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Geeks and Beats: ROBOTS

Posted on Monday 7 October 2013

Geeks and Beats is a themed bar night for makers in Los Angeles. In September we had a wild time at our wearable tech meetup. I DJed as Jordan B with guest DJ Magronic, with VJs Cupcake and ADub doing fashion-themed visuals. We had a lot of great folks from Crash Space, LA Makerspace, and Disorient show up wearing their wearable tech, which included wifi-synced light-up jackets and scarves.

Geeks and Beats Wearable Tech Folks

Our next event is on Thursday, October 24th 2013, and the theme is ROBOTS. Start working on your robots to show-and-tell at this event, or come dressed as one for the theme. I will be DJing again and VJs Cupcake and ADub will present robotic visuals. I’ll bring my Raspberry Jolt bot to let people shoot each other with nerf darts.

Geeks and Beats Robot Flyer

Details:
http://www.facebook.com/events/221612911295759/
Thursday, October 24th 2013
Karma Lounge
3954 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Free

Jordan
Filed under: events andGeeks and Beats andMusic
Raspberry Jolt, My Mini Nerf Gun Robot

Posted on Tuesday 26 February 2013

The crime-fighting nerf-gun robot

The crime-fighting nerf-gun robot

Meet Raspberry Jolt, my mini nerf-dart-shooting robot with WIFI control and remote video recording. It’s powered by the first gen Romo by Romotive and a raspberry pi.

Parts list (linked to sources):

I used the Adafruit 16 Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Driver tutorial  with this circuit and Adafruit’s Python Library to hook up the servo to the Pi. After I had the circuit working on a breadboard I used the male header pins and female jumper wires to slim down the bot. Getting the Raspberry Pi to auto-connect to WIFI and run headless took some work; I used wpa_supplicant.conf to do it, and installed vncserver and SSH to control it remotely. I installed Avahi, which is the same as Apple’s Bonjour, so that I could always connect to the pi via http://raspberrypi.local once it boots and connects to the router. (However, once you have its IP address, shooting the dart is faster via IP address rather than by DNS lookup).

I modified Adafruit’s Servo_Example.py script to pull the servo back for 1 second and then return to front position. To access the Pi’s GPIO pins you need to be root, so I followed this tutorial to write and compaile a simple C script that could temporarily run commands as root. (I skipped the shell script part and just ran the python command from the C script). Finally I installed apache and PHP, and wrote a simple PHP script that calls the pulltrigger python script.

Mounting the servo to the trigger was the hardest part. My first two versions had the servo placed next to the trigger, but that was really hard to mount onto the round barrel of the gun. I also tried an all-lego chasis with reinforcement, but it was too heavy and bulky to mount onto the Romo.

raspberry jolt v2 mount – didn’t work

Then I realized that the servo would work best if it was behind the trigger, hanging off it like an Ewok choking a Storm Trooper. I used zip ties to connect it all (the Jolt has handy holes drilled into the trigger already), and then it was just a question of keeping them squished in a single plane together. The box from the USB battery case I bought worked fine for this, and was also transparent and light.

The bot actually has two separate WIFI connections and 4 battery sources. The USB battery powers the Raspberry Pi, and the 4 AA battery pack powers the servo circuit. (Adafruit recommends separate power sources because servos are noisy and might damage your Pi.) The Pi and servo are actually totally separate from the Romo, and are just mounted on its back. The Romo has its own battery, and uses an iPhone (which also has its own battery) to control movement (via analog headphone out) out and sends video back to the app. Romo has a Desktop and iPad version of its control app, and then I can control my pull-trigger script from any web browser. (Technically you could control the app with just an iPad by switching between the Romo app and Mobile Safari, but I found using a separate iPhone was smoother).

raspberry-jolt-parts

This was my first robot and it was a lot of fun to make. The Romo has aux ports that you could use, however that signal wouldn’t be able to drive a servo. A simpler circuit would just be to use an Ardrino to convert the aux signal from the Romo into a PWM signal for the servo, but I had a Raspberry Pi and understood it better. Plus I like the idea of having a headless weaponized webserver that can move on its own.

Jordan
Filed under: misc andoriginals
New Custom Morgan Freeman Voicemail Greeting

Posted on Tuesday 29 January 2013

If you call me and I don’t answer, you will now be greeted by Morgan Freeman (Click to Play):

Morgan Freeman Greeting

Yes, that’s really him! He generously donated his voice for the Autism Speaks “Sound Off” charity campaign.

With my Tim Robbins Jamming and Crazy Shawshank Redemption Tree posts, I think my Shawshank blogging trifecta is now complete.

Jordan
Filed under: misc andMorgan Freeman andoriginals
Cloud Atlas Soundtrack available on iTunes and Amazon

Posted on Tuesday 23 October 2012

I was once again honored to be part of the music team for Cloud Atlas, the new Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski film that comes out Friday. I worked as a music arranger and programmer for composers Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, and Tom Tykwer.

The soundtrack is possibly their finest work yet, in my opinion, and currently has an average review of five stars on iTunes. When Tykwer, Heil and Klimek work together, they take an unusual approach of composing and recording a score before shooting even begins. It was amazing to watch the journey the soundtrack took from its initial rich themes from the first recordings, to the edits and additional composition once the movie was shot and being edited, to the final orchestrations and final recording sessions once the picture was locked. As the six stories were edited together in different groupings and timings, so was it necessary for the music to be rearranged and recomposed. The three of them composed much more material than you hear on screen.

I have always been a fan of the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, and the hurdles they had to jump through and sacrifices they had to take for this film were enormous. After no studio would invest the full budget, they invented a new model of global financing, gathering many smaller investors as well as investing in the film themselves and waiving their directing fees. Jittery financiers would pull out because of the risks involved and the project was in jeopardy several times. Halle Berry broke her foot and they had to shoot with two crews simultaneously. No one knew how to advertise the film or what category to put it in. Despite all of this, they have handled the release deftly, and everyone involved with the film is in love with it, including myself.

I also have to congratulate Lana Wachowski, who is beautiful inside and out, and who bravely stepped out of her veil of privacy to promote this movie and create this art. I have read nothing but positive press about her and I’m thrilled that journalists are using the right pronouns and finally being respectful to her and transgendered people, even pointing out the relation between her self expression and fitting themes in the movie. It’s amazing how much our political climate has changed – six years ago there was nothing but negative rumors and exposés about her. When you gather confidence and proudly and shine the light of authenticity back at the poison, it scatters. I heard Lana was aware how important visibility is to other young transgendered filmmakers and artists and that that was part of her motivation. I’m thankful to her for winning the respect of her cast and crew just by being so bright and authentic, and for being such a brilliant role model for so many people. (I’m also thankful to Eddie Izzard and several others.)

I’m very excited for Cloud Atlas’s premiere this week. You can buy the soundtrack online at the links below:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cloud-atlas-original-motion/id565671999

http://www.amazon.com/Cloud-Atlas-Original-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B009JCL58G/

Jordan
Filed under: events andMusic andoriginals
“I Do” and “Genderfreak” premiere at Outfest

Posted on Tuesday 17 July 2012

“I Do”, a feature written and starring David Ross and directed by Glenn Gaylord, is premiering July 18th at 8:30 pm at Outfest at the Ford Amphitheater. It is an extremely well-produced, beautifully shot and well-written drama with themes about gay marriage and immigration rights that is getting great reviews. I scored the film with Gabriel Mounsey, under the guidance of Johnny Klimek, and we had the privilege of mixing at Skywalker Sound which was a real treat. Tickets are available here: http://www.outfest.org/tixSYS/2012/xslguide/eventnote.php?notepg=1&EventNumber=3541

“Genderfreak” is a short also premiering at Outfest that I scored with director Rebecca Louisell. It has a punk-rock soundtrack, and is showing July 20th at 9:45 and 10:00pm as part of the Girl’s Shorts program. Tickets are available here:
http://www.outfest.org/tixSYS/2012/filmguide/Title/GG

I’m very excited for both events!

Jordan
Filed under: Film Music andMusic andoriginals
Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil’s “Awake” Soundtrack

Posted on Thursday 3 May 2012

I have been busy as part of the team that composes the soundtrack for NBC’s critically-acclaimed “Awake.” It has been a joy working on the show for composers Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil for series executive producer Kyle Killen. I love the show and hope it gets a second season. Below is a scene I received a co-write on:

Jordan
Filed under: Music andoriginals
Time as an energy field

Posted on Saturday 17 March 2012

I was just falling asleep when I had this idea. What if time is an energy field that we feel passing through our fourth dimensional bodies? And this energy field is a ripple from an explosion or expansion from one point in fourth dimensional space?
Physicists have argued that space and time are connected, and that the future already exists just as the past already exists. If time can have different planes of existence and run faster or slower depending on the observer’s motion and proximity to mass, then the future must already exist in the cases where it needs to, i.e. for someone whose clock is running fastest. Many have suggested that we are one solid shape in 4 dimensions, from our birth and our death, and “now” is a slice/snapshot from that shape of us.
But that doesn’t really explain what time is, other than a plane of “now” / existence that’s moving through us.
Someone described time as something that prevents everything from happening at once. Without time we wouldn’t have death, or life. Time is what allows us to experience.
What if time was an energy wave going through our fourth dimensional bodies? What if this wave was spherical, like a radio wave going through a house? And the interaction between the house and the radio wave was the house’s experience?
I am excited about this concept for two reasons: one, who’s to say that this wave of energy won’t happen again? You may not be able to reverse the direction of the wave, but what if more waves come? We would experience life again.
And two, what if the point of origin were in a different place? The wave would pass through our fourth dimensional bodies at a different angle, and we would experience life entirely differently.
I woke up with the frantic question, “can time be converted to energy? Can time be converted to energy?” I’m not sure. Physicists?

Jordan
Filed under: misc andoriginals andscience
DIY Custom Acrylic Music Keyboard Case

Posted on Tuesday 17 January 2012

My music keyboard is placed underneath my window, making it a great platform for my cats to walk on. They would constantly step on the keys or buttons, disrupting my Logic sessions by changing MIDI channels or programs. But the last straw was when one of my cats vomited on the keyboard. I decided to take steps to protect it.

After stopping at two hardware stores, I couldn’t find acrylic sheets thick enough to protect the keyboard, but got a referral to Gavrieli Plastics, who were helpful and had what I was looking for. For about $200 I got enough 1/4″ clear acrylic to encase the keyboard, acrylic hinges, Weld-On 16 Solvent Cement, cuts to the dimensions I wanted, and at the last minute, holes drilled in the back of the case for the cables to go in.

I peeled off the masking, assembled the box outside using bookends and books to create the right angles, and applied the adhesive. The adhesive stinks and is toxic so it’s good to do this outdoors, though I’ve seen youtube users touching the stuff. Most tutorials recommend using gloves to protect your hands.

Now that I know more about acrylic, I would have preferred Weld-On 4 and a syringe-type applicator. There are tutorials on youtube on how to weld acrylic, and using a syringe and capillary cementing looks easier and more secure if you have clean cuts in the plastic, which I did. The Weld-On 16 proved to be more difficult to work with because it poured out of the tube quickly, and you can’t wipe off the remaining residue, so I’m left with a few blotches. However, it did the job. I essentially applied the Weld-On like glue on the edges and let it set. The solvent cement actually melts the plastic and fuses it together, which is why it is more similar to welding than to gluing.

The hinges simply welded on as well; I just held them in place for 3 minutes each. You just have to be careful to apply the Weld-On away from the moving parts.

After a few hours, my roommate helped me move it indoors (I was worried the cold night temperatures would expand the plastic and interrupt its setting–some websites recommend welding at temperatures above 60°F), and after 24 hours I installed it with the keyboard.

The case has a hinged top and an open front for playing and accessing controls. Its dimensions are 55.5″ long x 8″ high x 16″ deep for my M-Audio Keystation Pro 88. Because the Acrylic is 1/4″ thick, I had the sides cut 15.75″ deep (instead of 16″) so that they would be flush with the front. The drilled holes for the cables are 2″ wide and 5″ apart centered in the back. I left extra room in the back for cable clearance, and extra height for playing. For the most part, aside from plugging in the cables, because the box is clear, I can play and access all controls without opening the top.

The case does its job nicely. It can handle light objects on top of it near the hinges. If you have irregular shaped objects and not a lot of space, this is one way to get more surface space. It does feel a little fragile – the bottom bended a lot when I put it on an X-style keyboard stand, so I reinforced it with wood underneath. The top bends a little too, because it is only attached by the hinges. If you don’t need it to be hinged, it would be a lot stronger. I might have gone with a thicker type of acrylic, but I didn’t want the thing to be too heavy. At 1/4″ it is pretty light (I can move it around myself).

So far, the cats have stayed away from it.

Jordan
Filed under: audio anddiy andGear andMusic andNew Instruments andoriginals
Go Home: One-Click directions for iPhone hack

Posted on Thursday 3 November 2011

Here is a hack that allows you to click a button on your home screen and get directions home or anywhere else from your current location.

Instructions

To begin, open Safari and go to this address: http://jordanbalagot.com/gohome.php

Next, enter your full address into the address field:

Then, add the next page to your home screen by clicking on the share button, the middle bottom button in Mobile Safari:

 

Choose any name for it.

Now, whenever you click on the Go Home shortcut, it will first open Safari, and then redirect to google maps with automatic directions to the address you specified.

 

You can repeat the steps again to set up as many shortcuts you want, such as work, friends, parks, etc.

This has been tested on the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, and the iPad, and should work on all iOS devices. It does not require a jailbreak. Currently this only works on iPhones in the English language.

This hack relies on connecting to my site to redirect you to your current location in google maps. Here is my privacy statement: I don’t care where you live! :)

Jordan
Filed under: Apple andiPhone andmisc andoriginals andThe Web andvideo
Killer Elite In Theaters September 23

Posted on Tuesday 13 September 2011

I am excited to have been part of Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek’s scoring team for the upcoming release of Killer Elite, in Theaters September 23.

I am credited as a music programmer and score performer on the film, and my original work can be heard on the tracks “Room Service”, “Hunter’s Release”, and “End Rollers”. A digital soundtrack is also being released.

Jordan
Filed under: audio andFilm Music andMusic andoriginals