Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: DoingOutdoor Panasonic NCR18650 Unprotected Lithium-Ion Cells [6 Pack]

From the day I started building USB power packs using 18650 lithium-ion cells harvested from laptop batteries, I've dreamed about replacing every single cell with brand new NCR18650B cells. These packs all take unprotected cells, which is good for my use because these Panasonics are known for being long.

But they are expensive, even direct from China, and a good many are intercepted because customs will arbitrarily decide these types of batteries are too dangerous to ship. They can be had on Amazon, but it's very hard to tell the fakes. Some of these fakes can fool some of the experts.

I decided to take my chances on Amazon, and I have heard of DoingOutdoor, so I bought two of their 6 pack of these cells for about $37 each pack. Pricey, but much cheaper than anywhere legitimate that I've found. I figured that if they weren't legit, then Amazon would take care of me.

Here is the official spec sheet from Panasonic, in PDF format.

Unboxing


The cells are wrapped individually in little cardboard boxes, so they are safe to ship. I doubt Amazon would allow anything unsafe since their name is on it too. They sure look legit to me. The color of the cells, weight, etc., all feel good in my hand.

Box of 6 Panasonic NCR18650B Lithium-Ion Cells, Individually Packaged


Testing


I figured the best way for someone like me to prove these cells are legitimate is to measure and weigh them, and test the capacity, both anecdotally in my 4x18650 Ruinovo USB power bank, as well as my analyzing charger. There's no way a fake is going to measure anywhere near 3400 on the charger, though it takes a LONG time to test these cells, because the charger does a full charge, discharge and then charge again, at 500 mA!

Four Panasonic NCR18650 Lithium-Ion Cells With Four Sony Laptop-Harvested Cells


Weights & Measures


Weight and length both look within spec. I took a random cell out of the box, and got 46 grams on my calibrated scale, and 65.01 mm on my calipers, which wanted to be at 65.00 but kept bouncing back and forth.
Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - Caliper Measurement
Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - Caliper Measurement

Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - On Scale


Test #1 - USB Power Bank


This power bank had 4 decent and matched Sony cells harvested from a laptop battery. They all tested near 2,000 mAh before I put them in, so this has made a decent power pack the last year or so. And other than scratching and killing a couple electronic gadgets from being heavy and aluminum, this Ruinovo power bank has really done well, surviving being carted all over the country in the truck.

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells - 2

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells - 3

The unit charges from a micro USB port at 1 amp. When I first plugged it in, it registered about 25 percent charge, and spent 11 hours charging until it hit full, which is a completely reasonable number. This power pack is now 4-6 full charges for a modern smartphone, actual capacity!

Test #2 - Opus Analyzing Charger


This Opus analyzing charger has constantly surprised me with its results. Cells I thought were good have turned out to be garbage, and cells I thought were garbage have turned out to be workhorses. Science doesn't tell us how to live, but it can measure a battery's capacity like a boss.

These are two cells I pulled out at random and stuck in the charger, knowing it was going to be a long wait.

Test Results: Slot 1 was 3322 and Slot 2 was 3296. Not bad for their first charge cycle.

So, the Opus likes them.



Conclusions


These are the real deal. I started testing them immediately in case I would have to return them, but no need since that USB battery pack is now my precious, and I have the cells to build several more just like it. I have a 6x18650 DIY power bank coming within a week or so. Something that size should be fairly ridiculous with 6 of these bad boys in it.

Sure, there are about a million other USB power packs, but they almost universally lie about their capacity. Most give you the capacity that it would have if it had good cells in it like these, but they put varying degrees of awful Chinese cells in them, usually in the range of about 1,000 mAh each. Having a power pack with a real world capacity of about 13,000 mAh is about as good as you can get at any price.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Still Getting Email Spammed By Epicurious

Almost a month after I unsubscribed from the Epicurious emails, they are still spamming me every day. So far I have unsubscribed, tried to contact them, and filed both FCC and FTC complaints against them.

In the meantime, they happily continue to send me emails.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Help Stop CISA

CISA is a truly awful cyber security bill that has nothing to do with security and everything to do with mass surveillance. Earlier today I dismissed what I thought was a pop-over ad, until I realized that it was a) on my own site! and b) a message from the Internet Defense League, which doesn't activate its messages very often, so I forget that I'm a member and have granted them the ability to put messages on my site when it's really important.

And this is really important. So, if you have a free moment, make sure to visit them or fill the form out on any of the sites they are putting their popovers on. There is also a "CISPA is back" site and lots of other good resources like Fight for the Future, change.org, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

FCC Complaint Against Epicurious

Well, I still continue to get email spam from Epicurious every single day. They didn't honor the unsubscribe request, and I've escalated to filing complaints with the FCC and FTC.

Yesterday the FCC responding to me, saying that they are looking into my complaint, yay!

However, my prediction is that Epicurious will tell the FCC "oops, technical glitch, sorry," take me off their mailing list but continue to spam everyone else who didn't complain to the FCC. But the FCC has a newly-developed spine during Obama's second term, so we'll see how this plays out.

There are also a few more cards to play if I get no love from the FCC complaint. But I'm giving it a week or so before I keep at it. There's also the possibility that they could do something lame or stupid and draw attention to the issue.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

OK Google For The People

The other night someone said "OK Google" to their phone, and every phone in the car responded with that "blunk" noise which means Google is listening to you, and all of our phones searched for "Does Wendy's still have the pretzel burger?" Spoiler alert: It doesn't.

Google listening when the phone is asleep in your pocket is a great feature. Except when it isn't.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Epicurious Email Spam: Continuing Saga

This is a continuation of my first post about epcurious.com sending me unwanted spam emails every single day. I tried unsubscribing, I tried the official email contacts for their domain, and now I'm pondering my next move.

Long beholden to corporate interests, the FCC has recently developed a spine and has an online complaint form that they hopefully look at. Also, from looking at their site, it seems to make a difference whether spam has been going to my phone (wireless) or my desktop PC, in which case it looks like the FTC has a separate complaint form.

Since I read email on both my phone and my desktop computer, I'm going to file complaints with both the FCC and the FTC. The next escalation after this will be to start reporting the epicurious.com domain to individual email providers and keepers of black lists. If the large email providers start treating these emails as the spam they are, then they can stop that spam in its tracks by filtering it before it reaches folks like me.

Below is a screen shot of the FCC complaint I just filed. Usually when I reach about this level of effort, the company spamming me magically stops. But what about everyone else? This is a lot of effort to spend for every single spammer!




A quick visit to the FTC's site, where they say "If you try to unsubscribe from an email list and your request is not honored, file a complaint with the FTC." Uh, yeah, that's exactly what I want!

The FTC asked for company address, phone number, etc., so I Googled them and chose their Los Angeles office for the complaint.

And here we go, a fresh FTC complaint! I don't often need to go this far, but I did say it was on. Oh yes, it's still on.


I've worked in the corporate world, and getting complaints from "three letter agencies" of the government usually doesn't make the boss happy.

I'm sure they will say "oops, sorry, we'll fix it," which I guess is how this game is played. But I have a hard time believing that a large company like this doesn't have the capability to let people unsubscribe from their emails.

More like "Oops, we made a mistake in our financial best interests. Oops, we did it again. Oops, sorry."

 But either one of these agencies could make epicurious change their ways if they really wanted to. As I said, the FCC has recently grown a spine, and the FTC has always had one, so we'll see how this plays out...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Power Of Blogging

Friends and family often comment on how nice it would be to have a blog big enough to fight back
against bullies like spammers, scammers, shady businesses and all other companies and people who deserve to be called out for their bad behavior.

First, it's a lot of work. I think the main factor for the success of anything is the work you put into it. A blog is just a public diary--you still have to write!

Second, the real power of the blog to me is simply the power of search engines like Google, Bing, etc., to index all these blogs. Why should a huge corporation tremble in fear for a small fish like me calling out their behavior?

Because a blog post is a public, permanent record of their behavior. You may say "I'm too little to change anything" because your blog only has 2 readers. But a billion people could find what you wrote if they searched for it hard enough, even without any type of promotion of your blog. If you write something, and it doesn't suck, and people are looking for what you wrote, then they will find your blog.

So, the power of blogging is really the power of Google. And like other aspects of life, it's more what you do with it than how large you are!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Epicurious Obnoxious Email Spam

Some companies have a lot of nerve. As some one who loves to cook, I went to their site and registered about a year ago, I don't remember what for. I also don't remember getting any emails from them until just recently, when they opened the floodgates of spam and started sending me email every day.

"May Take Up To"


I quickly hit 'unsubscribe' on 9-26-2015 and was taken to the following page, where it cheerfully informed me that it "may take up to 10 days" to process my request. At that point, I figured if they honored the unsubscribe request, then it would magically take the full 10 days.



A couple problems with the "may take up to 10 days":

1. They phrase it like some poor intern is in some back room somewhere, furiously typing all these requests. This gigantic corporation, owned by another gigantic holding corporation, is probably working their little fingers to nubs trying to honor your request. Yes, I'm sure that's it.

2. I build large, back end computer systems for a living, and I can assure you that the average database can execute a query to set some flag on some users account in closer to 10 thousandths of a second than 10 days. The computing power needed to set something a database is generally extremely small, even for large databases.

3. It seems a little deceptive to say that it may take up to 10 days, when they know for a fact it will take that long, because that's how they've likely programmed their system. I'd be interested to see even one legitimate case where it took less.

My guess is that 10 days is the most realistically plausible number a gigantic corporation thinks it can get away with. Also, companies that push the boundaries often don't honor unsubscribe requests at all.

Day After Day


True to their word on 9/26/2015 of "may take up to", they happily continued to send me emails every day:





Day 11, Day 12...


Who could have predicted that they wouldn't honor an unsubscribe request. Say it isn't so! I might have even read/liked some of those cooking tips if they weren't so obnoxious about it.


Ok, It's On


A company is supposed to honor an email unsubscribe request, at least in this country. A quick WHOIS check, and it sure looks like they are in this country.


I just sent an email just now to both email contacts listed for epicurious.com.



What Next?


Usually the next step in my spam hunting is where I report back that the company eventually replies back to me, informing me that it was a mistake, and taking me off the list. Oops. Now, what do you think the odds are that they start honoring all their unsubscribe requests after somebody points out the problem?


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Amazon Guaranteed Shipping Is A Scam

Image result for amazon primeI'm a big lover of Amazon Prime. I place orders all the time, and most of the time with Prime, it make sense versus driving to somewhere like Target and paying a little more. Why spend that time and gas to drive across down when I can walk across the driveway?

Now, the main reason to drive to somewhere like Target or Home Depot is when you need it right now. But for the most part, waiting 2 days for prime isn't a problem. Except when it's 3 days. Or 4 days, or more.

The problem with Amazon is that they give you messages at checkout telling you that your order is guaranteed by a certain date, if you order within a certain time. Just the other night, I bought something, where it gave me the message that I would get it by Tuesday if I ordered in the next 29 minutes, so I clicked the order button.

But Amazon's "guaranteed delivery" is really just a best effort. It's not a real guarantee, which normally comes with some other promise. Guaranteed, or what?

If you can't answer the "or what?" part, then your guarantee is not worth anything. Here is a landing page which explains how to get that awesome guaranteed delivery. It all sounds great, but notice that the guarantee is the only promise. They even state "Note: Your delivery date promise for Guaranteed Accelerated Delivery will state Guaranteed and be displayed on the final page before you place the order." Notice that they don't tell you what will happen if your order doesn't arrive on time.

So it's a promise! They promise to get your package there on a certain date, not a promise to do their best to get it to you by that date--it's a promise to get it there on that date!

Supposedly buried in the fine print is the knowledge that you can get a free extension of your Prime service. It's not a horrible "or what?" but it still bugs me. They know when they break their promise because they know when something is delivered. But they are happy breaking their promises and letting you figure out what your recourse is.

As much as love Amazon, they are getting kind of slimy.

Update: After emailing them at cis@amazon.com they extended my Prime subscription by a month. That's something, but it still bugs me that guarantee something that's out of their control.