April 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Field trip to Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire 2017


Today at the House of Hacks, Harley leaves the workshop and heads out on a field trip to the 2017 Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire. In this video, we walk around and take a close up look at some of the exhibits.

Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire web site: http://slcmakerfaire.com/

For a written transcript, go to Field trip to Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire 2017

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com
Incidental: “Welcome to the Show” by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

Today I'm going on a fieldtrip to the Salt Lake City Mini Maker Faire. I've never been to one of these, Always wanted to go. We're going to check it out today. Let's go along and see what's happening.

[Video of various sights at the Faire]

Well that was it. There were probably about 30 booths there, give or take a few, that were roughly split between vendors selling things, organizations getting their name out in the community and people showing off things they made. It's kind of a good mix. Interesting to see the different things that are going on in the maker community here locally.

And until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Friday, April 14, 2017

How to select a power supply


A contact recently asked "How do I select a power supply for my project?" Once a project moves past the prototyping state using a battery, picking the power supply is a critical element of a personal electronics project. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley discusses the four items to consider when choosing a surplus power supply.

For a written transcript, go to How to select a power supply

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com


What do turkey basters and power supplies have to do with each other? And why am I in the kitchen? We're going to talk about all this today at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

I was recently asked about selecting a power supply for a hacked together project. There are four things when selecting a power supply that you need to pay attention to.

The first two are simple. The last two are a little be more complex but not too bad.

First is the input, you need to make sure that your power supply is appropriate for what you're plugging it into. For the most part you're going to be using locally supplied power supplies, probably surplus stuff that you've scavenged, and in that case it's going to work because it's designed for your local environment. In the United States that's going to be 110 to 120 volts AC. Pretty much anywhere else in the world, with a few exceptions, it's 220-240 volts AC. So the first item, while it's there and you need to be aware of it, it's really simple.

The second item has to do with the output. Power supplies can either output volts AC, indicated by VAC or a squiggly line or it can output in volts DC, indicated by VDC or a straight line. And you need to select the type of current that's appropriate for your project. Most, if you're doing low-voltage stuff, most of those are going to be DC, but depending on what you're working on, AC may be appropriate for your case.

The last two items are volts and amps. And these are similar to properties of water systems so we'll look at that here in a minute with the turkey baster and the sink.

But in short, volts have to do with, kind of, the pressure that the electrons are pushing into your circuit. And you need to make sure that this is appropriately ranged for your circuit you're working with. Generally circuits have a minimum and maximum voltage. You need to make sure that the voltage coming from the power supply fits within those parameters.

And finally there's amperage. Amperage is more like capacity. So it has to do with, as long as your power supply meets minimum requirements for your circuit, you're good to go. Your power supply can provide more amps than you need, it just can't provide less. So, make sure you know what your circuit requires and your power supply at least meets that minimum.

For example, a circuit that requires 250 milliamps (ma) would work just fine with a power supply that supplies 250 ma, 500 ma or 100 amps. Any of those would work just fine. However, if the power supply says it's rated for 100 ma, that's going to be too little and your circuit won't work right.

So let's go look at the sink and see how water correlates to volts and amps.

OK. As I mentioned, volts have to do with the amount of pressure and amps have to do with the capacity.

If you think about a water system, there's a whole lot of capacity here. The city has probably thousands of acre-feet of water that are sitting behind these pipes. They can provide pretty much all the capacity that we need for our little simple demonstration here.

It also has a lot of pressure. We control the pressure by the knob here, the lever, and if we put this on here and we give it just a little bit. This would be like not enough volts where we have a really weak stream here and the circuit isn't going to work right because it just doesn't have enough oomph to make it work.

If we increase the pressure to just the right amount, we get a nice flow without overdoing things and we reach a point of equilibrium here where the equivalent of the circuit is going to work just fine because we have the right amount coming in, not too much, not too little and everything's going to work just fine. And this is kind of equivalent to the volts controlled by the lever here.

If we increase the voltage too much though, what we end up with is a lot of leaks. And when you have leakage in electronics, that's a really bad thing. Things tend to blow up, burn up, magic smoke escapes, all that kind of good stuff. So you really don't want to put too much voltage to your circuit. You want to have just the right amount of volts that you get a good flow like that without having too much.

But now in all these cases, regardless of how much voltage I had, how much pressure I had coming out of the circuit, I still had huge, huge, vast amounts of water sitting in reservoirs behind these pipes. And that's equivalent to your amps. Your circuit will only use the amount of amps that it needs, regardless of how much capacity your power supply has.

So in summary, there are four things to look at: the input voltage and current and the output current, volts and amps. Make sure that you have the sufficient volts within the range that the circuit is designed for and that you have at least the minimum number of amps that are required by the circuit and you're good to go.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What is dielectric grease and why should I use it?


What is dielectric grease? Why should I use dielectric grease? How do I use it? Dielectric grease is something used on automotive electrical connections. It is relatively unknown and has some misinformation floating around regarding it. In this House of Hacks video, Harley talks about the what, why and how of using it.

This is part of a collaboration with Mike at Tomahawk DIY. In his video, he shows how to change the brake light bulb on a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

With Tomahawk DIY, Mike is building a business dedicated to helping people Build Better Lives. A substantial portion of revenue is donated to organizations that focus on helping people build better lives in some of earth's most dire circumstances. Visit his About page to learn more about the mission of Tomahawk DIY and use this Amazon Affiliate link to help support that work: Buy Dielectric Grease.

For a written transcript, go to What is dielectric grease and why should I use it?

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com
Incidental: “Beach Bum" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com

Special effects: livingroom_light_switch by AlienXXX at http://freesound.com



Hey, I wonder if Harley knows his brake light is out. That could cause a real problem.

[Door slam]

Hey Harley.


Did you know your brake light's out?

No, I didn't know that. There's a car store right around the corner. Why don't we go get some parts.

Yeah, it's a really easy fix. I'll show you how.

Awesome. Sounds great!

[Buying parts]

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to talk about replacing light bulbs and using dielectric grease.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

This is Mike from Tomahawk DIY and we're going to be talking about two things. One on his channel about how to replace a brake light and on my channel this videos going to be about what dielectric grease is and why you should use be using it.

In Mike's video, we put some dielectric grease in the fitting before putting in the new bulb.

In this video, I want to talk about what dielectric grease is and why we used it.

While shooting the bulb changing video, we ran into a problem that is a great example of why dielectric grease really should be used.

We'd taken the old bulb out, put the new one in and put the socket back in the tail light assembly.

When we tested it, it didn't work. After some checking, I found corrosion on the socket connectors.

Dielectric grease helps inhibit this type of corrosion.

If these had grease put on them at the factory, they wouldn't have corroded this way.

So what is dielectric grease?

It's a silicon based grease that is non-curing and non-conductive.

Coming out of the tube, it has a, well, greasy type consistency, and being non-hardening, it maintains this consistency.

It stays this way and doesn't get hard or setup.

Here I have the multi-meter here setup to measure resistance.

When I put a drop on the probes, we can see it is non-conductive until I press the probes together and they make metal-to-metal contact.

Bare metal will have a chemical reaction to the oxygen in the air, called oxidation or corrosion.

Oxidation is less conductive than the metal, causing the flow of electricity to be reduced.

If there's not much oxidation, the reduction isn't enough to cause a problem.

However, in the harsh, sometimes wet, environment of a car, oxidation can build up over time to be a problem.

At best, it will decrease voltage causing lights to dim and other devices not to work properly.

In extreme cases, it can cause increased heat as the current attempts to break through and cause plastic to melt, shorts and sparks and, in the worse case, a fire.

Dielectric grease does a couple things to help combat these problems.

First, it's an insulator and helps prevent arcing between air gapped metal.

In high-voltage situations, this can help reduce voltage leakage, like in the engine's ignition system.

But in the low voltage situation of lighting, this isn't it's primary benefit.

In normal use, any place there's air gapped terminals, the air is sufficient insulation.

It's primary benefit comes as a non-hardening sealant.

When it's liberally applied to an electrical connection, it coats the metal and surrounds the terminals.

But being squishy, it is pressed out of the way on the metal-to-metal contact points.

This creates a sealed electrical connection that prevents both air and water from getting to the metal.

Keeping the water out of the connector helps eliminate short circuits and keeping the air out limits corrosion from happening.

It also helps the plastic and rubber parts of the connectors.

The oils in the grease help minimize gassing off of the plastic's oils.

This in turn helps prevent the plastic from getting brittle.

It also lubricates rubber fittings to let them seal better but not fuse.

All these things combined make the connector easier to take apart next time the bulb needs to be replaced.

I've seen some more expensive cars with dielectric grease on fittings from the factory.

And I've heard of people who will go through their vehicle when they first get it and put grease on all the connectors.

Usually these are people who put their vehicles in unusually harsh circumstances, particularly off-road or marine environments.

Personally, I use it whenever I replace something, but I don't go out of my way to take things apart specifically to add grease to them.

But given this most recent situation, I may rethink that.

If this is your first time here at House of Hacks: Welcome, I'm glad you're here and would love to have you subscribe.

I believe everyone has a God-given creative spark.

Sometimes this manifests through making things with a mechanical or technical bent.

Through this channel I hope to inspire, educate and encourage these types of makers in their creative endeavors.

Usually this involves various physical media like wood, metal, electronics, photography and other similar materials.

If this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and subscribe and I'll see you again in the next video.

Thanks for joining me on our creative journey.

Now, go make something. Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What entry level camera should I buy?


Viewer JasonNevin asked what camera I recommend for an entry level photographer. In this video I give my reply.

Being shopping for a Fuji camera on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

For a written transcript, go to What is my entry level camera recommendation?

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at http://incompetech.com


On the Canon 77D unboxing video, JosephNevin asked the question about what DSLR I would recommend for an entry level beginning photographer.

I'm going to give my, perhaps surprising, answer today here at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Photographers.

Before answering Joseph's question I want to, by way of full disclosure, kind of give a little bit of background about myself.

This is of course an opinion piece, opinion answer, and so in order for you to know how to weight my opinion, my answer, I want to give you a little bit of background about myself.

I grew up in the printing industry. My Dad was involved in the printing industry. My Grandfather had his own print shop.

And one of my earliest, earliest memories, when I was probably three or so... three or so years old... was of a camera. And so I've been around cameras my entire life.

When I was probably first or second grade I got this camera. It's a 35mm, kind of a point and shoot type deal as my first camera.

When I was in high school, probably as a freshman, I got my first SLR camera, right here.

So I've been around cameras my whole life.

I've been involved in the Canon ecosystem for the better part of a decade now. In our household we have four camera bodies, four Canon bodies and a whole bunch of different lenses and accessories for the Canon system.

I'm not a professional photographer but I am, I would consider myself a serious hobbyist.

I help out teaching classes a couple times a year with our local university extension course for beginning photographers and also people new to studio lighting and flash photography.

I have a significant background even though I'm not a professional.

Now having said that, with all the different cameras I come in contact with, I am partial to the Canon system.

I think it's probably the best system historically in terms of build quality, in terms of user interface, in terms of support and repair, it's just been second to none.

Nikon is probably a very, very close second and in terms of technology and feature sets, they historically have tended to leap frog each other.

So first Canon would be on top and then Nikon would come out with the next version and be slightly better and they'd just kind of leap frog.

Now having said all that, that's historical information.

In the last couple years the mirror-less systems have really taken the field by storm.

And in many ways I think that they have surpassed the Canon and Nikon system and Canon and Nikon simply haven't really kept up really very well, I don't think.

The latest releases from Canon have kind of been evolutionary improvements on what they had before but I don't think they're really keeping up with some of the innovations that are coming out in the mirror-less market from particularly Panasonic in their Lumix GH series cameras and Sony with their a7 something, I forget what it is, and the other A series cameras that Sony has been coming out with in the mirrorless systems.

Both Sony and Panosonic technically are I think vastly superior cameras to the current Canon/Nikon offerings.

Now having said that, I think both the Panasonic and the Sony systems don't measure up to Nikon and Canon in terms of service or in user interface.

I think Canon and Nikon both are better at positioning the buttons and how the menus are laid out, just kind of the overall user experience with their cameras.

Canon being just slightly better, in my opinion, than Nikon. Of course that could be more based on my own familiarity with the Canon system than anything really objective on that. It's purely a subjective opinion.

Now having said that, the Panasonic and Sonys technically, the image quality coming out of them, is far better than the Canon/Nikons I think.

So, what would be my recommendation?

If you're invested in the Canon system, if you're invested in a system, I would continue staying in that system. If you've got a bunch of Nikon glass or a bunch of Canon glass, just stay with that. Both systems are, have very solid offerings.

But if you're going in new, if I was going in new, didn't have any pre-existing conditions, I would be getting a Fuji system.

Fuji uses the Sony sensors, so they've got incredible, incredible images coming off those cameras.

But Fuji has the best user interface. It even surpasses Canon's, in my opinion.

A couple things that make it noteworthy is they have separate controls for the exposure triangle.

You have a separate knob for ISO, and for shutter speed and the f/stop is a ring on the lenses just like the old film cameras were. So everything you need for exposure is right there with a haptic feedback in a manual knob.

And I think this just puts it ahead of all its competition, across the board.

Also, Fuji has a great menu system. The menus are laid out in a way that's easy to access the things that you commonly access and the things that are custom that are more detailed are layered in a way that is easy to get to, that makes sense, and the options are comprehensible.

Sometimes the other systems, particularly Sony, Sony is awful at the user interface. The menus are terrible. And finding things and configuring a Sony camera is a very, very frustrating experience.

So, I was going in new, I would go with a mirror-less system, with the Fuji. Their build quality is excellent. The user interface is excellent and their images that they generate are fantastic.

So that's it for today. Until next time, go make something. Perfection's not required. Fun is!