Category: Stuff

Stuff you need, that isn’t tools.

Adam Savage and Solder Seal Connectors

I’ve posted before about how awesome “Solder Seal” connectors are. One of my heroes when it comes to builds and electronics is former Mythbuster Adam Savage. Well, he just released a new video about them that I wanted to share. He does a better job of showing how to work with these things than anything else I’ve seen, including some of my own that I’ve tried to put together…

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Raspberry Pi 5v Power Regulation

We have a lot of Raspberry Pis that run various elements of our shows, and powering them from “wall warts” in enclosures isn’t always practical, especially since we are already running 5v power everywhere. The problem is- if you power them using the GPIO header, there is absolutely no internal voltage regulation. So- a voltage spike or other anomaly can fry your Pi. Many of us tend to run our PSUs a bit higher than 5v too, in order to compensate a bit for voltage drop. What I decided to do is use cheap buck converters/voltage regulators you can find …

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xConnect: I was wrong, and I admit it…

Last year, I wrote a post about how there is no reason to use “proprietary” connectors like xConnect over the JST connectors that most bulk pixels already come with. I still believe JST connectors with a dab of dielectric grease are perfectly fine for joining strings of pixels together in props, or mid-strip on a tree, and that is what I am still doing. At the time- I had purchased a bunch of “LED Connectors” from China that I thought were xConnect, because the connector itself looked like all of the pictures online, and the pinouts were the same. So- …

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Re-Using 12v PSUs for 5v Pixels and LED Panels

Last year there was a lot of debate among Pixel junkies about 12v pixels, in part due to a bad production run from a popular Chinese supplier that resulted in fires. I did my own (controversial) analysis and decided that I would eliminate the 12v pixels we already had in our show (on our roof!) and work with nothing but 5v from now on. I’m no authority on this subject and a lot of people insist on 12v pixels because that works for them. My personal belief is that 5v pixels are safer and more efficient, even though they do …

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Add an OLED to a Raspberry Pi

It’s kind of silly since they spend most of their time closed up in a weathertight box, but I really like the little OLED screens on the Kulp controllers. They give me a quick indication if the controller is working, so I can at least rule it out (for the most part) if there is any kind of a problem. I figured it was probably pretty easy to put an OLED on a Raspberry Pi, and there are Caps that do just that, along with buttons and additional outputs. After seeing settings for OLED support in FPP, I decided to …

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“Dolphin” Connectors for Pixel Repairs

I mentioned in an earlier post about Scotchloks ™ that I was also going to check out “Dolphin” connectors. I don’t have any experience with them, but I have seen them used as an alternative to Scotchloks in Tele/Data-com applications. I bought a pack of them on Amazon. These are “IDC” (Insulation Displacement Contact) connectors similar to Scotchloks. You are supposed to push the wires inside and crimp the whole connector. There are metal plates with teeth inside that pierce the insulation and grab hold of the conductor. They come filled with sealant (there are “dry” versions available too) to …

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Scotchloks ™ for Pixel Repairs

Quick Update (December 2021): Corning purchased 3M’s communications products division, so now these are sold as Corning Brand. I’ve been using these “UY2” connectors for emergency repairs this year (2021), and still have a few repaired strings left over from last year. I haven’t had any issues with any of them. Older ones are showing some UV discoloration, but the connections themselves are still solid. I’m actually recommending these now for “field” repairs, although solder seals or soldering/shrink tubing are still more permanent solutions that will likely last significantly longer. Be sure to get real Corning brand though, I’ve seen …

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JST Connectors

UPDATE: I revised my thinking on this after realizing I was dead-wrong about xConnect connectors. See it here. This started out as a side-note for my Pixel Data Cables story. I decided it needed it’s own write-up… I’ve seen a lot of hate for these online, usually from people who have spent a small fortune on “xConnect”, “Ray Wu”, or “Paul Zhang” pigtails and other connectors. If you buy cheap pixels from China (which most of us do)- unless you actually buy them from a “big name” seller- they will likely have JST “SM” connectors on them. When I first …

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Pixel Data Cables

I’ve seen a lot of debate about this, and of course everyone does things differently. I just wanted to show what I am doing for my cables this year. So- you have a fancy new controller, like a Kulp K16A-B: You stick it in a box with power supplies, terminal blocks, and maybe an FM transmitter and WiFi. Now what? You need to get data and power to your pixels! Pixel data is precious in our world, and unfortunately it is short-lived and can’t travel far. A lot of people try to get power and data in the same cable …

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Solder-Seal Connectors

These things are a godsend to anyone who tinkers with electronics or repairs low-voltage systems in cars, boats, etc. I can’t imagine working with pixels without them. Sure- you can solder connections and shrink tube them, but when you have to do dozens or hundreds- it’s very tedious and slow. These things make it EASY! You can find them on Amazon.com, ebay.com, and aliexpress.com, among others. I’m not sharing direct links just because they can expire and I don’t currently do affiliate links. Just search for “solder seal connectors”, or “heat shrink solder connectors” and you will find lots of …

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WAGO Lever Nuts

I use these things A LOT! They are great for temporary builds, as you can very easily disconnect and reconnect wires using them. They are also certified for permanent installation. Best of all- they will connect everything from 20AWG “alarm” or “network” cable up to 10AWG, mix and match, stranded and solid! They are good for low voltage as well as 120v. Update: There are actually two types:221-41x – 22-12AWG221-61x – 20-10AWGMost home centers have the 41x (22-12AWG) version, which is also the best one to use for holiday light and general home applications. They are not water/weather resistant, so …

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