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Archive for August, 2010


V-Amp Pro firmware

I picked up a Behringer Vamp Pro and found the firmware was a few years out of date. A quick email to Behringer had the most recent firmware on its way to me. I’d seen lots of walk throughs on how you change the battery on a Vamp but not on the Pro version.

So armed will nothing more than a Phillips screwdriver, I took it apart and took photos of the insides. There are fourteen screws to take out. Four on each of the rack ears, and six on the main case where the front joins the back. Then just pry it apart.

Two ribbon cables join the front controls to the back and they unclip from the back, not the front. In the photos you can see the firmware chip. A small flat blade screwdriver will pop it out the socket but remember where the notch is so you can get the new one back in correctly.

The whole job took about fifteen minutes. Worked perfect on reassembly. I liked that part..


Pickup and go

Spent the day putting new pickups in the Hallmark. Why? Well the Hallmark has always had this dark sound to it and I wanted something along the line of a Tele. Of course the Hallmark Custom 60 is not even close to a Tele, so I’m not sure what I was expecting. Considering the price I paid for the two pickups, not much…

The pickups are from Guitar Fetish, apply named I might add. They are the Surf style pickups and not as hot as what was in there. So I thought…

Something I had overlooked was that workshop with Robert Godin. He sated that a guitar pickup was much like a microphone for a vocalist. To further that, if you didn’t start with a great sound you weren’t likely to find one later. He was very right. Seems that if the guitar isn’t made properly then it doesn’t vibrate and the pickups don’t sound quite right. I.e. Dark, muddy and so on. It’s the job of the bridge to make sure that the sound transfers to the body and doesn’t dampen the strings so the pickups work the best they can.

But, being the adventurous sort that I am, I figure for $35 a pickup, it would be a good experiment. Indeed I learned a lot. First off the new pickups wound at around 8k are a LOT hotter than I thought they would be. Second they do sound a lot better, even if I had to drill some new holes to mount them. The new holes can be covered by the original if I decided to swap back.

So a few hours later it was all done and I won’t be changing the pickups back. I like the new sound of them. Not fantastic like my Tele, but a heck of a lot better than they were.

Here’s the required photo shot to show what I started, changed and ended up with. Enjoy.


So you Telus..

Carol has been procrastinating forever about getting a new cell phone. She uses it a lot more than I’d ever use mine so while our initial thought was to get two, we ended up just getting her one.

First off just getting one is tough. Supply and demand made sure of that. Second, when it comes to picking plans it’s like picking theme packages for your cable tv. At one point we finally put the whole mess on a spread sheet just because it was easier to see the changes. Yes, it’s that bad in my opinion.

This afternoon she called a store that set aside an iPhone 4 for her. We drive to the shopping center and ask for the guy. No one in the store ever heard of “so and so”. Which should have been our first clue. We asked if there was another Telus store in the mall only to get am shrug of the shoulders from the salesman. Second red flag.

These sales people know their product inside and out. Right. If you ask what you get for your money they pull out the brochure and read it. Third red flag.

At any rate, Carol got her phone and told to call Telus and iron out any questions with them. Because the salesman said it was half and hour to get through and he didn’t have the time. Considering the store was empty I’m not sure what he didn’t have time for, except us.

As we left the store I spotted a mall directory and sure enough, there are TWO Telus stores. The second is at the other end of the mall. We went there and were nice enough to explain how we made a mistake and they were nice enough not to burn us at the stake….

With all these red flags we’d seen we should have figured it out. We didn’t. When we returned to the first store and mentioned this to the salesman we got nothing more than a stupid grin. I was wondering what a iPhone 4 would look like up his ..ah…nose.

Call us naive but when a store says Telus, you think it’s Telus. But in this case it’s just a bunch of partners who flog phones for them. While in the store I heard the banter between customers and management for warranty work. And it reminded us both of the clip joint car lots. Where the salesman would lie through his teeth to make a sale or avoid paying for warranty work ( did you know the the Blackberry track balls are prone to wear and not covered under warranty? Me neither).

So at this point I can say that the buying experience was about as pleasurable as dealing with a slimy used car salesman.

At least the high light of the day was that I didn’t need a bath when I got home. I got one at the cell phone store. Yeech.


The Moose is loose

I finished up the Midi control software today for the Highly Liquid Midi relay controller I built. Also managed to find a willing soul to help me beta test it. At the end of the testing phase I’m just going to give the software away any way.

The main Moose window:

As it happens I am also getting a Midi Cpu from Highly Liquid. This is a programmable Midi message generator. I’ve got an idea that with this and the MSA I can also make a standard and Midi controller looper pedal. Now that would be slick.


TV, Benefit or Bane

After having satellite tv for almost a year and finding next to nothing on, we finally broke down and bought a bunch of packages to get more selection. And of course, spent the day watching the PGA Tour event at Whistling Straits.

Then we watched some movies that we haven’t seen in forever.

Our conclusion, yes you can order the basic channels and service, but the channels that are worth watching are placed in specific groups and sold that way for a reason. Clever little guys those media providers…

However the saving grace of the day was the PVR. You can record what you want, watch it when you want and skip all those crappy commercials.

Thus I managed to almost finish my latest software project for programming my Midi controller. There’s a little bit left but not much. I called it Moose or Mels Object Orientated Sysex Environment. Whew, took me a while to think up that one….


My Light Is Complete

I finished up the Midi controller box today and wired in the light display. It’s got a lot of little fiddly connections in it but it works like champ.

I’m starting to write the software now to program it. That should be interesting.

As an aside I was out playing golf again today, managed a birdie and a lot of pars. Shot 80 at Northview. Only blew up on one hole or I would have broken into the 70’s…I’m bbbaaaccckkk…:-)

Here’s the controller mounted and wired in the box:

With the lid on, the LEDs show the state of the outputs (that makes it simple when you are trouble shooting these things)

The back of the unit. The red wire is for supplying power to my led strip lighting.

This is the etch plexiglass sign that I am lighting up. Here’s the primary colors showing. I also have yellow and white installed as well.


Kind of a Kit

I finally got my MIDI kit from Highly Liquid. Basically it’s a programmable midi controller that will drive eight relays according to program changes, CC or note messages.

Highly Liquid MSA-R

Although advertised as a “kit” that’s not really accurate in the normal sense of kits that I’ve built in the last 40 years. You get a circuit board and all the parts. There is no schematic or assembly instructions included. You have to download those and print them out. Even at that, there is no “put this part here” hand holding checklist.

Thus this is kit in the raw form of the word. If you’ve never assembled these kinds of things before, it is going to be more than a little daunting. Since I have about 40 plus years of this behind me, it wasn’t much of a problem.

So here’s what you get in the box of parts you order:

After you open all the little bags you get all the little bits and pieces:

When you assemble all the parts on the circuit board, and I made some changes to my board so it was easier to plug in the led lights, you end up with this:

At this point I have started adding in the power connections and it shown with the box it’s eventually going to be mounted in.

So that’s about it, more to follow as I get it built.


Led Strip Lighting

Carol and I were testing the led strip lights that I get from the RC helicopter places against the led lights that you can find the big box building stores. The big box stores have the Leds that are about 3 watts and more like mood lighting that anything else.

These photos show the difference. The led strip is 36″ long, there are 60 Leds. Current draw is 400ma at 12volts dc. The power must be regulated because you can burn out the LEDs if you try more than 13 volts.

Here is the link for the lights

Led strip lights

Typical puck under counter LEDs

The strip lights:



I spent the entire day doing a make over of my Journal program. I added functionality to sync with iCal both way, with some caveats, but it does work and looks a heck of a lot better than it did.

Here’s a before and after photo:


Linear thinking in an objective world

I’ve discovered the secret of getting things done when you get over whelmed. Do them all at the same time!

My brothers laptop needed to be completely reformatted and set up again, our DSL connection is being upgraded, the router isn’t connecting properly and needs new settings, I need to finish the software update for two of my programs, I have to lay down a track for a new song that I wrote, have to do a sample reverb a/b track for a friend, need to set up two 500GB hard drives and install OS X10.4 on them in a Raid 1 array, build the MIDI controller for my studio, and probably a couple other things I missed.

Considering that I am retired, I’m trying to figure out how I ever managed to get all those things done when I was working. Maybe it just took longer…

So let’s see, what was I doing again? Oh yea, reformatting the router, putting a MIDI controller in the laptop, tracking a song with blank hard drives, spraying Raid on the software and put DSL on the reverb.

Amazing how the logical mind gets all of these things in order!


Now when was that…

A long time ago, like twenty plus years ago when I was in the active work force, I was a shift worker. Something I never minded doing, but if someone asked you what you were doing on such and such a date, you generally had no idea.

So I wrote a shift workers calendar, made a web version so other people could use it and gave it away to the world. You could see at a glance when you were working, what shift it was for any date you wanted. It was slick but a one trick pony.

Along came Apple with iCal and people started to use it. As a generic application it worked, but it was ugly to setup shifts. Some improvements have been made to it over the years but it’s still not what I’d call user friendly.

Any way computers progressed and I’ve updated my program any number of times over the years. Around 1998 I decided to add a personal diary to it and enhance the calendar portion. Thus Journal was born out of the digital bits and pieces. I put it up for sale, but never really cared if it made money or not. I needed it for me. Although my goal was to write in the Journal, I never really did it much. So that part languished.

Carol started using it at some point (2003 I think), more than me actually, and uses it as a day timer, which it’s not, and types a daily diary entry. Where she finds bugs or problems, I fix them. She’s good at finding things…

Since we are both getting a iPhone, she said it would be really nice if I could write the same app for the iPhone. But the iPhone is a different market, everything goes through iTunes and I have no idea how to write for it, nor the costs in volved.

Which leads me to the gist of this rant and rumble. What if I could read and write to the Macs iCal and that could be viewed on the iPhone? If you added an event on the iPhone, Journal would pick it up and vice versa. So two days and about 14 hours later, I had it working. True you don’t get the Journal diary entries but the calendar was hers and mine main interest anyway.

Apparently retirement has completely killed my programming skills…here’s the results from Journal, iCal, and the iPad (don’t have the iPhone yet…)


Computer repair and updates, oh my..

I’ve been doing some form of computer repair, modifications, or updates for so long that I actually have trouble remembering when it started. At some point my digital curiosity enabled me to comprehend beyond most mere normal, well adjusted, mortals…thus I became a savvy troubleshooter and a good software programmer.

While I’ve always enjoyed programming, doing trouble shooting isn’t really as rewarding. The standard situation is you show up in an office where some computer(s) are misbehaving and listen to the users description of what the problem is. Then you need to translate user-speak into what the actual problem is. This first hurdle is what separates the good trouble shooters from the not so good ones.

See, users are, well, users. They use and have no clue how it actually works. In the real world they shouldn’t have to know how something works in order to use it either. I mean if you had to know how something works before you could use it, there’d be a lot less drivers on the road. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a rattle or clunk in our cars and taken it to a service center for evaluation. And during the explanation you might notice the mechanic gets that distant deer in the headlights look. Don’t worry, it’s not that he’s thinking you’re a dufus, he’s translating…

So after you fix the problem, no one wants to hear the harrowing tales of saving their hard drives from disaster. Nope, they want you out of the chair so they can get back to work. Thus the faster you work the sooner they can get back to work. Of course they are thankful, they pay the bill and you slink away into the night…

By the way, users think that you automatically knew all this stuff. Which is about as far from the actual fact as it can get. I still remember the first router I bought. Got it home and proceeded to read the manual and didn’t understand two words of it. Three days later I figured that sucker out. Yep, educated myself in three days. Now it’s a piece of cake.

So remember every top notch trouble shooter started out as a user. And then something went horribly wrong…