Monday, 21 May 2018

Juin Tech R1 brakes

Back end of last year I got a new bike on the cycle to work scheme. A local bike shop had last season’s Genesis Day One 20 available for a good price. It fitted the bill with disk brakes, mud guards fitted and the hub gears I wanted so I bought it.

Having lived with this bike for a while here are my musings. It’s pleasant to ride. Comfortable, stable at speed and generally mostly what I’d hoped for from a fast commuter bike.

There are downsides though, the paint finish isn’t good enough; it’s very easily scratched and seems really thin. A gentle altercation with a colleagues machine in the bike shed has left me with a surprising amount of bare metal showing, which will rust quickly left alone as the bike frame is steel. Of greater concern are suspect pin holes visible near some of the welds. I suspect this bike will rust badly, which makes me sad and more than a little disappointed.

Probably the biggest issue I have with the Genesis is the choice of components. Some are just not good enough. This isn’t a very expensive bike, but it isn’t cheap either and I’d expect things to work properly. The gear shifter is apparently known to cause problems, though mine has been fine so far. But the brakes are really the big issue.

The fitted promax dsk-717 is a cable operated mechanical disc brake and imho it’s terrible. In fact the brakes setup on my bike has been so bad I’d say it was dangerous. This is the first bike I’ve owned with disc brakes and I expected good things. I’ve previously had rim brakes and I have a beaten old carrera subway 8 with Shimano roller brakes. These should be out performed by the more modern disc brakes, but they weren’t,

The comparison with roller brakes was particularly interesting because these are not well regarded for their stopping power. I actually quite like them because whilst they may not be the most powerful brakes, they are consistent in all weathers, which is worth a lot on a commuter bike.

Anyway, I set off with my shiny new bike and was immediately disappointed by the brakes. I expected improvement with bedding in but it never came. Eventually I realised the rear was particularly bad and I wasn’t safe indicating right with traffic around. Something had to be done.

Adjustments checked I couldn’t find a way to lock up the rear wheel at any speed other than a crawl. Not good. So new pads, following a clean of the rotors with isopropyl alcohol in case of oil contamination. It was better but not good.

Because mechanical calipers only have one piston, the arrangement requires one pad to be as close as possible to the rotor, which means there’s always a small element of flexing the disc to squeeze it between the pads. Get this out of adjustment due to poor installation or worn pads and it dramatically affects the braking effort.

Despite clean rotors, new pads and numerous attempts at setting things up I couldn’t get satisfactory performance so I opted to replace them with the Juin Tech R1.

The R1 isn’t cheap at £151 delivered (they come as a pair), that’s a hefty price tag for some bike bits... for me at least, but brakes are something I don’t like to skimp on. There are Shimano hydraulics available for sensible money unless you have drop bars when they suddenly get very expensive. I also quite liked the idea of just replacing the calipers, rather than having to re-tape the bars of my not very old bike.

The Juin Tech R1 is a hybrid hydraulic brake. It’s cable operated, so works with my existing levers, but is internally hydraulic. The most obvious advantage is both pads move against the disc which means you avoid the regular fine adjustment of having a pad almost dragging all the time. There’s no wasted effort of flexing the rotor, just two brake pads neatly clamping the disc.

Because I’m fabulously lazy, and for a couple of other reasons I opted not to change the rotors, just giving them a clean once more. The mountings from the promax lined up nicely so actually installing the R1s was just a matter of swapping them over and took me no more than 15 minutes.

The difference is like night and day. Suddenly I get the disc brake experience I was expecting. The Juin Tech R1 has a nice feel with good modulation and significant stopping power when required. I’ve yet to test them thoroughly but I immediately felt far more confident for my 8 mile ride home.

I suspect I could probably have got decent performance from a different mechanical brake (surely they’re not all useless), but I like a gadget and had heard good things about these and similar hybrid designs. As a very simple swap out I’m delighted with the performance. My only frustration is Genesis fitted such terrible brakes to begin with.

Which reminds me, there’s one other disappointment with the Genesis, the CST tyres.... terrible. Got a puncture at both ends of the bike. So they were replaced with Schwalbe Marathon Plus for a drama free commute. Perhaps what this says is, as I suspected a while ago, I should have spent more money on the bike in the first plce. Still, making these gradual improvements is actually quite fun.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

I had an exam today, for a professional certification. So far so uninteresting, but for this sort of event I like to overcompensate for my tendency to be late. Which is why I ended up in the bland waiting area of an office in Leeds, listening to some calming music.

An Ending (Ascent) by Brian Eno is a favourite of mine. It's a seemingly simple repetitive piece that's actually got more going on than first appears. It's been used as the soundtrack to many things, Jeremy Clarkson driving a v12 Aston Martin for one... but it's a wonderfully evocative piece of music. There's a sadness to it, but it also makes me think about moving forwards.... Maybe that's just the title.

As I listened an instagram notification popped up and after a few moments I was checking out the feed of someone who had liked one of my pictures; someone I didn't know who had one or two children and had posted some beautiful pictures of their child with their partner.

My childlessness hits me sometimes, but rarely with so much force. The combination of mild pre-exam stress, a less than brilliant night's sleep, the soundtrack, the beautiful pictures of a happy child with happy parents...

I tend to avoid spending time on Facebook, filled as it is with curated pictures of the perfect family life. When something you want, others have, it's easy to project. I know full well social media is pretty much everyone's best side. I understand it isn't reality.

We all want to appear as if we have everything together, but we so rarely do and it was all I could manage not to be the middle aged weeping man in the corner of a room. Very awkward for those folk wandering through to get a drink from the water machine.

It's a sadness, an ache.... a grief for the life you thought you might have. It's unresolved and not something you talk about.

So my social media of choice is being snarky at idiots about politics on twitter. My wife complains it makes me grumpy, and she's right. Really though it's all a great distraction.

If you, reading this, have children and know people who don't... and you've never chatted to them about why not, a favour: please avoid moaning about family life. Please don't tell them how lucky they are not to have a family. They might be cool with that but they might not.

The exam went well. I bet if we had kids revising would have been much harder.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Fitbit and their terrible customer service

I own a Fitbit Charge HR. I've had it for about two years. It's nearing the end of it's life, as the strap will soon fail, and I need to think about replacing it. The most obvious choice would be the newer model, or the slightly flashier smartwatch style offering. But at the moment I think I'll move on. Here's why.

If you make gadgets, as fitbit do, you have essentially two ways to create customer loyalty. You can either make the best damn thing you can and roll out improvements to it as software development allows. Or, you can wall it off, keep make it incompatible with everything else and try to lock the customer in.

You also have two ways to sell more gadgets to your existing customers. You can make the best damn thing you can and keep it updated, rolling out improvements as software development allows. Or, you can only add new features to the new trackers, even though they're software features based in the app and nothing to do with the tracker.

It's this last point that has really annoyed me.

To make sure your tracked distance is as accurate as possible it's necessary to calibrate your stride length in the fitbit. In the Charge HR this is a manual process. With the Charge HR2 there is a feature that uses the smartphone GPS to measure how far you've walked/run, work out your stride length and update the fitbit. This is purely an app feature and there's no reason not add this functionality to the earlier fitbit devices, yet fitbit have chosen not to do that.

Even more annoying is the Charge HR doesn't have the facility to track a workout using GPS. The newer model does but, again, this is purely a smartphone app feature and nothing to do with the fitbit itself.

As far as I'm concerned fitbit is withholding features from earlier customers in the hope we will upgrade.

That stinks. So no, I probably won't upgrade. I'll look elsewhere.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Pipo X10 touchscreen

If you had a Pipo X10 and wanted to reinstall windows, you'd find some of the drivers are not part of the standard Microsoft offering. You'd do a google search and find links to a driver bundle that pretty much makes everything work. Then begins tearing your hair out at the fact the touchscreen isn't working as well as it used to, and no amount of recalibrating in windows will get it quite right.

What you need is the correct touchsettings.gt file. This goes in c:\windows\inf

I had great difficulty finding this file for the Pipo X10, but finally managed to download the entire original software build from Pipo and so present you with a link to the one file that otherwise I couldn't find.

Pipo X10 touchsetting.gt

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Stagnating

Current talk in the UK news about wages had me interested. As just one example, which I don't claim is representative, my salary is pretty much the same now as it was 17 years ago.
A lot of that is the result of decisions I've made along my so called career and it could be argued I was overpaid back then, but now I'm more experienced, skilled and some might even say more mature. I work hard in a fairly skilled field and I have seen my wages stagnate in figures and therefore drop in real terms.
According to the Bank of England UK inflation calculator for my salary to have simply kept pace with inflation, equaling what I was paid at a lower end of the same field, I'd need to be paid £14,705 more.
This isn't to say that I feel terribly hard done by. We're quite comfortable, and much better off than many, though that's in part because we don't have children and have stayed in the house we bought in 1998. That in itself is interesting, because it means this perfect first-time-buyer's home has never come on the market, possibly won't for many years. That's another story...
As I say, between us my wife and I have enough. We're not just scraping by. Don't feel sorry for us. 

What really concerns me is those of us who are now middle aged, the Gen-Xers are perhaps the last to be ok. 

Assumptions that could be made by my parents generation: that wages would rise with age and experience and a decent pension would be there at the end, I don't see that for me. 

How much worse for next generation unless things change?

Saturday, 9 July 2016

'Christian Voice' is nothing of the sort

There's a group, well it might be just one person but let's assume there a few of them, called Christian Voice. It's led by Stephen Green. He got an undeserved level of exposure by forming Christian Voice and sending out lots of press releases. Eventually he was picked up by the media and the BBC, in one of the many immature attempts at balance, put him on panels opposite atheists. A fundamentalist Christian balances out a fundamentalist atheist as only two crazy people shouting from opposite ends of a see-saw can.

I have a problem with Christian Voice. I don't consider very much of what they say to be authentically Christian. It's all pretty angry... and it's easier to say what they're against, than what they're for. Christian Voice is very certain about a lot of things. There are lots of Bible verses peppering their communications, few of which mean anything out of the original context.

"Who will rise up for me against the evil doers, or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?" 

The above verse from Psalm 94 is used on the About Us page on their website. The answer, it seems, is Stephen Green and anyone like minded who wants to get involved. It's taken woefully out of context though, as is all scripture used by Christian Voice.

So let's strip back the christianese nonesense, the King James Bible verses, and the holy justification for being unpleasant... what do we have here?

They're politically towards the right wing end of the Conservative party and support causes that are thus aligned. They dislike gay people, anyone of a different faith, multi-culturalism, Europe. 

They like the church having a privileged position in society and see any attempt to give those with a different view point some sort of equal weighting in our society as an attack on their faith and evidence of the sinfulness of the nation.

If this group were called 'Conservative Voice' or 'Wasn't everything better in the past Voice' then I wouldn't have a problem with them. There's nothing unusual in the views espoused by this group, unfortunately.

Here's the bottom line. If you can't be 'Christian' without being unpleasant... If you're known by what you're against rather than who you're for... If you stand where some people want to build a really impressive Mosque and call on the Lord to put a stop to it all, rather than offer to help them and be their friend... Well, there's the oft quoted, somewhat trite staying "what would Jesus do?" and I wonder... what? Because I don't think it's what this group do while claiming his name.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Where I'm at today

This post is intended as a personal snapshot of where I'm at at the point I write it. I've no doubt things will change and move on. I certainly hope so, as I like to think things don't stay the same.

The only church I've ever considered myself part of would probably be described as evangelical. An Anglican church that didn't really fit the mould and attracted a very wide range of people. Some would be very much right wing, conservative evangelical in their politics and theology. Others far more liberal in their beliefs and possibly socialist in their politics. It was, as they say, a broad church and the leadership were generally good at treading a careful path through areas where not everyone would agree.

That started to change a few years ago when the leadership increasingly moved towards what I, probably unfairly, consider to be an American style of conservative evangelicalism. It's marked by a few characteristic beliefs such as: the Bible is the inerrant word of God, homosexuality is sinful, women shouldn't be leaders, those in leadership are specially ordained by God for that leadership and questioning is not taken particularly kindly. Most importantly there's a confidence and certainty that doesn't address grey areas of life, faith and theology. It's all about black and white, the right answer. This leadership would tell you that if you disagreed then you were wrong.

I was working for the church at this point and I was becoming increasingly concerned that I was fully behind an organisation that was starting to teach views I disagreed with. Eventually, before I really had to grapple with this, a catastrophic bit of decision making and HR incompetence meant I knew it was time to leave.

It's been a difficult, painful time. I've had to grieve for my church, for the ministry I believed I had but that others failed to recognise, for a huge part of my life that will never be the same. It's been hard.

What I've come to realise is that my faith, politics, personal prejudices and theology are not compatible with that preached by the leader of this church. I know that many of the views I hold will cause some I know to have grave concerns for me. There are others still who would say my views are against God and I cannot be a Christian.

I know that I have, in the past, held and repeated views that I now consider to be wrong. Many of us grow up, move on, and discover life is not black and white. The old certainties melt away and it becomes increasingly hard to see a path through the fog, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

So I repent of my past certainties. I declare that I am a Christian who loves Jesus and proclaims salvation through him by his death on a cross and his resurrection from the dead. In his name I seek to respect other people, to love them and to be their friend if they'll let me. I pray daily for guidance from the Holy Spirit, that I would please God and through my actions make him known.

There remain certainties in my life; some of those absolutes that I've learned along the way. But increasingly I regard those who speak with the confidence of completely certainty that everything they believe is absolutely right and that if you don't believe the same, you're wrong... well I increasingly regard their views with suspicion.

Everything I know about Jesus was attractive. People were attracted to him, wanted to engage with him and trust him. There are so many who speak in his name but with the opposite effect.