ecobee3 Smart Thermostat Install & Review

My old style programmable thermostat died last weekend, and so I rushed over to Home Depot to get a replacement. I wanted a smart thermostat mainly for its wifi connectivity, but also wanted to try out the truly “smart” aspect of it: Optimizing heating and cooling cycles to suit my needs.

They did an excellent job with the user interface, making setup really easy. And their app, though slow to connect at times, is overall well-designed and easy to use. So far I like the ecobee3, but my main concern is with reliability/longevity, and that of course remains to be seen.

NiMH Battery Roundup – Eneloop, EBL, Sunlabz, Amazon, and Other AA Cells Tested

This video goes ridiculously in-depth on the subject of 10 particular models and brands of popular NiMH cells. It covers my recommendations, as well as an extensive dive into my testing methodology.


As promised, here’s the spreadsheet that I mentioned in the video. Both links are to the same document, just in two different formats.

Google Docs:

Excel File: NiMH_Capacity_Analysis-Scott_Dotdot.xlsx

My Recommendation

Not to spoil the video, but if you’re here for a recommendation: At the current price of $21.99 for a sixteen pack, the EBL 2300mAh cells are the way to go. However, I’d also recommend the high capacity cells by Amazon and Sunlabz.

I own a bunch of Panasonic Eneloop cells, and they are reliable, well made, and meet or exceed their advertised capacity. I’d absolutely recommend Eneloops or Eneloop Pros, at the right price. They can be catastrophically expensive, which is the only reason they aren’t my first recommendation. The EBL and Sunlabz cells give much better value for money.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: AEDILYS Motorola Nexus 6 USB Dock

This is so close to being a good charging stand, except that the USB port is used to hold the phone in place!

Its design is quite simple, as it’s just a USB 2.0 pass-through from a micro-USB port on the back of the dock to a male micro-USB on the front.

There’s not much more to say about it in text, so check out the video to get a full look at it! And this does have the benefit of being one of my shortest videos, so you only need to invest about 2.5 minutes into it. :)

Lets Open: AgIC Circuit Marker – Can You Solder? (Kinda)

This video answers the age-new question: Can you solder to silver circuit trace ink?

The answer is yes, but it probably would take some practice, and it doesn’t work all that well.

Update: Overloading a Circuit

Because the impedance of the silver ink was so high, I decided to try and overload it with far too much current to see what would happen.

The video includes trying to power a 40W light bulb at 120 VAC through the paper circuit as well as a dead short at 30 VDC!

The upshot is that it did not start a fire, and the silver trace failed in a controlled manner. That’s bad for the drama of a YouTube video, but a good indication that this product won’t burst into flame in regular use!

Soldering Technique

I got a little more practice soldering onto the ink, and here’s the best technique as I could manage:

  1. With the soldering iron at a normal soldering temperature (I used ~380F), tin the leads of the wires or components. Contravening the proper technique, leave a good size blob of solder on there.
  2. With the soldering iron at a low temperature (~300F), “tin” the inked paper by flowing solder onto it with the tip just barely not touching the paper. The result should be a small blob of solder on the ink, without having melted the coating on the photo paper.
  3. Place the lead on top of the blob that’s on the ink. Heat the soldering iron back up to ~380F or higher, and place it on top of the lead, just long enough to flow the solder on the lead into the solder on the paper.

And that’s it! Using this technique, I was able to make three flawless joints out of my first four attempts. And that was to tack the heavy gauge wire of the 120V power cable to the paper. It was much more solid than I expected.

Let’s Open: Japan Crate Review

Hey look! A crate from Japan! (California, technically.)

Japan Crate sends a box of surprise Japanese candy, chips, and other edibles to your door every month. For a fee, of course.

The missus got a 3-month subscription for me as a birthday gift, and I’ve been sitting on the third crate for over a month waiting to do a video on it (much to her chagrin). It’s now come to pass.

I like the Japan Crate crates quite a bit, to spoil the whole review right now.

Update: In retrospect, I probably should have tried everything on camera, and then just edited out the uninteresting items.

The stuff that I thought was root beer flavored hard candies were in fact similar in texture to very rapidly dissolving Smarties that tasted like maple syrup and butter. Basically it was like licking the top of a stack of pancakes from I-Hop. I didn’t care for it, even though in theory I like those two things. What it needed were the pancakes.

My friend Vin (the Kit Kat guy) points out that my detail on the matcha and condensed milk candies was lacking, which is fair enough. But I don’t know how to accurately describe the taste of matcha because it’s fairly unique. It’s got an earthy taste, I suppose. That’s really not enough to go on, so next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant ask if they have green tea with matcha. Ever since I had it for the first time at Arata Sushi in Syosset, NY, I can’t drink regular green tea anymore. It just doesn’t compare.

And I probably should have shown this DIY thing from the previous month’s crate:

It’s called Nomucco Jelly, and comes with a bag of powder plus the plastic dish and straw you see in the video. Add a little bit of water and stir and a minute later you get… melon flavored mucus!.

The texture only becomes unpleasant when you think of it as mucus, a fact of which Amanda reminded me quite gladly. The flavor is lightly melon-y, though, and “pretty good”.

Note that I’m not paid to endorse this, and have no vested interest in Japan Crate. I just happen to like it.

Let’s Open: Solar Motion Sensor LED Light from Vont – Review, Teardown, and Installation

A company called Divine LEDs (now called Vont) got in touch with me out of the blue to ask if I’d be interested in doing a review of their Solar Motion Sensor Light. I said “sure”, but with the caveat that my review would be honest, good or bad.

As it happens, I like this little light. It seems to be well designed, and does what it promises: Light up dimly when it gets dark, and then brightly when it detects motion. It has what looks like a LiPo cell inside that’s charged by the solar panel.

Of course, only time will tell if the light is any good. I’ll save my final judgement until after it survives (or not) a New York summer and winter.

For those of you that are curious, here’s a couple of close-ups of the circuit board:

Solar Motion Light - Circuit Board - Front Solar Motion Light - Circuit Board - Back

Side note: I say in the video that Vont is located in New York. On Vont’s website they list a 718 number, which is Queens / Brooklyn. However, the Divine LEDs Google+ page shows their location as Las Vegas, and the Divine LEDs website shows Hong Kong.

Let’s Open: Creation Crate’s 1st Monthly Project (an Electronics Project Subscription Service)

The folks over at Creation Crate got in touch and asked me to do a review of their monthly electronics project subscription service. I like the whole “crate” concept, and I like electronics, so figured I’d go for it.

This is an unboxing, review, and assembly of the whole thing, cut down to an unusually-short 16 minutes or so.

Overall, I like the Creation Crate, though there are a couple of minor points with which I took issue. But if you’re looking for a gift that’s educational and fun (for those that find electronics to be fun, at any rate), then you could do a lot worse. I’m kinda basing this on my own childhood, but this seems like it would be perfectly suited to pre-teens and early teens, but would be good for anyone just starting out with basic electronics and programming.

If you’re interested, they can be found at

And in full disclosure: The kit was provided to me for free by Creation Crate, but this is not a promotional video.

I would have made the very same video and said the same things if I’d paid for the kit, and at a value of ~$30 bucks it’s not exactly enough for me to sell myself. On the other hand, if anyone from Tesla ever reads this, I will guarantee you a good review if I get to keep the car.

Let’s Open: Cheap “Smart” Watches from AliExpress: Ken Xin Da W1 and U Watch U80

This is a quick very long video about two “smart” watches, one which isn’t all that smart and another which is more of a phone than a smartwatch.

In case you want one for some reason, here’s where I got ‘em:

Bluetooth U80 Smart Watch (AliExpress)

KEN XIN DA W1 Smart Watch Phone (AliExpress)

Don’t take those links as an endorsement, though I do kinda enjoy the Ken Xin Da watch for music and emergencies on the go.