Long time, no update

The last update here was back in October, after we got the Lancer.

It’s not that I don’t want to maintain the blog, but it’s a reflection of how busy I’ve been with work and other stuff.

My most recent tinkering was with the sensors I’ve attached to our solar hot water system, to log its temperatures on the roof collector, at the bottom of the tank (which are what it uses for controlling a pump on it’s own), and adding some sensors to the take off lines to the house and flat, and return line.

The first rendition had it using TTL signals over telephone cable on 20m distance. It worked, but wasn’t without issue – the comms would have missing bits in the data being sent, so I programmed the software to work with it whilst I figured a better solution. Yes, it is indeed possible to get reliable enough data even with many letters missing.

The change recently to that setup was adding RS485 communication, which is far more resilent to noise and designed for the long haul. I took a leaf out of the systems I use at work, which is that RS485 is capable of long distance communication and at high speeds.

There was significant pain in getting that to work, in my testing I was getting corrupt data each time I tested, regardless of how I hooked up. It was very odd. I then got to thinking that I’ll measure the frequency to ground for one of the pairs. I read 50Hz. Hmm.. I didn’t know USB supply was 50Hz.. anyway, I immediately thought of the only source for 50Hz in my test cases was through the laptop charger to mains..

I took out the charger off the laptop, and viola, reliable data straight away. Many hours wasted on that, but, a hard lesson learned – beware of mains interference through ground. That is one which I’m sure I’ll be able to apply again, but it was a hard learnt one, the weekend and then some wasted troubleshooting that issue (I didn’t think to check frequency until I was very tired of it).

I also took a large stab some months ago at the communication protocol used in the Lancers, it’s very easy to use and provides usable data – which contributes to making the car easily tuned.

As for work, it’s keeping me busy. But there’s a time not long ago that I was very frustrated and convinced I wasn’t going to hang around with all the IT support requests I was receiving that were just purely annoying. And it’s internal support. I don’t think it’s overly the support requests that were the problem, just the increasing workload that those interruptions continually caused.

It’s very difficult, regardless of task to get anything done if you are disrupted every so often with calls of a repetitive nature.

It’s unfortunate that I am being kept busy as well, it means that things that I really wanted to work got neglected, such as our backyard gardens – they’ve got overgrown due to no care at all, and our fruit tree collection is trying to thrive with minimal input.

We are still trying to get some inroads into modifying the interior of our house and extending it. We’ve got a plan that we believe will work, and can sort of make a start on it. I can’t wait to get stuck into tearing up the bathroom, it’ll mean I get a break off work for a bit and get stuck into it. That’d be really nice. Then the plan is to get the exterior of the extension built up and I can then have some fun fitting that out, new kitchen, decent loungeroom.. I can’t wait for that.

I’ve always got some ideas to tinker with as well. I’ll need to find a way to see them through to completion, one of the issues I have…

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Replacing the car

Ever since the Pulsar got rear ended, I’ve been hunting for a car.

Finding one is difficult – the selections are limited by criteria that really narrow things down to the right car for the job – and considering I don’t hit the freeway often, and do mostly trips to and from work, it’s best to get a 4 cylinder car.

So I did. Another Nissan Pulsar 2003 model. Black. But this was the series two – and looked and test drove good – but a few weeks later the issue with it became prominent, the head gasket was allowing exhaust into the coolant so it’d over heat when driven for a while. The cause could have been a few things, I flushed the coolant system with a Coolant Flush and the Engine Oil with an Engine Flush.

I did both in the same service and took it for a drive (at this same time we were isolating a rattle that wasn’t there when test driven, turns out AA batteries under the carpet under the drivers seat = great way to annoy someone).

Anyway, we set out to replace the head on that, and since it over heated and had those several issues with it, lost confidence in it so will finish that with a replacement head and gasket, and find a new home for it.

A few weeks later – hunting and weeding out the crap from the good, we found a 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer down Sydney. Looked good – first car from a Used car dealer, got him to knock 1000 off the price and did the deal.

At the time of buying, we looked over the log books and found the timing belt wasn’t explicitly serviced, but there were services around the 100000k mark – so the dealer and I both concluded, well they signed it off, surely they did the belt.

After getting it back my partner followed up with the mechanic who signed the log book “Nah, sorry, we’ve only got it as having an oil change done”. So there you have it, log books are useless anyway.

I set out to change the timing belt after tossing up whether it’d be worth doing, and given we still had the Pulsar hanging around, I decided we’d give it ago.  I know the Mitsubishi engine used is an interference engine, so driving it around with an overdue timing belt also didn’t make sense.

I ordered the kit and then a water pump too (do that whilst in there!). The kit arrived and making the belt accessible was surprisingly difficult – everything in the way has to come out – including the motor mount. So this meant that for me to stop and pack up – I’d have to jack the engine to the right point and reinstall the engine mount each time – and so that was done.

It’s amazing when tackling the timing belt how many ‘odds’ you might want to get as well – I went out to get a 14mm deep socket – this allowed the engine mount bolts to come off. I went out to get a 17mm 1/2 inch socket. I went out to get a 22mm socket. I went out to get a.. you get the idea. I spent a fair bit of time on the belt change just getting bits to move a bolt out of the way!

After getting the belt exposed, it got easier – mark the old belt, take the old belt off. Mark the new belt, put the new belt on in the correct order. Test, retest and test again to be sure the engine is in time.

The damned floor jack under the motor got in the way a fair bit too – changing the water pump means draining the coolant, which means a oil pan has to get in somewhere – on top of the jack? It’d probably fall off. A length of garden hose on the end of the connector got it!

I can’t say I wouldn’t do another, but I would love a timing chain.

I’ll finish off the few end bits (coolant – it’s still got just demin water in it, oil change, check some torque) on the Lancer soon and start driving it, freeing the Pulsar up so we can give it a head job.

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The Pulsar suffers from a Hilux on it’s rear.

Today, I pulled out of my driveway, stopped at the end of the street. Waited patiently for the never to be seen gap in traffic on the main road. Whilst waiting for the gap, I see behind me there’s the neighbours white Toyota Hilux. I’ve found a gap. I take it.

Took the left turn onto the main road. Proceeded to increase speed to around 40. Up 20 seconds or so ahead there’s a Skyline and a few other cars, slowing. Stopped.

I stop behind the Skyline (it was left of the centre of the lane). About 5 seconds later, I get a sharp smash up from behind. And that’s the end of the Nissan Pulsar, just barely 1 year in my hands, insurance renewed two weeks ago, Crank and Cam sensors replaced recently. Oil and air on the weekend, and more servicing was to come (Brake and Power steering fluid was planned for very soon).

I get out, I see the rear of the car. Bugger – it’s bullbar through boot damage. We conclude we are holding up traffic and move the cars off the road.

The car in front gets out – he is annoyed, ahh, his Skyline has taken on paint damage. Poor thing. He’ll be late for TAFE and have a paint scratch on his metallic gold car to contend with.

The tow trucks arrive with no call. Awesome, saves me the mobile call charge. They suggest the car is a write off – I don’t trust their assessment as gospel, but consider it. They offer to tow the car and get paid from the insurance company – hope that works for them.

We wait for the police to attend – now if only police officers drove tow trucks, they’d be there. An hour of waiting around. Still no police. Tow truck driver puts a call in to find out where they are – we’ll be there in 5 minutes. OK.

15 minutes passes, nearly 9.00.. Nope. 9.15am – there they are! Police. Give them a statement, go over the damage, neighbour gets a ticket or two apparently (Police seem to give out neg driving for attending an accident).

The tow truck loads up, the Pulsar has more than a few scratches, and I go to work –  who were really awesome and offered to pick me up from there (public transport takes too long).

I report it to the insurer, the assessment centre get the car from the tow truck company. The assessment centre call me this afternoon – “Total Loss” – OK. I was expecting it, if they had of returned it repaired – I would have had to wait it out and sell it anyway.

I’m kind of annoyed about it, it’s not a bad car – good on fuel economy, and is fairly dependable. I just got it down to 6.1L/100kM.

My head is still sore. Doctor reckons Whiplash.

I’ll see it one more time to get some stuff out of the boot (I hope the assessment centre got it open – it was smashed in). And then it’ll go to the auctions apparently.

I do hope that TAFE student got to TAFE and his paint gets sorted out. Sucks to be him.

The next door neighbour – no insurance. So our insurers will be beating down his door for dollars soon. And so will that Third Party Property Damage TAFE student for his scratched paint. Poor bugger.

Hopefully we can find something similar. I don’t mind the good fuel economy. There are a few Pulsars around in the Manual transmission, but I dunno – time for something different…?

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“Over Thinking”?

Seriously.. I spend too much time putting thought into what I will end up doing…

Just recently, contemplating a method to monitor the actual roof sensor on our hot water system, I wanted to avoid any effects on the circuit (temperature sensors / thermistors rely on change in resistance to measure difference in temperature).

Back when I was much younger, I’d have not given a toss about resistance and just wired it up and looked at the reading and used that. Alas, I wanted to ensure no effects so went on the hunt for an op-amp that had high impedance and would operate on +5V, and, read the entire 5V range – impossible.

It was suggested that I test reading directly, to see if there would be interference on the circuit – so I pulled out the trusty multimeter and measured voltage (previously I measured resistance), and found that this had no impact on the readings (well, no discernible impact). Why I never went with voltage to begin with is beyond me.

But this essentially shows the problem, over thinking, and that’s not an isolated event. There’s getting it to work, and then getting it to work really well..

I recall sometime last year as I was starting out in my new job, I had some unclear objectives, and that lead me to consider future purposes over present need. This was at considerable time lost as so much thought and time went into putting a solution together, that ultimately was ‘past what would have done the job’.

I think I have a solution to that though – “Just Do It”. Ignoring my head wandering off into a different direction, and just meeting requirements would ultimately get ‘the job done’. That’s what I have to remember – “Just Do It”. Worry about the problems later. After a problem has occurred. Chances are good that it was never a problem anyway, and my thoughts leading me astray – waste of time.

The new job I’m at clearly value me, and think very highly of me – bugger knows why though – considering the time spent with my thoughts leading me astray, I’d probably fail on ‘productivity’ – so they like me for something else. The paranoia in me says they are toying with me.

Why are my thoughts leading me astray? I can’t focus – that’s the real problem, the cause of which who knows. I can’t say I get distracted a lot, I get a few calls / emails, but that’s not the distractions as such.

Same issue with the car, I was going to try and find a way of measuring Mass Air Flow, thinking that’d be about the same as measuring injectors. Wrong, injectors are better – who cares about air flow in fuel consumption calculations – 14.7 is the magic stoich ratio, but I want ml’s injected over distance.

And there I go again, wandering off – lost focus.

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Hot Water Pipe Insulation

When we first looked at improving energy consumption – the hot water system attached to the granny flat was first on the list to go given that it was leaking.

As part of our changeover to Solar Hot Water, we had a pipe installed to the granny flat to connect it to the house, this pipe went into the ground.

At the time of installation I specifically asked the installer why would they not insulate it – to which he replied “There’s no better insulation then the ground”. That doesn’t apply here though the ground holds a lot of water.

Hot Water being merely Water with energy used to heat it up, also loses that energy by heat transfer – so as we were heating the water up in the tank, we would lose a good portion of that heat in the ground through heat transfer – it would get to the flat in the low 40′s.

So, on Saturday, we got some 3m lengths of 50mm PVC Pipe, and some expanding foam. The pipe was cut along it’s length, so we could wrap the pipe around the copper pipe that was in the ground.

Then, after all the lengths were installed, the expanding foam was sprayed into the pipe, and allowed to expand (it’s awesome stuff – expanded way out of the pipe.

After this, the water temperature was checked, and is now 48oC. Much better result and should have knock on effects in terms of water consumption – hot water faster & hotter – less hot water used. It is 48oC because it’s a requirement of having a solar hot water system that a tempering valve is installed to prevent scalding (else it’d come out at temperatures of up to 130oC.

Lesson learnt here was: What on earth does a plumber know?!

The flat is still set to be demolished though – when we do the extension to the house. Which still seems to be far away, no matter how often and how important one sets the goal to save for it.  We’ve made some minor changes to the floor plan that delivers more space for the bathroom at a cost of 0.6m from the already large main bedroom. And I think we are very much at the point where we can get some properly done construction plans with set measurements on it.

I did attempt to put a materials only budget on the renovation and it’s very close to 19k with no labour on the structural work. So allowing something for labour will bring it to around 25k, and probably more – a goal that we are still yet to get close to. A better materials and labour calculator of some sort would be nice.

Posted in House, Random, Sustainable Future | 1 Comment

Cleaning the car: Clay Bar works!

I’ve finally got around to starting on protecting the paint on our 2003 Pulsar, and gave the body a once over with a clay bar to see if I’d get any good results from it.

I started on the boot, and figured if it takes too long, I can get the other sections of the car later (we raced the sun since we don’t have any shaded spot at our place – not a bad thing really, no dead patches of grass – even where we want no grass).

After giving the boot a once over, I got the wax out and waxed it as well – after doing this, the boot was noticeably smoother and the paint seemed clearer (not a grey/blue black, but a black black – Super Black).

I then started on the drivers side from the boot to the front fender and that also got a positive result, however it did help find a few stone chips too that need painting up now. I applied the wax anyway, and then noticed that was far smoother.

As it is now, I can run my hand across one side of the car and it glides smoothly, on the other you can feel the difference.

I will be doing the roof and other side soon, and the bonnet will get it’s chance after the numerous stone chips are all corrected (stone chips have to be the worst I think, building up paint in a large chip has to be easier than what I think stone chips will be ).

I didn’t go into it expecting miracles, but I’m impressed. I think we might keep it away from car parks now – walk the groceries home to keep the paint in good nick.

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Why should the government fund Holden?

Holden is a private company. They employ Australians to manufacture cars in their Australian factory.

They therefore provide jobs to Australians by maintaining the factory here. Holden, and their parent company, General Motors are fully aware they can get labour cheaper in many other countries around the world.

Holden (and General Motors), know that to survive in a competitive market, they need to be innovative. They must ensure the product they sell meets the demands of their target markets, and keep the costs of meeting that objective low, in order to produce large profits  - so they can firstly maintain the business, and secondly satisfy share holder return on investment targets.

The basics of business. You find your market, you do whatever you can to capitalise that market, and you innovate to stay ahead of competitors.

I’m not surprised that Holden again is asking for a government handout or risk large numbers of jobs being lost. But they shouldn’t.

Holden being Holden merely need to make the business decision. Is it affordable to build the same car elsewhere, cheaper and import it, or is it cheaper to maintain the factory in Australia and pay staff the wages they do, at a rate which will no doubt demand increase just as Toyota attempted.

We don’t need to put government funds into competitive markets, they are competitive markets because others have found a way to do what Holden do, cheaper, or in a manner that the market decides is better than Holden, i.e. Toyota sell so many cars for a reason, Holden wasn’t the choice. Mazda are gaining sales in Australia because the market likes the Mazda offering.

Holden don’t need government funds, they need to find what the Australian market wants and deliver on that – and thinking for just a nano second, fuel prices are rising inline with demand for a limited resource – so targetting that more could yeild more sales. But Holden’s parent company already did that – through the Chevrolet Volt- an electric car.

If Holden still can produce the same car elsewhere, cheaper, and by a significant margin, then they shouldn’t pester the government for funds to stay in Australia, they should just get on with it – the profits will always be tempting no matter how much the government tries to meet them.

When more than too many of our jobs have been lost off shore, then, perhaps the market will again adjust to accept that there is in fact a limit to how high wages can increase and it’s flow on effect in the larger picture.

I don’t get it – why would you unnecessarily pay staff more money to do the same job? I know cost of living pressures increase the requirement for an increase – but then those pressures simply stem off other industries who also increase wages, pass the costs on to consumers. There’s got to be an absolute limit to that increase, I’m just now sure how that can be determined.

I’ve long seen this effect – from seeing Rental prices increase from what I thought was reasonable, at $160p/w to what now is $320p/w. Or the price of a bottle of Coke – $1.80 to $3.50.

The problem for Holden is where competitors have products in the market, think Nissan, Hyundai, who have a stronger price advantage – Holden can only go so cheap before they make next to nothing, and so lose sales in that way.

There used to be buy Australian Made adverts on TV – you’d think that those would have made many people think differently – but not so, at least, to me. I don’t care too much where a non-food item originates. It’s the quality and it’s value for money that will be my first consideration.

How does government funding of Holden change that? It doesn’t. It merely delays the inevitable, and forces tax payers to keep the temporary situation possible. It might only be cheaper if we assume the workers will all go to unemployment indefinitely – not so – many will find a job as soon as possible to maintain their lifestyle, whilst others would start their own pursuits, and then, you’ll have a subset stuck in unemployment for short to medium terms (as they have worked, they won’t want to be unemployed so are far more likely to find employment).

Funding Holden will only delay their inevitable decision – workers strike as they don’t get a pay rise, and Holden then decide they can’t afford that, and so pull out. Mitsubishi did similar as far as I know.

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NewSoftSerial – Adding a baud rate

I was continuing testing with the Arduino to get communication happening with the car – there is a requirement to test data against known values to confirm findings.

I was aiming to use the hardware driven serial on the Arduino’s ATMega328 chip – the reference docs claim it can support custom baud rates, so I figured it should just work.

The code base over at OBDuino suggests that Serial.begin(10400) should also work. I was blaming the circuit used for the lack of communication, which would make sense, but it does work with NewSoftSerial. I tested this last night by using 9600 baud with an ELM327 cable. The test fails using the baud rate of 10400 in the Hardware serial.

With NewSoftSerial working at 9600 baud, the missing link then becomes how to use 10400 baud with NewSoftSerial.

The answer was simple enough thankfully:

#if F_CPU == 16000000

static const DELAY_TABLE PROGMEM table[] =
{
// baud rxcenter rxintra rxstop tx
{ 115200, 1, 17, 17, 12, },
{ 57600, 10, 37, 37, 33, },
{ 38400, 25, 57, 57, 54, },
{ 31250, 31, 70, 70, 68, },
{ 28800, 34, 77, 77, 74, },
{ 19200, 54, 117, 117, 114, },
{ 14400, 74, 156, 156, 153, },
{ 10400, 106, 218, 218, 215, },
{ 9600, 114, 236, 236, 233, },
{ 4800, 233, 474, 474, 471, },
{ 2400, 471, 950, 950, 947, },
{ 1200, 947, 1902, 1902, 1899, },
{ 300, 3804, 7617, 7617, 7614, },
};

The baud rate 10400 is simply 10400 / 9600 = 1.0833333. Then for each of the 9600 rx and tx values, divide by 1.0833333.

Testing this with the OBD wake up that gets sent every second or so (ox01, 0x3E, 0x3F) gets the correct data as it would be at 9600 baud (and matches what I tested with the ECU in the car).

It’s not ideal though, software serial is using CPU clock cycles to fake an actual serial port, there needs to be a reason as to why the Arduino didn’t like 10400 baud, this is against the knowledge that it works with the OBDuino – a project that’s been used numerous times in the USA, and would therefore be successful.

It really should come down to whether the circuit is correct (I’ve tried the variation here; http://blog.perquin.com/prj/obdii/, and here elmelectronics.com/DSheets/ELM323DS.pdf, and the very simple zener and resistor circuit here, http://sterntech.com/obdii_protocols_iso.php) – not to mention variations to those to see if it was a TX related issue (- I was leaving TX empty for receiving only).

Being the holiday period it’ll take too long to track down one of the IC chips used in the OBDuino, and the MC33290 IC used there is End of life.

I’ve looked over this circuit by someone else who tried the same trick as the first link above, but that’s really only adding protection, and looking through his blog, I doubt he found a result – he claims he got the initial init – but that’s it)..

Logically thinking, the serial would be processed as one might expect, the data bits are logic high and low – 5V high, 0V low, the standard used in the car is that the circuit idles high and goes low when bits are being sent – so 0, 1, 0, 1 is simply 0V, 5V, 0V, 5V. That should be received, but perhaps the arduino’s software is discarding it – though that makes less sense compared to the circuit not producing enough current to trigger a logic high / logic low as need be. I don’t think the pulses are long enough for the DMM to pick up either.

I’ll have to toss up on how to solve this issue another time, I’ve got something to work with now that’ll get me the test setup I need for data transmission.

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Eureka! Those 5 bytes are found.

I spent the last few weeks attempting to determine what 5 bytes are necessary to initialise the connection to the car ECU.

I tried a few methods of discovering just what the ones and zeros were telling me, and tonight, a break through, I now know precisely the 5 bytes used to initialise the Nissan ECU for Consult II protocol (and the ECU reply)!

The next is to then get discovering the raw data. The bytes always require calculation to derive the real value (i.e. Hex: 0A is what might be returned for RPM – but you won’t find a car doing 10 RPM). Of course fishing out what the PIDs are and those calculations is going to be fun.

I do hope to discover most of the information available and gather it then set up a microcontroller and small LCD display with it for data logging purposes.

That can then store info on real time fuel economy, giving the driver feedback as to whether the current style matches desired consumption (important with fuel prices catching reality). It has other reasonable uses too, log speed and attach a GPS and you can get some idea of what the car was doing and where. Get cameras and the above GPS and you can log useful information there too.

That’s off in the distance, I’ve still got to get the connection going, get the bytes moving and get the code written.

But on that note, why is it that when the simple solution is staring me right in the face (literally in some cases), I take the longest road?

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Some success

I had a look over the garden / backyard farm this afternoon to see how all was after the large amount of rain we’ve had and to see if there was anything wrong.

I looked over the Granny Smith apple tree, trying to find if any of the flowers had started to turn into fruit, I look over them from time to time to see if they’ve got any issues – and typically just from the one side, this afternoon my partner had a look at it from the other side, and we’ve found something…

Two apples had been hiding behind the leaves at the top of the tree that I didn’t think there was anything behind..

I was well aware of the Lemon tree making progress – it’s got some fruit forming that’s a few months old and should be ready to harvest after the season is up.

The tree is still small, but it’s certainly larger than it started – this tree was the smallest of them all at the nursery, and had just two leaves and a very thin trunk at the start. It’s grown.

We’ve tried growing a heirloom variety of tomato this year, it’s called Black Russian, and is slightly unusual in that the fruit is a very dark colour. The plant is only about 5 weeks or so now and has put on strong growth with lots of fruit. I should add that there is a cucumber plant that’s very fast growing strangling it – it’ll be a competition – the strongest plant would win.

I don’t think there is a garden on this planet that hasn’t had issues with damned snails eating up young seedlings before they’ve had a chance to get big enough to support such an attack. So, we’ve just this week put in some snail traps to catch them – the trick with the trap is to have yeast and salt in combination. They like sugar and yeast type scents (the very same logic applies to alcohol, but sorry snails, you just aren’t worth that much..), so a bit of yeast, a bit of salt – done.

However, we weren’t planning on catching one of these….

Yes, it’s a cockroach in the snail trap – I wonder if that could be adapted for indoor use ?

The strawberry patch has been growing for some time, it started off with just a few seedlings, but spread itself out and took over the garden bed. The kids like strawberries, so the best solution – let them grow (the kids too). Not a lot of fruit though, damned snails get to them.

The chickens came along last year, they’ve been laying lots of eggs. We’ve had them escape before too. They aren’t too bad though, not noisy, and not a lot of maintenance too them.

Which one is for dinner? – They sit there thinking they were going to get some scraps – instead they got a photo.  As can be seen in the background, nothing is as good at getting rid of grass as a chicken. They’ll tear the ground up, get rid of the grass, crap all over it and scratch it over again – stopping any chance of the grass growing back …

Until you move them.

The corn and tomatoes are in there, they’ve grown over the tree stump. The chickens helpfully destroyed all grass, ate corn from their feed, ate cherry tomatoes from last years massive harvest, crapped them out, dug it over again, and that is the result after we moved them so that we could start on removing the tree stump – yes, progress has been slow.

The rain water tank is full, I was worried it’d be too dry over summer making it useless. Apparently not.

There is a nursery that we’ve started on in the backyard, however the mesh hasn’t been sewed together, and so the rest of it is unfinished.

Just like progress on seeding the follow on plants to replace the current lot.

Those are a few weeks old now, nothing. Nada. Zilch. The soil isn’t much either.

There are some Zucchini plants and Cucumber plants that are productive.

The Banana plants have some extras spawning off the side that we’ll need to transplant so that they become the replacements.

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The Calendar – In Code

It’s not so hard to look at and work with when you are looking right at one.

It becomes a different thing to work with when you are trying to calculate dynamically with it. It’s not overly difficult, it just has the potential to make me stop in my tracks and think about the logic being used.

It happened today. I started this week hoping to get to work, finish off one project inside of a short time, and move on to something different. Monday was severely flooded, I couldn’t get access to work – to uhh work. Roads were flooded. Half the day wasted on account of the rain.

I started today hoping to finish what I was working on, and by mid after noon began pondering how I’d make the ability to use two date ranges work together.

There are two date ranges, one represents the set of collected data, the data range. The other represents the variable(s) applicable to that data set – the variables are date ranges.

So to make them work, I come across issues such as – how do we work with the date of the variables being ‘after’ the reporting data set (a very real possibility, I anticipate seeing the variable date ranges begin and end with overlapping data periods.

Thinking more of it tonight, I figured this is the best representation of what must be done (in logic terms):
if (dataDateStart < variableDateStart) then
if (variableDateEnd < dataDateEnd) then
//days involved is the days between variableDateStart and variableDateEnd
else if (variableDateEnd >= dataDateEnd) then
//days involved is the days between varaibleDateStart and dataDateEnd

else //if dataDateStart >= variableDateStart)
if (variableDateEnd < dataDateEnd) then
//days involved is the days between dataDateStart and variableDateEnd
else if (variableDateEnd >= dataDateEnd) then
//days involved is the days between dataDateStart and dataDateEnd

That gives the complete desired overlap needed when considering the variables.
If the variables don’t meet the data date ranges, that becomes a user error (otherwise the loop fetches multiple records with multiple date ranges and acts accordingly).

It’s not overly difficult in the basic form, I just don’t always see the simple when thinking of how to make it work.

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Moving Data Wirelessly

I’ve got a few sensors I’d be keen on moving data wirelessly between.

The first is the Solar Hot Water system, which is where I wanted to start – wirelessly read some temperature sensors, and send them to the server for logging purposes, and set up a warning to turn on electric heating if need be (it’d be a relay if it could, but it can’t at the moment).

The original point was so we could gauge some idea of how much hot water was flowing out to the flat compared to the house, but then looking at the system since we’ve again emptied the flat, the solar hot water is easily serving our requirements – it’s obvious the source of waste was the flat. Still would be useful to have wireless information on.

Next, I have some thoughts on monitoring the moisture and temperature of the soil, and then have a pump trigger as appropriate, to find and keep them in the ideal growing range. Not enough time to put that together in a good way.

Wireless data is easily done with the Arduino microcontrollers and the NRF24L01 from Nordic, and another use which I have just started putting together is wireless data transmission – I’ll be hooking it up to the serial line in the car to get that data wirelessly transmitted whilst I get the protocol data. Store this, read it, and then it’s just a matter of sending that data out correctly, to get the same data in reply.

The difficulties are not in the circuit (though this can be somewhat not so simple to put together), it’s not in the code (that’s easy, even if you do forget to allow for some events), it’s in the enclosure – putting them together in a way that allows the board, battery, and additions in a neat manner is not so easy.

Creating a custom board with the microcontroller and wireless chip on it would be a better idea – with inputs and power planned in the design.

Posted in Programming, Random | Leave a comment

Finally Licensed

Yesterday I went to go for the final test to get off the provisional licence (it was due to expire in 14 days).

I drove out to Gosford to get the car registration sorted, and then I went over to the Gosford RTA – I arrived 15 minutes early as specified. It was the wrong RTA branch (I booked in Erina – we were at Gosford). They were kind enough to let me take the test, very nice of them – I would have tried to make it to Erina (a 15 minute drive away) but sure, why not take it where we were. Nice service which is great from an organisation that charges through the nose for each of it’s services.

I took the test for the first time and got a perfect score – the lady at the RTA said it doesn’t happen often – just 6 people from what she recalls had a perfect score.

The DQT is similar to previous tests but more difficult in the required responses – multiple responses are required in some cases. The tricks are to only take the safest of safe gaps, and don’t overtake unless you have complete visibility – I didn’t overtake at all.

I prepared for it though, there is a handbook on the RTA website that if you don’t read, will cause you to get some of the questions wrong – the questions are far from common knowledge in some cases and so the answers must be known. I also practised using the SA Mylicence HPT, some of which are actually in the DQT test.

After I passed, I took the P plates off the Pulsar. That answered my partners question to whether I passed or not (or I like getting fines..).

The best option they have is 5 years for $157 – so I took that which gives an effective price of around $30 a year (as long as you don’t lose it by points or physically).

I could complain about how the system is extremely flawed and should be changed to require better driver training instead of pissing around with log books and touch screens, but I won’t.

Then, after I got the licence, I reversed out of the parking spot, drove forward and failed to stop at the stop sign at the carpark (I reckon they catch L platers unprepared that way too). 15 seconds into my full licence and first road rule violation. Licencing isn’t perfect, and neither are humans.

After I got back the Sonata got a wash at last, and then jump started and moved to the front, an ad now exists on Gumtree to get rid of it if anyone wants it registered and working (Cancelling the rego would make it harder to move). We already have a call about it- but I’m reluctant to drop $100 in it’s first hour.

Posted in Random | 1 Comment

A drainage trench

We had an issue with water pooling on the side of our house, we originally thought this was related to the neighbours driveway – it was caving this way, but after they replaced that recently, we’ve still seen water pooling at the side of the house.

I thought it might be a storm water issue after having rain pool at a specific spot and so dug around only to find there is no storm water pipe along that part of the house – the PVC pipe from the back of that side runs out to the granny flat’s pipe work then back around to the front via the driveway.

So with that ruled out, and council useless as usual, and water pooling under the other side of the house as well, I decided we’d stick in a drainage trench to remove the water from the side of the house next to the wall, and see if that fixes the water going under the house on the other side (it might if it’s travelling under or over the foundation brick work).

The painful bits of the trench are digging it and trying to plan a usable path for it. I didn’t put a lot of thought into where we were going at the start, originally planning to run the trench toward the backyard, and link to storm water there, but we have plans to extend over that part of the backyard, and the foxtel dish is in the way.

So the other way, towards the front yard seemed to be OK – and this was what we ended up doing – the path the pipe takes is actually not unworkable – there’s a good garden beds space on the side of the fence facing the pipe – so it’s not going to get in the way.

After digging the trench and walking around in mud, the next bit was to get the gravel and sand. I came stuck planning on how the storm water connection was going to work from the pit considering the water was going to be 400mm underground and the storm water is at 110mm.
The fix to that was to use the angle we are on to our advantage and connect to the pipe further down – 9m down from the pit – but again, all worked in well because the fence and pipe leaves about 900mm of room to have a garden bed in without interrupting the pipe.

We then glued the pipe in and started on lining the drainage trench with geotextile fabric, then inside this was a layer of gravel, and then the ag pipe goes in, and fill with gravel.

That was 2 weekends worth of sorting out.

We got sand and turns out we got by without it – the sand was originally going to line the trench to make grading it easier – turns out you are better off grading mud. The kids have been playing with it – so may be they’ll have a sand pit (and even a gravel pit if there’s gravel left).

Last night, I was determined to see it start flowing after having the pipes in place and seeing water build up behind the pit. I pushed the pit into the ground a touch more and it started bubbling into the pit through the ag pipe.

After going out and coming back, the water was flowing through the storm water connection out to the street. No more water pooling near the house now.

Of course, now we have the drainage trench in, it’ll hardly ever rain until next winter, I bet.

There’s always the clean up and finishing bit – that is, finish filling it with gravel, get the soil somewhere else and make it look good again.

The hope is also that the front lawn will be less soggy and so more green grass. I can only hope.

With that out of the way though, this afternoon after work, I made a start on the Sonata, it’s sitting around doing nothing, so I’ve been planning on tidying it up and seeing whether anyone wants to buy it. Today, I stuck in thicker oil to sort out a leak it had developed. The rocker cover has a bolt or two in it that seem to let oil seep around it, but also, it seeped out and onto the exhaust manifold.
The alternator of course had oil drops on it. That was with 10W30 oil.

So I stuck in 20W50, thick oil. Not good for fuel economy, but should sort that leak out.

I now need to rip out the front door lock assembly and fix or replace it because you can’t open it from inside – not good to pass rego with that.

Once that is sorted out, we’ll have to refit the glove box – I took it out when I installed the fuel monitoring circuit direct to the ECU. Never got around to putting it back in because the leak in the windscreen had to be traced through there too.

Once that’s done the Sonata can probably get a clean and see what people are prepared to buy it for and good timing too, because the Pulsar’s rego is due soon – there goes $900.

I’ve been keeping an eye on it’s consumption and it’s getting 6.4L/100kM at the moment, far better than the 10L/100kM the Sonata was pulling – of course they are both very different cars and very different engines – the Sonata has a large 2L engine.

Posted in Garden, House, Random | 2 Comments

My First Lawn Mower

After messing around with it for a few hours this morning, the lawn mower finally starts and the grass is finally cut.

The problem turned out to be the spark plug, which would work but go crappy after the motor had heated up.

I didn’t realise this until after I cleaned it with Isopropyl Alcohol and a screw driver scratching away the crap that built up on the plug (I didn’t have any sand paper).

The Isopropyl Alcohol is very flammable, so would assure a spark (or flame of some sort to get the mower pushing along). This got the mower going for a while and then the plug would get black again and then stop.

So I went out to Bunnings later today, and got a new plug, tried it and still no joy, took the old plug did another clean, petrol in the spark plug hole, Alcohol on the plug, and it worked until it went black and stopped.

So I took the best of both worlds on the new plug, Alcohol and a firm push on the spark plug connector, and it started first pull! Damned – could have done that yesterday – or earlier today when I was going to get a new spark plug. Oh well, it worked.

I let it idle and adjusted the mixture to stop it popping and shaking about (due to my earlier efforts in trying to start it today), and it worked nicely. At idle. That wasn’t going to knock down all the clover and long grass we had under the trampoline.

So I took another go at refitting the governor spring, which is the spring that goes from the throttle, and it got the revs right up and stayed there (because the throttle was full on).
The spring is in a sad state, coming off the assembly when adjusting from idle to full rev to empty the catcher for example, so I’ll simply have just an on and off state for now until I track down another spring.

The throttle cable on the handle has an issue when being pushed down in that it falls out of the bottom, it’s probably split so will need fixing later as well.

The new spark plug was $4. The petrol to overfill the tank was $3. The mower itself was $20!

The lawn mower works, the grass is cut, took the entire weekend to get there, but it’s done.

I might keep a supply of that Isopropyl Alcohol. It’s good s@#t!

Posted in Garden, Random | 1 Comment

A Lawnmower

The grass is growing a lot of clover, so during the week we decided to seek out a second hand mower (the person originally doing it has been slack, I wonder if our storage arrangement also got slack if they’d be so accepting – rain?)

I found one on Gumtree (which is good, because I was originally considering adding it to the proxy filter list due to the useless ‘central coast’ searches).

A mower was up for sale for $20, about 30 mins drive from us:

http://centralcoastnsw.gumtree.com.au/c-ViewAdLargeImage?AdId=308682622

Looks alright for $20 – doesn’t work she says, she’s not mechanically minded. I figure it might be something simple, or might be only scrap metal, either way it’s worth a shot for $20 (a cut costs $50!).

I get it back today, start it up – won’t turn over, it pulls and tries to start, but it won’t. So I take a look at fuel – there’s some in there, unknown age. The spark plug connection is loose, but there’s contact. The air filter – is in a poor condition.

With each pull you can start to see oil coming out of the exhaust of the mower, so we keep pulling and getting more oil out, but more closer to progress, and then it starts!… and stops.
Then it starts again. And stops.
And again. More oil on the deck.

Then after a few more pulls, it finally starts and stays started. I let it run for a bit as it smokes out the yard and remainder of our street.

Then I get to cutting, I start with a small easy patch to avoid it stalling and progressively start cutting the lawn, and get to the clover growing near the clothesline, it cuts through just fine.

I probably got 20 minutes into cutting it and it stalls. Catcher was just emptied and I ran over a small patch of clover, so it wasn’t struggling.

I tried pulling off the fuel tank and cleaning up the fuel a bit, it’d start but wouldn’t stay started stalling within 1 second of starting.
I checked spark plug, seemed OK to me, dark but not oily.

I then thought the fuel might be crap (we don’t know when it was last used) – but after draining the fuel and refilling again, no joy.

I couldn’t get the carby off as I couldn’t find a flat head screw driver – how is that, that I have 4 philips within arms reach, but no flat head to be found easily anywhere.

I know there is spark from testing the plug outside the hole, it was sparking as expected.

Hopefully it works tomorrow so I can finish cutting the grass, there’s about 25% of the back yard that looks good, the rest looks crap as it’s badly overgrown.

Posted in Garden, House, Random | 2 Comments

Fruit Trees are growing

I don’t get much time in the afternoon’s after work to go check on how the fruit trees are going, so the weekend is pretty much the best opportunity to have a look at them individually and see what’s happening.

Many of the stone fruit trees look the same as they did last week, however the Citrus varieties are showing growth, most notable is the Lemon tree.

That tree started as just a small twig with two leaves, it seemed like the odd one out, but we bought it anyway.

In just a week it’s put on a lot of growth and going from just one flower to 5, and has new leaves all over. It’s put on significant growth and continues to do so.

There was also a Mandarin tree we bought a few months ago. The kids love Mandarin’s so having two of them is a great idea. The new tree is smaller than the tree we bought last year, but is already flowering – it has potential to fruit if it gets pollinated.

The apple trees are slowing down, so it might be getting to an ideal point to get them in the ground somewhere.

Our chickens will need to be fenced out of the vegie garden and tree areas, I can see they would have the ability to dig out a tree, or destroy the garden beds with their scratching.

I’m currently looking for fencing. Two kinds, a nice-ish loop and spike type in Primrose colour to fence the front off. And any kind of fencing for the garden beds / tree areas to keep the chickens out.

Another idea also occurred to me this week, we want to remove a tree stump. We’ve ruled out stump grinding for many reasons, so some sort of mechanical means is necessary – cutting the roots off, and then digging the stump out is likely, but I kind of like the idea of a winch, to pull it out of the ground – they can pull 4WDs out, so the tree stump (with some preparation) should be easy. Or just dig it out.

Posted in Garden, Random, Sustainable Future | Leave a comment

Nissan Consult II – Protocol details

I did some more digging to decide how I was going to approach the protocol used.

I came across the Consult II hand held scanner manual which specifies 3 protocols used of which ISO9141 and KWP2000 are specified as using the DLC-II connector in the car (the OBDII connector).

ISO9141 is mentioned in the service manual as being used for OBDII communication (with any generic scan tool) – however I confirmed in our version it definitely doesn’t support the OBDII standard, whilst, KWP2000 is used for the Consult II protocol.

Not a lot to go with initially, but I also came across a manual for a key reprogrammer (the keys for our car are coded to the immobiliser and then to the ECU – meaning if you replace the key, the ECU needs reprogramming, if you replace the ECU, the new ECU needs reprogramming).

The baud rates mentioned there are 9600 or 10472. My bets are on 10472 baud being used.

With this, it’s now going to be a case of setting up a test of KWP2000 to the ECU at 10472 baud and attempt to request information from the car.

The KWP2000 protocol is documented, but the requests and responses, the calculations to translate the hex responses to valid data just don’t seem to be publicised.

I do know there are two items out that apparently accomplish very similar to the Nissan Consult II scanner (4000.00 on Ebay). The alternatives are the BlaztII cable for $120 USD (requires a PC in the car), or a handheld scanner from china – “Memoscan N607″ – also typically around the $120 mark.

As I considered last time I was thinking about this, the ECU really is just calculating values from sensors around the car. There’s no reason why the sensors themselves couldn’t be monitored directly and then calculate the same desired information.
I just don’t really want to be running additional cables through the engine bay to get the desired data when a perfectly good data line already exists.

If only the request / responses were readily available!

Posted in Random | Leave a comment

Creating a limited access network.

We have my partner’s sister staying out the back in the flat for a short while, and she wants to have some access to the internet.

We have plans to eventually remove that building, so paying Telstra $300 plus wasting a weekend digging a trench just to ensure she would be responsible for whatever usage for the very short time she plans to be there is nonsensical (the price is nonsensical at any time).

Instead, I think we can manage this using a wireless network that we had setup previously for the flat, and lock it right down so that only allowed traffic is sent over the link.

I haven’t done it yet, only thinking about it.

First, I’d specify a specific IP and set that in my Cisco router to allow access to port 80, 1863 only. No email, Skype, P2P or other hassles.

Then, I’d setup the wireless link using the Linksys WRT54G I have running DD-WRT. It would be a client of the main network, a static IP configured to ensure access-list compliance.

The password for the Linksys router being secured, should ensure that she can’t ever try and circumvent the measure by resetting the router – as it would remove the connection settings thus requiring my Cisco wireless password to get back online.

The Linksys router would then have wireless security applied (a second network at that, as DD-WRT can run as both a wireless client and a wireless AP). The Linksys router would be configured to drop traffic to all hosts with exception of specific hosts (i.e. hostnames ‘facebook.com’ would be allowed).

The other alternative would be for the Cisco router to forward that traffic through my proxy server first and have it filter out any requests for websites that aren’t allowed, but that adds needless delay – configure DNS in the Linksys router to point to itself, and specify a list of IPs and hostnames so that all that it can resolve are those hostnames.

Since only port 80 & port 1863 are allowed at the Cisco side of the network, there won’t be any traffic allowed for DNS (well, there is if they prefer to do web queries for every hostname they look up ;) – but the specific host names only being allowed would stop that).

No Virus issues, no Spam, no P2P, just simple web browsing and some MSN capabilities. Sounds pretty secure. Theoretically, one could P2P using it, but since the only allowed hosts are specified – that removes that possibility.

My partner wants her to have limited internet access, since I didn’t want the traffic so just said no access at all – this sounds like a good compromise between nothing, and ‘very little’.

Posted in Networking, Random | 1 Comment

Cisco PPTP VPN

I wanted the ability to access resources such as my LAN POP3, SMTP and files from another location.

I was getting tired of setting up SSH port forwards and thought about using VPN, given I have both a Linux server and a Cisco router that both can easily fulfill the function, I decided to see what the Cisco would be like to setup for PPTP VPN.

I was expecting to have to use a Radius server for authentication, but found that the local usernames on the router are good.

IP ranges on a VPN don’t need to be different, it can work with the same IP range, however traffic for that specific IP must be explicitly routed to the router, else it won’t work – it’ll attempt to find the host via Broadcast address.

Rather than doing that, I have a second LAN subnet used primarily for the ADSL modem’s web interface, this works fine – so I used that.

Unless you really are using a radius server, I wouldn’t bother with ‘aaa new-model’ as suggested elsewhere.

Commands to setup a Cisco 871W for PPTP VPN:
vpdn enable
!
vpdn-group 1
! Default PPTP VPDN group
accept-dialin
protocol pptp
virtual-template 1
!
!
!
!
username (username) password 0 (password)

interface Virtual-Template1
ip unnumbered BVI1
ip nat inside
ip virtual-reassembly
peer default ip address pool vpn
no keepalive
ppp encrypt mppe auto
ppp authentication ms-chap ms-chap-v2
!

I use BVI1 as this is a bridge between my wireless LAN and wired LAN.

I created a pool of IP addresses specifically for VPN:
ip local pool vpn 192.168.1.5 192.168.1.10

Then I added that IP range to the access-list (well it was already there, but you need it for accessing the extenal connection)
access-list 1 permit 192.168.1.0 0.0.0.255

You can then connect to it (using Windows or Ubuntu PPTP VPN).

sh users gives:
Interface User Mode Idle Peer Address
Vi5 (username) PPPoVPDN 00:04:40 192.168.1.5

You can of course apply access lists to limit the access of users.

When setting up the VPN client, I first always, unselect the box that states to use the default gateway on the remote network.

After all, we don’t want to use the remote network for all traffic – just the traffic that matters to that network.
This creates a problem though, since we aren’t using the default gateway on the remote network, our traffic for the IPs in the LAN range i.e. 192.168.0.1 (and not the VPN IP Range – i.e. 192.168.1.1) would be sent to the default gateway of the PPTP Client.

To fix that, you need to add a static route on the machine you are connecting from (the PPTP client).
Windows:
route add 192.168.0.0 mask 255.255.255.0 192.168.1.5
.. will give routing to the 192.168.0.1 IP via the VPN 192.168.1.5

Ubuntu is far more friendly, allowing you to create routes in the connection definition to save having to do it at each time to the VPN connection is lost. This is in VPN connection properties under IPv4 Settings, then click Routes.

Specify Address, Netmask, and Gateway.

Obviously, you cannot have both networks in the same LAN IP range and be successful at routing across both networks.

Posted in Linux, Networking, Random | Leave a comment

Time wasted!

I had spent the last few weeks fishing around for details on the protocol used in the Nissan.

After much, much, much Googling and some testing, I concluded that there is no OBDII support, and the car has only Nissan’s Consult II protocol available.

That’s bad in terms of support for performance monitoring, as the protocol for Consult II doesn’t seem well documented (and those who do have it, don’t seem to be detailing it – rather going to lengths to conceal their own findings).

There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, and I was reminded of that again today, in trying to solve another issue. The original intention was to get real time data on fuel – and I can do that just as I did in the Sonata – injectors get turned on and off, so use that signal. The car has a working speedo, use that signal.

I spent hours upon hours over weeks searching and found as much as I could about the protocol available – I flicked through the service manual and of course it’s there in black and white!

Getting data from Consult II is not out of the question though – bit banging is a well documented technique for discovering protocols and the data being carried across them. It’s a fair bit of effort though.

I tried to test for OBDII specifically, but that didn’t work. The battery in the car went flat again too, and I was really only in it for 30 minutes or so with the music and sometimes the light on. 30 minutes with such a low load (stereo couldn’t be too much!), suggests either the speakers in the back are very high, or this battery is needing some maintenance or investigation. Luckily I have jump start cables from the last flat battery, and the Sonata is still lingering around.
Now it’s out on the street (in case I need another jump start, it’s difficult moving a car around a tight corner), maybe after we finish getting the Tyres and Servicing on the Pulsar, we’ll find a new home for it.

Ignoring that, we’ve been planning some extra fruit trees for some time now, we were waiting on some trees ‘taller than the seller’ to become available at the local markets over several weeks – we gave up waiting and got some from the nurseries instead which seem taller than us.

Our choices were limited primarily to what we know the kids love to eat. The vegie patch has been pretty bare so we moved the garden beds from the back corner of the yard and bought them forward more, making room for the trees to go in on the side and planned spacing between them allowing for growth.

This created it’s own problem – the Citrus trees need to go in the ground from their temporary homes (a great idea at the time). They can’t now as they are all putting on rapid growth and any transplanting would likely cause them harm.

The space available for the trees is limited, so the shed will need to go for that to happen – which is already planned.

Posted in Garden, Programming, Random, Sustainable Future | Leave a comment

A flat battery already!

.. I left the damned interior light on, trying to get the MP3 player remember the “Random” setting when playing from USB.

I didn’t see it was on as it was raining last night and I was too focused on getting the oldest kid inside.

I tried to clutch start it, figuring it was just the interior light, couldn’t be that flat, surely.. stuck it in 2nd, rolled down the driveway, but just nothing there.

I’ve been planning on either selling off the Sonata recently (fully disclosing every single issue with it), to deregistering it and leaving it there to rust out or getting it to scrap metal.

Thankfully progress has been slow, and so the car is still registered. It’s battery which was sure to be flat was surprisingly capable of starting the car – and no more belt squeal for some reason. That’s probably related to the trip out to the dump last weekend – though it needed a charge to make that trip.

I was tossing up between charging the battery in the Pulsar overnight or getting jumper cables and taking it for a spin to get the battery charged – speedy jumper cables won, and worked surprisingly well (I was expecting to have to get the Sonata revved up – but not so).

Fuel was low (as expected, I wanted to run the fuel down in the Sonata so it didn’t sit there with a lot of fuel), I drove it 20ks to work and figured it probably would run out of fuel on the way home at some point – so had to add more fuel. I’ll burn it off somehow.

The Sonata stinks too though, it had a bad leak on the passenger side, and pretty much had a lake on the passenger side that soaked the carpet – it stunk and still does.

Back to it though, I’ve been trying to find a feasible method of communication with the ECU of the Pulsar. The Sonata had used MUT (Mitsubishi protocol), for data. Nissan have their own Consult II protocol, which doesn’t seem to have much on the net in terms of how it operates.

OBDII is non existent I think. So I’m looking at other communication methods so I don’t have to solder on to the injector and speedo wires as I did in the Sonata for the Carduino. The Data connector exists, perhaps OBD II is there but the cable I used to connect was not functional – so I am going to attempt that.

Then I will sus out if there is “CAN” communication – “Controller Area Network” communication, this allows the ECU to talk to other parts of the car – such as Transmission in Auto cars, or in the case of ours, the Combination Meter (Odometer display) also would be talking to it. If I can chase that out, I can run that to the OBD II connector and that would give me communication to the ECU.

I dislike having to use the remote to skip tracks / set random mode that our head unit has – so I want to rig up something with that to send signals directly, mounting some buttons above the unit.

Then I want to add an annoying speaker to the interior light, thus if it’s on, it’ll be damned annoying, and only turn off with the doors shut (or turned off), thus preventing it happening again.

Posted in Programming, Random | 1 Comment

Low Rolling Resistance Tyres

After doing some poking around into tyres, I’m still largely unclear on which of the low rolling resistance tyres are going to deliver results, and what kind of results to expect.

I understand the key concept – a tyre with a lower rolling resistance takes less power to get moving, and keep moving, and thus will be more efficient. Simple.

Finding exactly which tyre has the lowest rolling resistance, in theory, isn’t hard. Grab some low rolling resistance tyres, let them roll, the one that rolls the furthest wins.
In theory.

Finding a tyre shop that has that kind of space, and isn’t affected by wind, and will let you take some tyres, fit them to some rims, inflate them to 40 PSI and roll them down the road by applying the same force to all, is not easy.

And I would have thought the manufacturers looking to pimp their black tyres with green advertising involving kids, clouds and nature (as if tyres are somehow environmentally sustainable!), would show that data.

“When subjected to a force of X kg, the tyre fitted to a rim, inflated to x PSI, rolled x metres before finally coming to a stop”.

Then, for the customer shopping around, it’s easy to say “That tyre costs $20 more, but only rolls an extra 1 metre”. It’s not.

So you have to troll through all the ‘green’ advertising for the Michelin Energy XM2, Pirelli Cinturato P6, Bridgestone Ecopia, Goodyear’s whatever the heck it was, and the like and see if there’s a hint of a number of how ‘low’ is the rolling resistance.

We came across Choice’s article online, but I dismissed that because I remember finding that new tyres will have a coating from the manufacturing process on them still and that needs to be worn off first.

Nitrogen was another to check into, but dismissed because the car is never on the race track, the likely result will be a slightly higher than is already in air content of nitrogen in the tyre.

The prices on them are variable too, I get that some are likely to last longer than others – that’s a quality thing, what really would help them sell one tyre over another (except for those lured by green advertising), would be to show the real world numbers on them.

For now, Michelin’s XM2 is the likely candidate – Pirelli’s website doesn’t leave much to work with, Bridgestone’s website doesn’t do a great deal with a Planet Ark logo and ‘green’ Ecopia logo – but no data to really say exactly what the tyre is capable of.

Pirelli and Bridgestone are cheaper than the Michelin tyres, but there’s nothing there to make a purchase decision on, more simply put – I might as well just put Budget tyres on as they were at least $120 cheaper.

Michelin’s got some information in Google from others who have used them, and a website fit to sell them – it’s easy to see:

- “20% Extra Mileage”, cool, so the tyres cost 40% more yet last 20% longer.
- “10% less rolling resistance”, ok, so that’s not going to translate to much in fuel economy.

Looking at the US Dept of Energy’s website they have numbers on percentage reduction in fuel consumption per percentage decrease of rolling resistance. The best number is 0.19. That is, for every 1% decrease in rolling resistance, you get 0.19% reduction in fuel consumption.

Michelin made that easy, 1.9% reduction in fuel consumption by using their tyres.

They last around 50,000kM according to my Googling (maybe longer, maybe shorter). I know my current car is supposed to get around 6L/100kM. So, to travel 50,000kM, I need to use 3000L (around there, say 3500L if we were getting 7L on average). At 1.9%, we’ll save 66.5L a corner, 4 corners is 266L. At today’s rough price of $1.41 (I use 95RON min, Ethanol is actually worse off for our food supply and the planet) – 266L is $375. Not a bad result at all. I might be confused and the result doesn’t need to be multiplied by 4, in which case the savings in fuel come to $93.

If the result is $93, and is divided by 4 for the 4 tyres, it reduces the price per tyre down to $109, and counting the extra life of the tyre, that’s easily worth it (it’s around $20 extra from ‘budget’ tyres, and these last 20% longer for an 18% increase in price after fuel savings subtracted).

That of course, assumes a few things, like, Michelin’s website contains no misleading or incorrect marketing statements, and the promised benefits are actually realised. I’d like to have been able to check that against the other possible candidates. The Planet Ark logo isn’t enough to sell me some tyres. A splash of ‘green’ tells me nothing about the product.

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When it stops raining…

.. I’d like to give the car a wash and remove the leaves that have been hiding up near the windscreen.

It stopped enough today but I took the time to get the radio working (only CDs were working, and one CD gets very repetitive day in, day out).

I pulled out the dash surround thinking I’d find he’s done something odd with the amp that he had hooked up (i.e. left the antenna unplugged or something). After isolating it as much as I could, there was still no reception on radio. Got out the multimeter, and checked continuity from the antenna to the plug.

So, I pulled out another head unit we had from China, and set it up, the wiring job for the previous Sony head unit was a bit messy, a electrical tape job which seemed to have loose wires – when I was removing it, the speakers were dropping in and out, and that wasn’t just the ground connection (which is simply a wire tied to the chassis).

So the best solution was to find the right wiring for the car and chopping the mess out, and then soldering and heat shrinking the connections to the connector we have. I pulled up Google and found the wiring diagram here. I checked that the colours matched and they do. I taped the connections together, the heat shrink I have is too small for the cables to fit into well.

The head unit has video support, USB, MP3, DVD and SD support – awesome set of features for a media player – but we need to get a video screen to use it’s video features. We don’t go on enough long trips and our kids are well enough behaved to not need it – but it’s USB support is nice to have for loading up music and updating it without having to burn CDs (and it can play them too).

It doesn’t have any fancy crap like bluetooth integration or navigation in it, not needed.

When it stops raining, I hope to get out the back and check on the passionfruit vines – they are exceeding the height of the trellis, so probably need to be given some direction and feeding. And the Cherry Tomato bush which has litterally outgrown the area it’s in will have to come out as it’s starting to show it’s finished with.

There are some more seedlings to go in, and hopefully, some more to harvest. The chickens need to have their home relocated away from the tree stump whilst we figure out the outcome for it. And with the fence next door nearing completion, it’s time to find out what style fence will go out the front, so we can tackle that.

One day, we will have the answer to our flooding back and front yard issues, our neighbours on one side are getting flooded out as well, and the townhouses on the other side are finally fixing their driveway. I’m not sure if it’ll sort out the run off into our yard, and the flooding or not. I hope it does, the elderly neighbours next door are pretty pissed off – I’m just annoyed I have to walk through sludge to get to the car. Council seem to be pretty slow at responding though – charge us two arms and a leg for rates and take 2 months or more to investigate a drainage issue.

It’s really only a problem when it rains though, no rain, the backyard is fine (unless your digging fence post holes, where you’ll find around 5L of water after a 600mm hole).

Hopefully next weekend the rain gives us a break, but then there’s a trip to the dump due then for some old crap that’s got to go (and hopefully the side fence makes that trip!).

And I still need new tyres.

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Our new car

I picked it up on Sunday, it’s nice to drive.

The few things that I immediately noticed was – the headlights are much brighter than on the other car. The ability to see the road at night is a welcome change from the previous short distance on the old car.

There’s less engine noise in the car, that’s not just because it’s a 1.8L instead of a 2L, it’s definitely a lot quieter in the Pulsar then it is in the Sonata, but this isn’t easily related to the body, it was raining on the freeway on the way home from Sydney, and it was definitely noticeable.

There’s a few issues with it, Tyres – there’s barely any tread on them, that is, there is nearly none on them.
The seller took the tow ball off (didn’t realise til I got home).
The stereo works for CDs only, FM gets nothing (antenna might not be connected).

I do like the interior light coming on inside the car at night when unlocking, I didn’t get out of work til after 6pm tonight, so I immediately noticed the interior light staying on, allowing me to find the key and start the car (at which point it immediately went off).

I like that it’s got an OBDII port readily accessible – this will make installing the Carduino much more simpler then the previous (OBDII puts out data that can be used for monitoring, where as the Sonata required soldering Cat5 to the ECU connectors and then calculations done based on pulses on a circuit to get the data).

Mechanically it’s got nothing obvious wrong, I’m getting used to the short shifts, and the car driving more like a car. I took it to a carpark tonight, to get it into tight turns to see if the CV joints were going to give us trouble, and the turning circle is noticeably tighter than our old car.

Insurance – since the car isn’t old, and worth a bit more than we paid for it, I figure if we get Comprehensive insurance, at a good rate, and then we can downgrade to Third Party after it’s a few more years on. I looked at a few of the big names advertising lately – “YouI” – I dislike them, previously getting a quote with them, they called me the next day – I don’t like that when all I want is a quote – and you have to get an SMS for a code to get a quote!

Next was Budget Direct, claiming that they’ll give you $50 if you find a better price elsewhere – $800 for coverage at $6700 – not what I wanted.

Progressive Direct came in at $616, which is very good, but I couldn’t get any good feedback online about whether they have a bad reputation on repairs (like AAMI).

Then, Bingle, which was cheapest of all $500-ish. I read online that one of the sticking points for their customers is the ‘not at fault’ claim, they require the excess until they get the funds from the at fault driver.

Now, on Friday, as I was driving down our street to go out, I reach the main road that intersects our street, ready to turn left. There’s a car already there waiting, so I wait a distance behind as I do (still seeing back tyres to give an idea). She starts reversing back (no idea why), and so I beep to get her attention, make sure she realises I am there…
She keeps going – I stay on the horn, and she hits us.
It was a solid bump too, the car felt as if it was being pushed back and the brakes were stopping her.

So she pulls around the corner, as she should, and she gets out, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking” – too damned right you weren’t looking.

I figure she’s damaged our bumper, sweet, we can get that new bumper I’ve been wanting to get (or have her insurer write off our car). I look at our bumper, pop the bonnet, look at the radiator and can’t see anything at all wrong with it. I look at the back of her Hyundai Elantra – nothing wrong with that, no scratches, nothing.

How’s that for (un)lucky, she’s reversed into our old car, and not a mark or scratch was made to either.

Back to Insurance, she’d be at fault there, and she told me she’d call me with her insurance details (she has NRMA Roadside membership lol, no insurance). She never did call back, but, in that case, we’d have been an additional $500 out of pocket for the excess to Bingle, until they successfully recovered the full amount from her, then Bingle would refund us that $500.

I know some people are broke, flat broke, they’d never pay, or they’d be ridiculously slow at paying (and Third Party is cheap, $200!). However, if the base premium for $6000 coverage, on a car we paid $4500 is $500, and the worst case, we’d have to pay an extra $500 for a not-at fault accident, where we’d get that back “eventually”, then it’s not so bad – $500 + $530 = $1030, just a slightly bit more expensive then the likes of AAMI, but still cheaper than CBA ($1600!).

And it’s not like you claim every year, so the savings end up stacking into your favour if you are a careful driver and avoid at-fault claims (and not at fault).

Self Insuring is OK if the car is worth a lot less (i.e. $1500 – you probably wouldn’t claim on the policy in 2 years), saving the money for a new car. But, don’t have “no insurance” like the idiot who reversed into us Friday.

She just got lucky that nothing got damaged (and I was looking for a new bumper insurance payout too >.< ).

Back on topic, I like our new car. It’s not boring like a Corolla, and it’s not gutless like a Mazda 121.

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New Job, New Car

I start my new job this week – which isn’t the one I first applied and received an offer for, it was another that followed up whilst I was waiting.

I like the description of the new job, it’s integrating differing systems and I think I like that best (beats Support easily).

Downsides of a new job is meeting and working with different people. And the fact it’s not work from home is another minor downside.

But it’s better paying and uses more of my skills. A big win.

A new car – I had set about finding a new car, the rust on our car’s firewall is pretty significant, it’s not something I’m able to see an end to, we’d patch it up again and it might last another year or so, but then it’ll rust again.
The current car has formed oil leaks as well (it’s due to the car getting an oil flush once, it probably robbed the necessary gunk that replaced the seals many years ago).

I was originally looking around for a Mitsubishi Lancer but found just one – the bonnet looked like it had a person’s head hit it, and the back was scratched up – we went to inspect it closer, but the car was sold as we were getting there.

Digging around on carsales.com.au two cars caught my eye – a Hyundai Elantra 2003 model, going for a steal at $3300. The seller’s explanation was the body is at 97% due to being a country car.
I figure, well, our roads are probably worse than whatever that’s seen, and the pictures don’t show anything wrong with it – so we go to Sydney and check it out.
It’s body is nothing like the seller says, the minor dents are just as if it had hail hit it in a few spots – nothing wrong with that.

The mechanical side, his done himself apparently, that’s OK if it’s been done correctly. So I pull out the dip stick, when was the last service? About 500KM ago he says – the oil was fairly dark, I wouldn’t have thought 500kM, but I don’t bother with it – oil can be changed – it had oil, so that was fine.

He replaced the shocks and 2 CV joints (country car, fair enough probably needed it), I look at those and they look real good – turns out he got the entire axle cheaper than the joints themselves – that’s the spirit, don’t work too hard.

Next sticking point, Timing Belt – the Beta engines need them changed, being a car from Korea, you wouldn’t want to risk going over the recommended times. So when was it last done?
Car was bought from a first owner, so the log books tell the story there – warranty up, timing belt due – car was sold.

Has he done it ? Nope. Never had to apparently.
So what happens when the timing belt is not done? Oh, it just makes some noise if it starts to snap. Maybe.

What actually happens when the timing belt snaps? Pistons and Valves that are usually kept apart by precision timing are not – so they smash into each other, doing more damage than the car is worth, thus destroying the car.

But since the rest of the car checked out except that, I was suggesting to change the belt as part of the sale with an increased price (being in Sydney, it’s too far for me to arrange the change at a mechanic, and I wasn’t going to risk the trip home with a belt that’s logically, 4 years overdue for changing). He declined – his loss.

We had rang up about the only other car that wasn’t a Daewoo or an Astra (both of those were not going to be bought), and found a 2003 Nissan Pulsar.
The seller described it over the phone earlier that week as being keyed right down the sides, so I decided at the time we wouldn’t bother with that.

But on the weekend, we were already down in Sydney, so we’d have a look and see what it was, and perhaps it might buff out if it wasn’t too bad with the damage he described (having previously seen the Hyundai’s ‘damage’).

I go have a look and there is no damage down the side, his keyed down the sides was just two very minor scratches, close together on the front, which haven’t even dug into the paint.

That was all that was wrong with it aside from the black paint showing signs as being washed with a bad brush (can’t help car parks and carwashes).
I had a look for any signs of rust as well, and couldn’t see anything, there was leaves on it, but his description of what happened matches – the car has been parked since he has a work car – under a tree. Autumn having just past, it makes sense that there’d be leaves there – nothing a good clean won’t fix.

It had less ks on the clock, and everything else about the car seemed fine (though the shifter seemed very close together compared to my current car – my current car has longer spacing between the gears where as the Pulsar was very close – nothing wrong with it, just different).

It’s got a Timing Chain as well – no timing belt to replace makes up for my inability to haggle on price.
So I’ve bought it!

Wasted time on our current Hyundai Sonata? Nah, I’ll probably strip out the useful and not so useful bits out of it and then decide what to do with what’s left.
I already have someone wanting it’s tow bar.

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Carduino Installation Progress

We’ve just finished getting the cable installed for the Carduino, so I can get it installed in a more permanent manner.

The last two tanks of fuel had the jumper wires that were jammed into the connector, come loose, and so I’ve never really had solid tank data – in the last case, I saw the kMs increasing without any actual driving happening – that’s no good.

So fixing that, installed the cable more permanently, and I’ve nearly finished moving the circuit off the breadboard and onto some protoboard.

The next will be the case, I was contemplating a few alternatives, making it out of aluminium crossed my mind, but that has headaches with making sure no connections are shorting out and so on. Forget it. Acrylic was another option, MDF the next option.

I am settling on MDF, it’s easy to jigsaw, paints well, and at 3mm thickness with smoothed edges, isn’t going to be any issue.

The size of it with the arduino board and the circuit will be too big to sit similarly sized as a GPS. The solution to this would be to get a custom PCB made. I had issues getting a design together that I would think worked (but now I’ve soldered the board, perhaps it would be easier to design). I won’t bother now though, I’ll stick it further back down the dash, with the display facing me, the angle of the dash should make it less of an obstruction.

The task of soldering the cable into the connectors (I wasn’t going to cut them), is much easier with the Glove Box out, and since it was already out from when we fixed the leak, now is the best time for it.

Lack of light made the task very annoying, taking 2 hours to get the connections soldered in place (I thought 30 minutes!), the time increasing exponentially as light levels decreased (we really need to some lighting sorted).

I’ll add some more screens in code soon too (currently I have the ECU errors, and a second screen set for RPM, O2, Air Flow & Temp, Radiator Temp, Injector Pulse Width, and Octane (this is calculated).

The ability to add more / change the code on the setup is easy since the USB port will be accessible from the case I make.

I have the ability to setup displays for each of the items listed here (well, what the car supports anyway – no Turbo, and no Knock sensor here).

And I was still looking at EV conversions last night.
With a possible daily commute of between 20 and 40kM coming up, the very short trips will likely stop.

Next up for our car, Rust Repair. Still have to find the damned paint. You can’t exactly get a firewall from a wreckers.

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Buying Touch Up Paint

I was going to get some touch up paint to fix some of the scratches and marks on the car.

I figure if it’s cheap enough, it’ll help cover up a lot of the rust converter and give it a bit of a better finish.

I do some Googling, searching for touch up paint, note the first result is my search with .com.au.

I check out the website, it’s pretty slack in terms of information – it’s not very user friendly.

I found the contact page and asked them some simple questions by email:
- How many mLs of paint do the kits have?
- How much coverage do they get?
- Can they get the color code for my car ?

And from the reply, I don’t think they could have tried any less to get my sale, the reply was written by someone who couldn’t care less if I buy from my reading:
“Yes hello
All bottles hold 15 mls.
Thank you for your enquiry
From the team at xxx”

That was the last reply of course, I asked them questions before that, to which the replies made little sense, referring to kits but not answering anything I asked.

I took a last effort at asking if they could get the exact colour and what quantity, and that’s it for them.
I think they need someone with a bit of care answering their sales enquiries.

So the next angle – overseas – why not, I get a lot of other stuff there. I asked a company in the US – the website was good, helped find the right color, gave me a few size / price options – perfect. They don’t ship outside US / Canada. Damned.

We did previously buy paint from Auto One at a local store, but they’ve gone now.

And that makes me then wonder what is it with retail in Australia – is it that the first retailer is right, in that they don’t need to care for customers to get sales – if you were going to buy it, you would have regardless how slack they are at informing you ? Or is it the second, if you can’t get it overseas, you just can’t get it ?
Or, the last – where you could once get it, has closed down shop.

I was also looking towards Super Cheap Auto, but the color I need is Stone Gray Metallic – I can’t find a match in their online search.

I’m sure someone, somewhere can match the colour though, and give a decent amount at a reasonable price. I know I can get clear coat and sandpaper from Super Cheap, along with other rust repair items.

Wait – there are good sales people still in Australia, “Used Car” and “Real Estate”.

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Just when I thought all was screwed…

… with our car’s water leak, a solution.

I had a look at Hyundai’s ‘hmaservice.com’ website which contains the workshop manuals for all Hyundai vehicles and came across a section on “Body (Interior)” – had a look at noted that the padding for the front pillar – is actually just clipped in, so pulling at it will cause it to come out.

And it did, this then gave us the ability to trace back where our long term water leak has been coming through, it has been a bad leak for a while, if it rains, we end up with a lake in the passenger foot well.

I was peaking at the firewall again today to see if there was rust that was doing it – Nope, there are more rust holes, and the bonnet looks like shyte, but it’s not the cause of the water leak.

I previously attempted to stop the leak by overdoing it with more sealant on the outside, but still with no success.

After pulling out the glove box yet again (I was checking the ECU connectors to see how easy they would be to open and solder some additional cables to), I saw where the water was coming through, which was ‘somewhere behind and above that pillar cushion thing.

Removing that cushion, and spraying some more water showed the water was coming through the black sealant that is placed down with the windscreen, some of it must have moved or cracked or something. Our windscreen is only 3 years old, so I would think this is unusual – but oh well.

I got some more black crap from Bunnings and stuck some of that in from the inside as high as I could get to, all around the passenger side of the windscreen. I think this will help remove some of the flooding that our car boat gets.

Next issue to attack is Rust. With another rust hole in the firewall, and some rust hiding under the windscreen, behind the bonnet hinge, we are likely to fail rego without an adequate fix in place.

I’ll check it again after the sealant dries to make sure the flooding has stopped – then we can look at the interior – it is soaked, and stinks from the water sitting there for so long. The ECU has rust lines around it from the leak too – I don’t think it’s a candidate for Rust Converter though.

I’m not sure on my abilities to fill in rust, the fibreglass job we had a friend take care of didn’t seem to be adequate – Rust Converter wasn’t applied and I can see behind the fibreglass is rusting again.

The other way to fix this is to rip off the bonnet, take out the firewall, transfer over the VIN and compliance plates, and weld the new one on, but I don’t have a welder and can’t be sure I’d get it right (sounds like more hassle then the car itself is worth!).

Then I still want to fix the bonnet – sand it back, rust converter to clear up the rust, and then paint it, put on some clear coat – and apply lots and lots of wax.

There is the idea of a 4G63 Go-Kart, for the kids of course.

Update: It definitely seems fixed – after leak testing it today, there was no water leaking through.

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The Garden in Autumn

We got a reasonable result from the back garden in Autumn. We had some losses on getting the seeds in a growing state though – we lost a heap to what might have been excess water.

Then the first set in Autumn never really came through due to the soil mixture used.

After putting Coir and Potting Mix together, we had better results, not great, but better.

From that mix, we put out Beans, Corn, Peas, Cherry Tomatoes.

The Pea plants try to work, but the bottom of them fast degrades and the plant shows no sign of succeeding. This was the case across around 10 or so of the plants attempted.

The Bean plant were successful, we had heaps of them, I couldn’t put a kg figure on it, as an estimate I’d say about 5kG of them.

The Corn plants tried to go, but the season ended before they finished growing. They just stopped growing (surviving, but not growing).

The Cherry Tomato plants were interesting, there were two lots planted, one at the front, and a heap on the back. The plants at the front grew huge – the trellis I put together for them was pulled back into the ground – the plant is massive. I again can not tell how many we pulled off, it was a heap. Which is what I desired, as the kids like them.

Since the last lot, we’ve been trying to perfect seedlings, and we worked it into a styrofoam box, there was much better success because it kept the temperature regulated.

The Bean plants are not actually in Season now, yet they are very huge. Peas had a 100% strike rate on seeding, we’ll have to figure out where they’ll be transplanted.

We also have some Cabbage plants out and they seem to be alive, it’s hard to really gauge any sort of success though, we can see snails have been at them, but the rain has been significant.

The strawberry patch we have is providing the odd strawberry here and there – it’s nothing significant.

The Citrus trees have been idle for a while now, but we do have a large and small Jonathan apple, and a small Granny Smith apple that has a scab or other issue with it.
The Passionfruit are quiet as well. Not a lot happening with the fruit.

A sunny weekend continues tomorrow and into next week. The Winter crops could be our best so far, and that should make our Spring and Summer even better – hopefully at the desired goal of 100% of vegetables to be grown without chemicals.

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