John Park, Maker at Adafruit


Cool Tools Show 262: John Park

Our guest this week is John Park. John is a professional maker. He builds creative technology projects, tutorials, and videos for Adafruit Industries. John hosted the Emmy-nominated Make: Television show on American Public Television. Prior to joining Adafruit, John worked in computer graphics, including twelve years in animation at Disney. John is an amateur circus aerialist, and a synthesizer enthusiast. You can find John on Twitter and Instagram @johnedgarpark.

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Show notes:

VCV Rack (free, open source)
This is an excellent software synthesizer environment for learning and using Eurorack modular synthesis. Modular synths are loads of fun if you want to dive in deeper than the typical synth, due to the elemental nature of modular, they are like building blocks for sound design in many ways. In this case you don’t need lots of room and lots of cash compared to real, physical modular synth gear. Runs on mac os, Linux, Windows. Warning: may lead you to build or buy real gear anyway! And two recommendations I have to go along with it are there’s a guy on YouTube named Omri Cohen. He’s a musician, and he’s great at explaining synthesis, and he has dozens and dozens of videos on YouTube for free that teach you how to use Rack and different modules. And there was a series called Learning Modular by a guy named Chris Myers, and his is terrific because it takes you from knowing almost nothing to being able to put together a synthesis patch. And he demonstrates it I believe with physical modules, but you can kind of follow along with Rack if you want.

Bullet Pencil ($35 or $10-15 for a vintage one, less in bulk)
I got this terrific pencil from my wife for Christmas and now I carry it with me all day long. I’ve never had a pencil I liked that could be easily pocketed until now. The history behind these pencils is interesting — originally made from .303 brass shell casings in WWI, then evolved into cheap give-away advertising promo items in the 1930s-50s. You can get lots of fun ones on eBay, or go all retro-modern with the Traveler’s Co/Midori one here. There are refills available for the pencil and eraser, but it looks like any #2 pencil chopped down to size should fit the metal press-fit bullet tip/insert coupler.

Stainless steel dental-style picks/probes set ($10)
I’ve finally found the ultimate tool for dealing with leaked batteries in old electronics and toys! These dental picks are perfect for it, especially the curved scraper, which I use to remove the corrosion and acid buildup from both the pads and springs inside old remote controls and similar forgotten devices. The design is ideal for scraping. Since it is such a similar action as a dental hygienist does on your choppers, that it’s no wonder it is so much better than trying to use a screwdriver or knife blade. Also, very handy for a huge variety of small parts tasks. One of the angled hook ones is excellent for de-pocket linting an iPhone Lightning connector port. This set is much higher quality than cheapo ones I’ve used before.

Godox LR150 Ring Light ($39)
Originally purchased for my teenage son and daughter who are filming themselves for show choir and drama productions, it’s no-nonsense, good looking frontal lighting. Has standard light-stand mount, and tripod threading & cold-shoe mounts inside for iPhone or camera placement. I’ve found it useful as a supplemental light or primary light for photos and videos of electronics projects as well. It even has a very thoughtful USB charger output built into it so your phone can be plugged in.

John Park on YouTube:
I do two different livestreams a week for Adafruit. One is on Tuesdays at 1PM Pacific. It’s called JP’s Product Pick of the Week. I bring on some new product from Adafruit, explain a little bit about it and do one or two live demos with it. I also do the John Park’s Workshop on Thursdays at 1PM Pacific. That one is a longer show, and on that I do some segments like the MakeCode Minute, where I show how to code something using Microsoft MakeCode, which is a web browser based visual programming language that works on a lot of different platforms.


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