Third Party Randomizer for USB Music

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A while ago I wrote about the Model S’s USB music player and lamented the missing shuffle functionality. An enterprising owner posted a comment on the article pointing me at a music randomizer application he created to solve this problem and I finally got a chance to check it out.

Application

Randomizer InitialThe Randomizer application by Andy Keller is available as a free download over on GitHub. He’s made both the application and it’s source code available for anyone interested. I believe only an OSX version is available so you PC folks are out of luck.

The application is really easy to use. It’s not currently a signed application, so if you’re ok with that security model and have permissions to do so, right click and open the app and authorize it to run anyway.

I tested “Music Randomizer Beta 0.4.”

First Attempt

When you run the app the first screen prompts you for an output folder. This wording is a bit misleading as its really asking for what folder currently has music that you want to randomize. It will do that re-organization in place destroying the original format.

Randomizer does the randomization process in place changing the source layout so keep a second unaltered copy around somewhere.

You can pick a number of random folders for it to create (minimum is 5) or just keep the default of 10.

Randomizer SelectedClicking “Randomize Music” starts the process. My first attempt was a surprise as I didn’t understand what it was about to do. I picked an new output folder (that was the language in the first prompt) on the USB stick but then the next thing that shows is “Choose a music folder to randomize.” I figured this the second part of the equation and chose the source to be the USB stick with the music as I had laid it out before. When I started the randomization it got through a few hundred songs then just stopped. I looked at the USB stick and the original music was gone and only the random music files were there. This behavior wasn’t obvious.

You pick a single folder and then it gets randomized. Ignore the misleading prompt text — there is no source and output, to the app there is just one folder that will be both.

Randomization

Once I figured out the prompting process I started over. What happens is it creates the selected number of random folders with names like “Randomizer 01″ then it takes all the songs it finds outside of these Randomizer folders and randomly distributes them among the folders prefixing each with a number before the filename, like “[3] 05 Good Problem.mp3″. The “[3]” part is what was added and means it was the 3rd song added to that folder.

The intent is that you choose one of these random folders and press play and you get random song order (random from your original selection, same order every time you play this folder). Pick a different folder for a different set of songs.

Results

Randomizer ResultsI really appreciate the attempt to solve the problem and the application runs and is free. However, I think the algorithm it uses is not a great solution.

I know USB sticks can be limited in space, but I think the source data should never be modified. So there should be a Source and a Target and the source should never be changed. If you need to randomize data on a USB stick and there isn’t space on the stick for 2 copies of the songs then just copy off the USB stick to a local drive folder and use that as the source and the target as the USB stick.

I also think that the source structure (folders of music) should also be preserved with the only change being the filename prefixes randomly applied to each file in the source folder as its copied to the target. You should end up with the same folder names, same number of files, just ordered differently.

So if I start with 3 top level folders:

  1. 5 Star Country
  2. Best Country
  3. Gospel

I should end up with the same 3 top level folders on the target but the contents are randomly organized by adding a number prefix. I don’t want 5/10/50 folders with random names mixing songs from the 3 genres/folders I had originally.

The randomization algorithm is awkward.

In the current version of the application I end up with folder names that aren’t useful, a mix of genres, more folders (playlists) than I want, etc.

I haven’t set out to solve this myself mostly because in the end it can’t truly simulate a shuffle no matter what you do. Each time you play the folder it will start at the same song and proceed in order. Sure you won’t likely hear the same song twice in a row and if you don’t leave the playlist/area and come back you’ll keep progressing. But if you have to start over on a playlist it will always be in the same order. If it had the algorithm I propose above it would be a decent interim solution, but for now i’d wait for a new version with a better algorithm.

I’d wait for a new version with a better randomization algorithm.

Its great to see owners taking initiative and trying to solve some shortcomings in the Model S interface. What we need is a little more access to allow third party applications and a few simple APIs for them to be able to provide functions like Shuffle etc.

 

Solar Struggles – National Grid-Lock

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In the last of this series I covered some of the challenges we faced with Solar City during the design of our system. Things got even more complex when our local power company, National Grid, got involved.

National Grid-lock

Poor Panel LayoutThe next phase was one of National Grid throwing up one road block after another and Solar City trying to counter the moves. It was clear what the problem was – we would be shifting more than $170,000 of revenue from National Grid to Solar City with me getting a slight savings in return. Despite mandates to be “More Green” etc., the energy companies clearly have no interest in assisting customers to go solar.

Energy companies clearly have no interest in assisting customers to go solar.

The first issue they threw up was that they wouldn’t allow “net metering” (where you can feed back generated solar power) for two different meters at the same address. Solar City stepped up on this one and offered to join my two meters and upgrade my panel (from 400A to 600A) to support that. Accounting issues aside, I agreed to the proposed change and after another site visit and some engineering planning they had plans for it to work.

National Grid’s next move was to report that the transformer for my area was only capable of handling 23kW of generated power. My system design was for 56kW. This was the most serious setback. We needed to cut my generation down to 23kW or less. This meant dropping the farm completely and scaling the house from 35kW to 23kW.

Then at 23kW the design once more had layout issues that called for all of the front of my house to have panels and then only the right half (from the back) of one of the 3 surfaces of the rear of my house and that would have looked odd. So we scaled it back to just the front of the house with a 18kW total system.

Side note: In my area a 1kW system generates about 1,000 kWh of electricity per year. So a 18kW system will generate about 18,000 kWh. This isn’t exact and will vary based on where you live, roof angles and all sorts of other things.

I asked what would happen if someone else that lives near me wanted to go solar and was told that the maximum that could be connected for feedback is 23kW. I’ll consume 18kW of that so anyone else that lives near me will be severely limited. Evidently transformers cover about 8-12 houses in my area.

Sorry neighbors, I got in line for solar first!

Next Steps

With the huge sale back from 56kW to 18kW, a 68% drop in planned production, I’ll now only be covering 32% of my power needs with solar. This is despite the fact that I have more than ample qualified roof surface to generate 100% of my needs.

For the house alone I’ll be covering 49% of my power needs. With this large drop in planned generation I re-ran the numbers to check on the value of going solar and found out that I will still save $56,000 over the next 20 years. Not as much as the original savings of $105,000 but still worth doing.

My next surprise was a friendly note from Solar City on September 1st letting me know that my installation was scheduled for December 8th and 9th (due to system size which makes me really wonder considering that this system is tiny next to the originally planned one). That’s 3 months away and in the winter months in New England. They also said that inspections etc. would take 4-6 weeks so the “go live” date would be sometime in January 2015. That puts the project at about 10 months start to finish assuming all goes well from here and it will be going live during some of the least productive months of the year.

From the start Solar City has made a number of mistakes from miss-sizing the system, to not knowing the requirements/restrictions of the local power company, to not following owner requests for layout and to not understanding power generation limits imposed by the power company. Many of these are likely do to slower adoption in my area of the country and struggling to keep up with rapid growth and the ongoing battle with the power companies, but they could have done a lot better in setting and managing expectations appropriately.

My experience with Solar City has led me to conclude that they’re not ready for widespread adoption outside of key markets and have a lot of work and learning to do before they will be ready for that next stage of growth.

I expect/hope that my next update will be post installation sometime between now and the end of the year. Stay tuned.

Calendar App

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With the 6.0 update of the Model S firmware comes a new app — Calendar. While controversial, Tesla lists the Calendar app as “beta” or pre-release functionality. As thousands of Model S owners receive this new functionality this style (like Gmail in beta for years) is a bit questionable but we’ll focus on the app features and leave the positioning for someone else to question further.

Functionality

Calendar AppThe calendar app is a new top level application that appears with version 6.0 of the Tesla firmware. Whether you use the app or not it appears you’re going to get this icon on your 17″ display.

This app shows up to 2 days worth of upcoming appointments and lets you quickly navigate to the locations of those appointments.

For this app to work you must have the following in place:

  • Version 2.0 or higher of the Model S app on your smartphone
  • You must provide access to your smartphone calendars to the Model S app
  • The smartphone and your car must have good internet connectivity.

The way this works is the Model S app on your phone gets access to your native calendars then sends them to Tesla’s servers which then sends them down to your car.

While this is an interesting way to make connections where existing technologies are limited today, it does call into question some of the security aspects of such an approach. Is my calendar information open to Tesla employees? How do they protect this private data?

Beware the privacy of your data. Tesla makes no statements about this for this new functionality.

This data is sent periodically and is not instant although they say that launching the Model S app will trigger a refresh. When you have the app visible you can see which phone it’s getting calendar data from (the currently active phone) and there’s a little clock icon which brings up some additional information:

Last Cal Sync TimeOther than the tips to make the app work, the useful part is the last time the calendar was synchronized (updated) which is the top right (12:21 pm in this example). Depending on your smartphone you will need to go through a couple prompts the first time to allow the Model S app access to your calendar data.

Under settings, the app has just a single setting for when to automatically show the calendar:

Calendar App SettingsWhen displayed, the calendar will show all upcoming appointments. If there are none left in the day it will only show the next day’s appointments (not the next 2 days). Other than scrolling the list, the only thing you can do with the entries is to press on them. Pressing on an entry causes it to feed the calendar entry location to the navigation app. If it’s an address or resolves to a single result it will start navigating to the destination immediately, otherwise you’ll get the standard navigation search results.

There’s something else in the release notes for the calendar app that I have yet to experience:

“When you have an event on your Calendar that will take place within the next hour and has a uniquely specified location, the Model S navigation system will notify you if there is a better route due to traffic, even if you’re not using navigation.”

I’ll be watching for this functionality over the coming weeks.

Compatibility

I started testing the calendar app with an iPhone 5 running iOS 8 and was unable to make it work. I followed all the steps Tesla provided and after more than 6 hours time to sync I still had no calendar entries shown in the app in my Model S. Later, reading online, I saw that you may have to un-pair/re-pair your phone with your car to get it to take effect. I got an iPhone 6 the next day and essentially paired a new phone to the car and all of a sudden things started working.

Tip: You may need to re-pair your bluetooth phone with the Model S to get the calendar to start working initially.

Once the calendar entries started appearing I was able to see both iCloud calendar entries and my Google Apps calendar entries in the car.

In looking at the entries I noticed that in the calendar app on the car I saw both my calendar entries and those of my co-founder. I have his calendar subscribed on my phone so I can find him in a pinch but I usually have the calendar turned off in the iPhone Calendar app. The Model S does not honor the on/off setting on the iPhone so if you have subscribed but disabled calendars you’ll see all of them. This was a pain since I didn’t want to see his entries in my car all the time (or even yet be told how to get to them through traffic) but I still wanted to be able to check his calendar on the go on my iPhone. I ended up removing his calendar from my iPhone (by changing the poorly documented Google Sync Settings) and using the Google app on the iPhone to access his calendar in the more native way on the rare times I need it. It’s as clean an approach, but it’s a passable workaround. I’d like to see Tesla provide an option to hide/unhide selected calendars or honor the smartphone’s setting.

Tip: All subscribed calendars will appear on the Model S, even if hidden on your smartphone.

Summary

While somehow a “beta” app, the app behaves well once the initial sync is complete. It’s unclear what will happen when you have the Model S app running one more than one device (I have an iPad and an iPhone, both with the Model S app on it) and if they will cause confusion. I’d also like to see some statements around privacy (perhaps thats why its beta?) and some options to turn on/off various calendars. But overall I think its a great addition to the car and it seems to work well given a few days of playing with it.

I don’t really know what drove Tesla to add this app with the complexities involved rather than solving some things higher up the owners priority lists like USB shuffling. It is a great technology demonstration that much is possible with this bridge from the Model S app on the smartphone to the car, but I worry that they’re not focussed enough on what the owners are asking for which would take much less work in many cases and would probably make them even more grateful for the software updates.

Keyless Driving

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I was excited the other day when the 6.0 update finally arrived for my Model S. This was the third software update i’ve received in less than 5 months of ownership. While many of us owners are impatient for updates we have to keep in mind what it was like on our prior cars — I didn’t get a software update in 7 years of Acura ownership!

I’m going to be working my way through some of the new functionality in detail, and I figured i’d start with something that has gotten quite a bit of press, yet is missing from the 6.0 release notes — Keyless Driving.

Functionality

Keyless startKeyless driving is a feature where you can start and drive your Model S without your key FOB. All you need is your smart phone and connectivity to the internet for both your phone and the car.

Tip: Update to the latest Model S app 2.0 before attempting keyless driving.

Before we start make sure you have the latest version of the Model S app for your smartphone — it should be 2.0 or later. Hop on over to your appropriate app store for a free update if you’re not on the latest version. Several new features in the Model S app only become visible when your car is on the 6.0 release.

The process is pretty simple, bring up the app and select controls. There’s a new “Start” button in the top right corner. Press that to begin the process.

You’ll be prompted for your TeslaMotors.com password.

Keyless confirmThis part is annoying for a number of reasons:

  • You’re already in the app and connected to/controlling the car so you must have had the password at some point.
  • You should have a very long and difficult password which makes typing it on a phone a pain.
  • On iPhones, they haven’t done the work to integrate into Touch ID which would take some of the pain out of all this. Hopefully Tesla will get with the program and integrate to Touch ID in the future. It is possible to do this on iOS since apps like 1Password already have that support.
  • Alternatively they should at least consider a PIN option to save the password and make this easier (ala Dropbox).

Keyless EnabledOnce you get past this prompt you have 2 minutes to get in your car, put your foot on the brake and shift into drive. If you don’t do that within the time period it reverts back to acting as if the FOB is not present. Note that once you enable keyless driving from the app, you cannot cancel it. You have to wait out the 2 minutes.

Keyless driving can’t be cancelled once enabled.

The app and the car both have helpful indications indicating keyless driving is enabled. Another important point to note is that enabling keyless driving does not unlock the car and without the car unlocked you can’t get in and put your foot on the brake, etc.

Tip: Don’t forget to unlock the car too when using keyless driving to save time when you get to the car and the doors won’t open.

If you enable keyless driving and then change your mind, just make sure your doors are locked and you’ll be pretty safe. I say pretty safe because if someone smashes the window when keyless driving is enabled they can steal your car.

Warning: If keyless driving is enabled your car can be stolen even if locked.

To prove this I rolled down the drivers window, locked the car, walked away and enabled keyless driving. I then went back to the car (without my FOB) and climbed in through the window without unlocking the car and put the car in drive and was able to drive away. I think Tesla should allow keyless driving to be cancelled once initiated as long as the car hasn’t yet started. This is an oversight.

Keyless Enabled Dash

Another thing that may not be obvious at first is that after you drive somewhere with keyless driving and you walk away from the car the car locks immediately on exit if you have auto-lock enabled. The reason is that the keyless driving function cancels once you put the car back in park and the FOB is not present so the doors lock immediately. If you left your phone in the car you’re now stuck without your phone or a car.

Tip: With auto-lock your car will re-lock itself very quickly when you put it in park after keyless driving. Make sure you have your phone with you!

Keyless driving meets the real world

Keyless failureToday my plan was to go FOB-less the entire day and experience keyless driving in the real world.

My first trip was to Dunkin Donuts (of course) and everything worked as described above. It was a round trip through the drive through so no restart was necessary and it went off without a hitch. It was liberating not to have to carry the key around with me and I was starting to imagine life without a FOB.

The next trip was supposed to be to Church. But the app wouldn’t connect to TeslaMotors.com. I tried several times from both my iPad and iPhone over a period of 10 minutes and couldn’t get it to connect. I had somewhere to be so I ran and grabbed my FOB and was off. This was a keyless driving failure.

One thing to check is that your power management features are set correctly on your car — I had all these in the “most responsive” configuration (only sleep at night, always connected which are both new 6.0 features too) and it was responsive when it worked but didn’t help with the failure case.

Tip: Make sure your car’s power management is set for best responsiveness.

This experience pointed out a few things:

  • Your smartphone must have internet connectivity for this to work
  • Your car has to have internet (3G) connectivity for this to work
  • The Tesla servers have to be working (not overloaded, etc) for it to work.

Thats a lot of points of failure with all of them mostly out of your direct control. What if that mall you’re heading to has terrible coverage? What if the Tesla servers are taking a denial of service (DoS) attack at the time you need to start your car? Without the FOB you’re out of luck in these cases.

My next planned trip was to a place further away from home. I had nobody to pick me up if things went wrong and I didn’t want to call Tesla on a Sunday complaining that I couldn’t get home due to this new feature. I was disturbed enough by the previous failure that I went on my way with the FOB comfortably in my pocket.

The Tesla FOB is a lot smaller than my old Acura key and it doesn’t need the Internet to work. While I lost some precious pocket space thanks to my new iPhone 6, I think the FOB is enough progress for me for now.

Software Update 5.12

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Update Out optionWhen I took delivery of my Model S in April I was on version 5.9 (1.51.94) of the Model S. firmware. About a month later when my car was in for minor service they updated me to a newer version of 5.9. Then on June 10, 2014 I got my first over the air software update to an even later version of 5.9 (1.51.109) and I wrote about the update experience.

Each of these releases had the exact same release notes in them. Any changes from one build of 5.9 to the next were known only to Tesla. I figured all the changes were minor and these were just small tweaks they were making to version 5.9 as it rolled out.

Then at the end of August I got an over-the-air software update to version 5.12 (build 1.64.38). I was disappointed to see the release notes had still not been updated. Evidently Tesla doesn’t find it important to let the owners know what things are getting fixed or adjusted in each release they provide.

Tesla only tells you about the major things in software releases.

This leaves the owners to discuss the differences and what they see/don’t see between the various versions. There are all sorts of rumors and it’s really hard to figure out what actually changed versus what people just didn’t notice before.

Sunroof ControlsI’ve noticed two things between 5.9 and 5.12:

    • The sunroof “comfort” setting/stop is now at 75% versus the 80% it was in 5.9. Evidently Tesla decided it was more comfortable at 75% open. I wonder when they will figure its most comfortable at “closed”? Why don’t they just let me set the comfort setting?
    • You can now reset your Slacker ID/login back to the factory supplied one in the case you’ve put in your own or lost it for some reason. There’s a reset option under the media preferences.

From reading reports about 5.11 and 5.12 there may be a few other differences:

    • The home link buttons may now be larger to make them easier to press.
    • There may now be an icon when the passenger airbag is disabled (a passenger that isn’t heavy enough is occupying the seat).
    • There are some reports of troubles connecting with the Tesla App with 5.12. You may need to disable energy saving mode if you experience it but also contact ownership and report the issue.
    • Turning on climate control via app may now be remembering recirculate setting.
    • Traditional Chinese characters and Japanese characters from the media player may now be able to be displayed
    • Have you noticed anything else?

Its great to see improvements going to the Model S rolling out through software updates. No other car in the world gets incremental improvements like this. I only wish that Tesla was more forthcoming with the changes in each release. Some creative owners are attempting to create firmware change logs over at Tesla Motors Club but the reports are spotty and incomplete so far.

I understand reporting these changes may be a problem with many available versions builds for each version but I’m sure the people at Tesla could come up with a creative way of communicating these changes without revealing secrets or causing widespread panic in the owners that don’t yet have that particular version.

Tesla, we’d like to hear about all the improvements/changes you’re making to our cars!

Solar Struggles – What Tesla?

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Shortly after ordering my Model S I filled out the contact form via the Tesla Motors site for Solar City to look into getting solar for my property. I wrote about the positive initial sales process and experience and wanted to provide some updates on how things were going in an ongoing series.

Background

In my previous post I focused on just the house and what that plan would look like, but I was actually looking to do more. I live on a horse farm in Massachusetts. We have one address, but two electric meters for accounting purposes. When I signed up for Solar City I actually signed up twice, once for each meter, and got two plans.

Initially we had two separate systems sized for the needs of each. The initial house plan was for a system to generate 24,000 kWh/year and the initial farm plan was for 21,000 kWh/year.

That’s where we left off with the sales process and the design process started. Then things started to go sideways.

What Tesla?

IMG_2576Despite the fact that I signed up through the Tesla site and mentioned several times I was getting a Model S, the additional energy use was not considered in any of the planning. I was naïve at the time and hadn’t thought about how much the Tesla would affect my energy usage and you’d think the Solar City would be well versed in this. They weren’t.

Solar City knew little about what the Tesla would consume for power.

When signing up for Solar City they collect all sorts of data from you. They collect a years worth of prior electric bills, they do site surveys, they take 360 degree pictures from your roof, they do a home energy assessment etc. For me they did all this twice for my two meters/properties. It all looks fancy but it was flawed.

The home energy assessment is generic and not very tailored to your exact situation. It provides generic advice about getting more efficient appliances and other common sense things but the breakeven analysis on those recommendations make no sense. They also missed the fact I was getting a Tesla in all of the planning. My electricity use is already high, but even so thanks to my annual mileage the Tesla would be a significant factor in my future energy use.

It turned out I needed about 30% more solar generation to cover the Tesla.

After pointing this out to them and going through a round of engineering design reworks we ended up with a plan for a 37,000 kWh/year system for the house.

Commitment

Before I get into the troubles encountered, its important to understand my costs for the proposed system. While there are no costs upfront, with the 20 year fixed rate per generated kWh the above combined system would cost me $170,000 over the next 20 years. One of the sales folks said the proposed combined system would be the largest residential system in New England.

I was choosing the above combined system would cost me $170,000 over the next 20 years.

All should have tipped me off to the troubles to follow. But I figured with Solar City growing fast as a public company and installing like crazy they should know what they were doing. I expected at this level of commitment that they’d get it all right. I was wrong.

More on Solar City’s execution challenges in the next part of this series.

Tesla Accessories: Tire Repair kit and 2nd UMC

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I’ve been thinking about buying a few Tesla accessories for a while and I finally broke down and bought them. I got a second Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) and a Tire Repair kit and I wanted to cover the reasons behind the purchases.

UMC

UMCI’ve mentioned previously that I work near the Tesla store in Natick. They have 2 HPWC’s and 4 NEMA 14-50’s available for free charging. As you’d expect the HPWC’s are in higher demand and are less likely to be available. While I have a lot less range anxiety than I did before ownership, it’s still a great option to be able to charge walking distance from work. I also recently had to use this option for my NJ road trip.

I’ve heard its not great for the NEMA 14-50 connector to plug/unplug it daily. I also don’t always know when I’ll need some extra range. It would also be annoying to have to unplug and roll up and store the cable daily. So I broke down and bought a second UMC.

Some people in the forums suggest getting a HPWC for home for just this reason so you can use your factory-supplied UMC for travel and use the HPWC at home. But I didn’t do this for a few reasons:

  1. This approach is about $600 cheaper.
  2. For very long road trips you can take 2 UMCs with you in case one fails on the road.
  3. I don’t need the extra speed/time provided by the HWPC so the extra cost was to no benefit.

I feel a lot better about having a UMC with me at all times and the new one has worked great.

One thing to know is that the second UMC does not come with a second j1772 adapter. It only comes with a NEMA 5-15 and NEMA 14-50 adapter.

Delivered the cost is about $700.

Tire Repair Kit

Ture Repair KitI really didn’t want to buy one of these. Tesla only wants you to use it if you can’t get Tesla service to where you are in a reasonable time period as the junk that goes into the tire can be a pain. But if you’re quite a ways away from where Tesla can reach it can come in quite handy in a pinch.

What pushed me over the edge is I have a slow leak in my right rear tire. I’m losing about 10 pounds per week and it had me a bit nervous about my (then) upcoming NJ road trip. In addition to fixing a flat it is also a normal tire inflator so I figured even if I never squirted the junk into my tire I could at least inflate my tires with it.

I did some research on other fix-a-flat type products and the higher end ones are very similar to the Tesla one and a little bit cheaper. I went with the Tesla version due to concerns about coverage for the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) sensors and making sure I wouldn’t get grief from Tesla after using someone else’s fix-a-flat product with them. The price difference wasn’t huge and I have peace of mind.

A couple things to note on the tire repair kit. I found it hard to wind the cables back up the way it came so its not as neatly bundled as it was originally. I also found the metal around the pressure hose that connects to the tire valve to be poorly constructed – it doesn’t look like it will last long.

For a non-Tesla accessory, I bought an Amazon Basics electronic tire gage. I like to see the actual numbers and this one lets you set the target pressure which is nice. It came with a nice case worked great for about a week then died. I wouldn’t recommend it at this time.

I had the opportunity to use the repair-kit for inflation only with the tire gage while on my NJ trip and both worked great. I’m coming due for another tire rotation and I’ll have them check out that tire then.

Delivered the cost for the tire repair kit was about $55. The delivered cost for the tire gage was about $20 but i’m going to return it.

Summary

While the second UMC and Tire Repair kit were pricey additions to my Model S they helped lower range and trip anxiety and are welcome additions to my gear. There’s no other source for the UMC so you’re stuck with that cost but you may be able to save a few bucks if you get a repair kit from another vendor – just check that your TPMS won’t be damaged by it.

Aside

Remembering 9/11

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911I wanted to take a diversion today from the purely Tesla blog to take a moment to remember September 11, 2001.

I remember exactly what I was doing when it happened and the events afterwards vividly to this day.

I used to work in NYC and lived in NJ for years and we have family in PA so it was all very close to home in many ways. Many innocent people lost their lives that day and there were many acts of bravery. We should never forget that day and the innocence we all lost.

My prayers go out to the families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

10,000 Mile Wish List

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It’s been 4 months and 10,000 miles since I took delivery of my Model S. As I went through various areas of the car I made notes on what I liked and didn’t like and came up with a wish list of things I’d like to see added to the car.

I focused on things that can be changed for my car through software updates as these are things Tesla can improve for me. I also have very few things I’d wish about the rest of the car. Many of the things I’d like to see are also in the global wish list being tracked at Tesla Motors Club but I have my own tastes and priorities.

The items in bold below I had on my 2007 Acura MDX and are sorely missed.

Navigation

  • Commute AdviceWaypoints
  • Multiple route options (shortest, shortest time, etc)
  • Traffic-based re-routing (reportedly coming in 6.0)
  • Better map caching – AT&T coverage is spotty and slow.
  • Show Map zoom level
  • Ability to organize favorites (folders)
  • Sort favorites by distance or frequency of use (vs random!)
  • Ability to show points of interest (POI)
  • Ability to set current location as a favorite
  • Ability to route to prior starting locations

USB Music

  • Shuffle
  • Folders need cover art
  • Fast scroll when in USB folders
  • Favorite ability for folders, artists, etc.

Settings

  • Remember rear seat heater settings too (it does this for the fronts but not the rears) across power off/on
  • If a passenger gets out and the car starts traveling again turn off that passengers seat heater.
  • Ability to “pin” or lock a screen in a position – like NAV always on top so I can flip the bottom one but not lose NAV or have to do the press/drag thing
  • Let me set % regeneration setting – not just 2 options.
  • Let me set max creep speed – 5mph is far too fast.
  • Show lifetime total/average energy somewhere so we don’t have to “reserve” trip B for this.
  • Let me control how long my headlights are on after I exit (its so long now I never use it).
  • When opening trunk, allow me to press the button to reverse direction.
  • Headlight flash is too long, shorten it or let duration be set.
  • Don’t allow car in drive if rear trunk is open. Or require special override.
  • Graphs always default to “instantaneous” which is basically useless. Default to average or remember the setting.

Service

  • Service reminders for tire rotations, annual service etc.
  • Show actual tire pressure settings for all 4 tires.
  • Provide full release notes on every software update.
  • Provide release notes prior to install for software updates.

Charging

  • Report on estimated time to complete charge to set level (in car and in app). Make this work right with non-linear charge rates at Superchargers etc.
  • Allow me to set desired charge end time (not start time).

Driving

  • Allow cruise control resume from stop (other vendors can do this)
  • Be smarter on regeneration when cancelling cruise control – its harsh.
  • If driver gets out of car (in park!) and passenger is still present don’t let the car go to sleep (or have a setting around this).
  • Using washer to clean windshield turns on lights. Be smarter about this.

Audio

  • Remember volume setting by audio source (book tapes from my iPhone are a different volume than music from Slacker)

Web Browser

  • Browser - TeslaratiMake it work with Google apps (cookies, sessions, mobile flavor, etc.)
  • Fix return/caps lock behavior
  • Have the ability for it to report itself as a mobile browser for faster loads/better visibility.
  • Support tabs
  • Support favorite syncing with desktop/mobile devices
  • Allow organization of favorites including some kind of sorting
  • Make window scrolling smoother/more obvious
  • Make it faster/more standard (Chrome/Firefox/Safari like)
  • Fix web browser time zone setting/function – many sites think I’m in PST based on IP address.

Slacker

  • Allow display of lyrics
  • Support custom playlists
  • Fix car stop/start while a song is playing resulting in a partial song resume
  • If you cant play/find the searched song offer to do nothing.

iOS App

  • Show internal temperature (without requiring me to turn on climate control first).
  • Receive all alerts/warnings that car shows.

That’s a long wish list in 4 months and its not even Christmas yet. I love the car without any of it. But imagine what the Model S would be with all these improvements and they’re all very possible.

What I find interesting is that there are news reports that Tesla is hiring up to 30 hackers to make security improvements to the Model S. Security is important and they should definitely invest in that area. But 30 decent programmers focused on the list above could knock out most of that in 6 months or less. How many programmers do they have now and what are they doing? Did all the resources get diverted to supporting new international markets? Is Tesla still investing in the software layer for the Model S or are all investments going into the Model X etc?

I’ll be tracking this list over time to see when/if Tesla delivers.

What’s on your list?

Road Trip Refusal

Tags

A short while ago I planned and made my first road trip. I had another one I needed to take a week later to the Pittsburgh, PA area and wanted to take my Model S on the longer trip and drive some of the cool hills and country on the way there and in that area. After some research I decided that its not really feasible to make the trip in my Model S.

Normal routing

I live in central Massachusetts and my destination was about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. We usually take I-84 East, to I-81 South, to I-80 West then come down through State College on I-99 South then west on route 22. Google puts this at about 8.5 hours of driving and 533 miles. The trip usually takes us closer to 10 hours with stops for meals, etc.

Normal Route to PA

 

Supercharged routing

None of the roads above in the normal routing have Superchargers on them. To get to Pittsburgh from MA through Superchargers you have to go back down the I-95 corridor like I did on the way to NJ, stopping first at the Darien, CT supercharger. Next would be a stop at the Hamilton, NJ supercharger, then to the Newark, DE supercharger, then on to the Hagerstown, MD supercharger, then to the Somerset, PA supercharger and then finally to the destination.

The image below is thanks to EvTripPlanner.com:

 

Supercharged Route to PAVisually you can see how inefficient this Supercharged route is next to the initial route. The total mileage for this route is 630 miles and it goes through some much more populated areas with lots of traffic and congestion. Estimated drive time is 10 hours 18 minutes and 5 Supercharger stops with about 30 minutes each.

Taking the Tesla would add almost 2 hours of driving time, 100 extra miles, and 2.5 hours of stops for charging. The 8.5 hour trip turned into a 12.5 hour trip when Superchargers were required.

I couldn’t pitch this to the family. We ended up taking our ML-350 blutec (diesel). It gets 29 MPG for us and has about 700 miles of range on a full tank. The ML-350 is a nice car but I sure missed my Tesla. At least the steering wheel stalks were the same :p

Summary

Tesla claims that by the end of 2014 they will provide Supercharger coverage for 80% of the US population and parts of Canada.  But the fine print (not included) is that the routes they come up with for you to get from point A to point B may be very inconvenient.

If your goal is record setting leisurely trips across the country, or one of the few optimized routes then you’re in luck. If you have more specific destinations that don’t align well with Supercharger placement you may experience Tesla Road Trip Refusal.

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