Once upon a time in an America, Far, Far Away…

Things seem crazy now, but what were times like when our forefathers started this nation? Perhaps many thought the nation was doomed? Perhaps many couldn’t fathom Abraham Lincoln as president? Perhaps his ideas were too radical?

Change is complicated.

Time will tell how all of this turns out. We need to be one nation and use our power of numbers to ensure things don’t steer out of control. Listen to all media, not just the media you prefer. Sometimes the media you don’t like has some interesting insights. Certainly, listen to the media assassins at No Agenda Show. You’ll learn things about media and media in other nations that you may not have considered. If you don’t understand the show at first, give it a few listens—the jingles and unique perspectives will make a lot more sense. Visit the show page at NoAgendaShow.com or search on Overcast or iTunes.

Where Goeth Tesla and its Model X?

Earlier today I read an OpEd on Autoblog, Let’s Face It: Tesla’s Model X was a Mistake. While I don’t subscribe to this clickbait, it caused me to think more about Tesla, the Model 3 and their future.

The article asserted the Model X was a mistake, because the project became bloated insanity?—?they basically threw in every feature they could think of. Tesla probably sees this as a technological achievement and a landmark of carmaking. Certainly, themodelx Model X is impressive. Those Falcon doors are fun to watch (after the initial novelty wears off, does one start to agonize over their speed, or lack thereof). In fact, all the doors can open as if you have an invisible valet. It’s all very cool for a production automobile.

Back to the article: I think Tesla must continue upscale. I left this comment on Autoblog and sharing here:

The Model S has crept up from its $50k-ish pricing to over $100k depending on equipment. I read the average selling price is $85k. To me, this is indicative of a strategy to gain more profit to offset the costs and lack of scale. The Model 3 cannot scale to the numbers everyone expects?—?Tesla doesn’t have the infrastructure. Car showrooms are not Apple Stores?—?the complexity of distribution and support is too great.

Model X is the right strategy, albeit an overly complex one (I’m very concerned about their reliability). Continuing to go upscale is Tesla’s only hope. There simply isn’t enough margin to play in the $45k arena, especially considering their lack of scale.

I predict Model 3 will cost a lot more than anticipated?—?I’m guess around $65k base price. They’ll justify the cost by comparing it to a loaded up BMW 3-series with Tesla’s tech advantage.

With the Volkswagen Group showing prototypes of 300-mile range EVs and publicly speaking of nearly 200-mile range Golfs (around $35k), I’d be very concerned to be Tesla. At 2% of the US market, EVs account for a pittance and aren’t profitable. If the market grows into a real market, Audi will introduce a modern crossover with 300-mile range, for under $100k that is supported by a large dealer network. At that point, I would probably not want to be holding Tesla stock.

Not all is lost, Tesla can remain a strong, profitable niche player, just like an Aston Martin and be profitable. They can continue to move the technology forward and innovate. Plus, there’s battery packs and power systems they can market?—?so there’s a lot of upside in the whole company. As a car company, though, they need to reign in the hyperbole a bit and enjoy being the unique player they’ve become.

This also posted on Medium

Why I’ve Switched Back to Mail on iPad

After reading countless articles and looking for a better way to consume email on the iPad, I decided on Accompli, which ultimately became Outlook post Microsoft acquisition. I enjoyed Outlook’s speed, the swiping features and a few other things. After using it for about 2 years on two different iPads, I’ve done something that’s not very technorati acceptable: I’ve returned to Apple Mail.

You may ask why?

There are some key Apple Mail features often overlooked by App reviewers. Conversely, Apple has done things to improve Mail’s interface and functionality. For example, implementing swipes (made famous by the now defunct Mailbox App) has made Mail a more efficient tool. With a bit of tweaking, you make find Mail a better choice than the third party mail clients for iOS.

The features I’ve missed since moving away from Apple Mail:

  • Auto Outgoing Mail Account: I have a 11 email accounts on my iPad. Nothing is more annoying (read: embarrassing) than sending an email from the wrong business account. Apple Mail’s ability to recall the account you normally use to send mail to a specific recipient makes it idiot-proof. Strangely, I haven’t found another client that does this. For this reason alone, I prefer Apple Mail, but there’s more.
  • Portrait Mode: Mail’s portrait mode is simple and beautiful. Looking at an email in full-screen portrait mode is a joy. Pinch and zoom, just like iPad always promised. The Inbox slider elegantly slides away and doesn’t take up valuable portrait-screen real-estate. For some annoying reason, Microsoft doesn’t allow this in Outlook. No pinch and zoom in portrait mode and no full-screen email. Actually, Outlook will show you an email in full screen, but only in an email thread! If you want to see a full-screen email, have a recipient send another email, click the little dots within the thread and it works. Lame. After sending Microsoft  countless feedback about this, I’ve given up.
  • Creating Calendar Events: I use Fantastical as my main calendar App (and you should, too–it’s awesome). Fantastical uses iOS calendar services to display events. Apple Mail does a great job of detecting times, places, people and simply holding “10AM” in an email gives me the option to add the event. This is time saving and elegant. Outlook’s integrated calendaring is great if you live in one App, but I don’t live in one App.
  • Click-a-Link Compatibility: when you click a link in some other App, it always defaults to Apple Mail. Consider it a limitation in iOS, but I’m tired of fighting the annoyance with copy/paste. Click and go is a lot faster.
  • Loading Images: I don’t want images to load when I open an email. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to curtail spam is to load images only when I allow it. Why is this? Most spammers include a single pixel image in HTML email that signals to their servers, “example@xyzmailservice.com opened their mail!” Once that happens, you’re on their list. I wish Apple would move the load images link to the top of the email window from the bottom, but it’s an annoyance I’ve decided to accept for now.
  • Notification Control: In Notification settings in iOS you can set specific notifications by email account. If you get unimportant mailing list mail in one email account, simply turn off the notifications for that account. Whats more, you can alleviate the badge count by mail account on the App’s badge. This way, when you look at the badge count, you can see the count of new mail you care about.
  • VIP: this is one of those silly features that you miss. When you get it back, you think, “wow, I should really use this.” If I’m working clients and don’t want to miss their email whilst sifting through hundreds of unread email, I label them as VIP. Tap on the little star in the Inbox drawer and boom–all your currently important mail is there. Pro-Tip: tap the little “i” to see and edit your VIP list. Pretty nice.

Outlook for iOS is a great App. There is a lot to like about it. Yet, after fighting it for so long, I’ve happily reverted back to Apple Mail. I’ve tweaked the swipe settings (swipe left  to delete, etc), the archive/delete default settings with Gmail accounts (one account defaults to archive, one to trash) and limited the inbox previews to 1 line for more visible mail on the inbox (you can reduce to none). I’ve read complaints regarding speed, yet I’miPad_Mail not experiencing that with iPad Air 2. Perhaps the hardware has caught up to the code in this case? I find Mail to be very responsive. I’ve read that search is slow and even “useless” with Mail, but in my experience it seems competent searching 11 email boxes simultaneously. I particularly like Spotlight’s ability to search by person and not necessarily the email account.

On iPhone, I use Spark and recommend you take a look at that. If they make an iPad version, I’ll likely switch to that. To me, the Spark guys have really re-thought the email client. On iPad, however, there’s nothing better than Apple’s Mail client. You may need to tweak it and massage it for your preferences, but once you do, it’s quite rewarding to use.

BMW i3 Driving Impressions #BMWi3

BMW i LogoI recently drove the BMW i3 at a test drive event at Seattle BMW. Besides rolling out sandwiches and drinks, the people of BMW brought a fleet of euro-spec i3s to take on a little drive. And by little, I mean quite short!

If you don’t know, BMW have started from the ground up to make the i3 something quite different. It looks different, it’s built differently and it has different values than any other car I’ve seen. By values, I mean that BMW set out with goals very unique to the world of automotive design. They sought sustainability, and recyclability, from raw materials to end-of-life, with a car that’s mostly recyclable. There is no gas-powered engine (although a range-extender BMW Motorcycle engine is an available option to act as a generator), so no fluids to spoil the environment. The car is made out of very different materials: carbon fiber reinforced plastic (made in Moses Lake, WA), with 25% of those plastics recycled; renewable natural fibers and eucalyptus wood make up the dashboard; and textile upholstery features 100% recycled polyester. Even the aforeBMW i3mentioned plant in Moses Lake runs on 100% hydroelectric power. Pretty cool eco-tech.

Driving this car is really impressive. Quiet, very quick and with decent handling–it’s what you would expect from a BMW. The carbon-fiber reinforced plastic shell is also quite stiff, although I did hear some interior creaking in the vehicle I drove. I’m guessing the creaking is due to this car being a very early production model that’s probably seen some hard, test-driving miles. It is fun to drive. It’s really quick (did I mention this), due to an all-electric drivetrain that has 100% torque all the time. Some reports I’ve read say it’s faster to 35MPH than a BMW M3! Yet what’s different is the brake-regenation system. In my test, I was able to come to a complete stop without hitting the brake pedal. Once you adjust to this, the feature becomes quite useful and enjoyable to use. BMW claim the brake lights illuminate when you slow suddenly. I think it’s easy on your foot in traffic and also probably saves on brake pad wear. The whole time I drove the i3, I hardly touched the brakes.

The interior is nicely done. The fiber-based materials feel really good–almost natural. The exposed fibers that make the main dash components are cool to look at and soft to touch. It’s all sort of industrial, yet cool–sort of like exposed concrete floors in a building. The people who came up with the interior colors and combinations thereof should be commended. I don’t like beige interiors, but the i3 with the beige interior is quite nice–more of a earthy tan. The base-models cloth interior was actually my favorite. Simple, clean and light grey. The leather version feels rich and the seats are super comfortable and supportive on all models. If the leather was available in grey with the dark grey exterior, I’d probably choose that model.

BMW i3 InteriorThe instruments are another unique feature on the i3. The small rectangular screen sits behind the steering wheel where most cars have gauges. It features the speedometer, power-use meter and quick information (like radio station, cruise information, etc). The center console features an elegantly mounted larger display, that ties into BMW’s iDrive system. The car I drove had the full navigation package and parking assist. Along with the radio and other customization features, these all use the center display. The parking assist and camera are amongst the best I’ve used, providing you an accurate graphical arc of where you are headed, based on steering angle. I parked perfectly straight about 2-inches from the parking line, using the backup camera. When I got out of the car, I was right where I thought–not something I always experience with backup cameras.

I didn’t get enough time to run the iDrive through all of it’s paces, but I’d say it’s one of the top 3 virtual control systems on any car. BMW have had the most experience here and prefer their system over others I’ve tried. The navigation system ties into the car’s trip computer to let you know how far you can get on your current charge. The instrument cluster will also tell you the current posted speed limit. All very nice touches.

Speaking of range, BMW first claimed this car had ~100 mile range. The EPA has rated it 80. Representatives from the demo team said to me that it had 80 to 100 mile range. Being an experienced electric-car driver, I asked how the range diminishes in the cold or hot climates, with the heater or A/C on, respectively. Their response was around 20 miles are so loss if you had the heater on the whole time. This is one of the biggest problems with electric cars–the heaters seem to be huge power-suckers. I thnk there’s some opportunity for innovation with the heating systems–perhaps a heat-pump?

All in all, I like the i3. I’m still on the fence about its exterior styling, but the more I see it the more it’s grown on me (the greenhouse heading downward at the rear window still bothers me). The price has come in a bit higher than I expected. With most electric-car manufacturers lowering their sticker prices, BMW have come in at $42,275 (including destination charges) for the Mega World trim, which is the base model. I think they meant Mega Priced! I expected this car to come in under $40k. The range-extended model comes in nearly $4k higher. Add some options and you’re hovering $50,000!

To me, this is a lot of money for a car smaller than a Volkswagen Golf. A well-equipped Chevrolet Volt comes in at $4k less and has a range-extended motor! BMW are offering a lease special on a “well equipped” i3 for $499/month at 36-months. This sounds pretty good, until you realize there’s a nearly $4,000 down payment (apparently making up for the price delta between the i3 and the Volt’s sticker prices). Wih less down, a Volt can be currently leased for $249/month. This equates to aggressive lease deals by GM, where BMW is not providing that (yet).

Pricing is a hard reality of all the good, eco-friendly sustainability the BMW i3 provides. My guess is BMW will come up with more aggressive lease options in the future, as they are known for their excellent leases. One cool thing factoid: when you own an i3 and need to go further than its range will provide, BMW will provide you with a loaner car at no charge. I didn’t think to ask what restrictions apply. For instance, could I drive the loaner to Disneyland and back? Do they deduct the miles from my lease? It is a unique and handy option, however.

I’m quite sold on the i3. The ride and handling beats the Volt by every measure. The packaging is cool and the eco-friendly features feel good. That said, the price is a major barrier between me and an i3. Even if I could afford a $500 (plus tax) payment, I am not sure that’s where I’d spend the money. For nearly the same down and monthly payment, I could have a BMW 535d, which is an amazing, car that gets 38MPG. I could pay a lot less and get a 3-series or get a new Volkswagen Golf TDI (coming July 2015), which has a fantastic diesel.

Still, once you’ve had an electric car, it’s really hard to go back to fuel.