Youtube Premium recently had a promotion for their members to get free Google Stadia, with one of their upgraded Chromecast Ultras and a Stadia controller.
I hadn’t really looked into the Stadia, not really knowing what it was, but free is free, so I decided to try it.
Apparently, Google Stadia is based around streaming a game from the internet using their controller to control it, and casting it to a screen via Chromecast or other device that can handle streamed games.
Here are my thoughts on it:
The controller feels really comfortable in my hands, and appears to be well made.
I appreciate the upgraded Chromecast. I’m not noticing a difference for streaming things other than a game that needs low latency, but I assume it’s beefed up to handle the higher throughput needed for gaming.
You better have a high speed internet connection and/or not be competing with anything that uses a lot of data on your home network. I was downloading and installing something on my computer in the other room, and the network couldn’t handle doing that while trying to play a game in the other room. I do like that the software made it clear when there wasn’t enough bandwidth to play games at the same time. Icons on the screen changed colors to indicate that there was a problem. If you don’t have plenty of network bandwidth available at the time that you are trying to play, don’t bother.
You may want to make sure that your idle screen on your Chromecast always shows the log in code for your stadia. It took me a bit to realize why Stadia wasn’t loading when I turned on the controller. The controller wasn’t linked to the TV automatically!
I’ve realized that I am not the intended audience for this device. I invest in my own gaming rig, and I don’t see this supplanting that investment. For someone who hasn’t done so, particularly someone who has a good internet connection but not a lot of high-end hardware, this could be a convenient way to get into gaming without spending a huge amount of money. The hardware running the games is on the internet, and it’s the job of Google to keep their hardware up-to-date on the other end. All you have to get is the controller, a device to connect to (likely a Chromecast), a screen, and pay for the service. Supposedly you can play high-requirement games (they have Cyberpunk 2077, for example), but I haven’t tested that out as I’m not investing more money into games on an alternate system.
That was just my quick thoughts on the subject, I’ve been rather preoccupied with other things at the moment, (*cough* 2077 *cough*) and like I said, I’m not the target demographic for this system.
This one was a relatively straightforward and simple upgrade to my workspace.
I took an old tablet of mine out of storage, cleaned it up (charged it, ran updates, etc), added shortcuts to my Octoprint controls, and put a snazzy screensaver on it.
Then I found a spot on the wall over my workbench, attached it with my old standby (command strips) and stuck it to the wall. I routed power to it from the workbench, and… done!
I now have access to controlling the software for my 3D printers set up to be in the same room as the printers themselves. It makes it easier if I need to access the controls for calibrations and such, without the need to bring them up. It’s still not as quickly accessible as I’d like (it still requires waking it up and punching in a pin) but it’s still more convenient than bringing up the controls on my phone or running to the other room to my shortcuts on the computer.
And I get to pretend a bit more I’m on a starship at times. Win-win.
Recently I played the game Warhammer 40K: Mechanicus, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a turn-based strategy game in the Warhammer 40K universe. The player customizes and commands a squad of Adeptus Mechanicus Tech Priests (heavily modified cyborgs who worship technology) and assorted others to stop a Necron (undead alien techno-zombies) world from awakening from dormancy. It really hits that technomancy vibe for me.
I started playing while they had a free weekend, and decided it was good enough to actually spend money on.
The player chooses a squad of Tech Priests and an assortment of their servants (kinda like hirelings in other games), and sends them on missions. The hirelings you customize entirely by choosing which ones to use. The tech priests you customize by changing out their upgrade trees and choosing which augments (technological upgrades, usually in the form of extra mechanical limbs or attachments) you give them. I chose to specialize each tech priest as I unlocked them, making each one better at a single area of capability rather than making them interchangeable jacks of all trades. One guy’s job was to be super fast and generate as much of the game’s combat resource, Cognition Points, in order to feed the abilities of the other tech priests that required them. Another guy was designed to be a tanky front-liner with an axe. Yet another was specialized as a long range character dealing as much damage as possible.
It was rather addicting, but at least it was satisfying. Plenty of lore dumps, turn-based squad combat, extremely customizable units, and a very thematically appropriate soundtrack. If I ever get into the tabletop game and play as Adeptus Mechanicus, I think I’ll want to play the soundtrack in the background!
I got tired of having to find spaces for my HOTAS controls on my desk, and having them competing for space with my keyboard and mouse. I had time and parts on my hands, so I decided to revisit clamping the HOTAS controls to my gaming chair.
I hadn’t done it previously because the clamps I had did not fit my newer gaming chair. The clamps I printed from here had a bit too short of a length for the screw to get a grip on the underside of the armrests.
I printed the new clamps, went digging through my parts to find the screws I’d used previously to connect the mounts to the controls the clamping hardware. That took longer than it should have.
I used a corded USB hub, some velcro straps, and the straps on the chair cushion to control the wires in a way where they wouldn’t get in the way, and I can still lift the armrests up out of the way when I don’t want to use the controls.
I also added a USB extension cable to my computer to easily connect to and disconnect from the chair, so I wouldn’t be permanently tethered to the computer.
Here’s what I ended up with.
This makes flying in spaceflight sims a lot more comfortable, and doesn’t require me to keep moving the controls around on various table surfaces in my computer room. Certainly makes it a lot easier to jump into Elite: Dangerous whenever I feel like it. Just plug the hub in, fold the controls down, and I’m ready to fly.
There are oftentimes bits of information that I frequently need to look up. Originally some of the stuff was on bits of paper, or I would have to repeatedly look up documents online. I got annoyed with trying to keep track of it across multiple locations, so I decided to get a binder or something. Then I decided to lean fully into the wizard/technomancer theme, compiling my everyday references for my technological hobbies as a “spellbook.”
One thing I liked from reading gaming rulebooks about wizards was their description of their spellbooks. How they could vary, and how there were two general categories of spellbooks: workbooks and grimoires.
The workbook is an everyday spellbook that had their notes that they cobbled together as they traveled. It can be messy, and written on all sorts of bits of paper that they tucked together in a cover. They could add new information as they came across it rather easily, and they could be carried around anywhere.
Grimoires were fancy neatly written books that require preplanning, and are often kept locked away somewhere (like someone’s gilt-edged special editions in a private study).
I decided to make my own workbook, and instead of going with a plain binder, I did a bit of looking around online, and found a place that sells custom laser-engraved leather binders. These awesome people here:
After a little back and forth on the customization, and swapping out the chicago screws binding with ones I liked better, this is what I’ve ended up with.
In here I collect my notes for commonly used bits of information, divided by categories such as 3D printing, software, etc. I’ve thrown in some of my favorite inspirational quotes, too.
The 3D printing section in particular includes my notes on what temperature settings work best for the various filaments I have, my versions of procedures for calibration, modeling and slicing considerations, and a handout on checking bed levelling.
I’d show you guys more of the contents, but for now it’s not exactly an IP friendly collection.
At any rate, I highly recommend putting together your own for your own maker hobbies. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as a custom leather binder, a folder or slim 3 ring binder would work just as well. My main recommendations for building your own are these:
Either get something with pockets or a way to store hole-punched sheets. That way you can insert printouts our handouts that you get, and not have to rewrite everything if you were using a notebook. It also gives you the freedom to reorganize later.
Pick something very portable for your workbook/spellbook. A 3-inch 3 ring binder might be able to hold a lot, but it’s rather unwieldy to carry.
Include information that you frequently need to look up or often forget (for me it’s partly the tolerances and temperatures I often need to check).
Include some blank paper in there somewhere so you can add stuff in when you become aware of it, and not have to track down more paper.
I’ve long complained that one of my printers, the Monoprice Select Mini Pro, was not designed well for maintenance. The vertical column does not seem particularly accessible. The column is made of a couple pieces of bent sheet metal that is structural but can’t be removed without fully disassembling it, and I had no idea how to do that and be able to put it together again.
I was in the process of photographing it to point out to someone where there should be a door on the design so you can access the Z-axis screws and rods for lubrication. And I noticed something.
That silvery piece is not one continuous piece of metal!
In fact, it’s cut in places where I would want to be able to remove a panel!
I had to open up the bottom and carefully look for what appeared to be the appropriate screws.
The screws on the top of the column were pretty obvious. Once I removed it, my hunch bore out. It actually was an access panel. I’d been trying to lubricate it the hard way.
I cleaned up the overspray from previous maintenance cycles, and directly applied lubricant to the rods and rails this time.
Sometimes we really should take more time to get thoroughly acquainted with the inner workings of our tech!
At least now I know how to get at parts. That had been driving me nuts ever since I’ve had one of these.
I had the printer time available and a couple of skateboard bearings already on hand. I decided to go with black filament to keep the aesthetic matching with other hardware around my computer and let it blend into the background a bit.
I did in fact finish that project just before Christmas of last year, in time to hand out as presents.
When I last left off, I had designed the top portions of the staff, but had not figured out how to get the threads I wanted to connect it to the broom handle. I ended up remixing a model that someone else had made:
I just left the extra gap in there since it wasn’t really hurting anything. As a point of comparison, this is also how I test fit the other components.
Once I found out that everything fit, I had to paint the pieces. I used a primer/pigment spraypaint, with a couple coats of a clear gloss coat to minimize the occurrence of the paint rubbing off on things.
I simply clearcoated the “crystals” so light could still pass through.
Another modification I made was to the light of the flashlights themselves, by ordering some red filters sized for maglites, so that they wouldn’t interfere with people’s vision at night. Apparently the lenses are a bit vulnerable to heatwarping from the LEDs, but I didn’t think it was a significant enough issue to warrant leaving them out.
Since I knew these walking sticks would also be brought and stored indoors a lot, and I didn’t want to get parents angry at me for damaging their floors, I added little rubbery caps to the end of the walking sticks. Usually these are meant for chairs, but by boiling them and zip-tying them on, I think they were able to stay on well enough.
With that done, I had my semi-final products.
I say semi-final, because these were rather tall for the kids. I got some help from the rest of the family to figure out what height they needed to be, and then cut them down to their final heights for the kids.
I did find out quickly some modifications I may need to make for future versions. With all the lockdown times this year, I realized I still had leftover parts from making them, and started working on a variant for myself, incorporating what I had learned from the originals.
I still have work to do on it, but I think I like it. I need to reprint a couple parts with adjusted tolerances, then paint, glue, and assemble. I’m also thinking of making a connector to hang just this top portion from my belt if I feel like it, as a belt greeblie for cyberpunk costuming.
The tack at the bottom is holding a piece of metal in that positively retains the end cap of the maglite without just relying on the glue, which was a failing of the originals.
If at first you don’t succeed, iterate, iterate, iterate!
If anyone is interested in making their own (of the original design, I’m not sure if my personal one will be posted), the files are located here:
This project is part of what first got me to get my first 3D printer, but I got discouraged at the time with print quality and later by my replacement printer being too small.
But I finally did it!
A while after I originally wanted to create it, someone updated the quality of the models and manufacturing methods, making it more feasible to do.
So, earlier this year, I posted about how I had printed the parts (though it took me a couple attempts).
One of the nice things about this version is that most of the parts were broken into easier to print and clean up pieces. There was a bit of a tradeoff, though. It required coat hanger wire for some parts and replace others with stainless steel rods.
It was easy enough to buy the rods, and purchase and cut the steel coat hangers… but I was unable to cut the rods myself. I ended up supporting a local business and contacting my local machinist (who I’ve gone to before when there were metal parts I couldn’t fix or fab myself). It was kinda pricey… but precisely and cleanly cutting and finishing stainless steel is no joke, and this guy did an excellent job of it.
Unfortunately, I found out later that the lengths I have him did not precisely match what was needed for some of the 3D printed parts.
This led to a bit of experimentation with modifying the 3D models and reprinting the “tension members” to “cheat” them to a length that would work with the steel rods. That took a bit longer than it should have due to unexpected 3D printer problems.
By the way, if you’re wondering where the coat hanger wires went, they are inside those gray pieces around the clear section, spaced between the steel rods.
Getting the lights in there and getting them to work took a bit, but I finally finished that recently. The system runs off of an Arduino Nano board, with a small board to break the wiring out. Before I get to the final stuff, I want to share a lessons learned.
If you use a breadboard of any kind… check how the the holes are connected! For some reason I thought this board left the holes unconnected and that I’d have to spread solder between components to form connections. Turns out they were connected and it hadn’t occurred to me to look at the back of the board until after I had soldered the resistors on. This is also why it is a good idea to buy spares of parts (or multi-packs) when working on a project. Otherwise it could cost you a lot of time and extra shipping.
A new board and a lot of soldering later, this is what I ended up using:
I realized that this time on a project I didn’t want to trap myself with my directly soldering disparate wires to the board, so I added connector pins so I could have removable cables for disassembly/modification. I wasn’t gonna bet on getting it right the first time!
To keep the count of LEDs and wires down a bit, I used the diffusers someone else had designed (links at the bottom).
It uses a “light pipe” design to spread the light around in a mostly circular pattern. There was even a special one for the reaction chamber…but I ended up not using that.
Wiring the LEDs took a while, but it was more tedious than it was difficult. I think it was mainly because I took the time to plan out what I was doing before I started in more detail, rather than trying to wing it and label a bunch of wires afterwards.
To avoid going insane with trying to glue in each LED and try to solder all the connections with reasonable spacing, I designed and printed spacers that I could simply stick the wires of the LEDs through. I think the wires would have held, but to make things simpler on myself (and so they wouldn’t push out during soldering) I hot glued them after putting them in.
To drastically cut down on the number of wires required, I soldered all of the negative terminals to a common grounding bus bar made from a bare copper wire.
Referencing the drawings I had made earlier, I soldered some ribbon cable to the positive terminals, allowing me to have traceability through color-coding. The wiring is mirrored on the opposite side, so that each control output from the electronics board controls the lights in the mirrored position on top and bottom of the warp core lamp. This keeps the number of control pins needed down, and simplifies the coding.
These lights on the spacer bars fit snugly into the diffusers.
As mentioned in the note above, I forgot to wire the ground wire first on the top section, meaning I had to add it in last, connecting it at the far end rather than the close end. In the bottom section I did it first, because I really needed room for the power/programming USB cable to fit in.
These segments then slid into the corrugated sections.
Here’s how the wires connected up before the final closing of the casing.
Note the removable connectors for all the wires in case I needed to adjust anything. The colorcoding made connecting them to the board a breeze. The USB cable goes out the bottom for programming and power.
Now we get to where I kinda got angry. Here are the parts just before I was planning to connect the last couple wires and close it up.
Look at the circuitry. Look at the diffuser that’s supposed to go into the central reaction chamber. Now look at the reaction chamber. Do you see it yet?
THE DIFFUSER AND THE CIRCUIT DON’T BOTH FIT INTO THE CHAMBER AT THE SAME TIME.
I had planned for this somewhat with the board, but hadn’t fully taken into account the flexibility of the wires or the added height of the removable connectors.
1) the diffuser isn’t 100% necessary (though the light would look better in that section
2) the diffuser was weak
3) RAL CAN CRUSH DIFFUSER WITH BARE HANDS AND EXTRACT LEDS INTACT
I kinda went barbarian on it in my desire to finish. I ripped the central diffuser apart, and just shove the LEDs in the compartment with the rest. Also, after a test fitting and plugging it in, I realized that the arduino had red LEDs that clashed with the color scheme, and put some electrical tape over them to get rid of the distracting red glow.
I closed the thing up… and then got to do something that still makes me chuckle a bit.
I pulled out the rubber mallet and began gently tapping on the end of the warp core to make sure all the rods were seated as well as they could be.
After a bit of updating some code I wrote for this years ago (and cursing at two different computers for a few hours because they didn’t want to behave with uploading to the arduino) I finally got it turned on.
I went through a few iterations of code and pseudocode (and had to remind myself that with this board the counting started at 2 rather than 0 or 1), and finally got it to a state I liked.
Here’s the initial light pattern I went with:
I’ve got an intermediate version of this one somewhere with an extra delay built in after the FOR loop because I didn’t like that the light jumped immediately from the bottom LED to the top again. It just seemed jarring.
Here’s what I’ve most recently decided to use:
This one has 2 or 3 “waves” at a time passing through each end to the center. It looks less like a jarringly looped GIF than some of the other iterations I went through.
I originally planned on plugging this into the raspberry pi that I control my 3D printers with, but apparently Octoprint gets confused by the extra USB connection, so I have it connected to a USB wall adapter for the moment. Though I have realized I can plug it into the USB adapter in my car as well…
I hope you all enjoyed this, and I’m glad to have finally finished this project after years of wanting to build this, and I was finally able to take this off my project board.
Reference Links For Construction:
Here’s the original I saw that inspired me years ago:
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
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.