iPhone4 Guitar interface

Apps such as Garageband on the iPhone allow you to record your guitar noodling and play about with various effects. But first you need to get the guitar connected to the ‘phone.

Looking about on t’internet, there are loads of instructions on how to build a guitar interface for the iPhone, but most involve butchering existing cables.

As the cost of the required AV cables is stupidly high, I decided to just buy the bits and have a go at making one from scratch.

So, lets have a look at what we need:

A 3.5mm 4-pole jack – plugs in to the iPhone

4pole-jack

A 3.5mm stereo socket (case mountable) – for headphones

headphone-stereo

A 1/4″ mono socket (case mountable) – for the guitar input

guitar-mono

Some 3 core shielded audio cable. Sadly, Maplin fucked up and sent me 2 metres of the wrong cable, despite them looking totally dissimilar and having completely different catalogue numbers.

Anyway, sod Maplin, I’m prototyping here. I’ll make do with bits from my wires box.

The first thing to do is solder the cable on to the horrendously fiddly 4-pole plug.  Get the most difficult thing done first, that’s my philosophy.

4-pole-wired

The pin out for the plug now looks like this:

plug

  1. Green – (Input)
  2. Yellow – (Ground)
  3. Orange – (Output Right)
  4. Red – (Output Left)

 

Wrap it all up in the casing that came with the plug, and get a “pigtail” lead:

pigtail

Originally I wanted this lead to be about four inches longer, but this will have to do for the moment. (You can insert a joke here if you really want).

Next, solder up the stereo socket. I went for the same colour code for Ground/Outputs.

stersock

Finally, solder-wise, its time to connect up the socket for the guitar input.

Following the same colours from above:

guitarinput

And here it all, all breadboarded up for testing:

breadboard

After buying a small case, I discovered it was too small to mount the 1/4″ mono socket in, so I had to look about for an alternative.

I haven’t found anything handy yet, but you get the gist.

UPDATE:

An old 35mm film container prooved to be the best case I could find. So, now it looks like this:

2014-09-03 22.00.44 2014-09-03 22.00.49

 

So you think you’re having a heart attack

As it is a year today since I had my pathetic little heart attack (if there can be such a thing), I thought I’d put finger to keyboard about my thoughts on a certain bullshit thing thats going around t’internet like a sawn-off broom handle in a convent (since 1999 – but such shit never dies due to Facetube/Buzzspace/Mybook/Youfeed whatever).

I’m not going to link to it, but its called “Cough CPR”, and the idea seems to be thus: Rhythmically coughing while having a heart attack will save your life. This is obviously horseshit. (I will, however link to the Snopes page about it: http://www.snopes.com/medical/homecure/coughcpr.asp).

Should you think you are having a heart attack, and you’re alone, you really have two options. I shall present them here, so you can choose which one you think is the right one.

Option 1:

Sit down and have a cup of tea.

Look on the internet about heart attacks.

Go and have a dump*.

Try and have a lie down, hoping the pain will go away.

Have a smoke. Things are always better after a smoke.

Look on the internet again.

Have another cup of tea and a smoke.

Realise that you can’t stand up properly.

Ring NHS Direct and get kept talking while they sneakily send an ambulance to get you.

 

 

Option 2:

Ring the fucking emergency services right away!!!

And don’t forget to grab your ‘phone and charger, otherwise you’ll be bored shitless.

*Oddly, heart attacks bring on the feeling that you’re about to suffer from diarrhea. This is probably why a lot of people die on the khazi, and certainly why all toilets in hospitals have an emergency alarm nearby.
 

A Minor Gripe With World of Warcraft

While Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is for the most part a well thought out and utterly brilliant game, I have two minor gripes with it. Neither are really concerned with the gameplay, and neither really affect the world. They just annoy me.

So, I’ll start with the first one, as is traditional in this sort of thing…

Technology is not consistant within the world. You can handwave all you like about Gnomes and Goblins being insane and providing lasers, bombs and all that kind of stuff, but as far as I’m concern it doesn’t matter.

Let us look at what the World has to offer:

We have motorcycles:

choppaCars:

gobcar

Aircraft:
planeAn underground mass-transit system:

masstransitRocketships:

rocketWe also have Airships, Submarines, Airbourne aircraft carriers, Speedboats, Tunnelling machines, Tanks, Exo-skeletons, and semi-sentient Robots.

What we dont have is trains. Yes, trains. Good, old-fashioned, steam trains.

But, you might be thinking, why should there be steam trains on Azeroth? Well, because there is a toy one you can buy in Dalaran:

toytrainAnd if there is a toy one to annoy other people with, why shouldn’t there be a real usable one? Maybe from Stormwind to Redridge?

And as for annoying people with a toy… well, this really used to upset people:

But now they just seem to join in and play:

I said two irritations didn’t I? Well the other one is this. There is an item called the Cooking School Bell, which summons your student (Nomi – no relation to the goth comic character Nemi):

cookingbellAs you will see in the following video, it isn’t a fucking bell!

Ranting over. For now

A Rant About Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd have announced that they will soon realease their final album, entitled “The Endless River”.  The album, which takes its title from a lyric in the last song they recorded for “The Division Bell”, “High Hopes”, is reportedly a combination of tracks recorded back in the 90’s along with new additions.

Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason have conjured the ghost of Rick Wright, through the medium of old tapes,  to put together a new album. And people aren’t happy about this.

For example, Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theatre:

What’s this about a new “Pink Floyd” album? Last I checked, Waters is no longer in the band and Wright & Barrett are dead…if these are leftovers from The Division Bell sessions, then just put em on a TDB Special Edition release! It’s disrespectful to Roger & everything he built for all those years! Just do a solo album Dave…

Clearly a man who didn’t know that Barrett left before the 60s were out, and that Waters went after “The Final Cut” in 1984. Until someone told him:

OK, I’ll meet the Gilmour fans half-way and say IMO, the “real” Pink Floyd is BOTH Gilmour/Waters TOGETHER….Piper was a Syd album, The Final Cut was a Waters album and AMLOR/TDB are Gilmour albums…the “magic” was Waters/Gilmour TOGETHER

But what does he know about anything? He’s a drummer.

Oddly, the fact that a similiarly ancient band of old clevers intend to release a new(ish) album of material culled from old sessions, involving a retired bassist and dead keyboard player have passed without notice.

 

 

Vauxhall Astra

So, its Rock Festival season again, and because I’m too useless to own a functioning vehicle and as my Rock-Buddy doesn’t want her precious 3 Series bogged axle deep in a morass of mud, piss and stale Tuborg, its time to hire a car.

After last year’s awful Chevrolet Spark Clown Car, we felt it was time to upgrade to the second cheapest option. A Ford Focus, or a Vauxhall Astra. I think its obvious which one we got.

So, courtesy of the nice people at Enterprise, we got a Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTI SE in, what I think is called, “Ubiquitous Silver”. Really, I’ve seen loads of these on the road, and most are in the same shade of silver that my Dad had our Granada estate re-sprayed to in 1980. Then, it was about it being a nice colour, now its all about silver cars having a higher re-sale value.

From the front, it really is quite a nice looking car.

astraf

The arse end, however, is goppingly awful.

astrab

This has to be the worst arse-end of an Astra since, erm, ever. Even the proto-Astra, the Chevette, had a better back end. And just look at the shape of the cabin. What is it about cars these days and making the roof three feet narrower than the doors? For normal people this probably isn’t a problem, but at 6’5″ there is no way I could sit comfortably in the back.

It is, however,  possible for a normal sized person to do a complete clothing change in the back, without opening the doors or booting the driver in the back of the head while he is trying to negotiate the Old Knotty Way bypass around Uttoxeter.

Driving wise, the six speed box on the diesel version is quite nice, and it has enough umph to get off the A50 Uttoxetter roundabout without having to worry about being killed to death by a Stobart. We didn’t speed test it, but it will happily do the legal speed limit +10mph +10%  in fourth, never mind sixth.

I does have a few features that I’m not a fan of. Eco Stop-Start annoys me, and on the Astra it seems to be a bit brain dead. Once, while parked, it started up when I nudged the wheel, and another time it started up while we were out of the car and leaning on it. You can turn it off, but it doesn’t stay off for long.

The push-button handbrake was similarly confusing until we decided to just ignore it. It does it’s job when needed, but you can’t pull a J-turn in Tesco’s car park with it. Not that we tried.

Is it nice to drive? Yes. So much so that once she got her hands on it, I wasn’t allowed to drive it again.

Would I buy one? No. But if I had the money, I’d go for the Estate version (which doesn’t have such a hideous arse-end).

Is this Post just filler material because you haven’t written anything since the middle of May? Yes!

Know Where You Live

One of the most annoying aspects of my job is having to deal with people who do not know where they live. I don’t mean that I have to deal with people who are so stupid that they can’t remember they’re own address (although that does happen).

I’m refering to people who live in out-of-the-way rural areas in the back end of nowhere, with addresses like “Lancelot Cottage, Upper Camelot, ST20 0NG”.

That postcode is real, even though the rest of the address isn’t.

The problem is that people assume that because their mail gets to them, everyone else will be able to find them too. Because the postie knows where they live, automatically everyone else knows too.

In reality, however, things are a lot different.

Rural postcodes are no use at all for finding properties. The example given above, ST20 0NG, covers about eight square miles and nine roads, six of which don’t actually have names.

This can be a right pain in the arse for taxi drivers, and a threat to life if an ambulance is ever required.

So, what alternatives are there for identifing your address?

Well there is always the good old Latitude and Longitude system, but that seems a bit faffy and involves numbers (which most people are hopeless at remembering – Test: recite your own mobile number now).

An alternative is WhatThreeWords, a thing that gives you an easy three word code to locate your house with 3 metres. For example, the front door of the boozer I use is “firmly.tuna.fixed”, and my favourite curry place is “basket.last.such”.

Another idea would be to register your out-of-the-way cottage with some organisation that could then provide directions to it.

And yes, I’m working on an alpha version of this.

Daleks Never Retreat

I’ve thought again about the problem of not being able to do bi-directional motors on the Dalek Project when using just one Piface Digital.

Why should the motors need to run backwards? Daleks never retreat! The only controls I’m going to need are Forward! Advance Left! and Advance Right! (and Exterminate!)

Looking back (which is something that Daleks can’t do anyway), the whole full movement thing came from my idea to build an Arduino Turtle (which was based on an idea developed from a Spectrum project from about 1985) viagra without prescription. But a Turtle is not a Dalek. Sure, they both have a hard shell and two driving wheels, but that is where the similarity ends.

So now we just need a web interface to control the Dalek’s movements forward, and to the sides a bit. All the while we need to be able to see what the Dalek sees from the on-board camera

 

The Death of Windows XP

windows-xp-350x234

Microsoft is set to discontinue their support of the Windows XP operating system on April 9, 2014. Finally after nearly 13 years, they’re going to give up on their most stable product to date.

But what does it really mean for those of us who actually have to run software that won’t run on newer versions,  can’t afford to upgrade to a never version, can’t afford the hardware to run a newer version, or just plain prefer the XP UI to later versions?

It won’t stop working

Well, XP is not going to stop working. Microsoft are stopping support for it. That means that it will continue to work (unless they suddenly turn into total Shitehawks and remotely disable every XP system in the world – not impossible, but totally improbable).

There will be no new updates

Remember that annoying shield icon that you’ve been ignoring for months, as running updates slows down your game of Solitaire? Well pretty soon it is going to be time to pay attention and run every outstanding update.

Really, if you have the time and resources, I recommend doing a complete XP install on a new drive, updating to SP3 and then applying all subsequent updates. Then taking a bit-for-bit copy of that and storing it somewhere safe for if you ever want to install XP on a new machine. Extreme, I know, but you may thank me later. Maybe you’ll be able to sell it on eBay one day.

Of course, if Microsoft issues a “Service Pack 4 – The Goodbye Edition”, you wouldn’t have to do that.

Your system security is going to suffer

Of course it is. Microsoft are going to concentrate on all the security holes in their newer operating systems, rather than fix problems in something that they haven’t get any revenue from for six years. Microsoft are in this for the money, not the love of what they are doing  (unlike most of the people involved with Linux).

Sadly, another bunch of people who are in for it for the love of what they are doing (and maybe some money), are the ratbastards that create all those viruses, trojans, and bits of malware that will seriously feck up your computer if you come into contact with them.

With Microsoft stepping out of the picture, these pissweasels are going to see a whole bunch of easy, unprotected, targets. And like a bunch of hillbillies seeing fish in a barrel, the shotguns are going to get fired.

But still, it really isn’t as bad as it seems. If your router if configured correctly, you really shouldn’t be liable to random attacks on your IP address. Most routers by default “lose” any incoming connections that aren’t connected to outgoing requests, but if you’ve set up port forwarding then you may expose yourself to a problem.

Personally, my router forwards all unknown ports to a VAX/VMS system that records every attack attempted, and then gives me a list of IP addresses to block.

Then you’ve got the multitude of third-party virus protection options, none of which I will name, as I have an equally low opinion of all of them.

I’m going to swear shortly. I’m warning you now, as it will be in bold and in a bright colour. The message is important and needs to burn itself into your conciousness, so I think I’m allowed in this case.

After faffing about fixing machines for people for bloody ages, most of the time taking trojans and viruses off machines that allegedly had good virus protection (see my distain above),  here is my shortlist of things not to look at:

  • Porn sites. Really, didn’t you realise that an advert you click on could install a virus on your machine?
  • Gambling sites that you haven’t seen on TV.
  • Any advert that says “You have a new message”/”You have just won an iPhone” etc. Don’t fall for that.
  • File sharing sites such as Frostwire, Limewire etc. Just because it looks like an mp3 music file doesn’t mean that it isn’t really hiding a virus. Really, if you must download stuff illegally, do it on a Linux system.

If you continue doing any of the above, you are a FUCKING IDIOT and shouldn’t be allowed a computer in the first place.

Your games may stop working

Well, it all depends. I play World of Warcraft a bit, and my graphics card has just been taken off the Supported List. It is also off the Vista supported list. As of the next update, I’ll have to buy a new machine to play. That is a worst case example. It probably counts for Diablo too.

If the company does downloadable content, check with them.

Office won’t work

If you’re still using Microsoft Office, get OpenOffice. Free, and it is as good as the Microsoft product.

So what are my options if I want to stick with XP?

Well, it depends. If your machine never sees the Internet, like my emulation games machine, just carry on as before.

Otherwise, sort the router out, stay off the dodgy sites, and just “be careful out there”.

And if I want a new OS?

Well, obviously the only alternative is going to be some breed of Linux. For a beginner, I’d have to recommend Ubuntu.

I really hope this is helpful to some people. I’ve tried to dial down my normal level of sarcasm to zero for this.

Raspberry Pi Camera Module (of the Dalek)

So now I’ve bought the Camera Module for the Raspberry Pi. I got mine from Amazon, mainly as I was putting in a big order and was drunk enough to tag it on to the end.

<a href="http://tonyblews.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raspberry-pi-camera important source.png”>raspberry-pi-camera

Getting the damn thing set up and streaming video through a web page was a Pain In The Arse (which I know about)!

The only resource I could find that worked was Miguel Grinberg’s guide, but I still had problems with that. I suggest that you read his site, as it contains a lot more information. My version, below, is a quick run through, more for me to refer back to than anything else.

1. Build and Install the software

Run the following as root:

$ apt-get install libjpeg8-dev imagemagick libv4l-dev
$ ln -s /usr/include/linux/videodev2.h /usr/include/linux/videodev.h
$ wget http://sourceforge.net/code-snapshots/svn/m/mj/mjpg-streamer/code/mjpg-streamer-code-182.zip
$ unzip mjpg-streamer-code-182.zip
$ cd mjpg-streamer-code-182/mjpg-streamer $ make mjpg_streamer input_file.so output_http.so
$ sudo cp mjpg_streamer /usr/local/bin $ sudo cp output_http.so input_file.so /usr/local/lib/ $ sudo cp -R www /usr/local/www

2. Start the Camera and Streamer

Starting “raspistill” as suggested in Miguel’s guide dumped a lot of text to my xterm, making things really annoying, so I installed “screen” and ran the Camera software and the streamer in a different “screen”, which would also keep running after I logged off the machine (follow the oncreen prompts when you see them):

$ apt-get install screen
$ screen
$ mkdir /tmp/stream
$ raspistill --nopreview -w 640 -h 480 -q 5 -o /tmp/stream/pic.jpg -tl 100 -t 9999999 -th 0:0:0 &
$ LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/lib mjpg_streamer -i "input_file.so -f /tmp/stream -n pic.jpg"
-o "output_http.so -w /usr/local/www" & 

Dropping out of “screen” ( CRTL-A CTRL-D ) and back to a command prompt, and its all done.

3. Viewing the Stream

Fire up your favourite Browser (which I hope is Firefox) and access the site generate by th Pi. As the eventual goal of this whole thing a Wifi controlled toy Dalek drone, the hostname is “dalek”. Thus, on my network the address is:

http://dalek:8080/

You’ll have to substitute dalek for either the name of the machine on your network, or the IP address, eg:

http://192.168.0.203:8080/

You should be getting a web page with instructions on how it all works.

Short Version:

To grab a single from the camera:

http://dalek:8080/?action=snapshot

To grab streaming video:

http://dalek:8080/?action=stream

There other things you can play with, but those two are the only ones relevant to my little project.

Finally, an example of a still picture from the camera:

192.168.0.203

(Once again, full credit to Miguel Grinberg and his excellent guide.)

moan, moan, flippin' moan