The VW California looks awesome, why can’t it come to the US?

Recently I’ve been looking at RV’s just for fun.  I’ve been impressed with the amount of junk that can fit into a van to make it semi-livable for a night or two or just to make things more comfortable on those long road trips.  I take a lot of trips to Orlando it seems and while the Odyssey is pretty awesome for that purpose, I found this gem from VW.  VW has been known for ages for making camper vans and they used to sell them here in the US extensively (remember those micro buses in the 1970’s with the pop up roof?). Well this is the latest evolution of that van.  It’s a VW pop up camper van and has a ton of features like a built in outdoor table and hide away outdoor chairs.  This thing has almost everything that an RV has except for the bathroom part (too small to fit in a shower and toilet).  The best feature I think is the pop up roof to add extra bedding,  My daughter would totally love that if we could just stop at a rest stop and take a nap in the van for a little while before progressing on our trip.  I would personally love to have this thing to replace the Odyssey.  The kicker is that this vehicle won’t be shipped to the US.  The cost is prohibitive ($100K give or take) and for that amount you can get a full fledged RV like the Winnebago Travato 59K which does have a bathroom but no pop up roof.   The video in this post is the one I watched that shows all the features of the new VW California.  Too bad it won’t be here, they need to drop the price to like $60K, maybe then they’ll move some units over here.


Broke down and got the Apple Watch 3

After much delay I finally decided to get an Apple Watch 3.  It was mainly driven by the reduced price that I could get through work (who can say no to $150 off?) and the fact that my original Apple Watch starts running out of power at 6PM.  I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted about this before and that I wouldn’t get a new watch till number 4 came out.  I got the exact same watch as my wife which is the Apple Watch Nike Edition, the difference being is that mine is a 42MM and hers is 38MM.  It’s very nice that I can go ahead and re-use my link band from the original Apple Watch, it doesn’t look as snazzy as when I had it with the chrome finished Apple Watch edition but it still looks good enough to me.

I got the LTE version and I might be activating the LTE on it just to give it a try.  my wife has the LTE edition too but she doesn’t want to go running outside, too many snakes and other vermin in my neighborhood that she doesn’t want to deal with but I want to use mine for going out and walking the dog or going to the nice walking area outside of my hotel without my phone but still be able to get my text messages.  I’ve watched reviews saying that the LTE is hit or miss but that was a while ago when the watch first came out and there have been a few updates since then.  I’m sure its better now but I just don’t feel like dealing with the $10 a month that I’mg going to have to pay.  We’ll see how useful it is, I think I have a month to try it out and see how it is.

So far, the watch is noticeably faster than my original one, thats to be expected since its 3 years behind in terms of technology and speed.  The battery part was never its strong suit but the increased battery life of this Apple Watch is just awesome.  My wife doesn’t make fun of me anymore when my watch turns off, even after putting it on power save mode.  Siri is also way more useful too, it actually responds in a decent time frame rather than just sitting there spinning and then timing out since it can’t figure out what I wanted.  Most of the stock apps are also very good too now, I’ve made good use of the work out app during this weekend and I’ve been closing my rings without having to worry about the watch running out of power as it counts steps or how many times I’ve done the water rower.

I have to say that I’m happy with my purchase of the Watch 3.  I shouldn’t have waited so long but I was skeptical of upgrading.  I’ve been trying to reduce my upgrade cycle, not really because I can’t afford the new toy, but its more evaluating if I need the latest and greatest toy (case in point my iPhone 7 and iPad Air 2).  Both still work great, although I want something that can use an Apple Pencil.  The iPhone I won’t be replacing until maybe 2019, unless something truly WOW comes out in September with the newer phones.  Now I just have to wait for the box so I can recycle my old Apple Watch, this way I’ll at least recoup another $75.  Money is money after all!


2018 Jeep Wrangler is meh…..

I had the good fortune to change things up a bit this week. I was able to get a Jeep Wrangler Sahara as a rental. I normally get a GM because of CarPlay but since this was available I thought, why not its supposed to be a fun car to drive. The specs are on the internet so I won’t really go into that but needless to say, I’m not very impressed with the Jeep as a car. I guess its because I value speed rather than off-road capability. This car is SLOW. The pick up is pretty terrible compared to my minivan and my sedan that I have at home. I guess its because I’m spoiled by the power that both cars have and the fact that they both can get up to 70 mph in short order.

The doors are a pain in the ass, you need a lot of force to close them. You really got put some oomph and slam the doors closed. It’s hard to see but there are running boards on this thing but they’re too high, when you use them you then have to duck into the Jeep. Talk about terrible user design! I’ll admit, the Jeep looks really cool but its not comfortable, gets terrible gas mileage, can’t accelerate fast on the highway, there’s really not a lot to like about this thing.

I would like to take the top off but that requires 2 people to accomplish when it has a hard top. I’m glad for my Hertz Presidents Circle status, it gives me the opportunity to try out some cool cars sometimes. I’ve wanted a Jeep in the past but now after actually driving it for a few days, I can say that I’ll never own one of these things. Along with most American cars I’ve driven as rentals. It would seem that the cars I like the least come from Chrysler (the 200 is an abomination that shouldn’t be sold to the general public). I think I’ve been fine with the Dodge Charger and maybe their pick up trucks but thats about all.

I’ll keep running around for the rest of the week in the Jeep, it was funny but I knew after the first 5 minutes of driving the Jeep I hated the thing. Too bad it was too late to return it to Hertz to get another car. Let’s see what car I get next week, maybe it will be something like the Infiniti Q60 I got that time at Melville NY or maybe I’ll give the new Camry a spin.

Driving the Infiniti Q60 3.0T AWD…. what?

Last week I had the pleasure to drive around in an Infiniti Q60.  My good fortune is attributed to landing really late at night and there not being any other cars in the Hertz lot and my Presidents Circle status.  One of the things that are crazy about Japanese cars is their branding.  Lots of letters and numbers in the title so when you talk to someone it sounds like you’re a scientist or something.  Even I have a hard time telling people what it is I rented since it doesn’t have a cool name that stands out, just a model number for the most part.

Anyway, this car was really FAST!  It had a 3.0 turbo under the hood but since I had to drive on Long Island and the LIE, there was no where to really test out all the muscle under the hood.  This car is truly wasted in the NY Metro area since the speed limit is 55mph, there are cops everywhere, and the pot holes in the road just ruin the otherwise very smooth ride.  I will say that climbing hills was a lot of fun, just slam on the gas and zip up to the top and leave the little Hyundai tailgating me in the dust!  I don’t know how many gears the transmission had but it had a nice manual mode which is also wasted in NY Metro and I appreciated that it wasn’t paddle shifters but the actual floor shifter that is used to move from gear to gear.

As with most sports cars, the interior is cramped but at least the trunk was big enough to hold my backpack and my rollerboard suitcase with ease unlike the Camero SS convertible I had that one time in California.  There IS a feature to have a map but since the SD card with the map data isn’t in the car it just showed a blank screen, slightly annoying and there was also no CarPlay.  I had my phone mount which made it not so bad but the infotainment needs an update to support CarPlay or Android Auto.  I guess overall not a bad car as a rental but I still wouldn’t buy one myself.  Surprisingly I still like running around in my Honda Accord or Honda Odyssey than most of the cars that I end up renting.  Too bad Hertz doesn’t invest in Honda’s as rental cars, I think a lot of people would like renting those cars compared to some of the ones they offer currently.

I wonder what car I’ll be able to rent this week….. another Chevy Malibu or Impala perhaps?  At least those have CarPlay 🙂

NAVIGON is no more!

Curious thing when I was checking my NAVIGON app last week, there was a message that I sort of just clicked through but it bothered me so I checked the website, to my surprise Garmin decided to kill all their iOS navigation apps. I have had NAVIGON on my phone since the days of the 3GS and it used to be my go to app for navigation in my car. Apparently I’m allowed to use it for another 2 years until there will be no more map updates. That’s kind of sad but it’s expected since in the age of unlimited data, you only need Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.

I remember the software being a crazy price. I think I paid $79.00 for all of North America. Truthfully it was one of my better purchases due to all the travel I do for work. At the time maps kinda sucked on the iPhone and NAVIGON was more accurate. Over the years I got frustrated with the software due to its interface and lack of search capability. In recent years I’ve relied on 3 apps for navigation and with the final death of NAVIGON I’ll be able to reclaim about 100mb of space on my phone and a tile space.

I’ll admit that having an offline map is useful but Google has this and I have another app called Ulmon that does offline maps. It doesn’t really do turn by turn but I won’t get lost either which is the main point. For it’s time, NAVIGON was freaking awesome and prevented me from getting lost most of the time. Before I had unlimited data it was useful to have he map preloaded on the phone so I wouldn’t use up my data plan. I just might keep the software on my phone for the next two years mainly because I paid for it so I might as well use it if the need arises. By then I should be ready to upgrade my iPhone 7 to something else.

Switching to NordVPN

Recently I found a new deal on Mashable about a service called NordVPN for a 2 year subscription for $69. That’s a pretty decent deal in my book. I have been using Private Internet Access for the last 2-3 years as my VPN provider which I used on my NAS, computers, and iOS devices. I was generally happy with PIA but the one thing that totally sold me was that I could be on NordVPN and also watch Netflix. To me that was one of its greatest weaknesses, that and I could never get the OpenVPN protocol to work right on my NAS for some reason. After some initial hiccups with the setup on my NAS and getting my account set up, everything seems to be working pretty well.

I’ve noticed that my iPhone 7 will always stay connected to the VPN now rather than the VPN stopping on its own. That’s definitely a nice feature. I don’t necessarily need to be connected all the time to the VPN but its nice that it doesn’t turn itself off. The speed with which the VPN works is about the same as PIA, apparently my connection goes through a double VPN so if one VPN server fails, its already on a backup server too so my connection never drops. Since its a seamless thing, its not something that I can see or review. Using the app is a cinch on all my devices, its not specific really on what city I’m connecting to but for the most part I’ve been running some Whois queries on the web about my IP address and I seem to be connecting to the closest server to my current location, that’s probably to ensure that my speed isn’t really hindered by distance. I can select a specific country but not the server. The place I do that is with my NAS which requires an OpenVPN profile to be imported.

Overall I would say that I like this service more than PIA so far. I’ve only had it for about 2 weeks but I’m locked in for 2 years so if I’m ever dissatisfied I’m going to be stuck with the service for a while. I’m sure more features will come to the service to keep things nice and fresh but the most important part for me is keeping things secure. Oh and one of the best parts that I’ve discovered about the service? I can access my banking website just fine now through the VPN rather than being blocked. Now that to me is a game changer on not only keeping myself secure but able to do my personal business while using public hotspots.

I have too much GoPro Footage

GoPro Hero Session

I got this little guy about 3 years ago to try and take some action cam footage while I was away on vacation.  I received it as part of a package deal in which at 32GB card was included.  I upgraded that to a pair of 2 64GB cards and I think thats half of the problem I’m now encountering.  Due to the pair of fairly large micro SD cards that I have I take a lot of footage and most of it is crappy.  I’m too lazy to go through all of it so I end up transferring it to one of my external drives for later review which is something that I don’t really do.

I’ve filled up close to have a terrabyte of storage already with pictures and videos and its gotten to a point that some of this stuff just has to go.  I’ve even considered getting new NAS drives which would run me about $500, while that would help me in other areas this really wouldn’t help me unless I start doing reviews of my footage.  I’ll admit I’m a digital pack rat, I’ll save footage because some day I might want to view it.  I’m also a bit lazy in constructing my videos into smaller videos with just highlights from multiple sources.  While its really easy to do using iMovie, getting the video to my iPhone to do the edit (I’m not on my MacBook a lot during the week due to work).

The camera itself is pretty good, I wish it had image stabilization on it and the voice activation part as well so I don’t have to actually hit the button on top of the unit.  Thats just small inconveniences, it doesn’t warrant me going out and getting an entirely new GoPro.  Although I will admit that having those two features would be pretty bad ass.  Maybe I’ll save my pennies for a GoPro Hero 6.  I could use it for a few of my upcoming trips thats for sure.  One thing I am sure of, I might take my MacBook on my next vacation and a hard drive or two to store all the footage so I can start making some movies.  I mean technically I can keep it directly on my MacBook Pro, it has 1TB of storage and I’ve barely scratched the surface but I also don’t want to do it to keep my footage off a computer.

I’ll have to start going through the footage again soon, right now GoPro’s app Quik is downloading 64GB of junk that I’ve shot in the last year or so to one of my external drives.  I need to see what space I can free up, I think some of the oldest footage is of stuff like my daughters soccer practice and she’s not really going to watch that stuff (although maybe I should make it into a small video and email it to my daughter).  OK rant over, time to get some shut eye so I can do the rest of the laundry tomorrow and pack up for another thrilling week in NJ.  I’d bring my GoPro but there isn’t anything interesting in NJ worth shooting any footage and taking up previous hard drive space.