Saturday, December 22, 2012

Velocity Ferocity

Since I've been unemployed for a awhile I decided I'd poke around with the Android development kit.  It started as a curiosity thing, trying to discover the different capabilities of my Android phones.  But eventually I decided I'd try to do something useful.  ...  Well, ok, maybe not like "hey look, I cured cancer"-useful but something more than "wow, it plays Pong"-useful.

I created a GPS-based lap timer.  Using the GPS on the phone (or an external GPS connected via Bluetooth) it can time my laps and help show me where my riding can be improved.  I intend to use it on the bike, but it's just as happy in a car.

No, this certainly isn't the first GPS lap timer for Android.  There are more than a few.  (And more than a few for iPhones as well.)  I've tried a couple of them and some are pretty good.  But I was put off when one of the most popular Android ones deleted my data.  I'd spent over over $400 and a couple of days at the track and it suddenly the data was gone.  I figured I could write an application better than that.

I released the first version to the Google Play store a couple weeks ago.  You can find it here.  I'm hoping to send out updates every few weeks.  Eventually there will be a couple other similar applications.

If you like to drive in circles, and you want to know how fast you are, and you have $3, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quick Pics

I was able to get the car out of the garage today to see my latest handiwork in the sun.

The repairs certainly aren't invisible but the giant cloudy mess I was worried about didn't materialize and things are a whole lot better than they were before I started.  I may invest in some proper paint and patch a few more spots.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

That'll Buff Right Out

After pounding my head against software issues for a couple of days I decided to switch gears.  My "To Do" list includes "get rid of green TR6" so I decided I'd put some time into it.

Sometime in its past the TR6 had an owner with an addiction.  (I suppose anyone silly enough to own a Triumph probably has some form of addiction.  Likely an addiction to the smell of burning oil.  But that's not what I mean.)  They were addicted to touch-up paint.  Absolutely in love with it.  They needed to hold it, to fondle it, to see it's lustrous color-matched sheen everywhere.  Sadly the end result is a car with dozens of brushed on gobs of paint.  And I do mean brushed on.  Maybe the little mountains of paint look better than the scratches they're covering.  But I doubt it.

Today I bit the bullet and tried to fix them.  I've never worked with automotive paint before (except for painting the bike which I don't think counts).  I assumed there was a good chance I'd ruin it and have to get the whole car professionally repainted but if I did nothing I'd probably have to get it repainted in order to sell it anyway.

I did a little reading (to reaffirm what I thought I already knew) and headed off to buy supplies:
  • Sandpaper (320 grit)
  • A few microfiber cloths
  • Sandpaper (600 grit)
  • Some foam applicator pads
  • Sandpaper (1500 grit)
  • A small bowl of water
  • Rubbing compound (which is essentially 2000 grit sandpaper)

Notice the sandpaper?  Yeah, me too.  It's the #1 reason I haven't tried this before.  The idea of taking sandpaper to a car just makes me cringe.  I don't care if it's 1500 grit it's still sandpaper!

This is where I started.  (It's hard to get a picture that really shows how messy these touch-ups are  but bear with me.)  There are three spots in a triangle around the reflection of the light.  All of them big enough to catch a fingernail on.

I started with the 320grit.  (I should have gone straight to the 600.)  Here's what a few minutes of wet sanding produced.

This is when I started to freak out.  I used to have 3 quarter-size spots that were only visible from within about 20 feet.  And now I've made the problem areas 3 times larger and 10 times as obvious.  Well, I'm committed now I might as well keep going.  The 600 grit yielded...

Great.  It still looks bad and now the spots are huge.  My understanding was that 1500 grit will clear this up.

Wrong.  I've now ruined about 10% of the entire hood in an attempt to fix three minor blemishes.  I feel pretty stupid.  Moving on to the rubbing compound.

Woot!  The rubbing compound got rid of the cloudy surface.  Yes, the original patches are still visible, but you've got to work much harder to find them, especially when you see the car in person.

I've spent 4 hours to address 6 similar areas.  Some were more successful than others but all of them are an improvement.

Hopefully I'll say the same thing when I get the car out of the garage and into the natural sunlight.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Data Collection

I've been playing with an Android-based app on my phone to collect some data about my riding. The goal is to see how consistent I am from lap to lap. In addition to the sensors (that include accelerometers and gyroscopes) and the internal GPS it connects to an external GPS via bluetooth.  I did this because, quite honestly, most phone GPSes stink for this kind of thing.  They update once per second (at most) and are accurate to maybe 20ft.  I picked up an external GPS for about $90 that updates much faster and with greater accuracy.

The app isn't nearly done but I took it on my drive yesterday to collect a large data set.  Here's the position and elevation data it gathered.

Which correlates well with the Google-Map route I posted yesterday.  So my code isn't completely broken.  (The two gaps in the elevation graph are the two long stops I made for food 9:15 and 12:30.)

But since I'm not planning to use this 460-mile loop as my track I need to look at the noise at a much smaller scale.  I found a nice hairpin turn to focus on.  (The little red circle in the first picture.)  Here's what it looks like on Google Maps.

View Larger Map

Here's what my app collected

If you look closely you can see the individual data points.  I get 10 samples per second so about one every 6 feet as I drove through this turn.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

North Cascades Highway

For the third weekend in a row I made a significant contribution to global warming. This time on four wheels. After having ridden WA-504 I thought I should try WA-20. According to Destination Highways WA-20 is the #1 road in Washington to drive. (WA-504 comes in 2nd or 3rd.) Here's the route:

View Larger Map

Expecting a 12-hour day I got off to an early start.  I headed out about 6:45am.  I arrived in Sedro-Woolley around 9:00am and figured that would be a good spot to refuel, grab some grub, and make a quick sanity-check on the car.

Sedro-Woolley is pretty typical small-town-Washington.  Which is to say that it's nothing like Seattle or Redmond: the locals are happy to chat and the ethnic diversity is about zero.  Other than WA-20 itself I think 50% of Sedro-Woolley is in that picture.  If you find yourself there I highly recommend the cinnamon rolls at the Hometown Cafe.

S Skagit Highway and WA-20 East of Sedro-Woolley is the road I had come for.  I definitely wasn't disappointed.  Most of the road is tree-covered, narrow, two-lane blacktop.  It's rural farmland.  I'm not sure it's better or worse than WA-504 but it's definitely different.  Where WA-504 has wide lanes and huge vistas that seem to beg for more throttle WA-504 has a sedate, back-country-road feel.  In retrospect the TR6 was the right choice.  The Ducati just wouldn't be as happy here.

The town of Winthrop marks the end of the more amusing section of WA-20.  I guess every summer weekend Winthrop sees a lot of visitors (the town seems built around tourism) but today had the added bonus of being a charity ride for a local motorcycle club.  There were probably 100 bikes in town.  I was lucky to find a place to park.

After grabbing some homemade ice-cream, a drink, and some sunblock I was off again just after 1pm.

If you're planning a trip, and you don't have time constraints, and you have to choose between "US-XX" and "Alt US-XX" I recommend "Alt".  Why?  Dunno, it just seems to work for me.  I might encounter more traffic lights but I'll almost always have less traffic.  So I picked Alt US-97 which takes a nice route around Lake Chelan and the Chelan River. ... The people in the city of Chelan have a good gig.

If you're planning a trip, and you don't have time constraints, and you think a "NF-XX" road looks interesting I suggest you be careful what you wish for. In my attempt to get off of US-2 I decided to detour up Chumstick Road to Little Wenatchee River Rd to NF-65 and NF-6700.  Chumstick was great.  Little Wenatchee was nice too.  Then I passed a sign that said "End of County Road" and suddenly the road was 4 feet narrower.  No problem, by car is pocket-sized.  Then came NF-6700.  I'm sure I checked the satellite images on Google Maps.  Apparently I didn't.  NF-6700 is unpaved.

At first I thought it was just an unpaved section and I'd soon get to the good stuff.  After 4 miles I realized there wasn't going to be any good stuff.  I could either backtrack the 4 miles of dirt and another 50 of asphalt or just finish the last 8 miles of dirt.  I chose the latter.  Although progress was slow it was some of the best scenery in the whole trip.

After getting back to WA-2 things went smoothly.  (Well, except for the one deer that made a foray into my lane.)  I arrived back at home around 7:30pm.  Both me and The Triumph seem to be in one piece but we're both pretty dirty.