Friday, September 19, 2008

It's What I Like: Swiss Trains

Heading back to the land of Ricola, I highlight another item of Swiss culture that I really like, their Trains. We all heard that up till the reunification, you could set your watch by the German trains. Then we heard how Japan's trains are run like Germany's trains used to be. Well, I have to tell you, after riding Swiss trains for a few days, there is no equal.

The schedules are all interlinked like a giant, well-oiled jigsaw puzzle. Connections are very easy to make and there isn't the annoyance of somebody committing hara-kiri when you are trying to make it to your important meeting.

On top of running like clock-work, the trains themselves look phenomenal. They look like the Brio toys all the boys want when they are little. The locomotives were actually designed by the Italian firm, Pininfarina, yeah, the one that designs Ferraris!

Palm: So Far Ahead of Its Time, It Still Hasn't Caught Up

Is there really anything more annoying than an iPhone owner trying to tell you how the iPhone is the end-all-be-all of handheld technology? I long for the days I only had to deal with clowns with Windows Mobile. Those jackals were always trying to tell me how they could use/modify/create REAL Microsoft Docs on their feeble machines. Today, iPhone still does not have the capability to work with native MS Documents, but iPhone owners are still confident in thier phone's superiority.

Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I REALLY want an iPhone, I just can't make the switch from my Treo 700P until some basics are taken care of:

Sling Player- What good is that beautiful screen if I can't watch my TV on it? I can already tap into my home DVR with the crappy screen on my Palm 700P. Why should I give this up to move to the iPhone?

Lotus Notes- Apparently there is now a web enabled client to sync Lotus Notes. I know, I know, nobody uses Lotus, that is except my fabulous employer.

MS Office- I need native files on my device. Why you might ask when the fantastic Mobileme stores all your stuff in the cloud? Well, while I am flying through actual clouds on an airliner, I tend to have the majority of my great ideas and, at this point, there isn't reliable WiFi coverage in the friendly skies. (This is an easier arugment than telling Windows Mobile clowns how superior Documents to Go is, they never got it)

Turn By Turn GPS- Caught me, my 700P doesn't actually have this, although I am sure it could be retrofitted to do so. I wan Garmin, Tom Tom or Magellen to step up to the App Store and kick Jobs in the nuts and make a great turn by turn nav app.

14,659 California Cell Phone Tickets- MORE PLEASE!

There are very few times I will call for more government regulation but I have a hard time believing this story stating almost 15,000 citations have been issued by the CHP alone since the July 1st ban on driving and using a mobile without a hands free device. I can count at least half a dozen clowns chatting away during my daily commute.

The penalty is not nearly high enough. It should be on the order of $200 versus the slap on the wrist of $20. The cops should have a good time enforcing it as well. As Adam Carolla likes to point out, they are always more than willing to issue fix-it tickets for the lack of a front plate or removal of window tinting. Several motorcycle cops ought to be able to rack up dozens of tickets in a couple hours. The "take" needs to be higher to incentivize cops to target this to work towards their monthly ticket incentive.

I am tired of hearing from jackals that claim its not holding the phone that is dangerous, it is the distraction of talking while driving. I won't argue with this statement, but don't you think if someone is that distracted by talking on the phone, lets give everyone involved a better chance of dealing with accident avoidance by having both hands on the wheel?

CHP, get to work!

Blogging: 1 Year On

Well, It has been almost 13 months since I started Wear & Tear. I am shocked that I haven't been "discovered" and made a web celebrity. What have I learned over the past year?

  • The Internet's a big place- Don't expect people to stumble upon your posts unless you actively market yourself, or write about the hottest topics of the day.
  • Trackpoints- People apparently see the light and want Trackpoints for their Macs. I have actually lost interest in Macs since writing about them last August. That Trackpoint posting has been far and away the most viewed & commented on post on this blog. I actually did point to my posting on several other sites and it is a pretty easy to drive traffic if you really want it.
  • DVORAK- I am a now a proficient DVORAK typist. I am not sure if I have fully returned to the speed I had with the QWERTY keyboard, but I am close and I don't think I make as many mistakes as I used to. Would I recomend making the switch? It depends. I love DVORAK on my home and business computer, but am very frustrated when I show people how to do things on their QWERTY keyboard. At this point I am focusing all effort on DVORAK so I don't go back and forth and I have essentially lost all memory of QWERTY aside from using my Treo keypad (remember, I hate the Treo keypad so I am likely to use Graffiti input.
  • Google Street View- My photo captures from Google street view are popular with the Euros... Some spend 10's of minutes laughing and laughing at the kid falling off his bike, or the wrecked Mercedes.
  • Abarth- The logo I have posted for Abarth gets almost as many hits as anything else.
I really enjoy putting thoughts up here and I am going to try to do it more frequently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slingbox - iPhone: What's the Story?

Back in June at the WWDC encouraging stories about a Slingplayer client for the iPhone popped up all over the net.

Eventually, there was a cryptic post on several of the stories to meet some guy behind a Starbucks for a Slingplayer demo on a jail broken phone. That craziness led to this demo video.

Since this video was posted, the Slingbox - iPhone news has gone quiet. I contacted their support people yesterday and was told there were no plans to develop an iPhone client. I was taking care of a registration issue I had with my Treo 700P and thought I would see if they had any good news.

A quick check of the SlingMedia career section indicates they are indeed looking for a developer for an iPhone client.
Will Apple let them play in the App store? Does it matter? Wouldn't you jailbreak your iPhone for Sling Player?

It's What I Like: Manual Transmissions

Three pedals. I have to have them. SST, SMG II, DCT, DSG, while mostly amazing (aside from the SMG) they just don't give me what I want, interaction.

I LOVE heel toe downshifting. I learned to do it on my first car, a 1981 RX-7. I have been doing it ever since. Some people mistake rev-matching as being hard on the car, but it is actually much easier on the transmission than dumping the clutch while braking.

I have driven SMG & DSG cars and I have to say I am intrigued by the DSG, but don't think I could live without a clutch on a day-to-day basis after the dual clutch novelty wore off. I have heard the EVO X's SST is so good, you don't even need to use the paddles to shift. I missed the opportunity to drive one, but I still can't see myself without a clutch for more than a day.

Check out this Best Motoring clip with the Drift King rowing through the gears on the race track in an AE86!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Society for Architectural Insignificance: Frank Gehry

After decades of mediocre projects such as the mall at the 3rd street Promenade and his private residence in Santa Monica, Frank Gehry finally has his breakthrough "success" at Bilbao, Spain in 1997. It seems we are stuck with this iteration of his work from here to the end of his career as his work since 1997 has essentially been a re-gurgitation of Bilbao.

The EMP in Seattle is a poster child for the Society for Architectural Insignificance. Situated at the base of the mighty Seattle Space Needle, EMP embodies all that is wrong with modern architecture.
  1. It looks just like all of Gehry's other crumpled up metal buildings.
  2. Somebody thought it would be cool to take a torch to it to change the color of the metal skin.
  3. By most accounts, the EMP is a financial failure
Wikipedia points out the following criticisms of Gehry's work:
  • The buildings waste structural resources by creating functionless forms
  • The buildings are apparently designed without researching the local climate
  • The spectacle of a building often overwhelms its intended use (especially in the case of museums and arenas)
  • The buildings do not seem to belong in their surroundings "organically"
Gehry admitted during a TED Talk interview that Bilbao was his first design that did not leak. He isn't pushing construction techniques for any purpose other than being avant garde. Enough!

I have to admit I do like:

The Dancing House in Prague
Gehry Tower in Hannover
Der Neue Zollhof

Photo Source

12/1/08 UPDATE: I am not the only person that is not impressed by Gehry's mediocrity!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's What I Like: Ricola

This is another new series I thought up during my recent trip to Europe. Instead of complaining about things, I am going to dig really deep to unearth things I enjoy. The first in this series is Ricola cough drops. I have tried several brands of cough drops and syrup over the years and Ricola are the only things that work, EVERY time. I would have probably tried them sooner if they weren't always featured on The Price is Right. Who would have known a product struggling so much for attention that they would stoop to be on TPIR would be any good?

After visiting Switzerland, two things become apparent:
  1. It is no surprise the drops work, as everything in CH seems to work as advertised and the trains are never late.
  2. The Swiss would obviously be attracted to The Price is Right as a serious marketing outlet.
If you haven't given Ricola a try, I encourage you to do so. Don't stray from their original flavor though, the other flavors are not great and I am not sure that they work as well as original.