Archive for the ‘Open Source Electronic Music Software’ Category

New Drawing Machine

Hello all
It’s been ages since I posted anything. This is mostly because I was not able to get much time in the shop over the last few months.  I’ll try to keep up with the blog a bit better.

I built this stepper motor driven drawing machine based on an idea from a toy from the 1920’s. The Toy is called the “HOOT-NANNY”   Yes, really, that’s it’s name.

I scaled it up to create complex guilloché patterns on paper.

Guilloché is the word used to describe intricate repetitive patterns often used in security printing and fine metal working. The machine uses three micro-step motors that are controlled by a program written in PureData. Careful control of the motor speed ratios and positioning of the pen arms results in complex patterns. Some of the best patterns are the result of setting the speeds very near but not quite on specific harmonic relationships. The pen traces a Lissajous curve and the paper rotates beneath the pen, thus tracing out the complex pattern.
The patterns take from 10 minutes to and hour to create.

Puredata is not really intended for motion control but I found it really easy to manipulate the ascii to create the strings for the motors.  If I tried to do this in C or Python It would taken much longer to program.  In puredata sliders and buttons are a snap.  Opening two serial ports turned out to be easy as well.

Special thanks to Olympus controls in Austin.


I use Ubuntu, and you could tu!


I use a version of the free and open operating system called Ubuntu Linux.

I used it for a few years on a number of laptop and desktop computers with great results.

Although it may not the operating system be for your grandma, it might be great for your nephew. On the other hand if your grandma only uses email and a browser then It might fit the bill.  If you have a computer around that’s orphaned and still working, you can load Ubuntu on it and give it a spin.

If you have a fast internet connection you can download what is called an ISO file from here.  You then use your favorite cd burner program to create a cd.  The command in your cd burner will be something like “burn cd image” or “burn ISOimage”.

The cd you end up with is a “live” cd. This means that you can boot up the machine with the CD and test drive Ubuntu before you commit to installing it. Note that your disk will be wiped clean when you install Ubuntu so make sure you copy anything important off the machine before you install.

You can “Dual Boot” fairly easily if you partition the disk properly or add a separate disk drive for Ubuntu.

There are tons of websites with helpful how-to’s on every aspect of Ubuntu and getting all your peripherals working. I have had some trouble with WiFi in the past, but more recently support is fairly good for Wifi.

I now use a Dell Inspiron 1420 for my main laptop. After installing, I got wifi, bluetooth and the nvidia graphics working without much trouble. Auto updates occur fairly regularly and I have never had a problem after an update.

I use a variation of Ubuntu Called Ubuntu Studio that has a great selection of GPL music, sound and video applications that are configured to work well together. Click on the blue icon below to go to the Ubuntu Studio website.


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Pure Data- A Graphical Programming Language

Pure Data is a free graphical programming language that has shared origins with MAX/MSP (a commercial program.)

It is powerful tool for audio processiing, midi decoding and generation and open GL graphics.

You’ll want to install Pd extended.

Here are a few links:

main Pd website


Online book by Miller Puckette: Theory and Technique of Electronic Music

Example screenshot  of code to read midi input from a Korg NanoControl.


I’ll write a post soon about my initial experiments with the Korg Nano controllers.