Neato!

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I used my new Neato robotic vacuum cleaner for the first time yesterday. It runs on batteries, of course, so it had to snuggle up to the charging base for a couple of hours first.  I use the word “snuggle” purposely – see below.  I left it to charge and went into another room.  After a while I heard this roaring sound and wondered, “What the …?”  Then I realised it had started up and had set off doing its job.  There had been enough charge when I first tried to power it on to let me try to start the clean, but it had to charge further. It remembered my instruction, so after it had enough charge, started itself.

It was fascinating to watch. It seems to be pretty random in the way it turns, but it keeps trying to go around chair legs and between things until it finds a way.  Move forward a bit, come near a chair leg (it doesn’t actually touch it), back away, swivel a bit, move forward, repeat as required.  Just leave it to do its thing.

However, I came to realise pretty quickly that it will take a long time to do a floor because it doesn’t do what we would do – long, straight strokes. No, it does little movements and lots of them. It covers the same area, but it’s slow – and thorough, I suppose.

But that means the motor roar is there the whole time, I mean two hours or more, until it decides the battery is low enough and it needs to return to the charger.  I actually hit the pause button as the TV news had started and I couldn’t hear it.  When I hit pause, it gave me a menu of choices such as “Wait 1hr”, “Resume” and “Return to charger”.  I chose the latter and off it went, turning, swivelling, wiggling, moving left, right, forward until after nearly 5 mins it found itself back at the base. Even then it backed away, moved a bit right, then left, backed away etc, then funnily, did a little wiggle as it moved its curved front with the battery contacts against the broad charging contacts on the base. It rubs itself against them!  I think I’ll shoot some video of this and post it because it’s quite funny.

The navigation back to the base is amazing. This thing has turned hundreds of times since it started operating, but somehow it remembers where the base is, or detects it, but how? Radio signal?

As for the noise, you can set it to do its job while you’re out.  But that and the movement might trigger the house alarm.  I’d have to leave the alarm off.  Let’s hope a burglar would hear the noise and think I’m home.

To be continued – this thing is interesting.  That’s the last time I buy an appliance from Amazon, though.  I must have had a brain fart when I bought a Harmon Kardan stereo amp last year.  I completely forgot about its mains voltage and it’s 110V.  If it had been a Japanese amp it would have been a switchable or universal voltage device, but I had to buy a small step down transformer for it. That was only $21 but … being a US design, it also only suits US standards for AM radio station spacing and FM de-emphasis.  Luckily I get my only desired AM stations OK, and the de-emphasis just means the sound is a little brighter on FM.  Not that I can hear the highs any more anyway.

As I say, if this was a Japanese made amp, all this would have been switchable.  But not a US (Chinese made!) device.  Oh no, there is no world outside the USA, is there?

In this case the mains battery charger is just a Taiwanese generic 12V DC charger that runs off 100-240V AC.  Apart from having a US style plug, it works fine here.

I must make myself a sign – “NO USA APPLIANCES!”

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ImageImageSame device - I don't think JB HiFi are going to sell many.

I also bought one of these last week too – a Logitech Harmony Touch remote control.  At Office Works!

What an elegant design.  I got sick of having to juggle three remotes for the TV, DVD/HD recorder and amplifier for the volume and source.  This remote combines all three into Activities, labelled Watch TV, or Play a DVD, or Listen to Music, or Listen to Radio, and puts them on a small touch screen like an iPod.  Everything now happens on the Harmony – channel change, volume, DVD controls, track selection, program guide and recording and so on.  Just one thing to operate.  So nicely designed.

I bought the first version of this back in about 2006 and I’ve still got it, but I had endless trouble with the gold battery charging contacts (I had to rewire an additional connector), then a failed battery (hard to find then, easy now, but $50 per).  Then because I was opening the case several times to fix the charging contacts, the micro-USB connector broke away from the thin PCB. It’s surface mount with tracks at about 0,5mm spacing too.  I’ve had one try at resoldering it but without success. The tracks and positioning are just too fine for my eyesight.  I won’t give up – I’ll have another try later … one day! It still works, I just can’t reprogram it for the new equipment I’ve got now.  That makes it effectively a glorified volume control for my 20 year old Sony amplifier and not much else.

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Merc 500sl front

I’ve been devoting a bit of time thinking about cars and it would be quite feasible to buy one of the above.  It’s a 1994 Mercedes 500SL convertible.  There are quite a few for sale and they go for between $20,000 to $30,000.  They originally cost about $210,000 when new in the 1990-95 period, so they’ve dropped most of their value already.  They aren’t collectibles yet, but their value has probably hit bottom and might start to increase in the next ten years as people like me show interest.  In the meantime, you could probably resell it for what you paid for it.

Why do I want one?  1.  Timeless styling.  It still looks the business even after 20 years;  2.  Sheer driving pleasure – a big 5 litre V8 with 5 speed auto and all the features we take for granted now but were revolutionary back then – ALB, automatic roll bar, power everything.  A motorised soft top folds down behind the seats and it comes with a hard top as well (but you have to fit it manually – not easy);  3.  Smooth quiet power, gliding around, but oodles of oomph when you want it.

Mainly though, I just can’t think of a modern car that’s interesting to me, but that I can afford.  I’d like an MX-5 for example, but they’re still up around $30,000 for less car.  Or a good BMW 5 or 7 series, but they have an awful reputation for needing expensive repairs.  A Boxter?  Too expensive.

I can’t think of much else I want. Honda S2000 I mentioned a couple of weeks ago?  Manual only. As it should be, but not for me any more. Auto only.

These Mercs are in Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney.  FF points fly over, and after an RACV inspection, drive it for several weeks around the eastern states then bring it back here. Could be done.  I probably won’t, but I can dream.

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