A Ten Year Love Affair Ends

matchbox911Since the age of perhaps 7 or 8 I have been in love with the Porsche 911.  In 2004 I was fortunate enough to take delivery of one, starting a ten year love affair which finally ended yesterday.

But let’s start at the beginning.  As a little boy I remember playing with a model of a Porsche 911 in the bedroom I shared with my brother in South London.  To me this was a car for rich people and, being in a one parent family, and with my Mother working part time on the checkout of a local supermarket, I was sure that the model was the closest I would ever get to owning one.

Fast forward to an anniversary dinner in May 2004.  During dinner my wife handed me a card with the words “Let’s get that 911 you always wanted” nestled among the usual anniversary sentiments.

With 3 young children at home it took a moment or two for my brain to go from “Well…that’s not very practical” to “Where’s the nearest Porsche dealer?”  At the time I was driving an MR2 Spyder so, by comparison, the 911 was a family car!

Over the next month I drove the poor folks at Jack Daniel’s in Paramus crazy while I tried out various models of 911.   Each test drive would, at some point, end up on the driveway of my home where I would drag J. out from her wifely duties to admire the latest model.

123-2317_IMGOne day I turned up in a pre-owned 2003 C4S coupe six speed. When I returned home after the test drive, J. immediately said “That’s the car you’re going to get, isn’t it?”  Apparently the look on my face was all she needed to know that this was the car for me.  Ten years later, I know I made the right decision.

So, what’s it like to own a 911?

In one word…Awesome!

I’m a driver.  I like driving.  I drive in a ‘spirited’ fashion on the road and I have raced everything I can lay my hands on: cars, karts, motorcycles, quads, you name it.   The problem is that I quickly become bored.  I had never owned a car more than 2 years without saying “OK…what’s next?”  That all ended with the 911.

The 911 took everything I threw at it and came back for more.  Driving in the countryside, commuting, track days, Auto-cross, long highway drives and even (with the addition of snow tires) winter driving.  It took it all in it’s stride.

The car could be driven at speed, cornered hard, and yet still remained refined and poised enough to drive to a funeral without feeling conspicuous or out of place.

When driving it the car just a felt part of me.  The car could be placed with such inch perfect precision that driving other cars (even performance cars) somehow felt lacking.

Of course it wasn’t totally perfect.  The car was noisy, had a stiff ride, destroyed rear tires with surprising speed, and the rear seat was fine when my kids where small but, as my daughter frequently commented, not suitable once they had grown up a bit.  Oh, and the German’s might know how to build great cars but they are completely stumped by cup holders.

Of course all of those were problems for the passengers.  This is a driver’s car, pure and simple.

prama2006Over the next 10 years I added 110 thousand miles to the odometer, bringing it to a grand total of 125k.  Even after all those miles the car was in a great shape and, if you didn’t know the subtleties of the 911 range, you would be hard pressed to know which model year it was.

Mechanically the car was as reliable as a hammer.  Very few problems were encountered and the car never let me down.

Here I have to give a quick shout out to PowerTech in Rockaway, NJ.  These guys took care of my car from the day it was out of warranty until the day it was sold.  They gave great service at a more than fair price and, when it came time to sell, they took care of that for me also (see ad), obtaining a price sufficiently above what I could have managed on my own to more than cover their fee.  If you have a Porsche then you owe it to yourself to pay these guys a visit and see what keeps people coming back to them year after year.

In the end it wasn’t age, or boredom, or mechanical problems that pushed the car out, it was a teenage boy obtaining his driving permit. The addition of an older A8 for him meant that the 911 was rarely going to leave the garage because it was constantly blocked in.  If it were a classic model that would appreciate then I could have been OK with that but, sadly, that was not the case here.

A brief foray into selling the car through Auto Trader convinced me (after just one day) that I should hand this over to PowerTech to sell and, two weeks later, my baby was gone!  I never got to see her again after dropping her off, and it was a bit anti-climactic to part with her in such a manner after all those miles, but I know the next owner will be as thrilled with her as I was.  This also leaves me without a stick-shift car for the first time since I started driving.  Now that is weird!

With an 11 year old still in the house it will be a while before I can consider something like this again. I strongly suspect that by then cars will mostly be self-driving and the idea of a “drivers car” will be a thing of the past.  But if you are considering a 911 then don’t wait – do it now before it’s too late.  You won’t regret it.

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I made someone’s day today!

chefI treated myself to a breakfast sandwich from our company’s cafeteria this morning.  I don’t do this very often, so it had been a couple of weeks since I was last there.

While waiting for my sandwich I remembered that the last time I was there the Chef (Keith) had mentioned his birthday was coming up, so I said Happy Birthday while I waited.  He looked quizzically at me so I told him that I remembered that his birthday was last week.

The transformation that came over him from such a simple thing was amazing!

He stood up straight, his face lit up with an ear to ear smile and he said “Thank you so much!…I really didn’t expect that.  You just made my day.”  And I think I did.  His whole demeanor changed and he had a real spring in his step as he went about preparing breakfast for his customers all the while saying “I didn’t expect that!” over and over.

Such a simple thing, but so worthwhile.

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Drones – Cool or Creepy?

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will have realized that I have a strong geeky side.

My first PDA was a Psion organizer which I bought in 1986.  And I owned a Magellan GPS in 1996 – that was when you put in your destination as coordinates and all it would tell you is “Its 2.3 miles in that direction”

So it was with great delight that on my birthday I unwrapped a DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter.

This awesome little machine has a lot going for it.  GPS positioning allows it to stop and hover if you take your fingers off of the controls, and if you lose connectivity it will fly back to where it started from and land itself.

It also has a small 720P camera that can record videos and even let the operator to see what the camera sees in real time on their phone or tablet via a wi-fi connection.

It’s huge fun seeing video of yourself peering up and views of nearby landmarks from an aerial viewpoint, but this camera seems to be the thing that causes most people trouble.

I have to admit I was a little surprised the first time I was waxing lyrical about my newest hobby only to have someone tell me they thought it was a creepy.  But several people have made similar comments and I think people are really concerned that people are going to start using these things as a new means of spying on them or peeping into their homes.

I think this surprised partly me because nothing was further from my mind.  I had visions of flying this over the local pond, capturing some high altitude shots of my house etc.

I have already heard many people asking for additional regulation to stop that sort of behavior, and other people talking about shooting drones out of the sky if they see them.

As a person with a strong belief in people’s right to privacy I’m left in a bit of a quandary.

One of the things that often happens in these types of situations is that new laws and regulations appear that don’t actually add to protection, but do make life difficult for people trying to have some honest fun or innovate in a new direction.

Let’s be clear here.  It is already illegal to peek into people’s bedrooms and it doesn’t matter whether it is done with a drone, a high powered telescope or a ladder.  

But I also see trouble looming.  What happens when someone loses control of a drone and it damages a person or property?  What about if a drone distracts a driver and causes a crash?

And what about the benefits of having drones?  They have already been used to find missing children and stranded hikers and to survey damage in dangerous areas.

All of the above have already happened.

Clearly this is a space that is going to evolve rapidly in the next few years and, for the moment, the technology is far outpacing the regulation.  And perhaps that is a good thing.  Let’s remember that many people’s impression of the early internet was that it was a place to watch porn.  Knee-jerk regulations at that time could have easily stifled the greatest engine of innovation ever created.

It seems to me that a little patience is needed to see where this goes and allow people to work the kinks out on their own before we start adding new laws to the books.

In the mean time…here’s a short video of my house…no bedroom shots included.

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Join Us in the Fight For Net Neutrality

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

“Net Neutrality” is the simple but powerful principle that cable and broadband providers must treat all internet traffic equally. Whether you’re loading a blog post on WordPress.com, streaming House of Cards on Netflix, or browsing handcrafted tea cozies on Etsy, your internet provider can’t degrade your connection speed, block sites, or charge a toll based on the content that you’re viewing.

Net neutrality has defined the internet since its inception, and it’s hard to argue with the results: the internet is the most powerful engine of economic growth and free expression in history. Most importantly, the open internet is characterized by companies, products, and ideas that survive or fail depending on their own merit — not on whether they have preferred deals in place with a broadband service provider. Unfortunately, the principle of net neutrality, and the open internet that we know and love, is under attack.

Net Neutrality under…

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Cutting Cable : A Week Without TV

cutting-cableA week-long experiment without cable TV resulted in some real cost savings, and some interesting family observations.

Normally the annual rate increase from Cablevision results in a call to Optimum threatening to switch to FIOS.  This inevitably leads to them placing me on a one year-long promotion, after which the cycle starts again.

This time was different .  I had wondered whether cable TV was worth the money, particularly with all the streaming options available today, and this was just what I needed to look at it seriously.   This idea was based on the following thoughts:

  1. Cable TV costs have gone up significantly
  2. We don’t actually watch that much TV
  3. We almost never watch live TV and don’t have premium channels such as HBO
  4. Cutting cable would save at least $900 per year, ever after factoring in other services needed

I didn’t want to just blindly make the leap so I signed up for a one week free trial of Hulu Plus and hid the cable TV remote controls. At the end of the week I polled the family to see what their reaction was to being without TV and the results were quite startling.

  • My Daughter (the big TV watcher) hands-down prefers Hulu.  There are shows on Hulu that she likes that are not on Cable and she can choose which episode to watch.
  • My two boys literally said “We didn’t have TV this week?”  With YouTube and the Xbox available the TV is something they just don’t use.
  • Joanne and I found most of our favorite shows, plus a whole bunch of things that couldn’t be found on cable

Aside from confirming how little TV we watch as a family there were a few other items of note.

Streaming TV is an active instead of passive activity. Instead of channel surfing until you find something that you can accept you actively have to choose.  This meant less time idly watching whatever crap happened to come along and more time watching things we cared about.

Streaming changes how you think about content providers.  Hulu Plus is a good option that fills most needs but there are many more options.  Shows that Hulu doesn’t have can often be found through other channels.  e.g.

  • Big Bang Theory is not on Hulu but is on CBS.com and with the Chromecast I can send it from a PC or laptop to any of the TVs.
  • I found lots of my childhood Sci-Fi shows on YouTube and, after nearly 40 years, managed to catch up on some of the shows that I missed!  Yes…I finally found how Blake’s 7 crew was formed!  :)

Streaming changes where you watch TV.  I spend two hours per day commuting by bus. Now I can watch sci-fi without the commentary from Joanne about why something really doesn’t seem very likely.

It’s not all roses though.

  • There’s a lot of mature content on Hulu and yet they have no parental controls.  Since the kids can now watch anywhere in the house this is something we need to keep an eye on
  • Everyone watching different things in different rooms can cause ‘fracturing’.  I need to turn the wi-fi off every so often
  • If you are a big sports fan this might not be for you.  The only sport I watch with any regularity is Formula One and I haven’t found a suitable option for this yet
  • This could considerably cut my nap time on the bus

Despite the few negatives I called Optimum yesterday, cancelled the TV and returned the two cable boxes without giving it a second thought.

Note:  Hulu Plus will give me a bonus if other people sign up, so if you think that might be something you want to try can you please use this button to sign up.  Thanks!!

 

 

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Filed under Free Software, Life - or something like it, Technology

Word of the Day : Warrant canary

A warrant canary is a method by which a communications service provider informs its users that the provider has not been served with a secret United States government subpoena.

Secret subpoenas, including those covered under 18 U.S.C. §2709(c) of the USA Patriot Act, provide criminal penalties for disclosing the existence of the warrant to any third party, including the service provider’s users.

A warrant canary is posted by the provider to inform users of dates that they have not been served a secret subpoena. If the canary has not been updated in the time period specified by the host, users are to assume that the host has been served with such a subpoena.

This allows the provider to inform users of the existence of a subpoena passively without disclosing to others that the government has sought or obtained access to information or records under a secret subpoena.

via Warrant canary – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Where do lost socks go?

Where do lost socks go?

May 9th was National Lost Sock day. A phenomenon so common that my family even has a special word for it.

Pung noun 

Definition of PUNG ……………………….

Plural   Pungs

1. A single unmatched sock that sits in a drawer without ever being matched to its partner

Origin of PUNG

First Known Use: before 1995

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May 10, 2014 · 9:52 am