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).
12 June 2017
Only two projects worked on this week.
Selworthy continues at a steady cruise. I worked up getting FFMpeg to send progress reports to the browser, fettled some new video encoding routines, and fixed some bugs with one of our formatters that were having knock-on effects in surprising places. I also continued research into a major refactoring and overhaul of a key system.
The big news this week was on Longcrag, which is pretty much ready for launch. Lots of little bits on it this week: shooting product photographs; prepping marketing materials; double-checking guides and documentation; finishing a website; filming a demonstration – and then all the edit work on that film. On Thursday, I shipped a box of products to a retailer, so I guess I’ve well and truly pulled the cork out of that bottle. It’s likely the first round of products will go on sale next week. More news then. Gulp!
05 June 2017
Gosh. Fell off the weeknotes wagon again, eh?
It’s been a very busy month, and yet most of its focus has been fairly linear: pushing forward on a variety of projects.
Selworthy is in a moderate motoring phase. We’ve got a new tech lead that I’m slowly handing over to, and he’s taking on a lot of the day-to-day responsibliities. I’m focusing a bit on some R&D and that means I’m up to my neck in browser and encoders and the horrors of discovering what turn out to be bugs in infrastructure.
Gisborough wrapped up in week 232: we had a final few weeks of writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more – and then fettling all our content architecture before deciding to add more writing in the final week. But we shipped on time, and it was a great team – and hopefully I’ll be able to link to more about it in due course.
Longcrag has taken longer than planned, owing to the fullness of my calendar. Lots of sticking tiny components in bags, repeatedly; writing and rewriting copy; slowly getting on top of build documents; making films and editing said films whilst video software crashes all around you; the final 10% taking way too longer. Nearly there: nearly there with product in the world. Terrifying/exciting all at once.
Along the way, I’ve done some minor Wapley fettling with Richard, getting it into a testable state and battling the limitations of mobile browsers.
And I’ve done a bit more invention on the next phase of Longcrag – breadboarding up one new product and sketching up another, and leaving them to percolate whilst I work out if they’re any good or not.
When I’m deep in client work, weeknotes can be a bit fractal: a month can look the same as a week, from far enough away. In some ways, that’s a good sign – it means the work has scaled a bit – but it also means that some of the blow-by-blow is more challenging to write about. It also often means that I tend to leave admin to the weekends, and that means it tends to get forgotten. I think I should be aiming to do the admin, but make it simpler. Perhaps, for this shape of work, weeknotes aren’t super effective. I think we’ll try to stick with them for a bit.
And hopefully I’m about to hit cruise control for a little: some projects are winding up and I’m going to leave a bit of slack in the schedule for serendipity, prototyping, and so forth. (I’m also in New York for a week from the 19th – get in touch if you’d like to sya hello). But for now: a couple more weeks of getting Longcrag out and wrapping up Wapley.