Mach3 Via VNC?

A guy I met at WorkShop 88 is putting together a Maker Faire like event through the local ASME group. It is called the “AMSE Open Source Microcontroller Workshop“. He wants to get a bunch of local open source people to show off their machines and electronics. If you are interested in a meet up, stop by. I can probably get a few free tickets.

I agreed to go, but I don’t like hauling my laser around because I might break something. I have a second laser build going to test the MakerSlide changes. This will be fully functional except for the tube and tube power supply. It will also be run via Mach3 rather than an expensive controller.

The only problem with Mach3 is that you need to haul around a complete computer, with keyboard mouse and monitor. I am already bringing my laptop, so I was trying to figure out a passable way of using that. I know there are options like SmoothStepper and PCMCIA (rarely works) parallel ports, but I did not want to spend any money just for this event.

I have a very small desktop computer with a parallel port. I decided to try putting a VNC server on that computer to see if the laptop could be the display, keyboard and mouse for Mach3. I have used several flavors of VNC, but have found UltraVNC to be my favorite. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, but a better description is remote control software.  You basically get to control the desktop of a remote computer.

I installed it as a service so that it would be available as soon as possible. I already had the computer setup to boot right into XP without a login. The server computer did not complain at all about not having a keyboard attached.  I gave that computer and my laptop different static address on the same subnet.  I connected the two computers with an Ethernet crossover cable.  Once the VNC server (the Mach3 computer) booted, I connected with the viewer software from the laptop.

It connected fine and I was able to start Mach3 and run the laser.  It worked quite well and the display update rate was acceptable, even on the DROs.  The only issue I found was arrow key control of the axes was rough.  It took me a little time too figure out the problem.   The axis would start up fine then start to stutter a bit.  I think it worked fine until the key went into auto repeat mode.  If you hit the tab key to bring up the pendant looking thing, you can use the mouse to move the axes quite well.

 

I also hook up my Shuttle Pro and that works so much better than arrow keys any way.

Running G-Code worked perfectly.  It is not a permanent solution, but it met my goal of not spending any money.  It could also work as a simple remote monitor on a running job.

 

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1 Response to “Mach3 Via VNC?”


  1. oleksiy

    I have tried logmein.com, it is a full vnc solution but it works fully through the web browser. The idea there is that browsers normally work well across all firewalls. I noticed that it could also share printers. Would be great if the parallel port from external machine can beshared as well to control the machine. Im not sure what level of access one gets on the other side. Also, it is free initially, and just vnc functionality is free, but full printer sharing is free just for the first month.

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