The Edge of the Road Podcast
All about the Gadget on Wheels formerly known as your car.


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September 2011
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EOR 26 Back in Denver

After driving a low-tech borrowed Volvo for a month back in Cambridge, I return to our 2012 Ford Focus named Henry with a sense that I drive more safely when I'm not glancing at a screen inside the car. I have thought that familiarity with MyFord Touch would lessen the distraction of the system, and I still think that will help. But there is a basic issue here which I'm pondering. I'm also eager for the update to MyFord Touch, and I can't wait for AppLink to be available on the Focus. So there's no turning back!

I see complaints about the audio quality on pnone calls from MyFord Touch cars, as mentioned at the SyncMyRide web site. Darlene has complained about how I sound when I call her from the car, so this seems to be an issue. 

If you have comments or questions, please leave them here or email me at PodChronicles AT gmail dot com. 

Direct download: EOR_26_Len_Catchup.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:59pm EDT

EOR 25 Gene Izsak

For this episode I visited with a real-llife car shopper in Toledo, Ohio. Gene Izsac is an emergency room pediatrician at a hospital in Toledo. His daily commute to work is 2.8 miles, but that is enough for him to have developed a habit of listening to podcasts, audiobooks and non-radio music in his car. He's currently driving a 2009 Nissan Altima with an auxiliary audio in port, and he uses a cradle for his iPhone that plugs into the car's power outlet. I spoke with Gene by phone and Skype on Monday, December 12th. I plan to keep in touch with him as he concludes his search for a new car with appropriate, reliable consumer electronics capability.

Click here for the CNET video interview which Gene brought to my attention. It's with Julius Marchwicki, a Ford product manager involved in the SYNC technology platform.

Direct download: EOR_25_Gene_Izsak.mp3
Category:Interviews -- posted at: 8:58pm EDT

EOR 24 Ford's Gary Jablonski

I spoke today (November 30) with Gary Jablonski, Ford's product development manager for infotainment systems, including SYNC. He provided details of the major MyFord Touch update coming early next year, emphasizing that it will be included in 2013 model cars and available to existing MyFord Touch vehicles like my 2012 Ford Focus. This is great news, and I can't wait to get my hands on the USB stick drive that Ford will be sending me with the update.

Click here for a Ford video showing how the screens will be improved on MyFord Touch and here for a 2008 interview with Gary Jablonski which provides good background on the entire SYNC project.

UPDATE on 12/1/11: Today I received this message from C.J. Macklin, who coordinated my interview with Gary Jablonski: "We wanted to clarify one thing from our interview yesterday. Ford’s application processor is in the A8 family of ARM processors, not A9. More specifically, we wanted to provide you with the following from our site:

Processor, Memory, and Storage

Freescale i.MX51 SOC

Core CPU: ARM Cortex A8 @ 600 mHz

2D/3D graphics controller


2GB NAND flash memory

Direct download: EOR_24_Gary_Jablonski.mp3
Category:Interviews -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT

EOR 23 Waiting for the Update

Gene Izsak of Toledo, Ohio, asks if I would still recommend a car with the MyFord Touch SYNC system, given the reliability problems I've experienced and that have been reported elsewhere. The answer--especially for someone who describes himself as "a big geek," as Gene did (and I'm in the same category)--is a qualified yes. I'm willing to put up with some inconvenience, because I love being at the front end of new technology, whether for a car or a reading device

Gene linked to this AP Story that reports Ford is listening to customer concerns and plans to send out a flash drive early next year with a major update to the MyFord Touch system. Engadget also covers the story.

Darlene and I will be here in Cambridge, Mass., till the end of the year, borrowing an old Volvo wagon from my parents. Henry, our 2012 Ford Focus, is back in Denver. This means I'd really love to hear your comments, to keep the podcast going during this period of NOT having our Focus available for tests and experiments. Also, if you'd like to visit with me by Skype or phone for a conversation about car technology, please let me know at PodChronicles AT Gmail Dot com, and I'll see if we can schedule it for inclusion in a future episode.

Direct download: EOR_23_SYNC_update_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:44pm EDT

EOR 22 Mile High Chat

Four topics are on my mind today in Denver:

1) How to make peace with the time it takes for the Navigation system to boot up and become operative. How do YOU avoid frustration when it takes a few minutes before your car is ready to pull away from the curb?

2) Tips for driving a MyFordTouch-equipped Ford Focus 2,000 miles from Boston to Denver.

3) Why I decided it was worth an extra $44 per year to add SIRIUS Traffic to my subscription. Click here for traffic-information coverage maps.

4) Given my frustration that the new iPhone 4S does NOT support SYNC's text messaging, I was surprised that Ford lists the iPhone as the "Best All Around" phone for SYNC. Click here for the PDF of a comparison of three phones and their ability to access features of SYNC.

Direct download: EOR_22_Mile_High_Chat.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:26pm EDT

EOR 21 SYNC Meets Siri

As soon as I left the Apple Store in South Portland, Maine, Friday morning with my new iPhone 4S I paired it with our 2012 Ford Focus to see if the TXT Messaging would work. Sorry. No go. Very disappointing. In this episode I've got the details on why not from Alan Hall of Ford.

Siri, the new iPhone's personal assistant, a robot with style and clever responses, can speak through the speakers of my Focus, but the interface is, let's be honest, not designed for hands-free or eyes-on-the-road operation. Too bad, because Siri could teach SYNC a thing a or two about natural speech. Click here for a video posted by a SyncMyRide forum member, Nightline 562, about running Siri with SYNC.

Also, a follow up from Dick Teschendorf on his successful update to the 2.11 version of SYNC on his car.

Direct download: EOR_21_SYNC_Meet_Siri.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:51pm EDT

EOR 20 Sorry, Mac Users - But Wait!

UPDATE: (10/6/11) - First of all, my apology for getting the month wrong in the audio. It was recorded on OCTOBER 5th, not September. Secondly, the SYNC rep had it wrong.  Today I was able to install the 2.11 update using my MacBook Air running Lion, and all is well.

I want to thank a listener named Dick for his account of installation problems with the SYNC MyFordTouch update, from 2.1 to 2.11. I hope things turned out okay for you with help from the dealer. This evening I was planning to install the update in my Ford Focus and talked with Bob via Sync Agent chat, who said to give it a go.  He didn't mention that the update is only downloadable if you have a PC, not a Mac. And if you click here you'll see the SyncMyRide web site indicating things should go fine with Chrome on a Mac, which I have. But another SYNC agent said, Sorry Charlie, or Len, or whatever your name is. Very frustrating.  Rather than take up a morning or afternoon getting an appointment at a Ford Dealer, I'll probably live with 2.1 for a while, even though the update seems to be a useful one. Ah well.

I was looking for an unhappy Mac logo, and tonight that turned out to be an easy get, as the sad news broke of the passing of Steve Jobs at the age of 56. R.I.P., one-of-a-kind changer of the world.

Direct download: EOR_20_No_2.11_for_Mac.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:27pm EDT

EOR 19 Dave Gersabeck

I spoke today - September 21, 2001 - with Dave Gersabeck, Ford's Manager for SYNC Services, about the company's decision to make Live Operator Assist a standard feature of SYNC Services. This follows a successful beta test of Operator Assist, which Dave discussed with me in July on EOR 14. Click here for yesterday's press release on the topic. Correction: In the audio, I mistakenly give today's date as August 21.

Dave provided lots of background on the beta test and how Ford designed the pricing and availability of Operator Assist now that it's an established feature of SYNC Services.

We also discussed when AppLink, the next generation of SYNC, might be coming to the Ford Focus and when my iPhone might be able to take advantage of the TXT capability of SYNC.

Dave alerted me to a terrific feature of SYNC Services, in which you can, using your computer, find a destination in Google Maps or Mapquest and send the directions wirelessly to your car.  This happens using the mobile phone number of your SYNC Services account, and when you get in the car you need to call SYNC Services.  You'll be asked if you want the directions to be loaded to your car's navigation system and presto! What you searched for at your computer at the house or office is now loaded into the nav system. Very slick.

Have you tried Operator Assist yet at SYNC Services? If so, I hope you'll leave a comment here or e-mail me at PodChronicles AT gmail DOT com.

Direct download: EOR_19_David_Gersabeck.mp3
Category:Interviews -- posted at: 9:57pm EDT

EOR 18 Hard Reset

In our first four months of owning Henry, our 2012 Ford Focus, I have not had to perform a hard reset. Until today, that is. A problem connecting to SYNC Services did not resolve itself after a master reset, so I followed directions from a SYNC tech for removing a fuse, waiting two minutes, and replacing it.  The good news is that this solved the problem, and my connection to SYNC Services is restored. The bad news is -- well, the user friendliness of this hard reset process is disappointing, to say the least. Darlene took the photo of me reaching in from the passenger side of the car to find the fuse box. Fun!

In other news, SYNC Services now has an official Operator Assist feature, so the beta test was apparently successful. When I first heard the service mentioned after connecting to SYNC Services several days ago, I learned I had 60 Operator Assist sessions.  Now I have 59, and when I use up all the free ones I'll have to purchase one of three packages of Operator Assist calls. You can buy 10 sessions for $19.99, 50 sessions for $44.99, or 100 sessions for $79.99. 

Thanks to Allen and Dick for your great comments on topics mentioned on past shows!

Direct download: EOR_18_Hard_Reset_final.mp3
Category:Tips -- posted at: 8:07pm EDT

EOR 17 How to Get Home

This morning, thanks to help from a smart SYNC phone support tech, I figured out how to back out of a Navigation session with a single press of the MyFord Touch screen.  Up till now, I've had frustrating sessions, usually when Darlene is in the car getting irritated at the entire whacky tech features of the car, trying to back up from the menu layers of a Nav search for, say, a Thai restaurant near Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  Does the "Back" voice command work, to retreat to an earlier menu? No. Does "cancel" do anything?  Actually yes, but it's more like a pause button. When you press the Voice Command button on the steering committee, the MFT voice will resume her demands that you choose which line you want for a specific Thai restaurant.

It turns out there is a Home button on the touch screen. Right at the bottom, in the center. Hard to miss.  When you want to exit from one of the four MFT applications, you simply press that button and you're home. Brilliant. 

Also this week, I have advice on something you received two of with your new 2012 Ford Focus or comparable car.  I lost mine, and it the replacement cost me a pretty penny at Prime Ford in Saco. BTW, I'm very impressed with the professionalism and service I received at Prime. Unlike the Watertown, Mass., Ford dealer, where I was treated like an illegal immigrant when I called seeking a replacement key and they found out I had purchased the car in, gasp, Colorado, Mandy and the folks at Prime today were friendly and very helpful.  Henry and I were both very impressed.

I'll be continuing a bi-weekly schedule for this podcast for a while.  See you in two weeks!    --Len

Direct download: EOR_17_How_to_Get_Home_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:20pm EDT