Sunday, September 15, 2013


If you weren't already aware, there's this new product concept going around called Phonebloks. With the attention it's starting to get, I thought I'd throw my hat into the discussion. The basic concept is an almost lego approach to the concept of smart phones. Every part of your phone is made up of building blocks, i.e the processor, camera, screen, radio, etc. What Phonebloks aims to do is modularize each of those blocks. In this way if your phone is too slow, you can easily swap out the processor block for a faster one. Your screen breaks, swap out the display.

Let me start by saying this, I in no way want to discourage people who think this project is a good idea. This is merely my observation. I've seen a lot of projects like this. I remember a couple years ago there being a computer that you would be able to roll up like a mat and carry with you; the video for which can still be found on YouTube. The thing that you have to remember when seeing these ideas for products is that most of the time they're not designed by engineers or anyone who understands the nitty-gritty of the design. More often than not, they're designed by industrial design majors as part of a final project. From what I've seen of this project, that seems to be the case for this as well.

Lets start with the biggest selling point of the product, the modules. Every piece connects to a sort-of perf board via copper connectors on the back of each module. Each module can be placed in any spot on the board and configured in any way. Anyone who has ever attempted to connect a USB cable the wrong way can understand why this concept won't work. They're has to be a standard as to where each connection goes so that components don't get damaged and everything can communicate properly. Which brings up another issue, standards. There are at least 2 standards. Look at text; there's UTF-8 and UTF-16. DVD, there was laser disc, standard definition, high definition, HD-DVD, and now Bluray. I can't image that every component on the phone is going to have the same pinout, and be able to interact with other components in the same way.

I think what I'm trying to say is that while this is an interesting concept, you should be aware of who's designing such a thing. Are they actually a professional in fields that would have to design such a thing? Or are they someone who thought of a cool idea and were able to make excellent visuals to represent it? My prediction, don't expect to see anything like this on store shelves anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

AVR Synthesizer Kit

If you remember a while ago, I mentioned that I had built an AVR based digital synthesizer and had entered it in an Instructables musical instruments competition. While I didn't win the contest, I did at least make it to the final voting round, so thanks to everyone who had voted for my project. However I do still have that synth and all of the design files and code. 

So what I want to do is turn this project into a simple kit. It will have all of the functionality of my project, but with a few changes (See those links for more info). There are still a few things that need to be ironed out, the manufacturer of the PCB for example. To get an idea of how many people would be interested in this kit, I ask that anyone who is interested follow this link, to register your interest. I need about 50 people to express their interest so that the price of the board can be kept under $10 for production. The total cost of the kit is looking to be about $40, without shipping. If I do get a good number of people, and everything else works out, everyone who registered their interest will get an email with a link to place your order. Hopefully you should get your email by the end of the month or early next.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Healthy Dose of Dentistry

So yesterday I had my wisdom teeth out. And as I write this, I'm lying in bed enjoying the lovely effects of Vicodin. So until my wounds have healed I don't expect any videos out this week. However I am still responding to my email and answering your comments; so if you need to get in contact with me you can.

I've been doing some thinking. I've been getting some positive response to my digital synthesizer, and I've had some requests as to my code and schematics. This has lead me to this thought, I create a kit for the synthesizer. If that is something you the reader would be interested in, let me know. I have a couple other ideas for some kits as well, but I'll wait to see if there's any response to the synthesizer kit.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Toys

So I finally bit the bullet and bought myself an oscilloscope. Not a fancy $3500 tabletop setup, but a nice DSO nano v3 pocket oscilloscope. Why is this a big thing, well, I've never done that much that has ever required the use of an oscilloscope. The first thing I ever used an oscilloscope for was when I played around with generating analog television signals. But now that I'm working on some synthesizers, I'm doing more with analog electronics and having this tool should prove to be incredibly useful. You can also expect ot see it make an appearance in some upcoming videos.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

AVR Synthesizer

In case you didn't know, I've been working on an AVR based synthesizer. You can check out some of the videos that show it off here, here, and here. Since then I've been working on getting the source code, schematics, and documentation together so that you can build your own. Now with the new GitHub setup, I've published all of the files, schematics and documentation. Please read the ReadMe as there is some important stuff in there and I'm always happy to take questions if something in what I've published doesn't make sense. Check it out.

On a related note, I'm putting in some more work on this to enter it into a project on Instructables. I'm going to enter it into 2 categories: the musical instruments and Arduino contests. If you belong to Instructables and like my project, go ahead and give it a vote. If I do win, I will be returning the favor to my audience with a few giveaways. I'll post again when I have the entry ready with a link.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Change of Scenery

As some of you know, I like to make the code and notes used in my videos public. Up until now, I've been using my DropBox account and that has worked fairly well. But I think that it's time for a change of scenery. Over the past few days I've been moving the stuff from the old place to Github. Github offers a more centralized means of storage, a better UI, and a better way of interaction. If you want the latest notes, you just have to pull the latest repository. I still have quite a ways to go to have everything up to the level I want, but I thought I should share this change with you now.

Almost every series on my YouTube channel, the series that actually have code and notes, has its own repo and each episode has it own section therein. I also have a section for my own projects that I want to share with the code and additional documentation. I'm also working on a few extras that I don't want to reveal just yet, but if you look, you'll find them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why You Should Buy A RaspberryPi

In case you don't already know, the RaspberryPi is an extremely cheap, credit card sized, full capable computer. I was one of the first people to order it when it went on sale and it is easily one of the most capable devices I have ever purchased. What you get is a computer capable of running Linux, networking capabilities, television output, and over 15 GPIOs with various capabilities. For the cost of the Arduino, you can have that and so much more. If that hasn't convinced you, let me go into the rant I have prepared.

This little computer is cheap. Really cheap. For $30, you can have a personal computer, provided you have a television. It's really great as a child's first computer, or as second computer, or even a little file server. But while it can be used for those traditional, almost boring things, there's something better. 

Again, it's cheap. So cheap you could probably afford to put one of theses almost anywhere. I have two Pi's of my own. The first one I bought turned my normal TV, into an internet enabled entertainment center. By using the Raspbmc image, I have a TV that I can stream YouTube, music, movies and even pictures from my computer, phone, or  iPod. I want to use my second one to run my smart dorm when I go back to school next semester. Any place you have ever thought, "Gee, if only there was a computer here", with the RaspberryPi you can actually make it happen. There is almost no limit to what the RaspberryPi can do.