All Energy Is Solar Energy

August 25, 2012 at 11:06 am (Alternative Energy, Cool Tech, Entertainment, The Economy) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Long time since the last post, I know. This has been another busy year. So I’ll try to make this interesting.

I was visiting my father recently, and having a nice chat, as we often do. We got to discussing cars, and then electric cars. It’s an open secret that I’d like to build one someday. (After all, gasoline is not going to get any cheaper, now is it?) I mentioned that an actor – Robert Llewellyn – who had a role in one of my favorite TV shows ever (“Red Dwarf”) now has a very cool show on YouTube, called Fully Charged. In this series, he reviews electric cars, and discusses other issues & events related to electric vehicles and energy in general. Fun and funny. Here’s a recent episode, as an example:
 

Mr. Llewellyn does a marvelous job of covering some of the details and advances that are under-reported in the American main-stream media. In short, there is a lot more going on these days than you might think, especially in Europe, where energy costs have historically been much higher than in the USA.

But back to the discussion I was having with my dad. I pointed out to him that ultimately, all energy is solar energy. This caused dad to give me that look. The one that I remember from my youth. (You may know that look too!) The one that says, “What the hell are you talking about, kid?” So I explained what I meant.

I began by asking where the oil and coal came from. Of course, they are composed of old plant and animal material that got buried and transformed into coal or petroleum. And what caused those plants to grow? Sunlight. Solar energy.

And what about nuclear? Where does the uranium come from? Yes, out of the ground. But before that? In fact, where do all the elements come from, that make up our planet Earth? From other suns! Yup. All elements, aside from hydrogen, were fused together in the hearts of ancient suns – suns which eventually used up their hydrogen, and exploded, scattering their star-stuff throughout the galaxy. That stuff re-condensed into our Earth, our moon, and the rest of our solar system. And here we are – we’re made of stardust.

Any other energy you care to mention – wind, tidal, even geothermal – all of it can be traced back to the energy from our sun, or from ancient suns which burned billions of years ago. Think it through. It’s another inconvenient truth. And it’s why I like renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and so on. It cuts out the middleman.

Feel free to refute me, below. More soon, fellow Netizens!

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In A Windowless Room

April 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hey, bloggy-types and Internet trolls! I’m back again, making a bit of an effort to “feed” the blog. (And hoping to drive my traffic back up!) But in this installment, the content isn’t quite as poetic as the title might lead you to believe…

A recent post on e-week caught my eye. “Microsoft: 10 Fascinating Facts About Windows, Other Products”. I’ve got Fascinating Fact #11, kids. I am successfully and happily living my life without any of those products. Okay, without most of them. We’ll come back to that in a few paragraphs.

To begin – I’m not using Windows much any more. (My Windows machine is down, but when it runs, it’s running XP.) I’ve been on Linux almost exclusively (something like 99% of the time) for the past year or so, and very seldom do I run into an issue with it. I do have a couple apps that can only run on Windows, but – I’m getting along just fine, thanks. It’s surprising just how much work you can do on Ubuntu Linux, loaded on a second-hand Acer netbook. (Good-natured Bronx cheer, Mac and Windows adherents.)

As for Windows 8, (mentioned early in the e-week slideshow) I wonder how that new approach to the user interface will work out. People tend to resist change, even if it’s “good” change. The Redmond Rat Pack may have shot themselves in the foot here. I read a recent article to the effect that Windows may have one foot in the grave already, and if Win 8 goes over as well as Vista did, well – it’s not going to be pretty. Though – as a veteran Computer Tutor – it may mean more work for me. I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I have earned because Microsoft’s OS is such a P-O-S. Maybe I should send a “Thank You” card to Bill Gates.

Gaming – the X-Box is also featured in the slideshow… Since we are talking about my lifestyle here, bluntly, I have so little time to play games that an X-Box is about as much use to me as a skateboard is to a duck. I can just about manage a few games of Klondike before I fall asleep at night. Beyond that, gaming is an undiscovered country. A bit like me and any sports, to be frank. But I hear the X-Box is a well-regarded gaming system, though they do seem to die rather often and unexpectedly.

Bing – don’t get me started. Seriously? A search engine whose name is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google”? Nah. I’ve been Googling almost since there was a Google. So are 76% of the world’s Internet search engine users, as of Feb. 2012. Sorry, Bill. Nice try.

Zune. Yeah. (Trying not to laugh.) Another “me-too” product conceived in Apple’s shadow. I’ve had 3 or 4 MP3 players, none of them a Microsoft product. (No iPods, either. Overpriced, IMHO.) I’ve carelessly managed to kill all of them, sadly. There are times when I really miss them. Like when I am shopping during the holidays, and wherever I go, there seems to be some truly dreadful Christmas music playing on the store’s PA. “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” indeed. I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement before Hallowe’en this year…

Phones. Windows Mobile / Windows Phone? Not a chance this year. Or next. Currently, I don’t even have a smart phone. In fact, my phone couldn’t be any dumber, unless it was a rock. But in the future, given that there options such as the iPhone iOS, or the Linux-based Android, what do you suspect I would choose? Good guess.

Finally, we come to slide #10. Skype. Well, you got me, Microsoft. Guilty of being a Skype user. But only because I’ve been using Skype for personal and business calls since 2007. Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, mostly to keep it out of Google’s hands. Redmond only wins that one by default. And hey – Skype works fine on Linux! (I love this slide, below. Ballmer looks like some sort of gnomish version of a guy you might encounter in the waiting room of the oil-change place, getting fresh fluids poured into his Lexus. Big thumbs up there, Steve. Oh, and I will readily admit that I’m no beauty queen myself. In fact, I look increasingly like the comic book store guy on The Simpsons. Sigh. What ya gonna do, eh?)

We’re now at the end of the slideshow, and I’ll have to be done taking snarky pot-shots at Microsoft. Although, e-week didn’t mention Office Live (soon to be replaced by SkyDrive), the MS version of Google Docs. Or MSN. Or Hotmail. Maybe that’s because they are more or less invisible in the marketplace.

Nor did they mention Internet Explorer. Yet another “Billy-come-lately” product, and the stuff of which antitrust lawsuits were made. If IE didn’t come bundled with Windows, I kind of doubt it could hold its own in the browser marketplace. In fact, one startup recently took the audacious step of dropping all support for Internet Explorer. And it saved them over $100K, plus countless hours of development time. Pretty gutsy move, but one that I understand completely, as a webmaster. IE is a pain in the neck, because Microsoft insists on implementing Java, CSS, and HTML in their own special way, even though standards exist that they can follow. They simply choose not to. (Heh heh, you thought I was done being snotty, didn’t you? Okay, I’ll quit now. Rant over.)

Not sure what I’ll post next time. There’s a fair number of things rattling around in my old fat head. Come back soon, and see what fell out first. And don’t forget to comment below, if you are so moved. Thanks for reading!

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February Revisited – Thirty Years On

March 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm (General, Mind & Body) (, , , , , , , , , )

Image Mt. HoodGreetings from the rain-saturated western flanks of the Washington Cascades!  Among the responses to my last post, there was some encouragement to write a sort of “update”, from the perspective of three decades down the road.  Let’s see what the old stream of consciousness has to share…

For one thing, I haven’t had too much time to write poetry in the ensuing years.  Perhaps that’s because my angst level is down.  That’s a good thing.  (grin)  I’ve certainly achieved a number of things since then.  Marriage, divorce, multiple job and career changes, about 8 used cars, and moved to my present home in Vancouver, Washington.

About my home here in Vancouver… among the things I see from my front porch every winter night is my constant friend, Orion.  Many things change, and some remain the same.  I’ve heard it said that the only constant in life is change, and my life is no exception.  I certainly didn’t envision my life as it is at this age, but overall – I’m pretty happy with it.  Sure, there could be improvements.  Most people would say that about heir lives.  Abe Lincoln opined that most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.

I guess you could say I’ve made my mind up to be happy.  I’ve got a fine view of the sky, and on a clear day, I can see Mt. Hood from my porch, too.  The neighborhood is fairly quiet and safe, and because I work from home, my commute is utterly stress-free.  I’ve got a wonderful best friend, a small circle of good friends, and a supportive family.  And we’ve got a dog who’s pretty sweet.

Anyone have anything to share about their last three decades, and where they find themselves now?  Especially as it may relate to how you might have pictured it in 1982… for me, it’s certainly different from how I had imagined it.

More soon.

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February – Thirty Years Later

February 29, 2012 at 12:52 am (Entertainment, General) (, , , , , , )

Whew! What a year 2011 was, and 2012 is starting out to be equally busy!

But I’ve decided to post more blog entries this year. The feedback from WordPress was very encouraging. The stats are good, and I am excited about making my blog more of a presence on the net.

I’ll get started with something I haven’t shared online before. This is a poem I wrote almost exactly thirty years ago this month. (I’ve almost run out of February, for Pete’s sake! Good thing I decided to get on the ball here.)

Without further ado, here is my poem, unchanged, as I wrote it when I was 25…

February

Tall hunter Orion stands
Stiff-legged in the grey night sky.
His sword gleams dully at his side.
I walk
In the cool, clear dusk
Between rows of friendly houses.

Wood smoke.
Smells of simple food being prepared
With care and love
Touch my face
As my footfalls quietly crunch
Rattling gravel.

The city-machine’s growling roar
Is muted
By calm somnolence of Sunday’s lateness.
Where tomorrow, soon, will be
Madly whirling exchanges
Of the business of life
Is now only the dimly neon-lit quietness,
Waiting
Behind tight-locked dark glass doors
Adorned with colorfully sorry plastic signs
Encouraging me to return when
Light and life glitter within.

And now I go
To my own warmly familiar rooms
To sleep an uneasily lonely sleep.

And, rested once again,
My soul nourished by pastel-tinted dreams,
I rejoin my fellow souls, all loved –
Spirits in a gloriously imperfect material world.

(c) 1982, 2012 David Lockman, all rights reserved

Let me know what you think, below. Garbage or gold – go for it.

More soon. I’ve got some nifty little life-hacks to share, some other thoughts, and a blog post about how stories affect our lives. All in my mental queue. Looking forward to sharing with you all.

Image of Orion from http://xiaofury.blogspot.com/
(c) 2010 Natalie N. Johnson

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Lordhelpus – 2011 in Review

December 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm (General) (, , , , )


The WordPress.com helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for my blog –
Dlock’s Pop Culture Reflux.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

That’s pretty frickin’ cool, considering I only managed to post one blog entry this year… sigh. It’s been a busy year, and I was sick for quite a lot of the first half. Anyhow, if you like, you can check out my complete stats just by clicking the link below. See you in 2012 – w00t!

Click here to see the complete report.

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Ludwig von Drake on Music – Vintage Disney

April 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm (Entertainment, Media, Music) (, , , , , , , , )

Hello, Internets! (grin) Decided to take a few moments and offer up a brief post. Once again, life got in the way, and has kept me from posting for several months. I hope to get a few more entries posted in the near future.

But – let’s get started with today’s enjoyment! I ran across this nifty little blast from the past while on YouTube today. Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was a regular part of my childhood, even though we only had a black and white TV. (1955 Zenith, for those who care. And that’s probably only me.) And one of my favorite characters was Ludwig von Drake. (The image at the left is the cover of a record album we had when I was a kid.) Voiced by Paul Frees, one of my favorite voice actors of all time, old Ludwig helped to crystallize my interest in science. Disney released quite a few classroom films and short features hosted by Ludwig von Drake, including this one – A Symposium On Popular Songs:

And here’s part 2:

Oh, man. That is such cool stuff. You really can’t beat old-school Disney animation. Well and truly part of the Golden Age of cel animation, combined with stop-motion. I am a big fan of animation history and techniques, and the people who provided the voices. One of these days, I’ll have to write up some posts about my favorite voice actors, who include (in addition to Paul Frees) Mel Blanc, June Foray, Maurice LaMarche, and Billy West.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and look for more soon.

P.S. About the call letters – KBOO – on the microphone shown in part 2… It’s a real station, right here in my local area, Portland Oregon! I did a bit of volunteer engineering work for them back in the early ’80s. KBOO is a listener-supported community radio station, supported by grants and contributions. They’ve got quite a varied schedule, and I recommend checking them out. You can find the schedule on their web site, or listen to the online stream here.



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Printed Circuits – Then and Now – and Again

October 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm (Buy My Stuff, Cool Tech, General) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hey, netizens!

Yes, I know it’s been forever and a summer day since I posted last. Things are not getting any less busy, so – there’s just not as much time as I would really like to spend on my personal blog. (And a warning – there is heavy duty electro-geekiness ahead, so if you’d as soon skip it, I understand. But if you are of an inquiring (and geeky) mind, by all means, press on…)

That being said, I ran across an article online recently entitled “Recent Developments In Electronics” which reminded me of an article I wrote back in about 1998 and posted on my old personal web site. I had to take the site down about a year ago, mostly because I couldn’t really afford to keep it online. Before I did, I saved everything.

So I got to thinking, hey – I have all this old content on my hard drive… why not update it and share it? Here then, is my article on Printed Circuit Design…


What is a Printed Circuit Board?

Printed circuit boards (PCBs for short) have made our modern miracles possible – cellular phones, computers, headset stereos, pagers, all would be impossible without something like a printed circuit board. Even televisions and radios would be very different without them. Printed circuits allow manufacturers to connect together all the parts that make up, say, a calculator, very quickly and at a low cost.

Back in the old days, before the circuit board, lots of people worked on assembly lines to hand-wire components together, to make things like TV sets and radios. Eventually, someone decided there must be a better way.

A flat piece of reinforced plastic was coated on one side with a thin layer of copper. Holes were drilled in the plastic, and patterns of conductors (circuits) were printed on the copper. Then the whole thing was put into an acid bath. Wherever the patterns were printed, the copper was protected from the acid. Wherever there was no pattern, copper would be etched away by the acid. The result was a pattern of electrically isolated conductors, on a flat “board”, on which parts could be mounted and soldered.

Turned out to be a big time saver. Eventually, machines were designed to do the work of putting the parts on the boards, and soldering them as well. Fewer people were needed, and labor costs went down, reducing the price of the TV set or radio. Soon, parts started getting smaller and smaller, and so did the finished products. Nowadays, a hand-held TV set is no big deal, but in 1955, you would have needed a very big hand.

Before long, the printed circuit board began to evolve. Conductors on both sides, instead of just one side. Then conductors were buried inside the circuit board. Conductors got smaller, and closer together.

Then someone thought, “why drill a lot of holes and shove little wires through, when we can make parts without wires on the ends, and solder them right onto the board?” This is the basis of surface mount technology, which led to the level of miniaturization we have today – cell phones, pocket-sized CD players, and digital watches.

Printed Circuit Board Designing

Not an altogether bad career choice. Beats the heck out of digging ditches. The working conditions are generally good, and will vary depending on the company (pretty much like any office job). A PCB Designer will usually be found working in a clean, comfortable room, (because the computers need to be kept clean and cool), and often with other circuit board designers, or CAD drafters. (Note: a good chair is essential.)

A PCB Designer needs, of course, to know a few things, too. Basic to intermediate electronic knowledge is helpful. It is good to know how to read electronic schematics, and basic computer skills are pretty much a prerequisite. (Wintel / WindowsNT systems predominate in the market, followed by UNIX and Mac platforms). Some drafting education will help, and anything you can do to sharpen your communications skills will be a definite plus. (Determining and meeting the engineer’s needs is what it’s all about!)

A whole slew of disciplines come together to make up a successful PCB designer. Electronic, mechanical, and aesthetic considerations are all taken into account when designing a PC board. Where will the connectors and switches go? How much room do I have in the case? What kinds of tolerances must I work with? How easy will it be to manufacture the PC board, and how can I make it easier? PCB design is mostly rules-driven. You have to design within the rules, or the board just plain won’t work, or worse still, can’t even be manufactured. Very embarrassing. Trust me. Voice of experience.

PCB designers often need to be self-starters, detail-oriented, and willing to work long hours, under deadline pressures. (It is often the designer who gets squeezed between the engineer, who wants a little extra time to make sure it’s right, and marketing, who are anxious to get out there and sell the thing, before the competition beats them to market.)

PCB design can become a somewhat lonely endeavor, thrashing away hour after hour in a darkened room, headphones clamped to the head, connecting the dots. It is important to create a little balance, therefore, because it can be way too easy to focus on the tasks at hand, and ignore personal lives, exercise, and diet.

A lot of stuff to know. And until recently, there were very few places where you could take classes at the college level, to learn the art of PCB design. It used to be a sort of “fraternity”, in which more experienced designers mentored new designers, and taught them how the job was done. That is beginning to change. Because of the rapid growth of the electronics industry, there has been an increased need for qualified designers. There is now an initiative to put into place training and certification programs for PCB designers. Ideally, this will lead to better designers, and better designs.

Salary ranges are anywhere from $18K for a newbie, to $40K and up for a lead designer with lots of experience. Positions can be found in manufacturing companies, and in service bureaus, which provide their design services to client companies. (Note: remember I wrote this in 1998. Your mileage may vary.)

The Future

The future of PCB design can be summed up thusly: faster, denser, more complex, and more competitive. As chip speeds climb, the need for high-frequency performance increases as well. Designers who are capable of designing these high-speed boards will be highly sought after, and will earn nice, fat salaries.

PCBs will be more jam-packed with parts, and some integrated circuit chips (ICs) are already being mounted directly to the board (chip on board), without the need for a case (package) of its own. More features and functions will be packed into new products, meaning new challenges for packing more circuitry into less space.

And in an increasingly global economy, some American and European PCB designers are finding that they are in almost direct competition with their counterparts in Asia, where wages are very much lower. This is especially true in the area of consumer electronics, where the Asian Dragon is eating our lunch. (Note: even in 1998, when I wrote this, the handwriting was on the wall.)

Design automation will also increase productivity, and may eliminate jobs. Software tools such as autoplacement (the automated placement of part outlines, by the design software, rather than being manually placed by the human designer) and autorouting (automated layout of the connecting trace patterns, again by the software, rather than a manual process invloving the designer) engines may displace some designers, but at present, there are still many aspects of PCB design that can only be done by a skilled human designer.

The successful designer will need to stay abreast of new technologies and trends in order to remain successful. Designers who are able to offer the most value to the companies which employ their services, will command the highest wages, and the highest respect.


Well, as you might have noticed, some things have changed since 1998. PCB designing was pretty good to me from the mid-’80s to 2002, but since then, not so much. Most of the PCB design jobs are now in China, Taiwan, and other spots overseas. Tens of thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs have left the USA, perhaps never to return. Not everything I foresaw for the future has come to pass – at least here in the states.

Personally, I did not stay abreast of the latest technologies. I got sidetracked for a few years doing some very specialized layout work, and that experience didn’t translate well to the marketplace in 2003. And to be frank, I had moved on a bit, too. I had gotten kind of tired of getting laid off every few years. High-tech in the Portland, Oregon area has always been like that.

The pace of change has accelerated over the years, and I have decided to go in a different direction. I am now working from home, doing web design, software sales, and press release promotion. Can’t say I miss the long commutes from East Vancouver to Beaverton, or some of the complete tools I used to work with. Not all of them were big pains in the butt, but – they know who they are. And raspberries to them.

As for me, my evening commute is about 15 feet. Top that.

More again soon. Er, I hope.



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A Mongoloid Love Story

August 8, 2010 at 10:46 pm (Entertainment, Music) (, , , , , , , , )

Yay howdy, surfers and surferettes! Time for another entry in the “this song sounds like that song” series here on Dlock’s Pop Culture Reflux.

I’m sorry it’s been so long since the last post. My best friend has been terribly ill, and I’ve been doing a lot of driving to and from doctors, helping out… all that stuff that happens when someone you care about is sick.

And it’s been pretty busy at work, too. Our free press release site has been “discovered”, and we’re getting a lot of traffic & submissions. We’ve also migrated our brainstorming software web site over to a new host and a new shopping cart. Lots of work to get that done. Anyhow, on with the show…

I’m listening just now, as I type this, to Love Story by Layo & Bushwacka! (Not my exclamation point.) Never heard it before. It came up the rotation on my Pandora channel. No idea why – the channel seeds are bands like Cutting Crew, Pet Shop Boys, and The Cure. Big shrug. Strange and manifold are the ways of Pandora. But I digress, as usual. Here is the tune, for your listening and dancing enjoyment:

Now, if you are as old as I am (and apparently that’s older than the very soil beneath my feet) the melody / bass line of this song may sound familiar to you, especially if you had ever been a fan of the boys in yellow rubber suits, from Akron, Devo:

Yeah, you hear it too? At first, I was sure that it was Devo’s Mongoloid that had come up on Pandora just now. Bit of a surprise.

Great band, and a powerful influence in the punk music scene. Did I ever tell you my Devo story? For those who haven’t heard it, here ’tis…

It was August 14, 1980, at Portland’s old Paramount Theatre. (I looked it up. There’s this thing called Google, ya see.) I had a seat on the main floor, about 6 rows behind the mixing console, on the left aisle. Waiting for the show to begin, two cute young girls approached the two young guys sitting right in front of me. The blonde, whose white jeans were probably applied by means of a paint roller, said “My friend and I can’t find seats. Can we sit on your laps?” Well, the two lads looked at each other, wondering if they were dreaming, looked again at the two ladies, and nodded their heads like characters in a Warner Brothers cartoon – “uh-huh! uh-huh! uh-huh!”

And then the show began. Well, both shows, really – Devo and the blonde. Up, down, squirming on the boys’ laps, dancing… I’m not sure what became of the guys and the blonde’s friend, who all disappeared at some point, but the girl in the white jeans was really enjoying herself. During one song, I was standing up, as often happens at rock concerts, and suddenly felt something against the front of my trousers. It was the top of the blonde’s head. I looked down, and there she was, sitting in the seat, looking up at me. I smiled and waved a little wave, and went back to watching the show.

A short while later, Missy McBlondehips found her way up onto the stage, and treated the audience to a sexy little dance, while Devo played Freedom of Choice. Mark Mothersbaugh waited until two security guards were in position, and exercised his Freedom of Choice, delicately tipping her wriggling butt off the stage, and into the arms of security, who hustled her past me, up the aisle, and out to her destiny. I only regret that I didn’t get her number.

So, there it is – my Devo story. Great concert, otherwise. An early multi-media show. There were at least two interludes, as I recall, when the band left the stage, and music videos for some of their songs were projected on screens. I understand that things can be quite a lot more sophisticated these days, but then – I’m an ancient, decrepit wreck who doesn’t attend concerts these days. I don’t “get” a lot of modern music, and I know I am beginning to sound like my dad.

Dad’s doing quite well, by the way. He had a kidney out in February 2010, and is now getting around better than he was a year ago. 87 years old, and still motoring along. I can only hope to reach 87.

And I hope to be posting a little more often. My friend is better, and much of the heavy lifting is done on the web sites. Though that usually means that more stuff is about to hit the fan any old time now. C’est la vie.



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GMC Terrain – Another Ugly Truck

May 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm (Cars & Trucks, General) (, , , , , , , , )

Greetings, fellow citizens and auto enthusiasts! I’m back to abuse GM’s styling department once again. (Yes, the very people who brought us the Pontiac Aztek.) Sorry, but it’s just the sort of hateful, bilious, unhappy little man that I am.

(And sorry about the lapse in posting. It’s been a bear of a month. E-mail me if you really must know more.)

OK! Let’s get on with the sneering, giggling and pointing, shall we? Today’s styling victim – the GMC Terrain.

I do have to give GMC some props – they did make the effort to create a vehicle that gets 32 mpg with its 4 cylinder engine, and they’ve included some nice comfort features. There’s even a rear-facing camera. And I’m sure, a plethora of cupholders. But for Pete’s sake! Why do automotive styling departments seem incapable of designing an SUV that doesn’t look like a smiling chimpanzee?

What is it with auto stylists these days, that makes them think that cars and trucks need to have a face?

Notable examples of this are the recent Acura and Mazda cars, and the new Chevy Camaro. For some reason, they seem to have stupid little grins pasted to their front ends. Why? Do focus groups really say that they like to have cars that smile at them? Or are the people in the focus groups just screwing with the auto makers?

So, what makes the Terrain look so ungainly? What’s the deal with the bulges around the wheel wells? Is that supposed to make the truck look “muscular”? Not even close. It looks like a fat chick stuffed into an undersized pair of sweat pants.

Sad, really. Sad that the guys that designed this wee beast don’t seem to have heard of Harley Earl. That’s a guy who really knew how to design a vehicle that looked great – sleek and well-proportioned. The Terrain suffers from a disproportionate design. The fender bulges are too pronounced, and look like an afterthought. The beltline is in the wrong place. It’s either too high, or not high enough. Wrong place! The front clip is bulky, bumpy, and fails to appeal – well, at least to me. The overall effect is of an upside-down bathtub on wheels.

These are pretty much the same complaints I have with the Jeep Compass. And I stand by my assessment. If need be, nose to nose with the lead designer. I’ll bring my pencil and sketchbook. But I realize it’s an uphill battle, trying to make a good-looking SUV. Better to swing and miss than not to swing at all.

(Gawd, I’m a bitch tonight! Bring on the insults, Terrain owners!)



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Got to know when to fold (or roll)

April 9, 2010 at 12:21 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish. How the time has flown. More than a month since I posted an entry. Please forgive me. I’ll try and make this interesting, especially for the geek contingent.

My aunt & uncle sent me this video of a new concept prototype for a roll-up computer.  Yep.  It rolls up, like a towel, or a tatami mat.  Dig the coolness…

Too slick, huh?  And when it finally hits the market, it’ll probably be no more expensive than an Apple MacBook.  The most expensive bit is the flexible display technology, and that’s going to rapidly come down in price once they get the manufacturing online.  If I recall correctly from the video, it’s an organic LED display, which means the whole display can be built on plastic film rather than glass like current LCD & LED displays.

The rest of the design- all pretty standard stuff for laptops and cell phones these days.  Stunning, isn’t it?  Especially for those of us who grew up with 3 channels of TV to watch, in black & white, on a set that had to “warm up” for several seconds…

And perhaps the design that is shown in this video study may not reach market, but I’ll be looking for some other kinds of revolutions in portable computing.  First, there are now hand-held video projectors:

I really want one of those.  That is just cooler than a penguin’s instep.  And of course, flexible keyboards have been available for several years.  Here’s a demo.

But wait, there’s more, as the infomercial once said.  How about some new ideas for input devices that don’t even use keyboards!  With this new prototype, you won’t even need the bendy, floppy keyboard any more:

In another 30 years, who knows?  Direct brain interface?  Speech to text already exists, and in fact, your computer may already have it.  Spooky, huh?

Maybe I should think about using speech to text.  I have a lot of typing to do, every day.  I’m getting caught up on work, finally.  Both the computer and I have been sick lately.  I’ll try to get another blog entry posted very soon.



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