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Arduino Sensor Control

August 22nd, 2011 No comments

I have a Sharp IR sensor hooked up to my Arduino Duemillanova board in the process of testing the interface for my show, “Bandwidth”. Despite the fact that I had this set-up working one year ago at EMPAC, I am having difficulties now.

Luckily, I live in a city that has a local hackspace with a regular listserv. I put out a call for help and was answered by a robot builder named Dan Royer who has a site called Marginally Clever. I was very impressed by his ability to write and edit sketches and his friendly, helpful attitude in reminding me how to hook up my sensor to the board. His website is a fascinating look into the world of do-it-yourself robotics. You will be able to see him at Burning Man if you are attending.

Now my Arduino is happily blinking, but I still have to develop a sketch that allows me to use two sensors on the same board without an extreme amount of latency. As Dan writes in a post “Robotics is a lot of Trial an Error” — Integrated Art is exactly the same. Build it and see if you can make it work.

Photos coming soon.

 

 

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1990 Yamaha FJ1200 Sold

July 25th, 2011 No comments

The last of the true sport+touring bikes located in Vancouver, Canada.

The seat is narrow and the bike has been lowered for a smaller rider, but the shocks can be adjusted to suit any rider quickly.

I love my FJ1200,it is like a flying couch, so smooth and comfortable for rider and passenger.

DSC_0001_01It will be more practical for me to have a bike that I can pick up if it falls over.

If you know about this fine motorcycle, then you are aware that it is one of the last of the air-cooled giants. That makes it a little lighter compared with the water-cooled 4 cylinder bikes. This machine is a daily ride in excellent mechanical shape.

I have added engine guards and a rear rack imported from the UK.

The amazing thing on the bike is the custom luggage — two pelican cases hold a lot of stuff. Waterproof – lifetime warrantee.

One key opens both cases and an extra lock that I keep to lock my helmet to the bike.

Heated grips are an installed custom item with a choice of two heat ranges – switch located near left hand grip.

I am asking $3300. but will consider negotiating a trade – I need a smaller, newer bike with luggage.

Contact me vixmedia (at) gmail (dot) com

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Arduino Sensor Sucess

September 18th, 2010 No comments

Do-it-yourself culture is moving from the area of home renovations and bike repairs to making your own computer controlled gadget.

Makerspaces and Hackspaces are proliferating around the world as more individuals realize they can create a small machine to do the exact tasks that they want.

One of the most popular small brains that are used to control these gadgets are Arduino Boards, The brain on the board is not as smart as your phone but, there are a lot of things it can do.  A good place to start finding out what other ingenious inventors are up to is the Make Magazine on-line. Yes, some of the projects are awesome and complete instructions can usually be found to duplicate the results.

Inspired by the cool projects other people were making, I decided to use the Arduino board to make a sensor that would control my computer when I am using it for music or video performance.  There are several places that Arduino boards are available on-line, and the SmartProjects company that makes them has a listing of distributors and retail outlets.

I was planning to go to an educational workshop in Troy, New York where I would have an opportunity to work on using this technology. I did not know if anyone else would be trying out Arduino boards, but I was confident that I could get it to work.

I live in Vancouver, Canada and I could buy a lot of Arduino products from Lee’s Electronics on Main St. but, I was worried about taking the boards through US customs. Since the homeland security staff are checking Canadians very closely, I decided to order the boards in New York and have them shipped to the university where the workshop was held. I could imagine trying to explain to a suspicious customs agent that I was using these computer parts for a multi-media project. Why bother to risk missing my plane, when Adafruit is one of the largest dealers of do-it-yourself Arduino goodies in the USA and they have a lot of helpful information on their site. They are located in NYC, so I ordered from them.

I had investigated Arduino boards by attending an evening at the local Vancouver Hackspace. The denizens of the place were mostly drawn from a pool of programmers who wanted to do something more fun with their skills than making sure the heating system in your office building works. They were very used to working with this type of code and they moved very fast. However, I was convinced that I could do this if I had the time to research. Trial and lots of error usually works in the end.

I went off to the workshop and the boards were delivered as planned.

I had done quite a bit of research and I knew there were different types of Arduino boards. I ordered two: the Duemilanove (pictured above) and a Boarduino clone kit. The Duemilanove is the basic Arduino, so I thought the most information would be available and It would be the default for the program to upload the code. I bought the Boardino because I liked the idea of the breadboard being a part of the unit and I thought it would help me understand the system if I actually built one. Unfortunately, the kit did not cme with a breadboard, so I have not tried to make it yet.

Adafruit Boarduino clone

Adafruit Boarduino clone

With the boards, I also purchased two types of power supplies, one that plugs in the wall and one that uses batteries. This was because I didn’t know how I was going to be using the unit and I thought it might be good to have the battery power available. I also bought a selection of sensors: Infra-red distance sensor, motion sensor and some small sensors that measure tilt and heat. I also bought a few LED lights and some connector wires (male and female). The total bill was $150 USD – my budget for this project.

When I go to Lee’s and buy the breadboard I will do a post on making the Boarduino.

It might have been more economical to buy the starter pack, but I did not need another USB cable – the wires did seem important, so I bought male and female connectors. Read more…

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November in the Rain

November 12th, 2008 No comments

Vancouver has settled into the “rainy with cloudy periods” weather pattern that will sustain until the spring. On November 13th my motorcycle insurance expires and the Big Bike goes into the carport for a long nap. Meanwhile, I have engine bars and a carry rack coming from Renntec Motorcycle Accessories and I am still trying to figure out the luggage system. My goal is to have a working system in place by spring so I can start to test it all out with local trips before leaving town.

I am trying to wait until the last possible minute to buy a video camera to mount on the bike. Technology is advancing so that anything I buy now will be outdated by spring. I will have to take the plunge at some point, just so I can practice with the machine before actually mounting it on the Yamaha FJ1200. I am sure there will also be mounting and vibration problems, but I hope to get everything worked out before next summer.

Cell phone companies are now interested in assisting me with streaming video off the bike, for a fee of course. The streaming would be limited to areas with cell phone coverage, so the mountains and more remote areas would be off the grid. I would still like to stream to a satellite, but the concept will take more development.

With the dark days and fewer distractions, I am sure the book will advance exponentially and I will keep you all posted on the progress of the project.

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Air-cooled Bike in a Water-cooled World

September 11th, 2008 No comments

The cooler weather has arrived, but the sun is shining as Vancouver sees the last cloudless days for a while. This weather is the prime season for my motorcycle as I no longer have to worry so much about over-heating my air-cooled engine. In the heat of summer, a traffic jam caused by the endless road work or skytrain construction that we are blessed with, can cause immediate concern for the temperature of the two middle cylinders. With four heat producing cylinders, the temperature of the engine rises quickly and I am wise to kill the engine and push the big machine as much as I can through inching traffic. The armor that I wear starts to stick to my skin and my patience starts to erode.

Post-Labour Day September, the cooler air and reduced traffic on the highways made the idea of a weekend trip to Seattle with my daughter seem like a wonderful diversion. I still don’t have the video camera or hard luggage, but we were only going for a weekend. This was the longest trip I had ever taken with a passenger, but my daughter knows how to become part of the bike. I felt confident that it would be safer than her last trip in August on the bus shuttle service from Vancouver to Seattle. The bus was tied up in a four hour border wait and then was hit by a semi-trailer truck in Seattle. I had a premonition of danger when I dropped her off at the bus, but I had thought it was related to the helmet I was lending her. She told me that she was going to be a passenger with a young man who had recently started riding. I was worried about this idea, but at least she had an approved helmet. After the bus incident, I have to say that I am going when my time comes and I guess my daughter is too. I was worried about the motorcycle as statistically, most accidents happen to new riders, but sometimes I have to let go and say, despite my considerable investment, “It is your life”.

I don’t push my luck though, and I was careful to purchase additional medical insurance for us both before we left. Given my daughter’s proclivity for dangerous episodes, I bought it for a year. I departed from work earlier than usual, but I wanted to wait until the worst of rush hour was over before facing the suburban traffic snarls. We were packed and mobile by 6:30pm taking the South Granville bridge and driving though Richmond to avoid the Oak St line-up. Even though it would take the same amount of time, it is time with air over the cylinders. It was windy on the Highway 99 stretch between Richmond and the border, with nothing but open farm fields and suburban developments to block the wind off the ocean. I was glad to have the extra weight on the back as we passed a few semi-trucks. With the Yamaha FJ 1200, there is always plenty of power, but I am so light I often get blown around by the wind. There were some darker clouds ahead and was a bit concerned about rain in the small mountainous region near Bellingham. We were being buffeted by strong cross-winds and the smell of rain was in the air.

As I crouched to try to keep my windblown hair from whipping my passenger, we passed a cushy Honda Goldwing with full fairing and a big passenger seat with backrest built into the luggage. The rider had a sense of humour as he gestured to my daughter that his back seat would be far more comfortable for her than mine. At 100km per hour (legal speed) it was pretty amusing. He turned off at White Rock and I climbed the big hill towards the border. Read more…

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Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

Portrait by Drockleberry

August 6th, 2008 No comments

Thanks for the great portrait of me — in a helmet!

I really am pleased.

Click to view drawing of Victoria.

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Hard Cases not included

August 2nd, 2008 No comments

My beautiful, big bike is 18 years old and accessories are not easy to find. I really need some hard luggage to do any serious touring. This fact has become very clear as I had to carry my gear in a bag all over the Folk Festival on Saturday. On Sunday my daughter arranged for me to stash my biking clothes backstage, so it wasn’t so bad. Now it is time to get serious about this issue. I must get custom bags.

1642_big-bike.png

Right now I have a piece of local motorcycling history, Skookum bags made in Vancouver many years ago. They have a lot of good features, including a plastic cover in a velcro pocket on the bottom that covers the bags in the rain. They have been sturdy and durable, but I have to be careful to keep them off the pipes or they will get damaged by the heat. The biggest problem is lack of security as they really can’t be locked. I was inexperienced in the world of big bikes and touring when I bought this motorcycle, but now I would not buy any bike that does not already have suitable luggage. This has been a difficult and expensive addition to my wheels.

I am showing measurements now for potential replacement bags, so here is how much room my Skookum soft bags use. The tape measure is resting on the exhaust pipe and it is 16″ to the top of the seat.

1639_skookum-high_sm.png

Stuffed full, they add 12″ to the width of the bike on each side and hard case mounts will increase the width. I am showing this detail because I know I can live with these bags and something this wide will not be a problem.

1637_skookum-width.png

Read more…

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Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

Camera Research – Two Streams

July 27th, 2008 No comments

Camera research has taken a lot of my time lately as I am finalizing my options. At this point it seems like a good idea to have two recording systems on the bike. This will be an expensive option, but possibly worth it. A lower resolution, “always on” system that will record every time I ride the motorcycle and a removable high resolution camera that I will control while riding. My previous research can be found here, and much of this page will refer back to systems I have already considered, when adding new information.

Low Resolution Camera

The low-resolution camera and recording system can be integrated into the motorcycle electrical grid, so it can operate as any electrical accessory, in the background. The image is highly compressed, so not as much memory is required to store hours of video. The downside of this is that the video will not be high enough quality to fill a large screen, but the benefit is that I won’t miss some great moment because I didn’t have the camera turned on. I do intend to artistically re-purpose this footage, not just present a travel diary; so split screens and vignettes can integrate lower resolution material, particularly if I catch something interesting.

Equipment Sources

The On-Bike TV site is now OnBoard TV and they carry the Bullet DVR recorder and the ubiquitous 560 line Sony camera. The camera has been improved since December and now has interchangeable lenses. HelmetCamera.com has a similar package and a Canadian company, Micro Video Products has equipped other motorcyclists.

The proven advantages of these systems are many, as they can be wired directly into the bike’s electrical system, the equipment is very small and easy to install and the flash memory is inexpensive and commonly available. It can be mounted on the motorcycle, more or less permanently, so that it is a very easy task to record constantly. The disadvantages are in the video quality and the difficulties I have had in editing compressed file formats. I find .avi to be the most widely accepted by editors and MEPG4 to be difficult to edit without converting the file. As soon as the file is converted, there is usually a degradation in quality. I will have to now look at available editing tools to see if editing technology has caught up with MPEG4 as this is an essential factor in choosing a system.

High Resolution Camera

The high-resolution camera is requiring a lot of research. There are a lot of options on the horizon right now and the introduction of High Definition (HD) video as a viable, affordable option has changed the “pro-sumer” marketplace. There are many independent video producers who are driving the demand for broadcast quality recording and with recent advances in technology, some are achieving big screen release with low budget gear.

My research last year pointed me towards cameras that had 3 charge-coupled devices (CCD) in Standard Definition (SD) cameras as having the best quality recording, and three CCD cameras still do capture the best quality colour because they use a different sensor chip for each colour — red, green and blue (RGB). Reds in particular are hard to capture and true black is always elusive, although PAL format is supposed to be better than NTSC. PAL format is mainly used in Europe and NTSC in North America and the formats are not interchangeable, although they can be converted.
Now High Definition (HD) cameras have become more available, the 3 CCD models are very expensive, packed with professional features and quite large in size. It has been argued that HD with a single, larger CCD chip recording more lines of resolution can offer comparable results to an SD with three smaller size chips, even though the colour might be a little more washed out. There are a lot of “D”‘s for definition in this alphabet soup because it is the operative word in video quality. Read more…

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Respect For the Big Bike

July 17th, 2008 1 comment

It all comes down to respect for the bike. I am realizing that the wonders of the big-bike are only now beginning to unfold to me. Although I am an experienced rider, I have not yet fully understood how different this bike is from any other that I have owned. Riding a large street-bike is an inspirational experience, but I realize that I have not been recognizing the extent of the difference in riding style and the maintenance required to minimize danger to the rider. I have been riding it like an overweight dirt bike; bouncing over the bumps and flying with very little patches of tire on the road.

FJ with video mount

After falling down, I took the FJ 1200 to Simon to check the brakes and to try to help me understand what happened. We returned to the scene of the first left-hand slider on the third day after the accident. The pavement at 16th and Cambie is very uneven due to Skytrain construction. The place I fell has a split pavement with each side of the lane a different height. The scraped ridge followed a manhole cover pavement mound, bulging from the road right after the bumpy intersection. The deep scratch, where I bent the foot of my centre stand on the pavement and the patch of gas where I had landed, were mute evidence to how much ground I covered on my side while I fell. I was going slowly and braking lightly, not stressed and hauling in the brake.

It felt like the bike had bounced up in the air, then lay down, and originally, I had thought that the bike had rebounded off of a neglected side-stand. Simon and I agreed that I had come too far from where I last parked to have left the side-stand down unscraped. So what could cause this effect? It was succinctly explained to me that if the front wheel locks up the rider can no longer steer the bike as the front wheel is not turning. The bike will slide in the direction it chooses based on tilt of pavement, direction of travel and other factors. Suddenly, I was really scared.

For some reason, I had never really pictured sliding on my FJ with the front wheel locked and not being able to steer. Read more…

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Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200

On-bike Video Camera Mount

July 13th, 2008 2 comments

My research of internet sites that feature motorcycle mounted video footage must include Virtual Riding Television. Jeff and his wife have made a trip across Canada together on a 2003 Harley-Davidson with a video camera mounted on their bike in 2006. The bike is a really beautiful touring machine that carries them both and Jeff has a lot of good information on his site. In an e-mail to me replying to my request for advice, he reminds me of the realties of the trip by saying that the most valuable piece of gear he took was his VISA card. Check out his site for some interesting virtual motorcycling.

The Harley is a dream machine, but even heavier than my Yamaha FJ1200. I plan to stick with the old iron for now and use a different camera mounting plan. I did a lot of research and I have to agree with both Jeff on the big Harley and the $5 camera mount demonstration rider that having the camera on the front of the bike gives the most realistic virtual motorcycling result. So, I talked over my options with Simon and we came up with the following idea. Here is an FJ fairing frame held in Simon’s strong, masculine hand. I have marked the areas where the mirrors are usually mounted when the rest of the frame is covered in the plastic fairing. This is a steel frame that is attached to the steel bike frame, so it is very stable and strong.

FJ fairing frame with mirror mounts shown

During the Jazz Festival my bike did spend a bit of time at Simon’s garage. When I dropped it the first time I broke a mirror off and did some other damage. This gave us a perfect opportunity to carry out the plan, and here is the prototype of the result.

Side by side FJ

Close-up of mirror mount attachment

Simon has since painted the mount black, so it blends in with the bike, but the prototype is more visible in the photo. The wide angle mirrors are still chrome and they stand way out from the stock profile. I can really see in them, as they are amazingly adjustable over a wide field of view. There is more vibration than in the damped stock mirrors that have a weight in them, but they are very functional.

This mount will be strong and can carry quite a heavy camera with full benefit of the bike suspension to smooth the ride. Now I have to find a waterproof camera housing for the video camera and shock-mount it on this steel rail. This is to protect from wind, that can cause vibration and blurring, as well as from rain. I will be consulting with many sources and will post about the progress.

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