CeBIT 2013 – Trends and Impressions

Introduction:
For those unaware of the event, CeBIT is held annually on the Hanover fairground. For an idea of scale, the exhibition area roughly covers 450.000m2 and the five day event attracted over 300.000 visitors this year. For those of you who know the IP EXPO in London, imagine 15+ halls like it and multiply the visitor numbers by ten.
In regards to exhibitors, if it’s a known IT brand they will have a stall (Intel occasionally had a whole hall, bigger brands like IBM or Microsoft tend to occupy sub-sections of a hall) and there are also separate halls for an incredible amount of far east suppliers (Shenzhen hall) and HR as well as general IT service providers.
I have been attending this event on a regular basis for many years and have always found it incredibly stimulating as well as an excellent barometer for trends. The later is mainly due to the fact that all major manufacturers use the event to display the products and services they are planning to release over the next 6-9 months.
This year was particularly interesting given the global move towards “the cloud” and what I can only describe as a move towards service oriented marketing from all major vendors.

I have tried to sum up my notes from this year’s CeBIT, hoping that others might find them interesting and useful. For 3D pictures please head over to my Phereo profile.

 

1. Server/converged infrastructure (e.g. IBM, Dell, Fujitsu, Huawei):

  • All major offerings heavily geared towards services/package solutions.
  • First year where nobody seemed to care much about “how many ram slots the blades have”.
  • Sales strategy: 30% on-site because it’s faster (use cases like BI and in-memory databases) – 70% we now connect to all those cloud providers.
  • Major selling point is the knowledge they sell with their packages in form of VM/system templates.
  • My personal favourite this year: IBM FlexPod/PureSystems.

ibmibm2

 

 

2. Storage (e.g. Fujitsu, Dell):

  • No major excitements, if you want it on-site, spec it and they can do it, solutions last 5-10 years.
  • The more you pay the more SSDs you get.
  • For fast access there’s no cloud alternative just yet (cloud is getting better for high volume/low access though).

ssd1ssd2

 

 

3. Cloud providers (too many to list):

  • For commodity resources this seems the way to go now (price, availability).
  • Wide variety of service and pricing models to cover the various use cases, somewhat reminded me of electricity suppliers (e.g. green options as premium service).

 

4. “Big Data” (e.g. SAP Hana):

  • Online businesses target highly distributed data/big data e.g. data harvesting of web server log files.
  • Ask ten vendors what “big data” is and thou shalt get ten answers :) IMHO it’s big data if you can pay big money to have it in big amounts of RAM.

 

5. Microsoft:

  • They are still pushing HyperV, personally I don’t think it’s on the same level as VMware yet but it’s getting there.
  • Dynamics, Dynamics, Dynamics… and in-between a bit of Sharepoint and “in case you have a windows phone”.
  • Hard to get past the fact that their stuff works, has a solid and reasonably priced licensing model and it’s easy to find developers for it.

 

6. Data centre/Racks (e.g. Rittal):

  • Orders to kit out new data centres are dropping so new focus on solutions (e.g. provision of whole Data Centres).
  • Very popular was their “data centre in a portacabin”, up to eighteen 19″ racks delivered fully assembled and ready to run including water cooled racks and aircon.
  • Rittal now go as far as putting a data centre into a truck.
  • High on the “requested feature” list to retrofit are sensor networks to lower cooling cost and ensure kit stays alive with falling staff count/remote monitoring.

rittalbus0bus1bus2

 

7. Client side hardware:

  • Old schools PCs are dead, only two big main board manufacturers bothered to come, Intel have officially decided to stop producing desktop PC main boards!
  • Good proportion of new main boards are ITX/mini-ITX rather than ATX, only extension cards available are graphics cards.
  • All in one clients everywhere, all sealed units, warranty = swap-out.
  • Hard push to put a touchscreen on every device and integrate wireless charging.
  • Mobile phones are getting bigger (“phablets”), upside is that they are also getting bigger batteries.

x2 x1 x11 x5x12

 

8. ITIL:

  • Various consultancy providers, offering services from “Business Analysts and Project Managers to restructure your processes to ITIL compliance” up to full near/off shore outsourcing.
  • Poland is CeBIT partner country this year and there was a surprisingly high number of very well defined services on offer. Often defined with ITIL as well as ISO compliant process connectors.

IMG_0492

 

9. Drones/Military:

  • Various areas, all seemed to be recruiting as well and had areas focused on Drones (fun bit was that the gimmick producers in another hall also had drones as their main focus this year and they DID bring working models :)
  • DIY type sets (quad/octo, Arduino core), very sophisticated and stable. Where gimmick type products only offer to steer from mobile and view camera these allow to use the device as a delivery mechanism. On a desktop PC open a browser, pick where you want to go in Google Maps and click “Go”. Monitoring flight on map or with onboard camera included, just a matter of time I guess until we hear the phrase “fleet control” and the whole area moves in with the Van/Truck monitoring area?

 

10. One more product worth mentioning:
Samsung’s transparent LCDs for fridges, window shopping etc. Price like a regular LCD, currently 20 and 40” commercially available but much larger sizes for shop windows about to be released, hard glass front and touch screen optional but not expensive.

 

11. Things I expected to see but couldn’t find:
Micro servers, ARM based servers etc, rumoured for Computex.

 

12. Last but not least some non-techy pictures :)

IMG_0489 IMG_0490 sea

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How to build a Smoothwall Gateway the hard way (Dual Core/Dual Gigabit/Mini-ITX)

1. Introduction:
Since I’ve just upgraded the NAS I’ve ended up with a spare Mini-ITX Atom board. Perfect timing to replace the old Smoothwall gateway and finally eradicate the last 32bit machine I’ve got running :)
I’ve been using Smoothwall since 2007 now, my first box was based on a P3 1Ghz but quickly replaced by a VIA 800 Mini-ITX board, and I can’t recommend it enough. Apart from the fact that I don’t really trust the security of a consumer grade DSL router browsing also feels a lot faster even compared to letting the Linksys X3000 do the routing. Not surprising if one considers the jump in processing power between the pathetic little SoC in the X3000 and a fully blown Atom 330 board ;)

 

2. Let’s put it together:
I think the only part that I could mount without modifications was the main board, everything else involved modifications. In other words, lot’s of fun :)

Parts involved:

  • Intel Desktop Board D945GCLF2, 1.6GHz Atom 330 (533Mhz, 64bit, Dual Core), 8W TDP, 945GC + ICH7, GMA950, RTL111C Gigabit NIC
  • Kingston 2GB DDR2 667MHZ-PC5300 240PIN (KVR667D2N5/2G)
  • USRobotics PCI Gigabit NIC (Model: USR7902A, Chipset: RTL8169S-32)
  • picoPSU 120W
  • 4pin P4 power connector
  • Seagate Momentus 80GB 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA HDD
  • Mini-ITX case of unknown origin (ancient… hell knows which Chinese factory spat that one out…)
  • 12V case fan with adjustable speed (compuman, PL 80B 12HH, DC 12V 0.23A )
  • CPU fan (AVC Model: C4010T12H DC 12V 0.1A)
  • Smoothwall Express 3.0 SP2 64bit (+update9 through web interface)
  • Green: LAN feed
  • Reg: Linksys X3000 Annex A in Bridged only mode (ADSL2 line, www.zen.co.uk)

 

2.1 The Case Fan:
The old case once came with a non standard PSU which blow up years ago. Once removed I found ample space for a nice 12V case fan. I’ve used one that comes with a little nob to adjust the fan speed and I’ve turned it all the way down so it’s pretty much noise-less. The board won’t be working too hard so this will provide more than enough airflow for this setup

2.2 The CPU fan:
The original CPU fan on this board was a royal pain and I think that was documented well all over the web. It was noisy and hardly ever lasted through the warranty period. I think my original fan ran for about 10min until I ripped it off the CPU cooler and threw it into the bin so I could not be tempted to use this instrument of ear torture ever again. I’ve fitted a nice little fan, think it came from Maplin for a few £, which I can’t even hear through the case.

2.3 The HDD:
Back in the days when this case was made it wasn’t common practise to fit 2.5″ HDDs or portable type optical drives into a desktop case so the mounting frames are meant for a 3.5″ HDD and a desktop size optical drive. I’ve connected the Seagate laptop HDD I’m using to one of the metal side rails that would normally hold the 3’5″ hdd and squeezed a bit of soft rubber underneath which works very well.

2.3 The picoPSU:
This is a very nice little thing and has been running all my Mini-ITX Smoothwalls for years. It’s the older 120W 20pin model and get’s fed from a 90W charger, if the board ever swallows more than that it’s ready for the bin I guess ;)
Only downside is that the picoPSU comes from an era where neither 24pin power sockets, 4pin P4 sockets or indeed SATA power adapters were being sold. The 20pin ATX power plug works just as well as a 24pin one on this board but I had to cheat for the 4pin P4 plug and SATA power connector. I’ve simply harvested a 4pin Molex -> 2xSATA adapter and cut off the black and yellow cable off the second SATA power plug (I only need one anyway). I then connected the two cables to a P4 4pin plug I’ve harvested from an old ATX power supply and this finally got the system to boot :)

 

Smoothwall psu_p4

The picoPSU should be powerful enough to fire up a laptop size optical drive for the initial install but I didn’t want to leave an optical drive inside the system as it would only be used once every few years when this machine get’s reinstalled/upgraded. So I used a desktop size optical drive and fed power to it from a separate desktop ATX PSU (ATX green+black still works, old tricks are always the best ones ;) .

2.4 The power connector:
Since the picoPSU is fed from a laptop charger it obviously has a little socket that allows for charger to be plugged in. Again not something that the old case would have been prepared for so me and the case took a trip out to the garage to meet Mr bench drill and his friend the size 10 HSS drill. I fitted the socket to the rear left hand side of the case.

Smoothwall inside_back

Smoothwall psu_plug
2.5 The network card:
The old VIA 800Mhz board was quite happy with a PCI riser and a PCI NIC fitted to that but the moody D945GCLF2 obviously didn’t want any of that. I remember trying to fit and additional PCI->2xSATA controller to this in my old NAS case through a riser and it was intermittent at best. Same here, the NIC initially worked but the system froze up every few minutes. Tried about a dozen cards and three PCI risers including a very nice one with buffer caps, no change. Once I got angry enough to throw the ****ing board out the window I unscrewed it and decided to try it without the riser card, just for fun. Suddenly every card worked, even the RTL gigabit ones that previously weren’t even detected by smoothwalls setup routine. Not like I care much how I get stuff to work these days so me and the case took another trip out to the garage to meet Mr angle grinder. The resulting hole next to the opening at the back for the board to stick out it’s ports is just a bit bigger than the second NIC port. I’ve bent the surplus metal inside and it now sits exactly behind the NIC ports metal casing.

Smoothwall nic

 

Physical setup – done :)

Smoothwall whole_box
3. Let’s install Smoothwall Express 3.0:
I though this would be pain free, oh boy was I wrong… Since part of my goal was to get rid of my last 32bit machine (the last Smoothwall ran off a 32bit Sony laptop as a temporary replacement for the old VIA 800MHz board which only worked with Smoothwall 2.0) I downloaded the latest Smoothwall 64bit version aka SP3 which includes all updates to update8. Since I’m careful and knew I would loose the interweb once I unplugged the old machine I also got the 32bit version and a random collection of Linux live CDs for troubleshooting. Discs burned I pulled the plugs and started to install…
The initial SP3 install worked well and I was pleasantly surprised by the new installer which formats ones drive in minutes rather than hours. Unfortunately all I got after the mandatory reboot which follows the initial setup routine was a “no operating system found” type error. Hmmm, tried the 32bit CD, tried two more laptop SATA HDDs, tried an IDE laptop HDD, tried a desktop SATA HDD, tried a WD 15000 RPM Raptor: no change – no boot – uncontrolled swearing.
So I setup the iPhone as a wifi hotspot and started to investigate. Didn’t take long to find out that the changes in update8 were major and included a move to grub as well as a new Kernel. So I got the previous Smoothwall Express 3.0 SP2 64bit setup iso, burned that and finally got a booting system! The missing updates then came through the web interface and including update8 installed ok.
Once I got the interweb back I had a closer look at what could be causing the SP3 incompatibility and quickly found the culprit to be the mainboard’s BIOS which has a bug which in reality means that booting from GUID partition tables is broken for these boards. How that sort of thing get’s through Intel’s testing regime is beyond me…
More on the GPT debacle can be found in my previous rant post on the topic :)

Smoothwall all_done

4. Final thoughts:
All in all I’m very happy with the new Smoothwall box. I can’t hear it, it doesn’t swallow a lot of power and it’s fast hence should last for a few more years. Now all I need is a bit more time to upgrade to fibre broadband and remove the need for an ADSL modem (<- what I actually want is 20meg+ downstream but power savings are soooo much better for justifying investments ;) and patience until the price of a 32GB SSD drops below £30 so I can swap out the old Seagate 2.5″ HDD.

 

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Intel D945GCLF2 vs GPT and Smoothwall 3.0 SP3

Here was me thinking that it would be a good idea to finally replace my old laptop based Smoothwall setup with a nice mini-itx one…

The mini-itx board in question is a Intel D945GCLF2 and has been working hard over the past few years as my home NAS. Since I just swapped it for a Gigabyte GA-D525TUD to add another RAID1 and finally fill the remaining slots in the NAS box I decided to throw out the old moody Smoothwall laptop and let the D945GCLF2 do the Smoothwall-ing. Got a box, got a 120W picoPSU and my nice home soldered molex->P4 adapter, got a beefy laptop charger, got the tools and setup discs, all seemed good. Until I tried to install Smoothwall 3.0 SP3.

The install routine went through ok but after the reboot I only got “no bootable device”. So I tried all the usual BIOS tricks, AHCI off and even tried it with a 2.5″ IDE drive which I had to dig out from the furthest corner of the room (<- keeping stuff is good, I still had an adapter lying next to it to connect this to a 3.5″ IDE port ;) . Still no joy. So I got desperate, got out a trustworthy desktop PC, installed the latest smoothwall onto a drive. All boots ok in the desktop but same error when connected to the D945GCLF2. Grrrrrrr! Oddly enough the D945GCLF2 had no problems installing and booting both 32bit and 64bit Ubuntu 12.04. I slowly started to suspect partition layout-ish problems and set off to investigate further…

So I went out into the big cold world of error googling to gather more information. Luckily I also had a look at the last Smoothwall updates and update8 was quite a big one so I thought why not try Smoothwall 3.0 SP2. And tadaaaa, suddenly the D945GCLF2 boots fine :)

Any sane person would probably have been happy at this point, I wasn’t and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what was going on. Long story short, with SP3 (update8 I think to be exact) the setup routine started to work differently. Apart from support for multi-core CPUs it now also formats a lot quicker and uses GPT. Nice idea in general but the D945GCLF2s BIOS has a bug which effectively means it doesn’t boot from GPT partitions. And that’s where I got angry and decided to write a blog post to hopefully help others who are stuck with similar problems on the D945GCLF2. How a company the size of Intel get’s away with bugs like this is a mystery to me…

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How to install OS X Mountain Lion from an external drive

Introduction:
OS X Mountain Lion just popped up in the App Store so I could not resist to download it at work where it takes 30 minutes compared to several hours back home. As with Lion the setup is handled through an installer which one get’s (after appropriate payment obviously) through the App Store. The process to backup the installer or create a external hard drive to install Mountain Lion onto several machines is straight forward and saves valuable time and bandwidth for multiple “Apple Thingy” owners :)

 

How to backup the installer:

1. Download from the App Store. Current price is under £13.99 which I think is more than fair

2. Once the download finishes don’t go through with the update (<- this would run the upgrade routine and then delete the installer) but cancel the update. The installer will stay on your machine and we can now “process it further” ;)

3. Open Finder and go to your Applications folder

4. Right click on Install OS X Mountain Lion and click on Show package contents

5. Navigate through the folders: Contents, SharedSupport, and find InstallESD.dmg :)

6. Just like with Lion InstallESD.dmg is what you are after and with Disk Utility you can use this image to create a bootable external hard drive or simply transfer it to another machine to install Mountain Lion. There are various tools around which do the above in one click for Lion so if you don’t feel confident to do the above yourself just give it a few hours and the ones for Mountain Lion should start to appear.
No need to try and burn a DVD from the image, I can confirm that it is too large…

I shall now get on and upgrade some of my machines :)

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The prospective effects of 3D printing on society or “Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a maker!”

Introduction:

3D printers have taken off over the last couple of years and especially the last half year with more and more models pushing onto the market and competing in particular for the lower budget end of the scale.
High quality 3D printing, dual colour printing and sizes beyond 10cm are still reserved for the price range beyond the £1000 price tag. Still, the available models have usually already been through several revisions, are available as pretty enclosed ready-built units as well as build-your-own packages and (after a bit of tinkering/adjusting) stable enough even for small scale industrial production.
Given the pace at which these systems are developing and the serious amount of highly skilled individuals involved I’d expect 3D printers to be commercially available and affordable for the wider public (<£100) within the next 24-36 months. This will come with benefits to the wider public as well as new challenges which I would like to elaborate on.

 

Where do we go from here:

3D printers are commonly seen as the big competition for current big scale industrial production. At the moment a new product get’s designed, a production process based on the design put in place and the resulting XYZs then get shipped to the requesting end users. Products are changed at such a rapid pace these days that the machines which make certain products are usually turned off or repurposed for the next/redesigned product iteration before the warranty on the last generation runs out. This leads to what we see all around us in form of a “throw away” society fuelled by firstly the fact that spare parts are not available anymore after a very short time due to non existence of prepared stock and non existence of the machines that once made the units and secondly that labour in the first world is expensive to a degree which, even if parts are available, renders repairs economically unviable. The result is that once something comes out of warranty it will not be fixed but rather replaced with a new equivalent product and if it’s still under warranty the manufacturer is very likely going to provide a new product of the same/next generation to fulfil their warranty requirements. The broken item then often get’s shipped to a country which has low enough labor costs to make the refurbishment a viable option or the broken item is sold off for it’s scrap value. Put a 3D printer into every home and this whole system collapses from two side. Firstly a new economy for the fixing of stuff would spring up as parts would be easily available but manufacturers would also loose their current strong position to enforce fast product cycles. The biggest fear for the big manufacturers comes obviously in the form of copyright theft as we all know it from pirate bay and similar platforms for music/video content and software. At the moment their product designs are protect by physical means as they are the only ones in possession of a machine that can make XYZ but this will soon change and I predict it to change in a incredibly rapid fashion. Once a critical mass of consumers are in possession of a 3D printer the first companies will provide content for them in form of design files to print new “stuff” and parts to fix/improve existing “stuff”. Those companies will quickly grow through provision of day to day items (cutlery, screws etc) and spare parts for the most common things around us (mobile phone cases to name just one example). Existing companies will so be forced to provide files to print their existing “stuff” simply because if they don’t said files will be provided by other means (pirate bay+thingyverse=piratethingies). Once we arrive at this point, and I’d expect that we get there within five years after the first thing on thingyverse has been printed 1Mio times aka the first big hit with enough 3D printers in circulation, current manufacturers have lost their position. Parts to fix their current designs are available at little to no cost and everyone can pick the version of XYZ they want to print hence they will not be able to force new product versions anymore. We have seen all this before with other forms of copyright theft. The means, with exclusion of satisfactory distribution of 3D printers, are in place and the legal threats have proven to be a rather toothless tiger. It’s still hard to see which sub-category is going to spring to live first, printing whole products, printing spare parts or printing add-ons and I think in the end it will depend on where somebody has the first ingenious idea. Finally it won’t matter though which snowball starts the avalanche, the result will be the same.

 

Other supporting factors:

One other critical aspect of how quickly this whole thing is going to happen could also be 3D scanning. This field is making rapid progress as proven through products like Kinect or the upcoming Google Glass so I would not expect it to be the major holdup. There’s also the fact that 3D-CAD design is very much established, free applications are available and use of the technology to manually create digital blueprints of existing things should, although time consuming, be very much feasible given the amount of qualified designers. Add the fact of novelty and potential revenue from a newly emerging market and the first undergrad is going to create files for everything in their room as a coursework… In reality the process of creating 3D printer friendly files of the most essential everyday items, repair parts and interesting “stuff” which was sold within the last 5 years is achievable, after all everything only has to be documented once. Just have a look at the amount of instructables available. Most of them are already “strip and rebuild” projects which are documented with a video camera. Make that a different camera and exploit the additional documentation/drawings and we’ve got quite some collection of data to start printing. I still remember vividly the initial discussions I had when I started to rip my CD collection, nobody believed me that soon everybody would have their music available in digital form and the biggest veto argument was that nobody would spend the same amount of time as me especially since the whole process only really got useful once one also scanned in the covers and typed up the song titles. Reality is that today I can insert a CD into the iMac which will then automatically identify it, suck down the titles and artwork from a couple of online databases and then dump the whole lot onto my drive. And, although nobody believed me back then, all this did not take 30 odd years because although it seems a mamuth task for the first person to digitise their collection further users found that they could build on this work and suddenly found themselves in a position where they could simply download the whole lot without spending any time of their own at all. Making files to copy the things around you will be exactly the same scenario with the same result, most people just can’t look beyond their own door step.

Once the process is in full swing we’ll obviously have individuals printing for their own requirements but also small scale industrial 3D printing simply because the little commercial printers won’t be able to print at the volume some people are going to require (e.g. small local businesses). Where the line needs to be drawn between 3D printing and industrial printing is probably going to be a hard decision and quite blurry, my best guess is that it’s going to be done based on volume. Obviously it’s important to distinguish between residential and commercial/industrial production to avoid illegal mass production, illegal workers and to ensure that employers follow all employment laws.

 

Dangers or new possibilities?
Initially there will be the unavoidable uproar of “we’re all going to loose our jobs” but actually this is only partially true if at all. It will more likely result in a shift in type of roles or even an increase of local lower pay roles.
These days the main earners from industrial production are very few individuals. Due to process automation fewer and fewer actual people are needed and the ones needed beyond a management pay grade are very highly payed and trained individuals to keep the automated systems alive and the designers of the “new stuff”. We’re still going to need some of those for larger scale objects (it’s unlikely that you can print a car anywhere soon unless you have another house to store the required printer).
Delivery drivers won’t see much of a decrease either. The huge chunk of deliveries I expect to be pushed out to people’s doors in 2-3 years will be food and, thanks to 3D printing, raw materials for people to print their own “stuff”. The bigger threat I see for delivery drivers are drones but that’s a post for another day.
In addition to this there is a whole array of new local job profiles which I expect to emerge including training for them and surrounding industry to produce tools etc. The most obvious one I think is the maker. He/she’s the one which people contact to solve problems. A bit like a new type of advanced techy handy man this person will have knowledge in electronics as well as engineering and know where to get the necessary raw materials and further specialists if required. This person will be able to handle smaller repairs/improvements with locally printed parts as well as automation/improvement to local processes/infrastructure with established rapid-prototyping platforms and their successors (Arduino/RasPi) but also have a good eye for design and colours as the results will be in direct contact with the end customer. Further specialists will be drawn in on demand for more labor intensive tasks (dig the 20m pond for the new automated pump) or special trade skills governed by additional laws (gas/electricity etc). This will put said new trade of a maker into a extremely powerful position. Other trades will depend on this one and a huge amount of knowledge, materials and services will flow past/through this profile. I can envisage local maker shops just as well as out-of-the transit makers. Many people will be able to operate their new 3D printers but they will require assistance for projects beyond a certain scope which means they are likely to require the maker’s help for this. Where home automation today boils down to buying another generic product which can only ever fit partially people will get exposed to the ecosystem around their 3D printers which was born in the rapid development and maker world hence soon start to request the presence of their local maker on a regular basis. In fact these new maker roles already exist, admittedly on a very small scale, and are currently present as the people behind the web shops which supply the maker ecosystem and to some degree also members of local hackerspaces which already influence teaching of the next generation.
On a bigger scale larger companies or even towns could start to see it necessary or at least as advantageous to have their own permanently employed maker/makers. This could also be fuelled by new legislate to decrease the amount of “old stuff” we throw away. It might simply be cheaper to employ someone to fix if the penalties are high enough and I expect those to raise sharply in the future given the size of rubbish mountains and pollutants around us. Also natural resources are not going to last forever so there will be a point in time where it will simply not be possible to constantly recreate everything rather than fix which will again be reflected in rising prices for said materials which is going to justify even first world salaries for repair work.
Another thing I foresee very much from the start when residential 3D printing takes off which makes me happy is the fact that designs are going to improve. The big brands will simply not be able to push for new product iterations anymore so their only hope for competition against “the maker round the corner” is provision of high quality designs and associated spare parts but also the fact that their designs need to be highly functional, easy to maintain and also reasonably pretty. We have the pretty bit now but I think we’ve lost the first two aspects over the last 10-15 years. As another positive result I would expect a lively link between local makers and manufacturers which will allow for feedback to flow back to manufacturers on a scale which we currently don’t have which will again improve the products and make them more suitable for the end users.

There are unfortunately clear dangers attached to 3D printing as well which can not be ignored and they will need dealing with. First example I’d like to mention are low quality/illegal materials. 3D printers will be operated at home so the raw materials need to meet certain health standards. Todays filaments get heated to melt them down and build up the new “stuff” and it’s just a matter of time until the first illegal filaments hit the market which might fill the room with “god knows what” when melting. Unhealthy filaments/materials will also be problematic as some of the newly printed “stuff” will get in direct contact with the customer and their food (new knife, new blade for food processor) which raises the bar for healthy materials even higher. In the long run I’d expect lawful punishments for circumvention of new laws which govern those new 3D printing materials just like we’ve got them in other areas these days. To avoid other issues there could easily be different “grades” of material. There is no need for all material to be expensive to a degree where is can be allowed to get in contact with food. This will probably be a cost vs safety exercise and depend on designs/security on the printer facilities as well as the future social situation (<- I’ll never give up on hoping society improves and monkey starts to “think” before monkey “does” ;) .
Second example, and that’s the one I personally dislike, is weapons. It will unfortunately be possible to abuse this technology like any other technology. Printing of weapons like plastic knifes will be hard to prevent as many people will have legitimate reasons to print them so a cap on quantities for certain “new things” is probably needed but might be hard to implement and enforce in reality.

 

Final thoughts:

I’m all for 3D printing but as outlined above there are some dangers which will need addressing. This woud obviously be easier if they were to be taken into account now rather than retrospectively once the first million printers have sold but, looking back in time, it is likely that nothing will get done until it’s an ever so slightly tiny bit too late or in other words until we can really no longer delay spending some of the scarce resources of government funded time and money. The thing I’m most excited about looking at the whole subject is the fact that I expect the advent of “3D printing for the masses” to have a very positive impact on society and not only improve local communities but also have beneficial long term effects on the quality and maintainability of the “stuff” we own as well as the long term ecological sustainability of our society on planet earth.

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Modifying a SLR tripod for the HTC EVO 3D

Introduction:

I’ve always had a thing for 3D pictures and movies hence my recent acquisition of a HTC EVO 3D. It’s the US Sprint version hence only works on Wifi in this coutry due to the lack of a LTE network. But since I simply want to use it as a 3D camera it was what I’d call a bargain on ebay for about £60 including a decent size memory card. I wouldn’t say I’ve got a steady hand so I started to investigate what sort of tripods would be available for this sort of device. Not surprisingly HTC didn’t have anything on offer and the best I could find was a “one size fits all” type ultra low budget mini tripod on Amazon. Apart from the fact that it was simply too tiny for what I was trying to do (the 3D pictures get a lot harder to see if taken very close up to the target) it’s mechanism also simply did extend far enough to accommodate the EVO 3D in it’s Otterbox Communter case. I also had a spare SLR tripod gathering dusts in a corner which was missing the adapter plate that is attached to the SLR camera and then snaps into the tripods top mounting platform. So I set out to spend a sunny afternoon modifying both :)

 

1. The mini tripod:

The vertical lever arm has a spring in it and after taking the whole thing apart I found that it would actually extend a lot further but the spring was not allowing it to. Old spring out, slightly longer spring in and the result now holds the EVO 3D firmly in place. I was a bit afraid the arm might be blocking one of the cameras but it doesn’t. To make it easier to insert the EVO 3D I also drilled a little hole and put in a tiny nail as a retention mechanism to ensure the arm doesn’t slide back the whole way. Yes, I admit it: The nail has been laying on my work bench for a month or so and I was trying to find use for it in a project  to avoid having to throw it away… ;)

 

2. The SLR tripod:

This had two known problems. Firstly the screw mechanism which allows to tilt the mounting platform is simply not well done. It has teeth hence doesn’t allow a lot of precision and usually ends up in a position I don’t want and I then try and compensate by extending/shortening one of the legs. I still haven’t got a full solution for this (probably means removing the teeth) but I have fitted a downwards facing screw which at least keeps the platform in a stable horizontal position. Second problem was that I simply do not have the adapter which fits into the mounting platform neither would I have been able to get one to mount the EVO 3D. The top part of the mini tripod which includes the clamp mechanism luckily unscrews from it’s lower leg part so I only had to find a screw with the right size thread and fix that to the mounting platform.

EVO 3D tripod 1

EVO 3D tripod 2

EVO 3D tripod 3

EVO 3D tripod 4

 

3. What’s it like to use:

The result is far more stable than I initially expected, has proven very workable during the first test session and I’m very happy with it :) This is one of the 3D pictures taken with the above setup, more can be found in my profile over at phereo:

http://phereo.com/PeterHaban/album/4fc22d853785011371000008/

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Welcome to the Make Chronicles

I like to build stuff so I decided to get a blog and share it with the world! I’m currently playing around with Arduino and Raspberry Pi but am very open to everything else.

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