Using C.H.I.P. as a Repetier-Server

My wife got me a 3D Printer (the MonoPrice Maker Select V2) for Christmas, and while I initially had it connected directly to my PC, when I rearranged things it was no longer close enough to be practical to connect with a USB cable.

I backed the C.H.I.P. kickstarter a while back, and had a $9 computer I had played with for a while and then not gone back to, so it seemed like a great opportunity to put it to use. I had been using Repetier-Host on my PC with its embedded Repetier-Server, so I really wanted to keep using the software as it was my favorite of the 3D printing apps I’ve tried so far.

A Small Note

If you are an experienced Linux user, this is a very straightforward process. When I went looking to see if Repetier-Server would run on the C.H.I.P. pretty much the only thing I found was “it should” and some references to running it on the Raspberry Pi. Besides the instructions themselves, another major intent of this article is just to say that yes, it works, and it doesn’t require a lot of convoluted process to set up.

Flashing your Chip

I had flashed my C.H.I.P. right after I got it so I could use the VGA adapter I got with it, but when I tried to set it up (monitor, keyboard, and all) connected to the 3D printer, I ran into some issues. It wasn’t connecting to the printer, and when I installed Repetier-Server it couldn’t find the printer. After some searching around (most of the stuff out there is for the Raspberry Pi, which is a very similar device) it seems like the first builds of the C.H.I.P. firmware didn’t include the USB Serial drivers in the kernel. Apparently, /dev/ttyUSB0 should have been a choice, and it wasn’t there.

I also hadn’t used the device in quite a while, so I figured it was a good idea to reflash my C.H.I.P. to get the latest and greatest image for the device and hope this was resolved. As it turns out, in the 4.4 firmware at least, it is!

In order to perform a flash, you will need to put your C.H.I.P. into “FEL Mode”. This is a bit of an odd step, as you will need to unfold a paperclip and plug it into a couple of the pins on your C.H.I.P. Here is my C.H.I.P. all ready for flashing:

After that is done, head over to http://flash.getchip.com and follow the wizard to flash your device. I choose the “Headless Kernel 4.4” image since I was going to set this up as a server without a monitor and keyboard. You might want a different image if you intend to make the repetier server a side-job for your C.H.I.P.

Updating C.H.I.P.

After flashing, I needed to set up my C.H.I.P. so it would connect to my wireless network. There are some excellent directions here: https://www.dexterindustries.com/howto/connect-to-chip-headless-mode/ on doing just that. Just remember to be patient after plugging in your C.H.I.P. it takes a few seconds for the computer to boot up and be available via the COM port.

Once you’ve connected to your network and can connect to your C.H.I.P. via SSH over wireless (use the same putty application you used to set up the network), it is time to perform some updates. If you logged in as root, you can follow the commands below directly. If you are using one of the desktop firmware version, you will need to preface these commands with “sudo” and provide the “chip” when the system asks for a password.

To update your installation sources and package information, run:

apt-get update

after the completes, go ahead and let the C.H.I.P. update the packages installed on the system:

apt-get upgrade

This will likely take a few minutes, as there are a lot of packages to update from the base firmware. Just let it run, and pick back up when it finishes.

Downloading Repetier-Server

Head over to http://www.repetier.com and click on the Download link under Repetier-Server. There will be a number of options here, but the one we want is for “armhf“, since the C.H.I.P. is a 32-bit ARM processor. The easiest thing to do here is to right click on the download button and copy the link to the clipboard. Then pop back over to your putty session and download the file with wget. From the command line, type “wget ” and right click to paste the URL into the putty window. Hit enter, and the file will download. In my case:

wget http://download.repetier.com/files/server/debian-armhf/Repetier-Server-0.80.3-Linux.deb

After downloading, we need to install the package:

dpkg -i Repetier-Server-0.80.3-Linux.deb

Finally, we just need to start the service:

service RepetierServer start

Troubleshooting note: I had an issue where the RepetierServer service did not start when I restarted my C.H.I.P. After connecting with putty and experimenting, I found that, for some reason, the repetierserver user had disappeared from /etc/passwd. I just reran the dpkg command above and reinstalled and didn’t have an issue after that.

Server Setup

For the rest of the setup, we need to switch to a web browser. Once the service is started, your C.H.I.P. will be running a web server on port 3344. In your browser, navigate to http://chip.local:3344 and you should see the Repetier-Server interface:

From here, click on “Add new Printer” and follow the wizard. When asked about the port to use, my server determined it automatically:

Follow through the rest of the wizard (the details will be dependent on your particular printer), and you should now have a printer now available on your server.

Connecting with Repetier-Host

Now that the server is set up, head over to https://www.repetier.com/ and download the most recent Repetier-Host for your OS. I’m using Windows, but I suspect the Mac and Linux versions are not very different.

Once you have Repetier-Host installed (you can install without the local repetier-server), we need to configure the program to connect to the server we just set up. Open up Repetier-Host and click on the “Connect” button. It should fail and ask you if you want to open the printer settings dialog (alternatively, you can select Config -> Printer Settings from the menu bar).

 On the Connection tab, select Repetier-Server as the Connector, and enter chip.local for the IP address. Now, we need to enter our API key to allow us to connect to the server. Click on the “Show” button next to the API key field and your default browser will open to the Repetier server’s connectivity screen. Copy the API key (a long hex value) and past it into the API Key field in the dialog box above and click “Connect to Continue”.

Your printer should be automatically selected. If not, click the dropdown for Printer and select it. Click on “Copy Server Config Settings” to transfer information about your printer (size, heated bed, etc) to Repetier-Host. You can review the other tabs in this dialog if you like. Again, these details will depend on your printer model. Click “Ok” when done, and you are ready to print!

 

Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

After a (very) short stint with Deadlands, my group decided to go retro and start up a new AD&D 2nd Edition campaign. Of all of the revisions to D&D, 2E is probably my favorite. Sure, it is a little wonky as far as the details are concerned, but everyone in the group is familiar with it. Having just about every supplement ever made for it helps too 🙂

I went digging through some of my old files and located a text file I had created in a DOS text editor about 25 years ago with what I considered to be a nice character sheet for 2E. I used the old DOS line-drawing characters (we didn’t have fancy things like multiple fonts back then!) At some point I had updated it to include the Skills & Powers attributes, though it still works equally well without S&P (which we aren’t using).

old-school-add-2e-character-sheet-preview

I opened the file in Word 2016 and it happily converted it and kept the whole layout. I made a few minor changes to fill the page width and saved it out as a PDF so I could use it for our new game. Also, if I upload it here, I’ll be able to find it again later! 🙂

You can download the PDF here:

Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

PICO Poker (and framework demo)

pico_poker.p8While working on my Pico-8 RPG, I decided that it would be nice to put together a simple game to work out any issues with the PICO-8 Framework I’ve been working on. To this end, I put together PICO Poker, a simple video poker game (with self drawn terrible art!)

The framework is based on XNA’s game component system, and allows you to compartmentalize your code to focus it on a specific task instead of tracking game states across a huge chunk of code. I’ve included the P8Coder source file (a nice little utility for working on large projects).

No sound, because I’m awful with the sound editor.

Consider the code (and the graphics) as CC0. Utilize them in your own projects however you wish. If you want to mention me or link back to the blog, great. If not, that’s fine too!

Download the P8C file here : Download

(NOTE: The game itself has been moved inside a “Read More” to keep it from beeping every time the page loads)

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PICO-8 Work in Progress

My last blog entry was about a fantasy console called PICO-8. Since then, I’ve been having quite a bit of fun playing around with the thing.

I’m pretty bad and drawing even “programmer graphics”, but when you only have 8×8 pixels and 16 colors, it doesn’t really matter… it isn’t going to be a masterpiece anyway!

Below is a GIF of the game I’ve been working on. It is coming along nicely considering that I haven’t really gotten a chance to put that much time into it. It is an old-school RPG, similar in style to the very early Ultima games.

So far, I’ve got the overland map and travel working, and I’ve put together a town map system that isn’t limited by the built-in map size of the PICO console (essentially unlimited town maps, though given the size of the game I don’t really need that many – but I need more than will fit into the built-in map editor).

My next project is to implement dungeons, and then flesh out the character generation and game system (stats, monsters, items, etc). Then I can populate the towns with NPCs, add quests, and the like.

pico_adventure

The beginnings of an old-school RPG for PICO-8.

Nothing actually playable at this time, but I’m getting there. Working with PICO really reminds me of coding on the Commodore 64 (though LUA is much more advanced than C=64 Basic, and alot less tedious than 6502 assembler!) In fact, this is the kind of thing I put together on a regular basis on the Commodore.

 

Fun with PICO-8

I backed the CHIP Kickstarter about a year ago, and as the shipment date for my pledge level approaches (late May, and they say they are on time), an update was posted indicating that a CHIP specific version of PICO-8 will be included with PocketCHIP. I had never heard of PICO-8, but once I knew what it was, I immediately went over and purchased a copy though their Humble store.

PICO-8_3

PICO-8’s editors are all built into the console. Here is the sprite editor used to create graphics for your games.

PICO-8 is described on the Lexaloffle website as a “Fantasy Console”, and is essentially a self-contained “emulator” for a console that never actually existed. The console is designed with extremely limited hardware/software specifications, intended to mimic a classic 8-bit environment. Developers can create custom cartridges that can be shared with other users or played on the web through the Lexaloffle forums. Each cartridge is limited to 32k, contains up to 128 8×8 pixel sprites, and a 128×32 cell world map.

PICO-8 includes a complete development environment within the program, including code editor, sprite editor, map maker, sound effects editor, and music track editor. With the full version (not the web player) you can switch over to the code and resources for any cartridge you are playing and begin editing. You can start from scratch and create your own cartridge entirely, or modify an existing game to change it in any way you wish.

Code is based on the LUA syntax, without the LUA libraries. There is a provided API that lets you play sound, display sprites, and draw maps in addition to the standard pixel and shape-oriented drawing tools.

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Windows 10 Fall Update (1511) APC_INDEX_MISMATCH

TL;DR: This page is getting a lot of views as the Win 10 deadline approaches. If you have a Dell machine, boot in safe mode or remote in via remote desktop and rename the file “C:\Program Files\Realtek\Audio\HDA\RtkNGUI64.exe”. This should allow you to boot without the blue screen.

So we rolled out the Windows 10 Fall Update (1511) to a couple of PCs at the office that were running Windows 10 RTM. Every machine appeared to upgrade fine, but once any user logged into the PC, it would throw up a frowny-face blue screen stating that “Your computer experienced a problem and needs to restart”. The “if you want to know more” reference was listed as “APC_INDEX_MISMATCH”. Searching around for this points to a driver issue, though there wasn’t really an indication of what exactly it might be.

There wasn’t enough time between the login and the blue screen to do any troubleshooting, but there were a few interesting notes:

  • The PCs could stay at the lock screen or the login screen indefinitely. The blue screen only occurred AFTER logging in. This would indicate that the issue is unlikely to be a driver, as drivers would load prior to logging in.
  • The blue screen appeared after login regardless of network connectivity. Wire plugged in or not, right after hitting the desktop the system would crash. The implication here is that the problem is something already on the PC as opposed to something running in the network logon script.
  • All of the machines were Dell Optiplex desktops, but several different models.

Taking these items together, it would seem to point to a startup program. To test that, we could boot into safe mode (which doesn’t run startup items) and disable them. Microsoft has made it quite a bit harder to get into Safe Mode on Windows 8/10 (especially since this blue screen isn’t happening during startup, so it doesn’t trigger the repair mode automatically), but that is where we needed to turn to solve the problem.

If you aren’t familiar with getting into safe mode on Windows 10 (when you can’t get to the desktop to do it through the menu, anyway), power up the machine and wait for the Windows Logo to appear and the “busy” circle to start spinning at the bottom of the screen. Hold down the power button and shut the machine off before it boots up. Repeat this process a couple of times, and instead of the spinning busy circle, the text “Starting Automatic Repair” will appear. Let this run and you will be presented with a couple of tiles on the screen. Click on the Advanced options tile, and click on Startup Options. You will be asked to reboot again. Do so, and a startup options menu will appear. Select Safe Mode (or safe mode with networking, etc).

To solve this particular problem on our Dell machines, after booting into Safe Mode, open Task Manager, click on Details, and click on the Startup tab. We started by disabling all of the startup programs and rebooting into normal mode. This allowed us to log in without the blue screen.

After that, it was just a matter of starting each of the startup items until we hit a blue screen. The culprit for us turned out to be “Realtek HD Audio Manager”. The executable is located at “C:\Program Files\Realtek\Audio\HDA\RtkNGUI64.exe”. Running this .exe file immediately blue screens every PC we have tried it on that has the fall update installed.

I’m sure there will be an update for this eventually, but since you can’t even run updates while this error persists, it can be a real pain to get your PC back in working order. You can avoid the whole problem by disabling this startup executable prior to updating to the Windows 10 Fall Update.

Windows 10 Mobile, Email, Notifications, and Microsoft Band

I recently made the jump to built 10158 of Windows 10 Mobile on my Lumia Icon phone, and one of the things it took the longest to sort out was why I wasn’t getting the same type of notifications for incoming email messages that I was on Windows Phone 8.1. I had also picked up a Microsoft Band 2 to replace my existing band, and e-mail notifications were not being pushed to it either. Digging around in W10M, I was finally able to find all of the various settings that have to be enabled to these notifications to appear (both on the lock screen, and playing notification sounds when email arrives).

The Goal

I have three email accounts loaded on my phone, and with WP8.1, I had three separate tiles on my Start screen that displayed the latest messages and new message count from each email account. I liked this, because I use my email accounts for different purposes, so having them displayed separately was helpful. Additionally, my lock screen would display new message counts for each account separately, including icons that were different enough (per account) to identify which account had new messages without unlocking the phone.

When new messages arrived in one of my email accounts, WP8.1 would play a sound (customized per account) to let me know not only that an e-mail had arrived, but if it was something I should look at sooner (a message from work) or later (a message from my old ISP account that I don’t use all that often any longer). Finally, these incoming messages would be pushed out to my Microsoft Band under WP8.1, causing a buzz and a notification screen displaying a snippet of the email.

After the move to W10M, all of this changed. Fortunately, after a bit of searching through the settings menus and the Outlook app, I was able to restore all of the above functionality and get Windows 10 Mobile handling my email accounts the way I like them.

WP_Lock_Apps

Adding Email Account Notifications

WP_Lock_Screen

What I want the Lock Screen to Look Like

The Start Screen

The first time we need to do is create separate tiles for each email account. This can be a little tricky, because (at least in the build I was using) the Pin to Start button in the logical place for it to be doesn’t work. By default on Windows 10, all email accounts are collapsed into a single application now, and you switch accounts via the “Hamburger menu” in the upper left corner of the screen. However, when viewing an email account, if you click on the ellipsis in the bottom right (…) to bring up the menu, there is a “Pin to Start” option which allows you to create a tile for just the current email account. One problem solved!

The Lock Screen

Email counts on the lock screen is next, and fortunately it is pretty easy to set up. Open the Settings app, and select Personalization. From there, select Lock Screen. Scroll down, and you should see a heading for “Choose apps to show quick status”. You probably have the phone and SMS messaging already listed here along with three boxes with plus signs (+) in them. Click on one of these, and you will be presented with a list of possible apps to display status from. If you haven’t split your email accounts up (see Start Screen above), you can pick “Outlook Mail” here to consolidate all of your counts into a single lock screen icon.

Otherwise, pick the names assigned to your individual accounts when you added them to the Outlook Mail app. In my case, I end up with three different icons (Outlook, Exchange, and a generic envelope for POP mail). Two down!

Setting Custom Sounds

To give each email account its own alert sound, head back to the settings app. Select System this time, and then “Notifications & actions”. At the bottom of this screen, you should see “Show notifications from these apps”, with a list of various apps on your phone that can provide notification messages. Find the email account you want to set a sound for and tap on it to open the notification settings for that item. From here, you can select a notification sound.

The thing is (at least for me) this isn’t enough to actually make it play a sound. Or to push the notification to the Microsoft Band without enabling the Action Center icon on the band itself. To do that, we need to make one more change…

WP_Email_Notifications

Check boxes for notification banners and sounds

Beyond the Action Center

It turns out that the default for the Outlook Mail app is to only send notifications to the Action Center. If you swipe down from the top of the screen, you will see your notifications, but the sounds won’t play. In order to fix that, go back into the email account and click on the ellipsis (…) again. This time, select Settings. Tap Options, and scroll down to the bottom of the new page. You should see a section for “Notifications”, containing a toggle switch and two check boxes. Leave the “Show in action center” toggled on, and check off the (currently unchecked) boxes for “Show a notification banner” and “play a sound”.

That should do it! You should now get pop-up notifications, including per-account sounds, when you receive an email. What’s more, if you have a Microsoft Band, these notifications should now be pushed along to the band

 

Modding Fallout: New Vegas

With the release of Fallout 4 just a couple of months away, lots of people (myself included) are playing through the previous games in the franchise in anticipation. Fallout:New Vegas is a great game all on its own, but the beauty of gaming on the PC is that we don’t have to settle for games the way they were released. Mods can enhance, and sometimes completely transform, the gaming experience.

To that end, I have put together a short guide to modding Fallout: New Vegas using Mod Organizer with a number of visual improvements, extended content, and other goodies.

In the guide below, I cover most (if not all) of the installation systems you are likely to run into while using Mod Organizer. The program does a pretty good job of covering all of the types of mod packaging out there, and I use it for all of the Bethesda games I play.

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Cool Kickstarter Projects : Askrias Cube

While browsing through the current gaming-related Kickstarter projects, I came across the Askrias Cube. This is a customizable 6-sided die, that can be used either for rolling random effects or for keeping track of status effects, counters, etc in a game like Magic: The Gathering.

Askrias_Cube_Kickstarter_Image

The cube itself is made of two pieces of plastic that snap together, and each face holds an insertable plastic tile. Each tile can be customized with a sticker to represent whatever you wish. The basic pledge comes with two cubes, twenty plastic face inserts, and forty face stickers, available in several different themes.

The project is based in New Zealand, and the $12 NZ pledge works out to about $8 US. Add-ons are available for extra sets, cubes, frames, and sticker sets.

Email Clutter in Office 365

I have a personal Office 365 account, and have managed O365 in an enterprise environment for about a year now. Several months ago, Microsoft quietly introduced a feature called “Clutter” – it showed up on day as a folder in my mailbox with a single message which explained what Clutter in Office 365 is and a link to turn it on. Last week, Microsoft announced that they will be enabling the Clutter feature by default on all Office 365 mailboxes if users haven’t already specifically turned it off.

What does it do?

Clutter pays attention to how you interact with messages in your mailbox and determines what messages you are likely to ignore. As similar messages arrive in the future, it redirects them from your Inbox to the Clutter folder where you can browse through them at your leisure. If you move particular messages out of clutter and back to your inbox, it will learn that you don’t want those items to be classified as clutter and avoid doing so in the future.

How is this different from Junk E-Mail or Spam Filtering?

In a couple of ways, actually. Spam filtering usually uses pattern matching against known spam e-mail or message analysis that determines the likelihood that the message is spam. Messages that get filtered out at this point never hit your mailbox at all.

Those that make it past, but are still of questionable value may get directed to the Junk E-Mail folder. Items in this folder are restricted – they won’t download images, and you can’t click on links in an e-mail in your Junk folder. You have to move it out of Junk before you can interact with it.

Clutter works a bit differently. Items in the Clutter folder are still interactive. You can work with them just like you can with items in your Inbox.

On by Default?

Clutter is actually a pretty nice feature – I have been using it since it was released, and it tends to catch all of the automated status messages from system monitors, along with near-spam messages that make it past the various filters in place. In about two weeks, it will be enabled by default on existing O365 accounts as well as new ones. I can see this initially being a source of confusion to users, since they may not see messages they are expecting to see.

According to the announcement above, when the on-by-default goes live it will include periodic messages indicating what kinds of things are being directed to Clutter, which will be good – right now there is no indication other than the unread count number next to the Clutter field increasing.

There is a PowerShell command included in the announcement above to disable Clutter for your existing user accounts, but as you create new accounts you will have to return to PowerShell if you want to disable Clutter for them – it will be on for newly created accounts with no way to make “off” the default setting for your tenant.

The other good option, of course, is to just let your users know it is coming. This can be especially important considering they will begin receiving e-mail messages with links in them that they are not expecting to receive otherwise – and how many times have we urged users to never click on links in e-mails they weren’t expecting to get 🙂

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