SB-100 Success: Plates are on the Car

Ah, my good friends at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), especially my extra extra good friends on Fell St in San Francisco, how I’ve missed you! It’s been way too long. I really should have come earlier. Maybe we should hang out more often!?

Yes, maybe we should – so I can explain your own processes, regulations and laws to you since you don’t seem to get them. Perhaps I can give you a lesson in customer service too, expert that I am at that (as in been subjected to shitty customer service many times there.) Admittedly, the SB-100 registration is not a common one to be processed, probably even more so in the middle of San Francisco. I guess there are just not as many crazy guys like me building cars in the city.

And so here’s how I got to spend almost four hours there, missing a few work meetings as a consequence.

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SB-100 BAR success, but I limped home

The day finally came to go to the supposedly super-evil California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) station. To go there, you need an appointment, which is easily done by calling the number at To get the appointment you also need you SB-100 sequence number and the VIN from the CHP, so that step needs to come first. I was able to get an appointment within two weeks of calling up. Easy.

All of the stations are at community colleges. The closest one to me is Skyline College in San Bruno. That’s about 15 miles to drive each way involving a traditional commute route on the way there. I was honestly a little bit nervous, not at all about the appointment itself, but about getting the car there. Being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an 8:50 am appointment could cause cooling issues again plus I’ve simply not driven the car very far and now I need to be in traffic, on the highway and drive super far from home.

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Motec C125 dash controls via Arduino-powered steering wheel

It ain’t a real race car without lots of buttons on the steering wheel to do cool stuff, right?

I guess, sorta. While coolness is an added bonus, that’s not really what I was trying to do here. Having the Motec C125 dash set up to read data from the Link G4+ Thunder ECU, I needed to find a way to move the screens on the dash. The dash only displays so much at one time and so you have the ability to scroll within a screen, as well as set up multiple screens to toggle between – as long as you can tell the dash to do the scrolling somehow. Here’s the final product:

One way to do this is to buy the ~$450 I/O module for the dash and wire a few switches directly into the dash. But why take the easy route when you think you still got the skillz to code and could learn a new environment in the process? Hey, here’s another project, because I need more.

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VINning at the CHP

At the CHP in San Francisco
At the CHP in San Francisco

Well, step 2 was easy. A few years ago, step 1 to get an SB-100 sequence number at the DMV was pretty easy too. The second step, after finally getting the car roadworthy, is to go to the local CHP station to get a VIN assigned.

I had called a few weeks prior and was told to show up at 10 am on a Wednesday. It’s close by in my case, not even a 15 minute drive to get down to 8th and Bryant. Appointments are required btw – don’t just show up.

The drive down was uneventful, though admittedly I was a bit apprehensive about potentially being in rush hour traffic and simply for the fact that I was further from home than ever with the car. I had asked my wife to be on standby to give me a tow, just in case. So I fill out my 1-day pass from the DMV, drive down, pull in right on time, walk in the door and I get a friendly greeting with a quip of “getting a VIN, huh?”

Yessir! That’s what I’m looking for. Two minutes later another friendly officer calls me up and I hand him my full stack of papers. I show him the ones I knew he’ll really care about, which is the sequence number from the DMV and the receipt with VIN of the car the engine and transmission came from. After not even a minute, we walk to the parking lot together and he starts checking out the car.

This was not a cop checking your car out. It was a knowledgeable car guy asking car guy questions. We joked about the folks trying to pull a fast one with Ariel Atoms or BAC Monos. The CHP is way too smart for that. Don’t even bother. I obviously had my s*#& together and had built this myself. It was obvious from my receipts and the chatter we had as car guys.

Back in, some back office paper work and after 25 minutes total I was out the door, CHP legal with a VIN. Easy and totally painless. Great process. Thank you CHP.

For anyone else looking to do this, here are my groundbreaking tips:

  1. Be organized, have all your papers. Show everything.
  2. Be friendly, they’re good guys and want to help you.
  3. But use the process for what it is: self constructed vehicles, nothing else.

Also, by finally doing a real drive, there were some obvious things I need to work on with the car:

  1. The engine tick is still there.
  2. The shifter throw is too far, so I need to shorten the handle.
  3. The idle is too low. Due to the lightweight Cup flywheel, the engine spins down too fast. The Link ECU can’t seem to catch this fast enough with either proportional gain table without causing a super bumpy idle instead – that’s the trade off there. However, if I set the idle target to 1300 instead of 1200 it has 100 more RPM when spinning down in order to react. I think this will work.

Newly discovered issues aside, step 2 is done and now it’s onward to the Smog Referee for a brake and light inspection. Again, super close for me – either across the Bay Bridge to Alameda or down to Skyline College.

Porsche GT3 (996) engine tick: help!

I’m getting ready to take the car to the CHP this week for its VIN and the engine just developed a little tick. It seems to come from the 1-2-3 bank and perhaps is near the front (chain side) of the engine. A few different people have listened to it and we generally think that’s where it’s from, but we aren’t 100% sure either. I have no clue what it is, but here are a few thoughts:

  • If you watch the attached video, it is 21 seconds long and there are 36 or 37 ticks in it.
  • 36 or 37 ticks in the video means 103-105 per minute
  • The engine idles around 1250 RPM. I know it’s bouncing a bit in the video – the idle hasn’t been tuned to dead perfect yet.
  • 1250 RPM means around 208 strokes per minute per cylinder, specifically 104 strokes of each type per cylinder per minute

So the strokes per type per cylinder lines up with the tick frequency. I don’t know if that’s by chance, but it seems oddly related. Any thoughts on what this could be?

Referral SPAM: What? How?

As a stats nerd, I’m constantly checking the Google Analytics data for Fatberry. I pay particular attention to the referers, meaning the sites (domains) which users are coming from to visit Fatberry. There are the usual ones I expect, here and there a new one which I generally recognize as being a real company/site and then every now and then there’s one that doesn’t make any sense. Top candidates in that latter category:,,

You’ll notice that those three domains are not a link you can click. That’s on purpose. Don’t go there. They’re evil.

They are not legitimate users, but instead they’re shady companies trying to sell unsuspecting website operators on whatever crap they offer. This is their “marketing”, effing with the Google Analytics stats of websites to try to get your to buy their product. I’m not going to make any blanket statements on their nature, but many of these types of services link back to the largest of a former union of states which is east of Europe and often very cold.

So what do you do about it? It’s essentially a bit of whack-a-mole and likely an ongoing effort. There are three basic things to do:

1) Try to filter these out in your server with an .htaccess file change

This is the best solution, because the bots never get to load your web pages and consequently can’t get to your Google Analytics. The best list I could find is here: You’ll need to keep updating this.

2) Set up individual filters in Google Analytics to ignore this data

You can also filter within Google Analytics itself. The downside of this is that it apparently causes sampling issues with your data and some folks recommend NOT doing this, but my take is that if you’ve got a baseline set via method #1 above, adjusting something in GA quickly while you see it is easier than a server config change. You’ll want to transition these to .htaccess changes (#1) over time, but I think it’s a good short-term measure. Start by going to “All Filters” in your GA Admin panel:

admin filters


Then configure filters like this:

filter edit

Make sure to pop your views from the left box at the bottom to the right one.

3) Tell Google Analytics to filter their known bots out

This is a no-brainer that you should always have set. Might as well take their help. Select your view in the admin panel and then check the Bot Filtering checkbox.

view auto filter


That’s the quick overview. There are some deeper guides about this, but IMO, these are the couple of quick fixes you can make in a few minutes and you should have a pretty good solution in place with an easy way to maintain.

Thoughts on Tony Stewart Incident and Track Safety

I’ve talked to a few folks about this since it happened, read lots of posts on it and started to form my own opinion. Here’s a recap of what happened, as factual and non-presumptuous as possible:

  1. Tony Stewart raced in an amateur Sprint Car dirt track race in the evening Saturday August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, NY. He was set to race a NASCAR race the next day at Watkins Glen, about 50 miles away.
  2. There was an on-track incident between the cars driven by Tony Stewart and 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. As a result Kevin Ward Jr. spun and crashed with his car apparently non-operable on the track. Yellow flags come out, which means caution, no overtaking.
  3. Kevin Ward Jr. gets out of his car with cars still on track, apparently in an attempt to confront Tony Stewart the next time he comes around.
  4. Many cars drive by Kevin Ward Jr. and when Tony Stewart comes around, Kevin is hit by Tony’s car and injured seriously enough to die shortly thereafter.

This is an extremely sad circumstance. I feel extremely sorry for the Ward family’s loss, particularly since they were in the stands to see it. I have personally not watched a video of the incident, because I don’t feel the need to watch someone die. I’ve read enough to still make some statements about this as an avid racing fan, an attendee of racing schools and a sometimes-driver at amateur races and track days. Continue reading

California Compliance Center is a SCAM

It took me a second to figure this one out, but it’s quite the scam. In short, if you register an LLC (and maybe other corporation types) in California, a company called “California Compliance Center” sends you an official-looking letter and bill for a supposed Certificate of Good Standing. Check out their seal as exhibit A:

CCC Logo

The seal looks like it could be from a state government agency, right? Well, it most definitely is not. I wish I hadn’t shredded the letter and return envelope to first snap a photo, but they basically send you a bill which says that this is something you need to do. The bill amount is $49.95, though the amount due is $0. I’m no lawyer, but my guess is that’s probably how they keep it legal. They’re not telling you there’s an amount due, just a bill for what it costs.

I get so mad at these bottom-feeders who try to prey on unsuspecting new business owners by scanning the recent business registrations (it’s public record) and then sending them these official-looking letters. I’m pretty alert to this stuff and a quick Google search told me it’s a scam, but I’m sure lots of people forked over 50 bucks to get a worthless piece of paper from these jerks. This “certification” certifies nothing other than the fact that you got taken for a ride. It simply amazes me that people can live with themselves and run these types of businesses for seemingly good profit.

If you do need a certificate of good standing for a California corporation, you get this via the Secretary of State (SOS) website at this link: Apparently these types of misleading business solicitations are pretty common, so common that it’s the first entry into an FAQ on the SOS website. If you do get ensnared by one of these scams, you can complain via this page:

I have some choice words for these guys that I’ve thus far restrained myself from typing.

Ok, I can’t any longer.

Fucking Assholes.


What kind of technical co-founder do I need?

I was just asked this question by a budding entrepreneur and thought it might make sense to more cohesively collect my thoughts. Unfortunately it’s a vague question, almost a poorly stated one, because I could be super cynical and respond “it depends on what you’re building” (I wasn’t told) and “any dev you can get your hands on if you’re in the Bay Area!”

Jerk responses aside, here is how I framed the problem: 1) you need to figure out what type of product you’re building and 2) you and the dev need to understand how he/she progresses through the org when it hopefully starts to scale. The below are not hard and fast rules – it’s a general guide to try to frame the selection process. Continue reading