01/19/16

Initial AiM MXL2 Review

After comparing AiM, Race-Technology, MoTeC, AEM, RaceCapture/Pro, GEMS, XT Racing, TraqMate, VBox and 2D data logger offerings, I decided to go with the AiM MXL2 for my race bike to replace my XT Racing GPX Pro.

There’s a number of reasons for choosing AiM and their MXL2 over the others, but here’s the short version:

  • Software. After using the XT Racing GPX Pro for five years I learned how the hardware is only half of the equation. It doesn’t matter how much data you collect if you can’t display that data as actionable information.
  • Support. Many of these companies don’t have any support here in the USA and their support suffers. Even when the company is native English speaking it can take weeks for them to answer even basic questions about their product. AiM often responds in less then 24 hours!
  • Pricing. Some companies seem a lot less expensive then AiM until you realize they start charging you extra for critical features that AiM includes by default. That and AiM never charges for software/firmware updates for the life of the product can mean saving hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the unit.
  • Features. The MXL2 is the latest generation hardware from AiM and it has many features that other high-end vendors like MoTeC and 2D charge thousands of dollars more for.
  • Ease of Use. Data logging in motorsports has been going on for nearly two decades and many vendors have software which look like it would be more at home running under Windows 95 rather then a modern operating system. AiM is in the process of rewriting their Race Studio Analysis software to take advantage of modern UI design.
  • Education. AiM is the only vendor I could find that not only has a lot of Youtube videos explaining how to use their software, but also offer inexpensive classes around the country. I just finished two days worth of classes (cost me $80) and learned not only a lot about AiM’s products and software, but also a lot about how to analyze the data which isn’t really obvious when you’re first starting out.
  • Quality. Once you look at the wiring harness connectors on the MXL2 you know this is a serious piece of equipment. The dash is billet aluminum and the buttons are solid. Everything about it exudes quality. Actually, the dash is so solid that I decided to re-enforce the front fairing stay on my motorcycle to make sure it could handle the extra weight!

There are some risks though- AiM while very big in the automotive club racing scene it has a very small (but growing) presence in motorcycles. The good news is that there are very few features that are specific to cars or bikes, so whatever enhancements are added over time should carry over. That said, the factory MotoAmerica Yamaha Team is also using the MXL2 so I’m sure the bikes won’t be ignored completely.

12/11/15

Quick thoughts about Let’s Encrypt

So I just switched over from StartSSL to Let’s Encrypt for all of Syn Fin dot Net’s SSL needs and wanted to give a few thoughts about the process:

It’s a very different experience getting up and started. I’ve used a variety of SSL CA’s for work and personal use and Let’s Encrypt is the first I’ve seen to so fully automate things. This has some pros and cons, but overall it’s much quicker and easier to get up and running with Let’s Encrypt then StartSSL (which honestly isn’t saying much) or most other CA’s. The downside of this is that the process is so different that you actually have to read the docs rather then just following the prompts, but having to RTFM is a small price to pay for a free SSL cert IMHO.

Let’s Encrypt (just LE for short) is also the first CA that limits their certs to 90 days. They claim that 90 day certs are becoming more common, but none of the CA’s I’ve ever used in the past even offer that as an option. Kinda annoying, but not a deal breaker considering how automated renewing certs are.

LE only offers domain validated certs (ie: no extended validation) which is fine for personal use, but it’s a little odd that there’s no requirement for any ownership information other then an email for contact purposes. For some use cases this makes a lot of sense, but I’d actually like people to know I own this domain (as long as they don’t spam/junk mail me).

LE’s automation makes it easy to get up and running quickly- if your needs adhere to their tool’s limitations. I ended up having to tell Nginx to serve up http://mail.synfin.net so I could get an SSL cert for Postfix. Lucky for me, my mail & web server are the same box so this was easy, but for most organizations this becomes a real pain.

My biggest feature request right now would allow the the letsencrypt-auto script listen on arbitrary ports and not just TCP/80 and TCP/443 to make it even easier to setup.

10/22/15

GPX Pro Review Part 2

This is an update for my original XT Racing GPX Pro Review.

First, let me say that the reliability problems I had in the past with the screen seem to have been solved. It’s been nearly three full years and the screen is still working just fine. That said, having some more time with the GPX Pro, I’ve got a few more thoughts:

First, XT Racing’s customer support has continued to be awesome. I’ve emailed them about a number of issues and they’ve been really good about providing me help and general advice.

That said, having spent more time with the software and continuing to learn about analyzing the data, there are some limitations with the GPX Pro if you want to get really serious about your data analysis. If you haven’t yet read up on the subject, I highly recommend Andrew Trevitt’s DataMC for a good introduction to data acquisition and analysis.

Simply put, I’ve come to learn that the XT Racing software is easy to use, but rather limited. Continue reading

04/25/15

SV650 ECU Decoder with LCD Display

So I’ve learned that the LED lights and LED display that I’ve used in earlier versions of the SV650 ECU Decoder have the unfortunate issue that the LED display is completely washed out in daylight. The LED lights, even though they are 10mm are hard to see as well.

Hence, I’ve redesigned the board around the Nokia 5110 LCD display. These display was originally used in cell phones and being LCD should be easier to see in sunlight. Suzuki even used a LCD display in the OEM dash. The biggest challenge with using a LCD display was finding one which would fit in the existing footprint. I really didn’t want to increase the board size since bigger boards cost more money. The biggest challenge was finding a switch which would fit- in the end, I went with a 6mm switch which *just* fits.

Of course, removing the LED lights and changing the display will require a significant rewrite of the code, but there are good libraries for the Nokia 5110 display so hopefully that won’t be too hard.

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Top

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Top


SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Bottom

SV650 ECU Deocder v5.0 Board Bottom

11/23/14

TeensyDSC – it works!

So last night I was finally able to test my custom digital setting circles setup on my AD12… it worked great!  I used the Astrosystems 10K encoder kit with the TeensyDSC and SkySafari on my iPad.  Here’s the photos of my setup:

My Digital Settings Circles setup using SkySafari on the iPad

My Digital Settings Circles setup using SkySafari on the iPad

Alt encoder and Wireless DSC module powered by a USB battery pack

Alt encoder and Wireless DSC module powered by a USB battery pack

 

 

11/17/14

A working basic TeensyDSC board

I recently got my first generation PCB in the mail from OshPark and I’m happy to say that the board works just like I had planned! I was able to do some basic testing using 10,000 step encoders, but due to the power of the Teensy 3.1 board and being able to use interrupt driven decoding there shouldn’t be any problem handling 100,000 step encoders if you so desired. The good news is that the board did a great job of reporting the position of the encoders to Sky Safari Pro running on my iPad via a wireless WiFi connection!

Renderings of the board I actually ended up using:

teensydsc-top-v0.5

teensydsc-bottom-v0.5

Photos of the board with the necessary components installed:

TeensyDSC Simple (populated) Top

TeensyDSC Simple (populated) Bottom

Notice there are some missing parts on the PCB.  That’s because so far I’ve only soldered on the parts necessary to power it via USB.  The missing parts are for powering it via 12V DC.

It also fits nicely in this small plastic enclosure I have:

2014-11-17 21.50.29

2014-11-17 21.48.12

As you can see, this board is smaller and much simpler then the earlier board I designed. I did this because it wasn’t going to be possible to fit the original board in the small plastic enclosure I had picked out and most of the features I wasn’t actually going to use/need and I wanted to focus on getting the basic DSC features tested and working.

08/7/14

2014 AFM Round 4 Race Report

After Round 3, I was able to get a lot of track riding in which ended up being both good and bad. The bad came early- a lowside while riding the new full 5 mile Thunderhill course. Both I and the bike came away with only minor damage (me bruised ribs, the bike just damaged controls) but it was enough to end my day. The good was both I and the bike were easily fixed and I was able to do 2 more days at Thunderhill (in ~110F heat!) before the AFM race weekend. All the extra riding really helped my “bike fitness” as I always find that no matter how much I work out in the off season, I can’t replicate the kind of motions while aggressively riding out on track.

I did the Friday trackday of the race weekend I had two goals:

  1. Work on bike setup
  2. Test a brand new prototype front brake lever for Constructors Racing Group (CRG).

Continue reading

06/10/14

2014 AFM Round 3 Race Report

After missing the last three rounds (my engine leaking oil from the cases at Round 7 last year, an electrical issue for round 1 and an injury sidelining me for round 2), I was desperate to finally get back out on track. I literally hadn’t been on a motorcycle since October of last year and I felt like a heroin addict in withdrawal. There was of course the small issue of a severed tendon in my left middle finger which had me sidelined last round. I remember having the following conversation with my physical therapist just a few days days before round 3:

Me: So when do you think I can start moving my finger and start racing? I have a race in little over a week.
PT: Racing? Like a marathon? Oh, no you can’t do that, far too dangerous! You might trip and fall and hurt your finger!
Me: Actually I was talking about bike racing.
PT: Oh, no, that’s far worse… people crash in bicycle racing all the time and you might re-injure your finger!
Me: Uhm… not bicycle racing, motorcycle racing…

At this point I got that look motorcycle racers have been getting from “normal” people since the beginning of time. You know the one- it’s where you suddenly you feel the need to touch your shoulder just to make sure that you don’t have a second head growing out of it. Clearly I wasn’t going to the answer I was looking from the physical therapist! She did however say that the final decision on these matters would be up to my doctor: Dr. Ting.

As luck would have it, I had a follow up with Dr. Ting on Tuesday the 27th and he cleared me to start moving the finger for the first time in 7 weeks and said it was OK to ride if I wrapped my finger to help support it. Two days later I had the truck loaded up and I was driving up to Thunderhill Raceway! Continue reading

05/21/14

SV650 ECU Decoder v4.6 Design Finished

So I just ordered a few new boards from OshPark:

Front

Back

This was a major update which fixes all know bugs (many which are severe) and improves the protection of the circuit.

  • Switch to Murata 5V switching regulator.
  • LM7805 was overheating with heavy use of LED display in latest code
  • Add power MOSFET for reverse polarity protection
  • Add TVS diode for power/spike protection
  • Fix fuel/very low fuel indicator for 03-04 and 05+
  • Move EFI light off of pin 11 to allow interrupts to work
  • Move Mode switch to an interrupt pin
  • Add ground plane & clean up traces
  • Further improve battery voltage monitoring
  • Capacitors are now SMD too
05/9/14

2014 Racing Season Preview

This year looked like it was going to really start out on the right foot. Gregg Spears of Spears Enterprises finished building my new motor in early January- well in advance of the race season.  I really can’t express just how impressed I am with Gregg’s professionalism and attention to detail. He took the time to answer all my questions, create a detailed line item quote and took pictures of the build along the way so I could see how everything came together. I know I really shouldn’t be impressed when someone does the job right the first time, but it was a breath of fresh air after all the motor troubles I’ve had recently.

I was also able to work out a deal with John Stark of Stark Fabrication to redesign and build a new improved motor mount.  The original prototype had a number of problems with its design that I wanted to fix and they were able to resolve all those issues and in the end I received a new mount which looked like it came off a factory race bike!

Motor Mount #2,mount #2
Finished motor mount,mount2
Stator side install,Clutch side install

Building the new motor mount took longer then we expected due to some fitment issues related to my custom exhaust, but John and Ed at Stark Fabrication took the time to make sure it was done right which was fine by me. While that was going on, I had new Speedymoto rear set mounts welded onto the frame by the great guys at Pega Precision. I then took the time to cut/grind off various tabs on the frame which are no longer needed so it looks really clean. Finally, I had the entire frame powder coated yellow to better match the paint scheme of the bodywork and I installed new steering head races and went through the bike cleaning and properly lubricating everything. Whew!

2014 Livery

Of course, I made sure to get my suspension serviced by Catalyst Reaction, installed new Woodcraft rear sets, Galfer brake pads and lines- including a custom line for my new rear thumb brake:

Hudson Performance Thumb Brake

I ended up going with a thumb brake this year because when I switched to the Woodcraft rear sets I lost the rear brake (due to how the brake lever & master cylinder are mounted on the Ducati). As you may remember, I had clearance issues with my old “custom” rear sets & brake lever, so this combination solves my problems and looks great too!

Finally, just before the first round of the AFM season, I was able to get everything assembled and ready to tune the motor on Spears’ dyno. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on electrical problems with throttle bodies causing the motor to not run properly and Gregg wasn’t comfortable trying to tune it while it was in this funky state. I ended up taking the bike home to diagnose the issue and determined I had a bad Power Commander. Unfortunately, by the time I got a new Power Commander, it was too late to tune the bike for Round 1. :(

Fast forward a month and bike has been tuned and it’s ready to go for Round 2 at Sonoma Raceway which is also a Pro-Am event run with John Ulrich’s Superbike Shootout! Sadly, while I attended the event, the closest I got to the action was the grandstands and hanging out with my friends in the pits. I learned just a few days before the races from Dr. Ting that an injury I sustained a few weeks ago to my left hand had not yet healed and riding would likely cause further damage and increase the time it takes to fully heal. I talked it over with a number of my sponsors and I’m happy to say that they all fully supported me taking the time to get healthy before jumping back out on track. Even though I was sidelined, it was an amazing weekend with lots of great racing, a large crowd and tons of vendors who came out for the event. The paddock was literally packed full of racers and vendors!

My hand just after tearing the tendon in my middle finger:
Torn tendon

So while I’m beyond disappointed that I’ve missed the first two rounds again this year, I still can’t help but be optimistic about the rest of the year. At this point last year, my motor had blown up three times on the dyno and so I’m far ahead of the curve. While I haven’t been able to ride yet this year, I’m still training with Integrate Performance and working on my fitness so I’ll be ready to go once my hand heals up. At this point, things are looking good for me to be ready for Round 3 at then end of the month and I can’t wait!