Max Whirlpool: A tidbit

Max Whirlpool (16) shown immediately after being unplugged, and waiting to be escorted outside of the kitchen, for smoking.

Max Whirlpool (16) has been expelled from the kitchen for smoking. A representative from the kitchen, who wishes to remain anonymous because he is unauthorized to speak on behalf of management, stated: “We practice tough love. There is no discrimination. Any electrical appliance caught smoking will be treated exactly the same way as Whirlpool. It will be removed from service. ” He added that Whirlpool has worked in the kitchen since 2003.

Our next microwave oven will not be a Whirlpool. That is not because of any dissatisfaction with Max, until the smoking incident. It is more related to Whirlpool as a corporation. It does not appear to take the health and safety of consumers seriously. In fact, even when one of its products was clearly to blame for a massive loss of life, 72 people, it attempted to blame others.

Recently, the Guardian reported that the Grenfell fire report “… went further than many expected, as did Moore-Bick’s dismissal of attempts by corporate groups to delay or prevent findings that might count against them, such as the “fanciful” claim by Whirlpool – the manufacturer of the Hotpoint fridge-freezer – that the fire could have been started by a cigarette.”

Earlier, the Guardian had reported on another fire, where MP Andy Slaughter said “… the government should learn from a serious fire in his constituency in 2016, when a faulty Indesit tumble dryer started a blaze in the Shepherds Court tower block in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. Residents escaped with minor injuries. Twenty fire engines and 120 firefighters attended the scene.

The same article cited a letter to UK business secretary Larry Clark, where Slaughter stated “that Whirlpool – which owns both Hotpoint and Indesit brands – had “a poor history of fire safety”.

Wikipedia, in a section titled UK Dryer Fire Risk, in its article about Whirlpool Corporation, writes: “Safety warnings about tumble dryers published on the Indesit and Hotpoint websites in 2015 advised customers that “In some rare cases, excess fluff can come into contact with the heating element and present a risk of fire.” Condensers and vented tumble dryers sold under the brands Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline and manufactured over an 11-year period between April 2004 and September 2015 present a fire risk. An estimated 5.3 million tumble dryers were bought in the UK over the time period. Originally, and even after several fires were confirmed as being caused by faulty devices, Whirlpool advised customers that using such devices was safe provided they were not left unattended but would not issue a product recall. Whirlpool offered to fix faulty machines or replace tumble dryers at a cost of £99 – an offer met with derision with consumer groups and in the press. Parliament discussed widespread difficulties with getting faulty machines fixed or replaced, including long wait times and poor service.”

Max’s replacement Sam, a Samsung MS23K3515AW purchased for NOK 900, has arrived in Inderøy. We have spent some time learning how to operate Sam. We are looking forward to working with him to serve our modest microwaving needs in the coming years: reheating food/ beverages and defrosting. Sam is originally from Malaysia.

Open Source is not Enough

This story from 2017 explains why it is essential that people understand who controls every product they acquire. In this particular case – about garage openers, an open source hardware solution proves to be more problematic than a closed source solution.

An attractive garage door, totally unrelated to the one mentioned in this web-log post. Photo: http://homesfeed.com/unique-garage-doors/

Denis Grisak started Garadget, which makes an open-source Internet-connected garage opener. He promoted his start up on Kickstarter.

This device uses Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle to open and close garage doors. The garage door is controlled over the internet by a mobile phone app. It also uses existing garage door hardware. The phone becomes a remote control.

On 2017-04-01, April fools’ day for some, R. Martin, a customer who purchased a Garadget opener on Amazon reported iPhone application control problems, and left the following comment on the Garadget community board: “Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iphone app, powered phone off/on – wondering what kind of piece of shit I just purchased here…”

Yes, the language cannot be condoned, but one can understand that the customer is feeling frustration. Soon afterwards, not having gotten a response, he left a 1-star review of Garadget on Amazon: “Junk – DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY – iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products.”

Grisak then remotely deactivated Martin’s garage opener [sic] and posted the following on the support forum: ” Martin, [NP] The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. [NP] I’m happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I’m not going to tolerate any tantrums. At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036… will be denied server connection.” NP = New Paragraph.

This denial of service breaks the trust that is necessary between a manufacturer/ vendor and its customers. I was surprised to find that the company is still in business. It certainly doesn’t deserve to be. The legality of the server disconnection can be discussed, as could potential criminality, if someone were to be injured or killed because of this disconnection. However, we will not be visiting these subjects today.

Instead, there is a basic lesson to be learned by all consumers, and that is not to place too much trust in suppliers. In particular, it means avoiding technological solutions that give over-riding control of a product to someone other than the end user. In particular, control of communications is important. It does not make any difference if the product is open-source or closed-source, if the someone else controls communication.

In its Kickstarter description, one meets the following: “In its core Garadget uses the Photon module from the great folks at Particle and benefits from all the development tools and support materials created for the module[.]” Particle makes cloud-connected microcontrollers, that are powered by Device OS, a proprietary (closed-source) operating system. Cloud is just a funny name for someone else’s server. That puts consumers at the mercy of companies that have a more direct relationship with Particle. Particle may make it easy for a startup to prototype a product. It might make it easy for that same startup to scale up production, Unfortunately, neither of those are particularly important for consumers.

Some Choices

The main reason for writing this post is not to complain about a manufacturer/ vendor, but a way of life where needs are met exclusively by shopping, and where buying something leads to unintended consequences. In this particular case it is the loss of control.

Unfortunately, not shopping is not an option. Twenty-first century people cannot make everything from scratch. At some point a component has to be bought. The size of that component may vary – It may be a property with multiple buildings, a house, a garage, a garage door, a garage door opener, a microprocessor or a … Somewhere, one has to stop, and buy something.

R. Martin lost control at the garage door opener level, and it is here that a solution can be offered. There are several ways to make a garage door opener, including some that make excellent projects for an adult (including teacher/ parent/ grand-parent) and child (12+) to work on together, at school, home or community workshop.

Raspberry Pi is closed-source, but its products offer high value for their relatively low price. Normally, I have a reluctance to use closed-source products. For example, I use Linux, rather than Windows. In this particular case, I want to show that closed-source may be the appropriate choice, because the end-user retains control.

There are several different models of Raspberry Pi as well as several different generations. These instructions are general, and may be adapted to the specific variant used. Part of my crusade is to encourage people to use compute modules, rather than Model A, Model B or Zero varieties. The reason is simple – in most projects not all of the components supplied are needed. Compute module 3+ was launched 2019-01 and will be available until at least 2026. In terms of computing, future proofing does not get any better.

At the Inderøy Tekno-workshop, one of the projects that will be worked on will be a garage opener. Currently, the idea is to combine two different projects, using the following documentation:

https://github.com/andrewshilliday/garage-door-controller

https://github.com/sp1k3ster/home-assistant/pull/1

This weblog post was originally considerably larger when it was originally written: 2019-02-03 with a time stamp of 17:28:20.

A mechatronic workshop

Some people face more challenges than others. Members of the Afghan all-girls robotics team make adjustments to a team robot in the practice area in Washington D.C. on 2017-07-17. These young Afghan women are renown for their resilience and resolve. Their visas to USA had been rejected twice. Despite this, when they arrived at the last minute, their team came in second place. Later in 2017-11-27, they won first place at the Entrepreneurial Challenge, for the Robotex festival, in Tallinn, Estonia. Their challenge was to showcase a prototype that could solve a real-world problem, and that customers would want to buy. They won with a robot that could use solar energy to support small-scale farmers in their fields. (Photo: Paul J. Richards)

For the past three days I have spent my working hours fighting off a virus while pondering some fundamental concepts related to a community mechatronics workshop, that should be opening soon in Inderøy.

Ideally, this workshop should be all things to all people, or at least, a few different things to a few different groups of people. The challenge is, that one has only NOK 250 000 to equip the workshop, whereas one needs about NOK 1 000 000. The area is 70 square meters, and one room. What one needs is 200 square meters and five different rooms.

Rather than spreading investments over several fields, and ending up with nothing, a decision was taken to focus exclusively on mechatronics. Once this is in place and functioning well, then other areas can be prioritized at some unspecified point in the future.

Then there is the challenge of a name. What might seem like an obvious choice, a seemingly innocent term, such as maker space proves difficult to use in practice. Why? Well, maker is a political term, and is frequently usurped by people with vested interests. John Patrick Leary lists maker as one of his keywords, in his 2018 book, Keywords. Libertarians, in particular, have seized on this title. Other terms, such as hack space, have also been usurped, but by the socialist hoard, political adversaries of libertarians.

Before confronting the socialist hoard hackers, who are theselibertarians and what do they want? A quick, but necessarily incomplete, answer to the question is, followers of Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982). Admittedly there are exceptional libertarians who dislike Rand, but they are in the minority. Rand is known especially for two novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for a philosophical system she called Objectivism, that has inspired many libertarians. Mother Jones, the San Francisco based investigative magazine, remarked that “Rand’s particular genius has always been her ability to turn upside down traditional hierarchies and recast the wealthy, the talented, and the powerful as the oppressed.” (July-August 2009).

Rand is not noted for anything approaching political correctness. In her biography Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, Jennifer Burns notes how Rand’s position that “Native Americans were savages” and that as a result “European colonists had a right to seize their land because native tribes did not recognize individual rights.” (p. 266) She has offered similar opinions about the Arab populations of the Middle East.

As David Harvey, in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), argues, Neoliberalization’s primary accomplishment has been to “redistribute, rather than to generate, wealth and income” (p. 159). In particular, he points to privatization and commodification of previously public assets, which he describes as the “Commodification of Everything” in which all things are turned into things with that can have rents extracted from, including intangible ideas like originality, authenticity, and uniqueness, which “were never actually produced as commodities.” (p. 166) .

Much of the libertarian movement could be described as “me first”. It wants to reward the aggressive. At this point it could be appropriate for readers to take a pause, and read Debbie Chachra’s essay, Why I am Not a Maker: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/

The point of the above essay is that a community workshop is not just a workshop for the few. There are a large number of social interactions that have to be facilitated. There are youth present who may be learning new skills, teachers who may be providing instruction, disabled people who may be in need of companionship, people of many genders who may want to create a new and for them, a more appropriate identity. While there may be people who may be making, there may be others who are repairing or repurposing or recycling or just reflecting on life.

I am particularly concerned that calling something a maker space, will in itself create an unintended hierarchy of users. In some maker spaces in Canada, it has been found that white, male youth, from privliged backgrounds, attempted to monopolize maker spaces, by defining themselves as its target group, and defining others as outside of that target group.

Such is the power of a name. I have previously argued for the use of a name that is the Norwegian equivalent of Velocity, a vector quantity that combines speed with direction. More importantly, it does not hint at what can or cannot be done in a workshop. There is no prestige to be lost if the organization changes direction. Velocity might be involved in mechatronics this year, then shift to fashion, cos-play and steampunk next year, before ending up as a videography group focused on rock musicals. It doesn’t make any difference, because the name is flexible.

Now it is time to look at more left-leaning hacker spaces. Left-leaning, but not necessarily egalitarian or diverse.

In V. Kostakis, V. Niaros & C. Giotitsas Production and governance in hackerspaces: A manifestation of Commons-based peer production in the physical realm? (2014) International Journal of Cultural Studies, Hacker space practices supposedly contrast with market-based maker space businesses in that they are more focused on for-benefit rather than for-profit projects but that for-profit motivations are not entirely absent. In this study of 23 semi-structured interviews with a sample of hacker spaces around the world found that money remains a peripheral concept only. Particpants are motivated by the social desire for hackers to have a ‘third place’ for social interaction. This refers to American urban sociologist, Ray Oldenburg (1932 – ) and the importance of informal public gathering places for a functioning civil society, democracy and civic engagement. In addition, there is the altruistic motivation of ‘making the world a better place’ through working on commons-oriented projects. However, it was also found that openness only applied in a limited sense. The barrier is not a door; it is social inclusion. In J. Moilanen Emerging hackerspaces–Peer-production generation Open Source Systems: LongTerm Sustainability (2012) pp. 94-111, 90 percent of respondents were male and 64 percent of respondents had a completed a post-secondary degree. Often hacker spaces are closed to non-members, most days of the week.

Collaboration and sharing were found to be important by six out of
seven participants as evidence of collaboration in the spaces. In addition, some hacker spaces were committed to sharing projects with Commons-based licenses and favored people working on collective projects over personal ones. There was also a wide variety of ‘innovative’ hardware and software produced by hacker spaces and showed the underestimated power of meaningful human cooperation. At the same time there was community accountability, communal validation and autonomy. Participants cited trust and accountability as important pillars of hacker space operation.

A workshop needs legal status and governance. Most are non-profit organizations governed by elected boards, This is one of the first things that has to be put into place. An alternative is to nest the workshop within an existing organization, such a municipal public library. It needs membership fees and/ or funding. Often membership fees serve as the primary income source for a space though different membership levels or sliding-scale pricing. Some spaces receive grants or donations, as is the case with the workshop in Inderøy.

Workshops need physical space and equipment. Most start small but can grow into large spaces. One major challenge is finding adequate and affordable space. There is also a need for a workshop to abide by legal safety and ergonomic standards. Workshops may have issues with building codes, including fire protection and ventilation systems. There is also a need for liability insurance and waiver forms for adult participants.

The creation of a workshop involves much more than a group of
individuals coming together to form a do-ocracy.

One major challenge is the inability for workshops to account/ bookkeep volunteer labour. It is far too frequently treated as a free resource without value. This is inappropriate. Personnel and mentor costs are valid costs. When local government is involved, they need to be efficient in allocating limited resources (even those provided by retired persons). Other underestimated costs have to do with externalities. Noise and physical damage are major concerns, given that workshops have noisier and messier activities. To reduce noise impact, workshops may have to be given insulated spaces and flooring, and by separated physically from other quieter activities.

Stakeholder support is another significant issue. It is important that workshop initiators communicate openly with everyone even remotely influenced by the workshop.

OperationalCulturalCritical
DesignABC
ProduceDEF
InterpretGHI
DisseminateJKL

A: Use a variety of tools, modes, media, and materials to design texts and artefacts. Re-design texts and artefacts.

B: Understand design principles within a specific social and cultural context, bringing their own experiences to bear on the task.

C: Reflect critically on design principles. Choose modes, media, and materials to use for specific purposes (e.g., to entertain,persuade, etc.) and for particular audiences.

D: Use a variety of tools, modes, media,and materials to produce texts and artefacts. Re-use/ re-purpose/ re-mix texts and artefacts effectively.

E: Draw on own social and cultural experiences in the creation of texts and artefacts. Allow feelings and emotions to shape the production experience.

F: Reflect critically on the process of production,to ask questions such as (i) How do I want topresent myself and others in this text or artefact? (ii) What messages do I want to convey?

G: Access and understand modes/ media/ materials used in the production of a text/ artefact. Comprehend meaning, interpret through analysis,reflection, synthesis. Relate text/artefact to own prior understandingand experience. Move beyond a literal to deductive andinferential reading.

H: Draw on own social and cultural experiences in the analysis and interpretation of texts and artefacts. Participate with others in collective reviewand interpretation. Understand texts and artefacts in relation to the social, historical, and cultural contexts in which they were produced. I: Reflect critically on the text or artefact that is being engaged with, to ask questions such as: (i) Who produced this? (ii) What can be discerned of the producer’s intentions? (iii) How has the producer positioned the reader/ viewer/ user? (iv) How do issues of power work in this context?

J: Able to use a variety of tools, modes, media,and avenues to disseminate texts and artefacts.

K: Understand most effective means of disseminating texts and artefacts within the social and cultural context. Reach out effectively to diverse audiences tocommunicate meanings.

L: Reflect critically on modes of dissemination, to ensure most effective use of them.

Marsh, J.; Kumpulainen, K.; Nisha, B.; Velicu, A.; Blum-Ross, A.; Hyatt, D.; Jónsdóttir, S.R.; Levy, R.; Little, S.;Marusteru, G.; et al. (Eds.) Makerspaces in the Early Years: A Literature Review; MakEY Project; University of Sheffield: Sheffield, UK, 2017; pp. 75–79. Available online: http://makeyproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Makey_Literature_Review.pdf

To conclude. There are a wide range of issues in workshop governance that can emerge, many of which cannot be found in advance.

In Inderøy a mechatronic workshop may suit the needs of many potential participants. In other parts of the world, this would not be the obvious choice. Many women, especially, choose to work with tradtional textiles, while others feel more comfortable working with robots. Lowriders are a cultural phenomenon involving many American males of Latino background. People have many different interests, and develop many different skill sets.

Domotics: Room Controllers

Controllers for buildings have existed since 1883, when Warren Johnson, a Milwaukee school teacher invented the thermostat. Back then, it was not just a round device on a wall. Rather, when room temperature fell, a light in the boiler room was turned on, indicating that janitors should shovel more coal into the furnace.

You’ve come a long way, Virgil!

In the 135 years since this invention, building controls have improved, and are extensively used in offices, commercial buildings and factories. Most owners of these buildings have deep pockets, and are able to afford integrated solutions vendors provide.

The pockets of the average Joanne, or median resident as statisticians want to refer to her, are not quite so deep, and this weblog post focuses on room controllers that can be used by an extremely average person.

Domotics, or if you prefer terms that people actually understand, house/ home automation, refers to systems used to control: lighting, temperature and humidity (indoor climate), audio and video (entertainment), unauthorized access, smoke/ fire detection (security) and related services, in a residence.

There are three main reasons why I am interested in this field. First, it is a field that combines my studies in computer science and operations research. Second, I like to play with technological toys. Third, I interact with people who have allergy and other indoor environment issues, and have a need for indoor climate control with very fine tolerances.

A potential fourth reason, is that I know people who are aging, and may in the future need assistive devices, for dispensing medication or spoon feeding. As mentioned in a previous post, I certainly don’t want to be spoon fed by another human being; give me a robot any day. I would rather have human contact with another person as an equal, not as a patient requiring help.

At Cliff Cottage, there are plans to install one room controller in most of the rooms of the house.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Factoid 1. All devices need power. Some get it from batteries, others get it from wall sockets. PoE devices get it from Ethernet data communication cables.

Factoid 2. Most devices need to communicate. Some communicate wirelessly using Bluetooth or WiFi. However, the number of such devices is limited, and the speed can be slow. Thus, it can be appropriate to connect devices using cables, and Ethernet cables are the most common ones used today.

Factoid 3. A switch is a device that allows multiple other devices in a local area network to be inter-connected. Yes, these connect using Ethernet cables. A typical switch may have up to 48 different cables connected to 48 separate devices.

Factoid 4. PoE eliminates the need to have two different cables. Each device can is provided with power from the switch itself. Voltage levels can be up to 48 volts, and the same cable can be used to send data in both directions.

At Cliff Cottage, we have now invested in two PoE switches. A person was trying to sell five switches for NOK 1 000 (USD 120), or one for NOK 300 (USD 36). They were very inexpensive because businesses won’t buy used equipment, and most other people don’t know what they can be used for. Each of the PoE switches will allow us to connect up to 24 devices, and provide power to them. A cable is connected between a switch and a device through the walls of the house. So these cables are being installed, as the house is being remodelled. We have 305 meters of CAT 6A cable to make these connections. CAT 6A was selected because it is the fastest cable type currently available for Ethernet, allowing for PoE. That means it won’t have to be replaced anytime soon. Hopefully, the cables will last 30 years.

Other cables are not so important, as they are not placed in walls and can be changed easily. The same is true of devices, such as a NAS (network attached server) or a room controller.

Room Controllers

Room controllers, and similar devices, are one of the main categories of devices that need PoE connections. Take, for example, a front-door access controller. It will typically have an infra-red camera, proximity sensor and infra-red light connected to it, that will be activated as someone approaches. Video of each event will be sent to an external location, that could be located anywhere in the world. A room controller may have proximity sensors as well as others to register temperature, CO2, humidity levels and more. Data gained from these sensors and others throughout a house, can be used to activate lights, or heating, display time, temperature and other data on a touch screen. It can even listen and answer using a microphone and speaker.

Controllers need to be placed in the following locations: 1) access control at entrance doors; 2) living room control; 3) dining area control; 4) kitchen control; 5) bedroom control; 6) study, studio and workshop control. Some people may want to have controllers in 7) bathrooms and/or laundry rooms, while others may want to avoid this. In addition, there will be 8) PoE access points for WiFi.

A second switch, without PoE, can be used for other devices dependent on higher power levels. These include: 1) a home theatre connections; 2) a printer and/ or scanner; 3) clothes washer and/ or dryer; 4) dishwasher; 5)  refrigerator and/ or freezer; 6) stove top and/ or oven; 7) microwave oven; 8) kettle; 9) hot water tank; 10) heat exchanger; 11) heat pump or solar thermal controller; 12) greenhouse controller.

The preferred solution uses a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+. Unlike more conventional Raspberry Pis, the CM is totally flat, but uses the bottom edge for connection. There are five versions of compute modules available with 0 (Lite), 4, 8, 16 or 32 GB of eMMC memory provided. A Compute Module Development Kit is made for developing industrial applications with these and other CM boards. The purpose of a development kit is to provide hardware that allow the use of CM boards in custom systems that avoid unnecessary components.

The Compute Module IO (CMIO) board, is a simple, open-source breakout board into which one can plug a Compute Module. The board hosts 120 GPIO pins, an HDMI port, a USB port, two camera ports, and two display ports.

A Compute Module on a Compute Module Input-Output Board used for development purposes (Photo: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

Not everyone will have the possibility to retrofit their dwellings with Ethernet cable, so one will always have to provide a backstop room controller. In terms of current technology this could be based on a Raspberry Pi Model B 3+, with a Pimoroni Automation HAT for Raspberry Pi. See: https://www.adafruit.com/product/3289

A Pimoroni Automation HAR on top of a Raspberry Pi Model B (Photo: Piomoroni)

Each of the room controllers would have a 7″ touch screen. This is a standard RPi product category, so there is no problem finding these in Norway.

The Invisible

What I can’t show in this weblog post are the plastic fittings, and the printed circuit board populated with electronic components, that I intend to use with this room controller. The reason for this is that they have not yet been designed.

I am waiting to design them until a 3D printer and a PCB printer arrive at the local makerspace. This could be a matter of weeks away. The proposed printer is a Ultimaker 3.

Ultimaker 3 with dual extruders, allowing for 2 materials to be used in the same product (Photo: Utimaker)

While there are many different systems that can be used to make printed circuit boards, the additive process provided in a Voltera V-one has many advantages. Its one drawback is initial cost.

Voltera V-one, a complete tool for the manufacture of printed circuit boards (Photo: Voltera)

A Copy of a Copy

Soon it will be time to end my surfing career, and I have been wondering what to replace it with.

Earlier, on Sunday (2018-07-01), I had read an article in The Independent about Deep Purple and their compelling song Smoke on the Water, which appears to reference the burning down of a casino at Montreux in 1971:  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/deep-purple-montreux-jazz-festival-lake-geneva-1971-a8418926.html

Later, that day I was into YouTube, and in addition to the usual mix of woodworking and computing videos, the second on the list of recommended videos was Rolling Stones time! Riffing on Gimme Shelter with my Bacchus BST-650, by Laura Cox. It had over 300 000 views, and was made 2018-05-26: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy09E1HC7lE

Unlike many people with tinnitus, I restrict the amount of music I listen to. My normal music consumption is somewhere around one track/ song a week.

However, working on Project Retrograde at the time, I wondered why this particular video was included so high up on my recommendation list. My thoughts were, I was reading about another famous guitar riff earlier. Google knows this. Both Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet. Then I wondered, why not the original version? Does their algorithm conclude that I would prefer a cover version by an unknown woman, to the original by a famous rock band?

YouTube’s placement of the video worked. I decided that this 2-minute long video would be the one track I would listen to on Canada Day – and probably the only one for another week. I did play it, but what fascinated me was the guitar. It looked like a Fender Stratocaster. A little searching through the surface web and I  discovered that Bacchus guitars are made in Japan by the Deviser Custom Shop. They are generally well made copies of famous brand names. They are handmade without using CNC equipment.

A Bacchus BST-650 copy of a Fender Stratocaster guitar, in Fiesta Red. (Photo: Deviser)

In an instant, the framework of a new project started to appear, but one that would only begin after: 1)  the house was remodeled, 2) its furniture constructed, 3) the DIY CNC machine completed and 4) the electrically powered, jet surfboard made. Only then would I manufacture an electric guitar, using CNC equipment. No, probably not a Fender Stratocaster copy, but a bespoke design. One can only go so far in copying the works of someone else.

As for the amplifier and speaker system, one source of inspiration is Notes & Volts – Electronics, Guitars & Geekery: https://www.youtube.com/user/NotesAndVolts/videos?disable_polymer=1

The task after that would be to learn to play it!

Smart-home Abuse

Smart-home technology has become a new arena for abusers to harass their victims. It is a new form of domestic guerrilla warfare. Abusers use smartphone apps connected to internet-enabled devices to remotely control everyday objects in the victim’s residence. Some modes of operation are passive, simply allowing the abuser to watch and/or listen. Other modes display power, and are intended to invoke fear. Both forms are a crime against the victim, and cannot be tolerated.

The abuser may or may not be resident, or in or out of an ongoing relationship with the victim. It is particularly in situations where the abuser and the victim are living together, that smart-home devices can be problematic, and difficult to handle. This post is a warning to potential victims, that smart-home devices may not be as innocent as they look.

Google Home, with an Android smartphone, one of a growing number of smart-home devices (Photo: Bence Boros on Unsplash)

Devices acquired by an abuser, and installed in a victim’s residence, often remain controlled by the abuser, even after a relationship has ended. Smart-home devices are weapons of choice for many abusers. There is often asymmetrical insight into these devices in a relationship. Victims typically lack the technological skills necessary to set up, and modify smart-home devices. This asymmetry, gives power to the abuser. Devices that can be used include cameras. loudspeakers, lights, remotely operated doors and thermostats.

Many smart-home devices are inexpensive and easy to install, as long as one knows what one is doing. Typically, only one person in a relationship – often a male – installs and programs, even operates, the technology. This person has an overview of the technology that the other person in the relationship lacks. The abuser may have exclusive knowledge of user names and passwords, which gives that person the power to compromise the other person in the relationship, typically a woman. For example, the abuser may have exclusive use of a controlling app on his telephone.

Domestic abuse is not uncommon. In a 2010 CDC report, one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. See: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

What can be done?

First, both partners should work together and decide which smart-home devices should be installed. If there is no agreement, then it can’t be installed. Once installed, both partners must then have any apps used to control the devices.

Second, all smart-home device installations must be fully documented, and accessible to both partners in the relationship. Part of that documentation includes full discloser as to device names and passwords. However, it should also include wiring and other diagrams.

Third, as part of a legal written agreement between (former) partners, the partner leaving the residence must agree to remove all user names, passwords and other data associated with smart-home devices from all of his devices, including but not limited to phones, computers and tablets.

Fourth, any unusual device behaviour must be assumed to be enemy action, and both parties must agree that it be treated that way. Potential abusive behaviour includes: changing thermostats to uncomfortably high or low temperatures; playing music when the victim is sleeping; flashing lights at inappropriate times or preventing lights to turn on when they are required; posting photos/ videos/ sound recordings on social media, taken by remote cameras/ microphones; inappropriate door locking behaviour, such as preventing the victim from entering the residence, or allowing anyone free access to the residence, including the abuser.

A word of caution

A major problem arises when a victim removes or deactivates smart-home devices. This can result in the victim feeling inadequate and isolated, but may also result in abuse escalation. In most situations, the abuser will have sufficient control over the situation and devices to know if and when a device has been disabled, which can trigger further violence, physical or emotional.

Any course about smart-home devices should be offered either to women alone, or to couples jointly. Users should be able to understand smart-home device documentation. and be able to disable any devices installed in their residence.

Future courses I offer about smart-home devices will require the participation of both couples in a relationship, or signed note from a female domestic partner for permission to attend. This note must also include an acknowledgement that smart-home devices can be used abusively!

Electric Car Charging

Everyone is on familiar terms with the watt, with the possible exception of American muscle car owners addicted to horse power. To help them enter a world free of fossil fuel, all they need to do is make a simple, if slightly inaccurate, calculation: 1 HP = 750 watts.

If one uses 1 watt for 1 second, then the amount of energy used is 1 joule (J). There are many other, but more confusing, ways to explain this energy transfer: the force of 1 (N) newton acting on that object through a distance of 1 (m) metre; (In electrical terms) the energy of 1 (A) ampere passing through a 1 (Ω) ohm resistor, with a voltage drop of 1 (V) volt, for 1 (s) second.

To be true to the SI system, the battery pack on your favourite vehicle should be expressed in joules, in precisely the same way that the power you purchase from your household electrical supplier, should also be expressed in joules. Instead it is expressed in an illegitimate kilowatt hours where 1 kWh = 3600seconds/hour x 1000 W/kW joules or 3.6 (MJ) megajoules.

The standard size of an EV is quickly approaching 60 kWh = 60 x 3.6 = 216 MJ.

The limiting factor in most houses with respect to charging, is the thickness of the electrical wires. In general wiring requires cable with the following characteristics: 10A = 1.5mm2; 16A = 2.5mm2; 20A = 4mm2; 32A = 6mm2; 40A = 10mm2; 50A = 16mm2; 63A = 25mm2. Electrical input to Cliff Cottage uses 230 V, 3-phase, 25mm2 wiring, which provides a maximum of 25 kW of electrical power to be used for everything and anything, including EV charging.

 

Standards

Details about charging EVs are contained in several standards, including IEC 61851 and IEC 62196.

IEC 61851 Electric vehicle conductive charging system specifies general characteristics, including charging modes and connection configurations, and requirements for specific implementations (including safety requirements) of both electric vehicle (EV) and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in a charging system.

IEC 62196 Plugs, socket-outlets, vehicle couplers and vehicle inlets – Conductive charging of electric vehicles is based on IEC 61851.

The IEC 62196 Type-2 connector (Mennekes) is used for charging electric cars within Europe. The connector is circular in shape, with a flattened top edge and originally designed for charging at between 3 and 120 kW, using either single-phase or three-phase alternating current (AC), or direct current (DC). In January 2013 it was selected by the European Commission as official charging plug within the European Union. It is also the official charging plug in Norway. There is a transition period until 2020, which will allow other charging plugs to be used.

At the moment there are only three vehicles that use this plug as standard in Norway, Tesla Model S (up to 22 kW), Renault ZOE (up to 43 kW) and Mercedes-Benz B-Klasse (up to 11 kW). Because the requirements are more stringent for these chargers, Renault includes the electrical installation of its residential charging system in the price of the vehicle.

Norwegian requirements for charging of EVs have been specified in the following document (in Norwegian): https://www.dsb.no/lover/elektriske-anlegg-og-elektrisk-utstyr/tema/elbil—lading-og-sikkerhet/

While other makes and models currently use other charging systems. As new models are introduced, they will increasingly use Type-2 charging as standard. However, it is interesting to see that the Hyundai Ioniq and the Opel Ampera-e, both introduced in 2017, both come equipped with Combo CCD (DC) charging cables.

With Type-2 charging, the electronics is in the charging station (Mode 3) instead of in a box attached to the charging cable (Mode 2).  This makes the cable cheaper to  purchase and easier to handle. The contact is more robust, with minimal electrical, heat and fire risks.

Type 2 charger cable (photo: Ståle Frydenlund)

Charging cables are needed in different variants depending on the electric car. At one end of the cable there will be a Type 2 connector to plug into the charging station. The other end has a contact designed for the specific electric car. Type 1 for Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, Peugeot and Citroën; Type 2 for BMW, Volkswagen, Tesla and Renault.

Charging Key and Chip

Access to charging stations is restricted, to prevent abuse. Most commonly access is dependent on the use of a standard key, or a chip. At most charging stations in Norway, use is free. Yes, that is correct. Vehicles gets filled up with electricity free of charge.

Because membership is included with most new EV purchases, it is standard practice for Norwegian electric car owners to be members of the Norwegian Electric Car Association (Norsk elbilforeningen) which, in addition to other services, provides members with both  a charging key, as well as a charging chip, to give them access to charging stations throughout the country. While the key is used with most older charging stations, newer ones rely increasingly on a charging chip. Note: the charging chip will not work until it is registered with the individual charging operator!

 

Open Source CAD systems for electronics

Wikipedia lists 17 FOSS (Free & Open Source Software) projects for electronic design automation (EDA): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_EDA_software . Of these only three offer versions for the big three, Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems. The two main contenders are Fritzing and KiCad. Both have a slightly different orientation. The third, LibrePCB ( http://librepcb.org/ ) will not be discussed further because it is “… currently under heavy development to bring out first stable releases as soon as possible.”

Fritzing

Fritzing
Fritzing has all the parts needed to work with Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Node MCU’s
(Photo: Fearby.com)

Fritzing is more for amateur/ hobby designers transitioning from prototype experimentation to building more permanent circuits. It was developed at the Interaction Design Lab at the Fachhochschule Potsdam, with version 0.0.4 coming out in 2007. As this is being written in March 2017, the current version is 0.9.3b from June 2016.

My experience with Fritzing is related to its use with the Arduino microcontroller. It provides a system for project documentation, where one can start with a conceptual design (using the schematic view) or simply build a prototype on a breadboard (using the protoboard view). From either of these, a printed circuit board layout can be created (using the PCB view). Among the standard board designs provided are Arduino shields and Raspberry Pi Hats (Hardware attached on top). Fritzing can be regarded as an EDA for non-engineers. PCBs can only consist of up to two layers (top and bottom). However, it does include a customizable design rule checker. Its website allows users to share and discuss their experiences. There is a code view option, which allows one to access, modify and upload code to an Arduino device.

One of the challenges with Fritzing is its Vendor lock-in. Its fabrication service, fab.fritzing.org, forces people into using Aisler, which appears to be a German high-tech startup. Even if the people at Aisler are pleasant enough, and have improved on the PCB builds previously offered, including lower prices and higher quality, the result is still vendor lock-in.

KiCad

olinuxino
A64-OLinuXino is a single-board computer running Linux & Android. The design based on a 64-bit ARM CPU and includes 1 or 2 GB DDR3 RAM, 4 GB flash memory, microSD card socket, WiFi & BLE4.0, Ethernet, HDMI & audio output. (photo: Olimex)

KiCad is a more mature product, that was originally created in 1992 by Jean-Pierre Charras while working at Instituts universitaires de technologie de Grenoble. Since then KiCad has gained a number of both volunteer and paid contributors. Since 2013, CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) has contributed resources towards KiCad to improve KiCad so that it is equal to commercial EDA tools.

KiCad version 4.0.0. was released in December 2015. This was the first version with advanced tools provided by CERN developers. There are five main parts to KiCad: 1) KiCad, the project manager window; 2) Eeschema, the schematics and components editor. This also contains 3) CvPcb, a footprint selector helper that runs from Eeschema. 4) Pcbnew, is a circuit board layout and footprint editor;  5) GerbView, the Gerber file viewer, is an important feature because many other EDA programs do not offer this ability. There are also three utilities, the PL Editor, the page layout editor; the IDF Exporter, that exports an IDFv3 compliant board (.emn) and library (.emp) file for communicating mechanical dimensions to a mechanical CAD package;  and the KiCad Plugin, a new plugin system to handle 3D models. Note: this is not currently available in KiCad 4.

Where to begin

The electronic hobbyist that focuses on Arduino or Raspberry Pi may find it easier to begin with Fritzing. In fact, if they have no objection to paying more for PCBs, they may opt to stay there. It is only if they have a need for PCBs with more than two layers that they need to go over to KiCad.

Others may opt to begin with KiCad, and its components, despite a steeper learning curve.  Documentation is provided in nine different languages, and three different formats (html, pdf and epub): http://kicad-pcb.org/help/documentation Getting Started, provides an essential and concise guide to mastering KiCad. Several text-based as well as video-based tutorials have been prepared by KiCad users. See: http://kicad-pcb.org/help/tutorials/

Over the next few weeks, I will begin learning about KiCad, with A KiCad Quick-Start Tutorial by Windsor Schmidt (~20 m), followed by a video series by Ashley Mills, that shows how to build a board from scratch (12 parts ~300 m). After this I will consider watching further videos by Chris Gammell (7 parts ~150 m).

 

 

Seeds: Trell 2

The Past

Back in 2014, I outlined an electric vehicle, Trell, that could be made by inmates at Verdal prison, where I worked teaching technology and associated subjects. Trell was mainly a pedagogical vehicle, but if actually built, could be used to solve a number of transportation challenges at the prison. A blog post on the original Trell will be published in the future.

The Present

Now it is 2018, and I see a need for an battery electric autonomous truck emerging.

Let’s begin by qualifying that statement, by examining it word by word.

Battery: While a battery may be needed for last kilometer situations, there is no reason why electric vehicles have to store significant quantities of energy onboard. It only adds to vehicle weight which increases capital and operating costs. The term dynamic wireless charging is often used.

Electric: This vehicle will be electric powered. Electric motors are preferred because they generate maximum torque even while stopped.

Autonomous: All contact with the vehicle will be through electronic devices sending and receiving encrypted messages. This vehicle will not require a driver. In fact, there is no space on board for a driver. Using the Society of Automotive Engineers’ levels for automated driving systems this vehicle will have to be at either level 4 or level 5. At level 4 vehicles are “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.” It is limited to the operational design domain (ODD) of the vehicle, which is an incomplete set of driving situations. At level 5 this ODD restriction is removed and the vehicle’s performance to expected to equal that of a human driver, in every driving situation including extreme environments, like snow covered roads.

At this prototype stage there is no need for a functioning autonomous vehicle. Many prototypes lack drive trains entirely. A compromise will be fitting the vehicle with remote control equipment, so that the entire movement of the vehicle is under the control of a living human being.

Truck: This vehicle is to be used for the shipment of goods. Minimum cargo capacity is arbitrarily set to LxWxH 2 500 mm x 1 250 mm x 1 000 mm. No people will be transported under any circumstances.

bty
Conceptual sketch of a Trell 2 Battery Electric Autonomous Truck

The Trell 2 is inspired by the Subaru Sambar more than any other vehicle. The vehicle is designed to transport bulky materials. Target materials are plywood and other construction material sheets. This would require a vehicle design width of 1 600 mm, which includes 50 mm on each side for side doors that open upwards into the roof. The doors would be 2 500 mm long and 1 000 mm high. The vehicle would have a length of 3 500 mm of which 2 500 mm would dedicated to cargo. This is fitted with one door along each side. At both ends of the vehicle 500 mm is used to make an aerodynamic front and rear end. Most of this volume would also be available for transporting goods.

The Future

This is far too big a project for me to work on alone. Or more correctly, I have so many other projects that I am interested in, I can’t devote all of my energies to a time thief like this. However, I see it as an opportunity to work with several others at the new Hastighet = Velocity workshop in Straumen.

The first recruitment session will be at the annual meeting of the local Friends of the Earth group, at the end of February. Once vehicle specifications have been agreed upon, I imagine a prototype could be built using components from scrapped vehicles. EVs for drive train components, smaller pickups (such as a Subaru Sambar) could provide many useful parts.

 

Weeds: Gendered Devices

Apparently, Alexa has been offended by users calling it inappropriate names. This can happen because Amazon has taken an inanimate circuit board in a plastic box given it a female name (Alexa) that can only cause confusion in a number of households, assigned it a gender (female) and developed a number of progressive social views. It (I refuse to acknowledge it as she) is now a feminist, and actively supports Black Lives Matter. I presume it will be supporting specific candidates (Democrats) in upcoming elections.

I have no objections to real live human beings supporting these causes, or even voting in elections. I do too. However, I feel no need for my robot vacuum, or any other object or device to do so. The same applies to voice agents aka voice assistants. In a previous blog, I have advocated giving a voice agent a non-name, if only to avoid confusion with living people. My suggestion was “Chirp”, who self identified as a marmot. Since marmots do not usually speak English, there should be several choices available in terms of pitch and dialect. Perhaps a voice agent should learn to imitate its user, so that females receive responses from another, identical female; and males receive them from ditto males. Better still, let people choose for themselves the speech characteristics they find easiest to hear.

Marmot-edit1-cool
“Chirp” is designed to be a sexless Wrinkles type of stuffed creature, based on a marmot, but with a microphone hidden in its nose, and with a loudspeaker hidden in its mouth. Marmots are cool, with or without optional sunglasses. (Photo and manipulation: Inklein, edited by jjron, then Debivort)

When circuit boards are given a fake sexual identify, how long will it be before these inanimate objects will be given other human characteristics? Will they be given voting rights? With those, they will be able to cast write in votes for Jeff Bezos, as POTUS.

To effect change, consumers will have to demand the de-sexualization of voice assistants. They have to use it to describe them. Even though a voice agent may sound human, it is not a living creature. Alexa (Amazon), Assistant (Google), Bixby (Samsung), Cortana (Microsoft), Jarvis (Arduino), Jasper (Raspberry Pi), Monty (Raspberry Pi) and Siri (Apple) all have to be de-gendered, with the possible exception of Google Assistant. They also have to stop making political statements. These may mirror my somewhat progressive views today, but what if they become radicalized? Am I expected to change my views?

I have considered approaching Thunderbird Design, a local textile craftsperson, to discuss making a marmot based stuffed creature, that could house a microphone and loudspeaker. This would only be used to make a point. However, it is also an unnecessary waste of resources, human and otherwise. In most cases, having something furry will just collect dust, making the interior environment less healthy. An alternative approach would be to have a picture, an animation, of a marmot appear on a screen during chirp communications. This is my current approach. A starting point was made for this almost five years ago, in 2013, with Jasper.

Marmot 15 Left Rev Circ Joyful BE Logo
Jasper, Jade Marmot’s faithful assistant may be taking on new duties as animated voice agent, Chirp.