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the wondrous tales of a software guy in hardwareland

The Making Of monotrino, Part 5

And here we go again, after a more than two months pause… but this time, I have noone to blame but myself :-)

I’ve been dedicating all of my Copious Free Time lately to a completely different project. Project which turned out to be a total failure… heh.

So, this Monday I setup my electronics stuff. And… I added some new failure to my ever growing collection. First of all, back in November I bought some “upgrade” for my tools, including a new and super-thin tip for the solder pen, a roll of 0.5mm solder tin, and fuses for my multimeter (which is now in good health, Gott sei Dank). This is a picture of the old vs. new tip:

Well, turns out it doesn’t work at all. The tip gets hot and melts the tin fine, but I’m totally unable to make the tin stick to the point. Seems to be completely and inexorably tin-resistant. I guess my crappy solder pen just can’t produce enough temperature for it to work.

So I switched back to the old tip, and spent ~1 hour to wire other 2 pots. While doing this, I realized that there is no way in hell I’m going to finish my project the way it is.

Point-to-point wiring seemed a good solution, but I’ve reached the physical limit of feasibility. There are so many cables on my board that it’s simply impossible to put the solder pen somewhere without breaking something else. And I still have to wire 2 more pots, the LCD, the DAC, the connector to the monotron etc. etc.

Now, a person with some common sense would surely have said “Fuck Arduino! I’m going to dedicate myself to Origami, or cooking, or fishing. Or writing crappy Android games, whatever”. Fortunately, the bit of sense I have left is uncommon :-)

So I took a pretty radical decision. Two, actually. Maybe three.

First: I desoldered most of the wires from the board. All of the wires that don’t connect directly to other components (eg. resistors, buttons, pots), and all of the wires that go to common rails (5V, GND) will be dangling. I’m going to cram them together somehow, and then – after I’m done with all the components – I will solder a wire from the “cram” to an Arduino pin. This is the current state of my sequencer:

Pretty messy, isn’t it? The domino connector was just an experiment, as it can’t possibly fit that many wires (see the green ones, for example). I guess I will just solder them together in a huge blob of tin, and maybe cover the blob with hot glue to avoid contact with the other blobs. We’ll see.

Second: I ordered 50 (!) panel mount buttons for a whopping 16.22€. I’m going to try (as a parallel/alternative track) building monotrino with a proper panel and case. This should greatly simplify the build – or so I hope. No idea yet how I’m going to realize the panel, probably plastic or metal… would be nice to have a CNC machine for this, but I’m afraid I will have to do everything by hand :-)

Am I forgetting something? Oh right, the third option. That would be designing a PCB… but I still can’t get my shit together. I tried using Fritzing (which is slightly less horrible than Eagle and Kicad, from a user interface perspective), but no luck so far. The problem is that the layout of the components is pretty much fixed (eg. the buttons must look like an octave on a keyboard), which makes it very difficult to put traces on the board without intersections.

I guess I will end this post with a quote from the Hagakure:

Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death.

‘Til next retaliation!

cheers,
Aldo

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