Friday, November 19, 2021

Stuck because iTunes won't let you update your billing information

I suppose this is now a Windows-only issue.


Problem:  iTunes stops at "Verification is required.  Please click Billing Information", or similar, but when you click the "Billing information" button, nothing happens.  Prevents you from buying anything.

Solution: There is something wrong with your Apple ID that needs to be updated.

The "Billing information" button is supposed to take you to a web page where you can sign in using your Apple ID, where you can view, edit and update your billing information.  However, the iTunes button doesn't always work, making it seem like iTunes itself is broken.

Most likely there is some security or billing update that needs to be completed, like 2-step verification or updating your credit card information.  Neither of these can be done in iTunes itself; they both need to be done at the Apple ID web site.

So, the solution is to:

•  Go to and sign in.

•  Check / update your security settings and billing information.

•  Restart iTunes.

You should be able to purchase things using iTunes as normal.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Etsy "Sorry, there was an error" on credit card processing

If you get this error, you can try signing back in again.

In my case, I had started to sign in, but it went wrong and I closed the sign-in pop-up dialog.  Nothing seemed wrong.

However, this left the Etsy site confused, even though I had opted to checkout as Guest.  Re-signing in using a Google account fixed the error.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Getting error "This gift card can only be redeemed in Canada" - even though you are in Canada

Note: this affects ONLY the situation where you have a gift card FROM YOUR COUNTRY and are actually IN YOUR COUNTRY.  If you want a means to redeem a foreign card, or redeem a domestic card while in another country, look elsewhere.


 This issue popped up recently on Google Play.

Location services were off, but turning them back on did not help.

What did work was turning off Wi-Fi and completing the transaction over mobile data.

This might work for other countries, I don't know.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Don't buy a Ducati Hyperstrada

I rode an older Hypermotard in Europe, and really had fun.  Probably the most fun I'd ever had on a motorcycle, to be honest.  So I naturally wanted my own.

Unfortunately, I'm too short to be in the Hypermotard club.  I was on tippy-toe the whole week in Europe, and it was not a good feeling.  I needed something shorter.

Enter the late-model Hyperstrada.  Very much like the Hypermotard, but including panniers, all Hyperstradas after 2015 are 939s, and the "low" model.  After test-sitting one I knew it was OK for me.

Don't get me wrong: this bike is fun.  Damn fun, actually.  And far more capable than I am capable of riding it.

Unfortunately, it suffers from some glaring flaws that - somehow - nobody sufficiently points out.

One is the legendary grabby clutch, a seeming constant characteristic of modern Ducatis.  That goes away once warmed up, but is irritating.  Still, no bike it perfect, and it's annoying but tolerable.

Similar is the "false neutral" issue of the transmission, which can rear up at the least opportune times.  Never an issue on any of the other bikes I have ridden, this happens infrequently enough so that might be considered an infrequent quirk, although such a loss of control is (in my mind) far too dangerous to be so easily dismissed.

Of far more day-to-day concern is the horrible throttle response on the low end.  No longer a nice linear ramp, the throttle behaves far more like an on/off switch, resulting in a terrible low-speed riding experience.  Fixing this requires an ECU remap to correct the frankly abysmal low-end tuning of the 939 engine, at considerable cost, just to make the bike properly rideable.  

Still, this issue is fixable - albeit at great cost - and might be chalked up to a combination of Ducati "personality" or - more often - blamed on the European emissions regulations.  Why Ducati engineers simply can't make the bike properly rideable within the confines of the emissions specs, however, indicates to me a lack of expertise that I quite frankly find hard to accept.  Such is, after all, arguably the primary job of their engineering staff.

However, there is one "personality" issue that I have and am finding completely unforgivable:

The bike stalls.

Now, I'm not talking about stalling on startup, or in some kind of unique weather condition, or after tens of thousands of miles.  No, this bike - when NEW - will simply stall, randomly, when you pull in the clutch to come to a stop.

Don't believe me, check here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

This is utterly and completely unacceptable.  There is NO CIRCUMSTANCE - whatsoever - where it is acceptable for a vehicle engine to simply randomly stall under normal driving conditions.  Not now, not in this day and age, nor in any other.  It simply SHOULD NOT HAPPEN. 

This is more than a simple embarrassment on how a "premium" Italian motorcycle is patently inferior to German or Japanese motorcycles.  The safety hazard here is clear and present, and surely has put more than one owner into seriously dangerous situations.  And yet it persists through all Hyperstradas of all model years and engines, as well as some Hypermotards as well.

How on God's green Earth does Ducati get away with this with hardly a peep from anyone?  The safety hazard associated with this is so obvious, yet nobody seems to raise anything more than an eyebrow.  No such issues are ever mentioned in "professional" reviews of the motorcycle, and the owner base seems to simply grin and bear it.

Most astonishingly, there appears to be no fix.  Nobody knows why this motorcycle, or it's 821cc sibling, simply randomly stalls at low speeds when the clutch is pulled in.  No one has developed a way to bump the idle up a few hundred RPM, change the mapping, nothing.  It's simply written off with a shrug as "a Ducati thing".

Some people do blame the charcoal canister,  some the ECU (needing an update), and so on.  But there is certainly no definitive fix.

Now, it seems the newer Hypermotard 950s don't have this issue - although they do / did have some issues with some kind of anti-corrosion gunk clogging up the throttle bodies.

So it seems that Ducati simply can't make their own 821/939 engines behave, and follows on with not knowing how to properly assemble the 950 engine.  So much more Italian engineering expertise.

I really wanted to love this bike, but this issue pisses me off.  With all of the improvements made in computerized engine management, a 30,000km 2001 CBR600 works better than a 3,000 km 2016 Ducati Hyperstrada.

Yes, I realize I'm probably unlucky.  Yes, I realize other owners haven't had issues.  Doesn't change my opinion much.

So, I would advise anyone looking to buy one of these: Don't.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Everything you didn't want to know about installing new TPMS sensors on Lexus / Toyota vehicles

Note: this post is for Lexus, specifically the 4th Gen Lexus RX350 (2016+).  I am ASSUMING the process is similar for other Lexus and Toyota.


TPMS on the Lexus is a pain.

 On a GM vehicle, you do the following:

  • Install the new wheels with their new TPMS sensors on the car
  • Put the car into "relearn" mode; and
  • Poke each TPMS sensor with a $25 activation tool.


Not so easy on the Lexus/Toyota.  The basic steps are:

  1. Read the ID codes for the existing TPMS sensors (for future use)
  2. Obtain the ID codes for the new TPMS sensors
  3. Program / load these ID codes into an OBDII-capable TPMS programming tool; and
  4. Connect the tool to the car to upload the new sensor IDs to the car ECU.

The main issue with this is that many of the less expensive tools on the market will do only 1 or 2 of these steps.  You obviously need a tool that does all of them, and that means a more costly tool.

Unfortunately, vendors use confusing terminology such as "trigger", "activation", "re-learn", "reset", "electronic reset tool", and other misleading garbage, and often deliberately obscure the fact that some of their tools can't do some of these functions.   It's really all about what they don't say.

For example:

A.  The ATEQ Quickset will do 1, 3 and 4, but cannot do 2, because it cannot talk to TPMS sensors directly.  So if you don't have the ID codes for the new TPMS sensors, this tool will not work.

Reasons why you might not know the new TPMS ID codes:

  • You (or your shop) failed to write down the ID codes stamped on the TPMS sensors before they were mounted.
  • The sensors are aftermarket / generic, and did not have ID codes written on them.
  • The TPMS seller did not provide you with the ID codes.

If you do know - or can get - the IDs for the new TPMS sensors, the Quickset is probably a great tool, and cheap.  But if you don't already know the IDs, it's no help.

B.  Carista will do 1, maybe 3, and maybe 4.  It will not do 2 because it cannot talk directly to the TPMS sensors.

C.  The ATEQ VT31, VT36 and VT37 will do 1 and 2, but will not do 3 or 4, because they have no OBDII connection.  They talk only to the TPMS sensors, not to the car.

D.  The Autel TS401 and TS408 also lack an OBD connection, meaning they cannot do steps 3 or 4 either.

This leaves some people with a need for a tool that will talk to both the TPMS sensors directly and to the car via OBDII, and these are more costly.

At time of writing, the least expensive tools I can find are the ATEQ Quickset X and the Autel TS501.  These tools can talk directly to TPMS sensors and also have the necessary OBDII cable connection to allow complete identification and programming of new TPMS sensors for Lexus vehicles.  The Quickset X is the least expensive at about $300.


•  I've not tried any of these tools myself (yet), so I can't confirm they work.

•  The TS501 includes features for testing keyfobs, programming virgin / blank TPMS sensors, etc.  The Quickset X (apparently) does not, but may be cheaper.

•  Some Lexus vehicles have a "TPMS reset" and/or a "TPMS initialization" procedure built in to the car.  These do not reprogram or relearn the TPMS sensor IDs, and so are no help when installing new TPMS sensors.  They should NOT be used, at all, when installing new TPMS sensors, or else the car ECU might "lock up" and prevent new TPMS IDs from being programmed at all.

•  Some Lexus cars will store two sets of TPMS IDs.  As far as I can tell, the only tool that can program the second set is the Techstream (?) tool used by dealerships.  All of the aftermarket tools will only program the first bank of IDs.

•  If you did buy a Carista, Quickset or similar "program only" tool in error, you might consider:

  • Downloading your existing TPMS IDs into the Quickset;
  • Having the dealership install and program the new TPMS sensors for you; and
  • Downloading the new TPMS IDs into the Quickset afterwards.

You will then have the TPMS IDs for both sets of wheels and can swap them at will yourself (at least until your existing TPMS sensors die in 7-10 years and you have to do this over again).

Alternatively, a dealership or tire shop might agree to just read the TPMS sensor IDs for you, for a fee.

•  Toyota dealers may be able to read / program Lexus TPMS systems, and may charge less than a Lexus dealer.

•  Many Lexus cars will determine the position of the TPMS sensors automatically, meaning there is no predefined order for programming them. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Successfully transplanting wheels from one car to another (2011 Ford Flex wheels to 4th Gen RX350)

Skip to the middle to get to the things that you don't find everywhere else.

Yes, there are a zillion posts about this.  None of them were actually complete, IMHO, so here we go.

 For this example I will use:

•  Donor:  2011 Ford Flex

•  Recepient:  2016-2021 (4th Gen) Lexus RX350

Why?  The used Ford wheels were 1/4 the cost of new Lexus wheels.

Bolt pattern:  Should be obvious.  Both cars use 5x114.3.


Bore / centerbore:  Ford is 63.4mm,  Lexus is 60.1mm.  As the Lexus shaft is smaller than the Ford wheel hole size, I need hubcentric rings / centering rings that convert 63.4mm to 60.1mm.

Note that these rings are entirely intended to center the wheel during the mounting process, and do not bear any load once the wheels are torqued down.  So they can be plastic or a lightweight metal such as aluminum, no problem.

Diameter:  Both cars use 20" wheels.  Important since too-small wheels will not clear the brake calipers, especially in the front.  If you are unsure, the only way to check is to test-fit the wheels.


Width:  Important since wider wheels may hit suspension components at the back side and/or fenders on the front side.  

A test-fit is the best option.  However, you can also use Tire Rack or other resources to determine the allowable width of a wheel on a car.

Here, both cars use 20x8 wheels, so no problem.  The Lexus is also rated to accept 18x8.0 to 20x8.5 wheels, so anything in that range should also work.


Offset: The Ford wheels are 39mm.  The Lexus stock wheels are 30mm, and the car can handle 27mm to 42mm.

Still, the Ford wheels will be 9mm further in.  There is a slight risk of hitting the front or rear suspension components.

To confirm, I ran a hockey puck (25mm high) all around the back of both the front and rear wheels.  There is at least 25mm of space there, meaning moving the wheels 9mm further in is no issue.

Note running wheels with an offset radically different than stock could lead to long-term suspension issues, even if the wheels "fit".

The above you find everywhere.


What you DON'T find everywhere:

Lug nuts:  The donor wheels / car may take different lug nuts than your recipient car.

To ensure they fit properly, you need nuts that do the following:

•  Seat:  The nuts must have the proper seat type for the donor wheels.  

The Lexus RX uses flat seat nuts, the Ford uses 60° conical nuts.  So, in this case, nuts must be 60° conical, and I cannot use the Lexus OEM nuts on the Ford wheels.

Note: in marketing-speak, "cone" means "conical".

•  Thread:  The nuts must have the proper thread for the recipient car.

The Ford uses 1/2"-20 threads, the Lexus uses M12-1.5 threads.  The nuts must be M12-1.5.

•  Length:  The nuts must be long enough for adequate engagement on the wheel studs without bottoming out. 

Regrettably, the only way to be absolutely sure is to measure the donor wheel when fitted to the recipient car.  

Bottoming out is rarely an issue provided you aren't running extended-length wheel studs.  But you must have a depth of engagement at least equal to the size of the wheel stud (i.e. M12 stud = 12mm minimum engagement).

[Note: some people say 1.5x.  As far as I can tell, they're usually talking about open lug nuts on racing wheels, which is a totally different application.  Such setups must pass racing safety rules, which are different than OEM specs.]

Note that cone nuts will fit into a matching cone recess in the wheel, giving you another 2-3mm of engagement.  If necessary, you can count turns to determine the actual engagement.

If you can't test / must guess, you can compare McGard or Gorilla offerings for both the donor and recipient cars.  Chances are that both cars use lug nuts that are between 1.45" and 1.5" long.  If the lengths are about equal, chances are the new nuts will have plenty of engagement.

There is also the fact that car makers can't be sure what wheels will be fitted, wheel makers don't know what cars they'll be fitted to, and lug nut makers don't know either.  So everyone plays nice to ensure that most wheel/car combos have more than sufficient engagement - meaning you're more than likely safe regardless of the wheel you stick on the car.

The Flex wheels allow 12mm of engagement plus another 2-3mm for the cone, for 14-15mm overall.  That's close to the fitment of the OEM wheels and beats the minimum by a significant margin.

Do note that even 1 additional thread after 12 threads adds 8%, two add 16% and 3 is 25% over minimum.  Those are non-negligible margins of safety, especially considering that the minimum engagement will include a significant safety factor.

•  Hex drive:  OEM nuts will probably be 13/16" or 3/4".  If you want to use the OEM lug nut wrench, you want the new nuts to match.  If you don't care, you can pick either, or go with a special drive type such as a spline drive or locking type.

•  Style:  You may have a choice between "cone" and "bulge cone".  

Both types seem to offer equal functionality - except for the hex socket size - but some wheels might have smaller indents for lug nuts than others, in which thinner "cone" nuts may fit better.  Otherwise the differences are purely cosmetic. 

Here, old Lexus 13/16" "bulge cone" lug nuts from a 2005 RX330 fit with over 12mm of engagement, with no issues fitting into the Ford lug nut recesses.  Given this, 13/16" McGard or Gorilla cone or bulge cone nuts would also obviously fit; 3/4" nuts would also probably fit.


Load rating: Not normally a problem, but if you're moving wheels from a lighter vehicle to a heavier one, it may be.

The Flex GVWR is 6150 lbs; the RX350 is only 5666 lbs.  So the Ford wheels should be OK. 

More specifically, the Flex wheels are rated for 2000-2200 lbs per wheel (depending on who you talk to), for 4000-4400 lbs per axle or 8000-8800 GVWR against:

•  The Lexus GVWR of 5666 lbs;

•  Assuming 60/40 front-back weight distribution (which is very conservative), that's 3400 lbs on the front Lexus axle; and

•  Assuming 65/35 distribution, that's 1700 lbs per corner, maximum.

So the Flex wheels are fine.

Also know that GVWR is the absolute maximum for a fully loaded vehicle, and wheels have a significant margin of safety built in.  Few people will ever load their cars to maximum, and the margin of safety will range from around 1.5x to over 2.0x.

Still, due to modern conveniences, many modern trucks and SUVs are considerably heavier than their older counterparts.

TPMS:  All newer cars have tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS).  The Ford sensors obviously do not work on a Lexus.

Of course, aftermarket wheels will also need new TPMS sensors.  Just don't forget them.

Generally, sensor makers will try to make one model of TPMS that works in most wheels and with most cars.  So - generally speaking - they're all physically compatible with all wheels.

In my case, I verified that ITM makes a Uni-Sensor Duo for both the Flex and the RX350.  That means the sensor with the Lexus interface is physically identical to the sensor used in the Ford wheels, so they must fit.

Center caps:  Purely cosmetic, so if you don't mind running Ford caps on a Lexus, no prob.

If you want replacements, you have to determine the center cap size of the donor wheels.  Sometimes the internet knows, sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes you just have to measure them.

If you get all of the above, your donor wheels should be a good match to your recipient car.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Cost to upgrade underground electrical to 200A service

I was badly misled by online information on this one.  I don't know if that's because a lot of people have overhead service or not, but whatever.

Per Enmax, in the Calgary (non-downtown) area, the cost to update underground service to 200A is about as follows:

•  Transformer on your property:  $4,000 to $8,000

•  Transformer is 1 lot away:  $8,000 to $15,000

•  Transformer is 2 lots away:  $20,000 to $40,000

•  More than 2 lots away, or 2 lots away and across the road: $50,000 to $80,000

Most of this is the cost of underground horizontal drilling and Hydrovac, which obviously increase (steeply) by distance.  Given this I expect the costs would be similar throughout Western Canada.

About the only "good" news is that because they drill, there is no surface disturbance to roads or neighboring property.  But that's not any kind of consolation given the massive cost.

This is for a single detached home in the 'burbs.  Heavily urbanized or rural areas will probably be different.

Note this is just to install a new underground conduit.  Actually pulling a 200A (#1 aluminum) line, hooking it up, permits, new electrical panel or subpanel, etc. are all additional.

As a homeowner, they were not able to tell me the actual size of the existing line - not because they didn't want to, but they (seemingly) just didn't have the information.  But an electrician offered to find out, and it seems that when such requests are made from electricians, Enmax will go out and look at the transformer to see what size is currently installed at no cost.  I don't know how long that takes.

Regardless, if I can't stick with my existing service, any financial rationale for buying EVs just went out the window.  Even with fuel savings, there is no way an upgrade could possibly pay for itself in my lifetime.  

Still, as this article points out, all is not necessarily lost even if  you are stuck with 100A service.  240V 20A is usually enough to replenish daily driving needs overnight.