Privacy – How much have we given up?

Howdy folks! Long time, eh? I finally took a little time to provide a little care for this site.

Anyway – to the point. My friends and I used to joke about our stuff becoming self aware. Hell, we even used to wish for it… especially my car. Boy, I wish my car could talk, jump, drive itself….. I digress.

These days, technology self-awareness seems attainable – that is, if it hasn’t happened already. Technology situational awareness is already there. Need proof? Check out your smart phone.

I (currently) use the Nexus 5. As a good techie, I tied it to my main Google account to the phone and started using it. The day I ordered it, I fired up maps.google.com to search for the closest Sprint store to activate it. When I input my starting location, I noticed that my address had been aliased as ‘Home.’ I didn’t alias this manually. Best I can figure, Google assumed that I had shipped my phone to my house, and so it now knew that I lived at 1515 Mockingbird Lane (points to you readers for getting the reference without Google). Interesting, right? It gets spookier.

After 1 week, the phone began theorized that the place I travel to every morning was ‘Work.’ So, the phone prompted me – ‘Do you work at this place? Yes/No.’ I hearkened back to grade school when kids used to pass each other the same type of note. Quickly, my senses shifted from a nostalgic haze to a keen awareness about the amount of information my PHONE knows about me. …and that’s just MY PHONE.

Now, think about technologies like Nest, August, etc… the sprinkler systems that check the local weather to determine when and when not to water. In the next 10 years, most if not all of these technologies will talk to each other to automate your life.

While this sounds cool, think about how this works. Each machine must somehow monitor your behavior, and then make inferences as to your preferences. Repeat that last sentence to yourself, and then think imagine EVERY mechanical device around you just… watching you.

How does this pertain to privacy? Well, for each of these technologies to become smarter, some PERSON has to first monitor your behavior (and many many others) to create the heuristics to make the machine work. In other words, someone will mine the GPS in your phone, car, iPad, etc. These insights will be cross-referenced with your search habits in the search engine of your choice, and your purchase history from your favorite online retailer.

Are you ok with this? I’m on the fence.

2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE – First Weekend Thoughts

If you read my previous post, I’ve reluctantly traded in my 2007 Corvette Coupe – and I bought a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE.

A big change for sure.

Background: I’m a muscle-car guy, and always will be. I’ll buy another Corvette one day, and I hope it is a C7. My first car was a 1976 Firebird. I love them! So why a hybrid?

2 reasons.

First – my driving habits reflect the “business case” for a hybrid: Drive a lot of miles ~30-40MPH. Over the past 6 months per the Corvette’s computer, I drove an average of 27.9 MPH. My daily commute is 50 miles round-trip, and will soon be closer to 90 miles round-trip – same high-traffic conditions, just moving farther away from work. Maintenance on the Vette for a 90 mile-per-day commute is higher than I am willing to pay. Over 2 years I’d essentially need to get two sets of new tires (1600 per set), 12 oil changes (100 each), brakes (500), etc, etc. You get the picture.

Second – I had a great buy on the Vette, and consequently the folks at Toyota (Sterling McCall in Houston to be exact – talk to Robert Savala if you’re interested. He’s fantastic) cut me a fantastic deal. Given what I bought the Corvette for vs what they gave me on trade vs the cost of the new Camry, I was able to walk away with a lower monthly payment over the same loan period, a brand-new car that gets over twice the MPG, can carry twice the number of people, AND money in my pocket. The business guy in me couldn’t pass it up.

Initial Thoughts

The Camry is nice, both inside and out. I opted for the entry-level one (SE trim) because in my mind, if I’m getting a hybrid to save money on gas, my ROI equation becomes less favorable if I spring for the leather and the moonroof. That said, the SE interior is really nice, and comes standard with a bunch of “gadgety” type stuff – push-button start, touch-screen information center/media center, bluetooth, iPod integration, and steering-wheel controls. Definitely enough for a point-A-to-point-B car.

Driving it is similar to driving Katie’s Honda Accord. Nothing special, but it doesn’t feel underwhelming. In the 60ish miles I’ve put on it thus far, handling seems fine, and acceleration is ok for what it is – it’s still no Vette of course.

The biggest thing I need to get used to is when you “start” the car, I’m never quite sure that it’s actually ready to drive. There isn’t much noise as the gas engine doesn’t always turn on. Also, I can’t comment much on cabin noise because since you don’t have much by way of engine noise, I think you tend to hear other things better. Given that, though, I’d say cabin road noise is low/medium-to-medium. Not as quiet as a Range Rover, but not as loud as the Vette.

All in all, my sub-100mi review is that I like it. I’ll post more thoughts as I put more miles on it.

Flash – My 2007 Corvette Coupe

I don’t remember when I became a Corvette guy, but I know it was a very long time ago. Through undergrad, it was my goal – my reason to push, my drive to be successful. Materialistic? Maybe a little.

I finally bought one after graduating business school… A 2007 Atomic Orange Corvette 6-speed. It has everything: 3LT package, driver heads-up display, Bose stereo, upgraded exhaust and air intake… I could go on gushing :)

I named her Flash.

Driving it is intoxicating. If you’re easy with the gas, you can barely tell the difference between it and Katie’s Honda Accord, save the harder suspension and a little aftermarket exhaust rumble. Once you put your foot into it, though, it wakes up and immerses you in a symphony of engine noise. You get physically thrown into your seat. You can turn at any speed, you can pass anyone… overtake anything. Acceleration in the powerband is almost scary – 5500rpm shift from 3rd to 4th… is. Do it right (or wrong depending on your perspective) and it gets a little sideways. It makes me feel a little bit invincible.

So why am I writing about it? Because… we are about to part ways. It’s not about you, Flash, its about me. You were everything I expected and then some. As I type this, I feel physically sad about it, but it is the right thing to do.

The boyhood dream isn’t over, not by a long shot. Instead, it’s just on pause.

You’ve been good to me, Flash… and I’ll miss you.