Adventures in Technology

The Good! You can learn to do virtually anything by watching videos on YouTube!

The Bad! You have to endure a YouTube video– or many– to learn it.

So I recently picked up a pristine used Honda Accord coupe for mere money. Lots of technology there, some of which I’m familiar with (touch screens, backup cameras, blind spot detection) and some I’m not (keyless entry and starting).

A friend advised me, based on his unfortunate personal experience, to buy a spare battery for the fob and keep it in the glovebox. His fob had died a premature death. He popped out the hidden key and got into his car, but what then? No place to stick the key. Couldn’t start the car. Hopefully it got him out of the rain, at least.

So what battery, and how do I replace it? YouTube!!! I bring up the first video. It’s three-and-a-half minutes long. Hmm. This must be a difficult job. But no! There’s half a minute of the guy alternately holding the fob in our face and showing us the “Keyless Remote Battery Low” warning on the dashboard. Back and forth and back and forth. Then another 30 seconds showing us the batteries he bought at Dollar Tree. Yup, it’s a CR2032. Got it. I see it. Move on.

The next 45 interminable seconds are spent trying to open the fob with one hand and muttering to himself, while simultaneously swinging the phone around wildly with his other hand until I got nauseous and had to throw up! But seriously. He eventually had to set the phone down to accomplish this two-second, two-handed trick. I mean, was there no time for a quick dress rehearsal? Or even a cold read? Is it against YouTube policy to do retakes? You know, just stop, delete the failed effort and start over? And why would anyone post this on YouTube in the first place for all the world to see, to cringe and laugh at?!?! Just do it the heck over!

There’s also a 27 second video. Yah, I should have gone there first. But it wasn’t nearly as entertaining. But there are also other videos on this same Honda Accord key fob battery replacement task that run beyond 3 minutes. Good grief. I’ve also endured videos on how to do computer stuff, “taught” by a guy who couldn’t type and spent a minute or more trying to figure out why what he was trying to show us how to do wasn’t working– and paying no attention to me yelling at him and tapping the blatant misspelling right there in front of his blind eyes.

Next up on YouTube: How to build a nuclear reactor in your basement! Do I go with the one-minute version and get it done, or pop some popcorn, grab a beer, and go for the Dumb and Dumber high wire circus act?


First World Problems

So I’m trying to figure out Android Auto, now that I have a car that supports it. Not going well with my Samsung S7 phone. So the Modern Day Solution? Google it! First YouTube video that pops up promises a solution! So I watch it.

First step: get your Android phone into “Developer Mode.”
Really? And how do I do that?
Open Settings.
Click on About Phone.
Click on Developer Mode.

I click. Nothing. I click again. Still nothing.
You have to click it four or five times to get into the Developer Mode menu.
Okay. You might have mentioned that–
Now you go to USB Configuration and make sure MTP is on. Sometimes they come up in Charging mode. So you need to turn on MTP. Mine was already in MTP mode so I didn’t have to change it.
Well, mine’s already in MTP mode too. So now what?
Now you back out of that and get back into the Android Auto app.
But that still didn’t work for me.
That didn’t work for you??? Okay, so why are you telling me all this?
I found out that using a genuine Samsung USB charging cord fixed the problem. I was using a generic cord. So switching to using a genuine Samsung charging cord in my car worked, and now I can get connected every time.
Well isn’t that nice? I was using a generic cord too. Why didn’t you just save me 5 minutes of my life and tell me in 20 freaking seconds that what worked for you was as simple as using the genuine Samsung USB cable??? Huh???

And here’s another one. Why is hardware and software obsolete in about 3 years, 5 max? Oh, your phone is two years old. It won’t support that software. You need a new phone!

Well, how about this? I had a 2009 Saturn Aura. 11 years old, and I could get it fixed pretty much anywhere in the country at the drop of a hat. Anything breaks or wears out, there are parts available, same day delivery. And Saturn has been out of business for ten freaking years! I have a friend who has a 1917 Ford Model T. It’s 103 years old! He can buy parts and fix it with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers! And I can’t even change the battery in my cell phone??? What is wrong with this picture.

End of rant. Thank you for your support.


First World Problems, Technology Edition

Yah, I’m spoiled. And I know Ford has has had issues with its Sync technology since its inception, with steady but gradual improvement over the years. But I can’t buy a new car every 12 months just for that. For now I’m stuck with a 2012 Fusion. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto probably weren’t on Ford’s radar back then.

Small inconveniences: why oh why would they bury the lone USB port in the bottom of the center console, a tiny dark hole deep down in a large dark hole full of cables and sunglasses and tissue boxes and hand sanitizer bottles, and… and… and… It takes a flashlight, small hands and several minutes of digging to find it, and a lot of fumbling to plug in a media player. Then there’s Sync itself. Occasionally it’ll recognize a device and play it through the radio, but not always, and when that happens just unplugging and re-plugging, or turning off the radio (entertainment system), unplugging again, rebooting, turning off again, in all possible sequences, will yield… nothing! The only fix then is to pull off to the side of the road, park, shut off the engine, open the door to make sure the system is dead dead dead, then start over. And cross your fingers. What the hey?

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Large Appliance Shopping

I don’t understand people sometimes. Okay, pretty much all the time. Some friends of ours suffered a grievous loss a couple weeks ago. Their kitchen range died. No oven, no burners, nothing worked. It’s old, it was tired. We kept checking in. Did they buy a new one? No. Did they find a new one to buy? Nope. Apparently not even looking. Living large with a microwave and toaster I guess.

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First World Problems

After nearly getting my fingers squashed by the trunk lid on my car, I decided I need new lift supports. I’m a DIYer, and I’ve BTDT a few times in the past, so I checked my local preferred auto parts store and found they cost $30. Each. I need two. Ouch. I do prefer to Shop Locally, but really, is Advance Auto or Auto Zone or NAPA, or even our Midwest everything discount department chain store Meijer really “local”? I think not. So I went to everybody’s usual fallback option, Amazon, and found I can buy a pair for less than $25 ($30 with shipping). Good deal. I placed an order on Saturday and started tracking it. Come Wednesday they hadn’t even been shipped yet. Still sitting in the warehouse? What the hey?

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Adventures in H.R. (in four parts)


In the early days, Cavendish Junior College was a big, happy family. Everyone was local, friendly, easygoing. Enthusiastic. Your basic Yoopers. At contract negotiation time, the leader of our little maintenance field group would be summoned into the Personnel Director’s office. (Yes, they used to call that department “Personnel” in those unenlightened days. Forgive them, they didn’t know any better. Now, in these more enlightened days, we call it Human Resources, to better distinguish the responsibilities from Energy Resources, Land Resources, Animal Resources, whatever. Apparently “personnel” was a vague word without meaning.)

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Alleged Road Repairs

We have a strange concept of “road repairs” in Ingham County, Michigan. Or maybe everywhere.

Rather than do something good and worthwhile, SOP here is to lay down a coat of tar, then cover it with a layer of pea-stone gravel. That’s it. Done. Walk away. Go get a beer. In the olden days I think the road crews used to bring out “steam rollers” and roll the gravel out and down into the tar. Not anymore. Now they just go away and subcontract the work to us, the citizens, to tamp down and level out the gravel with our tires. What, so I’m working for the county now? And providing my own equipment? For no pay? Just the risk of a cracked windshield and chipped paint? I’m not even getting the benefit of free undercoating from the tar. I should call National Labor Relations Board.

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Free Life Insurance

I just got another offer from my credit union for $1000 of free life insurance. This is to be purchased in my name for me by my credit union. The total cost to me is saying NO! every time a rep from the life insurance company calls to make an appointment to push more insurance on me at their “low, low monthly rates.” I can afford that. It occurs to me if I’d been accepting all these offers when they first started coming to me 45 years ago I’d probably have tens of thousands of dollars worth of free life insurance now, just sitting there, waiting to be paid to my survivor. At no (monetary) cost to me.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

I get burned by this law all the time. You know it, even if you don’t know you know it. “No good deed goes unpunished.” That pretty much sums it up.

I bought an in-dash touch-screen infotainment unit for for my car. Unwise, I know, but I wanted it and I had the money. Mostly because it has the navigation feature. We’ll get to that in a minute.

After having the marvellous new touch-screen infotainment unit installed in my dashboard, I discovered I got no more audible alerts from my car. No seatbelt chime, no door ajar chime, no key-in-the-ignition chime. Not even the click-clack of the turn signals. Turned out all those sounds come out of the factory-installed entertainment unit, i.e.: the radio that we had just removed. I needed an optional wiring harness with its own built-in chimes. Back to the installation shop with more money in hand.

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Summer Blockbuster Syndrome

The summer movie blockbuster season is upon us again, and I have to admit I can’t get excited about it. I was put in mind of the comedian who told about his grandfather coming back from a major league baseball game. Someone asked how the game was. Grandpa grumbled, “the millionaire on the mound pitched the ball to the millionaire at the plate, he hit it to the millionaire in the outfield, who threw it to the millionaire at first base…”

Let’s face it, the “Marvel Universe” doesn’t exist. Ditto the Star Wars Universe, the Alien Universe, the X-Men Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy Universe… It’s just going to be another season of “the CGI villain beats up on the CGI hero, they toss CGI cars and CGI people into the CGI buildings of a CGI city with CGI jets and CGI helicopters screaming overhead…” I mean seriously, why do we care about any of this?

Some things I’d rather see? How about this image of the Panama Canal, a project so huge you’d think these photos could only be done with CGI.

Or maybe this one of the propellers of the Titanic, built in 1909 through 1912.

These are both phenomenal things that were built in the days when a Ford Model T was pretty much state of the art for automobiles. And now of course the Panama Canal has been massively expanded, a project  so huge it’s almost dizzying in photos, and you would swear they were CGI if you saw them in a movie, but they’re real.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am pretty much over CGI. Hopefully these three photos will expand to fill your screen if you click on them. If not, I’ll find a way to fix that. Probably with CGI. But then also there are these photos to give a better idea of the scope of the Canal expansion.

That said, I admit that I recently watched a CGI ape battle a CGI T-Rex and swat CGI helicopters out of the CGI sky. The original Kong was forty feet tall, the Kong now is maybe 100 to 150 feet tall, but that was not enough to be overwhelming, or even enough to make it a good movie. I can’t say I was underwhelmed, because that would oversell my expectations. I guess I was just merely whelmed.

Although finding King Kong: Skull Island uninspiring, and I will almost certainly find myself watching Alien:Covenant and Blade Runner 2049 this summer. But seriously, I don’t know what the future of summer blockbusters will be, but someday I hope it’s not just this. It’s hard to write, and harder to imagine, but maybe it’s going to have to be up to Millennials to redefine, with their entertainment dollars, the whole moviescape for all of us. It might not be pretty, but they’re blooming into adulthood now and maybe it’s time for them to step up and take a leadership role. So far they’re not inspiring confidence, but who knows? The Powers That Be in Hollywood are, in my opinion, drowning in gridlock… to mix a metaphor.

But what do I know?