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Comment Re:sunset mode (Score 1) 93

Every project goes this way eventually. Firefox is usually the other poster child, right after GNOME. For my part, I really miss avant-window-navigator and compiz+emerald. For me that was kind of the apex of eye candy and usability. I haven't tried to build that stuff recently, but last time I gave it a shot, it was a long and uphill battle with very little satisfaction at the end.

Comment Re:Finally, I can switch to Gnome! (Score 1) 93

Ugh, no. Nobody means CDE. Though frankly I'm not clear why anyone would use mwm when they could use fvwm2. It looks just as bad, out of the box it works pretty much the same way, but it has all the bells and whistles that we expect to at minimum be contained in a vaguely modern window mangler. I have used mwm without the rest of CDE — I forget what the panel was called, ISTR it had some long and descriptive name which is no doubt why I can't remember. But the panel was arse, whereas just good old mwm was still fine.

Comment Re:Tractor investors, not breakers. (Score 1) 448

Part of the reputation for things going wrong in luxury cars is due to there simply being a lot more *to* go wrong,

That's why I bought the 300SD, and it's also why I bought the A8. The 300SD is as dead-nuts simple as it is possible for an S-Class to be. It has none of the fancy stuff they put on the gasoline models, except a sunroof. It does use advanced materials — it's got Aluminum hood and trunk lids, and it made early use of composite bumper pieces. This was a design completed in 1978! But it has extremely advanced driving characteristics for its age, due to the combination of its multilink front suspension and semi-trailing arm rear that provides controlled toe in response to body roll. When the springs and bushings are in good condition, the whole car completely cooperates with the driver even when pushing it past its limits. Without going into a lot of detail, the A8 is as close as you can get in a more modern luxobarge that has a slushbox, and there's a six-speed manual transmission available for it unlike, for the Mercedes. The AWD is based on a mechanical center diff, for example.

Another thing worth considering is cost/availability of parts...

That's why the W126 300SD has to go, and the D2 A8 is incoming. You can actually get parts for the A8. In fact, my 1998 is a "parts car" that I got for $300 which, except for the failed transmission, is actually nicer than my 1997 for which I paid... more. I hope to recoup some of the costs there by selling some of the more valuable parts from the 1997. The nineties were truly a time at which Audi really only sold one car but in different sizes, and there is a lot of sharing between the A4, A6, A8, and even the VW Passat. (Wikipedia claims that the B3 Passat was a completely distinct design which does not share parts with Audi models. Nope.)

Jaguar parts are easy to source in the UK and relatively cheap, but in other countries they can be difficult to find and expensive for instance.

For large parts, that's a problem. For small ones, I can reasonably source parts from the UK or Germany. I've done both, though I'm not sure I've done both in the course of working on the Audi. I certainly have for the Mercedes.

Comment Re:Tractor investors, not breakers. (Score 1) 448

The more ordinary Mercedes and Audi models are not especially expensive to maintain and they have a well-deserved reputation for high durability and reliability.

Yes, but they're just cars. If you take all the fancy kit out, all cars are at least decent. At least, anything you can buy in the USA. We're talking about depreciation of luxury cars, and their reliability or lack thereof.

There is something that makes ordinary Mercedes and Audi models expensive to maintain, though; the dealer's attitude towards parts prices. There are only a couple of Audi dealers in the entire country that do not rape you on parts orders, for example. For new vehicles, for which the replacement parts are not available through the aftermarket, this is a significant concern.

Comment Re:Use a liberal definition of planet (Score 2) 143

I actually really like this idea:
Define a Star as a body that has achieved a nuclear fusion reaction.
Define a Planet as a body that has enough mass to be spherical that orbits a star.
Define a Planetoid as a body that has enough mass to be spherical that does not orbit a star.
Define a Moon as a body that has enough mass to be spherical that orbits a planet.
Define an Asteroid as a body that does not have enough mass to be spherical that orbits a star.
Define a Natural Satellite (here's to you, potato shaped Phobos) as a body that does not have enough mass to be spherical that orbits a planet. Maybe call it a Moonoid?


Define Pluto and Charon as a binary planet; since they appear to orbit each other (and binary stars are already defined).
If this means Sedna and a few other bodies become planets -- fine. But at least the definitions are easy.

Comment Re:Conversely... (Score 4, Insightful) 227

They are written vague on purpose, because to be specific, would allow others to build upon your patent, and patent their improvements, locking you into a stale old way of building said invention, never able to improve it.

As a libertarian, I am all for the repealing of most patents, and the shortening of the term of protection. As it stands now, patents do not protect anyone from anything for very long. If something is popular, and patented, it will be cloned and ripped off anyway.

Patent abuse is like anything else the government does, it doesn't help many people, and hurts more people than it helps.

Comment Re:Tractor investors, not breakers. (Score 4, Informative) 448

That's Jalopnik, a site that has decided that every single part of any German car will fail every five minutes and will cost $1 million to replace

They are essentially correct. Check out for example the typical longevity of and replacement cost for the vaunted S-Class air suspension. The parts are still too new to chance getting from third parties, so you have to go to the dealer. If you don't have a very good relationship with them, you're into thousands per corner.

despite the fact that their conclusions are mostly based on a small number of American-market models with a very shady service history and lots of aftermarket parts

You should be able to buy aftermarket parts. If the design requires insanely fancy-pants parts, it's not a good one. For example, the chain tensioners in the 40V 4.2 liter Audi V8. The 32V engine doesn't have VVT, so it doesn't have them, and it's considerably more durable as a result. Both have the same stupid Flennor/Gates timing belt with a 60k lifespan. California mandates that timing belts have a 90k lifespan, Audi said "sure whatever" and rated it for 90k. It's the same belt. Chains or gears forever. But that's apparently too noisy for luxury. I'd be better off with a LS motor, which has none of these considerations and yet is just as efficient.

in the real world, German cars tend to be the most reliable

They tend to be the most expensive. That is, they require a lot of dollars invested to make them reliable. I've got a full service history on a 1997 A8 Quattro to show how and why that is the case. In spite of that I've been going through an epic to transfer its transmission into a 1998 that I got as a parts car. It's got half the miles on it, and it's in nicer condition in general inside and out. If I weren't capable of doing this stuff myself, it would make more sense to just buy something else, because it would cost too much to have it done even by an independent mechanic to justify given the low, low value of the vehicle. And its value is in turn low not just because of its age, but because of the expense in servicing it.

The average person would love to be driving something like this around now that it's been handed down from someone who could afford to absorb the expense of its initial depreciation, but they can't afford the maintenance to keep it from disintegrating. It's two hundred bucks in crankcase vent breather hoses I worked around with silicone hose and a right angle fitting, and thirty bucks for a little y-shaped vacuum hose I went ahead and bought, and the headrests don't go up and down because the drive flex cable jacket stretched over time due to heat cycling and has to be shortened and the rear sun shade has come unglued and is catching on the rear parcel shelf and the arm rests tend to crack and Audi would like a thousand dollars for one but you can often pick up a pair of them from the facelift model for a couple hundred and the list goes ever on and on.

I've been talking about Audi for a long while, but I also own a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 300SD (W126) and guess what? Mercedes is doing its level best to kill off the platform. You can get basically all the parts for cars which are older than the W126 from the Mercedes Classics parts program, but there are a number of parts for the W126 which you can no longer get new from anyone for any price. The primary example which is going to kill off these cars is the locks. Mercedes does not sell ignition locks at all any more, and an otherwise fully matched lock set will set you back painfully. No one is re-keying these locks or making fresh keys, either, but that doesn't really matter because while it had at the time the strongest column lock ever devised for a production auto, the lock itself is beyond flimsy. It also only took me about an hour and a half to figure out how to remove a completely failed and jammed lock and column locking mechanism from my car and then do it start to finish; with practice you could get that down to a few minutes, so it was really never actually any kind of useful theft prevention. But I digress. There are lots of other parts Mercedes doesn't supply any more, and the ones they do supply are now beyond outrageously priced. You can get new door seals, but you can't get new windlaces and those are falling apart and their fabric typically deteriorating. Etc etc.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading Jalopnik, but you have to take some things with a lot of salt. It's directed at an American audience and they have a lot of strange prejudices and many in-crowd jokes.

They're not wrong about used Mercedes, or luxo-barges in general. It is axiomatic that there's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes. Indeed, I am finding Audi parts and tools to be much cheaper and more available than Mercedes ones, which makes sense because it's just a VW with nicer interior. Mine happens to also have a nicer unibody. If I weren't so enamored of Aluminum cars, I would probably have just bought a Nissan. They are easy to work on and their documentation is absolutely top-notch. Maybe supercharge a first-gen, lightest-weight 350Z. Or perhaps another Subaru. Sure the heads go wrong sometimes, but they're cheap and they're easy to work on if you stick with the four cylinder. I had a 1993 Impreza LS and I probably should have kept it, but it may have saved a life which is an unrelated tale.

Comment Re:Nice, but hardly new. (Score 1) 50

My parking problem is with finding the correct garage in Sacramento, and my phone's GPS won't work in the average parking garage anyway. If I left my car on the street or in just a parking lot, I can find it again. But when a town has four or five parking garages in a four by four block area and they all look the same and none of them have differentiating signage and even the fucking ticket spit out by the kiosk machine doesn't tell you which garage you're parked in, you could really use some help. (Seriously, fuck whoever is responsible for the parking garages in Sacramento. Fuck them right in the neck.)

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