Throwing Down an LED where the Potential is great

I saw this post on Instructables where someone asked how they could add an LED on to a high-voltage source. And for reasons I can’t explain, I just felt compelled to take a crack at it…

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World, meet my first home-made circuit board

My very first PCB
My very first PCB

Well, with the priceless aid of my dear friend HappyThawts, I’ve managed to produce my first home-made Printed Circuit Board!

How it went

There were a bunch of weird issues that came up in making it and thus it’s not all that ideal, though I could hack it to work. The main challenge was that my copper clad boards were actually covered with PhotoResist (for masking boards via UV). The process we used entailed working directly on a layer of Copper. Thankfully Happy realized that Acetone would probably send the PhotoResist on it’s merry way to aqueous exile in my trash-chemicals bucket. She was dead-on there.

Another problem was that we used Ferric Chloride as our etchant, however, the particular solution I had on hand was given to me by someone cleaning out their closet a few years ago. It turned out that the Ferric we had was 12 years old! Happy informed me that it tends to lose it’s muscle over time, and the etching we did took a lot longer than it should have.

The Process

The process we followed is a well-documented method that’s meant to aid in cheap, rapid prototyping. There are many small variants on this process to choose from. I love the notion that I can come up with an idea and later that night have a working prototype built out. In addition to written instructions being a dime a dozen, there’s a ton out there and some good YouTube videos on it too.

In short the steps are:

  1. Print out your desired circuit pattern on the low quality (thin) magazine paper using a lazer printer. Glossy magazine paper doesn’t hold the toner well and the cheap paper make it easy for you to remove the paper at the right time just by weting it with water and letting it fall apart.
  2. Clean off some Copper-Clad (essentially a fiber-glass board with Copper plated on a side), position the magazine paper on the board and apply a bunch of prolonged heat via an Iron.
  3. Remove the magazine paper by dipping the board in water and gently brushing away the paper.
  4. Dip the board in an etchant such as Ferric Chloride. Check on it closely to monitor your process. Observe proper chemical handling safety precautions.
  5. If you like, you can remove the toner with Acetone / Nail Polish Remover, though I like keeping the toner on the traces to isolate the copper a little more from the elements.
  6. Go ahead and use your board!

What’s Next

Next I’ll be repeating this process, but using more appropriate boards and fresh Ferric Chloride. I expect this to work out really well and a few Google Searches on the subject will re-inforce how many people are making this work for them. I’ll blog on this in more detail as I continue on.

What would you make?

So, with this established, I’m wondering what kinds of boards people out there would use this process for? Personally, I’m a fan of making a bunch of Arduino rip-offs with it. In fact, the board I made this time is a single-sided Arduino board.

Toor Camp 2009 in Review

Toor Camp Logo

Well I’ve been home from Toor Camp 2009 for a week now and I’m feeling it’s about time to post my personal review of all of this.

In Summary

  • In Short: It was awesome
  • In slightly less-short: It was rough in terms of heat, closed silo and drama
  • The Bottom Line: I’ll be going next year
  • Photos Here

The Good

In the Silo
In the Silo


Toor Camp was awesome as I met all sorts of cool people. It was awesome in that at night when the heat was reasonable, it was fun to go around to various camp sites and visit with random like-minded people. I had many conversations with people where we shared a sense of relaxation around the notion of being able to talk full-speed and in the way we generally thought and still be understood. I guess that’s just a perk of being around a bunch of people that have spent just as much time grinding on the same kinds of stuff.

There was tons of interesting stuff being setup all over. People were quick to share their creativity and ideas. I learned a fair bit about security topics, which I suppose is to be expected at a hacker conference. I presented my old usb mouse mod at a little late night event called Ignite Toor.

The Bad

Gettin By
Gettin By


The heat was brutal. Most days were a few degrees over 100F/40C and several people from our group were overwhelmed by it. As such they spent a fair bit of time in idling cars with the AC on full, puking in a bucket. Personally I was just really overheated, but I didn’t get sick, possibly due to massive water consumption on my part.

Dust was rampant. The camp site was located in an extremely dusty place. The dust was a very very fine powder that would get in everything. It was a factor that everyone there had to just accept as there’s little you can do about that, especially when the wind picked up.

The Venue (a retired nuclear missle) silo was highly attactive when discussed in HTML, but when it came to in practice – I can’t know the full facts, but the result was the silo didn’t get opened until near the end of the camp. And once it was opened the coordinators offered a list of hazards like Asbestos, Lead Paint, Possible radioactivity (though quite unlikely), Poorly Lit Drop Offs and so on. I suppose that’s to be expected, but I didn’t really consider it before hand – once on site I wasn’t very motivated to expose myself to much of that sweetness.

The Ugly

Douche-bags: Yes that little bit of grey metal to the upper left is their wind array for their main trailer. I never did see a solar panel.

The hilarious ugliness at the camp was surrounded by this remarkably foolish “Energy” company Levitate. In the future, if you see this name just think Lying Morons and you’ll be fine.

As a key part of a forced last minute deal by the site owner, the campers were forced to attend a concert put on by this company claiming to be preparing to launch it’s hybrid solar/wind power technology. The campers were forced in that their attendance was required if access to the silo was to be granted. That in and of itself was epic moronity in the only thing attracting people to that site was the silo, denying access at all was entirely confusing and made me wonder if there were potential liability issues that perhaps needed to be reconsidered.

Levitate posted the below freakin’ amazing bullshit facebook post for the event that was saturated with blatant lies about the camp and the campers therein endorsing their activities:

A group of the world’s smartest hackers will convene on July 3rd 2009 at a decommissioned nuclear missile site in the desert of Eastern Washington State. The goal: to solve some of the world’s most challenging issues through technology and to showcase a new large-scale renewable energy solution for the World.

Literally on top of a symbol that once represented global destruction, Levitate Energy and Tri-Film Productions present a renewable energy concert featuring the talents of Seattle bands Amber Pacific, Visqueen & Throw Me The Statue.

The entire production will be powered by Levitate’s ultra high efficiency hybrid Wind and Solar Modular Turbine Unit.

This is an invite only event but for more information contact Tri-Film Productions.

A Banner Levitate should adopt
A Banner Levitate should adopt

I could spend time explaining how this is all bullshit (except perhaps the fact that “Tri-Film” was involved too). But the short of it was as follows:

Gas Powered Wind Mill
Gas Powered Wind Mill. And by "Wind Mill", I mean "tiny boxed-in air-shovel POS"
  1. They took power from a diesel power generator used by the camp to power their concert.
  2. Their trucks with their wind power generators had at least one small gas power generator hidden away aboard
  3. The fundamental design of their wind power setup makes no sense if you have a crude understanding of what a moment force is – also understanding the absolute bare basics of fluid dynamics is enough to make you spit milk out your nose when you see their setup
  4. One of their people tried to get some friends of mine to cease standing like poles (as they were protesting). This began with dancing very very close to them and escalated to some kind of punching (I didn’t see it first-hand).
  5. To Reiterate: They blackmailed people to attend their concert, which was really a promo event where they were trying to snap a bunch of photos and the like

At the end of the day

Silo Entrance
Silo Entrance

At the end of the day I had a damned good time at Toor Camp 2009. I met a crap-ton of awesome people and had a great time learning, when I could take the heat.

I hope that as this was the first Toor Camp, the next one will secure a more suitable venue and for me that mainly entails much less dust, heat & drama.

The camp organizers nailed down some key features fairly well (stuff like providing electrical power, internet service, water, pseudo-showers and a few other things).