Who likes FREE software?

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It’s amazing how much you can get and do for FREE today.  With a modest laptop or desktop computer and access to the internet, you have a huge selection of free operating systems and high quality software to do just about anything you want to do.

Depending on the application, I install most of this software on any new machine I set up.  I like them all, my favorites are marked with a ““.

Updated November 14,2018 marked with 11/14/18

Cross platform

For me “cross platform” usually means Ubuntu Linux and Windows 7 or 10, but much of the software listed here is available on Mac and other versions of Unix/Linux too.

General Purpose / Utility

  • Firefox Mozilla browser (and web debugger)
  • Chrome (or Chromium on Linux) Google’s powerful browser
  • TightVNC Great VNC remote desktop server, client, and java client for portability, features file sharing and scale-able remote desktop windows.
  • VirtualBox Virtual machines are awesome!  Want to try a new OS in your existing OS? Want to try some software before installing it for good?
  • WinRAR File compression/decompression tool that handles all the formats with great Explorer integration
  • AVG Antivirus Free Free antivirus software that has saved me many times.  Recently, AVG has tried harder to get me to buy the full version but the free antivirus is really the star of their offering.  As with any antivirus software, watch for false positives too (files you want to keep ending up in the virus vault)

Communication

  • FileZilla Mozilla ftp and sftp client and much more
  • WireShark Network sniffer, inspector, debugger

Programming

  • Visual Studio Code Free powerful IDE for developing all kinds of code
  • Eclipse IDE Powerful cross platform IDE for C++, Java, and other languages
  • Arduino IDE IDE for developing and debugging software for Arduino and other embedded platforms
  • KDiff3 Best diff and merge tool, works on files or directories, and only tool to feature 4 way merging with re-sync.
  • Git Distributed source control
  • Python One of the most popular, well supported scripting languages
  • Ruby Another powerful popular scripting language

Office Suites

Art

  • ImageMagick Powerful image manipulation tools, especially from the command line or in batches
  • Gimp Powerful bitmap graphics tool (comparable to Adobe Photoshop)
  • InkScape  Powerful bitmap and vector tools (comparable to Corel)
  • Darktable Virtual light table (11/14/18)

Audio/Video

  • Audacity Powerful mult-itrack audio editing and mixing tool
  • VLC Super portable cross platform audio/video/CD/DVD… player
  • youtube-dl Download and convert videos and playlists from YouTube and many other video sites to audio or video files
  • Any Video Converter Easily convert video between many formats with defaults to target most mobile devices
  • Handbrake Video transcoder, rip your DVD’s and watch them on your mobile devices
  • LAME mp3 encoder
  • FFmpeg video encoder and much more

3D Modeling

  • OpenSCAD ♥♥♥ “The programmer’s 3D modeler”, my go-to tool for creating most models for 3D printing.
  • Meshmixer Super powerful 3D model creation and editing tool (UI is a little quirky)
  • Meshlab Powerful 3D mesh editing & visualization tool (even quirkier)
  • Blender Powerful 3D modeling, animating, and rendering software

3D Printing

  • Slic3r Prusa Edition 3D printer slicer software, enhanced by Josef Prusa
  • Ultimaker Cura Another powerful slicer for 3D printing
  • Pronterface (available in the bundle) 3D printer controller software
  • Octoprint control your 3D printer over your network with powerful cool plugins, record time lapse videos, and even run from a Raspberry Pi.
  • GPX tool that will allow you to convert gcode to x3g files for Makerbot printers

CAD/CAM

Windows

General Purpose / Utility

  • Everything by Void Tools – Index all your hard drives and find files instantly
  • WinDirStat Simply the BEST disk/filesystem usage tool
  • AstroGrep Search file contents for strings with nice interface
  • ImgBurn Burn CD’s and DVD’s
  • Notepad++ Great editor with lots of features and plugins
  • SciTE Another good editor I use for Ruby development
  • Rapid Environment Editor Best tool for editing Windows environment variables (remember to run as Administrator)
  • 7-zip Another file compressor/decompressor with Explorer integration
  • Drive Image XML Disk backup and recovery tool (my favorite for Windows XP and older machines)
  • AutoHotKey Programmable hotkey macros
  • Putty Free ssh, scp,sftp,telnet and other tools for secure communication
  • HxD Hex editor
  • Win32DiskImager Used to write and backup USB, SD, MicroSD cards (my favorite Raspberry Pi image tool)
  • YAWCAM Webcam software: motion detection, time lapses, live streams…
  • VirtualDub Powerful video editing software with plugins and scripting
  • iTunes Install iTunes to get Bonjour which will enable you to access machines by their host names (i.e. raspberrypi.local) on Windows
  • Cygwin Linux tools and lightweight environment in Windows
  • MSYS/MinGW Another Linux tools and environment for Windows
  • fldigi spectrum analysis and decoding software for amateur radio

Linux

OS

There is a HUGE variety of Linux flavors to choose from, https://distrowatch.com/ is a great website to see what’s popular and read about the pro’s and con’s of each of them. (Check out this GNU/Linux Distributions Timeline from Wikipedia)  One of the great things about Linux is that most distributions (“distros“) have live CD’s available; download a disk image, copy image to USB drive or burn a CD or DVD, reboot your computer from the USB drive or disk and you can try the OS before committing to a full installation.  You can also run them from (and later install them to) a virtual machine like VirtualBox to try them, keep them around, and copy them between physical machines, even if they are running different operating systems.

Some of my favorite distributions

  • Ubuntu (Debian) – Most popular
    • Lubuntu – Lightweight version of Ubuntu
    • Xubuntu – Another lightweight version with Xfce desktop
    • Linux Mint – Popular Ubuntu derivative
  • CentOS (Fedora)
  • Puppy Linux – ♥♥♥ Super lightweight, brings life to old machines

Software

  • KDirStat File and directory size analysis tool (similar to WinDirStat)
  • Most of the Linux tools I use are cross platform and in the list above

Command line

  • htop interactive process manager that can run in a terminal
  • ncdu No Curses Disk Usage – disk usage tool that can run in a terminal
  • mc Midnight Commander file browser/copy tool with great terminal ui

Stand alone boot disks (CD/DVD/USB)

  • CloneZilla Best disk/partition/file system backup and recovery tool (my favorite)
  • Ultimate Boot CD Huge collection of powerful tools on one live bootable CD

Online resources

I hope you found something useful here!  If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear about them, please comment or contact me at Workshop 88 (info@workshop88.com).

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

25 Minute CNC digitizing probe

On a whim I decided to whip together a collet mounted Z depth probe for my CNC machine.

It took 25 minutes and works GREAT!

Construction


Select 1/4″ aluminum rod to fit my 1/4″ collet


Measure length that I think will fit into the collet with clearance for the switch and wiring, marked with a pencil.


Clamp into a vise and cut with hacksaw. Be sure to wear eye protection. I used hardboard to protect the soft aluminum from being gauged and pressed out of shape in the vise.


Use a hacksaw to cut a square notch into one end. I cut just off center down the middle by eye about half an inch then cut sideways from the thinner side to remove D shaped slug leaving a D shaped semicircular shaft.


The rod was slightly oversized and would not fit properly into my collet.

 
I clamped it into the chuck of my drill press and used a file on the spinning rod to reduce its diameter until it fit. Files are designed to be pushed away from the operator so be sure to pay attention to the direction of rotation and file, this results in pushing the file away from you pressed against the right side of the cylinder in a standard drill press.  Of course, only test the fit when the drill press is off and stopped.


You could also use sandpaper if a file is not available, but it will take longer.


I used the file to take sharp corners off business end.


Align the switch with the cutaway in the end of the rod and mark the height of the mounting holes in your switch on the round part of the D.
Notice the pencil marking near and on my finger.


Use the hacksaw or file to cut a notch in the back round D part at the height you marked.  This will be needed to hold the switch securely in place later.


I selected a long length of stranded wire with an RCA connector on one end from the junk wire drawer. Just about any flexible wire will suffice, just remember that the wire will repeatedly flex with the motion of the machine so should not be too stiff and ideally should be stranded, not solid conductor type.


I grabbed a microswitch and soldered the wires to the “C” common and “NC” normally closed connections. You want the switch normally closed so that if there is ever a fault or broken wire the CNC digitizer will detect the open circuit right away and interpret that as contact with the workpiece while probing.. If you wire it normally open and a connection is broken then the CNC machine will try to probe right into your workpiece. (unless, you make a mistake I did, but more on that later…)

To attach the switch to the D shaped end of the aluminum rod. I lashed the switch to it using a twist tie, for a more permanent connection add a drop of epoxy between the switch and metal.


Strip the insulation off a twist tie.  It is easiest to remove 1/2″ – 3/4″ sections until you have a fully stripped steel wire rather than try to strip very long sections in a single go.


Thread the twist tie through the mounting hole in the switch twice.


Slide the D shaped portion of the aluminum rod into the wire loop and start twisting the wire ends by hand.  Be sure the wire seats in the slot you sawed or filed in the back of the round part of the “D”.


Tighten the wire using pliers being careful not to break the wire or delicate plastic part of the switch. You may need to wiggle the switch in order to seat it properly on the rod aligning the hole with the groove for a tight fit.

At this point I also bent the end of the metal switch plate slightly a few mm from the end to provide more springy direct contact right under the tip of the center of the probe to ensure the metal arm is what makes contact and closes the switch rather than pressing the microswitch under the arm directly down on the workpiece.


Tie the electrical wire to the shank for a strain relief and attach the wire to your machine so that it does not get pinched or caught in moving parts.


Completed probe elevated and engaged.

Wiring and configuration

Wire your probe. I threaded mine conveniently through the spiral compressed air hose.
Connect your new probe to your controller’s digitizer input.

Note: Wiring and configuring your motion controller is not included in the 25 minutes.
I had already wired and configured a digitizer for Mach 3 using a Xylotex motion controller on the parallel port.

You will need to configure your CNC controller to accept a probe and wire it accordingly. On my parallel port connection on the Xylotex motion controller I wired a 10k resistor from the probe pin to +5 and wired the switch between the probe pin and ground so when the switch is normally closed, the pin reads “0”, and when the switch is depressed the circuit to ground opens and the pin is pulled up to +5 and reads a logic “1”. I offer this as an example for my configuration but you should check your controller and software manuals to determine correct wiring for your equipment.


In Mach 3 I can test my digitizer probe by looking at the diagnostics screen. When I press the button I can see the digitizer input light up telling me that the switch is working and the software is configured correctly.

Test function and repeatability


To test the digitizer function I issue a G31 Z-1 F10 command. This tells Mach 3 to move Z to -1 at a feedrate of 10 inches per minute (ipm) and to stop when the digitizer is engaged.


To test reliability and repeatability I issued this command 12 times and recorded the Z height where the probe engaged each time.  I entered these measurements into a spreadsheet to calculate the minimum, maximum, average and standard deviation of the samples… this probe was reproducible with a standard deviation of 0.000824″, under a thousandth of an inch. This is great for woodworking or PCB engraving.

Test engraving on a non flat surface

To really test it I mounted a piece of melamine on a set of 1/4 inch shims to create a severe slope and performed a standard engraving cut.

As you can see, any slope or irregularity is a nightmare for engraving with a “V” bit. High portions of the work surface are engraved too deeply and lower portions may not be engraved at all resulting in an uneven line width.

I used ScorchWorks G-Code Ripper to generate a new gcode file from the first one that included probing and compensated for the measured work surface elevation in the g-code.


When I engraved the new g-code (on the right) it started by probing the surface, then asks the user to switch to a cutter bit and completes the engraving operation. This sample was engraved to a uniform depth which is an improvement but I still didn’t know how to set an accurate zero depth so it is too deep.

The final missing piece was to figure out a way to register the probe zero height to the cutter z height.


My collets do not allow reproducible tool height location so I had to find a workflow to zero each bit during the machining process. Here is what I found:

Make sure your gcode contains an M6 manual tool change operation and that your controller pauses and allows you to change bits, jog, and reset zero z (or alternative similar functionality)

  1. Install the probe in the router
  2. Move to the X Y origin over the workpiece
  3. Probe to the surface G31 Z-1 F10
  4. Zero X, Y, Z
  5. Start the g-code with probe operations, it will probe the surface, and then pause (be sure your router does not get turned on or it will rip your probe wiring to shreds)
  6. When you resume the gcode it will pause again for the tool change.
  7. Replace the probe with the cutter
  8. Manually jog to X=0 and Y=0
    (In my Mach 3 controller I cannot execute gcode like G0 X0 Y0 during a tool change, I have to jog manually)
  9. Manually jog z to the work surface and manually zero Z.
    I use a 0.001″ thick JOB rolling paper as my machinist mentor taught me. Place the paper under the bit and move it down one thousandth at a time until it just pinches the paper then either type .001 into the Z DRO or just zero Z if a thousandth of an inch is not critical.
  10. Jog Z up a little to clear the workpiece
  11. Turn on the router
  12. Resume g-code program to complete the machine operations

These steps are meant for you to understand the operations I had to go through with my machine to get great results. You may have to adjust these steps for your software/controller.

It works perfectly!

The source artwork is really not intended for engraving, it’s just something I grabbed to run some tests, please don’t judge the it too harshly.  You can see that the depth of cut is uniform across the finished piece.  This would engrave just as well on a curved or irregular workpiece as well.


This is particularly impressive considering how deliberately un-level the workpiece was fixtured.

Not just for engraving…

This isn’t just helpful for engraving, I recently used probing to correct for the irregularities in 4′ x 8′ sheets of 1/4″ plywood.  These sheets can be warpy and wavy by over 1/2″ on a large part.  Normally I would have to cut many passes with the 1/4″ bit potentially deep into my spoilboard to ensure good cuts.  My machine is slow and those extra passes cost a painful amount of time.  With probing I was able to cut each part out of the irregular 1/4″ thick material using a .3″ cutting depth and a 1/4″ endmill in a single pass with excellent results, several times faster than it would have taken me in the past.


Here is a custom organizational shelving unit I made for a friend, it turned out great.

Links:

ScorchWorks G-Code Ripper
Mach 3 CNC Controller
Xylotex CNC Controller and stepper motors

It took less than 25 minutes to make the probe while taking all these pictures along the way!  It took under 20 minutes the second time (see below), and it took waaaay longer to write this blog post.

I hope this was helpful, or at least entertaining.

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

P.S. Test your probe and wire it carefully!


At the beginning of the first large scale plywood cut my CNC machine made several successful probes of the surface then plowed into the table with slow deliberate force destroying the probe switch. 
Upon close inspection, the alligator clips I hastily used to mount the probe for initial tests were still in use and shorted together bypassing the fail safe and switch operation resulting in the crash.  It’s a good thing that it did not create a dangerous situation.
I was able to re-cut the end of the rod and install a new switch in under 20 minutes which after careful rewiring has operated reliably ever since.

Performance boost for an aging laptop

I have an aging Sony VAIO VGN-N110g laptop that cannot take more than 1GB of RAM but still has a ton of life left in it for multimedia, projects, and general use. The previous teenage owner ran it on blankets, on the bed, under clothes, etc. Eventually the CPU fan stopped working and something went wrong with SODMIM slot 2, probably heat related. Until recently it was dog slow.  Here is what I found and how I regained significant performance breathing new life into the machine.

Hardware improvements:

First I replaced the CPU fan ($15 on eBay) which allows the CPU to run at 1.2GHz again rather than be permanently thermally throttled to 800MHz or less. With 1GB of RAM the 32 bit Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was still running sluggishly. I have a friend who owns a similar VAIO inherited from a similar family member, he had been down this road before.  He recommended I get an SSD because it’s probably swapping memory to disk. I checked the performance monitor and he was right, it was swapping a lot. I caught a 250GB WD SSD on sale on Amazon for $69.99, which I thought isn’t too bad (bought through the Workshop 88 affiliate link here to benefit the club at no extra cost). I mounted the SSD into an external USB drive case, booted from a Clonezilla live CD, and copied the 80GB boot disk directly to the 250GB SSD (I could have used Clonezilla from UBCD or Parted Magic but I had the Clonezilla the disk handy). Then I swapped the hard disks (removed keyboard, battery, RAM cover, CD Drive, and 26 screws… <dramatic eye roll>). Before reassembling the laptop I plugged in and tested it to make sure it booted and ran properly from the new drive and was thrilled to see how fast it booted and that it worked perfectly so I buttoned it up.

Expand the boot/OS partition

Now there was only one thing left to do: Expand the 80GB boot partition to fill the unused 150GB+ on the new SSD drive.  Directly copying the drive is nice because it copies all bootloaders, file systems, and your data regardless of OS, but it does not resize the existing partitions.  Moving and resizing partitions is always risky.  All the partitions need to be unmounted, which for the boot partition usually means you need to be running the OS from RAM. The best way I know to do this is to boot from either a Linux distribution’s live disk (Ubuntu, Puppy, pick from any on DistroWatch.com…), or a purpose built tools CD/DVD like the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) which is what I did. From UBCD I selected Parted Magic and it launched the included image. Parted Magic is intended for just this type of thing and runs entirely in RAM. I used GParted to edit the partitions but immediately ran into an interesting problem (which is really why I’m writing here): The boot partition was at the start of the disk, followed by an extended partition that contained the linux-swap partition, and all the free space was at the end of the disk. I could neither increase the size of the boot partition because it was not adjacent to free space nor could I move the extended partition because it contained the linux-swap swap partition. I was stuck until I found this:

Expanding a Linux disk with gparted (and getting swap out of the way)
https://blog.mwpreston.net/2012/06/22/expanding-a-linux-disk-with-gparted-and-getting-swap-out-of-the-way/

To summarize I had to:

  1. Expand end of the extended partition to consume all the free space after it
  2. Move the linux-swap partition to the end of the extended partition
  3. Reduce the size of the extended partition by moving it’s start location to the beginning of the linux-swap partition
  4. Finally, expand the boot partition to consume the free space I had created.

I created these operations one at a time in GParted, executed them with one click (fast on an SSD!), rebooted, and voila!

Here is what Parted Magic looks like and my partitions in GParted after extending the modifications.

And here is what my VAIO laptop looks like running after the updates were complete.

It works and now I have a faster laptop with 3x the disk space for under a hundred bucks.  This may seem like mundane or even common knowledge to many of you but I thought it was interesting enough to share and maybe some of the information will be helpful to someone.

Here are links to the free tools mentioned above:

I strongly suggest you look at and get the Ultimate Boot CD
http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ 
Check out all the powerful free tools you get on one FREE disk image.

Drive/partition image/clone/backup tool (also available on UBCD)
https://clonezilla.org/

Disk editing tools that run entirely in RAM so you can work on all disks
(also available on UBCD)
https://partedmagic.com/

Partition editor available in most Linux distributions
https://gparted.org/

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

P.S. There is (was) an Ultimate Boot CD for Windows, it hasn’t been maintained in a while but it is still worth trying out.  You can find it on majorgeeks.com here:
https://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/ubcd4win.html
Beware: The original site, [URL deliberately not mentioned], looks sketchy now; I do not advise anyone go there and if you do, be careful.

Member projects: Thingiverse remix

One of our new members, Josh, has been making great use of the 3D printers at Workshop 88. He had a headlight for his bike that he wanted centered on the handlebars. So he took the Blackburn Flea Bike Light Handlebar Mount file on Thingiverse and remixed it to fit on his bike. Here is his remix – the photo at the top shows the finished print.


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Member project: Crowd-sourced science

Animation of some preliminary results from the Steelpan Vibrations project on Zooniverse.

One of our members, Andrew Morrison, has a citizen science project running on the Zooniverse website.

The project is called Steelpan Vibrations and is a project looking at understanding how Caribbean steelpans (sometimes referred to as steel drums) work to produce their characteristic sound. What he has done is made high speed videos of the waves that go across the steel pan when it is struck by a player. The problem is that there is no easy way to analyze the video frames to get quantitative data. The project asks for people to go to the website and mark individual frames so that they can be aggregated together for analysis later.

There is a blog where details about the research are discussed regularly, and you can also follow Andrew on twitter where project updates are regularly posted.


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Member projects: Building a night sky observatory!!

One of our members, Steven Sagerian, has a passion for astronomy and astronomy education and outreach. He has been working on building an observing site outside of the Chicago suburbs in a dark location – and now he has a GoFundMe set up to make this a reality!

Steve also has designed a solar panel system for charging batteries to run the observatory. You can see the solar cells in the photo on the GoFundMe site, and he also has a page dedicated to the design and construction of it.

Solar panels for charging power supply at observatory.


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How to create and install custom ringtones on an iPhone without iTunes or a USB cable

In this step by step tutorial you will learn to:

  • Download individual and playlists of movies and audio from movie websites including YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, etc. and convert the files into numerous audio and video formats using youtube-dl.
  • Edit audio file clips, adjust volume, and save in different formats, including .m4a needed for iPhone ringtones and songs using Audacity.
  • Send audio files to your iPhone using email, save them, import them into GarageBand, and process them into usable ringtones for your iPhone
    (and even delete them when you are done with them).

All off this is done with free software and without iTunes, or connecting your iPhone to the computer!

These PC instructions are for Windows, but all the tools, youtube-dl, Audacity, and FFmpeg are also available for Linux and OS X.

Capturing sound file from YouTube

You will need:

  • youtube-dl An awesome tool to download and convert videos and playlists from YouTube and other sites.

Instructions:

  1. Find a video you like on YouTube
  2. Copy the URL
  3. Navigate in Explorer (file browser, not internet browser) to the folder you would like to download the sound file to.
  4. Type cmd into the address bar to launch a command prompt
  5. Enter youtube-dl –extract-audio –audio-format mp3 -o “%%(title)s-%%(id)s.%%(ext)s” your_url_here
    i.e.
    youtube-dl –extract-audio –audio-format mp3 -o “%%(title)s-%%(id)s.%%(ext)s” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7MIJP90biM
    * See footnotes for additional options

Footnotes:

  • You may omit -o “%%(title)s-%%(id)s.%%(ext)s” or replace it with your own filename format string
  • If the video is under 30 seconds long and you want to use it without editing, you can save it directly as an .m4a like this:
    youtube-dl –extract-audio –audio-format m4a -o “%%(title)s-%%(id)s.%%(ext)s” your_url_here
  • You can download entire playlists as audio with numbered tracks as .mp3 files like this:
    youtube-dl –extract-audio –audio-format mp3 -o “%%(playlist_index)s – %%(title)s-%%(id)s.%%(ext)s” https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3KyodHSvyYL2qAyXGli1CCd5IS0ENfBh
  • You can download and convert video files from many sites for watching like this:
    youtube-dl -o “D. Scott Williamson, Expert.%%(ext)s” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7MIJP90biM

Editing your sound file

You will need:

  • Audacity sound editor
  • FFmpeg extension for Audacity needed to save .m4a files (Use their download even if you already have FFmpeg)

Instructions:

The sound file must be 30 seconds long or less.
Remember, it will loop; some files benefit from some silence at the end or a long decay.
Audacity is too large a tool to describe in depth here, here are some basic commands that will allow you to select the section of the audio file interesting to you, adjust the volume, and export as an .m4a file.

  1. Open the file by either dragging it onto Audacity, Selecting Open… ffrom the File menu, or pressing Ctrl-o.
    When the file opens you will see a waveform display in the center of the Audacity window.
  2. Mute | Solo On the left side of your waveform display you will see Mute and Solo buttons.  If you open multiple files, they will behave as multiple tracks in the same project.
    • Mute will silence the track.
    • Solo will mute all other tracks and unmute the current track.
  3. Selection Click and drag on the audio waveform display to select a subset of the sound file.  You can carefully click and adjust the start and end of the selection which is useful to refine your selection.
  4. Zoom allows you to magnify or shrink the sound file to enable you to work carefully on the section that is important to you
    • Zoom in, Zoom out Magnify or shrink the view of your sound
    • Zoom Selection will zoom so the selection fills the display.  I typically will select a slightly larger section than I want, Zoom Selection to make my selection fill the display, and refine the start and endpoint.
    • Fit Project to width will zoom all the way out so that your (longest) sound file will be fit to the window width.
  5. Scroll When zoomed in, you can use the scroll bar at the bottom of your sound window to pan left and right.
  6. Play There are a couple ways to play your sound:
    • Click the play button to play your selection, or the entire file if none is selected.
    • Click anywhere in the timeline above the waveform to play from that position to the right edge of the window, useful for quickly locating key points in your sound file.
  7. Copy Use this to copy your selection either by clicking the copy button or pressing Ctrl-c.   I find it easiest to copy the portion of the sound I like and paste it into a new Audacity project.  Not only is it less likely to damage the original file, but I think it is fewer steps too.
  8. New Create a new sound file by selecting New from the File or pressing Ctrl-n
  9. Paste Click the paste button or press Ctrl-v to paste your previously copied selection into the new file.
  10. Volume There are a lot of effects you can apply to an audio clip in Audacity, perhaps the most common is adjusting the volume.  Click on Amplitude in the Effects menu, you will see a dialog with the suggested amplification already filled in.  The suggested value will make your sound fill the volume range.  If you would like more amplitude than suggested, be sure to check Allow clipping.  The volume can be reduced too.
  11. Undo you can undo any mistake with a click or by pressing Ctrl-z
  12. Export as .m4a by selecting Export from the File menu and selecting Export audio file… or by pressing Ctrl-Shift-e.  Navigate to where you’d like to save the file, select save as type “M4A (ACC) Files (FFFmpeg)“, and save your file.
    (The first time you do this, Audacity will ask you to locate avformat-55.dll, it will be where you unzipped ffmpeg-win-2.2.2.zip)

Creating a ringtone

You will need:

  • GarageBand app on your phone (made by Apple)
  • Access to email from your PC and iPhone
  • One or more sound files that must be .m4a (or .m4r) format and 30 seconds long or less.

Instructions:

  1. Install GarageBand on your iPhone from the App Store
  2. Send your .m4a files to yourself as attachments to an email (be aware of email attachment size limits, you may need to send multiple emails).
  3. Open email on your phone and open your email
  4. Long press on each attachment to bring up the action menu
  5. Select Save To Files
  6. Save the file to GarageBand / GarageBand File Transfer
    • Click GarageBand to expand it
    • Click GarageBand File Transfer
    • Click Add in the upper right corner
  7. Launch GarageBand
  8. Click Create Document
  9. Click Tracks at the top of the screen
  10. Swipe left or right until you get to the Audio Recorder and click the screen
  11. Click the Tracks icon (Third from the left at the top off the screen, looks like a brick wall)
  12. Click Loops icon (second from right at the top, looks like a loop, next to the wrench)
  13. Click Audio Files at the top center of the window
  14. You should now see your file(s) you saved from your email.  Click them to hear them, drag one onto the workspace next to the microphone on the left.
  15. Click Save (Down arrow at upper left of the screen)
  16. Click My Songs
  17. Long click on your saved file to bring up menu
  18. Click Share
  19. Click Ringtone
  20. Type name
  21. Click Export in the upper right corner
  22. Done!

Now look for your new ringtone in Settings Notifications or Sounds.
This process can also be used to create songs, just select Song instead of Ringtone.

To Delete a ringtone

  1. Launch GarageBand
  2. Long press in shared folder on any track
  3. Click Share
  4. Click Ringtone
  5. Click Your Ringtones
  6. Click Edit
  7. Select and delete files as needed
  8. Back out of menus or close the app

This was fun!  I hope you were able to follow these directions to get interesting new free ringtones into your iPhone while discovering powerful open source tools along the way.

D. Scott Williamson
Compulsively Creative

Mustard etching?

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Knife with mustard packet before the etching.

We’ve been playing with the etching of metals with our laser cutter at Workshop 88. One of our members discovered a mustard-etching method and tested it out last night during the weekly open house.

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Reapplying mustard between passes.

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Finished etched knife after cleaning.

The results are pretty great for a first attempt! Expect more detail to come in future posts – but if you want to know more, please come to our open house meetings every Thursday night!

Glue gun mystery unstuck

Knowing how critical hot melt glue is in a hackerspace, I’m sure you’ll be relieved that the mystery of why the trigger on the yellow glue gun stopped working has been unravelled, and that it even works again!

There was no hope of getting the gun open until I let it get good and hot to liquify the glue. I was amazed to find the entire front half of the gun full of liquid glue. The great glob of solidified glue in front of the trigger answered the mystery question.

As I scooped and pried the glue out, a clue appeared: I suspect this split in the silicone sleeve that guides the glue sticks to the melt chamber was part of the story.

I wonder whether another part was some imagined incident when someone tried to use the gun with the tip badly clogged. With the gun thoroughly heated, he squeezed the trigger again and again, only to have no glue come out. “Where the heck is all the glue going?” he might have wondered.

The gun works again, but no guess as to for how long. The fantastic isopropyl-alcohol-as-hot-melt-release-agent trick cleaned the bench so well that there’s no trace of the huge mess I made.

W88 at River Forest Maker-Fest

Workshop 88 joined many other makers at the River Forest Public Library’s first Maker-Fest on 10/7/17. The Drawbot got lots of attention, and decorated the shelves with its drawings.

While maker events and makerspaces are a growing phenomenon at libraries, and River Forest has considered what it can do, its beautiful old building just doesn’t have room for a space.  But Ethan Baehrend, as part of his Eagle Scout mission, encouraged the library to host this Fest, both to provide a maker event for area residents and to help the library gauge interest so it can best serve its users.  The event was a success on all fronts.

Ethan posed here for a picture with the Drawbot’s rendition of the Eagle Scout logo.  Thanks to his mom, Diana, for the picture!

The Drawbot was in good form with its new aluminum-and-teflon pen holder, and generated lots of artwork, as well as interest among visitors. Here are some pics of its output.

 

Some more details on the drawbot are here.