Camping Shower

There are a lot of different camping showers available for folks that want to go camping but don’t want to wash themselves with a towel.  Some have heaters, some have pressure tanks and a lot are ridiculously expensive.  I recently was faced with having to choose between the various options and I ended up grabbing one of Jaycar’s 12V Camping Showers.

Camping Shower

Now everyone’s needs will be different, but here are the reasons I went with this particular type of shower:

  1. We take a sedan camping, with no trailer, so space is at a premium.  There’e no room for large, solid showers.
  2. We have a supply of well water where we camp, which is clean but ‘hard’ (high level of dissolved minerals like calcium) — so no point getting anything with an element to heat the water as it would scale up immediately.
  3. There are no convenient trees at our preferred camping spot which could be used to hoist anything of substantial weight high above our heads, so the water would need to remain at ground level.  Gravity feed isn’t an option.
  4. Water is heated primarily by our 20L solar heater (basically a black bag you fill with water and place in direct sunlight to heat up during the day so you can then have a shower in the afternoon/evening) and boosted by our 20L Hillbilly as required — so appropriately mixed water for individual showers is available in a 10L pop-up silicone bucket.  No need for the shower to do any heating or mixing at all.
  5. I already have a Kincrome Power Pak Plus — a lithium ion battery pack that can jump start cars, power 12V devices, and recharge laptops, phones and other USB devices — so the shower doesn’t need its own power supply.
  6. The shower pump can’t be too powerful as we don’t want to waste a lot of water.  Even though the supply is unlimited, actually getting and hauling it is a pain.

After thinking everything through it was decided that the most logical type of shower would be a submersible pump (which could be dropped in the bucket), drawing 12V DC (from the Power Pak Plus, not the car battery), with a long enough power cord to keep the battery well away from the shower, and a long enough tube between the pump and the shower head to allow the latter to be hung up on a spare tent pole, and a waterproof switch to turn the pump on and off.

It was a toss-up between the Jaycar 12V Camping Shower and a Primus 12V Shower.  Both look almost identical and, apart from colour, may very well be.  I was heading into Jaycar anyway, so that made the decision easy.  Cost was a very reasonable $30.

The power cable is about 4.8m long and the tubing is 2.1m long.  The whole unit weighs 1kg and fits in a small bag.  I could find no details online (for either product) about water consumption rates — an important issue for me — so I did some tests with the Jaycar 12V Camping Shower as soon as I got it home.

The shower head has a pin which you can push to vary the flow rate from maximum to closed.  With the pin in the maximum position, the flow rate is 3.4 litres per minute.  With the pin in the minimum position, the flow rate is 1.5 litres per minute.  Minimum is fine for us, so we’re looking at about a 6 minute continuous shower per 10L bucket — plenty.

The Power Pak Plus should be able to run the submersible pump (which is rated at 1.5A/18W) for 3.7 hours of continuous use — about 33 showers — before it needs recharging.  That is plenty considering our regular getaway is only four days/three nights long.  Pumping water should use up only about 18% of the available power on any particular trip — leaving 82% for other devices or an emergency jump-start.

So, everything’s looking good so far. How long the Jaycar 12V Camping Shower will last is anyone’s guess, but at only $30 it’s an inexpensive experiment to conduct.  I’ll try to remember to update this page when the unit dies so you can get an idea of its life expectancy.

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Dremel Chain Saw Sharpening Attachment

Dremel Sharpening KitDremel sell a Sharpening Attachment Kit with an attachment for sharpening chainsaw chains.  If you follow the instructions included in the kit you will damage your chain, cause extra wear and tear on your bar and chainsaw, go through more fuel and oil, find cutting more difficult and tiring, have difficulty cutting straight lines, and may put yourself at more risk of kickback and personal injury.


The Dremel A679-02 Sharpening Kit owner’s manual can be found at the product page under “Product Support”.  It consists of two manuals in a single PDF — one for Lawn Mower and Garden Tool Sharpening (Model 675) and the other for Chain Saw Sharpening (Model 1453).

If you own the kit and want to learn how to sharpen a chainsaw chain using the chain saw sharpening attachment, then you will probably read that manual.

In the SHARPENING THE CHAIN section, Step 4 instructs you to:

Turn the saw around so that you are looking at the side of the chain bar with the motor to your left. Sharpen the cutter teeth on the far side of the chain, from inside to outside, or away from you, as shown in Figure 6. The guide should be laid flat on the tooth with the 30° index line parallel with the chain.
Repeat the process above to sharpen all of the cutter teeth on the far side of the chain.

Figures 5 and 6 (the one referred to) are reproduced below:

Dremel Chainsaw Sharpening Attachment Manual Fig 5 and 6

Step 4 and Figure 6 are incorrect.

In Figure 5 you can see that the guide rests on the top plate of the cutting tooth.  If you turn the saw around, as instructed in Step 4 and shown in Figure 6, the guide will rest on a depth gauge and not the top plate of the cutting tooth.

The guide is designed to rest exclusively on the top plates of cutting teeth.  Depth gauges are lower than top plates, so resting the guide on depth gauges will result in you grinding the cutting corner and side plate too low.

If you consistently grind the left-hand cutting teeth lower than the right-hand cutting teeth the saw chain will not cut evenly through the wood and will pull to one side.  This will make it harder to cut straight, increase the amount of pinching and jams on larger diameter logs, and increase the chance of kickback when cutting with the top of the bar.


The sharpener (as currently designed and sold) can only sharpen evenly if both left-hand and right-hand cutting teeth are sharpened from the same side — as per Step 2 and illustrated in Figure 5 — with the motor to the right.

This YouTube video (Chainsaw sharpening. Simple DIY Dremel type rotary tool.) shows the process correctly.

Note that even Dremel’s own videos (e.g. Sharpening a Chainsaw: Dremel Rotary Tool) contradict the manual and show the correct approach (i.e. sharpening from one side), but some (e.g. Sharpening a Chainsaw: Dremel 8200Sharpening a Chainsaw Blade: Dremel Rotary Tool) make major errors (e.g. resting on depth gauges and grinding at incorrect angles).  It does not appear as though anyone who actually knows how to sharpen chainsaw chains was consulted when Dremel made their chain sharpening videos, so it’s probably a good idea not to trust any of them.

Bonus Tips

1:  When sharpening the teeth closest to you exercise a little bit more care — you don’t want to jab the grinding stone into the side plate.

2:  Dremel’s sharpening stones (i.e. 453, 454 and 455) wear out and will need to be replaced on a regular basis.  When grinding, steady, full-length strokes will evenly wear out the stone and maximise its life.  Depending on how much metal you need to grind off each time, the stone may need to be replaced after as few as three or four chains.  If your conditions are such that you are wearing out a lot of chains, consider purchasing third-party “diamond chainsaw sharpener burrs” — they are quite cheap to source online and last about three times as long.

3:  Due to the direction that rotating tools rotate (i.e. virtually always clockwise, from the point of view of the tool) this attachment will result in metal fragments being thrown downwards and into the chain.  Due to the presence of bar and chain oil, some of these fragments will stick in between the links.  When you operate your saw, these fragments will cause a small amount of extra wear on the chain, bar and sprockets before finally dislodging.  If this sort of thing concerns you, then consider using a set of 2, 3 or even 4 chains, waiting until all of them need sharpening, then sharpening them together and, after they have been sharpened, wash them all clean in a petrol bath.  The petrol will dissolve the oil and release the filings, along with any other gunk in the chain, and prevent any of the filings lodging in your bars or sprockets.  (Some folks like keeping their chains clean this way regardless of how the chain is sharpened.)

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Internet Radio

I have elderly parents (in their 70s).  They immigrated to Australia (from Finland) nearly half a century ago.  As they get older, their immigrant friends are dying off.  Living in the country, as they do, they are feeling more and more isolated.  Their English is (still) not very good so reading local papers or understanding television news is… difficult.

They used to listen to Radio Finland when it was still broadcasting on shortwave, but that service was shut down about a decade ago.  They also had a subscription to Suomi Newspaper but dropped that for the same reason most people drop newspaper subscriptions.  Finnish language library books are hard to come by, dated, very few in number and logistically a pain to source.  I tried setting them up with a computer in the 90s but that failed — it was all too complicated (it would fail even harder today because their hands are shaking and mouse-control would be impossible; no chance at all with a track-pad).  Things looked grim.

Then, for inexplicable reasons, the little country town they live in all-of-a-sudden got connected to the NBN.  (Wow.  I’m in the city of 30,000 and won’t see the NBN for at least three more years, but a little town of 500 in the middle of nowhere is already connected.  The Australian federal government is just so broken.)

Anyway, I latched on to that news and decided to give the Internet another shot.  This time my strategy would be different.

  1. I’d pay for everything (router, connection, monthly fees) so there was no financial risk involved in them giving it a go.  There was nothing to lose.
  2. I’d start by giving them something back that I knew they would use… and use that as a foot in the door to expose them to bigger and better things.
  3. I’d use technology and approaches that made things as simple as possible.  It would need to be as easy to use as a kitchen appliance for it to work, so this was important.

After lots of thought and lots of research I finally decided to start with Internet Radio.

In the old days, the radio would be in the kitchen.  They would turn it on at the start of the day and let it run — only adjusting volume during the day.  They never changed stations.  When the signal got too weak, dad would go into the forest, cut down a taller tree, bring it home and use that as the new mast for the antenna.  Whether or not that actually accomplished anything I do not know, but it made him feel good.  Simple times.

There are currently at least 83 Finnish radio stations broadcasting on the Internet, and at least three of these play ‘old time’ music.  Perfect.

I researched hardware Internet radios — devices that look like old radios with an ethernet or Wi-Fi connection that plugged into your home network and tuned into stations that way — but decided against them after reading a pile of negative reviews.  The majority of complaints stem around complexity, reliability and, worst of all, codecs.  All Internet radio stations much choose what format to encode their broadcast streams in (MP3, AAC, WMA, …).  Hardware manufacturers build decoding circuitry into their devices to handle those formats.  The decoders cannot (usually) be modified.  So when the Internet radio station decides to change or upgrade codecs — everything breaks.  The stream, more often than not, simply stops working.  At that point, you’re left with an expensive boat anchor and, in most cases, there is no way to fix the problem by way of a firmware upgrade.  No thanks.

Having previously exposed the folks to tablets (specifically, iPads), it was known that direct interaction with objects on a touch-screen was still within their ability.  No abstraction between control device and on-screen pointer, and no double-clicking — just tap what you want (and maybe a little bit of swiping as well).  So I pressed an old iPad (v1) into service and reset everything.  I bookmarked direct links to a variety of radio stations and placed their icons on the home screen.  Tested it all on my network — no problems.

Once the NBN connection was up and running at their place, I made the trip and connected the iPad to their network.  A small amount of training later and the folks were able to:

  • turn the iPad on
  • swipe to go to the home screen
  • select the desired radio station from the half-dozen or so that were there
  • wait for the page to fully load
  • hit a play button to start the stream
  • adjust the volume
  • close the page/stream
  • turn the iPad off

I then left the iPad with them.

One week later I gave them a call and asked how it was going.  They said that they were listening to radio for up to 5 hours a day.  The only thing that stopped them from listening for longer was the battery — it kept running out.  Overall rating:  8/10.  Success!

Ok, now even though five hours was pretty darned good for an ageing iPad, that battery issue needed solving.  The sound quality out of the iPad’s tiny speaker also left a lot to be desired.

A subsequent experiment with a JBL Clip+ bluetooth speaker was marginally successful — much, much better sound, and better battery life, but more complicated (did anyone really think it would be easy for a 70-year-old to pair Bluetooth devices?) so it was time to think of something else.

Then, as chance would have it, Apple refreshed its iPod Touch line.  The iPod touch is basically a smartphone without the phone.  It’s got the camera and everything else.  It runs iOS — the same OS that the folks were already using — but, unlike the iPad (which was stuck on iOS 5 and could therefore only install a limited amount of apps from the App Store) the 6th Generation iPod Touch runs the latest version of iOS and can install pretty much anything — including dedicated Internet Radio apps.  Bingo!

Even though an iPod screen is smaller than the iPad, for playing music this doesn’t matter — the size of the icons is the same (there’s just less empty home screen space on an iPod).

I was focused on trying to optimise the Internet Radio experience for them so I had to do two things: make it simpler and get better quality sound.  The key to the puzzle was hunting down a straight-forward, no-frills dock/speaker for the iPod.  This… was… a… pain…

Since the folks aren’t interested in listening to radio on the go, the dock didn’t need to be portable.  Since running out of, replacing and recharging batteries is a pain, it had to run off AC.  It had to have decent sound quality.  It had to have a Lightning connector — the same as the iPod.  It wasn’t allowed to have any stupid features, like a clock, or an alarm, or a remote control, or any of that garbage.  All it needed was an ON/OFF button, volume UP and volume DOWN.  Do you know how many docks are that elegantly simple?  I found only one.

JBL OnBeat Micro

The JBL OnBeat Micro appears to actually be a discontinued product, and was notoriously difficult to source in Australia.  I ended up getting one from eBay for $69 and tested it out.  It worked.  So I bought two more.  The folks can put them in different rooms and, if one fails, they still have spares.

I experimented with a few different Internet radio apps but finally downloaded Simple Radio by Streema from the App Store.  It’s simple — really simple — and a quick in-app purchase unlocks all the featues and, most importantly, gets rid of the distracting ads.  The result is an app that you simply launch, it goes straight to your favourites list, and you tap the station you want to listen to.  That’s it.  Perfect.

The iPod now sits in a dock.  The docks are always connected to AC power.  The Lightning connector keeps the iPod fully charged all the time — no battery issues, no cables, no manual charging.

To listen to the radio the folks simply:

  • press the ON/OFF button on the dock to wake the iPod up
  • swipe to go to the home screen
  • tap the Simple Radio icon
  • tap the radio station of choice to start streaming
  • adjust volume using the +/- buttons on the dock
  • press the ON/OFF button on the dock to stop listening

Having launched the app once, iOS remembers it and the station being played, and makes it available directly from the lock screen… which simplifies things considerably:

  • press the ON/OFF button on the dock to wake the iPod up
  • press the PLAY icon on the lock screen to resume streaming
  • adjust volume using the +/- buttons on the dock
  • press the ON/OFF button on the dock to stop listening

That’s it.  Two presses to start listening to radio.  One to turn it off.  Easy-to-access +/- buttons to adjust volume.  Never-ending amounts of nice-sounding radio/music.

Problem solved.  Happy parents.  :)

Troubleshooting Tips

Of course there were many obstacles in getting Internet radio to work this smoothly.  Some are mentioned above.  A few, however, were particularly difficult to pin down.  This section is provided to hopefully save some folks out there some frustration.

Using a web browser to play Internet radio

I started by using an iPad and Safari to play radio directly inside the web browser and it worked fine.  When I tried to play radio using Safari (or Chrome) on the iPod, however, it would cut out after about 10 minutes.

Somewhere between iOS 5 (which was on the iPad (v1)) and iOS 8 (which was on the iPod Touch (6th Generation)) Apple decided to add energy-saving code to the OS which would suspend apps that it thought weren’t being used any more.  Now, it completely escapes me how a browser app that is actively playing audio can be treated this way, but it is.  If you play radio/music using a browser on iOS 8 you will get cut off after 10 minutes.

There is no workaround to this that I know of.  Further, iOS 8 made the audio controls in Safari tiny so I’m not that interested in trying.  They are now too small for old folks to use.

Using an app to play Internet radio

You would think that all dedicated Internet Radio apps would be treated as such and would not be suspended by iOS 8 — but that’s not always the case.  Smaller apps, often dedicated to a single station (like Greek Radio 89MHz) get suspended after 10 minutes.

It feels like the app is not making the right calls to the iOS framework, and kAudioSessionCategory_MediaPlayback and UIBackgroundModes has probably got something to do with it, but I don’t code iOS so don’t know for sure.  In any case, it’s not an end-user-resolvable issue.

The apps made by big Internet radio companies do not get suspended.

JBL OnBeat Micro standby mode

Due to retarded EU regulations, JBL was forced to add detection circuitry into the OnBeat Micro that switches the dock/speaker into standby mode if no audio is detected for about 9 minutes.  While this bureaucratic regulation was bad enough, JBL made a big mistake in how they implemented the detection mechanism.

It seems like the dock probes the lightning connector on a regular basis and detects if a certain signal is being sent or variable is being set.  If you are playing audio/music using the default Apple iTunes/Music app, then everything is fine — the OnBeat Micro lets you play as long as you like.  If, however, you are using a web browser, or many, many other apps, then this signal/variable is not being sent/set and the dock goes into standby mode (slow blinking white light) after 9 minutes.  This. Is. Infuriating.  (And probably has a lot to do with why the unit has been discontinued.)

What they should have done is just detected the audio level going to the speaker and, if it was too low for too long, then go into standby.  But they didn’t do that.

There are ways to stop the JBL OnBeat Micro from going into standby after 9 minutes but they involve playing silent audio files, installing and backgrounding config apps, and jailbreaking the device.  Way.  Too.  Hard.  Apple is on a crusade to stop this sort of thing so any solution is likely to break each and every time the iOS updates.

The solution, for me, was to just keep installing and testing Internet Radio apps until I found some that play through the OnBeat Micro for at least 11 minutes without entering standby.  If they do that, then see if they make it to 20 minutes without being suspended by the iOS.  If they pass that hurdle then you should be fine.

Note:  If you use iTunes/Music it will ask you if you are still listening after about 5 hours and, if you don’t answer, will suspend the app.

For the record:  JBL OnBeat Micro + iPod Touch (6th Generation, iOS 8) + Simple Radio by Streema (v3) streams Internet radio for at least 12 hours.  Good enough for me.


One final issue was that of bandwidth.  Would the folks blow the quota of the NBN plan that they had?  What happens if they set it playing, turn the volume down real low, forget it’s on, and leave it for a month?  Math time:

A 128kb/s stream chews through:

  • 128/8= 16kB/sec
  • 16*60= 960kB/min
  • 960*60= 57,600kB/hr
  • 57600/1024= 56.25MB/hr
  • 56.25*24= 1350MB/day
  • 1350/1024= 1.32GB/day
  • 1.32*31= 40.87GB/month … if left on all day, every day, for a 31-day-long month.

The folks have a 300GB plan, so would have to listen to 300/40.87= 7.34 radios all day, every day, all month long to come close to blowing their quota.  Either that or listen to one radio for 24*7.34= 176 hours each and every day.  Not.  Remotely.  Possible.

There’s plenty of bandwidth in a 300GB plan for as much radio as the folks could ever realistically listen to, even with multiple radios, and there’s still plenty left over for other uses.

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Simpson SR300B Manual

Simpson SR300BHere is a scan of the “Use and Care” manual that came with the Simpson SR300B refrigerator.  The SR300A and SR300C are very similar, so most (but not all) of the information in this manual applies to them as well.

Simpson started manufacturing appliances (in Adelaide, South Australia) in 1909.  They merged with Pope Industries in 1963.  They were then absorbed into Email Limited in 1986.  Email was broken up in 1999 and the Swedish multinational Electrolux acquired the major appliances group.  It has progressively shut down all fridge manufacturing plants in Australia.  The last remaining plant (in Orange, New South Wales) will close in 2016.

The Simpson SR300B is a 300L, frost-free, two-door fridge, with the freezer on the top and the fridge underneath.  The SR300B-L and SR300B-R are just left- and right-hinged versions of the same fridge.  We purchased ours in 2004 and it’s still working fine.  Only had to change the light bulb once.

Enjoy the manual.


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How to replace ugly OS X icons

Upgraded recently?  Noticed the garish, hideous, red iTunes icon that has infected your dock?  Does it make you think something is wrong with the application?  Want to change it back, or at least to something else that just doesn’t suck as much?  It’s easy.

Red Icon in Dock

Changing icons for applications in OS X isn’t hard.  There is the ‘right’ way (which involves inspecting packages and substituting .icns files) and then there is the easy way.  Here’s the easy way…

Let’s say you want to change this iTunes Red Icon back to this iTunes Blue Icon.

The first step is to copy the icon you want into the clipboard, so just right-click the blue iTunes icon above and select Copy Image.

You can use nearly any image as an icon, but medium-resolution .png files (say 256×256 up to 1024×1024 pixels) with transparent edges work quite nicely.

Next, we want to find the iTunes application.  Right-click the iTunes icon in the dock, select Options > Show in Finder.

Show in Finder

Now select File > Get Info.

iTunes Info

Click on the small icon in the top-left corner of the Info window to select it.

Selected Icon in Info Window

Now simply Edit > Paste.

Enter your password if/when prompted.

The Info window should now show the better icon in action.

Back to Blue

Close the Info window and you’re done.

The next time you launch iTunes from the dock the icon will update and the awful red icon will be gone!

Task Bar Back to Normal

If, for some reason, you go insane and want to undo the above and restore the normal icon to iTunes (or any application), all you need to do is Edit > Cut the icon from the Info window and it will return back to normal.


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Centred Side-by-Side Images in WordPress

Want to have two or more images appear side-by-side on a post in WordPress?  Want to have them centred so they look nice?  The solution is surprisingly simple.

 3  1  2

To get the centred, side-by-side effect, you don’t need to tweak image attributes, you don’t need to stick them in tables, you don’t need to mess with divs and, in fact, you don’t need to deal with raw code at all.

  1. Leave a blank line where you want the images to go
  2. Click on the blank line to place your insertion point there
  3. Click ‘Align center’ in the toolbar
  4. Add Media
  5. Upload and select an image
  6. Check the ‘Attachment Display Settings’ — make sure that ‘Alignment’ is set to ‘None’
  7. Insert into post
  8. Press the space bar a couple of times to separate the last image from the next one
  9. Go back to step 4 for the next image
  10. Repeat as many times as you want

That’s it.  Enjoy!

NB: You must centre the blank line before you add images.  You can’t add images and then centre the line — it doesn’t work.

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Reduce Wind Noise in iPhone Videos

Use your iPhone to shoot videos outside?  Don’t notice anything more than a gentle breeze whilst filming?  Shocked to later discover that the audio quality is terrible thanks to wind noise?  Can’t justify spending over $60 for a solution to the problem?  Just want a quick and cheap hack that works?  Read on.

Most iPhone 4 and 4s owners do not know that their phones actually have two microphones (iPhone 5, 5s and 5c have three).  The one on the bottom of the phone is used when you make a phone call or record a voice memo.  When you are shooting video, however, the phone uses a different microphone.

What microphone, you ask?

iPhone 4/4s:

Look just next to the 3.5mm headphone jack.  See that tiny, 0.5mm, pin-prick of a hole?  Yep, that’s the one.  That microphone.

iPhone 5/5s/5c:

Look between the iSight camera and the flash on the back of your phone.

If you don’t believe it, grab your phone, start recording some video, and keep talking whilst you use a finger to alternately cover and expose that hole.  When you play back the video you’ll hear for yourself that the audio fades in and out.

Unfortunately, it is really hard to attach any sort of wind screen to those microphones and, even if it wasn’t, most people have cases that would prevent the wind screen from being able to be fitted or working properly.  How do we solve this problem?  We don’t.  We ignore the default mic and work around the problem instead.

The 3.5mm headphone jack on all iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5s and 5c models is actually a combination headphone and microphone jack that works with the bundled Apple EarPods.  You know, those (usually) white things that got put back in the box because they didn’t fit in your ears properly and were too uncomfortable to wear for any more than 10 minutes at a time.


Now, if you have never used EarPods before, the ‘remote’ is a strip of plastic located on the cable leading to the right earbud. This lets you control volume, skip tracks, answer incoming calls — that sort of thing.  On the back of the remote is a small hole covered by a perforated screen.  This is the microphone we are going to use.

At this point, a small number of you are thinking “That mic is garbage, this’ll never work.”  Well, you’re half right.  The mic on the remote is garbage.  More accurately, the placement of the mic on the remote is garbage and the location of the remote is also garbage.  If you’ve ever used it to call someone they will quietly hate you for it.  If you’ve ever had it connected whilst shooting video not only will you have noticed that it picks up even more wind noise than the default video mic, but suffers from additional audio artefacts as well.  It really is quite awful.  But we can fix that.

Grab a pair of pliers or scissors.  Cut the left earbud’s cable just above the Y section.  Cut the right earbud’s cable just above the remote.

WindScreenHack2  WindScreenHack3

You should now have nothing but the microphone (on the back of the remote) connected by a single wire to the plug.


Now go hunt down a small piece of soft, spongy foam.  It could be from some electronics packaging, a jewellery box, a dish sponge… mine came from a $2 set of disposable foam paint brushes.


Cut out a 2cm x 2cm x 6cm long piece if you can.  Wider and deeper would/could be better, but it doesn’t need to be any longer than 6cm.  Bevel any and all foam edges so that no 90° corners remain.

Get a small screwdriver, or a large nail, or something similar, and carefully ‘drill’ a pilot hole right through the middle of the long axis.  Try to keep it as centred as you can along the whole length.


Now force feed the microphone into the pilot hole deep enough so that it is centred length-wise in the middle of the foam block.  The microphone now has a wind screen.


The final step is to coil all of the cable into a tight bundle around 2 or 3 fingers.  Then grab a cable tie, rubber band, or similar, and tie up the bundle.


Insert the 3.5mm microphone plug into the iPhone’s ‘headphone’ jack and start recording.


Enjoy video without wind noise!

Questions and Answers

Why do the inbuilt video microphones suck so much on iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5s and 5c?

Because they are recessed into a flat surface.  Any time wind hits any flat surface it is forced to deflect and run along that surface.  If wind, travelling along a flat surface, passes over a ‘hole’ in that surface, some of the wind will swirl into that hole (much like an eddy current behind a log or stone on the edge of a stream).  The turbulence in the hole carries much more (kinetic) energy than regular sound waves, and ‘wind noise’ is the result.

This phenomena is not limited to iPhones.  Every microphone in the world that is mounted into a flat surface and exposed to wind will suffer the same problem.

Why doesn’t the EarPod microphone work well when used ‘normally’?

The normal position for the microphone is against or near clothing.  Wind striking the clothing will create turbulence which, even if the mic was facing towards the body, would be picked up and register as wind noise.  Every time the remote or the attached cable rubs against clothing, vibrations will travel to the mic and cause even more audio artefacts to be recorded.  There is almost no conceivable way that this arrangement will ever work without the audio quality suffering in one way or the other.

Do I have to cut off the earbuds?  Seems like a waste.

If you don’t then you’ll have big, plastic earbuds clanking into each other in the wind.  Threading the microphone into the pilot hole will also be more difficult.

Wouldn’t it be better to tape the finished mic to the front of the phone?

The trick to eliminating wind noise is to convert kinetic energy from the wind into some other harmless form of energy before it reaches the microphone.  The foam has lots of tiny, spherical cavities or ‘pockets’ on its surface.  Moving air molecules enter these pockets and bounce against the walls.  Every time they bounce kinetic energy is transferred from the air to the foam and is (ultimately) converted to heat.  This is good enough to absorb the energy of low-speed winds.

If the microphone is allowed to dangle loosely below the phone then high-speed winds, which are too strong to be absorbed by the cavities, will have (at least some of) their kinetic energy converted (via torque) to rotational motion — the mic will spin slightly and sway in the wind.  Following winds will then tend to slip past the mic in its new position, rather than slam into it (like the behaviour of wind against the rudder on a plane).  A loose mic thus has two ways to absorbing or avoiding wind energy whilst a rigid, fixed mic only has one.  Car suspension systems typically have two systems (shock absorbers and springs) for the same reason.

Taping the mic to the phone prevents it from swaying or spinning and thus you have no way of absorbing or avoiding high-speed winds.  Taping it to a flat surface also results in more turbulence from deflected wind (as explained earlier) so you actually end up with even more wind noise.  Try it and see.

What was the point of bevelling the edges of the foam?

It is better to dodge wind than to absorb it.  A square is 41% longer corner-to-corner than it is face-to-face.  Winds heading towards the mic at any angle other than a right angle will therefore be presented with a bigger target.  Bigger targets are easier to hit.  More air molecules will strike the wind screen.  More energy will need to be absorbed.  There will be a greater chance of hearing wind noise.

By bevelling the 90° corners into, say, 45° corners, you reduce the size of the target when viewed at an angle.  A smaller target will get hit by fewer air molecules.  Less energy will need to be absorbed.  There will be less chance of hearing wind noise.

Ideally, the shape of the wind screen would be a cylinder, with no corners at all.  Its ends would be rounded.  It would look like a large pill — streamlined.

I followed all of the instructions but now I’m not getting any sound at all!

Do you still have the microphone plugged in?  You didn’t modify the plug, so the phone still thinks a pair of headphones is connected.  When you play back a video you won’t hear anything because the audio is being sent down wires to earbuds which are no longer there (probably in the bin by now).  Unplug the microphone to hear the audio.

I’m not hearing wind noise, but do get random audio artefacts.  What’s with that?

If the swaying microphone hits anything (like, say, your clothes or your wrist) then the kinetic energy from the collision will travel through the wind screen, transform into a pressure wave, hit the mic, and manifest as a loud artefact in the audio track.  You probably won’t notice the collision (especially if it just bumps into your clothes) because the mic is so very, very light.

Modify your grasp and technique to minimise or eliminate such collisions.

e.g. On an iPhone 4 or 4s, the jack is on the top-left.  When recording video, you’re usually in landscape mode.  The record button is therefore on the right-hand side of the screen.  You can simply hold the phone with just your right hand and tap the record button with your right thumb.  Since nothing is ever anywhere near the left hand side of the phone (where the mic is swinging freely) you’ll never have a collision and never suffer from audio artefacts.

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