So when you go to smog your car, they check to see whether these things called "monitors" have run since the last time the battery was disconnected or the engine diagnostic codes that fire from bad O2 sensors and other issues were manually reset. This is to prevent people like me from resetting the codes and then driving straight to the smog place without driving the car on the road long enough for the monitors to run and more engine codes to fire, which in California would be a failing condition at the smog test.
Now that I've got new catalytic converters welded in in place of the old and spent ones, and a third complete set of brand-new O2 sensors installed to replace the ones the catalytic converter installer guys apparently dropped on the floor from a great height while welding, I spent three hours on Saturday and two on Sunday waiting in a crowd of people at a smog place trying to get the Lotus smogged. The first day they spent about half an hour trying to get the car to successfully run the gamut of tests, which involves running it at a steady 15 mph on the dyno for about fifteen seconds, and then for another fifteen seconds at 25 mph. Try as they might, they could not get it to hold a steady speed; the engine kept revving up and down, and every time it did that too much the whole test would bomb out and restart. After about six attempts they gave up. I came back the following day (Sunday) to try it again, and before testing it they swore up and down to me that clearly there was something wrong with the engine, because it wasn't holding a steady speed; it must be responding to misfires or something. "I'm getting no engine codes to that effect," I told them. "Give it one more shot, and if this doesn't work I'll go somewhere else." Lo and behold, they were able to make it work this time, apparently after scooting the seat forward a couple notches.
I even passed smog. Hardly any emissions. Tiny little numbers. Only one problem. The monitors had not been run. I'd disconnected the battery a couple of days ago while testing the O2 sensor codes, and I hadn't driven it in enough highway conditions since the to fire the monitors. So I failed the test on the last lap.
I know at this point that the sensors will fire codes at me if I drive it long enough, including a mysterious 0159 code that shouldn't even exist in the Lotus code tables, but allegedly means "slow response" on the right-hand post-cat sensor circuit. What I don't know is how long I have after the monitors all run and before my sensors start firing codes, a window of opportunity in which to do the smog test.
The monitors in question fire during the following conditions:
Exhaust Gas Recirc test: keep engine above 1500 rpm and under light acceleration/throttle for about 10 seconds.
O2 sensor test: keep throttle between 3.5-10%, with very low manifold pressure, at 1150-2200 rpm, for 35-45 seconds.
Evap test: idle engine with at least 1/4 tank of gas (but not full).
Sound simple? Yeah, I thought so.
Now, this was all last weekend, and I discovered on Sunday night that a local friend of mine had a scanner that would tell me which of the three magic monitors had not been run and would fail me at the smog test. That's just what I need, I thought to myself, rubbing my long fingers and cracking my knobby knuckles. I could tell by the little green light precisely when my monitors are all run, and if they're not, which driving gymnastics I need to undertake to get them all checked-in, and then I can tiptoe to the smog place and get it tested before it has a chance to fire a 0160 or a 0159 or some other new code it hasn't previously thought of at me.
So I spent this whole past week trying to touch base with this guy and borrow his scanner. But the first day, he never made it home from work, leaving me standing on his doorstep for half an hour waiting and eventually giving up. The next night? Same deal; he never got back to me. Same the next night; I'd suggested that he just leave the sensor in his mailbox for me to come pick it up, or something; but that never happened either. Finally, tonight, I managed to make contact with his roommate, and long-story-short, I made it over there when someone was there to give me the scanner, which I bore home hoisted over my head like a zebra haunch to the campfire.
I plugged it into the Lotus, to read the codes, and discovered... that it couldn't seem to sync up with the car's computer. "Unable to establish communication with the vehicle," it told me. "Ensure the connection at the DLC. Ensure that the ignition is ON. Press the -><- button."
It's at that point that I noticed that the scanner says CAN all over it. CAN OBD2. Which stands for "inCompAtible with your car's versioN of OBD2". (It's a backronym.)
So it's off to Sears for me tomorrow, to pick up an equivalent tool that will interface with non-CAN OBD2 ports (presumably called CAN'T), and see if maybe this weekend I can't get a little bit closer to being able to drive this thing legally.
This is so much fun.
UPDATE: Sears is doing its part to make this magical experience all the more memorable.
In order to find the tool section I had to ask the person at the service desk who first told me that the auto parts and service section had closed in all the Sears stores in the area except for the one San Jose store, and I'd have to go there if I wanted any car parts. Finally as I was on my way out the door and muttering to myself about hardware she said, "Oh, hardware! Yeah, we have a hardware section. Go down the hall, turn right at the big-screen TV, go all the way to the back, turn left at the watch repair, go through the dishwashers and all the way to the far corner."
When I got there, I found someone writing up sale tags and asked him about code readers.
"Code ... readers? Uh... I don't think we carry those."
"Really? They're in the online catalog. Actron? Equis? For reading OBDII codes?"
"I don't know... I've never heard of anything like that."
"So... um... what about those over there?"
"... Oh, CODE readers!"
So in a fit of optimism, I asked him what the advantages of the $179 version are over the $129 one, and so he got out his keys and took them both down so he could read the feature lists off the boxes to me.
Oh, and then on the way back, I took El Camino Real so as to avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic I'd seen on northbound 101, and instead spent half an hour in construction traffic.
I'm sure I'll look back on all this and laugh someday, or would if any of this made for an entertaining enough story to bother writing down.
I don't generally make a habit of linking to John C. Dvorak columns, because they're usually deliberately off-base, designed that way so as to get attention (he's explicitly confirmed as much). But it seems clear that at least for the first half of this one, all he's doing is reporting the facts.
Microsoft has extended the life of Windows XP because Vista has simply not shown any life in the market. We have to begin to ask ourselves if we are really looking at Windows Me/2007, destined to be a disdained flop. By all estimates the number of Vista installations hovers around the number of Macs in use.
How did this happen? And what’s going to happen next? Does Microsofthave a Plan B? A number of possibilities come to mind, and these things must be considered by the company itself.
So what went wrong with Vista in the first place? Let’s start off with the elephant in the room. The product was overpriced from the outset. Why was it so expensive? What was special about it? All the cool and promised features of the original vision of Longhorn were gutted simply because it was beyond Microsoft’s capability to implement those features.
This failure to deliver what was promised—even after several delays in the product’s release, by the way—did nothing to excite anyone. It made the company look bad. It directly resulted in a no-confidence vote that was manifested in a lackluster reception and low sales. Microsoft should have scrapped the project two years ago and instead patched XP until it could deliver something hot.
To make things worse, there are too many versions. Exactly what is the point of that? Don’t we all just want Vista Ultimate? The other versions seem like a way to maybe save money for some users who cannot afford to get the real thing. You can be certain this version glut results only in complaints about what each variation is missing.
These complaints amount to a textual distillation of Apple's recent ads ("PR Lady", "Choose a Vista", "Party's Over"), to the point where drawing attention to this sort of thing almost looks like poor sportsmanship. I mean, it's not that one can really blame Apple for taking hold of this opportunity and worrying it like a chew toy; but damn, this is too easy.
But as an Apple partisan, I have to echo Gruber's genuine calls for a real iPhone competitor, a real iPod competitor, a real OS X competitor: without those things, Apple's entries stagnate and lose their way. It's no fun if there's nothing to chase.
Then again, though, I have to imagine that a lot of Leopard's more questionable features—Stacks, the translucent menu bar, the wonky new Dock—are the products of a company that's been watching Redmond's every move a little too closely... like someone driving so close to the car ahead of him, trying to read his bumper sticker, that when the light turns red he ends up plowing into him.
Dvorak's recommendations for Microsoft to salvage the situation sound pretty half-baked—their own Mac OS X-esque all-new OS? Surely Dvorak knows that's not an option for backward-compatibility-is-king Microsoft, otherwise they'd have done it long ago—but in all honesty I don't know what would be a better suggestion. ...Other than, of course, coming up with some genuinely new, innovative, useful features and delivering them in a timely and affordable manner.
This guy says he wants unicorns, so I can want impossible things too. Won't get 'em, though.
According to the CTIA-Wireless Association, over 250 million Americans now subscribe to a cellular-phone service. That, if factored against the latest U.S. Census population clock as of Tuesday evening, places the penetration rate at 82.4 percent -- which, I assume, is its highest point ever. In ten years, that number has more than quadrupled from 55 million subscribers in 1997.
How much must it suck for Microsoft, in developing Sync, the new voice-activated in-car media management system for new Fords, to have to roll it out as being largely—not to say primarily—a means for controlling your iPod?
UPDATE: Another sign of the Apocalypse, via Mark:
Why can't we all just... <siiiiigh> live in peace?
I just noticed this. What's up with the drop-shadows below the items in an expanded Stack?
At first it looked like only the round "Show in Finder" icon at the very top of the stack got a shadow; but now, by isolating the widgets against a white backdrop, it looks like every item in the list is being given a drop-shadow of the same shape and size as that topmost entry.
Either way, it's dumb. Has the feel of a hack to me, like they couldn't determine the shape of each item's icon on the fly or something; but that hardly seems likely, as they've been able to do that since 10.0. And that's like seven years ago now. (Besides, couldn't they just approximate the shape of each item? These drop-shadows are so soft it's not like anyone would even notice if it was folder-shaped or document-shaped or blob-shaped; just as long as it wasn't this dinky little circle.)