Friday, March 13, 2015

Me and VMA shooting

Getting started on VMA's early this year...

Mostly generic guitar shots that could be used on various projects. I didn't realize until this project how nice the full frame sensor is on the 5D. I should have put magic lantern on it for this project, I'll try to do that for next time. It makes video shooting so much better. We didn't check focus except on the built-in camera screen for the first round, so we had to shoot that all again. 
Note to self: bring HDMI monitor next time, even if it's only a 5" screen, almost anything is better for checking focus than the 2" camera monitor. Magic lantern's focus peaking would have been very helpful.

We also did some other shots, I'm not sure how many of these will be used, they were more specific, but it was a very interesting shoot. Without revealing too much;

That is snow in the background, and the stick was an essential piece of equipment :)[]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Speaker Progress 07

Amazing what can happen when I get time to work on things... With (a lot of) luck I could have it finished this week...

To date:

Trying out fitting for the back brace... Lots of routing on this piece.

Most of the (wood) parts for the tweeter module

I let my little sister have some fun with part of my speaker that doesn't show and won't get painted...

Marked for nailing

There's a minor problem...


Is supposed to look like this.

Much better. Glad I hadn't glued anything yet. Tack nails only so far. That will change soon.

I know, I said I should put this in slideshow format, but maybe next time. Or maybe long posts aren't so bad. It's late, that's all for now.

Speaker Progress 06

Ignore the sub next to it, it's just a freebie I'm using for testing purposes.

A critical listening test... ;)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Break!

Hooray for Spring Break!
Even if it's only a week :(

None the less, I have plenty to do. (In addition to homework...)

(One of) My big projects for this week:

It's starting to make sense :)
This is a great mixer.
If everything goes well, it gets installed this week. Then I have to document and explain the new system. Should be fun, I've been working towards this for a while now, and I think it will significantly improve the church's audio system.

I also have a update on the speaker. I finished typing everything out, and then something weird happened and it all got deleted... So that should be coming soon, when I feel like typing it again.

It's hard to realize just how connected I am at college. It's just been a few days, and I'm already starting to miss some of my friends. On the other hand, I have enough to catch up on it's not such a bad thing. (my to-do list is about a page long, written in paragraph form...)

In unrelated news, I really like working with HDPE plastic. It machines very nicely, it's easy to work with, and finishes decently. I got about a 12" sheet a while back from, (good place for raw materials) and was able to use a scrap from that to hand make a replacement part for an old camera, but that's a different story.
Every time I work on something round like that I think I should make a lathe sometime. I've got a wonderful 3hp motor sitting around, and I could build a controller easily, but the chucks are quite expensive last I looked. GMU is planning a hackerspace, and I'm really looking forward to that. No timeline yet though. I put in a good number of suggestions for it :)
I like working with my hands. With (a lot of) luck, my speaker will be finished this week, and I can build the cabinet for a custom guitar amp I've been asked to make. If you're curious, I'm going to try the XF 212. It should be a fairly easy build, (all straight cuts) after what I've been doing. The custom electronics are a different matter. I have an idea of what I want to do, but I'm still working on it. All I really know at this point is that it will be a tube amp, and I want to try this: I built the SSE (Simple Single Ended) amplifier for a science fair project a few years back, and I still have it. I might use it on this project with an input transformer to drive the powerdrive board. I'll need to figure out power though. good HV transformers are expensive. I'll have to see if I can find a suitable one in my collection.

Anyway, more soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ammo Can Radio thoughts

It's been a while (years!) since I posted anything about the ammo can radio. It was originally intended to be mostly analog, with just a digital frequency but I think at this point it would be best to at least have a digital VFO. The questions start...

  • How much digital control? Will there be any hard controls, or will it all be software? I'm fine with having software behind the controls as long as it's invisible. Menus I want to avoid.
  • Frequency range. With a digital VFO, DDS for example, an extremely wide frequency range is available.
  • Modulation modes. Somewhat dependent on previous question. AM, SSB, and CW are desired, digital and FM modes have yet to be determined.
  • Modularity. Basic module structure has yet to be determined.
  • Power structure / distribution. 13.8VDC bus + (5V bus?)
  • Structural considerations, aluminum vs. steel vs. plastic. What and where.
  • External connection options. (Can it operate when closed for waterproofing?)
  • Speaker(s) This probably won't happen, but a little internal horn loaded speaker would be fun...
  • Controller. I'm inclined to go with a Raspberry Pi 2 for the flexibility and horsepower this would provide. 40 GPIO should be adequate, and I can always expand that if needed.
  • Connectivity. I want this to be as versatile as possible.
  • Weight. For those people who know me, weight is pretty low on the list of concerns. Right now, my collected assortment of parts in an ammo can weighs about 25 lbs.

Digital control: If I use a Raspberry Pi (2), I could potentially make it a complete SDR. This opens up a lot of possibilities. On the other hand, I have a instinctive distrust of computers...
I don't know. If I used the raspberry pi, I could have a display port, and show a waterfall display, frequency, etc. on an external display. I could also potentially do some fancy audio filtering, but that requires more knobs unless I want to do software menus (I don't!) and I'm already short on front panel space.
Another advantage to using the Raspberry Pi is that it can be programmed in python. This is supposed to be an open project, when constructed, all schematics and source code will be released. I might sell plans and/or parts though. Python is very easy (relatively) to get into, so if people want to modify it, that's a plus. I hope to learn C (+, ++, ?) next semester though, and that's a more common language, so that's an option too.

Frequency range: Modern DDS chips can practically go the quintessential DC to daylight. For receive I know I want at least from the AM broadcast band to approx. 30 MHz. 6 meters would be a bonus, but not something I would focus on much. 2M would be very nice, but that's totally different from HF. If it goes to 2M, it needs to be able to receive the FM broadcast band, AM air stations, and the weather channels. 440 I'm somewhat indifferent to.

Modulation modes: Fairly simply, if it only does HF, it only needs to do AM, SSB, and CW. I know 10M has FM, but it's not worth putting in for one band. (Unless it's software and would be really easy to do) If it does anything above 6M, FM (narrow and wide) is a requirement. Digital modes are optional. Again, if using a Raspberry pi, there are a lot of options, but digital is close to the bottom of the list on things I'll be working on.

Modularity: I need to develop a good interconnection system. I'm thinking that each module should have access to a power bus, (see next point) the VFO, a discrete line to the controller, the previous module's output, and the next module's input. I'm not sure how I want to handle RF connections yet. I like BNC, but I think it's too big for this application. There are smaller versions of BNC, but I haven't found one I liked yet. I don't like SMA, but it might be a good fit for this, it's pretty small, and  readily available.

Power structure / distribution: My current plan is to use two nominal 12V, 7AH gel cell batteries. I plan to wire them in series when they are discharging, and parallel when charging. The reason for this is that DC-DC converters can be very efficient nowdays, and it's easier to build a converter that only has to downconvert instead of providing a regulated 13.8 VDC from a source that may be above or below the output voltage. Buck vs buck/boost. There will be a front panel meter to monitor voltage. I may make it switchable to monitor the battery voltage (should show around 24-28 VDC when discharging, 12-15 VDC when charging) I drew up a series/parallel switcher with a DPDT relay and a sense resistor, but I don't have a digital copy at the moment, I'll see if I can put that in later. For distribution power, I think one 13.8VDC bus would be adequate, but I'm also considering putting in a 5V bus. If I have a 5V bus I'll probably use a good switching converter, but if each module only has a 12V bus and has to internally convert to 5V, I'll probably just end up using a bunch of LM7805's.

External connection options: Ideally there would be external connections for a mic, speaker and an antenna, so that the radio could be sealed, waterproof, and still operate. Let's worry about that later. Maybe I could just make the whole thing water resistant when open. (Ammo cans are fairly waterproof when shut) That's probably the best/simplest plan.

Audio: Audio output will be via a 1/4" stereo jack. Audio will be mono (wait, maybe I could do stereo FM broadcast... hm...) anyway, I'm still trying to decide if plugging in a connection should automatically disconnect the internal speaker or if there should be a switch for that. Having a switch gives you more flexability, so I'll probably do that. If someone wants to have the speaker auto disconnect, that's easy to wire up. There will also be a switch to select whether you have connected a speaker or a pair of headphones. This radio should be very versatile. There will be an internal speaker, but you can only do so much with a given amount of space. A little horn loaded speaker would be fun, but I'm already tight on space, so I'll probably go with a simple direct radiator. Shouldn't be a problem to get a 10 or 20 watt 3" speaker or so. I think that should be adequate for most scenarios, and for anything else you'd need headphones.

Controller: The Raspberry Pi 2 is cheap, adequately powerful, well documented, and has good I/O. I even remember hearing something about it's PWM pins being able to output up into the FM broadcast band. Hm... with a little filtering, I might be able to use that... Now things are getting interesting. The Raspberry Pi (2) also has a display output, so I could possibly provide a front panel display jack for an external band display. Maybe a waterfall display like the Elecraft panadapter. It would be even cooler if I could mount a little display on the lid of the radio, so when you open it... I'm going a little overboard here, I'll back up.

  • Antenna: UHF (SO-239) and binding posts
  • Speaker/headphone: 1/4" jack
  • Mic: Undecided. May leave option open for people who already have Yaesu, Icom mics.
  • Power: IEC C-14 AC connector, Binding posts: 12-36V in. Bridge rectified and fused.
  • Potential: USB (Keyboard, software upgrades, etc.?), HDMI.

Weight. I'm not going to worry about it. This is designed to be rugged, reliable, and flexible, but not light. Which is too bad, as it would be a great backpacking radio otherwise, but I can only make so many tradeoffs. (Battery life, etc.) It might be a 20 or 30 pound radio, but the weight should be similar to an ammo can filled with ammo, so it's not too unreasonable...

In case anyone's wondering, yes, this is the sort of thing I think about in my free time for fun.
If anyone finds a flaw in my reasoning, or something that I should think about, feel free to comment!
I have a number of other considerations, schematics, etc., but those will have to wait for another day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Speaker Progress 05

Speaker update. Lots of photos:

In case anyone's wondering, 1/8" plywood will easily bend to the radius specified by the plans, and quite a bit more! 



Generic multi-tool vs. Leatherman saw, the difference is amazing.

Bottom again

Side panels ready to go on

Sorry for the long post. I need to put these in slideshow format next time I have so many.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Blog update

Well, college has started back up, and I'm busier than ever. (literally!)
I'm trying to keep something of a balance between social life and hobbies and studies and work.

Some of my friends may be interested to know that I'm taking a communications class. It's pretty easy so far, (unlike my other classes!) we'll see how it goes. It's also more fun so far.
I'm really busy this semester (so why am I posting on here?) I know, but at a certain point my brain tells me it's had enough math for a while, and if I want to stay sane I should do something else for a few minutes. So I'll take an opportunity to breath a little life back into my severely neglected blog.

Anyway, the blog broke 5000 views, yay!

Per request, stats, all time:

Clearly, looking at the pageview popularity, and then at what I'm posting, I'm not chasing pageviews enough ;) Anyway, I think it's interesting, and this is mostly just something I can look back at.

What's slightly interesting is that the Project Redwall blog has only been up for about a year, (wow, it's been a year already!?) and it has more views than this blog. It is updated a bit more regularly though, so that helps, and if you're interested in CG there's some useful / interesting stuff there.
We're getting some large-scale mock-ups that are starting to look pretty decent. Grass is a problem right now, but other parts are coming along, if slowly, and we have new ideas to test for grass too.

Quick speaker update: both sides are on, with handles, now the main thing to do is get the tweeter module built. I have some photos, but they're not accessible right now. I may insert those here later.
It sounds pretty good at this stage of construction. I've been running it with one tweeter while I've been working on it, and with a sub and EQ it's doing pretty well. Looking forward to getting it finished and giving it a workout outdoors. Now I just need to find people to pay me to use them...

In other news, I'm running the sound for CRU this semester! By the end of the semester I should have enough practice to be pretty decent. I'm also going to be overhauling my church's audio system soon, so that will be fun. Those are both volunteer positions / jobs though. I wish I had some photos from CRU to post here. I have some from an event last semester, but CRU already posted those. I'll have to see if I can start taking some at the general meetings.

That's all for who knows how long.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Speaker Progress 04

Long post coming. I took a lot of photos.
Something interesting to note about this speaker is that it sounds really quite good with EQ, even at this stage. Maybe I just didn't know how to equalize the other speaker, but I remembered it sounding much more harsh or tinny. The new speaker I could run full-range in a pinch. I'll have to do a side by side comparison sometime.

 Marking the side(s) for cutting. I wish jigsaws could cut straight...
I'm going to have to use a lot of elbow grease and sandpaper to get things straight.
I did just get a rasp, maybe I'll try that to save a few sheets of sandpaper.

Testing on a scrap piece of plywood first.

Tracing handle outline.

Measuring cutout

Routing cutout.

Routers make a lot of sawdust! These pictures don't even really capture how much.
That's the real reason safety glasses are a necessity. The router was blowing clouds of sawdust towards my face at times, without the glasses it would all have ended up in my eyes, and that has a tendency to stop progress for a while... Afterward I had to clean the glasses, they were really dirty.
Also, that was a blue jacket underneath all that sawdust...

Handle fits!

Nice even pilot holes.

I only put in the side screws because I'm not putting any weight on the handles yet, and I'll have to take them off again when I paint it.

For scale :)

I put most of the photos at the smallest default size to economize on space. Click for full size.
Again, I'm really looking forward to giving my system a chance to breathe outside with some decent volume. Even running the DR250 as a full range speaker I haven't gotten past 1V, and that was plenty. On my regular speakers (Polk Monitor 40's) I used to put a spare analog meter on them, and I would typically run up around the middle of the 5V range. There's a big efficiency difference!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Speaker Progress 03

The back of the speaker is on! It was something of an exercise in frustration, but I finally got everything glued and clamped up. Below, pre-bending in progress. I set it like that and left it for a day before I bent and glued it flush. It bent pretty nicely, I probably didn't need to pre-bend it, but it didn't hurt.

Next, actually gluing! (and nailing and screwing...)

In the bottom photo it's actually glued in place. I figured I'd leave the straps on until I get it trimmed up some more just for safety. 

Next: sides and tweeter module!


Figured I'd combine a few posts here.

A little late, but Christmas lights!

Classic warm white is my favorite type of Christmas light. I'm not a big fan of LED Christmas lights. There are some good ones,  but they're hard to find. Flickering electric blue really just isn't the feel I want for Christmas. Sorry for the poor quality photo, little handheld camera without a tripod, so I had to boost the ISO a lot to keep it from getting blurry. It's a pretty good point-and-shoot, but shots like this need a tripod. Good OIS is a wonderful thing, and my camera does have that.

Speaker progress:

Sides are on. Now I just have to make the front tweeter module,
cut, bend, and mount the curved back pieces, and put the sides on.
Crossovers are wired, (need to be rewired though) separate high pass and low pass. I've already been wiring it up just for fun, and it's very efficient. A Walkman can drive it to a comfortable general listening level with ease.

Computer stuff:

When a GPU doesn't fit... I think I'm going to build an external GPU box for it so it's not exposed. Another option would be cutting a slot in my hard drive cage so it would fit, but I only have 5 hard drive mounts, so I don't really want to give up any.
(There's usually 4, and I don't even want to think about how many partitions...)
Or I could get a new case, but I like this case, so I don't really want to do that.
I've been running external GPU's a lot recently simply because for various reasons, mostly because they're just too big and don't fit. Note the PCI-E (2.0) extender.
Why hasn't NVIDIA released a single slot 750 Ti ? It would be perfect for a multi-purpose server.
Dual graphics cards are great. I can set one to render, and one to display so I can do other things while it's rendering, and it hardly slows down any! Or if I want maximum speed I can set them both to render. for recent work.

The shed's almost done. Waiting for a thaw.

Speaking of snow and cold and all that, I usually don't mind cold much, but 30 degrees and 15mph constant wind can get cold really fast when you're not dressed for it. At work two rooftop heaters went out the other day, and I had to go up and check things out, also replaced the filters while I was up there. The snow and ice had gotten into something, so once things warmed up they came back... Seems like that's how things often work.

Break has been good, but I'm looking forward to getting back to college and seeing my friends. My schedule is going to be tough though. I have classes at 08:30 every day, and I'm not a morning person... Oh well, I'll survive.

In other news... How does a battery terminal get that corroded !?

When I was cleaning it up, the clamp was so corroded it just snapped, and I had to replace the whole thing.