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Archive for January 2012


3d printed beatjazz headset: Pre-alpha build update

For future reference, whenever I am not posting or updating my status, I am working. There is so much going on during these hack sessions that to update on each step would be too much. The side benefit is that I so want to update you on the progress of things that it helps me to maintain focus so I can drop something dope on you when I do post.

The last two weeks (month?!) have been much more balanced than the previous 6 months. There’s been a bit of social life, played a show in Switzerland and one in Dresden at Groovestation. Really nice gig! People were well up for a party and the vibe was really good. I was very happy that it seems to be a trend that my system (now with quad core laptop and new pressure sensors in the mouthpiece) works flawlessly now. I didn’t even know what "flawless" felt like before these changes to the system. Now, the effortlessness is starting to assert itself and I hope that my new software designs reinforce this aspect more predictably.

After the Dresden gig, it was straight back and straight into learning CAD (computer aided design) and sound design exercises. Having finally achieved a stable print with the reprap, I wanted to forge ahead with designing the new controller as well as various other 3d printed beatjazz system crowdfunding campaign perks. Adding these printed perks to the campaign was done intentionally to force myself to have to jump into CAD and make something viable with it in the short term.solidworks-screenshot I was very fortunate to have friend show and allow me to use the CAD software he uses for his work, called Solidworks (My product trial copy is on the way...yaaaay!!!). ah-may-zing! You can design a whole car in this joint! It is completely parametric so I can make sure that everything is exactly the size I need it to be. It has been a bit of a stretch to go to his flat to refine the parts I create in freecad, but it is worth it for the extra detail I am able to impart.

IMG_0606So now, it has been a week that I have been printing parts and even though it’s not completed, I wanted to show you what I have been working on. This is the basic design of the headset. The premise is that it should be adjustable for any size adult head so I have left a lot of spacing between components, owing to the enormity of my own noggin. The design hinges at the jaw and the mouthpiece base rest on the chin. IMG_0612I will be starting on the design of the mouthpiece today (I ran out of the white plastic filament that came with the reprap and will continue once the black and "robot silver" filament arrive). The rear-of-head brace will also adjust for various head sizes. The "plumbing"-for the pressure tube and wiring-will be internal in this first design (subject to change)

The iterative aspects of CAD and 3d printing are incredible. The ability to add in exact dimensions and channels for electronics, and air tubing allow for a design that is much more compact, durable, light and comfortable than was previously possible. As well, the design can be change so easily and cheaply, I could design a beatjazz controller for very specific purposes (music therapy, burning man, busking, acrobatics, etc.) and never worry about being too protective of being harsh with it because another one is simply a matter of printing replacement parts.

Interestingly, the design of one part, rewrites the design of each subsequent part. The current look of the headset stems from the chunky design of the jaw hinge, which vectored away from the "scaffolding" design concept of the parts before it. (and this is the first week of doing any of this type of design!  imagine a year from now.) Once I can hold it in my hand, the next step seems to create itself. For me this is perfect. I am much better with physical objects than with their onscreen representations.

IMG_0610Also, the reprap itself has been leeching into the design. The reprap's ingenious common components/custom assembly design has been a big inspiration. As with the reprap, I hope to make 70% of the non-electronics components of this system, printable and downloadable with the software (and linked to the reprap open source wiki to encourage the building of one’s own 3d printer as well). Its intersection of screws and bolts mated to self-printed parts is a design concept that I can see making waves in the next few coming years and beyond.

The plastic itself, PLA-Polylactic acid- is plant, rather than petroleum based. It is strong, non-toxic and can biodegrade in a landfill, although it won’t biodegrade in regular use. This really suits me as a means of expressing myself in a manner that won’t make a bad situation (pollution) worse.

Next will be the hand units. This will be pretty easy because once I design one hand, the CAD software will let me mirror it and print out a version for the opposite hand. From that point, it is all about getting them to the contributors so they can have as much fun as me!

So wanted to update you on the progress of the system. There is still loads of work to be done, but things are progressing nicely. Gotta get back to work. Holla...


Afrofuturistik in Swtizerland!

335098_10150490524554658_532789657_8238106_1976513386_oAhhhhh....I am currently chillin out at Ambulanz cafe in Berlin, basking in the afterglow of an especially nice gig weekend.

This weekend I was in Switzerland for the first time in the small city of Schaffhausen. I caught an early flight on Saturday morning which was surprisingly brief (approximately an hour and some change). That was a harbinger of things to come, already. I didn’t have to print out anything or check in online. I just showed my passport, checked in my luggage and went thru a security check where I didn’t have to remove my shoes nor did I significantly increase my chances of developing cancer. Flight, sleep, land. IMG_0556One extortionately expensive cab ride later, I met up with Phillip who has the unique distinction of being the promoter AND more importantly, one of 5 people in the world who went for the beatjazz controller perk during my crowdfunding campaign. This was really nice, as I would be able to show him some of the prototype implementations that would be going into the controller he will be getting.

We got to stroll around the tiny yet surprisingly well appointed little town and the architecture is exactly what you would expect in a tiny rich country, well IMG_0569maintained, and laid out with lots of walkable little streets made of cobble stone with the requisite castle in the background (I didn’t get to go check it out though). I couldn’t absorb most of the town as I had not slept yet so when we arrived at the club, I slept.

Taptab is a small club that doesn’t know it. I have NEVER seen that many lights in such a tiny place. It was hilarious and exciting, as was the nice sound system and the overall club layout.

taptab-photoUpon arrival, I was shown a copy of the local lifestyle paper with me on the cover!?!? Wow! I have been on 1001 flyers over the years but this was the first time I was the headliner. It was very interesting to say the least. I could get used to it 😉

The gig

Well, as you know, my system is in a constant state of development. For this show, I revised the visuals a bit, to convey a few more aspects of what is happening and to draw correlations between what people hear and what they see. As well, I somehow shoehorned my mic and its transmitter pack onto the prototype headset I am currently using. It is very bulky but sheadset pic with micurprisingly not-heavy (not quite “light” though). It confirms my hypothesis that having everything on such a construct will be very freeing, physically. And lastly, I added a few new gestural algorithms to control FX and parameters in Kore. These are giving me valuable insight into how such effects will be realized in my custom system, which I am still building (may debut some of it this weekend in Dresden).

The sound set is wildly more evolved now. The extra horsepower means that there is no longer a need to make compromises in live rendering quality to keep the latency down. Now, everything is humming along quite nicely.

So how did it go? AMAZINGLY!! (I have included a bit of video, shot by my friend Michael who, coincidently, is another soon-to-be beatjazzer who travelled for the show. It would seem that there is a little family forming already!!) The crowd was hyped and varied, and included one of the promoters Grandmother! That was cool. And it seemed well received! Very happy.

Live at taptab club in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Jan 14, 2012

But I did see quite a bit of that "wtf?" look that I have learned to notice. I was told that the concept that I was "looping" might have confused a few people so I will implement visualization elements this week that will better represent ALL of the various things I am doing while playing. And "maybe" throw in a few of my gestural synths before the coming weekend.

All in all, this was one of the most relaxed, cool, gigs I've done in a long time and I thank Phillip and the Taptab crew for making it so special.

But now...back to life...back to reality. And that reality is 3D CAD. I have loads of work to do in this regard as well as calibrating the printer as it is currently printing things crooked. But I am NOT least it is printing! And when I am not learning about extruding and lofting, I will be working on the new haptic audio feedback system I hope to implement by the weekend. with so many new functions being integrated into the system, I now need a system for know where I am in this massive grid of possibilities, so alas, this cafe trip will be the exciting part of my week up til the show at Groovestation in Dresden this Friday. So I gotta get back to it. Live long and prosper!


wel…I…erm…Reprap is the greatest

hmmmm….well, I guess I whined just a little too early in the story.

FIRST-PRINTAs I always suspected, my reprap is fully functional.  I discovered that my problem was that the sequence of tasks necessary to make the reprap operate, was, as I stated before, confused at best.  but the guy on the reprappro forum were extremely helpful in helping me get up and running, although, clarification of the order in which things are done is still very necessary.

most of my confusion came from not knowing the difference between an .stl file (stereo lithography) and a gcode file (which is the sliced file that the printer uses to map out its little extrusion dance).  it is necessary to open the stl file, let it read it and create a .gcode file, THEN open the gcode file and print THAT.  also, the surface that the plastic is extruded to was not very sticky, and it was suggested that I use masking tape as a surface. VIOLA! PRINT BLISS!

so this isnt a retraction.  everything from the previous post is still applicable, except the parts where I am miserable and depressed.  that is no longer the case.  I am ecstatic!! and very much ready to start working on the new controller components now!  cheers!


Rep Rap Pro Huxley Configuration is doing my head in

This reprap huxley kit is officially a pain in the ass(today but maybe not in the near future).

This was obviously built by and for engineers.  and there are so many issues with it that when I do get an answer about it, come off as if it is common knowledge.  missing or wrong sized pieces.  weird firmware configs, AND THEN if you fix one thing, you break another.  loads of people on the forums complaining about screws that should obviously be one length but are another, which means the printer doesn’t do what it is supposed to and the best you get is a “oops, my bad…”.  strange allignments that keep the prints from even starting.  The power adaptor that came with the printer blew up on day 3 and when I opened it up it looked like it had been left underwater for a week (although they did say they were shipping me a new one).

Please note…I am venting out of frustration not because I feel as if I have been purposely misled.  I am very very happy that I purchased the reprap from reprap pro.  I loved building it and it is a fantastic machine that, once it works, should become an integral aspect of my expressions, BUT, engineers should have editors that make things legible for non-engineers.  I don’t program in Python!  I had never heard of gcode, or .stl files, or slicing or any of that before receiving this in the mail ( in addition to the €100 in tools I purchased just to assemble it)  what I feel they should have done after the crowdfunding campaign in which I bought the machine, is to send some study materials links to the person that purchased it.  after I contributed, I didn’t hear from them except to pay for shipping.  in contrast, my contributors are probably exhausted by the amount of communication from me, even now, 2 months later.  DON’T ASSUME THAT THE PURCHASERS ARE ENGINEERS! maybe a PDF or two and some vids that get your mind ready for what is to come and the community that you are about to join.  I did my own research ahead of time but what am I going to do with software with nothing to run it on?

right now I am really kinda pissed. I led myself to believe that I’d be printing by now ( and I’m sure others are) and through a combination of my own lack of knowledge and badly presented or outright confusing online materials on the part of reprap pro, I am sitting here looking dumber than usual.  it is heartbreaking to have such a wonderously powerful machine sitting less than a meter away and some bullshit configs (that one day I will understand, but not at this moment) stand in between you and creative bliss.  as I stated before, I am as angry at myself as much as I am at them. in the future, tell buyers that they should know A, B and C before attempting to build one of these things! 

So I am going to go beat myself up some more then, very very sadly, I must leave this thing alone and concentrate on programming for my set next week.  I must adapt the gestural systems and the visual systems to the new computer hardware and add in the aural haptic system I have been working on.  it kills me that I “may” not have a printed headset to use in switzerland at the taptap club show next saturday.  of course I may figure it out in the next 20 minutes, but now, I at least know that as I prepare my kits and workshops, to remember that everyone doesn’t necessarily know what I know when I know it and to not assume that they do.


Dream Architecture with Mind Mapping

well, holiday season is over. i got to feel normal for a almost 2 weeks. really nice. but...that was then...this is 2012. I've got a OCD relapse building up that is set to explode and take a few city blocks with it!

When the mind has time to rest and do other things, many things that were so hard to "gel", seem to be much more effortless afterward. this is where i am at now. cant sleep. everytime i close my eyes, there is some EUREKA that wakes me up and puts a pencil and paper in my hands. my brain is on fire (must find a viable substitute for sugar and caffiene)

Last year was very intense cerebrally. learning so many new things primarily centered around pure data programming, parameterized movement, DSP and basic electronics. to get it all in, i literally spent approximately 18 hours a day, everyday, focused on these tasks. i got so much done and am really happy i was able to do so, but…


By Nov, i was completely fried. i didnt regret the pace, but i did not manage my time creatively. some days were 2 hours of practice, 2 hours of internet and 5 hours of programming. other days were 30 minutes of practice, 6 hours of internet and 1 hour of programming and NO social time, no gym time, etc. 

now a new year is here and in addition to much of the conceptual workload from last year-which i must make note and say, I LOVE!! I've never been happier at the pace- now adds 3d CAD, designing a traveling beatjazz workshop concept, designing a 3d printed beatjazz controller, constructing new sounds in kore while simultaneously designing new sound constructs for my gestural synthesis system, 3d visuals, powerpoint for speaking engagements and practicing music, dance and speaking. the reason it doesnt seem unfeasible is that each "item" is related to or feeds other items and much of the content can be used between them. but its still a full workload which must then also accomodate, finding gigs, socializing and going to the gym.

so now, flush with an abundance of CPU power and a donated 21" monitor, I can visualize, track and manipulate these individual vectors using software tools, many of which i have used for years, but now i see that their profound depth will have to be explored. 

My tools of choice are, Mindjet Mindmanager and Microsoft Office with google docs filling in here and there as backup and online storage.  Mindmanager is a monstrously powerful mindmapping program. one of a core of apps that are the only reason i dont discard windows all together (also Kore 2, and adobe fireworks and freehand).  mind mapping is an associative visualization tool that allows one to see data spatial with relationships represented by lines drawn from one to another. it allows the visualization of relationships that would not be obvious otherwise. it has a pre-digital history but mindmapping was a process that was especially ammenable to being onscreeen so when I say mindmapping, I mean the software kind.

To say that i use mindmapping regularly, is the same as saying that i breath every once in a while. it is the only tool i use every single day.  i use it to map out my day, my blog posts, my programming ideas, random thoughts, email responses...everything. it has completely altered my thinking and how i order my thoughts, even when i  am not using it.

There are many mindmapping apps out there, commercial and free and open source, but the strength of  mindmanager is that it links intimately with microsoft office.  this represents a powerful fusion of concepts working together.   mindmanger is very "right brain", if you believe in things like that. very intuitive and creative.  office is the archetype of "left brain"; analytical, logical, consensus based on available data, type shit. 

with mindmanager, you can come up with all of these flowery, wonderfully creative ideas. Then, you keep reducing the resulting trajectories down to simpler and simpler pieces until they become actionable tasks.  once you have one of these monster maps, simply go around the outside edge of this constellation and right click on these tasks and push them over into MS Outlook with a time and date for when it should be done.

Outlook!? i hear you say.  one benefit of this combo is that links to calendar, contacts, email, tasks and appointments can be interactively maintained between the two apps, which, in my world, means, i can now easily synchronize these tasks with my smartphone and associated alarms.  do you see what happened there?! we have gone from a flowery ideas to actionable task list! 

This is a very basic form of what is known as project managment.  if you are a dreamer, like me, then project management is the engine that turns dreams into reality.  You start with an idea then sit and brainstorm on that idea ( mindmanager has many brainstorming tools to help you approach your problem/concept from many angles) then just let the ideas flow out without worrying about whether they are viable or realistic.  that will come later.  after brainstoming, drag the boxes around so that related items are near each other in a clockwise fashion.  from here, you can start seeing associations and dependencies that become more obivous and you can take each branch as far as is neccessary to resolve it.

it takes practice ( being a bit neurotic helps as well) to ask more and more defined question to get down to that golden nugget of a task that comes at the end of all this brain-work.  a proper task, i believe, is something that can be done in one go.  if a task take s more than one chunk of time, then you should dig into it a little deeper and find a way to make the task more bitesize.  ie "practice german" is too general a task.  that would be an item and "take notes of the gender associations of words" would be a much more compact task, associated with an item of greater scope. i like to make tasks 2-3 hours in length each, max. now you can start sending these tasks to outlook by right clicking on them and chooosing "send to outlook tasks" and giving them a duration and a start and due time.

it is at this point i like to go to mindmanagers built in Gantt chart.  a gantt chart is is a project management tool that is used to manage time and resources graphically.  the best bit is the built in time dependencies, ie, you cant do (this) before you have completed (this) OR if you complete (this) you can allot the extra time and resources to something else.  what this means for me is that today may start at 10am and tomorrow at 1pm but the time dependencies stay relative and i can still achieve all of that days tasks, on schedule. AND everything is updated to my smartphone, so its as if i have a job working for someone doing loads of cool shit...but that someone is me!  yaaay!!

I know this all seems OCD as hell, but seriously, it helps make sure that everything that needs to get done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, gets done and done well, as if it was just the most normal thing in the world.  crazy but true.  to me, project management may as well be called dream architecture. once you do it and you get it, dreams just pop up, POOF! check it out.  l8r (below is the one I used to write this post)

Life-time management

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