Cheap Solid State Drives Are, In Fact, Cheap

As of the last year or two, SSDs stopped being expensive, enthusiast-level components. The prices fell dramatically, and new players joined the game. Companies like ADATA, Patriot, and Sillicon Power undercut the prices of all major brands like Corsair, Samsung, and Intel.

How is it possible for those budget-friendly brands to sell a $70 drive that matches the speed, IOPS, and capacity of a $150 big-brand drive?

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I’ve spent money on both kinds, and it seems the answer lies in changes under the hood that the average user won’t notice.

Let’s take a look at the ADATA SX900, compared with the Patriot Blast and a cameo by the ADATA SP550.

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Thursday, June 16th, 2016 computers No Comments

STEVE – New chassis, 3D printing, fresh electronics!

IMG_20151122_133544Plenty has happened since our last post, and most of it can be summarized with the following picture.

Yup, lots of wires. New body, too. With my 3D printer back in service, cases were printed for the electronics, along with new wheels all around. These new wheels add around an inch of ground clearance, and better off-road traction.

As well, the first shipment of new parts has arrived: a USB WiFi adapter, an ultrasonic range sensor, H-Bridge motor controller, 9-DOF IMU and a temperature probe.

There are a lot of really cool developments in this post; let’s dive in.

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Saturday, December 12th, 2015 3d printing, electronics, networking, software, steve No Comments

Meet STEVE

20151103_223737He may not look like much right now, but STEVE is an evolving project I’ve been wanting to start for quite some time. He is a robot, into which I will combine software, hardware, and mechanical design.

Currently STEVE is an AVR microcontroller and LM298 dual motor driver, strapped to a circa 1985 remote control car. Over the last few days, I began laying the foundation with serial communication, motor control, and power. In the next few weeks, I should receive the first order of parts to give STEVE senses.

Initial Sensors:20151103_223750

  • Ultrasonic range sensor
  • 9-Degrees-of-freedom Intertial Measurement Unit (with compass)
  • DS18B20 Temperature Sensor
  • USB WiFi Adapter
  • LM298 Motor Driver (a better unit)

Once progress is made with these first parts, I also plan on including these additional sensors:20151103_223743

  • GPS
  • Servo (to pivot ultrasonic range sensor)
  • Current Sensing
  • Webcam

This is a great wish list, but without the software to tie it all together, not very useful. Therefore, I’m assigning my Raspberry Pi 2 B+ as STEVE’s brain. My vision is for the Pi to do all the heavy processing such as navigating, making 20151103_223817decisions, and hosting the user interface for mission planning. That way, the AVR is only a hardware controller that manages Input/Output, and communicates bi-directionally with the Pi.

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Over the last week the project has evolved very rapidly, and a new body is in the works. My 3D printer has some serious overtime coming up, as I begin designing and printing STEVE’s mechanical components. The ability to print new wheels, mounts, gears and body components is critical to the success of this project, and will also mean I can be very flexible with how everything is implemented.

I have a lot of freedom to do really cool things with this, and I look forward to posting regular updates on STEVE’s progress here!

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Sunday, November 8th, 2015 electronics, projects, software, steve No Comments

Denon AVR-1801 – Blinking Red Light Repair

IMG_20150820_103928The other day, my Denon AVR-1801 home theater receiver stopped working. It would power on, reach the point where it normally enabled the speaker outputs, but then it would shut off. The status LED would rapidly blink on and off.

The user manual suggested that the device was overheating, or that the speaker terminals were being shorted. The device was not hot, as it was just turned on. I unplugged all input and output cables, but that didn’t fix it either. Time to dig deeper.

 

The Problem

A quick Google search revealed the following gem. There are four “surge” resistors in line with the ±15 VDC regulators: R141, 142, 148, 149. These 1 Ohm resistors weaken over time with every power-on surge, and the resistors from the factory were not strong enough. Armed with this knowledge, I opened my receiver to test these resistors.

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Thursday, August 27th, 2015 electronics 1 Comment

Seagate Expansion 3TB External HDD – What’s Inside?

The majority of external hard drives are nothing more than a case, a USB-SATA adapter, and a standard 3.5″ or 2.5″ hard drive. Despite having this extra hardware, they sometimes actually cost less than their bare counterparts. Why might this be? External drives usually only carry a 1 year warranty, while the average desktop drive today might get 2 years of coverage.

tmp_15513-20150127_1737431938407003                  tmp_15513-20150127_1737581841296918

Above is a 3TB Seagate Expansion external hard drive. It has a USB 3.0 interface, and accepts 12VDC for power. I bought this a few years ago for $10 less than a bare 3TB SATA desktop drive.

Western Digital released a line of external hard drives where, when you take it apart, you don’t find a normal drive inside. Instead, the control board is actually a USB interface, not SATA.

Out of curiosity, and because I might put this drive inside my server in the future, I decided to tear it apart to see what I was working with.

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Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 computers, electronics No Comments

3D Printing, Engineering, Germany and more [Life Post]

8 months between posts is possibly a record on this site. That isn’t to say nothing interesting happened during all that time. Here is a quick recap to keep this site going:

Germany

This summer I studied German for 5 weeks in Germany. The entire trip was documented in great detail over here: danjoannis.com/heidelberg

Video Projects

A few videos have come out on my YouTube channel, some technical ones and a more artistic one to play with my new DSLR.

It seems someone made (another) viral video of their 3d printer playing the Imperial March, so here’s my take on it.

 3D Printing

I’ve been putting more time into my Ecksbot, and keeping it maintained and improving print quality. I’ve expanded my filament collection thanks to Matt Durr, and been doing some work with original creations.

CAM00093

Ikea Roller Blind Mounts

Last week I uploaded my first public design to Thingiverse – I hope to create and share more projects soon!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 3d printing, life, school No Comments

Homebrew Stereo Gainclone Amplifier

LM3886T/NOPB

LM3886T 68W Audio Amplifier (Newark)

In 2012, one of my posts were featured on Hackaday, a globally read and frequently updated aggregator of projects that modify, create, and otherwise hack. The traffic this garnered was enough to throw a couple 500 Server errors, but it also resulted in getting the attention of someone at Farnell/Newark.

I was contacted through the comments by a member of the Farnell team, who spent quite some time on my site and was “loving the content”. After further communications, he asked if I would be interested in reviewing products for them. Of course I said yes!

The question was, what would I review? After looking through some of their enormous catalog, I realized I’d rather create something out of the components I reviewed, and discovered the LM3886, a relatively inexpensive 68-watt audio amplifier. This is where the adventure began!

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 electronics, projects 2 Comments

Hacking a Laptop Battery – Increase Runtime

Do you have an old laptop whose battery struggles to reach 30 minutes? I used to.

An aftermarket 6-cell pack would have cost me around $40, which isn’t expensive, but the laptop was old (circa 2006) and not worth putting money into.  I happened to have a fair number of Lithium-Ion battery cells “lying around”, and decided to upgrade my pack, not just with new cells, but with more cells.

IMAG0680

This project was completed about a year ago, and I’m surprised I never posted it before!

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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 computers, electronics, projects 1 Comment

Creating a Private + Guest WiFi Access Point (DD-WRT)

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Recently I was asked to configure a WiFi access point for a small business, who needed to have both a private internal network, and a public guest network.

There are many privacy concerns when having guests share your network. Specifically, it is desirable to:

  • Disallow access to any computers on the private network
  • Prevent network abuse (such as P2P file sharing)
  • Secure the access point itself from tampering or unauthorized access

Of course, all this needs to be done without impacting the desired service: Internet access.

Although I found many guides online for setting up a guest network when the access point was also the primary router, I didn’t find any that worked for the intended network. So, after some trial, error, and research, I managed to get it to work.

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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 computers, networking, work 79 Comments

Bell Aliant FibreOP with a DD-WRT Router

This has been a long time coming. To summarize, Bell Aliant’s FibreOP Internet service includes a wireless router that has proprietary, limited firmware. It tends to suffer from latency and WiFi issues. So, I sought to replace it with my own wireless router! I ended up first building an overpowered but very functional pfSense Linux Firewall/Router.

Downstairs

Despite my monstrous UPS, I was not happy with the 1 hour run-time. The whole reason for the pfSense router was that FibreOP “hides” its Internet on a VLAN, which means a standard, consumer router will not be able to access the Internet. And from some forum posts I had read, it seemed DD-WRT was also incapable of it.

Finally, today, I pushed through and realized it takes only 4 simple steps to connect a DD-WRT router directly to the FibreOP modem.

Upstairs AP

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Saturday, November 16th, 2013 computers, networking, software 28 Comments