2015-04-28

Celebration

The motorcycle is now running.

If I may indulge in a bit of whimsy...

The sky was gloomy outside. Inside the workroom, the doctor was at his work-bench.

"Igor, the 10-mm socket." The doctor gestured at the tool-drawer.

"Yes, Dr. Frankenstein." The hunch-backed assistant shuffled over to the drawer. He spent a minute searching for the item; then shuffled back with the requested tool. 

"Hold this wire." Igor carefully held the wire in place. The doctor placed the bolt into position, and began tightening it with the socket.

"Good, Igor. Now hold this other wire." They repeated the task with the second wire.

"Now fetch the ether spray." Igor obediently did, as the doctor stepped back with a strange gleam in his eye. A moment later, the doctor was setting the key and adjusting a choke setting.

Igor handed the doctor the requested spray-can. The doctor chuckled ominously as he sprayed the ether into the air-intake box.

Then the doctor switched the key, and touched the red button.

The machine cranked and sputtered.

The doctor grabbed the throttle, moved it to max, and touched the red button again.

The machine cranked, sputtered, and then roared to life with raucous noise.  

"It lives, Igor."

Igor smiled.

The doctor cautiously adjusted the throttle and choke a few times. The raucous noise settled into a smooth rumble. The doctor's eyes gleamed with pleasure; his voice rose. "It lives, Igor. It lives!" 

Outside, the wind blew in a strangely ominous way. The neighbors wondered at the strange portents from the doctor's shop. 

It felt kind of like that.

Well, without a hunch-backed assistant. (And I'm not a doctor...and the neighbors don't think I have a touch of madness about me.)

But I spent many hours with the motorcycle, awakening it out of a winter of slumber.

2015-04-27

Motorcycle Repairs, part 2

Last weekend, I spent most of a Saturday replacing a chain on a motorcycle.

After trying to re-start the motorcycle, I discovered that the battery was no longer any good. It's been in use for several seasons, and I typically put the battery inside and on a trickle-charger during the winter.

Even though the voltage measure indicated full-charge, the headlight went dead while trying to crank the engine. And the battery couldn't turn the engine over fast enough to bring the engine to life.

Thus, I had to purchase a replacement battery.

I did delay the purchase somewhat. The weather went from warm-weekend to cold-and-snow-flurries during the week. And I gave the old battery another session on the charger...then tried to start the engine again.

That, and the variations in weekly schedule, kept me from being able to do anything until this weekend.

The new battery has been purchased, prepared, and charged. But it hasn't been tried yet. I'll see what the result is tonight.

2015-04-26

Weekend Reading: Promise Kept

The story of Abraham, as told in Genesis, went through several layers of interactions with the Creator.

First, a special promise, Abraham's faith in response to the promise, a mistake in applying that faith to his situation, a special covenant (with a new name and a promise of a son with his wife Sarah), and a ring-side seat on God's judgement.

The narrative then moves on to the birth of Isaac, the promised son.

Earth Shaking News

An old friend of mine is involved in missionary work. That work has him traveling a good deal. (It's more short-term work than long-term work.)

Over the weekend, I saw (on his FaceBook feed) a note that he'd left Nepal earlier than planned. Then there was a note that he is now happy that he was safe. And that it feels odd that he is looking at pictures of old buildings from Kathmandu...which are now destroyed. Less than a week after he took them.

That's one way to learn about a big earthquake in Nepal...

I'm saddened by the news that so many people have died. And that so many remote villages in the mountains were likely flattened by this quake.

2015-04-23

Did I miss Earth Day?

I think yesterday was Earth Day.

I must have missed it. What on Earth was I thinking?

In the meantime, I am amused (somewhat) by this post. A list of past Earth Day predictions that have turned out wrong.

2015-04-22

Intellectual Property

Saw a post here about copyright, intellectual property, and the automotive business.

Which kind of piques my interest.

I work in a company that sells widgets for installation in automobiles. I've worked on units that were all proprietary-code on a custom microcontroller.

I've also worked on units which use a mix of Open Source code, Open Source toolkits for proprietary code, licensed code, and all-proprietary code. (Those tended to be big, on-dashboard infotainment units. It's not really a radio, it's the little brother to a tablet PC. With all sorts of custom hardware connections for talking to FM/AM/XM/DAB radio receivers, CD players, USB connections for MP3, Bluetooth-HFP, Bluetooth-A2DP, etc.)

I've got a minor nit to pick with the article from AutoBlog.

Though the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed in 1998, cars typically at least one programmable micro-controllers by that time.

Almost all cars since model-year 1996 support ODB-II technology. That requires, at minimum, and engine controller which includes some control software.

Predecessors to ODB-II have been in the field since the early 1990s. Many of these also used programmed micro-controllers.

Thus, the assumption that things have changed since 1998 doesn't really make sense to me.

The complexity of code, and range of features controlled by the code, have both risen drastically since 1998. However, the fact that cars contain some copyrighted software hasn't changed since then.

Nor has the fact that niche markets exist for custom coders who want to tweak that software. Even if the niche is now much larger than it used to be.

I do know that such aftermarket modification might make the project I work on less profitable. Or it might be more profitable, depending on how the aftermarket modifications affect demand for this project.

It's an odd legal question. Do the intellectual property rights of the manufacturer mean that it is illegal for tinkerers to poke at the software, and try to improve it?

What is the difference between modifying a car's hardware and modifying its software?

2015-04-20

Motorcycle Repair

Over the weekend, I did some work on my motorcycle.

She is in good shape, though the chain and sprockets were obviously old and worn.

Originally, I had thought that I needed to pay someone else to do the task. After a short discussion with my father, I decided to let him help me with the task.

Though my motorcycle is much older than the one in this video, the steps involved in the task were much the same.

At the end of the day, I was able to mount the new sprockets, put the rear tire back in place, install the new chain, re-attach the suspension and rear brakes, and align the rear wheel.

All told, the day went well.

With one small exception: after I pulled the battery out of storage, it couldn't generate enough current to start the engine.

Either I need a new battery, or I need a better trickle-charging system for use during the winter months.

Possibly, I need both.

Once I figure that out, I think I'll be able to ride. (Unless I can convince someone to help me push-start the machine...)