All posts by Technomancer_Ral

HFY Stories I Like

I’ve been reminded of one of my favorite story genres nowadays, and decided I’d share some of my favorites (I’ve probably mentioned a few elsewhere on the site).

For those who don’t know what it is, HFY stands for “Humanity, F— Yeah!” It’s generally about reversing the old science fiction trope of humans being the weak rung on the ladder compared to aliens, whether it’s via strength, intelligence, or other.

Usually it involves humans being crazy enough to try things no sane species would ever try, and that gives us our edge against other species in the galaxy.

A lot of stuff in that genre can be found here on Reddit:
r/hfy

Deathworlders

One of my top favorites, that I read the new chapter of each month. Humans need not fear the scariest monsters of the universe. They fear US.

It stems from the theory that Earth is what’s termed a “deathworld,” in that we may be an edge case for what is survivable for intelligent life to develop on. Our gravity being stronger, our background radiation more severe, and the everyday perils of our world in general being much tougher than what most lifeforms in the universe have to deal with, making us tougher as a result.

The link below goes to the first chapter of the story, and covers the premise. It was originally written as a one-off, and then the author found out people had been talking about it and adding to the universe, so they continued it as a series.

Deathworlders: The Kevin Jenkins Experience

Stabby the Space Roomba

Why Vulcans Let Humans Run the Federation

Star Trek Mad Science

This one explains why humans are in charge of the Federation. It is hilarious. If you’ve watched much of the shows and the movies… I think it’s a fair assessment of humanity.

PM Seymour VA’s Humans are Space Orcs Compilation

πoneer Falchion

Now that I’ve submitted it as my entry for the 2020 Zero Day competition, I feel like I can share what I’ve been working on lately.

This may end up being the first in a series of “Standard Runner’s Constructs,” and the instructions are written as such, in an in-universe style. The idea is that runners are trying to make sure their future teammates are properly equipped and educated. If you “can’t find good help anymore,” sometimes you’ve gotta train your own.

I present the 𝝅oneer Falchion, a pi zero w based micro cyberdeck (or microdeck).

Runner’s First Cyberblade, or a “Decker’s Sidearm”

The backside. Note the data-quillions, recessed power switch, and hinge.
Operating configuration.
Easy charging port.

I took inspiration in designing this from the Austro-Hungarian M1853 Pioneer’s Falchion. I had gotten the first inkling of an idea of a blade shape from the shape of the keyboard, and then went poking and asking around to find a blade with a somewhat similar shape. That’s what informed the shape of the hilt and the placement of the quillions in particular.

The features include a micro-USB charging port on the hilt end, two USB-A “data-quillions”, a touchscreen display, and a wireless keyboard that folds on a hinge along the back of the “blade” into the operating position under the display. The power switch is accessible through a hole on the backside of the device.

I designed and built it for the competition hosted here:

https://www.cyberdeck.cafe/post/deck-builders-competition

The gist of it is that we are holding a mini virtual maker faire, with a competition portion. The competition requires using a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Zero W for the wireless version) as the core of a cyberdeck that we designed in a limited amount of time, with a limited number and volume of 3D printed components, and including the required models and instructions as our entry.

The winner gets their design printed in resin and shipped to them.

As part of the competition I had to submit the 3D models and instructions, but I also have them hosted here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4601417

https://github.com/Ralnarene/SRC000_Zero_Stack

https://github.com/Ralnarene/SRC001_Pioneer_Falchion

Feel free to make your own. I’d love to see photos!

Week In Review: 09-06-2020

It’s been another hobby filled week here at the sanctum. I’ve been working on a few things here, sadly I can’t fill you in on quite all of the details, as some of it is being kept secret for a competition.

To start out with, I’ve been doing a lot of work towards an online competition with the Cyberdeck Cafe. Here’s the flyer:

And here’s the link if you are interested: https://www.cyberdeck.cafe/post/deck-builders-competition

The short version of it is that we were given requirements and a short timeframe to design a cyberdeck based on a pi zero. The winner gets their design printed in resin and constructed by one of the judges, and sent to them. I’ve been spending a lot of time running through prototypes, though hopefully I’m just in the fine-tuning stage at this point. I’d tell you more… but I know some people from the associated Discord occasionally check this site, and I want to maintain the surprise on my entry. I’m fine with not winning the competition, I just don’t want to lose to someone using my idea and doing a better implementation of it.

While running off prototypes on my printer, I’ve been trying to use up what’s left of a few partial spools of filament. It’s past time I clear out the stock of old filament. I’m planning on transitioning over to better grades of filament, but it would have been a waste to simply throw out the older filament. And I needed to use it sooner rather than later, because the filament can degrade and get brittle (hence one spool’s remnant being tossed out due to frequent breakage).

I’ve been putting the finished off spools to good use, as shown in the cover image for this post. I have a second miniatures tower on a turntable to more neatly store my minis. At this rate of minis production lately, I may have to make a third when I have the spools. And I should probably learn how to paint minis at some point…

With all this 3D printing, I finally got a test and validation of one of my upgrades. I think I posted way back that I had put my 3D printers on a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) in case of power failure or tripping a breaker. A couple nights ago I tripped a breaker while printing on both printers (and having some other loads on the system), but since I had both printers and the control system on the UPS, I didn’t lose these multi-hour prints! Successful test of 3D printing on UPS backup!

“Medieval” Backpack Upgrade Finished

This past week I finished my updates to the backpack. I cleaned up the leather straps, replaced the corroded fittings, cut the straps to length, punched new holes, and attached the straps to the frame. Here are the results.

The replacement buckles look better than the originally planned buckles! I doubt you’d notice, but I had to remove and adjust that felt padding on the lower frame by narrowing the area covered by it. Otherwise the leather straps would have to wrap around the padding, which doesn’t provide as secure of a hold.

From this top view you can see the leather badges on the bag that I keep on top of the overall pack. I found the bag and those badges at DragonCon a few years back. The in-character explanation is that I’d carry the whole thing as I walked from town to town, and set it down in my room at an inn, taking my lighter bag around shopping in town.

At some point I still need to go through what I carry in and on the pack for events. Right now I’ve got it in a kind of “all-purpose” configuration, with a bota bag for water, a small bag for local shopping, and a wool blanket for warmth/shelter. I’d like to figure out 1) what I would want to carry if I decided to take this camping and 2) what I would want to carry if I were actually the character that this was designed for. What tools would I carry for my trade? What in-period essentials would I carry for survival? Would I have anything in there to deal with bandits or wild animals?

As someone pointed out to me recently, I apparently like to have a story behind the things I create.

Mini Project Update: “Medieval” Backpack

Years ago (before I started this blog) I made a medieval-ish backpack for Renaissance Faires and the like. I had wanted something to carry stuff around at events while in costume without carrying a very obviously modern backpack. Recently I’ve decided to take a crack at fixing/updating it. Here it is when I first built it years ago.

One of the “features” that I was not happy with, and prompted the repair work, was that the leather support straps would sometimes pull out in the direction of the furniture tacks holding them to the frame. I removed the leather straps, sanded the wood a bit, and used wood glue while reattaching the straps to the frame, clamping it to make a stronger connection.

I also reinforced a couple connections with the posts that hold the box in place on the frame. I placed glue in the gaps, and hammered the posts back in tighter. My guess is that they had been pulling out from the frame from the load of the box.

When the glue had 24 hours to dry, I worked on my next annoyance: I had never cut the leather straps flush to the wood. The corners stuck out past the frame, contributing to the straps coming off in the past when things caught on a corner. After some experimentation on some scrap leather, I used an exacto knife to cut the leather, and only then removed the clamps from the frame. Why add unnecessary stress to a recently glued item?

Since I was working on it anyway, I decided to tackle another thing that had always bothered me: the shoulder straps. Here’s another old photo:

Note the rope being used for terrible shoulder straps. At some point between then and now, I swapped them out with some belts from cargo shorts. These are the belts I’m talking about:

They were MUCH more comfortable, but still doesn’t look quite right. None of them match, and it still looks crude. I did some thinking and researching, wanting to swap them for leather ones. I had always wanted leather ones, but after a while I had kinda written it off and forgotten about them.

This time, though, I came across some sword belts that looked like they might work with the frame, so I ordered those. Unfortunately, it was not as easy a swap as I had hoped, and I’ve still got work to do. Here is one of the belts that arrived:

If you look closely you’ll note that all the metal fittings were corroded prior to arrival. This stained the leather and made me loath to use those fittings. The buckles would require heavy cleaning, and the chicago screws were pretty much a lost cause. The leather should be fine, though. That did inspire me to look for some upgrades. I’m replacing the buckles and all the screws, all with antiqued brass.

It’ll look better than it would have if they had come through properly! However, I’ve still got to do some leatherworking, as the straps are actually too long for their intended positions. Also, the holes were not positioned correctly for wrapping around objects of the size of the rungs on the pack.

At least nowadays I have a workshop set up, and more tools to work with, so it’s a much less daunting task than when I originally built the pack! It shouldn’t take too long to do, but I want to make sure that I take my time and do it right, so I’ll have to make sure I have a solid block of time to work on them.

Keytar Power Switch

I got fed up with the power cables sticking out of the side of the case, so I decided to make the power switch a more integral part of the build. Also, I didn’t like the gaping hole in the case.

There were two power switches, one for the deck itself, and one for powering the USB hub. I modified this one for the hub, deciding to route it fully inside the case, even though that means I have to briefly open the tray to turn on the hub.

I also made this cable up for the main power to the Pi.

As part of this design process there was a lot of tinkering and iterating.

And, I mean a LOT of tinkering. This is what I ended up with:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20200516_103531.jpg

I knew I liked the idea of a red safety cover for the switch, but those are designed to turn a regular flip switch off when they closed. I needed a way to have a cover a switch while the thing was still powered on. I found the switch that would fit through the hole of the safety cover (after a little… modification with the deburring tool), and figured out how to design the little bugger to hole the actual switch, the switch cover, allow for proper free movement of the switch to function, and attach the switch neatly and securely to the case. I’ll spare you the iterations, but it took a while, and I think I got it to look pretty good and hold well. I like that I have a red power button under a red safety cover now. It just feels… right.

Sanctum Upgrades: Surge Protection

I’ve been dealing with a lot of thunderstorms lately, and got kinda fed up with my old habit of unplugging my sensitive electronics every time they come through, so I decided to finish fully surge-protecting my primary workstation and my router.

The internet connection required a few changes while I was at it. Here it was before.

I kinda dropped a whiteboard on the coax connector a while back, and was worried that it might have been damaged a bit in the process, so I replaced it just in case. Also, the coax cable stuck out of the wall, taking up a bit more floorspace than necessary, so I replace the cable with a shorter yet more flexible one and installed a 90 degree connector. I added an in-line surge protector on the coax cable, and replaced the wall surge protector (I wanted to use the other one somewhere else).

Now it doesn’t stick out as far, and I don’t have to worry about surges going through the router. Though, I guess I kinda went a little redundant on protecting the PC from power surges on the internet connection, as the the ethernet cable was already routed through a surge protector. Oh well, there is no such thing as overkill.

While I was making some changes, I also replaced the old surge protectors for the computer’s peripherals. Here are the old ones:

And here is one of the new ones. I’ve installed them on the walls to be neater. Hopefully the command strips will hold in this configuration.

My Favorite Technomancers in Fiction

Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

These characters in fiction epitomize this concept with their devices… in some cases being able to defeat things that normally required magic through their technology.

The Doctor (Doctor Who) – The guy solves many problems through technobabble, a “not-a-magic-wand” sonic screwdriver, and the TARDIS, a ship that travels through time and space, can make pretty much anything… and is bigger on the inside.

Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters franchise, duh) – In many other franchises, you have to have access to divine or supernatural powers to get rid of ghosts. These guys and gals build their own energy weapons capable of defeating ghosts, capturing some, and blowing up others. Awesome.

Iron Man (Marvel) – Tony Stark builds a suit of armor that allows him to fly, shoot energy beams from his hands, and do many other things that would be described as magic by previous generations, so I’m gonna count it.

Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh) – This guy recreates the feel of ancient magical games with holographic projections, and in Dark Side of Dimensions even defeats “unstoppable” ancient magic through the power of his own technology. Badass.

Technomage Elric (Babylon 5) – This is the main technomage we meet in the Babylon 5 series. They purposely and explicitly use technology to create what would have been considered magic.

Warp Core Table Lamp

I’ve been wanting to build one of these for years, since before I got my first 3D printer, but I had so many problems with my 3D printers on long prints that I never got around to it.

Well, I’m fixing that now!

For one thing, the models for this have been redone drastically, increasing quality and reducing the print time.

Here’s the original: Warp Core Table Lamp

And here’s a redone version: 1701-D Warp Core (HI-RESOLUTION)

It’s also been downsized slightly, which makes the large parts fit on my smaller 3D printer.

For another, I’ve been fixing my 3D printers, and have had all this monitored print time available recently, so I’ve had no excuse NOT to make it anymore. So, I’ve been spitting out the parts for this thing lately.

Those translucent sections were much larger and more complex in the original model, each made of 5 toroids. Also, many pieces were replaced with metal rods that I was able to order on Amazon, I just have to cut them down to the correct length.

So… yet another project ongoing! I’ve gotten the tools and hopefully all the parts I need, so when I have some more time (I’ve been kinda busy) I’ll be:

  1. Writing the arduino code for controlling it
  2. Testing the code on a breadboard
  3. Soldering an absurd number of connections
  4. Cutting a bunch of metal rods with a reciprocating saw
  5. Filing some metal bits to safer edges
  6. Assembling the lamp