May the Chip Shortage Be With You

A mysterious message from someone at Raspberry Pi that seemed interesting enough to pass along

This blog is too low-traffic for me to get anything resembling press requests, but I did get a short, intriguing message from somebody at Raspberry Pi today. They were responding to my posts about building a Star Wars-inspired Raspberry Pi setup, and my nerdy marriage proposal, with the enigmatic comment “you should keep an eye on RaspberryPi.com on May 4th.”

I’m a huge fan of the whole Pi platform (especially the RP2040s and the whole Pi Zero line), and obviously a big Star Wars nerd, so this all seems highly relevant to my interests. My projects are on hold at the moment both because of limited time and because it’s very, very difficult to get Pi boards because of the global chip shortage, but I’ll be paying attention to whatever they’ve got in mind. It seems like anybody reading this blog is likely to have similar interests, so I thought I’d pass along the message!

Edited 4/4/2020: Seppo’s guess below was correct, and they were very kindly celebrating Star Wars-themed electronics projects instead of announcing any new collaboration. I think my cold, hard heart just immediately when to “product announcement” because my engagement ring box didn’t use a Raspberry Pi. I’d forgotten how the whole environment of hobbyist electronics on the internet tends to be a lot more supportive and non-competitive with each other as opposed to the world of “branded consumer products.” In any case, it’s encouraged me to get back into those electronics projects!

In addition to the products pages on RaspberryPi.com and Adafruit.com, a good channel I don’t believe I’ve mentioned before is The Rebel Base Builds. He’s a British CG artist and builder who takes on a lot of themed projects all themed to Star Wars, usually focusing on the modeling and construction aspects but still bringing in electronics (because duh, Star Wars needs LEDs).

Project Diary: Tanuki Clock Part 2

Redesigning my tanuki taiko drummer

Quick update on my project to make a Raspberry Pi-powered taiko-playing tanuki clock: I redesigned the character into a seated position, both to give more emphasis to the clock, and to make it a little bit more ambiguous where he got the taiko drum from.

I’m happier with this version, but while it makes some things theoretically simpler, it introduces a bunch of new problems. The most obvious is that it’s just so much bigger. It no longer fits on my printer, and it’s not immediately obvious how to cleanly break it into smaller components. Plus the test prints will take forever โ€” a quick test of just the taiko drum was predicting a 15-hour print time.

Also, having the taiko oriented horizontally means the arms have to rotate at an angle, and I haven’t yet figured out exactly how I can make that work. In addition to wishing I’d had some electronics classes in school, I wish I’d taken some mechanical engineering.

(I did a quick test having the taiko vertically oriented, and the tanuki standing behind it, but that would’ve made the thing even bigger).

One thing I’ve realized trying to redesign the model is that I follow some depressingly talented artists on Instagram. I’ve been hearing for years the complaint that Instagram is bad for people’s mental health, but I’ve never understood that. I can’t remember ever seeing an “influencer” and feeling inferior or wishing that I had any single aspect of their life. (Unless they’re making me sad that I’m not at Disneyland, which is something that it usually pretty straightforward for me to correct). But seeing some artist post a photo of their “sketch” that’s still infinitely better than I’ve been able to make after hours of work, just makes me feel extremely amateurish. And I am an amateur, so fair enough, but it’s still kind of dispiriting.

Project Diary: Tanuki Clock Part 1

Start of a hopefully ongoing series about my process making an expensive and over-complicated version of a cheesy novelty item

I’ve always been ambivalent about developer diaries, for a few reasons. First is that it always seems cooler to preserve the mystery and wait until I can say, “look at this thing I made.” Second is that I’ve got a lousy track record in terms of actually finishing projects, and it’s a lot more demoralizing to have to abandon something once you’ve talked about it, rather than letting it drift off unmourned by anyone other than me. And finally, there’s a question of expertise. I hate the idea of presenting anything I do as the “right” way to do it.

But that’s kind of selfish. Any time I’ve tried to take on a new hobby or skill, I’ve used tons of online tutorials, blog posts, YouTube videos, and GitHub repos, all from people who’ve taken the time to share what they’ve learned. Plus, I’ve often run into a frustrating disconnect when looking for information online: tutorials often skip over the details I need, presumably because they’re assumed to be so basic as to be common knowledge.

So I’m going to try to detail my progress making my current project, which is a Raspberry Pi-enabled clock, with a taiko-playing tanuki.

Continue reading “Project Diary: Tanuki Clock Part 1”

Blender Sculpting Experiments

Revisiting some earlier attempts at sculpting and modeling in Blender

Back in 2020 I started in earnest trying to learn Blender’s sculpting and modeling tools. Last night I was reminded that I only posted the results to Facebook-owned platforms, and I should get them up on my own site.

The one I had the most success with was a simple version of one of the dogs from P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go!, which was my favorite book as a little kid. Another one I like, although I didn’t get very far at all, was a sculpt of Cousin Eerie from Eerie magazine, designed I believe by Jack Davis. (Even if he didn’t design the character, his version is my favorite).

I’ve been playing around with Nomad Sculpt for the iPad quite a bit lately, and having a ton of fun with it. The other night was the first time I tried importing a model from Nomad Sculpt into Blender, and it was eye-opening for just how forgiving Nomad is to people new to sculpting. Probably just because of the material and default lighting it uses, it hides all the blobby imperfections and rough patches and mistakes that Blender puts into full relief. (As it should, as it’s all stuff you need to catch in a more professional environment).

It’s less accurate, and possibly even reinforces bad habits, but it’s a lot more fun and a lot more encouraging to keep practicing, since it seems to do everything it possibly can to give you a good-looking model. At least in screenshots. I could stand to keep practicing with Blender’s sculpting and modeling tools, obviously, but I’ve got a feeling my first drafts are going to be coming from the iPad from now on.

Yukon Cornelius

My experiments with Nomad Sculpt for iPad continue. Here’s Yukon Cornelius, lickin’ his old pickaxe (so to speak).

I’m not going to lie, I’d originally thought this would be my first attempt at animating one of these models, and I’d do a constant loop of him just licking the pickaxe for infinity. But of course, when I went onto YouTube to look for reference โ€” and I still haven’t found any good reference for his back, even if I hadn’t omitted the backpack โ€” one of the very first videos was exactly that. Never change, The Internet.

Cute Felt

Might delete later, idk. (Heads-up: the “present” is just a bunch of seeds and a dead cricket, but it’s the thought that counts).

Made with Nomad Sculpt on iPad and textured in Blender, using a tutorial by Southern Shotty. I also cheated and added some tint to the final render in Procreate, because it was a lot easier than getting decent UVs on the model. Retopology is definitely a subject I’m going to have to tackle later, but for now I’m just having fun.

Monday Cat

Here’s another experiment learning Nomad Sculpt for iPad. The cliche that cats are grumpy and mean-tempered is lazy and inaccurate. This cat, for instance, loves Mondays. That’s the day he gets to go to his job at the bank, foreclosing on people’s homes.

Dreidelbot

And here’s the Dreidelbot 8000. I made it out of Nomad Sculpt. Partly to make up for posting Santa renders while Hanukkah was still going on, but mostly because I wanted to see if I could make a Nick Park-style robot. Don’t be alarmed by his low battery meter; his fuel tends to last longer than you might expect!

That reminds me: have there ever been any Black Christmas-type horror movies set during Hanukkah? It seems like a natural, what with a murder each day and so on. I can even think of the tag-line for the poster: “With his dreidel he will SLAY.”