Pew Pew Laser Blog Hand forged code from Seattle, Washington. Gaming - analog and digital. Glass artistry. Baking. And a few pictures of cats. en-us Pew Pew Laser Blog How to Choose Electronics Parts to Buy. Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 PDT Once you start imaging your own electronics projects, it can be confusing to figure out exactly what to buy. Both Sparkfun and Adafruit offer a huge selection of components and boards, but how can you know they'll work with your project?

Here's what I do - check the Johnny-Five examples. I browse through all of the parts and pick from there. That way, I know that J5 has support for that component. As a bonus, all the examples come with wiring diagrams, so you know how to hook up the new part. This will work for simplish builds, and it's worked for me so far.

Katie Kurkoski
Double-sided Engraving on the Glowforge. Fri, 07 Sep 2018 00:00:00 PDT Sometimes I like to put a design on both sides of my Glowforge pieces. Here's a quick and dirty way to do it.

First off, your cut line for the piece has to be symmetrical. To fudge this in a shape that's only kinda symmetrical in Illustrator, here's what I do:

  1. Select the outermost shape (your original cut line) with the Selection Tool (v).
  2. Copy and paste it, right in place. It might not look like it, but you should have two shapes right on top of each other now.
  3. Use the menus to select Object > Transform > Reflect. Select an axis (probably vertical) and click OK.
  4. Open the Pathfinder tool window: Window > Pathfinder. (I've found this easier to work with than the Object > Path > Join options.) Under Shape Modes, click the first set of boxes (Unite).
  5. Done! You should have a new symmetrical cut-line which is large enough to enclose the rest of your piece.

Once you've got the artwork settled, you're on to the Glowforge UI:

  1. Set up your engraves, scores and cuts as you normally would. It'll be very convenient for you to have the outer cuts in just one color (a single instruction group in the GFUI).
  2. Laser! (Run the Glowforge.)
  3. Now get some double-sided tape (aka poster tape) and wrap a bit around your favorite finger.
  4. Hold down the original material in the GF (or use some kind of jig) to prevent it from moving.
  5. Use your tape finger to poke each cut piece out and then flip it over, right inside its original hole.
  6. In the GFUI, turn off all the cut-lines. Then turn on whatever you want to engrave on the second side.
  7. Laser!

So there. That's the secret - symmetrical cuts and double-sided tape.

Katie Kurkoski
Excluding sites from your Google search results. Mon, 30 Jul 2018 00:00:00 PDT As I've been searching for assets to support my laser-cutting endeavors, I've become quite irritated with Pinterest results which are lists of unrelated stuff. Fortunately, Google offers some solutions:

First off, you can exclude a site from the search results. Just use this for your search: plant vine svg That will search for plant vine svgs, but not show you any results from Pinterest. The trick is putting the dash/negative sign just before

Of course, this can exclude any site from search results. If one was so inclined, one could edit certain bookmarks on others' computers to remove, say Fox News for example. Just in case you're visiting your parents' house, for example.

Second, you can force any keyword in your search results with something like this: plant vine "svg" That will only show results with the keyword "svg" in the results. The trick is putting that keyword in quotes. In my specific case, it tends to show results with that file in them, but often times they're for sale.

Happy searching!

Katie Kurkoski
Glowforge Laser Cutter - Things I Wish I'd Known. Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:00:00 PDT Laser cut earrings and keychains I've had my Glowforge laser cutter for several months now and I've made some things that I'm really quite happy about. Someone recently asked me what I wish I'd known before I got the Glowforge, and I figured I'd expand those thoughts here.

I already knew this, but just so you also know: the Glowforge requires an internet connection to work, and it's not open-sourced. The on-line interface and catalog work very well, and make a lot of sense for both the user and manufacturer. But, if you're the type of person who needs to control the hardware themselves, the Glowforge probably isn't for you.

The Glowforge fits really well on this Ikea LACK coffee table. I spent really quite a lot of time searching on-line for a lot of workbenches that I didn't buy. Ooooooh, now the table comes with a lower shelf.

If you like prototyping on cardboard, get yourself a cutting mat and box cutter to make cutting that cardboard down to size a lot easier.

Gorilla Tape is really great for removing the protective paper from Glowforge's Proofgrade materials. Wrap a loop of tape sticky side out, around your hand, and press the cut pieces into the the tape. Pull the tape off the cut piece, and voilà, the protective paper peels right off.

For the most accurate material-to-cut alignment, place the material as close to center of bed (that's where the camera is) as possible.

A "No Artwork" error in the Glowforge online UI can mean "artwork doesn't fit in laser-able area."

I'm new to vector design software, and so I did a bit of playing around to figure out what worked best for me. Sketch (OSX only) is quite good, and Inkscape (Windows, OSX and Linus) is surprisingly good for free (open-source) software. But I'm most comfortable using Adobe Illustrator, probably because of my previous experience with Photoshop. For bonus points, it's available for both OXS and Windows, and it comes with a Creative Cloud subscription.

If you're considering buying a Glowforge (they're shipping now, you should get it in just 2 weeks), please consider using my referral code: You'll save some money and I'll get some money.

Katie Kurkoski
AWS Easy Mode == Architect. Wed, 16 May 2018 00:00:00 PDT While severely belated, I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about a really nifty project that I learned about at EmpireConf 2017 last October. In her talk "Architecture as Text (AWS Easy Mode)", Angelina Fabbro talked about .architect - an open source project which handles provisioning of AWS / Lamda servers through the `.arc` file - a plaintext manifest file. The most amazing and wonderful fact is that with .architect in Angelina's demo, the servers were provisioned faster than DNS propagation.

Also of note, she's got a great definition for "Serverless": Functions (the var func = new Function(arg){} kind) as a service, not a web server. Abstract away the notion of a server altogether.

For more info on .architect, definitely check out the talk from EmpireConf, or the website at

Katie Kurkoski
LinkedIn for Job Seekers. Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:00:00 PDT I've done the job search thing a few times, and one of the first places I start is with LinkedIn. It's how I found my last job. Here are a number of hopefully useful tips that I've picked up over the years stemming from my own discoveries to advice from professional job search advisors.

  • Copy and paste most of your content over from your resume. You can even use LinkedIn as extra space for stuff that doesn't fit on your 2-page resume.
  • Connections are important; they're how you widen the net of people who can search for you. So do make connections with folks that you've met in your professional dealings. You don't have to accept every request that you receive. I skip those "LIONs" (LinkedIn Open Networkers), and folks I've actually never met. (Unless it's a recruiter working for a company I'm interested in.)
  • Always personalize the connection request. Remind the person how they know you.
  • Keep those email addresses from old jobs tied to your LinkedIn account, and verify them.
  • When you start a new job, connect with your co-workers. They will later become your past co-workers.
  • When you leave an old job (or begin a new search), write a few recommendations about your previous co-workers. Hopefully they'll do the same for you.
  • Fill in every profile field that LinkedIn asks you to.
  • Log in once a day on weekdays. LinkedIn prioritizes active users in search results.
  • Consider setting your current title or description blurb to include "currently seeking next opportunity".
  • Follow companies that you're interested in. You'll be prioritized in their recruiters' search results.
  • Look at people who work at those companies. What technologies and acronyms do they share? That's probably the company's development stack, which is what you should consider either featuring in your profile or learning.
  • If you go to meetups, connect with recruiters you find at those meetups. (Recruiters will pretty much always accept a connection.)

Other links about job searches:

Katie Kurkoski
Handy Regexes for Search and Replace. Mon, 26 Mar 2018 00:00:00 PDT Sublime Text - my favorite editor - will let you use a regular expression (regex) in its search and replace functionality. Here are some handy regexes that I've used in the past:

Any anchors
Any dollar value
All HTML comments and their contents
Either "alpha" or "beta"
Any blank lines
Any pair of "s not preceeded by ="
Sass mixins
@mixin .* \{
Sass extends
Katie Kurkoski
Inkscape - Using Path > Difference With Text. Sat, 03 Mar 2018 00:00:00 PST It turns out that Inkscape's error messages will appear in the status bar at the bottom of the application.

Part of getting my Glowforge laser cutter has been learning to use a new piece of software, Inkscape. I was having problems using Inkscape's "Path > Difference" option to combine (well, cut out) shapes and text elements. Here's what I had to do to get the elements merged:

  1. Optional: Disable any stroke styles on both objects. Use fills instead.
  2. Optional: Make sure the first element - the non-text - is a path. Select it and choose "Path > Object to Path".
  3. Turn the text into a path. Select it and choose "Path > Object to Path".
  4. Ungroup that new path. Right click it and choose "Ungroup".
  5. Bring the "top" element to the top layer (Home). This is what will be removed from the other element.
  6. Position / align the elements as desired.
  7. Select both of the elements.
  8. Choose "Path > Difference".
Katie Kurkoski
Global Diversity CFP Day Q&A. Tue, 06 Feb 2018 00:00:00 PST Last week was Global Diversity CFP Day and we held the Seattle workshop that I'd been organizing for a few months. Global Diversity CFP Day was started by Peter Aitken, who ran a similar event to improve the diversity of submissions for his event ScotlandJS. At the event, a number of locations world-wide held workshops where people who are under-represented at technology conferences could learn about submitting talks to conferences from experienced speakers and event organizers. The attendees asked some really good questions, so I figured I'd answer them here for posterity. I hope readers will forgive me for including one "Socratic method" question at the end.

  • What is a "CFP?"

    It stands for "call for proposals" or sometimes "call for papers". It comes from academic conferences making it known that they are looking for content for their meetings and conferences. In my experience, tech conferences use to indicate that talk submissions are open to anyone who fills out the online form.

  • How did you get involved in this?

    I attended a local meetup and learned about a local conference that had just happened. I continued attending meetups, and following interesting people on Twitter, and started beginning to think that perhaps I could speak too. I talk more about getting involved with organizing conferences here.

  • Do conferences pay?

    It depends, greatly.

    A few conferences pay their speakers a fee, in addition to covering the speaker's travel, lodging and conference ticket. Some of these pay only some of their speakers a fee. These conferences are usually - but not always - organized for a profit.

    Most of the conferences I pay attention to usually - but not always - cover a speaker's travel, lodging and conference ticket, but it is much more rare to pay a speaker fee. These are usually organized by volunteers in their "spare" time, and some are even 501c3 non-profit organizations.

    Some conferences will cover some fees if you ask, and other conferences don't pay for anything - even when the speakers are providing the content! This is more common in academic and open-source conferences, where the expectation seems to be that your employer will cover conferences costs.

    Conferences usually publish what they cover along with their CFP. It's up to you to make the call as to whether speaking at that particular conference works for you. For me, it doesn't make any sense to pay out of my own pocket to speak at a conference.

  • Do you write the talk before the proposal?

    No, almost never. For one, writing the proposal gives me the outline of what's going to be in the talk. More importantly, I don't do speculative work; so I don't write a talk before it's accepted at a conference. I have made one or two exceptions when I just knew it was a good talk, and I was determined to give it at a local meetup.

  • How do you find open calls for proposals?

    Twitter is huge in my sphere of influence. Following JSConf EU is a good start. Mozilla Tech CFPs is also a great way to get notified of CFPs which are closing soon. HackyGoLucky has a crowd-sourced spreadsheet of conferences at The Global Diversity CFP Day workhops have also put together a list at

  • How do you identify the culture of a conference; what kind of talks do they tend to accept and where do they fall on the silly vs. stodgy scale?

    I usually start by looking at the Twitter accounts for the conference itself, and its organizers. From this I can get a sense of how they interact with the community. The conference's website is usually all about the upcoming conference, but often archives the previous years too (try changing 2018 to another year in the URL). Looking at a previous year will tell you what talks they did accept, and those little descriptions of the talks were usually part of the CFP that the speaker sent in. If the conference records its talks, then you can watch videos of last year's talks - the keynote and MC sections can be particularly enlightening.

  • How do I find technical topics for the core of my talk?

    For me, technical topics commonly come out of bits of "fiddling with code" that I do. I can browse through my old Codepens and get some ideas about what's interesting. Also, when I've accomplished something in an evening of experimentation, I often think "I should share this!" and a few related topics can be the foundation of a talk. Even when working, any solution that can be abstracted and shared can be part of a talk.

  • How does going to local meetups improve my proposals and talks?

    One thing about meetups is that they're a lot like itty-bitty conferences. Attending conferences is definitely a way to get involved with the community, but attending meetups will get you involved with the community too. At a meetup, you can meet other people with the same interests and talk about current projects. When you're talking about something and the other people lean in and say "oh, that's interesting", then you might have a talk idea right there. Often, conference volunteers and organizers attend these meetups. Also, meetup organizers need to have a few talks each and every month of the year, so they are very likely to accept your talk. You can get very helpful feedback from attendees (What did they take away from the talk? What was confusing?) after giving a meetup talk.

Katie Kurkoski
Games I've Beat. Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:00:00 PST Gender-based marketing is lazy and video game marketing has been lying to you. Here is a list of video games that I have beat. Where "beat" means variously beat the final boss, won all races or levels, or completed the story, as appropriate for the genre.

Katie Kurkoski