Solderable LED Xmas Tree Ornament – Christmas the DIY Way

DIY Tree

I got this because it looked like a cool little project, and a neat (if tiny) gift for the missus. So that’s about the extent of my motivations. If you’re trying to put one of these together, I’m hoping that this video might answer a couple of your questions. It’s not really meant to be an educational video, though; More a demonstration of what’s involved in assembly for anyone considering a purchase. Speaking of which, if you want one you can pick one up for about 5 bucks over at banggood.com.

And in case you were wondering, this is not a paid advertisement. I actually paid them for this thing, so it’s pretty much the opposite. (If this kit were complete crap I would tell you.)

2D Version

3D Version

For viewing with Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Rift, etc.

A couple of people have rightly told me that you can just set a 3D video to 2D viewing mode, and therefore don’t need to upload 2 versions of the same video.

There are a couple of problems with simply uploading one 3D video, however:

  • Because the two sides of the video are compressed horizontally, viewing it in 2D stretches one of the “eyes” to full screen. That means it’s much lower quality with half the horizontal resolution versus a regular 2D version.
  • As far as I can see, YouTube defaults to anaglyph (red/blue) mode when browsing 3D videos on a regular monitor. That’s a potential turn-off for any viewer that doesn’t know about the switch to view it in 2D instead.

If I’m off base here, please let me know. I’m still learning this whole 3D creation process.

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.

Razer DeathAdder Button Swap (Left- to Right-Handed Mouse)

Razer DeathAdder Button Swap

I’m a leftie, but all my life I’ve used right-handed mouse in my left hand. I needed to replace my old Microsoft Optical Mouse, and found the DeathAdder Left-Handed Edition. It’s the perfect size and shape for me, but they did the weird thing of switching the left- and right-click buttons. It’s easy enough in most any operating system to swap the buttons in the settings. However — at least with Windows — the buttons are only changed locally. So when connecting to other hosts via Remote Desktop the buttons revert to their hardware configuration. That’s a no-go for me, but I liked the mouse so much that I decided to mod the hardware instead. Fortunately, it’s very easy to … Continue reading

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 mycreationcrate.com.

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.

Choosing a Disk Drive: HDDs, SSDs, and Then Some

This video covers almost everything you need to know about HDDs and SSDs to make an educated choice before pulling the trigger on a purchase.

Well, almost everything. This video is primarily directed at the home user trying to get some additional storage, whether that be an extra drive in their workstation, a NAS, or a full file server. If you’re trying to choose between SAS drives for a large-scale datacenter installation, then you probably know this stuff already.

As I promised in the video, here’s some links to my HDD TCO worksheet from 2013 (though I may have updated it in the interim with a couple of “new” drives). Please download the Excel version and use this for any drive that you want. If you make any interesting changes or large scale updates, I’d love to see it, so please let me know!

I also added a bunch of notes so you know what I meant with all the field names.

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Google Sheets – View only)

HDD Total Cost of Ownership Worksheet (Excel – View and edit)

Making the Opening to the Project Fi Review Video

Hopefully you’ve already checked out my other video: Project Fi – From 1996 to Nexus 6. In that video I discuss Project Fi, the Nexus 6, and the cellular industry in general. It started out with an opening shot of twelve Nexus Sixes (or Nexus 72, if you prefer).

In another blog post and video I showed off my motion control slider project. I’ve been looking for excuses to use it in particularly “motion-controley” ways, and so I decided to composite a bunch of passes of the camera over my one Nexus 6 to make make many of them.

As you can see, it’s done in front of a green screen. That let me isolate the Nexus 6 in each pass, which I then layered on top of each other in Adobe After Effects. I just used a mirror effect in Adobe Premiere to create the left side of the “wall”.

I thought that this was a good use of motion control for compositing because it would have been nearly impossible (or at least very difficult) to make each of the 6 passes of the camera happen at exactly the same speed if I did it by hand.

My green screen and the holder for the phone (just a mini light stand covered in green masking tape) weren’t perfectly uniform, either in texture or lighting, so the matte came out a little rough and you can see some artifacts around the phones.

I’ll admit that I’m a lazy man, so rather than re-light and re-shoot the entire thing I used a garbage matte to get rid of the worst of it. With the footage having been sped up 3x and the white-to-normal dissolve thing, it’s not overly noticeable in the final product. (Or at least I’m hoping that you didn’t notice it.)

If you have any questions about how I put it together, or any advice for me on how to get a better result next time, please let me know in the comments!

Making ejabberd 14.12 work with Microsoft Windows Active Directory LDAP

Wireshark tcpdump LDAP example

Why ejabberd? My office uses Google Talk for intra-employee instant messaging. This Monday all users got a broadcast message from Google saying that the Google Talk desktop client will cease working on February 15. (Though this may be an old automated notification from when Google was threatening to EOL Talk last February.) Update (2015-03-09): They finally did kill Talk for Windows as of February 23, 2015. Of course we can’t take the risk of Google actually shutting down our IMs, and I personally don’t like the new Hangouts Chrome app. Moreover, we want to limit employees to only messaging other people in our organization. We also don’t necessarily want Google being a party to all of our communication. That means … Continue reading

Sprint / Netgear 6100D 4G Antenna Installation (Video)

What’s all this, then?

Back in August I reviewed the Netgear 6100D from Sprint and followed up with a post detailing some advanced configuration options.

The Video

I also installed a flat panel 4G antenna from 4G Antenna Shop. I made a video detailing the unboxing and installation (which I just got around to editing together):

It’s my first video of this sort, so if you have any feedback please let me know in the YouTube comments or by email!

4G Antenna Shop

I didn’t get into it in the video, but overall I’d recommend 4G Antenna Shop. The cable and antenna I got were both of very high quality and definitely worth the price.

Their customer service was great; I had a couple of questions about my order, and one of their guys (Robert) got back to me within 15 minutes and was extremely helpful. They shipped really quickly, too.

I did have two minor issues, both of which I talk about in the video:

During checkout they give you the option of selecting your device so that they can provide the correct adapters to go from the cable (if you order it through them) to the device. At the time I’d ordered, they had an option for “Netgear Sprint Spark LTE”, which I thought was the Netgear 6100D. There was no separate option for the 6100D, but it turned out that they were referencing a different product, and so I received the wrong adapters. (They’ve since added the 6100D as an option.)

I chalked this up to being mostly my fault, as I didn’t know that there was another Netgear LTE device out there for Sprint Spark.

My other issue was with the packing job. Again, it’s a minor complaint because nothing was damaged, but the box arrived pretty beaten up with holes in the top from the antenna mount having poked through. There was no packing material to keep the box rigid, and the antenna and cable were just sorta rattling around inside.

Bear with Me…

Oh, and sorry if I rambled on a bit in the video. If you couldn’t tell from a lot of my other posts on here, I have an aversion to brevity. :)

I’m hoping to get some more how-to and instructional videos out there in 2015, so please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

(Hey, I’m allowed to shill for myself, right?)

Integrating Bullhorn with Exchange 2003 Using Journaling and Forwarding

Bullhorn vs. Exchange

Bullhorn vs. Exchange 2003 One of the companies for which I manage IT uses Bullhorn’s applicant tracking software for their recruitment workflow. That company also uses the now-ancient Exchange 2003 for their email. But, Bullhorn doesn’t officially support integration with Exchange 2003. What’s involved? First off, “integration” is a strong word. It implies that our servers will pass information back and forth and stay in some meaningfully synchronized state. That’s not the goal in this case. The integration simply consists of passing all emails that are sent and received by our recruiters to Bullhorn’s servers. Once Bullhorn receives the emails, they’re parsed and can be viewed in the Activity Center and/or under the contact record to which they apply (using … Continue reading