Times Gone By

December 2014
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The never varying variable speed limit of the M4 at Newport

It is said that “You never know unless you ask”. So I have pondered over the last few years “Why the hell is west bound section of the M4 past Newport always set to 50Mph?” It makes no sense. Over the last 10 years, the congestion along the M4 in South Wales has been horrific. But it was going to be OK, as it was going to make everything better in the long run.

So after years of work, the section of motorway near Cardiff got an extra lane. The metal centre barrier was replaced with a concrete wall. And Newport got a variable speed limit. I vaguely remember a time back in early 2011 when it was possible to drive past Newport at over 50Mph. But for years, now the west bound section between J25 to J26 has been set to 50Mph. Regardless to time of day or night, weather conditions or temperature, always 50Mph. Whats the point of a variable limit that never changes?

So I asked. I asked Traffic Wales. And I’m surprised I got an answer. So I’ll strip out the three paragraphs of rational and get to the actual answer.

_________________________

Q: Why is there a section of the west bound M4 variable speed limit section that never varies?

A: On the Westbound Carriageway, following the Brynglas Tunnel Fire in 2011, reduced lighting has been in operation which requires the permanent display of a 50MPH speed limit being applied on the approach and travel through the tunnel. Welsh Government are seeking to provide a more permanent solution through provision of new lighting in the westbound bore of the tunnel. Such a solution will have a significant impact on the road network during works to install these and must therefore be carefully scoped and planned prior to any works taking place.

_________________________

So what ever you do, please don’t tell the Welsh that when the sun goes down it gets dark. Otherwise they have a nation wide 50Mph maximum speed restriction in place.

Unusual thought processes

Every so often my mind mulls things over. It’s mostly nonsense really. But every so often it’ll come up with something particularly unusual. So while out for a bimble this evening, I find a new train of thought emerging while I just stare up at the stars and let my thoughts freewheel.

“I feel that my mind is a bit like a compost heap. It’s untidy, usually tucked out of sight and mostly filled with rubbish. But every so often, once in a while, some one will come along and take a bit of it home with them. And from that, beautiful things will grow.”

I can live with that :)

Do Not Buy A QU-BD Two-Up 3D Printer

My Experience With The Two-Up 3D Printer From “Quintessential Universal Building Device [dot com]

So as a geek, the idea of owning a 3D printer is all kinds of good. Think about it, dream up something. Build a model on something like “Tinkercad”. And then print it out. To take something out of your imagination. And to then be able to hold it in your hands.

So Kickstarter had technology project for a very cheap 3D printer from QUBD. Now calling themselves “quintessentialuniversalbuildingdevice”. Quite understandably the kick starter for this was very popular. Take a look

www.kickstarter.com/projects/qu-bd/qu-bd-one-up-open-source-production-ready-3d-print

So they wanted $9,000. And were backed to the sum of $413,530 on November 18th, 2013. Not bad going.

So back on the 5th of February 2014, I took the plunge and paid £229.71 to QUBD. That’s £179.55 for a “TwoUp 3D Printer Complete Kit. And “£50.16 for shipping. This was for an April pre-order. So hopefully in time for my birthday. All kinds of good. A geek gift from me to me.

5/2/2014 – Order accepted. And an invoice is raised. And a “Thank you for shopping with us” email is received.

10/2/2014 – Money leaves my account.

Time passes

 

April comes. Still no word. So I think I’ll just raise a support ticket and ask when I can expect to receive my April pre-order.

14/4/2014 – Support ticket raised

7 Hours later I get the following reply…

“We will get this shipped out by the end of the month. Thank you for your patience.

Paula K – Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc.”

 

Ok, not quite the April delivery I was hoping for, but never mind.

 

Time passes

9/5/2014 – No word from QUBD. So I reopen the support ticket.

13/5/2014 – I receive the following reply…

“As you may or may not be aware there were a lot of issues with breakage during shipping of our initial batch of these. Therefore, we have taken the time to redesign some parts and change some of the packaging to avoid these problems with shipping of subsequent batches. This took much more time than we had anticipated but we are currently shipping units out daily. We expect to have all orders that were placed before May 1st shipped out by the end of the month (I know that was our goal last month but we should be able to hit it this time!). We appreciate your patience with this.

Paula K – Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc.”

 

Ok, not cool. The April pre-order has now become the dispatched from America by the end of May. I’m now beginning to think that I may have just been defrauded. So fingers crossed, this will eventually end up on my door step.

 

Even more time passes

11/6/2014 – Right, beginning to get rather pissed off now. Still now word from QUBD. I just about sick and tired of having to chase them up on what should have been a completed order. I reopen the support ticket and as politely as I can manage, ask when the hell I will actually get the printer I ordered.

17/6/2014 – I get the following reply…

“Your tracking number has been sent over to you. Your package should be picked up about 2:00PM tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!

Paula K – Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc.”

 

Really? Seriously? It’s been so long that I had contacted Visa about making a claim under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

But I had emails now from QUBD. I even had a link to the USPS. Apparently the USPS had been electronically informed that they would get a parcel from QUBD to send out to me.

In fact it seems that QUBD have a very open definition of “Dispatched”. Because thanks to the USPS web site, the tracking details for the order showed that they didn’t receive the package until 23/6/2014.

 

Yet more time passes

30/6/2014 – My parcel arrives with customs.

Eventually I get a lovely letter. I need to pay VAT of £39.54. And then a further £8.00 as a “Handling Fee”. Seriously? What the fuck are you handling that costs £8.00? Sod it. I pay up. And then I wait.

 

More passing of time

9/7/2014 - Ifinally receive my 3D printer. Further more I am truly astonished to find the kit is nearly complete, and the parts are in one piece. So one small screw and a small bracket for a 40mm fan are all that is missing.

A small box all the way from America

A small box all the way from America

Nearly all the parts you will need.

Nearly all the parts you will need.

The upper left & right thingy

The upper left & right thingy

OK, problem. The screw thread bar that moved the hot end up an down. The instructions that you need to find and download recommend that you glue it onto the shaft of the stepper motor with blue locktight. Only one problem. The hole for the shaft of the stepper motor, that has been drilled into the end of the screw thread bar, isn’t straight. So this causes problems with how the printer moves. And moving accurately is kind of important.

So it’s off to eBay to purchase a coupler.

 

Yet more bloody time passes

Postman brings small packages of goodness.

A handy coupler on a spring cut.

A handy coupler on a spring cut.

Finally assembled

Finally assembled

The amazing wiring

The amazing wiring

So after a trip to Maplins for some spiral wrap. And stopping in on Screw Fix for some different screws, bolts and springs. I finally complete the TwoUp 3D printer.

Now it’s time to download a whole bunch of different software. Because due to spelling / typing error. The little circuit board that controls the printer doesn’t work properly. So you need to set up some USB to serial drivers. Then download some software. Patch that software so that you can flash the board. Download the software to flash the board. Flash the board. Hope and pray that you don’t screw up. Then download more and different software to control the thing. How do you wire this thing up? And clear instructions anywhere? No. Why should that surprise me.

So now you want to see if it will work. For this, I want to print out a 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cube. How hard can that be?

FFS!

Blocked filament delivery.

Blocked filament delivery.

Well quite sodding difficult it turns out. The fucking thing is fickle as hell. Have fun leveling the print bed. The gantry has so much wobble in it, that there is sod all accuracy. But having a blockage in the nozzle is no fun. Especially has you have to heat the thing up to 190c so the plastic that is in there melts and doesn’t set like glue.

The hot end in bits.

The hot end in bits.

So a small sliver of plastic is removed from the nozzle and the blockage is cleared. It looks like after reading through various forum posts, that Scotch Blue decorators tape is required. So back off to Screw Fix for some Frog Tape.

Can I finally print out a 1c cube?

After many attempts, a 1cm cube

After many attempts, a 1cm cube

Was it worth it?

Was it worth it?

So what next? Well, lots of failure. There is more PLA in the bottom of my bin, than what I have successfully printed out. Here’s some things that have worked.

The Emperor Protects

The Emperor Protects

Strap a mag light torch to your NERF gun

Strap a mag light torch to your NERF gun

That’s it. And these didn’t print out on their first attempts. It’s bullshit! If you don’t get that first layer down good, than the entire print is a write off. If you don’t stand over the fucking thing, it will walk the filament off the guide and just start moving around in mid air. Nothing coming out of the nozzle. Failure after fucking failure after even more fucking failure. Just about flipping all the desks now.

DO NOT BUY A Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc TWO-UP 3D PRINTER

Just don’t.

 

Here’s what I’ve spent out so far…

£179.55 – TwoUp kit

£50.16 – Shipping

£39.54 – VAT

£8.00 – Handling Charge

£22.76 – Screws, imperial alan keys, nuts (M4 & M8), bolts (M4 & M8), washers, springs

£5.99 – CNC 5mm x 10mm Motor Shaft Coupler

£8.99 – Extra Wide Frog Tape 48mm x 41.1m

£18.50 + £4.00 postage – 3D Printer filament PLA 1.75mm, 1Kg

Total = £337.49

 

For not much more I could have purchased a Da Vinci 1.0 Desktop 3D printer. That’s a complete printer. None of this build it yourself bullshit. A bigger build area. A self leveling head and bed. Just take it out of the box like you would an off the shelf ink jet printer for your home. Plug it in. Install the software that comes with it. And print out stuff.

But I suppose I got what I paid for?

 

DO NOT BUY A Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc TWO-UP 3D PRINTER

They do not deserve your money. They do not deserve your time.

Typically I would say that the triangle applies – GOOD, FAST, CHEAP. You can have two out of three at any one time.

Well it was cheap. But it wasn’t fast. And it isn’t good.

 

DO NOT BUY A Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc TWO-UP 3D PRINTER

This has been my experience. It’s embittered me towards this company and it’s product. I’m finding it really hard to give this printer the benefit of the doubt. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a disappointment. My motivation for me to tinker with it to make it better is failing. Oh sure, you can print out upgrade parts for it. Really? I’m having difficulty getting the sodding thing to print anything. Let alone upgrade parts.

Poor shoddy cheap design.

Totally shit communication.

Crap product.

 

DO NOT BUY A Quintessential Universal Building Device Inc TWO-UP 3D PRINTER

Really – Don’t

Feeding Imagination

IMG_6185.JPG    So over the last few months I’ve been using my free time here and there. A couple of hours of an evening. Or perhaps a half day or so when I have time off work. So what have I been doing? Five packs of anti-fatigue foam. A short section of hose. Two 12cm polystyrene balls. Some nylon nuts & bolts. Some craft knives. Some jogging trousers. Some plastic buckles. Some webbing straps. Two milk bottle tops (red). A copious amount of glue. And a pair of my old sandals.

The end result? A rather happy young lad. Totally worth it :D

The Emperor Protects! IMG_6200.JPGIMG_6207.JPG For The Emperor! IMG_6208.JPG

For a first build I’d have to say it’s not too bad. Some things worked really well. The elbow joints. Other parts did not work out. The back pack is just too far off centre. So the balance of the upper torso is just pants. But it was easily unbolted. And it even survived more than two hours of “Testing” :D

 

Images uploaded and posted with kind permission of the mini Marine’s parents – October 2013

Nearly finished the MKVII Aquila Space Marine

So the shell is practically done. After several months of an evening here and there. Taking time when I had time off from work. The last of the templates has been cut out. The foam cut. And the pieces glued together. So now I have an idea of exactly how big this thing is going to be. Now the fun part of figuring out how to join all the pieces together. I’m thinking nylon strap webbing and plastic buckles to hold the shoulders in place. And possibly some jogging bottoms and Velcro for the legs. As for the monster huge boots. I have an idea involving an old pair of jaywalkers. Hopefully the young lad that will be getting this will like it.

The Emperor Protects!

Mini Space Marine

Mini Space Marine

Fun With Foam

This is proofing to be a lot of fun. I can certainly begin to see the appeal of Cos-Play. If you need convincing then I certainly advise you to go and over to YouTube and search for “Sneaky Zebra”. They have a couple of montage videos of the comic-cons. Anyhoo, for me I’m yet to get serious about my build of a Space Marine from the Space Wolf chapter. After building 5 helmets and a bolt pistol, I know I have a long way to go. And to that end I’m guinea pigging a small child who also happens to be a 40K fanatic. So at the moment I’ve Shandeighed some one’s garage (as I ran out of room in my kitchen), and I’m doing a scaled down version of Mr Pilerud Pepakura build. I’m using foam anti-fatigue flooring squares. A lot of sharp blades. And a good mot melt glue gun. So far I’ve got the arms done, although I’m still to figure out how to get them to join and articulate. The shoulder pads. And the torso. There is certainly an easier way to do this. Looking at the RPF forums, there are a couple of Space Marine builds where they have used a much simpler cut pattern. Just I can’t see any downloads of the actual sizing. So I’ll stick the the Pepakura designs and modify as I go.

IMG_6050 IMG_6055 IMG_6062   Frustrating at times, but still fun :D

May The Force Be With You

HAPPY JEDI DAY! :D

Still not a strong helmet

EVA Foam & Paper

And in a completely different fantasy realm, I appear to be making helmets. I finished an EVA foam helmet in blue. And I’m just about three quarters of the way through another foam helmet. It seems that the more of them I do, the more I realize where I went wrong with my first build. But with no instructions there is quite a bit of guess work involved. So inevitably the whole process has quite a bit of trial and error for me. I’ve never done anything like this before. But I can tell you it’s becoming a lot of fun :)

So I think I’ll finish off the other EVA foam helmet. And then look at getting some 20mm EVA foam and possibly tackling a bolt pistol. I’m definitely going to need some more glue. And maybe a heat gun. And a lot of luck :D

I’m Having A Daft Idea

Hiya people. I know it’s been a while. Sorry :(

But I’m having a daft idea. It goes a bit like this. There is a very talented chap who has made an incredible 40K Space Marine outfit.

Just awesome

Take a look. So this got me thinking ” I wanna give that a shot”. As normal parts of my brain came up with “It’s beyond your abilities”, “You’ll never make anything even half as good”. But then I also found I though..

“Why not?”

So I did a bit of reading. Looked at the videos and photos. Had a look at the software that does the modle stuff. And then the next thing you know, it’s gone 2:00am and you have a bit of a MK7 helmet sitting on your desk made of nothing more than A4 paper, sellotape and PritStick.

It begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the next day I find that I’ve got to get the thing finished as I want to be able to make a mug of tea.

I want the sweetner back

 

 

 

 

 

And then not long after that it’s silly ‘o clock in the morning and a beer or two later and you have a finished item.

Finished

 

 

 

 

 

OK, I cant see out.

Am I facing the right way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But a beanie hat later and I can :D

I can see out

That just about wraps it up for 2012

That's it for 2012

Happy New Year

As the last few hours of 2012 slip by, I find myself thinking back a little further than I usually do. Typically this time of year will be filled with “My top ten (insert subject here) of (insert year hear)”. And then there is the aftermath of the Christmas experience and the Boxing day sales. Which is always an eye opener. Or maybe the more pressing matter of the end of year booze up. In short, reflection is not something that should happen at this time of year.

For me, I look back on the last year and in all honesty, it’s been pretty awesome. I’m relatively good health. I still have a home. The job still brings in money. Ok, so I didn’t win the lotto. But there is always next year. In all honesty, other people lives have been a lot more interesting than my own. But then again, they don’t have such awesome hats :)

So in a year of ups & downs, the over all balance is good. I hope you all had a good year. And that the next and following years continue to get better and better.

Keep Grinning,

:D

Have You Seen This Man?

Do not tickle his ears

Do Not Feed

So I recently discovered you can have a fantastic giggle for less than £24. Now there is a product range made by a company call “Spirit Hoods”. Some really cool stuff. But outside of a sale, then there’s nothing there for less than £100. Which is a lot for a fury hat & scarf + mittens combo. So thankfully there is usually a cheaper alternative. This came through  via Amazon. A company call “Grind Store” had a nearly suspiciously identical range of fury head-ware. But at £19.99 a time, considerably more affordable. Now there is the triangle of life. Good. Fast. Cheap. And you can only have two out of three at any one time. So I put in an order on the premiss of at less than £24 with postage, I won’t be disappointed if the quality isn’t that great. So it arrived in good time. It’s well put together. It’s certainly warm & cosy. But above all it gets a giggle.

Practice safe sun

Drive by grinning

In the few weeks that I’ve had this hat the response from other people has been awesome. Typically if you wave a paw at some one, they will smile and wave back. Young or old. Although to be fair I did get a very disgusted look from some middle aged fella at my local Tesco.

But there was the couple in the car behind me at the lights that laughed when I waved a paw at them as they over took me later on. The transit full of builders that were smiling at the loony with the fury hat with the ears. The lady at the post office who went from neutral, nearly pissed off, facial expression to doubled over with laughter. The ladies at my Barclays bank who actually got me to bend over the counter so as to tickle me behind my ears. By contrast, the young lady working in the Halifax managed to keep a straight face and remain professional. The lady in Thorntons who instructed her boyfriend to select her a hat from the fury range for her Christmas present. The fellas stuck in traffic as I was walking by, that grinned & waved back from me walking by. Even a got a grin of a couple of police officers as they drove past. The surprised old lady that did a double take as I stepped out of the hair dressers. But I’ve got to say hat off to her for the quick comment she came out with. “You’d better go back in sun shine, they’ve not done a very good job”. Totally worth it :D

So if you see a grinning loony roaming around the place. it may just well be me. And there are more hats to get. Oh yes. If I’d known that there was a Tiger one I’d have brought that. The more ginger the better. So I’m going to see if I can convince Santa that I’ve mostly been a good boy this year, and see if I get a Tiger one for Christmas. Or maybe the bear? Or the Husky? Drat. Too many to choose from. I blame Team Fortress 2. It’s all about the hats :)