Monday, June 29, 2015

Nissan Frontier, Xterra, Pathfinder, Titan Headlight Retaining Ring

Finally tracked this little sucker down.  After using a bit of duck tape to hold in the passenger side headlight for a couple months I picked up a couple of these tonight.

I was afraid I might have to buy a whole light assembly for like $200 to correct the issue but that is not the case.  I had lost the retaining ring/clip somewhere and now I will have it back in working order.  Kind of an obscure part.  Diagrams show only the whole light assembly but not this ring.

The part # is 26029MB and should be applicable to all the '04-'15 F-Alpha platform vehicles.  Courtesy Nissan out of Texas sold me mine, they have been great to me for well over a decade in finding parts and getting them out to me in short order.  Don't let your dealer tell you they can't get it!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Nissan Sentra vs. 2015 Hyundai Elantra vs. 2015 Ford Fiesta

So I've had a chance to drive all three of these in recent weeks on various business trips.

The Fiesta (a hatchback, auto) I drove around Key Biscayne, FL for four days, the Sentra around San Francisco for a week and the Elantra around New Hampshire for a week.  At the end of the period I'm shocked at what a difference there can be between such budget minded vehicles.  I would have thought that the drive to cut costs would have homogenized the experience across brands.

The Sentra was by far and away the best of the three in nearly every capacity.  While none of the three were particularly quick or sporty the engine on the Sentra is at least willing, capable and dependable.  The CVT in the Sentra is acceptable given the good MPG it returns (30 and 38 I believe in city and highway driving) and its 130 HP is well managed.  The transmission does have a "sport" and "eco" mode but neither one made any noticeable difference to the performance of the vehicle.  The engine in the Elantra was just there...a bit loud, though the whole car was loud compared to the Sentra with seemingly far less sound deadening included.  The Fiesta was the real disappointment.  Like the Sentra it had a "sport" mode but whether in Sport or regular mode the automatic transmission had no idea what it was doing.  Hit the gas and the car didn't respond right away.  Then when it did respond it behaved like a drunk looking for his next bar--up, down, high, low, over revved, under revved.  Truly the engine management was a complete disaster.  There were numerous times during my week with the car that my wife and I thought it was going to break down and cease running because the engine performance was so erratic.  A massive disappointment.

Interior and overall looks wise the Sentra again takes the win by a large margin.  From the outside the Sentra looks like a baby Altima or Maxima.  Enough curves to give it a  sporty appearance without making you look like a boy racer.  Interior on the Sentra was also well done with quality interior components and a well laid out dash and comfortable seats.  Again the Elantra's interior was seemingly just there.  Nothing different, nothing noticeable, nothing to really remember...functional.  That is except the radio/speakers.  The audio performance of the Elantra was so ungodly bad that I thought there should be an 8-track player in the dash.  I've never heard an audio system sound so cheap...cost cutting gone way too far...tissue paper woofers and tweeters shouldn't exist these days.  The Fiesta's exterior was nice and was the only hatchback of the three.  Its dimensions made it easy to maneuver wherever we went and I wasn't COMPLETELY embarrassed to drive it...just a little bit.  The Fiesta's interior though is a complete disaster.  I've never seen so many buttons in all my life, nor in such a horrid layout.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the positioning, only a desire to completely overload the driver/passenger and to try and impress upon them that this is a "high tech" doesn't work.

Easy grading here...Buy the Sentra...ignore the paid shills who have been reporting over the past two years that the Fiesta is a great, sporty little car...the platform may make a decent rally car once its been gutted, caged, engine reworked or upgraded, in the ST version, etc.  As it comes on a dealer's lot in its stock form?  Its a dog...And the Elantra?  Forgettable...which might be better than my impression of the Fiesta...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alternative to Project Loon and SpaceX and others...

There is a lot of effort from various hi-tech companies (SpaceX, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Virgin, etc.) to bring access to the internet to the great unwashed of the world.  Whether you believe this is being done out of philanthropy, as a way to build communications systems for off planet enterprises or out of economic greed it is certainly an ambitious effort.

Google has Project Loon which works via balloons broadcasting LTE coverage over 40 square KMs (a REALLY dinky area) from their position floating in the stratosphere.  Elon Musk wants to put micro satellites in very low Earth orbit to handle this same task (so low that they are going to be built with the intention that they burn up after a very short lifespan).

I'm sure that someone smarter than me has already thought of this and must have a million reasons why it wouldn't work but...why not use already established, cheap, technology to solve the vast majority of this problem by ship...

More than 40% of the world's population lives within 60 miles of the coast and is growing bigger all the time.  An even higher concentration of the world's wealth lives within that coastal zone.  So rather than spending the money and effort on space or near space efforts to reach 100% of the world's population, why not part some boats in international waters with satellite connections to the free world's internet system and broadcast that signal inland...Hell, if you want to spend money of the effort, make the ship a nuclear one so it can sit there and provide coverage indefinately.  It makes these ships a major floating target for beligerant militaries but...its seems to me to be an overlooked option for these companies looking to tap new markets quickly and cheaply...

Edit to add:  After thinking about this for a couple days...why bother with a ship?  How bout just lay a cable across the ocean floor, chain a floating transmitter to the ocean floor just off the coast of Akra and call it a day?  Seems like a lot simpler solution than thousands of micro-satellites in constantly decaying orbits...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Back Under Power...

This took place a few weekends ago.

For the first time in about a year I actually raced the "race" truck.  It was up at the Team O'Neil Rally School in Dalton, NH where the SCCA put on its first stage rally race in some ten years.  Many of my fellow entrants were racers I've known for years through the SCCA Rallycross program, including a couple of my prior codrivers.

The weather conditions were was dry and warm and my codriver this day was Tim Meunier who also ran as a driver and codriver in my little Mexican adventure last year.  I was admittedly dramatically out of practice and my times showed it.  I was pleased by my constant improvement from stage to stage and by then end of the day I felt like some of my pace had begun to return, though far from where I would want to be.

The mileage run on the day was pretty minor--under 20 miles--but it was a good shakedown for the truck to ensure that everything is still up and running and working properly.  For the day we finished 20th out of 25 and finished every foot of every stage which would place me 16th on the day if the stage DNFs were viewed as true DNFs and not just a time penalty.  Regardless, its a good first step to getting back and used to driving at speed.  We'll see what's next.