WLED by Aircookie.  Awesome project.   For some reason though the hardware I’ve always used to drive the LED strip wasn’t working reliably with my new WLED setup.   Weird things like having the first 3 LED’s light up uncommanded while the strip was powered off and other things like not retaining the color or brightness from the last known state.

Translation:  Data corruption.

The data signal that powers the LED comes from the ESP8266 chip and is a 3.3 volt signal.  For a long run of lights to keep things working correctly we may need to amplify the signal to 5 volts.

This is where something called a Logic Level Shifter comes into play.

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WLED for Home Effect Lighting

LED Effect Lighting

We’ve all seen those decorative LED strips in the big box stores.  They are either controlled by a remote (who needs another remote control?) or by an app.  I am here to tell you that the cheap Chinese lights and their apps are essentially spyware.

So to be safe we want to use an Open Source solution to power our lights. Enter, WLED by Aircookie.  Before we go down the rabbit hole I want you to realize that this isn’t the typical geek project.

It is EASY!  Anyone can do this.  But to make it easy you’ll need a few things that could be optional if you cannot solder or you don’t have a drawer full of electronic geek stuff.

BEFORE I TALK TOO MUCH AND SCARE YOU OFF WE ARE GOING TO DO THIS ESSENTIALLY:

  • PLUG IN A CHIP TO A COMPUTER
  • OPEN A PROGRAM AND FLASH THAT CHIP WITH ONE BUTTON CLICK
  • HOOK UP 5 WIRES

There are a lot of different LED strips and your selection will depend on what you are doing.  Because I put a 4′ strip behind a workbench I used 5 volt strips.  If you are doing a pretty long run, a 5 volt strip might not power all your lights without additional power injection.  12 volt strips MIGHT also require a level shifter on the data wires to get the signal down stream.  Your ESP8266 chip will send a 3.3v data signal out.  To make a long run you might need 5 volts.  A level shifter turns a 3.3 volt signal into a 5 volt signal.  But I digress.  Let’s keep this simple.

On to the Build Of Materials:

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LED Strips For Lighting and Effects – What NOT To Get

I have a real cool LED strip that I installed a while back.  Details of that build are here.

My Living Room Arch LED Strip Installation

I just built a work/hobby room up and decided to put some effect lighting in there as well.  I did a little research and of all the LED lights that you can buy in Lowes, Target, Walmart, HomeDepot only the Monster Smart Illuminessence lights line at Walmart seemed to be available quickly and they seemed to possess the ability to be flashed by an Open Source Firmware called Tasmota.

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The Prusa 3D Printing EXPERIENCE

I’ve done my share of 3D printing with various printers.  I have hand built a Rep-Rap kit, and owned an M3D cube printer.

But nothing compares to the Prusa EXPERIENCE.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I built that Rep-Rap kit which was just an awful experience.  After I got it built it was probably a week before I actually extruded any material with it.  My heart leapt with joy when I saw some plastic ooze out of the nozzle.  Then it took another day or two of tweaking to make a print that wasn’t horrific.   The EXPERIENCE I gained was invaluable but the EXPERIENCE itself was horrific.

Once I got the Rep-Rap going I began upgrading everything on it.  Also gained tons of EXPERIENCE but again the EXPERIENCE itself was fraught with frustration and trial and error.

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3D Printers – Prusa i3 MK3S+

Modified Rep-Rap 3D Printer

I have been 3D Printing for maybe 5 years now.   I’m not a drop dead, full on expert, but I have learned a few things. I honestly believe the best way to break into 3D printing is to buy and build a cheap Rep-Rap machine and upgrade.  Go through all the trials and tribulations and then get into the higher end machines.

One thing is for certain.  Your printer will break, or clog or something…….and then you’ll have no earthly idea what to do when that happens.

That is how I got my start.  I found a place called RepRapGuru (which I think is out of business now) and bought a $200 printer.  After I built it and got it printing which was no easy feat, I did a boatload of research and found out that upgrading certain components would increase my quality considerably.  So I did just that.  Instead of threaded rod for the Z axis to go up and down on, I got proper lead screws.  Instead of the cheap Chinese hotend I put an E3D-V6 hotend on it.  Then I changed the extruder to a compact Bowden, then I reprinted most of the parts, and on and on it went.  All of these changes made me go inside the firmware and change THINGS…..an invaluable skill……..I still have this printer and believe me, it works GREAT.

But it was a toy that I made into “Not A Toy”.  It was time to move on.  Research on 3D printing more or less revealed that the best company out there was Prusa Research by Josef Prusa.  Just like Bill Gates is the Huckleberry of Windows and Linus Torvalds is the Huckleberry of Linux…….Josef Prusa is the Huckleberry of 3D printing.   As a consumer, maybe even a long time  consumer and user of Prusa printers I have to state that the company has really evolved into something special in a way that most companies will never do.

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3D Printed Back Load Horn Speaker Project

Back Load Horn 3D Printed Speakers

I have a 3D printer.  Well, actually 3, but who is counting?  The other night I saw a new project upload on Thingiverse for a Back Load Horn Speaker.  It was so cool and I knew I had to try it.  And besides, I had an actual need as I had just purchased a Uniden SDS200 Police Scanner and it had a little internal speaker that was mounted on the bottom of the case.   It screamed for a powered, external speaker.   Win, win.

The first thing I’d like to say about the project is I didn’t quite need all the bells and whistles the designer did.  He set his up as bluetooth speakers and that is darn cool, no doubt.  I just didn’t need to do that.  I just needed a powered external speaker.

 

The back panel is designed for a stereo amp board which the developer lists a source in China that costs a few bucks.   The exact same board can be had on Amazon for about $14.  Getting 2 day delivery is worth it to me.  The parts from China probably wouldn’t show for weeks.

Anyway before you build and wire these you kind of need to know how you are going to deploy them.  Let me elaborate.

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Fixing a Dead Ring Pro Doorbell

I had a Ring Pro that was a few years old. It died. I would log in to look at something only to find it was alive a day or two before then died.  Then miraculously it would come back to life only to die again.

I bought a new Ring Pro to replace it and documented that process here.   It was a living fucking hell. It should have been easy.  But it was not easy.  Enough of that.  I spouted off enough about it in the last blog entry.  Let’s talk about fixing the one that was broken.  This will just cover the battery replacement and not the entire tear down or rebuild.

Basically you just open the thing up and remove the motherboard.  There are several connectors on the board which must be CAREFULLY removed. Take a picture first before you disconnect anything.  Regarding the connectors, just get under them and pop them up with a spudger made of plastic.  THEY ARE FRAGILE.  Then remove two screws , pull the speaker out and then lift the motherboard.

Connector removal locations

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