Tag Archives: automobile

How are Computers and Cars Alike?

Geek!This is Scott Morgan’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

I’m a computer geek by nature. My first PC was a Texas Instruments Ti-99/4a Personal Home computer that my parents bought me for Christmas when they were selling for $50 a piece at the local Brand Names Outlet. Mom bought 6 cartridges for my sister and me, three apiece, and cut out the proofs of purchase to have the Speech Synthesizer Module shipped to us so I could play Parsec with a drone computer voice speaking in the background. My first computer that I purchased myself was an Apple //e with one floppy drive, CP/M Microsoft Z-80 card, Imagewriter 2 Color Printer and an Apple RGB Color Monitor – total cost $2200 on the Apple Credit Program!
Since then, I’ve owned a dozen assorted Macintosh computers second hand and have built several PCs myself…

But my other passion is automobiles. I’ve been a mechanic for many years and love the feel of grease between my fingers, the smell of gasoline and burning metal of rotors being machined. So when someone asks me at work how to keep their computer running in good shape, I tell them that a computer is like an automobile; both are machines, both require maintenance and both require the best parts to be high-performance machines and eventually both will break and need replacements.

My job at work is to diagnose customer problems with their Internet and determine problems with their Internet connections, whether they are related to their computers or their Modems, or our servers, or somewhere else on the Internet. I recommend to most customers to do a weekly routine of maintenance to their computers so that their computers are working the way they should, determine which upgrades they need to keep up with their expectations of performance. You certainly will not get the same graphics and sound performance out of Pentium III with Windows 2000 that you will get out of a Dual Core Intel PC running Windows Vista. Of course, many of my customers would lead someone to believe that the chipset does not matter, as if they could get the same gasoline fuel mileage from a carbureted Cadillac V8 as they could from a Honda Hybrid engine.

Computers are getting faster and more powerful, whereas automobiles are getting smarter and more efficient, a stark contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when computers were designed to maximize their efficiency (such as the Cray X-MP that was built cylindrically to minimize wire length and maximize direct connections) and cars were becoming faster and more powerful; an example of this would be Ford’s use of wind tunnels to minimize drag resistance to make their car bodies more aerodynamic and cut through the air faster and safer and Ford’s constant competition with Chrysler on the racetracks of America. Computers are becoming more powerful at an exponential rate, and the manufacturers are “borrowing” from the designs and breakthroughs in the automotive industry.

Apple computer recently released a new design for their Macintosh Macbook Pro line recently with a “unibody construction”, an idea where the base of the book is not screwed together piece by piece, but cut from one single piece of aluminum, which adds to the rigidity, strength and takes up less space. Ironically, this is also not a new idea, but something that the automotive industry introduced back in the 1970’s with many of their vehicles using a Unibody Constructed weld that centered on the vehicle cabin as being the base of the vehicle instead of mounting a vehicle body to a set of frame rails. This made the body more lightweight, used less metal and made a stronger frame where it was needed most, to protect the insides of the car that needed the most protection – the passenger cabin.

Computers have become faster due to advances in processors breaking the Gigahertz speed barrier to the point where manufacturers realized that the only way to make them faster was to include more processors to pick up the slack in speed. When Apple introduced the concept of including more than one processor working in conjunction with each other, the biggest obstacle was in making the processors share the work. Apple figured out a way to pipeline the data between the processors and having the processors check each other for discrepancies, and thus, the G5 was born. Duo processors are commonplace nowadays and the car manufacturers are racing to keep up with the computers at last. The automotive manufacturers are putting faster computers in their automobiles to keep up with the calculations that are necessary to get the most fuel efficiency from their engines and the safety devices onboard. Pontiac Motor Group even released an automobile in 2005 called the G5 which has replaced their long running Grand Am line of cars. The chicken has finally come before the egg… or has it?

Car engines used to be completely air cooled before the invention of water cooled engines that dissipated heat away from the parts that need to stay within operating temperatures. It wasn’t too long before AMD and Intel began making CPUs that created so much heat that their cooling fans couldn’t keep up with the airflow necessary to cool the heat sinks. A much more efficient solution was found by using a radiator and water pump system identical to what is used in automobiles.

Manufacturers are making cars smaller by means of reducing body weight in cars, and making hybrid engines which is the one way that car manufacturers have really begun to make serious progress in becoming more efficient, by creating engines that move electrically most of the time when it’s most efficient to do so. PC manufacturers still do not have computer that can use a hybrid battery, albeit unfortunate that some batteries in laptops last year were returned to the manufacturers under warranties because they were combusting.

The biggest problem with a computer is when you let it sit for too long and it gains dust to the point where the hardware becomes antiquated. If and when you do decide to use it, you need to determine whether you need to upgrade the hardware to meet your requirements. How are you ever going to play World of Warcraft on a PC that has a 128 MB PCI Video Card and only 512 megs of RAM? When you decide to bring that old jalopy out of retirement, it has to be because you either overclocked your old PC and fried the motherboard or your wife has decided to return to college and needs your PC more than you do. You might decide to just buy another computer in lieu of buying all the parts needed to get “Old Faithful” running again. However, $500 worth of computer parts can buy you a revived computer, and you’ll be on your way to mining for gold ore and beating up zombies in no time.

Cars are another matter entirely. Say your wife has not only decided to go back to college, but she’s decided to go to a college where she has to commute on a daily basis between work and home and school and you have the choice of letting her take the dependable SUV that you know will get her there and back on time safely, thus protecting your investment of the $25,000 Student Loan she had to take out to afford school. The other choice you’re presented is letting her take your car, the one that needs new brake pads and routers, tune up and oil change… the one you were going to give your son for college. Now you’ve decided to get that car fixed up and running for yourself to take to work and back so you can earn a living and plan out your retirement, but your son still needs a car. You’ve offered him your car, but you’re going to need it, and you certainly don’t want him in an unsafe car.

The beauty of automobiles is that they last so long, and the older ones always seem to be in style. Nobody in their right mind would hesitate at giving up their old PC that doesn’t start up sometimes when you need to write a term paper for a new computer with a warranty on it and the software needed to get the job done. Likewise, nobody in their right mind would take a 1967 Camaro to the junkyard simply because it used a quart of motor oil between oil changes before you bought it with a seized engine. The interior may need some reupholstering and the body may need a coat of paint. But the engine and and brakes are what counts. What if you had the means to revive a classic for your son, and he was all the more happier to put his hard earned money from his summer jobs where it mattered and spend some time with you in taking on such an endeavor? You come to an agreement that you and he would work on the weekends to restore an automobile back to roadworthiness and that he would take the car to college and pay the gasoline and maintenance costs if you would help with the insurance payments… and all you would have to do is help him with the work, and teach him how to maintain it. And it gives the two of you the time you need to bond before he heads off to the school of life.

First you decide that a Camaro is too big of a car, too much engine and too inefficient for him… heck, the kid’s gotta have money to actually EAT while he’s at school. You settle on another classic that is more affordable, more efficient and just as much fun to drive… you find mid 1980s Mustang convertible with a body in good shape. But the car has sit for so long up on cinder blocks that it needs the brake drums and rotors resurfaced, new pads, new brake hardware and new tires. You figure it will take all summer long to restore the car to driving condition and about $1000 in parts. You turn on the key and there’s no power on the dashboard. Of course, the battery’s disconnected – the owner didn’t want it to drain the battery dry. You reconnect the battery cable and turn it over, the starter clicks and nothing happens. You ask the owner how long has the car been sitting, and she tells you that it has sat in the yard since her husband took it off the road three years ago.

When the car has been sitting that long, the cylinders will be as dry the day the engine was assembled, so having some engine assembly lightweight oil or a teaspoon of Marvel’s Mystery Oil inside the cylinder walls with the spark plugs removed is a good idea while turning the engine over. Even spraying a little WD-40 down inside the chambers will help reduce the friction of startup and engine oil pump priming.

  1. spray around each spark plug with air to remove debris and dirt; remove the plugs
  2. spray each cylinder with WD-40 or equiv. penetrating oil
  3. add a teaspoon of Marvel Mystery Oil
  4. put the plugs back in
  5. let the engine sit for several hours
  6. remove battery cable
  7. put emergency brake on
  8. put transmission into neutral
  9. remove the spark plugs again hand turn the harmonic balancer to turn the engine over 1/4 turn at a time.

If you cannot turn by hand, the engine is seized and the car needs to be towed to a mechanic. The cylinder heads may need to be removed and the pistons loosened with a rubber mallet before it can be turned over.

Is the American Auto Industry Dead?

As noted in an email to me this morning, GM has asked Congress for a short-term emergency aid package to help them survive the credit crunch and come out stronger on the other side. This has caused an intense public debate with media on both sides weighing in on the merits of federal aid for Detroit.

There’s a poll, released today, that explores what the American public thinks about this issue. According to the poll, the idea of federal aid has broad-based support: a majority of adults agree that the government should provide loans to the auto industry. They believe that the automakers will face bankruptcy without federal aid, that aid to automakers is viewed as just as important or more important than aid to the financial sector, and that the majority of people view a Big Three failure as a trigger for economic depression.

Of course, I do ask that you consider the source of the poll (Peter D. Hart Research Associates).

“Do you believe that the government should or should not provide loans to America’s automakers so they have the money to manufacture vehicles?” 55% agreed.

“President-elect Barack Obama has stated that one of his first economic priorities as president is to make sure that the American automobile industry continues to be able to operate, and he favors an economic assistance program to help them. Do agree or disagree with him?” 64% agreed.

“Do you believe that America’s automakers will face bankruptcy without government loans?” 60% agreed.

“The federal government has recently provided financial aid to the insurance and banking industries to make sure that these industries do not fail. Do you feel that providing financial aid to ensure that the U.S. auto industry does not fail is more important, just as important, or less important?” 55% believe it’s just as important.

“If General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were to go out of business in the next few months, how likely do you think this would be to trigger an economic depression in the U.S.–extremely likely, very likely, somewhat likely, not likely, or not at all likely?” 33% say extremely, 27% say very, and 29% say somewhat.

“If you learned three to five years from now that America’s automakers had successfully weathered the current economic challenges and emerged as leaders in the worldwide automobile industry, how important would that be to America–extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not important, or not at all important?” 44% said extremely, 38% said very.

In my life, I’ve owned one American car – a 1991 Ford Escort. It served me well enough throughout my college years, but definitely had its fair share of problems and ultimately died. I moved on to a Nissan, a Toyota, and have been driving Acura automobiles for the past few years. It’s not like I don’t consider American cars when it comes to getting a new one, I just… find better options, prices, ratings in International vehicles.

Auto Show Tips

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Mrivera1 is a regular long-time chatter in our live community. Long before he was a Geek, he was a car buff. Here are his top 10 tips for enjoying an Auto Show.

  • Know when to go Knowing when to go is very important thing to know when you are going to an auto show. Don’t expect to have a good auto show experience in an hour or two. It takes me on average about 6 hours to visit every exhibit, and at larger auto shows you can take even more time to see everything. So, be sure to plan to spend most of the day at the auto show. And get there early, as parking fills up quick and exhibits become crowded. Plan to get home late too. Also, try to go on a weekday, as the show is most likely to be less crowded during the week. I went to mine the day after Christmas, got there at 1pm, and I left at about 7:30pm.
  • Know who to bring If you do go to the auto show with a companion, be sure to know who you want to go with you. It is recommended that you bring someone with an interest in cars or someone who is in the market for one. Otherwise things can get quite boring for them, and it would be detrimental to your experience hearing the person complain every 5 minutes. Also, children and auto shows do not mix very well, unless the child has an interest for cars. If the child doesn’t like cars, then it is best to leave them at home. Knowing from experience, my younger sister, who doesn’t want anything to do with cars, was brought along with my dad and I to the auto show, and after only being there 10 minutes, she began to complain and we got sick of her quickly.
  • Look for ticket price deals When I go to the auto show, I look for deals on tickets, and believe me, they can be found everywhere. My local newspaper had coupons for $5 off regular price. And local grocery stores and fast food locations had coupons as well. So there are always a lot of ways to get auto show tickets on the cheap.
  • Have a plan When you arrive at the auto show, don’t just run for the first car you see. Have a plan of where you will start. I go to the nearest end of the show floor and start from there going all the way to the other side, and then I turn around and view the other side until I reach the end that I began at. This makes it a lot easier to know what manufacturers you have seen already and those that you haven’t seen yet.
  • Pace yourself Don’t try to see every manufacturer one after the other. Slow down. Stop and rest if you need to. Go to the bathroom. Get some food and a drink. The cars will be there when you are ready to go and look at more again. If your leg or foot or any other part of your body hurts, then it is best if you just sit down for a minute or two and let your body catch up.
  • Get the information you want Most people come to the auto show for two reasons. One, to sit in the cars and see them in person, and two, to get as much information as they can from the representatives there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the representatives at the auto show. I know that there is a strict no sales pressure policy in place at almost every major auto show, so you shouldn’t have to worry. Go ahead and ask the questions you want, go ahead and sign up for more information, and don’t ever be afraid of the representatives there, as they are there for you. Also, don’t be afraid to get as many of those little car books that every manufacturer hands out. I find them very useful as a car buff. And if you don’t want to carry them all, get a bag. Bags are available from most of the exhibitors at the auto show, and just ask if you cannot find one.
  • Double back, if needed Sometimes, you don’t get enough out of an exhibit because you are trying to get through all of them before you have to leave. If after you have seen everything, but you still want to see a certain manufacturer’s exhibit again, perhaps to see more cars or get more information, go ahead! I do this many times when I’m interested in a certain manufacturer, and it is a very common thing to do. After all, it is your time to spend, isn’t it?
  • Visit the other attractions available at the show Nowadays, many auto shows have extra attractions available to the attendees. Some of these are put on by manufacturers, while others are sponsored by the auto show. Anyways, they are almost all very interesting and can make an auto show even better than it already is. For example, my local auto show had two test drive programs available, an off-road course, several demonstrations of various technologies from the automakers, a whole exhibit dedicated to eco-friendly tech in cars (the first one like it in the US), and a whole other floor dedicated to after market accessories for cars, all of which were on-site. These various other things to do really make the auto show more interesting, and you should be very happy after taking part in them.
  • Visit certain automakers at certain times At your average auto show, almost every major automaker will show up and have an exhibit there. However, some higher profile exhibits fill up sooner like Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, etc., while others have relatively less people. Visit the exhibits that have less people first, and then visit the higher profile ones when there are less people. Of course the crowds may never let up, so you may just have to put up will all of those other people.
  • Take your time The auto show is most likely the only time of the year in which you get to sit in brand new cars from almost every automaker. As a result, it is best for you to take your time. Adjust the mirrors, seat and steering wheel to the positions you would normally have them, test out overall room inside, play with the gadgets in the cars, see how big the trunk is, see how powerful the engine is. Don’t worry the other cars will still be there when you are ready to move on. The is especially important when you are inside of expensive cars. Take even more time in them and value every second, as this is probably one of the few times you will be able to sit inside of a $100000 car, so it would make sense to anyone why you would sit in them longer. There is nothing worse that could happen at an auto show than being rushed through it. That is the best tip I could give you.


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GM IAA Announcements

http://live.pirillo.com – here’s a front row seat to GM’s product announcements at IAA 2007 in Frankfurt, Germany. If you look real close, you can see a few industry superstars sitting in the audience (when I turn the camera away from the stage to point it at Ponzi for a moment).

In essence, the environmental strategy of General Motors Europe is to reduce CO2 emissions in the short term and introduce new propulsion technologies in the long term. The goal is to offer customers vehicles that can operate on many different energy sources. “The multi-tiered approach includes accelerating the development of electrically powered vehicles, stepping up efforts to replace fossil fuels and increasing the efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines,” explains Carl-Peter Forster, GME President. GM Europe will invest 700 million euros in new engines and transmissions in the next five years alone, with the first models already at the IAA.

Carl-Peter Forster continues: “Opel’s surprise for this year’s IAA also symbolizes the versatility of our extensive environmental initiative. A concept car which combines electric propulsion and a turbo diesel engine in a way that is fundamentally different to previous hybrid propulsion designs.”

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

How to Fit a Segway into a Car

http://live.pirillo.com – We live-streamed the unveiling of GM’s newest electric car concept fully at a substantially lower bitrate, but here’s the Segway segment from Ponzi’s perspective. Again, our position was not fully ideal – but at least we were able to capture the energy.

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

Hydrogen Car Information Interview

http://live.pirillo.com – Ponzi and I had a rare opportunity to learn more about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles with one of the automobile industry’s leading minds, Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen.

The GM HydroGen4 is the European version of the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell. In fall 2007, the first of these fuel cell cars — a global fleet of more than 100 vehicles is planned — will be on the roads in the USA.

The HydroGen4’s fuel cell stack consists of 440 series-connected cells. The entire system produces an electrical output of up to 93 kW. With help from a 73 kW/100 hp synchronous electric motor, acceleration from zero to 100 km/h takes around 12 seconds. The front-wheel drive vehicle’s top speed is around 160 km/h.

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

Bob Lutz, GM Blogger Roundtable

http://live.pirillo.com – You’ve likely already watched my live interview with Bob at http://youtube.com/watch?v=-ysnr-V2dRg (in which I was quite tongue-tied). This new recording was from an exclusive roundtable Q&A session with a few fellow bloggers.

Bob begins with his reasons for starting a blog…

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

Germany Blogger/Youtube Meetup

http://live.pirillo.com – Ponzi and I are still in Frankfurt, and we’d love to meet our virtual friends in real life!

I may need help with translating this all-call to German, BTW. 🙂

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

Bob Lutz Interview

http://live.pirillo.com – Bob Lutz is an industry legend, and I was more than a little tongue-tied when given the opportunity to sit down with him for a few minutes at the unveiling of GM’s new electric concept car in Frankfurt, Germany.

Can you believe he’s a blogger, too!?

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.

Saturn Astra Test Drive

http://live.pirillo.com – The audio / video quality is questionable, but we were doing something that nobody else has done before: streaming live from GM’s super private test track in Dudenhofen, Germany.

My wife and I were invited to take a Saturn Astra out for a test drive. This car is not yet available in the United States – or, at least, not at the time of this live recording. The car handles very nicely, according to Ponzi.

40,000 kilometers are clocked every day on this track – and now the Pirillos have left their tire marks on there as well. Ponzi completes the perfect circle every couple of minutes, as the road is 5km around and she’s traveling at a speed of 200kmph (~128mph). She did take the higher lane at one point, which is steeped at 37 degrees – but you can only get in that lane if you’re traveling over 200kmph.

NOTE: General Motors helped cover travel expenses for our trip to Germany. Without their direct support, this remote coverage would not have been possible. They allowed us to explore and cover as much as we possibly could, not just GM’s product line.