Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Return of the Double Nickel?

New Jersey Gov. Corzine is considering re-instituting the 55mph speed limit in New Jersey to reduce fuel consumption.

I think it would work, but people would hate it.

This is another sign that the price of gasoline is not as big an issue as the media and politicians are making it out to be. Everyone knows that driving fast eats more fuel (exponentially). Here in Michigan, however, driving any slower than 75mph on the freeway is considered quite rude.

When people start driving 60mph in 65mph zones, that is when you know that the price of fuel is really hurting them.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dell DJ Ditty Mini-Review

I got a great deal on a Dell DJ Ditty flash mp3 player. I figured I could use it as a flash USB drive, and once in a while for the FM radio and MP3 player. After a few hours of fiddling with it, here are my impressions:
  • The Good:
    • Sound quality is good
    • Battery life in MP3 or FM mode is good
    • Design is sharp
    • Can be used as a USB hard drive
    • Can be had for cheap on eBay, or as a Dell give-away
  • The Bad:
    • No playlist support
    • Displays ID3 tags, but CAN NOT NAVIGATE BY ALBUM OR ARTIST. This is a MAJOR flaw.
    • Small display
  • The Verdict:
    • Use this as a flash drive with MP3, FM capabilities. Or use it like an Apple iPod Shuffle, with no regard to music navigation. Don't use it as your front line MP3 player, you will be disappointed.
Note to Dell: You had better issue some firmware that lets users skip albums/artists, or you are not going to get anywhere in this market.

UPDATE: I used Dell's support chat to try to find out about skipping albums/artists. I apparently was chatting with a fellow in India. Frustrating, but funny.

0:34:18 AMSystem Welcome (real name removed) ...
0:34:18 AMSystem Connecting to server. Please wait...
0:34:18 AMSystem Thank you for using Dell Chat, a representative will be with you soon.
0:34:18 AMSystem Initial Question/Comment: Can I skip tracks on my Ditty by artist/album?
0:57:24 AMSystem You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat
0:57:24 AMSystem Connected with Rahul
0:57:28 AMRahul Thank you for contacting Dell Hardware Warranty Support. My name is Rahul and my rep ID number is (removed). May I have your telephone number, along with the area code?
0:58:12 AMYou (removed)
1:00:20 AMRahul Thank you for the information.
1:02:12 AMRahul Yes, there is a Rewind/Skip Back Button on your dj.
1:03:00 AMRahul On the right side of your dj, do you see the Lanyard Attachment ?
1:03:03 AMYou I can only seem to use it to skip one song at a time... is it possible to skip to the next album or next artist?
1:05:15 AMRahul yes,
1:05:30 AMRahul Please refer to the steps below:
1:05:41 AMRahul On the right side of your dj:
1:05:50 AMRahul 1. USB Connector - Connects your Dell DJ Ditty to a computer to transfer data files or tracks, and charges the battery.
2. Lanyard Attachment - Connects Lanyard
3. Rewind/Skip Back Button - Moves to start of current track or goes to previous track. Holding down the button rewind within a track.
4. Play/Pause Button - Starts or pauses a track.
5. Fast Forward/Skip Forward Button - Moves to the end of the current track or goes to next rack. Holding down the button moves forward within a track.
6. Volume/Scroll/Select Dial - Increases or decreases volume. Scroll to an item in the menu list. Press in to select menu item. Pressing and Holding the button in will lock or unlock the player.
1:07:10 AMRahul I apologize what i mean to say that these are the only features available on the dj.
1:07:13 AMYou This is a common capability of most MP3 players. I can't figure out how to make the DJ Ditty do it.
1:07:26 AMYou I see.
1:08:02 AMYou Rahul, would it be possible to put in an offiical request to the firmware group in charge of the Ditty to add this capability: skip album, skip artist?
1:08:52 AMYou You see, the lack of this simple feature renders the Ditty UNCOMPETITIVE with most other MP3 playes, except of course for the execrable Apple iPod Nano, which is JUNK.
1:09:53 AMRahul At this point, what i assure you that i will surely pass on your valuable concerns of the issue to our engineering team.
1:10:03 AMRahul I apologize for the inconvenience this matter may have caused to you. We value you as our customer and your satisfaction is
1:10:03 AMRahul very important for us.
1:10:53 AMRahu I can really understand the situation that you are facing with this issue. Had I been in your place, I would have been feeling the same as you are feeling.
1:12:49 AMRahul Sir, Is there anything else I can assist you with apart from the current issue that you are facing?
1:14:52 AMYou No, I have communicated what I wanted to. Thanks.
1:15:07 AMSystem The session has ended!

Update: I did write "iPod Nano" but I meant to slam the iPod Shuffle, which is similar to the DJ Ditty but has no display or FM radio. The Nano is nice, but expensive, and also has no FM radio.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Truth About Gas Prices

A nice, compact article from USA Today about the economics behind rising summer gas prices here.

Some highlights:
  • Refining capacity is tight, and not all production lost due to the hurricanes is back online
  • Reformulation with ethanol instead of MTBE is raising prices
  • Fears of instability in Nigeria, Iran, and Venezuela add about $20/barrel to the price of oil
  • Speculation on commodities markets drives up the price as well
  • Oil companies are not gouging customers, but are making large profits while passing on the high price to consumers
  • Even with prices around $3/gallon, Americans aren't really changing their driving habits or car buying choices by much.
  • Federal and State taxes add an average of $0.46 per gallon, with large variations in state taxes.
So, how could we get lower gas prices? (My thoughts, not in article)
  • Production:
    • More exploration, more refining capacity. Drill in ANWR, drill offshore. Encourage refinery development.
    • But Democrats, "moderate" Republicans, and Greenies are against this, so not much is happening to increase domestic supply.
    • Depose Hugo Chavez, install a pro-capitalist government that will increase production. Nurture Iraqi oil production.
  • Regulation:
    • Force a common national fuel standard, or at least a split California/Federal two-formula standard to simplify fuel blending.
    • Have the EPA relax emissions regulations on diesel engines, to allow low cost diesel vehicles.
    • But California ARB and EPA have a higher priority on clean air than on fuel economy.
  • Conservation:
    • Americans could drive less, or buy smaller cars. Carpools.
    • But not a popular choice, apparently--witness weak sales of large hybrids, solid sales of pickup trucks and new GM SUVs.
  • Taxation:
    • Federal and State fuel taxes could be lowered, or deductions added for middle to low income taxpayers.
    • Yeah, just try to pry that dollar out of Uncle Sam's deathgrip!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Video: Nurburgring Narrated

I found this on Google Video, a nice video of one lap around Germany's famous Nurburgring track, with running commentary.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


MPH magazine is no more. Which is too bad, because fresh competition keeps the established rags (Crap & Drivel, Motor Bland, Road & Hack) from getting too complacent. I was never a fan of MPH's T&A habit, but I did like their light, witty style.

Just for fun, I went to their web page (a zombie, it seems) and filled out the free trial subscription form. I wonder if anything wil happen?

I hope that Dave Thomas and crew keep some sort of web magazine alive--as good as they are, Autoblog and Jalopnik can use some good solid competition.

Slow Motion Train Wreck?

I saw Ford's latest sales numbers on BlueOvalNews recently. Battling insomnia, I took a look. Despite Ford's attempt to put a cheerful spin on the numbers, I see some very disturbing trends which should rattle any Ford fans who are paying attention.
  • Jaguar is catatonic*. Nothing subtle here, -41% sales from Q1 2005. They need some product, and the need it soon. Sales of the recently redesigned flagship, the aluminium bodied XJ are off 40%. The X-Type and S-Type shouldn't even be discussed in polite company.
  • The nearly forgotten Taurus sold more units, 55,833, than Fusion + Five Hundred (22,962 + 29,845 = 52,807). This had better change, or... The Fusion and 500 were supposed to replace the Taurus, and mark the beginning of Ford's competitiveness in the car business. I hate to sound like TTAC, but this is starting to look like a disaster.
  • The Mustang is selling at about the same rate as the Focus. That is, Ford is letting the Focus wither. The Focus should be a bread-and-butter car for Ford. The Mustang is nice, but it is more of a toy, not a car for the masses.
  • Freestyle sales are firming up. This is good, Ford is probably recapturing some customers who are dumping the Explorer (-25.4% vs Q1 2005).
  • The Explorer, a high-profit vehicle, is not doing well after a significant update. GM's Trailblazer/Envoy had a similar decline, but it was not updated in some time. Which means that Ford plowed millions of dollars into the Explorer update for very little return. There is a pattern here.
  • Sales of the Escape declined by 4.2%, even with the ramp up of Escape Hybrid production. Another example of Ford letting a key product slide for too long before an improvement--everyone else (Honda, Toyota) has since redesigned their compact SUVs.
  • Sales of the Freestar minivan have collapsed at a Jaguar-like pace: -34% from last year. Again, after a major update to the product, which included adding a new powertrain, structural changes, and an all new interior.
  • The F-series (F-150, F-250, etc.), which make up fully half of Ford's truck volume, showed an increase. This goes to show that fuel prices are not necessarily the driving factor in the sales of light trucks--product appeal is. Heavy trucks showed an even larger gain, +7%.
  • Volvo is not doing well, either. The new S40 declined by 4% instead of advancing. The new V50 was off by 27%. Even Volvos best seller, the XC90 SUV, which just got a Yamaha V8, slid by 2%. Some of this may be attributed to currency exchange issues, which make Volvos more expensive.
  • Land Rover's relatively new LR3 declined by 9.2%.
You can't really guess profitability from sales numbers, but from the trends, it looks like Ford is being kept afloat mostly by Mustang, F-series, and commercial fleets. This despite all the hoopla about "the year of the car". Management can make excuses about fuel prices hurting SUV sales, but then how they explain the decline of the Escape and the rise of the F-150? Recent redesigns of some key products did not appear to hold the line, while other segments such as small car and small SUV are being neglected.

How long can this continue?

*Get it? Jag? Cat...