Mac SE Update

I just realized that I haven’t posted any updates on my Macintosh SE in over a year! I’ve made a few big strides since then and I’m really getting excited about it.

Remember that RAM Issue I was having? Well, the computer managed to work on 2.5MB, but I really wanted the maximum of 4MB so I bought 2 x 1 MB 30-pin 60ns SIMMs on ebay for $4. Now, the computer works great! Well, not really. The HDD is toast (it’s been making the “click of death”), so there’s no OS. Luckily it still has a floppy drive! Unfortunately, it only takes 800k floppies and is completely incompatible with modern 1.4M floppies.

After I discovered that I was’t going to get an OS running on the Mac via a floppy, I started searching for alternative means. First, I looked into SCSI to IDE adapters. Unfortunately, they are EXTREMELY expensive (on the order of hundreds of dollars). Next, I tried finding 50-pin SCSI drives. I then realized that, even if I was able to buy a drive like that, I would still have no way of loading an OS onto it. Finally, I started researching floppy disk drive emulators. After a bit of research, I discovered that they are more plentiful than many would think. Sadly, they only support 1.4M floppies.

For a while, I thought I was out of luck. But then, I discovered the blog of a computer engineer who, among other things, managed to create a floppy disk emulator for 68k-based Macintoshes. I really liked the concept and the design was proven so I decided to build a few for myself!

My first Mac floppy emu!

My first Mac floppy emu!

After a few hiccups with setting the AVR’s fuse bits properly, I managed to get both it and the CPLD programmed and working! I have successfully used it to boot disks from System 1.1 to System 6.0.8 and so far, it works flawlessly for disk reads. Disk writing is still a bit flaky (you need to have a class 10 SD card for writes to work), but I’m looking into how I can improve the code for that. Here’s a gallery of the device working:

To install the floppy emulator, you simply need to plug one end of a 20 pin IDC cable into the Mac and the other end into the emulator. To use it, you need to have an SD card with the disk images you want to load on it (sample disk images can be found in the file bundle).

I’ve made a few extras, so if you want one, feel free to contact me! The price is $150 + shipping (USPS Priority mail) for each device (2 are available, price covers parts and labor). I accept both Bitcoin and Paypal for payment. If you use Bitcoin, you get $10 off the purchase price because I’m not fond of Paypal’s policies. As always, no warranty is implied; I will test all devices and make sure they’re working before I ship them, but you are buying the device “as-is”. All sales are final. I’ll respond to requests for assistance as best as I can.

The schematics, board layout, sample disk files, and source code for the Macintosh Floppy Emu can be found here.

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bladeRF: a USB 3.0 Software Defined Radio

I just backed this project! Why? Because for $400, I get one of the most flexible and inexpensive SDR’s on the market. Not only do I get that, I also get in-depth documentation and guides on how to use it. I’ve been wanting a nice SDR for some time now, ever since I saw the OpenBTS demo using the Ettus Research USRP1. Unfortunately, the USRP1 is, to me, too limited to justify the price. Additionally, there is a very steep learning curve if you’re a beginner like me. I’m still interested in cell phone networks, though, and with the pending release of the bladeRF, I will finally have a chance to play around with the technology.

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Notice a Speed Increase?

Well, I’ve finally done it–I’ve purchased a VPS and now I’m hosting this blog on it! I’m still using CloudFlare for caching, spam-filtering, and DDoS protection, but now I’m running the blog on a network that is about two orders of magnitude faster than my home upload speed of 180 KB/s. It is VERY nice and the transition went much smoother than I expected!

Basically, to transfer my blog, I installed all the necessary packages on the new server, rolled up all of the important directories from the old server (/etc/wordpress, /usr/share/wordpress, /var/www/wp-uploads, /etc/apache2, etc.) into a few archives, restored them onto the VPS, and transferred the WordPress database by exporting it as SQL queries. I ran into a few hiccups with the time zone and some Apache misconfigurations, but those were mitigated quickly. For an entire blog migration, 5 hours is a pretty good time–and with minimal downtime, too!

If you were wondering, I got my VPS from BudgetVM. For $7 per month, I got a Xen-based VPS with 768 MB of RAM, 1.5 GB of swap space, 40 GB of Raid 10 storage, and 2500 GB of bandwidth. All-in-all, I think it’s a great deal, seeing as I get to have full control over my virtual server for the same price as shared hosting at a site like Bluehost. I did a download speed test on the server and managed to get up to 85 MB/s (yes, megaBYTES). The upload speed from the server maxed out my download connection so I really can’t say how fast the upload is other than it’s really fast.

I’m actually so impressed with the quality of the service that I’m considering getting a second Xen VPS with more RAM for my Minecraft server. Unfortunately, it would cost me $20/month and I really can’t justify the cost right now for what is just a game. I also don’t want to charge my friends to use my server because it will take some or all of the fun out of the game. More importantly, it would mean that I wouldn’t be able to mess with them in-game. ;)

P.S.: If anyone has or knows of better, cool-looking background and/or header images that I could use for the site under the Creative Commons license, that would be awesome. The theme has been feeling a bit rough on the eyes for a while now.

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CloudFlare is Awesome!

I’ve been trying out CloudFlare to try to speed up the site a bit and so far, it’s working great! It’s also handy because I can use it to bypass 1and1′s 5 subdomain limit because I’m using CloudFlare’s servers.

Unfortunately, this means I’ve had to reconfigure a bunch of stuff. I’ve already noticed that some things are breaking (https stuff) and I’m trying my best to fix them, but sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem.

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My Current 3D-Printing Status

Hardware upgrade: After wiring the 8-pin CPU power connector to go to the relay board and connecting my Cupcake’s new PSU, the machine no longer skips steps in the Z-axis nor in the extruder and the heated build platform and extruder nozzle heat up in a more timely manner. My reasoning for wiring an 8-pin CPU power connector to the relay board was to ensure that the heater elements would have enough power and not take it from the steppers. I’m pretty sure this works because the CPU power is on a separate rail from the normal connectors, but it may also just be because everything isn’t running off the same strand of connectors any more. It really is a nice power supply and I can really appreciate the engineering and industrial design work that went into it. Anyways, to finish up, I just need to cut a large hole or a series of holes in the bottom of the Cupcake’s wooden “PSU shelf” so when I put it in, the power supply will have a way to draw in air for cooling. Then, I’ll be able to close up my Cupcake for a while.

Software upgrade: I’m still on ReplicatorG 34 because it’s what I’m familiar with and is the latest supported by my Gen3 electronics, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve the slicing speed! Just today I managed to install PyPy, a really fast python interpreter that has been shown to make slicing go 4-5 times faster. For instance, Brainy Walt now slices in only 6 minutes on my Core i7 MacBook Pro where before it would take around 30-45 minutes. This is really great because now I can try out new settings without having to wait forever for Skeinforge to re-slice things.

Here’s a tip for those of you trying to install PyPy and tkinter-pypy on OS X Mountain Lion (and possibly Lion): If you get any ld errors about missing tk8.4 or tcl8.4, just find the “setup.py” file in the tkinter directory you’re installing from and change the versions to 8.5 for both of them. Also, if you get any errors similar to that regarding X11, first make sure you have XQuartz installed, then run ln -s /opt/X11/include/X11 /usr/local/include/X11 in a terminal to symlink the X11 includes so the setup.py script (or whatever else) can find them.

RepRap status: Now that I’ve pretty much fully repaired my Cupcake, I can work on my Prusa Mendel without any guilt. All I need to do with it is figure out some temporary wiring scheme to test out the electronics and steppers, then I’ll fit the heated build to the Y-axis plate and start trying out Slic3r.

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Python Is Fun

Usually, I don’t do much programming because it’s always taken a lot of work to do even the simplest of things. However, since I’ve discovered Python, I’ve been having a blast. Just yesterday, I wrote a command line tool to upload files to Box.com. While I could have used somebody else’s libraries to do the heavy lifting, I wanted to roll my own code. I thought it would be both more fun and more educational that way, and it was. My initial purpose for writing this program was that I could use it in a cron job to perform server backups. Now, because server backup was my primary goal and I can encrypt the backup archives before uploading, security wasn’t much of an issue. Because I wasn’t very concerned with the security of the transfers, I didn’t bother to do things like check for SSL/TLS certificate validity. Additionally, I put my API key right in the code, so I can’t just distribute it and let people see that. If you want it, I’ve put it up on Pastebin with my API key removed here. The license is Public Domain because it’s so simple and I only spent around 6 hours writing it. Currently, it can upload multiple files in the same command, but it’s not exactly elegant because it makes a new connection for each file. The “proper” way to do it is to use the multiple-file-upload part of the API, but that would have taken a significant rewrite of the upload function and, well, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Oh, and it freaks out if you tell it to upload a folder, so don’t do that.

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Upgrading the Kyocera KR2 With the CradlePoint MBR1000 Firmware

This is the first post in my quest to get my Kyocera KR2 running some more modern firmware. For those of you who don’t know, The CradlePoint MBR1000 3G/4G wireless router is essentially a rebranded Kyocera KR2 with different firmware and no PCMCIA slot. Internally, the hardware is exactly the same (except for the PCMCIA card slot). The MBR1000′s firmware is more up-to-date than the KR2 firmware with support for more 3G and 4G cellular cards, so I wanted to see if I could upgrade the firmware. If I do eventually get this to work, I’ll probably lose the PCMCIA card slot functionality, but it will be worth it.

Here’s what I have so far: Continue reading

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Power Supply Perils

After 3 years of faithfully supplying power to my MakerBot Cupcake, the power supply has finally died. Every time I switched it on, it would turn right off. That’s not bad for 3 years of use, especially considering that I probably started using too much power when I switched to a stepper extruder with power resistor heating with the MK6 upgrade. I’ve already found an amazing new power supply for it, but it has an air intake on one of its larger sides, so I’ll have to cut a hole (or drill a bunch of tiny holes) in the MakerBot’s bottom panel. This is in addition to the work I’ll have to do on the back panel to get the power switch to fit.

The funny thing is, while I was thinking about power supplies, I decided to finally wire up my RepRap’s $40 PSU that I got many months ago. Upon plugging it into the wall, I decided to feel how warm the case got with no load (as an initial precaution). What I got was something much more interesting. Instead of feeling heat, I felt a light tingle. Even more interesting was the fact that the tingling seemed to make my fingers move ever-so-slightly at a familiar 60 Hz. After pulling my hand away and mulling over the implications of what just happened, I decided to touch the PSU casing again. I guess that makes me a scientist. After my little science experiment, I cut power to the PSU to prevent further mishaps. I guess I’ll be modding an ATX power supply and using that for now…

Update: Apparently I only imagined the whole “tingling” thing (it may also have been the result of a pinched nerve). I just tested the power supply again and I felt no tingling and the output voltage range seems fine. I highly recommend Lulzbot as a source of RepRap power supplies because they have top-notch customer service.

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MakerBot is Growing Up

Disclaimer: This is just, like, my opinion, man. Also, I won’t be discussing whether MakerBot has done anything illegal or not; I’ll only be explaining what I think is going on at the company.


Introduction:

Recently, the MakerBot Replicator 2 was announced as a closed-source device. This didn’t really surprise me. In fact, I’m more surprised they didn’t do this with the original Replicator. Yes, they’re a company we’ve all come to know and love, but I’ve felt that for a while now that they’ve been becoming less and less relevant to the community of 3D printing tinkerers. Continue reading

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Totally not a “tech project” post.

For this blog post, I’m going to analyze Apple’s success because I’m totally qualified to do that. Also, if you’re an Apple hater, you might not like reading this.

I noticed something interesting I regarding the differences between Apple advertisements and advertisements from other smartphone and tablet manufacturers. Let’s see if you can spot the differences, too: Continue reading

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