August to November 2000 rambles

New PDA/phone hybrids, AP-22 performance meter, fast idling, overheating, bad weather, drooling over the Rocket, Yokohama A539s, fame, UI design, and Seven Club meeting reports.

Drawing a map from the AP-22 data

My Dad has been playing with some of the data from my AP-22, trying to draw a map from the acceleration info. I did a run yesterday between two roundabouts, starting and stopping in the same place. I think this is a pretty good attempt. We think that the crossover is caused by the camber of the road fooling the lateral accelerometer. I checked the length of the straight with my bike computer, and it's about right.

The path I took between two roundabouts, from AP-22 data.


Monday, 27th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

More AP-22 timewasting

Two bathroom scales per wheel help to accurately measure the car's weight. Steve helped me to weigh my car on his flat-floor setup today. Complete with a full tank of petrol, hood, tonneau, sidescreens, and miscellaneous junk that I usually carry around (but no spare wheel) the car weighed in at 546 kg. If I've got my calculations correct, then 36 litres of petrol weighs about 25 kg, which would put the basic car at 516 kg. This seems very light; I'm sure that Caterham quote 550 kg.

It doesn't look like it would be too difficult to get the weight under 500 kg - remove the windscreen and wipers, swap the seats for some of those lovely Tillet ones, and hack off the spare wheel carrier.

I also did some coastdown tests which, using the formulae in the AP-22 manual, allowed me to calculate the CdA (0.828) and rolling resistance (0.025). The tests were very sensitive to how level the ground was, so these numbers probably aren't fantastically accurate, but hopefully they are better than the factory defaults. Now I need to do a run to measure my car's power at the wheels...

Sunday, 26th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

Google still rules

Google is my favourite search engine because it returns the best quality hits, and they really seem to understand what we want from a web search engine. They've implemented cool features before, but this time they've outdone themselves. If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows, then you should rush off now and install the Google Toolbar. It's in beta at the moment, but seems to work fine. It will let you search within a page, site, or the web, find pages similar to the one you're looking at, find pages that link to the one you're looking at, show you the PageRank to give you an idea of how useful the page is likely to be, and let you easily navigate the site's structure. There must still be a little bug though, because Strangely's Home doesn't have a very high PageRank... Thanks to Joel for the pointer.

Thursday, 23rd November 2000. Link to this ramble.

PDA/phone hybrids are coming

The new Nokia communicator is a promising sign of things to come, but it still needs to be smaller, use GPRS so that it has a constant connection to the net, and use Bluetooth for synching to everything around it. The Nokia is one of the first devices to support SyncML, which is a very big step in the right direction. The Blackberry 957 is pretty close to what I want, but we don't have any two-way pager networks in the UK.

Wednesday, 22th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

Symbian Quartz summary

I found an interesting summary of Symbian Quartz, which is the OS that a number of manufacturers will be using in their phone / PDA hybrids. Another area of the same site also had a tip for fixing a broken microphone on the Psion Series 7, which I tried and it worked. That saved me from having to box mine up and send it back under warranty, which is nice.

Monday, 20th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

My drive home (in excruciating detail)

I finally managed to get Excel to draw a chart of the data from my drive home the other evening. I've hit a couple of problems with the AP-22 but nothing insurmountable, and the technical support from Race Technology is first class (I've been dealing with the guy who actually designed the device).

Chart showing speed and acceleration data from AP-22 for my drive home from work

The speed data aren't necessarily accurate (m'lud), because the roads aren't flat (so gravity influences accelerometers in the AP-22) and by the end of the trace the accumulated errors are getting pretty huge. That is over about half an hour though, so one or two laps of a race track should be OK. You can see that my normal spirited acceleration in second gear pulls about 0.4g, which isn't bad.

Here's the data from the 0-90 run I did on Tuesday, in graphical form. Remember that the power figures aren't accurate (although 100 bhp at the wheels for a 1.6K SS is probably not too far off), but I think the shape of the curve should be about right.

Chart showing speed, acceleration and power data from AP-22 for a 0-90 mph run

Thursday, 16th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

AP-22 arrives

I received my new AP-22 performance meter from Race Technology today. First impressions were exceedingly good. As well as the device itself (which feels pretty solid, and was prefitted with batteries), the box contained some Velcro and Blu Tak for fixing it to the car, and a serial cable for hooking it up to my PC. I could start playing instantly!

I went out with Paul at lunch time. The AP-22 fits quite nicely on the transmission tunnel, just in front of the gear lever (much simpler and more effective than my old G-Tech/Pro). Here's the best two runs:

Start Speed   0.0mph
 mph       s   g   ft      hp 
 10.0    0.77 0.51     5   16
 20.0    1.65 0.53    25   35
 30.0    2.47 0.56    55   57
 40.0    3.72 0.41   120   59
 50.0    4.75 0.37   189   70
 60.0    6.03 0.34   293   83
 70.0    7.47 0.29   431   90
 80.0    9.95 0.19   702   85
 90.0   12.68 0.16  1044   98

Pk Power:  72.8mph   8.32s   519ft   102hp
  Peak G:   7.1mph   0.48s     2ft  0.69g

----------------------------------------

60 ft      2.50s 0.54g  31.7mph
330 ft     6.44s 0.32g  61.9mph
1/8 Mile   9.62s 0.18g  77.5mph
1/4 Mile  14.81s 0.09g  94.3mph

 0-60MPH   6.17s 0.34g   306ft

Pk Power:  72.2mph   8.40s   525ft    98hp
  Peak G:  11.8mph   0.81s     6ft  0.70g

----------------------------------------

Note that both of these were two-up, with over half a tank of fuel, and assorted other junk in the car (like the hood, tonneau, torch, etc., but no spare wheel). I don't think 6.03 seconds 0-60 mph is at all bad, especially considering that I know I could make a better getaway.

For the drive home I configured the AP-22 to record continuously, every 0.5 seconds, which I will upload to my PC when I get back to work in the morning. I'm expecting the cumulative error on the speed to be laughable, but the g readings should be interesting.

I also need to take up Steve's offer to let me play with his homebrew corner-weight kit, so that I can get an accurate weight to enter into the AP-22. The manual tells you how to calculate the CdA and rolling resistance, and once you've entered all three into the device it can accurately log the power at the wheels for the various runs, which should be interesting (the figures in the runs above aren't accurate).

I can't wait to try this thing on the track...

Tuesday, 14th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

More engine troubles

The Seven was difficult to start on Wednesday - I had to nurse the throttle to keep it going. This never happens with the injected K-Series engine. Further evidence that something was amiss came once the engine was warm; pressing the clutch in caused the engine revs to rise to about 2000 rpm, before eventually dropping to around 1500 (the engine usually idles at about 1000 rpm). It took a couple of days for me to realise, but the cause was that the connector had fallen off the coolant temperature sensor. I put this back, and everything worked OK. I don't know how it fell off in the first place, seeing how it was held on with a springy metal clip.

Friday, 10th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

An overheating K-Series

My car had been overheating for a week or so. From cold the temperature would shoot up to just under 120 deg C, stay there for ages, then eventually drop back to 80 deg C (normally it's a bit lower). If I gave it any welly then it would shoot back up again.

I won't bore you with the tortuous route I took to figure this out (I'm not the quickest-witted car mechanic around), but it turned out to be a leaking matrix in the fresh-air heater. The Seven was booked in for its service with James Whiting last Thursday anyway, so I asked him to take a look at it. New matrix fitted (it's from a Mini, BTW), my car's temperature is now stable again. James said it was the first matrix he'd seen fail.

I had the hood up on the way in to work today (more storms), and the new heater seems to have improved the problem I had with the windows misting up - not surprising considering that there had been a continuous supply of fresh steam to the car's interior.

Monday, 6th November 2000. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting report for September & October

Added Steve Foster's report for the September & October meetings of the L7C North Hants. & Berks. area (Cadwell claims another victim).

Wednesday, 1st November 2000. Link to this ramble.

Storms make driving interesting

The storms that hit southern Britain over the weekend made for an interesting journey to work this morning. After a few false starts (the roads were completely blocked with queued-ups traffic) I discovered a new road. Then I found out what the fuss was about: two fallen trees; 4 or 5 bits of flooded road (I had to go slow to stop the bow wave from overflowing into the cockpit; plus miscellaneous debris scattered all over the road. When I finally made it to the M4 it was at a stand-still; they had closed part of the M25. It took me an hour and a half to get into work (instead of the usual thirty minutes), which was short compared with the journey that many of my colleagues had to endure. When will we get a descent public transport system? (Many of the trains that hadn't already been cancelled because of track-repair work were shut down because of the weather.)

Monday, 30th October 2000. Link to this ramble.

More Rocket drooling

I re-read the Car review of the Rocket last night, and the Autocar 0-100-0 test that it took part in. The car was just awesome; way ahead of its time. 0-100 in under 7 seconds. 60-100 in 2.6 seconds! With a 1-litre engine! It's just full of little genius touches, too. Like the central-heating system formed by the water rails going between the radiator at the front and the engine at the back. Custom transaxle that features two forward drive ratios (giving 10 gears, for nutter acceleration and reasonably relaxed cruising) and reverse (five ratios, which is what allowed Colin Goodwin in Autocar magazine to break the world speed-in-reverse record of over a hundred MPH).

I also re-read the Car article about the Lightening, which was being designed by the same Light Car Company that designed the Rocket. The main feature was a 2-litre V8 engine, formed from two of the bike engines used in the Rocket. It looked like an F1 engine, and pretty much went like one too, producing 305 BHP @ 10,000 RPM (which was the limit of the rolling-road - the engine revs to 11,000). The car was due to weigh 500 kg, which should have given it the power-to-weight ratio of the McLaren F1. I've not heard anything more about it since. We can't let an engine like that die...

I'm sure I remember someone at a local Seven Club meeting telling me about a visit they made to the Light Car Company. They were given a ride in a Rocket which shook them so much that they then turned down a ride in a Rocket with the V8 engine in! Oh, what a mistake. That would just be the perfect car.

Monday, 30th October 2000. Link to this ramble.

Electric?

"I'd love a Rocket, or some other light, fast, top handling sportscar. Why doesn't anyone make one? Perhaps I could build one." So went my thinking the other day. Of course, it would have to be light (I'm sure you could get lighter than a Rocket if you used carbon fibre or some other fancy composite material, instead of a steel spaceframe). Of course, I'd use a bike engine; a car engine would be far too heavy. Actually, how about being really radical? Why not use an electric motor? Then I'd be able to thrash it from the word go, rather than waste half of my commute waiting for the engine to warm up. Electric cars don't have to be crap. I remember hearing about an electric Elise a few years ago (a company called Zytek worked with Lotus on that one), and a bit of surfing found another company that built an electric seven.

Yeah, batteries are heavy, but surely a light car would require fewer batteries. And you wouldn't need the fuel tank, or engine, or gearbox (electric motors tend to have constant torque). Should even be able to do away with the propshaft. English Electric Vehicles sell kits to convert a normal car to electric, so it can't be too hard. This isn't going to happen any time soon, but it will happen. AC Propulsion in the US are already working on the tzero; an electric car that can out drag a Ferrari (0-60 in just over 4 seconds), and that weighs over a tonne. Imagine if the car weighed less than half that (which should be possible if it didn't have a roof or windows or a boot, or even two seats).

Thursday, 18th October 2000. Link to this ramble.

Rocket: it goes and looks like one

I saw somebody advertising a used Light Car Company Rocket today; a 1996 model for £25,250. I love this car - it ties with the McLaren F1 as my all-time favourite. I don't think it's a coincidence that they were both designed by Gordon Murray; he's the closest to Colin Chapman that we still have. Even now, eight years after it was first launched, there aren't really any comparable cars out there; nothing designed from the start to make the most of a hi-tech bike engine. The only drawback is the price. Charging £40,000 for something that looks like a kit-car was never a brilliant business proposition. So why not offer something similar as a kit? None of the competition (e.g. the Caterham Blackbird and the Westfield Megblade) are as light, aerodynamic or sheer gorgeous as the Rocket. If someone brought out a comparable car for under £20,000 (even in kit form) then I'd be pretty near the front of the queue to buy one.

Wednesday, 11th October 2000. Link to this ramble.

Strangely's search engine

I've managed to get a search feature up, powered by Atomz. There is a now a search box on the main page, and a What's new feature to find out the most recent changes on the site. I'll have to spend a bit of time tweeking things so that the most relevant hits get returned first, but it's basically working now.

Tuesday, 3rd October 2000. Link to this ramble.

New tyres for winter

Bought my car some new boots, since the A509s weren't terribly good in the wet (which is more important to an every-day driver like me than outright grip in the dry). Avon CR500s aren't available in 14", so they were out. The guy at BMTR recommended the Avon CR28 Sport for top wet-weather performance, and a check of the Sevens list archives revealed positive comments (Vinnie reckoned that they gripped well in sub-zero slush), but they seem to be out of production and BMTR were the only stockist I could find - £83 + VAT + £10 delivery for 4 tyres (plus fitting) seemed a bit steep.

I ended up going for Yokohama A539s. Dry weather grip is at least as good as the A509s that I replaced. I still need to check them in the wet, but on a damp road I managed to get the tyres squealing under braking, rather than just skidding, which is a good sign. After much phoning around, I discovered that Bracknell Tyre & Battery (01344 411323) were cheaper even than Micheldever! £34.60 each, all in; they had to be ordered, but arrived the following day. I can't wait to test them out at Cadwell, and must remember to recalibrate the bike computer.

Saturday, 30th September 2000. Link to this ramble.

Petrol...

The blockade of petrol depots in the UK is starting to hit me. All of the local petrol stations are closed, and I had to share a ride in to work this morning. I missed the Seven Club meeting, but that did allow me to add a write-up of the Abingdon track day, and the Santa Pod gathering. I've also included a cool picture of my car that someone sent me.

Wednesday, 13th September 2000. Link to this ramble.

Choosing a site search engine

I have been looking around for a search engine to use on Strangely's Home. It had to be free, but I was put off by the desire of most to display banner ads, and the lack of customisability. Well, I think I have found the answer in Atomz; no banner ads (I think the required "powered by Atomz" graphic is quite acceptable), and the results page looks to be completely customisable. I might even be able to use it to automatically generate a "what's new" page. It will take me a while to play with it, but keep a look out.

Tuesday, 5th September 2000. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting report for August

Added Steve Foster's report for the August meetings of the L7C North Hants. & Berks. area (Axles, Quaife gearboxes, Brands Hatch international, Scandi 2000, and the new Phoenix!).

Thursday, 31st August 2000. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting reports

I've added Steve Foster's meeting reports to the L7C North Hants. & Berks. area.

Thursday, 24th August 2000. Link to this ramble.

User interface design

Jakob Nielsen is a bit of a user interface design god, so you simply must check out his useit.com site. I have tried to follow most of Nielsen's principals in the design of Strangely's Home, apart from his almost complete hatred of graphics.

While Nielsen focuses mainly on web usability, another of the UI-design greats is Bruce 'Tog' Tognazzini. He was on the original Mac design team, and his Ask Tog site is well worth a look. See the Interface Hall of Shame for what can happen if you don't pay any attention to these things.

Sunday, 20th August 2000. Link to this ramble.

Fame!

I uploaded some new-look pages today. The main difference is the addition of a tagline that is visually tied into the main heading. Hopefully the look is clean and simple, rather than boring.

Google is far and away the best search engine that I have used - the page you are looking for almost always comes near the top of the results list, without having to use any complex boolean expressions. Today I noticed for the first time that Strangely's Home is appearing in Google's results. Searching for "caterham bike computer" gives my page as the second match. Excellent!

Each match returned by Google offers the facility to use GoogleScout to find similar pages. I found out today that you can add a GoogleScout button to your browser so that with a single click you can find pages that are similar to the one that you are looking at. For example, clicking GoogleScout while looking at Lucent's home page might give links to Cisco and Northern Telecom's pages. Cool!

Friday, 18th August 2000. Link to this ramble.



This page is http://www.strangely.org/diary/200008/index.html. It was first published on Thursday 1 February, 2001 and last updated on Tuesday 11 January, 2005.