If I was POTUS, the guy who runs WikiLeaks would be snatched, tried before a military tribunal as a material supporter of terrorists, and then sent to prison.

And if I couldn't snatch him, I would cause him to have a tragic accident.

Espionage is an act of war, and leaking military documents could actually cost the lives of our soldiers or our allies.  
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The comments to my previous post, Some Volt Math, had some very astute observations.  Obviously my little calculation was based on lots of assumptions, and there are many ways to make the economics worse for the Volt.

For example, if you add the cost of a 240V home charger, professionally installed, it could add thousands to the cost.  On the other hand, it may be partly offset with tax credits.

Sales tax on the difference can be significant, 7% of $8,500 is $600, or 9 months of cost advantage gone.

12c/kWh electricity may be a rosy assumption for some, such as Californians.  What if you had to pay 15c/kWh, or in Hawaii, 27c/kWh?

On the plus side, the alternative to the Volt might not be a 30mpg vehicle, it could be a 25mpg vehicle.  But then again, it could cost $20,000 instead of $25,000, adding another $5,000 to the payoff barrier!

I have also read stories on forums that some Chevrolet dealers are planning on charging thousands over MSRP.  This won't last long, they are just going to make extra money on the early adopters, and will have to make deals when demand collapses at those prices.

I think I need to make a spreadsheet.
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Over at LeftLane News, I read a glowing review of Toyota safety features.  I wondered why they were basically repeating Toyota's new marketing campaign, until I saw the tag "Sponsored Post".

Guys, write your own stuff.  It is bad enough that readers have to wade through banner ads, side panels, and on some sites, popup ads.  If they have to learn to ignore parts of your main feed, they'll get annoyed and start to tune out.

I don't have massive readership, but for the few readers I do have, I can promise this: any posts you read on here were written by me, with some thought.  There will be no sponsored posts.  No ghostwriting.  
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Today's big news is that GM will charge $41,000 MSRP for the Volt. (Question for GM: how will you keep dealers from adding a "market adjustment"?)

Assume you can get the $7,500 tax rebate, so your actual price is $35,000, plus applicable local taxes. And suppose that a comparably equipped vehicle of similar size, in a non-hybrid flavor, can be had for $25,000 (a premium compact like a VW Jetta, Volvo C30, or a Subaru Impreza).

For $8,500 premium, you get a 40mile all electric range. That represents 80% of the 16KWh battery, or about 13kWh. At 12c/kWh, if you can drive all electric, 15,000mi/year will cost you about $585. Very nice.

If your premium compact gas car gets an average of just 30mpg, 15,000mi at $3.00/gal will cost you $1,500.

Under these assumptions, best case (all electric Volt miles), you save $915/year driving the Volt. To gain back your $10,000 price premium, you will have to drive the Volt for 9.3 years, 1.3 year longer than the battery warranty.

Now suppose you can't run your Volt 100% electric, but you need to rely on the gas generator engine for just 33% of your mileage. 10,000 miles electric will cost you $390, and 5,000 miles at 40mpg (assume) will cost you $375. Running a Volt 66/33 electric/gas will cost you $765. The payback time for your $10,000 premium is now over 11.1 years, 3 years longer than the battery warranty.

My point here is that at $41,000 MSRP, the Volt is not a great deal, except for people who are passionate about not using much gasoline. In order to even come close to making sense for the average consumer, the Volt needs to be priced for a payback of about 5 years, or about $29,000 out-the-door, or $36,500 MSRP, with the $7,500 tax credit.

Update: fixed my math error.
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So yesterday was National Explorer Reveal Day.  I won't re-write what you have no doubt already read from many other source.

Here is a nice slide show of the reveal in Dearborn, from the Examiner.  Apparently, worried that people would get the idea that the new Explorer is an on-road machine only, Ford constructed a 30 foot high dirt hill (very well groomed) which they used to unveil the new Explorer.  

I think the vehicle looks great, inside and out, but it is a definite departure for Ford.  It is no longer PC to sell a truck which over-capable, primarily targeted at suburban families, who won't really ever drive it on off-road trails or tow anything heavier than a jet-ski trailer or pop up camper.   Ford looked at who was buying the old Explorer, and made a vehicle that appeals to a majority of those customers.  This will however alienate the few people who actually used the old Explorer as a heavy tow vehicle, or benefited from a real locking 4x4 system.   
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Old Henry was not known as being particularly friendly to the Jews.

Today, Ford is showing off a major redesign of one it its signature products, the Explorer.

In this video, project manager Julie Levine shows Mark Fields some of the new features of the 2011 Explorer.

They're both Jewish.  
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Ford is running a teaser campaign on Facebook for its new unibody Explorer.  You can see spy shots here.  I have been following it to see the teasers.  The official reveal will be Monday.  Since they met their goal of 30,000 friends, they will be giving away a new Explorer.

I am amazed at all the people who say basically "if it isn't a truck, I don't want it!"  The days of the body on frame, rear wheel drive, V8 powered SUV are long over.  All the big players have basically left the market except for Toyota, which sells the 4Runner, and of course Jeep.   Oh, and you can't get a V8 4runner.  And Xterra doesn't have 3 rows. GM's Trailblazer and Hummer H3?  Dead.  Even the Jeep Commander, which was unibody, is rumored to be going out of production.

From Edmund's, here is the list of top 5 selling mid-sized SUVs:


Only the Wrangler is a body on frame rear driver.

Aside from niche vehicles like the Wrangler, Xterra, and FJ Cruiser, the mass market is moving towards lighter, more fuel efficient "crossover" type SUVs.  People want a little bit of offroad capability, but they also want good fuel economy and handling.  The sweet spot here is clearly mid-sized unibody designs like the Chevrolet Traverse.  


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Finally, BP has been able to stop the oil leak.
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I'm in lust with this, even though I have like no use for it whatsoever in my current suburban lifestyle.  Like the fanboys on the forums say, "FTMFW!!!"


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Out and about today, I spotted a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee pre-production car (manufacturer plate) parked out in public. I didn't have a camera with me so I can't post pics, but I can share some overall impressions.

The design is handsome up close, with generally taut body work. This is a much better styled vehicle than most of what Chrysler has released lately--it looks like the excesses of the Sebring/Caliber/Compass are behind us. The interior looked nice also, with tasteful use of chrome highlights, faux wood, and grained surfaces.

This example did have some problems, though. The hood alignment was off, creating sloppy looking panel gaps and poor seam alignment. The a-pillar seams were not well aligned, bad enough to be noticeable. In other words, it was put together more like the "old" Chrysler. I wouldn't take this too seriously yet, since this was a pre-production vehicle, but Chrysler needs to have world class fit and finish if they hope to compete.
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Intel is showing off a concept for an Event Data Recorder (EDR) which records in-cabin video as well as vehicle network data and GPS coordinates. (Story here)

This is not going to happen any time soon, unless of course Congress passes a law to require it, which they won't.  

The privacy advocates won't agree to video recording, and the expense of adding the hardware to the EDR module will be a strong deterrent to automakers, who will also lobby hard against it.  The trial lawyers will also try to kill it, because a video recorder would be typically be a witness against their plaintiff customers.

To encode video into a reasonably compact form, a standalone video processor chip would be required, such as are packaged into DVRs.  A ballpark price for one of these is probably in the $20 range.  In addition, enough flash memory would have to be added to store the video streams in addition to the vehicle data.  90s of video at reasonable resolution and quality would require several megabytes of flash, easily several more dollars per vehicle.

I also question the utility of recording GPS data.  A vehicle typically has a fairly accurate on board velocity estimate, which comes from the ABS wheel speed sensors.  Unless a driver is involved in a hit-and-run, it will be pretty obvious to accident investigators what the path of the vehicle was, based on external evidence and the on-board inertial signals which would normally be recorded in an EDR.




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I have been using a CRT TV with a DTV decoder box since the digital transition, but finally, I decided to join the world of true HDTV, and decided to shop for a modestly price LCD HDTV. My main requirement: it had to work well with OTA viewing, since I refuse to pay money for TV service.After some digging around, a clear winner came out: the Sony KDL-32EX308. This is a 32" 720p unit which has a price around $430 from SonyStyle.com. I am convinced this is the best modestly price TV for OTA use out there.

Pros:
  • Ethernet port and free wi-fi adapter. Automatically updates firmware.
  • 2 HDMI ports, plus USB for music and photo playback.
  • Internet video functions like Qriocity, Amazon, Netflix, and Youtube built in
  • Internet radio from Pandora, Slacker, NPR, others
  • TV Guide populated from internet download
  • DLNA client built in -- you can stream video from your PC, even Windows Media Center
  • Decent OTA reception (about as good as my Zenith DTV box)
  • Nice integrated Favorites menu lets you assign inputs, internet functions, and channels to the favorites bar
  • Nice XBM menu system
  • Massive deal at only $430
  • Good remote with redundant power button underneath (where your fingers go)
  • Nice basic understated design
  • HDMI link lets you control Sony branded stuff from the TV menu, without changing remotes.

Cons:
  • Advanced features take longer to "boot up" than basic TV function on a cold start (can be remedied by setting up quick start mode, but this uses more power)
  • DLNA client needs MPEG2 video to play, so you need a DLNA server which can transcode to MPEG2 on the fly. Windows Media 7 seems to work fine for most formats this way, with some loss in quality.
  • TV Guide startup delay of about 5s after you press the guide button.
  • Sluggish response to some menu navigation commands, slow response to direct channel input.
  • Can't add channels manually, must scan then delete
  • Lots of "fluff" (craplets) in internet sources like Ford Models channel, which apparently can't be manually removed.
  • Narrow viewing angle--colors begin to noticeably wash out if you move just 45 degrees off center.
  • No support yet for Hulu, ABC video on demand, and some other sites.
Even if it didn't have a built in DLNA client, and didn't do Youtube, the TV Guide function alone would be worth considering.

Screen Shots:

Excellent picture when viewed close to head on.


The favorites menu overlays on top of your current activity, this is the best way to get to things you frequently use.


XBM Menu is quick and attractive.


My main reason to buy: the TV Guide which is fed from internet data or OTA data. Cons: delay before it comes up, slow response to inputs, advertising.

Useful channel strength and information display.


Pandora Radio interface.


YouTube frontend.


YouTube fullscreen with navigation controls. They go away after a second if you don't need them.


Remote details. Nice quick access buttons for major functions, redundant power button on the back of the remote.


Close-up of display for display geeks.
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Ford is dribbling out little bits about the new Exporer, which will be a major redesign (new platform, unibody, FWD/AWD) for the product. This is a neat video which shows some aerodynamic testing in a wind tunnel using a clay styling model. Even though Ford hasn't officially shown the Explorer, the clay model gives a lot away, assuming it is accurate.

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I am running Windows 7 64bit on a Dell desktop machine. Mysteriously, my DVD drive disappeared from Windows 7, and going through the hardware manager to re-install it did not work.

It turns out that iTunes (effing Apple! "it just works", hah!) puts in an ASPI driver from Gear Software.

To get my DVD drive back, I followed the instructions in this Microsoft KB article. It involves going into the registry using Regedit (don't forget to do it "run as Administrator") and deleting the UpperFilters key, which to the GearASPI file.

Problem is, if you update iTunes, you will have to do this again (I did).
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There are few countries in the world I can think of that I would rather be a citizen of than the US of A. There are other countries which are great, and powerful, and free. But none of them are such good combination of the three.

I get a rush every time I read our founding words. Pure poetry:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...
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