Thursday, 21 March 2019

Solar Panel Light: The Beginnings of a Kitset

After buying and installing those cheap garden lights you buy from places like Bunnings that produces poor really weak lighting and stop working long before sunrise, I decided to make my own.

I have been looking at quite a few DIY garden solar lighting projects, there are many really different/creative/great/simple ways that people have come up with.

With this in mind I wanted to produce a commercial quality PCB using EasyEDA and to work out the cost for the entire project. Is this going to be cost effective in comparison to what is already out there, probably not but I will finish this post with costings.

The idea

This came from BigClive from Youtube, here's the link to the video . It explains how to the Solar Panel can actually trigger whether to charge the battery or turn on the LEDs, without the use of a LDR sensor. I actually built a breadboard prototype of his circuit and had it working well on my driveway for 4 weeks. This kind of blew me away so here is the circuit I ended up using after a few modifications.

I created this schematic in Falstad which is an online electronics simulator where you can watch your circuits come to life, make component changes and observe the results. The 20Hz signal represents sunlight from day through to night.

After constructing this on a breadboard and happy with the outcome, it's time to design the printed circuit board (PCB) and this is my prototype.

 Very simple but most importantly, it uses discrete though the hole components and easy to solder/construct for those new to hobby electronics. This 2 layer design was sent of to China to be manufactured.


Amazing, exactly 6 days later my 10x prototype boards arrived.

All existing work got done in record time, I just had to start putting this together
So turn on that soldering workstation and get into it ...

Most board components on ...

Board flipped over, 3mm spacers added, this allows me to solder on all the LED's at the exact same height off the board ...

Board flipped back and the 3mm spacers re-positioned on the other side. Just a note here, I've designed this so that the LED's are the actual feet of this project. The spacers hold in the battery while on top of the spacer is where the solar panel will sit ...

Solar panel 6V 1W and an old mobile phone battery 1350mAh (with inbuilt protection) now soldered in place ...

The Board is now upright with the battery between spacers on a foam base ...

The final project in all it's glory. All that remains is a case that 1: allows the sun to hit the solar panel from above 2: when it gets dark there is no obstruction below the LEDs to reduce the lights output 3: has to be waterproof ...

Solved, Chinese takeaway container, it seals perfectly and repurposing trash has got to be good for the enviroment, and FREE ...

Here is how I mounted it to the fence, a coat hanger (to fit under the lip of the container) through a piece of wood, with longish screws above to stop the wind blowing it off the fence, it works really well ...

Here we have 2 fully built and mounted Solar Panel Lights.


After 2 days I'm extremely happy with the results and how effective this design works. From the components values I selected, the lights come on when I think they should come on and only go off when the solar panel detects light.

Currently it's Summer so the batteries get plenty of recharge time, it would be interesting to see how this will change during winter.

Costings: $9.47NZ per board

The only component that needs to be added to the final cost is the battery. I already had 2 Huawei 1350mA batteries from previous phones which meant I could construct and install these 2 right now. Looking through TradeMe I could get a new 1350mAh mobile battery for under $10NZ. I must stress there is no overcurrent, over discharge protection on this board, so you must use a battery that has these features built in them.

Apart from that everything came to $9.47NZ GST excl. per board, this price includes the solar panel. No R&D or Labour costs as this was a fun project.


As for the remaining boards, I'm going to compile into kitset form, and sell them on Trademe for probably $12.00NZ each (everything minus battery). I just need to buy 6 more solar panels to complete the individual sets before that will happen.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Alita: Battle Angel, Must Watch Again!

I thought Avatar cannot be beaten yet James Cameron has come out with another mind blowing story that deserves another visit, before it can no longer be shown on the BIG screen. If I had had an on going rating system this would be a 10/10 :-)

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Aitutaki Koni Raoni 2019 by Akaiami

It's always good to remember where your roots are, and even though I did not create this video, or have ever been to this event, one day I would like to witness 1st hand and celebrate with the families who are a big part of me.

Aitutaki has a unique NY (January 1st) event called a Koni Raoni - which means "dance around". A village led dance team make their way slowly and progressively around Aitutaki on open vehicles to dance in front of the residents in each village.
Check out Akaiami's YouTube channel for videos showing previous Koni Raoni events.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Timelapse 4K UHD: Wainui Hill Summit, Meeting Great People!

This mornings walk was very unique, with the amount of cloud movement I just had to do another timelapse. I really didn't want to take it at the top of the summit but it was fairly windy and using a heavy camera tripod would've kept my camera stable. As always, my timelapses are free to use :-)

downloadthe 1280x720p(HDTV) 30fps
download the 1920x1080p(HD) 50fps 
download the 3840x2160p(4K UHD) 60fps

While shooting the timelapse, it was a good time to test my DIY Solar Panel setup. As predicted, it wasn't very effective at that time in the morning, delivering only 40mA at 4.85V.

The Walk:
I have to admit it, I didn't put any real effort into this mornings walk, more like a casual Sunday stroll.

That last photo is where I wanted to do the actual timelapse, maybe I'll take my heavy Tripod on the next walk!

Meeting Interesting People on the Hill:
(I didn't take any photo's of these people because that would've been rude)

Tania's 24Hr Walkathon:
I meet a really nice young lady named Tania, she had an extremely interesting story with a goal to walk over Wainuiomata Hill every day in 2018 and she achieved that WOW!!

She is doing a 24hour walkathon 15/02/2019 and I intend to support on that day. Check out her givealittle website. I'm going to shamelessly share this on all my social media.

Mormon Elders:
2 really nice guys who stopped at the top of the hill to take some photos of Wellington Harbour. We had lengthy discussions on basically everything and it wasn't too religious in nature. I admire the sacrifices these guys take to come to our shores. One is from Texas, the other from Melbourne.

Very memorial day.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

1st 4K UHD Video Upload to Youtube

The best way to try something like this, is to create a small video, then upload it to youtube as a private view, then see what happen when trying to play it back. A timelapse is perfect for this, so this morning I whipped out the Sony FDR-X3000 placed it on the ground and snapped of 600 frames at 5sec intervals.

The using my very slightly modified bash script created a series of timelapses:-

1280x720p(HDTV) 30fps - 24.5MB
1920x1080p(HD) 50fps - 38.8MB
3840x2160p(4K UHD) 60fps - 106.9MB

After uploading the video the only way it would play properly on my browser was to change the quality to 1080p60.

I'm still not convinced creating a 4K is worth it if I cannot play at this quality, and I know I cannot get it to play locally here on a duo2core machine. (plays fine locally on my Intel i5 Opitplex).

I'll leave this video up hoping one day I can get to see it in 4K. Meanwhile it's back to creating 1080p videos and timelapses :-)

Bash Script:

Download and copy (or move) this file into the BIN folder (Linux Mint).

This a a text file so you can read the instructions at the bottom of the file. Note I also had the open the BIN folder as ROOT in order to change the files permissions to "Allow this file to run as a program".

Now just go into the folder containing all your images and type, follow the prompts.

This script can be used on any folder containing images captured and stored by any devices. The Dazzne option was written to allow for images captured with 4:3 aspect ratio.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Mama Tu's Donuts

I first learned to make this version of "Raro donuts", simple bread; around the age of 13. It is a really basic recipe designed to be mass produced to help with the meals prepared for large crowds at Cook Island functions. A plate is usually made up of, chop-suey (lamb & vermecilli), boiled rice, raro mainaise, and a single donut.

I'm using pictures here of the exact ingredients I use today, the brands may be different but the out come is still the same.

4 cups of flour: I use High Grade, makes it easier to knead, back in the day this never existed

1/2 cup sugar

Some salt: I like salt so I use more than 1/2 teaspoon .. should be 1/2 teaspoon

Yeast: 1 sachet .. I really prefer the sachet. But if you use yeast from a bottle, 1 sachet is equivalent to 2 heaped teaspoons. In the old days we used yeast from bottles but bear in mind we made huge batches. The yeast from bottles age with time and become least effective. I tend to make these donuts once every 3 months.

Butter 50g: On the side of the butter packaging you see lines, I cut of 1 section. Is this really 50g ? no idea but works for me.

Eggs 3 (size 6)

Dripping 454g: should really have used 6 in a deep pot but this stuff is expensive. The bigger the pot the more donuts you can deep fry at the same time. NOTE, it has to be dripping, not an alternative Oil.

Water 1 Cup: should be warm, which is fine if you live in a place like Australia. Here in Wellington NZ where it's freezing all year round, a cup of HOT water should wake up those yeast micro-organisms.

Method: just like making normal bread

1: In a large bowl add dry ingredients, sifting each 1 as they are added

2: Melt the butter, add the water, mix then add to the dry

3: After mixing for like 20seconds, break in the eggs

4: On a floured surface, place the dough from the bowl and commence kneading, keep kneading while adding flour until you get the dough at the right consistency. This can only be learned from practice, trial and error etc. Videos showing bread-making on Youtube can help you here.

5: Put the dough in a warm place to rise 3 Times in size

6: Remove the dough then punch it and knead again only for like 1minute.

7: Cut into 16 equal portions and place on top of grease proof paper in a warm area, cover with clean clothe and let it rise again. (this bit is not easy if you live in a cold area, I sometimes use a roasting dish with oven set to bake on minimum setting, just be careful we don't want the dogh to turn to bread at this stage)

8: Melt dripping in large pot, you know its ready when you drop in the 1st donut, it sinks, starts to bubble, then it rises up and floats on the surface. Do not have it too high.

9: When the donut is golden brown, flip it over.

9: Finally, place on a grill to allow excess dripping to drain of.

This is all from memory and dedicated to my mother who passed it down to me. Hopefully others in my family will give it a try!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Are Photo Prints Still Relevant

It's been well over 6 years since I have actually got a photo printed, and that was at Noel Lemmings in Lower Hutt. It was about that time I joined an online photo printing service call Snapfish (

This is a recent screenshot of their website to give you a fair idea what service they provide.

After a recent cycling event (The Taupo Cycle Challenge which I still haven't decided whether or not to create a video of my experience). I bought the downloadable images (of me on the course) to use for my own personal use by the events official photographers (they remain the copyright holders) at $48.00NZ for 20 images.

This was the perfect opportunity to finally try snapfish, so quickly selecting 10 of those images, I put in an order. To be fair I wasn't really excited about it, knowing once the prints arrived I have no idea what to do with them. As I'm writing up this blog post, I realize I don't have a single photo album in this house.

Here's 2 of these images I selected:-

The prints finally arrived a few days ago, I had completely forgotten about them but I'm happy to once again show them of to the family, who have already seen most of the images via whatsapp.

I would most likely purchase one of those frames that allow multiple pictures and hang it up on the wall, maybe in the hallway.

What I am excited about, is from the prints I came up with a design for a unique mousemat, which I am definitely going to buy.

I'm curious, do other people still get photo images printed ?

Thursday, 17 January 2019

LED COB Chip 220V 20W Review

After spotting this on EBay I just had to have a play with it. LED driven directly from my 240Vac 50Hz Power Supply (standard 1Ph distribution voltage supplied to NZ homes). So I went ahead and bought 3 of the 20W variety!

Wiring seemed pretty straight forward, just solder the appropriate rated cable to these welding points as shown in the above image, apply voltage and lets see what happens.

Well actually no, I had a some concerns:-

- that's 240V mains voltage on exposed terminals
- 20W on something so thin ? I need find some way to dissipate heat.

Solve the Problem No2 First: Heat Dissipation.

Working with computers I get access to a lot of bits and pieces and I knew 1 day I'll find a use for all those Pentium 4 heatsinks. Drill 2 holes, screw the COB to the heatsink, and I didn't even use thermal paste. Solder on some wires from a discarded appliance cable, plug it in a wall socket and let it run for about an hour.

Result: After removing the mains, did the "carefully feel the heatsink" method, happy to say the heatsink felt only slightly warm. At this point I should mention Do Not Look Directly at the COB when it is powered on.

Solving Problem No1: Exposed 240V Terminals.

Last year I have been replacing all the light fittings as shown above with LED fittings.

I now have a container to mount these 20W COBS safely.

Note the 3 screws (near the centre) screwed directly into the fins of the heatsink, this worked out quite well.

All 3 mounted onto the rafters out in the old shed.

I'm really pleased how this small project worked out, especially re-purposing old light fittings I would normally have thrown away. I am in the process of buying more of these 20W COBs even though I cannot think of where they are to be used. As always the trick to doing this type of project comes down to appropriate case/fitting that adequately mounts for both COB and heatsink, with safe termination while still looking good.

Note, the heatsink was significantly warmer after a time when mounted inside the light fitting.

MyScore: 9/10

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Another Mini Cycle Challenge

I've done a few rides to date but seldom posted them to this blog. Worse still, I haven't entered many challenges, so today to get back into things I joined this monthly challenge. I actually did 96.50km today which is probably why I'm showing high in the rankings.

It was perfect conditions to do a longish ride, cloudy not too hot, minimal wind and great company. We did have a few mechanical damages that needs urgent attention before using those cycles. A worn tire and a broken pedal.

Check out the Endomondo Challenges Page.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Taupo Cycle Challenge

It's official, entry completed and paid for, can't wait to hit the tarmac :-)

Official Website:

The 160kms looks really good but I really haven't done any serious training for this distance, maybe next year I will attempt the 160km.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

WS2812 Cycle Lights Using a Arduino Pro Mini

Really simple project.
Arduino Pro mini, with an 8 LED WS2812 stick, a touch switch, finished with 1x 18650 battery all mounted inside a 2x 18650 powerbank charging case. Sketch includes the FastLED library.

Tested duration in flash mode: 14hours

Time taken to complete project: just under 1hour
Time taken to edit video: 8+ hours LoL (not good at this really)

Camera: Sony HDR-CX405
PC: Optiplex 9010 i5 8GB Ram running Linux Mint 19

This came out much better than I had expected, especially using the powerbanks case to contain all the components. It is also possible to replace the Arduino Pro Mini with the sketch uploaded onto a ATtiny85 and yes I've tried it and it works just fine.

Ideally it would've been nice to use another touch switch as the Power ON/OFF switch but I have no idea (yet) how to power up any Arduino board using an electronic switch such as these ones.

Bridging both solder points A & B means, as soon as power is applied, the switch in ON, next time you touch the case, it goes off ie it toggles.

This is where you get your 5V and GND power source from.

And yes, don't forget this is still a Powerbank. I would definitelty use this when I create Timelapses on my Sony FDR-X3000 action camera.

The possibility of using this concept has opened many idea opportunities and in my mind I have already formed 4 new projects:-

- Garage minder: detect movement in garage inform household via radio signal
- Emergency House lighting with Solar Panel backup
- Fishing Underwater night LED lighting rig
- WS2812 Christmas tree lighting

It has been a while since I've deleted all my old projects, I'll attempt to recreate them again and repost.

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