New iPad

So, back when the iPad was released in Canada near the end of May, I decided to go down to Future Shop to check one out in person. Of course, they had been sold out for a few hours by the time I got there. But I was able to check out a display model and found it to be a neat little device. Specifically, the iWork apps seemed to work fairly well – and what appealed to me most (besides the ultra-slick web browsing) was the possibility of syncing my documents to a very portable device. The iPad in the store worked very well. So I went home and after doing a bit more reading, I placed an order with Apple.

After a week, I got a note from Apple that my iPad would be shipping by June 18. Today, I checked out the Future Shop website and lo and behold, they had several in stock! So I cancelled my Apple order and bought one in store. It’s the 32GB wifi version.

So far, I’ve been impressed with the intuitive nature of the interface. I’ve been typing this entire blog entry on the new device. It’s not as easy as a regular keyboard… I’m finding my typing to be slower than on a normal keyboard. So I’m undecided about whether I’ll want a Bluetooth keyboard or not. But it works in a pinch for doing basic data entry. The Apple case I got is also great for holding it at a 30 degree angle for typing.

I haven’t had a chance to play around with it much more than that (I did pick up the iWork apps though). But hopefully this device continues to work well for my needs!

Dual channel mic preamp

Things have been busy at St. Anne’s, as usual. It’s a great parish with lots going on!

On my days off I’ve been working on my latest electronics project: a dual-channel microphone preamplifier. I built it using the SC-1mk2 kit from www.fivefishstudios.com. The cost for parts was pretty much what it would have been if I had built a similar circuit from Jensen Transformers and ordered the parts from regular electronic sources like mouser.com and digikey.ca, but with a very important bonus: printed circuit boards! Printed circuit boards are orders of magnitude easier to work with than the perf boards I used for my mics, where I hand-wired everything.

(Well, sort of. I still managed to destroy a voltage regulator IC. Umm, it’s not a very good idea to try and adjust the heat sink while it is still attached to the IC. The chip kinda broke into two pieces. Fortunately, a replacement was found at a local store for $2.)

I have yet to use it for any recording, but it sounds great when I connect it to my monitors. It seems to have a nice, natural-sounding tone. That was my main reason for wanting to build some preamps in the first place: the preamps that are built into my Presonus Firepod are ok — they’re great value for the money, actually — but they can be a little harsh-sounding with certain instruments. The high quality amplifier chip and the Cinemag input transformer that are used in the SC-1mk2 preamps should help warm up the sound and bring out more of the depth of acoustic instruments – all the while being a lower noise device than the Presonus preamps.

I’ll post some recordings when I have a chance to make some.

Here are some photos. See the Facebook page for more.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=394628&id=793360323&l=966c23a382







Yes, human beings have walked on the moon.

Monday, July 20, 2009 will be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It bugs me to no end that some people, rather than thinking rationally about the landings, choose instead to believe in some major government conspiracy using sound stages and elaborate visual effects (that would have been created without computers, yet). Keeping in mind that the Soviet Union (who tracked the entire flight) did not accuse the USA of any trickery, belief in such conspiracy theories seem bizarre at best.

Mythbusters has put together an excellent set of tests to see if the conspiracy theories have any value. The answer is, simply, no. I’ve embedded the Youtube videos below (and have linked to the Youtube pages in case the embedding doesn’t show up for you – the last one seems to have embedding disabled).

Enjoy! I especially like the moonwalk test that they did with a plane that simulates 1/6 earth gravity.

  • Photography myth part 1
  • Photography myth part 2
  • Moon walking (REALLY COOL!)
  • Footprint in a vacuum
  • The flag that waves?
  • The laser reflectors – best proof that yes, we’ve been there
  • Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic

    I’ve just finished building a new, large-diaphragm condenser microphone. This was a lot of fun to do!

    This microphone uses a Transsound TSB-2555A electret condenser capsule and seems to work pretty good. Here’s a quick, stereo, piano test with a second mic of the same type, if you are curious and/or bored.

    The circuit is based on a classic Schoeps circuit. This particular variation was developed by user “zapnspark” on the Yahoo “micbuilders” forum. If you are interested in doing something like this, that forum is amazing!

    Here are some photos of the construction. I used a tip from an exhaust pipe that I found at a surplus store for the casing. The base is a 2″ steel ring, to which I epoxied a washer and fastened an XLR connector. Copper wire holds the circuit in place. A piece of wood holds the capsule assembly in place.

    I have yet to build a shock mount for it.







    Wing Commander

    I recently was able to get some old DOS games to work very well on my Mac by using DOSBox, an emulator that runs on several different platforms. The one that I’ve been playing the most lately (when I have time!) is the original Wing Commander.

    Anyone who played computer games back in the early 1990s will likely remember this one. I received the original Wing Commander and the first Secret Missions expansion pack as a Christmas gift way back then and played them both through several times. For those who today are used to every game having shiny, three dimensional graphics and professionally recorded soundtracks, it may be a bit difficult to describe how truly groundbreaking this game was for its time. Containing stunning (again, for its time) graphics and a soundtrack that changed according to what was happening onscreen, Wing Commander was also known for its engaging storyline and memorable characters. It spawned several sequels and a feature movie. (Unfortunately, the movie was nothing to write home about. It changed many of the elements of the Wing Commander universe and was panned by pretty much every critic.)

    In the game, your pilot flew different space combat missions in small fighters. Humanity was at war with the cat-like Kilrathi and your success in the missions (or lack thereof) affected the overall war effort. The game contained a pseudo-3D flight environment that was interesting in its technical details. Because the processors of the time were unable to render ships and outer space in real time as a game might do today (I ran it on a 16MHz 80286), the authors of this game resorted to a few tricks that gave the feeling of flying in a 3D environment. Scaling (changing the size of a graphic) was a much easier thing for the computer to work with than full 3D processing. So, the game’s engine would call up pre-drawn images of the various ships from different angles as they were needed, and then scaled the images to the correct size. It doesn’t look nearly as good as a game would nowadays and it provides for some extra difficulty in that you could accidentally run into a ship because you couldn’t see its edge until the last second. But, again, this was groundbreaking technology for the time.

    So, I’ve been having fun on my days off lately. Here are some of my screenshots of Wing Commander, taken within the DOSBox window.