20 August 2017
In no particular order:
Thonk have ordered a second run of products from Foxfield, which is great news. I took an inventory of what parts I had, ordered some key bits of the BOM from China, some more from a few British suppliers, and started putting together what was needed for a Mouser order. I’m hoping to package this lot up by the beginning of September. I also wrote the first installment of Foxnotes – similar to these weeknotes, but more infrequent.
I’m running a course on circuit board design in October, over four evenings. I did some promotion of this, and have spent a decent chunk of time beginning to write the course itself – trying to get a feel for what it contains, what the balance between talking and doing is, how to structure learning across the four weeks, and triple-checking the demo circuit I’ll be going over. I also ordered various small prototypes to help me out with demonstrations.
The course is going well, I think – I’m beginning to see the shape of it, and to see places we we can extemporise or build on things we’ve learned. But I also need to remember how much space to leave for unknown unknowns – discussion, and questioning, and inevitable inertia of using software.
A good few weeks – busy, and outside Selworthy, running around a little. But when I look back at it here, there’s definitely forward momentum.
02 August 2017
I’m running a course called Designing Circuit Boards in central London in October.
Maybe you’ve looked at a tangle of jumper wires on a breadboard and wondered how to take your electronics project beyond that point. Perhaps you’ve got an installation made out of lots of Arduinos, shields, and breakout boards and you’d like to make it more reliable and easier to reproduce. Or if you’ve got a prototype on your desk that you’d like to take the first stages of manufacturing: this masterclass will give you the tools to embark on that process.
Over four evening sessions (about 90-120 minutes each), we’ll take a project on a breadboard and learn how to design and fabricate a two-layer printed circuit board for it. This is a pragmatic course: it doesn’t presume any knowledge of CAD software, or any formal electronics training. We’ll be learning techniques and approaches, not just how to drive a piece of software.
The course is what I’d call intermediate-level. Some very basic experience of electronics – perhaps some tinkering with microcontroller projects (eg Arduino) on breadboards – is about the level of experience you need to enter. Maybe you’ve made complete projects or installations out of such technology. But I’m assuming that most people will have no experience of circuit board design.
We’ll be using Autodesk EAGLE as our primary tool, because it’s cross-platform, well-supported by the maker community, and free for our purposes.
You can find out more and sign up at the Somerset House website.
And if you’ve got any questions, you can email me.
31 July 2017
Settling into a busy August with a degree of plate-spinning. What plates are spinning?
Over on Selworthy, I’m wrestling with maths to make it even more accurate – specifically, frame-accurate – despite the best attempts of browsers and software.
Over at Foxfield, we’ve sold out of one product, the others are selling well, and I’m gearing up for a second range of products and a restock of the first. I’ve also written up the first in some occasional Foxnotes with more details.
I wrapped up a bunch of work for Good Night Lamp (pending feedback), and had some meetings with a few other people.
Doesn’t sound like a lot, I know, but easily enough for a week.
24 July 2017
Travel and holidays mean weeknotes were pushed to the wayside. So let’s get back on top:
My focus on Selworthy shifted to beginning to prototype the major back-end change I’d been planning for a while. So far, a quick spike reveals it’s a definite improvement, but there are lots of curious issues that are challenging to debug because of all the places issues could lie – many of which are effectively sealed boxes. Lots of arithmetic, programming, and staring at video specs going on over here.
I kicked off some work for Good Night Lamp addressing some feedback on the tooling I’d worked on for them, now that it was in the wild and they’d had some experience with it. A few new features, a few refactorings, and lots of polish and quality-of-life improvements for the team that use the tooling. That’ll probably wrap up in week 240.
I wrapped up the last patch of work on Gisborough by bringing it all up-to-date with the new Doteveryone branding.
In week 239, I finalised some details around a month-long course I’m planning to run in October – more on that shortly, I hope.
And the launch of Foxfield Instruments went well, largely. One teething snag: I’d shipped an incorrect component in one of the kits. I fixed this by sending replacements down to Thonk, and then getting in touch with the keen customers who’d already bought the affected kits. That’s helped me discover the spread of them – even though I was fixing a problem, exciting to learn that Foxfield kits are in the US, Russia, Switzerland, and beyond.
I spent a lot of week 236 putting together a lot of prototypes of potential new Foxfield modules to take to Brighton Modular – they arrived whilst I was away in week 235. You can see many of them in the central row of the case above. The exciting news is that all of them worked, and several of them turn out to be Rather Good Ideas. So hopefully we can bring more of those to life in due course.
And finally: Week 238 was another week off – one that, unlike week 235, had been planned in a while.
Back to our regular schedule for a bit, now.
23 June 2017
Some small news, and then the big news.
Over on Selworthy, I continued to work on wrangling ffmpeg and some arithmetic that’s going to to be part of a bit of an overhaul. Looking back on commits, progress feels slower than earlier. That’s because I’m doing a lot of measuring-twice before the cutting-once of a fairly sizeable change to some of the key underlying assumptions of the product. At the end of that work, very little will have changed on the surface – but the little that has will be a key improvement. It goes beyond what I’d call a refactoring given its scope and scale. But that’s my main focus there.
On Wapley, I spent a little time with Richard running simultaneous demos on a variety of devices whilst on a Skype chat to confirm and debug some issues. We managed to break the back of a few things that were causing issues and I think that work is all good to go.
Empathy Deck got a quick refresh with some new content and graphics work from Erica, and was redeployed into the world.
And Longcrag launched.
Longcrag has been the codename for Foxfield Instruments, a small imprint I’ve set up to sell electronic musical instruments and kits.
Our first four products are a set of “1U tile” utilities for the Eurorack modular synthesizer format, and they’re available to buy right now as DIY kits from Thonk.
Even though they’re kits – PCB, panel, components and instructions – there’s been a lot of learning in bringing these into the world: scaling up PCB manufacture; considering packaging and documentation; streamlining the production/kitting process; handling mistakes when they come up. They’ve also been through a number of redesigns as they go from “works for me” to “buildable by anyone“.
The first products have, in my head, been finished since January, but there’s been several iterations since to nail the buildability, the panel design, and find an appropriate manufacturer for the PCBs and panels. Now they’re in the world, I think future products will be a bit faster – I have about seven prototypes arriving and hope to show off a few at Brighton Modular – depending on which ones function and which are Any Good At All™.
Why imprint? Well: it’s very much a side-project. A project, yes, and a conflux of things I care about – music, tool-making, interaction – but it runs alongisde my client work and projects, and perhaps at a different pace to a company. For now, more like a record label than an electronics startup.
I want to give a little back to the synth DIY community I’ve learned so much from, and I want to continue to explore instrumentiness and interaction under this label. At the same time; I’d also like to find things other people enjoy using. I got some feedback from a musician on a new prototype recently, and hearing another player come to their own uses and ideas for what to do with a thing – validating my belief that people might find it useful – was hugely rewarding.
Things to make music with is a space I previously explored in Twinklr, and it’s a space I’m going to continue exploring, be it through Foxfield or otherwise.
Product in the world, shipping. Onwards. (Well, onwards to week 235, which was a week off).