Sena SR10 review from someone who actually owns one.

I spent months looking up information and looking for reviews of the Sena SR10. I wanted one but I was concerned that it would not do what I really wanted or what it really promised.  There were a LOT of holes in what the Sena sales literature mentions that the device can do, and they do not list anything in the "it cant do" column.   Online motorcycle forums have people full of speculation but nobody that really uses the device. The ONLY review of the unit from someone that used the SR10 was on webbikeworld, every other article and "review" was based on someone playing with a demo unit in their office for 10 minutes.  I wanted a real life review of someone that used it daily and relied on it daily.  So I finally took the plunge.   I own a set of 4 year old Scala Rider Q2 bluetooth headsets for my and my wifes helmets,  These are early units that do not do A2DP, and honestly nothing really did A2DP back then.  I loved how they integrated with my phone and the wireless all the time intercom to my wife worked well.   But there are times I ride with a group that uses FRS radios and I wanted to bring a touch of my Ham Radio hobby with me on the bike.  Plus I installed an older Garmin GPS on the bike and wanted a way to get the audio from the GPS into my helmet.  The Bluetooth Motorcycle GPS's are still insane priced, even on the used market, so going the SR10 route was a lot cheaper when paired with an older Garmin 2720 GPS.

Being a very frugal (wife calls it cheap) guy, I scoured ebay for a very good price and found the SR10 new kit with the lighter plug power cord for $125, another $15 and I had the Icom radio plug that works with most radios.  3 days later I have the items and on the charger the SR10 went.  The unit I bought had to have it's firmware upgraded, and honestly you really want it to be at the latest 1.2 firmware to fix a lot of problems with the SR10.  This was rather painless except for Sena requires you register the unit with them before you can get access to the firmware loader.  While it was charging I turned the unit on (press and hold the top pairing button and the center big/PTT button until lights come on) and updated the firmware, Everything so far is easy.

Sena has a interesting "waterproofing" technique.  the plugs are all very recessed in the grey rubber and when you plug in the cable it "seals" around it.  This worked great for all the cables that come with the SR10,  but other cables might have problems.  I saw right away that the cable I bought for a permanent mounted PTT switch on my bike will not fit, so I will need to buy another SR10 PTT switch extension cable and modify it.  Luckily the cable that I have for my GPS audio fits into the AUX ports just fine and actually look like they seal against the grey rubber.  Your cords may or may not work, so be sure to try them before running any cables on your bike.  All of the Sena cords are very thin and feel delicate. This makes them very flexible, but I worry about their longevity,  life on a motorcycle is not all careful and delicate.  Time will tell if they actually last for a decent lifetime.  The add on Icom cable for my handheld radio was the most curious, it was very light weight and small as you can see in the photo.  The special connector they have for the radio plugs is well built and clicks on the SR10 nicely, you have to pull back on the outer ring to release it.

Pairing the unit to my helmet Scala Rider Q2 and my HTC ONE M8 cellphone was rather painless.  It takes a bit for the SR10 to show up on the phone to be available for pairing, but like all Bluetooth it takes time.  After 30 seconds it showed up and paired.  I then paired the SR10 to my headset by putting the SR10 into pairing mode first, then the headset.  they both blinked away for about 45 seconds and then they started blinking blue to let me know they paired.

The first weirdness I experienced is if you plug your radio into the SR10 and then try to power on the SR10, it will force your radio to start transmitting, so it is important that you turn on the SR10 first then hook up and turn on your 2 way radio.

I followed all the instructions in the manual and paired my helmet headset and my HTC ONE M8 phone to the SR10  everything worked great in the garage so I shut everything off and went inside.  The next day I decided to ride to work and give this a real workout on my 40 minute commute.  Right away everything went wrong.  The SR10 refused to stay connected to my Phone.  It happily connected to the helmet and I had GPS audio and two way radio comms all the way to work, but the phone refused to stay connected and actually would disconnect when I touched the PTT button on the SR10.   At work I checked the sena forum,  completely useless.  so I searched the internet and found a LOT of people have this exact problem.  a full reset of the SR10 seems to solve it.  so that is what I did.  On the top by the pairing button there is a recessed dot,  push in there with a smaller screwdriver to hit the reset button.  This will erase the SR10 to factory defaults.  So now you have to pair your helmet and phone again.   I did this and now it seems to stay connected but the phone will not auto connect to the SR10, you have to dig it out of your pocket and go digging into the bluetooth menus to find  it in the list of headsets and click on it to make it connect.   Direct to my helmet or direct ot my headset I use for the car is automatic,  Sena for some reason does not search for the phone on power up and try to connect, that is a flawed design as any bluetooth device should aggressively try to connect to it's paired devices.   I can not really report on Two-Way operation,  of course nobody was on the regional repeater this morning, and where I buried the Icom handheld in the tank bag I could not change to any of the other frequencies.  I hope there is a better chance of using the radio on the way back.  UPDATE: 3 days later and still no response from SENA tech support.  I am pretty sure they ignore their support email address.  So do not expect tech support from SENA if you need it.  I decided to load the firmware again and then fully reset the device.  It is now keeping the phone connected if you do not touch anything for about 5 minutes after turning all the devices on and manually hitting the connect button on the phone in the bluetooth menu.  The device is very finicky.

The GPS audio was clear and the bluetooth connection came up quick,  although my older Garmin will do an "alert tone" before any spoken command so the SR10 get's a full 1/2 second heads up before any speech to open the audio channel. I had to drop the GPS audio output level to 70% to get rid of any distortion, but it was very clear in my ears. Listening to the FM radio in my Q2 headset the GPS instructions would trigger the Q2 to switch to the GPS audio quickly,  5 seconds later the SR10 drops the audio headset connection and my FM radio that the Q2 has built in comes back.   I did have it set for 3 seconds, but it seems that that setting that you can only set via USB and their windows only app is wiped out when you hard reset the device, if having to hard reset it is a regular occurrence, that setting is pretty useless.   It also seemed that it did not want to hang up a phone call from the headset,  instead I had to wait for the other end to hang up,  this is a major flaw that could have been fixed in firmware.  Directly paired to my headset the phone calls work flawlessly, so it is the SR10 that is causing a problem.

I am concerned that they have  had no firmware updates for nearly a year and no other information about the SR10 that has been updated, coupled with their tech support not getting back to me about the device is making me think that they are abandoning it or about to discontinue it.  I hope not, as it's the ONLY device that can give you bluetooth control over a two way radio with some audio mixing.   Nobody has made a bluetooth enabled FRS radio yet that actually works well, and  large riding group communication is important.  The ham radio community that rides and wants to also use the radio while riding is so small, that we are just lucky that the device exists at all.

Overall, if you have a bluetooth headset for your helmet or built in bluetooth that is old enough to only have 1 audio channel, this is a great device to connect the devices you  have to your helmet.  IT give you GPS audio integration that is a LOT better than what any of the Garmin motorcycle GPS's can accomplish for significantly less money.  But it is a product that is in a dead end market.  If you bought a more modern capable Headset for your helmet like the Sena SMH 20R, SMH-10 or the Scala G9x and  paired with your smartphone in a decent mount or tank bag with power connected to it from the bike you can have a lot more going for you.  the Apple iPhone has had stellar voice control for 4 years now for motorcyclists,  but the latest Android release has really upped the game with "google Now" integration.  

I would buy the SR10 ONLY if you already invested in gear that you do not want to replace and only want to spend a little bit of money giving it some integration, or if you really need two way radio communications to your bluetooth helmet setup.    If you want the ultimate in communications, phone and music then spend your money in a modern headset that is bluetooth 3.0 or 4.0 with multiple device connection and mono audio mixing.  

Shadetree Motorcycle Mechanic myths: Throttle Cables.

For the several decades I have been riding and wrenching on motorcycles, I notice a lot of myths about bikes pop up regularly.  But I find that myths about BMW motorcycles to be the most prevalent and worst.  Tons of people proclaiming that you cant do this or that,  they are hard to work on, you have to have the dealer do some work, etc...   My favorite recently is the flat out misinformation that the Throttle cables can not be lubricated.  Sorry, but BMW does not use special secret Luftwaffe cables made from special unobtainable sensitive products.   They are made in China, and are normal cables with Teflon impregnated plastic liners.  you can and SHOULD lubricate them regularly with a dry Teflon lubricant.   In fact if you read any of BMW Motorrad's technical bulletins, you will see that they recommend lubricating the  cables when installed with a dry teflon lubricant.  But let's go further,  the Honda Goldwing uses the same type of cables, and the service manual for that bike recommends periodic lubrication with ,  you guessed it,  dry teflon lubricant.

So remember,  Forums are handy for information, but those people are not experts nor are they correct most of the time.  If they have REAL information backing it up, you can believe it,  like photos, or real documentation.   Plus you should always do more research outside the forums,  look for your motorcycle makers documents or service bulletins and see what they say.   As for never lubricating cables like throttle cables,  every old biker that has actually worked on and ridden bikes for decades will tell you,   Lubricate them because the only way you can be sure they will not fail on you in the middle of nowhere is when you know they move easily and smoothly and are clean and rust free.

Plus nothing is forever,  you DO need to replace those cables now and then,  when they feel rough or tight,  it's time to replace them.  if they dont return on their own, it's really important to replace them.

Just remember, no bike is difficult to work on,   just different and requires different tools, and you can certainly work on your own bike if you have the time and ability to learn.

HTC ONE M8 - bricked, crashed, or locked with a dead android icon from a bad recovery

Note if you are having problems with hacking your HTC ONE M8 and you lock it up in recovery flashing  you get the dead android icon on screen with the red exclamation point.

Press and hold Volume UP and POWER until it reboots.   It seems this information is hard to find on the internet and there is a lot of bad information out there about how you actually do this.

Coffee Addiction

Things have been rough at work lately,  we are down one programmer and I am training a new one.  Plus we have the standard workload so I am pulling triple duty, to stay awake and peak performance I increased my Caffeine intake dramatically.   1 redbull plus 1 12 oz travel mug of coffee a day, to this last friday when my total consumption was 2 redbulls 48 oz of coffee and 2 16 ounce monster energy drinks.   I had to travel 250 miles work 12 hours and travel the 250 miles back.   My consumption had spiraled out of control to the point that I have another can of redbull in my work vehicle, "just in case".    So this weekend I decided to test my addiction and do a reboot.  I have not had anything more than decaf or green tea for the entire weekend.    I started with all of Saturday as drinking only water or only fruit juices.  by noon I had a pounding headache and felt like I had the flu.  By that evening I felt as if my brain stopped working and I could not focus on any task.   Yup, the addiction was strong in me.

Over the course of the past 4 weeks I have significantly abused myself to take on the additional workload.   Monday this stops,  I will miss deadlines, I will drop the ball, and I will do it happily.  I am not going to kill myself just to make a deadline promise that someone else made.  In 2014 I wanted to make some changes and increase the enjoyment out of life, I just did not realize how badly I was abusing myself with Caffeine.   Record your intake in a food diary over the course of a week, I only needed to see what I consumed in a single day and how I felt at the end oft hat day.   I was  yawning and feeling tired as I pulled into my driveway at 8:30pm....  Just a year previous I would have been bouncing off the walls for the next 10 hours with how much I consumed.

Look at your Intake and try a reset.  I am not kicking it out of my life, just trying to get it back down to sane levels.  1-2 cups in the morning only.  and something as an emergency if I need to stay awake driving home late at night.

Only 14 hours before I can have another cup....   And a search to find a decaf that doesnt taste bad.

Ebay china knockoff "Leonardo pro micro" and how to actually use them.

I bought 5 of these (pictures here from the seller I bought them from) off of ebay as I need a cheap micro duino for some wearable projects that are at a reasonable price.   I have bought the "legitimate" versions from sparkfun and other places but their $25.00 price point is simply way over the top.   The China knockoffs so far of the non USB types have been perfect.  But this USB one has some tricks to make it work.

First what I received has "spakerFun" silk screened on the underside, and the USB reports as a sparkfun device.  so in order to use this with the arduino programming software you need to go to sparkfun's github here to get the files you need to not only program and upload to it, but also get windows to actually identify it. (Windows USB drivers,  how lame that windows cant recognize a standard USB-RS232 device like OSX and linux can)  Follow the instructions and copy the files into your arduino install directory as the text file tells you.  I simply copied the contents to the /Program Files/Arduino/hardware/ directory as a folder names SF32u4_boards-master.  re-launch the arduino IDE.

To actually upload to it,   Under tools select board and then the "Sparkfun Pro Micro 5V16Mhz" and under programmer select "USBasp"

If you upload the standard "blink" sketch there is no led on the board to blink for you.  I was bummed by this as the non usb pro micros do.  Under windows this device will show up as 2 usb serial ports. 1 when in bootloader mode and 1 when running the program.  This is only obvious when you do the "double tap"  because it is too fast for you to notice when you do a normal upload.  

If you need more than 2 seconds for the bootloader, double tap reset to ground, you now have 8 seconds for the bootloader.

The End of 2013

I personally end 2013 puking and feeling like I am roadkill because of the nasty flu that is running around the midwest, so I have time to reflect on what I saw of the past year.  The world has not changed much,  technology and change remained pretty stagnant for this year.

No real breakthroughs in technology just rehashing of old ideas that are passed off as new, Although Google is getting some real consumer traction with the old "thin client" technology with their chrome book platform. It has went from a "quaint curiosity" to a "must have" status within a short 12 months. 

Most of the world has accepted streaming media as an acceptable alternative to physical media, although widespread power and internet outages in December reminded people why having that DVD of the little mermaid to keep the kids entertained during a snowstorm is a good idea.  For a 1st world country our electrical and internet delivery to homes is very 3rd world.  Most of it is poorly maintained and done as cheaply as possible in spite of the fact that these companies were paid with Tax dollars to install it.  The wires coming into my home  run in a bundle of wires from downtown that is from the 1950's and the tech that finally fixed my DSL admitted to me that I was on one of the trunks that floods every time it rains, and they have known about the problem for over 4 years.   They simply moved me to a different trunk that was not getting submerged when it rains after I called to complain every day it rained for nearly a year.

Corporations are still the same, caring more about next quarter profits than anything else.

We saw China soft land a robot on the moon, something that humanity has not done since 1976. I really hope that china re-kindles the fire of the space race as we have been underfunding NASA for far too long.

In February the Cosmos forced most of the world to pay attention by dropping meteor over Russia in a spectacular explosion.  For a brief time people actually cared about looking for killer asteroids,  but nobody really cares about that anymore.

the middle East is still at war, just like the last 3000 years.

Microsoft is still trying to convince people that the Windows Tablet is a good product, even though it's sales numbers are so low that they barely register.   And Windows 8 was given a half hearted fix with windows 8.1, the start button and access to all functions was still not returned, While apple upped the game by releasing their latest OSX update for free to everyone.   The OSX 10.9 is not anything special,  the tactic of not charging for the OS is going to cause some upset in the world of computing.  

Adobe decided that subscription based software was the way to go and no longer sells their software suite,  you "rent" it for $X a month.   I expect to see a lot more companies going this route as it's easier to get more money out of customers that find the older software works just fine for their uses.

The World of Home/Corperate/AV automation became a mess.   Crestron quality dropped significantly, same with Kramer and Extron.  Companies that used to sell reliable devices now are seeing far higher failure rates than ever seen before.   I personally think this is because these companies are chasing higher profit margins and are now outsourcing all their product to china for manufacture at the lowest possible rate.  Their firmware  and development suite quality also seems to have dropped significantly as if they are using offshore contracted programming for them as well.  This is all personal observation based on what I have seen with other companies that did the same thing.  TV and HDMI Device makers still ignore the CEC control standard making it completely useless unless you buy the same brand devices and TV sets.

Lastly  the affordable health care act launched with the best example of what NOT to do when designing a website for an entire country to use.  This is what happens when you hire the lowest bidder,  they spent 3X the amount to fix it rapidly in the last 2 months than what they spent in the previous 3 years to build it.

Ham Radio/SW quick super compact antenna - The Good old Broomstick Helical.

Recently I was able to get my hands on a 1980's era 180 meter to 10 meter ham radio transceiver. I have been a ham radio operator ever since my 17th birthday, and used to spend spare time in my youth working the worlds first world wide communications system. Getting married and having kids really eliminated that hobby from my life until now. I needed a quick easy and super compact antenna to at least get me listening to the ether again, so I decided to make an antenna that I remember the old timers back in my youth told us to make that will work well in a pinch and indoors, The broomstick helical.
This antenna is cheap and easy to make, Back then it was only $10, today it's closer to $40 and can be made from all parts you can find at the local "home center" or big box home improvement stores.

You need a standard stick of 3/4" PVC pipe. the heaviest they have, I used the standard white stuff for indoor use.A package of 1 1/2 long Brass screws
A package of 3/4 inch long brass screws
A package of brass nuts, and Brass washers
Spool of 100 feet solid copper 14 AWG wire (Mine is THHN but that dont matter)
A 4" ductwork T cap , 6 inch is better but 4" works just fine.
Start by stripping the end of the copper wire back 1 inch. This is a lot easier to do now than later.

Drill a hole just big enough for the wire to poke inside the pipe, stick the end through about 2-3 inches worth. Now comes the hard part, Start wrapping helically around the pipe. Every time you stop tape the wire down tight in the direction that you are wrapping to help hold it tight. Right about now your hands are starting to hurt, by the time you are done they will hurt badly and ache for an hour afterwards. When I said this is the hard part I really mean it, this is only 100 feet so imagine how much this would hurt if you made a bigger one that would let you transmit nicely down at 160 meters as well. That would be about 500 feet around a 1 inch PVC pipe, so power through the pain stopping for breaks to rest your hands, you have about an hour of hand pain ahead oh you.Once you are done Tape it down tightly, we need to drill a hole for the big screw to electrically and mechanically attach the wire to. My end is messy, if you plan it right yours can exit the coil clean and wrap around the screw as if a professional did it. Take your time and it will look better than mine. I use two brass washers around the wire to make sure I get a LOT of contact. on the other side add a washer, two nuts, two washers and a last nut. This is where we will attach our feed line.On to the tophat, this is actually important to create a capacitance at the end of the antenna to eliminate static electricity noise. Trust me it really lowers the noise floor and increases the performance of the antenna, ideal would be 6" in diameter but all I could find was 4" on the shelves. You need to take some sandpaper and carefully sand the edge of this thing, it's a round razerblade right now and to be sure you dont cut your fingers off, sand the edge well until it feels smooth and soft. Now drill a hole in the center or as close as you can eyeball it. Install your 3/4 inch screw with a washer on the outside and inside, wrap the wire end around the screw, add another washer and nut, then tighten it down. You can now push it on the top stuffing the wire into the pipe. Comparing it to the 12 feet of speaker wire I was using as a test antenna it works fantastic. With a random chunk of wire I could not tune in WWWV time signal on 15Mhz. with this antenna it now comes in clearly with some light background static. This is in my office where it is 12 feet from 3 computers 10 networked devices and all other kinds of electrical noise. If you are interested in Shortwave listening or want to at least have an antenna that is small but functional to test the receiving

section of some ham gear, this is a great compact antenna to have around.

That's IT! your antenna is actually finished. cut the unused part off that you will not need. I left the blank part of the pipe long enough so that the top-hat sat at the top of my window frame in the room I was going to have my radio. If you want to use this outdoors and put it up in the air, you really need to protect it. the tape you used will release in the weather, so my recommendation is to get some good paint and spray the whole thing except for the feet wire connection. Then you can leave about 24" at the end to clamp to a mast so you can get it higher up in the air. Even 6 feet is enough to make a difference. A single wire feed line up to 9 feet long can be used with this, if you want to use a longer wire and possibly transmit with it, then run a twin lead and put some ground radials off the ground wire from the twin lead, you do need a good Antenna tuner to transmit from this antenna and only at low power levels.

Using the "broomstick" with resonant radials turns it into an excellent amateur radio antenna for a specific band... For example with 4 radials cut for the 15 meter amateur band and a 4 feet high broomstick. My design with only 100 feet of wire is not really enough for transmission on those lower bands, I strongly recommend adding a LOT more wire, 200 feet on 3/4 inch PVC is a good middle point for performance and size. I wanted to build mine from whatever I could find on the shelf on a sunday morning at my local home improvement store. If you want to make a perfect one I would go with a smaller 16 awg PVC coated solid wire and make sure you cover a full 5 feet of 3/4 PVC with very tight windings. Yes you can automate this and build a jig to wind the wire for you. and if you really want to experiment with these I strongly suggest going that route. make a way for a drill to spin the PVC while you build a sliding jig to hold the wire spool and feed the wire cleanly and close to the pipe so you can do it quickly and without pain. I have heard that commercial versions use enamel coated magnet/motor wire to get more wire on the antenna to make a more compact and higher performing antenna. and you can certainly do that as well. Bonus points if you can find some 1.25" Schedule 40 PVC to slide over the wound 3/4 to make a pvc casing and create a completely weatherproof version.

If you want to make a more optimized version, The helical distributed loading can be cleaned up a bit by winding it with different pitch.... starting with turns separated about 2 wire diameters at the base, going to one wire diameter separation at the middle, and ending with closely wound turns at the top of the antenna, were it connects to the top hat.The general rule to follow is to wind enough wire so that it makes a half wavelength at the lowest operating frequency you want the antenna to work at.   The easiest way to do this would be to try and measure out how long the stick will be tightly wound and mark at the 1/3 mark.  now mark the next third, but at a DOUBLE distance because you want the same number of windings, but they will have a 1 winding spacing making the distance double.    Finally the last third will be the full length of what a tightly wound pole will be (double thickness spacing).  You start to lose the "compact" size this way as you will end up with basically an antenna that is 3 time larger.