Saturday, February 26, 2011

Volkswagen making a $600 car that gets 258mpg? Probably not.

The part that seems too good to be true is the price. I don't know where that came from. I did some google searching and came across a page that casts some skepticism on that low of a price point. Now, that page claims it'll cost more like $26,000. If so, no thanks.. I'd be interested if it were $600 actually.

This is a really neat little car anyways. One website says it's actually two seats, the other one is right behind the front seat... like a jet fighter. The motor is a 299cc single-cylinder diesel engine. I'm not a mechanical person, is single-cylinder even possible? I'm sure it doesn't have the acceleration of a jet fighter :) But with gas prices probably never dropping again, unless we have another deep recession, anything that uses less gas is awesome in my book.

Begin tangent here....

Electric cars are available now, but only really economical if you build one. It's very much like the early days of the Ham Radio pioneers or the computer hobbyists of the 70's. If you want one, it's better and cheaper to build than it is to buy.

Here's a link to a blog of an Aussie ham who has posted about his EV (Electric Vehicle).

According to him, the electric car uses pennies per km of electricity. Their electricity prices cost more there than they do here, that's for sure. I believe they also have a solar panel array set up, although I don't know the capacity, that actually supplies all the energy the car needs.

I'm just going to copy & paste a chart from a .doc file on this page
 (The actual .doc file is here)

Myths about Electric Cars
Electric Cars are ExpensiveYou can convert a small car for between $8,000 and $15,000. You can convert a small car and install solar PV panels to charge it for less than the price of a new medium size petrol car!
Electric Cars are SlowOur EV has faster acceleration that it did as a petrol car. It has so much torque it can can pull 5th gear from 0 rpm.
They don't have enough rangeWe drive up to 80km every day. This is perfectly adequate for metro driving. We have a second petrol car for long distance use. But we hardly ever use it and are considering selling it.
But we need infrastructure like charging stationsAll you need is a power point. There are many more power points that petrol stations already. We have never needed a charging station while driving around Adelaide as our range is fine for a full days driving.
The power stations will be overloadedPower stations are idling at night and could be put to better use. For an average day of 30km driving our EV uses just 5 kWh. We have offset this with a PV solar array that generates 8 kWh/day. So we drive an electric car, pay nothing for fuel, and use less electricity than before!
Charging is slowYou don't sit next to the EV waiting for it to charge. We just plug in at night and unplug in the morning. Like a mobile phone. It's easier and takes less time than going to a petrol station.

Eh, why not include the specifications from the same file. 

Battery pack 36 Lithium Cells, 3.2V each, better than 10 year life time or 150,000km
Operating Voltage 120V DC
Range 80 to 130 km
Top speed 130 km/hr
Conversion Cost Around $15,000
Economy 200Wh/km or 4 cents/km. Free “fuel” if you install PV Solar panels at home.
Servicing No servicing is required for Electric Cars. There are no oil changes, radiators, or spark plugs. The only wearing parts are brakes and tyres.
Motor 40kW, 200Nm DC motor. 1,000,000 km life expectancy
Seats 4 Adults
Weight 900kg (40kg above previous weight as an internal combustion car)
Driving Like an automatic. The car is placed in 3rd gear for all forward speeds between 0 and 80 km/hr. No gear changes.
Green House Emissions Zero. The electricity we use in charging is less than the energy our PV solar system makes every day. By recycling an old petrol car we avoided the GHG emissions involved in manufacturing a new car (even a new electric car).

Mr. Rowe is a pretty good salesman for EVs, I have to say. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Transmit and Receive simultaneously on one frequency?

Just read an article on ZDNet about researchers at Stanford coming up with a way to transmit and receive with the same radio at the same time.

I guess the key is the put a receive antenna precisely positioned between two transmit antennas. The idea is that the waves from the transmit antennas will cancel each other out and the receive antenna sits in the null zone. I wonder what the radiation plot is for that antenna arrangement, hah.

Here's the video from the article:

They are talking about applications for wifi. Could be useful for ham radio?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

ICOM 9100 clears FCC?'AFJ318300'
This appears to be the FCC ID: AFJ318300

Word on the internet is that the price when it comes out will be either $3600 or $4000. It's all rumors right now but I guess it's suppose to go on sale at Dayton.

Personally, I think that price is extremely overkill. They wouldn't sell it at that price if people wouldn't pay for it though. It's also for a very niche market so they have fewer units to spread fixed costs over as well. It's simple economics. Once they sell all the units to people who are willing to pay such a price, maybe they'll lower the price in order to sell more units.

There are cheaper ways of doing D-star on HF if that's what you want.

D-star adapter$600 (inc. UT-118 Dstar codec module and case)
Kenwood TS-2000$1549
$1999 w/1.2ghz

So for roughly $2600 you could have a set up that can do basically everything the 9100 can do. Less than that if you can find the TS-2000 used for a good price. You can't do the 128k high-speed data on 1.2ghz, but last I heard, neither will the 9100. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Heck, you might be able to do that cheaper.. I've heard about a soundcard GMSK modem that can use a DV Dongle to let you talk D-star on a 9600 capable radio like the TS-2000 for the price of the dongle, $200. I can't find the program right now though. (I'll update if I do.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ubertooth One
Check out the video on that page. It's a roughly 50 minute talk given by Michael Ossmann about his Ubertooth project. The project is a 2.4ghz transceiver that is able to monitor the entire communication between Bluetooth devices. This is useful because most, if not all, bluetooth adapters cannot be used in the same way.. they automatically strip information out before it gets to your computer. With this Ubertooth dongle he can better perform a security audit on bluetooth devices than previously possible.

What I find more interesting about this is that this wasn't all that complicated hardware wise. The protocol sounds like it was a real pain, but he's had prior experience with implementing that on the USRP. The dongle, as it stands, is mostly 3 chips. A CC2591 2.4ghz PA/LNA, CC2400 2.4ghz RF transceiver and a LPC175x series ARM chip.

What inspired him to use a chip like the CC2400? He previously played around with a kids toy called an IM-ME. It's a pink pager-like device meant for girls to send instant messages over the Internet (via a usb dongle plugged into a computer)... He was able to turn it into an inexpensive spectrum analyzer type device. How? It has a CC1110 chip. This is an RF transceiver chip with an integrated 8051 cpu. According to the linked site:
Frequency range: 300 – 348 MHz, 391 – 464 MHz and 782 – 928 MHz
Pretty neat, it's capable of operation in the 70cm and 33cm bands at up to 500kBaud. This was in a toy that was less than $20 on ebay. I'm guessing that chip was unsuitable for the bluetooth use that he wanted, therefore the choice of the CC2400 chip.

Something else I found interesting was the Kickstarter site itself. Quoting from the About link:
Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every month, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of musicfilmarttechnologydesignfoodpublishing and other creative fields.
A new form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project.
All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.
It's a neat idea. I don't know how well it has worked out in the past since this is the first I've heard of it. You can pledge a few dollars to help a project out without expecting anything in return or there are bonuses to pledging more. For the Ubertooth project, $15 will get you a pcb and a stencil, $30 gets you that and an assembled serial board to help you load the firmware, $100 or more gets you a fully assembled board, etc. I'm sure that Mr Ossmann would deliver, but I'm not sure if the website has ever had problems of someone refusing to deliver after getting the funding. I still like the idea though.

Michael Ossmann has a very nice blog: Here
Travis Goodspeed has a blog about similar such things: Here
(He has a project for a conference badge that includes somewhat similar but different brand wireless components. I may ramble on about that at another time, in another post.)