Author Archives: jjdeprisco

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Adafruit FX Sound Board 16 MB

January 2018

This is a continuation of an earlier exploration of Adafruit’s FX Sound Board. Previously, I worked with the 2MB version, but soon found I needed more storage for the intended application.

The 16 MB version is basically identical in functionality – just more storage. The attraction of this board is that it is extremely easy to use, and it can do 44.1 Khz 16 bit audio in WAV or OGG. The ease of use comes from a file name-based trigger system whereby you can set sounds for one-shot, random, temporary play, and loop on any one of 11 pins.

Sound Board with a hodge-podge of switching options

Though this board goes together quickly on a breadboard, the time consuming part is calculating how much space you are going to use with your files. I typically work in 44.1 Khz 24 bit (stereo) WAV which is just too big for this platform. So right away there is a compromise to get down to 16 bit. Then, depending on the file, you may need to reduce from stereo to mono.

Using the Sound Devices Audio Time Calculator, I was able to get some pretty good estimates on just how much I would have to reduce my files before putting the files in the naming format required for the FX board.

The basic calculation to keep in mind is 1 min of stereo 44.1 Khz 16 bit audio (WAV) is going to be roughly 10 MB of data.



This calculator did not offer OGG, but it does MP3 which gets you close.

It helps to have a TXT file or notepad handy to work out the mapping of what files you want to do what, and their associated pin so you match them to the hardware correctly.

Files as they appear on the sound board’s flash memory

In this case I landed came up with 11 files that took up about 14.2 MB. I could only get close to the intended result by using OGG format (converted from WAV). I was able to keep some files stereo, but the “NEXT” files are mono. In a sense this doesn’t matter since the speaker I am using doesn’t have good separation, but for a larger system this would matter more.

One odd thing… for some reason the OGG files took forever to transfer from my Macbook to the FX board over a Sparkfun Cerberus cable, even though WAV files zipped right across. I’ve never experienced this before, and the cable has been performing great otherwise. I’m going to toss this out as some strange behavior of my USB hub, which was also in the chain.

The downside to the Adafruit FX Sound Board is that it can only play one sound at a time.

Ultimately, this board will not work for what I would like to do. The Teensy Audio Board is a much better option. Look for a write-up of that after my next Sparkfun order comes in!



Category : Arduino , Blog , Electronics

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Sparkfun ESP8266 Thing (WRL-13231)

January 2018

Next up in IoT exploration is the Sparkfun ESP8266 Thing – part WRL-13231. Note that this is not the Dev board – a separate device with different pinout and other changes.

Navigating Sparkfun’s hookup guide was fairly easy, especially since I had already installed the ESP8266 libraries as part of another project. The example they walk through on Sparkfun’s site shows you how to set up a basic, localized server. All of the other ESP8266 experiments I’ve done up to now were designed to make a device connect to an existing network, so this was a nice change.

Web server accessible from my Android.

Having experienced the easy connection of Particle Photon and the NodeMCU boards, using the FTDI Basic module to program the Sparkfun Thing was a bit odd. I had an FTDI module on hand from a previous project, but it had female headers soldered onto it. So I had to use a 6-pin male-to-male header to make the connection. This overly complicated connection may have contributed to some of the wonkiness with uploading my sketches, though uploading is also a known issue with this board that Sparkfun addresses in detail on their site.

The web server example went by pretty quickly, so I went over to and found a light sensor project to try. This too was pretty easy.

Yeah, not terribly exciting on the surface, but this is something that took way more hardware to pull off even a few years ago.


I like the fact that the Sparkfun Thing has a power switch onboard. The JST battery connector is a bit fragile, so I could see that having to be repaired or replaced with rough handling, especially if that was the only way to turn it on/off.

Still not crazy about the FTDI, but I can deal with it. Going to consider how I can pull this device into my ecosystem of other similar devices. Probably need to play with some other sketches. Also interested in trying the sister board. It seems there are more projects on for the Dev board than the one shown here.

Category : Arduino , Blog , Electronics

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NodeMCU Sensor

A lot has changed since my last connected sensor project in 2013, so I wanted to jump in again to see how the technology has come along. After playing with some Particle Photon stuff, I came across NodeMCU. has lots of  ideas for this board, so I sought to recreate what Achraf Oukheir did there.

Achraf’s project is good, but it left out a lot of details, which I will summarize below. It was only by referencing Adafruit and Instructables for similar projects that I was able to eliminate errors and get the code to work. The other consideration is – if you have stepped away from Arduino for a while – just do yourself a favor and update your IDE first!

Tips and links:

Tip #1 – Update to latest Arduino IDE (unless told otherwise)
Tip #2 – Do not copy code into Notepad and back into Arduino IDE – it may introduce non-compliant quotes or other characters.
Tip #3 – Replace your DHT library with the latest one. The one I had was from 2013/14 and it did not work with this project. I used Adafruit’s library: Adafruit_Sensor
Tip #4 – Get the Blynk library directly from their site. Otherwise you might see an error like the one above.
Tip #5 – Be sure you have the NodeMCU. See this Instructables article.  Select NodeMCU 1.0 ( ESP-12EModule).
Tip #6 – See also Adafruit’s tutorials on this sort of thing. Different WiFi chip, but helpful for wiring.

So what did I think of this device? Things have come a LONG WAY since 2013! The app connectivity with Blynk is great. Less hardware, smaller footprint. The NodeMCU was $7 from – and now the newer version with Bluetooth and more capability is out for only a few more dollars. Crazy! The next step will be to possibly use this platform to create a notification setup for our hot tub for both temp and water level. Still considering Photon for that, but NodeMCU might be a good option too.


Category : Arduino , Blog , Electronics

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Particle Photon Starter Projects

December 2017

Since my last embedded project experiments in 2013, a lot has changed. Costs have gone down, size has reduced and functionality is way up. After researching some of the more current platforms, I selected the Particle Photon for its size, prize and capability.

Photon Project #1

After successfully duplicating Clarissa San Diego’s project, which uses the Particle Internet Button, I expanded the program to do different things with the buttons.

Button 1 – Append date/time info to a text file in a Dropdox folder.
Button 2 – Sends an email.
Button 3 – Sends command to play music on my Android.
Button 4 – Update Adafruit Welcome data feed.

I also got multiple functions working per button. During this time I had to upgrade my cell phone (not for this project, it was just overdue). After the upgrade to a Droid Z Play, the IFTTT trigger to play music does not work completely. The new Droid forces you to use Google Play to play audio, so I’ve been unable to play a specific custom WAV file.

Google music player doesn’t seem to like my custom WAV file, and only plays music automatically if it is part of the Google Music service.

With time it should be possible to get around this. Other music players haven’t worked either. So, more to learn.

Photon Project #2

More exciting that the Internet Button is the Particle NeoPixel Ring, which is offered by Adafruit.

One of the starter projects is designed to make the ring light up (wirelessly) when the International Space Station goes over your house. That’s a neat idea, but given that the ISS doesn’t go over our house all that often, I wanted to have something a bit more dynamic and regularly occurring.

Using IFTTT, I set up the lights to display when:

  • a tweet is sent from my account.
  • an SMS message is sent to an IFTTT phone number.
  • time reaches the top of the hour.

As for the light display itself, I am still modifying the code from the original. I’d like to build in separate light show responses for different IFTTT events.

Tip: One of the upsides to upgrading my cell phone is that I have a bunch of Mini USB 5V chargers that can now be used for embedded projects (the Z Play uses a USB-C connector). Just have to be sure that whatever circuit I use them on has a regulator for 3.3V if needed.

Here is a short video (made with Adobe Spark) of some testing when I was troubleshooting a lighting routine loop that went nuts.

Category : Arduino , Blog , Electronics

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What I’m Doing Now

These are the things I am working on now, in no particular order.

Pepperhead Studios:

  • Writing a collection of new original synth-pop songs.
  • Sharing some new music inspired by local events.
  • Promoting the release of Fricknadorable’s new single “Tell-Tale Heart” and “Santa’s Gonna Shit in Your Stocking
  • Peter Mastroianni Collab
    • Material recorded in late 2016 and early 2017 has been reviewed and we have a playlist up on SoundCloud. We are reviewing additional material from those sessions in the hope that we have enough for a few more pieces. I am happy with the variety of the material, and so glad we decided to make this happen in our spare time. I’ve created some additional soundscapes as prompts for Peter to speak over (the reverse of the initial process).
  • Kurt Smith Collab
    • Bassist Kurt Smith (from local band Shades of Charon) and I have started cowriting some material informed by our interests in philosophy.
  • Playing bass in some projects…
    • Ed Zuber Project – original rock, punk songs with guitarist/songwriter Ed Zuber and drummer Urie Kline. After a couple years of fleshing out the songs live, I think we’re ready to do some real recording.
    • Bluesmobile – blues supergroup featuring Mike Hickey (guitar/voc), John Sweeney (harmonica/guitar/voc), Kurt Smith (bass), Urie Kline (drums). We’ve only had one gig, but I think we’ll play again sometime… great energy.
    • Negodniki jazz ensemble for the occasional show.
  • Fricknadorable is on hiatus from performing for the moment, but will be back in 2018. Enjoy these recent creations: “Tell-Tale Heart” and “Santa’s Gonna Shit in Your Stocking
  • NOT MULTITASKING! – read about the research!!


  • IT Project Manager for:
    • Learning MS Project for the long overdue transition to this industry standard. Previously used OnTime (ugh, negative usability) and Planview.
    • Prepare Now – PCORI – multi-year grant-funded study (Kidney Transitions) for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
    • Supporting genome projects (TBD).
    • Kidney Health Research Institute – Assisting the nephrology department with patient reported data (PRD) projects.
    • EMS mobile app project
  • Continuing to man the Rebel Outpost of Design Thinking within our team. As always, this is an uphill battle made more complex by project timelines, organizational barriers and culture issues.
  • NOT multi-tasking – read the business case!!


    • Continuing to examine my career trajectory closely through a Napoleon Hill lens. I now know only two people who get that reference.
    • Current Reading: This is Your Brain on Music, a Junkyard Jam Band.
    • Electronics/Coding:
  • Sometimes watching Netflix/PBS online. Working through the PBS Vietnam special.
  • Highly recommended list for archival purposes:
  • NOT MULTITASKING!! More research!!

Category : Blog

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Category : Blog , Fricknadorable

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Latest Newsletter


Fricknadorable – Photo by Scott Canouse

Here are a few special events that you may wish to check out…

Fricknadorable at Forks Farm, Orangeville
Saturday Sept 23rd – 12-2pm
Promoting profitable farms which produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. Forks Farm is a local gem for fresh produce, Pasture-raised meats, eggs, raw dairy, produce, breads, baked goods, nuts, honey, soaps, wild Alaskan salmon and more. Music held during the markets adds to the atmosphere. Hope to see you there. Note recent schedule change: Sally Miller plays harp from 10-12. Fricknadorable will play 12-2pm. We’ll also have some of our fresh hot peppers available!

Spyglass Winery, Sunbury
Thursday Sept 28th – 6-8pm

Our first time at this wonderful local venue. More details.

CREATE Arts Event, Kocher Park, Bloomsburg
Sun October 8th – 1pm – ? 
Join area health and wellness vendors for a beautiful day of outdoor activities and community. Local musicians will perform, including our jazz group Negodniki. Kocher Park is located along the banks of Fishing Creek just outside Lightstreet, Pennsylvania. From Interstate 80, take exit 236B north on Route 487 1.5 miles. The park entrance is on your left. More details.

Greenwood Friends School Fall Festival, Millville
Sat Oct 14th – 10am-2pm

Join us for a day of outdoor activities, light refreshments, entertainment and fun. Families welcome! Tentative music lineup:

10:00 – 10:30 Ed Zuber Project
10:30 – 11:00 Danville Uke Benders
11:00 – 11:45 Mike Hickey & John Sweeney
12:00 – 12:45 Paul Loomis & His Enablers
1:00 – 1:45 Fricknadorable

There will also be games, inflatables for children, as well as a flea Market with loads of treasures! Pumpkins, apples, and mums for sale. Vendor tables available – call the school 570.458.5532 for details.

You can also find pictures from the Northeast Electro-Music Festival on Flickr. That’s all for now. See you soon!

Need music?
Pepperhead Studios – Recording.
Fricknadorable – Americana, 80s, Novelty
Jeremy dePrisco – Bass player, guitarist, writer.

Red Habaneros!



Category : Blog , Newsletter

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Fricknadorable 2017 Promo Shots by Scott Canouse

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Electronic Music Resources

Occasionally, someone will ask me where they can learn more about electronic and experimental music. While a Google search is a great place to start, here are some focused favorites to start your journey.

Encyclotronic – Electronic Music Archive – Radio programs, discussion forums, live events

120 Years – The history of electronic music from 1800 to 2015

The History of Electronic Music in 476 Tracks 1937-2001

Greatest Electronic Albums of the 1950s and 1960s

Soma-FM – Radio shows, articles and more.

Moog Foundation Archives – There’s much more to electronic music than Bob Moog, but this is a great resource. – Dedicated to innovator Don Buchla.

Miffwiggler – Forums, discussion.

Handmade Electronic Music – Nicolas Collins gives a great introduction to the world of creating your own noise makers. Also visit his site.

Music from Outerspace – Analog synth DIY site developed by Ray Wilson.

Category : Electro

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Greenwood Friends School Craft Night

On 2/3/17 I took some of my home made noise makers to school for show and tell. Here’s the results!

Category : Blog , Electro