Saturday, October 20, 2018

SANUS SF34-B1 Steel Series Bookshelf Speaker Stands

Speaker stands: Either a simple mechanism for elevating speakers, or a central contributor to the audio system's sonic qualities, worth massive investment in time and experimentation to find out how different fills change their sound, how minor changes in assembly torque impact things, and... well, the rabbit hole goes as deep as you want to go.

But, regardless of the rabbit hole, I still had a need for some speaker stands - so I built some!

This particular set of stands is the SANUS SF34-B1 - and they're well regarded as having dreadful instructions.  Which they do.  But I've made my way through the install, documented it, filled the stands with something to damp vibrations, and they work great!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Silencing a NUC: The Akasa Plato X7 Fanless Case

For a while now, I've had an Intel NUC (NUC7I5BNK) running our home TV.  It's actually more fair to call the TV a monitor for the NUC, as that's the only signal, of any variety, feeding into the TV (by design).  But, in any case, the NUC runs the TV, runs Plex, runs streaming content (yes, you can stream stuff in rural Idaho) - and also runs a cooling fan.  Quite a bit, actually, and a NUC fan, if you're not familiar, is loud enough to be annoying in the evening when you're watching a movie that gets quiet.

How to solve this for a system that by design doesn't use much power?  A passive case!  This is a case with no fans to cool it - just sheer metal mass and fins.  Conveniently, Akasa makes a number of such cases.  One of which, I now own!  It's rather substantially larger than the stock NUC case, but how does it work?  Is it any good?

Very well, and, other than being a bit expensive, I'm incredibly happy with it!  Dive on in and see what's involved in making a NUC dead silent!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Stromer ST1 Electric Bike Battery Pack Teardown

It's been a while since I've done an ebike pack teardown, but this week, you're in luck!  I've got a 522Wh Stromer ST1 pack in my shop, ready to be taken apart!  It's a bright metallic orange, and it's a beefy pack.  There's a lot of power in here, and the pack is quite dense in the hand.

What's inside?  What makes it tick?

You know you want to see another battery teardown, so jump on in!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Freezer Repair and Thermostat Teardown

If your upright or chest freezer stops running, you'll find out one of two ways: Before everything is thawed and ruined, or after.  Hopefully you find out before, but often enough, you discover the freezer has quit when you walk past it and notice something leaking out.  Or you open it and realize that it's very warm and everything is very squishy.  Neither situation is good, especially if you have an awful lot of locally grown beef in there.

This is why you should always purchase a freezer alarm with your freezer - so you can get warned before it gets too warm.  But, if something goes wrong, quite often you can fix it yourself!  The refrigeration systems are usually robust.  The surrounding control systems?  Less so.  Often, disturbingly less so.

I've had this upright freezer (a Frigidaire LFFH20F3QWC - who names these things?) for about 2.5 years (with a warranty of 1 year - and, me being me, I didn't buy the extended super duper mega warranty for half the price of the freezer).  It recently quit on me.  We caught it early enough and figured out that the thermostat was acting up, and would operate if twisted cold enough.  With the help of a freezer alarm (and remote temperature sensor), I limped it along, keeping things frozen, until the new thermostat showed up and I could replace it.

So, if you have a freezer, and are curious as to how they work, join me for this interesting journey into replacing a freezer thermostat - and then pulling a freezer thermostat apart, because why would you ever remove a failed part without disassembling it to better understand it?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Peak Smartphone: Backlash against the Predatory Smartphone and Social Media

Summer, 2007.  Slightly more than a decade ago.  Music was painfully early 2000s.  The Simpsons were in their 18th season.  The UK banned smoking in public places.  And Apple's "iPhone" ended up in the hands of consumers for the very first time.

It was weird - it didn't even have a keypad.  It didn't flip.  It didn't even come with Snake (which was roughly the best game ever)!  But, as is incredibly obvious now, it was the future of phones.  A black rectangle into the world, with a camera that wasn't awful, controlled by tapping on the screen.  Without a real keyboard.  Shut down, it was a black rectangle.

Fast forward a decade.  Nearly everyone has their own black rectangle.  In 2016, 1.5 billion smartphones went to end users.  That's not how many have been sold total - that's how many were sold in one year.

And they've changed life as we know it - for good, and for bad.  We've let the psychology of Las Vegas into our pockets, and it turns out that this is actually a really bad idea.  But there are glimmers of hope, and companies no less than Apple themselves have started realizing this and helping us tame the smartphone - and, by extension, social media.

So, dive on in and let's explore phones!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Project Pi3B+Desk - Making an even better desktop from the Raspberry Pi 3B+!

Earlier this year, I posted about something I called "Pi3Desk" - making a Raspberry Pi 3 into a better desktop than it was.  Lots of tweaks, kernel upgrades, a USB SSD... the works.  And, shortly before I posted it, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ came out, and the Raspberry Pi foundation upgraded their reference kernel.

Over the past six months, I've continued pushing, crashing, fixing, and generally thrashing my Raspberry Pis into the ground as desktops - and I've made things even better!

Yes, it looks a bit Kerbal - but it works.  I can hold 1.4GHz sustained on my 3B+ with this setup - it doesn't even hit 50C unless ambient is really high!  That cable looping to a device under?  That's a USB SSD - which blows a MicroSD card absolutely out of the water in disk performance.  I've got a custom kernel build with some compressed swap, some memory parameter tuning, and the thing just flies (relative to the base configuration, of course).

And, this time, I've documented the setup process much more completely - so you should even be able to reproduce it for yourself!

Keep reading for all the juicy details.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Raspberry Pi 3B+: The FLIRC Case, Thermals, and GPIO Controlled Fans

Earlier in 2018, I did some experiments related to the Raspberry Pi 3 thermal behavior under load, and I found a case that worked reasonably well to keep it cool.

What I missed, though, was an even better case on the market that does an even better job with cooling - the FLIRC case.  It's slightly more expensive than the "Moster" heatsink case I used, but it's a good bit better at cooling a Raspberry Pi 3.

It does a really good job with the 3B+ as well - but it didn't keep things quite as cool as I wanted.  As is often the case in my lab, what started as "messing around" turned into something far more exciting: This contraption!  I have no idea what to call it, but it's pretty cool (running)!

Sure, it looks weird.  But it works.  My Raspberry Pi 3B+ can build the Linux kernel at 1.4GHz without even hitting 50C!  Can yours do that?  Plus, the fan is automatically controlled by some software and the GPIO pins - which, in addition to saving a (tiny) bit of power, just looks cool when the fan comes on automatically.