Wednesday, 28 June 2017

LAN-party in a box, part 1

Part 1 - The Story So Far
The title’s pretty much self-explanatory. My colleague, Ray, and I were talking about “The good old days” of online gaming – before Call of Duty, when the dominant games were Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, Counterstrike and the like.

We were toying with the idea of trying to run a LAN game over the work network, but figured the bureaucratic headache that would cause wasn’t worth it.

Then I got to thinking about how to cram everything we’d need for a LAN game into a single portable box, and could easily be set-up, used and torn down again within a lunch hour.

The great thing about returning to older games is that the system requirements, that once required hi-end PCs will now run on pretty much any old commodity hardware. What once meant lugging around heavy, bulky desktops, separate monitors and keyboards, could be replaced with a modern, lightweight laptop.

Ray was bringing in his laptop, and I setup an old laptop for me to use.

I installed Fedora 25 from a live CD (no particular reason for this distro, other than I had a live CD for it to hand – I’m sure others will work fine) Installed WINE, and the game.

We also wanted to use a dedicated server, so I dug through my stack of old hardware to find something to use - and I setup the server using an old netbook.

The networking was provided by an old home router of mine, which supplied DHCP configuration, making the network a straightforward plug and play.

This whole setup was stuffed into a metal flight-case for taking into work, and worked well for a spot of lunchtime multi-player, but there were a few downsides:

  • Cabling – lots of mains plugs and network cables.
  • Size - it's quite a substantial amount of gear to lug around - the flight case measures 33x46x15 cm and is packed pretty full.
  • Although UT runs quite well in WINE, there is definitely some latency. The server seems fine, but graphically on the client machine, it's noticeable
The original setup - the netbook in the background is the current server.

Obviously something needs to be done to address the shortcomings, so this will form the basis of my next project - it should be a nice mix of DIY (for the case) and tech (hardware, software config, networking etc).

Update: Part 2 is now here

Monday, 5 June 2017

Wiresaw from Guitar String

A wire saw is piece of wire used for cutting. It's kind of like a band saw blade, except instead of having teeth, it cuts using abrasion - like a Dremel cutting disc does. It's a useful addition to the toolkit - it's one of those tools that might not see everyday use, but those times when you do need it, it more than pays for itself.

Most retail wire-saws tend to be aimed at the military / survivalist market, but I find mine most useful in trimming supports from 3D prints and cutting in hard to reach spots when dismantling electronics.

The great thing about wiresaws, is a lot of people will have one in their home, even without realising it. My wire saw is a string from a guitar.

The wound nickel creates the abrasive surface, being nickel it's quite resistant to the heat from the abrasion, and being a guitar string, is designed to withstand bending and flexing.

the downside to this, is they can be a pain to keep tidy. As they bend, they become more difficult to keep tidy.

So as a weekend project I made a simple case to store the wiresaw, helping to wind it neatly, yet keep it accessible.

As this was an off-the-cuff project, these measurements were not measurement by design, but what they ended up as after the fact, and are just there to give a rough indication of the sizes required.

I started with a 35mm length of dowel (10mm diameter). which i drilled two small holes through.

I grabbed a scrap piece of pine and cut a 20x35x55mm piece. I used a 20mm spade bit to drill partially into the 35mm side, and then used a 10mm drill to cut the rest of the way to the other side.

I used a router to carve out a groove from this hole to the short edge of the wood. There was a bit of tear out, but it doesn't affect it. The staple across the groove it there to act as a guide for the wire. I put the dowel in place, so that one of the drilled holes is on each side.

The guitar string is threaded through the carved channel, threaded through the dowel hole and tied. A piece of hardboard was cut to size, a 10mm hole drilled in line with the dowel and nailed to this side, effectively 'closing' the case. A small drill bit was pushed through the protruding dowel hole on the other side, and turned to wind the string in. A keyring was tied to the other end of the string, as a handle for the saw.

The drill bit was replaced with a loop of copper wire to provide a winding handle.

In an ideal world, this would have auto-retracted, like a tape measure, but some testing that I did showed that wasn't really practical.

Finally everything was trimmed to size and sanded down.

The finished project, closed (left) and open (above)