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


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June 2011
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EOR 11 A Sirius Update

As I was mousing around the Ford SyncMyRide forums I noticed a topic titled "Sirius Voice Command Update File" in the category "SYNC Announcements."  I'm always eager to update my computer equipment, so I downloaded the file to a thumb drive and took it out to Henry for the patch.  It didn't work the first time, and I'll tell you why so you don't make the same mistake. 

The text file didn't say what the patch fixed, and the SYNC agent I chatted with online may have had the wrong info when he said it was an update of SIRIUS's channel lineup.  Before the patch and afterward I had 141 channels, so no extra ones were added. I haven't had time yet to see if the order of the channels has changed somehow. Anyway, the update worked fine, whatever it did.

Also in this episode, I'll tell you how to interrupt the Voice Command woman any time you want to, which is especially handy when she goes on and on with commands you could have said if you hadn't made some boneheaded mistake by saying an incorrect command.  And you'll hear a little soothing crooning from a famous singer whose permission I don't have to use the clip on the podcast.

Direct download: EOR_11_A_Sirius_Update_final.mp3
Category:Tips -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

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 EDT

EOR 9 Jim Buczkowski on the Creation of SYNC

During our brief stay in Dearborn Michigan this week, I had a chance to visit with Jim Buczkowski, a Henry Ford Technical Fellow and director of all things electric and electrical at Ford.  He spoke of the early days of the SYNC technology, how it's working now, and what's ahead. Fascinating stuff, straight from a 32-year Ford veteran who was there at the beginning. 

Click here for a handy list of smartphone apps for road trips like the one Darlene and I are on, from Denver to Boston.  It will take you to an episode of the New York Times Tech Talk Podcast. 

If you'd like to follow along with the non-tech side of our road trip across America, click here for my general blog. 

Direct download: EOR_9_Jim_Buczkowski_final.mp3
Category:Interviews -- posted at: 10:16pm EDT

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 . 

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 EDT

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 EDT