Archive: 2023-09

  • Week 142: Get your FreeCAD on

    I’ve been getting to grips with FreeCAD. I find it both one of the most frustrating pieces of software I’ve ever used and one of the ugliest. I mean, just look at that logo! In keeping with the regrettable user interface trends of professional engineering software, the interface is made up of hundreds of tiny and complicated icons whose meaning you just have to know already. The icon for “clone”, the head of a mutant orange sheep, is probably the weirdest of these. The taxonomy is confusing: should you use the Part Design workbench or the Part workbench to design a part? (Answer: yes.)

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  • Week 141: Upgrading the Mark of the Beast

    A heron standing on a wooden structure in the Thames. Behind it is the
river, the north bank, and the point of the Shard.

    The Heron and the Shard

    I finally upgraded the operating system on my mobile phone. It’s a Pixel 2, which I bought cheap at the point that they were superseded by the Pixel 3, in 2019. It was thrown onto the end-of-life scrapheap by Google in late 2020, but it still worked fine, so I kept using it. I paid £55 for a battery replacement last year, which has kept it usable. However, using something that no longer receives software updates isn’t ideal, and the longer that went on the less comfortable I was.

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  • Week 140: Fun with lasers

    I had a chance to use the laser cutter at SLMS on Tuesday night to make some parts for my mandolin-banjo restoration. Apart from running off the edge of the sheet on one piece, it went smoothly, and I had enough spare ply to recut that part without needing another sheet.

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  • Restoring an old mandolin-banjo, part 1

    I recently bought an old mandolin-banjo (also called a banjolin, although that term is a bit contested) for very little money on eBay. As well as the usual maintenance of needing a new skin, it suffered from the same fate as all mechanism-in-pot instruments in that the tension is supported by a wooden ring that distorts under pressure over time, leaving the neck angle too shallow.

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  • Week 139: Promenade

    I scored standing tickets for Jon Hopkins with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms on Tuesday night. It was the first time I’d been to the Proms in 18 years or so of living in London. I didn’t realise that you can just go. It’s very affordable – only £8 each – but they put the tickets on sale at 10:30 in the morning, which isn’t quite as accessible to people whose job isn’t being on the computer all day. I’m OK, though. I was ready with three browser windows to make sure I had an unfair chance.

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