Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bob Lutz: Leading the American Race for Capitalist Gluttony

Have you ever wondered exactly how America gets its reputation for driving oversized vehicles without any regard for the environment or fuel costs? Because people like Bob Lutz are behind the wheel of the largest American motor company: GM. We all know that GM is company that's as "American as apple pie."

Here's a timeline of events for you.

2004: Bob Lutz thinks that Hybrid cars make no sense. Quote:
"Hybrids are an interesting curiosity and we will do some," he said. "But do they make sense at $1.50 a gallon? No, they do not."
Understanding interaction between national and global economy: FAIL
Effectiveness at developing strategies that look more than 1-2 years out : FAIL

2005-2007: GM continues to bring products to market that it thinks will be good for America.

This includes pukemobiles such as:

The Chevy Suburban 2WD Z71
GMC Envoy Denali/Envoy XL Denali.
The Chevy TrailBlazer EXT
*and don't forget*
The Hummer H3

They are shoved in the face of Americans by GM via advertising on billboards, TV, and internet. GM makes so many of them that they are sold for next to nothing.

February, 2008: Bob Lutz thinks global warming is a "Total Crock of Shit"

March, 2008: Not making a hybrid car like the Prius was a "mistake"
No kidding.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Why iTunes Sucks: Reason #22

Alternative posting title - iTunes and Sucking in Harmony

This is in reference to of a (very dated) Mac Observer posting 21 Reasons Why iTunes Sucks . iTunes is continuing a long standing tradition of sucking!

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I have had dealings with . I gave my wife a gift certificate for, proud of myself for my having a gift that pleased to her affinity for books on CD. However, what I didn't realize was that I was really giving her a gift of PAIN.

We figured (naively) that this day and age, it would be a fairly common, and therefore simple(!) process - choose an audio book on, and burn it to CD, so she could enjoy the book in her car. Seems like a reasonable request, based on the following assumptions:
  1. Most people use audio books during their commute.
  2. Most cars, last I checked, come "standardly" equipped with CD players, unless you get some kind of "option"
  3. I haven't checked on this, but I'm pretty sure has got to be the #1 audio book seller
  4. As a matter of survival, must have a need to provide their product to consumers with CD players, right?
Well, as it turns out they probably do, but for whatever reason (and I'm sure DRM has something to do with it), it's a ridiculous process to get this to happen.
  1. Download manager software
  2. Install manager software
  3. Download the item with's manager software
  4. Download iTunes
  5. Install iTunes
  6. EXPORT the item to iTunes from manager
  7. Open up iTunes
  8. Create a playlist containing the item
  9. Burn the playlist to CD
  10. Yes, I know this 8 hour audio file won't fit on 1 CD. Please burn to multiple CD's. (wow, iTunes makes everything so SIMPLE!)
  11. Insert new blank CD
  12. Wait for CD to burn
  13. Go to step 11 until done.
Ok, so that's the process. Great, it's ugly and ridiculous. BUT- to complicate things even further, the process was interrupted by a power failure. after burning disk 4 of the 8 disc set. Which finally brings us to

Reason #22 why iTunes sucks:

No way to "resume" a multiple-disc-burn in iTunes.

What you can do about it
-Start over from disc 1 and toss the extra discs

-(if tossing away good CD-Rs isn't your thing) burn the "done" discs onto a single CD-RW, erasing them on a different computer each time, until you get to the disc you left off at.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Golf Diesel Hybrid for Everyone Except Us

As usual, some new, cool car technology is being developed which the U.S. will likely be (at best) the last to take advantage of. This time it's a diesel hybrid by VW. The diesel hybrid is not a new concept, but this will be one of the first production cars to incorporate it.

The fact is, diesel cars are awesome in so many ways. They are powerful, efficient, clean, and can be run on 100% renewable fuel with ZERO modification. Many other countries have embraced diesel vehicles. So why do they have such a hard time in the U.S.?

They are perceived by most to be "loud and smelly," to quote the Wired article. I will add that from my observations, people think they are dirty and underpowered. Now let's do some myth busting, shall we?

Myth: Diesels cars are Loud
Fact: Diesel trucks are loud. Old diesel anythings were often loud. My diesel is loud (since I riced out my exhaust system). But "Diesels" are not loud, at least not significantly louder than any gas car.

Myth: Diesel cars are smelly.
Fact: Catalytic converters shipped on current VWs produce a smell that is milder and more natural than the exhaust of a gas car.

Myth: Diesel cars are underpowered.
Fact: Some of them are underpowered (as with any car made), but especially so in the U.S. Often they are purposely power-castrated in order to meet the ridiculous Nitrous Oxide standards the cars are held to, which is all the California Emissions Nazis care about. Read on.

Myth: Diesel cars have terrible emissions.
Fact: Diesel hybrids could be used "in Europe to address tightening emissions regulations" (Quote from Wired Article). Diesels are very low emitters of CO2, which is what we should be focusing on.

Myth: Diesel cars can't/don't do what popular hybrids can, in order to address rising fuel costs and dwindling resources.
Fact: Under many conditions, regular (non-hybrid) diesel cars achieve the same average efficiency as hybrids such as the Prius and Civic (think 45-65 MPG). Now just think what these cars can do as hybrids. If that's not enough, check this out: diesels are the only vehicles that can be run on a 100% renewable fuel, OUT-OF-THE-BOX, with ZERO modifications!

So, I could go on, but like millions of other frustrated diesel fanatics, I think I've made my point. What is it going to take to get the point across to the masses?

The answer is simple.

First, let's look at some of the other simple crap that was used to convince people they need SUVs - which is what got us into this mess in the first place.

(special thanks to , with an awesome commentary on this particular commercial)

So I say, how about one of those hippy-dippy, white backgrounded, "think-different" commercials on a Hollywood trash channel that goes something like this: (Late 20-something, fashionably dressed woman with a British accent, standing in front of new diesel car)
"Diesels aren't smelly, loud or dirty anymore. They're fast, clean, and most importantly, your European fashion heroes are all driving them right now. Diesel: it's the new black!"
(Usual voice-over, phone number and website URL, financing percentages, etc. fade onto the screen.)

Or how about this: (Snoop-dogg standing in front of new diesel car)
"Y'all better be gettin' up on some of Deeeeeeezul-nuts."
(Usual voice-over, phone number and website URL, financing percentages, etc. fade onto the screen.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Want to cancel your membership? You'll have to call them

It all started when I got my wife a gift certificate to for Christmas.

So I'm not really sure how it happened, but at some point in the last few months, I ended up with a premium audible listener membership, billed at a rate of $23 a month. I suppose it's possible that I did an impulse purchase, but that's neither here nor there in this discussion.

I finally got logged in to the point where I could edit my account details (long story, but basically I had to clear my cookies due to the fact that it kept dumping me right back to the step of "confirming a purchase" I had apparently started - months later). In the account details control panel:

There didn't appear to be any way to cancel my membership.

There didn't appear to be any way to remove my credit card information from my account.

After I pretty much resolved and mentally prepared for the fact this was going to involve a phone call (which to me instantly involves long hold times with bad music, explaining, and convincing, not to mention finding the back door on the website that has the cust. srvc. phone #).

To my surprise, the phone # was easily located on the site, and the phone call went directly to a human. Once I was on with someone, he canceled my membership, refunded my last month's charge, and removed my credit card info from my account. It was a relatively painless experience, actually.

The only way it could have been easier is if I didn't have to call them in the first place.

Monday, March 03, 2008

FAIL: The Snowdrift 2000

I'm sure everyone has thought about trying this at some point, right? Come on, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fix for X-Lite -> Asterisk DTMF issue

If you use X-Lite with an Asterisk system, as I do, you may notice DTMF codes sometimes don't work after the call has been placed. This results in difficulty when entering pin codes, dialing an extension on another system, etc.

Here's the quick fix inside X-Lite:

Go to menu -> Advanced System Settings -> DTMF Settings

-Change to DTMF Force Send In Band: Yes
-Change to DTMF Tone Length in Samples: 4960

Reconnect the call and try it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Welcome From FreshUbuntu Podcast

Just wanted to post a shout out to anyone visiting from the FreshUbuntu podcast!

As Harlem mentioned, I have been working on putting together some theme music. The first track I sent over was actually a draft of the title track that will be on my upcoming demo album, called "6 Inches From the Curb". Most of the music on that album will be original jazz and funk, and will feature "solo bass" work (to be clear, solo in the sense that the tracks are predominantly drums and bass guitar, with little or no other instruments). My goal for this demo is to practice my new skills with multitrack production, and to demonstrate my musical concepts to musicians I will collaborate with on future projects (stay tuned!)

The tune was a little rough - I have decided to put together something more reflective of my skills, and more specific to podcast use. Tune into the next FreshUbuntu to hear it!