Allpar

  • Grepping with text editors

    Text editors are special programs that focus on, well, text. Not formatting, not creating magazines or reports, but text. The best of them can do all sorts of crazy things, but one of the main features is “GREP searching.” GREP searching makes my life much easier, both in surveys and here at Allpar. GREP searching is essentially using “regular expressions,” like “any number,” or “any text,” or “anything starting with <tr and ending with >.” Using GREP search-and-replace, with, say, TextWrangler or BBEdit (there are programs for Macs, Windows, and Linux), you can do amazing things. For example, I recently had to convert a survey table for mobile use. I quickly wrote a search-and-replace expression that looks for the start of a…

  • Behind the scenes at allpar: Keeping lots of balls in the air

    There are few, if any, major auto sites left that are not part of large networks or corporations. Many forums and sites are owned by a single guys with strings of forums or news sites covering a wide variety of cars (each one “dedicated just to this one car!”), who sit back while his “techies” and writers do the work. So what’s it like for the kind of person who started out from passion and never left or sold out? We have to handle… Money. Dealing with ad agencies, which involves a varying amount of headaches. They all pay on different schedules, and have different payment schemes, and sometimes disappear without warning. Taxes with quarterly payments so you have to stay on top…

  • Walking the tightrope at Allpar

    Allpar walks a tightrope. We have to report the news accurately, regardless of how it makes Chrysler (FCA US LLC) look. If we’re too positive, or even we’re neutral, we’re also dismissed as “fanboys.” Indeed,  I don’t think it matters what we write, we’ll be called fanboys, but being accurate and responsible is the right thing to do, and provides us with all the credibility we have. Then again, if we report things that are “negative” or (and I’m not sure which is worse) tell people about upcoming products, we’re not invited to press events or interviews and/or denied loaner cars. Emails and calls go un-answered or spend weeks in limbo before getting a nonsensical corporate say-nothing response. There are some very good people in…

  • Why don’t people get their recalls done?

    The NHTSA has hit Chrysler with a huge fine because so few people have had their cars fixed after they were recalled. The company isn’t being punished because some people are lazy, or for political reasons. Chrysler has tended to be slow in providing service parts, even as assembly lines run on overtime. Dealer staff and customers have both complained about this, and examples abound. Loyal customers have called their dealer over and over again, and could not get an appointment. It can take months and months of work to get a recall done. Busy dealers often don’t call customers when the part comes in, either — and someone else may nab it for their own recall. Just a bit over half of the heavy duty truck tie-rod recalls appear to…

  • Frustration of the Web

    Many writers have long felt constrained by the limits of paper media. You have this many column inches, no more. Oh, how joyful it was when we could stretch our legs and write and write and write, unconstrained by length. Text travels quickly even by dialup modem (now I’m waiting for the “do you remember this?” acoustic modem meme). But, alas, with everyone and their dog writing, and posting photos, and doing automated memes, and computers generating copy, along with underpaid freelancers from around the world… not to mention cell phones and Facebook, … nobody has time to read all that text. The irony is that, now that we finally have the space to write, we usually have to constrain ourselves to two…

  • Come on, Chrysler! Get in front of this one!

    Recently, researchers pointed out that they could remote control a Jeep Cherokee from ten miles away. They had found its VIN number, broadcast without encryption over the Sprint network, and other information which made that possible. These are flaws which have been fixed by Chrysler, but affected owners (those with UConnect Access / via Mobile, in 2013-15 models, on the 8.4 inch screen) have to get that fix installed. That’s not all that easy to do yourself, but it’s not impossible, either, and I did it and documented the process. (I don’t have that system but I did have other firmware upgrades to install, so I did those instead.) Chrysler dealers have also been told to do it at the company’s expense for…

  • Little Plugins Can Have Odd Results

    Some time ago, I installed something called Viral Headlines on the Allpar news site. The idea behind that is that you put in different headlines, and sees how people respond to them. The only problem is, the coding of the plugin really, really caused a lot of work for the database. And by “a lot of work,” I mean changing its use of the processor time from 8% to 660%. (When you have eight processors, 800% is the maximum.) There were dozens of threads waiting for the table to be unlocked (reminder to self, when nobody is looking, take the server down, switch that table to something that’s not vulnerable to table locks.) In human terms, it made looking at Allpar News much…

  • Inventing The News

    Every day, news outlets have to report something to prove they’re alive and to pay the bills. When one focuses on a single company or specialty, that can be hard. There’s a surprising number of people in this situation, including me (at Allpar). Sometimes, it turns out to be a good thing, because it makes you stop and reflect and dig around at things that you wouldn’t point out during busier days. Sometimes, looking at a blank morning, I go back to past plans, which I learned from other sites after thinking people would just sate their curiosity with our “upcoming products” pages. Other sites do it, as well, e.g. tech sites suddenly asking, “What can we expect from the new Mac Mini? When’s it coming?”…

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