Archive for October 2010

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-31

  • DOG. FISH. HEAD. #
  • Dog fish head IPA. Hell. Yes. All you people saying what you've said. You were right. Dog fish head. Yes. #
  • The fact that karl rove is funding attack ads against Kamala Harris should be all the endorsement you need to vote for her next tuesday. #
  • I really lack the qualifications to be attorney general for California. I wouldn't even vote for me! Please RT. #
  • Jonathan Golub is rockin' a beatseqr with hardware sound sources! WOO yeah! #
  • Firesheep is real. If you take a laptop to a coffee shop and use wifi, I urge you to install firefox and this: #
  • The EFF also has a firefox plugin to help protect against having your FB login stolen while at starbucks: #
  • Garrrrrr I'm totally stuck on a problem with some example code from the iOS book I'm working through. Pisser. #
  • Boooooooooo!! Booo!!! #

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Jonathan Golub rockin’ a beatseqr v3

Yeah, check this video out!!

from Jonathan’s youtube description:

This is me playing around with Steve Cooley’s amazing beatseqr hardware controller. I’m running it through a Macbook Pro, with Roxor and Steppa, the open-source software designed specifically for the hardware. The Macbook is sending MIDI out to an Emu ESI-32, and I’m also adding Space Echo, spring reverb and digital delay to individual tracks. I spent about 10 minutes beforehand programming the step sequencer, otherwise everything is live.

SUPER sweet video, dude!!

Some back story … I met Jonathan back in 1997 when he was one of the guys running the legendary and seminal weekly internet radio broadcast show called the Beta Lounge. In fact, the beta lounge continues to broadcast, and they have, gasp!!, every show in their archive?! WHOA, they even have my very first DJ set in front of people, which consisted of me playing one turntable with vinyl, and a laptop running a program my brother wrote for me called “QTTurntable”… in 1997. Think about that. That was some cutting edge stuff for the time! But I’m sure my set sounds awful. I don’t even want to go listen to it, but it’s there. Too embarrassing for me.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-24

  • We have blastoff on the first stop of the beatseqr LA tour! #
  • Just submitted a concept for for a big round of beatseqrs. Now the waiting. #
  • And hey all you iPhone developers, you already know how to program for the Mac! #
  • Wow. That was incredibly easy to get my iphone app onto my iphone. #xcode4 #
  • Good news on the kickstarter proposal. They think it's a good idea but I have to rethink my contribution awards. Can do! #beatseqr #
  • A good reason to make your iOS game playable by two people: two times the sales. #

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OMG, yes!! tons of Soundthru shows on internet archive!!!

OMG, yes!! tons of Soundthru shows on internet archive!!!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-17

  • New post: Shapelock keychain for Square CC reader ( #
  • Just shipped out two more beatseqrs! #
  • how many Halloween stores pop up for a month? There are a couple of brand names now. Lots of competition. #
  • Don't take your oakleys off, you've been a terrific boss! #
  • Free Oakleys!! Two conditions: 1. You must spend at least 60 contiguous days underground and 2. You can never ever ever take them off. #
  • I keep wishing there was some kind of visual guide to cocoa objects. Like planets with monuments and geological features. #
  • Epic! Logic Pro 9.1.2: Support for iOS control surface apps that utilize the OSC protocol #
  • Can I use GarageBand with beatseqr? (Yes!) #
  • Thinking about doing a kickstarter project for a round of beatseqrs and/or kits. Any interest? #

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Can I use GarageBand with beatseqr?

YES! GarageBand is controllable from external midi devices like keyboards, so that means that Steppa, the sequencer that runs with Beatseqr, can sequence drums, synths, and DLS sound fonts! It’s pretty cool. GarageBand makes setup pretty simple. Follow these steps:

1. plug in your Beatseqr.
2. launch Steppa, Roxor, and Garageband. The order in which you do this doesn’t seem to matter.
3. Once everything is up and running, turn a knob on beatseqr so that Roxor and Steppa are displaying the same numbers. Go slowly if it doesn’t seem to be working, or try the other knob until it does. When you hit the play/stop button on beatseqr, you should see the chase lights running across the step sequence buttons, and the beat count lights (right above the tempo readout) should be lighting up in steppa.
4. In steppa, change the “Midi out device” drop down list to “from Steppa”.
5. Garageband may actually already be ready to play sound, so hit some of the sequence buttons on beatseqr. If things are working, you’ll probably hear the world’s best piano solo.
6. In garageband, double click on the software instrument track to bring up the controls to change it. Change it from whatever it is (probably a piano) to Drum Kits. Now your piano sounds should be drum sounds. Program in some more steps for the different voices, and you should get a drum sequence up and running pretty quickly.
7. Rock the heck out.

BONUS: Ok, so you want to rock more beats, but you don’t want to rock more bucks. Welp, you have a few options, but I can tell you that you’re entering into some fringe territory. Garageband has an instrument called “DLSMusicDevice”. You can research how to find, download, and extract free soundfont files from around the interwebs, but no guarantee that they’ll work particularly well. What you CAN do, for not tooooo much money is purchase a piece of software called “PolyPhontics GB”. What it does is let you create soundfonts that you *know* will work in garageband. The setup process is a little bit of a time eater, but for the price ($35), it’s actually really great! The catch here is that you’ll need to already have some samples, but those are pretty easy to find out in this great big inter wide world tube web of ours. PolyPhontics GB will even let you try out building ten 8 sample sound font packs for free, which, if you’ve noticed, matches up to Beatseqr’s 8 voice sequencing capability perfectly.


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Beatseqr version 4 function layout

Since I haven’t tackled a final silk screened top plate for version 4, I thought I’d at least lay out something in a graphic so you could see what this version of beatseqr does.

font: Masking Tape Block


One for the monome fans – galapagoose – (via @dyLABs) [ INSANE FINGER DRUM PAD MONOME ACTION ] (via @unsaturated)

One for the monome fans - galapagoose - (via @dyLABs) [ INSANE FINGER DRUM PAD MONOME ACTION ] (via @unsaturated)

One for the monome fans – galapagoose – (via @dyLABs) [ INSANE FINGER DRUM PAD MONOME ACTION ] (via @unsaturated)

One for the monome fans - galapagoose - (via @dyLABs) [ INSANE FINGER DRUM PAD MONOME ACTION ] (via @unsaturated)

Shapelock keychain for Square CC reader

I needed a way to carry my Square credit card reader when I’m not using it, and since it’s a headphone jack connector, I thought it would be pretty simple to make something out of Shapelock and some stuff from my junk drawer. It was!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-10

  • So, what, one day till Rick Sanchez signs on to Fox News? #
  • Holy hell, Portland Maine, this Old Thumper extra special ale is delicious! #
  • Didn't pay your $75 fee? Firefighters watch as home burns to the ground #
  • My square cc reader showed up just in time for… oh right, my sales season ended. So 6 months too late. 😛 maybe next year. #
  • fish sticks… put it in the pizza. Whipped cream poured like waterfalls! #
  • Masking Tape Block #iFontMaker #
  • Aww man!! I had an epic 1.2M score on super mega worm and it crashed! Thx @unsaturated for this latest game addiction 😀 #
  • Whoa twitter post lag, that last one was from yesterday! #
  • Risking an iPad-kindle version of a technical instruction book. All the illustrations are in color, and the backlight is keeping me awake. #
  • New post: Silicone Rubber test results and comparison ( #
  • Chachos: delicious tacos with a side of 1992 soundtrack. Pump up
    The jam. Really? I touch myself? Whoomp there it is. Really? Guys, cmon. #
  • Day two with "iPhone Programming:The Big Nerd Ranch Guide on iPad Kindle"… this is going to work! Excited to not have to lug books around! #

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Monolithic button array!

Woohoo! I’ve been working on trying to get this monolithic button array figured out for months, and I finally have it all dialed in.

Smooth-On Dragonskin 30

So this, along with the major progress (as seen below) I’ve been making with the new cases, I’m feeling pretty good about beatseqr version 4!

CNC routing plastic cases

If you’re really interested in how I make my silicone buttons, I wrote an extensive article on my fine art blog about it. Check it out!


Silicone Rubber test results and comparison

Trial, meet error:
Trial, meet Error

I’ve been working for about 6 months on finding a suitable silicone rubber material to use when making the keys for my beatseqr project. I started on this journey right after I’d set up my blacktoe cnc router. I knew I wanted a clear rubbery material to put in between the LED Tact switches on my circuit board for the user to push. This is a pretty well understood paradigm, so I figured there had to be a low-volume, relatively low-cost way to at least do some research into the feasibility of being able to do this. Of course you never know everything you need to know when you just start stabbing wildly at solving a problem that doesn’t have an obvious solution.  So, below is a small sampling of the attempts I’ve made.

TAP Platinum Silicone

When I started, I thought I knew what I needed. A clear silicone rubber. Right? Should be easy to find. I didn’t really know what exactly to look for, but then I saw that TAP had one! I drove on down to one of my local TAP stores and was a little sticker shocked at the price. Oh well, one credit card swipe later, I was ready to test it out. The product is really simple to use. It’s a 1:1 mix ratio, so you pour parts A and B in equal amounts, mix it all up, and start pouring it into your mold. It’s super runny before it cures so it pours easily.

Once I had tested it out, I realized that there was a critical third qualifying attribute to the silicone that would ultimately win the day: hardness. Smooth-on has an excellent FAQ posted about this topic. It explains everything you need to know and has a printable visual aid. Ok, so with that new knowledge, I can see that this TAP silicone has a Shore hardness of A8, which explains why it feels like floppy gelatin. I’m going for a push button with some give, without being squishy. So this silicone was not going to work. (It did, however, come back later as an excellent mold making material, its intended use anyway.)

Smooth-on Sorta clear 40

So while we were showing Beatseqr at the Bay Area Maker Faire 2010, I was able to locate the Smooth-on booth and discovered a couple of clear silicone rubbers that were MUCH firmer than the silicone I’d tried. Sorta clear 40, and Dragonskin 30. (Note that those product pages contain more than one shore hardness in the same product line!) I figured I’d go with the firmest one they sold, so I located a local dealer and bought a quart sized trial kit of Sorta clear 40.  As you can see from the photo above, the optical properties are excellent with this product.  However, after running a couple of test castings with this product, I discovered a fourth critical qualifying property that I’d need to consider: viscosity.

Always mix more than you need

Sorta clear 40 is an excellent material. I really like it.  It does, however, trap air bubbles… permanently, if you don’t do something about it.  That something you can do is called “degassing”.  Degassing essentially means that you use a vacuum chamber to forcibly remove trapped gasses, usually air, but sometimes other gasses depending on what you’re working with.  Well, I didn’t have a degassing vacuum chamber, and the ones that I found when searching for them seemed to cost multiple hundreds of dollars on the low end, and thousands on the high end. Definitely not within my budget for this test.

I found an article explaining how to build one, so I did that.  I’ll save the explanation for another post, but I managed to cut the price down from $800 down to about US$250.  I’ve always been interested in different materials, and I knew I could use this degassing chamber for other stuff later, so I justified the cost and assembled the parts.  

The viscosity of sorta clear 40 is pretty high, meaning, it does not pour like water. More like honey. Or taffy. The way you combine the 10:1 mix ratio parts is to open the canister of the part A liquid and scoop out 10 parts into a cup on a scale, and then add drops of part B to the mix until you reach the 10:1 ratio. I say “scoop” because the part A liquid is barely a liquid. If you hold the container upside down, it does not pour out. It’s perfectly happy to stay there without pouring at all. When you mix parts A and B together, it does become a somewhat pourable liquid, but before you get there, you have to stir stir stir for 3 minutes to get it fully mixed. Then the material has a bazillion air bubbles in it. So off to the degassing chamber it goes for several minutes, all while the “pot life” is ticking away. Pot life, meaning that you have a certain number of minutes after you combine the parts before they start to cure and solidify, so you need to work pretty quickly to get everything done once you start the process. So, out of the degassing chamber, and into the casting mold, quick!

Incomplete casting of sorta clear 40

above, you can see the worst case scenario of rushing to get the silicone into the casting mold, and not being thorough about making sure all of the cavities are filled and big air bubbles are out. Not only does this produce an unusable finished product, it wastes time and money. :P

Degassed sortaclear 40

Above is a test I ran to mix, degas, pour, and then degas in the mold. It sorta worked. Small bubbles were reduced significantly, but big bubbles formed and by the time the silicone started setting up, they were trapped forever.

Degassed sortaclear 40 mottled back

Above is another test I ran in a similar fashion. I got pretty good clarity by working faster and leaving more time for the silicone to sit in an uncured state in the mold, but while working feverishly to make sure all big bubbles were eliminated, I overworked the material past the pot life, and so the back of the flange is mottled and uneven. This might be usable, but seems like waaaay too much work to get it right every time.

Casting acrylic. Smelled awful.

Originally, the first beatseqrs had acrylic bar stock cut into rectangular shapes and hand sanded to be used as the button interface. The look and feel was pretty good, but the amount of work it took was too much for any kind of mass production, so I thought I’d try a casting acrylic to get the same/similar results without having to do so much hand work finishing. For all of the silicone castings, I am using machinable wax as the negative casting mold. Casting soft rubbery materials into a hard mold is fine, but… you can’t do that for rigid materials. So I made a “master positive” casting out of the TAP silicone, and then a silicone negative from that master positive. Actually, i did two. the first time, I didn’t adequately spray down the master positive with release, and silicone loves being cast on top of silicone, so I adequately destroyed the first silicone negative mold that I needed to do it again. The second silicone negative worked fine, and I was able to do the above casting in the casting acrylic I found at Michael’s.

Ok, BUT … when I went to do the acrylic casting, I discovered the downside to this material immediately. It basically smelled like a chemical factory took a crap, exploded, and died. And it stayed like that for upwards of 3 weeks. I asked a guy from Smooth-on about that and he said it sounded like it was a polyester casting material. Ok, so as pretty as it looks, I will definitely avoid using that again. The jury’s still out on rigid keys… Smooth-on has a material I may run some tests with, but maybe later if some customers dislike the silicone keys. So far, that hasn’t happened too much.

Hot melt glue!

I had these silicone negative molds, and started looking around my garage. I noticed how nice and translucent hot melt glue sticks are. After I realized that silicone would more than withstand the heat, I did a test and got some interesting results. Maybe this is a good fast casting material in some cases. It’s relatively cheap and easy to work with. But… really… not what I was going for.

Smooth-On Dragonskin 30

Enter the dragon. Smooth-on Dragonskin 30, to be precise. While at World Maker Faire 2010 in NYC, I got a great recommendation to try dragonskin 30. It seemed to have the right properties for this need:

1. translucent. Not transparent like sortaclear 40, but early tests indicate that LED light transmission is pretty good, which is what I want.
2. shore hardness A30, which is pretty firm. Not quite as much as sortaclear 40, but firm enough.
3. 1:1 mix ratio, so easy peasy mixing.
4. low viscosity, easy pouring. Less trapped air bubbles, should be easier to degas.
5. good working time and self leveling. Here, take another look:

Dragonskin 30 nice smooth casting

The flange is super smooth. That lets it sit perfectly flat on the LED Tact buttons so they they’re all seated evenly. There are some air bubbles trapped in the casting, but that’s because I didn’t bother degassing the early tests. I’m confident that if I need to get more clarity in the final castings, degassing will go well because this silicone is so much less viscous than sortaclear 40.

Dragonskin 30 translucence

Full castings in the mold cavities. Awesome. Minimal hand-working to get it to that state. Since the material pours much more easily, it doesn’t need much coercion to fill all the nooks. I declare a winner! Dragonskin 30.

There are a few loose ends to tie up on this story, so maybe when I complete all of the research I want to do on this process, I’ll post up the results. I’m hopeful my market for beatseqr is just starting, and I’ll need to keep refining my products to meet demand. If that happens, I will have more to post.

UPDATE … it occurred to me that you might be interested in see what the casting mold looked like (or, one similar to the current one I’m using) and how the casting mold looks when it’s filled, and how the casting looks as it’s coming out of the mold, so here you go!




UPDATE 2: just a reminder to never leave your CNC program running unattended. I stepped away for one minute right at the end of this run, and KABLAM… ruined casting mold. I was lucky it was just wax!

Ouch - cnc crash

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-03

  • Hell yes! RT @oskay : Awesome dinner after makerfaire with @1lenore @boxbanga in reply to oskay #
  • Come see beatseqr at world maker faire new york today! #
  • Live broadcast from the music room at World Maker Faire in NYC #
  • Just got a quick technical consult with a guy from Smooth-On about silicone products. Very helpful! #worldmakerfaire #
  • Thank you, new York! We had a great time talking to you! #worldmakerfaire #
  • Omfg kandinksy at the Bauhaus exhibit at the Guggenheim!!! •brainmelt• #
  • Catch me and Derek Scott NOW on a very special episode of Moving Air on Common Ground Radio. Live from New York! #
  • watch the rebroadcast of our special World Maker Faire edition of Moving Air on Common Ground Radio #
  • We're catching crash box on HBO Family while packing up to go… Hilarious! #
  • 3 hours to kill in LGA. So, a parting gift for this samsung ad. #
  • Aside from the offensive ignorant old white lady bitch who tried her best to wound me with her fox news inspired insults, nice flight home. #
  • Run, Nathalie, Run! #
  • Okidoke. Ordered what I hope will be two possible final candidates for materials for casting silicone buttons for my #beatseqr v4's. #
  • Holy hell, man, wtf, the remote for the apple TV is bigger than the apple TV itself. #
  • RT @drumce11 want to learn how to sharpen a knife ? #

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