Epoxy for Attaching Stand-offs to Panels

Several people have written to ask me about the “liquid steel epoxy” I mention on this site. It turns out I was calling it the wrong thing; its correct name is Plastic Steel Epoxy. The manufacturer’s product page is here. I imagine that any epoxy would work for the task, but the Plastic Steel formula is stronger for metal-to-metal bonding than the other formulas. I would avoid using the “5-Minute” formulas because the longer set-up times of the other formulas make it easier to get the stand-offs into their proper locations. read more

DIY PC Boards

I’ve made a couple of PC boards in recent months, and thought I’d mention here the resources I’m using. For schematic capture and PCB layout and artwork generation, I’m using a newish program called DipTrace. After looking at as many PCB design programs as I could find on the web, I arrived at two conclusion: 1) most of them are really expensive, as in $1000 or more; 2) most of them have really arcane user interfaces that might seem appropriate to some CAD/CAM expert working in 1993 but are completely opaque by today’s standards. I don’t have very sophisticated PCB-design needs, so spending a bunch of money on a huge package and spending a bunch of time learning how to use it really doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, DipTrace is a happy exception. It’s fairly easy to learn and use and it’s reasonably priced (particularly if you can get away with the “lite” version, which should be adequate for most synthesizer modules). Its supporting programs are also easy to come to terms with. I’ve created new part diagrams without trouble, including a somewhat tricky pad and hole layout for a rotary encoder. There are some minor clunky points in the user interface, and I’ve found that the parts libraries tend to have very small annular rings, but overall I’m quite happy with it. (The rings can be manually adjusted, of course; the trick is to remember to make the adjustment before you fabricate the PCB.) I’ve used it to produce two PCBs and both have come out very nicely. read more

Why I Love Analog Sequencers, Exhibit 1

There’s a nice video here of someone demonstrating basic use of an analog sequencer, in Japanese. I have no idea what he’s saying but it looks like he’s using a Roland System 100.

Bad News, Good News for the Synthesizer-Building Community

The bad news is that Synthesis Technology will stop selling kits by the end of the year, and is discontinuing several modules altogether. The official announcement is here. (It’s worth noting that Paul’s having a 15% off sale soon.) While this is obviously a bummer for those of us who buy module kits from Paul, I’m glad that he’s staying in business in some manner. The related electronics industry sea-changes brought about by RoHS and the shift to SMT mean that small operations like Synth Tech have to either change or perish. read more

Online Review of Komposi003

There’s a review here of komposi003, the compilation CD on which my latest musical work appears (which you can read about elsewhere on this site, if you haven’t already). He’s right; it’s a good CD.

Modular Synth Blog Catch-Up

I think that the last module I built was a CGS Wave Multiplier. This module creates interesting timbres by folding triangle waves over on themselves. It’s hard to describe what it actually does (particularly since I’m not sure that I really understand what it actually does) but the net effect is that it creates timbral changes that can sound like filter sweeps, pulse-width modulation, or ring modulation. It adds a lot of character to a simple triangle or pulse wave, so you can get fairly interesting signals from just a single oscillator. If you feed several audio-frequency signals into its various inputs, you can get some really wild noises. read more

Blog Open Again, Sort Of

While there is no evidence here, I’ve been spending some time on this website again. I downloaded the 30-day trial of Dreamweaver and started building a new site with it. It’s a very nice program, but I came to a few conclusions. First, it’s way more than I need in terms of site design. It does all sorts of neat stuff, much of which I’ll never use and can’t be bothered to learn. Second, I now find site design and construction to be deadly dull work. I mean, it’s so screamingly dull that I can’t stand it. If I wanted to build web sites, I’d still be working as a web engineer for Rational Software. Third, given what I have in mind for my web site, I really need some sort of active-content thing. I need to be able to add articles, news items, and random little things (like this). I don’t want to have to fire up Dreamweaver just to post something about how the honeysuckle we planted last year has lots of leaf buds on it now (which it does), particularly since Dreamweaver’s license won’t let me put it on every computer in the house. Fourth, I can’t quite see spending $400 on Dreamweaver, given the previous points. read more

Blog Closed

After reading my last post, and then noticing that most of my last half-dozen or so posts all lean in a somewhat negative direction, I’ve decided to officially abandon this blog until further notice. My mother once told me “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I think she was being somewhat sarcastic at the time, but I also think that there’s some truth to it that’s relevant here. If the only thing I’m going to use this blog for is complaining, then there’s little point to it. You can find any number of complaints elsewhere; there’s no need for me to add to the vast amount of complaining going on in the world these days. The original idea was to use this blog to tell my family and friends what I’m up to, and it’s clearly not serving that purpose since I put much more into email to family and friends than I put here. It’s never been in my nature to keep a diary, despite many attempts at many times throughout my life, and a blog is more or less the same thing, made public. It’s even less in my nature to keep a public diary. read more