Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Vehicle Being Built

I'm waiting to hear when my 2017 Subaru Outback Limited 2.5i will be delivered.

Dianne and I tested several Outbacks and Toyota RAV4s, and chose the Subaru for its quietness and ride quality and ... at that trim level ... luxury. We tend to keep our vehicles for more than 10 years, and the 2005 Dodge Caravan that has done so well for me all these years is wearing out.

One of the features I insisted on was Adaptive Cruise Control. Toyota is still a bit behind in their implementation which does not go down to a complete stop and resume. Sorry, not good enough in 2017. Ride and noise did not help its case. The Outback will brake to a stop, and after 3 seconds put on the brakes in Hold state. A tap on the accelerator or a Resume on the cruise control button on the wheel will resume forward motion until the selected following distance is met or the previously set speed is reached. Works great. Driving in rush hour traffic on Steeles fron Yonge to Bayview (total stop and go) impressed us both.

Heated steering wheel. seats, and who knows what else... . Have not counted all the switches on the dash, but there are plenty to shut off all the autonomous (sort of) driver assists. Not likely to use most of those switches, ever. I consider the assists as aids to safety.

I have never been a hoodlum driver, car or bike. I like to enjoy the drive and not fight to the front of the pack. "Distance is your friend" is my motto which means I never tailgate. The cruise control might actually make me a tad more aggressive. Back when she was 3, Emma asked Dianne "Nanny, why does Poppy drive so slow?" which might just be more of a comment on Nanny's driving than mine, but Emma was probably not wrong. Amazing what a 3 year old notices and it was instructive hearing her judgement.

I have downloaded several of the Owner's Manual documents covering the car itself, Nav system and Audio/Nav system. Several inches of paper, as I saw at the Dealer. At least half must have been written by lawyers, who basically say not to use any autonomous feature or safety feature (including ABS) unless conditions are perfect, including the driver. Will be interesting to see how the features work in the coming winter. And, winter weather will be coming.

Definitely am getting Winter tires on new wheels. The wheels are their own story. My Outback comes with 18 inch wheels. Steel wheels (cheap but ugly) are not available in that size. Less expensive alloy wheels are not available with 55mm offset. Independent tire shops are quite willing to provide 17 inch wheels with taller tires that are skinnier than OEM. They will quite happily provide wheels with 40mm offset. This might be ok to some folks, but not for me or my two advisors who are motorcylists and also happen to be very experienced Mechanical Engineers. So, I will be taking advantage of Subaru's decision to offer deep discounts on good alloy 18 inch wheels with 55mm offset. Putting on Bridgestone Blizzaks, and since they will be bought at the dealer, they will be stored there until needed and the OEM tires stored there for free. (Free is a fluid concept, don't you think?)

More in a week or so. Yes, photos and road test will follow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Video of Sideroad 15 Route

I thought I might go for a ride today, and mounted my GoPro. Then, off to Sideroad 15, the same road David and I took a couple of days ago, reported upon in a recent post.

There is a lot more traffic on this road than there was back in 2000, when I first traveled it.

First of two videos.

Second video

Since I do only a little video, I have to relearn video editing every time. I am using GoPro Studio this time, making a file customized for YouTube. Then, adding a link from here to the two videos I produced.

Ride videos can be really boring. I deleted most of the video I shot, keeping the twisty bits and a few shots of nice scenery. I used a dissolve between the shots I kept so you can see that I have deleted stuff. Still, it ends up with a lot of video. I hope you like it.

If you would like to suggest how I might do a better job, do let me know.

The first video has 50 minutes of upload remaining as I write this, and then I have to do the same for the second video. That is a function of my ISPs upload speed, which is a bit low. Only 3% CPU being used... .

Editing is a time consuming process (less than uploading though!). I am beginning to get used to GoPro Studio. I can add titles where I want them, use dissolves between shots, and have figured out how to set the start and end points of a clip, put them together, and export the whole thing. The final file size is smallest when I select the option to send to YouTube, which I do.

I believe that GoPro Studio has a built-in software feature that does some video stabilization. The video produced suggests a much smoother asphalt surface than is evident in the video that I do the initial cuts in. This might account for the rather long time it takes to "Export" a video after doing the cuts, assembly, titles and such. Yes, it seems a lot more involved than using a smartphone, but the results are superior. I hope.

9 minutes to go for the first, then I can upload the second. I was able to go to the garage and retrieve the GPS. I need to redo the pairings on the Cardo, since I failed to take my cheat sheet out to the bike to restore music. I did restore the music, just not the "right" way and wound up loosing the connection to phone calls. Yes, I know that is not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but look, I want to ensure I can use the phone if I need to.

5 minutes. But, a Borat film is on the TV. Have not seen it until now. Not sure I missed much... .

Now it says uploading is complete, and says when processing is complete, the video will be available. The processing progress bar has been at 0% for a while... . Ok, now it is progressing at about 1% every two seconds. Obviously, it has been a while since I last did this and just forgot the sequence.

At this point on TV, Borat managed to drop his suitcase while riding a subway car in NY. It opened. A live chicken flew out. He is chasing it among the passengers, who have quite a reaction.

So, for now, I just have to wait... .

And for the second video another hour and a quarter. Hour and a half now. That will take me until 3am. What I do for my faithful viewers... .

The smart thing to do is let this run while I go to bed, come down in the morning and do a quick finalization of the post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Ride with David Masse and ...

A Ride with David Masse & A Technical Breakthrough!

After a nice cappucino or two, we decided to get on our way.

David put it in reverse and ... no wait, reverse?

But, eventually we were ready to leave my house.

David took this one.

After traversing the twisty Sideroad 15 from Trafalgar Road to the Guelph Line, David needed to gas up and away we went.

I had taken a photo of this small place last Fall. Coffee and fresh bakery products can be had here. Also, in the Fall, they have a nice collection of pumpkins and gourds. See an earlier blog for pics.

And so, we went off up the adjacent Sideroad 1 north-ish to Fergus where we had lunch at Tim Horton's.

Our route back was Fergus - Rockwood - Guelph Line - Sideroad 15 - Trafalgar Road & Steeles where we parted ways. I took Steeles, David got onto the 401 and headed home.

He really liked the route, even the rough railway crossings which really hurt on a cruiser he advised, because without the pegs under the rider, the rider can't "post" by raising the bum and letting the bike bump up into clear air. It bumps up all right, into ... .

In any case it was a really nice ride. The is the second ride I have had with David. He has recently moved here from Montreal and is eager to see some of the riding areas that are in his new area of riding. I am enjoying showing him some of my favourite roads.

I tried to get Garmin Basecamp to show the route we took today. But, the track data shows I have recently traveled this route several times in various variations. So, I had to do a couple of screen captures (using Fastone Capture, a very useful program).

The red line is from my house to Fergus. Then, the return, is

sort of the continuation deep red changing to light red, then pink. Sigh. Must remember to download tracks daily and remove from the Nav V so I can get clean shots.

Or, ride less often on favorite roads. Nah.

Now for the technical breakthrough part.

David and I both have Bluetooth helmet communicators (BHCs for short). Mine is a Cardo G9 and his is a Sena ???. Recenly, Sena released a firmware update that was advertised as having a universal connectivity feature. Supposedly, this would allow his Sena and my Cardo to communicate with each other. Now, this is marketing heresy of the first waters. Engineers love the idea, but marketing guys would prefer either David should buy a Cardo or I should buy a Sena. We are talking about $300 USD here folks. Could a FREE firmware upgrade actually work?


In preparation for our experiment, I read the 25 page Cardo manual and condensed it a bit, yielding this:

See, Electrical Engineers love Functional Block Diagrams, which is what this is. It showed me there was no way I could listen to music from my BMW Audio System and use the same Cardo channel to talk to David's Sena (which was spoofed into appearing as a cellular phone - very clever). But it is trivial to repair with the audio system when David is not around, and reverse this. That assumes I will have the Block Diagram nearby, but ... it's on my phone now.

So, cappuccinos in cups, helmets on the table, diagram in hand, we tried to pair. Pairing was nearly instantaneous. I had to push one button to tell the Cardo to talk to a "cell phone" and David and I were talking to each other.

I suggested we turn the BHCs off and then back on. See, engineers want to test things so we don't get surprised when on the road, with no capuccino, and certainly no air conditioning. I expected problems of course. Took a few seconds for the BHCs to figure out things when turned back on, but they did and we were talking. This was repeated after lunch at Timmy's. Damn. Sena engineers are really good. I'm impressed. Cardo needs to get on the stick quick!

It was a delight to ride with full duplex communication, and the two units did not need to be constantly "operated" with button pushes etc. They simply stayed connected. So, I could warn David of approaching rough railway crossings, point out houses on left or right, and advise him of an antique horse-drawn plow on a farmer's fence, among other things.

Delightful. Both of us were impressed all to Hell!

I love technology that actually works!

(Note to Richard and Peter - the diagram should help us Cardo guys communicate too. I'm really eager to give this a try. Soon.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Preparations to a Ride

I was talking to John last evening. He mentioned a Vulcan bomber had been restored and the crew was so good that they could get this incredible aircraft in the air in 1.5 minutes. I suggested that was 10 times faster than it took me to get ready to go for a ride on the R1200RT!

Here is why:

First, disconnect the Optimate 4 battery tender.

Open the garage door. Note the flash did a nice job lighting up the reflective material I applied to the luggage.

Get the keys from the house. Both the car keys and bike key collections are required.

Unplug the Cardo G9 Communicator from its charger and attach to the holder in the helmet and turn it on.

Get into the riding boots and zip them up.

Climb on the bike using the parchute cord boot lifters to avoid marking up the seat. Old man's trick.

First, back up the car away from the garage and ride out and park.

Put the car back near the door. Lower the garage door, after taking out the helmet and jacket and gloves. Or, re-open the door, take the stuff out, and re-close the door.

Today I am using the mesh jacket.

Now, put in the ear plugs, don the helmet, put the phone in the tank bag, after making sure the Bluetooth is turned on.

Start the bike.

Hear the music, or fix whatever the problem is.

Check that the tank bag is zipped up.

Do final checks.

Ride away.

So, that is more than 1.5 minutes.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Using a USB stick for Music

I have an audio system on my BMW R1200RT. It allows an iPod or other MP3 music player to be connected, if you pay the $135 CAD special cable and also buy a Lightning cable converter.

I believe the same cable is used to connect an iPod to a BMW car's audio system.

 It also allows a simple USB stick containing music to be used instead of the cable/converter/iPod, saving a ton of money. The USB stick must contain music in .MP3 files and be be formated in FAT32 mode. I have a 64GB USB stick which is a USB3 standard, meaning it is very fast and came with FAT32 formatting.

Like most tech topics, there are a few hitches, which this post is intended to smooth out.

A background:

Many years ago I took my entire CD collection and digitized each one, creating a library. I forget if I used iTunes or not, I think I did. It is simple, but does not have full flexibility. In addition to it, I have Media Monkey and between the two, I have the flexibility I need.

I store my music "library" file in a place where I can always find it on my fast desktop Windows computer. Sorry, Apple computer users, not all I say here might be directly usable by you, but it still might help.

As you can see above, the Music folder contains more folders as shown on the right. All Music contains the songs, organized in a standard way used by both iTunes and Media Monkey. This is an industry standard, not invented by me. The folders and the order of items in the folders was done by whatever program I used long ago and still works fine today.

Looking into the All Music folder, you can see there is a folder for each artist, so we need to "drill down" a bit more.

For each artist, there is a folder for each album.

And, you can now see there is a .MP3 file for each song. .MP3 files may not be the highest fidelity files, but since they are required for use on the RT, I use them.

Now we will talk about PLAYLISTS. The word itself seems to have multiple meanings

The first is a non-technical and obvious meaning, referring to two or more songs played in a certain order on a DJ's radio show for example.

But, most programs like iTunes and Media Monkey and most devices like iPods or your smartphone music app(s) will make a playlist for you so you can be your own DJ and make a list of songs you want played under different circumstances that suit you. For the USB stick, you need to create the most common type of playlist, one with a filename ending in .M3U. This is usually the default type anyhow.

After moving the music and the playlists to the USB stick, you can search the stick for for *.M3U files. Opening one of these using Notebook, you will see something that looks like:

For those of you who know about file system "paths", you will see this file is a set of pointers that allows each song to be found on the USB stick by the computer that is in the sound system.

If it does not look like this, and the sound system display says something like "no data", it means that the playlist file was not made correctly. I have made a few like that myself, because I did not really understand how to use Media Monkey correctly. Eventually, I read the help file and used the generiic USB stick addin. You might be able to avoid this. It happened to me when I had a slightly messed up music library, which took effort to fix. All is well now. Hopefully you will be ok.

Media Monkey and many other music player applications have the ability to convert music files from other formats to .MP3 formats. See the Help files for how to do this in your program. Also, to find missing files, etc. and clean up a messed up music library.

I hope this helps some folks. I am going to post a message to my fellow BMW MOA members as some of them will be interested.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Das Rally - Hamburg, NY

There were 6100 MOA members registered for this year's rally. Early attendees are requested to do volunteer work in advance of the official rally days. I arrived just after 9am on Monday. I had already organized a volunteer assignment helping to make signs. I had no idea there were so many signs required.

Arriving early allowed me to snag a prime campsite in the tree line where there was some shade as opposed to the open field. As you can see, there was a farm right behind the tree line.

Every morning, from 6 to 10, coffee was available. Donations went to a charity.

The campground was not very full at this time, but most of these folks were well-known MOA Ambassadors.

There were a large number of BMW trikes.

I saw a trailer holding a few classic bikes.

An open field would soon fill up.

There was some entertainment every night. This Creole singer conducted a Gumbo cookout with audience members invited to stir the pot. This lady was very entertaining.

The Sherpa tent company rents out these tents as a sort of temporary hotel. You just ride in and there is your tent, cot, and everything else.

You have to expect a little weather. Quite the blow came in at about 1 am and blew down my tent. Luckily, it popped up again with a little encouragement. I had to reset the guy lines and went back to sleep. In the morning, I saw some other damage.

The Beer Tent area suffered no damage.

And, bikes just kept rolling in.

If you waited later than 6 am to get your shower, you had to line up. I tried to shower between 4 and 5 am and never had to wait. In addition to these showers, there were two semi-trailers with 16 stalls each. I preferred to use them.

This was my first rally and I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tire Problem

Towards the end of the season, I noticed the rear tire was a bit low in pressure, but the front was ok. I figured there might be a problem, added air and all was well. Over the winter, the pressure fell from 42 to 22. Yes, there must be a problem.

So, today I filled a spray bottle with 20% soap and 80% water. Checked the stem, tire/wheel area on both sides, then the main tire area. Here is a photo of the trouble spot:

Very near the centre of the tire. Very little air escaping, maybe 1 psi per day. That is 1 psi too much.

So, off to the dealer on Tuesday for a new tire. I could plug it, and on a car I would, but not on the bike.

I am a Platinum level member of BMW MOA. That is the highest level - comes with tire insurance. You can claim twice a year and this will be number two since I renewed last July.

There is no hassle when making a claim, or at least there was not on my first claim. If there is a problem, I guess I will post about it here.