I like Syncthing, the continuous file synchronization program. Syncthing helps me pickup and continue my work regardless of the device I happen to be using, because it synchronizes my files across all devices. Think Dropbox but on my own hardware.
Also, I like tiny, low-power computers, like the Raspberry Pi 2. The Raspberry Pi and other lightweight computers demonstrate how even small computers are powerful enough for servers and desktop computing.
When Dropbox became more bloated with the new app design and refusing to offer a lower cost tier for those of us with modestly lower file synchronization needs, I began using Syncthing to create a folder of files synchronized between my desktop computer (at home) and my Surface Go (laptop used at work). I’ve been wanting to add a third node in my personal cloud storage solution, in part as an exercise in Linux and tiny computing and in part as another safe repository of my files. So, it made sense to combine my use of Syncthing with my enthusiasm for tiny computing by adding a third node to my Syncthing setup with a $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W (RPi0).
I picked up a RPi0 version 1.1, a C4 Labs Zebra Zero Black Ice Case with heatsink from Microcenter using their curbside pickup, which cost about $26 total.
I setup the RPi0 as a headless computer, meaning that it doesn’t have a monitor or keyboard attached. I will configure and control it remotely over my LAN.
Before turning to the software and preparing the microSD card for the RPi, I assembled the case and installed the heatsink on the CPU. A case for the RPi0 wasn’t necessary, but I thought it prudent to get one for two reasons: 1) I have a cat and a small thing with a wire sticking out might be enticing, and 2) I plan to leave it on all the time, so a heatsink like the one included in this case kit will help dissipate heat produced by the RPi0’s CPU.
Before powering up the RPi0, I downloaded Raspbian Lite (a lean version of the Linux-based Raspbian OS for the RPi), balena Etcher (to burn the installer image to my microSD card), PuTTY (to SSH into the RPi0 to configure, administer, and install software), and Apple’s Bonjour network printer software (to easily connect to the .local hostname of the RPi0).
Since I installed Apple’s Bonjour software as part of Mitch Allen’s instructions above, I was able to easily connect to the RPi0’s Syncthing web admin page by going to “raspberrypi.local:8384” on my desktop’s web browser.
Before setting up Syncthing to sync files, I wanted to lockdown the web admin page by going to Actions > Settings > GUI where I checked “Use HTTPS for GUI” and added a “GUI Authentication User” and “GUI Authentication Password”.
As a test, I rebooted the RPi0 and confirmed that Syncthing launched automatically at bootup and confirmed that authentication was required to access the web admin page remotely.
Also, I made sure that I had Syncthing running on the desktop computer and the RPi0. Due to some initial problems with syncing, I unlinked my desktop and Surface Go from syncing, and moved the files and folders out of my default sync folder so that the sync folder is empty to begin with.
Then, I added a remote device to Syncthing on my desktop PC and on the RPi0 (both installations of Syncthing have to have the other device added).
First, on each computer (in my case, the desktop PC and the RPi0), click “Add Remote Device” on the Syncthing web admin page.
Second, on the “Add Device” screen that appears, type in the Device ID of the other computer. In my case, Syncthing auto-suggested the Device ID of the desktop PC when I was configuring the RPi0 and vice versa since these devices are on the same local area network.
Third, click on the “Sharing” tab on the “Add Device” screen, and check all three boxes: Introducer tells connected devices to add devices from the other synced devices, Default Folder is what folder is being shared, and Auto Accept will automatically include new folders created or shared within the default shared path. Finally, click “Save.”
After adding each other device on each Syncthing installation, they should begin syncing the default folder. I added one file back on my desktop PC to test this. After that file synced on both devices, I added my files back and they began syncing with the RPi0.
The final step in my setup was to add the Surface Go as another remote device. After starting Syncthing on the Surface Go, I added it to the desktop PC and I added the desktop PC to the Surface Go’s Syncthing configuration. While the Surface Go began copying files, the RPi0 added the Surface Go as a remote device automatically. Now, all three devices sync my files.
A better configuration would be to have the RPi0 off-site so that my files would be protected from burglary or fire. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend Syncthing as a foolproof backup solution that gives you the same sense of security as off-site storage unless you can arrange to have your files off-site (then, I would recommend going further than what I did and have your RPi0’s drive encrypted to protect your files should the off-site device be compromised).
For my purposes, using Syncthing on two work-focused devices and one tiny RPi0 computer server gives me some peace of mind through an additional layer of redundancy.
Now, I want to explore what else I can have this RPi0 do as a headless server!
Due to COVID-19, City Tech (and all of CUNY) shifted its in-person classes to online, distance learning instruction. In this post, I reflect on my current class’s transition to distance learning, show how I have configured my office and computer for screencasting and video conferencing, describe some software and services that support distance learning, and give instructions for uploading a video to YouTube.
My Transition to Distance Learning
For my current Science Fiction (ENG2420) class, this was not too much of a disruption, because I was already leveraging online technologies to support student learning and course material accessibility. I designed the course as a zero textbook cost class, meaning I find resources that I can make available to students via PDFs and handouts, and choose readings that are available freely online, such as the unparalleled Archive.org.
Also, I redesigned some of the course assignments to emphasize the importance of note taking by teaching good note taking practices and evaluating students on the quality of their notes. To support this, I recorded each lecture during our earlier in-person classes and posted them on YouTube after class ended, so that students could use the videos to fill in gaps in their notes and allow those students who missed a class to make their own notes based on the video lectures.
I collect student work via email and on OpenLab, “an open-source, digital platform designed to support teaching and learning at City Tech (New York City College of Technology), and to promote student and faculty engagement in the intellectual and social life of the college community.” I joined the OpenLab team as a co-director of the project this year, but I have been using OpenLab in all of my classes since joining City Tech in 2014.
Now with classes meeting asynchronously online, I have tweaked assignments and the schedule to accommodate students accessing materials and completing their assignments. I hold office hours once a week at a regularly scheduled time via Google Hangouts, and I can hold private office hours by appointment with students. I use email to respond to questions and concerns on a daily basis.
Now that I have reconfigured a space in my apartment to support my class and the many other online meeting responsibilities that I have with OpenLab and other projects, I wanted to share some tips and ideas to help others transitioning to facilitating their classes with distance learning.
I know how easily distracted I am by busy backgrounds, I wanted to provide as neutral a space for my lectures and online meetings. To this end, I appropriated my apartment’s closet as a distance learning and video conferencing studio.
I positioned the Logitech C615 webcam so that I am centered in the frame when video conferencing or recording myself lecture. Above the camera, I positioned a white light to illuminate my face.
I arranged the desk so that my back would be against a solid white wall as pictured above looking from behind my monitor towards where I would be sitting facing the monitor and webcam.
Notice that I taped a small piece of cardboard above the webcam. This blocks glare on the camera lens from the light above that illuminates my face. I was careful to cut and position it so that it is out of frame of the camera lens. Depending on your webcam, be careful not to cover the microphone if you build a similar lens shade.
To the side of my desk, I have a larger lamp that points against the wall and behind me. This reduces my shadow from the desk lamp in front of me.
The end result looks like this:
Software and Online Services for Distance Learning
As mentioned above, I use email and the OpenLab for interacting with students, disseminating materials, and collecting student work. And, I am using Google Hangouts for regular office hours since it is a far easier lift for students than official CUNY supported video platforms like Skype and WebEx.
To create my class lectures, I do the following things.
First, I create a presentation slide deck using Slides in Google Docs.
While presenting my slides in full screen mode, I use OBS Studio, a “free and open source software for video recording and live streaming” that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux, to record a video of my desktop (the Slides presentation) and my webcam video and audio in a smaller picture-in-picture that positioned in the lower right corner of the screen, which produces a video like my recent lecture embedded below.
Before I can post the video to YouTube, I like to edit it (though, editing isn’t absolutely necessary). I like to use Shotcut, a “a free, open source, cross-platform video editor.” After trimming the video, I then upload it to YouTube, get the video’s sharable link, and embed the video with the link in my class’ OpenLab site.
OBS Studio and Shotcut have steep learning curves, but each have extensive online documentation and there are communities of users online who share tips and advice about how to setup and use these powerful tools.
In some cases, you might not even need a computer. iPhones with iOS and Android phones can use video recording software that’s built-in or with an app to record and edit video, and there’s a YouTube app for both platforms that you can use for uploading the resulting video.
In the next section, I will show you step-by-step instructions for uploading a video made on a computer to YouTube.
Uploading a Video to YouTube
Once you have a video ready to share with students, the following step-by-step guide for uploading your video to YouTube shows you how to upload and share a link to your video.
First, navigate to YouTube.com and login to your account. Then, click on the camera icon in the upper right corner and then click “Upload Video.”
Second, drag-and-drop your video from your computer into the center of the window that opens, or click on “Select File” to navigate to and select your video file on your computer.
Third, while your video is uploading and processing (updates are shown along the bottom edge of this window shown above), fill out the Title and Description boxes and choose a thumbnail for how the video will initially display before the play button is pressed. Then, scroll down the window.
To comply with the COPPA law, select if your video is for kids or not. Then, click Next in the lower right hand corner.
Fourth, you can skip the options on the Video Elements screen and click Next in the lower right corner.
Fifth, select the Visibility option for your video. The most versatile choices are Public (this is what I choose) and Unlisted. In these cases, you will have a sharable video link that you can send via email or easily embed in a webpage. Private is also an option, but you have to choose who is permitted to see the video, which requires students having a Google account and you knowing those accounts to grant permission to each one. After making your selection, click Publish in the lower right corner.
Finally, highlight and copy the video link on the resulting screen, or click on the copy icon on the right to automatically copy the video link to the Clipboard. Click “Close” on the lower right to return to your list of videos on YouTube. With the link on your Clipboard, you can go to email, OpenLab, or another platform to paste and share the video link with your students.
On OpenLab and WordPress-based sites, pasting the link into a post or page will automatically embed the video so that students can simply navigate to your class site and watch the video on the class site instead of going over to YouTube as an additional step.
If you’re working on transitioning your classes to distance learning, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and frustrated like Miao Miao below. Just don’t give up. We’re doing good work for our students, and it takes time to think through and implement distance learning. Also, it’s okay to let your students know that this is a work-in-progress and things might change based on what works and what doesn’t.
This is a long read that combines autobiography, nostalgia, memory, and instructions. Visitors here might find it interesting and informative. My students might use it as a model for some of their own multimodal writing about memory, processes, instructions, and reflection.
While it has been over 25 years since I last rode a skateboard with my hometown friends, I recently felt drawn to the 7-ply deck once again and decided to assemble a board similar to my second skateboard–a 1990 Powell-Peralta Mike McGill pro board with VCJ’s Skull & Snake graphics, fish shape, nose and tail kicks, natural wood grain with Gullwing Pro III trucks (red), and Powell-Peralta Rat Bones wheels (neon green).
Before I got my original McGill deck, I learned to skateboard on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles complete skateboard that my grandparents–Wilma and Papa Gerald–bought for me from the Wal-Mart on Altama Avenue in Brunswick, Georgia (since replaced by a Supercenter about a mile away, and then the original site re-built as a Neighborhood Market a few years ago).
With the TMNT skateboard, I learned how to balance, turn, and ride on my grandparent’s back car port. At first, I held on to a broom handle to steady myself until I felt confident enough to ride without this support. I don’t think I had a helmet, but I did have pads and wrist guards–the former store bought neon green plastic over black, and the latter used, red, gifted or traded for–I can’t remember.
I rode and shared the TMNT skateboard with my friends who I paled around with when I stayed at my grandparents. However, I wanted to learn how to ollie and do tricks, but I found this to be next to impossible on the heavy, tank-like TMNT board. This is what began my search for a better board, relying heavily on the photo stories and advertising in magazines such as Transworld Skateboarding and Thrasher, and eventually led to me mail ordering the McGill deck and new hardware (was this a Christmas gift from my grandparents or my folks–again, my memory falters).
With the new McGill, I continued skating through the beginning of high school, but I drifted away from the sport when I got more interested in books (physics first, science fiction second), computers (Amiga, IBM-compatible PCs, and eventually, Macintosh), and cars (my first being a 1965 Ford Mustang, but always having a soft spot for the small Toyota pickup trucks that I used to deliver auto parts from my family’s business).
I don’t remember what became of my McGill. I suspect that I gave it to a friend before going to college where I really got into Rollerblading, but my memory fails completely on this point. I hope that I can remember what happened to my old McGill skateboard, not because I want it back, but instead simply to recall that moment in my life’s narrative. Related to this is the fact that I don’t seem to have any photos of me with my skateboard (though I do have a photo of me holding my Rat Bones wheels on Christmas Day). It’s an odd omission in the photographic record of my life of something I considered important to me at that early time in my life.
My re-interest in skateboarding began when I was watching the film Hackers (1995) in HD. I don’t think it registered with me when I first saw it when it was originally released that the film’s villain, The Plague (Fisher Stevens), rides into his company’s NOC (network operations center) on a McGill skateboard (see above).
Then, I caught up with my oldest best friend Bert over the phone. He lives in Seattle now, but back in the day, we used to skateboard in his neighborhood. Bert was a much better skater than me. Our conversation drifted back to skateboarding, including the time that he and I were stopped by a cop on our way back from a Hampton Inn construction site. The obese, good ol’ boy police officer asked us questions about what we had been doing and he stopped when he pointed his flashlight on our boards. Bert skated Vision, and I skated Powell-Peralta. The cop took a breath through his teeth and said, “now boys, I’ve done heard things about that POW-ell Per-AL-ta. They’s devil worshipers!” Bert and I smiled and nodded until he let us go on our way back to his house, but it’s a strange encounter that’s stuck with me.
Our phone conversation encouraged me to begin searching the web for information about my old skateboard. This led me to the Bones Brigade video The Search for Animal Chin (1987), which I shared with Bert via text message. By this point, I was thinking and spending more free time learning more about skating history and its evolution after I had left the sport.
While I was already burdened by a big research project on computers in science fiction from 1975-1995, which I’m continuing to work on, and the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium, which I was organizing, I wanted to give myself something on the horizon to look forward to as a reward for this work. I decided to get the parts to build a new, complete skateboard similar to one that I had to before without breaking the bank, so I turned to eBay after striking out with the major skateboard online retailers and local shops, such as Uncle Funky’s Boards.
While I couldn’t find my original McGill with a natural finish, I did find this brand new, black dipped, Series #5 re-issue on offer by a seller in Puerto Rico. We negotiated a best offer price, and I received it before anything else.
I picked up a Gullwing Pro III trucks, wheels, bearings, risers, hardware combo from Raptorunner in Riverside, CA, and I ordered a Powell Peralta Tailbone and Jessup grip tape (and a helmet and pads) from TGM Skateboards in Mount Clemens, MI.
My original Gullwing Pro III trucks were cherry red and stood out well against the natural grain of the board. I liked these new 9″, 155mm neon green ones, because they stand out against the black background on the new, black McGill deck. Also, my re-issued McGill deck uses the old truck bolt pattern, so I chose between these (note that the base plate has six bolt holes instead of four–to accommodate both old and new bolt patterns) and Independent Stage 11 169mm trucks. Ultimately, I opted for the Gullwings since I skated with them before.
Raptorunner had several different truck, wheel, and hardware bundles. I chose this one, because it had these Sector Nine Nineballs wheels. They aren’t too big (I would have preferred 56mm) and they are real soft (78a), which will be good for the street crusing that I intend to use the skateboard for.
To begin my skateboard’s assembly, I began with the Tailbone before applying the grip tape. I clamped the tail guard to the bottom of the deck’s tail and measured to ensure it was centered.
Then, I used a small drill bit to lightly mark where I should drill the larger holes for the wood screws that will go through the top of the board into the Tailbone.
I used the grip tape shipping tube to support the deck while I was drilling.
Powell-Peralta’s instructions for the Tailbone call for a 7/32″ drill bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one in this size. I didn’t want to go with a larger hole (1/4″), so I tried the 3/16″ bit. Luckily, this was more than enough room for the wood screws to pass through the board without biting and then go into the Tailbone.
Using my earlier marks, I drilled three holes through the deck’s tail. These will be used later for mounting the Tailbone.
Before mounting the Tailbone, I applied the Jessup grip tape. I bought 10″ wide grip tape, which is just barely wide enough to give some room for error with the front of the deck. If I had to do over again, I would have opted for the 11″ wide grip tape.
I wanted the Bones Brigade logo to appear on the top of the deck, so I needed to apply two sections of grip tape–one above it towards the nose and one below it towards the tail. I measured these lengths twice and cut the length of grip tape into two sections allowing some room for error in terms of length. I used the pre-cut edges as the beginning of application above or below the Bones Brigade logo. I slowly lowered and pressed the grip tape to the deck so as to avoid any air bubbles under the tape.
With the tape applied, I used the barrel’s edge of a screw driver to draw a scoring line around the edge of the skateboard deck.
Then, I used a razor blade held from underneath the board to follow the edge of the board and cut the excess grip tape off along the scoring line.
Next, I pressed the grip tape down around the edges of the deck.
I ran a rolled up piece of excess grip tape around the edge of the deck to give the grip tape a clean edge all away around.
With the grip tape applied, I used a screw driver to punch through all of the holes in the deck for the trucks and Tailbone.
Next, I installed the tailbone by pushing through wood screws and matching them to the holes in the Tailbone.
While I had a cordless drill on-hand, I preferred to install these screws by hand. I was afraid of over torquing the screws and losing grip in the Tailbone’s plastic. Installing the screws by hand allows me to feel them dig into the plastic and maintain a secure hold on the Tailbone through the deck without stripping out plastic.
The final stage of the assembly involves the trucks, wheels, bearings, and 1/4″ risers. I laid all of these parts out to make the assembly quicker. For some of the assembly, I used the cordless drill with a Philips head driver, and I had my 1/4″ drive tall sockets in 3/8″ (for the truck mounting bolts) and 1/2″ (for the truck’s axle bolts).
The first task was to install bearings and spacers in each wheel. I placed an Owlsome Precision ABEC 7 bearing assembly into the back of a wheel.
Then, I used one of the trucks to help me press the bearing completely into the wheel so that it is flush with the wheel.
Turning the wheel over, I dropped a spacer on top of the inserted bearing.
Then, I placed another bearing into the front of the front of the wheel over the spacer, and again, used the trucks to help me press the bearing assembly completely into the wheel.
Then, I pulled the wheel off, placed a washer on the axle, followed by the wheel with the front facing outward, another washer, and then the axle nut. I tightened the axle nut by hand with the 1/2″ socket. I left a very slight bit of play for the wheel on the axle.
With all of the wheels assembled with bearings and spacers and these installed on the trucks, I was ready to complete assembly of the skateboard by mounting the risers and trucks to the skateboard deck.
First, I pushed the 1 1/4″ truck mounting bolts through the skateboard deck.
Then, I mounted the 1/4″ riser through the bolts on the underside of the skateboard deck.
Next, I turned the skateboard on its side and mounted the trucks.
I hand threaded the four hardware nuts on each mounting bolt for each truck.
After confirming each nut was threaded correctly, I used the cordless drill to snug each bolt down to the nut and then hand tightened each bolt in an X-pattern until I was confident in each truck’s mounting to the skateboard deck.
With the trucks mounted, I have a complete skateboard ready to take out and hit the streets with. The soft, larger wheels should be great for riding in my neighborhood. However, I have been looking at Powell-Peralta’s G-Slides, which I might get later.
I opted to cover the “Bones Brigade” name beneath the logo, because I wanted a little more grip on the tail section of the deck.
My original McGill had a nose kick while this late-80s re-issue does not. Nevertheless, I think this will be a fun skateboard to ride. Y asked me to wait until she returned from her trip to see her parents before I rode it in case I hurt myself. She’s back, but the weather isn’t superb, so I might content myself with daydreaming about riding my new skateboard until we can take it out together.
In all honesty, I have to remind myself that I can’t necessarily do the things I did when I was younger, or put another way, I can try to do the things that I used to do, but there will likely be more serious consequences. C’est la vie!
My cousin Ryan Cox is a longtime practitioner of a variety of martial arts including kung fu and tai chi. Ryan and his two older brothers–Ian and Jarret–grew up learning, sparring, and developing uncanny skill in hand-to-hand combat and weapons sparring. While Ryan and his brothers have developed rhizomic networks to enhance their abilities and pass on what they have learned to others, Ryan has went the most far afield when he traveled to Wudang Mountain to train with the kung fu monks who reside there.
When we were younger, I remember myself being the one drawn to the Star Wars mythos more than anyone else in my family, but now Ryan tells me that he was always interested in the Jedi, their mystique, and their lightsabers. In more recent years, he has learned a lot of the backstory of the Star Wars universe from books and video games. His knowledge in those realms far outstrips my own.
So, I was intrigued when he began talking with me about building his own lightsaber for demonstrating his swordmanship and possibly sparring if the “blade” were strong enough to withstand strikes. The guide that follows illustrates the first lightsaber that I built for Ryan in the fashion of General Rahm Kota’s. I used off-the-shelf parts easily obtained at Home Depot or any hardware store. Since I built this lightsaber, Ryan has modified it more, and I have built two lightsabers for myself–one that resembles Luke Skywalker’s Return of the Jedi lightsaber and one that resembles Darth Maul’s The Phantom Menace double bladed lightsaber. This guide focuses on Ryan’s “Mark I” lightsaber.
Pedagogically, I promote the idea that haptics, building, and making are integral parts to any kind of education. We are embodied beings who do things physically in the world–whether it be in real life or online. I enjoy building things in my own time as another way to think about things–in this case, Star Wars, science fiction, Jedi mythos, world building, canon vs. noncanon, and design considerations: rhetoric of technology, aesthetics, practicality, etc. In Ryan’s case, haptics, proprioception, and movement are integral to his learning and lived experience. I am looking forward to learning from him with this artifact that I designed and built. The modes are the same–physicality, materiality, and haptics–but our efforts converge from different directions for a kind of haptic, learning synergy.
I began the project by assembling the parts that I needed for creating the lightsaber’s hilt and belt clip. I carried an image of Rahm Kota’s lightsaber on my iPhone and went to the plumbing aisle of my local Home Depot.
These parts included:
6″ x 3/4″ galvanized steel pipe
Two 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling (one for display and one for sparring with permanently installed “blade”–these two couplings are interchangeable)
“Close” 3/4″ pipe (approximately 1 1/2″ long)
Roughly, these parts are assembled to create the lightsaber:
Other parts that I used for this build include:
1/4″ white nylon rope (grip wrap)
36″ x 1/2″ oak dowel rod (scrapped due to paint problem)
48″ x 1/2″ paint brush rod (cut to 36″ and replaced the oak dowel rod)
Doorbell button assembly (for parts)
80mm computer case fan (for electromagnet assembly)
Rustoleum Florescent Yellow Paint
To create the lightsaber’s handle, I screwed all of the handle components together except for the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling like this: 3/4″ cap | 6″ x 3/4″ pipe | 3/4″ to 3/4″ coupling | 3/4″ close pipe.
Then, I prepared the nylon rope to create the grip on the two pipe sections (6″ pipe and close pipe) by burning frayed ends to melt the nylon.
Beginning at the business-end of the lightsaber, I tucked a small piece of rope under the first wrap against the 3/4″ coupling to hold the rope in place and prevent unraveling.
At the top end, close to where the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling (or lightsaber emitter/business end), I created a loop with the rope under the last wrap, which I ran the last wrap through and pulled into the wrap, which hid the end of the rope under the wrap.
I cut the loose ends. Beginning on the other side of the 3/4″ coupling, I repeated these steps with the longer wrap of the 6″ pipe section. First, a small piece under the first wrap.
I pulled the rope tight around the pipe and pushed each wrap down to keep the grip as tight as possible.
Mose tried to help with the process as much as possible.
At the end of the 6″ long pipe, close to where the end cap goes, I placed the D-Ring and ran the rope through its eye to connect it to the handle.
As in the shorter section wrap, I created a loop and pulled the end of the rope through and under the last lines of wrap to hide the end and prevent the grip from unraveling.
Finally, I installed the cap. Before doing this, I wrapped the grip higher than necessary so that the the cap would compress the wrap when tightly screwed onto the 6″ pipe.
Since Ryan would likely bang his lightsaber when sparring, I wanted to make it as practical as possible while giving it a technological appearance. First, I tried attaching a circuit board from an average doorbell button with two hose clamps.
While I thought this fit the rugged look that Ryan might like for his lightsaber, I thought that it would be more practical to use only one hose clamp and affix the doorbell components with JB Weld after removing them from the circuit board.
I liked this configuration best. The hose clamp protects the switch, lights (non-functional), and resistor.
Next, I wanted the display emitter on the deactivated lightsaber (3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling) to look “realistic,” so I pulled the electromagnet from an 80″ computer fan, crushed it with my channelocks, and inserted it into the 3/4″ end of the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling. Repurposing the electromagnet draws on a visual/physical rhetoric of technology in the same way that movie props and set design use this for world building, extrapolating, and establishing plausibility.
The next phase of the lightsaber build involved the other sparring emitter. I needed to rigidly attach a wooden blade to the second 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling in the 1/2″ end of the coupling and paint it to match the yellow blade color that Ryan sought (signifying the Consular Jedi).
I began by taking an oak dowel rod and whittling one end enough to screw it into the 1/2″ end of the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling.
Then, I used JB Weld to permanently connect the coupling to the dowel rod.
I had to make sure that I did not put too much JB Weld on the tip closest to the 3/4″ pipe thread, which screw into the “close” end of the lightsaber when the blade needs to be drawn.
I made sure that it was centered and straight.
Finally, I painted the dowel rod above the coupling with a primer and then with the florescent yellow.
Unfortunately, I misread the spray paint cans and ended up with a mess when the florescent yellow would not stick to the dried primer (I mistakenly picked up white primer + paint instead of simply primer).
Luckily, I had a paint brush handle in the garage that was long enough to serve the same purpose even if it might be made out of pine instead of oak.
I cut the paint brush handle down to 36″.
Set it up for painting with the remaining florescent yellow paint.
Many coats later, it was a bright yellow befitting a Consular Jedi!
After the paint dried, I screwed the metal end of the brush into another 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling and bonded the blade to the coupling with JB Weld.
After everything had dried, I mated the blade with the lightsaber handle.
I was happy with the outcome of the lightsaber in deactivated mode, too.
I gave the lightsaber to Ryan as a birthday present. I included this explanatory diagram that explains how the saber is more than simply parts (e.g., the rope is from the same bundle that Ryan and I used when we cut trees down in my yard last year).
Since I build this lightsaber, Ryan removed the nylon rope grip and improved it with three layers of bank line or tarred twine. The result is quite impressive aesthetically and practically!
I will post future posts on the lightsabers that I have built for myself and examples of our sparring (when we have the time for Ryan to teach me some things).
UPDATE: Readers asked me to post photos of my other lightsabers–one inspired by Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in Return of the Jedi and Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber from The Phantom Menace. When I built these sabers for myself, I didn’t take as many photos of the process as in the lightsaber above for Ryan, but these photos should illustrate the basics of how to build similar DIY lightsabers.
Luke Skywalker ROTJ Lightsaber and Stand
This was the first version of Luke’s lightsaber. I am working from memory as I do not have the lightsaber in front of me to give the exact specifications. I believe that working from the left to the right: 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer, 1/2″ threaded pipe 1″ long, 1/2″ to 3/4″ bushing, 3/4″ coupler, 3/4″ pipe 7″ long, 3/4″ coupler, 3/4″ to 1/2″ bushing, flat washer with eye bolt affixed (epoxied into bushing). The orange lightsaber control attached to the first coupler is from a computer motherboard heatsink (sawed in half with a hacksaw) and epoxied to the coupler. The wrap is nylon rope.
In the next iteration, I replaced the nylon rope wrap with rubber o-rings that I ordered online (pack or 40 or 50). To install the o-rings, remove the last coupler on the right and roll down the o-rings one-by-one.
To display Luke’s lightsaber, I used smaller pipes attached to a wood base (two different sizes of lumber screwed together through the metal base connected to the pipes).
Darth Maul’s Double-Bladed Lightsaber
I built this Darth Maul inspired lightsaber as a way to figure out an easy way of having a two bladed saber that can split into two separate lightsabers. My solution was to use quick disconnect air hose fittings.
In order to make this work with the larger pipes used for Darth Maul’s lightsaber, which appears heftier in Episode I, I had to use two bushings to reduce down to the smaller size of the air hose fittings.
Here is the double-bladed lightsaber connected.
Here is the double-bladed lightsaber disconnected into two separate sabers. I didn’t build blade attachments for this saber, so I couldn’t test how much pressure/stress could be applied to the quick disconnect coupler that holds everything together. I suspect that this kind of assembly can only be used for show rather than demonstration of saber techniques (as I had constructed the two sabers above). With further modification, I believe that someone could sheath the quick disconnect coupler with metal so that the saber appears more solid from end-to-end instead of having this smaller, weak point in the middle as this demonstration saber appears.
I hope these extra photos and explanation help. Good luck with your builds, and please share any photos that you post online of your sabers in the comments below!
Last summer, I wrote about my experiences installing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on my Asus P8Z77-V and Intel i7-2700K PC here. What I neglected to say at the time was that an alarming number of creeping instabilities led me to ultimately abandon running Mountain Lion on my PC and return to Windows 7.
I later learned that some of these instabilities were likely linked to a bad PSU and video card–both of which were replaced by the manufacturers under warranty (awesome kudos to Antec and EVGA). With the new PSU and video card, my PC returned to 100% stability under Windows 7. This made me wonder if I could try rolling out a Mavericks installation on my PC.
Also, I wanted to use Mac OS X’s superior file content search technology and other third-party textual analysis tools in my research. I have a MacBook Pro 15″ retina (MBPr), but it lacks the hard drive capacity for my accumulated research files. The comfort that I feel in the MacOS environment and the need for lots of fast storage led me to turn my attention back to turning my PC into a CustoMac (aka “hackintosh”).
This time, I wanted to streamline and simply my setup as much as possible and incorporate components that should work out of the box (OOB). Toward this end, I reduced my hardware configuration from this:
ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard (disabled on-board Intel HD 3000 video and Asus Wi-Fi Go! add-on card)
evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card (removed to simply setup and save power–who has time for gaming?)
Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
Three Western Digital HDDs for file storage and work space.
Also, I added two new components that were recommended from the TonyMacx86 Forums:
TP-Link 450Mbpx Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter (TL-WDN4800). It works in Mavericks OOB.
IoGear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter (GBU521). It works in Mavericks OOB.
As noted above, I physically removed my 560 Ti video card, because I wanted to simply my setup for installation purposes. Also, I removed the ASUS Wi-Fi Go! add-on card, because despite disabling it in BIOS, the Mavericks installer seemed to hang on a wi-fi device while attempting to set its locale (a setting that determines what radio settings to use based on the country that you happen to be in). After I removed the Wi-Fi Go! card, I had a nearly flawless Mavericks installation process (NB: removing the Wi-Fi Go! card required removing the motherboard, turning it over, removing a screw holding in the Wi-Fi Go! card, turning the motherboard over, and unplugging the Wi-Fi Go! card).
These are the steps that I used to install Mavericks on my PC:
In order to arrive at the above instructions, I read a lot of first hand experiences and third party suggestions on TonyMac’s forums. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the amazing community of CustoMac builders who take the time to share their thoughts and lessons and equally so to the tool-builders who create amazing software including UniBeast, Multibeast, and Chameleon Wizard!
I would suggest that you remember that there is not always one path to a successful build. I distilled a lot of posts into my successful build. Your experience with similar hardware might take a different path. Reading others experiences and trying their suggestions experimentally can lead to your own successful discoveries. Thus, I took the time to try out different configurations of hardware until settling on the stripped down approach with on-board video and OOB networking gear. I tried several different installations: a failed Mavericks installation with kernel panics (Wi-Fi Go! card installed and wrong Multibeast configuration), a successful Mountain Lion installation (barebones and correct Multibeast configuration), and a successful Mavericks installation (detailed above).
Obviously, MacOS X can run on a wide range of PC hardware given the correct drivers, configuration information, etc. Apple could do great things if only Tim Cook and others would think differently and move beyond the tightly integrated hardware-software experience. Apple’s engineers could do great things with building better operating systems that adapt to a person’s hardware. Given the chance, they could challenge Microsoft and Google with a new MacOS X that is insanely great for everyone–not just those who can afford to buy new hardware.
Now, back to using some of the tools that I use in my research on a computing platform that I enjoy:
My friend sent me a link to a video by someone who turned an older Core2Duo-based Dell Optiplex into a Hackintosh. The video convinced me to do something that I had been meaning to do for a long time but had never got around to actually doing: removing Windows 7 on my ASUS P8Z77-V/Intel i7-based PC that I built late last year and installing Mac OS X 10.8.
A Hackintosh, or what some folks call a CustoMac, is a standard PC that runs one of the Intel-based version of Mac OS (this includes 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, and 10.8 Mountain Lion).
Prior to this project, I had purchased Mountain Lion from the MacApp Store for my old MacBook 5,1 (Aluminum Unibody, Late-2008). When my parents gifted me a rMPB, it already had Mountain Lion installed. This gave me the needed components that I needed to setup my flash drive to install Mac OS on my PC: a Mac and a purchased copy of Mountain Lion.
According to the definitive source for creating CustoMacs, TonyMacx86, my hardware isn’t ideally suited for a pain-free installation (If you are beginning from scratch, you should check out TonyMacx86’s excellent buyer’s guide here). Nevertheless, I worked my way through six re-installations before discovering the combination of settings that yielded a reliable and stable Mountain Lion installation.
evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX 1TB IntelliPower 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – Bare Drive
These are the steps that led to my successful Mountain Lion installation:
Follow TonyMacx86’s UniBeast (the software that prepares your installation media) and Mountain Lion installation guide here. I have modified the instructions below to reflect what I did after creating my bootable flash drive containing the Mountain Lion installer and a folder that I made containing MultiBeast (the software that configures your Mountain Lion installation for your computer’s hardware). (Depending on your needs, you might need other software, including MaciASL, which can create a DSDT file–another kind of configuration file for MultiBeast that gives Mac OS the information that it needs to run well on your hardware. You will need to configure it with sources from PJALM’s DSDT Patch Repositories. Ultimately, I decided to proceed with a DSDT-free installation.)
Turn on the PC with the flash drive inserted on one of the front mounted USB 3.0 slots.
Press F8 to select bootup device and select the flash drive.
Chimera, the bootloader software, provides you with an option to select the flash drive’s Mac OS installation to boot. If you press the down arrow key on the keyboard, you will be presented with other options including help. If you begin typing, you can enter commands to assist with booting the installer.
On the Chimera boot selection screen, type “PCIRootUID=0”. Press Enter. This ensures that the installer’s Mac OS installation will display video correctly. Without this option, the screen goes dark after the Apple logo over gray screen.
From the Mac OS installer menu bar, select Utilities > Disk Utility > Format your boot drive for Mac OS Extended, Journaled. Close the Disk Utility window to return to the installer. Proceed with installation. Reboot when completed.
Press F8. Select the flash drive. At the Chimera screen, select your internal hard drive’s new Mac OS Mountain Lion installation, type in “PCIRootUID=0”, and press Enter.
Mountain Lion will boot from your hard drive and begin the setup procedure (choosing location, creating your Admin account, etc.).
If you have already downloaded MultiBeast and placed it in a new folder on your flash drive, open your flash drive from the Desktop, navigate to MultiBeast, and launch it.
Proceed to the selection screen and check these things:
Drivers & Bootloaders > Drivers > System > Patched AppleIntelCPUPowerManagement > OS X 10.8.x
Complete installation and close MultiBeast.
Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select your hard drive and click Repair Permissions. When completed, close Disk Utility, eject your flash drive and remove from the USB port, and reboot.
When back at the Desktop, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver > Disable Computer Sleep by sliding the widget to the far right.
Plug your computer into your router with an ethernet cable if you have not already done so. You can easily get online with the wired connection.
Your installation is complete!
I chose to go this route, because I could not get Mac OS to boot with the DSDTs that I created with MaciASL (using the configuration for the P8Z77-V motherboard and graphics source per PJALM’s instructions). My problems could have been related to the DSDT or due to incompatibilities between its settings and my P8Z77-V’s BIOS ROM version (I was unable to use the motherboard’s BIOS Flashback feature to successfully load one of these hacked BIOS ROMs on this site). Apparently, if you can get the DSDT to install correctly and have the hacked BIOS, you will be able to enjoy power management settings and control. Since I have my computer only on when I am using it, I do not have any problem with this lack of functionality. Since installation, my Hackintosh has been running great. It is snappy, video and sound work great, network connectivity is fine, and Doom 3 plays fantastically at 1080p!
After the installation, I discovered one tremendous problem: FileVault cannot be activated for your boot drive. Apparently, this is due to FileVault needing a real Mac’s EFI environment (or the error message that it generates indicates that it has to do with its inability to re-partition the bootdrive–likely due to the Chimera bootloader). As far as I can tell from reading posts on the TonyMacx86 forums, there is no way around this problem. One option would be to save your files in a TrueCrypt container or fully encrypted drive that is separate from your bootdrive. Another way is to use TrueCrypt full disk encryption as detailed on this helpful blog post from Frugal Computing (FC also has some great articles about building Hackintoshes).
Others in the TonyMacx86 forums have had varying levels of success with the Asus P8Z77-V and Mountain Lion, so I do not want to dissuade you from attempting to get more functionality on your installation. The above is simply a report of what worked for me. It might work for you, and it might give you a beginning for your own Hackintosh project.