Older blog entries for Chicago (starting at number 133)

Audio and the Old Man

Dave and me are trying to build an audio project, which is all about sound manipulation. Dave’s the musician of the two of us, and I know nothing about sound whatsoever. We’ve got a primitive system using a Arduino that will produce sounds out of an R2R Digital to Analog Converter, but we’ve got no real idea about generating the wave form. If only we could sample…

About ten years ago, my dad mentioned in passing a short story… Before I was born, and we’re talking about the mid 70’s here, or maybe even possibly early 70’s. Either way, the styles where much different to now. He was helping a friend of his build an Digital Audio project. Sound familiar? Time to pick the old man’s brains.

Anyways, it turns out, back in the day, they built a device which sampled audio from a microphone by converting its voltage into a number, then saving it to memory, then, synchronized, retrieving the elements from memory and playing them back. Yes yes, it’s an echo box. Primitive but worked. If his memory serves him right (and we’re talking my entire life span here, and he’s had a lot of stress in that time - he’s my Dad after all) he thinks that they only sampled at about 50 times a second. Apparently, even cooler, whilst it was a digital system, they didn’t use any form of micro controller - they did the entire lot in Digital Electronics, making the controlling circuits using just logic chips. Thats hardcore. Anyways, back to the point of this.

Why couldn’t I have worked this out? My mind is stuck in this world of high tech digital quality sampling on one side, and on the other, using really high frequencies which sampling at 50hz seriously won’t cut it but that doesn’t matter does it! Either way, I’m now set to sample data on the analog port, and then shove it out again on the R2R DAC on the other side.

Ok, time for some diagrams about what I’m talking about.

Ok that was the worlds most boring diagram, but it gets the point across I guess. Sorry about the ? with the other side of the microphone. I have no idea what this should plug into, and actually, I have very little idea where I’m going to get one from. I have a suspicion I’ll be plugging it into a computers line out or headphones port into a jack there. For those of you who don’t have a clue what a R2R Dac is, then check out this page and erm, I guess thats it for now until this has actually been built.

Syndicated 2008-08-05 21:36:56 from Holding the Soldering Iron by the Cold End

Breaking Advogato with my RSS Feed…

So I set up a wordpress account to do some blogging in with more features the Advogato - I have a need to present a slightly more formal view of what I’m doing, and as this will also be very techincal related, instead of cross posting, I thought I would set the Advogato account to synch with the WordPress.

Little did I think that it would break Advogato, and indeed, it seems to have done so - the feed being generated by wordpress has (as far as I can tell) correct formatting, but Advogato must be reformatting the sequence that causes the Vimeo video to be embedded in a bad way - it is missing a single quote on the end of its line which is causing a large chunk of HTML to be ignored by Firefox, primarily half of my post and the switch over to the start of the next one.

Is there likley to be a successful fix or am I too hopeful? Is there anything I should change about the way I add the video’s? (all I did was div align=”center” then the vimeo paste code… Gah… if only systems wern’t this easy to break in 2008…

Syndicated 2008-08-05 14:40:49 from Holding the Soldering Iron by the Cold End

Starting… NOW!

Hello, starting this new blog to talk about work that I’m doing and involved with. This is also a test for the WordPress because I’ve not ever used WordPress before (really - I used it a little bit but don’t really know). Anyways, ignorance is not an excuse, just lack of time.

In this blog I hope to talk about a lot of the things that I’m working on at work and at home, especially a bit of Arduino hackery and some micro electronics, not to mention some side projects I’m working on (namely secret plans of world domination).

Also, I’ve signed up with vimeo to help me produce a bunch of better quality videos about the stuff I’m working on, and I’ve got my hands on a couple of good quality web-cams which I can use to make some basic videos and also, timelapse videos of me making stuff. It’s very handy and might be of use when I am rushed to hospital and the Doctors say “he did what???”.

So this is a couple of hours at 1 frame every 10 seconds. Its a short introduction to me not setting fire to things. Which brings me to the title of this blog. I havn’t yet come up with a good name for it - so instead I set it to something that I need to remember. Nearly every time I do a long build, at some point I will try to pass the soldering iron from one hand to the other, and invariably do so by picking it up at the hot end with my left hand. This title, is in fact a reminder for me.

Syndicated 2008-08-04 23:22:05 from Holding the Soldering Iron by the Cold End

Maplins Dodgy Service

For an amateur micro-electrician I struggle to find the parts that I need for my electronics. Recently, Dave and myself have been working on a Digital Synth, and our abilities have been foiled by the terrible status of Maplins.

To buy over the counter parts in Norwich, we're really limited - we have two Maplins. The website says that there is a particular item, that there are 5 of them at both of the stores. When we visit the said store, they tell us the items been discontinued and there arn't any such items anywhere in the region or head office.

So now we're doing a mail delivery order from RS - 4*£0.50 items and then £5 pnp. I dont mind this - apart from if I had known on wednesday that this would be the case, we would have done all our purchases this way, and have had them all ready to go for our build session yesterday.

Not. A. Happy. Bunny. Damn you Maplins. Damn you and your stupid online stock system.

Work Demonstration Complete

My Arduino board was being used for a demonstration at work, but it enabled me to get a lot of use out of it and work bought me a couple of bits that I wanted to play with, notably a network interface and a Mifare reader module.

Anyways, its back to being used for what I want to do things with, notably robot building. However, this time I am being distracted by a different use, which is sound generation - or should I say Noise generation.

I have had my imagination sparked by the prospect of using the Arduino plus some knowledge I have gained from my ham stuff to generate a synth. It's been done before, but not by a lot of people.

There seem to be a couple of routes to go down - This page documents the different ones. The main ones seem to be this:

  1. Use the Arduino to control a synth or other noise making source.
  2. Use the Arduino *as* the synth.

I've not yet completly decided which route I'm going down, I know that the sounds generated by the first method might be... better, but I have an aweful lot to learn about generating noises...

More posts about things which are not-quite-work
Its increasingly difficult to talk about things which are work related because, well, I'm not allowed to. Because the work is what I'm interested in and takes up so much of my time, it does mean that some blogs being to dry out.

Arduino java.lang.StackOverflowError
It seems obvious if you know, but there isn't that much in the Google results for a search with those keywords. Basically, this happens if you do something silly with strings and quote marks... for example, compiling the following (in Arduino 0011):


Ok, now, its not immediately obvious without good syntax highlighting that the " is missing from this, and compiling won't give you a line number where it all goes wrong.

I Think The Stack Overflow Error is caused when the distance between this typo and the next " is so big that it would cause a StackOverflow... I think. Im now not sure. Eitherway, look for missing quotemarks or similar typo's.

15 Apr 2008 (updated 15 Apr 2008 at 16:42 UTC) »
Visual Studio, HttpModules and compiling for IIS6

Things are becoming a little tricky. Because Windows 2008 has only just been released, the migration to that is going to be relatively slow (I can't realistically suggest that we have our production server as a 2008 box ... yet). So we're stuck with using Windows 2003 and IIS6 for our .Net hosting.

However, we're programming on Vista boxes, which of course, are running IIS7 and all its finery. Now, having a test platform which is a different version to the deployment platform is never a good idea, and right now, its a royal pain in the ass. And why? Well, randomly, the way I add headers:


response.AddHeader("Content-type", "text/html");


response.Headers.Add("Content-type", "text/html");

The first one works, the second one ...

System.PlatformNotSupportedException: This operation requires IIS integrated pipeline mode.
   at System.Web.HttpResponse.get_Headers()
   at ...

Go figure.

MS SSMSE 2005 Error on Installation on Vista

Ok, if you're an indie developer for the Microsoft platform, then you might have SQL Server (Express) then you might also want to install MS SSMSE (Microsoft Sql - Server Management Studio Express).

The Good

Ok, so you've downloaded the SSMSE install package, and it doesn't install and the MS reference for it is about permissions on the Data Directory. There might be one single file which has the wrong permissions, but I couldn't find one. Installations continue to fail no matter what the install user is.

The Ugly

To install, there is a very simple solution - Turn UAC off - its in the user panel of the control panel. Then installing SSMSE is painless. Just remember to turn UAC back on again after you've done it, oh and pray that you dont need UAC's protection for the few minutes that you had it turned off... (Why do you think this section is entitled "The Ugly"?)

The down-right-Bad

If you decided to go with MS Sql Server 2008 Express because, well, why not... (think of all those new features) then you have a bigger problem. At the moment, SSMSE is only available in the 2005 variant, which does not allow connections to a 2008 Express service.

A good workman never blames his tools

This weekend for me has been a near disaster. I started work on my SpokePov and USBTinyISP. Then my Solder Iron melted. Not the plastic hand wrap, no, the nib. Thats it for soldering - no more soldering being done without a soldering iron.

I now need to go and buy a nice soldering iron which is temperature controlled - if you use one thats too hot, you end up having problems, if you use one thats too cold or does daft things (like the cold solder one) then you have problems.

So now I have a fully built USB dongle, and a half-built SpokePov, and a not very happy monster.

18 Feb 2008 (updated 18 Feb 2008 at 16:47 UTC) »
IIS 6, 64 Bit Windows and No ASP.NET tab!

Ok, this one had me stumped for a bit, and it took me a long time to find out why. Basically, the problem is that there is no ASP.NET tab in website properties, and this is because .NET isn't installed properly. The first thing to do is download and install .Net framework, which dosn't seem to do anything.

The second thing to then do is to run: %SYSTEMROOT%\MICROSOFT.NET\Framework64\v2.??\aspnet_iisreg -i which will then try and re-register. Now if this "works" but dosnt have any effect, its probably because you've got a beta of .Net installed. However, if this throws an error, its probably because IIS is running in 32bit mode.

Why would it be? Well aparantly it has to to be able to deal with PHP. Maybe thats true, maybe it isn't any more - but either way, theres lots of install guides out there telling you how to break it into 32 bit mode. To Fix...

cscript %SystemDrive%\inetpub\AdminScripts\adsutil.vbs set w3svc/AppPools/Enable32bitAppOnWin64 0

The 0 is what sets it back to default (64 bit) where having that as a 1 will set it to being 32 bit mode. Of course now all your PHP is probably broken. But then again it was anyways.

Just re-run the first command, and reboot (IIS? Server?)

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