Fixing a Krups XP9000 automatic coffee machine

** Pictures to come soon **

I recently acquired a second hand Krups XP9000 for a very good price. Unfortunately, after pulling out the brewing unit to clean it, I could not get it back in. Some fiddling showed that the main spindle which drives the brewing unit mechanism was slightly rotated, preventing the keyed shaft to fit (it is keyed at 120 degree intervals). No amount of force would return the spindle to the right position. I called up a service centre hoping that there would be a service mode to drive the motor back to the home position, but sadly there was not – it would require a trip to a service agent. Being the nerd that I am, and considering how little I paid for it, I figured I’d have a go at fixing it.

The big hurdle is getting the casing off. It all interlocks and needs to be done in this order:

  • Pull off the snap-in manual holder cover at the rear
  • Undo the five black screws on the back plate. remove the back plate
  • Undo two silver screws on the front, bottom, behind the door
  • Put the unit on its side and undo three silver screws on the bottom of the unit (two at rear, recessed)
  • stand the unit back up, pull the top plate to the rear. there are some catches next to the water tank area which need to be bypassed. There is a connector to the programming panel which needs to be disconnected.
  • the two side panels should come off easily now
  • Unmount the processing unit, which is in a white frame, mounted by two silver screws. Leave it dangling in place though
  • The drive motor assembly is within a roughly triangular shaped unit. it is fastened by a number of silver screws on the brewing unit side, attached to the stainless plate. Undo these screws to free the drive motor assembly.
  • A few wires going to locating switches will need to be disconnected before the the drive motor assembly can be pulled out.
  • Remove the back cover from the drive motor assembly via the four clips
  • Split the drive motor assembly by removing several screws. be careful splitting this, as two small ball bearing detents are within the case.

The drive motor assembly consists of an electric motor operating multiple reduction gears via a worm drive. This explains why I couldn’t wind the shaft back! With the assembly apart, simply wind the spindle back until the two microswitches are in their detents and reassemble.

As simple as that!

What I really don’t get is why the Krups machine can’t drive itself back to the home position. There are two positioning switches, which correspond to the home position, and presumably the end of the drive (approx 180 degrees). The positioning information is there, so why can’t it use that to drive back to the home position, instead of require manual disassembly? Poorly thought out design, I think.

The effects of idiocy – customs folding knife import ban

I’ve touched on the recent changes to customs practice where they consider a folding knife with a thumb stud (eg spyderco) to be a flick knife, but haven’t seen too many effects of this stupidity other than forum posts of individuals. I have now come across a case which might add some legitimacy to these utterly idiotic changes. The State Emergency Service is no longer able to supply members trained in vertical rescue with one handed opening knives, which is considered a necessary piece of kit. From the newsletter (SES Equipment Update May 2011)

We have been advised from our supplier of a delay with deliveries of the S831 folding rescue knives issued to VR operators. Australian Customs has a current ban on the importation of this item due to safety concerns. The manufacturer is currently in discussions with Australian Customs to try and resolve this issue. An update will be provided as soon as an outcome is reached on this issue.

I imagine paramedics, firefighters and police will soon start to run into similar problems. Note that the one handed opening knives which are being seized by customs are not illegal to possess in any state of Australia.

An awesome 4ch heli – Nine Eagles Solo Pro 260a

I think I may have found the RC heli with the best awesome:price ratio currently on the market:

The Nine Eagles Solo Pro 260a

Maneuverable, agile, tough, responsive, moddable. All this for around AU$80 delivered, or AU$50 for a BNF version.

I think this would have to be the perfect heli for someone moving up from coaxial three and four channel helis. It will hover hands free once trimmed, has high and low gain modes, and is tough enough that you’re not too scared to push your limits for fear of major repairs.

Considering how light yet responsive it is, it is very tough. If you’re not an experienced pilot, you’ll probably crash a lot (like me). A few spares that are worth stocking are:

  • flybars. They bend and break near the pivot.
  • tail boom assembly. The shaft splits near the attachment point, which introduces flex and means the tail rotor can’t keep up. Damaged ones can be repaired with CA glue. Motors may also burn out. I believe it is the same as an S107 main motor. Motor may also slip and spin in holder, which can damage leads. A drop of CA glue will hold it in place if loose.
  • main shaft. The pins which hold the blades shear off very easily. Can be repaired by drilling out and inserting improvised shaft (metal pin, bamboo skewer etc)

The blades are surprisingly tough – I haven’t broken any yet. Spare skids are worth considering, although they can take a lot more abuse than some people think.

As far as upgrades go, consider getting the upgrade metal swashplate/rotor head found on ebay. Just use the swash plate and blade holder, since metal adds a lot of weight and the other bits don’t really give you any advantage. There is a carbon fibre flybar available which is also worthwhile. Stops the stock flybar from hitting the canopy/tail boom, and also allows for weight adjustment. Consider getting spare 150mAh batteries (as opposed to the stock 120mAh ones) and some sort of external charger.

A lot of other info is available in this FAQ thread.


Falcon 8911/8913 4ch RC heli – Notes

Falcon 8911 4ch RC Heli

Some points to note as far as performance and interchangeability of parts:

  • Syma S107 USB charge cable is  NOT interchangeable. Just ask my burnt out USB port.
  • Blades from the Syma S107 fit and seem to work quite well.
  • Motors from Syma S107 work perfectly. Hardly even  needed to trim it after replacing motor B.

Making Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook suck less

I’m a bit late to the game, but I recently upgraded from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Netbook edition to 10.10. Like just about everyone else, I hated Unity. The interface in 10.04 is pretty damn good, so I wanted to just go back to that – I wasn’t going to reinstall 10.04 fresh though – you just shouldn’t have to do that with a system that uses apt/dpkg. So, here’s how I got 10.10 to Not Suck:

  • install (or make sure they are installed) netbook-launcher-efl and maximus
  • log in to either “netbook 2D” or “desktop” profiles
  • add netbook-launcher-efl and maximus to the startup applications (System -> Preferences -> Startup Applications)
  • configure nautilus to not show desktop icons. Run gconf editor, go to /apps/nautilus/preferences and untick “show_desktop”

This last one is important – if you don’t do it, then the netbook launcher will start upon login, then disappear to be replaced with the desktop. If you kill it, then restart via a terminal, then it will work fine.

If you log in via the desktop profile then you will also need to muck around with the panels – add a window picker applet, get rid of the extra bars etc.

Maxpedition Malaga and Kodiak – review, comparison and other thoughts

I seem to be developing a bit of a tactical manbag fetish, as evidenced by my recent Maxpedition purchases (courtesy of the strong aussie dollar, or, more likely, the shit US dollar). I ordered a Kodiak, but was accidently shipped a Malaga. The seller was happy to pay return shipping, but instead I offered to buy the Malaga, with a discount equal to the return shipping fee.

I was looking for a replacement for my aging mountain designs canvas pack, which while still functional, lacked the organisational capabilities I wanted for everyday use. With a single main compartment with a drawstring and hood closure, two zip slip pockets on the exterior and one small pocket in the hood, I was constantly taking the pack off and digging around the main compartment to find things. It is really robust and durable (try using a normal daypack as a deflector to push your way through thick lantana and see how it holds up), having smooth lines and heavy canvas material, it isn’t big enough or easy enough to access for day hikes, and a bit annoying as an every day bag. The shoulder straps are also quite wide, which is normally (and when I bought it) a good thing as it stops the straps cutting into your neck. However, with one dodgy reconstructed shoulder, I’ve been finding it a bit uncomfortable.

With that, I thought that the Kodiak could fit me needs – asymmetrical gearslinger design for easy access and good comfort (comparitively), large capacity which would allow me to carry my EDC manbag contents and extras (groceries, etc) if needed, and being maxpedition, plenty tough enough.

When the Malaga arrived I initially wasn’t that interested, since it was a bit uncomfortable to wear, and there was no easy access when the bag was swung around from the back, since all of the pockets are top entry rather than side entry. That all changed though when I realised that if you wore it slung across a shoulder at the front, then rotated it around the back (so it is slung sideways across your back), it actually suddenly works really well. Swing the Malaga to the front and you have easy access to all the pockets. It also seems to position the strap a bit further away from your neck, which makes it a whole lot more comfortable for me. Add a shoulder pad to the plain webbing which now sits on your shoulder, and you’re in business.

As far as organisational capability goes, the Malaga is pretty damn good. The two smaller front compartments have lots of dividers and pockets, which gives you a place for pretty much everything you need quick access to. The main compartment has a flap with a few more compartments, as well as two slip compartments front and back that have velcro closure flaps. There is also an exterior compartment on the back for carrying a water bladder (or concealed carry, but that isn’t really relevant to me). I found that I could fit pretty much everything in my normal every day carry (ipad, flashlights, knives, leatherman, water bottle, survival kit, first aid kit, trauma bandage etc, with a bit of spare space – another two 1L nalgene bottles would fit. Not exactly enough to carry a fleece or groceries, but still pretty functional as a manbag. Add a few pouches to the sides (Mini Rollypoly Dump Pouch for a water bottle, 7x5x2 Vertical GP Pouch, etc) and a bit more space can be had. One thing I do find annoying is that the top front compartment only has a single zipper pull. Double zipper pulls would make access so much easier.

(I’m not a big fan of adding pouches to the front of bags – this can shift the centre of gravity out too much making the bag feel heavier, and also makes it more likely to get caught up on things)

When the Kodiak arrived, I was actually a bit disappointed. I felt a lot larger and bulkier than I thought it would. Compared to a Falcon-II backpack (which supposedly has a higher capacity by about 35%) it just feels a lot fatter. This might be because the falcon is quite deep, but has good compression straps so when not full it is still a bit sleeker.

When the Kodiak is only lightly packed, such as with my normal every day carry items. The two front compartments don’t really pack that well – they’re quite deep, but since they open 75% of the way around (for vertical and side access) I don’t like putting things in there that aren’t secured, since it is a lot easier for them to fall out. Since the compartments open 75%, they really more clamshells than pockets. The top front pocket is especially bad for this. Some elastic straps o the lid would have made that space much more useful. As such, I found the extra depth of these compartments pretty much useless. Also, since the two common modes of access are vertical and horizontal, everything seems to just fall into the bottom corner. Combine this with not very effective compression straps, means the Kodiak takes on a kind of fat arse look, with everything piling up in the bottom corner. The top Y-compression strap works ok, but given the size of the pack it just needs some side compression straps too. One other issue I have is the external pocket for a water bottle. Because of the way you access the pack, it is actually quite useless, given that a water bottle is one of the things I access the most. Instead I keep my water bottle in the main compartment. The pocket isn’t completely useless though – not bad for storing wet/dirty items. At the moment, I use it to keep a length of 5mm rope, which doesn’t fit neatly anywhere in the other compartments.

All that said, the Kodiak still functions pretty well – the front pockets and internal pockets in the main compartment give plenty of organisation, and access is a breeze by swinging the pack around.

I also bought a Janus pocket extension with the idea of using this for quick access stuff (wallet, phone, flashlight etc). I found that it doesn’t really work that well. The strap extension makes the straps too long, and even if you just slip it on the strap (where it slides around because of the lack of velcro) it kind of gets in the way.

So, really, both the Kodiak and Malaga are pretty good, although a few improvements could be made. The Kodiak is pretty good as an everyday urban backpack. Big enough to carry extra stuff when you need it (although it will hurt your shoulder a bit if you overload it), but still provides good organisation and easy access. Add some side compression straps to help it keep its shape when empty, and slim down/improve the front compartments and it’d be almost perfect.

The Malaga makes a pretty good manbag for every day use. Carries and organises all the bits and pieces well, and has a bit of room for extras. A few good spots for extra pouches to add capacity if required. About the only improvement I would ask for is to make the top front compartment a double zipper pull instead of just a single zipper pull.

Lets hope maxpedition hear this!


Syma S107 mods – the Terminator edition

S107, Terminator edition

The Syma S107 is a remarkable little RC heli – despite some possible quality issues in recent times. It is very robust, stable and easy to fly – exceptional value at around AU$30 delivered. Of course, what is really lacking is insanity, so here’s how I went about turning it into an unstable, twitchy and fast monster.

Weight savings is where it’s all at I reckon. Fitting a more powerful tail motor might help, but it is extra weight and power. I instead focussed on stripping as much weight as possible, and shifting weight bias forward for increased forward speed, at the expense of rear speed (or even stable hovering!).

Here’s where I saved the weight:

  • Removed undercarriage (1.91g)
  • Removed tail brace (1.20g)
  • Removed tail rudder (0.44)
  • Remove nose cone, weight and led (3.26g)

I also shifted the battery as far forward as possible. One other weight saving was trimming down the balance bar weights. Unfortunately the new S107’s don’t have removable weights like the originals did. Instead, I cut a small section off the end of the weight. Not sure on the exact weight, but since it is rotating mass, it makes a huge difference in rotor acceleration. Stability is affected, however I see this as a positive since it gives more twitchiness.

A total saving of approximately 6.8g. With an approximate stock weight of 38.3g, this gives a saving of around 17.7% – very, very noticable. Hovering can be achieved at around 1/3 throttle (instead of around 2/3 stock), and banked turns are possible due to the increased forward speed. Highly recommended mods once you get the hang of the stock S107 and are looking for a bit of insanity.


Syma S107 problems – bad batch of gears?

All three Syma S107 helis I purchased recently from have had issues – the intermediate rear gear (for the top rotor) have suffered from broken teeth, and there was one motor failure (front, drives the lower rotor). The dead motor I think can be chalked up to bad luck, but the gears I think might indicate some larger quality issues in what has up until now been a fantasticly robust and value for money rc heli.

Location of intermediate gear with broken teetch

Syma s107 intermediate gear with broken teeth

I’ve contacted but so far they don’t seem keen to send replacement gears. Luckily ebay seems to be a good source (search for “s107-09”) – probably not a bad idea to have some spares handy.