Saturday, October 29, 2011

Taurus pedals case foam disintegrating (melting)

A short while ago, I opened up my Taurus pedals case to find that the blue foam that surrounded the inside of the case had started to disintegrate.

Blue foam sucky mess
 The foam had left a sticky substance all over the pedals, but the control window was tightly closed so I figured that any foam that entered the inside of the machine probably went through the foot controls or through the bottom of the pedals.

A few members of the forum indicated that the best bet for clean-up was compressed air, tweezers and distilled water. Isopropyl alcohol and q-tips used sparingly on the stubborn spots were also recommended.

I decided the first step was to get use my hands to get as much of the material out of the case as possible. Then, I moved the instrument onto the floor and used an old vacuum to suck up the larger chunks of foam stuck around and underneath the instrument.

But the instrument was still sticky. So, I found some household surface wipes and after an initial test to make sure it didn't harm the instrument surface, gave it a good cleaning. I'd say that managed to get out 85% of the stickiness.

After initial cleaning
Next - time to look inside. I unscrewed the three screws from underneath the pedals (I'm missing one) to open it up - and took a deep breathe. Lucky for me, it looks like the only foam that got inside were smaller crumbs that fell in when I tipped the machine on its back to clean the underside.

Taurus pedals - opened
Small crumbs of foam in corner
Moog on the circuit board!

Next steps will be to do another wipe down to try and remove the rest of the stickiness from the outside. And then, get those broken pedals replaced. 

But, its probably time to take the pedals in for a good professional cleaning at my local shop. That will ensure that no foam made it in through the top of the machine. 

At least now, when I take the pedals in, it won't look like a big blue mess.  My fix-it guy looks for any reason to yell at me.  :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ubuntu upgrade from Natty Narwhal 11.04 to Oneiric Ocelot 11.10 - ReNoise keeps on tickin'

I decided to upgrade Ubuntu on my first generation netbook from 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) to 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot) the other night. 

I followed these instructions on, with the addition that before I clicked the 'Upgrade' button, I first clicked the 'Install Updates' button in the bottom right corner of the Update Manager window to ensure everything was up to date first. 

The upgrade process went pretty smoothly and after the restart, 11.10 was installed successfully. 

All my icons, including the shortcut to ReNoise, were still on the desktop. I started ReNoise and quickly ran a few of the ReNoise song demos to make sure everything still worked. It could have just been my imagination, but it seemed to load a bit quicker, and everything worked as it did before. 

If I run into any problems, I'll note them on the blog. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Installing Renoise 2.7.2 on Ubuntu 11.04 first generation netbook

Ever since I was compelled to try and install Ubuntu onto one of my old Acer Aspire netbooks a long while back, I've been dying to try and install Renoise on Unbuntu ever since. Even though I am an avid Sonar user, I've been drawn to Renoise more and more on my Windows machine. I'm now on Ubuntu 11.4, but still no Renoise.

My stalling was definitely partly due to the fact that I I'm a newbie, and it didn't help that I'd forgotten everything I ever learned about the command line back in grad school in the late 80s/early 90s.

But, I finally decided it was time to try this out. And it turned out to be pretty much painless.


Warning: I DO NOT know what I am doing. This is probably not be the best way to install Renoise on Ubuntu. I'm sure over time I'll learn that. I'm just a guy with a bit of time on his hands.


I did the normal research first, which mostly meant reading the Renoise for Linux FAQ. But I'm a visual learner, so when I couldn't find a visual description of the installation for Ubuntu, I promised myself that if all this worked, I would make a blog post for others.

Honestly, as a linux newbie, this FAQ made me just a little bit nervous. I didn't understand 99.9% of the linux-talk, and it made it seem like someone needed to use Terminal quite a bit during installation, typing in archaic-looking commands.

But, at the top of the FAQ, it does say:
"Renoise for Linux should work just out-of-the-box by decompressing the archive in any correctly installed Linux-box where is installed and the sound playback thru ALSA work."
I figured that I could probably get away with using the Ubuntu GUI as much as possible. That's what Ubuntu is all about, right? RIGHT?


So, lets get started...

I had originally downloaded the Renoise tar.gz package from my Renoise Backstage account onto a USB stick. So, the first thing I did was copy the Tar archive file to my home directory - in this case '/dick' (um... er... don't ask  :)  .

I then double-clicked on the Tar archive, figuring that, like on Windows machines, this would decompress the files. Indeed, it opened up the Archive Manager program to extract the files. I then clicked on the "Extract" icon at the top of the window, which opened up the "Extract" screen.

Once the "Extract" screen opened, I clicked on the "Extract" button in the bottom right hand corner of the window.

This extracted the Renoise folder into the /dick directory.

I then opened up the Renoise folder (rns_2_7_2_reg_x86) to see what was in there, and, sure enough, all the files had been extracted into it. Nice.

I got very excited, so I double-clicked the Renoise icon to start the program. It started to load properly, but then suddenly stopped, popping-up a screen to warn me that it "failed to create a RealTime priority thread for ALSA". Since it only "highly recommended" me to use RealTime priority audio threads, I took that to mean that I could still proceed. So, I clicked on the OK button, and Renoise finished loading.

I loaded the first demo song and it played properly, except for a bit of audio clicking/distortion - that sound you always get when the buffer is too low. And when I tried a few of the other demos, I quickly ran out of CPU power.

Changing the buffer size in the preference/audio device settings helped quite a bit, but, the reality is that this is a first generation netbook (an N270 Atom chip maybe?). No very powerful.

But it definitely works. And I plan to use it.

In my next post, I'll explain how I got RealTime audio priority threads working (that *did* involve the command line), which not only stopped that annoying pop-up while loading Renoise, but also decreased the CPU load quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Using slatwall to hold your gear

Waddaya know! My first post on Retro Synth Labs. I've found that there were a few times that I wanted to post something non-retro-synth-ad related. So rather than start plugging up that blog, I decided it would be better to start something new.

And I found the perfect first-blog-post.

Oh, and before I begin:

Legal disclaimer: I am not a professional. Do not do anything you see in this blog post before consulting professionals. Lots of them.

A couple of weeks ago I was lurking in the Vintage Synth Explorer forums and came across a question that has always interested me quite a bit - how other people organize their studio space.

As I mentioned in my reply post, I came to a point where "I realized I wasn't into building a studio any more, but an experimental sound lab of sorts. And with that, I realized I didn't need all my sound sources hooked up or even within reach. Kinda like a scientist that doesn't need to keep all of his different beakers and testing gear within reach at all times".

Did I just quote myself?!?! Gah!

Anyway, the poster - "daguru" - was running into the same problem I was. Most of my gear was on 3-tier stands that took up a lot of space, especially those slanted ones that invade into the room three or four feet at the base. I just don't have that much space to spare. And if you have those stands along two or three walls, that a lot of floor area taken up by keyboard stands - space that could be better used for mixers, synth racks, fuzzy chairs... you get the idea.

Daguru did a bit of research and posted images of two different systems he was looking at, one of which was the solution that I decided to go with in my little space.


I got the idea from my local synth store. The slatwall at the store was holding up some pretty heavy gear, so I figured it could probably handle anything I had to throw on it.

I sourced my slatwall at a nearby hardware store. Dig a little online, and you can find all different colours and textures. You can also get nice framing apparently. But I'm a cheap bastard, so I went with just good 'ol slatwall. If I did it all over again, I would go with something a lot nicer. But, as someone in the forum mentioned, once the gear is in place, you don't see much of it.

The slatwall I found at the hardware store came in 4x4 foot square pieces. Perfect for hold one long synth, two short synths, or even three drum machines. And you can have three or four rows going on one piece of slatwall.

Or, if you have a long wall, you can install two pieces side by side for one big eight-footer. You can display something like your whole extended 80's drum machine collection on that sucker.

In the photo below, you can see how I installed one four foot piece at about waist level. This allowed me to put my mixer sidecar and other gear below the slatwall. Great use of space.

For installation, I used a friend, a level, and rather long screws. Drilling right into the studs. *A lot* of screws. And I don't think I used enough.

Shift-click to view larger images

I sourced the slatwall arms directly from my music store. After convincing them that I wasn't trying to open my own competing synth store, my keyboard guy ordered me one pair to test. Once I knew everything would fit, I ordered a wack more. They weren't cheap, although neither is a good keyboard stand. I can't remember what I paid for them... but yah, not cheap.

I chose arms that could bend at three different angles. This allowed arms near the top of the wall to be slanted downward for better access, while arms near the bottom of the slatwall could be horizontal to the floor.

The arms are nice because they can also be lengthened to accommodate different depths of gear. Anywhere from 13 inches up to 19 inches. But don't forget, if your audio/MIDI connectors plug in to the back of your gear, you need to allow one or two inches of space for that. So really, 17 to 18 inches in depth is probably your limit.

Shift-click to view larger images

As you can see from the photos above, the arms are also good for hanging power bars or holding long racks for multiple pieces of smaller gear. You can also find lots of other types of slatwall dohickeys such as baskets, small tables, and even just simple hangers for stringing your cords over. Keeps everything nice and neat.

Aside: If you look closely at the white rack in the picture, you will notice a lot of twist ties. I use twist ties *a lot* :o)

So, the big question - how much can it hold? I'm not a big fan of showing off my gear on the InterWebz, but I did include a photo below of this piece of slatwall holding my Juno-106. I have another piece a slatwall holding a JX8P (with the controller :o). That's probably the heaviest thing I've put on two arms.

Shift-click to view larger image

For those that are getting a little antsy at trusting slatwall holding such a large amount of heavy gear, I totally understand. I did a little Googlin' and just noticed that you can get heavy duty aluminum slatwall as well. I may have to look into that...

Or, if you already have slatwall, you can also find aluminum inserts. According to this Web site, it more than doubles the the strength of the panels. The same site has a lot of good info on installation, etc, and based on the info I've been reading, it looks like I will probably up the number of screws I've used in my installation. I also saw a good strength chart on there somewhere.

Slatwall was perfect for me because I don't access all my synths all the time. If you need instant access to every synth you own, then putting a synth near the ceiling of your studio on slatwall arms obviously won't work for you. But if you are a CV/gate fanatic, or tend to work with gear individually at a work table, then slatwall may be just the solution to save more than a bit of floor space. You can grab the synth off the wall when needed for sampling/recording, and then put 'er right back, out of the way.

And read the other comments in that forum post. A lot of good ideas there.

Legal stuff: Don't do anything you have read in this blog post. Talk to a professional about what you want to do. Talk to a lot of them. And plan better. I didn't. But wish I did. And I will be talking to some professionals soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You've stumbled upon Retro Synth Labs

Unfortunately, there is nothing to see yet.

Until there is something else to see here, check out my Retro Synth Ads blog.