InTheMail | Voltlog #430

Welcome to a new InTheMail, the most popular segment hosted here on the channel. Not a lot of time has passed since our previous InTheMail but I have received a bunch of stuff that I would like to start using so I need to do this video.

I’m gonna start with a series of cabling products and the first ones are these higher quality braided USB Type B to various terminations. These two are USB Type-A to USB Type-B printer style cables but in two different lengths, braided finish, higher overall quality and I tend to use these for stuff like an older AVR MKII programmer, for my label printer, for my monitors which have a built-in USB hub, stuff like that.

Then because of modern devices which tend to include less USB Type-A ports but for guys like us who still use a bunch of peripherals, we still need to connect some USB Type-B peripherals to the new USB Type-C ports and it’s nicer when you don’t have to use adapters or USB hubs for that. So I got these USB Type-B to USB Type-C cables for plugging directly into USB Type-C ports, also braided style.

And this guy is just a short, braided style, USB Type-A to USB Type-C which lately I use a lot of these guys because all of the pcb’s that I’m building feature USB Type-C ports and I typically need to connect them to a USB HUB which sits right on my desk so I need a short USB cable. I typically get these from Baseus but this time I tried another company and I quite like what I’m seeing. Nice construction here, lots of room to grab on this connector when inserting into a socket. Same as always there will be links in the description below to all of the items shown in this video.

Also in the cabling department I needed some of this thicker 18AWG UL1015 wire for various wiring jobs working on prototypes on my electronics workbench. Now for 20AWG or 22AWG I typically recycle those out of old ATX power supplies wiring, I feel like I’m doing the planet a service when doing that by preventing them from going to a landfill but for the thicker 18AWG, those are typically not present on an ATX PSU so I ordered a lot of these, 5m per each individual color so these should last me a good while.

This is your standard 2.5×5.5mm dc jack connector with 2m of white cable which has markings that say 2×0.5sq mm which would make it okay up to 3A but just to stay on the safe side I would probably use it only up to 2A in practice. Something like this would be very useful if you are a power adapter with the wrong plug, instead of just replacing the plug you could replace the whole cable if the power adapter can be easily disassembled. And that’s exactly why I got this, to replace the wiring on a 12V power adapter.

Installing Frigate NVR On The Khadas VIM4 Ubuntu | Voltlog #429

Welcome to a new video, in this episode I’m gonna show you how to install frigate stand alone on a single board computer running Ubuntu, how to configure it to start recording on an external usb drive with person detection enabled.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Frigate, it’s an open-source NVR with real-time AI object detection built-in, all recording and processing happens locally on your own hardware so a good thumbs up for being open-source, we love open-source projects on the voltlog channel but another thumbs up is for hosting everything local, so you have security & privacy under your own control.

You can also run Frigate on your Homeassistant server if you wish to do so, but some people might opt to run it independently on another computer for increased processing power and more storage options.

For this tutorial I’m gonna be installing it on the Khadas VIM4 single board computer and this thing is a beast. I’m calling this the Pi Killer for reasons which I will outline in a few moments. This was released this summer, it’s the latest model in Khadas lineup and comes with some stellar specs: This has an 8 core Amlogic A311D2 processor, four of the cores are ARM Cortex-A73, running at 2.2GHz, the other four are Cortex-A53 running at 2GHz and there is an extra 32 bit STM32 microprocessor on here, There is a powerful Mali G52MP8 GPU which supports up to 8K decoding, we get 8GB LPDDR4X RAM on this board, 32GB of eMMC storage, 32MB of SPI flash memory which runs it’s own custom bootloader called OWOW, Bluetooth & Wifi 6 connectivity plus 10 gigabit ethernet, there is an M.2 slot for SSD on the back and the list goes on and on, they practically jammed everything that’s nice on this board and out of the box it can run Ubuntu & Android.

Now you’re probably asking yourself how does this stackup against the Raspberry Pi4 so here is a simple comparison just based on specs, if we look at processor power, ram memory, storage options, connectivity the VIM4 clearly has more options and more horsepower than a Pi4, the only place where the PI4 has more options is with USB connectivity. But having all of this extra horse power does come at a cost and the VIM4 can get pricey especially if you order it with an active cooling kit which is not included by default but you will need if you plan to benefit from that processing power. For the latest price information please check out the links I’ve placed in the description of the video. We could also talk about availability with the VIM4 being available for order right now, while the Pi4 being harder to find. Due to the VIM4 processor being manufactured on a 12nm process we can also expect better power efficiency, providing more performance per watt over the Pi4.

Another impressive feature of the Amlogic processor is the built-in Neural Processing Unit which is rated for 5 TOPS. By comparison a google coral is only rated for 4 TOPS but as we all know a google coral is well supported over many different interfaces while the new NPU inside the Amlogic processor is there but not actually supported in the software due to license requirements which are not yet sorted.

List of CLI commands used for this setup

#Update the apt package index and install packages to allow apt to use a repository over HTTPS:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install \
ca-certificates \
curl \
gnupg \

#Add Docker’s official GPG key:
sudo mkdir -p /etc/apt/keyrings
curl -fsSL | sudo gpg –dearmor -o /etc/apt/keyrings/docker.gpg
echo \
“deb [arch=$(dpkg –print-architecture) signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/docker.gpg] \
$(lsb_release -cs) stable” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null

#Install Docker Engine
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install docker-ce docker-ce-cli docker-compose-plugin docker-compose

#start docker
sudo systemctl enable docker
sudo systemctl start docker

#add docker group
sudo groupadd docker
sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

#reboot to apply changes
sudo reboot now

InTheMail | Voltlog #428

Welcome to a new InTheMail, the most popular segment hosted here on the channel. Lots of interesting good and equally bad products have been piling up in my special mailbag bin so let’s take a look at them.

I’m gonna start with an absolute garbage product, this smartphone telephoto lens which I thought is going to be great for attaching to my iPhone and shooting videos at let’s say a meter away from the subject but be really zoomed in, like when soldering on a PCB, I don’t want the tripod and the phone to be in my way. I got the 8X variant, because there is also a 12X I believe, I paid like $5 shipped for this and this was probably the worst spent $5 in recent times, this is absolute garbage. All I can get is a blurry image, I’ve tried removing the protective case on my phone thinking this might not be the correct focal length because of that but nope it doesn’t make any difference. Other users report similar things in the product review.. So please don’t order this crap.

I seriously don’t understand what were they thinking? Why did they make this and package it?

Next up I got one of the newer GPS modules from China, this is the ATGM336H which presumably is the part number for the original module Zhongke Micro electronics, but this particular one is rebranded as AiThinker GP-02. Comes with a ceramic GPS antenna so it’s good to go. The SoC used inside this module is the AT6558 and it supports a variety of satellite navigation systems, including China’s BDS (Beidou Satellite) GPS in the US, GLONASS in Russia, GALILEO in the EU, QZSS in Japan and I think their main target is to replace ublox max series with something that is the same size, possibly same package but lower cost. I thought I’d give this module a try, keep it in my GPS modules bag waiting to be used in a GPS project. One mention though is that it doesn’t necessarily mean this particular module that I got from Aliexpress supports all of the functions.. This depends on the variant of the chip used inside the module because as the datasheets shows in this table it can have different config levels. A link for this will be provided in the description of the video.

Next up I have a few different types of insulating washers. These red ones are M3 and M4 size paper type insulating washers, while the black ones are just plastic nylon insulating washers. Both of these can be great when you want to achieve some level of mechanical and electrical insulation when you have screws holding down a pcb and you might have some PCB tracks going too close to the screw hole for example. If possible such a thing should be avoided from the PCB layout stage as mounting hole footprints should have keepout areas corresponding to the size of screw to be used but if you end up with tracks in that space, a small insulating washer like this will save the day.

Next up I got one more set of these Adhesive cable tie mounts, I’ve shown these before, they have some adhesive backing and then they are theoretically reusable because you can clip and unclip this plastic belt. Because of that they can be really handy for cable management. Not sure if this adhesive backing is really 3M, it might not be and the effect of that is that these might come off at some point. Not that 3M is bulletproof, I’ve had genuine 3M cable management mounts that come off after a couple of months so it really depends on the surface type, how clean the surface was and the actual strength of the adhesive.

The Best External Monitor To Get T16A | Voltlog #427

Welcome to a new Voltlog, in this video I’m gonna explain why you should get such a monitor for your electronics workbench. This one is an excellent choice as I will show next but I’m mostly referring to the form factor which is great for many things in the electronics lab so it can just as well be a different model with different specs if you choose so but this particular model that I’m going to review has great build quality so it should be on your shortlist.

Now continuing with the review, this is how the unit is delivered, it’s a box similar to a big tablet or laptop, inside you get the monitor with it’s leather like case, you get a thick USB Type-C cable, USb Type-A to USB type-C cable, and a mini HDMI to regular HDMI cable as well as a generic 5V 3A usb power adapter.

The model number is T16A and it’s likely you may find this under different branding, this one in particular doesn’t have any obvious branding. The size of the screen is 15 inches with a 1920×1080 pixel resolution with 178 degrees viewing angle, 60Hz refresh rate, 500cd brightness rating, 16:9 ratio IPS panel with glossy surface with no touch screen. I would have loved to have a matte screen at the expense of losing some contrast and/or brightness but it’s certainly not a show stopper.

In terms of connectivity you get two USB Type-C ports and although one is marked power the other one just super speed. I can use each one of these to both power and supply video/audio data to the monitor at the same time via a single cable. But just as a safety precaution maybe it’s best to stick to the port labeled power when using a single cable solution and use USB-C port 2 if you only supply data and get the power supply separately via port 1. You get one mini HDMI port which can also be used for video input from HDMI out devices and a 3.5mm headphone port. 

Next to the HDMI there is also a micro-usb port which there is no mention off in the user manual or any of the online listing that I could find but I felt like it must be for OTG like purposes and by using one of these micro usb to type-A adapters which is not included with the monitor I was able to plug in a flash drive which was immediately discovered on the host computer, so this port is just connected to an internal USB hub. The monitor also includes two speakers and not sure if you noticed it already but all of this comes in a super clean and slim package which weighs just 800 grams on its own but more like 900 grams including the leather case. and it includes the nice protection PU leather case that doubles as a stand by folding it in the correct position.

The monitor has a couple of switches on the side for navigating its On Screen Display menu which feels quite nice and professional and I can say that about this monitor in general, everything about it feels quite nice and high quality with no indication that might make me feel this is a cheap product. The case of the monitor feels high quality, the image on this display is actually better than my monitors so I quite like it

VoltLink Shelly Adapter Test Jig | Voltlog #426

Welcome to a new video it’s been a while since I’ve done a project video on the channel and it’s not that I’ve not done any projects, I’ve designed lots of things this year it’s just that they’re part of my consulting business, under an NDA so they can’t be shared.

You may be familiar with the VoltLink, the usb to serial adapter that I designed a while ago, it’s quite popular on my Tindie store with lots of orders coming in and for good reason if you ask me, this is an awesome, reliable usb to serial adapter. To extend its functionality I also created this Shelly relay adapter which can be used to flash shelly relays, in a safe and reliable way by also powering the relay during the flashing procedure so you don’t need to have it connected to mains.

If you would like to order a VoltLink, you can find these on my Tindie store, there will be a link in the description of the video so check it out.

So far I haven’t any issues, not one single module with problems and I’ve probably made several hundreds of these. It’s a pretty simple design in terms of PCB, the components are 0603 so there isn’t much that can go wrong but recently I’ve started thinking about testing these.

Now the topic of test jigs and testing electronics in general can get pretty deep, especially if you need to implement it in the manufacturing process and keep track of the test results in an automated fashion but for hobby level it can be much simpler.

For example, depending on the number of units you manufacture, you can also skip testing all together, because if I sell 100 boards and 1 of them ends up defective, I can live with that 1 failure rate and I can cover the cost of shipping another board to that customer and all of this with zero resources wasted testing these but at the expense of one unhappy customer who needs to wait for another unit to be shipped.

So mainly for me that was the main factor for wanting to test these, to avoid having unhappy customers that might end up getting a bad unit. And I don’t really need to test for all of the things working, I just need to figure out if I have a working connection from the USB side all the way up to the shelly relay  and also verify that the path can be used to communicate over serial and toggle the reset lines.

This kind of test would eliminate for example a lot of the most common issue like soldering problems with the USB Type-C connector or with the QFN chip, or with the PCB copper layers, or with the JST-SH pigtail connecting the adapter board, or soldering issues on the small adapter board so all of these would be eliminated.

So here is what I came up with, a series of 6 total shelly adapters, chained together in series with an ESP32 at the end of the chain. I would be connecting a VoltLink at the start of the chain, UART signal would then go through 6 of these adapters, connectors, pigtails and it would end up at the ESP32 side for either flashing the ESP32 or writing a small test firmware that would just communicate over serial to verify the whole chain is connected correctly.

Is The Iwiss Mini Crimp Tool Any Good? | Voltlog #425

One of the more popular videos on my channel is Voltlog #223 where I reviewed the Paron JX-D5 crimping tool, I still have this tool, still working great and I use it occasionally to do some crimps. I mean it’s not going to be the best tool you can buy, or produce the highest quality crimps but for hobby level and for what you pay, it’s definitely a good deal. The only downside of this kit is that with the included accessories you can’t exactly crimp very small JST connectors, or other types of connectors like JAM, Molex ClickMate.

So in order to cover those as well, I decided to give this tool a try which is the IWISS Mini, this is the 2820M model which means it’s specified for AWG20 up to AWG28 so in general for thinner wires and crimps but there is also the 2412M model which is specified for AWG24 down to AWG12. This particular tool was provided by for free for the purpose of this review and should you decide to order one, there will be a link in the description below, for you to check it out. At the time of publishing this video the tool was actually under restocking but I’m hoping it will be back in stock pretty soon.

Construction wise, this is not a ratchet type crimp, but there is nothing wrong with not having a ratchet, in fact in some cases, especially for cheap crimp tools the ratchet mechanism can be a problem and this can also be a matter of preference as some users prefer not having a ratchet system. But when not having a ratchet you have to make sure you are applying the correct force & travel for a good crimp and it does take some practice to reach that level.

Looking closely at the crimp tool, I would say that this is likely manufactured part of a stamping process from a large sheet of metal which means the actual resulting die on the crimp tool is not going to be as perfect or tight tolerance as it would be from a CNC machining process but this obviously lowers production cost which makes the tool much more affordable and if the die and stamping tool is precise enough this could result in a perfectly usable tool too.

InTheMail | Voltlog #424

Welcome to a new InTheMail, the most popular segment hosted here on the channel. Lots of interesting gadgets have been piling up in my special bin so let’s take a look at them.

I’m gonna start the video with this small silicone mat, I’m sure you are familiar with these. I just wanted a smaller one that I could fit on the work surface of my microscope. This is my trinocular microscope, if you are a subscriber of the channel you’ve probably seen it before, I reviewed it in Voltlog #282 and I did a few upgrades since then on its video camera system. I sometimes do soldering right here, on this work surface so it would be nice to have a small silicone mat to help with that and I found this model on Aliexpress, it’s a good size for this purpose, just a little too thin for my taste, I expect this to bulge immediately under the action of the hot air gun but other than that, I think it should do the job and it was very inexpensive to purchase. Same as always you will find links for all of the items shown in this video in the description below.

Next up I have a couple of interesting display modules that caught my attention while casually browsing through the recommended products list. This one is a 1.69inch TFT display with 240×280 pixels resolution so it’s a fairly densely packed panel, based on the st7789v2 controller IC. You can get this as a panel or as a breakout module like I have here. I opted for the breakout panel so that I could easily test this and hook it up to a dev board. It seems like it’s wired for a SPI interface on this breakout board and I guess the main features of this display panel are its thin bezels left, right and top, you ofcourse need a little thicker bezel for the side where the flat flex is located, because there you have the driver IC, the backlight plus the bonding of the flat flex.

As you can see in this quick demo I prepared, it looks very nice, much better than your typical aliexpress 2 inch tft panel so I think we’ll be seeing more projects using these popping up on the internet.

The next display comes from the same company making these breakout boards, and it’s a 2.13 inch 122×250 pixels resolution, TFT white and black display based on the st7302 controller IC. They say it’s targeted for low power applications. I don’t think there is any backlight on this one so it’s a reflective type display. Interface is once again SPI and you can get this as a bare lcd panel or as a breakout board like I have here. I thought the format of this display is pretty interesting and once again I think we’ll be seeing some more projects using these popping up on the internet.

Next up I got myself another one of these cheap, compact side cutters, I’ve been using these for a while for various jobs, I recently gave one to a friend so I needed a replacement. They’re not the best quality but they’re decent enough and I like the form factor a lot. Useful for cutting off through hole component terminals but also for the small size wires and other miscellaneous stuff. Do yourself a favor and order 2 of these.

Next I got one of these which is like a rust cleaning fiber pen, the way this works is you spin this cap which pushes some fiber bundle through the tip of the pen, those are pretty abrasive and so you can use it to rub off superficial rust of small items like jewlery, watches, but what I thought this could be useful for is ofcourse electronics, PCBs, where you need to clean some burn marks or something like that. I’m not sure how long those fibers are, or how long this is going to last but I thought it would be a nice addition to my set of cleaning tools. Links for this are in the description below the video so check them out.

Another Cheap Nuclear Radiation Tester | Voltlog #423

Welcome to a new video, today we’ll be taking a look at yet another cheap radiation detector and it’s going to be similar to the one reviewed in Voltlog 416, except it’s cheaper. It’s also not as big physically and it’s not a multifunction tester, this one just measures radiation but let’s start with our basics, this is the packaging it comes in, inside the box you will find this hard shell carry case which is a nice addition when compared to the previous model we reviewed and btw this one doesn’t really have any branding or a particular model mentioned, it’s just a generic radiation tester but because of that I would image that it’s likely you will find this sold under different names, brands or even shapes.

Inside the case the meter sits nicely in this cutout and you get a short USB-C charging cable, a hand strap and a short user manual. Like mentioned this is smaller physically which could be a nice advantage, but also comes with a smaller screen. We have a couple of rubber bands on the sides and a metal clip on the back, with the charging port located on the bottom. Plastic feels soft & decent, matte black, I quite like that.

On paper at least this seems to have better sensitivity when compared to the previous model I reviewed but realistically given the size and cost of the unit, I think it must be using a similar miniaturized geiger muller tube which is not the most sensitive tube for this type of application but it does have the size and cost advantage. We’ll be able to see more about this topic in the teardown but first let’s turn on the unit.

The screen on this unit feels a bit small at just 2 inches. I mean , in this reading mode, I can clearly see the readings which are using this nice and big 7-segment font, but the small text on the blue ribbons, that seems a bit small to easily read. On the plus side, brightness seems good, easily visible even under my bright video shooting lights. The problem is more apparent when you switch to the menu system which feels really crowded, they went with this thumbnail arrangement, the icons feel small, the text feels small. I would have probably preferred just a simple list menu for this with bigger text.

In terms of functionality you get the standard measure & display screen but you also have the options of setting up alarm thresholds and the meter can continue monitoring with the screen off for up to 20 days of battery life and it will trigger an alarm once the threshold is exceeded. It lets you configure the screen off timeout as well as the auto power off timeout which is nice and It can also do data logging although I have not seen any mention of the available memory. A couple of other settings for things like language or screen brightness are also available from the menu system.

Best Upgrade For The Best Hot Air Station | Voltlog #422

Welcome to a new Voltlog, today I’m gonna be showing you what I believe is the Best upgrade that you can do to your Best 863 hot air station and if you remember Voltlog #256. That’s where I did a review of this hot air station, been using it ever since 2019, so that’s about 3 years of service so far, it’s been working great but with the obvious downsides of having this touch screen panel for settings and with the annoying buzzer that you cannot turn off from this standard interface. I mean it takes a lot of button presses even for a simple temperature adjustment and it’s beep beep all the way for every single step.

Well it turns out that someone thought enough is enough and designed a replacement control panel for this station, one that offers a more classic input method through potentiometers for the most important parameters temperature and air speed, offers control over the buzzer but still keeps the touch input if you need to alter any of the other settings and all of this can be ordered as a kit from Tindie which is pretty awesome if you ask me.

If you are interested in ordering your BST-863 hot air station or the upgrade kit which I highly recommend you get for the best experience with this station There will be some links in the description below the video so check them out.

You have two options when ordering this kit from tindie, you can either get it as a KIT which is what I have here or you can get it fully assembled for an extra $10. The Kit version comes with a PCB that has all of the SMT components fully populated but there are a few through hole parts that you will need to solder yourself. I think the author has done a really good job at packing and organizing the different components, Even the resistors come on this little card that shows you where they should be positioned on the PCB. The kit also includes all of the required mounting hardware as well as a sticker for the front panel potentiometers. The package was shipped from Portugal and it got here pretty fast. In fact I’ve had this on my desk for a good while, i’ve just been very busy and unable to install it so far.

InTheMail | Voltlog #421

Welcome to a new InTheMail, the most popular segment hosted here on the channel. It’s been quite a while since the last InTheMail so a lot of interesting stuff has been gathering in my special bin.

I’m gonna start the video with these EVA hard shell cases in a rather small format, as you may be aware these come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, they’re inexpensive and personally I like to use them to store various bits of gear, test instruments in the lab but also to transport small PCBs, projects that I’m working on in my backpack without find out out at the destination that all of the through hole parts have been squished in the process. It just provides a nice solution for storing and carrying various items.

Next up I have a couple of GOPRO Accessories and I’m gonna start with these tether lines and they can really be multipurpose, that’s why I’m showing them in this mailbag, they’re made of steel, they come in different lengths and colors and they can even be used for minimal security by looping them around things and closing with some sort of lock, they feel pretty strong but you know it’s only going to work for honest people.

So I think I’ve mentioned this before, that I recently started kitesurfing and I wanted to get one of these kite line gopro mount because of the nice viewing angle that this provides on video, however, there is a big drawback with this, because it can potentially tangle the lines and as a beginner that’s something that I do not want to deal with, because it can put me in some dangerous situations so I’m likely not going to be using this until I have gained some experience on the water

And because I am using my gopro mostly on the water I got myself one of these gopro floating cases, it’s just made from foam, goes around your gopro, it’s bright orange and if you drop it in the water it will helpfully keep it floating while you search for it. This is an inexpensive accessory but one that could save your more expensive camera. As usual links for all of these items will be provided in the description below.

Next up, another item for my summer activities, I got these plastic tent stakes which I plan to use with this smaller UV and wind protection shelter that I got for beach days. The tent/shelter was delivered with those slim mounting pins which slide right out of the sand but these plastic ones which I recently got really work so much nicer. I’ve taken 3 out of the package and tested them this past weekend and you have to work a little bit to get them into the sand by this screwing action but they provide much better grip into the sand. I mean you can still pull them out if you wanted but it will require some force so I think they do the job just nice and on top of that they were really cheap.