Controlling GPIO with your travel router

The GL-inet range of travel routers are sold with the understanding that we can use them as more than just a router. The idea of being able to interconnect them with everyday items is very appealing. They call this the ‘internet of things’. So the curiosity got the better of me and decided to see if we could do the most basic of tasks. Switch a relay module!

Sounds simple, and sure enough, once we did a bit of research, it was. Keep reading to find out the basics of setting up your GL router to trigger a relay module using the built-in GPIO pins. If the config stuff is a bit boring for you, skip directly to the working video below!

Some light reading/research

  • (Understand how OpenWrt and GPIO works)
  • You will require a GL-inet router. We used a GL-MiFi and a GL-AR150
  • You will also require a 5V relay and some headers/jumpers to connect
  • A soldering iron

Pinouts (For reference)

Solder some header pins to your device

First of all, you will need to decide which what sort of relay you are going to use and which pins to utilize. I only had 5V relay spare, thus I need to grab 5v from the board and a signal from a GPIO pin. Connect the 5V + and GND up and the signal/GPIO.

The gallery above has the pinouts for the GL-MiFi and the AR-150. Check these to determine the pins you want to use.

Add some config to the router

SSH into your router, locate the file: /etc/rc.local – Add the config below. Remember to set the pin number to the GPIO you intend to use. This will enable ‘output’ on that particular GPIO. Also, make sure you insert before ‘exit 0’

Add some config to the router

Shutdown your router. Connect up your relay to the 5V source, and the GPIO you selected in the rc.local config. Power back on your router, SSH back in and run the commands below. “1” will turn the relay on, and “0” should change the state so that it is off.

REVIEW: GL-MiFi 4G Smart Travel Router

If like me, you travel a lot, then having a solid travel router that allows me to work on the move securely and with anonymity is a necessity. The GL-MiFi router has proven to be a solid and reliable unit that has some perks that other travel routers cannot match. This review will cover some of the pros and cons. However, saying that, the Pros far outweigh the cons!

The GL-MiFi is powered by an Atheros AR9331 processor, is small, lightweight and contains a slot for various PCIe 3G or 4G modules. Combine that with 150Mbps Wi-Fi and you have yourself a very powerful little device. The GL-Mifi runs an embedded OpenWrt system, is extremely extendable via hardware and software. It can be used in mobile applications, industrial, commercial or at home.


  • 3G/4G capable
  • Built in Battery for mobile use
  • OpenVPN client capable
  • Excellent portability
  • 6-8hrs uptime on battery


  • When trying to charge the battery, router turns on.
  • GL-inet frontend software can be clunky at times.
  • Sim card can easily be inserted incorrectly.


CPU  Atheros AR9331, @400MHz
Memory  DDR 64MB/ FLASH 16MB
Interfaces  1 WAN, 1LAN, 1 USB2.0, 1 micro USB (power), SIM card slot, MicroSD card slot, Antenna SMA mount holes
Frequency  2.4GHz
Transmission rate  150Mbps
Tx power (maximum)  18dBm
Protocol  802.11 b/g/n
Power supply 5V/2A
Power consumption  <3W
Dimension, Weight 105*72*27mm, 170g

The Hardware

When you first get your hands on the router, you notice that the enclosure is very solid. (As you can tell, I have dropped this unit twice… and it still works!) Nothing about the physical form of this router says “cheap” or “made in China”, The quality is second to none. All clips, buttons, and panels feel as if they will last the distance. This gives me confidence, I was certainly not afraid to throw it in my backpack with all the other crap I carry around.

3G/4G Module(s)

One of the standout inclusions in this travel router is the modulized 3G/4G PCIe cards that can be included. We ordered the Quectel EC25-AU with the unit. The seamless integration of this module with the built-in WiFi means that we can share a 3G/4G connection with as many devices as we need to. The configuration is as easy as inserting a sim card and selecting the region and provider. The module connects very quickly, so long as you have a data plan you will have connectivity to the internet. Of all the GL-inet travel routers the GL-MiFi is the only one with integrated cellular. Sure the other travel routers can use a USB dongle and tether, but nothing beats the quality and reliability of these built-in modules. For more info on the Quectel 3G/4G modules check them out here.

The Software

The GL-MiFi runs an OpenWrt firmware with a custom front-end user interface for its users. I think the ‘vastness’ of the LuCi interface could be a bit daunting for some, so they decided to write a front-end graphical user interface (GUI) that is easier to use and understand. From a basic user point of view, I think they achieved this goal. However some of the more advanced tasks you still need to achieve from the LuCi interface.

The custom interface interacts with OpenWrt and at times can feel a little bit clunky. Firmware improvements are being rolled out all the time and in the few months I have had the unit, I can see that the GL-inet crew are developing this frontend and fixing bugs as they come up.

The Fun Stuff

By Far the coolest part of the GL-inet routers is the fact that they can operate as an OpenVPN client and a Tor router. (We will do a post soon on setting up as a Tor router.) However, for now, we are going to focus on the OpenVPN side of the device. The OpenVPN client can be used in two ways. Either connect to your own self-hosted VPN server or connect to one of the popular paid VPN services. The paid services allowing anonymity and safety of your data whilst traveling, or operate through your own self-hosted VPN for access back into your business or home network. A typical setup of the OpenVPN service through a paid provider can be found here. (The setup on this router is the same for the MiFi)

If you have a keen eye on the GL-inet routers then you might have also seen in the newest firmware an ‘OpenVPN server’ being rolled out in beta form. I am yet to have a play with this, however, it is exciting to see a device no bigger than a rich-mans wallet hosting its own VPN server.

What next?

So many cool things still yet to be achieved with this router. Here is my list, in no particular order, of the bits and pieces I want to achieve.

  • Solar power kit to run the MiFi indefinitely.
  • Run up the Tor firmware.
  • Look at Mesh firmware
  • 3G/4G VPN tunnels into other networks
  • Control relays from GPIO pins onboard.

If you have any thoughts on what else we could do here, let us know in the comments below. Very keen to get your thoughts!!!

Get access to your PI ZERO W without a keyboard, mouse or monitor

So you purchased a Raspberry Pi ZERO Wireless and like me, did not realize that you would have no way to actually access the small form factor computer, because it does not have any standard USB ports. You actually require an OTG cable to attach any peripherals to the PI ZERO… well I have a pretty easy fix for you. It involves building the SD card using ETCHER (As seen here) or check out the links below. Adding a config file for the built-in wireless (Assuming you have a PI ZER W) and turning on SSH. If you can achieve this you will then have unobstructed access to your new PI ZERO wireless.

What do you need?

  • Micro USB cable for power
  • 2.1A Power supply

Step 1. Setup SD card and download your image.

Download Raspbian Stretch Lite and use Etcher to get the image on your SD card. Grab your copy of Raspbian from here. The prerequisite steps here will walk you through Etcher. We will run the ‘Lite’ version on the PI ZERO because it does not have the processing power of the RPI3. Also, there is no point loading the GUI if we do not intend to use it for that purpose.

Note: Once etcher is complete, you may need to unplug/plug your SD card back in. Etcher may unmount the drive for you when it is finished. Also if windows spit up some errors asking to format the drive. Do not do it!

Step 2. Add two files to the PI ZERO SD card to allow wifi and ssh to connect on power up

The first thing we need to do is create two files in the root of the SD card. When you plug the SD card back into your computer, look for the drive called “boot”. You need to create two files. Once called “ssh” and another called “wpa_supplicant.conf” Please note that the file called ‘ssh’ has no file extension, and wpa_supplicant.conf has a file extension of ‘.conf’

The ‘ssh’ file can remain blank, we do not need to add any config to it. This will simply enable SSH on the PI ZERO. However the ‘wpa_supplicant.conf’ file will require us to copy and paste this config onto it.

Step 3. Put the SD card into your PI ZERO and power it up

Put the SD card into the PI ZERO and power up the PI. It will take approx 30sec to a minute for it to power up, get wifi connectivity, grab a DHCP address from your router and enable the SSH service. The problem we have now, however, is that we do not know the IP address of the PI ZERO for us to SSH into.

To find the IP address of the PI ZERO, we are now going to use ‘ANGRY IP’ Scanner on our local computer. You can see a run-down of how to find your RPI IP address here also.

If you don’t want to check out the link above. Then Go download angry IP and run it up. It is pretty easy to use and will ping every active device on your network to tell you if it is UP or DOWN. The hardest part is identifying the correct Pi on the network. If you are like me, you may have more than one.

Step 4. Now that we know the IP address of our PI ZERO, lets try SSH into it.

Open up ‘Putty’ and enter the IP address into the required field. Make sure the SSH radio button is selected. Generally, port 22 is suitable for SSH. (This is the default port.) Then click ‘Open’ at the bottom.

So long as the PI ZERO has wifi connectivity you should now be able to SSH into your PI. I would now start to update the build/packages and also look at changing the hostname so that it can be identified easier on the network.

The easiest way to build a virtual machine

Building a virtual machine can be a bit of a daunting task. However, in this video, we use ‘Virtualbox’ to make it super simple. Virtualbox is a free software title and has a bunch of features that rival other virtualization platforms. The video below gets you up to the stage of installing the operating system. We purposely did not cover this step because all operating systems are different. In our scenario, we use Ubuntu Server, as that is what we will be deploying our VPN server on. However, you may want to use windows 10 or OSX as your OS.

Some additional information and handy links

TIP 1:

If you intend to use USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices with your virtual machine from the host machine then be sure to install the Expansion pack that is separate to VirtualBox. This expansion pack includes tools such as Support to USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices, VirtualBox RDP, disk encryption, NVMe and PXE boot for Intel cards. You can download it here:

TIP 2:

After the setup of the image, you can dismount the image file. Virtualbox should un-mount the image automatically, however, if it does not and you end up back at the OS setup, un-mount the image file and reboot the VM.

How to setup VPN on a mini travel router

In this scenario we want to use a mini travel router to act as a VPN client so that when we connect any device to it we know the data will be safe and traverse via a VPN. This kind of setup has a few benefits. The first being the fact that we only need to load one VPN config onto the router and any device that connects to it will use the VPN. This saves us time in setting up our phone, PC or tablet with the VPN config. We can assume that when connected to the travel router we are using the VPN.

The second is portability and travel. Using the travel router in a hotel or a restaurant means that our data is safe and secure. (Assuming you connect to the local wifi with the travel router in bridge mode.)

For this demo we have decided to use the GL-AR300M Mini smart router. This router acts as an OpenVPN client which is what sets these small devices apart from any others. Not all travel routers have this functionality.

Signing up to a VPN service

The first thing we need to do is sign up to a VPN service. Yes we could run our own VPN server, but whats the point when you can get top class servers and better speeds for a few dollars a month. Not all VPN services are alike. Some keep logs, some don’t, some allow P2P traffic, some don’t (Few VPNs have been able to prove they don’t keep logs….but from a security point of view, a VPN with no logs suits us the best.) We also want to look at where the servers reside and what services we can put over the VPN. For example we do not want to connect to a server in Europe if we are located in Australia. However the Australian server may not allow P2P traffic or torrenting. These are just a few of the things to consider when signing up.

We use IPvanish, it is a reliable, no logging VPN services which we have no issues with. Feel free to give it a go. Or do a quick google search and you will be inundated with services to use.

Where to obtain the config files for OpenVPN?

As we are using the GL-AR300M and it uses the OpenVPN protocol we must search our VPN provider for an OpenVPN configuration and certificate. Without this we cannot connect securely to the VPN service. Most services will have a location and the files will be split into servers. Pick the server you require and download the OpenVPN config and certificate. In out case we downloaded every single OpenVPN config for all servers. We then extracted the config we wanted (A Melbourne based server) and created a .zip file with only that config and the certificate.

Loading the config onto the travel router

Depending on how the OpenVPN config is delivered to you, there may be an additional step to create a zip file with the certificate and the config. At times the OpenVPN config file can include the certificate. But generally for VPN services a separate VPN certificate is used.

Log into the GUI of your router and located the OpenVPN tab. From here we can either upload the OpenVPN config or our ZIP file containing the config and the certificate. Once installed, we can then go ahead and activate the VPN profile. You will see a log at the bottom which indicates if/when it is connected and how much data is passing over the VPN. You can also look into using other settings to confirm that the VPN is being used.

You may be greeted with some VPN authentication. You only need to do this once and it is most likely the same login that you use for the VPN service. For IPVanish it will be the email that you registered with and the same password you use to log into the website.

Once Authenticated, the VPN should be good to go, simply click the ‘enable’ checkbox and ‘apply’ the settings. You should then see the VPN begin to connect. If you get errors in the log at this stage it will be an error with the certificate, OpenVPN config or your Authentication. It is possible to load up multiple OpenVPN configs. Use the dropdown box to select the server/config you want to connect through then click apply.

Some assumptions we have made...

This tutorial assumes that you have already connected your travel router to a hotspot with internet ie. Hotel, Maccas, Home. Obviously this is the link that we will tunnel through with our VPN service. There are some settings to ensure that internet does not work without a VPN connection. This ensures that the VPN is being used at all times. Also we set the DNS to use Google DNS. ( as primary and as alternate.)

Confirm VPN is working

One way to confirm that your internet traffic is travelling through the VPN is to use the website when you are connected. You should see that ‘your’ IP address is that of the VPN server you have selected. Also can check to make sure the DNS servers being used are masked.

Powering Ubiquiti links from 12v

So it seems that I can power a Ubiquiti Bullet and Rocket directly with DC 12v. In the past I have been chasing POE and wasting precious milli-watts converting 12V to POE standard (Usually 24v or 48v) then powering the devices.  A power saving can be made by connecting direct to 12V. If using a solar setup, the power savings can mean more up-time, and better use of your batteries. Some testing will follow this blog post. However in the interim, it seems pretty stable here in the workshop.

How to make your own cable for 12v power supply.

  • RJ-45
  • RJ-35 Crimp
  • Pliers
  • Box Cutter
  • Straight through Ethernet cable

In a nutshell, the Ubiquiti Bullets and Rockets grab power from 4 pins on a standard RJ-45 connector. In our case here in Australia (Blue/White-Blue) pins 4 & 5 will carry 12v+ and pins 7/8 12v-.

Prepare your cable

If you have the resources to cut up a straight-through cable, then go ahead and cut one end off. (Otherwise you will have to complete two terminations) Strip the cable back a bit to expose the pairs of wires. Identify the solid blue and Blue-White wires. These will be your 12V Positive injection points. Now identify the Solid Brown and Brown-White wires. This will be your 12V Negative injection point. From here identify the remaining cores and insert them into an RJ-45 housing.

  • PIN 1 – White-Orange
  • PIN 2 – Orange
  • PIN 3 – White-Green
  • PIN 6 – Green

Now crimp your RJ-45 and you are all done. The bare wires can be used in anyway to inject 12v. ie Barrel jack. I would use a fuse close to the source to protect your equipment. Also confirm the pinouts prior to plugging in. The last thing you want is to fry your Ubiquiti gear.

Or Don't hack up a cable and buy some injectors

If you want that more professional look, then you can always purchase a few of these injectors. Have a look at the specs though and make sure the power inputs are on pins 4/5 and 7/8. Let me know how your setup goes? I really need to do some testing on the longevity of this type of setup. My only concern is that the fluctuating 12v from batteries could damage the Ubiquiti gear over time. Maybe I need to look at a circuit to provide clean power.

The ultimate 4wd spot from above - DRONE

On a recent trip to Kalbarri, we decided that the town was WAY to busy and we should try and go up river. We found some cracker spots for a day trip and decided to put up the drone.

I’m still a bit trigger happy on the drone, but getting smoother with the controls. It did not help sitting in the passenger seat of the 4wd whilst trying to play pilot.

Kalbarri is located approx 5 hours drive north of Perth.

How to setup OpenVPN on a RaspberryPi

Just last week I was setting up IP cameras at home and connecting the irrigation controller to the network and I was opening my network up to the internet WAY too much. (I was port forwarding all kinds of ports.) So to mitigate opening up to the internet so much I decided to set up a VPN tunnel that I could easily connect to which would allow me access to my local network. In a nutshell, instead of opening numerous ports on my router for every device I wanted remote access from, I opened up 1  singular port for the VPN and used OpenVPN software on my phone to connect back. Once connected it behaves as if I was at home and connected locally.

This post will go through the basics of setting up a simple VPN server on a cheap raspberry pi. This example uses the older RPi 2, which is more than sufficient for accessing a few IP cameras and other devices remotely.

The Hardware you will need to gather

  • RPi 2 or 3.
  • Ethernet cable
  • HDMI Cable

  • Keyboard/Mouse
  • 8Gb SD Card

The Software titles you may want to download

PREREQUISITE SETUP - Because we need to get ourselves ready!

The first step is to prepare the SD card for the PI. A 4 or 8Gb SD card will be suitable for the PiVPN installation.

You will first need to download the latest Raspian Lite image (We do not require the GUI for PiVPN) and a copy of Etcher. Etcher will allow you to install and prepare your SD card. It is super easy to use.

Select Image > Select SD card (Make sure you select Correct Drive) > Click Flash.

  1. Select your copy of Raspbian Lite

2. Select the correct drive you want to install the image on. Be sure it is the correct drive as all data will be formatted first.

3. Select Flash – You may get a windows prompt to elevate permissions to administrator.

4. Assuming no errors were found, you can now take the SD card and insert it into the Pi.

How to setup SSH for remote access from our PC

We have chosen to run the Lite version of Raspbian because we do not require the additional overheads of the GUI. The VPN server will sit hidden away and we will connect to is via SSH if we need to. The problem is that SSH is not enabled by default. Thus we require the HDMI cable, a monitor and keyboard to change this first.

Insert the SD card we just made into the Pi and connect the HDMI cable to your monitor. We now need to power up the Pi. You should see the Pi initialize and on first run it may reboot once. The first thing you will have to do is log into the Pi. The default login is:

  • Username: pi
  • Password: raspberry

Viewing the Pi via the HDMI cable and using the connected keyboard and mouse in a PITA, This is why we are setting up SSH, so we can go back to our computer and do all the configuration from the comfort of our home PC.

At this stage we need to enable SSH. To do this type:

Sudo raspi-config

  1. Select “P2 SSH”

2. Select “YES” to enable SSH

3. You will get a confirmation saying SSH is enabled. From this point. All our configuration will be done via Putty. Putty is a SSH/Telnet Client that allows us to connect to the Pi via the SSH protocol. This is common for accessing linux machines. You can get Putty here:

How to find the IP address of our Pi so that we can SSH to it

You should still be logged into the Pi, go back to the command line and type:


We need this IP address so that we can log into the Pi via SSH. Look for eth0 and browse across until you see ‘inet’ This is the IP address we require. In this case the Pi IP address is: – Write this down or remember it.

Open Putty and SSH into the Pi

Enter the IP address of the Pi from the ‘ifconfig’ command. Then Click OPEN. You may be asked to accept some authentication keys. You only need to do this once. You will now be greeted with a similar login screen to previous.

Login as per usual.

Username: pi

Password: raspberry

If you find that some of your keyboard strokes are not the same as mine, you may need to go back into Raspi-Config and change the localization settings or Keyboard options. It also can not hurt to Extend the size of the file system. This will allow the Raspbian build to utilize the full size of the SD card.

PiVPN INSTALL - Now that we are setup, it's time to install and setup!

Now to installing PiVPN. If you are looking at installing PiVPN, then you have probably already been to the website. I just want to make mention that installing software like this could be dangerous if it is not from a trusted source. Basically we are telling the pi to run a heap of commands that are located on the internet. Be sure to check the source first to ensure it is reputable.

The command we are going to run is:

curl -L | bash

If you have not run an “apt-get” update today the first thing that the software will do is run this for you. This ensures all packages are up to date before installing. After the install process you will see the following configuration screens:

  1. This will install OpenVPN

2. At this stage you should be thinking about making the address the Pi was given static. Or logging into your router and “binding” the DCHP address it was given to the MAC address of the Pi. This will allow the Pi to hold the lease and never change.

3. This will change the address. Remembering when it commits the change, your SSH session will drop and you will have to re-establish the session on the new IP address. For now I am going to leave it as as I have bound that IP to the MAC of the Pi on my router.

4. Indicating that you could get IP conflicts if you dont either bind your IP to MAC or exclude that IP from DHCP.

5. This screen is asking you to choose a user to hold your ovpn configs.

6. If you had other users setup then you would be able to select them here. It is generally good practice to Change the users away from the default username and password. For now we will stick with the default.

7. Because this is our only open facing port, we really should keep all software up to date including security patches. Why not do this automatically? Unless you have some configs that you don’t want messed with. Automatic patches can have a tendency to mess with the compatibility of software at times.

8. As per the last screen. Do it! or make sure you keep on top of it manually.

9. UDP will suffice unless you have any additional configs that require TCP.

10. If you don’t want anyone sniffing your VPN out on the default port, feel free to change this default port. However be sure to port forward the new one on your router so that the VPN can be accessed from outside your network. Also remember this port for any config changes that may need to be made.

11. A second confirmation.

12. Choose the encryption type for your server. 2048bit encryption will suffice in most instances.

13. The This screen if indicating the types of keys that will now be generated.

14. Because the Pi has very little processing power it can take 30-45 minutes for it to create the 2048 bit certificate/key. Go get a coffee! If you had of chose 4096 encryption then you would get the option to download some assistance files from the internet. Otherwise generating a 4096bit key on a Pi would take a VERY long time.

15. This screen allows you to set your WAN IP address or set a DDNS account. These can be changed after the fact via the config files however because we have a static address at home, I can leave it as the WAN IP. (I have blanked out some of the IP on purpose.)

16. Here we can set the DNS for our VPN, if you are unsure, just set it to the Google DNS address. ( Primary, Alternate)

18. Everyone loves a good reboot! No time like the present.

19. Just in case you were not sure from the previous screen. Remembering that your SSH session will drop during the reboot. Simply Re-connect to the same IP address after a few minutes.

At this stage it can’t hurt to upgrade the Raspbian image. Run this command:

Sudo apt-get upgrade

This is one of those administration tasks that should be done regularly to keep the Pi image in good working order. Unless obviously you are against keeping software up to date, or you have something specific happening in which you cannot afford for it to be affected by updates.

CREATE A USER - This is how we add clients/ Users to OpenVPN

We now need to configure the server to accept connections from the client devices or computers. To do this we setup a client openvpn configuration file. (.opvn file to be exact) This client file is loaded onto the device that wants to connect to the VPN tunnel. It stores the config and encryption keys to access the VPN.

  1. If you run the command:

pivpn help

You will be greeted with the list of commands that we can now run on the Pi to configure the clients and do other administration tasks.

2. Run the command:

pivpn add

This will start the process of creating a client configuration file. You will need to set a password at this point. Ensure you do not forget it, as you will be required to add it on the Client VPN software when we try to connect.

3. That is it for creating the .opvn client config file. It can now be found as indicated at: /home/pi/ovpns

MOVING THE CLIENT CONFIG - we need to move this config file to our device

In this example we are going to move the configuration file to a windows PC that we want to be able to access the VPN and the local network. We must now use some of the additional software to move or grab this config we just created. In this case we decided to use Filezilla as the Pi image already has SFTP enabled by default.

  1. Open Filezilla FTP client. The configuration details that you need to enter in the top for “Quickconnect” are:

Host: (or put sftp:// it will do this automatically when we select port 22 later)

Username: Pi

Password: raspberry

Port: 22 (SFTP default port)

2. When you hit “Quickconnect” you should see a successful directory listing in the right hand navigation pane. Navigate your way to the ovpns folder (Located in the Home directory, if for some reason it did not default to that) Then identify the client1.ovpn config file that was created earlier. Download this file to your desktop by clicking on it and dragging it to the left pane. Ensure you identify the area you are dragging it to as that is your local computer.

CLIENT CONFIG - We need to setup our client now using that file!

We now have a copy of the OpenVPN config file transferred to our client computer. We will need to go ahead and install the OpenVPN client software located here:

Step through the standard hoops for installing a windows application.

  1. After the OpenVPN software has been installed the Client1.opvn config file needs to be copied to the OpenVPN config folder located here: C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config (For Windows)

2. Run the OpenVPN software. Most likely is will open to your taskbar.

3. Right-Click the icon in the task bar and select “Connect”

Enter your password that we set when we added the client to the Pi VPN server.

4. Once connected you should see the OpenVPN client taskbar icon turn green and the status screen should look like the above.

The VPN server should have setup your routing tables now so that you can access anything inside your local network automatically.

Give it a shot, shoot a ping through to your local router.

What you may also notice is that the VPN tunnel has been assigned a 10.0.8.# address. The VPN server runs its own network for the tunnel with its own DHCP. When another client connects they are allocated another address on this same range. The server looks after the bridging of this network to your own local network.

Building RGB LED Marquee Letters

Tara and I got married this month and whilst doing the prep work for the wedding I came across some large marquee lettering that were up for hire. After talking with the hire company and being given a quote that was absolutely ridiculous, I told Tara that I was going to build our own. Much to her dismay, I did build them, and they were a hit!

Saying that, If you were to build your own, these are the the two biggest questions I would have you ask yourself. 1. Where will you put them? (If you want to place them in front of a table, do not make them 1 meter high like I did.) 2. Cost of materials – Depending where you get the MDF, you may actually be better off hiring them. Time vs Materials.

Materials Required

  • MDF - Approx 18mm Thick
  • Plywood - 3mm or 5mm Ply (3mm Bends easier)
  • Small Tacks and Nails (For attaching Ply to side of MDF)
  • Sanding Sheets
  • CNC Router or Jigsaw (Jigsaw for Hand cuts)

  • White Gloss Paint (Rollers/Brushes etc etc)
  • Fairy light fake bulbs (You can use the lights also)
  • OPTIONAL - Pixel Pusher
  • OPTIONAL - WS2801 RGB LED strings (If you want to control light)
  • OPTIONAL - 5v PSU and travel router to control RGB lights from phone)

Cutting the Letters

Draw up the letters in your favorite CAD/CAM program. I used Aspires Vetric for this. Mostly its a CAM software but still has some good tools for drawings. Another alternative would be to draw it in illustrator and convert to DXF. If you plan to cut the shapes manually, you will need to come up with a template. For smaller letters this could be achieved in Microsoft word and printing the outlines. However for 1 meter tall lettering, your best off cutting on a CNC router.

Ensure the holes for the lighting are spaced evenly. I used a 150mm gap between each light, however you can extend this to not use so many lights, or bring them closer together for more lighting.

Bending and Attaching the Ply

It is actually very surprising how flexible Ply is. Especially 3mm thick ply. Obviously the smaller your lettering the tighter the corners will be. You may even have to wet your ply with water to make that bend. However with these letters I did not have to wet any of it down. The tightest angle was on the inside of the heart shape and the 5mm ply that I used just made it. I could hear some slight cracks, but nothing visual.

The ply is measured and cut to length, I tried to make the seams join at the apex of the cuts. However it does not matter too much where the ply joins as you can hide any irregularities prior to painting. Attach the ply with some overhang at the rear of the letters. This will help to hide any unsightly cabling/wiring later.

We used some black tacks to tack the wood on. Every few centimeters I tacked the ply on. This has held well to date. If you use nails, be careful not to split the MDF.

Painting (The Not so fun part!)

What I will say here is that you should really spend some time sanding. As with all wood projects, any imperfections will be seen if you do not deal with them now. However, knowing that these things are always turned in a dimly lit room may entice you to do a half job here. Also you may want to punch the tacks down below the surface of the wood and use some filler to cover it over. Ok so get painting! we used a gloss, feel free to change it up here.

OPTIONAL - The Electronics

This section is totally optional. I initially used the ‘Christmas’ like lights in the bulbs but found it to be boring. Thus I took it a bit further and installed the WS2801 RGB LED string lights. I acquired these from Aliexpress at a good price. I also used one of the many Pixelpushers I had lying about to drive the RGBs. Using the Pixelpusher for this kind of install is massively overkill however its what I had lying around. The bonus to this is that I could use the LEDlab App and control the lights from my phone. Let me know if you want more info on this setup.

How Do Crypto Fees Work?

Fees are basically broken down into two parts. The first are the Fees that you pay at an exchange to purchase or send crypto currency. The second are fees that are charged as part of the blockchain that are charged when moving crypto between wallets. At the lowest level, we convert our local currency by sending it to the exchange. (A fee will apply) We then purchase some crypto currency ie Bitcoin, NEO, IOTA etc etc. (A fee will apply) We then send the crypto to a wallet. (Another fee will apply). The first Fee is most likely for the service to move your fiat currency to the exchange, the second is for the exchange and the third is the fee that the blockchain/crypto itself will chew up.

So I hear you saying, if there are so many fees what is the benefit of Crypto Currency… Well at present, there is not a lot of incentive to use it. Most of those holding crypto is for investment purposes. The end goal will be to pay with items directly using your crypto of choice. Thus cutting out the middle-men. We will start to see more of this into the future. However for now this is where we are at. I hope to look back on this blog post in 2-3 years and see that we are making progress towards a system that is easy to access and easy to use.

Check, Double Check and Triple Check your Fees

  • Decide on your payment method and Check Fees.
  • Polipay $3.30 each time is not bad
  • Bpay 2% on some exchanges
  • Check wallet fees and ensure you send enough
  • IOTA = No Fees on transactions

  • Check Exchange fees
  • Coinspot 2% - 3% fee for Transactions
  • BTC Markets 0.85% for Transactions
  • Ensure the value sent is what will be received
  • Triple Check Senders Address

Transferring Fiat Currency to Crypto