Buh-bye apex seals, it was nice knowing you…

Well, the inevitable failure happened, albeit a lot sooner than I’d hoped – 49,700 miles and one of the rotors lost compression on two chambers, implying that one seal had given out. If it had waited until summer I’d have had alternative transport, but as it stood it managed to pick the worst bloody time to let go.

It was loaded on to a transporter (cheers Adrian!) and delivered to Rotary Revs where Ben and his crew performed a complete engine rebuild for me in under a fortnight. They really are a superb bunch of chaps up there and have consequently won my business for life!

The car is now feeling a deal better than it ever did before and is generally more eager about everything it does even though I’m still in the be-nice-to-it running-in period, implying it wasn’t exactly in rude health when I first bought it.

But I’m not bitter – the Zoom-Zoom is back, both literally and figuratively!

Laureline GPS NTP server review

My day job has had me fiddling around with network time recently, and in doing the research for how best we can get a properly robust, stable and non-internet-derrived time reference set up, I found the Laureline GPS NTP server on Tindie.

This thing is a neat little 50mm x 80mm board that will plug in to an active GPS antenna (3.3v / 5v selectable) and, ultimately, provide stratum 1 NTP service via a 100MBit ethernet port. At $128 it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than some of the commercial offerings from Symmetricom, Endrun and so on, so I decided to buy one to evaluate it. Continue reading

Step one of the ‘electric 8’ project has been completed

I actually have a working RX-8 now – a moderate-mileage PZ-edition that is incredibly pleasant to drive.



This will be used as a bit of a data donor, allowing me to record the CAN bus data over time so that when the internal combustion engine is removed from the car that will be turned in to an EV (not this one – it’s too good to mess with at the moment!) I can synthesise all the data required to keep the rest of the systems happy.

Identifying the 192 and 231 versions from crap seller descriptions

So it’s not always easy to work out which version of an RX-8 you’re viewing from the description the seller provides, and short of asking (which on an eBay auction can take forever) you have to go by visual cues. The major ones are summarised here and are valid for RX-8s between 2004 and 2007 (i.e. before R3 was launched).

192PS 231PS Notes
5-speed gearbox 6-speed gearbox
Halogen headlights, no washers Xenon headlights, headlight washers Tell-tale sign are the headlight washer pop-ups in the bumper below the headlights
Tach max of 9000RPM Tach max of 10000RPM
Usually cloth interior Leather interior

Also, just because it says it has HID / Xenon headlights doesn’t mean it has OEM lights – there are more than a few that have had the cheap’n’nasty aftermarkets fitted. In this case, it’s almost certainly a 192 and it won’t have the mandatory auto-levelling  and washers, meaning that it’ll be an MOT fail without refitting the original halogen lamps. Check for the washers in the front bumper and for the auto-levelling warning light on startup.

Perle IOLan DS not listening on port 10001?

I use these little Perle IOLan serial-to-IP adaptors for various applications, but had one instance recently where the device was not listening on TCP/10001.

Perle's incredibly useful IOLAN DS1 IP-to-serial device server

Perle’s incredibly useful IOLAN DS1 IP-to-serial device server

After a lot of head-scratching, it was a simple case of someone having toggled the Console / Serial hardware switch from the off (serial) position to on (console) – this prevents the Trueport service starting on the device and hence it no longer listens on TCP/10001 for incoming connections to the serial port.

Toggle switch in the correc (off) position to allow incoming network connections

Toggle switch in the correc (off) position to allow incoming network connections

Not one bit of googling actually mentioned this directly, and neither did the device’s very good manual. Hope it might save someone a few moments in the future 🙂

Reverse engineering the RX-8’s instrument cluster, part one

In order to see how easy it would be to mess around with this car’s on-board systems, I figured the easiest and cheapest way would be to buy an old instrument cluster from eBay and see what I could get it to do.
In reasonably short order (two evenings after work) I managed to get most of the major functions working. All of the stuff you’re about to read was performed without access to an actual vehicle, just to its instrument panel and the internet 😉

So, before we get started, here’s a video to see what can be done with about 8 hours of poking around:

The RX-8 is reasonably simple from an electrical system point of view in that it only has a single, high-speed CAN bus that links most of the major vehicle subsystems together. There are many other good references that explan exactly what CAN bus is and exactly how it works, so I’ll simply summarise it here. Continue reading


All I need now is for ICANN to approve the .hodor top-level domain…

Mondeo: Annoyingly good…

So with the ST205 in pieces, the ST185 needing a complete teardown and rebuild and the truck having exploded (it’s still on the naughty step because of its tantrum at the moment) I needed a random car to move me to work and back. Thankfully, one of my colleagues sold me a 2001 Mondeo estate for the princely sum of £300, and I am quite astonished how good it is.

There are known problems: the clutch is only just clinging to life and the release bearing yowls like an angry cat when you press the pedal, but other than that, everything works! What’s more the gearbox is good, engine is good (and had a cam belt done approximately 40,000 miles ago), the ride is quite frankly excellent and it is a perfectly pleasant way to waft to and from work.

It’s by no means quick and it won’t thank you for hurrying it around a corner, but as a “Plan B” car, it’s perfectly fine. I have to admit that I’ve always had the preconception that they were a bit naff, but the interior’s worn well and there’s not a single squeak or knock anywhere. Even the remote boot release works! Very impressed…

Beware sneaky whois being sneaky…

Whilst blocking entire countries (hi China!) from my mail server, I stumbled across this little gem in the form of a whois driveby.

In looking at a particular IP address, I found this domain name and out of routine did a whois lookup:


Fine so far, but as the contact details were pulled, this appeared:


If you happened to be using a web-based whois servce, specifically one that’s not careful about sanitising the output of whichever whois server it’s using, you may well end up performing a remote file include on yourself! Obviously this is fairly benign when done from the command line, but from a badly coded web whois client it has the potential to be a bit… sneaky!

Just for completeness, I pulled the referenced file and it contained nothing but a line that writes a null string to the document, but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t have something a little more interesting should an appropriate referrer and user-agent be reported at GET time…

From having a rummage around to see if anyone else had spotted this, it looks like it was done by the registry to insert their logo in web-based whois lookups, but that still doesn’t make me feel any happier about it!

Forty-nine ninety-five!

That is how much Halfords want to charge for reading out the codes from a friend’s car because it had a “check engine” light on. Really? I mean, one of these plus this bit of software and you have a tool that you can use over and over and over again for less money than they want to charge you for one code-pull!