Archive for February, 2011
There’s been some really awesome debate going on about how the arduino “won” and some responses from other microcontroller and hacker communities. Now, I know that the counter argument presented at hackaday was well thought out, and for a large group of hackers, their actual argument may be true (“the arduino is overkill for most things”) but… I’d like to explain why I’ve chosen the arduino for beatseqr.
1. features — The programming environment is available on every platform that 99%+ of end users would use or have reasonable access to, and it’s pretty easy to work with. There’s a ton of code out there to help you get a good understanding of how to get started. It has an integrated USB to serial interface, which I use extensively with beatseqr. It has an easy to use power supply for my project.
2. cost — Limitations always bring out your creativity. For some, the limitation is the cost. So they do what it takes to get to their results with less parts and less cost. For me, the limitation is time. My time is way more valuable to me than the cost of the arduino. Yes, it’s true, if you’re doing an RGB LED mood lamp, the ~USD$35 cost of an arduino uno is way overkill. Consider this, though. It’s obvious that it’s overkill. It’s way above and beyond what you’d expect to *leave* in an RGB LED mood lamp project, so it encourages you to take your successful early projects apart and build something else. So the expense encourages you to squeeze more utility out of your purchase, which encourages more learning. For beatseqr, the benefit I get from having all of the arduino mega ready to plug into my board makes the cost worth it. It’s a significant portion of the work already sorted out for me, and I feel like that’s an acceptable factor in the overall cost of goods for what I’m doing. In fact, it’s been my plan all along to offer a version of beatseqr, *without* an arduino mega in case you already have one.
3. availability — There’s many different variants, but the same basic functionality. As long as the IDE works for the board you buy, and you understand how to connect the board to your computer, you’ll have a predictable experience. Because so many people produce variants, you can find them all over the place. To include the above point, you can find an arduino for most every price point and form factor need.
4. upgradability — with the exception of the new surface mount boards, most arduinos have their main chip seated into a socket. So that made it pretty simple to order a ~USD$5 chip and double the memory in my arduino board. Presumably if Atmel continues to produce higher memory versions of the chip that the arduino uses, you would be able to continue upgrading an arduino fo evah.
5. easy user access to program, reprogram, and/or repurpose — You don’t need to know much when you buy an arduino. You don’t need a whole lot of extra parts to program one. My admittedly limited exposure to working with bare AVR chips was interesting and confusing and short lived. And I know for a fact that it’s the right set of tools for some people. The people who can get their heads around the command line tool chain to program bare microprocessors are people who you want to call your friend, definitely. And I also feel like it’s ok that I’m not one of those people. Basically, the arduino mega snaps onto the beatseqr board. If you ever get bored with a beatseqr, you can take the arduino mega out of it and reuse it for something else. That’s a plus in my book. My goal is to never let the beatseqr become that boring. But you could if you wanted or needed to.
6. firmware access — There are options. You can release your firmware or not release your firmware. There’s a reasonable expectation that a relatively technical user could download a firmware upgrade and reprogram a product you make that includes an arduino. Or, better still, modify the firmware to suit their exact needs. This may be possible with other microprocessor solutions, but I really feel like the arduino’s cross-platform programming environment is suited for the widest possible number of users. You download it go, regardless of what computer you’re on. If Pic or Parallax had cross platform gui programming environments, maybe I’d look, but they don’t, so I can’t. By the way, I also don’t program postscript or gcode by hand.
To recap, beatseqr isn’t like most things that are powered by an arduino. So using the arduino isn’t overkill. In the most simple way, I’m using almost every pin on the arduino mega for the beatseqr v4 circuit board. Two pins were intentionally left unused explicitly for hacking. And now that I’ve been working on the project for almost two years, I’m starting to imagine a better user experience, and that will require more i/o than even the arduino mega has. So that’s pushing me to learn some things beyond the arduino… which i think is exactly what both Phillip Torrone and Caleb Kraft were advocating, just on different websites.
Derek was unable to join us, so QORSER and I did our best to rock out at the Euphrat at De Anza College. Here’s the recording:
I can hardly believe it, but Solarno drove up 5 hours to see the show!! Whaaaat! Thanks dude! It was awesome to talk all kinds of shop with you afterwards!
We get letters! Well, email. I don’t actually get letters in the mail. But I do get email. So here are some of the correspondences I’ve had with people who have emailed me.
Iz asked me:
is there any possibility to develop a specific device, in the future, based on my needs and design ?
If such a project was remotely possible (as i don’t know who else to turn myself to), what would be the costs involved in making it happen ?
I guess it would vary with the difficulty of realization and various factors like the time you’d spent on r&d etc… but i’d want to know what costs i’m facing…
to which I said:
I’ve spent thousands of dollars developing beatseqr, just in terms of cost of tools, hardware, software, prototyping circuit boards, silicones, cases, and buying parts. I can’t even begin to imaging how much time I’ve spent on it. Hundreds of hours, easily.
I’d plan on $500 if you’re going to build something from scratch yourself. At first the bits and pieces don’t seem like they’ll add up to that much… it just seems to creep in that direction if you haven’t done it before. I’d plan on it costing more if you want someone else to build something for you from scratch. prototyping is pretty expensive, which is why I’m trying to sell copies of my project… All that work I did to figure out how to build one, might as well do to a bit more work and try to make more copies.
Keep in mind that the beatseqr firmware is open source, and there are/will be at least one hackable pin on the circuit board that you would be able to use to add a midi port if I can’t get one into the project natively. I’m kind of shooting for that, even if i can’t figure out how to make the box use it immediately… the firmware is always upgradable and either myself or hopefully someone else with a beatseqr will be able to write a version of the firmware that would have a reasonably accurate clock that could be used for midi/sync clock. That’s what’s cool about beatseqr… it’s open and upgradable. If you have a better idea for how it should work, you can modify the program on the arduino… and hopefully share your great idea with other beatseqr users.
Alternatively, you could take a look at a couple of other resources:
livid has what appear to be some really nice DIY things if you’re going to build one copy of a project.
It’s hard to believe, but the electronics are the easy part of building a controller. the case, knobs, and interface stuff are the hard part. Nothing’s impossible, though! I’m not a professional product designer or electrical engineer. When you’re adequately motivated, you can really achieve anything. Don’t try to solve all of the problems at once, just keep solving small parts of the problem and before you know it, you can start to see the overall picture. If I can do it, you can too.
Justin ask me:
I recently found your posting on all fader types for your project. Quite a nice piece. Not really a digital guy myself.
I recently bought a old disco mixer, a GLI 5990. In short, I’ve been searching the web for replacement parts, specifically the slide faders with LED’s built in. I found your site with the crazy big picture of sliders, and you have the one pictured, I think, that I’ve been looking for.
I was wondering if you could be of help. I just don’t know what to search for when it comes to faders with the LED in the center of the slider. My old dj mixer used 2 of the faders for cue pan and volume.
Sorry to ask this question out of the clear blue, but I’m just trying every avenue I can find. This mixers over 30 years old and I don’t know if these types of parts are available anymore.
Ugh, this is a problem I have trying to source parts for beatseqr.
Hey Justin… Thanks for writing! Finding an exactly matching replacement part for *any* gear, regardless of age, can be a frustrating experience.
Mouser has some. Digikey has some as well. I don’t know if they’ll fit, or if the pin configuration will work, or if they’ll have the right resistance, curve type, etc. There are an awful lot of parameters to watch out for. making some careful measurements of the part you need to replace, and then reading the data sheets for candidate parts is going to be key.
Keep those emails coming.
We are playing a live show at Sidescroller 4! Wewt. You are invited!!
Learn to Play Too and Sidescroller present an evening of techno music and video games to make you think.
* live electronic music performance from Haptic Synapses
* independent video games
* Learn to Play Game Challenge awards
It all takes place at the Euphrat Museum of Art on De Anza campus.
Location: Euphrat Museum of Art, De Anza Collage
21250 Stevens Creek Blvd
6-8pm… we’ll probably go later than that.