Sunday, 18 September 2022

Anatomy of a Crash

Lately, I have been a little silent about my electric kickbike.

I always felt that since I don't drive drunk in the center of the city in the middle of Friday night, I would be immune to crashing. Not so!

My other pet theory said if I would crash it would likely be a collision with one of those ultra-fast cyclists. Not so either!

All happened in broad daylight through my own actions.

Some background. I had driven for more than 25 kilometers that day, experimenting with maximum range. After loading the battery half-full and getting a lift I headed back home, looking to drive some 10+ kilometers still.

The Grand Tour of Summer 2022

At that point I had my fill of driving for the day and had become tired and a little irritated. I just wanted to get back home quickly.

The crash occurred in middle of a central park, on non-paved roads with trees close by. It is something I'm not that experienced with, although I had survived the area earlier that day going the other direction. I diligently slowed down whenever there were other road users about, but when the coast was clear I often went for the 25km/h.

The story I have been telling since then went something like this:

Suddenly, the road profile changed rapidly from flat to a central bulge. I found myself veering towards the woods and could not brake efficiently enough. Something told me I should not try turning towards the middle of the path. Before halting, I hesitated and kind of semi-jumped off the board, letting the kickbike go over.

The morning of that day, not the actual crash site

I may have reduced the speed to possibly 15km/h or even less. Obviously when my feet hit the ground I could not keep balance, I rolled and fell on my left side, the shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. As my head lolled it took a bit of a knock too.

After swearing loudly and feeling my head for any blood, of which I found none, I lifted the kickbike, eyeballed it for any major damage and started immediately driving again. My two first thoughts were the fairly irrelevant "luckily no one saw this" and the more appropriate "why the fuck I didn't buy a helmet".

I soon felt it's insane to continue and needed to sit down, worrying about possible concussion. Taking stock of the situation, I realized my shoulder is very hurt, but that I could still navigate to home. After reaching there, I lied down and felt my collar bone and shoulder. After some Googling and a phone call it was off to the doctor. They confirmed the suspicion but fortunately the fracture was not major. A few weeks with an arm sling and a total of 6 weeks of recuperation would do.

It is somewhat fortunate the kickbike did not become damaged, although if I could now make a trade I would have preferred to have stayed healthy.

For a month I would not drive at all, and especially did not drive my own kickbike as I absolutely could not carry it in the stairs. So, as a punishment I also lost a lot of good driving weather.

Six weeks later, returning to the site

The evil road, revisited in Autumn

After having the experience I did reflect on it a lot, alternatively blaming myself and yet trying to find blame in the environment.

When I returned to the scene six weeks later, I couldn't really find evidence of that malevolent piece of road that threw me off. I couldn't really even find the exact crash site. Going backwards and forwards I couldn't see much wrong with the surface. To be honest the paths I had navigated in the morning of that day looked far more tricky.

All I can now say is that the path edges were perhaps a little vague. I may have already been sort of off-road when I noticed something is wrong. Or, there was some fairly minor anomaly in the road that could have been easily avoided had I not insisted on driving so near the edge.

Or I was just tired and did not pay attention to the path that looked easy compared to the other more narrow, twisting paths.

I have also thought I could have handled the situation better. But I maybe did the right thing after all, at least in braking first and letting the kickbike take its course, rather than trying to rapidly change the trajectory of a 100kg+ system in full speed. By not jumping off I might have avoided the fall, but it's hard to say what might have happened then.

I finally did get the helmet, though.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Blog post written with Protext on Amstrad

The following was written in early June, and I thought I had published it already. I just wanted something out before August ends :)

Text created in Protext begins->

Ok, so this Amstrad typing career has gotten slightly out of hand. But I just had to explore at least some alternatives to the rather slow and old-fashioned Tasword.

This is Protext on the Amstrad 6128, not the CP/M version though.

Already I feel the cursor movement around the paragraphs is more modern. Inserting between text is on by default and performs much like the "auto-insert" on Tasword, that is, as we now expect it to work.

I can insert lines by pressing return, and lines can be removed by using delete at the left edge, so I don't have to remember a separate ctrl-key combination to do these obvious things.

The first time I encountered anything weird was when I tried to backtrack my cursor to the previous line. This cannot be done by using arrow left at the left side of the screen, even if the text is part of the same paragraph. This is curious as I can indeed backspace to the previous line. In fact I can use shift+left arrow to get the cursor there.

My impression with Protext is that it indeed is quite fast and better for editing text than the Tasword. It has less weirdness of the 1980s home computer word processors.

Protext is not entirely free of clunkiness. Again the justify is on by default, adjusted to a particular page width. This width setting is not really even respected, if I for example delete a line to a previous line or I write new words into an already wide line.

But it is possible to use a Ctrl+f to reformat a paragraph. Doing this automatically might have been too slow and behave weirdly. I could also easily turn the justify off and have more normal looking text-editor paragraphs. Perhaps the software works a little faster for it, too.

If I turn off the word-wrap with Ctrl+w (not mentioned on the help bar), the cursor keeps going forever to the right. So only if I press return the pararaph will be completed, which is kind of correct, but it is not visually a very good solution.

I do note that Protext appears to have only about 20K free for text, which is not that much. Remember Tasword running on CPC6128 had more than 60K to work with. I'm not out to write a novel anyway, these tiny blog posts take about 2K.

Saving the file was not immediately obvious, as the Help bar only gives key shortcuts for text editing. Although the Tasword file menu appeared somewhat basic it was actually quite clear. However, the problem was not huge. Pressing ESC gives a kind of command line interface together with the possibility to have HELP. Using S will prompt a filename and save the file.

Moving a paragraph is not more complicated than with Tasword. Bonus points for using the actual COPY key that is featured on the Amstrad keyboard. Shift+COPY creates markers for both start and end, then Ctrl+M moves the area.

A somewhat more general problem with Amstrad text editing is that the computer does not have separate backspace and delete keys, the single DEL key instead acts as a backspace. Pressing shift+DEL does not result in forward delete, unlike I had hoped.

So, on with Protext until something better comes along. I might still give Tasword a chance, given I can find the options for making the software behave faster and better. However, even then the Protext overall typing and text editing experience is much better.

Afterthoughts (written in Blogger)

This time I fixed a few typos in the above text, as they made the sentences unclear. I already know that a few typographical errors, repeats, mannerisms and other brain farts get through when I simply write the whole piece from top to bottom. To me the idea that the text editor might influence overall composition, is more interesting.

I had some trouble with transferring the file to Linux. Firstly, I realized I had to use the PRINTF command to "print" the output of the document to a file, this way there are no command codes and such that might result from using the S-Save command.

The first resulting file was corrupt, but this may have been because the disk image I used in HxC was not valid enough. I'm also thinking the converting tools were not up to the task, as the Protext on Amstrad side seemed to read the files back happily.

Using a more "clean" empty disk image I got the file out. Just as with the Tasword file, I did some manual work removing the returns from line endings, here I also removed the tabbing and page breaks. Again, there was also some junk at the bottom of the file.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Handlebar mod

Although I have liked the wide handlebar, at 60cm it's perhaps just a little too wide.

For fun, I also measured the handlebars of various rentals. The measures are not accurate to the millimeter, I used a tape measure and it was not always simple to get an unobstructed measurement.

Voi  60cm
Lime 60cm*
Ryde 55cm
Tier 52cm
Dott 52cm
Bird 52cm

*) The handlebar is curved, I measured the straight line from end to end.

From top left, clockwise: Voi, Tier, Dott, Bird, Lime, Ryde

The comparison isn't very meaningful as I have only tried the Voi. But it looks though the 52cm is more common. 

Interesting though that Voi should increase the width. Last year's Voi rental kickbike had 56cm width (I measured it).... but, strangely enough, this year's model appears to have 60cm wide handlebar.

If there's any new observation to be made here, it's that the handlebars are always somewhat ahead of the stem, which is not the case in the Zeeclo.

The 52cm is likely impossible to achieve, and perhaps not even desirable. But I could comfortably take 4cm off, if possible, making it 56cm.

The major constraint here is collapsing the handlebar, as the two "pull-out" components need some space to move. The above shows the parts (red) extended, demonstrating how little room there are for the various parts on the handlebar.

Although the left side has generous 30mm free room, the right side is crowded. After considering this from a few angles with CAD and pencil sketches, I decided that if I take the display out (the green part) I can do the cut. 

The grips were again pulled out, and this was not as arduous task as last time.

There are plastic caps at the end of the metal pipes, after removing these I created a 20mm trace round the pipe using a vernier caliper and a paper knife.

Then it was just sawing off with the hacksaw. The blade was Sandflex BI-METAL 24TPI, which, judging from the diagram, should be fine for hollow pipes with some material thickness. (22mm pipe with 2.7mm walls here)

I was a little rusty with the saw, but the second cut was already quite fast. With a hacksaw, the angle of the saw is not necessarily the angle of the blade and the cut. I took care to create a good vertical cut from the beginning, so it would act as a guide for the rest of the sawing. 

I guess the ends ought to be covered with paint, but I might still cut off a little more.

Putting the rubber grips back, I noticed it can be useful to cover the "airhole" at the end of the grip with my palm. This creates an airbuffer or something that allows the grip sink in very rapidly and easily. This felt counterintuitive as I thought the hole is there precisely to allow air out.

For a few days the display was simply left dangling around the wires.

Test Drive

I felt this change improved the handling of the kickbike. I could take the tighter turning arcs more comfortably, and it is even possible the handlebar is less shaky.

The height of the stem was accidentally changed too, so I can't attribute everything to just this one change. Looking at past photographs, it's not that different though.

Wait, there's more!

There's the issue of the loose speedometer/computer. The local shops had a surprisingly few handlebar extenders. GoPro camera owners are well catered, but there's scarcely anything else. I couldn't see good parts in the hardware store, so this time I abandoned the DIY angle.

eBay to the rescue. After browsing a while I could find a shop in Ireland that sells these handlebar extension racks in 10cm and 20cm varieties:

The 22mm pipe is extremely flimsy, but it doesn't add much weight either. The clamp is 8.5mm wide, which is rather good.

Below is one of my first attempts. Good sense says the display might be better near the center, or at the right side, but I couldn't resist putting it here among the other controls.

The clamp is in an unorthodox place, around the moving bolt. However at this point I don't have the 1cm space in the handlebar!

As I mentioned this could be fixed by having shorter rubber grips.

These grips are 13cm, but can be easily cut into 11cm without breaking the appearance. These grips didn't feel that great to the skin, but I can at least use them to test the idea.

The grips were not as easy to push in. Halfway through I gave up, and then I couldn't get it out!

Fortunately the material is so rubbery I can roll it inside out. This also gave me an idea of how to install the grips, should I want to use these.

But I will save these thoughts for another time.

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Tool time: Drill guides

I got a drill guide and a doweling jig, after a situation where these might have been useful. But I can at least blog about them.

In the past I have managed with drilling through a wooden block and using that as a guide, but these ad hoc pieces easily get lost and mixed up.

When ordering from the internet, half the trouble is knowing the Finnish words for some items. Again, when writing this blog, there's the added trouble of finding the English words.


Wooden dowel pin : Poratappi
Drill Guide : Porausohjain
Drill Stop/Depth Stop: Poraussyvyyden rajoitin(!)
Dowel joint: Tappiliitos, Poratappiliitos
Doweling Jig/Dowel Gauge : Tapitusohjain
(Dowel drill) centre point : Tapituskeskitin
Hex key/Allen key/Allen wrench :  Kuusiokoloavain

Often Google Translate can't figure these out correctly, and the terms are not certain to begin with. According to GT, tapitusohjain is "Tap Controller", and poratappi is "Drill Pin".

Looking at item lists of complete doweling kits was the easiest way to reveal the terminology.

Dowel joints aren't exactly the state of the art, but they can be done at home without huge tools. At least somewhat precise positions and 90 degree angles are needed, so guides like these can be handy.

First, the Wolfcraft Dowelmaster jig:

This jig has an adjustable/removable block that helps position the jig against an edge. Then I can drill 6mm holes through the device.

The drill stop is almost necessary for preventing accidentally drilling through the material. The stop is tightened in place using a tiny Allen key. It did keep falling out, though, it would work better on the non-bladed area of the drill.

At this position drilling the right hand side was rather easy. To make a 6mm hole at the left side was trickier because the tool can't be mirrored. (The holes are for 6, 8 and 10mm pins respectively)

Drilling the holes through the edge was little harder, it would be helpful to have the piece attached somewhere.

As can be seen my test joint is not very precise. But the result was ok considering the wood was not very even or cut very accurately, I wouldn't blame the jig here.

The idea of keeping the device at place with your hands is fast, but also kind of crap. Especially here when working with small pieces I kept trying to find a good position.

There are more straightforward jigs that can be clamped to the piece. But the Wolfcraft jig has a few tricks up its sleeve. The contraption can be held diagonally against the edge of the wood, the edge held firmly within the "X" shape of the jig. There are two ways to do this depending on the thickness of the wood. The pinhole position can't be adjusted but at least the holes will be equidistant.

I liked the simple drill guide. ("accumobil Mobile Drilling Aid") It's not specifically made for dowel pins, but it does have the 6,8,10 sizes.

The device is better used upside-down, because what looks like the top works better for the special cases of drilling into a corner or a round object.

There are also marker lines around the guide. If you want to use them you have to mark your boards very generously because otherwise they are not very easy to see. 

Here the wooden piece is so small I couldn't even check the lines from all directions. It may be a better to make ~2mm deep initial drillhole and then finish the job with the guide.

Here I also made use of the drill centre points, these small metal pins.

The idea is that the drill hole positions don't need to be super-precise. Drill holes into the first board, then put the centre points in the holes. The second board (edge) is pushed agains the pins and the drill locations will be correctly marked.

For the edges, I again used the doweling jig, and I wasn't very comfortable with it but the result was fine. It would work much better if I had gone through the trouble of clamping and positioning the parts with more care.

So, altogether these felt robust enough for my purposes.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Summer update

After having the eletric kickbike for more than six months, I have barely 150km in the odometer. During the hot and dry summer days this might change.

I still occasionally use the voi rental scooters, because it is sometimes just handier to not stress about the parking. Although, with the attention now given to mis-parking, it can be slightly stressful too. Also as the number of rentals in Helsinki is growing (voi, lime, tier, dott, bird) I'm somehow happier not having to think about them.

But the voi handlebar is really stable compared to my "zeeclo". In fact it is one of my on-going gripes with this model, it is somewhat shaky and needs to be aligned with the wheel from time to time. I mean, how difficult it would have been to design so it wouldn't rotate at all?

I bought a modest lock that should prevent the simplest thieving actions. 

But I haven't decided what would be the best solution here. Collapsing the kickbike perhaps draws less attention to the vehicle and could discourage people from fooling with the controls. However, in this state it could be carried rather easily away after cutting the lock.

Apart from the lock, I have bought an electronic pump to adjust the wheel pressures. This I will discuss separately at some later time. 

Let's just say I avoided the weird generic instructions at the Zeeclo website which suggested the wheels could be set at 50-60PSI. It might not be applicable to the Zeeclo Fenix at all. I instead followed the value of 35PSI found on the wheels itself. The vehicle is marginally faster when there's more pressure in the wheels.

I would have taken it to the workplace earlier, but the elevator was fixed only recently. It barely fit into the small space of the elevator! Mind you, the distance to work is so small I barely need the scooter for my commute.

I have kept quite accurate record of my travels. Without making it too obvious where my homebase is, I combined the extents of my journeys into a single image, courtesy of Google Earth and the handy "path" function.

The map doesn't mean I have driven extensively in the city centre. On the contrary, I have mostly avoided the central areas, instead favouring dedicated bike routes even in cases where they make the trip longer.

The supposed 20km range (10 there and 10 back) gives some limits to these trips but I have not really even used this range yet. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Logitech K400plus keyboard

I am not a huge fan of wireless keyboards, but for this "TV controller" I made an exception, especially as it is a combination of keyboard and a trackpad. With this I can access a Linux computer connected to a TV at the other side of the room.

In the past, I have looked at various phone-sized micro-keyboard solutions but it's perhaps good I did not take that route. I need to type in terminal commands or even edit configuration files, which would be too painful with tiny keys.

The not-too-powerful Fujitsu Esprimo Q510 works as the video source, running Ubuntu Linux. When I plugged in the USB dongle, the computer responded to it immediately, no problems.

The lightness of the keyboard case is here a bonus but understandably it is also somewhat plasticky.

The feel of the keyboard itself is adequate, which likely means I'll get used to it. The styling gives an appearance of flat keys, but they are really not that flat. The key travel distance is larger than for example in the Apple keyboards. The keys are quite silent compared to the mechanical keyboards I have been using lately.

The compact cursor key cluster is not ideal for these kind of keys. It's also possible to accidentally move your hand over to the trackpad when typing at the right hand side.

The mute and volume keys worked as expected.

There is a mysterious yellow key at the top left corner. I hoped it might switch the trackpad on/off, but it is really just the left mousebutton. This seems unnecessary as the trackpad has buttons, but it can be useful if I hold the keyboard in both hands and try to do something with the mouse.

There's a power switch too, hopefully it helps save batteries. The manual promised 18 months of battery time, I'll have to check on that promise.

I did encounter some hiccups with the key transmission, likely because there were obstacles between the keyboard and the USB. I need to continue using the keyboard to see if it really happens again. 

For what it's worth, I switched the USB transceiver to a different port as it was "behind" the wlan interface in relation to the sofa. I think it would be better to place the USB wlan to the other side entirely.

This keyboard looks like a good solution for the TV. When I have used it more, I can comment something about using the screen from distance. Only after zooming the terminal window, I could really see what I'm typing from across the room.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Spring Cleaning the CPC Keyboard

Again, written on Amstrad, mistakes and all:

After experimenting with writing on Amstrad and the Tasword, I felt something could be done to the keyboard. It's not that the keys didn't work, but they tended to get stuck.

As a remedy, I decided to open the keyboard, have a look inside and clean anything that might look suspicious. Old keyboards do need some care.

On removing the keyboard module, I realised how much more impressive this is than the Sinclair membrane system. The membrane is hidden inside a very protected environment, where very little or no dust can interfere.

After carefully peeling the keyboard layer from the metal base, the parts become revealed. On top of the metal base there is the membrane, and on top of that lies the black plastic frame for holding the keys.

At this point, there is almost nothing to do, as the insides of the keyboard module are surprisingly clean. Just a light dusting off is enough. Then I can get into removing the keys.

Each of the key has two or maximum of two "hooks" which have to be carefully pressed inwards to make the key fall off. Fortunately my fingernails are of the correct length here, I could remove the keys rather easily.

I left the more difficult looking wide keys last, as they also have a tiny metal rod to balance the keypress. These keys I removed one at a time, cleaned them and their surroundings, and put them back immediately. This way I wouldn't get confused with parts.

With the Return keys I noticed one of the "hooks" were missing. However I am almost certain I did not break it myself. Putting it back together the key felt ok, it doesn't really need both of them.

Then began the tedious process of cleaning each of the keys and generally fiddling about. I didn't have a master plan here, I felt it ought to be enough if I clean everything with somewhat moist Q-tips. Although with them I have to take care not to leave the tiny pieces of fabric the Q-tips tend to leave.

Just to feel I'd done something I strecthed the large spings a little before putting them back into place. Experimentally I also filed the keyboard holes a little in the hope this would prevent them getting less stuck.

Then everything is put back together, everything's fine? Not really at first. To my horror, a single key, the key F did not function at all. There were also some problem with space key producing two spaces more often than one!

Having a single key non-functioning meant the problem was not in the matrix, as this would result in a cluster of non-functional keys. So I pushed the key with some more force, and I heard a not very reassuring "SNAP". Fortunately this was the snapping together of the final hook between the plastic case and the metal plate. For some reason I had neglected to check if they are really properly all together.

I also gave the keyboard a sort of bash-around, bit like a guitarist does to strings after changing them. This seemed to help a little and the nuisances were mostly behind. I still feel something is off with the space bar, but at least it doesn't double-space anymore.

As a test I wrote the above text and this paragraph with the Tasword. Although not everything is perfect and I have not yet become used to the keyboard, it's already better for typing and I can perhaps dare say it could be better than a Sinclair QL keyboard after all.

I felt more encouraged to do this now that I got my HxC floppy emulator write problems resolved. The writes simply failed before I disconnected the internal floppy drive entirely. So, now I don't have to resort to photographing the screen but instead had to find a way to get the file to the Linux enviroment, a much more interesting task.

End of part written on Amstrad.

Back to Normality

I was so eager to transmit the above text to Linux, I did not check it and so there are a few typos.

The photograph below shows the plastic hook of the return key was already broken before I removed the key. Left from the center and a little down. Nice!

After some more typing I felt I could still open the keyboard one more time and improve some individual keys. At least the keys no longer become stuck in normal typing.

Getting the file back to Linux was easier than I thought. The HxCFloppyEmulator GUI version helped me convert the .hfe file into an Amstrad .dsk image.

Possibly because the image had not originated from iDSK, that program did not recognize it. Luckily I already had compiled the alternative sector-cpc. This did the job:

./sector-cpc --file blogpost.dsk extract post2.txt

This digs out the file post2.txt from the blogpost.dsk image file and saves it on the Linux filesystem.

Looking at the text there were some idiosyncrasies. Although I had written everything as paragraphs, pressing return only at the end, the file had 0x0D and 0x0A (Carriage Return and Line Feed) after every visible "line":

The spaces that Tasword had visually inserted to help center the columns are actually included as characters! For this one case, I manually formatted the paragraphs and used find-replace to destroy the double and triple spaces, before copy-pasting the results to Blogger.

The image above also shows the garbage at the end of the text proper, partly a leftover of earlier editing. Whether this was something the sector-cpc produced when exporting the file, I'm not sure.

These issues can probably be adjusted in the Tasword settings, should I continue with my 8-bit writing career in the future. Alternatively I could write a program or script for tidying the text files.