Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

A event log for From Software to Tindie Hack Chat

Brian Lough's journey from developer to hardware hacker

LutetiumLutetium 03/06/2019 at 21:070 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!

Brian Lough12:10 PM
the first board I designed (the ISP to Dip) was done using KiCad

Brian Lough12:11 PM
I know people will not be overly impressed with the choice of EasyEDA, but i do like it. I found it the easiest to use of the 3

Josh Lloyd12:11 PM
@Brian Lough How many hours did you spend in Eagle and how many have you spent in EasyEDA. You've worked with KiCad too so you've kind of touched on all the freely available things. Can you give a sentence on why you are currently sticking with EasyEDA, what you like about it?

Brian Lough12:11 PM
I also really like that the have footprints for most parts on LCSC (where I buy most of my parts)

deshipu12:11 PM
@Brian Lough have you tried Fritzing? ;)

Dan Maloney12:12 PM
Fritzing - not even once ;-)

anfractuosity12:12 PM

Jakob Wulfkind12:12 PM
@deshipu tragically it appears to be a dead project

Brian Lough12:12 PM
as for fab house @Kris Winer , I mainly use JLCPCB. I have also used oshpark a few times too. For the PCB3 I ended up using Elecrow because JLC have a water mark on the Fr-4 material what is fine for regular PCBs, but kind of ruined the look of the tree

deshipu12:12 PM
@Jakob Wulfkind it's just resting

Josh Lloyd12:13 PM
If you're not using an Arduino and a Breadboard, what is the point in Fritzing? Haha. :P

deshipu12:13 PM
@Jakob Wulfkind lovely plummage, though

Leon Anavi12:13 PM
There was a talk at FOSDEM about Fritzing. Actually it was about the state of the project and the lack of recent development by the maintainers.

Nicolas Schurando12:13 PM
Hey Brian! Maybe that's a question for later in the chat, I wouldn't want to interrupt the natural flow. From your experience, are there any particular things to be aware of, or pay attention to when selling on Tindie? And also coming from a software background, how did it feel to have all those extra steps to put your creations into the hands of people? Mmh, that was two questions, I guess.

deshipu12:13 PM
@Leon Anavi I was there :)

Brian Lough12:13 PM
@Josh Lloyd thats a good point, EasyEDA was the last of the 3 I tried so I'm sure I learned stuff from using KiCad and Eagle first. Now I've defeintely used EasyEDA more, but even straight awat I found it easier.

Josh Lloyd12:14 PM
@Brian Lough I'm not familiar with your latest projects, but do you've plans to work on a bigger PCB in the near future. Something ESP8266-esque ?

Brian Lough12:14 PM
I use fritzing for my videos @ꝺeshipu , I think its very useful for wiring diagrams

Brian Lough12:14 PM
I've never used it for anything else

Kris Winer12:14 PM
Ever use the ESP8285? I use this almst exclusively now for my ESP82XX projects.

Josh Lloyd12:15 PM
The slightly more memory ESP8266, right?

Leon Anavi12:15 PM
@deshipu me too :0

Leon Anavi12:15 PM

Kris Winer12:16 PM
Embedded 1 MByte flash. Two extra GPIOs. $1 per IC last time I bought some.

Gavin Smalley joined  the room.12:16 PM

Brian Lough12:16 PM
Hey @Nicolas Schurando . I think the most important thing to consider for selling on Tindie (or anywhere) is what you want to get out of it. For me I dont think it is the easiest way of making money for example, but I really enjoy it. It defeintly gives me the warm fuzzies sending my stuff all over the world

Kris Winer12:17 PM
"sending my stuff all over the world"

Yes, never get old!

Kris Winer12:17 PM

Brian Lough12:17 PM
I would also recommend charging enough! It's easy to compare your prices to China and wonder how you are going to compete, but you have to make it worth your while too. At the very least make sure you are not losing money!

Kris Winer12:17 PM
Minimum 2.3 x BOM cost

Josh Lloyd12:17 PM
@Brian Lough Since we're touching on Tindie for a moment, how was it when you were a newcomer, and how does Tindie help you deliver your stuff around the world, do they provide any assistance there or is it that you get an order in with an address and you need to make the dispatch?

Josh Lloyd12:18 PM
I've spoken to a couple people about independent hobbies, and the consensus was: If a new order doesn't make you want to get out of bed in the morning, its either the wrong field, or you aren't charging enough.

Arsenijs12:19 PM
@Brian Lough I see you have some Twitter presence, any advice you could give with regards to that? i.e. showing off your projects, interacting with people, anything you think you could teach

Brian Lough12:19 PM
@Josh Lloyd most of products at the moment are shields for the Wemos D1 mini ESP8266 board, which i love. I have made one design using a ESP-12 module. It is basically a Adafruit 7 segment backpack with an ESP8266 integrated. It actually works quite well (it's displaying my youtube sub count beside me here)

Brian Lough12:19 PM
For some reason I'm a little scared to list it though. I guess it's just a little more out of my comfort zone in terms of design. I really should though

Josh Lloyd12:20 PM
@Brian Lough You could always get some people on Hackaday to look at it, give you some confidence in the design.

SeonR joined  the room.12:20 PM

Brian Lough12:20 PM
@Josh Lloyd I got really good help from my YouTube buddies Unexpected Maker (who literally just joined as I'm typing this @SeonR !) and @davedarko

Josh Lloyd12:20 PM
An Unexpected visitor.

SeonR12:21 PM
Hey folks! What did I miss? ;)

Arsenijs12:21 PM
@Josh Lloyd short answer - yes, you need to ship things yourself - get a box, pack the things, put a label on the box and then go to the post office.

anfractuosity12:21 PM
Do you get the PCBs made in China/...? And do you do the assembly yourself out of interest?

Josh Lloyd12:22 PM
Thanks for clarifying @Arsenijs

@SeonR Topics so far have been introduction to PCB design, YouTube channel, and now talking about Tindie.

Brian Lough12:22 PM
Tindie don't provide any assistance in a fulfilment sense as @Arsenijs says but they provide an easy to use platform and look after some of the more complicated stuff for you (Payments and trust)

Brian Lough12:22 PM
very few people are going to buy off my website, but people trust a platform like tindie so it allows me to actually sell some stuff!

Josh Lloyd12:22 PM
@Brian Lough Do they act as a middleman or is the payment instant and then you need to deliver the product for a good rating?

SeonR12:23 PM
Yeah, Tindie also do payment validation and some basic fraud detection/prevention... so they def take the pressure away from worrying about payment gateways, and their free is very reasonable.

Josh Lloyd12:23 PM
Their *fee ?

SeonR12:23 PM
woops ;) fee* haha

Brian Lough12:24 PM
I am for around 2.5 BOM as @Kris Winer says, but also please consider time. Even how long it takes to go to the post office. If a package goes missing, you have to replace it so consider that too!

Josh Lloyd12:25 PM
Sounds encouraging! It would be so cool to ship things I make. @Brian Lough I find that time is always hard to charge for, because more often than not, one does not value themselves enough. As you said, it gets harder when you compare your own prices to those of a fabhouse in china pumping out 100,000 units

Dan Maloney12:25 PM
@Brian Lough - On that front, did you find that your recent test jig for the Power BloughR helped reduce shipping bad units?

davedarko12:25 PM
btw. tindie also tweets when you restock your products. The tindie dashboard tells me that I got most shop traffic from twitter - I see a correlation

Jakob Wulfkind12:25 PM
that brings up another important point -- how is Tindie at handling problem communications like missed/damaged shipments, payment issues, and things like that?

Digicool Things12:25 PM
And don't forget to factor in all your costs. Packaging, tape, labels etc. I forgot to allow for the petrol each time I drive to the post office to ship one. LOL

deshipu12:25 PM
@Josh Lloyd you can always check how much similar things already listed cost

Brian Lough12:25 PM
@Arsenijs I just post on twitter a lot, it's easy to use on my phone so I try share anything that I think might be useful to people. I've gotten really good help from sites such as Hackaday,, Hackster etc who share projects and things I've worked on. Tindie also are always good for a retweet (sorry for badgering whoever runs that!)

Dan Maloney12:26 PM


Custom Jig Makes Short Work of Product Testing

When you build one-off projects for yourself, if it doesn't work right the first time, it's a nuisance. You go back to the bench, rework it, and move on with life. The equation changes considerably when you're building things to sell to someone.

Read this on Hackaday

deshipu12:26 PM
@Josh Lloyd a good rule of thumb is 3x the cost of making it

Brian Lough12:26 PM
@Josh Lloyd I would prefer to have stock not selling than to under value my time. Time is my most valuable asset and is very precious to me!

Josh Lloyd12:26 PM
@ꝺeshipu From 2.3, to 2.5, to 3.0 haha.

SeonR12:26 PM
@deshipu That's a beautiful dream, but at higher cost BOM items, very hard to justify :(

Kris Winer12:27 PM
Pricing depends on volume...

Josh Lloyd12:27 PM
@Brian Lough I think I'm in agreement there. Time gets split thin once you've a family too.

Brian Lough12:27 PM
I cant believe you are following your own rule @ꝺeshipu !

davedarko12:27 PM
don't have to tell that deshipu though - he probably takes 1.2

deshipu12:27 PM
@SeonR that's how much it usually cost to make a product from a