Fukubukuro (lucky bag) is a tradition among Japanese merchants of offering grab bags with random mystery items sold at a deep discount. Even stores as large as Apple will offer mystery bags and they can contain big items like laptops. Traditionally these bags are sold around New Year’s, but are sometimes available before and around Christmas.
Here in the US, we don’t have as much access to deals like this and many times there isn’t much hope for items that are useful or valuable. My theory is that if you really want a chance of getting something worthwhile, stick to a site that normally sells items of interest to you unless you are curious in some real randomness. For some mild entertainment check out the Meh Kickstarter campaign where they offered Fukubukuro bags as rewards. Then look up the forums where people post about the stuff they got.
When looking for parts or ideas for my projects I usually check out sites like Adafruit, SparkFun and SainSmart. They each offer various Arduino compatible hardware and a variety of their own specialities. For three years now, SainSmart has offered Fukubukuro bags in various price points for the last few years and I have enjoyed participating albeit at a smaller, low-risk level.
In 2015, I tried out the $60 bag and got the following items:
|Item||Approx. Value at the time|
|Nano v3 Starter Kit||$40|
|Raspberry Pi case (x2)||$6|
That is over $100 value based on the retail prices at the time and most of it is useful to me in some way (I like the idea of NFC, but I am still trying to find a really fun or useful application for NFC).
In 2016, I ordered a $40 bag and a couple 3D LED Christmas trees (I’ll write about that experience in a separate post). I don’t know why I spent less that time after being so successful the first time. I didn’t take notes like I did the first time so I am not certain of the value at the time and if this is everything, but here is what I know I got:
- The big item in there was a laser measuring meter (similar to this one but in red.)
- A scientific calculator
- An Arduino Pro Mini, but it does not appear to have marks to indicate what frequency or voltage it operates at.
There might have been something else in there, but I have since forgotten. The laser meter is quite handy (during those times I remember where I put it last.) I have no idea what I will do with the scientific calculator. The mini arduino will be useful at some point, although it has sat forgotten the past year in the box with the LED trees.
Last week, I got the notification that they were selling bags again this year. They are offered in three different sizes (Basic for $60, Advanced for $110 and Premium for $170) and this time they even provided some hints about items that could come in them.
The basic bag looks good but I have versions of almost all the tools mentioned so I wouldn’t get as much value. The premium bag has some really cool possible items, but they just don’t fit with what I have time for. The advanced bag on the other hand has several things of interest to me:
- The self balancing robot definitely looks cool
- I like the 8″ LCD screen for Raspberry Pi–I am sure I could put that to use
- I am curious about the smart soldering tool since my portable soldering iron is pretty old and very basic
- RetroPie game kit–I have one, but this includes the SNES controllers and I can use an extra Pi 3
- LCD touch display for Raspberry Pi. Maybe this would make a good addition to the 3D printer.
- 21 segment VU meter tower would be an interesting project
- A non-contact AC voltage detector (I could have used one a few times in the last couple years, but I haven’t brought myself to buy one yet)
With these interesting options in there, I decided to order multiple bags to increase my chances of getting the items I am hoping for. I expect there will be certain duplicates, but some of those items I can put duplicates to use or find someone who would like them.
I plan to do a write up of unboxing (or is it unbagging?) of these once they arrive which should be some time this week. The shipment made incredible time from China to Anchorage via Cincinnati and has been handed over to USPS to make it the rest of the way to Juneau.
- Inductive coil – these are great for measuring current on a high voltage line, but they are a bit more expensive than I liked and I only need to detect on and off. I could build one, but it will take a bit of tinkering without an AC power supply for testing. There are split core sensors that can be clipped over a wire, but they run more than $8 each.
- DC power adapters – It is possible that I could find an adapter, but there aren’t a lot of options that run on 24 VAC.
- Optocouplers – these are built specifically for the purpose of interfacing high and low voltage systems without directly connecting them electrically.
- Hall effect current sensor – kind of a cross between optocouplers and inductive sensors. The current is passed near a sensor that senses the amount of electromagnetic force.
- 4x IL250 (I got 5 for about $8 on eBay)
- 4x 510 ohm, 2 watt resistors (input current limiter)
- 4x 220 ohm resistors (output current limiter)
- 4x LEDs (The diagram shows red, but I used different colors-more on that later)
- 4x electrolytic capacitors
- speaker wire for furnace hookups
The circuit design is pretty simple. On the input side, there is a 510 ohm resistor to keep the current around 47 to 50 mA. If the voltage was consistent at 24, it would be on the low end of that, but it measures out closer to 27. This chip will take up to 60 mA, so there should be enough of a margin for safety. Initially, I tested the circuit before considering the power on the input resistors. .05 x 24 = 1.2 watt I only had quarter watt resistors on it, but they managed to work for a while with just a bit of discoloration from heat. Once I realized this problem, I disconnected everything for a while while I waited for the new resistors to arrive.
- As I mentioned, the voltages are opposite of what I thought I remembered from probing. The data logging side is fixed through software, but I still want to rework the circuit so the LEDs operate correctly.
- I still have an issue with it starting up with it registered through update-rc.d, so I used rc.local to force it to startup instead. I may look into it at some point, but this method is working for now.
- The thermostat terminals on the furnace controller aren’t as useful as I had hoped. This connection tells the controller unit that heat is needed, but is not a direct indication that the furnace is burning. Somewhere in the controller, it starts and stops the furnace to keep the water between the set temperature range. I have a few ideas to monitor actual burner operation, but I will continue to look into it and cover this in a later post when I have some options detailed out.
- The day after I got all the wires hooked up, the Pi became unresponsive on the network. Following this post, I put in a script to monitor the wireless connection and reinitialize it when it drops. So far this seems to have kept the Pi on the wireless.
- One oddity that shows up in the data is a 10 second on time after each zone valve has been off for roughly a minute. I considered that something is causing the zone valve to miss its stop point and rotate again, but it shouldn’t take a minute to get back around. I will ignore these 10 second results and look into this phenomenon further.
- I may try using Dropbox for updating the web pages instead of FTP.