Design for serviceability

I was driving around with a friend of mine last week and her car started to smell like burnt rubber.

First off I have to say that we did no burnouts so the tires were not to blame.

Another data point is that after she turned on the air conditioner to defrost the windows the battery light came on. This is also when we smelled rubber the strongest.

The car in question for this exercise is a Mini Cooper S.

My diagnosis at the spot was that the serpentine belt or the belt tensioner was bad. The second thought from looking under the bonnet (it is a car of English heritage after all) was that I couldn’t even touch the belt it was so freaking cramped in the engine compartment.

Yesterday the diagnosis came back from the shop with the same assessment.

Here’s where it’s fucked up.

To change the belt tensioner you have to essentially remove the engine.

I shit you not.

The instructions from Pelican go on to say…

At this point, start carefully jacking up the engine. The idea here is to make the belt tensioner accessible from the passenger side of the engine. Once the supercharger pulley is visible as shown in Figure 20, stop jacking. Keep an eye out for any cables or items that may be binding or getting caught. If you encounter this, stop, carefully rectify the problem and move on.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

I can see something that isn’t likely to be replaced to have some odd service instructions. But something as simple as a belt tensioner?!

You’ll need to remove the passenger side engine mount from the frame rail in order to access the tensioner bolts.


If this was a race car where every cubic millimeter (microliter) has to make the car go faster I could see why you would package something like that.

For a passenger car on the other hand this is stupid.

As an engineer you have to look at your designs and see what are the tradeoffs. Sometimes function dictates form — a hard to service design. But when the design goes back to dictate bad engineering that’s plain wrong.

An example of a hard-to-service part is something on my bike. A clutch replacement involves removing the back half of the bike. However there’s no other real way to do that since the output shaft from the engine runs longitudinally the only real way of mounting the clutch is behind the engine. And since the transmission is behind that… and so forth… you’re left with a design that has a baked-in flaw. It does make other service to the bike super easy though.

That is a decision. Some things are easier or parts lighter in exchange for something that is rarely done being hard.

But something like a belt tensioner — something that’s likely to need service — to be that hard? That is a mistake.

Another blog experiment

I read on ArsTechnica today that CloudFlare is now offering free HTTPS for all of its sites — including the free ones.

I’ve looked at them before. They are a distributed web site caching company. They’re kind of like something like Akamai, but these folks work at the DNS level.

Basically, you hand over your root DNS zone and configure where your web site is and they proxy your site for you.

They also do things like try to prevent DDOS attacks and all sorts of other nasty attacks. I know that I’ve seen in the past how my blog server has been hit with some strange password hacking attempts so I’m curious to see how the behavior changes before and after.

Which brings me to the point: today I moved over my DNS to CloudFlare and unless you’re on some odd long-caching DNS, what you’re seeing now should have come through them.

I’ll seed how this works and report back.

“Epic Douchebaggery”

Someone I know is in the grasp of such an affliction.

She’s married to someone the average Joe would consider a douchebag. (Source: checked with Joe)

From a control perspective she has it bad. Epic Douchebag (ED from here in — perhaps a fitting shortening) has figured out a way of keeping her from the rest of her family. Not just that, but ED forced her to cut off ties from most of her immediate family.

Oh… and they have kids.


My guess is she has what can only be construed as something like a Stockholm Syndrome at this point.

Once you limit the range of someone to only you and get them reliant on only you you’ve got them at your bidding. If they leave ED they’re screwed. If they stay with ED they’re still screwed, but at least you’ve convinced them that it’s less screwed.

Choosing between really bad and fucking bad is not the idea of a good trade-off.

- = -

I freely admit that I’m not perfect. No human is — it’s part of the notion of “human.”

I know that I try mightily to not be douchebag. I fail sometimes sure. I think I’ve not made it to “epic” status.

- = -

I’m in the situation of trying to figure out how to help. I’m a fixer — I try to make things better.

How do I help?

Reliance on technology

Heading out to get some outdoor time and I’m thinking about the reliance on tech.

You know that I blog every day… of course I’m not sure exactly if I’ll have a cellular signal where I was going to be tonight.

So here I sit, in the car on the way down to a camp site, and I’m writing my blog to post later on.

And so it goes… I’m reliant on the technology. Of course the blog, by its very nature, is itself technology.

The “Go!” Bag

Well, a box really.

No, this isn’t talking about some type of apocalyptic scenario — I’m not expecting Zombies to attack at any given point. (Though I suppose I would be prepared for that too)

This is just getting the stuff needed for a comfortable camping trip near at hand. If by chance you get a nice weekend to happen, wouldn’t it be nice to just pop something easy in the car (or motorcycle) and hit the road.

As it stood today we have our camping gear spread over nearly half-a-dozen big boxes. Most of it isn’t really needed for your run-of-the-mill camping for a day or two. We have stuff for the long haul. We have stuff for the longer haul.

But we don’t need that at a moment’s notice.

From here out (well, when we get back) we’ll rearrange to make it just a box of gear and a box for sleeping bags. (Don’t store them compressed. We have two sets: warm and cold — so two boxes)

  • Cooking stuff
    • Stove
    • Fuel
    • Pots / pans
    • Plates, etc.
    • Eating implements
    • Spices
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp chairs
  • First aid
  • Fire-making supplies
  • Bear spray

Really, how much more do you really need?

(Yes, I’ll bring electronics too… it’s my gig… or failing as it might be…)

Old sayings

There’s the saying that goes something like…

“If it’s loose and needs to be stuck: duct tape. If it’s stuck and needs to be loose: WD-40.”

I think I have to disagree with that.

Duct tape wears out too easily and doesn’t really hold that well when it comes down to it. WD-40, similarly, isn’t awesome either; it’s nothing more than a light machine oil with propellant. Heck, WD comes from “Water Displacement.” It wasn’t intended really as a lubricant.

I propose something else:

“If it’s loose and needs to be stuck: epoxy. If it’s stuck and needs to be loose: Balistol.”

Epoxy is some marvelous stuff. It also come in so many different formulations. Most of them set to something akin to a rock. And it’s quick too. It’s about as close to welding things without striking an arc.

Balistol is typically used as a gun oil. But it can be used for almost anything that needs a bit of lubrication. It might smell a bit funky — like some cheese that’s gone off — but it’s also non-toxic. It’s also safe to use on damn near anything and doesn’t get gummy over time.

So there.



My friend Holly always waits to upgrade just about anything. Early adopters get hit with all the early fallout.

Today I got hit with some of that.

iOS 8.0.1 was released today. I upgraded today.

After the update I lost touch-id and cellular.

My phone was no longer a phone.  :-(

A backup and restore of 8.0.0 and I was back in business.

This was really not what I was expected from Apple.


“Returning to seller”

A text showed up on my phone today. I had ordered some stuff from Amazon (surprise). In this case it’s a small pile of Red Line SI-1 Fuel System Cleaner.

The text said that it’s “Returning to sender.”

This is almost as strange as the king of strange tracking where a Kindle Paperwhite was “Destroyed at customer’s request.”

Sometimes the shipping system is just whacked.

From talking to a rep at Amazon it seems that something got damaged in shipment of the liquid (!) and things are hosed up. I’m glad I’m not cleaning up the — literal — mess.

And the Kindle issue was a similarly damaged package. I’m guessing someone got to take home a Kindle to “destroy.” heh.


Seattle weather

One of the things you always hear about Seattle is that it’s always raining.

Sure, in the winter we get more than our fair share of rain. (Though the fact that it’s rain instead of snow is a good thing)

The reason I’m writing about this right now is that for the past couple of days we woke up to some pretty dreary looking skies. On Saturday, upon getting out of bed, it was nothing but gloom. Today it was raining big pregnant drops as I sat at my computer before leaving for work.

The “but” here is that almost every day here in Seattle we get to see the sun at least once. Even on the most miserable days in the winter we get some sunshine most days.

This, this, is a good thing.

App progress

One of the goals I have is to get my blogging app published. Honestly, it’s more than getting it published. While it would be nice to make some money, the real reason I want to make the app is for me.

In any case, so far I’ve hooked up a bunch of things with the app:

  • XMLRPC is working to talk to my test WordPress blog
  • A picture picker is working
  • CodeData has been set up and tracking blog information, posts, and assets

While none of this is really dramatic and I’m sure that someone can do it quickly who is skilled in the art of iOS development. But I’m happy so far.

I can say that the new language, Swift, is a double-edged sword. It’s nicer and cleaner, but much of the docs aren’t yet up to speed all the way. I’ve not had too much trouble with it and how I’m using it to integrate with CocoaPods. So far, so good.

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