October 31, 2015
Motorola Birdcage 75 - No Relation To La Cage aux Folles
Since I'm going to be at SEMA tomorrow, I'm doing some research. Motorola will be showing off their Birdcage 75, a name I hope will make sense to me when I see the car. From a purely branding perspective, I have to wonder about how that fits. I'm expecting a big "oh, ok I get it".
XM NavTraffic + Garmin = Useful
Garmin and XM NavTraffic are now deep under the duvet and the petting is heavy. The first litter of gene spliced offspring are three, count em, three XM NavTraffic enabled Garmin devices. Once these hit the streets, anything without it will be old. Old like beat-boxing, old like Barny Miller. Yeah, that old. The stakes are going to keep getting raised in the mobile NAV market. Each incremental add-on will, in the near term, render ones with those features, obsolete. Mobile NAV devices have a lot of work to do right now to justify their still WAY TOO HIGH price points.
You may have noticed in Best Buy that Westinghouse is selling their 32" LCD HDTV for $850. Sitting right next to a Sony that does EXACTLY the same thing, selling for $2500. People feel the profit margin on this one. They know the cost is way out of whack and it's not too far off before someone realizes that if they sell 10,000 units at $700 they might sell 40,000 units at $300. Pretty simple econ 101 stuff. Westinghouse changed the landscape of flat screen and HDTV by throwing down the price gauntlet. Garmin and XM are both smart companies but they also know this gravy train of massive margins cant last forever. Lets see if they can figure out the value of being the first to market with lower prices. Feel your inner Sun Tzu.
October 28, 2015
California Style Math
How exactly do you lose 30,000 vehicles?
Carhacks @ SEMA Nove 1-3
I'll be reporting live-ish from the floor of the SEMA show bringing you all the latest dope on new hawtness. If any vendors are reading this and want me to stop by their booth, make sure to send me a note. I'll also be giving out free Carhacks stickers to anyone at the show who recognizes me. Yes, I'm a attention whore.
Built-In or Add-On
I wanted to point out an article in PC magazine that compares built-in audio / navigation systems. Now I do think they glaze right over some important points and facts about what car makers have to offer as well as what is available in the aftermarket, but they do offer some data. And for data's sake, you may want to check it out. Or not.
OBD Bluetooth Smartphone Goodness
Now that OBD (not to be confused with ODB) has been opened up by way of USB and Bluetooth adapters, we're now able to get much better insight into what is actually going on under the hood. The limitation has been in the software that displays that info. Vital Engineering has solved not only the software issue, they solved it for a number of platforms including Smart Phones. It doesn't stop there, even cooler, their software will post live performance data to "the web".
Carhacks would love to demo the hw & software to give you all a better look at all it can do... We'll see how that goes :)
October 24, 2015
Cars With Windows, No, The Other Windows
If you're a reader of this site, you know about the Microsoft TBox. The short-attention-span-Hollywood-pitch is, windows can run your car, it will be like the Matrix meets I-Robot meets The Odd Couple. Ok, no that didn't work. Ok, its 2001 A Space Odyssey meets Maximum Overdrive meets Gigli. Yeah, that's it. See? Good.
Fiat has already signed on and will be including the Microsoft OS in their dashboards. I wonder if the Italian version of Windows has a Ciao button.
Apparently, MS is releasing a new version of the OS, or at least a very upgraded version. From everything I;ve heard, the old one was pretty good. With as many people making smart remarks about reliability (compounded by their first partnership with Fiat) I'm sure they're throwing a lot of QA at the project and it'll be pretty great.
The features they're touting are better NAV with 3D mapping, simple media integration and simple phone integration. I'm sure that's a small sample of their offerings and they'll be adding more very soon.
My question is, will you be able to upgrade existing systems once you buy a car? Am I stuck with the 2007 operating system when it's 2010 and new cooler stuff is out? The cat is out of the bag, you can't offer things that you cannot upgrade anymore or people think its disposable. If any MS folks are reading this, I'd love to share some answers with our readers.
October 21, 2015
Traffic.com Gets Interoperative
Traffic data is just starting to creep into the NAV scene. Driving maps are nice and all but if your route planner sends you into a massive 18 car pile-up, it's not terribly useful. Having lived in LA and NYC, I know traffic can come and visit for a while without notice, keeping you hemmed in like the faux-meat in a hot-pocket.
Traffic.com appears to be ramping up their operations, connecting a whole mess of useful stuff together in order to help commuters get where they need to be without delay. Or, get there with a delay but they'll be informed that they're in for a terrible wait.
What it smells like is a coordinated effort that could spell relief and offer a single place for NAV systems to source their data. Wow, whoda thunk it?
If you listen real close you can hear me clapping. Woot.
October 20, 2015
MacMini - Front Row Car UI?
I love the MacMini. It's just so darn cute. The sad part (make a sad face now) is that MacMinis in cars have been bereft of a decent UI. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that. BUT, now it seems that the Apple Front Row "media center"-ish UI seems to fit the mobile bill pretty well, if only for its media capabilities. I don't think it has any sort of NAV functionality (which would be a weird thing for an entertainment center to have) but all of those Mac developers are surely whittling raw rawhide into sculpted NAV code as we speak. Or I speak. Or write. You get it.
Red Hot USB
Telematics Journal brings us news of a high temp industrial grade USB controller. I'm sure KMFDM will be relieved. (you see, they're an Industrial music band... oh man I had to explain a joke.. weak).
The benefits are pretty obvious. Cars will be exposed to very temperatures in their lifetimes so having components rated to an extreme range. I'm expecting it to be yellow in color as things that are rugged have to be. I think its a law or something.
Let's hope these get sucked up by the automakers so we can have some sweet connectivity into cars. Well, 5 years from now when the cycle completes...
October 18, 2015
Tom Tom Nav & MP3 Player
TomTom dominates the European navigation market. Their well designed enclosures along with a strong UI keeps them ahead of the field. With their sights set on the US market they are trying to add things to their line that will appeal to US customers. Thier first new whiz-bang gizmo is the addition of an MP3 player to their navigation unit. While it may seem like an odd things to add, it makes sense. The hardware and software is nearly already built for the task, a few tweaks and its a whole new feature.
Is Your Cell Phone A Government Spy? Yup.
Conspiracy theorists, get your tin foil hat ready, your time has come.
More and more municipalities are using the public as their own traffic sensor network. It seems that your cell phone is a useful traffic tool that can give real-time granular visual data about traffic flow. Not bad, it seems like a direct rip-off from that Bil Paxton disaster, Twister. Remember Dorothy, that barrel that spewed out little GPS sensors into the tornado? Similar concept here. The problem here is the system can also act as a Where's Waldo with anyone who has a cell phone. The idea that big brother can pin-point you on a map is just one kidnapping away from legal precedent. Oh sure "they" will tell you it's all anonymous and they would never violate your civil rights by tracking your whereabouts. But one day someone will get kidnapped. The person kidnapped may have a call phone. The district atty and the chief of detectives get together and get a judge to break the rules, just this once, to save a life. And the flood gates open. One more civil right sold wholesale.
Hey look at the bright side, now the department of traffic will be able to know how congested the roads are. Not that they would actually DO anything with that data, but at least they'll know. And we can see the clear value in that, right?
October 17, 2015
Car Bluetooth Hacking
The idea that I could yell at someone in front of me without having to roll down my window makes me so happy I just cried a little. Not in a weird creepy way, in a happy way. Again with that look...
October 16, 2015
Car Key, Your Time Has Come... To Die
The lowly car key. A symbol of freedom. A symbol of responsibility. A symbol of car payments. The key in and of itself is a very mechanical technology that could have gone the way of the compassionate republican years ago. Yet it still hangs on like that weird guy at your party that doesn't leave. And it's like 2AM. Freak.
Some automakers are starting to move away from keys but I think its purely a perception issue. They think that if the car doesn't have a key, someone might steal it. Wake up, people steal cars because key technology is weak. Along with the whole ignition and car-security technology thing. If automakers spent just a tiny bit more time trying to make cars impossible to steal, people wouldn't be able to take them.
As Lexus and Mercedes will come to show us, once the key is taken out of the equation, cars will magically stick to parking spots. Unless you don't make that car payment that is.
October 15, 2015
Car Parks Self, Lights A Smoke, Has A Moment
When I was a kid I thought "Why not have 4 little wheels that could drop down from under the car so you could slide sideways into a spot and do away with all this parallel parking nonsense". Being that it was the 70's automakers were still way too busy exploring the depths of pleather and velvet to deal with stupid things like tight parking spots. Judging by the length of cars in 76', longer was better and had no bearing on anything that wasn't disco or in the color spectrum of avocado.
Toyota decided it was time to take care of that pesky task and I violently applaud them. Now, I do think its critical that people know how to park a car, just as its critical that everyone knows how to drive a stick, but once you know it, we can move on to better things and avoid the boring task altogether.
Now, how about a new cigarette lighter? No one smokes cigars, its time for a smaller standard. Lets focus on important stuff now!
From The "Why?!" File - Headlight TV
Ok, you got me. I'm going to admit it. Some customizing stuff is just plain silly. I could go on and on about this "thing" but it truly speaks for itself. At least Popeil stuff did something useful. Sheesh.
October 14, 2015
Stealing Will Get You Nowhere
Nothing in life is truly free. Unless you steal it. The it's free. At least to them. On the web when people like images from other sites, someone has to pay the bill. This week it was us.
As much as I enjoy seeing more traffic to this site of ours, I do hate to find out that some traffic is less than earnest. Sure, the spam-bots try to hit my comment and trackback CGI so they can tell you all about Cialis and Off-Shore Poker but outside of that automated realm there are the insidious bandwidth thieves. Rather than saving a Googled image to their own server, they link to someone else's. Leeching their bandwidth. Fortunately for me I have nice refer logs.
Apparently my copy of a Sony logo became quite popular. In fact if you search for Sony Logo on Google images, we're #2. Wooohoo! With that popularity came a thief. A thief who used the linked log to promote his eBay auction. The beauty of a linked image is that you still control it. If you follow the link and head down the page you'll see the image that once was a Sony logo.
Not "news" per se but I came across a good resource for in-car keyboards. As much as we want to be all "I don't have use for such things as my touch-screen satisfies all my needs", we still need one once in a while.
Who Do The Voodoo That You Do
The MacMini form factor is perfect for the vast majority of home users. We check email, surf the web, blog about the new James Bond, etc. In the PC world, the Mini is the Mini ITX form factor. Many variations on the housing have been seen, and many more are to come. The newest offering on the street is the Idol from Voodoo. Consider it a a MacMini for people who don't Mac. The red color makes me think Apple should consider getting back into color cases. White is nice but red, well, it says "hey, look at me, I'm red. You may now begin coveting".
As prices plummet and MiniITX moves to the forefront as a very useful home PC, we might see more gigantor desktops head to the scrap heap. Why take up 4 cubic feet with a super tower when all you want to do is suft the web for Lindsey Lohan pictures.
The car PC enthusiast will see this as an excellent option that could not only do everything they want with up to 2.1Ghz but also look cool. It's nice to see some of these smaller units sneaking in some higher power CPUs.
October 12, 2015
Telematics Bubble Theory
Dan Dodge goes into fine detail on the dangers of adolescent telematics software and how it will be a likely target for hackers. His solution is to develop big, tough bubbles. Why didn't I think of bubbles? Man, I'm dense sometimes.
I do see his point. Remember when people were cloning cell phones by stealing your phone ID from the side of the highway? Bluetooth also has some security issues it still needs to work out. I think a lot ofcar manufacturers are losing some sleep over the dangers of poorly written (weak security) code in mobile, mission critical systems.
October 11, 2015
Driverless Car Wins Race & $2M, Marries Paris Hilton
Stanford wins the prize for a driver-less car that crosses all sorts of crazy obstacles in the desert (old golfers, coyote & roadrunner) and walks away with $2M. Now, if I learned anything from Real Genius, the PhD in charge of the project is a puppet for the DOD and you're really building some sort of death ray. Oh, and you get no money. I suspect that since these kids are already going to a posh school like Stanford, $2M is a mere pittance and their Bentleys are already filled up with Benjamins.
Now that DARPA has their unmanned death mobile I'm dying to know what the next "get the public to fund our research" game will be. I hope it's something cool like a death ray. What's a death mobile without a death ray?
October 10, 2015
Viva La Revolution - Bluetooth Ad Spam
The end is neigh. Every day I am hassled by Nigerians trying to "wire" me $20,000,000.00 , Croats using mortgage scams to try to steal my identity, Russians trying to "sell" (steal my credit card info) me Cialis. I don't even know what it is buy they want me to have it. Bad(ly).
I bought a Tivo because commercials are irritating and stupid aside from interrupting my enjoyment of Lost. I screen all of my phone calls because I don't like having people willy-nilly decide to dominate my time at their whim. I install ad-blocking host files to stop on-line ads. My network has a firewall to keep out hackers. I have 3 layers of small filtration on my email accounts. This blog uses a filter to stop the deluge of trackback and comment spam which is aimed to redirect you people from this site to some off-shore gambling (fixed so you lose and so they can steal your credit card info). I listen to XM radio not because I don't like local radio (I actually don't like local radio) but because the stations here play commercials 22 minutes per hour.
What's the theme here. We are bombarded from every angle. We have to gouge out a safe haven from marketers. I envy those people on that island in Lost. They don't have to deal with spam, automated phone calls, junk mail etc. We're overstimulated by the deluge of both fraudulent and "legitimate" advertising. The government passed some laws making it illegal to call people on do-not-call lists etc. There are ways to "opt out" but in the end, its only a small finger in a very big dike.
I will sometimes use this forum to talk about other things going on in technology. Things I think people want to know. A new technology is being launched and it's going to be a problem. This new marketing annoyance tool is going to make people hate bluetooth and it's going to drive bluetooth phone makers into a decision. Do they make their phones so you can ignore this sort of junk or do they lose customers. The minute this stuff goes on-line people are going to do a few things. Please listen close, because it takes a village to lay the smack-down. The first thing people will do is complain. The someone will sue based on the telemarketing laws that make SMS ads illegal. That may fail. People will start to complain to the phone makers saying that they want to be left alone and they need to send out fixes or new phones. Then the magic happens (you people are part of this). People reverse engineer the system and fight back. Anti-bluetooth jammers are cobbled together from cheap radio-shack parts, blocking these signals. People start to hack into these billboards and tear out the insides or even better, hack in and change the message.
People, our right to be left the hell alone is about to be kicked in the mouth. Call these people and tell them that this is not OK. Make this a fight we win against the marketing people. Let us not lay down like sheep before the wolves of the corporate capitalism machine. Where is Che when you need him?
October 06, 2015
Streets & Trips 2006. 1 Whole Year Better
Microsoft raised the stakes this time. No, no sarcasm here. Their mapping app that had fallen in between a desktop mapping app and a mobile GPS / NAV package decided that it was going to play for the traveling team. Their new release, aptly named, Streets and Trips 2006 offers voice commands (from you) and voice prompts (to you). In a word, neat.
I paid $99 for the 05 version and it came with the Pharos i360 USB / CF / PCMCIA GPS mouse which was cool except for the blue LED that you cannot turn off. That was almost worth some orthoscopic surgery on the unit but I thought better of it. Luck little bastard. Anyway, the Pharos GPS is a great mating as it's a very sensitive unit and I've got it mounted almost sideways and never get less than 7 sats. Spiffy.
AC / DC Gap Tech
One day you'll have more options. One day you'll be able to do what you please. One day, yeah yeah yeah. Manufacturers don't want to make anything they don't have to so if it's powered by household power, in some cases you're just SOL. For those who insist on having a coffee maker or their Dyson vacuum in their car, a DC / AC converter will have to be involved.
Xantrex has announced a "new" "smaller" "micro" (how many quoted things can I have at one time?) inverter. If the Dyson isn't your aim, a game console would also fit in that "they didn't make this so it can work in my car" argument. Ah, one small problem, seems that it's only for Europe for now. Off to Radio Shack for you. BTW, whats up with Radio Shack? Do they only hire creepy people who follow you around the store and make too much eye contact? Or is it just me.
Head Unit Turns Tables, Controls PC
eHome Upgrade never ceases to amaze me with their selection of gadgets I didn't know I couldn't live without. The new gadget I now suddenly love is a little black box that talks head unit language on one end and USB on the other letting you use your stereo to control your PC.
At $109 the price seems to fit the problem it solves, or to look at it another way, it's a small price to pay to spend less time fussing with on screen controls.
In one hand you have a cool new ______ and no way to mount it in your car. You go through all the usual suspects; Velcro, duct-tape, bailing wire, zip-ties, spray-adhesive, and finally the OEM (HAHAHAHAHAHA Like they EVER make mounts you NEED).
People out there feel your pain. Panavise and ProClip are in the business of taking well made products and securing them to your interior with as little fuss as possible. Now, I get the OEM stance (in a whiny voice): "But its so hard to make a mount for all those different cars, we already did so much work making this new ____, our hands are tired from counting the money".
The fact is, if you want it to be a "part" of your car, it needs to be secure. Panavise focuses on mounting bases. That way you either secure the aftermarket mount to the Panavise base or you take a Dremel to the mount and hone it down so it snugs on there like, something snug.
October 05, 2015
The Big 200
This post is the 200th on Carhacks. With it comes a few new developments. We upgraded to MT 3.2 today which allows for better anti-spam. Unfortunately it also means a few hurdles to jump through on commenting. I want to encourage people to comment but the spam-bots have been hitting us hard on trackbacks and comments, so only registered users can comment. It's pretty simple to do so please don't let a little work scare you off.
I had to put together a keyword filter for comments and trackbacks and it looks like a list of words that the FCC uses to determine if you're worthy of a nasty fine (for those on TV or Radio. I'd publish it but its a little too blue even for this very liberal rag. I'm somewhat impressed at how many nasty terms I could come up with.
I'd like to encourage more of you to contribute links to articles / products or even your comments. Feel free to email them to me - lionel @ carhacks.org, in the comments or in the message boards.
I'm also looking for someone who knows Movable Type pretty well to help spruce up the place a little bit. I'll offer up some ad space and some fig newtons.
Chevy Got Mac'd
The Silverado is a kissing cousin to my Yukon so I know what lies beneath the surface of the dash. It's not good stuff in there so kudos (I HATE that word) to this guy for getting that monitor in there and making it look normal. Had I done the same thing I'd be in a world of false insurance claims... Moving right along... Hey, how about that Mac OS?
Of all of the things I could say about this install, I have to pick the keyboard out. Is that inset? How cool is that? The custom center console is no slouch either but I do think it's a tad squarish. Hey, I'm a critic, thats what I DO, I critique!
Im curious about how exactly to USE a MacMini with a touch screen without some sort of UI.
And don't think that I missed the Louis Vuitton liner in the compartment. I'm not sure how to react, its like looking at Gwen Stefani but then she turns her head around and there's a hairy mole. It kinda ruins it.
Get Your DARPA on
That's so road warrior! (or more like that RPG some kids I knew when I was younger used to play. What the heck was that called. It was like D&D but with cars...)
In case you're living in a car technology vacuum, you know about the DARPA challenge.
Carhacks is sponsoring (we sent them stickers) Team Banzai who is not quite at the top of the standings but doing well. I will note that the rich kids from Stanford are acing the course in a Touereg (or however you spell it) which is the same car as Banzai...
Ton Of Bricks
The other day I wrote about how XM and DirecTV were getting all cozy in some secluded chalet where they can have some "alone time". Well I completely missed the big picture here. XM must see how music over the DTV box is not going to make a huge difference in their business but having access to DTV's programming, already digitized is interesting. XM already knows how to stream digital media from space to a car. DTV knows something about it too but they require an antenna that is very carefully placed. XM, not so much. What I'm getting at is the extension of DirecTV programming through the XM network. Streaming audio and video are terribly similar. If XM has the bandwidth on their transponders they could be gearing up to stream some channels. Weather, traffic, news, kids, a network or two...
It all makes sense. Technology wants to creep, that's what it does. DirecTV dishes are fine and nice for your house but mobile, it's very expensive. XM fills in the gap, and their 5 million subs are nice too.
Expect a luxury SUV with XM DirecTV in the back seat in about 18 months. Minivans and mid-level SUVs next. Oh, you guys who buy Sentras and Tercels, guess what. No soup for you. Cars that have hand crank windows will never get the cool stuff. Do you need any more proof that corporate America hates the poor?
October 02, 2015
Low Cost PC - More Voom
I know I just reviewed a VoomPC enclosure but I thought it was relevant to mention the press release that mentions that complete kits will only be $299-$399 which by all accounts is a cheap computer any way you slice it. Add to that the cool case and it's a damn fine deal.
I'm still hoping that more than 1GHz is put in some of these systems, it's just enough juice to push your system / multimedia needs.