iSadde ELM 327 Bluetooth OBD2 Module

iSaddle_ELM_327Being a geek can sometimes become pretty expensive. Different devices offer differing amounts of geek fun for the buck.
Every car and pickup manufactured from 1996 forward has what is known as an OBD2 port. OBD is short for on board diagnostics. The OBD2 port was originally mandated as part of emission control efforts.

There are plenty of consumer-oriented OBD2 port scanners. However, with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, something new has come along that many people have yet to become aware of. Inexpensive Bluetooth and WiFi enabled OBD2 modules are just the ticket to pair up with your favorite smartphone or tablet.

Torque ProI purchased an iSaddle ELM 327 module from Amazon which is currently priced at $14.99 and is an Amazon Prime item. This particular unit will work with Android and Windows only, so I can only use it with my Android devices and not my iPad Air. If I want to use an OBD2 scanner with my iPad I would need to buy one that says it specifically works with iOS devices. So, if you intend to get one of these devices for use on an iOS device, be SURE that you search for iOS OBD2 and read the user comments to make sure what people that have purchased the specific item you are looking at have to say about it.

The iSaddle ELM 327 module simply plugs in to the vehicle’s OBD2 port. OBD2 ports are always located on the driver’s somewhere immediately under the dash. On my 1998 Ford F-150 pickup, the OBD2 port is located almost directly below the steering column just under the dash back a bit from the bottom edge. I can easily leave the unit plugged in full time if I wish.

To make use of the device after plugging it in, simply start up the engine and then pair it up with Bluetooth to your Android phone or Android tablet. On my unit, the Bluetooth password is 1234.

Next, it is necessary to have an app that can take advantage of the ELM 327 Bluetooth unit. In my opinion by far the best app available is an Android app called Torque. There is a free version of Torque and a paid version called Torque Pro that sells in the Google Play store for $4.99. I went ahead and purchased the Pro version figuring that the extra functionality was well worth the price.

With this setup, I have Torque Pro in my Galaxy Note 3 set up to automatically connect to the iSaddle ELM 327 module every time I take a trip in my vehicle. I have Torque Pro set up to automatically monitor various engine operating parameters and create a CSV or comma separated value file of each new trip. I have included GPS position history using the phone’s GPS, which enables me to bring each separate trip up on a map right inside of the Torque Pro app.

Torque Pro also comes with standard virtual gauges such as speedometer, tachometer, etc. However, it is possible for the end user to easily create his or her own virtual analog or digital gages. The graphics in Torque Pro are really quite good making for very realistic-looking virtual gauges.

Torque Pro is extremely customizable, so I would suggest spending a significant amount of time with the app looking through all of the different options. For example, I now have an instant MPG readout on a 16-year-old vehicle which I think is pretty darned cool!

I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable $20 dollars I’ve spent in a long time for this combo. Once upon a time people who were serious about knowing what was going on with their vehicle’s engine would spend a fortune on physical gauges. Torque Pro in conjunction with an ELM 327 OBD2 port module makes it possible to create as many virtual gauges as you would like and your particular car supports.

Update On Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3

Belkin Bluetooth Folio KeyboardRecently I purchased a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard for my iPad 2. The unit operates via Bluetooth. When I initially began using it I noticed there was a rather prominent problem with rather frequent lost or multiple keystrokes when a given key was only hit once. I didn’t know if this was a Bluetooth problem, or a problem with iOS 6 taking too many CPU cycles on an iPad 2. An iPad 3 might not suffer from the same lost keystroke problem when connected to a Bluetooth keyboard since it comes with a faster processor with much improved performance.

So, I started a bit of troubleshooting. One of the things I suspected might be stealing CPU cycles was app notifications. My one and a half year old iPod Touch really became sluggish after installing iOS 5 on it. I was able to mitigate the sluggish iPod response problem somewhat by turning off push notifications for the vast majority of apps. So, I turned off all of the push notifications on my iPad 2.

Turning off all push notifications did seem to help, but did not entirely fix the problem. I started experimenting with typing old standby typing phrases such as “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” This phrase seemed to type in just fine with no lost keystrokes. But then when I started typing other things, I noticed the lost keystroke problem immediately reared its ugly head once again.

What could the problem be? What about that automatic spell check that is enabled by default in iOS 6? Could that be an issue? I went into the iPad settings and turned off the automatic spell checker, along with the automatic correction feature, as well as eliminating the sample shortcut that comes with iOS 6, and that helped out even more.

For good measure, I also went through and deleted as many apps as I could that I really don’t make use of on my iPad.

Since my iPad 2 is WiFi only, I also have an external “Dual” GPS unit that connects to the iPad via Bluetooth so I can use the iPad as a GPS device with apps such as TomTom, USA Atlas (Hema) and Co Pilot. I noticed if I turn it off while I’m using the Belkin Bluetooth keyboard, it helps reduce the occasional lag problem even more.

All of these things combined have improved the Bluetooth keyboard response dramatically. There are still a few dropped keys now and then, but at this point they are much less frequent to the point where the keyboard is now quite usable.

It’s likely that had I never upgraded the iPad 2 beyond iOS version 4, there likely wouldn’t be a Bluetooth keyboard lag problem. Why is it we seem to always scream for the latest iOS updates, but then ultimimately end up annoyed by poor performance?

How I made Vista work better.

I hear it all the time – Dang Vista won’t work. They still get frustrated over printer failures, slow programs loading and just basic aggravation to it’s performance. But what’s more interesting is how I fix the problem – and make the program run 200% better.

It’s all about a piece of software that has been a thorn in my side for the last 10 years. Ever since Windows 98, this much needed software has taken a step too far in it’s installation, and when other software gets installed, this software fights with Windows. Worst part is this software expires, which causes more problems than you can imagine.

Symantec.

The latest machine was a HP AMD laptop. The printer spooler was failing. I was getting popups from the Information window because Symantec took over the Firewall. Then it rounded off with a renew subscription error.

Ultimately, all these errors would make the startup time a good 5 minutes. Yeah, you can start after the initial boot-up and sign-in, but as you are working, you are getting all these stupid windows saying there are problems, when in all reality it’s a program you rely on.

Someone gets a new machine and Hey! there’s an anti-virus software you can install. But it’s more than anti-virus. It’s a webscanner. It’s a email scanner. It’s an anti-phishing device . It’s a swiss army knife you can use in any way – until the 1 year trial expires. And then you will get upgrade notices – months in advance – to buy another year.

That is the worst part: this software expires and most procrastinate. Most people I know just pass off on the box and continue. Two to three months after expiration when I look at their machine, I am surprised they haven’t been infected with anything else.

This laptop had one other problem. Within the year that they purchased the machine, they also installed AVG anti-virus.

So for anyone to check email, get on the internet or whatever, they have to run through an expired Anti virus, then one that is working. That’s like sitting in the doctors office and when your name is called, you move to a second waiting room, in where you wait for your name to be called again.

I have been taking Symantec off computers for 10 years. And, yes. For 10 years I have also been removing McAffee. This bloatware is only causing problems, then the user doesn’t want to pay for an upgrade, therefore making the situation worse.

I agree – If you are not in a corporate environment, you should be able to get a basic Anti virus that will not charge you to download the latest definitions. That is why I install a lot of programs like AVG and Avast on machines. I still have to follow up with the customer because of the expiration of the registration keys.

Symantec software (or McAffee)  SHOULD NOT be on new machines. If anything, it should not be pre-loaded, but put on a CD that you physically have to insert and install. If you have to physically install the software, you understand it a little better than something you just have to “Activate”.

In my work, I have pretty much called Symantec more harmful than helpful. No matter what you throw at me in argument, I can bring back with “Yeah, but your software expires and causes more problems in computers”. No wonder people get annoyed with their machines. If I didn’t know about this, I would be swearing at my computer every time it loads.

If you have the software and it’s saying “Pay for another year”, then take some action. At least the un-install process isn’t as annoying as it used to be. I think with McAfee you still have to put in the password you created when you activated it. Hopefully you remember that.

I always say “Ignorance is no excuse”, but on the same token I can’t know everything. Otherwise I would be on Jeopardy answering Alex Trebek’s questions. Or is that asking questions to Alex Trebek’s answers…