We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
 (at Briones Regional Park)

We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
(at Briones Regional Park)

Post image for Parents Guide to Social Media Apps Used by Kids

I was recently asked by a reader of my site (Denise) if I could put together a chart that lists out some of the main social media sites used by tweens and teens and if I could provide some commentary on how they are dangerous (or not) for kids – essentially, a Parents Guide to Social Media apps used by kids. As my kids are either in the social media age or quickly entering, I definitely do have some opinions. But, I don’t want to be alarmist. There are a lot of factors that determine whether or not a particular social media service or site is dangerous to children. Believe it or not, a lot really depends on the child…and the type of parent (or guardian) you are.

HTD-Social-Media-Guide

I have selected several social media sites and services that are common and popular now. There are literally hundreds with more popping up all of the time. It’s impossible to cover them all. In fact, services like Facebook and Twitter are actually not as popular with kids than some of the other services on this list. Facebook is for “old people” my kids have told me. But again, it depends on your child and what their peers use.

Warning: This article is long. There is a lot to say and learn about this topic. Hang in there!

For the purpose of this “advice column,” I have limited my (non-expert) analysis to ones that I know something about and have heard are used more frequently than others. IF I have missed any, please LEAVE A COMMENT and I will check them out. I’m waaaay older than my kids and they are a lot more savvy about what they do or don’t use, like or don’t like. I have consulted them but getting things from them is like getting blood from a stone.

The social media sites and services I chose to look at in this article are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • SnapChat
  • Kik Messenger
  • Ask.FM
  • Vine
  • Instagram
  • ooVoo

And this is what I’m looking at specifically:

  • URL – What is the website address of the company.
  • Service Description – What does the service or site provide as a product or service.
  • Mobile/Web/Both – Is the service available on the web, as a mobile app, both, or some other way.
  • Privacy Policy – What is the link to the Privacy Policy. (Sorry, I’m not going to give an analysis of the policy, but you should give it a read if you are concerned.)
  • TOS – What is the link to the Terms of Service. (Again, I’m not going to analyze the TOS, but you might want to read this as well.)
  • Delete Acct – Can you delete or deactivate the account and is it easy to do.
  • Naming – Do you need to use your real name or can you use an alias.
  • Advice – Lastly, what is my advice about the service or site (my opinion for parents).

If you find this information useful, please be sure to share it with other parents or guardians. If I missed something, let me know and even if you think I’m totally crazy, let me know (in a nice way – haha).

NOTE: As sites and services continue to evolve and emerge, so will this article. As necessary, I will add new social media site analysis in new posts (named: Part 2, 3, etc.) based on comments and questions.

If your child is under 13, generally speaking, they are either prohibited from using these services or if they do, receive a feature-limited version. While, in my opinion, some of these are ok for younger children (like Twitter or Instagram), they can very easily access content that is inappropriate in many ways (violent, sexual, criminal, etc.). Really try to think carefully before letting your child who is under 13 have an account with any of these social media sites or services.

Remember, just deleting apps from your kid’s phone is just a short-term fix that can have repercussions. I have always advocated having an open conversation and dialog about the dangers and impact of social media, especially in terms of cyber-bullying. That being said, with coaching and conversations with your children, kids can use social media just fine. Mine aren’t perfect at it, but my wife and I tell them what is appropriate or not as well as why they should potentially change or delete a particular post. In my mind, it is a privilege to use social media, one that can be taken away if abused, just like breaking a curfew is. But if you just delete accounts or apps without discussion, that can and will backfire and your kids will start sneaking it behind your back.

Top Social Media Apps

So let’s take a look at some of the popular social media apps and services out there.

Facebook:

HTD-Facebook-smile_out

  • URL: http://www.facebook.com
  • Service Description: Everyone knows what Facebook is, right? Here’s what they say about themselves: “The Facebook Page celebrates how our friends inspire us, support us, and help us discover the world when we connect.” It’s huge and the “whole world” is on it. There are many ways to share content as text, links, photos and videos. Users can join public and private groups, become fans of pages representing people, companies, products, services…you name it.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Both
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/1pi9X78
  • TOS: http://ift.tt/Uu0AXs
  • Delete Acct: You have a few options, you can deactivate your account which happens immediately. You can later re-activate it if you so desire. If you want to fully delete it, Facebook recommends that you download all of your data first and then ask them to delete your account.
  • Naming: You pretty much can be who you want to be but the whole point of Facebook is to connect with friends, family and others so if you pretend to be someone you are not, people won’t be able to find you. That being said, accounts could be set up with false pretenses.
  • Advice: With Facebook, privacy has always been and will continue to be an issue. It’s incredibly complicated to figure out what your friends, your kids’ friends, or what strangers can or cannot see and what their friends can see. Facebook has tried to make this better, but it is still complicated. A while back, I wrote some ideas on potential parental controls for parents. The other thing to remember is that all of your data on Facebook is used in some way by advertisers or other companies. While you can opt-out of a lot of things, it’s pretty unclear what of your data is or is not used. Parents should keep this in mind if and when their kids use Facebook.  HTD Verdict: Relatively ok but proceed with caution. Your kids probably won’t “friend” you but they will be tracked by advertisers.

Twitter:

HTD-Twitter-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://www.twitter.com
  • Service Description: According to their site: “Twitter helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” You can send short, 140 character messages publicly or privately, follow people, create lists, share media and links and engage in written conversations in real-time.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Both
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/wfUQik
  • TOS: https://twitter.com/tos
  • Delete Acct: Very easy to do. Go to the General Account Settings and deactivate your account.
  • Naming: You can pretend to be whomever or whatever you want to be. Only famous people (or companies that advertise or are large) become “verified,” meaning they are legitimately who they claim to be. Otherwise, you never know.
  • Advice: Twitter seems to be pretty tame when it comes to kids and social media, and that is probably why they aren’t as active on it compared to some of the others on the list. Many kids just follow celebrities or brands that they like or even participate in giveaways. Twitter is raw though, there aren’t any real filters or controls. You can make your profile private which means that only those people who you have allowed to follow you can see your updates. HTD Verdict: Twitter is pretty safe provided your child isn’t sending private info or media to strangers.

SnapChat:

HTD-SnapChat-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://ift.tt/1rPQPCF
  • Service Description: Using the mobile app, you can send and receive photos/videos (“moments”) with contacts. As they say “a new way to share moments with friends on iPhone and Android”. Snaps “disappear” after 10 seconds.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Only available as a mobile app.
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/YrzMJQ
  • TOS: http://ift.tt/1nk7JrP
  • Delete Acct: You can sign on via their site and request to delete your account.
  • Naming: You can set up any name you want but it is tied to an email address. Once the user account is created, you can’t change it, you have to delete it and create a new one. You CAN change the email address, BUT you can only have one single email address associated to a single account.
  • Advice: Nicely, SnapChat has actually created a quite good Guide for Parents as a PDF that can be downloaded. According to their TOS, users under 13 years old cannot have accounts and “they must be deleted.” There is a “SnapKidz” version that has some of the functionality removed and it is outlined in the parents guide. SnapChat is extremely popular with teens and tweens. While texting pictures is easy enough, the allure of SnapChat is that the pictures or videos disappear (and supposedly can’t be copied or saved). The warning here is, however, they CAN be copied or saved. Take a look at my article on SnapHack which allows for saving of photos/videos. Parents should be careful and explain to their kids that the stuff they share on SnapChat is NOT temporary so don’t send anything that they wouldn’t want to pop up somewhere else later. HTD Verdict: Fun, addictive but potentially quite dangerous, especially for bullying or sharing of inappropriate content.

Kik Messenger:

HTD-Kik-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://kik.com/
  • Service Description: According to Kik’s website: “Kik is the first smartphone messenger with a built-in browser. You can talk, browse and share with your friends.” It’s essentially a messenger like many others out there, however, it has a huge user base.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Mobile app only.
  • Privacy Policy: http://kik.com/legal/
  • TOS: http://kik.com/legal/
  • Delete Acct: There is a specific Support document about deleting teen’s accounts.
  • Naming: Can’t change your user name but you can change your display name
  • Advice: Within their Support section, Kik has compiled some “Tips for Parents”. But be sure to read my article about Kik Messenger and potential dangers. Much of it is still relevant, even if the article is over a year old. Kik has, in their defense, updated their app and service to address privacy concern (which I wrote about here). That being said, like any messaging application that is a direct private communication between users, you need to be careful. Frequently, kids will write “Kik me at xxxx” on their other social profiles which essentially opens an un-filtered, private conversation channel. HTD Verdict: Widely used and potentially widely abused.

Ask.fm:

HTD-Askfm-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://www.ask.fm
  • Service Description: “Ask and Answer” is what is written on the home page. It is essentially this. You create a profile and people can ask you questions, either anonymously or with a named account.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Both
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/1mgzuts
  • TOS: http://ift.tt/1lX3Yq8
  • Delete Acct: Parents can request that their kid’s account be deleted. Individuals can deactivate their accounts which removes it from public view.
  • Naming: You cannot change the user name and an email address is required.
  • Advice: It seems that there is now an FAQ for Parents which goes over pretty much all of the major concerns and questions that a parent might have. Pretty much anything that is posted on Ask.fm is visible for the public to see. The exception is, some questions can be asked anonymously. Also, be sure to read my older article about Ask.fm and its dangers as I go into a lot of details. Honestly, I believe this to be a pretty scary site and social service compared to others on this list. It is full of blatant bullying, mean conversations, sexual innuendoes and lots of other things that I wouldn’t want my children to participate in. The problem is, it is quite popular with teens and tweens. Also, the company is based in Latvia (in the European Union) and follows Latvian Law. It’s unclear what cyberbullying policies and policing that law supports. HTD Verdict: If you want to pick a battle, try to control your kid’s usage & involvement on Ask.fm.

Vine:

HTD-vine-smile.fw_out

  • URL: https://vine.co/
  • Service Description: “Explore the world of beautiful, looping videos” – sounds great, but you do a lot more. You can create and share 6 second videos as well as browse through the 100’s of thousands of Vines out there. This service is owned by Twitter.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Upload using mobile site, but you can view videos on the website as well.
  • Privacy Policy: https://vine.co/privacy
  • TOS: https://vine.co/terms
  • Delete Acct: Posts can be public or private. You request deletion via this form (hosted by Twitter).
  • Naming: Vine is linked to a Twitter account normally, but you can sign up just via email. You can set whatever user name you want.
  • Advice: Vine is relatively harmless but does have graphic language and profanities. It probably shouldn’t be used by kids younger than 13 (which aren’t supposed to use it anyway). A lot of the popular content can also be accessed on YouTube or Instagram as well. Vine can be come a bit of a time suck (writing from personal experience) and there is some quite well done videos there. Many companies and brands are now using Vine regularly so there may be some advertising or branding in the video stream. HTD Verdict: While Vine can be raw and vulgar at times, it’s actually fun to watch and not really dangerous to kids (apart from language and some subject matter).

Instagram:

HTD-instagram-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://ift.tt/niTFmZ
  • Service Description: This service allows you to share, comment on and like photos and short videos. The mobile apps include filters to add a creative lens to the images or videos. Media can also be shared privately.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: View on the web, upload photos and videos and full functionality via mobile apps.
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/PDijCE
  • TOS: http://ift.tt/P4Dg9s
  • Delete Acct: Log in via the website and in Edit Profile, account can be deleted. Support documentation on deletion.
  • Naming: You can change your user name and real name via the mobile app. Behind the scenes, the account is tied to your unique email address privately.
  • Advice: A while ago, I wrote an article about the danger of Instagram and Kik (see above). Most of my concern was truly around Kik (and still is). Instagram is relatively harmless but some care should be taken when using the service. Frequently, kids link to their Kik or Ask.fm accounts. Also, graphic and inappropriate photos can be easily found on the service with just a quick search. Parents should talk to their kids about the types of photos (and videos) they post as they could be used for bullying or could provide details about where they live or go to school. Also, for younger kids, I recommend having accounts be private and only allow known connections to view these private accounts. There is a “Tips for Parents” section on the Instagram site. Also, since Instagram is owned by Facebook, there is a good chance that some data collection is going on behind the scenes. HTD Verdict: Fairly safe with some pretty amazing media being posted. Teach your kids how to do age-appropriate posts.

ooVoo:

HTD-oovoo-smile.fw_out

  • URL: http://www.oovoo.com/
  • Service Description: Video calling, messaging, group video chats, screen sharing, file sharing and more. This service has apps for mobile devices as well as PCs and Macs. The multi-way video chat seems to be attractive to kids.
  • Mobile/Web/Both: Mobile and PC/Mac applications
  • Privacy Policy: http://ift.tt/YrzPoM
  • TOS: http://ift.tt/1nk7KvX
  • Delete Acct:  Closing account from PC is documented here. Deactivating on a mobile device is very odd but documented here (Android) and here (iOS).
  • Naming: Can’t change your user name once you create it. Email is used for password resets.
  • Advice: This site and service has been around for years but recently is starting to be used by teens and tweens. While it is just like any other video sharing & messaging app, attention should be paid to it. Supposedly, it is popular with child predators as texts can be sent to users and then video chats result. Also the Windows-version of the software has been linked to viruses. While I was one of the original users of ooVoo when it was launched many, many years ago, it has evolved and is quite different. I have not been on it recently. But from viruses to group chatting, file sharing and videos, I would recommend being careful with this service and its apps. HTD Verdict: This is probably another service you might want to check your kids computer or phone to see if they have. While it has some neat features (like group video chat), there are some other items that are concerning (e.g., texting from strangers, 1-to-1 video chatting, etc.).

Others not mentioned but parents may want to watch: Skype, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Yik Yak, Omegle and this list will grow. (On first look, stay away from Omegle! My oldest daughter who is 15 heard that it was quite scary and not appropriate for children.)

Final Words of Advice (For Now)

How you parent is definitely up to you and I have heard stories from each extreme (complete freedom to complete control).

HTD-social-icons-faces-row

Some quick words of advice:

  • Explain the Why and How as well as what is appropriate or not.
  • Be consistent with your message when you talk with them and make sure that all parents or guardians are in agreement before you talk to your kids.
  • Not all social media sites are bad or dangerous. They are merely tools for communication. It’s really the users that can be dangerous and what and how they share and communicate.
  • Once something is on social media, it is practically impossible to remove it or hide it.
  • Don’t just ban or delete. Raising a child is not arbitrary and your actions should not be either.

What is your advice? How do you handle social media and your children using it? Do you have your own parents guide to social media or know of another one? Leave a comment as it’s important to be “social” about social media.

HTD says: Social Media and kids can be a dangerous combination, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

The post Parents Guide to Social Media Apps Used by Kids appeared first on HighTechDad.

Parents Guide to Social Media Apps Used by Kids http://ift.tt/YqygI1

Not shots of vodka but rather accumulated rainfall from yesterday! #RAIN

Not shots of vodka but rather accumulated rainfall from yesterday! #RAIN

What’s this wet stuff on my car? #RAIN!

What’s this wet stuff on my car? #RAIN!

Bring on the sun! (Or wind, or fog, or rain - I’m ready!) (at Stinson Beach, Marin County, California)

Bring on the sun! (Or wind, or fog, or rain - I’m ready!) (at Stinson Beach, Marin County, California)

Post image for The Best Way to Install iOS 8 & Not Delete Apps & Data

Apple’s iOS 8 has been released and people are complaining that they have to delete applications and/or data and media in order to install the new mobile operating system. This is true if you do an OTA (Over The Air) update. Sometimes, even connecting to iTunes on your computer and trying to do the upgrade there prevents you from doing so if you don’t have enough free space on your iOS device. But there is a better way to install the update and NOT have to delete any data, even if you don’t have much free space on your iOS device.

iOS8-logo_update

First some non-technical information on why Apple needs so much space to install the new iOS. If you choose the OTA upgrade process, first, your device needs to store the upgrade file. If you download the OS on its own (on a computer, for example), the size of the file is probably a couple of GBs. Most likely, Apple compresses the upgrade file for OTA updates. That means that it then needs to uncompress the file prior to upgrading your OS. It needs space to do that. Then it needs to swap out the old OS data files with the new ones. So at one point, during an OTA update, you have old and new files together which requires a lot of space. Eventually, the OTA file and the old OS files are deleted. While this process is potentially convenient (you don’t need to connect to a computer), it is not that efficient.

Similarly, you could try to do an upgrade by connecting your mobile device to iTunes on a computer. But this, as well, may require you to free up space in order to do the upgrade.

YOU DON’T NEED TO DO IT THIS WAY!

It’s actually better to completely wipe your device and install the new iOS fresh and then restore from a backup. This process cleans out garbage and can actually make your iOS device run more efficiently.

That being said, here is the BEST way to install iOS 8, in my opinion.

The Best Way to Install iOS 8

If you follow these steps, most likely you won’t have to delete any of your data or media or apps.

Note: this processes may take a while depending on the size of your device and how much you have on it. Set aside an hour or two just in case.

  1. Turn off “Find my iPhone/iPad” on your device otherwise, later in the process you will see this warning:
    HTD-iOS-update-find-iphone
  2. Tip: if you set a password under “Encrypt local backup” then you don’t have to enter in all of your passwords for email and such.
  3. Connect your iOS device to your computer running the latest version of iTunes (you might want to update all of your apps while you are in there). You can let iTunes sync and back up (but you will back up again later on in the steps).
  4. Download the appropriate iOS 8 (restore) file. See my previous article for links. Save it somewhere on your computer.
  5. In iTunes, transfer your purchases from your iOS device. You can left-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) on your iOS device within iTunes to show the “transfer purchases” option.
    HTD-iOS-update-purchase
  6. Once that is done, you should back up your iOS device.
    HTD-iOS-update-backup
  7. Once the backup is complete (AND THIS IS CRITICAL, BE SURE YOU HAVE A BACKUP!), you are ready to restore.
  8. On a Mac, Option-Click the “Restore” button. On a PC, Control-Click the “Restore” button.
    HTD-iOS-update-restore-2
  9. Select the .ipsw that you downloaded in Step 4 above.
  10. Click “Restore”
    HTD-iOS-update-restore-prompt
  11. The update will be extracted and verified with Apple.
    HTD-update-extracting
  12. Once your iOS device has had iOS 8 installed, it will ask you if you want to set up as a new device or restore from a backup. Choose Restore from backup and select the backup that you just made earlier (look at the timestamp).
    HTD-restore-from-backup
  13. Then you sit back and wait while all of your settings, apps and data are copied from the backup to your iOS device. (Note: first, your data/settings are restored, your device will restart, and then your apps, music, movies, podcasts, etc. are copied over.)

Assuming all goes well, your iOS device will have a fresh install of iOS 8 and ALL of your data will be back on it, without you having to delete anything.

Hope this worked for you. Leave a comment with any questions or other information you may have.

HTD says: You DON’T have to delete to upgrade!

The post The Best Way to Install iOS 8 & Not Delete Apps & Data appeared first on HighTechDad.

The Best Way to Install iOS 8 & Not Delete Apps & Data http://ift.tt/1rfxQ30

Post image for Direct Download Links for Apple iOS 8 & Prep and Install Tips

Apple’s newest version of their operating system (Apple iOS 8) for iPhones and iPads is now available. There are a few ways that you can update. You can plug your compatible iOS device (iPhone 4S and newer, iPod Touch 5th gen or iPad 2 or newer) into your computer and connect with iTunes and do the upgrade that way, you can use the OTA (over the air) update, or you can download the upgrade file manually and then update via iTunes on your computer. I have found that sometimes downloading the .ipsw (that is the file extension for the iOS image) is faster than waiting for iTunes to download, so here are the direct download links for Apple iOS 8.

iOS8-logo

Tips Prior to Updating to Apple iOS 8

As mentioned, the process it pretty straight forward with the 3 options listed prior. Just be prepared for Apple’s servers to be initially heavily loaded when iOS 8 is release. That being said, here are some quick tips/reminders prior to updating:

  • Be sure you have free space on your iOS device (a couple of GBs is usually a good rule of thumb)
  • Try to have a good internet connection (the servers will be slammed initially)
  • Don’t do an OTA update on cellular only (unless you want a big data bill or have a slow process)
  • Typically, doing a “Restore” vs and OTA update is better for the performance of your iOS device
  • BACK UP your device prior (it’s important to have a backup in case you need to restore – and if you use the manual process, you DO need to follow the restore process)
  • Don’t get frustrated if it takes a while (downloading and installing is a slow process)
  • Update your apps prior to installing (always helps to ensure that you have the latest and greatest)
  • Be sure you have a compatible iOS device (iPhone 4S and newer, iPod Touch 5th gen or iPad 2 or newer)
  • Back up your Purchases and Apps that you downloaded on your iOS device to iTunes
  • Remember there may still be some bugs or “unsupported features”
  • Be sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer!

That being said, ready to upgrade?

Direct Download Links for Apple iOS 8

Sometimes it is just faster to go directly to the source to download the upgrade file for your device. BE SURE YOU CHOOSE THE PROPER FILE FOR YOUR DEVICE. These files can be a couple of GBs in size to be sure you have adequate space on your computer.

Note: I have note tested each and every link. If there is an issue with a link, please let me know!

Here are the direct download links for Apple iOS 8 (note – these are hosted elsewhere and I cannot control them in any way):

iPhone:

iPad:

iPod Touch:

Don’t see your device listed? It’s probably because it isn’t supported with Apple iOS 8. Bad link? Please let me know!

If you aren’t sure what the iOS Model is for your device, head over to these Apple support links to find it and then download the proper one: Apple iPhone or Apple iPad.

ios8-icons

How to Install the Apple iOS 8 Update

Assuming you have downloaded the proper .ipsw file, have backed up your iOS device and are ready to go, the steps are pretty easy.

  1. Connect your iOS device via USB.
  2. Once recognized in iTunes, Option-Click (Mac) or Ctrl-Click (PC) the “Restore” button. This will open a dialog box to let you select the unzipped .ipsw file.
  3. Select the .ipsw file and click open.
  4. Let iTunes verify and install the update (there may be reboots of your iOS device).
  5. Once completed with the install, select the most recent backup you made of your iOS device for the restore.
  6. Sit back and let all of your settings and apps populate in your updated iOS device.

Did you run into any issues? Leave a comment on what you encountered or the work around you use. And let me know what you think of the update.

HTD says: Enjoy the new Apple iOS 8 goodness!

The post Direct Download Links for Apple iOS 8 & Prep and Install Tips appeared first on HighTechDad.

Direct Download Links for Apple iOS 8 & Prep and Install Tips http://ift.tt/1mbbkYD

This is a review of the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive 35i. You will find my “likes” and a couple of “dislikes” of this vehicle. You can read more reviews at my website: http://ift.tt/xmOAvT. This video brought to you by BMW of Fremont (owned by AutoNation) and AutoNation, the nation’s largest automotive dealergroup. http://ift.tt/VG1Nwo & http://ift.tt/11kPT6W

Post image for Running Flat But In Style – Likes & Dislikes of the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i

I’ve been test driving cars for a several years now. It’s definitely a lot of fun to try out the latest and greatest designs by a car manufacturer. Other than having to sometimes pry the keys from my hands with some cars when I have to return them, for the most part, I haven’t had any type of issues. That is, until I test drove the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i. I had a major “problem” with that car.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-22

autonation_logo-on-blackBefore I go into the details of the 2014 BMW X5, I’m pleased to share that this review is sponsored by AutoNation BMW of Fremont and AutoNation, America’s Largest Auto Retailer. Buying a new car? There are over 20,000 AutoNation Associates at 250 new vehicle franchises across 15 states. Looking for a used auto? Get CARFAX history report, 135-point safety inspection, 3-day/150 mile money-back guarantee and more.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-26

I typically get vehicle on loan for about a week. That way, I can really learn about the things that I like or dislike about them. Unfortunately, my time with the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i was cut short due to something that every car driver has encountered. A flat tire.

Here was the situation, and your can replace any of the variables here to make it fit your situation. My wife was out of town. I had 2 kids that I had managed to get off on playdates so that I could do my 50-mile, one-way commute (which varies in time between 1 hour and 3 hours depending on traffic). I had the X5 so I wanted to get the full luxury of driving it during my commute so I drove it to my day job. I had to time everything perfectly on the return because I had to be home in time to get my kids before their activities. I left a few minutes early for my return commute home and when I got into the BMW X5 and turned it on, an indicator on the driver’s display came on, indicating an issue with one of the tires.

I figured that perhaps one of the tires had been low on pressure so when the tire cooled in the garage, it triggered the sensor into thinking it had low pressure. But as I drove, the sensor alert didn’t go away, in fact on the larger display, I watched the psi drop, eventually hitting zero. I pulled over safely and went to check the tire that was bad. When I looked at it, it still seemed inflated, a bit softer to the kick but not much. I grabbed the (physical) manual to look up “changing a flat” and found that some cars were equipped with BMW’s RSC (aka, “run-flat”) tires. Long story short, I was able to drive my 50 mile commute home, albeit going 50 mph the whole way which took a bit longer, all with a tire that showed 0 psi on my dashboard readout. But I made it home safely, relatively on time and using the RSC tires.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-25

There are pluses and minuses of RSC’s, I won’t go into details. I experienced the plus side of not having to take up time changing a tire. Unfortunately, once I got the X5 safely home, my test drive ended so I was only able to spend a couple of days for my review.

“Likes” & “Dislikes” of the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i

Not every car is perfect, and obviously any review is subjective. I try to look at cars not from a super geeky auto-enthusiast perspective (there are plenty of sites that do that), but rather from a real-world, practical standpoint of a dad of kids, specifically 3 girls. So, I get feedback from my wife and my daughters on what they like (or not) about any particular vehicle. Often they mention things that I would never have seen as a male driver. My reviews are really for families or people wondering about real-world testing, not skid pads or slalom courses or drag coefficients.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-32

That being said, here are some of my likes and dislikes of the 2014 BMW X5 xDRive35i. You can either be lazy and watch the video below (or directly on YouTube) or read on for some of the highlights:

Like – Storage

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-34

Lots of good storage. The X5 seems to be perfect for 4-5 passengers with lots of room for luggage and other cargo.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-36

There is even a stow-away cargo section where the spare would have potentially gone.

Like – Engine

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-43

The X5 has a 300-hp, 3.0 liter, TwinPower inline 6-cylinder, 24-valve engine. Oh, and it’s turbo-charged as well. What does mean? Basically, the engine was peppy and powerful.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-42

And even with the power, the X5 still manages to have an average MPG of 21 (18 city and 27 highway) which is decent for an SUV/Crossover-type vehicle of this size.

Like – Run-flat Tires

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-24

Yeah, well, see the story above for details on this. But the tire above is flat. You can see how low it rests.

Don’t Like – No Auto-unlocking of the Car

HTD-BMW-door

In other models/trimlines, I really enjoyed the ability to just put my hand on the car door handle and it would automatically unlock, provided you had your keys on you. This model didn’t have that feature. While it is a minor item, after using a car that has that feature, I find myself trying to unlock other cars just by holding my hand in the handle. This was something that I think that BMW should have as standard to differentiate from others.

Like – Driver’s Seat Adjustments

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-57

The driver’s seat has something like 10 buttons for configuring the front seat to your liking. That includes 4-way lumbar support. And the nice thing is, once you get the seat dialed in, you can save it for the next time you drive.

Like – Panoramic Moonroof

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-49

Want to make your car feel even bigger than it is inside? Just throw in a panoramic moonroof! A standard feature, this is a huge plus in my book. It felt like having a convertible.

Like – Vehicle Status Updates

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-44

One of the great things in the X5 is the informational displays present in the main display as well as within the speedometer/tachometer region. When I got the flat, I was able to see the psi of the tire in issue as well as which one was having problems. On the driver’s gages, there were written words “Low tire. Stop carefully.” as well as a small icon of the car showing the front right tire having issues.

Like – The Different Drive Modes

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-54

The BMW X5 comes with 3 drive modes: Sport, Comfort and ECO Pro. I tended to use the Sport mode the most. But every once and a while I turned on ECO Pro mode to see if could squeak out a few extra MPGs. Comfort was pretty much that, comfortable (but a bit boring).

Like – Auto Parking Brake

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-55

When I first started seeing button-powered parking brakes, I thought, how are people going to slam on the parking to power slide through turns (thinking back to playing video games).There is no hand-held brake in the X5. Instead, it is a button that you pull to engage and push to turn off. It’s convenient and eliminates the need to know how hard to yank up on the brake to fully set it.

Like – Dual Climate Controls

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-47

My wife and I continually argue about temperature. I tend to run hot so I like having cold air blowing on my face. My wife runs cold so needs to crank up the heat. Dual controls eliminates the need for argument. Seat warmers are great to have as well. No seat coolers though unfortunately.

Like – Paddle Shifters

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-46

If you want to upshift or downshift, you can use either the shifter or the paddle shifters, which I tended to prefer. They are attached to the steering wheel (as opposed to being stationary and mounted to the steering column). I like having the shifters attached to the steering wheel because then they are always under your fingertips.

Like – GPS Navigation Input

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-50

Be sure to take a look at the video (above or here on YouTube) and forward to 2:58 and you will see the GPS input. There are the traditional ways of using the rotational dial or voice input to enter a destination. But quite by accident, I discovered you can use the top of the navigation dial as a touchpad to hand-draw in letters and numbers.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-53

It takes some getting used to but once you get comfortable, you can enter in addresses without looking.

Don’t Like – Small Vanity Mirrors

HTD-BMW-vanity-Mirrors

This was something that my daughters and my wife pointed out to me. The vanity mirrors were tiny, barely enough to get a single eye into view. There is a lot of space on the visor, so my wife and kids couldn’t understand why it wasn’t used more efficiently.

Like – Radio Tuning with a Dial

HTD-BMW-radio-dial

The dial tuning feels like a throw back to the past with older, analog radios. You use a dial to tune to the station you want.

Don’t Like – No XM/Sirius Radio

No picture here simply because XM/Sirius Radio was missing from the package that I test drove. While the X5 did have HD radio and you can always stream via Bluetooth, I have come to like having satellite radio in the cars I test drive.

Like – Steering Wheel Controls

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-46

Having controls on the steering wheel seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s bad to take your hands off the wheel as you drive to reach for the volume.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-46

There were many convenient controls here that ensured that your hands truly stayed on the wheel.

Like – Dimming Rear Mirrors

HTD-BMW-mirror

The mirrors in the BMW X5 are “smart.” When they detect bright lights at night, they dim a bit so that the headlight glare isn’t as strong.

Like – M Sport Package

HTD-BMW-M-sport

The M Sport package, which adds $4600 to the over-all cost of the vehicle, in my opinion, is worth it. You get larger tires (20”), automatic sport transmission, multi-contour seats, aerodynamic kit and more.

Like – Online Manual

HTD-BMW-manual

Many people stash their driver’s manual in the glove compartment. With this BMW, the manual is moved online and you can use easy identification through scrolling to find the item you need more information about. Unfortunately, you can only use the online manual when you are parked so it isn’t much different than stopping and pulling the physical manual out of the glove compartment. In fact, the tradition manual can be looked at by the passenger while the car is in motion, something that can’t be done with the digital version. Regardless, it is handy having it stored electronically.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-23

The 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i has a base MSRP of $55,100. The price as I tested it was $68,675 which includes the M Sport ($4600), Cold Weather ($550 – adds heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and retractable headlight washers) and Dynamic Handling Packages.

HTD-2014-BMW-X5-xDrive-35i-28

The X5 still has an aggressive look and feels very solid with the strong body and the 8-speed automatic transmission. While I realize you can buy run-flat tires for just about any car, I felt a bit more secure with the X5 driving at 50 MPH with a fully flat tire. BMW is known for safety and I had that feeling of safety during my entire drive home, even with the fully flat tire.

Disclosure Text: Apart from the 7-day loan of the BMW X5, I have no material connection to BMW. More information can be found in my About page.

HTD says: The 2014 BMW X5 has nice refinement, good safety and a ton of great features.

The post Running Flat But In Style – Likes & Dislikes of the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i appeared first on HighTechDad.

Running Flat But In Style – Likes & Dislikes of the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i http://ift.tt/1wlX4N3

9/11 annual memorial in our neighborhood. Bigger & better every year! #neverforget #911 (at El Curtola Bridge)

9/11 annual memorial in our neighborhood. Bigger & better every year! #neverforget #911 (at El Curtola Bridge)