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Sunday, February 15, 2015

beakn v0.4.2 - Lync Status Light - Now with easy to edit config settings and reset light on start support.

beakn is a Lync status light that I’ve been building for last couple of months. I tweeted a quick drawing of beakn v0.5, which will include a rechargeable battery and David Washington was quick to respond with a couple of feature requests.

Great ideas!  I’ve been wanting to do all of them for a while…that tweet pushed me to start investigating the Lync REST endpoint for cloud registration and inductive charging is probably a v2 feature, but #2 “get status on reset” is totally doable – so I just implemented it and released beakn v0.4.2.

Here’s what is new in v0.4.2

  • beakn.exe now listens for the Spark “reset” event and sets the light to the current color. Before this you would have to toggle your status. Now it just works after your Spark is reset. For this change I used EventSource4Net and modified my fork of SharpSpark.
  • I moved Spark Device Id and Access Token from beakn.exe.config to Properties.Settings and added a simple two textbox UI. Before this you would have to open Notepad as Admin and edit beakn.exe.config directly.


  • I added a new “quick and dirty” beakn

The best way to get everything setup is to follow the steps from this post: How to Build a Lync Status Light in Minutes with a Spark Core

beakn v0.5 is coming very soon! Follow me on twitter for updates.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Build a Lync Status Light in Minutes with a Spark Core or Photon

I’ve been building a battery-powered wifi-enabled Lync Status light for the last couple of months. Lots of people have been building the beakn and I did a hackathon class last week, so I thought it would be ideal to have a very simple step-by-step walk through. I’m working on getting the beakn officially manufactured so there are more complex versions available if you are comfortable with soldering. The version below is a great starting point. 

1: Get a Spark Core or Photon from core-a6fcc2b47e235d529ab58fe0a1124588

2: Plug Spark Core into your computer via USB


3: Install Spark Core iPhone or Android app.

If you don’t have an iPhone or Android you will need to follow the “Connect over USB” section of the Spark Getting started guide


4: Connect phone to Wifi network

Must be WPA2 (SSID and Passcode) – WPA2-Enterprise won’t work.


5: Create or Login to Spark Account and connect to same wifi network



6: Connect Core

a) Click on the icon in the upper left and then click “Connect a Core”. You will likely need to sign-in to wifi again.

b) Give your Core a name and hit ok.


7: Flash beakn code to Spark

a) Go to Spark Build (

b) Click on Libraries in lower left rail


c) Search for and click on “beakn”


You will see the beakn-sparkcore-onboard-led.ino file to the right


d) Click on “USE THIS EXAMPLE” button in the left rail


You will then see this page that shows the current app that loaded


e) Click on the “Flash” lightning bolt icon in the left rail to send the code to the Spark Code


You will see the Spark Core led flash while it is being flashed. If you don’t then use the Spark Core debug help.

8: Install beakn Windows App from

The beakn.exe app listens for Lync events and calls the beakn.setStatus function that you just deployed to the Core. Install the latest version of beakn-{version}.msi from - which was beakn.v0.4.2 as of this post.


The last page of the install will look like this – you will want to keep that “Launch beakn” checkbox checked.


9: Set your Spark settings

When beakn.exe launches it checks for your Spark Device Id and Access token and if either are not set you will see this:


Click OK and you will see the settings dialog:


Go to to find both Device Id and Access token and copy and paste them into this settings dialog.

To get the Device Id, click on the icon that looks like a target, second from bottom


To get the Access Token, click on the icon that looks like gears (standard settings icon)


Copy and paste both of those into the beakn settings dialog and then click Ok.

You will now see the beakn dialog that is really just a log of the messages that are being sent to your beakn device.


10: Open Lync and Toggle your status to try it out



(It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the onboard led changed to red)

You should now be all setup with your beakn. Stay tuned for updates on twitter


Monday, February 2, 2015

Windows 10 Coming to Raspberry Pi 2!!

rpi2I joined the Windows IoT team back in October and was thrilled to hear that we were working on getting Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi 2 – now I’m excited to share that news with you all. Like many other Microsoft technology developers I’ve been developing on Windows for many years and was always hesitant to get going with RaspberryPi because it only ran Linux. I recently got Mono running RaspberryPi for my beakn project and I wanted more of what the Windows developer ecosystem has to offer – Visual Studio, Remote Debugging, etc.

Please visit for more information about Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi 2 and to signup for Windows Developer Program for IoT.

We are all very jazzed about all of this and we know you will be as well.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Solution to: “The setup files are corrupted. Please obtain a new copy of the program.”

I was getting this error when trying to install the UPWare software for my UP Plus 2 printer.

“The setup files are corrupted. Please obtain a new copy of the program.”


Solution: Download the file using IE instead of Chrome. Not sure why it works, but it worked for me.


My Quest for the Perfect 3D Modeling Software for Makers - Part 7 - Autodesk Fusion 360

This will likely be my last post in this series on 3D modeling software. I started 3D printing back in November of last year and started with SketchUp which doesn’t do rounded corners well, then 123D Design which doesn’t allow you precisely adjust sketches after they are drawn. At that point I decided to go deep into some popular and free options to see what else is out there and hopefully provide a good recommendation for makers. Here’s what we have looked at so far:

As of yesterday I finally think I found that best of all worlds with Autodesk Fusion 360. I really liked the UX of 123D Design and Tinkercad, which are also from Autodesk, so Fusion 360 just felt right and natural to me. When I started this exercise I wanted to find something inexpensive, precise, intuitive and inspiring. Fusion 360, by far, meets all of those needs. Their licensing policy is pretty flexible and I think it’s fair. You can use the product if you aren’t making money. As soon as you are profitable they want you to buy a subscription. That is an amazing gesture – a perfect scenario for the maker in my opinion. Yes, you will eventually have to pay, but given my hands-on experience with it, I think it is worth it.


Autodesk Fusion 360


Free for non-commercial use

Fusion 360: $40/month

Fusion 360 Ultimate: $150/month

Difference between Regular and Ultimate

They will let you use it until you make a profit.

Intuitive interface.

Great community and support.


Beautiful rendering

Tons of how-to videos on YouTube

Internet connection is required to create a new project.

Is a little sluggish on my machine, but that might be because I’m running a pre-release version of Windows 10

With each of the options I looked at I started with a simple ring design. It should be as simple as drawing a cylinder, cutting a hole in the middle and round the corners. I also need to be able to go back to the ring and change the dimensions. This only took a few minutes with Fusion 360.

Here’s the sketch:


And here’s it awesomely rendered by their renderer. This blew me away.


I then tried to create a funnel design that I have been having such a hard time creating with the other options. Granted I keep learning as I go through each software option, so at this stage I know more than I did when I was using the other options….but the Fusion 360 experience was amazing

Here’s the sketch:


And here’s the rendered version: Wow! Beautiful!


I then took a stab at the Lego Chi piece. Here’s the sketch:


And here are a couple of variations of the render:


As you can see Fusion 360 is a big step up in quality and experience from all the other options I’ve looked at. It’s not perfect, but it is the first one that I felt like I should focus on and go deep.

I’m still open to other options and will have a look if you make a suggestion. For now, I’m going to go deep with Fusion and see how far I can take it.  There’s so much goodness coming out of Autodesk and Fusion 360 that I feel like it is the right choice.

I hope this series helps you narrow down your options. Feel free to comment and let me know if you have other favorites that I should look into.



3D Modeling Software Comparison

Two WordsInexpensiveUser-FriendlyPreciseInspiringFeature Rich

Autodesk Fusion 360

NearPerfect. Insipring.

Free for non-commercial use.

Everything is laid out well, discoverable and customizable.

All sketches are tweakable at any point.

The beautiful interface, graphics, workflow make it a great playground for ideas.

I found it lacking in nothing.


Beautiful. Beginners.


Just ok, but not good enough

I couldn’t figure out a way to make fine adjustments to edges.

Lack of features and finicky UX left me frustrated and wanting more.

Not the right tool beyond the basics.

DesignSpark Mechanical

GoodAttempt. MissingKeyFeatures.


Better, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do some basic operations on my own.

Units are in mm, but I can’t make fine adjustments, especially to circles

Close, but I found the lack of loft frustrating.

Lots of good features, but without loft it’s a no go.


Promising. Complex.


Lots of icons, but not intuitive like 123D Design

Maybe after mastered, but not without training.


Powerful. Overwhelming.

Free, you just need to pay for tutorials

Lots of menus and keyboard shortcuts

Only meters, not millimeters. Conversion is difficult

Maybe after mastered, but not without training.


Potential. Limited.

Free to start, not sure if they have paid option.

Lacks loft and advanced features

123D Design

Beautiful. Frustrating

Free for non-commercial. $10/month for commercial.

Can only set exact measurements when placing objects.


Exact. Dated.

Free for non-commercial. $590 for commercial.

Lack of smooth lines and buggy extensions.

Lacks loft, rounded corner.