Arduino + AD9850 DDS

I’ve been playing with connecting an Arduino to an AD9850 DDS waveform generator. This is a DDS chip from Analog Devices that is capable of outputting a sine or square wave at frequencies up to 40 MHz. There are two variants of the popular low-cost boards available (such as on eBay) that provide a plug-n-play implementation of this device.  While it is easy to find the documentation for the AD9850 chip itself, it is harder to find pinput/spec information about the board itself.

This post from NR8O’s website provides most of what I used to get up and running, including using his test code – I have the same device from eBay.  This library may be useful in the future, which is an Arduino library for controlling the AD9850/1 chips.


Here is one page with the pinout. A copy is shown above (in case it ever goes offline).  From online reading, I believe the difference between the two sine and square wave outputs is the presence of a low-pass filter.

So how accurate is is?  When running at 20 MHz, and looking at an auto-frequency calculation on my scope, every measure I pull up is within 10 Hz of the specified frequency, and usually less. This is not a statistical sampling, but suggests the DDS is pretty solid — a lot more drift would be visually noticeable on the scope.

It appears that SineWave1 is unfiltered, while SineWave2 is filtered. At lower frequencies (like 100 kHz), the Sinewave2 output was much cleaner (less spurious scope triggering), at higher frequencies, the waveform was clearly attenuated. In theory the output is a 1Vpp sine wave, with min/max voltages at 0V and 1V. Here is the output I obtain at different frequencies (these are not average values, but “eyeballed” from the instantaneous frequency measurement. My Digilent scope only samples at 100MHz, so there will be some error at these high frequencies). The DC value remained about 0.51V at all frequencies.

Freq (MHz) Sine1Vpp Sine2Vpp
0.1 1.06 1.06
1.0 1.03 1.03
10.0 0.84 0.70
20.0 0.84 0.53
30.0 0.80 0.41

Further info on the output filter. At 1Mhz, Sin1 has its 1MHz peak at -10dBV, and the odd harmonics (not sure why just odd — crossover from the square wave generation?) have peaks at -50 dBV. The noise is at about -70 dBV. Meanwhile, Sin2 at 1 MHz has similar specs and a total lack of harmonics.

The square-wave output is 5Vpp in amplitude, and looks OK up to 1Mhz. It is harder to evaluate on my 100 MHz scope at higher frequencies (at 10 Mhz, that is only 10 samples/cycle) and there’s no cycle-triggered average feature.  The square wave has prominent odd harmonics (base at 3dBV, 3MHz peak at -2dBV or so, 5MHz peak at -3+ dBV and even harmonics at about -40 dBV.  For Square2 the even harmonics are not much more suppressed, but somewhat more at the 15+ MHz range.  The pot on the DDS board is used to adjust the square-wave duty cycle — there does not seen to be a “digital” way to do it.

This makes me suspect how clean of a source this DDS chip may be for RF applications, but we will give it a try since others have.

Important specs on this board for future applications – output sine wave is only ideally 1Vpp, and output is limited to 10.24 mA with the 3.9K value of Rset on the board (I suspect that several designs using this chip online for impedance measurements ignore this fact).

Below is a pic of the current setup with the Arduino Nano driving both an LCD display and the DDS9850 chip.  I am running out of pins, but still need more for both the analog measurements from the analog circuit and the rotary encoder for making selections.

UPDATE: I finally found board documentation here, and here is a locally stored copy in case the original vendor link disappears.



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20×4 LCD display tips — on an Arduino Nano

Using a blog for debugging notes so I can easily refer to it.

LCD displays are quite common for Arduino applications.  I have purchased a 20×4 white on blue backlit display.  Most LCD displays on Arduino are based on a Histachi HD44780U controller chip, and the displays themselves have a relatively standard 16 pin interface.  I am using a Chinese copy-cat Arduino Nano (ATMega 328), and it all works identical to the tutorial pinouts for a standard Arduino.

Things I have learned.

  • The LiquidCrystal library (built in to the default environment) will likely handle all interface needs.
  • Most examples use a pot between 5V and GND to provide a contrast control voltage, and a resistor from Bklt+ to 5V to fix the backlight.  Examples online vary on what these values should be.  Most say to use a 10K pot for the contrast — the datasheet suggests 50K to 100K, and heck, it will draw less power.  I found a 100K pot works just as well as a  with a 10K pot, and find the output voltage needs to be turned nearly all the way down to display the text.  0.7V output is barely visible, comfortable values are 0.4V to 0.3V (lower voltage is higher contrast).
  • I still had trouble controlling the display backlight.  The datasheet says to NOT connect directly to 5V (even though the Adafruit tutorial does so) — it may hurt the display, and it certainly may be a power hog! I connected another pot (22K, it is what I had) configured as a variable resistor, between Bklt+ and 5V.  This provided excellent control of the backlight — the readable settings varied from 1.7K (barely visible) to near 0K (very bright) for this resistor.  A downside of a white on blue display is the constant power to see the text — I think I would like a passive display with backlight next time.  This pot is extremely sensitive — I think a 2K-5K pot would be ideal in the future, or use a 10 turn pot if you have something larger.
  • I measured power consumption to the breadboard with the LCD display as I varied backlight settings.  Super-crazy bright was 30 mA, while very readable and still quite bright was 4 mA.  What a huge difference in consumption!  A barely readable backlight was 2 mA of consumption. The contrast control has a minimal effect on power consumption.  This likely explains why the datasheet says not to connect to 5V — there is visibly little readable difference between 4 mA and 30 mA.
  • These displays require 4 or 8 data lines, as well as the serial (I2C) interface.  It is possible to purchase variants of this display with a “backpack” chip set (soldered onto pads that already exist on the PCB in the back) that make it a true I2C device, with no data lines required.  Other sites online have rolled their own using a 74595 shift register and a transistor.  I need to keep this in mind since this is my first learning step in a project that requires both an LCD display as well as an I2C controlled DDS chip, and pins will be used quickly.
  • I also do not know if the LiquidCrystal library is using the built-in Arduino I2C hardware or implementing the I2C/serial in software.  In a perfect world I’d like both the DDS chip and display running off the same I2C bus to save pins.  But I can tackle this on a future day.
  • This is one of many steps in building an antenna analyzer … stay tuned (pun intended!)

2015-08-23 12.21.06

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Standing Peachtree

Over a year ago the City of Atlanta City Council passed motion to open a park along the Chattahoochee at the site of the Atlanta water intake facility, by the Hooch Wave.

Every year someone asks about the Hooch Wave and how to get to it.  It was formed by a weir on the Chattahoochee just below the Atlanta water intake. Weirs make an ideal wave, as you can see by this photo from AW. I last visited the wave one morning in November 2010 with Rick Thomspon, and it looked a lot like this picture.

AW photo of Hooch Wave Surf at moderate flows

Accessing the wave is tedious, as one must park in a sketchy area and hike through a lot of muck.  Rick Thompson and I visited the wave one morning in November 2010, to see what it was like.  Jim Wade, an internationally competitive kayaker who also happens to be a PhD student at Georgia Tech, had told me that the island on river right of the wave had washed out a few years ago and that the waterworks had totally remade the area.   Once the park was open, it was on my bucket list to check out the park and see how the wave has changed. Nobody has posted any info on the AW website since May 2012.  And changed it has.

Standing Peachtree Park is entered via the same entrance as the Atlanta water intake.  Enter off of Ridgewood Rd.  The sign says it is open 8am to 8pm.  But how to get to the river is not obvious.  The captions in my photos chronicle how to find the river (it is not obvious), but here is a summary of what I found:

  • The park is open 8am to 8pm.  River access is via the second gate after the parking (you have to walk) and veer left down the grassy hill.
  • It took me 8-10 minutes carrying my boat to get to the river.
  • At the river, there is an 8-10 foot bank to get down.  Easy down, harder up, would be harder with a canoe.  Climbing out, it kind of reminded me of the Locust Fork takeout, but only half as bad.
  • This would be an ideal access point for paddling the Metro Hooch down a bit further.  If you don’t mind carrying your boat a bit!
  • River levels were 1050 cfs.
  • The wave is no longer a wave. More like a drop.  The reconstruction of the island and the weir has led to something that really isn’t a weir anymore.  It is a pile of rocks, more like Rock Jumble on the Chattooga or the busted damn at the Tuck putin.
  • I am not a playboater, but I do not mind surfing.  Nothing seemed surfable to me. At least in a playful way.  Maybe a spud boat could do something in there, but my Dagger Juice could not.
  • At higher flows, this could become an epic hole.
  • The ledges on the river-right (Cobb) side of the island are tame at nominal flows.  However, I would like to come back at 2000 cfs or higher.  There seemed to be several spots with potential.  One could sink my bow, but the water was shallow enough that I could not get any pop out of it.
  • The river wide surf wave, apparently formed by the sewage treatment outflow pipe that extends across the river, is really glassy.  All the outflow appeared to be below the surface on river left.

I saw a lot of wildlife. The usual hooch creatures: turtles (many, and huge), muskrats, herons.  Also two adult deer!

Based on some Facebook comments to this post (thanks!), I want to add something else.  The city signage implies this is an access point for boating.  The current drop by the waterworks is not exactly navigable for the typical river user.  A whitewater boater could run it, but it really is now just water down a big pile of rocks.  The older weir-type design channeled the water into a clear smooth drop.  This both formed the wave but also made the drop runnable by regular or irregular recreational boaters.  The city should be approached about modifying the drop to make it more easily navigable  — removing a few rocks in the middle to create a channel (and a wave!) is an obvious solution.



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My extremely biased review of the Decatur Craft Beer Festival

I live in a condo in downtown Decatur.  I love beer.  I am a beer nerd, not a beer snob.  There is a difference — each to their own.  I will admit then when faced with a lame InBev lager beer selection at a restaurant, I will just choose a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita instead (which really isn’t a beer).

So people just assume I go to the Decatur Beer Festival (DBF) each year.  Or any beer festival.  Reality — I have never been been to a beer fest.  I HATE crowds.  To be Decatur specific, I’ve seen large drunken crowds at the beer fest – why should I pay $40 when I can walk to one of 20 or so local bars whenever I want?  I know when the $3 happy hour are, and most of the good bars will give me 1 oz. samples anyway.

So I went this year.  DBF was offering $100 VIP tickets.  What does that get you?  1) unique portapotties 2) food and 3) tastings of harder to find limited release beers.

I went today.  My thoughts?

1) Is VIP worth it?  Yes and no.  There were about 20 or so beers in the VIP area.  Most were limited releases.  Too many were bourbon barrel aged – craft brewers – stop it!  It’s an overused fad by now.  I thought it would have died last year. Even one of my favorites – Terrapin’s Wake-n-Bake Stout – fell prey to the bourbon barrel temptation. I don’t like bourbon. Can you tell?  The VIP selection was heavily local, and a good set of beers.

Almost no beer reps were at the VIP area (at most booths, there exists a rep or two besides the pouring volunteers).  Who buys VIP tickets? The volunteers are not usually knowledgeable about the beers that they pour. I think the VIP crowd would appreciate

The VIP only bathrooms weren’t necessary  – while I was there (11-2), there were plenty of rest rooms in and out of the VIP area not being used.  UPDATE: By 3-4pm, they were necessary.

I hate crowds.  Have I said that?  The VIP area was a nice wide open area to get away from the crowds.  Lots of seating, and also good food provided by Oakhurst Market:  Ban Mi’s, wings, spiced peanuts, and lime popcorn.

VIP peeps get in at 11am, as compared to noon.  In hindsight, this was awesome (see below).  For me that hour made a huge difference.

In summary, the VIP area provided decent and ample food, space to chill out, distinct rest rooms that really were not needed, and a lot of unique (heavily but not totally local) limited releases to try.  I expected more in terms of the selection of limited-release beers.

Would I buy it again?  See my summary at the end of this article.

2) The Beer festival as a whole.  It was great until 130-2pm. I loved getting in at 11am (though many booths were not setup until 1130 or later).  Until then, no line for a pour was longer than 5 minutes.  Then the crowds started packing in.  I was somewhat disappointed with some of the larger craft breweries there.  Lots of their usual fare — nothing exciting, nor experimental, nor side projects.  I can buy that stuff anytime.  I guess this is to be expected – these festivals are trying to convert the interested masses, not existing beer snobs.  Kudos to two of my favorite west coast breweries — Lagunitas and Stone – for bringing interesting newer stuff to try.

3) Georgia represent!  The thing that made me the most excited was the phenomenal representation by Georgia breweries. The number has exploded in the past few years, to the extent that I can’t keep track of them all.  Also, the Georgia (and nearby SC) breweries were a lot more willing to experiment and push novel beers on the masses.  They were all pushing, an organization dedicated to changing the 19th century blue-law era laws in Georgia that hamper the growth of small brewers.  In my favorites list below, many Georgia breweries feature prominently.

4) My favorites.  I am a beer nerd, and I am biased.  So here are my biases — take that into account!  I don’t like bourbon-barrel aged anything.  I think hops are over-rated, and I don’t like most strong IPAs.  I do like strong ales, and complex balanced beers like Belgian triples and quads, as well as stouts and porters.  I love sours, if balanced. I like a malty beer over a hoppy one.  I’m not anti-hop (I like Terrapin Rye, for example), I just don’t like it to dominate.  My favorites surprised me — nearly all from Georgia. And many were lighter than the kind of beer I usually like.  I put at * after those that were in the VIP area.

  • Orpheous Sycophantes*.  It’s a fig sour.  Not a full-on sour, but definitely a sour, with some complexy and fruity flavors.  Orpheus is one to watch out for.
  • Brass Monkey Nuts* by Yes Face beer.  An Atlanta brewery I had not heard of. A great british style nut brown, brewed with hazelnuts.  A cask. It works well.  When I walk back later today, I need to find their stout in the general admission area.
  • Second Self Thai Wheat.  For me, wheat beers are the lagers of craft beer. They work on a hot day, and quench thirst.  I don’t seek them out, but will drink one. This does more.  I love ginger.  This is a wheat beer with lemongrass and ginger. All the flavors are there, complementary, and well blended.  I could drink this all day.  Second Self is a relatively new Atlanta brewery – I had not even heard of them until I went out to Pint-n-Plate with some students from my lab just a few days ago.
  • Creature Comforts Cucumber and Lime Tritonia.  Like the Thai Wheat above, my instinct was not to like this.  But I love sours. And this is one. And the subtle hints of cukes and lime work well with a sour.  I had never heard of this Athens-based brewery, and all their beers were creative and intriguing.  I look forward to more.
  • Cherry Street Brewing Co-op Chief Sawnee’s Stash Coconut Porter. The name sounded like a gimmick (there are a lot of flavor-added porters I don’t like), but I tried it and loved it.  A porter with subtle flavors of coconut, dates, and vanilla.  Barely tasted any, but they were there and it made the porter really drinkable.  This Cumming, GA based brewery is really a brew pub selling at Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar in Cumming, GA. All their beers were creative.
  • McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve Hard Cider.  A few cider breweries were present – Woodchuck, Crispin. This cider, from Buffalo, NY, had a spiciness that made cider a lot more interesting to me.

So — would I buy VIP next year?  Maybe.  I think my first choice would be to volunteer!  I live a 5 minute walk away.  In earlier years, one had to earn volunteer points for the privilege of volunteering at the Decatur Beer fest. From talking with a co-worker who was pouring beer at one of the tents, this has all changed. They need over 500 volunteers now. It sounds like becoming a volunteer is not hard nor a privilege anymore (and some of them need pouring lessons!)  I would volunteer a late afternoon shift if I could have 11 (or 12) until 2 to drink.  Otherwise, I’d buy the VIP again.  I am on the fence on whether or not the special VIP beers by themselves are worth it (DBF – step up the game next year — did you notice the VIP tix did not sell out?) but the quality food, the open space for crowd-haters like me, and the fact that the dollars go to local organizations that benefit my immediate family, make this an option I would consider again. UPDATE: and see John’s comment about where the VIP dollars go.

It’s 330pm.  I’m going to walk back at 4pm and see what I think of the crowds.  And I need to find YesBeer’s tent in the open area. UPDATE: way too crowded. Waiting in line for 10-15 minutes for 2 oz of beer I can try anyway on another day. Next year, I’m going to volunteer 2-5 and drink beforehand …

Finally, I had many other good beers I’m not mentioning. These were my favorites based on my criteria of “if I really liked it I snapped a photo”

Overall, other than the crowds, a fun, well-run time.  Even when it got too crowded for me, it was not a crazy, misbehaving crowd.  Just, well, a dense crowd!






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Head to Head Catan

2014-02-08 14.12.21During the last “snow week”, Chloe was sitting at the kitchen table playing with the resource hex tiles from the game Settlers of Catan.  “What are you doing?” She replied that she was trying to design a head-to-head kind of 2 player variant of Settlers of Catan.

We talked about what we were trying to achieve – a variant that pits players head to head, with equal ability to acquire resources at the start, and promotes conflict and strategy between the two players.  We have tried another 2 player Catan variant, but we wanted something designed not by tweaking Catan rules for two players, but for head-to-head conflict with a balanced start.

HeadToHeadCatan (PDF file) describes our first effort with this head to head version.  Try it! Send us comments.  The photo above shows how the board might look as the game is about to start.

Some game design notes from play testing.

  • The requirement that a player can have 2 resources with 2 hexes each is balanced by the 5 pip rule.  This makes player setup strategy more interesting. We initially tried a 4 pip constraint, but 5 offers a bit more flexibility while still constraining the 2-tile options.
  • We tried a set up phase where players take turns placing tiles and numbers – it was kind of plodding.  We found that allowing each player to setup as they please, and then move tiles/numbers around after seeing the other player, was more efficient. When both players agree with placement, game play can start.
  • We have not messed with the Development Cards.  However, we have thought about removing all the Victory Point cards, or reducing their number.
  • The game play offers a range of strategies.  Spending too much effort on defense can hinder scoring down the road.   We’ve tried to play games where we intentionally sought “disruptive” strategies that would mess the rules up, and so far it seems pretty balanced.  But we have only played 5 or so games so far …
  • We added the “friendly robber” rule (often used in online play) – it helps to prevent one player from getting way behind at the start.
  • The idea of giving one player the 6 and the other player the 8 was intentional, and works well.
  • So far in play testing, the ports rule is not helping much – they often do not come into play until a player is at 6-8 points, at which point they are commanding enough resources per round to likely not need it.  Other options we have considered include maybe allowing each player to choose a 2:1 and 3:1 port, and place them on the opposite player’s side of the board after game setup is complete, or some similar variant.
  • We tried various desert locations, as well as one desert vs two.  This combination seems to work best so far in balancing opportunity with risk.
  • The 3 settlement/cities rule on your side was not just to promote interactions, but balance as well. It is possible to hole up on your side and win, but there are consequences for doing so.


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Noontootla Creek

This article was originally posted in the Georgia Canoe Association Eddyline.  It is a writeup of a trip taken by Todd McGinnis and I on 12 January, 2014.

Noontootla Creek – the creek less paddled

Noontootla Creek is a trout fishing tributary to the Toccoa. it is roadside along FS58. I have been eyeing this for years — my family has gone on many hikes in this area — it looks like a blast, and Will Reeves wrote up brief description of his trip in the 1990s which you can find if you search the GCA website. The Toccoa had peaked at 2400 cfs at 5pm January 11, and was holding steady at 1200 cfs when Todd McGinnis met me at the Toccoa the morning of January 12. Since it was just the two of us, I said “want to scout/try something new?” I had not heard of anyone paddling Noontootla (besides Will).

Short version: 1 hour of road scouting, almost 3 hours of river time to paddle 3 river miles, 9 portages (all due to deadfalls, not rapids).

We put in at campsite F and took at campsite B — these are among the several unimproved campsites along the forest service road. We could have put in even further up river, but this seemed like a safe distance given the time of day and expectations of deadfalls.

According to online data, we dropped 382 vertical feet in those 3 miles. It might be an overestimate, but looking at a USGS topo map with contour lines, it was certainly 300+. I have never paddled continual gradient like this.

Despite the portages, this is the most fun I’ve had on a river in a long time! I am not a creek boater, but now know why it is addictive. The upper stretches had numerous 3-7 foot drops and slides, some sketchy, lots of moves to be made – I found it thrilling! I now appreciate the value of a good boof, had two drops (one sideways, one backwards) with some hold time at the bottom of said drops, but still wound up with a dry hair day. I don’t usually paddle stuff like this, but it was a blast!

This was more fun and technical than my day on the Upper Upper Hooch a few years ago. This is a solid class III run in the upper reaches – complex rapids, and a few spots with must-make moves. Todd thinks some require class IV skills (see his comments below). We saw the weirdest undercut rock I have ever seen (water swirled around the top and flowed back towards upstream, over the undercut).

At this point, I will insert comments from Todd McGinnis. I will note that I think Will Reeve’s Eddyline article from the early 90s paddled only one mile of river, and likely the more downstream section of what we paddled.

Advice for anyone else considering doing this run:

1) Level – our water was getting low by the end. Don’t go just by what I stated the Toccoa was running at – I think what is more important is how high the Toccoa got the day before, which is a measure of how hard hit the area was with rain. It likely helped that the ground up there is pretty soaked and holding a lot of water.

2) Be careful. Scout a lot. By road and boat. There were at least two spots that we saw by car that we would not have seen (or necessarily considered scouting) by boat. We marked these spots so we could note them when paddling. While we had 9 portages (6 were short “walk around the tree”, 3 were longer and had some bushwhacking), there many others where we had to scoot, duck, or choose a suboptimal line to get down.

3) Be nice to the trout fishermen. This is a very popular trout fishing creek. We saw quite a few while scouting, though none by the time we ran it. They were all nice to us, and we were nice to them.

Finally, some comments from Todd McGinnis, from his Facebook posts:

This was a great day. It was a tight run with a good number of portages. Will Reeves writes it up as a class II III creek run and while I do not deny there are definately some class IIs in there it is not a class II level creek. IF you want to run this you need to bring your Class III/ IV skils. Hard to compare as each run has its own characteristics and unique attributes (big word score). That said the drops are characteristic of the Upper Nanty but in some cases much tighter as you are making your approach in and setting yourself up in sections that may not be any wider than 10 feet. It is a gem of a run because it is hidden much like Fires Creek.

There was one section that had three blind turns and at one of them we heard something so we decided to get out and take a walk to see what the noise was all about. We found the source of the noise. The water was pushing through a narrow section over about an 8′ drop. The river right side was a slide right into little low head but could be easliy punched. The only issue was if you messed up you would either be surfed right into a strainer and your exit river left was a pile of rocks. So the middle line had a good flow but you would have to boof right between two butt-cracking rocks (not Shiva friendly) but it looked doable. As we left to get back in the boats we noticed a nice clean left line that missed all that other junk and had a nice out flow. That was to be our line! Well back in the boats we go. As I make my way to the rapid I notice that the far left line is not there – it does not exist from the top – so plan “B” . I yell to Rob there is no left line — middle boof. I take the boof and grab a small bit of the ass cracker but still nice landing into an eddy to wait for Rob. Rob heard me and threw down a sweet boof.


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Whitewater Nose Clips

Winter means more pool roll practices.  I need nose clips for chlorine pools!

Why make your own nose clips?  They only cost $8 each.

  • Because you can
  • Because you don’t like paying $8
  • (Me) Because you seem to need/lose a pair and a whitewater shop isn’t convenient/quick enough

You can find quite a few “recipes” on the net.  Quite a few use copper wire and glue small squares of minicell or foam or rubber (or a combination).  I think I have seen at least one method online that uses Sugru (at least I know I got this idea from someone else – not my original concept!)  That is what I am showing here – they use copper wire and a self-curing rubber called Sugru.  The Sugru cures harder than minicell, but I think the end product is more durable.

Cost of these nose plugs is less than $1.50 each.  Biggest cost is a 5g package of Sugru, which has enough for 2 pairs.  An 8 pack cost about $20 or so with shipping.

Instructions don’t require words.  Just look at the pictures. You need:

  • Tool(s) for cutting and bending and stripping copper wire
  • 12 gauge (some use 14, I prefer the more rigid 12) wire
  • a 5g package of sugru

Cut wire to size (I use 12 gauge, some like 14 gauge).  Strip ends and bend.  Use trial and error to fit your nose – the bent loops should be positioned where most confortable.  Wire is cheap, so play with it!

Open Sugru, separate into 4 pieces, flatten each and wrap around bent end of wire, mold with fingers.   Working time is 30 minutes, curing time is 24 hours.  Finish product (the sugru) is hard with a slight bit of flex – enough that my nose doesn’t mind!

2013-12-21 18.20.53 2013-12-21 18.21.43 2013-12-21 18.24.07 2013-12-21 18.25.02 2013-12-21 18.26.37 2013-12-21 18.27.23 2013-12-21 18.27.47 2013-12-21 18.30.50

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1993 Eurovan MV Weekender “pop top” SOLD

SOLD in April 2014.  Left posted here for nostalgic purposes …

1993 VW Eurovan MV Weekender. 156K+ miles.  Silver/gray with white pop top.

We are selling Evie, our 1993 Eurovan.  She was purchased in February 2011 with 123K miles.  The previously owner said Evie spent much of her life on the west coast, and was brought to the east coast after acquired from a family member. No rust. Evie has carried our family of 4 on several amazing road trips, including a 9000 mile trip out west. We have been with her from coastal California campgrounds to the Cape Cod seashore, and from Wyoming and the Dakotas south to Texas.  She has the wear and tear of a van her age, but is in good condition and we have attentively maintained her. Nearly all service has been performed at Karma VW Repair.  She is garaged at our home in Decatur, Georgia, a few miles east of downtown Atlanta.

This ad is long, but is intended to be as complete and honest description as possible since many who may be interested may be looking from a long distance.

Features and Specs.

This is the Weekender model – not the full camper with the heater/stove/sink, but the more open model that is roomier and more flexible (and some say, harder to find). Two rear facing seats behind the front seats, and the seat behind the front passenger seat is removable. Rear, forward facing, bench seat. Pop out table between the bench and the drivers side rear facing seat. 12V cooler under the drivers side rear facing seat. The bench folds flat for ample interior sleeping room, and of course there is the pop top!  When the pop top is up, it is also possible to lift the ceiling to provide standing room (e.g., getting changed – see photos). There is storage behind the bench seat and ample storage (access from rear) beneath. We routinely stored sleeping bags, folding chairs, camp stove, and other camping necessities beneath the bench seat.  Folded flat, it can also haul a lot of cargo, both on the folded down seat as well as beneath.  Pullback curtains for all windows except the front door windows.  Very little wear or staining on the seats and cushions/pads, given its age.  Carpeting is clean, but does have spots/stains from camping through the years (update – just shampooed, appearance improved).  No excessive wear on carpet.  Floor mats (two large in the rear, plus two in the front) have helped protect the carpet. Poptop fabric has no holes/tears, all zippers work. There is a minor seam rip (more like a 1mm gap, not a tear) on the front fabric a few inches in length, backed by tape just to prevent it from becoming a tear.

A second 12V deep cycle battery under the drivers seat powers the interior lights, 12V cooler, and one 12V outlet I installed at the rear of the driver’s seat for easy power in the rear. In a pinch, you can even use the second battery to jump start the first (yes I have done it!).  AC and heat work fine – no AC issues beyond replacing the compressor last year. Electric windows/locks/ mirror controls. Cruise control. Automatic transmission. Mileage is 15 mpg city and 18-20 mpg highway.  Has always passed Georgia emissions, most recently in October 2013.  Title is clean and in possession. VIN:  WV2MC0700PH060372


  • JVC car stereo with removable face plate, USB and front aux inputs and rear aux input. Designed to work seamlessly with iPhone/iPod devices. There is a remote control for the radio (we have never used it). Rear auxiliary input is connected to a Pioneer INNO XM receiver cradle mounted where the ashtray used to be (no, I don’t have the ashtray). XM Antenna is mounted on hood. I will provide a used unactivated Pioneer INNO receiver if requested, otherwise the power/audio/antenna connections can likely be reconnected to a newer Sirius/XM device.
  • XM receiver cradle is mounted where the ashtray should be.  I do not have the original ashtray.
  • 2 gang electrical outlet in rear with pass-through plug on outside of van. This is not powered by the battery, but makes camping easier – power cord to outside of van – working electrical outlets inside.  This was installed by a previous owner.
  • 12V outlet installed at base of drivers seat and powered by aux battery. Makes rear access to 12V power a lot easier and provides a useful device charging port when the van is off.
  • I have modified the 12V cooler wiring to allow it to be powered by an external 110VAC power supply and installed a lighted switch to indicate if the cooler is powered by the battery or external supply.  Power supply is included.
  • 1.25 inch trailer hitch and electrical connector for trailer lighting.  We have never towed a trailer.  While I cannot used the trailer electrical connector, the LED indicators on the connector lights properly when brakes and turn signals are applied.
  • Home-made magnet-attached bug nets/doors to cover the side door and rear opening when camping. I fabricated these from a large bolt of mosquito netting and a large number of neomydium magnets.

Repair and maintenance history.

We spent almost $4000 in repairs when we first bought it – these were all deferred maintenance repairs expected at this age. For the years 2012 and 2013 repair and maintenance costs have averaged about $200/month. Oil has been changed regularly and we use synthetic oil. All repairs and nearly all local service has been performed at Karma VW. Karma uses OEM parts as much as possible.   All service receipts from Karma VW can be provided for the services below.

March/April 2011: Replaced ball joints. Replaced water pump. Replaced timing belt. Routine belts replaced. Driver side mirror reattached. Electrical fix for flakey gas/temperature cluster. New front brake pads and rotors. Replaced auxiliary battery with a new deep cycle battery. Alignment adjusted after repairs.

June 2011: new AC compressor (road trip repair – compressor pulley got loose, shredded belt. Aftermarket NAPA product)

July 2011: AC controls/electrical repair. Recharged AC after repair.

February 2012: New tires at 137K. Tires are rated for 80K miles.

May 2012: replaced interior dash frame, which was causing AC/heat controls to not work right.

August 2012: another new AC compressor. OEM this time!

October 2012: new distributor cap and rotor, spark plugs, ignition wires

April 2013: replace leaking coolant flange, vacuum line to ECM, leaking valve cover gasket, passenger side CV boot

May 2013: new primary battery (have receipt for pro-rated warranty), new alternator

October 2013: drivers side CV boot, replace seal around switch in transmission where transmission fluid was leaking.

Issues a future owner should be aware of.

  • There is a minor dent on the passenger side towards the rear. We never considered it worth repairing.  See photo.
  • The 12V cooler runs great when the engine is running, or under exterior power. When the engine is off and it is powered by the aux battery, it sometimes makes a clicking sound, which I believe is a relay in the cooler kicking in for a marginal voltage (the cooler has a cutoff switch to avoid draining the aux battery).  It also happens sometimes while running when a lot of accessories are turned on (like running the heat at high fan while blasting the stereo), so I think again it is a voltage-sensitive issue in the cooler itself.  We are very happy with how cold the cooler is.
  • Sometimes the temperature gauge runs high (3/4 instead of the normal 1/2).  This is associated with the coolant light flashing for a few minutes after the van starts, and then the temperature gauge will suddenly jump up from 1/2 to 3/4.  The coolant system is fine (temp OK, fluid levels OK). We suspect it is a minor electrical/gauge issue, and needs a simple electrical repair similar to what was done in March 2011.  We are waiting for the problem to become repeatable on a regular basis before taking it to the repair shop.
  • The engine runs fine – it is a 2.5L Audi inline 5 cylinder, used on 1993-1996 models of this van. Due to its age, one should expect leaks due to worn seals or old hoses. We fix them as they occur.
  • The van has aftermarket plastic hub caps. I can provide 3 of the original VW hubcaps if desired.
  • Older VW vans have cracked or worn interior trim work.  When we acquired the van, much of the trim was “sticky” (see online forums for discussion of this).  I have regularly applied 303 (a UV protectant, similar to Armor All) and eliminated the stickiness.  There are cracks at the tops of the A Pillars above the front doors, and along the top of the sliding door (see photos). No sign of cracks getting worse (these all existed when vehicle was acquired).
  • Two chips in windshield have been filled by glass repair shop

Price.  All reasonable offers entertained – the worst I can do is say no.  Kelly Blue Book value for this model in this condition was $13000 before it got too old last year to be listed 🙂 eBay auction prices range from $6K to $12K for this model and general year (I have tracked most auctions over the past year).  Email rob AT butera DOT org for more information.  Potential buyers can pay for an inspection prior to sale – I recommend Karma VW Repair just two miles away from us, even if they are where all my service was performed.  They are good, honest, and local.  Payment must be in wired funds to a US bank account.

Sale includes:

  • The van as described
  • Original owner’s manual, 12V cooler manual, stereo manual, documentation for connecting 12V cooler to 110VAC power
  • 110VAC to 13.8VDC power supply for powering cooler from 110VAC and associated connection wires
  • Custom-fit front window shade with black and reflective sides
  • Original tire jack, after-market cross-style lug wrench
  • tire repair kit, 12V-powered air compressor, spare tire mounted beneath
  • Emergency road flares, orange road-hazard triangles, jumper cables
  • 1.25″ Trailer hitch and electrical adapter for trailer
  • 3 spare (OEM) VW hubcaps (current hubcaps are aftermarket)
  • 4 stacking RV-style “leveling” blocks – place under tires to level vehicle on a gradient
  • VW Transporter T4 1990-95 Workshop manual Owner’s Edition (by Brookland Books)
  • optional: used not-activated Pioneer INNO2 XM receiver (fits provided cradle).  Even if you don’t take it, the electrical/audio/antenna wiring I installed can likely be connected to a new Sirius/XM receiver.
  • the bicycle rack in the pictures is NOT included
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Bike day

I bike to work 3 or so days/week.  But today was more “bike stuff” than usual.

In the morning I went to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition breakfast, held at Atlanta Beltline Bicycles.  It was to kick off Bike to Work Month.  Great food, and I met a few fellow Georgia Tech faculty members to create a team for the monthly bike-to-work events (we are team “Fuzzy Bees”).  While there, I checked out the bikes.  I had been to their shop when they were located in Avondale Estates.  Since moving to the beltline, they have a much bigger shop and a GREAT selection of used bikes.  Biked 55 minutes biking to the breakfast and then biking to work.

I worked late and left campus around 7PM.  I decided on something a bit risky – biking down Ponce de Leon Ave.  I don’t normally bike on city street where the cars like to drive sometimes faster than 40 mph on a crowded street. The road has been restriped with the intent of a bike lane — in fact, all is there except the bike lane stripe – there is plenty of room for cars to pass.  I biked Ponce from Peachtree to Murder Kroger – it was awesome!  It lowered my commute time – a lot – vs winding around neighborhood streets. This will have a big impact on bicycle commuting when the bicycle lanes are finally painted.

It occurred to me while biking down Ponce that bicycling in Atlanta has some similar feelings of joy and frustration as driving/riding a car in country with developing infrastructure, like India or China.  There are brief episodes of speed and progress, punctuated by lots of wandering awkwardly around side streets along the way to your destination.  My daily bicycle commute is certainly that way.

Atlanta infrastructure for bicycles is developing fast.  I had not ridden the Beltline trail south of the Freedom Parkway trail before.  Like the the rest of the East Beltline, development along the trail is evident everywhere. Businesses and real-estate developers see what a catalyst these trails can be for urban neighborhoods.

Where are we going with this? Many have fought for bicycles to have equal access to roads.  This was a good idea when we were starting from nothing.  But I think we need to rethink this share the road bike==car approach.  Bikes are different.  Bikes are not cars.  They are not pedestrians.  Just as cars and pedestrians have different “modes of operation” so do bicycles.  I am legally supposed to ride on the road, but in some places it is crazy to do so.  Or cars yell at you.  At the same time, the sidewalks in other places are poorly maintained, or crowded, or unsafe for a bike to pass a mom pushing a kid in a stroller.  Our infrastructure is starting to reflect the unique aspects of bicycling as a mode of transportation.   I hope in the future we finally realize that bicycles need distinct traffic laws from cars or pedestrians, and stop trying to pretend they should behave like one of the other.  I am not asking for special privileges, just a legal framework that reflects how a bicycle is safely operated and interacts with traffic.  It may not mean special lanes, but a different way of considering intersection design, or stop lights.  I hope that these discussions will eventually lead to changes that reduce car/bicycle conflicts, which seem to me to be on the rise as more people in Atlanta take to the streets on their bicycles.


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Bike Trunk

I have had a few questions around campus and on the road about my “bike trunk.” So here are a few photos and a brief description.

Why? I’ve had one of those soft side trunks that straps to a bike rack. Most of it is general necessities for biking – lights, tube, repair stuff, bungee, spare glasses. I HATE having to take it on and off the bike every time I stop somewhere.  They are not designed for quick release.  And since I work on a college campus, anything on a bike is a potential theft item.  So I sought to craft something permanent and lockable on my bike rack.

I settled on a 30 cal ammo box.  A wider box would be nicer, but the 30 cal is narrown enough on the rack that I can still mount my panniers on the rack when I need to use them.  The box is mounted to the rack with 4 1/4-20 bolts, lock washers inside and rubber lined washers (for grab) on the outside. Inside the box the bottom is 1/2″ of minicell foam and I glued thin foam (shelf liner) to the sides to minimize rattling.  The lock is simply an adjustable shackle lock through two holes that I glued.  Finally,  I added two u-bolts to the side to make it easier to carry my 12″ long bicycle lock.

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