Tag: tesla

The Boring Company

Episode 071 – Elon Musk is Boring!

Tesla Solar Roofies, some solar blinds to augment that roof, Microsoft OSXing Windows 10, Fan made games, herd immunity requires… you know… the whole herd, Spotify Scan Codes, Conquering the world with stirrups, Tesla’s Model 3 will earn them money, CIL, TIL, and more! This is a jam-packed episode.

The Citizens of Tech podcast covers energy, science, astronomy, inventions, and space exploration with a little gaming, gadgets, apps, and related nerdy things thrown in along the way. Find out all about us at CitizensOfTech.com, CitizensOfTech on Twitter, and in the CitizensOfTech subreddit.

Order Your Tesla Solar Roof





  • Orders are now open.
  • Black glass smooth tiles and the textured glass tiles, with additional styles available in the future.
  • Connectors are magical. Lots of tech involved, apparently.
    • Musk. “This is a connector that has to last for more than 30 years. It has to be weatherproof, heavy rain, snow, slush, salt, water leaking – it’s like connector hell.”
    • Tesla CTO JB Straubel. “A lot of the challenges here leveraged some great learning from the Tesla team on validating automotive connectors and volume production processes. Tesla is building all these tiles ourselves – we are not outsourcing it. We have been able to solve those more complexed design problems and hit those price points that you see.”
  • Tesla says that, “typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for a Solar Roof.”
    • That’s if 35% of the roof are solar panels. Shingles? Definitely some weasel words there.
    • Tesla thinks that the average homeowner will need around 40% of the roof as solar, although some as much as 70%. All depends on your energy needs.
    • More weasel words, but worth considering, is that you end up getting paid for the roof, because you are making electricity.
    • Actual cost for a solar tile is $42 per square foot which is naturally more costly than a regular shingle, but Tesla considers them cheaper than other alternatives when you factor in the power generated.
  • Elon Musk described the warranty. “Made with tempered glass, Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles. That’s why we offer the best warranty in the industry – the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”
    • Then even shot a ball of hail at the tiles during the durability testing.
  • Calculator to estimate the total cost.
  • Quotes automatically included an installed 14kWh Powerwall 2, which you can opt out of. But you wouldn’t.
  • $1,000 deposit required.
  • 5-7 day installation time. US market prioritized first. Outside US, probably next year.


SolarGaps – Energy Generating Solar Panel Window Blinds


  • “Reduce your apartment, home and/or business electricity bill by up to 70% with solar energy generating smart blinds.”
  • “SolarGaps smart blinds automatically track the sun throughout the day, adjusting position to the optimal angles to generate solar electricity to power devices in your home, apartment or office.”
  • “DIY PLUG & PLAY – With apartment renters in mind, the interior wall brackets are designed as a non-permanent, plug & play solution with additional installation options for homeowners to maximize energy production.”
  • “ENERGY GENERATING – Built-in solar panels can generate up to 100W-150W of renewable energy per 10 sq. ft. (≈ 1 m2) of a window, enough to power 30 LED light bulbs or three MacBooks.”
  • “ENERGY REDUCING – In addition to generating solar energy, the window blinds also save energy by shading your home interior and reducing air condition cost by up to 40%.”
  • “AFFORDABLE – Energy surplus can either be stored by battery or can easily be sold to your electricity company as green energy through a two-way meter they provide.”
  • “SMART FEATURES – Easily integrate with smart devices like Google Home, Echo, Nest Thermostat and more to control by voice, temperature and/or smartphone app.”
  • Install inside or outside – they recommend outside.
  • $18,146 out of $50,000 needed. KickStarter ends Wed, June 14 2017 12:56 PM EDT.
  • Pledge from $39 to $4,895 with lots of options in between depending on what size you get and quantity.


Microsoft Windows (10S store requirement, Timeline, Cortana)



  • “Windows 10 S blocks the execution of any program that wasn’t downloaded from the Windows Store. Arbitrary downloaded apps, or even apps with physical install media, are forbidden, a move that on the one hand prevents running malware but on the other blocks the use of most Windows software.”
  • “Why would Microsoft make such a move? According to critics, it’s not for any reason that benefits Windows users, but rather so that the company can enjoy the riches that come from taking a 30-percent cut of everything sold through the Windows Store.”
  • But the big positive is a clean Windows experience. Apps that meet some Microsoft criteria are in the store. Apps are installed and uninstalled cleanly. Less Windows clutter. Less malware destroying the world. For the right user, this isn’t a bad thing.
  • Let’s assume there’s going to be enough apps in the store is all…not a for sure thing right now.
  • “At its annual Build developer conference, Microsoft took the wraps off the next major Windows 10 version, the Fall Creators Update, and announced some of its new features.”
    • “Timeline tracks what you’re doing—which documents you have in which apps, which e-mails you’re writing, what Web pages you have open, that kind of thing—and lets you retrieve that information later.”
    • “On Windows, the Timeline information is displayed in the task switcher. Press the taskbar button (or, we’d hope, Win-Tab) and Windows will continue to show your currently open applications. But you can now scroll that view to bring historic applications and documents into view.”
    • “The Cortana element is called “Pick Up Where I Left Off,” and it allows a similar kind of restoration of what you’re doing. PUWILO is available in Windows, but, like Cortana, is also available on iOS and Android. This means that for applications that support it, you’ll be able to stop what you’re doing on one machine—writing an e-mail, say—and resume that task on an iPhone.”


Fan Games


  • Some folks out there love certain games so much that they’ll mod them or mash them up with other games. Like taking a map from Red Dead Redemption and bringing it into GTA5.
  • The problem is legality. Good chance this behavior is breaking copyright laws, and will earn you a DMCA takedown notice.
  • Stephen McArthur is an LA lawyer who specialized in video game intellectual property. He helps game companies create policies for “fan games.”
  • “Don’t break the rules and they won’t come after you, is the implication, even though every policy still reserves a right to shut something down in unforeseen or unspecified cases, or for any reason. Still, such rules have to exist, and McArthur thinks it’s good business for publishers with huge fan followings to adopt them.”
  • But if you’re a tool, well…yeah. The companies will act against you. Duh.
    • “McArthur says anything that looks like “cracking” a game is a deal-breaker even if a publisher has articulated fan-use guidelines. Anything that could be considered a hack or a cheat is going to find trouble.”
    • “His advice to mod-makers and fan-game designers: Keep it non-commercial, giving the work away for free. Do not use any of the company’s logos or music, and make it clear that the work is non-official and not sponsored or endorsed by the publisher.”
    • Then, “Keep it clean; nothing controversial, racist, sexist or otherwise offensive.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, “Do not damage their brand or company.”


If you don’t vaccinate, measles breaks out. Super weird!


  • Some folks have decided that vaccines cause autism. There’s no science to back that, but lots of “Internet wisdom” aka ignorant hysteria.
  • In a Somali immigrant community in Minnesota, their vaccination rate dropped from 92% in 2004 to 42% in 2014.
  • Minnesota has now got its largest measles outbreak since the 1990’s.
  • How did the FUD spread? A guy named Wakefield…
    • “Wakefield, a former British doctor who now lives in Texas, is considered the founder of the modern anti-vaccination movement. In 2010, around the time he was visiting the Somali community, he was stripped of his British medical license for falsifying a 1998 study. The study fraudulently alleged that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. Wakefield was paid to produce the study to aid a money-making legal scheme, which ultimately failed. The study was retracted, and Wakefield was also found guilty of dozens of other counts of professional misconduct, including abusing autistic children. Despite the shocking misconduct and retraction, the harmful belief that life-saving vaccines cause autism lives on.”


Spotify Scan Codes


  • QR-like codes for sharing anything on Spotify are coming. Spotify scan codes.
  • Camera built-in to the toolbar.
  • Or grab a screenshot and import it into Spotify.
  • Haven’t seen the official announcement as yet, but it’s interesting.
    • Shows an emphasis on easy mobile sharing.
    • OTOH, there’s lot of ways to share that seem easy enough.
    • OTOOH, anything that reduces a swipe or a click is good. I assume that the codes are going to reduce some of the friction.


Were Metal Stirrups The Making Of The Mongols?


  • “Many historians believe [the Mongols’] power stemmed from an incredibly simple technological innovation: the stirrup.”
  • Stirrups are a big deal. You can ride longer. Less likely to get knocked off your horse during battle.
  • Leather loops were early forms of stirrups.
  • “In 2016, archaeologists at the Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia unearthed the remains of a Mongolian woman dating back to the 10th century AD. Along with sturdy leather boots and some changes of clothes, she was buried with a saddle and metal stirrups described as in such good condition that they could still be used today. The stirrups are one continuous thick piece of metal with an open loop for a saddle strap on the top and a wide, flattened, and slightly rounded foot rest. The stirrups had to be comfortable and tough, because Mongols used them to ride in a way no one else rode.”
  • The Mongols were described as riding standing up. They practiced hard in this position, and learned to maintain balance and horse control, hands-free. That meant they could pivot at the waist, and use weapons, making they flexible and formidable in battle. They could flow smoothly while the horse moved under them.
    • Reminded me of being a kid and riding a mountain bike down a hill. You had to let the bike move around underneath you, or you’d get thrown off.


Making Sweet EV Money With The Tesla 3


  • EV’s have been loss leaders for automotive companies.
  • But Tesla makes money on the Model S, and it looks like they might make money with the Model 3. Sort of important with the Model 3, since this is a mass production car, not a boutique special for rich people only.
  • “Whether or not they will manage to is still up for debate, but an analyst today came out with a note predicting that they will be able to achieve a ~25% gross margin – comparable with the Model S’ margin.”
  • “It would be a game changer for Tesla since at a planned production of 400,000 units per year and an average sale price of ~$45,000, it would represent $18 billion in revenue and roughly $4 billion in gross margin from a single vehicle program. In the process, it would remove the popular talking point in the auto industry that reasonably priced all-electric vehicles can’t turn a profit.“


Content I Like

Sam Harris “Waking Up” Podcast


  • Thoughtful, interesting topics.
  • Neuroscience, cognition & consciousness, science, societal implications of xenophobia, true racism vs. political correctness, does man truly have free will, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, the ethics of eating meat.
  • Sam is best known as an atheist, and an anti-religion attitude comes up frequently in his content. Fair warning if that will put you off.


Today I Learned



Animals that are mobile and (relatively) mature immediately after they are born. For example, baby bunnies are born fully furred and with their eyes open.


The first microwave oven developed by a Ratheon engineer:


It weighed about 750 pounds and was nearly 6 feet tall. It also required water cooling, so it had to have water lines run to it.


The beta microwave was placed in a restaurant in Boston for testing. Raytheon introduced a commercial microwave oven, the 1161 Radarange, in 1954. It was expensive — priced at $2,000 to $3,000 (the equivalent of $16,000 to $24,000 in today’s cash).

Privacy On Deathwatch – Episode 63

On this the 63rd episode of Citizens of Tech, the citizens have spoken. They have upvoted by the light of the tent, Enhance! Enhance! Enhance!, Tesla’s new power distribution buddy, mesh backhaul, and then we’ve thrown in some content we like, today we learned, plus a brand new deathwatch!

Continue Reading

The Tesla Of Trash – Episode 56


Welcome to episode 56 of the Citizens of Tech podcast. This show is about all things science and tech, cuz we’re into that sort of thing and presumably you are too.

You can check out all our back episodes on CitizensOfTech.com, comment and discuss the show on the subreddit, and of course support the show by becoming a Patreon patron or just by shopping Amazon through our affiliate link.

This week on the show we dive into Bluetooth 5, Phones on a Plane, dinosaur feathers in amber, the Tesla of Trash, cooling off the globe with aerosols, along with Content We Like and Today I Learned.

Bluetooth 5 is out.


  • “Key feature updates include four times range, two times speed, and eight times broadcast message capacity.”
  • “Longer range powers whole home and building coverage, for more robust and reliable connections.”
  • “Higher speed enables more responsive, high-performance devices. Increased broadcast message size increases the data sent for improved and more context relevant solutions.”

WiFi Phone Calls – Coming to a plane near you.


  • Cell calling is banned still
  • WiFi service is becoming more common on flights
  • Many mobile phones can make calls over WiFi now
  • US Govt. is about to weigh in
  • Pros / Cons
  • Who’s who:
    • Continental said it would “carefully evaluate the views of our customers and crew members on this topic.” Delta and JetBlue have said they would continue to prohibit calls no matter what the Department of Transportation decides, according to The Wall Street Journal. American Airlines offers first and business class passengers onboard satellite phone service. United said it bars VoIP calling, as does Southwest.

Dino feathers in amber.


  • “Geoscientist Lida Xing was shopping at an amber market in Myitkyina, Myanmar in 2015 when he saw an unusual piece of amber.”
  • “Xing had discovered eight fully preserved vertebrae from a young, non-avian dinosaur called a coelurosaur. As an adult it would have been about the size of an ostrich, but this juvenile was still tiny enough to get trapped in tree sap and never escape. Feathers covered its tail, but at the tip they fluffed out in a pattern that suggested this animal may have had a fan-shaped tail.”
  • “Modern bird feathers have a thick central quill called a rachis, and from that branch barbs covered in the soft barbules provide the feather with color and a structure that enables flight. This young coelurosaur’s tail has barbs and barbules only, though one central barb is in the same position that a rachis would be on a modern bird.”
  • “What this means is that feathers appear to have started out as what some paleontologists call “dinofuzz,” a soft, downy covering for warmth.”

The Tesla of Trash



  • Ian Wright assisted with engineering on the Tesla Roadster
  • Went on to make his own performance EV, the X1 ( 0-60 in 2.9 seconds)
  • His new plan: Electric Trash Trucks
  • The most impact as quickly as possible
  • Trash trucks can burn 14,000 Gallons of fuel a year – approximately 3 MPG
  • 400HP Electric motors
  • 20 Miles of charge on a full charge
  • Turbine Engine Range Extender (Like a really big Chevy Volt or BMW i3)
    • Weighs only 250lbs – ~ 1/10 the engine weight
    • Diesel or Natural Gas
  • ~70% less fuel consumed, and turbine engines burn much cleaner than straight 6 engines
  • Significantly quieter than existing trash trucks
  • Retrofit kit or they’ll build to suit, apparently.
  • Estimated 10,000 hours between maintenance, which in the diesel world is a lot.
  • Retrofitted Mack LR Garbage Truck has shipped, estimated cost $200,000

Aerosols to cool the planet. What could possibly go wrong?



  • “One drastic idea is solar geoengineering — injecting light-reflecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to cool the planet. Researchers know that large amounts of aerosols can significantly cool the planet; the effect has been observed after large volcanic eruptions.”
  • “But these sulfate aerosols also carry significant risks. The biggest known risk is that they produce sulfuric acid in the stratosphere, which damages ozone. Since the ozone layer absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun, its depletion can lead to increased rates of skin cancer, eye damage, and other adverse consequences.”
  • “Through extensive modeling of stratospheric chemistry, the team found that calcite, a constituent of limestone, could counter ozone loss by neutralizing emissions-borne acids in the atmosphere, while also reflecting light and cooling the planet.”
  • Risky. Not well understood yet. Solar geoengineering could increase ozone while at the same time making the ozone hole at the poles bigger.
  • Not a solution. “Like taking painkillers.”
  • Oh, and…Snowpiercer. ““Snowpiercer’s” premise is that the only surviving humans live on the train because the world has been frozen over by a botched attempt by big business to geo-engineer the planet and rescue it from global warming.“

Content I Like

Webkay – See what your web browser reveals about your system.


  • Location
  • Browser & Plugins
  • OS
  • CPU / GPU / RAM
  • Battery Status, whether charging, discharging, percentage
  • Public & Private IP, ISP, Bandwidth,
  • Gyro data
  • What social networks you’re signed into
  • Clickjacking you may be subject to
  • And so on.

Today I Learned

There was a large city in the area of southern Illinois east of St. Louis about 1,000 years ago. We don’t know it’s name. We refer to it by its culture, known as “Mississippian.”



Ethan talks about Arrival, a first contact scifi movie featuring Amy Adams. He gushes effusively.

See you next week!

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is Driving Tech Forward – CoT Episode 053

Come along as we count our blessings, such as truly broadband Satellite internet, brain implants, solar power at your local fueling station, leadfoot electrical generation, powering an entire island with the sun, astonishing advancements in weather satellite tech, and of course a dash of Deathwatch, Content I Like, and Today I Learned.

Satellite Internet That Doesn’t Suck


  • Satellite Internet sucks
    • Latency galore
    • Data caps
  • SpaceX wants to change that with the “SpaceX System”
  • So what is the SpaceX System?
  • They’ve filed an FCC approval request to launch 4,425 satellites (plus additional cold spares) into low earth orbit
  • These will be used to provide “global broadband and communications”
  • 386kg each, orbiting between 1,110km and 1,325km
  • Operating in the Ku (12–18 GHz microwave) and Ka (26.5–40 GHz) bands
  • NGSO – Non-geostationary orbit with 83 orbital planes
  • They’re looking to do this in stages, with 5 phases of deployment
  • The goal is to provide continuous global coverage at a minimum elevation angle of 40 degrees
  • This differs from current satellite solutions where it’s geostationary, you point your antenna and it never has to change
  • The SpaceX System will actively track available satellites and switch between them as their availability window passes.
  • Each satellite should be good for a coverage area around 1,060km (radius)
  • Speed? Gigabit
    • Current solutions are capped around 15Mbit (50GB peak traffic, 50GB off-peak)
  • Latency? 25-35ms
    • 600-750ms is standard for current satellite solutions
  • The fact that these are in low earth orbit is the key to low latency – less than 1/29th the distance between the ground and the satellites.

Controlling Your Environment With Your Mind – Progress



  • Your brain generates electrical signals.
  • When you think, certain areas of your brain are engaged.
  • So, if you can sense the electricity generated in certain parts of your brain as you think about specific things, you could use that generated signal as an instruction set.
  • Interpret the electrical input with software, and you could then use your mind to impact the world around you. Software is programmed to react to your input and make something specific happen.
  • One application is for people who are locked-in. By locked-in, we mean they can’t interact normally using limbs, their voice, etc. They may have no muscle control due to quadriplegia or disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.
  • If all you’ve got left is your ability to think, then an interface that can react to your thoughts can help you interact with the real world. Communicate. Get work done.
  • Cost and complexity have been an issue with these sorts of interfaces in the past. But now, there’s a simpler, cheaper system that is working for an anonymous ALS sufferer.
  • The system consists of two electrodes planted beneath the skull onto the brain. One electrode is over a region stimulated when controlling the right hand. The other is over the region stimulated when counting backward. Both are not required. One is considered a backup for the other.
  • The subject is leveraging the electrode used for controlling the right hand, and trained it by playing Pong. The electrode monitoring the “counting backward” section isn’t in use yet.
  • The electrode is hard-wired to a small box in her chest, that translates the signal into a software input read wirelessly by a tablet running the software.
  • The system lets her spell out words. The software interface monitors the electrical patterns of her thoughts, and she can move a selector box around a screen to choose letters and spell out words. It’s slow. With practice, she can select a letter in about 20 seconds, meaning it can take several minutes to spell a word. But that’s not nothing, and the time has improved from about 50 seconds.
  • This is a backup to her primary eye-movement tracking system, which she might lose the function of due to ALS, and which doesn’t work that well in bright light, such as outdoors.

Solar Infrastructure Coming to a Gas Station Near You!


  • Total, the French multinational oil & gas company announced $300 million USD investment in Solar
  • They aim to install 200 MW of solar PV at 5,000 of their fueling stations around the world.
  • That’s 40 KW per station
  • The official line from Total is:
    • The project is fully aligned with Total’s ambition of becoming the responsible energy major and its commitment to developing solar power. It will reduce our carbon emissions by 100,000 tons per year and cut our electricity bill by $40 million per year. The panels will be supplied by our affiliate SunPower, which offers the world’s most efficient solar technology. This project demonstrates Total’s confidence in SunPower, especially its ability to bring our customers competitive, clean energy.
  • However, 40 KW is a heck of a lot more power generation than your average gas station is going to need, and the Electrek article seems to lean in that direction as well
    • 40 KW at full tilt will generate 40 KWh per hour, so in areas with 4-7 hours of “peak” sun (most of North America, for instance), that would generate many hundreds of kilowatt hours of electricity per day.
    • The average “full EV” battery pack can hold 60 kwh of electricity.
    • Could this be a play to simultaneously eliminate Total’s electrical bills and prepare for the coming electrification of the global vehicle fleet? Seems plausible to me.
    • Slap some PowerWall or similar storage in place to make sure the generated electricity doesn’t go to waste and then install some DC fast charging stations  and you’re in business.
  • It’s a win either way, in my opinion.

Fat people rejoice – recovering footstep energy is now possible!


  • EnGoPlanet is selling a tile that, when you walk on it, can charge a battery. 4-8 watts can be recovered, which I take the mean that the heavier you are (or the harder you step), the more energy that can be recovered.
  • This is used primarily for street lighting right now, although there’s more energy input to the system than just foot traffic. There’s also more energy output than light.
  • The system is also solar, so in addition to the footstep energy recovered, the sun contributes.
  • In addition to lighting, the system also offered video surveillance plus USB and wireless charging.
  • Currently, there’s a pilot system installed. “Four streetlights in a plaza off the Las Vegas Strip.”

Tesla / SolarCity Provide Solar to an Entire Pacific Island


  • Tesla has officially been greenlit by its shareholders to acquire Solar City
  • As a show of what the soon-to-be singular company is looking to do in the power generation & storage field, they installed a solar microgrid at 1.4 MW for the Pacific Island of Ta’u (part of American Samoa)
  • 5,328 Solar Panels
  • 60 PowerPacks
    • PowerPacks are the industrial & utility grade big brother to the PowerWall
    • Storage capacity of 6 MW
    • ~3 days of cloud cover without issue (though that’s incredibly rare on Ta’u)
  • The changeover took about a year and displaces the diesel generators they used to use
    • Preventing the burning of ~300 gallons (1,135 liters) of diesel every single day.
      • Cheaper (long term)
      • Cleaner
      • More reliable (diesel shipments can be delayed, etc.)
  • This is all part of Tesla’s plan to demonstrate that this idea really works.
  • Granted, Ta’u is an idyllic test bed, with modest power requirements, nearly perfect solar exposure, ideal weather, and so forth, but it is yet another indicator that utility scale solar is viable, at least in certain areas of the world.

Better weather satellites going into orbit



  • NOAA has been putting weather satellites into orbit for decades.
  • There are at least two major kinds. Polar orbiters and geostationary orbiters.
  • Polar orbiters are relatively close to the ground. “The orbits are circular, with an altitude between 830 (morning orbit) and 870 (afternoon orbit) km, and are sun synchronous.”
  • Geostationary are “35,800 km (22,300 miles) above the Earth, high enough to allow the satellites a full-disc view of the Earth.”
  • Back in the day, I used to listen to NOAA polar orbiters with my all-frequency receiver. The trick was to be able to receive the transmission consistently, which would vary in strength as the satellite came up over the horizon. There were some fancy antenna schemes out there to improve reception, including a double-helix design that I all but built before I ended up moving into an apartment.
  • The signal was similar to a fax machine, where scan lines were broadcast. I could send the audio output of the receiver into a soundcard input on my PC, and some open source software would decode the satellite scanlines into a picture and colorize it.
  • To predict when a given NOAA satellite would be overhead, I used software that used orbiter datasets from NOAA, and would then draw lines and coverage areas over a map. You could use that map data to determine when the satellite would be overhead, and how high in the sky it would be. Then it was a matter of tuning to the right frequency and waiting for the pass.
  • Somewhere buried in my photo archives, I have a picture direct from a NOAA satellite of Hurricane Georges passing overhead when I lived in Pensacola in September 1998.
  • The new satellite that NOAA is launching is the first in a series dubbed GOES-R. It will cost about $11B to launch these between now and the end of the program in 2035.
  • GOES-R satellites are more capable than existing weather satellites. “The GOES-R improves every current GOES satellite product, while adding new information about lightning, smoke, fires, and volcanic ash, among other variables. The images it produces of weather systems on Earth will have four times the resolution of its predecessor. And with its new Advanced Baseline Imager, the satellite will have the capacity to scan major storm systems every 30 seconds and the entire western hemisphere five time faster.”


Hughesnet & their ilk.

  • They may be the only option a lot of people in remote locations have now…
  • Within a few years, that should change, if SpaceX has their way.
  • Why? 3 L’s – Latency, Low speed, and Limits

Content I Like



  • Want to learn something? Udemy probably has a course for it.
  • Software Development, IT certifications, photography, languages, health & fitness, music theory & instruments, marketing, finance… the list goes on.
  • I scored several classes during their Black Friday “Binge Learn” event for $13 each, so if you can grab a course during a sale, you can get some great content pretty cheap.

Today I Learned

LOLCats date back to the 1870s


British portrait photographer Harry Pointer created a carte de visite series featuring cats posed in various situations in the early 1870s. To these he usually added amusing text intended to further enhance their appeal.[4]

Tesla Powerwall 2

Tesla wants to power your home – Episode 050

Today on Citizens of Tech, we bring you a candle that smells like the tears of a Chinese sweat shop, floating vinyl, Jeff’s iTunes, a tin foil hat for your body, and Tesla’s home invasion, along with content we like and today we learned.

Follow the show at citizensoftech.com, and be a supporter. Our thanks to those of you using the Amazon affiliate link. We’re doing well with that, and it costs you nothing. And also thanks to 3 new Patreon supporters that joined us in October.

You can help us even more by telling your friends about the show and following us on Twitter. So, please. Do that.

A candle that smells like a new Mac.


  • You’ve heard of new car smell. Now there’s a candle that promises “new Mac” smell.
  • Put out by Twelve South, makers of fine Apple accessories such as the BookArc and the HiRise iPhone dock.
  • Does is really smell like an oddly enticing brew of fresh chemicals?
  • 9to5 says not exactly. But it does evoke that memory, according to the writer.
  • “a bouquet of mint, peach, basil, lavender, mandarin and sage.”

Bring your vinyl into the anti-grav age.


  • Turntables are their own special mystique.
    • Heavy platters.
    • Clamps that hold the vinyl tight against the platter.
    • Thick vinyl that’s resistant to warping.
    • Belt-driven vs. direct drive motors.
    • Diamond styluses of various shapes that sit in a record groove just so.
    • Cartridges holding the needle make from magic dust.
    • Weighted arms that cause the needle to sit in the groove with a specific amount of pressure.
    • Anti-skate knobs that tweak the counter-active pressure of the record groove pushing the needle towards the center.
    • There are even fancy arms that can tweak the changing angle of the needle as it pivots across the record face in an attempt to keep the needle presentation consistent.
  • And now we have a platter that’s rotated via magnetic levitation.
  • Kickstarter project.
  • The turntable has standard features you’d expect. A phono stage. Selectable 33 and 45 rpm. Semi-automatic tone arm. Etc.
  • Unusual features include…
    • Platter feet. When the platter is not spinning, these feet rise up from the chassis to give the platter something to rest on.
    • A built-in UPS. If there’s a power outage, the system will lift up the tone arm, stop the platter from spinning, and raise the platter feet.
    • Sensor regulating software makes sure that the mag-lev platter is turning at the proper speed.
    • Power consumption is 12W.
    • No moving parts inside, as implied by the feature “no wear of parts.”
  • No word on whether or not the MAG-LEV turntable will damage your cassette collection.
  • As of October 29, 2016, there are 509 backers for a total of $380,953 pledged. The goal was only $300K by November 21, 2016, so this one is definitely going to run.
  • Your cheapest way in is the $780 early bird, which gets you the black finish. Prices go up from there.
  • Find out more about them and join their mailing list at https://maglevaudio.com/.

Amazon streaming music.



  • Amazon has a new music service meant to compete with Spotify and Apple Music.
  • Called “Music Unlimited”.
  • I must admit to being open to other music streaming services, as my Spotify experience on CarPlay is annoying. And the Mac client has been dodgy lately. The iPhone experience itself is still good.
    • Sometimes Spotify won’t start from the CarPlay console. Once it starts, it works. But starting it is unpredictable. Maddening when the point of CarPlay is to not have to interface with your phone while you’re driving.
    • No shuffle control setting in CarPlay. If you want to play an album straight through but were in shuffle mode, you’re out of luck unless you interface with the Spotify app on the phone.
    • The Mac client doesn’t update consistently when playing tracks now. Skipping to other songs, especially when playing to remote sources, has gotten strange. Time progress bar won’t update. Moving back and forth between tracks sometimes doesn’t work.
    • Client software updates used to be frequent. Now they are rare.
  • I love Amazon shopping. I am an Amazon Prime customer. The Prime video service is consistently amazing. The best video streaming tool on my Roku. I’m guessing that if they can get video right, then they can get audio right, too. Thus, I’m open-minded.

A tin foil hat for your body.


  • The tinfoil hat keeps the bad guys out of your head, right?
  • Of course, that’s silly, but this new Kickstarter is more or less on that idea.
  • The “Anti-Surveillance Coat blocks every in- and outgoing signal. Keeping you safe in an information-driven environment.”
  • The coat looks sort of like a modern take on the rain jacket. It falls about 3/4ths of the way down your body, to roughly your knee. It has a hood.
  • It’s made of metalliferous fabrics (a polyester, copper, and nickel blend), that the maker claims works like a Faraday cage. No signal in or out.
  • If you want signal to/from one device, there’s a black breast pocket on the front just for that.
  • Wut? WHY? Well…”We as humans are creating an enormous invisible network on top of our existing biosphere; the infosphere. This infosphere consists of networks and radio waves. It’s our new, ever expanding environment that grows at a staggering rate. Yet we roam around unprotected with privacy-sensitive data. This data might easily be tracked and misused by virtually everyone; random people, but also companies and governments. It has become impossible to control which information about us is revealed and what stays hidden. We are not in control of our own privacy anymore. And privacy is what makes us human.”
  • Ridiculous. But, if you want to take part, you’ve got until November 12 to contribute to this Kickstarter and protect yourself from the pervasive infosphere taking over our souls. They need €15K. As of this recording, they aren’t even close.

Tesla Powerwall 2.0 / Solar Shingles


    • We’ve discussed the original Powerwall several times
    • We generally concluded that it was a great idea, but wasn’t *quite* “there” yet.
      • It had a storage capacity of 7 kWh with ~ 5.6 kWh usable
      • $3,000 (without the inverter)
      • You can daisy-chain them to increase total storage capacity
    • Enter the Powerwall 2.0:
      • 14 kWh storage with ~12.5 kWh (AC) ~12.85 kWh (DC)
        • Handily more than 2x the energy density
      • $5,000 USD
        • So not quite double the price for double the storage


  • And it includes the inverter


    • Still daisy-chain-able
    • Sleeker, flatter, more futuristic looking.
    • Interior or Exterior mounting options
  • Again, this is all part of the Solar-City / Tesla power play to get their new shingle panels on your roof, PowerWall in your garage and an electric vehicle in there next to it.
  • So how about those newly unveiled solar shingles / tiles?
    • They appear to be highly durable in the impact demonstration
      • Only tile that didn’t crack or shatter
      • Question is: how will those dings affect the electric generation output?
      • Even partial shading often renders an entire cell nearly useless
    • They look great.
    • No real word on pricing yet
      • “Less than a new roof and the cost of electricity over the life of the panels.”
      • That life is supposedly 25-50 years…
      • So probably pretty darn expensive.
    • Again, a step in the right direction, but this isn’t the first time this has been attempted; there have been other solar shingle products that were pulled from the market for lack of interest
      • They were expensive and far less efficient than “regular” PV cells
  • Interesting days ahead. As someone who is looking at the prospect of having to re-shingle my house, I’m academically interested, though I likely won’t be in a position to move on it, since again, it’s probably pretty darn expensive

Content I Like

A16z Podcast


  • High level perspectives on technology from the venture capitalist firm of Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Some inside-baseball about Silicon Valley.
  • They get to the point and keep it usually 30 minutes or less.



  • Electric guitar required
  • USB adapter required
  • Remastered version (in 2014) was $39.99 plus the adapter $35 or so
  • Lead, Rhythm, Bass
  • Teaches you how to hold, attach your strap, navigate the frets, do bends, slides, chords, etc.
  • Teaches you to play songs ranging from Elvis to Bob Marley to Muse and Poison
  • Intelligently helps you with riffs you kinda suck at
    • If you continue to suck at it, it will progressively slow the tempo down until you get it, then ratchet the speed up as you get better.
  • Real feedback on your performance
  • One note: if you don’t read music, this won’t really teach you to (at least that I’ve seen so far) – this is moreso aimed at learning to play via tablature.
  • Like guitar hero, except with a real guitar, so harder.
  • Bottom line: It’s really fun, but not a replacement for actual music theory.

Exponent Podcast


  • Ben Thompson and James Allworth (tech writers)
  • They pontificate with strong opinion about what’s going in the tech world, news items, big company moves.
  • They play well off of each other as co-hosts. Easy to listen to.
  • About 60 minutes.

Triangulation Podcast


  • Leo Laporte finds uber nerds and interviews them. The triangle is Leo, the guest, and the listener, since Leo records his content live via twit.tv and has a chat room where you can comment and ask questions while the show is being recorded.
  • Fascinating people turn up. Jerry Kaplan, a pioneer in AI, was a recent guest, for example.
  • About 60 minutes.

Today I Learned

The world’s largest corn maze is, supposedly, the Richardson Farm Corn Maze in Spring Grove, IL. 33 acres, 5 different mazes. Even if they aren’t the largest, they have a Star Trek maze that, from the air, looks amazing. Get lost in the Kirk-Spock bromance one last time.


A stacked ring of self-supporting Pringles potato chips is called a “ringle.”


Well that pretty much drives a stake through the heart of this Halloween episode of Citizens of Tech. But like the inevitable zombie horde, the show will rise from the grave next week, and we hope you’ll be along for the next hair-raising adventure. Please remember that you can help support the show by sharing and retweeting/liking our posts on social media, and there’s always Patreon and that Amazon affiliate link is actually really worthwhile, so if you don’t mind, hit it the next time you have an Amazon purchase to make: citizensoftech.com/amazon – that will help us get the word out about the show to more folks interested in the kind of content we put out on this show.

But for now, “We’d better get back, ‘cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.”

Plug-in Momentum Voltage – Show 037

Show 037 – Plug-in Momentum Voltage

In this special edition of the Citizens of Tech podcast, we go electric. That is, one of our hosts has bought himself an electric vehicle. And that host is….not me. I am Ethan Banks, @ecbanks on Twitter, and my co-host now driving a snazzy electric car is Eric Sutphen, @zutfen.

By the way, are you a Redditor? We are. Eric created a CitizensOfTech sub. Just search for it by name. We’ll keep throwing stuff in there about the show and other cool stuff we find, including some of the bits we consider that never quite make the show. Hope to you see you on Reddit.

And now on with the show. Eric went and bought himself and electric car. I’m going to ask him all about it.

Interview with Eric Sutphen

  1. You’ve been interested in electric cars for a while now. Why so?
  2. For a while you’d talked about the Nissan Leaf, but never went for it. Why did you never end up with that car?
  3. I know you were pretty hot on a Prius, too. Which model?
  4. But you never pulled the trigger on a Prius, either, right?
  5. And I guess you didn’t think about putting a deposit on a Tesla Model 3?
  6. And then… the Chevy Volt came on your radar. Why did you never really look at the Volt before?
  7. And what was it about the Volt that made you give it the once over?
  8. Are there any tax breaks in the US that you can take advantage of as the owner of this fine automobile?
  9. Explain the Volt’s drivetrain, and be sure to mention range anxiety.
  10. Are the tires anything special? Low rolling resistance, etc.?
  11. I’ve heard EVs are torque-y. Is that your experience in the Volt?
  12. Explain how it is to drive with the regen function. I’ve heard they can be jerky & hard to get used to.
  13. Describe the interior, particularly the dashboard and center stack layouts.
  14. How has your driving style changed?
  15. Okay. You’re driving like an old man. What happens if you drive it like a panicked soccer mom running from zombies?
  16. How much pure electric range are you getting driving like an old man?
  17. So…you’ve got all this range. How much gas are you actually putting in the Volt?
  18. What are the home recharging options?
  19. How long is full charge taking at home?
  20. What would it cost to install an upgraded recharge system at home?
  21. How plentiful are remote charging stations, and how do you find them?
  22. What are the maintenance requirements?
  23. What advice do you have for people thinking about an EV?



Thanks for listening to Citizens of Tech today. Remember to visit CitizensOfTech.com to find all of our shows about space exploration, tech of the past, gaming, computer stuff, nifty finds on Kickstarter, automobiles, the future of power generation, clever science breakthroughs, and anything else that strikes our fancy.

And of course, you can become a Patreon subscriber, because making podcasts is hard. Seriously. It’s hard. Show your appreciation for our work with a little Patreon love. And hey – there’s rewards you can get as a Patreon patron. Stickers and mugs and stuff. Show the world you’re a fellow citizen of tech.

We’ll see you next week or so, and until then, we’re Ethan and Eric signing off. See you on Reddit.