Category: Electronics

Griffin PowerMate Control Now Works with Windows 10

Just a quick post today. I’ve purchased a Griffin PowerMate Control Knob to use with my Windows 10 computer. There are hundreds of angry comments online that it apparently does not work with Windows 10.

I just wanted to clarify for anyone considering buying one, that they do indeed work with Windows 10, I’m not sure why so many people appear to have issues. I am running Windows 10 Professional 64 bit, I plugged the device into the USB port, Windows automatically installed the correct driver from Windows Update. I then downloaded the “XP & Vista” manager software from the Griffin website and installed it. The PowerMate then worked straight away to control the system volume, and opening the manager application allows you to customise the actions performed by the device. I’m currently using it to scroll through web pages and alter the volume but I’ll likely find more uses for it over the next few days.

Joining RG316 Coaxial Antenna Cable

Recently I needed to join some lengths of RG316 antenna cable following an office move. This cable is used for a mobile phone repeater/booster on the input side and where it was wired into the building, the N-type plug had been fitted afterwards and was too large to pull out through the hole in the wall and the cable had to be cut.

After looking online and not really finding much useful information for this very thin cable I thought I’d detail what I did to make it work.

I started by cutting off the plug end, but leaving about 18 inches of cable just in case it went wrong then I had some extra cable to work with. Once you’re ready to reattach it in it’s new location, I stripped about 1.5 inches of the outer insulation from both ends to be joined, being careful not to damage the braid/shield conductor.

Next, you’ll want to push the shielding back to expose the inner core, it may be tight and not move easily but with a bit of a wiggle I was able to do this.

Take some suitable size heat shrink tubing that is large enough to fit over the outer cable and slide that on before we go any further. Then, cut off about a quarter of an inch of the inner core on one side and strip a small amount of insulation from both inner cores. Take a piece of very thin heat shrink tubing and cut it to a suitable length to put over the inner core to cover your join and then solder the core, slide the tubing over the join and heat it up to shrink it on.

We’re almost done now. Push the braiding back over the inside join, if you have cut the lengths right there should be an overlap of about a quarter of an inch on the braiding and both sides of it should ‘mesh’ together in the middle. Now carefully, you want to solder the outside of these braids together, I’d suggest doing it in small spots and don’t hold the soldering iron on it for very long otherwise you’ll end up melting the heat shrink tubing in the inner core. If you’ve got good quality cable and solder it should work easily and the solder will flow nicely around the braid to create a very good joint.

Finally, slide the larger heat shrink tubing we put on earlier over the whole join and heat it up to shrink it which will protect the join and help strengthen it.

It’s important that you join the cable in this way so that the braid surrounds the join. Many people would just twist up the braid and join both the braid and inner core using a screw terminal block but this is very bad for the signal and makes is susceptible to a lot of external interference. When we are working with cellular or otherwise very weak signals this would make it very problematic. After what I have done here, we have a 30 meter length of cable from the antenna to the booster box and we are receiving a full 5 bars of signal on the input side which is very good considering the length of the cable run and goes to show that using good quality cable along with quality fittings can really make or break a job.

I wish I had taken some photos along the way when I was working on this but hopefully you can work out what I am trying to explain here. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Peugeot 406 Project Update / Tracker Installation

Today I also found some time to fit my Ruptela FM-Eco3 tracker to the car at the same time as my GPS repeater (explained in this previous post).

I decided I wanted the tracker mounted as far away from the head unit as possible because I was getting some interference from the GPRS communications which could be heard when listening to the radio. For this reason I thought I’d have a look behind the instrument cluster as a suitable location because all required connections are within easy reach, I’ll detail the process below.

To gain access to the instrument cluster area, first start by looking along the upper edge just above the speedo and rev counter and along that edge you will find 3 torx screws which all need to be removed. Once those are out the way, you can start to pry the plastic surround off from this area. My most effective method was to start by the two blower vents in the centre console and carefully using a flat bladed screwdriver just pry the plastic trim upwards slightly until that end clicks out of place, then work your way around the edge of it to the other side until all edges are unclipped. You may find it useful to pry the top edge downwards where you removed the torx screws as the screw holes are slightly recessed into the upper dash and will need prying out. If all goes to plan, the blower vents will come out already attached to the trim, if not, give those a good pull too and they will unclip from the dash. I found it easier to put the blower vents back into the plastic trim for safekeeping and also to aid reassembly later on.

This was as far as I needed to go to find a suitable spot. I chose to mount the tracker just above the right-hand blower vent tube, the tracker itself is only about 4″ by 2.5″ by 3/4″ so it would sit nicely on top of the pipe and I ran a cable/zip tie around it to keep it from rattling around. Before you do that though you will need to get the wires ready. For the GPS antenna, I had lost my original antenna for the tracker and I may have left it on my old car when that was scrapped so I decided to tab into the antenna from the GPS repeater from my last post. I had to purchase a “SMA ‘T’ Splitter” and a “1.5m SMA male to male cable” to do the job, both of which came to about £4 on ebay so very cheap. I hooked up the T splitter to the repeater cable above the interior light and ran the cable down inside the pillar to where my tracker will be mounted, as luck would have it the cable was once again the perfect length for this at 1.5 meters. That’s your antenna connection sorted. With my FM-Eco3 tracker, it had a small wiring loom with 8 cables coming from it. The ones we are interested in are the black, red and yellow. You can crimp a ring terminal on the black and put that onto one of the many 10mm bolts that you will find in that area of the dash for your negative connection. The red wire, you will need to find a permanently live connection, in my case I used a multimeter to probe each of the fuse slots to see which are live when the ignition is off and then used some male and female spade connections and suitable size wire to plug into the fuse holder and extend it out of the board so I could tap into the wire without losing use of whichever device is on that fuse, you should also have a 3amp inline fuse on the tracker wiring loom to protect that as well in case it ever malfunctions. The yellow wire in my case was configured to indicate when the ignition/engine is off or on, you can choose whether or not to use this in the Ruptela configuration software. If you look on the left side of the fuse board you will see a large plug with two thick wires going into a plug, a yellow one and an orange one. The yellow one becomes live when the ignition is in the first position and the orange one is live when it is on the second position, I chose to tap into the orange one so the tracker would indicate it’s online when the ignition is at the seond position. Here I carefully used a Stanley knife to remove a small amount of insulation from this wire and solder the yellow tracker wire onto it, then wrap it up well in insulation tape for safety reasons, also, don’t forget the inline 3 amp fuse on the yellow wire too! The connections for many other vehicle trackers will be the same and these instructions can also be applied to those but do read the manual first to make sure.

Then you just need to reassemble the plastic trim by slotting it back in place and pushing along all the edges to make sure it’s completely clipped in. You may need to adjust the right-hand air vent pipe to get it to slot in properly, I found it easy to remove the plastic blanking plate from the end of the dashboard (where the door shuts) and put my hand in there to position it correctly. Then put back the three torx screws along the top edge and you’re done!

Peugeot 406 Project Update / GPS Repeater Installation

Today I got a bit of free time (a rare occurrence these days) to work on my car and get some bits fitted.

Those of you with various Peugeot cars will no doubt have noticed that your sat nav rarely works or is inaccurate when navigating, you may wrongly believe your sat nav is at fault like I originally did but after trying various others and having similar issues I started searching online. It turns out that Peugeot use a metallic film on the windscreens of some of their vehicles, this is to help keep your car cooler on hot days and stop it turning into an oven. This unfortunately seems to almost completely block out the GPS signal to any sat nav, and also my tracking device.

To resolve this issue, I purchased a GPS Repeater which was relatively inexpensive from Amazon which was quick and simple to fit and works wonders, as you may notice from my glowing review on the product page. When installing this, it should be noted that the external antenna part should be mounted as far away as possible from the internal part, with a large car such as the Peugeot this was easy to achieve.

I started by mounting the external antenna to the rear of the car on the roof. I initially wanted to mount it in the centre of the roof near the radio aerial to get the best possible reception but I ran into issues where closing the boot door would trap and damage the cable so in the end I decided to mount it on the right sight, right next to the roof rail mount and then ran the cable about 3 inches along the gutter and down through the rubber grommet where the rear door cables enter the interior, this keeps it all water tight so you won’t get rain water running down into the car. From here, you can then pull the pillar covers off they are just held on with metal clips and run the cable all the way to the front of the car tucked up inside the roof space. Pulling the pillars off to do this enables you to slightly pull down the roof liner and makes it easier to tuck the cable up there. I then routed the cable towards the interior light unit at the front and using the double sided sticky pads included with the repeater I found the most convenient place to mount the repeater was between the temperature sensor (the part with the slots on it) and the reading light and then tucked the wires up into the roof space again. To access this part and run the wires where I did, you will need to remove the main interior light from the fitting and unscrew the two torx screws that hold the whole unit to the ceiling. The rest is pretty simple, your GPS aerial cable coming from the back of the car screws together to the connector of the repeater that you have just mounted at the front, and the USB cable can be routed to a convenient location for power which for me, was down inside the front right pillar to my Anker 5 Port Charger on top of the dash next to the wing mirror, the power cable for my GPS booster was exactly the right length for this arrangement but you may need to purchase an extension if your power source is further away.

There we have it! The GPS repeater is now installed and functional and I can confirm with a TomTom, my Sony Xperia Z2 phone, and Samsung Note 10 tablet that all are now picking up a strong GPS signal when in the car. You can download this app from the Google Play store to test this for yourself if you have an Android phone. The figure you are interested in within that app is “Fix/Sats” and as long as the number is over 6 when you’re parked in an open space then you’re good to go.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, I will try to update this post with some pictures if I get a moment another time 🙂

Ruptela FM-Eco3 Configuration for Traccar

I’m currently repurposing an old vehicle tracking device that I had with a tracking provider. The provider, whilst very low-cost, also had a very limited feature set to match it.

I’m posting this information that I have used to get my Ruptela FM-Eco3 tracker working with the free open-source tracking software, Traccar.

When browsing for suitable software for this tracker, I stumbled upon a modified version of Traccar which has hundreds of additional features that are not included with the original version. I would highly recommend this modified version to anyone who wan’t to experiment with various sensors, inputs and outputs. If you just want a basic tracking platform then stick with the original Traccar. It’s worth noting that you need to install the original project first, and then the modified version is an ‘add-on’ for it in a way.

From here, go to the relevant websites above and setup your Traccar server. This post is mostly about configuring the Ruptela tracker itself but I’d be happy to answer any questions about the server side if things if necessary just post a comment and I’ll get back to you.

So, onto the configuration. You’ll need a copy of the configuration software for it which is available from the Ruptela FTP site (if you are prompted for a username and password, they are both ‘ftp’). The user manual and a wealth of other useful information is also contained on the FTP site there so feel free to have a browse around there.

You will need a 12v power supply (either a battery or mains adapter) for your tracker to be able to configure it, connect up the leads as referred in the user manual (on the FTP site above, but it’s straight forward and if you are reading this article chances are you know the red cable is positive and the black cable is negative and can connect them accordingly. Then, grab a mini USB cable and plug it into your Windows-based computer. Fire up the configurator software and select the correct COM port from the drop-down list at the top of the screen. In my case, it was COM6 but yours may vary, you can open Device Manager on your computer and look under the ‘Ports’ section to double check what it is for you.

Depending on the SIM card and mobile network you intend to use the tracker on, you will need to setup the appropriate GPRS settings in the centre of the configurator, in the screenshot below mine are set up for a Vodafone UK contract SIM card. A great resource if you don’t know the settings is FileSaveAs or alternatively your mobile provider will be able to tell you. You’ll want to select TCP as the Protocol just above these settings as well.

Following this, you will need to enter the public IP address of your Traccar server in the Connection Settings box on the right. As mentioned in the Traccar installation guide that you have previously followed, this should be a static IP address. The Port number, by default is 5046 to allow Traccar to correctly decipher the tracking data for this device.

Those are all the compulsory settings required for the tracker to operate. I’ll let you refer to the user manual for the tracker to setup anything you may need to in the bottom half of the screen, although my settings as shown above were adequate for my requirements and were set by the previous tracking provider.

 

I have also taken the time to work out some of the sensor values that are reported from the tracker to the Traccar server, these may be useful for the people who like to tinker with things.

Ruptela Pinout Sensor reported to Traccar Notes
DIN1 IO2 Digital input is configurable and can be used to monitor power status of what it’s connected to. It will be 0 for off, or 1 for on
DIN2 IO3 Digital input is configurable and can be used to monitor power status of what it’s connected to. It will be 0 for off, or 1 for on
DIN3 IO4 Digital input is configurable and can be used to monitor power status of what it’s connected to. It will be 0 for off, or 1 for on
DIN4 IO5 Default ‘ignition on’ value. It will be 0 for off, or 1 for on
IO27 Unknown what it is monitoring but in my case the values range from 11 to 17
IO65 Unknown what it is monitoring but in my case it is a 8 digit number that fluctuates slightly (possibly battery/supply voltage but missing the decimal point)

The tracker also has two analogue inputs and two digital outputs, I’m still experimenting with those at the moment, they aren’t currently reported to the Traccar server but I hope it is possible to configure it when I get more time. I am hoping to use the digital outputs to control my central locking so should I ever lose my keys, I can send a SMS message to the tracker phone number to unlock my car (for security reasons, it is possible to configure it to only accept SMS commands from whitelisted senders).

Katady ePower v3/v4 Box Mod ‘No Atomizer’ Repair

I’m a keen ecigarette or ‘vaping’ enthusiast and now and then I’ll put up a few posts I find interesting or may help others.

I have had my Katady ePower box mod for about 10 months now and it’s been through the wars a bit (even run over by a car and it barely suffered a scratch!) to say the least but it’s held up well with my abuse. I’ve recently started ‘sub-ohming’ as well and primarily use a 0.5ohm atomiser of some type which I believe is what has lead to this issue where the display on the Katady shows ‘No Atomizer’. I’ve also seen a forum post where another user is experiencing the same problem here. I’m unsure whether mine is a v3 or v4 as I don’t think there’s much difference between them, except that the v4 has a flush 510 connector where the v3 (most likely my version) has the protruding 510 connector.

So here goes, you’ll need to disassemble your box mod to get access to the innards, this took me a while to figure out as I didn’t want to damage or break it but I got there in the end. On the back panel, along the top and bottom you’ll see two black plastic strips. These need to be removed:

Remove These

 

Once you have removed those you’ll see a couple of screws which hold on the rear panel. When you have removed those, I found the best way to take the panel off was to prise out the 510 connector by putting a (preferably metal) atomiser or tank on it and carefully wiggling and pulling it out, take it easy here as you don’t want to rip the wire out that is attached inside. From there, you can then poke a thin screwdriver inside the hole at an angle towards the rear panel and push it from the inside and it’ll pop right out.

Now, onto the problem. In my case, there was a small wire at the top left which had melted and broken due to the low resistance of the Aspire Atlantis tank that I was using at the time, this wire is what connects the outside/negative of the 510 connector onto the circuit board inside. Why on earth Katady decided to use such a thin wire for this device is beyond me. This mod is capable of firing up to 35 watts at 0.5ohm so it should have been obvious to them that this wire was not adequate for the job, and considering the very thick cable used to connect the centre/positive pin, I just cannot imagine what they were thinking using something so small for the negative side.

Melted Wire

In the picture above I’ve outlined the offending wire. You’ll notice it connects to the negative mounting pin of the USB port and onto a small screw which in turn goes into the metal casing. In the picture above you can’t see the break in the wire but it clearly shows the insulation is melted and the inner core exposed.

I removed this piece of wire (soldering iron required) and replaced it with something more suitable. I’ve so far only done a temporary fix with a piece of solid core wire from an ethernet cable I had laying around, it’s slightly thicker than the original but I’ll still replace it with a better one in the future. I found the most convenient way to do it was solder one end on the bottom where the original one was, loosen the screw slightly, loop the wire around the top of the screw and then solder the other end onto the other side of the USB port so in effect it’s got two thicknesses of my wire connecting it, then tighten the screw down on the wire. I haven’t yet taken a photo to show what I mean but I’ll update this post when I do the job properly.

If all has gone to plan, you should then be able to fit an atomizer and start using your device again!

Visteon / Ford Mondeo MK3 / Renault Headrest LCD Monitor Pinout

I recently acquired a 7″ headrest LCD monitor which I believe to be from, or the same as, those fitted in some Ford Mondeo Mk3 models and some Renault vehicles. I will be converting this to fit my Peugeot 406.

This is usually connected via a control box under the centre console to a DVD player in the boot along with the stereo and possibly other devices in the vehicle.

The monitor I’ve got was cut out of the previous vehicle so there’s no connector on the end of it, only bare wires. After taking the unit apart it appears someone else has tried to figure out the wiring and failed which has burnt up some of the tracks on the circuit board. I have repaired this damage. Now, for many many hours on the internet I have identified the correct screen (all except the part number) and with some investigation with a multimeter, and from matching up with a control box from a Renault system which I believe is identical. I have found the pinout. When taking the unit apart, the connection is CN1 and with pins numbered from left to right as follows:

Pin # Colour Use
1 Blue XSDA I2C data bus
2 Green XSCL Sync Clock I2C
3 Grey Ground/Screen
4 White IR Out
5 Purple 5V IR Power In
6 Orange 12V LCD Power
7 Brown Video In (presumably CVBS)
8 Yellow Video Ground
9 Black Backlight Ground
10 Red 12V Backlight

The information was adapted from this service guide for a “Renault Multimedia Control Module4” which is believed to be the same unit used in the Ford system and is made by Visteon, although the pins I have worked out myself match up, I cannot guarantee that all the others are correct so cannot accept responsibility if you damage your screen with this information.

At present, I have not got the screen to turn on as apparently this is only possibly using the original remote control which I do not have. It is also believed that the ‘power on’ signal is received by the IR sensor on the screen, sent to the control module (which I do not have) and then back to the screens over the I2C bus telling it to turn on so it may not be easily possible to use this screen without it’s intended controller.

I hope this information will nevertheless be of use to anyone else trying to reuse one of these screens for something other than it’s intended use.

Also if it is of any use to anyone, the DVD player that would have originally been used with this system is believed to be a “Visteon MB-8000”