solarbird: (molly-computer-all-lit-up)
Anybody have an old Win98 USB mass storage device driver? I've set up an real Win98 box on the machine that used to be door.murkworks.net - it's a P166 from 1996 and accordingly hilarious. I have USB running on it, but not drivers for USB disk drives, and I want that working, in no small part because the non-lulz non-vintage-games part of this project is having a (the?) last working 5.25" floppy drive for PC-DOS/MS-DOS diskettes.

(I like having the ability to read all antique media. Need anything off a Commodore PET floppy? In theory, I can do that for you, as long as it's double-density or less, and yes, they had a 1mb PET floppy at one point.)

The machine is named Blue, drive D is named Purple, and it's registered to Amélie Lacroix and the password is oneshotonekill because of course it had to be. Also, the desktop starts out with weapons and such but turns into widowtracer art because we all know what's really going on here.

It's also much quieter now, particularly for a machine from 1996, as I've replaced all the fans and improved the venting. Two of the fans were outright dead - the CPU and GPU fans, so that's terrifying. (I think the CPU fan may have worked occasionally, but don't hold me to it. Also I had already improved the venting some, even with the old fans - I just improved it more now.)

A couple of power supply capacitors should be replaced too, they're bulging a bit, and I had to order them - VetCo had none of the right caps in stock. Ah well, I tried.
solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

It’s a Roland SC-55 MIDI Sound Canvas from 1991! I can now make all the noises you heard in any videogame in the 1990s.


Cheese Factor Five, Mr. Worf – let’s see what’s out there.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but honestly not much of one. I got it from Ben Deschamps via his internet yard sale, for, as he put it, “a six pack.” XD I also had to fix it after it arrived damaged in shipping – I’m pretty sure the post office punted it here from New York State, given how quickly it arrived and how the left side of the front panel was punched in.

But hey, now I can say I’ve repaired a potentiometer. Not replaced: repaired. I did that because it’s custom and weird and was in three pieces. (Also the metal frame was bent, some parts got disconnected and also bent, a bit of the motherboard broke off but I’m pretty sure that was just a little bit of grounding pin and it’s already grounded. And I fixed all that, so it’s all good.)

Anyway, it’s a Roland, and my A-30 MIDI keyboard is also a Roland, and turns out, they know each other! Such a small world. All those useless buttons suddenly do things!

There is also a thunder and rain setting. This is hilarious, mostly because there’s really only one thunder effect, so I can use it exactly once ever. I have no plans to do so, but don’t push me, I got thunder.


not me. okay, kinda me last night. but not really me.

Honestly, though, while I expected mostly to be using it for things easy to get right (bells, chimes, simple pipes, synthy-effects, etc), this is 1990s pro gear. The strings and horns, while definitely cheesy, are much less so than what you find in, say, Garage Band today. With the right tweaking and careful, careful playing – it respects key velocity, aftertouch, all those cool tweaks on my keyboard – I might be able to use more parts of it than I expected, maybe even for the swing jazz version of Lisdoonvarna. That’d be awesome.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (mandolin-and-flutes)

Not as much time this year at Folklife as usual – no particular reason, really, other than I wanted to spend a couple of those days working on the album. But I did have a lot of fun jamming with Alouest on Sunday, doing the Quebecois trad thing. Sarah Kellington from Pinnpied made it too, and a good time was had by all.

I also picked up my customary New Noisemaker. See, I collect noisemakers. I have a whole shelf of them. Wooden train whistles, weird little rings you blow into that make sounds, bells, clackers, spoons, shakers, all sorts of toys. Sometimes they end up on other bands’s recordings!

Every year at the Folklife percussion tent, I play with what got brought this year, and see if anything makes noises I don’t already have.

So look at this crazy monster:

Is that awesome or what? It was in the discount bin for $7. The decorative bits were broken – the vertical slats originally went down further, some of the wicker wrap is missing, nothing that affects sound. So I trimmed, glued, and bound it at top and bottom – flutemaking skills, ahoy – and it’s sorted.

It makes a great, heavy, shlunk, clacky and interesting. You can also turn it to get a continuous falling-pebbles noise, and some other sounds too. People were asking me about it all day, hearing me play with it while walking around.

Normally that would be my only purchase. But not this year!

I’ve been thinking about a particular flute I didn’t buy last year for a year, which is a pretty good sign that I need to buy it. You might remember a year and a half ago or so, the abortive show trip down to Portland? One of my gear bags wandered off after our car broke down, taking with it a lot of gear and a couple of instruments, including one of my hand-built flutes, Popcorn.

Popcorn was my favourite flute, the one I carried around all the time, a bamboo D piccolo I’d make probably ten years before. I’ve never seen a flute made by anyone other than myself which sounded like it, or let me do a half-step-below-tonic trick like I could on it, and so on. I’ve been wanting to put together the flutemaking kit again ever since, to build a new one, but haven’t had time.

Well, these carbon-fibre flutes made in Oregon? They sound and act exactly like Popcorn, only with a better second octave. I can even do the half-step below tonic trick. It’s a little heavier because of the headstock, but that makes it tuneable. It’s amazing, and I’ve been wanting one since I didn’t buy one last year.

This year, Anna said “Carbony is here again, you should get that flute.” So I did.

I’m thinking of naming it “Kettlecorn.” Sound fitting, you think?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (molly-smug)

The World’s Largest Bluetooth Speaker is a Dalek.

I thought this was going to be kind of weak and lame, but to my shock, it’s actually pretty well thought out, and kind of cool.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Finally – finally – back to recording and doing some music; Sunnie’s in today for what should be a pretty short session. Also, I did some comping work last night, after the latest round of carpet cleaning. (I’m about to admit surrender and call professionals in early on the sealed-off areas of the Lair. And I thought supervillainy was evil!)

I’m going to PAX this weekend. I have unpleasantly mixed feelings about that, partly because of Gabe’s assholishness, and partly because of the whole long-term ramp-up in misogyny in gamers, which really pisses me off. But the way I look at it is this:

I was here first, you fuckers.

And I’m not yielding this ground. Not nearly that easily. So I’m going, because of All That, because Fuck You, No, I Was Here First, and I have the artefacts to prove it.

And hopefully I can forget all that and have a good time, because I’m sick of everything having to be a political act of defiance.

Well, that escalated quickly. I’m planning some shows, too, btw, but can’t talk about them yet. How’s your Wednesday?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: From moongazeponies on deviantart (pony-pinkie-hax)

You know how all those white plastic electronics – computers, game systems, lamps, just whatever – start to turn yellow after a few years? And no amount of cleaning will fix it, not even bleach, which tends to just hurt the plastic a bit?

A few years ago, some antique computer collectors – particularly of old Amiga, Commodore, and Atari white plastic computers – did a lot of experimenting around and came up with a solution. It’s known generically as Retr0brite, but you can make it yourself. Essentially it’s a kind of oxidation – a bromine solution is added to the plastic as a fire-retardant, and over time a hydrogen atom gets replaced by an oxygen, which rotates the molecule just a bit to expose the bromine, which looks like this:


UV light makes it worse more quickly

All this means that eventually the 1990s-era trackball that used to live in the sunroom looks like this:


Yep. That’s yellowed.

This is an old Microsoft Intellipoint trackball from the 1990s. I have four of them, one still new in box. It is, for my hands, the single best pointing device ever made. Needing to take it apart to scrub it out inside got this whole thing started.

As you can see, it’s got quite yellow over time, thanks to that UV-triggered bromine exposure. Retr0brite triggers the release of the aforementioned hydrogen, and re-replaces it with oxygen, reconfiguring the molecule just that little bit. You’re actually restoring the plastic with this process, rather than damaging it further.

Mixing up Retr0brite is actually quite simple. The only difficult part is getting the right mixture of artificial mucus, to use as a physical stabiliser. You need one, to keep the Retr0brite on the plastic, rather than running off into the tray.


Minion Paul had to leave the room

It’s just corn starch, relax. XD

I was able to get a reasonably-pure 12% hydrogen peroxide solution locally, but if I had the option, I’d go up to 15% or even 20% – just because by the time you get the artificial mucus into the mix, you’ve diluted the peroxide/TAED mixture further, and unless you have more UV than we have around here, that’ll slow down the reaction quite a bit. More is not always better – in California, this might’ve been too strong a mix.

But! After a day mostly in sunlight – result!


Not all the way back, but close

A stronger mix or a second day of sun probably would’ve finished the job. That’s against 92-brightness white paper, which actually means slightly blue; Against the brown workstation table, it’s almost shockingly white. But you can still see a difference between inside and outside of case, and I think they should be the same.

So: yay! It works! If you do this, USE EYE GUARDS, SERIOUSLY: once you add the TAED, it can get a bit fizzy, and you do not need this shit in your eyes. I can’t stress that enough. But otherwise, it’s pretty safe.

Here’s another before/after shot – sorry the second one is fuzzy, I didn’t realise until I’d put the trackball back together:

Oh, otherwise, the plastic feels unaffected. If anything, it feels a little smoother, but I think that’s just placebo effect. And if you can’t deal with the mucus, another solution is to throw out the gel entirely and make enough primary solution to submerge the plastic. The only problem there is that the plastic will float, so you’ll need to weigh it down.

So yeah, a fairly easy and effective DIY restoration project. Break out your Commodore 128s, kids, it’s time to make some old-school look brand new. :D

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (toronto)

On the Clipper ferry heading to Victoria! I’m not as fond of the Clipper as the other ferries; it’s not bad but it… it’s kind of airplanish. Not as bad as an airplane, not at all, but there’s no lounge or anything like the train or the peninsula ferries.

My head cold seems to be letting up, so I might do an open mic at Cornerstone Cafe, but no promises. I haven’t played since Monday, between replacing hard drive – we’re up to five, honestly, what is this – and this cold, and the post-convention cleanup.

Oh, and I managed to get Ubuntu to reinstall the 3.2.0 kernel, and this time it worked! So I’ll be putting that through its paces as soon as I get home, but in initial teating, we look pretty good. Most importantly, my weird hardware is still working. The funny part is that the more modern version of Jack sees, complains about, and reports the device enumating things wrong – the problem which crashed the 2.x kernels (!) which prompted the 3.1.5 install to begin with.

All of which means basically nothing to anyone! Except that it means things should work better in general in production. And I can use other plugins I couldn’t use before, which is awesome. I’ll be downloading those on Monday. :D

Anyway, have a good weekend, everybody! Anybody going to be at the Le Vent du Nord show tomorrow?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (pindar-most-unpleasant)


You have failed me for the last time, Admiral Shack

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (molly-oooooh)

Going to get the stupid car today. The shop in Kelso can’t find the problem – or even recreate the problem so far – so we’ll be driving north in a tiny convoy, and I’ll have AAA on speed dial.

So here, have a Friday amusement. Seattle’s big passenger rail depot, King Street Station, is being restored. It’s been a huge undertaking and I’m really excited about it as someone who rides Cascadia Rail a lot.

Where it’s built faces two substantially different street levels; King Street is low, and Jackson Street is rather higher. So there’s an upper plaza while the rails, ticketing, and waiting rooms are down on the lower level. Originally, the Grand Stairwell connected the two, and you had entrances on both levels; the stairwell has been closed for decades, but they’re restoring it.

I just found out today that the Grand Stairwell was originally narrowed – but not yet closed – in 1949, to add escalators. I’d never even known those were there, as they’ve also been closed for decades. And following some threads on the construction update I was reading, I found this:

I WANT THAT SIGN FOR THE LAIR. NOW.

I’d steal it but according to SDOT in this thread, it was gone by the time they took over the station. So sad.

The station took the most damage in the 1960s (…of course…) as it was “modernised” with drop ceilings and and and. Thankfully, in the main waiting area, they did not rip out all the ornate plaster and marble work, but instead hid much of it, semi-intact, behind new material. More of it had to be removed – temporarily this time – for the seismic retrofit, but it’ll be coming back, along with repairs and replacements for the 1960s damage.

There are about eight zillion photographs here, and notes here.

Find some of the pre-restoration photos of the station if you can. That was just sad.

This weekend for me, assuming we make it back in one piece: more recording with Leannan Sidhe, then prep for Second Thanksgiving at the Lair. What’ve you got?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (pindar-most-unpleasant)

You may and may not recall that I built a little optical theremin.

Basically, I’ve been trying to develop an electronic instrument project that could be built, in a workshop environment, at nwcMUSIC at Norwescon. It had to be really simple, but functional. And I can – what you can see in this picture totally works! It could be simplified further just by swapping those three resistors with one of similar value.

But the output is really, really quiet. Sure, I could – and did – add a matching impedance stage and hook it up to my amp, and that worked, but we can’t do that in a workshop.

So I wanted to add a pure amplification stage, using an amplifying transistor. I hooked all that up and: silence. After a few minutes, I realised that I was attempting to amplify a signal with a lower-power source than what I had to begin with. That won’t work.

And I could fix it, either by adding an impedence-matching voltage transformer (complexity rating no) or a second power stage, but it would take it well above my complexity limit for a one-hour workshop.


That won’t work either

So then I thought, “all these components are rated 40v, let’s just double the input power to 18v and see what happens.” And what happens is fire.

Or, at least, a surprisingly enthusiastic outbreak of magic blue smoke. And now nothing works, and now the little battery-powered air filter I built is running.

And that’s why there’s no DIY project today.

See you next week. XD

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come listen to our music!

solarbird: (Default)
After Woot! offered an HD video camera cheaply enough that I went for it, I realised I really need a better - or at least a second - tripod, and I went thrift store spelunking again. Tomorrow I'll write up a more general post on the band blog, about pawn-shop spelunking, but I'm gonna geek about this first because it was fun.

First I hit UW surplus (nothing good) and checked out an actual camera store (goddammit tall tripods are expensive) so I hit Goodwill and the pawn shop next to it on a whim and found a Slik U-210 for $15. It's a total monster of a device - the U-212 is the shorter current version, if you're curious.

It wasn't perfect - it tested okay in store, but needed serious cleaning, a new camera mount screw (trivial, hardware store), and so on. And something I thought was a mechanical fault turned out to be a design feature - at least, after the tripod was disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, and reassembled. That's the fun part. ^_^

The fault was that the elevator crank started slipping when I tried to raise the camera platform. The elevator is used to raise the camera platform beyond the already-quite-tall maximum base height provided by the tripod legs. The slippage wasn't so bad that I couldn't work with it, so I didn't mind that much; even were that hopelessly broken - and it wasn't - it'd still be a better (and taller) tripod than I've been using. It hadn't done this in my quick test in the store, though, and experiment showed that the elevator post could rotate, for no clear reason. And when it rotated, the gears no longer meshed correctly, and slipped.

Separately, all the camera adjustment points were rather more stiff than they should've been. On a good tripod, you can elevate the camera (see above), tilt back and forth, tilt left and right; it's called six-axis motion. All this worked, but it was all pretty resistant.

So instead of just doing a deep cleaning, I took the whole tripod apart as far as I could, and scrubbed and lubricated all the parts I could reach before putting it back together. I also figured out more about the mechanics and features, through experimenting, as part of the process. And I have to say, once cleaned and lubricated? "Slik" is totally the right name for this tripod. Everything mechanical is super smooth. It's nice, and the design is clever.

Anyway, that all done, I started playing with the elevator post again. I found the post's centre point and set various adjustments to try to keep it there, and everything worked great - and far more easily than before. So I thought I'd see how badly the elevator crank would slip when the centre post got rotated again, because it's not difficult to put it off-centre at all. In fact, it's so easy that it looked like a design flaw - the same things you do to rotate the camera itself left and right can also throw the elevator post off, if you forget to loosen the camera rotation clamp. (As would be inevitable.)

So I put the elevator well off-centre intentionally, and gave it a good crank - and it recentred itself, then elevated. I tried it again, all the way off the other direction, and then a couple of more times to be sure: it turns out the tripod's elevator shaft re-centres itself first every time you change elevation. The ability to get off-centre at all is apparently part of its recentring ability, and also a way of handling the torque if you try to rotate the camera body without loosening the appropriate clamp first.

And it was just dirty and jammed, and now it's not.

It's still a little weird, honestly. Maybe it's some sort of fallback feature. Fault-tolerance in hardware? I'm for it! Either way, I love it when spelunking pays off. :D

LJ cleanup

Mar. 18th, 2011 11:34 am
solarbird: boring bit (boring bit)

I'm going through and doing a bunch of LJ cleanup. If this affects you in some way you care about, let me know.

eta: The mobile client disabled comments for me. Fixed now.

solarbird: (music)

So I went back and forth with John at panicStudios about Shout at the Desert vs. the iTunes “Enhance” setting, and he’s in agreement with, well, everybody I can Google, who are all saying, ‘do not play with it, do not mess with trying to work around anything iTunes is doing, turn that shit off on your own machine and forget it exists. You can’t control what people have at home. Deal.’ So I’m dealing. It is amazing how much “Enhance” blurs and crappifies music all kinds, listening on headphones.

I’m also talking with another musician about maybe providing some live instrumental work as backup for a couple of their performances; we don’t know whether it’ll work out, but I hope it does. I don’t really have the kind of instruments they want – they don’t do the same sort of music I do – but they’re kind of fond of some things I can do on octave mandolin, so I’m in the running.

Look, I have more Trash-O-Matic build photos!


input, output, and battery – I’m pleased with that battery cut


This grid will host six setting buttons.


Epoxy set, Round Two

So, what am I showing here? The first picture is the new case, with holes cut for XLR input (mono, balanced, mic level), TRS output (mono, unbalanced, line level), and the battery case from the original toy. The battery case is epoxied into place now, and seems pretty solid.

The second shows the control button grid – the Voice Changer has six various distortion types, and I’m keeping the original buttons. I cut the grid box out of the original toy, sanded off the paint, and recess-mounted it into a hole I cut into the new case’s cover. It’s epoxied into place. I was originally going to surface-mount it, but that complicated an already complicated mess – anchoring the circuit board.

The third photo shows the case assembly right now. I put the balanced-to-unbalanced-signal wire harness on the XLR input jack directly – even preserving the noise-cancellation effects of XLR, it’s trivial – and I’ve got the signal wires coming off that but not hooked to anything yet. The TRS output has wires already soldered in, too, and the battery pack is installed (with recessed external access door out the bottom) and positive lead run to the new power switch you can see from behind on the lower left of the cover.

I’ve made some mods to the circuit board; the old power switch (still mounted) is bypassed, as are another couple of controls that aren’t meaningful if you aren’t using it as a toy – little things like that. Right now it’s mostly serving as a weight, as epoxy sets for the new circuit-board mounting poles. The three screws visible in the circuit board are actually bolts to new mounting poles, to hold them in the right places as the epoxy sets.

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to trust these mounting poles, so I’ll add insulating foam as a back-support to the circuit board, braced against the battery pack. That should help with the button-mashy-mashy.

Originally, I was going to have balanced XLR in and out, and have the output be microphone level, but when I realised I’d have to generate balanced output from a nonbalanced source and reduce the signal because that the onboard preamp would be too difficult to bypass, I decided, eh, fuckkit, line level’s better for noise purposes anyway. Particular with electronics this cheap. XD

You’ve read this far, you must make things. What’re you making?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil.

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