Hacking the new Blu E-cig Tanks

Blu would prefer you just shell out five dollars every time one of their electronic cigarette tanks runs out of e-juice.  Here’s a relatively simple and inexpensive way to refill (and re-seal)) the new Blu tank system yourself with any flavor e-juice you desire.  The heating coil in the tank (atomizer) is not replaceable so there is a limit to how many times you’ll be able to reuse it before it fails, but I’ve refilled mine a couple times already with no problems.


Tim’s Tiny Home Project Notes 3

This is a continuing series.  Part two is here.

Tiny Home Infrastructure and Systems


The Future of Lighting

I’ve always been a huge fan of mood and indirect ambient lighting so I’d like to try and incorporate as much indirect and ambient lighting as I can in Tim’s Tiny Home. It would be really sweet to integrated the lighting directly into the building design whenever possible. Workspaces will make use of built-in LED spot and down lights . Space lighting will be provided by two or three 10 watt LED light bulbs. I’m paying less than ten euro for these types of bulbs now and they are the first bulbs I’ve seen that can match ‘normal’ incandescents in light quality.  I can’t imagine needing any more than two or three to brightly and cheerfully illuminate the interior of such a diminutive environment.
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Tim’s Tiny Home Project Notes 2

This is the second part of a continuing series.  Part one here.

Construction Issues

Stylized Tiny Home of Wheels

Many of the current tiny homes are built on trailers to avoid odious issues with building codes as well as to aid in their being more easily transported and relocated. While understandable, this imposes some serious limitations on the weight, size and height of the overall structure, as well as the type of building materials and construction details involved in the planning thereof. The smallest tiny homes are under a hundred square feet and the largest I’d consider ‘tiny’ would measure in at under twenty feet per side. Anything more than ten or twelve feet wide is going to be near impossible to relocate at any reasonable cost. Any way you slice it, portable or fixed location, a home with less of a footprint than four hundred square feet is definitely tiny by any normative American standard.
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Remodeling the Laundry Room

Inside Dryer Lighting

The Project

Good morning everyone!  I know it’s hump-day Wednesday and that in and of itself, sucks major league donkey ballz, so here’s a distraction for you to waste a few minutes while you ‘work’ your way towards TGIFriday.

Today, I am offering up an old photo set of the laundry room remodel I did in my south Jackson home a few years ago before moving to Germany.  The laundry room was a small (5 x 8 feet) separate enclosed room under the carport at one time, which required you to go outside to do laundry.  This was a rather common construction technique in the neighborhood of homes built there during the 1960’s.

Our carport had been enclosed and added as part of the heated space of our home a few years earlier.  In addition to having the laundry room inside the house, enclosing the carport let it serve as a dry storage room for all the other building projects that preceded my plans to turn it into a full blown dedicated indoor home theater build.  I already had a semi-dedicated indoor home theater in our living room, but I wanted to make an actual theater type environment in the carport, where I could let my home theater addiction run wild.

Ultimately, I moved to Europe before finalizing that one last room/project in the house, but I did get the laundry room area that existed in that space remodeled before leaving.  It was one of the last projects I tackled before leaving.

The Backstory

My wife wanted to have a European model washer and dryer set, both of which require 220 volt service (as well as a special order through Cowboy Maloney’s appliance import service at about $2000 for the pair).  The European model washers need a 220v hookup because in addition to the washer motors, they have built-in water heaters which allow for the washer to raise the temperature of the incoming hot water to near boiling, for the washing of whites and other robust fabrics using less washing powder.

You can also adjust the spin cycle on most of the Euro model washing machines to levels approaching that used in nuclear centrifuges, greatly reducing drying time.  As for the new dryer?  Beside the internal lighting, which I found quite nice, the dryer has sensors for weight and wetness, and automatically dials down the juice necessary to dry each load of clothes, something I figured out when testing the dryer after installation.  I ran it on empty to see if the heating element was working and it didn’t get hot, so I naturally assumed there was a problem, but the ‘problem’ was simple.  The dryer was smart enough to know it was empty!

Construction Highlights


Since the existing laundry room only had one 220V outlet for the American style dryer, this necessitated the installation of an additional 220V outlet for the new washer.  Fortunately, there was an abandoned 220V line that had been running an electric hot water heater left from when I replaced the electric hot water heater with a gas unit years earlier.  Heating water for a whole houseful of people with electricity is a fool’s errand and very costly.  I was able to move that abandoned 220V circuit to the laundry room with no problem, saving the expense and hassle of needing an electrician to run a new line from the breaker box.  The only bit of wiring difficulty was finding and correctly wiring the European wall sockets necessary to mate with the imported washer and dryer.


The original laundry room plumping was not hidden at all and ran directly down the inside of the wall.  I had already replaced the original PVC pipe with copper when I redid the entire house in copper a few years earlier, but at that time I did not make any changes to the mounting.  In addition to flushing the plumbing back into the wall, I wanted to add a nice stainless steel laundry sink for soaking delicate washables so I needed to make those changes as well.

Tile and Trim

The original laundry room walls were nothing but wallboard.  I replaced them with concrete backer board and tiled the walls.  I also laid some tile over top of the bare concrete floor, but the floor tile job (see the photo) was a little sloppy by my standards, but in my defense, I’m not actually certified to do any of the work I actually did.  I try to make up for the fact my wife drops two grand on a washer and dryer by doing all the other work myself, thereby balancing out the remodel with my own skills and labor.  At the end of the day, my work is usually as good as that which I would pay somebody else way too much money to do.

The Photoset

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Sony QX10 Slide Digitization


The Problem

There are at least a thousand old slides careful stored in drawers all around the house here in Germany.  I’m relatively certain that at least a few must contain interesting and early photos of my wife as a child.  Since Rita lived all over the world in her early childhood travels with her oil engineer father and socialite German mom, there’s likely to be some good slides of those far flung places mixed in as well.  This is the story of how I am going about retrieving those old slides and getting them into a digital format for posterity with the usual Rube Goldberg flair many of you have come to expect from me.  I’m fully aware that there are paid professional services that use dedicated slide to digital conversion scanners.  For those of you not aware, I am a cheap bastard with a penchant for finding a way around giving other people my money for anything I can possibly DIY.  This blog entry is for those with a similar proclivity.

Necessary Equipment

Slide Viewer

At a minimum, you’ll need an old backlit handheld slide viewer and a digital camera with enough pixels and short enough focus to make it possible to get a picture off the front of slide viewer.  If you happen to have an honest to goodness slide projector and screen, by all means use it instead of the small handheld viewer I am currently limited to.  In either case, a tripod for your camera is going to make it a lot easier to keep a consistent distance, focus and steadiness to whatever image you are using as a “master”.

My Gear

My Sony DSC QX10 camera (connected via QX10’s ad-hoc wifi to my iPad mini) is used to collect the photos of the slides as they are taken.  I then dump them off of my iPad onto my Mac Mini for post processing in iPhoto, which involves a quick straightening and cropping for the most part.  You can do any digital enhancement you like after the slides are digitized. I use a mini tripod to provide stability and support for the Sony QX10 as well as positioning for best focal length for macro shots.  Here’s a better overview of the process, and I show the digitization photo.  This slide was not in great shape.  The quality of the final product is, in large part, dependent on the quality of the original slide.  See the sample set at end of this post for a better overview on what to expect.

My Setup

I’m early into this process, having converted less than a hundred slides.  I took the cover off the slide viewer and since the lamp in it was shot, I decided to use an LED flashlight as a backlight for the illuminating the slides.  It’s also a bit easier dealing with the insertion and removal of the individual slides without having the case on.  Once you’re set-up, each slide can be digitized through to the QX10 about every ten seconds or so.  That’s about how long it takes me to physically remove the old slide and insert the next one, so it works out pretty well for the workflow since I’ve got many, many more slides to process.

I keep the QX10 tethered to external power while doing all the digitization so it won’t go dead on me while I am going through a long set of slides.  This assures my QX10 is left in a state of charge where it’s ready to “grab and go” without worrying about the QX10 battery going south on me right outside the door.  I have decided against a strategy of buying extra proprietary batteries for those devices which can otherwise be recharged via lithium battery portable chargers.  They’re now as cheap as the proprietary batteries and can be used on all my USB charged kit.  I’ve currently got two 3000ma ports-chargers in my kit bag.

Samples of Digitized Slides