Archive for the Gadgets Category

Travel Gaming

Posted in Gadgets, Games, Lifestyle, Travel with tags , , , , , on 08/24/2016 by Baghead Kelly

Travel Kit


  • Set of dice
  • Playing card deck
  • Notepad
  • Pencil

With a little knowledge these four simple items open up a world of games. Dice have been around for thousands of years whilst playing cards are only a mere eleven hundred years old. They have survived through to this modern era of computer games simply because we find them amusing. Beyond that we like them because of their social aspect. They make conversation easy.

If you take the time to learn some games or expand on the ones that you already know you will have a repertoire that you can pull out at any time. Missed your flight? Stuck in the emergency department? Not yet out on bail? Then perhaps a game of craps is in order or even strip poker. Maybe the grandkids are over and you can play Beetle or Old Maid. The choices are as many as you can memorize and teach.

The real trick here however, is in keeping it all compact. You can buy ‘Bridge’ sized playing cards which are generally a quarter of an inch smaller in width and die usually come in 10, 14 and 16mm sizes. The 10mm die are still a good size to play with, as are the ‘Bridge’ sized cards. Once you’ve sorted those items out and sized matched them with a pad and pencil you can start looking for a suitably sized tin or Tupperware container. Good luck with that.

My personal favorites dice games are ‘Pig’ and ‘Ship, Captain. Crew’ whilst I like Conquian and Euchre card games. I’m slowly learning new games and testing them out on my family; some work and some don’t. When they’ve had enough there is always time to fit in a couple of hands of ‘Solitaire’.

Making A Roadcase

Posted in Carpentry, Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Lifestyle, Music with tags , , , , on 03/24/2016 by Baghead Kelly

Road Case Blog

Roadcases are fun little projects to encase and protect your precious electronics. This is the second one that I’ve built and I’ve enjoyed both of those endeavours. My old one became superfluous after I blew up the amp (I have a habit of doing that) and as these projects are bespoke by nature, it was time to update.

I’ve had this Yamaha EMX 512SC for a few years now and I cannot speak more highly of it. It has a great sound with lots of bottom end when paired with my A15 speakers. The big surprise for me though was the cheap arsed Chinese DMX lighting controller that you see on the top. My lighting system consists of this unit and 10 x ADJ Mega Par Profile plus a couple of laser lights. DMX is 80’s technology which basically is a standard for lighting systems. I didn’t know much about it but today you can buy these units very cheaply from your electronics store and they are very versatile. Paired with DMX standard lighting you can change the colours, intensity, focus and direction of your lighting. It depends on the light what you can do with it but with the controller you can also program lighting shows to match a song or play.

Anyway these two units complemented each other perfectly and so it was a natural progression to pair them into one unit. This way I had only one power point to plug in plus two speaker cables and one DMX cable daisy chained to the lights. An easy set up.

I had to also include an electronic fan and venting to ensure that the P.A. was happy with access to the reset on the ELCB within the unit. It is quite heavy for the size of the unit and so I added the wheels. The trick with wheels is to have two fixed wheels and two lockable, swivel wheels to steer with. I incorporated a lockable drawer and a shelf to stash the microphones cables and torch.

I used ¾” construction ply for the construction which used to be 19mm but seems to have been downsized to 17mm these days. The last time I built one of these I added corner protectors which you can get in plastic or metal but this time I didn’t feel the need.

The last tip that I can impart on this project was that I got an RCA to 1/8” jack so that the kids could use the play lists on there cell phones and run them through the P.A. It worked a treat so long as they didn’t play around with the phones whilst songs were playing. You can get some pretty harsh sounds with any loose connections.

Party Lights

Making a Lagerphone

Posted in Carpentry, Design, Free, Gadgets, Home Studio, Humor, Lifestyle, Music with tags , , on 03/15/2016 by Baghead Kelly


I’d always harboured a desire to make a lagerphone and finally I’ve ticked it off of my bucket list. A lagerphone is essentially a tambourine type of instrument made from a broomstick and crown capped bottle tops. From the Idiophone family it is mainly used in folk music and is known by many names from many different cultures.

The first task was collecting the bottle tops, which required much merriment and the sampling of various types of lager which had different coloured bottle tops. I was clearly the right man for the job.

Another pre-requisite was my penchant for hoarding. During renovations I kept one of our old curtain rods, which was about an inch and a quarter diameter (32mm). It also featured a finial which with a nose added became the ‘Noddy’ head. In my research I discovered that it was commonplace to place a boot at the bottom to protect a venues flooring. It so happened that I’d kept one of my fifteen year old’s boots from when he was a toddler. Actually we kept all of them.

The next stage was punching holes in the bottle tops. For this task I used an off-cut from one of our veranda posts, which I had drawn diagonal lines from corner to corner and drilled a 5/16” (8mm) hole in the centre where the lines bisected. With a nail punch I could then line my bottle top up over the hole using the diagonal lines and with one tap I could punch a hole in the centre. The jig worked quite well although I had to manually pull off the bit off metal still left hanging.

Next I space out where I wanted the bottle tops which was basically a north/south/east/west pattern. I carefully drilled them and bought some screws with a clean shank to affix each set of twin bottle tops.

Additionally I placed a mint tin containing ball bearings into the boot which was simply screwed to the curtain rod between the tread of the boot. I used a bit of plumbing pipe insulation for the handle and the sock of the boot. Also on the large beer can at the top I placed a nut suspended from a bit of wire to act as a clapper.

I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the thought of terrorising my clan gatherings with my new lagerphone fills me with wicked glee. So if your interested in making a lagerphone here are a few name variations to Google as the various designs are as different and wild as your imagination.


  • Boozaphone,
  • Mendoza/mendozer,
  • Monkey stick,
  • Murrumbidgee River Rattler
  • Teufelsgeige
  • Jingling Johnie
  • Stumpfidel
  • Ugly Stick

The Ships Clock

Posted in Gadgets, History, Maritime with tags , , , , on 06/16/2013 by Baghead Kelly

Ships Bells 2
When I first got married I bought an antique, ships clock and barometer. At the time my wife thought that it was too expensive but these days she lovingly and dutifully winds it each Sunday and takes it to the watchmaker when it runs awry. The clock features the eight bell system in homage to days of yore when a ships crew would take turns manning the ship 24/7. The term ‘watch’ refers to these shifts and is perhaps a little overused these days by our dullard politician’s who like to bandy the ‘not on my watch’ cliché.

There were many variations of this set up but essentially if a large crew were divided into three then each crew would work on a four hours on and eight hours off rotation. That is an attractive proposition to someone like myself who has been working night shift until my skin has turned a glowing alabaster.

When the bell tolled eight bells it marked the end of one crews watch and the beginning of another’s. The bell tolled every half hour with an odd number of bells and tolled on the hour an even number of bells. Note the table above only shows twelve hours and is repeated to make up the twenty four hours.

The Return Of Vinyl Records

Posted in Gadgets, Lifestyle, Music with tags , , , on 06/03/2013 by Baghead Kelly

Vinyl blog

My grandfather gave me a reel to reel tape recorder when I was around eight or nine years old. It wasn’t one of those fancy home studio kind of arrangements it was small and had little three inch reels that you would have to thread through like a sewing machine. I loved it to death and I would listen to the radio and try and record songs without the DJ talking over the top. That tape player was the beginning of my lifelong love of music and general musical geekery.

I also had a little portable record player with a speaker in the lid that I would play my 45rpm records on. Later on my father got a real stereo and I started collecting 33rpm records. The records were appealing not only because of the music but also for the artwork and literature displayed on their covers. They were tactile objet d’art that you could read whilst you listened to the record itself.

Alas records gave way to CD’s and the digital revolution. Digital laser technology promised an end to the snap, crackle and pop of vinyl records. It promised a purer sound experience and I fell for it hook line and sinker. I was an early adopter and when I bought my Phillips player there was only a choice of 10 CD’s to choose from. I still am a true believer in CD’s but in the department of album art they were a retrograde step. The second evolution of the digital age the MP3/Wav era has reduced album art to a mere thumbnail.

Lately I have realised that something was missing in my audiophile world. I missed records. I missed the albums and I missed marvelling at the wonderful engineering of a good record player. It was like the difference between having a solitary cuppa with a tea bag and the ritual of sharing a pot of tea with good friends.

This whole mid life crisis event came about when a record store opened in a nearby town. In an earlier life I had harboured a desire to open a record store in that very same town but wisely declined when another one went bust nearby. So with a vested interest I watched closely as the little record store prospered and eventually I was seduced back into the allure of all things vinyl. I went and purchased a turntable and once a week I trot off down to our new record store and buy an album. It has become my Saturday night highlight.

The little record store owner and I have developed a friendly rapport but I have noticed that the price of Jimi Hendrix records have increased now that I have been identified as a fan. I think the proprietor sees me as a new revenue stream. Not to be deterred I have widened my net and discovered a whole new underground of vinyl enthusiasts that I didn’t know existed. Although not a purist I am looking forward to my first vinyl fair to hopefully track down some old favourites. It’s the thrill of the hunt especially when I find a gem from my old record collection. You see there certainly is an element of nostalgia not only in the process of playing records but also because I am essentially recreating my old record collection. One that I foolishly gave away many years ago. This time around though I am being very selective of which records are worthy of my collection because I believe that playing music on a record player is special. Like bringing out the fine china. These days I even like the snap crackle and pop.

Rainy Day Pedalboard For Guitar

Posted in Carpentry, Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Songwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , on 06/02/2013 by Baghead Kelly

PB 1
If your into electric guitar, then chances are that you’ve got a few stomp boxes, lying around. Once you’ve collected a few then eventually you get to the point where you start thinking about a pedal board. Such is the dilemma that I faced on a recent rainy afternoon.

The brief was simple I just wanted a board that I could walk up to, plug in and play –  no flat batteries and no multiple adaptor clutter.

I went about researching such a thing simply by checking out a whole lot of other peoples boards on Google’s “Image Search”. Interestingly, during this process I saw a few pedals used more often than others. The four common stand outs were;

  1. a Wah Wah pedal of some kind,
  2. an Ibanez’s tube screamer as made famous by SRV,
  3. Boss’s RC20 looper and
  4. Boss’s TU3 Chromatic Tuner – the one with the disco lights.

Beyond these four pedals it was open slather. Each pedal board was wildly individual, incorporating a plethora of designs and configurations – some home made others just plain obscure or whacky.

In assimilating these designs another design concept came to the fore and that was the use of velcro tape and hook carpet to enable the pedals to be securely but temporarily mounted. In the end I went with this idea because it was simple and allowed for ongoing adjustments and configurations.
PB 2
I started with just a simple 15° wedged box (800mm x 300mm) shown above.

Originally I planned to enable the wedge to sit over my microphone stand and the red and green lines on the bottom of the wedge indicated the microphone’s legs that would sit in the as yet unbuilt slots. I abandoned the idea for the sake of simplicity but I still think the idea has merit.

The power supply is the Gator G-BUS-8. This worked out fine because one of my pedals was the 18volt Dunlop Univibe and the Gator was the only supply that would accommodate 18V (3 of) as well as 9v (8 of) plugs. It was for me, expensive but in the long run all the electrical work was thus pre-solved. The Gator is not the only option here for those of you contemplating such an adventure; there is also a Dunlop version and T-Rex have several models.

The other practical concern was to be the fact that there was going to be a whole lot of cables that were to be stuffed into this wedge shape and so eventually I would have to make a sealed cover to keep them tidy within the wedge. Ultimately when it was finally set up I would only have to plug in my wedge, guitar and amp to be good to go.

I have three commercial pedalboards, which all have their own unique benefits but some of them are extremely complicated affairs and my needs are simple. A little distortion, some chorus maybe some E.Q. is all I really need. That’s not to say that I don’t like experimenting with the kinky stuff because I do but in the end its all about the music. The old K.I.S.S. adage seems to apply here and this pedal board is both simple and adaptable which I really like.

Zoom H2n Review

Posted in Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Review, Songwriting with tags , , , , on 01/10/2013 by Baghead Kelly

Zoom H2N

I purchased one of these little microphone recorders awhile ago after sniffing around the Line 6 Back Track recorder. The unit is about 4”in -100mm in length.

Mostly I am very pleased with the recorder as it has done for me what digital cameras have done to photography. Record as much as you like and as many takes as you like. If I have too many false starts I just stop it and start again. You can easily trim the fat through the machine or with your computer afterwards. (You will have to buy a decent SD/SDHC card for it as it only comes with a 2GB card to get you started.)

You have several options with regards to how you can record using the 5 on board microphones. Most notably the mid-side  configuration which essentially mixes Left & Right microphones with a unidirectional microphone at the front allowing adjustment of the width of the pattern from 30° to 150°. The other major configuration is an XY pattern of 90° which is my favourite.

The unit  takes two AA batteries which give you 20 hours play time. It can use rechargeables but you have to register them within the unit so that it can accurately tell you how much usable time you have left. For me 20 hrs is plenty and AA’s are more preferential then AAA’s because of the cost.

I should also mention that it comes with Cubase LE which is the light version of Cubase. As I already have Cubase 5 I didn’t play around with it too much but it all seemed quite adequate for editing etc.

Along with the Zoom H2n I also bought the accessories kit that in my view should really come with the unit. The accessories kit comes with:

  • Wired remote control with extension cable
  • Windscreen
  • AC adapter (USB type)
  • USB cable
  • Adjustable tripod stand
  • Padded-shell case
  • Mic clip adapter

Personally I’m not likely to use the remote or the windscreen but the rest is essential. Even the strange looking handle attachment means that I can clip it into my existing mic stands and it looks like its meant to be there.

The recording quality is excellent once you get your distances right and I would thoroughly recommend this unit for both enthusiasts like myself and serious recording aficionados who would like a field unit. This is probably my favourite piece of kit that I have purchased in 2012 and I would rate it a whopping 5 out of 5 rubber chickens.

The Fender VG Stratocaster

Posted in Design, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music with tags , , , , , , on 11/03/2012 by Baghead Kelly

My favourite guitar is my Fender VG Stratocaster, which I call ‘Freddy’. I love it for multiple reasons including the fact that it was the first decent guitar that I ever owned. Nostalgia aside I think it is still a great guitar on its own merits. Based around an American Series Stratocaster the VG was introduced in 2007 where it won “Best In Show” at NAMM but was discontinued after April Fools Day in 2009. The VG was a collaboration between Roland and Fender and featured electronic modelling to give it some unique features or at least unique at the time. Two extra knobs were included; The T knob (Tuning) and the M knob (Mode)

Mode :

  • Normal
  • Stratocaster
  • Telecaster,
  • Humbucking
  • Acoustic

Within the guitar modelling mode I would have to say that Normal and Stratocaster are somewhat smoke and mirrors. Normal isn’t really a feature it is…well, normal and in case Fender don’t realise it you are actually playing on a Stratocaster (you could play around with the tone knob to achieve the same results). Telecaster comes under the same umbrella and as I own a Tele I would have to say it doesn’t even come close to the real thing. For Humbucking you could read ‘Les Paul’ and I love it and use this a lot to give that warmer tone. Acoustic is also terrific and one of my favourites. Another thing about this guitar particularly with the acoustic mode is that its easy to play and there are a lot of songs that I struggle to play on a real acoustic but I can play perfectly on the VG in acoustic mode.

Tuning :

  • Normal,
  • Drop D,
  • Open G,
  • Baritone,
  • 12 String.

The ability to change tunings at the drop of a switch was a major selling point for me. Drop D in case you don’t already know has the bass E string tuned down a tone (DADGBE). Now this is not hard to do in a live situation as it is, after all only one string but it’s a popular tuning and I use it a fair bit. Open G is the big attraction for me being a Keith Richards fan and is the altered tuning I use most often. The ability to throw in an G song into your set whenever you like and then revert back to standard is pretty damned cool. DADGAD or Dsus4 tuning, is a modal tuning that is very popular in Celtic music. Unfortunately I’m not much into this folk tuning but I sometimes have a crack at Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. Baritone – baritone tuning is tuned lower than the guitar, but with the same relative tuning. There are variations on the theme and in this case it is based on the quart bass; the same as standard but lowered a fourth (BEADF#B). I fool around with this tuning a bit just to see what songs sound like relative to my voice. Sometimes I come up with little surprises. I also capo this tuning on the fourth fret to give me Hendrix’s Eb tuning, handy if your playing along with the records and Eb quite often suits my voice. 12 String – the option of six and twelve strings is really handy to have on board and colours your repertoire nicely all on one guitar. I have read criticisms of the sound of the two acoustic models but for my money they sound authentic and are a major plus in this guitars arsenal.

*Note; The Tuning functions don’t work if Mode is in Normal. Tuning functions are also relative, that is if you tune down to E flat, all of these tunings will transpose down a half step.

Many criticisms were cited for the guitar’s demise including price. In my opinion this was a fair cop but some of the other criticisms were somewhat unfair.

The choice of tunings has long been a bone of contention within VG forums and it must be said that there is merit to this argument. I don’t know why these tunings were chosen but a user defined system would be the ultimate guitar. Imagine being able to program your guitar to any tuning that you could think of and then switch between say half a dozen options at the flick of a switch. At the very least the inclusion of open E would have been a bonus.

The use of batteries to power the modelling system was often sprouted as an issue but having a second wire attached to the guitar cable seems to me, to be more problematic. In the owners manual the use of nickel–metal hydride batteries (Ni-MH) is recommended and is indeed the key to powering up the system for acceptable periods of time (my experience is 1 hour for normal batteries and 4 hours for rechargeable NiMh). I personally like GP ReCyko+ batteries because they were easy to identify the + ends and they worked well but interestingly my local supplier discontinued them because they said that people were having problems with them and they were replaced with the ‘eneloop’ brand. I’m looking for a new supplier. One issue I do have with the battery system is the fact that when they do run out the sound deteriorates rapidly and sounds fairly ugly at high volume levels. A second battery pack would therefore be an advantage.

Rise of the Phoenix : Roland G-5

The VG seems to have arisen from the ashes in the form of the G-5. Where as the original VG was MIA the G5 seems to be somewhat mongrel in that various parts are from different countries which has addressed the pricing issue from the previous version. The other change seems to be that the five way pickup switch has been pimped to enable some variations on sound colouring. In the acoustic mode the 5 way switch enables steel, nylon, resonator, electric sitar and jazz modeling from the original VG. The 5 way switch also allows both a wide range variation at the bridge and neck position for the Strat, Tele and Humbicking models. I can’t find anything majorly different from the original that would require me to upgrade to the new version but if I didn’t already own the original I would seriously consider checking it out.

At the time that I bought my VG the alternative to such a guitar was the Gibson Robot. I seriously considered the Robot but it was more expensive and since the principle was based on mechanics I thought there was too many components that could break down especially considering the poor quality of the finish. Now the VG has been resurrected the competition includes Line 6’s James Tyler Variax and that is a serious contender which addresses many of the concerns of VG critics. The Variax however isn’t a Fender and for my money that is still worth something.

Guitar Pro 6 Review

Posted in Art, Gadgets, Home Studio, Music, Songwriting with tags , , on 03/16/2012 by Baghead Kelly

Guitar Pro has been around for quite a while but if you’re a guitarist and you don’t use it I’d have to ask; why not? It is the single most effective guitar learning tool that I’ve come across. Guitar Pro helps to compose, and transcribe music too although it also uses traditional notation. The files are quite small so they don’t take up much room on your computer and in general there’s not too many negatives to speak of.

Arobas Music who developed the program was founded in 1997 and are located in the North of France. The program is currently selling for $60 with an optional $30 upgrade. (I paid about $40 a couple of years ago). Personally I would easily shell out even that hurtful amount and I’m a well-known tight wad. (I paid $30 per half an hour to a piano tutor once and I only lasted 4 weeks because of the pain on my wallet).

There are literally tens of thousands of tunes on the internet available for free. They vary in quality as most have been written by enthusiasts, however the standard is generally very high. If you already have the program and you’re looking for another 21,925 more songs then drop us a line and I’ll send you the rar file.

The Pros

  • It’s relatively easy to learn as there is plenty of literature and Youtube videos on the subject.
  • You can hear what you write/compose.
  • You can learn at your own pace. It’s always there when you feel like picking up the baton.
  • The songs are free.
  • You can print your music for hard copies and the standard is very good. I prefer it to ‘Finale’. (last time I bought a sheet music book I paid $50 although we get ripped off here in Australia)
  • Its become so popular that it is fast becoming the standard.
  • It’s a great way to converse with other musicians.
  • You can export your arrangements as MIDI and import them into other programs i.e. Cubase.

The Cons

  • It costs $60 bucks
  • It’s RSE (Realistic Sound Engine) sounds like those early Casio keyboards.

If you’re a music enthusiast then do yourself a favour and check out Guitar Pro.

Boss RC20 Review

Posted in Gadgets, Lifestyle, Music with tags , , , , on 03/09/2012 by Baghead Kelly


I’m not big on effects pedals really, I’ve got a few floating around but generally the little amps that I use have a gain and reverb control and that’s enough for what I need. However I do have one that I love (apart from my Jimi Hendrix wah). The Boss RC20 loop station. This model is the middle one of the series, there is a smaller stomp box (RC2) and a larger version (RC50).


It was quite expensive and I am very grateful that my wife’s parents bought me one (does that mean I’m sponsored) otherwise, I personally wouldn’t have purchased it because of the price. This particular model has 16 minutes of total record time. For me that’s plenty. The RC2 also has 16 min. and the RC50 has 49 min. There are 11 slots to place your loops and you can overdub on top of your tracks. If your like me and you aspire to play “Tomorrow Never Knows”,  “Are You Experienced” or “Castles Made Of Sand” there is also a reverse mode to play backward phrases.


A negative for me is the fact that you have to kneel down to operate the thing (a lot). The foot pedals are only your on/off/overdub switches. So for example if you blow that perfect take your going to have to kneel down and reset it. The RC50 model rectifies this issue but at a cost. Another weird thing that I don’t like is that if I record something in a particular tone or effect then the overdub also has that effect. So essentially there is less colour between the takes. I might be doing something wrong but it definitely is a negative if I’m not.


The reason that I love this pedal though is that it gives my music making that third dimension. This adds more interest for me and makes my music more bearable for my long suffering family. It is invaluable for song writing because I can record a basic rhythm and then doodle around over the top of it until something gels for the next part. I can record that and then repeat the process to find the next part etc. The other thing I do with it is I record professional backing tracks onto it directly for practice. I’ve usually got one or two on there at any one time which leaves me with nine other tracks to play around with. The only limitation is the 16 minutes record time. I should also point out that it’s a sturdy little unit and if I was going to score it I would give it 4 ½ out of 5 rubber chickens.


You can Youtube plenty of examples of people who are expert at these things but a couple that I like are French performer Anäis and JP from the band Outlier.