Blog. And sometimes just whinging.

HIC Prusa i3 3DP-11 – config file for Marlin

// November 29th, 2015 // No Comments » // tech

3dp-11I had a lot of trouble finding an example Configuration.h for my new HIC/HICTOP 3DP-11 Prusa i3 while trying to tune the machine a bit (turned out my Y axis pulley gear was just slipping). I did find this page on about a previous issue and a link to a zip file with Marlin and a config file, but I guess this was for the earlier acrylic version. My new aluminum version had several differences (not the least of which was the homing settings). So I set out to make my own. Enjoy at your own risk.


// This configurtion file contains the basic settings.
// Advanced settings can be found in Configuration_adv.h
// BASIC SETTINGS: select your board type, temperature sensor type, axis scaling, and endstop configuration

//User specified version info of this build to display in [Pronterface, etc] terminal window during startup.
//Implementation of an idea by Prof Braino to inform user that any changes made
//to this build by the user have been successfully uploaded into firmware.

#define STRING_VERSION_CONFIG_H __DATE__ " " __TIME__ // build date and time
#define STRING_CONFIG_H_AUTHOR "(Maggie McFee, HICTOP Prusa Mendel i3)"

// Modified from file by Nathan Palella for earlier model
// Found at
// But aluminum frame HIC 3DP-11 with heated bed is slightly different.
// I couldn't find a suitable config file so I made this one.

// SERIAL_PORT selects which serial port should be used for communication with the host.
// This allows the connection of wireless adapters (for instance) to non-default port pins.
// Serial port 0 is still used by the Arduino bootloader regardless of this setting.
#define SERIAL_PORT 0

// This determines the communication speed of the printer
#define BAUDRATE 115200

//// The following define selects which electronics board you have. 
//// Please choose the one that matches your setup
// 10 = Gen7 custom (Alfons3 Version) ""
// 11 = Gen7 v1.1, v1.2 = 11
// 12 = Gen7 v1.3
// 13 = Gen7 v1.4
// 3 = MEGA/RAMPS up to 1.2 = 3
// 33 = RAMPS 1.3 / 1.4 (Power outputs: Extruder, Bed, Fan)
// 34 = RAMPS 1.3 / 1.4 (Power outputs: Extruder0, Extruder1, Bed)
// 4 = Duemilanove w/ ATMega328P pin assignment
// 5 = Gen6
// 51 = Gen6 deluxe
// 6 = Sanguinololu < 1.2
// 62 = Sanguinololu 1.2 and above
// 63 = Melzi
// 64 = STB V1.1
// 7 = Ultimaker
// 71 = Ultimaker (Older electronics. Pre 1.5.4. This is rare)
// 8 = Teensylu
// 80 = Rumba
// 81 = Printrboard (AT90USB1286)
// 82 = Brainwave (AT90USB646)
// 9 = Gen3+
// 70 = Megatronics
// 701= Megatronics v2.0
// 702= Minitronics v1.0
// 90 = Alpha OMCA board
// 91 = Final OMCA board
// 301 = Rambo
// HIC i3 uses #33 RAMPS 1.3 / 1.4 (Power outputs: Extruder, Bed, Fan)

#define MOTHERBOARD 33

// This defines the number of extruders
#define EXTRUDERS 1

//// The following define selects which power supply you have. Please choose the one that matches your setup
// 1 = ATX
// 2 = X-Box 360 203Watts (the blue wire connected to PS_ON and the red wire to VCC)
// HIC i3 uses an ATX stye power supply... more or less.

#define POWER_SUPPLY 1

//=============================Thermal Settings ============================
//--NORMAL IS 4.7kohm PULLUP!-- 1kohm pullup can be used on hotend sensor, using correct resistor and table
//// Temperature sensor settings:
// -2 is thermocouple with MAX6675 (only for sensor 0)
// -1 is thermocouple with AD595
// 0 is not used
// 1 is 100k thermistor - best choice for EPCOS 100k (4.7k pullup)
// 2 is 200k thermistor - ATC Semitec 204GT-2 (4.7k pullup)
// 3 is mendel-parts thermistor (4.7k pullup)
// 4 is 10k thermistor !! do not use it for a hotend. It gives bad resolution at high temp. !!
// 5 is 100K thermistor - ATC Semitec 104GT-2 (Used in ParCan) (4.7k pullup)
// 6 is 100k EPCOS - Not as accurate as table 1 (created using a fluke thermocouple) (4.7k pullup)
// 7 is 100k Honeywell thermistor 135-104LAG-J01 (4.7k pullup)
// 8 is 100k 0603 SMD Vishay NTCS0603E3104FXT (4.7k pullup)
// 9 is 100k GE Sensing AL03006-58.2K-97-G1 (4.7k pullup)
// 10 is 100k RS thermistor 198-961 (4.7k pullup)
// 1k ohm pullup tables - This is not normal, you would have to have changed out your 4.7k for 1k
// (but gives greater accuracy and more stable PID)
// 51 is 100k thermistor - EPCOS (1k pullup)
// 52 is 200k thermistor - ATC Semitec 204GT-2 (1k pullup)
// 55 is 100k thermistor - ATC Semitec 104GT-2 (Used in ParCan) (1k pullup)

#define TEMP_SENSOR_0 1

// Actual temperature must be close to target for this long before M109 returns success
#define TEMP_RESIDENCY_TIME 10 // (seconds)
#define TEMP_HYSTERESIS 3 // (degC) range of +/- temperatures considered "close" to the target one
#define TEMP_WINDOW 1 // (degC) Window around target to start the recidency timer x degC early.

// The minimal temperature defines the temperature below which the heater will not be enabled It is used
// to check that the wiring to the thermistor is not broken.
// Otherwise this would lead to the heater being powered on all the time.
#define HEATER_0_MINTEMP 5
#define HEATER_1_MINTEMP 5
#define HEATER_2_MINTEMP 5
#define BED_MINTEMP 5

// When temperature exceeds max temp, your heater will be switched off.
// This feature exists to protect your hotend from overheating accidentally, but *NOT* from thermistor short/failure!
// You should use MINTEMP for thermistor short/failure protection.
// HIC extruder and bed limits are fairly low, using 260 and 120 as ballpark max

#define HEATER_0_MAXTEMP 260
#define HEATER_1_MAXTEMP 260
#define HEATER_2_MAXTEMP 260
#define BED_MAXTEMP 120

// If your bed has low resistance e.g. .6 ohm and throws the fuse you can duty cycle it to reduce the
// average current. The value should be an integer and the heat bed will be turned on for 1 interval of

// PID settings:
// Comment the following line to disable PID and enable bang-bang.

#define PIDTEMP
#define BANG_MAX 256 // limits current to nozzle while in bang-bang mode; 256=full current
#define PID_MAX 256 // limits current to nozzle while PID is active (see PID_FUNCTIONAL_RANGE below); 256=full current
#ifdef PIDTEMP

//#define PID_DEBUG // Sends debug data to the serial port.
//#define PID_OPENLOOP 1 // Puts PID in open loop. M104/M140 sets the output power from 0 to PID_MAX

#define PID_FUNCTIONAL_RANGE 10 // If the temperature difference between the target temperature and
 // the actual temperature is more then PID_FUNCTIONAL_RANGE then the
 // PID will be shut off and the heater will be set to min/max.
#define PID_INTEGRAL_DRIVE_MAX 255 //limit for the integral term
#define K1 0.95 //smoothing factor withing the PID
#define PID_dT ((16.0 * 8.0)/(F_CPU / 64.0 / 256.0)) //sampling period of the temperature routine

// If you are using a preconfigured hotend then you can use one of the value sets by uncommenting it
// Ultimaker
// Honestly, this just worked so I'm leaving it as is.

 #define DEFAULT_Kp 22.2
 #define DEFAULT_Ki 1.08
 #define DEFAULT_Kd 114

// Makergear
// #define DEFAULT_Kp 7.0
// #define DEFAULT_Ki 0.1
// #define DEFAULT_Kd 12

// Mendel Parts V9 on 12V
// #define DEFAULT_Kp 63.0
// #define DEFAULT_Ki 2.25
// #define DEFAULT_Kd 440
#endif // PIDTEMP

// Bed Temperature Control
// Select PID or bang-bang with PIDTEMPBED. If bang-bang, BED_LIMIT_SWITCHING will enable hysteresis
// uncomment this to enable PID on the bed. It uses the same frequency PWM as the extruder.
// If your PID_dT above is the default, and correct for your hardware/configuration, that means 7.689Hz,
// which is fine for driving a square wave into a resistive load and does not significantly impact you FET heating.
// This also works fine on a Fotek SSR-10DA Solid State Relay into a 250W heater.
// If your configuration is significantly different than this and you don't understand the issues involved, you proabaly
// shouldn't use bed PID until someone else verifies your hardware works.
// If this is enabled, find your own PID constants below.
//#define PIDTEMPBED

// This sets the max power delived to the bed, and replaces the HEATER_BED_DUTY_CYCLE_DIVIDER option.
// all forms of bed control obey this (PID, bang-bang, bang-bang with hysteresis)
// setting this to anything other than 256 enables a form of PWM to the bed just like HEATER_BED_DUTY_CYCLE_DIVIDER did,
// so you shouldn't use it unless you are OK with PWM on your bed. (see the comment on enabling PIDTEMPBED)

#define MAX_BED_POWER 256 // limits duty cycle to bed; 256=full current

//120v 250W silicone heater into 4mm borosilicate (MendelMax 1.5+)
//from FOPDT model - kp=.39 Tp=405 Tdead=66, Tc set to 79.2, argressive factor of .15 (vs .1, 1, 10)
 #define DEFAULT_bedKp 10.00
 #define DEFAULT_bedKi .023
 #define DEFAULT_bedKd 305.4

//120v 250W silicone heater into 4mm borosilicate (MendelMax 1.5+)
//from pidautotune
// #define DEFAULT_bedKp 97.1
// #define DEFAULT_bedKi 1.41
// #define DEFAULT_bedKd 1675.16

// FIND YOUR OWN: "M303 E-1 C8 S90" to run autotune on the bed at 90 degreesC for 8 cycles.
#endif // PIDTEMPBED

//this prevents dangerous Extruder moves, i.e. if the temperature is under the limit
//can be software-disabled for whatever purposes by

//if PREVENT_DANGEROUS_EXTRUDE is on, you can still disable (uncomment) very long bits of extrusion separately.

#define EXTRUDE_MAXLENGTH (X_MAX_LENGTH+Y_MAX_LENGTH) //prevent extrusion of very large distances.

//=============================Mechanical Settings===========================

// Uncomment this option to enable CoreXY kinematics
// #define COREXY

// Uncomment this option to enable CoreXZ kinematics
// #define COREXZ

// Coarse Endstop Settings
#define ENDSTOPPULLUPS // Comment this out (using // at the start of the line) to disable the endstop pullup resistors

 // fine Enstop settings: Individual Pullups. will be ignord if ENDSTOPPULLUPS is defined


// The pullups are needed if you directly connect a mechanical endswitch between the signal and ground pins.
const bool X_ENDSTOPS_INVERTING = true; // set to true to invert the logic of the endstops.
const bool Y_ENDSTOPS_INVERTING = true; // set to true to invert the logic of the endstops.
const bool Z_ENDSTOPS_INVERTING = true; // set to true to invert the logic of the endstops.

// Let's not do this...

// For Inverting Stepper Enable Pins (Active Low) use 0, Non Inverting (Active High) use 1
#define X_ENABLE_ON 0
#define Y_ENABLE_ON 0
#define Z_ENABLE_ON 0
#define E_ENABLE_ON 0 // For all extruders

// Disables axis when it's not being used.
#define DISABLE_X false
#define DISABLE_Y false
#define DISABLE_Z false
#define DISABLE_E false // For all extruders

#define INVERT_X_DIR false // HIC i3 = false
#define INVERT_Y_DIR false // HIC i3 = false
#define INVERT_Z_DIR true // HIC i3 = true
#define INVERT_E0_DIR false // HIC i3 = false
#define INVERT_E1_DIR false // HIC i3 = false
#define INVERT_E2_DIR false // HIC i3 = false

// Sets direction of endstops when homing; 1=MAX, -1=MIN
#define X_HOME_DIR -1
#define Y_HOME_DIR -1
#define Z_HOME_DIR -1

#define min_software_endstops true //If true, axis won't move to coordinates less than HOME_POS.
#define max_software_endstops true //If true, axis won't move to coordinates greater than the defined lengths below.

// Travel limits after homing
#define X_MAX_POS 200
#define X_MIN_POS 0
#define Y_MAX_POS 270
#define Y_MIN_POS 0
#define Z_MAX_POS 175 // You can set to 180 if you'd like. I have an endstop switch so 170 is my max.
#define Z_MIN_POS 0


// The position of the homing switches
//#define MANUAL_HOME_POSITIONS // If defined, MANUAL_*_HOME_POS below will be used
//#define BED_CENTER_AT_0_0 // If defined, the center of the bed is at (X=0, Y=0)

//Manual homing switch locations:

#define NUM_AXIS 4 // The axis order in all axis related arrays is X, Y, Z, E
#define HOMING_FEEDRATE {50*60, 50*60, 4*60, 0} // set the homing speeds (mm/min)

// default settings

#define DEFAULT_AXIS_STEPS_PER_UNIT {80,80,2560,94.4962144} // default for HIC i3 80,80,2560,94.4962144
#define DEFAULT_MAX_FEEDRATE {500, 500, 5, 25} // (mm/sec) default for HIC i3 500, 500, 5, 25
#define DEFAULT_MAX_ACCELERATION {9000,9000,100,10000} // X, Y, Z, E max start speed for accelerated moves. 
 // E default values are good for skeinforge 40+, for older versions raise them a lot.

#define DEFAULT_ACCELERATION 3000 // X, Y, Z and E max acceleration in mm/s^2 for printing moves
#define DEFAULT_RETRACT_ACCELERATION 3000 // X, Y, Z and E max acceleration in mm/s^2 for r retracts

// Offset of the extruders (uncomment if using more than one and relying on firmware to position when changing).
// The offset has to be X=0, Y=0 for the extruder 0 hotend (default extruder).
// For the other hotends it is their distance from the extruder 0 hotend.
// #define EXTRUDER_OFFSET_X {0.0, 20.00} // (in mm) for each extruder, offset of the hotend on the X axis
// #define EXTRUDER_OFFSET_Y {0.0, 5.00} // (in mm) for each extruder, offset of the hotend on the Y axis

// The speed change that does not require acceleration (i.e. the software might assume it can be done instanteneously)
#define DEFAULT_XYJERK 20.0 // (mm/sec)
#define DEFAULT_ZJERK 0.4 // (mm/sec)
#define DEFAULT_EJERK 5.0 // (mm/sec)

//=============================Additional Features===========================

// the microcontroller can store settings in the EEPROM, e.g. max velocity...
// M500 - stores paramters in EEPROM
// M501 - reads parameters from EEPROM (if you need reset them after you changed them temporarily).
// M502 - reverts to the default "factory settings". You still need to store them in EEPROM afterwards if you want to.
//define this to enable eeprom support
//to disable EEPROM Serial responses and decrease program space by ~1700 byte: comment this out:
// please keep turned on if you can.

// Preheat Constants
#define PLA_PREHEAT_FAN_SPEED 255 // 255 is loud, set to around 190 if you'd like quieter

#define ABS_PREHEAT_FAN_SPEED 0 // I don't want the blower on for ABS. You may feel differently.
 // See also #define EXTRUDER_AUTO_FAN_SPEED in Configuration_adv.h
//LCD and SD support

// The RepRapDiscount Smart Controller

//automatic expansion
 #define DOGLCD
 #define U8GLIB_ST7920

 #define ULTIPANEL
 #define NEWPANEL

 #define NEWPANEL
 #define ULTIPANEL


 // This uses the LiquidCrystal_I2C library ( )
 // Make sure it is placed in the Arduino libraries directory.
 #define LCD_I2C_TYPE_PCF8575
 #define LCD_I2C_ADDRESS 0x27 // I2C Address of the port expander
 #define NEWPANEL
 #define ULTIPANEL 

// PANELOLU2 LCD with status LEDs, separate encoder and click inputs
//#define LCD_I2C_PANELOLU2
 // This uses the LiquidTWI2 library v1.2.3 or later ( )
 // Make sure the LiquidTWI2 directory is placed in the Arduino or Sketchbook libraries subdirectory.
 // (v1.2.3 no longer requires you to define PANELOLU in the LiquidTWI2.h library header file)
 // Note: The PANELOLU2 encoder click input can either be directly connected to a pin 
 // (if BTN_ENC defined to != -1) or read through I2C (when BTN_ENC == -1). 
 #define LCD_I2C_TYPE_MCP23017
 #define LCD_I2C_ADDRESS 0x20 // I2C Address of the port expander
 #define LCD_USE_I2C_BUZZER //comment out to disable buzzer on LCD
 #define NEWPANEL
 #define ULTIPANEL 

// Panucatt VIKI LCD with status LEDs, integrated click & L/R/U/P buttons, separate encoder inputs
//#define LCD_I2C_VIKI
#ifdef LCD_I2C_VIKI
 // This uses the LiquidTWI2 library v1.2.3 or later ( )
 // Make sure the LiquidTWI2 directory is placed in the Arduino or Sketchbook libraries subdirectory.
 // Note: The pause/stop/resume LCD button pin should be connected to the Arduino
 // BTN_ENC pin (or set BTN_ENC to -1 if not used)
 #define LCD_I2C_TYPE_MCP23017 
 #define LCD_I2C_ADDRESS 0x20 // I2C Address of the port expander
 #define LCD_USE_I2C_BUZZER //comment out to disable buzzer on LCD (requires LiquidTWI2 v1.2.3 or later)
 #define NEWPANEL
 #define ULTIPANEL 

// #define NEWPANEL //enable this if you have a click-encoder panel
 #define SDSUPPORT
 #define ULTRA_LCD
 #ifdef DOGLCD // Change number of lines to match the DOG graphic display
 #define LCD_WIDTH 20
 #define LCD_HEIGHT 5
 #define LCD_WIDTH 20
 #define LCD_HEIGHT 4
#else //no panel but just lcd
 #ifdef ULTRA_LCD
 #ifdef DOGLCD // Change number of lines to match the 128x64 graphics display
 #define LCD_WIDTH 20
 #define LCD_HEIGHT 5
 #define LCD_WIDTH 16
 #define LCD_HEIGHT 2

// Increase the FAN pwm frequency. Removes the PWM noise but increases heating in the FET/Arduino
//#define FAST_PWM_FAN

* R/C SERVO support
* Sponsored by TrinityLabs, Reworked by codexmas

// Number of servos
// If you select a configuration below, this will receive a default value and does not need to be set manually
// set it manually if you have more servos than extruders and wish to manually control some
// leaving it undefined or defining as 0 will disable the servo subsystem
// If unsure, leave commented / disabled
// #define NUM_SERVOS 3

#include "Configuration_adv.h"
#include "thermistortables.h"


#ImAStarCitizen lady-type-character-person

// September 8th, 2015 // No Comments » // art, games

A very cool thing that’s currently making the rounds of Cool Things is the Star Citizen #ImAStarCitizen info card. Tom Banks has created this for fun and with the tacit blessing (and some assets) from CIG.

However, what he doesn’t currently have is templates for the women of Star Citizen (mostly because the there aren’t any yet. The in-game characters are all still in the work). So, based on some concept art, I created two templates lady pilots and explorers can use for now when creating a card (until Tom gets hold of some real ones). Feel free to copy one of the image links below and put them in the custom box here:

Image 1: Copy this link

Image 2: Copy this link

Sort of an update: My Motorola story, good and bad

// April 22nd, 2015 // Comments Off on Sort of an update: My Motorola story, good and bad // Rants, tech

Good story gone bad


So, about that MotoX. It’s a great phone. I really do like it. In fact, I’d say I love it. It’s fast, Lollipop is great and all the little integrations (shake for camera, OLED screen low-power notifications, etc.), all very nice It’s a great phone and I haven’t regretted the switch from Apple yet. Unfortunately, the screen is cracked* on mine and I need to get it fixed. And it was from this that I discovered the dark downside to the Moto X… Motorola support.

Motorola repair support is terrible.

If only I’d read all the “Don’t use Motorola’s Advance Exchange program! You’ll regret it!” warnings on forums, I could have saved myself the headache.

What’s the Motorola Advance Exchange program?
Motorola sends a replacement phone, puts hold on your credit card ($500), you send back broken phone.Replacement phone ships to you within 4 business days of request. You pay for repair cost, keep the replacement phone.

In theory that’s how it works… In practice? Not so much.

My Experience with Advance Exchange for my new MotoX bears no resemblance

4/11 – Submit Advance Exchange request. Motorola promptly puts hold put on card. Ah, look. It’s $500 + $125 + tax instead of the $500 they tell you the hold will be. Oh, well, no big deal.

4/16 – Online status doesn’t show anything shipped yet. Oh, well, no big deal

4/17 – Online status still shows no replacement has shipped. Almost call, but decide to give them more time and I wait until Monday. No big deal… right?

4/20 – Initiate online chat. They say they need to escalate. Someone from repair escalations calls me. Says nothing has happened because they don’t have a phone like mine to send and have to build it. No reason for why they didn’t bother to tell me this. I say it’s been long enough and if I’d  settle for whatever 32GB Moto X they have in stock, even without leather and in any color, would that speed it up. Sure, they say. Agent says they can send me a plain black one and he’ll get right on that. Fine, I say.

4/22 – I check and see that status STILL says no phone shipped even though they implied this was all sorted and on the way.

I email Motorola support:

My Advance Exchange # xxxxxx-xxxxxx still doesn’t show anything shipped. I originally submitted it 4/11 and on 4/20 spoke with someone and was told nothing had happened because they didn’t have a suitable phone in stock. I said at that point I was OK with a stock replacement phone if that would speed things up (I have a white 32GB with leather with a cracked screen, he said they could send a plain black 32GB).

But when I check online it still doesn’t show a replacement shipped. Could you please check on this and make sure it hasn’t gotten stalled again? – Thanks

Motorola replies:


Thanks for reaching out to Motorola. I’ve reviewed your e-mail and I’m ready to help. Upon checking on this incident xxxxxx-xxxxxxx, the phone is not yet shipped because when you called last April 20 and agreed to have a different device because of the stock, the process started again. You will received the device within 5 working days from now as part of the replacement process.

We hope that you find this information useful and we look forward to assisting you in the future.

For information about Motorola products and services, please visit us at

Thank you for contacting Motorola e-mail support.

Best Regards,

Motorola Customer Support

I reply:

Wait, wait. This is ludicrous. I was going to have to wait a business week to get an equivalent replacement, a week that’s now passed, but now I need to wait even longer to get a lesser device ‘faster’?

Please cancel this advance exchange. Given that nothing has happened yet I assume that won’t be a problem. I’ll investigate repair or return options with my carrier. This is ridiculous.

Please let me know that the exchange is canceled. I’m not waiting two business weeks for a downgraded phone. I’ll live with the cracked screen for now.

Thanks. I realize this is not your fault, but being an ex-Apple customer who just made the switch to a Motorola phone, I can see why their service still ranks so much higher. I would have had a replacement in-hand a week ago.

Yes. THE ENTIRE PROCESS @#$&%@# RESET back to square one and now the cheaper, plain black phone will ship WITHIN 5 MORE BUSINESS DAYS.

Why on Earth would I want to wait even longer than I would have for them to go build a damned equivalent phone just to get a cheaper, lesser, plain black replacement phone for my nice white, leather-backed phone? Who could possibly think that’s a bettter solution and one likely to make me happy??? How is ‘you can wait 7-10 business days for the same, or you can wait 11+ business days for a lesser one a viable option?

If I didn’t like this phone so much, I’d pay for the repair and just send the whole goddamned thing back.

Logic, @MotorolaSupport, you’re doing it wrong. Also support. You’re totally doing that wrong.

UPDATE: So someone called me back today (4/23) to hand me off to another person. Then came back to say they couldn’t do anything because their system was broken. Then another person called later and I explained I wanted the return cancelled. They said I could have the black phone within “umm… 48… maybe 72 hours”. I said no. Cancel. He also explained that the original problem was my request had been sent to ‘the wrong warehouse’ where I suppose it would have sat and rotted had I not been nagging them. But, again, no one told me. It just sat in limbo for a week. After being on hold again (the the loud, distorted 15 second violin concerto loop again, holy crap is that crazy-making) for a while the guy said it was canceled. I thanked him and went on with my life.

Super-heavy-duty case should be here tomorrow. I can live with the crack for a while…

UPDATE: Repair cost charged to my card on 4/25… two days after this was supposed to be canceled.

UPDATE 2: It just occurred to me that I’ve engaged 6 or 7 human beings during this whole process. And _not_ the human beings whose job it is to process the exchange. Just imagine that. For a process that begins online driven by the customer, which then presumably goes into an automated binning system where a matching phone is found and marked for dispatch (or, unlike my experience, when no matching device is available the customer is notified of a delay and offered an alternative or timeline) and _then_ a human being gets the work order and processes the outgoing phone. Later another person processes the incoming device. But, no, 6 or 7 people have stumbled over one return before anyone even had a chance to process the initial exchange. What a waste of resources and money because someone can’t work out their returns pipeline in such a way that it’s even marginally reliable.

There’s no excuse for such bumbling, Motorola. You’re a grown up technology company.

UPDATE 3: Hi. It’s May 8th and Motorola still hasn’t refunded the repair fee they charged to my card. I sent a support email which, of course, just came back ‘we need your number so someone can call you’. No. No one needs to take up any more of my damned time, they just need to do their job and fulfill their promises. And you HAVE my number already! *sigh* I’m done with Motorola. No matter how much I like this phone (and I do! I really, really do!), it’s not worth worrying that should I need support I’m going to have to push the ball up hill for them at every turn. Every single time the wheels started to move in the above narrative it was because I’d initiated it. I’M THE CUSTOMER, NOT CUSTOMER SUPPORT!

God I feel like all I do is whine on this blog now, but… for the love of everything good how can a multi-billion dollar 21st century tech company’s tech support seem like it’s being phoned in [literally] from the mid-20th century? I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they’re using pen and paper still…

* – UPDATE: The following is all irrelevant now as I’ve just kept the phone and got a heavy-duty case to protect it. I’m living with the crack (it’s in the upper left an mostly out of the way).

The irony of the cracked screen is that after looking down to find it cracked (I’ve no idea of the cause) one day, a bit later I actually dropped it and dinged the metal on that same corner. So I’m definitely on the hook for the repair cost. There’s no way they could know that I dropped it after the screen cracked and maybe I did hit it on something to crack the screen… Again, I have no idea. I only mention it here as a “ain’t that always the way” story.


Upheavals in my tech life – Part 1: Amazon Echo

// February 7th, 2015 // Comments Off on Upheavals in my tech life – Part 1: Amazon Echo // Echo, musings, Rambling, tech

UPDATE: I still like Echo a lot and it keeps getting better. They’re constantly adding features (including IFTTT and home automation support!) and everything just works. TuneIn had issues one time, but that’s it. I’m extremely happy with it as a household assistant and as a bluetooth audio system.


I’ve made or am making some big changes in some small areas of my life. Mostly around technology. Being a self-described ‘technologist’ that means I have to write about it. Hi.

*** Feel free to skip this list and jump right to #4 if you just wanna know about Echo ***

Chief among these are:

1) I’ve jumped ship from iPhone to Android. My new phone is a 2nd generation Moto X running Android 5 Lollipop. As some of you know, Apple and I have gone from a blissful to a troubled relationship of late. Linux boxen out-number Macs in my house now — I’ve even broken down and built a Windows gaming machine because… Borderlands Pre-Sequel, ’nuff said — and my iTunes music library has gone from being a warm, fuzzy vault where Apple kept everything for me to a technological albatross that I had to pull what felt like a bank heist to liberate everything from so I could access all my music from my new phone. Anybody want to buy a Verizon iPhone 5?

2) Along with ditching iPhone, I’m finally weaning myself off Safari (after all, I’m on OSX less and less). It’s a small thing, yes. But when I get around to writing about that, there’s more to it than just changing browsers. Some of the thoughts rattling around in my heads about this: Safari is closed-door Apple kit, but it doesn’t feel as… invasive… as Google Chrome. And Safari is fast. When it’s not beach-balling. But it’s just time to let it go. So do I invest my life more into Google’s ecosystem [and its attendant information Hoovering juggernaut] by using Chrome? I am using their OS now on my phone. And Chromecast is super handy. Or do I switch fully to Firefox all around, despite my love/hate relationship with it? It’s all I use on my Linux machines, but… dammit it pisses me off some times. Or do I split the difference with Chromium? In the end, the integration of all these with things like Lastpass, Yubikey and sometimes 1Password are big deals to me. And they all behave differently. So it’s not an easy decision.

3) Dish’s Sling TV. I haz it. I also haz Roku and AppleTV. I subscribe to Netflix, Fandor and AcornTV. I’ve been threatening, much like George Lucas saying he’s going to go off and do his ‘experimental movies’ and then never doing so, to cut the cord on my cable TV. So now that I have Sling TV and I know I can still watch Venture Bros and Adventure Time, I’m going to do a simulated cord cut. I’m going to rely on everything but my cable TV for a week (starting Monday) and see how that goes. I’ll tell you right up front that I’m gonna break this rule. I’m still gonna watch Archer on Thursdays on my TiVo. And I may use HBO GO, even though it’s tied to my cable subscription. The latter is OK in my book as HBO has announced that GO a la carte is coming. I gotta watch Game of Thrones, y’all. And can I just say, FX and AMC, please get on Sling TV and this will all get tied up with a neat little bow.

4) I have an Amazon Echo. Yes, I’m one of those people who jumped on it first thing. I know. I know. But that’s the thing I want to talk about, now that I’ve bored you to death with all the above. Unless you skipped straight here. In which case, “Weakling!”

First, let me cut right to the chase. I like it. It’s $99 well-spent and I’m happy with my purchase. I’ve tinkered around with computer assistants in the past and they all were terrible. So when Amazon said I could have a PDA with good voice recognition that could play NPR and tell me how old John Hurt is as I wallowed on the couch, I signed right up.

Is it just a glorified Siri? Yes. Or, more precisely, a glorified Cortana. But that’s all it purports to be, if we’re honest. Their ad, the one with the ‘early Richard Dreyfuss’ asshole dad, shows you it can play music, be a Bluetooth speaker, read Wikipedia, tell you the weather or how tall Mount Everest is. That’s what it does. Oh, and shopping and to-do lists which I’ll get to in a sec. But the point being: It was designed to pretty much be a glorified Siri. Or Cortana.

As a glorified Cortana it works really well.



Yes, I spent four hours the first night dicking around with this thing and it not working. I’d quit and come back. I couldn’t accept defeat. I’d search the ‘Net and try other things. The app just sat and spun. And no, I didn’t call Amazon support because I was not prepared to patiently sit through someone telling me to reboot my router, make sure it’s plugged in, etc. My first damned router was configured with a text file and telnet, FFS. This ain’t my first day at the rodeo.

The way Echo’s setup works is you download an app (Mac, PC< Android or iOS), turn on Echo and it will go into setup mode (the ring rotates orange – there are audio prompts along the way), and you will then connect to it as though it were a wireless access point. If you get stuck here, find that rest button. You then select your WiFi SSID and enter your WiFi password (I believe Echo has two radios, as outlined below). In theory, this is where it connects and finishes setting up, culminating in Echo telling you it’s ready. This is where I was failing. Initially I couldn’t even get to the WiFi setup part.

And the app doesn’t give you access to the Help tab… until you’re done setting up. Duh.

Finally I found someone on Twitter mentioning that there’s a tiny reset button hole on the bottom. Using that to reset Echo and start fresh allowed me to finally get to the WiFi setup and connect Echo to my WAP. Or so I thought. Here it just hung again. Spinning forever. I tried this from my Android phone, an iPhone, a laptop and from an Amazon Kindle FireHD (I bought it on a whim long ago, don’t judge). No go on any of them. And I thought it weird how I still had the same IP address on my laptop when connected to the Echo

A bit more searching led me to a post from someone who had talked with Amazon only to find that Echo uses the same IP range (192.168.11.x) for its internal AP as my router does. And specifically it uses for the Echo. Even changing my router’s LAN IP to something other than 11.1 didn’t help. Presumably this is because with Echo being an AP and simultaneously being a WiFi client, there’s a routing conflict and the Echo probably ends up talking to itself instead of bridging the two networks.

So I set up a laptop to share its ethernet connection over WiFi, ran the setup again selecting this new access point (whose internal DHCP was using 10.0.1.x)… et voila. Echo connected and started working.


Seriously. I do enjoy it now that it’s working. Saying “Alexa, play NPR” and it almost immediately starting a stream of my local NPR stattion (WBUR) is so much quicker and friendlier than doing this from another device (unlock, open app, pair to bluetooth speakers, etc.) And, on top of it all, it sounds really good. It sounds like a decent Bluetooth speaker system. Enough bottom end for most things and with clear highs and mids. Today I woke up, padded off to the bathroom and called out “Alexa, play Kraftwerk Man Machine.” (The Echo is in my living room, close to the kitchen door.) I enjoyed some of my favorite krautrock as I woke up and made some coffee. Not in the bathroom. I made the coffee in the kitchen. Weirdo.

I checked the weather, since more snow is on the way, listened to what it calls a “flash briefing” of news and then decided to listen to NPR all day. Something I enjoy doing on weekends but often don’t because I hate dinking around with the radio and sometimes reception is crap. And streaming it involves too many steps, so I just don’t. I end up in silence or listening to audio books form my phone. But today I listened to Wait Wait and some other fare and was able to say “Alexa, pause” when I needed to go back and take care of the outcome of that coffee and then “Alexa, continue” when I was back in the kitchen working on a Tricorder I was adding leather to. It’s sweet. Everybody needs a leather-covered Tricorder. I’ll sell you one if you want. But I digress.

As I was working, I realized I should get some Armor All to shine up this leather.
“Alexa, add Armor All to my shopping list.”
“I’ve added ‘Armor All’ to your shopping list.”
“Oh. I’m out of tea, as well. Alexa, add tea to my shopping list.”
“I’ve added ‘tea’ to your shopping list.”
Later I decided to go to Target for a few things before the next potential snowcano/icenami (I’m trying to stop using snowpocalypse). So while there I opened the shopping list and bought the things I’d put there earlier.

Note to Amazon: Notice how I did not buy these items on Why? Because the shopping list is separate from all Amazon wish lists. It is not integrated into in any way. The shopping and to-do lists ONLY exist in the Echo app. So it was more convenient for me to, while at a shopping establishment, use the list to buy things while I was there.

And, finally, yes I’ve made Echo cuss and say “boobies” and tell me jokes. I’ve had her ignore me when she thought I was either not being serious or she just couldn’t sort out what I said. And sometimes she just doesn’t get things like “Alexa, what year was the book ‘1984’ published?” Some of that is her, some is Bing, her search engine. And, by the way, Mike J. Nichols, sometimes you’re the general manager at Bing or, occasionally, you’re a “film editor originally from Illinois”. But never The phantom Editor (I decided to use your name as a test as I was listening to Chris Taylor’s book at the time.)

So far I’ve been very pleased with both the accuracy of things she does understand and the speed. In fact, I was playing a Youtube video review of Echo and she would perk up and answer the questions heard in the video at the exact same moment as the Echo in the video. Recognizing speech and performing a near-instantaneous lookup and reply is, let’s be honest here, pretty damned cool.

Am I happy with my $99 Wikipedia reader, music player and NPR indulge-my-laziness player? Yep. Knowing that she’ll do more in future is great, but I’m fairly happy with what [granted, little] she does now.

Oh. FYI – “In Cambridge there’s a winter storm warning in effect until 1 AM Tuesday, February 10th. The current weather is 27 degrees with flurries. Throughout the night you can expect more of the same with a low of 26 degrees.” :)

A Spaceship of the Imagination

// September 19th, 2014 // Comments Off on A Spaceship of the Imagination // Rambling

soti_1 I built this recently for the Atlanta Star Party to auction off for their charity.

It’s an 18″ (plus stand) replica of the Spaceship of the Imagination from the new Cosmos series.

A little more info here on my G+ account and hopefully some build notes and pics later.

Why I left after 12+ years and why that makes me sad

// November 19th, 2013 // Comments Off on Why I left after 12+ years and why that makes me sad // Rambling

UPDATE: I’ve moved most of my former Pair-hosted sites to Media Temple and I’m also managing a client’s hosting there as well. I’m pretty happy with MT overall for managed-hosting needs. Agghosting and its clients is running on its own server over at Linode and I’m super happy with this [unmanaged] machine.

I recently had to abandon ship from my preferred hosting company of some 12+ years, Pair Networks. Seriously. I once loved them and recommended them left and right. The falling apart started, I now recognize, once I moved from my old and no longer offered plan to their new shared hosting. It was fine for a while. I didn’t host everything there — this blog, for instance, isn’t — but a handful of sites for which speed mattered to me (and some I moved when space became an issue, prior to the move to the ‘new’ system) were there.

Now they’re at Media Temple and they’re fast and reliable again. And the price is the same. I just feel sad that Pair let me down. Like an old friend who suddenly snubs you. I was planning to move Ruining It for Everyone there, but the performance failures made that untenable. It’s still at Dreamhost which was meant to be temporary (and is still more reliable and faster than my Pair account had become). I’ll move it to Media Temple soon, too.

But back to my Pair problem… Sorry. This is long and I didn’t originally intend to spew all this, but it’s happening now so just hang in there… Continue Reading

Kickstarter Projects – Sticky Post

// November 15th, 2013 // Comments Off on Kickstarter Projects – Sticky Post // Rambling

Kickstarter projects I’m supporting (and maybe you will too). =)
I’m excited that some of these are local projects (Stompy, Brattle, Hexy and Modkit)


Funded or Ended
Continue Reading

US Comic page sizes in Manga Studio

// July 16th, 2013 // Comments Off on US Comic page sizes in Manga Studio // art, musings

I made some default comic page settings for myself in Manga Studio, so I thought I’d share the settings here so you can make your own.

Caveat: Bear in mind that the page dimensions are equal to the trim size, not the paper size. So, your bleed line is the edge of the [virtual] page. Register Mark = Margin Area and Basic Frame = Live Area. So, again, full bleed means fill the page completely. You could make them to paper dimensions if you wanted, but I didn’t see the point in it as that would make the printable area too large to print on the intended paper size. I hope that makes sense.

The first is the modern US comic page just as if you bought some blue-lined boards (see below for older page size). I triple-checked this using some blue-line (EonProd and BlueLinePro)… and then Manga Studio rounded up (If this really bugs you, convert to millimeters). I’m going to just live with it. The ‘exact’ dimensions in inches are: 10.5 x 15.875, 10 x 15.375, 9×14.875
Continue Reading

A surprise for Liz

// July 7th, 2013 // 1 Comment » // art, Rambling

Several years ago I illustrated a short piece written by my pal Liz Argall. It was a very simple B&W thing with very few words. I think it turned out OK. Well, today I ran across the files and decided to try out some digital brushes on my new tablet. So, here’s a blast from the past and a little surprise for Liz.

(click to enlarge)


So… this happened. For better or worse.

// June 28th, 2013 // Comments Off on So… this happened. For better or worse. // art, Rambling, Uncategorized, weird

Because of this

this now exists. I’m not saying it’s right… just that it exists.

Read more nonsense at The Outhouse.