Duncan Wilcock


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My First Ride in a Tesla Model S

Had my first ride in a Tesla a few days ago, and as you might expect - I was pretty thrilled.  So much so that I thought I would capture a few of the aspects that impressed me most.

Amazing Screens & Software

You might expect from my post about the cons of dashboard screens in cars that this wouldn't be at the top of my list.  I maintain that these screens will be obsolete before the car has served it's useful life of 10 years or so, but I was definitely marvelled by these beauties.

The centre screen is a 17" glass covered touch screen that looks, feels, and responds iPad like (in my brief experience)  The resolution is excellent, and the software finely crafted.    The most quintessential wow moment?  Opening the sunroof by swiping a picture of it in the desired opening direction, and having it animate along with the physical roof.   Intuitive, effective, and well executed.

Swappable Batteries

This is my favourite new fact about the Model S.  Announced last week, the battery can be swapped out by an automated system in 90 seconds - faster than it takes to fill a gas tank.    The video below shows it in action.

I think this is exciting because without swappable batteries, electric cars will only be suitable as a second car for around town for the foreseeable future.

Gasoline is very energy dense, much more so than batteries. For example:

Smallish Gas Tank = 50 Litres of gasoline = 1.7 GigaJoules = 472 kWh
This is about how much your clothes dryer uses in a year.

For comparison - a small Tesla S battery = 60 kWh.

To charge the small Tesla S battery in 1 hour would take 100 Amps at 600 Volts.  This is quite a draw - a significant industrial machine with big throw switches uses this sort of power.

To charge it in 5 minutes would require:
100 Amps at 7200 Volts = 720 kW
This is the kind of wallop you get when a lightning strike hits, or is drawn daily by a pretty large office building.

There are plenty of chemical reasons why current battery technologies don't charge that fast, but you can imagine it will be quite a while before the electrical grid is able to deliver this type of capacity.

Smooth & Quiet

I'm sure it has been written more eloquently elsewhere just how smooth and quiet the ride is in the Tesla S, but it's one of those experience-it-to-understand it things.  No gears to switch through, no electric whine, just a smooth, solid ride.

Trunk and Bonnet Space Galore

The electric motor is compactly positioned in the rear of the car.  That leaves all the space the engine used to take up under the hood and plenty of space in the rear as well.  You might have imagined this would be the case, but it really is amazing to see.

The engine, the radiator & cooling system, exhaust system, and especially the transmission take up a lot of room in a combustion-engined car.  With these systems gone, there is all the room in the front of the car for storage, and inside the car where the hump from the transmission is usually - is eerily, but pleasantly empty.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apple's Social Network

Ping - Apple's first Music focused social network -  didn't work out so well, but slides and features of iOS7 announced at WWDC 2013 are demonstrating that Apple is stealthily building it's own social network - one that perhaps does everything most people want, and a lot less that many don't want.

300 Million Accounts

A slide Tim Cook splashed up on screen at WWDC - and the bold statement he made - faster than Facebook to reach it.

iMessage & Game Centre

Tim Cook talked about these two things that Apple does "that are social" at All Things D a couple of weeks prior to WWDC. He may have said that he never felt Apple needed a social network, but I think Apple is hedging it's bets by building one anyway.

Find my Friends

A super useful app that let's you see where your friends with iDevices are on a temporary or permanent basis.  This location sharing is a great application, and something that Google, Facebook, Foursquare & others have been trying to crack for a few years.  I know I haven't been able to get my friends interested in the services of the other guys, but I have been able to get groups of 5 to 10 to sign on to use Find my Friends.   This is an example of an Ad-hoc Social Network - an interesting, and useable evolution of the social networking phenomenon.

Shared Photostreams

Sharing photos is a major application of social networking.  One of the main things people do on Facebook, and one key reason Facebook bought Instagram. Photostreams are much more private though - which a lot of users will find more appealing- certainly members of my own social circle that decidedly don't use Facebook are enjoying posting and commenting on Photostream photos.  Shared Photostreams - where multiple users will be able to add photos to the same album in iOS7 is a new & better experience than single person albums. Using Photostreams with my friends the past year many asked this same question - "Oh - can we just add them all do the same Album?"  - It's an obvious &  desirable use case.   Even better, it makes it easy to then save full resolution copies of the photos direct to your iPad or iPhoto on your Mac.

No Wall, Intrusive Games, Facebook Apps, or Advertising

I like Facebook for the most part, but frankly - it's a bit noisy. In fact taking over the photosharing will make the chatter stand out that much more. Social networking may segregate into chatty places & quieter - more private places. Places for photosharing, for location sharing, and for less intrusive gaming.   It's already a little narcissistic when we post our photos on Facebook, it may begin to appear even more so in future.

iTunes Radio

Photos are a big social sharing application, and music is too as were seeing lately with Songza, Pandora, Rdio, and Twitter Music.  Ping didn't work out so well, and I haven't had my hands on iTunes Radio yet to see for myself, but I'll bet that there will be social features baked into iRadio that continue to expand Apple's social relevance.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Put all this together and I see that like so many times before, Apple is rolling - quietly working away on something very big - almost unnoticed in plain sight.