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.

$10 Credit Card Sized Cellphone (Matrix Relarded)

Here’s a tiny cellphone from Aiek (your top brand for cheap-ass mini phones, maybe). I got it for $10, and surprisingly it works pretty well!

I forgot to mention in the video, but it’s GSM and definitely compatible with AT&T’s network. (I tested it using H2O Wireless, but they’re just a virtutal provider on AT&T’s system.)

You can pick one up from Banggood, but unfortunately the price has jumped up twice since I bought it, and now it’s at an unfortunate $18.47 (October 8, 2016). I’m sure it’s sold elsewhere, so hopefully you can grab it for ten bucks from another source.

The free delivery option was surprisingly fast to me here in NY at just over a week.

This definitely won’t be replacing your iPhone 7 or Google Pixel, but as a backup/emergency phone to keep in a handbag or backpack it’s pretty cool.

Also, Matrix Something Something Relarded.

Etekcity “Outdoor” Collapsible “Camping” LED Lanterns of Doom

Here are some collapsible LED “camping” lanterns from Etekcity. The reason I put “camping” in quotes is because there is no sign of waterproofing on these things.

I suppose if you’re camping in the desert they’d be fine.

Wait, no they wouldn’t be. Because one out of the four didn’t work, and the soldering was abysmal. If you want to see details, I do a tear down in the video.

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: 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.

Let’s [Quickly] Open: Crappy NiMH Cells from AliExpress vs. Panasonic Eneloop Cells

A look at some possibly-fake random “NiMH” AA cells from AliExpress, comparing them to Panasonic Eneloop cells.

From my somewhat limited testing, these little green guys had an actual capacity of about 342mAh, which is less than 10% of their claimed specification of 3800mAh (which is probably impossible anyhow for AA-sized NiMH cells.

The part about them perhaps not being real NiMH cells? That’s not the weirdest thing. Unlike most of my AliExpress purchases, these shipped from The Netherlands, despite the seller being called Shenzhen DeKang International Trade.

Random Green Chinese Cells - Packaging Label

Let’s [Quickly] Open: ORICO 4-Port USB Charger + Teardown

I had been looking for a cheap and cheerful USB power supply for general charging of phones, tablets, and plenty of etcetera. Hence I ordered this ORICO 4-Port USB Charger with high hopes!

I never have too much optimism when it comes to crap from AliExpress, but not only did this ship from California, it also seems to be a really good buy.

Some of the testing I did on this was inspired by Clive at bigclive.com who does an absolutely obsessive number of teardowns on his YouTube channel. If you haven’t heard of him and you like that sort of this, give it a look! (Plus he has a much better accent than I do.)

And finally, as promised in the video, here are some full-size macro shots of the PCB:

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