8x8x8 LED Cube

My last HackerBox, #0030: Lightforms, came with an 8x8x8 LED cube kit. I started building it in May, when I assembled the PCB and made a jig for assembling the grids.

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8×8 jig

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I got busy over the summer and the thought of soldering 512 LEDs didn’t excite me. After catching up on all of my other kits, it was finally time to dive back in.

I thought I took some video of assembling the board, but I must have deleted it. So I didn’t bother with any video while assembling the grids either. The repetition would have been quite boring. I thought I’d do a gallery with captions for a change.

While assembling the 8×8 grids I settled on a pretty good system, so I recorded myself doing a couple of rows to show my method.

This is definitely my longest electronics kit in terms of hours spent and it had so much repetition. Pretty cool result. Here is someone’s demo showing what can be done with the cube.

I’ll need to upgrade the firmware so I can program the board with my own animations.

Boldport: Capaci-meter (#31)

This is the penultimate project from Boldport Club before they move away from the subscription model. It is called Capaci-meter and is project #31. I’m really sad to see the Club changing because I’ve enjoyed the projects a lot more than any of the other electronics kits and the PCBs are so beautiful. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

After having issues with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron, I finally did some troubleshooting and by using a meat thermometer I determined the tips weren’t getting hot enough. Then I found the device actually has an adjustment mode which lets it compensate. Works great now and is so much better than that cheap iron I’ve been using for other recent projects.

It’s great when the project produces a useful device like this for testing the value of capacitors.

AdaBoxes 8 & 10

More catching up on electronics stuff that was piled on my desk. Here I unboxed AdaBoxes 8 and 10. Then I assembled 10, which is a sweet device, and loaded some of the code examples. Skip ahead to 17:23 if you only want to check out the demos.

In the past I mentioned I might cancel my AdaBox subscription, which I did after box #8. On social media and in their YouTube shows Adafruit has been pretty much telling you what’s in the next box, which has been nice. I knew #9, based on their HalloWing board, didn’t interest me. Then when I realized #10 was going to be the NeoTrellis and subscriptions were still open late in the quarter I jumped in. I plan to make a game-time decision each quarter from here on out.

SparkFun Dumpster Dive

About once a year SparkFun does a special sale to sell off “customer returns, damaged products (physical or cosmetic), overstock, production samples, or anything that’s not selling well enough on the site to keep around.” Fittingly, they call it the Dumpster Dive. I missed out on it last year, but was near a computer and able to place an order this year. It costs $15 for a box of what could literally be all trash and came out to $25.32 after tax and shipping. Here’s what I got…

  • Random wires and shrink tubes ($0.50)
  • Slide Pot – X-Large – 10k Linear Taper ($2.95)
  • 30-LED Bargraph – PCB only ($3)
  • Load Cell Amp ($1.95)
  • Mini Photocell (2X $1.50)
  • Toggle Switch ($1.95)
  • LinkSprite JPEG Color Camera TTL Interface – 2MP ($27.50)
    • Retired product but I was able to find what might be a newer model for $55 in several places, so took 50% of that price
  • Some kind of display with a connector I’ve never seen
    • I couldn’t find out what this was and 99.9% sure I’ll never use it, so won’t give it a price.
  • 6 terminal block ($2.95)
    • Cracked in one corner, but completely useable
  • LED Mixed Pack ($8)
    • They sell a 26 pack for $10.60
  • Force Sensitive Resistor – Long ($20.95)
  • 4 AA battery holder ($1.95)
  • 2 AAA battery holders (2x $1.95)
  • Gearbox Wheel ($1.50)

Total comes out to about $80, so I’d say I did well with my box. I’ll actually use quite a few of these things.

Revive a Ryobi Battery

I’ve been able to revive a dead power tool battery before, but Ryobi has some extra protection so you can’t trickle charge them from the contact points on the outside of their batteries. I was able to use a method I found on YouTube to trickle charge from the inside and the battery is working again.

When I say “dead battery” I mean the charger status shows the battery is defective. It can do this if the battery completely loses all of its power or the cells become imbalanced. The charger has built-in safety measures that prevent it from charging batteries in this state.

Be aware that opening the battery like this will void the warranty. Due to the special screws (T10 with a hole) I bought a security bit set from Menards for $5.

Update: A second battery went dead the day this was published. This method resurrected that one as well.

Rewired MacBook Pro Charger

One end of the cable on this cheap charger had worn out to the point where it would only work if held in the exact right position. Or so I thought. After a little rewiring and heat-shrink tubing I found out that it’s actually something on the inside portion of the connector. I’ll have to see if I can open up the case.

Electronics Backlog

Most of my free time has been spent working on the truck for the last month and I’m starting a wood working project that’ll take me a week or two. Hopefully I can get back to some electronics projects before August, because they’re literally piling up.

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.