Monday, 24 December 2012

Getting my process sorted

Got a bit more time yesterday to build a couple more mixers based of the PCB I made. I am definitely a convert to PCB making as although it takes a good while to make, etch and drill the PCB's when they are done it takes no time at all to assemble them with the components. I've redesigned the board for these to accept phono sockets so after xmas I'll make some of these and possibly try and sell some...I am designing a larger more unusual mixer (more details soon) which is my main idea at the moment.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Making PCB's..thinking of manufacturing a few bits

So this week I've been experimenting making PCB's using a great freeware package for windows ExpressPCB

I'm using the toner transfer method, laser printing onto glossy paper and then heat transfering the toner onto the copper clad board (ironing the back of the paper on the hottest setting!) I'm then soaking off the paper and etching the boards using Ferric Chloride. Here's a board thats the result of this process.

The board above is for a simple 4 - 1 passive mono mixer which is based on the ones I've made for my CMOS synth stuff. I just wanted something relatively simple to make to get to grips with making the pcb's. Below is the resulting prototype a TINY mixer.

And another shot of her getting tested...

So I plan to make a couple of these for friends and maybe some more for myself, I realised that this board could also be built up with full size pots and audio connectors (jack/phono etc) and stuck in an enclosure so I am going to release a pdf of the board for if people wanted to build there own but I need to do a bit of documentation first. I may do a few boards and offer then for sale. I have more plans for PCB making though and have a few more ideas for small unique things I can make and maybe stay tuned!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Missing usb otg

I've been playing with some old nokia tablets (thats right not phones!) I've recently picked up a nokia n800 and an n810 for the retro handheld collection...(I think I need a display cabinet soon...) The n810 is great and actually has many uses for me day to day. I've been away this week and its made a good hotel wifi browser, great note taker  document tweaker with its nice hardware thumboard, and a useful link/transfer device when I needed to get some large audio files off my zoom recorders sd card and into my phone for a bit of on the fly editing. As a transfer device the n810 is very useful as it has 2gig of built in storage as well as an sd card slot....sort of....its a MINI sd slot (not micro) and amazingly I had a micro sd to mini sd adapter from an old phone. This means you can drag stuff off a card and back onto another card although I just did some big bluetooth transfers.

Anyway I was aware that with a USB on the go (otg) cable you can actually connect stuff to the 810 with the 810 acting as host...I hacked together a cable today and got this working (albeit a bit limited) it seems to only work for pendrives but for me thats really useful. I've been playing with powering usb hubs to try and get harddrives running to it but no luck as yet!

To make a USB otg cable you basically have to cut 2 cables in half one that has the micro b connection for the 810 and one that has a femal usb socket. Each cable end should have 4 wires, red, black, green and white and also a bare wire earth sleave wrapped round the other wires. Firstly you have to connect these wire to each other matching the colours and also connecting the earth wire. Then the slightly tricky bit is that the micro b end needs to be opened up (I carved the plastic back off the connector carefully using a razorblade). Once you have exposed the connections to the micro b socket you should discover you have one pin that is unconnected. (this is pin 4 and a lot of tutorials on making these just say to connect "pin 4" to earth...I think it easier to just find the only unconnected pin as it is ALWAYS pin 4 that is unconnected). So then with all the connections visible you want to solder a small wire to the unconnected pin and the other end to the edge of the metal socket housing therefore connecting pin 4 to earth. MAKE SURE that you now only use this for usb otg type operations as when you connect this cable it will want to put the device into host mode.

Anyway, I'll continue to tinker with the n810 and any more useful stuff will be posted.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Uh oh, another project

It's always a mistake when I go round to the local bike co-op! BSA "Tour De France" frame chucked in as a freebie for buying some decent second hand bikes for the kids. It's too mountainous where I live for a hipster fixie build.....but I do have some nice light alloy wheels with a sturmey archer 3 hipster hub gear build it is!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Support your satellite builders

So I am a huge fan of the work Mr Ho Jun Song is carrying out building the first open source satellite and having seen his new timeline of the project the other day reminded me that I should donate a small amount. I was really pleased to receive this tweet from the man himself saying I was the first to doante by paypal...YAY...but also NOOOoo...come on everyone..I have been more entertained and informed and educated by the OSSI project than by the last film I saw at the donating a similar amount as a cinema ticket (or more!) seems to make sense to me.

Donate here and support this inspiring artist and his satellite.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Been a while!

Indeed it's been a while! I've been busy writing away for the jazz project and thats been keeping me busy between work and other committments. With the jazz project (that desperately needs a name!) we are at the point where we have 7 (and one in the pipeline) pieces written and ideas arranged and we have a good collection of other interesting tunes to form a couple of I am going to slightly take the pressure of the writing stuff. Anyway here is a very shonky demo sketch of one of the newer tunes (obviously when live these would be a lot longer with solo sections etc)

In other news...I did some breadboarding and even cracked the soldering iron out for the first time in months earlier on...I breadboarded a very crude voltage controlled filter and began to solder up a version..I plan to allocate some time back to more hacky/electronic/building stuff to balance up my creative fu so watch this space.

Just for evidence here's a photo of BLARP next to breadboard next to the early stages of the module soldered tonight!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Inspired by electronics

So the other day I got to have a little play with this amazing DIY programmable sequencer built by a good friend of mine who's a damn talented hacker/creator/maker. The sequencer is called "Hextep" and has so much functionality I don't know where to start so instead I'll post the video!...

Brilliant isn't it! Seeing this in the flesh got me thinking about making some electronic music again as a side project from my current ongoing writing of instrumental stuff (I'll update on that soon). The thing that has finally tipped me over the edge into definately deciding to do some electronic stuff is this lovely post by Ashley elsdon about rediscovering my old ep. So I'll get to writing some stuff soon...(in fact with the wonderful Sunvox just releasing a new version it's kind of already started).

In other news I've decided that I am going to start collating the stuff about mopeds/puch stuff under a different blog and keep here more about music and electronics...will update when I get it off the ground.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Heatsinking my Pi

I haven't spent that much time with my raspberry pi but I aim to remedy that over the coming weeks. I have done a couple of things with it though...firstly I plan at somepoint to probably mess about overclocking it and so I thought I'd make up some heatsinks for the wee beastie. I found an old alloy heatsink off an old gpu chip which I cut into pieces sized for the proccessors and power regulator IC's I was wanting to cool. I attached them by using a small amount of thermal paste under the heatsink applied with a cocktail stick to provide a thermal bond but then to physically attach them I used a tiny amount of JB weld carefully applied (just tiny bits in each corner of the heatsink).

To go with my tiny screen I also picked up this wired usb keyboard/trackpad combo...I thought this would be a good compact solution that only took one of the 2 usb slots so that I still had an onboard usb slot negating the use of a powered hub (unpowered hubs aren't working so well with the pi). However don't buy this keyboard...its useless!...Unless it's just the one that I have is defective it seems to give random repeat keypresses and cut out etc...the trackpad works but the keypad is pants!

So had a play tonight for the first time with the Raspbian distro (I know I'm about 2 months behind the crowd!) which was great but I cracked and slapped the composite connection into a projector for some large pi action!...

I'm really keen to try some GPIO stuff with this...when time prevails!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Puch projects updates! Custom Intakes

Keeping tinkering with my Puch stuff...My main Maxi project is back on its feet again with everything running well...It's pretty much ready for its MOT test, I just need to get my ass into gear and order a numberplate for her. She's been christened "Newt" in agreement with my daughter as I've built the maxi under the watchful gaze of the newts from our pond!...Anyhoo I'm in no rush to get the maxi on the road as its fast approaching autumn and I will probably wait till early next year so I'll have all year to spin around on her without needing an mot in the middle. I've started messing with some ideas for whats next with the Puch stuff...I want to try a bigger carb and I have a pair of 17mm Bings which would give me a 3mm increase but would require a larger intake...the intakes I have are off a puch magnum x (childs crosser) so althought they fit they have 2 90 degree turns to throw the carb out on the opposite side than a maxi this although this diagram is hard to see what's angled where...

I have 2 of these intakes so I thought I'd sacrifice one to an experiment. The intakes are alloy so I can't weld them but I've made a new intake by cutting the magnum one down and rejoining the end using JB weld epoxy....blimey it's good stuff...

So this is after the JB had gone off and I'd cleaned it up a bit. I tried with a couple of pairs of wrench's to snap this joint and I couldn't so I'm pretty sure it's strong wnough for a while!

Quick lick of hi temp paint and she's finished and you can see the complete assembly in the top picture. Also in the top picture is a 2 shoe clutch my main Maxi...sorry...Newt...I have a 3 shoe clutch widely regarded as the best clutch there is for the e50. In racier puch engine builds a common problem is that the clutch posts that hold the shoes on that stand off the clutch back plate eventually bend out of shape and the whole thing flys apart!..The solution is to build (or buy and mount) a clutch brace which is a plate that is bolted across the tops of the posts (which need to be drilled out and tapped). This 2 shoe clutch above is pretty knackered so my plan is to try and fabricate and mount a clutch brace and also to DIY reline the clutch shoes (brake pad material and hi temp epoxy) possibly increasing the contact area of clutch lining to get more 3 shoe like performance. (Even if this doesn't work out I should have developed a bit more as an engineer!)

I'm also stripping down my 2 other E50 engines to see which has the best crankcases for a kitted engine build and planning to build another spare engine out of the remaining parts just for kicks!. I also picked up really cheap of ebay this frame...
....which is going to give my welding skills a workout this winter! I could register this and aim to get her back on the road as she's still on the dvla database...but hanging around on the mighty netherlands forum Puchforum has tempted me to build a racer and maybe try and find something in the uk to race it at (or even maybe take a trip to the netherlands!) like this do not help me with this!....

as for racing I think Newtspeed is the team name!

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Curious Rover

So my 5 year old daughter and I have been looking at pictures coming back from the mars Curiosity rover and also we've watched the videos of the landing etc. She's really into it and has lots of aspect that she found a bit difficult to get her head around was how the pictures get back from mars. effort to explain (and also completely for my own amusement) I made the quickest Rover ever from a piece of double sided tape, an old RC rock crawling truck I'd been saving thinking it might make a good robot base and a cheap wireless security camera (17quid ebay).

It was great, I hooked the receiver up to the little 4" monitor I've been using for my raspberry pi and we drove the wee beastie around for a while. She really started picking up on the facts of radio wave propagation (ie you drive the model behind the metal filing cabinet and the signal goes a bit funny) and she understood that the Rover was sending and receiving different types of data...brilliant...

My daughter has already forgotten all about the car/camera...but I keep thinking about improvements....pan and tilt camera platform, autonomous navigation, obstacle sensing/avoidance, robotic grabber....must resist another project!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

New Demo Tune "Peh"

Just a quickie post (3rd this evening...some kind of record I reckon!) I put up a new demo of a tune I've written (although I'm not sure it's finished) it's called "Peh" and its here...

Concretedog Cubesat progress!

So I am still allocating a little thinking time to my cubesat obsession, I've been meaning to post about this for weeks but never seem to find the time however having appearred to have got my good friend obsessed with cubesats also I thought I better had!...I've built a Cubesat frame model out of scrap aluminium cut from an old tv aerial on my scrap pile. I've made this to adhere to the dimensions of an official cubesat although it is nowhere near the required +-0.01% tolerances a flight model would have to meet, (it also would have to be 6061 or 6063 grade aluminium but heh). I got the idea to fabricate one from a frame made of aluminium angle as it is friendly to home fabrication with handtools but has also been considered as a cubesat design before ( I took my inspiration from this document)

Inherently a frame structure from separate lengths of angle has some structural problems. In its current state, with each bar held at each end via a 3mm diameter threaded bolt, the whole structure has strengh but lacks rigidity and can skew about its angles. Cubesat specifications actually call for some extrusions that sit proud of the corners above the rails that act as standoffs containing kill switches for power and separation springs that aid ejection from the deployment pod. I imagined and consider that a framed cubesat design could utilise castings containing the standoffs and molding for springs and switches could be triangular in shape and could cross the corners of the frame adding strengh and diminishing skew.

I also (if I had smaller preciser taps) would use multiple smaller fixings for each has been a great challenge of skill to tap a 3mm thread into aluminium that is only 1.5 mm thick!! In a flight model you also couldnt have steel screws/bolts lying flush with the outside of the rail as the fear of the steel cold welding to another touching cubesat causing 2 cubesats to fail..eeek!

Of course having built a small aluminium model I couldnt help but just see if my raspberry pi would fit in it! It does but would require adaptation to fit in with the sd card inserted! (I'm not sure a pi would be a good brain for a cubesat...quite power hungry!)

Anyway as ever my ramblings about cubesats should be taken with a pinch of salt as I am only in it for the thinking and learning!.....and dreaming!

Puch Project

I threw a load of work at the Puch Maxi project over the last couple of weeks and at one point I almost had it finished! I got the engine in and the wiring loom on and all the electrics working etc...unfortuneatly I seemed to have not quite tightened the magneto flywheel well enough and it caused me to shear the woodruff key keyway causing damage to both the flywheel and the crankshaft...B#$(#(cks! I added insult to injury as when removing the damaged flywheel I used a makeshift piston stop through the spark plug hole and despite being careful I've managed to gouge some scars into the piston and also chew some of the threads on the cylinder head (although this would be fine i think). So I've decided to take a break and put this on the backburner for a bit as the summer weather is awful I am less inclined to get it on the road this summer anyway! I think I'm going to do another rebuild of this engine with a new crankshaft...I always try and put better parts into things when I rebuild so I'm going to replace it with a race crankshaft (bigger big end, small end has bearing and cranks are lightened etc) and as I'm at it I think I'll buy a racier overbored cylinder kit as well!! The great guys I order from at Puchshop are on their summer break/holiday for a few weeks so I'll get to ordering the bits in a few weeks time! So for now enjoy the above images knowing that she actually sits in bits in my shed!!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Writing New Tunes

I've just posted 3 new demo's to soundcloud of some tunes I've been writing. I'm motivated at the moment to do some live none electronic stuff (I'm not stopping my electronica/experimental stuff just having a change for a while!). I'm hoping to try and set up a trio or possibly quartet to go out and play some of this original stuff in a jazz mode....meaning short tunes/melodies/heads and then solo sections etc in an arrangement. I've been slowly getting my transcribing/notation chops together with some great help from a good friend who's been an informal (and unpaid) online tutor! (Ignore the massive mistakes and faux pas in the music in the image above...twas ruff jottings and I've learnt a lot since then!)

Anyway here are the demo's, I would welcome and appreciate any comments. If you click through to soundcloud each one has a bit more info.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Getting going with Rpi

So if you're eagle eyed you may have noticed my previous post! I've had a few little bits of time tinkering with my raspberry pi....In brief here are the ups and downs...

I managed to get it working with this small 4.5" (diagonal) monitor, they're really cheap (this one 16quid) and are sold as car reversing monitors on ebay. It has a composite input and is listed as working with 12 volts...interestingly though when I got it out of the box it had a sticker on the back saying 9-35 volts..I've had it hooked up to a regulated 9v supply and it runs perfectly. I've even had it running of a standard 9v PP3 there's portable possibilities too!

I found it difficult to set up the screen and resolution for this screen but here are the links that gave me all the info I needed (HINT YOU CAN USE NEGATIVE NUMBERS with overscan_left= instruction in config.txt...if you get to do any display hacking you'll know what I mean)...heres the links

useful wiki page about accessing, editing and using config.txt
a useful post on rpi forum

I also struggled in getting sound started via the analogue output...running this command worked for me...

sudo modprobe snd_bcm2835

which i got from this thread

I've tried to install numerous bits of audio software and I've not managed to get ANY of them working!! Which is a dissapointment...closet one was milkytracker which got to booting and the gui coming up but some sound driver issues stopped it from working! ...but I know I/it will get there..heck there are new OS's coming out for the pi left right and centre so the game changes all the time!!

Next on the list are to try the new beta debian image "wheezy" and maybe for fun have a look at archlinux.I've also been reading and watching videos about using the GPIO pins...reckon I'm going to try some little experiments in trying to get it to control some bits of BLARP!
I also have a tiny wired keyboard and integrated touchpad on order from shengzen so I can hook it up to my tiny Rpi and Tiny screen and pretend I'm a giant!

Proudly posted on my Raspberry Pi

That is all!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Lungwah's Resolve, Final release of Warm Data

This marvellous album by my good friend Lungwah marks the final release for the amazing Warm Data label (which I am on!) whilst I am sad that there will be no more releases I can understand the reasons why it's time to bring it to a close. It will remain available for the time being and I urge you to check out the back catalogue all 33 releases have some amazing pieces on them representing a creative cross section of electronic music from Wales. But MOST of all check out this album......tis a belter to close the label with....

Warm Data 2008-2012......nice one all concerned.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Quick Raspberry Pi case

Needed a quick case for my raspberry pi. I found an old sony dv tape box that's internal dimensions matched the length of a pi with the sd card inserted. I don't plan to switch out the sd card that much as the os is running from it so it's not important for me to have access to it. Currently I have nothing that utilises the hdmi either so for now that has no access although I could cut this in at some point. The only issue with this case is that the micro usb socket used for power is recessed from its access hole by a cm or so making it a bit of a fiddle to connect a usb lead to. I may get round this by making a short power cable that I can leave plugged into the pi held in with a gromit (or hot glue) on the case (not the rpi itself!)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Current Field Recording Kit

At the moment I'm doing a lot of field recording and recording at home using this rig above. On a sidenote this is because I'm currently without my zoom r16 as it's had to go for a repair. One of the preamps was cutting out intermittently but fair play to DV247 they arranged a courier and took it away for repair even though it was over a year since I bought it. Anyway I thought I'd stick a picture up and say a bit about my rig. I've got a few options for a recorder I have an old portable DAT (a sony D7) which still sounds gorgeous but is a bit of a faff to bounce stuff to the computer. My Boss micro BR which I still use (mainly with my guitar as a rehearsal/practice tool) but the newest kid on my block is the zoom h1. I'm pretty pleased with's quick to boot and gets a decent sound through both the built in mics and through the preamp input.

So the picture shows;

Zoom H1 (center)

Diy stereo electret mics with fluffy windshields (top left)

My Senheiser PX100's -had these for years - held together with superglue and tape but still sound great (Bottom left)

Little square blue pouch containing spare micro SD cards I carry 3 8gb cards, and a couple of other cards I use as pen drives, this is attached to a clip and a micro sd reader (bottom centre)

Camera tripod for use with H1 (centre leftish)

My DIY Binaural microphones (see this post for how they're made) (top right)

USB pen drive...this is an old drive I don't use much anymore so it has a copy of my install of reaper on it (exact replica of the version I use on my pc's that can run straight of the pendrive on any windows pc)and also has a copy of Audacity portable on it. This is so I can do bits of work on my lunch hour using my works laptop on which they don't like us installing software. (top centre)

Neck lanyard and clip...this is so I can wear the H1 recorder round my neck when using the Binaural mics (usually under my jacket) (bottom)

Windscreen for H1 (bottom right)

Spare batteries (centre right)

All of this lives currently in one of these old nintendo gaming bags from the eighties! I went through a phase of buying up a lot of original gameboys for my chiptune adventures and ended up with a few of these. They're quite handy kit bags as the have 2 zipped layers and are well padded, they're obviously designed for kids though as the straps require a bit extra stitching in for adults!

I'd like to add a diy shockmount and grip for the H1 as it suffers from a lot of handling noise but my current diy shockmount isn't suitable as it would cover all the controls on the H1 if I used stay tuned for that one. I'd also like to make a 40db pad as the preamp is a bit hot for line level and you end up turning down the level on the device your recording increasing the signal to noise ratio. I also want to build a little box with a 2 channel passive mixer for use with a mono mic as I've learnt a trick where you record a mono mic to the 2 stereo channels with one lower than the other meaning if the hotter channel peaks you have another lower track which won't have peaked.

So having typed all this I realised it may not be the most interesting post ever...but it's exactly the kind of post I really enjoy reading on other people sites. Feel free to post your feild recording kit list in comments!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Power of Projects (Pointless or Purposeful)

I've had these thoughts about projects bubbling around in my mind for the last few weeks; sort of since my crystal growing project. I've realised over the years that devising and journeying through a project build gives me the impetus and drive to learn the new skills or knowledge required to complete them. What I've sort of realised in the last week however is that sometimes the project doesn't always have to be actually achievable or even have a point for the learning and self development to take place. If you are following me on twitter (@concreted0g) you may have picked up on the fact that I have become a little obsessed with “CubeSats”. CubeSat is a defined and accepted open source design specification from Cal Poly and is a platform for small 10 x 10 x 10 cm fully functioning satellites. Now if anyone builds one out of NASA approved materials and if it passes all the NASA tests and you have some cash and contacts with someone with a rocket you can (and amateurs have) get these into a low earth orbit (heck current trends/developments in cubesats is that companies are developing small propulsion systems so these things can go interplanetary). Now...I kinda want to build one....not helped by this wonderful artist and amateur satellite builder....

Now back to the point of this much as I feel the era of personal satellites may be coming...I realise that this is a ridiculous project for me that would never be completed let alone ever see space... but do you know what? Even if I gave this an hour a week the skills I would develop would be really interesting and possibly benefit my other areas of work/hacking/making and inspire other thoughts. I certainly am drawn to developing some engineering and fabricating skills and also would love to get into using a 3d modelling environment like google well as taking a big step forward in my electronic engineering. So watch this space, feel free to mock and berate my foolish ways but remember if you see posts about satellites - it's all about the journey not the destination! If nothing else reading about this technical stuff is a better brain workout than sudoku or crosswords.

I'll finish with a quote attributed to Dr Robert Twiggs who is the man responsible for the entire cubesat project that I feel links nicely:

“I hope the CubeSat is like the personal don't know what the heck you're going to do with this little box when you build it or what markets will be enabled. But it's so cool, you've got to do it.”

Thursday, 24 May 2012

I grew a microphone

So the image above is one of a few hundred crystals I grew from readily available kitchen ingredients in my kitchen the other night. It is a crystal of 'Rochelle' salt and is made by doing a bit of home chemistry with some cream of tartar and some sodium bicarbonate (both of these are available from any shop that sells baking stuff). The interesting thing about these crystals is that they are piezoelectric in nature meaning that if the are made to vibrate the produce a voltage. This is the exact principle in play with contact microphones and so with a bit of fiddling to clamp the crystal between 2 conductive plates (bits of tinfoil folded round a bare wire!) these crystals can be used to make this

I originally got the idea when I saw this video on Collin's lab ages ago.....

......but in the video Collin uses cream of tartare and sodium carbonate which I could not find...I wondered though if he could have made a microphone out of his crystals that he grew.....however like many thoughts I filed it away and promptly forgot about it. That was until I saw this post from the mighty Leafcutter John (I was perusing his site looking at his hydrophones...another thought on the great todo pile). In this post Leafcutter John provides the answer that if you bake sodium bicarbonate for an hour at 150C it turns into sodium carbonate...and he had indeed managed to get his crystals working as a contact mic.

So the other night I turned my kitchen into what I imagine a meth lab looks like and managed to grow some crystals and make the contact mic as seen above, now they are pretty low output and the mic preamp on my tinkering/hacking mixer didn't lift it much and I needed to attach the mic to a battery powered amp and then record the output. I attached this to my diy street sweeper bristle kalimba and had a plink around and here is the result with no effects but a bit of the top end hiss rolled off!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Making things more playable!

In between kid wrangling, lawn cutting and all those other things that happen, I found some time this weekend to do a spot of tinkering. I've been feeling the need to make BLARP my cmos modular a bit more playable. So I've made a start by building a small keyboard....Yeah thats right a whole 6 keys!! I salvaged the buttons of a circuit board out of an old cd player (one of those old Yamaha "Natural Sound" ones..a good deck in its day!) I've had a couple of jams setting up the keyboard to control/trigger the envelope generators on BLARP. It's cool but it's made me realise I need more stuff to be able to have more on the list of stuff to build is more envelope generators as well as more repeats of simple things like oscillators and logic gate stuff; NOR NAND XOR etc. Here's a picture of me testing it playing along with some stuff I'd tracked in Sunvox on my Jornada 720.

I've also done a very silly job that I've been meaning to do for ages. All the pot's on BLARP are these small trimpots that you can adjust using a small flathead screwdriver....this means every blarp session for me start with me rummaging around trying to find a small screwdriver. I had a couple of tiny 2" long ones and they were really good as you could leave them propped into a trimpot meaning you could move your hand away but quickly move it back to make changes.....anyway I finally cracked and in 10 minutes made half a dozen mini screwdrivers out of some bits of spring steel (salvaged from the inserts in old windscreen wiper blades!!!..good for making Kalimba prongs too!) and some polymorph. Polymorph is a great plastic that melts when you place it in just about boiling water but is reaaly solid and strong when cooled.

I hope after a bit more building I'll put a video together of a BLARP live jam!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

New Minimalist ditty, One Chord and a Circular Saw Blade

Just posted this up to soundcloud. It's a quick composition thats made from (yep you've guessed it!) one guitar chord and recordings of a circular saw blade. I'm finally finding bits of time to play around with ideas again as I'd love to do another release later this year. It's very underproduced and needs headphone or a pair of speakers to even hear the thing!

Jornada 720 online (finally)

Ages ago when I first picked up my beloved jornada 720 I looked into getting it online...the jornada came with an inbuilt dialup modem but had no built in wireless connection or bluetooth. I picked up a compatible PCMCIA wireless card from ebay. The card is a Cisco Aironet 340 and has the ability to throw data about at a mindblowing 11mbps! Anyway I realised as soon as I tried it that it couldn't cope with "modern" wifi encryption like WPA or I never really did any more. I came across this card at the back of a draw and thought I'd have a play as I realised if I set my HTC phone as a wifi hotspot it uses no encryption/security. It worked really fact all I did was turn the htc hotspot on and put the PCMCIA card in the slot and when I launched internet explorer on the jornada it had already connected!

Now I can't say I'm going to do extensive browsing on the jornada but it's very handy to be able to email stuff of the jornada to sunvox project files for example. Who knows I might get into retro wardriving mid nineties style!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

My DIY mount anywhere Shockmount

So I had some time today and decided to build a shockmount. I wanted it to be adaptable and useful and as I record all kinds of things in all kinds of places I wanted it to be easy to mount in lots of different ways.

So heres what I did;

I took some PVC gas main type piping I pulled from a skip a while ago...its about 80mm in diameter and the walls are about 10mm thick...I cut a length that's, I guess, around 12cm long (just done by eye no measurements!)

One of the ways I wanted this to mount was to be able to go onto camera tripod style mounts. This means it could be used with my favourite camera clamp (more on that later) but could also use those mini camera tripods, real tripods or even (although I don't currently own one) one of those gorillapods. So I drilled a pilot hole and taped a thread into the PVC..

I also wanted an alternate mounting point, so on the opposite side to the camera mount, I drilled and mounted a small angled plate/bracket of meccano origin! I did this as the holes in the sides of the plate could be useful if I need to string up/hang the shockmount from cordage but also the whole plate could be grabbed by my microphone stand clips (I use the squeeze clip, one size fits all type mic stand adaptors see pic later)

I then cut some grooves at either ends of the tube to hold the elastic bands in place (I ended up using some hair bands). I also cut more than one set of grooves as I found I needed different tensions across the face of the mount when I placed a mic in it. This is as mic's can be heavier at one end so the ability to tighten the bands by shrinking the hole that the bands create allows the mic to be gripped well at each end regardless of its weight and shape. This is important if you want to mount this tilting downwards so the mic doesn't fall out.

So here are some pics of it finished. These first ones show the mount on my favourite adjustable camera clamp I found in a charity shop a while ago for a pound!

And this one shows it more traditionally on a mic stand using the clamp onto the bracket.

BTW the mic in these shots has become my favourite over the years (I have a small collection of cheap mic's!) its an Audio Technica MB4000c I bought second hand for next to nothing. I love it, it's a small diagpram condensor cardiod and is really clear and has low noise...I've never heard anyone else say they use one but I think it's a gem!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Distractions distractions! (good ones though!)

So it's been a while. I haven't been building much of late that is of a musical/noise/sonic ilk due to a few distractions. Ages ago I posted a timelapse video (done with the hacked £15 canon camera)of me rebuilding a small 2 stroke engine. Well I've been building the rest of the "Mo" (I'd say Moped but it has no pedals hence just Mo). Here's a pic from a couple of weeks ago when I got it back to a rolling project and a picture of the frame all stripped down.
(Notice the rare sighting of the concretedog in the picture that gave me my moniker).

I've also been doing a lot of music, but mainly guitar playing for a grand hip hop octet gig a friend of mine put together for last week...amazing to do a less experimental gig with 60 people dancing!! Great fun to play with a horn section...that's been a while. My next gig is at my bro in laws wedding which (due to last minute cancelling of other musicians...SHOCKING BEHAVIOUR)involves me doing a guitar set including a loopstation version of the Foo Fighters "Best of You" so the transposing and arranging chops have had a workout too.

In amongst all this I've managed to have a couple of more creative sessions...I've been contact mic'ing cymbals/cymbal stacks for more shonky percussion...

and been writing stuff in the new mighty version of Sunvox (vers 1.7) this new version now has the ability for realtime recording which has completely added a new dimension to the workflow....and it still rocks on my Jornada!...

So in another couple of weeks this wedding gig will be out of the way and things will return to normalish and I should have a bit more time...I have lots of ideas, some musical (I reckon another release by the end of the year ish!) and some more on a tuition tip and possibly even a concretedog product or 2! We'll see. In lean blog posting times likethese I do still tend to tweet a bit so feel free to follow me on twitter.

Friday, 30 March 2012

My "custom" Hofner shorty

I've just dug out my old faithful Hofner Shorty travel guitar as I'm going away for a few days. I love this guitar as its been on some adventures with me over the years and is the guitar I've travelled with most, its been on planes, atop mountains, on boats, strapped to bikes and backpacks, been in the snow...the list goes on. Last year I accidentally killed this guitar, I like to play with heavy gauge flatwound strings and as an experiment I tried a set of 15's on it and the tension became too much for the original bridge posts and they got pulled out of the body....whatever I did I couldn't get the bridge posts to bind back into the body holes and whenever I restrung it it would pull them out. So in the end the solution was to buy a fender style bridge with the holes on the back of the bridge designed for through body string mounting...however I had to build up a small wooden block to bring the bridge to the correct height...took ages to get everything levelled up and getting the new bridge to mount centrally. Whilst I was at it i thought I'd fit this signature "Atilla Zoller" pickup as I wanted a more neck pickup sound than the humbucker that is in its original mount at the rear of the body. I had to dremel a groove under the scratchplate to fit the cable for the neck pickup but it's well worth it as the floating pickup sounds great. Currently the bridge pickup isn't wired up but I think at some point I'll wire it to another output so I can do dual output/effects chain recordings.

Anyway she aint pretty....but she's one of my favourites for sure...I reckon the pickup is worth about twice as much as the guitar and bizarrely the strap I always use on this guitar I bought at a fundraising auction for a music charity and it used to belong to Mundell Lowe, the great (90 odd year old) jazz guitarist who played with em all, mingus, parker, etc etc

Friday, 16 March 2012

Friday night breadboard

Just a quick post as I'm deep in the throws of breadboarding and patching ideas together to see what I'm going to build into the origami synth.