I’ve been getting back into music lately, thanks to the wonderful Synthstrom Deluge. And thanks to John Park, I’ve been getting into Eurorack modular synthesizers. It’s really fun, but can get pricey fast. I would recommend everyone download the free VCV Rack so you too can patch together sound modules like audio Lego and make weird noises.
Part-way through January I learned of the “#JAMuary” tag on Instagram and I felt I had gotten proficient enough with both the Deluge and the modular gear to make a few tracks.
Here they are. It’s both incredibly freeing and incredibly frustrating to finish a track and then pull out all the cables, erasing the piece, never getting it back exactly like before.
To help diagnose USB HID communication and to test out updates to hidapi, I wrote hidapitester. It is a command-line program that allows you to exercise just about every aspect of hidapi. Pre-built binaries for MacOS, Windows, and Linux Ubuntu x64.
I’ve found it very useful. You can use it to:
Scan for connected HID devices, optionally by VID, PID, usagePage, usage
Send OUTPUT reports, with or without Report IDs
Receive INPUT reports, with or without Report IDs
Send FEATURE reports, with or without Report IDs
Receive FEATURE reports, with or without Report IDs
Commands are specified in-order on the command-line, so you can do all of these, repeated reads, close-and-open, etc. all in a single command. More details can be found on the hidapitester github README page.
It is written in really vanilla C to maximize compatibility and ease-of-compilation.
Here’s the help page:
hidapitester <cmd> [options]
where <cmd> is one of:
--vidpid <vid/pid> Filter by vendorId/productId (comma/slash delim)
--usagePage <number> Filter by usagePage
--usage <number> Filter by usage
--list List HID devices (by filters)
--list-detail List HID devices w/ details (by filters)
--open Open device with previously selected filters
--open-path <pathstr> Open device by path (as in --list-detail)
--close Close currently open device
--send-feature <datalist> Send Feature report (1st byte reportId, if used)
--read-feature <reportId> Read Feature report (w/ reportId, 0 if unused)
--send-output <datalist> Send Ouput report to device
--read-input [reportId] Read Input report (w/ opt. reportId, if unused)
--read-input-forever [rId] Read Input reports in a loop forever
--length <len>, -l <len> Set buffer length in bytes of report to send/read
--timeout <msecs> Timeout in millisecs to wait for input reads
--base <base>, -b <base> Set decimal or hex buffer print mode
--quiet, -q Print out nothing except when reading data
I upgraded the firmware on my beloved-but-long-unused 1986 Oberheim Matrix 6r! These synths are the royalty of analog fatness. I love their sound. This is the result I was looking for:
It’s remarkably clean inside for a machine made in 1986. I acquired it used in the early 90s.
Just look at the bank of six voices. The CEM3396 chips are the VCF/VCA chips that give this synth its distinctive lushness. And made each voice circuit like 5x smaller than possible just a few years earlier.
The firmware upgrade was just a simple EPROM swap. Out with the old, in with the new! I got the chip from a chap on Reverb who’s using new EPROM stock (not old ceramic parts) The firmware update itself allows the Matrix to be used with modern MIDI patch editors and is a testament of amazing microcontroller assembly language hacking. Check out the page by the author of the Matrix firmware update. Thank you so much!
And the result is the same as before the upgrade: it still sounds glorious.
So I remixed an existing clip-on case that fits the included battery (Thanks DoctorWhich!), added the Jolly Wrenches and printed it out. It came out pretty great. Though now I wish I had some black PLA.
For four months this year I had a residency at the Supplyframe DesignLab. I worked on “ILOVELAMP“, a project experimenting with creating lamps with configurable light emitting surfaces using addressable LED strips.
I really like the generation previous to the current Macbook Pros. You know the ones. They had all the useful ports like USB-A, HDMI, an SD Card slot, and MagSafe! And it had a long-lived battery in a thin case. That is my Macbook Pro. And it’s wonderful.
But now 3.5 years on, the once legendary battery was at about half its design capacity. I got 1600 charge cycles out of it though, which is astounding. And it still worked, unlike a previous Macbook’s battery that ended up getting a bad cell that caused it to unceremoniously shutdown at 20%. So I replaced it and I think it is working out great.