The Workbench

Check out what’s been on the occasionally-proverbial workbench lately.

Miscellaneous project updates

Posted July 30, 2012 @ 10:08 am | Filed under: The Workbench

Sorry for the recent silence here folks. I have to say that I haven’t had a lot of nerdy stuff going on lately, at least nothing terribly interesting. But I figured I’d write about what actually has been going on to keep the content flowing.

Starting with the most on-topic project: Darren, Brian and I have begun a recording for Junction PA. We’ve had one session so far and started by capturing drums, bass, and keys for 7 tunes. We’d like to go back through the best takes and re-record the keys on a 7-foot Steinway and either Brian’s Wurly or my Rhodes (or both), to give the keys higher-quality sound. The drums and bass both came out really well, with a great balance between attack, clarity, and ambiance overall. I’ll try to keep blogging about our continued progress on this project, it’s been a lot of fun so far.

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Suitcase PC, finally done after 2 years

Posted January 11, 2012 @ 9:43 pm | Filed under: The Workbench

The lovely community of folks over at have a regular feature in which they describe their Bro Caves, which are the dark, comfy rooms they set up their gaming PCs in. More importantly than the rooms though, are the specs of their actual PCs. Which all blow mine out of the water. Thus, this post won’t make it onto their site, but I have been doing some finishing touches on the suitcase PC lately, and I think I can finally say — tentatively as usual — it’s finished. So here’s an attempt at writing something in the same spirit.

Bro Cave from an Alternate Reality

In some alternate universe, the fashion and decor tastes of bygone eras might still be with us today. And instead of laptops, we might have desktop PCs that are “luggable” like the old Commodore SX-64. And not only that, but we might all be using the Ubuntu operating system instead of Windows.

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Atari 2600 Guitar Stompbox

Posted @ 8:33 pm | Filed under: High Fidelity,The Workbench

So here’s one of those projects that sort of randomly materializes while rummaging through old stuff in the attic. I was looking for an enclosure to build a sort of “multi FX analog stompbox” for my guitar rig, when I found an old broken Atari 2600 in all its faux-wood-trimmed glory. Immediately the wheels started turning and I began taking it apart to see how much room was in there. Turns out there’s quite a bit of space, so I took to fitting a Line6 power supply PCB I’d recently scored on eBay into the bottom, and fitting the guts of a TU-2 tuner pedal, A/B switch, tremolo, and tube screamer clone into the top. Never has the Milwaukee rotary tool seen so much action.

Unfortunately my original design was full of fail because the power transformer ended up right next to a bunch of unbalanced, guitar-level signal wires. So the thing buzzed like crazy when I put it together, and no amount of shielding trickery could eliminate it. The next thing to try, then, was moving the supply into an external enclosure. For this, I found an old failed network hard drive (actually the little mainboard is fine, just one of the drives failed… don’t get me started on the stupidity of RAID-0) and gutted it. After adding a fuse and properly tying the enclosure to ground, I ran 8 discreet 9-volt DC lines out of the enclosure via CAT5 cables and added an RJ45 jack to the back of the Atari.

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The Maze

Posted December 8, 2011 @ 1:00 pm | Filed under: Geekery,The Workbench

Reading a recent article on Kotaku about the amazing programmer Tim Sweeny made me start reminiscing about some of the games I wrote on the Commodore 64 in my younger days. It would be a huge understatement to say that it’s regretful that all of those floppy disks containing thousands of boy-hours of programming work were lost many years ago — actually, think “boy losing his teddy bear”. One of those disks contained (and may still contain, probably in a landfill) a game written entirely in BASIC called The Maze. The original Maze may be lost, but watching the video of Sweeny’s ZZT — which I really want to play now — reminded me that there is one game that is still around: a QuickBasic port of The Maze that I wrote in college in an attempt to relive my childhood programming days. The Maze for QB retained a lot of the same features like a level editor, enemies that chased you, sound effects, save points, and a 30-room-based layout. I don’t think I’ve shared this game with anyone before, so I thought it might be fun to put out there for someone to try. (Eh, who am I kidding?) To this day, writing a decent video game, big or small, is still one of my life goals. This is not that game. :)

So here it is:

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New Projects on the Horizon, Anterior and Posterior

Posted November 7, 2011 @ 11:15 am | Filed under: The Workbench

I haven’t written a personal-ish post in a while, and I’ve had more and more glimmers of inspiration lately (offset by deeper dives into senility), so I thought I might blog about some recent and upcoming projects.

Retro-Love Extends to Automobiles, Too

First, I have been spending a lot of time reviving the ’89 Chevy conversion van that belonged to my previous band (Idiosympathy) and has found her way back into my driveway. She’s got a rather convoluted history… we got her in May of 2005, give or take a year, and she served us well for a couple of years until her transmission went out. That was about the time I moved to Harmony, PA, and when I moved back to Grove City two years later, I decided to have the transmission fixed. Keep in mind she had sat in a field for those two years, so after the transmission was fixed she still needed quite a lot of work (brakes, body work, other misc. things that fail over time). So it sat for another year in my parents’ driveway, as I didn’t really have the means to do the other repairs. It was at that time I decided to sell it to my brother-in-law, since he and my sister have a large family and needed a big vehicle more than I did. Then it sat for another two years, because he didn’t have the time to work on it (did I mention he has a large family?). Finally after all that time sitting, over this past summer I decided I would buy it back from him… and he was kind enough to just give it back to me! The best part: After replacing an obviously bad battery, an oil change, and a can of sea foam, she still fires right up like the day she rolled off the lot– even with 5-year-old gas in the tank! The 350 is (or was) definitely an engine Chevy knows how to make right. I plan on giving her a tune-up too, of course. After a bit more work (the most daunting being the body work), she’ll be fully ready to serve as Yellow Lady Slipper‘s super-sweet retro ride.

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