Saturday, April 5, 2014

Do It Yourself ???

I just spent all morning doing things to the constant sound of one of the neighbours in the street toiling manfully and failing entirely to remove a brake disk from the front wheel of his 2008 BMW 5-Series ...

Now I don't generally interfere locally in case it gets me a reputation for being one of the "can you help with my ..." people on the block ...

... but ...

The combination of sympathy after watching him struggling in frustration surrounded by an ever growing pile of levers, bars, pullers, spanners, a mallet and various tools on whose original purpose I can only speculate (but all of which shared the common attribute that they didn't do the job) ... plus the good possibility that at this rate he would still be clattering and banging at midnight ... made me stroll over and ask him what he was doing ...

Once I was sure he actually was trying to remove the disk, and that everything actually had been undone properly .. I belted it, hard, twice, with a nice big mallet ...

... and then went back to my cuppa in the kitchen leaving him to ponder on how much less time it will take him to do the driver's side disk

Good deed of the day accomplished .. I can get back to being a regular asshole again now, comfortable in the knowledge that the karma of a single positive contribution of this calibre has probably paid in advance for a whole day's worth of my level of assholery

As my good friend Mark, owner of the Shack of Dreams, would say ... a 2 pound mallet is one of the most underrated pieces of high-tech engineering equipment ..

I wish I'd been wearing Google Glass to catch the expression on his face as the disk dropped off in after two well placed clouts .. hehehe ... my writing skills just couldn't describe the sound of a jaw dropping that fast

... but the truth of it is that I was just as surprised .,.. I was only trying to loosen up the soft corrosion grip between the disk and the bearing ready for a good pull !!!

( Who is Mark ??? ... this is Mark ... )

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Off to the official 2014 HTC One (M8) Launch

HTC have invited me to attend the HTC One Launch at London Olympia on 25th March. I'll be there in the front row along with 19 other lucky HTC fans to witness the spectacle and meet up with the big names at HTC.

There will also be plenty of opportunity to have some hands-on time with the new HTC One as well, and it it's anything like my 2013 model it is going to be a great experience. The phone itself has been leaked in the blogosphere and press until most people believe they've seen it all already, but for me, leaks seem so tawdry and sly. There's nothing quite like the razzamatazz of a product launch to add spice and whatever they show me, I'll be suitably excited.

Not only will I be attending, but along with 2 other fans on-site and one off-site, we will be delivering a live video feed of the entire proceedings. Three cameramen o-site and one controller back home will be using their owwn HTC One phone cameras to bring you the action.

This won't just cover the presentation, as most official videos seem to do. We will also be continuing to broadcast during the hands-on and entertainment session, so that we can bring you live action with the real, official, unleaked HTC One (M8).

For more information you can:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Small Disaster - Big Incentive

In early January I drove the J-bug down to Maastricht for the annual Kever Winter Festijn. Good turnout of Volksrods as usual and a good time was had by all. BUT ... Unfortunately whilst getting ready to leave the throttle cable broke (again). With the help of a few volksrodder friends, a repair was rigged and I was ready to head home with the guys. In total I have replaced the throttle cable three times in just one year so it's about time I did something to make a more robust and permanent solution.

Two years ago I was toying with the idea of an Arduino-based control and monitoring system for the car. It didn't get very far, but one of the ideas which stuck was a Drive-by-Wire throttle control. I planned to do some cosmetic surgery on the J-Bug anyway, so Ive decided to start the build as part of the upgrade. I'm in the process of picking up the necessary parts right now.

Thanks to e-Bay I now have an early Smart Car throttle pedal and connector, and I already had a good selection of different 'duino boards of one sort or another. All I need now is a servo motor and a bit of engineering to design the throttle actuator, but even without those I can start to design the pedal position detection algorithm and the failsafe tests to prevent dangerous situations.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A New Life for an old Blog?

Maybe it's time I resurrected this blog. After 3 years of building the bug, I'm now driving it and beginning to find the time to catch up on all those things I didn't keep going.

Here he is .. done

I would probably not have remembered this little corner of my world had it not been for Mike, the Editor-in-Chief of the excellent Android Revolution blog. I recently wrote a review for him on the Meenova MicroSD Card Reader for Android, a compact OTG /USB device, and in the process of signing up to submit the review good old Google reminded me about my own, long neglected blog .. right here.

So what's next ??


My grandson is now 12 going on 13 and he's a keen electro/gadget tekkie, so as the evenings draw in, I think I might break out my trusty soldering iron and start a project or two with him.

The electronic dashboard idea is still lurking in the back of my mind, but right now I don't have a spare engine to use as a test bed, so until I do that little project is going to have to wait.

More soon ... 

 ... and I hope, this time, It will be a little more frequently than once every 3 years !!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Back to the bits'n'bytes

There's been an on-going battle between me and the ATMega chip recently. I wanted it to work as a rev-counter and spark timing reporter, and it didn't want to be reliable.

at first I had the idea that it was the fault of my detection process or algorithm. I had a 555 timer configured as a flip-flop triggered high by the incoming spark pulse and reset to low by the engine TDC detection. That way (I thought) I could measure the width of the pulse and the frequency of the full cycle, and calculate the RPM and spark advance. It failed quite spectacularly and very bizarrely, giving fractionally out of time results as well as full cycle multiples. I now realise that it was the way I was detecting the pulse that was causing a lot of the issues.

An ATMega processor can be set up to accept any pin as an interrupt, but unlike the 'real' interrupt lines, it can only detect a change of state on a standard pin. Consequently the programmer has to manage the state detection and pulse/cycle duration calculations. This was causing me headaches. My folly was that I believed the problem was all down to timing constraints, and tried several ways to improve the code.Nothing really worked.

Then I read some more and found timers ... with the pulseIn() function, measuring the spark pulse was a no-brainer ....

But there were still definitely timing issues with the reporting (I'm using Serial.print() to show the results on a terminal) and I found that when I upped the pulse rate to > 7000 rpm, the output routine was taking too long and the cycle was skipping a pulse. Consequently I had a rev counter running at 50% of the actual revs.

I eventually fixed that by sampling two pulses and the space between them ... A little extravagant, but now I can report up to 25000 rpm without a glitch and with accurate spark timing ... but I lose one pulse per sample.

A case of standing too close to the coal face ...

The reason for my obsession with sampling every pulse was caught up with the future need to manage every pulse when actually generating spark timing rather than reporting it. Consequently, I didn't recognise the evident fact that the timing generator would only be detecting a rotation pulse and flicking a pin about 2.5 to 48 milliseconds later ... so there would be no communication overhead in this case.

Happy bunny time ...

So now I have a working rev counter and timing reporter which can communicate the results faster than the eye can detect jitter on an instrument, and the plan is in place for the timing driver as well ....

... And finally I feel ready to start on some simple sensor interfacing and display drivers ...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It all started about a year ago

I guess the time has come to start to put out some of the things that are happening over here. I can't promise anything either riveting or even vaguely interesting, but I felt the need to document my progress on a couple of interrelated, 2 year, hobby projects that I'm currently playing with.

The first is the building of a Volkswagen Beetle-based hot rod which is intended as a present for my grandson when he's old enough to drive, and qualified (in about 10 years). For more of the history of the VolksRod with comments from others in the hobby, you can take a look at either of these two sites:
Volksrods UK
Keversite NL (mostly in Dutch)
but I'll also post the un-commented build thread in this blog as soon as I can get around to it.

The second project is the building, programming and installation of the car's electronic engine telemetry system, it's audio and entertainment computer, and in the long-term it's engine management system. For this side of things, I'll be posting here mostly, although I will probably make occasional posts on
Digital Car UK
A site which is well worth visiting if you are interested in in-car electronics.

I don't work very quickly, and I make a lot of mistakes along the way, but I'll share them, good or bad, and I do intend to finish, one way or another.

Along the way I may also post a few things I felt the need to jot down before I forget them, or maybe some random thoughts, a recipe ... I dunno ... really whatever is in my head at the time I guess ... but most of the time it will be my way of providing my grandson Joshua with a permanent record of the car build,
, so if you're interested, drop in occasionally and see what's up.