Monthly Archive for August, 2007

Scary-ass dogs

A couple really scary dogs…

This guy reminds me of Rawhead Rex

Scary dog

Rawhead Rex

And check out this monster… how’d you like to meet this thing in a dark alley?

Buff Dog You’d think it was Photoshopped, but apparently it’s actually a genetic defect. And she’s really very sweet.

Old memories, trapped in 126 film cartridges

When I was a child, maybe around 12 years old, I had a cheap Kodak X-15F camera (why do I remember the model number?) that used those 126 film cartridges that were popular at the time.

I could afford to buy the film with the money I earned from my paper route, but I could never afford to get the films processed. So, they went into dresser drawers, and sat there. Months turned in years, years into decades. I still have them today. Six rolls of colour film that have been improperly stored through 25 hot humid summers.

I have very little idea what might be on them. I know I shot one roll on a trip to Ottawa with my “big brother” Mike. We visited his father, who was a senator. Some other rolls are probably from school trips… maybe the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. Beyond that, I have no idea.

I had tried to get one roll developed when I was in university, at one of those 1-hour photomat places, with the automated processing machine. As you might expect, it was a complete loss. The dried out old gelatin layers just fell right off. I can vaguely make out a few shapes, maybe a line or two.

I recently discovered that there are actually photo-labs that specialize in handling these kinds of old films. And it’s not even too unbearably expensive. Much more than processing new film, obviously, but cheap compared to the excitement of rediscovering long-forgotten treasures.

Two well-known labs are Rocky Mountain Film Lab, and Film Rescue International. Film Rescue has a lab in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, so I’ve decided to send my film there (avoid the border hassles.)

The main trick they use, I think, to rescue old colour film is to process it with a black-and-white process. Colour film degrades much more than black-and-white film, because the coloured gelatin layers dry out and become brittle. But apparently the blue layer, which I guess is the deepest, can usually be recovered fairly well, and processed with a high-contrast developer. You’ll end up with black-and-white photos, but that’s better than nothing.

I sent the film to them today. They only run a batch once of film once a month, though. I won’t get to hear any results until near the end of September.

When I get some results back, I’ll put them up here.

Update, Oct. 21, 2008: Here’s part 2.

PA11-NIS iPod interface in my G35

I have a Monster iCarPlay Wireless 200 FM transmitter that I was using to play my iPod in my car. It is a pretty cleverly designed thing, tunable to any frequency. So you don’t have to try to find eight preset frequencies and hope they’ll cover everywhere you ever want to go. As far as that goes, it was a nice FM transmitter. But it had misfeature that really made me hate it with a passion: whenever my music reached a quiet section, the damn thing would turn itself off. And I would get slammed by the biggest blast of noise an otherwise-unoccupied FM channel can provide.

If you listen exclusively to full-on assault speed-metal, that’s probably fine. But my music has dynamic range. It happened to me all the time, and I really hated it.

I did some extensive research to find options to interface the iPod directly to the factory stereo in my 2006 Infiniti G35 (6MT Coupe). I found a good option in the PA11-NIS from USA Spec.

PA11-NIS installs behind the dashboard somewhere. It appears to the factory radio to be an external CD changer. The steering wheel audio controls work with it. It will charge the iPod, too.

It’s not compatible with the factory Satellite Radio receiver option, but I don’t have satellite, and I don’t really want it, so that’s not a problem.

I ordered my unit from their dealer in Toronto, iPodForAutos.ca and, since I was going to be in Toronto that day anyway, went to pick it up.

A couple days later, before I got to installing it, I happened to look at the USA Spec web-site again, and noticed something I had not noticed before in all my research: in addition to being incompatible with the optional satellite receiver, it was also incompatible with Bluetooth.

What did they mean by “Bluetooth”? Surely they didn’t mean the Bluetooth hands-free phone system? That would be a showstopper for me… I need my handsfree!

I emailed USA Spec, and they confirmed… indeed it is incompatible. They said the factory Bluetooth system occupied the same connector that the PA11-NIS would use.

That didn’t really make sense to me… wouldn’t that mean that the factory Bluetooth was also incompatible with the factory satellite option? I never heard anything about that.

Wanting to investigate further, I downloaded the relevant chapters of the 2006 G35 Coupe service manual, and pored over the wiring diagrams. I couldn’t find anything that would appear to be incompatible. The Bluetooth interface (located in the trunk) connects to the head-unit on connector M39. The optional satellite interface (also in the trunk) would come in on connector M90. As far as I could see, no signals required by the Bluetooth interface were on connector M90 at all.

As far as I could tell, the only reason connector M90 was plugged in at all was because the factory pre-wires a harness for the satellite receiver. But at the other end of that harness, in the trunk, there’s just a dangling connector, not plugged into anything.

To test this theory, I opened up the dashboard today, and unplugged connector M90. I then hooked the battery back up (always disconnect the battery before messing with the electrical stuff), and tested things out. The Bluetooth interface still worked perfectly. It does not appear to depend on connector M90 at all. Everything else I tested also worked perfectly.

So, I then connected the PA11-NIS module to the head-unit. Powered back up, connected my iPod, and tried it out. A flawless result! The iPod worked, steering-wheel controls worked, Bluetooth worked, navigation system worked. I tried making phone calls, both ways. No problems. The iPod even pauses when an incoming call comes, just like the in-dash CD player does.

So, then I started thinking how to make the installation permanent. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything really fancy with mounting the iPod. Not yet, anyway (though I have ideas…) For now, I’d be happy to just have the cable coming out somewhere, and let the iPod sit loose on the center console.

PA11-NIS installedThe PA11-NIS itself I secured in a small open area below the radio unit, in behind the ashtray. I was able to affix it to a bit of plastic bracket using two of the self-drilling screws that came with it. I can get to the PA11-NIS again if I have to by just removing the one trim piece around the shifter.

For the cable, what I came up with was running the cable out through the ashtray. I don’t smoke, so that’s not a problem. I just don’t have anywhere to put gum-wrappers anymore. I wanted to be able to push the cable back inside the dash and close the lid, for a stock appearance. What I did was run the cable through the little hole on top of the ashtray where the light was. To be able to open and close the ashtray, I had to remove a metal heat-shield from the top of the ashtray so the cable could move around without interference. But it just came off with a couple screws, so that’s an easily-reversible change. That left the light bulb dangling on its wires, so I just secured it somewhere with a bit of electrical tape. I didn’t want to bulb to get hot and melt something, so I cut one of the wires to it (that can be fixed easily enough too.)

Ashtray with heatshieldAshtray, heatshield removedPA11-NIS installed

The hardest part of this whole thing was disassembling the dashboard. Even with the detailed Infiniti service manual, it’s still a bitch. The shift-knob is supposed to just unscrew, but they use some kind of crazy-ass tenacious thread-locker adhesive on it. You have to take precautions to prevent the shaft from twisting while you struggle to turn that bastard, otherwise you might screw up the shift linkage. And then removing the various trim pieces without damaging them or tearing open an artery is always a challenge.

But, at the end of the day, I now have a nice sounding iPod in my car, and everything works perfectly. The sound is pretty clean. I can hear a tiny bit of a whine in the silence between tracks, which appears to be correlated to engine RPM. But actually, it sounds a bit like a turbocharger spooling up and down with the RPMs, so that’s pretty cool.

I don’t know what USA Spec is smoking when they say it’s incompatible with Bluetooth. I guess they have a better product there than even they realize.

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