Can car dealers please pair the buyers phones with their car?

I don’t know what it is but it seems to me, at least down here in South Florida, that as soon as a person enters a car they think that is the best time to start making a phone call and chatting away.  Never mind that there are countless tales of distracted driving because of cell phone use while driving.  I’ll admit that I do it sometimes myself but in my case I always make sure I’m using my hands free bluetooth connection which both of my cars are equipped with.  I would say the majority of the people that I observe in my community still drive around with their phone pressed to their face as they try and navigate traffic, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, and what really kills me is that they are driving late model cars that are all equipped with hands free bluetooth.  I should know, I’ve rented most of the cars these people are driving during my travels and even the most basic model has bluetooth pairing.  How else am I supposed to be able to use my GPS and get tunes from my phone?

Most municipalities have already made it a law to not talk and drive but enforcement is lacking and mainly because its not worth it to pull over people for talking and driving.  Most of the time its an offence tacked onto another one like speeding, running a red light/stop sign, or crashing the car into something.  When I purchased my car, the one thing that I liked coming from the dealership was the offer to help pair my phone with my car.  Granted being the tech savvy guy that I am, I said no I’ll do it myself later.  However looking back at it, it should be one of the things that are required before you are even allowed to drive a car off a lot mainly due to safety for other drivers and probably should be included in the hand over checklist.  Pairing a phone literally takes less than five minutes and this should be something that should be insisted on at every purchase.  If the person doesn’t use it, thats really shame on them for not following the law but at least the dealerships can say they did what they could to help the buyer be informed about their car.

Maybe one of the reasons people skip that part is because buying a car takes at least 4 hours of sitting there at the dealership.  Really it shouldn’t take that long.  If the car needs extra prep time or crap like that, tell us as the customer “we need to do X” and have us come back later in the day or the next day and make sure the finance guy is ready to sign all the paper work.  Both of my cars took forever to buy mainly because I was waiting for the finance guy.  If thats the bottleneck, staff that area up and don’t skimp, make the process a revolving door, you get people in and you get them out fast with their new car.  If they spend less time mulling around the dealership (btw that doesn’t lead to people buying accessories or any other BS like that dealers) they might be inclined to take those extra 5 minutes to pair their phones and maybe learn a little something about how awesome the conveniences in their new car are.

OK rant over, at least for now.  I just have to be extra vigilant to avoid dim wits that don’t use hands free in their cars.

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So I got a dog….

This past thanksgiving weekend the family and I drove up to the Tampa area to pick up our new puppy. She is a Coton de Tulear that was 8 weeks old and was tri colored although most of her fur will turn white as she grows older. The breed was very important to us because of allergies and the Coton is supposed to be hypoallergenic and so far so good. My daughter gave the puppy the name Melody, after Melody the Music Pet from Little Einsteins. She’s a very playful ball of fluff but gets tired easily. She did very well in her carrier on the drive back home from Tampa and also on her first visit to the vet the very next day. Like all puppies that leave their litters she cried the first night since she has never really been away from her litter or her mom and now she is with 3 humans and no other dogs to play with.

I give lots of props to my wife who has to spend most of the day with Melody. She is the primary care giver and playmate for my daughters puppy and she’s doing a great job of it. I’m glad that my daughter is happy with her puppy and is doing a good job trying to be responsible by coming with us to take her outside so Melody can go to the bathroom and a walk. As she gets older she’ll be able to take her out on her own and we might let Melody sleep in her room. Having Melody does change things a lot since now we can’t be out for 8 hours a day and we have to consider what to do with her if we go on a vacation that involves flying. I’ve even changed some of the hotels we stay at because they are pet friendly so we can bring Melody along.

Even though I’m more of a cat person, I like having Melody around (what little time I’ve spent with her), I’m not enjoying cleaning up pee on my floors but since she’s a puppy she gets a pass for a while. She’s a fast learner and with the dog training we have coming up, I’m hoping she will learn some tricks too.

OG Apple Watch – Battery Draining :(

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I was one of the few, the proud, the crazy that purchased the original Apple Watch when it came out on launch day.  The picture above shows what it looks like now (I actually use the photo album watch face and not the one pictured) and I’ve upgraded the sport band to the link band (my wife is so awesome for getting it for me) and I use it every day at home and at work.  I’ve gone through all the different OS upgrades for the watch and its currently running on WatchOS 4.0.  The watch is starting to show its age since its kind of slow compared to just using my iPhone 7 but its still the best for notifications and maybe the quick text to someone.

Where I’m really starting to see some wear and tear is in battery life.  I’ve been using it for 2 years straight?  I can’t remember when I bought it but these days there seems to be a lot of battery drain and I have started to see “Power Save” mode pop up as soon as 7PM.    That means the watch is barely getting through a 12 hour day on its current charge.  Thats not really acceptable.  I keep a charger with me while on the road to charge it up but I don’t keep it with me in my bag, I leave it at the hotel so I can charge up then.  I’m not really lost without the watch, I always have my iPhone handy with me but its just a minor annoyance.  Doing work outs with the watch drains the battery further and frankly I only work out when I’m actually at home but still, it reduces battery life considerably when in use.

I don’t know what my solution will be if the battery starts to really stink.  My wife and I paid a decent chunk of change for the watch and I like the notifications and everything but I might be going back to a regular watch if it dies.  While I love having the ability to get those notifications or send a quick text, its not enough to buy another one at the price I paid.  I can technically use the same watch bands as any other Apple Watch as long as its a 42mm so there is some savings but I don’t think anyone will buy the watch from me.  I have scratched it up a lot over the years but it still works pretty well for a 1st gen device.  I haven’t explored replacing the battery but at that point I want to get a newer watch because the new ones are water proof, faster, and ummm…. I think thats it really.

Anyway, I’m going to continue to use it till it dies.  I’m hoping that they keep the watch humming along with software updates and start to get rid of more of the bloatware that seems to be creeping into Apple OS’s of late.  It’s only noon and I’m down to 70%, hopefully it will last the rest of the day and my work out tonight.

Nintendo Switch is Pretty Cool

I went to GameStop (something I haven’t done in ages) with the wife to kill some time.  While there, we saw the Nintendo Switch which was set up with some demo games.  There were two games in particular that I wanted to try.  The first one was the new Mario game that’s just like Super Mario Galaxy.  They allowed you to play a single level but that was enough to get me hooked.  Mario can now toss his hat as a weapon or use it to take over certain enemies which you have to do to progress in the game.  There was also parts of the level that were totally retro that took you back to some original Super Mario gameplay, also required to progress in the level.  All in all, it was pretty bad ass and I don’t even play a lot of Mario games, I was more of a Sonic fan myself.

The other game that I played was the latest Mario Kart.  I’m a sucker for Mario Kart, I own the ones for the GameCube and the Wii.  The game play was like the other ones but with improved graphics and game play naturally.  I played a single level of the game and it was a lot of fun to race around as Toad.  I was really close to winning the race but some computer player hit me with a red shell and inked me so I was only able to get 3rd.  All I could think was “wow that was cool” after the game was done. 

There were some videos of other games out for the Switch that I might want to get but I’ll have the same problem I have now with the 360, I don’t have time at home to play video games.  The cool thing about the Switch is that it’s portable so I guess I could play it on the plane or while at my hotel.  It would cut into my binge watching by my brain would definitely be stimulated.  There’s definitely something fun about playing video games using a regular console with a controller.  It made me want to try playing some of the games I have at home.  I almost got out my 360 but ran out of time to play since I had to leave for work a day early.  As much as I want one I can’t justify the $300 price tag for it.  Maybe when the next Nintendo comes out I’ll get one since it should be nice and cheap by then.  I should introduce my daughter to console gaming, maybe she’ll like it as much as I did when I was her age.

This was my last week in San Francisco (I didn’t know it was on Monday) and as usual I went to Hertz Presidents Circle for my car.  Normally I get an Infiniti Q50 or a Nissan Maxima but this week there were two Camero’s just sitting there!  One was a hard top and the other was a convertible.  Well, when given that sort of choice I’m going to pick the convertible.  Most would have considered it too cold to put the top down but not me!!  I had the top down the entire week except for when I parked the car for an extended period of time.

The color was a very nice charcoal color and I had the added benefit of it being a SS so there was a V8 under the hood with tons of power.  However in Cali, you can’t drive fast! There is so much traffic or the roads so small with low speed limits that this car was definitely wasted because the sheer power was always contained.  The car also drinks a ton of gas!  I used more gas with this car than any other that I’ve driven in recent memory.  The layout of the car was pretty decent, I didn’t like that the seats didn’t recline as far back as I like but that was a small thing overall.  I’m pretty sure I was the only crazy person in all of Sunnyvale that was driving around with the top down blasting music going to work.  I saw a few convertibles but they all had their tops up, granted it was around 60 degrees out but with the heat turned all the way up and with my North Face jacket on, I barely felt the cold except on my face during those rare moments I could go fast on the 101.

The steering wheel layout on the Camero was pretty nice, everything was within reach and the gauges were actually digital, they just looked analog which I thought was totally cool.  They also provided a little bit of nostalgia because I was able to see the battery charge level which used to be standard on most cars but was dropped in the last 15 years.  Even though its a little hard to see, the temperature controls were on the center console vents to control the temperature and fan speed.  It took a little while for me to figure it out but once I got the hang of it, it made driving in the Northern Cali cold that much better with the top down.  The car has some crazy power under the hood, I was able to floor it just once on the 101 for less than 5 seconds to get past some really slow traffic and it was soooo fun and having the top down made it that much better.  I think I want a convertible or something in the future but I’d also still want to keep my motorcycle too.

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By far the best feature on the car was that it had CarPlay!  This was my first exposure to CarPlay and I was pretty excited when I discovered that the car had it.  I always carry a lot of lightning cables with me and I used one in the car so that I could hook up my iPhone 7 to the car to enable CarPlay.  The setup was really simple, just plug it in, touch the touch screen for CarPlay and the interface comes up.  In the picture you can see that I was using it for navigation using Apple Maps.  I know there is a lot of hate for Apple Maps compared to Waze and Google Maps, both of which aren’t available in CarPlay but I found the Apple Maps experience pretty good. I was able to select my destination and it would use like a regular GPS that is included in a car with the only difference being that its really running from my iPhone.  I was able to try out Pandora, the Music App, and Amazon Music app as well.  All 3 worked flawlessly and also worked with the steering wheel controls of the car.  I was able to use the touch screen to look for things that I had previously listened to or if it was on a list.  I was only able to do search by using my iPhone but I’m sure there is a way to do it from the screen but I’m sure its hard to find so you don’t do it while you drive.

I definitely want my next car for the family to have the option of CarPlay or Android Auto in it.  I find that having that is better than having a dedicated infotainment system in the car.  It will probably be upgradeable although if its anything like the interface Tesla uses, I could be happy with that too since it also receives over the air upgrades to enable new features.

CarPlay is awesome, especially in a Camaro Convertible!

Passing on the Home Assistant

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I’ve been reading and watching tons of reviews on various home assistant devices from the Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod (what little info exists for it since it hasn’t been released yet), and the Google Home to see if this is something that would help me when I’m actually at home and so far I can’t justify the cost of having one.  I tried doing a few experiments when I’m at home or on the road with just Siri on my iPhone since I have enabled “Hey Siri”.  The functionality works pretty well overall over the iPhone 7 but I use it very infrequently and so do people in my household.  I guess the reason that I find it so useless is that we don’t really have a smart home so there is nothing for the virtual assistant to actually control.  For being an IT guy my home is pretty basic.  No lights are controlled by WeMo or Belkin, garage still uses a regular radio remote, thermostat is just on a simple schedule and doesn’t have wifi connectivity, and on and on and on…..

My family doesn’t constantly have a TV or computer on (maybe I do, I keep my MacBook Pro on the entire weekend even though the start up time is insanely fast) but I’m not in front of it doing stuff like surfing the net, creating junk or whatever.  Music…. ha!  The only time music is really listened to is in the car so no need for constant Spotify, Pandora, or any other music streaming service that would compel me to call out into thin air “OK Google, play me some Ice Cube on Pandora!”.  I also don’t have a huge ass bank account that I can call out “Hey Alexa buy me (insert product here)” and have it delivered to my door.  This is my opinion but the home assistant doesn’t have a good use case in my life that isn’t fulfilled by my iPhone, iPad, or my MacBook Pro.  Besides I’m more of a visual person and just hearing my commands obeyed (granted that sounds pretty cool when I think about it) doesn’t justify spending mucho cash on a speaker with a mic that has to be constantly plugged in just to function.

A poor mans version of this can be done with a UE Boom (I think I haven’t tried it but if you’re connected to a phone with Bluetooth it should be possible) which I do have.  It’s wireless and when connected to my iPhone or any other device it sounds awesome!  I can’t do all the cool commands that Alexa or Google home can do but I don’t really have a desire to start yelling in my home to a computer.  There’s still something weird about doing that but maybe its because I’m not sold on the benefits.  I ask Siri during the week about the weather but I can’t ask it whats on my calendar or anything like that since work secures the data so much I have to check my phone to see what I’m up to that day.

I think my home will need to become a lot ‘smarter’ before I consider investing in a Home Assistant.  These things are sort of not expensive but since its over $100 I take a long time to ponder getting something that expensive.  I also have to clear it with the house CFO before making such a purchase and for right now it doesn’t fit with our lifestyle.  Until everything can be controlled by a single service like Google (I do have 2 Chromecasts already), I don’t want to have a mishmash of device types infesting my house.  I’m already considering if I should ditch my Apple TV’s in favor of the Chromecast since I mostly use streaming from my Plex server rather than mirroring my phones screen.  Since everything still works I won’t retire them yet but there’s going to be a point when they won’t work with my current phone or my MacBook Pro and thats when I’ll start killing off technology.  One area where I think I could make my home really ‘smart’ would be all my light switches, that would be neat to control using my voice but at $50 a switch thats an expensive proposition, and it would increase my laziness so instead of getting up I’d just yell at my home.  Sounds great for when I get old(er).  I guess I have found a use case but one that won’t be useful to me for another 20 years.

Unless there is some HUGE leap in the home assistant area, I’m still going to pass.  Siri on my iPhone is just fine.

Bringing my 10 year old desktop back to life with an SSD

Way back in 2007 I bought a desktop computer from Beat Buy.  I nice shiny desktop with a quad core processor and 3GB of RAM.  It even had 2 hard drives that equaled 500GB of storage!  Being it was the early 2000’s I was still of the mindset that tower computers were best.  At the time it was awesome, I had Windows XP Media Center installed and it was my media hub with all my music, videos, and files.

Fast forward about 10 years and a hard drive replacement later and the computer is still chugging along but at a very slow pace compared to my 2017 MacBook Pro.  I installed Windows 10 Professional but even with a clean install it took forever to boot up and launch programs and that’s with almost no programs installed.  Chrome was a dog and took its sweet time to load web pages.  Some of my past posts have chronicled how I put an SSD into my 2011 MacBook Pro but since that computer died, I took out the SSD and just had it lying around.  I tried using it as a backup for my NAS but it was too small.  I then decided to clone my Windows computer but how to do it?

Google to the rescue! I found an article that had some instructions on how to use Clonezilla (which is free) to clone a hard drive to an SSD.  A lot of the commands were like old DOS prompts that I experienced throughout the years but I made a few errors trying to do the clone.  

Major Fail: I should have unhooked all of the hard drives to prevent cloning to the wrong drive.  I had a backup of my data drive but as luck would have it I cloned my Windows dricento the data drive.  That kinda pissed me off.

The second time around I unhooked everything except for what I was going to use and it worked like a charm.  All my apps and settings were there and things launched like lightning comparatively speaking to using a regular hard drive.  However I did notice that the drive partitioned itself!  Weak!  I really wanted a full 1TB system drive but after thinking about it, it really didn’t matter.  It’s not like I was going to keep data on my SSD, that’s what my NAS and cloud storage accounts were for. I also had a backup which I’m probably never going to access since it’s all old stuff that I may one day look at.  After rummaging through some settings I set up the data partition and decided to do some speed comparisons (more user experience than actual data collection and comparisons). 

The boot up to Windows 10 was awesomely fast and the login was almost instantaneous!  I launched Chrome and didn’t have any real issues.  The programs that load on start up still took a little time but it was way faster than before.  Now am I going to use my desktop over my MacBook Pro?  Probably not since it’s in the office and I mostly work in the dining room these days.  The MacBook Pro is also still way faster and I’ve gotten used to using the touchpad and my gestures for navigation.  It will benefit my wife who uses the desktop more than I do.  At least now she will be able to get things done quickly rather than waiting for things to load.  Using the SSD has definitely extended the life of my desktop, maybe it will run for another 10 years or until Microsoft stops supporting the hardware in it.