Making an Emergency Power Lamp

A lot of people have lanterns, Flashlights, and candles for lighting when a power outage occurs. I’ve started building my lamps into my radio power supply so that they’re independent of power mains. In essence, my shack works the same way whether the power is out or not. In this article, I’ll go through my solution and touch on the drawbacks that I was trying to avoid.

The first drawback was battery power lost in converting DC to AC. I could just run a normal lamp plugged into an inverter that is attached to my LiFePO battery bank. This wastes power that is lost in the conversion from DC coming out of the batteries to AC going into the lamp. In order to avoid this loss, I want to keep the entire system on DC power.

The second drawback is the form factor. I want normal lighting without figuring out where to place the lantern or how to hold the flashlight correctly. Lamps are nice because they’re positioned for optimal lighting and can stay there.

To address both of these concerns, I found some 12 volt DC-powered light bulbs. I can put them in the lamp and run the lamp on my battery. I could accomplish this with a simple lamp plug to power poles converter, which would run totally on DC, but would also let me use the lamp with AC power and an AC bulb. However, this raises more concerns.

The third concern is that an AC bulb should not be plugged into DC and a DC bulb should never be plugged into AC. While it is unlikely that I would make this mistake, someone else in my household that doesn’t understand how this system works might make this mistake.

To add a bit of Poka-yoke (mistake proofing) to my solution, I cut off the plug. This ensures that the lamp will never be plugged into AC again. I put power poles on the wire coming out of the lamp. It is important to get the polarity right when wiring this up. When the light manufacturers make the light, they don’t have a standard for which wire goes to the lightbulb case and which goes to the lightbulb tip. You can find this out by using a multimeter to test the continuity between each of the wires and the center connector in the socket. Whichever wire goes to the center connector, that’s your red power pole, the other is your black power pole. If neither of them connects to it, you most likely have the lamp switch in the off position.

The fourth concern is that lamps are not as simple as they used to be. When selecting a lamp be sure to pick one that is just a lamp. If you select one with a USB charger or AC outlet built-in, your conversion from AC to DC would also be sending DC to these circuits, which could have undesirable outcomes ranging from higher current draw to fire. Be sure to select a simple lamp that doesn’t have other features that rely on the AC input. I chose a desk lamp so that I’d always have lighting for my radio desk.

All that’s left to do is to plug it into a battery supply. Obviously, that supply has to have power poles coming out of it in order to plug into it. I have my batteries going into a power pole distribution box, into which I plug in my lamps. I’ll have another blog entry detailing the battery box that I’ve constructed to make the light portable enough to be moved around the house.

My Mining Experiment

A while back, I was talking with a friend of mine who pointed out a podcast episode called, “The Ceremony.” It was about the launch of a new cryptocurrency. It reminded me of 2013 when I’d experimented with Bitcoin mining. I had some mining gear laying around, albeit old technology, and thought it might be fun to play around with some alt-coins.

I poked around online looking for a coin that I could mine without being outgunned by some of the monster ASIC mining rigs that were mining Bitcoin and other popular coins. I was amazed to see how the cryptocurrency world had changed. When I tried this a few years ago, the mining was all done with the original algorithms that started with Bitcoin. Since then, Bitcoin had suffered some criticism for not being as anonymous as it was originally thought and had its mining dominated by miners with a large enough investment to buy expensive hardware (the aforementioned ASIC mining rigs). As a result, new coins with different mining algorithms designed to make mining “fairer” and make spending more anonymous had been created. The number of coins had exploded as different groups were competing for their coins to be the next Bitcoin.

I found Z-cash (ZEC) which was based on an algorithm called Equihash. Equihash requires a lot of memory making it easier to do with a computer than with an ASIC. It had also originated as a Linux only miner, which gave an advantage to people with Linux skills. My Linux machine was a hyperthreaded dual quad-core Xeon machine with 48 GB of RAM, which I thought would be moderately better than what most miners were using. Lastly, ZEC was trading for over $200 per coin, making it a worthwhile return.

I found a set of instructions for setting up a CPU miner and set up a Z-cash mining node. It ran for a long time but didn’t find anything. I wasn’t part of a pool and mining on my own, even with good hardware, didn’t compete with the other miners out there. I decided that I would find a better mining software, and maybe a GPU (basically, using the computing power of a graphics card to mine).

While I was looking for better mining software, I found a set of installation and setup instructions that showed how to configure the miner for Nicehash. I thought to myself, “what is Nicehash?” Sure enough, Nicehash can be found at

After a little reading and a couple of Youtube videos, I learned that Nicehash is a service that sells mining computing power. If you want to run a 5 megahashes per second miner. You pay a fee to Nicehash, declare where you want to mine, and they do your mining for you. Where do they get that computing power? They are also a site where people with mining software and hardware can sell their computing power. In simple terms, they buy computing power from me and sell it to someone else. The best part is this: whether I find a coin or not, no matter what coin the buyer is looking for, I get paid Bitcoin for my efforts.

This quickly became something that I had to try. I had given up on bitcoin a while back because I was frustrated with not finding anything. Now, I could create a stream of coin. The challenge now was to maximize that stream.

I downloaded the Nicehash miner, which is a windows program that can use your graphics card or CPU or both to mine coin. I started running on my two Xeons.  Doing this brought in about $.67 cents a day. It was fun. I finally had some small amount of Bitcoin. But I wasn’t going to have any real income in this manner. In fact, with the minimum required amount to receive withdrawals being 0.001 Bitcoin, I could only get payouts once a week. I wanted at least a nightly payout.

For the next phase of the project, I bought a pair of GTX1080TI Graphics cards. They were listed as the best GPUs that I could get for NiceHash. Essentially GPUs are computing cores on a graphics card that the computer can ask to do mathematical tasks like hashing algorithms (which is most of the mining work). I built a computer to house the GPUs. This is a lot like a typical computer, but needs to spread the cards out wider for air flow, and isn’t as powerful, in terms of processor or RAM, because the GPUs do most of the work. Once the hardware was assembled, I started mining with the GPUs.

The GPU solution netted me around 0.0012 Bitcoin per day. This was enough to get me a daily payout of $5.00 per day. This doesn’t sound like much; however, I could earn $150 per month at this rate, which could buy something meaningful. I was happy with this, but still wanted to experiment with an ASIC miner.

I had played with some older ASIC miners that are cheap buys on eBay. This was fun, and allowed my to stock up on alt-coins. It wasn’t much good for Nicehash, because the pricing structure rewards speed. The speed of the pools on Nicehash is driven by other people with ASIC miners. So, to maximize payouts, I needed something big.

I settled on an L3+ miner, which is the miner that Nicehash shows as its most effective miner on their profitability calculator. These are simpler to set up: buy a miner, buy a power supply, plug them in, point it at Nicehash, and start mining. Once I got this going, it churned out ~ $20/day. The following chart illustrates the difference in mining equipment.

Screenshot 2017-10-23 at 08.51.28 - Edited

The first red line segment with the modest slope is the aggregated total of the CPU miner. It is a steady churn of coin with payments spread out over weeks. You can see this in the blue line where the two points on this line are just above 0.001 bitcoin (on the right scale). At the third point on each line, you see the effect of switching to the  GPU miner. There’s a big spike on the blue line (as there was some residual from the CPU added to the first GPU payment), followed by a daily total over 0.001 bitcoin. This slope continues until late October when the slope turns upward and the payout line goes up to ~ 0.0035 per day. This is the payout from the ASIC miner. Lastly, the nearly flat line segment in the center was due to me switching the GPU over to another mining site, to experiment with Z-cash mining. The line isn’t flat, because the CPU miners were still running on Nicehash.

I’ll report more, as I learn more.


Now I can Draft in WordPress

I recently received an email from talking about a new plug-in for Google Docs that will allow me to save my Google Doc as a WordPress draft. This would be really cool. I’d be able to use all of the formatting features of Google Docs and have those features on any Android device.

This would level the playing field across apps for WordPress. No longer would I have one set of features on one device and another set on my phone, because the WordPress apps are different.

Even better, I’d also be able to share the document with other people while editing the draft. This allows me to change my publishing workflow to incorporate more ideas and perspectives into the blog post, without having to do a bunch of copying and pasting across platforms.

Now, if there were a Grammarly plug-in for Google Docs, I’d really be happy. That part of the workflow still needs to be done in the WordPress editor.