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.