Jaguar headliners repair

Remember the Asterix & Obelix comics, and that the only thing they feared was that heaven would fall on their heads? That happened to me lately. But it was not as bad as that might sound. Well, the joke doesn’t quite work in English. In German, we call the headliners of a car “heaven”. Last summer, when I had the power steering of my vintage Jaguar XJS repaired, the car was in the sun for a few weeks. Thus, the fabric on the inside of the roof loosened and hung down.

Now, I finally had it repaired. I found a holstery  in Goldau (kk-cabrio). To bring the price down a bit, and also out of interest, we agreed that I would take a day off, and help with the tedious parts. While Kuschj would do the more complicated stuff that requires experience not to break anything.

That worked out really well. I dismounted and mounted the misc stuff from the car, and helped with the headliners. To make sure the new fabric wouldn’t fall off again, I had to scrub off all the old glue from the pressed glass wool mold. Also the trims at the side of the roof got new fabric. There was a spot which had a hole, that was visible for all of the eleven years I have owned that car.

In the afternoon, we disassembled the passenger seat. It was in need of sewing on the side.

After everything is done, it’s now much more pleasant to sit into the old cat.

Variable fan speed for the camper

The T3 VW camper vans came with a three step fan speed switch. Maybe it broke just like that, or maybe it was due to the kids playing with it endlessly. No matter what, the broken switch was a good opportunity for an upgrade. I ordered a 15A PWM motor speed controller which I thought should be big enough. Its potentiometer was broken on arrival, so I got a more rugged one from the local shop.

Connecting it was more complicated than I thought. With the original three step switch, the motor was directly connected to ground, and the highest tier connected it directly to 12V. The other two tiers had resistors in series. My naive expectation was that the ground would be common between source and motor, in the PWM unit as well. But instead the plus was common and the minus was PWM switched. So I had to search the connection from the motor to ground and cut it.
In the end, it works like a charm…

tinkering with the kids

This Easter weekends the weather was really crap, so we stayed home. We had lots of time to spend with the kids, and we all enjoyed that. The boys are still a bit too young for the projects I usually do, but we just did our first electronics lession.. Even if Levin didn’t fully understand how a photon derails an electron in the silicon of the solar cell, he still liked to see how the prop blew more air when he better aligned the cell to the sun.

What you need is just a pack of match sticks, some glue, a small solar cell and a tail boom of a broken RC helicopter.

Levin also created a Triceratops. You see it on the photos, that’s the dinosaur with the three horns.

BitCoin hits CHF 100 mark

Yesterday one BitCoin was, for the first time, worth more than CHF 100!

When I first learned about BitCoin in early 2011, CPU mining was still enabled in the default client. I mined for a few days, but it was probably already too late for the CPU. GPU’s took over before that. Last year, you needed FPGA’s to profitably mine, and now it’s shifting over to fully custom ASIC’s. I still sometimes mine with the GPU in the background while the Computer is running anyway, and I don’t use the GPU for anything else. It didn’t find a block so far. But for me that’s kind of like playing the lottery. The chances are slim, but if my computer could find the proper hash, that would cash in 25 BTC at the moment which would equate to CHF 2’500. And that slim chance starts over roughly every ten minutes.

There is a site somewhere on the net (I forgot the location) where you get free BTC. Back in those days, you got 0.05 BTC. That’s how I started off. This would now equate to CHF 5, but these days you get much less.

Since July 2011, I accept BitCoins as payment for the paragliding tandem flights. In fact only one guy payed that way so far. In October 2011 the flight cost 75 BTC at a rate of less than CHF 3 per BTC. If I still had those 75 BTC, they would be worth a whopping CHF 7’500 today.

I was thrilled last August, when it had an 80% increase within two weeks. But what happened this year was just insane. The price went from CHF 11 to CHF 110 in just three months. There were weeks with 10 to 15% increase every day.

The other day I walked past a local bank, and saw an advertisement for a defensive savings plan with an 8 year obligation where you get 1% profit. Of course it’s an unfair comparison. Noone knows what will happen next to the BTC value. It could drop any day for any number of reasons, or it could keep rising. I wouldn’t invest my savings so far.

There is a lot of speculation going on about the future value of BTC, and how certain events could influence that. Last week I read an interesting article about that. But there is also a lot of speculation about a bubble about to burst. Indeed the recent rise in value was so unnaturally fast, that it looks like a bubble. But such a bubble already bursted in 2011, and BTC recovered remarkably well.

Let’s not concentrate on the value itself. I think for BTC it would actually be better if the value was a bit more stable. The system was designed as a means to transfer money quick and easy. The main motivator was being able to transfer funds around the globe without waiting for a couple of days to arrive, and paying ridiculous transfer fees, as with current bank wire transfers, credit cards or paypal. That’s where BTC really shines. Of course it’s nice to see the value of your Coins rise, but I hope a possible bubble will not harm the system too much, and I strongly hope if that bubble should really burst, BTC will recover even stronger.

Update : additional links to good articles:

The bitcoin bubble and the future of currency

Are BitCoins the future?

The target value of BitCoin

BitCoin in the 3rd world