So I’m getting a convertible

Since my first ride in a convertible (in high school, in a ’67 Mustang), I’ve always wanted one, but never really had the urge to really look for one or price one up. Now an opportunity has come up to get a FREE CAR, which happens to be a first-generation Mazda MX-5 (the one with the pop-up headlights), which is one car I’ve always thought would be really fun to own and drive.

It’s small, rear-wheel drive, perfectly balanced, convertible (for those few weeks every year that the British weather lets you enjoy top-down weather) and apart from some common but well-documented rust areas apparently it’s a solid car to drive.

With cheap storage costs it’ll be a decent deal, although insurance will be a bugger. Even though it’s free the end cost after it’s fixed up will probably be close to what I could get a good running car for: there’s no interior except for the dash and steering wheel, it hasn’t run in 2 years so it’ll need a new cambelt and maybe tires straight off, it needs an exhaust and the rust I mentioned will have to be cut away and replaced with new steel, then rustproofed and painted.

Luckily a workmate knows how to fix up cars and knows a few people locally who can deal with the welding and electronic stuff (to bypass/remove the faulty alarm), plus his son can do things like take the brakes off and clean them up to see if they’re OK, etc. So in effect I’m getting a new car and spreading the ‘payments’ over a month or two, then I pay the Vehicle Excise Duty (mistakenly called the ‘road tax’ by many British), get it on my insurance and take it to the MOT centre where it gets inspected to make sure it’s legally road-worthy. Once that’s done it’s top-down time, no matter what the weather is like 🙂

The first comment I got on Facebook after I said I’d be getting an MX-5 is that it’s a “hairdresser’s car”, which is what Brits call a “girl car”. Fair enough, it’s a small convertible but to be honest I don’t see many women driving an MX-5 around. It’s usually men, and men who know what a decently performing car is like. (Maybe it doesn’t help that the first person I knew who had one of these cars is a gay guy named Bart.) But then, most British folk call the Jeep Wranger a “hairdresser’s car” too…not something I would call off-roaders, hunters and rock crawlers, really, who are the only people I’ve seen drive Wranglers.

So the list of stuff to get for this car seems long, but I’m finding really cheap stuff (like a complete exhaust system for £30) because there’s a big market of MX-5 “breakers”, or people who buy old MX-5’s and take them apart to sell the parts. I can get whole doors, body panels, sets of wheels with tires, etc., it’s all about looking as much as possible and comparing prices.

Could I get a whole, running car cheaper? Maybe. But putting together (or, to be fair, helping to put together) a car that I can turn into a daily driver will be part of the joy of driving it.

And I fully intend to keep the White Lightning (the Saab 900S) – I’ll need it to carry all the parts I have to get!

As for a name for the MX-5? Not sure yet, but maybe “Marty” or “Max”, to keep with the M-theme.

How to watch the Star Wars movies: IV, V, II, III, VI

Great blog post from a full-on Star Wars geek about the best way to watch the Star Wars movies. Notice Episode I is ‘missing’. Here’s why: Red Letter Media’s 70-minute review of Episode I

Anyway, check out this blog post to see why this is the best and most entertaining way to watch the Star Wars saga, and read all the way to the end to read about a real test with someone who’d never watched the Star Wars movies before.

Yeah, been a while

I’ve been thinking about starting up another blog, based on geekdom, consisting of basically reposting and commenting on other articles online, which would cover these sorts of things: radio-control stuff (the industry I work in, basically) video/computer games computer stuff techie things political things like SOPA/PIPA, etc. that sort of thing I like reading and talking about this sort of thing, so that’s why I was thinking about doing another blog. Call it something like ‘geekgasm’ or ‘geektastic’ (the URLs of which are taken in nearly every form).

Then I thought about it some more and thought about what the end goal would be – monetizing? writing for another, bigger blog (like engadget, etc.)? what? Well monetizing is pointless for someone like me, because I don’t want to do the web SEO thing and try to write thought-provoking articles every day or two. And I already do enough writing in my day job and after hours that I don’t want to try to break into a whole new field, which will take loads of time and effort.

So I think I’ll just work on this blog here, get some writing done for my other blog http://frankthewriter.wordpress.com/ and work on expanding my thoughts that I put into Twitter messages into longer blog posts.

Sound alright?

Reuters: ‘Online privacy leaks worsen; “Do not track” gains steam’

A new study from a Stanford University researcher has found that a lot of  the little bits and pieces of supposedly anonymous data being deposited by your web browser are actually being gathered and reassembled by dozens of companies and sold. And stopping that from happening takes more than a little bit of effort, helped by a growing movement for “do not track” legislation.

Link to the Reuters article

It saddens me (seriously) that many folks I know don’t know that they’re being tracked, and nearly all of them say they don’t care after being told. And most of the ones that DO care about being tracked online just can’t be bothered to take simple measures to stop the tracking from happening, even though it barely impacts their internet browsing.

So here’s what I do to limit the online tracking as much as possible:

I use the Firefox browser with certain key add-ons to guarantee privacy (as much as possible, anyway) and practically zero online tracking:

To stop Facebook from tracking my movements across the web, I use Facebook only with the Opera browser on all my computers, and I limit the links I click on within Facebook. If there’s a link I really want to check out, I’ll copy the link address (right-click and choose ‘copy link location’) and paste it into Firefox.

So why go through all this effort?

This comment from this Reddit thread explains:

As a small constrained example, if you cross reference your real name from Facebook with every Facebook Like button you get a list of web pages that the person has visited. That’s incredibly sensitive information and given the cross-borders aspect there are no laws whatsoever preventing this information being sold. It’s a highly valuable gold mine.

Google have even more personal data but rarely get flak like Facebook does. Through Google+, Gmail and the AdWords/DoubleClick trackers around the web they get to see almost everything you do online.

Now, forgive me for not being a good customer, but screw that. I don’t want my information (even anonymously) connected to other bits of information. I encrypt/block/hide what I can and screw the marketers who want to sell/use this information.

 

On a somewhat related note, the German government has been found to have spread spyware among its citizens so it could spy on them, something the FBI tried several years ago. So it’s always worth the effort to protect yourself online!

Film project under way!

So my podcasting partner and I are finally about to start actually FILMING instead of TALKING about filming. Various things like vacations, work/kid/family schedules, etc., have all conspired to make the filming not happen yet, and as it stands we’ll have one weekday night every two weeks to do some filming, then talk about the next bit that we want to do.

So…hopefully we’ll have some videos on YouTube in the next couple of weeks!