When I bought my 2010 Audi A3 (8P body style, also known as "2010 face lift") it came with the standard Audi Concert II head unit (Audi part # 8P0 035 186 S) and a dealer-installed Kufatec FISCON 36429 "Basic" Bluetooth adapter. From the outset I wasn't happy with this setup because the Bluetooth never worked properly throughout multiple phone changes (iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, etc.) and firmware updates. The volume was too loud and there seemed to be no way to lower it. Moreover, playing music over the Bluetooth sounded lousy - as if through an old crystal radio. (This is despite going back to the dealer numerous times, playing with the internal settings of the Kufatec and even using VCDS to try some internal Audi settings). When we recently moved house, our new driveway was extremely narrow, full of blind spots and required reversing in so I thought it would be time to replace the head unit with one that had a display for a reversing camera.

After doing some research on options, I decided to get a Pumpkin head unit to meet the following requirements:
  • Have a stock "look and feel" that would not ruin the aesthetics of the dashboard
  • Integrate with the steering wheel volume/channel/telephone controls
  • Provide improved Bluetooth compared to the Kufatec unit
  • Provide a screen for a reversing camera
  • Be installable without lots of cutting / soldering / drilling - basically "plug and play"
The TL;DR version of this post is that I am happy with the end result and the Pumpkin head unit meets all my requirements. It was a bit of a journey to get there, so for all the gory detail, read the full post.

1. Buying the initial parts
I bought this Pumpkin item on eBay which came with a free camera and free Australian maps for the GPS. While it came with a free camera, the camera wouldn't look "stock" so I bought this camera instead which was billed as a plug-in replacement for the number plate light. According to some back and forth e-mails with the vendor, the specific camera I needed was the Model 603 which would be an exact replacement for my number plate light. I based my decision partially on an installation video on YouTube that showed how easy it was to install this camera. I also bought some radio removal keys to help remove the old head unit.

Now on to the installation and some of the issues I had to resolve...

2. Installation - Head Unit
The physical installation of the head unit was a relative breeze. With the radio removal key, you just remove the old head unit, unplug the Quadlock connector and basically plug it into the harness of the Pumpkin unit. 

Now you can turn it on and try it out... but not the radio yet.

2.1 Head Unit - Radio Antenna Fix
The first problem you will encounter is that the radio won't work because the Pumpkin antenna connector is DIN but the Audi uses a "Twin Fakra" connector. You will need to buy one of these adapters to interface the Audi antenna to the Pumpkin. This is pretty easy, but I wish that Pumpkin included one in the box. The Pumpkin has an unterminated wire called "ANT" (see below) which you need to connect to the +12V wire on the Fakra connector. It's puzzling that Pumpkin didn't pre-make the harness with this wire connected since they clearly have provision for it.

Now the radio will work through the front speakers, but there will be no audio at the rear speakers...

2.2 Head Unit - Rear Speaker Fix
My car came from the factory with an amplified set of rear speakers. The wiring needs to send +12V down to the amp that is located in the rear of the vehicle. The stock Pumpkin harness does not wire up this connection. It will need to be wired up yourself. Like the antenna power wire (mentioned above) there is a remote amp power wire that is unterminated on the Pumpkin. This wire is labeled "AMP-CON" per the photo above. Essentially, you need to connect it to Pin 13 of the Quadlock connector per this diagram. Once this is done, you will have audio coming out of the rear speakers. I don't understand why Pumpkin did not wire this into the harness in the first place.

2.3 Head Unit - Battery Consumption Fix
Everything was working fine with the head unit at this point but I noticed that it would not fully power off when I pulled the ignition key out. I put the Pumpkin to "sleep" (but not OFF) by pressing the power button and by the end of the week my car battery was flat. I sent a complaint e-mail to Pumpkin and they immediately responded with a note telling me to cut this red wire. Cutting that red wire makes the Pumpkin power down when the ignition key is switched off. This fixed the battery problem. 

At this point, the Pumpkin was installed and everything I needed was working reasonably well, although there are a few bugs to note:
  1. The 3G dongle that I bought from Pumpkin doesn't work very well. It connects to 3G but then after a few minutes of driving disconnects. Googling around, I discovered that the radio is manufactured by HuiFei and there is a forum that discusses issues with it. This is a known problem. Lots of interesting stuff to read about it here. 3G connectivity is not a key requirement for me, I mostly use the radio tethered to the WiFi personal hotspot of my phone.
  2. The software can be a bit "crashy" ... The core functions work fine (radio, DVD, reversing camera, etc.) but if you play around with some Android Apps you will find that they sometimes don't work as expected. Also, sometimes various apps crash for no reason. Again, this is a mild annoyance since these apps are not a key requirement but more for fun. 
  3. Since applying the "Battery Consumption Fix" (mentioned in point 2.3 above) the Pumpkin powers down every time I remove the key. This means that each new car trip requires the Pumpkin to boot up from scratch (unlike a car radio which is always instant-on). This can be annoying if you are making frequent small trips. I have wired up a switch to undo the "Battery Consumption Fix" (essentially a switch that can reconnect that cut wire) and when I am doing short trips I just leave that connected. It means that the radio only goes to sleep, but doesn't switch off. Hopefully I won't forget to leave this switch off at the end of the day or I'll have another dead battery.
  4. The radio doesn't quite fit in as flush as the factory radio does. The bottom bezel sticks out a bit despite my repeated attempts to "force it in" for the last mm or so. It's flush at the top and sides so I'll just live with it.
Now on to the reversing camera which was a bit more of an adventure than I bargained for. This is not Pumpkin's fault since I could have just used the free camera they supplied and not faced these problems.

3. Installation - Reversing Camera
I basically followed the instructions provided in this YouTube video. I made a small change to the installation by drilling a much smaller hole in the back of the light holder. This meant that I had to cut the cable (since the RCA jack wouldn't fit through the smaller hole) and then I reattached it after I fed the cable through. I ran the cable to the front of the car and plugged it into the Pumpkin and it worked straight away by just switching the ignition ON and putting the car in reverse. But I did have some problems.

3.1 Reversing Camera - Engine Running Fix 
The first problem I ran into is that the camera would work fine with the ignition switch in the ON position, but once I started the car it wouldn't work anymore. This reminded me of some old car stereo buzzing problems I used to have years ago which was fixed by a noise isolator. So I bought one of these and wired it in. This worked perfectly and now the camera worked exactly as intended. As a side note, this Response brand of noise isolator has lousy instructions. Their web instructions don't match with the paper instructions that they provided. Follow the wiring diagram above with the green wire going to the +12V of the car and the red wire going to the power input on the camera.

3.2 Reversing Camera - LED Light Polarity Fix
At this point the camera was working great, but the license plate light that it was integrated with did not light up! The LED light, unlike the incandescent light that it was replacing, cannot be put in any-which-way. There is a + and a - side and they need to be hooked up correctly. This picture shows the light working fine when providing +12V to the left contact. But it wouldn't work in the car which provided +12V on the right contact. I could prove this by crossing the wires like in this picture. I contacted the vendor on eBay and after showing them these pictures they went back into their inventory and found a camera module where the LED was wired the other way and sent it to me for free. This was good customer service, but I wonder if Audi wires their cars differently in Australia? Because Audi uses incandescent lights the polarity of this wiring doesn't matter, but it does with LEDs.

3.3 Reversing Camera - Light Bulb Warning / CANBUS Error Fix
Now that the LED was working with the replacement camera module the car would give a Light Bulb Failure Warning (a.k.a. CANBUS Error). Because the LED draws so much less power than the incandescent bulb, the engine computer thinks the bulb is burned out. This meant a very annoying beep every time the lights came on. The next goal was to fix the light bulb warning. After some Googling around, I found this product which basically puts a load on the line to fool the engine computer into thinking that the bulb is there. You can easily do this yourself by wiring a resistor in parallel with the LED, but this solution was nice in that it was plug-and-play with the correct connections at either end. I also replaced the bulb on the other side of the license plate with one of these so that the lighting would be even and to avoid drawing too much load with the resistor packs.

And here is how the final installation looks of the camera with fully working LED lights as well!

Overall I am happy with the result, but it was a bit more involved than I had hoped. It took several months of elapsed time to sort out all these problems so I hope this little blog post can fast-track a solution to these problems for others in the same situation.

Here is the final installation with the camera working and my daughter helping me to test it.

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An unexpected risk of using ReCaptcha

Posted by Alastair Bor | 7/09/2013 10:24:00 p.m. | , , | 0 comments »

We are all familiar with CAPTCHAs which are used by web sites to make sure that a user is human (and to hopefully hinder spammers).

Sometimes these images are computer generated, but often the images are from a service offered by Google called ReCAPTCHA which sources images from old books. This service can supply websites with images of words that optical character recognition software has been unable to read. These websites then present the images for humans to decipher as CAPTCHA words as part of their normal validation process. They then return the results to the reCAPTCHA service, which sends the results to the digitization projects. This sounds like a noble cause.

The old books that Google uses are unlikely to contain any offensive language - however the above graphic shows an interesting potential for confusion. This is an actual reCAPTCHA that I found in a Twitter post where someone berated a web site for having an offensive CAPTCHA. To most modern English speakers the first word looks like "goatfucker" which certainly wouldn't be a word I'd use in polite company.

As I noted above, however, the source of these words are old books... why would an old book have such an offensive word in it? 

In fact, the fifth letter of the word is a Long S (ſ) not a lower-case F (f). This means that the word is "goatſucker" which today would be written as "goatsucker" - which is a medium-sized nocturnal bird with long wings, short legs and very short bills. A photo of this innocuous bird appears to the right.

The Long S, according to Wikipedia, stopped being used in printed English by about the 1820s. Those of us who have seen old documents in History class at school or in Museums might recognise it from such famous documents as the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta.

There are probably other potentially confusing words like suckerfish.

The big question in my mind, though, is what is ReCaptcha expecting us to type? An 'f' or an 's' since I assume they don't want us to have to figure out how to put an 'ſ' in there.


Epilogue: A few days after writing this blog entry, I got the following ReCAPTCHA on another site (See image on left). I tried typing in "some" for the first word and it worked. I wasn't able to test out what would happen if I had put in "fome" instead. 

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Create QR Codes in Excel (or any Spreadsheet)

Posted by Alastair Bor | 3/09/2013 12:39:00 p.m. | | 9 comments »

For a little project I'm working on, I needed to understand how to generate QR codes. Being the Excel junkie that I am, I thought it would be easy to create a proof-of-concept entirely in Excel. As a challenge, I set a goal of doing this without using any Visual Basic or other scripting.

I will describe here the steps used to generate the code in Excel. Click here to download the Excel spreadsheet to follow along. You can also link to the Google Spreadsheet if you don't have Excel: http://bor.to/QRSheet

If you just want to generate the QR codes and not worry about the details of how it's done, just download the spreadsheet by clicking here and you can just use it standalone. Everything you need is in the tab "QR Code." Just enter text (up to 15 characters long) in the yellow box (Cell Y36) and the codes will be generated.

If you want to know how this all works, below is some explanation. To follow along, go to the "Generate QR" tab.

There are many sizes of QR codes, the smallest being a 21x21 pixel matrix known as Version 1 and the version that I have created in this spreadsheet.

To follow along, I will assume that you have not modified the original spreadsheet and "This is a test" is the string that we will encode into QR.

Step 1: There are several "Modes" you can use, but for the purposes of this spreadsheet we will use the "AlphaNumeric" mode. You can see that this is encoded with a 0010. For reasons I will explain in step 2, the spreadsheet will need to be modified if you want to use a different mode.

Step 2: We need to encode the overall length of the message. In a Version 1 AlphaNumeric QR code (21x21 pixels) there is only enough room for a maximum of 15 characters. Cell D4 has the text we want to encode and cell C7 is simply the length of the string displayed in 9-bit binary. "This is a test" contains 14 characters (including spaces). The number 14 in binary is 1110 and because we need to represent this as a 9-bit character, we put 0s to the left so that there are 9 characters. This is very easy to do in Excel with the DEC2BIN function. As I mentioned in Step 1, if you want to use another mode (Numeric, Binary or Japanese) you will need to modify Step 2 since they use a different number of bits. Numeric uses 10 bits, while Binary and Japanese use 8.

Step 3: We now need to encode the message itself. To do this, we break the message into sets of 2 characters (i.e. TH, IS,I, S, A, TE, ST). We also assign each letter a numeric value (as defined in the table I have placed in the Character Map sheet). For each pair of characters, we take the numeric value of the first character and multiply it by 45. Then we add that number to the numeric value of the second character. We then convert the result into an 11-bit binary string. If you are encoding an odd number of characters, then take the ASCII value of the final character and convert it into a 6-bit binary string. For the other modes (numeric, binary, and Japanese,) we would use a different method to encode the data. In Excel, I've done this by breaking out each character of the message in column G using the various text functions. Column H helps to tell us if it's an even or odd character (so we know if we need to multiply by 45) and column I has the numeric code that corresponds to each character using a lookup in the character map table. Column M helps us find which is the last row while Column N adds up the pair (or if there isn't a pair due to an odd number of characters, then just takes the last value). We need to convert the decimal number in column N to either an 11-bit or 6-bit binary number which I would ordinarily do with the DEC2BIN function. Unfortunately, Excel cannot do DEC2BIN on decimal numbers larger than 511. So, in Column O you can see the workaround that I had to use by breaking it down into small chunks and then putting it back together.

Step 4: Here we simply combine the strings from steps 1, 2 and 3. There is an IF/THEN function in there to handle the cases where the message we want to encode (e.g. "This is a test") has an even or odd number of characters.

Step 5: We now need to make sure that we have the correct length of string. QR codes have in-built error correction and there are different levels you can use. We will use Level Q. For this we need to make sure that we create a string with a total length of 104 bits. In Step 5 we add up to four 0s to lengthen the string. In our case, the length of the string in Step 4 was 90 characters, so we add four 0s to the end. If the length of the string in Step 4 was 102 characters, then we would only add two 0s to the end. This is done in Excel with a series of IF/THEN functions.

Step 6: If by the end of step 5 we still don't have the correct length (104 bits) then we need to continue padding it out. The way to do this is to break the string from Step 5 into 8-bit words. We will need 13 of these 8-bit words (8x13=104) by the time we're done. Column AB has the string from Step 5 broken into 8-bit words. The first thing to do is to add 0s to the end of the last word to make sure all words from Step 5 have 8 bits. You can see this in column AC. Then we keep adding new words (11101100 and 00010001) repeating in that order until we have 13. In column AD I identify which words need to be filled and then alternatively put Wordfill1 and Wordfill2. Column AE finishes it off by actually inserting the fill words.

Steps 7-10 involve some complex math to produce the error correction bits. The details of this are beyond the scope of this article, but there is plenty of stuff you can find on Google if you look around. I will describe in a very high-level way what I've done to implement this in the spreadsheet. We will be switching back and forth between decimal notation and Alpha (α) notation. This is done using log and anti-log tables which I have generated and have included in the sheet called "Galois Field 256". If you want to learn more about this, click here to search on Google.

Step 7: We need to convert the words into a "Message Polynomial" which is done by converting the binary words from Step 6 back into decimal. You can see this in column AG. Column AH has the exponent part which is shown here just for completeness, but is not used. In column AJ we convert the binary coefficient into what's known as Alpha notation

Step 8: Here we create a generator which is fixed for each version/type of QR code. The table in columns AM and AN are fixed values for the type of code we are creating (Version 1, AlphaNumeric mode with error correction level Q). For more info on how to create a generator for a different type of code, click here to search on Google.

Step 9: Here we perform the polynomial division using the message from Step 7 and the Generator from Step 8. Of interest here for the Excel implementation is that I had to create a method to repeatedly perform an XOR step. As I wrote at the beginning, I wanted to do all of this without writing any VBA code and there is no XOR function in Excel. You can see how I've implemented this in the XOR sheet.
NOTE: Step 9 has a known issue in it. The result of the XOR will always correctly give 0 as the first character. In some cases, the second (and subsequent) characters can also be a 0. If this is the case, then the MULT step must take the first non-zero digit. I have not implemented this and therefore the QR generator will fail under these circumstances. These are rare and hard to find occurrences, but if you want to try it out, trying to encode this string will fail: "2747585511"

Step 10: Phew, we've made it through all the tough math and it's pretty smooth sailing from here. The last column from Step 9 are the error correction words.

Step 11: We combine the first 13 words that we generated in step 6 and add the next 13 words from step 10. This is what we will be encoding into the QR code.

Step 12: Combining all the words together, we have our full binary string ready to populate into the QR matrix.

You can now switch to the QR Code sheet to see how we finish it off. I have copied the finished string from Step 12 to cell AW21 in the QR Code sheet for simplicity.

The QR code is drawn by turning pixels on or off. I have implemented this by using 1s and 0s in a matrix'ed set of cells (columns Y to AS). Using conditional formatting, I have set a 1 to be a black-filled cell and a 0 to be a white-filled cell. The trick is now to just create the matrix.

Step 13: There are some cells in the 21x21 matrix that always must be set in a particular way. These are the "position detection" cells and I have marked them off with a 1 and they are marked in green. There are also cells called "timing cells" which are always in a particular pattern. I have marked them in blue. We also need to load the data we created in Step 12 into the matrix. You can see in the matrix that stretches from cell B2 to V22, I have marked off where each bit goes. Starting at the lower left we put the first bit (that we created in Step 12), and move around the pattern as indicated. You can see how they all fit together in the matrix from B26 to V46.

Step 14: We're not quite done yet. Because the code we create could be difficult to read (e.g. if there are too many black pixels clustered together, etc.) we need to create 8 different versions of the code and select the best one based on a formula. To do this, we create a "mask" and filter the raw data (B26..V46) through it. Each mask is based on a formula which I will show you below. To tell the reader which mask is being used, we fill what I've labeled as the orange cells with a code to tell the reader which mask we're using. The table of codes can be seen in AV3..AW10. These are also repeated for the sake of ease down column AW at each code. You can see that in each block, the orange cells contain the bits we need to identify each mask.

Step 15: The matrices starting with B50..V70 (B74..V94, etc.) have been filled in with the mask formula. The mask is simply calculated as a function of the row/column of each cell.

  1. If (row + column) mod 2 is 0
  2. If (row) mod 2 is 0
  3. If (column) mod 3 is 0
  4. If (row + column) mod 3 is 0
  5. If (floor (row / 2) + floor (column / 3) ) mod 2 is 0
  6. If ((row * column) mod 2) + ((row * column) mod 3) is 0
  7. If (((row * column) mod 2) + ((row * column) mod 3)) mod 2 is 0
  8. If (((row + column) mod 2) + ((row * column) mod 3)) mod 2 is 0

If you look at the forumlas inside the mask matrices, you'll see how I've implemented them as Excel functions. Boolean functions in Excel normally return True/False, but if you multiply them by 1 you get 1/0 which is what we need.

Step 16: We now combine the raw data (Step 13) with the mask such that whenever the mask has a 1 we change the raw data to the opposite of what it is (from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1). Whenever the mask has a 0, we leave the raw data alone. The math to do this is quite easy and is done in the formulae hidden under the actual QR codes we've generated (Cells Y50..AS70, etc.). Using conditional formatting, we just set Excel to make the cells all white or all black based on the number underneath. As you can see, we create 8 QR codes (one for each mask). Officially, the next step is to pick the "best" one, but in practice, my iPhone QR reading app can read all of them... so find one that you like, test it and use it! If you really want to be compliant with the standard, you can Google how to pick the "best" pattern by clicking here. 

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Format ErrorA on an iPhone - What does it mean?

Posted by Alastair Bor | 2/10/2013 09:19:00 p.m. | | 0 comments »

So the other day this pops up on my iPhone 5 and click cancel. Everything goes back to normal. Then I get this again a few more times over the next few days and if I click Accept or Cancel, I just get back to the normal screen and continue as normal. As this is a very benign screen I ignore it.

But then curiosity gets the better of me and I do a Google search. Someone, somewhere must have had this issue, but doing a search for "Format ErrorA" on Google gives absolutely nothing.

I go to the Apple store and show them a screenshot (since I can't reproduce the error on demand) and they seem puzzled as well. They've never seen this. Then they do a bit more research and conclude that they don't know what this is.

Then one of the über-Geniouses at the Apple store says that it reminds him of an error caused by a faulty SIM card and that I should contact my telco to get a new SIM card.

Then all of a sudden, after a few days, these errors stop occurring. Has anyone else seen this? Any idea what it is?

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How to unbrick a Cisco 7912 Series IP Phone

Posted by Alastair Bor | 8/01/2012 04:57:00 p.m. | | 3 comments »

Out of the blue this morning, my phone was stuck with a blank screen and the red and green lights stuck on. No buttons did anything and rebooting the phone (via unplugging it) simply returned the phone to the solid red and green lights.

After some digging around, I found the following process to be successful:

You will need:
  • A Windows computer with an Ethernet port
  • A Cross over Ethernet cable or a spare Ethernet Switch or Hub
  • A Broken 7912
  • A Power Pack for 7912 (not a PoE switch or Ethernet power injector)
  • A Copy of TFTPd32 http://tftpd32.jounin.net/tftpd32_download.html

Follow these steps exactly:
1: Disconnect the computer from your current network

2a: Connect cross over cable to the computer and switch port of the phone
2b: If you are using a switch or hub, connect both devices to the switch or hub, but they should be the only devices connected

3: Configure a static IP on the computer and disable any firewall.
3a: Use an IP of
3b: Use a Mask of
3c: Gateway and DNS can be left blank

4: Install and open TFTPd32 software

5: Click settings and modify the following:
5a: In the GLOBAL tab, uncheck everything except TFTP Server and DHCP Server
5b: In the TFTP tab, set a Base Directory to somewhere convenient
5c: In the TFTP tab, set TFTP Security to None
5d: in the DHCP tab uncheck all DHCP Options

6: Restart TFTPd32

7: Click on the settings tab and modify the following:
7a: In the DHCP tab, set IP pool starting address to, size of pool 1, mask, additional option 66 and, then click OK

8. Click on the Log viewer tab

9: Plug in the power of the phone and watch the logs.

You should see something like this:

Rcvd DHCP Discover Msg for IP, Mac 00:11:BB:0D:E7:AE [01/08 16:20:58.093]
Client requested address [01/08 16:20:58.093]
DHCP: proposed address [01/08 16:20:58.093]
3300 Request 2 not processed [01/08 16:20:58.113]
Rcvd DHCP Rqst Msg for IP, Mac 00:11:BB:0D:E7:AE [01/08 16:20:58.113]
Previously allocated address acked [01/08 16:20:58.113]
3300 Request 2 not processed [01/08 16:20:58.134]
Connection received from on port 16156 [01/08 16:20:58.144]
Read request for file (cp7912r.zup). Mode octet [01/08 16:20:58.144]
File (cp7912r.zup) : error 2 in system call CreateFile The system cannot find the file specified. [01/08 16:20:58.144]

You can see that it is looking for a file called cp7912r.zup. If you don't get to this point, go back to step 7a and use option 150 instead of 66.

Now for the difficult part. You need to get this file from somewhere. It turns out that if you manage to get a file called CP7912080001SIP060412A.sbin  you can simply rename it to cp7912r.zup and put it into the base directory (step 5b above).  If you do this successfully, the log will look like this:

Connection received from on port 16157 [01/08 16:22:52.288]
Read request for file (cp7912r.zup). Mode octet [01/08 16:22:52.288]
Using local port 1251 [01/08 16:22:52.298]
(cp7912r.zup): sent 655 blks, 335194 bytes in 13 s. 0 blk resent [01/08 16:23:05.396]

This will indicate success and you will see the phone reboot. In my case, the phone completely went back to normal without loosing any of its prior settings.

So really the hardest part of this is to find the .sbin file mentioned above. As a hint of where to get it, do a Google search for CP7912080001SIP060412A.zip which is an archive that contains this magic file.

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How to microwave chestnuts perfectly every time

Posted by Alastair Bor | 6/16/2012 05:30:00 p.m. | 0 comments »

One of the best parts of winter is the fact that chestnuts come into season. Ever since I was young, I've enjoyed eating chestnuts whole and in various recipes (one of my favourites being gesztenyepüré). However, anyone who has cooked with them knows how hard it is to cook them just right and remove the two layers of the shell. 

This winter I was determined to find a quick way to cook up a few chestnuts to eat whole for dessert after a meal and I think I've cracked it! (no pun intended)

Begin by slicing an "X" through the shell with a sharp knife as shown in the picture on the right (click on the photo to enlarge). You need to cut about 2/3 into the chestnut (but don't cut fully through).  Then, you need to put a bit of water on a plate - a teaspoon or so - and place the chestnuts on the plate.

Cover it as shown on the picture to the left and microwave it for 33 seconds. It might be different for different models of microwave, but 33 is the exact time I need on our 1200W model. Also, 33 seconds is perfect for 3-4 chestnuts, the time is likely to vary if you add more.  Occasionally a chestnut will explode, which is another reason for covering the plate.

If all goes to plan, the chestnuts will start hissing at about the 20 second mark and will have opened slightly by the time the microwave beeps as shown in the picture to the right. (click on the photo to enlarge)

The next step is to just peel the shell off (and you'll notice that both the inner and the outer shell come off together) and in a about a minute end-to-end you now have what you see in the photo below (click to enlarge) - ready to eat!

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Fuel Economy Conversion Table - MPG / l/100km

Posted by Alastair Bor | 12/29/2011 05:38:00 p.m. | 0 comments »

Having lived in the U.S. for the first 10 years of my driving career, I've become accustomed to thinking of fuel economy in terms of MPG (miles per gallon). Although I have been living and driving outside of the U.S. for more than 10 years I still have MPG stuck in my head. My cars now all indicate l/100km which is probably a better measure, but I still like to sometimes do a quick conversion to MPG. Our latest car is a Diesel and sometimes I'm up for a bit of hypermiling when I've got the whole family in the car and I don't want to listen to my wife complain about speeding. There are tons of online / offline / mobile ways of converting between mpg and l/100km, but sometimes the easiest way is to just have a table to look at.

From a quick Googling exercise, nobody seems to have made available an easy conversion table, so I cooked one up.

Click Here for a PDF file that you can print out and have handy in the car.

I've zoomed in to the particular range that I'm interested in (this is what I generally get with my car). If you have a gas guzzler or some fancy new eco wonder, here is the Excel file so you can modify the chart and make your own. Just set the axes you want, the underlying data is already in the spreadsheet.

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