Oct 18, 2016

Snakes, Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms

Surfing around the interwebs I stumbled upon genetic algorthms, which inspired me to create my own little java applications. I won't write a lot today, instead, I made a little video to try to explain what I did. Enjoy!

- Marv

Mar 11, 2016

Splitters Suck - Adventures with Optical Audio, Part III

This is part three of a multi-part series, click here to read part one or here to read part two.

After I upgraded my PC subwoofer to optical audio input, I still had a problem: My sound card has only one Toslink output. But there is remedy! Toslink splitters! Hooray!

Those things have one input and two outputs, and entirely optical (passive). However they have a major flaw: They do not work! The plug conncetions and the prism have really bad optical characteristics and too much light is absorbed. At first, I thought the fibers were to bad, but I tried short (1m) high quality cables and experienced the same problem. Even cleaning the connectors didn't make it better, I figured out that one of the outputs was stronger than the other, it barely worked, the other one didn't work at all. A piece of junk.
You can buy active splitters, but the cheapest I found were around 50 euros, way too much money. I flirted with idea of building my own optical splitter, that would mean another box that needs power and an AC adapter though.
A lot simpler is upgrading the sound card to two optical outputs! I had still some Toslink emitters around, and I didn't really need the optical input of the sound card, so why not switch an emitter for another sender? The modification is quite simple: Just desolder the receiver, hot glue the emitter at the same place upside down (you cannot use the same pins!) and wire it parallel to the existing emitter. Just an aditional 100 nF capacitor and an 8.2 k resistor is needed (according to the datasheet i found).

Quite simple, but effective. Working like a charm.
- Marv

Mar 10, 2016

Adding S/PDIF to Analog Hardware - Adventures with Optical Audio, Part II

This is part two of a multi-part series, click here to read part one.
The solution I presented last time was working pretty well for a few years. Someday, I upgraded my PC with a Radeon 7770 graphics card. Graphics were great, the sound horrible. - The sound? What does that have to do with a new graphics card, you might ask. Well, unfortunately, either due to noise on the power/signal lines on the main board or due to electromagnetic fields, each time the graphics card processes a frame, I heard a horrible ticking on my speakers. The rate and volume changed with the framerate and the complexity of the tasks. The noise however wasn't present on the digital outputs, only the 3.5 mm jack was affected. So why not upgrade the PC speakers to toslink?

Jan 25, 2016

Noisy Converters - Adventures with Optical Audio, Part I

I'm quite positive that everyone who once tried to transmit analog audio over a long distance encountered sound quality issues in some form. When I wanted to hook up a pair of speakers across the room to my computer, I went for a digital solution right away: TOSLINK. A simple standardized audio interface using a fiber optic cable. Its signals are identical to S/PDIF, an elektrical digital audio interface. Both TOSLINK and S/PDIF have gotten pretty common nowadays in all kinds of audio equipment such as TVs, CD players, HiFi systems and even PC sound cards. No interference, crystal clear sound, no path loss. Sounds great so far? (Pun intended)
I bought a cheap sound card for my PC with optical output, a 10 m fiber cable and a digital to analog converter.

However, whenever the converter doesn't receive an optical input, such as when the sender is turned off, it started to output ugly noise. There wasn't really much you could do against it except shutting the converter off when my PC was off. So I made a little device with a monostable circuit triggered by the optical signal that switched to power for the converter on whenever there was an active input and shut it back of when the input was inactive.