Link Dump – 2017/06/28

AdaBox004

I received the latest Adafruit AdaBox last Thursday and made this unboxing video.

 

As you may have guessed, AdaBox004 has a music theme. I’m excited because I’ll be using several of these parts in my current project. I need to finish it before the weekend so I guess I better get my ass in gear.

When you lay it out, this one seemed a light compared to the first 3 AdaBoxes, so I added up prices from the Adafruit store. It came to $73 without factoring in the empty white box for making a custom project enclosure, collectible “Boomy” pin, SD card, Make volume 57 signed by LadyAda, and free shipping. Probably about a $90 value for $60 as a subscriber, which is worth it. The $25 Music Maker FeatherWing with the $20 Feather HUZZAH really drove up the price, limiting what else could be included.

If you enjoyed the music in the video, it was released by Adafruit’s in-house musician to go along with this box. Check out “ADABOX004” on SoundCloud. BartleBeats also has a full album I’ve been listening to a lot while working at my hobby desk. “Frequency” is available on SoundCloud or via iTunes.

Next up… this morning I received the tracking info for HackerBox #0020. Note that AdaBox uses a 3 digit identification system, while the HackerBox uses 4 digits. The difference between a quarterly and a monthly subscription I guess.

Refinished Golf Balls

I don’t remember the last time I bought new golf balls. I’ve written about the topic several times over the years because golf can be an expensive sport. Losing balls on the course can add up really fast if you’re paying retail, especially for the best balls on the market. I’ve played plenty of rounds where I lost 5 or more Titleist Pro V1s, which go for about $4/ball new if you buy a dozen.

All of the tests I’ve seen find very small differences in the performance between new and used golf balls. As a golfer with a 12-15 handicap over the last few years, I doubt I or most of the guys I golf with would be able to tell the difference between new and used balls. After all, a golf ball is only new until you hit it. 😉

My supply was running low, so this time around I decided to try some refinished balls from Foundgolfballs.com. After a 20% off special (which most of these golf ball places seem to constantly run), I picked up 10 dozen Titleist Pro V1x 2014 Mint Factory Refinished No Logos Golf Balls for $144.80 plus free shipping. That’s less that $1.21 per ball for a 70% savings over new balls.

Are you looking for a golf ball that looks and plays just like new, but at half the price of new? With Mint quality refinished golf balls from Foundgolfballs.com, you get a ball with no player or pen marks or other cosmetic damage, no corporate or sports team logos and balls, which play almost like new. Our extensive testing has proven that new balls and factory refinished mint balls have less than 1 yard difference.

The stamping on these isn’t perfect but nobody would ever look close enough to notice unless I said something.

Apple TV Remotes

When I bought a new Apple TV (quite awhile ago), I moved the 3rd Generation model to my office where I had a small TV not connected to anything. I’ve rarely used it since, but turned it on a couple of times in the last week to play something from YouTube. After using the new remote with the touchpad for so long, it’s quite a shock to pick up this ancient model. Having to navigate by clicking buttons seems so foreign. Don’t even try to fast forward or rewind to a specific point in a video.

5V Relay Module – Part 1

You can buy all sorts of 5V relay modules on Amazon for as little as $3-4 (probably even less if you get really cheap). They even sell boards with multiple relays if you need to switch more than one thing. Since I had all of the necessary parts I built my own. Yesterday I finished the board, because I had to do something before National Week of Making ended.

It worked great switching power from a 9V battery, but the real test was hooking it up to mains power. Electricity gets a lot more dangerous at 120V! It was a little scary plugging everything in and flipping the input, especially after reading so many warnings online, but there were no sparks.

Tester shows the wiring is correct.

I need to pick up a plastic outlet box to house everything so it’s safer with the exposed soldered circuit board in there; I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought a metal one. I’ll publish a more detailed post this weekend when it’s complete.

Update: I realized the relay I used in this module can’t handle the amount of current I need, so I ordered a different type of relay and will be making a new module. I’ll take the opportunity to make a more compact design as well. I did shrink this one a bit and cut off some of the board. I’ll save this module in case I ever need it for a project.

The Silicon Valley of Hardware

When I read The Hardware Hacker, the part that stood out the most was when bunnie discussed Shenzhen, China. I don’t remember ever hearing about the city until recently and it was actually in relation to the book. Shenzhen is where most of our electronics or (and components) come from. Foxconn, located in Shenzhen, is probably the largest electronics manufacturer in the world. They make most of Apple’s devices as well products for other big companies like HP and Microsoft.

With all of the factories producing electronics in the area, they also have the largest electronics component market in the world where you can buy anything you can imagine. Due to the supply chain and access to manufacturing, if you hook up with the right people in Shenzhen you can get a first prototype of your product created in as little as a few days. Plus, the costs there are much cheaper than anything you can buy or get done in the United States. In his book bunnie wrote…

The trouble is that aside from the label on the product that says “Made in China” or “Made in the USA,” consumers really don’t care about the manufacturing process. What markup would you pay for a gadget that said “Made in the USA” on it? The cost premium for US labor is 10 times what it is in China. Think about it: can the average US factory worker be 10 times more productive than the average Chinese factory worker? It’s a hard multiplier to play against.

Remember this the next time Trump says Apple should manufacture everything here instead of in China. Would any of us pay several thousand dollars for an iPhone? I doubt it.

With access to so much technology in Shenzhen, there is a subculture there called the shanzhai. They’re responsible for most of the copycat products you’ve probably heard about. For example, a really good iPhone clone in China might sell for 1/7th the price of a real one in the States. As you might have guessed, IP is treated differently in China than in the United States.

To give a flavor of how this is viewed in China, I heard a local comment about how great it was that the shanzhai could not only make an iPhone clone, they could improve it by giving the clone a user-replaceable battery. US law would come down on the side of this activity being illegal and infringing, but given the fecundity of mashup on the web, I can’t help but wonder out loud if mashup in hardware is all that bad. I feel there is definitely a bias in the US that “if it’s strange and it happens in China it must be bad”, which casts a long shadow over objective evaluation of new cultural phenomenon that could eventually be very relevant to the US.

Tech Trend: Shanzhai by bunnie

The speed at which the shanzhai operate and iterate is impressive and exciting. I’ve read about it being similar to the early days of computers, where people like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were sharing their projects and it was pretty much all open source hardware at the time. Some of that is coming back with the maker movement, but it seems like IP and copyright stall innovation so much in the United States. This is why I’m so proud to work for Automattic, where we place a high value on sharing with the world by open sourcing as much as we can.

bunnie teamed up with WIRED for a documentary on Shenzhen. Here’s the trailer for it.

It’s really good. You can watch the full documentary on YouTube, which is 68 minutes long. If you prefer bite-sized segments, it’s also available in parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.