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Showing posts from 2012

"Refreshingly cool" ride to Lake Iroquois

Author's note: This is an older post that never got published.  The original date was sometime in October, 2012. The weather app on my smartphone says today is a "refreshingly cool" 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  I think my frozen self would have used a different adjective to describe how cold today's ride was, from home to Lake Iroquois and back. The goal was to see the beach at Lake Iroquois.   This is my second attempt at this trip.  The first time, I really botched it, making wrong turns, picking the toughest roads, and making the trip needlessly painful and long.  This time, though still fairly long and hilly, it was much better.  Only one road that was rough, which I knew about and decided was worth it for the distance saved.  I was careful and didn't hit any potholes or washboards.  Figured out the best place to avoid the washboard on a dirt road is in the dead center. The fall winds are brutal, and definitely have a noticeable impact on efficiency.  Most of

Diesel Haulin'

In the final days before the snowstorm, I managed get my act together and squeeze in the acquisition of half a cord of wood.  

Pre-Winter, Auto Mechanic Intermission

I've been fortunate to have had a pretty long break from playing home auto mechanic, but lately things have been wracking up quite a bit, and for a number of reasons, I had to take action.  The most recent project was on my 2002 VW Golf TDI (for more about this car, you can have a look at my old blog, Veggie Golf ).  I was going to hold off, but the oil building up in the driveway was an indication that I really needed to get on it. Items to fix:  Leaking cam seal, timing belt replacement (maintenance interval reached), rear brake rotors and pads, and a few other odds and ends.  When I got into the timing belt cover, it was pretty clear the cam seal was doing very little to keep the oil in the engine. This is the lower timing belt compartment after I cleaned it up a lot.  Any doubts were sufficiently quelled when I drained the oil from the crankcase, and got about 2 qts. max out of it.  This is dangerously low, especially for a diesel, and even more especially for a turbo e

Comcast to the rescue (too bad there was nothing wrong)

Comcast keeps calling me and leaving messages (I don't answer) saying that my modem "is not capable of receiving the full range of their speeds".  This has been going on for months.  I upgraded to a Motorola SB6121, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, about 6 months ago.  Everything has been working fine, speeds are around 30 Mb/s download.  So I finally decided to call Comcast and... pretty much just see what they had to say.  I figured at best I could get them to stop calling me. After almost 3 minutes of menu surfing, I finally was on my way to speak to a human.  The person I talked to verified my identity and had a look at my account.  She asked me if I had 2 modems.  (Wondering why this matters): "I only have one connected..."  Apparently the reason why she asked is that the other modem was shown as a Comcast rental.  I have ALWAYS owned all of my modems.  She put me through to the "Internet department" (haha) and I spoke to someone else, who asked me most of t

Repairing broken Kurzweil keyboard

In for repair we have a Kurzweil 88-key K2500X, with weighted keys.  This beast weighs about 80-100 lbs. It had reportedly fallen off a keyboard stand.  It came in with several "sticking keys", one chipped key, dented front, and a broken end cap.

New e-bike born today

Well, finally got my shipment, and today I converted the first of a line of e-bikes that I plan to offer to the general public for sale.  I've decided there needs to be a dealership in this area, and I love building bikes.  So after lots of research and decisions, we have this: It's a direct drive, brushless 36V system, with a 9AH battery.  The controller is in the back.  Lightweight, stable, and unassuming, it's almost completely stealth to the untrained eye.  It complies with all the laws in the state of Vermont.  Definitely a little more of a leisure ride than my 48V 1000W system, but it's still plenty of fun.  Retail price will be around $1195 USD.  Actual bike model pictured is an example, and may vary. I'm spending the next few days putting it through its paces, measuring mileage, etc.  It's hard work, but somebody has to do it.

Beautiful late summer ride to north end

Just got back from an uneventful ride up to the north end of Burlington.  The temp was perfect, a little breezy but mostly calm.  Efficiency was through the roof, but I was light on the throttle and not in a hurry. Stopped at overlook park on the way home. Took all bike paths on the way up, and main roads on the way back.  I thought it would be treacherous with the rush hour traffic, but it wasn't too bad.  Stayed in the bike lane or on the sidewalks for much of the ride.  Laughed as I rode by all the motorists who were parked on Shelburne road, during traffic jam.  22 miles, 12.4AH.  Could have easily gone twice as far.

Nice ride home in the dark

A nice ride down to Charlotte to visit the ADV Garage  today.  It's about 9 miles each way - about a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the "hilly-ness" scale.  Started out with a fresh charge, pedaled a little (not very much) mostly because I was going too fast to pedal much.  The ride down (during the day) was very easy.  A little chilly, but not too bad.  Traffic was down as it's Sunday afternoon/evening. Had a great dinner and watched the sunset, then headed out when it was completely dark.  Man, I was glad I brought my new wind breaker (early birthday present from father-in-law),  Doing 30 mph in 50 degrees is COLD.  The new headlight performed like a champ.  The more I use it, the more I appreciate the beam pattern and throw.  It's a very wide beam pattern, which keeps you from getting claustrophobic, but the throw is still plenty good enough to dodge a pothole in pitch darkness, at top speed. The trek home was paced by a convoy of my neighbors (who all were headed hom

Fun quotes from first time e-bike peepers

From time to time, I hear fun comments from people who see me on my e-bike.  Here's a couple that I've heard in recent times: "I guess my bike sucks."  -Stoner guy at the package store "You're cracking me up.  I'm watching you go up this hill, and you're not even pedaling" -Guy in car next to me, going up fairly steep hill in Charlotte.

Flat tires, battery frustration, and new DIY headlight

My e-bike has been working pretty well, barring some occasional frustrations.  These are chiefly centered around flat tires.  I've had the back tire (the powered wheel) get punctured 3 times now.  The first 2 times I found small pieces of 22 gauge wire, which I'm willing to concede might have come from my garage floor.  The last time, I picked up a carpet nail!  It was right around the construction area on Shelburne road, where they tore up the pavement.  There were lots of little pock marks in the pavement for something like a nail to hang out in, at odd positions.  I learned that getting a flat is worse than having a controller blow up or a dead battery, because you can't even ride it home.  On the bright side, I found out it's an hour walk to my house from Burger King (2.79 miles).  Pushing 70 lbs. of dead weight on a floppy rim, that is. Could have been a lot worse, I've gone as far as 25 miles from my house before.  I put a spare tube and patch kit in my pann

Adult Contemporary Music - Old School Crap Lives On

I find it both interesting and disturbing that, for the most part, when out and about listening to the radio in the car, shops, etc, the general public pretty much listens to a body of work consisting of about 500-1000 or so songs (by my estimation).  The majority of these songs were written 20-40 years ago (classic rock, 80's, disco, R&B). I'm talking about stuff like Lionel Richie, The Bee Gees, Madonna, and of course, Michael Jackson.  Only songs have withstood the test of time as being "at least listenable". My earliest memories of the Champlain Valley Fair are probably from about the ages of 6-10.  That would put the years around early 1980's.  I remember walking down the midway and by the rides, all blaring AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ozzie Osbourne, which at that time was only a few years old at the most.  I went to the fair on Monday, and guess what?  It's the same exact songs.  It's like the whole thing is frozen in time. The unfortunate part abou

E-Bike Rack Fail

Apparently my bike felt left out, and wanted to get in the game of things that are failing.  Riding home from downtown last night, very late, hit a sewer cover pretty hard (it was hard to tell how uneven it was at night) and busted my battery rack.  It was not a catastrophic failure, but the rack lowered down to the tire and started dragging.  Enough that I had to stop and figure it out.  So I was sitting on the ground in the parking lot of the Jolly, with the bike almost completely disassembled. Bike rack, sans busted lower brackets. Busted aluminum lower brackets. The bottom part of the rack attaches to the frame via a tapped tab, and an L shaped, aluminum bracket with graduated tapped holes.  The aluminum obviously saw quite a bit of impact load when the 30 lbs. battery came slamming down. This is the second rack I've bought, and I'm really not interested in spending more money to deal with this issue.  (But I probably will have to).  Wondering if maybe I can

Galaxy Nexus Tales of Woe

One of my ongoing battles with my Gnex is the charging port.  In the past, it has stopped working, and after lots of Google searches, I found out that a common issue is the little inner tab not making contact with the cable (fixed by bending it up slightly). After a recent vacation, I found once again that my phone wouldn't charge.  This time, it seemed that the charging port was somehow mutilated, and the cord didn't seem to go in correctly.  The contacts were bent inside the phone.  I don't have the insurance, and I'm kind of used to being on my own warranty after rooting, ROMing, etc.  After researching, I promptly ordered this replacement USB flex board , for about $50 w/ shipping, and replaced the board following this i Fixit how-to . The procedure was a little tricky, but not too bad. In general everything felt like it went smoothly, and I expected no issues.   However, after putting the phone back together, the phone still wouldn't charge.  I disassembl

E-Bike for your (mental) health

The first time I rode an e-bike was probably about 7-8 years ago.  I thought it was pretty cool, but I'll be honest, at the time I wasn't really grabbed by the idea (it probably didn't help that, at the time, they were more expensive, heavy, and had very limited range). At some point this year, I started to pay attention to e-bikes.  After watching countless YouTube videos of people doing their own builds, I finally took the leap.  I wanted a bike that was reasonably "stealthy" (could easily be mistaken for a normal bike), powerful enough to be on moped terms, yet still able to be operated like a bicycle.  Originally I intended to buy a conversion kit, and spent about a month researching reviews to figure out which of the many options I should pursue.  The process was suddenly abbreviated when I found a Craigslist ad for an already-converted bike.  It was 48V, 1000W, right in the area I was looking for. E-Bike purchased from Craigslist. My trusty old s

Assessing A Gun Ban

What happened in Colorado is a horrible and despicable act of an individual.  If it is decided that guns should be banned for everyone, ask yourself: 1. What is the likelihood that crazed individuals will still manage to obtain a gun and commit heinous acts? 2. What is the likelihood that a gun ban would ever be lifted if it was ineffective?

Helicopters and Recording Sessions

The other day we were recording the band Flowting Bridge in our Randolph studio, a large garage. We have a decent live room area, and a wall to separate the control room. We were doing live recording with a miked amp, and since there is a back entrance to the live room, we had the bright idea to use the great outdoors as the "amp room". So we put the amp out there with an SM7 on it. At one point during the day, a helicopter flew over at low altitude (coming in for a landing in town). Fortunately(?) this happened while we were on break. My first thought was, "phew, glad that didn't happen while we were recording..." and my next thought was to BOLT inside and hit record on the console. I ended up with a "field recording" of the flyover, which the boys decided they will use on the album as a hidden track. If you'd like to check out the sample, I uploaded it to here. Enjoy: people/doctor567/sounds/161579/

Shure Microphone Shootout

After recently acquiring a Shure SM7B, my first "big boy" microphone, I decided to do some tests so I could get familiar with its characteristics.  I'm posting some of my tests online along with some of my conclusions as I go. The Microphones This test consisted of the SM7B, SM81, MXL 990, and a good old SM57.

iPhone Users: Should You Switch to Android?

Before we dive into this, there are iPhone people who love their phone and would never look at another kind of phone.  This post is not for those people.  There is another kind of iPhone user who has an iPhone because they needed a smartphone.  A lot of those people are now considering an Android phone.  While there are a variety of reasons for this, the main ones are most likely: Their friends have stopped complaining about how unstable Android is They are tired of not having a phone with 4G capability, 3D Nav, and some other features So with that in mind, let's take a quick look at the current state of Android vs. iPhone.  The main things Android phones can offer over the iPhone are: 4G network capable phones (higher speed) Google's awesome 3d navigation tool Phones with bigger screens than 3.5" Real multitasking A lot more freedom and control as to how you can configure your phone and what you can put on it With the exception of the last couple of points,

If Tax Prep Options Were Airlines

1040EZ Airlines Upon your arrival at the airport, you are given a red Radio Flyer wagon with the airline logo on the side, and a bag of peanuts. Private CPA / Accountant  Airlines You book your own private jet.  The pilot meets with you and then decides how you are going to get where you are going.  Because of a ton of transportation regulations, the route ends up going half way around the world, and stops at 18 airports before you finally arrive back at the place you actually started from.  All of the ticket price is refunded, and you walk away bewildered and empty handed. H&R Block  Airlines You line up with other passengers at the front door of the aircraft.  Eventually the flight attendant comes the door, and directs you to a seat.  The seat is a perfectly square box with only enough room for an average size man or woman.  Depending on your luck, the pilot is either a seasoned, ex-NASA aeronautics expert, or a nervous young pilot fresh out of flight school.  When the p

Unleash Your Galaxy Nexus Screen: Tweak Auto Brightness

When I was shopping for my next phone, one of the main selling points of the Galaxy Nexus was its beautiful SuperAMOLED screen.  Because the screen pixels are actually light sources (as opposed to a more traditional LCD in which a backlight is filtered by an LCD screen), the contrast ratio and color vibrance are theoretically unmatched.  So why is it that, weeks after getting my long awaited gem, my assessment of the screen is that it is more lackluster than my 3 year old Moto Droid? The answer lies in the combination of two factors: Different colored LEDs respond differently to various power levels, in terms of their brightness. The default screen-brightness-to-ambient-light mapping offered by Ice Cream Sandwich on the Galaxy Nexus (in auto brightness mode), is inadequate. Here's the proof:  Turn your display brightness all the way up instead of using auto mode.  The screen looks beautiful, the colors are vibrant, and the promise of the SuperAMOLED screen is realized (not to

The Connection Between ICS, Battery Life Issues, and VOIP

Most of the smartphone owning population doesn't know or care about VOIP, or Voice Over IP .  They get phone calls through their cell provider (not to mention the phone itself), solely over cell tower signals, and that's that.  But as some know, there is another dimension to calling, and that is the world of VOIP. VOIP allows a phone or computer user to make and receive phone calls over any medium that can carry IP.  This includes not only your 3G/4G data plan, but via a Wi-Fi signal at home, work, or in many public places.  It also means that you can make and receive these phone calls without necessarily being tied to a certain company or contract.  You can even use your own hardware to host these calls, and connect these calls to the outside world in a variety of ways in an openly-competitive market (in contrast to the world of cell carriers).  In short, VOIP is most likely the future of all calling, though the cell carriers will do their damnedest to delay this inevitabil

AT&T Throttling Their Top 5% Unlimited Data Users

You may or may not be aware of it, but there have been reports that AT&T is throttling their "Unlimited Data" customers , essentially making a limit of a supposedly "unlimited data plan". This has been a long time coming.  Last year, AT&T and Verizon Wireless began forcing new users into tiered (limited) data plans , with a certain amount of data allowed per month.  The typical allotments are 500MB, 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, etc.   The price of the plan rises with the amount allowed.  Meanwhile, old users are supposedly "grandfathered" into the unlimited data they signed up for.  Apparently, AT&T has decided that there needs to be a certain amount of pressure to steer people in the direction of tiered data plans.  I haven't heard of anyone having this experience with Verizon Wireless. As a side note, I find it interesting that people use that much data on their phones.  As an example, I consider myself to be a smartphone power user, and my cell d