Queerborhood WiFi

This is a proposal for setting up a wifi system on playa to tie into the new borg net and deliver WiFi to the queerborhood (7:30 sector). Per the borg’s recommendation, the main connection is a Ubiquiti NanoBeam.

We also need a pole mount junction box to hold the power injector, a surge suppressor, and the first wifi router. This connects to the antenna via a 50 foot cat 5e cable because the antenna must be 40 feet off the ground. We will also need power run to the box, but we have lots of extension cords.

Next we need a mesh WiFi system to reach throughout the camp. We also need to make sure it’s simple, reliable, and easy to use and that it allows us to remove troublemakers and limit download speed so people aren’t hogging the connection. Google WiFi is the obvious choice.

For neighboring camps in the Queerborhood that want to tie into our system, they will just need one or two cheap wifi repeaters. Our system is doing all the heavy lifting of connecting to the borg and distributing a balanced network throughout our camp and to the edges of the adjacent camps.

Total cost to us: $447.72

Simple Solar Powered Air Conditioning

In this post, I will show you how I built a very simple and affordable air conditioner from scratch. This is powered completely by solar power via USB and achieves up to a 40 degree temperature difference from the outside temperature.

Evaporative cooling is an old technology which was used by ancient civilizations long before the advent of electricity. You may have heard the term swamp cooler. This nickname comes from the evaporated water that is used to achieve the temperature change. If you implement it wrong, you will get a hot, humid tent instead of a cool tent; a swamp.

There are two main concepts that will be important. The dryer the outside air, the better. And there absolute MUST be constant airflow through the cooler into the tent and then out of the tent. If you set this up inside a closed tent with no exhaust vent coming out, it will not work. Many people make this mistake and wrongly conclude that these coolers don’t work. You must have at least as much air going out of your tent as there is coming in through the evaporative cooler.

I mentioned above that the temperature difference can be up to 40 degrees below the outside temperature. This depends on the dew point. If you are somewhere very dry like the black rock desert with its 0% humidity, then the maximum potential temperature difference is 40 degrees. With higher humidity, the potential temperature difference is less. The science behind this calculation is complex, but in most areas, you will see at least some benefit.

I have also added a major technical innovation which dramatically improves performance!

My Parts List

5 Gallon Bucket
5 Gallon Bucket (With Lid): This is where the magic happens.

 

Dryer Duct Disconnect
Dryer Duct Disconnect: This dramatically simplifies the process of setting up and taking down or storing and transporting the cooler and it’s actually cheaper than using a flange which doesn’t make any sense to me.

 

Dryer Duct
Dryer Duct: This will connect from the cooler to the fan just inside the tent. I went with a second duct after the fan but this is completely unnecessary in retrospect.

 

USB Fan

USB Powered Fan: This fan pushes 50 cubic feet per minute of air. The rule of thumb is that your evaporative cooler needs to change out all the air inside your tent every five minutes. So a 50 CFM fan will work for spaces up to 250 cubic feet. This is just under 7x7x7 or about the size of a Shiftpod. If you have a larger space, you might want to consider adding a second USB fan on a splitter, or just using a 120v fan instead of USB.

 

Duct Adapter

Duct/Fan Flange Adapter: The dryer duct will clamp tightly onto this flange adapter which then screws tightly onto the fan, providing a good seal. I decided to get a second one for the inside-facing part of the fan and then attach a second duct, but that’s not necessary.

 

Solar Panel

Solar Panel: I went with a larger one so that I can charge my phone as well, but this pump and fan draw less than ten watts total. So even this panel is larger than what’s necessary.

 

USB Pump

Water Pump: This pump has a connection for a 5/16″ hose which you will also need to pick up. I used two of these pumps in case one has a problem, but this is probably unnecessary.

 

Swamp Cooler PadSwamp Cooler Pad: This just needs to reach at least to the top of the bucket when inserted around the edges.

 

I have also used a few feet of chicken wire. This is optional, but should provide dramatic performance improvement.

 

Let’s Build It!

The first step is to set the duct adapter in the center of the top of the lid. Then trace a line around it with sharpie and cut that piece out, leaving a hole for the female side of the duct connector. I sealed up the edges with a hot glue gun. Probably anything like silicone caulk or even just tape would work fine. This connection will be under suction, so it’s not going to try to come apart.

Next cut out holes in the side of the bucket for air to flow in through the pad.  The plastic is pretty soft. I just used the knife on my leatherman. Remember, the hole coming out is just four inches across, so there’s no reason to go crazy with the holes in the sides of the bucket. Just make sure the surface area is at least as much as the hole on the top. Also keep in mind that the lower your holes go, the less water you will be able to put in the bucket, and the more often you will have to refill it. I did my holes right around the very top of the bucket. This works great. I might experiment with using some chicken wire or something to create some space between the material and the wall so that the surface area will increase.

Now set the pump down inside the cooler and run the USB cord out the holes you cut in the side. I decided to use two pumps in case something happens to one of them, but probably one is fine. I also decided to zip tie the usb cords to the handle of the bucket in order to prevent them from getting yanked and messing up the internal layout.

Fold the swamp cooler pad in half and insert it into the bucket, being sure not to leave any gaps for air to get through. The pad should stick out above the level of the lid. You will need to trim it down a couple inches to get it to fit tightly but without deforming when the lid is closed.

Next, fold the section of hose at one end and zip tie it to close it off. I added some hot glue inside the closed tip for good measure. Then poke lots of holes in one side of the tube, forming a drip line. I found that a soldering iron worked great for this. The material in the pad is designed to spread the water out and saturate itself via a drip line, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Now lay the hose along the top of the cooler pad (as shown above) with the holes pointed down, and run it down to the pump in the bottom of the bucket.

 

Optional Alternative Pad Design

I had the realization that only a few square inches of the pad is being exposed to the air with this design. Most of it is totally useless. The function of the pad is to maximize surface area exposed to water, so the more of the pad that’s exposed to the air, the better it will perform. We need something to hold the pad away from the wall a bit, so that the air can come in and reach all around the pad.

Some people work around this issue by drilling lots and lots of holes in the side of the bucket, but this really doesn’t solve the problem, it just increases the surface area somewhat, while severely limiting the amount of water the bucket can hold. The more water it can hold, the less frequently you have to remember to fill it.

We also need to be sure that the area inside the pad remains wide enough to admit the inside lip of the connector on the lid. It will extend down into the opening somewhat, providing a better seal. Here is my solution to this non-trivial problem;

Modified pad architechture

Using a few feet of chicken wire, I created a cylinder a few inches smaller than the bucket. Then I inserted the foam inside that cylinder, and added another smaller cylinder inside the foam to be sure that the lip of the lid connector would fit snugly inside. Then I ran the hoses through the two layers of foam and zip tied it all together. This is a major technical innovation over the design most people are using, where the pad touches the walls and only a small portion of it is exposed to the outside air.

This design also leaves about an inch between the bottom of the bucket and the foam, which makes it much easier to dry it out when you’re not using it. This will help prevent mold between uses. Most people I’ve seen essentially throw the pad away after each use and replace it. This is not necessary with this design. I did notice a dramatic increase in performance with this alternative design.

 

Put Together The Duct Assembly

Next up, we need to put together the top half of the machine, the duct assembly.

Connect the male side of the duct connector to the dryer duct. Connect the other side of the dryer duct to the fan adapter, and then connect the fan to the adapter. Make sure the fan is sucking air out of the duct instead of blowing air into the duct. Most fans have a diagram on one side which shows which way the airflow goes. I know the one I recommended has this helpful diagram.

You’re done! When you’re ready to go, snap the male end of the duct assembly into the female duct connector in the lid of the bucket. Fill the bucket with water and connect the USB cords to the solar panel. Keep in mind, these pumps will burn out if they run out of water, so don’t let that happen! Probably this design will use about half a gallon of water per hour. Therefore, if it’s filled all the way up, it will have about eight hours of runtime at least. Make sure to check on it often until you get to know it.

That’s it! Any time you have sunlight, you will have air conditioning!

Other Things To Consider

In my case, I’m using a tent which does not reflect light, so it made sense to cover the tent with a cheap piece of aluminet which deflects most of the light and heat from the sun. This dramatically improves the effectiveness of the cooler.

I also added an exhaust fan which draws warm air from the top of the tent into a second duct and pushes it outside. This alone would dramatically improve indoor temperatures in the mornings. Combining an exhaust fan with a swamp cooler means really great cool temperatures.

I do think that I will go ahead and use chicken wire to keep the pad off the wall in order to maximize the surface area of the pad.

As I mentioned above, if you have a larger space than the approximate size of a Shiftpod, you may want to consider adding a second USB fan on a duct splitter, or just using a 120v fan instead of USB.

One other thought is that you might want to include a thermostat. I am planning on testing out this one on playa this year.

Optional Exhaust Fans

Exhaust Fans

The idea with these is that they remove the hot air from the top of the tent. If the swamp cooler is on, then it will balance out the cool air coming in by pushing out the hot air at the top of the tent. If the swamp cooler is off, it will still suck a bit of air through it, but that air won’t be refrigerated. This should pair well with the cooler as outlined above to produce a really great air conditioned space.

These fan assemblies are fairly similar to the one described above, but with a couple of differences. I used a pair of USB powered fans. My thinking was that since these are lower speed, two would work better than one. Also my tent had two vents to cover up, so why not do two fans?

These exhaust assemblies connect to special panels I made out of vinyl and mylar. I used the same duct adapters as above, but this time I super glued them to the vinyl, and stitched the bolt holes down. These panels have one of these duct adapters on one side, and a velcro rectangle on the other side. These velcro rectangles match up with velcro I added to the tent around the built-in vents. Stitching velcro onto a tent is a non-trivial problem. You will need to use curved needles and probably pliers. I also made closed panels with the same velcro which can be placed over the vents instead of the fans, to keep them closed in case I don’t like these fans.

I attached velcro zip ties to the fan grills in order to fasten them to the struts inside the tent. These are super handy. I use them a lot more than I expected to. They are great for managing cables or hanging up lights.

Exhaust Fan Assemblies

 

I think I should be good this year on temperature in the mornings!

How I Made a Transparent Light-Up RGB/LED Hoodie!

Version 1.0

First let’s look at the finished product! It was inspired by the scene in the original Blade Runner when Decker  is chasing Zora and she is basically naked but wearing a transparent hoodie or poncho. I liked the ironic way that her clothes sort of Queered the expectation of clothes as hiding what’s underneath, and stuck just to the fundamental purpose of staying dry.

Also, this project was delayed slightly because I was rear ended on my way to the fabric store and had to wait nearly a week to go back! The price I pay for looking weird.

How To

Okay so the material came from Joann’s. It’s just clear vinyl. I bought a few yards of it and have tons left over for other projects. This was about $5/yard. Here’s what the whole thing looks like, turned off.

Hoodie Once I got home with the fabric, I laid out a basic H&M hoodie over the clear vinyl and cut out pieces of vinyl that were roughly the same size and shape as each piece of the hoodie. Then I stitched the pieces together with quilting thread and a hooked needle. This took some trial and error. Be aware that the tension of putting the hoodie on and taking it off will damage the seams, so for the collar and under-arms, you will want to do like four or five seams to keep it from coming apart. I would recommend using pliers to do the stitching because the vinyl is really tough and it will tear your fingers apart to try to do it with fingers.

In place of a zipper, I used velcro which I also bought at Joann’s. This also made for a sturdy surface to attach the lights to. I am a little nervous about the lights being delicate and getting damaged if they fold too much. It might be worth exploring a way of stiffening them up by attaching them first to a rigid piece of webbing or something?

Velcro instead of Zipper

The length of LEDs that I got was perfect to leave a daisy chain connector next to the hood. This way I can later add more LEDs going out both arms if I want. I think this might already be a lot. lol.

The main power coming into the lights is arranged to be down at the corner of the hoodie close to the pocket. This works out perfectly.

Power goes towards pocket

Here you can see the actual power hardware all hooked up. In the center, the controller connects the battery to the lights and accepts the command. The battery is the black box connected to the controller. The remote controls the colors, on/off, effects, etc for the lights. All of this fits comfortably into my pocket.

Power Complete

My Parts List

16.4 ft waterproof (playa proof) LED Strip Waterproof is the way to go. That means it will come coated in silicon which will keep the dust out at the burn.

72 watt Lithium Battery This is a really great battery which I plan to use for lots of different projects. It will put out 12v, 9v, and USB all at once. And it can charge from any 12v source. Simple adapters will allow it to charge from USB. It’s probably more than most people need, but a perfect battery for this project.

Lessons Learned

I feel like this will not keep working forever. It seems like the LED strip is a lot less strong than I expected it to be. I think it will be fine for the burn plus a few parties throughout the year. Version two will probably

These lights take a lot of power, and they’re really bright. The power consumption is a little confusing. Purple and white light uses a lot of power (about 40 watts), where red, green, and blue use just about 13 watts each. Also, you can turn the brightness down. If you run them at half brightness and set the colors to cycle, this battery will power the lights all night. Then it simply needs to be recharged during the next day. This battery can power the lights on full-white at full-brightness for about two hours. (That’s remarkable because it’s a super lot of power.) But with lower brightness and non-white light, it can last a lot longer.

Probably it would be easier to use usb-powered strip lights with a smaller USB battery, thought USB strips are much shorter so you would need to use several of them.

Another alternative would be to use EL wire instead of LEDs. This is great but not very bright, and you can’t control the color or make it do fancy effects. One other benefit is that you can use USB to power EL wire. So that simplifies your power supply.

2019 Gear List: Exploring Shiftpod Alternatives

Last year, I took way too much stuff. This year, I am taking far less stuff and focusing on a smaller and more efficient footprint. Home v3 has about a quarter the footprint of Home v2. It’s not just about bringing less stuff, it’s about being more effective. Aluminet stretched over a small light-proof shelter combined with an evaporative cooler should provide the best tent experience I’ve had at the Burn. It should be darker, cooler, and quieter than my past burns. Here’s how I’m planning to do it;

Home Sweet Home v3.1

I have decided to go with this blue knockoff Shiftpod 2 for my tent this year. It’s a bit roomier than the shiftpod mini or its knockoffs. That means I can bring a queen-size mattress and an evaporative air conditioner. This is still much smaller than my ridiculously enormous tent from last year.

Blue Shiftpod

Incidentally, this one works perfectly with the lag bolts I already bought and therefore the impact driver I got last year.

I will cover the tent with a cheap sheet of 12′ x 18′ 80% Aluminet which should stretch tightly over the whole tent, except the entrance side which faces north. This will block almost all light from reaching the tent’s walls. This aluminet covering idea would also work well with a real Shiftpod 2 . A smaller piece of aluminet would work perfectly on a Shiftpod mini (or knockoff). Aluminet is something I just learned about last year, and it seems like a magic bullet for issues relating to light and heat in the mornings on playa.Aluminet

 

Tent Orientation

Last year, I intended to orient north. I set up my enormous dome-tent facing north, but there were some logistical changes in the camp after I had set up. This put another structure essentially right in front of my entrance. Luckily I had a back door too, but this meant I ended up facing south and getting direct light essentially all day. This meant a lot of unnecessary light. This year, I will make a special effort to have my front door facing north, and to have every other side covered completely in aluminet to prevent as much heat and light from reaching the tent as possible.

I will again bring two folding camp chairs which I found for just $4/each at Walmart several years ago.

Intex Self-Inflating Queen-Size Mattress

I am again bringing an Intex self-inflating queen-size mattress. This is very comfortable for single or double occupancy depending on the night. It works perfectly with the power bank and microgrid. I had considered bringing a folding cot instead, but I would rather luxuriate a little and get as much rest as possible. This mattress goes inside a small mattress tent which I bought last year. This provides extra darkness and a second layer of thermal isolation as well as excellent protection from dust. I zip this up when I get up, and leave it shut until I’m ready for bed.

Realistic Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is a contentious subject. I am a member of the Facebook group, “Burning Man Generators and Electrical Systems.” You would not believe how many people think they can run a large home air conditioner off a single battery all week or a single solar panel. It’s hilarious.

A far better solution is evaporative cooling. This can be done with almost zero electricity, and at the extremely low humidity of the Black Rock Desert, there is a potential for up to 40 degree temperature drop inside the Shiftpod. There are a few pitfalls which many people fall into but are easily avoided. The biggest thing is that there must be constant airflow both into the space and out of the space.

Evaporative cooling works by adding humidity to dry air which causes it to get much cooler. That air is pumped into a space, cooling the surfaces. Then the now-warm air in the space must be pumped outside while new cool air is pumped in. I have seen many failed evaporative cooling implementations which simply humidify a space without exchanging the air. This does nothing to cool the space, it just makes the space hot and sweaty.

I adapted the many burner evaporative cooling designs and made some big improvements. You can check out what I did and how by clicking here.

Power

I love this power bank. It is cheap, powerful, and reliable. At under $200, it has essentially the same functionality of the Yeti 400 Lithium which costs three times as much. It provides all that power through USB and a 120 volt outlet. This is an excellent option for a small camping set up or essentially anyone who isn’t trying to refrigerate anything. This power bank allows me to run my evaporative air conditioner, charge my phone over a hundred times, and power the lights inside and outside my tent for over a week!

I found this great set of USB powered lights which worked out great last year. They will be the main light source for inside the tent.

This is really overkill since my camp has its own microgrid, but this will make a great backup. Also, our microgrid is under constant development and growth, and sometimes it may not be completely in place during placement. Having this just eliminates any electric uncertainty.

Food

I bought all this food for last year, but didn’t end up eating any of it because my camp provides food. I included the list here because it may be helpful for people who want suggestions! I will probably bring one of two in case I get hungry or miss a meal.

Breakfast:

Lunch/ Dinner:

Bike v2.1

My bike from last year worked out really well. I am going to use the same design this year with some minor tweaks. I got rid of all batteries and switched everything to run off of USB instead!

Roadmaster 26: This is the same model bike I have taken to each burn. They have proven very versatile and reliable. And they go back to Walmart after!

USB Bike Lights: Two strings of these lights run to a dust-proof power bank in the basket. This is able to run the lights for weeks on a single charge, and it recharges via built in solar panel. This technically makes the bike a microgrid in its own right!

Shelf: I added this shelf to the back of the roadmaster. It allows a milk crate to rest comfortable on the back. This makes it a lot easier to bring beer and snacks around with me on the playa.

Front Basket: I added this basket to the front of the bike. While the back basket is great for food and drinks, the front is great for thinks like the power bank, the lock, spare tubes, tools, etc. You don’t want to find yourself in need of these things and not have them handy!

Other Accessories: I found a kit for under $20 at Walmart which contained a lock, pump, bicycle bottle, headlamp, tail light, and a bell. These kinds of kits are usually available and well worth the $20.

Don’t Forget…

One last thing which I suggest is Mack’s silicone earplugs. These are one of the best products I’ve ever spent a few dollars on. I can’t overstate the importance of some kind of sound protection for sleep. There is just no way you are going to sleep at Burning Man without earplugs, and these are absolutely the best option. I have tried many solutions to this problem and I can’t recommend these enough.

Mack's Earplugs