Ferrules and New Belts for the ShapeOko

Yes, more mods and accuracy calibration for my ShapeOko mill.

There was a discussion on the forum about how it was a bad idea to tin the ends of wires when they were going to be clamped in screw terminals and that you should use ferrules instead.

Since I didn’t own a ferrule crimper, and I always enjoy a chance to buy a new tool, I started looking around. Man, crimpers are expensive! There was a crimper posted in the forum thread for not a lot of money so I ordered one. It works great.

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Range Trip – 20140407

I had to take my Mother to the eye doctor today, and since she lives near the Oakdale Gun Club, I brought along my smoke wagons (and the 1911.)

I got to the range around 4:30 in the afternoon and I had the whole pistol range to myself! Whoo!

So I setup my camera and shot some video.

The first thing I shot was my replica 1858 Remington in .44 caliber.

1858I set the camera up down by the target and shot some video.

I didn’t do too badly considering I hadn’t shot that pistol for over a year.


Next I ran six rounds through my replica Colt 1851 Army in .44 caliber. I’m happy to report that the new front sight I made for it is spot on at 10 yards (no photo of the target though.)


While I was changing targets I found some of the spent wads that I was shooting. They made it almost all the way to the target.

wadsNext I hung up some quart bottles full of water and took some shots at them. The 1851 didn’t do much impressive damage, and mis-fired for two cylinders, so I’m not posting that video. I think I need to shim the nipples out on that gun.

So I grabbed the 1911 and shot the bottles with that.

1911Here is some video. Not the most impressive shooting, I’ll admit.

Black powder is fun to shoot, but it’s messy and slow. But any time at the range is good time.

3DMG Props – Complete!

I know there have not been any more updates about building these, but it’s because we had a tight deadline and were working hard.

But I’m happy to say that as of yesterday evening, the 3DMG props are finished!

Below the fold are some (not very good) photos of the finished project. I’ll get some more taken outdoors when it gets nice out again.

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Team ShapeOko!

Check it out – I’m officially a member of Team ShapeOko now.

I guess that’s what happens when you volunteer to host the website, wiki and forum.

I’ve also been asked to contribute some blog posts, so keep your eyes open for that in the future.

I’d like to give a big Thank You to Edward Ford, the designer of the ShapeOko, for letting me join the team, and for designing such a great machine!

3DMG Props – Progress Report – 3/13

Over the past few days we have done the following:

Made the nozzle – I just grabbed a piece of 3/4″ pine, drew a shape that looked good, cut it out on the band saw and rounded the edges on my belt sander. Then I used a 1/4″ Forstner bit to rough out the nozzle and some chisels and gouges to clean it up.

05-nozzleI then followed the same procedure to make the two devices that shoot the grappling hooks.


We started gluing up the scabbards too. We glued up two halves and then had to stop.

07-boxex 08-boxesTonight I started making the swords. I cut out a bunch of parts on the ShapeOko. The sword handles are going to be a glue up of several pieces of 1/4″ plywood.

Here are the center sections and two of the little hilts that go on the blade.10-handle-ctr

Here are two of the outer plates and the guards.

11-handle-platesThese are the ends of the spare blades that stick out of the scabbards.

09-blade-endsNext I had to fit the brake levers to the sword handle. I cut the plastic lever housing up on the bandsaw thus.

14-lever3And then notched the sword handle plates to suit.

13-lever2And this is what it looks like all together. It’s not glued at this point because I want Stefanie to look at it first. I think the handle is too wide, but we can cut it down.

15-sword-trialAnd that’s the progress up until now.

Making 3DMG Props – The Beginning

What the heck is 3DMG you may ask?

3DMG stands for 3-Dimensional Maneuver Gear. Still in the dark?

Both of my daughters are into Cosplay. What is Cosplay? According to Wikipedia, Cosplay is “short for “costume play” … a performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.”

Cosplay is usually based on Japanese Manga (comic books) and Anime (animated videos.) People who are into Cosplay also attend conventions to see other people. There is one coming up in April called Anime Detour.

3DMG comes from an Anime called “Attack on Titan”. It’s a set of equipment that allows the protagonists to fly around, using cables, grappling hooks and jet assist. It also includes swords with replaceable blades that are stored in large scabbards that have air (fuel?) tanks on top of them for the jet.

My older daughter wanted to make a set of 3DMG props in time for the Anime Detour convention. That’s 30 days from now.

Just to give you an idea, here is the tutorial that she sent me.

And this is a video – at about 1:00 you can watch them use the gear.

More fun below the fold.

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Recent Computer Trials and Tribulations

I’ve been having a rough week with my computers.

It started out alright on Saturday when I successfully upgraded my main Ubuntu server. The upgrade consisted of the following:

  • Moved to the other Dell 860 chassis which has a 3.0GHz CPU instead of the 2.8GHz I was running on (every little bit helps.)
  • Re-installed the OS and applications from scratch – this allowed me to migrate from the 32 bit version (no idea why I was on the 32 bit version in the first place) to the 64 bit version of Ubuntu LTS and all the latest packages.
  • Moved from a single 500GB hard drive to a pair of RAID 1 mirrored 2TB drives. Lots of space and fault tolerant. What’s not to like?
  • Rsynced all the home dirs, databases and config files over from the old server.

That move was quite successful.

On Sunday I migrated a somewhat large site to my server. www.shapeoko.com had been hosted on a t1.tiny instance at Amazon Web Services and it was dog-slow. I decided that since my server was running all the time anyway that I would volunteer to host it.

So I rsynced the files and dumped the MySQL databases and got it up and running on my server. It was actually pretty easy and I was feeling good about it.

The ShapeOko forums and Wiki get a fair amount of traffic, certainly lots more than my blog does, but the server was churning along with no issues.

Until around 9:40 in the morning on Tuesday, when my server and all the sites on it fell off the internet.

My ISP decided to perform service-interrupting maintenance (replacing some fiber switches) in the middle of the day. You can read about that here: Three hour fiber outage this morning.

So, after a three hour outage….

About 9:00 or so in the evening I was instant messaging with the owner of the ShapeOko forum, asking a question about a config when I clicked on the admin panel link and it froze. In the space of about two minutes my server went from a normal load of about 1.5 to 115 and was swapping like mad. It was so un-responsive that I had to go down in the basement and hit the power button to reboot it.

I still don’t know what caused the issue. The logs are all normal and all the graphs just go vertical. I have a suspicion that the CrashPlan backup software has a memory leak, but it has not repeated the problem, so I don’t know for sure. I tweaked the Apache configs a bit to reduce the number of workers and to restart them sooner in case there is a leak somewhere else too.

Then on Wednesday I was with Roz at TCJRD roller derby practice. I had brought my laptop along and was doing some work on my servers at home. I had built another server that afternoon and was going to move graphite, the graph web pages and the awstats display pages to it to reduce some of the load on the main web server.

I was working along and had gotten to the point where I wanted to add a NAT to my firewall for the new server. I typed in the IP address and hit “apply”…

I immediately lost all connections to any server in my house. Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot?

Luckily Liz was at practice too, so I packed up and headed home. I expected to see the server or firewall completely crashed, but no, everything looked fine. Except I could not get out to the internet. Was it the ISP again?

I did some troubleshooting,  including rebooting the fiber modem, removing the NAT (not that it should have been the issue, but it was the last thing I changed,) and rebooting the firewall. Rebooting the firewall was painful because the disks had not been checked for 285 days and it forced an fsck. Root wasn’t too bad, but the /var/log partition is 79GB and that took about 15 minutes to check. It’s not the fastest of disks, and it’s not the fastest of machines.

Still no internet.

So I called the ISP. Again, surprisingly, I got to a tech right away, and again, surprisingly, he was competent and helpful. He looked at things on his end and said “that’s weird, I’m showing that your firewall has a MAC address with an asterisk in it.” (paraphrased.) He had me reboot the firewall and modem again (it went faster this time,) but he still saw the weird (impossible) MAC address. So finally he flushed the ARP cache on the switch and bada-bing, I had internet again.

I kept him on the line while I added the NAT to my firewall again, but it did not repeat the weird performance.

That outage lasted almost exactly an hour.

So, if you are keeping track at home, since I started hosting www.ShapeOko.com I’ve had three outages for a total downtime of more than four hours. Two of the outages have no explanation as to their causes.

I was totally frustrated after Wednesday’s outage.

Considering that in the past I’ve had uptimes on my firewall and servers of more than 250 days, I’m starting to feel picked on.

On the other hand, today I got all the graphite, graphs and awstats stuff up and running on the second server, so that goes in the ‘win’ column I think.

A Quick Laptop Stand

My co-workers were ribbing me about using two reams of paper to raise my laptop on my desk, so I decided to make a quick stand out of some 1/4″ plywood. It’s cheap plywood, so this is more of a proof of concept than a finished product, but I think it turned out okay.

IMG_0954_smI drew it up quick in LibreCad. The holes are just decorative, they have no function. It’s about a simple as I could make it.

IMG_0955_smIt took about 45 minutes to draw it up and then use CamBam to generate the toolpaths to mill it on my ShapeOko.

IMG_0956_smLooks like it will do the trick!

Three hour fiber outage this morning

USInternet decided to do some service-interrupting scheduled maintenance this morning.

Apparently they swapped out some fiber switches.

All-in-all I was down for three hours. Needless to say, I was not happy. So I sent them an email:

At approximately 9:40 this morning my fiber connection stopped working.

I was at work so I couldn’t do any troubleshooting right away.

I headed home around Noon and since my connection was still down at 12:20 or so I called the support line. I did get connected almost immediately to a tech, and he discovered the problem right away, so kudos for that.

The connection came back up at approximately 12:45 pm.


The outage appears to have been service-interrupting, scheduled, maintenance. In the middle of the day. With no notification of your customers.

I am paying elevated prices for “Business Class” service. The term “Business Class” implies to me that it should include business class up-time, during business hours. I’m not expecting five nines of up-time. But with today’s 3 hour outage you are barely going to make three nines.

When I asked the tech if there was an email list I could get on for maintenance announcements he told me that he wished there were and that he would like to be on it too. So apparently you do scheduled maintenance and don’t even tell your front-line support people so they can answer questions.

I’ve been in IT for over 14 years now, and if I did this kind of stuff I’d get fired. This is the kind of stuff I would expect from “Jim Bob’s Internet and Bait Company”, not a large company like US Internet.

I understand that most of your customers are residential and you would expect them to be at work at 9:40 am. But you did force me into “Business Class” service since I host some web sites, and this outage did impact me. 9:40 am is pretty much prime-time for businesses.

I also understand that it’s difficult to separate business customers from residential customers in a mainly residential area. But there are quite a few small businesses in the area you serve, and it would surprise me if some of them don’t have your service and if they were not also impacted by this outage.

Service interrupting maintenance should always be scheduled for off-hours, typically around 2:00 am. Nobody likes to do work at 2:00 am, but as an IT professional I can’t count the number of times I’ve been up swapping hardware or performing software upgrades in the early morning hours. It comes with the profession.

Additionally, no matter when you are going to perform service-interrupting maintenance you should have a method of notifying your customers. Mailing list servers are easy to setup and run, and I’d rather have you over-communicate to me instead of none at all.

Up until now I’ve been very happy with the USI Fiber service. It’s fast, it has low latency, and until today it just worked. I was happy to recommend it to my friends and brag about the price and the speed.

Today I’m disappointed.

I’m hoping that you will forward this email to someone who is in position to make some better policy decisions about maintenance in the future.

At the least you should setup a notification email list that your customers can subscribe to.