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Friday, October 15, 2010

My Visit to BMW Performance Center: Driving School for the 1-Day M Class

There's nothing better than an unexpected surprise in your mail.

And that's what I received back in February of this year. An invitation to a free one day M driving school at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC. Free class, free hotel, free food. All I needed to do was pay for my flight and rental car (<$500) and you could have the joy of driving BMW M3's, M5's, and M6's for a day with performance instructors. Pretty cool!

So, I quickly dialed up my buddy Josh (a free guest is included) and we settled on a date, September 27, 2010...7 months down the road. At times, it seemed like the day would never come and then quickly it snuck up on me as we moved houses and all of that kind of jazz.

For me, being the dedicated United Airlines flyer I am, it was not easy to get to even Charlotte, NC about 70 miles north of Spartanburg, SC. (1k with free unlimited first class upgrades helps!)

I awoke on the morning of September 26th in a haze at about 3:45am, just enough time to jump in the shower, get ready, and make it to LAX in time for my flight. Even taking the 6:00am flight out of Los Angeles (oversold, how does that happen on a Sunday 6:00am flight?) I still didn't make it to Charlotte, NC until about 5:00pm where I met up with Josh and we did the 90 minute drive to Greenville/Spartanburg, NC.

The BMW Performance Center puts you up in the Marriott Spa and Resort there in Greenville and let me tell you, they do it right. You get a nice room, free breakfast and dinner for the nights you're there with free Internet and all of that jazz. Compliments of BMW...all with the purchase of a BMW M3.

The only issue on the Sunday night we arrived is that there was no beer being served outside the city limits, due to the local law. So, we headed to the Quaker Steak and Lube and enjoyed some good food, some beer and watched Sunday night football...before getting a great night's sleep.

We got up in the morning, ate our free breakfast buffet and jumped on the shuttle to head over to the BMW Performance Center. The hotel was full of BMW employees from the area and from Germany...although us "tourists" were pretty easy to spot in our casual attire. Once we arrived at the center, it was time to begin. Our lead instructor for the day Matt greeted us by telling us how they change the course and school on days where it is wet like today. They simply tell us to do one thing...that is turn on the windshield wipers.

Rather than walking you blow by blow through the day, below are the picture, video and story from an absolutely amazing day at the BMW Performance Center. I'm definitely going to head back something net year for the 2-day version of the class!

Here we are entering the BMW Performance Center. The fun is just about ready to begin!Here we are entering the BMW Performance Center.  The fun is just about ready to begin!

Josh shares our first schwag for the day, free BMW M Performance Driving School pens. We're getting ready for our basic introduction and training before hitting the track.
Josh shares our first schwag for the day, free BMW M Performance Driving School pens.  We're getting ready for our basic introduction and training before hitting the track.

Oh, what a lineup that is! 6 M3's (3 e90 sedans, 3 e92 coupes), 6 M5's (e60), and 6 M6's (e63). It's a little wet out, but that will make things a little more fun.
Oh, what a lineup that is!  6 M3's (3 e90 sedans, 3 e92 coupes), 6 M5's (e60), and 6 M6's (e63).  It's a little wet out, but that will make things a little more fun.

My M5 for the day. Ready to hit the skipad.
<br />My M5 for the day.  Ready to hit the skipad.

Josh and I hanging out in the M5; observing and ready to roll.
Josh and I hanging out in the M5; observing and ready to roll.

Here I am in front of my 2011 e90 M3 with DCT and Competition Package sedan for the day, check out the sweet wheels. I was very happy to have the 4-door sedan which basically was the alter-ego for my daily driver; a Jet Black e90 M3 Sedan.
Here I am in front of my 2011 e90 M3 with DCT and Competition Package sedan for the day, check out the sweet wheels.  I was very happy to have the 4-door sedan which basically was the alter-ego for my daily driver; a Jet Black e90 M3 Sedan.

Here are some videos for the driving experience that I've posted on YouTube.

BMW M5 e60 - Full Drift 360 around Skipad - M School BMW Performance Center. Demo by the driving instructors to show us "how it's done!" We also got to go for a ride-along with each one which was a blast!


See the BMW M6 E63 on the cornering and acceleration activities at the BMW Performance Driving Center one day M School. Hear the acceleration and the active coaching from the instructors as the M6 goes around the track. This exercise was a ton of fun being able to open up the M6 down the back stretch.


The latest e90 / e92 BMW M3 with the competition package put through it's paces at the one day M Driving School at the BMW Performance Center in Greenville, SC. This exercise in the morning takes you through acceleration into a double apex turn before getting back on the power as you head up the hill. Great way to get to know your M3!


From the dual skidpad race at the BMW Performance Driving school at the 1-day M-School for BMW M3 owners. This is the final championship run for the "Blue" group with two M6's racing each other 10 laps around the short track. Oversteer, understeer, drifting. Who wins? Watch the Video to find out.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fixed! Mac Mini Won't Start - No video No chime or Boot

It'd been a few weeks since we moved into our new house. Amongst all the boxes was my Mac Mini box (luckily I had my MacBook Pro; but haven't ordered my iMac yet) and I needed to pull it out to get to some documents.

So I spent some time unpacking it, finding the cables and then getting it all setup...then I plugged it in and heard the familiar Apple chime. After a few minutes through, all that seemed to occur was that I had a blank grey screen with no icons or indicators. I let it sit for another 10 minutes hoping it was just churning away, but after the time elapsed...I had to hold the power button until the Mac Mini turned off.

And that's when the fun began.

When I powered it back on, the light came on and I heard the super / dvd / cd drive power up, but that was just it. No familiar apple chime, the Mac Mini wouldn't start.

So, I then pulled the power plug for a minute thinking something happened with the whole gray screen during starup. Still, no luck.

Now I was starting to get worried.

I did some Google searches on the problem and came across a couple of possibilities.

1. Reset the PMU or the Power Management Unit, which also resets the PRAM or Parameter Random Access Memory.
2. Reset the SMC or the System Management Controller.

While Apple provides steps on how to do this from their support site, I'll cover it really quickly so you don't have to head over there.

To reset the PMU / PRAM on your Apple Mac Mini, do the following:
1. Unplug all cables from the computer, including the power cord.
2. Wait 10 seconds.
3. Plug in the power cord while simultaneously pressing and holding the power button on the back of the computer. (approximately 5 seconds)
4. Let go of the power button.
5. Press the power button once more to start up your Mac mini.

In my case, resetting the PMU did not have the desired effect, especially since mine is an Intel-based Mac Mini. The effect for me is that when the Mac Mini started up the fan came on at a high speed and just ran and ran and ran. In fact no chime, no video, just the fan running at high anytime I press the power button to start up the Mac Mini.

Next it was time to reset the SMC, which is recommended for Intel based Mac Mini computers.

1. Shut down the computer.
2. Unplug the computer's power cord.
3. Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
4. Release the power button.
5. Attach the computers power cable.
6. Press the power button to turn on the computer.

After resetting the SMC or System Management Controller, the situation with the fan running on high resolved itself, but I was still no better. The Mac Mini would power on, disk and drive would spin up, but no chime, boot up, or display.

Now I was getting a little desperate; having cracked open the Mac Mini in the past to upgrade the Mac Mini hard drive, I decided that would be my next step, just to check all the connections inside and see if anything had come loose.

If you haven't opened up your Mac Mini before, don't worry it is pretty easy -- just grab a spatula (I used a metal one) and you can crack it about 5 seconds. If you need some addition help, check out the video here: Upgrading your Mac Mini; for some easy instruction.

Once I opened the Mac Mini, I quickly went all the way around the computer and made sure all of the connections were snug with my fingers. Nothing was obviously loose, but once I was complete, they were definitely all tightened up.

I put the top back on the Mac Mini and tried to power it up. Surprise, surprise, I heard the chime immediately, saw video and the Mac Mini booted up as expected. Finally, after about 45 minutes of troubleshooting, my Mac worked again!

If you're having problems with your Mac Mini starting up, hopefully this will help you out. In the case you have a MacBook Pro or iMac, perhaps this can help as well!

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