A Retrospective for Years 2016-19

I thought I’d update my blog to reflect recent changes in my life, and review what was good and bad about them, as I was doing before.

The “Not Awesome”

  1. My overall health level has got a bit worse over the years. I have had limited success in losing weight. I was going for regular walks nearly every week with a friend of mine, but that has stopped lately. I find it difficult exercising while living in a city, as my favourite activity for excercising is walking, and there are not a huge amount of pleasent walking oppertunities around my area. I have been getting Ubers to parks and walking there. A posssible solution that I am actually considering is moving outside of the city, where there are a lot more pleasent walking oppertunities on my doorstep, and which would hopefully lead to a much more active lifestyle.

The “Awesome”

  1. Conny and I got married! We have also adopted two cats, so we have a little family now 🙂
  2. Brexit is not going to affect Conny’s ability to live and work in the UK after all, which is a great relief.
  3. I am doing well in my job, having achieved a “High Performing” overall performance rating at work for this year. This has taken a huge amount of personal effort.
  4. I have cutout meat from my diet for health reasons, although I’m still eating fish. I have also started getting prepared healthy dinner meals from this site online. The meals are a lot more healthy than what I was eating before, plus it saves Conny from having to cook for me in the evening, which is good as she is currently working two jobs.
  5. Conny has started work and is really enjoying it.
  6. Our finances are looking much more healthy than in previous years, with Conny starting working and due to bonuses in my current job. I have increased contributions for my pension, and we are doing very well with budgeting and financial planning.
  7. I’ve managed to build up my music studio and gaming PC setup quite a bit, which was always something I wanted to do after taking on a more stressful (and rewarding) job.
  8. Our house price has gone up a lot.
  9. I’ve developed a much healthier attitude to my professional skills and development, after reading the ‘Passionate Programmer’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6399113-the-passionate-programmer. I have been putting in extra time after work to read a number of books and developing my technical skills.
  10. I have started learning maths in my spare time through enlisting one of Conny’s friends who is also math tutor. Building up my math skills will unlock a lot of interesting paths for my software development skills, such as audio DSP, graphics programming, and data science.
  11. I have taken up record and CD collecting, and have quite a large collection of electronic music on vinyl and CD now. I bought a Rega Planar 1 turntable and two CDJ1000s with a pioneer mixer for DJing. I can connect the setup to Serato on my laptop for digital DJing too.

Home Cinema Setup

I have been gradually adding parts to my PC so that it functions better for watching movies and gaming. Here are the components that I have used:

Monitor – BenQ EX3501R 35″ Ultra WQHD Curved Monitor

This monitor is great for watching movies and gaming as it is ultra-wide at an aspect radio of 21:9, 3440×1440, a VA panel with high contrast, and the monitor is slightly curved so that you get a cinematic experience.

Surround Sound Speakers – Logitech Z906 5.1 Speakers

This is a good set of 5.1 surround sound speakers with a separate subwoofer. I connect it from my motherboard’s optical out via ADAT for the best connection. I have the rear speakers mounted on the wall behind me, and the front speakers on the desk in front of me angled towards my seat.

Phillips Hue Bulbs and Dynamic Lighting

I have three Phillips Hue bulbs near the monitor which I have added to a ‘Hue Entertainment Group’ which means their colours can be rapidly changed with applications that use the Phillips Hue Entertainment API. One such application is ‘hueDynamic for Hue’ which is a Windows 10 application that monitors the colours on the pixels at the edges of the monitor, and changes the lights next to each edge according to the colours on that edge. This means I can have some dynamic lighting when watching movies.

Source of 4K Video

Even though my monitor doesn’t quite support 4K, using VLC means I can adjust the aspect ratio so that it will re scale the 4K video onto the monitor’s 3440×1440 dimensions, making 4K the best fit for my monitor. However my wireless connection is not currently fast enough to stream 4K video, so I use the ‘4K Video Downloader’ app to download free 4K videos from YouTube so I can play them on VLC.

Putting It All Together

(Click on diagram to enlarge)

So, I download 4K videos from Youtube, play them on VLC which adjusts the 4K content to fit my monitor. The audio goes to my surround sound setup which creates a virtualised surround sound output to my speakers, and the hueDynamic app running in the background on my PC samples the colours are the left and right areas of my monitor, and dynamically changes the colour of the Hue bulbs as the video plays. This creates an immersive ‘Home Cinema’ experience.


Finished Eurorack

Finally I have finished my Eurorack synthesiser! And I know many people say that ‘Euroracks are never finished’ but this one absolutely has to be, for financial reasons. I think that I have got to a place where I have every major feature common in most synthesisers, but in a modular instrument format. It is a great place to learn about different synthesis techniques.

finished modular


This is the layout on Modulargrid.net where you can examine each module.

Node.js HTTPS server with self-signed certificate creation on openssl 0.9.8zh with node.js 7.10.0

I couldn’t find a concise guide to setting this up quickly so thought it was worth a post. To quickly get something working and create a https server using the above versions of openssl and node.js, do the following:

 Generate self-signed server certificate with no password

sudo openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout ./csr.pem -out server.crt -days 3001 -nodes

Use this node.js code to setup a server quickly

const https = require('https');
const fs = require('fs');

const options = {
key: fs.readFileSync('csr.pem'),
cert: fs.readFileSync('server.crt')

https.createServer(options, (req, res) => {
res.end('hello world\n');

Go to https://localhost:8000 and accept the certificate, you should see ‘hello world’

Finished Planning My Eurorack Modular Synthesizer

In January 2015 I put in an order for my first Eurorack case. Little did I know that I would end up filling that case and buying a larger one. Finally, 2 years and 3 months later, I have nearly finished assembling what will be the complete Eurorack. I have been buying a module or two per month, researching what I need and playing a lot with what I have got already to find out its limitations and areas for possible expansion. It’s much like incrementally building and upgrading a gaming PC really, although with very different results.

Today I have come up with a final plan for what the cases will contain. The picture below is slightly misleading, I have two cases, so the case below is actually split down the middle into two enclosures. The left-side case is 2/3rds the size of the right hand case, that is why there is a grey unusable area at the top left.

With the purchase of 4 modules this month, I’m nearly at the end. The remaining 3 modules will be bought and installed over the next month or two, depending on budget.

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 22.58.16.png

In addition to the Eurorack modular, I also have a polyphonic MIDI->CV converter called the CV.OCD which plugs into the modular, a Nord Drum semi-modular analogue drum synthesizer, which also plugs in and allows me to make and play drum sounds, a Korg SQ1 sequencer which allows me to add 2×8 step sequencers to the mix, a MS20 Mini semi-modular synthesizer and a keyboard controller which allows me to play notes and chords on the whole damn thing.


I have built a synth roughly around three goals. The first is keeping a traditional ‘East Coast’ 3 voice subtractive synthesiser format, e.g. 3 oscillators, 3 filters, 3 envelopes, lots of LFOs and modulation, 3 VCAs, mixers, an FX unit including delay, reverb and others, 4×8 step sequencers which can be chained together (plus the 2×8 step in the SQ1). The second is that I wanted 3 voice polyphony – not ‘true’ analogue polyphony because that is difficult to achieve – but 3 of everything, wired together with a polyphonic MIDI -> CV controller, allowing me to play chords and experiment with traditional musical structures. The third goal was to keep the cost down! I am really not one of these modular synth heads with a huge studio and a near infinite budget, I have a lot of financial outgoings which I have met while building this. Building a modular synthesizer is never really ‘cheap’ in any sense of the word I would use, but this is definitely a lot cheaper than many other modulars I’ve seen, without compromising on quality.


What I have Learnt

  • Modular synthesizers can be built on a relatively low budget to achieve a good result.
  • I have sold all but one of my other synthesizers that I had before starting this project, finding the modular approach much more fun and rewarding then the in-the-box techniques and non-modular hardware synths.
  • Ignore what others might term as ‘conventional wisdom’ in building a modular, the freedom of Eurorack is that you can build whatever you want, and exactly what you want, so go with what works for you.
  • Slowly building up a modular synthesizer is likely to be much better than buying everything at once, you will experiment with what you’ve got, and learn its limitations and that will guide your purchases. It is impossible (in my opinion) to truly know what you want before you have started.
  • Use Modulargrid.net to plan out your synthesizer. It is very useful and has a huge database of modules. You can rearrange modules countless times on Modulargrid before you do it in reality, so you can plan and achieve a productive workflow.




Goals for 2017

Looking at my past posts, you may notice that I didn’t set myself any goals for 2016. Looking back, this was a mistake, so I’m going to remedy this by setting some for 2017.


  • Lose a significant amount of weight – this is very important for health reasons.
  • Study maths courses – I intend to sign up for some maths courses at the OU. This will improve my mathematical knowledge, allowing for further study in subjects I’m interested in, plus allow me to work in more mathematically-heavy careers. This equates to 10 hours study per week, so it’s not a light commitment, but one I think I need to make.
  • Exercise more – this is important as it improves my mindset, stamina, and makes me feel good.

Not too many goals this time, but some important ones, and I think I’m in a good position to commit to these thanks to the support of my partner, and therefore I am in a position to improve my life.

Will post updates at some point during the year to chart this progress.


Studio Setup


This is my current studio setup.

I have the following gear:

Eurorack 9U case
Eurorack 6U case
KORG MS20 Mini Synth
Roland TB3 Synth
AY3 Chiptune Synth
Roland A500-PRO Keyboard Controller
Nord Drum Synth
Macbook Pro with Ableton Live 9 Suite
MIDI.OCD Polyphonic MIDI->CV Converter
Samson Patchbay

I am looking to sell my Acces Virus A and concentrate on filling up the remaining Eurorack case holes.

Music Workflow 2017

In 2017 I want to build a relatively static hardware-based workflow. This is what I’ve chosen:workflow-setup

The components are:

Current Music-Making Setup

With my current setup, I’m trying to make as much music ‘out of the box’ as possible, away from the computer as I find it more fun.


KORG Minilogue: I use this for a keyboard controller, and I use the 16 step sequencer to run simple sequences. It connects to the PC via USB and has MIDI output. I can also use this as a synthesizer its own right, it’s good for backing chords and pads.
KORG MS20 Mini: I’m borrowing this from a friend. I will use it as a bass synth mostly. I’ve got a Harvestman English Tear module which connects it to my Eurorack.


Electro Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai: This is an effects pedal with reverb and delay, which I use to add a bit of effects to modular synthesizer before I record. I will also use effects within Ableton, but I like the sound of this pedal in general.

Drum Machine:

Nord Drum Mk1: This accepts triggers from the Eurorack I’ve recently discovered, so I have a drum machine that I can connect up to the Eurorack with 4 different drum voices.


This is equivalent to a fairly standard three oscilator synth, with ring-mod, S&H and noise out. I have a few different filters, an XPander style filter, an ‘extreme’ filter which is loosely modelled on the MS20 filter, and a triple resonance filter which I use for noise soundscapes. It has two envelopes, and a Make Noise Maths and a Serge VCS equivalent for some modulation madness. It also has a 16 step sequencer.

My Eurorack Modular
My Eurorack Modular


I still use Ableton Live as a midi sequencer, creating midi clips for drums and the hardware synths. I will build up a patch on the synth, tweaking until it sounds servicable, then make a midi clip, record some loops from the synths, and cut up and move the audio around to compose a track. I might add some soft-synths and effects such as reverb and delay on the PC and mix the track. Then I will upload it to soundcloud and show it to musically minded friends. Depending on what they say, I may tweak the track and upload it again. This whole process usually is done within the space of a day or two, I sometimes spend longer for tracks that I want to be more finished and professional, but I am not really usually making music for more than a few people at the moment, so I don’t spend ages finetuning each track.