Monday, January 21, 2013

PyCharm and Google App Engine on Mac OS X

I really like PyCharm. I've started playing with Google's App Engine to evaluate it for hosting a project. I wanted to build the site in Python - ultimately with Django. I've had it setup and working just fine on my Windows 7 dev box at home, but I really like to be able to also work on my laptop at the local C8H10N4O2 establishment.

Naturally, the PyCharm page that walks through an intro to using PyCharm with GAE uses Windows as the setting. There is little about setting up PyCharm to point to GAE for Mac OS X - other than stating that it will automatically detect it. It didn't. Bummer.

After poking around a bit here's what I had to do:

  1. Make sure that symlinks are generated with GAE launcher. On installation it will ask if you wanted this. If you said no then, simply hit the "GoogleAppEngineLauncher" menu and choose "Make Symlinks...". It'll ask you to authenticate.
  2. In PyCharm, Preferences drop down about half way within the project settings to the Google App Engine item. Enable GAE and enter "/usr/local/google_appengine" for the path. The warning message should disappear as soon as you've entered this.
  3. Optionally enter your Google account email/password if you want to publish the application directly to Google. (I didn't since I'm primarily working on the project local when on the laptop.)
That's pretty much it. Now the code autocompletion will work within Python code. Sweet!

As a side note, I've found the GAE to work sufficiently well, though setting it isn't totally straightforward. And, I've found that when I attempt to use the user login stuff - since I've constrained my application to only the user accounts for my domain - always returns a nasty looking exception page.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Subaru BRZ - My experience so far

I ordered my BRZ without ever having actually seen or driven one. This was typical for buyers last year and will probably continue into this year (2013) due to the still-diminished supply. I have absolutely no regrets. The car has not disappointed. I had researched it, had read personal reviews from owners, and felt that it would be a great car. It is.

I have a manual transmission, Limited edition in the Dark Gray Metallic. I had them install the mirror with the Home Link and auto dimming. I bought it from Subaru of Kennesaw, who were absolutely fantastic (see the details below). I've had it since Nov, 2012.


The car looks great. I get so many compliments by people - both those who know what it is, and those who don't. It's small, looks very sporty and just has very clean lines. It's a simple car with only a few "fancy" design elements to it. I've had high school girls (much to my embarrassment actually) beg to sit in it and take pictures of each other in it. I've had the 20-something guy at a Publix who was bringing my groceries drool over it - he knew all the stats. It feels good to own the car and to be seen in it. It doesn't feel too obscene from a price perspective, but it appears like it should.


The BRZ is surprisingly comfortable for being a dedicated sports car. The seats have great support when dancing with G-Forces around corners and are sufficiently comfortable for the daily commute. They are a bit stiff and not nearly as comfortable as the seats in my Lexus IS from a vertical perspective, but are much more comfortable from a lateral perspective. 

I am 6'4" - tall for such a small car. The seat is not all the way back. There is about 1.5 - 2" more it could travel back. Everything in the car is within easy reach - shifting is natural. While I don't care for touch screen in a car (too distracting), it is within reach and sufficiently responsive (see below). Steering and operating the pedals are all natural and comfortable.

Forget putting anyone but the family pet in the back seats. If the passenger seat is moved forward two small kids could sit in the front and passenger-side back. I can't imagine any adult attempting such a feat. I've dropped the rear seats to open to the trunk, however, and have carried all sorts of stuff (including runs to Home Depot!).

Passengers have commented that the felt the seats were comfortable and felt great while I was being stupid around corners. This includes my 14 year old son and 74 year old 200 lb dad. It is a little difficult for me and larger people to get in and out since it is so low, but easier than with my Mit. 3000GT - which has much larger and heavier doors.


This is, by far, the signature feature of this car. The handling is exactly as it is billed - superb. The car corners better than any car I've driven. While many complained that the car shipped with crappy tires, I've found them to be just fine. With the traction control enabled it is somewhat difficult to get any drift; even with sport mode enabled the car still just sticks around corners. When it does drift the feeling is very predictable and handling very responsive.

The car can be steered with the accelerator, just as you'd expect. Under and over steer can be achieved easily. I've come into corners faster than I would on my motorcycle and there was that moment of "oh crap, I'm coming in too hot" and I've just hit the accelerator a bit and power steered right through it. (Weeeee!) And yes, no tickets yet - one doesn't really have to go fast in this car to have fun.

I may give into the temptation to take the car onto the track, especially when I'm nearing tire-change time.

One final note - and a very important one. My Lexus IS-250 was absolutely horrible in the rain. It bordered on precariously dangerous. I hated highway driving in the rain in that car. My Camry did great, especially with rain tires. However, this BRZ is by far the best rain-driving car I've owned. Even with the stock tires everyone bitches about. I can drive at any speed in any rain on any road with total confidence. I've hit puddles (small lakes, really) and just splashed through them. Driving in the rain is an absolute (and surprising) delight.


The BRZ has about 200 HP and 151 ft lb of torque. The focus of this car is fun and handling, and is not intended to be a "hot rod". This is true. In my opinion the car is slightly underpowered. It will get up and go - my son loves when I wind it out. The shift between 1st and second comes too quickly, but between 2nd and 3rd there is a nice kick - if the RPMs are above about 4500. At the 9 second 0-60 rate it doesn't set any speed records, but is fun. And that is the goal.

I would like to see the car have about 20 to even 40 more HP simply for passing - there have been times when I wanted to get around a person who was too slow and the car really doesn't have enough "umph" to guarantee that you will safely get past them before they notice and subconsciously (or deliberately) speed up.

The biggest design flaw of the Boxer engine is that 4k torque dip - it is very much a factor in any sport driving.  It's like it starts to die at about 3800 and really doesn't kick back in until about 4400 RPMs. This is the primary reason I've considered dropping in replacement exhaust and intake - and maybe computer tweaks. For normal daily commute driving it's not a problem at all - I generally shift at around 4K for gas milage reasons. But for sport driving - meh.

Efficiency - Gas Milage

Let's face it - one doesn't buy a sport car to get great gas milage. But it's delightful when your daily commute is supported by efficiency. The modern Corvettes can get 26+ for pokey driving. I'm currently averaging 27.3 overall. My current commute is suburb to suburb, so there are a number of lights requiring stop and go.

The decent milage is nice since Subaru/Toyota requires premium gas.

Sound System, Nav, Climate Control

The sound system is decent. The sound is ok. It's stock. You're not going to win any boom boom awards. I play hard rock, classical and talk and all are sufficiently good. It comes with the preview subscription to XM, which has a few decent channels.

The climate control works great. It has a dual mode (though in such a small car really only means that one will have a higher fan output than the other side). It warms the car up very quickly and cools it off very well. I've generally just left it at about 70 and forget about it.

I have the heated seats and set to the rapid heating mode will fry your behind in a matter of only a couple minutes. I hardly ever leave it on - it's just to get things warmed up initially in a cold morning.

The navigation/maps? Worthless basically. It locks out features when the car is moving and I've never been able to successfully enter an address. If you do happen to get a destination entered it does perform fairly well - the speaking is helpful and the display readable. It will show large highway signs when you're coming to a split. But generally I simply use my Google maps on the iPhone which will (usually) speak through the sound system.

Naturally, I did change the ugly Subaru stock startup navigation screen with a Bart Simpson one.

Dealership Experience

If this car was only available through Toyota as a Scion I would have probably never bought it. I absolutely hate Toyota dealerships. The only way I would have bought it would have been if I could have purchased it through my Lexus dealership, which I love.

I've also been in Subaru dealerships - there generally is none of the high pressure, slick sales pitch you find at a Toyota or Nissan place. But, you can also often wander into a Subaru dealership and not see signs of life. I bought my BRZ through Subaru of Kennesaw - they were absolutely great. No pressure, great information and just all around good people. They presented the options available, but never tried to manipulate me into a decision. I had forgotten my checkbook since they'd said I could just use my debit card for the downpayment - but they didn't know I was going to drop $10K. No problem. We completed the deal, and the finance manager - who lived near me in Cumming - just had me drop off a check at their sister dealership in Cumming the next day. It reminded me of old fashioned country business - based on character and trust.

In Closing

I love the car so far. The quality and feel is solid, handling is fun and the overall package has reignited my love of driving. Until I can afford a Ferrari, this will do very nicely :)


  • Feb 21, 2013 I took the car in last week for the first service, which is mostly just an oil change. The odometer reads just past 3K - I think they recommend it at 5K but don't recall. I didn't have the time to drive to Kennesaw for the service, which I intended due to my good experience with them. But my office is literally across the road from the Gwinnett Subaru dealership. In a word, they were also great to deal with. I got an appointment the day after I called and they even dropped me off and picked me up from my office. (I'd have walked, but playing "Frogger" on Satellite Blvd in the rain sounded too exciting to me.) Jill was my service rep and took good care of me - including calling multiple times to remind me my car was done and urge me to hurry since they were closing.