Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Progressive TripSense: Hackable?

A few bloggers have commented on Progressive Insurance' TripSense program, which pays you a bribe in return for driving your car with a data logger attached to the OBD-II port. I don't have a problem with the idea--people should be able to give up their privacy for cheaper insurance. I'd be curious what AutoMuse has to say on the subject.

I noticed that the unit appears to be identical to the CarChip data logger, which is a commercially available product.

This only makes sense--why would Progressive pay the development costs for a new data logger when off-the-shelf stuff is available?

So, the next question is: could a dishonest customer sign up for Progressive's monitoring program, and then use CarChip's software to delete records from the logger that have incriminating evidence? Like, say, drag racing at 3:00 am?

Not only does CarChip offer software, they even offer an SDK for programmers who would like to design their own software to interface to the logger.

Update: Progressive's web site states that this is a study only, and that invidually identifiable driving habits are not logged, and will not affect your rates. But, couldn't you just see a monitored discount program down the road?

GM: More Salaried Job Cuts

The focus of today's GM announcement was the plant closings and approximately 30,000 hourly job cuts.

However, during the Q&A session (which I listened to on the radio this morning), Rick Wagoner was also asked about salaried job cuts. He stated that they were planning on reducing about another 7% of their salaried workforce in 2006, to bring the reduction in salaried personnel to 40% since 2000.

That is a lot of jobs lost, many in Michigan.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pirelli's Calendar

Bella! Pirelli has a web site which has photos from its calendar going back to the 1960's. Some of these are artistic, and some are just erotic, many are nudes. Most are not work safe.

Image courtesy of Yahoo!

Strangely, tires don't appear anywhere in the calendar.

I expect CarPundit to be all over these, he is an afficianado of photography.

Just Google It [Politics]

Here's a fun game you can play, especially if you believe the Democrat braying about "Bushes lies": Just Google It (or, if you prefer, Just Yahoo It).

Here's an example of the fun stuff you get:

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, today, along with Senators McCain, Lieberman, Hutchison and twenty-three other Senators, I am sending a letter to the President to express our concern over Iraq's actions and urging the President `after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.'
What's that? Our own Senator Carl Levin calling for military strikes against Iraq? Was Levin a liar?

(HT: Michele Malkin)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Electric Shock Game

This is the perfect game to play with your out-of-town relatives on Thanksgiving!

(Actually I find it kind of disturbing...)

Monday, November 14, 2005

TurboTap: High Flow Beer Dispenser

It is amazing what a bunch of fluid mechanics engineers can come up with when offered beer.

The engineers at Laminar Technologies studied the way that beer comes out of a tap, and designed a nozzle which reduces the amount of foam that is formed, allowing for a faster pour. Throughput is claimed at four gallons per minute.

(Insert your own favorite Homer Simpson quote here)

Make Your Caravan A Viper!

The Vroombox is a digital audio player which is designed to make exciting car noises, like an engine revving or tires screeching. Says the official site:

Make your car sound like any car you want.

Let'’s face it: you'’re probably not going to get that souped up hot rod you always wanted. But at least your current car can sound like the muscle car of your dreams.

VroomBox utilizes a powerful microprocessor to digitally recreate the sound of 15 different cars and fantasy vehicles, and play them through speakers under the car. It even includes special effects such as screeching tires and turbo blow-off valves that trigger automatically. And you can download more cars and effects from the web. Sounds and effects are controlled from a small faceplate with a backlit display that fits neatly on or under the dash.
Now you don't even have to bother with the coffee can tailpipe.

(HT: Gizmodo)

Forbes' Turkey List

In time for Thanksgiving, Forbes has published its list of automotive turkeys: cars that are selling very poorly. These vehicles all have had sales declines of about 50% over last year. Here's condensed list:

  • Mercedes CL -- Expensive, getting old.
  • Audi TT -- Getting old
  • Mercury Monterey -- "upscale" twin of the Ford Wind, er, Freestar. Not competitive with Chrysler, Honda, Toyota minivans.
  • Mazda B-Series -- rebadged Ranger, who wants it?
  • Volvo C-70 -- expensive, getting old
  • Land Rover Freelander -- down-market Land Rover, competes with top end Mercury SUV, Escape Hybrid. Who needs it?
  • Jaguar X-Type -- down-market Jaguar.
  • VW Phaeton -- up-market VW
  • Mitsubishi Montero -- Too many body-on-frame SUVs out there, Nissan Pathfinder probably eating its lunch
  • Chevrolet Monte Carlo -- ugly NASCAR wannabe.

The Lincoln LS was not on the list because it is known to be going away, but it is also a turkey.

I see a few patterns here: upscale brands (Land Rover, Jaguar) going down-market fail. More mid-market brands (VW) going up-market fail. Re-badged mediocre products fail. And, expensive cars that don't get redesigned ot keep up with the brutal competition also fail.

It is disturbing that so many of these belong to Ford. Someone needs to go throw some rocks at The Glass House.

Phaeton Finale

VW is going to stop importation into the U.S. of the Phaeton luxury sedan, according to Bloomberg News:

Volkswagen will pull the Phaeton out of the world's largest market, where it never met sales targets, by September 2006, said Hans-Gerd Bode, a spokesman at the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker. The model's 10-month U.S. sales totaled 686 cars. The original goal was to sell 10,000 Phaetons in the U.S. by 2004.
Automotive pundits and the enthusiast press were skeptical of the Phaeton from the beginning, and rightly so. Phaeton simply didn't meet the brand image of the VolksWagen, the "people's car". If they wanted to make an ultra-luxury large sedan, it should have had an Audi logo on the front of it.

Is the VW Touareg (pronounced "S-U-V") next?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Heh. [Politics]

Heh. From Dry Bones, a very good political cartoon from Israel.

Rep. Joe Schwarz, Selling Michigan Out

A Michigan Republican Congressman, Joe Schwarz, was a member of a group of "moderate" Republicans which managed to get the ANWR oil exploration authorization removed from the House version of a budget bill.

I am pissed. The quickest way to reduce our use of Saudi oil is to pump more of the stuff ourselves. That is also the quickest way to reduce oil prices. And this is Michigan--we live and die by the domestic auto industry. ANWR is a huge, harsh, desolate frozen wasteland. It's not like we're proposing to log out the entire Amazon rain forest, or dynamite the Grand Canyon.

Joe Schwarz put the interests of a herd of Caribou and a herd of greenies over the interests of his own consituents.

If you are from Michigan, and especially if you are from his district (the Battle Creek area), you should give Rep. Schwarz a call (202-225-6276) or drop him an email (click here) and let him know what you think.

PermaCap Revisited

I previously posted about my mishap with the Kleen Wheels PermaCap, a neat gadget (when it works) that replaces the fuel cap on some cars, and allows quick re-fueling without having to bother with unscrewing the fuel cap. It does this by proving a spring loaded door in the center of the fuel cap, which you push in with the fuel nozzle when you want to fill up.

Kleen Wheels sent me a replacement PermaCap, and I have been running with it for about two months. So far, no Check Engine lights, and no evaporative system leak codes.

I am not ready to endorse it, but if you are willing to give it a shot, and it works on your vehicle, it can be a very convenient thing. It is not a bad deal for about $17.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The B Word

The Detroit Free Press, the liberal leaning sister paper of the Detroit News, published a page 1 story about GM today with the word "bankruptcy" in the title.

GM is in danger, but I believe that this is premature, and a classic case of journalistic piling-on. One piece of evidence cited for GM's possible bankruptcy was the drastically diminished stock price--but in fact, the value of the stock has nothing to do with GM's profitability. Wall Street could sell GM down to $1 a share, it would not cause bankruptcy. No matter how many times The Freep, Wall Street analysts, or Robert Farrago warn of bankruptcy, it does not make it any closer.

Remember that GM is sitting on a huge pile of cash, about $20,000,000,000. Add to that the assets that GM could sell quickly, and you have about $45,000,o00,000. Even if GM lost $5 billion a year, it would take 4-10 years to become insolvent. And that $5 billion a year includes product development costs. All GM has to do is a little better than break-even, and it can operate nearly indefinitely. The stock analysts don't like that, since they are mostly focused on earnings growth.

GM's (and Ford's) job is to figure out how to be profitable businesses without gaining market share. This can be done. They need to reduce legacy costs by engaging the UAW, reduce product costs through platform sharing, and gain pricing power by building sexy cars. GM will never again have 60% of the U.S. market. And I agree with many pundits that huge changes at GM are necessary. But that doesn't mean GM is going away, either.

As the British conservative-writer-with-the-funny-name Theodore Dalyrimple wrote, "apocalypses have a habit of not happening". For all of its apparent mis-steps, a company as large as GM is not run by idiots. Guys like Rick "whipping boy" Wagoner and Bob "Uncle" Lutz did not get to the top of a multi-billion dollar company by being stupid. GM may change, but GM is not going away.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Know Thy Enemy

Thanks to Jalopnik, we have in Blogger-ville an excellent example of a car hating greenie with socialist tendencies and a fetish for bicycles*. From San Francisco, of course.

*Actually, I own a bicycle. I ride bicycles, some of my best friends have bicycles. But never speak to me of replacing my car with a bicycle! That, sir, would be talk of war!

Friday, November 04, 2005

France on Fire [Politics]

The French have finally been forced to confront their non-assimilating Muslim immigrant underclass. Unfortunately, the forum is the streets of towns surrounding Paris. Mobs are burning buses, terrorizing people, and shooting up trains. If this keeps up much longer, the French will have to ask the Germans to invade again, because it is not clear that they have the stomach to stop the rioting.

While I do not wish harm to anyone, I do feel a small twinge of schadenfreude. C'est la vie, non?

What happens next is very important. If France does not sort out the relationship between liberal-secular Europeans and the large population of non-assimilated Muslim immigrants, France is dead.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

419 Scam Fun

You know those annoying scam emails you get from places like Nigeria or Ivory Coast, promising you millions of dollars if you can just help some poor slob of a bank manager or oil minister fake some documents?

There is a whole sport called scam-baiting. What some guys do is pretend to be interested, and string the scammers along--for weeks. Sometimes they even get trophies, typically ridiculous photographs or fake documents.

Two of my favorite sites for this are 419 Eater and The Scam Baiter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dell Refurbished: Highly Recommended

As mentioned in my previous post, I just bought a Dell laptop.

I bought a refurbished machine from Dell's Outlet, and so far, I am thrilled. The laptop looks like it is new, with no obvious signs of previous use. The keyboard is clean, the screen is bright and clear, and everything seems to work well.

My laptop isn't the latest edition Dell has to offer, but it is plenty quick enough to do the basic stuff I want to do. And the savings were huge, compared to a brand new machine. I got a 40GB HD, a DVD/CDRW drive, 1.6 GHz Pentium M, Intel wireless network card, 512MB RAM, a Firewire port, and a 1 year warranty for about $700.

WinXP + SBC DSL BSOD Bug Fix [Computers]

I am posting this so that other people can find it easily.

I just bought a Dell laptop, running Windows XP SP2. After installing the SBC Yahoo! DSL software, my computer would no longer boot. My machine would stop at the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD), with the cryptic message, "STOP 0x0000007E".

Apparently, there is an incompatabilty between a piece of software that SBC's DSL package installs and the Dell Windows XP load. The problem software is Visual IP Insight, and specifically, the driver file IPVNMON.SYS.

To fix the problem, I booted into safe mode (hit F8 when Windows starts starting) command prompt. I renamed the file C:\Windows\system32\drivers\ipvnmon.sys to

Dell has an article on this subject, here. There is also a thread about it here.

Jalopnik on Csere

Unexpectedly, Jalopnik posts a piece of literary criticism, on Csaba Csere's review of the Veyron.