Archive for the ‘electronics’ Category.

Garmin Edge 130 (vs Edge 520) First Impressions

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Back in 2011, when I was thinking about trying Lumberjack 100 for the first time, I bought a Garmin Edge 500 so I could log data and use heart rate zones for training. This worked out very well, and over the years I’ve iterated through of other Garmin units, including the Edge 510, 520, and now the new Edge 130. After years of acquiring increasingly complex units I recently switched to the less-featured unit (the Edge 130), finding that it covers everything I need, with some nice upsides over the 520. It’s a great computer for my mixed mountain / gravel / dirt / road riding, including the same, basic, line-following breadcrump route support that’s gotten me through self-navigated events like Barry-Roubaix and Marji Gesick.

First, the upsides. This unit has a higher resolution black and white screen which looks remarkably good in direct sunlight; much better than the color 520. The unit itself is quite a bit smaller (41 x 63 x 16 mm) than the Edge 520 (49 x 73 x 21 mm) which fits better on my stem mounts. I think the all-dark-grey color of the housing blends in with a bike better. The unit also feels like it responds faster to button presses. While this may just be the faster-updating display, it’s nicer when flipping through data pages.

Now, the downsides. While there are fewer features (no base map, can’t have as many data fields on screen at once — all well covered elsewhere), none affect my general use of the unit, but are worth mentioning. All are as of v2.20 firmware, and the software quirks will be changed:

  1. Zones (heart rate and power) must be defined using Garmin Connect; they cannot be configured in the unit itself.
  2. It is not possible to rename sensors. This means I can’t name a bike’s speed/cadence senors after the bike, which can make things a bit confusing if I have multiple sensors active in an area and I want to be sure the unit is currently listening to the right one.
  3. The rubber cover for the microUSB connector feels a little flimsy. It effectively rotates on a small piece of rubber and as someone who plugs in my Garmin after every use I have concerns for how long it’ll last.
  4. Some of the fonts seem a bit small, leaving a bunch of extra white space (particularly Heading as seen above). They are still readable, just small.
  5. The unit prompts for ride type (Mountain, Road, etc) after each ride. You can’t select a ride type by default, although it does default to the last option. (Just something more to choose when saving.)

Outside of the display and size, the biggest difference between the 130 and 520 is the data fields each can display. While both units will record from the usual speed/power/heart rate sensors, they vary quite a bit in what each will display. Here are the data fields that the 130 and 520 will display (some names edited from official Edge 130 documentation so they’d align with the Edge 520 names):

Battery Level · Battery Status · Beam Angle Status · Cadence · Cadence – Avg. · Cadence – Lap · Calories · Dist. – Lap · Dist. to Dest. · Dist. to Next · Distance · ETA at Destination · ETA at Next · Elevation · Grade · HR – %Max. · HR – Avg. · HR – Lap · HR Zone · Heading · Heart Rate · Laps · Location at Dest. · Location at Next · Odometer · Power – 3s Avg. · Power – Avg. · Power – Lap · Power – Max. · Power – kJ · Power Zone · Speed · Speed – Avg. · Speed – Lap · Speed – Max. · Sunrise · Sunset · Time · Time – Avg. Lap · Time – Elapsed · Time – Lap · Time of Day · Time to Dest. · Time to Next · Total Ascent · Total Descent

Here’s the additional fields the Edge 520 will display:

Balance · Balance – 10s Avg. · Balance – 30s Avg. · Balance – 3s Avg. · Balance – Avg. · Balance – Lap · Course Pt. Dist. · Dist. – Last Lap · Dist. to Go · Front Gear · GPS Accuracy · GPS Signal Strength · Gear Battery · Gear Combo · Gear Ratio · Gears · HR – %HRR · HR – Last Lap · HR Graph · HR to Go · Light Mode · Lights Connected · PCO · PCO – Avg. · PCO – Lap · Pedal Smoothness · Power · Power – %FTP · Power – 10s Avg. · Power – 30s Avg. · Power – IF · Power – Last Lap · Power – NP · Power – NP Lap · Power – NP Last Lap · Power – TSS · Power – watts/kg · Power Phase – L. · Power Phase – L. Avg. · Power Phase – L. Lap · Power Phase – L. Peak · Power Phase – L. Peak Avg. · Power Phase – L. Peak Lap · Power Phase – R. · Power Phase – R. Avg. · Power Phase – R. Lap · Power Phase – R. Peak · Power Phase – R. Peak Avg. · Power Phase – R. Peak Lap · Rear Gear · Reps to Go · Target Power · Temperature · Torque Effectiveness · Trainer Resistance · VS – 30s Avg. · Workout Step

Most of these are around in-depth training with power, leg balance, support for electronic shifting, and other metrics that I don’t use. Therefore, nothing is lost moving away from the 520. Temperature — which is still recorded — is the only one that might be handy, but in my experience Garmin’s temperature readings seemed to be a bit off and didn’t really map to how it feels, and I definitely didn’t need it as an on-device data point during rides. (See the Edge 130 Manual Appendix and Edge 520 Manual Appendix for more information on what each field means.)

All said, I’ve had no problem configuring the Edge 130 to display the same screens as my Edge 520, resulting in the same functionality. Even nicer, on the 130 I can choose to not show the elevation chart; something that I’ve never found myself using and had to flip past on previous units. Here’s how I have the different display pages set up:

Page 1: / Six Fields: Timer, Speed, Distance, Time of Day, HR Zone, Heading

Page 2: / Four Fields: HR Zone, Cadence, Timer, Heading

Page 3 / Three Fields: Timer, Time of Day, Sunset

Page 4 / Map: No Fields (Map only, shows breadcrumb / loaded course.)

Thus far I’m happy with the unit; happy enough that I’ve sold my Edge 520.

For more specifics on the Edge 130, please check out both the excellent Garmin Edge 130 In-Depot Review by DC Rainmaker and the Garmin Edge 130 product page.

Titanium Frame Caused Garmin Speed Sensor Issues?

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For a couple of years my main XC bike (2014 Salsa El Mariachi Ti) has had issues with my Garmin bike computers (Edge 510, 520, and 130) pausing mid-ride when I wasn’t actually stopped. This shows up as the head unit briefly flipping to a paused symbol (⏸), before returning to recording. Post-ride, when reviewing data in rubiTrack, the red callouts on the route indicate the pause locations and show they’d last for a couple of seconds. While I couldn’t reliably reproduce the pauses, they seemed to happen whenever I’d stop pedaling. It seemed to be more common when on tight/twisty trails where GPS positioning is spotty, but it’d also happen while moving at 10-20 MPH on straight, clear-sky areas. It almost seemed like the Garmin was choosing to pause when I stopped pedaling, an indicator that maybe the computer wasn’t aware the speed sensor was still moving.

On all of my bikes I have the Garmin Bike Speed Sensor fit around the rear hub and computer set to autopause when stopped, but the problem only happened on the El Mariachi Ti. It did not happen when using the older Garmin GSC 10 magnet/reed switch speed sensor which mounts to a chainstay. It also doesn’t happen on either of the steel (El Mariachi SS or Vaya) or carbon fiber (Mukluk or Camber) bikes, so I accepted it and figured the problem to be the wheel speed sensor. After acquiring an Edge 130 bundle I tried the new wheel speed sensor, but the problem persisted and got me thinking…

The solution ended up being simple: move the speed sensor to the front wheel. On an A/B test at River Bends Park where I did one lap with the sensor on the rear wheel, then another two with it on the front, the issue didn’t stopped appearing when the sensor was on the front.

Thinking it through I can only conclude that the problem was caused by the frame material. The sensor is detected by the head unit and seems to work fine the time, but perhaps the signal is sufficiently degraded that connectivity is sometimes lost. I suspect that then the unit falls back to pausing based on GPS signal + pedaling.

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Sensor on Rear Wheel (Problems)

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Sensor on Front Wheel (Problem Solved)

2017-2018 Trainer Setup: CycleOps Hammer

For winter 2017-2018 I’ve put together a revamped, and much improved, trainer setup in my basement. Since the last setup with a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine things have been changed pretty significantly. I had previously set things up in front of a CRT HDTV which I’d previously used as a gaming / home theater setup but over the years I didn’t really use it for anything other than movies while on the trainer and basement music; just kind of a waste. This fall I sold the CRT HDTV and stands, picked up a cheap LCD TV (with built-in Netflix and Amazon apps), and put the whole setup on a metal stand in front of the trainer.

The result is a nice setup where a movie plays at eyes-on-the-road level and TrainerRoad is just a glance below. A CycleOps Hammer smart trainer provides resistance when riding, a nice step up from using a power meter, fluid trainer, and shifting to reach power targets. Four speakers (plus two over the workbench) are connected to a home theater receiver / amp, making for great audio from movies, or music via the AppleTV (and iTunes), although I tend to have subtitles on while watching movies to keep the audio at a reasonable level. A squirrel cage fan blows from a distance to keep me cool while riding. To ensure good ANT+ connectivity I’ve located the Garmin USB adaptor to a table next to the bike where it has a short path to the trainer, power meter, and my heart rate strap.

Since I have a Stages power meter on the Vaya, I have the option of using TrainerRoad’s PowerMatch. This uses the on-bike power meter and adjusts the smart trainer so that everything matches. I understand how this will benefit those wanting the same power numbers indoors and out (since no two units match exactly), but I’m still undecided if it’s a good setup for me. I’ll be working that out over the next few rides.

So far this setup is working out very nicely. While expensive initially (almost the cost of a bike) I vastly prefer the feel of a direct drive smart trainer to the fluid trainer with power meter. Both are effective, but I’m really enjoying not having to shift and chase power targets. Both Kristen (she also bought a Hammer) and I are following TrainerRoad plans over the winter, and as it moves into more over-under workouts, especially those with very short high intensity intervals, having a smart trainer is a huge bonus. It’s very difficult to effect radical changes in power and stay on target when shifting and matching speed to a power target. A smart trainer eliminates that need.

Wahoo KICKR Customer Service Disappointment

Planning to follow a TrainerRoad plan with Kristen all winter, and a little irked at the quirkyness of shifting to hit power targets on my current setup, I became interested in a smart trainer. My buddy Mike let me borrow his Wahoo KICKR, something I’d been itching to try after hearing so many good reviews of them. In short, I really liked the experience and was quite impressed by how much easier it made riding indoors. I focused more on putting out effort and selecting my cadence and less on staying on target, and large swings (say, over/unders) were MUCH easier to do when I didn’t have to seek the moving power target. I really wanted one. A few days later I noticed that Wahoo was selling NOS (new old stock) 2016 model for $899, which seemed perfect! The $1199 retail price is a bit more than I can afford, but this was doable for both Kristen and I. Orders were placed and we got ready to sell our fluid trainers.

Not hearing anything on the order after four days we sent notes to Wahoo’s customer service department. The responses indicated the units had accidentally been oversold, so we were offered refurbished 2016 units for $100 less. Having the same warranty and being even cheaper, that sounded great! We both accepted the offer and waited. A day later we were informed that the warehouse had found more stock of the new 2016 units and those were on the way, with the refurb offer rescinded. Not as good of a deal, but still, great! Because of this back and forth Melinda, the customer service person, tossed in a 142×12 Thru Axle Adapter for me and a TICKR X Heart Rate Monitor for Kristen; both things we could use and a really nice gesture.

Unfortunately, when the KICKRs arrived, we found that Wahoo had screwed up. These were not new units, nor refurbished, but instead returns which likely hadn’t been opened since the customers packed them up. Mine was scraped and the end caps were chewed up as if the previous owner didn’t clamp it down properly and had the bike come off while riding. The cassette was slightly greasy, it had a bunch of non-Wahoo stuff (Garmin manual and packaging, Monoprice packaging) in the box, and fine plastic dust from the expanded foam packaging was spread all over, including in the resistance unit. Kristen’s was arguably worse, with a heavily scuffed flywheel area (as if the owner had it resting against something), an empty through axle adapter box, and the previous owner’s personal info: the RMA from Clever Training and — inexplicably — a copy of his vehicle inspection report from Volkswagen Credit.

My KICKR:

 
  

Kristen’s KICKR:

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IMG_4730.JPG IMG_4743.JPG IMG_E4729.JPG

Separately we both immediately contacted Wahoo, but being Saturday didn’t hear back until Monday afternoon. (They’re open M-F, 10am – 7pm, and email responses seem to take about a day.) The first responses offered $100 refunds claiming the units were refurbished. After pushing back indicating that they are simply used and don’t seem like it’d be up to their standards, the refund offer was upped to $200 with the opportunity to test them out before accepting. While $699 is an even better price, neither of us were keen on paying so much for used trainers with plastic dust in sensitive electronics.

Since it’s often easier to work things out over the phone I decided to call Wahoo. I spoke with Micah, who explained that the original customer service person I’d contacted via email, Melinda, was best suited to help me. (I got the impression she’s a lead or manager.) Indicating that what I really wanted was a new trainer, and that I was hoping they could sort this all out, he informed me that the 2016 units are gone, so that’s no longer possible, but he’d get in touch with Melinda and let her know that we had talked. A short while later I heard back from Melinda, offering to return the used trainer and give a 10% discount on a new 2017 KICKR. I replied asking for the RMA, declining to purchase the 2017 model. (In the mean time Kristen had called and set up an RMA for hers, but did not receive a discount offer.)

I understand that things go wrong with warehousing and shipping, especially when winter (trainer time!) is coupled with the busy holiday season, but I can’t help but be left quite soured by this experience. Almost two weeks after making the purchase, with time sunk into a back and forth via email and visiting FedEx, we’re both back where we started… without smart trainers. And waiting on refunds.

Good thing we’ve still got fluid trainers to ride… Because the CycleOps Hammers that we ordered are still en route.

(SOLD) For Sale: MAME Cabinet

Up for sale is my MAME Cabinet. As documented on this wiki article I built this cabinet from a pile of lumber in the style of a late 1980s Data East cabinet, then outfitted it to be an extremely solid, quality MAME cabinet. Over the past few years I haven’t found the interest to keep working on it and now it’s time to sell.

Price is US$700, to be picked up at my house in Shelby Township.

Purchasing just the keyboard encoder, controls, coin door, and supplies for finishing the control panel would cost nearly this much.

Click on the photo above (or here) for more photos of the cabinet taken in early 2017. Please take a look at this article for information on exactly what went into the cabinet, and this photo gallery for some photos of it throughout the years.

This cabinet currently does not have a monitor installed, and the PC is a bit outdated (it was last powered on ~3 years ago), but all of the arcade-specific parts of the cabinet are in great shape. All controls feel good and are connected to a Hagstrom KE72-T encoder (no ghosting), the control panel can quickly disconnect from the main cabinet for ease of transport, and the monitor support bracket will make it easy to install a new display. Prior to listing this for sale I was planning to install a ~24″ widescreen LCD. Proper arcade game-type T-molding is installed along all edges and the cabinet has numerous handles, leveling feet, and roller wheels to make moving it easy.

Part specifics can be found on the wiki article; almost everything was purchased from Happ Controls and thus is full arcade quality. The control panel is topped with Formica and features eight buttons per player, some MAME-specific buttons for adjusting in-game controls (DIP switches, volume, etc), and there are three hidden buttons on the sides to act as coin inputs. The Millipede-sized real-arcade trackball serves as a normal mouse, and a wireless Logitech keyboard is included.

The cabinet features a temperature-controlled vent fan, internal power strip, speaker amplifier, remote bezel light switch, remote power and reset buttons, and quick-disconnects for all internal connections. PC-mounting points inside are ATX-spec to make installing a bare motherboard easy. The control panel is removable, held in place with thumb screws making transportation even easier.

Please contact me at steve@nuxx.net if you are interested in buying my MAME Cabinet. It was built with extreme care and well loved, but it’s time for me to let it go.

EDIT: This has been sold. Thanks, Luke!

Canon 20D Err 99 Resolved by New Battery

I’ve been using my reliable Canon 20D for a while (11 years?), frequently employing a Tokina AF 100mm F2.8 macro lens for detail work. This is one of my favorite lenses and is great for bringing out detail I wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye, but around six months ago I began occasionally receiving the generic “Err 99” when trying to use the lens. My other lenses (a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and EF 50mm f/1.8 II both worked fine, so I figured the problem was with the lens.

Turns out it had a surprising (and cheap) solution: the batteries.

When the problem originally manifested itself as a simple error that’d only occasionally happen, I would then turn the camera off and on and try again, and usually the lens would work. It also appeared correlated with the aperture used, so I figured the lens was failing; perhaps the iris was binding at some point. Last week I found that the error was occurring more frequently, and would be coupled with a low battery indicator that only appeared after turning the camera back on.

Since I was using the original two batteries I ordered two new ones via Amazon (STK’s Canon BP-511 2200mAh Battery, 2 Pack for $24.99) and they arrived today. Once charged up I tried them with the Tokina lens and it’s now working great. I’m still able to reliably reproduce the issue with the older batteries, so a solution has been found.

Apparently the Canon lenses use a bit less power, or perhaps are more tolerant of lower voltages. Either way, I’m glad everything is working well. I might even think about getting a new camera body… Although I’ll probably wait until this one dies. I must have balanced use pretty evenly across the batteries too, because they both show the issue to the same degree… What’d normally be good just confused things.

T8 Fluorescent Lamp Retrofit

The fluorescent light fixture in the laundry room had issues, with only two bulbs reliably lighting and a persistent buzzing sound. This is the telltale sign of a failing ballast, and with the bulbs being fairly old (last replaced in 2005) it was time for some work.

The fixture had been fitted with F40 / T12 bulbs and a pair of two-lamp magnetic ballasts. Since these bulbs aren’t being manufactured anymore (this was stopped in mid-2012) I had to move to T8 bulbs. This wasn’t a problem, as I’d been keen to try the Philips F32T8/TL950 high-CRI (98!!!) / 5000K bulbs. Outside of very specialized full spectrum bulbs these seem like the holy grail of daylight lamps. They aren’t readily available in shops in less than 25 packs, but some Amazon sellers have them individually for reasonable prices.

Four bulbs were ordered ($13.32/ea) via Amazon, along with an ICN-4P32-N electronic ballast ($15.60), and this evening I put it all together. Wiring was surprisingly simple, with everything being relatively color-coded and easy to fit. Two old magnetic ballasts were removed, the replacement electronic ballast was fitted / capped / taped, and it was ready to go.

These lamps look great, and the laundry room is now brighter than ever. These lamps look so good that I’m now considering them for over my workbench and trying to find a way to use them in the office. With such a high CRI and daylight-like temperature these should be good for dealing with seasonal affective disorder or just general blue feelings in winter. (Yes, getting out and riding in daylight helps, but that’s not really possible on weekdays…)

Three Generations of Garmin HRM Soft Straps

This afternoon I received my third heart rate monitor Soft Strap from Garmin, seen at top. I hope this lasts for longer than the previous two. The one on the bottom is the first generation, and I’ve now gone through two of these. The first one worked pretty well, up until the day it started to read weird false-high values which — if real — would indicate that I was about to die. This happened about a year after purchasing it… I bought another, and it too failed in the same way in less than a year.

A phone call to Garmin last June resulted in my receiving the middle strap, a nicely redesigned model that has a conductive fabric layered over the sensors, connected to the side of one’s torso. This worked well up until a month or so ago when I began getting falsely low results. I could be pushing fairly hard, somewhere around 150-160 BPM, when I’d suddenly get a 70-90 BPM reading. Since this threw off my data I stopped wearing it when riding and called Garmin asking for help.

Today I received the one on the top, an evolution of the shielded second generation. It has a conductive vinyl patch — similar to the center electrodes — for the shield. It also has some silk screening over the front. I hope that this one lasts longer than the other two, although I can’t complain terribly as I’ve received a few years worth of straps gratis just by calling and asking for help. The replacement straps were provided at no charge, shipped to me within a few days of calling. With this, and previous support for my broken Garmin eTrex, I’ve been quite happy with Garmin’s support.

If all goes as hoped I’ll be able to give the HR strap a fair test tomorrow, as I’m aiming for a 5:30 moving time ride. Hopefully that happens…

(To note, I’ve taken particular care to follow Garmin’s washing instructions for the straps. For the newer models one is to rinse it after each use, and launder it every seven uses. Batteries were also replaced, just in case, before calling for support.)

Micro SIM in Nokia 1661

Sometimes you just need to make a SIM card fit… Like in this case where my warranty replacement Nexus 5 from T-Mobile failed a few days after receiving it and I want the same account working on my spare Nokia 1661. I’m glad it still has the alignment marks on it from when I needed to do this earlier in the year.

My first Nexus 5 gradually had the GPS module fail, beginning to be problematic in September and coming to a head in mid-November. The warranty replacement — which I received six days ago — has the screen brightness seemingly stuck at the dimmest mode possible. I’ve already done a full data wipe, so tomorrow I get to visit a T-Mobile store and pursue another replacement… But at least I’ve got a way to make calls and send texts until the next replacement is received.

Garmin Edge 510 ANT+ Recording Stopped at Lap

Here’s something odd that happened during a long ride with my Garmin Edge 510 (firmware 2.90). While stopped in River Bends Park to climb over a tree I pressed the Lap button to mark the location so the tree could be removed, but then after that point the unit stopped recording data from either of the ANT+ sensors. Both the HR and Cadence values seemed to be stuck at whatever they were when the Lap button was pressed.

Firmware update 3.00 is out and I’ll try updating to that and see if it comes back, but as the change history simply states “Changes for manufacturing.” I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again.

UPDATE: A bit of research has shown that it wasn’t actually when the lap button was pressed. It just happens to be right after that.

Here is the first record of the consistent/wrong 142 BPM, 24 RPM data:

<trkpt lat="42.64555980" lon="-83.04996448">
    <ele>160.6</ele>
    <time>2014-05-04T21:32:47Z</time>
    <extensions>
        <gpxdata:hr>142</gpxdata:hr>
        <gpxdata:cadence>24</gpxdata:cadence>
    </extensions>
</trkpt>

Here’s the lap marker, which shows it was earlier:

<gpxdata:lap xmlns="http://www.cluetrust.com/XML/GPXDATA/1/0">
    <index>0</index>
    <startTime>2014-05-04T21:32:09Z</startTime>
</gpxdata:lap>

Close, but definitely earlier.