Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm A Luddite

A former co-worked once called me a Luddite. I think he was joking but...

My recent efforts at trading cars reminded me of that accusation. {This will turn into a tech story shortly.)

We have had a 2013 Nissan Pathfinder for over 3 1/2 years. While we always enjoyed the ride and comfort of the Pathfinder it was fraught with recurring problems.

Normal wear and tear and indicated us to replace the tires at just over 60,000 miles. Simultaneously the sun visors began drooping (like every 2013 Pathfinder does after the warranty lapses), the tailgate resumed its former issue of not power raising or lowering, the driver's window started to go up way more slowly than the passenger's and the brakes started screeching.

My wife refused to put any more money in it so we were off to look for a replacement.

We surfed around and came up with a short list: Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. We have had lots of both brands but most recently I've been driving Hondas so off we went to AutoNation Honda 385.

Our first drive was a 2017 Pilot Touring. We stopped at a red light and when I released the brakes the engine gave a noticeable shudder. I asked the saleperson in the back seat what that was. He said it was the "Idle-Stop" feature.
The idle-stop feature-standard on Pilot Touring and Elite trims helps maximize fuel efficiency in stop-and-go traffic. When the vehicle is at a stop for at least 2 seconds-such as at a traffic light-the engine automatically shuts off to save fuel. When you release the brake pedal even slightly, the engine starts back up by itself.
Remember that the Pilot Touring is not a hybrid. When the Pilot Touring is sitting with the engine shut off the air conditioning stops cooling. The fan continues to run but that's going to get uncomfortable in Memphis really quickly.

When I asked the salesperson if that feature could be disabled he showed me a button on the console to disable it. But it gets reset every time you turn the vehicle off and back on.

We drove a little more and entered an Interstate. I accelerated and felt the transmission shift several times with one being a bang-bang. Again another question to the salesperson. His response was that the Pilot Touring has a ZF 9-speed transmission. While that explained the several shifts it didn't explain the bang-bang. The salesperson had no further explanation.

I inquired as to whether all Pilots had these 2 features and the salesperson said that the models below the Pilot Touring, e.g. Pilot EX-L. didn't have either.

Frustrated we headed across the way to Principle Toyota to look at Highlanders. Guess what ALL (except the entry level model LE) of the 2017 Toyota Highlanders have? Yep, "Stop-Start". And no way to turn it off.

That's where the Luddite in me started to come out.

There's lots of discussion on the Internet about why the manufacturers are so aggressive with this idle-stop feature. The EPA mileage difference between the Honda Pilot EX-L (19/27/22) and the Touring (20/27/23) are minimal and much more likely to be related to the 9-speed transmission.

We didn't drive the Honda Pilot hybrid models. I'd hope that these models would drive off under electric power and start the conventional engine while underway. This would at least mask the shudder of the engine restarting.

Now for the 9-speed transmission.

This YouTube video does a much better job of explaining it than I can.

tl:dr There are 2 shift points that use dog clutches instead of the traditional plate clutches. These shift points are what I felt as a bang-bang.

Again there is no circumvention for this feature.

And the Internet is on fire with complaints about the ZF transmission. Motor Trend's long term test unit even had to have the transmission replaced.

So what did I do?

I gave Honda less money than I would have otherwise and bought a 2017 Honda Pilot EX-L.

Just to dissuade the Luddite accusers I chose a 2017 over a 2016 since the 2017s have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. More on that later.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How to Stop Skype from Running in the Background on Windows 10

Here's more fun and games with Windows 10 Version 1607 (aka Anniversary Update).

This article tells you how sign out of Windows 10’s new Skype Preview app.

I'm going to tell you how to attack it with an Atomic Flyswatter.

Windows + R

Type "shell:AppsFolder" without the quotes and click "OK".

Find the Skype Preview app (any any others you don't want), right click and select "Uninstall".

This technique came from here.

Do NOT uninstall the Store app. If you do, the only easy way to get it back is to reinstall Windows 10 over itself.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Windows Installer Folder

When I ran my monthly backups recently I noticed that the X201 took way more space to backup than my other Windows 10 systems but not so much that I did anything about it. Then I ran Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool just because I hadn't run it in a long time. It took hours, most of that in c:\Windows\Installer.

When I browsed to c:\Windows and looked for Installer I didn't see it. So I typed c:\Windows\Installer in Explorer's address field and it came up. I selected all the folders, right clicked and chose "Properties."

There was almost 30GB there!

It turns out that c:\Windows\Installer is used to uninstall programs. However in an old, active system (like X201) these files tend to get orphaned.

Google it if you like but there's much confusion out there. Most of the discussions wander off into telling the poster about how to run Disk Clean-Up to delete old versions of Windows. This is NOT the problem.

I saw PatchCleaner mentioned again and again. This article describes it best. PatchCleaner's home page is here and there's a download link but SourceForge has a project that has created a portable version.

I downloaded the portable version and ran it on X201. As I suspected it found over 26GB of orphaned files. I chose the option to have PatchCleaner move these orphaned files over to my Drobo.

Problem solved. I'll let you know if this created any new problems.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Google's Internet Speed Test

I saw a post on reddit recently that referred to Google's Internet speed test.

Here's the URL to run it:

Here's the result from my ThinkPad X201 running 802.11n.

That didn't seem as fast as I expected so I tried Google Fiber's Internet speed test.

Here's the URL to run it:

That's more like it.

Then I tried Netflix's Internet speed test.

Here's the URL to run it:

So I was on a roll. I tried Ookla's Internet speed test.

Here's the URL to run it:

And Comcast's Internet speed test.

Here's the URL to run it:

Four out of five can't be wrong. Google's Internet speed test is reporting about half of the actual speed.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Rumbling Clouds

I've written several times about "cloud" availability/reliability. A recent article on Microsoft's service brought this back to my attention. This is Microsoft's free service so there's not really a lot of room to complain. This discussion is to compare the cloud solution to a self-hosted solution.

Microsoft has a status page which was getting updated regularly which is good but the details were a little light, e.g. "focused on remediation" and "users may be able to access the service by logging in to their accounts with a web browser as an alternative method". The problem existed almost a week.

Again this is a free service but these are situations you need to consider as you explore moving a service to the cloud.

Go read some of the comments:
When you go cloud hosted you are subcontracting your responsibility to a third party.
That third party may be much more capable than your IT budget will allow
I've got better reliability and almost the same service and functions as my company OWA account, free of charge as well.
Cloud is a way to free up the expense of operating your own IT services.
But putting your eggs into the hands of Microsoft, Google, Amazon or any other single entity to which you represent 0.00000000001% of their annual income is a stupid idea.
Realize that you are less than a rounding error to the cloud provider.
I don't hear many people talk about ... the time it takes to repair a massive amount of infrastructure even when know how and have a fix available. I expect this to only get worse as the cloud continues to grow.
Clouds by nature are BIG. Big things take a long time to fix. Be prepared for that.