Get Well, MCA

In case you haven't heard, MCA of the Beastie Boys has cancer.  I'm wishing him well.


Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 2

Yesterday I posted about swapping out the factory head unit in my Smart Car with an aftermarket unit.  Today I am going to cover changing out the door speakers.

The Smart Car is really unlike any other car on the road in its design.  To my surprise, to get to the door speaker you have to take off the outside of the door, not the inside.  Evilution has great documentation on how to do it.  The "premium" sound system also has tweeters in the dash, but I'm leaving those disconnected.  It's not worth the effort to replace them.  Interestingly, the Smart uses the standard head unit rear channel to power the dash tweeters and the front channel to power the door speakers.  If you leave all the wires connected, you can use the fader on your head unit to change the balance between the door and dashboard -- pretty neat.

The factory speakers are terribly cheap looking (no great surprise there).  When choosing a new speaker to put in my Smart, I had to make sure the mounting depth was very shallow since there isn't a lot of room.  I've always been a huge fan of Orion, so I went to their website first.  Orion's XTR 652 coaxial door speakers are surprisingly shallow.  In fact, the Orion speaker is actually a few millimeters shorter than the factory speaker! 

The inside of the Smart door is basically a single molded piece of plastic.  This makes mounting new speakers very difficult unless it has the same screw pattern as the original.  Since the original's screw pattern is unique to the Smart, this makes it incredibly unlikely.  Orion's door speakers have what they call a universal mount, but sadly there is no screw pattern to match the Smart.  Thankfully, the Smart's 6.5 inch speakers are actually 6.5 inches.  This isn't always the case on some factory systems!  The diameter of the Orion was exactly the same as the factory speaker.  This is great because the Smart's plastic speaker mount has an edge that protrudes and presses on the edge of the speaker, just past the surround,  but just before the metal case.  If the Orion speaker was any bigger, this edge would press on the surround and affect the sound quality and life of the speaker.

Since I wasn't able to use the factory screw holes, I needed to make new ones.  The problem is that there is nothing to screw into with the Smart.  If I used a long screw and went into the door plastic, it would punch through the other side and you'd see the screw inside the car.  That's no good.  :-)

My solution was to epoxy little wooden blocks at points where the Orion universal mount had screw points.  Where the arm rest is located just above the speaker, I lined the universal mount with the existing screw hole and rethreaded it with a wider screw.  So I ended up using one factory screw hole, and three new screw points into the wood blocks that are epoxied on the inside.  This worked great, but be careful about one thing: you really need to score the plastic really well before applying the epoxy to it.  At first I just used some low grit sandpaper, but that did not do the job.  The blocks fell off with only a little bit of force.  The second time I used the sharp end of a screw and went to town scoring some nice deep grooves.  The epoxy stuck really well after giving it something to grab onto.  After that, I just needed to drive some wood screws through the universal mount's screw hole and the job was done. 

Surprisingly, the Smart has some pretty good speaker wire connecting the door speakers.  Eyeballing, it looked to be around 14 AWG -- not bad!  Since I didn't want to fish new wire, I simply snipped the ends off the factory wire and soldered it to the Orion speakers.  When I install the amplifier, I'll snip and solder the speaker wire behind the radio and connect a longer cable to the amp.  It's not the ideal way to run speaker wire, but I've done this before as a shortcut and it works well.  Also, I don't care what anybody says, I cannot tell the difference between Monster Cable and cheap cable when it comes to speaker wire.  RCA cables, yes -- absolutely.  But speaker wire, no.

Anyway, I put the doors back on and fired up the stereo.  Still using the head unit's amp, it sounded amazing!  I can't wait to get the amp hooked up now.  These XTRs are really great speakers!

I love Orion!

Enjoy the pictures.  The next installment of this series will cover hooking up the sub and amplifier.

Smart door
This is what the door looks like when you take off the outside panel. 
You can also see that I have cut a "plus" pattern to gain access to the speaker behind the weather shield.  It's a shame there isn't a better way to gain access without taking the door apart, but duct tape will fix all!

Side of Smart 
This is a nice side view of the smart with the door panel removed.

Orion XTR 652 and factory Smart door speaker
The factory speaker is on the right, the XTR 652 on the left.  You can see that the XTR is not quite as deep as the factory, leaving plenty of room for the window to roll down.  Also take a note of the magnet size difference!

Door speaker mount
There are my new screw points!  The factory grill will conceal my secret weapons.  :-)

 Orion XTR 652 speakers
The Orion XTR 652s, side by side!  You can see the "universal mounting bracket" that lacks Smart screw holes (no great surprise).

New speaker mounted in door
The speaker, partially mounted (I forgot to take a picture after I tightened all the screws, so this is the last picture you get).


Modding My Smart: Stereo System, Part 1

This will be the first in a series of posts about modifications I make to my Smart Car.  The first big mod I'm making is installing a new car stereo.  The Passion Cabriolet comes with what Smart calls the "premium sound system," but let's be honest: factory installed car stereo systems always suck.

If you are a Smart owner and want to work on your car, you should get to know the website Evilution really well.  This site has information on how to do basically anything in your Smart with regards to assembly/disassembly.  This is good because Smart/Mercedes is very protective of the official service manual.

I replaced the head unit yesterday which was incredibly easy.  I must say that the Smart is, by a long shot, the easiest car I have ever worked on.  Nearly all the screws are the same type (torx 20 or 25) and none of them so far are torqued so tight that you can't unscrew them with a manual screwdriver.  Nice!

My head unit of choice is the Sony Xplod MEX-BT2700.  I bought it mainly for the price as it is by a long-shot the cheapest bluetooth car stereo solution out there right now.  It does have some glaringly stupid limitations, like not automatically reconnecting A2DP to existing partnerships when the radio turns on (it does, however, automatically reconnect the bluetooth hands-free phone profile).  So each time you start the car, you have to press a button to reconnect your bluetooth audio device to the radio..  Despite that, it's a great unit for the price and the built-in microphone works really well for hands-free bluetooth goodness.  Here's a couple pictures.

Sony Head Unit
You can see RCA cables coming dangling in the passenger foot area.  Those will eventually find their way to the amp!

Sony Head Unit
The car kit for the Smart looks really nice and creates a very professional "factory" look even when replacing the double din factory radio with a single din aftermarket like above.

My next post will cover replacing the factory door speakers with Orion XTR652 coaxial speakers.


I Got My Smart!

I got my Smart on Tuesday.  So far, I'm loving every second of driving it!  It's such a fun car.  This weekend, in goes the stereo.  I'll post pictures when it's done.

My Smart Car Look at her smile for the camera!


Private Health Insurance, Defined

Atrios defines private health insurance perfectly.

"Health insurers are middle men who make money by not providing payment for services they're supposed to pay for. They're skimmers who provide no useful service."

That is the best definition ever.


Not Billy Mays Too!

First Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson, and now Billy Mays has died.  Okay maybe it's weird that I'm a fan of a teevee direct marketing pitchman, but I really liked the guy.  I didn't find his "Hi! Billy Mays here" commercials annoying at all, and I use several of his products and think they work exactly as advertised.  Plus, after watching his show Pitchmen on the Discovery Channel, I really grew to like the guy as a person.  He just seemed like a nice down-to-earth guy who really believed in the products he sold (unlike the shamwow guy, who I find very annoying).  This is a sad day for direct marketing.  Their biggest star, who was still far from his peak, has passed on.

Rest in peace, Mr. Mays.  I will certainly miss you.


Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson

The title says it all.  No matter what you think about his (admittedly bizarre) personal life, he was an absolute entertainment phenomenon.  There will never be another entertainer like him.  Thriller will always be one of my most prized albums in my collection of vinyl.

With this and the death of Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett, this has turned out to be a hell of a depressing week.  It can't end soon enough.


SQL 2008 Reporting Services + an IIS Subfolder Named "Reports" = WTF?

I ran into a situation today where on our new beta server, we have a custom web application with a subfolder named "Reports."  It always worked fine on my other servers, but on this server no files in that folder could be accessed from the site.  What's more, we'd receive a prompt for user credentials, despite the fact that the only authentication mechanism enabled on the entire site was anonymous.

It turns out it's SQL 2008 Reporting Service's fault.  In SQL 2005 and older, you would see a subfolder called "Reports" and "ReportServer" under the Default Website.  With SQL 2008, it seems SQL does it a little different.  You use its own configuration manager to assign what IP addresses and subfolders respond to Reporting server.  These paths then do NOT show up under IIS.  Since the default is all IP addresses, there was a name collision with our custom web application.

It's an easy fix.  Go into the Reporting Services configuration and make sure the two folders only respond to IPs not associated with your custom web application.

Still, not seeing the folders in the Default Website really threw me off.  Also, I'm not sure I like how SQL can just override all other site's folder in this manner.  Oh well.  I'm sure there's a good reason for it that I just can't see right now. :-)



I think it's great that the people of Iran are beginning what appears to be the start of a revolution against their oppressive theocratic government.  That said, I am always equally disappointed in the American politicians exploiting this situation, where innocent people are dying, using it as a chance to grandstand.  Every American politician that calls for American intervention in the uprising has blood on their hands right now.  The mullahs want westerners to call for Iranian revolution.  It adds credence to their myth that westerners are meddling.  They want any excuse possible to put this thing down.

I also find it very ironic that the same politicians calling for western assistance for the revolutionaries were, not a month ago, supportive of bombing the crap out of Iran.  I'm looking at you, Senator bomb-bomb-bomb McCain.

All that said, if the Iranians ask for help.  I hope they get help...

But we should never forget that this is not just a series of interesting twitter feeds.  There are real consequences and real lives -- innocent lives -- at stake.

Good luck, Iran.

Update (June 23, 2009): Excellent op-ed here on this subject; h/t ginandtacos.com


Excessive Fines

A woman steals something from someone.  Actually, she stole 24 things.  And they were from a company, not a person.  Actually, they are illegal music downloads and she didn't really steal from the copyright holder as much as she obtained copyrighted material from a third party without the copyright holder's permission.  It's still theft.  And you won't hear me argue otherwise because I do believe copyright infringement is a serious crime.

So did she perform an illegal act?  Yes, absolutely.  Should she be forced to pay a civil penalty beyond simply the market value of the product she stole?  Yes, sure.  That's part of the punishment for committing a crime and its also a deterrent for others thinking about committing the same crime.   Should she have to pay a penalty that is 80,000 times the market value of the product?  pfffbbbtbttttttt!  WTF?!  HELL NO!


This is ridiculous.  These types of excessive fines do nothing to add value to copyrighted material like music, books, and videos.  If anything, it just makes copyright holders look like petty bullies, diminishing the value of the works that they are protecting.  As a copyright holder of my own music, I am sympathetic to the concerns of copyright holders regarding illegal downloading of music.  I was a big defender of shutting down Napster (the original highly illegal one).  I also have no sympathy for The Pirate Bay.  But this case… This case is just absolutely ridiculous.  It is beyond excessive.  IANAL, but to me this case seems to be an Eighth Amendment violation.

The punishment needs to fit the crime.  Make her pay the court fees, the market value of the music, plus a $250 civil penalty and call it a day.

Recent Comments
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    Derek: Edward, great find. +1 on the fix... Thanks!!
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    Terry: Edward, you are the Man!!!! Looked for a solution for hours, then found your post and BAM!!! it worked...
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    Mr. JoeM: Edward! Thank you, saved me hours of work.
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    Brian: Thank you so much Edward! :-)
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    Mike: DPM 2016 setup will fail if you have SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) V17.x installed. Re-Install...
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    Rob: Edward, thanks man! you were a lifesaver. My scenario was Win Server 2016 from scratch, SQL 2016 (N...
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