Saturday, July 25, 2009

Well, guess what I ran into just this morning...

it was raining so we had a cup of coffee at st...Image by Shira Golding via Flickr

I had just walked into Starbucks this morning, and had just ordered something. One guy parked his bicycle right outside, and walked in just as another guy opened the door. The guy who opened the door walked up to counter to order... while the guy with the bicycle walked up behind the stand with bags of coffee, and started to stuff bags of coffee down his jacket!

I turned to one of the barristas and whispered, "Hey, that guy is stuffing coffee down his jacket!" And keep in mind, this is right in front of two security cameras. The barrista looked up, and that guy is out the door, hopped on his bike, and gone.

Yep, it's a grab-n-run. The barristas took inventory of damage... Three or four bags gone. About what? $40 worth of coffee? Petit larceny, that is. And how much does he expect to sell them for? $5? Who would *dare* buy "Starbucks" coffee from a guy at a street corner?

And if it's for his own consumption, he'll soon run out of places he can pull this at.

What's the point? I wonder?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guess what CA wanted to regulate about your car?

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, ...Image via Wikipedia

Guess what regulation California wants to pass regarding your car?

A regulation concerning PAINT.

That's right, a proposed legislation will regulate what kind of paint / color you can get in California.

WHY?!?! You ask.

Well, black or dark color car gets hotter in the sun, right? So if you require cars to have lighter colors, you'll use the AC less, and thus, improve mileage, and reduce global warming, right? It sounds like someone from the Sierra Club or Union of Concerned Scienetists would propose: it sounds good, but it's unscientific.

So is the color black doomed as a car paint choice? Not quite.

Now you're going to say, but that made sense to me! But wait!

The problem is... Most of the heat in the cabin came through the glass, not the skin of the car covered by paint. Just think about it. The glass area is right at the cabin, while the area with paint is over the area mostly UNrelated to the cabin.

So how much gas can this idea save? About 10 gallons per car PER YEAR, and this would add over $50 to cost of the car, by most estimates. Not to mention this will severely limit your car's paint choice (black is out, closest is a very dark brown).

It took a study from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to prove that this idea is a non-starter and that California Air Resources Board (CARB) should axe the idea, and CARB did.

Now CARB is back with another idea: requring glass that reflects a LOT MORE light than the current safety glass, which reflects a mere 6%. According to the proposal, the new windshield must reflect 30% of light (which matches current law of 70% light pass-thru). Side, rear, and sunroofs require even MORE reflectivity.

Please note that the regulations say REFLECT, not absorb. Which means tint is NOT acceptable.

In fact, the reflectivity requirement will jump to 45% by 2014, though in all honesty, it's for new cars only.

The problem is so far, only one company had came up with a new glass formulation that meets the 30% reflectivity... and it's EXPENSIVE, as it involves a nanolayer of silver between current safety glass, among other things. It does not affect visibility.

And what's more, the layer of silver blocks radio signals due to the Faraday effect (any one know what a Faraday cage is?) Thus, radar detectors and internal GPS receivers and anything else that receive radio signals inside the cabin will have problems (yes, even your cellphones, though that can be fixed by special antennas). Oh, and those toll transponders (Fastrak in Northern CA) that used to go inside your car... Now they have to go OUTSIDE.

As you can guess, this will severely affect the cost of a car, adding a few hundred, due to the exclusivity of this glass formula, and the added cost of the glass. In other words, CARB will grant monopoly to this glass maker, if this proposal passes. Yet the gain in energy savings is still debatable.

Not to mention this idea is pointless in the northern states. In the sunbelt, absolutely. But northern states? Nah.

Yet you know everybody follows CA when it comes to emission and energy stuff.

But there are HUGE implications when it comes to completely changing the formula of autoglass that is in use for the past several decades. I am sure it'll pass visibility and crashability, but what about replacement cost, widespread availability of such glass at places OTHER than the dealer, not to mention effects on interior electronics, effect on other drivers (increased reflectivity will affect other driver's visibility THROUGH your vehicle, say into the traffic beyond), and so on?

Then there are additional problems. If an owner is forced to replace these uber-glass with regular glass, maybe due to breakage, lack of parts, and so on, is the car still "legal"? Can it be registered next year like smog test? Will CA charge a "mitigation fee" to register out-of-state vehicles like it current does with cars that doesn't meet CA emissions? Do owners of such vehicles get refund for electronics that no longer work inside, or get a stipend to install conduit antennas to keep these electronics working?

While the intent is good, there are always unintended consequences. I am just not too certain if the consequences of this proposal has been fully realized yet.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are V6's and V8's getting bad rap?

A fuel efficiency meter. (ex. At present, this...Image via Wikipedia

There seems to be a rush by auto manufacturers to introduce turbo 4's and turbo 6's to substitute for V6 and V8 engines, respectively. The INTENT was more fuel efficiency. In fact, some had earlier promised "Power of V8 with fuel economy of a V6". However, do they actually deliver more mileage? Or are V6's and V8's getting an unfair rap as fuel guzzlers?

Here's a comparison from Car and Driver mag (July 2009 issue, page 34)...

Nissan Murano vs. Mazda CX-7. Roughly same class of cross-over, yes?

Nissan: 3.5L V6, 265 HP, 248 LB-FT
Mazda: 2.3L Turbo I4, 244 HP, 258 LB-FT

Nissan enjoys a bit more HP, but Mazda gets more torque. However, keep in mind that there is a little bit of turbo lag for the Mazda, so Nissan should be peppier in city speeds. But let's call it equal.

Nissan: EPA 18/23, C/D observed: 23 MPG
Mazda: EPA 16/22, C/D oberved: 20 MPG

So the Mazda actually consumed MORE fuel on the average, despite having a smaller engine. Isn't that interesting?

C/D also shown that BMW 328i, with 3.0 I6, is more frugal than an Audi A4 2.0T /Quattro, which is a turbo 2.0L I-4. And MB S550 with 5.5 V8 gets better combined mileage than BMW 750Li, which has a twin-turbo 4.4 V8.

In fact, Ford had went on and admitted that their "EcoBoost" turbo 4's should get same fuel-economy ratings than the current unboosted V-6's.

And this is despite that fact that a turbo 4 should be LIGHTER than a V6, enjoys turbo lag (though that's reduced in modern turbos), has less torque band, will probably run hotter, and probably requires premium fuel.

So why should you buy a smaller engine that gets WORSE fuel economy (or at least, "no better"), than current V6's and V8's?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh, no, PETA is at it again...

PETA, or People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, is always generating new headlines, and they are very good in generating publicity with various stunts. Here are two examples...

Pescadero State Beach in Pescadero, California is slated for closure due to a severe budget pinch in California. PETA offered to keep the beach open by paying... If the state agrees to change the park's name to "Sea Kitten State Park", and ban fishing at that spot.

Why? Pescadero means "fisherman" in Spanish. And "sea kitten" is what PETA wants you to call "fish". According to them, "fish" is a derogatory term, so to bring "respect" to fish, everyone should start calling them "sea kittens".

Elsewhere... In Iowa State Fair, two local sculptors want to create a sculpture of Michael Jackson with butter as homage. PETA decided it's not a good idea, and suggested "Earth Balance" Vegan spread instead.

So, are the PETA guys just plain nuts, or is there some genius behind that nuttiness?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Argh! Incompetent tech support folks...

Image representing Symantec as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

A month (or possibly several months ago, when I was still using NAV2007) I had inserted a VCD into the drive, and on the VCD is a VCDPlayer program set to autorun, but it's infected with W32.Pinfi.

NAV2007 caught it right away, and prevented the VCD from auto-running. I played it with VLC, no problem. But somehow it went into unresolved threat queue. The VCD has since been nuked (I made a copy of it, without that player program).

In June 2009, I installed NIS2009. And somehow the unresolved threat list migrated over. So every time I have a full scan, I get that unresolved threat.

I just spent TWO HOURS in online chat with Norton Tech Support this afternoon. The first guy, upon hearing the word W32.Pinfi, immediatley forwarded me to "Virus and Spyware Removal Department", and I got a regular case ID as well as a priority ID.

The V&SRD guy will NOT believe me that my computer itself is unaffected (and uninfected). I told him MULTIPLE TIMES that every scan, quick or full, came back clean, ever since install of NIS2009 in June 1, 2009. I gave him the whole history of this problem. He simply kept pushing that technician remote scan. I asked him how can NIS2009 itself cannot find the virus, he ignored my question, and kept droning that a technician remote scan will solve all of my issues and problems.

I flat out asked him "How can I purge the unresolved threat list?" And he went back to that sales pitch again.

Finally, I asked him how much, and was absolutely flabbergasted when the reply was $99.

You see, I got my 3-license NIS2009 FREE after $50 rebate. And I've so far only used ONE license. So asking me to pay $99 for a 'scan' on a computer that doesn't even have a virus, just to prove to Norton that the program has problems, is simply out of the question. I ended the chat session 30 seconds later, absolutely exasperated with Norton Tech Support.

And I can see that I am NOT the only one who has experienced this problem. There are MULTIPLE TOPICS on this very issue, and the solution posted above, original by Tufe, and reposted by Quad, did solve my problem (I also found the original post by Tufe last December).

So, Symantec / Norton, you guys need to do two things:

1) Solve this problem in NIS. Clearly, your program should NOT flag a risk on a removable drive without a way to purge it. Either offer up an IGNORE button, and file the risk under "ignore risks" with optional purge command, or simply be SMARTER about the device's capabilities. After all, why offer to "remove" a virus from a file on a CD? Just warn the user, and offer to eject, but don't force the user.

2) Stop the heavy-handed sales pitch. I thought the 2nd guy I was talking to was a 2nd level tech. Turns out he's even MORE clueless than the first tech I talk to. All he can do is recite the standard sales pitch and he's rather pushy about it. If he can't help me, he should just say so. Clearly neither actually tried to understand my problem, as the solution was in their forum all along.

I have been using Symantec/ Norton products for a VERY long time. In fact, I wrote some of the programs that print those yellow labels that go on the bottom of retail boxes. I like Symantec products, but if this is the current state of tech support, I am worried about Symantec's future.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Buying used cars, argh!

CraigslistImage via Wikipedia

Buying a used car from private party off Craigslist is full of suspects nowadays.

My dad needs a new van, so I was looking on Craigslist, and found a couple candidates. I went with a friend. When I got there, the guy has no less than HALF DOZEN vehicles for sale. Alarm bells started going off in my head. This ain't "private party" at all.

Then he said he doesn't have room to park all his vehicles, we'll need to go to a "lot" about 15 blocks away to see the vehicle in question. Hmmm... Okay, I'll bite.

Once we got there, the vehicle is in immaculate condition... In places that are visible. However, my friend is an old hand at this. He told the guy to check on something else, while he checked under the hood and unscrewed a cap with a hose going into a reservoir... Outside the cap the hose is pristine. INSIDE the bottle, there's a TON of crud attached to the hose. In other words, the engine compartment was steam-cleaned multiple times, but the cooling system is in serious need of a flush, with a lot of crud inside. In other words, this vehicle is a ticking timebomb. I'm surprised that the water pump actually works.

We thanked his time and got out of there.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

New month, new rant... Intersection panhandlers

You probably seen them in and around San Francisco... they stand in popular intersections, usually near highway onramps with a traffic signal. When cars are stuck, they walk between cars with a sign hoping for handouts. I've even seen two working the same intersection... One does the left side and the other does the right side.

Then there are the oddball ones that wave a funny sign, like "I admit, I just want a beer", or even one that flashes the victory sign.

Don't they know that "aggressive panhandling" is ILLEGAL in San Francisco? And a lot of intersections prohibits panhandling? AND there's a law that you can't panhandling within 100 ft of an ATM? Yet I see people doing that every day.

The problem is there's a "Homeless Coalition" in San Francisco, that are defending the offenders, and they are using various tactics to get the tickets dismissed, often without even the defendents appearing in court. In fact, it's believed that 85% of the "quality of life" tickets are dismissed outright. These are attorneys working pro bono out of the some of the biggest law offices in town, in fact.

The point of the tickets is to get the homeless into treatment programs, and for that, they have to appear in front of a judge in court. But the lawyers, often demanding an incident report (which must be filed, admitted into evidence, and all that) is getting tickets dismissed due to lack of such a report (which is NOT REQUIRED, by the way), often over the objection of the prosecution, completely defeating the purpose of such laws.

But the Homeless Coalition claims that the tickets are merely harassment of people who are down on their luck and need to panhandle to get by.

Police and DA are getting tired of such circular reasoning. Think about it... It's like saying if you provide services I would not be breaking the law. It's completely backwards, as you should not be breaking the law in the first place. As one cop put it, "It's like saying 'if you had bought me new tires I would not have ran that stop sign.'"

And don't people know giving those guys cash doesn't really help them? It's like feeding wild bears... it makes them dependent on handouts of human food so they that will no longer hunt / scavenge in the wild. Same with panhandlers. Once they know they can make X dollars per hour doing this, do you really think they'll go get a job?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]