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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Repairing Musical Instruments/Electrical Equipment, the Value of Money, and Dating

If you've been reading this blog for a while now you've noticed that I do a lot of tinkering. One of the things I've been tinkering wih a lot of late though has been electronic music hardware/software. Some things to note:

- you should make the assumption that no one is going to help you with with regards to circuit diagrams when it comes to fixing machines, re-designing/modifying them, etc... The best that you'll be able to manage are teardown pictures/diagrams posted by others out on the 'Interwebs'. 

Don't make the assumption that your problem is the exact same as others out there. Most of the time though they'll be the usual problems that other electronic devices face such as improper contact (also referred to as dry soldering) or failed electronic components.The biggest problem that you will face will be the intermittent issues. For instance, thermally related or else physical contact problems that haven't quite made themselves completely obvious. I had something like this recently. A screen on a Maschine was basically malfunctioning from time to time. The owner told me to press down on the screen to make it work. I tried it and it seemed to work. After tearing it down and trying to fix various contacts it became obvious that this one was slightly more difficult to fix. Putting pressure across the board didn't provide any further clues until a capacitor (C207, halfway across the PCB) fell off (and the problem seemed to be consistent). Re-soldering seems to have fixed the problem. 

Interesting facts. Maschine screens are interchangeable from side to side in case you want/need to repair one of these. They are their own separate module (except in the Mikro based on the description I'm seeing). They are not soldered on to the PCB but are connected via ZIF connectors. 
Repairing a lot of (non-trivial) electronics is a balance between luck, skill, perseverence, etc... Tips on dealing with intermittent problems include using physical pressure applied at strategic points to narrow down the source, purchasing better diagnostic equipment (sometimes your only choice), and using hair dryers/compressed air as a means of temperature regulation.
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/812965-maschine-mikro-has-met-beer-how-crack-open.html
http://www.illmuzik.com/forums/threads/maschine-mk1-controller-help.32980/
http://maschinemusic.com/forum/topics/maschine-mk2-defective-screens
https://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/maschine-studio-screens.211153/page-2
https://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/hardware-screens-not-working-properly.230738/
http://www.illmuzik.com/forums/threads/maschine-mk1-controller-help.32980/
https://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/i-got-2-maschines-and-on-botth-the-screens-are-flickering-out-after-not-even-1-year.193729/

- same with software interfacing. Some companies build their equipment with the express purpose of linking their hardware and software. They have no incentive to help you build something that will interface with their hardware/software. It will take luck, perservence and knowledge of reverse engineering to do what you need (See the relevant chapters in my book on 'Cloud and Internet Security' for further details regarding this.).
http://www.native-instruments.com/forum/threads/midi-keyboard-in-maschine-help.149559/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkDKV9ys3z8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2zFEHyBoZU
https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=Binh+Nguyen
http://www.amazon.com/mn/search/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-author=Binh%20Nguyen&linkCode=ur2&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank&tag=bnsb-20&linkId=3BWQJUK2RCDNUGFY
http://www.mpc-tutor.com/understanding-midi-on-the-akai-mpc/
http://www.acidboxblues.com/2012/07/so-ableton-live-crashes-and-you-think.html

- there is a good chance that you may be eletrocuted at some point. Take measures to reduce the chances that the amount of power that can exit through your body. I often work with rubber gloves, wear rubber sole shoes, etc... Isolate the problem as much as you can and work across modules. If in doubt order in a new module rather than doing component level repair. It will reduce the chances of you getting 'zapped' and sometimes may be the most viable, economic option available once you factor in the amount of time you must spend working on the problem. Finally, if in doubt send it off to someone more accomplished to have the repair completed. This seems obvious but I've come across some people who have tried to scrimage and have done more bad than good when attemping to 'repair' something.
http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/repairing-laptop-power-bricks.html

- you will come across 'smelly equipment' from time to time. I recently came across a Maschine that had been used in a 'smoky environment'. It was so 'smoky' that I actually felt as though I was getting high from simply being around it. I had to tear it down and soak it (the control pads which seem to be made of a silicone and rubber compound, not the device) in hot water and bleach twice for several hours before I could operate 'normally' within it's vicinity. A tip, if you do have to use solvents or other cleaning chemicals test it at a lower concentration and amount first. You don't want to find out later down the line that the substance you used was actually highly corrosive and may have damaged sensitive electronic components.
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/811452-how-remove-smoke-odour-gear-2.html
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/632928-anyway-remove-cigarette-odor-used-gear.html
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/456754-how-do-remove-smell-smoke-y-synthesizer.html
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1041569
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/632928-anyway-remove-cigarette-odor-used-gear.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide
http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-to-Eliminate-Smoke-Smell-from-Your-eBay-Purchases-/10000000001669988/g.html
http://www.head-fi.org/t/60646/cigarette-smoke-smell-in-electronics-how-to-get-rid-of

As I was growing up, people often told me to, "do something you enjoy". Other told me to, "do something which will help you make heaps of money". Now, I'm a little, older, and a little bit wiser. I say, try and find a nice balance between the two.

You don't really realise what the value of money is until you actually are forced to consider what you earn and what you actually spend. For instance, the general belief is that everyone goes to school and works hard in an effort to find a good, high earning profession at the end of all of it. Recently, I've been looking at the numbers more carefully and for everything you have to put up with in some places you really wonder whether it's all worth it.

Increasingly, many of us are working extended hours (your job description may say 9 to 5 but in reality your hours are much longer or else you have to deal with an undue number of 'off hour' incidents) with unrealistic expectations, lack of training, favouritism/nepotism, un-supportive/directionless management and/or team mates for not much more and after you've factored in travel time/costs, bills, day to day living costs and so on there's not enough left over to say that it was actually worth it especially if it's not in a role that you particularly enjoy.

Even if you make heaps of money you've given up so much time during the week that you can be too burnt out to enjoy it.

Ironically, it's much the same even in some of the 'glamour industries' such as law, medicine, finance, and IT.
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=2413007
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/2345937
http://www.amazon.com/The-Striped-Prison-Lisa-Pryor/dp/0330423509
http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2009/12/21/pin-striped-prison/

Moreover, it's the same with a lot of businesses. Live enough and you basically see that in spite of the impressive numbers (7 to 8 figures a month/year) that a lot of businesses may report it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere. They just seem/feel to be struggling to stay afloat a lot of the time. Things make a lot more sense to me now why many lot of companies seem so paranoid when it comes to profit margins and maintaining large amounts of cash savings on hand in case something goes bad (Microsoft has been somewhat notorious when it comes to this).

The obvious answer to this conundrum is to run your own business (or search for your 'dream job'). Unless you've actually been involved in a startup or have been involved in building a company from the ground up you don't realise how much stress is involved. Unless you actually enjoy the work, you're essentially stuck in the same doom loop scenario. Moreover, finding your 'dream job' is made much more difficult by the lack of opportunities, competition, and the fact by recruiters who may not be entirely up front about the job in question. The only thing I've been learning over and over again is to try and find a balance between time, money, and doing what you enjoy. Moreover, once you find something you enjoy and are making money out of it, make the most of it and stick at it for as long as you possibly can (whether that be your own business or working for someone else).

It's pretty darn obvious people use the information on this blog for all sorts of weird and wonderful things. For those girls who have supposedly been lusting after the man behind this blog, please send photos!!! :-) For those who are looking for immigration benefits though please though photos and send money too!!! :-)

Prophets/Pre-Cogs 15, Random Stuff, and More

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