3D Printer update

Last time I went on about 3D Printers was back in October 2008.  Time for an update.

There are more options out there than the RepRap. Engadet has a “consumers guide” to 3D printers.

What I found interesting is that there are some sub $1,000 models.  Granted, most of those are Kickstarter projects, but it shows that these things are getting some traction in the geek hobby market.

That expanding base also means a greater number of programmed designs as people share their experiments.

One that is sure to cause a stir is Defense Distributed’s plan to design a 3D printable firearm.  They have designed, and printed an AR-15 lower.  They have put over 600 rounds though a firearm using that printed lower in a single day.  They claim that it should be able to handle a 1,000 rounds.

The AR-15 was a good choice.  It is one of the most popular civilian firearms in the US, and as Gun Geeks will tell you, it’s the general purpose PC of firearms.   It is very modular, with the ability to change stocks and uppers easily. It also has a large market of add on accessories, including pink plastic parts for the female (or male who just likes pink) shooters.

The inter-changeable upper (which includes the barrel) is key.  You can convert your .223 AR-15 to 5.55mm NATO, .308 Winchester, .22 LR or even .50 Beowulf.  All the same firearm by current US regulations.

On the lower end of the 3D printing scale, is the EDoodler.  A hand held devices that extrudes a steam of heated material that you can create whole pieces or parts of a larger object.  This is another Kickstarter project which blew past its original goal of $30,000  pretty fast.  They have pledges of over $2 million and still have three weeks to go for fundraising.

Going even lower end, you have InstaMorph.  I know people who swear by this stuff for really Q&D projects.  You heat the stuff up and then are able to mold it.  When it cools, it hardens.  Kinda like a gateway drug for 3D printing.

Nifty gadget for laptop SD slot

A lot of laptops these days have a SD card slot, which is cool.  The form factor isn’t so cool if you want to leave it in the slot long term, since the card sticks out.  Too easy for it catch on something, and come out without you noticing or worse, muck up the slot.

Then I saw this cool gadget on Kickstarter.  The Nifty Mini-Drive.  You put in a Micro-SD card and it fits neatly in the SD slot.  I kicked in some cash to get one of the first run models for my Macbook Air.  Already picked up a 32Gig MicroSD card, so I’m just waiting for the NMD to arrive to get my geek on.  

Another reason to not spend time on Facebook

Leo Leporte reports that Facebook has added a new “Feature”.  Automatically uploading your mobile device photos to Facebook.

That’s right, all your photos, straight to Facebook.  If you were paying attention to the “user agreement”, Facebook reserves the right to use everything you load on it, including pictures, anyway they see fit.

That Facebook gets the right to use your stuff is nothing new.  Been that way since just about Day One, if not before.

Here is a basic rule of the Internet you Coppertops need to understand.

If you aren’t paying for the service, you are the product.

 

Building a Hackintosh Mini

Building my Windows Tower last year was fun, so I have been looking for another project.  Then I found this page at Tony Mac’s on building a Hackintosh Mini.

What I’m looking for is a small system to hook up to the TV in the Den.  The motherboard in the parts list has a HDMI port, and I already have a remote keyboard/trackball to use.  There is an Ethernet switch where I want to put it so, no need for a WiFi card either.  I figure I can build it for around $470.  That includes $20 for a copy of Mountain Lion MacOS.  Not bad considering low end Mac Minis start at $600, and that is with a 500 Gig HD and 4 Gig of RAM.  I’m planning on a 2 TB HD and 8 Gig of Ram.  The foot print is a little bigger than a Mac Mini, but I’m replacing a mini-tower, so the space isn’t a problem.

Here is the parts list I’m looking at:

$250 Chromebook

$250 is a very good price point for a light laptop for basic email/web surfing/document editing.  It’s not a full feature laptop with a full OS, that is one reason the price point is the same as a 7″ Android tablet.  It’s fairly full featured hardware wise.  Web cam, USB ports, card reader and a 16GB Flash drive for storage.   This $250 laptop is a good second system.  I have a big desktop with a Drobo for storage, picture editing and other higher end functions.  For the cost of the Nexus 7, you can get a real keyboard and better monitor.  I’ve been using tablets, both iOS and Android for years, but I keep coming back to a device with a real keyboard for content creation.

For another $80, you can get a 3G version of this Chromebook, which is important if you are going to be using this device on the road.  It really does require Internet access to be entirely useful.

Hidden “feature” in Apple Lighting cable

One of the major changes in the new iPhone 5 is the new 8 pin “Lighting” cable instead of the 30 pin cable used in all iPhone and iPad devices previously.

Now the general purpose computer that you can make phone calls on (i.e. the iPhone 5) comes with a Lighting cable, but odds are you are going to need at least one spare.  No problem if you don’t mind paying Apple $19 for a spare cable.  If that is a bit pricy for you, you may have to wait.

According to one cable manufacture that has done a tear down of a Lighting cable, Apple has put an authentication chip in the cable (which is doing D2A conversion as well).  So beware of any third party “Lighting compatible” cables for a while.  I’m betting this can be cracked, but it may be a few months before its done and third party cables start hitting the market.

If you are laying out the cash for the Darth Vader phone, part with another $19 and get a spare cable.  You’ll need it.  I’ve been considering a dual 1.0/2.1 amp car charger anyway, so can I could charge both my Nexus 7 and an iPhone at the same time.  I could charge my iPhone straight from the car’s USB port, but the Sync system treats its as an MP3 player and tries to index it, which screws with the Bluetooth streaming (are you paying attention Ford?), so it’s easier to use a car charger  plugged into a power point (the former cigarette lighter socket).    The care would probably do the same thing to the Nexus 7, but I don’t keep much music on that (lots of music on the iPhone anyway).

Ok, back to the cable, you can get a 30 pin to Lighting adapter.  Apple sells one for $29.  Again, off the bat, I’m not sure I would trust any third party adapter for  a while.  Not until some early adopters spring for them and start sharing their success/failure rate.

I find it sad…

I find it sad that Human Beings have walked on the Moon during my lifetime, but not during the lifetime of my children.

Expanding the desktop…

No, I’m taking about monitors, screen size and resolution. I’m talking about the tower PC I built.

Running quite nicely.  I’ve got dual monitors set up, and it is handling just about anything I’ve tossed at it so far.

The thing has plenty of room for additional drives, but I decided to go with a Drobo for external storage.

The system has a 256 Gig SSD and a 1 TB Western Digital drive, but wanted something for storage that was going to give me some level of data redundancy.  Having it  not in the tower was a plus from the suspenders and belt viewpoint as well.  The only downside was the Drobo’s USB was USB 2.0 and the  ASUS Maximus IV Extreme Z-LGA 1155 Z68 motherboard is a USB 3.0 beast, with lots of USB 3.0 ports.  It also has a few ESATA ports, but the only Firewire port was on the front, and not well placed for what I wanted.

Easy enough to fix.  I’ve got open slots, so I added a Firewire card. That and an 800-800 Firewire cable and I’ve got much better transfer speeds from the Drobo.

Google enters the 7″ tablet market

Bladerunner may have given us the Nexus 6, but Google is delivering on the Nexus 7.

Before you get your hopes up, the Nexus 7 is a 7″ android based tablet.  Supposed to be available in July 2012.

There is a comparison chart over at gdgt that compares it to the other two important players in the 7″ tablet market, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Color Nook.  There are some gaps in the data on that chart, most of which can be filled with a quick search.

For a more detailed peek under the hood of the Nexus 7, try the PCMag review.  Here are some key features. It will be running Android 4.1, not a feature reduced in house version of Android like the Fire or Nook.  It has a Quad core CPU with a 12 core GPU.  That is a lot more horse power than you get with the Kindle Fire.  The Nexus 7 screen resolution is a bit better, 1280 x 800 opposed to the Fire’s 1024 x 600 and it has double the RAM as well.  The Nexus 7 also has a built in camera in addition to Bluetooth, both features lacking in the Fire & Nook.  What the Nexus 7 doesn’t have is  speakers or a microphone.  It does have a 3.5mm audio jack, which is the only port besides the MicroUSB port.  That’s right, no SD slot.  The Nexus does come in two flavors, one with 8 Gig of storage for $199 and a 16 Gig version for $249.   For comparison, the Kindle Fire also has 8 Gig, and no SD slot.  The Color Nook is the only one that has a SD slot for additional storage.  Given that both Amazon & Google have extensive Cloud storage solutions, I’m not surprised by the lack of the SD slot.

I’ve used the Kindle Fire before, and I liked it.  However, if I had to put down $199 (plus tax) of my money for a 7″ tablet, I would go with the Google Nexus 7.

Update: The MIT Tech Review has their review of the Nexus 7 up.  According to them it does have a speaker.

America is back in the Space Business!

Emphasis on the business.  The private company SpaceX launched their Dragon capsule, which docked with the ISS, delivering needed supplies, left orbit, splashed down successfully and was recovered.

SpaceX did what the US Government can’t do currently and the Russians can’t do reliably. The Dragon also has multiple advantages over the Russian Soyuz, including being to bring down a full ISS crew of seven in a single flight.

The success of the SpaceX Falcon launcher and Dragon capsule should encourage other private companies to look into space exploration, for a profit of course.

A permanent moon base would be a good next start.  As Dr. Pournelle has pointed out, getting to the moon and building a long term base is a simple feat of engineering.  We have had the technology to do so since the 1970s.