Shipped Products Packaging Praise – Sparkfun / Adafruit

I don’t often do posts that are off-topic to my projects, but I could not resists posting this.  Some of my schooling was environmental-relatepackagingd.  Paired with moral obligation, myself and my family try to do our part to be environmentally concious.  I wanted give praise to 2 companies that I often order electronics parts from for their effort to be environmentally concious with packaging and shipping.  Specifically Sparkfun and Adafruit.  I recently received my MicroView from Sparkfun and wanted to give you an idea what I am talking about.    Have a look at the picture to the right.  The product shipped took about half the size of the box.  To protect the product, they used a sturdy cardboard box and a thin sheet of recycled paper with a unique cut pattern that makes it an excellent protective material.  The most important point – all packaging is recyclable and likely came from recycled paper.    Also, the package was sized for product.

Although this is a small step, my hope is that pointing out this sort of thing will encourage other companies / vendors to follow suit and seek similar approaches.   All too often we see larger companies (one of them is well known as a lush rainforest and the other is named after some guy) who ship tiny products in massive packaging (I have personally seen this myself).  Although they also use cardboard for the most part, it is a complete waste of space and inefficient.  One thing I learned in my schooling is you have to think of not only the end product, at but both the upstream and downstream impacts.  For example, these larger boxes needed to be created (more paper, fuel, trees etc), transported (more weight, space, fuel, storage etc), then later recycled (again more paper, transport and fuel etc…)    I also have to give some credit to overseas sellers I often buy from.  Due to these orders being mostly free shipping, they are driven to minimize packaging  and costs (which has it’s disadvantages).  However, I often see good use of recyclable materials and limited use of plastics etc.


Outdoor LED Light Controller – Enclosure and Mounting


Over the past 2 years, we have working on our back-yard landscaping project.  We added a patio, stones, a deck etc.  One of the remaining bits was to add LED’s to accent the rocks and other areas at night.  After completing my outdoor LED light controller and Andriod app, I found myself struggling to find a way to enclose all the components in something that would protect the controller and power supply from the elements. My original plan was to use the custom CNC enclosure I milled.  However, I found that although it was waterproof, I still needed to consider the power supply. I also changed my mind on how I wanted to connect the various power distribution wiring I had coming from around the back yard.

After a bit of digging around, I came across an enclosure made by Spelsberg from Newark.  The unit is waterproof, easy to work with and has lots of mounting options.  The top cover is smoke, and allows you to see what is inside (gotta show off all the cool electronics and flashing lights you know…), and has a flexible rubber-like strip that provides the water proofing features.  There are 4 mounting holes on the outside and 4 plastic locking screws that secure the top cover to the main unit.

The unit has a unique way of getting it mounted which is quite intuitive.  There are 4 holes that allow you to mount the unit to a surface.  Once mounted, the top cover can be installed with the 4 special black locking screws.  They also ensured that the waterproofing strip is on the inside of the screws so it does not matter if water gets in the screw holes – it simply cannot get inside the enclosure.


Fix: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.0 – Won’t Charge

Let’s cut to the chase. You have a Samsung Galaxy Tab and you are tired of  Googling for solutions trying to figure out why your Tab won’t charge.  Hopefully this is the last place you have to look.   My tab is about 2 yrs old and over the past few months I started noticing it would not charge consistently.  I tried all the suggestions; using a different charger, swapping out the cable, disconnecting and re-connecting the battery – none worked.   I had also suspected the USB connector port on the tab itself.  I should have trusted my first instinct, so I decided to take a look at the charge port on the Tab with my 400x USB microscope, and noticed some significant wear on the pads.  Turns out, the fix is ~$5 and less than 10 minutes of effort… Read More >>

Crius I2C GPS Nav Board – Programming via RS232 USB to Serial FTDI Board

Crius I2C Nav Board - Programming By FTDI AdapterI had an Adafruit UP501 GPS module laying around and wanted to get it working on my Quad.  However, my serial connection is being used by a bluetooth module which left me with finding a way to get it working over I2C.   I found the Crius I2C GPS module and this video which provides some great guidance on how to set things up.  However, I was having trouble getting it programmed using the Sparkfun 232RL  FTDI breakout board I had as I had not used it for some time and totally forgot how to make the connections between the two,  so  here you go.


DIY Quadcopter Build (MultiWii / NanoWii / Qbrain)

QuadApr14Feb 2014:  If I didn’t have enough hobbies already…  I’ve just gotten myself into the world of quadcopters and flying.  I’ve never flown before.  My RC experience is limited to 4 wheels on the ground.    Navigating with 2 sticks and learning the world of yaw, elevation, pitch and throttle has become my next challenge.  I’ve wanted to learn how to fly for some time, so here we go..

I’m not going to re-create the wheel as credit goes to the folks over at for putting together a great build log of the DIY Betamax Quadcopter.  In a nutshell, for less than $300 you can build a very capable quad that should give you plenty of fun and also provide the ability to mount some small and light equipment.  There’s also lots of optional add-ons like GPS that will make the quad smart and more easy to use.  It also uses Arduino-compatible MultiWii which is software that runs on the NanoWii to allow you to control your quad (or other RC machines).


HC-06 Bluetooth Module – Getting this sucker into AT Command Mode

hc-06After spending nearly 3 hours scouring the Web trying to find a way to configure my JY-MCU HC-06 Bluetooth module.  There are a lot of great tutorials out there.  Many of them refer to setting the key pin HIGH, or a combination of LOW then HIGH while powering on the module.  However, none of these approaches worked for the unit I have.  Read on to see how it can be done.  Oddly, I found the answer in the DX discussion forums related to this module.  Here’s the thread.  Read on for how I managed to get it working.


WiFi Bot Control & Arduino Bot (Eddie) – Android App to control Arduino Robots


Wifi Bot ControlMasterFeatureGraphic1024x500NewWiFiBotControlLogo_72x72 is an Android app that allows you to remotely control a robot (or other device) via WiFi.  You can also (optional) view a video stream from an IP camera mounted to the robot.  WiFi Bot Control also provides up to 8 additional customizable command buttons that allow you to perform additional tasks on your robot / device.  You could use these commands to initiate other activities such as enabling/disabling sensors, moving other servos / arms / picking something up, turning a LED on/off etc.  With the provided sample sketch, you can customize the robot to do what you want.  WiFi Bot Control can be downloaded on Google Play and is compatible with most versions of Android and most device sizes from phones to tablets.


Glo Control – Android App & Arduino Controller



Glow Control is an Android app that couples to an Arduino-based controller over Bluetooth allowing for control of various tasks including Landscape / Patio LED lights.  You can either schedule the zones to turn on / off within a time range, or use a light sensor to trigger them when it gets dark.  It also offers up to 4 additional customizable buttons that allow you to add functionality.  You could use it to control garage doors, sprinklers, etc.  The sky’s the limit since you can customize the controller and Arduino sketch to your needs.  Under the hood Glow Control simply sends commands over Bluetooth to an Arduino controller.  If you are a maker, then you can use this app to control pretty much anything you can imagine.  For my project, I am using it to control 2 LED zones on my new patio.  


**Note – Glo Control is no longer available in Google Play.


Easy and Cheap DIY LED RGB Garden Glowies

In a few weeks, we’ll have a new patio.  Like any new project I get into, I have to introduce a flavour of something DIY and electronic into the mix.  Like most guys, I’m planning for sound.  However, I’m also adding custom LED lighting to light up the armour stones, deck and pergola areas.  As part of the patio job, we are also planning on having a variety of plants and shrubs around the patio.  I figured it would be neat, for when we are entertaining, to have LED RGB glowies that I could place in each of the shrubs/plants and have a RGB glowing garden as an entertainment piece. Read More >>

BT Bot Control & IPCam Bot – Android App to control Arduino Robots


BT Bot Control is an Android application that allows you to remotely control a micro controller-based robot using Bluetooth (i.e. Arduino).  It also allows you to (optionally) view a video stream from an IPCamera mounted to your robot.  This could be any type wireless IP camera or phone that has the ability to broadcast a video stream/images to the web.  Example Foscam, Ai-Cam etc.  If you are looking to control your robot over WiFi, check out WiFi Bot Control.



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