Category page for all articles related to technological gadgets for information technology as well as around the house

Pine64 Pinecil Soldering Iron Review

Pine64 Pinecil Mini Soldering Iron Review

The Pine64 Pinecil is described as a “smart mini portable soldering iron”. It’s very popular and has incredible Amazon ratings among a crowd that largely is probably unfamiliar with Pine64 as a company that makes single board computers.

I was in dire need of a soldering iron upgrade and Razor Burn mentioned to me in one of the comments on the site that he had the Pinecil and loved it. I’ve investigated other Pine64 products before on the site as well and have other hardware from them. It’s also a RISC-V device!

Today I’ll review the Pinecil and cover why this soldering iron is so popular. Let’s get started!

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Using Seeed’s XAIO ESP32C3 with Home Assistant / ESPHome

Home Assistant - ESPHome Sensors Installed

I’ve been working with the Grove series of sensors lately as I previously covered in my K1100 Grove Sensor prototyping kit article. The next step after getting my prototyping kit set up was to try some of the expansion shields for the Seeed Studios XAIO modules such as the ESP32-C3. This will allow me to connect a whole bunch of sensors to a single board.

We used LoRa in the last article to upload sensor data to the cloud. Today we’re going to take the complete opposite approach. We are going to use the open-source Home Assistant suite to upload data to a locally running Home Assistant server. Home Assistant already integrates nicely with everything in my home letting me access it all in one place.

In this article we’re going to take the next step after prototyping one sensor at a time and try using a XAIO Grove expansion shield to connect a whole bunch of sensors to a single board and then view all of their data within Home Assistant. Let’s get started!

Using Seeed’s XAIO ESP32C3 with Home Assistant / ESPHome Read More »

Google Pixel Buds Pro Review

Google Pixel Buds Pro Review

I’ve had the original Google Pixel Buds buds (first generation) for a couple of years now. That line (and the second generation of it) was cancelled some time ago in favor of the Pixel Buds A Series.

As of late though my original Pixel Buds have been acting up and the left headphone will often be dead when I open the lid for the case. I would have to leave the lid of the charger open after taking the left headphone out and putting it back in again for it to charge correctly and then I would be able to finally use them for whatever I pulled them out to do. It was time for an upgrade.

Today I’m going to review the Pixel Buds Pro series with active noise cancellation. I’ll specifically be comparing them to my original Pixel Buds and the A Series. Let’s get started!

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Lichee RV 86 Panel Getting Started Guide

Lichee RV 86 Panel Getting Started Guide

The Lichee RV 86 Panel is a RISC-V powered Linux computer complete with screen! It comes as a low cost kit with everything you need including the Lichee RV module.

In this guide I’ll show you how to get going with the Lichee RV 86 panel including getting Linux on there and getting it connected to WiFi. Let’s get started!

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Grove IoT Sensor Prototyping – K1100 – Getting Started Guide

Seeed Studio K1100 Sensor Prototyping - Getting Started Guide

Recently I’ve been trying to learn more about options to set up my own sensors within the house. What kind of sensors? All of them. I want gas sensors to tell me the indoor/outdoor air quality. I want moisture sensors to tell me the moisture level in my garden. I want to know if all the doors and windows are shut and locked. I’m sure there are dozens of sensors out there I don’t even know about that once I do I will want. I basically want to be able to see a status / reading of everything going on in and around my home easily from a monitoring panel.

I knew I wanted all of these types of sensors but I wasn’t sure how to get started. How will I control them all? How will they connect together? I don’t want apps for every single different sensor. I’ve been doing everything I can around the home to eliminate having so many different systems. I am looking for a system that is cleaner than that to tie everything together. An ecosystem.

That was why when I was going through old Twitter direct messages from Seeed Studio offering to send me a prototyping kit to evaluate sensors from the “Grove” line of sensors I decided to contact them again and see if they were still interested in sending me this. They offered to send me the K1100 sensor prototyping kit and it was exactly what I needed as it contains a full kit including a screen (the Wio terminal). In under 10 minutes you can literally be up and running with either WiFi or LoRa to transmit the sensor data.

Having a sensor prototyping kit was the tool I needed to start seriously breaking into the sensor world and starting to actually build instead of plan. In this guide we’ll cover the Seeed Studios K1100 sensor prototyping kit which gives you everything you need to easily buy and test inexpensive sensors (usually <$10) from the Grove ecosystem. Let's get started!

Grove IoT Sensor Prototyping – K1100 – Getting Started Guide Read More »

DataVac ED500: Powerful Dust Remover

DataVac ED500 Dust Remover Review

In the past I’ve written about my rechargeable handheld dust removal tool I’ve used to clean dust from electronics. This has completely eliminated “canned air” from my life and paid for itself many times over not to mention the vastly reduced environmental impact.

After years of operation my OPOLAR dust removal tool is starting to have issues with the switch that turns on the blower. Since I was very happy having a powered dust removal tool and it had paid for itself previously I decided to try taking a step up this time and get a more powerful model.

I decided to try out the DataVac Electric Duster and oh boy is it powerful. It honestly feels like a cannon! Today I’ll cover how this compared to my previous tool and why these are so great. Let’s get started!

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Use HackRF SDR to Lock / Unlock Car

CubicSDR - Lock / Unlock Intercept

I’ve previously covered getting your HackRF set up in Linux and getting the firmware updated. In that guide we installed the very easy to use CubicSDR application and were able to easily tune to various audio signals.

Today we’re going to do something more interactive and actually use the transmitter. We’re going to unlock and lock my vehicle using the HackRF! Let’s get started.

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Read and Reset Car Codes – Wireless ODBII Diagnostic Tool

2006 Chrysler 300C ODB Port

Chances are if you own a vehicle at some point you’ve experienced a check engine light on your vehicle. When this happens it’s common to stop by an auto-parts store or the dealership to have them read the code and determine what is wrong. Most auto parts stores will have a little diagnostic computer they can plug in to read the code.

Today I wanted to highlight a really inexpensive way that you can interface with that same diagnostic computer yourself using a cheap (<$30) adapter that not only allows you to read these codes but to actually reset them!

I’ve found it very empowering to have one of these as I can immediately research any check engine codes my vehicle has and determine what I’m going to need to do to resolve it. It’s also great if you have a check engine light for something you already know about as you are able to reset them yourself. Let’s get started!

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HackRF Software Defined Radio Guide for Linux

Cubic SDR - Main Screen

The term “software defined radio” simply means that parts of a radio that were traditionally hardware are implemented in software. This means that functions that used to require knobs, dials or some kind of physical mechanism can now be controlled via software. Essentially this makes using computers/ software with radios much easier and more accessible (cheaper) than it had ever been traditionally.

Now with that background I can explain what the HackRF device is. The HackRF is a software defined radio device that is designed to let you access *all* of the radio spectrum all the way from 1 MHz up to 6 GHz! Think of it like a FM radio where the frequency controls don’t stop at 88 MHz or 108 MHz and you could turn it way below or above that. That is exactly what a HackRF is!

You are definitely not limited to listening to radio stations though. You can basically receive all types of signals with the HackRF (depending on your antenna) including video and data signals which can be processed by your computer. In this guide I’m going to cover how to get started with a device like this in Ubuntu Linux and give you an idea of what kind of things you can do with it!

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Pwnagotchi WiFi Audit Tool Build / Guide

Pwnagotchi Raspberry Pi Zero W Build

A “pwnagotchi” is a device used for wireless security auditing / hacking that captures the handshakes of any WiFi access points in range of the device. These handshakes can later be cracked. How difficult these are to crack depends on how secure the wireless network is. If the network is set up with the latest encryption standards and an extremely secure password (or is using WPA encryption) it can be nearly/essentially impossible. If the password is a common dictionary word it may crack within seconds.

It’s common and smart security practice for both enterprises and home users to check what kind of networks are operating within range. It’s common to find devices that are “broadcasting” a wireless access point used to share internet but this is often not intended / authorized. It’s also very common to find devices using extremely insecure passwords that will crack in seconds that are authorized to be on the network but need a more secure password. These are basically backdoors into your home / company and they can go for a long time without being caught when this is never checked for.

The “pwnagotchi” tool automates this process. It will capture anything in range to be easily checked later for extremely insecure hashes (typically using hashcat or there are even online tools to find common hashes which we will cover). This saves a ton of time and can greatly improve your security. Today I’ll cover how to build a pwnagotchi setup as well as the steps to use it. Let’s begin!

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Using Multiple M.2 NGFF 2280 SATA Drives Simultaneously

IOCREST NGFF 2230/2242/2260/2280/22110 SATA PCIe Enclosure

I’ve been running for several years now so I’ve held on to any spare storage devices I can get my hands on for benchmarking/testing/cataloging purposes. This led to a big surplus of drives and no easy way to utilize them. That was before getting some new tools to be able to utilize lots of drives at once.

Last time I covered a monster 16 bay hot swappable 2.5″ SATA cage (as well as a more reasonable 8 bay option) in this “extreme storage” series of articles and in this article we’re going to cover M.2 SATA NGFF / M.2 NVMe drives. It’s also possible to do RAID!

Using Multiple M.2 NGFF 2280 SATA Drives Simultaneously Read More »

Monster 16 Bay Hot-Swappable 2.5″ SATA Cage – ICY DOCK

ICY DOCK 16 Bay SAS/SATA Backplane Cage

I have a *lot* of 2.5″ SATA drives around the house that have collected from over the years from various devices. Often these drives have useful data on them or aren’t big enough to justify using on their own. The absolutely monstrous ICY DOCK 16 bay 2.5″ SAS/SATA backplane cage solves all of these problems and lets you hot swap (change out the drives while the OS is running) drives live in your OS!

In this guide I’ll cover how what I needed to actually set up something like this and my advice for people who are interested in these same type of hot swappable / RAID capabilities. I’ll also share the “sweet spot” recommendation to get the most bays for the least money if you’re on a tight budget. Let’s get started!

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Ubertooth One Kali Linux Latest Tools / Firmware Setup Guide

Kismet Ubertooth One BTLE Capture

The world is full of devices communicating with Bluetooth even if (or maybe especially if) you don’t realize it. Most “smart” devices are advertising some Bluetooth services (some of them even publicly writable without a password!). Even my treadmill is advertising writeable Bluetooth endpoints!

The Ubertooth One is a bluetooth and bluetooth low-energy (BTLE) capture device intended for developers and security researchers/auditors. It has an external antenna and is able to communicate at much further distances than most BTLE devices by both transmitting more powerfully and having a more sensitive antenna to listen to the response. To find out what is nearby and happening over the air this is the device you want to have.

In this guide I’ll show you how to get the latest Ubertooth tools on Kali Linux as well as update the firmware for the Ubertooth device and actually use the device!

Ubertooth One Kali Linux Latest Tools / Firmware Setup Guide Read More »

Hardware Technician Tool Gems: Precision Electric Screwdriver

wowStick w/ included accessories

This is the second in a series of articles about tools I’ve found during my IT hardware technician career that made my life much easier. These are all tools I have used for years that a lot of people have likely never seen or been exposed to before. Last time we covered a replacement for canned air / duster and this time we’re going to cover the wowStick fully electric precision screwdriver!

If you’ve ever opened a laptop or cell phone you know there are dozens of screws you have to remove. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was an electric screwdriver. Let’s take a look at why!

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A Good Alternative to Canned Air / Duster for Electronics

OPOLAR Air Duster for Electronics / Computers

As a computer technician / technology enthusiast I have a lot of electronics that need to be kept clean. I used to use canned air / duster for this task but it’s pretty nasty stuff to work with. It is extremely cold, you don’t want to contact any coolant with any components, the bottles run out at the most inconvenient times and generate a bunch of waste, etc.

For this article I just wanted to share a tool I found a couple of years ago that made my life a lot easier. It is also cheaper over time and much more environmentally friendly!

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