Dalek Pumpkin

I wish I had thought of this:

dalek pumpkin


Prius Hack collection

I hate it when things are “hidden” by manufacturers, especially to “protect me”.  Thank you, Big Brother, but I’ll make my own decisions.  Thanks to the folks over at PriusChat for posting these at various times. Also, another handy reference is this eaa-phev wiki.  I just wanted to get the ones I use most all together into one handy reference.  CoastalTech has a selection of hardware hacks that you can install to do some of these automatically.  I installed their nav hack and it’s quite nice, though it doesn’t give you any more functionality than the manual hack below.

This hack lets you key in a destination while the vehicle is in motion:

1)Push MENU Button on bezel
2)Tap the VOLUME soft button
3)Tap top left of screen (where the speaker icon is), then the bottom left, then top left again and finally the bottom left again.
**Perform these taps in rapid sequence. Do not be tentative or it might not work.
4)The Service Menu should appear.
5)Press and hold the OVERRIDE soft button until it beeps and is highlighted.
Full NAV function should now be available until you shut down the car. This can be engaged while in motion but must be repeated each time the car is restarted.
Be cautious experimenting within the Service Menu as you could cause yourself some problems with your Prius is you push the wrong combination of buttons.

This hack lets you turn off the “engine service” reminder light:

• Power on car, Cycle ODO/TRIP, stopping on ODO, Power off car.
• Power on, while holding the ODO button.  Wait for reminder light to go out, then release ODO button.

This hack lets you disable the “Reverse Beep”.

This is the annoying beep INSIDE the car which cannot be heard outside the car.

• Power on the car, Cycle ODO/TRIP, stopping on ODO, Power off the car.
• Power on, within 6 seconds, hold ODO for at least 10 seconds.
• While still holding ODO shift into Reverse and back into Park.
• “b-on” shows on speedometer display, press ODO to cycle to "b-off".
• This also works for the seatbelt beep, replace shifting with buckling/un-buckling (yes, physically buckling the belt).  Seatbelt beep allows you to enable/disable seatbelt reminder beep for the driver+passenger, and enable passenger only.

This hack lets you access Touch screen diagnostics (for 2004 or newer):

Use of this information might result in disabling your vehicle, use it at your own risk.

  • Hold Info button while turning the lights on and off 3 times, you can wait for system checks. -OR-
    Press the display button, then press the left upper and lower corners within the display settings box 3 times.
    • If codes exist press LAN Mon, then CHEK to show codes or hold code clr to clear codes.
  • From the initial screen, hold Info button while turning the lights on and off 3 times
    for Model Info Set Up (type) screen. I do not know what these do, use at your own risk.
    • Types are : 690N 740N 836N 783N 620N 808N 480X 900N 382X 290X
      Types are : 901N EMV AVX(ten) AVX(nat) AVX_HV(ten) AVX_HV(nat) 749N
  • Use the Menu button to reach the Diagnosis Menu, press the Display Check and then
    Vehicle Signal Check to show the accessory battery voltage and other information.
  • From the Diagnosis Menu press upper-left then lower-right screen corners for PDM menu.
    • All buttons except for perhaps the Init. BackUp may be safe to use.
  • From PDM screen, hold Info button while turning the lights on and off 3 times for an untitled screen.
    • Here you find a number of options stating success or PGM rqd including TKM, Flicker,
      setting:Tape/MD, setting Address:110H/120H, setting AC:off/on, and setting Auto:off/on
  • Hold the physical Display button to exit at any time, or simply power off the car.

    This hack allows you to disable the traction control:

    This one is very controversial, and actually makes me angry.  For those of you who have never experienced this “feature”, you probably think it’s a good idea.  You also probably think it’s implemented similar to traction control systems on other cars.  Sorry, but it’s not, and it’s not.  In that order.

    This inane feature detects the slightest wheel spin and then KILLS THE ENGINE briefly.  So if you are pulling out of a driveway onto a busy street, and your wheels happen to slip slightly in the water puddled by the curb, your car protects you by removing power, stalling your forward progress, and then allowing other safety systems to further protect you when that moving van you were trying to pull ahead of slams into your drivers side door.  I feel very protected.  This also has the additional feature of causing a laundry problem every time it happens.  This isn’t traction control, folks, this is a joke – a dangerous one at that.

    I have seen warnings on this one that you could damage your transmission if you actually use this.  Perhaps hair will grow on the palms of your hands too, I don’t know.  Mostly from what I’ve seen, this is a hysterical hand-waving discussion with the majority of alarmists completely unable to back up their wild assertions of trashing your car with anything more than “well I think it might do that” or “well Toyota wouldn’t have put it in there for no good reason”.  Er, yea, well those of us who think with our own brains can and do use the following to great advantage when in traction challenged situations (snow/slush, etc).  I don’t normally enable this, but when I am in problematic conditions, I do.

    My wife and I call this the “traction control dance”:

    • Follow the sequence below (quickly – within 60 seconds)
    • Set Ignition state to ON, not READY (Power button twice, no brake)
    • While still in "P" fully depress the gas pedal two times.
    • Select "N" fully depress the gas pedal two times. (parking brake may be applied prior)
    • Select "P" fully depress the gas pedal two times.
    (LCD display will indicate a red !Car! in upper left corner of screen)
    • Start the engine (brake+start button)

    Lytro light field camera is now available

    I wrote a bit on the Lytro “light field” camera back in July.  The first version of their nifty new camera technology is now available for purchaseHere is a neat article from ArsTechnica which describes a bit about how this technology works.


    At the moment, you’ll need a Macintosh computer to work with it, but they are working on a windows version of the software too.  I was very surprised at the price point too, starting at $399.  That’s actually affordable for mere mortals.

    The big feature Lytro touts is the lack of focusing needed when taking a picture.  The camera actually only has a shutter button and an optical zoom control.  You focus later, touching the part of the image which you want to be sharp.  They are also talking about having the ability to lose depth of field entirely and make everything in focus, regardless of distance.  That would be great for your average casual photo-snapper.  For the more serious “artsy” photographer, depth of field is a great tool.  I’m hoping that you’ll be able to adjust the depth of field, as sometimes you want it very narrow to get a particular effect, and sometimes you want to widen it a bit without necessarily losing it entirely.

    The odd thing to me is that it seems like this is all they talk about with this product.  On the beta discussion list it was mentioned that the camera is inherently 3D and they showed a couple of examples of pictures rendered in a couple of different 3D systems.  I’d have thought this was a pretty key feature to crow about.

    Also, the camera has no flash as they claim it does fine in low light situations.  I’m skeptical of course, but if true, that would be very nice.

    They say that future versions of these cameras will be available with interchangeable lenses and other more “pro” features.  Personally, I think it’s a good move to hit the mass market hard first, and try to get a foothold and establish a standard for “light field” images and processing software.  It will be interesting to see where this goes in a few years.



    Mouse-Overs – good UI idea, but problematic

    Having the mouse activate things (like help on what to put in a text field) just by hovering over some spot is pretty neat.  However, with this being used more and more, it’s starting to cross over from neat to annoying.

    UI Guideline: If you are going to do a mouse-over help box for a form field, make sure that the pop-up text box containing the help doesn’t pop up over the field in the form!  Seems like an obvious thing, but most of the time the stupid things pop up right over top of where you are typing, and you can’t see what you are typing anymore.  That’s less than useful.  Also, keep the area for the pop-up trigger fairly small.  There are few things more annoying than shoving the mouse out of the way to type, and accidentally ending up over a pop-up trigger which either shows a big old help box right in your way, or even worse, triggers a drop-down for another field which grabs the keyboard and prevents  you typing where you wanted to type.

    It’s all about politeness, really.  In short: Don’t get in my way, and don’t make me do things I don’t want to do right now.  You should try to minimize user irritation with user interfaces, and that’s fairly easy to do if you give a little thought to the design.  These days, I’m seeing too many user interfaces peppered with “whizzy features” which are more annoying than not.

    It’s the Platform, Stupid, says Google Engineer – and I totally agree!

    I ran across this blog by Ed Burnette today:


    He’s talking about a tirade by Steve Yegee of Google (click here to read it).  Warning: It’s long, so get comfortable.  On the other hand, it’s also right!  As Ed says in his blog above, people are missing the point about Steve’s rant.  He’s not bashing Google+ or really any Google product, he’s talking about a way of looking at things.  I’d think the higher ups at Google should want to take him out to dinner and buy him a new car, and start pushing people to move in the Platform direction.  It is a very different way of doing things than writing discrete applications that don’t talk to anyone else, and it’s harder, but to take Steve’s point, SO worthwhile in the long run.  It empowers other developers (maybe not even at your company) to take work you have done and use it as a building block to create something way cooler that you probably never even thought of.

    This was written as an internal rant for Google folks, but it’s easily Accessible to other folks too.  Anybody doing software development would be well served to give this some serious thoughts.  Thanks, Steve – it IS about the platform.

    Personal Helicopters – aka the real geek’s Beanie Hat

    So with the latest disappointment from Moller, I did some poking around to see what other people are doing.  I turns out that quite a few folks are working on VTOL, but in a different way!  It’s a shame that none of these products, even though some appear to work quite well, seem to make it to market.  Especially ‘cause I want one!

    Here’s one for motorcycle enthusiasts that’s downright sexy, the Malloy Hoverbike:


    This is a rather interesting approach, and being a motorcycle rider, I like it!  It’s being developed in Sydney, Australia and has a target price of approximately $45,000 AUD.  Projected specs are: Airspeed – 150KIAS, Service ceiling – >10,000 ft, Dry weight – 110kg, Max gross weight – 270kg,  Total thrust – 295kg.  Development is funded primarily by Chris Malloy himself, with some donations.  So, it’s a slow development process as a result.  According to their website (no idea when the last update was), it has only been flown tethered, but they say it seems to be very stable.

    Moller Skycar M400X demonstration postponed

    Today is the day Moller Interational was supposed to demonstrate untethered, manned flight with their Skycar M400X prototype.  There have been no announcements on their website, and the blog section where this (among other things) was being discussed has been taken down, supposedly due to abusive fake postings by people impersonating Moller employees.  Hmm… doesn’t seem like it would be rocket science to secure THAT, now does it?

    After doing a bit more digging today, I unearthed an article in Yahoo! Finance which states that the demo has been postponed.  This was released Sept 27, 2011.  I find it very curious that Moller’s website does not have any of this information.  One would think that platform would be an obvious way to communicate with the public and investors, and that from a PR standpoint, transparency would be a good idea.  But hey, what do I know, eh?

    According to the Yahoo! press release: “The new flight date will be announced once the final approvals have been given from the FAA, event sponsors, Moller's flight preparation team and an acceptable weather window can be identified.”

    There’s lots of spin on there, but they say the rescheduled demo will be conducted at Lake Minden, a private 41 acre lake resort located 20 miles north of Sacramento International Airport.

    The date, of course has not been set.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  You’d think that Moller would want to regain a bit of credibility by setting a date (soon) and then actually (gasp) going through with it.  But again, what do I know, eh?

    I tend to agree with one of the followup posters on the above article: “Surely 35+ years is enough time to successfully overcome the relevant challenges. It might be time to let a more practical, results oriented leader take the reins. I suspect Burt Rutan could get the thing up and running in about 20 minutes.”  Let’s give him a couple of months so he can do a really bang-up job!

    Net New vs Frog New

    Here’s some techie Inane for you.  The phrase “Net new” has become very popular, and is now being flogged to death in high tech marketing materials and presentations.  The beef I have with this silly phrase is that “Net” contributes absolutely nothing and is simply a trendy fluff-word.  I propose substituting an equally worthless word such as “frog”.  So you would say “We will be installing a frog new server setup”.  See?  It’s much more colorful, and equally worthless.  I used this improved phrase in a meeting with a vendor the other day, and it did a great job of breaking his stride – always fun with vendors.

    Desperate StorageVendors

    We’ve been evaluating storage solutions at my company, and with the politics (both internal to our company, and external to the storage vendors), it is starting to feel like a soap opera.  So, I whipped this out: