Pontiac memories

  • My dad brings me to a car dealership, where he buys a new 1963 Pontiac Laurentian. On the drive home, I see my sister walking down the street. So I hang out the window and scream, "Hey, look, we got a new car!"

  • My dad, mom, sister, and I pile into the Pontiac for a trip through the GaspĂ© peninsula. I sit in the front seat, eating a dinner roll, feeling crazy happy.

  • Often, when I walk home from school, I stop to gape at a black '64 Pontiac Bonneville. Twenty-five years later, I marry the niece of the guy who owned the car.

  • Pontiac announces its 1965 models. I cut out the pictures from a magazine and show them to everyone.

  • My brother-in-law comes to visit in his dad's 65 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible. The black seats get scorching hot in the sun and scald the back of my legs. The car has a tachometer, which I mistake for an accelerometer.

  • I get my first GTO model kit.

  • I dream that I will become a priest when I grow up. Not just any priest, but a real cool priest with sideburns who cruises the neighborhood in a black GTO with chrome mags.

  • I get my second GTO model kit.

  • Our neighbor buys a Pontiac 2+2. My friend calls it a land yacht.

  • I see a two-page ad for the GTO, which says that the letters stand for Gran Turismo Omologato. A friend tells me that they came up with the name first and then came up with an explanation of what it stands for.

  • I see a creamy white '87 Pontiac Bonneville and want one.
R.I.P. Pontiac.


QNX-based media server takes home another award

I must admit, I don't do the iTunes thing. In fact, I've yet to download a single song from any music site. If that makes me a cultural Neanderthal, then so be it. Just keep your paws off my LPs, or I'll whack you with my trusty Mastodon rib.

Kidding aside, I do have a formidable CD collection. And the problem with a large CD collection is that it is, well, large. In my case, I have to store the CDs in multiple cases: one in the living room, another in the family room, etc. Tracking down an individual CD is an exercise in frustration and luck; in fact, it actually involves exercise.

Enter the Harman Kardon DMC 1000, a QNX-based media server that automatically copies CDs to a hard drive as the CDs are playing. Which means that, eventually, a good chunk of your CD collection ends up in a single, relatively small location. Better yet, you can listen to that collection from almost any room in your house, using the DMC's multi-zone feature. I could get used to that.

I first wrote about this device a few months ago, when it won a European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Best Product award. Well, I just found out that the editors of the German magazine HiFi Test also gave the DMC 1000 the thumbs up, voting it best product of the year. From what I've read, the editors rarely agree on a best product of the year, so they must have been some impressed.

And get this: The DMC 1000 also received a GOOD DESIGN award from "The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design." The GOOD DESIGN award honors the "pursuit of excellence in form, function and aesthetics..." I could be wrong, but I believe this means that the GOOD Design folks think the DMC 1000 looks really cool.

Naturally, all this coolness comes at a price, so being the skinflint that I am, I haven't bought one.

Yet. :-)


Honestly, I'm not making this up, Part II

Back in February, I blogged on a fish with a transparent head. Well, if you thought that was weird, check this out: Russian surgeons have discovered a five-centimetre tree growing inside a — wait for it — man's lung.

Scientists are baffled, and, as you might suspect, in disagreement as to what is really going on:

Ford Mustang celebrates 45 years on the road

I guess this dates me, but I remember when the very first Mustangs came out. Loved the look. Still do.

My left brain insists that a car should always be reliable, convenient, inexpensive, and "green." But when I see an original Mustang, my right brain reminds me that cars are also about emotion. And sometimes, an automaker gets the emotion right.

So why am I waxing on about this? Because tomorrow, April 17, the Mustang celebrates its 45th birthday. In fact, the state of Alabama has even declared April 17 Mustang Day.

You don't generate such a high level of brand loyalty by creating a car that's reliable, convenient, and inexpensive, but ultimately boring. Automotive bean counters, take note.


ESC Best of Show awards go to multicore tools and operating system

Late last week, VDC Research handed out its Best of Show awards for ESC Silicon Valley 2009. The results were interesting: The winner, CriticalBlue, took top honors for its multicore analysis tools, and the runner-up, QNX Software Sytems, received an honorable mention for its multicore-enabled secure RTOS.

The analysts at VDC follow the embedded market closely, so their choice of two multicore-related products speaks volumes, IMHO. It's their way of stating that multicore processors — and the software tools that support them — are becoming increasingly important to embedded developers.

To read VDC's complete report on ESC Silicon Valley, click here.


Is Segway making a segue into automotive?

Desperate times make for strange bedfellows. Or perhaps this is a case of honest-to-goodness forward thinking. Either way, the alliance between GM and Segway has piqued my interest. On the one hand, you have a major player looking for new niches to play in. On the other hand, you have a niche player looking for a major breakthrough.

Yesterday, the two companies unveiled a prototype PUMA mobility pod — basically, a Segway with two seats and a roof. Picture a two-wheeled golf cart, and you get the idea.

Mind you, this Segway will do more than keep you dry in the rain. According to GM's vice president of R&D, PUMA vehicles could eventually drive themselves and avoid collisions by taking advantage of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, such as those provided by the QNX-based OnStar system. Which means, I assume, that the target market could include people who don't know how to drive. (Not sure how I feel about that one.)

Doubts aside, I hope that this vehicle, and others like it, gain market traction. Because let's face it, most people don't need a 4000-pound behemoth to drive to work. That said, a PUMA couldn't share the road with cement trucks and probably couldn't ride on a lot of existing bike lanes, either. So its success may ultimately depend on whether cities are willing to install the necessary infrastructure.


Cash for clunkers: Economically sound, but environmentally questionable?

Should governments bail out automakers directly, or should they boost automotive sales by giving consumers cash for upgrading to new vehicles? If you've been following my recent posts, you know that I prefer door number 2.

Germany, for example, launched a "green" program that pays consumers about $3000 to trade in their old vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. Economically, the program has had dramatic short-term results, with 21% growth in auto sales. But from an ecological perspective, I've expressed my doubts that such programs are truly green.

Well, it seems that I'm not the only one. Yesterday, the Green Inc. blog of The New York Times stated that "a growing chorus of critics say such programs may do little for the planet." In fact, George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian claims that cash incentives to scrap old cars and buy new ones are a "scam," both economically and environmentally.

What do you think? Are governments muddying the conceptual waters by promoting such programs as "green"? Is it enough that the incentives give a short-term boost to the automotive industry? Or should the government simply forego all cash handouts and allow Adam Smith's invisible hand restore balance to the market?