April 5, 2016

Geez, What Have I Been Doing?

I just looked at my blog and I see that I haven't posted any new content for a while. Sorry about that, folks. (That is, the two of you who read my blog... hi, mom!)

There's a lot going on in life right now, and I haven't had the time to dabble as much as I would like. However, there are a few things in the pipeline.

First, I'm working on a 'Magic Mirror' project. I took the seminal work by Michael Teeuw and I've cranked it up to 11 (maybe even 12). With the newly-introduced Raspberry Pi 3 that includes Wi-Fi, I'm excited about the project. Currently, I'm working on code to handle recurring calendar events, which is a royal PITA. iCal file format data can have date/time information presented in a variety of formats, some of which require parsing out timezone data, and that bugaboo of all time calculations: determining whether a time is in Daylight Savings Time or not. So that's on the horizon.

I also recently became (re-) interested in Ray Wilson's musicfromouterspace.com website. He has a variety of analog noisemaker circuits posted on his site and I've been dreaming of building one for a while. They just look like a whole lot of fun! I wanted to do this when my kids were 3 and 4 years old and didn't get around to it. Well, last night I started laying out a circuit board for the "Weird Sound Generator" using surface mount components. I'm going to bolt on an audio amplifier and a headphone jack. Maybe I'll also bolt on some of his other circuits, such as his Echo Rockit. I'm setting a self-imposed deadline of ordering parts this weekend so that I have something to present to y'all soon, even if analog sound synth isn't exactly the digital stuff that I really enjoy doing. These projects just look like so much fun, and they look like they can be built quickly, and hey-- what's not to like about a front panel with a dozen or so potentiometers and as many toggle switches? I'd also like to add a digital circuit that takes an ADC, a microcontroller, and a USB port and stores the generated sounds on a USB thumb drive. (And, dare I dream, build on that to make a multitrack recorder?) Yes, I know that putting a USB port on an analog synth crosses the line into 'unholy abomination,' but hey, I'm just that kind of guy!

I'm also toying with the idea of taking many of the analog ideas on Ray's site and creating a software synth in Windows that allows you to drag and drop analog blocks like VCOs, LFOs, filters, etc and virtually connect them in any arrangement that you'd like.

I've also long dreamt of building a Yamaha DX7 clone in a microcontroller. That's still an idea but I have no immediate plans to work on it.

I'd still like to participate in the SparkFun AVC, but that's going to take a serious time commitment, and I'm just not sure that I'm going to be able to spare that kind of time. I've applied to two graduate degree programs recently and hope to be back in school soon.

Oh yeah-- I did install an Android based head unit to replace my car's stereo, and that was kind of fun, but so many parts of it are vehicle-specific that it didn't seem worthy of a writeup.

So, nothing to report right now, but by posting a promise to you to have something soon, I'm motivating myself to heat up the soldering iron.

February 25, 2013

I Have a Real Audience!

I started this blog as a personal project, mainly as a way for me to document my own projects and to motivate myself to tinker some more. I never really imagined that anyone would have the slightest interest in what I had to write.

I was a couple of days late paying the renewal registration for my domain last week, so GoDaddy 'parked' thehackerworkshop.com. I was surprised and flattered that several of you wrote to me, pleading to get the site back up.

This, more than anything, is motivation for me to get the workshop built and get back to hacking. I've still got (at least) a few weeks of construction and move-in before I can start tinkering again, but knowing that there are people out there who are reading my writing is just incredible.

Thanks for the comments. You can't imagine how much they're appreciated.

February 9, 2012

Working Behind the Scenes

Wow, I just realized that it's been a long, long time since I've posted any content.

I promise that I'm not neglecting my hacking/making! In fact, I've been spending vast amounts of time on a project that I hope to release shortly. Surprisingly, it's a software project, but it's definitely hardware related. In short, I recently realized how hard it can be to write sketches for the Gameduino platform and I want to remedy that.

I'm not ready to release any details yet, but I'm spending tens of hours per week on this project (which my wife and sons aren't too thrilled about) and am making steady, measurable progress.

I'm very excited about the project and can't wait to get it out to the world. It's just not ready yet. I just wanted to stop by here and assure you (that is, the two people who read my blog) that I am indeed hard at work on a worthy hacking project and the lack of posts on my blog doesn't indicate a lack of interest on my part.

November 18, 2011

Site Hacked

Well, somehow some vandals managed to take control of my website and replace my content with their own. I don't know how it happened and because it took a while for me to discover the issue, my ISP wasn't much help determining the root cause.

The good news is that the WordPress database was intact, and that I had a backup of my theme files. I was able to restore (for the most part) with little difficulty. I lost a custom table in one of my posts, and I'll have to replace a few graphics files. All in all, not a terrible spot to be in. I mentioned a while back that I wanted to invest some time in automated backups of my site. Guess what I never got around to. Maybe this will motivate me.

July 1, 2011

New Web Host

My old ISP, MochaHost.com, did some kind of "migration" that has left me without web or email access for over a week. Their incompetent support staff seems to think that the issue is 'fixed' when this site's home page took 50+ seconds to load, and I couldn't access my IMAP email box. They blamed it on the Plesk control panel (you know, the one that they apparently decided to install before doing any testing).

Screw 'em. I got a new web host.

My warning: don't do business with MochaHost. Their service (even when it was 'working' by a loose definition of the term) is unreliable and slow. And an outage that lasts for over a week is simply inexcusable in anyone's book. They haven't offered to move my sites to a working server. Their response has been, "this issue is due to a bug in <software that they decided to install>. We're looking at finding a different control panel for our users." They offered me a preview of the new control panel but didn't offer to move my data to the server with the new control panel.

As I said: screw 'em. MochaHost sucks.

April 5, 2011

Site Redesign Complete

Well, I redesigned the website. Not that I have any visitors so anyone would notice. I just finished the last niggling CSS issue and think that, for now at least, the current theme works well. I'm going to work on an automated backup system next. Maybe some PHP scripts saving to Amazon's S3 cloud service. (By the way, you can get 5GB of storage from Amazon for free, and 20GB if you buy an MP3 album. Check out the new Cloud Drive product and sign up!)

March 22, 2011

Site Rebuild

I had to rebuild the website this weekend. I had installed WordPress and, without really knowing what I was doing, hacked a theme I'd downloaded (one that was not designed for WordPress) into it. I somehow managed to break my RSS feeds in the process.

So I gave myself a crash course in WordPress, CSS, and themes this weekend. I'm still working on polishing it (comments aren't working yet, for instance) but at least now it's a maintainable structure.

In the process, I exported and imported all the existing content. It seems that Categories and Tags didn't survive the export/import. Not a big loss. I recreated them by hand. (Easy to do when there's only ~16 posts in the history of the site.)

I'll try to get comments working as soon as possible. You know, for the two readers I currently have.

March 6, 2011

RSS Feeds are Messed Up

The RSS feeds for the blog entries and comments are.... broken. In a really odd way. I'm aware of the problem and am working on it. Google Reader and Firefox are able to somehow parse the feeds, but Outlook and IE (rightly) complain about the RSS.

March 1, 2011

Coming Online, and the 555 Contest

I'm just now getting the website set up and WordPress configured. Hopefully I'll figure it all out before I get visitors to my site.

In other news, the 555 contest ends today at midnight EST. I'm just amazed by this contest. Jeri and Chris had an idea, they tweeted about it, and were able to put together a high-profile electronics design contest and solicit quite a few prizes from major sponsors. Kudos to Jeri Ellsworth and Chris Gammell for putting this together; it's not every day you see an entire worldwide online community come together. This contest will live on in engineering folklore, I'm sure.

I can't wait to see the entries.