Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sayonara Sony!

Back in 2006 I purchased a 60" Sony SXRD TV (pictured above) for my video game room. State-of-the-art at the time, it featured a 1080p picture rendered in incredible detail by Sony's new technology, Liquid Crystal On Silicone. The picture was jaw-dropping beautiful. Sony marketed the set as the longest  lasting TV set on the market. Replace the projection bulb every 3,000 hours and your set would be immediately refreshed to factory standards.

I did that. Replaced the bulb at 3,000 hours and sure enough, that fabulous picture was back again. Well, it was back again until the 4,000 hour mark. It's at that point that the screen turned green. Happened just last week. The sharp picture is still there, but the TV set is now monochromatic. Everything is displayed in various shades of green. This is a horrible way to play Call of Duty!

Thinking I just needed to re-calibrate the set, I started monkeying around with the color. Note I said color, not colors. Just green...only green....all the time. So I went online to get some background. And boy did it get interesting.

Sony stopped making SXRD TV's back in 2008. But by that time, they had sold $8 billion worth of SXRD TV sets worldwide. That's billion...with a B. Why did they abandon the technology? All of the TV sets failed...typically between the 4,000 to 6,000 hour mark of viewing use. There was a piece called the optical block that failed as a result of the high heat conditions in the set.

In the beginning Sony replaced the failed optical blocks. But that did not fix the heat issue, so the new optical blocks they put in also failed. So Sony quit replacing the optical blocks for any set out of warranty. If your TV was out of warranty, you were SOL.....Sony was telling their SXRD customers to stuff it. If you were in warranty, they would replace the optical block...but it, too, would fail, but by then the SXRD set would be out of warranty.

Well, there were some 2,000,000 people out there with SXRD TV sets and this did not make them very happy. They started screaming bloody murder. So to appease them, Sony quietly extended the warranty  of SXRD sets through 2009. If you screamed loud enough, they were offering a free 46" LED TV set as a replacement. I know if I had had my issue back then, I would be really unhappy giving up a 60" TV for a 46" TV. Free or not, going backwards in size sucks...especially when playing video games.

So here I sit in 2012 with my all-green Sony and I have absolutely no recourse. The Sony replacement program ended three years ago. Anyone who suffers the green death of their SXRD TV set has to settle for swinging in the wind. Sony will do nothing. Remember that claim about there longest lasting TV set? Sony dismissed it, saying that was just "marketing puffery". Their own words..."marketing puffery". How's that for a stand-up company?

So sayonara, Sony. Never again will I let one of your products grace my doorstep. I am done with you. I have no choice but to get rid of the SXRD TV set, but at the same time I am purging my home of that steaming mess of a game console you call the PS3. There's a reason, Sony, that companies like Samsung, LG and Apple are eating your lunch. They care about their customers and understand the importance of loyalty for the future of their brand.

While I am really displeased with having to toss my SXRD in the junk pile, there is a silver lining. In the last six months, there's been a trickle of new devices into the consumer electronic marketplace that feature 4K technology. This 4K technology is the latest and greatest and offers a picture that is four times higher in resolution than 1080p. So that is very exciting and I am taking delivery of this new technology the week of July 9th. And the brand? You can bet your sweet ass it's not a Sony.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Caterham 7 CSR for Sale

I'm a huge fan of Lotus cars. Lotus was founded by Colin Chapman, whose all-consuming philosophy for building cars was "add lightness". His earliest car was the Lotus Super Seven, which he introduced in the 50's.

Lotus continued to make the car into the early 70's. It was then that Colin Chapman sold the rights to the design and name of the car to Caterham. To this very day, Caterham continues to pump out a full line of Super Sevens over in England (

You can still get a Caterham in the United States. But because of Federal regulations, it can only be sold as a kit and must be assembled  by the owner or a mechanic of his choosing.

Caterham's top-of-the-line is the Caterham 7 CSR. The car weighs in at a minuscule 1,268 pounds and is powered by a 260 horsepower Cosworth engine. With numbers like that, it goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds. By comparison, a new Porsche 911 (350 horsepower) requires 4.6 seconds to cover the same ground. This is understandable when you consider that the 911 weighs 1,800 pounds more than the Caterham

I follow the cars on a web site called USA7's ( One of the members on the site had gone full in...purchasing a Caterham 7 CSR and spending $95,000 to realize his dream. He drove it, enjoyed it and tried to sell it through the web site. I believe he started in the $80K's and it did not move...which is understandable when you can find used Caterhams all day long in the $20K-$40K range.

So now he's trying to move it through Park Place LTD, one of the largest exotic car dealerships in the US. The starting price was $68,950, but they are now offering it as a web special for $59,950. That is the bargain of the century for what is one of the most remarkable and rare automobiles on the planet.

Would I love to own this car? But of course. But unfortunately, this Caterham is simply a used car. It will continue to depreciate. I'd rather spend $30K to $40K to get one of the early Lotus Super Sevens...and watch it appreciate. Check out this gorgeous 1959 Lotus Super Seven:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nespresso Pixie Single Serve Espresso Machine

I jumped on the single serve coffee machine bandwagon back in 2001 when Senseo rolled out their first machine. It was a great way to get a fresh, perfectly brewed cup of coffee every time. But Senseo had a limited number of coffees available and their dark roast was just not dark enough for my palate. So I migrated over to the Keurig world, using a Breville Single Serve Coffee Machine along with Double Black Diamond coffee capsules from Green Mountain Coffee. Fabulous stuff.

But I still missed having an occasional espresso. While I have a closet full of old burr grinders and espresso machines, I was not going down that road again. Once you switch over to the capsule world, you get spoiled. It's just so fast and easy to make a delicious cup.

So I started exploring the capsule world for an espresso machine. The online reviews kept directing me to Nespresso, which makes a full line of espresso machines and espresso capsules. I was looking for a really small machine, one that would take up very little real estate. The smallest one on the market was the Nespresso's only 4" wide X 9" high X 13" deep.

I got mine online from for $179. And I am here to tell you that it makes a cup of espresso that is absolutely to die for. It's right up there with the best I've ever had from a barista. Nespresso offers 16 different flavors of espressos for their machines. My favorite is Ristretto, a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans. It's deep, dark and rich....and has such a pronounced roasted flavor that one sip is sufficient to make all of your toenails fall off.

If you are looking for a single serve espresso maker, I strongly recommend Nespresso. While the machines are sold at many different retailers, I found and Nespresso to be the cheapest. There are a fair number of people selling Nespresso capsules. All of my research to date shows that the Nespresso web store has the lowest price (60¢ per capsule).  Check it all out here:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The End of Mowing Your Lawn?

For those of you that ditched the Hoover for the iRobot Roomba vacuum, the same sort of technology is headed to your lawn. John Deere has introduced the Tango E5, a Li-Ion battery powered mower that will mow your lawn for you. Hit a button, grab your favorite pale ale and put by our feet up while the Tango E5 does a full Vidal Sassoon on your lawn.

Underground wires set the mowing perimeter while built-in sensors keep it away from trees and shrubs...and hopefully Samson, your pet Chihuahua. When the battery starts to run low, the Tango E5 takes itself back to it's charging station for a full helping of juice. It's a mulching mower, so you never have to worry about collecting those grass clippings.

Right now this product is only available in Europe (where it does not have to deal with sprawling, suburban McMansion lawns). Across the pond, it's selling for the equivalent of 3,275 US dollars. That's riding mower territory, so you've got some hard decisions to make on your favorite venue for quaffing that pale ale.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Most Expensive Car in the World

In the spring of 1994, our new company, Gruggen Buckley, landed it's first blue chip client, McCaw Communications. McCaw Communications, owned by Craig McCaw, was at that time the largest cell phone provider in the United States.

AT&T was not a player in the cellular phone industry back then. They were all about long distance telephony. Recognizing that the future of telecommunications was going to be mobile, they decided that they had to be a player. So they coddled up to Craig McCaw, whispered sweet nothings in his ear and tenderly slid 12.6 billion dollars into his right front pants pocket.

Fortunately, Gruggen Buckley was kept on by AT&T for a glorious 11-year run. Craig McCaw rode off into the sunset. But 12.6 billion dollars gives you a lot of freedom. With money like that, you can buy a 325 acre private island and create your own paradise off the coast of Vancouver. And you can also become one of the greatest car collectors on the planet.

If you are a serious car collector, you must sign up to hunt for the holy grail...the Ferrari 250 Gran Turismo Omologata. Ferrari only built 39 of these cars between 1962 and 1964. They were race cars, through and through. Produced for homologation into FIA's Group 3 Grand Touring Car category, this super lightweight car had a V-12 engine that put out 300 horsepower.

If you wanted a Ferrari GTO back in the day, it would cost you $18,000 and you had to be personally vetted by Enzo Ferrari. That was a huge pot of money back comparison you could get a new Shelby AC Cobra for $5,995 or a new Corvette for $3,957.

There are only 39 men in the world that own a Ferrari GTO. It is considered the pinnacle of the car collector market. Ralph Lauren has one. Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason has one. Craig McCaw did not have one. But remember, you can't be at the top of the car collector food chain unless you have one.

As of May, Craig McCaw is now at the top of the food chain. The car pictured above is a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that was made for Sterling Moss (the light green color was his racing livery). It is now parked in Craig McCaw's garage. And the price he just paid for it makes it the most expensive car in the world.

To get to the top of the food chain, Craig had to shell out $35 million (the last GTO sold went for a paltry $31.7 million). While $35 million may seem like a lot of money for a car, it represents just 0.2% of the money that AT&T paid him to go away.

Ferrari 250 GTO. That's what I call riding off into the sunset in style.

Craig McCaw