Shepard62700FR7 years ago2016-03-03 22:35:33 UTC 9 comments
It's time for another "Buying a new PC build journey" at TWHL ^^

Many months has passed since the death of my old desktop PC and I'm stuck with my "development" laptop. It was an already built PC by Medion bought from an ALDI shop. I had a lot of great times with it until the motherboard started to do weird things, we tried everything to save it, but there was nothing we (me and my brothers) could do about it. I couldn't use a PC that had constant BSoDs on clean installations of Windows 7 and even "kernel panics" on any Linux distribution. Here are the specs of it just for reference :

CPU : Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 2,88 Ghz
GPU : NVIDIA GeForce GT 230
RAM : 4 Gb
HDD : 640 Gb

As I said, I'm stuck with a Medion laptop (because Medion is a good brand) which the main usage is for university. But since it's the only PC I have left, kinda everything is on it. Here are the specs of it for anyone :

CPU : Intel Pentium 2020M 2,4 Ghz
GPU : Intel HD Graphics (no dedicated AMD/NVIDIA GPU)
RAM : 4 Gb
HDD : 1 To

To give you an idea about how much pain I have with this laptop for gaming : Killing Floor 2 refuses to launch until I pass the magic "-dx10" in the command line to force DirectX 10.1 instead of DirectX 11. There is no in-door lighting (everything is black) and I run the game at 20-30 FPS on the lowest settings at 800x600. But since Killing Floor 2 is an Unreal Engine 3 game (UDK to be precise), I spent a lot of time tweaking the INI files and disabling everything that consumed a lot of CPU/RAM : texture streaming, lighting, shadows, M.E.A.T. ("Massive Evisceration And Trauma" aka the gore system), FPS cap and I even reduced the "screen percentage" to 50%. With all those tweaks, the game runs at 60-70 FPS max and 30-50 FPS in average. But I think you've guessed it, it looks horrible. If I want to, I can go up to the 110 FPS if I set it up to "Quake Competitive Mode", take a look at this video to see what I mean :
League of Legends run at 60 FPS on Medium which is quite good. Insurgency at 40 FPS in low. PARANOIA set to High with the "hacked opengl32.dll" at 20 FPS and Unreal Tournament 4 at 20 FPS and a screen percentage of 25% aka "very Minecraft style pixelated mode". And the worst for the end : I was chosen to participate in the Closed Technical Test of Battleborn (Gearbox Software's FPS/MOBA) : 10 FPS in the menus and 1 FPS in-game. I also had an access to the beta of Paragon (Epic Games's MOBA) : 30 FPS in the menus, 1 FPS in-game.

So I've said myself that enough is enough, I took my courage and started looking at building and mounting my own PC. I want to step aside from the already built PCs because I don't want my PC to last 5 years or wait that the warranty void to clean the inside of it. I think that already built PCs are good for people who have no experience in PCs and they don't know somebody to guide them if something goes wrong. Furthermore, have you opened the case of an already built PC ? They put stuff in it to annoy the hell of you if you need to do something on it. I'm going to take my girlfriend's Packard Bell as an example : she had a problem with corrupt/damaged RAMs and we had to replace those by fresh ones. When I opened the case for the first time, my heart was close to stop and my anger level was almost reaching the 100%. Her power unit is located at the middle back of the case and there is some kind of "bridge structure" to hold it with the front part, below it, you have all the cables (SATAs, fans, power...) tied by a clamping collar and below, the RAMs. Even worse : her CPU and cooler was behind the power unit, and if you want to remove the power unit, you unscrew the first 2 screws at the top and there are 2 more behind. Either you need a ninja screwdriver or you need to saw the case if we want to access the CPU/cooler and the screws that hold the motherboard. From easy unscrewing to EXTREME HARDCORE IMPOSSIBLE UNSCREWING OF DEATH.

I want my new PC to work for years, I want to play the games released nowadays and the future games that will be released in the next years without any problem. I also want a PC that can be easily upgraded, if I need to change the GPU then I just want to change the GPU not the whole PC, this was one of the issue I had with my dead Medion. If I wanted to change one part, I had to change everything. Without any further addition, here's the build I've found after many weeks of searching :

CPU : Intel Core i7-4790K 4,0 Ghz
GPU : Gigabyte GV-N960IXOC-2GD - GeForce GTX 960 2 Gb
RAM : G.Skill XM Series RipJaws X Series 16 Go (2 x 8 Go) DDR3 1600 Mhz CL9
MB : Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H
DVD : Lite-On iHAS124-14
HDD : Western Digital Red Desktop 1 To SATA 6 Gb/s
SSD : Corsair Force Series LS 60 Gb
Power : Corsair Builder Series VS650 80PLUS
Case : Zalman Z3 Plus Black

For the CPU, I prefer to stay on the 4 cores side for the moment. The amount of applications and games supporting more than 4 cores is very low these days and I think I'll be fine for years with this i7. A lot of people think that i5 is enough for gaming but I think that statement is going to be wrong in the next year(s) because games will demand much more in the future. Why an Intel and not an AMD ? I agree that AMD is way cheaper than Intel, but one of my first PCs had an AMD Duron and this CPU died after 4 years of service. It seems that AMD has fixed this nowadays but I told myself : "better safe than sorry" hence why I'm staying on Intel's side.

The GPU was very hard to find. First of all and to be clear, don't mention AMD/ATI. I had a Radeon 9550SE in the same first PC and it was HORRIBLE. Old drivers = everything runs fine but can't change the brightness in id Tech 3 games (Quake III Arena, Call of Duty 1, 2...). New drivers = drivers crashes, can't run anything, the ATI OpenGL fix for Hammer didn't worked. I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago and he wasn't very happy of his Radeon too, I think you've guessed it, I stay at NVIDIA's side even if they cost more than AMD/ATI. One of the problem I've found out with NVIDIA is that you need to look very closely to the GPU's specs because a lot of people think that 7XX beat a 6XX and they are wrong. Sometimes, a 6XX beat a 7XX for the same (or lower) price. The GTX 960 from Gigabyte is the only GPU that I've found which allow me to avoid this trap, the GTX 960 from other vendors were just a GTX 740 with the name changed.

The RAM was very easy to find unlike the CPU and GPU. 1600 Mhz is a good frequency in my opinion, CL9 because lower latency is better and 16 Gb is enough for my purposes. One friend told me to stay away from Kingston because he had issues with it.

The motherboard was a nightmare to find. Before the Gigabyte, I've found some kind of low cost MSI motherboard but the problem that a friend of mine spotted is that I've chosen the wrong PCI Express version for the GPU. So I changed it for another correct MSI motherboard but when I have chosen the case, there was not enough connectors for the fans. And I've found another MSI motherboard but there was again a problem with it. One client bought it and tried to install the same RAM of this build, and he reported that the space between the CPU and a RAM slot is too short making it "useless" for RAM with a radiator. And after more searches, I've found this Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H which this time seems to be perfect.

The DVD burner is the cheapest I've found and I don't care too much about it because the only time I will use it is to (re)install old games and Windows 7/10. Hooray for the USB boot ! ^^

One friend highly recommended me the Western Digital for the HDD. 1 To is likely enough for my needs and I'm an organised man so I won't come short in terms of disk space. When I saw that the Red versions of Western Digital are more designed for NAS, I was like "WTF ? You want me to use a pro-NAS HDD on my PC ? Are you high or something ?". He reassured me that he's been using it for years and no problems at all, he also told me that previous versions (Green and Blue) weren't good for performance but rather for energy saving, so I'm trusting him on this.

This is gonna be the first time I'll be using a SSD and I'm quite hesitant about it. I've done a lot of research and found out that there are some very important steps to do after Windows installation (like preventing "defrag.exe" to run on it). I'm considering of installing my Windows 10 (and maybe the root partition of an Arch Linux) and all softwares on that SSD (Google Chrome, Steam, Mumble, Visual Studio...) and keep all the games and data on the HDD. Is my "SSD usage strategy" correct or I am going the wrong way ? Anyone here has a SSD and tell me his experience with it ?

I think 650W for the power unit is gonna be enough for this build and for potential future upgrades, this Corsair Builder Series VS650 80PLUS is the only 650W power unit that I've found to do it's job properly for a good price. At first I started looking at 700W power units but I think that's a little bit too much.

And finally the case, this Zalman Z3 Plus Black is the only case I've found that has a dust filter and 3 fans included for a very low price. Many people seems to like it as well.

The price of this build is 995,95€ without shipping costs. For french folks here : I'll buy this build if everything is fine and I'm 100% sure about it on LDLC. Concurrents like, GrosBill, CDiscount and Rue du Commerce are way too expensive and their catalog is shorter as well.

And this conclude the first part (or entirely) this "Buying a new PC build journey". Before probably some day buying this build, I would to hear about your opinion. Do you think my build is correct for my needs ? Do you suggest more interesting components ? Feel free to tell me, I appreciate in advance for the comments, suggestions and all.
UrbaNebula7 years ago2016-02-29 12:06:43 UTC 18 comments

So last night I had a pretty horrific dream. I figured I would write it all down as best as I can recall so anyone who cares can look over it, say "meh" and move on.

The dream starts with me waking, face down in a bed, not my own and in a room I don't recognise. I immediately feel uneasy, as if somebody is watching me. I roll over and sure enough, my heart skips a beat as I see a ghostly white woman standing at the foot of the bed, who looks unsettlingly similar to my wife. She is draped in rags that flow as if she is underwater and her eyes are completely blacked out. She raises her arm, pointing to a nearby window and whispers; "The tractor is coming"

Within seconds I can hear a distance sound, an engine, drawing closer. It continues to get louder and louder until everything goes black.

Suddenly, I am driving along a country road in the dead of night, sure enough on an old fashioned tractor. The lights barely light the road ahead and I can just make out that there are thorn bushes either side of the road, about six feet tall. I hit a bump and realise that something is shifting behind me. It turns out that I am pulling a heavily loaded trailer. I turn to see if everything is still in place and to my horror, the trailer is piled high with dismembered and disfigured human corpses. Another jolt sends the heap tumbling off the trailer with a sickening wet sound as they fall onto the road. I keep driving.

Up ahead now, maybe 150 metres, I can see a single street lamp on a wooden pylon. Below it, standing on the grassy curb just in front of it are two figures, silhouetted by the bright light. On of them stood firm, like a stone while holding the other by the back of the neck. They are clearly distressed, thrashing and trying to break free of their grip. I hit another bump and the motionless figure looses it, brutally hacking at the squirming figure with a cleaver or hatchet, eventually beheading them. Their body remains upright, blood shooting up like a fountain. I hit the breaks, stopping the tractor instantly. Both figures stop, motionless, the beheaded figure still standing and squirting blood from it's neck... then they both take off, sprinting straight for me, screaming and gurgling. They vanish into the darkness between myself and the lonely street light. I put the tractor in reverse, look over my shoulder and see all of the disfigured and mutilated bodies from my trailer are now standing behind me, staring right at me.

The engine cuts out, the lights click off... and I wake up.
DiscoStu7 years ago2016-02-25 19:20:27 UTC 11 comments
Because I'm lazy.
Tetsu07 years ago2016-02-24 15:29:00 UTC 4 comments
Paint nite!
Yes that's the correct spelling, silly Americans and our butchery of the English language. It's a company name, so that's all their fault.
Anyway, at a Paint nite event, you have a few glasses of wine / beers / your favorite liquor, and you follow along with an artist and paint something.

Last night was a cat sitting under a tree:
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Cute right? Kinda lame though, and I'm not a fan of pink.
I was following along well enough up until about halfway through:
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Looks alright. My tree upon the empire of dirt. Everything's grey-scale for now.
It came time to draw the cat and I thought to myself: "Nah, let's do something cooler".
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Loulimi7 years ago2016-02-24 10:08:38 UTC 3 comments
Might be my optimistic fan feeling, but despite what I used to hear a lot a few years ago, it looks like Goldsource modding is absolutely not dying, but alive and well instead.
I've for long thought that the only reason other people and I were sticking with this engine was the laziness to move on something new/nostalgia/die-hard fanaticism and that we were a slowly disappearing niche of irrational fans refusing to realize that moving to a more recent engine can only be better.
Now I think it's utterly wrong: to stick with Goldsource is a reasonable choice in its own right. The time tested graphical aspect and gameplay are enjoyed by many people, some of them just discovered the engine recently. Modding is far more simple than with some other recent engines.
The community is active: Sledge, Jackhammer, Xash, Cry of Fear, Paranoia 2 are relatively recent projects. Not to mention mods currently being developed.
And it isn't simply an active community of die-hard fans. Goldsource gets a fairly decent media coverage: Half-Rats has been featured in a British media, Sven Co-op got a large media coverage and an unprecedented number of players for its 5.0 release, Goldsource mods frequently get featured in ModDB and RTSL awards…
Shepard62700FR7 years ago2016-02-18 21:29:04 UTC 12 comments

Don't waste your money on this, it's the worst HL2 mod I've ever played.

Long version

Here's my review of the newly released Prospekt.

For those who don't know what Prospekt is, it's a fan made suite of Half-Life Opposing Force whose author decided to send to Valve along with his C.V. to get hired. The author wasn't accepted but Gabe liked the mod so Valve ended up helping him and ended up being a paid HL2 mod after buying the licenses. Now on to the review.

My first disappointment is going to be the level design. I expected the maps to reach the same quality HL2 had or even HL2:EP2. I think I good portion of the maps could be recreated within GoldSource with "env_model" and sometimes there are no "clue" or "hint" to guide the player. For example, you arrive at an area where you have to press a button, then you have have an infinite antlion spawning behind your ass and you end up wasting 3/4 of your ammo before running everywhere and finding out you have to play Super Mario Bros to reach a ventilation shaft.

Second disappointment is the gameplay, you just run, shoot a lot of Combines, solve puzzles, listen to Shephard's flashbacks, repeat. There are very few variety in enemies, 98% of Combine, 2% of Headcrab, zombies, antlions. I was playing in Hard but I had to go down to Easy because the mod's author had the "great" idea of giving twice health to NPCs and not a little bonus for yourself. Seriously, emptying a clip of pistol in a Combine's head don't kill him on Hard. And speaking of weapons, the only arsenal you have is the standard HL2 weaponry without some weapons like the crossbow and RPG. I've finished the game (almost by speed-running) in almost 2 hours so I expect professional speed-runners finishing it in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Third disappointment is the story, you are told at the beginning to help Freeman stuck in Nova Prospekt and you just hear some Shephard's flashbacks of his story before he get involved in the Black Mesa incident, that's all. Where is the powerful narrative element that we all loved in Half-Life ? There is none. There isn't a single friendly NPC.

Fourth disappointment concern technical aspects, I've already tried to validate the game cache and all but it seems that when you run the game on Low settings, you get the magnificent black/purple texture of Source, and let's not forgot how my eyes just bleed when looking at the game files.

I tried to find positive things to note but I didn't found any. Prospekt is just a paid map pack and a huge disappointment for those who liked Adrian Shephard and wanted to have a good time with him.
Dr. Orange7 years ago2016-02-18 14:26:30 UTC 7 comments
x=x-1 -> 172+-832/4298+x=y-998289=98813+x-y+7 99+x-y=2x-87

It's my birthday
DiscoStu7 years ago2016-02-17 18:02:20 UTC 8 comments
I noticed I had a bunch of Steam trading cards, which by themselves are completely useless. Some time ago I put a few on the market and made a whopping $0.22, so I thought, why not selling ALL of them? Maybe it'll add up enough to get me a new game. After all they're completely useless otherwise.
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Wait, what? Maybe do it from the market page.
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Fuck you too, Steam.
Tetsu07 years ago2016-02-10 23:37:09 UTC 14 comments
So i made an impulse purchase a few days ago. I bought a $65 windows 8.1 touchscreen tablet pc that came with a bluetooth keyboard.
it ran half life ok but playing with your finger sucks... bought myself a cheapo bluetooth mouse and voila! i can map and play half life anywhere i want :D
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zeeba-G7 years ago2016-02-02 00:09:50 UTC 12 comments
27! What what.
Penguinboy7 years ago2016-01-29 10:26:12 UTC 16 comments
Gather round and let me tell you a story. It's a story of hope and despair, sadness and enlightenment, desperation and joy, life and death. It's a story of my computer upgrade.

It all started towards the end of last year. Lots of people on TWHL were getting new graphics cards, and I was starting to think that it might be a good idea. Ant bought some Mac thing for twice the retail price so he could play all those mac games that exist, and Strider bought something ridiculously overpriced so he could play games from the 90's. Archie has had a crazy GPU for a while but he's just rubbing it in our faces with his fancy new screens. Other regulars in the upgrade club include notable pillars of our community such as DoctorAmazing, TawnosPrime, and Jessie.

So I thought: enough is enough! I will no longer be a spectator, I must take action! And action I took. I went to my local internet providing mechanism (my work computer) and ordered myself an upgrade with intense focus and concentration. The upgrade in question? It was none other than an Nvidia GTX 970 with 4GB RAM, 400mb of drivers, support for VR, Shadowplay, built-in toaster, plus I opted for the Roomba attachment and extra fries on the side.

My boss has a parking spot at work, so I knocked him out by giving him a light tap on the head with a ball-peen hammer and grabbed his keys and escaped before somebody could initiate a safety share about getting hammered in the workplace. As I swerved my way over to the computer store (I've been playing GTA recently so I couldn't remember which lane to drive in), I imagined all the incredible things I could do with my new graphics card. I could increase the draw distance in GTA V by 10%! Play Rainbow Six Siege in slightly higher detail than potato mode! Experience Half-Life in a graphical fidelity that's never before been possible! I was so excited that I almost ran over a particularly wide person on the footpath, but fortunately I managed to avoid them with only a small amount of collateral damage.

The gentleman that served me at the store had an incredibly impressive afro. I'm talking big, puffy, and really tall. His hair was larger than the rest of his head. This afro was hypnotising in its puffy majesty. I stood there staring for about 10 minutes while he was trying to serve me. Eventually I managed to exchange an impressive sum of Australian dollarey-doos for a chunk of plastic and steel that a Chinese dude made for ten bucks. I asked the guy for a lock of hair to remember his afro by, but he refused. I left empty handed, but that hair will forever be etched in my mind and I will compare all future hair to that noble image.

After dreaming about my new graphics card on the train home, I finally managed to walk through my front door and get ready for upgrading procedures. I took all the standard precautions, of course: take off pants, put computer on fuzzy carpet, don't bother unplugging the power because honestly who bothers with that nonsense. I was under my desk without much light so I put my phone into flashlight mode and balanced it awkwardly on the edge of the case.

After unplugging a few cords running over the old card, I was able to yank it out with only a little bit of brute force. A few things snapped but they probably weren't very important. The new card was jet black and reminded me of a super sleek racing car, if a racing car could be installed in a PCIe slot. I carefully jammed it into said slot and reconnected the power and whatever else was lying around that looked like it would fit into something. I stood the computer back up and pressed the magic button.

I grinned when I saw my motherboard's BIOS screen flash up. The GPU was working! The grin lasted about 5 seconds before it turned into a slight frown. The BIOS screen was still there. A minute later it changed into a blinking cursor on a black background. 5 minutes later, nothing had changed.

Have you ever felt that sinking feeling when you know something's gone horribly wrong? I have. Not only today, but in the past as well. My first GPU upgrade was at a LAN party, upgrading my GeForce MX440 to a FX5200. I eagerly installed the card and flicked the switch. All was going well until I smelled something. It was the metallic smell of ozone, the smell of fried electronics. The tab on the card was blocked by my computer case, and the AGP pins hadn't connected properly. The resulting short fried a capacitor in my motherboard. The rest of that LAN was not an enjoyable experience for me. It took 6 months for Intel's warranty department to issue a replacement.

Anyway the point is that I have felt this before. Fortunately I've learnt my lesson and I knew the pins were connected properly, and nothing smelled of ozone so I was trying to stay positive. I shut it down and checked that everything was seated properly, that the power was connected, and that my PSU had enough juice to support the card in the first place. Everything was okay. I tried again, and still nothing happened. The sinking feeling increased. Something's broken. I paid 500 dollarey-doos for this damn thing. The store is not known for its refund policy, and its support is Valve-quality. What the hell am I supposed to do?

I was desperate. And what do people do when they're desperate? They try everything. In my case, 'everything' included looking for motherboard BIOS updates. You know, that thing that absolutely never does anything to fix your actual problem? But it doesn't matter, I was desperate. I did it anyway. The last update on my motherboard was published in 2012. Not a good sign. But even still, I did it anyway. There was indeed a BIOS update, and at this point I didn't really care if it made things worse than before.

So I flashed the BIOS. I squeezed my hands together as the progress bar progressed. I popped a stress ball. The blood in my fingers experienced a pressure so great that it would still be in liquid form if I was sitting on the surface of the sun. The progress bar finished and my computer rebooted. I crossed all my fingers and toes and even digits that I didn't even know could be crossed. The BIOS booted...

... and worked! A BIOS update actually solved my problem! It's even less likely than the second coming of Jesus. But it worked. Windows started, and the driver installer struggled to start up and eventually gave me a green light after choking on installations for a while.

I celebrated by turning all the settings up in GTA. I can now make everything in the background incredibly blurry without it dropping frames! It looks absolutely awful so I turned it off, but isn't it nice that GTA with maximum settings also doubles as an "I'm not wearing my glasses" simulator. I'll now go back to playing games that I was able to max out on my old card anyway. New games are expensive, you know?

TLDR: Got a new graphics card, GTX 970. Didn't work initially, but for the first time ever a motherboard BIOS update actually solved the problem. Story may be slightly exaggerated in places. Not that guy's hair though - it was 100% real.
DiscoStu7 years ago2016-01-18 20:20:02 UTC 6 comments
I have a handful of throwaway email accounts on my web host. As such, some passwords are pretty half-assed and they may even be things like AAA123456. Today I got an alert from the support team at my web host:
Our servers have detected the passwords of several of your email accounts are insecure. Because they include the u sername (sic) or domain in them. [Note: not the case]
Please change your passwords from your control panel and re-enable the accounts. Follow these steps to build a strong and secure password:
(typical secure password advice removed)
My reply:

How do can you even tell that? Do you happen to be storing passwords in plain text instead of running them through a one-way algorithm as would be appropriate for a hosting industry of your caliber?
I can't wait to see what they reply, but it looks like I'll be changing providers soon...

===== UPDATE 1 =====

Dear User:
The server detects it automatically and modifies them, at no point we can see them because they are encrypted.

Yeah totally encrypted. With ROT13. TWICE!
Alabastor_Twob7 years ago2016-01-14 20:58:00 UTC 7 comments
I'm sure I mentioned it a few months ago, but as part of my final year at university our class is put into teams and each has to design and build a radio controlled model aircraft to perform a specific task as set by the AIAA foundation's Design Build Fly competition.
This year the aim is to build two aircraft; a Production aircraft, which must be capable of carrying a 32oz Gatorade bottle around a set course, and a Mission Support aircraft, which must be capable of carrying the production aircraft (stored internally, disassembled) around the same course.
We've spent the last semester designing the two aircraft, and manufacture started last week.
I'm in the fuselage group for our team, and in the last few days we've been busy building. Since the production aircraft is intended to be broken down into different parts, we've been able to work on the fuselage independently of the other groups (wings, gear, etc.)
The majority of the design is carbon fibre tubing and laser cut plywood and balsa wood. Here you can see the laser cutter cutting out some wing ribs from balsa:
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While the laser cutting is pretty impressive, the one they have at the university isn't great. Because the plywood we're using isn't laser grade, parts need to be cut out in multiple passes, but the cuts are in slightly different places on each pass, so they don't come out very well.
Here's an image of what little we could salvage of our first attempt at a fuselage, with a Coke bottle for scale:
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Here'a a pic of our partially constructed second attempt:
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To account for the poor accuracy of the machine, the parts were all cut slightly oversized, and then hand fitted. While this is labour intensive (two of us spent three or four hours filing and sanding and we've got more to do tomorrow), it allows for a very close fit:
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Those two images are of the parts we have ready so far (plus one that was accidentally broken). There's no glue or fasteners used there, but we were able to hold it by the tailboom and shake it fairly vigorously without anything coming off. Also in those pictures you can see my two 3D printed parts. I was pretty excited about those as it was the first time I had seen something I had designed on a computer as an object in the real world.

Also, as an extra: While the laser cutter isn't very accurate, it's perfectly fine for small objects that can be cut in one corner of the cutter bed. So I've been making keyrings.
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I have a few more designs I'd like to cut in the next week or so:
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UrbaNebula7 years ago2016-01-14 19:56:40 UTC 6 comments
Mere days after we lose Bowie, cancer has done the world yet another great disservice and taken Alan Rickman from us.

Fuck you, cancer.