Archive for category Electronics Workbench

Baofeng Big Battery Capacity

I bought a pair of third-party 3800 mA·h batteries for the Baofeng UV-5RE Plus (whatever that means) radios on our bikes. Oddly, the packs carry the same “Model BL-5” identification as 1800 mA·h batteries shipped with the radio:

Baofeng BL-5 Batteries - 1.8 and 3.8 Ah
Baofeng BL-5 Batteries – 1.8 and 3.8 Ah

The obviously mislabeled “Baofeng” battery eliminator also sported a 3800 mA·h label:

Baofeng Battery Eliminator - overview
Baofeng Battery Eliminator – overview

I conjured a “test fixture” from a clamp, copper sheet, and copper tape snippets:

Baofeng battery - test setup
Baofeng battery – test setup

Which produced interesting results:

Baofeng BL-5 3800 mAh packs - Ah - 2019-05
Baofeng BL-5 3800 mAh packs – Ah – 2019-05

The 250 mA load = 15 hour rate seemed reasonable to simulate radios spending most of their time in power-save mode, but the packs still delivered only 2.8 A·h.

The packs also claim an unnaturally precise 28.12 W·h, but they’re still underperformers at 20 W·h:

Baofeng BL-5 3800 mAh packs - 2019-05
Baofeng BL-5 3800 mAh packs – 2019-05

Anyhow, I can run the radios for a week without (worrying about) running out of juice during a ride.


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M20 Camera Operation

A reader asked how the M20 camera mount on my bike works with respect to the camera’s clock; this description explains a few things missing from the original writeup.

SJCAM M20 Mount - Tour Easy side view
SJCAM M20 Mount – Tour Easy side view

Do you have to set the time & date at start of every ride?

The internal clock shuts down about ten seconds after you pull the battery. If-and-only-if you swap batteries fast enough, it’ll keep time forever. Screw up once and it snaps back to Epoch Zero.

“Car mode” automagically begins recording when USB power goes on, but the manual advises:

TIP: When using your camera as a dashcam, use a car charger cable and remove the internal battery to make sure it does not die out while you travel.

That’s because the M20 continues to run from its internal battery when USB power drops. After recording an hour of a parking lot or your garage wall, the battery dies and so does the clock.

Of course, without the internal battery, the clock dies ten seconds after you turn off the car.

The internal battery has many days of capacity with the camera turned off (whew!), so I conjured the case & PowerCore battery tray to handle our normal rides. The internal battery keeps the clock alive overnight and during the rain we’ve had for the last week, the PowerCore supplies juice during the ride, and I recharge the PowerCore every few weeks.

The M20 doesn’t draw charging current when I turn it on, but poking the PowerCore’s status button also turns on its outputs, whereupon the M20 decides it should begin charging and, bonus, draw power from the PowerCore during the entire ride. The M20 finishes charging while we ride, but the PowerCore continues supplying power and, when I turn the M20 off, the PowerCore sees no current draw and shuts itself off.

Only a geek could love a lashup like that, but it works around the M20’s broken clock and removes its battery maintenance hassle.


LED Nightlight Base Teardown & Simulation

I volunteered to take a look inside a small LED nightlight base to see how well it might work as a power supply for other circuitry:

Nightlight - overview
Nightlight – overview

Note: the AC plug is not polarized. Either blade can contact the hot side of the AC line.

The cadmium-selenide photocell in front turns the white LED on when it sees darkness and off when it sees lightness, with a more-or-less proportional response during dimness. The LED has an obvious 60 Hz flicker, particularly during its partially on phase, so I didn’t expect much inside.

The component side of the PCB faces toward the blades, which you’re looking along the lengths of:

Nightlight - PCB component side
Nightlight – PCB component side

The solder side faces away from the outlet:

Nightlight - PCB solder side
Nightlight – PCB solder side

Flipping the solder side left-to-right and overlaying the two images produces an X-ray-ish view useful for tracing the circuitry:

Nightlight - PCB trace overlay
Nightlight – PCB trace overlay

Some doodling extracts an LTSpice schematic:

Nightlight schematic
Nightlight schematic

None of the component values seem particularly critical; the diodes and transistor are close approximations to what’s really inside. I think the 100 Ω resistor also serves as a fuse, should anything else go wrong.

Setting the CdS cell to 1 MΩ = “dark” turns the LED on:

Nightlight - ON waveforms
Nightlight – ON waveforms

Although I don’t trust the numbers very far, the LED current waveform definitely suggests the flicker isn’t all in my head.

Setting the cell to 10 Ω = “light” turns the LED off, by the simple expedient of clamping the filter capacitor voltage well below the LED’s forward drop:

Nightlight - OFF waveforms
Nightlight – OFF waveforms

When the LED is off, the transistor current is slightly higher than the LED’s on-state current, because saturation voltage:

Nightlight - OFF - transistor current
Nightlight – OFF – transistor current

The current runs right through the 820 nF capacitor, which serves as a more-or-less 3.2 kΩ ballast resistor:

Nightlight - OFF - 820 nF cap current
Nightlight – OFF – 820 nF cap current

It’s a nice film cap and should have a low ESR, but this seems a bit sketchy to me.

So, basically, the nightlight doesn’t really have a power supply in the usual meaning of the term and isn’t suited for driving anything other than the white LED inside the case. Relocating the LED outside the case is an Extremely Bad Idea™, because the anode is one diode away from what might well be the hot AC line; one little oopsie and you’ve got a lethal shock hazard.


Equipping an Electronics Lab on the Cheap

I described how to take advantage of Living in the Golden Age of Electronic Making for HVOpen:

Although you don’t get my patter, perhaps the linkies will make up for the silence:

I filled a table with Show-n-Tell widgets and a good time was had by all: hardly anybody fell asleep.

[Update: The talk addressed folks interested in starting out with electronic projects who have no test equipment at all. The choices would be different for other audiences, but … boat anchors aren’t appropriate here.]


ANENG AN8008 / AN8009 Fuses

The ANENG AN8008 / AN8009 multimeters have 3.6×10 mm ceramic fuses on their inputs:

AN8009 10 A current shunt - top view
AN8009 10 A current shunt – top view

Based on past experience, at some point over the next year or five, I’ll forget to plug the hot probe back in the voltage hole before measuring a power supply:

AN8008 multimeter jacks
AN8008 multimeter jacks

Whereupon the fuse will blow.

So, for about five bucks, a bag of 10 A and 0.5 A axial lead fast-blow glass fuses just arrived from halfway around the planet:

3.6x10 mm axial fuses
3.6×10 mm axial fuses

They have the right body size and, in this application, fine points concerning current ratings and cartridge composition don’t make much difference. If I actually need one, I’ll snip off the leads, jam it in the holder, and move on.


Fluorescent Ballast Caps: FAIL

After converting another fluorescent shoplight into an LED fixture, I tested its capacitors:

Fluorescent ballast capacitors - one failed
Fluorescent ballast capacitors – one failed

The ESR02 reports one as a 4.8 µF capacitor, the other as a “defective part” with a 4 kΩ resistance. Having a cap fail by turning into a resistor is surprising; I’m more surprised it didn’t simply burn up.

They’re visually indistinguishable, of course.



Samsung EVO Pro 32 GB MicroSD Cards

Installing the Xiaomi Dafang Hacks firmware requires an MicroSD card in each camera and, my previous stock having run low, four more just arrived:

Samsung EVO Plus - 32 GB MicroSD
Samsung EVO Plus – 32 GB MicroSD

Prices have collapsed to the point where known-good (all four passed f3probe testing) cards direct from Samsung (as opposed to Amazon’s “commingled inventory” counterfeit situation) now cost $12-ish each with free shipping.

After I finish fiddling with the first camera, I’ll copy its card onto these four, unique-ify the IP addresses / hostnames /suchlike, and bring ’em all online.

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