Friday, July 6, 2012

Backing up Nord Lead 2 patches

Hi there.

After a long pause in posting, here's a guide for backing up Nord Lead 2 patches.

What you need for this:
 - Clavia Nord Lead 2 (of course)
 - A computer running Windows
 - A USB-MIDI interface or a sound card with MIDI
 - A MIDI cable
 - MIDI-OX software (free download link)

MIDI-OX is a great tool for synth players. You can do all sorts of MIDI tricks with it, including backing up your sounds on your PC. The software is freeware for non-commercial use.

Nord Lead and other synthesizers often have the ability to export the patches through MIDI as "SysEx dumps". SysEx stands for system exclusive data. MIDI-OX can receive this data and save it as .syx files.

Walkthrough of a complete backup

First, install MIDI-OX and start it up. Connect MIDI IN of your PC's MIDI interface to the MIDI OUT of the Nord Lead 2.

In order to receive a sysex dump on the MIDI-OX, click View --> SysEx...
This opens the SysEx View and Scratchpad. Then click on Sysex --> Receive Manual Dump...
A message box appears, asking you to wait for the dump to complete.

Now you need to send the SysEx data from Nord Lead 2. After each dump, click on the "done" button. You can then save the dump by clicking Display Window --> Save as... 

Here's what to do on the Nord Lead 2:

How to dump programs
Be sure that you are in manual mode and then press SHIFT - DUMP ALL.

Manual mode looks something like this...

How to dump performances
Nord Lead 2 performances are stored on ROM and cannot be edited. Thus it's not necessary to back them up. However, here's how to do it: Press performance to get in performance mode and then press SHIFT - DUMP ALL.

Performance mode.

Backing up your PCMCIA Sound Card

If you have a Nord Lead 2 Sound Card, chances are that it's battery is running dangerously low by now. The battery life is around 10 years, give or take. You can replace the battery without data loss if you do it quickly. But if you want to be sure no data is lost, it's best to back it up first.

Here's how to back up the data:

How to dump program banks 1-3 from PCMCIA card:
 - Be sure that you are in manual mode (not performance mode).
 - Press up key until you have "1." on the left of the LCD display.
 - You now have bank 1 of the card selected.
 - Press SHIFT - DUMP ALL.
 - Repeat this for banks "2." and "3."

Bank 1 from the sound card selected, patch #9.

How to dump performances from PCMCIA card:
 - Press performance to get in performance mode.
 - Press up until you get "1." on the left of the LCD display.
 - Press SHIFT - DUMP ALL.

Restoring backups

You can restore any bank you've dumped easily. You need a connection between the MIDI OUT of your PC and the MIDI IN of the synth.
Just open the Sysex view and select File --> Send Sysex File... 
The bank you have selected on the Nord Lead 2 will be overwritten.

Single program / performance dumps

Doing single program or performance dumps is a lot of help when creating variants. To do a single patch dump, just press SHIFT + DUMP ONE.

Sharing your sounds

When you've done with backing up your precious patches, why not share them with the world?

Electro-music has TONS of Nord Lead 2 patches for you to try out. However, they seem to only archive single patches.

Another great place for browsing sharing sysex data is Sysexdb. There's no Nord Lead 2 data in there yet though. That's why you should send yours there too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Modifying a chinese wall wart for use in Europe

I ordered a USB hard drive case from Dealextreme some time ago, and forgot to check if it has a wall wart compatible with the finnish wall sockets. So of course I got some chinese wall wart with no way of plugging it in anywhere.

Luckily, it accepts the 230V 50Hz AC, it just doesn't physically fit in the socket...

One option would be to buy an adapter, but I couldn't find anything less than 35 euro. Also, even if I found some cheap adapter, it would probably cause power problems to the hard drive case, making the hard drive unstable. So I soldered an europlug cord on the wall wart.

The adapter and the cord, soon to be one.

If you do something like this, please don't have it connected to the wall when you're working on it. At least please don't sue me if some fucking idiot dies like this.

You need some heat shrink tube and a heat gun for this one, to hide the mains voltage connectors totally. You want to make this thing safe you know. If you don't have a heat gun, a hair dryer or a lighter might do.

Soldered together, with heat shrink tubing.

Heat shrink tubes in place.

After applying the heat gun.

A HUGE piece of heat shrink tubing...

At this point I learned that indeed, heat shrink tube shrinks. Especially with bigger tubes, you need to leave some extra length, because it will shrink also in length...

Fuck... Didn't go as planned...

Fortunately, the heat shrink I had at hand fit over the europlug, so I didn't have to start all over. I put a bigger piece of heat shrink on top of the old one and used the heat gun again...

Even bigger piece of heat shrink. This should do it.

...and there we go. Works nicely and safe as fuck!

Finally, ready for use!

Braun 1508 shaver battery replacement

This one might gross someone, but I don't give a flying fuck. If you're offended by imagery of decade-old greasy hairs - of dubious origin - go watch the fucking disney channel.

I don't really use my Braun 1508 shaver that much, I prefer the 3-blade, but sometimes it's a lot of help when trimming the face in a hurry. I've had this shaver for over 10 years, and it's still working nicely for me - but the battery is now long gone. I've just used it plugged to the wall for like 6 years.

Finally, I decided to change the battery. It's just a 1.2V NiMH cell, you can get a new one from literally any grocery store. Here's a guide of how I did it.

First, TAKE OFF THE POWER CORD and keep it that way while working or you'll cease to exist. Then get the screen off and open the two screws on the side.

Open these screws...

After unscrewing them, you have to use some force to get the cover open. There's this white plastic locking mechanism with a spring in it, and that might break. My spring flew somewhere, and I couldn't find it, so in the end I just threw away the white piece of plastic and glued the shawer back together...

The 1580 opened up.

A view of the electronics.

This is the + side of the cell. Remember this. It's important.

...and the negative electrode is connected here.

I took away the cell with some cutters and a bit of force. It's glued in place.

Old cell ripped off the PCB, and the replacement cell.

Then I soldered some wires on the battery. Batteries shouldn't really be soldered on, since the heat will not do them good. But you probably don't have a spot welder at hand. Just use a soldering iron at maximum power and be fast, and it will be fine. The electrical connection doesn't have to be perfect, since it's a low-power circuit.

Wire soldered to the replacement Varta cell - negative electrode.
When soldering don't block the small vents on the positive electrode. They are there to release gas if the cell it overcharged. If they are blocked, the gas will build up and might result in an explosion when charging.

The positive side. Don't block the vents on the cap.

Then solder the wires to the PCB where the original cell was connected. Remember to solder it in the correct polarity, the same way as the original cell.

+ side

The - side.

That's it. Just put the thing back together and the shaver's like new! OK, maybe not brand new, but still, working.

It doesn't really make sense that you need to buy a new shaver when the battery dies. I quess it's partly a safety issue that they don't put a battery slot in the shaver, since it also has mains voltage inside... But mostly it must be the fucking increased shaver sales they get due to dead batteries. So if you have any soldering skills, just fix the thing yourself. You'll prevent generating unnecessary e-waste and save some money from the greedy fingers of Braun.

Fuck you Braun, I win.