I’ll get off the tool train soon and back to my regularly scheduled programming soon as I managed to FINALLY snag a Raspberry Pi 4. They’ve been next to impossible to get for about a year or more now.
Anyway, you can’t be a Tech Blog Geek without good tools. That’s really all there is to it. Over time my tool needs have evolved in several different directions.
After my first stint in the Navy I got a job at an FAA Repair Station. Obviously my mix of tools were aviation related and we had one specific issue where tool handles needed to be chemical resistant due to the use of a commercial hydraulic fluid called Skydrol. Even if you had a decent set of Craftsman hand tools those handles would get all sticky and melt.
Fast forward a few years and I’m working for the government who provides me tools at work but I’m starting a family and need basic home tools. Not much use for a pair of safety wire pliers around the house. So I retool as much as I can afford to.
Then I move to Japan and put all my tools in storage. While I once was an Aircraft Structural Mechanic I somehow evolved into an Electronics Tech Rep. Time to retool again.
Now I’m retired but I have lots of electronics hobbies, not to mention I have a camper, and all manner of Maker gear and by that I mean a Vinyl Sign machine, 3D printers, lasers, and a CNC machine. My tool needs are way different again. About the only constants along the way have been screwdrivers, socket sets, wrenches and pliers.
Looks like either today or tomorrow John’s Tech blog will flip the counter over past 1,000,000 hits.
I started this web site to document my projects. In the computing world and especially the Linux world people who have years of experience often forget they are trying to communicate to newbies sometimes.
My approach was just to simplify things and to document the process FOR MYSELF so I could redo it in 6 months or a year later when it broke.
I BASICALLY MADE THIS WEB SITE FOR ME AND IT WAS ALMOST A JOKE TO CALL IT JOHN’S TECH BLOG.
And here I am almost a million hits later.
Wera Tools calls their users and fan base “Tool Rebels”. I generally don’t fall into hype like that however, I recently picked up a few Wera Tools after having owned a screwdriver set for years.
I think it is safe to say that I’m a Tool Rebel!
Let me issue you a challenge. Look at hand tools that your father used, or your grandfather used, or look at some antique tools. Not a whole lot has changed. Screwdrivers are roughly the same, socket sets are roughly the same. No one has tried to improve upon these designs. But Wera has some very unique engineering upgrades to these common items.
Just look at this Zyklop ratchet. This is the first ratchet I’ve seen with an ergonomic handle. At best they usually have some rough pattern for grip. Also the head detents at several different locations. You can set it to 0 degrees and use it like nut driver then when you need to apply some torque you can detent to 90 degrees like a normal socket. Or you can detent it to 15 degrees which gives you that little bit of clearance on the handle end just like a box end wrench. Brilliant.
So does that make Wera the best tools on the planet? My answer is very situational. It depends on what you use your tools for. You’ll get a very different answer from a lifelong auto mechanic than you will get from the retired guy who just needs to honey-do a few things around the house. Consequently an electronics repair man is going to have much different requirements than an appliance repair man.
When I was among the employed I always maintained a small tool bag of my most used tools rather than carry the giant hard size case of crappy tools that work provided. Now that I am retired I still need a go bag of tools but clearly the mission has changed. I’m no longer the Aircraft Visual Landing Aid Tech Rep who worked on the light arrays that give your pilots a visual glide slope reference.
Now I’m the guy who goes from the house to my workshop or who runs to friends or families houses to help with more household chores. Bear in mind that this bag gets you from the truck to the house or shed. You can always go back to the truck for the 10 lb. crescent wrench.
Red Oxx Lil Roy
In my opinion, canvas bags are the only way to roll for your tool bag. Tools are heavy. Your tool bag doesn’t need to add to that. Even though this isn’t advertised as a tool bag, my favorite bag for a small tool compliment is the Red Oxx Lil Roy EDC bag. It is almost perfect although I do wish it were an inch or two longer. Are you listening Red Oxx? Red Oxx bags are THE BEST. They cost a few bucks but I have never had one let me down. Carrying screwdrivers and other sharp things will expose a poorly made bag the first few times you toss it down or when it slides off the seat of your pickup truck.
My Lil Roy bag has nary a tear or defect after years of repurposing it as a tool bag. I love this bag so much that I got a couple more of them. The Olive color that I have the (stock) pic of hides dirt pretty well. After years of use my bag still looks pretty snappy. I’m not kidding when I say this bag has been through a lot and it still looks almost brand new.
Years of use.
I lived in Japan a whole lot of years and didn’t really have a full compliment of tools with me over there. When I got back to the US in 2015 or so I realized my tools needed an upgrade for the new house that I had built.
When I first moved to Japan in 1996 and again in 2003 I’d have been willing to bet the answer to the question “what are the best screwdrivers” had two answers. Craftsman, and Snap-On.
Oddly enough when I stared doing the research for best screwdrivers in 2015 neither one of those brands was even in the top 5 or 10 of most websites.
I’ll spare you the research I did and tell you what I decided on. Wera Tools. But I bought them from Amazon, and specifically this set. At that time the set was $45 and of course now it costs $53 because that’s the way life is.
Wera Screwdriver Set
I travelled the world with these hand tools and stored them in a canvas “go” bag and probably abused them as much as a fella can.
6 or 7 years later the tools are still in great shape and most importantly of all none of the tips are worn or broken.
And while I know this is very subjective the Wera ergonomics are exceptional for me. Actually they are just a hair slick however with a drop of sweat or two on your hands they really begin to grip like no ones business.
I’ll keep this blog post short and sweet. Wera Tool Screwdrivers are simply holding up after my years of use as a Field Service Tech Rep.. I like them so much that I just bought a Wera Ratcheting Screwdriver as well and I love it too.
John’s Tech Blog highly recommends Wera Screwdrivers.
I have a little pop up A frame camper and I’m always afraid it is going to drive away. Camper theft is a thing.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and some better than others and I dare say that the way I’m doing it may not be the best way, but the way I’m doing it ensures economy. And by that I mean not consuming excessive cellular data.
I really thought I’d slap a 4G HAT on a Pi and Real Time Track with a SIM card. It’s really not that easy and I learned a few things along the way. The first thing I learned is that real time tracking uses data and unlimited SIM cards are generally in the $60 a month range. So the smart play (at least for my situation) is to have the Raspberry Pi text me its position on a semi regular basis. Remember, if it is stolen I only need to track it down once.
Before I get into details let me preach on it.
So I started with:
This works but there is one gigantic problem.
Sorry for swiping your line, Jimmy Buffett. Anyway, here it is. 2:40 AM on 5 September, 2022, sixty years since I was born in Evansville, Indiana to Ray and Nancy Hagensieker.
And what a ride it has been. Sorry to those of you looking for a Raspberry Pi or computer dalliance but it is my blog 😀
I won’t bore you with a mass reflection backwards but I have a few things on my 60 year old mind. And I suppose before I start I should say that my time here has led me to a good place and without question I believe that I am blessed beyond belief. And that those blessings come from God. And what is even more baffling to me is that I probably don’t deserve any of them.
I’m 100% convinced in the God of the Bible and I’m 100% convinced in the presence of REAL and ACTUAL evil in this world. And I can kind of plot how I got there which is kind of interesting in and of itself. If you are inclined…..please read on.
I’ve been talking a lot about fake GPS Modules a lot……now let’s talk about legit GPS Modules.
First of all I’ll run over the actual legit GPS chips that I own and have dabbled with.
I have several GlobalSat BR-355S4 pucks. These have Sirf Star IV chipsets in them which ONLY receive USA GPS system. I use these with my Uniden Police Scanners. Simply cut the plugs off of them and wire them to a plug that fits the Scanner.
I think it is important to note that as I mentioned above it ONLY receives GPS. While this is probably fine for a police scanner, I don’t think I’d trust my life hiking out in the Mohave Desert with a device that had a Sirf Star IV chipset. I’m not saying GPS would go down………but what if it did?
And I’m not knocking Qualcomm or their Sirf Star IV chipset. I’m just saying I want redundancy in a life or death situation.
Then this leads me to my next GPS point.
I’ve been on a Raspberry Pi project tear lately. Somehow or another I stumbled into BirdNet-Pi and the best way I can describe it, is that it is like Shazam for bird songs. It records the call and frequency and plots it on a spectrograph and identifies the bird.
About a year ago I married my long time girlfriend and we bought a new home just outside of town. We are on a 1 1/2 acre heavily wooded plot that also has a creek running along one edge. So the birds love it here. And my wife loves birds and keeps the feeders clean and full. So I really did this for her but this project has got me super excited about all the different species of birds around here and their distinct calls.
It’s easy as heck to build. You need:
- Raspberry Pi – latest is best however I built this with an older Pi 3 B+. It runs fine on there.
- SD card to install Pi OS. BirdNet-Pi says to use Pi OS 64 bit Lite.
- USB microphone. Initially I used an $8 USB mic and it works but the better the mic…….the better the results you’ll get. I used a Rode mic that costs about $50.
- OPTIONAL – if you use the better microphone you will need a USB Sound Card. to plug the mic into. The better mic and sound card make the project a bit more expensive but I think you’ll be glad that you went that route. if you just want to dabble then just use the cheap mic.
NOTE ON MICROPHONE: Because the Rode mic I linked above costs $50 and it is a directional microphone I did some research and found an omni-directional mic that costs $20 less. It is a Lavalier Clip On mic. I’ve had it up several hours and my bird call detection is WAY up.
That’s it. Install Pi Os 64 bit Lite with Raspberry Pi Imager. Be sure to hit Command +Shift + X (Mac) (probably Control + Shift + X on windows) before you write the SD card. This allows you to set up wifi and change the hostname and change the timezone and set up SSH if you want.
I have this on-going project to find a GPS Module that works with my Uniden SDS200 police scanner. Obviously this is so the scanner will auto update its location when a GPS Module is connected.
Uniden sells one for $50, so the goal is to manufacture one for less than that amount of money. Actually, I’ve succeeded several times, with my last build costing about $20.
So, what’s the problem you ask?
Almost every GPS Module I have purchased is FAKE. The GPS Modules that I know are not fake are from Manufacturer recommended sources, and all cost more than $50. More like in the $70 range.
The most commonly counterfeited chips are U-blox and specifically the NEO-6 series chips. An actual, REAL NEO-6M CHIP, not module at Mouser in the US for is $60 for one. A NEO-7 CHIP, not module, can be purchased from Digikey for $31 and I did find that Digikey calls the NEO-6 series “obsolete”. In fact U-blox says the NEO-6 is an old product as well.
So how is that you can do a search for GPS Modules and find $8 NEO-6M modules all over the place? If a legit chip is $31 or more how can a complete module be $8 or $12?
Answer: It can’t. It’s fake.