Xen and the Art of Motor Car Maintenance


Posted on: Oct 04, 2011 by Guy Lidbetter

What follows is a true story …

Some time ago I mislaid my keys.  This was a disaster for all kinds of reasons but by far the biggest was the fact that they contained key fobs for 2 cars.  Before drawing the wrong conclusions regarding my high rolling lifestyle, one was Japanese, the other Korean and I stress that both are excellent vehicles in every respect to suit the modern family lifestyle.  I faced the music with the newer car first, being my main means of automotive transport. This resulted in a bill from the dealer of £250 for a new piece of silicon embedded into a lump of plastic and I was assured of the complexity of the task to marry the new device to the existing car using the manufacturer’s specialised equipment. Nice work if you can get it.

£250 poorer, I was faced with the same task for the older and, truth to say, less well cared for machine.  Laying out a similar sum which represented about 15% of the value of the car (indeed, it was truly neglected) was not compelling so I turned to anyone’s best friend in such a situation, the web.  It turned out that the device itself could be acquired through online auction site E for about £25, the source presumably coming from the modern day equivalent of what I once knew to be a breakers yard.  So, the device was obtainable but what of the manufacturer’s specialised equipment to connect to my decrepit car?  My next best friend was to search on G, although I’m sure B and Y would have done just as well.    I’m not a big fan of geekdom sites in which outnerding the nerds becomes the main objective regardless of whatever the original question was.  Nevertheless, I dutifully typed in a suitable insightful search string and found the following …

  1. Remove the ignition key and close all of the doors.
  2. Open the driver’s side door.
  3. Insert the key into the ignition switch.
  4. Repeat the following three times within 10 seconds: Turn key to ON and then back to LOCK position.
  5. Key should now be in lock position. Do not remove the key.
  6. Repeat the following three times : Close and then open the drivers door.
  7. Drivers door should now be open and all doors will lock and then unlock.
  8. Push any button on the transmitter twice.
  9. Doors will lock and then unlock indicating that transmitter is programmed.

To stress again, this is absolutely true.

Further down the trail was an entry that supported my suspicion that it was a scam intended for people to make idiots of themselves.  Nevertheless, what could I lose apart from my dignity so I went through the ritual of actions, pressed the fob button twice and …. nothing happened.  “Hah, told you so … you mug!”.   However, the instructions were quite insistent that the timing was important and I had dithered at a number of points in the process.  So I went through the actions again in a slicker more informed manner, pressed the fob button and ….

… the doors locked themselves, the hazard lights flashed once, the fob became fully operational and I uttered a common phrase in Anglo Saxon vernacular that can’t be repeated here.

I must stress the following.  It is not my place or intent to question the business models of companies that have to face the reality of market forces.  I have nothing but good to say of the purveyors of my vehicles.  However, the web has brought us many things, one of which is more choice and another better access to information.  The moral of the tale is therefore threefold …

- However complex you make your gadget for others to get into to, make sure you keep it simple for yourself and, crucially not observed in this case, make sure no one else finds out.

- Don’t assume that the obvious answer is the only answer.  I am no social networker but I do understand the power of the network.  Despite its apparent ridiculous nature, in this instance, having access to the key (pun intended) knowledge saved me about £225.

- Most importantly, Car manufacturers like so many other businesses are facing price commoditisation of their core product and therefore need to make their money by other means which usually means consumables (where possible) and services.  Airlines, car makers, printer manufactures and everyone else are having to work this out. This includes the IT industry and right now, we call it Cloud Computing which is becoming a genuinely different way of providing, consuming and paying for IT infrastructure, applications and services.

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About Guy Lidbetter

Chief Technology Officer, Infrastructure & Data Management. Atos Fellow and member of the Scientific Community
With over 30 years of experience in the IT services industry, as CTO for Atos Infrastructure & Data Management, Guy is responsible for setting Technical and Innovation Strategy across the IT infrastructure stack in both cloud and non-cloud delivery models. He is also responsible for senior level relationships with technology leaders of strategic partners. Previously, he has held numerous technical and management positions in Sema Group, SchlumbergerSema and Atos Origin. In 2017 Guy was appointed an Atos Fellow and is also a founder member of the Atos Scientific Community, most recently sitting on the Editorial Board for the latest Ascent magazine, “Imagining our Quantum Future’.  He has a passion for sport, particularly Chelsea Football Club, baseball’s Atlanta Braves, rugby union and cricket. He also walks, cycles and more leisurely pursuits include photography, reading, music and attempting cryptic crosswords with varying degrees of success.

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