All Blogs from December 2007 by Date
Ever felt that you were once a pretty good home car mechanic until all this computery stuff came out? Ever got a check engine light come on and felt you had no choice but to take your car down the local dealership and prepare to be fleeced? Ever wanted one of those gadgets you see the mechanics using which tell you instantly what the fault on your car is? ...or maybe you just fancy a cool gizmo that draws graphs of your 0-60 times, horsepower, fuel consumption, speed, rpm, etc.? Personally they all sound useful to me...
Once upon a time equipment to do this sort of analysis was expensive but these days with open source diagnostics software and cheap OBDII PC adapters becoming available to the masses its becoming more and more like something within our reach. Once again those of us that want to can look forward to fixing simple car faults on their driveway.
What is OBDII?
OBDII is a standardised diagnostics connector present on most modern cars which has a data stream containing lots of information such as known faults, fuel consumption, speed, engine rpm, throttle position, air flow, engine temperature, etc. Not only is this data really useful for tuning your engine and finding out how efficient your driving skills are but you can also use OBDII devices to reset check engine lights etc.
Does my car have OBDII?
Thanks to laws in the USA aimed at making all vehicles repairable by non-dealers the OBDII connector must be fitted to all cars manufactured after 1996 sold in the US. In Europe (as with many things) we copied the Americans but unfortunately 5 years later and as such all petrol* cars sold in Europe after 2001 must have OBDII (*see comment at end about diesels). However these deadlines just mean it's compulsory after these dates, many cars manufactured before this may still have the connector anyway. Additionally even if you purchased your car in the EU, chances are that if your car was available in the states after 1996 you may have OBDII as its easier for the manufacturers to leave it fitted globally than omit it outside the USA.
The best way to confirm 100% if you car has OBDII is look for the connector. Its quite distinctive and is fitted somewhere around the front seats usually by the driver and often tucked away under a panel. It takes a while to locate so be patient as it can be a bit of a hide and seek game. Using a torch check behind ash trays, in glove boxes, by the fuse box, etc. Basically you are looking for something like this:
What do I need to access the data?
Put simply you need two things. A way of converting the data stream from the cars OBDII connector to serial data suitable for reading by your PC, and some software to interpret it.
Most PC software looks for the OBDII adapter on a serial port which can be in the form of a physical COM port on the back of your PC or more conveniently a virtual COM port such as a USB or Bluetooth generated port. Whichever you decide to use you need an appropriate OBDII adapter to connect to it.
When purchasing an OBDII adapter you need to make sure it is compatible with your vehicle. This means you need either a multi-protocol device or one that understands the protocol your vehicle uses. You can get a good idea of which protocol your car uses (usually either ISO, VPW, PWM or CAN) using this guide on ELM's website (a manufacturer of OBDII conversion chips). Personally I recommend you get a multi-protocol adapter then you wont need to worry about buying another one when you change your vehicle, plus you have the added bonus of helping your friends out and comparing results. Unfortunatly for obvious reasons multiprotocol devices are more expensive so depending on funds you may have to locate the specific adapter for your vehicle.
Looking around theres quite a few sources of OBDII adapters out there, some with software, some without, some wireless, some cabled, some multi-protocol and some single protocol. After deciding if you want single or multi-protocol OBDII you need to figure out if your laptop or PDA (whichever you wish to use) has a serial port and/or Bluetooth as this will affect your options. You can of course buy a Bluetooth dongle or USB COM adapter for your laptop separately but it makes your life somewhat easier if you get the correct interface in the first place as the less separate bits of kit you need to worry about the better.
Another thing worth knowing is most 3rd party software appears to be aimed at the ELM chipset so unless you are completely happy with the software supplied with the device you will need to make sure whatever you buy uses this chipset.
Personally I found the ScanTool.net website to have a good range of reasonably priced devices and since they went to the effort of making their ScanTool software open source using the GPL license it makes me more inclined to buy from them (they will ship to the UK or if you prefer you can use one of their distributors). However their software is rather basic (as is a lot of the free software I've looked at) so you may want to look at devices which are bundled with commercial applications such as Engine Check from Gendan.
There's quite a lot of software out there ranging from free applications such as those on sourceforge to full blown commercial packages with every bell and whistle you can imagine including vehicle specific optimisations. ScanTools software list is a good place to start looking as it shows freeware, shareware and commercial software side by side but obviously search engines such as Google will help you out more than anything.
Depending on how much you want to do with your device, the free software may be perfectly adequate; for example if you just want to find out what fault code threw your check engine light on most software will do that. However if you want to do slightly more than that such as plot your horsepower curves and 0-60 acceleration you will probably want to look at commercial software. If you do decide to go commercial, as mentioned above its worth considering that you may get a better deal on the software you purchase it with the OBDII adapter at the same time. Heres some examples of the commercial applications available:
Modern engine management systems often frighten off home mechanics which is a shame because they needn't; all that is required is a slightly different set of tools. If you have a laptop, computer experience and reasonable car maintenance skills chances are with an OBDII diagnostics tool you can locate and repair many of the common faults which would normally have you turning to the dealer to fix. Sure these generic OBDII devices wont provide you with all the information the dealers get using their super expensive analysers but more often than not you will get what you need to start fixing a problem.
...and apart from all that, plotting graphs of your cars performance can be very revealing.(9 comments)
Just recently I obtained on contract a Samsung SGH-I640V (sometimes referred to as a version of the Blackjack Slider). Its a great little Windows Mobile 6 based smartphone which had unfortunately like many phones fallen victim to Vodafones branding butchery. One of the things I personally found particularly painful was the horrific background images and red colouring which appeared all over the place. In my quest to remove this obnoxiousness I discovered a few little tips and tricks which may be useful to anyone else in a similar dilemma.
As it stands I've tested and indeed use all of the settings listed below on my SGH-i640V but I'm guessing they should also work on other Windows Mobile 6 smartphones. You will need a registry editor such as PHM Registry Editor or Total Commander to make these changes and you will also need to restart the phone for them to come into effect. Like any registry editor please be careful to make a note of any changes you make and remember if you mess up your phone its not easy to get it back again without a full reset.
These registry entries basically contain the path to the image which is used as the background picture at various stages in the phones operation (such as the contact list). I didn't need to unlock my phone to adjust these settings and simply redirected them to the appropriately sized image of my choice.
The banner image is a strip identifying the call carrier which again appeared in the contact list (this one particularly annoyed me for some reason) but also showed up in call details and a couple of other places. In my case it was the Vodafone logo. I personally set it to either be blank or the same as the background image so it wouldn't be visible, another option would be to set an image you wish to use instead.
Even after all that I still had a couple of branding images that still wouldn't go. I eventually tracked them down to the following registry locations which unfortunately I couldn't change until I application unlocked the phone (which I'll provide more details of in a minute).
The last remaining banner I fixed by replacing file below:
Its worth noting that this file is stored in the ROM and while you cant change the ROM you can replace it with a file using the same name and it will use that instead. The problem is many file manager programs cant do this including the Sync Center file manager in Windows Vista. This means you will need to copy the file to a directory you can easily write to and then move it using an application on the phone. I had to try a couple of apps before I found one that worked.
Changing the keys on the home screen:
The next thing that annoyed me was Vodafone had configured the right hand soft button on the home screen rather arrogantly to take you to their Vodafone Live! website. Why on earth you would want a button like that in one of those most prime real-estate locations on the phone is beyond me - so I changed it. The registry keys were as follows:
To change the text:
To change the application:
To change the icon:
Personally I changed it to launch \Windows\Gridview.exe which I believe is the default application launcher used by Microsoft on the Start button. I was actually going to put this on the Start button and move the hotlist launcher onto the right soft button but I haven't quite figured out how to do that yet and this was a nice compromise. For the icon I just set it blank - I prefer it without an icon anyway its cleaner.
Another option would be to set the right soft button back to the contacts list. You can do this by setting the Open parameter to \Windows\cdial.exe and the Default text to Contacts.
Changing the colour of the highlight block on the application launcher:
Microsofts application launcher (which was now on my right hand soft button but on your system may be on the start button or under "Main Menu") used a red highlighting block. I have no idea if this was due to Vodafones meddling or the default, but because I had scrapped Vodafones rage inducing red for a rather pleasant blue theme I needed to change this and did so by altering this file:
Like the carrierlogo this file is stored in ROM so I copied the file into the document folder on the phone and moved it to the correct location using the filemanager application on the phone.
Amazingly enough the best place I have found for smartphone themes is Microsofts very own website. If you go here you will find quite a selection, some of which were actually reasonably good - at least for a starting point.
Application unlocking your phone
Before you start playing with unlock programs its best to find out if your phone is actually locked or not already and if it is how locked it actually is. Luckily enough Microsoft have been kind enough to supply us with a Powertoy called the Device Security Manager. This allows you to check and even in some cases even set the security level on your phone. The application basically has two panels; in the one on the left you can set what the security level you desires setting are and in the one one on the right you can see the current security status of your phone. Clicking the provision button in the middle then transfers the settings on the left across to your phone on the right. The setting you are aiming for is of course "No Security".
Unfortunately its rarely that easy and my guess is you will get an error explaining that the security is setup in a way you can't change it. To solve this problem you need an hack called sda_applicationunlock.exe. Google will probably be the best person to help you out with this one. Needless to say once you have run sda_applicationunlock you will find the Microsoft Device Security Manager a lot more willing to comply to your wishes.
Whilst I haven't gone into a huge amount of detail here, mainly because unfortunately I don't have the time at the moment, for someone that is familiar with the Windows registry this should give you a good kickstart into fixing up your Windows Mobile 6 machine to be a bit more pleasant. Good luck and remember be careful, its very easy to accidentally turn your phone into a doorstop.
I've owned a Parrot CK3100 for many years now and I can honestly say its a great Bluetooth car kit, one of the best in fact. No matter what weird and wonderful phones I have thrown at it in the past (and trust me I've had some wierd phones over the years) with a bit of persuasion its always worked.
This time around I had to do a bit more persuasion than normal so I thought I'd let you guys know how to get it working and hopefully save someone a lot of effort.
Synchronising Vodafones Samsung SGH-I640V
I've no idea how many phones will have the same problem but since my Samsung SGH-I640V is based around Windows Mobile 6 (which a lot of phones are starting to use now) I'm guessing there might be quite a few affected....
When setting up the Bluetooth pairing in the way you normally do with a CK3100 (such as getting into the car, powering on the ignition, waiting for the Parrot to boot, picking up the phone and selecting
'settings'->'connections'->'Bluetooth'->'Add new device' and following the wizard) everything appears to go completely to plan. The phone connects up, your contacts automatically sync and all is well - but closer inspection reveals the following type of thing stored in your Parrots phone book:
A N Other/h
A N Other/m
For some reason the auto synchronization appears to send the numbers individually with a location prefix (h = home, m= mobile, w=work) added to each entry instead of combining them in the normal way. This is a total pain as it means the Parrots location selection (where you speak the persons location as home, mobile, work, etc) wont work. It also means your contacts directory looks a mess and will fill up much quicker than it should.
Tracking down the problem...
A quick test showed that if I pushed contacts over to the car kit individually they formatted correctly and each of the different numbers were stored underneath one contact name like they should be. This means the problem did indeed lie with the auto sync.
Unfortunately without taking on a firmware rewrite I couldn't see a solution... Theres no way to delete the bad contacts, no way to disable the autosync on the phone (since it practically happens on its own) and there appears to be no way to disable the auto-sync on the Parrot ....or is there?
After a little investigation I noticed that there is an phone listed on the CK3100's pairing menu called "SE K750, No Sync", which I'm guessing is for a Sony Erricson K750. I don't know much about it but obviously it has some problem with sync because it disables it - which is just what we need!
To use this Sony setting first delete any pairings already on your phone and car kit which relate to each other; then on the car kit select 'Settings'->'Advanced Settings'->'Pair with Phone' and click the "SE K750, No Sync" option. Once complete go to your phone and select 'settings'->'connections'->'Bluetooth'->'Add new device' and follow the wizard. If all goes well hopefully your phone will connect up and no longer syncronise!
You can then transfer your contacts across manually using the 'Send Contact'->'Beam' option in the phone book the same as Parrot have detailed for earlier model phones such as the SGH-I620. I know, I know, its seriously painful doing them one at time, however one silver lining is the Parrots firmware is so well written you can upload contacts over bluetooth and record your voice tags at the same time. This means it really doesn't take much longer that it would anyway - hence why I didn't bother to check out some of the synchronisation software which I have heard means you can bulk send.
Anyway it got me up and running (no side effects so far) and hopefully with this guide you can get yourself working as well, at least until Parrot release their next firmware update which hopefully should sort it properly.
When running a multi-headed setup on a budget its not always possible to have identical monitors; this introduces the really irritating problem that across your screens the colours dont match. If like me you spent hours and hours playing with colour controls and pieces of software which supposedly help you set your gamma, etc and still never quite managed to get it right - then you probably need to invest in a colour profiling tool.
At first I thought such devices were perhaps a little over the top, being reserved for the realms of professional publishers and photographers, etc. but after investing in one myself I can honestly say it was well worth it. Now not only can I upgrade individual monitors whenever I like without upsetting the balance of my system but I can be rest assured that what I see on my screen whilst doing web design or processing images, etc. is as correct as it can be.
What is colour management?
Colour management is actually quite a complicated subject, certainly too much to cover fully in this blog. But put basically; in the same way that the sound from your HiFi system never truly matches the sound of the original music, your monitor and printer (and for input: your camera and scanner) never truly match the original source image. You might think its by a small amount but you're eyes and brain are actually quite good at correcting images which are quite wrong, sometimes its only when you have two monitors sat next to each other with the same image on them you realise how massively different the two displays are ...hence the purpose of this blog.
To get the right colour management settings you use a device called a colour profiler. This is basically a calibrated piece of hardware which looks at the colours given by your device and in conjunction with its software makes a map of how much you need to change each colour to make it match a standard. These changes are called a colour profile and you will need one for each device you wish to be accurate (monitor, printer, scanner, camera, etc). Its basically analogous to the settings you might use on your HiFi graphic equaliser to make it sound as close to the original music as possible.
Whats out there?
I don't intend to go into massive detail about the products available here, as to be honest I don't have the facilities to test or make accurate recommendations but suffice to say there are two popular colour profiling products on the market you should check out. The GretagMacbeth range by Xrite and the ColorVision range by DataColor. Out of the two ranges I found the ColorVision Spyder2Pro and the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display 2 (sometimes called i1Display 2) to be the most suitable products for my application as they are the current models which support multiple monitors and do everything you need to match your screens.
After much blog reading, looking at specifications and checking out the supplied software I decided on GretagMacbeths product which I purchased from WarehouseExpress. This was actually contrary to my initial instincts to go for the Spyder product (on the basis that it was much cooler looking) but I'm glad I did choose the Gretag because the Gretags superior software more than makes up for its dullness.
The feature I like in particular on GretagMacbeths software is that it gives realtime colour information which guides you to adjust your monitor using the monitors built in colour controls before it scans and creates the profile. This gives you the best chance of getting everything as right as possible before the colours are corrected using brute force methods such as the graphics card LUT. (The Spyder software may have this facility now but when I was looking to buy it didn't.)
Installation and use
The GretagMacbeth is extremely easy to install and use even with multiple monitors. Once you have run through the setup and launched the calibration application, simply drag it to the screen you wish to calibrate, run through the wizard and save the profile; giving each of your displays an individual file name. It should be noted that on XP you can only have one colour profile on each graphics card; so if you have two different monitors on the same card you need Vista or another graphics card. To my knowledge this is a limitation of the XP OS not GretagsMacbeths software.
Problems with LUT loading...
OK now to the main purpose of this blog. GretagMacbeths software like all good monitor calibration software comes with a LUT loader, in the case of the Eye-One Display 2 its in the startup folder and called the "Logo Calibration Loader". What this does is load a Look Up Table (hence LUT) into your graphics card which tells the graphics card how to display each colour properly. Now lots of people appear to have problems with this working so I thought I'd explain how to solve a few of them.
The problems themselves are not actually with GretagMacbeths loader but with loaders from other software which also load LUT's onto your graphics card, hence destroying all the good work you have done... Heres a few of the common culprits.
During the Adobe Photoshop installation it installs a gamma loader which uploads a LUT to your graphics card based on a 'by eye' test which is available inside the application itself or control panel. To disable the loader you need to go into your startup folder and remove the "Adobe Gamma Loader" otherwise basically this application will override any settings you have done with your colour profiler.
Paint Shop Pro
Paint Shop Pro is a real pain as it appears to have a bug whereby it loads the LUT table stored in the configured colour profile onto ALL graphics cards instead of just the graphics card connected to the monitor which you have associated the particular colour profile to. This sets basically sets all the LUT's the same across all monitors which of course you don't want as all your monitors aren't the same. It seems to be a problem in both Paint Shop Pro X and Paint Shop Pro XI. I reported this to Corel via email this time last year but the support tech just replied with the usual "upgrade your graphics drivers" email which was of course completely unhelpful.
To solve the problem I have disabled colour management in Paint Shop Pro, not an ideal solution but at least my displays don't get screwed up.
If anyone knows if this is fixed in Paint Shop Pro X2 please let me know, as without getting into a huge debate Paint Shop Pro is definitely my personal graphics package of choice over Adobe Photoshop.
I have to admit this one caught me out. My machine booted fine, all looked good then *bink*, all the colours where wrong again. After playing around with msconfig (a really useful built in utility which allows you to disable various startup applications, just click start->run and type msconfig) I discovered that the cuplrit was a bunch of DLL's which start on bootup written by nVidia.
If you look inside:
...depending on your system you might see these 3 entires: NvSvc, NvMediaCenter and NvCplDaemon.
Now the one which caused all the problems for me was NvCplDaemon so I made a backup copy of the registry values and simply deleted it. This solved my problem completely and I have had no detrimental effects as a result. Its my guess this simply loads up the settings you have stored on the nVidia Control Panel but since I'm not using those settings its not a problem to disable it.
To summarise colour management is tricky at the best of times and in fact I've barely scratched the surface here skipping over crucial steps such as configuring colour profiles in applications etc. However personally I found the results surprisingly worthwhile and well worth the effort, even if its just for the fact that now all my monitors look identical.(3 comments)