Okay I just installed SevenUp Live, and I have to say it's one of the sleekest most comprehensive packages for use with Monome/Arduinome controllers and Ableton Live. It has been out for a while in various forms, but judging from this version it's safe to say its creator has really spent a lot of time and effort making this software tight, functional, and fun as hell. It's like a Swiss army knife for Live. Seriously, this thing has got a step sequencer, sequencer, looper, controller, loop recorder, melodizer, and masterizer. Oh, and it's free. It supports multiple Monomes which is great because I've got like 6 of them. Just kidding, I have 10. Still kidding. I have barely gotten started on the step sequencer and I'm already salivating. This thing is going to make my Bliptronic the ultimate companion to my APC40.
In the first posting, I walked through the steps I took to build a Bliptronome, up to the point of plugging it in and testing it using MaxMSP. The remaining steps now consist of:
- Cutting a little slot in the case to expose the header pins.
- Mounting and connecting the potentiometers.
- Stuffing everything back into the enclosure and screwing it back together.
- Re-sticking the little rubber feet.
- Downloading some Monome apps and stuff.
Marking the Slot
My goal here is to mark the spot on the top shell where I will cut a slot so that the USB-BUB can plug in to the header pins. Since my circuit board seems to be angled up a bit, I first put a screw into the mounting hole nearest the pinout to get a more accurate idea of how it will fit with the top. I then set the top of the case on the bottom half, taking care not to offset the placement of anything.On my unit the header pins protrude exactly to where the edge of the case will be. You can see the spot where I used a marking pen to draw the shape of the slot.
Cutting the Slot
[WARNING: The next section features using an X-acto blade. These blades are very, very sharp. Please use caution when working with them!]
I busted out my X-acto #11 blade, thinking that it will be the best tool for the job. Well, the plastic on the case is mighty thick. I don't have a micrometer, but my eyeball tells me it's in the vicinity of 3/32". So I keep cautiously cutting along the outline of where I think the slot should go, trying to get deeper without slipping and scratching the edge. Well crap, at least I tried. It's difficult to get a good hold on the piece, and also avoid slicing into my own tender flesh. As I cut, I can see that the top line is a bit crooked, so the suggestion to finish with a flat file seems like a good call. Hopefully I have a file that'll fit because man, that is one sloppy looking slot.
Finishing the Slot, Painting
In fitting the top half to the bottom again, it's pretty clear I didn't make my slot deep enough. I was going to see if I could deepen it with a file, but I couldn't find a file! I could have sworn I had at least 3. I found some sandpaper and tried that, and ended up making some very noticeable scratches. So add spray painting the sides to my list. In the meantime I need to go out and get a file! A quick rummage through my bin of potentially useful miscellaneous items turned up a quite handsome set of small hobby files. Perfect! The slot is a bit deeper than I wanted but it's about as square as it's going to get. I'm gonna find some spray paint to hide those scratches and beautify the finish a bit. I sure wish I'd have looked in that box before using the damn sandpaper. Ah yes, and I also dabbed a bit of model glue on the edge of the play button to keep it from rattling around.
[Fsst! Fsst! I'm spray painting in my driveway at 11:45 p.m. Dry, dry, dry.]
The next morning...
The paint is dry and it looks good! I used a silver metallic, let it dry for about half an hour, then laid on some irridescent overcoat. I masked off the knob area so I could paint over the default markings since they're no longer applicable. The messed up slot looks a lot better, too. Overall a success! One minor tip, try not to fudge with the case too much like I did, you can see in the photo that the metal outer layer is offset a little, the result of my efforts to carve the slot.
Installing the Potentiometers
The potentiometers that came with the kit are pretty typical. They are nice and compact with three contacts, to be connected in series (the instructions detail this). Before installing them, I am going to mark where the flange points line up with the case, and then drill some teeny little holes in there with my electric drill. As mentioned in the instructions, a 1/8" bit looks the way to go here. First I set one of the pots into its spot, then use an X-acto knife to mark approximately where the flange will sit. If you plan to do any kind of case mods for projects (circuit bending, anyone?) this is a great technique to use. In this case, we can even avoid poking our flange holes through to the other side.
Drilling the Flange Holes
I use my drill to put the holes in. Some of them overlap the edges of the holes that are already there, but that doesn't matter. Plus the metal part acts as a shield for people like me who wait until they feel the bit hit the metal. It's like they saw me coming!! I used a 10mm socket to hand tighten the nuts down. As the instructions say, do not overtighten or you will squoosh the innards of the potentiometers.
Soldering the Pots
The pots are in, so as Buck Owens once said on Hee-Haw, it's time to start Strippin and Tinnin. At least I think that's what he said. I've got some 26awg hookup wire that should do just nicely, since those holes are pretty small. The pots are to be daisy chained, so I'll strip and tin each set of connections. I made my wire segments about two inches long. First I'll chain the GND solder pins (left-hand side), and then the 5V solder pins (right-hand side). The middle pins are a bit more complicated, so I want to double-check against their positions on the board as I make those connections. And here are the completed potentiometers, or ADC controllers as they should now be known.
Putting it Back Together
This part took me a couple of tries, as the black insert sheet got knocked out of position and subsequently de-clicked one of the middle buttons. A second attempt was 100% successful. monome_test reveals that all buttons and ADCs are fully functional. In the ArduinomeSerial settings, I have left the Cable Orientation set to "left". One more note, plug the unit in BEFORE turning on ArduinomeSerial, or else your device might not be recognized. Also there is a setting called Address Pattern Prefix that seems to be specific for each type of MaxMSP app you run. You need to set that field in ArduinomeSerial to match the app you choose.
I ended up going with the Boss-style stompbox knobs because I really like the way they fit these pots.
And here are some excellent resources for the Bliptronome Kit, Monome, electronics and that.
Now to spend some time with my new creation. I'd like to write a bit more about the software aspects of Bliptronomics, but first I'd like to play!
Will Lindsay at Stray Technologies has figured out how to hack a Bliptronic, and has created a marvelous kit that contains all of the components you need to change this bleeping box of buttons into a fully functional Monome one-off. The primary advantage here of course is that it costs somewhat less than building one of the official Monome, or Arduinome kits. If you know how to operate wire cutters and a soldering iron, you're in business. Well I guess that makes me barely qualified.
I acquired a Bliptronome and a Bliptronic kit a few months ago, and haven't assembled it yet. Today is the day! So first I shall get into a suitably blippy mood with the help of some coffee, and some delicous tunes from the Subvariant record label. They have some awesome free compilations available to download so it's well worth your time to check out if you are into the electronica. Which I decidedly am.
Let us begin the operation. I am using the provided instructions, which are so good it makes me wonder why am I even writing about this? I don't know. At the very least someone might find this useful, and if it sends a little business back Will's way so much the better!
1. Lay parts and tools out.
Before I started I was a good boy and laid out all of the stuff on my little work table. Yes, I am crazy for using such a small work table.
2. Open Bliptronic case.
First I removed the knobs, using my Swiss Army knife to pry them loose a bit first. This only took a gentle effort. Next, I removed the screws which are under the rubber feet. I saved the rubber feet by sticking them to the plastic bag that the included USB cable came in. I plan to re-stick them later.
Now it's time to pry the thing open. My unit seemed to be easier to open from the side opposite the jacks. This took a bit of wiggling, but I managed not to break anything. I carefully separated the halves, trimmed the speaker wire, and set the top of the case aside. The button pad stays attached to the top of the case. I trimmed the battery wires, which I won't need again, and also the ribbon cable which will be used for the potentiometers later.
Now to heat up the soldering iron. I got to try out my new Hakko tip cleaner, too. Nice. I am very concerned about getting the best quality soldering, and NOT messing up anything. The soldering was relatively uneventful.
Soldering is done, connections are shiny and decent. I think it's okay, although I can almost hear the voice of my 11th-grade electronics teacher, Mr. Post, who may as well have been looking over my shoulder just now because I just discovered that I soldered the 6-pin FTDI header to the wrong 6 holes. Crap. That means I'm done for today. If you are doing this be absolutely sure that you are connecting the components in the proper orientation. Check EVERYTHING before you commit it to solder. There is a photo on page 4 of the instructions that clearly shows which side of the board it attaches to. Also be sure to heed the following: "The 6 pins should bend at a 90 degree angle from the bottom of the board". That means the angled part is actually the side that connects to the board. Take a look at the photos in the instructions for an idea of how all of the parts are oriented together.
I quickly discovered that there is no way I am going to be able to desolder the headers with my soldering iron. I don't have a hot air gun or even a toaster oven. Instead I go online to order another right-angle 6-pin header to put into the right holes. I ordered the parts from Modern Device an online store with everything you might need if you start tinkering with the world of open source hardware.
Five days later...
YAY! My bag-o-headers just arrived in the mail, and now I can continue. Such a tiny thing, yet so vital. Stock up on stuff like this, because you sure the heck aren't going to find it at Radio Shack (not that I would be lame enough to...oh nevermind). A nice benefit is that since I ordered the pack of male + female headers, I was able to use one of the nice right-angle female headers to attach the USB-BUB board. It came with straight connectors which I could have bent, but hey, these came already bent. Time savings: 0:34 seconds.
I made the remaining solder connections, and then assembled the boards for testing. Then I plugged it in and crossed my fingers. And I was indeed greeted with a Shangri-La of scrolling red LEDs. A successful powerup!! Not only that, but Windows 7 automatically installed the drivers. Cool. However there is one other critical software program that needs to be installed: ArduinomeSerial. This is the software that translates native serial protocol to OSC, enabling the device to communicate with your OSC-compatible software. When you go to the download site, note that this isn't the firmware source. Find your way to the "Files" area and get the ArduinomeSerial and you're good to go. I installed ArduinomeSerial, launched it, fired up MaxMSP, and opened monome_test. It works! I am so happy! And judging from the photo, my Blip is happy, too. As it should be. Happy birthday, Blippy. Note that the grids in monome_test are set up for a 256. Alas, Blippy is a 64, so only the upper left quadrant of the grid in monome_test affects it. Also, the proper orientation is with the USB-BUB connection facing away from you (I got a bit disoriented for a moment). You can adjust the orientation of the unit through ArduinomeSerial. More on that in my next post.
This is what the test software looks like. Monome provides a whole raft of great Max patches along with the test software so you can start coding your brains out immediately. However I am going to wait until the rest of it is finished.
Now that it's all tested, time for me to take a little break. Stay tuned for the breathtaking conclusion, in which I will:
- Cut a little slot in the case to expose the header pins.
- Mount and connect the potentiometers.
- Stuff everything back into the enclosure and screw it back together.
- Re-stick those little rubber feet.
- Download some Monome apps and stuff.
Until next time, cheers!