Category: Technical

Feb 04 2012

So, I have a motorbike now..

My friend Andy had told me about this a couple of weeks back and came round on wednesday to make me a deal. His girlfriend had her old bike in a lock-up they were going to have to stop renting soon, and since it wouldn’t start, likely due to a carb problem, they’d let me have it dirt cheap and on a “pay whenever” basis.

Checked with mum since it’d have to be stored on the property and she lept at the chance to help me out, so bought it herself. That way it can go on her insurance. Very handy, though admittedly this has put me in a position I never wanted to be in again; with a non-running vehicle project and no licence to drive it. But hey, I’ve been assured it should be a simple fix and I wouldn’t be going for the CBT until summer anyway most likely.

Now the bike itself is a 1999 Piaggio Vespa ET4, 125cc.

I know a few of you are bikers and at least one is a former ET4 owner. So you may be able to skip ahead if I say “ET4, turns over, no spark after battery’s ran down”.

The bike’s cosmetically a bit messy. Couple of panels are missing and the rear box mount is snapped. But the brakes were serviced before storage and it got new tires and coil.

Here’s a picture of it after a couple of days fishing for the problem;

Mechanically everything’s sound. The model however turns out to have an immobiliser, which has reset after the battery being discharged so long. And it does not have the infamous Red Key, since it was bough as an ex-trade-in from a dealership. No Red Key means the immobiliser stays locked down. The other keys need to get the “OK” from that key once it’s in.

A new immobiliser means a new set of keys and lock barrels too.

As far as I can gather this situation is the biggest of the big red warning flags for buying a 2nd hand Vespa. It may be cheap, but getting it running will cost you £150 upward on top of it.

It’s annoying that it works aside from what is basically a software problem.

There’s two choices now, since buying the new immobiliser set is well out of my price range atm (the “pay whenever” scheme was much needed).

  1. Change the CDI unit for one from another model without an immobiliser. There are several options, and aftermarket ones seem about £20-30. Looses immobiliser use entirely.
  2. Find someone with a working ET4, connect laptop to serial data line and copy the “OK to go” code to a microcontroller.

The latter seems too simplistic, but the immobiliser connects to the CDI via a single 5v serial wire. Using chassis as ground, 1-wire communications seem unlikely due to noise potential, so it looks like it’s a one-way operation. The CDI just sits and waits for the go-code. And since the CDI is interchangeable independent from the immobiliser (it’s not changed as part of the immobiliser kits) it must be waiting for a series-standard code. All it should need is a copy of that code and it’ll assume the immobiliser is present.

And of course doing so would mean I could build an immobiliser system of my own later on (keypad in the glove box maybe?)

But it does mean finding someone else with an ET4 who I can plug into. Should just mean lifting out the bucket under the seat and unplugging one cable.

Dec 16 2011

Finally! The mill arrived!

After 6 months of waiting I noticed Chester had the Eagle 25 mill on special offer. I called them and found out that this indeed meant the new lot of mills had arrived!
I borrowed some money to pay off the outstanding bill on it and got delivery arranged as soon as possible, since I didn’t want mine to be the last of the lot for a couple of reasons;

  • If there was something wrong with it, I wanted there still to be one to replace it with.
  • If I waited until there weren’t many left, I’d risk getting the obviously less than immaculate ones.

So yesterday around 3pm, it arrived!

I’d had some trouble with Chester when trying to find out how large the actual crate would be, since it was coming to a domestic property and we have a nice domestic garden-gate it’d have to get through. I’d been told it was 90cm wide, so to expect packaging a few cm larger than that. So as a result I was fully expecting to have to dismantle it on the pavement outside to move it in.

Fortunately the crate, once off the pallet was just small enough to fit into the front garden. :)

The reason for this was it’s packed diagonally to save space, so the crate wasn’t as wide or deep.

And there she is. :3

Checked the manual and with help from Andy, broke it down into; the base, motor, headstock, and column. Then we lugged it through to the workshop.

Whew! That’s a hell of a weight off my mind now.

I generally like the layout, though there’s a couple of niggles; the belt housing lacks an extra hatch that’s in the manual so it can be opened when the head is in a lowered position. It also has mains cabling running through it within milimeters of the spindle pulley. The quality of the table casting is also a bit rough. But of all the Chinese tools I’ve bought it’s probably the best, and I bought it understanding it would need tweaking.

It’s the R8 taper version with metric leadscrews (2mm pitch). I’ll need to make some adaptors and stand-offs for the the table portion.

The top-box should come off fairly easily, though the spindle pully is a lot larger than I expected. This might make it trickier to position the big DC motor. But overall nothing has been thrown up that can’t be overcome.

I’m going to knock a couple of other small projects out of the way before I really get started on it, but should be able to work on it pretty easily come the new year. :)

Sep 27 2011

OpenCV in citizen media 3D compositing?

Last week someone put an interesting item onto Hack-A-Day; someone who’d built their own “CT Scanner”. And functionally it is. It takes x-ray images from all angles around an object, which they then scan into a computer and let it turn the platen images into a 3D model. I believe the latter was done using OpenCV scripts.

The recent and ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City have generated a large amount of citizen-media footage (albeit released without sound in many cases, to avoid breaking outdated wiretapping laws).

If key events observed from different positions could be found to align the timelines of footage, it seems plausible that the same scripts used in the CT scanner could be used to assemble a crude animated 3D model of the events as they unfold.

For purposes of evidence gathering and contextualisation of the news stories, it seems this could be a very useful tool, rendering isolated and often repeated footage into singular but multifaceted logs of events from every recorded angle.

I doubt it would be of high quality, due to all the variables and low-quality of the footage used, but it could perhaps knit together the results with the events that preceded them, and at least help in giving a more rounded view of events.

Aug 31 2011

Late night confession

I’m a bit afraid right now.

The milling machine’s been delayed another month. ETA is now early December. But I’m not complaining. Technically I don’t have enough money for it anymore. Once it arrives I’ll have at most a fortnight to pay the rest of the outstanding balance.

Since the £700 set aside for it was going to be sitting in my bank account for some 3 (now 6) months longer than expected, I decided to try and grow the money a bit before it went finally into low-fluidity material goods.

I’ve been spending a lot of money this week. A lot of it either on repairing or replacing tools, but mostly on these horns I’ve won on ebay tonight and the upright rotary table for the 4-axis mill project.
And I’ll be spending more once the horns arrive. I’ll be casting a lot, painting, trying out foam-rubber casts, mostly in the hope of getting enough wonderful quality items ready that I’ll be able to storm both Etsy and MCM Expo with them.

I think I can do it. But I’m still gambling again. And to be honest with myself, my previous gambles haven’t had very good returns.

It’s a supportive routine though. Waiting for supplies and parts to arrive sets me up with a waiting list in my mind, so I get on with immediate jobs a lot faster.

All I do is talk about what I do now. I’m sorry it’s likely not a very interesting subject to most.

Backlog/owed items are almost all done. Legacy projects are either scrapped or progressing. Things are generally improving. Life’s clearing out the chaff.

Will try and get back on Skype in the workshop again tomorrow. Talking while I work may help further.

Aug 16 2011

Workshop updates, August 15th

Recorded a little bit of video from the workshop last night. Dumped it up to YT. Going to try and do this more often.

Alibi3col theme by Themocracy