Monday, 9 July 2012

Getting the M-Audio Fast Track II working in Ubuntu Studio 12.04, the unnecessarily hard way

As a hobbyist guitar player, I like to record parts here and there to aid in song composition (read: filling my hard drive with completely unrelated 13 second riffs).  Getting tired of the noisy signals I was getting by feeding my guitar in through unbalanced cables to an ancient, generic soundcard, I figured it was time I catch up to the rest of the world and get a USB soundcard.

My initial test was with an MBox Mini 2 from digidesign - looks like a decent unit and was recommended in high esteem  from a friend of mine:
"I'm a big stupid asshole jerk and won't work with linux lolfag"

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mac MagSafe T-Charger Repair

A friend of mine came to me with a broken Laptop charger for her Mac.  "LOL APPLE SUXXX" I told her.  "At last! An opportunity to get a new computer!!" I informed her. But she insisted I help repair her trendy piece of garbage.  Oh well.

She had already completely diagnosed the problem, which was nice.  More importantly, she didn't come up with some bat-shit crazy idea of why it was broken, which is usually what happens when non-technical people reach beyond their grasp. The problem here being that the MagSafe charging connector had a bad connection to the cable: she had to wiggle it to get it working, and had been doing so for quite some time.

Trendy charger, Reproduced from

Usually this is a simple fix - cut out the sketchy section of wire and re-attach the connector.  However, as I'll soon detail, it got a little more complicated.

I began by undressing the sexy, sleek charging connector.  This involved slicing it's trim and toned sides with a Box Knife, and peeling back its clothing with my teeth a small jewelers screwdriver.

Let me take that off for you...

The next step involves removing tiny, little pins that are presumably inserted by prematurely born dwarf-children.  Despite me not having one of them handy to remove it, I used a bent paperclip.  You can see the pinholes on the white connector.  Removing these little bastards allows you to remove the magnetic bit:

MacGuyver points++
Normally, you would slice off the plastic casing above, and desolder the power connections to remove the head.  The Apple gods had other plans for me tho:

When God gives you Apples, get a new God.
Part of my friends problem, is that her year or so of wiggling actually broke the connections to the power pins themselves!  At this point I began to pray for dainty, newborn asian child hands.

As it turns out, it's really trendysexyfresh to put a PCB inside the connector.  At least I assume so, because its literally stupid as fuck. Why not put that little circuit inside the laptop, and enjoy a simpler connector?  Probably so that people are forced to buy more $70+ power adapters.  Which is probably sexy, considering you get to go into sleek, specially-designed outlet stores for your replacement....

A PCB inside the connector? Buncha jerks.
Unfortunately, I was too busy soldering miniature pins to a crowded PCB to take more pictures of the process.  But I assure you, it sucked.  After that hour+ of fine soldering, it remained to reattach the head to a different spot on the cable:

Shown above: the easy part

Replace the plastic insulation shroud with some electrical tape, and reinsert the tiny pin things:

And finally, wrap up the repair with a shimmering new coat of electrical tape.


And thats how its done! 


PS, fuckyouapple

Monday, 16 April 2012

Nixie tube, arduino tomfoolery

Is there anything cooler than Nixie tubes and arduinos?  The objective answer is no. When I stumbled across some discarded physics lab equipment featuring these elusive, glassy beauties. I knew what I had to do.

The discarded junk gods also granted me 11 working relays, and a high voltage (~250V) DC power supply to injure myself play with. Given that I dont have any 250V-capable semiconductors handy, I decided it would be interesting to pursue a relay-based design.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Guitar amp modding

Sometimes that buy off Kijiji wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, and you wind up with a $40 footrest.  Sometimes, though, you will not take this laying down, and will do your damnedest to polish a turd.  This is one of those times.  Enter, the Nova:

 Fig 1: A piece of junk funk?

This thing boasted an acceptable clean channel, but the "Overdrive" on it sounded something like Inuit throat singing being piped through a colostomy bag.  This thing sucked out loud, even for $40.... that's saying something.
So, instead of shelling out for a distortion pedal, or even being sensible enough to throw out this shabby thing, I decided to take the geekiest route possible and modify it into something acceptable.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Junk Monitor Repair...?

As an active packrat and avid DIY-guy, I often take it upon myself to fix busted junk that I come across.  This usually treats me pretty well.  Today, as I stumbled across this beauty, I couldnt resist:

Fig 1: Magic pornography box needs repair

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Various workshops online

Follow this link to access materials for various workshops I have done with UMIEEE.  I hereby decree them published under the CC BY-NC-SA license

Stuff you will find:
  • MSP430 tutorial materials
  • C language programming tutorial
  • a shoddy linux primer

Monday, 6 February 2012

Light Bottle

I found myself restless and extremely hungover one day.  Not to be one to sit in bed and rest, I decided inhaling solder fumes for a few hours might make me forget about the sins against my liver.

I decided to start by building a string of parallel LEDs.  Figured it would probably lead somewhere interesting...


For my Digital Systems Implementation class, I was tasked with making a MOSFET out of something that is not a MOSFET.

I was scratching my head over what to make this thing out of while grocery shopping, and came across some small watermelons.  The delicious result:

It operates as such:
  • Watermelon N-channel
  • Kiwi P-Channel Wells
  • Pineapple insulation layer
  • Canteloupe Gate/metal connections
MOSFRUITs let you control a large amount of deliciousness with a small amount of effort.

Biznass Boombox

In preparation for the Decentralized Dance Party, I decided to make a business-themed boombox most righteous and true.  Find below the buildlog...

First, I set out with the plan to construct this out of the following:
  • A solid briefcase (not soft-leather)
  • A battery-powered boombox
  • Speakers of some variety
  • Some sort of stylish speaker cover
Finding a briefcase for cheap was not an easy process... but I eventually haggled one out of a local flea market regular for $30.  Kind of steep, but not horrible.  The boombox was a donation of a former roommate, and the speakers were picked up at a local thrift shop

Here we see a dry fit of the speakers on the briefcase, as well as a collander to make a slick speaker-cover.

Apartment finding script

Need to find an apartment?  Turnover times got ya down? Throw this bash script on a cron job and never miss a posting again!

Requires: *nix, mailx, cron, an apartment agency that lists their vacancies online.

Click "Read more" for the code listing

Webcam mouse interaction in X11

After taking a class in Computer Vision not so long ago, I often find myself straining to think of a cool project that takes advantage of what I have learned.  Finally, after a solid week of banging my head against other schoolwork, I decided I should take a break and code up something fun.  In other news, I have no idea what fun is.

My initial goal was to take input from a webcam, track the users finger, and use it to move the mouse cursor.  Pretty ambitious!   Although the finger is still a long ways off, I have it tracking red rings.  Code available here.