GPUG Summit 2016 Tampa USA - Part 1

3D Printed Luggage Tag GPUG Summit 2016

To Tampa, 22hrs door – door

I printed my plastic luggage tag for GPUG Summit 2016 with my 3D printer and was ready to travel. The flight itinerary involved a flight from Newcastle in United Kingdom -> to London -> Miami -> Tampa. In all it took twenty two hours from door to door.

Flight

A380

First hop from Newcastle to London went well, with a quick and seamless journey between terminals at Heathrow. I did a few hours work on the laptop and then on arrival at the gate I looked out the window and found I was riding a double deck, A380 to Miami. All of a sudden the journey had become exciting! My first experience, flying out was on top deck, on return from Miami I would be on the bottom. I found the A380 a very pleasant aircraft to ride in, quieter and felt more open than a 747. BA have them fitted out with a good entertainment system. Although it offered a TV loaded with games, films, audio books, I didn't use it. A couple of times I have been transatlantic on planes with broken entertainment systems, so I had loaded up lots of audio and video podcasts to get through the journey on my iPhone. With the charging USB socket i was sorted. It was lovely to find no one next to me, providing some room to stretch and use the spare seat to put stuff on, making the journey unusually comfortable.

I avoided Charlotte and Atlanta airports as my transit airports, the timings were uncomfortably tight at those, so I went for the longer turn around at Miami. The experience at Miami airport was shocking compared to my experience at MCO in Orlando only the month before. I would say due to horrendous immigration lines, lack of crowd management, under staff and equipment resourcing for a busy set of flights landing at once. To cut a long story short, with lots of running, using crew lines through security, I made it at the last moment to the Tampa flight. The airline staff more or less bundled me on board, closed the door behind me and we were off- only to sit in a queue on the taxi way for fifty mins!

Landing at Tampa I was tired so I got a Taxi for $25 to the hotel. I was too tired and simply just wanted to get where I was going, so didn’t have the will to figure out the cheaper methods of transport at that late time of night.

Love at first sight Tampa

Even though I’d been awake by that point for 22 hours and was weary and knew I needed to get up in the morning, I needed to explore! I’m an investigative sort of person and thus couldn’t resist going for a walk to discover my home for the week and orientate myself. So within only moments of getting in my room I was back outside.

Tampa has a river walk that follows the river all around that part of town that hosts the convention centre. The walk passed the hotel and so I followed the walk right down to the convention centre. At least now, in the morning, I would know where I was going! I also spotted a Publix supermarket over the water, somewhere to get some supplies in the morning. I had already realised I’d forgotten a few small things in my hap-hazard packing for my trip. The river walk and public areas hanging off was so very pretty at night. Train tracks, bridges, fountains, riverside restaurants, full of romantic atmosphere, great architectural lighting of the bridges and the walkway itself. I experienced instant love for Tampa, so many others were out enjoying the evening air too, even at that late hour and I would be too if I lived in Tampa!

riverwalk1
riverwalk2
riverwalk3

I walked for an hour and a half and got back to my room to catch some sleep - 24hrs without sleep is a long day.

GPUG Summit 2016 Tampa USA - Part 2
GPUG Summit 2016 Tampa USA - Part 3
GPUG Summit 2016 Tampa USA - Part 4
GPUG Summit 2016 Tampa USA - Part 5

 

UK visitor to USA for conference, GPUG summit

If you are visiting the USA for a conference there are a few things to remember:

Passport

UK Passport

Obvious? – well amazing how many people realise at the last moment that the passport is expired. Check it early and get it renewed if its nearly at end of life.

Visa

esta logo

Once you have a modern electronic passport with chip, to visit the USA as a UK citizen, you must apply for an “ESTA”, to give you access to the USA. Go to the website fill in your details, it will cost you $14, at time of writing. This must be done at least 72 hours before you travel, but I would recommend doing so long before you need it, just in case there is a problem. If you are denied you will have to seek a full visa, a much more involved process. You can stay for ninety days under the ESTA and its valid for two years, handy for next year’s conference too!

Money & Currency Cards

VISA Mastercard logos

The US use different tokens to buy things with, called dollars, they are green and all look identical to each other, so when you get some beware handing over valued notes and getting incorrect change. It is essential to get some cash, preferably a good number of one dollar bills. The US service sector factors in tipping to the employee wages so tipping is an important part of the culture, people handling your bags, waiters, room service, cleaning maids, anyone who provides you a service should be offered a tip. You will find this eats up lots of one dollar bills over the duration of the trip. UK people tend to find this very difficult to get used to, don’t resent it you are not at home, the economy works differently.

If you are not on company expenses for the trip, then get a US currency card. currency cards allow you to get and lock the exchange rate at which cash is placed on the card. Cards, such as the FairFx card can be loaded with cash, usually any amount and topped up via a phone app or website with more while you are out there. The cards are “normal” VISA or Mastercard cards and work in the same way at point of sale. The cash sits on the card as US dollars, conversion usually at time of putting the credit on the card, unlike credit cards that take the exchange rate at time of purchase (that is less unpredictable). These cards are US dollar cards so do not experience a fixed transaction fee each time that you use them, unlike most UK sterling debit or credit cards would. Do this with two weeks to spare as it can take time for the card to arrive through the post. Keep an eye on exchange rates and hedge when you see a good rate by putting some cash on the card. I find this useful for micro transactions, such as automated vending, such as hotel clothes washers, or vending machines or some parking that only can take card payment. For these small payments the flat transaction fee on your standard bank card would make its use unattractive.

Documents

printer icon

It is wise to remember to bring your accommodation and other booking information to conference, what if there turns out to be two similar named hotels, paperwork helps when the taxi driver challenges you. Immigration officers can vary a lot in the scary factor. Like in most work places, some can be very officious and awkward, others can be lovely. I can not recommend highly enough that you have all your hotel booking information, conference booking information and especially hotel addresses and return travel documentation with you and easily at hand when entering the USA. Be very careful if you are being paid to present at the conference, this can lead you down a difficult path with immigration. It can be easier to ask for conference discounts or free accommodation in lieu of payment, to avoid this surfacing. Don’t lie about anything, as in worst cases, if they inspect your laptop and find the power points and arrangements on emails, your are on a slippery slope if you were glossing over details.

When you land in the US you will have to go through immigration before connecting to internal flights. Airports like Miami and Orlando MCO have the electronic fingerprinting and face recognition systems, for entry to the USA you have to click on one of two buttons, business or pleasure, you can imagine for some conferences this can be a grey area, there are plenty of forums with people debating the correct response, go check them out. If your company are paying for the flight, then its business IMO. This can be one of the questions asked. Having the correct paper work backing up any answers will almost always allow you to be waved though, but you will be so glad you had it all at hand if you are being singled out for extra attention.

Remember don’t bring any non-processed food into the US, like fruit or meats.

The above sounds worrying, but 99.9% of the time, getting in should not be a problem!

Power

USA UK adapter with four way and multi-USB supply

The USA have a different mains power system to the UK, you need an adapter to plug UK plugs into the mains and you MUST check on the label for the equipment you are plugging in, that it will work on 110VAC. Most plug top power supplies these days work on both European and US voltages and so laptop and phone chargers are usually fine. I always travel with a four way mains extension cable bought from a discount store, it is cheap so extremely light and has a foot of cable on it. For hotels I find this essential. Sometimes hotels have too few sockets, or mains sockets that are so loose that plugging an US-UK adapter then your plug top power supply in to the adapter is heavy enough to just fall out the socket, refusing to stay put. The four way extension instead allows a number of devices to be plugged in, placed on the table top thus taking the strain off the socket. Only the four way plug is in the wall.

Using a slim dedicated UK-USA adapter is much better than the bulky universal adapters for the same reason, the larger ones tend to just fall out the USA sockets. I would also recommend getting a multiple output USB power supply as shown in the photo, check it has high current output as cheap ones will not charge all the devices if plugged in at one. This allows for some chargers to be left at home and releases more mains sockets for laptop charging.

A portable lithium batter USB charger or two can also be helpful as if you are a twitter addict or just busy on the conference apps, the mobile phone can struggle to make it to the end of the after conference party, having a portable charger just gives that confidence that every last tweet can be read, or at least the number for a taxi home can be found after the party!

Mobile phone and data

Check your mobile phone or computer dongle contract for what charges you will incur in the USA, these are usually eye watering. I would recommend getting a Three Pay as you Go SIM, activate it and top it up the week before you go and get your phone unlocked so it can accept the SIM (if not already on the Three network). The data rates are cheap in the us and texts and calls are received at UK rates rather than at roaming rates. Free WIFI in the USA is easy to find, but where it matters in the conference, things can be different with many thousands of users trying to access one WIFI network. Mobile data gives another route to the internet, essential if twitter or checking facts during sessions is important to you.

Sun protection

We in the UK forget how strong the sun can be, Florida can be viscous and inflict real harm to the skins of UK visitors, bring sun protection, hats, sprays, cover ups. Check for the time of year what normal UV and heat is like. Florida can be very hot and humid, you were warned.

Accommodation

Booking as early as possible for your hotel, lets you get the fun of being closer to the action (after conference socials at hotel bars etc) and also keeps the taxi bills for transfer to the conference venue lower.

Eating

If you are not on company expenses then going to conference very expensive on the personal pocket, so look out for events that will give you a free feeding on evenings. No doubt this will be companies trying to court you, but will keep the family budget from being hit too hard.

Installing/using/finding Professional Services Tools Library (PSTL)

I just couldn’t find the Professional Services Tools on Dynamics GP today & I admit that this is not the first time, so I’m blogging it to remember for next time.

Dynamics.SET

Couldn’t find any reference to a PSTL DIC in Dynamics.SET -so assumed it had been missed during a previous upgrade on this install.

Installing PSTL (GP2013R2)

I know in the past that the PSTL was downloaded from Partner Source (website that your GP partner has access to), thus I raised a support ticket to get the installer from partner for me. Then was told it is now part of the standard GP installer from GP2013R2 – excellent, I like that more of these extras are turning up in mainstream media!

Ran the installer and selected to alter existing install and there it is in the list!

 image

Ran through the installer but couldn’t see any changes to the list in .DIC, no prompt to import any chk files on running GP, so got puzzled.

Went to have a quick look at what was on the machine, I often use the “add shortcut” as a fast way to browse the dictionaries on an client install. I then realised my oversight. The Professional Services Tools Library is actually in the Technical Services Tools Dictionary. I’d been checking under “P” rather than “T” with tunnel vision as I was in a hurry and under pressure. Below you can see the “main window” under Technical Service Tools>>Project>>Professional Services Tools Library.

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Back to the SET file

The Professional Services Tool Library for Dynamics GP has .SET number of 1838, another fact that is useful for Google to learn.

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After all that…

Anyway it happens that the “Shipment Notification” window that I thought was part of the PSTL is not and requires a Partner Source download, back to raising a new support ticket!

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Raspberry Pi Zero Octoprint / OctoPi setup

Written on Dec 2015

I expect this post to age quickly but will hopefully find people setting up OctoPi for the newly released Pi Zero.

OctoPi is a Raspbian image with Octoprint installed and configured on it. Octoprint allows network access and control of a USB connected 3D printer. It is the best thing since sliced bread, in my opinion and it has allowed the whole household to access the printer. The software has also created freedom to control the printer from multiple devices in the house. The webcam monitoring allows progress of prints to be checked too. There is even a mobile phone app now that allows control of the printer from an Android smart phone.

Get the case

House your Pi Zero in a case to protect it or use self adhesive posts to mount it somewhere on or in your 3D printer, remembering to allow access to SD slot and USB sockets. I’d recommend this case I made: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1167846

Get the image

If the current release version of Octopi is placed into a Pi Zero, then the Pi Zero will flash the on-board LED repeatedly 8 times and the Pi Zero will refuse to show any output to HDMI and will fail to boot.

This is because the current (Dec 2015) release version of OctoPi (2015-07-02_2015-05-05-octopi-wheezy-0.12.0) is built on the wheezy version of Raspbian. Raspbian is the flavour of Linux operating system developed for the Raspberry Pi devices. The Pi Zero requires the jessie version of Raspbian as a minimum to boot. Luckily the nightly builds of OctoPi are now using Jessie, although the nightly builds are not official releases and may have some issues yet to be ironed out, I’ve actually found them reliable in practice. Download the latest nightly build from the nightly build folder, for example today it is https://storage.googleapis.com/octoprint/2015-12-04_2015-11-21-octopi-jessie-0.13.0.zip, the 04th of Dec being today.

Write the image

Uncompress the zip file and use the resulting disk image to write to your micro SD card that will be placed into the Pi Zero. Follow the standard instructions for writing Raspbian to SD cards. Follow the instructions on “how to use it” here https://github.com/guysoft/OctoPi. Remember to configure the network settings in the network text file located in the root directory of the written SD card.

Plug in the Pi Zero and 3D printer

Use a micro-B USB on the go to USB A female cable adapter, to plug in a (powered preferably) USB hub, into which you plug a WIFI dongle and the printer. Next plug in the micro-B USB power to the right hand socket, this is the dedicated power socket, does not do data and also note the data USB socket next to it cannot be used to power the Pi Zero.

Boot and using a web browser browse to http://octopi.local or find the IP address your network has assigned to the Pi by checking the router or DHCP services.

At this point you should be up and running.

IMG_7897

Printrbot, Pi Zero & USB 3.0 Hubs

Trying to connect Printrbot Simple Metal Printrboard to the Pi Zero resulted in no serial port being listed in OctoPi. The message on trying to auto connect was:

Failed to autodetect serial port, please set it manually

Connecting to the OctoPi via SSH and looking at the $ dmesg output revealed issues with the Pi identifying the Printrboard, which presents itself as a serial device.

device descriptor read/64 error -71 dwc_otg

This normally indicates a power issue, but the hub is a Amazon Basics USB 3.0 powered hub, so this seems unlikely. From the previous Pi to the Pi Zero, the printer has moved from being directly plugged into the Pi to going via the hub, due to the Pi having no internal USB hub.

After some research it turns out that support for USB 3.0 hubs might not be very good on the Raspberry Pi. I tested this by getting a simple, old unpowered USB 2.0 hub out the drawer, much to my delight this worked allowing the printer to be detected by OctoPi.

Please comment if this was helpful as it motivates me to write more!