Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Mouse That Changed Computing

Closeup of mouse image - Photos: Engelbart's demo, 40 years later - CNET News

Fascinating article and photos of the first computer mouse.  It was indeed, "The Mouse that Changed Computing."

RechargeIT by Google


This site shows the results of a controlled experiment by Google comparing a full range of vehicles from all internal combustion power to plug in hybrids.  The results are quite interesting.  As one would expect, the plug in hybrid did quite well but look at the Ford Escape plug in hybrid.  Pretty impressive for a small SUV.  I didn't  know a plug in version was available but I did know that the Ford Escape Hybrid won some awards for its innovative design. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congress moves on energy

There was big news in the solar industry as recent as last week. This, to me, is an example of how government can promote activity in an area without being heavy handed about it. For the last five years or so, I don't know the exact number, there has been a tax credit offered for anyone installing a solar electric system on their home or business. The tax credit is calculated as 30 percent of the cost of the installation. Remember, this is a tax credit not a deduction. But, the problem has been that the tax credit has been capped at $2,000. So, let's say I put in a $30,000 photovoltaic electrical generating system. I would get a 30 percent tax credit the year I put it in. The problem has been that the tax credit has been capped at $2,000. So, in my example, the $30,000 system would receive a tax credit of $2,000 instead of $10,000. This week the congress approved a new energy bill. It removed the cap on the tax credit for solar systems. That means that the example system costing $30,000 would net the owner a $10,000 tax credit. Now we have a real incentive in place. To carry our example farther, let's say the owner lives in Florida and has installed a 3,000 watt photovoltaic system on his house. Florida gives a $4 a watt rebate for installing a system. Now, the owner gets another $12,000 in cash for his system. The tax credit and the cash rebate total $22,000 leaving the owner with a net cost of $8,000 for a 3 kilowatt electrical generating system. The payoff assuming a benefit of $1,000 a year would be 8 years.

With the world having passed the peak of global oil production based on various calculations, it can be assumed that the price of energy obtained from petroleum is going to continue to climb over the coming years until oil becomes too expensive to extract from the earth. Various other sources of petroleum will enjoy some resurgence as the price of crude oil inexorably climbs due to reduced production all over the world. Sporadic forays into offshore drilling and exploitation of limited domestic sources will yield at best a few years reprieve. The industrialization of China and India will force demand higher in spite of any action the US takes to conserve. Americans are already feeling the pinch. The recent spike in gasoline prices has changed the automobile market at all levels affecting not only the manufacturers but also the dealers and most importantly the owners of gas consuming monsters that we have all been encouraged to buy over the last decade or so. If you own a large SUV and have gone in to trade for a new vehicle you have found that the value of your shiny Chevy Suburban that you cared for over the years has plummeted to near nothing. GM and Chrysler are in negotiations to form a single larger company in the throws of survival. Detroit has based its hopes on the Chevy Volt, an all electric vehicle that will cost over $30,000 and will not go into production until 2010. Meanwhile, Toyota dealers have up to a 10 month waiting list in some areas for the Prius, their much loved 50 mpg hybrid which has been in production for over 12 years. Detroit missed the boat completely.

With the present world wide economic crisis along with the future declining global oil supply, it is good that the USA has now elevated alternate energy production to a higher level of importance. Hydrogen is a very long way off in my opinion. T. Boone Pickens Plan which emphasises natural gas will require the installation of a nation wide refueling infrastructure. I spoke with a representative of our local public utility, the gas company, and asked him where the refueling stations were. He confirmed that there were none in Florida for private vehicles and that the only ones in place are for government vehicles. Florida under Governor Charlie Crist has put in place requirements that government agencies reduce their grid electrical consumption by a set amount by a certain date. One commonly sees Toyota Prius government vehicles in the area where I live.

In this perspective, the approval by congress and the president of the latest energy bill which reduces the cap on solar tax credits and contains a number of other beneficial requirements such as demanding an increase in overall automobile fuel efficiency will provide a boost to new alternate energy industries and has taken a baby step in reducing our bizarre dependency on oil as an energy source. Oil that we must buy from people who hate us but profit greatly from us. We are like drug addicts who pay money to the dealer because of our addiction. We hate the dealer but our addiction ties us to him in a strange pathological way.

I highly recommend James Howard Kunstler's book, "The Long Emergency," from which much of this information was obtained. I alse recommend going to Wikipedia and reading the entry for "Hubbert's Curve" or "Hubbert's Peak." The Kunstler book really puts the present day energy, economic, and political situation in perspective. We do face a "Long Emergency" in the coming years and the faster the US restructures itself to deal with it the better. It is important to understand this change in global politics to survive the coming years and to reposition our country militarily and energy-wise for us to survive as a nation. So, in my opinion and others, reducing our dependency on petroleum is a national defense emergency and the removal of the cap on tax credits for solar systems is on small step that will stimulate movement in the right direction. We are a nation unique in the world because of our creativity and resilience but we have become complacent in our sleepwalking through the last twenty years while under our oil addiction. We can wake up but we had better do it fast.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Free Office Suite

Screenshot Tour: A First Look at OpenOffice.org 3.0

Here is a free equivalent to the popular commercial office suite.  Why on earth would anyone pay hundreds of dollars for the unbelievably popular expensive one when one could use this one?   Why?  Because most people believe that they must buy the commercial product in order to be able to produce documents that are compatible with other sites.  Well, they do not.  I have used Open Office for years and it is totally compatible with all documents and spreadsheets and does not cost a penny.  Now version 3.0 will be available next week and it is certainly a mature product.  Get it and don't waste your money buying expensive commercial office suites.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

WiseStamp an Email Signature that works for you!

Hey, this really works and works well.  If you use Firefox as your browser along with web based email such as Google mail this is a nice way to add a signature block to your mails.  I find it works effortlessly and can be configured to automatically add your signature to each email or you can use it as i do as an option at the end of typing an email.  So far I have no complaints and really like it.  The site even provides a few examples that you can capture and edit for your own use.  Mine looks like this:

Green Expo 08

I attended the Green Expo at the Palm Beach Community College
yesterday. It was a small but interesting collection of displays and
tables manned by representatives of various vendors and public
agencies. Some of the people there were former colleagues of mine at
the SFWMD and we had a nice visit with them. There was one solar
installer represented. They showed great interest in our home and in
the monitoring software. I now wish I had brought some of our
brochures for our monitoring software along to distribute to them.
They were really interested in our product so I gave them the website,
http://www.mysolarlog.com/ and am confident they will visit it.
Their website is http://www.abundantenergy.com/ .

One vendor had an interesting product that I may follow up on. It
is a clear acrylic addon for your windows that works like a storm
window. The product installs a clear acrylic pane in a magnetic frame
over the existing windows creating a double pane window at 70 percent
less cost than replacing the windows. I might look into it for certain
windows on my house that give the greatest heat load. Their website,
which I have not visited yet, is http://www.window-insulators.com/

We bought a couple of plants from the Native Plant Society table
where we also chatted for a bit with an old friend who is a member of
the society.

All in all it was a pleasant experience but I
was struck by the fact that it could have been much, much more than it
was. We did not attend the rain barrel workshop even though we have an
interest in that area. But there seemed to be little advertising of
the event in advance in the wider community. I had hoped that the
Florida electric car group could have exhibited there and that other
workshops and talks could have been available to the public. There was
great interest in our house and what our experience has been living
with PV. Perhaps we can have more participation in the next one. It
was a rainy day all day and that probably prevented more people from

Monday, September 15, 2008

Utility Trucks Head for Texas

My son travels a lot for his work.  Using his Iphone he sent me this photo this morning of Florida Power and Light trucks traveling west on I-10 west of Tallahassee headed for Texas for relief work.  As a resident of South Florida where we had four hurricanes in one year I can only say that it is amazing that we live in a country where the states can help each other out like this.  I know that they are reimbursed for the expenses incurred but even so the fact that a day or two after a major storm like Ike these trucks can be on the road and on their way to help is fantastic.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Here is a short timelapse I took this morning. It is fascinating to shoot these things by just leaving the camera running using a CHDK script that enables an intervalometer control. The atmosphere is fascinating and as you see here when speeded (sped?) up so that we are more aware of it, it is always in motion and beautifully so.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Update for our friends and family:

Solar Logging Software

We are nearing completion on our solar logging software. This is my test site.


...and this is the main site.


Automated Camera Scripting and KAP Robots

I have been experimenting with loading CHDK scripts on my Canon point and shoot A700 camera. You can read more about CHDK at http://www.hackaday.com/2008/05/27/how-to-expand-your-camera-with-chdk/ . My first attempts at time lapse using the scripts can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FICIKSYeioA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8p2V8bOGNM&feature=related . Needless to say this also involved an exploration of Mencoder in Linux to create the video clips. Video clip creation from series of stills is pretty easy in Linux but the editing is still maturing.

All of this CHDK stuff is in preparation for launching an automated KAP rig based on the old one but using a small circuit board that automates all of the pans and tilts. http://skyware.fam-engels.de/aurico/overview_en.htm This in combination with CHDK KAP scripting eliminates the need for radio transmitter and receiver. It also eliminates the need for a shutter servo. Removing those two components should lighten the rig quite a bit. Bench testing proved flawless operation of all components. Flight testing needed next. It will be fun to just fly the kite and get the photos as a side benefit.

Router Soup Ups

That spare Liniksys WRT-54G router has now been put to good use. I loaded the DD-WRT software on it thereby enhancing greatly the capabilies of the router. DD-WRT is open source router software that replaces the Linksys firmware. http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page My goal in doing this was to create a repeater that could be used in the motorhome to enhance weak signals in campgrounds. I got that working today and the repeater now resides in the motorhome providing an extra benefit of filling in the north side of the house with solid wifi signal. I will add a high gain antenna to the motorhome and we will create our own ad hoc networks on the fly with this setup. No more struggling to aim the laptop to acquire a signal blocked by trees or poorly located antennas. It works and it works great. Next time WRT-54Gs go on sale you might consider picking up one to use as a repeater.

Linux and Our PCs

Running Kubuntu Linux quite comfortably on all machines now. I have kept my desktop as dual boot to use for the Microsoft Flight Simulator. My laptop has KDE 4.1, under developmant, and KDE 3.5, rock solid.

Current Reading

"The Assault on Reason" by Al Gore. This book is taking me longer to read than any I have read recently. I read a few pages, get pissed off and put it down for a while. Then I go back to it. I feel like a "Pawn in Their Game" as made famous by Bob Dylan's song.


While watching some YouTube videos of places we have visited and one town in Colorado in particular I found a video that took scenes from "True Grit" and found the real life locations where scenes were filmed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EUP9rOLf30 They all were in our favorite town in Colorado, Ouray. Now "True Grit" is at the top of our Netflix que followed by "The Kite Runner." Gotta get those Dalai Lama videos back in the mail so I can move on the John Wayne. The other one is old concerts of "The Grateful Dead."

Photos and Videos

I have been working on my project of getting all my old color print negatives digitized. Walgreens does such a good job at such a reasonable price. I have been taking them to the new store at Forest Hill and Congress. Finally getting a lot of my valuable travel photos and aviation pics on CD. I have also been pumping them up to Flickr to share with others. http://www.flickr.com/bbbrown Scanning the old photos myself is a long and tedious process that I have not given due diligence to.

Random Day Trips

About to ressurect our old one random trip a week thing. Not sure how we are going to do it but Ikea is on our list and I have a set of waypoints named "Mom and Pop Burger Joints" loaded in the GPS. There is also that barbecue place in Fort Peirce. Too bad we have to travel that far for reallly good barbecue.

Solar Cooker

So far I have just boiled water in my solar oven. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsWZ0sLubXU Hope to cook a meal in it when the sun comes back out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plug In Hybrid Conversion for Trucks and SUVs

Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies, Inc (HEVT) | An IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology) Startup in Chicago | News

This sounds like a great startup company. Watch the video, it is impressive. There are many who need pickups for their work, their farms, and other needs. This conversion makes them into high efficiency vehicles. This just proves that given the right incentives we can come up with solutions to the high price of fuel. Who knows? Maybe someday these power systems will exist even for motor homes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Good summary of cause and effect for oil prices

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY BLOG - Solar-Energy-Wind-Power.com: Why are Oil Prices So High?
Were per capita oil use in China and India to reach the same level as in the United States, this would fully deplete the world's remaining proven oil reserves in just 15 years and prospective resources, in 26 years.

With a presidential
election this year in the United States and gas prices at record
levels, oil and energy in general is set to be a key issue. There is
the opportunity to have a serious debate about energy - a fundamental
part of our lives which has been taken for granted for far too long.
However the responses from the presidential candidates so far have not
been encouraging.

In 2002 McCain declared that ethanol is a
"giveaway to special interests in corn-growing states as the expense of
the rest of the country." In 2003 he put out a press release saying
"Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase
our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality." He went on to
describe it as "highway robbery." Hillary Clinton signed a letter
saying that there is "no sound public policy reason for mandating the
use of ethanol".

McCain, Clinton and Obama all seem to have
drunk the ethanol Kool Aid and seen the bright white light that has
converted them to E85. In 2008 none of these presidential candidates seems to have anything negative to say about ethanol.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Solid State Laptops. The future of computers?

Samsung Q30 Solid State Laptop

announced that next month it will begin shipping to the Korean market
its Q30, the first notebook PC with a solid-state hard disk. The
12.1-inch screen notebook will be equipped with a 32GB NAND flash based
solid-state disk (SSD).

The lack of moving parts will also allow it to go fanless, making it
absolutely silent, plus it'll be more efficient, boosting battery life.
Here comes the downside, though: it's going to cost $3700 for all this
solid-state goodness, and it's saddled with an old-fashioned Celeron M
753 (1.2GHz) chip. Bring on the Core Duos, and lower that price! Come
to think of it, it wasn't too long ago when all laptops cost that much
or more. Just think of this as a peek into the future.

From Gizmodo.com

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hybrid Future for Toyota

Toyota unveils plans for more fuel-efficient hybrids, revolutionary car battery - Forbes.com
Toyota also aims to develop a battery that significantly outperforms lithium-ion batteries,' Watanabe said.

Toyota, which has developed lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries jointly with Matsushita Electric Industrial Ltd., will be setting up a specialized research department later this month to develop its new-generation battery, he said.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


'Hypermilers': Squeezing Out Every Mile Per Gallon : NPR

It may seem odd that a motorhome driver would blog an article about hypermilers. The reality is that motorhome and RV drivers are among the most eco aware people I have met. They know they are driving gas hogs when they move their base of operations, the motorhome, to a new location. When they drive they are trying to squeeze out the best mileage when driving the RV because a fill up is so expensive. It is when they switch over to the "toad", the RV'ers term for the car that is towed, that their concern for mileage is really intense. Maybe I should just say that is when "we" are more concerned about mileage. Having said that, this is a good article on driving to save mileage. It is pretty simple really. Slow your top speed down to 60 mph max, accelerate and decelerate slowly, and some even coast down long hills. Hope this helps you all save a few miles without being extreme "hypermilers."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Trip to See Friends and Family

View Larger Map

Rough estimates for the trip show a total mileage of around 2,000 miles with a total fuel cost of $983.16, lodging $206, and food $227.70. That comes out to about $59 a day. We will refine the numbers and add them here. Travel is still pretty cheap using a motor home. Considering that a motel/hotel would cost a minimum of $75 a day and all meals would be eating out, it looks as though traveling this way is still economical in comparison. Just as important is the fact that we know who slept in our bed the previous night. We did.

We used the spreadsheet below for keeping track of all of our costs. We didn't include the little extras we got for ourselves and friends. A rough rule of thumb for our motor home fuel costs is 50 cents a mile. The exact number is 55 cents per mile.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Overnight Stop in Jacksonville

Our overnight stop on the way home. This is Pecan Park RV Resort north of Jacksonville, Florida. It is a nice clean park with WiFi. It is not free WiFi but we can live with it for one night. We decided to try this one instead of our usual Osprey Park primarily because of the WiFi. Overnight cost $36. Not bad for a nice place to park our home.

The photo above is more interesting than it appears at first glance. Only Geeks will appreciate this but let me explain. The photo is a panorama made from joining four images taken with my Iphone. I emailed the images to myself and used my Linux laptop to download them to my hard drive. The panorama itself was created using a Windows program called Autostitch. The Windows program runs beautifully in Linux with Wine. Wine is a Linux program that runs a lot of Windows programs without Windows having to be installed. Geekspeak off.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Can you believe this? Amazing but true.

A prisoner builds a fortune from behind bars. Something is wrong here.

A fortune built from a jail cell in Palm Beach County -- -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

If the Koreans can do this why can't we?

Largest Wind Turbine Order by T. Boone Pickens, Texas Oilman

$2 Billion Wind Turbine Order Is Largest Ever | MetaEfficient
Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has placed an the largest ever order for wind turbines: he ordered 667 wind turbines from GE, each costing $3 million dollars, making the total order $2 billion. Pickens plans to develop the world’s largest wind farm in the panhandle of Texas.

Scary Trend

Scary trend. All natural systems depend on biodiversity for survival. Reducing diversity primes the system for collapse. It is a helpless feeling to look at this index and see what is happening because it is the combined effect of humans reckless attack on all resources for our own survival. What is the answer? Is there a realistic one? Population control? Protection of natural systems? How do you implement these things? Very scary thinking of what future generations will have to deal with. It would be nice if we could start now but I am becoming pessimistic about humans and their direction of irresponsible consumption of resources and destruction of habitat. This is the expression of governmental and human action all over the globe.

WWF - Living Planet Index

Vacation Impact on Energy Consumption

We left for vacation on the 14th of May. Prior to our departure we configured the house for low energy consumption by unplugging all transformers, chargers, and other non-essential (to us), electronic equipment. In the office the only thing running is the modem, router, and the solar system logging machine. Our two Tivos are still busily recording our favorite shows. Our two refrigerators are running as well. TVs, VCRs, radios, and all other equipment that usually sits gobbling energy waiting for the chance for us to wake them up are unplugged. As a result, the first day away our house generated 117 percent of the energy it used. We sold 13 kwh back to the utility. You can clearly see the spike in the percent of energy generated in the chart below:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Florida Power and Light Orders Wind Turbines

Siemens Gets Large Wind Turbine Order From FPL

Our power company is moving in the right direction. As the article states they are already the biggest wind power utility in the US.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Phony drug trial studies

Did you think those so called "scientific" studies of drugs are good science? Think again. This article is a must read. I think there is an unholy alliance between the drug companies, crooked doctors, and worst of all the media. How many people are influence by those phony ads like the one starring Sally Fields claiming benefits and showing her bogus "family?" I have even seen lunches for the staff catered by the drug companies at my doctors office. If I did that while working it would have been called a conflict of interest and I would have been fired.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Invention Of the Year: The iPhone - The Best Inventions Of The Year - TIME

Invention Of the Year: The iPhone - The Best Inventions Of The Year - TIME

I have had this phone since the beginning of the year. I have hesitated to blog about it because there has been so much hype associated with the device. But, after using the thing for months it is time to let you know that the hype is not hype. Yes, it is expensive but it is much, much more than a phone. As the article states Apple took their proven computer operating system, OSX, and used it as the foundation of this device. I keep using the term device because phone is inadequate to describe it. Yes, it is a phone and probably the best I have ever used because of the simple easy to use interface. But, it is also a computer with a full fledged web browser, Safari. It is also a video player that, with the AV cable from Apple, plays beautiful video on your TV. Of course, it also plays them on the device itself which brings me to the display. Wow, it is the brightest, clearest display I have ever seen on a hand held device. Videos on this thing are breath taking in their clarity. And, of course, it is an Ipod. I currently have about 600 songs on my Iphone. Again, play them through your stereo and you can just forget ever having to fiddle with CDs again. The Iphone does much, much more including functioning as a very nice and easy to use camera with email capability. It will be hard for me to own any other phone/computer/camera/music player. I am convinced that Apple does it right. Some day I will probably switch my computers to Apple machines. They just do it right with elegance, ease of use, and style. I challenge you to try the Iphone in an ATT store near you and be less than impressed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Psychology of the Prius

This is a rather interesting analysis of the success of the Prius. I found it interesting that this author attributes much of its success to the fact that it does not look like other cars. It is so distinctive that you would think it would put people off but it seems to do the opposite.

"Our respondents are lying through their teeth," Peterson said.

"The dramatically different look of the Prius is something that's
appealing," he said. "The Ford Escape and Toyota Camry hybrid have not
been as successful because they don't look as different."

FEATURE-U.S. car makers try to repeat green halo of Prius | Reuters

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Most Expensive Zip Codes: 33404, Estate of the Day - Luxist

Most Expensive Zip Codes: 33404, Estate of the Day - Luxist

Oh my gosh. This is on an area north of us and on the ocean. Even though it is nearby it sure does not mean that we live in a neighborhood like this. Palm Beach County is very diverse with areas ranging from very poor to mega rich. Interestingly, the wealthiest neighborhoods are on the oceanfront properties. That is good because they can best afford the risk of damage from hurricanes. Historically, Palm Beach, the barrier island on the ocean was the home of the wealthy industrialists from the north who found the cool ocean breezes and exotic vegetation to their tastes. Henry Flagler developed the island in the early days and the West Palm Beach area where we live was the home of the people who worked on the island. When the area was first settled there were no bridges so the service personnel rode a ferry out to the island to work during the day. Now there are many automobile bridges to the island and a driving tour is a fun way to see the homes of the mega rich. Another great way is to take a narrated boat tour along the intracoastal waterway to see the homes of the rich and famous.

If that zip code is not ritzy enough for you then check out this one. This is on the island of Palm Beach where Mr. Rush Limbaugh lives. I guess the gift of gab is really a golden gift.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Prius Evaluation Last Day


This morning we returned our Prius to Hertz after driving 220 miles and getting an average of 45.6 mpg over that distance. Before turning it in we performed what we call the "glider test" which involves Bob testing the accessibility and usability of the cargo space by loading his radio controlled model gliders. As you can see above there was no problem and the cargo space was larger and easier to access than our PT Cruiser. With the two back seats folded down the cargo area is actually quite large.

Back in our PT Cruiser. The seats in the PT are not as comfortable as those in the Prius. It is much noisier than the Prius and of course only gets 20 mpg as compared to the mid 40s on the Prius. Since the PT is a manual transmission there is not the smoothness of the Prius which has a continuously variable drive system that has no shift points. If we had to make a choice on the spot between the PT and the Prius the Prius would win hands down on many points. Towing with the RV would be an area where the PT would win for ease of hook up. The PT is hooked to the tow bars and put in neutral. The Prius would require the purchase and use of a front wheel dolly system. It cannot be towed with all four tires on the ground. I think we would still choose the Prius due to its economy, ease of use, smoothness, and quiet ride in spite of the dolly requirement.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

After a few days of hard city driving we are showiing 45.1 mpg. We have intentionally not been careful in our driving accelerating hard to get on the interstate and a lot of stop and go driving. This pattern is probably typical of about ninety percent of our driving. We like the car. It is functional and easy to drive. We still find the interior of this particular model plain. It is a rental car though and they usually have the most basic models. This particular car has about 23,000 miles on it and is solid and tight.

Today is our last full day with the car so we plan on putting some more highway miles on it. We will probably take a short day trip somewhere just for fun.

Finally, we find the controls on the center console and the radio cd player easy to use. Not fancy but functional. Actually using the display console to control the AC and fan is quite easy. Much easier than the more conventional mechanical controls found on other cars. Our biggest complaint so far is the lack of tinting on the windows, an easy fix.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hybrid Mileage Database - GreenHybrid

Hybrid Mileage Database - GreenHybrid

Here is an interesting web site where users report the mileage they have gotten with their hybrid cars. This will make a believer out of you. 122,276,536 mi · 77,553 tanks · 6,108 cars · 1 database

Prius Evaluation Day 3

We have spent the week running our normal errands around town, taking our granddaughter to her pre school, and not really trying hard for good mileage. At this point we have covered about a hundred miles of every day stop and go driving and our cumlative mileage is 45.6 mpg. We have become totally comfortable with this car and would probably be happy with a Prius except for one thing. To tow it behind our RV requires a dolly to get the front wheels off the ground. It cannot be towed with all four wheels on the ground due to the regenerative process that happens when the front wheels are turning.

The car seats we used for transporting our granddaughters are easy to install in this car. My four year old granddaughter said that it is easier to see the road when riding in this car than when riding in her daddy's car. I guess that is an interesting viewpoint that I had not thought about and relates to the massive amount of glass in the Prius. One thing that we worried about was blind spots since our PT Cruiser has some bad ones. Probably the worst view out of the car in my opinion is the rear view as it is interupted by a spoiler bar across the back hatch. I think this may have been improved in the 2008 models.

We are still having fun driving this hybrid and have a couple of more days left to enjoy it so we will keep reporting on our impressions. I did notice that Consumer Reports says that this car has the highest owner satisfaction of any they tested.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Toyota Prius Evaluation Day 2

Our weather has been fairly cool but one thing we both noticed is that there is a lot of glass on this vehicle. The windshield has a long flat aerodynamic shape but that also makes it a perfect solar collector. If we got one of these we would definitely have to opt for some serious windshield and window tinting. Either that or I will have to up my visits to my dermatologist to once a month instead of once every six months.

It is pretty easy to get comfortable with the technology in the Prius. Basically, you just turn it on and go. Nothing more complicated than that to worry about. It is all starting to seem very natural and the quiet smoothness is addictive. It is interesting that my initial impression was of confusion because of the vehicle's simplicity. That is a comment about how accustomed we are to complexity in our vehicles.

Mileage has dropped to 42 mpg today. Never thought I would say my mileage had dropped to 42 mpg. More on Day 3 in another post.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Toyota Prius Evaluation Day 1

A few days ago Barbara called me into the living room and said, "Watch this," as she rewound the Tivo and played back a Hertz commercial advertising their new "Green" rental program. In it they talk about their new fleet of low carbon impact vehicles. Since we have long been curious about the Toyota Prius I picked up the phone and reserved one for us to evaluate. We picked it up today. On the way home from the rental agency I noticed that we averaged 52.6 mpg. Not bad.

About the biggest challenge was figuring out how to make the thing go. It has no transmission as such. It has no starter. I suppose we are used to complexity because it took me a while to figure out that the big round button on the dash labeled "Power" was the trick. So, first impressions can be summed up by Barbara who after driving it said, "That is about the strangest vehicle I have ever driven."

Why so strange? The eerie silence when it starts off in electric power for one thing. Another is the unnerving shutdown of the engine when you pull to a stop. If you happen to be running on engine power, it switches seemlessly from engine to electric, the engine will just shut down when you stop. It is unnerving because being used to conventional cars the first reaction is to reach for the ignition switch but of course there is not one.

The gauges are embedded at the base of the windshield almost like a heads up display on a jet fighter. They are bright, large, and easy to read. The central display unit in energy mode does remind one of the Starship Enterprise with all of its energy arrows showing flows to and from the battery and the engine. The radio and AC controls embedded in the steering wheel hub are nice and easy to use.

The interior would be disappointing to a luxury car enthusiast. At least in our rental version the furnishings of the cabin are quite Spartan. Not sure if that is for weight savings or if it is just the version purchased by Hertz.

This is a great way to evaluate cars and just plain fun too. Some people even get paid to do this kind of thing but we figure living with various cars in this way for a week at a time is far better than a round the block demo at the dealership. We are having fun and will continue to report on our experience over the next week. Oh, and so far that 52.6 mpg average is not bad.

� Top 10 sites to debunk urban legends | Tech of all Trades | TechRepublic.com

� Top 10 sites to debunk urban legends | Tech of all Trades | TechRepublic.com

Finally a complete list of the top ten sites to debunk urban legends. If more people would refer to these before forwarding unfounded urban myths we would save a massive amount of bandwidth on the internet. Please, everyone, if anyone, who reads this, use these sites before forwarding stuff and if it is not true don't forward it.