Propellerpowered Pocket Mini Computer: Level 2

I’m really enjoying my Propellerpowered Pocket Mini Computer – it seems in perfect alignment with many of my current interests: retro/homebrew electronic music production, retroputing, and the Parallax Propeller microcontroller. I’m working through the official Propeller book, but some very interesting diversions from those more formal projects can be found in Propellerpowered’s Instructables – including a new “Creating Animation and Games” series.

The first “Chapter” gives an introduction to SLUG, the Simple Low-res Utility code for Gaming, using the PMC or any other Propeller board with VGA or TV output. The second installment introduces MIGS, the Multi-Interface Game-control Standard, which facilitates the use of a range of controllers, from keyboard to NES to Wii, with Propeller-based video games.

Another great Instructable from Propellerpowered is TV Out for the Pocket Mini Computer, which I also completed along with the Creating Animation and Games chapters, since they cover the tweaks needed to use TV Out vs. VGA. There’s something great about seeing those low-res graphics on an old-school CRT that you just don’t get from a crisp modern LCD! I’m not sure what Read More…

Solved: Evernote for iPad “Could not sync note” Synchronization Error

I made the switch from OneNote to Evernote several years ago due to the latter’s superior app availability for the plethora of devices that I use. Despite comparatively feeble editing capabilities, Evernote’s device agnosticism gave it the edge for me. In the past few months, however, it had become barely usable on my iPad due to a “Could not sync note: The content is invalid” error that would pop up continually while I was trying to work. After finding no solutions initially, I pretty much gave up and resorted to brief read-only sessions only when using the iPad. But I decided to give it another shot today and while perusing a very long thread documenting others’ experience with the issue, found one post that mentioned finding the offending notes in the Trash. Frankly, I’d never even noticed the Trash on the iPad app, but managed to locate it eventually under Notebooks, and then sorted by Title to find and eliminate all notes titled “Untitled note” – there were a fair number, but I eventually made it down to one from several months ago which still had the little blue “pending sync” arrow next to it, and deleting that note immediately silenced the pop-ups. I vaguely recall that when this started I had accidentally created multiple notes with a few errant taps, and must have deleted the duplicates faster than it could sync or perhaps during, which seemed to be the cause of this issue. I’m very pleased to have Evernote back to normal on my iPad, not popping up an error message continually and making the app unusable!

Papilio FPGA RetroCade MegaWing Synth

The RetroCade Synth began as a Kickstarter project by self-taught OSHW designer Jack Gassett. I was one of its very first backers, having learned about the project from Jack during an extremely positive customer service experience with my Papilio Arcade order last spring, which was my first foray into FPGA. Since my interest was based on modeling retro hardware, and due to the obvious overlaps with my music production interests, the RetroCade seemed to be a giant shortcut toward much of what I was attempting to do anyway, and I leapt at the opportunity to back as well as promote the project in any way I could. The Kickstarter experience was one of the best I have had, with excellent communication and transparency from Jack, and even a very generous upgrade when it proved that the Papilio Pro would be required for full functionality, with the 500K (which I was intending to use) only supporting a “Lite” version.

My RetroCade MegaWing arrived on New Year’s Eve, and I was anxious to get it running, but ran into trouble attempting to load the firmware. I posted my problems to the RetroCade Synth Forums, and got a reply from Jack within a day, and an updated bitfile for use with the 500K after just one more day. I still intend to upgrade to the Pro in order to take full advantage of the hardware, Read More…

Propellerpowered Pocket Mini Computer

I was bored last night, so I soldered together a fully-functional computer from discrete components…! This is not entirely true – what I really did was assemble a Propellerpowered Pocket Mini Computer, which consists of a Parallax Quickstart CPU Board, VGAplus Board, and Universal MicroSD adapter kit. Assembly is easy, even the SMD microSD socket, thanks to the helpful assembly video for that component.
A mere hour and a half or so later (and I was assembling at a leisurely pace!), I was up and running with a computer that I had assembled much of myself, and from there proceeded through the accompanying Getting Started Instructable. I had purchased the pre-loaded microSD card, which includes PMC Basic, various non-BASIC binary Propeller apps, and a collection of SID DMP files. One of the coolest Read More…

Dakar 2013

With Christmas and New Year’s out of the way, it’s time for the 2013 Dakar Rally!  This year’s rally takes place from the 5th to the 20th of January 2013, and spans Peru, Argentina and Chile.  Get ready for the off-road action with the official promo video:

and keep up with it using the official Android and iOS apps!

2013 US TV coverage is provided by NBC Sports – you can tell how big of a priority Motorsports is to NBC by the site’s navigation – it’s under “More” – just below “Dog Show” – a worrying sign, since NBC has wrangled 2013 US F1 TV coverage away from SPEED - and is being called by Leigh Diffey – perhaps as a warm-up for his upcoming F1 duties…?

Bleep Labs Pico Paso Kit

The Pico Paso kit allows even novice makers to build their own functional synth, with oscillators and knobs and cute little photocell antennae that control pitch (for a crude Theremin-like effect!).

Assembly is a doddle, despite the somewhat hastily-written instructions – I was up and running within about 20 minutes. The only slight scare was when it initially failed to make any sound upon plugging into an old guitar amp after assembly – turns out that the Shape knob was just too far in one direction to make any noise – as soon as I realized this, all kinds of exciting buzzes and screeches started reverberating throughout the house!

My small disappointment with the kit was that it only accomplished one of my two goals: I had hoped for a synth kit that was simple enough for me to assemble and understand. It was very simple to build, but the “educational” aspect was a little lacking – even with the inclusion of schematics and PCB layout, I didn’t feel as though there was adequate explanation of how it was that all these little components were making these cool sounds, especially for a kit aimed at beginners, who are unlikely to be able to interpret schematics and such. Regardless, I’m very pleased with the kit, and plan on checking out more kits from Bleep Labs!

Sprint/Ting Galaxy S III Jelly Bean Update!

Sprint is the first US carrier to deliver Jelly Bean for the Galaxy S III, which means Ting customers benefit too!  My impression of the S III to date has been that it is an amazing piece of hardware, which brings with it some brilliant innovations, but also many frustrations, primarily in the software layer – after only a short while with the 4.1.1 update, my affection for the device is growing rapidly – in addition to obvious things like the Google Now functionality that I’ve been raving about for ages, there is a comprehensive “blocking mode” (for e.g. preventing notifications and other disturbances while you’re sleeping – except specific important contacts!), better input options, and “Smart Rotation” which rotates the screen based on your eye position rather than the accelerometer (meaning your screen stays the way you want it, even if you’re lying down!)! (ô_ô)

Google Play’s Customer Support Is Pathetically Low Tech

I’ve found Google Play’s Customer Support and general experience frustrating and sub-par since the moment I ordered my Nexus 7 – my initial order had my billing address (a PO Box) as the shipping address – a physical impossibility – yet refused to let me cancel the order, claiming that seconds later was already too late to cancel.  I got it sorted eventually, but was left with a bad taste in my mouth before I’d even received my device.  Now I’ve discovered that the device is faulty – I was already concerned that it was starting to suffer from the infamous screen lifting issue, but recently tried to use the 3.5mm stereo jack only to discover that the resultant audio was mono – and that swapping to a different cable, or even headphones, made no difference.  I had a great experience returning a faulty mSD card to Amazon recently and hoped Google might offer something similar – but instead was presented with no option but to give them a call – something I would find shocking from even a small online retailer, let alone a global technology leader like Google. (゚Д ゚ )

 

 

U.S. Grand Prix – Live On-Board Cams!

This weekend marks the return of Formula One to U.S. soil at the newly-constructed Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, TX.  My F1 Twitter List has been overflowing with pictures of various goings-on in the days leading up the the event, and now that practice is underway, SPEED is offering live on-board video during all three Practices, Quali, and the Race – should make for a very exciting weekend!!! (^o^)=b

[Update: I may have overdone it slightly with the on-board cams: Read More…

Fake Blood – Cells

Fake Blood - CellsAt long last, Fake Blood‘s debut full-length album, Cells, was released today!  The new LP contains nothing from his prior singles except End of Days and the titular Yes / No from his most recent.  While primarily consisting of the expected dark beats, there are some lighter moments, including appearances from fellow Black Ghost Simon Lord, and even a fairly obvious Giorgio Moroder/Donna Summer reference in Sideshow!  Be sure to check out the Fake Blood Facebook page for some interesting tidbits on the concepts behind some of the tracks!  d^_^b

Review: Values, Units, and Colors: Foundational CSS3 Components

Values, Units, and Colors is the third installment of Eric Meyer‘s partwork-style fourth edition of CSS: The Definitive Guide, previous editions of which are considered biblical by many.  O’Reilly seems to be trending towards shorter publications lately – emphasizing timeliness, as technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing pace – over more definitive tomes like the 1100 page beast I picked up last year (though it is excellent!).  In addition to shorter, more specific publications, many are offered as Early Release eBooks, which give readers access to fragments of books as the author writes them – an effort which I appreciate, yet often curse when I discover for example that the introductory chapters are not yet complete, or that the specific topic that I desperately need information on has not yet been touched on.  The approach taken here is somewhat[1] novel: Meyer is offering final chapters (again, as opposed to Early Release’s often incomplete, buggy, or missing content) in inexpensive installments, with a discount on the final, complete book.  I’ve been a big fan of Eric Meyer since On CSS and More…, so was ecstatic to learn that The Definitive Guide would be receiving a much-needed update to its 2006 Third Edition.  That seems like an awfully long Read More…

Review: Mobile Development with C#: Building Native iOS, Android, and Windows Phone Applications

Mobile Development with C# is yet another book that I was motivated to purchase by one of O’Reilly’s free webcasts.  The title, Cross-Platform Mobile Development with C#, grabbed my attention, and the presentation itself was one of the most impressive I have seen from O’Reilly’s or any other series.  The webcast is no longer available in its original format, but it is available on YouTube, and I have uploaded the companion slideshow here since it does not appear to be available on the author’s site.  Greg Shackles is emphatic about the fact that he is neither employed nor compensated by Xamarin, the developers of MonoTouch and Mono for Android, which are the tools at the heart of the Cross-Platform Mobile Development strategy – but his proponence of these products is so effective that I hope they at least buy him a craft beer at some point!(^_-)  The book advocates a technique of developing native user interfaces for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7, adhering to each platform’s idioms, yet binding each to a common C# codebase – a codebase which could also be leveraged Read More…

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