Category Archives: FAIL

Training Tuesday: time to work on my bike repair skills

Warning: this post contains disturbing images of graphic violence that may not be suitable for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

This weekend, Dana and I had planned to go for a bike ride on the Arsenal, so I loaded up my bike. First, though, we’d planned to go see Wonder Woman (which I highly recommend– great flick). Because I didn’t want to have my bike stolen by some miscreant, I secured it to the rack with a cable lock.

After we left the theater, I heard a thump and looked out my rear view mirror just in time to see my poor bike departing its slot in the rack, where it was dragged along for 50yds or so by the cable lock until I could safely pull over.

Dana is not amused.

The first thing I noticed was that I’m going to need new handlebars (and bar tape, which I wanted to replace anyway).

Ever wonder what carbon fiber looks like on the inside? Now you know.

The front tire sidewall was abraded enough to ruin the tire, and the corner of the saddle got chewed up pretty badly too. I think I can duct tape this as a temporary fix.

Sad saddle

The retaining strap that I used to secure the wheel to the rack slot was missing. My best guess? Someone wanted to steal the bike, lifted the top clamp, and then gave up when they found the cable lock in place. I didn’t check the rack so I didn’t notice until it was too late. Thankfully the frame and the carbon wheel fairings seem undamaged, although the rear freehub is making a new noise I don’t like. Bar tape is en route from Amazon and mi amigo Lance is giving me a spare set of bars, so hopefully this weekend I can watch enough YouTube videos to learn how to disassemble my brake hoods and shifters, port them to the new bars, and wrap everything.

Meanwhile, I still don’t have a saddle for my tri bike, so I either better get to Bicycle Cove and spend some money or swap out running for riding for the next week or two…

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Filed under FAIL, Fitness

nFlightCam vs Squawk Shoppe cockpit audio adapters

First I bought this adapter from nFlightCam. It didn’t work properly— my phone didn’t recognize that it had a mic plugged in so all I got was loud propeller noise. After testing it, I sent three mails to nFlightcam customer support (since they don’t have a phone number) and got no response. 

Then I ordered this adapter from Squawk Shoppe. Immediately after placing an order, they offered to connect me with their Facebook bot for order status, which worked flawlessly. I got the adapter when promised and it worked perfectly.

Then, just before a cross-country plane trip, nFlightCam answered my support email and offered to send me a replacement. That was 13 days ago and, you guessed it, no replacement has arrived.

Executive summary: don’t buy anything from nFlightcam; despite their heavy advertising, their customer support is slow and unresponsive and (at least for me) their build quality suspect. I see from reddit that other users have been happy with their products so YMMV.

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Filed under aviation, FAIL

Appareo Stratus and planned obsolescence

Back in September 2013, I bought an Appareo Stratus from Sporty’s Pilot Shop. I thought it was expensive, but getting in-cockpit weather and ADS-B traffic data, displayed conveniently on my iPad, was highly valuable. I have used it on almost every flight I’ve made since and it’s proven its value multiple times— being able to see weather while in flight is a huge safety benefit.

Recently I noticed that it was running out of battery unusually fast. Even if I left it plugged in overnight, it would only run for a few minutes when unplugged. I sent Sporty’s customer service an email asking about repair cost. Here’s what they said:

I am sorry, but we are unable to repair the Stratus 1.

We are able to offer $100 off the purchase of a Stratus 1S or 2S.

This is infuriating. The device is not even 3 years old yet, and the manufacturer won’t even attempt to repair it. Offering to let me pay $449 ($549 for a Stratus 1S minus the $100 credit) to get a device that, when it dies, likely will suffer the same non-support is a complete non-starter. I don’t expect a $50 consumer device to have lifelong support, but an $800 aviation device is a completely different story.

So, no thanks, Sporty’s. I’ll keep my money and build a Stratux instead. If this is the level of support I can expect, I might as well save a few bucks and do it my damn self. And when my Foreflight subscription expires, I’ll have to give serious thought to whether I want to continue to support them given their interlocking relationship with Appareo and Sporty’s. Meanwhile, time to take apart the Stratus and see about replacing its battery pack.

(n.b. the avionics stack in our plane has ADS-B weather and traffic, and it will soon be able to push those to the iPad over wifi. However, when I fly rentals or in other peoples’ planes, having a portable device is still a big winner, as is having the redundancy of a second ADS-B receiver just in case… so although I don’t have a single-point dependency on the Stratus I’ll still replace it).

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Filed under aviation, FAIL

Flying Friday: my airplane’s broken, so here’s a blimp

I went to Tampa yesterday to pick up 706 from the shop. I was expecting to write a triumphant post today about flying behind all the new goodies. However, the GPSS steering system is confused and steers the airplane in the opposite direction, so I had to leave it there for further troubleshooting. Instead of my triumphant post, here’s a short video of the DirecTV blimp, which happened to be at the airport at the same time as me.

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Garmin Fenix 3 drops data from Stages power meter

I’ve been ignoring this problem for a while, hoping that it would be fixed in a firmware update, but it persists, and I finally got aggravated enough with it to write this post (and to engage Garmin support). The problem is simple: my Garmin Fenix 3 triathlon watch will not reliably record data from the Stages power meter I have on my bike.

A quick digression: there are two major standards for wireless exercise sensor connectivity, Bluetooth Low Energy (aka BLE and Bluetooth 4.0) and ANT+. Some devices support one or the other, and some devices support both. For example, my heart rate monitor (the excellent Scosche Rhythm+) simultaneously transmits both ANT+ and BLE signals, but my Wahoo speed/cadence sensor is ANT-only. When I ride, I usually use two devices: my old iPhone 4 on the handlebars, in a Wahoo case that has a built-in ANT+ adapter, plus my Fenix 3. The iPhone is too old to use BLE, and turning on BLE on the Fenix 3 dramatically drops its battery life, so I’m using ANT for all the sensor data. Having two devices means that sometimes I forget to start or stop one device or the other at various points, so I often have mismatched data between the two.

A picture will illustrate the problem most clearly. When I use the Fenix 3, I end up with ride data that looks like this:

Bad power data is bad

As you can see, the power graph has a few spikes with lots of flats– and an average power of only 23W. (I’ll get to why the average is important in a minute). By contrast, here’s what the ride looked like when captured with the Strava app on my iPhone 4. Note that the power data much more closely tracks the speed, cadence, and HR data.

That's more like it

So why is this important? First of all, as a techie, it annoys me when two things that are supposed to work together won’t. More importantly, I actually use the power data from these rides in two ways. While I’m on the bike, I use it to gauge and adjust my level of effort. For example, yesterday’s ride was pretty windy, so I tried to hold a steady 190-210W while riding into the wind, keeping my level of effort constant and accepting whatever speed that gave me. After a ride, my coach and I use the power data to plan my recovery time and to identify areas where I need more practice (e.g. climbing hills). Having inaccurate or dirty data makes both of these uses impossible.

The Stages power meter support FAQ suggests moving the watch around, but I haven’t tried that yet. My troubleshooting efforts so far have been limited to changing the battery in the Stages and making sure the Stages and Fenix both have the latest firmware. I’ll see what Garmin support has to say. Hopefully they have a magic fix; I have a very early-model Fenix 3 so maybe they’ve made some improvements since launch. Until then, I’ll keep recording each ride twice and keeping the cleanest data.

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Filed under FAIL, Fitness, General Tech Stuff

iOS charging woes

I have been meaning to write a long article about why I moved from Windows Phone back to iOS, and the good and bad parts of the transition, but I’ve been too busy to bother. I do have time for a quick rant, though: damn, I am tired of having charging problems.

See, Apple has this logo certification program called “Made for iOS.” Join it, and your devices (which might include chargers, cables, etc) can be certified as compatible with Apple devices, and you get a cool logo. Sure, it costs you a few bucks to sign up and get certified, but it’s cheap insurance. Nice line of chargers and cables you’ve got there. It’d be a real shame if anything happened to it.

On my last two road trips, previously-working cables have suddenly started producing the infamous “this accessory may not be compatible” message. Once that happens, it’s game over. The phone (or iPad) will no longer charge from that cable. If you happen to be on a road trip, well, too bad. Luckily I had a spare, but I am now nearly out of working cables, and there’s no guarantee that the name-brand cables I bought from Amazon (all of which were from vendors who claimed to be MFi certified) will keep working. Of course, because it’s Apple, there’s no way to override this dialog, ignore it, or force the device to talk to a tainted cable– once the cable is blacklisted, it’s no longer usable with that device at all.

The worst part? I’ve seen many reports of this happening to people who bought cables and chargers from the Apple store. Since I am unlikely to ever do that I’m not too worried, but I hate the precedent, and the inconvenience factor has been pretty stunning compared to my easy prior life of using micro USB cables with my Lumias. While I understand Apple’s desire to protect the IP embodied in the Lightning interface, and while I even believe that part of the rationale behind blocking non-certified devices is to prevent bad customer experiences, the whole thing has left an unpleasant taste in my mostly-discharged battery.

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Filed under FAIL, General Stuff, General Tech Stuff

A brief rant about the Mac Lync client

I’m supposed to be working on my Ignite slides, but I just ran into something that has flipped my safeties.

I just don’t understand.

Sure, I know the Lync/Skype for Business team has a lot of irons in the fire, what with their new product line and all. And I get that the Mac install base is small relative to the other things they have to do. But there is no reason I can see for the Mac Lync client to be as buggy and underfeatured as it is. They’ve had years to improve it.

The Lync PG has proven they can do rapid engineering work, as evidenced by the excellent speed and quality of the Lync mobile apps for Android and iOS.

And they’ve proven they can build a robust client, as evidenced by the history of the Lync desktop client for Windows.

The Mac Office team, for their part, has shown that they can produce high-quality clients that reliably work with Microsoft’s services.

So why does the Mac Lync client make me want to start throwing things?

Today’s example: I am signed into Lync with my work account. I want to create a meeting in my personal Exchange calendar, invite attendees, and set it up as an online meeting. This is trivial using Windows Outlook and the Lync (and, now, SfB) client: create the invite, click the “Lync meeting” button, and boom.

On the Mac, however, this scenario doesn’t work– clicking the “Online Meeting” button produces an obnoxious dialog telling me that I must be signed in to the same account in Lync as I’m using in Outlook.

This is just the latest in the pecked-to-death-by-ducks experience of using the Lync client on a Mac. In honesty, the client is more stable and has more features than its predecessors; hell, it even supports the Conversation History folder now. But what I want is a robust client, with feature parity with Windows, that works to enable the same scenarios I can easily perform in Windows. That’s not too much to ask.

I don’t know (and, as an end user, don’t care) which team inside Microsoft owns this. And I don’t have an opinion on who should own it. All I want is a solid client experience.

(And while I am on a rant: damnit, the Windows Phone sync client for the Mac is a giant pile of fail. Microsoft has apparently abandoned it in place. Bug reports go into a black hole. Latest example: after months of prerelease availability, Apple released the Photos app and… surprise… the WP8 sync app doesn’t work with it.)

 

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