Razer Blade woes round 2, the Amazoning

So if you aren’t familiar with my pain trying to buy a Razer Blade from the Razer Store, I suggest reading it… it’s a hilarious good time of a comedy of errors.

(Note, only reason any of the below really matters is I want this thing sorted and ready before I fly to Tokyo early AM Thursday.)

After giving up on the Razer store, I move on to Amazon.com once I learn in the 11th hour, Friday morning, that they carry them. I quickly placed an order at 1pm PST with next-day shipping for 9.99 (god bless Prime!)

At 2:30 PM on Sunday I get notification it has shipped, this gets me really excited, since I bought next-day shipping! However I look on Amazon.coma and it still shows an estimated delivery date of Tuesday. What?

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I check the UPS tracking number on UPS’s site instead of amazons to see what it shows for comparison.. it shows it as a 2-day package with delivery due Wesdnesday.

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WHAT?!

I figure I may as well call Amazon and see what happens, so at 8pm Sunday I give them a ring. A very nice lady tried to help me and offers to call UPS and see what she can do. She puts me on hold, while checking with UPS, but I end up being able to overhear the conversation plain as day. Their UPS agent informs her that only a label had been made, but there had been no movement on the package itself and they had not yet taken possession of it. They are anticipating actually having the package Monday morning.

THEN WHY DID THEY TELL ME IT SHIPPED?!

She also said that “the shipping had been ordered for 2 day, so a wed delivery is the correct estimate.” Her only suggestion for expediting it was to contact the Amazon shipping department at the warehouse in question and have them manually change it to next day (for a tuesday delivery) by creating a new label before UPS takes possession of it. If that wasn’t done in time, she said, there was nothing UPS could do about it as 2-day shipping was already locked on that label and can’t be changed once possession is taken.

She comes back to me and relays some of this (minus the part about Amazon buying a 2 day label) and was nice enough to offer to try to contact shipping herself and fix this for me, but they are closed till tomorrow and she is not in until 2pm EST. I asked if she could hand this off to someone who will be in sooner, and she said she would offer to try but that realistically the only way she is certain this will be reliably followed up on is if she does so herself once she is in. (Which logic would tell the astute reader is going to be too late to change things.)

Reluctantly, I tell her I guess we’ll just let things lie where they are right now, and I’ll wait to hear from her sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Considering I paid amazon for next day shipping on an in-stock item on 1pm on a Friday afternoon.. I’m a little peeved!

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(Amazon’s shipping reliability is getting consistently more and more unreliable… -_- I’ve had over 11 credits to my account for delayed shipments in the last 12 months.)

 

UPDATE- Monday 1:30pm PST: So, no call yet from Amazon following up on the issue, but I got an urge while relaying this story to a friend to check the UPS tracking number just to see if anything changed before I published this post. Lo and behold, it looks like Amazon managed to fix it before UPS took possession! The Expected delivery has changed from “By end of day Wednesday” to “Early Tuesday”!

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I’m going to withhold my elation and celebration until it is actually in my hands, but things are starting to look promising!

The comedy of errors that is the Razer Store.

So, for many months now I’ve been extolling the virtues of the killer combo that is a Razer Blade paired with a Razer Core. I know of 3 colleagues I talked into the pair, plus many more whom I’ve planted the seed in and may or may not have pulled the trigger without me knowing. It’s a great setup, especially if you want to move away from having “too many computers” and, like me, have a core gaming desktop as well as a day to day laptop.

In August, my MacBook Pro’s video card started to give out. It’s 4 years old, so it’s understandable and no hard feelings. After much research I decided to take my own advice and buy the recently released New Blade from Razer and pair it with a Core with a 1080 inside. About the start of September, I went to pull the trigger and that’s where the fun began. What follows is a timeline of the absolute comedy of errors that began that is so ridiculous I can’t even be mad… and only just laugh at this story. It’s a long read, but that’s because it’s a meticulously detailed timeline of events for maximum impact and reliability. I promise you it’s worth the read.

Sept. 5th – I finally decided to pull the trigger and to order a Core and Blade combo to replace my desktop and aging (and literally melting) MacBook Pro laptop all in one go. First tried to go online to the special Partner store, since as a employee of a game studio partnered with Razer, I am able to get a few minimal but none the less nice discounts. Unfortunately, the promotion they are running for $100 off a Core when purchasing a New Blade is not offered on the Partner store. Also, no New Blade’s are listed on the store either, only the legacy ones. (As I learned later there is a 3 month lag for new products on the partner store. Lame, but I can rationalize the reasoning on that to some degree and no major complaints). 

I then went to the regular store url/login with my personal account. The promotional bundle was offered, but the New Blades were currently listed on back-order with no date for future availability. The only option is to sign up to be notified when on sale… so I signed up and eagerly wait!

Sept. 21st (ish) – I receive an email stating the New Blades will once again be shipping in October, and are preorder-able on Oct 2nd at 9 am PST. I set an alarm to remind myself to hop on immediately at that time and preorder one, just in case.

Oct. 2 – I hop out of bed bright and early in my hotel room at Twitchcon and ordered my New Blade and Core together at 9:02 AM just as it unlocked. The Core is listed to ship on Oct 14th, and Blade Pro is listed on back-order until Oct 28th. Remember this. 😉

While ordering, I found code online for a free $49 messenger bag if ordering a Blade. I put the code in, because I love free stuff! The order form accepted the code and confirmed the free bag. 6 hours later, the order confirmation was emailed to me (seems kind of long? Was a bit worried something went wrong up until then due to demand or something.)

I also discover at this time that the $100 off discount was not applied. Apparently you don’t get it automatically? The discount appears to be emailed as a promo code as part of the order confirmation email, once your order has been processed and subsequently confirmed. Instructions state it must be applied separately to a different Core order to be claimed?!

Oct. 4th – After chatting options with a friend at Razer for advice, I reached out to Support to find out how to get the $100 credit applied to my order. unfortunately, the support form is limited to 550 characters only. No email, no phone. Very hard to explain most problems in so few words but I managed it. The Support form gave me an auto email to expect a reply in up to 1-2 business days, as to be expected. Later in the same day, I received an unrelated email stating the following: 

“Thank you for ordering from the RazerStore. As indicated during checkout, one or more of the products you ordered is currently unavailable and cannot be shipped. You will receive an email notification when your order has been shipped.

Estimated shipping period

Razer Basic Messenger Bag: null”

Looking farther down email, there is an additional section: 

“note:The item(s) in your order will only ship once all item(s) are ready for shipment.”

Wait, does this mean that even if the core and blade are ready to ship, the whole order will be held for this mystery bag with a “null” ship date? In paranoia, I open second support ticket, asking about this issue in detail.

Oct. 5th – Support has replied to my first ticket. They explained that they are unable to apply the promotional credit, and that if I want to get the $100 off of my Core, I must cancel my order and start over by ordering the blade first, wait for the confirmation email with code, then use that code to order a core separately.

“Hi, J.

Thank you for contacting RazerStore.com

We are sorry that we are unable to add promotional code in any order that has already been placed.

https://store.razerzone.com/DRHM/store?Action=DisplayHelpPage&SiteID=razerusa&Locale=en_US

At this time, we can cancel your order and allow you to submit a new order. Please let us know if you want us to attempt a cancellation.

If we attempt the cancellation, you will be notified by email that the cancellation was successful. If unsuccessful, your order will ship as originally placed.

Hoping to hear from you for your decision.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

Sincerely,

Team RazerStore.com

Later that day, the other ticket is replied to saying that they cannot confirm for sure if the order status of the messenger bag would hold up the rest of the order or not. I’m told that it should not have actually been made available and is indefinitely out of stock and no longer officially offered as a promotion. Additionally, they are unable to make any changes or adjustments to my orders promotional codes and that if I wanted to cancel the order and start over they were happy to do so.

I responded to the first email confirming that yes, I would like to cancel the order and start over, in that case. (Especially in light of all the above nonsense). They respond they have “requested” a cancellation, and stressed this is not actually confirmation it has been canceled. Was told I need to wait for a cancellation confirmation email before it’s *actually* canceled. The confirmation eventually came about two days later. Why on earth does that need to happen or take so long? Who knows. I then tried to make two new orders. First I ordered the New Blade, in HD (not the QHD+) with a 1TB HD.

However, the order form rejected my billing address confirmation, telling me I needed to enter a “valid value” for State and country, highlighting them in red. Note: These are pre-filled drop downs, not text. I simply picked the options that applied (CA, US). It kept rejecting them over and over again, until I hard-refreshed the page, wiping out the form entirely and starting over.

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Oct. 6th – Still no order confirmation the following morning. Without it, I can’t order the Core, and I’m also becoming worried that I may slip back into a further batch of Blades. On a whim, I decided to check my order history, out of idle curiosity. It actually showed duplicate entries for every order! There were 12 line items for 3 simply orders, each repeated 4 times. This is really weird and confusing, and obviously a bug of some kind. Also still showed my recent order as “In Process” a whole day later.

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Later that day, roughly 26 hours after the initial order, I finally get my order confirmation with a discount code for the core. (Irony… the discount code looks to be the SAME as the one from the first ever order.. It’s apparently not a unique code? Either that or it’s keyed to my email or something and the same for just me. Had I known that, I wouldn’t have waited!) I order a Core it using this code, getting my nice $100 discount. Again however, I experience the EXACT SAME bug with the state/country drop down! I hard refresh once more, and this fixes it. I think it’s possibly related to chrome’s automatic filling of known address info at this point. At this time, it’s important to note for reasons below that the Razer Core still has a shipping date of October 14th and the New Blade is Oct 28th. Sounds good to me!

Oct. 15th – Still no shipping confirmation for my Core, which was due out the day before. I begin checking the order status page daily because I am an impatient nerd who wants his shiny toys! The store site still says it’s shipping Oct. 14th when I checked on the 15th, and 16th, and I believe I looked again on the 17th (my notes are fuzzy there). My order confirmation also says the 14th still, I checked to make sure I wasn’t crazy.

Oct. 18th – I check the order status, still no updates! However, the Core listing in the Store *now* says “back ordered, ships from 10/28”.  I was given zero emails or heads up about this new delay however. A silent stealth update to the site? Not great customer service experience. Totally understanding things happen, but an email/update would really have been nice.

Oct. 19 – A New Blade Pro has just been announced. Shit. Do I still want a New Blade, or do I want the Pro? Is a pro better for my needs? Does the Pro even need a Core with it’s sexy new gpu? It the Pro too big in size for my needs though? I almost have buyers remorse before I even have the product. I don’t know what to do. The New blade doesn’t ship for another week. Also I now know details about the rumored MacBook Pro refresh coming next week. It might be a better solution and at this rate will arrive sooner .Maybe it’s better to cancel and wait and see how reviews pan out? I reach out to cancel my Blade order (even though it risks missing out on another back-order window) to wait and see the right options for me, since this is no small investment. Definitely lots of sudden decision making to be made.

I am told by support that because I used the discount code for the Core, I have to cancel the Core order also. Fair enough, that makes total sense to me, so I cancel both orders. I am again told the order cancellation has been requested, but not confirmed, until I receive such an email.

Oct. 20th – The email confirmation that my Blade order was successfully canceled arrives. (but I failed to notice there was not one about my core).

Oct. 24th – 4 emails came in at the exact same time together (3:39AM) in one batch with identical time stamps.

  1. Shipping confirmation of Core stating it has just gone out.
  2. Email stating they were unable to successfully cancel my core order (duh?).
  3. Email stating they have put in a request to issue a return order for my core as a courtesy due to my existing cancellation request. (Wow thanks!)
  4. Email confirming the cancellation request and accepting my return order, with return instructions and a mailing address. (With the implied instructions that I need to pay the cost of shipping myself to return it to the listed address in Hong Kong, to get the refund.)

Then, at 9:30 am that same morning my core arrives at my office suddenly!

Yeah. That happened.

I run the numbers on FedEx and UPS to estimate shipping costs to return the core for my refund. Retail costs for a one-off shipment of this size and weight come back at $300 and $250 respectively. Totally impractical to do in order to get a refund on a $400 order! Both return-related emails come from “do not email this address” accounts so following up on this hurdle is now difficult for me.

Well, I guess I’ll just sit on this Core for now… I may still end up with a blade, and in THEORY it’s supposed to work with any USB C laptop, including that plan B mac.

Oct. 27th – After reading initial reviews on the Pro, it seems it really isn’t the laptop for me. Additionally I am not satisfied with the details on the new MacBook Pro so I went ahead and placed a fresh order for the New Blade, in the HD 1TB model. Since I’m stuck with this Core that I can’t really return easily, I figured why not. I placed the order, and as expected, I was told it is still on back-order, due to ship on October 28th (the next day) as before.

Oct. 29th – Checking to see if my Blade has shipped yet, I now see that the QHD+ model is currently shipping as of the day before, as is expected, but that the HD model that I had ordered now reads “Available for Pre-order. Ships from 11th November, 2016.” It would appear it has slipped 2 weeks… sadly for me this is the day after I leave for Japan for a week so it leaves me without the laptop for my travels. 🙁

Nov. 2nd – On a whim, I’m not sure why, I felt the urge to check the pre-order status of the laptop again. It now reads the following: “Available for Pre-order. Ships from 28th November, 2016.” Well, guess we had ourselves yet another stealth slip it would seem… *sigh*

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Nov. 4th – I woke up to the following email:

Hi.

Thank you for your order of Razer Blade with FHD – 1TB.

Order number: ****************

We regret to inform you that due to unexpected shipment delays, we can ship the product only from November 28, 2016

Our bad. We are sorry.

We do have ready stock of the upgraded Razer Blade QHD 512GB or Razer Blade QHD 1TB, and would like to give you priority to purchase it. In addition, we will offer you a Free Gift of a Razer Blade Armor Caseif you wish to take up the offer.

To take up the offer to upgrade,

  1.       Please make the purchase within the next 5 business days

http://www.razerzone.com/store/razer-blade

  • Provide us the new order number so we may cancel the old order.
  • Once your new Razer Blade QHD 512GB or Razer Blade QHD 1TBhas shipped, you will receive an email with your tracking information.
  1.       Instructions to redeem Free Gift of a Razer Blade Armor Casewill follow 7 days after your order ships.

Should you choose to continue to wait for your Razer Blade with FHD – 1TB, we will go ahead to keep you in our waiting list.

Once again, our sincere apologies. We value your business and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

Team RazerStore

Well, at least you guys emailed me this time I guess… Though 2 days late. I then went to the store to look up the listing for shits and giggles. The order page for the 1TB HD Blade no longer has a “preorder/shipping 28th” status. The purchase button has now been replaced with a “notify me” button, and the release date has been replaced with “Register your interest”.

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Oooookaaaaay. Let’s just say at this point I have zero fucking confidence that this thing is actually shipping Nov 28th.

After sharing this story around with some friends, I learn from one of them they had a very similar experience and ended up buying theirs on Amazon.com. Wait what?! I look and lo and behold Amazon has them currently in stock!! I just ordered it there, right now, with overnight shipping for an additional $9, and requested to cancel the previous order via the Razer store once and for all.

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JEEZE!!!

Any one of these things, or even two, is likely a minor annoyance, but the combined force of this ridiculousness is beyond ludicrous. C’mon Razer 🙁 Just ditch Digital River as your store vendor already and do this in house. I know you could do so better at this if you  just put a vested ownership into the experience!

EDIT- 11/6/16:  Just got the shipping confirmation from Amazon.com! The laptop HAS shipped. a Razer Blade DOES physically exist with my name on it and is en-route! It was set for next day delivery, and due to ship out Monday, so there is even a chance it may arrive tomorrow!

EDIT 2 – 11/7/16: So everything wasn’t *quite* as sunshine and rainbows as the last update seemed. For the next stage in the saga, check out part two of this adventure!

So I finally got around to The Witcher 3

I was a bit late to the Witcher 3 party. I’ve owned the game in my expansive (5 figure count) steam library for some time, but just never played it. I saw the praises, I saw the awards, I saw the review scores… but for some reason nothing ever made me feel compelled to play. Then, this summer, I took the plunge.

Wow.

I know you’ve probably read a million reviews, or played the game yourself. Still, I want to write my thoughts down, if anything, for myself. I understand the praise now, I truly do. I play a lot of games… a lotYet nothing compares to this experience. I truly feel, without any hyperbole, that this game was the best game I have ever played.

RPGs are tricky beasts. You want a lot of engaging content, but that means you need to fill that content out thoroughly. Usually, even the best games of the genre have this quasi three-tier system to their content: The main story, the secondary stuff, and the tertiary random filler. The first of the three usually has well thought out, well scripted, well voiced content that’s fully engaging and advances the story. The second, usually is a little less on those marks, but still of an okay quality and sometimes affects the story as an option. Lastly, the third is basically quickie throw away “go fetch me X number of Y” content, sometimes without even VO and interactions. With this game however, it’s more like a two-tier system, with the second tier only barely sitting below the first. Even the most fluff of fluffy filler content felt compelling, engaging, fun, and I had to stop to think to even realize it wasn’t actually part of the main quest. The “secondary” quests felt every bit as well thought out and written as the primary arcs, and there was never a time, ever, where I was off killing something or collecting some item going “why the heck am I doing this? It means nothing to the end-game! I should be getting back to getting into Yennifer’s pants!”

Few of the games mechanics or systems felt like they were without thought or careful design as well. The one complaint I had was, quite frankly, that I’m a busy person and I don’t have time to devote to “busy work” within a game like I used to. Because of that I loaded up a few basic mods to make my life easier… I removed the rather restrictive weight limits and enabled the ability to fast travel from anywhere, not just a sign post. That was pretty much about it, other than graphics tweaks however.

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The scenery and views were amazing, I caught myself framing perfect shots for my collection just because. (having a beefy enough system to run the game at max helps with this!) The world is so open and fluid that it was a genuine treat sitting on top of a fortress on a mountainside, looking miles off in the distance, across the water at times, and seeing buildings and towns far away that I knew I could just walk right on over to any time I want.

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The characters were endearing, well fleshed out, and quite personable. I found myself looking forward to engaging with them and continuing the story, and did not find myself perusing romantic engagements not on a whim but because I had a natural desire to see my Geralt grow as a person and find some sense of harmony in his turbulent life.

Then there is the writing, the VO, the Lore, the environment design, just… man it’s overwhelming, the content and world.

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For the first time in my life, I have put down a game and felt a sense of loss. There is a part of me that now feels empty and hollow because I am no longer Geralt of Rivia. I wore him like a second skin in my free time for weeks, and now it just feels weird to close that chapter for good. (DLC not withstanding!)

Before I go though, I have to admit one thing, the game is not without it’s bugs. Aside from one that broke a side quest that basically prevented me from accomplishing something major that I really wanted to do for the game-world to make it a better place, they were mostly comically and quickly went away. I think I’ll share my favorite with you because it left me in stitches for the entire day…

My franken-code

So i have this little hobby, 3D Printing. You may have seen one or two (or fifteen) mentionings of it before. I love it, and I even make a reasonable amount of money on the side that covers the costs of my hobby and then some.

The one thing I love is numbers, tracking, and data all nicely packaged up in nice report with charts and graphs. Since plastic filament is the one main consumable in this venture, and it’s important to know how much filament you have left on a spool before starting the next print, I made a mildly complicated spreadsheet to help with this.

It’s a fairly straightforward spreadsheet. One tab holds the data for each spool of filament I own, another is a list of every print I have made over the last year (time spent, amount of filament used, profit/cost of prints, and so on. Lastly, a pretty little tab that shows cost/expenses, wear and tear on particular nozzle heads and other consumables. All in all it does the job, but the one thing that bugs me is that it’s just a spreadsheet. I want a web app that I can use anywhere any time, even mobile, to help make it easier (so I’m not batch logging prints days later because I’m lazy or was in a hurry) and more importantly one that supports multiple users so that others can use this same thing. I tried poking around on the web, but just couldn’t seem to find anything of the sort.. I find this kind of weird, but also may just be that due to some of the common search terms that have some crossover meaning here I might just have a blind spot in my google-fu.Screenshot 2016-05-28 22.12.51

Enter my project, AnvilTracker. It’s basically an attempt to convert the functionality of that spreadsheet to a Ruby on Rails app. The fun part?

I have no idea what I am doing.

Basically I’ve gotten it to a mostly functional state. It’s not pretty (virtually no styling or UX work at all has been done) and the functionality is basically 75% of the spreadsheet minus a few cosmetic enhancements. I more or less started off with following some tutorials, cherry picking stuff that did what I wanted (just had a different use case) and renamed some stuff, gave variables more contextual names, and commented things up properly. So far so good..

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I think the biggest thing from holding me back is the freaking UX. I don’t have the patience to learn CSS on top of everything else. I’ve also created a monumental backlog of features I want to add, learning them incrementally as I go. So far it’s going ok, but the backlog is getting progressively harder and sooner or later I’m gonna hit my skillcap… oh yeah, don’t even ask me about Unit Tests ok? 🙁

Anyone care to lend a hand?

https://github.com/sargonas/AnvilTracker/issues

MakerBox.me – Not for me.

So a few months back I saw that someone finally put together what might hopefully be the first awesome 3D Printing monthly box service. A fan of Loot Crate, I thought it should check it out and see for myself. There was still time to sign up for the inaugural kit before the deadline, so after mulling over the rather pricey (but understandable) $69.99, I committed.  After taxes though this brought it up to $76 and some change. :/

(It’s worth noting, we’re talking about a 1kg spool of filament, which typically retails for $30-50 plus shipping on said 1kg and other stuff, so the price didn’t seem TOO unreasonable at the time.)

This is what Maker Box touts:

  • A new specialty filament from only the top renowned and tested manufacturers including: Made Solid, NinjaFlex, Taulman3D, 3D Fuel, Form Futura, 3Dom and more!
  • Upcoming materials may include Glow In The Dark, Metal, Wood, Bronze, Carbon Fiber and Flexible Filaments.
  • Maker tools one would need for tinkering such as screwdrivers, scrapers, pliers, wrenches, duct tape, etc.
  • Fun 3D downloads, reference sheets and guides.
  • Exclusive deals on free apps, printers, website coupons, courses and more.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few delays leading up to the shipping, (though they were proactive in explaining the delays to weather, and promised a free gift to be sent out after delivery of the box.) It finally arrived however, and I have to say I’m pretty disappointed. Make no mistake, I’m not unrealistic… I expected like most monthly subscription crates for there to be a bit of wiggle room and certainly NOT to hit some kind of “wow this is worth way more than I paid” jackpot. That said, the results have been lackluster at best.

The box itself was packaged in what was clearly meant to be an attempt to be clever, and I applaud that. The painted on Maker Box name was witty and neat, though the actual execution left it looking messy and cheap. I am not a designer, and I am not well versed in how to critique the application of a design idea to function in a well verbose way, but I do know when something has “missed the mark” which this sadly did. I can tell what they aimed for, but sadly it fell short. (There’s also excess blue paint accidentally smeared over other portions of the box as well.) The mailing label was duct taped to the box, on only two sides, leaving the rest of the label loose and exposed. Anyone who has ever shipped something USPS knows this is a recipe for disaster, with the way they handle packages.

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Moving into the box, there were two flyers, one advertising something and the other being a code for 3 months service for Trinpy.com. Not terrible, but considering these are 2 of the 5 things in the box we’re running out of value real quick here. There was also a scraper, a common and much needed tool to remove stubborn prints from the bed, everyone needs one.. but really once you have one or two, you’re pretty much set. No harm in sending one, but it’s definitely of the exceptionally cheap variety and likely less than $1 or $2 in value at most, especially considering a very stubborn print will easily bend this type of metal instantly.

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Next up we have an interesting tool. It’s a hand held, I guess, hole boring tool? Hard to say really, especially since there is no literature at all tagged with it? After a little digging around, it turns out it’s a pin drill set. Quite neat, but not really useful for me and my applications. At first I thought it was a set of nozzle cleaning heads, but when I opened the case and looked closer I saw all the bits were drill bits… it’s neat, looks nice, likely of some decent value, but.. well, a miss in my book.

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Lastly we have the intended crown jewel of the box, a spool of filament. This one appears to be from 3D Fuel, and is a biodegradable Algae filament. Interesting for sure, but nothing to write home about, and I don’t really consider biodegradable PLA to be on par with say, Glow In The Dark, Wood, Metal, or other “alternative” filaments. That said, I *do* recognize it’s technically a “unique” filament, and currently I understand it is rather pricey compared to PLA as a result. Unfortunately however, even though I am signed up for the 3mm diameter plan (3mm and 1.75mm being the two standard formats) this filament is 1.75mm… making it completely useless to me unless I swap out a significant portion of the hardware on my Ultimaker 2 in order to support it. :/

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I tried to look up the filament to get a sense about what it is more, and a better understanding. There is a URL on the box, but unfortunately the site shows this when you visit it:

Screenshot 2016-02-19 14.25.41

Definitely not at all confidence inspiring… Even less inspiring is all my research I can conduct indicates this filament ONLY comes in 1.75mm, which means they more or less just said “fuck it” to everyone who signed up with a 3mm plan. Thanks guys.

In the end, I pretty much canceled my subscription about 5 minutes after going through the box. It was a neat idea and if they can refine the process down the road I may get back on board, but right now I really feel like I got far less value out of this than what I paid (especially when their site claims “The MSRP value of every box will match or exceed the price.”, and when combined with a clear disconnect between them and the customer experience, I just felt like this isn’t for me.

Google’s Project Fi

So a while back I was invited to Googles “Project Fi”. For those who don’t know what it is, the short answer is “Google Fiber for cell phones”. Which, as an elevator pitch, is pretty compelling! 😉

It works like this, you obtain, either on your own or from Google one of their “Fi capable” phones. These are newer model Nexus phones (the 5X and 6P specifically) that have newer radios in it that support the magical Fi network. What makes this network special is two parts: One, they are adaptive. It leverages both the Sprint and T-mobile’s 4G networks, and combined with them and any available WiFi network will always work to put you on the most optimal signal. Two, it’s cheap. There is a $20 basic service fee for your phone that includes unlimited text and calling. Then you pay an additional $10 per month for each Gigabyte of mobile data you want. Go over? You pay $10 rounded up to the nearest Gig for the extra used. Go under? They credit back the unused amount to your account for the data you didn’t use… PER MEGABYTE!

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Whaaaaaat?

Yeah, you read that right. Currently I’m paying $79 a month for my iPhone with Verizon for 2Gb of data. Naturally, this was a compelling experiment to try since the comparable service would be about $30-$40 a month based on usage. I decided to accept the invite and purchased the 5X, mostly because I had no desire in having a second cellphone on me that was more than 2 times the size of my iPhone, but also because all in all it’s a pretty damn good phone (and being a Nexus means I get bloatware free, bleeding-edge OS support straight from Google.)

There’s a few other perks too, such as being able to use it as a hotspot, getting the same cost rate around pretty much the entire world (roughly 120 countries at current count), no contract, and some pretty stellar customer support. (They dropped the price on the Nexus 5X about 4 days after I ordered mine. I hit up their support via chat (took about 30 seconds) and they immediately credited my account the $50 difference without hesitation.)

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I’ve now had it for about a week, and I am *already* having to constantly restrain myself from immediately porting my iPhone number (that I have had since ’99) over to the phone.  I likely am going to, regardless, but I want to put more thought into it and not making it a knee jerk reaction. That said, the service is amazing, the phone is killer, and the pricing is stupidly good. If you get an invite, and especially if you are already an Android user.. I highly recommended you consider the swap!

Oh yeah, here’s how you request an invite!
https://fi.google.com/signup?u=0

RetroPie – Quick and easy rundown on your own Pi based Retro console!

I recently made a facebook post about setting up my RetroPie, and it spawned a lot of questions from folks on how I did it, how hard was it, etc. I figured if I just made a rundown on here about the whole process, it would be much easier to link to it than to repeatedly regurgitate the info over and over again.

…I’m lazy like that.

So, first off, the magic of having a retro “console” with a plethora of various platforms easily at your disposal comes thanks to the magic of the tried and true Raspberry Pi. Pi’s are powerfully little computers on a board the size of a credit card. The latest and greatest, known as the Raspberry Pi 2 are surprisingly powerful, with the B model (which have more USB ports) clocking in with a 900mhz quad core. They also have 1GB of ram, a dual core GPU, 4 USB ports, HDMI output, Ethernet, and a multiport GPIO block for various “shield” modules to be attached (TFT screen anyone?), all powered over a standard micro USB port… for about $39.00

In the case of mine, I went the “easy” route and got the CanaKit
off Amazon. It has a RaspberryPi 2 B, a power adapter, wi-fi adapter, 8GB micro SD card, HDMI cable, and plastic housing all-in-one for only $69.99. It basically covers everything you need to make a RetroPie, minus a controller! (May I suggest an Xbox 360 controller for that part?)

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After snapping it all together, the card already has Raspbian, the custom Pi-friendly flavor of Ubuntu, and you’re technically ready to go to setup RetroPie the “hard way”. To make life easier however, I just downloaded the latest RetroPie image off their repo over at github, as it has a Raspbian install with all the RetroPie components as well as the slick UI called EmulationStation ready to go.

Once you image the file to your micro SD card with the tool of your choice (I just used the tools native to my Macbook Pro) you simply boot it up with an Xbox 360 wired controller plugged in, while connected to your TV, and you’re set! It really is THAT easy! It will auto boot right into EmulationStation, calibrate your controller, and then load right in. There are however a few extra steps to get the very most out of it. These are all covered step by step in the RetroPie how-to, but essentially it’s just a matter of going through the menu and expanding your file system so that the install sees the max SD card space available, and configuring your WiFi to remove the need for an ethernet cable.

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To get ROMs onto your Pi, there are a few options available to you. The Pi will show up as a network share, and you can just drop the ROM files directly into the folder for the relevant console emulator from your PC/Mac. Alternatively, you can plug a blank USB thumb drive into the console and give it a few seconds to sync. Once done, you can pull it back out and place it into any PC/Mac you want, and you’ll now see that there is a new folder tree, named for each emulator platform. By dropping ROMs into the right folders and plugging it back into the RetroPi, it will automatically synchronize the folders with your Pi each time you do so. It’s handy, but I personally just stuck to dropping files into the network shares.

That’s really all there is to the basics. There’s a lot more customization and such you can do, but it’s sort of beyond the rundown I intended to provide here. This is more of a quick and dirty recap for my friends than meant to be an all-inclusive how-to for the internet at large, but there are TONS of other resources out there if you need more info.

One last thing.. if you *really* want to kick things up a notch, you can buy a module that plugs into the GPIO ports on the Pi and add SNES controller ports to your console. I’ve thought about it, but truth be told I’m pretty happy using an Xbox 360 controller. That said, I’m currently working on 3D Printing a new case that’s shaped like a (miniature) classic NES. Let me know if you want one printed! 😉

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Happy gaming!

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3D Printing a Cosplay “Sign”

 

For a bit of a “Throw Back Thursday”, (as all the cool kids are doing on the Internet these days), I thought I would share a little project I cooked up back in the summer.

My girlfriend is an avid cosplayer (as well as costume designer) and as I was making some accessories for her for Anime Expo I came upon an idea: She often has her photo taken, as many cosplayers do, and then typically exchanges business cards with the photographer in question to make it easier for them to tag her in their photos later. What if I designed and printed her something to help smooth that process?

My idea, was to design and print out a plaque that is roughly the size of a legal envelope, that had her name on it (which is the same name as her Facebook Page) as well as a QR code in the lower corner that goes to her page. Now, when she has her photos taken, she can pull it out of her bag and have them do one more quick closeup of her face holding up the sign, and when the photog is processing their pics they can easily scan the QR code or just reference the name on the card to know who she is.

For an added bit of personal touch, I did the design of the name itself in her own handwriting, by simply having her “sign” her cosplay name in my modeling software using my Intuous tablet. I printed it in two colors, a blue base (her favorite) and switched to a white filament for the raised portions to denote the border and her name. I then printed out an appropriately sized QR code, and bonded it to the sign by simply applying a layer of ModgePodge (this stuff is so amazing!) and that was it! I already have some ideas though on how I could enhance this a bit more for a Rev 2, by adding some space behind it to allow her to store some of her business cards for quick retrieval.

It’s an easy enough project that I think I might setup a process on-line to let other cosplayers order them from me as well! 😉

 

 

Star Wars VII Theory

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Episode VII with my co-workers. If you think seeing the first new Star Wars movies in a loooooong time is awesome, imagine doing it in a theater packed with nothing but friends and co workers. The energy was awesome!

Now, I won’t make this a full movie review… I might come back and edit some in later, but for right now I want to talk specifically about Supreme Leader Sillyname. (And no, I don’t want to talk about the borderline silliness of his actual name. Let’s just get that out of the way now.)

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, well, don’t click below to show more then if you don’t want some stuff potentially spoiled!

Continue reading Star Wars VII Theory

My next big project?

USG-Ishimura-dead-spaceI had a lot of fun building my SC2 Battlecruiser. When I was 5-12 ish in age, as much time as I spend now playing video games, I spent then building with Legos. Now with the advent of the various Lego creation software, it’s even quicker and easier to prototype things as well!

I’ve come up with a project that I am really digging the idea for, I just need to flesh it out more. Here is the deal. I really want to build a 3 to 4 foot model of the USG Ishimura from Deadspace. The problem is, a model of that size will cost roughly $800 to $1200 in Lego parts alone. So I have decided to take it a step further.

What if I was to setup a KickStarter fund? Crowd source the money, and then turn around and build it. The entire process I would document and record, making an amazing time lapse of the project as it’s built over (presumably) a week or two. When completed, I hope to have an awesome video that I can then post it on youtube and set it up for ad revenue. I would then throw the model up on auction, taking the proceeds from it, the video, and any left over KickStarter money and donate it all to the Child’s Play charity for the 2012 season. What do you guys think?

Before *anything* happens though, I need to roll up my sleeves and flesh out a solid design plan in one of the common lego design tools. My goal is to have something up by time I return from the UK at the end of Jan so I can start raising the funding then!