Akai S1000 – phoenix from the ashes

I’m member of a number of Facebook groups for my hobbies including a couple for my Akai sampler. One of the funny things I read at some point in time, was when a guy reported that he “accidentally” bought another sampler πŸ™‚ Well, seems I laughed a bit too soon as I’m now the proud owner of an S1000 I didn’t intend to buy.

This all started with a guy from Portugal who bought a used but defective S1000. In the end, he didn’t have time available to repair it and wanted to get rid of it. At some point he lowered the price to a (for me) interesting level and after some negotiations, we agreed on a total price including shipping with my intention to have a quick look to see if it was repairable, don’t spend too much money on it and otherwise part it out for spares if it became too costly.

The sampler was made ready for shipment (thanks Paulo for arranging this) and after a European tour from Portugal to Spain, Italy and Belgium, finally arrived in The Netherlands at my home.

Right, first thing to do was to unwrap it and to do a physical inspection. The outside case was not in a great condition and looks like someone had kept it in a humid shed.

Side with a bit too much patina for my taste
Bottom looking not too great either

The inside wasn’t too bad with the electronics looking decent. First problem was that the power button was sticking which was easily fixed by disassembling it from the front panel and reassembling it again.
Powered it on, absolutely nothing. Right, time to break out the multi meter. This Akai actually has 2 power supplies with a switching power regulator for 5V and a standard one for the 12V. The 5V supply was dead as a doornail, got my laboratory power supply (big 10A adjustable supply) to see if this was the only issue at this point.

And low and behold…it powered up!

The (known) issue with the PSU was a leaking capacitor which had contaminated the bottom of the PCB. I could have cleaned it and recapped the supply but it looked a bit too degraded for my liking and I chose to replace it with a TDK Lambda HWS-30A-5 PSU. Ordered it, build it in and voila, we had a working sampler again.

Old PCB board corroded by capacitor acid


New PSU in place

I could have left the sampler in this (workable) state but I know defects bother me so started to work on the other issues as well. The display backlight was defective and replaced with a new EL foil from midi-rakete.de

New EL foil and there was light again πŸ™‚


The firmware was also a bit old (version 3.00) and as I was arranging 4.40 eproms, the dutch guy I got these from, also mentioned he had some scrap S1000 cases lying around. So I bought both the eproms and aΒ  used S1000 case from him (thanks, Karel Post). Swapped the eproms and moved all the electronics from the old to the new case (took me some time to do).

Left needs to go to the right…pffff….

Last little task was to clean up the front input XLR connectors as they were corroded. I did managed to clean them with a Dremel and wirebrush but I might replace them with new connectors if this bothers me too much (ITT CannonΒ XLR3-31-F77)

After the case swap and some final testing, it was time to join the S1000 with his younger S5000 brother πŸ™‚


Firewall upgrade

I have been running a Ubiquiti Edgemax ERL-3 firewall for quite some time now and although it's a good device, it does have its limits. So when Ubiquiti announced the new Edgerouter 4 and Edgerouter 6, I was very much interested.

With double the memory, double the CPU speed, SFP port and a built in power supply unit, life looks good πŸ™‚

The upgrade was also fairly simple. Updated the firmware to the latest 1.10.0, restored the backup configuration of the ERL-3 and I was up and running again in no time. The only thing I had to manually do was to add eth3 as this doesn't exist on the ERL-3.

Performance is pretty good, the whole interface just feels a bit quicker overall. The ERL-3 was handling the maximum up/download speed fine as well so at some point in time, I might do a quick gigabit test in a lab setup.

Akai S5000 SCSI2SD installation

Couple of weeks ago I bought a used Akai S5000 sampler. It was in full working condition and included a Seagate Barracuda SCSI harddisk as internal storage. Well….I guess I’m a little bit too used to quiet SSD drives these days because ancient SCSI disks are quite loud.

So I searched the internet for alternatives and bumped into the following website:

https://www.codesrc.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=SCSI2SD

A guy from Australia had the same issue and developed a SCSI interface board which uses SD cards to emulate harddisks πŸ™‚ Perfect to get the sampler nice and quite and as OS 2.24 for the Akai also supports FAT32, I can easily transfer files.

Note: There is a V5 and V6 version of the board available. I chose the V5 as it has better compatibility with older equipment.

The next section will explain how to install and use this is combination with an Akai S5000.

Shopping list

  • SCSI2SD interface card (ordered mine from Amigakit in the UK)
  • Floppy bracket (can be ordered at Shapeways, note: go for black)

  • SCSI-2 50 pin ribbon cable (the original one will be too short to reach the front)
  • Class 10 micro SD card (I’m using a Lexar 300x 64 GB card)

SCSI2SD configuration

  • Start by downloading the configuration software for the SCSI2SD interface. I’m using a Windows laptop for the configuration so check the scsi2sd website for instructions for OSX.
  • Make sure the micro SD card is installed in the slot on the interface
  • Connect a USB cable from your computer to the micro SD connection on the SCSI2SD card
  • Make sure nothing else is connected to the SCSI2SD card!
  • Start the scsi2sd-util.exe tool
  • Check the log window (hiding behind the main utility window) and mark down the sector size of the SD card

  • Now switch back to the main utility window
  • Under General Settings, select Enable SCSI2 mode

  • Now switch to the tab Device 1
  • Enter a SCSI ID under Enable SCSI target. Any number between 0 and 5 should be fine. Do NOT use 6 as it is reserved for the Akai SCSI controller.
  • Device Type, make sure to select Hard Drive
  • Sector count, fill in the number you marked down earlier decreased by 1 (so 1 sector less)
  • Click Save to device at the bottom.

  • Wait until the utility has saved all the data to the SCSI2SD card
  • Disconnect the USB cable

 

Installation

  • Disconnect the power cable of the sampler
  • Open up the top cover by removing the 4 top screws and the screw at the back
  • Remove the hard disk (if any is installed) and the floppy disk
  • Replace the current SCSI cable with the new longer cable. Pay special attention to keep the red marked side with pin 1 on the connectors.
  • Install the SCSI2SD card into the new floppy bracket with 2 screws.
    • Note1: There is no need to connect power to the SCSI2SD card as it is powered through the SCSI cable.
    • Note2: Leave the SCSI terminator banks in place on the SCSI2SD card
  • Connect the SCSI cable to the SCSI2SD card
  • Remove the floppydisk cable and place a jumper on pin 33 and 34 (see picture below). This will fake the S5000 by telling it there is still a floppydisk installed. Otherwise when you start a format, it will hang at the end when it automatically checks the state of the floppydisk.

  • Check for any possible short circuits and proper cable connections
  • Close the top lid and reinsert all screws again

Akai setup

  • Power up the Akai
  • Press UTILITIES – DISK TOOLS – DISK LIST
  • Select the hard disk
  • Press FORMAT DISK
  • Choose either QUICK or FULL FORMAT (choose FULL if you have issues with the SD card)
  • Press PROCEED
  • Enter a name for the hard disk
  • Press YES
  • Wait until the format has finished

Additional notes

Do not use your computer to format the SD card as the partition will most likely not align properly with the disk defined in the SCSI2SD card. As a rule of thumb, it’s always good to always format media on the device you intend to use it on.

When I first setup the card, the format actually got stuck at the end and never finished. After some experimentation, I found that disks below 2 GB worked fine (these will be formatted as DOS and not FAT32). When I added a second disk in the SCSI2SD configuration, it formatted fine with FAT32. This behaviour puzzled me a bit and after some further research, I found out it was caused by the fact that the Akai OS actually checks the floppy disk after the hard disk format finishes. The easy fix for this is to install a jumper on pins 33 and 34 of the floppydisk connector on the mainboard as to emulate a “drive ready” signal for the OS.

Second issue I bumped into, is that the yellow activity LED on the SCSI2SD card is quite bright and lights up the keys to the right of the floppy drive on the front panel of the sampler. I fixed this by gluing a piece of plastic on top of the floppy bracket to shield the light (see picture below). I even went a step further and installed a light guide from an old TP link adapter to show the LED activity on the front of the floppy bracket.

 

 

Deepmind 12 – tuning check

A quick test to see if your filters are correctly tuned :

Call the default program (Prog + Compare)

Turn the DCO1 Saw and Square off.

Set the VCF Freq on 5

Set the VCF Res all way up (10)

Set the VCF KYBD all way up (10) too.

Now press 12 times on a key to hear each voice.

If The sound is the same you’re good.

Else go into Global / System Settings /Calibrate

Choose Calibrate Voices / Call VCF Fine (It’s a fast one)

When it’s finished, press Prog button and retry same Key 12 times –> it should be good now

New webserver

nuc-kit-d34010wyb-front-16480-2x1.jpg.rendition.cq5dam.webintel.310.155

Having run my website on a Raspberry Pi for a while was a good experiment in low power consumption (9 watt) and a good improvement of the virtual machine I was running on an HP workstation ( 180 watt). However, the disk performance of a Pi is not that great (USB performance is actually better than the SD card) so I had already been looking for a good balance between performance and power usage.

After some searching, I’m now the proud owner of an Intel NUC (D34010WYB) with Intel I3 processor, 8 GB memory and an 128 GB SSD disk. Average power consumption is about 50 watt which is good enough for daily use.

Raspberry disk speed: Read 21,7 MB/s, write 12,4 MB/s
Intel NUC disk speed: Read 4,4 GB/s, write 1,3 GB/s (gotta love those SSD speeds πŸ™‚ )

I have installed the system with Ubuntu 16, PHP 7 and Nginx (basic LEMP server) and performance is quite good πŸ™‚

 

Revenge of the Roland D70+ – Part 1

After I repaired my old Roland D70 and gave it to my niece, I kinda missed my first synthesizer and bought a second hand one again. However, it had old firmware (1.14) and the backlight was not too good anymore (common problem as the backlights tend to go after 20 or something years). I had some more plans as I read on a forum somewhere about a CPU upgrade for the D70.

After some research, I found out the D70 runs on an Intel N80C196KB (MCS 96 CPU family) at 12 MHz. To verify this, I opened up the D70 to take a look.

D70-CPU-upgrade-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had to remove the clamp that secures the IC in its socket to properly read the number.

D70-CPU-upgrade-2D70-CPU-upgrade-3

Sure enough, it’s the 12 MHz version. Now things get interesting. The Intel CPU has models that run at 12, 16, 20, 25 and 50 MHz. I would seriously doubt anything quicker was available than 16 MHz around 1992 so to stay on the safe side, I have ordered a 16 MHz version to experiment and see if it will work properly with the 1.19 software version (latest released version).

 

The (web)life of (Raspberry) Pi

I have already been running my own website on my ESX testlab server on a virtual machine running Ubuntu 13.x.

As that test server (XW6400 workstation) is consuming quite some power, I was looking for a low power ARM based server but there were not a lot of alternatives that provided enough performance. Until the quad core Raspberry Pi was launched πŸ™‚ Raspberry has it’s own version of Debian (raspbian) which is easily upgraded from Wheezy to Jessie (latest release). Install NGINX, PHP, MySQL, do some configuration and optimization and you’re new LEMP server is good to go.

Overall I’m quite impressed with such a small device and even more with my (reduced) power bill.

Synology upgrade

Some years ago when I needed a NAS system, I ended up with a Synology DS209 after quite some research on the net. Good support, plenty of (regular) updates and a good amount of features. Upgraded the disks from 1 TB to 2 TB and after some years I upgraded to the DS211 (good thing I did as Synology decided not to develop DSM 5.x for the DS209 any further). Again upgraded the disks from 2 TB to 3 TB (all inline upgrades by swapping out the disks 1 by 1 and then expanding the volume) and all was good.

Last week, I found a pretty good deal for a DS214+ (dual core, more memory and hot swappable disks) and this is when the fun started. I started with 1 of the original DS211 disks, ran the Synology assistant, it detected the old DS211 configuration and asked if I would like to migrate it. No problem, migrated the system, updated to the latest DSM version, checked if all was running fine, no issues found. Hot swapped the second disk into the system, repaired the disk set, waited for the disks to be in sync again and rebooted the NAS.

That’s when the fun started. Saw numerous messages about failed packages, repaired all of them, but did get some strange errors referring to database upgrades. When I started the download manager, it complained about a network connection failure. Removed and reinstalled the download manager, same problem. Checked the logfile and there were a number of messages about postgres DB issues. I verified if this was a software or hardware problem by reinstalling DSM on a single 500 GB disk. No problem at all. After some googling, I found a post on clearing out the postgres database.

Simple enough, just delete or rename the directory /volume1/@database/pgsql and restart the NAS. Checked if all packages ran fine, tested download manager and problem fixed πŸ™‚

 

Revenge of the Qlock two dot something

Quite a while ago, I had already started a project to build my own version of the famous Qlock Two by Biegert & Funk. I decided to build a dutch version and display the time in different format than the original. The original used 5 minute intervals with an extra led in each corner to show any extra minutes needed. I wanted to show all minutes instead in the “It’s now eight hours and twenty two minutes” format so one could see straight away what the time was.

The original was built with an Arduino Duemilanove (2009 in Italian) with an extra ethernet shield for network connectivity to fetch the time through NTP.

arduino-due

This worked fine but the added shield made the board quite thick and the communication between the Arduino and shield had some intermittent issues as well. I also had some other issues with the proper visibility of the words which led to a complete rebuild of the clock. The old version used high intensity white leds but with sunlight shining on the clock, it was still quite hard to see which leds were on and off. The new version now uses red leds and has an extra red plastic plate in front to filter unwanted sunlight out.

intel-galileo

I purchased a new Intel Galileo as this board has integrated ethernet and should be Arduino compatible. Should be. It turned out the board runs on a mini Linux kernel with Arduino code on top and the time library is completely different. My old code even wouldn’t compile properly.

After some weeks of struggling with the code and board, I decided to get a proper Arduino compatible board with integrated wifi.

cactus-micro-v2

The Cactus Micro is basically an Arduino Lilypad compatible board with an ESP8266 wifi controller. However, I did oversee one small but important matter: Even though the Cactus Micro is fed with a 5V power supply, the digital outputs are 3.3 V. The MAX IC’s which drive the led matrix need at least 3.5 V for a “1” signal so this didn’t work.

As I got a little bit fed up with this (understatement), I have used the original Duemilanove with a DS1309 RTC for timekeeping to at least finish up this project. At some point in time, I’ll replace it with an Arduino Yun (integrated wifi and ethernet) to fix the ethernet connectivity and add some extra features to the clock.

 

May the force be with you…in Cologne

As someone working in the IT industry (for quite a while now), it is nice to see how technology can be used in a entertaining and productive way. A friend of mine asked if I was interested to go to a StarWars exhibit in Cologne and as a true Sci-Fi fan, I simply couldn’t refuse πŸ™‚ We had visited a similar event in Brussels quite some years ago and I expected it to be the same setup with props from the movies (the last 3 ones hadn’t been released by then).

Turned out, I was quite mistaken. Each visitor got an audio guide and rubber bracelet and as you entered you had to pick a character and through the exhibition, various choices had to be made (with the bracelet) which would build your unique character. The audio guide reacted to sensors in the floor and walls and would start an audio or video comment when you were in the vicinity. Really nice educative and entertaining setup πŸ™‚

Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to use a flashlight and tripod for your camera but my Nikon D3S handled that quite nicely with a 50mm 1.8 lens.

https://www.starwarsidentities.com/