The Mutable Instruments Troubleshooting Panel *CALL OF DUTY*
  • Guys (and Ladies)

    i think its our turn to offload a bit of work from Oliver, so how about a Troubleshoothing Panel, freeing Oliver from handling all these frequently upcoming “My Display isn’t working” sort of assembly Problems. These repeatedly Problems should not bother Olivier as i think its in all our totally egomaniac interest having him developing more phantasmic Gadgets (whatever kind they may be) rather than teaching Newbies that Resistors are unpolarized.

    Most of the more experienced among us are able to troubleshoot these things, now its time the Willing should line up.

    Lets discuss here how this can be done, who wants to participate and how it can be assured that our own troubleshooting experience & spirit we all had can live on . . .

  • Thinking of it 90% of the Problems that pop up here could be solved by use cut and paste from a well complete FAQ.....

  • I can help users to debug their stuff, and i’m willing to do so. I’m obviously not as skilled as Olivier on his products, but i believe i already provided some help on several topics, as well as other users including yourself. But I must admit I’m not always opening threads when i see they’re about fixing a badly gone shruthi build.

    I suppose the whole point is just for Olivier to let more time for the regular board users to do the job. Maybe some kind of “status” would help making the users confident about our advices. But I don’t think there’s some particular measure tu take. Everyone will do what he’s able to do whenever he can, and whenever he likes to. There’s no other way it works differently on internet, anyway.

  • Don’t know the first thing about electronics, but I’m happy to help in any way I can.


  • A Status indicator would be a good thing. I don’t know if Vanilla is capable of this but it would be great having a Flag on every Troubleshooting Thread like green: solved, yellow:community at work and red: shit, olivier, we are to dumb . . .

  • I’m happy to help too and supply a web server with an open source help desk system. I work in the IT world and have access to a lot of tools to help build a knowledge base and to create tickets.

  • I have stayed away from the more interesting call for support threads since I’ve been very afraid of accidentally writing something that could be construed as insulting. I’d be happy to help, but I’m firmly behind the suggestion above to compile a FAQ and troubleshooting guide.

    It would be easy to write that bla bla bla is either:
    a) easy
    b) self evident or
    c) learn to solder before taking the plunge building something expensive
    but to be fair: NONE of us were born with our current knowledge and we all had to start learning, making mistakes etc.

  • Yeah, something like ticket system. But simple and forum based, like Frank says.

  • Proper tools are also an important key to a successful project. Quality solder is also key. Private consulting/training/repair for a fee done by experienced members to help the newbs get up to speed. :)

  • Count me in. Would this be a forum separate from MI? I’m just curious how the moderation will happen when the intent is to only get Olivier involved when the shit’s gone over everyone’s head. Is it possible to create a forum within a forum and have only specific moderators for that branch? Or will this be a separate entity with a link stuck in the MI forum?

  • I have tried to jump in where I felt (at the time) competent enough to answer. Unfortunately I suffer from delusions of grandeur. In more than half of those cases I was wrong or partially wrong (still wrong), only further confused the poor builder, and was eventually corrected by pichenettes when he found the mess and cleaned it up.

    As a result, I have stopped trying to help and admittedly avoid those threads now.
    So as much as I would love to help and am willing to help, I think that job may be best left to those of you who are a lot more experienced than I am and are already doing a fine job pitching in.

    The FAQ is a great idea. I think a lot of these threads could be avoided with a few minor changes to the build instructions. Calling for (or optionally) a socket for the display, for example, would simplify support issues. Also calling for headers and shunts at the shorting connections rather than relying on a new builder to know to fill in those holes with a leg of resistor wire… That just makes sense to me, as a fellow non-expert trying to solder things together… I think those two things might eliminate 10% of the tech threads.

  • I vote for a proper ticket/knowledge base system. It’s really up to Olivier though.

  • How about making either a sticky thread or page on the main site with advices regarding soldering and tools, aimed for the “noobs”? I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself that could have been prevented by using proper tools and techniques. For instance, I started with led free solder and a bad soldering iron a long time ago. Not recommended.

  • I’ve always used the lead-free stuff. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years…


  • I agree with fcd72, so I guess its the thing of being willing. I work as an electronics tech, so my job is literally troubleshooting. I see a lot of those threads, but never really jump in because of what jojjelito said, most can be directed to the FAQ or can be solved by something as simple as having the right tools or doing a few kits before the “plunge”. I would definitely want to help share the burden, olivier has done a LOT for the diy community, and this would obviously be a great way to repay him, and help him out. Whatever you guys decide (I have no useful input, I think a status would be great though) I’m on board.

    Maybe a mass email to all the “technical” people would be useful letting them know they have “work” in? I don’t check the board everyday, and tend to straight to the couple threads I follow closely, so I generally miss the “My 4pm isn’t working” threads.

  • @toneburst I have no troubles with lead-free stuff, even for SMD work. I currently use part# KWLF27505 – Kester Lead Free No-Clean 275 Solder Wire, .020” dia., Core Size-58 Sn96.5Ag3.0Cu0.5. It’s expensive, but works quite well. You really do get what you pay for. I used to use the cheap lead-free shit from Sparkfun. It was ok, but I really felt like the fumes were very toxic in comparison. Kester also makes solder tip cleaner part#FS100-01 – Lead Free Solder Tip Tinner / Cleaner .35 oz. It works fantastic to clean the oxidation of the solder tips. Having a clean solder tip is so critical. I also find that the Hakko T18-D16 (900M-T-1.6D) Tip is the best chisel tip for SMD and thru-hole work. I personally use the Hakko FX888-23BY FX888 Soldering Station. It’s an awesome soldering station.

  • @xtrmnt thanks for the tips (no pun intended). I’ll definitely check them out. It’s good timing actually. I think my current reel of solder is close to running out.


  • I do try to help. But obviously not having had much experience at troubleshooting (most things I’ve built have worked) and no access to a scope (I want one, but again, it wouldn’t get much use) means I can’t help with the more complex stuff.

    Is there any call for a proper support ticketing system? a more formal system has its ups and downs I know.

  • Would it help also to have a user-summitted ‘parts’ page, with links to Mouser/Farnell/Digikey baskets for the different projects, and tips for sources of the more obscure components?


  • Also a more formalised place to arrange group-buys of things like particular displays, those annoying Shruthi-1 button caps, V2164 ICs and other things that are hard to source in small quantities.


  • I don’t think we need tickets, thats maybe a bit to formal but we need to somehow mark the Status of the Thread.

    Would it be feasible to enroll the willing to a limited Kind of Administrator so these can change the Status of the Thread?

    The first one answering would be in charge to have this problem either solved (not necessarily by him/herself) or passed to the Godfather of Troubleshooting himself, so each Case would have a personal sponsorship.
    Flagging a thread read (surrender!) would require writing a short Summary of the Case so the next Troubleshooter (aka Oliver…) wouldn’t have to read thru pages of derailment. So Olivier only would have to look for red flagged threads.

    Maybe we are able to compile an additional Troubleshooting WIKI for all of the Mutable Instruments DIY Range instead of compiling a simple FAQ. The Case from the solved Threads should be put in there.

    As an incentive Id like to offer an otherwise unavailable Mutable Instruments Branded Key Ring Button ;-)

  • Perhaps set expectations on the purchase page, mentioning community supported assistance given? Premium support could be for an additional fee :)

  • 6581punk – hmmm what will happen if someone buys a kit, builds it, breaks it, comes over here, none of you can solve the problem and it fires back on me because the guy expected a higher level of assistance? I’m tempted to do the opposite indeed, big text in red telling people again and again that they are responsible for getting their kit to work.

    This thread is based on the premises that my everyday troubleshooting on this forum (“oops, you swapped those 2 resistors”) is painful. It is just a little bit compared to the bulk of support nightmare which happens through private email.

    You’d be surprised by the number of people reclaiming “exchanges” or “warranty” because they failed building their kit. It takes a lot of patience to explain them. What you also have to keep in mind is that there’s a small but reasonably sized category of people who are terribly ashamed at the idea of talking about their mistakes on the forum. Not to mention the folks who can’t write english.

    In the end, if someone 1/ can reasonably explain their problem in english ; 2/ accepts participating on the forum and writing publicly about their mistakes ; 3/ is smart enough to use a wiki or ticket system ; it meets some level of “nice guy”-ness and is not really a support nightmare.

  • ^ thats a good one. Email threads can be a nightmare.

  • I can personally attest to the veracity of his claim.

    Edit: Sorry Olivier :-\

  • I say IRC channel wouldnt be a bad idea either. I think we have the more experienced ppl spread out enough that it could be somewhat staffed constantly and doing a real time debugging is usually more helpful than “post and pray” type deals. Works pretty well for the midibox chat room.. Plus there is always lulz to be had.

    A help forum is a no brainier though

  • Tough issue.

    One clear option is to force support to the forums (stop answering support emails in most cases – send them here). Then allow a bigger delay in your responses to see if the community can handle it.

    This may hurt a bit as some embarrassed people may just give up and then have not-nice things to say about the products (or at least not use and promote them). But it will buy back time for other stuff which allows for more products etc.

    IMO, your support is second-to-none. I think you’ve got room to back it off a bit and spend more time on other things. A lot of people will work out their own problems given a few hours or someone here can help them. Personally I feel good if I get a support response within 24 hours. Here it’s often a few minutes.

    My 2 cents

  • The more i think about it the clearer it gets: there are 2 categories of Problems

    • the ones that could easily be solved by looking into a WIKI (my display doesn’t show anything)
    • the ones that need tracking an overlooked issue (swapped Rs or totally new things…)

    So the whole approach should be finding a way to compile the WIKIs content from the ongoing support threads. Here is so much knowledge about the Mutable Instruments Stuff thats mostly unusable because its buried quite unstructured in a Forum thread, only useful to the Threads participants. This way many Threads could end in a simple link to the WIKI. Many people that aren’t speaking english that good (like me) could peek there without having an “ask me that in english” barrier, not to mention the ones being ashamed of their failure.

    So xtrmnt – can you do this?

    Ill send you some Stickers with this famous Pic

    I know that doesn’t cut your eMail Stream but maybe its at least some satisfaction ;-)

  • @pichenettes I didn’t realise you had to deal with so many help requests via email. I don’t remember having bothered you by email, but if I have, I apologise.
    That does put things in perspective a bit.

    I think you could legitimately direct future email support requests to a putative future Wiki, and/or this forum.

    We all have a vested interest in finding ways to help you to continue making and selling DIY products in the future.


  • I originally contacted Olivier by email for a problem and he referred me to the forum, which I didn’t even realize existed. Great advice! I think it should be clearly stated on the purchase page that, before you buy a kit, the purchaser is aware the kits assume prior assembly experience, support is not provided by email, support is available to some extent on the forum and that the buyer is ultimately responsible for getting the kit built and working. I would also suggest to potential buyers that they have a look around the forum to see what sort of difficulties could come up during assembly.

  • you people here write too much stuff, I really can’t keep track of all the comments. anyway I think I’m totally out of the question when it comes to technical stuff. anyway I offer my services to tweak the forums so that they work with this idea

  • @fcd72 and Olivier

    Check out Livid Instruments Wiki page.

    I think this could be a great model of how to wikify all useful information, troubleshooting, installation, BOMs, best practices, etc. of all Mutable products. The Wiki system Livid is using is MediaWiki. It is open-source/free and I could install it on my webhosting account. Let me know your thoughts! :)

  • The problem with any written documentation is getting people to read it :)

  • I do that for a living. The key is to be brief in email with a link to detailed on the FAQ. Then your email can populated by quick identification of simple problems, training the user to find stuff in the docs, and then you can spend more time on the actual/weird problems.

    I use a tool call clippings for firefox, and I have shortcut macros for many of my common responses in a right click context menu. Helps me do easily 200+ emails a day by myself. Of course your product is WAY more complicated, but I like to think your customers are way more savvy than mine.

  • My product? I’m not the boss :)

    I think clickable image maps of each board would be handy. Explain each section and voltages expected on key pins. Olivier posts these sorts of images already. But having them all in one place in an interactive form would be handy. Perhaps have an image of the PCB (detailed enough to see resistor colours) and then also the section of the schematic by the side of it.

    Alternatively when you hover over points on the PCB it lists the voltage expected there? or when you hover over a component it shows the colours or markings?

    In some of the MIDIBox projects (MB-6582) they have part numbers, values and then a little image of how it should look typically. It is quite useful.

  • i think some kind of sticky threads named “LCD FUCKED UP” hinting to the most common issues like badly soldered trimmer and the like could help a bit. but… on the other hand… it also says read the manual before building, and whos actually doing that? (including me)

  • 6851punk: that’s a great idea! Talk about a perfect self-help tool.

    Who knows how to make them?

  • as for troubleshooting support i help whenever i can. you can tell, it’s not much more than some basic knowledge, or taking some measurements

  • One more vote for IRC channel! :)

  • We seem to mostly agree that a wiki, or any other kind of “expanded” manual would not do any good at lightening the support burden from Olivier. When people have a problem they want a person answering. Still I think improving the FAQ section might still be a good idea, as we are at it anyway.
    The panel idea is not bad, but I see there is some issues here as well.

    Generally speaking I think having mods on the forums would be a great idea anyway. Running a forum can be a bit of work even without the whole support thing. Mods would need to be labeled as such, and maybe even have a defined function. Also I must look into vanilla plugins, because there might be something we could use for support threads. The official vanilla 2 (the one they run on their servers, since they offer a forum hosting as well) has a plugin that enables users to flag a thread with different labels, like this:

    unfortunately this plugin is not available for the rest of us.
    There is a simple rating plugin, to turn vanilla into something like stackexchange, which might be useful…

    But back to the main issue: email support. Don’t see a way around it. Some people will always write an email first, even when they know there is a forum for that. Maybe a ticketing system could be a solution, but only if you clearly state that there will be no email support, and support goes only through the ticketing system.

    There is another advantage of a ticketing system: it makes you look professional and taken care of.
    I’m not sure we could bend vanilla to act as a ticketing system, though that would make sense to not introduce even more complexity in this website.

  • Ticketing have advantages, it is formal and you can ensure you get all of the required information as there is a minimum data set.

    But the advantage is also disadvantage as nobody really wants to sift through loads of issue reports?

  • yeah you have a point there. The whole support system probably needs some sort of entry barrier to reduce the number of “bullshit” support requests.
    I’m thinking that maybe a menu entry called support that leads to the forums or the ticketing system and a contact page that clearly states “no support via email” could at least divert people from the email. I don’t know, maybe if people have to write on a forum they will think twice about the problem, or maybe not.
    Anyway one thing that will have to be considered is how to properly inform people about the risks and complexity of a DIY kit, and how to properly approach the whole thing.

  • rumpelfilter is right about both:people want a personal answer and the entry barrier for eMail support must be adjusted so only the crucial cases get thru.

    My suggested way of operation would be sending everyone with a Problem first to the WIKIs Troubleshooting Section, if the Problem isn’t solved then to the Forum and the Moderator (member of this fine soon to be Panel) of the corresponding thread could decide when the problem is either solved or if its time to hand out a Formal Ticket. This way people are forced to DIY even with their Problems and only have “professional” help as a last resort.

  • Guys, I think your overdoing it. I certainly would not work with any ticket system in my free time. However, I would like to hang out in an IRC channel and gladly answer some questions if someone pops in.

  • I’m not 100% on the ticket system, either. Our IT department here at work has one, and to be honest, everyone I’ve spoken to hates it. It certainly doesn’t make me feel reassured that my problem is being dealt with my anything other than an annoying badly written program that spews out endless lines of unreadable apparently meaningless drivel somewhere in the middle of which is an actual request for more information from an actual person that I never actually manage to find in the torrent of textual effluent in which it floats, so I don’t reply, leading inevitably to my ticket eventually being closed, the work not being carried out, and leaving me several days later to go through the whole turgid process all over again, or take the more pleasurable option of simply banging my head against the nearest available hard surface until I no longer care, or can even remember, why I started the whole sorry process in the first place.

    Just my experience, though, YMMV. Don’t let that sway you, either way.


  • a|x you need either another job or holidays….

    Ticket should be not the Ticket you normally see (and described right…) its meant to be as “passed on to Olivier”. So people should

    1. see if they can solve the problem by themselves using the WIKI
    2. see if anyone on the Forum (namely the Help Panels Members) can help
    3. bother Olivier with spotting wrong soldered Resistors…

  • the problem with ticketing has the huge disadvantage of making people believe that we owe them a solution for their problem.

    edit : the wiki seems to be a good solution.
    And as volunteers, we shall translate it into several languages.

  • Im voting for Esperanto, first! Lets go for something nobody understands, it political correct to treat everybody equal ;-)

  • I think the most trouble people are having are some who speak romance languages. I guess Spanish would be first in line. Italian, French and German are also big languages. Anyway, who am I to pass judgement? Where there’s interest I guess work will be done.

    Us Scandinavians tend to just shrug and go with English since we’re used to having our languages regarded as “small”. Also, we don’t dub stuff on TV so we’re immersed in English anyways. Must be harder for people with less exposure.

  • first i want to say thanks for making these great little synths, i have have never got so mutch insperation to come up with good sounds every day since i biult my first shruthi, i have owned many £1000+ plus synths when i was living in the uk, but never got anything useful out of them as i do now with my shruthi’s. just hope it doesent turn into a GS type forum arround here.

  • I hate ticket systems too, but it does create some sort of organization to the madness. Also, after using Bleo’s Mouser BOM for the Polivoks, I have had to place additional orders for parts now on 2 separate occasions because the BOM was missing parts. Now given I really appreciate Bleo’s efforts, I think a Wiki site would be an excellent place to post all BOMs “tested” or “untested”. Because these Mouser BOMs are listed as a thread in these forums, if I do a search for “Mouser BOMs” I get a couple pages of Ambika Mouser BOM stuff before I get to the Polivoks BOMs for Mouser. Forums are great for discussions, but a formal organized place for essentials is needed imo.

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