Physical Computing: Blink the LED

September 14, 2011

My first ITP-Blog will focus on a field that I have a lot of experience with over the past few years: Arduino. Though I’ve been dabbling with this microcontroller for about three years, I figured it would be beneficial to take this entry-level course and learn the coding from the ground up.

I’ve been posting Arduino-related projects here for quite some time without really explaining what the thing actually is or even what it looks like. Essentially, the Arduino microcontroller is a very basic processor that can take physical inputs (like switches and sensors) and control a variety of digital outputs (like lights and motors).

Arduino Uno

Arduino SMT Uno Board

The reason I love the Arduino so much is its versatility. It doesn’t have enough memory to process audio or video, but it can be used as a controller for cameras, motors, LED lights, MIDI instruments, light sensors, you name it. The possibilities are endless.

In Week 1, we were instructed to build a circuit that would blink an LED light. The code is relatively simple, and was reminiscent of an Arduino-based Christmas tree I built in 2009:

So I decided to get a bit creative and make a cascading LED pattern. Press the switch, and the LEDs light up in sequence. Release the switch, and they cascade in the other direction. Simple, straightforward, and fun.

LED Cascade from Mark Kleback on Vimeo.

Here’s the code:

void setup()
pinMode(7, OUTPUT);
pinMode(8, OUTPUT);
pinMode(9, OUTPUT);
pinMode(10, OUTPUT);
pinMode(11, OUTPUT);
pinMode(12, OUTPUT);
pinMode(2, INPUT);
void loop()
digitalWrite(7, HIGH);
digitalWrite(8, HIGH);
digitalWrite(9, HIGH);
digitalWrite(10, HIGH);
digitalWrite(11, HIGH);
digitalWrite(12, HIGH);
digitalWrite(12, LOW);
digitalWrite(11, LOW);
digitalWrite(10, LOW);
digitalWrite(9, LOW);
digitalWrite(8, LOW);
digitalWrite(7, LOW);

I’ll have more complicated Arduino projects in the next few weeks!

Interactive Telecommunications Program

September 13, 2011

When I started Kleeb Versus the World back in 2008, I was unsure what the content would be about. It started as a stream-of-consciousness blog, writing about new experiences and encounters as a new resident of New York City. I wrote about gentrification, my first Bent Festival, the 3rd Ward , and my initial reaction to Death By Audio.

After almost three years of exploration, self-expression, and almost too much free time, I’m heading back to school for NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (referred to as ITP from here on out).

I applied to ITP in December, 2010 while on the road to Art Basel in Miami. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mostly on a whim. I knew I wanted to get back to school, and I knew what I wanted to learn this time around. I was teaching myself things like Arduino, Processing, and Ableton Live, but I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with all of this.

When I finally found out I was accepted, I realized it was time to really start making things happen, and that’s when I came up with the Kleebtronics: 12 Months 12 Projects idea. This has been haphazardly documented on this blog, but it really helped me to get into the rhythm of making things and documenting the process.

Since school is underway, I’m not sure about the last few months. Kleebtronics is now incorporated, and a website will soon follow, but this blog will be mostly dedicated to my work at ITP. There will be some awesome stuff, and probably some not-so-awesome stuff, but I guarantee posting will be much more frequent. My initial classes involve programming (using Processing), Physical Computing (Arduino), Audio/Video, web design, and animation. I’m going to try to label and document everything better than I have in the past, but this blog will undergo some major changes in the near future.

As one of my classmates said today, it’s time to fall down the technological rabbit hole and see what happens when I emerge in two years. I’m excited, anxious, and ready for anything.

Kleebtronics August: Programmable Synthesizer

August 16, 2011

Alright, getting things done early! For August, I took an Arduino shield Steph got me for Christmas from Critter and Guitari, programmed it, and built it into a case so I could use it on the Fundustrial Revolution Tour, which departs tomorrow. Anyone reading this from Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, or NYC should come and check out the mayhem.

Anyway, here is what the synth looked like after I put the kit together:

You can see that the pots just sort of hang out at the top and the buttons are those really tiny momentary switches. Sure, it sounded cool, but not very practical for a touring setup.

So I decided to build an enclosure:

Nice, easy plywood enclosure. I didn’t have any scrap metal lying around for the top, but I did have some plexiglass. Let me tell you, drilling through plexiglass is NOT a fun time:

This probably took longer than anything else related to this project. We actually had to spray water on the plexiglass as we drilled to prevent cracking.

Next were the buttons. Now, the surface-mounted buttons were not going to cut it, so I needed something that would press down on them from the faceplate. I ordered a 1/8″ wooden dowel from mcmastercarr, along with some rubber washers to keep them in place. Steph glued the washers on the bottom side of the dowel pieces and we dropped them into the plexiglass holes:

After adding a 1/4″ jack in the side, the synth was almost finished:

I decided to finish the wooden case with a layer of Tolex. After a fun night with glue, the finished Arduino Synth was ready for the road. Here’s the video demo, as promised:

Kleebtronics July: Bass Drum Wine Rack

August 10, 2011

July and August have been quite busy, as I’ve been multi-tasking getting ready for the Fuck Ton tour in two weeks. While my July project may be a tad late, my August project will be done by tomorrow, complete with videos. For July, I re-purposed an old bass drum and turned it into a wine rack. I figured it was time to stop stowing wine under my bed and make something to hold not only the bottles, but the glasses as well. This may have been partly sparked by a half dozen broken wine glasses last year.

First, here is the drum sans head when I started. This was taken from an old Pearl Export that has been sitting abandoned at DBA for a few years (if anyone needs a floor tom or rack tom, get at me).

In the end, we ended up with twelve slots for bottles. I would hope that will be enough, but hey you never know.

I ended up lining the top shelf with some black fabric and used an old rim and batter head as a door:

Yes, those are blue LEDs lining the inside. I wired them to a 9V battery and switch built into the top:

To keep the drum closed, I had to install a latch on the opposite side:

And that was it! The circular shape definitely presented a challenge, but this was a pretty easy and straightforward project. I also have to say, after a weekend at the Fly Creek Cider Mill and the Ommegang Brewery, we managed to fill the entire drum and have a few bottles to spare!

At least now that this blog is finished, we can finally start drinking it again.

Coming soon – Project August!

May/June Projects: DBA Renovations

July 3, 2011

I know, I know, I’m combining months for this post. In all honesty, it’s been a busy summer and we’ve had a few people moving in and out, so I grouped my May/June project into one big Death By Audio house renovation. Mostly, two rooms in our house were completely renovated in the past two months. We’ll start with the new movie room. Before May, this room was an art studio for the past year. Here is the last photo we have of the unfinished space:

Thanks to Materials for the Arts, we were able to bring in a new couch, a rug, and a new projector to turn this room back into a home theater, like it was in 2009.

Of course, that was the easy room. We simultaneously decided to tackle the Death By Audio bathroom, which had been plagued by yellowing brick, mildew, and a floor made up of broken shards of tile and cement rubble. Unfortunately (probably for the better), I don’t have any “before” pictures for the bathroom before we started.

The first thing we did was reroute the lighting. We ran extension cords through the ceiling and dropped lights through the drop ceiling. This way, all of the lights were controlled by a master switch, rather than being permanently turned on. Then, we broke up what remained of the tile, swept the floor and the shower, and poured 5 bags of concrete. Sure, there was a mishap in the shower and we had to call in a plumber to change out a pipe or two, but after sealing everything, it looks pretty good.

After the concrete set, we started painting. The shower and walls were painted a battleship grey, and the floor was painted green. We also threw a sheet of plywood over the exposed pipes so everything looked a bit cleaner. A few bathmats here and there, and it’s almost like we’re living in a condo:

Now that everyone is settling in, it’s time for me to get back to some audio and visual stuff. Tomorrow, Fuck Ton plays at Shea Stadium for the Fourth of July, and I’ll have my live video display to show off. Come check it out!

Kleebtronics 2011: 12 Months 12 Projects

May 5, 2011

After applying to the Interactive Technology Program at NYU this past winter, I decided to step up my game a bit and produce a solid portfolio of projects for the year. I know, I know it’s May and I’ve been slacking a bit on the blogosphere end of things, but there are 4 projects down and 8 more to go, so I’m going to recap a little bit and try to catch up. From here on out, we’ll have one blog per project, I promise.

January: Death By Arcade

I started researching MAME cabinets in December and around the new year, ordered all of the parts I would need to build a homemade MAME cabinet for the showspace at Death By Audio. With some woodworking help from my roommate Alex, we built the Death By Arcade video game emulator. I documented this one pretty well in January’s blog. Since it’s finalization at the end of January, we’ve now raked in almost $200 in quarters. Street Fighter is a big hit, but there are over 40 games installed on the emulator, and they change depending on Gavin’s mood. If you ever come to a show at DBA, check it out.

February: Digital Video Mixer

Attributed to an online class on Processing and Arduino with Joseph Gray, February’s project was an intensive programming code that took a video input and affected it in real time using an Arduino – something the class referred to as a “ProjBox.”

At the end of February, I split the output signal to a series of televisions in the Monster Island Fuck Ton show. While still a bit glitchy, I think this project is going to keep improving as I learn more about Processing and Arduino. However, I don’t think I’ll be lugging a bunch of televisions to any shows anytime soon. The current 4-television setup is sitting in the back of Death By Audio.

March: Urban Gardener’s Window Box

I took a break from electronics in March and built a pretty heavy-duty window box that hangs from my sill in my bedroom. Since I cut the pipe out of my wall last summer, the awning window has been separating me from the frigid Brooklyn winter air. In March, I opened it for the first time in months and took the measurements for my hanging garden. A two foot square box cut from weather-treated pine would do the trick. I drilled into the brick using a pretty hefty hammer drill, then hung the edge from the top of the sill using braided steel cable. All-in-all, the box can hold probably 150 lbs and currently houses a few heads of romaine. If we ever get some consistent weather going on here, I’ll plant some more stuff in the coming months.

April: Homebrew Kegerator

I’ve been homebrewing for almost a year now, and have just finished my seventh beer, the Tricerahops (thanks Edan). For anyone out there that partakes in homebrewing, you know the bottling process takes FOREVER. First sanitize all the bottles, siphon out the beer, fill up each bottle individually, cap them, store them, etc, etc. It’s a good 4 hours. This time, I wanted to just pour my beer into a keg and have it on tap.

I found some old Cornelius (Corny) soda kegs on eBay as well as the double tower tap and a CO2 tank. The first mini fridge I found in Queens had some problems with leaking freon, so I found another at Hofstra University that did the trick. A few hose clamps later and everything is rigged up. The pressure is low, so I’m still messing with it a bit, but soon I won’t have to worry about bottling my beer anymore. Thank God.

Which brings us to May. I’ve now been accepted to ITP and am planning on dedicating my time to grad school starting in September. That doesn’t mean I can’t stick to a project schedule, especially if they coincide with school. Some plans for the future?

Well I’d love to affix a series of Piezo transducers to this old piano and hook them all up to different effects. If I can’t tune it, might as well make it sound crazy. Since it’s an easy and relatively affordable project, this is probably going to be May.

Also I’d love to make my bicycle-music-amplifier-solar-Lithium-battery-charger-smart-phone-GPS-all-in-one-system feasible. I found a company after the 5 Boro called Goal Zero that is pretty much doing exactly what I had planned. Perhaps running it off of a front hub dynamo is a good idea?

Kleebtronics Inc. is also up and running as a custom electronics fabrication company. This blog will eventually be dedicated solely to my first business venture, and the developments that come from that. I’m also looking to build my dot com, so if you’ve got some web development skills, come on over.

It’s an exciting time, and with grad school on the horizon, things are looking up.

Kleeb’s 10 Best Films of 2010

February 27, 2011

Tonight is Oscar Night, which means I’ve been holed up watching all of the nominees. I have to say, I’m not really impressed with a lot of the front runners. Since we’re betting on the winners tonight, I’ll make my own predictions of the winners. However, I’m also going to list my favorite 10 films of the year, regardless of the Academy.

First off, I want to talk about films that didn’t make my list. I enjoyed The Fighter but it didn’t make my list. I still think Christian Bale is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo has a good shot at Best Supporting Actress. I don’t think Russell will win Director, but he might have a shot at Original Screenplay.

127 Hours is the story of Aron Ralson (James Franco), who gets trapped while mountain climbing and is forced to cut off his own arm. While Franco was great, and I love Danny Boyle, I think the only person that has a shot here is AR Rahman, the guy who won all the Original Score awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle brings him back for 127 Hours and I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll do it again. He may even edge out Randy Newman for Original Song for “If I Rise.”

I enjoyed The Kids Are Alright and Blue Valentine but I don’t think they really have a shot. Man, Blue Valentine is a depressing watch. Also, if you’re looking for a crazy mind-fuck of a film, go watch Enter The Void. I have a feeling I’ll like that one a lot more if I watch it a second time.

Okay, let’s get to the list:

10. The King’s Speech

Here’s everyone’s favorite period piece about King George VI’s speech impediment and his plebeian speech therapist. I’m not usually one for dramatic historical films, but I can’t deny that Colin Firth deserves the Best Actor award, hands-down. If, for some reason, Christian Bale doesn’t win, Geoffrey Rush might also scoop up Best Supporting Actor. I know this is one of the front-runners is every category, but it should only really get Original Screenplay and possibly Costume Design. I’ll be angry if this takes home Best Picture or Director.

9. Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass rules. It’s not an Oscar movie, but it’s more fun to watch than a lot of them. You’ve got a nerdy kid who wants to be a half-assed superhero, and also a weapons-crazed Nicholas Cage and his deadly daughter (Chloe Moretz). Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong make for a deadly and hilarious Father-son team as the evil villains. For a comic-book movie, it’s pretty violent. This is also one of the few films where I don’t hate Nicholas Cage with a burning passion. He’s actually pretty awesome.

8. True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen have me by the balls. I think they’re the best directors of our time, and will watch any film they make, whether it’s a mystery, comedy, or western. True Grit is a modern western done in the dry wit of the Coen style. Hailee Steinfeld should really take home Best Supporting Actress, but I think it’s a long shot. I’ve also got a place in my heart for Jeff Bridges as Best Actor, since his character is a cross between The Dude and Bad Blake. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are great as well. This is just an all-around amazing cast and if I was a little more into westerns, I might have liked it a bit more.

7. Toy Story 3

We watched all three Toy Story movies in a row, making it more like an epic Star Wars trilogy than an animated Pixar film. I have to say, I enjoyed Part Three the most, as Andy goes off to college and the toys struggle to stay relevant as donations to a nursery. Pixar has a way of tugging at your heartstrings, and while Toy Story 3 wasn’t as tear-jerking as Up, it has its moments (trash compactor, anyone?). This is definitely going to snag Best Animated Feature and most likely Best Original Song for Randy Newman’s “We Belong Together.” Also, for anyone who saw this in theatres, the short Day & Night is probably going to take Best Animated Short

6. Winter’s Bone

Here’s the surprise film of the year. Based on the synopsis, we put Winter’s Bone off until last, watching all of the other Best Picture nominees first. It’s the story of a young Ozarks girl raising her dysfunctional family’s two children because her mom is unresponsive and her father is missing due to involvement with a brutal drug ring. In order to keep her house and her family together, she has to figure out what happened to her father by probing some of the most dangerous mountain people in her area. Jennifer Lawrence deserves Best Actress for this breakout performance, but I doubt she’ll win over the big names in this category. John Hawkes is also intense as her dangerous, yet protective uncle.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

A video game movie? Complete with extra lives, bosses, and 8-bit music? Oh man, you can imagine how many times I re-watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, vying for the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to win her over, he has to battle all of her ex-boyfriends (and girlfriends), while simultaneously playing with his punk rock band, Sex Bob-omb. His battles become increasingly difficult, until he reaches the final boss, record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Not really an Oscar contender, but it rules nonetheless.

4. Exit Through The Gift Shop

Mysterious street artist Banksy produces this hilarious documentary about graffiti, centered around French filmmaker Thierry Guetta. As Thierry follows around artists like Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Andre, it becomes pretty evident that he’s not really a filmmaker, and more like a guy with a camera. Whether or not this entire film is just an elaborate prank setup by Banksy, it still resulted in a moderately successful art career for Thierry, as well as an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. I haven’t really seen any of the other docs, so it’s hard to make my own judgment call, but I love this film and would love to see how Banksy accepts an award while not revealing his identity.

3. The Social Network

David Fincher’s depiction of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power is dark, intelligent, and ruthless. Jessie Eisenberg is fantastic as a young, opportunity-driven Zuckerberg, first cultivating his idea at Harvard, then moving out to California with the help of Napster founder Sean Parker (a hilarious Justin Timberlake). This is probably going to win Best Picture, and I bet Fincher takes home Best Director as well. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is also a sure win for Best Adapted Screenplay. If it’s between Social Network and King’s Speech, I’m hoping Social Network cleans house. It’s a modern story of betrayal, ruthlessness, and power. It would be sweet to see Trent Reznor also take home Best Original Score but that might be a long shot.

2. Black Swan

If the Coen Brothers are the best directors of our time, Darren Aronofsky isn’t far behind. The fast-paced psychological thrillers Pi and Requiem For A Dream started him off on the path to make the sprawling The Fountain and 2008’s The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke’s performance as an aging wrestler earned him an Oscar nod and put Aronofsky in league with names like Scorsese, Lynch, and Tarantino. Black Swan has a similar plotline to The Wrestler, in which an emaciated Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who will do anything to achieve the lead role in the Swan Lake musical, regardless of the tole it exerts on her body and her mind. Portman is a favorite for Best Actress and I’m sure Aronofsky’s creepy and disturbing imagery and fast-paced editing will earn him Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. I look forward to anything Aronofsky has planned for the future, especially now that he is a household name.

1. Inception

I know, I know, you’re all thinking really??. It’s true, I’m a sucker for Christopher Nolan’s inner maze of the human mind. I saw Inception while I was in the midst of reading Godel, Escher, and Bach, a dense book about the “strange loops” involved in contemporary music, MC Escher’s artwork, and mathematics. While watching the “nested dream worlds” of Inception, I couldn’t help thinking I was in familiar territory. The plot was complex, but laid out in such a way that you couldn’t possibly get lost in the theory. Immediately, we are thrust into DiCaprio’s dream world as he applies for a job with Saito (Ken Watanabe). Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao fill out his crack team of mind-spies. Inception is a roller coaster ride through layers of action, as the team drives deeper and deeper into the mind of Cillian Murphy. While no one here is up for an Oscar, and it sure as hell doesn’t have a shot at Best Picture, I’m sure Inception will bring home Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It may even take Best Visual Effects or Best CInematography. Of course, most action films sweep the categories of special effects and sound. It’s rare that an action film has the complexity and intelligence of Inception, though.

Death By Arcade

February 1, 2011

Sometime after the New Year, I began to research the parts and software I would need to build my own MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator). Since DBA had an old computer that wasn’t being used, I priced the rest of the components out at under $200. After a few weeks of testing the hardware and software, it was time to put everything together.

My roommate Alex had some leftover board that had a white gloss finish, so we decided to make the cabinet out of that.

I got the coin door from Ebay. It was about $50 and taken from another old arcade game. After cutting a few unnecessary parts off with an exacto knife, and rewiring the switches, it kinda works. The Player 2 slot still kinda sticks, but I guess this is what happens when you buy used stuff from Ebay. If I had to do it again, I’d buy a new door.

The buttons were all purchased from Tornado Terry’s (through their Ebay store). This was amazing because they allowed me to pick colors and mix and match. I bought 4 red, 4 blue, 4 green, a 1 player, and 2 player button.

We drilled the holes using a 1 1/8″ spade bit for the buttons. The Mag-Stik Plus Joysticks were purchased through Ultimarc and chosen specifically for the switchable 4 or 8 direction mode. Ultimarc is probably the best online store for MAME supplies. They have diagrams and exploded views of all of their parts. Also, super fast shipping. Sweet place.

We ended up using a 3/4″ hole for the Joysticks, which allowed for just enough movement to hit all the directions.

That little guy in the midde? That’s called an I-Pac. Also purchased from Ultimarc. Basically this chip allows you to substitute joysticks and buttons for keyboard commands when playing an emulator. Just connect it via USB and wire up your controls and you’re done. The ports are all even labeled: up, down, left, right, button 1, button 2, etc.

Now I just had to solder all of my connections…

Almost done

The computer we used was an old E Mac, which had the monitor, hard drive, speakers, and usb ports all in one big, heavy compartment. During the days prior to the build, I installed MacMAME and started getting some ROMs to run on this computer. Because most ROMs are probably not designed for Mac, a few of my games were a bit glitchy. However, we got 3 games ready for opening night: Altered Beast, Street Fighter 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.

Time for troubleshooting.

Okay, I guess some other people can play.

True, with the E Mac, it looks pretty cheesy. We’re also a bit worried about clumsy drunks in the show space. Tomorrow, I’m going to put a piece of plexiglass over the computer and paint the border around the screen black to cover up the computer. I also need to download a Front End selection screen for the games. Right now, it’s only running Street Fighter. It’s probably also a good idea to put something under the coin door, so the quarters don’t just fall on the floor.

In any case, the Death By Audio arcade is up and running. Come and check it out.

Fuck Ton/ DubKnowDub “Explosion” Tape

January 24, 2011
FuckTon/DubKnowDub Tape

Limited edition tapes are also available. Email me if you want to buy one.

A few weeks back, Fuck Ton recorded our first official recording for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. The resulting madness was to become half of the “Explosion” split with DubKnowDub and released on a limited number of cassette tapes. We wrote, recorded, and mixed the entire album over the span of a few hours.

I’d highly recommend buying the hand-printed tape if you live in or around New York, because it looks freakin awesome. Eli from DubKnowDub did all of the artwork. If you’re not from around here, don’t own a cassette player, or are poorer than we are, you can download the FuckTon songs at the link below:

Fuck Ton – Explosion

If you want to purchase a copy of the tape, just email me and I’ll arrange to send one out to you.

Kleeb’s Best of 2010 Mix

December 26, 2010

If you’ve been following my LiveJournal/Blogspot/Wordpress since like 2001, you’d know that I’ve traditionally posted my favorite 100 songs of the year sometime between Christmas and New Year’s. Well from here on out, I’m going to change the gameplan to something a bit more logical and practical. I posted a mix of my favorite tracks of the year. You can stream it at the link below:

Kleeb's Best of 2010 Mix

Kleeb's Best of 2010 Mix

Or, since the mix fits on any standard 80-minute CD, you can download it here:

Download Kleeb’s Best of 2010 Mix