Wed Aug 27 2008 23:25:13 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
In the last week or two I've been doing some of the smallest soldering I've ever attempted.
It all started with the KOLPXNTY board I've been designing and prototyping. I won't dive into detail here (maybe later!?), but the basic goal is to trigger a fairly large number of circuit bent devices from a networked computer.
I'll put up a documentation page if/when it's more relevant.
Although this certainly not rocket science, it's certainly the most complex 2-sided surface mount board I've attempted to design. Briefly, there are a few buses, a lot of traces, and a shitton of vias (for my amateur hand anyway). I soldered down the teeny LEDs and 6 small SMT chips and the bypass caps and resistors and rested confident in knowing that even though the board was hand-ironed and soldered haphazardly, that it was good and efficient and tight.
Then I decided to finally build out the benito kits that I scored from Dorkbot Don a month or longer ago.
Let's be clear -- this shit is pretty damn small. It's not exactly microscopic. It's still hand soldered, but wow, it's really tight. The TQFP part is really hard not to bridge, but the braid will save you. The LEDs are really light and challenging, but totally doable if careful. The remainder of the SMT parts (caps and resistors mostly) are surprisingly fun to mount and actually save you the trouble of cutting those long leads (like on thru-hole parts).
I built two of them and although I managed to ruin one of the LEDs on one of the boards, I have been able to confirm that they're both functional.
Don has really done some great and amazing work here!
Let's be absolutely clear: He's designed and built us a cheap and readily available platform that can act as a usb-to-and-from-serial bridge, an Atmel programmer, or even more generally, a really great cheap and open platform for USB+AVR hacking. Wanna control a servo? Sure, this can do it! Wanna read from an SPI sensor? Sure, this can do it too!
It's still probably in need of some general purpose cross-platform code and reusable modules, but what a great small, cheap, and efficient platform on which to build computer-enabled projects! It think it was nearly ten years ago that I read about the death of the serial port and the future of this newfangled USB thing.
It was a hobbyist nightmare. How were (are?) we going to deal with the insanity? Other than the overpriced FTDI chip (not to fully knock it -- that chip is great), the benito is the first real usb platform that does what we hobbyists kinda want. Granted the software has to be there to support it -- and it will follow soon. Pay attention. :)
Wed Aug 27 2008 22:33:29 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
It's really hard for me to type "dada". After years of brainwashing and typing and whoknowswhat, it always comes out "data". These are actually different concepts.
So there's a local, independent, community sponsored radio station that is doing a wonderfully brilliant 101 hours of dada and surrealism
I'm biased -- I have performed live on this community platform and I have helped out with a festival in the past...but this is really a great thing and I need to get the word out. Portlanders can listen on 90.7 on the fm dial, out of towners can also listen by streaming magic via the internet.
Once time time in time, in the spirit of dada, we proclaimed "stud pony midgets in bondage gear. $5" available at the student health center. It is altogether true and yet not real but quite false in its actuality and refuted in its continued insistence of existence. It is a failure baby and a falsehood meme of blind eye turning of steering quality of knowing. You will deny.
I've been following the gross artwork of Larry Carlson for a while...and to my surprise and joylation, he's got a segment slotted in the fest (see Thursday 6am -- yes, like 7 hours from now).
Tue Jun 10 2008 23:11:03 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Wow. I look up and it's already June. Where the hell has all the time gone? The blog and website have been stagnating a bit...mostly because of time shortages. My lifestyle has changed in such a way that it's often quite difficult for me to get time to even write a quick blurb...and just frankly, I haven't been terribly motivated to share thoughts, rants, stuff, or to document my work or to, uh, whatever it is we do on these blogs. What have I been doing?
Now what should I be doing?
I'm a swarm of ideas, I'm a pit of passion, and I'm a slave to time.
Wed Jan 30 2008 21:57:25 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
On Sunday, I hosted a circuit bending workshop called "Haywire" with Dorkdbot Portland at PNCA.
Overall, things went really well! There was a sizable turnout (35 or 40ish benders) and most seemed to really be enjoying the workshop. We encountered a hitch at the start involving lack of power and fire marshals, but things got rolling and people got into it. Although I forgot to start the recorder for my 30 minute introduction talk, I did record a couple hours of silly and chaotic ambient audio from the event. I hope to convert it to mp3 sometime soon and make it available online.
This was my first time putting on a workshop, and I certainly stood to learn a few things. Like:
I also probably should have prepared a few simple diagrams/tutorials that showed some basics, such as adding a line-out. Hopefully there will be a next time, and hopefully lessons learned will lead to a smoother workshop! Thanks again to everybody who signed!
Fri Dec 28 2007 00:22:58 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
This is what the internet is really all about -- collaboration! A really generous German guy named Stefan fixed a deficiency (bug?!) in my NRPN abstractions. Thanks Stefan!
Previous versions wouldn't allow for controller numbers greater than 127...which is like half the point of even having NRPN (the other half being data values > 127). In any case, his modifications were somewhat simple and necessary and I incorporated them into and updated my pd abstractions page.
In order for me to confirm that the abstractions do what they claim, I used my BCR2000 control surface. I stumbled for quite some time with the nrpn_out.pd code, because the BCR200 was just absolutely refusing to recognize NRPN for a controller above 127. I hooked up a software midi dump (amidi -p hw:2,0 -d) to confirm that the bytes coming out of pd were as expected, and they were.
I feared that my controller was maybe shot or in a funky mode (everything else was working fine tho), and I tracked down a firmware update on the Behringer website. As is usual with this kind of firmware upgrade, it is a miserable Windows-only application, and I ended up resorting to using my wife's laptop to run it. Just once I'd like a manufacturer to properly support Linux...and if that's asking too much, just release the source and let people know how they can write their own. Trust me, given the code or at least a description of how to get the bytes into the device (protocol anyone!), the community will friggin build it for you!
Once the firmware was upgraded, the BCR2000 instantly started recognizing its incoming NRPN messages for controllers above 127. Goodie!
Thanks again for Stefan for helping out and contributing back to a community. It's exactly that kind of thing that helps make things better for us all.
Mon Dec 17 2007 22:56:33 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
There are certain circumstances (like an office job) that might force you to wallow in the disgust of using Windows on a daily basis. If you're anything like me, you get quickly annoyed by the lack of certain usability features that exist in other superior environments.
At least for me, AutoHotKey to the rescue.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who missed the super important alt-drag move/resize features that exist in KDE and other windowing systems. This kind geek has hacked up a script for AutoHotKey that, when activated, allows alt-drag functionality to start working again.
And work it does! The install was simple, straightforward, and it worked on the first try. I was even able to drag the shortcut into my startup folder, and so I now have proper window functionality without even thinking about it. Major kudos to the author!
I haven't yet found the need/desire to monkey around much with any other scripts for or features of AutoHotKey, but it certainly seems like a powerful and free tool. Getting this hack going in Windows has been a real help at work, so I thought I'd share the success story.
Fri Dec 14 2007 00:11:33 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
Ok, so I'm really really not a media blog. But I had this amazing nostalgic experience, and I thought it was worth sharing. Of course, there's youtube involved:
You see, the Pixies are probably my favorite traditional 4-piece rock band, and there was this clip that I recorded (on videotape) way back when I was in college. The tape is long gone, but my memories of this performance certainly are not. Like so many of us rapidly aging thirtysomething fools, I've been hoping to track down this clip, and once again, youtube came to the rescue.
In spite of all its flaws (censorship, terrible quality, advertising), it really is a genuinely amazing resource.
This clip is, quite possibly, to me anyway, the epitome of pre century original rock based perfection. It is sheer beauty. It is a postmodern mishmash and hee haw of amazement. Yes, Kurt wanted to sound like the Pixies, and this is exactly fucking why. What year was it when YOU heard of a band called Nirvana?
It's quite subtle, but there are some serious gems in this short clip. It's shot in beautiful B&W, and the camerawork and direction are beautiful and intimate. You see, even in 1990, this kind of real artistic expression, even on MTV, was starting to become hard to come by...but the sound here is very loud and tinny abrasive surfy chord progressions juxtaposed with Joey's brilliant vibrato and Kim's haunting flat chants. There is real discomfort, and there is opposition. The camera shots are SO SUPER CLOSE and what seems impossibly intimate only goes on to PULL IN TIGHTER. The head shots are generally way too high and the drum shots are downright OVERHEAD. It seems like sometimes the focus is on the instruments themselves and, in several cases, the lights themselves.
The real gem for me, though, is Charles's off-timed expression between phrases ("finally through the roof") around 1:40 ("and how does lemur skin...?"). It struck me as a thing of perfection in 1990, and it has stuck with me now for almost 20 years.
Charles has commented that this was internally referred to as the "Led Zepplin" song...but once again, this performance goes to show exactly why it is so much more. So many Pixies fans have talked down the later albums, including "Bossa Nova", but I think that this simple clip should serve as redemption!!! This really is a noteworthy piece of perfect rock music history!!!