Life Sentence

Random thoughts about publishing, stamp collecting, politics, popular music of the 60s and 70s, mooses, and my motley other obsessions.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Honda transmissions, Macs, and cameras

I was driving down the Allen yesterday and noticed that my car seemed to be struggling. I glanced down at the gearstick and sure enough the car was in 3rd, not 4th.

The reason I drive an automatic is that in normal driving conditions I never ever ever want to have to focus on what gear the car is in. I have better things to do with my limited brainpower than to focus on a variable that can be handled far better by a properly designed gearbox.

So why was the car in 3rd? My car is a Honda Accord. It is a wonderful car in most ways. Sometime next week it will (likely) have survived 200,000 kilometres of my often-abusive driving, something no car before it has managed to do. (The previous record-holder was a Subaru, which made it to 171,000.) But among the features of the car that drive me the craziest is that the gearstick is gated so that when you slide the stick down, it stops at 3rd, not 4th. It also stops at 2nd, and of course at 1st.

So several times a week, I slide the shift down and end up in 3rd instead of 4th, and don't notice until the car starts to misbehave. This makes me crazy -- what's the point of an automatic transmission if you end up having to think of what gear to put it in?

I was simply going to rant about the bone-headedness of gating a transmission so that it ends up in the least-often-used gear, then realized there's a bigger issue. Why do I have to use the gating that someone at Honda decided would work best for all drivers everywhere? Why on earth can't I pick where the transmission gates go?

(I also don't like the gate at 2nd gear. When you are using 1st and 2nd, you are likely driving down a steep gravel slope or in deep snow, or in some circumstances where you want to be able to get between 1st and 2nd as easily as possible. That gate at 2nd makes emergency shift-downs on gravel or snow harder to do. What were they thinking?)

I like things that I can easily customize to meet my preferences and needs. And I'm lazy -- once it is set up the way I like it, I want to use it without thinking about it. Hence the strong preference for cars with automatic transmissions. In most circumstance, I don't want to think about what gear the car is in.

That's why Mac computers have driven me crazy right from their earliest days. I've never liked their standard setup at all, and they have never provided an easy way to customize them -- and for this rigid inflexibility you get to pay extra. Similarly, my only experience with an automatic camera was a disaster. I didn't like some details of the automatic settings, and drove myself crazy trying to change them. They'd change for one photo, then revert back to the factory presets.

This may seem contradictory, but it isn't really. I want things set up the way I like them, so I can forget about the settings and use them. So I want things where many of the operations are automatic, but where those automatic settings are completely customizable.


At 9:12 PM, July 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you like os x[ child of freebsd 3.2{??]?]

At 9:27 PM, July 14, 2005, Blogger Greg said...

I can't stand Macs -- haven't tried OS X and don't really intend to (although the company I own has two or three Macs with OS X -- I've never touched any of them). I won't get into a rant right now, but will say that OS X doesn't do anything to address my main issues with Macs: inflated prices, the almost-religious way they have been promoted, lack of ungradability, and inflexibility. I have never found the Mac OSes intuitive or easy to use. I do believe that OS X has done something to solve Macs' bizarre font-handling problems, tho the Mac users in my office are still having font issues that are just unknown to PC users.


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