In memory of Diane

Today I received the sad news that a wonderful friend and MINI owner, Diane, has passed away. Diane had been fighting cancer for some years, and while it appeared that she was winning when we saw her last year, in the end you can never win 😦

Before Diane’s struggle, she regularly attended MINI events, driving hundreds of miles from her home in Maine to attend events as far away as New York! Here are some pictures from events that both she and I attended …


(obituary can be found here)


More than a year ago, I installed MINI’s high end factory stereo DPSM system in GPMINI – it sounded very good but lacked the punch of good subwoofers (which I subsequently solved!)

A few weeks back, I noticed a slight background noise from the speakers, when music was silent – it sounded a little like the clicks & burbles of failing electronics.
This past week when I drove GPMINI again, my heart nearly stopped when the speakers suddenly started “exploding”, cracking with such a loud force that I felt the breeze on my legs! A scary deafening thudding noise!

I was pretty sure that the DPSM amplifier had failed – but to confirm it, I removed the Alpine head unit and temporarily re-connected the original … after a couple of minutes, the same explosive noises occurred (apparently the amp fails as it warms up).
With Josh’s help, I was able to confirm that the amp turns it’s “error” light on every time the speakers crack – it’s as if it realizes it just failed, and shuts itself down for a few seconds.

I bought the DPSM kit from MINI of Peabody and called them – it turns out happily that the kit has a two year warranty, so once I took the car in for them to confirm my diagnosis, they were able to order and install a replacement amplifier.

This morning I headed down and got the keys, then spent half an hour re-installing my Alpine head unit and putting the dash back together (including re-installing the glove box) … then a nice 100 mile drive to check that everything is once again working perfectly, which it is 🙂

Many thanks, Scott and everyone at MINI of Peabody, for getting my car back together so quickly!

Opening Pandora

Another in the occasional iPhone series!
Today I learned on Macrumors a way to get 2.0 software on my iPhone – successfully; then I downloaded a few apps to try …
There’s a lot of “imperfect” so far, with Mac iTunes failing to sync multiple times, needing to authorize the PC and Mac so that apps could be backed up (stupid!), and overall the many months of 2.0 hype result in an iPhone that’s hardly different to the one I had this morning.

Still, one app – Pandora – is mind-blowing incredible! You create a (free – for now?) account, and tell Pandora one or more music artists you like (I started with Electric Light Orchestra, Genesis, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton), then you let it play.
It’s cool enough on a PC/Mac, playing music from artists you specify and others that it thinks you’ll like (and so far in an hour, I’ve thumb-down’ed just one track) … but installed on the iPhone, it’s just EXCELLENT:

I shut down WiFi on my iPhone, and it happily streamed music using AT&T EDGE … great sound through the iPhone speakers!
I plan to hook it up via AUX input in the car tomorrow, and see how it handles playing during my journey to work (very unfair, since AT&T is basically awful in Essex) … if it works, it makes me wonder why I’d still pay $13/month for Sirius, when I could pay $36/year for Pandora …

The only disappointment (imposed by Apple) is that it doesn’t keep playing when you switch to a different app 😦

UPDATE: I’m not the only one that thinks this

Sirius for GBMINI#6

Since The Great Ice Cream Run last year, I’ve been listening to Sirius Satellite Radio in GPMINI, using a receiver hard-wired in to the Alpine head unit, giving clear sound and artist/etc displays.
In GBMINI#6, I installed a factory AUX input cable and I’ve been using the “portable” Sirius receiver that I bought last year for my SiriusXM comparison; I had the little receiver stuck in a cup holder, which allows me to hear it but makes reading the display and pressing buttons a little tricky!

Over the last week or so, I’ve been updating the sound in GBMINI#6 – the factory iPod interface came out (which is un-necessarily challenging due to the way it is installed), and I have a Dension Gateway 300 installed from MikeyTheMINI (more on that, later!) … side note: It’s a bit easier to work on the stereo in a Convertible, dropping the top gives you lots more visibility 🙂

So I decided to tidily install the Sirius receiver; I tried a few places and finally settled on putting it under the toggle switch panel … with the help of my work colleague Christian, a piece of copper was bent to provide a nice bracket to fit the receiver to the bottom of the switch panel, and I’m really quite happy with the results!

A different flavour of Fruit!

Yes, it’s happened … goodbye Blackberry, hello Apple!

An early – and expensive – birthday present 😉

In some ways, I feel that the iPhone is a little like our MINIs … when I first heard about the iPhone I felt “interesting … but I don’t want one”
But then came the day when I actually saw one close up, and tried it – actually it was an iPod Touch, but similar – and using the web browser to visit GBMINI was a revelation! Look at how it renders the webpage exactly how it looks at home … look at how the text is readable even though it’s teeny tiny … and wow, it redraws wider if I turn the thing round, even easier to read 🙂
At that time, I had no idea about zooming, scrolling, etc – but it was so cool and it just seemed to work “right”. Once you’ve tried one, you don’t want to use a regular one any more – similar to how I feel with MINIs.

Margaret, also, is close to falling for an iPhone – although she’d never own a MINI. So I guess they’re not quite the same 😉

Anyway, to put this slightly “on topic” (do I have to do that for my own website):
I tried the iPhone in GBMINI#6 tonight – with the R50/R52/R53 factory iPod interface. The iPhone put up a message about not being compatible:

And yet, it actually played fine, working just like my regular iPod with the factory interface – which is, pressing CD6 to get any music (I haven’t bothered creating MINI1-5 playlists), and basically having no ability to navigate or see what’s playing.

You can press <> to navigate track by track (or 10 tracks at a time if you hold the buttons down), but with no way to know where you are, it’s best just to use random play mode.

Random play actually works better on the original factory iPod than on the R56 – in that pressing <> skips to the previous/next RANDOM track, but against that, the HU forgets that it’s in random play every time the car is turned off (or even if you just switch to radio).
Another plus of this factory solution over the R56 is that it continues where it left off after you turn the car off – but the negative here is that if you disconnect, then on re-connection it goes back to track 1. That’s a big pain in the iPhone, since you’re very likely to remove it from the car whenever you park.
Finally, you can’t look at the iPhone to see what’s playing, since it displays an unhelpful blank message, curiously though, you can still browse the web, check email – and presumably use the phone (but the wire’s not long enough – I’d have to put my head in the glovebox!)

Meanwhile, back in the land of iPhones – and following DB’s lead – I put the Content Robot iPhone WordPress plugin on to GBMINI … so now, my website displays quite differently on an iPhone to how it displays normally.
I can’t decide if I prefer the original “webby” layout, showing complete entries and pictures but very small text, or the iPhone custom layout which is much easier to read, but doesn’t show the whole page:

Feedback, please 🙂

The first mod for GBMINI#6

I haven’t decided whether to stick with the factory stereo and iPod adaptor, or put in something aftermarket like the Alpine in GPMINI; so far I’m definitely missing any useful iPod control – the factory system for the R50/R53 is really not very functional! You have to set up playlists called MINI1/MINI2…/MINI5, otherwise you can choose “all tracks” (which is what I’ve done so far, since I haven’t yet set up any MINI-specific playlists). The R56 iPod interface was more useful than that … but at least this older one doesn’t seem to take a minute or more to get ready to play music!

My normal habit would be to choose “random” play and see what comes up – if I like it, I can turn off random play and stick with that artist/album for a while. If I don’t like it, I can ship to the next track (which didn’t work on the R56, but does in the convertible). However, this factory system “forgets” that random is turned on, every time you select a different source (radio, CD) or turn the car off and on again.
So now, it’s switch on the car, and press “RND” every time.

Also of course, there’s no display of track/artist/etc, just a number. And no practical way to select a specific track either – when not in random mode you can -> skip to next track, but pressing that however many hundreds of times to get to a particular artist/album/track would be crazy!
Yes, I can set up the special MINIx playlists, but if you put a reasonable number of tracks in any one playlist, you still wouldn’t want to step through it; and if you make small playlists, you only have five possibilities to choose from!

I tried selecting a track on the iPod before connecting it, pressing PAUSE and then connecting it – didn’t work! The factory interface just did nothing at all (I think it was trying to find “MINI1” playlist); if I pressed “CD6” to select “all music” then it would start from the first artist/album/track and not play from the paused track I’d selected already.
Maybe if I set up “MINI1” playlist to be all tracks … I wonder if that would work then to be able to pause a track and then connect it?

So, I bought an AUX input cable, planning to connect up Sirius. But the AUX input cable isn’t working?! It never shows “AUX” when you step through the different MODEs; I did the “blind” cable install by pulling down the drivers knee bolster, but I’m 99% sure the cables connected OK; I guess I have to disassemble the downtubes and pull out the radio to check for sure.

Meanwhile, a quick question: is there anyone out there with the factory iPod in an R50/53, also with AUX input connected and WORKING?

R56 NAV/stereo: that’s not a British accent!

I recently found something curious – initially I thought GBMINI#5 had a German accent, but now I’m not quite so sure what accent it is!

Most of the NAV voice prompts are pre-recorded, but recently I heard the car announce the track number that was playing on my iPod – and it’s an accented computer generated voice:

So, what do you think? German? Something else?