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I realized how tired I was when I got to to the airport here and decided that my initial plan to take a bus tour of London was not such a good idea, and I wisely decided to head straight to Oxford. Took the Hogwarts Gatwick Express train to London's Victoria station, headed to the London Underground where I was disappointed to learn it was not a political movement (cues rimshot) and headed from Victoria Station to Paddington Station, and from there caught a train to Oxford. Definitely a good idea because I was having trouble keeping my eyes open by the time I got here. I pretty much caught all of my connections and it still took about 4 hours of travel... ugh.

The situation was not helped that in order to find where I was staying I needed to go to the Porter's Lodge at St. John's College in Oxford. This process was impeded by a complete and utter lack of any signage or guidance. I was reasonably sure I was close to it, but to find it I basically pushed open a massive fortress door (which was mysteriously unlocked, and which I saw people occasionally wander out of as I stood on the sidewalk trying to get my UK phone plan to works... note: that remains a work in progress) and wandered into an empty courtyard and meandered into another courtyard and randomly went into a doorway to another area where I saw an open door to something that looked like an office and went in... and there it was (there were a lot of other possibilities for where I could have gone, it was extremely lucky that I "zen navigated" my way to the right place... if nothing else, I would have asked anyone I found for help). I paid for my flat (in advance... thank goodness my Canadian bank card worked, it is supposed to work like Visa debit card and did) got the keys and fobs and set out to find the place, dragging my luggage behind me... it was walking distance, but further than I expected by a little bit. I got in (hauled everything up three flights of stairs). You walk in the door and there is a vestibule with a light switch and two doors leading off of it in opposite directions. In one direction is a living room with a chair, a small couch, a foldable dining table, wall shelving, a desk, a small cabinet, and what was a fireplace (now sealed up). Off the living room is another door that leads to a small kitchen with stove, small fridge, microwave, toaster, sink, cupboards above and below with plates, cookware, etc.. Going the other direction from the vestibule is the bedroom with a queen sized bed, bedside tables with lamps, and a little closet with an ironing board, iron, vacuum, etc.. From the bedroom is another door and a fairly large bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. It is far from luxurious, but it is certainly more spacious than a hotel room (or hostel room, which is where I was originally supposed to be staying... there is a private hostel for visitors to the facilities in Harwell, but it was full so one of the physicists from Oxford was able to get me this flat I am in now).

It was late afternoon, and I went out for dinner. A lot of the places nearby that looked promising were actual British pubs, and by that I mean I could get beer, but not really anything in the way of food from what I could see (none of the customers had anything but pints). I ended up going to what looked like a chain restaurant ( because they had what looked like decent food and had a menu out front. They were serving mid-afternoon tea with the trays of goodies and such, it was fun to see. Their regular menu was also available. I ordered what turned out to be a micro-brew IPA (my friend in China needs to come here and teach English... I can't understand a thing they're saying... seriously, and lol, they can't understand me one whit either!) that was very strong and bitter (I liked it, most people I know would not have) and their "Slow cooked salted pork belly" which was came with savoury apple pie, buttered green beans, mash, crackling, and red wine jus. It was better than I expected from a chain type restaurant (not a large chain, they have about two dozen locations, but still). They had a very European attitude toward bringing the bill (I had to flag my server down and make air-scribbling motions), but I was falling asleep at my table and had to get out. The good news again is that I was able to use my Canada Post prepaid Visa to pay for my meal (so that works too, which is good). I have some UK currency in my pocket, but my bank in Canada gave me 5 Pound notes that aren't accepted as currency here anymore, sigh, which is about 40% of the cash I had on me. I should be able to trade them in for valid UK currency, but will probably need some help with that because only banks will do it.

From there, I came back home (home is where I hang my hat) — via a convenience store where I bought vegetable samosas and an orange juice for a snack later — and pretty much fell asleep. I just got up am going to try to go back to sleep again soon (had a samosa, it was pretty good, and the juice) but will try to repair my shoe again with the glue I got (and brought), see if Virgin Mobile can fix the issue with my local phone plan in the UK which doesn't seem to be working, and maybe put my clothes away (and maybe even take a shower, which would be a public service at this point I'm sure).

If I wake up early enough, I might do the London hop on/hop off bus tour thing tomorrow but I'm not going to set an alarm. There is also the possibility of just doing a tour of Oxford (they have open topped double decker buses and lots to see here as well, it's quite the tourist town). I also need to figure out where to catch the private shuttle bus from Oxford to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Monday morning (I need to be there by 9:30AM, which seems quite civilized). Two shuttle tickets were waiting for me at the Porter's Lodge that had been sent by mail by my contact. The address was "Phelonius Friar, c/o The College Porter, St. John's College, St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP"... seriously, this place has no actual address... you either know where it is, or you don't! Fyi, I found a little medieval door to the street (short, and studded with iron things) that is the door the area where the Porter lurks, err works that I can go to in the future if I need to. It allows access to one of the courtyards I had wandered through earlier, and has a doorbell that will summon the porter 24/7 from what I was told. It is unlocked, I was also told, until 11PM. There is absolutely no indication on or anywhere near that door or the buzzer as to what might lie behind it or what it's purpose is. I am thinking I will have to leave quite early for the shuttle bus as well... they indicate a location, but I suspect it is also a "you know where it is or you don't" sort of thing... and I don't ;).

I imagine that this is the sort of thing that goes on inside these mysterious institutions in Oxford:

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I also just found out today (after the previous good news email already reported on) that I will be issued with a work visa for the UK "by way of ancestry" (my grandfather was British and moved to Canada after the war, and Canada is still a Commonwealth country). It's a 5 year multi-entry visa with quite liberal requirements for working in the UK (as long as I can support myself for a reasonable period of time, I can even go to look for work rather than having to have a job in hand at the border). My employer, Carleton University here in Canada, is going to pay for my travel, lodgings, and other expenses while I'm there (along with my salary, of course), so I will just be shifting money to the local economies in the area in return for hands-on experience. It is going to be used over the next few years (presumably) to spend a few weeks at a time at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) near Oxford (in Oxfordshire) to work on the Phase II upgrades to the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN due to be installed in 2025 (at which point it will become the HL-LHC or High Luminosity LHC). Heady times! I'll be staying in a flat for visiting scientists at St. John's College at Oxford and I'm already crazy excited at just the prospect of that (I'm easily contented apparently)! It also looks like I will have a couple of days in Oxford or London to do a bit of touristy type stuff... now I just have to figure out what to do with that time... hmmmm. I'll be spending my birthday there (on a Saturday yet), which will be a marvy way of marking my having survived another year and a fine excuse to treat myself with something fun.

Without the work visa, I could not have so much as picked up a paper clip to contribute to the project (RAL is a government institution and is very strict about such things), and I would only have been able to go and observe which would have defeated the main purpose of my going there (to learn how to do this stuff so we can help going forward since it's too much work to do in one place). I was, to be honest, stressed out of my mind about the whole thing because the non-refundable airline tickets are already purchased and the UK embassy in New York has my passport as part of the application process (which could have presented a travel issue if it was not returned in time, which could have happened if the application took longer than it normally does, which is a possibility in these sorts of things). So my stress level has dropped by orders of magnitude to say the least! So, I leave for Gatwick from Ottawa on September 22 and will be returning here on October 8.

If you're in the London/Oxford area then, I'd be happy to go for a pint (or a cup of tea of that's more your speed) while I'm there :-).
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I have so much I want to do, so much pent-up desire (and sometimes need) to accomplish so many things after eight years as a "mature" (or at least elderly) undergraduate student. So many business ideas, so many technical ideas, so many geekly fun for myself ideas, so many social ideas, but I remain mired in making it from one day to the next. I really should have taken some time off to get my head straight, but it just didn't work out that way (in fact, I had negative amounts of time off because I started working for the university part time months before my semester was over, and was full time before my finals were written). With all that said, the reason was the bane of my hopes to accomplish the things I want: opportunity. The chances to work on things too cool for school (if you'll pardon the phrase as I am still, for all intents and purposes, at school) was too much to resist. It comes at a cost though for sure.

So where are things now, well, as stated, I am working on some truly amazing projects right now. These include both the Phase 1 (New Small Wheel muon tracker/trigger [not actually very small, fyi], in particular the small-wire Thin Gap Chamber, sTGC, sub-project that I did the testbeam at Fermilab for a few years back as a student research assistant and got authorship on a peer-reviewed journal article by working on) and Phase 2 (silicon inner tracker, ITk, in particular the end-cap strips sensors sub-project) upgrades for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (which will be upgraded to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Detector with the replacement of the inner tracker system in 2025).

If all goes well, I just applied for a 5 year work visa for the UK (by way of UK Ancestry... my grandfather was born in Measham), and if I get it I will go for two weeks in mid-September (I've never been to the UK) to help test 48 wafers of a new batch of ASICs (integrated circuit chips, 450 per wafer) for the ITk project as part of a plan to start testing wafers here in Ottawa. There are hundreds of thousands of ASIC chips and thousands of sensors to be tested for the final detector, and we need multiple sites to do it at... Canada built the forward calorimeter for the current incarnation of ATLAS, and is working on the gas-filled detectors, the sTGCs, but this is the first time we've done silicon trackers like these, or at least on this scale. Anyway, if the visa thing works out, I might be going to RAL in the UK periodically over the next few years to work on this particular aspect of the project. I was supposed to make a side trip to CERN for the "ITk Week" where physicists from all over the world working on that project get together (I've never been there either, but I have been to TRIUMF, Fermilab, and DESY), but we're not sure when the wafers are going to be in, so it's kind of up in the air right now whether or not I make it to Switzerland (which I've never been to either).

I am also working on the Cryogenic Underground TEst facility (sorry, a PDF is all I could find that was public... slide 2 is worth checking it out for), CUTE (yes, CUTE...), which is an experiment that is part of the search for dark matter that will be installed at SNOLAB, 2km underground, early next year. It is going to use a 1kg chunk of ultra-pure germanium as its main detector element (huge for something like that, and crazy expensive). I have heard rumours that I may be asked to spend 6 weeks underground (well, heading underground each day... 5AM, ugh, but this will be for science!)... the first two weeks training (it's an active nickel mine in Sudbury, so there are real mining dangers on top of the danger of just being that far underground), and the next four weeks actually doing work. I had a chance to visit SNOLAB a couple of years back (I never got around to properly posting about it, which I am sad about), but I did post a couple of pictures I took while there. It really is like a villain lair from a Bond film or something... it's pretty surreal.

The other cluster of reasons why I am still not even close to being recovered from my undergraduate degrees is moving... and not even me. Firstly, my partner (we've been dating for a few years) could not find full time employment (much less anything with benefits) here in Ottawa (due to the way the federal government outsourced language training to a cartel), so had to move to Shanghai, China (teaching English as a Foreign Language) to get a living wage and extended medical insurance (we have universal health care, but it doesn't cover everything... like prescriptions and glasses and dental work unless they are outrageously expensive treatments or emergencies, for instance... I wouldn't trade it for the world having lived the alternative for a suffiently long time, but that's another story). She moved mid-June and that effort just about killed me dead (international moves are big things, I've done them before, but she didn't have a lot of resources, so sweat replaced money for a lot of things that had to get done). I did a radio inteview with her the week before she left that you can listen to here about her path through life that led her to where she is now. Her contract is for 15 months, but I am going to go visit her in Shanghai for two weeks in November! I've never been to China, so I am very, very excited (and Shanghai is a good introduction without going too deep, although I do hope to do one trip into another part of the country while I'm there). I was just starting to recover from that crazy process and my eldest daughter Beep finally decided to move out with two of her friends into a relatively nearby apartment. That happened last Saturday and it is still a work in progress (although 99% of the move is done now). It went relatively smoothly, but she had a lot more stuff than she thought she did, and it was a really hard job (moving hide-a-beds up from the basement here left some amount of injury, but nothing that's slowing me down too hard... I'm just freakin' exhausted). I'm heading over once I post this to her place for her housewarming party, and will be bringing a couple of serving spoons (she only has a ladle at the moment since her and her roommates didn't coordinate "stuff bringing" particularly well, heh), and a homemade vegetarian pizza to cook (I'm just waiting on the dough to finish and will bring the prepared ingredients in bags to assemble there). Her two roommates are effectively vegetarians (one will eat meat, but only if ethically sourced from personally known farmers), and I think that will be good for Beep (she's a whiz with vegetarian foods, we have always eaten a lot of vegetarian meals at home here). She is also continuing at college (Algonquin) in their Culinary Management programme, where she is learning to be a chef and to be able to run a kitchen or even restaurant. It's a good portable (almost universal) skill to have, and could open up a lot of doors for her all over the world if that's what she decides she wants to do. She is also talking about taking a degree in antropology at university eventually, and that would pair very nicely with a background in food... could be interesting, but we will see. Tuition is now free for low income families in Ontario (that'd be us, give or take a bit), so it is financially easier to go to school for both of them too (I completely missed out on it as it is only starting this fall). Happy had planned to move out at the start of the summer, but didn't quite get around to it, and for many reasons, has decided to stay with me for at least another year of school. She is going into her second official year in the psychology programme at Carleton (with minors in Women's and Gender Studies and Sexuality Studies... she has grown up around a broad spectrum of gender representations, so she is well placed to make contributions in those fields, imho). School starts for both of them in a week, so that's going to take a lot of effort on my part as well (if history is any indication). I do have to say I'm not looking forward to Carleton being packed to the rafters with people again soon, summers are so nice there...

My radio show, The Passionate Friar, is still going pretty well: an hour of feminism/social issues, physics/science, and music... news, reviews, interviews, ideas, engaging audio, and the Oxford comma! I've managed to up my game with interviews this summer and hope to keep the momentum going forward (I need to get more lined up for September now, but I think I will try more phone interviews, so it opens up a lot more possibilities). The shows are available "on demand" for somewhat over a year, so there is lots to listen to if you want to hear the people behind the physics (and science) and feminism (and social issues) you may hear/read about and benefit from. The list of shows to choose from is here on the CKCU web site. It's a long-form show (an hour), with some music for good measure (so it's not an hour of just talking). It gives a chance for people to warm up and share the stuff they are really passionate about and have devoted at least the current part of their lives pursuing. Some recent stuff includes: Ryan Couling and Matthew Johnston about their research into social media reactions to the Jian Ghomeshi trial; the writers for, and the editors and publishers of, the new young adult anthology Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme; Lori Stinson on her research which ranges from patterns of pornography consumption, to corporate manslaughter and homicide laws, to the changing federal family violence initiative; Alex Nuttal on disability tropes in comics and Barbara Gordon /​ Batgirl /​ Oracle; S.M. Carrière about creating characters or talking with/​about people that don't share your lived experiences (e.g. LGBTQA+ if you're not, women if you are a man or visa versa, etc.); neuroscientist turned social worker Dr. Elaine Waddington Lamont; an interview with Canadian new wave synthpop band Rational Youth; an interview and live music with Xave Ruth on the intersection of math, music, and comedy; Dr. Michael Windover, historian of architecture, design, and material culture on his research, exhibits, and book on early radio in Canada; outgoing Carleton University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Roseann O'Reilly Runte about her French poetry, writing, and research; theoretical physicist Dr. Thomas Grégoire; science education innovators Martin Williams, Ian Blokland, and Mats Selen (2015 US Professor of the Year); Cindy Stelmackowich on the history of Canadian women in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM); etc., etc., etc..

Needless to say, every Wednesday morning, my mind is totally blown and I can be excited about life and everything in it all over again. It's good to be The Passionate Friar!!!

Lastly, and on the topic of "mind blown", if you're in Ottawa September 11, please come out to the Carleton University Art Gallery for the vernissage of the art gallery exhibit I helped to curate and produce! It's an amazing collection of artifacts from early women scientists in Canada and tells both the story of the tremendous contributions they made, and the forces that were arrayed against them simply because of their gender. It has been an indescribable privilege to have participated in such a unique exhibit. From the CUAG list of upcoming exhibits:

11 September – 03 December 2017
Curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell; in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich.

So, what is a “herbarium?” and why is she the focus?

A herbarium is a collection of dried and preserved pressed plants or fungi that are stored, catalogued and arranged systematically for study.

In highlighting the “her” within
HERbarium, this exhibition focuses on the highly skilled and too widely unknown women who contributed to the collection, identification, illustration, production and distribution of early scientific knowledge within the field of botany in Canada.

Because of the accessible nature of botany close to home, and a national pursuit and desire to see, describe and classify flora and fauna species that were distinct from Europe within a then-young Canada, botany was the first natural science formally practiced by Canadian women.

With examples of path-breaking contributions by Catharine Parr Traill, Lady Dalhousie, Faith Fyles, Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles, this exhibition looks back at an important and underrepresented history. It also includes a copy of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” which outlines the federal policy in effect until 1955 that prohibited a woman upon marriage from continuing her career as a federal employee. The exhibition also looks forward at the continuing need to encourage women to pursue careers in science, where they face ongoing discrimination on the basis of intersections of gender, race, sexuality, dis/ability and class.

This exhibition has been developed for the Carleton Curatorial Laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich as part of her seminar “Representations of Women’s Scientific Contributions” offered through the Pauline Jewitt Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University.

If you're there, come say hi! I'll be the old, fat, bald, white guy standing awkwardly in the midst of many very cool and diverse young women ;). I do have to say that it was one of the most amazing courses I have ever taken... when I saw the title of the course, I knew there was no way I could not sign up; however, I had assumed it was going to be more research and essays and maybe classroom discussions. I was wonderfully, wonderfully wrong... it was many, many excursions to the hidden collections of Canada's national museums, practical hands-on work with many brilliant classmates, deeply engaging conversations about women in science (both historically and today), and working far outside my comfort zone on so many things. It was an absolutely magnificent way to cap my B.A. Honours degree in Women's and Gender Studies.

If that doesn't work, and you're here on October 17th... to the best of my knowledge, I should be there for this as well (see above re: potential travel to the UK or maybe even SNOLAB):

HERbarium: Exhibition tour with the curatorial team
Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 7:00 p.m

Please join us for a tour of the exhibition HERbarium, which was co-curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell, in collaboration with women’s and gender studies professor Cindy Stelmackowich.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome! CUAG is an accessible space, with barrier-free washrooms and elevator.

It does run until December 3, 2017 and I'd be happy to pop by if you get a chance to see it (just let me know a day or two in advance). I will be going in right after my show on Wednesday (August 30, 2017) to lend a hand or two in helping to set up the actual exhibit. It's delightful that we were actually able to get some amazingly rare artifacts to (safely) put on display, including Lady Dalhousie's 18th century personal herbarium, a first edition of Catherine Parr Traill's groundbreaking 1865 book "Canadian Wild Flowers" (a limited print run of 500 units, each with 10 colour plates, hand watercoloured by family members, it was the first "coffee table art book" published in Canada), amazing botanical artwork and science by Faith Fyles, and mycology (mushrooms and fungus) samples and other work by the pioneers in the categorization and study of fungi Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles from the mid-20th century. The reproduction of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” (which was the "smoking gun" for so much of what we were trying to document regarding the limitations imposed on women) is just jaw dropping to read.

Just writing that, I feel like I need to go back to bed...

For a video today, hmmm... I think I need to repost something I seem to post every once in a while. The first video, "I Tak Bez Konca" by Polish musician Karolina Kozak is the United States I remember fondly and saw as the possibility of the place. Filmed in Savannah, Georgia, it often brings a tear to my eye (I actually know the people in the coffee shop from when I lived in North Carolina... it's a small world). The second video is the United States that we see on the surface and is the one the world is carefully watching: "I'm Afraid Of Americans" by David Bowie and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)... which will ultimately win, and at what cost? This is another place where a tremendous amount of my energy is going these days, just wondering if I'll have time to realize that nuclear war has broken out before me and my children and friends are all dead (we live in a national capital). I lived through the 70s and 80s, and I had hoped these days of fear were behind us. They are not, and I think it is even more dangerous (and possible) today than it was then given the multi-axis instabilities and extremism (and by that I mean established governments, not non-governmental groups) we are seeing all over the world. The Bowie/Reznor video sends chills down my spine when I watch it.

If that's too depressing... how about this song from Zepparella's original lineup (I have serious respect [and other feelings] for the drummer, she doesn't mess around when it comes to playing those things):

So much to live for still, let's get our shit together.
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I have spent weeks (not solid, more as a background task) trying to figure out how to produce a silkscreen for a set of front and rear panels I have been working on. As I indicated a while back, I am learning AutoDesk's Inventor 3D CAD software. In general, I have found it to be an intuitive and powerful package; however, to finish the job, I needed to produce the artwork so I could get a silkscreen done (just some basic lettering for the faceplate for some of the electronics controlling part of an experiment to go into SNOLAB). Well, whatever intuitivity (my invented word of the day) there may be in the rest of Inventor, it doesn't exist when trying to do a silkscreen. All the web pages I read talked about how to add lettering to a design, but didn't explain how to export it to what was once called "camera ready artwork" (basically the artwork needed to create the screen for the application of the ink/paint). The few web pages that went into any detail were either very old or simply indicated that it was a waste of time to even bother trying, and to use AutoCAD instead. Ultimately, that was the route I went, but I haven't used a version of that software in probably 20 years and it's not the same package at all anymore, so it was a learn-from-scratch scenario again.

I am clawing my way, millimetre by painful millimetre, to productivity.

For posterity's sake, here's the procedure I followed (I know these show up on searches of the Intertubes; and if I don't write it down, I'll forget it myself):
  1. From Inventor, create a drawing at 1:1 scale for the 3D part's face that will be silkscreened (choose the proper sized "paper" to hold the whole drawing... C size in my case). Fill out the information box as necessary as this will be included in the output file from AutoCAD. I did this by going New->Drawing, then clicking on the Base button in the Create tools, then setting the scale to "1" and selecting the "Hidden Lines Removed" Style. I have two drawings them from the same 3D part: one that I dimensioned and gave to the machinist to make the actual part (which has different scales and such), and a new one that I created for the silkscreeen generation that just has the holes and cutouts and stuff along with the info box and page border.

  2. Close the drawing for the silkscreen in Inventor and open the drawing in AutoCAD (if you don't close it in Inventor first, AutoCAD complains that something else has it open and offers to open it in "read only" mode).

  3. On the Home tab in AutoCAD (we're done with Inventor), in the Layers tools, click on Layer Properties and then delete all the layers that are not going to be needed (there are a bunch). The way to do it is to turn off (the little lightbulb) all the layers and bring back the ones you need, then delete everything else you can (on this job, one layer could not be deleted or renamed for me). In my case, I kept the following layers and deleted the rest: 0 (can't delete), Border (ANSI), Title (ANSI), and Visible (ANSI). On the previous one I did, there was another layer (Defpoints) I could not delete. Furthermore, I could probably have deleted the Border (ANSI) layer in both, but I just left it hidden.

  4. To satisfy the requirements of the company I was sending my artwork to, I had to rename Visible (ANSI) to MECH (the mechanical layer that showed the holes and such), and Title (ANSI) to PAGE (which had the identification information on it and any further instructions). I then needed to create two new layers: WHITE (one layer for each colour... I was only doing a single colour since it was basic lettering), and REGISTER (to hold registration marks to allow for alignment of the panel to the screen).

  5. Go to the Layers tools and, using the pulldown, select WHITE (or whatever colour you are using). Changes made will go in that layer. Under the Annotation tools (in the Home tab), select Multi-Line Text (or single line if that's what floats your boat... I'm just providing my experience) and place whatever text is needed. I did not have any artwork (the logo for the project would have taken days to convert to a monochrome one and that was out of scope for me). The company I'm sending it to indicated that I should use colour #7 for all the layers. The existing layers were, thankfully, imported with that colour already.

  6. To place text, select Multi-Line Text, one corner of the rectangle to place it in, and then the other corner of the rectangle to place it in. Type text into the box, resizing it as necessary to fit the text the way you want (one or more lines). You can use Enter to put in a line break. The key is to select the correct justification to allow the text to be positioned exactly. For instance, I wanted to place text below a cutout for an AC Power Entry Module about the allowable voltages, the maximum current draw, and what fuses to use. I put the text on two lines (voltages and current, and fuse specifications), selected the Center alignment button in the Paragraph tools, and then selected Top Center TC from the pulldown Justification list in the Paragraph tools. If you are aligning it to something below it, use Bottom Center BC (Left or Right Center to align it to the side, but then use Left/Right alignment as well for the text). That gave me centred text with a handle in the middle of the text above the text that I could choose to align with the cutout. Select Close Text Editor way over on the right to finish editing the text (it can always be opened up again by double-clicking on it).

  7. Align and place the text where you want it... sadly, easier said than done. You will need some feature to align it to for starters. In my case, I had a rectangular cutout. In Inventor, lines have convenient middle handles that can be used for alignment, but in AutoCAD, just the ends of the lines have handles. As such, to centre my text below the cutout, I had to go to the Annotate menu and select the Centerline button from the Centerlines tools, then select the sides of the cutout to create a centreline. Once that was done, I could click on the text to select it, click on the square handle (at the top in the centre per my justification choice earlier) and then hover it over the centreline I just created to lock it on, then I could drag it down below the cutout and, as long as I didn't drag it too far off to the side, release the mouse button to drop it below the cutout along the centre line (it snaps to the feature). As you drag the text, there will be a dotted line to the feature it is locked to so you know it's aligned with the centre (or whatever). This took me a long time to figure out how to do, but it's nice and easy once I knew. You can also use the Center Mark tool from the Centerlines tools on holes and circular cutouts, which is preferable (on my previous design, I had a hole aligned above my square cutout that I used for alignment, it was a lot easier).

  8. To set the distance between the text and the feature, you need to go to the Parametric tab and select the proper tool from the Dimensional tools. In this case, I used the pull down on the left of the tools to select Vertical. The theory is that you constrain the text to be a certain distance from an edge or a hole or something, but the reality is not quite so easy. If it is a hole, then it seems to work out fairly well, but for a rectangular cutout even, it takes some work. To set my distance on the cutout, I first had to draw lines (the Line tool from the Home->Draw tools) along the centre line from its top point to its bottom point, and along the two perpendicular lines to the centre line of the cutout. I then used the Trim tool from the Modify tools, selected the newly drawn line over the centre line, and then the top line I just drew (the two reference objects), then do a right click with the mouse to terminate object selection and put it into trim mode, then click on the part of the new centre line that is above the cutout to trim it off. It will look like the line is still there, but it is the proper centreline that was added earlier. Delete the proper centreline, and the top line that was drawn on the cutout. That will leave the rest of the new line drawn over the centreline (with its top trimmed off) and the line drawn along the bottom of the cutout. Go back to Trim, select the centre line and the remaining perpendicular line at the bottom of the cutout, right click, select the bit of the centre line sticking out. Finally, there is a handle in that can be accessed by the Vertical tool from the Parametric tool (ugh). There may be better ways of doing this, but this is what worked for me. Then... start the Vertical tool, hover over the text and you will see a red circle with an X through it for the text handle. Click on it. Hover over the intersection between the centre line and the line along the bottom of the cutout to find the next handle (red circle with X) and click on it. Slide off to the side to drag the dimension off to the side and click to place it. Double click on the dimension value and put in what you want (e.g. 0.5 inches in my case). The Parametric tool will pull or push the text to the distance you asked for. Placing other text is generally variations on this theme. Once the text is placed... delete the lines (center and bottom) used to place the text and any leftover dimensions if any (deleting the lines deleted the dimension on my drawing), otherwise these will show up on your silkscreen, which is presumably not desired! If I wasn't already bald, I would be after wrestling with AutoCAD as long as it took me to get this to work.

  9. Rinse and repeat for any remaining text (if you figure out how to place images, maybe post below for others that might find this post... or give a link to an article on how to do it perhaps if it is detailed as what I'm doing here, no need to repeat it if it already exists). At this point, with all the text placed, it is probably a good idea to turn off all the layers except WHITE and make sure the only thing there is text (and that it is all there). If you accidentally placed text on the wrong layer, I know there is a way to move it, but I forget what I did.

  10. Select the REGISTER layer to place registration marks (always a good idea unless the company you're sending to doesn't want them). Here, the hover/lock function I talked about is used heavily. It's quick work once you get the hang of it, but be patient until it makes sense. So... select the Line tool and hover over a corner of the faceplate (or whatever), a hollow green square will appear, move the cursor vertically from the corner and a dotted green line will appear with an X at the end, once away from the corner, click to start the line and then move the cursor up further to define the direction of the line, then enter the length of the line (I used 0.9 inches), press Enter to accept the number, press Enter again to finish the line. You should have a vertical line that isn't touching the faceplate. Do the same to place a horizontal line at the same corner. Then go to the Parametric tab and set a Vertical constraint between the bottom of the vertical line and the horizontal line (I set the constraint to 0.1 inches), and then set a Horizontal constraint between the horizontal line and the corner. Make sure to select the reference line before the line to move/constrain or the reference line will move instead (i.e. for the Vertical line, select the end of the horizontal line first before the vertical line). Repeat for the other three corners and you will have a full set of registration marks of equal length and of equal distance from the four corners. Now... delete all the constraint dimensions so they don't show up on the silkscreen! Stuff is where it is supposed to be and that's enough.

  11. One of the last things I needed to do was to go back to the Layer Properties (under the Main tab) and change the width of the MECH, PAGE, and REGISTER lines (and your silkscreen layer lines if you added any) to values useful to the company doing the silkscreen. In my case, the default they wanted was 0.010 inches, which is about 0.25mm. As long as you didn't override the line width and left the Linetype as "by layer", this is simple from the Layer Properties list (it has a pulldown list of acceptable line widths). I then added some additional text to the PAGE layer (selecting it from the pulldown layers menu) to indicate the ink colour and the material I will be providing to silkscreen (they can acquire it themselves, but I will be giving it to them). This was according to the guidelines provided to me. Lastly, the company I was sending it to could only read AutoCAD files up to version 2007, so once I was done, I did another "Save As..." and saved it to AutoCAD 2007 format with a different name (just appended _ac2007). I send them an AutoCAD 2017 file before I realized that limitation and when they opened it, they said it was blank. When I sent them the 2007 format version, they were able to open it fine.

Well, a technical post, but hopefully it helps someone some day (or reminds me when I need to do it again!).

Hmmm... appropriate video here? Hmmm...

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Warning: technobabble post (skip to video if such talk upsets you).

I am currently fighting to produce a silkscreen .dxf or .dwg file from a 3D model in Autodesk Inventor. It's funny that creating the 3D model of the part (including learning the program to do so) was almost trivial (the tutorials that came with the program are actually great, much to my surprise), but sending out the lettering to finish the panel is proving to be a huge muddled task (there are many forum threads on various ways to do it, but all of them agree that it sucks).

One of the first things I came up against was that I imported the design for the Hammond chassis I'm using as a STEP file and then pulled out the faceplate extrusion as a part to modify. Overall the process went very well, but when the part was created, the origin was placed in a weird spot on the part, and the part was rotated weird so that the front of it wasn't in the X-Y plane direction (with the long part along the X axis) like it intuitively should be to me (since it was pulled from a full assembly in the STEP file, it is not too surprising though). What was confounding is there didn't seem to be any way to orient it relative to the origin and in the direction I wanted to work with (when I applied what IRL is a horizontal constraint, I had to use the vertical constraint option on the sketch... not intuitive). Well, I just found out how to move the solid object around in 3D space... it was an option that was not visible normally, but I just had to pull down the Modify panel expando arrow and there it was: "Move Bodies". It allows for translation and rotation of the part. To get it, it's "3D Model->Modify->Move Bodies". There is a little cube in the tool's dialogue box that if you click on it, it gives you a pulldown to select the operation you want to perform. In my case, I needed to rotate the solid, then translate the corner I needed to the origin. To figure out how far I needed to translate it to align with the various axis planes, I used "Tools->Measure->Distance" and then just typed the numbers in.

As a note, Autodesk Inventor is available for free if you are a student or work at a university or college, and are not going to be using it for commercial purposes.

Hahaha, the video was a trap! ;)

(but catchy as all git out)
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I am now working full time at the university (as an electronics specialist... sadly, an extension of my previous life and not as a physicist, but I at least get to work with physics instrumentation all over the world, so it could be worse).

One of the main issues I'm facing right now is trying to get a set of tools up and running that will do all of the things that are being asked of me: FPGA and possibly ASIC design, schematic capture and PCB layout, laboratory instrumentation systems, integrated circuit manufacturing and quality control, mechanical design, safety and reliability engineering for electronics equipment to go in a mine (2km deep) or into the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, etc., etc., etc.. My total budget for purchasing tools and training is zero. $0. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis. Being at a university, however, I can get free access to a bunch of very expensive tools for research and academic purposes. Furthermore, I got the physics department to get a Canadian Microelectronics Corporation membership, so we can access even more tools through them. So far, I am learning AutoDesk's Inventor for 3D mechanical CAD, Mentor Graphics' PADS PCB (including DxDesigner) for schematics and board layout, Mentor Graphics' HDL Designer for FPGA and ASIC design, Xilinx's ISE and Vivado for FPGA synthesis (I need both because I'm designing for both old and new families, including Zync), Xilinx's ModelSim for FPGA simulation, CERN's ROOT for scientific analysis and computing (C++ framework), and LabView for instrumentation control. I use LibreOffice for documents and spreadsheets ;). I switch back and forth on the one computer system I have between Linux and Windows depending on what task I have to perform.

Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed with training myself on all these systems all at once (some of which have nearly no actually useful documentation). And I need them all to accomplish the work I have been asked to do. It's like drinking from a firehose, with predictable results... ;)


pheloniusfriar: (Default)

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