Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Don't Like 'Like'

Tonight I stopped at Timmy's for a snack while reading the daily paper. Three young ladies were at the table next to me. Usually, I can tune out the buzz in a public place but soon I noticed 'like....like....like....'

It was like.. distracting. This gal had like.. a one hundred word vocabulary that was totally challenged to effectively express the unbroken stream of approvals, similes, and metaphors. Strange how those with the least to say talk the most.

  • It was like.. verbal diarrhea
  • It was like.. mental constipation
  • It was like.. please shut up and read a book
The Urban Dictionary has some amusing definitions.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Really Lucky Bamboo

Brownie the cat chewed all the leaves from the Lucky Bamboo plants however they grew back and flourished. Now they live on a narrow bookshelf where there is no room for climbing cats.

I flush and refill the vase whenever the water level drops to 30 percent. And add a few drops of miracle grow.

More about Dracena

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hacking the Honda Civic Stereo - Part 3

Part 1 explained how to replace the noname factory speakers with better quality Pioneer units while making the modifications to the Honda invisible. This produced a pleasant improvement to sound quality and inspired further enhancements.

The Steve Lucas debut album has an electic mix of Jazz-Fusion styling backed by his sophisticated riffs on six-string electric bass. I wanted to hear the real thing in the car. Fusion not to your liking? Well visit Featuring Bass and find some other samples. You might enjoy Gordon McGhie which has some extra punch

The plastic and metal panels found in the modern automobile are designed to save cost and provide safety. They are not rigid enough for music. Also, there are holes everywhere that cancel out the sound pressure created by speakers in the doors and trunk. So when listening to any music with bass instruments, you also hear rattling panels and strange resonances.

These rattling acoustics can be fixed by using a powered subwoofer in a tuned enclosure. In addition, this fixes a problem with the bass boost control of the factory radio. Without a sub, you also boost the midrange when boosting the bass because it has a simple rising response curve. But the powered sub has it's own boost so the door speakers can be driven from a flat amplifier that causes no panel rattling. Now you have more flexibility in creating good sound.

You have many options when shopping for a car subwoofer. It seems to me that Rockford Fosgate is the "WooferMeister" so I tried a P210S4. Smaller, cheaper units are available but I prefer to buy a little extra rather than not enough which would be a total waste.

Enclosure choice is not so easy. Stereo stores usually sell these small, square boxes which are intended for cheap, generic speakers. They will not provide the best performance for a particular unit. Just as your car needs tuned suspension components, your woofer needs a particular box designed for it's personality.

The two most common enclosure types are sealed and vented. The vented ones are more efficient and are commonly used in home theatre systems to save cost. But a vented unit is more difficult to design so that it does not become a "boom box".

Fosgate sells these nifty vented enclosures with woofers. But they double the cost of your purchase and sealed enclosures are not offered. Moreover, vented enclosures are larger than the sealed versions for Fosgate woofers. Enclosure specifications are provided with Fosgate woofers so I opted to design my own.

Unfortunately, I don't have fancy-schmancy table saws and other tools for cabinet making so "creative carpentry" was needed. I purchased three 10" x 24" black, multipurpose shelves and one 12" x 36". I cut the 12x36 in half to get two 12x18. I cut one 10x24 in half to get two 10x12. The 10 inch pieces became the sides of a box, the 18 inch became the front and back. It just happened to work out with two cuts.

I made the cuts with a handsaw guided by a straight wood scrap. The 24" inch cut in half was slightly larger than the 12" inch so I trimmed them with the jig saw and a rasp to make them equal and just a hair less than 12". Remember, creative carpentry.

The high-density particle board shelves are held together with wood screws but this is only for a start. Bracing material must be added and screws inserted through the particle board so that the sides are pulled together. This bracing can consist of strips of pine or even old hockey stick handles. These braces are hidden inside. Later, thermal glue or silicone rubber will be added around all seams for airtight operation.

Note that the top and bottom boards extend over the sides. This is better for three reasons.

  • There is something to hold onto when carrying a 50lb box.
  • It looks better than trying to perfectly align two boards at right angles
  • It leaves a space for attaching the power amplifier

The Jansen JPA260 power amp can drive 180watts RMS when bridged into the woofer (and set to 11 like Spinal Tap. It also has bridged inputs for connecting to the existing Honda rear speaker wires. A switched low pass filter, a variable boost, and input level complete the requirements. The case of this amp is also the heat sink which gets very warm to the touch. It cools better when installed as shown since air naturally rises up over the case.

The final prototype is placed on the floor and fits snugly behind the passenger seat. The woofer is facing the seat but this is ok for low frequency operation. Note that the box is partially blocking the sliding console cover. Later a small storage box will be placed under the woofer to adjust the height as a pedestal.

The enclosure must have at least 0.65 cubic feet for the Fosgate woofer. My simple box is .85 which is within specification. Anyone with good tools can make a slightly smaller box.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blogs Vs Email

What are the pros and cons of Blogs and Emails?

Everyone knows how to use email so we tend to do that automatically even when email may not be the best tool for the job.

Email is good for notifying everybody but often there is a broadcast which includes people who may not need or want to know. Knowlege workers face a deluge of email. Business documents must be sorted into folders. Each recipient must duplicate the time and effort of the others.

Email is mature technology with plenty of features and options but the easiest choice is often not the best choice. Email was once the only option but with the growth of the WWW, there are a variety of services which can complement or replace email depending upon what needs to be done.

A Web log, or Blog for short, provides new and interesting possibilities. A Blog is a journal with the most recent entry, or post, at the top of the page. There are now millions of Blogs on the WWW. Most are banal experiments but many contain interesting and valuable material. So how Blogs help the over-emailed knowlege worker.

The first step is better teamwork. Get together and brainstorm when information is best emailed or put in managed documents. Look for items that require notification and those that can be read when it is convenient. Here are suggestions for items that can be Blogged:-

  • minutes of meetings for a project
  • list of persons not at work today
  • progess reports for a project
  • reports of visits to customer sites by a service person
  • what I learned this week
  • ideas: how can we be more efficient?
  • write about anything that happens in a sequence

Unlike Email, a Blog does not pester anyone. A person who is interested in the content of a Blog can read it at his convenience. Moreover, if he wishes to be notified of an update, he can subscribe using RSS, known as real simple syndication, which gives automatic notification. If he grows bored with the Blog, deleting the RSS link will terminate the nuisance.

Conclusion: Some combination of Email, Wikis, Blogs, and other services can reduce the information overload of knowlege workers. Managing information flow results in less work than using Email alone.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Possible Credit Card Risk With PayPal

I had my first encounter with PayPal today but not by choice. I was attempting to purchase a magazine online and was redirected to PayPal which captured my credit card and mailed a receipt. But the download of the magazine did not work. Here's where it all falls apart.

None of the published email addresses for the vendor worked so I intended to file a complaint with PayPal. But this is only possible if one has a PayPal account. My attempt to create an account was rejected because my credit card was already attached to an account.

After several useless emails, I phoned PayPal for help. The support lady told me that I was supposed to click "Save My Info" in the email receipt so that the transaction info would be pasted into the account application. She resent the receipt.

My computer has remote images in email disabled for security. Links to remote images are a favourite of spammers for bypassing spam filters. PayPal hides information in remote images so I did not see any links in the email receipt.

After disabling security, I see the PayPal logo but it only has a link to the main PayPal page. I still cannot create an account.

Now my emails are ignored so I phone PayPal again. This time the support guy says my visa account has another name. If that is true, how could I use it for purchase? Don't they check that the person name matches the card number? I ask if my card is compromised, he says no. But I later call visa and cancel the card anyway.

The first problem here is the email receipt is comprised of two pieces of information. One part is just text from the email server, the other is a link to a remote graphic on the web server. I suspect that the email programmer changed his part but the webserver guy did not update the other part to match. So the customer bears the confusion.

The other problem is customer support. They know how the system is supposed to work but are not aware of it's quirks and bugs. Successful problem resolution depends upon which support persons one happens to contact.

Finally, enter into Google "security remote images email" and see 49 million links. Many of these warn against allowing remote links in emails. Given this common wisdom, it is quite surprising and disturbing that PayPal, who is supposed to provide ultimate security, sends email with remote images.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Rambo Storms Quiet Condo

A peaceful Saturday evening was disrupted by the sudden appearance of six patrol cars, two ambulances, two fire trucks, two special forces vans, air support on standby, and two TV station crews smelling a story. The news report at Pulse24 understates the amount of manpower deployed for a hostage situation.

After negotiation, a man was arrested and charged with forcible confinement

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New Options For AirMiles

Which would you prefer, a 3.8 hour flight on an an Air Canada A320, or a 4.3 hour flight on a lumbering A340? They have the same cruising speed but the A340 has 120 more passengers to lift while the cruise control is tweaked to save fuel. When travelling between Toronto and Calgary, I think the extra $20 is worth the faster trip on the smaller jet.

Of course, you could always try Westjet if you don't mind helping...

CALGARY, Alberta. April 1, 2006. WestJet announced today that it will be launching a new program where guests can assist the airline in realizing fuel efficiencies. Help Westjet

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hacking the Honda Civic Stereo - Part 2

Assuming you wish to install better speakers as explained in Part one, Part 2 explains how to remove the factory speakers. The photo shows one rear speaker being removed as follows. Use a blunt screwdriver to pop the speaker grill from inside the trunk. Next enter the backseat with a Phillips screwdriver to remove one retaining screw. Finally, pry gently to lift the speaker.
I don't have an image for the front door speakers. First remove a Phillips screw from inside the door handle. Then pry gently around the lower part of the door to pop the friction fit plastic pins. Next, lift slightly to free the door covering from the plastic lip along the glass. Be careful with the wiring harness which attaches to the door handle switch assembly. The switch cover has a retaining screw. Perhaps you can adjust the door cover to allow access to the speaker without removing the switches. Good Luck!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nifty gift from Trish

Trish gave me this nifty temperature station for Xmas. It shows time, inside temperature, and outside temperature from a remote radio link which can be 80ft away. Inside it is a cozy 23 degrees, while at the open window across the room it is only zero. It is a shocking disparity which makes me feel 23 times better. Buffy the cat thinks so, too.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Slobs and Righteous People

The front page of the Toronto Star today had photos of a big todo that occured downtown. There was an SUV-driving, baseball-bat-carrying slob who tossed his lunch unto the street, and a righteous female bicycle courier who dumped it back in his lap. Then a melee ensued which was captured by a nearby photograher. In the background of the first photo, there is a wise elderly couple who just chuckle and walk on.

When I checked CityNoise, there were already 150,000 page views. This is a heavily commented blog site and there were plenty of the hangin is too good for 'em type comments. Sometimes the stories of real life are better than anything you could invent. There was a similiar story in July of the Dog Poop Girl

On one side we have the Slobs who have no problem with anything except their own comfort, on the other we have the Righteous People who are easily offended by any disrespect shown anywhere on earth. Let the battles begin! :-)

"Slob ---------- | ----------- Righteous"

As you might have guessed, I find myself slightly on the Righteous side of the Slob-O-Meter. Which one are you?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hacking the Honda Civic Stereo - Part 1

It seems I am only one who hears the high-frequency distortion in the speakers of the 2006 Honda Civic. I hear this echo or rattle in female voices and cymbals.. it is very annoying. Yet no product review has mentioned this problem. Anyway, I have solved the problem with enhanced speakers. You can too if you are handy with simple tools.

It is no surprise that these no-name Honda speakers sound like rattling plastic.. they are almost all plastic and have only tiny magnets. They work fairly well despite their cheap design. However, almost is not good enough for me. They degrade the quality of an otherwise fine car. In comparison, even the dirt-cheap replacement speakers found at Wal-Mart have a robust metal frame and magnet.

There is an additional problem with these no-name speakers in that they don't match standard designs. Instead of evenly-spaced screw holes, there is only one mounting screw and two plastic locking tabs. The mounting holes in the front doors and rear deck are horseshoe shaped. I found no aftermarket speaker that fits. But I was not discouraged, instead I converted these sorry speakers into very good quality Pioneer units. Read on!

The photo shows the replacement Pioneer speaker, the plastic mounting ring of the Honda speaker, and the cone assembly which has been cut away from the mounting ring. Compare the shape of the mounting ring to that of the standard Pioneer speaker. Note the ring has plastic locking tabs which do not match the evenly-spaced mounting holes of standard speakers. Fortunately, the plastic ring can be hacked to hold the Pioneer speaker such that no modification to your 2006 Honda Civic LX is necessary.

Tools Needed for modification of Honda Speaker:

  • small side-cutting pliers
  • screwdrivers
  • drill for screw guide holes
  • utility knife
  • glue gun or silicon sealant
  • needle-nose pliers
  • soldering iron

Hacking Steps

  • Remove the foam tape from the speaker front. Do not remove the magnet side foam
  • With the sharp utility knife, cut the cone away from the ring
  • On the magnet side, use the side-cutting pliers to snip all the plastic struts holding the cone in place.
  • Cut the flex material which aligns the cone around the magnet
  • Solder the Pioneer speaker wires to the Honda speaker jack
  • Cut the jack from the honda speaker cone and discard the cone. Save the magnet for your fridge.
  • On the cone side of the ring, cut away the ring surrond material to yield a flat surface.
  • On the Pioneer speaker, score the ears of one screw tab with the side cutters, then wiggle them gently with the needle nose so they break off at the score marks
  • Position the Pioneer speaker in the Honda ring such that the tab just cut aligns with the big screw hole in the ring
  • Now the Pioneer speaker should be evenly centered in the Honda ring.
  • Carefully drill a 1/8' guide hole for each of 3 small wood screws
  • Screw the Pioneer tabs to the Honda ring
  • Seal the unused mounting holes with silicon seal or thermal glue
  • There should be no way for air to leak though the speaker frame or support ring

The previous photos used the Pioneer TS-650M which is an older model bought on sale at Best Buy. I installed these in the front door. For the rear deck I used TS-A1671R also purchased at a discount at Future Shop. Here you see it installed in the plastic mounting ring with the jack from the factory Honda speaker soldered and taped. Speakers other than Pioneer may also fit if they have the extension tabs for 6.75" mounting.

Cheap 1-way or 2-way speakers have a compromised design since a single structure cannot work equally well for bass, mid-range, and treble. On the other hand the TS-A167R is coaxial 3-way so that one part does not interfere with the other. This results in clean, full-spectrum response.

This completes Part-1. Coming soon, Part-2 will explain how to remove the factory speakers from the 2006 Honda Civic.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

World's Most Determined Bird

Imagine you must shuffle around the same spot for four months with a big egg between your feet. There is no food. On a nice day the temperature is -50. On a bad day, it is -80 with hurricane force winds. After losing 50 percent body weight, there is another 60 mile trek. This is life for the male Emperor Penguin. The movie is called 'March Of The Penguins' but the 60 mile trek to the mating site is actually the easy part. Many birds are dedicated parents but none are so extreme as the Penguin. Penguins with their comical walk are most like humans so they arouse your interest and empathy.