The COVID-19 situation has thrown the whole world into a loop - myself included. In mid-March, I was supposed to begin a month-long holiday but that plan fell right apart after just eight days overseas, as the Australian government implored all its citizens to return home ASAP. Being the lucky person that I am, I made it to home quarantine on the final day before state border closures amongst other new restrictions.

 

But before leaving on holidays, I was the lucky recipient of "Giving Gifts on Valentines' Day" (thanks garengllc!) which includes a tool-kit and $100 shopping cart, a t-shirt thanks to the MEMS Quiz and some swag thanks to the Project14 Acoustics challenge. Not wanting to be imposing, I decided to ask tariq.ahmad to work with danzima to see if it was possible for them to combine items together and consolidate it into a single shipment - hoping this would save on shipping costs. We did have a bit of back-and-forth since I am in a 230V (post-harmonisation) country and it seems some of the tool-kit prizes were not suitable, so I went in search for some replacements. This delayed the process somewhat, along with waiting for the items from the shopping cart to arrive. Once COVID-19 hit in full force, it seems that working from home became the new norm all of a sudden. But ever appreciative - I didn't mind waiting a bit longer.

 

On Friday this week ... with a loud thunk at the door, the UPS driver dropped off a rather long box. Without so much as waiting for our thanks, the driver ran off - probably to avoid possible COVID-19 transmission and to respect social distancing requirements.

Another possible reason is the fact that the package looks like it's been bashed quite a bit in its long journey from the US. Even the packing tape was struggling to keep the lid closed.

It seems that element14 elected to send the package using UPS Expedited - it was definitely fast compared to World Saver, as it arrived well prior to its Wednesday estimated delivery time. A record for the COVID-19-era indeed. The downside seems to be the implementation of an unintended shuffling function, free of charge. Note how the paper manuals for both the fume extractor and soldering iron both landed outside the box somehow ... although perhaps the lack of void fill was a contributing factor. By all accounts, it looks like it all arrived here safe-enough.

 

So what did I get inside the big box of goodies?

The winnings from the Valentines Day gift giving included a Duratool Fume Absorber and Fan, Tenma Soldering Station, Multicomp Pro DMM, two Stripper/Crimper Pliers of different designs, a pocket screwdriver with interchangeable bits and a stubby 11-in-1 screwdriver/nut driver. Definitely quite the bunch of stuff to keep me busy ... in fact, I'll probably take some time to review these products when I have time. Some of them are being tested as we speak ...

Inside one of the padded bags is the promised element14 T-shirt - my collection of this type has grown quite a bit! Alongside is one of their breadboards as well (the second one in my collection), which comes in quite handy when I need to knock up something quickly, e.g. for my B&K Precision/Sefram DAS240-BAT Multi-Channel Logger RoadTest where I used one to distribute the incoming voltage signal to all channels.

 

And the Shopping Cart?

The final padded bag was the contents of the shopping cart, which I decided to spend on a Raspberry Pi 4 (2GB RAM) single-board computer (since I didn't have any at the time), some MOSFETs and Schottky diodes which I intend to use to repair the Rohde & Schwarz HMP4040.04's fourth channel - something I started but couldn't finish before, two flux-dispensing pens (which are also useful for SMD repair) and two fibreglass pencils to clean up PCBs (i.e. tools I should have but for some reason, do not).

 

Unfortunately, I had also ordered a set of Littelfuse NANO2 7A Fuses, also necessary for the HMP4040.04 repair that did not arrive, but in its place seems to be two more fibreglass pencils. That was definitely not expected and could be a sign that something had gone wrong in the backordering process. I await further instructions from element14 to see what can be done.

Little did I know that Hackster.io was also sending me Raspberry Pi 4 (2GB RAM) board along with badge and sticker. Had I known this, perhaps I wouldn't have been so hasty to spend almost half the shopping cart on one - but I suppose I have no regrets, after all, the Pi 4 is a beastly SBC.

 

I wrote about this in my birthday post over at my personal blog, but I feel that the Raspberry Pi certainly has moved a long way from where it started. The use of USB-C, higher powers, micro-HDMI and yet another different physical board layout means that I'm suddenly needing to buy accessories to get this board up and running. Compared to the older boards, board cost here seems to have incrementally crept up, and once accessories are added in, the Raspberry Pi isn't as cheap of a proposition as it used to be. The payoff, however, will be drastic as this board has proper USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet, along with a more powerful CPU and faster/bigger RAM. Somehow I'm still of the opinion that you can do a lot with just a little (so I actually do quite like the Zero W even though it's very hard to get), but I'll see if I can be swayed. But first impressions are quite surprising - having two 4K monitors running at 30Hz out of a tiny board like this feels rather surprising and awesome, even if it does struggle a little bit. That being said, I do have a 3B+ here which has been quite my favourite for some time (as compared to my 3B which likes to overheat), so perhaps after some time, I'll grow to love and demand more Raspberry Pi 4 in my diet. Until such time, I'll be patiently waiting for my accessories to arrive to make the full use of the board - including cases and cables/adapters.

 

Conclusion

As always, thanks to the guys at element14 for getting this out to me given the challenging conditions (even though there seemed to be some discrepancies). Prizes are always appreciated, but not expected, and if anything I definitely have this community to thank for a lot of interesting projects and endeavours across the Project14, Essentials and RoadTest programs.

 

In return, look out for future blog postings covering some of the goodies from this haul and what I honestly think about them, along with some test results, as usual.