2017 coming up – two years of electric driving review 2015 VW e-Golf, 2016 Tesla Model X 90D

May 2016 we finally switched to all electric driving, after realizing that we put most miles on the short distance electric car and the 2014 Honda Oddysee was collecting dust for anything less than 150 mile distance.

Our gas station is our home 🙂 looking good freshly painted under a rainbow…

Why 150 miles ? Because that is about twice the distance of the eGolf on a single charge (84 miles) and charging once in the middle of a trip was preferable to hobbling around in even a fairly new gas car, because of the electric drive being so smooth it is closer to gliding, acceleration with instant torque, and a feeling of efficiency even when driving it without regard for consumption, knowing that the solar panels on our roof produce more than we would consume.

 

modelx_snow

First snow in Tahoe was creating a mess. Thankfully with all wheel drive and lots of energy to keep warm and comfortable, we did not need snow chains for our 20″ continental LX m+s tires that we use all year round. Loving how the falcon wing doors form an umbrella to keep the snow out when we got in and out of the car to throw snowballs while legacy gas cars stopped in front of us for hours to get their snow chains on, get towed to the side when they ran out of fuel idling for hours or slid around on summer tires. Thankful for having all those superchargers on the way so we did not have to worry about range, despite the cold and heating while standing taking its toll.

 

So in May 2016 we traded in our 2014 Honda Odyssey 8 seater which we had loved until we discovered electric driving. Suddenly when going back to driving it, everything feels wrong, it smells bad, hobbles and wobbles, unevenly accelerates. You get spoiled by electric driving so quickly. So we loaded the Odyssey with luggage for its last partial vacation trip, drove it down to Fremont, and traded it in for a Tesla Model X 90D. We moved the luggage and went on our first vacation trip into the Sierras, about 400 miles round trip. There was a slight feeling of regret that we got the 6 seat version instead of the 7 seat version because that meant a 3-people family that was going to the same destination had to take their Volt instead of riding with us, but since it was a long weekend it may be all for the better. And we prefer the faster getting in and out of the six seater compared to moving seats forward and backward to access the last row in the 7 seater.

 

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Topping off on a standard electrical outlet gets us 20 miles over night added. Not really needed since we filled up on the supercharger along the way to arrive with good range left, but definitely a plus.

We have done many road trips since then, some more far than 1000 miles round trip. Supercharging makes it easy to go the distance and knowing that it is already all paid for makes it easier to pay a meal at Harris Ranch Restaurant while filling up for free 🙂

So far the car has been nothing short of amazing. And my wife finally lets me take the eGolf again 🙂

Highlights:

  • never again make time to drive to a gas station, oil change or smog check appointments, just plug in at night and full in the morning
  • preheat car cabin in the garage, start from iphone while having breakfast or when arriving close to parking lot, no poisonous fumes emitted. Works on both cars.
  • silent gliding smooth ride with superb acceleration and excellent traction control in adverse weather conditions
  • long distance trips much easier thanks to autopilot taking over micromanaging tasks while I focus on the overall traffic situation and adjust speed or advise it to do a lane change for me. feels like half the distance driven on arrival

Downsides:

  • don’t forget to plug it in over night 🙂 Thankfully the phone app sends notifications on charge start and stop so if you set it to start charging at 9pm you can set an alert in your calendar to double check that the notification 0f starting came in
  • tesla model S and model X are still very pricey, this will only change 2017 when the Model 3 comes out.
  • makes you realize how bad gas cars are in comparison and you are spoiled forever, the idea of going back to gas cars is like handing in your iphone for a rotary phone  landline.
  • You get annoyed when driving the non-tesla and the driver door does not close for you aut0matically
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iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

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

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 🙂

t-mobile G2 review – first impressions

 

G2 has arrived

 

The good:

– super fast delivery from t-mobile. I ordered it on the 4th and was able to select it for a plan upgrade. It arrived on the evening of the 5th. This time t-mobile got the launch process right, perfect user experience.

– compared to the G1 its very fast – feels like the Nexus One, but with a physical keyboard.

– android 2.2 with gmail supporting more than one google account is a plus, but a nicer mail app comparable to what apple does could be better…

– H instead of 3G is noticably faster. According to speedtest.net I get about 2Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload on average. That is more than my $40/month AT&T DSL… mhm… maybe I’ll cancel AT&T’s DSL, add a line to keep using my G1 as a phone and leave the G2 at home as an internet hotspot? But I’d miss the speed on the road then…

– did I already say it was fast? 🙂 So not just from a network standpoint, but also from a cpu standpoint, working with the web browser, firing up navigation etc does no longer invoke a half a minute wait as on the G1…

picture quality is actually better than I first thought! See photo below…

The bad:

– keyboard does not have number row and stuff in non-qwerty places, and so it is a lot more cumbersome to type on that the G1 that had a real qwerty keyboard.

– While it is real cool that the gallery on the phone now includes photos from picasa and other sources (I really like that actually) it also appears to be much slower to bring up a picture in full resolution than expected?

The ugly:

– in-call volume is very low. I was able to make phone calls directly from the handset with the G1 that I cannot make anymore with the G2, i.e. from a bus or car… with the speaker it is fine.

I’ll post more as I use it more 🙂

I want a hardware refresh of the G1 (original google android phone)

I see all those new android phones come out with faster hardware and better camera, but no real keyboard and other deficiencies…

After having lived with the shortcomings of the G1 and comparing to that for a while, I feel that I really just want a hardware-refresh of the existing G1 phone and not the new droid nor the N1.

I want to have the faster cpu, more RAM, better camera (led flash, light sensitivity) and faster USB read speed (12MB/s instead of 5MB/s) of the N1 but I do not want to give up the hardware keyboard of the G1, the hardware buttons of the G1 (accept call/home/back/hangup). I actually love the slide-out keyboard design, it allows me to switch to real typing mode real fast.

The droid hardware keyboard is a joke, it is worse than the on-screen keyboard in terms of accuracy.

I love htc’s special usb cable that allows me to connect any headphone as well as my car stereo to it, with a microphone on the connector plus a button that allows me to skip mp3 songs and accept calls mostly hands-free while driving.

The G1 is a pretty good smartphone, just the cpu and ram deficiency makes it painfully slow.

I even like the form-factor, fits well in my pocket.

Can I just get a hardware refresh instead of a new broken design please?

Michael

Mobile application development middleware?

I am the author of an ExtJS based cluster management web-application (Scyld IMF at Penguin Computing) that allows controlling a high performance compute cluster from any web-browser, be it from your desktop or from a mobile device. This works fairly well already even without writing a special view for the mobile devices as current smartphones (iphone, android) come essentially with a full blown javascript capable web-browsers and lots of processing power. However performance still could be better by having a native app that uses the same data sources / api as the full blown web-application (javascript app running on the browser being the client to the webservice-api on the server side), but implementing the view natively.

After hacking up a proof of concept for the iphone (thanks John for your awesome iphone JSON flickr tutorial and xcode example for download) and thinking of how to do the same for android without duplicating effort, I realized that it would be nice to be able to have some kind of middleware that allows me to create and populate native gui components without code duplication.

One such middleware is phonegap which requires you to write your application in javascript and html, and allows accessing phone specific features through javascript calling the middleware. It then is bundled as a native application that can be submitted to the app store for purchase and can run completely offline once downloaded, unless the programmer chooses to access remote resources. Their initial focus seems to have been allowing access to smartphone specific features like the address book, vibrate and sound, gps location and such, but there also is code in there to use native gui components as well.

I have two problems with the approach:

1. development of javascript – while palm pre developers might tout this as an advantage, I find javascript development and debugging rather tedious and would prefer writing my code in java or objective-c and be able to run it through a full control debugger on my desktop before deploying it to the simulator. I know about and am actively using firebug, the javascript debugger for firefox, but a lot of the bugs I had to deal with were incredibly hard to hunt down and rather than the debugger it was the forums and interacting with developers on #extjs chat, as well as using jslint and manually analyzing code, that helped me figure out a root-cause, workaround or fix.

2. performance – developers report that the phonegap version of their app appears to consume more resources rather than less compared to a remotely hosted javascript app, accessed through the mobile devices web-browser. Apart from the overhead of having to parse javascript at runtime, developers sometimes need platform specific knowledge and implement different than for a web-application, i.e. iphone onclick events being much slower from the touchscreen than ontouch events.

The advantage on the other hand appears to be that it is relatively easy to add new mobile platforms to phonegap. So far they appear to have iphone, android, blackberry and some nokia platforms covered, with palm pre being on the horizon to be added beginning of next year.

And according to phonegaps website, there are already several real-world phonegap powered apps in the marketplaces of both the iphone and android.

Thoughts?

My first day with the Google Android G1 phone – yeah I did it!

It’s not as if I had not given it plenty of thought 🙂 I even owned the first generation iphone for about a week before dropping back to my treo 680 – and if having full enterprise email access (via goodlink service) would not cost me $240/year in fees on top of the wireless internet plans on the 680, I might even still be ok with that.

So finally after hesitating for almost a year, I jumped ship, knowing that I won’t have my enterprise calendar/email for a while longer but at least have a decent internet phone, I bought it through costco to get the extra bluetooth piece and car-charger for almost the same price, and I am happy and very impressed !

First notable impressions (I already read all the reviews beforehand and knew what to expect for the most part, won’t mention those things here)

1. I could mount the phones storage through usb on my linux system and just copy over the images and mp3’s that I wanted to take with me. Take that, apple/iphone! Yes I own the content that I import, not you. And I will plug in a larger micro-SD card as soon as I got it from tigerdirect.

There was however a weird thing that the partition on the storage only showed up once I selected ‘mount though usb’ on the G1 phone side, but once I had googled that tidbit of information it worked like a charm, and Fedora 9 mounted it for me automatically.

2. application marketplace

Holy moly more than I care to know about.  So I used search to find what I was most interested in and had heard about, and tried out some of the featured apps as well. I did not see any for-pay apps yet.

Interesting that before installing you are asked to read multiple pages of license stuff that all is very uninteresting for a user. I wonder if that can even be legally binding if they hide something in there that actually matters – most of it talks about rights to copying software, how does that relate to a phone user downloading it through the marketplace that the company provides it through is beyond me.

Also interesting that before installing it tells you what the application requests to get control over, i.e. your address book, your wifi connection, your gps location, for-pay services like SMS…  and just like with Windows XP AntiVirus/AntiSpyware systems you have to OK all those things anyways to get it to work. But at least you are warned 🙂

With all those services asking for a signup I am surprised that we don’t have automatic fill-in of first-name last-name into the signup forms…

Here are the 8 apps  I installed on my first try:

– ShopSavvy (not ShopSawy 🙂 )- point your camera at a bar-code and it tries to identify the item, get you prices and locations. At first I was real impressed, I tried it with a book and it found it right away, quoted me three different prices and locations to buy it at, and with two clicks I got my gps telling me how to get there from where I currently was. Very cool. It also quoted a cheaper online price, did not pursue that.

So I thought, yeah this is as cool as I read about it before. My wife came home and I tried to impress her: I tried it with two vegetable cans and it could not grasp the barcode – probably since it was round? I tried a cereal box and it read the barcode then said it found nothing. Mhm, so maybe not that much stuff in the database yet…

– pacman – looks like the original. You can use the accelerator method to navigate it, which means instead of pressing keys you tilt your phone – almost like a wee control 🙂

– bonsai blast – nice color game, not tried to really play it yet

– imap weather – does what it needs to do plus more. Fails to find my location sometimes and then crashes. Not impressed.

– Wertago – ‘where to go’ nightlife guide application, kind of like yelp but yet-another-social-network-thing. I did not bother to create the account but found the crowd kind of wierd… however this is probably the kind of thing that is going to be really useful once there are more reviews in it.

– Meridian Video Player – I hoped to be able to play my eve online trailers (mov/wmv), but it did not work. Oh well.

– cab4me light – finds phone numbers of local cab companies. Nice…

– imeem mobile –  an internet radio station but tailored to your taste. Wow, just typed in Metallica in the search and now get all those metal songs from all those bands. Nice, have not listened to Manowar in a while…

3. Access to wireless

It was really simple to setup (select wifi station from list identified, enter WEP code, done) but I was surprised that web browsing still seems as slow as over edge/g3. Mhm…

4. what am I going to miss form my treo 680

– real good keyboard – the g1 is not terrible but far from being as good.

– uploading pictures straight to facebook off of the sd card ejected from my digital camera – the workarounds could be getting a microsd in sd adapter and take pictures to that (supposedly much slower than sd though) or even better to get a wifi enabled sd-card (eyefi) – then I would no longer need to eject the card.

– faster/earlier rendering of my most frequented websites in the web-browser.

– superefficient email/contacts when paying the $240/year goodlink fees. but not gonna anyways.

– reasonable low resolution video

5. What I am not going to miss from my treo 680

– call dropping or going on hold right after accepting the call when I fumble the ringing phone out of the pocket

– always out of battery when I needed it the most – lets see how the G1 fares on that 🙂

– real bad (i.e. unusable) mp3 player, harsh electric interference noise when it transmitted data and playing music at the same time

– low resolution photo camera