Quick and simple laptop mod – a tape measure

Here is a very quick post to show an idea that I had recently.

Its so small, that It’s hardly worthy of a post, but I thought someone might find it interesting.

Often, I’ll find it handy to know how big something is while surfing the net, or trying to size up something I’m looking at, and I’ll either need to go find a ruler, or make a rough guestimation of the size.

Then I had a brainwave, what if I stuck a ruler to my laptop?

printable rulers can be found at various places on-line, and I found a neat short ruler at http://web.ncf.ca/jim/scale/, which is the one pictured below:


Ruler closeup

I printed it out, measured it for accuracy, and adjusted the size a few times and printed again until the accuracy was close enough for my liking before cutting it out and sticking it down with double sided tape.


The little ruler was a neat size, but I thought a longer ruler might be helpful, so I was going to find a larger ruler to print out, then I thought of an easier idea:

Ikea give away paper rulers at their stores, and I’ve had a bunch kicking around for ages. I thought I could save myself some trouble, and use one of those.

Instead of printing off another ruler, this time, I chose to go the lazy route, and cut up an Ikea measuring tape.

I split it down the middle, so i could use both the inches, and the centimetre  measurements, and stuck them down to the laptop with double sided sticky tape like before.

Laptop displaying rulers

As you can see from the pictures, the results aren’t exactly super neat and fancy, but they do exactly what I want them to do.

Hopefully someone can find this simple idea useful.

Purple Custom Xbox Controller

Its been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d throw up a quick post of a relatively quick project my wife and I did this last weekend.


Disassembling the controller was fairly easy, the most difficult part was getting out the security torx screws, without a small enough security torx driver. Here’s a tip: you can just use a flat head driver small enough to fit in one side of the screw. There are 7 screws, the 6 obvious ones, and then one under a small label in the battery compartment. That last one can fool you if you don’t go looking for it.

After getting the controller unscrewed, next step is to pull all the electronics out, and wash the plastic. The controller we were using was by no means a new one, so it got a good scrub in soapy water to make sure there was no grease and oil left on it.

I was too impatient to let the plastic air dry, so I fired up my air-compressor to blow the water off them. It makes a short effort of drying everything off.

With the plastics dry, it was painting time. I sprayed a primer on all the parts and then left it out in the sun while we went to the shop to get the colours for the project. Diana chose the colours for her controlelr, a nice purple, and a complimenting pink for highlights. The paints we chose in the end didn’t actually need a primer coat, but It was already done, and shouldn’t hurt things. When choosing your paint, its usually a good idea to get a good quality paint. Its a bit thicker than the cheapo stuff, and covers better usually. You can make do with cheap paint, but you will really want to do use a primer, and you’ll probably need to do more coats.

The paint went on pretty well, if not a bit fast. There were a few bubbles that formed in places, but they were fixed after a quick sand and a second coat.

After letting the controller dry for a couple of hours, it was time to put it back together. Everything just slots back where it came from, and screwed back down, and hey presto! a purple and pink Xbox controller!

Completed Controller

And that’s it. I didn’t think to get any more photos of the process, sorry. Its not too difficult though.

3D animation Assignment

Over the last semester, I’ve been doing an introduction to 3D animation unit as part of my university degree, and it went pretty well.

The course revolves around blender, the free 3d modelling and animation software. I’ve tried to play with blender in the past, but always got swamped with its way of doing things.

But this course, even though it was mostly just tutorial videos, has given me a fairly solid grasp on the basics, and can hopefully utilize its power in other projects I might attempt in the future.

My final assignment was a 30 second video, which you will see below The resolution is a bit low, I’ve been meaning on rendering out a higher res one. If i do, I’ll edit this post so you all can see it in great detail.

And here it is:

4 key midi keyboard with Basic Stamp

diy 4 button midi controller test

Here is the four button test layout, showing how simple the circuit itself really is.

So, I had this old Basic Stamp sitting here feeling unloved. I decided it would be fun to try to build a midi controller. My initial idea was a of using the jog wheels off some old VCR players as mini turntable style jog wheels, but before I get to that, I wanted to start small. I wanting to test the theory first, so I wired up the midi output to a DIN connector, and used sample code available HERE (also shows the wiring for the midi connection) to make the basic stamp output a single note over and over again, with a pause between.

With that working ok, next step was to connect some buttons to the controller, and program the buttons to output separate notes. The wiring was pretty basic, just the usual button set-up, with a pull up resistor on the input pins. The magic was mostly done in the code, which wasn’t too difficult. The code basically transmits a midi on command on each press, and a midi off command on the release of each button.

At this point, I have a 4 button midi controller. maybe useful for triggering samples or something. My next progress will be to try to get a rotary encoder to work with the setup.

I haven’t worked out a good way to host files other than photos yet, so I’ve included the code in the body of the blog below. Hopefully you’ll be able to copy and paste it if you’re interested.

' {$STAMP BS2}
' {$PBASIC 2.5}
'Mini Midi interface,
'Author Matt Ruth
'Date: 11/7/2010
'don't expect too many basic stamp projects from me, the plan is to put this controller to work, then leave it there.
'I only have one basic stamp, and anything I buy in future will likely be arduinos!
'future revisions:
'read the state of each button, and transmitt all states in one serial transmission, instead of individually.
' EG: $90, note1, velocity1, note2, velocity2, note3, velocity3 (http://peabody.sapp.org/class/dmp2/read/nv94_gettin_midi_with_it.pdf)
'also make the midi notes variables which are declared at the top of the program
'add data transmit led
'add jog wheels of course
'make unit as a midi foot switch trigger, getting to use more rugged switches

'following variables are used for midi output. Taken from website tutorial on midi output
outpin CON 15 ' output pin on which to send MIDI data
baudmode CON 12 ' baude mode for serout: (2500000/31250)-20 msec
 ' note that this value should be 12 for BS2. (60 otherwise)
 ' Serial rate for MIDI is 31,250 data bits/sec.
outpause CON 0 ' pause time in units of 0.4 millisec between bytes
 ' on the BS2, units are 1.0 millisec
INPUT 11'button one
INPUT 12'button two
INPUT 13'button three
INPUT 14'button four
butt_11_state VAR Bit
butt_12_state VAR Bit
butt_13_state VAR Bit
butt_14_state VAR Bit
butt_11_state = 0
butt_12_state = 0
butt_13_state = 0
butt_14_state = 0

GOTO main
IF (butt_11_state = 0) THEN GOSUB Onepressed
IF (butt_11_state = 1) THEN GOSUB Onestillpressed
 'send midi on note here
 SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 60, 127]
 DEBUG "1"
 butt_11_state = 1
 'DEBUG ".", CR
 IF butt_11_state = 1 THEN DEBUG ",":SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 60, 0] 'replace debug with midi off note
 butt_11_state = 0 'off note may need to be $80

IF (butt_12_state = 0) THEN GOSUB Twopressed
IF (butt_12_state = 1) THEN GOSUB Twostillpressed
 'send midi on note here
 SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 61, 127]
 DEBUG "2"
 butt_12_state = 1
 'DEBUG ".", CR
 IF butt_12_state = 1 THEN DEBUG ",":SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 61, 0] 'replace debug with midi off note
 butt_12_state = 0 'off note may need to be $80
IF (butt_13_state = 0) THEN GOSUB Threepressed
IF (butt_13_state = 1) THEN GOSUB Threestillpressed
 'send midi on note here
 SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 62, 127]
 DEBUG "3"
 butt_13_state = 1
 ' DEBUG ".", CR
 IF butt_13_state = 1 THEN DEBUG ",":SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 62, 0] 'replace debug with midi off note
 butt_13_state = 0 'off note may need to be $80
IF (butt_14_state = 0) THEN GOSUB Fourpressed
IF (butt_14_state = 1) THEN GOSUB Fourstillpressed
 'send midi on note here
 SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 63, 127]
 DEBUG "4"
 butt_14_state = 1
 'DEBUG ".", CR
 IF butt_14_state = 1 THEN DEBUG ",":SEROUT outpin, baudmode, outpause, [$90, 63, 0] 'replace debug with midi off note
 butt_14_state = 0 'off note may need to be $80

My wife is so wonderfu!

It’s my birthday today, and my awesome wife Diana bought me some awesome presents.

First off was the Cigweld Weldskill 170. That’s the one I knew about. It was already awesome!

What I wasn’t expecting is the iPod
Touch I was presented with when I woke up this morning! OMFGZ I wasn’t expecting that!

So here I am, writing a blog post on the touch, just to test it out!


I love you sweetie! You blow my mind every birthday!


Cricut Cutter With USB, it can be done!

NOTE: recently Make The Cut has been updated, and supposedly no longer will support the plugin.

I suspected this day would come eventually.

Quote from the Make The Cut website:

“On 8/17/2012 a new version of Make The Cut! was released (version 4.1.1) which no longer allows the Cricut Plug-in to be loaded. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

One possibility (which is untested) is to buy a licence, and find an old version of the installer. I don’t know if this will work or not, but if someone tests it out, let me know. I’m sure others would like to know.


Back to the original article:

The Cricut is a cool little cutting machine, aimed at the Craft/Scrapbooking market. It looks like a printer, but is more like a pen plotter. If you saw my previous post, I bought one for my loving wife Diana for her birthday.

Cricut Personal Cutter

The Cricut comes with very minimal usability out of the box, and requires you to buy ridiculously expensive cartridges. You can get cartridges on amazon from about $25 (pretty cheap) but most are much more than that. With postage on top of that (to Australia, makes it expensive). Locally, You’re looking at more like $60 per cartridge for a cheap one. There must be a better way!

On the back of the machine, there is a USB port. Sweet. surely there is some software out there that can make good use of the cutter, and make it much cheaper to use?

Well, there is, BUT……….

There is the Cricut Design Studio, which seems like a handy idea, and likely is in many ways, if you have a bunch of cartridges.

You see, the Cricut Design Studio requires you to have bought the cartridges that you want to use. You can’t print custom-made designs, or use fonts on your computer or anything, so you are really only marginally better off with this software. It does allow you to lay things out better than the basic interface you get just the machine.

Then, there was several of other pieces of software available such as Sure Cuts a Lot, and Make the Cut, which allowed you to use standard True Type fonts on your computer, as well as importing vector graphics from other software  to cut your own design of graphics.

Of course, the makers of the Cricut cutters didn’t like this, as for the price of a single cartridge, you could then use all the fonts and pictures out there on the internet, without ever having to pay the makers of the Cricut anything. It appears that they started sueing all the makers of this software, so now none of them work with the Cricuts any Longer.

Make The Cut

But, you are not out of luck just yet, I have worked out (with help from the internet)  how to make the Make the Cut program work once again with the Cricut!
You see, Make the Cut uses plugins to interface to the Cricut, and other different Cutting hardware. It seems all the makers have done to make the software incompatible is remove the Cricut driver dll from the application.

Some very awesome people out there have discovered that, by putting the dll file in the plugin folder for the current Make the Cut download, you can still use the software.

Make it Happen

First,I should note, that I was lucky enough that the firmware on the Cricut was already up to date, so i didn’t need to upgrade ours. You may need to upgrade firmware, you apparently can do this with the demo of the Cricut Design Studio. A quick google should get you going in the right direction. I think Make The Cut! works with firmwares of 1.1 and above for the Cricut Personal. Your cricut will tell you the firmware version on the LCD screen when you turn it on.

First, with a standard printer style USB cable, plug the cricut into your computer. Windows will hopefully find and install the drivers for the cricut automatically. The cricut will appear as a usb to serial adaptor. When I first tried with my laptop, I had struggles, but eventually it seemingly sorted itself out somehow. My wife’s worked right away, and both laptops are windows 7. If it doesn’t install properly, I’m afraid you’ll have to do a bit of research online.You may need to download the drivers manually.

Download and install Make The Cut! (the demo will work, so you can test it all before you commit to the software).

Google “PCCPlugin.dll” and download the file to your computer. This is the driver for the cricut cutters. It should be out there for you to find. (edit update: try these links which have been provided in the comments: filedropper, filedropper(zipped), filefactory (zipped). these are not my files, so they may go down at some point)

Place the PCCPlugin.dll file in the plugin directory of Make The Cut (default will likely be c:\program files\Make the Cut!\Plugins).

Run the program. Now when you click on Cut Project With… you should be able to choose the ProvoCraft Cricut.

If this works for you and you haven’t already bought Make The Cut, I recommend buying it now. We chose to wait until we’d seen it working before buying it. In demo mode Make The Cut will work but anything cut will be cut with a big X thru it, making it pretty useless.

Now Enjoy using the hardware you own, in a way YOU like it.

Happy Birthday Diana!

Today I would like to take the oportunity to wish my lovely wife a Happy Birthday for yesterday!

I love you my Sweet! I hope you had a wonderful day!

Testing out her new cricut

Diana trying out her new Cricut

Above you can see her playing with her present, a Cricut cutter, working with Make The Cut!.

Unfortunately Make The Cut are no longer allowed to make their software work with the Cricut cutters, but with a bit of research, I managed to work around that to get the two talking again, and thus, making the Cricut a truly wonderful machine!

I’ll post more info on on what I had to do to make it work soon, but this post is to thank my wife for being so damn awesome! and to let her know how much I love her.

I love you sweetie. XOXOXOXOX