CB Radio

I got all inspired when I went camping with my brother-in-law in September. His friend from Fort Collins has a fully tricked out off-road vehicle complete with a CB radio. Well, I got excited about that because, since the late 90’s we’ve had my grandfather’s old Ford van, and he was big on CB, having a camper and secretly being a tech nerd before it was cool. I still have his mobile CB radio, which we tried out at the end of this camping trip.

Except I can’t seem to get it to work. It turns on, it hisses, and the squelch feature seems to work to some extent, but I get absolutely zero variation in the noise, even when moving the little 3-foot whip antenna around, mounting on the truck roof for grounding, and everything else I could think of.

That’s when I decided to “invest” in a Monkey Ward 775 CB radio. I’m assuming this is probably also a mobile model due to the u-bracket on the top. However I’m looking up how to make a home-brew antenna for this, and I’m guessing it’s the 3-foot whip that makes a mobile station mobile. Maybe a base station has more features and such, but I’m new at this anyway!

However, the issues I have at the moment are crippling: The radio came with a power input cable of two wires and two tab connectors, a keyed microphone, and a user manual. That’s it.

So I need to come up with a proper power connection of 12VDC, and somehow create an antenna that will work and be ideal while still not violating the HOA covenants of not having anything over the roofline of the house. Additionally an 8-Ohm speaker or headphone converter may be necessary if the keyed microphone doesn’t also have something built in.

But on to antennas! I found this website from the Thunder Mountain Radio Group. They say that ideally, a base station antenna for CB frequencies needs to be around 102 inches (a quarter wavelength of ~11 meters). And this is not a single whip antenna, but a combination of two antennas in a dipole arrangement, each at 102 inches.

That’s 8.5 feet of wire extending from a center point where 50-ohm coax is connected and runs all the way back to the actual base station radio.

My idea when it comes to this antenna – since I’m not permitted to mount this thing so high up that I’d be able to talk to people in Denver, how about I instead run the antenna wires horizontally beneath the top bar of the vinyl fence that runs along the side of my property? It’s actually kinda perfect – minimal metal to screw up the signal, and sort of out of the way of everything else except for a few aspen trees. It’s not THAT ideal, but it’s at least something better than a 3-foot whip. The only other solution I could think of would be to take the rig all the way to work and mount it on the roof there. I know Steve at Mountain States Electronics has always had a nice setup of his own. Maybe I could talk down the block to him.

Then comes the coax. I am thinking standard 50-foot RG-58 spool, which I can buy with UHF connectors pre-installed for $17 on Amazon. Or I could get a single connector from Digikey, a spool of RG-58 for $20, and make my own.

The Reddit Thing

Yesterday I got a notification from Youtube stating that COPPA/Made for Kids was being forced come January. I’ve largely ignored these messages, as my channel is not that big, not very expansive, and not terribly interesting. However, when these settings apply to everyone, and I am a member of everyone, well, maybe it’d be worth paying attention to.

And boy, was it worth it! The Made for Kids deal coming through Youtube does a number of things to videos which I imagine more money-minded people will care about more:

  1. Only child-friendly ads/no ads
  2. No comments
  3. No watch later

I read a few articles and watched a few videos on what counts as “Made for Kids,” I realized a lot of my stuff actually does count, even if I didn’t actually make it for kids. What comes to mind are my old LEGO animations, Minecraft sessions, and a short Disney Christmas clip that was uploaded as a ‘check out this 30 second clip encouraging duck cannibalism’. My account isn’t largely going to drag the kiddies in by the bucketloads, but there are some things. Therefore, I’ve taken Youtube’s instruction to mark my channel as “NOT Made for Kids,” but will piecemeal the few videos that are, and deal with it.

Well, the ad-nerfing I don’t care about, as I don’t monetize my channel at all. But commenting? That’s the biggest deal to me. Since I don’t care as much with “view counts”, comments are really the biggest dopamine rush that Youtube will provide for me on my stuff. Namely that Donald Duck Christmas clip.

So what did I decide to try to do? I started a subreddit at reddit.com/r/ppsstudios!

Besides, I like to reserve my “brand” of PPSStudios anywhere I can. So why not just squat on that page if anything?

Right now, it’s marked as completely private, so nothing should be visible (even though 8 people were lurking around last I checked), but eventually my grand plan is to drop in a link and direct video viewers to that page via an end screen and video description on every Youtube video.

Or perhaps for my Dungeon World campaign on another Youtube channel, there can be some conversations there. I don’t know.

Is there a Reddit replacement for the WordPress Comments system? Sorta like Disqus?

I’ll have to think on this.

For now, though, feel free to check in sometime when I’ve got a little time to set it up!!

https://reddit.com/r/ppsstudios

Minecraft

History

It’s interesting that I purchased my old Alienware M14x R2 just to play Minecraft.

Years ago, a friend I knew on Achaea said that they really enjoyed Minecraft, and that I should try it out. Well, I totally did, and totally regretted it. That’s because at that time, all I had was my Dell B120 from college, and for no strange reason, the game would not run at all, or if it did, the lag was so severe that I waited for 20 minutes for the FPS to progress for one frame. So instead of the minimum desired FPS of something like 60 FPS, I was getting something more like 1200 SPF — great sunblock, terrible game experience.

A few years later, in 2013, another friend from another MUD recommended I try it out. He’d been playing for a long time before I started, and knew quite a bit, and I gave him a rundown of my experience. I also told him I was still super interested in this, and that we’d just bought my mom a new laptop, and that it would maybe be able to handle it. I gave the demo a shot on her machine, which required quite a big Java update, and pretty soon was running successfully (albeit with still-pretty-severe lag) Minecraft 1.4.7!

It got me hooked immediately. I played a good, solid week in the evenings, installing a few optimization plugins installed (namely Optifine) and managing to get it running semi-decently on my B120. However, the lag was such that after a while, I found no progress being made due to resets and deaths and all sorts of other things. Not the ideal learning environment to say the least.

So after a few months of saving up, I bought the Alienware, and did not regret the decision. After that we had a single player shared out to a port and were going multiplayer. Hooray!

Today, NoDumbQuestions!

Fast-forward to now. A podcast of which I’m a huge fan, called NoDumbQuestions, has a moderator on Reddit who goes by mvoviri. Quite a while ago he started a Discord server for some of the fans, and I jumped in on the ground floor which, in typical Discord fashion, means that I haven’t felt like the newcomer, and have stuck around. A couple months in, he asked, “Hey, would anybody be interested in playing Minecraft?” and I was quick to respond, having set Minecraft aside every since about 1.7.4.

A few weeks later, there was the announcement, and he and another guy were quick to set up a spawn area, and I jumped in, and immediately remembered why I shouldn’t have stopped playing when I started galavanting about and died immediately, lost the starter equipment, tried again from scratch, lost everything again, and couldn’t even stay alive long enough to get a chest made.

It was a couple of weeks after that that I gave it one more go, and stuck with it. And in the past few months, I’ve done way more progress here than I have in any other server or single-player world! Well, besides my own server that I run from work, and play almost exclusively in Creative Mode on.

NDQ Minecraft Base

I’ve picked a cliff-top Taiga Mountain (half snow) area on which to build my main area. This was chosen specifically due to the dark overhand just from appearance alone. At the base of this cliff is a fairly wide Sunflower Plain with a few rises where I decided to place the livestock, since a mountain-top doesn’t offer many flat areas unless I were spending the time to get good tools, which I don’t usually.

Started with a small-ish house right on the cliff edge, and dug in to create the mine. Found a few natural caverns, and popped out on the back side of the mountain into a deep canyon where I built a small run of weird wooden letters “ATWHA” at semi-regular intervals. All with iron tools, because I haven’t played Survival in 5 years and even then never learned a THING about enchanting.

Hermitcraft

At this point, I started watching MumboJumbo in Hermitcraft Season 6. And oh my gosh, if you make it your profession to play this game, can you do some really cool stuff! I had no idea that half of the things these people were doing were even possible. Elytra? What in the world is THAT? I mean, I’d heard of it, but never even tried it in Creative.

Also watched Grian in the same series, and was super impressed. My goodness, two points of view make quite an interesting source of inspiration. Needless to say, I’ve got to expand this clifftop house into more than just a building underneath which lies a boring strip mine.

In this time, watching both of those Youtuber players through the entire season to date (11/2019), I’ve started a real strip mine with two block spacing, a series of nether portals that lead to an underwater stronghold (you can’t just build an end portal? I thought you could…) and an island not far away from it where I’ve made a remote base with good ocean proximity, and found one other player on the server selling fully enchanted elytra for 1 gold block.

After watching numerous Hermitcraft episodes, I now have so many ideas rattling around in my head.

Current Activities

I’ve made a huge amount of progress in the NDQ server, touching on pretty much everything that I can think of that I never saw before (enchantments, potions, elytra, mapping, ocean monument near the stronghold, economy with other players, automated redstone farming, and the nuances of mob spawning and contemplating why the creeper “farm” I built won’t spawn creepers at all!

Yesterday I tried mapping out the map blocks in and around my area. Then learned that ClearItems for Spigot is the most annoying, most brute-force method of saving server memory that could exist. I hit the ground too hard while flying around, and died. Okay, if I run back really quick I might be able to find all that expensive armor and weapons and tools. Not behind this rock. Maybe behind thi…. <[ClearItems] Deleted 29 items to reduce lag.>

Needless, this weekend did not see much progress in terms of big, fun projects, due to having to mine up new diamonds and paper for villager trades and enchantments.

Then late last night, I made a small, but fully automated sugar cane and bamboo farm. I had another one set up on the mountain near the house, but the weirdnesses surrounding minecarts and solid blocks were faulty, plus the room I had to work was very small, so I started a new one and put it down on the flat ground in the valley. It’s not too compact, but at least it works!

This morning, while watching Iskall85 doing his thing, I remembered ConCorp‘s “logo” map item that they’d made in-game and got the idea to do the same, only with NDQ’s logo. Quick made an empty, Zoom-level 1 map, hit the “teleport me to a random place,” and found a nice, relatively flat area and marked out the corners, then pasted the map along with screenshots up in my house. Thank goodness for /home and /spawn. They’ve made life much, much easier!

Discoveries in 3D Printing Services

At work, we’ve been playing around with 3D printing services, namely the international chain or distributor known as 3DHubs. A coworker described it very accurately as “the uber of 3d printing services” where people that have access to printers apply for certification, and people who don’t place an order on 3DHubs which then distributes the workload among the certified people with the equipment. Kinda cool, but there are weirdnesses.

Specifically, of the five separate designs I’ve placed in the past two years, about half of those have been good, solid parts, and the other half have cracked and broken with varying degrees of damage and recovery methods.

I figure this can be my own reference on “what I consider a functional print method and functional material for something more than a mechanical prototype.

The three print methods we’ve used so far are probably the three most common: FDM, SLA and SLS.

FDM – Hot Glue Gun

Melt a plastic filament in layers over a baseplate and build the model up layer by layer.

SLA – Liquid and Lasers

Built from the top down, from what I understand a UV laser …basically cauterizes a liquid resin at certain points on the liquid surface. The vat sinks and the solid model emerges layer by layer, stuck to the underside of the baseplate.

SLS – Laser-Blasting Powdered Plastic

From what I’ve read, a UV laser fires into a bed of powderized plastic, melts and resolidifies its surface in very small places and the solid emerges layer by layer


I’ve created orders with 3DHubs for 4 different combinations of methods and materials:

  • Duraform PA – SLS
  • HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 – SLS
  • ABS-Like Tough Resin – SLA/DLP
  • ABS – FDM

The Duraform PA nylon part that I had made was VERY thin-walled. It built up nicely but due to a <0.7mm wall, it cracked with very little strain. A second part that formed around this was super solid, though. So as long as my wall thickness was > 1.0 mm, I had no problems with it.

Duraform PA Nylon
Duraform PA Nylon with SLS Process

That and a few design changes required that I reprint a revision of the first part with PA 12 nylon with a minimum of 1mm wall thickness. This was VERY good quality in comparison with the first revision. Like the Duraform, it was structurally sound, and as I maintained a minimum wall thickness, I had no problem with it. The only oddity that I didn’t like about it was its grainy texture and unrefined feel. But it does mill nicely afterwards.

PA12 Nylon with SLS Process

A year has elapsed, and in the past two weeks I’ve been ordering new parts for a new project. Not remembering what we used before, I started the choice from scratch. That and 3DHubs overhauled their entire interface, anonymizing the vendor experience, and making it a LOT easier to pick and choose materials along with automatic costing and such. As such, the first material we ordered was “ABS-Like Tough Resin”. I didn’t know what SLA meant at the time (with its liquid factor and all), but now it makes sense and really acts nicely, save for the springy feel and tendency to peel and wrinkle with any lateral pressure such as scraping it with a penknife.

ABS-Like Tough Resin with SLA Process

The final method we’ve been using (and having the least amount of success with) is straight ABS using the FDM process. The layers here are clearly evident, and even their structural stability is super easy to balk at, as any little pressure in a weak spot “delaminates” the part. Plus the finish is messy and not ideal to work with. But we figure we can still make the parts we have work without needing to re-order them in a different process and material

ABS with FDM Process

Now I HAVE been toying around with the idea of getting a printer for the shop (or more for myself with a loan policy).

From what I see, though, FDM printers run anywhere from $200 to ..reasonably expensive, and are dependent mostly on cubic volume you have to make a part. Filament is about $20 a kg. Between price, volume and ratings, I have my eye on the Creality Ender 3 Pro (approximately 8 cubic inch volume) for $260.

SLS printers are the MOST expensive of these three. A number of factory-direct models are well over $10k. Based on price and technology, I’m GUESSING this is the laserjet of 3d printers. And Amazon’s selection of jars of “Sinterit Powder” is quite pricey too. I’m not even considering this as a viable purchase for personal use.

SLA printers seem to be in the middle, price-wise, with the smallest at $150 (4.75″ x 2.5″ x 5.5″), a good median of $500 or so, and bigger models no less than $1000. Like FDM, SLA resin is around $40-$50 a kg bottle. From what I see on Amazon, my best bet, knowing that the above dimensions is going to be an ANYCUBIC Photon or ELEGOO Mars (each giving me the above working volume) for $400-$429.

All this to say: I have no idea what I’m doing here. I’m really displeased with the FDM process. Seeing how these parts turned out has really discouraged me from buying even a cheap Monoprice, despite the reviews on Amazon. However, the prospect of making something like this work is very attractive, and if I can save up for something that would give me a better quality part, whether it’s a toy or a D&D figurine model bought on HeroForge, or whatever, I would totally do it. But it’ll DEFINITELY be one of those things I research the heck out of before I hit “buy now.”

The Zone

Have I ever been here? Probably. I cannot recall a specific time I have been fully “In the Zone” as it were, but I know that I was close a week or two ago while working on finalizing a project for work.

https://dopeboy.github.io/in-the-zone/

Based on Manish Sinha’s definition of this state of mind, I cannot actually say that I have been 100% disconnected, with my hands on autopilot and my brain in full-logic mode. There is always some portion of me weighing this or that, examining bits of code to figure out problems, that sort of thing. It’s not really a zen experience where I am “one with the code.”

Christmas Again

So I guess I could say Merry Christmas. Then again, I WANT to say, “Hey it’s that time of year where I break out my Christmas theme for a blog!” I haven’t done this in a long while, and given that I’ve moved over to WordPress, I wonder if it’s possible.

Stay tuned for theme-like edits in the next day or two. As soon as I find time to break out my old copy of Photoshop and a few stupid photos of myself which I may already have somewhere on this server, I’ll drop in a new banner image of some sort!

Henderson

So it turns out I spent the weekend in Henderson, NV with my girlfriend. She is a coach for CCSD, and today (Monday), I am also chilling/hanging out with her at work. Turns out this is relatively boring. However, it’s okay. I found things to do. Such as sit here, filling up her browser history with weird entries.

Continue reading “Henderson”