New Dampers on The E46

I bought my car used, with 123,000 miles on it and it has driven pretty well. It has survived track days, autocrosses, and daily driving in Atlanta.

Over the last two years though, I noticed two things:

  1. The car felt a lot like a go-kart
  2. Leaving garages or hitting speed bumps would sometimes bottom out the vehicle if I did not let the suspension rest.

Debating Between Coilovers and Stock Spring, Struts

I debated over buying a set of coilovers, sells and supports ISC coilovers, they have a review in e46fanatics of surviving 5 years of heavy track use. And they’d be height, damper, and preload adjustable. And they are a Chinese import so they were the same price as…

What I went with, Koni Special Actives (formerly FSDs). I decided to go with these because, despite a willingness to track my car, mostly drive on streets. Tirerack has a great analysis of the special Active’s too, where they performed as well as the Koni Sports (a known good option), and were hypothesized to perform even better.

I also kept the stock springs, which had no signs of damage, partially because of ride height concerns. Having the factory ‘sport’ package means understanding that new springs will lower the car 3″ intimidating, but also unclear. And, performance wise, I just want that stock feel.

The Install

So, over Christmas, my shop mechanic (my father) and I bonded installing a new suspension. A task we’d done before on my 1989 Mazda RX-7 and he had done on his 1974 260z and 1999 Nissan Maxima. In all, the most of the work in the rear was removing the carpet — seriously, it took about 20 minutes otherwise bc they aren’t coilovers – and probably about 2 hours on the fronts (at a calm pace).

Based off of some suggestions, I spent a little extra on common wear items and some reeforcement plates. The stock sway bar end links that connect to the shocks are plastic and have a rubber boot; so the upgrade to a metal joint, an HD rod, and fresh rubber was obvious. The front and rear, but especially the rear strut mounts are known to wear out at the bushing, so I upgraded the rears to an American made aluminum and poly mount. The front strut sheet metal is also a known weak point – which I’ve countered on the front and rear with strut braces – but now I added steel reinforcement plates, basically big washers.

The Results

Well, I’m writing this post, and based off my introduction, you can probably already guess, but,

new struts are one of the best investments for a used car.

I say that, and even though I knew it from a similar experience in the RX-7; we start driving a new to us car and it feels okay, then it degrades slowly, but without objective ways to know it (oil leaking out of a strut, always bottoming out) it’s hard to know how much of an improvement it will be.

e46fanatics thinks that the stock 330i Sach’s struts start showing their age before 50k miles. And, on dis-assembly, at 170k miles, my rears were shot and running on the bump stops; the fronts were somewhat alive in those regards.

Now, my car doesn’t bottom out when leaving the parking garage bumps. It doesn’t squat when I accelerate. It shifts more smoothly. And it definitely corners at speeds better. And it feels a little bit less like a go-kart.

Non SSD Budget Laptops

My girlfriend recently purchased a new personal laptop – on a budget. But!, she didn’t follow my #1 piece of advice, “Make Sure It Has An SSD”

Well, on day 1 of using it, it was already untenable; it took 60s to launch Google Chrome. It took over a minute to boot – and you had to wait for the start menu to load when it did.

She returned it, said, the Best Buy person knew immediately what she was talking about when she said it was slow, and did recommend the similar model, except with the SSD this time.

This is not my first experience with this; My parents suffer through the same thing. Do they find it frustrating? Most of the time. Do they take my advice to get an SSD? nope, too much hassle.

This leaves me wondering; if, over the last 5 years, I’ve seen this happen with immediate connections, if that budget laptop was brand new from Best Buy (and advertised), there must be people who do not return the slow laptop, who do not upgrade to an SSD. Do they just think it’s the current state of computing for Chrome to take 60s to start? Do they think computers are slower today than they were 10-15 years ago?(because apps have swollen because developers think the baseline is ssd? and ram is plentiful)

I talked this over at work – a technology. Of course, we’ve all been working on laptops (mostly Macbook Pros or Airs) over the last decade; we mostly launch things like Chrome and IDs, and search every file in a project all of the time — so we’ve mostly had SSDs. Some of us have a desktop rig at home – and even then, if it’s not an SSD it’s a 7200rpm, or faster, hard drive.

Protip, buy an ssd.

There are countless youtube videos timing the same hardware with different storage types


You Were Already Paying for Someone Else’s Healthcare

With the United States House of Representatives passing a “repeal” of the ACA “Obamacare” with AHCA “Republicare” the Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter comments look like this

But I think that just indicates the short memories we have, or “How We Got Here”. Let’s look at some of the things that brought about healthcare reform

There are multiple ways the macro citizen pays for health care

  • Increased Mortality leads to lower GDP
  • Increased bankruptcies due to Emergency Room treatments people can’t afford (a hospital has to charge paying customers more to make the same profit)
  • Difficulty in Transferring Jobs (because Insurance costs are tied to employment) (limits wage growth)
  • Increased sick days leads to lower GDP
  • Reactive care is more expensive than proactive care.
  • Decreased Response Times in the ER
  • Emergency Room treatment is more expensive (higher stress job with more demand)
  • High insurance costs

Let’s just remember that Health Expense increases were a problem before ACA “Obamacare”; that they were a problem in the 90s and 60s just as well.

Don’t Tell Me About the Scrum Meetings You Had in Scrum Standup

I’ve been at 7 companies now that have practiced “scrum” stand-ups. Too many times, the stand-up becomes becomes a monotonous routine that has a barely participating audience – or used by as a way to micromanage exacting hours and tasks out of the team.

Yesterday, I was in Meetings.


An indicator that I’ve seen on several of the teams that I have been on has been the day after a day spent in scrum meetings – the team goes around the circle repeating that yesterday they were in planning meetings.

Were You Even Listening?

My worst experience with scrum stand-ups was where I was brought in, they were so boring that nobody was listening to anybody else. It was literally a meeting where people were barely awake and didn’t expect to talk to one another. Things that they said were for the scrum master to write down and share each task (and hour) with management.

Let’s Make It Better…………

Yesterday, I Won Fantasy Football


One thing that Pardot brought from Hannon Hill I’ve continued to push (because most of my teams believe in a strong work life balance) is to share Heroes and Hassles in and out of work. Sharing frustrations with traffic yesterday and the joys of attending a baseball game and seeing the home team win (other examples, great workout, funny tv show) helps a team personalize each other

How Can I Help You With That?

My team now is mastering asking how we can work together or finding out how things relate. A casual paired programming setup encourages this, and it’s the whole idea of scrum, working with others to get closer to the goal. I want my teammates to tell me passionately about the decisions they are making while coding – and I want to ask questions, especially if it’s something I can learn from (we can all always learn from another way of thinking), or issues and decisions that will affect me.

You want to pick that up? But I wanted to! Oh I guess those are related [stories]

I’m working really close to that code, watch out for this….

With ruthless transparency in mind, if standup doesn’t help you ask a question or get involved, then challenge it..

Amazon Opsworks Chef 11 Issues

At Terminus (and SingleOps before that) we’ve used Amazon OpsWorks to manage our infrastructure and ops needs. It’s slightly more customizable than Heroku, but that comes with a significant amount of ways for things to go awry.

Servers are cattle, not pets

Perhaps the most common issue seen with EC2 access and small applications is a tendency for users to do things on a specific server instance. This is a major no-no.

OpsWorks was first released with Chef 10, but by now, the default is Chef 12 and unfortunately, the original cookbooks used for Chef 10 and 11 are starting to show their age. Over the last several weeks, some of the dependencies have been upgraded to require Chef 12 or have other breaking dependencies.

First – last week,  we had an issue with buff-ignore that was resolved by adjusting our berkshelf version from 3.2 to 3.1.5; buff-ignore had updated from ruby 2.1 to ruby 2.2

This week, on Monday when we started a new server, we received another warning

Recipe Compile Error in /var/lib/aws/opsworks/cache.stage2/cookbooks/compat_resource/libraries/autoload.rb

This resource is written with Chef 12.5 custom resources, and requires at least Chef 12.0 used with the compat_resource cookbook, it will not work with Chef 11.x clients, and those users must pin their cookbooks to older versions or upgrade.

Thanks to Github issues, and some grepping of the use of compat_resource we were able to find 3 gems that were now trying to use it, so we added to our berksfile.

# Pin our Version so that we still work in chef 11
 cookbook 'build-essential', '= 3.2.0'
 cookbook 'apt', '= 3.0.0'
 cookbook 'ming', '=1.2.3'