Mach3 alternative GUI

A Refreshing New GUI

It seems that many user of Mach3 CNC control software love the concept but hate how it is presented as a user interface.   I tend to agree as I used to tolerate it on my small CNCEST milling machine.  It is certainly not a patch on Tormach’s PathPilot.

While browsing YouTube I came across Physics Anonymous and enjoyed a rant by them about Mach4 and then the joy of seeing their version of a Mach3 GUI which I have to say was a breath of fresh air improvement.

If you hate your Mach3 GUI then have a look at what they are offering as a free download.   It isn’t totally bug free but an upgrade is promised.

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Windows 10 Upgrade and another day dribbled away through my fingers

We are sitting in quarantine and now on Day 5.  Not really any different to how we were before we went to France and when we were in France – just different jobs around the house and workshop and zero outside contact other than food deliveries.  (My wife gets very excited at the prospect of seeing the deliveries arrive).

I got fed up with the boot warnings on Fusion 360 that Win7 would not be supported so I decided that I would upgrade to Win10.  My machine is fairly well spec’d so there was no great desire to upgrade to a new machine.  It was i7 based and had 32MB of memory with a 250GB SSD and a 1TB secondary drive.   Both drives were pretty full and into red warnings so I bit the bullet and opted for a clean load.  I bought in a new 500GB for the operating system and app storage and a massive 2TB data storage secondary drive.   Total cost under GBP100 which is staggeringly cheap.

Changing the hardware was simple. I bought in a SATA to USB dongle to allow the old drives to be available for data transfer and this made life a bit easier. 

Loading Win10 and all my favourite apps took over a day.  It is just never simple.  Finding software keys is always a bit  of a problem as some apps hide it away in Registry.   Finding EXE loading files is another frustration.   Why when you buy an app do some providers send you an email link to download direct with a licence key ?   This results in nothing showing in ‘Downloads’ history to refer back to and reload the app.  When you try to use the old email link it downloads the latest version and tells you that your licence key is no longer valid. When you go to their site the version that did everything you ever wanted has been upgraded and needs you to pay to now use the later version.   ‘Hello .. I have paid for version X and I don’t want to pay for version Y thank you very much.  Just give me a download link to restore what I know and love”.  Rant over on that one.

Some weird effects on Outlook transpired.   I have a GMail IMAP account and three POP accounts all loaded on Outlook.   After loading I had an extra ‘Sent’ folder on the GMail folders tree which contained the Sent items from one of the POP accounts.  Spent a lot of time on this and didn’t satisfactorily solve it other than deleting the contents from this duplicate folder.  The messages are still there in the POP folder so not sure what that was all about.

My 3DConnexion Spacemouse loaded across fine onto Win10 but I still had a related exception error window coming up on booting the machine.   This was the same as it had been on Win 7 so clearly something was common mode.  I could click it and the message window would disappear but it was annoying.  After some digging I traced it to Trend Antivirus.  If I put the two 3dconnexions’ Windows folders into Trend as ‘Ignore’ items it all went away.  Progress on that one.

So I think I now have a (mostly) stable Win 10 machine.  I hate all the nanny state Windows ‘fluff’ that stops you getting quickly to things such as System\Hardware like it was in XP.  In an attempt to ease this I have loaded Stardock’s ‘Start 10’ which mimics the old style Start menu and this makes me feel a bit more familiar. 

Hopefully this was all worth doing and things will now go swimmingly along with no crashes and dramatic improvements in productivity …. gosh were those really pigs I saw flying past ?

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How to Register Velux radio controlled windows

Velux Window Registration of Window to Controller

An Off Piste rant ….having just had a few hours of my life dribble through my fingers I thought others might want to avoid having the same misery.

We have two Velux centre hinge windows in our ‘Summer Room’.   They have been temperamental about behaving to the handheld controller over the years and at the weekend they both went AWOL to the controller while open.

The handbook is a bit disjointed and has a circular path if you have a problem that does not get you anywhere apart from very frustrated.

First thing is that if you end up with the window open and not responding there is a tiny white button on the electronics box inside of the window frame which if you press once will cause the window to close.  This assumes that the window has failed fully open and you can get at the button….

Now to the main problem, getting the remote control to ‘see’ and register the window(s).   I got the spectrum analyser out and checked what was happening.  When you take the batteries out of the controller and give it a hard bounce it takes you into a primary screen asking for the language option you want.   This is followed by a Register menu option.   When I selected this I could see a polling signal at 868MHz (European short range devices frequency allocation) so the controller looked to be working OK.

To activate the window to listen for a poll from the controller you have to switch off the power to the window and then switch back on.  For the next 10 minutes it should be listening for the controller polling request.

Well I followed all this but the controller was not seeing the windows to register them.  I could not see the ACK on the analyser coming back from the window so something was wrong.

Digging in the handbook there is mention of a ‘window reset’.   The same white button that allows you to close an open window also acts as a reset button for the window.   If the window is closed you can manually open it to get at this button. You hold the button down for 10 seconds and this causes the mechanism in the frame to cycle back and forth and make noises.

When all stopped and it went quiet I turned the windows off and on and re-tried the controller and immediately both windows registered.

Magic.   I can now get on with something more important or at least more interesting.

In summary : –

  • Remove the batteries from the remote controller.
  • Manually open the window and press the white button on the black electrical unit on the frame for ~8 secs. The white T shaped part of the mechanism will go into an ‘in and out’ process for 6 or more times and then stop.
  • Close the window manually and switch off the power to the window.
  • Put the batteries back in the controller.
  • Switch on the window.  You now have 10 minutes to register the window.
  • The controller will ask for the language to be selected and will then give an option to Register. Cross all your fingers, hold your breath and then press Register and wait for registration to happen.

Hope that helps someone lose a little less of their life trying to get this to work.

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Activity Update – FlatCAM, Arduino and Social Distancing

While I have been quiet for the last month or so there has been some intensive work by Dave and myself on FlatCAM.   We are in the throes of doing a formal document to help others get to grips with the process and techniques for milling circuit boards.

I need to also put my hand up and admit going over to yet another dark side by experimenting with Arduino technology.  This came about as a follow on to the work on silencing my Bill Smith Gravity Arm Gearless Clock.   With the help of another colleague we have replaced the discrete timer logic board with an Arduino.  I have learned quite a bit in the process and more details will follow.

Finally like many others round the world, myself and my wife are socially distancing ourselves at the moment but every cloud has a silver lining and this does mean I am spending even more time in the workshop doing ‘stuff’.   It has also been a good time to look at the workshop and make plans to tidy, organise and structure things better.  Some of the accumulated odds and ends are getting sifted and sorted and binned as appropriate.

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No Man’s Fort

My wife has the knack of finding some interesting and diverse places to visit for birthday treats.   We have just returned from an overnight stay at No Man’s Fort which sits in the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

The Fort along with three others were constructed in the late 1800s to protect Portsmouth from the French fleet.   Like our modern day government projects they overran their construction target date and budget and by the time they were finished so were the French navy.   There is plenty to read about them on the Net.

The reason for this mention is the resulting respect and admiration I now have for the engineers that put these fortifications in place.   You arrive by shuttle boat at the landing stage faced with a circular wall of stone blocks that are precisely cut and interfaced together and show no sign of cracking or movement.   The whole construction has no deep pile foundations but simply sits on the sea bed.  They had no laser positioning equipment, no JCB equivalents, no CAD.  Yet here these structures sit after 150 years in the most hostile of environments and look non the worse for wear.   Impressive.

If you get the chance to visit any of the Solent Forts either for afternoon tea or an overnight stay you should go and you will not fail to be impressed.

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