Friday, January 01, 2016

Windows 10 and hardware incompatibility

A few months ago, I replaced my laptop and my desktop.  The move was motivated by a need to reinstall the OS (Windows 8) due to slowness and broken system components.  My desktop was particularly nasty - the Windows update mechanism broke, causing it to take 3 hours to boot up.  I spent the 2 months leading up deftly avoiding reboots, lest I lose a half-day of productivity.  Reinstalling the OS is somewhat traumatic, as I have lots of configuration to do, so I decided that I might as well update my hardware as well.  I also decided 2 other things:
  1. Try to switch away from Windows dependency as much as possible.
  2. For things that require Windows, try Windows 10, since it will eventually be the only Windows choice anyway.


On both my laptop and desktop, I am running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS - and I have to say, I am doing remarkably well.  To my amazement, I can still do all of my mixing in Reaper, on Wine.   The MOTU 896 FW interface is another story - Apparently MOTU is not friendly to Linux, so I have gotten rid of it and gotten a Focusrite Sapphire Pro 40 instead.  

There are a few things I need Windows for - such as Quickbooks, Corel Draw, Sketchup, Vegas, and some apps I need to run for development work... But for now I am doing okay by running these things in a Windows 7 Virtualbox VM.

Windows 10

I have also set up dual boot to Windows 10 (on demand, not the default) on my desktop and laptop.  I wish I could report as much success with my Windows 10 tests.  Unfortunately, I have had no joy, due to the following issues thus far:
  • Touchpad driver in my new HP Spectre x360 is buggy (jumpy and misses clicks). No fix found (Note: this may seem minor, but stuff like this really pisses me off, and reinforces the fact that paying top dollar for a laptop doesn't mean everything is going to work right, or even better than a cheap laptop).
  • Behringer X-Air audio driver is buggy (audio interface shows up intermittently, and sometimes stops responding in the middle of a recording). 
  • MOTU 896 doesn't work on Windows 10 either.

All told, these issues are significant the point where I will have to roll back to Windows 7 or 8 until things settle out a little more. has published this list - sort of a "state of Windows 10 compatibility" for various recording hardware.  As of now, it's rather bleak - with some pretty notable entries not being compatible at this time.  But I suppose if you are a "real recording engineer", you only use a Mac anyway, right? (Bleahhhh...)

It is pretty clear that, despite Microsoft's big push to roll out Windows 10, there are hardware vendors who are just not ready.  If you are on the fence and depend on a lot on certain hardware, make extra sure that everything works perfectly before you plan to leap.  However, since that's probably a lot of trial and error, I would just hold out as long as possible, until the hardware vendors get a chance to catch up.

Bonus tip:  You can take advantage of Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer without having to switch! 

I may go into more detail in another post, but here are the steps in a nutshell:

  1. Temporarily install a blank hard drive in place of your existing hard drive.
  2. Install a fresh, stock Windows 7 or 8 onto it (must be the exact version that came with your computer), and activate using your product key.
  3. Upgrade to Windows 10  - this will create a NEW product key associated with your hardware fingerprint, and stored on Microsoft's servers.  If you ever want to install Windows 10 on this computer in the future, it will use the same product registration automatically. 
  4. Remove the drive and replace with your original.  You don't need to keep Windows 10 installed on the spare drive, but it may be handy.
  5. Switch to Windows 10 whenever YOU want - even after the free upgrade deadline.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are these exhaust pipes? No, they are DIY pannier guards!

These "exhaust pipes" will hold your panniers back AND give you 5 extra horsepower! 
As many others seem to have (according to posts I've read in forums), I've been plagued by the issue of my pannier bags curling inward and getting hung up in the spokes.  This seriously almost drove me insane, slowly over the course of two seasons.  It would be fine until I hit a bump, and then it would be mayhem.  Eventually I followed the popular advice and got myself a different rack with a "dogleg", or put more simply, a sweeping member that extends far enough back and down that it holds the panniers away from the wheel.

Well I was back to square one earlier this year when I installed the Blackburn EX-1 rear rack.  This is a very popular rear rack, but unfortunately is not compatible with my panniers.  The reason I am using this rack is that it is the only one compatible with the Copilot Limo child bike seat.

Copilot Limo Child seat, and test child
Incidentally, it is a great system.  The seat sits very low maintaining a stable feel, while being comfortable and protective - both behind and to the sides.  The seat is installed and removed very quickly, which makes impromptu bike rides possible.

Unfortunately, since the bike seat was one of three total rear attachments (panniers and milk crate being the others), I now had to figure out what to do about my panniers, and getting a different rack was not an option.  Some people suggested lining the inside of the panniers with something hard, but I already tried that and it made no difference (in fact it probably just made it worse).  Here's what I finally came up with:
It's just 1/2" pvc pipe and zip ties. I used an elbow piece to keep them from sliding out of the zip ties. Each pipe is attached in two places: a leg of the bike rack, and the seat stay.  This prevents it from moving up or down, backwards or forwards.  They stay put, out of the way of everything, and can even be slid out easily if you don't need them.  They work VERY effectively, cheap, and easy to do.  Hit all the points on my checklist.  If appearance is an issue, they could be painted to match the rack (or hey, put "chrome tips" on them if you want to go full hot rod!)

Hopefully this will help someone who is going through what I did.

60 mile trip on my electric bike

Early on a beautiful Sunday morning, I packed up and headed out on a 60 mile trip.  It was a personal range record.  I planned it carefully (perhaps more so than necessary), making sure I had calculated my energy budget and arranged for basic contingencies. Tools, Spare tube, charger, good nav, etc. I rode on the amazing Champlain Bikeway down to the Basin Harbor Club.

View from Greenbush Road, looking east across Charlotte at Mt. Philo

Although it was somewhat chilly when I left, by 10am it had warmed to the mid-70's, and continued to heat up throughout the day. Besides being a little overdressed,  everything worked perfectly.  I was maintaining a very steady 17 mph, and lightly pedaling about half the time.  This resulted in an average of about 18 watt-hours/per mile, which was very conservative.  At the halfway point, I had used about 40% of my ~1300 wh battery pack.
At the 30 mile half-way point, the bike and I rested comfortably beach-side at the Basin Harbor Club.

When I arrived at the Basin Harbor Club's beach, two enthusiastic young staff members ogled my bike, and we talked at length about the build. As luck would have it, they had recently taken delivery of 10 fleet electric bicycles for the purpose of rentals for the guests. I got to check them out - they were Evelo Auroras; 250 watt mid-drive models with NuVinci hubs. I was really impressed - lightweight, versatile, and an excellent choice for the uninitiated electric bike user.  Plenty of torque, and a top speed of 25 miles an hour (with pedaling).

On my way home, I stopped for lunch and chatted with a few diehard hard road-bike folks. Fully outfitted in their exercise gear, they commented that I "must be hot in that jacket and long pants".  I tried to explain to them that it was useful for higher speeds, in terms of safety and staying warm, but I'll be honest - it was difficult to explain.

Continuing, on I stopped at my friend Steve's place, the ADV garage, and got to do some cool work on a BMW motorcycle project that he had going. Finally, I was on my way back home.
Throughout the trip I did quite a bit of pedaling, in fact much more so than I really needed to. By the time I got home, even though my 52v battery pack was just under 47 volts, I still had almost full power at wide open throttle. It's difficult to determine how much further I could have gone, but I was definitely not out of energy by any stretch.

Cycle Analyst after the trip was completed (no load)
There were some slight differences in the report from B.iCycle, my Android app for GPS tracking:
Trip time:03:51:54
TripDistance:59.0 mi
Trip calories:4260 kcal
Average speed:15.2 mi/h
Maximum speed:29 mi/h
Climbed altitude:2875 ft
Bike type:Mountain bike

This trip taught me a few lessons, including the following: 
  • Wind and terrain make a huge difference in how much energy you will use in a trip. If there is wind or hills, it will reduce your efficiency - either on the way there, or on the way back.  Regen braking and/or a tail wind can help, but they will never fully compensate for the efficiency losses in the other direction.
  • Also, the most limiting factors in the practicality of a long trip actually come down to things that are not technical at all - Mainly, saddle soreness and chaffing. By the time I got home, I wasn't laughing at those road bike guys' outfits at all.