Tag Archives: Kits

The TV-B-Gone: reviewing a fun and (incredibly) useful kit!

The TV-B-Gone kit

Post readers might recall that I attended and presented at  Circle of HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth 2018 in New York City.

One of the many cool things about HOPE was the Hardware Hacking Village: a space with 40 or so fully-stocked soldering stations that HOPE attendees could use anytime during the conference.

One of the many HOPE Hardware Hacking Village tables

I built two kits at the conference: The Cricket QRP transceiver (read about that here) and a very cool little product called the TV-B-Gone.

What is the TV-B-Gone? As the name implies, it’s a TV remote control with only one function, one button and one mission: to turn off TVs!

The TV-B-Gone is packed with power codes for virtually any TV or monitor on the market. Simply point the remote at a TV, click its one button, and wait as the device cycles through loads of power codes in a few seconds.

At first blush, this might sound like a mischievous little device. I mean, imagine watching the World Cup finals at your favorite pub or bar and someone turns off all of the TVs in the establishment at a crucial moment in the game? I’m sure some purchase the TV-B-Gone for this very purpose.

That’s not me. I’m not into pranks and that’s not why TV-B-Gone designer (and Maker community giant) Mitch Altman designed this product. It was more about creating an “environmental management device”–a way to control the ubiquitous TV messages/media bombarding us in situations where they really don’t belong.

Mitch Altman in his element, teaching a class in the Hardware Hacking Village at HOPE 2018.

I’ll be the first to admit here that I’m a radio guy (big surprise, right–?) and really have no love for TVs. We have one 28″ TV in our home and it only receives one PBS station although we do use this TV it to watch the odd TV program or series via Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. I never consume news via TV unless a news-worthy event is one that must be seen. I prefer consuming news via radio or reading newspapers with objective reporters that I trust.

So when I met Mitch at HOPE and saw that he was selling a kit version of the TV-B-Gone for $20 US, I couldn’t fork out my money fast enough!

I bought the kit and built it at a table not even 10 feet away from him.

I meant to take photos of the TV-B-Gone kit as I built it, but was quite distracted helping a father and his 10 year old son both build their first kits (HumanaLight kits, of all things!) across from me.

Even though my attention was divided, I still completed the kit in well under an hour. I didn’t have two spare AA batteries to power it for testing purposes, but Mitch was nearby and gave me two new AA cells.

The TV-B-Gone kit is powered by two common AA batteries

After pushing the only button on this remote, the small green LED started blinking–“a good sign” said Mitch. Then he had me turn on the front-facing camera of my Android phone to verify the LEDs were blinking (front-facing cameras don’t filter IR light–who knew?). They were blinking/flickering like mad.

Mitch said, “Now you have the power to turn off TVs…and you should!

The TV-B-Gone kit sports four powerful LEDs that are effective up to 150 feet away.

I bought this kit with one specific use in mind: hotel dining rooms.

I travel quite a lot and almost always stay in hotels that provide breakfast in a small dining room area of the lobby. I’m often travelling with family, so I wake up quite early, head to the breakfast area, grab a cup of coffee, and catch up with SWLing Post correspondence, comments and posts. Most of the time, I’m the only person in the dining room, yet the TV is blaring the news (often an outlet I don’t like) and there is no remote to be found.

This is where the TV-B-Gone could bring peace to my morning. But would it work? Time to find out!

On a trip through Connecticut in August, I stayed a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn. I found an excellent spot to work on a comfy couch in a corner nook of the lobby. The couch faced a fireplace and was perfect for relaxing and catching up on work. One morning, I woke at 5:30 AM, headed down to the lobby and grabbed a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, right above the fireplace in this small nook was perched a monster flat screen TV with the news blaring. At 5:30 AM!?!

There was no remote to be found, so I reached into my bag, pulled out the TV-B-Gone, pressed the button and within 5 seconds, the TV turned off.

I knew then: I’d fallen in love with this $20 kit.

Then again in New York, last week, I was having breakfast at 6:00 AM in a small hotel. The only other people in the dining room were obviously with the military and there together for breakfast and a chat/debriefing before starting their day. None of them were watching the TV which was blaring commercials–in fact, they had all positioned themselves at the farthest point from the TV and facing away. I had a hunch they wouldn’t mind if I turned off the TV, so I pulled out the TV-B-Gone and didn’t even remove it from the poly bag I keep it in. One press of the button and seconds later the TV went silent.

I heard one of the guys at the other table say, “I hope they keep that thing turned off!”

I won’t lie: it felt like I was wielding a super power.

My EDC Pack easily accommodates the TV-B-Gone.

My TV-B-Gone remote now permanently lives in a dedicated pocket at the front of my EDC pack (a Tom Bihn Stowaway, in case you’re interested).

My TV-B-Gone remote now travels with me everywhere.

If you’re like me and would like a little device to manage your environment, I strongly recommend the TV-B-Gone.

I had a lot of fun building the kit version of TV-B-Gone, but if you don’t care to build one, Mitch has pre-built key chain versions of this same remote on his website for a mere $24.95. Note that the kit version comes with all you need to set up the remote for international use (power codes and configuration differ based on region). If you purchase a pre-built keychain, make sure you buy the version for the part of the world where you intend to use it.

TV-B-Gone Retailers:

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QRP Labs Announces The QSX Transceiver

The QSX Transceiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Pete Eaton (WB9FLW), who writes:

QRP Labs has just announced the QSX an All-Band All-Mode Transceiver Kit that should be available later this year. The Target price for the 10 Band Model is $150, also available will be a 40 Meter version for $75.00.

Details from QRP Labs:

QSX (QRP Labs SSB Xcvr) is a 40m SSB transceiver with 10-band (160m-10m) and enclosure options. The kit inherits all the functionality of the famous QCX single-band CW transceiver kit but adds SSB, AM, FM, PSK31 and RTTY. This will be the lowest cost all-HF radio available but also high performance and packed with features. These are the planned features of QSX:

  • Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology with standalone Digital Signal Processing (DSP), no PC required
  • Very high performance 24-bit Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) and 24-bit Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
  • 40m (single band) or 160-10m (10-band, including 60m) versions available
  • Modes: SSB, CW, AM, FM, PSK31, RTTY, WSPR beacon
  • Power output: 10W from 13.8V supply (power output is adjustable by the firmware)
  • Single power supply needed, 12V to 14V
  • USB host interface and connector, for USB keyboard to allow PC-less operation on PSK31 and RTTY
  • USB device interface and connector, for PC CAT Control
  • QSX can appear to a PC as a high performance 24-bit USB sound card and radio – for digital modes from a PC e.g. FT8, either demodulated or as I-Q for PC SDR programs
  • Built-in CW IAMBIC keyer (or straight keying also possible) with raised-cosine key-envelope shaping
  • DSP features (selectable sharp filters, AGC, Speech Compression, Noise Reduction etc.)
  • Dual microphone inputs (mobile phone headset with VOX, or RJ45 connector for Kenwood/Yaesu mics)
  • Dual VFO (A/B/Split), frequency and message memories
  • Through-hole assembly only
  • Built-in test equipment features for alignment, debugging and general purpose use
  • Detailed assembly manual
  • Macro facility for user defined sequences of operations, or redefinition of controls
  • Front panel: 16 x 2 LCD (yellow/green backlight), 2 rotary encoders, 4 buttons, mic/earphones socket
  • Soft-power on/off switch, the radio saves its state automatically on switch off, so that it starts up in the same state next time
  • Free firmware updates for life, very simple firmware update procedure via a USB memory stic

QSX is still in development! The above list is subject to change. The following is a FAQ with information about QSX.

More Info on QRP Labs Web Page:

https://www.qrp-labs.com/qsx.html

Check out the following video from YOTA 2018:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Fantastic! Many thanks for sharing this, Pete! This looks like a brilliant little kit for any skill level of patient kit builder.

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Video: Lightbulb vs Radio Beacon by Thomas Cholakov (N1SPY)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov (NO2CW), who writes:

My 11 year old son Tommy (N1SPY) completed a project where he compared a 1W lightbulb to a .25 W radio beacon that he put together and bet that the radio beacon can be heard around the world. I asked him to document his activities as he went along. The project took a couple of months but is now complete and we stitched together a video of his activities.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Wow–Tommy, you’ve done an amazing job here!

I especially like how you’ve taken time to explain the principles behind the various steps of the process. Brilliant job!

Tommy, your future videos are always welcome here. Keep up the good work and we’d love to hear how many new countries you’ve racked up on your WSPR system!

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The Cricket: The Four State QRP Group’s latest transceiver kit

Here’s a hot tip for those of you who enjoy building transceiver kits:

The Four State QRP group has just released The Cricket: a simple 80 CW transceiver kit. The Cricket was designed by David Cripe (NM0S) who is behind a number of successful kits (including the Ozark Patrol and the Bayou Jumper).

The amazing part about this kit is that it’s super simple, has no toroids to wind and doesn’t even need to be aligned. It even includes a Morse key.

All this shipped for $32.68 in the US, $39.50 in Canada and $43.50 for international orders. A serious bargain, in my book.

Typically, Dave’s kits sell out the same day they are posted for sale. If you’re interested in The Cricket, don’t hesitate to order! (I just bought three, for example.)

Click here to order The Cricket.

Here’s The Cricket kit description via the Four State QRP Group website:

Kitted and Offered For Sale By The Four State QRP Group

The Cricket is a low cost entry level minimalist CW transceiver for the 80 meter band. Chosen as the build session kit for OzarkCon 2017, it bears a family resemblance to the well known but much lower performing Pixie. However it is very different and vastly improved over the Pixie. This is NOT a Pixie, it is far superior! It features low parts count, better components including MOSFETs for better sensitivity and switching, and a modern NJM2113D audio amp.

A TX/RX offset is also incuded so that you can work other stations that have zero beat you, or are using a crystal on the same frequncy. Full QSK and a sidetone complete the essential operating features. Dave’s famous etched spiral coils are included on the pc board, so there are NO TOROIDS to wind. Additionally a straight key is included on the pc board, just snap it off, mount it on the board, and the whole rig is then self contained. Also included is an electronic keyer adapter – you can use your favorite keyer with the Cricket! These are many features for such a low parts count and inexpensive transceiver.

ALL THROUGH HOLE parts make this kit very easy to assemble. It will make a fine, fully functional, and educational first rig for a new builder, the new ham, or seasoned veterans wishing to just have fun with a new rig at minimal expense and effort. Note that Novices and Technicians have 80M CW privileges from 3.525 to 3.600, same as everyone else – so they also can build and use the Cricket.

This simple rig is fun and functional, and made many contacts at OzarkCon after the build session. A proven design and a great choice for your next rig, it is perfect for a group build with nets and contacts after the build. This is an excellent club project.

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USB Battery Pack Keep-Alive Load Kit

(Source: Southgate ARC)

USB power banks are a convenient way of powering low power USB devices in the field. Unfortunately, as they are designed for charging phones and tablets, many have an internal electronic cut out circuit that switches power off below a certain current draw. The exact current that they switch off at varies from pack to pack.

Although there are circuits on the internet that purport to solve this problem by applying a pulsed load, we found this did not work with all power banks. As a result we designed a neat variable electronic load to address this problem.

Available as a kit, using it is easy; just plug it into your power bank, plug your target device into it and adjust the current draw until the pack remains on.

http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/usb-battery-pack-keep-alive-load-kit/

This could be a handy tool for those of us who use USB battery packs for portable work. SotaBeams originally created this simple kit for the WSPRlite.

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