Sticky Rubberized Keyboard

Ugh, my 1st Gen Logitech G15 is starting to get tacky on the wrist pad and edges.  This is NOT pleasant at all!  The interwebs tells me this is due to the material deteriorating over time (Urethane).  Here’s probably the best post on it I found.

So, do I just follow along and rub it off?  Do I do what others suggest and sand it or add temporary talcum powder over it?

Nah, I think I’ll try some Plasti Dip one of these days.  This should be fun!

Posted in Technology, Tools and Tips, Troubleshooting | Leave a comment

Chef Jason Wrobel the next Alton Brown?

My wife and I were just watching a newish show, on Cooking Channel, called “How to Live to 100.”  It was rather entertaining, and reminiscent in attitude and character of “Good Eats” with Alton Brown on Food Network.   The camera angles, quirky supporting guest characters, and a hint of scientific explanation are the similarities to which I speak.

“Never trust a skinny chef…”?  Well, this is one tone chef I would trust.  The first and only item, we watched him make, looked absolutely amazing!  Tattoos, fit physique, and touch fabulous; Jason Wrobel captivates you from the first moment on screen.

The episode opened with an entertaining venture where Jason searches for information on an ingredient that will help strengthen bones.  He arrives to a trusted wise man, who turns out to be a white dude with a stereotypical chinese oracle demeanor, but with an oddity to him.  Following the presentation of his key ingredient, the cooking portion starts.  Throughout the show, there were segway skits to further explain the values of the key ingredient, and entertain the audience.  From the in-oven camera shot, the skits, the characters, the science, the action, to the camera angles, this had a very close parity to a more modern variation of Alton’s performance.

While I really liked the show, I still much prefer Alton’s heavier science aspect and natural madness.  Jason’s outlandish flair teeters on forced and natural, but is entertaining all the same!  To be fair, I suppose it will take a few more episodes to determine a true opinion on the comparison.  Still my first impression was a very close network alternative to the Alton Brown productions.

Time will tell.


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DIY Kitchen Island Lighting Final (Almost)

(cont from Part 3)

Well, it’s up and in use, but I still need to finish tucking everything away, and patching the ceiling. The bolts have been lopped off, and cap nuts added for a better look.  It’s super simple, and very basic, but that was the idea.  The search is still on for some nice end caps.




Posted in Projects | 1 Comment

Help! – RAXfit Yard tunes on mute

[Disclaimer: RAXfit is a pet name, not the official name of the program.]


Sometime last year, I conspired with our internal Workplace Services Team (Real Estate then) to secretly install a massive sound system in the workout yard at work.  This was to be considered a collaboration between Workplace Services and the K-RACK Radio Teams.  The group that started the RAXfit program started it on a shoestring budget, much like the way K-RACK started.  There was a lot of beg-borrow-steal going on, and it reminded me of how K-RACK got its start.  I wanted to pay it forward for these Rackers, and this was my chance.  Who wants to work out without tunes, right?

A pair of PC speakers do not a impressive sound system make…  We hung a pair of passive 15″ Peavey PA speakers, and a 2x 700W amp.  This would certainly give them the boom they desired!  It certainly packs a punch; so much so, that they need to make sure to keep it down when doing the early morning WODs.  We do have neighbors after all.


The Day the Music Stopped

Sometime last week, I was informed the music stopped, and asked if a setting on the mixer could have been jacked with.  Taking a quick trip from my desk, I noticed everything was in order.  There was one small issue, after further investigation…

Looking up at the amp, flown overhead, I could see a solid red clip LED on Channel 2.  In most cases, the first thought would be, “oh, it’s clipping, turn it down.”  Well, sure, that would be the case if their was music playing.  Seeing as how nothing was even connected to the system at the moment, and the clip was solid, not blinking, I knew there was a problem.


Cracking the Case


The amp is a Behringer EP1500.  From what I have read, a solid clip LED is an indication of a fault in either the power supply (PSU) or op amp on each channel.  Seeing as how this is only on one channel, I am ruling out the thought of it being the PSU.   This post was a bit helpful in looking around.

20131219_193951 20131219_194032

Opening the amp, I immediately saw the tell-tale sign of a blown capacitor.  There were two blown caps on Channel 2 side.  I hope that is the only problem with this thing, but I’m not totally convinced that is the only issue.  Even though Channel 2 was the only side showing a clip fault, neither channel was playing music at all…  What would cause both sides to be dead, but only show the fault on one side?  If anyone has any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Well, off to bed for the night.  I guess I’ll go grab some caps, and see if that does the trick…

Posted in Troubleshooting, Work | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Rackermobile: My Final Days


(Cont. from

Well, it’s over…

In a week’s time, we enjoyed 472.2 miles together.  I’ll tell you this, I take back some of what I initially thought about this car.  We had a lot of fun together, turned a lot of heads, and I would absolutely have this as a family car!  Well, there’s that pesky maintenance thing to work out, but we’ll discuss that further along.  Long or short rides, this car is a joy to roll in.  The lack of tread in the front, on this one, was no problem once I got going, and held the turns on back country roads like a champ!  Color me impressed.

While she did have a good deal of torque, I still would not compare her to the joy of a V8.  Beyond that, the constant power delivery was noticeable, even uphill she handled without a struggle.  It was quite satisfying.


The Family Car?

Would I ever own one?  Well, The Wife fell in love almost immediately, and you know what they say… “happy wife, happy life.”  We have many conversations in our travels around town; repeatedly, this came up.  With the prices as they are now, being that they company went belly up, I’d almost consider it. (UPDATE 2014/02/19: Wanxiang plans to immediately restart production of the Fisker Karma)  There are a number on ebay for aroun $50K, with a third the miles of Graham’s.  We found a black on for $55K with 9500 miles.  There’s just one problem, continued maintenance.  Now, you might say, “but Dale, you buy old cars all the time, and make them go.”  True, but most of them are still in business, there is an aftermarket for them, or they have parts that are not requiring custom computers to diagnose and program them.  This car is a HUGE difference, but I did find an enthusiast forum.

The forum actually helped me troubleshoot a quirk I discovered when you unplug the car after opening the driver door.  The fuel gauge was skipped in the boot sequence, and it showed no fuel, even though I knew the tank was full.  (  Well, also didn’t help that I think I hit the accessory on before unplugging too.  Anyway, it was a fluke, and doesn’t happen often.  My only cause for concern was that the battery only charged to 4 miles worth, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it to get gas if it was indeed empty.  Plus, I was worried that it had some monitoring system that wouldn’t auto-switch to the generator if the tank showed empty.  Wasn’t willing to risk it, so I made sure to reboot the car, and let it go through the sequences again.  Yay!

Long trips?  No problem.  You could easily run the car on gas alone, pull over, shut it off, fill up, and go on gas alone again.  The battery is just a nice-to-have low emission mode.  (I take back all I said in the previous post about questioning long trip.)

But, yes, I would absolutely be willing to own one of these, and we are considering it…


So much technology… but what is that?

There is so much to be said about how well thought out this car was, for being the first (and only) production run.  The quality of the interior and attention to detail is right up there.  I’d wouldn’t say they plucked someone off the Bentley line to do the work, but it is up there.  The suspension has the right feel of stiffness and comfort.  The placement of the mirrors to the curves of the rear fenders.  This does not feel like a concept car at all, and so it shouldn’t.  All that said, I did notice ONE MINOR oversight… or was it?  LCD’s everywhere.  HIDs and LEDs in the front.  The rear lighting is nice and clean.  The whole car is high tech to itself.  Then, you look at the map lights and vanity lights…  Incandescent, really?!  Ah well, someone could easily swap those out for newer LEDs.  I’m just picking now.



The Attention!

If you get easily jealous, don’t drive/buy one of these cars.  We talked about turning heads earlier, and she did more than just that.  People were not only looking, they were waving me down to talk and ask questions, walking up to have a look, and a group of early 20’s guys followed me into a neighborhood to have a look and take pictures.  Yes, I was visiting a Racker who thinks he’s Clark Griswold and covers his house in lights.  While admiring the decorations, a car pulled up and they told us, “sorry, we followed you. Do you mind if we take pics?”  ‘Not at all.  Have at it.’

A few of us went to lunch and a group of Airmen (I think) made an about-face for the car.  We opened her up and answered all their questions.  They were excited to see something they’ve never seen before.


Over the weekend, we went to breakfast after my nephew’s basketball game.  Looking for a safe spot to park, I noticed the grouping of cars that were obviously together.  Plus, I knew they’d respect the car next to them when they leave.  Turns out, they may have worked there, since the cars were still there when we left.  So, no enthusiasts were circled around her, but a bunch of random people did stop and take pictures with it.  Boy, she sure is getting filthy…



The gift that keeps giving

I am super lucky to be rolling around in this machine for even just a week, and am more than happy to give others a similar experience!  While I’m not allowed to let them drive it, the next best thing is to simply ride in it.  All week, I was taking people to lunch, or making quick trips up and down I-35.  This took some scheduling and moving things around, but I made it happen.  Of course, my wife had the most time out of anyone else in the car…

My wife and I did everything from Christmas shopping to grocery shopping in this car.  I think that could take us back to the previously discussed family car thoughts…  Yea, it would work.  Even has hooks for baby seats in the back.  We tested it with one of our nephews and his car seat.  He wants us to keep “the Iron Man car”.  Well, not quite.  That was an R8, little guy.  But, he doesn’t really know any better yet.

There was a moment I was EXTREMELY angered, while in the car though.  Having made a trip to Central Market, specifically because they have charging stations, and we often go there anyway; there were non-EV cars parked in every CPS Charging station.  It’s not like there was a lack in parking spaces either, and the parking garage was almost empty.  Ah well.  That crappy Honda, with it’s fart can, and all the other cars there felt they needed to be there I guess.

On top of friends and co-workers, I also gave another special person in my life a ride.  As a Big Mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, I often get to share experiences with my little brother from time to time.  This experience was not one to miss.  First, I dropped by his High School and sat in the extremely busy pick-up lane.  You should have seen the looks on the faces of some of the other kids, as he got in the car.  It was priceless.  Then, on the last day of driving her, we went for a roll through the hill country, and then a slow roll through The Shops at La Cantera.  La Cantera is an outdoor mall, and there were plenty of people to ogle over the car.  On the way to drop him off, we stopped at a Sonic to grab some frosty’s.  Plenty of questions came from that stop as well.  He enjoyed every minute of it.


Like my momma always said…

No, life is not a box of anything.  Life is what we make of it, and there is plenty of room outside the box.  What my parents DID instill in me is a sense of respect and pride when borrowing something from someone else.  Either you give it back exactly how you got it, or in better condition in this case.

Through my time with the Fisker, I was constantly irritated by the swirls all over the car.  It’s like someone took sandpaper to the clear, and ran an orbital over it.  Not to mention the micro scratches that go through to the primer…  So, what do you do?  You take out your stock of Meguiar’s, and go to town.  (Unfortunately, I ran out of time to do the interior and tires.  All I got done, before I had to leave, was the outside.)

I don’t even think this thing has had a proper detail ever.  (Come to find out, it hasn’t.)  Looked like it never was waxed either.  The swirls were in the clear, and I now wish I had time to compound it too…

So, here’s a list of what DID get done.

  • Hand wash
  • Clay bar
    • Surface particles
    • Road tar
    • Bug and sap
  • Carnauba wax (hand, not orbital)
  • Wheel clean (not tires)




Sadly, I also didn’t have time to do as many coats of wax as I wanted to.  This is the before and after of only one coat.  While there was a considerable difference, and the clay did make her glass smooth, she could still use some more work for those deeper swirls.  It would have been cool to dive in with some compounds and sealer.  Maybe “next” time.   ;)


She was dang sexy afterward though, and that glass finish shows!  Now, she should hold against a few rains and dust for about a month maybe, before starting to dull.  Hell, the first week should be simple as rinse and dry…


Thank you Graham!

Graham, I truly appreciate you lending me your toy for the week.  This was truly an honor to enjoy!  I’d even say, in my case, something more meaningful than oh say a straight-jacket or other award of distinction.

Final thoughts

  • Power is great, but not OMFGAwesome
  • Brakes are responsive and stop on a dime
  • Suspension is sporty stiff, without being bladder killers
  • Interior is amazingly well put together, and still smells of leather after over a year
  • Fun to drive
  • Sexy design
  • Good for long trips (with the extended drive mode)
Posted in Automotive, Reviews, Test Drives, Loaners, and Rentals, Want, Work | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Rackermobile: My first few days with the Fisker Karma


“The Company Car”

The 3rd generation of “The Company Car”, “Rackspace Rackermobile” is a coveted reward for those who have gone above and beyond.  First, it was a 3-series BMW convertible, with manual transmission.  That thing went through numerous transmissions, services, and was pretty much beat all to hell.  Gen2 was a 6-series BMW vert, but we learned from the lack of Rackers with manual transmission skills, and went to an auto.  However, that one saw better days as well.  “Drive it like you stole it” comes to mind.  I’m not quite sure how many Rackers have had this privilege, but there are over 6000 of us worldwide, and 4500 in San Antonio, TX, so I can’t imagine a very high ratio…  Gen2 was auctioned off on eBay, and a number of Rackers joined in on the battle to own a piece of history.  Luckily, a San Diego Racker won the auction, and flew out to pick up his prize.  Keep it in the family, right?

Poor rims…


Moving along, the search was on for a new machine to glorify as the company car.  This time, Rackers were asked to vote on a number of fancy new tech.  Fisker, Tesla, and a few others were on the list.  Of course, the Fisker Karma won, and was delivered by the dealer owner himself.  Man, the car looked amazing that day!  It still looks dang good, overall, but there is a good deal of curb rash from th flat-faced rims being run along curbs, and the tell-tail signs of folks who don’t know you don’t nose-in a sports car (ALWAYS back in with a lowered car).  Looking under the nose, you can see where it was run-a-ground on curbs, and even snagged on the rebar of a parking spot block, and torn.  Surprisingly, the damage isn’t super noticeable unless you want the blood to flow to your head.  The rim damage is a bit embarrassing, being a car enthusiast I feel the judging eyes of on-lookers.  “It wasn’t me, I promise!”  Oh, right… speaking of on-lookers…

No big deal

Normally, I would be the last person to want to be publicly awarded anything, let alone boast about it, but this one hits on one of my passions, and I’ll be damned if I don’t show this one off!  Yes, I’ve joined the elite club of Rackermobile drivers, Rackermobile flag hangers, and Rackermobile T-shirt holders.  Having it be a rolling piece of mechanical beauty only makes it that much sweeter.  Typically, the honor is nominated by your departmental leadership, and you are voted on by your peers.  In my case, I was shocked to hear the nomination came from a bit higher than that…  Our Chairman, Graham Weston along with Director of Community Affairs and Rack Gives Back, Cara Nichols took it upon themselves to recognize my work with and  During the Rackspace Private Cloud Holiday Party, my VP John Igoe, and SVP “Godfather of OpenStack” Jim Curry, decided to embarrass me in front of 120+ of my RPC family, and present the award in front of everyone; even pointing out how Graham himself made the point to push for this one.  A speech followed from me, on the event, and well it is all a blur now.  (I’m not the only one recognized for the same work.  Our Team Captain, Arthur Wilson had the car the week before me.)

Details on what we did with Extra-Life:

This is one award, however unexpected and unnecessary, I will GLADLY accept, enjoy, and write to the world about!!!  Graham and Cara, I love you both; thank you!


First Impressions

(more pictures at the end of the article)

<Updates in follow-up post:>

At first approach, it’s obvious the Fisker Karma is a looker with all her curves, those wide hips, those eyes, and that mouth!  Yes, I’m still talking about a car…  The lines on this car are like something out of a futuristic spaceship.  Just look at the hood.  Wide?  Yea, she fills the lane.  Those rear 285/35R22’s need a place to fit, and the factory wide body accepts them quite well.  In the front, her tires are larger and wider than the rears of most of my other cars!  With some 255/35R22’s holding down the nose, though fairly bald from use, the front end holds turns very nicely!  At driveway speeds, you really notice the lack of tread with the stiff unforgiving sidewalls.  The front tires don’t flex when turning, which leads to a noticeable sliding and grinding across the road when moving at very low speeds.  (This is only due to the lack of tread on the one I’m driving.  I’d image new tires would fix this…)  Once you get going though, it’s smooth sailing, and they still hold the road like sticky slicks.  (I am going to strongly suggest we replace them before the next, less skilled driver, puts her into a wall in the rain.  Dry road?  Fine!  But the water channels are gone.)  With the number of miles, and the aged looked of the front sidewalls, compared to the rear, I’d say the fronts are factory and rears have been replaced after numerous burnouts.

The seats are comfy, after you spend a good bit adjusting EVERYTHING around you.

Sitting in the futuristic cockpit, you see nothing but digital everything mixed with the soft luxury or smooth italian leather and teak wood.  The dash is all digital LCD, without a single analog needle in sight.  The central command center is also a large resistive touchscreen LCD with haptic feedback.  Everything in the car, from radio, climate control, to diagnostics is controlled here.

The whole car is pretty much push-button operation and fairly intuitive.  I say fairly, as the electronic parking brake is a bit off.  The rocker switch is push to disengage, and pull to engage.  Kind of backwards to your typical car, but I got it after the third try.

Speaking of push-button… push-to-start, ok.  Waiiiiting… waiiiting… oh, right, this is electric.  The car just boots up, and is ready to run.  As soon as you put your foot on the throttle, you hear the slight whine of the electric motor.  Coming to a stop reminds me of riding the DC Metro Subway, and that sound it makes when the electric motors spin down.  Ahh, reminds me of home.  That’s Stealth Mode (battery only), but what about Sport Mode (with generator)?  We’ll discuss that later on.


Day 1: Nervous?

Not at all!  I’ve driven cars with more torque, power, larger, and lower than this car; it’s simply a matter of re-calibrating your brain for all the variables.  Sure, it’s not my car, it’s worth a lot of money, and oh did I mention not mine?  While most would be in fear of damaging someone else’s belongings, I feel responsible for someone else’s toy.  There is a difference.  It’s not JUST someone else’s toy, it’s Graham Weston’s toy!  It’s his car, he pays for all the maintenance, he owns it, and I respect the hell out of that man!  I can’t think of many Chairman of the boards who would take their time to really respond to an email from someone down on the food chain like he does.  The man is a true humanitarian, and someone I consider a good friend.

Know your limits, know the car’s limits, and just relax.  Don’t go crazy.

Is that a traction control disabled LED I see?  #angel


27,500 on the dial!20131211_172912

The first day trip home was a relaxing and empowering feeling, though I didn’t really put the car through its paces that night.  It was wet out, I was tired, left work late, and wanted to get to know the car first.  Think of it like going on a first date; you don’t go right in for the kiss.  The first night trip home was a comfortable easy ride, getting used to where everything was, all the controls, and just feeling the way the car moved.  Did I get any looks?  Maybe a few.

I almost forgot what it was like to drive a lowered car.  It’s been a good while.  That symphonic melody of sticky tires peppering the bottom of the car with pebbles from the road.  The oh so gentle ‘tink tink… tink’, as you drive along the road.  It was enough for me to turn off the radio, and just listen to the road.  Obviously, I’m not going to turn the radio off and listen to the engine in this ride…  It was peace on wheels.

As soon as I got home, my wife and her parents took a quick ride with me, and posed for pictures with the car.  Everyone enjoyed the cruise, and dreamed of one day owning one.  “Go on e-bay; I hear they are pretty cheap right now, since Fisker went under” was my reply.  I’m sure you can easily search for a number of stories on this issue, so I’ll refrain from adding a linkback for some random site here.  (I’ll tell you this.  you will be VERY shocked to see how a car went from costing $660,000 to selling on the market for ~$108,000 new.  There’s a hint for your searching.  Have fun.)

Good-night, Karma.  Plugged her in, and off to bed.


Day 2: Let the friend making begin!

Woke up, got ready for work, and went out to unplug the car.  The previous night, I parked it with about 32 miles left on the battery (50 mile capacity).  By morning, it was at about 45 miles.  Wow, slow charge.  I guess the 120V 12A home circuit charging unit doesn’t cut it.  I wonder what the CPS Charging stations use… 240V 30A?  Oh well, Sport mode is more fun anyway.  This mode turns the 2.0L turbo-charged generator, under the hood, on constant adding more voltage to the rear while trickle charging the battery.  The battery does drain a bit though, but much slower in this mode, than when in the battery only Stealth mode.  To be clear, this is not a hybrid where the engine is also attached to the drive-train.  This engine is strictly for generating electricity.  It also exhausts right behind the front tires.  Kind of hot rod if you ask me.

With a full day of meetings and working, I did manage to schedule in a few ride-along’s for some fellow Rackers; as well as taking a few to lunch in the car.  “Lunch in the Fisker” is on my calendar all week.  Oh, that’s right; we only get to keep the car for a week.

Everyone seems to enjoy the ride, and a number of them took pictures, and tagged me in them on social media.  Good times!

Later that night, my wife and I did some holiday shopping.  While leaving our house, a truck pulled up next to us at a T-intersection light.  I guess he was checking the car out a bit too hard.  We were in the center lane, which is a left, and he was in the right turn lane.  Well, when the light turned green, he decided he was going to cut me off…  Hrm.  Good thing I have great reflexes, and the massive brakes on this thing are amazing!

At the shopping center, we parked way out from the stores; much like we normally do in our cars.  While we were walking in, and on the way out, we saw cars circling back to take a look.  She’s pretty popular so far.  Can you blame them?  She’s purty.


Day 3: I could get used to this

Yet again, the day started off without a full battery.  I’m beginning to see how this car is more of a novelty, and less of a legitimate daily driver.  Unless the use of a 220V home charger over a 120V home charger is a game changer…  Anyway, I don’t drive far to work anyway, and there is a charging station there.

The frost from the other night caused a case of serious water spotting, and the Fisker was going to be in a photo shoot today.  So, I took her to a touchless car wash to quickly rinse her off.  I didn’t have time to do this at home.  No leaks, nothing exploded, all was well.  Just what you would expect from a car meant to be driven in weather and every day.  (I still question that every day part though.)

Leaving the gas station, everyone was watching her exit.  Ah, the feeling.

OK, let’s see what this Sport Mode is all about.  Opening her up off the exit ramp, you are thrown back by the instant torque and feel the car continue to accelerate.  It’s the weirdest feeling though, I’m expecting shifts, and they never happen.  It just continues to increase in RPM.  Ah, now that’s a sound I know…  With the generator’s voltage regulator requesting more voltage to the wheels, it ramps up the speed of the generator to match.  The unmistakable sound of a tiny turbo can be heard under the hood.  You don’t even really feel like you are going fast in this thing; it’s smooth and road noise?  What road noise?  It’s not hard to get in trouble, if you aren’t paying attention.

(Entering the highway, the ability to kick the back out from under you is noticeable for sure.  Maybe not past 50mph, but she has some torque, and I did a little dance when turning onto the ramp first.)

Torque?  For days!  It wasn’t QUITE as impressive as I expected, and certainly doesn’t compare to even that of a good ole Chevy V8, but it does keep what torque it has, at any speed.  Passing gear?  What passing gear?  There is certainly a lack of the expected kick-down in that of an automatic transmission, when passing on the highway.  When you hit the throttle to pass, she simply torques away.  It’s an odd feeling, but I may be able to get use to it.

(Even without a transmission, the Fisker Karma does have a simulated hill descend mode, that will simulate the downshifting of a transmission when traversing hilly countryside.  I gave this a quick test on a small hill, but haven’t really taken it to the hill country yet.)

Yet again, plenty of stares, looks, and honks.

Lunch with the Fisker was on again, and this time, there were people circled around the car in the parking lot, while we ate.  Boy, she sure does get some attention.

I’ve NEVER seen so many polite people on the road in San Antonio, until driving this car.  On the way home from work, I was trying to merge into 35N traffic.  Turn signal on, being more patient than normal, cars were simply passing me on the left without any attempt to open a gap enough to move in.  Then, this minivan slows along side me, and starts to pace me.  First though, what the hell are you doing?  When her window aligned with mine, she looked over and waved me ahead.  “You couldn’t have flashed your lights to let me over sooner?”  Then it dawned on me; she probably just wanted to look at the car and see who was driving first?  Maybe, I don’t know, but it was weird.  I smash on the throttle, threaded the needle, and hit the hazards in front of her.  “Thanks, lady!”  On to home.


Day 4: So it is

Yaaawwwwn.  Time to get out of bed, and start this day off right!  Coffee is made, breakfast has been served, my wife just got to work, and one of my dogs (Torq) just crawled into bed and put his face under my laptop…  Time to get out of bed, and get ready for the day.  Keep charging, Karma, I’ll be outside shortly.




(Click to enlarge)


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Posted in Automotive, Reviews, Test Drives, Loaners, and Rentals, Want, Work | 1 Comment

Termite’s Suggested Automotive Shops and Services

One of my main hobbies is collecting, restoring, and tinkering with cars. Naturally, what comes with the territory is getting to know others in the same community, if you will. Sure, I do most of my own work, but often times I get stuck, don’t have time to do it, or have an urgent need that must be done faster than my hobbiest experience can task. The result, going to a shop for service…


Let’s be fair, noone wants to take their car to the shop. With today’s $90+/hr labor, and the markup on parts, who can blame you! Sometimes, you just can’t help it; you must limp your baby into the hands of another man…


Through the years, I’ve gotten to know MANY shop owners and technicatians from the East Coast to Texas. Sometimes, I’ll even go to just hang out and chat; no work required. My wallet loves those visits most of all, so does the gray matter in my head. These encounters are a great opportunity for learning, sharing, and just some nasty shop jokes!


What am I getting at? Well, I’d like to offer up some reviews and suggestions to my friends, family, and acquaintences. Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing. Sure, you can watch a TV ad, or read a sign as you travel by, but what does that really tell you? Nothing. The experience of another is a viral and useful tool. That is, if they are being honest about their experiences.


Below, you will find a list of shops and services I send people to when asked, “hey, who do you suggest for *.*?” These are in no particular order or favortism. Hell, I’ll even alphabetize them, if it makes people feel warm and fuzzy.


General Repairs and Maintenance:

First, let’s just put this out there; I make no commitions or kick-backs on these reviews. The only satisfaction I get out of doing this, is knowing others are receiving great experiences, and being treated fairly. I put my reputation on the line with these, and back each shop I suggest. If you have troubles with any of them, I would love to hear your stories. Who knows, maybe I’ll go kick someone in the taint for effing up your job…


DBC Tuning

[European and Exotic Specialist – other makes/models also accepted]

San Antonio, TX

My cars they have worked on:

  • 1984 VW Rabbit GTI
  • 2004 Mercedes ML500
  • 2006 Mercedes C230 Sport

Stands for Dave, Berk, and Chris Tuning. The three owners/operators. I’m not 100% certain if they are all involved still, but I mostly talk with owner, Berk. Berk is always ready to take on a new challenge, and his crew of VERY skilled Technicians will diagnose and take care of your problems. Lead Technician Mark will amaze you with his knowledge, without even having to open a repair manual or Google your problem. That man’s brain is a vault of an automotive surgeon.

My first encounter with these guys was before they became a shop, and were simply selling parts out of Prestige Perfomance shop. We were all members of the same car “club” and traded advice and jokes on a local South Texas Forum. Honestly, it wasn’t the greatest of starts either. There were some mixed words on public forums, but we settled our differences when we realized that text on screen has no emotion. Don’t you just love the interwebs!?

Now, I have much respect for these fools, and send many Rackspace co-workers and friends there for their specialized needs. They appear to have a huge following of regular Rackspace Customers, and you know how we feel about Fanatical Support… Almost everyone I have sent there has become a repeat customer and had great things to say about the quality of service. Of course, there are those few edge cases of disatisfaction and bumps, but you can’t please everyone and there are bound to be some odd-ball experiences that can damage a reputation. My personal experience has been 100% satisfaction every time.

You can read more on my experiences with DBC on my blog.

Hi-Tech Automotive

[European, Import, Domestic, and Big Diesel]

6519 Prue Rd.
San Antonio, TX

(210) 877-2929

My cars they have worked on:

  • 2004 Mercedes ML500
  • 2006 Mercedes C230 Sport

There used to be this mobile mechanic, Noah Shegrud, that would frequent the grounds of Rackspace Headquarters. His name would pop up on internal emails, and people would always be asking for his number. One day, he was in my area of the building, talking to another co-worker, and I just started up a conversation. From there on, we became friends, and would often share stories. Mostly I love learning new tips and tricks from him. The occational trip out to see his band play or BBQ is always fun too.

Business started to slow in the off-season, and Noah decided to take up residence at Hi-Tech. No longer doing the mobile thing, he began to multi-task the bays at Hi-Tech like a boss. (Yea, I said “like a boss”. I’m not sure if that will be the last time I say it on my blog, but here’s to hoping.) No kidding, I’ve been there while he was actively bouncing between three cars on the racks. I don’t mean, finish one and move on, I mean, a little bit on this one, wait for a part, a little bit on this one while it runs and warms up, move to the next, and so on. He kept track of everything he was doing on each, while holding a converstation, and made it look easy! This was all aside from the other cars the other mechanics and his boss, Oscar, were working on at the time.

Noah comes from a background in Big Diesel, but the boy knows his grease and gears of all sizes. If is sucks in air and fuel, and farts it out, he can fix it or advise how.

Hrm, I see a common trend of Rackspace and connections, but that’s mostly due to the thousands of employees we have, and well, that’s my life; so, that’s where I meet people mostly.

Young, experienced, and energetic about making sure your vehicle is fixed right at a fair price, Noah, Oscar and crew will do you right!

LexToy Auto Clinic

[Lexus and Toyota Specialist – other makes/models also accepted]

San Antonio, TX

My cars they have worked on:

  • 1984 VW Rabbit GTI
  • 2004 Mercedes ML500

Owner, Carlos is a true, genuine soul. Nestled across the street from the old Rackspace Headquarters on Walzem Rd., this shop would see daily Rackspace drop-offs. It was simple; drop off the car, walk across to work, pick it up later (assuming it was a simple job). So convenient!

I would often spend my lunches with the guys, just talking and helping around the shop. Hell, there were a few times where I changed the oil and installed a radiator in a few Rackers’ cars. Did I get paid? No, that wasn’t the point. I loved doing it, and it helped out a busy shop and someone I consider a friend.

Carlos and his guys loved Rackers bringing repeated business. With our moving clear across town, to the old abandoned Windsor Park Mall, you would think LexToy business would decline. This is not true at all, and an example of the excellence in care Carlos and team provide. Rackers are willing to make the added trek, to drop off their vehicles at LexToy, just to have the reliable familiar faces work on them. Trust is a great thing.

I just went by there today (2013Aug21), and I saw more customer cars on the lot than I’ve EVER seen in the past.

A true testimate to Carlos’ character, is his unwillingness to steer customers in the wrong direction or do the typical chain-shop upsale. He will NEVER simply sell you a service just to make a buck, or suggest a job that can absolutely wait until your next check-in. Priority on customer satisfaction over profit is notable here; “customer first” attitude.  That’s enough to make me want to add a tip on top of service cost from time to time!

The Mobile Concierge

[All the things.]

San Antonio, TX (Coming to Austin, TX)

Have you ever been stuck at work, scrambling to figure out how you’d have time to take your car in for inspection? What about that regular maintenance that needs to be done, but you just can’t get away for. Need a wash and detail? They can arrange for a mobile service to come to you. Time is money, right?

Mobile Concierge is a white glove service that will help you schedule services, pick you up from the shop, or pick your vehicle up and drive it to the shop. They arrange everything for you, for a small fee, so you don’t have to worry about it. Besides, your time at work is worth more than your time not at work…

Owner, Craig has worked with me on a few different connections with local shops, to get them on his radar of offerings. He’s always looking for new clientel of all walks. He wants to make your life simpler, and their online scheduling app is just one small proof of that desire.

Not only have I pointed customers to The Mobile Concierge, but shops as well. Not one complaint has made its way back to me yet. We are off to a great start.

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What if ADW Launcher EX + AutoAppOrganizer joined forces?

I’ve am tweaking, organizing, and improving the workflow of my Android devices daily.  Every day, something new comes my way, or a different idea slides through the slippery surface of my brain.  A good while ago, I was using Go Launcher EX for its vast customization and theming.  There was just one thing lacking, multi-relational folder organization.

I often find it useful to cluster apps into folders by related function.  This helps with quick finds, and makes sense in my head.  True, there are Launchers out there, like Everything Home that solves this dynamically, but that’s not the kind of experience I’m looking for  (Truth be told, I think Everything Home has GREAT potential, but it just wasn’t for me.).  Besides, Everything Home requires network to handle the ‘on-the-fly’ sorting; so you’d be dead in the water if you were out in the sticks, or under the subway without data.

Back to my Go Launcher days… while the customization of the UI was there, the App Drawer lacked in sorting functionality.  I was only able to create folders and drop apps in them, but those apps would then be removed from the App Drawer primary view, and souley live in the folder.  This meant, if I had an app that was say Social Media related and Music related, I’d have to pick or choose.  This is a terrible design for my use case, so I hunted for other options.

Along comes AutoAppOrganizer (APO) [to which there is a free version].  I’m not quite sure what I searched for to find this, but it’s one of my favorite apps to date.  There is a very light agent that runs in the background of your phone.  When a new app is installed, it polls for suggested classifications, and then asks what you’d like to add it to.  (It can also remember how you classified a deleted app, and re-classify automagically if you ever re-install.)  Here, you can select multiple associations for cross-reference.  Later, when you are sorting through your apps, you may pull up AutoAppOrganizer, hit the classification of your choice, and browse through what you’ve dropped there.  You do this on a per-app basis; you can’t manage each group by adding multiple apps to each grouping.  It is still nice to have the device say, “hey, you installed an app; what do you want to do with it?”  Sure, you could simply hit the search and type in the app there, but what if you forgot the name of that one app you used that one time, but know it was for that one situation you need…  Open AutoAppOrganizer, or create a widget “folder” on your home screen to grab said sorted apps.  OK, that’s cool and all, but what about just having the list of classifications available at all times, without having to open another app?  I want my App Drawer to JUST WORK, and to have these sorted there for me.  I kind of also don’t like the way APO displays the grouped apps, when using the widget folder.  The widget icon doesn’t match my theme, the icons in the ‘folder’ don’t use the theme at all, and the folder animation doesn’t go with me theme.

Enter ADW Launcher and ADW Launcher EX.  I paid for the EX version, and love how clean it is.  ADW has an App Drawer with multi-relational classifications across the top.  Unlike Go Launcher, these apps can be in more than one category at a time.  Unlike AutoAppOrganizer, the management of each group is via opening the group management and checking off each of ALL of the apps you want to associate with it.  To add a particular app to another group, you have to do the process all over again, and scroll through every app until you get to the one(s) you want to add.  This may not sound like a big deal, but when you are like me, with over 440 app installed on your phone, it DOES get a bit hassling.  Well, that’s just something we have to deal with for now, right?

One of the great pieces about ADW and APO, in regards to the way they handle the widget ‘folders’, is the way they auto update the content in them.  If you add an app to a category, it will auto-display in the ‘folder’, and you don’t have to think which folders you missed.

Well, what if ADW and APO were to work together to build something EPIC!?  OK, so take the best of each:

  • ADW Clean Interface and App Drawer Categories
  • APO Installed App Watcher Agent
  • ADW Manage Groups
  • APO Manage Apps
  • Seamless UI Integration [Look/Feel/Actions]
  • Dynamic Widget ‘Folder’ Updating
  • App Drawer Category View

Suggested Additions:

In the end, I feel this merger of efforts, or at least if ADW would add these features, the user experience would be insane!  Going to write these folks too.


Dale Bracey

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Car AC Not Cooling?


Before you go digging in your couch for a load of change, expecting to pay hefty recharge or repair work, consider how your system works.

I’ll try and keep this simewhat simple. There is refrigerant in your AC system, and that makes it cold, right? But why? It’s magic, right? The fluid just does things… Well, there is a gas in the lines, and it is condensed on what is called the high pressure side. It passes through a valve to the low pressure side, where it rapidly expands. The properties of this gas cause it to chill on rapid expansion. The chilled gas passes through a coil inside your cabin air box. When the air passes over the fins of the coil, it is cooled. We could go deeper into why this happens, but we won’t.

There is a cabin air filter somewhere in-line with this system, keeping pollutants and allergens from entering your car as the fan pulls in fresh air. If that filter is clogged, less and less air will pass. Eventually you may not have much air passing at all, and the little air that is passing through is now slightly condensed and warmer.  Also, without the proper airflow, the coil is unable to dissipate the chill to work efficiently.

I believe it is suggested to change the cabin air filter every 15,000 miles. When is the last time you changed yours? Chance are, never?

Take a look at the filter above. That came out of our Mercedes ML500 we purchased. I bet it wasn’t changed since 2004, when the car was new. You are breathing that in when you drive!

So, check your cabin air filter first. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And, you can do it yourself before running your vehicle in to a shop.

This process is the same in your house, but not changing your house filter could have VERY expensive consequences. Without good airflow, the coil gets colder and colder to the point of freeze-over. It literally encased in ice and frost, eventually all the way through your walls, down the pipes, and back to the pump outside. If not treated quickly, it will damage your pump and valve.

If it happens to you, turn off the AC, but leave the fan running. This will cause air to continue to pass over the coils to help thaw. Replace the air filter immediately, and leave the AC off until it’s fully thawed. Hopefully you caught it in time. Check your drain for.clogs at this time, because a lot of water is on its way to your pan.

Fact: If you have a heatpump/AC system, it uses the same refrigerant to do both jobs (heat and cool). The same way the gas cools when expanding, it heats when compressed. So, in the winters, the pump just opperates in reverse. Some may have Aux heat with an electric coil, but that’s usually to thaw the system or in case of emergency. The electric part is way more expensove to run, and less efficient at providing adequate heat. No, your car doesn’t work like a heat pump; at least none I’ve seen. It uses hot water from the engine to do that job.

Oh, and turning the AC all the way down doesn’t make it colder faster. The air coming out is always the same temp. The thermostat sets the cadence for how often the cold air is pumped out the vents by turning the compressor on and off to keep it at a certain temp. Just set the temp, blast the fan speed for a bit, and turn the fan speed down when you get to a comfy temp. Stop messing with the temp gauge. Having the compressor on all the time, to try and keep it at 50 degrees in your car on a 100 degree day, doesn’t help.


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Garage Sale

The below items will rotate from time to time. This is just a temporary post to get some images up for sale.

7 Foot Potted Silk Palm Tree:
$175 obo (new ~$300)

DJ Equipment:
(x2) Numark PRO TT-2 Turntable
(x1) Numark DM3002X Mixer
~65 Vinyls (hip hop, EDM, and other)Vinyl BagVinyl Clear Kit2x Extra StylusTotal

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