Archive 2013

Upgrade complete

That’s it, the upgrade is finished for now. Seems to be ok but let me know if you spot anything wrong.

Going dark for a while

I’m planning an upgrade this weekend so this blog may be unavailable for a while.

Don’t worry – it will be back. Whether it has any content afterwards though will remain to be seen.

View from…

The Shard

It was a bit dumb of me to pile a load of quite large photos on to the blog home page in the form of a post, so I’ve moved this content over to its own page which you can find here.


Death Inc. This game deserves to be made!



Download the DEMO


Some of the super-smart folks behind the likes of LittleBigPlanet, the Fable franchise, Burnout and Need For Speed have teamed up to Kickstart a brand new, comical and very stylish-looking game.

At the time of writing they’re short by a whopping £ 211,488 with just 5 days to go.

Head over to their kickstarter page for much more info and to back them if you can.






What are Saturday afternoons for? Calibrating your Printrbot Jr. obviously

After many (many, many) trial-and-error attempts at printing the 5mm calibration cube step model from thingiverse (, it looks like there really are some settings that are getting close to the ideal for the Printrbot Jr.

I owe a huge thank you to the Thames Valley RepRap User Group ( for suggesting using frosted acrylic sheet as a print bed material. This stuff is awesome compared to everything else I tried: the default wooden bed, glass, and blue masking tape.

It was also nice to discover that other 3D printing newcomers had been suffering from similar pitfalls too – so suddenly I didn’t feel so stupid.

Anyway, here’s a snap of the last attempt – I reckon it’s somewhere between 80-90% successful. Today’s efforts start back left (#1), back center (#2) and so on to the front one (#7):









I’ve stashed the last-used settings file here:

A brief rundown of what changed within the settings file;

  1. Re-calibrated the Z and E motors very slightly. Your experience may vary with your machine but the technique described in the getting started guide for calibrating the E (extruder) seemed to work equally well for Z.
  2. Settled on a temperature of 185 degrees for this particular filament (Haberdashery Arctic White PLA 3mm). Along the way I also tried 180 – 200 degrees (in 5 degree increments) with pretty chaotic effects as you may imagine.
  3. The default speeds were too high, especially for small perimeters, so the top layers of cubes lost their definition and (as you can see in the photo) ended up looking very blobby. I generally passed through the slic3r config ini file and chopped all speeds by 50%. I may still have to slow down the small perimeter speed a little more to see if I can reduce the rounding on the topmost cube.

And for your further entertainment, here are a few other things we’ve printed over the last few weeks:








I think I may have another go at the bunny now that the printer is working so much more nicely now. Although I’ll make it smaller because this one lost the top of his/her ears 🙁 – no that’s not just bad photography!

The grey material was hopeless for printing anything with a small footprint. Could have been that the Jr’s bed needed de-greasing or something, or the material’s properties were just beyond the bounds of the settings I had tried.

The clear material supplied with the printrbot jr. was initially pretty good but it was difficult to see any detail in the printed objects. Again, this is more likely to be unsuitable settings than a problem with the filament though.

So after a challenging few weeks (here and there, not constantly) tweaking and retrying and getting wildly varying results it now feels like this little printer is beginning to settle into its stride.

Yay for the Printrbot Jr! (and thanks again to TVRRUG – you may have saved my sanity!)



Oh my God, we've killed the high street!

The great Internet shopping migration

The high street is looking very different these days. The stores I’ve grown up with, or got used to seeing on practically every high street or in any given shopping centre are disappearing at an alarming rate, apparently all victims of an evolution of a society of bargain-hunting Internet shoppers. Myself included.

Of course you could argue that these businesses should have seen the problem coming and responded much sooner than they did, it’s not as though Amazon, Ebay and the like are particularly new in the retail landscape. But maybe these brands hoped to protect their staff by holding out, waiting to see if the tide would turn, but once they’re on the downward slope I guess it’s just too difficult to find the finances to react quickly enough when they start to slide.

So with the continuing shift towards streaming on-demand music and movies, download-only (and crowd-funded) games, e-books, mail order or online auction houses and more recently still, 3D printing technology, where does that leave the remaining iconic high street brands?

And some of those that are left don’t seem to be doing so well when it comes to upping their game in order to compete with the online giants. I recently experienced WH Smith’s attempt at an online ordering service but everything downstream of the actual ordering process (which was average to begin with) just got worse. Store staff didn’t know how to interact with the online section of their business, they couldn’t tell me when my order was going to arrive, they couldn’t supply from store stock and replenish from the online delivery (unless I paid for the items again – which I had to do in the end), and they couldn’t cancel the online order. And neither could I it turned out – at least not without emailing the online support people and explaining the whole saga to them at least twice. However, once they had received and understood my predicament they did sort it out quickly, but by then my confidence in them was (and is) about as low as it could be. So I probably won’t try that again, which is a real shame because they might just iron out these wrinkles and develop a robust online-to-store solution, but I’ll never know until someone tells me they had a much better experience.

The Post Office could also learn a thing or two from Amazon. I recently discovered the joy (and that’s not really much of an exaggeration) of the automated drop-off point that Amazon installed in a local shopping centre. This thing is fantastic. I can order from Amazon, and they’ll pop my item(s) into a locker that is accessible by a unique collection code that they email me when the item has been deposited. I can then drop by and pick it up whenever it suits me, as long as the centre is open – which is generally between 08:00 and 21:00 weekdays, and all weekend. How much better is that than queuing in the rain on a Saturday morning before 12:00, maybe almost a full week after the item you wanted was substituted with a “while you were out” card?!

Anyway, this all makes the skeptical half of my mind wonder, what will the landscape look like in the future? Cinemas seem to be holding out so far. But even there, the ongoing reduction in prices of large-format TVs offering outstanding high definition (and lately 3D) picture and sound quality, and with huge data storage capacity and interactive services built-in, surely it won’t be long before the likes of Odeon, Vue etc. are feeling the pinch too?

But what will the new generation of smart shoppers and consumers of all things digital and non-tangible, do when we find for reasons natural or artificial that the infrastructures we’ve come to depend on are suddenly and irrevocably removed? Will it be like the scene in Surrogates when people begin shuffling into the street again after their preferred virtual existence is shattered by a total meltdown of the technology, and for the first time in a long time, look at what’s really out there for them. And will they subsequently be disappointed that they’ve let everything disappear from under them?

Where might it all end? Presumably there will always be a subset of society that does not have or want access to the Internet, mobile devices or whatever ubiquitous technology that the rest of us find ourselves enjoying / using / expecting without question. The separation of “haves” and “have-nots” whether by choice or circumstance will become ever greater.

In the meantime, the next version of (insert thing here) will be waiting just around the corner for us, ready to blow our minds. Again.