Crowdfunding Follies: Debunking The Batteriser

It’s not on Kickstarter yet, but this product is already making its media debut, with features in all the tech blogs, an astonishing amount of print outlets, and spouted from the gaping maws of easily impressed rubes the world over. What is it? It’s the Batteriser, a tiny metal contraption that clips over AA, C, and D cells that reclaims the power trapped inside every dead battery. Yes, every dead battery you’ve ever thrown away still has up to 80% of its power remaining. Sounds like complete hogwash, right? That’s because it is.

[Dave Jones] put together a great video on the how comes and why nots of the Batteriser, and while doing so gives a great tutorial for debunking a product, heavily inspired by [Carl Sagan]’s Baloney Detection Kit. The real  debunking starts by verifying any assumptions, and the biggest fault of the Batteriser campaign is claiming 80% of a battery’s power is unused. Lucky for us, [Dave] has tons of tools and graphs to demonstrate this is not the case.

To verify the assumption that battery-powered devices will brown out after using only 20% of a battery’s available power, [Dave] does the most logical thing and looks at the data sheets for a battery. After using 20% of available power, these datasheets claim these batteries should be around 1.3V. Do devices brown out at 1.3V? Hook it up to a programmable power supply and find out.

It turns out every battery-powered device [Dave] could find worked perfectly until around 1.1V. Yes, that’s only 0.3V difference from 1.4V claimed by the patent for the Batteriser, but because of the battery discharge curve, that means 80% of the power in a normal device is already being used up. The premise of the Batteriser is invalid, and [Dave] demonstrates it’s a complete scam.

If a through debunking of the Batteriser’s claims wasn’t enough, [Dave] goes on to explain how it may actually be dangerous. The positive terminal of a battery is also the metal can, while the negative terminal is just a tiny nib of metal seperated from the rest of the battery by a gasket. Since the Batteriser is made of metal and serves as the ground for the boost converter circuit, it’s very, very close to shorting through the branding and logo emblazoned on a mylar wrapping each battery is shrouded with. One tiny nick in this insulator, and you have a direct short across the battery. That’s going to turn to heat, and there’s a lot of energy in a D cell; a failure mode for the Batteriser is a fire. That’s just terrible product design.

Video below.

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How To Reverse Engineer A PCB

For [Peter]’s entry for the 2015 Hackaday Prize, he’s attempting to improve the standard industrial process to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Why? Fertilizers. He’s come up with an interesting technique that uses acoustic transducers in a pressure vessel, and to power that transducer, he’s turned to the greatest scrap heap in the world: eBay. He found a cheap ultrasonic power supply, but didn’t know offhand if it would work with his experiments. That’s alright; it’s a great opportunity to demo some basic reverse engineering skills.

A few months ago, [Dave Jones] posted a great video where he reverse engineers the front end of the new Rigol Zed. The basic technique is to make a photocopy, get some transparency sheets, grab a meter, and go to town. [Peter]’s technique is similar, only he’s using digital image manipulation, Photoshop, and a meter.

The process begins by taking pictures of both sides of the board, resizing them, flipping one side, and making an image with several layers. The traces on the bottom of the board were flooded and filled with the paint bucket tool, and components and traces carefully annotated.

With some effort, [Peter] was able to create a schematic of his board. He doesn’t know if this power supply will work with his experiments; there’s still some question of what some components actually do. Still, it’s a good effort, a great learning opportunity, and another log in [Peter]’s entry to The Hackaday Prize

EEVblog Tears into the White Van Speaker Scam

[Dave Jones] shows us just how bad audio equipment can get with his white van speaker scam teardown (YouTube link). Hackaday Prize judge [Dave] has some great educational videos on his EEVblog YouTube channel, but we can’t get enough of his rants – especially when he’s ranting about cheap electronics. Check out his world’s “cheapest” camcorder teardown for a classic example

This week [Dave] is tearing down some white van speaker scam A/V equipment. The White Van Speaker Scam (WVSS) is an international hustle which has been around for decades. A pair of guys in a white van stop you in a parking lot, gas station, or other public area. They tell you they’ve got some brand new A/V equipment in the back of their van that they’ll give you for a “great deal”. The speakers are always in fancy packaging, and have a name that sounds like it could be some sort of high-end audiophile brand worth thousands.

Needless to say anyone who buys this equipment finds they’ve been duped and are now the proud owner of some equipment which only sounds good when hitting the bottom of a dumpster. Coincidentally, a dumpster is exactly where [Dave] found his WVSS equipment.

The case of his “Marc Vincent” surround sound system turned out to be nothing more than thin chipboard hot glued together. The electronics were of such shoddy quality that few words describe them – though [Dave] is always ready to improvise. From the ultra cheap subwoofer driver to the 1990’s era vacuum fluorescent display, everything was built down to the lowest cost while still looking nice from the outside. Even the ground wire was just tack soldered to the frame. We especially liked the three vacuum tubes that weren’t even soldered in. The leads were bent over to hold them onto a PCB, while a blue LED lit the tube from below.

Click past the break to see what [Dave] found inside his “3D Optics” projector.

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Judge Spotlight: Dave Jones

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This week’s Judge Spotlight features [Dave Jones] who posted a video reponse to our slate of questions. If you’ve spent much time around here chances are you know of [Dave] quite well. He is the man behind the EEVblog and also hosts The Amp Hour podcast along with [Chris Gammell].

It’s great to pick [Dave’s] brain a bit. He’s seen a lot during his career, with insights on professional engineering from the point of view of job seeker, employer, job interviewer, and more. His time with the EEVblog and Amp Hour have furthered his experience with looks inside of all manner of equipment, adventures in crowd funding, and interactions with a multitude of hardware start-ups. Check out his video, as well as a list of the questions with timestamps, after the jump.

We’re sure you know by now, he’s judging The Hackaday Prize which will award a trip to space and hundreds of other prizes for showing off your connected device built using Open Design.

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US Government Screws Up Terrorist Watchlist, Few Surprised

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It looks like [Dave Jones] got himself on a US government watch list. We don’t mean [Dave L. Jones], awesomesauce electronic wizard and host of eevblog, though. Some three-letter agency is just looking at someone named [David Jones]. Is this going to screw over our Aussie friend? You betcha.

[Dave] bought a few things through Element 14 that he would later pick up at their Sydney warehouse. When he got there, he discovered the parts were ‘on hold’. Out of curiosity, he asked what the holdup was and discovered his name was flagged on a US government watch list.

If you’re keeping score, this is an Australian citizen buying stuff from an Australian subsidiary of a UK company, and being told ‘no’ by the US government.

The folks behind the counter at the Element 14 warehouse were extremely helpful, clearing the hold and getting [Dave]’s parts in just a few minutes. This has, apparently, been going on for a while; [Dave] recalled a few times when orders showed up a few days late with the Farnell/Element 14 people apologizing with the word ‘hold’ in there somewhere.

Of course this means it’s possible for someone working at the Element 14 warehouse to clear one of these US government holds, and even if they don’t the order will still go through in a day or two. Government efficiency at its best.

At the time of this writing, [David Bowie], the singer for The Monkees, the creator of Grand Theft Auto, and the British author famous for perpetual motion machines were unavailable for comment. -ed.

$250,000 hard drive teardown

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Have you ever seen hard drive platters this big before? Of course you haven’t, the cost of this unit is way beyond your pay grade. But now that it’s decades old we get a chance to post around inside this beast. [Dave Jones] — who we haven’t seen around these parts in far too long — takes a look inside this $250,000 storage device.

In this episode of the EEVblog [Dave] is tearing down a late 1980’s IBM hard drive. This an IBM 3390. It stores either 1.78GB or 3.78GB. These days we’d never use a mechanical drive for that little storage as flash memory is so much cheaper. But this was cutting edge for servers of the day. And that’s why you’d pay a quarter of a million dollars for the thing.

[Dave] does what he’s known for in the video after the break. He energetically pours over every aspect of the hardware discussing function and design choices as he goes.

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EEVblog: the Electronics Engineering video blog


Have you ever wanted to see what it’s like inside of a PCB assembly factory? Have you ever wondered how digital storage oscilloscopes work? If so, be sure to check out the EEVblog podcast. The Electronics Engineering video blog podcast, hosted by [Dave Jones], was created for anyone interested in learning more about electrical engineering. While some knowledge of electronics definitely helps, [Dave]’s thorough explanations and firsthand knowledge in the field of electrical engineering make the video blog easily accessible to beginners in the field. The EEVblog covers a wide range of electronics related topics, offering everything from multimeter reviews to GSM mobile phone audio design advice. In the latest episode (shown above), [Dave] discusses and demonstrates how to solve the infinite resistor problem, involving measuring the resistance at different points of an infinite grid of resistors that all have the same resistance. In addition to giving a detailed explanation, [Dave] created a 14 x 14 grid of 420 10ohm resistors to demonstrate how to solve the problem. While we’ve only mentioned a few episodes here, be sure to check out all 25 episodes of the EEVblog podcast and subscribe to the RSS feed so you’ll never miss an episode.