Doin' it for myself
Friday, 13 March 2009

For the last 5 season, the Land O Light show was controlled by commercially produced hardware.  For 2009, I've decided to double the number of channels - and build all the electronics myself.

I have many reasons for going DIY.  The biggest was the lack of support from the commercial hardware vendor I selected 5 years ago.  While other vendors (and DIY hobbyists) continue innovating, this vendor simply repackages existing hardware to put out 'something new'.  Even worse is the complete ambivalence to fixing existing bugs in the system - especially in it's software. 

The software in question hasn't had an update in 4 years.  I have myself documented more than 30 fatal bugs in it (a fatal bug is one that crashes the program without warning, causing the loss of data).  The embedded media player within the software is V6 which was released with Windows 98.  There is NO Vista support.  Rather than try to fix the bugs, this vendor doubled the price of the existing software (to $400!), and then released a new piece of software BASED ON A FREE PROGRAM, which has NO compatibility with the old software.  Even worse is that the vendor charges $200 for this normally FREE software simply because it works with their hardware.

Needless to say, I jumped ship.  After all, why should I pay $200 for something that is regularly free, right?

So, for the next few weeks/months, I'll be building and blogging about my new 'Renard SS 24' controllers.  I'll also be posting things in the DIY section of the site, and pictures as I go along.

I've already ordered and received most of the parts and today I finished sorting and labeling them.  Pictures can be found in the photo album.  I've also created a printable checklist to help with the building of these, since each board consists of 201 parts and 425 solder points.  Many of those parts can only be installed in one direction, or are static sensitive so organization is key. 

Hopefully I can show that with a little planning, even non-electronics people (like me) can do it for themselves.