Episode 127 — Technical Writing

We talk with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens about documenting and sharing technical procedures, especially those related to the repair of consumer devices.

  • We start this episode by catching up on some past episodes…
  • In Episode 111, “Environmental Engineering,” we talked with Bronwyn Bell, an environmental engineer from Western Australia, who is now featured in an episode of the Discovery Channel show “What on Earth?” (Bronwyn’s segment starts around the 29 minute mark, and lasts about 6 minutes.)
  • Listener Matthew wrote to say lubrication could have a large effect on how long a bearing might spin, and the video in Episode 115 showing different spin times might not be representative of quality. He pointed out that an ABEC standard exists for bearing tolerances.
  • Via Twitter, and in response last episode’s conversation about refining diesel fuel, listener CAD Noob shared an short film from 1946, titled “The Inside Story of Gasoline.”
  • Our guest for this episode is Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, an organization that publishes free teardown and repair guides, primarily for consumer electronic devices.
  • Kyle graduated with a Computer Science degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (also known as Cal Poly).
  • iFixit was the first company to supply Pentalobe screw bits in their repair kits.
  • A flathead screwdriver remains a versatile tool.
  • Kyle has been involved in the founding of Dozuki, a software company that provides clients with an online documentation platform.
  • Farmers have been fighting to retain the right to repair their own tractors.
  • The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalizes acts that bypass measures put in place to protect copyrighted materials.
  • Our guest has also been involved in establishing The Repair Association, an advocacy group dedicated to representing and promoting the repair industry.
  • A free tech-writing handbook, co-authored by Kyle, can be found on the Dozuki website.
  • Carmen mentions the book “On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction,” by William Zinsser.
  • In 2015, Kyle wrote an article titled “Everything Falls Apart,” in which he argued for repairing, rather than replacing, consumer products.
  • Our guest still catches flak for his 2012 article in Harvard Business Review, titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.
  • A documentary about fixers is in the works, although no release date has yet been set.
  • iFixit still needs a repair guide for a Slinky. Brian notes that Egon Spengler (a character in the movie Ghostbusters 2) would have some insight on this topic.
  • Kyle can be reached as @kwiens on Twitter.

Thanks to zphad1 for use of the photo titled “trip5a.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 126 — Diesel Power

Aeronautical engineer Clay Coons joins us to discuss the many applications of diesel engines.

  • Adam’s Kubota BX tractor is powered by a 23 HP diesel engine.
  • During his high school years, Jeff learned that gasoline (petrol) engines don’t run too well on diesel fuel.
  • Ska Punk music often features horns, as evidenced on a song Carmen remembers from his youth, Sugar in Your Gas Tank by Less Than Jake.
  • Our guest for this episode is aeronautical engineer Clay Coons, who joined us previously on episodes titled Travel and Engines.
  • Diesel engines use compression, rather than a spark, to ignite air-fuel mixtures.
  • Modern diesel engines use turbocharging to compress the intake air being fed into the combustion chamber.
  • Diesel fuel contains about 14% more energy per unit volume than does gasoline.
  • Diesel engines operate at a rotational speed that is nearly half of that for a comparable gasoline engine.
  • Due to their relatively heavy weight, it is rare to find a diesel engine used for aircraft propulsion.
  • While nearly half the automobiles sold in Europe have diesel engines, that number is closer to 3% in the United States.
  • Anemic performance and poor reliability, associated with Oldsmobile diesel engines sold during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, has been blamed for retarding North American diesel car sales over the past thirty years .
  • Adam asks about the use of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).
  • In mining applications, a diesel engine can operate 25,000 to 30,000 hours between rebuilds.
  • Many heavy-duty trucks use the SAE J1939 standard for sharing information between vehicle components.
  • Our guest speaks highly of the cask ales he tried on a recent trip to Scotland.

Thanks to Ilya Plekhanov for use of the photo titled “BelAZ 75600 on Bachatskom Coal Mine, Kemerovo Region.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 125 — Cubicle Farm

We discuss how the workplace environment influences our productivity in this episode of The Engineering Commons.

Thanks to Tim Patterson for use of the photo titled “I Love Cubicles…” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

Practical insights for the engineering crowd