The truth about my life

Sat, 13 Nov 2010

I was a very happy owner of a Renault Megane, but after putting about 135,000 kilometers and some recent problems (a diesel injector, front right axle, alternator belt) I paid about 10% of its value to fix, I decided it's time for a change.

Now, I had a budget of up to about 60,000 Turkish Liras (€30,000). I looked at many cars and I've built a spreadsheet of feature comparison like any engineer would do. My primary criteria:

  • 2.0L or smaller diesel engine with an average fuel consumption of 7L/100km or less
  • A boot of at least 400dm3 in volume
  • Cruise control
  • All electric windows
  • Large and comfortable interior
  • Extremely comfortable seats
  • ESP

I don't care about exterior design; all that matters is what I interact with daily. What I'd love to have is:

  • Xenon headlights
  • Electrochromatic (auto-darkening) rear view mirror or a curtain on the rear window
  • Parking sensor
  • Automatic transmission
  • Electric hybrid (there was none available)

I tested these cars:

  • Opel Insignia 1.6 180hp stickshift Edition Elegance (a total disappointment)
  • Citroen C5 1.6 HDI SX PK (great comfy car, weird steering wheel, very complex dashboard and controls, beautiful transmission)
  • Peugeot 407 (kinda old but very nice overall, falls short on fuel consumption and replaced by ugly 508)
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium 2.0 TDCI (very good handling and suspension, feels huge but not really comfy seats)
  • Renault Laguna (I'll get back to it)

And I looked at many other cars including BMW 520d, Honda Accord, VW Passat, Skoda Superb, Audi A6, Seat Exeo, Volvo S60. Some of these were obviously beyond my budget, some failed my primary criteria.

A few friends suggested SUV models but I really don't want an inefficient gas guzzler so SUVs are out. Cross-overs like Nissan Qashqai, Audi Q5, Ford Kuga and BMW X1 are out too. I'm too humble to overlook other people.

I wanted to test drive a Renault Laguna. I did what you'd do and walked into a Renault dealer but they didn't have one because it was going to be replaced with Latitude model in next few months. After paying visits to many other dealers and receiving disappointing customer experience I decided to pull an emergency lever. I like Renault but as a prospective customer I didn’t like how they treated me, and I thought, maybe they don’t know about the problem. Imagine this: you walk into a dealer but nobody notices you, the car you probably will buy is on the website but no dealer has it, you leave your contact details to many dealers but they never call back, nobody knows when the successor Latitude will be available or what it will be like, showrooms and cars are not really clean, cars in showrooms are underequipped etc.

I called out to my friend Cem Batu from Proximity Istanbul and he got me in touch with Renault Turkey and I told them the story and they apologized for the inconvenience and something amazing happened: they got me a fairly equipped 2008 Laguna 1.5 dCi 110hp Dynamique stickshift for a weekend ride, which I enjoyed a lot. They also provided a Megane Sport-Tourer for a day just to cure my curiosity, but I was so upset with it I turned it back after a 10 minute ride and ran away with a cab. Bear with me for the bribery, but just to validate they took my criticism seriously I paid a couple more visits to dealers nearby and all I can say is that Renault has improved the overall experience significantly, they’re still far from perfect but better than many others.

While we're on customer experience, I have to explicitly mention the one Citroen creates. I was test driving a Citroen C5 10 minutes after I walked in the dealer, and I was very impressed with their informative and welcoming sales process. I could have bought one right away.

I’ll also mention Ford’s. It was terrible. Their Turkey website is downright ugly and useless. Their dealer showrooms are designed to sell crops not cars -- just plain dirty. Their salespeople are undertrained. Their pricing figures and feature packages are sad. Their financing options are good and that’s the only good thing about Ford’s customer experience.

The problem with Laguna was its unavailability, and that's what turned me to shop around the second hand market. I called my good friend Selçuk Bertan from Bimexcar and in just a week I was test driving the 2009 Laguna III 2.0 dCi Privilege I bought the day after. I either buy stuff from people I know or I get to know with people I buy stuff from. It was top of the line with every optional feature but satellite navigation (even my cell phone has it). I did some 5000km with it already and I'm very, very happy with these:

  • The 150hp M9R engine puts out a torque of 340Nm/sec, takes the 1620kg me excluded giant to 100km/h in just 9.3 seconds and adds more oomph than enough to my daily commute. It's also fitted with a DPF.
  • The 6-speed AJ0 automatic transmission is a smooth operator. It does exactly what I'd do if I was to shift it up or down, but it's quicker than me and gear changes are barely noticeable.
  • Fuel consumption is, well, let's just say it's slightly better than the class average. With very careful driving I was able to get as good as 6.8lt/100km, but as I said to many of my friends, if you feed a lion you don’t worry about its food. I suspect it can be improved with a software change though.
  • Handling (and also braking) is excellent, but for the educated driver who loves digging for details, Ford Mondeo is a tiny bit better in this area. The difference between Megane and Laguna is huge though.
  • I can talk all day long about how comfortable all electric adjusted heated beige leather seats are. You sit "in"to seats unlike "on"to them like you do in a Volkswagen or a Ford. Seats are the most welcoming component of Laguna's interior.
  • Keyless-go is by far the most useful feature. The keycard is in my wallet in my pocket, I walk in and it unlocks magically and I just push the start button to go -- without inserting any key. I stop the engine and walk out and it locks itself and folds up side mirrors. The relationship between the car and me was always hi and good-bye so far.
  • Automatic bi-xenon headlights adapt beams to vehicle speed and direction to provide light at the point where my eyes are focused on the road. It's very natural.
  • All glass electric roof and dual-zone climate control are nice to have.
  • The parking brake is fully automatic but in case you want to control it, there’s a tiny little on/off button located at the armrest where you’d expect an ugly stick to occupy.
  • The cabin is very quiet compared to other cars I tested even at speeds higher than 150km/h.

What I don’t like is:

  • Fuel consumption could be better. If 2011 BMW 520d can do it, Renault can do it too.
  • Curtains on dual window roof could be electric controlled too.
  • No front parking sensor: I added a little scratch on my first day, the nose is huge! No proximity display for parking sensor. Apparently this is fixed on Latitude.
  • Warranty period is just 2 years/100,000km. For comparison, Honda is 6 years/150,000km.
  • Service intervals could be more stretch; Laguna wants to be serviced every 15,000km in Turkey. I’ve sent an e-mail to Renault about this and I’ll keep you posted.
  • White Power-LEDs could be used for low-dipped lights, instead of yellow old little bulbs.
  • It doesn’t drive itself. As Eric Schmidt of Google says, it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.

Any questions about my tests or perceptions about other cars and Laguna, you know where to get me and you’re free to prove me wrong :-)

Sun, 22 Nov 2009

Another success in making sure that I'm invited: There was a blogger gathering, a tour actually, to the factory the car I currently drive was produced. Witnessing flat sheets of metal become the monster I spend some hours inside almost every day firsthand alone is a fascinating experience. That set aside, I had to be there, because Oyak-Renault Bursa factory is where the successor to our ride, Fluence (a 4-door saloon small family car), is going to be made.

My current rideFluence

Man, it is big. Wait, I mean it, really big:

Ertan Etike showing the location of the conference room on a picture taken from a chopper

3 weeks before the tour, in Frankfurt Motor Show, Renault announced their full line of electric vehicles. In case you didn't see it, here is a picture of the world's most complete line up of EVs (Concept electric versions of Fluence, Twizy, Kangoo and Zoe, respectively):

Now that the word is well out, and every little bit of information about the all new Fluence is available on the Google, I'm not going to post pictures here, but you can get to see them on my Public Picasa Gallery. Instead, I'll post main differences between the Megane II Sedan and Fluence. I'm yet to test drive the Fluence, please bear with me.

  • Fluence is slightly longer than Megane, and again is a slightly lowered ride.
  • Many of the in-cabin storage boxes are gone: front under-mat hidden boxes, front in-door boxes, wide but short box under rear window, and more. Storage under the arm rest is slightly smaller in Fluence, but (illuminated and refrigerated) glovebox is slightly larger.
  • Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) is standard for all diesel models now.
  • They will start offering the Volkswagen-invented super efficient dual-clutch automatic (they call it DCT) gearbox starting from 2011. This is the simplest, yet the best idea I've seen in this area. CVT gearbox will also be available, no exact date of availability though.
  • Fuel consumption is further improved, but your mileage may vary. You really can do better by improving your shifting times and avoiding unnecessary braking; but new hardware on Fluence helps a bit more too. DCT, for example, is a real good step forward. I hold the record in this area; I've done a bit more than 1300km on a single tank of diesel fuel (Megane has a 60lt tank).
  • Driver seat provides a more comfortable (read: laid back) driving position, compared to Megane. Although it's a boring sedan, the seat makes you feel like you're driving a large sports car.
  • Dashboard has more electronics: there's a small LCD display in the middle. I really like this electronics trend in all cars: I'd rather have a display in the middle of the steering wheel and ditch the dashboard altogether in favor of a better view. Maybe I'll do some sketches sometime.
  • While we're on it, they have replaced the steering wheel with the one from Laguna. It's a weird shape you have to get used to, but it's okay. I think I liked the one in Renault Megane Coupe Concept much better, but you know, it's probably a concept for a reason.
  • They offer integrated navigation as an option. Meh.
  • Sunroof is still small. You can't get an all-glass roof yet.
  • Fluence gets the upgraded air conditioner from Megane III.
  • Overall quality is upgraded. More durable, better quality plastics are used. Particularly I like the little upgrades to doors: added softeners make a more stable sound when you slam a door.
  • I don't give a flying kite about the upgraded music system. I honestly couldn't tell any difference from my stock-music-system Megane.
  • Passenger cabin is a little bit more comfortable. Megane Sedan was a choice because I'm slightly tall, I don't feel comfortable when my knees are too close to anything. I like to be able to use backseats when I sit comfortable at the driver's seat, and that's what Megane provided. Fluence improves a bit, and there's more room for backseats now.

Overall, Fluence is a nice upgrade over my ride. It mimics some exterior features of Laguna, particularly the bonnet, which I like quite a bit. I'm slightly upset about the tail though -- they could have designed something better, I guess.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the production line, but I spotted this where the just-produced-rubber-meets-the-road. In case you don't know the car; it's Devrim, an icon of some sad history of Turkish car manufacturing industry.


What really would have made me wet my pants would be examining this baby firsthand, but unfortunately that didn't happen:

Fluence ZE Concept

I'm really looking forward to learn any specific details about the zero-emission electric Fluence, and I'll be the #1 customer: I would have left my beloved Megane in Bursa and come back with the prototype Fluence ZE right away.

A bunch of thanks go to Cem Batu, Beliz Top and all the other friends from Proximity Istanbul, and congrats for the great idea of trying out an offline blog design event, and also for bearing with my tight-schedule on that Saturday morning. I'd really have preferred to join other fellow bloggers on the VIP bus, but I had to attend some other event I was invited as a speaker and thus had to rush-drive to the factory after the keynote. Fortunately, I arrived earlier than the rest of the crew and enjoyed a 30 minute privilege of meeting our hosts.

When it comes to hosting; Ertan Etike, Directeur de la Communication Oyak-Renault, also a Bosniak like myself, was an honour to meet in person, is among the best presentation speakers I met. Emre Demirel, Chef de Produit Fluence, whom I owe a few drinks handled a plethora of questions I was throwing at him all day long patiently and professionally. It was a pleasure to chat with him. I'd also like to thank all the people, names I unfortunately didn't have the chance to note down, working at the factory who spent considerable effort throughout our visit.

Last words guys, I'm closing: I'd also like to thank Uğur Günyüz of Kırmızı Kedi, the tireless and exceptionally good photographer, for all the hard work he has done.

There's more to blog about Renault's zero-emissions line, probably this week. Way too much has been changing rapidly in the last couple weeks, please bear with me until I settle everything down. Thanks for reading.

Sun, 16 Nov 2008

Bu kısa yazıma Kemani Serkis Efendi'nin bestesi ile başlamak istiyorum:

Kimseye etmem şikayet, ağlarım ben halime
Titrerim mücrim gibi baktıkça istikbalime
Perde-i zulmet çekilmiş korkarım ikbalime
Titrerim mücrim gibi baktıkça istikbalime

İsveç Merkez parti lideri Maud Olofsson 2025 yılına kadar petrol ürünleriyle çalışan tüm araçların yasaklanmasını önermiş. Haydi, hepimiz İsveç'li olalım.

Sun, 17 Aug 2008

I've been trying Microsoft Vista for the last couple months, on the post-thief-bought EasyNote BG45-P-006. Contrary to what you probably keep hearing from colleagues, Vista works relatively good for me. Am I sold for some screen blings? Definitely not. Would I give up my GNOME desktop? Definitely not. Here is the pro:

  • Good support for my hardware.
  • Fair enough power management.
  • Reliable suspend and resume.
  • Very, very good fonts and font rendering. I mean, close-to-Apple-good, but not there yet.
  • Quick user switching.

And here is what you'll love most, the con list:

  • Slow startup. It takes like ages to get a usable desktop.
  • Immature support for wireless networks. Actually, wired networks are not so good at all. I keep myself doing ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew all the time.
  • Too many questions. Security doesn't mean ask user about everything.
  • Enormous, gigantic memory usage. Boy, a decent default desktop uses just about 1 GB memory. I've got 2, so this beast uses about half of it for itself.
  • It's messing around with my hard drive all the time. Disk light keeps blinking every couple seconds even if I have nothing running. This prevents disk from entering standby to save more power.
  • I like the new Start menu layout but searching the menu is just too slow.
  • There's no use for Sidebar on my desktop.

For your pleasure, here's what my usual work session looks like:

Most of what you see in the list is open source, or free software. I also have an Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex installation on the same device but I pushed myself to bear with Vista stupidities for a while. I think I'll go back as soon as they fix Compiz's multi-head support. For my single-headed desktop needs at work, I just use Ubuntu.

Fri, 09 May 2008

Mankind invested a lot in Internal Combustion Engines, possibly more so than they deserve. Watch this:

  • They're inefficient. Even when turbocharged, an average ICE will achieve about 25% efficiency when converting fuel to kinetic energy.
  • They're noisy. Fuel burns, potential energy of the fuel is converted to kinetic energy but you can only utilize 25% at best. So where does the rest of the energy go? Simple, some of it becomes noise.
  • They heat up. Well, some more of the wasted energy is also released as heat.
  • They pollute. In many different ways. An ICE can't possibly burn all of the fuel, that would require enormous amounts of oxygen and air, so they only burn it partially. A good wealth of fuel pass out (either intact or as a result of many chemical reactions) from the exhaust, even when turbocharged. Released waste is hazardous to plants, animals and man.
  • There's more crap. An ICE requires quite a bit more of complicated machinery to be useful on small cars: The Transmission System. Quite a lot of the kinetic energy generated by the engine after burning fuel is once again lost somewhere in this machinery.
  • They are heavy. ICE and the machinery it comes attached with has to be made of strong and heavy metal like steel to survive the load. Lets face it: a 4-people car, 100kg for each person and 50kg for the luggage makes 450kg. But an average car weight today is about 1200kg. This is, in my humble opinion, ridiculous at best.
  • They are dangerous, because you carry very flammable fuel with you. Well, diesels are slightly less dangerous, I must admit.
  • Initial, operational and maintenance costs are incredible. These giant waste-generating monsters require that several parts changed with new ones frequently.

So it looks like mankind found another way of screwing each other and himself, not long ago. Boy, compare that to the old way now. Harnessed horses are efficient, relatively fast, comfortable, quiet and environment friendly. Even the waste is utilized somewhere in agriculture industry.

Yes, I drove the car this morning to come to work. And yes again, it has an internal combustion engine and a total weight of about 1200kg.

Soon I will write about the realistic alternatives.

Tue, 06 May 2008

That's what I have become. Speaking of energy efficiency and cars I'd like to post my personal quick-and-dirty efficiency-focused market review about cars due to popular demand.

We own a 2007 Renault Megane II 1.5 DCI Expression 80hp. We did some 20000 kilometers in the last 6 months and I've collected some statistics about efficiency. I'm not really happy to drive an internal combustion engine but this ~1200kg device proved to be somewhat efficient:

More than 1250 kilometers per 60-litres-tank (and still going, will probably do about 1300) is not so bad if you're patient enough to cruise around 100km/h. More than half of this was done on city traffic, which means the engine consumes 4.3lt/100kms and according to Renault its CO2 emission is something like 117g/km and 91% of the mass can be recycled. Interior quality is not so good compared to a BMW, but it has relatively good price/performance ratio.

Small Common-rail Diesel engines are relatively efficient, but Renault-Nissan is after something better: Project Better Place. Apparently Renault will supply 100% electric cars and help build the infrastructure in Israel and Denmark to support usage of electric cars. The project is supported by the government in a usual way: reduced taxes.

If you're interested in hybrids, which I'm not really into: there's Honda Civic Sedan Hybrid. And for god's sake, please, no SUVs.

We use public transport when possible, I'll buy a bike for the summer, and we just walk when time permits. Safe and healthy, highly recommended. Human body is 9th Symphony of the nature, the most efficient food-to-you-know-what converter ever.


Wed, 07 Nov 2007

It looks like Google did it again, now they support presentation documents (those created by Microsoft Powerpoint or Impress) on Google Docs.

Thu, 03 May 2007

Note to myself, to investigate it further. I want this so badly. I hate wires as much as Nikola Tesla hated them, more than a century ago.

I'm not really sure if it's a coincidence, Marin Soljačić, also a Croatian from Zagreb, at Physics Department of MIT since 2005 is working on this subject. Hmm.

Tue, 09 Jan 2007

Gezegen'de bazı arkadaşlar ~okaratas ile eğleniyorlardı, insanları pek keyifli görünce eğlenceliklerden bir tane de ben ekleyeyim dedim. Eskiden bir Güzin ablamız vardı, insanlar dertlerini ona yazarlardı, o da (Erdener abi gibi değil tabii ama) elinden geldiğince mantıklı yanıt vermeye çalışırdı. Şimdi kendisi yokmuş, yerine kızı varmış ama pek tutmuyormuş galiba. Başlıktaki sorunun şekli nasıl olduysa Güzin ablayı anımsattı bana. Yeniyetmeler için Güzin abla yaklaşık şöyle sorularla muhatap olurdu:

Sevgili Güzin abla,

Geçen yaz ailecek köye gittik. Köyde yıllardır görmediğim amcamın oğluyla çimenlerde yuvarlandık. Ama üstümüzde elbiseler vardı. Acaba hamile miyim?

Seni ilgiyle okuyorum, ne olur cevap yaz.

Güzin abla ~okaratas ve bu hanım kızımız gibilerine ne dese iyidir bilemedim. Zaten dese kendine dert, demese bize dert...

Üstünüze afiyet ben geçen hafta cüzdanımı (ve dolayısıyla muhtelif kimlikleri ve kartları) kaybetmiş idim. Kartlar kolay da kimlikler dertli biraz, yeni çıkarılacak ehliyetimi almak üzere ofisten erken çıkıp otobüse bindim. Mecidiyeköy civarında dizüstü bilgisayarımı açıp çıkarken yarım bıraktığım ve yürürken aklıma takılan bir hadiseye bakma gereği duydum, duymaz olaydım. NetworkManager şöyle birşey gösterdi bana:

fsckloads of wlans

Efendim derler ki askerlikte erlere ot yoldurdukları olurmuş eskiden, boş kalınca düşünüyorlar, düşünen adam tehlikelidir diye. İnsan otobüste, otobüs trafikte olunca boş kalıyor. Düşündüm, aklıma (sıradaki şarkıyı Alper Oğuz'a armağan ediyorum) Show TV'de çalıştığım kısa süre içerisinde öğrendiğim ama nasıl olduysa unuttuğum bir hadise geldi.

İstanbul'da yaşayanlar bilir, bu koca şehirde yayın yapan onlarca televizyon kanalının dev antenleri süsler Çamlıca tepesini. İşte oradaki anten kulelerinin hemen altında çok sayıda adam çalışır (vallahi ben hiç kadın görmedim). Bu adamlar olası bir arıza durumunda oradaki teçhizata anında müdahale yapmak üzere oradadırlar, bildiğim kadarıyla her yayın kuruluşunun 3 vardiya ve ikişerli gruplar halinde bulundurduğu personeli vardır. Wikipedia'daki Radio Propagation makalesinden alıntı:

In free space, all electromagnetic waves (radio, light, X-rays, etc) obey the inverse-square law which states that an electromagnetic wave's strength is proportional to 1/r² where r is the distance (range) from the source. Doubling the distance from a transmitter means the signal strength is reduced to nearly one quarter.

Buna göre antenlerin hemen altında çalışan bu adamlar antenden yayılan radyasyonun en kuvvetlisine maruz kalıyorlar; ve orada çalışan birinden öğrendiğim kadarıyla hiçbirinin erkek çocuğu yok.

Tabii bizim kablosuz bağlantı noktalarının çıkış gücü 100mW ile sınırlıdır ama yukarıdaki manzara etraftaki GSM istasyonlarını da ekleyince korkutmuyor değil hani. Ne dersin Güzin abla, olacak mı erkek çocuğumuz?

Sat, 21 Jan 2006

Google 17 Ocak Salı günü Google Talk adlı XMPP kullanan kapalı iletişim ağını dünyadaki diğer Jabber/XMPP sunucuların da bağlanabileceği biçimde dünyaya açtı!

About me

I'm Enver ALTIN. I'm from the other side of the river.


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