Monthly Archives: October 2011

Roll Indie Fiftee Reap Air

Just so you know, I’ve been nerding out pretty hard this past week.

Last Monday, I picked up a very used Roland D-50 keyboard at the pawn shop. Although it was manufactured in 1987, it still output audio and the MIDI still works, but the poor thing has problems (I should’ve talked them down on price, but even still I got a decent deal). All of the keys on the fingerboard worked, but a few of the keys had screwed-up velocity sensitivity. The pitch bend was busted. And some of the panel buttons either don’t work or require a heavy push to get them to work. This poor piece of gear needed some serious TLC.

Knowing what I was up against, I made the due diligence to get some required tools to do the cleanup and minor repairs. Got some paint brushes for dusting, a wire brush to scrape any rust, some 91% rubbing alcohol (because 70% has too much water), and a can of electronic contact cleaner.

Within an evening I had it taken apart. The damned thing had spiderwebs and cat hair in it. No wonder it half worked. Last owner didn’t give a shit, and it shows. I got most of the crap out of the case in short time, but it took another evening to get the fingerboard completely disassembled, and I mean completely, like down to the frame. Pulled the keys off and soaked them in soapy water; they were as nasty as the bottom of a computer mouse.

It took a few evenings, but I got both circuit boards under the keys cleaned, got the rubber contacts wiped down, all the dust and “water damage” (to doctor the truth) are cleaned up. I found proof that the keyboard has been worked on before by someone who didn’t have the smarts or the tools to do the reworks correctly, and that probably accounts for one of the keys reporting full velocity on each press. I redid the rework; hopefully that fixes that.

Yesterday, I decided that I was tired of having sub-par tools to do electronics work. After having the pleasure of working with professional soldering equipment at work, my piss-poor Radio Shack iron just won’t do anymore, so I went to the electronics store and got a good Weller soldering station, a handful of different tips, a bottle of solder flux, a dispenser, and a cheap multimeter to replace the piece-of-shit I’ve had to use for the past 25 years. Nerding hard core.

This afternoon, I pulled the entire unit apart, taking the boards and cable assemblies off of the master frame. Took them to the balcony for dusting and a heavy session with the contact cleaner. Afterwards, more of the panel buttons went non-functional, so I spent part of this evening tracking down replacement parts. I desoldered and removed one of the switches, and I’ll take it to work tomorrow to get its exact dimensions with some proper measuring tools. If it matches the replacement switches I’ve found so far, I’ll be placing an order for an entire panel’s worth of buttons.

This is all very exciting!

Hopefully by next week’s end, I’ll have a fully-functional Roland D-50, refurbished and ready to go. And then the hard part will begin: writing music. D’oh!

This Will ROT13 Your Brain

ROT13 is an encryption cipher belonging to a class called Caesar Ciphers in which each letter in the source message is exchanged with the letter X number of letters away in the alphabet. It has become a technical shorthand for using the Caesar Cipher with a distance of 13. For instance:

source: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!”
ROT13: “N zna, n cyna, n pnany: Cnanzn!”

source: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.”
ROT13: “Gur dhvpx oebja sbk whzcrq bire gur ynml qbtf.”

ROT13 came into moderate use during the height of Usenet as a way to obscure profanity, dirty talk, movie spoilers, open secrets, anything the message poster wants to say with a cupped mouth out of kindness to the other readers. Due to its popularity, some Usenet client software had ROT13 capabilities built-in as a convenience to the user. It is easily breakable, as are all of the Caesar ciphers, because the letter frequencies in the message are maintained, e.g. since “E” is the most common letter used in English writing, then any Caesar ciphertext that has “H” as the most common letter likely has a distance of 3, and the message can be decrypted. The capitalization, punctuation, and numbers are unencrypted.

A few months ago, I went to Slashdot to check the day’s tech news. They have a fortune cookie at the bottom of their page that changes daily. It’s usually some sharp quip or a random joke. This one day, it was a long, long string of garbage text that went on for pages. I saved the text for analysis later, and looked at it this morning. Here is a sample of the text:
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Some Thoughts to Occupy Your Mind

  1. The Internet is the worst place to go if you have something to say.
  2. Activity is not motion, but motion is an activity.
  3. Don’t bring signs to a battle of words. They are inflexible and can be used against you.
  4. If you’re fighting on two fronts, you’ll have to watch your own back.
  5. Keep off the grass, especially when requested. When asked twice, doubly so.
  6. Just because you’re seated does not mean you are immobile.
  7. Educate yourself about the enemy, but resist the urge to use that knowledge to become the enemy once he is vanquished.

Roundup Kills Weed

I’ve been thinking. If the federal government were to ever legalize marijuana, that would open the market for legal farming. It would be another cash crop farmers could consider to sustain their livelihood. Moral and legal entanglements aside, there’s a major caveat to this.

Once it’s legal and proven profitable on the market, and once boards of directors can convince their shareholders that it’s a good crop to get into, Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM will effectively take over and sue into contractual submission any farmer who doesn’t grow their patented genetically-modified seeds, just as they currently do with soy, corn, cotton, and wheat. Any independent farmer running a grow-op with heritage seeds will have a planeload of relentless, deeply-pocketed lawyers at their door to coerce them into destroying their crops because the company’s GMO seeds are somehow mysteriously growing on their land without permission.

It’s inevitable. You know this to be true. Where there is money to be made, there will be multinationals there to consume it, no matter who suffers.

Next you know, the nation is smoking Roundup-Ready weed stock, but everybody will be too stoned to care.