Search This Blog

Monday 24 January 2022

Open Source Software

I often see posts, on various forums, about what free software to use. Many commercial products offer a free version for home use or a limited feature version. One way or another, I usually end up moving away from those restricted versions.

The only perpetually zero cost software, tends to be Open Source. Although there are many open source applications that show up when searching, lots of those do not get the commitment to be of any use. However, just a few become fully functional products that often rival their commercial counterparts.

The following is a list of the software that I have found are sufficiently developed to be usable products, at least for my home use:

Photo Editing = GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
This is the niche that Photoshop fills in the commercial world. GIMP is a very capable photo editor and has a massive community of support and development. is also an excellent photo editor. For day to day use, I prefer the simplicity and speed of

Vector Graphics = Inkscape
This is the category that Adobe Illustrator fills. Inkscape is usable and has most, if not all, of the essential features. I would not claim it is a match for Illustrator but for free, Inkscape does an excellent job and is still being developed. Inkscape is one of the few tools to save SVG format files.
I have not found an alternative, Open Source, vector graphics editor.

2D CAD = QCAD Community Edition and  LibraCAD
I have more experience with QCAD than LibreCAD. Both have a very similar appearance because LibreCAD is a fork of QCAD. These are both applications that an architect would use for plans and an engineer would use to produce drawings to have parts manufactured. They are in the same line as the industry standard AutoCAD.
I have just started to try out QCAD 3.27.8 (November 2022). The QCAD Professional version is paid for, although very low cost. It add lots of nice to have, but not essential, features. I was going to try to stick to the Community Edition but wanted the layouts and viewport features, so I have decided to pay for the Professional version. For the short time I used just the completely free QCAD Community Edition, it worked very well and had all the important features of LibreCAD 2.1.3.

I tried LibreCAD 2.1.3, but it crashed frequently, so I have had to abandon that. LibreCAD 2.2.0rc4 was unsigned code, so a security risk that I did not have time to attempt to mitigate.

3D CAD = FreeCAD
This is the solid body, parametric editing solution. There are many commercial products in this area, such as Fusion 360 and Solidworks.
I like FreeCAD. It has a few limitations in the way the user interface works and the occasional bug but I have been able to easily produce any model I have needed for 3D printing.

I came across an alternative solid body modelling app. BRL-CAD. I have not tried it out yet. It looks like it is focused on modelling and rendering scenes. As compared to FreeCAD, which is aimed more towards engineering and CAM.

3D Mesh Modelling and animation = Blender
The investment in Blender has been so intensive and it's been around such a long time, that it now rivals the commercial products. It competes with Maya and 3DS Max and other industry standard products.
If you want to create models for computer games or for use in an animated movie, Blender is the product. Blender can also be used to make the movie, and often is!
Like most mesh modelling products, it can be difficult to learn.

Maps = QGIS
This may be a niche area of interest but QGIS has everything needed to produce very nice custom maps. It can import the standard mapping data, such as ESRI® shapefiles, which are available to purchase, or often to download for free. It took me a little while to understand the mapping terminology, but the application is fully featured.
I have no idea what a commercial alternative would be.

That's my list for now, I'll come back and update this as I find and use more of these types of applications.


Latest Update: November 2022

This page is updated, as I gain more experience with applications. The comments and versions may not relate to the date of the original publication.


Sunday 23 January 2022

Defender interior lamp connector

In the process of fitting the rear headlining and specifically a lamp in the rear, I could not find anywhere to get the connector that fits the standard Defender light fitting. They have, in the past, been available on ebay, but not when I was looking. My solution, as usual, was to design and 3D print one.

Original Part

I believe that the connector is part number AMR3158.

Factory fitted connector

It is connector C357 in the 1997 electrical circuit diagram.

Luckily, the spades fit perfectly into the commonly available 2.8mm connector pins. The 2.8mm connector housings that are readily available online, have narrower spacing between the pins.

Readily available 2.8mm connectors

I designed a housing with spacing to fit the lamp, using the 2.8mm pins that I already had. The light only uses two pins 10mm apart.

Just off the printer

Snug fit

The bare roof and condensation

Threading to the front light

Pulled cables through to the rear

I threaded the cables above the front headlining prior to fitting the rear.

Honestly, it does fit... 

... just about. Needs manoeuvering

This was intended to be an article about the lamp connector but I'll mention fitting the headlining, while I'm here.

The headlining that I fitted was purchased from Simmonites. It's a thin fibreglass panel.

There are a number of trim clips holding up the headlining. I measured the one central trim clip from the centre of the row of trim clips between the front and rear sections. That avoids the risk of movement while measuring. I then marked the row of trim clip holes by offering up the two halves and visually looking at the centres. They were 15mm from the edge and I drilled 8mm holes.

I cut the hole for the lamp holder using a rotary tool and drilled a small hole in the centre spar to secure the bracket.

There are three wires, spliced in to the same cables from the front light.

The purple wire is a permanent live. I had purple 0.5mm2 cable available, so it matches the original. The correct method is to disconnect the battery but, of course, I just took care not to touch anything while fitting the crimp. I was happy when the end of the purple cable was safe in the housing.

I had blue 0.5mm2 cable available, so I connected that to the purple/blue cable of the original lamp. It's an earth via the immobiliser ECU. 

There is also a black earth cable, using a 6.3mm spade connector, plugged into a tag cut into the bracket. The bolts are the earth for the lamp.

The connector was a tight fit but worked.


Connector C357 AMR3158 STEP and STL (Zip)


Saturday 8 January 2022

Using TDCi switches in a 300TDi

In the process of personalising Fender, I've fitted newer switches. That requires a few wiring changes.

The linked PDF document details the necessary connections for the main switches and the changes to use a TD5 or TDCi (Puma) engine tail door harness instead of a 300TDi harness:

300TDi to TDCi connectors (PDF)

Switch Mounting

I have also designed and 3D printed various panels to mount the newer switches into a 300TDi.

We have a Raptor Engineering centre dash that I had already configured to fit a specific Sony Stereo. I changed one section to fit the switches. The panel cut out is for a single DIN radio. All the switch mounting panels are in the same style as the Raptor dash.

On the drivers side the hazard and rear fog switches will just fit into the space of the original small  switch panel.


DIN button panel STL and STEP (Zip)

This is two parts. The three M5 bolts clamp the two halves together.

Small button panel STL and STEP (Zip)

This is three parts. The thin rear walls can be superglued in to place or just left free to be held in place by the switches. The middle hole is for a cosmetic self taping screw to match the mounting screws at either end.

TD5 and TDCi button blank STL and STEP (Zip)

I print this with 1.2mm thick walls standing on the button face. I have to sand it down and paint the part that is on show.


Friday 7 January 2022

Fender is back

When Shelley's previous Defender, Fender, was written off, its remains were bought by the owner of the garage we use.

Much to our surprise he rebuilt it much quicker than we expected and we asked for first refusal if he was ever to sell it. He did and we bought it back at the end of November.

Mark at Gratech 4x4 has done an excellent job getting Fender back on the road.

Since then I've been personalising it and putting back the electrics needed now that it is a van again.

Running the wires for the tail door central locking.

I've re-enabled the central locking and added the solenoid and linkage to the tail door.

As the tail door was from a TDCi Puma, rather than the older 300TDi, I've had to change the connectors and some wiring to suit.

I've replaced all the old switches with those from newer Land Rovers, mainly the type from a late TD5 or TDCi. I've had to swap over several connectors, mainly for the switches. I chose to try to keep as close to the newer model wiring, so I've put new connectors on the old 300TDi wires to match the TDCi door wiring.

I've 3D printed bits for the dash to fit the newer switches.

Plus there are some more jobs on-going.