Archive for tech

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

// November 29th, 2015 // Comments Off on HIC Prusa i3 3DP-11 – config file for Marlin // tech

[2016 update: I’m currently running two Lulzbot Taz, but I’ve added a second extruder to the Prusa below. Once I starttinkering with it again I’ll post the config for that here as well since this post got kind of popular. I guess a lot of other people also had issues getting the proper settings from HIC.]

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.

Update: Crazy fun fact, Internet. Maggie is a girl’s name. Pretty much worldwide. I’m a girl. I only mention this because people keep linking to “this “guy’s page” and don’t seem to realize this little detail (although I seriously doubt any of them have ever met a dude named Maggie.) So, please? A little respect? Thus endeth the update.


// 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"


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.” :)

Comcast cares, but not about fuel, time or money

// November 7th, 2012 // Comments Off on Comcast cares, but not about fuel, time or money // Rants, tech

Update 2: Nope. Now they’re saying she’s ‘lost’ TWO modems and has to pay for both of them. So, basically, if they can’t properly document the whereabouts of their equipment, it must be your fault.

High-speed internet suggestions in the Atlanta area?

Update: The @ComcastCares Twitter people are offering to look into this for my friend. Presumably pre-truck roll. Before it was just (paraphrased) ‘Sorry. Let us know if you have any questions after the truck comes to your house [for no apparent reason and then leaves again none the wiser].’

BTW, I like the whole @ComcastCares on Twitter thing. It’s actually helped me at least once with a d.u.m.b. situation. But don’t fool yourself that this was some brilliant idea on Comcast’s part. A guy who used to work there named Frank Eliason took it upon himself to start it and then showed the company that it worked. To their credit Comcast let him create a small team to do this sort of online triage, but they were, and presumably still are, just a small hand trying to steer a large gun away from continually shooting the foot of the Comcast giant.

Friends may have heard me whinge about something like this before in person. OK, I realize that doesn’t narrow it down. But bear with me. I’ve never jotted down my thoughts online about this issue and it really bugs me. No, this is not election-related. I’m not up in arms about Honey Boo Boo’s poll numbers or who names a child ‘Saxby Chambliss’ or some such shite. It’s Comcast.

Comcast just seems to want to waste not just your time, but gas and man-hours on trivialities. And they just don’t seem to either A) give two shits about it or B) realize that they’re just wasting gas (and my money) and ERMAGERD STOP BERNIN ALL TEH GASS! This seems to be institutionalized waste, too. She says from her First World perch on her couch in front of her giant-ass TV plugged into #*&^%@^& Comcast cable.

Roll a truck. Roll a truck. Roll a truck. Is there a union inside Comcast that we don’t know about that says “When in slightest doubt, roll a truck. If a tree falls in the woods, roll a freakin’ truck!” And we, undoubtedly, pay for this waste via our exorbitant cable bills. I don’t know about you, but my cable bill is ludicrous for what I get. OK, back up. Actually, I do know about several of you, including the friend who just this week asked me how she can best get rid of Comcast because she feels like she’s being fleeced like a whale in Vegas. But for me it’s a monopoly. I literally have no choice if I want cable TV (and by cable I mean HBO, AMC and ‘all that other stuff’). It’s Comcast or it’s nothing for me.

So what prompted me to write this screed and in the sentence after this one compare Comcast to the dystopian bass-ackwards grinding dumb machine that is The Party in Orwell’s 1984? Well, a friend is currently dealing with some Comcast INGSOC. You see, she’s just realized that The Party… errrr, I mean Comcast… or Xfinity… or whatever their name is… is still charging her for her old cable modem. She asked for her a service disconnect when she moved, a tech came and did so and took the equipment away as is their duty. However the cable modem, which is now marked as inactive on her account, is still on her monthly bill. The undisputed part is that it’s clearly not the cable modem that’s currently in use, there’s no question of that. Each unit has a unique ID called a MAC address that Comcast can easily view. So they know what unit is online. If for no other reason than that once upon a time another truck came and installed a different cable modem at her current residence on a completely different order which they have in their system.

To recap:
1) A disconnect order is somewhere on file at Comcast that her services was disconnected and the tech closed that order, but with no notation that anything was wrong and the modem was not found. And since equipment retrieval is S.O.P. for the disconnection order, the assumption has to be that the device was picked up. Otherwise, the tech would/should have noted that the modem was missing.

2) The service at her current residence is using a Comcast modem that they are fully aware is not the modem in question and was connected on a completely different order, also somewhere on file.

3) The obvious conclusion is that the old modem was picked up along with the other equipment during the disconnect order and someone dropped the ball in removing it from her bill. Obvious to the the Proles, that is.

4) This means they need to roll a truck. Because for every little thing that a billing person is not capable of typing into CES… a truck must roll, a tech must be paid and gas must be burned and… Wait. WTF?

Yes. To sort this out, Comcast’s Ministry of Truth is not looking at the previous disconnect order, using logic to extrapolate the clear error on their part (FYI, Comcast, the tech works for you – their screwups are your screwups) and saying, “Ah. The only logical conclusion is that we screwed up. A tech came out on xx/xx/xx when you moved and disconnected your service and, if the modem had been missing, the tech should have noted this. They did not. Sorry for the confusion, Miss, here’s your refund.”

No, instead of that, their brand of DoubleThink, let’s call it XfinityThink, means they need to roll a truck to have a tech… look at a thing that is not there and declare “It’s not there”.

Yes, that was a long run-on sentence above, but you read it correctly. A tech will show up, stare at the cable modem that they already know is not the one in question, not see it transmogrify into a completely different cable modem that they have no way of knowing where it is and say “OK.” Then get back in a truck and burn some more gas.


Instead of a human with decision-making abilities looking at this situation and saying “That’s a complete waste of time, money and gas, old bean. And it is pointless as, for all we know, even if she had the modem, which seems logically unlikely and would still be our fault for not properly maintaining record of, she could have delivered it in offering to Cthulhu for shinier hair and whiter whites, for all we know. A tech going to her house is not going to change anything other than our gas consumption. And waste her time.”

I mean, seriously, is this tech going to show up and ask to search her house for the missing modem like some TV Cable Cop? CSI: Xfinity? Today’s episode: “Don’t go to work, we need to come look at a modem that’s not there.” A modem that’s probably an old DOCSIS 2 unit anyway that they would just toss in a landfill. But if they can continue to charge you for it — but waste twice the value in gas and tech time — hey, whatever. No. That would be logical. So that’s not the plan. Bad is good, brother. Smart is stupid.

A thing that is Not There is more Not There once we’ve not seen it being Not There with our eyes.

Personally, I can think of at least four instances in recent years where I’ve had a truck sent to my house for completely trivial things that someone could have done over the phone. And every time I wondered “How much did that just cost? And don’t they realize what a waste of money it is? And… how much am I paying for it, ultimately?”

Or do virtual monopolies care about such things like burning crap-tons of petrol? My friends who live in the area of town where there’s actual competition and therefore lower prices can stop laughing and shut the hell up. Or tell me where I need to move so I can get RCN.

Comcast… you are a big stupid beast.

Walking Eye, Hank! They’re all the same.

// November 27th, 2011 // Comments Off on Walking Eye, Hank! They’re all the same. // tech

I’ve been working on a robot for a while. Well, a specific robot. I’ve tinkered with some others prior to and along the way. But for this particular bot, I started fiddling with servos and controllers for an arm last winter and since then I’ve bought a bunch of micro-controllers and itsy bitsy computers to fiddle with too. The results of all that fiddling have been sort of percolating in my head and has recently, in long bursts of work, been spat out into this, the Tiny Walking Eye. I never intended to do a pre-design, per se, and I’ve let all the ideas sort of clump together so that I knew roughly what I wanted to build, just not exactly how I’d build it. I built an eye. Then an arm. Then… I built all that you see below in a couple of long, late nights. Given that I ‘made it up as I went’, I’m fairly pleased with the aesthetics of, so far, it as well. Nobody wants an ugly robot.

TWE robot as of Now. 27th 2011

OK, it’s not actually tiny, it’s about 22 inches high at the top of the video camera. And it doesn’t walk, it has 4 drive wheels in a differential (‘tank’) steering configuration. And the eye is a camera. But my friend Christopher (who I also do a podcast with) and I were making Venture Brothers jokes and I got fixated on “Giant Walking Eye” and so TWE was christened.

The chassis is a Dagu 4WD Wild Thumper bot chassis (ordered from Pololu) which I’ve extended a few inches. In hindsight, the 6WD chassis would have been better. Maybe for TWE2. The shell is foam PVC sheeting which is easy to cut for someone who lives in an apartment and doesn’t want to annoy her neighbors (more than she does already). Also, it’s very light and I need to keep everything that sits on the chassis under about 10 pounds. The chassis undercarriage has a power distro box with motor controllers, an emergency cut-off switch and two 7.2v batteries in parallel for the motors.

There’s a Mars Rover-esque platform that sits on a revolving turret on the chassis. On top of that is the brain box which also houses the front-facing arm. The arm is also made from .157 PVC and is powered by tandem servos (one reversed so that they lift in concert) for shoulder and elbow. The two large-scale shoulder servos are Hi-Tecs and the two in the elbow are some crazy Chinese servos I found on Amazon which have huge amounts of torque and metal gearing. The elbow will do most of the work by itself and the should is only needed when the arm needs to be extended. The wrist ends with a gripper which I bought from Parallax or RobotShop or somewhere. I’ll be using Phidgets or Pololu controllers for the servos (depending on which ‘network’ I end up using – more below).

The white PVC and angled cuts give it a sort of 70s sensibility and I’m OK with that. Plus, you should note that there’s nothing on the side yet and there will be. There’s only one ultrasound range finder right now, but I’ll be putting 5 more on (one on each angled corner and on in the rear) as well as some other goodies on the side. And in the rear will be a little boot to put the secondary batteries in (two 6v totaling ~ 9Ah for the processors and controllers).

Up top there’s a camera which pans and tilts and immediately behind that is a 7″ LCD display. The display will be hooked into the core micro-controller (probably a Parallax Propellor board) which may or may not also be hooked to an ultra-small PC (a Gumstix Fire or a Genesi Efica – both of which I’m playing with). This all depends on how I want the robot to be controlled. Without the PC, I’d be making it completely autonomous (maybe an Xbee for remote control or logging). With the PC, I’d be able to store and execute more complex code and also tie back via Wi-Fi to another computer where I could assume manual control if desired. I haven’t decided. Maybe I’ll try to make it do both. It all comes down to software and batteries.

Additionally, I need to decide how this will all be connected. Depending on which controllers and computers end up in side, it will either be primarily USB, Ethernet or a mixture of I²C and USB. I’ve mocked up both and there are benefits to each. We’ll see. USB is winning at the moment given that all the controllers already inside have USB ports and everything else could be wired to the micro-controller (which also has USB).

Then, I need to figure out how it recharges itself. That’ll involve building a charging circuit for the various battery systems and a station it can find on its own (probably using RFID triangulation).

ANYway… that’s the state of TWE. In case you were wondering. Which you totally were. Hope you enjoyed. Cuz… everybody needs a robot. For… ‘reconnaissance applications’.

Sorry I didn’t update this more as TWE progressed. I moved to a real shop at the Artisan’s Asylum and worked on TWE in fits and bursts. I put in control systems for the drivetrain, arm and sensors. Played around with ROS and OpenQbo and whatnot. All in all, TWE was a fair success (there were things I could have done much better, admittedly) and, admit it, he’s adorable.

But then, alas, other projects got in the way and TWE ended up on a shelf. I eventually pulled out and loaned the drivetrain to Brandon from Rascal Micro for a while to do some demos on and I pulled a few things out here and there for other projects.

BUT! Don’t be sad. This week I took the drivetrain out and reprogrammed the controllers. I removed the arm from what’s left of TWE’s chassis (that arm turned out good, dude. Seriously.), the dual cameras, and am tinkering with a different idea now. It’s already got a name of course. Because I have to name everything. SHANE — I was running the drive train up and down the aisle at the Asylum using an RC controller and, joking to a fellow inmate, I called ‘Come back, Shane!’ And that’s how names are gotten. ;)

Anywho. TWE has left us, long live TWE. But something new to come. :)

What Am I Ticked Off About re: Mozilla/Firefox?

// November 17th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Rants, tech

What Am I Pissed Off About re: Mozilla/Firefox?

EDIT: I’m very grateful to Mozilla for listening and eventually creating the ESR track for both Firefox and Thunderbird. This ( ) effectively fixes all the below for us.

EDIT 12/2/11: heh… Looks like I’m not alone in my thoughts. Comments at Slashdot on Firefox losing market share [image].

Mozilla is fighting an invisible battle against Google Chrome. They’ve implemented a ‘me too’ rapid release cycle for Firefox (and therefore also Thunderbird since they have [again artificially] tied their cycles together) in answer to Google’s rapid release cycle.

And the poop started hitting the fan. Not only was the public confused (“OMG! My browser’s really old! I only have 3.6 and they’re already up to 6! Was I asleep for a year?”) but enterprise IT folks were not amused. We can’t afford to have a browser we just deployed be declared un-supported mere weeks later. Similar remarks here:

Yes, there is a working group that was put together after Mozilla finally admitted that enterprise IT had a valid point ( )… in August 2011 after the release of version 6… two more major releases have come out since then. But right now there’s just an ESR proposal and… that’s where we stand. In the meantime, time continues to go forward at the same pace and we’re still dealing with actually using the browser. We esentially had ESR, then Mozilla took it away to go tilt at a windmill called Chrome. Now we wait while people talk about ESR… or we don’t wait and we move on.

We want to love you, Firefox! Why won’t you let us love you!??

The browser we’d fought for, the browser that finally took away share from IE, the browser that worked across platform and became popular enough for sites to start to say “OK, we support Firefox too.” That browser’s maker has seemingly turned into a parody of Microsoft trying to keep up with [Apple/Google/etc. and yes, even Mozilla] when they’d clumsily announces after the fact “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna do that too!” Now I have users who used to complain maybe about a website complaining about the browser.

So now, no more stable release followed by a cycle of improvements and bug fixes (all the while being supported because the ordinal number up front hasn’t changed and won’t change until the next release goes stable and comes out of beta). Now it’s release, release, release and pray to bob the bug fixed in 5 doesn’t show up again in the ‘all new super hot off the press’ 8.

And, most importantly, this all loses sight of how the browser wars ended. They ended with Firefox the moral and spiritual victor on one solid principal: Build a better browser and people will use it. Goliath IE was slain (or at leads severely maimed and forced to also get better) by one simple principal: Build a better browser and people will use it. Did I mention “Build a better browser and people will use it”? Not “OMGZ googlez has bilt a browzer and they’s gonna take all our search eyeballs moneys! Run around in circles!!!”

Now Firefox is so effing scared that they’ll lose that sweet Google search eyeballs cash that they’re all but making it a self-fulfilling prophecy in their panic. ( ) Why? Because Google planted that idea in their head when they released Chrome and now Mozilla’s management can’t see past it. It’s like a bug in their brain that’s making them crazy. (“This is Ceit Alpha V!”) They are so fixated on the forest they don’t see the trees catching fire. But the truth is that Google will keep paying out that cash as long as Firefox brings in eyeballs. That is, unless Mozilla gets so panic’d they start acting like headless chickens and _manage to drive all its customers away_!

Which is exactly what I think might be happening. Hell, I’M using Chrome now because I just can’t take it any more (and Safari is in the crapper too as far as I’m concerned – so I don’t have much choice… in a world that used to be all about choice).

Now, my team is forced to sit down and talk about “What browser do we support officially if/when Firefox doesn’t get back on track. Also, we’re screwed email client-wise if Thunderbird ends up under the bus for no good reason.” My server guy… my poor staunch advocate for open source and non-big brothery software is forced to admit that we might have to consider Chrome! He wants to love you, Firefox! Hell, he does love you. But his love is wavering. So what exactly is wrong? Sheesh, where to begin. And, honestly, I’ll forget something. It’s all become a blurry laundry list of complaints from minor annoyances to show-stopping bugs (Stack space errors?? Really?? In 2011?). But, quickly and anecdotally, go google this:

Those people? They’re not switching to Chrome because Chrome is sexy or amazing… largely you’ll see them saying that they are leaving Firefox because of Firefox’s problems or short-comings, not Chrome’s features. OK, on to my gripes as an enterprise (education, actually, but we work the same and expect the same) IT shop.

* Instability. We’ve gone from a stable Firefox (sure, it had its quirks, but stable enough for us to say “we support Firefox” and be able to stand by it) to having to say “well, if you’re having problems in Firefox, you may have to use Safari/IE for that”. And then bracing for the next release 6 weeks later. (In all honesty, we’re just leaving most people on 3.6.x)

* Page rendering and slowness. This has forced us to downgrade some users who just can’t deal with it to 3.6.x And we’re clearly not alone:
And, tellingly, you’ll still find a link to 3.6.24 on Mozilla’s download site. Even they, tacitly admit there’s still a reason for it to be there:

* Let’s talk about slowness. How can it be that Chrome got faster and Firefox got slower? ZDnet sure thinks so. Compare these two Kraken scores:

You’re killing yourself, Mozilla. No excuses, no waffling. You. Are. Killing. Yourself.

* New weirdness depending on if you’re on 6 or 7 or 8. Profiles being trashed, bookmarks reverting or disappearing… What works in 7 might not work in 8. What was fixed in 7 from 6 seems to once again affect 8. And boy is it RAM hungry. But it was i/o hungry before, so that’s probably a step forward for users with networked hime directories… Submit crash report, submit crash report, submit crash report.

* The artificial rapid release cycle creating browser instability is also unnecessarily affecting Thunderbird. For us, Thunderbird 8 is unusable. It _simply does not work for some users_. Add an IMAP account with lots of folders and mail and it crashes at startup. Get someone with less mail and it’s fine (but Lightning may or may not work). Submit crash report, submit crash report, submit crash report.

* The rapid release cycle also tends to break plugin/add-ons, often for no other reason than the fact that this version, which isn’t much different, starts with a different number. We even saw Thunderbird run into this day of release when we rushed to test it. In my case, instead of bringing Lightning with it, it disabled the already-installed lightning add-on and then refused to upgrade (Lightning will be upgraded on next restart -> restart -> Lightning will be upgraded on next restart -> removed lightning manually -> install lightning -> Lightning is not compatible with this version (WTF?) -> clear everything out -> install, go to add-ons, aha! Lightning link in featured add-ons -> install Lightning -> Lightning will be installed on next restart -> restart Lightning will be upgraded on next restart… give up.) That’s… crazy. This is Mozilla we’re talking about…

Dammit… we were pinning our hopes on integrating Lightning into our environment to stem the tide of requests for Outlook for those who just wanted calendaring of some sort. Now we have a 1.0 release of Lightning for a version of Thunderbird we can’t even deploy. ARGH! Because of Firefox chasing the Chrome around like a big dumb puppy chasing a car. (“It must want to eat my food! GRR! Chase!”)

I think Mozilla has lost their minds. Please. Please. Go find your minds and put them back in before you lose all that you’ve worked and fought so hard for (and we’ve supported so strongly) because you got a little scared by some actual competition. This coming from someone who wants you to succeed. Who’s begging you to succeed. I’m your fan. Your cheerleader. And now I’m about to break up with you because… you won’t let me love you!

Additional reading from way back at version 5 (oh, wait, that wasn’t that long ago…)

Getting to your iCloud calendar from iCal 4 (OSX10.6) or a CalDAV client

// October 13th, 2011 // 67 Comments » // Rambling, tech

UPDATED 10/15/11 with new instructions!

I work in an environment where all the machines are tied to a single sign-on system and all the users, be they Mac, PC or Linux, have their home directories mounted from a server at login. Right now, OSX Lion won’t work in that environment, so all our Macs are running 10.6 or 10.5.8.

But what if I want to use my iCloud calendar from work via iCal (or another CalDAV capable client**)? It’s pretty damned easy, actually, I’m happy to say.

Maybe this is published somewhere, maybe not. But I figure a couple of my peeps might benefit from me posting this up. So here goes.

  1. Get your calendar set up and up to date in iCloud first. Don’t monkey with doing that after the fact.
  2. It just got easier. Skip to step 10 and ignore the steps below that says [SKIP]
  3. [SKIP] Open in a web browser and go to your calendars. Click on the circular ‘wireless’ icon to the right of the name of the calendar you want to use. The calendar you want to use must be shared.
  4. [SKIP] Note the name of the server right after webcal:// (example:
  5. Open iCal 3. (I’ll be referring to iCal from here on, I can’t say for sure how other CalDAV clients will respond).
  6. In iCal, go to Preferences -> Accounts and click the add account button (+)
  7. Select CalDAV as the account type.
  8. Enter your iCloud username (for instance, and password
  9. [SKIP] For server address you need to slightly modify that server name you jotted down in step 3
    If the server was, you would replace www with caldav and enter
  10. For the server address simply enter “” (I don’t know when this started working, but it does.)
  11. Click create. If presented with a choice of two possible servers, choose the one that says, not — IF YOU GET AN ACCESS NOT PERMITTED ERROR then you’ll need to use the greyed out instructions instead.
  12. Live large. Your now have your iCloud calendar and reminders in iCal. You might want to change how it refreshes, if you’re like me and want control over that. Push may not work as well in iCal 3. Otherwise, it’s a full CalDAV implementation; add, delete, modify, etc.

** Update: I haven’t been able to get it working in Lightning/Sunbird yet. But it’s most likely a matter of forming the URI correctly. It should be somehting along the lines of:[unique ID]/principal/
or some variation thereof. I’ll try to work on this more tomorrow.

Update 2: It appears they’re also using CardDAV for contacts (hooray for standards!). The path for that would start[unique ID]/carddavhome (Thanks MacRumors forums!)
As of 10/15 6:30pm EDT I have NOT been able to get this working in Address Book 5. If you want to take a stab at it, I do know that Address Book 6 uses a URI like:

https://[username][unique ID#]/carddavhome/card/[long srting].vcf
(The %40being necessary as you can’t have two @ in there but need to include an email address as a username.)

Update 3: So they’re not using a SRV record to do it as far as I can tell (but they are using Akamai so there’s at least one layer of abstraction). Next…

Yours in nerdery,


It’s the simple things…

// February 4th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Rambling, tech

I have a scratch volume consisting of several drives in a software RAID setup on my Mac Pro at work. One of the more annoying things is that when I set it about ingesting something, toddle off to do other work while it does so and then come back more or less when it’s done, inevitably the drives will have spun down and I’ll have to wait for them to spin back up. It’s not a long wait, but it’s annoying one. Especially as I can’t, say, eject the camera that’s connected while they’re spinning up.

Boring. GimmeGimmeGimme. NowNowNow.

I don’t want to disable drive sleep because the machine does sit idle sometimes. So what’s a girl to do? Google the pmset options and figure out how to fix this annoyance, that’s what. Turns out, it’s totally configurable (when you have “Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible” enabled):

sudo pmset -a disksleep 40

You can take a look at what your basic settings currently are with:
sudo pmset -g

Now my disks won’t spin down for 40 minutes. So if I wander off to lunch, they will spin down. If I’m just taking a bit too long to get back to an ingest/capture/encode, I don’t have to wait for each drive to spin up and the volume (and machine) to become ready. This works for any drives that are directly controlled by the machine (be it a Mac Pro or a laptop). It’s not relevant to any RAID which is hung off a controller card or enclosure with an in-built controller.

Just thought I’d share. Especially since I haven’t posted anything here in ages…

Talking up to your customers

// August 19th, 2010 // Comments Off on Talking up to your customers // Rambling, tech

Frankly, I think RED could have handled their current RED-DRIVE/RED-RAM supply (or lack thereof) problem a bit better than it has. Case in point, the latest which amounts to ‘stop whining’.
The latest response -or- Read from the start
(Sorry to single you out, Brent, but the sword is in your hands and you’ve fallen on it willingly.)

I made an off-the-cuff remark that they’d been taking customer service lessons from AT&T; a demeanor often described as “we’re not happy ’til you’re not happy”. But, that’s actually a bit harsh in that, frankly, I don’t think they’re even thinking about their ‘front-facing’ appearance at all. I don’t follow RED like I used to (mostly because the product I am/was interested in hasn’t shipped yet) but I still watch with interest when they make announcements. They are unique in their customer interfacing practices. And this time… I don’t think it’s gone very well. So, RED, here’s a favour from me to you:

My idea of a better reply to RED customers about the removal of large storage options from the RED store before any replacement option is available. Let me see if I can help you lads with some ’empathy for your customers 101′.


I’d like to try to answer some of your criticisms and concerns as best I can. While it’s clear that, by the very fact that you as customers have raised this issue, there’s a real concern over the recent removal of RED-DRIVE and RED-RAM from our store, we want to explain as best we can why this was necessary. As you know RED has traditionally been on the bleeding edge of camera technology and we do this with a small staff compared to other companies. As such, sometimes we have to make decisions that shift our focus and this sometimes means moving engineering and product work to focus on new, better technologies for the future.

As most of you no doubt know, we’re right on the cusp of releasing some new hardware that will change how many of our existing accessories relate to the overall line. And may change many things about shooting with our cameras, not the least of which are storage requirements. Part of our change of focus, along with the normal supply issues we face with accessories that require outside vendors (drives, flash, etc.) has caused us to, some feel prematurely, stop taking new orders for RED-DRIVE and RED-RAM (we are still fulfilling existing order and providing servicing). We want to assure you that relief is on the way in the form of larger 64GB CF cards as well as some new storage technologies we can’t discuss just yet. We hope you’ll understand the latter and trust us on that.

We’ve often asked you – our working customers who, we understand, have immediate needs in your day-to-day work – to wait, to be patient and trust us and that we would make it all worthwhile in the end. As with the RED-ONE, which was a long but ultimately fulfilling wait for many of you, we hope you’ll bear with us through this growth bump as we re-tool for an even more awesome future. Please watch the site and forums and we’ll keep you posted when new storage solutions are ready to shop.


The Setup aka

// May 16th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Represent, tech

maggie mcfee
Good heavens. Through some sort of temporarl anomaly or hole in spacetime, I’ve wound up on The Setup (

Read it here, if you insist:

In unrelated news, I just posted a candid ‘behind the scenes’ video of James “The Amazing” Randi from a shoot at NECSS 2010 we just did:

Read more nonsense at The Outhouse.