Thingiverse Customizer: a tiny guide

Thingiverse‘s Customizer allows users to customize suitable OpenSCAD models without knowing any OpenSCAD code. While it does have some documentation to help developers along, there’s still a lot of guesswork.

I released my first (working!) Customizer design the other week: Parametric Finger Pen Holder (Vertical). While the docs are the primary source of developer information, you might want to know the following:

  • Customizer assumes that every variable defined before the first module definition in the script is a user parameter. To give it a hint that it should stop displaying variables, add an empty module (such as module naff() { }) after the last variable definition you want Customizer to display.
    (There’s supposed to be a CUSTOMIZER VARIABLES/CUSTOMIZER VARIABLES END comment pair that will do this too, but it didn’t work for me)
  • Customizer will fail if there’s any character other than strict ASCII in the script, and won’t give useful diagnostics about the problem. Check your comments for accents and fancy punctuation
  • Customizer displays a real-time preview of your model. This means the rendering will be a little rough, especially if you use set operations such as union(), difference() and intersection(). If you have to hit F6 to render your model in OpenSCAD properly, it’s going to look a bit off in Customizer
  • If you must use resource-intensive functions such as hull() and minkowski(), try to limit them to 2D paths that are subsequently extruded. Everyone else in the Customizer job queue will thank you
  • Similarly, keep the circle smoothness variables ($fa, $fn, $fs) in sensible ranges
  • Customizer creates a new Thing under your name rather than just letting you download your customized model. You likely want to delete that once you’re finished with it.
    (This also means that Customizer only works for registered Thingiverse users. I can’t see any way around this, unfortunately)

“space acid poisoning …”

Thanks to users sbadger and lurkio on the stardot forum, I’ve been reunited the original BBC BASIC one-liner that begat 2d Star Dodge/Stardodger: Asterisk Tracker!

Asterisk Tracker

It was published in the December 1984 edition of BEEBUG Magazine (vol. 3, issue 7; page 9) and is credited to N. Silver.

It’s impossibly short:


It makes extensive use of BBC BASIC’s abbreviations, and the writeup even warns

… Here the programs are extensively abbreviated so that the line will fit into Basic’s keyboard buffer. Because of this, you cannot edit a LISTed version, and so, to allow for errors, it is best to spool out a copy of the text to tape/disc initially. This can be achieved as follows:

type in program

The program unwinds to something much more understandable:

   10 L=0
   20 REPEAT
   25   L=L+3
   30   MODE 4
   40   DRAW 1279,0
   50   DRAW 1279,452
   60   MOVE 1279,572
   70   DRAW 1279,1023
   80   DRAW 0,1023
   90   FOR I=1 T OL
  100     VDU 31,RND(32)+5,RND(31),42,30
  110   NEXT
  120   PRINT (L-3)/3
  130   X=0
  140   Y=512
  150   REPEAT
  155     PLOT 69,X,Y
  160     X=X+4
  170     Y=Y-(INKEY(-74)+.5)*8
  180   UNTIL POINT(X,Y)=1 OR X=1280
  190 UNTIL X<1280
  200 VDU 7
  220 RUN

The instructions are typical of the day:

The first game (called ‘Asterisk Tracker’) is a very simple game in which you have to guide a ‘snake’ across the screen, whilst avoiding the stars. As the game progresses, more and more stars will be displayed, and the ease of the game rapidly disappears. The Return key guides the ‘snake’ upwards, but it moves down if Return is not pressed. Aim your ‘snake’ for the gap in the wall, and don’t touch any objects as this causes instant death from space acid poisoning!

Um, yeah, N. Silver, whatevs …

It’s pretty amazing that three type-ins could fit on a page: especially when you consider that the BEEBUG magazine was A5!

beebug vol 3 issue 7 page 9

If you want to play it (and who wouldn’t? We wasted days on this game) you can either run this Asterisk Tracker alone in the browser: Asterisk Tracker, or lurkio has combined them into one, and put them here: Beebug One-Line Games (Asterisk Tracker, a Truffle Hunt clone, and a treasure hunt).

I just wish Graeme Smith were still with us to play this.

Things Got Weird Real Fast

things got weird real fast
things got weird real fast

this, but with alternate lines from the plot file drawn with alternate pens. The original was slow because it had a point roughly every 0.1 mm, and this has been smoothed. Still took maybe 15-20 minutes to draw, though.

moar 10PRINT nonsense

10 Print CHR$(205.5+RND(1)): Goto 10

but this still owns it:

10 PRINT CHR$(199+2*RND);: GOTO 10

I found I can get this to preload in an emulator, but you still have to type RUN and hit return. See, look:$(199+2*RND);:%20GOTO%2010

Rob Manuel’s British Council Tile / Bus Fabric Sim

Rob’s British Council Tile / Bus Fabric Sim — described here: Amstrad BASIC that approximates the tiling schemes that a local council might have used for a municipal building in the 1970s — is a joy. So few colours!

No, really: this *was* the seat pattern on Western SMT buses circa 1979

Because I care (and don’t if you don’t), here’s the Locomotive BASIC source, lovingly typed into the Caprice32 emulator then extracted as text using iDsk:

10 ' British Council Tile / Bus Fabric Sim
20 ' by Rob Manuel 2018
30 '
40 ' z/x - change char up/down (ascii)
50 ' space - random palette
60 ' c - show ascii val, inks & pause
70 ' v - random character (128+ ascii)
80 ' b - random char and cols
90 ' n - fill with same line & pause
100 'i - input ascii value
110 '
130 DEF FNs=INT(RND*255)
140 SYMBOL 255,FNs,FNs,FNs,FNs,FNs,FNs,FNs,FNs
150 DEF FNp=INT(RND*4)
160 DEF FNi=INT(RND*26)
170 GOSUB 470
180 GOSUB 270
190 o$="":i$=INKEY$
200 IF i$<>"" THEN GOSUB 380
210 FOR i=1 TO 40
220 w$=CHR$(14)+CHR$(FNp)+CHR$(15)+CHR$(FNp)
230 w$=w$+CHR$(c):o$=o$+w$:NEXT i
240 store$=o$
250 PRINT o$;:GOTO 190
270 aa=FNi:bb=FNi:cc=FNi:dd=FNi
280 INK 0,aa:INK 1,bb:INK 2,cc:INK 3,dd
290 BORDER aa
310 IF c>255 THEN c=32:IF c<32 THEN c=255
320 LOCATE 1,1:PAPER 0:PEN 1
330 PRINT "C:"c;
340 PRINT CHR$(c);
350 PRINT " ";
360 PRINT "I:"aa;bb;cc;dd;
380 IF i$=" " THEN GOSUB 270:RETURN
390 IF i$="z" THEN c=c-1:GOSUB 310:RETURN
400 IF i$="x" THEN c=c+1:GOSUB 310:RETURN
410 IF i$="c" THEN GOSUB 310:CALL &BB18:RETURN
430 IF i$="v" THEN GOSUB 470:GOSUB 310:RETURN
440 IF i$="b" THEN GOSUB 270:GOSUB 470:GOSUB 310:RETURN
450 IF i$="n" THEN FOR i=1 TO 25:PRINT store$;:NEXT:CALL &BB18:RETURN
470 c=INT(RND*128)+127:RETURN

And if you really care, here’s an emulator snapshot —

Update: I modified the code slightly (essentially, all INT(RND*n) to RND MOD n) so it would compile with Hisoft Turbo Basic. It works! It’s faster!