Wifi in my car: proof of concept

Some drivers love fancy chrome wheel rims, some add a huge wing spoiler on their car, or fuzzy dice hanging from their rear-view mirror. Me, when I bought my new car, I decided that I wanted a Wifi network in my car. So that any passenger with a laptop/iPod could read his email. And I imagined driving to distant holiday locations while my passenger where watching movies streamed from a NAS disk built into the car.

This weekend I finished episode one: Internet in the car. I used the following components:

The important details here are:

  • The Huawei stick is compatible with the TP-Link router.
  • The Huawei stick can be configured with ‘Save my PIN’, so that when it starts up, it connects to the 3G network without any manual intervention.
  • The TP-Link router runs on 12V DC (which is what a car has)

For the rest, the exercise was quite straight-forward: I configured the Huawei stick on my laptop with the right PIN code, popped it in myTP-Link router, configured the right 3G settings for Telenet (see here). Then I took an old 12V power transformer, chopped off the connector and linked it up to an old car cigarette lighter type of plug (sometimes it’s good to have an archive of obsolete cables and power supplies). I then hid the router under the base plate of my trunk, where there is also the battery (the BMW X1 stores the battery in the back, where you would normally have the spare tyre). I switch on the car and 20 seconds later, I have a Wifi network “OnTheRoadAgain” that is connected to the Internet. Proof of concept is OK!

The next step now is to add a (Synology) NAS, which also runs on 12V, and hook up my iPad to the car Wifi to view my collection of backed-up DVDs from that disk. And maybe run some extra programs (e.g. MRTG for monitoring) on that NAS. To be continued!

Company cars in Belgium: your new taxes

January 2012 marks the beginning of a new calculation of the ‘Benefit in kind’ – the value an employee is calculated to get from a company car. It has a big effect on your taxes. Do you pay taxes in Belgium? Do you have a company car? Read on!

The actual formula can be found here: Arval: Benefit in kind (FR: Avantage de toute nature / NL: Voordeel van alle aard). I simulated this for my own car (Saab 9.3 Cabrio from 2005). It’s clear I need to sell it ASAP. Then I started calculating some other ‘common’ company cars to see what car to buy next. A hybrid? Diesel? Start-stop? So here are some numbers for the ‘cheap’ cars:

 

VVA: goedkope autos

And because you’re right to worry about your company Range Rover:

VVA: dure autos

Conclusions

  • There is a minimum benefit: 1200€/year. Some cars would have been able to go lower than that, like some electric/hybrid ones, the Volvo V40, the Audi A3, the Smart, but no, you are still going to be taxed for those 1200. 1200, so the state considers you to make 100€/month more.
    Concretely: for an electric car, you are going to be taxed as if it costed 30.000€. For the most economic petrol/diesel car: as if it costs 21.818€. If your company has 22K to spend on a car, use it. You can’t save on your tax filing anyway.
  • Accessories and options: they are also taken into account for the price of your car. The leather seats, the GPS pack, the xenon lights… They all count.
  • CO2 coefficient is important, but don’t overdo it. The treshold for petrol (benzine) cars is 115 g/km, and for diesel it’s 95 g/km. You pay more if it’s worse, but you don’t pay less if it’s better.
    For diesel cars: stay under 115 g/km. For petrol cars, stay under 130.
  • Electric cars: you would be surprised. Apart from the Renault Twizzy, which is more of a toy, there are not that many options, and you’re not even sure of the minimum benefit. If the car costs more than 30K, you’re screwed. Hybrid cars: if they cost more than 22K, you will feel it.
  • SUVs: if you have a big SUV (BMW X5, Mercedes M, Porsche Cayenne) or a big jeep (Landcruiser, Pajero), you’re gonna feel the pain. Nissan Qashqai, Toyota RAV4, not so much.
  • Second hand: there is a discount for the age of your car: 6% per year, with 5 years max. So if your car is 6 to 25 years old (after which it becomes an old-timer), the state will take into account 70% of the price it was bought for the first time. But if you bought it second hand? You might buy a 2 year old car for 50% of the price, but it will still be counting for 88% of the price-for-a-new-one. Concretely: if you buy a second hand Maserati, don’t buy it in the company.
  • Super cars“. I know you love to watch Top Gear and dream about that Lamborghini, but I’m guessing that has become something even more of the happy few. If you buy/lease it as a company car, you will bleed in your personal taxes. 20K for that Porsche Carrera (so you will pay +- 50% of that in taxes). 10K for that Range Rover.

As far as I understand it, this is for new ànd second-hand cars, bought or leased by a company for a manager or employee. Let’s wait until some accountants come up with new schemes for expensive cars.

In the mean time: what individual wants to buy a Saab Cabrio?

Procreate to win a car

Dodge: baby made on board

I’m getting old, I guess. This ad campaign annoys me. For those who don’t understand Dutch: if you take a Dodge Journey for a test-drive on the Father’s Day weekend, and make a baby on the back seat, then you have a chance of winning a car.

First off: it’s borderline immoral. There can be several reasons to have children, but winning a car shouldn’t be a motivation. Having children is quite a big thing. To make it into a gamble with a prize, feels wrong.

Secondly: the logistics. I can imagine they won’t require the couples to stay in the showroom with the car to perform the act, but where do you park? Side of the road? Public parking? In the garage at home? You’d need to live close enough to a garage. And what about the activities that happened in the car before you entered? What’s that smell? Is that a … on the backseat? OMG! Never mind, baby, we only have an hour, hurry! Close your eyes and think of off-road adventures.

And then the criterium for winning: the baby that’s closest to 8 March 2009 wins. I can imagine some future parents instructing their gynaecologist to have the birth on exactly that date. There’s a possibility for a 20K euro car, so if the baby has to come prematurely, then that’s just how it’s gotta be. And if you have 3 babies born on 8 March, that’s all equally ‘close’, right? Who will be chosen? The one that was born the closest to 12AM? (“Nurse, can, you change that hour of birth? Like one hour later, say 11.53AM?“)

For me this is a campaign thought out on the back of a napkin after a bit too much of alcohol. It should have stayed on that napkin.