About 10-15 years ago the power-bank came on the scene. People were carrying phones and other gadgets around that needed charging and were constantly worried about running out. As a consequence, if you offered them one with your logo, they would carry it around. Marketing objective achieved.

Fast forward to today. The gadgets now have ~3000mAh batteries, and better battery life. But the humble power bank hasn’t really kept up. You see, most of them are a single 18650 battery, usually used. Yes, used. This means that some crusty old laptop you had about 10 years ago that was thick enough to have a 6×18650 battery pack was ‘recycled’. Someone took it apart, took out those batteries that hardly held a charge, slapped it in some new plastic, and shipped it back.

Let’s take a look at one. I attended a conference in early December. The ‘swag bag’ that we were handed came with the de-rigeur ‘power bank’ and some sticker thing you put on the back of your phone to make it easier to hold. The power bank claims a (actually believable) 1200mAh capacity. Others are not so held by the truth and use words like ‘2000mAh’, or why not ‘200 000mAh’ 🙂

OK lets think about this. My phone (pixel 2xl) has a 3520mAh battery. This means, in a perfect world, I could get about 1/3 charge from this device. The Pixel 2 XL supports USB-C PD, it can charge ‘up to 7 hours of charge with 15min’ of a USB-C PD charger.

So, I have a choice, I can carry this widget, and, over the course of 1 hour of charging, transfer about 1/3 the of the capacity to the phone. Or, for about the same weight, I can carry a USB-C PD charger and turbo-charge it in about 5-minutes to the same amount. Hmm.

So lets do a bit of a trial, to see if this modest (and free) device holds up to its 1200mAh claim. I’m thinking it will, the cell in it new would have been ~2000-~3000 mAh, so used @ 1200mAh sounds ok (some losses will occur in the 3.6V – 5.0V boost circuit too).

Bust out the ‘meter’ and some resistors (and a fan). Here we are just after plugging in, 5.0V output @ 1.05A. Good!

And here we are 1:13:29 later, just before it shuts off. 1208mAh have been transferred to the device under charge. OK, story checks out, they spec’d it accurately.

But, would I carry this? No way. Its not longer good enough. If it was a ~20K mAh bank w/ USB-C PD then maybe. But that would be outside the $1 target cost to make a marketing give-away feasible.

So, marketers of the online universe… Save your $, and save the landfill, these are no longer ‘cool’ and no longer useful.

At my previous gig i had some oversight of marketing. And the marketing folks often complained that there was an unfair level of technical depth needed. I would usually tell them “suck it up princess, get back to that vi + shell” or “the beatings will continue until morale improves”.

Well, one of those folks seems to have gone on to some pretty slick hackery. Check out his twitch stream. It seems to involve some rasperry pi, some sensors, and some real-time botanical growing.

Nice work. And the internet (which once only had coffee pots to watch, and then of course, briefly, jenni) now has another cam to watch. And now we can know the live humidity of your hydroponic farm, real-time. What a time to be alive!

This turned out really well. You can’t see a single wire anywhere.

Ingredients. 1 generic ‘Car Dash Camera’. Its so generic there is not a model number anywhere on it or the packaging. Nothing. I got it from Aliexpress here. It was described as ”
WiFi Car DVRs Recorder Dash Cam Dual Lens Vehicle Rear Camera Built in GPS Camcorder 4K 2160P Night Vision Dashcam Novatek 96663″. The 4K is a bit of a hmm. It is a pair of 1080P cameras (front, rear). Not exactly 4K, but we’ll go w/ it.

It uses a Sony IMX323 sensor, which is something you need to look for in ‘generic chinese cameras’. You can easily end up with a ‘gopro 4k like’ which sure, it records @ 4K, but the sensor is vaseline and waxed paper, the effective resolution is more like QCIF. But I digress. It has GPS (for speed) and WiFi (so you can install the worlds crappiest app to really do nothing with), and shock-sensor (to lock the recording if you bump). Interestingly it also has a super-capacitor in it for clean power down when you yank the power (and also for parking monitoring… if you are bumped while parked, it will take 60s of capture and snooze again).

Not content with 4G or 5G, they have gone with a 6G lens. Sounds great!

Somehow the 2 x 4MP sensors become 12MP when joined. The marketing specs are… aggressive!

To find out what was inside, first we employed a screwdriver. The only label is T3-NT96663 (Novatek). I’ve attached the datasheet which comes from ip dashcamtalk.Novatek NT96655 Data Sheet

Now, I was wondering, do I wire it to be ‘always on’ or to be ‘Retained Accessory Power’ (e.g. switched). Lets look at the power draw. It seems like its 0.8A @ 5V, so ~4W. Now, you might think, well, the Bolt has a 60KWh battery, run it all the time, how can this matter. But, like all electric cars, there is a small 12V lead-acid battery lurking in there which is used to drive everything except the traction power. Still, that is ~80Ah @ 12V nominal, ~= 960Wh. So at perfect efficiency (hah! physics!) we’d have 240 hours to ‘full flat’, 10 days. Derate by probably 75% (don’t want to run a lead-acid down too far, some innefficiency), we’d be good for a few days. Hmm. I’ll revisit later and put it on a RAP circuit.

Wiring was simple. I considered wiring it into the overhead console power (onstar, dome lights), but instead drove it back to the fuse panel where there were quite a few blanks. I used an ‘add-a-circuit’ micro-fuse tap. I then put it into a small buck converter. The wiring was easy to run (up the kick-panel, up the A-pillar, across the roof) in the lip under the wind-seal. I then wired the rear-camera by wiring from front to rear along the wind-seal and headliner lip. You cannot see the wires at all. The pain bit was getting it through the rubber boots into the hatch-back assembly. For this I used a ‘fish stix’ to fish it. A few stickers, and we are good to go. You can see the fuse panel at the right, lots of empty space to be used (but the add-a-fuse can share an existing tap if needed).

Now on to the app. Oh dear. Rated 1.8 on the Play Store. This will be wonderful. Well, all I can say is, it kind of works if you are patient. ‘Roadcam’ is the name that eventually worked for me, there are a lot, and with such a generic device (no model name at all)…

The user manual… well… it gets the job done. I’m not sure the grammar is world-class, but the concepts come through.

Does it work? Lets see some video (from the rear cam firsts, then the front) for the maiden run:

In 2017 I declared war on my incandescent bulbs. Lets take a look at the progress removing those incandescent and halogen bulbs has done. The ‘peak’ usage (~4700kWh) occurred in a month someone (who shall remain nameless) left the sauna on for several days, so lets ignore that. But, lets take a look later. The difference is stark. Yes it was a huge bag of bulbs, yes there were a lot of trips up and down ladders. Yes it was a decent amount of $$$ to spend. But the savings in electricity, in efficiency, is huge.

So, you still got an old yellow bulb? Maybe its a pot-light, a reading light, whatever? Get off your butt. Go order some ‘5000K-5600K’ colour LED bulbs (noontime sunlight). And feast in the savings and knowing you are doing the right thing.

ps. A lot of people think sunlight is yellow and thus that they should get ‘warm white’ or ‘yellow’ bulbs. Its incorrect. Sunlight is actually pure white (which is why you can take a prism and make a rainbow). The outline of the sun looks yellow because of stuff in the atmosphere, but the light itself is white. Don’t believe me? Check the web!

Its national radon month here in the great white north. They estimate 21, 100 Canadians will die of lung cancer this year, 3000 of those because of Radon. Have you gone and bought your Radon monitor yet?

You, yes you, need one if you have a basement or ground floor to your house. If you live in the clouds, ignore this PSA 🙂

Yes I know you checked 8 years ago once when you had the home inspection. No that is not relevant, you need to check constantly. Yes I know you borrowed a friends meter last month, no that is not relevant, you need to check constantly, it varies day by day.

Do you really want to be that person coughing up what’s left of their lungs in a few years? No? Get off your but and click the link, go to best buy, whatever.

I recommend the Airthings Wave, but I suppose there are others. I wouldn’t get the charcoal ones (who’s going to send that in the mail? really?).