Hackaday Links: May 19, 2019

Cheap nostalgia, that’s the name of the game. If you can somehow build and ship ‘cheap nostalgia’, you’re going to be raking in the bucks. For the ‘musicians’ in the crowd, the king of cheap nostalgia has something great. Behringer is cloning the Yamaha CS-80. and it was announced at this month’s Superbooth.

The Yamaha CS-80 is the synth in Blade Runner, and since Toto’s Africa is making a comeback on top-40 radio, it’s the instrument of our time. A Wonderful Christmas Time, it seems. Aaaannnyway, yes, there might be a huge and inexpensive version of one of the greatest synthesizers ever made real soon. The cheap 808s and 909s are making their way to stores soon, and the 101 needs a firmware update but you can buy it now. Cheap nostalgia. That’s how you do it.

The PiDP-11/70 is a project we’ve been neglecting for some time, which is an absolute shame. This is a miniature simulation of what is objectively the best-looking minicomputer of all time, the PDP-11/70. This version is smaller, though, and it runs on a Pi with the help of SimH. There are injection molded switches, everything is perfect, and now there are a whole bunch of instructional videos on how to get a PiDP-11/70 up and running. Check it out, you want this kit.

Considering you can put a phone screen in anything, and anyone can make a keyboard, it’s a wonder no one is making real, well-designed palmtop computers anymore. The Vaio P series of PCs would be great with WiFi, Bluetooth, and a slight upgrade in memory and storage. This was [NFM[‘s recent project. This palmtop gets an SSD. The object of modification is a decade-old Sony Vaio CPCP11 palmtop modified with a 256 GB SSD. The Vaio only supports PATA, and the SSD is mSATA, so this is really a project of many weird adapters that also have to be built on flex connectors.

Here’s something for the brain trust in the Hackaday comments. First, take a look at this picture. It’s the inside of a rotary encoder. On the top, you have a Gray code (or what have you) that tracks the absolute position of a shaft. On the bottom, you have some sort of optical detection device with 13 photodiodes (or something) that keeps track of each track in the Gray code. This is then translated to some output, hopefully an I2C bus. What is this device, circled in red? I know what it is — it’s an optical decoder, but that phrase is utterly ungooglable, unmouserable, and undigikeyable. If you were me, what would you use to build your own custom absolute rotary encoder and you only needed the sensor? I technically only need 10 tracks/sensors/resolution of 1024, but really I only need a name.

Lol, someone should apply to Y Combinator and pitch yourself as a B Corp.

Hackaday Links: February 10, 2019

Last month was NAMM, the National Association of Musical Something that begins with ‘M’, which means we’re synthed and guitarded out for the year. The synth news? Behringer are making cheap reproductions and clones of vintage gear. There’s something you need to know about vintage gear: more than half of everything produced today has a Roland 808 or 909 drum machine (or sample), a 303 bass synth, or a 101 mono synth in it. Put an 808, 909, 303, and 101 on the same table, connected to a mixer, and you can make most of the electronic music from the ’80s and ’90s. And Behringer is cloning these synths. Neat times. But there’s a problem: Roland is trademarking these drum machines and synths, with trademark filings in the US and Germany. These are ‘trade dress’, or basically the beautiful red, orange, yellow, and white buttons of the 808 and the digital cyber silver plastic aesthetic of the 303, but there you go. It’s round one in the Roland v. Behringer match, may the first person to give me an 808, 909, 303, and 101 for a thousand dollars win.

Synths? Sure thing. Here’s a stash of New Old Stock 8580 SID chips, the ‘synth on a chip’ found in the Commodore 64. The price? $50. [ben] bought one of these, and the card that came with it said,  “We purchased these chips in 2006 and they’ve been stored in our climate-controlled storage area ever since. Even still, we found a handful of them that didn’t pass testing. Treat them with care!” Yes, a bunch of SID chips for sale is noteworthy, but at $50 a piece for 1980s technology, can someone explain why a chip fab isn’t cranking these things out? If there’s one ancient piece of silicon where the demand meets what it would cost to spin up the silicon line, the SID is it. Where are the modern reproductions?

Excited about making an electronic badge this year? Seeed is offering badge sponsorships for 2019, with an offer of a 5% discount on PCBA, and a 10% discount if you put the Seeed logo on the board. I might be a little biased, but Seeed is a place where you can just ask, “hey, you guys do clear soldermask?” and they find a way to do it.

The best way to tell if someone is rich isn’t by seeing if they have an i8 parked outside their mansion, or just a piece of junk with an M badge. It isn’t whether or not their filet mignon is wagyu or just Kobe, and it isn’t if they’re cruising the skies in a G650 or just puttering around in a Cessna Citation. No, the best way to tell if someone is rich is to notice their AirPods. Yes, Apple’s wireless headphones (which are actually pretty good!) are the best foundation of a class division these days. The best class signal since private railroad cars now has a problem: people are printing their own AirPods. [Brady32] over on Thingiverse has modeled AirPods, and now the design is being given away for free. The horror. Now anyone can print out their own little bits of white plastic, stick them in their ears, and tell the world, ‘I’m better than you. Don’t bother talking back, because I obviously can’t hear you.’

Raspberry Pi has a store! Yes, everyone’s favorite single board computer now has an ‘experimental space’ in Cambridge’s Grand Arcade. The Beeb is saying this store is ‘bucking the retail trend’, yes, but any retail trend doesn’t really apply here; brands have storefronts, and it’s not about revenue per square foot. Makerbot had a store, and it wasn’t about selling printers. Microsoft has stores. Sony built a mall to advertise the original PlayStation. While the Raspberry Pi brick and mortar store will probably never make any money, it is an indication the Raspberry Pi foundation has built a valuable brand worthy of celebration. Here’s some pics of the store itself.

Did you know Hackaday has a retro edition? It’s true! retro.hackaday.com is a lo-fi version of Hackaday without CSS or Javascript or any other cruft. It’s hand-written HTML (assembled by a script) of the first ten thousand or so Hackaday posts. The idea is that old computers could load the retro site, just to prove they could. [Matthias Koch] has an Atari PC3 — Atari’s PC compatible with an 8088 running at 8Mhz, 640k of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive — and got this thing to pull up the retro site. Good work!

What is the current state of 3D printing? What is the current state of 3D printing videos on YouTube? Oh boy we’re going to find out. [Potent Printables] did an ‘analysis’ of 3D printing videos published to YouTube, and found the category riddled with ‘clickbait’, without giving an operational definition of what ‘clickbait’ actually is, or how it’s different from any other content (because who would make a video that doesn’t have the purpose of attracting viewers) Anyway, there’s a problem with the YouTube algorithm, and 3D printing blogs are copying it, filling the entire hobby with disillusioned beginners, or something. After defining ‘The Most Viewed’ as not being a news or documentary footage (okay, that’s fair), having at least three printing videos, not clickbait, and gives the designer proper attribution, [Potent Printables] found a list filled with [Maker’s Muse], [3D Print Guy] and other channels who do 3D printing work, but don’t put 3D printing in the title. This is great; 3D printing isn’t a fascinating new technology that’s the first step towards Star Trek replicators; we’ve slid down the trough of disillusionment and now 3D printers are just tools. It’s great, and in 2018 things are as they should be.

Hackaday Links: January 27, 2019

Once again, Uber found a company to build their ‘air taxis’. This time it’s Boeing. While there are no details on the Boeing bird, I’m going to propose again that Uber buy the Santa Monica airport as a hub for their air taxi program; SMO is going to be shut down anyway, and this is the funniest reality that can come from the idea of an ‘air taxi’ program.

According to ancient astronaut theorists, one of the bigger problems with full-time tech YouTubers (think Dave and Fran here) is the insistence that YouTube suggests conspiracy theory videos as a related video. If you do a video teardown on Apollo flight hardware, you’re going to fall into the same category as people who believe the moon is hollow, people who believe the moon landing was faked, and recently, flat-earthers. This is a ‘bad move’ by YouTube because the Venn diagram of people who want to watch conspiracy videos and people who want to watch teardowns is two circles. It makes community engineering hard, and you get a lot of idiots on YouTube comments. YouTube is now changing the recommendation algorithm. There are other reasons YouTube is doing this, specifically relating to videos that aren’t about weird electronics, but we’re not going to talk about that here, thx.

This week was Winter NAMM, the National Association of… music, something something. That means you can go to Anaheim and check out all the musical instrument related stuff that will be released this year. Think of it as CES, only you don’t get the flu and want to murder everyone, and it’s about guitars and synths instead of Alexas duct taped to Roombas. Here’s what it was like last year, with the tl;dr being a wall of cabs, Euroracks everywhere, and the best way to get started in the industry is to buy some old trademarks, not by actually designing something new. Speaking of, here are some Kay reissues.

So, what’s cool at NAMM this year? Let’s do guitars first. Gibson’s 2019 lineup is not dumb, a reversal of the previous twenty years; There’s a Les Paul Standard with humbuckers or P90s, and there’s a TV Junior. Fender? There’s an acoustasonic Tele that was terrible the first time around, and it’s decidedly not terrible. The Electric XII is back, finally, and it’s even cooler than the Electric Six wait never mind it has a 1 11/16th nut. There is no Tele Plus with a Honda Goldwing emblem, but we make do with what we can. The pyramids are upside-downBuy a dookie pedal.

How about some synths?  Behringer is cranking out another clone, this time an Oberheim OB-Xa. Word on the street is that a 303 is on the horizon, but the vocoder is out now. The Odyssey exists, and the SH-101 clone comes with a handle so you can keytar it.  Guitars with Raspberry Pis? Could it be? Yes, Lucern Custom Instruments is collaborating with Tracktion to put a synth in a guitar. There’s a touchscreen BioTek 2 synth installed below the bridge. It’s like something [Matt Bellamy] would play, but it’s got a Raspberry Pi.

Elektron has a new samplerOh my god, the only way to make money in the instrument industry is to buy up trademarks. Well, trademarks and signature amps and guitars. Speaking of, where’s the signature Vangelis synths?

The news that will have the biggest impact a decade from now is the announcement that MIDI 2.0 is getting ready for release. New features include auto-config with DAWs, extended resolution, and expressiveness (to stop the Western hegemony on electronic music), and backward compatibility with MIDI 1.0.

This isn’t explicitly NAMM-related, but Eurorack is now a thing and [Jan] is always coming up with some interesting synths-on-a-chip. This time, it’s a drum machine in a Eurorack format. Is it based on anything? Not really, although it would go well in any Detroit acid track. Check out the video.

Hackaday Links: September 16, 2018

Apple released a phone, the most phone in the history of phones. It’s incredible.

There are four machines that are the cornerstone of electronic music. The TR-808, the TR-909, the TB-303, and the SH-101 are the machines that created techno, house, and every other genre of electronic music. This week at KnobCon Behringer, the brand famous for cheap mixers, other audio paraphernalia of questionable quality, and a clone of the Minimoog, teased their clone of the 909. Unlike the Roland reissue, this is a full-sized 909, much like Behringer’s clone of the 808. Price is said to be under $400, and the best guess on the release is, ‘sometime in the next year’

Speaking of synths, [jan] has created a ton of electronic musical instruments based around single chips. There’s one that fits inside a MIDI plug, and another that also adds a keyboard. Now he has an ‘educational kit’ on IndieGoGo. It’s surprisingly cheap at $19.

Europe, currently.

Europe is outlawing memes (I’m 12 and what is this?).

The EU parliament adopted a proposal for a Copyright Directive, the most onerous proposal being Article 13, requiring platforms to adopt copyright filters to examine everything uploaded to a platform.

The takeaway analogy is that this proposal is opposite of the DMCA’s Safe Harbor provision that protects ISPs from consequences of user’s actions; If Article 13 is adopted, an image-hosting service could be sued by copyright holders because users uploaded copyrighted images.

Needless to say, this is dumb, and a massive opportunity for you to become a startup founder. Companies like Google and Facebook already have robots and databases crawling their servers looking for copyrighted content, but smaller sites (hackaday.io included) do not have the resources to build such a service themselves. You’re looking at a massive B2B startup opportunity when these copyright directives pass.

Hackaday Links: May 13, 2018

The dumbest thing this week is Uber’s flying car concept of the future. The braintrust at Uber envisions a world of skyports, on rooftops or on the ground that will handle 200 takeoffs and landings per hour. That is 4800 per day at a maximum. The record for the number of total takeoffs and landings for any airport was set last year at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport with 969 takeoffs and landings in a twenty-four hour period. Yes, Uber wants to put the world’s busiest airport in a parking lot or something. Just wait, it gets dumber. Uber’s ‘flying car’ looks like a standard quadcopter, but with stacked, non-contrarotating props, for safety. These aircraft will be powered electrically, although it’s not quite clear if this is a hybrid setup (which could actually be practical now, but without regulatory precedent) or something built around an enormous battery (impractical for anything bigger than a 152 in this decade).

This aircraft is just a render, and Uber expects it to be certified for commercial flight in two to five years. This is nearly impossible. Uber plans to fly these aircraft autonomously. This will never happen. Additionally, Uber will not manufacture or design the aircraft. Instead, they will partner with a company that has experience in aerospace — Bell or Embraer, for instance — making the render a moot point, because ultimately Uber is just going to go with whatever Bell or Embraer have on the drawing board. Uber’s entire business plan is “move fast and break laws”, which will not serve them well with the FAA. The mere mention of Uber’s self-flying car has lowered the level of public discourse and has made us all dumber.

Here’s a great example of how cheap TVs are getting. [tmv22] built a 55 inch, 4k digital photo frame for $400. The TV was one Walmart was blowing out for two hundred and sixty dollars. Add in an Odroid C2 and some various cables and hardware, and you have an absurd digital photo frame for a few benjamins.

Espressif is getting investment from Intel’s venture capital division. Espressif, is, of course, the company behind the incredibly popular ESP8266 and ESP32 chipsets designed for the Internet of Things. Before the ESP8266 module popped up for sale on SeeedStudios, no one had heard of Espressif. Intel, on the other hand, is the largest semiconductor company on the planet and recently exited the maker IoT space because of the complete and utter failure of the Curie, Joule, Edison, and Galileo product lines. I would bet a significant portion of Intel’s failure was due to their inability to release datasheets.

Awesome news for synth heads. Behringer is cloning just about every classic synth and drum machine. At Superbooth 2018, Behringer, manufacturers of the worst mixers on the planet, revealed their clone of the Roland SH-101 synthesizer. It’s called the MS-101, and yes, it has the keytar grip. Also announced is a clone of the TR-808, Odyssey One, the OB-Xa, Arp 2600, and M100 modules. Here’s some context for you: a good Detroit techno show consists of an SH-101, TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909, all made by Roland in the 80s. These vintage synths and drum machines, at current prices, would cost about $10,000, used. The prices for these clone synths haven’t been announced, but we’re looking at a Detroit techno show for $1000. That’s nuts. Here’s a video of the 808.

Firmware Hacking On Behringer Midi Devices

A new project called the Unofficial Behringer Control Development Kit lets you tweak or completely replace the firmware on the popular devices. The proof of concept demo shows a custom message scrolling on the 4-character 7-segment display but you can do with the device is only limited by how well you can code for the ARM processor inside. Development takes place using the GNU ARM toolchain but don’t worry, you don’t have to crack the case open to program the chip. The BCR2000 and BCF2000 models supported by the project both run bootloaders that allow firmware updates via midi commands. There’s even a recovery mode if you screw something up. Just make sure you have a direct midi connection for recovery, the USB port won’t work for that purpose. If you need a shove to get you started there’s a nice little example file in the repository.

[Thanks Bjonnh]