Using a 5.25″ Floppy as a MIDI instrument

A friend and I recently uncovered a 1992-ish PC, boasting 4MB of RAM, a nearly 500MB hard disk (aftermarket, we believe), and a dual 5.25/3.5″ floppy drive! Stymied by the lack of a compatible mouse (as this was well before the era of USB devices), we could boot from it, but not operate it. So after wondering for a bit what we could possibly do with it, we decided to take out the floppy and try to adapt it for a modern computer.

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Building a MIDI Pedalboard

Fact: Weber Music Hall has a MIDI pedalboard. If memory serves it might be the Roland PK-6. Or maybe not.

Fact: It’s awesome.

Fact: I want one.

Fact: I don’t have the many many hundreds of dollars it would cost to spend on things like MIDI pedalboards. However, I do have several junked organs’ worth of components and a seeming excess of free time.

Therefore: A midi pedalboard! Building it was surprisingly simple and straightforward (that is, after a two hour diversion of several circuit rebuilds necessitated by the assumption that the circuit was not being built around a faulty shift register. Spoiler alert: it was!).

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ESP8266 Light Switch: A Few Revisions



Web-controlled lights: Who doesn’t need ’em? I’d had my eye on something of the sort when I made the decision that none of the prebuilts available met my needs…I was going to have to build my own.

Specifically, I wanted a couple of particularly hard-to-find features:

  • I wanted these to be controllable via a well-documented and easy-to-use API (preferably something fairly REST-compliant).
  • I wanted something reasonably unlikely to die when I needed it to work (and I wanted to be able to fix it when it inevitably did).
  • I wanted to be able to securely share access with a handful of people, but not leave it wide-open for the internet to abuse.
  • I wanted to control not only the standard switched 120v overhead light but also some custom LED RGB lighting.

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New Relic and AppFog v2

CenturyLink’s AppFog v2 is supposed to have great support for New Relic. However, their documentation leaves a bit to be desired. Don’t be dissuaded: the setup process is almost comically simple. Here are the steps to set up AppFog with New Relic:

  • First, sign up for New Relic (if you haven’t already) at
  • Go to to the “APM” (Application Performance Monitoring) section to create a new app.
  • Select your language.
  • Under step 1, click Reveal License Key.

That’s all we need from New Relic. Now it’s on to AppFog:

  • cf set-env [your-app-name] NEWRELIC_LICENSE: [your license key]

And you’re done! In about five minutes, the stats should start rolling in.

(A note: In my case, New Relic kept a warning on that page that no data had been received, so the app might not have been set up correctly. I bypassed this and manually reloaded, and it worked regardless.)

Piano Heatmap Analysis (Part 1)

I have always been curious about what the most-used key on the piano is. Songs like Billy Joel’s “Prelude” (C4) or Beethoven’s “Für Elise” (A2) must throw off averages significantly, especially when practiced repeatedly, right? Also, I thought it would be cool to figure out how many keys total have been played: they should add up quickly! There do exist programs that do this for computer keyboards (and here are my stats, if somewhat out of date), but as far as I could tell there wasn’t a good option for a piano keyboard.

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Solving Windows Update Error 8024402F

Recently, Windows Update started failing for me on a few different computers, a few months apart. Site after site promised result after result, but led only to failure after failure. I accumulated a list of different recommendations, and what eventually worked for me: Using a VPN to avoid what seemed to be network-induced restrictions.
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Enabling Hotspot on a Rooted Sprint Galaxy S6

While the transition from my S4 to S6 has gone generally smoothly, I do miss the lack of support for the Xposed framework, specifically, the ability to create a wireless hotspot. However, there is a simple fix, with very little technical knowledge required (taken with gratitude from a post buried on xda-developers)

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