In the past 8 months I’ve replaced no less than five separate hard disk drives, all SATA and all relatively modern vintages.  Not sure what’s happening, exactly, except that all but the most recent two were under warranty at the time.  Maybe the new Michigan climate isn’t compatible with long lived drive life?

 

It has been an interesting 24 hour period when it comes to vehicles.

Starting on 4/25, I sold the 2005 Infiniti FX45, my treasured commuting and skiing companion during the end of my California tenure.

Then on 4/26, I sold the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 coupe, my first true, new from the factory car and my weekend fun vehicle. It was my occasional valley carver and fun day toy.

Now I’m down to the current company vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LT truck.  It possesses neither of the FX’s or C6’s charms, but is a useful hauler of people and stuff.

I enjoyed my time with both the FX45 and C6, but I hope that I have helped them find good, new homes. Both will be missed.

 

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Doing a bit of time travel here, but it is worth noting that in 2013 I…

  • Left my Silicon Valley job, friends, aircraft and lifestyle behind
  • Moved to Detroit, Michigan
  • Joined the largest company I’ve ever worked for in a new-to-me industry
  • Sold my old town home
  • Bought a new home
  • Endured the worst winter that Michigan has seen in nearly 130 years

So, there’s all that happening in a single yearly post.

7-11 Slurpee

For some reason today, Labor Day, I decided that I had to have something from my childhood as a reward for the dusty work around the house that I performed. It seemed only fitting that this treat have some kind of Coca-Cola flavoring to it, since that is one of the most vivid and constant memories I had growing up. Problem is, I really dislike the way Coke tastes now in the USA, so hopping over to the local Safeway for a beverage certainly wouldn’t do.

First I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some Mexican Coke again. I live in California, I have a Costco membership, this should be no problem… except that it’s Labor Day, Costco is closed, and none of the Costco’s nearby carry the sugary drink any longer. Strike one.

Alright, how about that kiddie treat standby, the vulnerable Coke Slurpee? I asked Google Now where the nearest 7-11 store was and I headed out the door. Upon arriving, I searched around the store to find the magic machine of frozen drink deliciousness. Only once I got close to the machine did I discover the sad truth: the machine was broken, flashing, and leaking some kind of darkened ooze. The store clerk was of no use, simply repeating what the machine had already communicated and then returning to his headphones and music. Strike two.

I set off for yet another 7-11 location. I am now discovering in my search that it is far easier to find Starbucks locations than it is to find frozen wonder drinks. After driving around for another 8 or so minutes, I find the next frozen delivery den. Inside there is a working cola flavored Slurpee machine. I grab a cup, turn the switch and delight in the process of fulfilling my admittedly short term goal of Coke nirvana. After paying the clerk and walking out the door I take my first straw-full of Slurpee and…. I am disappointed.

All of this searching, driving and anticipating had raised my expectations to levels that were unsupportable. I was left with a mildly cola flavored, ice crystal drink and a series of questions about how I recall my childhood. Was the Slurpee always this tasteless and bland? Is my memory fading now such that I couldn’t recall the previous bouts of poor cola taste? Had the secret recipe changed somehow in the intervening years while I wasn’t watching?

I believe I’ve learned an important lesson here: lower expectations are better expectations. And that it’s probably better to buy Mexican Coke, some vanilla ice cream, and make my own concoctions at home. Figures.

I was told recently that I should be putting covering material across any gaps in the hinge areas of my aircraft control surfaces. That seemed very superficial to me, so I put off making these changes for several weeks. However, after flying the Extra 260 today with these modifications I am a believer… at least for this type of plane and flying.

It seems that by putting covering material over all gaps between the wing and ailerons at the hinge line, and eliminating all air gaps from this area, the control inputs and flight characteristics of the Extra are much crisper and happen more quickly than before. I performed the same modifications on the elevators and horizontal stabilizers as well, and again the control inputs seem to be much more noticeable than they were previously. Only the rudder and vertical stabilizer went untouched.

The covering job for this area certainly wasn’t of the highest quality, but the end result speaks for itself. Where the Extra 260 once was docile and slow on low control rates with a gap between the surfaces, now control inputs are fast, crisp and very predictable. I wouldn’t have said that a 1/8th or 1/16th gap between surfaces would mean that much to overall flight performance but I saw and felt today that on aerobatic aircraft, every gap does indeed matter.

It has been more than a year, but the 30cc Extra 260 flew again this past weekend. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to return, but a series of unfortunate events conspired to keep the airplane and I separated while it was repaired. Now, however, it seems to be close to full operational goodness, and I’m glad to have my hands on the controls again.

It was bound to happen at some point, but today is the day the T-28 met its demise while flying in my hands. Fittingly, it was a mid-air collision with another T-28 (and another former Bayside member) that ended its flying days so abruptly. Seems there are some things that EPP foam just can’t recover from, and of course I found this out the hard way.

Goodbye ParkZone T-28, I’ll miss you.

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Dear people of the internet, please help yourself out by verifying that the email address you sprinkle to every web site, sweepstakes form, shopping cart, government entity and social network is actually an address that belongs to you. I’ll even tell you how to do this, just follow these simple, basic steps:

  1. Open your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail) or web mail site (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc.)
  2. Create a new email message.
  3. In the “To:” field, type in the email address you give out to everyone online.
  4. In the “Subject:” field, type “This is just a test”.
  5. In the body of the email, put in a trivial bit of text that only you should know.  It could be something simple like “I have three cats” or “I really like chocolate bacon.”  It doesn’t matter what it says, it just has to be unique to you.
  6. Hit the “Send” button.
  7. Wait a few minutes.
  8. If you receive the email you just sent without any error messages and it looks exactly like what you typed in above, congratulations! You win at using the internet. The rest of this article is not for you.
  9. If you didn’t get a response back, wait another few hours. If you still didn’t get the message, you need to read on…
Generally speaking, I am a nice person to be around (or so some people have toldme). I try to help people out when I can and offer suggestions when people get stuck or need some assistance. This is a courtesy I often extend to people I encounter on the internet as well, but to be fair, I don’t know for certain that these so-called internet people are actually real.

Over the past year I have started getting an increasing and alarming amount of personal and private emails delivered to my Gmail address. Normally, when I see an email that clearly has nothing to do with me I delete it or mark it as spam and be on my way. But during the past 12 months some of these internet people have really been pushing the boundaries of what I would consider safe or secure information to share online.

In at least three separate occasions that I can recall, I was so worried about the outcome of these internet people not getting these private emails that I directly intervened by calling the sender (using that old school voice telephone technology) and letting them know that they most certainly did not reach their intended receiver.  In each of these cases the sender was shocked that I wasn’t the internet person in question and then asked me to verify that I was who I said I was.  After the disbelief sunk in, they asked me, sheepishly in many cases, to please delete the messages and disregard any further emails sent from their address.  But this isn’t the sad bit of this story.

The really terrible thing is that these internet people just keep using my email address as their own, and on some pretty important forms and sites.  A small sampling of these repeat offenders are:
  • A notice from your landlord that your rent check bounced and that eviction is imminent
  • An official letter from your university that you have been put on academic suspension and have been asked not to return
  • Multiple emails attempting to confirm your financial records for a car and home loan from your bank
  • Appointment emails setting up and moving the times and places for your job interviews
  • Forms you must fill out to qualify for your state’s unemployment benefits
  • Confirmation emails for hundreds of dollars of computer equipment to be shipped overseas
  • Notices from your auto insurance and health insurance companies letting you know that your coverage has been dropped, the cost raised, or your claims were denied
  • Discrete FedEx tracking emails to let you know that your vibrator shipment is delayed
This doesn’t include the dozens of friend and family emails attempting to find out where you’ve been for the past month, why you won’t return their calls, why you were so drunk at that party last weekend and to let you know that your grandfather just died.  You would think that somewhere these internet people would wonder “hey, where did all of my friends, family, job, healthcare, insurance and banking emails go?”  But you would be wrong.

So consider this my plea to you, humble internet visitor: check your email addresses and make darn sure that the ones you are handing out actually belong to you.  Because I’d hate to be the one to tell you that your trip to Florida was cancelled after you spent all that money booking hotels and plane tickets, just because you didn’t get your confirmation numbers.

Your helpful internet do-gooder,

MS

Motorola Droid XMy day job is spent getting technology products and services made, shipped and into consumer hands as quickly and efficiently as possible. With such a job comes pressures to release things that aren’t quite ready or have known issues in order to secure time-to-market or competitive advantages. I sometimes have to put a companies best interests ahead of the consumer, even if I worry about the outcome. I state all of this up front so that people will have a clearer view into my thoughts on the process of software updates and the need to just ship something.

However, given everything I just said I am here to say that the latest Gingerbread release of Android (2.3.3 for those keeping score at home) on the Motorola Droid X is an unconditional and complete failure. Very few software updates in recent memory have done so much harm to a well respected product, to so many people in such a short period of time.  Don’t just take my word for it, go look at the US forums for the Droid X and see just how many people are having issues.  It isn’t just a few upset customers, it is thousands of them.

What makes this entire process all the more terrible is that Motorola had an early access program for select users to allow them to “soak test” the release before the general public got it.  Instead, it seems that the early access folks had only 48 hours or so with the update before Motorola and Verizon pushed this mess out into the world.  Worse still, many of these folks were reporting issues and asking to slow the roll out until at least some of the problems were fixed.  That didn’t happen, and now the Motorola employees on the forum have gone silent or suggested that the customers are simply not understanding the new update.

I am now left with a previously fantastic phone that reboots at least once a day, a battery that runs down in 7 hours, no working phone service if I dare turn on WiFi, a confused GPS sensor and an uglier user interface than I thought was possible to have.  Worse, because this new update is “better” than the previous Froyo release, there is no root access and thus no way to copy off the system log files or take screenshots to prove that all of this bad behavior is happening.  Bravo Motorola, you’ve turned my once useful phone into an expensive, defective paperweight.

I have certainly learned my lesson from this exercise. The next time I buy a phone I will make sure that it is fully unlocked, fully modifiable by the user and completely supported by the manufacturer rather than hoping that support folks will step in and do “the right thing” to help customers out.  Shame on me, indeed.