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December 14, 2006

Motoring

Motoring last week reminded me of several pet peeves.

First, rear turn signals should be separate from the brake lights and should be yellow. It has been proven this is safer and it is mandated in Europe. I actually place weight on this feature when shopping for a car. I think the turn signals should be made as visible as possible, many vehicles sport additional signals on the fenders or mirrors and this is a good feature. On my last car I went to the effort to make the signal lights more visible by making the side markers blink.

With the purchase of a new vehicle I considered the options to improve winter driving comfort. Mostly I considered adding the ability to remotely start the car. After reviewing the devices available, I came to the conclusion it was a bad idea. The decision was based on the number of electronic systems that must be tapped into and circumvented for the system to work. Typically you would need to touch the ignition, immobilizer and alarm systems. Every electrical tap you add, adds another point of failure. So you've now added points of failure to critical operational and security systems. In addition you've added additional methods to defeat the security systems. I instead reverted back to an interior heater which is plugged in along with the block heater. This keeps the interior a little warmer, but more importantly it keeps the frost off the windows.

Vehicle emission control systems have come along way. Modern vehicles can actually remove contaminants already in the air and significantly limit the amounts produced. Volvo had a demonstration of a 1970s vintage vehicle with its exhaust piped into the intake of a late model vehicle. The exhaust from the late model vehicle was significantly cleaner than the exhaust of the 1970s vehicle. In smog infested regions, late model cars can scrub some of the smog components out. Vehicles have come along way, we need to start applying some of the technology on other devices like lawn mowers, where no emission control systems are used and dramatic reductions in emissions can be had with simple changes.

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December 09, 2006

I'm a Thief?

thumper's blog linked to Customer Confidential and reminded me of the hassle of the useless and degrading security checks for paying customers leaving retailers. I don't bother waiting for a lineup for a slow greeter at Walmart, just for them to check the that the code of the day is on my receipt, that security check is easily foiled. Twice on visits to the local postal outlet the alarm sounded as I left with my package. I just kept right on going and no-one bothered to follow. The manager was even present on the first incident. I'm sure it happens often there. To all those careless companies that are packing retail items into boxes for shipment, please disable the security tags first. All 6 trillion of them. Which reminds me of the excessive packaging and security on many DVDs. A plastic layer, up to 3 stickers holding the case shut, some advertising inserts inside and at least one security tag. After all that, you're lucky if your finger nails are intact, the case doesn't have any damage and that the disk actually plays.

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