More Rotten Apples.

So this week Apple announce yet more massive profits to add to their already huge cash pile. Last quarter they sold 34,000 iPhones an hour, every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Well done, it’s obviously a great product that people want. They charge a premium price, make a nice margin, in excess of 30% so we are told. So imagine how much I wanted to share the love with the great people at Apple when today I need to purchase a few sample Apple Authentication Chips for a project, a project where a product will be made that works with Apple devices. The chips are a quite reasonable $1 each, but when you go to the check out -[  bear in mind there is one single Apple approved supplier for these thing in the whole world – and you have to jump through hoops to be able to purchase from them ] – you suddenly get hit with a $50 SERVICE CHARGE – for what??? Then the final icing on the cake is when you select the delivery option – for 20 “chips” each only a couple of mm square – you get hit with a carriage charge of $70 – so $20 for some sample chips weighing a couple of grams and a grand total of $120 (one hundred and twenty dollars US) for postage and packing!  That really takes the biscuit – especially as their evil twin Amazon will only yet your average punter charge £2.80 for carriage on any books you try to sell on Amazon – even if it costs more because its a big, heavy book!

People have a go at Microsoft saying they are evil but at least Microsoft now have the decency to give all Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 users the chance to upgrade (if that’s the right term!) to Windows 10 when it is released. Also don’t forget that Bill and Melinda Gates are actually giving away the $Billions that Bill made from Microsoft doing some real good in the world.

It’s about time our wonderful E.U. and the U.S. got together and started taking Apple down a peg or two from their pedestal instead of creating endless red tape for little companies.

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures – 2014 – Sparks Will Fly.

I have been a fan of The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for many years. Admittedly I have not watched so many in recent years but I always thought fondly of them. This year I made a concerted effort to watch them – after the event, and after Christmas via the mystical magic of t’interweb and BBC” eye” player. The titles and write ups seemed quite exciting and up my street, making stuff by using “technology” we have around the house. The presenter, Prof Danielle George is Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and a Professor in the Microwave and Communications Systems research group at the University of Manchester. She was bright, enthusiastic and engaging and I accept the target audience was a lot younger than me – though I am sometimes told I am just a big kid – so she needed to engage their imagination but pretty much from the off important facts and principles were glossed over, things were dumbed down, my expectations were raised way too high. We jumped from using an incandescent lamp to LED lamps for reasons of energy efficiency, no mention was made of the thermal lag of the filament making for blurry images. Then we got onto matrix displays, there was quite a good piece of demonstration equipment but it was not well explained, words like multiplex and matrix (I think) were sadly missing as was a very important phenomenon – persistence of vision – which allows us to get away with all sorts of tricks with visual displays. Things got worse when we had 40 Raspberry Pi’s apparently triggered in perfect synchronisation “by the internet”. No mention of latency and timing.  We were led to believe that wireless was better than cabling in a large building, we had a demonstration of a mechanical SERVO not a simple motor switching a light on and off, then magically someone pops off down B&Q and buys their entire stock of multicolour, wireless enabled LED lamps. Plug them in, throw in a ready made wireless controller from a stadium illumination and a game controller which had nothing to do with a load of Jellies! and the jobs a good one!

The second lecture was no better, in fact it was worse as in my opinion it had the biggest bit of misinformation of the three. What they showed in the studio was not a Hologram, it was a 2D image projected onto a curtain of water droplets, quite effective but NOT a hologram. There was a whole section on Haptics (not clearly explained) and then the final implementation didn’t use them – they could have done.

The third lecture bought in a load of ready made bits and robots to form an orchestra. All very interesting but little was explained about many of the things used, there were a few nice demonstrations but the fundamental science was glossed over.

I know it is difficult to get many of the concepts over in a one hour program but I often got the feeling that Prof.  George was out of her depth, there were so many things I could pick holes in (Sorry Prof. but it’s true). I also felt there were hidden agendas throughout – energy efficiency (LED lamps), high speed wireless internet There was also an over reliance on the Smartphone with little in the way of explaination of the basic principles.

The one good thing was the over arching message to the audience to go home and play, to make and do stuff. My only worry is that many will become quickly disillusioned when much of what they imagine they can do – like “code” a game (how I hate that term – almost as much as hack), and they suddenly find out its not a case of a couple of lines of program but many hundreds.

Raspberry Pi, Arduino and their ilk are fantastic and have fired many youngsters imaginations. Hopefully in 10 years time we will start to see the fruits of this emerging into main stream employment, I hope so as we are so short of engineers of all flavours right now. I think the program should have concentrated on this and showed right from the start of unpacking the kit what could be achieved from getting “Hello World” on a screen and blinking an LED to uploading a web page to the internet. Telling them how it all links together – its information no one thinks they need to know – but in the long run they do!

Weather Station Repairs – Technoline WS2350

If you click on the tab at the top left hand side of the home page you get taken to the “Weather” page where there is a link to my other website displaying current weather data at Dengemarsh. The “system” for collecting the data – Windspeed, direction, pressure, temperature, humidity, ranfall etc. is a Technoline WS2350. This is similar to the La Crosse WS2310.

I first set the system up in 2007. The Weather vane and anemometer sits on top of a 9m mast – well clear of the turbulent effects of nearby buildings. The website is very popular with the wind and kite surfers who frequent the nearby beaches at Greatsone and Camber. They like it apparently as it gives very accurate windspeed and direction information – important so I am told for maximum enjoyment of the sport! It is also heavily accessed by fishermen who fish off of Denge beach and Dungeness Point.  I must point out at this point that I don’t enjoy or indulge in any of the above activities!

The original anemometer had a small propeller underneath attached to the weather vane which kept it facing into the wind. This lasted about 12 months and was replaced by the more traditional and more accurate “three cups” design. The first one of these lasted around 3 years before I noticed the wind direction “sticking” and the windspeed grossly under reading. Having taken the mast down I quickly ascertained that the “bearings” were worn and decided to get a new LAC TX-20 Windspeed and Direction Sensor. This was duly fitted and lasted a similar time to the first – we are near the coast its windy most of the time, the wind is also salt laden when from the southwest so the short life is not overly surprising on a relatively low cost system (The whole station currently retails at £110). So this time I decided to strip the unit down and see if it could be repaired, Also the sensor were showing out of stock every where I looked.

Step 1.  Remove the sensor from the mast – lower the mast, undo the U clamp holding the sensor to the mast and disconnect the cable, then escape to the warmth of indoors!

Step 2.  Remove the 3 screws seen from the underneath.

2015-01-18 20.41.19 (Medium)

Step 3. carefully separate the direction indicator top half from the anemometer bottom half.


There is a small, square LED that is a snug fit into a plastic lightguide, It does just slide out  Just “wiggle” the top and bottom halves gently separating them and it will come out.

Step 4. Gently lever out the PCB, be careful as there are two thin black wires attached to the underside of the PCB that connect to the magnetic sensor that detects the windspeed.


Step 5. Finally you will be able to see a black plastic base plate, the one in the picture has the wires disconnected. Remove the three screws and carefully lever the base plate out, you can gently lift on the legs of the magnetic sensor, hold the data cable out of the way.


Step 6. You can now see the top bearing of the anemometer. The bearings are really small roller bearings. Lift off the bearing from the spindle.


Step 7. Next CAREFULLY ease the small round magnet off of the plastic carrier. The magnet is quite soft and will break easily.


Step 8. Now using the blunt end of a screw driver (i.e the handle) carefully push down on the exposed spindle end whilst supporting the casing. The spindle is a push fit through the lower bearing and the plastic magnet carrier. Once the spindle has started to move you should be able to ease the plastic carrier upwards and remove it from the spindle. The spindle should then be easy to pull out from the lower bearing. Once removed tip the housing upside down to let the lower bearing drop out. You will be left with 5 components, Cups and spindle, lower bearing, plastic magnet carrier, magnet, upper bearing.


Ok that’s everything dismantled. Now when you examine the parts you will probably be ably to see the wear on the bearing cup for the wind direction sensor. The picture below shows the wear I found, it was the same on both units is dismantled.


There are various options for repair. I chose to remove the remaining “wall” with a knife and using my 3D printer make a small stepped washer to fit over the brass bearing.  (See my 3D printer post to see what I am talking about!). The whole process of making two washers, one for each of my sensor units, took about 25 mins, that was measuring, drawing the 3d model, and printing two repair pieces.

washer screenshot (Medium)2015-01-17 14.48.06 (Medium)

The stepped washer was a good fit and snapped over the remaining stub needing no glue – quite satisfying! It can’t come off as the spindle from the vane will keep it in place.


Rest of wall removed


Stepped washer in position

Now onto the anemometer. The problem here seemed to be the excessive play around the roller bearings. This  allows the spindle excessive sideways movement leading to the hub of the plastic cups rubbing on the body of the unit. This obviously causes a lot of drag affecting the wind speed readings. It appears that the bearing outers were free to rotate in the plastic recesses designed to locate them. Over time these have worn. I took the easy way out and used the hot tip of my soldering iron to melt the inside of the recess causing lots of little ribs. I the pressed the bearings back into the plastic with the iron. Care is need to ensure the bearings are centred within the moulding. This done it was simply a matter of reassembly.


Ready for reassembly. (black wires soldered back onto the sensor)

It does not matter which way round the black wires go. Check both ends before you put it back together, the wire is very thin and easy to break, better to remake the joints at both ends and be sure they are OK than put it all together and find out one has broken on reassembly.

To reassemble first slide the spindle of the cups through the lower bearing – which should be securely held in the moulding.


Next carefully press on the plastic magnet carrier, make sure you get it the right way up. Press it on so that the spindle just pokes through. At this stage I put a couple of drops of very light sewing machine oil on the each of the bearings – I suppose you could use WD40 if you are a fan (bear in mind WD40 is a water dispersant  hence the initials WD and NOT a permanent lubricant).


The place the magnet over the carrier.


The place the base plate into the moulding, make sure you get it round the right way and make sure it is full seated on the three pillars. Whilst holding it all together squeeze the cups up wards so as to push the spindle through into the upper bearing. You want to make sure it is pushed up sufficiently to remove most of the play but not too much so that it rubs on the moulding. Check it is free to rotate. If all is well fit the three screws. If not pull it apart again and find out why not. The crucial thing is to make sure both bearings are secure and do not have any free play in the housing which causes side ways movement of the spindle allowing the cups to rub.

Next put the PCB in place, again watch the orientation.


Now you can fit the top part – first check the rubber O ring seal is still in place around the edge of the lower part. Make sure you guide the LED into the slot in the light guide in the upper part. Also make sure the top part is correctly aligned – East should face away from the mounting arm – there is a little raised pip to align on the upper and lower mouldings as shown below.


Finally refit the last three screws to hold the whole lot together.

A quick check to make sure it all works before refitting to the mast and hopefully that is it for another couple of years.

Weather website is here if you are interested:

I’ll add more info on the station later – such as how to fix the rain gauge, and how to add an external aerial to improve wireless range.

Rotten Apple

Make no mistake, Apple make lovely products, they look good, feel good and generally work well. Superbly thought out and developed user interfaces etc. etc. BUT ………….

Ethical ? Not in my opinion.

Fair? Not in my opinion.

Ruthless? Yes, in my opinion.

Controlling? Yes, to the extreme, in my opinion.

Unreasonable? Again yes, in my opinion.

Why? You may ask. Well I have spent (wasted) a large chunk of my day at work crawling through the fog of Apple’s MFi program trying to find a datasheet or even just simple connection details for their MFi Authentication chip. Sorry but can’t go into too many details as the boys from Apple will come round and beat me up, it says so in para 31415926.2 of the MFi licence agreement, the one way contract where Apple get all of our stuff but we still can’t get diddly squat from them. ( that was all of course a light hearted joke!).

Eventually I found an email contact, no search facility on the MFi Portal, and emailed them with my request. Got an auto response saying they will try to get back to me in 3 working days – ah well at least I have an excuse for 3 of the days late the project will be.

Forgot to say that whilst searching for the info I wanted I wasted another 30 minutes following Apples advice and signed up for the Developers section, yet more terms and conditions!, where apparently I would find more information. Well there is b$#@er all there to do with hardware, its all software development.

Rant over!

Royal Instition Christmas Lectures next…………

Nice Moonrise

Its 6th January 2015, noticed a lovely moonrise at about 6:00pm this evening. Not the worlds best photograper but you get the idea. (the pics at the top of this blog are either a) sunrise behind Dungeness Power Station, or b) sunset towards Fairlight


The Lister Lives…….

I refitted the Lister to the saw bench today. Bolted it down, refitted the fan, flywheel and pulley. Then fabricated a longer exhaust pipe to  take the smoke well away. Next I made a shield between the engine and the bench to stop the saw dust being sucked into the fan, I simply used a sheet of old correx (thin plastic sheet) as a wall between the bench and engine.  I lubricated the main bearings on the saw bench – a good dose of EP80 gear box oil should keep it sweet for another 6 months or so. A quick tidy up of the saw blade and we were off – engine started first time – I had already purged/bled the diesel through to the injector.

Probably needs a silencer somewhere in the exhaust pipe but it now seems to run quite sweet and have plenty of power, its also a lot less smokey – no doubt due to good clean air flow and the lack of soot clogging everything up. I also think the compression is a bit higher – less gaskets used when reassembling the cylinder.

It had about an hours run and with the freshly sharpened blade happily went through the big lumps of wood I had ready – including a short length of telegraph pole.


Engine back in position with flywheel fitted.


Correx shield fitted between saw bench and engine – should stop it getting choked up quite so quickly next time.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERACover and exhaust pipe fitted.



All done, up and running – made short work of the pile of logs.


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATop of exhaust pipe – you can see a mild smog around it – still needs a flap to stop the rain going down it. I left it with an upturned baked bean tin on this evening!



Selfish Twichers!

We live opposite Dungeness Bird Reserve and as such get lots, and I mean lots, of bird watchers or twitchers as they are known driving down the lane to see the birds. No problem except the vast majority of them don’t have their eyes on the road as they are too busy gazing across the fields looking for the latest arrival. They will happily drive along at 10 miles an hour along the full length of the lane oblivious to oncomming cars or the traffic being held up behind. When they see anything of interest they just stop, right in the middle of the road. A quick sound of the horn – as allowed in the highway code – to alert them of your presence behind and they suddenly re-enter the real world and move over to the side of the road.

For the last couple of weeks there have been a pair of new birds sighted at various places along the side of the lane – they must be new arrivals judging by the number of people stopping and looking with their outside telescopes. Well today they made it down to the field to the side of our house and this afternoon cars started congregating along the front of our property with people gazing across our land to see these birds. We had seen them and thought that they could be a couple of turkeys escaped from the poultry farm nearby! Any one typically unthinking and selfish twitcher just abandoned his car half way across the end of our driveway – nothing stopping him driving another 6 feet further forwards and leaving the drive clear but no that would be too easy. Being a cantankerous old git I decided to approach him as he returned to his car and point out where he had left his car. As expected he couldn’t see the problem!!

Anyway here are some pics of said birds – if you know what they are then please let me know:


Apologies for the quality but it was getting a bit dark and the sea mist was coming in.


Lister rehab continues –

Having spent so much time over Xmas “playing” with the 3D printer it came to my attention that the woodshed is starting to look a bit bare – the cold spell last week “swallowed” a big chunk of the wood reserves! so thoughts turned to finishing the work on the Lister.

Yesterday afternoon I set about cleaning up all the metal work and fuel tank. Usual procedure – aggressive wire wheel on the mini angle grinder ( goggle people – those bits of wire really do dig in!) to clean off all the old paint and rust. Then a quick coat of what ever I have lying around in either a tin or rattle can (aerosol paint tin to the uninitiated). All was well until I got to the tank, 3 rust holes in the base of it – I assume its where the diesel floats on top of any water in the system, so the water rots out the bottom of the tank. Anyway, no problem I though – I have a spare engine somewhere, I’ll pinch the tank off of that, it’s been dry stored for years it’ll be OK. Well 15 minutes later after I had found the engine, moved it to where I could get at the tank and the removed the tank I found it had no bottom at all! – Back to square one. The solution was to clean up the base really well removing all traces of rust and then tin and solder the holes. Years ago I got a car body soldering kit for lead loading bodywork. It consists of a really aggressive flux, some tinning butter and some thick sticks of solder with a wide paste temperature range. Worked like a dream, I coated the whole bottom section.

Next repair job was on the ducting plates that direct the airflow around the cylinder, When I removed them I found four of the fixing tabs had snapped off. 5 mins with the gullotine and spot welder saw new tags fitted. Everything was then sprayed up and left to dry.

Next up setting the cylinder head clearance – I had already cleaned the head, removed the valves and reground the seats etc. They really were in quite good condition so only a light grind was needed.  To measure the clearance between the head and the piston you lay a thin piece of lead on top of the piston, fit the head, turn the crank to push the piston over top dead centre, then remove the head and measure the thickness of the lead. Not having a suitable piece of lead I used four bits of multicore solder twisted together to make a bit of lead “rope” – worked really well. The clearance was 1.06mm. so I ended up removing the copper gasket at the base of the cylinder and double checking that there were no burrs anywhere. When rechecked it was 0.8mm, just in tolerance.


“Squashed” solder rope!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATank cleaned, soldered and painted.


Duct panel with new fixing tags spotwelded on.


Tank looking like new – paint was still soft so the diesel took some of it off again!


Fan cover ready to go back on.


Cylinder and duct covers fitted.


Head, injector & rockers fitted.


Nearly there, rocker cover, fan cowl and manifold fitted.


Ready for the flywheel, airfilter and silencer!

More soon!