Sunday, December 22, 2013

Improvements needed in Skoda Rapid (diesel, India)

Update [May'16]: It seems to me that at least many of the annoyances/issues/suggestions in this post are generally applicable to all cars.

It's a fine car with its own character and even ideology that's visibly different from Honda City [petrol], and some improvements will make it terrific:
  1. The most serious engineering flaw in this car is the spontaneous, sudden, unexpected acceleration it undergoes even after you've taken your foot off the accelerator pedal and are actually applying the brakes. It itself begins to gain speed, and since one usually leaves the accelerator and applies the brakes when making a turn, the car unexpectedly quickly gains speed, giving a feeling of loss of control. This usually happens in the third gear, and appears to be resulting from some kind of compensatory mechanism built into the car to prevent the engine from turning off at low RPM for a particular gear.
  2. Air conditioner [AC]:
    1. Slightly less effective than that on Honda City petrol/diesel. Fan speed is high, but the cooling is less than City. This is quite clearly observed in extreme summer heat in India.
    2. Even when 'recirculate' option is set on the AC, external smoke and smell enters the passenger cabin. Unacceptable.
    3. When the AC is switched on in the 'fan' mode [no heating or cooling], there is a slight, bad smell that fills up the cabin. This also happens, although to a lesser extent, when the heater is turned on. Disturbing.
    4. What's more, the 'fresh air' option on the AC invariably sucks in outside smoke, indicating that its fresh air inlet is probably located somewhere close to the engine. Unacceptable.
    5. It's winter these days, and I want to set the AC to these two settings - recirculate mode, with AC off. The car keeps forgetting these two settings, and it repeatedly, by itself, turns the AC on and also switches to the 'fresh air' mode. Why is this happening? [Update/Jan'16: It's likely happening because the air-flow is directed towards front windshield. This car automatically turns on the AC when air-flow is directed to the front windscreen, which is annoying].
    6. Less number of modes to direct air-flow. You can't, for example, combine downward flow with front windscreen, or alternatively forward plus downward flow, etc.
    7. Rear AC vent is almost useless. It has little air flow, and the cooling is sort of useless. Seems like the vent was added there only to be able to market the car in ads and brochures as having "rear AC". A letdown.
  3. If there's little water on your front windscreen and you want to clear it off, you pull the wiper control slightly and expect a single 'swipe' of the wiper. Instead, the default is two swipes, so the second swipe usually rubs on dry glass. Faster wearing.
  4. Use remote controller to unlock the doors, but only the driver side door will be unlocked. You have to open the driver door and press the 'doors unlock' button to unlock the other doors. Very irritating.
  5. There is no lock on the front-left door. You cannot enter/unlock the car from the front-left door, even if you have the key.
  6. Current parking sensor isn't very accurate or useful. Doesn't tell you properly where the obstruction is [at the behind]. The severity of beeps isn't usually reliable - it feels random.
  7. Speed range of first and second gears is quite narrow, and hence these two gears need to be changed quite frequently, which kind of gets irritating, especially in stop-and-go city traffic [and especially in comparison to Honda City petrol]. Speed range of third, fourth and fifth gears is alright. But then, Rapid really needs a sixth gear. The moment you cross 125, you realize that the car's engine is howling and is begging for the sixth gear.
    1. jugaad solution to the narrow-speed-range problem is to jump in two-gear steps. So you're at #2 and you're speeding-up, go directly to #4. This'll somewhat solve the problem. Slowing down quickly? Come down from #5 to #3. And so on. You'll learn which jumps work best.
  8. Engine is more noisy than it should be [for example, Honda City diesel is much quieter]. Sometimes sounds like a mini-tractor. As a result, noise inside the passenger cabin is slightly higher than what it should've been.
  9. On roads with potholes, the car is materially more bumpy/jerky than Honda City diesel.
  10. The controls for the turn indicators and the wash/wiper are on the opposite sides compared to what is the standard norm in India. Kind of arrogant on the part of Skoda/VW India.
  11. Similarly, the fuel tank is on the opposite side [of what it should be]. Not nice.
  12. The front-center armrest should be easily removable, since its presence actually causes difficulties to a long-armed person like me [and likely thousands others]. Better still, redesign the armrest so that long-armed people don't find it difficult to change/hold the gear-stick because of it.
  13. Horn button is quite hard [especially compared to Honda City petrol]. When driving with a single hand, using the horn is difficult [hence some negative effect on driving safety].
  14. Steering is slightly harder than what it should've been [Honda City diesel steering is softer].
  15. Turn indicators are slightly extra sensitive and sometimes retract even when the steering is turned just a little [to dodge/duck a vehicle, for example].
  16. The fuel level indicator sometimes does not rise for a long time even after refueling, and this causes not only confusion, but can also lead to disputes with the fuel station.
  17. Front dash-box [glovebox] isn't illuminated. When you spend around INR 10 lacs on a car, you expect its front dash-box to have a bulb/holder costing INR 100 installed.
  18. The side pockets on the front doors have this inaccessible "tunnel" going backwards which is difficult to access. Once your phone slides backwards into it, it's inconvenient to pull it back. This is the first car I've seen with such a fault.
  19. [Jan'15] Rain water leaks into the passenger cabin drop-by-drop. This is most likely the result of a faulty seal between the door and the body. Amazing!
  20. [Aug'15] No 'boot open' indicator/warning light or sound [even an i20 I drove had this indication].
  21. [Aug'15] Acceleration is not even as good as that of Hyundai Elite i20 1.4 CRDi. The acceleration always leaves something to be desired. Even Swift Dzire diesel accelerates faster.
  22. To open the fuel tank door, you have to unlock all the doors. Not very safe if you're at a lonely petrol pump on a dark night and if you have valuables/women on the other seats.
  23. When the car is off, you can't turn on the headlights, you can't blow the horn, etc. Very bad for safety [imagine being stuck somewhere as the car won't turn on and you can't even sound the horn loudly to alert people for help]. You can, however, play music on the entertainment system. Weird choices!
  24. [Jun'16] Rapid has a very splendid boot - wide, deep, tall and overall heavy. As nothing comes free, holding the overall area/volume of this sedan constant, this large rear necessitates a reduction in space available on front/rear seats. Why did Skoda engineers prioritize boot space over space for passengers in the cabin? Suppose the Rapid's rear section is reduced in size/volume by ~25%, so that it becomes comparable to that of Honda City, this extra space can now be given to rear passengers by moving the rear seats backwards, thus increasing the overall seating comfort manifold.
  25. [Jul'16] Rapid's FM radio reception is slightly inferior to that in other cars, such as the Honda City diesel. Where other cars are able to receive and play FM stations smoothly, Rapid sometimes plays the same things with a bit of noise, as if the reception was poor. Could be an antenna issue.
  26. [Oct'16] Rapid's front windshield glass is not anti-glare/anti-reflective. This causes reflection of the dashboard to become clearly visible in the front windshield when there's, for example, sunlight falling from the front, creating non-insignificant visibility confusion/issues/obstruction.
Other shortcomings/improvements-needed [not specific to Rapid but to cars in this segment in general]:
  • Warning for open window glass(es): When you get out of the car and press the button on the key to remotely lock the doors, sometimes you don't realize that a window glass was left fully/partially open. This can be quite harmful in some cases [theft of something valuable left on the seat, etc.]. A warning is certainly needed.
Update [7-Oct-16]: Honda City diesel gives simply amazing mileage on highway, as I myself witnessed on the way to Delhi a few days ago.

Monday, November 18, 2013

When the employees and staff refuse to cut a "holy" Peepal tree, the owner has to do it

Peepal tree is considered holy in India, especially by Hindus. Recently, we wanted to start the ground digging work at our new plot [which will eventually be ALLISCO], in order to lay the foundation, but there was a fairly large Peepal tree at one corner which needed to be removed.
Interestingly, while the factory workers promptly removed all of the non-Peepal trees, all of them and also the upper staff refused to chop this Peepal tree, including the Muslim workers. Several reasons were cited - fear of supernatural things, ghosts, sacred tree, etc.
As the owner, I was frustrated, because I cannot let a tree come in the way of progress of an upcoming firm. To be sure, I understand well the importance of respecting the values and beliefs of others, but I also realize that a tree just cannot be allowed to come in the way of work.
So I asked a worker to hand me over the chopping tool, and I quickly cut the trunk about 1.5 inches, thus assuring one Muslim worker that it's okay to chop this tree. On seeing me make the cut, he agreed to cut the rest of the trunk, and once the trunk was about half cut, we both violently pulled the trunk [we utilized resonance] and were able to bring down the large tree.
Before the chopping, 17-Sep-13

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Applications are getting increasingly "higher-level" - is this a good thing?

Lesser and lesser proportion of applications are being programmed in genuinely native code. Instead, more and more applications are being created for the various types of higher-level platforms that have become widely available and entrenched - .NET Framework, Silverlight, JRE, Web browsers, etc. Is this a good thing?

While it can't be denied that the advent of higher-level languages and platforms has made the process of software development easier and faster, it also has to be remembered that the output of these higher-level platforms are applications that can be very inefficient with regards to resource usage. Launching such often-bloated applications is often akin to unleashing one's large sword in order to kill a tiny fly.

A good example of such an application is Janetter. It's a "native client" for Twitter. However, it isn't so native after all, since Janetter is based on the Chromium code, which makes the program both large and heavy, especially compared to an application such as ĀµTorrent, which is written in native languages. Janetter doesn't have its own rendering code; it uses Chromium's code. So while there are benefits of this shift towards higher-level software platforms, a negative side-effect is a material reduction in efficient resource usage.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Looking at Tally as another employee

We shifted our accounting to Tally beginning FY13-14. Instead of purchasing it outright, we chose the rental [subscription] mode, that costs INR 600 per month [including Tally.NET services and all sorts of updates/upgrades to the software]. The shift to Tally is expected to save us dozens of hours every week in accounting time [even after factoring in the time that will be spent to take regular backups of our data], and is also expected to enable us to have a more "real-time" view of our accounts/stock, as well as improve accuracy [by virtually eliminating arithmetic], among other benefits.

As a manager, I've decided to look at Tally as an employee that costs me only INR 600 per month. When I abstract Tally as an employee, the value that this software package gives me becomes visible immediately. An educated, qualified employee that works 24x7 without getting tired, takes no breaks, that creates and maintains a significant portion of my accounts and stock, that does correct arithmetic for me, that prepares my invoices and receipts, and so on, for only INR 600 per month. Where else will I get such a low-cost employee, one that is educated enough to do accounts books?

This abstraction is useful to me in order to decide if its price per month is justified against that value I receive.

It's a little bit funny to think of software as an employee, but a software that one purchases on a monthly subscription basis can always be abstracted as an employee - and I like the way I've made this comparison!

A screenshot of Busy 12.0 Express, another accounting "employee"

A related post by me on FB [link] [alternative link].