I Cancelled HackerBoxes

I recently mentioned I was considering cancelling my subscription to HackerBoxes. Turns out the owner of the company made that decision much easier with the way he treats customers. Box #0030 is my last one.

The HB owner came up with some crazy conspiracy theory that all of his most active customers were trying to run him out of business. He started attacking us and censored us from helping other people in the community. You can see what the owner says in this deleted subreddit thread (also on the Internet Archive in case that page gets removed).

He also jumped into the comments on one of my unboxing videos and started making a bunch of incorrect assumptions about me and attacking me. It was so outrageous I thought it was a YouTube troll and I blocked the account soon after the 2nd comment came through so other HB customers to see the garbage this person was saying. Later that night I found out it was the owner! I wish I had saved those comments.

If you’re a HB subscriber or thinking to start you can decide for yourself if it’s a company you want to support. I won’t be giving my money to someone who treats customers like this. It’s disappointing because the concept is sound, I learned a lot, and there were some fun projects. If HB embraced and appreciated their community it could be an awesome way for people to learn about electronics.

The community has moved over HardWareFlare. Discord info is there as well, which is very active.

I’ve restarted my subscription to AdaBox and I suggest you check them out. Adafruit actually cares about people. Their next box (8) will be all about building robots. Another subscription electronics service I’m enjoying is Boldport Club, which comes once a month.

Unboxing HackerBox #0030: Lightforms

Quick unboxing video for the latest HackerBox.

Official box contents from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0030 Collectable Reference Card
  • NodeMCU V3 Module with ESP8266 and 32M Flash
  • Reel of 60 WS2812B RGB LEDs 2 meters
  • 8x8x8 LED Kit with 8051-Based MCU and 512 LEDs
    • PCB
    • Reusable Plastic Parts Box
    • Two 4.7 KOhm Resistors
    • Eight 470 Ohm Resistors
    • 10 KOhm Eight Resistor Array
    • STC12C5A60S2
    • 40-Pin DIP Socket
    • Eight 74HC573 Octal Latches
    • Eight 20-Pin DIP Sockets
    • ULN2803 Transistor Array
    • 18-Pin DIP Socket
    • Two 10uF 25V Electrolytic Capacitors
    • Two 22pF Ceramics Capacitors
    • 12MHz Crystal Oscillator
    • Barrel Power Socket
    • 4-Pin Serial Header
    • Power Switch
    • Cable with USB to 5V Barrel
    • Red Hookup Wire
    • 550 LEDs
  • USB Serial Module with CH340G and Jumper Wires
  • Stranded Hookup Wire 3 meters, 22 gauge
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Decal
  • Exclusive Dark Side LED Decal

It’s disappointing that HackerBoxes resold us a popular kit that you can get for $15-20. I’ve seen these LED cubes many times online and while they do look awesome, I never bought one because I didn’t think I’d have the patience to put one together. I guess I’ll get the chance now.

I’ll probably try to do a time-lapse of this assembly, which is going to take a long time.

Lamp Repair: Replace Touch Control with a Switch

My Mom’s bedroom lamp was malfunctioning so I told her to send it down with my Dad and I’d take a look at it.

The lamp uses a very common TA-306A touch control unit and the BT134 thyristor on the board often gets fried. I think this might have been my bedroom lamp when I lived with my parents 20 years ago, so there is no sense buying parts for it. I replaced the touch controls with a switch I salvaged from a different lamp.

HackerBox #0029 Field Kit Updates

I’ve customized the items in the HackerBox Field Kit and explained everything in this video.

You can find the example code I put together for all of the modules in my hackerbox-29-field-kit GitHub repo.

hackerbox-0029-field-kit-modules-breadboard

I plan to keep the kit in my backpack, especially for trips up north when I visit family. Maybe I shouldn’t take this with me on flights though. Have you ever travelled with a bunch of wiring and electronics parts?

If you’re interested in an electronics community, join us on reddit and Discord.

HackerBox #0029: Field Kit

I did an unboxing and a little demo with the latest HackerBox.

Here is the official list of contents from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0029 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Zipper Case
  • Portable 5V Soldering Iron
  • ProMicro ATmega32U4 5V 16MHz
  • OLED 0.91 Inch Display 128×32 I2C
  • Four Key Pushbutton Module
  • Six LED Debug Module
  • AT24C256 I2C EEPROM Module
  • 400 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • Jumper Wire Bundle
  • Set of Mini Grabber Clips
  • Solder Wick 2mm by 1.5m
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • MiniUSB Cable
  • Precision Driver Set
  • Exclusive Phone Phreak Decal Exclusive
  • Exclusive 8bit Dragon Keychain

I really like the idea behind this box. I’ve already rolled up more solder to keep in my kit and will have to think about what else to put in there. Maybe some potentiometers. It’s nice getting a microcontroller I don’t have yet.

I started a GitHub repo with some example code using all of the modules.

I had pretty much decided I was going to cancel my subscription so #0030 would be my last box. I think I mentioned recently about cancelling my AdaBox subscription, that I have accumulated a pretty decent collection of microcontrollers and other components. I spend a lot of time catching up on all of these boxes when I could be using that time to build projects from my own list of ideas, which is quite large. After getting #0029 though I think I’ll stick it out for longer and see how it goes.

Update: I made some customizations to my kit.

Come join the active community on Reddit and Discord. More info at HardWareFlare.

Boldport Club #23: Pips

When I was thinking about cancelling my AdaBox subscription I came across Boldport Club.

As a member of the Boldport Club you’ll receive an electronics project once a month. Our projects are designed to be engaging, challenging, entertaining, collectable, and to promote exploration and discovery through the use of electronics.

Weird timing that AdaBox007 actually included the Cad Sticker set from Boldport Club.

Over the last year or I’ve come to realize I really enjoy little soldering kits. Time will tell if the Boldport Club is satisfying and worth the cost. Each project looks unique and really well designed. I paid for a year up front, which comes out to pretty much the same as a year of AdaBox and I get something every month instead of quarterly.

Here’s a time-lapse of my assembly of Boldport Club #23: Pips.

It was a fun assembly and works as advertised. Not sure I’ll get any future use out of it though.

AdaBox007: Spy

When Adafruit hinted that AdaBox #007 would have a spy theme I was excited. I did a time-lapse of the unboxing this time since they do their own unboxing (scheduled some time next week) which is much better than listening to me talk.

This box has more content than any other box so far.

  • Large Padlock & 9 Piece Lockpick Kit
  • Software Defined Radio USB Receiver with Antenna
  • Adafruit GEMMA M0
  • USB Cable – 6″ A/MicroB
  • AAA Battery Holder with On/Off Switch
  • 3 AAA Batteries
  • Fast Vibration Sensor Switch
  • Piezo Buzzer
  • Panel Mount 10K Potentiometer + Knob
  • Invisible Ink Pen
  • 5mm Purple UVA LED
  • IR (Infrared) Receiver Sensor
  • 5mm Super-bright IR LED
  • 0.1mm Magnet Wire
  • Digikey Digi-Keyer Puzzle
  • Digikey Web Cam Cover
  • EFF Multisticker Sheet
  • 2600 Magazine: The Hacker Quarterly
  • Hackspace Magazine
  • Boldport Club Cad Sticker

I’ve always wanted a lock pick set and the clear padlock seems like a cool way to learn. I’ll have to make some videos once I start learning how to pick locks.

Even with this box being one of the better ones, I think I’m going to cancel because I have built up quite a collection of Adafruit microcontrollers and other components. I need to start building projects that I actually use around the house instead of just tinkering and taking everything apart after I learn. I like the subscription, but they’ve left me wanting more because it really is focused on the beginner. Not saying I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have so many of the things included in most of the boxes now.

I can’t help myself and have already subscribed to a different monthly electronics kit. More on that in a few days.

HackerBox #0028: JamBox

I like it when the new HackerBox shows up on a weekend.

I always see electronics projects for making some kind of digital synthesizer to generate sounds so it seems to be a common project. It’s one I’ve never done, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this box.

The official content list from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0028 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive JamBox Printed Circuit Board
  • ESP32 DevKitC
  • CJMCU PCM5102 I2S Digital-to-Analog Module
  • Four MAX7219 8×8 LED Matrix Modules
  • Five 10K Ohm RV09 Potentiometers
  • Five Potentiometer Knobs
  • Eight Tactile Momentary Buttons
  • Four Adhesive Rubber Feet
  • 3.5mm Audio Patch Cable
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • Earbuds with Case
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Skull Decal
  • Octocat Fan Art Decal Sheet

Unfortunately the demo code included in the guide only uses the potentiometers, buttons, and LEDs. Will need to do some tinkering to turn this into a synth.