Random links #17

Written on 7 October 2019, 02:49pm

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Electric planes

Air travel is bad for the planet—and travelers may finally be getting the message.
The change in mindset is due to increasing awareness of the issue thanks to attention-grabbing protests, like when activist group Extinction Rebellion shut down Heathrow Airport and climate warrior Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic in a zero-emissions yacht to speak at the UN’s climate summit.

Does flight shaming work?

Solution? Hybrid or full electric planes. Also tested by NASA.

Heavyside, from Kitty Hawk is really silent and has a range of about 100 miles

Radiation in space is a big deal

If we want to prepare astronauts to fly to Mars, then we have a lot of problems to solve when it comes to health and well being. There are both psychological (isolation, confinement, sleep disturbance, etc) but also physiological (micro-gravity long time effects, radiation) factors to overcome. One of the most important is the radiation.

Radiation on Earth is about 4.6 mSv/year. On the Moon – 300/400x. On Mars – 1000x.

How can we reduce the radiation impact? Medical selection of the most resistant individuals, shielding (the ISS has 3 highly shielded areas) and medication. Hibernation is also an option, not explored yet.

Radiation sensitivity decreases with age. A teenager is 2 times more sensitive than a 30-years old adult, which is in turn 2 times more sensitive than a 50-years old.

Space travel affects the astronauts’ immune system. Various factors play a part in this process, i.e. weightlessness, cosmic radiation, isolation and the inevitable stress. At the request of European, American and Russian space agencies, SCK•CEN tests the blood of astronauts when they return from a long space mission. We perform analyses using advanced biochemical and molecular techniques.
Long-term exposure cannot be avoided during long distance missions, e.g. to Mars – for which the return flight takes 18 months. Sensitivity to cosmic radiation varies considerably between people, and consequently also between astronauts. 

The Belgian Nuclear Research Centre

Time matters

The Tesla dashcam writes its rolling clips in the /recent folder. The manually saved clips are stored in the /saved folder. Recently Tesla introduced the Sentry mode, which automatically saves events when the car is parked (ex. a person or a car is passing by).

The Tesla engineers thought that it’s appropriate to save these clips not in a dedicated folder (like /sentry), but in the same /saved folder where the manual clips are saved.

The outcome? When I want to look for a video that I manually saved, I have no easy way to find it. Sentry mode produces a huge number of videos, sometimes 10 videos for a half an hour spent in a busy parking. Finding the right folder among literally hundreds of other folders is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Compare this to the following bit:

One day Jobs complained to Larry Kenyon (the engineer of the Macintosh OS) that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon explained why reducing the boot-up time wasn’t possible, but Jobs cut him off: “If it would save a person’s life, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?”. He then showed on a whiteboard that if the Mac had five million users and it took 10 seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to 300 million or so hours a year — the equivalent of at least 100 lifetimes a year. After a few weeks, Kenyon had the machine booting up 28 seconds faster.

Steve Jobs Insane Productivity Secrets

Tesla road trip 2019

Written on 1 September 2019, 12:00am

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Writing this post some months after the trip which happened in August 2019

2800km through France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany
The trip segments – 2773 km in total

The road trip was mostly ruined by a faulty piece – the chiller – which led to the AC not working for a few hundred kilometers in Southern France.

By ‘reduced’ it meant ‘not working’

Here are some notes that I sent to Tesla back then:

There are a number of shortcomings in the way Tesla provides support, I am detailing them below:

1) the alert message was simply wrong (the AC was not ‘reduced’ but simply not working anymore)

2) the alert message does not provide any indication on the next steps I could take (like the ones communicated on the phone 16 hours later). Why not put these troubleshooting steps on the console when the alert appears on the screen? Or, even better, send a ranger my way?

3) the waiting times for the call center are simply ridiculous. On 12th August I tried to reach the Tesla roadside assistance from 16:00 to 19:30, without any luck. This is simply unacceptable to me, since I had an emergency

4) the instructions received by phone are contradicting the ones from the Service Center. Not only they were wrong, but they put into danger my safety (by encouraging me to drive along in a potentially unsafe car) as well as the battery life (the Aix en Provence SC said that the battery could be irremediably damaged by continuing to drive)

5) Tesla mobility solutions are ineffective and inflexible. I understand that finding a loaner at 17:30 on the day before a national holiday in France is not easy, but Tesla should be more flexible and better prepared for such cases

6) the Tesla parts distribution network has a lot of room for improvement. Overnight delivery in Europe should be a lot easier than in the US, and in the worst case, you should have a clear indication when an ordered piece will arrive at the SC

7) your European branch seems to be significantly understaffed. I am talking about 1) call center staff 2) SC technical staff (it took almost 4 hours to diagnose the problem) and 3) SC customer support staff (the SC manager told me that he has very few people who could help me with the issue).

In the end, after more than two days of waiting and uncertainty, the Aix Service Center found a solution to my problem:

  • either the faulty piece ordered on 14th of August PM arrived on 16th of August AM from the Netherlands (15th of August is a bank holiday)
  • or (more likely if you ask me), the SC simply replaced the faulty piece in my car with a working one from a loaner, while waiting for the original piece to be delivered from the Netherlands.
One of these is the chiller

Tesla and customer service

Written on 11 March 2019, 09:58pm

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A propos my past rants about the Tesla customer service here in Belgium, I just read this (highlights mine):

Tesla TSLA owners still love their vehicles, and the electric automaker still beats out competitors, according to a new survey by research firm Bernstein. But the company’s Achilles’ heel is its customer service.

Only 42% of customers described their service center experience as “excellent,” vs. 57% last time. Wait times for appointments have grown longer. Similar to our last survey, the service experience was especially weak outside the U.S. Perhaps most concerningly, recent service center users (those that had visited a center in the last 3 months) were less satisfied with their experience, experienced longer wait times for appointments, and had poorer rates of problem resolution — pointing to ongoing strain (and potential underinvestment?) in Tesla’s service network.

Tesla’s biggest problem is its customer service, according to a new Bernstein survey

This is spot on and it certainly applies in my case. Just a reminder, this is the breakdown of my current problems with Tesla:

  • long waiting times to get in touch with the customer service
  • asking me to pay for the replacement of the insecure key fobs or alternatively to disable the Passive Entry
  • only recording the real-time location of the car while driving (but not when someone moves it away)
  • setting up an arbitrary, unchangeable and absurd dashcam recording limit of 1 hour