Uphill vs. Downhill.


For most motorcyclists, enjoyment is somewhat limited by straight roads.  As such, motorcyclists head for where the roads aren’t straight.  Predominantly this means riding in the hills and mountains where road engineers are forced somewhat by the constraints of nature and have to design roads with corners.  If I had some background in psychology I could probably derive a hypothesis as to why riding on windy roads is more fun than a straight line, but it is suffice to say “it just is”.

The nature of mountain roads is that they change elevation and as such you are either going uphill or downhill.  I am sure there will be exceptions, but most motorcyclists prefer going uphill.  Here are my ideas as to why:

Uphill helps prevent too much speed. Corners can only be taken at a set speed.  This speed will vary on many factors including (but not limited to) grip levels, rider ability, corner radius, motorcycle design etc.  What happens if you enter a corner too fast?  Well… apart from an involuntary clenching of certain muscles one of two things are likely to happen.  Either you slow down, or you crash.  If you’re lucky you can substitute “crash” for “run wide” and then hope that “run wide” does not entail “meet on-coming vehicle” or “visit the scenery”.  Slowing down mid-corner is problematic.  It’s not impossible, but it is made more difficult by the fact that tyres are already closer to their maximum grip level due to forces at work in cornering. (Think of centrifugal acceleration)  When going uphill, gravity is your cautious friend.  It’s always working with you to slow the bike down.  When going downhill, gravity is more like the bad influence that used to get you in trouble when you were in school.  It’s there saying “yeah, go faster!”

Going uphill gives the bike a rearward weight bias.  As seen in Biking 101 Turning Corners, the rear wheel helps you go around corners.  Whilst the front wheel changes your direction, it is the gyroscopic forces acting upon the rear wheel that keep you turning through the corner.  Gentle mid-corner acceleration can be used to aid weight transference to the rear wheel.  It works whilst going downhill too, but it takes more acceleration to get the same effect, so you’re left in an awkward situation…  Remember the point above:  “Corners can only be taken at a set speed”. You really don’t want to be increasing this at a rapid rate when going downhill…  While I know and understand the theory behind the weight transference, I simply don’t think it is what I try and achieve when down-hilling.  Rather, the weight transference stays on the front, loading the smaller and more easily varied gyroscopic effect.  It is a lot of stress to be putting on the front tyre, but it is the same for all riders so you just have to put up with it.

Uphill corners have a natural positive camber.  Camber is the term used to describe the “banking” of the corner.  Where the outside of the corner is higher than the inside, the corner is described as having “positive camber”.  Look at a cycling velodrome, or a NASAR oval for an extreme version of a positively cambered corner.

A badly drawn image of a banked corner

Positive cambering makes people feel like heroes, because they allow for higher corner speeds.  The centrifugal acceleration that is attempting to fling you wide on the corner is partially negated by the ground.  Put another way, it’s pushing you onto the road, meaning you will be gripping it better.  Also, the lean angle (relative to the banked surface) will be less than if you are on a flat corner.  This generally means you have a bigger contact patch on the ground – again meaning more grip.  Unfortunately, there are such things as negatively cambered corners too.  Because they are banked away from the apex, they have the exact opposite affect: You have lower grip, greater lean angles, lower speed and less self admiration of your hero status.

A simple corner can be described in terms of “corner entrance, apex and exit points”.  For the purpose of this discussion, the most critical factor for a positively cambered corner is that the exit point is higher than the apex.  Conversely, a negative camber has its exit point lower than the apex.

If the road is level looking left to right, going uphill will make the road “act” like it has a positive camber.  Due to the uphill slope, the exit point will be higher than the apex.   Coming downhill has the aspects of negative camber.  The corner exit is lower than the apex. 

So, that is my explanation of why motorcyclists never tell you they are better going downhill, than up.  

Beware of the “Rockstar Programmer”

Whatever happened to the notion of egoless programming?  Technologies come and go in programming.  As such, languages learnt more than a few years ago may not have much relevance to many current IT issues.  Other concepts are timeless.  Writing simple solutions and short, easy to read code never go out of date.  “Out of style” in some environments – but that does not stop the concept being valid.  Nor should it stop us striving to bring them “back in”. 

Beyond what can be seen in the development environment of your choice are some desirable character traits you should look for in developers.  Being a “rock-star” is not one of them.  I don’t see it as a healthy habit, feeding the ego of programmers.  Maybe I should state that as “over-feeding”.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with letting developers know that their efforts are appreciated.  Excessively lauding someone’s worth is ego-gluttony.   It can stunt a person’s development, if they start leading the “rock star” lifestyle.

If a developer can no longer accept that another person’s viewpoint can be right (or maybe just better than their own) then they have started down the path to obnoxiousness.  A recent Coding Horror post talked about how team members can end up being described as “a cancer”. 

At the point which you, or anyone else on your team, are using words like cancer to describe a teammate, you have a serious project pathology.

This does not directly relate to “egoless programming.  The concept as it was first introduced to me was along the lines of:

  1. Know that there will be times when you are going to be wrong.

  2. Know that everyone makes mistakes

  3. Accept this and ask for help / don’t attempt to hide your problems.

It’s a good trait to have as a programmer but probably applies to almost all jobs where social interaction with co-workers occurs.  Being a great programmer is not a bad thing, it is just not everything…

Australian Superbike Championships

In the pitsThe weekend just gone, saw rounds four and five of the Australian Superbike Championship held at Queensland RacewaySo, like any good motorcyclist, I attended race-day on Saturday.  There have been stories recently referring to the poor state of the series. Not the riders or the teams mind you, but the organisation and promotion of the events.  I am not one who listens to much commercial radio or watches much commercial television, so it wasn’t overly surprising to me that I hadn’t actually heard any promotion of the event.  Motorcycling friends who do however, also commented on the lack of pre-event advertising.

I don’t want to “buy in” to the argument over the current state of affairs with the ASC – I do not have the facts at hand with which I could form a knowledgeable opinion.  Rather, I’d like to give you a spectator’s opinion of the event.

Firstly, the racing is excellent.  There is plenty of on-track action and the events ran smoothly.  As a former club-racer, I’m only too aware that this largely depends upon factors beyond the organising committee’s control – largely the frequency and severity of accidents that occur during races.  I was very impressed with the Suzuki Racesafe medical team.  With any serious accidents that required on-track medical attention their swiftness (and presumably their medical attention) was as good as I have witnessed at any event – including the World Superbikes and MotoGP.   All that was missing was the helicopter to airlift injured riders to hospital – replaced by the rather more conventional ambulance.

The meet seems relatively laid back.  Your general admission ticket allows you to wander through pit lane and the major teams had promotional posters and the like to give away as well as merchandise to sell.  It’s great to be able to get up close to the machinery and allow the fans to talk to and walk amongst their racing heroes. 

Have no doubt about it, the riders and bikes of the Australian Superbike Championship represent the pinnacle of road racing in Australia.  Ironically, increased success of the series as a “show” will probably diminish the “intimacy” spectators can share in.  One can imagine that if crowds grew tenfold (and given the level of action, this is not beyond the realms of possibility) public access to pit-lane would need to be restricted. 

Overall, if you are interested in any competitive motorsport, or a motorcycle enthusiast, the event is a noisy / exciting / fun way to spend a day.  Check out some of my photos and promise yourself to go to the next round in your own state.

Chinese Whispers

The rumour mills are at it again.  Honda has recently patented several designs which has seen some of the motorcycle press start some wild speculations.  This recent round has kicked off with Motociclismo.  What I find interesting is the snowball effect this has generated.

First, a bit of context may be in order:

  • Motorcycles are about passion.  Even the most practical motorcycle in the world relies on passion to sell.  Let’s face it, motorcycles aren’t practical transport when compared with a car.  The bike does not have to be Italian to generate a fan base and as such, the loyal fans of a model like to see it improve with time.  As such, forums often feature posts with respect to new models.
  • Honda appears to have altered their development model in recent years.  There was a time when every two years saw an “incremental update” to one of their models and a larger update every four.  Recent times have seen phenomenal development by all of the Japanese manufacturers of two sports models: the 600cc category, and the 1000cc category.  Changes have been more significant in these two models than in previous years.  I believe, that this concentrated effort has been to the detriment of Honda’s other models.
  • Several of Honda’s less popular long term models have recently received their first real upgrade in years.  They include the Deauville, and the Trans Alp
  • A couple of “former flagship” models the CBR 1100xx Super Blackbird  and the VFR 800 Interceptor  are looking decidedly long in the tooth.  A new paint-job doesn’t make a new model…
  • When the premier racing class (MotoGP) changed formula from 500cc two stroke engines to 990cc four stroke, Honda built and raced a five cylinder (Vee configuration) engine.  Building such an unconventional engine might seem like a gamble, but Honda knew what they were doing and it paid off – the RCV211V was virtually untouchable, until the genius of Valentino Rossi upset the apple cart by moving to Yamaha.  Since the class moved to 800cc engines, Honda have not had a use for their V5 engine.

So, from what I can gather, Honda have filed patents for:

  •   A V5 configuration engine.  It will undoubtedly be less exotic than the one that graced the Honda RCV211V, but it is decidedly unique for a street bike.
  • For want of a better phrase: a two part chassis. The front and rear sections both bolt directly to the engine and not to each other.
  • An electronic version of their Dual-combined braking system.  As far as I know, it is not currently commercially available, so it makes sense that future Honda models may incorporate such a system.

With that background, it is fair to speculate that at least one new Honda road model may be available for the 2009 model year.

So, keen to fill a web page, Motociclismo ran an article speculating that the VFR and Blackbird models would be replaced by a new “exotic” V5 model.  This was picked up by the major brand-specific motorcycle forums.

I don’t speak Spanish, but with the benefits of on-line translators and judicious amounts of allowing for dodgy translations, this article really didn’t go much beyond stating that they had an “inside-source” that a new model was coming and then proceeded to guess what goodies it may feature – given the new patents.  From the article, there was not much indication that the artistic impressions were anything but just their interpretation.  – This didn’t stop forum members even saying things like “I don’t like the colour!”

Next, “Faster and Faster”  picked up the Spanish story.  They didn’t add anything to it “news wise”, but suddenly the forums had two references to a bike! (even though Faster and Faster correctly accredited their information to Motociclismo).  More links on forums, more excitement, more chances for cynical forum members to use the little animated icon of a bovine creature producing excrement

Next Motor Cycle Specs (a South African site) picked up on the story.  They too gave attribution to Motociclismo (and Faster and Faster) and appeared to use a technique I would refer to as cut-n-translate-n-paste.  They didn’t have anything new either, but by this stage it’s all just fuel-on-the-fire.

So, is there any truth at all to the one story?  I guess we will find out in September (when the article predicted the model would be released)  There probably will be new Honda models this year.  I just hope they are not pale blue! :-)
An XKCD comic

(Image courtesy of xkcd.com)

Enlarge your Virtual Machine’s Hard Drive!

The other day I had need to re-size a VMWare hard drive.  Following the sagely advice of www.googleityoumoron.com I turned to the Internet and was surprised no-one put forward a simple effective way (without resorting to third party applications) to perform this operation.

In the end, it turned into four simple steps, interspersed with insane amounts of mucking about, finding out and working around the caveats the various tools required.  So, my civic Internet duty this week is to present the simple steps.

As per all Internet references, I’d like to put in a disclaimer and say that you try these steps at your own risk.  There is no substitute for proper back-ups and I take no responsibility for the outcomes that occur if you attempt to follow my instructions.

I should also point out that I was trying to re-size a drive on a Windows XP Virtual Machine, with an NTFS drive.  Some of the steps I use will not work with other sorts of file-systems.

Step 1: Clone the machine with the drive you wish to re-size. 

This serves several purposes:

  • You should always backup your work, especially if you are going to be doing file operations beyond the ordinary. 
  • You will need a second virtual machine for one of the later steps in the process.
  • The disk re-size step will not work, if you have taken snapshots of the virtual machine.  For this reason, we will actually be resizing the cloned VM, not the original.

Step 2: Open a command prompt and run the vmware-vdiskmanager.exe tool. 

  • This should be located in the folder where VMWare installed to. 
  • The tool itself can perform all sorts of operations on the disk, such as defragmenting and renaming. 

It’s command line driven, and you will need to know the file-name that represents your HDD.  This is slightly harder than you may think.  In the VMWare workstation, edit the virtual machine settings.  This will display a settings dialogue with a list of the Devices specified for the VM.  Select the Hard Disk you wish to re-size and note the Disk file indicated on the right hand side.  It’s bound to be a long and cryptic name, so copy and paste the name. 

I actually recall that this quite often wasn’t the file name the utility wanted, but it was a good starting point…  (I had to run this several times until I got past the caveats of shutting down the machine / ensuring there were no snapshots etc – so my memory may be a little blurry on this point – Sorry!)

The command line itself is fairly simple:
vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -x 20Gb "disk file name.vmdk"
(of course you should substitute the size and file names appropriately.)
When this works, you will get a message that includes the heartening:

Disk expansion completed successfully


The command itself took around two seconds on my machine and most of this time is actually the time it took me to acknowledge that the command worked!  (I was kind of “punch-drunk” from the number of unhelpful errors I had received leading up to this point in time)

Step 3: Install the virtual disk to a different virtual machine.
The diskpart tool that ships as part of Windows will not allow you to extend the partition of the boot drive.  Here’s where the original VM is useful.
3a. In VMWare workstation, edit the virtual machine settings for the original VM.
3b. Click “Add” to add Hardware, and choose to add a Hard Disk.


3c. Click “Next” and choose to use an existing virtual disk.
3d. Click “Next” and then stumble around until you choose the right Virtual disk.
3e. Finish the wizard and start this virtual machine, after you have verified that both disks are now added.

Step 4: Re-partition the drive so you can use the extra space.
The next steps require an administrator account on the virtual machine with the two virtual disks.  If you want, you can verify that the disks are both recognised in the virtual machine, by referring to the Microsoft Management Console.  (found in Start Menu | Administrative Tools | Computer Management)
Select the “Disk Management” node of the tree view found under the “Storage” node.

MMC Disk Management

You will see that the second drive “Disk 1″ has an unallocated space after the “Healthy (Active)” partition.

4a. Start a command prompt (Start | Run | cmd) and/or run the diskpart command.
4b. Determine which drive we wish to extend, by typing list volume from the DISKPART prompt.
4c. Select the appropriate disk volume, by typing select volume # (where # is substituted for the correct drive number)
4d. Extend the partition to the full available space by using the extend command.  If we wanted to not use the whole partition, we could have specified the number of megabytes.
4e. Exit diskpart by typing exit.  (Who would have guessed that, eh?)

Diskpart in action

The extend command also left me dumbfounded by how quickly it completed!  A complete reference for diskpart and its many commands can be found in the Windows help file, and is worth checking before running the process.

And that is all there is to it!  Re-run the Microsoft Management Console to verify that the disk is now correctly partitioned.

MMC Again 

Shutdown this virtual machine, remove the second hard drive and then restart the machine where this drive is the system drive. You should now have an enlarged Virtual Machine Hard Drive.