It worked! The new soldering iron was beautiful, so you can stop being stressed about the responsibility, Andrew. :) It really made it a joy to solder.
The overall hack is a tad unstable, so I haven’t made a video of it yet or labelled it or anything. I’ll try to take some photos, though. I have some ideas as to what might be happening.
Here’s what it does at the moment that’s desired:
- Switch selects between internal and external sync modes.
- Switch selects between run/stop modes when internally synced.
- Knob selects tempo when internally synced.
- When externally synced, tempo is correctly retrieved from incoming MIDI clock.
Here’s what it does that’s less desirable:
- Sometimes it takes a long time to switch between modes — longer than I have a good explanation for. Other times it switches more quickly.
- Sometimes when you touch the knob or the switches, the whole thing kind of freaks out a bit.
- Sometimes it produces very strange output for a second or two before successfully switching between modes.
It was doing this during the testing phase when I was just using a bunch of alligator clips to hold everything together, so I had thought it was just the noise and unreliability of that. Now I’m not as sure. It almost seems like something’s shorting with the metal plate that it’s all mounted against, although I thought I’d triple-checked that that wasn’t the case. The one thing I’m wondering is if the knob, which is on the back mounted almost flat against the plate, is causing some kind of issue. I could put a washer or a nut on it behind the metal plate as a kind of spacer.
One thing that I should mention is that I kind of built this as a bit of a hybrid between permanent and temporary installation. I don’t have a screwshield or anything of that sort for the Arduino, so all connections to it are being made through these sort of push-in solid cables like you’d use when prototyping on a breadboard. My circuit, simple though it is, is actually on a mini breadboard that’s mounted to the plate. So all of those connections between the Arduino and the breadboard are not soldered in. All the connections to the knobs and switches are, though, and anything else which I realistically could. So if I can’t find some other source of the problem, that might be a next step — actually putting this on a board and soldering it all down. But those connections seem pretty solid, so I don’t think that’s it. I’m leaning toward the knob. I suppose I could use the multimeter to test if the value it sends ever goes totally wonky.
Anyway, I’ll post some pictures and videos at some point, either later to solicit input on the problems or when I get it fixed up.
Guess what arrived today!
No. No. Not that either.
Yes, my new soldering iron!
I went with Andrew Martens’ suggestion in the end, because he had personal experience with it and he’s kind of my go-to guy for advice on this stuff.
Apr 8, 2010 Gear
Well, last night when I was so frustrated with my cheap soldering iron, I threw it in the trash. Well, I waited for it to cool and then threw it in the trash. My trash bin is metal and was empty and I mostly did it out of frustration.
I thought about it a lot overnight. Today I thought, “Okay, I will look at it and figure out if there’s anything I can do to improve its performance, and if I still think it’s useless, I’ll buy a new one.”
However, just like people who store important documents in their computer’s recycling bin (yes, people really do this), I left it there figuring that I just fish it out this evening.
Today was also the day that our cleaning service person comes. Helpfully, she took out the trash.
So… I guess that decides that! New soldering iron for me!
Apr 8, 2010 Uncategorized
My friend Sean pointed me toward this video today, which I think (despite a recent deluge of media about the Amen break) is fascinating and well worth watching:
I did most of my “growing up” in the 80s. That decade took me from 8 years old up to 18 years old. In that time, I also discovered music in a really earnest way, both as a listener and as a participant. And for me, music as a participant was all about sampling. Friends of mine had other electronic instruments. James had a Roland U-20 synthesizer and an electric guitar. Devin had a guitar and some pedals. Gus had his voice, and some tools we made for treating that. Rick had an Ensoniq Mirage for a while, but he also had one of the old Casio phase-distortion synths. I’m not sure which. A CS-80? I was all about the samplers. I started with a Korg DSS-1, and I actually did use its seemingly ridiculous sampling capability. I soon thereafter moved to an E-Mu EMAX and later an EMAX II. Unlike people’s conception of samplers, I usually didn’t sample beats, phrases, hooks or any of that. I mostly created sounds out of tiny raw elements, little chunks here and there, usually sped up or slowed down so drastically as to be unrecognizable (but still technically illegal).
Now, I do use more synthesizers than samplers. I have Kontakt at my fingertips — easily the most powerful sampler that I’ve ever used (one of the most powerful anybody’s ever used). And yet, I use it mostly to drive reproductions of orchestral and ethnic instruments. Part of the reason for that is time and breadth of interest, as well as a change in workflow when I changed back to software. Part is that I’ve become more interested in synthesis, especially analog synthesis of late.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that part of it is the complicated morass of legality surrounding sampling. And that’s something that has resulted not only in me changing how I work, but in me feeling much more isolated and insular in my work. My work when I was heavily sampler-based was always deeply rooted in the culture, in touching base with other works that had inspired or interested me, in taking bits and pieces of my world and rearranging them to create something that reflected what I saw of it. Now, that’s very hard to do, at least without worrying about getting sued, and the internet makes even safety through obscurity difficult.
The increasing commodification and control of our culture does, as the author of the short piece says, restrict us and stifle our involvement with the culture. And I think it’s affected the degree of relevancy and meaning in my own work. (Not that I’m doing much of it these days.)
That’s one of the reasons that I release everything under Creative Commons. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be sampled, but I’d love it if I were, even if the person went on to make money from it. But more importantly, I think it’s important to there being a culture at all that people are allowed to participate in as anything other than paying consumers.
I think I’ll only be working on this for one more full day, with any luck. Despite that knowledge, I’ve found this phase of the project to be really disheartening, in a strange way. I’ve got all the drilling done, and the controls mounted in the plate, the arduino mounted on the backplane and the breadboard glued to the inside of the module. So what’s the problem, right?
I dunno. I think it’s that this segment has been so half-assed and kludgey. I don’t have the right tools or components to do this sort of work well. The result looks okay, but still. Also, to get it done I had to disconnect pretty much all the cables, and in the process of trying to get it to work without doing so, a bunch got pulled out again. I’m not entirely sure what’s missing and what’s in there now, and I have these pictures of blowing everything up in the 11th hour. And the third or fourth time you re-assemble a project from scratch, well… it’s not super fun anymore.
Furthermore, testing was… well, it all worked, sort of, but it wasn’t a stellar runaway success, per se. I’m worried that when all is said and built, that’s as good as it’s going to get — unreliable and prone to dramatic failure.
I suppose only time will tell, and I shouldn’t get too pessimistic. We’ll see whether I can get it done tomorrow, when I have the evening completely free. I’ll have to overcome my general trepidation about the soldering iron — although I’m using a breadboard for many of the connections, I’m going to have to solder several of them. I’ve got sort of a half-baked idea as to how to interface those two things, and the success of the project might largely depend on how well that works.
With any luck, by the end of the day tomorrow I’ll have some photos and maybe a short video. w00t!