05 March 2018
I spent a chunk of week 271 in the workshop.
The workshop is, of course, exactly the same as my desk (most of the time), but it’s being put to a different use. In this case, I continued to work on a few physical projects: either Foxfield-related electronics, or other physical objects related to music that I’m using to expand and develop skills.
Electronics work included beginning to put together the pieces for a new run of kits for Thonk – acquiring parts from the UK, Europe, and China, and getting a few new PCBs and panels fabbed. Most of this will have arrived by the end of week 272, I think.
Some circuit boards for a personal project arrived, so I spent a few hours building a pair of those up:
These were my own variation on an original schematic by someone else, with a few new features added. Suitably interesting to layout, and I’ve definitely got a whole lot better at the schematic capture, layout and fabrication end of things. (They’re the second iteration on this board – though the first largely worked first time, this polishes it neatly and gives me some to donate to friends).
I also started work on what might be a prototype for a new Foxfield thing:
which went together very fast and, largely, functioned correctly. A few part-values need tweaking before I can confirm if it’s a GO or NO GO, though – but I can do this all on this board.
Another project I’ve got on the go is called 16n; it’s a musical controller made up of 16 faders, that emits data on a variety of channels – MIDI over USB and wire, I2C, and sixteen voltage outlets.
My work has mainly been the layout of all the electronics; collaborators have been working on the case and hardware. Whilst the electrics are feeling good, there’s still a little way to go with the hardware, so I’ve spent a period of time thinking about that this week. It’s a project that largely fits around other work – done as part of an online community – but it’s been enjoyable and I’ve learned a tone – easily the largest thing I’ve ever routed.
Finally, I also spent some time on building a half-moon switch for my electric piano/organ. The electrics on this project are simple – a flick-switch connected to three cores of a cable. The goal here, however, was to learn how to design a physical object in CAD for 3D printing. That meant modelling the switch, modelling a case around it correctly, adding features to the case so it would snap together, and making sure it fitted the organ.
The SLS-fabbed version arrived from Shapeways this week, and I put it together:
It works well… aside from the spacing of the two thumbscrews being incorrect, owing to an oversight on my part. And so I quickly knocked out a bracket to fix that issue, and ordered that.
Still: lots of progress on a few different projects, all functional, and all new muscles to exercise, even if all I’m putting it towards is being a somewhat mediocre engineer. But: new ways to think, that aren’t software, and are entirely absorbing whilst I’m working on them: I’ll take that, especially in this period of somewhat deliberate downtime.
I also spent a day on Selworthy, helping the team grapple with some subtitling formats for broadcasters, and the minutiae involved there. And, somewhere in the middle of this, there was a slow day at home in the snow.
A good week. Lots of hands-work.
26 February 2018
Into the deliberate gap between projects, then.
I spent a day with Selworthy, going over what my future engagement with the project would be – something between ‘more consultational’ and ‘limiting getting hands dirty to stuff I know best’. For now, a little more handover with a new staff member, and some consultation around specific features.
Wednesday saw a debrief on the Hyper Island teaching from the course co-ordinator. Overall, it was really very positive indeed, so it seems like I’ll be working with them again at the end of this year. Really glad that the students enjoyed – and took a lot away from – the teaching, and also that they were so positive about the my peers and colleagues I invited as guest speakers. Good stuff.
I had a good chat with Rachel on Friday morning, largely about technology and our practices; it’s nice to finally have the time to catch up with peers and see what’s tickling their brain.
I also had a chat with a few folks from Sensible Object about some technology planning, essentially acting as another brain to pick, and that was I hope useful for them.
I spent some time on an engineering tip, prodding various electronics projects further along, and also sending a CAD project to be fabricated. I’d needed a particular object, and it seemed like a good time to brush up my Fusion 360 skills and get a snap-together case 3D printed. More on that in due course.
Finally, I received a new order from Thonk for Foxfield products, so started taking inventory of what I had in the studio – both in terms of complete kits and parts – and started building up an order. That’ll likely continue into Week 271, and then the ‘waiting for parts to arrive’ process will begin.
Steve also inquired into the state of the (at least) three new products on my slate. The answer is that they’re into that final 95% – namely, needing documenting and ‘productionising’, the name I give to ‘sorting out BOMs, documents, pricing spreadsheets, and making things produceable on demand’. This work is likely to kick off in Week 271.
19 February 2018
Week 268 saw the launch of Variations on a Weekend Theme, the project formerly known as Gummershow.
I worked with artist Emma Smith on a digital rendition of her piece Variations on a Weekend Theme. In 2015, the piece took the form of a pop-up apothecary that Emma dispensed prescriptions from; now, it’s available on tablets within the gallery, and on the internet at the Kettle’s Yard site – where you can find out more about the project and visit the apothecary.
I spent the days before the launch fine-tuning a few issues, and then headed down to Kettle’s Yard itself on the Thursday for the launch night. The new extension is excellent, and will allow for larger temporary exhibitions for them, though as ever, it’s the original space – and its 1970’s extension – that really lift the spirits. What a place; how nice to make something for their re-opening.
With Gummershow out of the way, it feels like I’m now into a new year: things have wound down, and I’m taking some time to recuperate and refocus. Week 269 was deliberately quiet: some time spent continuing some work on Selworthy, working on some personal engineering projects encompassing electronics, CAD, 3D fabrication and music, and starting to take stock. I also began setting up a few meetings about future projects and consultation. I also took time to catch up with friends and colleagues – something I’ve just not had space to do for a while.
What’s next? Thinking a bit more about the future, finishing up some hardware projects, having some conversations. If you’d like a chat, do get in touch.
05 February 2018
Back on the weeknotes wagon properly.
A couple of days on Selworthy was split equally between working through some cards tidying features, and doing research into new approaches to some of our key components. Increasingly, there are ideas I can only get my head around after a fair amount of reading, thinking, and staring, but a few hours at least got to the point where it was possible to define what a spike of a few of the features would look like.
I spent the rest of my time this week working on Gummershow with Emma, getting ready for the install. That involved lots of back-and-forth on the finer points of how things should look and work, and testing the install on iOS devices as that’s what it’ll predominantly be experienced on. By the end of the week, we had an experience we were satisfied with.
01 February 2018
I was always expecting January to busy; it turned out even busier than I planned, and the first casualty of that was Weeknotes. I also know it probably shouldn’t have been – that weeknotes are a useful part of process even if I’m thin on capacity, and that I should make them lighter rather than skip them.
Anyhow. Here we are. Let’s run down what’s been going on:
- Weeks 261 and 262 were the Christmas holidays. Very quiet, very pleasant, much-needed.
A second, concluding set of class days for Lowick, the Hyper Island Digital Management MA. I prepared three new sessions for this, called Data, Crypto, and a final one on real-world experience of digital projects. I’m particularly pleased with the Crypto session: in 60-90 minutes, it covers cryptography from a Caesar cypher through to crypto-currencies, with detours into polyalphabetic cyphers, how an Enigma machine works, how public-key encryption works, and what’s going on when you visit an HTTPS site. It turns out if you start with the simplest, pen-and-paper stuff, you can build on top of it until you have all the components to talk about other things.
On top of the sessions, we had a few more guest speakers and sessions in, which went well, and the students presented their responses to their brief. All of them were super-impressive – they’d improved each day I’d seen them, and noticeably since their first days on the module. A great conclusion to my work on the course. And: perhaps there’ll be more things resembling this kind of work in 2018.
- I spent a lot of January working on Gummershow, building a digital adaptation of one of Emma Smith’s works for the re-opening of Kettle’s Yard in February. That’s nearly complete as I type: some last adjustments to make. Lots of small details to work through, and at one point, a frantic afternoon of tearing out phantomjs and replacing it with puppeteer. (That turned out alright – it turns out puppeteer is very impressive, and was a fairly straightforward replacement). I should have more to write about this next week.
- Over on Selworthy, I focused on a few areas, notably, integrating with an extenral API; fixing rendering issues with, in particular, Arabic typefaces; and the usual fettling and ongoing improvement. We also had some good architectural discussions about the future.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it was fairly wall-to-wall – producing material for teaching, running classes, and then straight into a installation software build. And now it’s done. I’ve joking said to a few people this month that I’m still in 2017, and that 2018 begins for me in February.
Well, it’s February now. Happy new year.