Category Archives: Uncategorized

Accurate isometric grid template for Illustrator

Here’s a little isometric grid template that I made for Illustrator. Hope you find it useful!

High Sierra, Internet Recovery, and Time Machine [SOLVED]

Whew! Though I’ve made it many years without a catastrophic computer problem, the odds finally caught up with me this week. A recent upgrade to High Sierra seems to be at fault, leaving my computer unable to boot into OSX or even recognize the recovery partition. Restarting the computer while holding Command-Option-R let me run Disk First Aid and verify that the HD was still intact, but even a new install of High Sierra still did no good. No worries: Time Machine to the rescue, right?

Eventually, yes, but with a few caveats. My Time Machine backup is installed on a QNAP NAS box, connected via Ethernet. This disk did not pop up automatically when searching for available backups, so I had to enter its IP address manually. It took me a bit to figure out that:

  1. The IP had to be preceded by afp://
  2. The file path could not contain any spaces

Whuh? I was amazed that Time Machine wasn’t smart enough to parse spaces (or understand % substitutions), so I guess I’m back to best behavior when it comes to file_and_folder_naming. The more you know!

No Skype ID through Microsoft Account

Jeez! It took me forever to figure this out. If you hook up Skype to your Microsoft account, you won’t be able to find your Skype ID! The spot where it is supposed to show up in the Skype application will just have your email instead. This causes problems when people are trying to search for your account to add you as a contact. Stick to non-MS accounts till they get this sorted. via

Mastercam Tutorial @ Lynda/LinkedIn


My Mastercam video tutorial is up now on the LinkedIn Learning Library. Mastercam is one of the most popular CAD/CAM programs out there, and the course clocks in at just under an hour. Check it out!

Opposable Thumbs Episode 3: Found Electronics

Only 90's kids will understand!

Only 90’s kids will understand! via

Listen to Episode 3 here.

At the suggestion of my main man Audrey Peiper, I based this project on a Girl Talk telephone handset that I had laying around the studio. I fear this will only embolden my mother-in-law, who exploits my penchant for hoarding electronics ruthlessly.

Given the ridiculously gendered nature of my starting point, I decided to reengineer the phone’s components to make a positive statement about women and technology. This got me thinking about how some of the original “computers” were women, back when the term described people who performed mathematical calculations. Ada Lovelace is another great example of a woman who contributed significantly to early computing with her work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

With these ideas in mind, I desoldered all of the components from my handset. This yielded a pile of simple parts, artificially limiting the potential complexity of my project. Working within this structure, I soon settled on the concept of the multivibrator, a simple circuit that can be switched between two states. The first multivibrators were astable, switching back and forth between states at a regular interval. Mono and bistable vibrators came next, and these circuits formed the foundation of modern computer memory (due to their ability to “remember” one bit worth of information). I didn’t quite have enough components to make my vibrator stable, so here’s a demo of an astable multivibrator or “flip-flop.”

From a 2017 perspective, this circuit is not that impressive! I dig it though, because it shows what complexity you can reach in the absence of integrated circuits. To change the timing of the circuit, you can substitute different capacitor values – larger Farad ratings will take longer to drain, resulting in a slower oscillation. No coding here, just good ole’ math (or blind experimentation). See this page for the diagram I followed and build your own.

Full disclosure: The red LED didn’t come from the phone. There, I said it!


Opposable Thumbs Episode 2: Dungeons and Dragons Dice

For the second Opposable Thumbs challenge, I started researching ancient games of chance. It seems that the original dice where the knucklebones taken from livestock like sheep or goats. While you can order the real thing online, I opted to 3D print an open source set because it was quicker. Then I made a wooden box, strapped a piezo sensor to the back, and taught an Arduino to interpret these vibrations numerically. This information is shared with a Processing app, where the numbers are mapped onto various numerical ranges (1-4, 1-6, 1-8, etc.). The system is currently set up for the 7 most common DnD dice, but this is easy to change in the code.

I think the next step for the project is to hook up with the roll20 API. This website allows players to meet in an online space that supports maps, character sheets, and the like. Knucklebones 1.0 would allow such virtual games to retain some tactility by requiring physical rolls, though the objects in question need not be actual dice.




Raspberry Pi + Thermal Printer


I’m looking at doing some experimentation with thermal printing, using the same type of device that prints point-of-sale receipts. I found the Adafruit tutorials to be a little incomplete, so here’s how I got my printer up and running.

  1. Download the full version of Raspbian Jessie (Lite will not work).
  2. Open the terminal and type   tar xzvf /path/to/your/file/ (the file is too big to unzip by double-clicking in OSX).
  3. Use ApplePi-Baker to transfer the .img to an SD card (I couldn’t get the official terminal method to work).
  4. Boot up the Pi and follow these instructions.
  5. Connect the printer to a 5V power source. I could only get it to work with a 10A supply, which is rated far above the 2A that the Adafruit tutorial calls for. You can test the printer by holding down the button near the power LED and then turning on the power.
  6. Wire up the printer data lines to the Pi’s GPIO pins. If you use a Pi rev1 like I did, you want pins 6, 8, and 10. Note that the RX and TX lines cross between the Pi and the printer.
  7. If you get a permissions error at the end of the Adafruit tutorial, open the terminal and type  sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin pi (source).
  8. Finish up with these steps for network printing (optional).


Testing Internet Speeds

AT&T tells me you can’t trust sites that test your internet speed. When I had a tech out for repairs today, I was able to ask him for live stats to compare to a few web services. This one matched the AT&T test almost exactly.


My colleague Greg Corness at Columbia College just turned me on to Defamiliarization, or the presentation of common things in an unfamiliar way. This leads to reevaluation of assumptions, and describes my research really well. Here’s a recent article dealing with the topic through the design of the kitchen.

3D Printing Panel and Roundtable Discussion @ New Media Caucus / CAA 2014


I took this opportunity to present examples of my work from the last ten years.  I used to be suspicious of 3D printing, but now I can’t get enough!  Find more info at the NMC website.  Photo (of Tom Burtonwood and various panelists) courtesy of Rachel Clarke.