Importing a Car radio

I like the simplicity of my VW Polo’s standard radio unit, but I really need a bluetooth handsfree kit and iPod connectivity. I first tried an after-market kit that added the needed functionality to the factory radio, but after returning it for the third time (each time waiting more than a month for the replacement via normal postal service) and still having problems with the iPod connectivity, I decided it was time for a complete new unit.

Car radio’s are a lot more expensive in South Africa than in the States, so I decided to buy a unit from Amazon. I found a great touch-screen unit (Pioneer AVH-P3350BT) for a fraction of the cost of a similar unit in South Africa. I’ve had the unit now for more than a year and I’m very happy with my purchase. There was, however, a couple of issues. Here is a list of them to help prospective buyers thinking of going the import from USA route:

– The first problem I had was the supplied  routing harness didn’t fit my vehicle. Of course one cannot expect manufacturers to supply harnesses for all the different vehicles, but I thought I could source one from one of the local radio installers. No luck there – seems like they just cut and bind the wires to fit. I didn’t like that too much, as I would like the option to go back to the factory radio in case I sell the car.

Luckily I still had the after-market bluetooth adapter with the right connector, so I just soldered the wires onto that. First problem solved.

– Next problem was the fitting for the antenna – the connection on the radio needed a different adapter than the on I had on my vehicle. Luckily I was able to make an adapter  from spare parts i had on hand (mostly TV aerial fittings.)

– Ok, so now the radio worked, but to watch DVD’s the radio had to detect that the handbrake was enabled. This is due to a US law that prohibits watching movies while driving. The unit has a wire that you need to connect to your brake switch. Well, I really didn’t feel like searching for the brake switch wire hidden somewhere in the car, so I looked for a way to bypass it (we do not have such a law in SA, so I’m not doing anything illegal here.)

The unit needs to detect nothing on the wire when you turn the vehicle on, and then a connection to Ground (handbrake on) before enabling the DVD player. At first I tried to tie it directly to ground, but the radio was too smart for that. Luckily it was quite easy to bypass in the end – see this post for more details.

– So now everything worked, but the radio was much smaller than the opening. The unit came with a bigger cover (facia trim), but it was just a thin piece of shiny black plastic and it looked terrible next to the Polo’s dashboard. I used plywood to cut a new facia trim and managed to get a near perfect Matt finish by using a couple of coats of Blackboard spray paint (paint you can spray on anything to create your own black board.)

– Everything done, so how does the imported radio work in South African conditions?

The biggest problem is the tuning frequencies – in the US the stations are only on the odd frequencies (e.g. 94.1, 94.3, 94.5) so you cannot tune into a station like 94.2 (it skips all the even frequencies). For some people this would definitely be a deal breaker, but luckily I only listen to Talk 702 ( 92.7) when I’m not listening to my iPod, so it doesn’t matter to me, but be sure to avoid American-specific radios if you need all the frequencies!

The DVD player works well, but you may have problems with certain DVD’s, as it is a different  region.

The bluetooth connectivity is a great asset – it shows incoming numbers, phonebook, last dialled numbers, signal and battery strength and a lot more. I keep my phone’s bluetooth permanently on so I’m always ready to receive a call when driving.

The iPod interface also works like a charm. Only negative for me is the socket is in front of the radio, so there’s always a cable sticking out. To make it less visible, I use a black USB extension that goes to my iPod in the cubby hole.

Otherwise it’s a great little unit and works perfectly for me!






Handbrake bypass switch

I bought a Pioneer radio and wanted to bypass the brake detection circuit to watch DVD’s. The unit has a wire that needs to detect nothing on the wire when you turn the vehicle on, and then a connection to Ground (handbrake on) before enabling the DVD player.

On the internet you can find a circuit where they use a relay to bypass it. The circuit looks like this:

Relay handbrake bypass


It works as follows:

  1. When you turn on the vehicle, there is no power on the Blue (Amp/delayed power) wire, so the relay is not energised and the Green (handbrake detect) wire detects nothing (connected to the Normally Open pin of relay)
  2. A short while later, power is delivered to the blue wire, energising the relay (switching it on)  and now the Green wire detects ground.
  3. The Blue wire is now permanently powered (that is, until you switch the vehicle off), so the Green wire keeps on detecting Ground (handbrake connected)

This circuit works, but for me the relay solution looked too clumsy and wasted unnecessary power keeping the coil energised, so I made the same circuit with a transistor.

Transistor brake bypass

This circuit works basically the same:

  1. When you turn on the vehicle, there is no power on the Blue (Amp/delayed power) wire, so the transistor is turned off and the Green (handbrake detect) wire detects nothing
  2.  A short while later, power is delivered to the blue wire, switching the transistor on,  and now the Green wire is connected to  ground.
  3. The Blue wire is now permanently powered, so the Green wire stays connected to ground (handbrake connected)

The transistor circuit is much smaller than the relay circuit and consumes  almost no current!


Shake Torch / Flashlight

These torches became very popular in south Africa a couple of years ago when we were plagued with blackouts.

It consist of a coil of copper wire with a magnet in the centre that slides through the copper coil when shaken. This action creates an electrical current in the coil, which in turn charges a rechargeable battery (or super capacitor).

This action is known as Faraday’s induction, something that we learned in high school.

These torches are very impressive when you buy them – one hardly needs to shake them and they give a decent light from the LED.

Unfortunately the fun ends as soon as the internal battery gets flat. You then need to permanently shake the torch to get the LED light to shine bright. The problem is shaking the torch only generates a very small current to charge the battery – you will get roughly 10 seconds of light from 10 seconds of shaking –  quite hard on the elbows!

I’ve even seen some of these torches that didn’t have a rechargeable battery – they use a small lithium battery that last quite long, but after that it’s impossible to store the charge.

My conclusion:  I’m afraid this is only a cool gadget – fun to play with, but not really useful.

Extra boards and pieces for NagaSkaki

This page is dedicated to contributions from other users. To use one of these boards instead of the defaults boards, replace the bitmaps on the challenger,modern,modern2,news, bataleur etc. folder (e.g. c:/nagaskaki/images/modern) with the new bitmaps in the downloaded file (see readme file in most downloaded  files)

 GoldTrim Pieces by Pete



board_1.rar by DPA09

Earth, Leopard, Marble, Rose, Snakeskin, Space and Wood


board_2.rar by DPA09

Beach, Circuit, Death, Football, Space and Wood2



board_3.rar DPA09

Death2, Map, Space2, Stratego, Stratego2 and Winter



board_4.rar by DPA09

Eye, Jayavarman, Lego, Prisoner, Santa and Stone

board_5.rar by DPA09
Brick, Denim, Paper, Snowflake, Wood3 and Zebra

board_6.rar by DPA09
Ammolite, iPhone, Matrix, Othello, Steel and Tile

board_7.rar by DPA09
Pixel board and pieces

board_8.rar by DPA09
Marvel Comics board and pieces

staunton by ostix
Staunton pieces

Wilken by Mark Wilken
Boards and pieces by Mark Wilkin

NagaSkaki_Medieval.rar by DPA09
Medieval Board and pieces

NagaSkaki_Tetris.rar by DPA09
Tetris Board and pieces

Download NagaSkaki


NagaSkaki is a freeware chess program for Windows.

What makes NagaSkaki different from most other chess programs is the personalities. Some personalities play so weak, almost everybody should be able to beat them while others are strong enough to beat most chess players.

This makes it a perfect program to learn and enjoy chess, cause who likes to always lose against a computer? 


Screen capture of NagaSkaki 5.00

To get a rough idea of the strengths of the different personalities, we’ve run a little tournament and here are the results:

Personality Score Rating
NagaSkaki 4.00 65/74 2300
Zara 64.5/74 2297
Pete Damn 53/74 2126
Joan 46/74 2075
Neo 46/74 2069
Raspoetin 44.5/74 2051
Clair 24/74 1876
Reckless Dave 19/74 1825
Dr. Felix 5.5/74 1599 or less
Miss Molly 2.5/74 1472 or less



  • We’ve assumed that NagaSkaki has a rating of 2300
  • The rating of the last two personalities is probably even lower, because they could only win against each other and not even draw a single game against the rest

Download NagaSkaki

Improve your cellphone/mobile reception

Signal Booster

Who would not want to improve the reception on their cellphone, especially if you only need to stick an antenna on the battery and voila!

I was lucky enough to receive $19.99 “As seen on TV” Cell Antenna for free when I bought my car radio. What a bargain – it’s like having a four foot antenna on your phone, reduces static, improves signal strength, and it works on any phone!


All you have to do is open your phone and stick this magical antenna onto the battery.

As you can probably guess by now, this is a total scam. For it to even have the remotest of changes to work, it should at least be made of a conducting material, like copper (which it looks like.) But when testing it for conductivity with a multimeter, it didn’t conduct at all.

This is just what it looks like – a shiny sticker – nothing more!

Consumer Scams

Nowadays supermarket shelves are loaded with dubious gadgets. Some claim to improve cellphone reception or block harmful radiation, others repel insects with sound waves or improve fuel consumption with magnetic fields.

Some of them work, some errr… not quite.

Problem with most of these gadgets is that its very difficult to know if they work without extensive testing. We’ve decided to try a few and hopefully stop you from making a silly purchase.