August 27, 2011


1 million km and still running (click to read article)Just like us, cars have survival rates. Some last longer, perhaps not 1 billion seconds but longer than many marriages (average of 14.2 years in Canada). As you might expect, more expensive brands tend to last longer. They're probably built better and maintained better. There are noteworthy differences among brands.

Survey Says

"All our cars are designed to have a long and useful life on the road. In an age of mass production that sometimes favours planned obsolescence, our products look to provide long-term value. And the numbers back that up." — Mercedes Benz Magazine
DesRosiers Automotive Consultants looked at vehicles sold 21-24 years ago (1985-1989) that are still on the road in 2010. Here are the survival rates:
  • Mercedes-Benz: 63.7%
  • Second Best German Brand: 34.9%
  • Best Japanese Brand: 11.7%
  • Industry Average: 6.4%
The results for Mercedes look impressive but can you trust them when they’re published in their own magazine?


Statistics can deceive. I wanted to know the identity of the unnamed brands. The omission made me curious. I figured the Second Best German Brand was BMW but where do Porsche and Audi fit in? A better comparison would look at Mercedes' real competitors, not the overall industry. You wouldn't compare a BMW with a Sonata, but Hyundai did.

Here’s what a Dec 2010 report (PDF) from DesRosiers shows. Compared with Mercedes
  • Porsche is higher in every period (85.1% for 21-25 years old vs. 59.8% for Mercedes)
  • BMW and Lexus are higher for the first 15 years
  • Audi’s survival rate for 21-24 years is only 6.5%
  • “Few Ladas and older Hyundais have survived the trip from 1985 to present due to an almost comical array of quality issues”

Wrong Measure?

BMW: 6 years or 160,000 kmLongevity may be the wrong measure. Wouldn't you like to know the cost of repairs too? What if Mercedes vehicles last long but  require triple the maintenance?

If Mercedes are so well-built, why is the warranty on used vehicles substandard? The BMW Certified Series Protection Plan warrants used vehicles for the earlier of 6 years and 160,000 km. The Mercedes Extended Limited Warranty is also 6 years but only 120,000 km. Mercedes-Benz: 6 years but only 120,000 km That’s 40,000 km less. If the cars are that great, why isn't the coverage for more years and more kilometres? Perhaps the maintenance costs get crazy after 120,000 km?

A warranty is insurance. Isn’t more protection better?


A nice vehicle, may last for ages but there are problems. Your vehicle may start reaching a point where the repair bills start piling up. Paying does not guarantee that your vehicle will last. If you're able to maintain your vehicle on your own, that's different.

Newer vehicles are safer. That's worth something, depending on the type of driving you do. Your survival rate is also important.


Podcast 132 (5:34)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Beware of the most dangerous part of driving

August 20, 2011


iPad market share by country (click to visit Business Insider)
What a week for changes in major companies
  • Google buys Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion (US)
  • HP discontinues their weeks-old TouchPad tablet
  • HP looks at exiting the PC market
We’ll focus on HP’s flip flopping.

HP's TouchPad Tablet

There are two major operating systems for tablets and smartphones: Apple iOS and Google Android. Rather than use Android for free, HP decided to spend $1.2 billion to buy Palm last year and get WebOS. The heavily hyped TouchPad launched last month and quickly flopped. HP is already shutting down that division, which also made smartphones.

Best Buy wants to return 240,000 unsold units to HP which might crush and bury them in the desert as Apple and Atari have in the past. This might cost HP $100 million (US). Right now, they’re trying fire sale prices as low as $99. How would you feel if you pay $500 or more weeks earlier?

HP is the world’s largest PC maker but they are looking at selling their low margin PC division. That’s a major change too. HP needs to sell about seven PCs to match the profits of one Mac. This is further proof that we don’t buy on price.


RIM decided to scrap their Blackberry operating system but the replacement (QNX) won’t ship until 2012. For now, RIM just launched several improved but lackluster new Blackberries.

The Playbook tablet has also flopped but RIM is still unwilling to admit this. They may have shipped 500,000 but it looks like about half are unsold. The Playbook isn’t even in the top 5 tablets. Imagine needing to connect your Playbook to your Blackberry phone just to get email. What were they thinking?
People only want iPads (click for article)

History Repeats

The sad part is that Palm was the leader in mobile devices until they married phones and gave birth to smartphones. RIM then ruled the high end as mobile email and security became essentials. For some reason, HP decided to become the #1 PC maker in the world. They did. Now they’re looking at leaving for the same reason as IBM in 2004: low profits.

At the time, there were glowing articles about the "foolproof" strategies that the likes of HP and RIM were pursuing. Also sad is that good people at those companies lose their "safe" jobs because of bad bets made by a few.

Bad Decisions

Even the biggest companies falter, especially when successful and making profits.
Think Different
Do you remember when Dell wore the halo? They were considered the best until buyers saw computers as commodities and opted for elegant designs. That's Apple's strength. Do you have a Dell music player, smartphone or tablet? If you do, how satisfied are you? If price wasn't a consideration, would you have chosen to Think Different?

The iPad already brings in more revenue than all of Dell’s consumer PC business.

We’re fickle. In recent years, there was a shift towards netbooks but they’re now boring commodities. Next year tablet sales are expected to take the lead.


Who would buy an HP tablet now (unless at a give-away price)? How would you feel if you bought one at full price and told everyone your TouchPad was better than an iPad?

HP is admitting major past and current mistakes. What about you? Is it time to acknowledge some failures and move on?

Podcast 131 (4:58)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes


PS We got our second iPad last week.

August 13, 2011


Family looking and learning - Dec 2010
There’s a belief that life is divided into quarters, each lasting 25 years. Our role changes in each segment. Here are the quarters
1. for your studies
2. for your family
3. to help society
4. for yourself (e.g. meditation)

It's my Dad's 75th birthday. I still have trouble believing that. Change occurs gradually. Dad doesn’t seem old. Maybe that's because he's committed his life to helping others. He was the head of the math and physics department at Regina Mundi College, a private boy's high school in London Ontario. He also taught at Catholic Central high school, also in London. He touched many lives.

Students liked him. We'd be out somewhere and former students would come up to him and say Hi. They especially remembered his jokes.

Warren Buffett looks at expenditures in an unusual way. When his wife Susie wanted to do $50,000 of home renovations, he agreed. Yet he saw the expenditure as $1,000,000, because he understood compound interest and future values. Dad is similar. He sees spending a dollar on himself as depriving others of 40-50 rupees. You'd spend $10 differently than $500 with this mindset, or the one Warren has.


Dad took early retirement to help poor people in India. My mother shares this passion. They have various projects there. Unfortunately, they don't take photos to show us. Already this year, they've:
  • given a hand water pump for clean drinking water in a remote village
  • built a library
  • built a clock tower
  • donated musical instruments
  • created a music scholarship
I’m sure they’ve done other things. I lose track. Their biggest initiative is a school to teach
  • living skills to the handicapped
  • beautician skills to help young women become financially self-sufficient
When we visited India, I saw what they'd done with my own eyes. They were changing lives.


My parents are leaving a wonderful legacy by helping others. Warren wanted to defer his gifts until his death. My parents want to help now. Warren has since taken this approach too, donating through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Ever since I was a child, my parents said we're here to make the world better. I saw them helping many people throughout my life. I wasn't sure what to do. Until recent years, I wasn't comfortable dealing with people. It's been a struggle to overcome my self-limiting beliefs. I still prefer to help from a distance as blogging allows.

In grade 8, I saw a friend’s family devastated because the father died without life insurance. He didn't trust the salespeople or insurers. That stayed in my mind. In first year university, I decided to devote my life to insurance. I became an actuary to design flexible and accountable products. Later I helped advisors sell insurance. That's when I saw you're poorly served because a salesperson is not a fiduciary who's required to put your interests first. There's very little information to help you make informed decisions.

I'm not a fan of rules and regulations. In a buyer beware world, your best weapon is information. Thanks to social media, we can reach the world instantly and without any censorship. In that spirit, I started this insider blog in 2007. I was also working on overcoming my fear of dealing with the public.

In 2009, I bypassed the salespeople to serve you directly. Like my parents, my life work is helping make the world better by giving whatever we have.

The Special Day

Guess how dad's celebrating his 75th birthday?

This weekend, my parents are volunteering to help run a one day retreat. Yesterday from 5 PM to 9 PM they helped set things up. Today, they'll work from 6 AM to 9 PM. The event itself runs from 7 AM to 6 PM. That's arduous regardless of age. This year, we're here to to help them. I hope we can keep up.


Podcast 130 (5:30)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Happy Birthday Dad!

August 6, 2011


Coke and Mentos Rocket Cars at Maker Faire Detroit 2011Maker Faire Detroit 2010 was fantastic (podcast 78). Others agreed. A fellow repeat attendee said the attendance goals for the two days were met by noon on the first day. That's easy to believe. That experience led great expectations for this year. We were disappointed.


The scale was larger this year. Favourites returned: the Lifesize Mousetrap and Coke & Mentos spectacle. Yet much was missing (or seemed to be). Last year, we saw more makers and presentations (or so it seemed). We attended both days since there was so much to experience.

This year, the large Anderson Theater and the smaller theatre in the Automotive Hall Of Fame sat vacant. Besides learning, a presentation lets you recharge in air-conditioned comfort. Since the temperatures stayed above 90F or 30C, that's very welcome. Last year, we spoke to more inventors. We got freebies like bags and stuff to fill them with: pens, pads, Altoids. The US Army had an engaging exhibit too.

No Big Deal

Theatrer Bizarre at Maker Faire Detroit 2011This time, there were many more vendors of products and food. That's not special. Inside hallways that used to be empty were filled with vendors too. The types you'd see at other fairs or flea markets or farmer markets. There's nothing wrong with that but we expected grander inventions than last year. Expectations grow.

There were more food choices, including local fave Buddy's Pizza. However, there was a ticket system ($10 for 5 tickets). That's workable but there were only two places to buy and dozens of places to spend. This created unnecessary line ups.

After a couple of hours we were done. We spent much of the day in Greenfield Village. As members of The Henry Ford, we got free admission.


The highlight? Race your own Coke & Mentos “car” (really a 2L Coke Zero bottle). Last year, we loved Eepy Bird’s Coke and Mentos show. We knew nothing about them in advance, which added to the experience. This time they performed on the front lawn of The Henry Ford. This meant everyone could sit down and see them for free. Some spots were shaded. Since the audience was so spread out, the experience was diluted. The show seemed shorter and there was only one performance per day, instead of two.

When you see fireworks, you anticipate the climax and can tell when it occurs. There's a feeling of completion. You leave satisfied. This time, the Eepy Bird finale didn't seem like a climax. What? Done already?

Also Missing

Some of the more interesting attendees were missing this year. Last year, the was a fellow with two Flip cameras mounted on a homemade monopod. There were hobbyists who made miniature metal cars. 

Worth Attending?

If you're near Detroit, you may enjoy a visit to Maker Faire. The $28 ticket included admission to The Henry Ford museum and parking was free for the weekend.

If you've already attended Maker Faire, you might want to wait several years before returning. That’s the drawback of the inaugural edition being so good.


Podcast 129 (4:12)

direct download | Internet Archive | iTunes

PS If you attended Maker Faire, what did you think?