ICAR Luxury Supercars Experience

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to drive a Ferrari 458 Italia with some friends on one of those exotic, dream car experiences you can find every now and then. It’s difficult to describe just how good of a time I actually had. As a simulation racing enthusiast it’s always been a dream to do what I do in the virtual world out in the real world. It really was incredible. I’ll cover the day from arrival to registration, instruction to the pits, the course tour to actually driving the course, and finally the photos and videos they take in the car while you’re on the track.

IMG_0375 Check the end of this post for a video as I walk out to the car, run my laps, and come back with a big smile. :)

 

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When Giving Less Means Giving More #Charity365

There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. –C.S. Lewis

The Impact

I have a cleft palate. Not the prettiest thing in the world, and certainly not the easiest to live with, but I’ve had to deal with it all my life and it has shaped and directed me, whether I wanted it to or not.

As it happened, I was watching TV on a recent, lazy weekend afternoon and channel hopped passed an infomercial about children with cleft palates. I backed up and figured I’d watch for a minute or two… Much later, after many tragic stories with amazingly happy endings, I was pretty convinced what organization I wanted to help next.

But I really didn’t have any more money to give…

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Harper On Citizenship and The Potential Consequences for Cases like Khadr’s

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper sounded an unrepentant note Friday about his Conservative government’s failed efforts to keep former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr behind bars.

Harper not backing down on Omar Khadr: He ‘pled guilty to very grave crimes, including murder’

Harper’s desire to revoke citizenship for “convicted” terrorists appears to come from a reluctance to defend and rescue Canadians abroad like Omar Khadr, Maher Arar, and others, simply in order to avoid political snafus. This selfish, unloving, and reckless abandonment of responsibility for our own citizens is reprehensible. If Harper had his way, Khadr would have been lost with little chance of reform in the American military justice system. “Khadr, now 28, pleaded guilty in October 2010 before a widely discredited military commission to five war crimes — including murder in the death of Speer, a U.S. special forces soldier. He was 15 at the time of the incident…and human rights groups have long considered him a child soldier whose treatment violated international law.”

omarkhadr2_1280You can see what kind of person Omar Khadr is now and discover the man who has been fighting for his freedom for years in the CBC documentary “Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows“.

 

maher-ararAnd we should never forget Maher Arar, and others, who were tortured in foreign nations and we, in part, were the ones who sent them there.

Lac Témiscouata – Homage to a Lost Canadian Highway Rest Stop

Update 2016-04-30: I discovered some photos in my collection of the original rest stop. Check them out, they don’t do justice to the beauty of the spot but they give you an idea of what was lost. En vérité, la belle province…

Lac Témiscouata – Homage to a Lost Canadian Highway Rest Stop

This is a visual tribute to a picturesque Canadian rest stop along Autoroute 20 in Quebec Canada, overlooking Lake Témiscouata . Sadly, the rest stop was literally blown out of the hills surrounding the lake when the highway was divided around 2013 or 2014. As it has been a memorable stop on many family vacations and my own drives out east I wanted to provide a place online where others can remember the area. Enjoy the memories!

Do you have photos of the rest stop before it was taken out? Please contact me as I only have a few photos from before and after the highway was divided.

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SimXperience AccuForce Pro Steering System

Update 2016-11-15: My latest R3E settings, including the November 2016 update, are over at my RaceRoom Racing Experience Force Feedback Settings post.

Update 2016-06-10: Updated Assetto Corsa FFB settings a little.

Update 2016-03-31: After the R3E update, I was getting a constant vibration in the wheel that tracked the cars speed (not engine rpm). People said to zero Slip Effect in-game but that wasn’t working for me. I eventually created a brand new R3E controller profile in-game and then compared to my previous profile. I noticed some differences like “FFB steer vibe freq mult=0” (and related values). Once I synchronized those I changed Slip Effect to zero in-game and that solved it.

Update 2016-03-08: Clarified certain language after time and reflection per the Closing Thoughts section. Filled in some sections that were still left undone.

Update 2016-02-19: Updated R3E section to sync with update notes. Added Assetto Corsa and rFactor place-holder sections for now. I plan to add more as I setup those games to work nicely with the AccuForce.

Update 2016-01-12: Added Suggestions for Improvements section.

Update 2016-01-01 – 3: Continuing my RaceRoom Racing Experimence experimentation (see updates below) I have been trying different cars with the settings I came up with earlier. I’ve run the Cadillac CTS V.R, BMW M4 DTM 2014, and the Aquila CR1, all at Brands Hatch Indy. They all felt really great except the Aquila which had very heavy steering (I’m not sure if S3 has updated the car in a long time) and its shift effect is ridiculous, I’ll have to turn that down even though it’ll also effect the other cars. I’ll be trying more cars and more tracks as my next step… Tested the McLaren MP4-12C, Ford Mustang GT3, Audi V8 DTM 1992, and 134 Judd V8. They all feel way better than my previous settings. The only quibble I have is cars with heavy steering could feel better. Remember some cars do not have updated physics/ffb (like the BMW E30 Gr. A I just tried) and they feel particularly “numb” or “dull”.

Update 2016-01-01 – 2: Following on my RaceRoom Racing Experience experimentation earlier today (see first 2016-01-01 update below), I then started experimenting with Wheel Modes and Dynamic Force Boost (expand Sim Commander Effects > Game Force Feedback to see the checkbox). I felt like I had more grip or could better tell how much grip I had under the Responsive (Peaks Allowed) mode as opposed to Default Wheel Mode I was using. This wheel mode allowed in some more what I call “boat sway” in the steering (ex. high speed straight wheel oscillates back and forth on its own) but it’s not so bad. I then enabled Dynamic Force Boost and the feeling of grip improved a little more. As a bonus, force feedback effects come in clearer due to the added force strength added by the wheel mode and force boost. I then had to experiment again with SC Dampening and Friction and I ended up on 1.57% for both. By the way, I have so far kept both Dampening and Friction to the same value as it feels correct in the steering and also seems to make sense in that they are sort of opposites and complement each other in a way. Dampening feels like added “weight” during force feedback effects, such as when the wheel swings back the opposite way when the backend goes out and you need to push through the effect to correct the steering, whereas friction adds weight when there are no force feedback effects. It’s still not perfect, I need to test with other settings like SC Inertia, as I said, and also try other cars (so far testing on BMW M3 GT2 at Brands Hatch Indy). Here are my latest Sim Commander and in-game settings for R3E:

r3e-sc-settings-20160101br3e-settings-20160101br3e-settings-2-20160101b

Update 2016-01-01: In RaceRoom Racing Experience, I experimented with moving Smoothing, Spring, Damper, and Friction to Sim Commander settings, so these are disabled (0%) in-game. I figure all the AccuForce does is FFB so it might be better or at least more efficient than the in-game settings. It also consolidates as much as possible to the wheel to avoid duplicating settings. I noticed both SC and R3E had smoothing applied so I first disabled it in-game, which felt better, and then disabled it in SC, which felt even better: I realized I was now feeling effects quicker than I was before. It seems Smoothing was delaying effects or making it feel delayed. I then did the usual binary search on SC Smoothing and Dampening and landed on 8.24% for each. It doesn’t feel perfect but it’s the best I could do in the binary search so far. I might have to experiment with some other SC setting like Inertia. Oh, before I started I did Reset to Defaults on the wheel, ensured Wheel Mode was Default (because High/Responsive modes have had too much oscillation in R3E), disabled Engine RPM (also SC), and then started experimenting in-game. Here’s my latest Sim Commander and in-game settings for R3E:

r3e-sc-settings-20160101r3e-settings-20160101r3e-settings-2-20160101

Update 2015-12-24: Added a Closing Thoughts section which wraps up my thoughts and feelings after having driven with the AccuForce now for more than 6 months. What do I really think of the AccuForce? Would I buy it again? Read on to find out… Oh, and here’s an article over at MockRacer.com about the Leo Bodnar SimSteering2 wheel where he compares it the AccuForce he tried earlier in the year. The direct drive wheel market keeps getting more and more interesting.

Update 2015-11-26: I picked up Stock Car Extreme on the Steam Fall Sale ongoing right now. Not a bad pikcup for CAD $20. Sim Commander supports it right out of the box with pretty good settings. I made a new SC profile from scratch and reset it to defaults. When you launch SCE for the first time remember to set Windowed mode or you won’t see Sim Commander’s overlay in the game. In game, you’ll need to setup your controls as per usual for any sim. It doesn’t feel like SCE knows about the AccuForce so I had to set the Wheel Range (in the Controls screen just after you launch a track but before you get on) to 900. It still feels off, you might need to set the Wheel Lock in the Garage screens to 30 to get a 15:1 steering ratio (ie. something like GT-style steering ratio). Let me know if there are any more settings we AF owners should be setting for a more solid ride. Enjoy.

Update 2015-09-25 – 6: My latest Sim Commander settings for R3E:

sc-r3e-2sc-r3e

And for R3E in-game:

RRRE 2015-09-25 23-49-00-52RRRE 2015-09-25 22-57-04-73RRRE 2015-09-25 22-57-08-21

Update 2015-09-25 – 6: A note on dialing in range settings. I’ve mentioned it before but I think I’ll mention it again. When I come up with settings within a range (ex. Smoothing 5% where the range is 0% to 100%) I do a binary search by hand. Put simply, a binary search is starting at one extreme, adding or subtracting half the range, and then adding or subtracting half again, based on preference, and repeating this process until you find an optimal value. For example, with Damping I went from 0% to 100% to try the extremes, then 50% because it was too high, then 25%, then 12%, then 6%, all based on preference. So, put in the setting, run a lap and, if it feels too much lower the value or if it doesn’t feel enough raise the value.

Update 2015-09-25 – 5: I’ve been playing around with Smoothing (5%), Damper (6%) and Friction (6%). Smoothing was at 25% before and it was taking a little bit of definition out of the ffb so I put in just 5%. Damper was at 0% before and it tends to simply dampen all forces (sort of make them slower) and I found more dampening helped me catch sliding backends. Friction was at 0% before and it applies a resistance to the strength you put into turning the wheel. I found in slides or losing grip that something felt off, it was too easy to swing the wheel back and that caused me to misjudge how I correct a slide. Turning up friction to 6% (after trying a binary search) helped me just a little better about how to correct my steering in those scenarios.

Update 2015-09-25 – 4: Even though R3E doesn’t officially support the wheel yet I find I’m finally getting to like the AccuForce FFB results after a lot tweaking (see the updates below from the last few days). The only thing really bugging me right now is the boat-like swaying motion on straights (“floaty” steering feel near center) and also the awkward steering feel when your backend flies out and you need to counter-steer. Something’s still not right there. But, hey, things are feeling pretty enjoyable.

Update 2015-09-25 – 3: I experimented in R3E with Steering Rack FFB. I was used to 0% (ie. all forces from tires as opposed to steering rack) so I flipped it 100% (ie. all forces from steering rack as opposed to tires) and I noticed a more “gradual” or “analog” rise and fall as I mounted and dismounted kerbs. I quite like the extra information so I’ve currently settled on Steering Rack 50% (ie. half of all forces from tires and half of all forces from steering rack).

Update 2015-09-25: Tweaked R3E Steering Force Intensity and Understeer as I put in more seat time and learn what I like.

Update 2015-09-17: Added force feedback settings for RaceRoom Racing Experience. Basically I reset the Sim Commander Profile and then set Steering Force Intensity 70% 50% and Understeer 25% 20%. That’s all I’ve done so far.

Update 2015-09-15: Having problems with Sim Commander crashing after launching games or the in-game overlay not showing in some games like RaceRoom Racing Experience? Power cycle your AccuForce and it should come back. I knew this trick since I ran into a bug when I first got the wheel where the computer wouldn’t even boot with the AccuForce on. Since then I must have gotten into the habit of turning the AccuForce on shortly after booting and that was causing problems. If I only power on the AccuForce after logging in then RaceRoom appears to work flawlessly and I don’t need to power cycle.

Update 2015-07-30: Check this very helpful and informative post on tuning the Accuforce Pro: AccuForce Settings For Dummies.

Update 2015-06-03: Added RaceRoom Racing Experience after 2015-06-02 Update section.

Update 2015-06-01: Added Auto-Tuning with Sim Commander Software section. Recommended read for AccuForce owners: AccuForce Tuning Feedback Test. This is a thread Berney of SimXperience created after the Sim Racing Garage head-to-head video, mentioned below, attempting to provide collect some user experiences and determine what kind of changes could be made to the wheel to improve feel for sim racers (who may have different force feedback tastes than real-life race drivers).

Update 2015-06-01: Barry, from Sim Racing Garage, has release a head-to-head comparison of the Accuforce Pro, Bodnar, and OSW wheels. It has highlighted some nagging concerns I’ve had ever since I’ve been playing with the wheel. Before we go any further, don’t think for a moment I’m saying the Accuforce is not a good wheel. It’s a professional, supported, warrantied, complete package, direct-drive, very strong wheel, with good force feedback and excellent tuning options. It’s a great wheel and at a competitive price. What I will say though is that the forces are not coming through as much as I’d like. For example, one reviewer in the video mentioned how it was difficult to tell the different between a slide through grass and the moment it hit the pavement during the slide. The AF wasn’t communicating that well. Other examples include strong cornering forces washing out road feel, or banking or kerb forces not feeling as defined as the other wheels. On the SimXperience forums, Berney (of SimX), has said he’ll be thinking about pushing out wheel updates to work on the comments the reviewers had in the videos. I look forward to trying those updates.

Update 2015-05-21: Added iRacing Settings, RaceRoom Racing Experience Settings

Update 2015-05-19: Added Setup, First Impressions, First Driving Experience, G27 Thoughts, Resources

SimXperience AccuForce Pro Steering System

accuforce2I’ve recently received my SimXperience AccuForce Pro and have been enjoying it for the past week. I’ve only owned one other force feedback wheel, a Logitech G27, and this is, of course, leaps and bounds beyond a G27. There is ample power and tuning options to provide the flexibility sim racers really want to ensure the best and most realistic experience while driving.

I’ll be posting my initial thoughts, my driving and tuning experiences, and providing tips and tricks for various facets of the wheel, it’s tuning software, and for the various sim titles I play.

I’ll be writing this post in parts and updating new sections as I have time and learn new things about the wheel!

Enjoy!

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#Charity365

You can’t give more than 100% but many giving even 1% can accomplish much, much more.

Five years ago I wrote about the struggle to begin giving charitably. My original concerns included questions such as “What charities would I give to?“, and “How do I donate in a personally satisfying and sustainable way?” It’s amazing to see where I am now compared to then and the relatively small, very gentle, very spread apart steps it has taken to this point in my giving. A lot has changed, and I think improved, in my giving and in my thinking about giving, but one thing is still at the core: Satisfaction, sustainability, and scalability. I’ll explain all that below.

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The Jian Ghomeshi Saga and Root Causes of Violence Against Women

The following is a letter I submitted to the CBC program The Current, hosted by talented radio personality Anna Maria Tremonti. In the letter, I have put to pen my increasing frustrations about the nature of the discussion surrounding violence against women and why it is that our public conversations never seem to get around to the root causes of the problem, and to exactly why we’re seeing the behaviour that we’re seeing. For the record…

The Jian Ghomeshi Saga and Root Causes of Violence Against Women

I’ve listened with great interest over the past few months to your podcasts and especially those about violence against women. From the #YesAllWomen campaign to the Jian Ghomeshi saga I’ve listened to a number of podcasts and even blogged and tweeted about some of the issues, myself.

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GTEye Progressive Brake Spring for Logitech G27

Update 2015-07-03: I just put in the new trio of springs tonight and I am very pleased indeed! I had previously put in and removed the brake due to an Achille’s Tendon issue but I’ve now put them all back in and they absolutely transform the pedals into a much higher quality pedal set. The feel is just so much nicer and more informative. I still say a must-have upgrade for G25/G27 pedal owners and well, well worth the price.

Update 2015-06-05: GTEYE has released throttle and clutch springs! I haven’t tried them but if they do for throttle and clutch what they do for brakes they’re a must have for G25/G27 pedal owners!

Update 2014-09-01: Following up on my concerns about my wheeled office chair moving too much because of the new spring stiffness – it’s fine now and my chair stays in one place. I didn’t need to do anything to the chair to get it to stick so I’m happy about that.

Update 2014-08-20: The pedal now feels very pliable now, very movable, not the stiff thing I thought it was in the beginning. This is great! I can still feel the progressiveness of it and I can still finesse the top range of motion into corners where fine motor control is needed. It’s amazing how much my perception of the feel of this pedal has changed, for the better, since I started using it just over a week ago. Well worth $30 as the first upgrade for Logitech G27 owners!

Update 2014-08-15: I have to say I’m back to normal and at home now with this new brake spring. I feel I’m more consistent, as well. I’ve put in a lot of laps of practice in iRacing before stepping into a few races and I have to say, while I had my doubts about how I would perform with the new brake spring, I performed quite well in the race and the brake pedal was really not a problem for me. This is a great upgrade and I highly recommend it for G27 owners!

Update 2014-08-12: I emailed the GTEYE guys about a less stiff but still progressive spring and he replied that it wasn’t really something they were going to do but he did give this interesting tidbit: “If you study the spring rate graph, you will notice that the initial spring rate is the same as the original spring, and by the end of its travel, its about 80% stiffer than the original. To my best ability this was the most appeasing to the larger audience, trying to find a one-spring fits all design, that does not detract in any way to the racing experience.

Update 2014-08-11 – 2: Just a few hours after I received the brake pedal, and I was getting 1:54s/1:56s on a course I can do routinely at 1:52, I’m already back at 1:52.5s high 1:51s! I’m also starting to feel how this brake is going to help me be more consistent. The resistance you feel from the pedal really helps you stick to a certain level of pressure much more easily than with the stock pedal which, I take it, is so easy to move around that your legs just don’t have that level of fine motor control. I’m very pleased to see how this is turning out so far!

Update 2014-08-11: Check your brake calibration! In iRacing I noticed a little bit of red was showing on the brake pedal meter while driving without touching the pedal. That meant the game thought I was pressing the pedal a little bit. No problem, though, just go to your options, click on the Pedals button and it’ll allow you to recalibrate. That fixed it for me!

GTEye Progressive Brake Spring for Logitech G27

I’ve just received my new GTEYE progressive brake spring (eBay page) for the Logitech G27. I’m writing this post as I assemble the pedals and then step into a game and actually try it for the first time going around a corner(!). My thoughts so far…

GTEYE-Hero-1000

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Song of Songs

Recently, on a Thanksgiving road-trip out east to PEI, I listened to a four-part message from James MacDonald called Romantic Love. I then found my next bible reading book was Song of Songs which that sermon series was based on. I usually share select verses, ones that particularly strike me, on Facebook and I was wondering how I’d do that with the intimate and personal nature of Song of Songs. So, I set myself a challenge: Read one chapter per day and try to find one thing to share from each Song of Songs chapter – something that would be ‘family friendly’ and not so sentimental as to make me look (overly) strange. Here’s the series of verses posted over eight days that I think provides an interesting overview of the whole book.

We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. Song of Songs 1:4b

Copyright Lobby Zombies On

Michael Geist, as always, has our back on the comings and goings of those undead copyright lobby groups that just won’t die,

More than ten years of contentious debate over Canadian copyright law appeared to come to a conclusion in late June when Bill C-11 passed its final legislative hurdle and received royal assent. Yet despite characterizing the bill as a “vital building block”, the copyright lobby that pressured the government to impose restrictive rules on digital locks and tougher penalties for copyright infringement is already demanding further reforms that include rolling back many key aspects of the original bill.

Read Geist’s article for more details.