Friday, 22 October 2010

EU Blues as Motorcyclists Face Mandatory ABS and No More Mods

You have got to hand it to those boys and gals in the European Commission just take every chance they get to show how disconnected they are from us little people. Motorcycles are due to be hit with the most restrictive regulations in the world. While the rest of the planet debate about wearing helmets and gear, we find ourselves having mandatory ABS on all motorcycles with no 'off switch' option. The reasoning by the European Commission?

"The Commission acknowledges that fact but considers the number of citizens living in areas with a high percentage of unpaved roads as negligible compared to the broader riding population. Indeed, the Commission fears that too many riders would switch off the ABS also when riding on common roads, due to “unjustified lack of faith in new technologies"

I am happy to admit that I support the idea of having technological aids on motorcycles, or any road going vehicle to assist the operator, but we must look at them as just aids. Putting such blind faith in the technology just shows how little they understand it or their limited knowledge of motorcycles. The EU in one breath is telling us that there are so few unpaved roads as not to warrant an 'off switch', while at the same time within the last month they recommend that road limits in Ireland by cut by 30% due to their quality, unless it is a road with a dividing barrier.

As long as responsibility of the vehicle lands at the feet of the operator, then they should have the final decision in what is best for the given circumstances, which should include turning off equipment not suited to the given conditions or is distracting. Maybe we should appeal part of this on the grounds that like a mobile phone, GPS or other technology it can actually lead to an operator to crash rather then help.

They have not stopped there though, as for now on motorcycle engines should just come encased in plastic with a 'do not touch' as modifications will now be very tightly controlled. In practice, this will mean unless you are buying your engine modifications from your vehicle manufacturer then you probably will not be able to fit it and pass an inspection. The same goes for after-market exhausts, unless they are fully approved then you will  also fail an inspection on that.

I am hoping that somebody is calculating the impact this will have on motorcycle accessory suppliers. Dealers who catalogues are basically 75% of engine tweaks are going to be hit hard. And think about all those 'off-road' schools that the likes of BMW run... how will they keep going if all their customers new motorcycles are effectively no longer suitable to use as the ABS is permanently on. How motorcycling loving states across the EU allowed this to happen baffles me, and why would they? Also where are the motorcycle manufactures in all this? Their production costs just jumped up as not only are they having to tweak motorcycles for 27 EU states (language and so on) they now have to make sure everything over 125cc has ABS.

Motorcycling has just gotten more expensive to get into, the licensing process from next year onwards with be much more complicated and the riders ability to make decisions in their best interests has just been taken away. If we could list motorcycling as a religion then I would be heading to another state for asylum due to the persecution we face here in Europe.

FEMA is trying to do its best to fight for our rights on this issue and if you want to help push back and get involved in a meaningful way then join you local MAG group as these upcoming changes that WILL effect all motorcyclists. Below are some links that should fill you in on all the details.
Peace and keep the rubber side down.

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)

Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

This Is The World We Live In

"...It's not too late for that
This is the world that we live in
And no, we can't go back..."

~The Killers, The World We Live In

So just one question, would you rather live in this world,


Or this one?



Answers on a postcard.

If you like the look of the Electromagnate project you can help fund their documentary over on Kickstarter by CLICKING HERE.

Peace

(Thanks to Global Guerillas for bringing to my attention)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

10.10.10 - The Rise of the Maverick Meerkat

Today marks the release of the latest evolution of the Ubuntu operating system, 10.10 The Maverick Meerkat. Over the summer I have given the Meerkat a few test drives as it developed through the alpha, beta and release candidate stages. Usually I would have jumped in during the beta testing and stuck with it until the final release, but circumstances this year meant I was not in front of a computer much this year, so I only got a few samplings. However I am back on the block and have been running the release candidates of both the desktop and netbook versions for over a week now and can say they are stable and worth considering upgrading to if you are running the 10.04LTS.

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Ubuntu 10.10 


Cautious Beginnings 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition 10.10 UNE Desktop - other then the background not a whole lot more you can do 


Be warned though, the netbook edition has seen some major revisions compared to the last version. Overall I would say that it is a positive step forward, but there are a few things that are not sitting well with me. The first is that it feels much more sluggish compared to previous versions of the netbook edition. The second is that the new left hand side bar (the non-dock) is not very intuitive to use. There is a steep learning curve as it does not really compare to anything else out there. At times this make it frustrating to use, but stick with it, figure out how to get the applications you like stuck on it and then you will start to see that it is not so bad. 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition The 'non-dock' can be the home for various apps but not links to folders/files other then a link to your 'home folder'


However it is a permanent feature with no way to hide it, so you end up losing about 10% of your screens horizontal space to this. In use this means you have to scroll left and right in applications and websites you normally would not have to. Also there is virtually no customisation in the netbook edition, what you see is what you get. In 10.04 there were ways to tweak the code to allow you to have a more personal experience. This is gone. Even changing the default themes yields little changes, which is disappointing for me. I do not think such a 'dark' look is the best look, I might spend several hours in lectures looking at this and I much prefer the lighter radiance theme at a minimum as it is softer on the eyes, but changing to this has no effect on the left 'non-dock' and top panel. So far I am unaware of any tweaks to get around this. 

Its Not All Bad 

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop The 10.10 Desktop, the flames are from the 'burn' effect in compiz


Okay, I have been focusing on what I do not like, but that is it. Everything else is pretty good with some very nice refinements. The desktop edition looks largely the same at first glance with most of the updates being behind the scenes. What you will notice is the sound menu has some cool new features which I really like. For instance, clicking on it will now show your music player and allow you to control your tracks. This is an effort to clean up the system tray area, again something I approve of. Once we see apps like Skype incorporated into the sound menu, then maybe the network indicator next? There is an excellent mockup here showing the possibilities with networks, update manager and your web browser all merged into this area. 

Ubuntu 10.10 Sound Menu 
The new sound menu 


Bringing it to Life 

The installation process has also been streamlined, now as you input your details and set your preferences the install process is working away in the background. Once you are finished you are met with a new slideshow with all the highlights of Meerkat. As now the norm I do a fresh install and highly recommend this as the best way to go. Also as per usual I partition my HDD using the Ubuntu install tool along the following lines: 

Root partition - with at least 10GB (format)
Swap partition - approx 10% of RAM
Home partition - the rest of my HDD (I do not format)


Now some users will keep going with partitions for backups, media and so on. Personally, I keep all my music on an external HDD and my backups on another separate HDD. While keeping your 'home' as a separate partition ensures that if (when?) something goes wrong there is a very good chance your files are safe and when doing a fresh install, simply going through the process above and making sure you DO NOT format the 'home' means you are virtually back to your original desktop. The above are just my recommendations and what I always do. 

Some Final Thoughts 

Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition UNE 10.10, A glimpse at the future?


While the desktop version of 10.10 seems low in the number of obvious improvements it would seem the ground is being laid for bigger things ahead. The is just the start of the next evolutionary cycle, with the Long Term Release only coming out in April this year, and the next not due until approx April 2012, we have a long way to go with testing out and introducing new features. Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal is due for release next April and it will not be until the next Ubuntu developers summit until we get a real clear indication of what that is going to throw up at us. However, I have a feeling that the new features on the Netbook Edition might be our first glimpse of a possible tablet version of Ubuntu, there have been conflicting reports officially, but it would not take a huge leap to take us to that next stage. A Ubuntu Tablet Edition (UTE) maybe? We were only shown the new Unity interface for the netbook after the release of 10.04, so you never know what those guys and gals in Canonical are thinking up. 

But I could be, and probably am, completely wrong...but we can hope.

So if you are brave enough to live on the cutting (bleeding?) edge of technology then give bring home a Maverick Meerkat today, its different, but you will learn to love it. 

Peace

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop
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Friday, 1 October 2010

Motorcycle GPS Cases: Givi versus Arkon

Givi GPS CaseImage by Victor9098 via FlickrI planned to do some touring around Ireland this summer and managed to squeeze in 3 weeks of travels over May/June this year. You can check out photos of those trips on my Flikr page in the Ireland Stream (Ladies View onwards). Any other time planning such a journey would usually requires some time on Google Maps, printing off directions and packing a road atlas for when you would get lost after deciding to explore a little. This time though I decided to bite the bullet and bought myself a GPS, though my budget would never allow me to splurge on a purpose built motorcycle GPS unit! A little bit of research later and I decided to purchase a Mio Navman M400, it gave me everything I needed for a reasonable price. After that I needed something to mount it to the Buell with, so this led me to purchase the Givi S850 GPS case, though after using it for a few weeks I decided to purchase an alternative, the Arkon GPS032 GPS case.

Arkon GPS Case

The Givi S850

Givi GPS Case

First impressions of the Givi was similar to all Givi products I have owned, this is well made and should last, it also had plenty of compartments for cameras/phones/etc. and a rain cover. However once it came to fitting it to the Buell it soon became obvious this was not going to be as straight forward as I had wanted. The primary means of attaching it to the bike is via two long velcro straps which means you try to locate a position on your handlebars and then strap it on as tight as you can. No matter how I strapped it on there was always some movement as you rode along as it slowly kept angling itself down to the tank. After 2 hours of riding you physically have to lift the case up so you can view it and then let it flop back down. For long rides plugging in the power cable is usually a must, the Givi has lots of space inside to allow you to do this without affecting your use of the unit.

Givi GPS Case

The other con of this method of attachment is when you pull in anywhere you naturally want all this to be still on the bike when you come back. Taking the case off is quick enough, easily done in under a minute, but it is the putting back on which can take several minutes. I have no complaints over the quality of the product and I really like it, but for the average motorcycle I think it is less then ideal. Another problem was that no matter how I strapped in the GPS or padded the space behind it, I just could not use the touchscreen functions through the screen, I always ended up pressing several spots on the screen at the same time. Of course, you should not be playing with the GPS on the move but having to pull in, take off gloves and then take it out of the case in order to do any route adjustments was less then ideal. Which led to me looking around for an alternative.

Arkon GPS032

Arkon GPS Case

This is what led me to the Arkon case and mount. I have seen all the RAM units on the market, but I just did not want to spend that much money on something that might only be used on a few occasions over the year. The Arkon I thought was a bargain when I found it online and soon had it in the post to me.

Fitting this is a little bit more involved then the Givi, but all you do is fit the clamp to the handlebars and all the parts you need are included with case...well everything except a screwdriver. I found a suitable place on the handlebars to fit the handlebar mount, I had wanted to locate it on the crossbar on my handlebars but the mount does not tighten enough, though I am sure some padding could fix that which is something I might look into in the future. Having found a free space on the left hand side I fitted the mount, all of 5 mins, then soon was sliding on the case then making adjustments until I was happy and of course followed by the mandatory brew. Plugging in the power cable causes some problems as it is a very snug fit, and leaved the cases looking a little 'warped' but still fully usable.

Arkon GPS Case

Now the case does not look as waterproof as the Givi, but it is water 'resistant' and should give you amble time to pull off the bike if needed. Which is the other big plus with this case, in a petrol station or arriving at your destination you just slide the case off the mount and away you go. No fuss. No messing. Just 2 secs to slip off and then slip back on when you get on. The advantage with the position of the Givi case was that it always remained dry even when riding all day in rain as there is a nice cocoon behind the screen where the rain just would not get to it. The Arkon out on the handlebar might be be more open to the elements, so finding a way to mount on the crossbar will be on my to-do list before my next long trip.

Arkon GPS Case

Everybody's Free (To 'Make' Suncreens)

A common complaint of both units is that they both suffer from glare, if you know you are on a route for sometime this is not so much of a problem, but once you are in an unfamiliar town centre then quick glimpses at the GPS can be difficult and usually leaving you hoping for a red traffic light so you can use your hand to shade the screen and have a good look. I have already started to think about how to make some sort of sunscreen just to give some shade, but it would be nice to see makers start tweaking their offerings to make the end-users life that little bit easier, that is the whole point of purchasing these devices anyway.

Famous Last Words

My overall impression is that these make huge sense when you compare to the high-end motorcycle GPS units. A cheap GPS and a case similar to the ones above will cost a fraction of the price, which is especially important at the moment and due to the nature of this technology they will soon be out of date. If it was not for the GPS there are so many places I would not have ended up on my travels this year, I feel much more confident in 'going down that little road' and once I have done my exploring I just tell it to bring my home or to the nearest petrol station. No, you do not get the benefit of hearing the directions but I have always enjoyed reading a map so looking down at a screen now and then is no big deal and so what if you miss a turn, the GPS will get you to where you are going that is the point of it afterall.

I have posted various images of me fitting the units here so feel free to check them out. Also Givi have recently just released the Givi S950 case which seems to be more like what motorcyclists need though I note the lack of suncscreen... maybe next time.

As always, peace and keep the rubber side down.

Arkon GPS Case
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