Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

G-code Goes Binary With Proposed New Format

G-code is effective, easily edited, and nearly ubiquitous when it comes to anything CNC. The format has many strengths, but space efficiency isn’t one of them. In fact, when it comes to 3D printing in particular file sizes can get awfully large. Partly to address this, Prusa have proposed a new .bgcode binary G-code format. You can read the specification of the new (and optional) format here.

The newest version of PrusaSlicer has support for .bgcode, and a utility to convert ASCII G-code to binary (and back) is in the File menu. Want to code an interface of your own? The libbgcode repository provides everything needed to flip .gcode to .bgcode (with a huge file size savings in the process) and vice versa in a way that preserves all aspects of the data. Need to hand-edit a binary G-code file? Convert it to ASCII G-code, make your changes, then flip it right back.

Prusa are not the only ones to notice that the space inefficiency of the G-code file format is not ideal in all situations. Heatshrink and MeatPack are two other solutions in this space with their own strong points. Handily, the command-line tool in libgcode can optionally apply Heatshrink compression or MeatPack encoding in the conversion process.

In a way, G-code is the assembly language of 3D printers. G-code files are normally created when slicing software processes a 3D model, but there are some interesting tricks to be done when G-code is created directly.

Explore FFmpeg From The Comfort Of Your Browser

If you’re looking to manipulate video, FFmpeg is one of the most powerful tools out there. But with this power comes a considerable degree of complexity, and a learning curve that looks suspiciously like a brick wall. To try and make this incredible tool a bit less obtuse, [Sam Lavigne] has developed a web interface that lets you play around with FFmpeg’s vast collection of audio and video filters.

To try out a filter, you just need to select one from the window on the left and it will pop up in the central workspace. Here, the input, output, and any enabled filters will show up as boxes that can be virtually “wired” together. Selecting a filter will populate its options on the right hand side, with sliders and input boxes that allow you to play around with their parameters. When you want to see the final result, just click “Render Preview” and wait a bit.

If there was any downside, it seems like whatever box the site is running on the overhead of running in the browser doesn’t provide it a lot of horsepower. Even with the relatively low resolution of the demo videos available, the console output at the top of the page shows FFmpeg sometimes flirts with a processing speed measured in single-digit frames per second. Still, for a filter playground, it gets the job done. Perhaps the best part of the whole tool is that you can then copy your properly formatted command right out of the browser window and into your terminal so you can put it to work on your local files.

FFmpeg is one of those programs you should really be familiar with because it often proves useful in unexpected ways. The ability to manipulate audio and video with just a few keystrokes can really come in handy, and we’ve seen this open-source tool used for everything from compressing podcasts onto floppy disks to overlaying real-time environmental data onto a video stream.

Parametric Press Unravels The JPEG Format

This is the first we’ve heard of Parametric Press — a digital magazine with some deep dives into a variety of subjects (such as particle physics, “big data” and such) that have interactive elements or simulations of various types embedded within each story.

The first one that sprung up in our news feed is a piece by [Omar Shehata] on the humble JPEG image format. In it, he explains the how and why of the JPEG encoding process, allowing the reader to play with the various concepts along the way, in real time, within the browser.

RGB colour-space subsampling doesn’t affect each component to the same degree due to the human eye cone cell response. Also, the chroma components are much less affected than the luminance.

For those not familiar with the format, the first step (which is actually optional) to JPEG encoding is to transform the image from the RGB color space, into a YCbCr (luminance, chrominance) color space. Since the human eye is far more sensitive to luminance (brightness) differences than it is to Cb (chroma relative blueness) and Cr (chroma relative redness) differences, these latter two components can be subsampled by only storing a single value for each, in every 2×2 pixel matrix. JPEG allows other matrix sizes, but 2×2 is the most common.

This sets the scene for the clever bit, that comes next and allows more of that harder-to-perceive chroma information to be discarded. It’s fun to play with the chroma sub-sampling slider and see how the different colours are not equally affected, due to the relative sensitivities of the human eye cone cells.

Next, the three YCbCr components are treated independently to a discrete cosine transform and quantization. This transforms each 8×8 pixel block into 64 discrete spatial frequencies. The JPEG compression level (which you can change) affects how many of the upper-frequency components get discarded, and thus how much of the fine spatial detail gets discarded. This is the main source of JPEG image quality loss. Finally, the compressed blocks are delta encoded, where each subsequent block is coded as the difference from the previous one. Like chroma subsampling, this doesn’t offer any compression on its own but allows the subsequent run-length encoding to be more effective, giving more (lossless) compression. Finally, the whole lot is then Huffman compressed with a unique table stored in the JPEG header. So want to play with JPEGs some more? here’s the GitHub source.

If all of this theoretical stuff is a bit useless to you, perhaps you just want to decode some JPEGs, then here is a speedy library for just that.

The Seedy World Of Message Serialization

Look, I’ve been there too. First the project just prints debug information for a human in nice descriptive strings that are easy to understand. Then some tool needs to log a sensor value so the simple debug messages gain structure. Now your debug messages {{look like : this}}. This is great until a second sensor is added that uses floats instead of ints. Now there are sprinklings of even more magic characters between the curly braces. A couple days later and things are starting to look Turing complete. At some point you look up and realize, “I need a messaging serialization strategy”. Well you’ve come to the right place! Continue reading “The Seedy World Of Message Serialization”

Interactive Demo Shows The Power Of Fourier Transforms

When it comes to mathematics, the average person can probably get through most of life well enough with just basic algebra. Some simple statistical concepts would be helpful, and a little calculus couldn’t hurt. But that leaves out a lot of interesting mathematical concepts that really do have applications in everyday life and are just plain fascinating in their own right.

Chief among these concepts is the Fourier transform, which is the key to understanding everything from how JPEGs work to how we can stream audio and video over the Internet. To help get your mind around the concept, [Jez Swanson] has this interactive Fourier transform visualizer that really drives home the important points. This is high-level stuff; it just covers the basic concepts of a Fourier transform, how they work, and what they’re good for in everyday life. There are no equations, just engaging animations that show how any function can be decomposed into a set of sine waves. One shows the approximation of a square wave with a slider to control to vary the number of component sine waves; a button lets you hear the resulting sound getting harsher as it approaches a true square wave. There’s also a great bit on epicycles and SVGs, and one of the best introductions to encoding images as JPEGs that we’ve seen. The best part: all the code behind the demos is available on GitHub.

In terms of making Fourier transform concepts accessible, we’d put [Jez]’s work right up there with such devices as the original Michelson harmonic analyzer, or even its more recent plywood reproduction. Plus the interactive demos were a lot of fun to play with.

[via the Adafruit blog]

Pancake-ROM: Eat-only Memory?

You can store arbitrary data encoded in binary as a pattern of zeros and ones. What you do to get those zeros and ones is up to you. If you’re in a particularly strange mood, you could even store them as strips of chocolate on Swedish pancakes.

Oddly enough, the possibility of the pancake as digital storage medium was what originally prompted [Michael Kohn] to undertake his similar 2013 project where he encoded his name on a paper wheel. Perhaps wisely, he prototyped on a simpler medium. With that perfected, four years later, it was time to step up to Modified Swedish Pancake Technology (MSPT).

pancake_rom_bottomHighlights of the build include trying to optimize the brightness difference between chocolate and pancake. Reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe helps increase contrast by reducing caramelization, naturally. And cotton balls placed under the spinning cardboard platform can help stabilize the spinning breakfast / storage product.

Even so, [Michael] reports that it took multiple tries to get the sixteen bytes (bites?) of success in the video below. The data is stenciled onto the pancake and to our eye is quite distinct. Improvement seems to be more of an issue with better edge detection for the reflectance sensor.

Continue reading “Pancake-ROM: Eat-only Memory?”

Script Your Way Out Of Video Editing Drudgery

[Victor Frost] has a deep voice and a fancy top of the line camera. While one would assume this to be a more than generous situation for life to put a person in; it’s got its own set of problems. Mainly that his fantastic fancy camera uses the most modern version of the popular h.264 encoding scheme, h.265. Gasp!

While that too seems like a pro, unfortunately h.265 doesn’t play as nice with his editing software. The solution seems easy, just transcode it and get on your way. However, when you start talking about transcoding 4K video from a top-of-the line source and retaining the quality. Well… It can bring a processor to its knees. Since he’d rather be playing overwatch than transcoding video on his main computer, he decided to offload and automate the drudgery to his spare.

That’s how the Ingest-a-Tron 9000 came into play. It uses a lot of open source software and, yes, windows batch files to take the files off his camera, process it on one computer, and dump it to another. Now he can game (or edit) while he waits. For those of us who are estranged from Linux thanks to our favorite software, it’s good to know that there are still ways to automate away the pain. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Script Your Way Out Of Video Editing Drudgery”