Hictop 3DP-18: Marlin FW Example Configuration

I’ve been quiet on here for a while but anyone how follows me on Facebook will know I’ve not been idle, one of the things I’ve been working on is getting my Hictop 3DP-18 printer running stock Marlin Firmware.

The main reason for doing this is that despite the Open Source basis for the Hictop Prusa i3 the firmware for is isn’t readily available.  Some have had some success getting hold of a copy but I couldn’t be bothered with that for a few reasons, namely that the stock firmware seems to be based on an older version of Marlin and didn’t include any of the new hotness in v1.1 like Unified Bed Leveling!  UBL is a combination and culmination of a number of other bed leveling techniques and I thought it may help me get my printer more stable by making it more forgiving, so far it seems to work a treat!

The example configuration can be found on my GitHub repo here, I’ve submitted a pull request to the main repository for the project but not sure when what the time scale is for approval.  I’ve reviewed a pull request for a friends project before but this will be my first contribution to a major Open Source project!

One thing I haven’t enabled in my configuration is the filament runout sensor, this is because I noticed that it was creating a lot of drag on the filament which was starving, for lack of a better word, the extruder and the reasons why is explained in this video.

Example Config Link

Nerf Gun Shooting Gallery

This is a work in progress as it has turned out to be far more complicated than I thought it would be! I’ve learned a lot about how to design parts for my 3d printer and how to use the laser cutter at Reading Hackspace too though so already winning!

Over the passed few years my friends in the Reading Beer Festival Games Team have been talking about building a shooting gallery using Nerf guns to keep things nice and safe.  This year I offered to give it a go and the spec quickly escalated/became more fun!

As I’m building this more for the team than the players it needs to be easy for them to use while dealing with the festival punters who are typically moderately inebriated…  Resetting the board easily, keeping track of the score and setting up for the next game seems like the three things to concentrate on.

The game works, or will work, as follows:

  1. Press the start button, the counter should reset along with the targets
  2. Give the player a Nerf gun and a clip with 12 darts
  3. The player shoots the targets, which reset once hit, and the score is tallied

Having a bunch of clips that have 12 darts and a button that resets the game means resetting should be a lot easier than having to do it manually so that’s easy win, enter the Arduino!

I bought a bunch of hobby servos of eBay to use to reset the targets and designed a hinge with a magnet to hold up the target and a switch of some kind to track when a target is hit.

I’ve got a design working for the hinge but need to replicate it for all five targets.  More details once it’s complete but here’s an incredibly satisfying video of the mechanism in action!

Automated Broadband Monitoring on Linux

I’m trialing a 4G home broadband router at the minute to see if it can give me decent upload as apposed to the 1mbps I currently get so I thought I’d look into automatically running speedtests.  Here’s how and it turned out to be quite simple.  Caveat, this runs on Linux.

There is a really handy command line util for running Speedtest.net which is a Python script.  To install it run: “sudo pip install speedtest-cli”

If you don’t have pip or python installed run this: “sudo apt install python-pip”

This will install pip and the prerequisites, one of which is Python itself.  Next up, in your home directory, run “speedtest-cli –csv-header >> speedtest.csv”.  This will create an empty CSV with only the headers in it.

Next up, and finally, run “crontab -e” and enter “*/10 * * * * /usr/local/bin/speedtest-cli –csv >> ~/speedtest.csv”.  Thanks to this thread for giving me the answer as to why it wasn’t working to start with.

That’s it!  Every 10 minutes a speedtest will be run and the results appended to the csv file.  Load it up in a spreadsheet program and job done.

It isn’t a long term solution as that csv will get unweildy after a while but this is a two week trial so not an issue.  I’ve an aging Raspberry Pi B hooked up to the router and will check the results in a day or so to see what the connection is like without anything else on it.

3D Printer Built!

As long time readers of the blog may remember I tried to build a 3d printer many years ago without any success.  The problem was that at the time I didn’t really have a need for one, didn’t know what was involved or what parts I actually needed.  I also bought printed parts from one person on eBay, the metal bits from another seller, the electronics from another group again and so on.

Needless to say this did not make for an enjoyable experience.

Every time I got into building it I hit the point where I realised there was a part I didn’t know I needed and I’d put it aside for a few months.  Rinse and repeat.  It got to the point where the printer I started to build was obsolete so I’d have had to start again anyhow, so I donated what parts I had to the local RepRap usersgroup and they used it to build a printer for a local school.  I was happy with that.

Fast forward to now, or at least a few weeks ago, and I had need of a few random parts.  A case for a Pi, bits for the Roomba rebuild, bits for the Mini, the list is ever increasing this time around!  To that end I bought a Hictop Prusa i3 from Amazon which included everything which meant the whole project was instantly more streamlined!  One weekend of hacking, unhacking and rehacking later and I have a working printer!

I’ve printed out a few things now from Thingiverse but I’ve also started designing someone from scratch, more details on that soon, but this is proving a wonderful experience!

Keegan’s Hat of Migraine Prevention

For whatever reason, back in early December, the ceiling lights at work have started giving me headaches which occasionally escalate into migraines, this is not ideal.  We have a very helpful facilities team at work but I though I’d just find a workaround myself, as I like wearing hats this seemed an easy one to fix.

Behold, Keegan’s Hat of Migraine Prevention!

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I poked a small hole inside the headband at the back to allow a headphone cable to pass through and clipped my trusty Bluetooth receiver to it which I used in a previous hack.  I now have something that blocks out light and lets me control what I hear.  This helps no end and people are used to me being a bit odd so no-one has batted an eyelid.

That being my summer hat and weather taking a turn for the worse I’ve adapted my old Fedora so that when I’m out in town I have music too.  When things are busy having music to listen too to dull the noise of the crowd really does help.  The odd thing is I now need to remember to charge my hat…

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A simple and daft pair of hacks that have actually helped a great deal.

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December Recap and The Year Ahead

December, a wonderfully triumphant mess!

The Bad Bits

I had a weird bug that left me knackered, we had project end which was busy and I was generally pushing myself too hard.

The Good Bits

Despite having a bug that left me knackered through application of drugs, coffee and rum I ignored it long enough to get shit done.  The entire team at work pulled off a blinder, everything clicked and we delivered an awesome demonstrator!  We aren’t allowed to show it off yet as we need to add a few bits for data attribution but we have produced something beautiful!  We had the Christmas party the same day and that was loads of fun too, then my friend Christy’s party a few days after that.  I’ll admit the post-con blues hit hard afterwards but I’ve had a bloody good sleep over Christmas!

I’ve also done a load of hacking this month; bits on the Mini before the above hit hard, more on the server which I rebuilt only to revert it and even hacked my hat to prevent migraines at work.  I’ve pictures and such so will write these up soon now that the dust is settling.

The Coming Year

Hopefully my role at work will change slightly soon which will be awesome, more details once/if it happens, but the things I’m looking forward to are the deadlines…  I’ve signed up for a track day in Hugo for the end of April and the London to Brighton Run in May!  I’ve also the Nerf shooting gallery to make for the beer fest for May Day weekend and hopefully will be attending World Maker Faire in August.

This year has been a bit of a revelation for me, with the anxiety and depression diagnosis and finally getting treatment I feel I’m finally on the right track, this year I think it’s time to get up to speed.

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November Recap

Following up from my post on my Simple Rules I thought I’d start doing month end posts as a recap and log on how I’m doing.  Mostly for myself to read back on to see how far I’ve come but hopefully help other people too.  It’ll also be a great place to list the odds and sods I’ve done but not written a standalone article about.

Regarding tinkering, I’ve hacked my home server to act as a TV server and now installed a PCIe tuner to hopefully get Freeview HD hooked up to Kodi.  I’ve also done work on Hugo to get started with the EFI upgrade, after dropping the coolant I’ve removed the starter motor, distributor, the radiator and next up is installing the crank sensor and fuel tank.

Regarding The Rules I’m not going to lie, this month hasn’t been great though they are proving their worth because of that.  I’ve had a perfect storm of end of project stress, which despite the best of planning always happens, and a bout of some kind of cold bug.  I literally worked through the cold but it really wasn’t a good idea, it needed doing though, the result was that I was utterly wiped out mentally and physically.  I broke and ordered takeaway as I didn’t have the energy to cook.  Hell, I didn’t even have the energy to go to the pub at the weekend it was worst so that says something!  The flat got a bit messy but not too bad, cluttered more than actually untidy.

One thing I’m glad didn’t stop was tinkering.  I didn’t have the energy for big projects but messed around with Linux from the comfort of my sofa under a comfy purple fleece blanket.  Considering that in the past my tinkering has really suffered at times like that I take it as a sign things really have change for the better.

Though I have had a blip I take it as such, a blip.  The great thing about the rules though is that once the dust starts to settle, as it already has, I have a ready made template for getting back no track and tonight I already have.

Oh, I’ve also signed myself and Hugo up for a track day just after my birthday so there’s a big fat deadline right there!
EXCITED! 😀

Amazon Fire TV, Kodi and TVHeadend

I realised recently that, like most people, I am watching more and more content on demand and that it’s actually a pain to do with Windows 10 and a HTPC.  There are apps for Netflix and various UK providers but there isn’t one for Amazon Video or Sky Go.  Controlling them typically requires a keyboard and mouse and use of various browsers too.  Also, for whatever reason the user experience just isn’t as good either.

I’ve been using Kodi on a Windows machine with Mediaportal’s TV server and it does work, Kodi also works in a lot of places though including the Amazon Fire TV…  I bought one last week and I’ve been damn impressed with it, I thought today I’d try setting up Kodi for live TV and it turned out to be a lot easier than last time.  Installing to the Fire was a breeze, I simply installed it to my phone and used Apps2Fire to install it to the Fire TV over the network after enabling remote debugging in the Fire’s Developer menu.  Amazon have got much kudos from me for making sideloading so easy!

A few years back I tried to use tvheadend on my Linux server, I’ve had a HDHomeRun for years too so connecting a tuner isn’t an issue as it’s network based, but either the software has got tighter or I’ve learned more as it was a breeze today.

I installed tvheadend to my server using this guide and the HomeRun tuners were automatically detected.  I had to change the tuner type to DVB-T as it defaults to cable, under Networks I added my local transmitter then under services clicked “map all” and that was that.  It started to scan for the EPG in the background and found it pretty quick too.

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A few changes I’ve made are to point my recorded TV and timeshift folders to larger drives, and I enabled timeshifting as it isn’t by default.  This setting is under Configuration –> Recording.

After that I enabled the TV headend DVR plugin in Kodi and pointed it towards my server and job done!  I’ve a Blackmagic DVB-T2 card to install at some point which will give me a few extra tuners and access to HD channels.  It means running a coax cable though and I can’t be arsed with that at the minute.

One content provider I mentioned above was Sky Go, there is allegedly a way of getting it working on the Fire but I’ve not managed it yet.  For now I’ll just plug my laptop into my AV receiver and have done with it.  I don’t use it often anyhow.

I can now access TV from any device connected to the network so plenty of scope to expand in the future, my upload rate is shocking though so unfortunately I likely wont be able to watch TV remotely.  All in all a fun bit of learning and it frees up the motherboard from my HTPC too.  I’ve a few ideas for a winter project for that but for now it’s on the shelf waiting to be used again.

Mini EFI Upgrade: Dumping the Coolant

As part of installing the EFI kit for Hugo I need to install a crank sensor wheel, to make this a bit easier I though I’d remove the radiator.  The car has been stood for a long while anyhow so replacing the coolant and oil is a must before he’s back on the road.  I tried to remove the bottom hose but having never done this before I had a bugger of a time getting a screw driver into the jubilee clip holding it on.

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The shiny bit in the middle is the clip I’m aiming for…

I thought that removing the top hose may make things easier as I may be able to move the radiator a bit and get easier access to the bottom hose, part of the kit includes a new thermostat housing too so thought I’d remove that at the same time.  After removing the hose I discovered a weird gunk in it which was a bit of a worry!  That’s when I noticed that the thermostat housing was only held on with one of three bolts!  Unsurprisingly there is more surface rust on the side that lacked bolts, it looks like coolant slowly evaporated or leaked and left behind the weird gunk.

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Two out of three aint bad, they’re missing!

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I removed the thermostat, also covered in gunk, and thankfully there was only coolant underneath.  Looks a bit rusty inside but it’s an old engine so not too worried about it.  I’m a complete noob with stuff like this though so maybe I should be?  Future Keegan will figure it out, that guys awesome with stuff like that.

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I decided to have a cup of tea and do some research, at which point I realised I’d lost a couple of hours and didn’t get anything else done…