it’s the latest issue!

I’ve updated the Kitting Out Cheap guide to building your home recording environment on a low budget. New additions include short commentary on kit microphones, updated interface information, and pointing out that hey, guess what – USB chipsets matter!

So, hiya, Home Recording panel attendees – here y’go!

nwcMUSIC Saturday at Norwescon

Saturday features the return of THE BIG SHOW! This year, it’s really THE BIG BIG SHOW, the show so nice they had to BIG it twice, with afternoon and evening concert blocks. CRAZY I KNOW RIGHT? And yet 100% real.

Tomorrow I’ll see a lot of you at Norwescon – I hope!

do you wanna build a router?

Here at the Lair we’ve been proud of running – as a server, on the actual internet – a machine literally from 1995, with original motherboard CPU and everything. The plan has been to run it ’till it died, because we can.

But unfortunately, we really do need to build a new proper programmable router, so we can put the terrible, terrible Comcast router into bridge mode. (Seriously: this router is terrible.) And the 1995 machine is… not fast, so we can’t use it, even though that was its original job, years ago.

(It’s a P5-166. No, really. Thank you, Debian.)

But I haven’t built a router in a while. I want to run Debian Linux on it so it can also run DNS and a couple of other small services the current P166 runs, and it wouldn’t hurt for it to have three cards inside either – one for the fixed-IP side of the LAN, one for the DHCP side.

SO!

Anybody have recommendations? I’m thinking about gigabit network cards in particular – what has the best, most reliable, fastest drivers, what specifically to avoid, things like that. As above, we’re going to be running Debian for a a bunch of reasons.

nwcmusic friday: the afternoon block

Friday concerts at nwcMUSIC got moved to the afternoon! Except for the PDX Broadsides’ halftime bonus show at the burlesque. That’s something new – I think it’d a pretty good idea tho’. (They have a full show on Saturday.)

nwcmusic thursday: are you ready?

Norwescon’s nwcMUSIC 2017 starts THURSDAY! Are you ready? I’ll be there – of course – and doing panels, starting with Home Recording I at 3pm. Here’s the Thursday concert lineup, hot off the… well, okay, not the printer, but you know.

And over here is the full rundown. See you soon!

green across the board and ready for combat

Okay, I posted this a couple of places, but! In response to the Livejournal TOS, I have like 400% cleaned up and dusted off my Dreamwidth account, which hasn’t even been idle, I’ve even been originating posts there, but still. It’s all shiny and buffed now.

Basically fuck yeah http://solarbird.dreamwidth.org is what I’m saying.

It is freakish to be on an LJ-style site and see stuff just… happening everywhere. Do you know how long it’s been since I said “jfc my friendslist is busy”? DO YOU? Okay, about two hours, but I mean before that.

I went and played a short round of Overwatch at 11:30pm. When I came back there were like five new posts. And a bunch of comments. And two friends requests. From strangers. Which were not bots.

I wrote a Fascist Watch newsletter starting around midnight. More new posts. Another friends request. Comments.

It’s not 2004 anymore, but it sure as hell isn’t 2015 either.

Basically, I think what’s happening is that all the scattered people who were still actually using LJ, plus all the people who weren’t but were kind of serious about going back to it at some point, are the ones actually migrating. And they’re all going to the same place, and they’re all looking for everybody else moving over. (Particularly in this community, which was set up when all this started happening.)

One thing I’ve said many times in running shows: an overstuffed smaller room completely beats a half-empty larger room. And what I mean is: for energy. Of the crowd, of the show.

Dreamwidth is smaller than LJ. Post-migration Dreamwidth – even including the active people there already – will most likely still be smaller than LJ was even four months ago. At least, on the Latin-character-set side.

But it’s a smaller room. You look out, you don’t see lots of empty seats and tweet repost botjournals. You see people trying to figure out where they are, and get set up. And going, “..uh… hi!”

It’d be hilarious if the long-considered (and oft-mocked) Livejournal revival actually happened – but on Dreamwidth. And entirely and only because Livejournal finally augured itself in.

i think this is finally it for livejournal

Livejournal’s new Russian Federation-compliant Terms of Service has a lot of bad things in it – seriously, real bad, like, half my journal bad – but this is probably the tripwire for me:

[The user must] Mark Content estimated by Russian legislation as inappropriate for children (0-18) as “adult material” by using Service functions.

Any mention of anything LGBT-related (with some exceptions for condemnation) is 19+ in the Russian Federation, by law. It’s part of the legal structure they use to beat down on queers.

They also have a big “no” on “political solicitation materials” and that’s also pretty fatal for me – seriously, have you read my LJ – but this, yeah, I will not mark my journal “adult content” because I’m queer. Fuck that, and fuck them.

So the only question really is whether I hit accept on the ToS and just ignore it. Or whether I delete my journal (which goes back to when it was running in Brad’s dorm room at UW) and then open a new blank one with the same name just to keep the user account solarbird, or some dumbass thing like that.

As of this morning, despite crossposting being disabled since Monday pending acceptance of new terms, I have the 364th most popular LJ, at least in the Latin character set side of the world. It’s pretty obvious now that we’re done here.

(More bits of analysis here and here – both are Dreamwidth links.)

eta: Important translation of applicable Russian censorship laws here, on Tumblr. This is 400% about speech repression.

Project Kohaku A-B-C

I made another thing! A magnetic (electric) Irish bouzouki pickup, the kind used on electric guitars, but with some extra features. I retconned a project name for it (Kohaku A-B-C) because it has three primary modes – “single coil,” “humbucker,” and “electric/acoustic mix,” which to be honest is kind of two modes depending upon the single coil vs. humbucker setting, but Kohaku A-B-C-D is too long and didn’t sound enough like a JDF anti-Godzilla plan.

Sounds!

Originally I was just going to do a basic wire-up with a level knob, but then I found out that humbucker pickups gave you separate access to both coils, and so can be used as a single-coil pickup as well as in humbucker mode. So that meant adding a switch. Which means it’s probably worth doing a tone knob while I’m at it. And while I was thinking about that I realised there was no reason I couldn’t also build in a tap to the extant acoustic pickup, which means I should also add a little mixer to control relative levels of the two pickups.

So I did! That was a good idea.

The two red knobs are the mini-mixer for the electric (left) and acoustic (right) pickups. Infinite relative levels! Or close enough. The two big black knobs are combined output level (left) and tone (right), the little switch is tone disable switch, the bigger switch changes the pickup mode – humbucker or single-coil.

I’ve had a bunch of those black rocker switches for a while, but I rarely use them because you need to cut a fairly precise rectangle for them to snap in correctly – there’s no screws or anything. Hearing that [CLICK] when you do it right and it pops into place and is straight and not loose at all or anything is so satisfying.

The pickup is held in place in the soundhole basically by foam and friction. Here’s the first test sitting, after I’d added the high-density foam to the pickup itself:

That was almost enough by itself, but not quite. I ended up adding a backplane and some spacer elements, as it had a tendency to rotate in place without those. The hot glue is mostly there to be cable stress relief:

The project box is an old Radio Shack room monitor transmitter – basically, a baby monitor. I don’t remember how I got it or anything. Regardless, I tested it a few years ago and it’d gone bad, so I gutted it and kept the cases for projects. I think it cleaned up well!

I can’t find a picture of a truly unmodified example, but I did find a decent picture with this mod where that modder kept the words “REALISTIC” and “FM WIRELESS ROOM MONITOR” on the box. I’d wanted to keep the REALISTIC logo, too, but I couldn’t – the knobs wouldn’t stay in place flat with the word still there, so I scraped it off with an xacto knife.

I did keep the big TRANSMITTER label though. That seemed important.

Here’s that little rectangular switch. [CLICK] into place. So satisfying. Looks factory. ♥

Here are the large-block components in place, without the wiring, and also without the tone knob bypass switch which was actually a later addition. (One that turned out unnecessary – 800K resistance and infinite resistance are pretty much the same as far as this tone circuit goes.)

The circuit itself is very simple. The larger switch controls which lead from the pickup (humbucker or single-coil) is fed into the electric pickup side of the mixer. The two mixer knobs are just straight-up variable resistance pots, as is the combined-output level control. The tone knob is based on the 1950s-1960s Les Paul-style electric guitar tone knob, only with a smaller capacitor which goes pretty well with the zouk. And the tone-knob enable/disable switch is just a ground lift on the far side of the capacitor and variable resistance pot.

Now I just need to find some way to make the controller stay attached to the face of the zouk (or any part of the zouk really) without making any change to the zouk itself. Maybe a suction cup?

I wasn’t even really thinking about that part when I started this project, past “keep it small so maybe if I want to think about it later, I’ll have the option.”

It almost looks like some kind of foot pedal, doesn’t it? The reason the controls are so large is just so they’re easier to grab without looking. I’m already controlling this thing by feel – if I can come up with some way to attach it, I think it’ll be legitimately viable as a stage device. It’s certainly no fussier than that piezo pickup I made for the octave mandolin, and I’m using that.

So – yeah! Kohaku A-B-C: much more fun than I expected. If you want to make one, Here’s where you can get the pickup bar, the only thing I bought new. The pots are all 1M variable-resistance linear pots, the single coil/humbucker switch is type SPDT and should be pretty clean since the signal goes through it, the capacitor is… 14nF film cap, because I had it and it was handy, and the tone bypass switch isn’t worth doing but if you want to regardless just use anything that’ll let you connect a wire to ground – it’s not in the signal path so you don’t have to worry about quality. The knobs were from the Radio Shack bankruptcy sale at 90% off, and since they’re going through another round of that now, maybe you can get some 90% off too. Or just use the metal posts for an industrial look, it’s not like you need the knobs.

As always, higher-resolution pictures are on Flickr. Have fun, and if you build it, let me know! ^_^

a user interface question

In an audio device with a tone knob, and an on/off switch by that tone knob, which “ON” makes more UI sense?

[poll id=”29″]

This is an honest question. I mean, I’m going to wire it up so that “ON” means “tone knob on,” because that’s how I roll, but I see this go the other way a lot.

(Also in this case “tone knob” means “low pass filter” which means “removes high frequencies” because AND THERE YOU GO. See? SEE?)

“kohaku” electric test harness nr. 1

Literally the first signals off the electric test harness for Kokahu.

Recording is from a couple of days ago. There have been meaningful additional developments since this, but this is what I’m posting now.

How many electric Irish bouzoukis are there in North America? One more than before last week.

More to come.

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The Music

THE NEW SINGLE