A straight and simple review

This is my attempt in trying to review things that seem to get a lot of attention - especially in the engineering world. Not necessarily bad reviews, more like constructive criticism. I provide reasons why I make the claims and make equivocal arguments. I typically pick topics that I have a background in, or have gathered a lot of information. 2 articles a week is my goal - will keep it that way .

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A trip to Ferrari town (Maranello, Italy)

Trip to Ferrari town (Maranello)
22nd December 2007

Ferrari's home town is a small village known as Maranello in Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. This is about 20km from Modena , a town which is well connected to all major Italian cities by train. Maranello has the Ferrari factory which you cannot visit with an invitation ; Ferrari Galleria - a museum that is open to all; and the Ferrari test track Fiorano - where sometimes, you can see cars being tested.

Our journey began in Milan, in northern Italy. There is a train almost every hour to Modena from Milan. Non-stop, this takes about 1hr 45minutes and costs between 15 and 20 Euros. There are a couple of trains that don't go non-stop; you would need to change trains in a place called Parma. This is not too bad, probably takes an extra 20 minutes. This 1-stop train costs about 10 Euros.

Modena Train Platform

Modena is a mid-sized town where very few people speak English. They get a lot of tourists here - mainly for Maranello. Right outside the train station is the bus stop and a bus ticket-office/booth. YOU NEED TO BUY A 2-WAY TICKET BEFORE BOARDING THE BUS. The ticket-office has a little note for 'Ferrari tourists' and the attendant will tell you what to do if you ask for Ferrari. This person spoke English - she gave a little note that says (in English and in Italian) , how to get to Maranello.

Modena Train station

Ticket booth at the station

From the Modean train station - there is no direct bus to Maranello - but thats no problem. From the train station, bus number 1 and 2 goes to the Modena main bus terminus (known as Autolinee I think). This costs 1 Euro and takes about 5 minutes. On the way, you might see a Ferrari shop or may be a Testarossa on the road.
Bus stop at the station

Main bus stop (Get down here to take Maranello bus)

From the main bus stand, look for buses to MARANELLO , the one we took was number 800 , there might be others. You can use the same ticket from the earlier bus, but ask the driver to tell you when you reach Ferrari Galleria.

The trip from Modena to Maranello takes about 40 minutes. Towards the end of the bus ride, there is an overpass, where on your right, you can see the Fiorano test track. This is the best view of the track that you can get to see. The Galleria bus stop where you need to get down is right after this over pass. The bus stop is across the street from the historic Ferrari HQ and square arch. From here, you can also see the Ferrari store, where you can ask for directions to the Ferrari Galleria. The Galleria is a 5 minutes walk from here.

Maranello : Galleria bus stop

Across the street from bus stop is the Ferrari office

Near the bust stop is the Ferrari store - stop here for directions to the Galleria. Its a 5 minutes walk to the Galleria from here.

Ferrari store : Directions to Galleria

Inside the Galleria - well, I am not going to spoil the fun. Have a look at some of the pictures , but you need to be there to enjoy the experience.There are a lot more cars on display - I've shown only a few.

Ferrari Galleria from far

Galleria Main entrance

Ferrari wind tunnel replica

Supercars (Enzo not in picture)

F1 engines evolution

599 Fiorano


F1 2004

F1 cars

The cafeteria is not very expensive - you can have a sandwich and a drink for about 5 Eu.

After this, you can also visit the test track which is a 5 minute walk. (Ask for directions at the Galleria). You will walk past a statue/bust of Gilles Villenuve.

Fiorano Test track

To come back to Modena, you can go across the street from where you got down (right next to the Ferrari office main entrance). Or , you can also walk to Maranello main bus stand which is a 10 minute walk to the town center. This is a beautiful place, there is a small cafeteria where you can wait for the bus or have coffee.

Town Center

Maranello Bus stand

Enjoy your trip to Maranello. The whole experience is awesome. The Lamborghini museum is not too far away from Modena station (its near the adjacent town of Bologna, but this is less visited).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Real Towns wear Dikes

What I really enjoy studying is engineering disasters. When something goes wrong – you have a chance to see what can be done or what mistake was made. You all know about the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Well it was an irony – that USA had the technology to predict and warn the people – but didn’t have the common sense to evacuate or reinforce.

That’s the city after the flooding – here are the dikes that were used.

These – as you can see are really no brainers and failed easily. About 2000 people died and its really the people that built these dikes – saving the dollars - that could have done something else. They are ment to be walls that prevent the water from entering the town. It clearly did not do the job.


In 1953 – there was a huge flood in Rotterdam, Netherlands that seriously damaged the place - killed around 2000 people. (Fifty years and USA system behaved like the 1953s).

Now, Rotterdam is below sea level – which means it’s prone to such disasters. So, that had a project to build an engineering structure to prevent flooding. This flood prevention system known as Delta Works Project was constructed. Out of all the engineering wonders that you can come across around the world, this I think – is the definition of wonder. It was built to prevent natural disasters – that is, prevent the nature from destroying civilization and works magnificently.

Here is a satellite map of the Rotterdam area that I got on Google maps. You may use the link to check more details. The yellow map shows the conceptual location of eeach of the dikes – there are about 13 of them.

Oosterscheldekering (Don’t try to pronounce it – in English its The Eastern Schelde)

The nine kilometer-long Oosterscheldekering (kering meaning barrier) was initially designed, and partly built, as a closed dam, but after public protest huge sluice-gate-type doors were installed in the remaining four kilometers. These doors are normally open, but can be closed under adverse weather conditions. In this way the saltwater marine life behind the dam is preserved and fishing can continue, while the land behind the dam is safe from the water.

This shows the structure at work.

Unfortunately – I can’t get much pictures of it.


The construction of the Maeslantkering was a part of the "Europoortkering"-project which, in turn, was the final stage of the Delta Works. The main objective of this Europoortkering-project was improving the safety against flooding of the Rotterdam harbour, of which the Europoort is an important part, and the surrounding towns and agricultural areas


Hartel Barrier

Well these are all the pictures I have. If I do get more, I will make another blog about it. This network of dams and dikes is really a wonder and something to learn from. Infact, not only New Orleans - many Asian projects have considered this flood prevention system. This is of course for Tsunami defense in the Asian costal areas. So I am sure that we will be seeing more of these dams springing up around the world.

P.S : Picture at the very top is a Levee system used in UK. Its not a part of the Delta Works project - but the 1953 flood also affected UK and these systems play an important role.

Credits :

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Auto Reliability Analysis – not so reliable

JD Powers

JD Powers is a company that analyses and rates reliability of cars (apart from other things). They supposedly help customers purchase cars, get insurance estimates etc. Essentially, they are consumer information resource,

They conduct an auto survey every year – out of 100 cars that come to the service station, hoe many defects are reported. So basically this is what they do – they goto a Toyota dealer (say), gather the total number of Toyotas that came in for service in the year of 2005 and also get the total number of faults or defects reported. Then they divide the total defects that year / number of Toyotas that came for a service and provide the result – ‘defects/100 car’. Finally, they rank car companies based on defects/car – lowest being the best.

I support any automobile venture. This is supposed to be helping people – but by providing raw data, I think they have made a mistake. Before I point out what I mean, let me show you the results. I will go every 10 ranks to load it quicker. I took the data from a website (source in the bottom) and plotted the graphs myself in i’Works’ Keynote (Apple).

Default Fault (DF)

What JD does here is fundamentally wrong. When they sort if by companies – they ignore that fact that there are several models of cars in every company. For example, the Mercedes C class is known to be very unreliable and comes in to the service station all the time – but with minor mistakes. The S class comes probably once in 2 years with not that many faults. So basically, by dividing defects / number of cars a year, they are not really doing justice to the good models.

Severity Fault (SF)

It doesn’t discuss how severe some of these faults are. If you own a Benz – you are likely to take it to the service station even if you hear a minute sound/rattle. It’ll probably be a rubber pad or something like trivial and that might be counted as a defect. If you own a Dodge, you probably will avoid visiting the station just to save some Benjamin (money). You wouldn’t know something is wrong when you own a Honda as the road noise will be louder than the rattle – so basically severity is an issue. Did the engine blow up, is it the transmission, is it the rear wiper blade.

Results Discussion

The raw data doesn’t help - honestly. If you follow that it just says – buy a Porsche if you can afford it, or settle with a Huyndai. It also shows that VW (Volkswagen) and LR
(Land Rover) are the worst cars in the market today – not true – totally not true. Here is MY observation/discussion.

1 – 10

Porsche belongs there of course. They are really good cars – hardly any defects, even the Cayman – justified. Lexus has been in the list for decades.
Companies like Lexus, Cadillac, Infinity and Acura belong here. They cost a lot more that their parent cars (Toyota, GM, Nissan and Honda respectively) for the very similar engines/transmissions. So I assume the extra cost goes to the reliable parts and the nicer looks. Acura has a sports RSX which some blokes might have trash which is why its on the bottom.
Hyundai opened a factory in Alabama 3 years ago – since then their cars have indeed been doing well. I am not sure how they will do 4 years down the line (and beyond).
I’m surprised to see it above Toyota and Honda – haven’t reached a verdict on it.
Honda and Toyota – definitely up there – Honda even with it super sporty S2000 and Si Coupe which are easy to crash. Jaguar is truly wonderful – big price tag, superb looking and functioning (read the XK article below) and very reliable. Happy to see that.
GMC (General Motors Company – mainly truck division) now I totally surprised to see this. I think a GMC owner is more likely to fix a problem than take it the service station. That’s why its here ! That’s my conclusion.


Whats surprising is almost everything here is an American car. Remember – American cars fail only after 3 years and this survey mainly focuses in 1-2 year old models. Chrysler is owned by Mercedes group – so some signs of success there. Nissan, which should have been 3 places above, is probably incurring some SF error as they are essentially good engine/transmission people. Audi – is a superb company – if you ask me it belongs in the top 10. But – the problem is that they have a lot of Quattro vehicles (4-wheel drives) and I am not sure if that is smooth. I think Audi is in an upward trend – very reliable, not too expensive and a luxorious and good driving experience. All the other cars you see in this list are same – first 2 years they all perform well.


If you did this survey for 4 year old cars – this exact list would be in 11-20. I don’t know how Kia made it this high – it’s the really the worst car company. Mitsubishi, Mercedes and Mazda are probably incurring the DF error mentioned above – purely due to the number of different models they make. Like Honda, these companies make cars in all classes and that’s bothersome. About Mazda – if you are planning to get a Mazda passenger car (sedan/coupe), go for it. I think they are reliable and inexpensive and good. Forget its minivans and SUVs – those are the Dfs.
Mercedes, BMW and the Mini – I really don’t know. I think it’s the electronics – they have too many gadgets in them, which is a bit risky. Even water (heavy rain , spilled coffee inside etc) can wreck some of these gadgets (a combination of DF and SF). Also, I guess you are more likely to get things fixed quickly – if you own one of these three. So its not unreliable – its just that owner care for it more.
Subaru and Scion are going up in the list – both owned by Toyota. They belong higher definitely – it’s just a slow period I guess. I personally would trust both companies as much as I would trust Toyota.


Seriously – Isuzu and Suzuki have been causing some trouble lately. They have to work on that. I can’t believe Hummer and Jeep are this high, they belong even lower. After GM took over Saab, they have successfully managed to kill it. Do you know they actually use Saab parts in Cadillac almost entirely? Coming to my toughest discussion….

LR – if you know me well you know I love Land Rover. Recently, after Ford acquired them, they have brought down the cost but have paid a price. LRs are superb cars – very reliable really, but their reliability is in completing the journey. They can be driven off road on any terrain like a tractor. But when you do that, you are likely to break a part of 2 – I mean small ones like tip of a bumper or something. LR owner don’t use it for shopping for clothes – typically they are rough&tough people and off roaders. This is likely to happen – it doesn’t mean LR is unreliable as a car – its probably MOST reliable. It just takes the beating for you.

VW – what a company it is. They own Audi, Bentley, Skoda, Lamborghini and Buggati. VW is the single most important company to the automobile industry I would say. Truth is, lots of VW cars seem to fail now a day. Clutch, transmission, cooling system etc – these are not small. Problem is, they make a lot of their cars in Mexico and Portugal and I am not thoroughly convinced by their production methods. More over, the costs seem to be reducing a lot – good thing yes – but not with cheap parts. Good news is, VW of 2006 is really doing well – good that they learnt some mistakes. I hope to see them much much higher next year.

OK now that’s my stand on the issue. Probably a long blog – but I think a lot of you guys are car enthus. I welcome comments / suggestions etc – especially in this regard.

The survey was conducted by JD Powers. I found the numbers in Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8I3IQJO0.htm?sub=apn_home_down&chan=db) (Associated Press)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Limbs of the Tiger

Who owns a Macintosh? – Typically, professionals (artists, musicians, editors, animations/graphics experts etc) , research scientists, professor; and people on movies. But recently, Apple has put in a lot of effort to sell Macs to everyday people. So what did they do? Enter Tiger.

The operating system that Apple runs is known as Tiger , or as OS X 10.4 or simply OS X. It is popularly accepted to be better than Panther or Cheetah ;all the Linux GUIs and Windows. Other than reasons such as faster, safer, easier to use – which are all very true, I have figured out 4 strong reasons why I think OS X is superior.

I use 2 computers every day – a Mac ibook running OS X Tiger and a Dell Xeon Quad running Windows XP x64 (64 bit , Professional XP). I use computers extensively – hence I believe I have a fair and well-rounded opinion on both OS’s. But here ,I am not comparing X vs Xp , I am just going to write about X.

I also know that most people who read my blog are highly qualified individuals. I know you will understand everything I have to say and nothing here is even remotely technical. You probably use XP, this blog is going to help you. I don’t consider ya’ll laymen; you are infact inline to the category of people I mentioned in the top.


It true – OS X is really very simply to use; no viruses; very fast; never crashed (restarted) so far. But the reasons why it truly steps out for every daypurposes for laymen are, the following.

1) Automator

It’s a robot – an automator. You pre program it with actions – a set of instructions and create a plugin. This plugin gets stored in the right-click pull down menu. These plugins perform repetitive functions like rename files, move files, convert formats (PDFs , JPGs etc), resize images, check mails – send mails etc etc. It basically is a robot that does repetitive work – any work that you can do. It can open any application and perform any function automatically as per the instruction. Very easy to program as its graphic interface and plugs in right to the right-click pull sown menu. You can download a lot of Automator Plug ins in Apple.com. Lot of people write their script and post it online – very useful.

2) i’Life

This is definitely huge . It’s a package that comes with the OS, its FREE – you don’t have to purchase it. It’s a package containing 4 or 5 applications – iTunes, iPhotos, iMovie HD, and iWeb.
You’ve seen iTunes

Its really easy to use. It’s a very simple player / ripper / CD writer.


It is similar to Microsoft Office’s Picture manager. It edits, resizes, adds effects etc. But this is free – comes with the OS.


Movie editing tool. I believe Win XP has something similar. I really haven’t used both a lot. iMove has a lot of options for including texts, animation and transitions. I am sure you’ve seen Pixar movies.


It's a web-publishing tool. Probably similar to Front Page, but easier to transfer video, images and music from other iLife applications. But it’s free !

3) Spotlight

This is a built in search tool. This is so fast that it will locate a file quicker than you can finish typing the name. Really – it searches as you type the name and ofcourse it has the other search options – size date etc. You can search in the System Preferences (Control Panel) for functions as shown in the picture.

The major plus point here is individual files have a comment options. Spotlight will Search through these comments as well ! So basically you have 5 video clips and you can add individual comments (not file names). When you search in Spotlight with one of the word from the comment – it will locate the video clip. This is definitely a break through.

4) Dashboard

You might know this as widgets. Well the main difference is (this applies to all above four), the OS is tuned to work with this software. They don’t slow down the system – they run most efficiently with it and you never have to turn it off to make the system faster. Widgets are available on Apple.com for most functions. You probably already know what they do.

Apart from this, there are many other reasons - small (like inbuilt PDF converter) and large (like multi thread and parallel process capability). But the above 4 are easiest to explain. I use the 4 above-mentioned features all the time – and I think all of you will too.