Monday, 28 December 2009

Using Gendan Engine software in Linux

Some time ago I bought a Gendan USB OBDII engine management code reader, which I needed to check some fault codes on the Civic.

Anyway, the software that comes with it is Windows only, and since I upgraded my laptop to Ubuntu, if obviously stopped working. A quick Google didn't show up any data on getting it to work, so I took a punt, and tried it in Wine.

It installed OK, and ran, but couldn't find the USB reader, so some more googling to find out how to map the COMn style ports ID's to the Linux device provided the following information. You need to symbolically link the ~/wine/dosdevices/COM1 port to the /dev/ttyUSB0 device (where the reader hardware appeared when plugged in - check the /dev/ folder for more information). This allows the Windows program running under wine access to the USB reader, and Hey Presto. The software worked!

Removing labels from beer bottles

I've been experimenting with making my own beer since October time, with some acceptable beers being produced. I've tried making Woodefords Wherry, which took ages to clear, but is now drinkable, and some Coopers Bitter, which fermented very quickly, and was drunk almost as quickly.

Anyway, I have a batch on the go at the moment which I want to bottle, and I had a load of used bottles from which to remove labels and clean. I soaked all the bottles (and they are from a number of different breweries), and on some the labels just fell off, and the remaining glue was easily removed using hot water and a small scrubbing brush. However, the bottles from Adnams proved to be a total nightmare. They are plastic, and peel off OK but left a really sticky residue. I tried, in this order...
  1. IPA (not the beer - Isopropyl Alcohol)
  2. Brake and clutch cleaner.
  3. Meths
  4. MEK (Metyl ethyl ketone - this usually shifts anything)
  5. Petrol.

The petrol finally did the trick! Using a cloth and plenty of petrol, the glue dissolved quite quickly, and a quick wash in detergent finished them off. Use gloves for this - not latex as this dissolves in petrol - use nitrile gloves.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Servicing my 2002 Honda Civic

The Civic seemed to be down on power, so a good service was planned. A quick look at air filter showed it was pretty cacked up, and I cannot remember the last time I changed the plugs, so new bits ordered for both. Oil was very low -this is probably the main culprit for lack of power!

Anyway, did the jobs last weekend - the plugs that came out were completely knackered - 1.6mm gap so 0.3mm out of spec, and the electrodes were very rounded. Air filter was a really quick job. Service list also says value clearances should be adjusted at this mileage (140k), so thought I would give it a go. Getting the rocker cover off isn't too bad, the only difficult bit was removing the TDC sensor plug so that the cam belt cover could come off. I had to use a mirror to see how it was attached, then used a right angle circlip pliers to compress the clip on the fitting so it could be removed - the gap between it and some piping meant I could not get my hand in. The service manual just says "remove the connector". Ha Ha.

Once off I was amazed how complicated the valve system is. The VTEC doesnt help, nor the 4 valves per cylinder. Still, adjustment was pretty easy, one inlet was too tight, and a couple of exhausts were a bit loose, but nothing too bad - amazing given the mileage on the engine!

Bolted it all back together and hey presto - engine much torquier at low RPM, and almost silent at idle. Hurrah!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Koala again

Well, Ubuntu is still finding ways to upset the apple cart. Had a usual upgrade window come up, so pressed OK, but it also included a kernel version upgrade, and once again, I ended up with a system that wont boot. Eventually I had to boot from a LiveCD, edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and change "nvidia" to "vesa". Once back in to Ubuntu, I cleaned out a lot of rubbish from said file, and then reinstalled the nvidia drivers.

There does appear to be an issue with my system not recompiling the nvidia stuff for any new kernels that get installed, yet other people seem to be OK.

Most odd.

Although this was on Koala, I did have the problem with the previous version Jaunty as well, so its probably time to reinstall the OS from scratch to get back to some sensible setting. Possible that cleaning out xorg.conf may have helped though.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Karmic Koala - I've unfairly maligned it...

Well, I upgraded my PC to the latest version of Ubuntu, and it has been a bit of a pain in the backside. I had all the problems with the Nvidia driver I had with earlier versions, but yesterday, things went really pear shaped. I came home to PC at the login screen, and logging in resulted in - the login screen. So this evening spent a load of time trying to figure out what was going wrong. Obviously X or the gdm wasn't starting up, so I tried to boot the machine to a shell, but even the kernel failed to boot. OK, I thought, recovery mode, but even that wasn't working correctly. Then I noticed a No space left of Device error message. AHHHHHHH. The main hard drive was full. So, I booted Ubuntu from a CD, and spent some time deleting files, and found a backup file that for some reason was on the hard drive, rather than the USB backup drive.

Rebooted the PC, and hey presto all back to normal, so my earlier complaints the KK had knackered my PC were unfounded - the problem was of my own making - I need a bigger hard drive!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Canon 55-250 IS lens

As part of my "life is still too short" phase, I have splashed out on some more camera gear for my new DSLR. I went for a Canon 55-250 IS zoom -the cheapest one Canon do. It's a bit shorter than the Tamron and Sigma 70-300, but does have image stabilisation, which I have to say, is really quite impressive. You can hear it whirring away and the resulting image is really stable.

Went for the Canon over the Tamron and Sigma as reviews say that the top end of these 300's isn't that great, so you can only get good images up to about 250 anyway, whereas the Canon should do its whole range and stay pretty sharp.

Pricewise, Jessops were selling the lens for £239 which was a bit high, so I bought from a place called OneStop Digital, in Hong Kong for £146. They pay any duty that you may have to cough on import, if you get charged. Arrived within 5 days. Very pleased with the sevice.

So, a good Canon lens for the same price as the Sigma, or about £30 more than the Tamron.

Now I just need to get out and use it!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Overpriced mower drive belts...

Couple of weeks ago, I was cutting the lawn on my Murray Sentinel sit on mower, when the drive belt snapped and I drifted to a halt with 4/5ths of the lawn still to go.

After much scrabbling about underneath, I found I had an old fan belt of about the right length, so fitted that. It was a bit small in width, but enabled me to complete the lawn, but obviously I needed to get the correct size of belt in the near future. Looking up prices (on Ebay) was a shock, between £10 and £25 including delivery. I thought that was a bit much so did some investigation. Turns out the belt I need (Murray size 37x65) is the same as a completely standard A28 belt.

£2.30 + £1.30 postage from bearingseller on Ebay. Since I bought it I have found places even cheaper for the belt, but postage can be a bit high!

Fitted it today - a perfect fit (and fitting is pretty easy). Mower running well, and now for some reason the brakes work a bit better.

Well chuffed!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Grrr. Subscriptions text message services

Really really really ANGRY. Received my mobile phone bill (From o2), which normally is at most a couple of quid a month, to find it was over a tenner. Reading the itemised bill, I received three text messages for which I was charged £10!!!!

Two ranting phone calls later to o2 and still no nearer what happened. On the second, the call centre woman hung up on me, despite not a single swear word being spoken, although I was rather rude after her condescending attitude tipped me over the edge !! I appear to have subscribed to some service, which I didn't do, so I think when my eldest was playing games on the phone, he may have accidentally tried to turn on the full game, rather than the demo. It's a bit shoddy that a 7 years old can accidentally run up a bill without any form of checking by the subscription service that it was intentional. I'll try and get hold of them and see if I can get the money back - after all I haven't received any service in reply, so why have I been billed....even the games are still demo's as far as I can tell. Grrrr. I can honestly say I have never been angrier.

Haddenham Steam Rally 2009

Thought it was a really good turnout when I went on the Sunday. Loads of steam engines, even more vintage tractors and some nicely restored commercial vehicles. Hmm, sounds a bit geeky that. Weather on Sunday was must colder than I had expected, so walking around in a T-shirt wasn't the best idea. Did get to try out the new camera so have 150 shots of the above on the PC. Because light was a bit iffy, it was all pretty standard stuff really, and didn't really get to show its full potential.

Even Elliot wasn't bored, even after 3 hours, although he did request to go on the Wii when we got home! No surprise there.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

New Toy - Canon DSLR

After a recent spell in the hospital, on a ward with a load of people who didn't have much longer in this world, I decided that life is too short to wonder whether to get stuff, so finally purchased a Digital SLR camera. Went for a Canon 450D with the 18-55 lens. Not had much chance to try it out, but so far the images had been pretty impressive, even compared with my Fuji Finepix S5600, which I think is a pretty good camera.

Went for the Canon as it was a bit cheaper than the equivilent Nikon, and Canon's are apparently very good for astrophotography when attached to a telescope (I have a Celestron C8 SCT on powered GE mount).

Got a good price from Comet (would you believe), they were on offer and I got another 10% discount. Quite lucky as a couple of days later (before it had been delivered!) the price had gone up £25! Now looking for a zoom lens in the 70-300 range, or perhaps 55-250!

I highly recomend the website. Very useful.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Ubuntu, Nvidia, kernel upgrades. Ouch

For the last couple of years I have used Ubuntu without any problems. Kernel updates etc have gone fine. Recently though, using Jaunty, I tried the latest kernel version update (the one that comes up during normal update procedures) and X stopped booting up.

For a while I just used Grub to boot back to a previous version, but this meant every time the update window appeared, I needed to deselect the kernel upgrade. So eventually I decided to fix the X problem.

A lot of investigation later, and I determined that what had happened is that the Nvidia driver I was using was no longer binary compatible with the kernel - it needed recompiling to get it up to date. So, I decided at the same time to upgrade to the very latest driver. Mistake. v180 of the driver does not have support for my ancient MX440 card. So I ended up not being able to boot at all on the older kernel versions, and the Nvidia driver refused to install on the latest one. So that just left me with a command prompt Linux, without networking.

So, to cut a long story short, I needed to edit the xorg.conf file and force X to start up using the Vesa driver (find the driver section, change nvidia to vesa). This allowed me to boot to a GUI with wireless networking. From there I used the Synaptic package manager to uninstall all the nvidia180 driver code. Then I reinstalled the v96 code (the most recent one supporting the card). Once reinstalled, I needed to run sudo nvidia-xconfig from a command prompt, then reboot, and hey presto, it now all works.

Next time X wont start, I'll just uninstall then reinstall the Nvidia driver I think!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Component Video Out on the Wii

Just bought a cheap component out cable for the Wii from Amazon - wasn't expecting much for £3.20 delivered, but the improvement in quality is really quite noticeable. Happy Bunny running at 480p, easily worth the money (as was Mario Kart!)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

ABS Fault Code on Honda Shuttle

The ABS light is intermittent on my Honda Shuttle (R Reg, UK spec), and it took a while to find out how to find out what is wrong. Most internet info said stick a paper clip in the terminal under the glove box. Close...but there are two blue terminal under there, both stored in a blue female housing. The one you need is the two pin one. Pull out of the housing (the housing is only for storage), and connect the two pins using a bent paper clip. Then turn the ignition on, but not the engine. The ABS light will then blink. There are two sets of blinks on my car, one long start blink, then a number of short one (count these), then a pause, then a number of long blinks - count those. This gives a two digit number, which is the fault code.

See this Honda Odyssey site (the USA version of Shuttle) for the fault code. This is a good site for Shuttle owners.

Fault Code Table

Mine appears to be 5-8 which is a left rear wheel lock. Info seems to indicate this means the sensors thought the wheel was locked i.e. not turning. Its probably just a grubby sensor, so will post results when I have time to investigate. The light is off at the moment, so won;t worry until the MOT is due - Note an ABS light on is an instant MOT fail, even if the brakes are working fine (albeit with no ABS)

First Random Thought

OK, so I have finally succumbed to writing some blog entries. Not as a diary though, but just as a way of recording random information that I have learned/discovered/made up. For example, how to recover the ABS fault codes from an R reg Honda Shuttle. It took me a while to find this stuff on the internet, so if I put it in my blog, I won't lose it, and it may be useful to others.

Well, that's the idea anyway.....