This website is a log of my many hobbies and passions with art, illustration and computer graphics. It will hopefully over time
fill up with helpful advice to encourage, inspire and guide others with similar interests.

April to July 2015

It' been quite a while without adding any posts, it seems like everything is getting in the way of carrying out home projects and hobbies, and life being filled with things less noteworthy of recording here. However I still try and keep myself busy and have a few items of note that others might have some interest in.

In the last post I reported on a trailer I have been building, well I managed to finish it for a fraction of the cost of buying a trailer of equivalent size and quality

Completed Trailer

To make the trailer more useful I have included fittings to allow a canopy frame to be mounted on top of the trailer to secure a tarpaulin canopy. The space inside is larger than the payload space of a Vauxhall Astra van. With the front section removed, tailgate lowered vertically and ladder rack H bars fitted, the trailer will accommodate 8 x 4 boards down the centreline and balanced over the trailer axle.

I have a few building projects planned over the next couple of years and this should be a useful addition for moving equipment and materials without the need to tax and insure another vehicle.

Chimney Rebuild

Late last year I reported on the work to install a wood burning stove, after rebuilding the top of the chimney stack I abandoned the outside work due to inclement weather. As we are now in the midst of summer it presented the ideal opportunity to complete the work on the stack, to re-dress the flashing and repoint the remaining brickwork. As the existing mortar was quite degraded the joints had to be dug out quite deep before refilling with a new strong mortar mix. Hopefully the chimney will now remain maintenance free for the rest of our time at the house.

Add Xampp launcher to Ubuntu 15.04 menu

XAMPP is a completely free, easy to install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP, and Perl. It effectively turns your computer into a web server for local development of PHP/MySQL driven websites. The latest version of xampp installer now includes a gui based startup manager that makes starting and stopping the program much easier than writing commands in the terminal. Unfortunately the the setup script doesn't load the manager into the Ubuntu menu. So to achieve this I had to manually create an xampp.desktop file.

Before creating the .desktop file I first needed to be able to launch a password prompt window as Xampp needs to run with root privileges.

Xampp Manager

To do this gksu needed to be loaded, this was don by running the following command in the terminal.

sudo apt-get install gksu

Then the text editor was launched from the terminal with root privilages using

sudo gedit

In the text editor the following text was added and saved to /user/share/applications as xampp.desktop this is where all the programs .desktop files are located on my computer.

From the above file the key entries were:

Name= is the name that will show under the icon in the unity launcher

Exec= executes the command, gksudo calls the password prompt and opens the file from /opt/lampp

Icon= is the location of the applications icon which was found at /opt/lampp/htdocs/favicon.ico

Xampp Launcher in Unity menu

Add Blender 2.75a launcher to the Ubuntu 15.04 menu

Unlike Xampp, Blender does not need to be run in root privileges therefore gksu does not need to be used so setup is a little easier.

In the text editor opened with root privelages (see xampp above) the following text was added and saved to /user/share/applications as blender275a.desktop this is where all the programs .desktop files are located on my computer.

Blender Launcher in Unity menu

From the above file the key entries were:

Change: [YourUserName] for the user name you use on your linux system.

Change: [FileLocation] for the location where the Blender tar.bz2 file was extracted to.

Name= is the name that will show under the icon in the unity launcher, make sure the version number is included if you have more than one Blender version on your machine.

Exec= executes the command, in this case launches blender from the specified location.

Icon= is the location within the blender directory that the blender icon is located

A full explanation of all the available options in the .desktop file can be found at:

Blender Update

Though Blender doesn't feature in my work anymore, I am still keeping abreast of the changes that are taking place with the software, which is still developing at a rapid pace. Not using Blender for work is a major limitation in staying up to date with the software and being able to help people by updating on what I have learned. Since my last report on blender development back in April 2014 there have been five new updates to Blender and the software is now at version 2.75a. Some of the highlights in the recent upgrades are:

Cycles Renderer Now supports Fire and smoke rendering and render baking.

Freestyle Has added the ability to add textured strokes, it has also been incorporated into the Cycles render engine and now includes an svg export facility to export the freestyle lines to inkspot

User Interface Pie Menus have now been added

Blender 2.75a Splash Screen

January to March 2015:

Having installed a wood burning stove towards the end of last year, I found myself with a need to be able to collect quantities of lumber when it becomes available. It is certainly not cost effective to buy nets of firewood from the local shops, and very little of what we have brought has been suitably seasoned to be classed as fire-wood. So to start this year my first project was to acquire or make a suitable trailer which has turned into quite an enjoyable project.

I started off by winning an ebay auction at a great price for what looked like a sturdy box trailer. It was made out of heavy grade 2 inch angle and had leaf spring and dampered suspension. However it was obvious the boardes were rotten and the wheels sat inside the trailer compromising the load space.

Old Box Trailer

Typically for me rather than just reboarding the trailer I decided to redesign and rebuild it to make it a lot more functional.

The trailer box measured 4 foot 6 inches by 6 foot 6 inches and 1 foot 6 inches high, but was compromised by the inner wheel arches. Besides carrying logs I also have a need to carry timber for construction projects and being able to easily transport 8 foot by 4 foot boards was a must, so I decided the box must accommodate at least 4 foot between the wheel arches and also the centre section should be able to extend over the front A frame and out over the tailgate so 8 x 4 sheets can be stowed vertically in the centre of the trailer. The existing framework was totally over engineered with heavy gauge steelwork on non structural parts of the box, so again I decided to completely strip down the trailer and re-weld it using structural steel only where the strength was required and use lighter grades of angle for the non structural parts.

Rebuilt Trailer Frame

The strip down has gone well and after a significant amount of descaling, cutting up and re-welding I now have a decent trailer frame. It was really rewarding breaking out my old welding set after many years mothballed in the corner of my workshop and discovering that I can still produce good quality slag free structural welds. The new axle is based off Ford Fiesta rear hubs mounted to an axle beam made from 2 inch box section. Retaining the dampened suspension means the trailer shouldn't bounce about like so many commercial trailers do. The project is ongoing and hopefully will be completed in the next few weekends.