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

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On the Road to Maine

I'm sorry for the long hiatus without uploading an episode of this show. Life has been complicated lately. 

But here we are, riding in Tess up I-95 to Ocean Park in the off season, a beautiful time of year to be in Maine. 

You will hear a list of minor problems that have developed since we last spoke, and why they don't in any way diminish my love for the Tesla Model 3. 

It's the future on wheels. 

 

Direct download: EOR_47_Minor_Problems.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:26pm EST

It's been almost three months since I took delivery of our Tesla Model 3. Last night was the first time my wife Darlene has driven it, and I recorded the historic event. She says she wanted me to have time to learn the complexities of the car, which I may have over-emphasized. Behind the wheel, her first reaction was "What's the big deal?" 

My cousin Jim, by comparison, went into orbit with delight when I took him for a test drive. You'll hear both of them in this episode.

My apology for the poor audio quality of my recording in the car. I'm not sure why my Zoom HD 1 did such a poor job, and I trimmed as much of the distortion as possible.

If you have questions or comments, please email me at PodChronicles AT gmail DOT com. 

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: EOR_46_Darlene_and_Cousin_Jim.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:09pm EST

The Yorkie Claire accompanied me to a Supercharger today in Hadley Massachusetts, conveniently located just a mile from the Paradise City Arts Festival, a favorite event of my wife Darlene's. Fun for everyone.

We drove about 100 miles from Cambridge to the festival, near Northampton. This was my longest drive yet, and it gave me a good chance to settle into familiarity with AutoSteer, automatic lane changing, and enhanced cruise control. At one point I realized that I was driving less well than the AI could. Not always, and not in every situation. But on a stretch of road without exits that puzzled the Autopilot, with average traffic--that's when the Autopilot seems safer than my own driving. 

I also met a guy Miles Andrew Chilson at the charging station who is an administrator of the Tesla Owners New England group on Facebook. My application to join is pending. 

Direct download: EOR_41_On_the_Road_Again.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:20pm EST

EOR 32 Listening to Podcasts

Since I imagine some of you are listening to The Edge of the Road in your car, I thought I would explore the way I listen to podcasts in Henry, our 2012 Ford Focus who turns one year old today. In this episode I will discuss playlists in iTunes, information available at SyncMyRide, and the options for listening to podcasts by Bluetooth or USB connection in the car. 

If you also listen to my Kindle Chronicles podcast, you will probably enjoy this On the Media special titled "How Publishing and Reading are Changing." 

If you would like to share your work flow for listening to podcasts in the car, please leave a comment here or email me at PodChronicles AT Gmail DOT com. 

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: EOR_32_Podcasts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EST

EOR 30 Live from a MyFord Touch Upgrade Installation...

I'm happy to report that the Performance Upgrade that arrived on a USB stick and SD card for my 2012 Ford Focus has renewed my faith in the technology, and I am hereby continuing the podcast. Phase 2 begins with a real-time recording of the installation, complete with a surprise visit from my friend Tom half-way through.

Did Tom abort the installation by opening the passenger's door? Will the upgrade improve the speed and reliability of the system enough to convince my wife Darlene that all's well with Henry? Listen in to this episode, and you'll find out.

If you do your own Performance Upgrade installation, I recommend that you bring something to read, or a tablet computer of some kind, because it will take nearly an hour for the installation. The audio system needs to be on and the car needs to be running the entire time. So don't do it in a place with poor ventilation!

If you have your iPad or Kindle Fire with you, here are a couple of links to helpful Ford videos in which Gary Jablonski, product development manager, tells tech expert Paul Hochman what's new about MyFord Touch as a result of the upgrade: 

What's New and What Remains

Improved Voice Recognition and Touch

Enhanced Navigation and Map Views

In two weeks I will bring you my detailed first impresssions of how the performance upgrade performs. Stay tuned!

 

Direct download: EOR_30_Update_instal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:49pm EST

EOR 28 Reluctant Sabbatical

With this episode, I am going to take an extended break from the podcast.

My frustrations with MyFord Touch have reached critical mass, leading me actually to consider selling our 2012 Ford Forcus and looking at a Volvo or Lexus. I had such high hopes and expectations for this pioneering technology, and that may have been the problem. In any event, I heard from Ford today that the major update for MFT is undergoing final employee beta testing, and they are refining the software for production and distribution via USB sticks "in a couple of months." Ever the optimist, I can imagine that the update will overcome all my frustrations with the software, especially how long it takes to reboot the system every time I start the car. If that happens, I will gladly resume regular episodes of the show and begin Phase II of the adventure. 

Thanks to Kes Woodward for helping me think this decision through. Click here to see his amazing art. 

Meanwhile, this episode discusses the pairing of two iPhones with our Focus and includes a more positive experience of iPhone audio quality on a MFT-equipped Focus from Dick Teschendorf. 

Thanks for listening!

Direct download: EOR_28_Reluctant_Sabbatical.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33pm EST

EOR 27 Phone Home

For this episode, I have included an NPR story about the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation of a total ban of cellphone use while driving. (I want to thank Gene Izsak for the link.) Also, NPR created this video showing off its new app for SYNC AppLink. Since AppLink is not available yet for the Focus, I won't be trying the NPR app soon. It looks pretty slick, but it does, I suppose, go to the issue of "cognitive distraction" mentioned by the NTSB.

And finally, you'll hear what Darlene hears when she talks to me in Henry our Ford Focus via the hands-free MyFord Touch phone system, paired with my iPhone. By comparison, my brother-in-law Rod in Omaha says his wife sounds great driving and talking via Bluetooth and her phone in her new Lexus IS250. Ah well. 

Direct download: EOR_27_Phone_Home.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

EOR 16 Beach Tips

In this episode, recorded while parked near the Atlantic at Ocean Park, Maine, I try to figure out what difference it makes if you turn Confirmation Prompts on under the Voice Command Settings of the MyFord Touch SYNC system.  Same with Media Candidate List and Phone Candidate List. I couldn't readily see what those settings accomplish, so I called the excellent SYNC help line for some insight. 

I also pass along the benefits of quickly turning to SYNC Services if you're having difficulty finding an address with the built-in database of your navigation system.  

Darlene and I are enjoying our annual sojourn here on the coast of Maine, and to take fuller advantage of it I'm going to a bi-weekly schedue for this podcast and my other weekly show, The Kindle Chronicles.  They will be on alternating weeks until Labor Day.

Happy Summer!

Direct download: EOR_16_Ocean_Park_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:09pm EST

EOR 13 Two Stories About Safety

Ford this week announced beta testing for a new Operator Assist feature for the cloud-based network of SYNC Services.  I gave it a try and am impressed with it.  When the normal SYNC Services automated system can't figure out where Dickson Brothers Hardware store is in Harvard Square, you can simply say "Operator" and within seconds you'll be talking to a human who is not driving, so she can safely mouse around looking for your information.  And if the operator finds what you're seeking, he or she can zap the directions to your navigation system on MyFord Touch, which is very cool. 

In another safety-related story, Ford made news by being the first automaker to back federal legislation banning use of handheld cell phones while driving. The cheeky gurus at the MarketFoolery podcast pointed out that this move makes very good business sense for Ford, because the legislation would allow hands-free systems like SYNC.  Chris Hill and the Fools also discussed the Active Park Assist technology, which we have in our 2012 Ford Focus, aka Henry.  I, too, think it's great, but I'm still getting the hang of using the system to parallel park on a crowded city street.

Direct download: EOR_13_Safe_Driving_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:15am EST

EOR 12 Unhappy Camper

Two master resets in one week do not a happy 2012 Focus driver make.  So this episode is a mild-mannered rant modified with some self-doubt. Am I doing something wrong? How come Henry's SYNC MyFord Touch system is so unreliable? Even after I did a master reset on Tuesday, yesterday the clock went haywire, jumping around from one hour to the next on a random basis when I was trying to figure out if we were late for supper at my daughter's house. 

I didn't have time to include this comment from Allen MacDiarmid regarding my Navigation problems, so I'll post it here:

Len, I just finished listening to the podcast where you took over 4 minutes to get going on the Nav.  Was the engine running the whole time you were doing that?  Could you have come down and set it up without the engine running for a later departure?  On my Prius if I don't touch the brake when pushing the start button it goes into AUX mode, just like not turning the key all the way in an old fashioned car.  BTW, what kind of mileage did you get on your trip?

Al, I tried your suggestion, and it did work. I was able to go into AUX mode by pushing the start button without pressing my foot to the brake. So that might be an idea, to fire up the tech system before we plan to leave on a drive.  BTW, the best gas mileage we've seen on the Focus so far has been about 36 mpg, during our cross-country drive from Denver.  So I look askance at all of the touting Ford's doing of the 40-mpg highway performance.  I haven't seen it yet, even at sea level here in Boston.  My Denver dealer said the mileage is not so good at mile-high altitude.

I hope I'll have a more upbeat report for you next week!

Direct download: EOR_12_Unhappy_Camper_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:32pm EST

EOR 10 Shootout at the GPS Corral

My wife Darlene has been highly critical of the GPS navigation system in our 2010 Ford Focus, part of the MyFord Touch technology.  I thought she was just refusing to give it a chance, and it drove me crazy when she'd place our old Garmin Nuvi device on the dashboard, just above the built-in touch screen.  But yesterday I was late to an appointment in Arlington, Mass., because it took so long for me to get the Ford system oriented with the GPS.  Today I did a head-to-head test of how long it took for the Nuvi to pull up a map to the destination, compared with the built-in navigation, using voice commands.  A later test using the touch screen instead of VR was inconclusive and actually took longer than the Voice Recognition, for reasons I won't go into because it was so frustrating.  In any event, listen in for this unscientific test of two ways to get from A to B. 

What's YOUR experience with the built-in navigation system, which is made by Xanavi? You can email me at PodChronicles AT gmail. 

Direct download: EOR_10_Shootout_at_the_GPS_Corral_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:54pm EST

EOR 8 Henry's First Checkup

In this episode I explore the Vehicle Health Report made possible by the SYNC system in our 2012 Ford Focus, now named Henry. I was disappointed in the level of detail, but impressed at how the system could take real-time information from the car's running engine and, using my cell phone, transmit it via the Internet to a report viewable at SyncMyRide.com . 

I got some help understanding the process from a Sync Agent at the call center, and more by email from Alan Hall, Ford's communications manager for technology research and innovation. 

Also this week, I take a look at reports in the news that occasional glitches on the MyFordTouch screen are making folks at Ford uneasy, all the way to the top, as indicated by quotes in a Bloomberg story by CEO Alan Mulally. Consumer Reports continues to express concern about the MyFord Touch system's steep learning curve and how it can be confusing and distracting for new users. Point taken, but I still think this is a very promising system, and the more I learn about it the better I like it. 

Ask me in 2,000 miles if that's still the case.  Darlene and I leave tomorrow morning for our eastward migration to Cambridge, Massachusetts. I call it "Travels with Henry," and I'll let you know how it goes. 

Direct download: EOR_8_Henrys_First_Checkup_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm EST

EOR 7 Free Parking

This morning in Denver I recorded my thoughts about Active Park Assist, the most gee-whiz bit of tech on our 2012 Ford Focus.  It really is amazing to see the wheel spin one way and the other, expertly guiding the car into a parallel parking space.  But there turn out to be finer points to using this powerful tool, and I've made some rookie mistakes, none of them costly.

Click here for a video walk-through of Active Park Assist by Ali Jammoul, Ford's chassis chief engineer.

On the way home after the parking demo, the SYNC MyFord Touch system grabbed the touch screen for an apparent reset that I hadn't requested.  I pulled over into a bank parking lot to record what happened next.  Back home, I called the MyFord Touch call center at 888-270-1055 and was told that an update of the MFT software at the end of June might make these disconcerting episodes less frequent. I certainly hope so!

Direct download: EOR_7_Free_Parking_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:18pm EST

EOR 6: He Who Laughs Last

Thanks to George from Tulsa for sending along a great response to Bill Gates's alleged comments about how great a car would be if the auto indusry had kept up with technology as well as the computer industry.  Does Ford's SYNC MyFord Touch system have eerie similarities with the satiric view supposedly prepared in response to Gates by GM?  You be the judge...

Also, how to load a photo into your MyFord Touch system so it becomes the wallpaper for your touch scree and my plan to keep my fingers off the touch screen or my iPhone when we take a long trip next month, listening all the way to great podcasts.

Direct download: EOR_6_He_Who_Laughs_Last_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:16pm EST

EOR 5 The I-25 Reboot Blues

It's going to take a while for me to get used to the idea that I may need to reboot my car as often as I do my laptop computer, iPhone or Kindle. But that seems to be the case so far in our first three weeks of owning a 2012 Ford Focus

The latest episode, captured in an iPhone recording I made, involved a frozen touchscreen as Darlene and I were driving Interstate 25 south from Casper, Wyoming, to Denver.  There was no danger. I simply turned off the highway at the La Prele  exit so I could shut off the car's engine. When I restarted the car, I was glad to see the SYNC screen shown in the photo, and when the pretty turquoise bar crawled all the way across the screen, we were back in business, listening to SIRiUs, giving Voice Recognition commands to the MyFord Touch lady, and watching the nav system detail our progress home. 

How often does this happen? Have any of you had to pull out a fuse for three minutes to reboot your SYNC system?  Will later generations of this software be more reliable?  If you have thoughts on this or any other topic, please drop me an email at PodChronicles AT Gmail.

Also, Bob Rich of Novi, Michigan, has another good comment about all things USB and audio.

Direct download: EOR_5_I-25_Reboot_Blues_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44pm EST

EOR 2: The Lazy-C Motor Lodge

On my way home from Big Mike Naughton Ford yesterday (April 26, 2011), I stopped for a few minutes on East Colfax Avenue in Denver to adjust my recorder and lapel microphone, the better to record some impressions of the 2012 Ford Focus on its maiden trip.  Shortly after resuming the drive back to LoDo, I noticed flashing lights on a Denver Police cruiser, pulling me over.  Oops.  What could this mean?

As I listen now to the recording, I wonder if the officer wasn't looking for a pretext to find out more about the Kona Blue 2012 Ford Focus. It turned out that he knew enough about the car to know it was unusual to see one on the streets already. That led to a friendly conversation, once he determined that my lingering in front of the Lazy-C Motor Lodge had been more innocent than it may have seemed.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps street view.

Direct download: EOR_2_Lazy-C_Motor_Lodge_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:19am EST

The 2012 Ford Focus that we ordered from Big Mike Naughton Ford arrived in Denver by train from the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, on April 22, 2012. Thanks to the hospitality of Union Pacific management and crew, I was able to see our car roll down the ramp from the rail car, and then I had another surprise. 

We're scheduled to pick up the car tomorrow, April 26th, and I plan to record the orientation session about the MyFord Touch system for this week's Wednesday show.  Stay tuned!

Direct download: LenEdgerly-Our2012FordFocusTakesTheTrainToDenver836.m4v
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am EST

EOR Probe G: Drivers of the Future

Today, April 20, 2011, I interviewed three future drivers - Jack, Jamesie, and James - in the back seat of the Ford Flex that we are renting this week.  I asked each of them to tell me what they hope a car will be able to do when they are old enough to drive.  For Jack, that will be four years from now. For Jamesie, it will be seven years, and for James, eleven years.  So their views of future driving technology are worth listening to.

As for our 2012 Ford Focus, it is on the train and due to arrive sometime next week.

Direct download: EOR_Probe_G_Boys_of_the_Future_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:52pm EST

EOR Probe D: Focus Rally America

Ford created a social media reality road show extravaganza to create buzz around the 2012 Ford Focus, introduced by this ad during the Super Bowl. It was called Focus Rally America, and I wish I'd known about it while it was under way, because there were lots of entertaining ways to follow along on-line.  Six two-person teams competed for a cash prize of $100,000 and a 2012 Focus for each winning team member.  The Gray Team finished first, but close behind them were Clayton Early, left in photo, and Adam Lustick, comprising the Blue Team. I spoke with Clay and Adam on Monday, March 28, 2011, by Skype and phone, reaching them in New York City.  That's where they are members of a comedy sketch group named Harvard Sailing Team.  Click here for their YouTube channel. As befits the general reputation of my alma mater, their comedy is upstanding, PG rated, and very entertaining. 

Clay and Adam in our conversation described their impressions of the Focus -- it's like driving a laptop, they said -- and gave a behind-the-wheel look at the making of a big-budget social media reality show.  

Darlene's and my 2012 Focus may actually arrive here in Denver by the end of the week, or early next week.  So my next Edge of the Road episode may be the one that offically behinds our ride in a gadget on wheels.  I hope you'll accompany us!

The podcast's iTunes listing is now live, so you can subscribe there for handy listening on your portable device.  If you have the time, please consider leaving a comment at iTunes, where most people find the podcasts they listen to.

 

Direct download: EOR_Probe_D_Focus_Rally_America.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:29pm EST