Mechanical Keyboard Meetup

I attended the Mechanical Keyboard Meetup at the Vintage Computer Festival Southeast (VCFSE) in Roswell Georgia. I have attended the VCF a couple of times in the past and it has always been interesting.

Getting to see and touch computer from my childhood and before is a lot of fun, and even better, many of them are in working order and available to play with. Typing on a Commodore 64 brought back a lot of good memories. Typing on the Atari 400 chiclet keyboard, not so much.

The Mechanical Keyboard Meetup was held in a corner of the room with over 100 keyboards on display. It was a great opportunity to see and touch boards from so many manufacturers and custom one-of-a-kind builds. But the environment was so loud that I was not comfortable trying to talk with people, so overall it was not very satisfying.

There are upcoming plans for another Meetup in October, hopefully it will be someplace that isn’t so crowded and loud.

Tex Yoda II Mechanical Keyboard with Trackpoint

my office desk

My office desk with the Tex Yoda 2

I cannot say enough good things about the Tex Yoda 2. I am totally in love with it.

Price

Let’s start with how ridiculously expensive it is, actually let’s not and just say that it is more expensive than most would pay for a really nice keyboard and mouse. You can get an RGB Pok3r and a Logitech G502 for a lot less than the Yoda 2, and you probably should. But once I touched the Yoda 2 and did some typing on it I fell in love, and you can’t put a price on true love.

TrackPoint

The other thing that may be a drawback to some users is the trackpoint mouse pointer in the middle of the keyboard. It is the same technology that is used on laptop keyboard with the trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard, but it is more fragile because of the long stem it has to use to get the eraser above the keys. Back in the day I used a lot of laptops with a trackpoint and loved them, probably because trackpads really sucked back then.

On the Yoda 2 the trackpoint does feel fragile and in reading around the internet, a lot of people have had problems with it breaking. I have also read complaints about mouse drift, but that is normal for this technology and you should expect it. It drifts a lot less than the old ThinkPads, so I am happy with it. If you really don’t like the trackpoint, you can not put a tip on it or remove it entirely.

Switches

I got the Tex Yoda 2 with Cherry Black switches and no backlighting. I also got some fancy GMK keycaps that made the luxurious keyboard even more sensual. The sound the combination of the heavy flat aluminum plate, smooth Cherry MX Black switched, and thick GMK double-shot ABS keycaps create a sound that makes me forget how much money I spent on this thing and just luxuriate in its soothing sounds.

Connector

I also love that it uses a USB-C connector instead of those janky old USB Mini or Micro connectors. The connection is solid, and the choice of cables is plentiful.

Programming

Programing the keyboard is super easy, there is a configurator that lets you program each and every key, up to three function layers, and macros. From the configurator you export a file that gets copied to the keyboard and you are done. The fear of owners though is that the configurator website will disappear at some point and we will no longer be able to program our keyboards. Hopefully Tex will open source the tool soon.

The only think I really used the configurator for is to make caps-lock key a Function 1 key which make the WASD keys easier to use as arrow keys for me. Oh, I also moved around the ALT and Windows keys for better use on Macs. It was all super easy to do, but not as easy as with the Pok3r.

Conclusion

I love this keyboard so much that I am now saving up to buy another one so I can have one at home and one at work.

A Visit to Mechanical Keyboards dot com

The entrance to a store

The storefront for Mechanical Keyboards in Fairview Tennessee

After ordering the Pok3r from Mechanical Keyboards I realized that they were located just outside of Nashville Tennessee, like a 4-hour drive from me, so when I got the chance to take a day off I headed out.

Arriving at their storefront at 9:30 am on Monday morning I was greeted by Lee who spent a lot of time with me showing me a lot of different keyboards and answering my questions, and boy did I have a lot of questions.

First off, I asked to touch a lot of different switches. Having tried Cherry Brown, Blue, and Silver and deciding that I don’t like clicky or mushy tactile switches I focused on linear switches while also trying a couple tactile switches. After a lot of fondling I decided I wanted my next keyboard to be a Cherry Black, original or clone. They are very similar to the silver or red, but with a stronger spring.

Counters with keyboards on top

Lots of keyboards to try out!

I am still very interested in the NovelKeys x Kailh BOX Heavy Switches in Burnt Orange, but there are currently no keyboards available with those switches. At some point I may give them a try in a kit or use a couple to replace existing switches in a keyboard.

With the switch selected it was time to try different keyboards. My main interest right now are 60% and smaller keyboards, there are not a ton of different keyboards that fit that description, and even fewer places where you can actually touch them.

Vortex Pok3r

This is the keyboard I already have, I have a Limited Edition version with Silver Switches

KBParadise V60

This is a nice keyboard, but the case is made of plastic making it very light. If you are looking for a smallish keyboard to travel with, the V60 is worth a look. Also, the V60 comes with a lot of switches that are harder to find in 60% boards, like ALPS, Matias, and Fukka.

Mistel Barocco

A 60% split keyboard, very interesting. It doesn’t just split a little, it is two separate pieces with a cord connecting them together. Very interesting, but not my thing.

Tex Yoda II

WOW! WOW! WOW! This is the one I chose to buy, it really blew me away. Review coming soon.

I appreciate the hospitality shown to me by the guys at Mechanical Keyboards, Lee did a great job helping me find exactly what I was looking for. He also let me know that if I wasn’t totally happy with the Pok3r that I bought a couple of weeks ago that I had 30 days to return it and get something different.

I decided to take him up on that offer and when I got home sent the Pok3r back with a plan to replace it with the same keyboard with black switches instead of silver.

If you are looking for a place to check out a lot of different keyboard before you buy, Mechanical Keyboards is the place. And if you are looking to buy a keyboard or accessories, MechanicalKeyboard.com is a great place to buy from.

Vortex POK3R Black Limited Edition RGB LED

Vortex Pok3r

After using the Cooler Master Ten-Key-Less (TKL) keyboards for a while, I decided to take it to the next level, and the POK3R really is something completely different. The Limited Edition RGB LED Black Pok3r keyboard is a great 60% keyboard with almost of all the features a mechanical keyboard enthusiast would want.

I didn’t really like the Cherry MX Blue or Brown switches very much. The clicky noise of the blues overwhelms my senses and makes me nervous, the clicky-ness does help hide the mushiness of the tactile bump. The tactile-ness of the browns feels very mushy to me, I would prefer the tactile bump to be really short and sharp. With all that in mind I wanted to go with a linear switch and see how that felt.

Cherry makes many options in linear switches with red and black being the most common. Black switches have been around for a very long time, they go all the way back to 1984. But I was looking for something different, so I decided to get a new keyboard with one of newest switches, the Speed Silver which are like the reds but actuate at 1.2mm of travel instead of the red’s 2.0mm and only travel 3.4mm compared to 4.0mm in the red. On paper that sounded really great to me, it sounds really fast.

With the switches chosen I researched keyboards that I could get with them. Vortex keyboards came up a lot in my research, the Poker, Racer, Vibe, and Core all seem to be pretty popular boards. The Pok3r is a 60% board which means that it does include dedicated function keys, arrow keys, or a ten-key number pad. It is quite a bit narrower than a full-sized or even a TKL board which means more desk space for a mouse.

I bought the Pok3r Limited Edition RGB version in a black case with Cherry MX Speed Silver switches. It also came with double-shot PBT keycaps that let the RGB light shine through very brightly. To say that I loved this keyboard is an understatement. It weighs a ton (3.06 lbs) and the rubber pads on the bottom of it hold it in place while pounding away on the keys.

The speed silver switches really are fast, in real-world use the shorter travel and actuation distance makes a difference. In fact, it makes such a difference that my error rate on TypeRacer.com shot way up, even a week of regular practicing could not overcome all the mistyped keys. For gaming this keyboard and switch combination would be amazing!

But I don’t game on a PC so much anymore, I am more about the typing. So the search for the perfect keyboard continues.

The Pok3r is an amazing keyboard, the programming options are almost endless, the double-shot PBT keycaps are really nice, the weight of the Limited Edition version is wonderful, and there is a wide selection of switches available. I recommend it to anyone looking to get into a 60% keyboard.

p.s.
The photo is from MechanicalKeyboards.com

Mechanical Keyboard Switch Choices

PLANCK Keyboard Frame full of different switches

There are an overwhelming number of different switches for mechanical keyboards available. Linear, tactile, clicky, buckling spring, vintage, and each in a wide range of spring weights and crispness.

From Novel Keys I ordered a 25 slot switch tester with a selection of Cherry MX, MOD, Gateron, and Zealio switches along with a Kailh Sample Pack of another 27 switches. Then from Thingiverse I printed out a PLANCK keyboard frame with room for 48 switches. Now I have a switch tester that I can take around and really get a feel for a wide range of the current switches available.

What have I learned from playing with all of these switches? Mainly that many of them are very similar. As in, there are 12 tactile switches that I cannot feel any appreciable difference with. But that is actually good news. It is common for sellers to be out of certain brands and certain switches, but now that I know they are so similar it should be easier to find a comparable switch.

What do I like?

I like the Cherry and Kailh Silver Linear “Fast” switches, they are super sensitive and I my error rate is high with these than with brown or blue switches, but as I get used to them I am getting faster and more accurate.

I have not gotten to try the following switches on a keyboard yet, but hope to soon.

  • 67g Zealios tactile for the sharp and crisp break
  • Kailh Burnt Orange tactile because the bump is at the very top, really want this one for a space bar
  • NovelKeys x Kailh BOX Thick Clicks for the ridiculously loud click, it would make a wonderfully annoying backspace key

What don’t I like?

I don’t like clicky switches so much, my Cherry MX Blue keyboard I am typing this on is driving me nuts. I will be selling or trading it soon. And I don’t like heavy linear switches with the exception of a spacebar and maybe the home keys.

What are my plans?

I put a lot of thought into building a keyboard from scratch, but after pricing the parts it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So my plan right now is to buy a pre-built keyboard with Cherry Silver switches then swap out the switches spacebar, home keys, and maybe a couple others with something more exotic.

Mechanical Keyboards

If you read my review of the 2016 MacBook Pro you know how much I dislike the keyboard on it. Along with that I have been reading Norman Chan on Tested.com, co-workers, gaming sites, and “computer experts” talking mechanical keyboards and how wonderful they are, my interest was piqued.

My goal for a keyboard is for it to be comfortable and to give a reliable amount of feedback for my not-so-fast touch typing. I don’t need it for “gaming” or a crazy amount of n-key rollover. Just something solid, reliable, and comfortable. I would have loved to build a keyboard kit with all the soldering and programming that entails, but I have other things I would rather be doing. So I spent months shopping and comparing every mechanical keyboard I could lay my hands on.

I eventual bought a Corsair K-something-or-other. I quickly figured out that the keyboard required software installed on the computer to work. That is a no-go for me as they keyboard will be moved from Mac to Windows to Linux and I want it to work the same way no matter what it is plugged into. I researched a bunch more keyboards and found that most of the popular ones require software, usually only available for Windows, to do more than act as a basic keyboard.

Then I took another look at the Cooler Master series of keyboards, turns out all of its features are programmed and stored directly on the keyboard. That means your settings and macros are stored and usable even when you switch the computer it is plugged into, exactly what I was after.

Cooler Master MasterKeys keyboards come in many variations, no back-light, white or blue back-light, RGB back-light, also Cherry MX switches in Blue, Brown, Red.

I chose a Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S, with RGB back-lighting, Cherry MX Blue switches, in a TenKeyless (TKL) design for home use and for the office I chose the exact same keyboard but with Brown switches.

Size

I generally like full-sized keyboards with number pads, but at work I have been using an Apple Bluetooth keyboard for the last 7 years or so and have gotten used to it. When I went looking for a mechanical keyboard I discovered there are 3 typical sizes.

  • Full-Sized – This is the usual keyboard with the number pad
  • TenKeyLess (TKL) – Everything is where it would be on a full-sized keyboard but with the number pad cut-off
  • Compact – A lot like a laptop keyboard with no number keys and the arrow keys are usually below the left-hand shift key
  • Gaming – Usually a keyboard similar to a full-sized one, but with additional macro and media keys knobs and switches

I chose a TKL size as I don’t really feel the need for the number pad and I like the extra space it leaves on my desk. Having that extra space for the mouse is great.

Switches

For my home computer I wanted to go all in with the clicky-clicky of Cherry MX Blue switches, but for the office I went with the Brown switches which do not make the click sound. I then did a blind, or rather deaf, test and determined that the Blue and Brown switches in the Cooler Master keyboard are exactly the same with the exception of the click.

With both keyboards I tend to “bottom-out” the keys, which adds a lot more noise to my typing. I have found the solution to be some inexpensive O-ring switch dampeners that have made typing quieter with the added feature of shortening the throw of the keys.

RGB Backlighting

I need back-lighting so that I can see the keys in darker environments, I don’t really need the RGB and the fancy features that come with it, but I do get a kick out of having the keys light up bright purple when I touch them. Fun, but not necessary.

Ergonomics

Wow, these keyboards are tall! I find it impossible to type on them without a wrist rest. I like the Glorious Gaming Wrist Pad in Full Size. I tried the TKL version, but found it to small as my wrists, especially the left one, sits outside the width of the keyboard. The firmness and height of the wrist rest is exactly what I needed. Ergonomically a keyboard should tilt slightly down and away from you and not up and toward you where your wrist are bent stressing out and leading to carpal-tunnel issues. With my old keyboard I was able to attach supports to the front of the keyboard lifting it, the Cooler Master keyboard is so tall that I don’t think lifting the front would be a very good solution.

At some point I may build a mechanical keyboard from a kit just so that I will have more control over the angle and height it.

Keycaps

I bought some fun keycaps to replace the “Cooler Master” OS specific keys and the escape key with Portal characters. Love them!

Other Options

You can build from a kit, you can build from parts sourced from all over the world, you can buy a ready-made keyboard like I did and customize it with different keycaps. You can get a keyboard like the Planck that has fewer keys but may be faster for a dedicated typer after a transition period. You can even get keyboards that are just a grid of keys for assigning macros to, and not just for gaming, you could create macros to type things for you that are typed often.

Rating

I really like the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB keyboards, both the Blue and Brown switches are exactly what I was looking for.

The Phoenix Project by George Spafford, Kevin Behr, and Gene Kim


It’s been awhile since I used Safari Books Online, O’Reilly’s online subscription service, to read something, so I picked The Phoenix Project which was recommended to me on my login page.

The Phoenix Project is a “novel” about DevOps and all that entails being implemented in manufacturing and retail environment where IT had always been seen as a necessary evil. I think a lot of people, both inside and outside of IT can relate to that. The back of the book is full of resources and information about where to learn more about DevOps, continuous deployment, and automation tools.

I have yet to work somewhere where DevOps is a reality, not sure that I ever will, but a boy can dream. I have worked somewhere that was able to deploy multiple times a day, which was pretty great. But most places I have worked only deployed once a month, or a quarter, or in one instance only once every 18 months, when they were lucky. It really shouldn’t be like that.

From the publisher:

Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It’s Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO.

The company’s new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited, but the project is massively over budget and very late. The CEO wants Bill to report directly to him and fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill’s entire department will be outsourced.

With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize work flow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.

In a fast-paced and entertaining style, three luminaries of the DevOps movement deliver a story that anyone who works in IT will recognize. Readers will not only learn how to improve their own IT organizations, they’ll never view IT the same way again.

I rate The Phoenix Project an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone in IT, anyone who manages people in IT, and to everyone who is sick and tired of late-night deployments that always seem to have a lot of problems.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Late 2016 Review

After 7 years it was finally time to update my trusty old 2011 MacBook Pro. Due to my dislike of the choices Apple has made with their laptops in the last few years, my first stop was an HP Omen Windows 10 machine with lots of upgrades. After a couple of months of trying to get Windows 10 and Windows software to do what I want in a way that I felt efficient doing it, I gave up and decided to give up on Windows, yet again, and get another MacBook Pro.

I am only going to cover what makes the MacBook Pro different from the HP Omen as they actually have a lot in common. But my main reason for choosing the MacOS product over a Microsoft Windows product is the operating system and not the features. In fact the Omen has a MUCH BETTER keyboard, better storage options, a better video card, and can handle double the RAM of the MacBook Pro. On paper the HP Omen is a much better computer than the MacBook Pro, if I could run MacOs High Sierra on it, it would be a better computer in almost every way.

What I Like

The build quality of the MacBook Pro is fantastic, it is solid with no rattles or cheapness. I have covered it in a case from KEC with a great space image on it which fits perfectly and protects the laptop from scratches while making it clear that it is my laptop and not someone else’s.

The screen is also great, at a resolution of 2880×1800 at 220points per inch, and is super bright when I want it to be. The color reproduction is solid and dependable.

The computer is fast; even with less RAM, a slower video card, and the same processor, it feels noticeably faster for the way I use the computer. This is probably due to the control that Apple has over the hardware and software used with their computers, I think that is still a huge advantage.

The trackpad is pretty great, but with High Sierra I sometimes get confused about the multi-finger gestures and with how large it is I find it difficult to determine if I am on the left-hand or right-hand side of it.

What I Don’t Like

The Touchbar is a distraction that the computer could really do without. The way that it is constantly changing, moving buttons around, is awful. Just talking about something like that around the water cooler, it sounds kind of cool, but even a quick back-of-an-envelope usability test would show anyone that is a bad idea.

The keyboard is the worst keyboard I have ever used! Worse than the chiclet keyboard on the Atari 400. Buttons stick, offer almost no feedback (unless they stick), and is just horrible.

Only 16GB of RAM… just ridiculous! There are very few Windows machines over $1000 on the market that cannot be upgraded to at least 32GB and many of those may be upgraded to 64GB. It is claimed that having 32GB of RAM would greatly reduce batter life, but with the way that most professionals use these laptops battery life is not much of a concern. As long as it would have 3 hours of battery life, that would be fine.

Meh

There are a lot of people complaining about dongles and adapters. I am not one of them. I bought a couple Amazon Basics USB-C to USB 3 cables to replace USB-A to USB 3 cables and a pair of AUKEY USB-C to USB-A adapters that are so small they can stay on the cables I use them with and I am good to go.

I also bought a Sinstar 8 in 1 adapter that includes an SD Card reader, Ethernet Port, and HDMI Port along with some other ports I really don’t use. It gets pretty warm when used but has been great so far.

Software

This is what makes a MacOS laptop work better for me than a Windows 10 laptop. I was able to replace most of these in Windows, but not all of them. When I did find a replacement, it did not work the same or was not as easy to use.

Now that you can install Linux as a subsystem in Linux, there may be some real options there. I’m keeping an eye on that.

OctoPrint and the Prusa i3 MK2S

octoprint logo

I ran the Prusa i3 Mk2S for a couple of weeks by copying files to the SD card and then printing from there.I could have also printed directly from a computer plugged into the printer, but that computer would need to stay connected and powered on while printing. Either one of those solutions work well enough, but I really wanted to be able to print from multiple computers while not dedicating a laptop or desktop to printing, and most of all I wanted to be able to monitor the printer remotely with video.

OctoPrint is a web interface for 3D printers that can use a Raspberry Pi or similar inexpensive computer. With a Raspberry Pi 3 it allows for the sending of prints, controlling the printer, recording time-lapse videos, and viewing the printer in action remotely.

I used a Raspberry Pi 3 and installed OctoPi and connected a Raspberry Pi camera with a long ribbon cable along with camera and board mount that I found on Thingiverse. It all went together very easy.

I highly recommend watching Thomas Sanladerer’s “Getting started with OctoPrint” video, it will get you through most of the setup process.

I setup a domain name with No-IP so that I can reach the OctoPrint server from anywhere in the world, following the steps was very easy. There is even a Linux Dynamic Update Client that will keep my IP address updated.

I also installed the TouchUI plugin to get a better user interface when using OctoPrint on my phone, which is totally awesome.

The time lapses created by OctoPrint are very cool. By having the camera attached to the camera bed the point of view moves with the object being printed which makes it look like it is standing still while the printer and the room behind it are moving back and forth. I like this much better than having the camera stationary while the printed object is moving back and forth in the video.

If you are using a 3D printer and want to control and monitor it remotely and/or capture video of it printing, I highly recommend giving OctoPrint a try.

Prusa i3 MK2S 3D Printer

Assembled Prusa i3 MK2S

I spent a lot of time and energy researching 3D printers before finally buying one, and even then I am not real happy with the first one I bought, but that will be another post. This one is about the second printer I bought and love, the Prusa i3 MK2S Kit.

The Prusa i3 MK2 is a very popular and highly rated printer, Make Magazine gave it their Outstanding Open Source, Best Value, and Best Overall awards in 2017. Thomas Sanladerer says “The Original Josef Prusa i3 MK2: It doesn’t get any better than this!

You may have already done some reasearch and found that it takes up to 2 months to get this Prusa kit ship shipped to the states, I ordered mine on February 13 and it did not ship from the Czech Republic until March 31st and I received it a few days after that.

The total I paid for the kit with shipping came to $781.26. In the world of good 3D printers with auto bed leveling, a heated build plate, 8 inch by 8 inch by 8 inch (it’s actually bigger than that) build area, and quality components like the E3D V6 hot end, is an amazing price.

Prusa i3 MK2S kit parts

I could have bought it assembled for $200.00 more, but I believe you should have the experience of building from a kit as you WILL be taking it apart to maintain it if you are going to be serious about 3D printing.

Putting the printer together was not that hard, Prusa provides wonderfully detailed directions online in a format where you can ask questions and get clarification quickly. Many times someone at Prusa will even update the instructions based on feedback within a couple days of a comment being made. I used an iPad to view and follow the instructions, it worked great.

There are also many videos on YouTube, some as long as 12 hours, with people building their Prusa i3 MK2 kits. Also there are many video reviews, troubleshooting help, and timelapses of prints in progress.

After 6 weeks or so of printing about 18 hours a day, something went wrong with my printer. I am still not sure exactly what went wrong, because I bent the heat break tube while trying to fix it. I ordered a new tube, nozzle, and boden tube from the MatterHackers website. I then proceeded to make some mistakes when re-assembling the E3D hot end which triggered a chat session with Shane at Prus who patiently helped me troubleshoot the issue.

I led him down multiple wrong paths, I kept thinking it was an issue with the extruder motor, but eventually we figured out the issue was the filament cooling where it shouldn’t be. I spent some time with the E3D V6 Assembly instructions, figured out what I was doing wrong, took it all apart for the fourth or fifth time, and carefully assembled it following the E3D instructions to the letter. Then BANG! I was back in business.

If you are looking to get into 3D printing and want a printer that will last a long time, is easy to fix and maintain, will print almost any filament, and are willing to spend around $800.00 to get started, I recommend the Prusa i3 MK2S kit over anything else on the market.

P.S.
The MonoPrice 3D Printers are getting great reviews and prices cannot be beat. I have been tempted by them, but I think I would save up and get another Prusa with all of its features instead.

Great Planes RealFlight 7.5 Review

RealFlight is an RC flight simulator that you can use to practice flying RC planes, helicopters, and multirotors (drones). It is a lot cheaper to crash in the simulator than in real life.

RealFlight is a good flight-sim, I feel like there are other sims out there that have better physics and are more realistic, but RealFlight feels like the most polished and has many more options than any of the others. But to get the most out of it you will have to turn to the community around it.

There are many versions of RealFlight available and it can be very confusing picking the right one. You can get just the software, with a cable, or with a controller. To make it a bit more confusing there is more than one cable available. I went to my local hobby shop and bought Great Planes RealFlight 7.5 with Wired Interface which is currently $129.98 at Amazon.

If you buy this version you will also need a controller, I use the Spektrum DX6 controller (transmitter) and like it a lot. It is available on Amazon for $199.52 right now, which is a great price.

A great feature of RealFlight is that you can install it on as many computers as you want, but to use it you have to have the Interlink cable with its built in reset button to run it.

RealFlight will not run on MacOS so I primarily use Bootcamp and Windows 8 to play it. But I sometimes use Parallels with Windows 7 or Windows 8, it works but requires a fast Mac to work.

Community

After getting the software installed and you’ve taken a couple of test flights I recommend going over to RCGroups.com and downloading the RCG online field and then the RCG Killer Quad. After installing them and giving them a go you can see if RCG is hosting the field for multiplayer to have some fun with other RC Group members.

If the field does not offer you enough challenges you can open it up in the editor and make it more challenging. I added more gates and removed the stadium seating from mine.

The next place to stop is the Knife Edge Software Swap Pages. These are aircraft and airports created by other players.

Troubleshooting

The only problem I have had with the software is that when I load a new multirotor and try to fly it the plane flops around until it is crashed. This is fixed by flipping the auxillary switches, ‘Y’, ‘U’, ‘I’, and ‘O’, for me it is ‘O’ that usually does the trick.

Improvements

I hope that that next version of RealFlight includes more realistic physics, more realistic graphics, and a simpler interface.

Competition

Phoenix RC is the direct competitor and has its own flaws.
FPV Freerider is a multirotor FPV specific sim with a handful of maps.

Give them all a try, it is a lot cheaper than wrecking and rebuilding your planes.

Udemy Course: All about Node.js

I am working on a personal side-project for some friends and decided to build it using Node, Express, Mongo, and Passport.

About the time I was working on the database architecture I received a coupon via email for the Udemy course “All about Node.js” taught by Sachin Bhatnagar. The full price for the course is currently $150 but it comes up on-sale from time-to-time and coupons are often available.

The course is 64 lectures with 8 hours of video and a handful of quizzes. It took me 3 weeks to work my way through all of the lectures as I was also reading a couple of books on Safari Books Online and Learn All The Node http://www.learnallthenodes.com/.

Sachin’s class is great; the lectures about using Amazon’s CloudFront and EC2 alone are worth the full price of $150. He is very articulate, easy to understand, and does a great job breaking complicated systems into easy to digest lessons.

From the course description:

“My intent is hand hold you all the way from writing your first NodeJS app to deploying production level apps on the cloud.”

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 64 lectures and 7.5 hours of content!
  • Build High Performance and Scalable Apps using NodeJS
  • Use NodeJS Streams to write a Web Server
  • Use the Node Package Manager (NPM) for managing dependencies
  • Use the Express 4 Framework for building NodeJS Apps
  • Use the Hogan Templating Language
  • Understand MongoDB as a NoSQL Database
  • Create & Use MongoDB Databases using services like MongoLab
  • Create Realtime Apps that use Web Sockets
  • Upload & Resize Images using NodeJS
  • Integrate Authentication using Social Media Sites like Facebook
  • Structure the NodeJS app into modules
  • Create and Deploy EC2 Cloud Server Instances on Amazon Web Services
  • Create and Use Amazon’s S3 Storage Service with NodeJS
  • Use Amazon’s Cloudfront Service
  • Using Amazon’s Elastic IP
  • Configure Security Groups, Ports & Forwarding on Amazon EC2
  • Deploy a NodeJS app on the EC2 Instance
  • Deploy a NodeJS app on Heroku
  • Deploy a NodeJS app on Digital Ocean
  • Install & Deploy NGINX as a Reverse Proxy Server for NodeJS Apps
  • Configure NGINX as a Load Balancer

What is the target audience?

  • Web Designers & Front End Developers who wish to extend their knowledge of Javascript for building high performance network applications.
  • Software Developers who want to build high performance network applications.
  • Absolute beginners with basic knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript, wanting to upgrade to professional Web Development and Building Web Apps.
  • PHP, ASP.net, Perl, Java & Ruby coders wanting to leap onto the Node.Js bandwagon.
  • Anyone who wishes to get hands-on training with setting up an Amazon EC2 Instance with a host of other services like Cloudfront, Elastic IP and S3
  • Anyone who wishes to get hands-on training with deploying a NodeJS app on the cloud
  • Computer Engineering students
  • Tech Entrepreneurs who want to get their hands down and dirty with Web Coding & App Development.
  • Anyone who wishes to stay on the forefront of technology!

I rate the Udemy Course: All about Node.js a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn Node.js and its surrounding technologies and frameworks.

Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux by Peter Membrey and David Hows

This is the Raspberry Pi book I have been looking for. Instead of trying to push some advanced scripting language or Linux distribution, this book shows you how to use the most widely used distribution, Raspbian, and good old Bash scripts to do useful things with a Raspberry Pi.

Now 3 years old the lessons in Learn Raspberry Pi still hold up. Raspbian has been through some major updates and the new Model A+ and B+ computers have added to the Pi’s capabilities, but the Linux/Unix commands, SSH and VNC techniques, network information, Web Server installation (LAMP), and a decent chapter covering compiling XMBC on your Pi.

This book does not cover any topics in depth, but it includes enough information to give you an idea of what to enter into Google to find out more. This is one of the greatest features of Linux and the Raspberry Pi, once you know what to search for, there is more information available for free. The community is made up of millions of people from all over the world that want to share what they have learned and what they have created.

From the publisher:

Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux will tell you everything you need to know about the Raspberry Pi’s GUI and command line so you can get started doing amazing things. You’ll learn how to set up your new Raspberry Pi with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and you’ll discover that what may look unfamiliar in Linux is really very familiar. You’ll find out how to connect to the internet, change your desktop settings, and you’ll get a tour of installed applications.

Next, you’ll take your first steps toward being a Raspberry Pi expert by learning how to get around at the Linux command line. You’ll learn about different shells, including the bash shell, and commands that will make you a true power user.

Finally, you’ll learn how to create your first Raspberry Pi projects:

  • Making a Pi web server: run LAMP on your own network
  • Making your Pi wireless: remove all the cables and retain all the functionality
  • Making a Raspberry Pi-based security cam and messenger service: find out who’s dropping by
  • Making a Pi media center: stream videos and music from your Pi

Raspberry Pi is awesome, and it’s Linux. And it’s awesome because it’s Linux. But if you’ve never used Linux or worked at the Linux command line before, it can be a bit daunting. Raspberry Pi is an amazing little computer with tons of potential. And Learn Raspberry Pi with Linux can be your first step in unlocking that potential.

What you’ll learn

  • How to get online with Raspberry Pi
  • How to customize your Pi’s desktop environment
  • Essential commands for putting your Pi to work
  • Basic network services – the power behind what Pi can do
  • How to make your Pi totally wireless by removing all the cables
  • How to turn your Pi into your own personal web server
  • How to turn your Pi into a spy
  • How to turn your Pi into a media center

Who this book is for

Raspberry Pi users who are new to Linux and the Linux command line.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone looking to make a project with a Raspberry Pi.

Make an Icon for Mac Yosemite

How to make a new folder icon for your MAME games is pretty easy with a handful of steps. This is the process I followed; there are other ways to do it using other tools. I used Preview, Adobe Photoshop, and Xcode’s Icon Utility.

Step 1: Get the Icons

I like JohanChalibert’s OS X Yosemite Icon set that he has posted on Deviant Art, but you could search around a bit and find many different icon sets that would be a great place to start.

Download the icon set, unzip it, take a moment to read the readme file, and then find the folder icon you want to use as a starting point, I used GenericFolderIcon.icns. Right-click the Icns file and open it in Preview.

Step 2: Export the Base Icon

Preview Inspector Dialog Box

Preview Inpector

Now that you have the icon set open in preview you can see that it is made up of 10 different graphics. By opening the Inspector (Tools > Show Inspector or Command i) you can see the details for each graphic, like the first graphic is 1024 x 1024 pixels in size at 144 dpi.

Right-click menu

Export As…

Right-click the “1” graphic and choose Export As…, change the Format to PNG making sure the Alpha checkbox is checked. I kept the default name of GenericFolderIcon.png.

Step 3: Editing the Graphics

Now I download the super large version of the MAME logo from MAME Dev. This is what I want to put on the front of my folder icon.

  1. Open both the GenericFolderIcon.png and the MAMELogoTM.jpg files in Photoshop.
  2. On the MAME logo in the Layers panel click the padlock icon to convert the background to a regular layer.
  3. Using the Magic Wand tool with a Tolerance of 12, Anti-alias checked, and Contiguous unchecked click the black background of the logo.
  4. Photoshop delete background image

    Delete Background

    Click the Delete key to remove that black background then Command D to cancel the selection.
  5. Photoshop adjust levels

    Adjust Levels

    Open the Levels panel (Image > Adjustments > Levels… or Command L) and under Output Levels make both sides “0” which will make the entire logo solid black.
  6. Photoshop pasted MAME logo

    Pasted Logo

    Then Select All (Command A), Copy (Command C), then switch to the GenericFolderIcon graphic and Paste (Command V).
  7. Photoshop resize MAME logo

    Tranform Logo

    Initially the MAME logo will be huge compared to the folder so you will need to transform it to fie. Transform (Command T) then while holding down the shift key to keep the ratio of the logo locked start resizing the logo until it looks good to you.
  8. In the Layer panel switch the mode to Overlay.
  9. Create an “fx” layer with an Inner Shadow, I like the settings Blend Mode: Mulitply, Opacity: 36%, Angle: 128, Distance: 9px, Choke: 0, Size: 21px. Play with it until you find something you like.
  10. Photoshop add fx to the logo layer

    Adjust Logo

    For my tastes the MAME logo is still too strong, I want it to more closely match the Apple Applications folder Icon. So back in the Layers I turn the Opacity of the logo layer down to 38%.
  11. Save that PSD file early and often so you have something to go back too if there are any problems or you want to make adjustments later.

Step 4: Saving the Graphics

For a complete Apple icon you need 10 images.

icon_16x16.png
icon_16x16@2x.png
icon_32x32.png
icon_32x32@2x.png
icon_128x128.png
icon_128x128@2x.png
icon_256x256.png
icon_256x256@2x.png
icon_512x512.png
icon_512x512@2x.png

The “2x” images are saved at 144 DPI while the others are saved at 72 DPI.

It can get a bit confusing at this point, but keep in mind that icon_128x128@2x.png is really 256×256 at a resolution of 144 DPI while icon_256x256.png is 256×256 at a resolution of 72 DPI.

  1. I make a Duplicate (Image > Duplicate) of the image so that I wont accidentally overwrite my full-sized PSD file.
  2. Photoshop image size 512@2x

    Image Size 512@2x

    In the Image Size panel (Image > Image Size… or Command Option I) adjust the resolution to 1024×1024 at 144 DPI.
  3. Then Save for Web (File > Save for Web… or Command Option Shift S) with the settings of PNG-24 and Transparency Checked.
  4. Click Save and in the Save Optimized As dialog box make a new folder naming it “MAMEFolderIcon.iconset”. The “.iconset” portion is important later.
  5. Name this first file icon_512x512@2x.png and save it.
  6. Photoshop image size 512

    Image Size 512

    Back to the Image Size panel adjust the size to 72 DPI Resolution and sized 512×512 (easier to make the changes in that order as adjusting the resolution will change the width and height). Resample should be set to “Automatic” or “Bicubic Sharper (reduction)”.
  7. Save this one as icon_512x512.png.
  8. Finished images for the icon

    Finished Files

    Now do that another 8 times adjusting the size and saving based on the file names above.

As the icon graphic gets smaller you could change it up to keep it distinguishable from other icons. Instead of using the full MAME logo you could use just an “M” or you could darken the logo, or anything else you can think of.

Step 5: Building the Icon Set

I am using the Icon Utilities tool that comes with Xcode. There are a lot of icon tools out there, the App Store is full of them, but I happen to have Xcode installed and decided this was the easiest way for me to create the finished icon set.

  1. Open the Terminal app and change the directory to where you have the MAMEFolderIcon.iconset saved. For me that was cd /Users/dnelson/Documents/Folder\ Icon\ Post/
  2. Then run the Icon Utilities app “iconutil -c icns MAMEFolderIcon.iconset

And BANG! You have your very own MAMEFolderIcon.icns icon set.

Step 6: Put your New Icon Set to Use

Find the folder you want to give your new Icon Set to and get ready for the magic.

  1. Select the folder, click on it once, than then Get Info (right-click and choose Get Info or Command I).
  2. Drag-and-drop the new icon set

    Drag-and-Drop

    Now drag-and-drop you new icon set on top of the folder icon at the top of the Get Info dialog box.
  3. Folder with new icon set

    Updated Folder

    And you are done!

It is a tedious process, but it is nice to have custom icons like this, especially for folders in the Doc. This process will also work for making icons for your game launching files.

Easy Launching of MAME Games in Mac OSX Yosemite

Sometimes you want to be able to launch a game by double-clicking an icon rather than going through MAME’s interface or using the Terminal. This method has the added benefit of letting you easily launch MAME with various options.

We are going to write a small shell script, save it as a command file, and make it executable.

If you have followed the directions in my previous post “MAME on Mac OSX Yosemite” you can follow these instructions exactly, if you have made changes or modified any steps, keep that in mind while working through these steps.

First off we write the shell script.

  1. 1. Open the Documents directory and create a new folder named “MAME Games”.
  2. 2. Open Applications > TextEdit and click Format > Make Plain Text
  3. 3. On the first line of the document enter “#!/usr/bin/env bash”. This is known as a shebang and tells the computer that we want to use the Bash shell to run our script.
  4. 4. Then for readablility’s sake skip a line and enter “cd ~/Documents/mame” on the next line. This changes the directory to your mame folder inside of your Documents folder.
  5. 5. On the last line enter “./mame64 robotbwl” which launches the MAME application and loads the Robot Bowl ROM.
  6. 6. Now save the file naming it “Robot Bowl.command”. The filename extension of “command” tells Mac OSX that this is a Terminal shell script.

We have created our script now we have to give it permission to be executable.

  1. 1. Open the Terminal app and end enter “chmod +x ~/Documents/MAME\ Games/Robot\ Bowl.command”, this modifies the permissions of the “Robot Bowl.command” file by adding the Executebale for everyone permissions to it.
  2. 2. NOTE: The back slash “\” in the code escapes the spaces in the directory path and file names, without those back slashes the code will not work.

That is all there is to it, you should now be able to double click on the Robot Bowl file to launch MAME and the Robot Bowl game.

Options

Now we are going to create a file that will launch the Robot Bowl game with the screen much brighter than normal. This can be really handy if you have a screen or a game that is dark.

  1. 1. Copy the Robot Bowl file we created above and name it “Robot Bowl Bright”. By copying the Robot Bowl file the copied file will have the original’s executable permissions.
  2. 2. Open the Robot Bowl Bright file in TextEdit and add the brightness option to it by changing the last line to be “./mame64 robotbwl -brightness 1.5” and save it.

Now launch the new Robot Bowl Bright file and you can see how much brighter it is, the background has become gray. Hit the Escape (esc) key to quit and launch the original Robot Bowl file and you should see that the background is black when launching the game from that file.

In the docs directory there is a config.txt file that contains many other options you can use to configure your launchers. The ones you will probably use most often are the joystick options.

The Dock

To make launching games even easier you can drag the MAME Games folder onto the right-hand side of the Dock by the trashcan. I don’t like the default view of folders in the Dock so I right-click the folder and choose “Display as Folder” and “View content as List”. Now I can click the folder in the dock and choose a game from the list.

You could get creative with this and have a different folder for different types of games or with different options enabled for the games.

MAME on Mac OSX Yosemite

Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) is a free and open source application used as a reference of the inner workings of arcade gaming systems. A side effect of this is that MAME can be used to play old arcade games if you can find the games. MAME uses data dumps from the Read Only Memory chips (ROMs) that were used in the original arcade games.

You can download the ROMs of some games from the mamedev.org website. I am going to use Robot Bowl as an example.

You will have to use the terminal app and the console to get MAME working, but it is very easy following the steps below. You will also need admin privileges on the computer, this is not absolutely necessary to run MAME, but that is how I am going to cover it here.

These instructions are for SDLMAME version 0.156 64-bit which was released on November 28, 2014.

Lets get started.

  1. Visit http://wiki.mamedev.org/index.php/SDL_Supported_Platforms and click on the URL for “Apple Macintosh OS X Intel” with a build target of “MAME”. Curretly that URL is http://sdlmame.lngn.net/
  2. Follow the instructions at the top of the page and install the “SDL runtime library
    1. From the SDL website download SDL2-2.0.3.dmg or the latest version.
    2. Double-click the SDL2-2.0.3.dmg file which will mount it as a drive.
    3. Open the Terminal application Applications > Utilities > Terminal
    4. Enter “open /Library/Frameworks” into the terminal window, this will open a window for the Frameworks directory
    5. Drag the “SDL2.framework” file from the SDL2 window into the “Frameworks” window, you may be prompted to enter an Admin username and password to authenticate your desire to modify the Frameworks directory. Click “Authenticate” and then enter an Admin Username and Password.
  3. Back at the SDLMAME page click on the “SDLMAME v0.156 64-bit” link and save the file to your computer. I am placing it in the “Documents” directory.
  4. Double-click the zip file, when finished you should now have a folder named “mame0156-64bit”, now rename this folder “mame”, keep in mind that case counts so make sure the folder name is all lower-case.
  5. Open the “mame” folder and take a look at the contents
  6. Over in the Terminal app, enter “cd ~/Documents/mame” and then “ls -al” to double-check that you are in the right directory
  7. Now to create the MAME configuration file enter “./mame64 -createconfig” this will create a “mame.ini” file in the “mame” directory
  8. Now to get a ROM visit the mamedev.org website and the Robot Bowl game at http://mamedev.org/roms/robotbwl/
    1. Click on “I understand…” and download the game to the Documents/mame/roms directory
    2. WARNING: ROMs are saved as zip files and they should stay zipped. MAME will handle unzipping them and using the contents inside. If you use a web browser that automatically unzips files when you download them you will need to change that setting to preserve the original files.
  9. In Yosemite the keyboard does not use the function keys on as F-1 through F19 the way other operating systems do, they are assigned all kinds of other functions. You can hold the “Function (fn)” key down everytime you want to use a function key or you can open the System Preferences > Keyboard and check the “Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys” box. If you check this box you can use the “fn” key to utilize the special functions of those keys. That is my preferred method.
  10. Now to launch MAMA and give Robot Bowl a try
    1. In the Terminal enter “./mame64”
    2. Use the arrow keys to select “robotbwl Robot Bowl” and tap Enter
    3. You may see a screen warning about using ROMs that you are not legally entitled to play, give it a quick read and know that you have been given permission by H.R. Kaufmann, president of Xidy, the original ROM images for Robot Bowl have been made available for free, non-commercial use. On your keyboard the left then right arrows to move on.
    4. Then you may see a message that there are known problems with this game. The sound emulation isn’t 100% accurate. Click the left then right arrow keys again to move on.
    5. Now the game should be playing its attract animation of a stick figure coming out to bowl.
    6. Tap the “Tab” key to bring up the in-game configuration menu and choose “Input (this Game)”
      1. NOTE: I prefer not to change the “Input (general)” controls from the default. By keeping the general defaults tutorials and other help I may use in the future will work without me having to translate which keys to press.
    7. Controls
      1. This is really cool, when you look at the input controls for a specific game, it shows ALL of the control options for that game making it very easy to learn how to play that game and re-configure the buttons and controls for it.
      2. For Robot Bowl the default controls are:
        1. 1 Player Start: 1
        2. Coin 1: 5
        3. P1 Left Button: Left arrow key
        4. P1 Right Button: Right arrow key
        5. P1 Button 1: Left Control key or mouse button 1 (left mouse button)
        6. P1 Button 2: Left Alt key or muse button 3 (right mouse button)
        7. Hook Left: Z key
        8. Hook Right: X key
      3. You can use the arrow keys to navigate to any of these and change them by tapping the Enter key then tapping the key you want to use; you can have more than one key assigned to a single control.

And that is it; you now have MAME up and running on your Mac OSX Yosemite computer.

You can find a lot more information about customizing MAME in the ~/Documents/mame/docs directory, especially in the config.txt file.

Hitman Absolution by Eidos

I was looking for a good shot’em-up and realized I had bought Hitman Absolution from Steam on sale a long time ago and hadn’t played it yet, and even better I could play it on my iMac in MacOS instead of booting into Windows Bootcamp.

I have played most of the other Hitman games and liked some more than others. A couple of them have been really awesome. I clearly remember a scene in an opera house where I was forced to harm a police officer for the first time in any of the games, that was really hard for me, I almost stopped playing the game because of it. But after dying and restarting the level for what felt like 100 times I was able to complete the mission without killing any cops. Knocking them around a bit is ok.

In Hitman Absolution the only mission that came close for me was in Chinatown with a ton of witnesses and a chase that led to me wearing a furry suit.

The gameplay was ok but not great, I took a couple of week long breaks while playing it and coming back to it I had to re-learn a lot of the controls. Keyboard and mouse all the way.

The story line was not very interesting to me, definitely the worst of the series. I feel like the core of its problem is that to much time and money creating infuriatingly long cut-scenes instead of honing the gameplay. The cut-scenes ruined the game for me, I feel like I spent 25% of my time playing the game and 75% watching boring cut scenes.

For a 2012 game played on a Late 2013 27” iMac the graphics were impressive, at full resolution the game was smooth-ish with good framerates that only slowed noticeably when there was a lot going on.

I don’t remember what I paid for the game, but if it was in the $10 range I am happy with it, but will probably never play it again.

I rate Hitman Absolution a 4 out of 10 and only recommend it to people who are playing their way through the franchise or for game developers to learn how not to do it.

DragonCon Photography Team Computer Setup

As a volunteer at DragonCon one of my current responsibilities is getting the computers setup for use by the photographers and the librarians. This year I had to re-learn a lot of what worked so well last year as my notes were not complete, so I decided to write them up more thoroughly this year and post them hear so that I will not loose them.

At the 2014 DragonCon we used a total of 5 computers, 3 for the photographers to drop off photographs at and 2 for the librarians to use for key wording. The computers were running Windows 7 and required a lot of Windows updates and video driver updates before they were ready to use, luckily the internet connection at the show was fairly fast on Thursday afternoon when I was setting them up.

We call the 2 librarian computers A and B; each computer has 2 external hard drives which we call the Piles, a primary drive and a backup drive. The primary drive on each library computer is shared on the network as Pile A and Pile B.

I don’t know a lot about Windows networking, so I winged it and believe I set up a Windows home network with file sharing turned on. I wasted a lot of time before I figured out that all 5 computers had the same network name so they could not share files, giving each computer a unique name fixed all of the sharing issues I was having.

On the desktop of each computer I made a shortcut to the shared Pile A and Pile B folders so that the photographers could easily find the correct place to copy their pictures to. At this point I was done with the 3 photographers computers, by the end of the show photographers had installed Infranview and other tools to help them edit and cull their photos.

On the librarian computer we install the latest version of Adobe Lightroom and use it in the 30-day trial mode. Next up is importing the keyword list provided by the show into Lightroom, this gives us a controlled vocabulary for keywording making pictures easy to find later on.

Then in Lightroom install the latest version of Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin, this is the tool that automatically imports any new pictures found in watched folders into Lightroom, it is really amazing how quickly and reliably this works.

Then we use the Windows Sync Toy and Windows Task Manager to keep the primary and secondary drives in sync so that at the end of the show we can turn over the primary A and B drives to the show and keep the backup A and B drives for the photography team’s use.

Here is my updated checklist:

  1. Verify that each computer has a unique network name/id
  2. Run Windows Update and install all updates
  3. Update video card drivers if they are separate from Windows Update
  4. Verify that all computers are using the same type of networking so they can see each other, in Windows 7 a homegroup network is easiest http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/start-here-to-set-up-a-home-network-in-windows-7
  5. External Drives
    1. Attach the primary and backup drives to the librarian computers
    2. Format and name the external drives and name them
      1. Pile A
      2. Pile A Back
      3. iPile B
      4. iv. Pile B Back
    3. On the Pile A drive make new directories named Pile A and Lightroom A
    4. On the Pile B drive make new directories named Pile B and Lightroom B
  6. Sync’ing
    1. Here is a great article that walks through setting up sync’ing
      http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/it-consultant/configure-automated-backups-using-synctoy-and-windows-7s-scheduled-task/
    2. Install the latest version of Sync Toy
      1. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=15155
    3. Set up a New Folder Pair in Sync Toy to keep the primary and backup drives in sync, use Echo so that changes to the primary drive are copied to the backup drive but not from the backup to primary
    4. Use Windows Task Manager to run Sync Toy every 10 minutes
    5. Verify at least once a day that the sync’ing is occurring successfully, but the primary and backup drive should have the same number of files in the Pile directories
  7. Lightroom
    1. Install the latest version of Lightroom and choose the 30-day version when launching it
    2. Preferences – “Lightroom > Preferences”
      1. General
        1. Uncheck “Automatically check for updates”
        2. Unchesk “Show splash screen during startup”
        3. Choose the correct DragonCon default library
        4. Uncheck the “Select the “Current/Previous Import””
        5. Turn off all completion sounds
    3. Remove all of the modules except for Library and Develop. Right-click the top toolbar and uncheck the unneeded modules.
    4. Then import keywords, “Metadata > Import Keywords”. Verify that the full keyword list is available in the “Keyword List” panel. More information about keywording in Lightroom is available at http://adobe.ly/148Icbo
    5. Setup Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Watch Plugin
      1. http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/folder-watch
      2. Lightroom “File > Plug-in Manager”
        1. Choose “jf Folder Watch”
        2. Choose the parent folder on the Pile
          1. Defaults are good with the following exceptions (If desired “Apply meta data preset, covered elsewhere)
      3. Choose “Watch”
      4. Choose “Restart on Launch”
      5. Choose “Show Splash on Launch”
    6. f. Then create a new library named “dragoncon-2014-pile-a” or “dragoncon-2014-pile-b” and save it into the “lightroom a” or “lightroom b” folder on the attached primary external drive
  8. Testing
    1. Use a non-librarian computer to drop a couple of pictures into Pile A and Pile B
      1. Verify these pictures appear in Lightroom on the expected librarian computer
      2. After a period of time verify that the pictures and updated Lightroom library appear on the backup drives
    2. At least once a day check the primary and secondary drives to verify that they are in sync

We are always looking for better ways to handle the 30,000 plus pictures we collect at DragonCon, if you have any big ideas please let me know.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I burnt myself out trying to learn to many JavaScript frameworks, build tools, unit testing, Debian eccentricities and BeagleBone Black programming so I decided to take a break and play a video game. Steam was having their summer sale and Skyrim happened to be a great deal. I bought "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition" and have been playing it for a couple weeks now.

Back in 2011 when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released I remember reading and hearing from a lot of friends, acquaintances, and internet personalities who played it and talked about it for weeks on end. So my interest was peeked, but I didn’t have time or the desire to play it then.

The world of Skyrim is amazingly large. I was shocked by the sheer size of it. The developers have a done a great job making traveling from place to place very fast and easy. You can walk, run, take a carriage, ride a horse, or if you have been to your destination before you can "fast travel" to it. When fast traveling even though you get there very quickly the time in the game passes as though you had walked or ridden a horse that same distance, so the sun may be down or the shops may be closed.

Time plays a really large roll in the game, night and day is a big deal and change a lot of what is going on. Vendors are only available between 8am and 8pm, vampires are roaming around in the dark, werewolves are prowling the night, thieves and assassins abound.

Indulging in the role-playing aspects of the game I have tried to do my usual straight-and-narrow play through. When playing old-school pen-and-paper games I enjoy being the paladin, in this game I played a Wood Elf with a strong right hand wielding a sharp sword and bow for fighting at a distance.

Anything is allowed in this game, there are opportunities to be a goodie two-shoes (how I play) or to be a total scoundrel, there are even rewards for both. You can even choose to be a cannibal by completing a quest, personally I ended that quest short with an arrow to her head as soon as possible.

I really enjoyed the dungeon crawling, bandit fighting, dragon slaying, vampire hunting, and exploring Skyrim. I did not enjoy all of the bugs, dead ends, and lack of help in the game.

No matter how hard I tried not to, I ended up going to The Elder Scrolls Wiki and The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages to figure out what was going on and how to work around bugs in the game. And man there are a lot of bugs, I pity the people who are playing on Playstation and Xbox machines where they do not have the luxury of entering console commands to fix things.

Now I am 135 hours into with my Wood Elf Bowman and having a great time with it. I have played through most of the main quests that do not require me to do anything that would tarnish my good guy reputation. I have not been a werewolf , an imperial or stormcloak soldier, or a vampire. I have adopted 2 orphans, have nice houses in Whiterun and Solstheim and have built a wonderful lakehouse outside of Falkreath that I call home.

I am level 99 out of 100 with a single-handed weapon and around 85 with the bow. Enchanting and Smithing are both at 100 with lots of perks that have allowed me to construct some awesome dragon armor and weapons with tons of helpful enchantments that have made all but the toughest opponents easy to set right. I started out the game kind of wobbly and found it very hard, I had to rely on a lot of potions and scrolls to stay alive, but with my crafted armor and weapons I now only carry a handful of healing potions and no scrolls at all. Dragonbone arrows with a paralyze/health absorbing bow is an awesome combination.

Before I stop plying Skyrim I plan on getting married, buying all of the available hold houses, building the other 2 available country houses, and clearing more of the dungeons and mines in Solstheim.

I am playing Skyrim on a 27" iMac running Windows 8 in Bootcamp. This computer is so amazing, the mSATA drive is so fast that I rarely got to see the loading screens, which was kind of annoying because the loading screens contain a lot of information that adds to the game… hahaha, first-world problems abound.

From the publisher:

EPIC FANTASY REBORN
The next chapter in the highly anticipated Elder Scrolls saga arrives from the makers of the 2006 and 2008 Games of the Year, Bethesda Game Studios. Skyrim reimagines and revolutionizes the open-world fantasy epic, bringing to life a complete virtual world open for you to explore any way you choose.

LIVE ANOTHER LIFE, IN ANOTHER WORLD
Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of The Elder Scrolls is realized like never before.

ALL NEW GRAPHICS AND GAMEPLAY ENGINE
Skyrim’s new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world with rolling clouds, rugged mountains, bustling cities, lush fields, and ancient dungeons.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU PLAY
Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities. The new character system allows you to play any way you want and define yourself through your actions.

DRAGON RETURN
Battle ancient dragons like you’ve never seen. As Dragonborn, learn their secrets and harness their power for yourself.

I rate The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a 9 out of 10 even with the bugs and dead ends, the overall experience is just that good. I recommend it to any who enjoys fantasy role-playing but also first-person-shooter fans.

Updating the Drobo

It is finally time to upgrade from a second generation Drobo to a Drobo 5N.

I bought my first Drobo in January of 2009 and it has been in constant use for the intervening 5 and a half years. I have only had 2 issues with it, the fan died about a year ago, and it now feels really slow.

When the fan died I went to my local Microcenter computer store and bought a whisper quiet 120mm fan. With a bit of Googling and some wire snipping followed by a bit of solder the Drobo has been much quieter and cooler ever since. In fact I can’t hear it over my home office noise at all.

About the speed of it… I am not sure, I think it is slower than it was a couple of years ago, but in that time I have upgraded all of my machines to using SSDs so my idea of how fast files should copy has changed a lot. I plan on running XBench on the 2nd Gen, the 5N, and a couple of external USB drives to get an idea of the "real" speed differences.

Here are the numbers

The 2nd Gen currently has 2×3.0TB and 2×2.0TB drives in it for a total size of 6.35TB of usable space.

The 5N will have those drives plus a 4.0TB fifth drive for 9.07TB of space.

The 5N maxes out with 4×4.0TB drives at 14.52TB of usable space with single disc redundancy and 10.89TB with dual disk redundancy. I hope that will last me a couple of years.

I am currently backing everything up on the 2nd for the move to the 5N, copying files from the old Drobo to external discs using a MacBook Pro has gone amazingly well. In the past I have had issues with the computer going to sleep and breaking the download, or one of the drives experiencing a hiccup, or just gremlins getting in the way.

Wish me luck.

Learning Adobe Edge Animate CC by Tony Ross

Learning Adobe Edge Animate CC training video from Infinite Skills Inc. featuring Tony Ross is a great place to start learning Adobe Edge Animate.

I found Tony’s voice easy to listen to, his explanations easy to understand, and the video of the computer screen easy to read and follow.

Half way through the video I built my first animation, it’s good stuff.

Edge Animate has a lot of problems as an application, it is definitely going to improve as new versions are released, and this video does nothing to highlight those problems and steer you clear of them. But the video is definitely worth watching closely. You can learn about the bugs and limitations somewhere else.

I think Tony Ross and Infinite Skills did a great job making a training video that can get anyone familiar with other Adobe applications up and running in Adobe Edge Animate.

I rate Learning Adobe Edge Animate CC an 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone looking to learn how to use Adobe Edge Animate.

BeagleBone Black WiFi Adapter (WNA1100)

Boris, the BeagleBoard Logo Mascot

Boris, the BeagleBoard Logo Mascot

I initially bought an Edimax EW-7811Un Dongle for use with my BeagleBone Black (BBB), but after a lof of fiddling and frustration I gave up on it. Turns out that I may have been using the wrong setting in the interfaces file, but after some research I found many instances of people complaining about the Edimax dongles in general, so I started looking for solutions that others were having good luck with.

Along with a lot of email threads I found WiFi Adapter http://www.elinux.org/Beagleboard:BeagleBoneBlack#WIFI_Adapters recommendations on the Embedded Linux Wiki BBB page. http://www.elinux.org/Beagleboard:BeagleBoneBlack After searching Amazon for the listed adapters I chose the NETGEAR N150 Wi-Fi USB Adapter (WNA1100) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0036R9XRU/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 for $17.50, not the cheapest of the bunch but it comes with a "Desktop Dock" that is basically an USB extension cable which sounds good to me as it will let me place the adapter a distance away from the BBB to get the best WiFi signal.

With the latest build of Debian I was able to get the WNA1100 adapter to work just by editing the interfaces file and rebooting the BeagleBone. Pretty awesome!

Steps

  1. Plugged the BBB into the computer with a USB cable and plugged in a power supply.
  2. Logged into the BBB with the root account with my “fish” "ssh fish@192.168.7.2"
  3. # sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces and edited the "WiFi Example" to match my network ID and password

This is what the finished WiFi part of the file looks like:

# WiFi Example
auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
     wpa-ssid "ssid"
     wpa-psk  "password"

And BANG! it worked. I am now enjoying WiFi with my BeagleBone Black!

Unable to Connect to BeagleBone Black via Ethernet

Unable to Connect to BeagleBone Black via Ethernet

Everything works fine when the BeagleBone Black is connected to a computer via USB but when connected to the network via Ethernet it does not work. I ran into this issue when I first started using my BeagleBone Black out-of-the-box and again when I updated the OS to Debian.

Here is the solution:

  1. Connect the BBB to your computer via USB and give it time to boot
  2. In a web browser open the Cloud9 IDE by going to http://192.168.7.2:3000/. You may be prompted to choose some settings, I like the defaults.
  3. Create a new file, paste in the script below, and run it
    var fs = require("fs");
    var destroyed_key_file = "/etc/dropbear/dropbear_rsa_host_key";
    fs.readFile(destroyed_key_file, function (err, data) {
      if (err) throw err;
      if( data===null || data.length===0 )
      {
        console.log("we have a corrupted host key file... try do delete it");
        fs.unlink(destroyed_key_file, function (err) {
        if (err) throw err;
            console.log("successfully deleted " + destroyed_key_file);
            console.log("you should now reboot your beaglebone.");
            console.log("the /etc/init.d/dropbear script will create a new rsa host key file for you.");
            console.log("after the reboot you should be able to login over ssh");
        });
      } else {
          console.log("it seems that you have another problem, sorry");
      }
    });
    
  4. Now shutdown, I like to sudo shutdown -hP now, the USR lights will all go out when it is shut down
  5. Now you can unplug the BBB from USB and plug in an Ethernet cable and power adapter.
    1. You should now be able to access the BBB from anywhere on your network using http://beaglebone.local or ssh beaglebone.log.

      Thanks to https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!msg/beagleboard/Ya2qE4repSY/u4lvOjF66JEJ

Remote Host Identification Has Changed!

After updating the operating system to Debian and plugging in your BeagleBone Black via USB you may receive the error message:
WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED!

This is normal as the RSA key has changed when you updated the OS.

The easiest way to fix it is to run ssh-keygen -R then try connecting again.

When connected via USB
ssh-keygen -R 192.168.7.2
ssh debian@192.168.7.2

When connected via Ethernet
ssh-keygen -R beaglebone.local
ssh debian@beaglebone.local

You should then be asked to add the new fingerprint to your "known hosts", say yes and you should then be asked for your Debian password who’s default is temppwd.

And your in debian@beaglebone:~$.

Thanks to http://blog.tinned-software.net/ssh-remote-host-identification-has-changed/

Setting up Debian on a BeagleBone Black

This post is about installing Debian (BeagleBone Black – 2GB eMMC) 2014-03-27 and Flashing the eMMC using a Mac running OSX 10.9 Mavericks.

I decided to get a head start on using Debian with the BBB which is soon to tbe the default OS installed on them.

These are the steps I used today to get up and running:

  1. Download image from http://beagleboard.org/latest-images
     – BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.4-2014-03-27-2gb.img.xz
  2. Use Unarchiver to extract disk image
     – BBB-eMMC-flasher-debian-7.4-2014-03-27-2gb.img
  3. Download PiFiller to copy the disk image to the SD card
     – http://ivanx.com/raspberrypi/
    WARNING: Do not insert the SD card yet, PiFiller will tell you when
  4. Run PiFiller and follow the directions
    1. Choose the disk image
    2. Insert the SD card
    3. Verify that PiFiller has found the correct device
    4. Some more verifying, click OK a couple of times
    5. Now wait awhile, it took about 20 minutes on my MacBook Pro
      Holy Cow! The dialog box opening and closing gets really annoying to watch!
    6. All set when you get the “Your SD card is ready” message
  5. Eject the SD from the Mac OS then remove it from the computer
  6. With the BBB unplugged, no network, USB, video, power cables, insert the SD card into the BBB
    WARNING: The SD card pokes out of the back of the BBB enough that it is easy to bump it and cause it to eject. Especially when plugging in a USB or HDML cable. It pays to be slow and patient when manipulating the BBB with an SD card in place.
  7. Get ready: When plugging in the BBB you will need to hold down the Boot button until all 4 USR lights turn on
     – While holding down the Boot button insert a 5V 2A power supply, release the Boot button when all 4 USR lights turn on
  8. Now the USR buttons should start blinking in a seemingly random pattern, this should go on for 20 to 60 minutes depending on the OS and SD card
  9. When the USR lights all light-up again the eMMC has been flashed with Debian
  10. Remove the power adapter
  11. Remove the SD card

You are now ready to plug-in the devices you want to work with and enjoy Debian

More information about installing operating systems on the BeagleBone Black:
http://beagleboard.org/Getting%20Started#update
http://learn.adafruit.com/beaglebone-black-installing-operating-systems/overview