Make, Hack, Void – Arduino workshop

27 February, 2015

Make Hack Void is a group of dudes who have managed to lease a horrible old government building – the old water police building at Lake Ginninderra. This space is the eponymous ‘void’ of the title. A little industrial and ugly, but tools line the walls, and the table we sat at had a powerstrip down the middle, with dozens of power points. Which is what you want.

Tonight (and again this Saturday) they ran an Introduction to Arduino workshop. It was great.

For me, the best part was Stephen getting the kits together. One hurdle to getting started with this stuff is “what am I going to need?”. Sourcing the bits. Attendees were told to bring a laptop loaded with the Arduino software (which is free at the link he gave), and he really did provide everything else. There was a moment when I thought “crap – I didn’t bring a serial cable!” but no – when the moment came Stephen tossed a short serial cable to each of us.

We got:

It was all thought of, is what I am saying.

With respect to making it all go, Stephen had prepared six mini-projects. We did three, which is always the way – you panic about not having enough material and it always turns out you have way too much.

Project 0 was hello world, using the Arduino serial interface and the GUI running on your laptop.

Project 1 was Das Blinkenlights. Make an LED blink.

Project 2 was the very fun tricolor LED.

And as we were short of time, we skipped forward to the peizo buzzer.

We didn’t get to making the motor go, but it really doesn’t matter. Simply getting the gear going at all is the big step.


We chewed up time attempting to explain to people how to program – “this is a variable, this is an if statement”. I very much doubt that anyone has ever absorbed the Zen by having someone give a talk on control structures: you need context.

Stephen had people type the code off the projector rather than copy it off the web. I agree: there’s something mystical about it when you do it the hard way. The problem is time in a session like this – people who aren’t programmers aren’t instinctively going to put in all the semicolons, and they chewed up time fixing compilation errors.

Perhaps something that would work better is “here is some code, get your chip working, ok – now hack up the code to do X”. Change the blink rate, the colours – whatever. For instance, the pezio example could have made the chip sound for 3 seconds, then add a switch, then add a potentiometer.

But aside from that, it’s all good. I’m not sure what I might want to – you know – do with the board now that I have it, but I can do anything I want. What I really want is a thing to open my blinds in the morning. I have a streetlight outside, its a pain in the butt. The kit has a light sensor, I will need a somewhat more grunty motor to work the twisty thing on the blind.

Say: maybe what I need is two light sensors, one with a coloured gel to filter out the streetlight. I might be able to tell when it’s daylight by comparing the two. First order of business, then, would be to set up the sensor and collect data and then see if I can derive a rule for when to open the blinds.

The point being that with the Arduino, this project is doable. I wouldn’t have had the confidence or the impetus to wander into Jaycar and get started by myself, wouldn’t have known what to get. Having the guys there was very worthwhile.

You know – the session was not just an introduction to Arduino, it was an introduction to the MHV community. That’s the hidden purpose behind that nice lasercut mounting board. The message being: “we have guys here who can produce this sort of stuff”. And they do.

That’s the point.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 5

26 February, 2015

Well, I have done as much as I am going to do on the bits that don’t have specials. The bare walls are dry-brushed with basically the original colour (white, yellow oxide, raw umber) before the ink wash – maybe a shade lighter.

The cave formations are highlit with – again – the original colour (white, metallic pearl, yellow oxide, unbleached titanium) a shade lighter. Higlighting is like dry-brushing, but wetter.

Floors likewise. I don’t like the colour I brushed them with. Same as the original, but it’s kinda come out a bit orange. I’d prefer a less saturated (ie: more grey) colour.

Here’s a pic.

The unbleached titanium makes the calcite come out a shade pinkish. But only a shade. Maybe a bluish tint might have been cool, go the spooky.

Want to get this done tonight. Tomorrow is the Introduction to Arduino workshop at Make, Hack, Void, and Friday is game night.

I am beginning to suspect that attempting to paint while listening to Iron Maiden is actually a bad idea.


All done, except for some varnish on the water to make it nice and shiny.

Mushrooms are done in lava colours – fire red base, red lightened with orange for a highlight, orange and red to pick out a couple of individual spots.

Pools of water – I laid down a coat of white, then another one, then a coat of the iddescent pearl (which I think might have been a bit pointless), then two coats of hydra turquoise. I might have preferred a deeper blue, but this looks fine. Really, water in a cave isn’t blue – the turquiose is a visual idiom that says “this is water”.

The base coats might have been unnecessary – the turqiouse is pretty opaque if you shake the bottle adequately before use. I didn’t mix the pearl into the blue, because water isn’t metallic. It needs a layer of clear nail polish to make it look right.

Oh, and I picked out the texture on the wooden doorway with some raw umber and white. Not too much white. Antique gold on the piles of loot which may actually supposed to be mushrooms. But meh – maybe they are gold-top mushrooms. Or maybe they are mushrooms that look like loot to get the characters to stumble into them and get spored – bwahahaha!

The flash on the photo makes the iridescent cave formations look a bit brighter than they actually look in person.

Thank you linesmen, thank you ball-boys. A will have a beer, then it’s bed-time and work tomorrow. Maybe I can make d2rq talk to Joseki, maybe not.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 4

24 February, 2015

Ok. I bought some “dark tone” ink, which I felt was not dark enough once I diluted it a bit. So I added some black inkjet printer ink. Then I redid just the base of the pieces.

Better, I think. But the ink doesn’t cling to the cracks as I would like it to. Perhaps it needs some paint, rather than being just ink and water. Paint, and I need to brush it off the surface and let it set for a moment before drying it.

In any case, I am finished dicking around with step 4. Step 5 – the drybrush – is next, and it will lighten the floors and walls and make them look heaps better.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 3

24 February, 2015

Ink wash done. Art Spectrum Sepia ink and some water, immediately dried with a hairdrier to keep it from soaking into the paint.

It’s – I’m not sure I like what it’s done.

The nice white calcite stuff is now all reddish and will need to be retouched. The wash wasn’t dark enough against the floor colour to define the floor tiles. And it wasn’t sticky enough to get into many of the cracks. So it’s stained bits I didn’t want stained, and missed bits I did want.

I’m inclined to redo the floors with straight black ink, or just go back to watered-down black paint. I’d definitely say that what I did did not accomplish what I hoped it would.

You know – with the work lights off and just the regular house lights, they look a lot better. The silky pearlescent sheen in the calcite comes through nicely. In fact, I almost have the opposite problem – I would like the wall colour to be more matte. I’ll dry-brush it, but that is tricky because I don’t want to dirty up the cave formations any more than they already are.

The lack of definition in the floor, however, is still a thing.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 2

22 February, 2015

With the walls and floor dry (-ish), time to pick out the cave formations. At this stage we are panting things rather than simply colouring in all the plastic.

White, a little yellow oxide tint, and Global Colours Metallic Pearl acrylic impasto.

Sorry about the crappy quality of these photos.

I’m not 100% sure that the metallic pearl pops when mixed in with the paint like this – although … although the calcite definitely seems to have a luminosity to it when you move the pieces. It seems to be mostly transparent, so perhaps a better plan would be to point a layer over the top. I’ll definitely be putting it into the final highlight.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 1

22 February, 2015


Here are some (heavily compressed) pics of these cavern pieces, step 1 and 2. I’ll blog painting this, and I don’t know how they’ll turn out, so before following what I do check the end pics and decide if you like the result or not 🙂 .

Step 1. Background wall.

Blob of white, about half that of yellow oxide, a drop of raw umber to darken it.

I think of cave formations as being yellow, because they are usually lit with tungsten lights. Calcite is actually white. But meh – it will get sorted out. The yellow oxide gomes out a little greenish, but that might be the light I am using.

I do the walls first because the are heavily textured, and you get paint all over your hands doing them. Stiff cut-down brush, plenty of paint on it, get rough with it. 95% coverage is good enough, because the deeper cracks will get darkened anyway, and the dwarvenite is a dark gray.

Main thing is not to go to heavy and clag up the detail. Oh – on the standard wall pieces, paint tends to collect under that top scalloped bit of flowstone in the middle. Give it an extra stroke with the brush to clean it out.

Step 2. Floors.

This took me a lot of faffing around with to get a mud brown. The main thing is burnt sienna. I would have liked a burnt umber to keep the palate simple, but meh. Reddish brown, a little yellow makes it a rich chocolate, Atelier ‘brown black’ to darken it, white to lighten it and reduce the saturation. Eventually I got a colour I liked – kinda.

Broad cut-down brush to do most of the floor, then a finer brush to get to the edge between the floor and the wall. Main thing to watch for is paint on the fingers, so after that first step of painting most of the base wash hands and take a little more care. You’ll note that a lot of the dwarvenite colour shows though, and the lighter mud shade has collected in the cracks, which is not the effect I want. Hopefully, the dark wash will fix it.

I don’t know if darkening the sides of the pieces (where they touch one another when assembled) was a good idea or not. The problem is that the edge around the base definitely needs to be dark, but there’s no logical place to stop when doing those side edges. So meh. When painting those edges, you get a little slop onto the wall surface – which you don’t want. Wipe it away.

After this gets tacky dry, some spot clean-ups with the wall colour and a fine brush. At the very least, clean up the worst of the finger marks.

Game time

14 February, 2015

Haven’t blogged for a while.

Brett’s game is getting pretty surreal. He’s using the Paizo Monster Manual 4, and you know what that means.

We are navigating a universe of portals. Step into a world, use your keyring to locate another portal, get out through the next portal before you get killed. At present, we are on a world scheduled to crash into its own moon. The portal we are trying to get to is – naturally – on that moon. Happily, the aliens have built this massive tower which – we hope – we shall be able to leap from to the surface of the moon with the aid of a Feather Fall.

Unhappily, the aliens aren’t so pleased about us doing this. We don’t know why. Also, devils. And weird-ass Cthulhu stuff. Whales that float in the sky, assembled out of stuff and teeth.

Brus managed to make one back off. An Inquisitor’s class bonus to intimidate, a reasonable roll, and some assist. He threatened it in Abyssal, in the name of his god Yog Sothoth. Mechanically, I don’t thing that he actually made the number, but Rule of Awesome. I’m getting the impression that the Lurker at the Threshold has – noticed – Brus. Maybe casually tossing about the name of the Most Ancient and Prolonged of Life is actually a bad idea. This cannot end well.

The aliens were ant dudes. Formians, in fact. We raced them up the tower They are engaged in hauling a meteorite up the side – something to do with the devils. Clearly, they are trying to pitch it onto the moon when the moon gets close enough. Are they trying to seed it with devils too? Or are they trying to get rid of the damn thing?

I don’t care. There’s a gate on that moon, and we plan to get ourselves and the sage through it. Oh – did I mention? It’s an escort mission.

The DM clued us at a few points that there was loot to be had, but in-game priority #1 was to get to the top of this tower. So he fed us the loot in alternative ways. All good.

What else happened?

Faugh – Andrew’s brawler – did his brawler trick. If he scores a crit on a full attack, then every hit is a crit. He put well over 100 points into an ant dude, which is not bad going at level 7. Faugh needs an Amulet of Mighty Fists – Improved Crit. Cheaper than a keen cestus, because you don’t have to have the +1 on it.

Not to be outdone, my guy got grappled by an ant. He dropped his naginata and bit the thing. For about 33 points, which is good damage for a bite. Orc racial trait gives you a primary natural attack, so 1.5 Str and Power Attack bonus, that doubles on a crit, and some other stuff. (Dammit – I need to remember to use my new feat Conugon Smash). Then, he picked up his naginata again as a move action. Sweet. Oh, I also got to use “Blistering Invective”, which works on all enemies in 30′. It’s not targeted, so it even works on the invisible ones :). Language dependent, but ant dudes are telepathic.

There were Sound Bursts, Confusion, a little poison.

The big reveal of the night was William’s Bottom. Our bard’s ass did this incredible leap, racking up a acrobatics roll of 50+. Leadership feat, a good pick for a bard – the cohort gets class levels. Bottom transformed into a dude with donkey ears, and obviously monk levels make sense for a cohort who mainly uses natural attacks. Getting kicked by a donkey who is also a monk is a whole new world of unexpected hurt.

Morgan was not present. Dave was at the other end of the table – there was some note-passing going on, but I’m not sure what it meant.

Fun times.