Archive for March, 2008

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I can’t help but feel that this guy (Obama’s pastor) is not far off the mark…

Of course, there’s a whole lot I don’t know. As usual.

By the way..

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

A friend who lived in the USSR (or some client nation) during the cold war recently reminded me that things could be a lot worse than they are. Yes, I agree. Things can *always* be worse. But I think that there’s also a whole lot better they could be, and I think if we sit around all day accepting the way they are, or trying to change them through processes that have been demonstrated to be mostly ineffective, because they could be worse, then they are always going to be bad, and always going to head downhill.

I am NOT advocating going out and shooting everyone who works for Uncle Sam.. or even *anyone* who works for uncle sam. At most any revolution I would support would involve some destruction of property. Ideally, it would happen the same way the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation – people would recognize that the current system is broken beyond repair, and set up a series of systems for collaborating on a new and better system.

I continue to push for a wikiGovernment. I think that it should be possible to author a series of documents that describe the working of a government that are:

1) written in plain english that anyone can understand

2) Easily searchable

3) written in such a way to make fluid changes and improvements easy, and make recording a history of what didn’t work in each case equally easy

4) Designed for direct democracy, with whenever possible the actual citizens interested in a issue doing research and writing code -er, laws- surrounding that issue]

5) Based on a core similar to the Bill of Rights, only more carefully worded to protect more freedoms, and even more limit the power of government

6) Designed to be intrensically open. My wikiGovernment would ideally have *no* secrets, or have secrets only in cases of weapons too powerful to be practical (but that some idiot might otherwise build anyway) (i.e. nukes, fusion weapons, neutron bombs, etc)

7) Designed to put the needs of the ‘average citizen’ first

8) Designed to use the KISS principle whenever possible.

9) Designed to have as small a ‘ruling class’ as possible

10) Designed to allocate resources according to the wishes of the citizens – it should not be *possible* for the government to spend my tax dollars on something I abhor. If this means the government can’t have something because no one wants to pay for it, then so be it.

I could think of more, but ten seemed like a nice round number to stop at.

Interlocked systems?

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

What would fail if the federal government collapsed, but the state governments stayed?

I’m thinking it’s probably a pretty short list. I don’t believe anyone would invade the US – at least not successfully – even if the U.S. military was disbanded, because the civilians would still be able to repel invaders – and many of them are armed better than actual army members. (Nukes nonwithstanding – a nuke is a really lousy weapon for fighting off a invading force for what I hope are obvious reasons). I don’t believe that the lack of a DEA would result in anything more horrible happening than what is already. The DOE already seems obsessed on spending money on the dumbest things possible. The DOT could be replaced – I’m not at all convinced that the states couldn’t figure out how to maintain the interstate system without federal help – they’d simply raise state gasoline taxes to make up for the lack of federal funds, and places like Montana would start charging semis to use the roads in order to generate enough revenue to pay for them.  The FBI and CIA do far more harm than good as far as I can tell.

Originally, the federal government existed.. I think, and I’m no student of history.. to do things that the aggregate nation needed as a whole (like printing money) and to ensure that the basic freedoms in the bill of rights were enforced. However, now the federal government does the opposite – it does bizarre things that no one needs, threatens the citizens (my mother just sent me a wonderful email about all the evil things the IRS does to those who can’t pay. I think she wants to get me to hate the government so much that I make a serious and prolonged attempt to destroy it), comes up with new and creative ways to abridge our freedoms, and in general is a source of much that is awful.

I think we need, as a collective of states, to overthrow the federal government. Talking about a election is beside the point – what we need is a constitutional convention, in which we write a constitution that avoids future incidents like:

1) Politicians who lie

2) A two party system

3) Preemptive war

4) A “representitive” government that fails to represent the interests of, for example, the gay community (who are 10% of us, you all will remember, but still can’t even get married)

5) A “free” country in which one lives in constant fear of the police and the government, in which free speech is steadily more abridged, in which it is known that people are being treated in ways that are sharply against the country’s constitution by the country in the names of ‘preventing terrorism’

6) The idea of a war on a behavior, or a idea. Wars on communism, wars on terrorism, wars on drugs

7) Laws that exist for “moral” reasons – not to protect us against each other, but just because some group of people thinks that something is “wrong”. Not wrong because it hurts me when you do it, but wrong because I think you shouldn’t do it because my god said so. (or because I decided it was so, or other similar varients)

8) I could go on for a while, but I won’t.

More money stuff

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Why, one might ask, do I play with the stock market, given that I hate money? Doesn’t that make me part of the oppressors, or at least indicate that I condone a ruling system based on resource allocation?

N0. It’s just that I’m pragmatic enough to recognize that I’m never going to convince the rest of you to give up money, or replace it with a better and more accurate system of measuring the use of resources, or (ideally) replace it with technology that gives everyone access to nearly infinite resources. And, I would really like to be able to work on the things I want to work on (writing music, designing battery management systems, doing nifty art projects involving microcontrollers, building robots, recording friends’ bands, bowling, etc) instead of having to work on the things that people will pay me to work on, and the only way I can see to easily get to this position is to work inside the system that’s already there. I lack the resources to make a radical enough change in the world, so I – grudgingly – use the systems the world has in place instead.

In the meantime, there’s this part of me that thinks if I could just buy enough stock of certain companies, I could vote in shareholder elections in ways that would make a difference. Of course, I vote in only about 10% of the shareholder elections of the stocks I currently own, and the amount of stock I own is so small as to be meaningless, so that probably isn’t a realistic thing to hope for.

Boring money stuff..

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

So, I had something of a epiphany – for me – today. I know this is obvious, and I don’t know why I didn’t get it before.

I’m currently trying to reconfigure my (admittedly small) stock portfolio to generate some income via dividends, and also to grow said portfolio until it generates a meaningful amount of income. At the moment I can’t really do anything about this, since I’m broke.. (though occasionally I take some money that I should be using to pay off credit cards and stick it in the stock market instead)

However, it occured to me that I’m using the wrong strategy.

Instead of buying little bits of stock.. (I finally made myself not buy less than $300 of stock in any one transaction, because the commissions were eating me alive), I should be sticking my money in a savings account, watching for signs that the current economic meltdown is at its worst, and then buying whopping sums of stock at that time. I don’t know how one predicts when a economic meltdown is going to reverse, but I’m thinking there’s probably some momentum that keeps things plunging – or climbing – for a while after the input conditions no longer should dictate them doing so, so probably I’ll have several days of oppertunity to buy in. That is, of course, assuming I have any money to buy with. 😉 Still, I will try and put aside a small amount of money each paycheck towards the goal of buying a bunch of stock when the economy is worst.

You all already know why I’m doing this, but let me explain, for myself. Dividends are paid on a per-stock basis. Therefore, the cheaper you can buy the stock, the ‘cheaper’ the dividends are. I’m not interested in capitols gains or losses at the moment, only dividends, and they’re paid out very infrequently and are very small compared to the price of the stock, so there’s no reason to think that I want to rush owning any particular peice of stock so I’ll make any particular ex dividend date.

I keep figuring out little things about playing the stock market.. I should really buy one of those idiot’s guide to the market type books and read it. I’m never going to be a big-time invester guru, and I mostly play for fun – it’s kind of like a very slow game of monopoly – but I would like to be a little more aware of some of the strategies I should be using.

In other news, I now need to shut down this computer so I can vacuum it. Yes, really.

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

This is a test to see if I can post from my phone

Hillary, Obama..

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Well, aparently my ‘avoid-the-news’ stance caused me to vote for the wrong candidate.. Hillary is pro-war.  Wish I could change my vote.. if we had my dream voting system, I could go slide my voter ID card into any ATM, click through a few menus, and change my stance.. after all, the actual tally hasn’t been accumulated yet. But no, we’re still stuck in the governential dark ages.

I did offset my mistake some by donating to Obama. Probably too little too late.. but it has led me to be in the amusing position of being on both Obama and Hillary’s mailing lists.. and they both say they’re winning. One could be a bit cynical and wonder if they’re drawing this out as long as possible in order to suck as many dollars out of the party faithful’s pockets as possible.

In other news, Victor thinks the problem with my car is related to the encoder cable that carries information about the shaft position from the motor to the drive. Apparently he’s seen this behavior before, which is encouraging. Now I just have to get the car back into the garage (which should be easier since it is actually possible to drive it), back up on jackstands, remove the encoder cable, test it with a ohmmeter while flexing it to see if any pin fails continuity tests… if they all pass, then I have to test the connector on the motor and the connector on the inverter..

It sounds overwhelming, but I’m going to try and get the car back into the garage on Thursday. Anyone want to come help search for problems this weekend?

In other news, I continue to enjoy bowling, often sneaking in four sessions a week. I joined a league, and one of my leaguemates gave me a ball, which I’ve had drilled and am really enjoying. Unfortunately, I tend not to notice when I’m overexerting during a session (I usually bowl continuously for one hour.. pinsetters have been known to trip their breakers when I’m bowling on them because I run them on such a hard duty cycle.. ) and so at the moment my arm is sore. I have noticed that I’m getting into noticably better shape, though.  I’m still overweight, but I’m less so, and lifting heavy objects has gotten easier. It’s so odd to have a sport.. (heh, if bowling counts as a sport) that’s fun rather than a source of unhappiness. And the other day, I bowled a 192! (My goal is to break 200. Since I started in December with a 52, and my current top score is 192, I think it’s achievable. On the other hand, it seems to get much harder as I approach 200 – I can’t even imagine doing 230.

Puzzle, puzzle

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Well, first of all, forget the suggestion about the coolant leak. The coolant goes, among other places, through a radiator that’s grounded to the frame.. if the heatsinks weren’t isolated, we’d have had troubles from day 1.

The idea that this is a problem with the rotary encoder is a little nutty as well.. when the drive is in neutral with forward selected, and it’s in cogging mode, it will also spin the motor about 400 rpm. Actually, the amusing thing is that when the drive is broken, it acts exactly like a ICE – it cogs (i.e. delivers power in little pulses rather than smoothly), it idles (i.e. spins the motor even when it’s not doing anything).. it even *sounds* like a ICE.

I would think this was a mechanical problem, but I don’t see how that explains either the inverter fault codes or the tendancy to spin the motor at 400RPM when forward is selected and the car is in neutral. I’m wondering, could some of the switching signal be being inductively coupled into the motor data wiring? Failing that, could I have overwritten some key parameter when running SIADIS from a corrupted disk? Uncommanded power output sounds suspicously like a software problem. I’m glad I opted for the EPO switch..  maybe I should test to make sure it still works..

Nothing like using equipment that’s simultaneously obsolete and on the bleeding edge..

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

So, today the cogging problem returned to the EV drive. Mercifully, it doesn’t seem to have extended to actually setting fire to the power stage (yet.. knock on wood) but things are definately broken. I had hoped the problem was the current/voltage limit, but since it is still doing it fully charged, that seems unlikely. At the moment I’m inclined to blame a faulty rotation encoder, the encoder wiring, the encoder input system on the inverter, or a bug in the inverter software. Also possible is that there’s some current leaking somewhere it shouldn’t.

I don’t even know where to start in debugging this. I’m somewhat depressed about it. I emailed Metric Mind, the people who originally sold me the drive, and I’m hoping they will have some helpful hints. I’m going to get the car back in the garage, up on jackstands again, and thoroughly clean out the inside of the motor access plate – not that I think it’s dirty, but it’s something to do. I’m also going to take contuninity readings of the encoder cable.. again, not that I think it’s broken, but it’s something to do. There aren’t really any tunable parameters on the inverter that I see that could be causing this cogging – I had thought it was just because I was operating the drive in reverse, but it seems to exist going forward, too.

This problem started when I swapped out the Evercel battery pack for the lead acid one. I’m trying to think what changed.. pack voltage, obviously.. probably the stiffness of the pack, since lead acid doesn’t sag as much as NiZn.. I redid the cooling loop, but I don’t see how that would have anything to do with anything.. unless.. there is a tiny coolant leak next to the motor. I *assume* those heatsinks are isolated.. but maybe I should stop assuming and start fixing… again, it’s something I can do..

A lot of what’s frustrating is that there’s very little documentation for the system – Victor of Metric Mind has done a great job documenting, but there’s still a whole lot of variables that I don’t have any way of guessing. I bought the drive because I thought it would be bulletproof – after all, Siemens makes industrial drives all over the place, and they generally just work. If this drive doesn’t work out, do I try and get another? without the assistance of a community college’s shop, I don’t see how I could hope to swap drives.. although, it’s true that I wouldn’t *need* a lift.. then there’s the money question – how do I pay for another drive? – and the engineering challenges, which nearly drove me nuts last time.

On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot.. if I tried again, it might come out much better. And there’s always the hope that Metric Mind will send me a firmware update that will fix everything, or something..

mk3eb master computer

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

So, I’ve decided to change my design philosophy on the innards of the master computer.

In particular, I’ve decided to embrace this whole MQ idea. I’m hoping to find a very lightweight implimentation of a message distribution daemon written in C or Cpp – if I can’t find one, I’ll write one – with a good Perl interface. Then, I’m going to have the bus feed into a topic on that MQ. A daemon will take care of logging the data sent and receieved to a Mysql database that lives in RAM, another one will take care of sending out regular polling requests to collect data from the individual nodes and a third one will take care of writing charge policies. The startup scripts will suck the mysql data off the disk and post it to RAM, and the shutdown scripts will move the data back from RAM to the disk. (If anyone is wondering why all the funny mysql stuff, it’s because I want the system to boot off of flash, and I doubt if mysql and flash devices get along peacefully).

However, I think the next logical step is to get the MK3 boards up and running and able to answer pings under the new codebase, using a KISS serial driver on the linux side. I seem to be somewhat blocked on making forward progress on this, for no reason I can identify. On the other hand, I was blocked on making progress on the car for over a year, so there is hope.

In other news, the car did a 9 mile test drive today and still seemed plenty perky when I floored it at the end. I forgot to take a resting voltage reading, so I don’t know what percentage the batteries were at when I stopped. However, we can sort of guess by how long it takes the car to charge.. I plugged it in at 4:45 and the charger is currently set for 13 amps off of the 110V feed. This works out to a paltry 4.3 amps at 330V (the median charge voltage), which means a totally empty pack would take 10-12 hours to charge. (Depending on how totally empty totally empty is – I haven’t yet figured out what a rational peukert-corrected value for the pack is. I’ve been guestimating 40AH, since they’re 56AH SLA/AGM batteries)

Today’s trip involved some serious hills, and I had Kayti in the car, so I’m thinking it was a pretty good test. If the car can do twice that distance tomorrow, I will try and take it to the DMV on Tuesday. I would be very suprised if the car didn’t have 20 miles of range, since it had between 60 and 100 on the Evercels, which were 90AH batteries.

My next house will have 220 in the garage again.. waiting for the car to charge off a 15 amp 110 circuit is a exercise in patience – I’d like to be able to use the car for several trips during the day, knowing that the charger will finish bulk charging in a hour or so between trips. That, however, requires a fatter feed.

To add to the fun, I’m actually not getting the power from the garage.. it’s coming through one of my handy 20A extension cords that I bought to power the Mackies, from a outlet on the side of the house. The garage power is pretty much tapped out running the 12 computers that are in there. 😉