Google maps killed my earlier habit of blogging here about places and food

When I started this blog a fair share of the content related to my travel and food experiences around the world.

Formally blogging is, in my opinion, a fairly involved process to ensure not only the content is relevant, but also the writing is at least properly structured. This, together with the fact that blogging is not a job for me and I have other hobbies too, led me to write only for significant experiences rather than always.

The excitement of writing was drying up over time (it is easy to see in the posting history) when the mechanism to contribute to Google Maps became available.

Albeit reviews on Maps tend to be shorter and a bit “twitter-style” the mechanism to contribute them is so convenient that I ended up being much more active than I was before.

An added stimulus to keep writing there is the monthly feedback showing the level of visibility of my contributions: reviews on Google Maps have a visibility that this blog never reached nor was ever going to reach while keeping its nature of a small side project.

If you are interested in keeping up with my reviews you should be able to find them here

I the end Google Maps contributions might be considered the last nail in the coffin of my writing, but I rather like to look at them just like an evolution of it and a greater value for the community than the earlier model.

Smart car software update: chronicle of an unacceptable journey.

I recently posted about my very unsatisfactory experience with service personnel while attempting to get a few problems fixed on my Renault Megane.
The mechanics had no clue about how to fix them, but a factory reset of the on-board computer (like on current personal computing devices) did the trick.

I inferred from this fact that updating the software, again like in personal computing devices, was the way to go to avoid facing the same problems in the future and started my long journey to accomplish this.

I followed the manufacturer instructions and downloaded the software downloader on my notebook, inserted in it a 8GB USB flash drive previously initialized in the car and, after a byzantine procedure requiring web interaction to select the updates that then the application would fetch, I started downloading.
Again. And again. And again…

What looked strange is that the download counter made it to the full size, but then continued!
After a few dozens attempts all failed in the same way and with no success in sight I decided to get in touch with the country support.

As a reply to my first contact I received a cut&paste of the standard procedure.
This is a fairly common practice in every sector and makes a lot of sense because most people is not reading the manuals.

Unfortunately I was already following the standard procedure so I replied back with more data including the fact that to get 5.4GB of updated maps the tool had downloaded already over 113GB (from a non-Renault domain) without success.
The solution proposed was to use a larger flash drive.
I could not obtain from them an answer about why to get 5.4GB an empty 8GB drive was not enough.
And a 16GB drive was not a fix for the problem anyway.

During the fruitless exchanges with the support I kept attempting the download until it finally worked. On the 8GB drive.
I believed that even if this was not communicated to me they had fixed whichever issue there was and I was happy with that.

A few months later I found out that it was just one lucky astral alignment.
The situation is back where it was: tens of downloads attempts needed to get an updated version of the maps and failed downloads leave the flash drive in an inconsistent state where the car tries the update anyway only to fail after a few minutes.

I was guessing in my earlier post that the challenges I faced were due to the time needed for the knowledge to move from the top of the manufacturer organization to the service people.
But from my experience attempting to do the software update it looks like I was wrong: even at the country level the manufacturer appears unable to support the smartness they are putting in the vehicles.

According to the discussions I had with a few colleagues in the office other manufacturers have a much smoother user experience.
In my opinion Renault really needs to evolve quickly to stay relevant.

Smart cars without smart mechanics in the long run are not going to work as a business model.

A few months ago I started to drive a 4th generation Renault Megane in the (Italian) Bose trim:
in this version you get almost as many gadgets as possible.

While they all work driving the car is a very enjoyable experience for the vehicle class, but as soon as problems started to appear and I was looking for a fix, I realized that the support personnel was left behind in the product evolution.

After a few months the electric massage seat and the lumbar support stopped to work, some time later the rear cam did not disengage anymore as soon as moving forward, after some more time parking sensors stopped working and also the lane assist stopped to produce the sound feedback, finally the HUD was resetting the position to default every time I was turning off the engine.

I an attempt to get the issues resolved I have contacted 3 different mechanics from the official support network getting vague statements about what the problem could be, but all of them agreed that it would take multiple days to get it fixed. One stated “for electric problems you need to plan at least a 3-days stop”.
I tried contacting the online support describing the issue and all I got back was the link to the list of services.

None of the mechanics offered a replacement car during the troubleshooting and repair even if the vehicle is well within the warranty period: very upsetting.
I started planning the right time to bring the car in when I could stay without it for an extended period of time when, by pure chance, I ended in a menu of the car computer that offered a reset to factory defaults.
Having some past experience with consumer electronics I decided to trigger it counting on the fact that worst case if the car stopped completely I could call the service to pick it up free of charge.
With my surprise all of the problems I was having suddenly disappeared.

How it is possible that not only 3 authorized services had no clue about this basic troubleshooting, but also the online support did not come up with the advice to reset?

In my opinion putting cars ahead of the support structure is not a safe bet.
Not for the for the manufactured nor for the consumers.

Dell 6430u updated to bios A10

Two days ago I did a new bios update on the notebook.

The process worked fine as usual and, again as usual, did not fix or improve the issue with the fan noise.
After 36 months with it I have to bear it for only 12 more months until the notebook is due to refresh.

A positive note about the 6430U: it does no longer trigger the security scanner in the Ben Gurion airport. Whatever the chemical that was there it is now completely evaporated.

Miracle Istanbul Asia

The bed was very uncomfortable for my back, to the point that after 8-9 hours of sleep I was still tired and waking up with a strong back pain.
The background noise level was significant due to the nearby highway: likely the rooms not facing the road are better in this respect.
To top up the bad experience the room had a shower with a strong smell of mold every time I opened the water.

Overall it was not a miracle for me.

My first (long) trip in the far east

I recently came back home after spending 20 days on a business trip that touched Bangkok, Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo.

The limited time available and the need to carry over my business objectives severely limited my ability to fully appreciate the different cities.
I only had some time during the week ends (when I was not using them to move from one country to the other) and after the office time.

Walking around in Bangkok and Beijing was very easy.
Thanks to the availability of the city maps for my Nokia phone I never had issues to find specific places and the public transportation (boat, skytrain and tuctuc in Bangkok, subway in Beijing) was very affordable and not difficult at all to use for a foreign person.

Moving around in Seoul and Tokyo was more problematic, mainly because of the lack of offline maps on the phone (I had both a Symbian Belle and WindowsPhone8 devices).
I hoped to use an online service, but it turned out that the prepaid sim card available in Korea work only for local people or foreigners with a permanent or long stay visa.
Having no offline nor online map led to a limit in the freedom of walking around in Seoul and this got worse in Tokyo as the rain season had just started when I arrived thus making random searches for places very inconvenient.

Language was a barrier in many cases because only a small percentage of the people was able to communicate in english: this is not uncommon in Italy either; it is not a specific issue of the far east.
Yet communication somehow happened: pointing at items and using google translator (when there was some wi-fi coverage) helped a lot.

Even with all the limits of not being a full-time turist it was a very interesting and exciting experience and I would be happy to be able to get in that area again in the future.

The cook matters. In large Japanese restaurants even more.

I’ve posted in the past here about my positive experience when eating at Akai Hana in Rancho Bernardo.
When reading some negative comments I was very surprised as they were not matching my experience and I was unable to imagine how it was possible.
This changed one day last July that I was there alone, but accepted a table anyway contrary to my habitude of eating at the sushi bar.

I ordered a few of my preferred types of sushi and because I had no one distracting me from the food I had the time to focus on it.
I noticed several differences in the cutting and the assembly of the sushi compared to the way I was used to in that place, and the taste was not matching what I had just a day before.

I guess that the large difference is tied to the way the food is prepared in a Japanese restaurant compared to Italian restaurants where I’ve never experienced such a major swing in the taste of the food with the exception of changes of ownership.
While in a large Italian restaurant you find a number of people working in the kitchen the preparation of an individual dish is seldom a one-man process end-to-end and the chef supervises the activity of all the cooks so that the end result for a given dish is always the same.
This likely is not the way it works in the kitchen of a large japanese restaurant due to the nature of the sushi preparation.
For sure this is not happening when eating at the sushi bar where the cook is preparing the sushi and sashimi (and several other dishes) end to end without external collaboration.

Lesson learned: I’ll keep waiting for Hiro-san when eating at Akai Hana: they are very kind and let me have my hot tea while waiting.
I suggest that anyone going there gives them a second chance if not satisfied with the dinner at the table and wait for the sushi bar with my preferred cook.