Eurobricks Knights
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About ShaydDeGrai

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  1. ShaydDeGrai

    Creator Expert 10270 Modular

    This raises an interesting alternative. I could totally get behind the idea of a 32-wide, three story, single building modular each January and second, smaller but equally complex (building technique & detail-wise) 16 wide release each summer. The summer release would clearly have to be more sophisticated and have the same look and feel of a "normal" modular release to qualify as a Creator Expert set and not just another Creator 3-in-1 house or City offering, but it would allow collectors more options to draw from in laying out their modular street scenes and, at a price point that reflects the smaller footprint, it might open up the line of Modulars to more people for whom $170+ is just too much to spend on a single kit.
  2. ShaydDeGrai

    Creator Expert 10270 Modular

    I find it a bit ironic that, when people like the scale and design of a modular, they buy one, build it and move on. When people are unhappy with the design or scale, they buy multiple copies of the set as a ready supply of matching bricks so they can add extra stories or make grander MODs. In the end, they wind up spending more money on (and bumping the sales figures of) the modulars they take issue with than they do on the ones they like out of the box. - sigh -
  3. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO 40th anniversary classic train

    I'm a bit torn. Part of me really likes this for it's nostalgia value and takes me back to the trains I actually played with back in the day; the rest of me looks at this and realizes how far Lego Trains have come. I think it would have been cooler to have a "Then and Now" themed anniversary set (or pair of sets of you're trying to keep the price down): one engine like this using only parts and techniques that were available 40 years ago and the same class of engine done using the current palette of bricks and advanced SNOT techniques that have brought so much realism and fidelity to modern offerings. Does anyone know if this set is going to be a "for sale" item or a GwP give-away (the latter option making it much more appealing to me)?
  4. ShaydDeGrai

    Creator Expert 10270 Modular

    Have you considered getting cats (or a toddler)? I often build according to the instructions and then leave assembled until the powers-that-be (those being small curious hands and/or rambunctious felines) inflict enough damage such that it's easier to scrap for parts than repair (my cats did more damage to the Death Star II than the Rebel Alliance did and my daughter turned the Corner Garage into a one story building with some stray animals living on a pile of rubble.)
  5. ShaydDeGrai

    Creator Expert 10270 Modular

    I've got a few hundred unopened sets and I'm getting sick of having no free time to build them. I should have seen this coming when I put the 3739 Blacksmith shop set (the first set I didn't at least crack open the day I got it) on my shelf and told myself, "I'm a little busy today, I'll do this later." Eighteen years later, I've since moved twice, changed jobs twice, bought a house, gotten married, had a kid and I still have that kit in storage. What's your excuse?
  6. ShaydDeGrai

    New VIP system

    At least in my case "hate" is probably too strong a word to describe the new program - "dislike," "disappointed by" and "irritated by" summarize my feelings better. I've been a "VIP" holder since the days when we used to fill our wallets with little loyalty cards that they stamped with mini-fig heads so I've participated in several iterations of what Lego thinks it is to earn "VIP" rewards. For my time/money/energy, this latest revision is pretty pointless, it creates hurtles (granted most of those are low) to getting cash rewards and makes a big deal out of offering you the chance to "redeem rewards" for a lot of non-brick minutia that, were I running the TLG, I'd probably just write off as advertising and give away free at store events or as unexpected GwP bonuses. I just don't see the value added (from a consumer standpoint) in differentiating a $20 reward valid in the store versus a $20 reward for on-line purchases - twenty Lego bucks is twenty Lego bucks whether I spend it on-line or in person, why should I have to decide ahead of time? For that matter, why should I have to "decide" at all, they still haven't integrated the whole VIP rewards scheme into their web presence (separate login, separate cookies, etc.) Again, were I running TLG, this would be a high priority, if I know who the user is at S@H (or if they self identify in the store), I should know if they are a VIP member and how many points they have, and when they go to check out, the system should be smart enough to offer to redeem all or part of their points for them on the spot. Other reward systems have been doing this for years (granted some of those impose further (occasionally inconvenient) restrictions for fraud prevention - such as points can only be used on orders that ship to the address of record or a physical card is required for in-store application) but somehow TLG thinks they have "improved" your shopping experience by bouncing you over to their reward center to buy a voucher so you can come back and apply it to your shopping cart during checkout. It doesn't really matter how simple or successful those extra steps are, the fact that a menial, invasive, clerical task was pushed onto the user when the system had all the information to perform the operation transparently is just bad UX design. As for non-voucher rewards, as I said, pretty pointless. Coloring sheets and posters? TLG would get more good will out of just giving that stuff away to any kid who wants it, VIP or not. Tickets to discovery centers and parks? They _used_ to give that stuff away, or at least BOGO or "Kids go free with adult ticket purchase" variations; at one point it seemed like every other shipment I got from S@H had at least one coupon like that in it. A second chance to get a past GwP set or some cool exclusive (SDCC, regional promotional stuff, etc)? Now that's cool, pity it feels like that whole thing was something of a bait and switch; getting one of the rare brick-based rewards makes you feel more like a lottery winner than a VIP customer. Purely by chance, I used most of my VIP points just before the new system kicked in so I have a pretty good picture of what my spending habits have been since this all started. I've got a little over 26k points right now which might sound like a lot to some, but to me, it means they've lost a lot of my business to Amazon. Part of that is a function of GwP options (which I haven't been overjoyed with of late - too many non-set items (totes, lunch boxes, posters, minifigs, keyrings, etc.)) and part has just been a VIP program that feels neither "person"-al nor "very important". Amazon gives me 25% off, free shipping, cash back on their credit card, and keeps track of what I already own so it gives me better recommendations and doesn't try to sell me the same thing twice. When being "just another customer" over there is a more "rewarding" experience than being a "VIP" over here, we have a problem. I don't "hate" the new system, but with the resources available to TLG, they should really have done better even if they're not an Amazon goliath.
  7. ShaydDeGrai

    71044 Disney Train and Station

    Very true, and I don't begrudge them for having such an option for things like building robots. I think where the new PU system falls flat however (aside from TLG's questionable software record in general) is that they spent so much time and effort in making the hard/fringe cases possible, they forgot to make the common cases simple and straight-forward. One of the basic design tenets we used to beat students over the head with was "Don't paint yourself into a corner, but never make the average user pay for features they'll never use." It seems with the PU roll-out they jumped straight into the specialty Boost/Mindstorms sort of use cases and are amortizing the R&D expense by retrofitting it into a full PF replacement in more mainstream models from the top down. Much of what people (historically) have used PF for can be accomplished with a simple on/off battery box or trivial half-dulplex remote where simplicity and battery life are far more important than two-way communication, connectivity with smart devices or even programability in the first place. I assume we'll eventually get a "dumb" battery box, but I'm skeptical we'll ever get a non-Bluetooth, non-App, simple half-duplex control system like we have with PF and that's a shame because there's is value in simplicity (remember - from a UI standpoint, Google was built around a text box and a couple of buttons and look where that got them). If I were still teaching a robots class, I'd be all over the new hubs and software, but in general, when I think about how I personally use PF today, PU is like using a CNC machine when all you really need is a hand drill.
  8. ShaydDeGrai

    71044 Disney Train and Station

    Thanks for the pointer. I'd prefer an IR based device but at least for the purposes of not having my daughter mix "Lego time" with "Screen time" this is a start. I realize that IR has its drawbacks, but from my experience most of those were non-issues. My Lego stays inside so bright sunlight/light pollution isn't an issue; line-of-sight issues can be overcome with strategic positioning of reflective surfaces; and, restricting LOS angles with IR absorbing surfaces can actually be used as an advantage at shows to prevent obnoxious kids with IR remotes from screwing with your set-up covertly (though for shows, I still think 9V is the best option - but that's a different soapbox). Bluetooth, on the other hand, hasn't worked properly for me in a decade. It's sort of like that secluded vacation spot where you used to have the beach nearly all to yourself and then it gets a great writeup in national media about what an unknown gem it is and the next time you go back, the beach is so crowded you can't even see the water let alone spread out a blanket. My bluetooth stuff malfunctions/drops connections on a regular basis. I got a bit frustrated dealing with my wife's new ear buds so I borrowed a sniffer from work and at peak it detected over 300 active bluetooth devices within a 100m radius (only about a dozen or so were mine - the rest was just backscatter from a sea of mice, keyboards, speakers, fitness trackers, remotes, game controllers, toys and other such belonging to my neighbors. If you live in a densely settled area where everyone's alarm clock needs to talk to their coffee maker to tell it when to start brewing, Bluetooth signals become the electronic equivalent of dust bunnies under the bed. And while I'm ranting I'll just say that for the price of the Disney Train, a simple remote should come _in the box_. I'm okay with a box that says something along the lines of "Downloadable App available for additional play features (Smart Device not included)" but having a big flagship Lego model declare "Smart Device required but not included" right on the box in bright yellow friendly letters as if this requirement were a marketing feature, sets the wrong tone.
  9. ShaydDeGrai

    Colors of brick separators

    You can always re-sharpen them with a nail file or emery board, but I suppose it's easier to just take a fresh one out of the 55 gallon tub-full of them we've each amassed over the years.
  10. ShaydDeGrai

    71044 Disney Train and Station

    For the purposes of simply running a motor, sure, I'm willing to believe that PU is similar to PF (assuming they had a simple battery box with an on/off switch). I'll also accept the argument that driving the motors is probably the biggest drain on the battery pack. However, I'm still skeptical about claims that the overall system is as battery friendly as PF was. The old PF system used Infrared (IR) to transmit half-duplex (one-way) commands to the receiver. That technology uses extremely little power when passive/sleeping (waiting for a command to come in) and even its peak draw (changing state in response to an input) is pretty low. The new PU system uses Bluetooth which has all sorts of interesting features that are hard/near impossible to mimic using simple IR schemes, but those features come at a price from both a complexity and a power consumption perspective. Peak energy consumption for bluetooth receivers is about 3x that of most IR based receivers. There is a relative new low power variation on Bluetooth that trades off various features in the name of longer battery life and less heat generation (I don't know which standard PU is using, let's give them benefit of the doubt and say they've embraced the low power version), _peak_ power consumption for this guy is only 30% higher than IR peak on average. So even if you're using the 'low power' flavor of Bluetooth, you'd expect, all other factors being equal, that your batteries would only last for two thirds as long. Trouble is, all other factors aren't equal, IR receivers are usually passive devices that sit around waiting for a signal that it's time to change state. Bluetooth devices are actively managed, master-slave pico-networks with registration, authentication and polling happening at regular intervals whether there's been new input or not. In short, the IR receiver on a PF scheme consumes appreciable power when you press a button on a remote. The PU Hub consumes power at least every 100 ms so long as it's turned on, that power has to come from somewhere. Unless you're issuing 10 commands a second (well, actually 13 to cover the difference in IR v. BT peak consumption) every second the train is running, the Bluetooth hub is going to draw noticeably more power. I understand why TLG decided to support Bluetooth (personally I don't agree with that goal - no Lego box should every bear the phrase "requires smart device - not included" - but that's a different story) but for something like a train controller, they need a simple PU compatible IR-based remote (ditch the Bluetooth, ditch the app - or at least make them completely optional). In the mean time (which is parent-speak for: "my daughter begged me to get this set and I caved, but I'll be damned if I'm going to mix smart phone apps and Lego..."), I suspect I'll be redesigning the tender to use all PF stuff and just throw the PU junk in a drawer.
  11. ShaydDeGrai

    Colors of brick separators

    I'm kinda glad they are mixing it up a little. According to Brickset (which I know is under-reporting because I'm terrible about updating my holding and rarely register duplicates) I _only_ have 124 of them in orange. The green ones were pretty rare (I only have three and haven't seen them show up in a new kit in years), but I've already amassed a half dozen of the teal ones and they just came out circa the City Space introduction time frame (at least that was when I first noticed them). Now if I could only come up with a good use for a couple hundred brick separators I'd be all set. Maybe Eurobricks should host a "featured part" building competition with a requirement that all MOCs must incorporate at least 20 brick separators as building elements
  12. ShaydDeGrai

    How to lighten up Modular Houses best?

    Maybe I'm just cheap and not especially picky, but when it comes to (uniformly) lighting large structures (like a modular or a City street) I've had good luck with plain old Christmas white LED strands. I happened across them in an after christmas sale a few years ago - three foot strand, battery box with switch, one bulb about every 3 inches. The brand I picked up were some generic made for Ace Hardware the LEDs were a snug fit for a Technic axle hole or the inside of a trans 1x1 round and the wire was fine enough to bury in the gap created by two palisade bricks side by side. It's not a great solution if you only want one or two lights; hiding an unwanted light mid-strand is a pain; and, all your switches control lights by the dozen - not the room, but at $3 a strand, I got two dozen lights (with battery boxes and switches) for the price of a single PF LED cable from Lego.
  13. ShaydDeGrai

    Modular building question/tips

    Probably the biggest thing to remember when trying to envision LDD as an IRL structure is to stagger the joints as much as possible, wherever possible. Even with 1 stud thick walls it adds a lot of strength to physical models. Personally, I like to use a lot of 1x6 bricks (or longer) wherever I can and to stagger joints by at least two studs between courses. A single stud overlap acts more like a pivot or a hinge when a joint is being pressed on from the sidewall, two or more studs stiffens things up to make the model more "play durable." I'm also fond of injecting a few of the "L" shaped 1x corner bricks and plates to stiffen up corners and, IRL, this helps counter some of the torquing the model would be subject to during normal play and handling when two adjacent walls are grabbed by the middle (several studs removed from the corner) to remove a story or pull the model down from a shelf.
  14. While the new year definitely coincides with lots of new sets on a regular basis, that first wave won't be the only new sets you see in the next 12 months. Traditionally January brings something new to the table for a wide range of themes and then a second or third wave hits for various individual themes staggered throughout the year (a summer wave of City sets, a few new Star Wars sets for May the 4th, assorted new items to freshen the shelves in October just ahead of holiday gift buying, etc.) If you're not impressed by anything you've seen thus far, don't despair; there have been plenty of years when I looked at the January line-up and thought to myself, "this is the year I'm going to be way under my Lego budget - I already own everything I wanted from last year and this new stuff does nothing for me." Nine months later, I'm wondering how I'm going to explain the credit card bill to my wife because I loved everything they rolled out in late spring and summer. They call these releases waves for a reason; they just keep coming; sometimes there's a lull, but there's always something else queued up behind it. Chances are, sooner or later something will tempt you.
  15. ShaydDeGrai

    Modular Building Sets - Rumours and Discussion

    Ahh, sounds like you'd feel right at home in Boston. You pretty much described our system to a T (pun intended for any readers from Massachusetts). The big difference is, as has already been pointed out, despite all of these failings, in a _state_ with a population a bit under 7 million people, the transit system for metro Boston alone averages about 1.25 million riders per day. I'm one of them. I own a car. I live far enough outside the city proper to have a driveway (in some communities just having off-street parking is a taxable asset/benefit) and try to avoid bringing my car into the city whenever possible. On a good day I can get to the office in 20 mins from my front door to my desk. My record for a bad day is just over four hours. I can't really complain about the price though, not because it's cheap mind you, but because the alternative is ridiculous. My building has a garage where an unlimited parking/access pass is $1200/month. The hotel across the street also has a garage that charges $ for the first two hours and $10/hour thereafter. Metered street parking (if you can find any) only costs $2/hour, but they're limited to 2 hours total (the traffic office chalks tires to ensure cars actually moved, you didn't just feed the meter) and the parking fine starts at $250. Having known a number of people from LA, I can understand how they might view public transit differently, much more spacious sprawl, no nor'easters to contend with, fundamentally different attitude toward cars and walking, etc.. I remember one time a classmate of mine in college (from LA) was lamenting the fact that he wouldn't be able to go to the gym that afternoon because his Hummer was in the shop; I naively suggest that he just go to the campus gym instead as it was literally next door, less than 50 feet from where we were having the conversation. He gave me this look like I was a complete moron and explained that that WAS the gym he regularly goes to, but you can just _walk_ to the gym, you have to _be seen_ driving to the gym and park somewhere where people will notice your ride. How else are they going to know you have a $100,000 plus car? When I asked what he actually did at the gym, he said he liked to hang out by (not actually ride) the stationary bike because they faced the right way for him to watch people checking out his car. At the time, _I_ was driving a car that was older than he was, was painted with Rustoleum, and cost me more to insure on an annual basis than what I'd paid for the vehicle itself - we clearly came from different worlds. But back to the topic at hand, perhaps the reason I can relate to Modulars is the parking situation - nobody has off-street parking and once you account for corner setbacks and fireplug clearance, there's precious little street parking for the number of apartments and businesses they need to accommodate. There are a few place around here where developers have gutted old brownstones, installed car elevators and turned them into modern garages with old-school veneers. Maybe the lego equivalent of that would make an interesting modular on day.