carlfoxmarten: (default)
So, apparently I've done so well with repairing our current magic wand that I've been asked to make our next one! =^.^=

Further talks and research into what people would like and would find useful and/or helpful has yielded a pretty good amount of information.
For example, since our director of 25 years has somewhat retired and her son (who has also been with us for a very long time) has taken over as director, he has quite a lot of ideas that could make things even better, including our future magic wand.

Our previous wand was only capable of flashing when charged and turned on, so there is a lot that can be done to improve on that.
In fact, our current wand is now capable of glowing when charged and on, which is already a great improvement.

He'd mentioned that what he'd like a very capable wand that can do a lot, but the various features can be turned on or off as desired each year.
He did also say that it would probably require a user's manual because of all the features, but we do make sure our fairies are able to use the wand well before the show starts.

Here's a list of some example effects that we'd like a new wand to do:
  • Pulsate or cycle through a rainbow when the fairy is invoking a spell.
    (this is a very straightforward effect that can be easily done with about fifteen dollars-worth of parts, and is programmable to boot)
  • A ‘disco ball’-like effect of dots of light rotating slowly around inside the bulb.
    (this is going to be tricky, as we can't have any shadows on the front of the bulb)
  • A sort of ‘chaser’ effect, with columns of light spinning around the bulb.
    (this should be relatively straightforward. Just a few LEDs with fins between each pair so their light doesn't interfere with each other)
Quite an interesting list, though I'm quite sure it's not complete yet.
Though I'm not sure that would be possible to have all those effects on the same wand, not without having multiple wand tips anyway.

I also don't think I'm ready to try putting all that together my first time making a new wand, so I'll likely be making at least two wands, with the first one being rather less capable than the later one(s).
Hopefully I can get the first one done before February 27th, as that's when my theatre company is having its cast party...
carlfoxmarten: (default)
The last rehearsal for our Pantomime was on Sunday, so tonight we have a cue-to-cue session (basically where our Stage Manager sets up the list of cues for lighting, sound, curtains, drop-cloths, adinfinitum, that will be used to keep everything on-track and timed right.
It's a very long evening, starting work at 6pm, and going until about 10.

Then we have a dress rehearsal on Thursday night, a preview performance on Friday, and opening night is on Saturday.
After that, we have Friday, Saturday, Sunday shows for the next three weeks.

While I like performing, I still hate the makeup... =>.<=
carlfoxmarten: (default)
Well, the magic wand our pantomime's fairy queen uses was handed back to our director for final structural repairs before it gets handed back to our props mistress (who is also our fairy queen, and is also the person who broke it in the first place), so it's quite literally out of my hands now.

Fortunately, it was in excellent working order before then, so I'm pretty happy about that right now.

Next up is to write some documentation on working with and repairing it, should I not be around when such things need to happen.
Plus, it would be a good idea to mention that it's, oh, I dunno, dangerous what with the high voltages involved.

Anyway, because the flash unit (which I'd made removeable) is hard to describe with words, I just know that I'm going to need pictures.
The downside to that is that I need pictures.
Despite having taken a number of photos while I still had it, I need to improve their legibility, which means I have a fair bit of processing work ahead of me.

Unfortunately, this is not something I already know how to do, and so I'll need to learn as I go.
There are many techniques that might possibly help, but I won't know until I get to that point.

For example, I can draw vector graphics overtop the image to recreate the images with far more control over how it looks than other methods, or I could painstakingly draw lines around the edges of objects and manually adjust their colours and shading.
Both are still very hands-on, lengthy operations however...
carlfoxmarten: (default)
Okay, just one prop.

But it's a rather interesting problem, and one that's taken me two weeks to get to even a moderate understanding what the problem is...

I've already mentioned on here about the idea I'm working on for a remote sound-effect trigger system.
Well, our director noticed how (seemingly) adept I am with electronics, and on November 8th approached me with a supposedly simple problem.

You see, we feature our fairy queen with a magic wand prop, which gives off a bright flash when its button is pressed. The flash is bright enough to be seen in the back rows of the theatre, but not bright enough to blind the fairy.
Anyway, apparently our current fairy queen was taking last year's decorations off the wand when she accidentally broke the ball off the end.

You know, the ball that contains a flash circuit board from an old film camera?
She broke the wires off the circuit board, and the question was how to get it back in working order.

My initial response: Yeah! Sure! I'll have it done by next week!

Yeah, no.

The circuit board was taken from an old film camera, and therefore not intended to be used in the manner we have been, so the pads I'm supposed to solder the wires back onto are not marked, which in turn meant that I had to follow the traces on the PCB by hand.
(yes, I checked. The part number on the board didn't show up anywhere online)

Anyway, after finding about half-a-dozen different schematics for various brands of old xenon-type flash units (none of which matched mine), I finally (thought) I'd figured it out and decided to move all the components to a new board.
Unfortunately, it didn't work, and I then moved only the parts responsible for charging the capacitor back to the original board, where it worked again.
(turns out I'd missed a connection)

My current plan is (as I'm still not finished it yet) to use both boards to make it a more compact package, incorporating a plug and socket between the wand itself and the flash unit so we can have a backup flash unit.
(and hopefully this won't happen again)

I wired the whole thing up again in a temporary manner on my workbench (aka, my bed with a board overtop) and it works again! =^.^=
Next up is to move the charge LED (now a bright white one instead of a tiny green one) next to the flashbulb, lower the value of the resistor right beside it, and wire the boards together properly.
carlfoxmarten: (default)
In case I’ve never mentioned it, my cell phone is a 32GB Nexus 5 smartphone, running a pretty-much stock version of Android 4.4, especially since I’d bought it straight from Google.

Anyway, I discovered that it has a ‘screen-cast’ option, where you can wirelessly project the phone's screen to another monitor or TV, if they support that option.
Unfortunately, the screens I have access to do not, but that isn’t the only way to do it.

Fortunately, several companies sell devices or cables that plug into the phone’s USB port and provide either host-type USB ports or various other plugs, including an HDMI adapter, which I managed to buy for about fifteen bucks off Amazon.

Today I got to test it so I could show off OK Go's latest music video, I Won’t Let You Down.
Short answer: It works great!
Caveat: The speakers on the TV aren’t really that good, at least when compared to the stereo dad has.
(it would have taken more work to try getting it set up through that, so I just went with the easy option)

Anyway, I’m quite happy with how the phone and the associated accessories I’ve been buying have worked together.
I suspect I’ll be keeping this phone for a couple of years yet. =^.^=
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
[ profile] thefoxaroo has kindly commissioned a reference of my fursona from the artist of my choice, who just so happens to be [ profile] rhari.
The image is finally finished, and you can find it in my FA gallery.

I’m actually very impressed with the colouring.
Originally I’d decided that his head was supposed to be Red Fox and his body more Pine Marten, but she suggested this colouring that actually turned out extremely well.

Plus, I really, really like his tail! =^.^=
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
The theory behind my latest project is as follows:

An inexpensive fob (partially disassembled to save space) is hidden inside a prop gun. The trigger presses a given button on the fob, which sends a radio signal to a receiver.

In this case, the receiver is a rather generic device, intended to trigger almost anything with its relay (which can handle up to 10 amps) from garage doors to lighting. For our purposes here, it works just fine to pull an input line low.

The microcontrollers I've been testing with are all Arduino-compatible, so I'm able to take advantage of the dead-easy (for a programmer) development environment that is used for Arduino boards.
The first board I used was an Adafruit Trinket, a very small microcontroller with a miniscule five digital I/O pins, two of which I needed to use for the USB connection to the computer.
The second was a spare Arduino Leonardo that I have other designs on, though it works well enough for testing purposes.
(the nice thing about the process I'm using at this point is that it's all practically breadboarded, and everything can plug-in and unplug easily, so I haven't wasted any hardware doing testing just yet)

When the microcontroller detects that a relay has been activated, it acts as a generic USB keyboard and sends a key-pressed signal to the computer it's plugged into.
I spoke to the person who's in charge of running the sound-effects for the theatre company I'm involved with, and was told that two channels are the best option at the moment.
Anything more than two just gets confusing, and can be easily handled with gunshots mixed into an audio file and played in the background.

On the whole, it's a very simple process, but the programming for the microcontroller can be tricky if you haven't figured out how to separate the two channels effectively.
In that case, you must figure out how to handle press/release and key-down/key-up properly, and without putting the processor into a locked state while waiting for a release event.

I'm pretty sure I have enough code done to do a good enough job, I just need to do a more thorough testing.

Theoretically I should have enough of the project together to be able to demonstrate the project to my director friend so she can get a good idea of how it will perform, though there's still the issue of supplying power.

Under most conditions, I'd be able to draw all the power necessary from the USB cable.
Unfortunately, it only supplies 5V of power, and the wireless relays I'm using require a bare minimum of 9V, though the documentation states that it requires a 12V supply.

I'd like to stay well away from batteries for this, as they're going to have a hard enough time trying to find replacement 12V batteries for the fobs when they eventually run out, so I'll need to go with a "wall wart" style power adapter.
This also means that I need to find one of those things, along with a jack to plug it into...
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
I saw DHLawrence do this meme over on FurAffinity, so I thought I’d do it too, just to stretch my creative muscles a bit.
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
It's actually quite fascinating knowing a theatre director. You get to learn all sorts of things, and get a bit of an "in" to see even more stuff.

For example, I was able to see what you might call a minimalist production of “Hound of the Baskervilles” that used three males actors and a two-sided fireplace, and was later invited to usher the same show at another venue.
(we joked about starting a new theatre company called Three Men and a Fireplace. It would work! Honest!)

Anyway, there were a few scenes where one of the actors had a small plastic gun they had to fire a series of shots from, but the shot sound effects were part of an audio file played through the sound system, so they had to synchronize their hand motions to the audio file, which didn't work very often.
(well, not to me, anyway)

So I decided that there ought to be a better way to do this.

I found out that they use a program to cue up all the sounds that make up the sound effects portion of the show into a sort of audio script.
It's triggered somewhat like PowerPoint, just keep pressing a key to trigger the effects.

You can also trigger particular effects via other keys on the keyboard if your script isn't actually a single linear progression.
This is important, because it makes what I'm trying to do possible.

I also found out that you can buy a hobbyist-oriented four-button key fob and wirelessly-activated relay.

Put these two thoughts together, and you get a key fob whose relay activates a key on the guts from a USB keyboard.

Now, while you can get USB keyboards pretty cheap nowadays, there is an issue with most of their circuit boards.

The pads used to connect the board to the key matrix do not actually accept solder.
In fact, the one board I'd tried actually had the hot solder roll around on top of it, and broke right back off easily after letting it cool and harden.

Second option was to use any of a multitude of microcontrollers, small very low-end computers that are (usually) easily programmed to do simple tasks.
Well, there aren't too many things simpler than pushing a button when an input changes, so it should work fine, right?

First test was with an Adafruit Trinket, a small ten-pin micro microcontroller that has three data pins and a bunch of power pins. Useful for small projects.
Plus I was able to have it emulate a USB keyboard! =^.^=

Unfortunately, I need about six I/O pins or so (might be up to eight, I'm not sure yet), so while it was great as a temporary test rig, it won't be useful in the long run.

Because the Trinket is compatible with Arduino microcontrollers (as are many microcontrollers nowadays, much to my relief), I'm currently mocking up some software on my recently-purchased Arduino Leonardo (one of their latest official boards) before I choose a smaller board to 'port it over to.

Ideally, I want to put as much of the parts as possible into a small plastic project case so it all looks fairly professional.
(with the added benefit of preventing connections from getting bumped)

Anyway, I'd tried to show my progress to my director friend, and she and her husband (who does the music and sound effects for her shows) are both quite happy about the possibilities.
Unfortunately, due to a faulty cable, I wasn't able to actually demonstrate the project to them, but I will have a working model to show them later.
(honest! =^.~=)
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
Yeah, I know, it’s weird to be a guy and do yarn crafts, but hey, I never claimed to be normal.
I’m probably one of the least normal people I know of, but that really isn’t saying much...

Read more... )
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
Even before the first rehearsal, we already had the rack cards to advertise this year’s panto, about ten thousand of them.
I've already nabbed a small stack of about three dozen, dropping some off at the shoe store where I bought my panto shoes this year, and the rest at work.

Oh yeah, when I dropped the cards off at the quilting store I used to work at, the boss said “Oh, I was going to call you.”
You know something good is going to happen when he says that! =^.^=
Anyway, long story short (well, long visit short, anyway!) I get to go back and work there again!
For the moment, I’ll be working four hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and full days on Fridays, gradually increasing as the number of sewing machines going through ramps up for Christmas.

Woohoo! I get to work again! =^.^=

Anyway, it’s going to be less about servicing machines and more about organizing the parts, as he’d noticed how well I’d been doing tracking down part numbers and such.
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
The theatre company I’m with for this year’s panto is also doing a play by Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap, in mid-March of 2015.
Auditions are in about a week, and I have a slot lined up for me.

Only thing is, to actually get a role, I need a so-called “RP” English Accent.
Translated, it's a “Received Pronunciation” accent, or an accent used to portray middle-class British people almost since the BBC’s creation.

The other thing is, I’ve never done accent work before in my life.
Which means I need to get cracking.

Right now, I'm going through Google's search results for “Received Pronunciation training”, and am currently going through ThePhoneVoice’s tutorials on RP British Accent Training.
I’ll be going through several other tutorials as I progress, but I’ll still be sticking to free ones, as I’m kinda broke right now.

While it is a paying role, I don’t know how much it’ll be paying, so I’m not exactly aiming very high just yet.
I have, after all, never done a full role before, so even auditioning for something other than chorus for a panto is going to be pure experience.

If I don’t get the role, I don’t think I’ll be too cut up about it.
I’ll still be able to watch it, after all...
carlfoxmarten: (Default)
I haven't used the mobile version of LJ for ages, probably before it was sold to somebody in Russia.
Until now, I haven't actually noticed any indications of the change in ownership.

Today, I used the mobile version to show my dad a picture a friend had posted, and discovered that, despite the interface using English for all the text, it keeps putting Russian ads at the bottom of every page...

Has anyone else noticed this?

Posted via

carlfoxmarten: (podium)
Panto preparation has begun in earnest! =^.^=

Friday night was the first read-through, where everybody involved sat around a bunch of tables and we all read our parts in turn.
(well, I don't have much of a part, being in the chorus and all)

Anyway, as we opened with everybody introducing themselves and stating what part they had, it became apparent that almost half our cast is new this year, and several haven't even seen one of our pantos before.
Also, one of the young women is rather hyper, and an aficionado of both Doctor Who and Star Trek.
(there are jokes for both in the script, though not enough of the first one, in my opinion)

It turns out that one of the new people (and his mother!) is someone I've known from years ago, as we both went to the same chess club (before membership was charged for) and we were both homeschooled.
Apparently, we both went to the same university, though I'm not sure where else we've met, as I'm pretty sure I've seen him relatively recently.

The new rehearsal space is in the general area of last year's space, but is (unfortunately) much further from the bus routes, so I have to do a fair bit of walking to get to it.
On the benefits side, it's much larger, has bathrooms (yes! Plural!), a fridge and microwaves, a good amount of parking (not that I'd need any), and we even have some space to build our set pieces there too.

There's a total of seventeen songs in this year's panto, up from ten at most from last year, and many of them are original works.
Also, the chorus is in at least half of them, so that's at least eight to ten songs we'll get to learn.
In addition, it seems we have at least twice the, not sure what to call this, um, "formal-style" dances to learn this time around.

We've already started to learn at least four songs, two of which are the classic ones we sing at the end of every show, so two entirely new ones.
We also started learning one of the many dance routines, and in the process, I got paired up with the hyper young lady I mentioned above.
Hopefully we won't step on each other's toes too much...
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
It has come to my attention that I've already posted something like this, though there are a few updates and some addition information.
Feel free to ignore this post if you want.

Repeat )


Sep. 4th, 2014 04:24 pm
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
Just noticed that rehearsals for this year's pantomime starts next weekend!

This year we're doing Sleeping Beauty, and what surprises me about things is that our director has had to write the script from scratch as we haven't done it before...
(she's written enough scripts that we've almost been coasting on updated scripts the last few years)

Again, I'll be in the chorus, as I'm not confident enough to try a character role yet.
First read-through is next week, so while I've read the script (and even with the voices of several people involved in my head), I still need the director's guidance as to tone.
(plus the songs involved were not included in the first draft)

Further theatre stuff )

New bike

Aug. 19th, 2014 07:47 pm
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
Man, I haven't had a new bike in twenty years, but it's definitely worth it!

My sister found a mountain bike somebody was going to get rid of and saved it for me. It's about two years old, but hardly used.

Contrast that with my old bike, which I've had since I was eight or so, with no maintenance, so it's now no longer just too small but also kind of tough to pedal.
(along with other issues I believe I've posted about before)

Anyway, I rode my new bike yesterday, on what could only be described as too long a trip for somebody so out-of-shape as I am.
Had to pause about three times to catch my breath, and try to get some more energy.

You see, I'd made the mistake of pushing myself on the early, easier part of the route I'd taken, which meant that I'd wasted a good amount of energy early on.
I definitely need to work on pacing myself...

There are a couple of things I'll need to do before I use my bike more regularly, such as get a new bike lock, adjust one or both of the brake lines, get a water bottle holder, perhaps some way of holding things.

I'm tempted to get a different kickstand, actually.
The stand it came with is a generic stand that just about every bike comes with, but the one I had on my old bike had a bit of a lock on it so you couldn't accidentally raise the stand without unlocking it first.
The “lock” was more of a latch, which was easy enough to undo with the toe of my shoe, but it definitely gave me a comfortable feeling, knowing that I couldn't drop the bike by accidentally raising the kickstand.
(found one on Canadian Tire’s website for eleven dollars, so that should be pretty straightforward to deal with, should it fit)

I still won't be using my bike to do all my getting around, as there's actually a distinct lack of places to lock the bike up to, but it'll give me more exercise, as well as possible mobility options.
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
I've been playing The Saboteur for a few years now, but what's caught my interest up again recently is the fact that I now have an XBox 360 game controller for my PC, which makes certain aspects of play easier.

If you haven't heard of it before, a quick summary is that it's a third-person shooter with a good story, set in a very accurate depiction of France during World War II.
Parts of it are almost like Grand Theft Auto, but it's less frustrating, or so I understand.

Despite some glitches (mostly visual, some gameplay), I still find The Saboteur to be a very enjoyable game.
Collect cars (either found on the side of the road, or stolen from their rightful drivers) and earn additional perks to make your way through France more easily.

Probably the most surprising aspect of the game for me is the fact that it's been so faithfully recreated.
I've seen several movies now that have at least some parts of it set in France and I find myself saying things like "Yup, I've seen that," and "I think I know where that is."

A truly weird feeling, seeing as I've never been there...

The plot never changes, and is somewhat linear, but it's fun to come up with different ways to approach each mission and target.
That is the one reason I like this game above all the others, because it's essentially open-world, you're not tied down to a handful of ways to complete the missions.

Where the game controller comes in handy is for driving vehicles around.
The keyboard being purely digital makes it a little tricky to drive, especially during some of the races, without a fair amount of practice ahead of time.
(fortunately, or unfortunately, there's a lot of driving around to get to the various missions, targets, safe houses, and arms dealers, so you do get a lot of practice in)

Surprisingly, the XBox 360 controller's two triggers are actually analogue, which means that I can directly control the vehicle's speed, making it easier navigate the city streets to my next target.
Unfortunately, it's still difficult for me to tell which button does what when I'm wandering around on foot, in addition to the fact that my aim is far more accurate with a mouse, so I have a handy flat surface near my keyboard tray to drop the gamepad on when I step out of a car.
(the nice thing is, the getting-out/getting-in animations are long enough that I actually have a fair amount of time to fully switch from keyboard/mouse to gamepad and back, which means I have no issues getting out of a car to interrupt a firing squad)

Unfortunately, the one issue I've been having with it is the in-game map, which makes it a pretty major issue.
You use the in-game map to see where you're supposed to be heading for missions, or where to find the nearest arms dealer is and mark a waypoint, which lays down a line for you to follow when you're driving a car.
The problem is the fact that, for some strange reason, the layer the map is on is not the same layer that the targets, safe houses, etc, are on, and they don't move together!
(one of the layers moves faster, causing me problems when I'm trying to figure out where I'm going)
I haven't figured out what causes this, but it has to be something related to the screen resolution in some way.
Guess I need more research into this...
carlfoxmarten: (podium)
“Oh my, just look at all the dust in here! It's like I haven't been here in years! Oh wait, I haven't. Let me see now, just how long has it been? Huh. Okay, must be almost six months now, not quite a year. Huh. Must not have done any dusting back then either...”

After retrieving broom, I start to sweep away the dust and accumulated cobwebs. “Well, I'm going to have to remember that this thing is here and post more often. Not sure what that'll mean to my attention elsewheres, but I will try. Right now, I'm sort of trying to look for more work, as I've been laid off (due to no fault of my own) and have been unemployed for a month or two by now. I'm not even sure what sort of work I'd like to do, though whatever it turns out to be, it should either be easy to get out of for when I can be hired back, or much better than my last job. Bit of a tall order, seeing as how it's not just me missing working there, but my boss, the rest of the staff, and even some of the customers I helped out.”

I move over to a chair and clean it off before sitting down for a spell. “Before getting laid off, I took a beginner's class at the store I worked at, and finally finished my first quilt, the results of which you can find in some of my online galleries. Apparently even my boss didn't get angles that square on his first quilt, so I'm working on another at the moment. Pictures to come once it's further together, though it won't be done until late August, as I'm taking another class to get ideas on how to finish it off.”

Picking up a pad of paper from a nearby table, I blow the dust off it and examine the page. “Over the past year or so I've been involved in a collaborative story on the forum I frequent, contributing ideas, role-playing scenes, getting myself in jams. Actually had a fair amount of fun doing that by the time it came to a close. I'm sort of involved with an off-shoot story, with some of the characters that were in the first one, though to somewhere else, facing a different kind of problem. Almost makes me interested in trying to write solo, though we'll see how that turns out. About like some of my more complicated 3D images, I suppose. Incomplete, with content that doesn't match what I was trying to do...”

Getting up from the chair and picking up the broom again, I continue, “Well, I'd better get back to dusting this place up. I don't think I could stand having all this dust in my face next time I come through here. See you all later, if none of this kills me.”


carlfoxmarten: (Default)
Carl Foxmarten

August 2017

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