Will the Karma be the Death of GoPro?

Last week GoPro recalled all 2500 of its Karma drones because they might randomly lose power and fall to the ground. There’s no doubt that a recall of this magnitude on it’s first attempt at a new market is bad.

Is GoPro doomed because of this? Massive recall. Major embarrassment. Major hit to the brand.

GoPro makes small HD sport cameras and tons of accessories. That’s what they are known for. They are like Kleenex or the defunct Flip camera. Their product name defines the device class. People buy cheap “GoPros” from China. No matter who makes the sport camera, people call it a “GoPro”.

GoPro owns the small sport camera market.

Unfortunately the recall comes shortly after other bad news:

“It was the second negative announcement coming out of wearable camera maker: a few days before GoPro reported declining sales and immense underperformance. Sales were down 40% compared to the same time in 2015.”

Flip died because they saturated the market and never really improved on their product. Other cameras/phones ate up what little market they had. My iPhone 5 was a better Flip camera than Flip ever made.

You can see GoPro trying to break into this new market as well as trying to improve the main thing they sell. That’s great for cameras and maybe even stabilizers, but the drone market is really full right now. it’s very competitive.

When the Karma was announced many people thought it would be “the” $1000-ish drone to buy. It had some cool features and you could take the stabilizer off and use it hand held.

Then DJI dropped the Mavic Pro announcement. And reports  Karmas were having issues started to surface. The reviews of the drone were not great. Drifting, gimbal tilt and other complaints began to circulate.

Turns out, people who buy a drone want it to work as advertised. The stabilizer and ability to use the camera on other things is great, but if the drone doesn’t work right… and now is recalled… It’s bad.

What’s next for GoPro?

According to their website they still plan to sell the Karma after they fix things:

“GoPro is committed to providing our customers with great product experiences. To honor this commitment, we have recalled Karma until we resolve a performance issue related to a loss of power during operation. We plan to resume shipment of Karma once the issue is addressed.”

It’s important to note, this isn’t a “send it in and get it repaired” recall. This is a “return for full refund” kind of recall. This is also a “We will give you a free Hero5 Black for your trouble” kind of recall.

They are serious about getting these back and giving everyone a Hero 5 Black. A free GoPro camera will go a long way to soothe hurt feelings. But it won’t fix the trust issues with the drone. And if the financials indicate the market for GoPro’s main product are slowing, they need a new market fast.

They can’t just fix the Karma, they need a new Karma that’s a “Mavic-killer” out within a year. Or they need some other new product. Otherwise, GoPro might become the next Flip.

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Ross Carbonite Switcher 12.3 Software and Touchscreen Custom Controls (aka-Macros)

IMG_7552At work we have a 2ME Ross Carbonite Video Switcher. It’s a work horse. Perfect for many church video switching environments; 4 keys per ME, 24 input panel, DVE, 8 Aux, 6 frame syncs built in. For basic IMAG and Stream/TV/Record switching it works really well. Of course, there’s always other options out there, but we have been really happy with our Ross.

We had been running version 10.0 of the software since I’ve been here. The computer based Dashboard software was very handy for setting up and changing switcher configurations, but I didn’t use it for much else. The Ross is capable of recording and recalling macros from the control panel, but I have to admit, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to do it. A macro is a function that allows you to record multiple button pushes and switcher states and recall them with the push of a button.

So we used the Ross to do the what we needed, but didn’t use any of the advanced featured. Then lightning struck. Or some sort of power surge, we don’t know what it was. The surge was strong enough and fast enough that even though the switcher was on a UPS with surge suppression, the frame lost connection with the control panel. When we reloaded the settings, not everything was exactly the way it was before. Since I was about to tweak some things anyway, I decided now was the time to update the software.

The update process is simple, but a little scary. There’s a big warning on the Ross download page about not being able to downgrade below version 11.0 of the software once you update. Version 12.3 had only been out for a few weeks. I tried the basic update, but I think going from version 10 to 12 was too much for that. It froze during the update process. I ended up having to do a Forced Update which erased everything. In order to do a Forced Update you need a fat32 formatted USB drive of 2GB or larger with only the new software on it. (Make sure you save your settings BEFORE you try to update.) On the frame, power down the switcher, insert the USB. Hold down the “Update” rocker switch and power the frame back on. Keep holding how the rocker switch for a 10 count, then release. A few seconds later the control panel will see the USB and start the update. To go from 10.00 to 12.3 it takes a few minutes. At one point the screen will say Critical Update. That’s normal. Once it’s finished, reload your saved settings. We had to do this twice. For whatever reason, some of our settings didn’t come back the first time.

Now, we were back to basic operation. And could keep using the switcher just like we always had. But I wanted to use the new features in 12.3. In order to do this, we needed a computer on the network near the switcher control panel. I snagged an unused Touchscreen HP we had that used to be a lighting computer. You don’t have to have a touchscreen, but if you have one it is so very sweet.

Ross’s macro functions are call Custom Controls, and the 12.3 software has a very easy to use interface. Their beta editor has worked flawlessly for me. You simply open the editor, select a bank of macros, and select the macro you want to create or edit. On the screen you hit record, and then start punching buttons on the control panel. Once finished, hit stop recording. You can edit the name of the macros if you want. Exit the editor and your new Custom Control is listed in the bank of “shot boxes”. To recall the macro, just select it.

You can also go deeper. I created a macro that tells all 4 keyers on both MEs to turn off. Not just to autotrans all for keyers. That’s something I can program do on the control panel. I was able to go into the editor and tell the switcher to turn the state of the keyers to off. And recall that as a macro.

The media store is also pretty powerful and easier than ever to use. Each file in the media library has a number. In the Custom Control editor you can tell the switcher to select and load a specific numbered file, and then display it. Since our panel is pretty full of inputs, we don’t have all 4 of the media stores quickly available. This little feature allows me to load any media, and fire it at the touch of a button. (One thing to note, in Ross world, if you are keying an image via the media library, the media stores 1 and 3 will be used together. 1 to hold the image, and 3 to hold the alpha information. Same for 2 and 4. This happens automatically.)

In just a few days I’ve programmed 17 Custom Controls. I’m sure I will add more as time goes on. I’ve programmed macros that range from foundational (reset all auxes, keyers and DVEs back to our Sunday morning settings, set up for a weekly Bible study we record in the WC) to functional (fade both MEs to black or the bail loop, clear all keys, transition the background animation and key lyrics on the IMAG ME) to specific (load and key 1 of 7 icons we use that coordinate with our new kid’s worship journals). We used it this past Sunday. Everything worked. I found a few things to tweak, and will do that this week.

Overall, the upgrade to 12.3 and used of the new beta Custom Control editor has been really great.

Bad Throttle Body in Ford Freestyles

New UPATE: Ford has sent a letter saying they will repair the throttle body, or reimburse you if you paid to have the work done. Up to 10 years and 150,000 miles. I got a full reimbursement for the work done on my car.

The car “started to accelerate by itself. And nearly plowed into the car and pedestrians in front of me.”

If I asked you to name the make and model of the car involved in the above incident, I doubt the Ford Freestyle would leap to mind. But that quote was from an owner of a 2006 Ford Freestyle, and it is just one of many that can be found with a simple search on the internet.

Like you, I knew nothing about issues with Ford Freestyles, and other models with similar engines. Last year we purchased a Certified Pre Owned 2006 Ford Freestyle. It has been a great car. We wanted something reliable, smaller than a full size SUV, but with room for three kids and luggage. The Freestyle fit the bill. It is the perfect size, and with Ford’s recent reliability ratings we decided to get one.

Imagine my surprise when we were on a family trip, states away from home, and the car began to lunge backward as soon as I shifted into reverse. The “Yellow Wrench” and engine light would come on and off, and I knew this was a significant issue. I did not want to be on the highway with whatever this was. I suspected it was a transmission problem. We headed to the nearest Ford dealership.

At first there was some confusion about what was wrong, and I finally got on the phone with a service tech from another dealership. When I described the problem, he immediately knew what the problem was. It was like he had diagnosed this multiple times. A few minutes later I knew exactly what needed to be done, and how much it would cost. Yes, even though this is a major part of the engine, it is not covered by the CPO Power Train Warranty. I needed a new throttle body. I asked what exactly was wrong with it, but the tech didn’t know. He said he didn’t know how they work, but that they always replace the whole thing.

Oh, and it’s not an inexpensive part either. The quote came back at $920, but ended up only being $892.

I don’t mind telling you, that was a shock. I bought a recent model car, for more money than I had ever paid for a car before, with a certified pre owned warranty. For me to be hit with a $900 repair within a year of that purchase is unthinkable. I was reeling a bit.

Knowing I had several hours to kill, I pulled out my phone and started to research this “throttle body”. I couldn’t believe the number of complaints. Plus, very quickly it became clear that this was not just a couple of cars with this problem. Several people reported over 3 months waiting time for the part. One reported that there were 1500 orders ahead of his. Basically, during the last part of 2009 no one could get a throttle body for their Freestyle. Another reported that the part numbers for the new throttle bodies are different, and the factory that made the old one has closed.

It was obvious that there was a real problem with the throttle body in these cars. And I began to realize just how lucky we were. The complaints mentioned cars at intersections suddenly lunging forward. (“My wife was driving the Freestyle on [sic] day and was coming to a stop and the car accelerated into the intersection.”) They talked about cars driving at highway speeds and suddenly stalling. (“LOSS OF POWER ON A BUSY FREEWAY!!!”) Our car began acting up in a parking lot. The thought of my entire family driving down the interstate, and suddenly stalling out in traffic… well it’s not a good one. At the very least we could have been stranded in the summer heat with my children.

One forum member posted a service bulletin from December of 2005:

“Copy of TSB:

The part “5F9Z-9E926-AA Throttle Body” is over $200.

There was a Technical Service Bulletin TSB that your dealership should be made aware of (tell the dealership to look up TSB 05-25-13 or just print out the following):

TSB
05-25-13 MIL ON WITH VARIOUS DTCS

Publication Date: December 13, 2005

FORD: 2005 Five Hundred, Freestyle
MERCURY: 2005 Montego

ISSUE:
Some 2005 Five Hundred, Freestyle, or Montego vehicles built on or before 3/9/2005 may exhibit the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) on, with any or all of the following diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs): P0068, P0121, P0221, P0222, P0223, P1120, P1121, P1124, P1125, P2100, P2101, P2106, P2107, P2111, P2112, P2135.

ACTION:
Perform normal diagnostics. If normal diagnostics lead to an electronic throttle body (ETB) replacement, refer to the following Service Procedure.

SERVICE PROCEDURE

Replace the throttle body referring to Workshop Manual Section 303-04, and reprogram the powertrain control module (PCM) to the latest calibration using WDS release B40.4 and higher or B41.1 and higher. This new calibration is not included in the B41 CD. Calibration files may also be obtained at http://www.motorcraft.com.

PART NUMBER PART NAME
5F9Z-9E926-AA Throttle Body

WARRANTY STATUS:
Eligible Under Provisions Of New Vehicle Limited Warranty Coverage

DEALER CODING
BASIC PART NO. CONDITION CODE
9E926 42

———————————————————————————

NOTE: The information in Technical Service Bulletins is intended for use by trained, professional technicians with the knowledge, tools, and equipment to do the job properly and safely. It informs these technicians of conditions that may occur on some vehicles, or provides information that could assist in proper vehicle service. The procedures should not be performed by “do-it-yourselfers”. Do not assume that a condition described affects your car or truck. Contact a Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury dealership to determine whether the Bulletin applies to your vehicle. Warranty Policy and Extended Service Plan documentation determine Warranty and/or Extended Service Plan coverage unless stated otherwise in the TSB article. The information in this Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) was current at the time of printing. Ford Motor Company reserves the right to supercede this information with updates. The most recent information is available through Ford Motor Company’s on-line technical resources.”

Ford has known about this problem for years, and continues to make cars with a part that will eventually get someone killed. How long until we start hearing about people that have been run over in crosswalks as a result of these sudden lurches forward? Or a major accident where the Freestyle stalls on a highway and fatalities are involved?

I have filed a complaint with the NHTSA. If you own a Ford Freestyle, 500, or Mercury Montego with this issue, file a complaint. Call the company. Tell your friends. Together we can make Ford do the right thing, and recall this part. I have started a Facebook page where people can share their stories.

UPDATE: I handed off Admin duties to another member of the Facebook page.

In less than 2 years a new Throttle Body on my 2066 Freestyle has started doing the same thing again. The lunging isn’t as hard, but there is lunging and hesitation again. It must be a design flaw, not an engineering problem with the part.

Because I learned so much more about the issue, and because I don’t have almost $900 to drop on a new one, I went for cleaning the throttle body. It was unbelievably easy. I was done in under 5 minutes. I literally loosened one screw and pulled the hose off. Tucked it down and sprayed the Throttle Body cleaner i picked up at a auto parts store for $5. There was a decent amount of black hunk built up around the valve area. I cleaned all that off. Maybe that was binding up the valve, causing the computer to rev the engine to get it free?

So far, the lunging and hesitations is gone. If it comes back I will clean it again, until cleaning it has no effect.

Toyota & Brand

I drive a 1998 Toyota Camry. You know, from back when they were quality cars? Seriously, its a great car. Except for the sensor on the exhaust system that makes my check engine light come on, nothing but normal maintenance required.

For years (decades?) Toyota was synonymous with build quality. Safe, reliable cars. People paid more for them. Today, not so much. What a difference a few weeks and multiple very public recalls make.

I’ll admit, when I first hear about the gas pedal recall, I was not really concerned. The news asked all the local Toyota dealers if they had any incidents, and none had. In a city Orlando’s size, that’s saying something. Then the brakes for the Prius. And the shaft on the Tacoma. Now the steering on the Corolla.

After the first recall Toyota started running ads talking about their commitment to fixing the issue. Good move, or it would have been if there hadn’t been so many other recalls. Now I see the ads and wonder at their sincerity. Fix the problems and then tell me it’s fixed. It does not instill confidence for me to see an advertisement that says Toyota is fixing the safety issues on day and then to hear about more and more issues that need to be fixed.

A series of quality issues with their product has eroded the trust in the Toyota brand.

What can we learn from this?

Don’t rest on your reputation. It’s obvious now that some serious production issues have been brooding in the company. There was a time when the reputation of Toyota meant you would pay more for a used one. The last time we looked at a used Toyota van I had a conversation with the sales guy who flat out told me that they could charge more for it simply because it was a Toyota. And, had it been in our price range, we might have bought it at that price because of the brand name. Now, I would pay more for a Honda or Ford.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you can’t stop moving forward. And you definitely cannot let the quality slip. The name Toyota only stays synonymous with quality if the quality of the product remains high. As an outsider it seems obvious that Toyota relaxed their standards. I don’t know what happened in the company, but four major, public recalls in a matter of weeks points to some significant issues.

I have no doubt that Toyota will very soon e churning out automobiles of amazing quality again. but I don’t know how long it wil take for them to rebuild their reputation.