Placeshifting / Slingbox Pro HD Review
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• Veligandu Island Resort
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• Four Seasons Maldives Landaa Giraavaru
Thank you for your generous contributions. We've been making some great headway over the last few weeks and soon I'll be running some test images. These test images take a considerable amount of time and computer processing power so once we start we won't be accepting any new images. Please send in your images now so you can be sure to be included in this great project. I have been plans for these mosaics.
We are still accepting (and pleading for) images of children from SEA. No matter how terrible you think they are, please send them in anyway. These images will be used to complete a set of 3 high quality mosaics which will be sold to benefit the Karen and Burmese Orphans living in the orphanages and refugee camps. The more images the better, I can use all you have. Please take the time to go through your images for anything you think might help. If you missed the "No Place to Call Home" special, you can click on the link and read more about this. Thank you! [email protected]
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Feature Photograph *menu
Canon 5d Mark II, 16-35mm F2.8L @F3.2 1/160th 25mm ISO 400
I've always done my best to share with the readers that photography at our level is all about fun. If it's not fun we're wasting our time and should be doing something else. Life is too short to do otherwise. Earlier this week I commented in another blog that writing, like photography, is an art form. And when you do it professionally you should love what you do and have fun doing it. If you do, the love and fun will show in the writing, and the reader will share in these feelings. If I can't feel the love and fun while reading I move on to something else. NEXT.
One of my favorite writers in the Stickman Submission area is eccentric to say the least, yet each week I look forward to his Saturday prose because for those brief few minutes.. I can share his love of writing and feel the fun he's having. I'd miss these minutes each week if for some reason he decided to no longer publish. And while I'm confessing I should also say this writer gave me the inspiration to share what I love in this column. No one has ever given me a better gift.
This is why I was smiling inside last week watching my wife run around the house like a crazy person chasing my parrots. She knows nothing about photography other than if you push the button a picture appears. Yet, she's unknowingly been infected with my love of photography and there she was jumping over the sofas, sliding around corners, and chasing the parrots around the apartment with my brand new Canon 5d Mark II in her hands! She had no idea it's my new camera, or that I have a new camera, or how much it costs. She's long learned that if she picks up one of the many DSLRs in the house and moves the mode dial to the green box that everything will turn out fine.
Freezing a flying bird in flight is extremely difficult in the best of circumstances when you know how to use the camera to its fullest. It's next to impossible in the confines of a small apartment not knowing anything at all about photography. Yet, in the hour she was running around like a child chasing the family pet she managed to snap a few decent images that froze the parrots in flight with proper focus. Looking at the images on the LCD screen I decided to share one of her images here as the feature photograph.
This image is significant because she accomplished the near impossible and loved doing it. She had fun doing it. To her it wasn't work. Not only did she capture a few decent parrot images, but she perfectly captured what I personally consider the essence of photography. She was having a great time.
In contrast I'm not so sure the parrots were feeling the love. From where I was sitting the older one barely tolerated her, while the younger one lost her patience and decided to address this nuisance directly.
Canon 5d Mark II, 16-35mm F2.8L @F4 1/40th 35mm ISO 6400
Dona Nobis Pacem, a Choral Works *menu
In this week's column I'm pleased to introduce Dr. Pawasut Piriyapongrat, a professor of music at Chulalongkorn University and Thailand's premier choral conductor. I've been privileged to attend several of her concerts and have always been more than impressed. When she offered to put a few photos together with a narrative I gladly accepted. I hope you enjoy her input as much as I do.
I have been meaning to send pictures from my concert for a while but have not had time to do it until it has been well over a month. Pictures I am sending here are taken by Susunt Pattaratammas, my Thai friend who is an amateur photographer with quite expensive gear. He bought his Canon 5D Mark II in June and used it for my June concert for the first time. Back then he was still playing with the camera and see what it does. My concert was his guinea pig!
These pictures he took in our concert in late October look much nicer so I think I would show you and your audience some of them. We, Chulalongkorn University Symphony Orchestra and Choir, were performing Thailand premiere of a great choral work Dona nobis pacem, composed by a great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was a great experience for all of us.
University seal in the back of the stage
What singers concerned the most!
One hundred singers in the choir warming up before the concert
Conductor looking all mean making sure all the singers are there and ready to go
More timpanis than what are conventionally used
Suvipa Prompiriya, a very promising soprano soloist. She’s a third year student at Chulalongkorn University.
Our baritone soloist, Manit Thuwassethakul, in front of 170 musicians and singers
Taken from balcony
Dr. Piriyapongrat –
I want to thank you for sharing this concert with our readership. This bordered on the right size for a readers submission but I decided to make it a feature because frankly we don't get much material from Thai readers, much less someone so accomplished. Thank you.
Placeshifting, Slingbox Pro-HD *menu
Placeshifting technology is very useful. Placeshifting allows us to be in one location while experiencing another location. Or in the case of real technology we can use, placeshifting allows us to watch video which runs live in one location, in our current location. This is different from Utube and other video services because these are not recordings but rather live video content feeds from a satellite or cable service.
There are several placeshifting devices out there but I'm only going to talk about one. Sling Media. Sling Media started out about five years ago with a simple device that allowed someone to placeshift a small resolution video signal from their home cable/satellite service and stream it over the internet to their handheld mobile phone, Blackberry, Palm, or other mobile device. Think about it, you could be sitting on the train or in the waiting room of your doctor's office watching your favorite live football game on your personal mobile phone or internet enabled device. How cool is that?
Living in Thailand as an expatriate I immediately saw other uses. With a serious dearth of quality English speaking programming I knew I'd appreciate having access to the cable channels from my home country. I looked on their site for the most appropriate device, placed my order, and had it shipped to my sons home in Illinois. The device I felt most appropriate for current and future use was theSling HD-Pro.
The Sling Pro-HD can stream from very low resolution formats suitable for mobile phones, to full HDTV programming. More, it can stream data from a TiVo or other DVR device. It was ideal.
Setting it Up
Two days later it arrives at my son's house and he rings me up wanting to know what I'd sent. Not knowing how much work would be involved I remember telling him something like this "it's just some box so I can watch your cable, it should only take you five minutes to install." I hear a "sure Dad" and five minutes later he calls back up and tells me it's ready to go! I asked him exactly what was involved.
He unpacked it from the box, plugged it into a wall outlet, and then connected a cable from the Sling Pro-HD to the cable outlet on his wall, and a network cable to his router. He then ran a setup disk that sets a couple ports in his router and that was it. He reads the instructions a bit more and says if I want it connected to his TIVO or other DVR it would require hooking up another cable.
I asked him how big it was and if it took much room around his television. He said it was very small and he didn't put it near his television. He put it in the same room where he has his ADSL modem and wireless router. It pulls about 5w.
On my end in Bangkok I went to the Sling Media site and downloaded the "Sling Player" software and installed it. It didn't take long. I was required to set up a free account and enter some information like my Sling Box ID number, name, email address, and a password. I started the program and a few minutes later was watching a channel from his cable service!
How Does it Work?
Its not as complicated as you might think. The Sling Pro-HD has a built in tuner. The cable that connects it to the host cable system is a cheap cable like the type that connects the cable systems modem to the TV. A single BNC to BNC cable.
It's important to note that installing this device in no way interferes with the host's use of their cable or watching their cable on their television. It's akin to having different televisions in different rooms, each television having its own cable tuner box, in this case the Sling Pro-HD becomes the cable tuner box. This works great for basic cable services. Basic cable services are always available even when the main television at the hosts end is using a digital conversion box for HDTV, surround sound, and additional channels. And if you like you can connect the Sling Pro-HD through an additional digital conversion box, but I figured with the bandwidth (internet speeds) available on my end it would all be for nothing.
Once the router is setup the device becomes accessible from outside the home network. You (or anyone with the codes and password) can then access the device and watch the cable channels from anywhere in the world via the internet.
You can download a "Slingplayer" for use on a computer, "Slingplayer Mobile" for use on a mobile device, or make use of their new Slingcatcher application.
The reason you set up the account with Sling Media is so when connecting remotely (from outside the home network) you'd have a place to go to find your Sling Pro-HD. Almost all home internet accounts have dynamic IP addresses which means the address changes often. This means you'll need a common meeting point on the internet to learn the devices most current IP address and "hook up." As the home network dynamic IP changes the Sling Pro-HD continuously updates your account with the new address, and from your remote device (mobile phone, laptop, etc) you access this account. The accounts are hosted on a Sling Media site.
Sling Media is always introducing new and useful features. As an early adopter I've been able to watch Slingplayer grow from a basic interface, to the attractive full featured interface of the most current Version 2.0.
One of the most useful features is the built in programming guide. When you set up your account it asks you for your zip code and cable provider, and using this information it then provides a TV guide service. Very nice, especially when you remember you're using this product away from your home and often when on the run.
The main unit comes with a remote control for use in the hosts home. And then it provides an electronic remote control you can click on with your mouse cursor. You can also set up the panels to be there when you 'mouse over' and then disappear when you're done.
Sometimes you'll find a hotel or other network blocks video streaming from the Slingplayer and other such devices. Now Sling Media allows you to go to your personal account in a web browser and watch your programming. If you can access the internet through your browser, you'll be able to access your programming through your browser.
I use the Sling Pro-HD for several uses. As a programming source in my home here in Bangkok, and as a programming source when I'm traveling and my hotel room provides a suitable internet connection.
3g is starting to go mainstream in different areas of Thailand and 'unlimited' data packages are already available. So it's entirely possible to view your Sling on your mobile device.
Where I live only 1mbps connections are possible. During the best times of the day (when the net is at its peak speeds) I can get very nice standard definition streams. I estimate you'd want 2-3mpbs to achieve the HDTV resolution streams.
Keep in mind that with my setup I'm 12 hours out of sync with the programming source. This means I'm sleeping during prime time. Because of this I usually limit my Sling watching to 24 hour news channels, a few car shows, and the occasional old favorite show from long ago playing on late night television in the states. Still, I find access to my local news invaluable.
For my main viewing, such as televisions series and movies, I get great quality programming in SD or HD through torrents.
For the relatively low cost of the Sling box I find it a bargain. Some of the older models are still available for under $100. There is no monthly fee other than for the cable bill at your host location. Essentially once you buy the device it's a free service.
For 3 years now I've had access to the news channels I'm interested in watching, car and craft shows from back home, and delight in the occasional old show from years past. It's a unique experience to sit here in a late night Bangkok evening watching Bonanza on the television!
The system is absolutely reliable. In three years there have been only 2-3 times I've had to call my son and ask him to reset the device, and two of those times there were firmware upgrades that needed to be downloaded which was the problem. The local internet is 1000x less reliable than the device itself.
You can watch the browser feed at work, watch TV on your laptop while traveling and staying at hotels, or hook up the main feed to your big HDTV at home. There are some very slick and easy ways to get the video from your computer to your television, if enough people are interested I'll do a follow-up piece and cover this area as well.
The Slingbox is a must have addition to the expatriates entertainment/medial center. It's cheap, it's easy, and it's a lot of fun. Watch for the sales, these can be marked down quite a bit.
Photography News of Interest *menu
How do you feel about a short film contest? With most of the recent DSLRs featuring HD video capabilities Canon decided to sponsor a short film contest with the winners being awarded a new Canon 5d Mark II and Canon 7d. The theme is "Story Beyond The Still" which I'm sure is a story most of us have to share. Check it outhere.
While we're on the subject of video, and with HD video cameras becoming the rule rather than the exception it's only natural that we'll see bigger and faster flash memory cards becoming available. Silicon Power announces its 128gb 400x CF card that can write data at speeds exceeding 90mbps which is extremely fast. They also come in 8gb, 16gb, 32gb, and 64gb capacities. They're pricey but they come with a lifetime warranty. Read about it here.
I've been asked a few times recently to talk about the most recent issues concerning flying with camera gear. With the Christmas Bomber trying to blow up his underwear and a plane full of people with him, you can bet the TSA will be inventing new and useless ways to hassle flyers going through security. The problem is I haven't flown in the last 2-3 months and I don't have any first hand knowledge. However, there is an excellent article on flying with camera gear over on the Luminous Landscape and it's worth a good look. You can read it here.
I really got a lot out of this review of the Canon EOS 7d. Imaging Resource has their own unique review methodology which I very much enjoy. If you're at all interested in the top contender in the consumer DSLR market give this review a read here.
Photographing teen girls playing soccer for sexual gratification. These are the charges Paul Clark Jr. was arrested on this week. After arresting him on nothing more than their suspicions, and then finding images showing from the knee to neck, the police came to the conclusion this was a sexual predator and searched his home seizing his computer and media storage devices. I've heard of this happening in the U.K., but it really worries me that this just happened in Texas. There are all kinds of red flags being raised in this one. Read about it here.
"Lynching Photography in America." There isn't a lot more I want to say about this one. It's disturbing to me that people would be lynched, and disturbing that people want to see pictures of it. However, if you want to know more you can read about it here.
Readers Submissions *menu
This is the first stop on the bike tour.
Easyrider Magazine does about 13 of these shows a year.
This is the first of the season, across the country.
Supposedly the newest latest creations of the year.
This was Saturday.
Thank you once again! I never tire of seeing these great bikes. You must be having a wonderful time traveling around and following these shows. Please keep them coming!
I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]
Readers Questions *menu
I live in a small town just north of Phan Rang in Vietnam. I have a Sony DSC-V1 that I think has reached its use by date. I bought it in Hong Kong 5 year ago and it has served me well. It has developed a problem whereby after the 3rd shot the photos go a ghostly white, like a negative on a white background. I'm flying to Saigon next Wednesday and am hoping I can find someone to fix it. It would be a great little camera for my uni student sister in law. I have a Sony HDD camcorder that I bought in Australia last year and although it;s supposed to take 10 megapixel stills they aren't as good as the 5 megapixel photos I've taken with the Cybershot camera. I'm not a professional photographer, just a part timer who likes taking and captioning photos to send to friends around the world.
I'm looking for a replacement and am thinking of buying the Canon EOS 500D. www.dpreview.com gives it a good wrap but not so the 18-200 lens I want to buy with it. The camera is $720 U.S. with an 18-55 lens. The 18-200 lens is $550U.S. They give the camera a "High Recommendation" but only give the lens a "Recommendation with reservations." This has me worried. With $1500 U.S. to spend could you recommend anything else in this class of camera? I have read heaps of reviews on the dpreview site but would appreciate your advice.
Hi Kevin –
The replacement you mention, the Canon 500d (or T1i in other parts of the world) is a fine camera. There's nothing else like it in this price range. In fact, it has even caught the attention of many professionals who just want a small DSLR for family use.
With video and all the other capabilities it offers, not to mention very good image quality, it's a solid winner.
You'll find the 500D leaps and bounds ahead of what you've been using. You might even be stunned..
I've read the reviews at DPReview, as you know I often link their reviews in my column because they're complete and usually very accurate.
I've used the 500d with the 18-55 and I think you'll be pleased with both. This 18-55 is a newer model with IS (image stabilization) which performs much better than Canon's old 18-55.
The 18-200 you mention is pretty average for a lens with this much of a zoom range, and better than you'll find from non-OEM brands like Sigma, Tokina, and others. 18-200's are considered consumer lenses and no manufacturer makes them to really high standards. It's a cost issue. Someone willing to spend more wouldn't be looking for a 18-200. An exception to the 18-200 lens mediocrity is the Nikkor 18-200. It's not great, but it's better than the competition.
$1500 is significant.. This leaves you with $780 for a lens. There are two lenses that come to mind which offer outstanding image quality, very fast AF speed, and are built really tough.. and are size/weight wise are a great match for the 500D. The lenses are the Canon 70-200mm F4, and the Canon 70-200mm F4 IS. I'd recommend the latter, but it's a few hundred outside of your budget. Though, I think if you could fit it in your budget, you'd be very pleased.
So.. the Canon 500D (T1i) with the 18-55mm IS lens is a great choice. Adding the 70-200mm F4 IS would be an outstanding addition.
I hope this helps.
Thanks for the advice. I feel a lot better now. I'll still go with the 18-200 but will keep the 18-55 the camera comes with. I've set myself a limit of $1500 for the camera, lens, memory card, and carry bag so I'd better stick to it. Was looking at the EOS 5D Mark 11 but changed my mind. Beautiful camera but at $2300 more for someone who is semi professional. I'm just a part timer. Never know perhaps further down the track. Once again thanks for the advice and Merry Christmas to you and yours and a Happy and Lucky New Year!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my enquiry. I will take your advice. I'll just purchase the camera and 18-55 lens for now and make a decision about a bigger lens later on. That will be the sensible way to go. I've just had a scary thought. What if the 500D isn't as good, photo wise, as my old Sony Cyber Shot DSC-V1? After all the 500D is $280 cheaper. I bought the little Sony at the camera shop in the Hong Kong airport 5 year ago and its been a little bottler. http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Sony/sony_dscv1.asp
I must have taken a couple of thousand shots with this little camera and I get some real beauties from time to time. Even though its playing up I was still able to take this cropped shot (attached) the other day, and have attached 1 of my all time favourites from my street when I was living in Nha Trang. I captioned it ''The Tortoise and the Hare.'' If you blow it up full screen you'll see how heavy the rain was that day. Like I said Steve, I'm just a part timer who likes to caption nice photos to send off to friends. Thanks for your time.
I am so glad I emailed you about the Canon EOS 500D. Especially about the choice of lenses. I purchased the camera on my way to Vung Tau for Xmas. It had the 18-55mm lens. I bought other extras as well including a 16 gig flashcard and a good quality tripod. I went back to Saigon on the 2nd and purchased the 70-200 F4 IS USM, BG-E5 battery grip, and a Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW backpack. All up I spent $3000 Aust dollars, nearly double my budget but am very happy with my purchases. Saw my next camera while I was there. The Canon EOS 5D Mark11. Thanks Steve for pointing me in the right direction. Without your advice I would have bought the 18-200. Glad I didn't. All the best.
It looks like you've selected some great equipment and are well on your way to meeting your goals. I can't wait to see some images from your new gear! Don't forget to send in some submissions to share. I'd really like to see more of Vietnam.
Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.
A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *menu
I'm hoping this year will be better than last. Bookings are up and I have several promising projects in the planning stages. This week we've had only a single workshop but are looking forward to more next week.
I continue to test the new video cards as well as a new mouse. We'll be bringing you reviews of both soon. We also have reviews of Photomatix Professional, PTgui, Fast Picture Viewer, and Topaz coming in the following weeks.
Infocus Blog *menu
Often this blog, these last words of the weekly column, are my favorite. This blog entry allows me to talk about anything on my mind. Any topic can be opened up for discussion. Usually I try to make it topical and other times I'm just selfish and rattle on about something I'm pretty sure few will have an interest in. Today is a bit of both.
We live in great times. In this week's learning topic I discuss how I use a Slingbox to watch local news channels back home as well as some car and craft shows. Lately I've become very interested in watching the Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auctions. I love old classic cars and it's a joy to watch these beautifully restored and rare cars and it's further interesting to watch the prices they go for.
I'm a muscle car fan. Mustang's, Cuda's, Camero's, and more. I love them all. Relatively lightweight cars with huge V8 engines that defined the era I grew up in. I owned more than a few of these cars and keep a few in storage back in the states today.
Nikon D2h, Nikkor 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/160th 19mm ISO 200
While watching the auctions I couldn't help but compare old cars to old cameras. Both are works of art, and both can be beautifully restored, though the cameras don't demand a premium out of the world price like the cars do. The average person can actually afford the old cameras.
And this was when I thought to myself "why would I want to own an old camera with all the much nicer and easier to use cameras available today?" The answer to that question is that with the exception of either old cameras I've used previously and where there's some nostalgia involved, or possibly old large format landscape cameras, I'd rather use the new modern cameras of today.
That got me to thinking about the cars. As much as I love these old muscle cars, and as much as I appreciate their fine lines and raw power, and realizing that if I was super rich I'd own many of these cars.. despite all that the new models are better in almost every way.
WHAT! I know not everyone will agree. However, I own a late model "muscle car" and with it's 512rwhp, 720rwhp with nitrox, it's better in every way than the many Mustangs I drove from the 60's and early 70's. I suppose we could debate the looks and how they make you feel, but I'm talking about the areas of performance and comfort which we can measure.
Olympus C3000Z F2.8 1/160th ISO 100
This is 1 of 514 black SVT Cobra coupes built in 1999. It came stock with 320hp, a 600 watt stereo, a great air conditioner, and very comfortable power leather seats with air lumber support. It has power windows, power brakes, cruise control, and full instrumentation. It's exclusive, it's fast, it handles great, and really for 1999 it was a great performing car. And at nearly 24mpg it was arguably economical.
For me it wasn't powerful enough. I knew when I ordered it from the factory that in less than two months time I'd be meeting up with representatives from Vortech, K&N, Kenny Brown Racing, and some others.. and transforming this car in many ways. I knew it would end up on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine. The car emerged as a supercharged 512rwhp driver setting just inches off the ground and was equally at home on the track at SCCA events, or cruising down I-5 to visit my family in California.
Olympus C3000Z F2.8 1/125th ISO 100
After adding several layers of Dynamat sound insulation, interior roll cage, upgraded stereo, and more.. this car was even more quiet and comfortable to drive than in factory trim. The engine was disassembled and rebuilt using better parts, all four cams were changed to a custom grind, chassis stiffeners under the car were added and in the engine bay. A new transmission, clutch, 4:10 rear end, and 18" forged aluminum chromed wheels with Nitto rubber. A Kenny Brown Stage III suspension, Koni shocks and struts, aluminum control arms, poly bushings an dmore. AND I increased it's mileage to right under 30mpg. 30mpg+ if I can keep it at 65mph.
After making these modifications I went on several long trips with my sons, even part of Route 66. The car was absolutely reliable, quiet (for 512rwhp), and drove better than the original. With the interior roll cage and upgraded Brembo's it was even safer.
This car can probably get an easy 200,000 miles on only oil changes and changing the platinum spark plugs every 30,000 miles before needing to be rebuilt. This car significantly outperforms my 1968 GT500KR Shelby in every way, and it is much more comfortable to drive.
Nikon D2h, Nikkor 12-24mm F4 @F11 1/160th 20mm ISO 200
Here's my point. In the last few years we've had new Challengers, Camero's, and Mustangs available. There are even modern GT500KR's available from Ford's SVT. And there are Vipers and Vette's and we haven't even talked about the excellent offerings from Europe or the fast as snot Japanese tuner cars. Today we have more choices in performance cars available than we ever have before.
So why would we pay $200,000 for a pristine 1970 Boss 302 Mustang when we can get a much better performing car on every level, not to mention many times more comfortable and reliable, for a fraction of the price? The answer is we wouldn't. These old muscle cars are rarely restored to be driven on a daily basis. They're built as investments and they make great investments providing a return unmatched by almost any other investment I can think of. At least investments that carry the same risk.
If we want a decoration, something to polish in the garage on Saturdays, an investment, a great example of nostalgia to admire then these old cars are the hot ticket. But if you want a car to drive, and they were meant to be driven, then we live in the best times we've ever lived in with more choices than ever before.
I've always been a Ford guy.. and I really do like the new Mustangs. Especially the new 2011 models that will be coming out with standard 420hp naturally aspirated engines that get 29mpg. But I'd also like to purchase a black SRT8 Challenger and mold it in the same image as my Cobra and turn it into a 800hp perfectly drivable work of art.
We truly live in great times..
In ending I'd like to share the "why."
I bought my Cobra when my youngest son was 7 years old. For as long as he can remember we washed and waxed this car together, raced it at the track, tried new accessories, and he laughs when he tells the story of how he always knew I was outside his school waiting for him after school because he could "feel" the engine as I drove up. He said the other kids knew the sound too and they'd all smile and then rush outside to see the cool car. I never knew they would listen for the car, and in fact when I'd approach from several blocks away I'd pop it in neutral and coast the rest of the way in so as not to disturb the last few minutes of class. But he knew.
Olympus C3000Z F2.8 1/125th ISO 100
Next year he'll be off to college. I'm not sure yet which university, but if it's in a fair weather state I plan on giving him the car. He's proven himself to be responsible and level headed enough, and I've always provided a good used car for my boys as they've went through college, and he loves this car. You see, he'd rather drive a Japanese tuner car because that's his generation. THIS car would become the one he enjoys looking at, polishing, and hopefully some day sharing with his son(s). The guard has changed. There will never be better times..Until next time..