Why do we see every kind of car on the road?

Do you ever notice the variety of other cars on the road? It seems as if any car company the makes a vehicle can sell it to someone. It’s baffling to me.

  1. They can’t all be good deals. Some cars are better deals than others. That’s just a fact. Whether you look only at sticker price, or cost of ownership, or reliability – some cars are traditionally worse deals. But that doesn’t appear to be a sales impediment.
  2. There is lots of data available about vehicle safety and reliability. There are free sources like Edmunds or Kelly’s Blue Book, or web searches for JD Power results, and paid sources like Consumer Reports. A 1-month Consumer Reports subscription costs about $5. Well worth it for a decision that will cost tens of thousands, and could be the difference if you walk away from an accident or not.

Take Fiat for example. I see little Fiat 500s on the road all the time. They are adorable. But the 2017 JD Power dependability study ranked Fiat dead last. Not just last but their score was so bad it skewed the graph. JD Power uses a horizontal line graph, and the Fiat result was so far to the right it bunched all other car makers together on the left. The second worst car was Jeep (owned by Fiat), which scored 209 while Lexus was best at 110. If Fiat were left off the chart, Jeep would look significantly worse than Lexus. It doesn’t because Fiat’s score was a whopping 298.

In 2018 Fiat “improved” to 192, making it only the 3rd worst car in the US. The dead last spot was taken by Chrysler (also owned by Fiat) which scored 211. In 2018 all Fiat brands were substantially below average, with Dodge receiving the dubious honor of “best Fiat brand” at 9th worst car sold in the US. Ram was 8th worst, and Jeep 4th worst.

So why do people keep buying Fiats, or any Fiat brand? Well, Fiat sales have been weak for awhile, and sales plummeted 44% this year. Maybe people are waking up, or maybe the company is victim to the demand for SUVs over cars.

But there are so many crap cars on the road. They aren’t cheaper, they are more likely to give their owners headaches, and may even cost people their lives. I don’t get it.

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Sonos’ reliance on Alexa

I’ve noted before that the Sonos One is not the voice integration that was promised. It’s not an integration at all. It’s simply an inferior version of an Echo that uses Alexa-lite plus Sonos software, in one package. Two distinct products in one package is not an integration, even though they both share the same speaker.

The Echo hardware in the Sonos one is inferior to “real” Echos made by Amazon, since they don’t have a line-out port and can’t control internet-of-things devices. The version of Alexa that Amazon licenses to 3rd parties is inferior to “real” Alexa, since it’s missing many features (spatial recognition which lets only the nearest Echo respond to your command, phone calls, texts, intercom, Audible audio books, any audio that works with Alexa but isn’t a supported service on Sonos, and on and on).

I’ve also noted before that I understand Sonos’ reluctance to spend the money on developing an Alexa competitor of their own. But they’ve given up control of their device to Amazon, a third party with different interests than Sonos. That’s always a mistake.

Sonos appears to understand the risk. This is per Engadget, based on Sonos’ IPO filing:

As part of the IPO process, Sonos has to detail potential risk factors, and perhaps one of the most interesting points to its reliance on Amazon and Alexa. The company notes that Amazon can disable the Alexa integration in the Beam and One “on limited notice.” That would clearly be a major problem for both existing owners as well as any future buyers, as Sonos heavily advertises voice-powered Alexa features. Another potential pitfall would be Amazon charging for Alexa access — paying those licenses would hurt the bottom line. However, the S-1 form notes that Google Assistant integration is still planned for 2018, so Sonos does at least have a backup plan.

So Sonos doesn’t trust Amazon (good for them) and is hoping they won’t get squeezed by both Amazon and Google at the same time (no guarantees that it won’t happen though). Which means if you own a Sonos One and sometime in the future Sonos can’t support either Alexa or Google Assistant, then you own the equivalent of a Play1.

But it’s an interesting strategy. Sonos’ support for both Alexa and Google Assistant means that Sonos’ valuable customers have options. If Amazon decides to play hardball and cut off Alexa or start charging exorbitant fees, Sonos can simply switch to Google, denying Amazon access to their customers. And vice versa.

Honda Lane Watch

Honda vehicles, other than the Odyssey, do not have blind spot sensors, either standard or as an option. Honda has a sensor package that has a variety of automatic driver assist functions, but blind spot detection is not among them. Instead, Honda offers something called Lane Watch.

Lane Watch is a camera on the passenger side mirror that displays your right side blind spot on the infotainment screen. The image replaces whatever is on the screen (maps, radio, etc.) while the right turn signal is on, or when the camera is turned on manually via a button on the turn signal stalk. The screen can be manually turned off at any time via a press of the same button.

I love this feature. I don’t know why Honda doesn’t also have a blind spot alarm or flashing light on the side view mirrors, which would be nice. The Lane Watch system does nothing for blind spot detection on the driver side.

I occasionally watch reviews of Honda cars and virtually all of them are negative, or moderately neutral about the Lane Watch feature. To me, that’s a dead giveaway that the reviewer probably spent too little time in the car to give it a fair review. If the criticism is that Lane Watch doesn’t provide blind spot warnings on the driver’s side, that’s fair. But many of the criticisms are not:

  1. It’s distracting – this is true for about the first day. What happens is that you signal for a right turn and whatever is on your infotainment screen switches to the right side-mirror camera view. You can see the screen switch in the corner of your eye, and it IS distracting for the first day. After that, you expect it and it’s no longer a distraction.
  2. It replaces your map and “you have to find a way to turn it off” – it does replace your map, but turning it off is easy. Tap the button on the signal stalk that is right next to your left hand.
  3. It requires that you take your eyes off the road – this is complete bull. All it requires is a glance, and because it is closer to your eye than the right side-mirror the glance will be quicker than looking at the mirror. It’s certainly safer than taking your eyes off the road to twist your head and see if there is someone in your blind spot.

Because of the relatively wide angle of the camera you can see much more than simply your blind spot, which is also a safety feature. The more you can see of the cars and road around you the better.

I’ve had 3 cars with Lane Watch – a Fit, a Civic and a CRV. My wife and I love the system, and I absolutely miss it if I ever have to drive a car without it.

Returning items to the Google Store

Google accepts returns of items bought on its online store. I wanted to return a thermostat and the Google Home mini that came free with it. I received both in one box.

Google accepted the return request and emailed two shipping labels for the two items. I figured it made no sense to send them back individually so I boxed them together with one of the shipping labels, included a packing list for each item in the box, and shipped it back.

After calling Google for the return status I found out that they were planning to credit me for only one item, even though both items were returned. Their policy is to credit only the item associated with the return label. They made an “exception” and credited me for both of the items they received back.┬áIf I hadn’t called they were planning to take back both items but credit me for only one. They said in the future if I returned two items in one box they might not make an “exception”.

So my advice is: 1) don’t buy from the Google online store because their return policy is ridiculous or 2) return multiple items individually using the associated shipping labels, even though Google shipped them to you originally in one box.

 

Pizza in NYC – John’s on 44th Street

The above pictures are from my phone, and really don’t do it justice, sorry.

There’s a pizza place in NYC, called John’s on 44th street, east of 8th avenue. In a city of 2,500 pizzerias, John’s is unique. Not only is the pizza fantastic (brick oven, coal fired), but the location is one-of-a-kind.

The pizzeria is in the heart of the theater district, just past the St. James Theater, where Frozen is currently playing. It’s in a former 2-story church. There are stained glass windows in the pizzeria (although the original windows were replaced with colorful secular glass), amazing murals of NY on the walls and beautiful light fixtures that look like old fashioned gondolas that might have hung under hot-air balloons. The gondolas are featured in the murals as well.

And the best part? The prices aren’t much more than any pizzeria anywhere. A small pizza with 1 topping is about $20. In NYC’s theater district! For some of the best pizza in NY! In what is arguably the most beautiful pizzeria in NY!

There’s a history here, which connects this pizzeria to John’s on Bleeker St. There might have been a family issue, but I think right now John’s on 44th St. is not the same ownership as John’s on Bleeker St, although the pizza is similar.

John’s on Bleeker St. is one of the original pizzerias in NYC. It opened 90 years ago, and is a completely different atmosphere from the 44th St. location. The pizza on Bleeker St. is probably my all-time favorite, but the ambiance is … sort of a dump. Still worth going though. They won’t even mind if you carve your initials in their wood booths with a butter knife (I’m serious).

Windows Update 1803 update problem

Update

I may have dodged a bullet here, being unable to update. There’s a lot of reported bugs with 1803. I’ll pass on it for now.


This post is for anyone having the same problem as me. It’s not a solution, merely an explanation.

I am not able to update Windows any longer. I have the latest version of Windows 10, which they call Creator’s Update. There is a pending update 1803 which won’t install. I get the following error:

Capture

I hate Microsoft. Really.

Note the reason it won’t install. “We couldn’t update the system reserved partition.” I am going to guess that 99% of Windows users won’t know what the hell that means. I know what a partition is, and I still didn’t know what that means.

If you open the Disk Management utility in Windows you can see all your partitions. THERE IS NO PARTITION CALLED SYSTEM RESERVED PARTITION. Furthermore, the utility shows that all partitions are 100% free, in other words there is plenty of space in all of them.

I used a free partition utility from the web and found that Windows is wrong and they are NOT 100% free. But the only partition that is nearly full is a 100MB partition called EFI System Partition. In all likelihood, update 1803 is trying to put something in this partition and there isn’t enough room. I need to expand it, although Microsoft doesn’t say by how much.

I can’t easily increase the size of the partition, because I have no unallocated space in the partition. At this moment I don’t know the best way to fix this. I am not even sure if wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows from scratch will fix it.

But I got a chuckle at the line at the bottom of the Windows error message above – “Learn more about great Windows PCs”. Ha! That’s great Microsoft. Create a problem, don’t fix it or tell me how to fix it. Instead try to sell me another piece of crap Windows computer. Thanks so much.