Vanlife – Intro

Last year I finally pulled the trigger on what was a dream of mine for many years. Following a festival that left me questioning how I should spend my free time and energy on, I decided to embark on the adventure of buying a large cargo van and converting it into a vehicle I can take to festivals and occasionally (and maybe at some point full time) live in.

After much research I have decided that I would like to get a 158” Dodge Sprinter, either 2005 or 2006. The reason for this was that this was pretty much the only vehicle within my budget that I can stand in. It’s possible I could’ve afforded a newer Sprinter, but they are considered very unreliable and that scared me. Once I knew what I was looking for, I spent about two weeks refreshing Craigslist any moment I was awake, until I landed on an ad from a guy named Tim who owns a business called Sprinter Pit Stop in San Diego. He had a 2005 Sprinter with 257,000 miles for a bit less than $10,000. After a bunch of email exchanges (he was super helpful, answered all my questions, sent pictures, etc.) I decided it’s time to go see it in person and booked a flight. I met him the next day with a friend of mine who knows a thing or fifty about vehicles, and we took it for a drive. My friend did the mechanical inspection and nothing major came up. After sleeping on it for a night (especially because it does not have an AC which was hard to swallow) I decided to go for it. Some price negotiation took place, and I was the proud owner of this ex-FedEx delivery vehicle which I then drove to San Francisco. And so it began.

 

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DIY Music Machines – Mixer/Traktor contoller and 4-ch Audio Interface

Lots of progress on two parts of this project has happened in the last few months. I have a working prototype of the Traktor/mixer controller, with 3 fully operational channels and good Traktor integration as well as a USB 4ch (two stereo pairs) audio interface. They are not integrated yet but that will happen sometime after Burning Man.

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DIY Music Machines – Introduction

Intro

Music has always been a significant and influential part of my life. I have been listening to music from as far back as I can remember myself. Like most people my musical taste has changed throughout the year, but my affection towards electronic music, and particularly Techno remained pretty consistent. When I was a teenager I became interested in DJing, and continued doing that for many years. In addition to the musical and party/cultural aspects of DJing, I was attracted to the technical aspect of it – and of music production in general. Producing music, or remixing other people’s music, is done using tools. As it happens in the Electronic music world, those tools happen to be, well, electronic – which was and still is a passion of mine. For whatever reasons (one, notably being spending many hours in front of a computer screen as it is), I wanted to keep my musical hobby separated from my computers hobby. That meant using vinyls to DJ (gave up eventually and switched to digital), and attempting to produce music using anything but a personal computer (I say “personal computer” because, of course, many of the machines I used throughout the years had computers in them). I never took the music production part seriously, and even today I only toy with the drum machines, sequencers and synthesizers that I own. At some point in life I learnt enough software and electronics to be able to build those things on my own, and I find that very exciting. This intersection between music and technology facinates me. It helps that there are plenty of people around the world doing exactly the same – for example, and these are just the tip of the iceberg: MIDIboxAxolotiMutable Instrumentsx0xb0x, and the list goes on and on. Throughout the years I started many projects of this nature and never completed most of them, a lot of time due to lack of time and money, or simply not enough sustained interest. After enough iterations on various prototypes that never led to any usable devices, I feel like I have matured enough to start completing some projects, and making my contribution to the DIY music maker community.

In the last few months I have been working on a modular audio/MIDI platform that currently consists of three projects going in parallel, having some shared infrastructure. They are detailed below and the purpose of this post is to introduce them. They currently do not have a catchy name, but that is on the never-ending TODO list.

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Over-engineered Swamp Cooler Board

For Burning Man 2014 me and a friend built a Figjam Swamp Cooler. Since swamp coolers requires water to be re-filled when they evaporate, and since no one wants to wake up in the middle of a much needed sleep to do that, we built a mechanism for auto-refilling the bucket. We installed a float switch, and together with a 12V relay attached it to an auxiliary pump. When the water level would go below the switch’s threshold the relay would switch the power from the main pump to the aux pump and water from a reservoir will get pumped into the bucket. It worked wonderfully and we barely had to touch the system for the entire burn.

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