Third-world countries have better internet then me!

We moved into a brand new home about 3 months ago. Most people would have checked out the comms infrastructure in the area prior to buying. Silly me however assumed that being only 20km from the center of Perth city we would be able to achieve decent DSL speeds. Well… I can tell you that no matter how close you are to the city, it is always wise to check out the telephone exchange in your suburb. After moving in and being sold “ADSL2+” we were very disappointed with the speeds and began looking for alternatives. This is my journey…


"ADSL2+"

After moving in I contacted our Telecom company as you do, and requested ADSL2+ be installed. After a few days sure enough we had been setup with ADSL2+ and a 1000Gb Monthly data plan. I was pretty excited that the service had been setup so quickly, however the joy was short lived after I ran a speedtest… 1.6Mbps … consistently.

To keep the story short, I went back and forward with the telecom company tech support to see if it was a fault or just the standard. As it turns out they could not offer any better speeds into my residence. The company ended up refunding everything because it was not even possible to use the data in a month with speeds like that.

We all have “that mate” who boasts about his internet speed, and it just so happens my mate has up to 100Mbps and is only 900m away. (Yes….devastating I know…). So I hit him up to see if we could pipe some traffic over to mine. But first I needed to see if we had “Line of sight” (LOS) between the two houses. This is what we had to work with.

~900m shot, one house elevated above the other, a few parks in the way. Easy you say! well….it seems the trees are the limiting factor here. We have large pockets of trees in the way.

What I will say about the Airgrids though is that they are super simple to assemble. (Tool-Less design) and really fast to get up and running. With the Airgrid having the radio inside the feed-horn, all you require is a piece of cat5 and the POE injector and your in business. I foresee the Airgrids being used in rural environments with direct LOS to the target. I would probably look elsewhere if I was trying to push further then 10-15km though.


5Ghz (Make note to self: 5Ghz does not like trees!)

My first attempt at setting up the link failed miserably. Now 5Ghz obviously gives us the most throughput. But with the gear I had, I was unable to even achieve a link.

I purchased the Airgrids for an economical $99ea. Hopeful I may achieve even half the 80Mbps suggest on the ubiquiti planner. The Airgrids are a single channel radio operating in the 5Ghz unlicensed band. For the price and output they appeared to be a good bet. Me being a bit of a novice though didn’t take into account the “tree” effect on 5Ghz. It seems that there is a substantial difference in punching power between 5Ghz and say 900Mhz. (Which I ended up with!)


2.4Ghz (Success - But only just! Not our final solution)

Since 5Ghz for me was a total failure, I decided to give 2.4Ghz Unlicensed a crack. The first thing I want to say is that I did not use rockets with rocket-dish antennas. Everyone has told me, “you would be surprised how much better the good gear works” and I agree, however with a $1200+ outlay I decided to try single channel radios first. I could get my hands on some Ubiquti bullets and some cheap 28dBi grid antennas to test the link first.

I did have initial success getting the links up and running, however no matter what I did I was unable to improve the signal strength. I tried to get as much elevation as I could on each roof mount, I tried lowering the channel widths etc etc. At times I would get a solid 5Mbps of internet traffic but most of the time I would equal my 1.6Mbps that I had with DSL.

Maybe I could double the throughput with Ubiquti MIMO Rockets and dishes, but I was still weary to spend money on the gear only to experience the same “flutter” that I was on single channel gear.


900Mhz (Winner Winner! For this link anyways.)

A mate of mine suggested I give 900Mhz radios a go to see how that went. I was starting to see that as we stepped down the frequency range the “punching” power through the trees was indeed getting better. However using the 900Mhz band in Australia is a little bit tricky and you have to be careful with your setup so that you do not break the law. From what I can tell, 922Mhz is the only frequency you are allowed to use and can use up to 10Mhz channel width on this frequency. Thus the throughput is lowered significantly. However If I can still achieve 20Mbps of actual throughput then I’m still winning.

The other consideration is the power levels. You really need to drop the power (Most 900Mhz Ubiquti radios that come out of Australia are limited by firmware so you cannot push the limits anyhow.) From what I can tell some of the 3G mobile services sit on the 900Mhz range and the ACMA does not want unlicensed users to interfere. Which makes sense.

With all that in mind, if you have another radio sitting on 900Mhz close by you could be in trouble because you cannot move from 922Mhz.

So our initial testing saw us setup 2 x 900 Rockets with the MIMO 16dBi Yagi. We had it sitting on the roof and it already had a link. Not very good but was in. Once we got it up the mast and semi aligned we could see straight away that a lot of the “flutter” had disappeared and the signal strength was sitting solid. A quick speed test saw us get a solid 10mbps on a 5Mhz channel width. This put a smile on my face.


Some Unreal Footage

Just recently I managed to find some time to head down to my mates place in Fingal, NSW. To most Fingal seems like a bit of a trek, but what I have noticed recently is that the Gold Coast has pretty much all merged all the way down the coast and now it just doesn’t seem that far to get to Fingal. It was a nice winters day with little to no wind. Checkout the video of the Phantom 4 performing flawlessly.


Watch in HD!


Choppy Preview Playback in Adobe Premier Pro

Over the last couple of weeks I have been playing with Adobe Premiere Pro with varying results. The biggest problem I have run into is the preview of a sequence becoming choppy after a few seconds of playback. After reading MULTIPLE forum posts and articles on this matter I still have not found a complete solution. What I plan to do is take note here what I have tried and what has been suggested to me. Feel free to comment with any further tips. On a Side note, I am working with Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014.


1. Changing Playback Preview Settings

If you click on the sequence you are using then navigate to the top “Sequence” Menu item, select “Sequence Settings” and navigate down to “Video Previews”. You will notice that it is stuck on “I-Frame” and is greyed out. You need to change the “Editing Mode” to “Custom” and then you can select anything other than I-Frame. What you also need to do is change the resolution down low to something like 640×360.

This technique has been reported to work, however I am still having a few issues with it. After you have set these settings you may still need to delete any previews that have been generated and delete the cache.


2. Change Renderer to Software only

In case your GFX/GPU is not upto task, you can try using “Software” only as the Renderer. Go to “File”, “Project Settings”, “General” and select the “Video Rendering and Playback” drop down. Switch to “Mercury Playback Engine Software Only” Click the image to see the exact settings.


3. Render the Sequence

After a bit of reading it seems that those with inadequate hardware (me included) will need to render the clips that you have inserted into your sequence. From what I can tell this “rendering” process pulls all your clips together and brings them down in size/resolution etc etc and makes the preview playable. If anyone wants to enlighten us further as to exactly what is happening here then please feel free.

To get this done you will need to use the “in” and “out” markers. (Shortcut keys ‘I” and “O” funnily enough) Once you have selected the section of your sequence to be rendered using the markers, you then can press “Enter” and the process will begin. I had a few issues with pressing enter as it was just playing that section of the sequence for me. So instead I go to “Sequence” on the top ribbon bar and click “Render In and Out”. This will begin to render your sequence between the markers you set.

You will then notice that the line above the clips turns green and you should then get much better playback in the preview window. This does not effect your final export or rendering of the clips.


4. If editing from a laptop, disconnect your dock or USB 3.0 Display Link Cable

So, I think I may have solved one of my problems. Today I decided to do a bit of editing on the couch and noticed a massive improvement in the preview window. But how can this be? I have not made any changes to the settings. I decided to head back to my desk and plug into my port extender which uses ‘USB 3.0 Display Link’ to connect the monitor….(Massive Light bulb moment!) I decided to then change my monitor properties to “Clone” mode instead of “Extend”. I noticed straight away that the choppiness still appeared on my larger monitor through the USB 3.0 display link, but it was not nearly as bad on the laptop screen. Of course I had been using the larger external screen the whole time with premiere pro. Saying all of this, it has not fixed it perfectly yet, but we are getting closer to complete resolution.


DJI Phantom 4 Drone

Last week I was trying to decide upon a hobby both my son and I could do together…Now buying a drone was not one of those “Homer Simpson – Bowling Ball” moments but a decision that would have us get out of the house a little more often. Even though the Phantom 4 Drone is a one-man show it can still be enjoyed by all the family. Well, I hope it can! So we purchased the DJI Phantom 4 last week and to our surprise only took 3 days to arrive directly from Hong Kong! (Thanks DHL and BecexTech AU) The drone arrived in good order and we did not have much trouble getting the unit up and running. It helps to spend a few hours on youtube to figure out all the issues first so that it is smooth sailing when you get it.


DJI Phantom 4 - From Zero to Hero in 5 minutes

This is a quick and nasty HD summary of day 1 with the drone…It went up, it did the whole “Auto Tracking” thing really well and we did not crash it! I’d say pretty successful. I think the biggest tip is to get all the firmware updated prior to first flight and ensure you let the drone warm up and acquire at least 10+ GPS satellites before taking off.



LED Matrix Panel Mounts

I dare say that as I play with more and more of these LED matrix panels I’ll come up with multiple ways of mounting them together. If you have more than one panel and you are bench testing then you will know about the struggle of holding these things up whilst testing. Most of these mounts are quick nasty perspex runs, however, you could easily modify them to suit your application. I’ll continue to add mounts as I make/use/design them. #Happymounting


LED Matrix Mounts

Parts designed in Solidworks 2015, also please check measurements of the LED matrix panel. There is a long list of panels coming out of China. These mounts fit the panels I have received, but may not fit yours.




JX-1212 CNC Router

A year or so ago we managed to import a 1200 x 1200 3 axes Chinese built CNC router into Australia. Obviously, you get what you pay for, this beast came in at under $7k landed. However, the build quality has been pretty good with only minor issues. But these have not affected the machine’s output at all. If we were to go again with a router of this size, I think we would have to go a full sheet size (2400 x 1200). The additional charges/costs would not be too much greater, but having the flexibility to put a full sheet down could save some time. I guess it just comes down to what your intended use is and how large the end product is.


JX-1212 Specs

  • Cut area 1200 x 1200
  • 3Kw Spindle
  • Hiwin linear bearings

  • Vacuum Table
  • Rack and Pinion X axis
  • Dust Brush/Collector

  • DSP Controller with remote.
  • Collets, Router Bits and a few other accessories.



Software and Firmware

The CNC came with a RichAuto A11 DSP. To be brutally honest it is not the most user-friendly interface. However, it is usable and after a bit of manual flicking, you will understand what the controls are. You can find more details about the RichAuto DSP here: http://www.richauto.com.cn/en/product_view.aspx?id=53

On the software side of things, I use Aspires Vetric CAM software to generate my tool-paths and convert to a format the CNC/DSP can understand. So a complete project flow might involve designing the 2D part in solid works, then import the DXF into Aspire to create the tool-paths. From here I export the tool-path to a USB drive and bring it up on the DSP controller.



Redsail X700 100W Laser Cutter

Did I mention that we just took possession of our new laser cutter? After a 4 -5 week wait for the new Redsail X700 laser from China finally rocked up. And to be honest, first impressions have been pretty good. You can still tell the unit has come from China, but the build quality is definitely better than some of our past purchases. The Redsail X700 is marketed on eBay by “Lasercheap” and at first, I was a bit wary of ordering from them. However, a mate of ours managed to do the hard yards first and got one in for us to have a look at before ordering ours. It took the guesswork out of it. I’m hoping this post will also help you make an informed decision when purchasing a laser from China.


X700 Specs

  • Cut area 500x700
  • 100W ReCi Laser
  • DSP controller

  • USB/Ethernet Interface
  • Exhaust Fan, Air/Water Pump

  • Reflect Optics
  • Red Dot



Software and Firmware

For those of you that are not sure where to start, the biggest point is to ensure you have the correct software up and running. Our machine arrived with the TL-403CB DSP controller. As at 24/5/16 we have tested up to Firmware V.L007.075 and AutoLaser v2.2.2 We had to do a bit of”googling” to find out the manufacturer of the DSP and finally found the software here: http://www.topwisdom.com.cn/en/down.asp – I cannot guarantee this will work for everyone, best to check your DSP controller first. (You can find the model number in the side access panel of the machine)


Update 13/2/17 - I fried the Laser

I got to work on a small piece that I had drawn up. Just a simple mount for an LCD screen out of perspex. The problem is that I had to do multiple pieces of the LCD mount and ended up needing 18 of the same cut. As it turns out the ambient temp of the workshop and the small reservoir of water I was using for cooling was in not way sufficient for the repetitive cuts I was doing.

The end state is that we literally cooked the laser. The laser was now shorting inside the tube…Lesson learnt…the hard way.

So, we had a spare 125W tube lying around that clearly was never going to fit length ways, however it was the same dia. Seems legit? What do you think. Any problems? apart from someone tripping on the protrusion..

I’ve also sorted a proper cooling solution using some oldish MRI cooling units that I sourced. In the past I had just been using these to cool the spindle on the CNC router.


PiFrame - Surfboard

The idea behind this was to create an aesthetically pleasing frame for an old screen that I had lying around. No chance was I going to create a standard boring square frame and hang this on the wall. It has been done before…. A few weeks prior to making the surfboard frame I had seen a really nice piece of static wall art with a massive photo framed into a board. It looked unreal and was the inspiration for this surfboard PiFrame.


Parts List

  • Suitable wooden panel approx 18-20mm thick. (I used 1800x600 Panel, 18mm thick)
  • An old LCD monitor (Preferably with buttons including power on the bottom or back. not on the front.)
  • A Solid wall mount (I used a small VESA mount extendable arm - yes it holds the weight fine....)
  • RPI2 with Raspbian installed.
  • 5v PSU - (I used good quality Meanwell enclosed PSU)
  • HDMI cable
  • USB wifi module
  • 240v IEC cable - Y cable with two inputs.


The Frame

For the Initial board I decided to use the workshop CNC router to speed up the process. The first thing we did was decide upon the shape for the board. The classic thruster shape seemed like the best choice as we could scale it down to fit the 1800×600 wooden panel easily. After drawing up the basic board shape in solid works I moved the drawing over to Aspire. We use Aspire to create our tool paths for the CNC. We then measured the outer edges of the monitor without compensation. The LCD monitor needed to press fit nicely into the wooden panel.

Cutting out the basic template is pretty quick and easy with the CNC router. After we have the basic frame, a quick sand all over using 80grit and 120 grit sandpaper…..then some wet and dry. A base coat of blue paint was applied and a light wash of white. Another quick sand to give it the ‘weathered’ look and a coat of clear varnish has the frame ready to seat the LCD monitor and electronics.


The Hardware

The cut-out for the LCD into the frame was just about perfect and the monitor pressed in nicely, at this stage we didn’t really even need to secure it to the screen as it was a very nice fit. (You may want to affix the frame to the monitor!) Mounting of the hobby enclosure was through 4 x self tapping screws. Just make sure you do not punch through the front of the frame. The electronics hobby box was a bit of a mash together as you can tell, but if you spend a bit more time on it, im sure you can mount everything a bit nicer than what I have.

For the wall mount we decided that the most flexible option was the LCD monitor swing arm. You need to be careful with the weight on these things, however after a bit of experimenting we found that the short arm was perfect and stable enough to hold the weight of the LCD, the frame and the electronics.


The Software

  • Raspbian OS on RPi
  • Sign Up for an account at DAKboard.com (This is a BETA web configuration I used to display items in the frame)
  • Install Chromium web browser on the PI. (A perfect browser for Kiosk mode - see Dakboard.com for install)

I stumbled accross a little web site that specialises in turning a monitor into a useful device that is actually asthetically pleasing. It involves setting up an account and setting the Pi’s web browser to kiosk mode and loading the page in full screen. Once loaded it can show data such as, Date, Time, Weather, iCal calendar entries and link to dropbox or flikr to display HD background photos. Not a bad setup, but i stress that it is in BETA and has a few bugs. I believe there are other project floating about that can do similar. (Post them in the comments, I’m keen to explore other possibilities.)


What Next?

Let me know if you want a detailed article on all the installation steps including step-by-step install of the software. Please comment below.


Raspberry Pi HAT design files

I have embarked on a journey to create a Raspberry Pi HAT for a little project of mine and I wanted to share a couple of things that I think may help you speed up your development time in the future. As of 11/5/16 I have tested out the DXF importing it into KiCad and using as the edge cut profile. The blank PCB’s test HATS we had made up fit nicely on the RPi2. As I push further on this journey I’ll continue to post any design files that I feel could help you with future iterations.

I can confirm that this fits onto the rPi3 also.


RPi HAT Files



How to find your Raspberry Pi IP Address

Finding the IP address of a freshly imaged Raspberry Pi can sometimes be a PITA. Especially if you do not have access to a spare HDMI cable, monitor, mouse and keyboard. In this article we will cover off on a few methods to identify your Raspberry Pi IP address on your network. As with all things there are many ways to achieve this however I have listed a few of the non complex methods here.


Assumptions

  • DHCP is enabled on your router
  • Your Raspberry Pi is plugged in via Ethernet
  • Your Pi is powered up.


Finding your RPi IP address

Sometimes finding your Raspberry Pi IP address can be a pain in the bum depending on how your network is setup and the resources you have available. Finding the IP can be achieved in a few different ways.

The first method may be to connect a monitor/keyboard/mouse to the Pi and get it to boot into the GUI. However we do not always have a HDMI cable, keyboard and mouse handy. The second method could be to connect to the Pi in its “headless” state using a third party application. Failing the above methods, you could also log into your router and check your ARP table. However each router is different and results can sometimes be confusing. I would have to say that using the third party apps is the easiest method.


Third Party App: AngryIP (My personal Favourite!)

Navigate your way to: http://angryip.org/download/ and download the AngryIP software applicable for your operating system. Install the software as per every other application you have and run.

This piece of software is super simple, input the IP range you wish to scan. eg 192.168.0.0 – 192.168.1.255 (You could probably shorten this if you know what your DHCP range is set to – Will save time sifting through 255 results)

Then click “Start”. The app will search through the whole range and display hostnames in the third column. You will be looking for something similar to the image below.


Third Party App: Adafruit Pi Finder

Download the Adafruit Pi Finder application via the github page: https://github.com/adafruit/Adafruit-Pi-Finder (Remember to select the correct version for your Windows operating system.)

Download, and unzip the directory to a familiar location on your PC. Look for the Pi Finder.exe file and run it.

Once Pi Finder is running, simply click “Find My Pi” and it will carry out a search for any Raspberry Pi’s on your network. Once complete, you will be able to see the IP address of your Pi and even access an SSH terminal direct from the app. However if like me you are not yet familiar with all the commands you can use this IP in Notepad++ to create a visual link into your Pi.


What Next?

  • Configure Network configuration files
  • Enable/Setup WiFi connection