About dwight

world's finest improvisational pianist and dedicated amateur photographer, and in my spare time an internet bully

ripple effects

The World Wide Web became generally available in 1993-94. This was when my family became AOLers and remained happily so for years. At that time, we had a Windows 3.1 computer with a 2400 baud modem. The sounds of that modem dialing into AOL will forever be etched in our memory. This is also when I began upgrading computers. Two upgrades, in particular, were almost miraculous: a new 14,400 baud modem made connecting to and enjoying the internet a whole lot better, but doubling the internal RAM from the typical 4MB (yes, megabytes) to 8MB was like getting a wholly new, laughably fast computer. And that extra 4MB of RAM cost over $100 at the time!

The 1990s and 2000s were decades of quick and impactful techological developments. Internet access through cable or fiber optics spurred mad growth in the web. Where “wasting bandwidth” was previously almost criminal, it was now encouraged. And just as I went through a series of digital cameras in those years, so, too, I bought a series of ever-more-capable computers and laptops.

I seem to be a fan of HP computers. Their desktops and laptops have served me well, even if I found a sudden reason to upgrade every 3 or 4 years. But things seem to have slowed lately, and there are fewer compelling reasons to buy a new computer.

So I’ve been using an HP Pavilion Slimline desktop computer (6GB memory, 1TB storage) for some time now. I bought this to be the repository and backup for the other computers in the household, as well as the anchor for the household WiFi network. That terabyte could easily handle two laptops and my daughter’s computer and still have plenty of room left over for the music library and my thousands and thousands of digital photos. I also have a networked storage drive with a 3 terabyte capacity as a redundant backup, because, as everyone with a computer knows, computers eventually fail.

I bought a 20″ Samsung monitor with that PC, and later upgraded to a 22″ Samsung. The latter had a resolution of 1440×900 resolution, which was just fine. I “processed” a lot of photos on that machine and it was up to the task – until I bought the Canon EOS 80D digital camera. This new camera spits out JPGs at a whopping 6000×4000 size and high definition video at 1920×1080. Naturally enough, I’ve been lusting after more pixels. My 15″ laptop display is 1920×1080, the big flat-screen televisions are 1920×1080, so I wanted to upgrade the monitor for my desktop. A higher resolution monitor was definitely on the wish list.

on the spur of the moment
adjective: spur-of-the-moment
on impulse; without planning in advance.
“I don’t generally do things on the spur of the moment”
synonyms: impulsively, on impulse, impetuously, without thinking, without planning, without premeditation, unpremeditatedly, impromptu, spontaneously, on the spot…

Without really thinking, I saw online and instantly ordered a Samsung 28″ (HUGE on a desk) monitor with 4K UltraHD – a native resolution of 3840×2160, or four times the number of pixels of the 1920×1080 screen on my laptop. In digital camera terms, I was going from 2 megapixels to 8 megapixels! BestBuy had it delivered the next day.

But when it arrived, I found that I had no way to connect it to my PC.

My first mistake – not checking the specs on the new monitor, especially in how it connects to a computer. This one requires either HDMI or a DisplayPort connector, neither of which my PC had. All I had were DVI connectors. A little checking told me that my PC was older than I thought, six years old, built back before people like me envisioned a 4K UltraHD monitor. I guess I ASSumed that it would use a standard old VGA connector, but I didn’t even have that! My desktop had two DVI connectors, no VGA, and for sure no HDMI. I can’t even say that my old machine was capable of sending a 3840×2160 signal to the monitor.

Rather than looking for a DVI-HDMI converter and possibly “dumbing down” the signal to this new monitor, I decided that a new PC was in order, one with HDMI out and a graphics card built for 4K Ultra HD, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

My second mistake – rushing the purchase without “due diligence.”

I picked out a cheap (read: inexpensive) new HP desktop (let’s call it the “fat line”, a hefty silver Pavilion model) which did have HDMI out. My BestBuy app told me this model was not available “within 250 miles,” so I placed the order online and BestBuy, amazingly, had it in my hands within 48 hours. Now, there’s nothing I enjoy more than setting up a new computer (okay, there are lots of things I enjoy more), and what with deleting bloatware, transferring files and updating and installing programs, and then getting the thing networked and friendly with other computers in the house, it can be an all-day event. But when I hooked up that PC to my new monster monitor, the output was GLORIOUS. My photos never looked so good.

The colors and contrast on my new monitor are stunning. Side by side with the previous monitor, the new one is just much, much better. And did I say HUGE? I have room for two or three open programs, easily. Looking at my photos on that monitor is like looking at them framed up on the wall. I can see the original JPG onscreen at 50% size, not zoomed out to 25%. The screen is 28″ diagonal, or about 25″ wide, in a widescreen 16:9 format. LED flat-screens have come a long way, and prices have dropped significantly. This model retailed at almost $400, but was on sale at BestBuy for $279.99. I HAD to buy it. I had no choice! And I don’t regret it for a moment.

There were unintended casualties, though. My old version of Adobe® Photoshop (and I mean 15 years old) appeared tiny on the big screen and the fonts were unreadable. In the end, I opted to buy the Adobe® Photography Plan, which gives me the latest edition of Photoshop, Lightroom, and much, much more for a “worth-it” $9.99/month.

My old favorite game SNOOD is a goner. This little gem dates back to the ’90s, and the cavernous spaces of the new monitor have it crawling and now unplayable. I may opt for a newer version of the game, but the old one simply won’t work on my new computer. (Still works like a charm on my laptop.)

But, then… The new PC is, indeed, a lesser, “affordable” HP model. This was my mistake, buying without really doing my homework, and the new monitor actually reveals the shortcomings of the new computer. With all of 4gig of RAM onboard, opening Photoshop and Lightroom at the same time is a huge effort and things start to crawl. On a hunch, I ordered a pair of 8gig RAM sticks to install, and increasing the memory from 4GB to 16GB speeds things up A LOT. I may end up upgrading the processor, too. It’s an AMD Ryzen 3, low on the list of processors for gamers, but fully capable of displaying my photos in 4K beautifulness. This is the newer generation of AMD processors with onboard graphics capabilities – no separate graphics card needed.

With the added RAM onboard, this new PC is more than capable of showing my photos in their best light.

And this monitor is a keeper.

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The monitor is Samsung’s UE590 28″ LED 4K UHD model in black bezel, silver stand. Highly recommended. Easy on the eyes with stunning detail.

The PC is the HP Pavilion 590-P0020 with AMD Ryzen 3 2200G processor with Radeon Vega 8 graphics, 4GB memory, 1TB hard drive, in HP’s “natural silver” finish. Unfortunately, not recommended. Kick in a few hundred more $$$ and buy a better model.

Added a Logitech K800 illuminated Bluetooth keyboard. Recommended. Good weight, wireless, illuminated black keyboard.

Added a Logitech 2.1 speaker system (2 speakers + subwoofer, model 980-001260). Recommended, and speakers look really good on the desktop. Reacts well to my software equalizer.

possible upgrades per AMD:
AMD Ryzen7-2700 (Pinnacle Ridge) 8 cores/16 threads
AMD Ryzen5-2600 (Pinnacle Ridge) 6 cores/12 threads
AMD Ryzen7-1700 (Summit Ridge) 3.0 GHz, 8 cores/16 threads
AMD Ryzen5-1600 (Summit Ridge) 3.2 GHz, 6 cores/12 threads
AMD Ryzen5-2400G (Raven Ridge) 3.6 GHz, 4 cores/8 threads (45 – 65 W)

2nd Look: 2018 Ford Escape

US News & World Report ranks the Ford Escape 8th among Compact SUVs.

“The Escape is one of the best all-around performers in the class, with sporty handling, a firm suspension system, good steering feedback, and a composed ride on smooth roads.”

Okay, but let’s see how they compare the Escape against two others that they liked better.

“Which Is Better: Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4?
The Toyota RAV4’s middle-of-the-road performance makes the Ford Escape the more engaging SUV to drive between these two. The RAV4 delivers a comfortable ride and decent power from its lone available engine, but the Escape’s athletic handling and potent available engines set it apart. The RAV4 does offer some advantages over the Escape: It comes standard with loads of advanced safety features, and its cargo area is even larger than the Escape’s. Choosing between these two is a matter of personal preference.”

Bottom line: Escape is much more fun to drive. RAV4 is better for people who don’t like driving. Yet the RAV4 is ranked 6th, above the Escape.

“Which Is Better: Ford Escape or Honda CR-V?
The Escape has plenty of cargo space and a decent amount of passenger room, but the Honda CR-V outdoes it and is the better choice in most cases. Even taller passengers have plenty of room to stretch out in the Honda’s back row, and the its cargo area is among the most expansive in the class. Additionally, the CR-V is more fuel-efficient than the Escape, and it delivers a smoother ride. If you’re looking for an engaging ride, however, you’ll prefer the Ford.”

Bottom line: Honda has more room for big people and gets better fuel mileage. But the Escape is just so damn much fun to drive… Still, the boring CR-V is ranked No. 1.

Here’s the thing: I love (live) to drive. First and foremost, I look for a fun driving experience in any vehicle. In a compact SUV, obviously space in storage and seating is primary, but if it’s no fun to drive, I can’t live with it.

The Ford Escape is a Ford Focus dressed up as a sport-ute. It is built on the same platform with same dimensions, except that it’s about 8 inches taller. The Escape retains the Focus’ European-style handling and suspension, which is so much fun in the smaller vehicle.

The Titanium edition is the priciest version of the Escape, but well worth it. This is where you get the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine featured in the exciting Focus ST model (245 HP). You also get the upscale interior and amenities that are normally included in optional packages for the lesser versions.

  2018 Focus SE Hatchback 2019 Escape Titanium
Wheelbase 104.3″ 105.9″
Length 171.7″ 178.1″
Height 57.8″ 66.3″
Width (including mirrors) 80.5″ 81.8″
Track width (front) 61.2″ 61.5″

So, with the Titanium edition Escape, you get a really good driving experience in a vehicle with plenty of acceleration, excellent handling, plenty of cargo space, and an interior environment that’s better than my own livingroom. Plus too many other goodies to list here.

See: https://www.ford.com/suvs-crossovers/escape/models/escape-titanium/

See my original review of the 2018 Ford Escape Titanium here.

SPRING. Time for… football?!?

The NFL Draft is coming up. Training camp is still four months away and the preseason doesn’t start until August 8th. But I can’t help looking ahead.

2019’s schedule, just released, seems to favor the Eagles BIGLY.

Each year, the Eagles always play two games against each of the other three teams in the NFC East Division. The Giants were woeful last year, and I seriously doubt that they’ll get much better in the course of one offseason. They traded their great receiver Beckham to oblivion and they’re still arguing over whether Eli Manning can still play quarterback. The Redskins were underachievers, but that’s their reputation of late. The Cowboys won the division but, once again, were unable to do anything with it.

[The Cowboys have now won exactly THREE playoff games since they last won Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season. That’s 23 years of frustration for Dallas fans. They’re beginning to understand how Eagles fans felt before 2017, except that their record of those 23 years has been absolute mediocrity. I expect that the Eagles and Cowboys will still swap wins this year.]

In 2019, all NFC East teams play the teams from the AFC East Division and the NFC North Division, plus two random teams based upon their divisional standings from last year. As 2nd place finisher in the NFC East, the Eagles will play the 2nd place teams from two other divisions: the Falcons and the Seahawks. Dallas gets the Saints and the Rams (both 1st place teams), while the Redskins and Giants get 3rd and 4th place teams, respectively.

Of the 16 games on the Eagles’ schedule, only 5 are against teams that finished last year with a better record than the Eagles (and that includes the stinkin’ Cowboys, twice). The AFC East has the New England Patriots and three teams that struggled. The NFC North has the Chicago Bears and three teams under .500.

Worth noting that the Eagles have a stretch of three games on the road in October, followed by three straight games at home in November.

As always, the wild card is whether the team (and especially now Carson Wentz) can stay relatively healthy. If they do, and if Wentz can trust his wide receivers as in days past, the offense should have no problem scoring points. And, as one genius sportscaster pointed out, “The only way to win games is to score more points than the other guys.”

Here’s how I break out the season:

Sep 8 Washington Redskins 7-9 W
Having the Redskins here in Philly for Game One gets the Eagles off to a good start.

Sep 15 @ Atlanta Falcons 7-9 W
Eagles just seem to have the Falcons’ number. They come close, but the Eagles seem to have a way of dashing their dreams. Even in Atlanta

Sep 22 Detroit Lions 6-10 W
I think the Lions are still looking to put together a team. A win.

Sep 26 @ Green Bay Packers 6-9-1 W
I waffle about this one. Yes, it’s IN Green Bay, but the Packers come down to the state of Aaron Rogers. Our defense makes him uncomfortable all day and the Eagles come out with a win

Oct 6 New York Jets 4-12 W
Another “trap game.” The Jets have new uniforms and may not recognize themselves. Still, they are pathetic. Five straight wins to start the season.

Oct 13 @ Minnesota Vikings 8-7-1 L
Revenge for the Vikings. Eagles are starting to believe they’re all that, and the Vikings remind them that they still have to play the game.

Oct 20 @ Dallas Cowboys 10-6 L
Still nursing from a loss, the Eagles go down to Dallas and give away a close one.

Oct 27 @ Buffalo Bills 6-10 W
Playing the Bills can make a team healthy. Bills will be no trouble.

Nov 3 Chicago Bears 12-4 L
The Bears come into Philly and take one from the Birds. Are they for real? I don’t know, but I’m giving them this game.

Nov 10 BYE

Nov 17 New England Patriots 11-5 W
The Patriots are coming off of a BYE, too, and I’m hoping that they’re looking past the Eagles to their game against the Cowboys the following week. Even so, the Eagles HATE these guys. And it’s on our turf.

Nov 24 Seattle Seahawks 10-6 L
Seattle beats the Eagles until they don’t. And they will. A loss for the Eagles at home.

Dec 1 @ Miami Dolphins 7-9 W
Eagles go to Miami at a nice time of year. Assuming that they show up for business, they win this one.

Dec 9 New York Giants 5-11 W
The Giants stink. They flat-out stink.

Dec 15 @ Washington Redskins 7-9 W
Washington’s season is probably over at this point. Eagles need to keep their eye on the road and win this one, setting up a game for the division title.

Dec 22 Dallas Cowboys 10-6 W
Unless they totally screw things up again, the Cowboys should have a record on par with the Eagles. This game will determine the division crown.

Dec 29 @ New York Giants 5-11 W (or L, if nothing to play for)
Eagles coast into the playoffs with an easy win against the Gints.

OKAY. I just gave the Eagles a 12-4 record, a division title, and possibly even a BYE for the first round of the playoffs. I’ve also given them five straight wins to start the season, five straight wins to finish the season. They will not win five straight. 11-5 is acceptable, but a 10-6 record is a FAIL, especially if it means Dallas wins the division again.

We’ve only got four months to argue.

The Digital Age

I love my cameras. From film through early digital models to now the Canon EOS 80D, I have always enjoyed photography. And I love the possibilities in today’s digital cameras.

SLR / DSLR

SLR denotes a “single lens reflex” camera (or “digital single lens reflex”). This camera uses a mirror and prism setup that allows the user to look through a viewfinder and see exactly what the lens is going to capture. (Mirror = “reflex,” as in reflection.) Some cameras now feed that information to a display screen, in lieu of a viewfinder, while others may have both. I’ve always preferred the viewfinder.

With digital cameras, we’re finding there’s really no need for a mirror, since images are captured as pixels. This digital information can be fed directly from the sensor to either a display or “viewfinder,” without the need for the middleman mirror. Thus, we are now seeing more and more “mirrorless” cameras. This also removes the extra moving parts involved.

SLRs are known for their “bokeh” (boe-kay), which is that lovely blur to the background of a photograph. Compare this with a modern cellphone, which wants to have EVERYTHING in sharp focus, all throughout the image. Digitals can do that and, indeed, they want to do that by default. An SLR usually focuses on one element of the photo, with everything else blurred out according to distance. Often, this blur (bokeh) is desired, as in headshots or having the subject stand out from the background. SLRs are often rated as to the beauty of their bokeh.

Today I’m using the HTC U12+, an amazing cellphone with one of the top-ranked cameras onboard. No question, it takes wonderful photos in a variety of settings:
1:1 (9MP)
4:3 (12MP)
16:9 (9MP)
18:9 (8MP)

As example, the 16:9 image will fit the normal High-Def TV screen. The 18:9 version fills the U12+ display, which has a slightly wider (or taller) aspect. The 4:3 is more square, sort of like the old television screens.

Here’s a sample from the U12+, a photo of the produce section at the local grocery store. Click here for a larger version (1920×1080).

As you can see, the camera wants to keep everything in focus, from the red peppers up front to the cut flowers way back yonder. It’s a lovely image, if you want everything in focus.

But set the camera to the 4:3 aspect and hit the Bokeh Button, and you can now focus on anything you want and have the background blurred out. In fact, you can control HOW MUCH blur the camera gets. This is wonderful! Now we’re taking photographs! Click here if you want to see the HUGE original, right from the phone.

But wait, there’s more.

AFTER YOU TAKE THE SHOT, you can use the onboard Bokeh Mode Editor to “change your mind.” Maybe you don’t want the foreground in focus, you can CHANGE THE FOCUS POINT to anything else in the photo! AND you can again dictate how much or how little blur there is in the image. AFTER you take the shot.

The red fire hydrant is in focus, the white car in the background is blurred. Simply tapping on the car brings it into sharp focus, while applying a foreground blur to the hydrant. Or, if I want, I can have BOTH in sharp focus or both blurred (though, why would I?).

This is what digital photography does for us. The camera captures millions of pixels, and knows which pixels are sharp, which are blurred. And it can change them at any time.

Pretty soon, it will be impossible to take a bad photograph. But I’ll keep trying!

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2018 Ford Escape Titanium

Background

I kept my 1993 Mustang 5.0 for 19 years. In the second half of its life, there were constant and unexpected repairs. I had three different tow truck outfits on speed dial. But I wanted my wife to drive a worry-free car, one not likely to leave her sitting stranded by the side of the road. Leasing was the perfect answer. Her first leased vehicle was a 1999 Mercury Mystique, but then she shocked me by moving to the Ford Escape in 2004. In those days, the Escape was much more truck-like, a boxy affair that sat up high on its axels. She really enjoyed the SUV experience, and so leased another Escape in 2007. And 2010. In 2013, not keen on the Escape’s new redesign, she moved to a Focus (major surprise!), but then came back to the Escape for the 2016 model, for its higher seating position.

For the 2012 Focus makeover, Ford relied heavily on its German and U.K. design teams for an all-new Focus generation. They turned a rather lackluster economy car into a good-looking vehicle that was actually fun to drive. The Focus was one of the top-sellers in the world, when it wasn’t THE top seller in the world. Having spent 3 years driving both the 2013 SE and 2013 base model S sedans (one auto, one manual), I can say without hesitation that Ford nailed it with that Focus. Steering and handling were tight and predictable, though still forgiving of driver error. The car had very much a European feel to it. The manual transmission could have used a 6th gear, but it shifted “like butter.” The cabin was intimate and nicely appointed.

white gold at night

And the current Escape benefits greatly from that Focus redesign.

After driving a Focus, you would immediately recognize the current Escape as the “big brother.” Built on the same platform, the Escape’s dimensions are virtually identical to the Focus (except height), and the interior is strikingly similar, so it’s just like driving a larger version of the Focus hatchback. Our 2016 Escape SE model (www.tfrog.com/tfrog) featured the 1.6 liter turbocharged (Ecoboost®) four-cylinder engine at 178HP. It had a respectable amount of power on demand and that engine proved to be a steady powerplant over its three years. It never gave us pause over the 60,000 miles we put on it.

front seats

Our White Gold 2018 Escape Titanium has medium light stone heated leather seating surfaces in a handsomely furnished cabin. A couple of high-gloss black pieces complement the dashboard’s high quality plastics. The feel of the leather-wrapped steering wheel (also heated) is excellent. This Escape was ordered with the optional Class II trailer towing package, so it also has “paddle shifters” on the steering wheel. Shift the 6-speed automatic from Drive to Sport mode and the paddle shifters offer (pretend) full manual control. I’ll play with that after the first 1,000-mile break-in period, when this Escape gets its first oil change.

keyfob

Forget keys. Get used to carrying a keyfob, a black controller about 3½” long. Hit the Unlock button, and the Escape turns on front and rear lamps, along with courtesy lamps under both side mirrors, a welcome sight at night. When you carry the keyfob on your person, just a touch of the driver door handle unlocks all doors. Slip into the driver seat, put your foot on the brake pedal, and a one-touch button starts the engine. The electronics immediately come to life, including the dominant 8″ display that is your direct communication with the Escape. With the available Remote Start (featured on the accompanying FordPass cellphone app), I can start the Escape while I’m in the kitchen fixin’ my morning coffee, and the car will warm up before I get down to the garage. Without a keyfob inside the car, however, you cannot shift out of Park. The keyfob also allows you to raise or lower the rear liftgate (which is also operated by sliding your foot underneath the rear bumper – cool, when your arms are full of packages).

The Escape ST

The base level S model is your entry point, ready to go out of the box, but with a 2.5 liter inline-four rated at 168HP. The next step up, the SE, comes with a bunch of appealing extras and a 1.5 liter turbocharged four (179HP). A new SEL model packs even more, with plenty of available options to upgrade. The Titanium edition is the top of the line for the Ford Escape, and it comes with more goodies than I can describe here (window sticker reproduced below). Once we were done “building our own Escape” on the Ford website, there were very few remaining options available for the Titanium, and those are the ones designed for people who probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place – accident avoidance systems like lane-keeping, autonomous braking, etc. We ordered none of those. The car does have proximity alarms, which warn when you come too close to something. Unfortunately, these alarms go off every time we pull into the garage. But, between these alarms and the generous 8″ rearview camera display, backing into a parking space is simple and easy. The Titanium also has Parking Assist which steers for you into a parking space, horizontal or vertical.

The Titanium edition is also the only Escape that gets the 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that powers the Focus ST (previously available as an option on the SE model). Here, it is rated at 245 HP with a corresponding dip in fuel economy. But the difference over the 1.6 liter Ecoboost four is definitely noticeable. It is smooth, it is confident, and its power puts it in the top of the class for small SUVs. Combined with excellent driving characteristics, the Escape Titanium is a pleasure to drive, as well as a utilitarian vehicle for all situations. With the optional Intelligent Four Wheel Drive setup, winters will be no problem for us. (Of course, I can always turn off the Traction Control System if I just want to spin the tires.) This is why I call it the “Escape ST.”

dashboard

The steering wheel includes the standard cruise control, phone and audio controls, and driver display menu controls. Add paddle shifters, and there’s a lot going on here. The leather-wrapped wheel is contoured to fit the hand well, and it can be adjusted in and out, up and down to your liking. The dash in front of the steering wheel has large speed and tachometer (RPM) gauges, fuel and temperature gauges, and a digital display with quite a few options (average MPG, trip meters, miles since fueling, miles until empty, etc.).

8" display

The main 8″ display sits front and center on the dashboard. The home screen is split into three sections – realtime navigation map, audio source, and connected cellphone. Inside the menus are a crazy amount of options that will have to be explored. For now, we have three banks of five FM presets, two of five AM presets, a single-CD player that sits above the display, an AUX port (my iPod Nano, tucked inside the voluminous storage bin under the center armrest with its own USB port/charger), and cellphone all offering source media for the audio player. (Also Sirius Radio, but I’m not a fan.) Radio includes HD AM/FM. The SYNC®3 system allows voice commands for almost everything.

Tap the map and it expands to fill the screen. We asked the system to find our home address (which it did, quickly) and then we had prompts all along the route (“turn left 1/10th mile ahead”… “turn left now”) until “You have arrived at your destination.” I’m sure this will come in handy one day.

Between navigation, audio, and connected cellphone, there is much that this electonics hub can do, and a week spent thumbing through the manual may be in order. It will take a bit of time just to become familiar with all of the voice commands available. The display itself is touchscreen, so paging through the menus is quick and easy. But this is best left to your copilot/navigator, of course.

Below the central display/audio unit is the dual-zone climate control. Yes, separate settings for both driver and passenger! A/C and heat can be directed to windshield, person, or footwell, any combination, or all three at once. On a cold day, press a button to heat the rear glass, and the outside mirrors, front and back windshields, and front wipers are all heated and de-iced. Not really looking forward to trying this out.

Thought: I was the guy who bought a 1993 Mustang 5.0 with no options. All I wanted was a small-block American V8, a stick shift, and a comfy seat. A stereo unit was the only plus I needed. Anything else would have just gotten in the way. Today I drive an Escape with everything in the book!

[photo of seat controls]

The driver seat has a 10-way power adjustment regimen (including lower lumbar support… ahhhhhh), and the front passenger seat has 6-way adjustment. Three memory presets on the driver-side door will return your seat and outside mirrors to your preferred settings each time.

[photo of rear seats with center section down]

The rear seats do not offer a lot of room, BUT the rear seats do recline! There are additional vents back there for heat and A/C, and there is an actual 110-volt powerport for charging laptops, tablets, etc. There are “map pockets” (who uses maps anymore?) on the backs of the front seats, extra lighting for rear passengers, and a panoramic vista moonroof overhead that spans both front and rear seats. A middle section of the rear seats folds down for extra cup holders. Both seats fold down fully and lay flat, 60/40 split, for plenty of space for cargo. We had two bicycles laid flat in our 2016 Escape, front tires removed. With the rear seats upright, there’s still plenty of room in the back for our weekly trip to the grocery store.

18 inch sparkle wheels

Our Titanium has 18″ silver-painted wheels (sparkly!) that remind me of wagon-wheel spokes. I’ll point out that they’re not easy to clean (too many nooks and crannies), but they do look really nice when washed. The spare tire is under the cargo floor and it’s the usual shrinky-dink, suitable only for driving to the tire store. There’s also a funnel here, if you get caught out of gas and have to use a gas can to refuel. The fuel door hides a capless fuel intake. Hint: When done fueling, hold the fuel filler handle for an extra 5 seconds, then remove. This allows any vacuum to dissipate.

Thought: Ford likes to claim a certain level of fuel efficiency for the Escape (20 city, 27 highway, 23 overall), and to meet those numbers they have installed the Stop/Start system. When you come to a stop in traffic with your foot on the brake, the engine shuts off. Lift your foot and the engine starts up again. The feeling can be disconcerting, especially if you’re about to pull out quickly into a small gap in the traffic. We turn this off, and it has to be turned off each time you start the car, as it’s on by default. After a few tankfuls and around 1,200 miles, our average fuel consumption is right around 20MPG. Another contributor to this low mileage is the fact that the 2.0 turbo is just a lot of fun to drive. A little too much fun.

A couple of additional little touches I really like. All four side windows are operated by one-touch up and one-touch down buttons. A touch on the down button and the window goes all the way down. A little practice is in order if you want to stop the window at any point. Push down to start, then pull up to stop the window’s descent. Also, front cup holders have LED lighting that can be set to a range of colors (I like green). All other interior lighting is any color you want, so long as you want Ice Blue.

We would normally have traded our 2016 Escape on a 2019 model, but the 2019s are delayed until November. Our lease ended mid-October, so we had to choose a 2018 leftover.

We went over the Build Your Escape pages at the Ford website, discussing each option, and ended up choosing the Titanium edition (for the 2.0 engine, leather seats, lots of goodies), four-wheel drive version with the trailer towing package (just to get the hitch). We presented our choice to the local Ford dealer, who found exactly what we wanted in his “extended inventory.” The only difference was the inclusion of the Panoramic Vista Roof ($995), that we didn’t order but don’t mind having. Since this will probably be our last leased vehicle, we wanted one that we could happily purchase at lease end.

Lookin’ good.

The White Gold is a color shifter. In bright sun, it appears almost white. At dusk, it looks to be beige, and at night it shows as a dark tan.

Window Sticker

ESCAPE 4WD
2018 Escape Titanium 4WD
105.9″ Wheelbase
2.0L EcoBoost Engine
6-Speed Auto Trans w/ SelectShift
Exterior: White Gold Metallic
Interior: Medium Light Stone Leather Seats
Assembly: Louisville, KY, May 3, 2018

Exterior
Active Grille Shutters
Easy Fuel Capless Filler
Fog Lamps
Hands-free Liftgate
Headlamp Courtesy Delay
Headlamps – Automatic HID
LED Signature Lighting
Mirrors – Heated/Power Glass/Manual Folding/Turn Signal/Memory
Privacy Glass – Rear Doors
Rear Interval Wiper/Wash/Defrost
Roof-rack Side Rails (Silver)
Taillamps – LED
Windshield Wiper De-icer

Interior
1-Touch Up/Down Front/Rear Windows
110V/150W AC Power Outlet
4-Way Front Head Restraints
60/40 Split Folding Rear Seats
Ambient Lighting/Illuminated Entry
Carpeted Floor Mats
Dual Illuminated Visor Vanity Mirrors
Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control
Leather Trimmed Seats with 10-way Heated Driver/Passenger (Driver w/ Memory)
Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel & Shifter Knob
Powerpoints – 12V
Smart Charging USB Ports (2)
Steering Wheel: Heated, w/ Cruise & Audio Controls, Tilt/Telescoping

Functional
Auto Start-Stop Technology
Enhanced Active Park Assist
Intelligent Access w/ Push Button Start
MyKey®
Power Steering w/EPAS
Rear View Camera
Remote Start System
Reverse Sensing System
Securicode Keyless Keypad
SiriusXM®
Sony Audio System – 10 Speakers
SYNC® Connect
SYNC®3 w/8″ touch screen
Voice Activated Navigation

Safety/Security
Advancetrac with RSC
Airbag – Driver Knee
Airbags – Dual Stage Front
Airbags – Front Seat Mounted Side Impact
Airbags – Safety Canopy
Front-Passenger Sensing System
Latch Child Safety System
Perimeter Alarm
SOS Post Crash Alert System
Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Warranty
3 Year / 36,000 mile Bumper to Bumper
5 Year / 60,000 mile Powertrain
5 Year / 60,000 Roadside Assistance

Equipment Group 400A

18″ Sparkle Silver-painted Aluminum Wheels
235/50R18 A/S black sidewall tires
Panoramic Vista Roof ($995.00)
2.0L EcoBoost Class II Trailer Towing Package w/ Paddle Shifters ($495.00)

$33,490.00 Base Price
1,490.00 Options
34,980.00 Total
995.00 Destination & Delivery
$35,975.00 Total MSRP

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Drone on

A Cautionary Tale

 

The drone you see above is my second drone. It took me all of four days to crash and destroy my first.

Pre-crash video

Bird’s-eye view of home and back yard

This video (make sure quality setting is at 1080p HD) is a simple launch, ascend to tree-level, and take a look at back yard, reservoir behind us, and a pan around the neighborhood. Just this example shows the possibilities of a video drone. YouTube is full of far better videos. YouTube also has interesting compilations of drone crashes, to show how quickly and easily you can get into serious, drone-ending trouble. The oak tree in my front yard turned out to be a drone magnet, and I flew the drone into it at about 30 feet. When I cut the engines, the drone tumbled to the ground.

When checking the drone afterward, I managed to lose control of the thing, and it flew off across the street and ended up in the neighbor’s yard, severely damaged. It was then that I realized where I went wrong.

Learn to Fly

 

The Phantom 3 Standard

This is the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, one of the best entry-level video drones (“quadcopter”). That sweet little camera you see underneath has a 1/2.3″ sensor, shooting 12 megapixels through a 20mm f/2.8 lens. Max image size is 4000 x 3000 and it easily handles video at full HD (1920 x 1080) in framerates of 24/25/30, unbelievably smooth (jitter-free). You can download a User Manual here, if you want all of the specs on this model. Suffice to say, the results are better than you’d expect for a $500.00 pricetag.

There are many available choices in this growing sector, and even DJI offers a wide variety. Buying your first drone requires a lot of homework. Read everything you can find, including user forums, before making a choice.

I was thinking like a photographer, when I should have been thinking of my student pilot days.

This is an aircraft. Technically, it is an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The drone, itself, is the sexy bit on the right. Four motors powering four propellers, a state-of-the-art battery that provides about 20 minutes of flying time, and a quadcopter capable of flying to the FAA-limited 400 feet altitude and a WiFi-limited distance of about 500 meters.

You should be browsing YouTube videos while you’re researching which model to buy. And you should be watching any manufacturer-supplied videos and tutorials before you try to fly your new drone.

no drone zoneAlso be aware that there are FAA restrictions in the use of airspace in the U.S.A. and some overall rules that need to be followed. Don’t think that you can just unpack your new drone and start flying whenever wherever. Do not fly within 5 miles of an airport without first notifying them of your flight. Do not fly over people (sorry, no stadium shots), and don’t even think about messing around wherever there are emergency first-responders involved. You do NOT want to be the idiot who interfered with a medical evac chopper.

There was an attempt to have all drone owners register their drones with the FAA, but we then decided that folks who fly drones purely as a hobby need not register. You can register (I did), but you don’t have to. BUT, here are the rules:

  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  • Be aware of airspace requirements and restrictions
  • Stay away from surrounding obstacles
  • Keep your UAS within sight
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  • Never fly over groups of people
  • Never fly over stadiums or sports events
  • Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

If you use your drone for business in any way (or if it weighs more than 55lbs.), there are different and more stringent regulations. Check before you buy or fly.

You’ll have to also check for any local regulations in your area. A kid crashed his drone in a playground in one local community, and regulations were rushed through to keep drones off of any public property in that borough. In Pennsylvania, there are six (only six) state parks that allow drone flying, and even there they restrict the area allowed. The FAA offers a handy app called B4UFLY, which uses your location to warn of any conflicts. Use it.

Forget flying a drone in our National Parks. Some asshole(s) has already messed that up for the rest of us. Drones crash. And they like to crash in the exact worst places. They’re also called “drones” because they make a really annoying droning sound, which impedes upon the peace and tranquility that many are looking for in our national park system. (And many other places. Be aware of those around you and be considerate.)

con·sid·er·ate
kənˈsidərət/
adjective

Remote Controller

The unsexy bit on the left is the remote controller (RC). Two toggles control the aircraft’s flight (up, down, left, right, etc.). There’s a lot covered in the manual. Take your time to digest. There are also pre-programmed flight modes that are covered in DJI-provided YouTube video tutorials. The RC sets up a WiFi link with the quadcopter and also your display device of choice.

Connected to the RC is my old HTC One M7 phone. This runs the DJI app, which is your complete interface to communicate with the drone, to control video or stills, check battery levels, and so much more. As a personal note, the DJI app is not compatible with my new HTC 10, and I was lucky to still have the One M7, which does handle the app. Before you buy a drone, make sure that the device you want to use is compatible. Manufacturers can’t keep up with all of the latest and greatest phones, tablets, etc. Again, the UAS community has a lot of YouTube videos available, including complete overviews of the DJI app.

A helipad

I bought a helipad. Don’t laugh. When you’re starting out, ideally you’d want wide open spaces with no trees, no wires, nothing that could grab your drone and throw it in the trashcan. I have trees all around my back yard, so I take off and land in the center of the yard. When this particular drone is powered off, the camera hangs lens-down in the grass. Any dew on the grass will transfer to the lens, so I sprang for a helipad, just to keep the lens out of the grass. It’s also handy to take with me, so I’ll have it wherever I choose to fly.

We all know that we should always READ THE MANUAL (PDF download here), but I will stress that, in this case, you should READ THE MANUAL. When I bought my first DSLR years ago, the best advice was to go through the manual, try everything out point-by-point, then go through again. This is even more important with things that fly. I took a lazy approach to the flight part, concentrating more on the photography side, and ended up buying a second drone. Learn to fly first.

I had read (and so, have no excuses) that it is really easy to become disoriented when flying a drone. It’s one thing to fly when it’s going away from you, but when it’s coming back AT you, everything is reversed. Push left on the stick, and the drone flies off to the right. Push forward, and you’re suddenly going backwards. Practice, practice, practice, to get a good understanding of flight in all directions.

When your drone is up at 200 feet, it will rarely bump into anything. Almost all drone crashes happen at or near ground level, and a large portion involve trees.

trees

The Phantom uses GPS in flight. This is what allows the copter to hover in place without drifting. This also allows the copter to return to its starting point, if anything goes wrong (low battery, lost signal, etc.). Connecting to seven or more satellites is a good-to-go state, otherwise pay close attention.

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