Posts with «general» label

Touring Machine First PCBs!

Last week I submitted PCBs to be fabbed and got them back this week. They look pretty good! I’ve not soldered anything down yet but the footprints are all good except for the rotary encoder mounting holes. The Eagle part I used has them at 2.05mm but they need to be 2.4mm. I need to [...]
Todbot 18 Sep 19:57

The Start of the Touring Machine Eurorack module

The original goal of my month-long Deep Fried Neurons project was “30 sounds, one per day”, an exploration into making sounds with Eurorack gear that doesn’t use sequencers or keyboards. While I only create 15 sounds so far (I’ll still do all 30 I think), I’ve been increasingly using some home-built modules like my TrinketTrigger [...]
Todbot 28 Aug 18:40
general  music  

30 sounds, one per day

I’ve decided to do “30 sounds, one per day”.  I’m a bit behind, but here’s a Youtube playlist of what I have so far and the corresponding Bandcamp album. These are to be sounds. Not tracks, not songs. Just interesting sonic experiments. I want to make sounds I’ve never heard before, or sounds I’ve always wanted [...]
Todbot 07 Aug 20:09
general  music  

Fixing my Macbook Pro after it was “repaired” by Rossmann Repair Group

The short of it: I do not recommend Rossmann Repair Group for Mac repairs. In my case they showed repeated lack of care and little attention to detail, sending me back a computer that while it technically worked, was unusable. The problems I had with their laptop repair: Wrong logic board installed (2.5 GHz vs [...]
Todbot 20 Jun 08:39

Review of some electronics kits for kids

Continuing on the topic of "Introduction to Practical Electronics" course, today we are going to look at some of the electronics (soldering) kits available and suitable for the purpose.

What makes a good beginner electronics kit?
  • easy through-hole soldering
  • includes a variety of components
  • reasonably priced (this is relative; what may be expensive for me may be cheap for you)
  • standalone and all-inclusive: does not require extra parts/components/modules sourced from third parties and does not require loading software;
  • interesting (as opposed to boring) functionality: flashes LEDs, displays something on a screen, makes some sounds etc.
  • relative simplicity of the circuit, so it can be easy to understand and debug if necessary
  • aesthetics of the board (shape, colour, component placement etc.)
  • preferably open source
  • powered by low voltage (battery, USB, power adapter)
  • digital electronics rather than analog (easier to debug, if necessary)
  • practical utility: use it for a utilitarian purpose rather than forget about it once built
  • expandability: can be either integrated as part of a bigger project, or its capabilities and functionality can be extended by adding modules or parts
  • provides extra learning (besides soldering) by displaying information: wave forms, frequencies, binary/hex number representation, musical notes, proverbs etc.
  • satisfaction guaranteed once assembled and working  :)
Here is a list, in no particular order, of beginner kits I found to match some of the above criteria.

1. Elenco AM Radio kit

2. Chinese Radio kits: A, B

3. 6-digit LED Clock kit

4. 4-digit LED Alarm Clock kit

5. 4-digit LED Talking Clock kit

6. Elenco two-tone European Siren kit

7. Retro Classic Game (Tetris, Snake etc.) kit

8. 3D Christmas Tree Flashing LEDs kit

9. Electronic Piano kit

10. Electronic 16 Sound Music Box kit

11. Astable Multi-vibrator Circuit Learn kit

12. Mini Speaker Box Amplifier kit

13. Aviation Band Radio Receiver kit

14. Calculator and Counter with LCD and Keyboard kit

15. "Three Fives" Discreet 555 Timer kit

16. TV-B-Gone kit

17. MintyBoost kit

18. MintySynth kit (now discontinued)

19. Drawdio kit

20. Electronic Hourglass LED kit

21. Round LED Clock kit

22. Signal Generator with XR2206 Adjustable Frequency kit

23. Solder:Time Desk Clock kit

24. Geiger Counter kit(s)

25. Wristwatch LED kit

26. Burglar Electronic Alarm kit

27. Conway's Game of Life kit

28. Music Synthesizer kit

29. Line Following Robot kit

30. Jameco Atari Punk Console kit

31. 555 Forrest Mims Project kit(s)

32. Tesla Coil kit

33. Velleman voice changer kit

34. Various badges (Maker, Day of Geek, Unicorn, and many many others)

Wise time with Arduino 14 Apr 23:36
general  review  

JAMuary 2020: Modular synths & Deluge

I’ve been getting back into music lately, thanks to the wonderful Synthstrom Deluge. And thanks to John Park, I’ve been getting into Eurorack modular synthesizers. It’s really fun, but can get pricey fast. I would recommend everyone download the free VCV Rack so you too can patch together sound modules like audio Lego and make [...]
Todbot 04 Apr 23:10

Teardown of an Old Dimmer Switch

The 40+ year-old dimmer (made by Nortron Industries Limited in Milton, Ontario) in my attic broke down. Electronically, the dimming circuit still worked, but mechanically, the push button got stuck.
This is what's inside, for the curious.

The active component in the circuit is Q2006LT, a "quadrac" which, according to the datasheet, "is an internally triggered Triac designed for AC switching and phase control applications. It is a Triac and DIAC in a single package, which saves user expense by eliminating the need for separate Triac and DIAC components".

The "reversed-engineered" schematic looks like this:

For those who want to understand more on how the triac-controlled dimmer works, this article provides an in-depth explanation.

The 250V capacitors may be reused in a Nixie high-voltage (~170V) power source. For a hoarder, both the choke and the potentiometer (push button removed) look good.

I will report back on the internals of the replacement switch in 40 years or so, when it breaks down. I hope I/it last(s) that long.

Wise time with Arduino 15 Mar 22:29
general  hacking  review  

hidapitester – Command-line program to exercise HIDAPI

To help diagnose USB HID communication and to test out updates to hidapi, I wrote hidapitester. It is a command-line program that allows you to exercise just about every aspect of hidapi. Pre-built binaries for MacOS, Windows, and Linux Ubuntu x64. I’ve found it very useful. You can use it to: Scan for connected HID [...]
Todbot 14 Jun 05:30

Oberheim Matrix 6r firmware update!

I upgraded the firmware on my beloved-but-long-unused 1986 Oberheim Matrix 6r! These synths are the royalty of analog fatness. I love their sound. This is the result I was looking for: It’s remarkably clean inside for a machine made in 1986. I acquired it used in the early 90s. Just look at the bank of [...]
Todbot 04 Jun 20:47

HIDPyToy – GUI to test USB HID devices

Here is HIDPyToy. It’s a small app written in PyQt using the hid Python package to talk to USB HID devices (like Teensy RawHID or blink(1) USB RGB LEDs). Pre-build binaries are available for MacOS and Windows. HIDPyToy allows you to exercise pretty much the entire hidapi library from Python. You can: List for all [...]
Todbot 04 Jun 05:26