Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why did I buy a Makerbot Z18?

We got a Z18, so why? There are literally hundreds of other 3D printers out there - some large and some small, using different printing systems, the choice is endless.

The simple answer is that we had a Makerbot Replicator 2. That really is a "plug and play" 3D printer. It just works. The software just works, the printer just works. The fun is in designing things to print, but the printing itself just works. Makerbot did a good job with the Replicator 2.

The Z18 is the newest and biggest from Makerbot. It has the next generation of extruder, and it allows much bigger prints. It has a heated chamber which should mean it can print large items without it curling-up as it cools. It is the obvious next step from the Replicator 2.

We bought the Z18 almost entirely on reputation and experience with the Replicator 2. Makerbot had a good reputation!

I believe the Z18 was launched back in January but only just began shipping recently. It is not a beta testers or early adopters model. It is launched.

But now we find that the main reasons for buying it are bogus.

It is not as good as the Replicator 2 - the prints are not as robust, the base/raft is difficult to detach. We printed a door-stop and it could be crushed in your hand accidentally! It is slower than the Replicator 2, and on top of that it spends ages levelling and preparing before it starts any print. The Replicator 2 just starts: Heating and then one cleaning strip of plastic on the edge and off it goes. Simple. The Z18 takes forever. The heated chamber seems not to actually be possible to enable. The support staff seem to be of the impression that they have not really finished the firmware yet.

It is, overall, a shambles. It is very likely to go back.

Which means I have to wonder if and what we get instead - what is the best 3D printer out there now? Ideally we want something we can use commercially and sell printing and our expertise.

Monday, 18 August 2014

13A socket

Slightly puzzled, and happy to be corrected here.

Adverts on car radio yesterday as we drove to Harlow, over and over again, with wording along the lines of :-

"It is not hard to overload a mains socket - simply plug in too many high power devices to an extension lead like a hair dryer or heater - but it not so easy to put out the fire - fire kills"

Am I being thick here?

If you plug too many things in to an extension lead the fuse blows.

That is what happens.

Not a fire. The fuse blows. That is all.

That is why we have fuses.

Or are we saying fuses don't work? Is so, why do we bother with them

Or are we saying a 13A socket cannot handle 13A?

What am I missing here? And why is it worth someone (who was not named in advert) paying to run the advert on the radio rather a lot?

I really hope it it not my tax paying for this?

[AFAIK fires are far more likely from faulty chargers or appliances over-heating than simply plugging in too many appliances in to an extension lead that has a 13A fuse in its plug]

I also wonder what the public should do as a result of this advert? Do we add up current of all appliances, and if less that 13A it is OK? What is the load allowed on a 13A socket? If we have more than 13A and the fuse did not blow, who do we sue?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A&A summer barbecue

A&A Staff summer fun day today...

That is how you do a hog roast -

We pulled out the A&A bouncy castle (yes, we own one).

The only slightly disappointing thing was the "Giant Games" from carousel windsor. Not that giant, and cost £420 for the day when the games appear to be maybe half that to buy new! Oh well, you live and learn. The kids seem to find them fun enough, though we were tempted to go get a circular saw and some fence posts from Wickes down the road and make a real giant jenga :-)

Of course there are cheaper games the kids really liked - latex gloves and marker pen - genius idea from Lee.


And being A&A, the caffeine was on standby...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Latest email to ICO...

I understand from my MP that the next step is to make a formal complaint
about the ICO, and if not satisfied then there is a Parliamentary and
Health Service Ombudsman to pursue.

So, I would like to complain that I am being ignored by the ICO.

I have made a lot of complaints about one (or possibly more)
organizations that are making calls in breach of section 19 of The
Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
and possibly other sections.

Each complaint has been sent in by email, and it seems you are now
officially ignoring me. I noticed that for a while I was no longer even
getting the "We have received your email" reply until I changed the
sender address for each complaint, suggesting you were actively
filtering my reports.

You have raised a lot of excuses as to why you are ignoring me, none of
them valid :-

1. You could not play the call recordings, but I understand that has now
been sorted, and I am now sending in MP3 format to make easier.

2. You do not have legal powers to trace calls - I explained the many
powers you have granted by the PECR modifying the DPA, and I have not
had any response to this. You do have powers to investigate, and indeed
an obligation to do so, but are refusing to do your job.

3. You have said you do not investigate individual complaints, but I
have now complained hundreds of times. You have suggested that each
email somehow counts as an individual complaint, which seems little more
than a contrived excuse to not do you job. I have even sent multiple
complaints in a single email to bypass this excuse but to no avail. Tell
me exactly how many complaints are needed for you to take action.

4. You have asked me to report via your web site rather than via email,
but as I have pointed out, there seems no form on your web site for
this. I can see an option to "report a concern" via some sort of survey
web site - but I cannot see where I formally request that the
commissioner to exercise enforcement functions in relation to this
breach as per section 32 of the regulations. If you show me where that
form is, I'll use it.

It seems that the ICO are simply refusing to do your job in spite of a
request as per section 32. Given that, in the absence of section 32,
anyone could make such a request anyway, the only reason for section 32
existing is if such requests have to actually be acted upon by the ICO.
I would hope a judge and ombudsman agree with me on that. I note that
section 30 allows me to sue any party in breach of the regulations for
damages and at this stage I consider the ICO to be in breach by refusing
to do your mandated job - so maybe I'll sue you for damages.

If I do not get a satisfactory response in the next 14 days I will
pursue this with the ombudsman.

I look forward to your formal reply.

Update: I did not get the normal automated reply to my email, so I sent again from a different source address - this time I did. So it looks like they are actually filtering my email address. Now that is naughty!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

UHD TV as a monitor

The new breed of UHD TVs (3840x2160) are pretty impressive, so I decided to see if one can work as a usable monitor.

I got a 40" Samsung UHD TV. The main reason is that my nice 30" apple monitor was nicked. This is only around £600+VAT, which for such a huge and high res monitor is stupidly cheap.

But it is a TV - so what are the downsides here? The issue I have is that fundamentally the panel itself need not be any different for a TV or a monitor. Gone are the days of dead pixel counts and so on. So surely a TV will be just as good. That said, TVs are traditionally a lot cheaper than a monitor even though they do a lot more (tuner, motion interpolation, and all sorts that I do not need).

Arguably, a TV these days being a "smart TV" has to be able to show a web page properly, and that is basically what we expect from a monitor...

There were a number of issues, not least of which is that 3840x2160 is not something even slightly older graphics cards can manage. My linux box needed a new card. We even decided to just buy a Mac Mini to use instead and found it was not able to cope, so got a new graphics card for the linux box anyway. Even so the card can only drive the screen at 30Hz refresh.

The linux box did insist on trying 4096x2160 not 3840x2160 which causes odd effects until we realised what it was doing. The TV, by default, did overscan (why? why? why?) but could be convinced not to, and convinced not to try and run a sharpening effect or motion blur reduction algorithm on the image. Lots of tweaking with settings. Even things like a "4 hour auto turn off" needed fixing.

However, the end result is a desktop that is 3840x2160 at 40" and working!

The 30Hz is not an issue (it is not like LCDs "flicker") and for my normal usage (web pages, text editing, even viewing video) it is fine.

Overall, I am happy, and getting used to the larger real-estate that a large monitor offers. 40" is a lot, but compared to two monitors is not that bad at all.

Sadly there are compromises. The first, and rather unusual effect, is the screen edges, which lose several pixels when not viewed straight on. I need to move things in a few pixels to avoid the effect. It is like the LCD is folded back in to the monitor at the edge! The other issue seems to be some compromise on bits per pixel somehow - blue on red is bad. Most stuff looks fine, but not all.

It is a shame - but one I can live with as a day to day monitor at that sort of price.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Does John Doe not work there any more?

We had not stopped laughing from the first call when they called again for Jane Doe.

First call - wav MP3
Second call - wav MP3

Not sure what else to say...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Man cave

The term "man cave" is what several people have used to describe my "garage renovation project"... It is probably not that far from the truth.

To be fair - this is to be mine, though I know James is trying to get a piece of it. He has been left on his own by his girlfriend for a while at least while she does a teacher training course in another country.

The next stage really is clearing out the crap that is in there and that means Sandra actually doing something. Once cleared I can get on with it. No shortage of help from the staff, and it should be easy to make it happen real soon now.

I have a survey for air-con next week, and the builder coming in to take a look as discuss stuff. Right now I have a concept for the "work bench" which will be one whole wall. I think I need 5m long solid wood worktop sections to do this right. I think doing a 5m worktop with a second below in the middle as a T shape, a gap to the wall for power and cabling and a step/kick-board to support PCs and stuff, as well as sockets all the way along. It should look good with almost all cabling hidden from view, but be very practical. I need to sort some sort of storage, book shelves and the like and space for tools.

The rest of the room should be sofa, chairs and a big TV with gaming systems. I suspect a good gaming UHD 3D machine - might have to be windoze even, not sure. And James will want consoles of some sort, a complete set somehow. I am sure I can engineer a Sheldon style "spot" that is mine.

I'll sort some more optics and a fridge in to the mix somehow as well.

My best guess right now is that I'll be lucky if sorted by the end of the year - but I can try.

It won't be cheap, but I suspect cheaper than a sports car or absconding with some bimbo as some middle aged men might do.