2015/01/24

3D printers – about time I got one eh?

Since I've been selling a 3D printer program (PhotoToMesh), since 2010, more than 4 years ago, I thought it might be time to get hold of a 3D printer myself, instead of relying on indulgent friends and beta testers. Here in Italy it was cheaper to by from a local distributor than Amazon.it, since if the distributor has a shop nearby, you can save 50 Euros on delivery by going to pick it up yourself. So it cost 599 Euros for my XYZPrinting DaVinci 1 3D Printer.

Foolishly I had not thought to read the measurements of it, and when I saw the box in the shop I thought: Ah, what do I do now? I had to push down the back the seats of my little Kalos car to get the box to fit in it. I found a place for it at home, but with difficulty.

Now when I buy things that cost that much I always feel a bit sick in my stomach. Am I doing the right thing? Will it work? Is it a waste of money?

I decided to set it up the following morning, when I'd be bright and intelligent. Ok, stop smiling wryly, when I'd be brighter and less stupid than I am in the evening.

I carefully unpacked the printer and got the demo print going, for this there was no need of a PC. And imagine my dismay when the big plastic box (full of motors, pulleys, an extruder and a hot print bed) started flashing at me and making an annoyed sound.

"There I told you!" I said to myself. "It was a waste of money! Now look!"

The first ever print with this machine had stopped within 10 minutes and the display panel was telling me:


Ah. Error 0040. Issue 0040. Of course. Now what? None of the XYZPrinting documents were of any help. The XYZPrinting site was not of any help. 

Only when I went to SoliForum  (a 3d printing forum) did I get help from other owners. They told me to take the back off the DaVinci printer and make sure the SD card was in correctly. In pictures:


I imagine that the tape over the SD holder is there to stop the SD card actually falling off the main board. During shipping the box must have got knocked about a bit. The chip felt a bit loose so I took it out and put it back in again, and voila! It works! Thanks SoliForum!

So, like the VEHO USB mircroscope I've posted about here, some decent hardware is let down severely by poor documentation.

2015/01/14

Linked-In and other pep talks only tell you half the truth.

Many articles on LinkedIn are just disguised pep talks. These LinkedIn articles, and other self help courses, have titles like:

  • 10 ways to become a successful manager.
  • 5 methods to get rich quick.
  • 7 habits of highly successful people



I read "Irrationality, the enemy within" by Stuart Sutherland many years ago. It is such a good book it has been reissued:





In it he tells the story of a doctor who prescribes a new medicine to a patient and the patient gets better. The doctor concludes that the medicine works. The problem is not only was that just a single case, but the doctor has no information on the other 75% of outcomes. The whole 100% is as follows:

  1. I prescribe the medicine and they get better.
  2. I don't prescribe the medicine and they get better (anyway).
  3. I prescribe the medicine and they get worse (anyway).
  4. I don't prescribe the medicine and they get worse.



What the pep talks tell you are point 1 above, and sort of hint at point 4. They leave out information about the outcomes described in points 2 and 3. So at most they tell you 50% of the story. 





And some invented figures:







If the figures above were true then it would be better not to follow the pep-talk advice. But we never get these figures, we only get the success figures. (But consider how many people win olympic medals compared with the number of competitors. I wonder how many losers had the same training as the winners...?).

Here's one by someone who can't spell and does not check his work.

2015/01/05

Long shadows at noon, and Wittgenstein.

I was driving at noon one day in December and the passenger by my side said "It seems like summer!" The sun was out, the sky was blue, we were inside a car so we could not feel the outside temperature. I was amazed, though, that my companion had not noticed that the shadows were too long for a northern Italian Summer lunchtime.


I mentioned this, tactful little sod that I am, and my passenger got shirty and huffy with me.

And I was reminded of an anecdote about Wittgenstein:

“Tell me," Wittgenstein's asked a friend, "why do people always say, it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth." Wittgenstein replied, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

Now, I must admit, I've had to read the previous paragraph three times before really grokking it. And, I wondered, if Wittgenstein had been born 1000 years earlier whether he would guessed the truth. It's easy to know things once you, er, know them.

And I was reminded that once or twice in my life I've had the sensation of feeling the Earth's surface, and the Earth itself, rolling away from the Sun at sunset. I don't mean that I just knew it, but I felt it, and suddenly you feel small on a planet swimming in infinity, with emptiness above and below. You see the sun as it is, a very close star.

You can try to reproduce the effect, (I know I have) by watching a sunset and imagining the sun fixed and your body, and the ground on which you stand, rolling backwards away from it. It might work.

(Some say the quote by Wittgenstein is an invention of Tom Stoppard, by the way.)

2015/01/04

Three Fantasies


I can't remember when the first one came to me, but the fantasy is of an infinite plane of rural England, always green, and villages with pubs which sell beer which never give you a headache. I'd walk from village to village under a not too hot sun, tasting the local brews, slightly tipsy, forever happy.

 
The second one came while I was working for Inmos Parallel Processors in Tokyo. Our bosses, when visiting Japan, would take me and another bloke out for a drink at night in the posher, taller, hotels in the center of Toyko. So on the top floor, with Mai Tais and/or Singapore Slings in hand, we'd look out over the traffic below and as far as we could see the cars and lit neons on small bars would stretch to the horizon. And with the alcohol in my brain I'd somehow dream of becoming (after death? after work?) a spirit hanging in the air over the busy streets of Tokyo, watching the lit up nightlife for ever.



The third fantasy comes when I look at certain wine labels here in Italy. I prefer the ones with rural scenes on them, because as I sip the red wine (usually red wine has these scenes) I imagine living in that Italian countryside, maybe in the castle or villa near the vinyards. Again for ever and ever. Some Italian water bottles have that effect on me too.



So my ideal heaven would be a world 33% infinite English countryside, 33% infinite Tokyo nightlife, and 33% infinite Italian vinyards.