Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Years: Review and Distraction Reduction

2016 was certainly an interesting, and in some ways unexpected year (though if you didn't think Trump had a chance, you should get out more).  It being the end of the year, it's time engage in the traditional American process of New Year's Resolutions - generally followed by the traditional American process of forgetting about them by February, or March at the latest.

Last year, I set a New Year's Resolution related to this blog.  I resolved to post something - no specific requirements, just something - every week.

Has this resolution been successful?  Yes, it has!  I posted every Saturday evening in 2016, with the exception of one post that got published Sunday (the SolPad post) because it was time-sensitive and not ready Saturday night - I started it on about Thursday, and it was a long one to write.

Coming into 2017, it's time to consider something else to add to my life.  I want this to be something that will both improve my life, and improve me as a person.

I've decided what it is: Radical reduction of distraction.

What?  Why?  How?  Read on!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

BionX 350 HT RR L Rebuild to 13.5Ah

If you recall properly from last week, I tore apart a BionX 350 HT RR L battery.  This being my blog, it probably means I'll rebuild it to a larger capacity - and you're right!


I left off last week with an unfolded pack and a bit of data about the cell layout.  This week?  Time to build the same thing!


This is, by far, the most complex pack build I've done.  Read on for the details!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

BionX 350 HT RR L Teardown

Another new pack to tear down!  There are so many fun variants of the BionX packs over the years!

Today, I've got a "BionX 350 HT RR L" pack.  Quite the name, and I'm sure the name means something to someone who has decoded all the BionX naming conventions.

But, to me, it means a new battery layout to investigate and, perhaps, rebuild - and that's very exciting!

Last week, I pulled apart a newer BionX 48V pack, discovered that the design is incredibly modular, easy to repair, and noted that such features are useless when BionX won't sell you parts.

This is the new pack for this week.  It's a rear rack mounted pack, and it's quite massive compared to the Trek Valencia Ride+ pack, which is the other rear rack pack I've worked with (Teardown 1/2, Teardown 2/2, Rebuild).

This pack comes rated as a 37V, 9.6Ah pack - so inside is almost certainly a 60 cell layout, but the standard downtube layout won't fit in this pack. 


What's in it?  I assure you, it's 60 cells - so read on to dive in with me!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

BionX 48V 8.8Ah SL 350 HT XL Pack Teardown

I'm kind of a weird person.  I get really, really excited when I get new battery packs in to pull apart.

And I've got a new pack to tear apart!  Today, I'm disassembling a shiny new-to-me 48V BionX 8.8Ah pack!  What's inside?  I have no idea, but I'm really excited to find out!


This is the SL 350 HT XL pack - 8.8Ah of fury.  This isn't the biggest pack BionX sells - they've got a 11.6Ah 48V pack on the market now, but this is a much more recent pack than most of the ones I see.

Sadly, this is a "warranty bricked" pack.  If BionX is replacing a pack under warranty, they just brick the newer packs remotely and ship out a replacement.  I get that lithium battery shipping is complicated, but I'm especially annoyed about this policy after pulling the pack apart - and you'll see why shortly.

So, read on as I dive into this reasonably modern ebike battery!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Tale of 3 BionX Packs: Self Balancing LiMn

I've worked with a lot of BionX battery packs over the past two years - stuff I've torn apart, stuff I've rebuilt.  The older packs are an interesting series of packs all built around the Sony US18650V 1600mAh LiMn cells, and these older packs stand out, in a way, by what they don't have.


They don't have a balancing BMS or any balance leads!  Instead, they have cells that, at least on paper, claim to be self balancing.

How well does it work in practice?  Perhaps surprisingly, very well!

I have a selection of live packs to play with (old and worn out but still holding a charge) - read on and let's find out how well some old BionX packs are balanced!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

DSO138 Scope, Acrylic Housing Assembly, and USB Power

Every now and then, I find out about something that is simply absurdly cool and useful for the price.

The DSO138 oscilloscope is such a device - you can get one for $25 on eBay!


This is a 200kHz-sample-rate oscilloscope that is normally sold as a solder-it-yourself kit for students and hobbyists to assemble.  However, if you don't feel like soldering such a thing together, you can just buy a pre-assembled unit.  This is what I did, as I'm way more interested in a working scope than yet another soldering project.

Output is on a built in 320x200 LCD, and the system supports from 10mV to 5V per division, and a timescale from 10us to 500s per division.  It also has some built in analysis and a signal buffer that one can use to freeze a waveform and look around.

Is it fancy?  Certainly not.  Is it $25 shipped?  Yup!  I'm willing to forgive a good bit for that price.


I've spent a bit of time with mine.  There are plenty of reviews and thoughts in video form, but my review is in text form, because I don't like using video for things like this - sorry, everyone who wants me to do video.  I've also assembled the standard laser-cut acrylic case, and I made my unit USB powered instead of 9V powered, because I like things that run on USB battery packs.  I have enough USB battery packs laying around (Ingress player and all) that I can run USB devices anywhere, for absurdly long periods of time.

Interested?  Keep reading!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Installing the latest AT firmware on a 4Mbit flash ESP8266 (and others, too!)

One interesting experience with the ESP8266 modules, as received from Amazon or eBay, is that they come with a huge range of firmware versions, and a huge range of flash chip sizes.

Some of them can self-update to some version or other, but I've found that this isn't particularly reliable - and doesn't work at all on the cheapo versions that ship with a 4Mbit (512kb) flash chip.

In this post, I'm going to show you how to easily update an ESP8266 module (I use the ESP01 and ESP02 because that's what I keep around) to the latest firmware - currently AT version 1.3.0.0, SDK version 2.0.0.0.  These instructions should remain reasonably current, though if the instructions stop working, please let me know in the comments so I can update this post!

I explain how to build some ESP8266 test/configuration/updater boards, so you can have one handy for all your projects.  And then, I provide some documentation on how to actually update the firmware - even on the 4Mbit flash chips.


Here's the result: The latest firmware.  On everything.


If you're at all interested, read on!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Replacing the Fuel Pump in a Kipor IG2000 or McCulloch FG2000 Generator

A rebrand of a knockoff Honda generator, obtained used, for cheap, has problems!  I'm entirely unsurprised (unlike most of the rest of the country, right now).  My fuel pump has started leaking, and my oil level switch sticks when cold.  I've solved both issues, in two very different ways.

I have some thoughts on Trump winning that I'll share at some point in the future once things have cooled down, but this week is something non-political, mechanical, and only slightly messy.


What exactly is my generator, why do I have it, and why did I go with this one?

I've covered this in some detail in a post on backup power for my solar powered office, but in short: This is backup power for my solar office - given sufficient clouds, my panels aren't enough, and I do earn a living out there, so need reliable power.

Of course, I don't plan to use this much, so I got a cheap generator.  This is a rebadged Kipor IG2000.  A Kipor is a licensed clone of the Honda inverter generator (or a reverse engineered knock off, depending on who you listen to), sold for much less money, and generally regarded as somewhat crappier and less reliable.  Given that I just bought a Ural, you can conclude that I'm probably OK with less reliable devices.

If you're interested in pulling one of these apart to replace a leaking fuel filter, or you've got a problem with your oil level sensor, read on!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Trek Transport+ Battery Teardown (with a new record negative voltage)

It's another week with a battery teardown!  What do I have on my bench this week?

This is a Trek Transport+ battery (BionX powered).  It's reasonably similar to the Valencia Ride+ battery (torn down in two parts), but there's no hump for the battery management board.

So what's inside?


Well, in this one?  A little house of horrors.

But you'll want to read on, won't you?


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tesla Model S 12V Battery Analysis

It would be great to be able to start this post talking about how the Model S, much to the amazement of many owners, has a 12V lead acid battery.  Sadly, I can't do that - because this battery is a failure-prone sore point among many owners, and far too many owners with a >2 year old car are entirely aware of it, as the battery has already failed and been replaced at least once.


This little gizmo is the cause of an awful lot of unhappiness with the Model S.

I don't own a Model S, but I do know a little bit about batteries - and while most of my work is with lithium battery packs, I also know a bit about lead acid batteries, as my office uses a good sized bank of them (about 225Ah at 48V, depending on rate) for solar energy storage.  No, I couldn't get my hands on a PowerWall, and no, one wouldn't even be useful to me voltage-wise.  Though if you have one laying around you'd be willing to part with, let me know...


Anyway.  I was wandering around the internet and came across something interesting.

I've got, on my flash chips, this tiny little file that, on analysis, turns out to be a few days worth of data log from a Model S 12V battery system in late 2016.  Voltage, amperage into or out of the battery, and some surrounding data about charge state and the like.  Rumor has it that the power settings are "Energy Saving : Off" & "Always Connected : On."

So, in I dive!  Chart a course to graphs!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 14: Backup Power

I've just finished three posts about how I mounted my solar panels for my solar powered office (panel mounts revision 1, panel mounts revision 2, east facing morning panels).  I've got 2850W of solar panels hung for an office that can run, in a pinch, on just over 200W.  But winter days are short, winter days can be dark, and winter can have inversion layers out here that lead to a month of clouds in a bad year.

So now, after all the solar panel discussion, it's time to talk about my backup generator - a key part of a balanced breakfast solar powered office.  Really, they're needed for any off grid system.


My generator is a rebrand of a knockoff of a Honda inverter generator - and it works great!  Read on to see how this hooks into the rest of my system.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 13: Morning Panels

It's the middle of October.  I've been working in my solar powered office full time since July, and so far, all is good out there.  I have plenty of power (so much, in fact, that I'm running Folding@Home and BOINC on sunny days), and even on cloudy days I've been OK so far.  The temperature in the office remains entirely comfortable, and this is, quite literally, the best office environment I've ever had.

But, winter is coming, and power is much like a Spuddie - enough just isn't enough.  I've got 8 panels hung (two strings of 4, as documented here and here), but I ordered 10 panels.  The remaining 2 panels are gathering impressive amounts of dust in my other shed (it lacks a door, and is sitting on some rather uneven ground under where the chains broke through the roof, so it seems to concentrate dust).

Nearly every single morning, as I'm walking out to my office, I see this beautiful east-facing wall, soaking up the sun.  It's full of sun long before my main panels are producing much (while my battery bank is lowest), and it's just a beautiful empty canvas, begging for something useful.


I set out to do something useful with that wall.  Bolting solar panels to the wall made sense to gather that wonderful morning sun - but I figured I could do more.  Winter is what concerns me as far as power goes, and winter sun is low and south.  Being able to swing those panels to face south would be nice.  Southwest would be a nice touch too, should I need it to continue generating power in the winter evenings.

My office being my office and me being me, you can guess that I built such a panel holder!

These panels are normally docked for morning production, but can swing all the way around to face southwest for my "manual tracker" approach to gathering more winter sun.


That's the "What and Why" - for the "How," keep reading!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 12: Panel Mounts Revision 2

If you were looking forward to this post last week - sorry about that!  I ran across such utter and complete nonsense that I felt the need to offer my opinions on it.  Anyway, back to my solar panels and wooden mounts.

The first generation panel mounts I built for my solar powered office weren't amazing.  They're incredibly stout, and should last through any windstorm we get, but they're simply too heavy.  It's nearly impossible to swing them solo, and they were a nightmare to build and assemble.

Based on what I learned, I drafted a different set of plans for my second generation panel mounts.  Something lower, lighter, and better balanced.  Something that looks an awful lot like this:


Why?  And how?  Read on!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

SolPad: Number Free Nonsense

SolPad.  It's an Energy Experience.  It's a website with zero useful information.  It's a high production quality video.  And what I can find, it's so fact free that it makes makes Jeremy Clarkson look like a fountain of factual information.

And, it's solar.  It's battery.  It's home automation.  It talks to you.  It's a WiFi Hotspot.  It's launching in the "second half of 2017."  And, based on what I can see, it looks suspiciously like a huge load of crap.  So I'm going to offer an overview of it, as well as my thoughts and opinions, based on the available information.


There are two major products covered in the video (and two minor ones).  The first is "SolPad Home" - which seems like a standard rooftop solar panel with integrated microinverter, but also with a battery.


The second is SolPad Mobile.  This is your portable solar energy generator/grid tie energy generator/compass/WiFi hotspot/emergency light/friend.  It comes complete with a "transport mechanism" - that thing, extended out the top.


I'll be going through both, based on the very limited information I can find on their website and in their video.

Interested?

Keep reading!


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 11: Panel Mounts Revision 1

It's time for a few more posts about my Tuff Shed to Office conversion.  This post and the three following will focus on the details of my solar panel mounts and backup power systems, highlighting what I did, and what I wouldn't do in the future.

All of this started with a stack of 10 solar panels delivered on a pallet.  Which, of course, I didn't bother to take a picture of.  My panels are the SolarWorld SunModule 285W panels (details in my main post about the power system). 

Now, a stack of 10 solar panels on a pallet is a pretty cool thing to have, but it's not a particularly useful thing without a bit more work.  Solar panels are like lizards.  They are happiest lying out in the direct sun, just soaking up the photons.  I needed something to take my panels off the pallet and let them soak up the sun, so I could extract their high energy electrons to run my computers and air conditioner.

So I built such a thing!  This is revision 1 of my panel mounts.  It's a terrible design, for reasons I'll go into later, but it does indeed work.


Read on for the details!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

HexBright Flashlight Battery Teardown and Replacement

The HexBright flashlight, from 2011, is an interesting little device.  It's a flashlight with an embedded Arduino for control, so you can reprogram it to do whatever you want.  Which, being a flashlight, mostly involves turning the light on and off and changing the brightness.

In 2016, it's abandonware.  The creator has left a nice little note saying, essentially, "So long and thanks for all the fish."  It lives on in a weird state - what was claimed to be an "open source flashlight" is left without that much information available, a half-finished community wiki, and... that's about it. 

One problem is that the design of the battery holder is very, very touchy.  The flashlight fits the provided battery like a very tight glove, but protected 18650s vary in length by more than a little bit, and it's nearly impossible to find one that specifies the exact length accurately.  Of course there are no HexBright replacements available.


And, sadly, my battery died after a few months of sitting in a box when I moved.  I suspect I'm not the only one with this problem.

So I set out to replace the battery, succeeded in two different ways, and am sharing them with the world!

Read on if this is at all relevant to you.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

DeWalt 20V Max 3.0Ah Battery Pack Teardown & Analysis

It's been a little bit since I've torn apart a new battery pack!  The last new-to-me pack I pulled apart was a 26v BionX battery (which, I'd add, I rebuilt to nearly twice the stock capacity by filling all the space with cells).  And I've got this cute little DeWalt 20V MAX battery pack (model DCB200, 3.0Ah)  that's just not behaving right.  It would charge, but then only show one LED on the status bar.  I got it for $6 at a pawn shop when I asked for defective batteries.

Well, I've got a dead battery on my bench - that means that it's time to tear it apart!


And you know you want to see what's inside!

Read on for an awful lot of photos inside this solidly built battery pack.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Building a $10 ESP02 based ESP8266 Arduino WiFi Shield

I started a project of mine with a SparkFun ESP8266 WiFi shield.  After several frustrating weeks caused by a variety of issues, but mostly a bad U.fl connector (external antennas were unreliable), I gave up on that one, and decided to build my own, because I can.

This is what I came up with - cheap (under $10), effective, and so far, quite reliable!


Read on for the construction details, costs, and a lot of suggestions on working with the ESP02 wireless modules.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

SparkFun ESP8266 Wifi Shield: Deep Sleep, Connectivity, and Power

I've been working on a wireless moisture sensor project on and off over the past month or two.  My property is spread out, and I'd like to be able to keep track of soil moisture over time - with the long term goal of controlling irrigation systems automatically from a central command point.  Since everything is spread out, the sensors and controls need to be wireless for both communication and power.

My initial plan involved using the SparkFun ESP8266 WiFi Shield for communication.  Over the past few weeks, I've learned a lot about that shield.  Most of the stuff I learned required piecing together things from a variety of sources - there was no one reference for it.  So, hopefully it's useful to you as well.  Sadly, I also learned that the few boards I ordered have an unreliable U.fl port, and are therefore unsuited to my needs.


It is a good looking device, with nearly all the useful pins brought out to 2.54mm headers.  Or, 0.1" headers.  It exposes almost all the functionality of the ESP8266, has some nice status LEDs (power and "talking to something"), supports both hardware and software serial, has an onboard antenna, and in general is a quite nice shield for $15.



My wireless moisture sensor project, on paper, is reasonably simple.  Some moisture sensors, an Arduino to read them, a solar panel, a charge controller, a power supply, and a wireless gizmo to talk to my network.

However, I've spent weeks trying to make the assembly work reliably.  It would work on my desk, then fail in the project box.  Or work in the project box and fail on my lawn.  It was difficult to reproduce the problems, since they didn't show up on the device side logs, and I couldn't get much out of the device over serial - I was left troubleshooting from my access point (which, fortunately, has good logs).  I finally determined that the problem was with the U.fl connector on these shields.  I also found that some other ESP8266 modules had a nicer power control interface, so I built myself a shield from one of those and went on with the project.

Read on for lessons learned.  May they help you avoid hours of wasted time.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

2014/2015/2016 SkyActiv Mazda3 Oil Capacity & Change Procedures

Things needed for a 2014/2015/2016 SkyActiv Mazda 3 oil change: 5 quarts 0W-20, 6 quarts if you've got the 2.5L motor and are a "top of dipstick" kind of person.  A Wix 57002 filter.  An 8mm wrench or socket, an 8mm hex driver (or Allen wrench), and a medium flathead screwdriver.

Read on for what the oil change process involves.  But that's probably what you wanted to know, isn't it?


Why am I doing a writeup on a 2015 Mazda 3 oil and filter change on a blog focused on electric bikes, solar, and small electronics?  Because I hate Tap-A-Talk full screen annoyances and car forum mobile themes, that's why!  It's rather off in the weeds for my blog, but it took a bunch of searching and a phone call to the dealership (including waiting on hold) to find this information when I went to pick up oil for my car without the actual car.  Hopefully this remains helpful for people going forward.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

BionX 26v 9.6Ah Teardown & 18Ah rebuild

It's been a while since I've done a pack teardown and rebuild of a new pack.  The most recent one was the Trek Valencia Ride+ pack teardown and rebuild back in January (Part 1, Part 2, Rebuild).  That one was a bit of a mess - corroded cells, held together with some sort of adhesive foam, and generally not at all fun.

This one is somewhat nicer to work with!  It's a very welcome improvement.

I have here in my hand a list of 205 a very well used BionX 26v LiMn battery pack.  It's rated at 9.6Ah, and is in the same form factor they seem to use for all their packs.  Interestingly, the capacity is the same as the 36v packs (9.6Ah), but the voltage is lower (so fewer cells).  It could make one wonder...


Read on for tons of photos, a full teardown, and a stunning rebuild to a whopping 18Ah!

If you're just here because you have one of these and it needs to be rebuilt, you probably want to go here for details on the rebuilds I offer.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Teardown & Review of a $3 Solar Bike Light

It's been a little while since I've torn apart cheap bike lights out of China - but I'm back at it with this solar bike tail light!  And, I'm tearing it apart in my solar powered workspace.


If you'd like one, they're less than $3 on eBay right now.

It's powered by "Solar energy."

It's "solar energy rechargrable" - and it includes a "steaady" mode.

What's in it?  And is it any good?  Keep reading to find out!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Solar Shed Summary: My Off Grid Office

A few months ago I moved to a few acres in the country, and needed somewhere to work - so I built myself a solar powered off grid office out of a Tuff-Shed Pro Studio!

On one side, I've built a great desk corner with plenty of power and more than enough AC to keep me cool when it's over 100F out.


On the other side, I've built an awesome lab bench for small electronics projects and battery builds.


It all started with this.


That's an 8'x12' Tuff Shed Premier Pro Studio.  I spent around three and a half weeks turning it into my very own office.

Highlights include:
  • Aggressive insulation for year round use: 3.5" of rock wool (5.5" in the ceiling), plus 2" of foamboard on all walls and the ceiling.
  • Plywood interior walls, because I think they look good and they make it easy to mount things.
  • 2kW of solar panels on swinging mounts for power.
  • 12kWh of Trojan T105RE batteries in a 48v bank for storage.
  • A 2kW Aims Power inverter for 110v power.
  • A through-wall heat pump for cooling and heating.
  • Desk space, wall mounted monitors, a lab bench, and plenty of shelving.
This is a summary of my build, with links after each section to posts that contain radically more information (and way, way more photos) of each build stage.

Keep reading for a summary of the entire process!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 10: Interior Work

Construction posts about my off grid Solar Shed are nearly done - there's just a bit of interior work remaining before the bulk of the work is finished!

The insulation is done (rock wool in the walls and ceiling, 2" foamboard on top).

The plywood walls are installed.

The HVAC is heating, venting, and air conditioning nicely.

The solar system is rudely interrupting photons before they hit the ground and turning them into electrons.

It's time to finish out the interior, and make myself a useful workspace!  Perhaps something like this:


What went into the interior work?  Read on to find out!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pokémon Go, Ingress, Servers, and Social Interaction

Pokémon Go has been in public release for slightly over a week now.  I had an opportunity to spend some time playing it in a rather dense area (literally dozens of players around a cluster of PokéStops every evening), and since I've been an Ingress player for over three years, have played plenty of Ingress, and have some background with large scale server systems, I decided to share some of my thoughts.


If you were really, really looking forward to some details on the inside of my Solar Shed (an off grid office I built out of a Tuff-Shed), here's a teaser.  But that's pushed back to next week.  Sorry.


Otherwise, read on for thoughts about scaling, servers, social aspects, and how everything relates to Ingress.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 9: The Solar System

I've collected a bunch of hydrogen and initiated fusion for power!  Or, at least, something that sounds an awful lot like that.  What does one call one's solar system except a solar system, and imply that one has a small sun and planet set floating around?

In any case, you've stuck with me for 8 weeks of "installing insulation and stuff in a shed."  Time for the good stuff!

A solar powered off grid office clearly needs a solar power system - and mine is no exception!

So, here are the gory details on my solar setup.  From panels to outlet.


Keep reading for gobs of details.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 8: Installing the HVAC

This is the eighth post about my solar shed, and I can say that the shed has been working very nicely for me!

After installing a bunch of plywood for your walls, one should, of course, immediately go about cutting a large hole in it!

If you have no idea why I've covered walls in plywood, or why I'm installing an air conditioner, you should start here.  This is my off grid, solar powered office!

Quick quiz: How long does it take to cut a hole in a wall and cram an air conditioner in it, when given a selection of power tools and saws?

Answer: A whole lot longer than I expected!  Walls don't give up as easily as I thought they would.

But I did succeed!



How?  And why this particular unit?  Read on!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 7: Plywooding the Walls

With the interior foamboard up and sealed, it's time to install the plywood!

I get here:


From here:


In only two days of work!

If you have no idea at all what on earth this is, check out the overview of my project!  It's a solar powered office, made from a Tuff-Shed.

How and why?  Read on, of course!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 6: Foamboard Insulation

After finally getting the rock wool insulation up in my Solar Shed (the walls were easy, the ceiling was quite hard), the next step is to install 2" thick foamboard to cover the insulation, and seal all the joints.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click the "Solar Shed" link above to see the overview of this project.  I'm building myself an off grid office out of a Tuff-Shed for a variety of reasons, and I'm in the process of insulating it.

Why am I installing a layer of 2" foamboard over the rock wool?  There are several reasons.
  • A layer of 2" foamboard adds something around R10 worth of insulation to the walls and ceiling - bringing me to about R23 for the walls and R35 for the ceiling.  Since this is a solar powered office, insulation matters more than it would if I were grid tied.
  • Having a layer of solid insulation between the studs and the interior plywood will break (at least mostly) the thermal bridges that might otherwise exist to help transmit heat through my walls.
  • By sealing the gaps between the foamboard panels, I should have a pretty much airtight enclosure, even if the outside walls leak a bit.  This should help with reducing heat loss to airflow - I can control airflow more intentionally instead of having "whatever happens" with regards to air.  On windy days, I expect this will make a big difference - and I definitely have windy days to deal with.
In theory, all this will work.  Since I don't have any in-wall electrical runs (I'll use surface mount conduit), I can really make my shed nice and tight without that much work.

In the end, the interior looks something like this (at least until the plywood goes up).  And, yes, I'll explain all the chalk.


Read on to see how I get there!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 5: Roof Insulation

If you're new here and wondering what this is all about, I'm documenting my build of a solar powered off grid office built from a Tuff-Shed - in many detailed steps.  Last week, I insulated the walls.  This week, I insulate the ceiling!

After a very successful 4 hours filling the walls with rock wool batts (and another few hours filling the window and door gaps with foam), I figured the ceiling would be quick and easy too!  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Here's what I'm starting with overhead.  It's a shingled roof, built on 2x6 rafters, 24" on center.  The sides are broken into smaller compartments, and there's a radiant barrier on the inside (the silver layer).  My plan is to stuff it full of insulation, just like I did the walls!


Would you like to know how not to insulate this, and, perhaps, some advice on how to go about insulating it?  Read on, and learn from my mistakes.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 4: Wall Insulation and Window Foam

I've got a shed on my foundation with bare studs.  It's time to get insulating!


If you just showed up and have no idea why I've got a shed with studs I'm about to (over) insulate, you might want to take a quick glance at what I'm doing (building an off grid office).  If you wanted to be really caught up, you could check out building the foundation and the delivery as well, but those aren't as important.

Read on!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 3: Delivery

My solar shed saga continues this week with delivery.

As you may recall from Part 1, I got a 40% discount on this shed because it came as a whole unit instead of being assembled on site (it was a State Fair demo unit).

Last week, in Part 2, I built a nice level foundation for a shed to be placed on.

And now it's here! 

How, exactly, does one deliver a 3500 lb shed?  A flatbed.  A pickup truck.  A couple guys who know what they're doing.  And some fascinating manipulation.


Because I take photos of everything, you'll want to keep reading to see how this shed went from the back of a flatbed to my foundation!


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 2: Foundations

Syonyk's Solar Shed (really, any shed) needs a good foundation.  Normally, Tuff-Shed will accept a surface that's within 4" of level, build it to the proper height with blocks as they're assembling the base, and call it good.  However, because I got mine as a full unit, they can't do that - I needed to provide a level base.

So, I set out to do this.  It also had to be quick, because I purchased the shed on a Tuesday, and it was being delivered Friday morning.

Which is to say, I turned a bare patch of earth into something like this.  In a hurry!


If you have no idea why I'm doing this, I suggest you read last week's post first.

Read on for details and an awful lot of manual earth moving.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Solar Shed: Part 1: Overview

The next posts from this blog are going to be a series of posts about what I'm calling "Syonyk's Solar Shed."

Syonyk's, because it's mine, both in ownership and design.  Beyond the base shed, all the design and labor are coming from me.  I expect a lot of labor to be involved.

Solar, because it's an off grid office powered by solar and battery.  Why off grid?  Keep reading to find out!

Shed, because it's based around a Tuff-Shed Pro Studio (which is still built like a shed).

This is the shed I'm using, before moving it to my property.

I'm going to be turning it into a small, efficient, well insulated off grid office for year round work!


Keep on going for a lot more detail.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Video Game Review: YIMBY Barrel Composter Assembly (FeelyVR)

It's rare that I sit down with some of the new tactile virtual reality video games ("FeelyVR"), but an evening a few weeks ago, I had time to play through "YIMBY Barrel Composter Assembly" by YIMBY.  I wired the headset up so I could take screenshots, and I had a tape recorder taking notes while I played through so I could do my writeup below.

This is one of the new "virtual reality with tactile feedback" games.  It's a pretty high resolution setup - check out the screenshots below!  I played it on a cluster consisting of a rack of 4U quad Xeon servers, each with 4 Titan Xs installed.  Total power consumption was absurd, but, the pixels were perfect!  Fortunately, the servers were in a soundproof room.

TL;DR: It really felt like I was actually assembling a composter!

Check out the reflections off the plastic and the shadows on the carpet from the completed unit!


Keep reading for the full review!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Building Temporary Stairs with redwood

Last week, I discussed some temporary stairs built with cinderblocks to meet code for entry and exit stairs.

But those aren't the only stairs I built!  I also built a set with lumber, because I was sort of tired of working with cinderblock, I needed a bit more height, and lumber seemed an easier option.  Variety!


As with the cinderblock steps, I'm no professional.  I built these for my house, as temporary stairs, and I needed them to be and meet code.  This set took me just about a day to build (I started the previous evening and finished mid-afternoon).  So, don't go about doing this and then complain that they don't work for you.

If you're interested in how I built them, read on!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Building temporary stairs with cinderblocks

Life update: A few weeks back, I bought a house.  I'm not in Seattle anymore, and this blog may take a slight turn for the rural.

The house wasn't quite finished.  It still needed a few things before I could move in.  Minor stuff - hooking up the well (lots of trenching), filling in the trench (lots of labor), putting numbers on the house (drilling holes in the wall), etc.  I've learned a ton in the past few weeks.

One of the many things I had to do to get our house ready for the occupancy inspection was to add stairs.  There are two ways of doing most things like this: Paying someone, or doing it yourself.

So, of course, I did it myself!

I had a set of standards for landing size, step rise, step run, and the like.  They're a good idea, unless you want the inspector to fail you for them - and I've heard if they're having a bad day, they will pull out tape measures.

In any case, the end results include a small set of stairs weighing in at around 1500 lbs of materials, and a large set coming in at somewhere around 2500 lbs.  They look more or less exactly like this!



If you're interested in how I built these massive structures, read on!