Se Kafka avesse avuto un’auto elettrica…

“Ciao Vittorio, domani sono a Torino da un cliente, ti va se ci vediamo a pranzo?”

“OK, vediamoci da Eataly, così tu carichi l’auto mentre mangiamo”

Il parcheggio di GrernPea, paradiso dell’elettromobilista?

Accanto a Eataly al Lingotto c’è GreenPea, il concept store di Stellantis tutto dedicato all’elettromobilità: il suo parcheggio conta ben 12 pole AC e 6 DC, tutte di Enel X.

Cerco di attivare una pole (resterò al ristorante un paio d’ore, un rabbocco mi è sufficiente) ma non ci riesco, e chiamo il call center che dopo breve indagine mi spiega che quelle stazioni sono private.

Inizialmente mi arrabbio per la mancata segnalazione ma poi mi accorgo che è colpa mia: lo stallo infatti NON È dipinto di verde e, anzi, c’è scritto “Riservato”, che distratto!

Poco male, mi sposto di qualche metro, per occupare lo stallo accanto ad una imperiale Porsche Taycan in carica.

Ma in effetti, non è tutto oro quello che luccica: delle 6 Fast, 4 sono fuori servizio.  Le ultime due però funzionano e visto che sono di un tipo che non ho mai visto prima, decido di provarle.

Nemmeno qui funziona la mia tessera e allora richiamo il Call Center con il quale ho una conversazione kafkiana: prima leggo all’addetta il numero di matricola della stazione e lei mi risponde che non esiste, poi mi dice che non le risultano stazioni Enel X in tutta la via dove mi trovo, per concludere con un poco lusinghiero: “Ma è sicuro che siano Enel X?” che ascolto, incredulo, mentre fisso con l’occhio sbarrato il loro logo.

Totale, rinuncio anche perché sono ormai in ritardo. Conclusi i miei impegni, prendo la via del ritorno chiedendo a PCC di far tappa al McDonald’s di Alessandria.

Quando ci arrivo, nonostante un bel segnalino verde su PCC, trovo la stazione fuori servizio.

Cerco in tutta fretta un’altra soluzione e decido di tentare la sorte alla Fast di via S.Giovanni Bosco che è a pochi kilometri: PCC me la segnala occupata (alla peggio aspetterò, mi dico) ma invece la trovo libera e funzionante.

Franz se la ride, ma i geni che hanno realizzato quel po’ po’ di parcheggio hanno poco da ridere…

The true reason for the birth of the Internal Combustion Engine

My current business life deals with the painful transition from the internal combustion engine to the electric powertrain.

Advocates of the statu quo cry buckets of tears over the lost jobs, the threatened competitivity of the western automotive industry, the diminishing prospects of cherished industrial skills, the industrial threat of China to mention but a few of the current, querulous lamentations.

Historically speaking, however, this is not the first time this industry underwent such a profound transformation – and for exactly the same reasons, as we will demonstrate.

At the end of the nineteenth century, London was the largest metropolis in the world, its population of over 4 million dwarfing New York and Beijing.

As it turns out, there were over 300,000 horse carriages in the city of London, needing therefore over 300,000 horses.

As the father (and longtime sponsor) of a youngster who spent 20 years competing in show jumping, I have a clear memory of what it takes to look after horses: feeding them, shoeing them but most of all … dealing with manure!

A beautiful 400-kilo horse will gift its owner with about 25 kg of manure PER DAY! This means that the over 300,000-strong London equine population deposited about 7,500 tons of the product on its streets every day, making manure a 2,7 million tons-per-year problem!

I am sure the roads in Mayfair were spotless, but the rest of the city lived with walls of the stuff piling up to waist height. The situation had gotten so bad the well-off had started to leave London, until technology came to the rescue.

As we all know, the first “horseless carriages” were electric, but the immaturity of the electricity transport network and the immediacy of the gasoline proposition made sure mr. Benz’ invention (the internal combustion engine, or ICE, patented in 1887) prevailed instead, to the point in 1910 the number of “horseless” already equated “horsed” in New York.

The rest, as they say, it’s history.

So the first technology transition in automotive was driven by the need to resolve a rather mundane issue which made life miserable for everybody:

1880’s2020’s
the incumbent techhorsesICE cars
drops too much refusemanureGHG gases
in a common resourcecity streetsthe atmosphere

Sounds familiar?

Caro-energia

I social in questi giorni strabordano di gente che si lamenta del prezzo della benzina o del gas.

Lasciate perdere le cretinate pseudo-ambientaliste e guardate al vostro portafoglio: il costo dell’energia è una voce di spesa che anche nelle famiglie DOBBIAMO imparare a gestire.

Questo grafico rappresenta il mio costo dell’energia elettrica (100% rinnovabile):

  • linea blu = €/kWh tutto compreso tranne canone
  • linea rossa = €/kWh al netto del ricavo della vendita dell’eccesso di produzione del mio fotovoltaico.

Oltre al FV installato nel 2013 sto molto attento alle bollette e a fine 2020 ho stipulato un contratto a prezzo fisso che spero mi permetta di scavalcare l’attuale crisi.

In totale spendo circa €2,300 l’anno (ho consumi molto elevati) nei quali sono compresi circa 1,400 euro l’anno di consumi dell’auto che però prima mi costava 5.000 l’anno, solo di gasolio.

Tutto ciò per dire che, se uno ha voglia, è possibile fare qualcosa per “gestire” il proprio costo dell’energia (famiglia ma anche Paese), ma solo se si spostano i consumi verso l’elettrico: rimanendo ancorati al fossile si può solo… lamentarsi su Facebook!

Making simple things unnecessary complicated

Very happy about the performance of my newly-installed Starlink satellite Internet connection.

The dish was installed in less than an hour on a normal antenna pole on my roof (not by me, of course) with the cable running down through the roof to the room where the rest of the equipment is.

This placement is optimal, as there are no obstacles, and the dish can happily connect to the low orbit sat network with minimal interruptions.

I will be keeping the existing ADSL connection as a backup for a while, until I am sure everything works OK then, given the high cost of Starlink, cut off that wire and go totally untethered.

Unfortunately I will need to replace the powerline extender (config utility no longer supported on MacOS) needed to get a decent signal through our thick (in some places almost a metre!) walls, but that’s OK because I’m getting TP-Link extenders where the receiver supports up tp 7 remote extenders all on the same SSID.

Also I will need a switch (EDIT: someone suggested I get a buffer router instead), as the very basic Starlink router only has one network port, so all that is next week’s task, after I get the hardware.

Today’s task involved moving my wireless printers/scanners to the new network. Unfortunately the Starlink router doesn’t have the insecure but practical WPS button, so configuration must be made manually.

BROTHER MFC-6520DW

  • [on the printer control panel]
  • Setup
  • Wireless network
  • [from the list of available SSIDs] Select SSID
  • Enter password
  • OK

HP LaserJet M148DW

  • Connect USB cable
  • Launch HP Smart app
  • Select printer
  • Printer settings
  • Advanced settings
  • Networking
  • Select SSID
  • Enter password
  • The HP Smart utility apparently installs a new printer, as the driver has a slightly different name, so on each computer’s printer list, you’ll need to select the “new” one (and delete the “old” one to avoid confusion)

Took me 5′ to connect the Brother vs. over 2 hours for the H-P, including innumerable resets, reading of manual and perusing of support boards and an assortment of profanities.

Still unclear why the H-P printer control panel does not simply display a list if available SSIDs to associate, but it doesn’t.

The price of stubborness

Lifelong Mac user, I always limited my allegiance to Apple’s computers and music players: while I cannot count the number of Macintoshes, Macbooks and iPods I owned over the years, I never had an iPhone or Apple Watch or any other gizmo.

I paid dearly for the obstinacy in resisting the lure to go all-in on the bitten apple, especially when trying to get my Android phone (but it was a Symbian phone before that) to talk to my Mac, sync information and move files.

In this latest iteration I had to replace a damaged-beyond-repair Huawei device, and chose a Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro which has three of the things I want: a headphone jack, a replaceable battery and a micro SD card tray. This last requirement was especially long-sighted, for reasons you’ll understand below.

The migration from the old phone was a non-migration: my Google accounts did a little of the work (essentially remembered which apps I had) but not much: I had to manually rebuild my painstakingly designed single-page home screen, pictures and music did not budge at all, and contacts got hopelessly messed up.

All in all, there was (and still is) A LOT of manual work to complete the task:

  • Pics got backed up and pulled down from Dropbox (this was a piece of cake, there were very few of them, as I back up and catalog them very often)
  • Contacts got exported in VCF from the old phone and re-imported, after razing the new phone address book
  • Music is tougher, as there is a whopping 35GB of it:
    • Backing up to Dropbox would take ages with my slow connection. In fact these files are the result of the manual ripping of my CD collection, so until fiber or Starlink don’t bring us to this century (which is happening, let’s see who makes it first) they won’t be backed up to the cloud like everything else, as I have the actual CDs.
    • Next I tried using the USB cable connection: Android File Transfer keeps breaking down as it does with many other phones and USB-debug reliant Macdroid does not like the wonky USB driver of my Xiaomi phone: alas, there is a new one, but only for Windows!
    • Then I tried FTP, but first I had to understand (it took me a while) that the native FTP server OSX used to offer was removed around 2009-2010 (I think for security reasons) so I had to install an FTP server on the Macbook and an FTP client on the phone. Speed is very low (perhaps due to poorly configured WiFi ?) and the FTP pipe kept breaking down, mostly due to incoming calls (which, BTW, failed so don’t do this when working !) and I had to give up. Moreover, the FTP client’ mere existence even if it’s not running makes receiving calls impossible, so I had to uninstall it altogether.
    • My final option is the StairsNet: back in the days, at Lotus we had the developers team housed on the third floor and the QA team on the first. Our LAN was not the best (*ahem!*) and sometimes developers would put a build on a portable HD drive and trudge down to first floor, hence the name. Basically, I’ll copy the files to a micro SD card and move it to the phone from where I’ll copy it back to the destination folder. Not the fastest process as the SD card slot on my Mac does not have a very fast connection and the file system simulators on phones are horrible creatures, but lo-tek enough it could work.

Adding to my predicament is my wife’s and daughter’s relentless teasing about oh-so-much-easier it would have been had I chosen an iPhone, especially nasty because it’s true.

Without the SD card tray I’d be stuck: God save us from the bad example set by Apple of removing everything from their phones: it might work in a closed, tightly controlled system like the Apple ecosystem, but definitely NOT on a mixed ecosystem like the one I insist in having.

Next task will be to get the phone to work with Android Auto, but that’s for another day.

[EDIT 22/9]: I have decided to return this phone – during all of yesterday I could not receive calls, and compatibility with Android Auto and the Neutron Music Player was awful.

Back to shopping, I have relented on the replaceable battery and am willing to downgrade to 128GB (currently using about 75GB) but not willing to compromise on audio jack and SD card tray. Current shortlist includes:

  • Samsung A72
  • Samsung A52s
  • Google Pixel 4a (no SD card might be compensated by the cruft-free OS…)

A new problem to my car’s High-Voltage battery


July 11th (Sunday): this morning I wasn’t able to start the car whose dashboard showed the alarm you can see below. I therefore called Road Assistance because the Kona blocked my driveway and I could not exit with any other car; the car was taken to a deposit and delivered tomorrow to the authorized Hyundai service point (Autorino in Cava Manara, the closest to my house).

July 12th at 9AM I call to get information and to arrange a replacement car: the call center promises to have someone call me back a.s.a.p., but that never happens. I call again at 2PM and then at 4:15PM with identical results (i.e. nobody calls me back) so I have no idea what happened to my car. This behaviour mirrors exactly previous contacts I had with said service point. i.e. they never call you back.

As for the problem itself, it had happened identical in early April, while I was in Mantova on a work trip. The car was taken to the local Hyundai service point (Gruppo Ferrari) where it remained for nine days after which I got it back with the assurance that “the problem was fixed” an optimistic assessment which, as it turns out, was not justified.

PROBLEMS

  • My first problem is the unbelievable rudeness of the personnel at Autotorino which, despite my three calls only decided to call me this morning after I filed a formal complaint for poor service in writing.
  • The second problem are the many technical issues of this car. On top of the two I described, I had another three service stops due – I think – to a malfunctioning 12V battery, and I say “I think” because nobody was able to explain what the issue was or what they did to fix it. I think you will agree that for a two-years old car this is NOT acceptable.
  • The third problem is that this car is essential for my job: I travel a lot (one of the reasons I chose an electric car): a replacement car is a partial remedy, given it costs me a lot more to operate, and only if the issue happens when at home. In the episode of Mantova I had to waste a half-day to go get the car when it was fixed, but if that happens when I am in Napoli? Or next month (assuming I get it back by then) when on vacation in Sicily? Do you genuinely expect me to travel 3.000 kilometers to get it back?
  • The fourth problem is the fact that I am a long-time arthritis sufferer; my driving licence requires I drive only cars with automatic gearboxes; since it is impossible for me to speak with the service point, I cannot make them aware of this essential requirement.

CONCLUSIONS

I have read media reporting about a recall for the replacement of the HV battery for problems that seem similar to the ones I have, and I wonder if this behaviour isn’t simply a delaying tactic yo avoid performing such an expensive replacement under warranty. It would certainly help if Hyundai or its service points were a bit more forthcoming in explaining to its paying customers what’s wrong and how it’s going to be fixed.

It is fairly evident that the product you sold me was defective since the start and I am very close to defer the whole matter to a lawyer to obtain a replacement or a full refund, including damages and time lost.

UPDATES

July 14th: this morning I get a call from service workshop who asks two questions whose answer was in the letter I had sent (see above) and promises to have me recalled to figure out the issue of the replacement car. Obviously no one calls and therefore at 3PM I pay a physical visit to the workshop where they offer the most unlikely excuses for their rudeness in not calling me back and say that:

  • they are investigating, no diagnosis is yet possible.
  • the decision about the replacement car is up to Hyundai Motor Company Italy. I make clear that in a week I am due to depart for my already-paid-for holiday, that they have “investigated” for three days already, and that when the same exact problem happened in Mantova two months ago, the replacement car was issued in no time at all; I also remind them that my driving licence requires an auto gearbox car.
  • they have no clue about what happened in Mantova: apparently the information system doesn’t log the maintenance episodes by VIN number across the service network. I suggest not to perform again the same software updates performed in Mantova.

July 14th: in the evening service calls again stating that the Call Center “is about to call me” to sort out the replacement car issue, but I get no call.

July 15th: in the evening I get the call from the Call Center. I go through the list of my (simple) requirements: I live in Pavia, I can only drive cars with auto transmission; I then state upon request my drivetrain preferences: electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid, petrol, diesel in that order.

July 16th: the ability to listen to its Customers is without question one of the best characteristics of Hyundai Motor Company Italy. Upon receiving the SMS announcing my car is ready I go to the rental company where I find…. a diesel car with manual transmission! Since I was going apeshit, and sensing he could be the innocent target of my wrath, the rental employee manages to find a car with auto transmission (but still diesel).

Mai perdere la memoria!

Negli anni ’80 fare video di famiglia richiedeva dedizione e sprezzo del pericolo.

Io mi trascinavo dietro una telecamera che aveva le dimensioni di una Arriflex 35mm PIÙ uno scatolozzo che era in sostanza metà di un videoregistratore intero, dato che il supporto erano colossali nastri VHS. Sarebbero dovuti passare una decina d’anni prima che si passasse a cassette molto più piccole tipo VHS-C anche se io nel frattempo ero saltato sul carro Sony e usavo miniDV.

Gianni mentre filma i suoi figli

In totale però il problema maggiore è sempre stato quello dell’accesso dato che, come su tutti i nastri, i contenuti sono memorizzati in serie. La poca praticità nella fruizione condannò i video di famiglia alla stessa fine ingloriosa cui aveva condannato i filmini 8mm e le diapositive ma è un peccato, non tanto per le immagini la cui qualità è talmente scarsa da far considerare l’oblio come il più pietoso dei destini, quanto per il valore documentale.

A questa difficoltà si aggiunge il fatto che non posseggo più lettori di nastri compatibili con questi formati di cassette.

Sta di fatto che ho deciso di prendere il toro per le corna, digitalizzando il mio “giacimento di famiglia” (una trentina di cassette) scaraventando poi il tutto su YouTube.

Le informazioni di registrazione si riducono a scarabocchi sull’etichetta della cassetta, dunque sarà necessario:

  1. digitalizzare i nastri
  2. tagliare il filmato in spezzono omogenei per evento
  3. visionarli quel tanto che basta per assegnare a ciascuno spezzone coordinate spazio-temporali e un titolo
  4. caricare su YouTube

Per il passo 1. utilizzerò un service esterno che per una decina di euro a cassetta mi consegna dei file MP4 e poi metterò alla prova il mio povero Macbook Air e la mia connessione ADSL per i passi successivi.

Voi che leggete ve la cavate con poco, nemmeno vi posto il link alla playlist – i miei figli però potrebbero non essere altrettanto fortunati…

CCD: they exist!

Like many people, I take Global Warming and Climate Change as an accepted fact. Being this a field of Science rather far from the ones I – sort of – understand because they were part of my academic background or are the areas I professionally continued to study, I take science’s consensus conclusion as a given.

But this also means I have rarely the opportunity to confront CCD’s (Climate Change Deniers).

Yesterday I got dragged into one such discussion on LinkedIn (where my point was not at all on CC itself, but rather on the “net zero” controversy) by not one, but two gentlemen, Robert and Paul.

With typical passive-aggressive stance, they started to question the very concept, stating that there is no CO2 increase in the atmosphere, and anyway it has no consequence over climate, offering bits of what looks like scientific evidence.

Sadly the author of the post I was commenting on, who unlike me has ample Climate Change credentials. uses Social Media in the worst possible manner i.e. one-way only, so Paul and Robert had a field day spewing their doubts.

Mind you, they themselves are not Climate Scientists, so their credibility is on a par with mine on this subject, but to the casual reader they do not come across as tinfoil hat-wearing, doomsday-predicting loonies and therefore are able to cast reasonable doubts.

I therefore decided to invest an hour or so to put together a collection of good articles dealing with CCD, and here it is. I have not the slightest hope of ever changing the mind of a CCD (as you cannot convince by means of rational arguments a flat-earther or a novax): the target of this collection is the reader silently lurking to counterbalance what “looks like science” with something that “is science” and undermine the undermining action of those who seek to cast doubts over accepted science.

Obviously this is but a selection: the topic has been so widely discussed that it almost feels like I set out to prove the theory of gravity or the second law of thermodynamics.

The articles are in no particular order or ranking and if anyone has come across another good one, please send it over and I’ll add to the list.

  • Who are CCD’s ? – this article deals with the psychological, demographic and political profile of climate change deniers
  • Where do CCD’s get their “science”? – this articles reviews the topography of so-called Conservative Think Tanks which exist both in the U.S. and in Europe. I doubt Paul or Robert are the original authors of the charts they post. Like me, they get them from sources who think along their lines.
  • Responding to a CCD – this article lists a bazillion questions and objections people like Paul or Robert would raise (including all of theirs), and the scientific response to each and every single one of those, I do the same all the time with electric mobility. To me, this looks like a pretty comprehensive overview.
  • Answering the champion – this Guardian article lists the top 10 CC objections put forward by perhaps the superstar of CCD’s, Roy Spencer, and responds to each of them.

So, Paul and Robert, I’m sorry but I won’t be dragged into a scientific discussion on Climate Change with you, not because you’re not worth it (hint: you’re not!) but because I don’t want to fall for the trap of discussing superficially about this topic.

But in case any of the readers get tickled by the doubts you cast, I encourage THEM to read one or all of the above, and put your mind to rest: Climate Change is a fact, not an opinion.

Birth of the CorpoNation

Gianni Catalfamo, April 2021

ITA

In 1931 Aldous Huxley published a short story entitled “Brave New World” in which he describes a dystopian society based on technological progress.

Ninety years have passed (a bit early to judge since BNW is set in 2540) but it seems to me that Huxley got it all wrong: I don’t see traces of the division into classes based on skills and abilities and I don’t see the slightest trace of City-State within a single world nation. Indeed, it seems to me that we are moving quite rapidly in the opposite direction.

However, technology is altering the characteristics of the Society as we know it, in many ways, some more subtle and others more evident.

Social Entities

Traditionally, society has given itself an identity/organization based on the territory: all the people who live together in a certain territory and who recognize themselves as “similar” form a Nation which also assumes a political value, giving itself governance and customs accepted as normal .

Unfortunately, the concept of Territory and Nation hardly ever coincide perfectly, creating the basis for territorial and / or cultural conflicts that are resolved by sport, war or politics: history tells us that the relative weight of the three means of conflict resolution is changed, but if perhaps we managed to avoid the next war Olympics in the minor leagues the sword is still much more popular than the word or the football.

In the last thirty years, however, a different plan of existence, distinct from the real one, has emerged: one where relationships are woven, transactions are carried out and reputations are created or destroyed: the Internet.

The companies which manage the means for accessing and using this new plan of existence (Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon) have developed an extraordinary power, such as has never been seen in any other sector of the economy. These are private companies which now develop global turnovers higher than almost all countries in the world, except for a handful, but above all they continue to grow at a rate of 50% per year, while economies around the world eke out – in a good year – 2-3% per year.

Continuing at this rate, Apple will be bigger than the entire US economy in less than 10 years.

Fuelling the growth

What is the fuel of this dizzying and unstoppable growth? It is not technology, nor the Internet: many other successful companies are engaged in these same sectors (IBM, Oracle, Cisco, HP, Samsung) without giving the impression of having the same potential.

I think that the rocket propellant of the aforementioned companies is in the extraordinary capacity that they have demnstrated to reach huge masses of consumers with the products and services they desire, pushing billions of people to voluntarily and knowingly enter their ecosystem, paying for access with a currency that disdains money in lieu of their personal data which these companies package and resell.

But what does a state do?

  1. It offers some shared collective services:
    • infrastructure
    • instruction
    • health care
    • currency
    • public order
    • defence
    • identity
  2. Getting paid by means of general taxation
  3. Determining the strategic directions on the basis of governance mechanisms which – with various nuances and many exceptions – can be traced back to the representative democracy invented in Greece in the 5th century BC.

Changing (but only slightly) terminology, we can say that these companies are growing so quickly because they are able to bring so many citizens into their ecosystem.

The CorpoNation

In light of the above definition, let’s try to see if any of these companies could constitute a State or a “CorpoNation”:

  1. Shared collective services
    • infrastructure – only partially; certainly all the infrastructures inherent to the use of the services and products of the Corps are made available, but not the infrastructures necessary for the basic functioning of society such as roads. These could be the subject of a service contract offered by a territorial company to which the Corps pays a fee proportional to the number of “citizens” physically present in that territory
    • education – all the big companies mentioned are be able to organize and support forms of distance learning, as the pandemic has shown us; this could become a “premium” service offered for a fee to those who need it. Businesses would also be much more effective than states in developing skills certification protocols recognized by one CN to another
    • health – not directly and not in the universal and free form that we have in Europe. In other continents, however, health is guaranteed by less inclusive and universal forms of insurance; in the final analysis it is a question of size and a CorpNation with two or three billion “citizens” could negotiate very advantageous conditions on the insurance market …
    • currency – absolutely yes; even several of these companies are already thinking of developing cryptocurrencies which could be used for transactions within the domain
    • public order – in part it is already done, using as a penalty what was once called confinement, that is, expulsion from the National Body: President Trump was excluded in a few hours from any form of public dialogue on the basis of a decision unilateral by the Social Network police who, without worrying about following the hyper-guarantee process that modern justice has developed to protect the individual citizen, has effectively isolated him from the world. For someone like Trump, locking him in jail would have hurt him less.
    • defense – if by “defense” we mean men and technical resources to protect the borders from external aggressors, this has been happening for some time in each of those companies. Obviously these are digital attacks, and instead of planes, tanks and submarines we have server farms and sophisticated cyber-defense software
    • identity – If the identity takes the form of an attestation recognized by others, the login credentials of Google or Facebook are already worth more than any passport today!
  2. By getting paid by means – not of taxation, but of the access fee
  3. Determining the strategic guidelines – through the rules that govern the functioning of any Shareholders’ Meeting

Overall, the Nation Corps could be much more efficient than the traditional state and, since there would be no more physical borders to defend, probably less conflictual. Furthermore, each citizen could belong to more than one Corps, further improving the level of services received and reducing costs.

What next?

Since this discussion was born together with a group of other people, I will stop here. Perhaps there will be someone who will want to add their own considerations and then you will find them below, attributed to each Author.

If you wish to contribute, write to this address.