Stephen W. Moore

July 17, 2017

A Critical Look at Short-term Mission Trips

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 5:56 pm

This essay was first published June 17, 2013 and will be part of a series critically looking at the Westernized Church.

I recently went on a short-term mission trip to Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Part of our team was to assist locals in creating a sustainable microeconomy of raising poultry, while the rest the team ran a medical clinic servicing a different region each day. Noble goals, I thought.

Our flight was early Saturday morning, a typical non-business time popular with tourists and vacationers so to not compete with business travelers. This was great, because I got first-class upgrades. Few passengers heading to Guatemala City on Saturday morning are serious business travelers with premiere frequent flier status. Transferring through Houston Intercontinental Airport en route to Guatemala City, I noted the airport was heavily populated with “matching t-shirt teams”: groups of young adults wearing colorful coordinated t-shirts advertising volunteer or humanitarian organizations. Their t-shirts announced projects in destinations such as Costa Rica, Belize, or Honduras. Boarding the flight to Guatemala City that morning, the plane held no less than 4 large volunteer teams wearing coordinated t-shirts headed off on a short-term trip.

Chichicastenango is an odd place. Dominican Monks built the first Mission in Chichi over 400 years ago. The Chichians readily accepted Christianity. They simply combined Christian rituals with their existing Mayan beliefs. Saint Thomas was blended with the Mayan sun god, Christmas blended with their yearly winter pagan festival, and the church building itself is used by both Catholic and Mayan brotherhoods for worship and sacrifices. Chicken fat burns daily on the altar, obstinately to a combination of Mayan and Christian hybrid deities, as have been burning on that altar for centuries.

Since 1545, the village has been heavily evangelized by westerners. Humanitarian efforts have become routine and a part of everyday life. My team arrived at Hotel Casa Del Ray, a resort-like hillside fortified compound boasting shotgun-toting security guards, nestled just south but within walking distance of Chichi. The hotel is run by Mission Frontier and serves as a base of operations for various volunteer teams. When we arrived that Saturday, there were already three teams there. Over the weekend, more new teams arrived, and spent teams departed.

Our costs were about $2000 per person, for a total of approximately $52,000 for all 26 members. This included $650 per person airline tickets. Subtracting the cost of the airfare, the team brought $35,100 to be injected into the Guatemalan economy:  lodging, meals, ground transportation, supplies, translators, private security, donations, and whatnot. This was in addition to whatever personal donations we brought or personal cash we were intending to spend on souvenirs and tourism.

Humanitarian or missions travel is classified as “volunteer travel” by the Travel Industries Association, as a type of tourism used to “increase international awareness, to contextualize poverty and its effects, as an education opportunity, and to help people while having a morally rewarding experience.” It has also been referred to as Philanthropic Travel or Voluntourism. It’s easy to view a volunteer trip as a highly evolved form of conspicuous consumption:  a wealthy westerner spending large sums of money seeking to contextualize poverty by selective exposure to third-world conditions, under the watchful protection of shotgun-toting private security guards.

So Chichi is accustomed to this. After 400 years of continuous missionaries, our white faces are an integral part of their culture. The customs officials in Guatemala City airport, for example, are masterful at spotting missionaries with suitcases laden with antibiotics and medical supplies. As I breezed through customs looking like a clueless tourist, wearing sandals and linen pants with my camera swinging around my neck, airport officials were busy detaining heavily organized t-shirt teams and extracting bribery money – eh, duties – to get their suitcases through customs. It’s hard to get exact numbers for volunteerism travel, but some estimate that humanitarian teams from USA spend several billion dollars annually, and that number is increasing. That number should catch someone’s attention.

Mission Frontier is run by Matt Capehart. I had an opportunity to talk with Matt, and he immediately struck me as a shrewd negotiator not to be trifled with. No wonder. Matt had a background in finance before moving to Guatemala. He resides in two estates, enviable by even American standards, one in Chichi and the other in Antigua, commuting weekly in his British import SUV, managing a small army of private security to guard his wealthy voluntourist guests. Matt certainly caught my attention, and he also brought to my attention the huge business case of volunteer tourism.

Missions have been big business in Chichi for generations. Ever since the Dominican Monks arrived, the influx of western money has been a huge part of their national economy. It is noteworthy that the CIA factfile on Guatemala indicate tourism accounts for 57% of Guatemala’s GDP ($1.42 billion), employing 35% of the national workforce. Short-term missionaries are considered tourists, but it’s difficult to separate how much revenue comes from selfish tourists vs. philanthropic tourists. Judging from the number of seats filled on airplanes to and from Guatemala City airport, I reason a significant part of that tourist revenue comes from philanthropic tourism.

Assuming the amount of money raised by our team represents the average short-term trip budget, Matt should net about $1.3M revenue in Chichi over the 10 weeks of summer with a throughput of 3 teams per week. That’s not including the remaining 44 weeks of the year, when he manages commercial income from hotel properties, a coffee plantation, off-summer volunteer teams, or teams in different towns (such as Antigua). Matt turns these resources around towards the local economy, various orphanages, and local schools. But it is big business nonetheless.

So now I face a cynical reality. The people of Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, and other popular Latin American or Caribbean destinations are some of the most evangelized societies in the world. Centuries of missions, spanning countless generations, have made humanitarian visits a daily part of life. From cradle to grave, from one generation to the next, they can count on weekly visits from westerners to bring cash and medicine, while young energetic volunteers who are contextualizing poverty are morally rewarded by performing token humanitarian acts. A sophisticated business model has grown to encourage and sustain this economy. My first reaction to Matt was envy. His financial brilliance has harnessed the golden goose, and he runs a small empire to prove it. But as my first reaction quickly faded away, it was replaced with another, larger realization. It’s the fact that the big business of volunteerism requires a dependent culture to thrive. And the people of Guatemala have been maintained to meet that requirement ever since Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

August 28, 2009

geoDefense for iPhone: Add Custom Levels

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 1:09 am

geoDefense is a game for the iPhone 3G(S). Using SSH, it is possible to access the application directory and edit new levels.

You must have a jailbroken iPhone and have SSH running. Let your iPhone connect to your wireless LAN and take note of the ip address. SSH into your iPhone. I use PuTTY for Windows. The login information is:

  login as: root
  root@'s password: alpine
  iphone:~ root#

Next, find the directory of geoDenfense. Move up to the root directory and run the find command:

  root #/ find -name 'geo*'

The directories use apparently random generated directory names which are very hard to manage. Mine was under the ./mobile/Applications/xxxxx ….. xxxxx directory (a big long string of characters). Use the ‘cd’ command to get to the directory and then go into the application subdirectory /

  cd /private/var/mobile/Applications/xxxx …. xxxx/

All of the geoDefense levels are *.xml files.

geoDefense Directory

geoDefense Directory

Create a new file for your new level. My favorite level is Eternity (hard map 9), so I duplicated Eternity to a new file:

  cp GAME_LEVEL_H_0009.xml GAME_LEVEL_H_0013.xml
  nano GAME_LEVEL_H_0013.xml

First thing I did is rename it. For my first try, I called it “Eternity version 2”:

  name="Eternity v2"

Voila! It shows up on the levels menu! I also added a couple extra waves of creeps. More on that later.

geoDefense Levels

geoDefense Levels

Now I created my own custom level. This required understanding the coordinate map of the screen. I measured the screen and calculated 6.4 pixels per mm. Later, I found the actual number is 6.417, so I was pretty happy with my measurements. The harder part was figuring out the positioning of the geoDefense grid within the 320×480 screen. My best estimate:

  left edge:	x = 16
  right edge:	x = 304
  bottom edge:	y = 80
  top edge:	y = 464

Reality will show my estimates aren’t exact, but very close.

The next step is to draw a map and make x-y coordinates for the various segments. My first map is a spiral, which I will call “Event Horizon”, relating to the Schwarzschild radius ( around a black hole. My first drawing has the following coordinate map. I wanted the pathways straight along the grid lines.

  0   , 80
  64  , 144
  64  , 416
  256 , 416
  256 , 128
  128 , 128
  128 , 352
  192 , 352
  192 , 192
geoDefense Coordinate Map

geoDefense Coordinate Map

Some experimentation showed I wasn’t exactly on target. A little tweaking gave the following coordinate map:

   <point x="0" y="80" />
   <point x="62" y="144" />
   <point x="62" y="416" />
   <point x="258" y="416" />
   <point x="258" y="122" />
   <point x="128" y="122" />
   <point x="128" y="352" />
   <point x="192" y="352" />
   <point x="192" y="192" />

My initial estimates were very close.

Next, I added a few extra levels of creeps, in addition to those already specificed for “Eternity”:

   <spawn type="CHOMPER" count="25"/>
   <spawn type="WIGGLE" count="35"/>
   <spawn type="CHOMPER" count="25"/>
   <spawn type="WIGGLE" count="40"/>
   <spawn type="CHOMPER" count="25"/>
   <spawn type="WIGGLE" count="45"/>

Wow, that last wave of 45 wigglers is very difficult to beat. That’s because the creep’s health increases each level because of this line:

   <creeps waveHealthFactor="1" waveHealthFactor2=".2" waveWealthFactor=".5">

And you can tweak the starting health and speed of each type of creep:

   <creep type="CHOMPER" speed="40" health="100" />
   <creep type="SPINNER" speed="40" health="100" />
   <creep type="WIGGLE" speed="20" health="150" />
   <creep type="STAR" speed="60" health="75" />
   <creep type="CUBIC" speed="30" health="120" />

Overall, I was satisfied with my new level. Now the game has endless possibilities to create new challenging levels.

geoDefense Event Horizon

geoDefense Event Horizon

It takes a little tweaking to make the level playable.

geoDefense Event Horizon

geoDefense Event Horizon

August 27, 2009

iPhone 3GS Lithium-Ion Battery Life: Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 9:34 pm

My original analysis of the iPhone 3GS Lithium-Ion Battery Life is in direct opposition to the conventional wisdom (and sometimes recommended) battery advise is to keep the phone cradled or plugged in whenever possible. For some users, this means all day at work and evenings when at home. Some users even have a cradle that plugs into the cigarette lighter for their vehicles, to keep their precious iPhones charging every available moment (I suppose “cigarette lighter” is now passé, and “12V Auxiliary Power Port” is in fashion).

How to rectify these discrepancies? As always, with data.

Conventional Wisdom is generally applied when the population doesn’t fully understand an idea’s underlying principles. Therefore, to compensate for the lack of fundamental understanding, the population creates a behavior pattern based on consensus and shared experiences. In the case of batteries, the population has a century-long relationship with Lead-acid batteries, and several decades of Nickel-based batteries (i.e. Nickel Cadmium or Nickel Metal Hydride). It’s not surprising that the conventional wisdom surrounding lithium-ion batteries follow a similar rationale:  keep your battery charged, and charge it often. And batteries get warm during charging.

Lead-acid batteries indeed benefit from float charge. Nickel-based batteries indeed heat up as part of normal charging. Lithium-ion does neither.

One thing about being an expert is my opinions are usually confronted by questionable sources. Not really in business, but in general conversation. A common response would be “Reader’s Digest says keep the phone on the charger continuously or whenever possible!” Yes, I’m sure somebody published an article to that effect. Therefore, we shall use data from an equally ubiquitous source to settle this debate: Wikipedia’ entry on Lithium-Ion batteries. Behold, see the battery maintenance advice from Wikipedia:

[1] “Lithium-ion batteries should be charged early and often. However, if they are not used for a long time, they should be brought to a charge level of around 40%–60%.”

Well, it’s no mystery why this statement has the disclaimer “factual accuracy is disputed“. More disturbingly, no source reference is given for this strongly-stated care and maintenance advice. Just a few lines down, a direct contradiction:

[2] “It is significantly beneficial to avoid storing a lithium-ion battery at full charge. A Li-ion battery stored at 40% charge will last many times longer than one stored at 100% charge, particularly at higher temperatures.”

Which one to heed, statement [1] or [2]? The second statement refers to a reference from Cadex, a company that specializes in batteries and battery chargers. Battery charging is Cadex’s entire economy, and specializing on Lithium-Ion battery behavior is critical to their success.

Cadex presents a chart that compares battery life in case of keeping the battery at 40% or 100% SOC. When maintained at room temperature, notice the battery kept at 100% charge (i.e. cradled) permanently loses 20% capacity. The battery kept at 40% charge only loses 4%.

Cadex Battery Life Chart

Cadex Battery Life Chart

This loss is a result of the kinetics in the battery’s chemistry, and cycling or usage is largely irrelevant to the loss of capacity.

As a final exercise, let’s decompose the list of recommendations from Cadex (in blue), with my comments:

Simple Guidelines

1. Avoid frequent full discharges because this puts additional strain on the battery. Several partial discharges with frequent recharges are better for lithium-ion than one deep one. Recharging a partially charged lithium-ion does not cause harm because there is no memory. (In this respect, lithium-ion differs from nickel-based batteries.) Short battery life in a laptop is mainly cause by heat rather than charge / discharge patterns.

[As discussed in the original analysis of the iPhone 3GS Lithium-Ion Battery Life, the cell’s internal impedance causes localized internal heat generation. As long as the deep cycling does not enter into the high-impedance zones, cycling will not put additional strain on the battery. Using the impedance curves, one can accurately make the argument that “deep charging” is the reciprocal of “deed discharging”, and will cause the same damage!]

2. Batteries with fuel gauge (laptops) should be calibrated by applying a deliberate full discharge once every 30 charges. Running the pack down in the equipment does this. If ignored, the fuel gauge will become increasingly less accurate and in some cases cut off the device prematurely.

[This is accurate. The iPhone’s battery is monitored so that runtime can be predicted. As the battery ages, the monitoring circuit makes adjustments. Fully discharging and recharging the battery allows the monitoring circuit to measure the amount of charge the battery can hold.]

3. Keep the lithium-ion battery cool. Avoid a hot car. For prolonged storage, keep the battery at a 40% charge level.

[If you haven’t figured it out, (1) full charge and (2) heat are the biggest enemies to Lithium-Ion battery lifetime.]

4. Consider removing the battery from a laptop when running on fixed power.

[This is a workaround to prevent the battery from being maintained all the time at 100% SOC. Too bad laptop batteries aren’t programmable, because I’d just program mine to target 40% SOC everyday, but charge to 100% when traveling. For now, I use an old worthless battery for everyday office work, and my good battery is in my travel bag.]

5. Avoid purchasing spare lithium-ion batteries for later use. Observe manufacturing dates. Do not buy old stock, even if sold at clearance prices.

[As discussed, a Lithium-Ion battery will degrade over time, regardless of usage. New is always better than old.]

6. If you have a spare lithium-ion battery, use one to the fullest and keep the other cool by placing it in the refrigerator. Do not freeze the battery. For best results, store the battery at 40% state-of-charge.

[Absolutely. A battery stored in the refrigerator will maintain lifeline, losing only 2-3% per year. A frozen Lithium-Ion battery can be catastrophic, so be careful. With an iPhone, this statement is irrelevant, because the battery is not user removable.]

There you have it. Here’s my iPhone battery usage over a week using my custom USB charging/sync cable.

iPhone Battery Usage

iPhone Battery Usage

July 30, 2009

iPhone Lithium-Ion Charger Hardware

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 2:30 pm

In my last post, we looked at the iPhone’s lithium-ion battery technology and chemistry to understand how to maximize lifetime. This time, we’ll look at the battery charging interface hardware. The iPhone’s input power regulation and battery charging is controlled by a Linear-Technology LTC 4066 USB Power Controller.  This chip (highlighted in the red box below) performs the power routing from the USB port, to and from the battery, and to the device (source: tzywen).

iPhone Circuit Board with LTC 4066

iPhone Circuit Board with LTC 4066

This chip is somewhat programmable. Some input pins are provided to specify charging current, detect a wall adapter, and toggle high/low charging current. These pins have very weak pull-down resistors so the chip operates in “low current mode” unless some pull-up voltages are applied to these pins.  It appears the USB data lines (D+ and D-) have enough idle voltage to pull-up HPWR (high power select) and WALL (wall adapter present). This engages “high current mode”, which I measured 830mA on my phone. If these pins are left unconnected, the LTC4066 defaults to “low current mode”, which I’ve been measuring at about 85mA with my iPhone. The LTC4066 datasheet specifies low current mode is 20% of high current mode, but my iPhone’s ratio is about 85mA t0 830mA (about 10%).


There is still a possibility of software-controlled charging, depending on how the LTC4066 is connected. The iPhone receives SOC information (“gas gauge”) from pin 19 and 24 (POL and Istat). These are analog signals and require an analog to digital converter (ADC). Binary signals are output by the ACPR (wall adapter present) and CHRG (charge status) pins. The iPhone probably reads all of these pins, along with a fifth measurement of directly reading the battery’s voltage with an ADC. I would love to find these registers and see the LTC4066 status real-time!

Charge current thresholds are set by the CLPROG (pin 22) and PROG (pin 23). These are supposed to be permanently tied to ground with a resistor, whose value “programs” the chip. For the CLPROG pin, smaller the resistor values result in larger input-to-output current limits. The minimum resistor is 2.1k, corresponding to 0.476A. It is possible the iPhone either measures voltage at these pins, or even actively alters the behavior by injecting voltage into one of these pins.

When the 5 Ohms resistor is inserted in the USB power path, input current and voltage drops when the USB line sags. This forces the CHRG pin to trigger because the charge current has dropped below a set threshold. The iPhone detects the CHRG pin status, drops the LTC4066 into low current mode, and displays a message:

iPhone Warning

Can custom charging be done with software? If the input and output registers were known, software could measure the battery voltage, current, and wall adapter status. Three cheers for open-source kernels and shame on Apple. When the desired battery condition is reached (i.e. 50% SOC), software could change from high current mode to low current mode. The software could include hysteresis, so that if the battery drops below 40% SOC, it switches back to high current mode again. Depending on which pins are connected in hardware, software could use a number of strategies, using any of the SUSP, HPWR, or CLDIS pins or the PROG/CLPROG pins if they are connected.

How much heat would be generated by toggling the LTC4066 into low-current mode? I measured 5.21V on my USB (+) power wire. The battery (at 50% SOC) is about 3.7V. This means the LTC4066 has to drop 1.5 Volts. Drawing 85mA (low current mode), this means the LTC4066 is burning 0.125 watts. This amount of heat can easily be dissipated by the part.

Until we have access to the LTC4066-related kernel registers, I am keeping my existing arrangement. Using a short USB extension cable, I snipped the red wire (USB power) and inserted 5 Ohms of resistance. This bumps the charge current down to “low mode” in the LTC4066, while keeping the data lines connected functioning. I’d love to directly control the LTC4066 low/high mode with software, and stop playing silly games with the USB cable hardware. Until either someone decompiles the kernel and creates a kernal variable list, or Apple decides to release some internal kernal information (pigs can fly), software battery charging control isn’t an option.

July 21, 2009

iPhone 3GS Lithium-Ion Battery Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 1:53 am

In this post, we investigate the longevity of the Apple iPhone 3GC Lithium-Ion battery by looking at the battery’s constituent materials, characteristic curves, and the iPhone’s operating behavior. Is keeping the iPhone cradled all day when at the office a good idea to maximize life?

After a long history of using Palm, Treo, and Smartphone devices, I bought an iPhone. I was a little self-conscious when buying it – I’m not a “Mac Guy” – but I took the plunge. Now I understand there are only two kinds of phones:  the iPhone, and everything else. Most importantly, it runs Linux and it’s hackable! I was afraid the Apple overlords were so freakishly controlling that the device would be boring, but the hacker community has risen to the challenge. History doesn’t look kindly upon tyrants. People are too creative and inventive.

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about the iPhone is battery runtime. After owning an iPhone for a week, I can confirm the rumors to be true. The Apple website details how they tested runtime and some characteristic curves, which are very helpful. The also give tips on how to maximize battery runtime, which amount to “turn off all features that make the iPhone and iPhone.”

Before we start:  Runtime is how long the battery can operate on a single charge, which depends on the load. Lifetime is how long the battery remains usable before needing replacement, ideally measured in years. Using the runtime figures from the Apple website, I created some estimates of power consumption by dividing the battery’s ampere-hour capacity by the number of hours of runtime (consumption estimated at 3.7V average battery voltage):

Current Draw Chart

To confirm some data, I left the phone on Standby at 50% battery as per the Apple test conditions for 8 hours and measured a 5% drop in the battery, which corresponds to 6.8mA battery draw. Compared with Apple’s 4mA, my 6.8mA is ballpark – my cellular reception, WiFi reception, and other factors could have made my standby current measurement more substantial.

The stock iPhone doesn’t have many analytical tools to understand its energy consumption behavior. I had to jailbreak my iPhone and do some hacking to harvest useful data (more on this later). A typical day for my iPhone looks like this (data snapshot from BatteryLog). You can easily spot the heavy usage and when the phone was cradled. Also apparent is nighttime, where the phone was left on standby with no features enabled (2300h to 0700h).

Typical iPhone Day

Battery Usage over a day (0800h to 2200h)

Obviously, runtime is dominated by how many features are being used, which add to higher power consumption. What about overall lifetime? Does frequent charging damage life? Let’s take a look at the battery, and understand what contributes to lifetime.  The battery is specified as 3.7V and 4.51Wh, presumably at the C/5 rate. Dividing this for columbic capacity, it is 1219mAh.  The Apple website states the battery can be used for 400 cycles and lose 20% of its performance, with each cycle being defined as moving (in a single or separate piece) one whole unit of the battery’s capacity.

Apple Charge Stages

Apple Charge Stages

This is called “columbic throughput”, a measurement of the total amount of charge cumulatively measured in and out of the battery. I think we can get much more than 400 cycles of columbic throughput if done correctly.


The 3.7V nominal and voltage curves indicate a Graphite anode and an LCO (Lithium Cobalt Oxide) cathode. The battery probably uses a standard EC:PC:EMC:DMC cyclic/non-cyclic electrolyte solvent and LiPF6 electrolyte salt (with trace additives such as VC and GPL to aid anode SEI formation), with a polymer or a monomer that is cured after assembly. The battery is charged to 4.1V or 4.15V at the 1C (1 hour) rate according to the Apple website ( The graph is small and hard to read precisely.

Apple Charge Graph


Lithium Cobalt Oxide is fully “discharged” when fully intercalated (meaning its crystal structure is packed full of Lithium Ions). Another way of saying this is “fully lithiated”. When you charge the battery, Lithium Ions leave the cathode and travel to the anode. LCO is usually considered fully “charged” when half of its Lithium Ions are removed. When more than half of the ions are removed, this is called “overcharged”, and the LCO becomes unstable and can break down or catch on fire. The LCO voltage with 50% of ions removed (fully charged) is 4.18V, which is a reasonable assumption of where iPhone charges the battery. Remember, this is only the cathode voltage. To get the battery voltage, we’ll need to find the difference between cathode and anode. The graph below shows the LCO cathode voltage by itself (not including the anode). The x-axis is the “delithiation”, or what percent of Lithium Ions remain in the cathode. When the cathode is fully discharged (100% of ions remain in the cathode), the cathode voltage is 3.825V. When 50% of ions remain in the LCO, the cathode is 4.18V. Anything over this is overcharging, and is dangerous.

Cathode Voltage Curve

Charged <----- Cathode Voltage Curve -----> Discharged

Notice the voltage curve has a short flat profile between 80% and 90% lithiation, which corresponds to the cathode being between 20% and 40% state of charge (SOC). Steep voltage curves or changes – “knees” – often indicate phase changes or other thermodynamic instabilities to be avoided.

Now let’s examine the entropy of the cell. Naturally, we’ll want to operate the cell at the best thermodynamic stability to achieve longest possible lifetime. This region is where columbic throughput (charging and discharging) damages/ages the cathode the least:

Cathode Entropy Curve

Charged <----- Cathode Entropy Curve -----> Discharged

Notice the large Entropic peak when the cathode is delithiated more than 60% (left side). This correlates to charging that battery over 80% state of charge (SOC). The small spike at high lithiation (right side) isn’t big enough to worry about. The conclusion is the cathode’s highest stability is a narrow window between 10% and 40% SOC for optimized lifetime.


What about the anode? The characteristic curve for the graphite anode looks like this:

Anode Voltage Curve

Discharged <----- Anode Voltage Curve -----> Charged

The anode is opposite that of the cathode: the anode is at 0 Volts and fully charged when full of Lithium-Ions. Since a lithium cell is manufactured with excess anodic graphite, the anode is never “fully” charged (lithiated) to 0V, rather, to a about 0.1V. If a graphite anode gets fully lithiated and drops to 0V, subsequent lithium ions can accumulate on the surface and form highly reactive (and very dangerous) metallic lithium.

Notice the dramatic voltage change below 20% state-of-charge. This is when most of the easily accessible lithium-ions have been extracted, and the cell is working hard to remove the last few deeply embedded ions. The cell’s impedance rises dramatically, which causes internal heating (more on this later). You’ll want to avoid discharging the cell below 20% SOC.

Full Cell

Consider a full cell (cathode and anode together) and the cathode is charged to 50% delithiation, which is 4.18V. The graphite absorbs the lithium-ions to about 90% lithiation to 0.08V (the graphite’s remaining 10% lithiation is headroom, and is never used). The full cell (difference between cathode and anode) works out to about (4.18 – 0.08) = 4.10V. This is on the very edge of safety, because any more charge will push the cathode beyond 50% delithiation (thermal instability) and the graphite all the way to 0V (Lithium plating). The battery becomes much more likely to catch on fire.

The cell demonstrates characteristic impedance. When fully charged (or nearby), the battery has a high “charge acceptance” impedance, meaning the battery wants to reject charging because it’s full. Fast charging during this phase can generate internal heat, which prematurely ages the battery and decays overall lifetime. Apple does a fast charge until about 4.1V and then switches to a trickle charge. This is convenient to charge the battery rapidly when you really need it, but for everyday use, probably leads to internal heating and accelerated decay – by the time the battery reaches 4.1V, the fast charge has already triggered the highest entropy region while simultaneously generating internal heat. It would be better to switch to trickle charge sooner, but this would be inconvenient to users charging on the run (i.e. in airports).

Apple Charge Graph

When the battery it low, it has high “discharge impedance”, which means the battery wants to reject further discharge because it’s empty. The cathode is nearly 100% lithiated, and doesn’t want any more ions. The graphite anode is nearly empty, and the few leftover ions are more tightly bound. This is the common experience when batteries get “run down” and need to be charged. The internal impedance is increasing, sagging the battery’s output (note: never continue to use a cordless power tool after you notice the battery “sag”. Trying to get one or two more screws finished after the battery starts sagging can cause significant lifetime damage to the battery.) The droop causes internal heating, which degrades battery life. An example of cell impedance is shown below. Pay attention that the impedance increases at the ends (fully charged or fully discharged), and is the lowest in the middle. This graph is probably representative to the iPhone’s battery. The lowest impedance is between 20% and 70% state of charge. Interesting how that same operating range keeps cropping up.

Cell Impedance Curve

Discharged <----- Cell Impedance Curve -----> Charged

The lesson is the iPhone battery will have the longest possible lifespan if operated to minimize entropic activity and avoid increased impedance (i.e. internal heat generation).

Proposed Solution

The “sweet spot” of the iPhone battery is cycling between roughly 20% – 70%, with 40% being the best operating point. This obviously isn’t a good solution when traveling, because you probably want a full charge. But for daily sitting at your desk, the optimized solution is to idle your phone all day at 40% SOC instead of keeping your iPhone cradled at 100% SOC. Read my lips:  keeping your iPhone battery cradled continuously at 100% will degrade life just as fast as cycling it, or maybe faster. Your battery is aging due to entropic activity in the cradle, even if you’re not using it. There are not many things worse for lifetime than continuously floating a lithium battery at 100% (temperature exposure would be the worst, i.e. a hot car or a black phone exposed to direct sunlight.)

My solution was to create a custom USB cable that would deliver just enough current to power the iPhone all day without charging the battery (very much). The cable maintains the battery SOC within the 20% – 70% window throughout the day and doesn’t expose the battery to the entropic zones. I figure my battery life will be double that of average using this cable. Naturally, when I travel, I take the standard charger and keep my iPhone topped off throughout the trip. Back at home, I use the custom cable.

Standard USB charging draws about 800mA (I measured anywhere between 766mA to 830mA). This corresponds to about 1.5C-rate fast charge. This will certainly generate some internal resistance heating and degrade life! If your iPhone gets warm while charging, especially once the battery approaches full charge, your battery’s lifetime is draining away before your eyes.

What I needed was equilibrium between my daily iPhone usage and battery charging. I didn’t want the battery to either charge or discharge, but remain at 40% all day long. I didn’t want to mess with the hassle of unplugging and plugging wires to manually manipulate battery charge.

I disassembled an USB extension cable and inserted a 4.1 Ohm resistor in series with the power wire (red). The dropped the charge current available through the USB port to 80mA. Now we’re talking! This is an order of magnitude lower than the stock USB cable. If left on standby (6.8mA), 80mA would take 16 hours to charge the iPhone battery. However, during normal usage (i.e. using the phone), the battery doesn’t get much opportunity to charge, and everything balances in equilibrium.

When I plug in the USB cable, the iPhone gets upset and flashes a warning notification. The phone still synchronizes through the USB data wires. Despite the iPhone’s warning, I noticed the battery accepting a very slow charge over a period of hours.

iPhone Warning

Natrually, the best solution would be software for programmable battery charging that stops (“float charge”) the cell at 40% SOC (or some other arbitrary setpoint). I haven’t found the software secrets to control this yet. When traveling, the software could be set to allow the battery to fast charge to 100%.


I installed BatteryLog from the App Store. This application automatically logs the battery state (in 5% increments) every 30 minutes (other intervals are also available). However, it must be running to collect data. I did not want to leave the battery logger running all the time. I jailbroke my phone and installed backgrounder with Cydia. Backgrounder allows iPhone applications to run as background processes. I made BatteryLog to run continuously in the background, collecting battery percent data every thirty minutes. This used 15.46 seconds of CPU time over 22 hours, or 0.017% CPU utilization (I used top to view CPU time over an OpenSSH console). Running as a background process, BatteryLog doesn’t use enough CPU time to effect power consumption (maybe a few mWh over a day).

CPU Load Top

The new USB cable is working fabulously. The battery SOC stays within the designated window. I can now leave my iPhone plugged in all day and not worry about overcycling or degrading battery life. The battery doesn’t drift more than 10% all day and all night. My usage included a few hour-long teleconferences and normal miscellaneous calls (and playing a few apps). The 10% jump at 1030h occurred when I was working with the USB cable assembly and temporarily removed the resistor, and charging ran at full power.

Battery Activity

Battery Activity

Just in case, I also purchased an i.Sound backup battery. In combination with a car charger and an AC charger in my carry-on luggage, I won’t be left without juice for my iPhone, even on long international flights.

Big thanks to the Dev-Team (jailbreak), Saurik (Cydia), and gaizin (backgrounder) for your contibutions to the iPhone community!

July 13, 2009

Outdoor Dipole Audio

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 8:15 pm

I was put in charge of providing audio at a local estate party. I thought this was a good opportunity to test some dipole systems I’ve been considering. My home audio system consists of the Linkwitz Phoenix system, which is the DIY version of the Audio Artistry systems.  Home Hi-Fi is not appropriate for outdoor PA usage (“sound reinforcement”) – they have incompatible goals:

  • H-Fi (Home Audio):  accurate presentation, tonal purity, flat frequency response, very low bass response
  • Sound Reinforcement (Pro Audio):  high efficiency, maximum decibels, ruggedness, durability

However, I’ve seen the Linkwitz dipole arrangement used successfully as a PA system. I put together a system using Bose monitors to cover the frequency range above 150Hz and some modified Linkwitz dipole Phoenix woofers for reproduction from 35Hz to 150Hz.  I used the stock Phoenix crossover circuit board with few modifications (resistor values).  The woofer modules used Lambda 12″ woofers (no longer in production, but their descendants can be found here). The Bose monitors were mounted on tripods for the correct height.

Dipole Woofer with Bose Monitor Dipole Woofer with Bose Monitor

The electronics package was transported in an old WWII CY-573 military carrying case for oscilloscope and testing equipment. The case is very rugged, has a waterproof seal, and is generally very cool. The electronics included:

  • Carver TFM-45 Amplifier for the woofer modules
  • Audio Control Richter Scale III crossover module (for Bose monitors)
  • Linkwitz Phoenix crossover and dipole compensation module
  • Numark 4 channel mixer
  • Alesis Compressor/Limiter
  • iPod Nano
  • Hewlett Packard iPaq with WinamPAQ


The sound was very good – clear with very rich bass and tone. The dipole woofers functioned beautifully in the outdoors environment. Their “figure 8” radiation pattern was clearly evident, with null nodes at the sides and full bass response directly in front and back. I noticed several partygoers taking advantage of the null nodes for private conversations, and the buffet tables were also placed in the  null node on the other side.

The equipment broke down rapidly for easy transport.
Equipment Transport

With the tremendous success of the dipole woofers, I’m now considering a full system with dipole midranges and tweeters using the Linkwitz Pheonix crossover. Hats off to Linkwitz for sharing his knowledge and talents with us.

May 23, 2009

Cherokee Heritage

Filed under: Uncategorized — Moors @ 1:46 am

My family has Cherokee ancestry by decent from Polly Ann Rogers, the daughter of Captain John “Hellfire” Rogers and Alsey Vann, the sister of the Great Cherokee Chief James Vann. We have gathered all of the genealogical evidence required for proof of direct Cherokee decent. My sister even bears resemblance to Polly Ann Rogers:


The locket that Polly Ann Rogers is wearing in the portrait was passed down through the generations, and my sister is the current heir. My family traveled to Georgia to visit the original homestead of Chief Vann, which still features a portrait of Polly Ann Rogers on display to this day.

The problem is, Polly Ann Rogers, nor all but one of her seven children, did not sign the U.S. government-commissioned Dawes Roll that closed in 1907. This is the genealogical document accepted by the Cherokee to determine tribal membership (I find it ironic that the same government who subjected the Cherokee to the Trail of Tears is also responsible for the document that determines Cherokee citizenship). Polly Ann’s fifth child, Robert Dawson, proved in 1883 that he was Cherokee to the Tehee Court by way of linage to Polly Ann Rogers (he later provided the same proof to the Department of Interior in 1902). Between 1883 and 1972, at least 190 subsequent citizenship applications of descendants of Robert Dawson were admitted on the strength of the this ancestral proof.

Application for Citizenship

My lineage is through Edna Belle Dawson, Polly Ann’s second child. I believe if Robert Dawson’s ancestors can prove Cherokee lineage through Polly Ann, then Edna Belle’s ancestors should also be afforded the same rights. I have Cherokee descendancy proof for my family, evidenced by birth, death, marriage, and baptism certificates, supported by tombstones,  newspaper citations, and other geneological records.

Polly Ann, and her husband Samuel Riley Dawson, traveled from Georgia to Texas, living in Tennessee and Arkansas along the way. Samuel Riley fought in the war of 1812. In 1824, Samuel obtained a land grant in Tennessee under a military warrant. He was in Berryville, Arkansas by 1840, and moved to Texas by 1850, where he settled on Bounty Land from the war with Mexico. He tried to obtain more nearby land, but it was still occupied by Mexico. By following Polly Ann’s path from Georgia to Texas, we have been able to collect the necessary geneological evidence required for ancestral proof.

My family is now considering a citizenship bid based on similar arguments and the precendent of how Robert Dawson did it.  Because of the Cherokee’s matrilineal society, my sister’s legal knowledge, and her resemblance to Polly Ann Rogers, she is the natural choice to present our family’s history to the Cherokee.

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