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PS3 Fix: Yellow Light Of Death

Our PS3 just died.  It ate our Netflix, and we were pissed.  We tried the ghetto hair dryer technique, and it didn’t work.  This, however, did:

My only variation on this fix was the use of a hair dryer rather than an expensive heat gun. Use 1/4″ inch from each area for 80 seconds on each area — that will make sense if you watch the video.

Keep in mind that even if you do this fix, it isn’t a 100% fix or solution to the problem.  “Reflowing” (re-heating) an overheated chip is a safeguard to fire and to protect other components.  Others that have used this technique have noted it can work for a day or for a year.  It is the death call of your PS3 one way or the other.

Use at your own risk, and as I always say, don’t lose your screws. It made our PS3 work, and for how long, who knows, but considering a post-warranty fix is $150, and usually for a refurbished model that won’t last long either, this is a method you could try.

If it’s just enough to get the disc out, so be it:  otherwise, you’re tearing into the Blu-Ray drive.

Good luck!


The Novation Xiosynth: Two Tricks, One Mod/Pitch “Boob”

Well, as luck would have it, our local Guitar Center had a parking lot swap meet, and while I was attempting to make some cash getting rid of things I didn’t use a.k.a. taking up space, I ended up trading a bunch of my in-the-way stuff for a Novation Xiosynth in need of some TLC. I give to you the short-and-skinny of what I did.

Before, though, I’ll give you a brief rundown of what the Xiosynth actually is. Prior to the Xio, there was the X-Station. Prior to that, there was the K-Station. Prior to that there was the A-Station. Many of these little Brit microsynths were referred to as the “K-synths,” or “K-series,” I’ve noticed. Though I think the A-Station runs on something a little different than the later three. I’m not really sure—-I’m not a Novation nut or anything. All I knew is I wanted to try one. Boasting smaller size (if that’s something one can boast about) and a more portable interface, the Xiosynth 25 has much in common with the X-Station 25 (they also have a 49-key version). The X-Station, having a few more sliders, MIDI interface, control and sure, a bigger overall footprint, I would have chosen either: I have a thing for powerful battery powered little synthesizers. I also am a fan of Virtual Analogs, for one, because everyone hates them and I don’t have to get into “…MY Jupiter 8 is a 14-bit DAC and YOURS is a PALTRY, WORTHLESS 12-BIT…” type conversations, and I like the way they sound. Any time I can avoid a how-big-is-my-synthgeek-penis contest the better.

So my new-to-me little Xiosynth 25 had a few problems. One, it was dirty. Two, the mod/pitch boob (I can’t for the life of me think of any other way to describe it… it’s a very round X/Y control with a big nipple in the center—-thus, a boob) was out of whack, especially regarding the pitch bending. It would trigger inappropriate pitches, and required a total detune in the patch parameters to even sort of get the thing to genuinely play in tune.. No, the calibration function in the Global Settings didn’t work either. Apart it came.

I have to give credit to the Novation folks for simplicity and robustness. One of the common gripes about this particular model was how flimsy/cheap/wonky it felt. To me, sure it gave that vibe, but the way they put it together was just right. Even if it did break, it’s a cinch to get into and fix.  The other major gripe about most things Novation was the interaction with the touch pad.  Yeah, if you’re used to Korg pads, this thing requires a real heavy hand to function.  Nothing I could do about that right now.  Maybe I’ll rig an old Atari joystick up to the thing later?

The mod/pitch boob in question wasn’t unseated, that was my first trick. Everything mechanically seemed just fine. This was a good news/bad news thing. Novation parts are notoriously hard to find, and then if you do, hard to acquire. Could be months, years and all that. Fortunately, I noticed the small potentiometers controlling the X and Y planes on the boob were exactly the same. Some kind of thin, Spanish-origin deal. My thought, modulation can be triggered if the pot is off, and probably wouldn’t be noticed, and why not try and swap them? Solder/desolder, reseat, a quick DeoxIt flush, and poof. Now, to recalibrate on the global menu, yep, it works. Something occurred to me, though.

I hate the snap-back modulation feature on the mod/pitch boob. I have an Alesis Ion, and I have not one but TWO mod wheels that when I turn them up to “11,” both stay put. They do not snap back on a spring. Perhaps I wanted a particular sound, but wanted to use both hands. Oh sure, it’s a 25 key, what’s the point? Well, I’ll tell you the point: I have 10 fingers, and there’s 25 keys, sometimes I use both hands with 25 keys. That’s the point. Easy enough, I deconstructed the guts of the mod/pitch boob (again), and popped off the clothespin-style spring on the mod side, but left the pitch bend spring. That’s much, much better.

Now when I’m destroying people’s ears with the aliasing in the upper regiments of the frequency range I can spike a little LFO or panning delay on the suckers… much to the chagrin of little silver-eared analog-only pedigree musicians. It’s another thing I don’t have to physically control on the little unit to get some solid sound.

While the Xiosynth isn’t the most control-heavy VA out there, it’s easy to program, apparently easy to fix, and with six AA batteries, you’re rockin’ off the grid. If you are having trouble with your mod/pitch boob, try removing the spring on the mod side, and if you’re not sure why it’s constantly detuning itself, there’s a quick, easy and possible fix built right inside. I imagine this approach can be used for any similar Novation setup, not just the Xiosynth.

Have fun, don’t lose your screws.

(image courtesy musicradar.com)

Adverbally Yours, EditMinion.com

Giving credit to crap I find on Facebook either pronounces me at one with my true idiocy, or a fine sifter of passable information because I hung in there for long enough.   I tell you what, though, it is a hard feat to find something useful among all of the crap people share.   Particularly irritating are the “politicking pioneers” doing their share to spread the word.  Like a bad joke at work told 100 times, since it’s new to you, it must be news to everyone!

In that spirit, I apologize if EditMinion.com is evidence I’m not much different than those I criticize.   Meanwhile, back in my world, it instantly became a curious tool of writers lacking a copy editor, or software/robots that can smack your knuckles when you turn in crappy writing.    Sure, I put a few of my posts from here on Burncards.com on there, and they came up “green,” which apparently is a sign of something good.   I have to wonder if it gave me a piss-poor score and ripped up my work I’d still be directing it to you for a look.

Besides it having a curious disregard for tagging everything ending in “-ly” as a terrible adverb that MUST be noted (because most people use them improperly…like right there…”improperly” is quite alright…) and pointed out.    Some prepositions are rightfully noted at the end of sentences, which is excellent with the prevalence of people using “at” at the end of a sentence–a practice that drives me mad.  “Into” and “with” are exceptions for brevity I personally use and don’t care to offer apology:  “With whom are you going?”  versus “Who are you going with?”  versus “Which door did you go into?”  versus “Into which door did you go?”  So, yeah, fair game, but most of us are casual or not English professors.   Unless we insist this format be spoken, we’re screwed.   There’s a difference between communicating properly, redundancy and “being right.”   I’d like to think my writing is attractive because how I choose to speak, not that it is always technically proficient.  This is called “style.”   Much like wearing underwear on your head might not get people to take you seriously, a backwards ball cap, while ineffective, provides an innocent flair and statement.  It all depends on to whom you are talking, and who might be listening.    I mean, who you’d be talking TO, of course.    Sheesh.  I wonder if good writing is a reduction of personal paranoia.  A verbal bulimia, if you will.

Anyway, if you’re  writer, you may find this tool useful.  Think of it as someone you may or may not disagree on style, and take it as another objective angle of your work.   This makes a better, more observant writer.

(image courtesy Andrea Brokaw Online/EditMinion — link find courtesy the reprehensible Rory Dowd)

MIDI SysEx Pr0n: Alesis Ion & Akai MiniAK

I went through a PERVERSE amount of frustration with my recently-acquired, broken-needs-to-be-fixed-but-cheap  Akai MiniAK.  Yeah, it had to do with MIDI System Exclusive (SysEx), patch import/export, obscure, third-party, free MIDI-handling software, wacky programming environments, home-brew librarians (not the Dewey Decimal System kind, either), $40 exclusive programming downloads…  Why?  The Akai MiniAK is a bit tedious to program, that’s why.  Solutions?  If you have an Alesis Ion also, your prayers have been answered.

Once Alesis got bought out by Numark in 2001, it could have been anyone’s guess what would have happened to the company, but they came out with some cool synths.  With Akai later being added to the Numark family, one of the perpetual virtual analog designs to prevail was the Alesis Ion, though discontinued, its design spawned the Alesis Micron and Akai MiniAK, still sold widely today.  The Alesis Ion is a programmer’s dream.  The “little brothers,” can faithfully reproduce the sounds (and more), but I tell you what, they aren’t easy to program.  I’ve had worse times programming, being the owner of a Yamaha DX21, a weird Ensoniq SQ-80m rack mount prototype, and a Roland Alpha Juno-1, programming the buggers aren’t really that bad.  It is amazing that synths just a few years old, or even sold today, lack software support or USB connections:  this isn’t 1986!

My quest was how to use the Ion to make the MiniAK the trusty sidekick I wanted it to be.

Finding myself in the depths of the Internet, I was  looking up myriad ways to dump MIDI SysEx files to my computer, so then I could try and put them back on my synth again.  The idea, the Alesis Ion and the Akai MiniAK having mostly the same software structure, processor and sound concept, is that I could program with my Alesis Ion, save the patch file, send it out to the Akai MiniAK via a MIDI’ed computer.   I could also make do with an external software editor.   I found Hypersynth.com (which has a few different, wonderful proprietary editors of note), and some vague trial-and-error experiments via three MIDI-handling programs called Elektron C6, MidiOx and SendSX.  I  attempted many configurations, and besides updating the Alesis Ion’s OS to the newest v1.06, I didn’t have much consistency with them.  I can’t even recall what settings DID work, since random results from unchanged settings happened frequently.   Suggestions on forums didn’t help, with different people using different computers, USB/MIDI interfaces and computer operating system versions that yielded questionable results.   It was a mess.

Naturally, finding any MIDI mapping or SysEx info on the Akai MiniAK was nonexistent, otherwise I’d be using my Behringer BCR2000 to make everything all better.  Even that would likely require some time to sit down and program every feature into a dedicated knob–via NRPNs…Non Registered Parameter Numbers… not my idea of fun.   Especially today.

I drove home in despair after spending at least six hours researching, testing, poking, prodding, experimenting, failing, thinking my idea of a portable, potable, pocket-sized Alesis Ion was just not to be had.  Then something occurred to me as I was dodging idiot Reno drivers.  They’re basically the same operating system, the same synth architecture, probably use the same export/import speed via MIDI/SysEx, and since I was only going to be transferring patches from the Ion to the MiniAK (not drums or rhythms or any such silliness) why not… just hook them up to each OTHER?  Forget the stupid computer.

Well, it should be simple.  The Ion, after editing a patch, instead of saving to a user bank, using the “Store,” button to send the patch via MIDI/Sysex.   Then, the Akai MiniAK that’s apparently always waiting and willing for ANY SysEx to come knocking, should accept this supposed compatible transfer.   Same speeds, same transfer rates, same data every time… no interpreters, no configuring… Right?  Right?

I tried it.  Long story short, it worked.  I wired the Ion MIDI OUT to the MiniAK MIDI IN…  The Ion sends its patch to be saved via MIDI Sysex, the MiniAK, in a snap, had the patch waiting in the memory queue to be saved (…just had to remember to save it once it transferred…)

So yeah, if you so happen to have an Alesis Ion just laying around… you already have a patch editor for your Akai MiniAK.  I assume this would be easy enough to do with a Micron, too.  Is this a reason to go rushing out and buy an Ion?  Well, yes.  The Alesis Ion is an amazing synthesizer.   Though, if you already have a Micron or a MiniAK, go visit HyperSynth.com… their $40 software is super easy to use.

It never fails me that in a complicated, technological world, how simple solutions seem to save the day.

(photos courtesy zzounds.com, testfreaks.com, Numark)

Alesis Ion: A Few Tips That Should Be On The ‘Net

Every year, I like to get rid of musical gear and make way for something new that I will use. I suppose that happens to all of us, no matter what our craft. Unless we’re hoarders.

Recently, an Alesis Ion came across my path for cheap, and I jumped at the chance.  Like most synthesizers in this day and age, you will commonly find people wanting to get rid of them for no other reason than they weren’t able to program them to do their bidding, and/or they felt the interface was evil, and/or they hated the presets.  When cheap, these situations pair me up with random synthesizers.  This one was no different.   I am not stumped easily by synth technology, especially when such wonderful treasures lay hidden and undiscovered.

This isn’t a review, just a few quick Internet tips for those wanting to know, and to state that the Alesis Ion is a force to behold.  Though now replaced by the Alesis Micron and Akai MiniAK, nothing beats the full-front control of the Ion.  All of them sound great, and are a synth programmer’s fun park.

Instantly I realized the flaws of the Ion were in physical engineering, rather than actual design.  They used cheap data encoder potentiometers all over the place.  The worst of which lie at the heart of controlling the Alesis Ion, which are the pitch bend and mod wheels.  The other problem are the data encoders on the front.  Numerous complaints abound about them skipping values and plain quitting.  Luckily, Alesis/Numark (Phone 401- 658-3131 ext 1407 Hours: M-F 9:00am – 5:30pm EST) still has a few parts.  Mine will be arriving shortly.

No sooner did I play around with my new toy did I discover a horrid, high-pitched squeak coming from the M2 wheel, and a few inches to the left, the pitch bender was acting a fool and cutting on and off randomly.   Being someone who usually goes full-octave pitch bend to the power of 12, this wasn’t good.

Apart the Ion came.  Modest PCBs stared at me blankly, as the undersides meet your first glance among a few ribbon cables of varying nature.   I had to be careful here, the slack of these cables is barely enough to hold propped open at 90′ degrees let alone both halves laying flat.  There were the mod wheels and pitch wheel–not wheels at all, but half a wheel, I suppose.  I couldn’t help but notice the weird, imprecise and wonky physical design the “wheels,” employed.   Sitting in its very own metal housing that then attaches to the frame, it’s merely a trim pot with a spring (kind of like a clothespin spring) and a plastic tab attached to the pitch wheel moving within the confines the movement between the spring’s ends.  The problem was, there was also a metal tab that sandwiched just under the plastic tab of the pitch wheel, made from the same frame I mentioned just above.  This was designed as the spring stop.   Since the plastic tab was ever so slightly larger than the metal tab it sat atop, the spring would allow for subtle movement of the pitch bend wheel, thus, inadvertently triggering the potentiometer ever-so-slightly with little effort.  Shaving this plastic tab little by little, I managed to get it to match the metal tab exactly, and there was no more false movement.  Thus, no more triggering.   Awesome.

Typically, the Ion calibrates all the controls when it is switched on.  Just in case that fails, you can also recalibrate the pitch wheel and the mod wheels, I discovered, but no one told you how to do it.  This does:   Ion (Q01) Schematics, go to page 18.

Lastly, how do I deal with this infernal squeak?  Much like the pitch wheel, the M1 and M2 modulation wheels are mounted identically, using identical wheels and identical metal housings that attach to the frame.  The only difference is the type of potentiometers used.  I tried using a little graphite powder lubricant at the base of where the potentiometer meets the threads to secure it to the housing, and then a lot more, neither of which did the trick.  Out came the WD-40.   Just a small, tiny drop, because we all know better than to just spray chemicals around willy-nilly, don’t we?   Well, yeah, WD-40 did the trick, but it also loosened up the M2 wheel so much, it would flop around as if it had been tweaked and rocked-out for 20 years.   Oops.  Obviously there’s some much heavier grease or something in there that the WD-40 defeated.  I mean, it still works, but if I have the Ion on a top tier keyboard stand at an angle, that mod wheel ain’t staying where I want it.   Dammit.  So yeah, don’t do that.   The only reason why I went this direction was because it didn’t sound like an electrical component problem, it was like a tiny, squeaky door hinge:  i.e., mechanical.

For the reasons above, I suggest highly against using any cleaner/lubricants, even DeoxIt, on the Alesis Ion’s parts.  I’m hesitant to suggest an alternative, but hey, post a comment here if you have one!  Wisdom is best used when shared.

(image courtesy Sweetwater/Alesis-Numark)

Korg DSS-1 Gets New/Cheap Floppy Alternative: Now in SD!

Glen Stegner DSS-1

That’s right, SD, not “HD.”

After I discovered the HxC Floppy Emulator that I talked about here, I knew right away this was the answer to my problems for my Korg DSS-1 with a broken floppy drive.  The floppy drive, a noisy, slow, prone-to-break 720K/3.5″ sort, are going for nasty amounts of money on eBay, because sellers know they aren’t made any longer and will be needed soon by nostalgia geeks fixing up older computer systems and synthesizers from yesteryear.

To recap the other article really quickly, I discovered this strange little USB unit, made by a nice duo known as Jeff and Lotharek, that is simply a floppy emulator.  There is an internal OS that manages the files and a separate “A,” and “B,” drive, partitions the information fed to it appropriately so the drive is recognized on your machine of choice, be they Amiga, Atari ST, Prophet 2000 or Korg DSS-1 sampler/synths.  The only qualm I had was being tethered to a USB cord plugged into another computer; I also needed a way to install it properly.  Granted, my Korg DSS-1 won’t be winning any featherweight competitions any time soon, but the less shackles, the better.

Luckily, the Jeff/Lotharek pair came up with a new SD-card variant, which kicked me into excitement mode.  I learned it is indeed tapped perfectly for 3.5″ drive specifications, so it would have a great chance at fitting in my Korg DSS-1.  It takes SD cards, therefore, no cord, and came with the designer/builder’s assurance it would work with my old sampler beast.  About $100 later, I was well on my way to figuring out if this really could be installed and solve my floppy woes. I was on pioneering ground, it seems, for with the exception of a USB-corded version working unmounted in a DSS-1, this particular fit hasn’t been done until now.

Faced with another inspired individual who does this upgrade, making the Korg DSS-1 work (or work better) isn’t a brand-new idea.  The problem is, I have economic problems taking a  synth/sampler and putting huge cost into it for unknown gain.  This is a great board, and this is a great upgrade, but I’m broke, have little space, and have better things to do with $400 right now.  I just wanted the thing to work to the best of my ability.

So it’s true, this fix isn’t the top-of-the-line upgrade you can give your Korg DSS-1, but it sure is an upgrade from your 720K drive, and will certainly replace your broken drive quite well.

About two weeks later, a package from Poland came, and I went right to work hooking up the unit to the Korg DSS-1 to find out what it would be like.  The power mains for the original floppy drive fit, but I found I had to deal with a small lock-tab that wasn’t accounted for on the HxC SD Floppy Emulator.   Not a big deal.  It worked fine, and I made sure to use the original floppy ribbon cable (not the type twisted on 10, 11, 12 — just the straight-through) for the synth, and my adventure began.

A little struggle was had finding the ideal setup with the configuration software (available here) but it isn’t hard to figure out.  I first formatted the SD card through Windows 7 as “FAT,”  used “Generic Shugart,” to make the HXCSDFE.CFG file (very important) needed to go onto the SD card (I used a Kingston 2GB C4).  Last, I loaded up the *.DSK files I found here onto the SD card, plugged it into the emulator, and finally accessed the *.DSK files with the “Multi Sound,” option on the DSS-1.  I was also able to write drawn waveforms, but that requires a new “disk,” (which is what a .DSK file is to the emulator and the DSS-1), and thus, didn’t have much room.

All of these features are used with controls on the HxC SD Floppy Emulator itself, in the order of three buttons on the lower right hand corner of the unit.  One button accesses the menu/confirms, and the other two are used to scroll through the file list on your SD card.  They appear as XXXXXXX_DSK.HFC — *.HFC is the file that the emulator recognizes, and then that sends the *.DSK file to the Korg DSS-1.  Once you’ve selected a file and confirm, the “disk,” is loaded, and ready for your Korg DSS-1 to start wailin’ away on your Hammond B3 samples!  Well, if you have those.

It should be noted a program called  “CopyQM,” is the way you could go between *.DSK files and an IBM/the DSS-1.  The file systems between your computer and the DSS-1 are not technically compatible, however  I never used CopyQM to do any of this, just threw the downloaded *.DSK files from the link above on the SD card.  You may need CopyQM in the future to get your files from old DSS-1 disks to your computer, but after that, they should be fair game onto this SD card upgrade.

I am not a Korg DSS-1 expert.  I’m barely a novice.  It is the first and only one I have ever laid eyes upon or worked with.  The seasoned Korg DSS-1 pro will probably be able to get much more out of this unit with this little SD Floppy Emulator gem inside of it.

One thing I know wasn’t an option was having it just dangling loose outside the case, I had to mount this thing somehow.  Once I discovered some cleverly-positioned mounting holes on the HxC SD Floppy Emulator itself, I realized it would be very possible to simply use the old mounting bay for the Korg’s original 720K drive…, a few securing screws, and a small window to view what you were doing.  Alright…. stop!   Dremel time…

Korg DSS-1 Floppy Upgrade 1

Korg DSS-1 Floppy Upgrade 2

Korg DSS-1 Floppy Upgrade 3

Korg DSS-1 Floppy Upgrade 4

Korg DSS-1 Floppy Upgrade 5

…and just for you, I recorded a janky,  volume-wacky, caffeine-fueled video to show you personally how this unit works with the new floppy emulator:

This project all stemmed from me adopting this huge airplane-wing-of-a-beast unit, knowing I’d have to deal with the floppy drive.  I figured “…oh easy fix.”  How yes and no that statement really was.  I got lucky.  Actually, Korg DSS-1, Prophet 2000 and other vintage-tech nerds are lucky, because this little HxC SD Floppy Emulator is a godsend.   I cannot thank Jeff and Lotharek enough for making this beauty, and I hope they keep making other innovations with us in mind. While requiring a little research and tech know-how, the Korg DSS-1 can take a step towards 21st century relevance once again.

Want to start your own Korg DSS-1 upgrade?  Don’t have a DSS-1 or you want to find out if one of these upgrades might be for you?  Visit Lotharek’s site, where you can find a list of compatible devices, videos, and other stuff:

http://lotharek.pl/null/product/info/3 (Tell ’em Kyle Weiss sent you.)

Good luck, and happy nerding/synthing.