Category Archives: General

HT-175 Infrared Thermal Imager

IR CameraI’ve wanted one of these hand held imagers since I heard of the FLIR – but could never justify the cost – NOW I have one of my very own.  I’m quite excited.

Here’s the link – be aware, I think the current sale offer dries up tomorrow??:

Even then the price - indeed it is Banggood (I'm sure they won't appreciate that). Likely there are a billion uses for these hand-help gadgets (this one comes with a spare battery pack) but my first priority as we are refurbishing the house, is to check where the highest heat losses are.

First of all, then, the box photo:

Box photo


Heat loss through windows

Continue reading HT-175 Infrared Thermal Imager


EleksMaker Pro Laser Engraver

Update November 10 2018

After much delay and I have to say patience from Banggood, I have now put together this excellent A3 laser engraving machine. Originally, a 500mW module arrived complete with its own power supply (the laser which was not included in the basic kit). It turns out that was the wrong laser and now I have the 2300mW violet laser complete with upgraded 2.5A power supply. In the photo you also see the (important) green protective glasses that came with the kit.

Cutting door signs with Eleksmaker

With help from my friend Aidan who has extensive experience with 3D printers and similar, we’re now putting together some Perspex door signs for bedrooms at Willow Cottage using the Eleksmaker (more pics soon, Sylvan Azure and Occitane are the bedroom names for the dooe signs).

Continue reading EleksMaker Pro Laser Engraver


British v Spanish Mobile Phone Service Providers

Well, of course, everyone has their own story, this is mine. As some f you know, we spent 3 months of our summer in Spain, most of it with me recovering from illness and so probably more than ever, having a working mobile contract was very important this year.

We’ve moved home in the UK and moved in shortly before heading off to Spain. In the sleepy village of Wark on Tyne we now have excellent home broadband thanks to Vodafone who, despite having no mobile signal in the village, managed to achieve what BT could not (despite all the grants and other funding the latter has had over the years), that is, Vodafone offer a sub-£30 a month fibre80 Mb download, 20Mb upload home broadband service – and it WORKS – and their router is not a toy. Contrast that with Plusnet who gave me two toy routers which were unreliable and useless and after a year (and a new contact) gave me a decent router.

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The Thermostat revisited

ThermostatRemember this? I put this Node-Red Dashboard (+ images) stat together January 2017 then promptly forgot about it – thank heavens I blogged the lot, having recently moved home.

I find I need a thermostat for our home and yesterday I was in the process of re-inventing the wheel when I came across my Node-Red stat.

All documented in the original blog entry and apart from a minor change to Node-Red Dashboard’s default cell sizes from 48x48 to 52x52, it just works. Lovely.

Here’s the link - I can’t believe I put all that work in then just ignored the design – it’s marvellous even though I say it myself and setup (end user0 could not be easier.


H96 Max Plus USB 3 TV Box

imageThe H96 is, how can I put it, Wonderful. It has Android 8.1, both WIFI and high speed Ethernet, 4k HD video ((yes, I have a 4K TV) 32GB storage (4GB internal RAM), USB 3.0, HDMI output and more. At the time of writing, it is a very low £38.87 at Banggood.

At this point I would normally send you off to look at the ad but in this case you might be put off as it is the usual gloss complete with language errors. The unit deserves so much more.

I’ve tried all manner of TV boxes from PCB level Android units to full blown Android TV. The former generally work but often need some technical knowledge to set up and often come with old versions of Android, The Android TV units are, in my experience, a let-down.

Quick screen grabWho wants the restricted content and stripped down Android TV Playstore. Indeed, the only thing up to now I can’t get this box to run is NowTV and I think that is a SKY restriction more than a problem with the unit as I cannot get any other Android unit to fire off NowTV to the big screen.  Netflix is fine, Amazon TV is fine, YouTube is fine and unlike the Roku, there is a VPN facility for those of us who travel overseas. The IPlayer as yet does not seem to want to know Android 8.1 but the BBC Radio IPlayer works a treat. Meanwhile my SmartTV handles the normal IPlayer no problem. I’ve installed a ton of apps such as TEDTV but it would take weeks to do justice to all of them. Thanks to the 4K RAM and 32GB built-in memory (expandable my uSD) there seems to be almost no limit in sight to what I can put into this box. I’m determined  to crack NowTV rather than buy another unit just for that.

H96 Max Plus TV Box

As usual with these units, initially I noted some edge content missing off-screen but in this case a very simple and very welcome zoom facility immediately corrected the issue – end of story – no technical knowledge required. I now have a perfect picture. I DO have a slight issue with the remote control which seems to be missing the odd useful button. I added a USB mouse into the mix until I figure it all out. In Amazon Prime I was having trouble starting a video once selected. as the OK button didn’t do what I expected it to.. I’ll get there, meanwhile I am amazed at how well this is working with my “bargain” Aldi 4K TV. The overall result is stunning and trust me, I’m no novice to HD TV.

The unit displays a “skin” but unlike Android TV you can get to normal settings and the full Android Play Store without issue.


I cannot stress enough that my crude screenshots are not intended to convey the quality out of this unit. Hopefully they do help otherwise. Not ALL of these packages were installed by default but took seconds to get from the Playstore. I should point out that the Netflix and Prime apps are free but you will need subscriptions to these services of course.


If you need more storage, the unit has sockets for both USB sticks and uSD.

Here’s the link - H96 Max Plus RK3328 Android 8.1 USB3.0 TV Box --

More Android TV Boxes --  Continue reading H96 Max Plus USB 3 TV Box


Web servers and SQLITE Editors Rethink

ApacheFor some considerable time now I’ve been using Apache (web server) on my various SBCs to present a basic web page, run PHPLITEADMIN (local  SLQLite Database Manager and do other menial jobs. A LONG time ago I got rid of MySQL (which I had used on and off along with MS SQL on larger machines for a long time)  despite it’s undoubted qualities as MySQL tends to be not ideal for the likes of little Raspberry Pis with their limited resources and limited life SDs. Well, that was a start but now it is possibly time to move on from Apache to something a little lighter on it’s feet as well.

NGINXAntonio is busy having another so at setting up Caddy as an alternative web server, but he’s having a busy week and I could not help but give Nginx a go – I WILL play  with both that and Caddy in the very bear future and the winner will no doubt get into “the script”. Any web server for me has to run PHP, preferably v7 as I like to be up to date – warning - I’ve only tested this  on a Raspberry Pi 3 (2 will work) but as there was nothing specifically Raspbian-ish in the setup I’ve no doubt this would work elsewhere.

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Easy Backup 2

Having satisfied myself that RPI-CLONE does a good job of creating backups of Raspberry Pi (no guarantees you won’t lose data but it hasn’t happened to me yet) I started the search for a solution for other boards. I find the Orange Pi +2E to be a particularly nice piece of hardware, but useless without an easy backup.  armbian-config will let you copy from SD to EMMC but not the other way around – so no backup capability for eMMC users. So I've been working on this...

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Xiaomi Roidmi 3S Bluetooth Music Car Charger

This Xiaomi Roidmi 3S cigarette-lighter-sized Bluetooth transmitter and car charger has two USB outputs totalling 2.4 amps output AND is able to talk via Bluetooth to your mobile phone so that those without Bluetooth on the car radio can tune into a special low power FM transmission and play their phone music via the car stereo. Not only that but it is inexpensive! The unit came from GearBest – here’s the link…

Xiaomi ROIDMI 3S Bluetooth Music Car Charger:

Roidme 3S

Thr Roidmi website is out of date, featuring models 2 and 2s whereas the unit I have is model 3S. Operation requires little explanation so really the GearBest link above is good enough. Once the unit is paired to your phone by Bluetooth, all sound output from your phone or tablet will go to the unit and be retransmitted by radio (FM) to the car radio. The unit also of course has 2 USB charging outputs which can be used for example to charge your device or devices - always handy in the car.

Roidmi 3S

The Roidmi 3S is solid enough, if you are unfortunate enough not to have Bluetooth on your car stereo, it could prove useful. The brief instructions (which I didn’t need) were in English. It has now been in use for weeks in our little Spanish car and operates flawlessly.

I must admit to being sceptical at first, I’ve seen similar units over the years promising to send music over FM and usually ending up with disastrous sound. This unit on the other hand has true, clear stereo and sounds GREAT with no interference from other stations, at least, not here in the Granada region of Southern Spain. My UK car has full Bluetooth but our little Spanish run-around has no Bluetooth and as the radio stations are Spanish, has, up to now been essentially useless.

Now, we can stream my wife's favourite American Rock station from her Smartphone  to the radio andeven  keep the phone charged at the same time – marvellous.

Highly recommended.


SD CARD Backup

Update September 2018

I read about the most convoluted ways to back up SBC systems…. some back up only data, some use arcane commands to do the job – few if any are a single click job for a complete backup that can even handle larger or smaller SDs. That is except for RPI-Clone.

Below “Original article” was written back in 2016 – things have changed a little since then. Bill Wilson has revamped his rpi-clone project and the current version of this superb command-line tool for the Raspberry Pi is here..

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Koogeek Smart Light Strip LS1

Koogeek lightWhile we were down at the coast paying a fleeting visit to Gibraltar, a package arrived for me from – their LS1 Smart Light Strip – which is available from TomTop -

Here it is, it arrived well-packed – it is worth noting that apps are available for both Android and IOS. The box describes the product and spec in English, Chinese and what looks like German. For IOS users the strip works with Apple HomeKit. Somewhat less info is provided on the box for Android.

Koogeek light

At this point I got the urge to open the box and take a look. This time, there were instructions in several languages including French and Italian. The manual has in total three sides in English including specifications and safety warnings.

The strip is for indoor use only and the product includes a 60-LED, sealed, adhesive-backed strip (somewhat waterproof-looking) and inline controller with USB at the end – all in white. Control is over WiFi - 2.4G only.

I plugged the strip into a handy USB supply and with the one button on the controller, turned it on. Double-click doesn’t seem to do anything so at this point it looks like an on-off control only – giving a smooth fade into a satisfyingly bright white.

Koogeek light

On removing and re-applying USB power, the lights come up again in white, regardless of the last button state (on or off) so you could end up with a room full of lighting during the day in your absence – not a good thing. I think there may be an assumption here of the user always being present – and power always being on (i.e. no power cuts or brown-outs).

The light works with Google, Siri (Apple) and Alexa voice technologies none of which I had handy to test.

Rather too much Apple bias for me – and that shows in the Android Store who gave the app “Koogeek Smart Home” a rating of 1.7 – particularly low.

I downloaded the app onto my Android phone.

The unit comes with full colour control in the App and setup was particularly easy, however, again  if you get a power failure, when it reconnects, app settings are lost and worse, you have to be at the light strip to turn the power on otherwise the App has no idea of the state of the lights. As this is presumably all down to software I’m sure this can be sorted but right now at v2.2.14 it isn’t, which leaves the current strip as a novelty but little else.


GL iNET MT300N V2 Mini Router

I recently bought this low-cost Mini-router without having a clear idea of how to use it, other than to somehow get past the RIDICULOUS GEO-restrictions that providers such as the BBC and others put on their TV content. My MT300N (Mango) is yellow incidentally, like the photo. Only today after very carefully reading the instructions and comparing to other routers did I realise what a winner it really is, or could be if I could get it to vpn connect reliably.

router Continue reading GL iNET MT300N V2 Mini Router