thewayne: (Cyranose)
Today I was driving down Interstate 10 when I saw one of those signs that said 'Tune your radio to 530 AM if the lights are flashing', and the lights were flashing. It was definitely dust storm weather, but I didn't want to pull over to tune the radio. So I hit the voice command button on the steering wheel. This is not Siri or Cortanna or whatever Android's voice assist is called, this is Subaru's stereo's implementation.

And it worked. I was able to tell it to tune the radio to 530 AM. I thought that was pretty cool. As it turned out, the radio report was nothing more than an advert to dial a special phone number or go to the Arizona highway web site.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
In October we replaced my 2005 Toyota Matrix AWD (a Corolla Hatchback in some non-US markets) with a 2015 Subaru Crosstrek. I absolutely love this car! A couple of weeks ago I dropped $1,000 for a full set of snow tires, of course it hasn't snowed since then. Anyway, I bought it in Tucson, AZ which meant that the title initially had to be done in AZ and I had to contact the lender, which is in Texas, to get Arizona to send the title to New Mexico, which for some reason took over a month and a half. Yesterday I FINALLY got the call from MVD that they had received the title from Arizona MVD, it was about 3:15 and they close at 4:00, so I waited until today to go in. I had all the papers that I needed. We do the VIN check, the woman is banging away on the computer, pulls open a drawer and produces a license plate:

NRD 512

I all but swooned! Nerd and a power of 2! (2 to the 9th) Absolutely awesome license plate! I can't imagine a better, random, license plate!

Then her computer froze. Every computer in the office froze: the network was completely down, same thing happened yesterday. She said I'd have to come back, but since the VIN inspection was done, it wouldn't take too long when I got back. I asked her if I'd get the same license plate.

She said no.


So I go to lunch (Carl's Jr. has fish tacos again!) Go back to the MVD office, they call my number and I go to the designated window and the woman, after I explain everything, says I have to wait until the woman with whom I'd worked previously was done with her customer.

Eventually she's free, we resume the paperwork, and she pulls out my new license plate.

NRD 512!

Simple things please simple minds. I'm very happy, and I'm mounting it on my car today.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Being a database guy, I'm also a data collector. I have a spreadsheet that I've maintained for over 25 years of every tank of gas of every car that I've had from the fourth one forward. Both of our cars have a notebook that we log our fillups in so I can monitor when oil changes or other service are due. At the start of the month I try to update my spreadsheet and get the new info in.

Something happened, and I'm not sure what.

So exactly a month ago I get my new car. This requires changes to my spreadsheet: a new page for the new car, copy over the cells for formulas and formatting, start entering information. No big deal, easy peasy. Today I grab the two notebooks and update my car and go to update Russet's car and the page is not there.

Very weird. I know I didn't delete any pages, I know I created a new page to copy stuff over, nothing I did should have resulted in any data loss, yet her car is gone.

Fortunately I have backups. I have two sets of two external HDs: two 3 TB and two 1 TB, the latter are for our laptops, the 3s are for my desktop iMac. I change them at about the start of the month. The spreadsheet had a date of 10/23 for its last update, but I changed my backup drives just last week so anything prior to that date was on my set at work in my desk. So I restored the one from 10/1 and just updated the info. Since I already had my 2015 Crosstrek in the spreadsheet that was missing my wife's 2005 Outback, it was easy to copy the page from the copy of the flawed spreadsheet to the new one. Add a few entries, all is well.

I also updated a summary page that had all of my cars from the fourth one on. I'm on my 9th car, my first Subaru that was mine, and I've driven over half a million miles (467,000 documented). My 2005 Toyota Matrix (outside of the US known as the Corolla Hatchback) had 184,000 miles on it when I traded it in, 99% of a light second, and was the most miles that I've put on one car. Second place was my 1990 Mazda 626LX that had 166,000 miles on it after 10.5 years. I've only put 1800 miles on my Subaru, so it's not even a contender yet. :-)

And I realize that I didn't really talk about Time Machine. Apple's OS-X operating system for the Mac has, for years, had a built-in backup program called Time Machine. And it is fantastic. Plug in an external USB drive, do some minimal configuration (including encryption if you so desire) and it's off and running. It does one full backup of your system, then afterwards it copies anything new or changed. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. If it runs low on space, it deletes the oldest backup. FANTASTIC program. Last year we found that my wife's laptop's hard drive was failing. I was able to refresh the backup, we drove to El Paso where Apple replaced the drive under our extended warranty, got home that night after a movie, plugged the laptop in to the backup drive and told it to restore. Three hours or so later, with no further effort, it was done.

I honestly don't know if there's a similar program for Windows. Back when drives were much smaller I used an amazing program called Fastback, but that's long gone and superseded by newer tech. I switched to Mac 8 or 9 years ago and haven't missed Windows in the least, even though I still use it at work and have it in a virtual machine on my home systems.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Suckus maximus. Two weeks ago today my wife and I drove 400 miles to Tucson to buy a 2015 Subaru Crosstrek. We had been planning on getting me a new car within the next few months, and that Monday I got an email from Subaru saying that they were having a 0.99% for 48 month special deal on Subaru-certified used vehicles. I had planned to get a Crosstrek and done a lot of online research and drove one in El Paso when I took my wife's Subaru Outback down for a new timing belt.

The one that I bought was a dealership car used by the service department as a loaner and had 6,000 miles on it. We had a couple of extras put on like body molding (I HATE getting my doors dinged!) as it was already well-equipped. It has a system called EyeSight which is two cameras mounted next to the rear view mirror that watches vehicles in front of you and can brake the Subaru if the distance starts closing rapidly. It also watches for lane deviation and has an adaptive cruise control. The cruise is great: you program the speed that you want to cruise at and the distance you want between you and the vehicle in front of you (three steps) and it will maintain the speed and distance as best it can. And it does an excellent job. The Interstate 10 corridor between Tucson and Phoenix is annoying because it is always busy, lots of big rig trucks, and variable speeds. But the EyeSight was SO nice! I dialed it in at 75, and though the traffic wouldn't let me cruise at that speed, it kept a very safe distance between me and the vehicle in front. And if I changed to an empty lane, the speed would come up. It made for a VERY pleasant drive.

Since we'd driven 400 miles to Tucson to get the car and it didn't make sense to not go another 100 to Phoenix and see my parents, so we had half a day Saturday, took them to a friend's restaurant for Sunday brunch (Craft 64 pizza/brew in Scottsdale – highly recommended) and headed home Monday morning. The car was wonderful. Once we were out of Tucson headed back to New Mexico and the traffic opened up and it was great. Good mileage, and the gas tank is 16 gallons versus 13 for the Toyota Matrix that it replaced, so I can get approximately 500 miles on a tank! It'll be so nice having to fill my tank every other week rather than twice a week as I drive 40-50 miles a day to/from work.

It's been wonderful. I don't use the adaptive cruise control going to work as it's 16 miles down a mountain, losing 4,500' in the descent, and I don't want to risk the brakes, so I use the normal cruise control mode. It mainly uses the throttle to control the speed and does a good job in descents, much better than my Matrix. The Toyota couldn't hold a set speed going down a mountain, so I'm very happy with that feature.

The EyeSight system isn't 100%. Severe weather conditions can cause it to turn off (with appropriate dash board alerts) as can road conditions, both of which have happened in the last week. There's no connection between the EyeSight and the steering, just the throttle and brake. So in a really heavy rain storm it'll turn off, as it did Monday. In a REALLY dark night or in a curvy road stretch with lots of trees it'll sometimes turn off. It does see color but it doesn't see in to the infrared, so it's limited to the range of the headlights.

So the car doesn't take decision-making from the driver, it just stands by in case something happens that the driver doesn't notice it. When anti-lock brakes and airbags came out, accidents temporarily went up – they don't prevent accidents, they improve your safety. They aren't a substitute for good driving. Interestingly, I find myself driving slower in the Crosstrek, not that I was a super-fast driver normally. The only complaint that I have is that the trunk space is a bit smaller than the Toyota's even though the overall dimensions are about the same. And the car is perfectly balanced – the engine is a horizontally-opposed Boxter engine, a signature of Subaru and Porsche. It gives you more horsepower with lower weight, which is really nice when heading up the mountain. And I LOVE the larger gas tank, though the smaller trunk will be annoying. Oh, and ground clearance! The Toyota had about 5”, the Subaru 8”! That's going to be so nice in the snow! We know we're going to have a wet winter, but we don't know if it'll be cold enough for snow or if it'll just be lots of rain. So we'll see if I need to get snow tires or not.

My wife and I, and our poodle Dante

So that's pretty awesome. Now comes the suck.

Thursday night I was scheduled to drive up to Ruidoso for a sleep study, it's about an hour from Alamogordo where I work. I have been avoiding this for a long time because I do not want a CPAP machine. My lung doctor ordered an overnight oximetry study and it revealed in the wee small hours of the morning that I had an oxygenation problem with my levels dropping below 87% for an extended period of time. So I acquiesced to having the stupid study done. And that was Thursday night.

So Thursday night it was done. And it turned out surprisingly well. The way it works is they size you for a mask and explain how the CPAP machine works, they hook all sorts of electrodes to you, and you go to sleep. If you have X number of breathing problem events in Y time frame, they'll wake you and hook you up to the CPAP machine for the rest of the night and tune the pressures. The full data is analyzed by specialists and they decide what you need.

I had no serious events! I never hit the level that was specified for using a CPAP! The technician said that I had no oxygenation problems and that in his opinion I might have mild apnea, so we'll see what happens.

There's two routes to going home from Ruidoso to Cloudcroft, you can go down to Alamogordo then back up to Cloudcroft, or you can cut through the reservation and have a much more direct path. The disadvantage of the latter is that you're driving through an area with lots of cattle, elk, horses, etc. On the road. I passed huge elk, ponies, etc. And unbelievable numbers of cow patties on the highway.

About 6:45 I was on the highway less than a mile from my house and I hit a baby deer.

It couldn't have timed it worse. I had a truck coming at me in the opposite lane on my left, and I had mountain on my right, and a baby deer in front of me. It was no higher than the top of my hood, which isn't very high. And it was the exact condition where the EyeSight system can't do diddly to help you. Swerving left would put me in a near head-on collision, swerving right would run me up the side of the mountain and possibly roll the vehicle. So I hit the deer.

It exploded. It actually exploded. I kid you not, there were pieces of deer flying through the air.

It makes me sick to my stomach just to type this.

The body shop that I normally doesn't do estimates on Friday, so I have an appointment to get that done Monday. The hood, left front fender, grill, left headlight – all damaged. I'm not sure if the bumper is, they'll find out. Bumpers are dense foam core, similar to styrofoam, designed for a low-speed collision. It's then covered in the rubbery/plasticky skin. The body shop will figure that out.

I hadn't had the car for two full weeks and I had my first collision in 21 years.


The airbags did not deploy because I was braking heavily and took the speed below that threshhold. I wasn't physically injured, and the car will be fixed. But it's going to bother me for a long time.

Close up of front end damage
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Sunday evening we were driving to Phoenix, returning from Las Vegas where we attended a fanfic/slash convention over the weekend. And we had some pretty weird car trouble. North of Kingman while Russet was driving, we started getting a noise and vibration that could be felt through the gas and brake pedals, but not through the steering. I looked under the hood and everything looked good, looking under the front of the car showed a deflector designed to keep rocks and grime from mucking up the engine casing has been damaged and were probably flapping at high speed. It was an interesting thing: nothing happened until you hit about 50 MPH, but then when you slowed down, it didn't go away until you were almost completely stopped.

So we decided to have the car towed to Kingman and get it looked at in the morning, and while I was on the phone trying to get through to my insurance, a truck pulled up. He was pulling a trailer, and actually offered to trailer our car to Kingman! So we backed up our Subaru to give him more room to line things up so we could load our car.

While backing up our car, the hood was up and the guy's son noticed that the air intake manifold was vibrating bad, he thought we might have broken a motor mount but then we'd get decided vibration through the steering. There are two plastic bolt holes that should hold this assembly to the rest of the engine, the bolts were no longer there. I asked the guy if he had any zip ties, the plastic ties that have teeth on one side that lock when you pull them through. He dug around in his kit and found three small ones. They worked just fine for the intake manifold and cinched down nice and tight. Then we looked at the lower deflector, and found that by gouging two holes through the left piece and tucking the right piece above it, I could loop the last tie that he had through a chassis bracket and secure that up!

And that was it: problem resolved. Another 200 miles with no problems, we lost about 45 minutes between inspection, repair, and stopping at a car parts store buying thicker ties in case any of the thinner ones failed before we got back to Phoenix.

Zip ties. Wonderful things. Fantastic for some field expedient repairs. I had them in my Toyota, but that's in New Mexico. I'm glad that I had a good knife in the car capable of gouging holes through the shield fiberboard or whatever it was made of.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
The Slashdot summary: "Eric Peters makes the case that hybrids have been over-hyped. His argument is that in order to sell people on hybrid cars, automakers have emphasized the energy efficiency of hybrids in ideal conditions and failed to tell people that in most ordinary driving conditions they will not come close to meeting the numbers given. He refers to a recent case where an individual has chosen to forego membership in a class action law suit and has instead chosen to go to small claims court. He suggests that there is a significant chance that she will win there and that this will open up all of the manufacturers of hybrid vehicles to similar lawsuits. The article was on a rather partisan website, so I am curious what factors he has chosen to overemphasize to make his case. (Or what factors he has chosen to ignore to the same end.) I know that Slashdot has a large contingent of hybrid and EV supporters who are well educated on the subject (as well as a large contingent of those who are not so well educated)."

The key to this is the small claims court (SCC) angle. This particular state limits damages to $10,000 in SCC, but SCC also has a much lower burden of proof and the judge can be a more active participant rather than just the arbiter role that they perform in superior court. The issue is that Honda states that the car is capable of 50 MPG and that the owner is not getting more than 30. So the issue is manufacturer/EPA estimated mileage, which is tricky on a hybrid. The standard assumes level driving and extremely conservative acceleration and speed, speeds that would get you killed on an interstate.

Here's the thing that should scare the beejeezus out of car manufacturers: if this case succeeds, they could end up fighting dozens, if not hundreds, of such cases in SCC rather than monster large class action cases where the attorneys get all the money and the participants get a check for $15. Plus you can represent yourself in SCC, making the cost to enter very low.

Interesting times.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
1 gram, stimulated by a laser, could theoretically produce as much energy as 7,500 gallons of gasoline. 8 grams could power your car for it's entire life. An engine could come in at 500 lbs containing a laser and a steam/turbine loop.

This sounds pretty awesome. Even if they only used it in power plants, it would be a tremendous savings. It sounds like it can be spooled up from zero to lots of heat in a very short period of time, they're talking about direct output for a car: no batteries. And they think they'll have prototypes on the road in 2 years!
thewayne: (Default)
Cars currently have black boxes in them, they're similar to what are required to be in airplanes. They record things like are the seat belts in use, did the airbags deploy, what was the seat position for the driver, were the anti-lock brakes in use, etc. The problem is that they aren't any requirements regarding what data points are logged prior to a collision nor for how long they are logged. They also require a factory expert to analyze the data.

They can be good, they can be bad. Good in that they can help reconstruct crashes and ultimately lead to safer vehicles, they can also theoretically help find you not guilty in an accident, they helped Toyota prove that it was pretty much idiot drivers causing phantom acceleration in the Prius, the notable exception was it confirmed a problem in the death of the police officer and his family in a Lexus in California. But there's a lot of paranoia of "Big Brother" boxes and Nannystate. I think these concerns are largely unfounded, I think it's more of a case of the NHTSA wanting more standardized data. Law enforcement has, in most cases, had the ability to subpoena the data from these boxes when they need it, that probably would not change. I don't know if insurance companies would have the right to this data, they might have to request it from the customer.

Most cars already have these in one form or another, it's usually described on the first page or two of the owner's manual. If your car has an air bag, it probably has a black box.

I think it's a good idea, we'll see what happens. There was a lot of hype about the announcement, I'm sure things will become clearer as the proposed regulation gets developed.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
In the 60's, Chrysler made a car with a turbine engine. A jet turbine. 60,000 RPM. 5,000 hours life compared to 3,000 for a piston engine. 1,800 degrees F.

And it destroyed almost all of them after an amazingly successful pilot program that ran over a million miles in 50 prototypes.

Pretty cool, I'd love to see one. Apparently Leno has one of the four that wasn't destroyed, I have no idea if the other three still exist. The Jalopnik article has three videos of the car driving. I'd love to know what the interior noise and heat levels were like, air conditioning in cars wasn't too common in those days.
thewayne: (Default)
No joke.

It's not much to look at, it seats two in tandem rather than side by side, and it looks like it has nothing for cargo space, but it's carbon fiber and has a drag coefficient of 0.16. Estimated price is $30-40k. They've had it for years, but weren't considering production until carbon fiber tech came down in price. Well, it's come down.

Aside from the looks, it'll be interesting to see how it does in safety tests and I'd like to know what the repair bills would be like. They also don't talk about what the acceleration is like, and considering the size of the engine, I would expect it to be kinda sluggish.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
Aside from "CHECK THE FLUID LEVELS, YOU MORON!", I remembered something this morning. Yesterday I was venting (in humourous fashion, natch) to this guy and I commented that it sucks that you frequently don't get any warning when your battery is about to go Tango Uniform. If you're skilled and don't mind altering the lines of the interior of your car, you can always install an ammeter and keep an eye on how much currant the battery is drawing, but I noticed something else. I always use the remote entry key fob to unlock my doors, and I remembered the last couple of days that I had to hit it two or three times to get the doors to open. I assumed that I probably needed to replace the battery in the transmitter, but now it's 100% when I go to get in my car.

Something I'll have to try and remember in this tiny little thing that I call my brain.

What a day!

Aug. 8th, 2007 08:20 pm
thewayne: (Cyranose)
I caught a cold Sunday afternoon. I hate colds. So we took it easy. Monday it was hitting me big time so I didn't go in to work. Monday night it seemed to break, Russet said my breathing got a lot easier while I slept. Tuesday I was feeling pretty good, still stayed home, taking it easy. Tuesday night I began to really feel like crap. It moved into my lungs and nose at the same time, and not long before Russet had to head back to Cloudcroft to do some work at the observatory.

So today I go into work. I'm still feeling cruddy, but I'm not coughing (much) or sneezing (at all). Just blowing my nose a lot and making sure that I wash my hands often, also not getting too close to people. Fortunately nothing broke in my absence, in fact, one problem was actually behaving better. I wanted to see a doctor but didn't have a local one, so I pull up the list of doctors for my medical plan on the web site and start calling DO's. The first one that I call is taking new patients, but she can't see me for at least two weeks, nor can anyone else in their office. Second one I call is also taking new patients, but he's on vacation this week. There aren't a lot of osteopaths in the directory, and a few of them say that they aren't taking new patients. Fortunately I strike gold with the third -- taking new patients and not only can I get in today, I can get in in about an hour!

So I get there at 10:45 for an 11am appointment to make sure that I have time to do the new patient paperwork. In fact, I have time to do the paperwork and write four pages of a blog entry -- I don't get called back until 12:15ish. Turns out that he had an earlier patient suffering from extreme depression who took a lot of extra time.

We talk, he prescribes antibiotics, something to hopefully clear my nose and lungs, then he surprises me with an injection -- I got a steroid injection to accelerate clearing my nose, and let me tell you, it worked!

I take the scripts, make an appointment for a physical next month, and head off to Walmart to get the prescriptions filled. I wouldn't have had them done there except apparently one of the drugs isn't carried by Walgreens and KMart was not well located for my current needs. I drop off the scripts, then go to Arby's for a leisurely lunch and catch up on reading my flist. Head back to pick up the drugs, get in car to head back to work (I'm now down two hours on the day) and the car won't start.

I'm 99% sure that it's the battery. Go back into Walmart, turns out that the auto department doesn't have a jump cart, but they will lend me jumper cables: the guy tells me just to flag down the security guards in their little golf cards and they'll jump me. I pop the hood on my car and wait. Fortunately I refilled my drink at Arby's (it was almost 100f here today). Absolutely no sign of security, and no one seems interested in helping me. A good 15-20 minutes pass, I go into the store to customer service and ask them to page security to Row 2 to jump my car. No problem, they tell me. Spend another 15-20 minutes, no sign of security. Finally this guy walks up and asks if I need a jump.

Thus the car gets started, I drive across the freeway to Sears and get a new battery. Total time at Sears for a battery, plus buying a new set of jumper cables (mine were trashed by my own stupidty) and a new set of wiper blades (found out that my driver's side needs 21" blades, the passenger side 18"): less than 20 minutes.

Get back to city hall at 3:30. I'd been gone for FIVE FREAKIN' HOURS. There's no way that I could make up four hours today, especially with some of the crap I was experiencing with a vendor's web site. It was amazing -- they had a "click here to start a problem report via email" and clicking there caused your browser to spontaneously abort. It didn't matter if it was IE or Firefox, it was GONE. So they received a nastygram about that!

So now I'm home, drugged, fed, and feeling better. I put in an hour extra, I'll have the other three hours covered by the weekend. Total out of pocket for doctor, meds, battery, and automotive miscellany? About $200. I'm VERY glad that I paid off my credit card last month!
thewayne: (Default)
Stop at a stop light, the engine shuts off. Take your foot off the brake, it starts again.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
New engines design breaking the conventional internal combustion models. Cool stuff.
thewayne: (Cyranose)
They've decoupled the drive shaft from the cam shaft, resulting in no mechanical link between the piston movement and the valve movement. No timing belt or chain. Totally variable valve timing. Apparently this will allow much higher efficiency, resulting in much lower tailpipe emissions. Unfortunately they don't really explain how the valves work, it would have to be some pretty cool tech.

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