Shopping for New Cars

I’m likely to buy a new car this year and have been pondering the possibilities for a while. One option is to replace my aging Acura Integra with the 2002 Acura RS-X which is due out soon. The Integra is the last Acura to have its name taken away and replaced with random numbers or letters. Oh well. I can get used to the new name. It seems to get tolerable gas mileage and doesn’t look to bad. One thing I definitely don’t want is a gas guzzler (ie. anything less than 30mpg). I won’t be able see one in person or do a test drive until April though.

In the meantime, I test drove a Honda Insight recently. The Insight is Honda’s hybrid gas/electric vehicle. It gets 70mpg and the electric motor is powered by 120 Ni-MH D-cells. It had a suprising amount of power – I was expecting a sluggish electric-car feel but when you floor it the gas and electric motors both kick in and it takes off. It does all sorts of cool stuff to conserve power. The braking system recycles power into the batteries rather than just dissipating it all as heat. The gas engines shuts off when it’s not needed and restarts instantly when it is needed. The down side is that it’s a two seater and has very limited visibility. I drove a Honda CRX for years and but would prefer more than two seats these days.

Toyota has a hybrid too. I saw one at the auto pavillion at the 2000 Texas State Fair. It’s too expensive and not very cool looking at all – which is why it’s a Toyota I suppose.

Loaner Cars and Vorbis

I got my car back from the service center today – along with the repair bill. :-(

Oh well, at least it’s nice to be driving a standard again. The only loaner cars they had were automatics which I find downright frightening to drive. They’re always shifting up and down when you don’t want them to and when you really want them to downshift, say to avoid getting smashed by a big truck as you get on the highway, all you can do is stomp on the gas and hope the lousy automatic transmission feels like down shifting. And sometimes on the highway, you’ll accelerate a little during a lane change and for no apparent reason the transmission kicks into first or second gear and slams you against the seat like it wants to beat the Millennium Falcon’s record at the Kessel run. I couldn’t deal with that much lack of control for long with going nuts.

There’s a great interview with Christopher Montgomery on Advogato today. (if you’re reading the syndicated version of my diary on Advogato rather than the original, you’ve probably already seen it, of course). Christopher is working on a GNU licensed audio codec that will be completely unencumbered by patents and other IP problems. It’s called vorbis. I find this good news to be somewhat amusing because I’ve read countless posts on Slashdot from people claiming video and audio codec projects were too complicated to be created as free software – that only large corporations with money for R & D and patent lawyers could tackle projects of that scale.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of programing it’s that nothing is really as hard as it seems. Not knowing how to do a thing makes it seem hard and knowing how makes it seem easy. I’ve found it’s helpful to start each new project with the assumption that no matter how hard it seems, if you just knew how to do it, it would be really easy. And like they say, it’s not what you know, it’s how fast you can find out.

Short Trip in a New Car to see a New Bond

Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving? Susan and I spent the day with some of my family members. We ate lots of turkey and other usual Thanksgiving day fare. After sitting around and talking for awhile, some of us went to see The World is not Enough, the new James Bond movie. The movie was not as good as the last couple of Bond movies but was not the worst I’ve seen either. Pierce Brosnan seems to be growing into the role quite nicely and may be the first replacement Bond to have a chance at actually filling Connery’s shoes. Our nephew, David, drove us to the AMC theater at Grapevine Mills mall in his new Mazda ProtegΓ©. It brought back memories of my first car, a Fiat X1/9.

I Need a 21st Century Car

My 1992 Acura seems to be on its last legs (or would that be wheels?). The monthly repair costs are begining to get high enough that buying a new car would be less expensive. The current inventory of problems includes a leaking radiator and a timing belt that has to be replaced soon. I’m really hoping to get one more year out of it so I can wait for the 2001 model cars to come out. That way I won’t have to spend the next few years driving around in last millenium’s model. Besides, a 21st century vehicle has got to be a lot cooler than a 20th century model, don’t you think?