Portable USB DVD RW

Overall Impression:  These devices are sorely UNDER-rated.

After a few days of testing, I’ve found that these devices perform remarkably well — provided your PC is recent enough to have sufficiently powered USB ports — in particular, USB3 ports. For the geeky-curious, the actual drive inside the USB enclosure that I received reads out under Linux as “MATSHITA BD-CMB UJ-120“.

If your experience finds that these units won’t read discs, or they seem slow at reading discs, I can almost guarantee your USB ports aren’t providing enough power, period. The power required to read Blu-Ray discs, for example, is a lot higher than what’s needed to read DVDs, for example.

Other troubleshooting tips and hints:

If you have a watchful eye, look at the amber “drive status” light — if it seems like it dims out while reading, you’ve got a power problem.

To use these on an older PC or notebook, I recommend adding a cheap 5-Volt wall-wart (power supply) for the power needs. 1.5 Amps minimum, but 2 or more is better.

In a pinch, you can also use the power-plug portion of most recent Android tablet devices with a standard USB “A/B” cable, instead of the Micro- or Mini- USB cable your tablet would use.


OpenBuilds Solid V Xtreme Wheel

Check out these new Solid V Wheels that OpenBuilds is now producing! Woo-Hoo. They’re made from hard polycarbonate material, which is more resistant to compression than the standard V Wheels.

‘Will be keeping an eye on the reviews of these wheels, and (if all looks good) we look forward to maintaining a supply of these wheels as an upgrade option for more demanding CNC Milling needs.

If you’re a local Hawaii maker (Sorry, my offer is limited to Hawaii makers) and would like to try them out, let me know and I’ll give you a good price on your first set of these wheels in exchange for an honest review of them installed in your machine. :-)


1500×1500 CNC Machine

20140709_221421aSo, I’ve been collecting and assembling parts for a large CNC build I’ve wanted to do for years. My ultimate goal is to be able to cut parts out of entire 4′x8′ sheets of plywood, but for now, a simple 5′x5′ (well, 1500mm x 1500mm) machine will suffice.

Most of the parts put into this build are either components I’ve had laying around collecting dust, or they came out of the Gadget Shop’s OpenBuilds inventory. The only real “third-party” purchase was a set of aluminum plates, which are conveniently available on Ebay. I have to admit, those $150 plates are beautifully done, and I’m confident they’ll stand up to anything I plan to do with this machine.

The Controller is an old TinyG v6 that I once used in a ShapeOko v1 – an entry level CNC machine that has since been modified to operate as a 3D printer. I am running a heavily modified version of the TinyG firmware, and a heavily modified version of Repetier Host to exchange G-Code.

Why Repetier Host? Long story. At the time when I was using the TinyG on the ShapeOko, I noticed it would fail miserably due to all kinds of “seemingly-random” serial port data errors.

In other words, I had a bad case of line noise on that setup, and it was almost impossible to get a “clean” plain-text transmission over that serial connection without reducing the serial port’s speed ridiculously low. Synthetos (TinyG’s makers) seemed content with leaving the TinyG to use this “plain text” method of exchanging G-Code, thus I rolled up my sleeves and looked into options that would implement error-correction.

Since I was leaning toward converting the ShapeOko into a 3D printer anyway, I came across Repetier Host. What cinched the decision for me was the fact that Fedora Linux was adding support for Repetier Host. Looking under the hood, I found the source code to be a reasonably well-written solution — understandable and hackable enough for me to build up what I needed to cobble something together on my own.

As for this build, it’s about 90% complete — I’m waiting on a few more hardware components to arrive so I can button down the frame for good (mostly waiting on the cast 90-degree gussets for the gantry). Free time permitting, I hope to be calibrating the motion and making the first test cuts with a Dremel-like router by the weekend.

Yes, I know that dinky Dremel clone is under-powered. Remember – this is still being built from stuff I have laying around as a proof-of-concept. If I can cut simple parts out of plywood repeatably and accurately, I’m good. :-)

Future plans for this machine are to convert it to a 3000mm x 1500mm frame (doubling and reinforcing the frame along its length); and maybe mount a real spindle on there -vs- an off-the-shelf router. The TinyG is more than capable of doing PWM (Pulse width modulation) to control spindle speed.


OpenBuilds Parts Available Again

Good News, Hawaii Makers!

OpenBuilds parts are available from our suppliers once more! With supply issues finally easing up, the Gadget Shop will soon be configured to allow Back-Orders of OpenBuilds parts not in stock on our shelves in Hawaii. (Lead time is 5 to 10 business days to arrive in Honolulu for most components).

More Build Logs and 3D Printer components to arrive on shelves soon!


The Scorched Earth Method

Hello, World.

Sometimes, you have to let go of the old in order to move ahead with the new. Rather than be encumbered with maintaining a legacy, I have decided to cut bait and give my “Internet Footprint” a fresh start.

Blog and Project Build-Logs – All old blog posts and projects are gone, and not likely to return unless it’s something actively being worked on.

Gadget Shop Status Update - For the most part, the Gadget Shop was set up to help Hawaii-based Makers obtain commonly used components in the quickest and most cost-effective manner. “Local Pick-Up” was the preferred method for the original Shop, and that solution has worked reasonably well for the Makers.

Despite my original intent to supply the Hawaii market, and much to my surprise, the Gadget Shop’s Internet popularity has been growing, and (due to the above “Hawaii-Only” restrictions), Mainland and International shoppers have been unable to place orders. In response to this growth in demand, I am hiring additional help, and am in the process of migrating the Shop over to a much more capable (and hopefully easier to maintain) eCommerce platform.

-Laurence Lee


HOWTO: Manually Activate LVM Volumes in Linux

  • By: Laurence A. Lee
  • Published: February 7, 2008

Blecch, I keep getting nailed by this whenever I juggle around my external or removable hard-drives that have Fedora Linux loaded on them.  These are the “magic three” that convince Linux to recognize LVM-allocated partitions on removable disks.  Perform these commands as root:

	lvm vgscan
	lvm vgchange -ay
	lvm lvscan

Thanks to the LVM2 FAQ for providing a comprehensive document, but I really only need these commands to be on my way.

Obviously, this entry is posted for my own convenience and reference, but I’m sure there are others out there who could use the quick answer.

The first two lines should be enough to activate the partitions, but I added the third so you can see what’s actually there.These LVM-allocated partitions should be available as devices under /dev/mapper.