Somewhere Down in Africa Toto is Playing on Loop

Amidst the vast expanse of sand dunes in the Namib desert, there now exists a sound installation dedicated to pouring out the 1982 soft rock classic “Africa” by Toto. Six speakers connected to an MP3 player all powered by a few solar powered USB battery packs, and it is literally located somewhere down in Africa (see lyrics). The whole project, known as TOTO FOREVER, was the creation of film director [Max Siedentopf] who himself grew up in Namibia.

“I set up a sound installation which pays tribute to probably the most popular song of the last four decades…and the installation runs on solar batteries to keep Toto going for all eternity.”

Max Siedentopf, Creator of TOTO FOREVER

[Siedentopf] certainly chose a song that resonates with people on a number of levels. Toto’s “Africa” was one of the most streamed songs on YouTube in 2017 with over 369 million plays. The song continues to reach a new generation of fans as it has also been the subject of a number of internet memes. Though those local to the sound installation have had some less than positive things to say. [Siedentopf] told BBC, “Some [Namibians] say it’s probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that’s a great compliment.”

The idea of the installation “lasting for all eternity” will certainly be difficult to achieve since the components most certainly lack any serious IP rating. The audio player itself appears to be a RHDTShop mp3 player that according to its Amazon listing page, has three to four hours of battery life per charge. Considering the size of those solar cells the whole thing will probably be dead in a week or two (it is in a desert after all), but no one can deny the statement TOTO FOREVER makes. Below is some footage of the art piece in action taken by the artist himself.
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PiPod: A Raspberry Pi Zero Portable Music Player

[Bram] wasn’t satisfied with the portable music playback devices that were currently available. He craved an offline music player that had a large storage capacity but found that this was only available in high-end, off-the-shelf options, which were far too expensive. [Bram] decided to make his own, powered by a Raspberry Pi zero. After building an initial prototype, the design was iterated a few times, with the latest version featuring a BOM cost of roughly €80.

The whole project is open source, with hardware and software files available on the project GitHub. A 2.2″ TFT displays the UI, which is of course completely customisable. Everything is squashed into a 3D printed case, which has the smallest form factor possible whilst retaining a decent amount of battery life. The electronics are what you’d expect: a boost converter to produce 5 V for the Pi from the 3.7V battery, a charge controller and a battery protection circuit. As a bonus, the battery voltage is monitored with a 12-bit ADC which reports to the Pi, enabling it to do a safe shutdown at low voltage, and display battery level on the UI.

Since the whole purpose of the device is to play audio, onboard filtered PWM wasn’t going to cut it, so instead a 24-bit DAC talks to the Pi via I2S. The audio player backend is VLC, so there’s support for plenty of different file types. A disc image of the whole system is available with everything pre-configured, and you can even buy the assembled PCB from Tindie.

Want to keep the look and feel of your old iPod? We covered an impressive restoration of a 6th gen model, upgrading the storage and battery significantly.

This is How the Fonz Would Play MP3s

Here at Hackaday, we love to see old hardware treated with respect. A lovingly restored radio or TV that’s part of our electronic heritage is a joy to behold, and while we understand the desire to stream media from a funky retro case, it really grates when someone throws away the original guts to make room for new electronics.

Luckily, this Seeburg jukebox wall remote repurposing is not one of those projects. [Scott M. Baker] seems to have an appreciation for the finer things, and when he scored this classic piece of Mid-Century Americana, he knew just what to do. These remotes were situated around diners and other hangouts in the 50s and 60s and allowed patrons to cue up some music without ever leaving their seats. They were real money makers back in the day, and companies put a lot of effort into making them robust and reliable.

[Scott]’s first video below shows the teardown of this unit; you can practically smell the old transformer and motor windings. His goal in the second video was to use the remote to control his Raspberry Pi jukebox; he wisely decided to leave everything intact and use the original electromechanically generated pulses to make selections. His analysis led to a nicely executed shield for his Pi which conditions the pulses and imitates coin drops; happily, the coin mechanism still works too, so you can still drop a quarter for a tune.

The remote is working well now, but [Scott] still needs to finish up a few odds and ends to bring this one home. But we love the look and the respect for tradition here, as we did when this juke got a Raspberry Pi upgrade to imitate a missing wall remote.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Dementia-Friendly Music Player

The loss of memory is an extremely difficult situation, not just for those afflicted, but also for immediate family, close friends, and care givers. With no cure available for dementia, providing care is an extremely demanding task for everyone involved – both mentally and physically. Patients are unable to retain recent events and information, but will most likely be able to recall some amount of past memories. This presents serious challenges when they encounter “modern” technology and cannot figure out how to use and operate everyday devices that normal people take for granted.

[rosswesleyporter]’s Dad had trouble using modern iPods and CD players, so he built DQMusicBox — a Dementia friendly music player. It’s very simple interface resembling a radio from half a century ago. There are just two large, clearly marked rotary dials — one for Volume, the other for Songs, and a headphone socket. The inspiration came from a very moving documentary called “Alive Inside” which explores how music brings extreme joy to people with dementia.

The device is built around a Raspberry Pi, enclosed in a laser cut enclosure and requires no soldering — making it easy for anyone to build one for themselves using easily available parts. The Raspberry Pi runs on a lightweight, optimized version of Raspbian called DietPi. The music playback is handled by VLC ensuring support for a large number of music formats. A Python script looks for music files, sets up the VLC-NOX player and handles knob and button events. A bundled image file for the software includes everything needed to get it running, making setup easy and quick. Since Raspberry Pi’s are prone to OS corruption when power is disconnected without performing a proper shutdown, [Ross] uses write protection on the SD-card and walks you through the process of how it works.

Between his Project page, Github and DQMusicBox website, you will be able to get all the information needed to replicate this excellent project. And for his next version, he already has a few ideas for improvement and would like to hear if other hackers have suggestions.

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Music-Loving BeagleBone

Robotic control can get very complicated when multiple actuators need to work in coordination with each other. A simple robotic arm will require each joint to be controlled in sequence to attain a particular position. The BeagleBone Blue comes armed with motor drivers, sensor inputs, and wireless and is built for robotics.

[Andy] has prepared a musical robot called the BeagleBone Blue Electro-Mechanical Glockenspiel using the single board computer. The hardware consists of eight servo motors each with a mallet stick attached to them. The motors themselves are mounted on 3D-printed brackets allowing them to be mounted at the correct height. The servos connect to the main board for position control, however, an external supply had to be used to supply the necessary current to all the motors.

The software side has programs to translate notes into servo positions as well as connect to a web brower via MQTT and websockets. The basic user interface is simple and has buttons to connect to and send the keystrokes. The code, as well as the OpenSCAD designs, can be downloaded from GitHub. Check out the video below for a demo.

This project could be extended to an autonomous robot that plays tunes from the Internet. We are reminded of the rock throwing glockenspiel which was pretty cool and hope there are some permutations to come from both. Continue reading “Music-Loving BeagleBone”

Music Reading for Machines

“Dammit Jim, I’m a hacker, not a musician!”, to paraphrase McCoy Scotty from the original Star Trek series. Well, some of us are also musicians, some, like me, are also hack-musicians, and some wouldn’t know a whole note from a treble clef. But every now and then the music you want is in the form of sheet music and you need to convert that to something your hack can play. If you’re lucky, you can find software that will read the sheet music for you and spit out a MIDI or WAV file. Or, as with my hand-cranked music player, you may have to read just enough of the music yourself to convert musical notes to frequencies for something like a 555 timer chip. We’ll dive into both cases here.

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A Sound and LED-tastic Tricycle Shopping Cart

What do you get when you take a massive number of LEDs and combine them with a shopping cart and a bicycle? An awesome rave-mobile created by [kramerr]. He’s even taking it one step further by making the electronics solar powered.

[Kramerr] controls the LEDs with multiple WS2803 LED drivers. Three PIC18F4550s control the WS2803s over SPI. He devised a neat way of exciting the LEDs from music by using a pair of graphic equalizer display filter chips, MSGEQ7s, to drive the PICs to create patterns. A USB input also allows the PICs to display song titles or other information.

leds and boards

The mechanical design is as impressive as the electronics. The rear half of a bicycle is welded to the frame of the shopping cart with the cart’s handle used for steering. The shopping cart’s rear wheels are replaced by small bicycle wheels.

But [Kramerr] wasn’t done. He built his own solar panel since he couldn’t find one to fit the size requirements. The panel consists of 26 cells connected in series to provide 1A at 13V on a sunny day. A solar charge controller keeps a standard 12v lead acid battery ready to power the tricycle cart.

And there is still more! There is a sound system driven by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi also drives the USB inputs when [Krameer] wants to display song titles or artists instead of the audio patterns.

There are at least four hacks in this project each worthy of applause. [Karmeer] deserves an ovation for doing all of them in one project. If you are looking for less bling and less pedaling may we direct you to this powered, riding shopping cart.

Some rave music and lights via video after the break.

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