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New cnc mill purchased- Denford Micromill

Posted by djoneseu on March 6, 2011

I’ve purchased a new (used) cnc mill, its made by a UK company called Denford and is their ‘Micromill’ model. Its got some sophisticated electronics, can cut aluminium, wood, plastics and has variable override controls for feedrate and spindle speeds. In a geeky way, very exciting.

I’m just in the process of learning the Denford VR 5 milling software and have run a few very simple tests.

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Yet another biro cnc test

Posted by djoneseu on December 11, 2010

No progress on hardware, just figuring out cad, cam and gcode files.

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A Little progress

Posted by djoneseu on December 9, 2010

I found some specs regarding threads per inch and feed rates for the mill when sold as a closed loop system.

The Maxnc 15 specs I found were as follows:
Max nc used acme thread with 16tpi and some of the newer ones had 20tpi.
The screws are 1/4 inch with plastic bsa nuts that can run up to 20-30 IPM (inches per minute).
The table is 4″ x 18″ with 3 0.500″ t-slots
The max travel is x12, y8, z10 which for my calculations is x302.26, y127.00, z152.40
The default spindle is 1/8 tappered collet with a max rpm of 10000. It is a 1/5hp belt driven system.
The steppers are 145oz, max 50ipm
Accuracy is listed as 0.00025″
Please now these are the stock options, my maxnc15 when purchased from ebay had no electronical components whatsoever, just the frame.

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Cnc cardboard cut test

Posted by djoneseu on December 3, 2010


Still a long way to go. 2 axis cut with couplers that stretch.

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The First Cuts–DIY cnc mill based on maxnc 15 platform.

Posted by djoneseu on November 28, 2010

Well it’s been almost two years since I started this project and it’s spent most of the time neglected, partly due to cost and space restrictions yet predominantly my reluctance to finish it due to the realisation that I’d have to do something with it… or sell it!


I’ve often been frustrated by producing 3d designs or having ideas for products and not being able to make them into something ‘real’. Computer aided design only satisfies me so much, you just can’t beat the real thing. Because of this exact reason a few years ago I started researching into the construction and design of a CNC mill, I had a rough idea what I wanted to achieve: A mill that could cut plastic, wood, perhaps some basic circuit boards and yes aluminium too! (the later being the challenging component). So I rules out basic lightweight DIY structures in favour of either a converted cast iron/steel mill, something like the Sieg X1, X2 or something bigger. Then I hit the space and weight issue head on, read up on the specifications of the X2 which was my desired machine 153 lbs / 69 Kg ! Ouch yep that was a problem because at the time I was living in an apartment in Surrey with very little room and no outside storage.


So once again I trawled the web looking for some sort of a solution, I came across something interesting on Ebay. It was an incomplete MAXNC 15 mill, no motor, no steppers, no controller just the basic metal structure. I can’t remember exactly what I won the auction for but I think it was less than £40, seemed like a bargain and so far so good. I had to make up my own gib strip for the Z axis as one was missing but I figured that wasn’t going to be too much of an issue.

Next stop was for me to source a controller, I looking into making my own but to be honest by electronics skills at the time weren’t great and I didn’t have the confidence to through myself into that as a sideline project (I remember thinking I could probably get the mill to drill one for me when it was completed). After more googling and research I opted for a 4 axis Mechatronics controlled board from this seemed quite simple to setup and had huge flexibility for the motors, oh and most importantly it was comparatively cheap (manual). Parallel to this I picked up some small Nema 16 stepper motors (x4) from ebay for about £40, these arrived promptly but had no connection plug or cables so I managed to get some ‘samples’ from a manufacturer (may have posed as potential business customer).  t.b.c

peak of 1st time machine is powered up, not finished by a long way though!

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FOG 0.29 network deployment in action, windows 7, F.O.G

Posted by djoneseu on November 19, 2010

I’ve setup FOG 0.29 (network deployment solution) at work to deploy and update around 120 computers expanding to 200+ in the next six months. It’s free and seems to do the job brilliantly, I work for a large UK University and am keen to help others move away from antiquated deployment techniques.

So far we have 5 classrooms with 2 different hardware configurations running on the same image which DOESN’T need to be sysprepped! *yippee. FOG actually images, changes the hostname and then joins the computers to the domain in the correct OU 🙂 the software supports CSV files so importing and setting up computer groups was straight forward.

It has already saved my team loads of time and means we can push out major software deployments without having to fiddle with MSI & transform files. Bare in mind too that a lot of the educational software we use and trial isn’t designed with network deployment in mind so can be a pain, not to mention things like realplayer, quicktime etc. (yes I know they can be made to work & there are alternative versions, realplayer may seem legacy now but if you make us of BBC archives it is required).

I will be putting up a lot more information on our setup when my current major project is over (department relocation into newly refurbished premises).

If you’re stuck using FOG I’ll try and assist, I’ve spent enough time learning it I might as well put that knowledge to good use!

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Hackspace Reading, UK

Posted by djoneseu on May 12, 2010

Off to Reading hackspace tonight with mini CNC mill project in the boot.

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VMware ESXi 3.5 on Dell Optiplex 745 – no hard drive resolution

Posted by djoneseu on June 17, 2009

VMware ESXi 3.5 (its free!) on a Dell Optiplex 745. – TEST SYSTEM SETUP

Before purchasing some new Server hardware I wanted to explore the possibility of implementing some kind of virtulization platform or hypervisor. I figured that:

a.) It should make taking backups & snapshots a lot easier

b.) The machine would be hardware independant, meaning replacement could be with a different model etc.

c.) Multi-OS servers, we could run multiple operating systems at the same time with the freedom to reboot, update or replace at any time whilst not effecting the efficient running of the other OS’s

d.) Load Balancing & Redundancy; the department I manage is a multi-site setup with a high demand at certain times of the day. If we use two+ servers to host the same files we can load balance accordingly whilst keeping track of the demand on the systems.

So, enough of the possible benifits . I needed to setup a test system and only had desktop computers that I could get my hands on. Looking at the requirements for ESXi Server none of the computers ticked all the boxes, a Dell Optiplex 745 seemly like my best bet though… and it turned out to do the job (after a bit of work).

Techtips: Optiplex 745 vs. VMWare ESXi 3.5 Update 3

Optiplex 745 vs. VMWare ESXi 3.5 Update 3

Ok – story of the day is me trying to put ESXi on an Optiplex 745 that I have at work (need to setup a few test machines for various reasons and I’m dying to tinker around with the latest release of ESXi anyway..). So.. I got a nice new Seagate 1 TB drive so I would have some extra space for VMs and a 16 GB Kingston memory stick just in case. My system’s got 4 GB of RAM, and while I know that ESX doesn’t really support SATA that well – I’ve done it before and it normally works fine.

First thing after you get your copy of ESXi burnt to a CD/DVD, stick it in and boot up – you’ll get something like this: “Unable to find a supported device to write the VMware ESX Server 3i 3.5.0 image to”. Strongly reaks of bad support for the motherboard/chipset right?? Google it up and there is plenty of discussion about other losers trying to put an enterprise class virtual solution on to their desktop PC lol. There are several rather convoluted ways to get around the bad support in this version of ESXi for SATA (specifically for the onboard stuff on the Dell Optiplex 745) – mainly involving installing or even booting it from a USB key. A good resource for determining the level of support is going here – it lists the models, controllers, motherboards and how many other geeks have tried successfully or unsuccessfully to get it up and going. I used a combination of methods that I think will satisfy someone that JUST WANTS TO GET THE DAMN THING WORKING (QUICKLY).

Things you will need:

– Dell Optiplex 745
– VMware ESX Server 3i 3.5.0 ISO image
– USB stick with > 300 MB free
– HD with Windows, Linux or a Linux live CD for tinkering with stuff
– the SATA HD you want to install ESX on
– unopened bottle of kentuck straight bourbon

Making the USB bootable installer:
(follow this guide to putting syslinux on to make it bootable or read the coles notes below)

– format your USB stick as FAT32
– download syslinux here:
– uncompress syslinux somewhere
– On Windows run: $syslinuxdirectory$\win32\syslinux.exe -m -a Driveletter: (make sure you put the right one in…)
– On Linux run: syslinux /dev/sdX (sdX being your stick)
– You are now ready for the next step

Getting the ESXi Installer Ready:

– use Winrar or whatever app you want to uncompress the VMware ESX Server 3i 3.5.0 ISO
– copy all of the files from the ISO on to your USB stick that you are working with
rename the file isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg
Download the following replacement for oem.tgz – the original post is here
– Replace the oem.tgz with the new copy that will recognize your board

Installing ESXi:

– plug the HD you want into install ESXi on to SATA 4. 745’s have 0, 1, 4 and 5 on the board (tested with 0 and 1 and does not work…)
– plug your USB key in
– boot with F12 and select your USB device
– You should now be able to install ESXi on to the drive you want
– It will prompt you to reboot


When you boot up with your SATA 4 disk you will get a panic message stating it can’t find the boot HD…. !

The long and shorts of this is that if you look at the ISO inside install.tgz under \usr\lib\vmware\installer, you will see a file called
VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_3-123629.i386.dd.bz2 or something like that. This is what is installed on the actual machine and it contains another oem.tgz that is dropped onto the system during installation. So while the installer works, the not-so-good version of this file is what gets installed and is what causes it not to recognize your SATA drive on boot. Nice!! You can verify this by using WinImage or any Linux utility that will look at disk images (dd files) and checking the Hypervisor1 partition.

Here is where you reach a crossroads… If you’ve googled and got a bit stumped or gone down the rabbit hole than I can relate to you. There are several options:

1. Uncompressing the iso, install.tgz and then the VMVisor bz2 and replace the oem.tgz – then pack it all back up neat and tidy in the install.tgz and replace it
2. Boot ESX off a USB key using this article since it will all be in memory anyhow and the VMs will be on your SATA drive.
3. Give up and then drink some bourbon and forget about wasting your life doing geeky shit like installing ESXi on a crappy desktop
4. Follow the next easy easy step and then keep rolling

My next step:

– Shake off the frustration and have a drink, no problems here
– Boot up your Windows HD, Linux HD or Linux live CD (or plop that ESX drive into a system running any OS)
– Mount the ESX drive
– Drop the modified oem.tgz into the Hypervisor1 partition (overwriting what is there)
– Boot up your ESX box on your Optiplex 745

This skips all the mucking around with the installation, saves booting the server from USB, it saves trying to SSH into the ESX server to do it – skips all the headaches that you could go through when all you need to do is replace a simple file and it can even be done in Windows explorer. I’m sure it wasn’t that simple for the first person who created the new but thats neither here nor there.

Drink and review:

– have a drink
– by following this you’ve hopefully saved yourself a ton of time and can start messing with your ESXi box

Thanks and good luck out there!”

Above article and all credits go to:

Please note my UK model of the Dell 745 only has x2 sata ports! so you will need to follow this guide too:

So I got the machine, plugged in a cheap 1TB Samsung HD103UJ disk along with the 80Gb disk that came with it. I coneected the 80GB into SATA 0 and the 1TB into SATA 1, and the CD into SATA 4. The 745 comes with SATA 0, 1, 4 & 5.

So, first i tried installing ESX, but this failed as the storage controller wasn’t recognised. I then put the ESXi installer onto a USB stick (here’s how to do this) and tried installing, but again, this failed for the same reason.

So, a bit of surfing later, I had discovered that the OEM.TGZ that comes in the root of the 3i installer, and contains all the PCI IDs for all the devices for ESXi (heres the list) doesn’t have the ID for the Intel controllers on my motherboard which seem to be 8086:2820 (4 port SATA IDE Controller (ICH8)) and 8086:2825 (2 port SATA IDE Controller (ICH8)). To discover these PCI IDs for the device, I booted the 3i installer, and when it booted, I hit F1, logged in as root with no password, and entered lspci -v or lspci -p. This will list all the PCI IDs, fortunately, the storage devices were at the end of the list as I couldn’t pipe the output to more for some reason.

Fortunately, the post here provides an updated oem.tgz that contains the updated OEM.TGZ for my controllers in the file.

So, i just copied this OEM.TGZ onto the USB stick to replace the current one.

I then booted my machine, but the install still failed. Looking at the output of lspci -p, it seemed that the ata_piix driver had been loaded for the 8086:2825, but not the 8086:2820 – no idea why. So, I unplugged the 80GB disk, and plugged the 1TB disk into SATA 4, and enabled this connection in the BIOS, rebooted and bingo, the install worked!!

So, now we are on to the next problem. The OEM.TGZ is only used when running the installer. As soon as I unplugged the USB stick and rebooted so that ESXi would boot, it failed as it didn’t recognise the storage controller. So I need to either go into this install and replace the OEM.TGZ file that has been installed, or replace it in the installer files contained on the memory stick.

Now I’ve decided that I think it will be better if I try and make a memory Stick bootable with 3i, rather than trying to get the OEM.TGZ into the file system on the newly installed machine.

The instructions that Duncan gives (here) help me get the standard 3i install onto the memory stick, but without the new OEM.TGZ for the storage controllers. So, after you have extracted the VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_3-123629.i386.dd file, you will then need to start Winimage, and select Disk -> Convert Virtual Hard Disk Image, select the .dd file, and create a .vhd image.

You then need to open this new file with winimage, connect to the first partition which should be labelled Hypervisor 1. All you then need to do is inject the new OEM.TGZ and overwrite the existing one.

Booting my machine with this memory stick now works like a dream, and the on-board NIC works too!!

This method of editing the .dd disk file should also work with updating the installer on the memory stick as described above, but I haven’t tried this yet.


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Purchased Honda Benly 125T

Posted by djoneseu on June 9, 2009

After much deliberating I purchased an old Honda Benly 125T (CD125T), for those that don’t know its a 125cc learner legal Twin. Meaning it has two cylinders and is a four stroke motor.

I usually drive 4 wheels, but having once owned a Suzuki GP100 I thought I’d give it another go. Especially as I’m now near London where the traffic is …terrible. I figured I should get more recent practice before doing my full test and jumping on a bigger bike. Firstly I really dislike the image that unfortunately ‘some’ UK motorcycle riders portray, I’ve never seen statistics for motorcycle related deaths but I cant help but think the massively powerful race orientated bikes are somewhat to blame.

Secondly I like the outdoors and have a strong dislike for smelly 2stroke scooters and Aprilia 125s…who doesn’t? So I went for a boring, slow 4 stroke twin instead. Yes its probably a bit slow for many UK roads, yes I probably look like I’m on a 70’s motorbike, yes I’m probably too young to be wanting a bike like that. But to be honest I don’t care, it’s cost me very little and I guess I must be old before my time. (I’ve had an 80’s sports car already – Toyota MK1 MR2)

I have a thirst for information and am going to try and share some that I have gleamed from remote (and not so remote) corners of the web.

No MOT, plenty of surface rust and running on one cylinder

No MOT, plenty of surface rust and running on one cylinder

So there we have it, a pretty odd looking machine considering its manufacture date of 1995, It’s an import (Asia I presume).

Imported in 1999, it has about under 28 000 kilometres on it and is only running on one cylinder… but it does run very well just on that one cylinder!

Trip to Halfords and I picked up some Oil & spark plugs. Threw a set of plugs in and both cylinders fired, they seem well balanced to.

I purchased a Haynes manual, oddly this bike is the same as the UK spec 1982-85 Benly 125T. It just shows how little these bikes have changed as the same chassis and engine are still produced around the world.

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