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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » emSynth
Diary of a Madman
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:17 pm    Post subject: Diary of a Madman
Subject description: Les discusses emSynth
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With great pleasure I return to electro-music.com's forum after a long medical leave. I've been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes for a year and a half now and it feels really good to be back home for a few months now. I have a doctor, a provider, and a nurse all caring for me at home, ensuring my health is well treated.

And it is working out well as I am losing weight at a fairly rapid clip. Gone are the days of binging on alcohol and fast food, replaced by healthy food purchased and prepared by my provider who strictly follows my doctor's requirements. There's nothing in that kitchen that I can't eat, and quitting drinking never felt so good.

All these changes to my personal life are good news for synthesizer hobbyists everywhere because it means that I can now direct my fully concentrated efforts (or at least some relaxed subset of them) to this emSynth project. The result is turning out to be a real winner as we already have circuit boards and parts in hand and ready to assemble for customers.

Welcome to this thread on my adventures - in a sort of public diary form - related to emSynth and my life in general. Rants, raves, praises, prayers, and hopeful wishes all included plus tons of other fun to read stuff as well will be here, so read on and stay tuned for mayhem and calamity as I stumble my way forward along the path of sole proprietorship!

Les

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inlifeindeath



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Congrats Les! Can't wait to see what you come up with Smile
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It is now Wednesday evening. As most people prepare for bed to rest before work tomorrow, I choose instead to be a night owl (as well as day creature), napping from time to time for a couple of hours at a time. I spent last night and much of the day today working on a VCO program with a four bit R2R ladder on the output and two analog inputs sensing a pair of pots. One pot is for gain and the other frequency.

As luck would have it, I may have bitten off more than I can chew here because I just don't seem to be able to get this program off the ground and into soaring flight. For some reason I get what looks like wavelets in response to every output drive command instead of changing levels. It does sound interesting, but it's not what I want.

The good news is that the gain knob does control gain and the frequency knob does control frequency - thank God for small favors! This also means that most of the program is working. So why is it that the outputs spike instead of remaining consistent? I really don't know. Because of this I plan to wire up a much simpler circuit and just make a fixed oscillator for starters, then make mods to it one at a time until I realize the cause of the problem.

The good news is that the LED blinker program and RGB LED color shift program work just fine. Most likely the issue resides in the use of the micros(); function which reports microseconds of time since program start as an unsigned long variable. Whatever it is, I hope to find out in the next few days because parts for the ten sold emSynth boards will be arriving tomorrow.

I feel that it is important for me to go through these issues myself so I can warn and teach and help customers with the same issues. In fact, I do have a realistic appreciation for the fact that customer service is key to a successful business. I'm asking for your hard-earned cash so I need to provide you with plenty of value for your money. With a product this complex, support is critical.

That's the reason for this forum and for the chatroom as well, plus I'm available via email, telephone, and facebook. So please do realize that your are not alone in isolation when the tough stuff happens, there is support.

Well my buddy wants to Skype so gotta go now, fare well!

Les

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

inlifeindeath wrote:
Congrats Les! Can't wait to see what you come up with Smile


many thanks!

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Today I figured out why the VCO program was not working: it is because the sin(); function is not implemented in the ATtiny85 Arduino programming environment. Rather than give an error or a warning, it simply malfunctioned. That's why I got these sort of wavelet looking pulses instead of levels.

So I will solve the problem by using a table lookup function for the sine wave generation. With a 4 bit DAC we have 16 levels from gnd to Vcc, so a 32 byte table will suffice for this purpose. There are tricks to lower the table size which could get it down to about as few as four bytes, but why? The tricks would probably take more code than just a brute force implementation.

So I will finish out the day re-coding the VCOR2R.ino program to use table look-up and we will see how things go after that. It sure feels good to have figured that out after all the wondering and guesswork.

Les

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elmegil



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Inventor wrote:
It sure feels good to have figured that out after all the wondering and guesswork.

Les


Ain't that the truth Smile
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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elmegil wrote:
Inventor wrote:
It sure feels good to have figured that out after all the wondering and guesswork.

Les


Ain't that the truth Smile


And so it is, elmegil! But wait! Stop the presses! I was wrong about that. I have now figured out what was wrong properly and it's not at all surprising. As it turns out, I have been using lots of ints and floats and even unsigned longs where appropriate in a normal Arduino program (actually called a "sketch").

Standard fare right? An int is an int, a float is a float, and that's about all - use freely right? Wrong! Let's think about this a bit more carefully. The ATtiny85 is just that: tiny; it has an 8 bit wide data bus and every int or float is 32 bits wide. So every time I use an int to represent a number that poor little processor has got to schlep around four bytes, use four registers, move four thingies, and basically do everything four times. Slowness personified!

Then I'm asking it to calculate a sine wave function, a feat in and of itself, from a float into a double (as it is defined), so the output value is actually 64 bits wide - yowza! No wonder I thought the sine wave function was the culprit! It was in fact delay that created these woes - so what is the answer to this dilemma? Must we scrap Arduino programming altogether?

Nay I say! We have our new friends the humble byte and the lowly boolean rushing to the rescue yay! I coded up an example program wiggling all six pins in a kind of wacky exclusive-ORed way and it just plain screamed like a screamin' meemie of a bat out of Hell - so fast it was annoying to hear whining away on the speakers.

So questions remain such as how shall we establish anything akin to a sample rate and what are good minimalist programming techniques (use bytes and booleans where possible), however the main bulk of the problem is solved.

And that's a huge relief to me because I thought for a moment that I'd have to refund customers and eat some crow or something - nay! Neigh I seigh! Neigh like a horse in triumph because the mystery is solved, and for real this time!

Peace out,

Les

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mosc
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great to have you back on the forum, Les. Great also that you are getting control of your health. You live in luxury. I wish I had someone to procure all my food to make sure I'm as healthy as possible.
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:
Great to have you back on the forum, Les. Great also that you are getting control of your health. You live in luxury. I wish I had someone to procure all my food to make sure I'm as healthy as possible.


wow, thanks for helping me to realize that. yeah it's nice. I'm losing weight like a Swedish mountainclimber these days, just had ribeye for dinner too. yum!

So I got this wild idea. I'm going to build an emSynth system with what I figure will be six by seven, or 42 emSynth boards connected in a six by seven loop. Then I will interface it with the USB on the bottom of my Android phone and mount it with this amazing velcro my brother gave me on the back of the emSynth breadboard.

Then I could do Synth type stuff or AI or song learning heuristics or whatever I want with these emSynth processors. nice eh?

Les

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

OMG, i just saw the emSynth banner ad, wow thanks Howard!

Les --==({|})==--

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Today I mellowed out and chatted with friends, went to morning prayer in sl, and generally goofed off. work again on monday. i did make the first emSynth board into a double board tho.

Les

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Off to a slow start this week, have the parts to build customer boards but had a new provider and a nurse visit today, plus dealt with two requests for work. Will build the boards tomorrow morning.

Interestingly I may have an opportunity to open up shop at an art museum. I'd be given a work space and the chance to be sort of a "Mr Wizard" type, showing off all the tech that I build and teaching classes. This could be good for my social life perhaps.

Les

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mosc
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good luck on getting the Mr. Wizard gig, Les. You're a natural...

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2013 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Heeeh, Howard ty! I'll tell them you said so.

In the past few days I built the customer boards for the US orders. It's a bit more involved than you might think as this is a learning process full of subtle details like alignment and position of the daughtercard connectors, construction and use of a working test fixture plus corresponding programming, etc.

The nice thing is that the test fixture caught a solder joint that I completely missed soldering, preventing it from going out the door to a customer like that! I'm glad I decided to do testing after all.

The next step is to build just one more board so I can send out a double order to each of the customers for their patience in waiting an extra week for unexpected delays. Then I get to figure out how to get UPS to provide materials, labeling, postage, etc for two packages. The first time is usually the most difficult for new things, so after these two it gets a bit better.

Les

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State Machine
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yay Les, glad your doing much better and that your burning the midnight oil doing what you love to do. Life is good my friend. I pray for your continued health, strength, and your success in all your pursuits. Your a fighter sir and that's a very respectable attribute and I DO respect that. Hope to meet up with you once again soon. Be strong and never give up !

Your friend
Bill
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Inventor
Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Bill, so great to hear from you again! Thank you for the kind words, they touched my heart. I've been using some of those parts you sent me some time ago, especially the capacitors and some of the chips. It's great to have a selection to choose from on a limited budget. I do plan to attend em events in the future as I get in better health and finances, time will tell, so hopefully we will meet and have some more good times in person!

On the emSynth frontier I was finally able to program a nice musical demo of a single emSynth board making music. It turned out pretty well and is attached here, enjoy!

Les


emSynth Demo 2.mp3
 Description:
this demo shows off the capabilities of a single emSynth board in action -- better stuff to follow!

Download
 Filename:  emSynth Demo 2.mp3
 Filesize:  2.24 MB
 Downloaded:  135 Time(s)


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

When I realized that the first demo was a one note song, well that simply would not do! So here is a demo with tonal variation.

Les


emSynth Demo 3.mp3
 Description:
emSynt demo, this time with tonal variation

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 Filename:  emSynth Demo 3.mp3
 Filesize:  712.7 KB
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I finally shipped out my 'merican orders with double chips for being late and an extra board for an overcharge. The UPS guy was amazing, he showed up after work to hand fill-out paperwork so UPS could carry my packages. 2nd day air no less. And FedEx is delivering my next day air packages in well under 24 hours. I'm happy with both.

Les

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krellmusician



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Received my boards and chips today. I'm sorry to say I was less than impressed with the packaging; it gives all new meaning to the phrase "shipping and handling."

The items arrived in a small bubble-wrap-lined envelope. The chips were in conductive foam, in an electrostatic shielding bag -- so far, so good. The boards, however, were bare, with the daughterboard pins of at least one board poking through the side of the envelope.

When I removed the boards, one row of daughterboard pins on each board had several pins bent at nearly right angles. The third board had bent pins on both rows. Any attempts to straighten the pins resulted in weakening them to the point of breakage. I'll have to unsolder the header rows and attach new ones for them to be usable.

I would frankly recommend availing yourself of one of the fixed-price shipping options available through the USPS; their smallest box can hold quite a few small items such as these.

Alternatively, pack the boards as you pack the chips, with the pins embedded in fairly substantial foam or thick corrugated cardboard, then wrap the whole shooting match with bubble wrap or similar padding, then put it in the padded envelope.


boards.1.jpg
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boards.1.jpg



boards.2.jpg
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

KrellMusician, I am soldering three replacement boards right now. I will send them in a box via USPS to you tomorrow. Keep the existing boards. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and for sharing the photos.

Les

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

As for the existing boards, i would just take some cutters and remove all the daughtercard pins from those boards. You don't need a daughtercard all the time and then you'll have three to accept the daughtercard when it becomes available.

Les

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2013 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Second set of boards arrived today, in perfect condition. Thanks, Les!
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

At this point I'm a bit confused about what's going on here, but I can say for sure that I'm in a good position because of emSynth. Here's what I mean.

After a huge amount of attention from presumably interested potential customers, I get only three actual customers, one of which is a buddy of mine. Something ain't right in Denmark, that's for sure.

So here I am sitting on some 180 or so emSynth circuit board blanks with no likely possibility of selling them. hmmm. what shall I ever do? Lots of things! I can make synthesizers, yes, and so much more! In fact tonight I just wired one up as an optical alarm for security purposes. Another few of them I have realized can be used to make a motion detecting football which could be an interesting product. And just about anywhere that I need a little bit of CPU to drive something or sense something or whatever, I've got it.

It's a maker's dream situation! So am I bitter about the situation? Heck no! I'm thankful and joyful. A few months ago i had zero minicomputing solution, and now i have 180 such boards! yay! I can't wait to see what I create this time!

Les

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Paul Schreiber mentioned something similar. He bought some chips (CEM or something) that everyone said "yah, I want some" and then it took him several years to recoup the investment because hardly anyone actually bought them.

I am sadly far overcommitted with other projects right now to try this out as well, but I've been watching with interest. Hopefully you can get more sales so it doesn't take you several years....
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Keep writing up what you are creating. The diversity of ideas you present will inspire other and they may see uses for these things that they didn't see before.
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