#5457 – Production

It’s interesting to see how your car is built. Your car. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always liked buying MINI: you can configure your car online, print out your specifications, bring it to the dealer, and say “order this.” I’ve never really had an interest in buying a MINI off the lot – maybe if it met my exact specifications – but configuring a car to your taste is part of the fun. Another part of the fun is tracking its production status.

The other day my Motoring Advisor1 called to let me know my car was in production. It took another day or two, but now the online site has caught up with the current production status:

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 12.11.35 PM

You can also use your production order number (what you’re given when the dealership places the order with the factory) or the last seven characters of your vehicle’s VIN (which you get once the car’s scheduled for production) and call 866-ASK-MINI for details on its current status, which was what I had to do while I waited for the online status to update.

A few years ago I had the opportunity on vacation in England to visit the MINI factory in Oxford. Before that tour I always thought of factory tours as being ushered along catwalks above the action, but here you were walking right alongside the people and robots doing the work.

  1. The MINI equivalent of a salesperson, since they’re more there to help guide you with your decisions. 


#5453 – Electronic renaissance

I have to keep reminding myself that tomorrow I’m to go to see Belle and Sebastian in concert. Even though I bought my ticket and have it on my calendar, I keep forgetting that it’s here already. Perhaps because it doesn’t feel like it’s June already.

After sleeping on my Chromebook purchase I’m almost certain I’m going to return it. I like the concept of the Chromebook, but I don’t think I could get over the quality of the device. I think I remember reading a quote from Marco Arment that went something like “If you’re going to spend more than an hour a day using something, get the best you can afford” or something like that. Even if I’m not planning on using it for more than an hour each day, a squirrely trackpad that I may or may not get used to + a display that doesn’t have a decent viewing angle + writing software that doesn’t make writing as easy as I’d like for, you know, a writing machine + a poor web-browsing-only experience due to a lack of synced passwords = I’m not going to end up using it anywhere near as much as I anticipated. I’m sure higher-end Chromebooks might address some of the quality issues, but not only does that defeat the purpose of having a low-cost machine to pound away on, it still doesn’t fix the software issues I encountered. Oh well.

Speaking of laptops, after writing about how my MacBook Pro is a few years old but still runs well, it started randomly crashing hard enough to restart itself. I noticed some display glitches recently, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the display it’s connected to, or the machine itself, or even if those display glitches are related to the crashes. There’s one or two things about this machine that I prefer over the current models (MagSafe vs. MagSafe 2 being the main one), and while they still sell this model, upgrading it to the same specs as my current one ends up costing as much as a new current model; a retina screen, more RAM, and a faster processor for $200 more. I’m in no rush to upgrade, but in the meantime I’m keeping an eye on its reliability and saving my work often. :P


#5451 – Take a look, it’s in a Chromebook

I’m trying out a Chromebook at the moment, but I’m not sure if I like it or not yet. It’s an Acer CB3-111-670. I mostly bought it to be a writing machine – I bought an Apple eMate off of eBay a few months ago figuring that it would make a great writing machine if I could get it to interface with some modern technology so I could extract the files from it (which hasn’t gone well so far) – and I figured that by having a cheap laptoppy-type machine to bang away on wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, I was able to get it for only $160, so I won’t have to be so anxious about something happening to it, and it weighs just over 2 lbs so easy enough to carry.

This is my first attempt at typing for an extended period on the Chromebook; before now the extent of my typing had been trying a few different Markdown-based editors, but the one that’s working exactly the way that I was hoping for is Calmly Writer. So far Calmy Writer on the Chromebook is a good distraction-free writing experience, which is exactly what I was going for. Unfortunately, as for the general Chromebook browsing experience, I think for the most part I’ll stick to my MacBook Pro. It’s 3 years old now, but I’ve maxed out its RAM and upgraded its hard drive with an SSD so it still runs well. My problem with internet browsing is that I’m so used to using 1Password for all my passwords and I can’t really replicate that sort of password management and syncing on the Chromebook.

My complaints about this Chromebook are really down to two things: the screen, and the trackpad. The screen itself doesn’t really have that much of a viewing angle, so if you’re not looking at it straight on it’s not a great viewing experience, and the trackpad itself is very plastic-y and sometimes difficult to track accurately — the cursor jumps around a bit and I’m not sure if it’s the sort of thing I’ll get use to maneuvering with practice or not. But then again, this laptop did cost only $160, so the quality is exactly what I’d expect from a $160 laptop. That’s not to say that it feels cheaply made, it’s just that you need to think of exactly what’s going to go into making a machine at that price point and it’s not going to be retina screens and glass trackpads.

I have 14 days to try it out before I decide if I’ll keep it or return it, and while I was on the fence before about keeping vs. returning, after spending this time writing on it I’m leaning a bit more towards “keep”. It’ll probably be more of a browsing-as-a-last-resort machine (because of the lack of 1Password syncing1, but also because of the jumpy cursor. Seriously, it’s that annoying.), but as a writing-first machine it’s so far doing exactly what I wanted it to do: be a machine for me to write on and not find myself tempted by other distractions.

(Hm. A few typing drawbacks discovered since writing that but before I posted it:

Typing an en dash is a lot more complicated than typing one on my Mac. Here it’s ctrl-shift-U + 2013 + enter, while on the Mac it’s just option-hyphen.

Copying/pasting the text of my document from Calmly Writer didn’t copy over the Markdown formatting like I expected it would. Marking up words in italics, for example, had those words show up as italic in Calmly Writer, and I thought that copying that text would cause the Markdown formatting to copy along with it. Also, I thought I exported my text from Calmly Writer as a Markdown file in my Google Drive, but it seems to be an HTML file? That could be user error, though.)

  1. And yes, I know that I could put my 1Password Anywhere file on the machine, but I wouldn’t be able to sync that file with my other devices.