Category Archives: Devices

Upgrading the Kilpatrick Carbon Firmware

I recently purchased a Kilpatrick Audio Carbon made by Kilpatrick Audio. The Carbon is a multi-track, multi-step sequencer that controls instruments using MIDI and CV. So far, it’s been fantastic and it’s allowed me to start doing loop-based music live.

I’ve been communicating with the author, Andrew Kilpatrick, about some bugs about the device, and he recently released a new firmware update. He doesn’t have a Mac so he’s not able to test the Carbon’s firmware updating process.

For all of you visiting who have a Carbon that needs updating, here’s the instructions for Mac (they’ll also work on Linux).

Updating the Carbon using dfu-util

The Carbon uses DFU for its firmware updates. There are many DFU utilities out there, but an open-source one that works is called dfu-util, which runs on Mac and Linux. (If you’re using Windows instead, instructions exist on the Kilpatrick Audio firmware site).

Get the DFU program

1. (on macOS) Install home-brew (http://brew.sh). You’ll need Xcode for this (with the command-line tools).
2. (on macOS) Install dfu-util. “brew install dfu-util”

On Linux, the instructions will be different, but will probably involve using your system’s package manager in a similar way.

Get the firmware from Kilpatrick Audio

Download and unzip the firmware from the Kilpatrick Audio firmware updates web site. The latest firmware as of writing is v1.06.

Do the update

Restart Carbon in firmware update mode. To do this:

  1. Connect your Carbon to your computer using USB.
  2. Unplug the power connector.
  3. Hold down the power button.
  4. Plug in the power connector.

The LEDs will be a solid color and the screen will be blank. Sometimes, the LEDs will be different colors. That’s normal.

Open Terminal (macOS) or another command-line window.

In the prompt, type the following to check that the program can see your carbon:

dfu-util —list

Your output will resemble the following:

dfu-util 0.9

Copyright 2005-2009 Weston Schmidt, Harald Welte and OpenMoko Inc.
Copyright 2010-2016 Tormod Volden and Stefan Schmidt
This program is Free Software and has ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
Please report bugs to http://sourceforge.net/p/dfu-util/tickets/

Deducing device DFU version from functional descriptor length
Found Runtime: [05ac:828d] ver=0118, devnum=8, cfg=1, intf=3, path="20-6.3", alt=0, name="UNKNOWN", serial="UNKNOWN"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=3, name="@Device Feature/0xFFFF0000/01*004 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=2, name="@OTP Memory /0x1FFF7800/01*512 e,01*016 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=1, name="@Option Bytes  /0x1FFFC000/01*016 e", serial="376837513335"
Found DFU: [0483:df11] ver=2200, devnum=27, cfg=1, intf=0, path="20-4.1.2", alt=0, name="@Internal Flash  /0x08000000/04*016Kg,01*064Kg,07*128Kg", serial=“376837513335"

The Carbon’s device ID is 0483:df11. In this particular case, you want to write to the “alt bank 0”, which is the Carbon’s internal flash.

Install the firmware with the following command:

dfu-util -a 0 -D K66-carbon-1.06-firmware.dfu

You will see output that looks like the following:

dfu-util 0.9

Copyright 2005-2009 Weston Schmidt, Harald Welte and OpenMoko Inc.
Copyright 2010-2016 Tormod Volden and Stefan Schmidt
This program is Free Software and has ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
Please report bugs to http://sourceforge.net/p/dfu-util/tickets/

Match vendor ID from file: 0483
Match product ID from file: df11
Deducing device DFU version from functional descriptor length
Opening DFU capable USB device...
ID 0483:df11
Run-time device DFU version 011a
Claiming USB DFU Interface...
Setting Alternate Setting #0 ...
Determining device status: state = dfuIDLE, status = 0
dfuIDLE, continuing
DFU mode device DFU version 011a
Device returned transfer size 2048
DfuSe interface name: "Internal Flash  "
file contains 1 DFU images
parsing DFU image 1
image for alternate setting 0, (1 elements, total size = 272176)
parsing element 1, address = 0x08000000, size = 272168
Download [=========================] 100%       272168 bytes
Download done.
done parsing DfuSe file

This will take a minute or two to do the transfer.

When it’s done, remove the power from the Carbon, and plug it back in again. Start the power normally. Press SYS (SHIFT-MIDI) to check the firmware version.

If you’re updating from v1.02, the first few things that you’ll notice is a new font (I’m not 100% sold on it honestly) and that the Carbon now takes MIDI input from any channel instead of channel 1. There are also a number of bug fixes.

The Carbon also has a Github page, so if you have bugs to report or suggestions to send about the device, that’s the place to do it.

Enjoy your noodling!

The Function (Fn) key is on the full-size Apple Keyboard

Are you one of those Mac users who generally turns on the F1, F2, keys as standard function keys option in System Preferences? If you do that, then if you want to use your keyboard to control the volume or the screen brightness, you need to find the Function (or Fn) key. (Alternatively, if you don’t turn it on then you need the Fn key to simulate F1, F2, and so forth keypresses).

Do you check off the box in System Preferences > Keyboard that makes the F keys behave as standard function keys?

Do you check off the box in System Preferences > Keyboard that makes the F keys behave as standard function keys? I usually do. I think I only ever use the Volume Control function on the keyboard anyway.

On the laptop and the wireless keyboards, Apple usually puts the Fn key on the lower-left hand corner, next to the “Control” key. But it’s not there on the full-sized Apple Keyboard with the numeric keypad!

Or is it?

The Fn Key on an Apple Keyboard is next to the home and above the delete key in the area above the arrow keys.

Ha, it’s in the middle of the keyboard between the letters and the numeric keypad, right below the F13 key and above the Delete key!

Failing at Networking: Configuring an Apple AirPort Express

I travel somewhat frequently and often encounter hotels that provide a cable and no wireless connection. This was a bit of a nuisance when sharing rooms with people, or if I’m interested in trying to check something on my iPad. Internet sharing on the Mac has never seemed to work quite the way I wanted it to. Lately, this problem has been compounded because I have a Macbook Air, but no Ethernet adapter.

Because I’m traveling again this weekend, I decided that I would purchase an Apple AirPort Express. This would be a great way to solve my above problems. First, it’s small enough to carry around with me on a trip. Second, it allows you to share an Internet connection over wireless, which effectively means that I can connect the Ethernet to it and then share the connection to my MacBook Air. An added bonus is that it also had a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack/mini-TOSLink jack that would enable me to plug a set of powered speakers into. Since I just moved, my computer is no longer able to connect to the speakers in the living room since it’s too far away. So really, it seemed like a win all around.

Yet, for some reason, networking equipment and I simply do NOT get along. Back in Waterloo, I was rumoured to have inherited a “curse” about hardware from a fellow graduate student (hello, Ben!) – the curse was that hardware would randomly fail inexplicably in your hands and that you’d spend many hours trying all kinds of configurations to no avail. Thus far, I’ve had a lot of random failures, like my 4-year old PowerMac G5 that one day suddenly failed to power on, a brand new external hard drive, bad RAM in an old computer, mice (lots of mice) and assorted networking equipment. Lots of networking stuff, from cards to wireless routers and stuff. Even now, my 802.11n wireless network seems to not really work well – it has a weak signal and any device seems to have a random chance of not connecting to it.

I’ve wasted a bunch of time today trying to configure the Airport Express. Let me write a post explaining how to not waste time configuring an AirPort Express.

Installing the Correct AirPort Utility

The first kicker is that the most recent version of the AirPort Utility does not have the same functionality as a former version, so if you know a little bit about networking, installing the new version is a bit of a waste – you can’t do things like manage different profiles, which are useful if you want to have a profile for “Playing Music At Home” and “Internet Sharing On The Road”.

However, you still have to install the latest version (6.0 at the time of writing) to get the proper firmware, THEN install the old version (5.6) to get access to the advanced features. Yes, it’s dumb. Apple unfortunately stripped out a lot of features, like profile management, from 6.0.

AirPort Utility 6.0 (for Lion)
AirPort Utility 5.6 (for Lion)

Thus, be sure to install 6.0, update the firmware, then install 5.6.

On Mac OS X, Ethernet takes Priority For Internet Operations

This one’s entirely my fault. When I was testing the AirPort Express by plugging the Ethernet from my cable modem into it, then connecting wirelessly from my desktop, I wasn’t able to get Internet. The problem is that I didn’t ever disconnect the Ethernet cable from my computer. By default, Mac OS X and Firefox tries to get Internet from the Ethernet port and if it can’t get it from there it fails, instead of trying on the wireless network. So if you’re testing this kind of thing, unplug the Ethernet cable from the computer.

Press the Button With a Paperclip to Reset the AirPort Express

Much too often, I got an error when “reading configuration from AirPort Express”. It’s also easy to set it up such that you can’t configure it (like if you try to make it join a wireless network but don’t properly get a DHCP from the Ethernet plug). If you get into a problem like that, stick a paperclip into the bottom of the device and hold it there for about 10 seconds. Unplug it, wait a moment, plug it back in and it should be back to factory defaults.

Once you do that, keep in mind that you need to either be able to plug it into a wired network and get it an IP address, or that you need to remember what wireless network it creates in order to configure it.

AirPlay from iTunes Needs IPV6 Host Mode On

Once I managed to set up a a profile for Internet Sharing that worked fine (using the AirPort Utility 5.6), I wanted to try out AirPlay. I tried using iTunes on my laptop and my desktop, but both gave me an “unknown error (-15006)”. For a company that prides itself on the user experience, it’s a shame that these errors are not actually written in a way such that the user can easily troubleshoot them.

Under the advanced tab -> IPv6, IPv6 Mode should be set to Host.

AirPort Utility IPv6 Setting

It turns out that iTunes on Mac OS X now finds its AirPlay clients through IPv6, but that the AirPort Express doesn’t use IPv6 by default. The solution is to go to the AirPort Utility, go to Advanced, IPv6 and set IPv6 Mode to “Host”. Do this, restart iTunes, and it should work just fine from all of your Apple devices.

Conclusion

I don’t usually fiddle around with products and computer devices anymore, though I used to do this a lot about seven to ten years ago. So it’s fun, yet frustrating, to get a new hardware device to play with. Unfortunately, I have to be kind of in the mood to play around to enjoy it, and usually I don’t like playing with Apple devices, which are supposed to “just work”. Or, maybe I’m just terrible with networking.

The iPad: Now Available in Canada

So unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard about the iPad. It was released in Canada today.

I’ve had an iPad for about three weeks now; I had my parents purchase one for me when they went to the United States. I’ve had an opportunity to set it up with my American credit card as well, so, unlike some early adopters in Canada, I’ve also been able to make a few purchases for the iPad that many Canadians who have an iPad otherwise would not have.

Overall, what do I think about it?

I think it’s a pretty interesting device. I use it almost every day in much the same way that most people might use a computer for consuming information. It has in fact changed the way I do some things in my daily life because of its portability and speed.

The iPad is a very sleek device. Most people who see it are rather impressed at how thin it is and how good it looks. The screen is gorgeous and much larger than most people initially think. It’s quite bright and the colours are vivid. Unfortunately it’s also slightly heavier than most people anticipate. Thus, if you’re using it to read, you will probably want to use two hands to hold it. It’s too heavy to hold for extended periods of time in one hand.

What do I use my iPad for? Well, I primarily use it to surf the web and check my mail. I have a 16 GB Wifi iPad, so it often follows me around the house for web surfing and for email. The surfing experience on an iPad is dramatically different from surfing on a PC. The touch interface really does give you a sense of intimacy, and the double-tap on the text to zoom in on a column, or pinch-zooming on items of interest gives you a large amount of flexibility in making things readable. The device is relatively fast, too – scrolling and zooming is snappy and feels good.

A lot of people envision the iPad as something on which they can take notes on, or write on. Unfortunately, it’s really not good as a virtual piece of paper. You can’t use a stylus with a real point on it (the ones you can buy are more like broad-tipped felt markers), so the precision that you get from writing is gone. The screen itself is relatively pinpoint, but you can’t really draw on it as you might with a Wacom Tablet or a Tablet PC. I don’t think that particularly matters for me personally; if you’re sketching out quick ideas, a finger is often enough to get your main ideas across. I personally use an free app called “Draw” for idea sketching.

Writing is also one of those things that the iPad does okay at, but not necessarily well. The keyboard in landscape mode is surprisingly good, it is almost the size of a normal keyboard. However, two things limit it. First, it’s a virtual keyboard, so it has no tactile feel. You can’t tell if you’re hitting the spacebar or the 123 key on it, so as a consequence your typing slows down. Second, there are many keys that are missing (such as a row of numbers and certain punctuation). While Apple’s provided a number of shortcuts and tricks to make you type faster on the iPad (a good one is that holding down the ‘comma’ button gives you the apostrophe) they don’t make you type faster than you would on a normal keyboard. As Daniel German says, “You probably won’t be writing your thesis on the iPad”. However, in contrast, you probably won’t be using a stylus to write it out, either.

If the iPad virtual keyboard bothers you, you can buy either a Bluetooth keyboard and synchronize it to the iPad, or you can buy the iPad keyboard dock. I question the value of these solutions personally; if you’re going to connect the iPad to a keyboard then you may as well buy a netbook. They’re nice options to have, but I don’t see data entry as being one of the iPad’s strengths.

What are the strengths of this device? I use it not only for web browsing and email, but it is an excellent reader. As a researcher, I found that e-ink was not good for reading PDF files, especially the two-column files that most computer science conference proceedings appear as. I tried using an iPod Touch for reading them, but that was a chore as well, the text was much too small and the device was too difficult to scroll with to make it an effective reader.

This changes with the iPad. The scrolling is excellent and the screen is large enough to allow you to resize the PDF file to whatever size is comfortable. You can easily pan around and go back and forth through the pages. I haven’t personally experienced issues with eye strain from the LCD screen, but your mileage may vary, of course. I find one advantage of an iPad is that because it’s backlit (and bright), you can easily use it as a nighttime reader. Unfortunately it is a bit difficult to read in bright sunlight. The iPad also makes it easy to annotate. While many people I know like annotating with a pencil, I’ve found it relatively unnecessary since you can use your finger and the built-in keyboard for highlighting, circling, and commenting. If you’re looking for a PDF app for your iPad, I recommend the free app Cloudreaders, which costs nothing, allows multiple ways to transfer PDFs to your device, and works wonderfully for reading. If you want to annotate your papers, and have some money to spend, then you may want to spend the money for Aji iAnnotate.

The iPad  is a wonderful entertainment device. I’ve loaded a number of music applications on it, including the Korg iElectric app, which is a virtual drum machine that allows you to export to wave files. Beatwave presents a wonderful fun way to make music, and Soundrop is an extremely simple, but wonderfully compelling application. The iPad also plays music, though I personally have not tried any streaming services. The iPad also works for movies, but I find that movies are only good if you’re on the go; if you’re at home then watching the movies on your large TV or monitor is a better experience. I hear that the iPad is a great gaming device as well but I personally have not purchased any iPad specific games.

If you’re a power user (and most of you guys reading this probably are) then you may want to consider jailbreaking your device. Spirit is available for both Mac and Windows. I recommend it because the jailbreak allows you to use the iPad for so much more than it’s been designed to do. Suddenly, you can use it as an extra drive on which to store data, or run applications in the background. You can also load your own applications on it if you’re a programmer, so you don’t have to pay Apple the $99/year if you just want to learn how to write a “Hello World” program for your iPad.

Of course, the iPad has a number of well-advertised limitations. The first is that there’s no expansion ports on it. I don’t personally see this as a problem, there’s been almost no moments when I’ve wanted to load some kind of external data onto my iPad from someone’s USB stick. The isolated iPad ecosystem makes it such that you can’t arbitrarily load movies or music on it, and you can easily get text files or other files through email on the iPad instead of through USB. I’ve heard mention of the iPad not having external memory expansion. It’s too bad that it doesn’t allow any kind of flash cards, but at the same time I haven’t really missed it either.

My primary complaint about the iPad really is the closed ecosystem, and as a consequence my worries about the device are much more ideological than functional. The $99/year developer fee is ridiculous and the restrictions that Apple puts on what apps are allowed is arbitrary; many good apps are not posted because they don’t meet some kind of invisible criteria. The device is so beautiful that if the API was expanded a bit more, there would be so much you could do with it.

Anyway, in conclusion I think that the iPad works quite well despite its limitations. I treat it primarily as a toy, but it also has a lot of work-oriented applications. I think it’s great to present data on, including diagrams and photos, and for reading information. It’s great for quick note-taking, brief idea sketching, and for playing on. If you like the idea of carrying a device that’s lightning fast and allows you to do any of the above things without any of the hassle associated with computers (handling windows, closing and opening applications, managing your applications, even waiting for applications to launch) then the iPad will meet your needs.