Wednesday, 28 July 2010

flat battery

Can anyone tell me why car makers persisted (still persist I guess) in making cars that allow you to leave the headlights on when the ignition switch is turned off and the key is removed?

And its not just me either, looking at the RACQ stats, 33% of their call outs are from the same thing.

What the hell is wrong with car designers that they do this? I mean no motorcycle I've ever had (even from the 70's) has allowed you to get a flat battery this way.

(you can guess it was raining when I left home and bright when I got to work ...)

I am not sure if the battery will cope with being let go this flat, and its a new battery too (like 3 months old).

post scriptum

Several people have since informed me that many cars made after 2000 in fact have this sort of thing, Eg:
My old 2002 Hyundai would switch to park lights only if you took the ignition out, and all the cars we have now beep if you leave the lights on when you take the keys out.

Great ... well its good to see that after some 60 years of car manufacture that they are now including complex electronics to do what motorcycles always did.

I notice (doing a quick read around the net) that the solutions employed by car makers seem to be creating problems for the owners (such as not being able to turn them off at all).

Great, more complex electronics to solve what should be a simple problem. Even folks like Steve Wozniak has had problems with this:

"Toyota has this accelerator problem we've all heard about," Wozniak said. "Well, I have many models of Prius that got recalled, but I have a new model that didn't get recalled. This new model has an accelerator that goes wild, but only under certain conditions of cruise control. And I can repeat it over and over and over again--safely.
"This is software. It's not a bad accelerator pedal. It's very scary, but luckily for me, I can hit the brakes," he said.

good design is about simplicity, not complexity.

perception isn't reality

I've been back in Australia for a little while now and it seems its been just the rainiest winter ever. Just like in 1988 (when I bought a particular bike) it seems the dry winter days are replaced by drizzle and rain.

Last night it started raining before we went to bed, and then around midnight it seemed to bucket down. So I thought I'd check out the weather data this morning and found this:

so we had 27mm last night which looking at the month so far:

makes up most of the months rain in one night.

Being a kind of part time climate researcher, I thought I'd pull the data on the entire historical records for this town and have a look:

well, at a median of 56mm for this month (since records were started in 1881) this hardly makes this July a wetter than anything July. We have only received half of the median and less than half the mean.

Somehow seeing the facts and thinking about them (not just the perceptions of reality) I come up with many memories of my childhood of waiting around schools in the wet and rain, wet winter coastal camping trips and nights under the (tiny) caravan annex with the wind blowing and water running across from under the van and past my (raised) bunkbed.

It struck me that if I wasn't a thinker that I could easily go along with the office 'natter' about how much rain we're having this year and how climate change just isn't real.

food for thought?

Well I'm gonna have brekky that's for sure

post scriptum

after getting out onto the highway on my way north (to where I work) it became apparent that the rain was strictly coastal and cleared up. Looking at the weather radar shows how isolated this shower is.

My experience of this region (and looking at regional rainfall data) suggests that this sort of isolated shower is quite common here due to the geography with some areas being dry while others are getting soaked on many occasions.

All too often policy governing stuff is formed by people sitting in offices who don't get out and about enough and view the world only through their window. My water tanks are filled (in the dry times), yet just up the road a little people would have nearly no rainwater.

Which is why policy on managing water resources really needs to be region specific, not just one policy size fits noone.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ciecio7 - new FD micro 4/3 adaptor

While things may seem to have slowed down a little on the micro 4/3 front it seems that at least one maker of adaptors is iteratively developing his line of adaptors.

As it happens my first adaptor for my G1 was the FD adaptor. The first one was a simple affair which just did the functional job of allowing me to put FD lenses onto my G1. Mounted using this adaptor they could focus and had (manual) aperture control. Don't forget being manual focus lenses they focus manually too ;-)

I wrote a post about that first one here and then wrote about the updated "second series" one here.

the mask

Back some time ago there was a discussion that the Rayqual adaptor had a "mask" in the back of the adaptor to shield the internal of the camera from the extra light that would be falling around when using adapted 35mm lenses.

If this is a new idea to you, then essentially its about the concept that the image circle of 35mm lenses will be way larger than the 4/3 sensor.

If you look at this diagram I've drawn in blue the tightest circle that a lens can throw and evenly illuminate a 35mm frame / sensor (which I've indicated in blue). As you can see this is way larger than needed for the 4/3 sensor (and a reason why I'm very interested in a tilt adaptor for the 4/3 system as there is plenty of coverage).

Well, so what?

As it happens having all that extra illumination in there has the potential to increase the amount of internal reflection and thus reduce the contrast of the lens by having stray light reflecting around in the area between lens and sensor. Its the reason (incase you never thought of it) that the area behind lenses in SLR cameras is painted black.

I never thought it was an issue, but didn't give it much more thought before that discussion. I wasn't about to pop the bucks for a Rayqual adaptor, so it was essentially a question I could not answer ...

Well, when I saw that Ciecio7 had a new adaptor out which had just such a mask (like the Rayqual one), I asked if he would send me one for evaluation, which he very kindly did.

So I thought I would compare his "series 2" with this new one (should it be the series 3?).

Bottom line early

couldn't see any difference in images, but the adaptor is really nicely made. His stuff gets better every time I see one.

This in itself is a good thing and I personally prefer this adaptor over any other I've tried.


The first thing which bears a mention is that this new adaptor is not just a series 2 with a mask added. Its subtle but there are other differences. Clearly he's been making a few tweaks to the design.

The first thing I noticed when putting the adaptor onto the lens was that he's snuggled the "grip" area closer to the lens.


which becomes clearer when you compare this to the series 2:


It does make the adaptor look much nicer now.

It helps to cover up the back of the FD lens attachment system (which is normally mounted hard against a camera), this is something I made reference to in my first review of these adaptors. It may be a point of entry for dust, but at that time felt it wasn't anything to get worked up about.

The new adaptor has the alignment dots on the outside and they're nicely placed. The extra dots on the case make it easier to align the adaptor to mount it and the lens. I see that he has now added a youtube video of how to do this on his ebay site so I didn't have to do that one myself.

Anyway, back to the adaptor.

I took a few images using RAW and examined them to see if there was any difference. I used my 28mm and my 50mm lens and took images at f2 and f5.6 to see if there was any effect noticeable as a result of wider angles or aperture. I found nothing different. Here is one sample:

The 50mm test image

And two 100% samples from it. The taking conditions are outside in full sunlight, with the lens well shielded from stray light.

series 2

series 3

I had thought to find some more difference than I did, but I didn't ... so as the old saying goes:

Why is it so...

Well the first thing which comes to my mind is that there is perhaps very little internal bouncing around inside the micro 4/3 "mirror box" in the first place .. probably because there isn't one!

I mean you can probably go grab your micro 4/3 camera and look, but as you can see here from where the lens or adaptor mounts onto the camera there is only a few mm for light to bounce around in.

There is a nice stepped area around the shutter (reduces reflections) and very little other opportunity between the sensor and the back of the mount.

So if there is to be any light bouncing around in there it will most likely have to be between the back of the FD lens and the inside of the adaptor.

This is where the Ciecio7 adaptor perhaps has an advantage.

The first series of the Ciecio7 and most of the other adaptors use a simple pin to engage the lens's iris engagement pin. However from the second series the Ciecio7 uses a gap in an internal system which is essentially a baffle.

You can see this in the image below (which is one of the images Ciecio7 has on his eBay page)

Apart from a few gaps to allow lens components in it essentially is a baffle that runs around the interior of the lens.

Mask (shown here) has far less to do than similar items on the backs of 35mm lenses.

Series 2
series 2

Series 3
series 3

So looking at them like this it seems that there really isn't much for the "mask" do to in cutting down on internal reflections ... is there?

So, what's the advantage? should you buy the new one?

If you already have the series 2, then probably no. If you don't have an FD adaptor or are after another one, then this adaptor is one of the best made you can get on the market for any price. Compared to many other adaptors its carved from a single billet of alloy and you won't be getting any issues of screws being or coming lose (as I had on the RJ Camera one).

The construction of this adaptor is excellent. The sample I had fitted all my FD lenses perfectly and infinity focus was spot on with 28mm and 50mm lenses (length is more critical with the shorter focal length lens).

Another advantage is that the price of this new adaptor is slightly less than I paid for the series 1 adaptor. The seller is actually the maker (as I understood things) and so you're not just buying something from on-seller. As I've stated on my blog before, I'm a big fan of the free market and supporting that with information to help that along. So like Adam Smith wrote:

By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

So buying a well made product that does the job well at a good price (way lower than a Rayqual) you not only get a better bit of gear, you essentially vote for a business who was among the first to make this kind of product, but also one of the few who keeps trying to make it better (unlike many of the el cheapo eBay sellers).


The mask is certainly not hurting anything.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

big scoots

While I have the DN-01 on loan at the moment, the goal has been to get a bike of my own again. Well this weekend I bought a Yamaha T-Max, which is a big scooter.

The scooter came from central NSW and I rode it home some 550Km from there, giving me some time to get used to it, see how it sits on the highway and get a feel for its fuel economy.

The two bikes are at once different and yet similar ...

For instance both are fully automatic, twin cylinder, feet forward riding position bikes while the purists would argue that the T-Max is a scooter not a bike its rather different in many ways:
* scooters normally have the engine as part of the rear drive train (massively altering unsprung mass), while the T-Max has the engine as part of the Chassis just as a normal bike does
* scooters are normally between 50cc and 180cc ... the T-Max is a 500cc engine with more power than a typical 500cc single
* scooters don't normally have a chassis like a motor bike does.

* the T-Max has larger wheels than scooters, but not as big as most bikes (they're 14 inch and 15 inch ... many bikes are 16 inch and 18 inch)

So while a T-Max may look like a scooter, its more like a motorcycle with a low slung frame and only with seating like a scooter.

chalk and cheese

The first thing which stands out is when you start the bikes up. The DN-01 sounds like a throbby V-twin and the T-max sounds more like an outboard motor.

hmmm ... if you're into the "ambiance and acoustics " then get the DN-01.

The next thing is seat height, the DN-01 allows me to sit on it like on a Virago 250, plenty of space under my arse when I stand up while astride the bike. The T-Max on the other hand is rather a high and wide seat which makes touching the ground difficult without sitting to one side a little. This is not a bike for learners who are short. On the move however it feels great and is by and away the better seat for long trip (if you ask me). More on the seating position in a tic.

I have not taken the DN-01 through any windy roads, but so far it makes me fee like it will do well ... as long as it does not run out of cornering clearance (a common issue in cruiser style bikes)

The things the same as a normal bike...

The funny thing is that while both bikes corner and behave very well on the road, the combination of seat height and orientation makes the T-Max feel more like riding a recumbent bike than a "traditional" bike, while the DN-01 feels just like any cruiser style bike (like the Virago). I reckon that anyone who likes bikes like that (Yamaha Virago Suzuki Intruder) will love the DN-01. Anyone who has tried a 'bent' knows they're fast and corner very well. Recumbent bikes only loose out to "traditional" bicycles in their ability to allow the rider to stand up in the pedals and get more power down to the ground on climbs ... the T-Max however has a motor for that :-)

After coming down the range from Tenterfield to Casino, I can say that the T-Max goes around corners very nicely and has good cornering behavior, even if it does not feel like a CBR-600 it goes well enough to hurry one along if the rider is not up to the task (I'm sure it surprised the rider of the one I hurried along).

After 5 hours in the saddle (with a couple of hours in cold sleet and rain on the New England Plateau) I got to home feeling quite good, with no aches, no pains and barely any fatigue (and I have not been riding as much these days as I once did). Folks this is one fantastic machine for long haul rides.

but it gets better ...

The fuel economy of the T-Max was astounding, so much so I will have to double check this, but on my trip home I averaged 28Km/L ... yes that's 3.5L / 100km

Combined with the excellent protection of the screen and the great seating that makes the T-Max one of the best open road commuting bikes around.

So far (aside from the limp "outboard" sound of the engine) its all positive stuff for the T-Max

After some years as a big bike fan, I find myself really liking this big scooter.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

team day - the Ron Mueck exhibition

The team went out today to check out the local modern art at the Queensland Cultural Center and the Ron Mueck exhibition.

Ron is a sculptor who has his choice of media come from working in film special effects. His works are quite interestingly real when seen as photographs although in the "flesh" the illusions are less complete.


He seems to favour nudes ... although the "subject" is not always aware of the viewers one does wonder...

so, have a toddle around the museum with us...

Ron Mueck

a good day was had by all

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

easy rider

I've been a keen motorcycle rider for most of my life. I got my first bike (a Honda SL 125 as in the image to the left [which isn't my bike]) some time back in the late 70's.

I've pretty much had a bike ever since then, with the exception of my time in Finland.

Being back in Australia I wasn't immediately thinking of "gosh I have to get a bike" (honest) but with only one car in the family at the moment it was clearly a reasonable thing to start thinking of soon.

Lucky for me a good friend of mine came to the "rescue" and offered me a bit of time on his new toy, a Honda DN-01.


In a nutshell it is an 800cc, V twin, fuel injected, water cooled, shaft drive bike with ABS and a fully automatic gearbox.


Everything is neatly tucked away, no muck flying out of the windows incubating the passers by with this one ... Heck its the first bike I can ride to work and not get my pants dirty (chain lube fling off) or my black shoes scruffed up by the gear change lever (even my K1oo can't boast that).

A close look at the front end shows the typical ABS sensor system and triple pot (six piston) disks.

Yep, it stops quite well!

The cockpit is quite nice ... and clean!


nice foot rests too, and not a trace of vibration through them.

The gear box is based on the CVT system which have been used in Honda 250cc scooters since the Spacy in 1986.

If you're unfamiliar with the CVT system, I suggest this video will help clear up how the thing works.

But think of your MTB bicycle gears and the way the gears go up more by both increasing the front sprocket diameter and decreasing the rear.

For how the pulleys operate ...

Its used in use in some cars now too.

A little over a week and a thousand kilometers on the bike have given me time to get used to it and develop impressions.

My first impression remains with me still ... "hey, I kinda like this bike"

Sitting on the bike is an interesting experience, it is way lower than I expected. This is something which will / should make the bike more appealing to many riders who have "ducks disease"
"Ducks Disease", a term coined by the Welsh comedian Harry Secombe. He would demonstrate it by sitting between two men who appeared to be of the same height. Then they stood up and he was a foot shorter

Sufferers who ride bikes often go for bikes like the Yamaha Virago (ok if your a chick) or those wanting something different try the Yamaha T-Max (more on that soon). The problem with the T-Max is that while its a 500cc big scooter it also has a big seat height with a wide fat seat that generally keeps anyone shorter than 180cm (6 foot for the UK and USA readers) from touching the ground ... which is just the opposite of what a learner with ducks disease wants. The DN-01 however is perfect. I can even stand up and be 3 or 4 cm out of the saddle (and I've got ducks disease too!)

The operation of the automatic gearbox is fantastic. Within a few moments you forget about it (aside from the reflex twitching of the left foot and reaching for the clutch with the left hand...) and just ride it.

On the highway it cruises smoothly and if you want a little more acceleration when over taking, hit the switch on the left which puts you into S mode of the gearbox.

The minor fairing does an excellent job of keeping the wind off my chest at everything up to and including 110Km/H (we have some sections of highway here that are that speed) without introducing any noisy turbulence.

Fuel consumption seems to be something like 21Km / L (4.7L/100Km) out on the highway doing the speed limit.

I reckon this is the easiest to ride bike I've ever sat on. The 800cc V-Twin gives enough power to sit all day at 100Km/H on the highway (about 3800rpm FYI) and even with a passenger it all feels effortless.

If you were even roughly interested in a simple to ride, low seat height, competent easy to own bike then it would be hard to go past this. At the current prices they go for used they are a steal.

Honda have a long history of making evolutionary bikes; they're quite capable of producing class changing bikes (like say the CBR 600 which totally redefined the 600cc class) or completely orphaned things like the CX 500 Turbo. I have a feeling that the DN-01 is destined to be more like the CX500 than the CBR600.

That's not to say that Honda wasted their R&D money on the bike, as quite like the CX 500 Turbo they are bound to make great use of the many innovations which appeared on the bike. Stuff like the CVT, the electronic controls of the CVT, the well integrated ABS and the fact that its a "real bike" (not a scooter) which behaves like a bike and operates as easily as a scooter is bound to make an impact.


its a bottler. I reckon that something like this system in a bike like the Honda Revere would be a scorcher. Either that or you could get a Silver wing or the Yamaha T-Max (especially if they bring out the 750cc version)

PS - some of my other bikes:

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Australian magpies

for some time I've been "friends" with the local magpie. I didn't encourage him (or her) any more than just whistling back while I was working in the front yard at first.

The Australian magpie is no relation to the one in the European and Asian continent.

Sometimes I'm working away in the back room on the PC (like now) and he comes to the door and starts singing. If you go out and whistle around he'll give you time to say your bit, then says his bit.

He first started showing up in 2005, and I was pleased to find that he was still in the territory when I can back from Europe this year. It was hard to not share a crumb or two with him, so recently I started tossing him something now and then.

He (or she, not sure) comes and sits by the back room and sings away ...