From Software to Tindie Hack Chat

Brian Lough's journey from developer to hardware hacker

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Brian Lough will be hosting the Hack Chat on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at noon PST.

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Brian is a relative newcomer to the hardware hacking scene. Educated in Electronic and Computer Engineering, Brian is a software developer by trade who became enamored of Arduino development when the ESP8266 hit the market and offered incredible capabilities on the cheap. 

Since then, Brian has fully embraced the hardware hacking way, going so far as to live stream complete builds in a sort of collaborative "hack-along" with his viewers. He's also turned a few of his builds into legitimate products, selling them on his Tindie store and even going so far as to automate testing before shipping to catch errors and improve quality.

Please join us for this Hack Chat, where we'll discuss:

  • How software hacking leads to hardware hacking;
  • The creative process and how live streaming helps or hinders it;
  • The implications of going from project to product; and
  • What sorts of new projects might we see soon?

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Lutetium03/06/2019 at 21:09 0 comments

    Kris Winer12:48 PM
    @Josh Lloyd Of course...

    Josh Lloyd12:48 PM
    @Kris Winer I'm starting a new low power ESP32 project, I'll keep your power requirements in mind. How often do you need to capture a sensor reading?

    Sophi Kravitz12:49 PM
    @Brian Lough I liked the twitch stream, did you stop?

    Kris Winer12:49 PM
    @Josh Lloyd Once a minute is fine, please let me know your progress on this...

    Brian Lough12:49 PM
    I really enjoyed doing the live streams, I would like to do more. But it came down to a time prioritization thing. When tindie started taking off I really struggled to juggle everything (I was struggling up to that point too)

    Dan Maloney12:50 PM
    Might be tough with a new one arriving soon, too

    Josh Lloyd12:50 PM
    @Kris Winer Sounds like a good target. I'll keep you updated when I've something more formalized.

    Brian Lough12:50 PM
    My daughter has turned into a "Daddys girl" and insists I do bedtime now, so it made Mondays stream hard to do. And I used to stream before she got up on a Saturday, but she started getting up earlier

    Kris Winer12:50 PM
    @Brian Lough Do you assemble your own products or have the fab do this? I've found that Chinese fabs have costs just above the BOM cost that include assembly and testing. Pretty sweet...

    Brian Lough12:51 PM
    I did my first livestream of 2019 last Friday on playing around with the Attiny841, It was great to do it again

    Daren Schwenke12:51 PM
    @Brian Lough Glad you have your priorities straight. :)

    Josh Lloyd12:51 PM
    @Kris Winer Who is assembling so cheap?

    Brian Lough12:51 PM
    So I'll probably stream every now and again when it suits, but as @Dan Maloney says, those opportunities might be limited!

    Dan Maloney12:51 PM
    Ha - I used to leave for work at 4:00AM to avoid getting snagged by my toddler daughter for "sunrise playtime"

    Kris Winer12:51 PM
    I use Schotry International in Beijing.

    Brian Lough12:52 PM
    I do the main assembling @Kris Winer , but most products I'm trying to offer as kits more than assembled

    Brian Lough12:52 PM
    For the power BloughR I do the soldering and my wife does the heat shrink and testing

    Kris Winer12:52 PM
    Do the kits work, I mean most of my customers seem to be pretty much plug and play types...

    Brian Lough12:53 PM
    She also helps with the tindie fulfilment, which is a huge help

    Dan Maloney12:53 PM
    A cottage industry...

    Josh Lloyd12:53 PM
    @Kris Winer Was that ?

    Kris Winer12:53 PM

    Josh Lloyd12:53 PM
    @Brian Lough Sounds like a cute business you've got going there!

    Josh Lloyd12:54 PM
    I reckon my wife would be interested in having more to do with her time, perhaps its Tindie time.

    Brian Lough12:54 PM
    I try to make the kits I sell be easy to assemble. I'm sure I would sell more if I offered them as assembled too, but it comes back to time is a precious asset thing.

    Brian Lough12:54 PM
    If it takes me 30 mins to assemble a board, the amount of money I would have to charge to make that worth my while is just not what anyone would be willing to spend!

    Brian Lough12:55 PM
    I'm not exactly super well off or anything, but I get by with my day job

    Brian Lough12:55 PM
    So I would prefer to have more free time than a small amount of extra money (if that makes sense)

    Kris Winer12:55 PM
    I have paid my daughter to tests boards for, she claims to enjoy the work!

    Brian Lough12:56 PM
    Thanks @Josh Lloyd

    Dan Maloney12:56 PM
    It's nice to have more than one source of income, though, even if one is modest.

    Brian Lough12:56 PM
    Whats nice about my wife helping out with the Power BloughR is its something we can do together. Even if its not a fun activity, its better both of us doing it together for 4 hours than me being locked away for 8 houts

    Josh Lloyd12:57 PM
    I always assumed that something like Tindie was mostly for the enjoyment and not for the profit. The profit was like pocket money...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium03/06/2019 at 21:09 0 comments

    Brian Lough12:27 PM
    @Dan Maloney, with regards the tester. I have no caught a single bad unit with it!

    deshipu12:28 PM
    @Brian Lough I don't, because I do it for fun

    deshipu12:28 PM
    and I have a very rich wife

    Brian Lough12:28 PM
    BUT it gives me huge piece of mind. If I made 10000 good ones I still wouldnt stop using it

    SeonR12:28 PM
    @deshipu Oh I know :-) But you need to look at what the market will bare/accept for your product too.

    Jasmine Brackett12:28 PM
    @Jakob Wulfkind we help troubleshoot payment issues with customers. Buyers can use credit/debit cards or Paypal. We help mediate if there are other customer service issues.

    Brian Lough12:28 PM
    my reputation as a seller is very important to me and even one or two bad ones would not be worth the time it takes to test

    deshipu12:29 PM
    @SeonR if the market won't buy it at that price, then it's probably not a good idea in the first place :)

    SeonR12:29 PM
    Oh @Jasmine Brackett is here! w00t!

    Jasmine Brackett12:29 PM

    Dan Maloney12:29 PM
    Hi Jasmine!

    Digicool Things12:29 PM
    If I costed in the time to make, pack and ship, then it would be too expensive. We all do it for the satisfaction of giving back to others who can make use of what you've made.

    Josh Lloyd12:29 PM
    @Brian Lough Your YouTube presence. When did you start, how did you start, did you get help from anyone, and do you've any wisdom to pass on to someone like myself who has only their toe in the waters of hacker/maker space; and wanting to start producing content.

    Brian Lough12:29 PM
    especially the ones that are sold via a reseller. If you sell 100 on tindie and two come back as bad, only those two people see that

    deshipu12:29 PM
    @Digicool Things that only works until you get 80 orders in one week, though

    Arsenijs12:29 PM
    @Digicool Things you might want to optimise your processes, still.

    SeonR12:30 PM
    @deshipu Really depends on what it is, and why you made it... a lot of what I put on tindie is projects I was making for myself first... but that said, I don't always make great decisions ;)

    Brian Lough12:30 PM
    but if you sell through a re-seller (shout out to TH3dstudio!) they see both becuase they had to deal with the customers

    Daren Schwenke12:30 PM
    I second @Josh Lloyd question.

    deshipu12:30 PM
    I made that mistake with #Rainbow Jellyfish

    Nicolas Schurando12:31 PM
    Does anyone know if it is possible to sell on Tindie as a company and not as an individual? And what about liability? I see a lot of circuit boards, and I imagine none of them go through any form of certification?

    deshipu12:31 PM
    @Nicolas Schurando I can see a lot of companies selling there, so I would guess that yes

    Jasmine Brackett12:31 PM
    @SeonR people don't browse Tindie and compare to other places on price. They are looking for hardware shortcuts or items they can't find anywhere else. Many also want to support other hardware creators.

    Brian Lough12:31 PM
    @Josh Lloyd I've been making videos for just over two years now. I started by picking a topic that I knew and recorded a video on it. My first one was about connecting to HTTPs endpoints directly on the ESP8266

    Josh Lloyd12:31 PM
    @Nicolas Schurando I certainly see companies selling on their, but I guess that's a question for @Jasmine Brackett

    Josh Lloyd12:32 PM

    Brian Lough12:32 PM
    I have recieved lots of help along the way. The main boost I got was from appearing on the EEVBlog guest videos Jan of last year

    SeonR12:32 PM
    @Nicolas Schurando There is a lot of grey area with cert for hobby electronics and items that are used as part of something else... you need to do your own research on your products and see where they stand on cert requirements.

    Brian Lough12:32 PM
    I went from 1k to 2k subs basically overnight, it took me a full year to get the first 1k

    Nicolas Schurando12:33 PM
    @Brian Lough @Josh Lloyd @SeonR Thanks....

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium03/06/2019 at 21:07 0 comments

    Brian Lough11:59 AM
    Hey @Taiwo

    Dan Maloney12:00 PM
    Hey everyone, looks like it's time to get started. Let's welcome Brian Lough to the Hack Chat!

    Brian, it looks like you're pretty well-known to the regulars, but maybe you can give everyone a little about your background.

    Taiwo12:00 PM
    Just in time...

    Brian Lough12:01 PM
    Thanks @Dan Maloney

    Brian Lough12:02 PM
    Hey everyone, I'm Brian and I'm a software developer from Ireland. I live with my Wife , our daughter (with company arriving shortly) and our two dogs

    davedarko12:02 PM
    hehe, the expecting maker

    Dan Maloney12:02 PM
    The ultimate hack

    Josh Lloyd12:02 PM

    Brian Lough12:02 PM
    From a maker point of view, I mainly play around with the ESP8266, I've written quite a few libraries for it wrapping various APIs

    Brian Lough12:03 PM
    I document these and other things mostly on my YouTube channel

    Digicool Things joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Brian Lough12:03 PM
    And around July of last year I started getting into making PCBs

    Dan Maloney12:03 PM


    Brian Lough

    Hello! On my channel I make videos mainly on Arduino Projects and libraries. I do a lot of work with the ESP8266

    Read this on YouTube

    Brian Lough12:04 PM
    I think it's safe to say I have the PCB bug now

    Dan Maloney12:04 PM
    Was that your first foray into PCBs?

    tariqbashir joined  the room.12:04 PM

    Brian Lough12:05 PM
    The first PCB I ever ordered was actually V1 of my Power Blough-R, so not off to a bad start

    Brian Lough12:05 PM
    I purposely picked that because of how simple it was

    Brian Lough12:05 PM
    and still spent way too much time on it!

    Brian Lough12:06 PM
    I had designed a board around this time last year that I never ordered. it was just an ISP header to DIP 8 adapter for programming attiny85s

    Kris Winer12:06 PM
    Do you use mostly 2- or 4-layer pcbs now?

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM
    I'll bet - I haven't taken the plunge on PCB design yet, but given how much time I spend tweaking 3D-print designs in Fusion 360, I can see the PCB thing being a black hole for me.

    Brian Lough12:07 PM
    Only 2 layers. My boards are normally pretty basic to be honest. Most of the boards are almost like replacements for perfboards @Kris Winer . If i keep doing things more than once I want to make it into a PCB. Then I list them on Tindie, because if I am tired of doing the same thing out on perfboard than im sure others are too!

    Jakob Wulfkind12:07 PM
    I think spending too much time on a "simple" project is the Hacker Way -- I was planning a simple stationary bike generator for a friend and am now three weeks into a multi-level permanent magnet rotor redesign

    Digicool Things12:07 PM
    Hey Brian. I almost didn't recognise you from your icon / image. :)

    Brian Lough12:08 PM
    The exception to this would probably be the PCB3 project which was my first attempt at a "stylish" PCB. It was a Christmas tree shaped PCB with reverse mount leds shinning through baubles

    deshipu12:08 PM
    ah, that was yours

    Brian Lough12:08 PM
    It was still a relatively simple board though

    deshipu12:08 PM
    but very nice

    Kris Winer12:08 PM
    What CAD tool do you use, pcb fab house?

    Dan Maloney12:09 PM
    @Jakob Wulfkind - I agree. If I'm learning, I feel justified in spending the time. Of course I "learn" a lot from endless YouTube videos...

    Brian Lough12:09 PM
    I am the worlds worst at estimating @Jakob Wulfkind !

    Brian Lough12:09 PM
    Hey @Digicool Things , I scrub up pretty well eh? :P

    Jakob Wulfkind12:09 PM
    second worst -- I'm currently six years into a one-year project

    Brian Lough12:10 PM
    The Power BloughRs are designed using Eagle, but everything I have done since I have used EasyEDA

    Kris Winer12:10 PM
    A subject matter expert is someone who has already made every mistake possible in his/hers subject area!


    Read more »

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