Neil Hopcroft

A digital misfit

Resurrecting Where’s Neil? and the OBD data logger

A little experimenting with the bluetooth OBD units in my car has shown that one of them hasn’t blown yet – I thought my car had a tendency to overvoltage and smoke them, at least a couple have given up their magic smoke.
This means there is potential to resurrect the “Where’s Neil?” web page (which might become password protected at some point, to maintain my privacy – I’ll give you a password if I’m coming to visit you). Next though, I need to get the data connection working again – my PAYG SIM has expired. My old Android phone, the one with the OBD software on, is SIM locked to Orange, but I have a Mifi dongle that is not tied to any particular network. I spoke to someone in a phone shop who was absolutely sure they didn’t do data SIMs and that a normal voice SIM wouldn’t work in a data dongle. But I bought a new EE voice SIM anyway, thinking that it would work with my old Android phone even if it didn’t work with the dongle. Turns out it is the other way around, it is fine in the dongle not in the phone. So now I have a chain that looks like this:

Engine <=> CAN Bus <=> OBD reader <=> Bluetooth <=> Phone <=> Wifi <=> Dongle <=> GSM <=> Webserver

Nothing can go wrong here, surely.
Actually, it does work, although it is a bit cumbersome. So the page is live again, although it will only be used occasionally since my car will run its battery down if I forget to remove the OBD unit – I have put a new heavy duty battery in it, but I still worry. Although a quick search on Amazon reveals some small Lithium Ion battery packs that will provide enough power for a jump start, so it might be worth investing in something like that, in case of emergency.

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