Tag Archives: Howto

Repairing Guitar Hero World Tour red drum

A few weeks ago, the girls were playing Guitar Hero but the drummer kept on failing the band.   We eventually discovered that the red snare drum was not working very well.    Well, if you hit it REALLY hard, it registered.   I started looking around for the receipt, but I couldn’t find it!   This is the second thing that has gone wrong with the instruments – I have already had a faulty strum switch on the guitar.

I did a bit of Googling and found that many people have the same problem with the red snare drum.  I guess it’s one of the drums that’s hit the most, so it’s one of the first to go.    Without the receipt, I thought I was stuffed.

However, I found that Activision has released a Drum Tuning Kit that can be used to tune the sensitivity of the drums, through its MIDI input.   To connect your PC to the drums, you need a MIDI connection and Activision will supply a USB to MIDI cable if you have the receipt.    Great… no receipt.   But I do have other MIDI PC equipment, so I tried using my M-Audio FireWire 410 audio interface and it worked!

Well, the software worked but no matter what setting I used, the red drum was still not working reliably.  A soft or medium hit just would not register.

After a bit more googling, I found a discussions on fixing the drums yourself.   Apparently, it’s usually the case of a bad wire connection to the sensor of the red drum.   So, on the weekend, one of my projects was to fix the red drum.

Note that if you want to do this, you will most definitely void your warranty.  These steps may or may not work for you and I take no responsibility for your success/failure!

First, turn the drums over.    We’ll be taking the bottom (back) off the drum kit off.   Get a screwdriver with a star head and unscrew everything in sight!

The back of the drums before unscrewing the screws
The back of the drums before unscrewing the screws

Be aware that some of the screws are slightly different from the others.   I found that screws in A and B locations in the diagram below were different.

Different screws in A and B locations
Different screws in A and B locations

Be careful when unscrewing the screws that hold the control box to the drum kit.  The drum control box will come apart.

The control box is only held by 2 screws
The control box is only held by 2 screws

Once all the screws have been removed, carefully lift off the cover (which is the back).   You will see the guts of the drum kit.

The insides once the back is taken off
The insides once the back is taken off

The red snare drum is the one on the left.   You can see a pair of wires running from the sensor to a small circuit board.    The problem most people seem to have is that these wires don’t have good contact with the sensor.

White silicon glue holding the wires to the sensor
White silicon glue holding the wires to the sensor

Very very gently, I pulled the red wire to see how strongly it was held down.   And unbelievably, the wire just pulled right off with hardly any effort!   No wonder I was having a problem with the red drum.

The red wire was hardly attached to the sensor
The red wire was hardly attached to the sensor

So I cleaned off all the glue from the wire and the sensor.  I stripped the red wire back about 5mm, got out the soldering iron and solder and joined it back to the sensor.    Be careful not to make the red wire contact the centre part of the sensor.

I also took the opportunity to pull a bit of the red wire so that there’s more slack near the red drum kit area.   It seemed a little “tight” there.

New soldered connection between the red wire and sensor
New soldered connection between the red wire and sensor

After I soldered it, I gently tapped on the sensor on the back and made sure it registered in Guitar Hero.  (Tip:  enter the Music Studio in Guitar Hero World Tour and lay down a new drum track – it’s the easy way to check whether the drums are working.)   It worked like a charm!  I didn’t need to fix the black wire at all.

Then it’s just a case of putting the back cover on again and screwing all the screws in.

No need to post the drums away and wait 2-6 weeks to get it back from Activision!

Here’s a few other links with step by step guides:



Photography techniques – HDR images

One photography technique that I have really started to dig recently is HDR – high dynamic range images.

Basically, it’s a photo that has been processed to portray a large range of brightness (really dynamic range, but I’ll use the term brightness for simplicity).   If you look at the environment around you, there are parts that are light/bright, for example, where direct sunlight is hitting objects.  And there may be parts of the environment that are quite dark, for example, objects in the shadows.  I like to think of all the brightness available as a line, going from dark to bright.

Now I know the diagram below is not mathematically correct, but it’s a simple way to think about dynamic range.

Brightness line
Brightness line

Film and digital camera sensors (of today, 2008!) currently are unable to capture the detail in extreme bright parts of the environment, and the detail in the extreme dark parts of the environment simultaneously in one photo.  If you want to be able to “see” things in the dark areas or shadows, you will probably end up with the bright parts being extremely bright or white and washed out.   Alternately, if you want to be able to “see” things in the bright areas in a scene, the objects in the shadows will be all dark.

Using the simplified Brightness Line diagram above, I like to think of the camera as being able to capture only a portion of that brightness line.   And the “exposure” settings of the camera determining where that region is – whether it’s more on the dark portion, or more on the bright portion of that line.

A typical example of an image with this problem is if you take an indoor photo looking through a window.

Subject exposed, background washed out
Subject exposed, background washed out

Here you can see the features and detail of my daughter, but nothing through the window.  It was too bright.   If I had exposed the outside, my daughter would have turned into a silhouette.

The are two main sources of the problem.  The first is that the digital camera sensor cannot capture such large differences in lighting – that is, it has a small dynamic range (typically 12 bits worth).   The second, is that the screens we view pictures on, and the paper we print photos on, also have a small dynamic range (typically 8 bits worth).

So why bother with high dynamic ranges?  Really, it’s a photographic style that tries to recreate all the details as “seen” by the human eye.   Our eyes don’t see a washed out window background in real life.  A combination of the eyes ability to adjust “exposure” dynamically through the use of the pupil, the actual sensitivity of our retina and the cleverness of our brain allows us to resolve a much higher dynamic range than currently possible on a camera sensor or display.

HDR images are really images with a large dynamic range.  This is all good, but our computer screens cannot display a large dynamic range.  So what people do now is to process the high dynamic range and convert it into a low dynamic range, but in a way that doesn’t lose detail from the extremely bright and extremely dark areas of the scene.   This is known as tone mapping.

And as for how HDR images are captured in the first place if there is a limitation due to digital camera sensors?  By taking multiple photos of the same scene with multiple exposures.  This way, we are moving that fixed region along the brightness line, and taking snapshots along the way.   Afterwards, the photos can be “mixed” together and then tone mapped to produce a single photo with detail in both the shadows and highlights.

Multiple exposures to increase dynamic range
Multiple exposures to increase dynamic range

There are heaps of amazing photos on the internet and lots of links to learn more about HDR images.  Here is an example of a beautiful capture of a boat by Peter Van Allen, found on flickr.   If only a single shot was taken, the boat would most probably be very dark or silhouetted.

The Chesil Beach at Portland by Peter Van Allen
The Chesil Beach at Portland by Peter Van Allen on Flickr

In the end, HDR is another photographic technique that has really popped up due to digital photo editing software making it easier to combine images.   Not everyone likes HDR images and I’ve seen some that are more artistic and stylistic than realistic, but there are some other images that are just awesome.   And sometimes, we may really want to blow out the background so that it emphasises the subject in the foreground.   In any case, it’s another technique to play around with!  See the links below for some other great examples.


35 Fantastic HDR Photos – http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/03/10/35-fantastic-hdr-pictures/

Flickr’s HDR Photo Pool – http://www.flickr.com/groups/hdr/pool/

Flickr’s Photomatix Photo Pool – http://www.flickr.com/groups/photomatix/pool/

More detailed explanations

Detailed FAQ on HDR –http://www.hdrsoft.com/resources/dri.html#dr

Detailed explanation on bit depth and dynamic range – http://www.normankoren.com/digital_tonality.html


Dynamic Photo HDR – http://www.popphoto.com/popularphotographyfeatures/4472/hdr-how-to-dynamic-photo-hdr.html

Tutorial using Photoshop CS2 – http://backingwinds.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-create-professional-hdr-images.html

Photomatix – http://www.hdrsoft.com/resources/tut_mac/index.html

How to

A collection of HDR tutorials – http://tutorialblog.org/hdr-tutorials-roundup/

A very clear step by step walk through using Photomatix and Photoshop – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandmania/2734520399/in/photostream

Tivo goodness

Well, I finally succumbed.  The day before the Olympics, we took a drive to Harvey Norman and bought a Tivo.   I couldn’t decide for a while whether it was worth it as there are other PVRs like the Topfield now at an affordable price, but it was the difference in the approach to recording TV that I have been spoilt with previously (with MythTV) that I wanted.
After putting the kids to sleep, I finally got to unpack it.   Here’s the red “friendly” box and the Tivo USB wireless adapter so that I can connect it to my wireless home network.
Tivo box and wireless adaptor
Tivo box and wireless adapter

It comes with a standard set of cables.  But it’s disappointing that a system designed for Digital TV has no optical cable and no HDMI cable included.   Harvey Norman tried to sell me extremely expensive Monster cables, but I had said no – I had spares at home.   Alternately, I could’ve bought extras off eBay for much less.

What's in the box
What's in the box

I had a peek at the back of the Tivo.   Nothing unusual here – but there is no coax digital audio connection. There is a fan on the back for cooling.

Component, HDMI, Optical, Ethernet, USB Connectors on the Tivo
Component, HDMI, Optical, Ethernet, USB Connectors on the Tivo

It was good to see an eSATA connector for future expansion, but I believe it is disabled in the current firmware for the Australia box.   Tivo and Seven – PLEASE don’t make us pay for firmware upgrades in the future!!!

Also, there is only a single antenna in socket and no RF out.  No big deal – you just have to place it on the end of your antenna chain.

eSATA connector on the Tivo
eSATA connector on the Tivo

The Tivo is surprisingly “big”.  Here it is next to the PS3, which already is quite big.

The Tivo next to the PS3
The Tivo next to the PS3

So what next?  I connected it all up using the easy to follow instructions, turned it on and followed the configuration wizard and 24 minutes later..  it all worked out of the box!!!

Tivo setup all done!
Tivo setup all done!

I was SO HAPPY!  No wireless drivers to install, no ifconfig or iwconfig to run, no worries about Nvidia or ATI drivers, no need to think about what file system type to use, no need to determine what Graphics card chipset and CPU combination required to record and playback high definition video, no need to install IR drivers or set up perl scripts to download the latest TV guide – IT JUST WORKS!

And just in time for us to watch, pause and replay the Olympic opening ceremony last night.  And tape Star Wars – A Phantom Menace in high def at the same time.

And this morning, the kids were up early and worked out how to watch the opening ceremony again.

Only problem – I’ve scheduled so many things to tape that I need to upgrade the hard drive 😦

Removing a stuck lens filter

So, on the first day of our Italian adventure, my Wifey picks up my camera bag and accidently drops my SLR with new lens attached onto the floor – lens first!! Aargghh!!!

I picked it up, turned it around to look at the lens and saw cracked glass.  It was devastating 😦 😦  Now, I do use filters on all my lenses, and this is one thing I can recommend to all.  A filter is basically another piece of glass that screws/mounts onto the front of a lens.  There are ones that change the image either by colour or amount of light coming through, etc.  But the most useful purpose I’ve found is to protect the actual lens itself – it’s much cheaper to replace than to buy a new lens.

So I tried to look through the cracks to see if the actual lens was damaged, but I couldn’t tell.  I tried to unscrew the filter, but it seemed quite stuck.  Eventually got out the pocket knife and proceeded to remove the broken glass of the filter by leveraging it off into the hotel bin (I wonder what the cleaners thought!).

It seemed that the actual lens was not cracked.  Whether it was warped or not, I couldn’t tell.  Once all the filter glass was out, I tried again to unscrew the filter but I still couldn’t.  I think it might have jumped a thread, or warped or something in the impact.

Anyways, lens back on the camera and it worked!  The picture looked fine and I used it for the rest of the trip.

Now I’m back in Perth, I googled how to remove the filter.  I’ve read some suggestions from using a rubber shoe sole, to rubber gloves, to using pliers to peel it off like a sardine container or buying a filter wrench.  The first 2 suggestions didn’t work and I was not going to try to peel the metal filter off with pliers so close the actual lens of the camera, so it was off to a camera repair shop.

It seems the official Nikon repairers in Perth are Hartland Camera Repairs in Brisbane Street, Perth.  Literally 1 minute later, the filter was off and for free too!  Excellent!  It made my day 🙂  I’ll have to get my gear serviced there one day.

So now to buy another 77mm filter…