Friday, December 13, 2013

1& Fail

Today we have a consumer alert for 1& - domain registrar and site host. Lots of people complain about their service, and now I know why.

A domain of mine expired on 11/30/2013. Okay, my bad.

HOLY COW! Within 5 business days, it was cancelled and sent to auction, my 1& account was deleted, and the issue was sent to their collections agency - all without a single attempt to notify me via phone, e-mail, or letter. Called and paid the collections agency plus an extra $12 fee. Collections agency said they would notify 1&1 immediately. Days later, no status update from 1&1. Called billing department, the person who answered had no idea what was going on and said I just have to keep waiting. My site has been down for 13 days now and I have no estimate as to when this is going to get fixed. The first thing I will do if I ever get my domain back is transfer it to Godaddy. Thanks 1&1!

And I used to complain because Godaddy sends out a half-dozen e-mails reminding me about products that are expiring.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Perl script for comparing files: List missing lines, regardless of order

The other day, I was comparing two different sitemap files of the same site. One had more links than the other, and I was trying to get a list of what was missing from the shorter one. However, since they were from different sitemap generators, the order of the links were completely different in each file.

Surprisingly, this turned out to be a much bigger challenge than I thought. I figured I could use some variation of a grep command line, or diff, but I wasn't able to find a simple combination of command line options for either that would do what I was looking for. It seems like everything I found was more geared toward comparing files that were in the same order. Diff simply dumped a large list of all the lines in file2; since the order was different than file1, every line was considered a mismatch.

Knowing this was a fairly trivial operation to do in Perl, I decide to write a quick script to do it. I'm sharing it here in case it can benefit anyone else:


# The purpose of this script is to print the lines in file2 that are not present in file1, regardless of order.

unless ($#ARGV>=1) {die "Usage: [file1.txt] [file2.txt]";}

open (FILE1,$ARGV[0]) || die "Unable to open $ARGV[0]: $!\n";
open (FILE2,$ARGV[1]) || die "Unable to open $ARGV[1]: $!\n";

# Store the contents of file1 in array
while (<FILE1>) {push (@lines_one,$_);}

close FILE1;

# Iterate through each line of file2, checking for presence in file1, and setting a flag if it's found.
while (<FILE2>) {
        foreach $line (@lines_one) {

                if ($line =~ /$_/) {$flag=1; last;}
        unless ($flag) {push (@missing_from_1, $_);}

close FILE2;

# Dump the results (missing lines)
foreach $line (@missing_from_1) {
        print $line."\n";

Sunday, October 27, 2013

200K Rehab: Steering Wheel Cover

My steering wheel, being as old and heavily used as it is, was unsuprisingly rotted and has literally become smaller everytime I drive somewhere as it disintegrates in my hands.  I searched around for a replacement steering wheel, and quickly found that to be prohibitively expensive.  There were very few new OEM replacements, and certainly the ones I found were hundreds of dollars.  I really didn't want a crappy slip-on aftermarket steering wheel cover.  So after some deliberation, I finally settled on a pleather, stitch-on cover.   All things considered, it didn't come out too badly:

The kit I got cost under $10 shipped, and came with a needle and thread.  I wasn't trying to be cheap, but this one seemed to get good reviews and had everything I needed.  The thread they provided seemed fine - it was attractive and tough enough.  However, the amount they provided was about half what was actually needed, and I found myself having to run to the local craft store after having it half done, trying to find something that was passable.  This was a real bummer, as I wasn't able to find anything that was an exact match. Also, I spent close to 45 minutes hunting around, as the thread I finally found was not with the sewing stuff, it was in a far corner with a bunch very miscellaneous supplies.  I used a thread made of hemp - it was stiffer and a little bit lighter than what came in the kit.  And possibly stronger (?)

The process of stitching on was arduous and, IMO not for the faint-of-heart.  Since I have a little guy, I found myself doing a little during each free chunk of time I had available - about 45 minutes at a time.  I probably spent a total of 2 hours doing, which included pulling about 1/4 of it and redoing it, since I wasn't happy with my work.

Finally when I was done, I ended up using a hot glue gun to touch up the area around the spokes, as the skin  bent up to form pockets around them and wasn't laying down around them sufficiently for my liking.

The finished product looks good, and most importantly, feels great.  Since I drive a lot, my hands spend a lot of time on that steering wheel, so having a nice cover on there makes a big difference.  An item on my rehab list checked off!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

200K mile rehab saga: Good news from Volkswagen of America

Just a quick update, after about 6 months of waiting (and some back and forth), I
finally heard back from VW body shop- my fenders have been approved for replacement under the corrosion warranty! I am so psyched :)  They will follow up next week to make an appointment, etc.  I had pretty much lost hope!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

People of the world beware: An assault on our privacy is coming, of unimaginable proportions.

Yes, that's kind of hyperbolic, but it's really the only way to get the point across.  Your personal data and information is quickly becoming digital - and almost everything digital is accessible online.  Here are a few small examples of the things that you probably don't think about being accessed by someone you haven't authorized, and how it could impact your life:
There is no denying that we are heading toward a completely on-line existence.  Progress has spoken - social networking has propelled much more than photos of you and your friends to be put online.  Devices like exercise bracelets, music sharing websites that advertise what you listened to, refrigerators that track what you've eaten, cars that log your speed and driving habits, and SO MUCH MORE.   And the convenience of the cloud means that all this data is likely to be housed not in your hands - but those of someone else (like Facebook or Google).

The big question is this:

What stands in the way of someone you don't know getting access to these things?

In today's world, 9-times-out-of-10, even in the best case scenario, it's a single password.  Yes, a single password is all it takes for someone who wanted to completely ruin your life.  Even if you are conscientious and maintain a separate password for each website (which most people don't), most systems utilize your e-mail address to reset your password, making the point of vulnerability for almost of your data a single password - the one on your e-mail account.

Ask yourself another question:  What is my attitude toward passwords? How about my family's? And my friends'?  I'm willing to guess that the answer for at least one of these contingents is something along the lines of this:
"Passwords are a pain in the neck, I invest the minimum amount of effort I can get away with."
Unfortunately, it gets worse.

As your data footprint gets wider, the chances that someone will make a human error that exposes your data rises.  That means your data could be compromised even if you are diligent about security.

So if we look at all this in perspective over time, we have the following factors:

  • More sensitive data being created, 
  • More of that sensitive data being put on online, 
  • With basically the same type of security we have had to protect our data since the invention of e-mail - at best, a single password, and
  • At worst, diminishing security, as any of the increasing number of online services housing our data are vulnerable to compromise.
  • As people are becoming increasingly aware, government agencies like the NSA are becoming more powerful (by necessity?), and can requisition your data from those services whenever they want
And still worse.

Up until now, you probably have a friend or two who have had their computer "pwned", or their e-mail account hacked.  Most likely they had to reformat their computer, change their e-mail and other passwords, maybe send an apology to their friends for spam they received from their account, and in the more extreme cases, change their credit card numbers and notify their banks.  

But this is NOTHING, in terms of the amount or severity, compared to what we will see in 5-10 years from now, as more of our data is made digital.  The stakes will be far higher.  If a hacker gains access to your Facebook account today, that counts for some amount of value - perhaps they can advertise something or blackmail you into paying some amount of money.  But if they can gain access to your banking info, your living habits, the vehicles you own, all of your financials, and other things we can't even imagine, hacking becomes more lucrative.  Instead of script-kiddies and people who write in broken English sitting in front of a home computer, we are talking about highly paid, technically adept, convincing actors, whose job it is to gain access to your data.  These people could even be blurring the lines between malicious or illegal activity, working for government contracts for organizations like the NSA.  They will stop at almost nothing, and they will move on to someone else before you even know anything happened to you.  Eventually, privacy is going to become one of the most valued (and valuable) things on the internet, and in the world.

The point of this article isn't to generate paranoia.  It's a wake-up call about where we're heading, and how our (collective) attitudes are going to need to change, if this is all going to be sustainable.  Sadly, we are most assuredly going to have to weather a few major storms before there is a widespread change in the way we all approach security.

So as crazy new gadgets that find new and novel ways to computerize your life emerge, think carefully about what you choose to adopt.  Consider the gains against the risks to your privacy.  If you do decide to adopt something, think about what you can do to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands, and take the opportunity to do it.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Turbo Boost Zero: Conclusion

Well, I got my car back together and everything went pretty much as planned.  The turbo does reach full boost now (about 18-24 psi as measured by my VDO boost gauge, known to read about 4 psi high).  The first day the car was a little peppier, nothing too noticeable.  But after a couple of day, there was a very noticeable difference! I now remember that the air/fuel mapping is adaptive.  Since the turbo probably has been having issues for at least a year now, the ECU probably remapped in order to compensate for the lack of boost (in an attempt to maximize power and minimize smoke, with what is available).  Over the course of 3-4 days, I noticed the car became really zippy again, and seems to smoke a lot less in general (don't worry, it still has the "anti-tailgating" feature if you stand on it for a few seconds).

So in the end, a 50 cent retaining clip was all that was needed, but because of what it took to get to it, along with other issues I noticed while I was in there, I probably spent close 8 hours working on it.  However, it's worth mentioning that I also got around to doing some important things on my list.  Most importantly, I finally replaced the glow plugs and harness, which (probably the harness) has/have been throwing an engine code for literally years now.  Unless I've forgotten, I'm pretty sure the glow plugs were the original ones the car came with.  After I changed them, I cleared the MIL code, and the light has stayed off for weeks now.  Easily the first time in 3-4 years.

Hopefully the car will have an easier time starting this winter.  Can't wait to find out...

Okay, I take that back.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turbo Boost: Zero pt. 3

After tearing into the engine (removed hood, various piping, intake manifold) I saw what was causing the problem.  The issue was in fact the actuator on the turbo.  Specifically, the circlip that holds the actuator on to the vane lever had broken/fallen off, and the whole assembly was wedged together.  I went to the auto parts store and bought a kit with a bunch of spare parts including assorted circlips - one of which fit.

The assembly seems to move quite easily and there is no rust or dirt, so I think there is no point in going any further.  I tested the actuator with a vacuum pump and it seemed to be fine.  I did notice some loss but I'm hoping that doesn't matter.  I tried to make a better seal around the actuator vacuum port by using a larger piece of rubber hose and a hose clamp.

I am almost done putting the car back together, but I did notice that I seem to have lost two bolts out of the intake manifold.  I called the dealership and, of course, they don't stock intake manifold bolts (which is pretty much confirmation of my suspicions that they don't stock anything for outside customers).  So I ordered the bolts and they should be here Saturday.

About 1-2 hours of work and it should be back on the road.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Turbo Boost Zero: pt. 2

I got underneath the car and pulled the vacuum hose off the VNT (turbo) actuator.  I hooked up a hand vacuum pump with a gauge on it and put some vacuum on it.  The vacuum wouldn't really hold very long, either because the vacuum pump hose or the actuator leaked, but that wasn't really here nor there - I did manage to get well over 10 inches of vacuum plenty of times and the actuator didn't even think of moving.  I tried to move the assembly with my hand and the thing was frozen stiff.

The turbo actuator with the hose off
So I've pretty much come to the conclusion that either the actuator is frozen, the vanes or frozen, or/and the actuator is screwed.  Furthermore, I think the easiest way to deal with it is to try to get the turbo off.  Then I can fix it whatever way I need to, or even replace the turbo if need be (and if I can find another one I can afford).

Turbo Boost Zero

I've got a bunch of half-written blog posts in the can waiting to be finished and released.  Had a really busy summer, and NOT without it's car and e-bike issues.  I'll get them out eventually.

Wanted to give a play by play of this one.  Yesterday I was driving up the big hill in Randolph in my 2002 VW Golf TDI, and my turbo boost went out.  I tried stopping/restarting the car (which has worked in the few times in the past) but... nothing at all.  So whatever is is pretty shot.  As far as I can tell, the car has absolutely no turbo boost at all (I can hear no whistling and feel very little power).  The car is technically drive-able but has a hard time keeping up with traffic.  Reminds me of my old '81 diesel rabbit (NA).

I pulled the codes when I got home, and (among the massive list of other known issues) I saw a new one:
17964 - Charge Pressure Control
            P1556 - 35-00 - Negative Deviation
So at this point I'm thinking that it's one of the following:
  • Boost leak (unlikely, since I probably would have heard it)
  • Problem with the VNT actuator (misadjusted or stuck)
  • Vacuum leak (due to a worn out hose)
  • Bad N75 solenoid (this is the interface between the computer and the vacuum)
Stay tuned as I reduce the haystack down to a more manageable size, in search of the needle causing this problem.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Baby Motion Pager

Are you a new parent?  Do you have an infant that sleeps lightly at times, or needs attention frequently?  Perhaps you need to do something as soon as they start to wake up, and seconds are of the essence?  That has been the situation for our son, so I decided to put together a baby motion pager system, to alert me as soon as he stirred.  If this sounds interesting to you, read on!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Big ride to the causeway

Yesterday I finally got a chance to do a "proper" bike trip on my e-bike.  And I finally got to establish a good, new baseline for my battery pack.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Review of the Gallien Krueger MB212

As a new Dad, I recently relieved myself (and my back) of much of my former bass gear, which included Hartke 2x10 and 4x10 cabinets, a 2x10 Mesa Boogie combo, outboard preamp and Hartke head mounted in a rack case, a massive powered Yorkville sub, and more.  All of this I traded for a single 2x12 combo: the Gallien Krueger MB212.  500 watts, 37 lbs., fits easily behind the driver seat of my car.  The size and weight is nothing short of a dream - but my big question was, of course, going to be - what about the tone?  Last night I had my first gig with it. Here's a look at my experience.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Suggestion: Just turn off your Facebook privacy settings

That's right, the title of this post is not a typo.  You should strongly consider disabling all of your Facebook privacy settings; by that I mean making them the most publicly visible (to the entire internet).  To see why, read on.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New tires for the E-bike

Windows 7 & 8 Install New Updates: anytime it wants to?!

Today, both my desktop (Windows 8 Home Premium) and my laptop (Windows 7 Home Premium) shutdown and rebooted to install Windows updates WHILE I WAS USING them.  Yes, sitting there, typing, not idle, not at 3 AM when I have supposedly configure updates to auto install, and not with any warning or chance to postpone or override...  Just, boom!  Programs start closing, Windows logs me out, and "Windows is configuring updates".  Then computer completely reboots, Windows starts back up, and resumes "configuring updates".

My question is, how is this acceptable?  This is the default behavior of Windows.  I have not modified it in anyway, I simply chose "install Windows updates automatically for me (recommended)" during the initial setup of Windows.  Last I knew, that should not sign me up to have my computer randomly shut down while I am using it for something, possibly in the middle of typing a very LONG post on a forum or website.

And what of the only configurable setting I have access to (without making registry tweaks) in control panel, the one that says "Install New Updates: Every Day at: 3:00 AM".  Should this actually read "Install New Updates: anytime Windows wants to?"  My only other option is to disable automatic updates, and I highly doubt Microsoft wants to encourage that.

So essentially the Windows user world is supposed to put up with the possibility that their machine could shut down at any time while they're using it?  How is that acceptable?!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

New regulator for alternator, e-bike riding after battery drama

I replaced the regulator in the alternator.  The VW MK4s have a module complete with the brushes and everything, so if you replace this module, 90% of alternator problems are cured.  Unfortunately it was a very tight space and it took me a couple of hours to get to it, but now that it's done, it works.  I uncovered a different way of getting to it, which I posted on the forum.  Happy to have my car back in action.

I have been working on the appearance update for the car.  I received my new front grill, which I painted:
New Kamei front grill which I painted silver, before clear coat

It looks great, I think it will be a nice improvement for the car.  I also got my new headlights, they are projector style with halo DRLs.  I haven't looked at them a lot, but I think they will look nice.  Lingering concerns involve difficult (running of all the extra) wiring, and more difficult bulb change access.

Still waiting to hear back if my fenders are covered by VW, so I haven't been rushing head-long into disassembling the front end.  However, we are supposed to get a lot of rain over the next week or two, so I may pull the car in for an indoor project.

I've been riding my e-bike again!  After all the battery manager drama, I was anxious to get some numbers so I could find out how much damage the battery took.  Throughout several trips over the last week.  I started a log book so I can keep track of battery performance.  So far I've had one trip where the battery was looking pretty strong - sitting at 52.5v after a good 20 mile trip that used ~10 AH:
Looking good after a 20 mile round trip.
...and one where it died and cut out at about 14.5 AH, 72% of what its original capacity was - so, not so good.  I charged up the pack and it seems to have rebalanced itself, so I'm guessing my next trip will be pretty good.  The #1 cell likes to drain itself, so I think if it comes off a fresh charge, it will be strongest.

Been making a few trips out to the beach to drop off these critters:
This little dude just qualified for a free e-bike ride!
They have been getting into the garage lately and apparently making a home in there.  So I trapped 2 of them and brought them over 5 miles away, as apparently they have a pretty good homing range.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What broke today

I just realized I could pretty much title every blog post with above, or better yet, change the name of the whole blog to it.  Ha ha(!)

Yesterday I cleaned up the car a lot.  Finally got a chance to go to the car wash, and I pressure washed the engine bay.   I know, I know, always a little risky for electrical problems, but I've done it before and never had any problems.

Anyway, we get in the car to go home from a friend's house. I start the car, glance down and notice the alternator light is on.  I hook up my radar detector (a Beltronics Vector V995, an awesome machine with a bonus voltage readout, totally brilliant!), and sure enough, it's about 12.1v.  No alternator output.  Since child is now screaming, I shut off the headlights (still a little before dusk, so okay) and make for home.  On the way, the alternator output flicked on and was okay for the ride home.  This morning it seems to be down for the count.  I wiggled all the wires, and it doesn't seem to be a loose connection, so it must be the alternator.  It's a Bosch alternator with a separate regulator, with most of the wear items built into this replaceable part.  I found one on eBay for $22.  Next project will be to get the alternator out, change the regulator, and reinstall.

Some good news.  Yesterday I also visited the dealership and showed them my rusted fenders in the hopes that it might be covered under the 12 year, unlimited mileage, corrosion protection warranty.  There was a TSB release specifically addressing the rust areas I have.  The guy at the body shop took some photos and said it was "up to Volkswagen", but he thought it should be covered.  I'll find out in 2-4 weeks.  If I can get those fenders replaced, it will be a major step in the 200k rehab program crossed off the list.

Kind of looking forward to posting something other than car repair, but that's what I'm dealing with right now.

Drive fast and stay close to the break down lane.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Golf's 200K Rehab

Now that my car has rolled 200K, and I've decided the budget doesn't allow me to by my dream Golf anytime in the near future, I've been thinking about doing some other fairly serious rehab.  Over the last 11 years, there have been a lot of things that broke, rusted, burnt out, collected, or what-have-you in and on the car, and I think it's time to address a lot of it.  Since I drive this car so much, it has a chance to really improve my life.  The older I get, the more I realize investing time and money into things you use the most is time/money well spent.

So starting today, here's the partial list of rehab items as they came spewing forth.  I will be adding to this list as I think of things.

  • Headlight lenses
  • Kamei mesh front grill
  • Rear spoiler
  • Rust repair - Fenders, hood, trunk, above windshield

  • Clean out glove box (remove tapes)
  • Fix rear defroster
  • Tint windows
  • Steering wheel
  • Design custom console around shifter/e-brake handle to house:
    • Triple 12V outlets & Remote for radar detector
    • OBD port
    • Inverter
    • Bluetooth receiver
    • Aux jack
    • Phone?

  • Permanent install/wire routing:
Radar detector
12V Triple outlet
12V Cooler
Phone power
  • Driver side blown speaker
  • Driver side door switch
  • Trunk courtesy light
  • Install 12V cooler and 120v inverter

  • Pressure wash engine bay
  • Fix veg fuel line
  • Replace veg filter
  • Skid plate/Belly pan repair

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Obligatory 200k shot

So this happened. Here's hoping it'll make it to 300k before I have to do major surgery on it again!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On the road again

We had a big trip coming up, so I managed a last minute push and got the transmission in.  Finished Tuesday night, including front brakes rotors and pads, and new tires.  Trip started Thursday. 
The car has been preforming very well.  The new transmission is awesome - very quiet. I even managed to do the 5th gear swap, which was much harder to do on the new transmission. It took a lot more force to get the gears off  for some reason, I had to buy a new impact wrench and modify a new gear puller on the bench grinder. Seriously, I think I spent an extra 4 hours on this (including trips to the store for tools).  I probably had it easy with my old, worn out transmission.

The Veggie Golf rides again!
First leg of the trip saw 46.2 mpg - lower than I'd hoped, but not bad when I consider how much idling with the air conditioner on we had to do (while feeding the baby).  Also, part of that leg was done with my snow tires and roof rack on. 

The round trip mileage was 819 miles.  So I guess if I was going to have a problem, I probably would have noticed it by the end.  All looks good.  Next project, make it look respectable again.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baby auto rocker

Here's a mini project I am working on.  My new son (~4 weeks old) is doing pretty well, but he has trouble calming down when he wants to fall asleep. My wife and I spend a lot of time rocking him, and that helps to calm him down.

I thought it would be great for him to be able to rock automatically, but all of the rocking devices I have seen are swings that require the baby to be upright, which is not ideal for putting him to sleep.  I decided to make a basic rocking machine out of parts I had lying around.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Another day, another transmission job

Sometimes it feels like it never ends.  But nonetheless, another day has brought forth another chapter in my struggle to have a perfectly working car.  So let's get down to it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

48V LiFePO4 Battery Repair, AKA: Something goes right for once this month

Amidst countless failures this month, most of which to do with my VW Golf, and will be saved for another post, I was successful at recommissioning my 48V bike battery.  And I'm pretty psyched about that, since a new one would have been well over $500 shipped.  Let's have a look at the story.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

48v Bike battery pack investigations

As I think I mentioned a few posts ago, my 48v bike battery seems to have a problem with cutting out under full throttle.  This is the case even immediately after charging.  I haven't known much about the battery pack, since I bought it used and it came with no documentation, but after reviewing lots of eBay auctions selling similar items, I have a pretty good guess at what I'm dealing with.  I think I've even figured out what happened, and what to do if there's any chance of fixing it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Probe awakens early from its winter nap

Well just when I thought I'd finally gotten past this auto maintenance nightmare... What was only supposed to be an exciting couple of weeks in incoming baby-world (my wife is due next weekend), I have spent basically dealing with my cars.  I'll try to summarize the story as simply as possible.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Windows 8 audio clicks and glitches narrowed down to Malwarebytes

Ever since I got my Windows 8 PC, I have been having serious problems with audio.  Basically all sound playback on my system experiences a brief  but frequent click, skip, glitch, stutter, whatever you prefer.  I can reproduce the issue on any sound card or firewire sound interface (devices tested include the onboard Conexant SmartAudio HD, my external Phonic Helix 12, and my Edirol FA-101).  All of them seem to have audio clicks, with the firewire interfaces' clicks seeming more harsh for whatever reason.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Seal replaced, back on the road!

Last night things moved ahead considerably.  I was very happy to see that the replacement seal arrived priority mail (from - they've never done me wrong) on Monday, after I ordered it on Friday night.  I also went out and found a seal puller (similar to the one pictured) at Sears, of all places.  None of the regular auto parts stores carry this thing for some reason.
The elusive seal puller I finally obtained.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Gears replaced, leak found!

Well, I was going to update this the other night, but sometimes there's only enough time to work on the car.  So a few things have happened since my last post: for one thing, I got the old gears off. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Friday, March 01, 2013

Torn up gears, and a dead end for now

Well today I got the transmission cover off.  There were two gears in here (5th gear and the selector gear) that were totally rounded (all teeth were sheared off).

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Leaky Transmission

Well after a horrible stay at La Guardia airport for almost 12 hours, I am home and thinking about my car problems.  Tried to get into it after work today, which usually goes something like this:

Bye Bye, 5th Gear

It had to have been within 10 minutes of my staring at the odometer, marveling at the nearly 199,000 miles I had wracked up on my VW Golf and thinking how trouble-free the car had lately been, when my cruise control disengaged, and the car started to do the all-too-familiar "death coast".  Without thinking or trying anything else, I immediately turned on my four-way flashers and started moving into the breakdown lane -scoping the distance to the next rest area.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sunny but windy test ride

The more I thought about my minimum voltage yesterday, the more it was bothering me.  The battery holds a lot more energy than that.  It occurred to me that if the voltage is dropping, but the energy isn't being used, it's probably a loose or high resistance connection somewhere.

The weather was still pretty warm today (and actually sunny and somewhat dry), so I decided to do a decent test run and see if I could figure out what's going on.  First I fashioned a temporary front fender out of cardboard.  Looked kind of ghetto, but it did help a lot.  I rode down Shelburne Rd. and back on the bike path, about half of yesterday's trip.  Throughout the trip, I wasn't completely sure, but I did seem to see 2 different behaviors on the instantaneous volt meter.  At times it would only drop one bar under full throttle (normal), and other times it was down to half.  I also noticed my top speed dropped about 10MPH when this happened.

When I got back, I checked all the connections, and sure enough, I found the culprit.  The connection between the battery and the battery management system (BMS) was still a cheap, standard crimp connector.  It was not too hot to touch, but definitely pretty warm.  When I pulled it apart  I saw a little bit of charring around one of the contacts.  Going to replace this with a Power Pole connector.

Accidentally reset my power stats when I was changing the watt meter over, but enough said/noticed to satisfy me on this.  Round trip was about 8.5 miles.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Crock Pot modification

One of the neat things we got as part of our Christmas haul is a Crock Pot.  I've been wanting one for a while, and it was really perfect timing.  We've already made quite a few dishes in it, and it's been going very well.  One thing that kind of sucked was that one outlet in the kitchen (apparently) doesn't work, and it took an hour to find out that the Crock Pot wasn't cooking.  There is no power light on the device anywhere, and the only way you know anything is happening is by the surface getting hot, which either takes a long time to do so, or is so hot that it will burn your hand.  Besides these lengthy guessing games, it's a safety concern when there is no visual indication that the thing is so hot you can't touch it.  Not really ideal.

To complicate matters, I also invested in a simple outlet timer that would shut off power to the cooker in case no one was home to do so.  The timer I got also lacks any sort of on/off indicator, so it's even more difficult to tell whether the crock pot is functioning or not.

A number of possible solutions came to mind, but I finally decided that the slow cooker/crock pot should really just have a power light.

Muddy ride to co-op

Today I took the bike out again after a (supposedly) full charge.  I decided to do an errand run downtown, normally a medium difficulty run in the summer because of traffic, etc.  During the winter it was slightly higher difficulty due to the high winds and mud (from melting snow).  I really need to get a front fender.  My face was covered with brown polka-dots when I got back. 
Photo by: Steve over at ADV Garage

I guess the slightly concerning thing was that my pack voltage was lower than it should have been.  It seems like perhaps it didn't get a full charge.  A 12 mile ride is generally not anywhere near enough to drain the pack, and by the time I got back, it was close to the cut out voltage.   The overall juice consumption seemed reasonable for the ride, but it seemed like that was about all that was in the pack.

Stats after ride:
12.34 miles
45 degrees. 
42 minutes round trip.

Amp Hours Used: 8.431 AH 
Watt Hours Used: .403 kWH

Pack voltage minimum: 45.35 minimum (this is really low for only 8.4 AH!)
Sitting at 52.8V

So tomorrow I'll take it for another run and see if I can figure out why my performance is being hit.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January ride on the Spear Street loop

One of the amazing things about winter in Vermont, at least a normal one is that we typically get a January thaw.  Almost like clockwork, the second week of January will give us a quick break from the brutality of cold, snowstorms, and short days.  Today was one such day, and I decided to venture out on my e-bike once more. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

HeatTrack Project

For a while now (long before the invention of the Nest Thermostat (which is an awesome accomplishment in its own right), I've had the idea of building a smart heat management system for my house. Here are some of the issues that prompted me to consider doing this.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

DIY Snowshoes

Susannah was talking about snow-shoeing today, and I got the idea that it might be neat to try to make some.  From a pure practicality standpoint, at worst, it would be nice to have something to help the occasional trek out to the storage shed when the need arises.  At best, I might actually try doing some real snow shoeing (in a place where I won't be judged by some yuppie with their $300 designer L.L. Bean, carbon fiber jobbies).  I decided to use any of the million scrap pieces of wood in the garage.