The Volkswagen Scandal

Let me start by saying that I am hardly surprised. I looked at these vehicles a few time, even test drove a few TDIs and was impressed with how quiet, powerful, and clean they were.  Although they seem well made, I was never was stupid enough to believe that they got their stated mileage. Let’s just say that I’ve been around cars and the car culture enough to know that car companies lie, because on the whole they ware rewarded for it. Hell, we put up with American car companies flat out lying about much more serious issues for decades and then bailed them out in the end for building shit. I’m not happy with Volkswagen, but I doubt that consumers will get any justice here. You see the EPA just needs a cash, because like most governmental organization they mismanage their money and overpay their executives, and they will take all of the fines from the VW case for themselves. Consumers will have to be represented by an equally incompetent branch of government who will ultimately probably just get them a class action settlement resulting in about 82 cents per person that got screwed. A fair reimbursement would be to look at other vehicles that get the same mileage in the TDIs class, use an average of 10,000 miles driven a year, turn that into an average fuel consumption difference, and reimburse consumers based on the difference in cost of fuel versuses the stated savings in fuel, but no one in the government is going to do that for you. Hell, these cars are well under 100,000 dollars, which is well below the level where politicians give a shit about you and your rights. You see, maybe the VW guys altered the computers on the cars, but there are many independent ways to test automobiles. So how did these cars ever hit the market, claiming the mileage they did, without passing an independent test in the first place? Oh yeah, because again the government doesn’t give a shit about you or doing their jobs well. Hell, they probably knew about it and wanted to entrap VW so they could fine them as much as possible. This makes the most sense. They want to fine VW so they can get a bunch of money to give to their executives and other undeserving top brass, but they don’t really care about the environment. Hell, we still don’t have a good fuel standard, and the work on that started in the 50’s. Even with overstated mileage, these VWs are still way better than most other cars on the road. That’s because the EPA doesn’t really give a shit about fuel efficiency. It’s not like they don’t have the time, muscle, data, and authority to raise the standard. The FTC and SEC should probably do something, but they won’t and the executives at VW will walk away with fake apologies to the public and millions of dollars in their bank accounts. Just like Rick Waogner did with the whole GM bailout. Basically, they fuck their companies up, lie until they get caught, and walk away with millions, or more. This happens because our system rewards this kind of behavior. For the guys at the top it is always worth the risk of lying a little bit. Hell, they won’t even go to jail over this. They should, but the recent bank scandals should show us that white collar business criminals are never really held accountable, even when they unnecessarily ruin the lives of many. What makes me mad about this is that VW had good products for a change. If they didn’t lie they still would have made lots of money. Still, the TDIs are all expensive, and although I don’t condone their behavior, it’s hard to care too much about the hipsters that bought cars whose numbers were obviously being lied about just too look cool, who can easily afford them anyway. Also, as Americans we still take the biggest shit on the environment possible so who are we to judge any vehicle that gets over 30 mpg. If we cared about honesty in the Automotive field we would have never rewarded GM and Chrysler by bailing them out for lying to us and building shit for many decades and Rick Waogner would be in jail, like he should be along with the whole GM and Chrysler upper management team and their board members. In the end its the workers that are going to get screwed, and that’s sad, but on the whole we keep supporting the cut-throat capitalist system that rewards this behavior so whatever.

PSE (Puget Sound Energy) Should Bury Their Power Cables

Here is an article explaining our recent power outage,, you know the first of many this year. Many PSE customers enjoy lots of power outages in Bellingham and Whatcom County every year when there are high winds. PSE would have you believe that the cost of burying the cables is too high but as I write today (about 4 days after the outage) hundreds are still without power. It was thousands yesterday, and many more the day of. So how can having an outdated infrastructure be cost effective for Bellingham or Whatcom county. The truth is, it’s not. It’s 2015 and it’s time to update the infrastructure, but the representatives in charge of proposing such bills are in the pocket of PSE and/or don’t even know what you’re talking about when it comes to technology in general. This of course means that they were put on technology committees… PSE, like most corporations, isn’t going to do anything to improve the infrastructure since they don’t really care if you have power when compared to the expense of modernizing the grid. This is of course penny wise and pound foolish as power providers in New Haven through West Hartford, Connecticut learned a few years ago when their infrastructure finally failed and they were forced to upgrade it. Sure, we give PSE monopoly control of the area, and it’s not like they’re giving the power away for free, but “up yours valued customer” they say when it comes to improving the quality of power you receive. Remember, they’re a business, and that means its about stealing from you until someone forces them to do the right thing. Still, it’s not like anyone is going to hold them accountable.I have even contacted my government officials about this and they blew me off. It’s 2015, and providing power in a monopoly situation is a good deal for PSE. so if they don’t appreciate it then it’s time to get another power company in here. They’ve known they needed to do this for decades now. Anyway, time to demand better service, and buried cables. The expense to do this should fall on the power company, and should not be used as a justification to do nothing. They don’t give us the power for free after all and the amount of energy wasted by an inefficient grid is terrible for the environment in many ways. It’s also worth mentioning that many other companies follow the power companies’ lead when it comes to cabling. Comcast, for example, won’t bury their internet cabling until the power company buries theirs.

Windows 10 (“Free” For Most Windows 7 and Up Users, Unless You Have Windows 8 RT or an Enterprise Version, Then Up Yours Valued Customer)

Ok, so I’m much more impressed with Microsoft lately than I thought I ever would be. Windows 7 is a solid OS and Windows 8 (with some obvious drawbacks) was also not nearly as bad as it received credit for. Well not at first, then MS abandoned it and shoved it up the ass of their customers. Still Windows 8 reminds me of another OS that wasn’t nearly as bad as it received credit for at first, but then became bad because MS just stopped supporting it, cause that’s what proprietary companies do, even after they sell it to you, if they feel they didn’t sell enough copies because almost no one in government is competent enough to or cares to hold them responsible. As and aside, this is why I use GNU/Linux as often as possible. Anyway, the OS I speak of is Windows Vista, which failed for the same reasons as Windows 8. This was largely simply because people didn’t like the look and feel of it, so they didn’t buy it even though it had a more solid Kernel, better security features and other key features that would make it attractive if you weren’t just a figure head like most CIOs and IT administrators. (See most University IT departments, especially those with unionized workers from the baby boomer era). Anyway, no matter how you cut it Microsoft had a ton of pissed off customers that started looking elsewhere. So they started to give free upgrades to Windows 10. “Finally,” I said, ” they get that they already took these peoples’ money and pissed them off with a shitty OS experience, and are doing the right thing.” I was impressed, so I started looking into upgrades for Windows 8 users, and found that Windows 8 RT users are still getting screwed on the deal. You see, MS just couldn’t find it in themselves to really let everyone upgrade they sold a virtually abandoned OS to, get the free upgrade they deserved. No, they had to screw at least one portion of their own OS market and customer base. Really Microsoft, just let every Windows 8 user upgrade if they want to. You sold them an OS that you are virtually abandoning. Do the right thing here and give all of the unfortunate Windows 8 users a free upgrade to Windows 10, no matter what version of Windows 8 they have. Perhaps they’ll even consider getting another computer down the road with a Windows product again. You have lost a lot of ground to Linux after all, and Chromebooks are doing well, it’s time to stop being penny wise and pound foolish. Then again, I’m a Linux advocate, so you know what, the hell with it, take advantage of them again. Perhaps they’ll switch to Ubuntu, Fedora, or some other easy to use distro of Linux, like 99% of them could have easily done over 10 years ago :). As an aside, the original launch of Crapple’s OSX 10.5 was also riddled with security holes because they were worried about Vista and rushed ti to market. Later OSX releases were only ok at best. So yeah, time for consumers to get off of the proprietary computing thing if you can (which most of you can btw if you look into it), but I’ll refrain from expanding on that because that isn’t the point of this post. Also, I do understand the point of RT for light PCs, etc., it’s just shouldn’t a similar offer be made to RT users as well? The Enterprise licenses not being allowed to upgrade, if they choose to, makes no sense at all.

Thoughts On John Stewart Leaving The Daily Show

Today I finally watched the final episode of “The Daily Show” with John Stewart as host. Instead of re-hashing how amazing the show was with John as a host I’ll say this instead. I believe that he shouldn’t have left. Yes I’ve watched Trevor Noah, and especially in “African American” it became very evident to me that having his point of view on American affairs will be very valuable, and that it will be delivered in a very hilarious way. The main point of value from Trevor will come in what he can deliver that a purely American host cannot, which is a more truly international view on America and American policy. Still, John Stewart was a powerful force in American politics, especially against the war-loving, ultra-wasteful, super-capitalists, and I really wish that he stayed on until after the next election. With all of the multi-millionaire, or better, psychopath candidates that lined up for the recent Republican debate, not only did I want to hear John’s commentary on it, I am scared that one of them might actually win and I believe that Stewart would have helped keep things in perspective. I have no problem with a good conservative, that actually has researched their arguments, but the Republican party has become a dangerous rich kids only club that only survives because of its obscene amount of funding. Average people that are still voting for them need to create a new party as quickly as possible. The current Republican party doesn’t even represent Republican ideals anymore…. Then again the Democrats supported slavery at some point, then again the Republicans support it now though inadequate wages and turning all necessities into investments…. Anyway, it’s a scary time to have Stewart leave, and on a personal note, I’ll miss him. Still, Trevor should be pretty awesome too :) and ultimately the responsibility lies with us, as citizens, to remember that almost all of our politicians, in both major parties, are totally out of touch with average Americans and full of shit. As John Stewart himself said, “The best defense against bullshit is vigilance, so if you smell something, say something.”

Arduino Mega 2560 R3 Flash New Firmware

So this Arduino board has been replaced by newer boards with better keyboard controls that can use commands like the series, like keyboard.begin and keyboard.write. With that said, I wanted to flash my Mega 2560 with some new firmware. There are plenty of instructions for doing this with the UNO but with the MEGA 2560 (especially the R3) it was a little less straight forward. So instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll just try to post the differences here. Of course the disclaimer of if you damage your board it’s not my fault, etc. holds true here.
1. Follow the instructions here and get an updated firmware to do what you’d like. In fact, you should mostly follow this article except for the instructions I put below specifically for the Mega 2560 R3 if you’re having trouble and keep getting the “dfu-programmer: no device present” error.
2. Here are the command line instructions for using the DFU programmer with Ubuntu Linux. I have Ubuntu 14.04 at the time of this writing. They are slightly different than the above link.
sudo dfu-programmer atmega16u2 erase
sudo dfu-programmer atmega16u2 flash “Whatever_You_Called_It_New_Firmware”.hex
sudo dfu-programmer atmega16u2 reset

That’s it really. The original instructions are good, it’s just that some of us need the above instructions to flash the R3. Obviously the key was to use atmega16u2 instead of 8u2 or at90usb82.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine “Top Ten Episodes”

Ok, so I put top ten episodes in quotes above because I am not going to do a top ten for DS9. The best thing going on in the series in the dominion war. Since you have to watch the episodes in order to know what’s going on, I’m just going to say that you should do that. It is worth saying that although I love DS9, there are some truly awful episodes realted mostly to things that don’t have to do with the war, and they are mostly in season 1. Here is the list that I used for the Dominion War, the first time you watch them you should watch the optional episodes for some important background information. The second time around you can skip them.


My Magnavox 50ME314V/F7 50 Inch TV Warranty Horror Story (Or Buying a Magnavox, Dumb, Very Dumb)

So about 4 months ago I purchased a Magnavox TV from my local Fred Meyer. I also own a Samsung that has never given me any trouble. Oh yeah, this article is a total first world problems article. Anyway, after about 3 months the TV started not turning on all of the time, especially if it was unplugged for a while. It was not an issue related to warm up because this would happen after the TV had been plugged back in for days. I tried basic troubleshooting but the problems only got worse. It started randomly changing channels and muting itself as well. So I finally called Magnavox. Who sent a tech out. Who was here for about 20 minutes. Ran their proprietary software test tools, and could not reproduce the problem so left without putting in the parts they they had sent him to put it. It wasn’t his fault. You see, they have to reproduce the problem to put parts in, according to Magnavox because the real reason Magnavox sends a tech out is to cover their ass. Now, they knew that it was an intermittent problem before sending the tech out and many other Magnavox TVs have been having power supply problems. Still, those of us that work or have worked in the industry know that their testing tools are there to protect the company, and not to actually fix your problem. Meaning, they are not very good and are not designed to be good. Plus the problem is intermittent so it would take real time to torubleshiit. Plus, TVs now have big computers in them, so why not just run a log in the TV. I’ll tell you why, because they don’t want to fix the TV. They want to run out the warranty periods and pretend that they tried to fix them. I had to call 4 times. Once for each problem (the random muting and the random channel changing) and twice for the power issue. The technician has told me that if I get videos of the problems they might accept that and finally replace the TV, but that is taking up a huge amount of my time.

Here is the way they should have handled it. They should have shipped me a new TV with a return label. They could then have inspected the old TV and sold it as refurbished through Newegg or another retailer that sells refurbished products. There was no risk to them in providing good customer service in this way and basically no money lost if they had. Anyway, I’ll post the videos as I get them. The funny thing is, this could all be a firmware issue, but they are very careful not to admit to anything. Yet we wonder why the consumer confidence index is so low. Perhaps companies shouldn’t release products before they’re really ready to go. Anyway, don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t buy a Magnavox. Spend the extra few bucks on a Samsung. I’ll recant this article if they actually provide me with good service, but so far that hasn’t been the case. This has been going on for several weeks now. They even accused me of lying, in a very nice corporate way, about the power issue on the first call. If I was lying I’d be asking for my money back, not a replacement TV.

Update: Even after providing them with video evidence and reporting 2 additional problems, indicating most likely a cascade failure, they are still not honoring their warranty. They ware waiting for the report from the technician that they know they didn’t authorize to replace any parts. It’s basically their way to pretend that they’re being professional and investigating it properly, when they really just don’t want to replace my broken TV which again, is 4 months old. Guess their warranty is total bullshit. Their customer service certainly is. At least they’re very courteous when they basically tell you they’re not going to do anything about it.

Update: 4 days later they are still using the excuse that they are waiting for the now 2 week old technician’s report. Who again, they didn’t authorize to do anything. They’re just going to keep using this excuse until I go away, or so they hope. Please, do yourself a favor and don’t buy a Magnavox. The $150 I “saved” over a similar Samsung is not worth this bullshit. A week ago a technician told me they’d be replacing the TV, but they’ve decided to simply “forget” about it.

Update: After ignoring me for a while they finally responded by telling me to call the main support line again. Now I’m enjoying wait times of, well it’s still going, while I’m writing this it’s currently 45 minutes 33 seconds on hold. What they are probably going to do is pretend that they’re starting from scratch, or simply not answer the phone now that they know my number. Then they can act like they tried to provide service but I simply never called, was not willing to be helped using their methods, or some other awful corporately planned, calculated BS. Again, I provided them with a video showing the error. It is intermittent, so they are probably just hoping to catch me when it does work, so they can say it’s fine and it’s a case of user error. Those who know me, and my extensive experience with electronics, know that can’t be the case, but the general public will probably believe them.

Update: After being told I would be contacted by a supervisor I received two erroneous e-mails from their support today. The second telling me that my case has been closed and asking me to take a survey. Since neither they, or Fred Meyer, have provided me a solution yet I am not sure what they are doing.

Last Update: Ok, I think this is the last one. Magnavox was not sure why I got a survey, but is still “looking for the best solution for my TV.” I’ve been keeping my local Fred Meyer up to date on what has been going on. Since I’m a good customer, tried to do the right thing at first, etc. they finally allowed me to get store credit on the old Magnavox and I paid a bit more and got a Samsung Series 6. My plan was to take this post and You Tube videos down if Magnavox ever made good on their warranty. Since they didn’t I guess I’ll just leave everything up. It cracks me up when people wonder why the Consumer Confidence Index is down when many companies behave like Magnavox on a regular basis.

Update: Ok, I thought the last one was the last one but Magnavox finally responded to my Better Business Bureau complaint. They never had a supervisor or higher up call me, and their response was in broken English. They intentionally got the order of events wrong, and said the TV was fine. Even though I provided the video and reported several other issues, they pretty much ignored it. For the love of God, don’t but a Magnavox! There are many, better TVs for around the same price. Again, my hat is off to Fred Meyer for doing the right thing in the end. I know they are considering not carrying Magnavox in the future. I hope they follow through with it. It’s not worth losing a good customer to carry a brand that is supported like this.

So in the end. Magnavox’s final response can be paraphrased like this. “Up yours, we don’t ever make mistakes, enjoy your TV, if you can. Oh, and you’re not high enough up on our social totem pole to even get the time of day from one of our supervisors in the US.” This last point is important because they lied in their response to the BBB and my complaint to them. Saying that they did not violate the warranty and were “working towards a solution,” and of course getting the order of events wrong in their response too. Well that simply wasn’t true. They never called me to setup any kind of even 2nd evaluation and did not ever provide it to me as an option or any other option. They just told the BBB that they did because that’s how they do things. In the end I had a broken TV, jumped through their hoops, provided a video, and they simply stopped responding and said it was fine. Meaning they did violate their warranty. Still, thank God for Fred Meyer’s excellent customer service. I’m glad I’m not stuck with a broken TV, especailly a 4 month old one, and especially a Magnavox.

Sorry, one more update. This process has been so ridiculious it was trough to keep track of everything. They seem to have forged a contact in my name. I know it was them since only they, I and the BBB have the case number. On a day I did not contact them I received an e-mail thanking me for my recent contact. Seven minutes later I received an e-mail closing the case and asking me to take a survey to tell them how they did. I of course gave them all zeroes since they didn’t provide me with a solution. Still, the lied to the BBB, me and countless other customers so this hardly surprised me. Ok, now I think that’s everything.

Apples New Environomental Statement or How to Properly Greenwash an Apple

So Apple recently released another set of videos and documents on their commitment to the environment. As usual, their videos are very well done and if you don’t scratch the surface you won’t get the classic smell of Apple bullshit to rise from the Apple logo. Here’s the truth about manufacturing overseas.

1. The trip from Hongyuan, China (where their solar plant is) to just the West Coast of the USA is over 6,000 miles (or about 9,904 Kilometers). This is true of pretty much everything they make. Add 3,000 miles (about 4,828 Kilometers) to anything you’re getting on the East Coast. There is no way that can be green. If they really gave a shit they would manufacture things here in the US, like many foreign auto manufacturers do.

2. “They decide what to put in and what to take out to save resources?” Of course they do, every manufacturer does. That has always saved them money and therefore has always been the case. They’re patting themselves on the back again for something every manufacturer does and selling it to you like they really care.

3. Ok, good on them for the better packaging thing.

4. Green power to the stores. Well better late then never I guess, but I know that at least one store on the East Coast was approached about this years ago and laughed it off. They wanted the power company to pay them to do it. Still, the way they run their stores is very wasteful. How about they start by turning off some of the computers every once in a while and not shipping their in store promotional materials in the biggest packaging possible? Oh yeah, because then it wouldn’t look good enough to brainwash the sheep that go there into thinking that they’re green.

Sure, most electronics manufacturers make their stuff in some country that is very far away from the US. The problem here is that Apple is trying to tell you that that is a green thing to do when it never can be as efficient as building their products directly in the USA or Europe. I hear the Germans are very good at making things, for example. They’re trying to get you to think that they have to manufacturer things in China, but they’re doing the best they can with it, when they could just make things directly in the US and Europe and drastically cut down the energy used to transport their products. We’d need to do a raw materials analysis to see if it would reduce the energy cost of getting the materials they need too, but aluminum is very abundant, for example. They want to keep making things in China so they can keep abusing people at Foxconn, and get you to think that they’re green so they don’t have to stop.

In the end the current state of electronics manufacturing is sad indeed, but the American public (who still replaces their smartphones about every 18 months) still drives this engine of Environmental and human abuse through their over consumption. Apple is playing on our lack of care, and outright stupidity, to try and convince us that they care, but we should all know better by now. When is the last time you’ve really received good warranty service from any manufacturer? Most people have horror stories about this. Which leads to my next article about my 4 month old, broken Magnavox TV.

— One last thing. I’ve seen environmental groups like Greenpeace come out in support of Apple’s “commitment to the environment.” This is very irresponsible. For the reasons I’ve written about here, their many human rights violations (which I and many others have written about) and because it shows Greenpeace’s (and environmentalists in general) level of technological and statistical understanding. Meaning, it’s very low or just not considered. It’s more about tribalism to them than real change, and of course donations. If Greenpeace cared about the environment and technology they would pair up with a good small manufacturer that uses an easy to use Linux distro (like Ubuntu) and put it on truly sustainably made hardware. With Linux on it it will probably actually run well for more than 3 to 5 years and again, can be built from the ground up to be truly sustainable. Something Apple will probably never really commit too, or Dell, or (pick a big manufacturer). Perhaps they can even be built in the US. So yeah, way to jump on the hypocritical USS Crapple Greenpeace. Then again, you couldn’t be real environmentalists unless you talked out of your ass most of the time and refused to do math.

Amazon Echo, The Future… Well Almost

The last time I used a device I knew re-shaped the way the world would use technology was when I used an iPhone for the first time. Sure it had the nation’s shittiest, most corrupt carrier behind it (AT&T) who later would receive a class action lawsuit in relation to their behavior towards their customers in relation to the iPhone and everyone except Apple knew it was coming cause AT&T always sucked really hard, but the phone itself was amazing. Of course Apple released the phone and quickly stopped really paying attention to their computers and then got rapidly outpaced in the phone market especially by Samsung, but when it was released man was it an amazing product. It had its problems. The SDK wasn’t quite there yet, and it had a stupid headphone jack that required a very thin connector, but still it was amazing and for about 6 months no one could even touch it.
This leads me to the Amazon Echo. The Echo has even more potential than a touchscreen smartphone. Remember that we have been interfacing with computers using touch, especially if you include keyboards and earlier touch screen kiosks, (yes Apple was not the first by a long shot, in fact the whole multi-touch technology comes from the University of Delaware) for decades now. Attempts at voice-recognition were often expensive, clumsy and still not very useful.
The Echo solves those problems, or at least it seems like it might. Right off the bat it is very useful, but there is a lot left to be desired. Just think of how much safer it would be to have an Echo enabled car stereo, for example. Sure, some phones do this now but how about having this tech without getting bent over by a cell phone company on a monthly rate. How about this becoming just a built in feature with no other strings attached in most devices. Yes, I know, you can buy most phones outright now and go month by month with most carriers, but most of those phones are obscenely expensive and the Echo is not. I know it’s no a phone, I’m just thinking about having voice recognition available in most devices.
For those of us who watched Star Trek, especially TNG, we hope the Amazon programmers are fans too. This is the way we want the Echo to interact. Currently just thanking the Echo takes a separate command. Here’s an example conversation. Continue reading Amazon Echo, The Future… Well Almost

1997 Accord Engine Rebuild Notes

I’m going to mostly copy and paste a Doc I was keeping for notes on this one here. This is of course a use at your own risk document. You will need a service manual for the vehicle and an engine rebuild guide as listed below, especially if you’ve never done this before. You should also have more than a few hours of repair work under your belt before attempting this.
Yes I know the F22B2 isn’t the most popular engine to rebuild, and if you’re spending the time rebuilding an engine to put back into a mid through late 90’s Accord you’d probably want at least the F22B1, but I wanted to rebuild the engine that got my ass around for so many years.

— Thanks to Eric the Car Guy, and many others, that helped me get to the point where I could attempt this engine rebuild. Especially Andrew (aka ManDrew) for his help, and many innovative solutions as we ran into stubborn bolts that even PB Blaster, praying to our god, and elbow grease could not best.

  • — At certain points I used the official 1997 Honda Accord Service manual, and the B-Series Engine Rebuild Manual (ISBN-13 #978-1932494785) by Jason Siu. You will need both of these to follow this document. You should probably have a service manual for you car anyway and the B-Series book is fantastic, even if you are not rebuilding a B-Series Engine, or even a Honda Engine. It’s just a really well done book. I got my service manual used from

 Note: The perspective for engine removal is looking at the engine from the front. Pictures are being taken too.

Continue reading 1997 Accord Engine Rebuild Notes