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


Edit files on your Raspberry Pi the easy way

For us Linux “late-adopters” it can be a daunting task of carrying out a routine file transfer to our Raspberry Pi from our Windows PC. However, the learning curve is not so great. There are plenty of easy tools for achieving this feat. If you have not been introduced to Notepad++ then we will give you a quick introduction. We will also educate you on a small plugin inside of Notepad++ that allows you to run a lightweight FTP client. This client is really only suitable for your scripting files or editing configuration files but you will learn the basics of how FTP works and then have the skills to upgrade to a more robust FTP client for moving other files onto the Raspberry Pi.


Prerequisites

  • Install Notepad++ on your windows PC. https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
  • Download Putty. Link Below
  • Ensure your Raspberry Pi is plugged into your network via Ethernet (cat5)
  • Power up your Pi
  • Ensure your LAN has DHCP enabled...most routers will have this set as default.


Finding your RPi IP address

If you already have your raspberry pi on the network and you know its IP address then that is half the battle. Alternatively, if you have just finished installing Raspbian and you are not sure what to do from here then do not panic!! Check this article to find your IP address. https://dirtyoptics.com/find-raspberry-pi-ip-address/


Method 1: Notepad++ (My Favourite!)

Navigate your way to https://notepad-plus-plus.org/ and download the latest release for Notepad++. Install as per any other windows application and run it up. You will notice it looks very similar to the generic windows text editor however it does allow for some syntax highlighting. A handy little editor also if you are just starting to dive into Python and other coding languages.

Once Notepad++ is open, navigate to: Plugins / NppFTP / Show NppFTP Window. (If you do not see NppFTP you may need to go to the plugin manager and install it)

Once you have the NppFTP window open you will need to create an SFTP profile for your RPI. Please note that when SSH is enabled on your Pi it also opens up port 22 for you to utilize SFTP over the SSH connection. (Well that’s my understanding anyhow!).

  • Insert Pi IP
  • Port 22
  • Select SFTP
  • Username: pi (If left as default)
  • Password: raspberry (If left as default)

After you have set it up, click close/save. Find and click the connect button in the NppFTP window and connect to the profile you just set up. After a few seconds, you should be able to view a “windows like” file tree of your Pi. You can also double-click on any text file and edit directly in the Notepad ++ editor. When you click “save” it will automatically upload that file back to the Pi. Particularly useful when editing Python code and you want to run directly on the Pi. This can be dangerous at times if updating important configuration docs. Ensure you back them up first.


Method 2: Using SSH/Terminal and 'Nano' Editor

If you are feeling adventurous, and want to use SSH to edit configuration files then strap yourself in. For the ‘un-initiated’, Linux commands differ heavily from the standard Win DOS commands. You will notice some similarities but for the most part, it’s a bit of a learning curve. We are not going to cover absolutely everything here but the basics for editing files whilst you are in a terminal session. (Accessing you Pi directly)

The first thing you will want to ensure is that your RPI is powered up, Plugged into your network and you know the IP address. Assuming you have installed Raspbian onto your Micro SD and inserted the SD card prior to powering up we can then begin to access the Pi via SSH. (SSH = Secure SHell). This is pretty much a standard way of accessing your Raspberry Pi if you do not have a monitor available. SSH is enabled by default as part of the Raspbian build.

You will now be required to download and open a small terminal program called ‘Putty’ (There are other, but this is the most popular) http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/download.html run the putty.exe from your PC and input the following information.

  • Hostname/IP Addres - Insert your RPI IP
  • Port 22
  • Select SSH

Now that you have logged into your Raspberry Pi via SSH its time to start Nano. Nano is a Linux command line text editor. It is pretty simple to get running and use. It can be run in two different ways.

sudo nano

This will create a blank text entry. The correct syntax to follow is:

sudo nano /path/to/filename

If you use a path that is not valid or it cannot find the file you want to edit, then a blank entry will be created.

If you wanted to edit the Raspberry Pi config file, then the command would look like:

Now that you have accessed the config file with nano, you can go through and make your changes. Use the arrow keys to navigate through the text file, and the usual backspace/enter to move things around.

It would be wise to make a backup file of this configuration first.

Once complete, hit CTRL-X to exit, then Y to save. It will overwrite the old file with your new one.



What Next?

  • Download and try winSCP to transfer images and larger files.
  • Setup an FTP server on the Raspberry Pi.
  • Utilise a standalone FTP client to connect to the Raspberry Pi. (Filezilla/cuteFTp etc etc)