Mod a touch sensitive USB soldering for power bank use

USB soldering iron on power bank

USB soldering irons make a good compromise between the low cost of a mains iron and not depending on mains power. As I quickly discovered when I bought a Silverline Tools 463429 USB iron, it would not function off a power bank. At first I thought it was faulty, but found it works fine once plugged into a mains USB charger, defeating the purpose I bought it for.

After watching a video by Big Clive of a different model with a tactile switch that runs fine off a power bank, I was considering purchasing one. However, I thought I would first try modifying mine to see if I could wire the tip directly to the USB input. Once I disassembled my USB iron, I realised a mod would be a lot easier than anticipated – Just bridge out the transistor that controls power to the tip. Even Clive had the same suggestion when I posted a comment about the issue with mine.

Continue reading Mod a touch sensitive USB soldering for power bank use

Identify Three 4G band and 4G+ sites on ComReg SiteViewer

Thumbnail of ComReg SiteViewer map

The ComReg SiteViewer is a great way of identifying nearby masts, making it a lot easier to tell which side of the house to position a router or antenna.  While the map does not show band #s, the site IDs give very good clues as to whether Three is using band 3 or 20 and has multiple carriers (4G+). 

This can be essential when choosing an outdoor antenna and also before one starts drilling holes.  Band 3 is particularly important on Three as it offers double the bandwidth of band 20.  Most band 3 masts operate on three sectors, compared to just one or two for rural band 20 masts.

Continue reading Identify Three 4G band and 4G+ sites on ComReg SiteViewer

What heater? Oil-filled, fan, ceramic, halogen, gas, paraffin, bioethanol…

Convector heaterAll electric heaters are 100% efficient at converting electrical energy to heat.  However, as for how warm they make a room occupant feel, this varies from a lot one type of heater to another.  Some heaters are also more efficient at heating an area or minimising heat loss out the ceiling.

Heat pumps and dehumidifiers are a few electric appliances that deliver more heat energy than the electrical energy they consume.  Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one area to another and dehumidifiers release latent heat by condensing water vapour.

In this article, I will compare various portable heaters I am familiar with or have used over the years.  I also suggest which heater works for what type of environment and cover a few gas and liquid fuel portable heaters.  Continue reading What heater? Oil-filled, fan, ceramic, halogen, gas, paraffin, bioethanol…

DIY in-car Wi-Fi and data plan suggestions for use in Ireland

Irish roadWhen I had a chat with a lady who bought a new Opel car, she mentioned how expensive the in-car Wi-Fi is to run.  In addition to paying for an OnStar subscription to enable Wi-Fi access, she must pay for usage.  She was surprised to hear that there are other alternatives available that would let her children go online with their Tablets.

In this article, I will discuss various options for getting Wi-Fi capable devices online in the car.  These do not involve any hard wiring or modification to the car.  In fact, the tethering option mentioned below may work without having to purchase any additional equipment or cables.   Continue reading DIY in-car Wi-Fi and data plan suggestions for use in Ireland

How to fix slow Wi-Fi on the Eir F2000 (Android / IPv6 DNS issue)

Eir F2000Eir’s F2000 router provides IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity, which allows devices to reach websites and web services with native IPv6 connectivity.  While the Eir ISP network handles IPv6 routing, unfortunately its DNS servers seem to stutter with IPv6 DNS lookups, particularly with earlier firmware versions on the F2000.

One workaround is to use an app that tunnels DNS lookups to an IPv4 only DNS server.  While this procedure works, the procedure here aims to let one go online without depending on a third-party app or rooting the phone.  Continue reading How to fix slow Wi-Fi on the Eir F2000 (Android / IPv6 DNS issue)

Solar water heating payback vs replacing the hot water tank

Shower headWhen we had a new hot water tank fitted some years ago, we asked the plumber about solar panels for water heating.  The plumber said that while they can cut hot water heating costs, they rarely pay for themselves in a home.  The plumber went on to say that most installers exaggerate solar water heating cost savings to sell a complete package.

Before I start, I am not against solar based water heating and this article is focused on the climate in Ireland.  Indeed, solar is the most environmentally friendly way of heating water, particularly in warmer climates. Continue reading Solar water heating payback vs replacing the hot water tank

Alternative way to buy a Three 500MB prepay data add-on

Buy a Three 500MB data add-on problemThree’s Irish All You Can Eat prepay plan sounds great – Just top €20 every 4 weeks and stream away to your heart’s content.  But what if you don’t need all that data for a few weeks?  Without an active AYCE or 500MB data bundle, Three gobbles credit at a rate of €1.01 per Megabyte!

At a first glance, the solution should be simple – Just buy a 500MB bundle.  Just try doing this in My3 and chances the user will be greeted with “Sorry, there’s been a problem. We know about it and are working hard to fix it.”  Yet that error has been ongoing for months at a time. Continue reading Alternative way to buy a Three 500MB prepay data add-on

Meaco 20L Low Energy Dehumidifier review – Great with a few niggles

Meaco 20L Platinum RunningWe have gone through several dehumidifiers over the years, many of which either failed or got too noisy.  This time I carried out extensive research, including reading many reviews and use feedback.  Based on various user reviews such as on Amazon, most report the Meaco Platinum series as quiet running and energy efficient.  Meaco is also one of the few manufacturers that state realistic extraction figures, i.e. 20°C @ 60% RH.  Most other manufacturers only report 30°C @ 80% RH or higher – Sure, if you want to dehumidify a greenhouse!

I purchased this machine through Amazon and had no issue with the shipment.  I already tried a desiccant dehumidifier, but found it far too power hungry.  While it can function as an economical space heater, this heat is of no benefit during the summer.   Our house also rarely dips below 18°C. Continue reading Meaco 20L Low Energy Dehumidifier review – Great with a few niggles

3G/4G antennas – Types, directional, MIMO, cables & connectors

MIMO SMA connectionsChoosing the right antenna is not as simple as picking a random high gain 4G antenna and expecting it to work!  There are several types of antennas and connectors.  Even the cable type and length can make a difference.

Before considering an antenna, check out the article on choosing the right 3G/4G router.  A proper mains-operated 4G router can do away with most indoor antennas.  Continue reading 3G/4G antennas – Types, directional, MIMO, cables & connectors

Google Music vs Spotify – What I like and problems

Phone streamingThere are countless reviews comparing Spotify, Apple Music, Google and other streaming services.  While they compare the variety of songs and features, most do not look at real world use such as in-car streaming with patchy data coverage.

I have used Google Music and Spotify for some time and tried out Deezer and Tidal HiFi.  This article looks at the benefits and issues I ran into with each service.  It also covers my brief experience with Deezer and Tidal HiFi. Continue reading Google Music vs Spotify – What I like and problems