: Update things since it's very outdated
The goal of this article is to provide new or potential users with a starting point. It is written to be brief and aims to cover the most frequently asked questions from the forum.
uCApps.de is a website dedicated to using microcontrollers to control MIDI (interfaces and devices) and some audio applications (mainly Synths). Throughout the site, you´ll find different devices for certain applications. As I assume you´re a Newbie ( ;D ) I can tell you that the MIOS software (I´ll talk about that later) is totally modular and so you can bring up nearly ANY application you want as long as the used PIC-Microcontroller can bring up the power. BUT that´s NOT AT ALL easy!!! At first you really should stick to the already finished applications and good starters, which are listed below together with their “hardness to build” * = easy, * * * = heavy (e.g. SMD desoldering & soldering) so you know what you can do with all that stuff later on. But at first I want to give an overview of the basic things all MIOS applications have in common:
Check http://ucapps.de for up to date projects, information and module requirements
|Project||Core||LCD||AINx4||DINx4||DOUTx4||Bankstick4||MF||SID||AOUT/AOUT LC/AOUT NG||OPL3||NOTES|
|MidiBox 64E||1x||1x||2x 1||4x 3||4x 3||8x||1x 1||-||-||-||Either the MF or the AINx4s can be used, but not both|
|MidiBox 128||1x||1x||-||4x 3||4x 3||8x||-||-||-||-||-|
|MidiBox SID (Step C)||1x 2||1x||-||3x||2x||8x||-||1x 2||-||-||AOUT is optional, for controlling external filters etc|
|MidiBox SID (Step B)||1x 2||1x||-||1x||1x||8x||-||1x 2||-||-||DINx4 and DOUTx4 not full, you can make a smaller veroboard version. (kit not available)|
|MidiBox SID (Step A)||1x 2||1x||-||1x||-||8x||-||1x 2||-||-||DINx4 not full, you can make a DINx1. (kit not available)|
|MidiBox SID (Minimal)||1x||-||-||-||-||8x||-||1x||-||-||-|
|MidiBox LC||1x||2x||-||4x 3||4x 3||-||1x||-||-||-||Option of Graphic LCD or up to 2 40×2 Character LCD|
Footnotes for the above table:
1 MidiBox 64E gives you the choice of 8 Motor Faders, or up to 64 Standard Faders/Knobs. This is either/or, as they use the same port on the CORE board.
2 MidiBox SID Step B and Step C can control multiple cores and SID engines. Each MidiBox SID engine can run a stereo pair of SID chips. Each SID chip needs its own SID board. Technically, it is possible to run multiple cores and pairs of SID chips with a Minimal setup (ie, no buttons or encoders or LCD), but this would be very difficult to control ( ;D )
3 MidiBox 64E and 128 are compatible with UP TO 4 DINx4 and 4 DOUTx4 boards. You can use fewer than 4, but not more than 4. DIN and DOUT columns for MidiBox LC are for Master unit. Any Channel expansion units will not need so many DINx4s / DOUTx4s.
4 Banksticks are not actually required for any project to function. the Bankstick allows you to store and retrieve presets. (A really good thing!) - Also, the bankstick is not available in kit form, as each “bankstick” is in fact a single serial memory chip.
Now a brief introduction to the list of already-totally-built apps: I´ll only tell the MAX of things which can be connected, you can nearly always go down or leave something out like you want (e.g. it does not matter at all if you use 64 faders + 64 LED´s + 64 buttons or just one potentiometer - the application is nearly the same, just minor changes are needed). I´ll use common MBHP abbreviations, which are also used in the forum:
max 64 pots, 64 LEDs and 64 buttons
This is a powerful tool, but simple enough for beginners. Connect up to 64 pots and configure them to send a variety of MIDI messages! You can control most software and hardware synths with this little thing. ⇒Midibox64
max 64 Encoders, 64 pots *OR* 8 motorfaders, 64 LEDs and 64 buttons
Even a little more modular than the Midibox64. The encoders make it possible to send messages without knowing the original value of the parameter you want to change. That means it´s possible to change it without “jumping” or workarounds like used in MB64 (snap function or similar). But please be aware that this baby is mainly used with Encoders! The pots CAN be used, but the implementation and the flexibility of the messages sent by them is much more comfortable within the Midibox64. ⇒Midibox 64E
max 128 switch inputs and 128 on/off outputs
This is the choice for people doing projects where everything is on/off, like organ projects. The project was originally done to control a band organ. It is used by people who want to “midify” an organ console, a thing that has a lot of switches–the organ keys, stops, pistons, etc.–that need to be made to generate MIDI output. For this you need a Core, plus one DIN board for every 32 inputs. To control the output of something like organ pipes where you need a lot of on/off signals that are switched by MIDI input, you use a Core plus one DOUT board for every 32 outputs. You can use both DIN and DOUT boards to a maximum of 128 inputs and 128 outputs, a total of 9 standard boards. Beyond that, you can link multiple Cores together, which is often needed for midifying an organ console which can easily have more than 128 input switches. ⇒MIDIO 128
Defined number of Encoders and buttons (changeable in some ways)
This very cool analog-style sequencer is perfect for programming 4/4 tact patterns and controlling stuff like TB303 clones and drum machines. Patterns can be arranged into songs, and much more stuff is possible (e.g. you can also use it as a “normal” MIDI control device). But do not think that you could arrange complete songs with this! It´s mainly for peaking out 4/4 tact patterns and bending them in some cool sounding ways!
Defined number of Encs and buttons (changeable in some ways)
This was a hard decision, giving * * or * * *… There are many forum threads about the MBSID where BIG problems came up. The problem is that you have to know what you´re doing. If you have never built electronic stuff, it's NOT recommended to start with this! You will have to know about grounding, different voltages, measure where to bring the problems to a point. In 98% of all cases the forum can help, but anyhow it´s a HARD starter´s project. The good point here is also again the modularity: You can start with a pretty easy one-channel SID synthi without to much stuff and end up within a 4 channel SID sound desaster with complete control surface!! And you know what? IT ROCKS!! ⇒Midibox SID
This synth uses the famous YMF262 (also known as OPL3) for synthesizing FM sounds. It goes beyond typical FM synths by offering wavetables and control of (optional) analog filters. Screaming FM sounds, plus a bunch of sounds you've probably never heard, are within the reach of this powerful instrument. Unfortunately it is not a beginners project, as you´ll have to find one of several classic PC sound cards, then desolder and resolder a YMF262 chip which only comes in a SMD (surface mount) package. Since it's pretty easy to ruin the chip (and the motivation), many experienced builders don't want to dare do this. Just listen to the demo sounds anyhow! Sweeet stuff! ⇒Midibox FM
This is a complete Logic Control clone (!!!) … (!!!!!!!). Did I yet say: !!! In the meantime you´re able to emulate Logic Control, Mackie Control and the Steinberg Houston Controller. But I won´t go any further into the details as this is TOTALLY NOT a beginners project. If you know UCapps.de well (and you will after your first project) you´ll be able to build it and then you can also inform yourself. ;D ⇒Midibox LC ⇒midiboxlc
Beside all those monsters of MIDI there are also some very small projects which can be built and are all pretty easy:
These projects are discontinued and if you have problems with them (and you´re very likely) nearly only TK will be able to help you out. ALL apps have their (better) subsidues in the newer applications, so if possible, please don´t use them anymore.
So far for that one, let´s go to the next step
The most common question in the forum, I think. And a pretty easy answer, too: See the application docu. ;D Anyhow: Like already said (three times?) MB´s are very modular so there are some things you always need and some things you´ll eventually need. See this little “MB Hardware Platform” on the left of ucapps.de? Start there! You´ll (nearly) always need:
And now for the different applications: There is always an exact number of things which can maximally (fewer are always possible!) be connected to a certain hardware piece. This WILL not differ! So if you want e.g. more pots, get more AINs. This list should clear up a little bit:
This will be more about ALL the stuff coming up after your first encounters with ucapps.de. I will not go into details, I´ll just give an overview. For every section here there are very detailed Howto´s, FAQ´s and Troubleshooting guides. I´ll just summarize here everything
Depending what you are building, a normal wall adapter (let´s say 9 Volts and 500 mA max) will probably suffice, but there are some great pointers here:
Now for the programming routine in the order like you´ll have to do it:
So much for programming! So far your project should RUN NOW! CONGRATZ! ;D ;D ;D … … if not:
This really really really really really really really really really happened to EVERY ONE here at least once! The good point is that we have a pretty big support section in the meantime. If you don´t know any further I suggest following stuff:
A little ending words here. I hope I could help a little with the experience I have gained in my last 4 years of ucappsing around. I can tell you that it´s worth the steep learning curve at the beginning, the applications ALL still search for similar solutions in commercial stuff! And the stuff you learn here can be adapted to many other electrical problems, too. So, really, just DO go ahead!
Just a few words more: DIY does not mean “SAVE MUCH MONEY”! It means “Do it yourself”. So do not think you will save a lot of money, as the time-intensive DIY process eats up all money you are saving here for sure. If you do it, do it for yourself as a perfect adaption to your needs and for all those guys telling you “YOU (!) did that?!?”. Do NOT look on the money to much as cheap and cranky stuff, like plastic faders, can bring down the fun with your device dramatically. On the other hands, high-quality stuff can bring in the great “wanna touch” feeling!
I really want to say BIG BIG *THANKS* again to all the great guys here (not that I already did hundred times). This means in the first place TK and again TK TK TK. THNX for this great community, work, apps and more! Moreover I wanna thank all those guys around here helping me and/or ucapps.de out of different situations, especially SmashTV, TwinX, NorthernLightX, moebius, d2k, pilo, StevenC, ScreamingRabbit, strydone, Jidis, illogik, Captain Hastings, raphael, JimHenry and ALL those guys I just forgot in this long list. Just PM me and tell me, or edit the article by yourself. ;D ;D ;D
For the ending: This article should be living. So please if you find any errors/updates please feel free to edit! In other cases just contact me.
So, like always: