Embedded software developer at Roku, living in Austin, TX, previously in Brooklyn. Hacked some open source hardware and did some Arduino networking.

Daft Punk Word Clock

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Feb 032022

I recently published notes and project files for my Daft Punk Word Clock on hackaday.io. This is a project I did over New Years to make a word clock-style interface to the song “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” by the ubiquitous musical robots from France.  I’d had an idea to do something with this song for a while, but when I sat down to go through the lyrics, I realized there were only 18 unique words, so making a classic word clock, but showing the current line instead of the current time seemed like a neat idea.

Before building any sort of custom hardware, I wanted to prototype it, so I used a spare Adafruit PyBadge, since it runs CircuitPython and has a reasonable display and speaker output. The project came together pretty quickly. I spent some time in Audacity tagging all the lyrics to get time stamps, then processed that into a Python data structure, then built code to show the word clock, with highlights starting and stopping at the required times. This was similar to work I’d done in my day job with display and timing of closed captions. I also used level data from the MP3 decoder to drive the light strip as a cheap audio visualizer.

The biggest issue was audio sync. The clock on the PyBadge wasn’t quite exact, so using the real-time clock to time changes to the clock resulted in getting very out of sync by the middle of the song. This was especially hurt by performance issues with redrawing the screen. I had to increase the MP3 decoding buffering to help with CPU blocking during redraws, and I had to made a code change to the MP3 decoder in CircuitPython to add an attribute showing the current playback time, since that would actually match with the position in the song, where the unsynced system clock would not.

I could see a future version of this using a 3D printed clock face and LED matrix to make this more real, but I’m pretty happy with it as is.

Dec 072010

This Sunday, December 12th, we’ve got another Arduino/Soldering 101 class — you’ll learn soldering techniques by building your own Freeduino board, then you’ll get to learn some basic programming. This is one of our most popular classes, and it’s always a great time.

Then, the following Saturday, the 18th, is our first Build a MIDI Percussion Instrument class. We’re going to be making computer-controlled noisemakers using solenoids then doing a nice jam session with a sequencer running all the devices. This should be a lot of fun.

Nov 292010

This Sunday, December 5th, why not take a break from holiday shopping to learn how to make microcontrollers do amazing things! This is a repeat of an excellent class from earlier this year called Beyond Arduino: Using Microcontrollers Directly. In this class, you’ll build a shield for an Arduino that can be used to program other ATMega chips from 8 to 28 pins. Then, you’ll build your own circuit on a breadboard using at ATMega328 and a ATTiny85. You’re getting a lot of nice gear and experience with making creations that don’t need a $30 board.

Get details and sign up at our Eventbrite page for the event.

Oct 112010

A few weeks ago, NYC Resistor had quite a showing at the first Worlds Maker Faire in Queens.  We showed off a number of projects, including Ranjit’s MIDI Player Piano, Mr. Stabby, Raphael’s Twitchies, and Chris’s Cray-on-a-FPGA.  One of the new projects shown was the NYC Resistor Atari 2600 demo, thrown together the night before by me, Ben Combee.

The hardware you see there has a few homebrew components.  The console is an Atari 2600 Jr, the smaller version that was on sale in 1985 through 1990.  I’ve installed an AV modification from The Longhorn Engineer to get composite, S-Video, and stereo audio outputs.  The monitor is an older 21″ Dell unit that has composite inputs.  The demo was running off a Harmony Cartridge, a very cool homebrew development board done by people at the AtariAge website.  It lets you load a bunch of ROM images on a SD card and select which one to run at boot time.  For the Faire, I used a special autorun mode where it would always immediately start with the demo instead of showing the menu.

The app wasn’t written directly in 6502 assembly.  Instead, I used a great development tool called Batari Basic. It’s a BASIC language wrapper around the 2600’s hardware with prewritten display kernels. While you can’t do everything with it, it’s a great way to get an idea up and running on the system.

If you want to download the code or the binary to run in your 2600 emulator, it’s part of the NYC Resistor github depot along with many of our other projects.

Jul 192010

If you’ve been playing with the Arduino and want to figure out how to go to the next level, this Sunday’s Beyond Arduino class is for you.  Jarek Lupinski is going to be talking about how to breakboard your own designs using bare microcontrollers, how to program this chips using ICSPs, and how to downsize from the Arduino’s ATMega 328/168 to the less expensive ATtiny 45.

Details and registration at http://beyondarduino.eventbrite.com/

ICMC Is Coming!

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May 272010

(if you saw this before, don’t worry — I’ve revived it to the front page to encourage more people to come out!)

Us Resistors love electronics and we love music. Often, we find ways to make music using electronics. That’s why we’re really happy to be hosting several workshops with the 2010 International Computer Music Conference that’s here in the New York City area in early June.

Unlike normal Resistor classes, you’ll need to go the Workshops page on the ICMC site to register. Here’s a list of what’s being offered at our space.

They’re going to be a lot of fun, and they should attract participants from all over the computer music world.

Apr 142010

iPod dismantle 07-05-2007 13-39-57
There are still a number of tickets available this Saturday for a new class here at Resistor.  It’s called Fun with Touch Sensors, and it features a lot of hands on interaction with the kinds of sensors you find in a iPod click wheel or smartphone touch screen. I think it will be a lot of fun, and it should give you some ideas about making your own interactive devices for fun, art, or practical purposes.

Every student gets a kit with a QT1106 Breakout board, a slider module, a wheel module, a small breadboard, a shift register, some LEDs with resistors, and even a plastic box and battery holder!

Here’s Joel’s video showing off the sensors:

If you’re on the fence, we’ve got a special TOUCHTHIS coupon code for the event that takes $10 off the admission price.  Just enter it in the Eventbrite registration page.

Mar 232010

We’ve got a lot of friends here in New York, and we like to mention when they’re doing awesome things.  Here’s one of them, a Bioelectricity class run by HTINK over at Bug Labs this Wednesday night.

Bug Labs – 598 Broadway (at the corner of Houston) 4th floor, New York, NY
Wednesday, 3/23/2010, 7PM, Bug Labs

Have you ever wondered how living organisms create and control electrical energy?  Come learn how living cells use nanopumps and ion channels to generate and transmit signals that control everything from how hard you click a mouse to how quickly your heart beats.  Matthieu and Krystoff, biomedical engineers with the world.s largest implantable medical device manufacturer, Medtronic, will discuss these principles and more, as we cover everything from neural signal processing to heart rhythm control.

Explore the rapidly growing field of bioelectronic devices and get a chance to build your own EKG machine.  Come learn how implantable pacemakers and defibrillators track and control heart rhythms, and allow doctors to hack patient biorhythms remotely via a combined internet and RF communication channel.  Additionally, the science of pacing and defibrillation therapies will be discussed along with a demonstration of the effects of therapeutic electrical shocks.

There will be a kit available to build. Purchasing the kit is not required. If you do purchase a kit, you will want to bring a windows laptop to view the output from the ECG. No tools are required.

Mar 152010

We’ve got the first batch of classes at the new NYC Resistor space online.  Come learn a few things and check out our new digs on stylish 3rd Avenue near downtown Brooklyn.

Keep Calm and Solder On

On Saturday, March 20th, Raphael Abrams does a double header.  At 2PM is the fun and practical Introduction to Electronics, a 3 hour lesson on hooking up batteries to components to make things happen.  Then, starting at 6PM, we’ve got our PCB Design using Eagle class where you learn how to draw out a schematic and PC board that you can either etch yourself or send out for production.

The next day, Sunday the 21st, we’ve got our Arduino & Soldering 101 class where you solder together a Freeduino board then write some simple programs to control it.  This one’s taught by Ryan and Liz and it usually sells out.

Finally for now, Pop-Up Shelby is repeating her Paper Engineering class from the Fall where you’ll learn about how to fold, tape, and cut paper to make all sorts of motion-activated animated designs.

[Graphic courtesy of http://sinbox.org]

Mar 062010

I just discovered a new community site of interest to NYCR blog readers. ChipHacker.com is a Stack Overflow-like site for doing questions and answers on hardware hacking problems. It’s been up now for few weeks and they’ve already got over 350 question up on topics ranging from Arduinos to DC conversion and motors. If you’re interested in helping out or just want to ask a few questions, head over there and check it out.