I’ve been playing with the new 3D printer – a Dimension 1200ES by Stratasys. Quality is very high, build area is significant, and quite easy to use. I’ve run off a few orange (that was the ABS color that was loaded) christmas trees, based on this model. Here’s a picture of the whole forest.
The lab is all set up and we started teaching the critical making course on Wednesday. I got a bunch of old computers from the faculty and by parting and piecing them together was able to build 3 workstations. I installed xubuntu on them (a version of Ubuntu Linux for older hardware), development software like java, arduino and processing, and was up and running. The lab looks very impressive now – an old card catalog serves as a parts organizer, retired desks from the library are our work tables, and it has become a very light and workable space. 15 students used it on Wednesday and although it was a little crowded, everyone was able to be productive.
For those that are interested, I tried 3 other Linux distributions before going with Xubuntu. I first installed Debian and added the pure.Dyne packages, but the system ran too slow. Changing the window manager (which was the biggest resource hog) would have probably broken somethings and I didn’t have time to go step-by-step through all the additional applications included in pure.Dyne. Plus, all I really needed to run was Firefox, the Arduino and Processing IDEs, and maybe Inkscape and GIMP. I next tried Puppy Linux which ran great but had some unfamiliar interface elements that I thought might confuse some of the students. Also, I got really tired of looking around for necessary packages (dotpup format?) and getting them installed. the Sun Java 1.5 JRE took me 1/2 hour just to find and involved a few extra steps to get working. I really wanted an install solution that would be easy to document(for future machines) and having a good package manager that used a common package format was key to that. Xubuntu provided pretty mich exactly what I needed. It runs very well on 256 MBs, installs and updates very quickly, and I was able to find readily-available packages for everything I need. I’ll revisit pure.Dyne when I get more powerful machines (or I have time to do some kernel rolling and other optimization) but for now I’m very satisfied.