Side effects of fault voltage regulator on Aprilia Leonardo 125 ST

About 6 months ago the voltage regulator failed on my Aprilia Leonardo 125 ST (2001) but I’m now confident that it was playing up before that time.

I’ve had the bike for 3 years with no problems and then the battery failed earlier this year. I assumed it was just old and so bought a new battery and it was working well for a few weeks until one day I came home and smelt boiling acid. This brought back memories as I’ve worked on very large battery banks (up to 10,000 AH at 50VDC for TELCOs) and so recognised that acrid smell of heavily working batteries.

I carefully popped the seat open and removed the battery cover. Acid steam was venting. I got water, goggles and gloves and unbolted the battery and removed it. Beh ! brand new battery cooked. The next day I re-charged the battery, put it back in the bike and it seemed OK but I doubt it would last.  Everything seemed fine though with an expected battery voltage.

I’ll jump to the end and what was happening was that the voltage regulator was failing but only intermittently. It eventually failed long enough for me to see a reading of 17 volts on the battery terminals !

The side effect of this though was the following…

  • the headlights would run normally and then would run brighter. I drive with the lights on all the time and so the higher voltage meant that they drew more current and this both contributed to them blowing faster and drawing more current through the light switch. I’d noticed this but never really thought much of it. I’ve blogged about the switch failure here.
  • when the battery failed then I had trouble starting the bike and so this meant more cranking. This probably contributed to increased wear on the starter brushes. I blogged this here.
  • the increased voltage meant an increase in current overall for all systems and so this probably helped the ignition switch to also slowly unsolder itself. I’ve blogged this here.

So: if you notice your lights altering in intensity a bit, or the radiator fan changing sound/speed, or certainly if  the battery is getting hot then you must check the voltage on the battery terminals is precisely as expected (which is usually under 14 Volts).

With intermittent problems there is not really much you can do because there are no engine management system over-volt indicators on such an old scooter so you just have to be alert for these subtle indications in the lights or fan sound before you end up with a boiled battery and a whole pile of other electrical problems.

The voltage regulator is the same across a wide range of Aprilia bikes so the part can be bought fairly cheaply second hand or you can invest in a new one. Once I put a new regulator in then I replaced the battery as the cooked one couldn’t be relied on.



We do not agree with the ICANN program of allocating new (generic) gTLD.  Their claim that the “expansion of the generic top-level domain (gTLD) space will allow for a greater degree of innovation and choice. ” is, in our view in a word, nonsense.

An existing brand will already have their BRAND plus .COM, .NET and .ORG gTLD. The innovation and choice has already settled at that second level.

A small startup won’t be able to afford to run or own a .BRAND gTLD but must make do with the existing  .COM and other gTLD or ccTLD space. You would be a moron to come up with a great new name and go ahead with your branding without getting the  .COM even if ICANN go ahead with their plans. Your ability to spend a vast amount of money and get a new gTLD isn’t going to make the fact that if you don’t have the .COM then you are still doomed to try a reverse domain name hijack or throw lots of money at the existing .COM owner to grab that too. So much for your choice.

“Innvovation” and “choice” is an application layer problem.  It is not a network problem. ICANN need to go back to school with a wall chart of the ISO 7-layer model if they think that semantically overloading the DNS is a way to “Innovation” and “choice”.

For the past 10 years of the ICANN existence there are basically two problems that ICANN should be focusing on with all their hearts, minds and our money and that is the exhaustion of the IPv4 address space (i.e. IPv6) and the security of the DNS infrastructure (i.e. DNSSEC). Given IPv4 has started to exhaust but many ISP are only in beta programs for IPv6 then we’ll leave you to make a call as to how successful that has been.

We, the existing domain name owners, all pay the ICANN money as a levy on our gTLD domain names that we buy, so we all have a right to complain about what they are doing. Like many domain name owners  we’ve accumulated the main top level domains for our own company, Open Mutual Limited, but being a small company we have ignored the ccTLD and the more esoteric gTLD. With the new ICANN plans we’ll be looking at potentially many hundreds of new gTLD which will segment the domain name space into a vast number of silos and the further out you go from the traditional .COM then these new gTLD seem to get progressively more expensive to buy (if existing .info, .biz or .xxx are anything to go by).

If we wanted to semantically overload our domain names for application reasons then we do this at the 3rd level i.e. Our customers would always go to the existing domain name and then at an application level we would route them to the 3rd level domain and in all probability this would be done behind the scenes without the customer even knowing this domain name existed.

At a company level we would not be able to afford a new gTLD of http://openmutual.idea/ or http://idea.openmutual/and neither would 99.9% of the rest of the world and neither would this be the focus of any startups unless those startups were just in the business of allocating domain names. I fail to see where the innovation and choice is in filling out the ICANN forms to be just another registry for just another gTLD.


Converting CMYK .PSD files for use in GIMP

Though GIMP has some support for handling CMYK workflow there is one part that isn’t available and that is opening existing Adobe Photoshop files (.PSD) that use the CMYK model.

From a private book or card design point of view the one main place you’ll see these .PSD files is with online printers who provide you with only .PSD files as templates for the media sizes they print on. These files have a few or just one layer of the exact size that you have to make your material and so just happen to specify CMYK model rather than needing this.

GIMP cannot open these type of .PSD files if they use CMYK: GIMP can only open PSD files that use RGB. It will fail with the error message,

Error loading PSD file: Unsupported colour mode: CMYK

…and before you ask, no the separate+ plugin will not work here – that only has support for CMYK Tiff import and it does not alter how the existing PSD import works.

You have three to four options to help here,

a) Use the imagemagick convert program to convert the colour space to RGB and create
a PNG file. See

The command I use is,

convert input.psd -channel RGBA -alpha Set -colorspace rgb output.png

where input.psd is my input filename from the online printer service and output.png is the output filename I give the files.

If this is a single layer then it will create just the “output.png” whereas if it is layers then it will create layers plus one; a merged (or flattened) layer png which it names output-0.png and one file per layer called output-n.png where n is the layer from bottom to top e.g. output-1.png, output-2.png for a 2-layer image.

You may be asking why not make that a .XCF file i.e. the GIMP native format ?. Well if you try making the output a .XCF then you will probably get an error message like “Unsupported compression mode: 33535” if you try with the default compression or “Procedure ‘file-psd-load’ returned no return values” if you try without compression when you open that file in GIMP. So it doesn’t really make it a native GIMP XCF file as you can see that it still keeps the format as PSD. OK so what about .TIFF files ? Well if you try using .TIFF files (which are multiple pages) then it may work if all the pages are the same size but if one layer isn’t then GIMP will bork with “Calling error for procedure ‘gimp-image-resize’: Procedure ‘gimp-image-resize’ has been called with value ‘-2147482750’ for argument ‘new-width’ (#2, type GimpInt32). This value is out of range.” I think its safe to say that you should stay with a bunch of .PNG files.

b) Alternatively use an online web based reader that can work with CMYK mode
PSD files e.g.

c) Get a friend to open and save the file as a multiple page .TIFF or set the colour mode to RGB for a .PSD file for you.

d) Install a trial version of Photoshop. You would have 30 days or so to register so this is quite a complex process and really is a last resort.

Note that I’m only interested in opening these simple printer templates. If you have complex images from a graphics department that has created something for you in Photoshop and has sent you .PSD files then you are advised to use Photoshop if you depend upon a fidelity of the content because though GIMP handles layers in PSD files it has a few differences in any conversion process e.g. it will rasterize what should stay as a vector e.g. Text and other vector objects and it will lose layer masks and effects such as layer styles. Arguably a Photoshop user would be as equally stumped if sent a GIMP native .XCF file.

Also if the provided template actually uses colours and is trying to show you what this will look like (e.g. it is coloured stock) then unless you have setup your whole PC with the correct colour profiles (ICC files for the CMYK and process and your PC screen) then this is all going to be meaningless to you so you’re still going to have to rely on proofs to see if it looks like on paper is what you expected.

Getting Plesk default domain page and not your WordPress install ?

If you have uploaded the WordPress files to a new site and are still getting the Plesk Default domain display then you have probably forgotten to delete the old Plesk skeleton site especially the index.html file. By default a site will pick the index.html before index.php and so the WordPress index.php file is never read.

You should ideally delete all of the files in this httpdocs location before uploading and installing a new site.

Using write-locked SD cards when virus hunting on Windows PCs.

Sometimes you want to check a client Windows PC that is suspected of having a virus and you want to install software that the Windows machine doesn’t have installed e.g. ProcessExplorer or SiSoft Sandra or similar as part of your preliminary checks.

You should keep  the suspect Windows PC away from the Internet so you want a safe way to quickly copy software.  Obviously this is now USB keys but all cheap USB keys I know of don’t have a “write-protect” switch. If there is a virus you want to prevent it copying itself to your USB keys else you’ll make some mistake and could end up with a Windows virus moving around your Windows test systems.

The easiest way to get a cheap write-protected USB key is to use a low cost SD card like you would use in a camera and a SD-USB adapter. Most, if not all, SD cards have a write-protect switch and SD to USB adapters are cheap. Load all your software that you expect to use onto the SD card, set the write-protect switch to lock and then plug this into  the USB adapter and then you can safely plug that into the suspect machine and start your investigations.  As far as I know the write-protect logic is part of  the SD reader so few viruses would be able to override that without a good understanding of that device driver and truthfully if you’ve got something that ingenious then a high level process view of such a Windows PC will probably find nothing amiss.


Success through experience – the hard way.

If you’ve looked at the fixes I’ve listed here it seems that the fault and the solution are found without any problems and that there is a straight line between these two.

Not always so – I was able to fix the Acer flat panel screen because earlier in the year I had worked on the internals of two other screens (both trashware) without success; one was a generic 15in and one was an ex-medical system 17inch touch screen that I so want to fix. So by now I already had many hours of experience of dismantling, measuring voltages and re-assembling these kind of screens without injuring myself or damaging the parts but with much disappointment.

My experience on these found items means that I approached the most recent find with a lot more confidence and speed of dismantling and re-assembling and it was successful. Ultimately this knowledge all goes to benefit work I do for customers too.

GoDaddy FTP user password reset clears the 530 User cannot log in error.

When trying to connect to the Windows IIS 6.0 based hosting provider for one of our clients that has ASP styled web site with GoDaddy we got an unusual error message within Filezilla,

 Status:    Connecting to x.x.x.x:21...
 Status:    Connection established, waiting for welcome message...
 Response:    220 Microsoft FTP Service
 Command:    USER godaddyftpuser
 Response:    331 Password required for godaddyftpuser.
 Command:    PASS ************
 Response:    530 User godaddyftpuser cannot log in.
 Error:    Critical error
 Error:    Could not connect to server

The web site was working as expected – just no FTP access. To fix this we went into the GoDaddy user account administration window and under the Hosting Control center hosting dashboard we reset the password to the same password that we were using.

The Filezilla client was able to connect. Very odd. Will have to keep an eye on this one.


Easy repair of an Acer AL1721 flat panel (trashware)

Walked some trash to the rubbish bins and saw a 17inch Acer AL1721 flat panel screen (for a PC)  dumped at the bins. Don’t get to see many flat panels. Seemed to not have a cracked screen so I just had to take this back home.

At home I used a spare 5AMP 12 V DC power pack (centre positive) I had similar to what is used for CCTV cameras and it kind of worked but screen blanked out when DC plug was wiggled.

This had to be easy to fix so I unscrewed the screen back (4 x small black screws and 4 x larger plated screws under the stand mount covers) and then popped off the front bezel screen surround and removed the back (take care to un-plug the screen controls plug).

The PSU is slightly different from other screens and is an all-in one with the backlight high volt supply and the logic supply together on the same PCB. The fault was easy to find though – there is a choke on the DC input on the PCB and that had a visible dry joint.  I can only assume some contamination on the pin when it was soldered at the factory.

Dry Joint on PSU PCB

Dry Joint on PSU PCB

I solder-sucked and scraped the pin with a knife edge to the copper on the pin and then re-soldered. There was also a 470uF 16VDC electrolytic that was swollen (HERMEI brand) though my ESR meter did not show a problem. I replaced it anyway given it was swollen (the spare capacitor was cannibalized from the power section of an old CDROM drive so this fix cost me nothing).

Swollen Capacitor on AL 1721 PSU PCB

Swollen Capacitor on AL 1721 PSU PCB


It works; stable at 1280×1024 75Hz on a GNU/Linux server running Ubuntu 10.10 with on-board ATI Radeon 3000 graphics (ASUS M4A78LT-M LE motherboard).

Vodafone RAS error code 635 not always a technical problem

A client had got a RAS error code 635 when using a Vodafone Mobile Broadband Lite USB key. It was working fine the day or so before and now it doesn’t work. The error message has lots of things you can try regarding devices and account types but the first thing you should check if this is a contract account is to verify that the account is in order if the service was working fine and now has stopped.

After re-installing the device and installing on a different laptop it really did look to be a problem with the Vodafone side. The client checked with the helpdesk and found that their contract payment hadn’t gone through. The problem is that the client had moved banks and the standing order from the new bank wasn’t setup. Vodafone (quite rightly in some regards) had disabled the SIM/account.

The client is now settling the account and making sure the bank standing order is working….and after a couple of hours delay the USB key is now connecting.


Using mozBackup – awesome program

My main laptop that I use on a daily basis just is not surviving this weather (we’re 30 DegC indoors). It’s a 5 year old IBM that has had a hard life but the CPU is overheating and so the CPU is going into thermal shutdown.

I’m migrating my settings to a spare Laptop whilst I pull apart the IBM to fix it.

The new laptop is a clean build from bare metal and whilst I can copy files from backups I need to also copy my profile for Firefox and Thunderbird.

I used mozBackup and it works perfectly. I installed version 1.5.1 on the old laptop, performed the backup of Firefox (version 5.0) and Thunderbird (version 3.1.11) and then installed the mozBackup on the new laptop and did a restore (Firefox is 5.0 but Thunderbird on the new laptop is 5.0 as well).

All my emails, passwords and settings have been copied perfectly. The Firefox backup file was only a few megabytes but the Thunderbird was just over 1 Gigabyte. I have a dozen email accounts and hundreds of thousands of emails. This is a real torture test for that program and it worked perfectly.

I have enigmail and lightening so you’ll have to update these to the new versions but Thunderbird does this for you when you first use it. Also on the new laptop I have installed GNU-PG version 2 so you’ll have to set the OpenPGP preferences to the gpg2.exe file but that is about it.

I’ve just donated some money to this developer. This is the second time in 4 years that I have used this program and it’s done the job just right.


Old Acer 1360 Laptop hot hot hot….

Reinstalling a very old laptop (Aspire 1360) with its Windows XP Home and it halts just like a power shutdown. Trouble was that when trying an Ubuntu install then that worked. Odd.

Redid the WinXP install and it failed – retried the Ubuntu install and finally got an error message that shot off the screen but it was useful – overtemperature (80 Deg C) shutting down. The ACER BIOS (v1.09) doesn’t actually show the hardware sensors – gee that’s useful.

Interestingly I had also tried to start a Window Vista install and I got a “STOP: c000021a (Fatal System Error)” Error

I’d already cleaned out a whole ecosystem of colonies of “dust bunnies” from this machine but looks like something else has a problem. So took off the plastic cover with the feature buttons on on the top of the laptop to see if there was anything else and then tried the heatsink screws – one seemed looser than the others.

So far vacuum, tighten heatsink screws, remove dust and cat hair and swapped around memory chip positions seems to have done the trick on the install. I now have it back as a Windows XP with dual-boot to Ubuntu 11.04.



Windows Laptops – finding disk space

Buy a new laptop and you’ll get a minimum of 320 to 500 Gigabytes but machines that are 2 to 3 years old will only be  a fraction of this and over time, with years of Windows updates and new and upgraded software, your once-shiny Laptop disk is now full.

The main free and Open Source application that we get people to run when they complain about lack of disk space is the WinDirStat program (Windows only).

This is easy to install, and it “quickly” builds up an awesome at-a-glance view of your whole disk space usage. *The quickly is subjective – a 5 year old Laptop with a Celeron and 40 Gbyte disk drive with 450,000 files and 55,000 directories takes 27 minutes to display.

WinStatDir - highlighting a file

Once it has this display then you can easily identify the large files and directories and then make a call on if this can be removed. Click on the pretty display and the directory listing will jump to the relevant item. You can then right-mouse on this and perform operations such as Open an Explorer window or a command prompt.

We can certainly recommend this for Windows PC laptop users who don’t have as many options in adding more disk space as say a  Windows desktop user will have. Laptop disk drives were generally smaller, more expensive and harder to swap out.


Software languages and cross-border trade in the EU

One of the freedoms of the citizens of the EU is the principle that goods and services can flow from EU to EU state without undue impediments.

Businesses in the EU are on both sides of this principle; on one side are those that actively engage in this cross-border flow and on the other side are those that actively discourage this cross-border flow.

With software and computing hardware that relies on the software, then the most crippling impediment to this EU principle is restricting the displayed language that the product or service runs.

The canonical example of this is Laptops and Desktops intended for the retail market. For the corporate market then these computers are generally out-of-the-box multi-language or the language can be easily switched at will. For the retail market i.e. the citizens of the  EU for whom this freedom of goods and services was intended to address, this ability to switch the language or at least select (one-time) the display language of the computer’s operating system is generally not possible (or the citizen incurs an additional cost).

Certainly if the manufacturer does not have a language then it cannot be presented, but if they do have the language available in one EU country then this language should be made available in all EU countries at the point-of-purchase with no additional cost.

This should be the minimum to uphold the principle of the freedom of goods and services by not adding an undue restriction to the ability of the citizen to purchase a product in one EU country for use in another EU country.

Choosing WordPress

You’ll probably recognise that this and others that we use are WordPress based blogs. Why have we settled on this CMS ?

It is just easy to use. You don’t get many shocks or surprises with the layout of your posts (i.e. your articles). Sure, it hasn’t the sheer quantity of functionality of our other favourite, Joomla, but if you just want to be able to get your message onto the Internet without a steep learning curve nor with onerous support requirements then you can’t go wrong with WordPress.

If you want to create many users and have a much more complex set of permissions then you need to look towards something like Joomla. In the end it will depend upon your requirements. If those are not clear then you could end up with the right solution but it’s fixing the wrong problem !


We are currently Ubuntu fans. Before I was a Mandrake/Mandriva fan and before that a RedHat fan and before that a Slackware fan…..

What have I noticed in the past 14 years of using various GNU/Linux distributions ?  Three things:

  1. The distributions evolve best by doing better than their competition within their niche in the GNU/Linux world not competing against the Windows world. Make it simple for  applications to provide equal cross-platform  performance and by proxy then GNU/Linux competes with Windows.
  2. My children don’t actually care what distribution they can play games on. They know that certain applications run well in Windows, others are only found on Ubuntu (Linux) and that browser-based games are more or less cross-platform.
  3. New installations and upgrades have got easier and faster but as Familiarity breeds contempt, this means that it is trivial to wipe a machine, clean install a new distribution that you got from a Torrent if something has annoyed you with your current favourite distribution.

IBM is 100 years old this week in June 2011. Will Open Source technology such as GNU/Linux be with us in 100 years time ? You can bet your bottom fiat currency it will.