What if… cars moved people, objects, energy on demand

•March 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

What if a car driving a person was just a side effect, one of its on-demand purposes fulfilled.

What if you did not own a vehicle but it would be available anytime like über from close by, and when not driving you or anybody else, it will function as a receiver and giver of energy, drive to a charging station, when fully charged drive and park at a building that needs more power as a power building block. It can fulfill energy, people and object transportation needs.

It will never sit idle uselessly, just moving to where it is useful.

Idea published by Michael Will March 15th, 2016, feel free to use, don’t patent it as its already published.

2015 was the year of the electric car for us

•January 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

eGolfAtHouse.png2015 was the year of the electric car – good bye gas cars and petrol stations.

After one year of owning a Volkswagen eGolf I can say I truly love it. The only real hard issue with it is that my wife wants to drive it most of the time and leaves me with the gas guzzler since she has a 20 mile commute and I don’t. We drove it for about 13,000 miles in 12 months.

Let me first tell you about the cars I compare it to, and then focus on the eGolf with issues I found annoying, and also the advantages that make me love it in spite of them. Too many reviews I read are just a reiteration of other reviews, so I promise that none of what I detail is not directly from my personal experience and impressions.

The cars I am comparing are the 2015 eGolf, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta S 2.5 I replaced with the egolf, our 2014 Honda Oddysee that we bought as our family van in 2014, the tesla S that I test drove 2014 in the 85kw version and 2015 in the P85D version, and the Chevvy Volt 2014 that I test drove in 2014.

Characteristics of each car that I find noteworthy:
– 2006 Jetta 2.5 is a sporty roomy car, and with the tires I put on it had excellent cornering, temperamental sporty drive, a modern dynamic responsiveness to the gas pedal that makes a friends ford mustang of the same year feel dated and inaccurate, same for goes for
traction when accelerating fast. Being the 2006 version, it does not show the MPG, so I calculated those at the pump between filling up and while it beats the van, its not excellent, and I flirted with the idea of replacing the car with a TDi for a while,
higher cost and less availability of diesel at gas stations is what kept me from doing it. Thank goodness now that the VW Dieselgate truth came out.  It seats 5 which is good when picking up my kids and a neighbors kid at the same time, and is a lot of fun to drive on my daily commute.
– 2014 and 2015 Tesla win hands down on any aspect except cost, the experience of test driving those can be best summarizes as ‘WOW’ not just from the driving / handling but also all the other engineering aspects from the large display, charging station navigation integration, automated adaptive cruise control (no need to push gas/brakes in stop and go traffic), keyless entry is also buttonless start, ‘start’ really means turn on electrical system of car by putting foot on brakes after sitting down without pushing any on/off button, turn off the car by leaving the car with the key in your pocket and closing the door. It seats 5 comfortably. 7 is not really true, unless you want to seat two small children in seats you can buy as an option rear facing in the trunk area. So I consider it a 5 seater. Cabin lights are bright and full despite of using LED because they actually use hybrid lighting with conventional bulb and LED light to give you the full light experience with low energy consumption.
– 2014 Honda Oddyssee seats 7 on a trip to the Ski resort and has so much room for luggage more than any other mini van out there. For commute the MPG it gets are somewhat miserable, like 16-18 in the city and 24 on highways. Coming back from tahoe with lots of hypermiling tricks I got 34 mpg. Range of course is excellent, I can make it on one tank to Los Angele. Automated doors and high quality picture rear camera when backing up as well as blind spot camera when signalling right are great. Electric driver seat moving forward and backwards slowly with the button when switching drivers is very annoying, opening and closing side and trunk door from remote and from car buttons at driver seat are excellent. Drives like a street car and not like a truck, which is both fun and safe in any weather.
– 2014 GM Chevvy Volt – a plug in hybrid that at first impressed with 0-30 mile acceleration, but at highway speeds the handling does not seem safe to me, it just does not have enough responsiveness and power for room to get out of sticky situations. Also its a 4-seater since the battery protrudes into the cabin between the two rear seats. I seriously considered it for a while and it put the idea in my head that I can afford a vehicle with at least some electric range. I heard the 2015 and 2016 are a lot better in terms of handling too, but never test drove one again because of the short comings experienced on the 2014 model.
– 2015 Volkswagen eGolf – an 86 mile range pure electric vehicle, very impressive 0-30 mile acceleration leaving most gas cars behind at the light (probably even my jetta s),
reasonable 0-60 mile acceleration. So smooth it makes you feel like mounting a dinosaur when going back to drive a gas car.

Here are the good and bad things about the car and electric driving in general that I discovered:

Issues:
– ac automation: while air conditioning works well when outside temperature is very low or very high, in the 70’s it does not seem to hold it stably at the 72 that are dialed in automatically after turning on the engine, feels more like 69. Not so much an issue for me, but my wife complains🙂
– resetting adjustments on power off/on: it does not remember when I change the ac from 72 to something else.
– noise maker: its quiet except they put in an electric noise generator for low speeds to warn pedestrians which I find annoying because it sounds downright ugly, and you can’t override it or customize the type of sound it makes. It ruins the fact that this car is so excellently smooth and quiet when it takes off.
– range anxiety: the range anxiety is real, if you venture out beyond its range and dont want to plan on a lenghty stay at a charging station, you start turning off air conditioning and music and get nervous. they mitigate that with the road side assistence promise below, but depending on how you use the car you can feel the anxiety. For me driving it shorter distances it is a nonissue, but visiting friends 40 miles away this has become an issue before. Lunch rescheduled from noon to 2pm. Thankfully finally we have some DC fast chargers from NRG EVGO to help out in a pinch…
– mobile app features: mobile phone app car-net could be better, i.e. responsiveness and using it from two phones at the same time can lock one out, I curse at it a lot but would not want to miss it at the same time as it is a major plus in usability.
– charging availability: DC fast chargers (80% full in 20 minutes) didn’t really exist yet at the beginning of 2015, but NRG EVGO caught up on the buildout, unlike BMW and Volkswagen who promised to put money into chargepoint to build that out 2015, but so far I have to rely on Level 2 chargers that can fill it up from empty to full in 4 hours, in my case I am just topping it off in however long I want to park there, usually it is full in 1-2 hours. Still much faster than in my garage at 110V outlet. It seems there are more Chademo chargers out in the wild january 2015 that the eGolf does not support than the DC Combo that it does support. I know of exactly one charge point DC charger in the bay area.
– 86 mph limit – yes they put a speed delimiter into the car. While its beyond the slow legal speed limits in the US, in case of any emergency I would want to be the one to decide about that and not the car. I got used to it and dont notice it anymore, but I don’t agree with it at all, imagine tsunami or other emergency.
– different charging networks at first seemed annoying (blink/nvgo/chargepoint/…) – volkswagen gave me two chargepoint cards and their network is large so I don’t mind too much and end up using charge point exclusively except for when I have to DC fast charge, which I can do for $10/use with NRG EVGO.
– LED lighting in the cabin could be more bright, compared to the 2006 Jetta this looks very weak. That is why Tesla uses hybrid lighting which combines LED’s and conventional bulb for a low energy full light experience.
– Charging Plug lock – when you charge the car, the plug gets locked so nobody can mess with it while you are away. When you come back you have to unlock it with the key remote button, so keyless entry does not apply to it. Sometimes it takes several attempts of unlocking before the car lets go of the charging plug, which can be annoying.

Advantages:
– clean: no visits to stinky gas stations, no guilt driving past a bicylist polluting the air they breathe in heavly, happy to park in my garage without concern of gas/oil getting into things stored
– less hassle and expenses: no expensive oil changes, no smog check appointments on registration renewals, no service appointment for two years until cabin filters inspection. I get about 4 miles per kWh so even when not charging for free at my gym every now and then the cost per month is a lot less than it used to be. Also after adding solar to my home and adding an L2 fast charger in the process means I can assume my energy was created clean, and the car is ready in the morning.
– quiet: this changes your perception on your other gas car – suddenly gas cars seem old and shaky and loud in comparison, despite of the excellent sound insulations cars have nowadays. I am not kidding, I did take the Oddysee in to service to find out why it was shaking, because I had driven the eGolf for a while and just was not expecting it to be normal again.
– just go: charging overnight in the garage means no planning on visiting a chargepoint station unless you drive it around for more than the 80 miles a day, basically I just drive it around, plug it in when I got back in the garage and forget about it, next day it is full. In the winter I preheat it in the garage while it is still connected to the charger. While at breakfast, from the iPhone. Besides comfort, this also means the impact of cold weather on range is less because the car is fully charged and its cabin preheated.
– safety: road side assistence button, if I ever get stranded out of electricity they will come and tow me home or to a chargepoint station if I am more than 100 miles from home. Have not had to use it yet (knock on wood). In fact they will call you in your car and ask if you are ok when the air bags get deployed in an accident…
– mobile app features: allows me to find where I parked it, how much range it has and how much longer it will charge until full, it allows me to turn on air conditioning from the restaurant table while waiting on my bill to get the car’s temperature to acceptable levels, especially going to be important in the hot summers here in CA
– premium parking spot finder: The chargepoint app allows me to find a free parking spot with a charger, typically located at the bottom of a parking garage, and it tells me if occupied or not. This translates to finding premium parking. The chargepoint network is pretty good in the bay area and in san francisco, but it depends on where you go. For me its a huge plus. I also use plugshare to find NRG EVGO DC fast chargers.
– sporty: acceleration from 0 to 30 is excellent, immediate torque and no shifting means you will pull away from the green light faster than pretty much any gas car around you, and you don’t worry about the inefficiency of it because the rest of the drive regenrative braking and low consumption still give you a good 4 miles per kWh for your trip.
– looks: I love the accent lights in the front and the general look of the car.

So in summary – I love it and hope that one day we will replace the honday oddysee with a tesla X and I wont feel bad about my wife taking the eGolf any more, which I will one day also replace with a tesla 3🙂

iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

•November 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

iOS 7 flat design is a disaster to me. Did they fire the QA / PM’s and just not rehire?

The main difference for me is not ‘getting rid of skeuomorphism’, that is just a buzzword everybody throws around, the big difference is decline in usability, because an apparent original goal ‘minimize effort to get to needed information’ has been compromised:

1. stock market display in notification area and in standard app – you can barely read the grey on red/green, what formerly was easy to see at one glance now requires a lot more focus to decipher. Much harder to use than before. I have no idea how they could get that past QA.

2. you can barely tell anymore if a phone is charging, the tiny arrow attached to it is barely visible.

3. I had to google it to find out how to get the input field for searching (swipe down in home screen) which is consistent with email search now at least, but was a pain to find out initially as well. But there is no reason why that input field should not be already shown in the sliding current apps view that you get to by double clicking your home button, thus minimizing the path to finding. The space above the app-screenshots is empty. Am I the only one to whom that is obvious?

4. double clicking home button now shows a sliding view of the icons plus screenshot of current apps instead of paging icons, which means that I now take longer and have to focus more to navigate to the specific one I had in mind. Before I could just page through and click on the fixed spot it was at. I knew exactly what icon I am looking for as that is how I started it originally, the screenshots are cute but don’t really help finding the app.

Now I have to make it flow by swiping until it shows up and then get back to it until I can hit it. A lot more mental processing and back and forth is necessary.

5. here comes the ugliest part: the drop-downs in safari web dialogs like bart.gov schedule are no longer drop downs in the page but have this ridiculously large carousel view with dark grey on medium dark grey below some weird less/greater sign next to a done-button. The text is more distorted for the lines below and above the current selection, more unreadable the more far away from currently selected item. It is incredibly hard to read, and swiping up and down does not allow for a precise selection. Then clicking on what you have selected actually does nothing, instead you have to navigate your finger over to the done-button, again an unnecessary extra step. Just a complete failure in usability.

6. inconsistencies – the first time I tried to share a contact it took me a while to figure out that I had to scroll down the actual contact to find a ‘share’ link on the bottom, I was looking for the funky share icon that is used everywhere else and would be immediately in view on the bottom without scrolling. Its there for photos, notes, maps, but its missing from calendar entries, and contacts.

Of course there are other things about iOS that I like. But none are related to look and feel. I like the flashlight app, and sharing contacts through airdrop, and the fingerprint sensor of the 5s almost makes me want to upgrade the hardware too as I can see how it would streamline use of the phone (unlocking and app installation)

Aesthetically the redesigned icon colors are not as appealing to me as before, and the flatness just looks boring. I gave it some time to get used to, but honestly, its November 7th now and I still hate it. I take this especially hard since I come from an Android background and have hoped to never have a reason again to go back to android. But this is  really pushing it.

I really hope some day a PM at Apple is reading this and claiming some of these thoughts as his own and pushes for fixing the issues, today we are on 7.0.3 and nothing has improved from the list above, and I don’t have high hopes that 7.0.4 would be any different.

iphone5 review – verizon LTE rocks

•October 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I finally switched from Android to the apple iPhone5 with iOS6, and I am loving it. I was eyeing the iphone 4s for a while but it’s internet speed was just so ridiculously slow compared to a state of the art android phones that it was out of the question. Well that concern has been lifted with the iPhone5, I got 30Mbit down and 10Mbit upload on Verizon the other day. Of course that means I burn through my shared 6G dataplan quickly if I don’t watch it, i.e. uploading 150 birthday party photos in one swoop to facebook🙂

Battery life is excellent, especially compared to my my HTC G2 and my wifes myTouch. This morning I intentially let the iphone run to 1% after not charging it for 1 day and 8 hours, with 8 hours talktime. A friend of mine had issues with short battery life and identified the google voice application as the culprit. I have not been using that so I am fine, even with intense facebook / email / web browsing. Maybe because at home as well as at work I am close to a wifi network, unless I want to leverage the LTE speeds for downloading or uploading large amounts of data in a short time. 

The maps problems I have not run into yet, maybe living in California makes that easier to be accurate. 

Siri is excellent, I use it all the time from dictating SMS’s while in the car to starting music, navigation, initiating FaceTime… facetime is fun, like skype but better quality and easier to get going. Also it does not use the voice network, so it does not interrupt data on the verizon network.

Video recording and picture taking is awesome, I so hated it on my G2 that by the time I got the photo app going and pressed the button to the time that the shutter action actually got executed, the subject already walked away.  Or all the mafunctioning moments.  On the iphone it’s so perfect and so immediate, that I am actually able to use it happily rather than just try and hate.  

And the screen is fantastic too, colors are true, unlike the Samsung S3 that I had toyed with before the iphone5 came out – I am surprised that not more people seem to care, but when I tried it in the t-mobile store, photo and video on the S3 had way wrong colors, even watching a movie on netflix would be affected. I guess the specs are great but the color representation makes it look broken to my eyes.

And the apps are just awesome, and they are the same I am having on my ipad already, without extra effort they just got synced on and work. 

Airplay of my music to the living-room stereo while making breakfast in the kitchen is another highlight of how I enjoy it. 

 

So what do I not like? 

Email notification does not seem as immediate as I am used to from Android. I miss swype as a keyboard method, but not as much as I thought I would, since the predictive correction method is actually highly effective on the iPhone). I slightly but not really miss USB mounting the phone SD card as a usb drive. Since I use itunes on a macbook I am actually happy about the ease with which I get to carry my recent music with me via syncing rather than having to manage files or deal with the offline/online google music stuff.

Really trying hard to think here, but I guess one downside to the great games and apps is that my kids constantly ask for it🙂

php pack(“H*, $s) does not throw exception or return false on error. SOLVED.

•July 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

I was puzzled by this recently, code that uses pack(“H*”, $s) to compress a token into a few bytes would cause a warning to be displayed by php if the $s token was not a valid hexadecimal string, but still return a bogus result.  try { $p = pack(“H*”, $s); } catch (Exception $e) { } would not catch it, as it is emitted as a warning, not an error.

The warning looks like this:

pack(): Type H: illegal hex digit s in /my/fancy/webapp/problem.php on line 123

After a bunch of unsuccessful googling somebody from effnet reminded me to look up error handling specifics, but  all I  found was how to create error handlers that could catch that sort of thing. But I don’t want to introduce an error handler just yet, instead I am trying to find a simple way to detect failure of the function pack(), i.e. a way to query the error status, so I started experimenting with error_get_last() and came up with the following:

  1. <?php
  2.         function attemptpack($s) {
  3.                 @trigger_error(“”);
  4.                 $p=pack(“H*”, $s);
  5.                 $e = error_get_last();
  6.                 if ($e && !(strpos($e[“message”], “pack()”) === FALSE)) {
  7.                         print(“$s pack error detected:” . $e[“message”] . “\n”);
  8.                 }  else {
  9.                         print “$s packed ok\n”;
  10.                 }
  11.         }
  12.         attemptpack(“abcdef”);
  13.         attemptpack(“axbcdef”);
  14.         attemptpack(“abcdef”);
  15. ?>

Note I am paranoid and am verifying that the message contains pack() in case an older message was not cleared by @trigger. It should not be necessary at this point.

Turns out that does not work on php 5.1.6. And the more obvious way to do this is to validate the input anyways. So now my approach is now much more simple:

  1. <?php
  2. function attemptpack($s) {
  3.     if ( !ctype_xdigit($s))  {
  4.         print __FILE__ . “: $s is not a valid hex string.\n”;
  5.     } else {
  6.         $p=pack(“H*”, $s);
  7.     }
  8. }
  9. attemptpack(“abcdef”);
  10. attemptpack(“abxdef”);
  11. ?>

netflix price hike – I was quitting – now I am back

•November 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When netflix increased their prices to $15 from about $10 or whatever it was for having unlimited streaming plus 1 DVD out at a time, I was in with all the others saying NO WAY and canceled my account.

I was feeling strongly that $10/month for entertainment is enough since I may probably only watch 2-3 movies a month, sometimes less. So if I do pay per view on iTunes / amazon / youtube video rental, I should not have to pay more than what I was used to pay for netflix. In fact I had canceled comcast (an outrageous $100/month for internet and tv) many years ago and found that I was fine with using netflix and other sources and did not miss TV at all…

And while consumption wise I was right, content library wise I was not. Multiple times I knew exactly hat what I was not able to find would have been available on netflix. And I missed the user interface that allows me to browse, drill down on actors / directors / genres, and discover new movies.

So I paid for amazon prime, just to discover that the free instant view was only for a subset of movies, and that even the ones I was then still willing to pay for where not available when I had something specific in mind.

Long story short – I reactivated my netflix account for streaming only ($8/month) less than 2 months after I had quit and probably will turn on the 1 dvd out per month for a total of $15/month once I find more movies that are not in the streaming lib (already had the issue a few times).

Now get the movies that are DVD only into the streaming library please!

PS: Tempted to buy an $100 Wifi-enabled BlueRay player with netflix+amazon+youtube interface…  so far I just connect my macbook to the overhead projector in the living room🙂

Software patents are anti-competitive – wake up !

•July 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This has been going on for too long – when will software patents and their misuse finally be abolished?

– android mobile phone customers pay $5 per mobile phone to microsoft because of software patents they bought. Microsoft has their own windows mobile system and has contributed NOTHING to the android infrastructure, yet we have to pay them when we decide against their product?
– microsoft was at least temporarily stopped from selling microsoft word because of XML patents. XML is an industry standard. How could you possibly punish them for finally using standards instead of proprietary methods that keep competitors out more?
– patent cartell buys nortels patents for billions of dollars, smaller competitors that are not in on the cartel will suffer. What does the SEC have to say about that? Apparantly nothing. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nortel-announces-the-winning-bidder-of-its-patent-portfolio-for-a-purchase-price-of-us45-billion-2011-06-30
– study shows that software patents are detrimental to the industry as a whole. What a surprise.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1868979#%23 with similar results already expected in 2008: http://researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

And still I get ‘software patents are necessary to incentivice innovation’. No, they are just a means to keep smaller inventors from succeeding and feed a multi billion dollar litigation and cartel building machine. Software patents need to be abolished.

 
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