Buncha Lightweights!

Now about that NAIAS (“Detroit Auto Show” to most).  The big news (and I mean big) is aluminum Ford F-150s.  Sure, the Acura NSX and big Audi luxury sedans were aluminum-bodied, as is the Tesla Model S.  But those are niche vehicles, for people who can afford a daily driver.  The F-150 on the other hand, is the stereotypical daily driver.  (Well, except for chromed-up air haulers, a stereotype within truck world.)  Will trucksters accept aluminum… or cruncha lightweights?

They should- Ford’s been making aluminum hoods, decklids, trim, etc. for about two decades now, besides Honda Ltd. and Volkswagen Group and others.  About two decades right alongside steel lines, in the same factories.  ‘But those are covers,’ you might whine.  ‘I can drive without a hood or trunk if necessary.’  You can make the same attack on the F-150- it’s a body-on-frame design.  The cab and bed sit on a frame, which is still steel.  Trucks can still roll down the road to some degree with no body.  You can also make the point of heavy trucks (NOT air haulers), and airplanes.  Aircraft are monocoque, with fully load-bearing skins of aluminum- have been for almost a century now.   Continue reading

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Light The Min(eral)-Oila

In my area, gas prices bumped in time for Thanksgiving, often the busiest 24 driving hours of the year, hmmm.  Now Ford announces their recalls, on top of Jeep’s ongoing quagmire.

2013 Ford Escapes (1.6L 4-cylinder) may crack a cylinder head- bad enough.  But oil may leak onto hot parts; this has already lit up 13 cars.  The affected vehicles recalled are about 160,000, US and Canada.  On top of that, some 2013 Escapes had a preexisting fix- leaking fuel lines in the engine bay.  Quite bad to begin with.  Ford’s now announcing repaired lines may leak again, in a different way.  Double whammy.

You’re a huge hypocrite if you complain about a Tesla fire, but ignore the 15+ gallon bomb under your passengers’ butts.  Then add a gallon of oil, transmission and power steering fluid, A/C fluid that’s toxic when burnt, carbon-based hoses and seals everywhere, etc.

I’m thankful I chose a 21st-century vehicle.

Legwork Without Legs Working

Speaking of complex integration and high-stakes project execution, Playstation 4 data is in, such as defect rates- not happy holidays in some households.  It ain’t a gadget, folks.  The 8th console generation is a big deal, in gaming- a big business.  Sony/Microsoft didn’t have the luxury of time- Black Friday’s coming.  Apparently testing, quality control, or both took the hit.  And these are big issues, as these aren’t single-function gadgets.  Haven’t been for generations.

Neither complex electronics nor CubeSats are devices in its literal sense- one mechanism, one function.  That means extensive testing, in extensive situations and environments, and cross-testing too.  And here the consequences are low; returning a product or not hearing from a student CubeSat are inconveniences in the grand scheme.  Serious voltages and human riders on public highways (meaning human bystanders), on the other hand, means rigor during development and field testing.  Agility figured that one out, when Jeep and Ford didn’t.

Sony will tighten up their supplier lines and assembly procedures, just like Microsoft dropped a billion dollars on XBox 360 issues.  A fair number of CubeSats flown will fail, due to design gaps, part defects, poor soldering technique, etc. not uncovered by prelaunch testing.  And electrical systems will pop if you don’t do the legwork everyone else does.  Onward.

Dellbent On Device-like Boxen

Well, that was quick.  One day after Michael Dell took back the decimated company that bears his name, he’s announced his new strategy.

Dell (the man and the company) will compete for the tablet segment, but will not try a smartphone.  If you’re familiar with the strategy of Dell (the company), this makes perfect sense.

The strategy and appeal of Dells has been commoditization and domination.  As a large entity, they can produce quantities and purchase components that smaller entities just can’t swing.  Between low supplier prices and low internal overheads, Dells simply cost less than the competition… so long as the Dell and the competition are common, everyday designs that can be assembled from common, everyday components.  This was the case for desktop PCs (especially “beige boxes”), and to a lesser extent “regular” laptops.  This business model breaks down with slimmer and slimmer laptops, and non-beige, non-box devices (such as any phone that’s competitive nowadays).  Tablets?  Not too far off. Continue reading