MacDirectory Magazine

Spring-Summer 2010

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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REVIEW CARMD >ENGINE DIAGNOSTICS COME TO THE MAC WORDS BY RIC GETTER The CarMD combines a handheld scanner that downloads diagnostic codes from your car with software that goes out to the CarMD Web site to translate those codes into English and helps you estimate the cost of the service you’ll need. Each kit will let you register up to three cars. The CarMD site helps you locate the DLC in your car, and we would strongly recommend you get a sense of where it is and what it looks like before you place your order. On our Subaru the plug Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do when the “Check Engine” light came on was to pull over, pop the hood, check the engine (Yep, it’s still there!) and drive on. Unfortunately, it really means that something being monitored by your car’s onboard computer didn’t pass muster and it won’t tell anyone other than another computer where it actually hurts. And this usually means a trip to a dealer or service station (a good thing to do when you have a sick automobile) and several hours of nervously waiting to find out how big the bill is going to be. The news may be really bad or it could be something as simple as a loose gas cap. Since 1997, all cars sold in the United States have been required to have a standard, data link connector (DLC) that would communicate trouble codes and other diagnostic information to another computer. Thanks to the people at CarMD, that other computer can now be your Mac. After pounding the airwaves with their infomercials for many a month, CarMD put in an appearance at this year’s Macworld Expo and MacDirectoryhad the opportunity to take one for a test drive. was recessed about an inch into a socket and required CarMD’s $19.99 extender. You can save a few dollars if you search the Web, but it’s unlikely you’ll find one at your local auto supply store. (We cheated a bit and temporarily removed the DLC from the deep socket.) Download the Details Next, it’s simply a matter of plugging in the scanner and turning the ignition to “ON” within 10 seconds. Four beeps will tell you the diagnostics are complete (as often as not, the display will be facing downward when you plug it in. LEDs on the scanner will let you know if everything is okay (green), there are some issues that may cause a problem with emissions tests (yellow), or to get ready to break out your checkbook (red). The battery-powered scanner stores any error codes and sequentially displays them on the LCD screen. When you go to install the CarMD software, you’re presented with a lavishly produced video explaining how to use the scanner and what it does. Launching the CarMD application takes you to a personalized section of their Web site where you’ll easily find the reports based on the error codes uploaded from the scanner. These include an explanation of the problem and approximate cost of repair. Even if your car checks out, you’ll have access to a list of relevant recalls and service bulletins that affect your vehicle. However, for these, the Web page only offers up a short summary. You’ll need to pay $1.99 each to download the details or pony up $19.99 for a premium membership that offers unlimited access to the recalls and service bulletins. (If your Google skills are up to par, you may be able to track these down elsewhere.) The software has one odd quirk: there’s no way quit out of the program outside of using the Dock. All the interface elements are in the program window with a menu bar that is virtually barren. Even without a computer connection, the CarMD would be a useful companion when shopping for a used car. Any used car you’re seriously considering should get checked by a reliable (and human) mechanic, but a red or yellow light and string of error codes may cool your passions on the spot. In terms of overall value, the CarMD is a bit of a mixed bag. For folks with fairly new, healthy cars, the $99 price tag (not including shipping, an extender or premium membership) may be a little steep. But if you’re trying to squeeze every mile you can out of that ’99 Civic and have something less than blind trust in your local mechanic, the CarMD could be just what the doctor ordered. Product CarMD Made by, Corp. Price $98.99 (plus $14.99 shipping) Pros An easy way to suss out the meaning of a Check Engine light and interpret your car’s onboard diagnostics; a handy tool for doing a preliminary check on used cars Cons A bit pricey with extra charges for additional online features; Minimal effort made on the Mac port System Requirements OS X 10.4.4 or later (Universal Binary), 100 MB disk space, Internet connection Rating ★★★★ 56 MacDirectory

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