The EcoFlow DELTA 1300: The Most Badass Battery Ever*

In 2019 I backed a crowdfunded product called the EcoFlow DELTA. While it was promoted as a “battery powered generator”, the name was misleading: fundamentally a generator creates one form of power by consuming another, and this was a battery that stored and outputted electrical power. It’s a battery. A really, really big battery: 31 pounds and 1260 Wh of power to be exact. It has six AC outlets supporting up to 1800 watts of output, 3300 watts of surge protection, pure sine wave output, four USB-A ports (12 or 18 watts per port), two USB-C ports (60 watts per port), and it charges via AC power, solar (up to 400 watts input), or 12V car adaptor.

I backed the project for $799 after we had an 18 hour power outage at my home and I found it frustrating how many things wouldn’t function. I was looking for a specific solution to allow us to continue using our on-demand hot water heater, which uses natural gas but requires electricity to operate. When the power goes out it’s relatively easy to create light and bundle up if you’re cold, but the immediate lack of hot water is an uncomfortable problem for a family with two kids. I had a quote on a natural gas-powered generator, but the $6000 price tag was too high for the rarity of the outages. I’d need to lose power several times a year for 20+ hours each time to justify that expense.

The EcoFlow DELTA arrived in January 2020, and it exceeded all my expectations. I took a bunch of photos because I thought I’d write up a long, thoughtful review of it…and didn’t. That review never quite got written, but I had all these pictures and a few thoughts I wanted to share, so here’s a photo essay of sorts for anyone interested in the DELTA.

* This was the most badass battery that EcoFlow made in 2019, but in mid-2021 they release the monstrous DELTA Pro, a 99 pound battery with 3600Wh of power! 🤯 But it’s also $3599, so…🙃

The 1260 watt-hour battery charges directly from AC wall power, and it charges fast: pulling over 700 watts from the wall power, it will go from 0% to 80% charge in under an hour (often all the way to 100% in 60 minutes). It arrived mostly charged. An audible fan kicks on when it’s charging to keep the heat down.
Continue reading The EcoFlow DELTA 1300: The Most Badass Battery Ever*

Chromecast with Google TV + ESPN+ = Usability Nightmare

I admit it: I’m an armchair product manager.

Every time I use a new product or service, I either applaud it or I’m critical of the user experience. Often both! I wrote product reviews on various tech web sites (mostly my own) for ~15 years, and when I worked for Spb Software I took on the role of a product manager for Spb Imageer, so I’ve experienced both sides of this coin to some extent (though much more on the reviewing side).

Working at HTC also gave me interesting opportunities to learn more about the decisions that go into creating hardware and software. I understand every product is a series of trade-offs; most teams don’t have enough developers to build things they way they wish they could, and timelines are never quite long enough to fit in every feature and testing.

But…

Sometimes product managers and UX designers will make such inexplicably awful choices, you have to wonder what they were thinking. You also have to wonder if they tested with actual customers in real-world use, or if it was never tested by anyone other than an internal QA team with a checklist and no knowledge of real-world use. The ESPN+ app on Google TV is one such app.

When I bought a Chromecast with Google TV late last year (what a mouthful of a product name!), I was genuinely excited about it – this was the first truly new execution of Google’s Chromecast platform since the first one launched. I’ve done a fair amount of tweeting about my impressions of the hardware/software from Google – I wish Twitter had a better search function, but here are a few – so this blog post is focusing on one very specific scenario: how utterly terrible the Chromecast with Google TV is for watching long-form content on a poorly designed app. Walk with me through this real-world scenario…

Continue reading Chromecast with Google TV + ESPN+ = Usability Nightmare

Epson-ET3760 Review: Muted Colours, Awful User Experience, but Affordable Prints

The Epson-ET3760 is a decent printer, but it’s hobbled in a few ways that keep it from being an exceptional product. It was more a bit more expensive ($279 + tax on sale from Costco.com) than a comparable HP printer, but Epson makes less on the ink so it’s expected that you’ll pay more in hardware costs. It’s a “pay extra for the razor because you won’t need to buy as many blades” scenario. The bundle I bought from Costco included two extra black ink bottles, so I expect to not need ink for several years. Epson touts costs as low as 1 cent per ISO colour page.

The print quality is crisp – no complaints there. Compared to my HP though the colours are muted and don’t pop as much. Colour accuracy is significantly off as well. Red is more orange, blue is more grey, yellow is more orange. This means, unfortunately, that all that cheap ink you’re getting doesn’t measure up to what you get on an HP printer.

Continue reading Epson-ET3760 Review: Muted Colours, Awful User Experience, but Affordable Prints

LECTRON Tesla CCS Adapter: First Impressions

My family and I have a road trip to Canada coming up soon, and for the first time I’m going someplace — a small town in BC, Canada — where there aren’t Tesla Superchargers within range once I arrive. Even with a full charge from an overnight L2 charge, I can’t make it back onto the Supercharger network to continue my journey to Calgary (due to elevation and the fact that I bought the Model 3 SR+ rather than the LR which had 70 more miles of range). 🤷‍♂️

So I’m going to head east, and along the way there are no Superchargers, only CHAdeMO and CCS L3 chargers. Typically charging at around 32 miles per hour of charging, L2 chargers are too slow for a road trip unless you really don’t care when you get there. I need a way to connect my Model 3 to one of these L3 charging standards, and because:

  1. CHAdeMO is an old standard, being rapidly replaced by CCS
  2. Tesla doesn’t have their own CCS adaptor sold anywhere but South Korea (!!?)
  3. The Tesla CHAdeMO adaptor is sold out online

…I figured I’d buy the LECTRON CCS adaptor off Amazon that, at the time I ordered it, had zero reviews. And it was $600. 😮 What could go wrong? 😜

This is a simple, bullet-point first impressions post meant to get something online fast, not a detailed, well thought-out review. I have too many of those already sitting in my WordPress drafts folder. 😉 So here we go…

  • I tried to update the firmware before using it, and not only is it Windows-only (no macOS option), the updater just crashed and gave me an error over and over. Not a great first impression.
Crash, crash, crash.
  • It has to be used in a particular sequence (powered on, wait until green, connect the adaptor to the charger plug, wait 10 seconds, then connect to Tesla). The first charger I went to, I didn’t follow that sequence exactly, and it failed so I thought it was the EVgo charger and left. This was after two phone calls to EVgo, them rebooting the whole charger, etc. We tried everything. I did charge via a Tesla plug at that same charger, so we deduced it was probably the LECTRON CCS adaptor that was at fault (but really it was me that was at fault…classic PEBCAK error even though I was standing). 🙄
  • It’s comically huge and surprisingly heavy. It takes a reasonable amount of strength to connect and disconnect it, and it’s clumsy as hell. A smaller person with smaller hands may find it very challenging to use.
It’s YUUUUGE!
  • I’m concerned about the amount of pressure it puts on my M3. The weight of the adaptor + the CCS charger, all pulling down at a particular angle, puts a lot of pressure on a very small part of the car. I have no idea if Tesla engineered the charging port for that kind of weight.
  • I went to an Electrify America charger, followed the right sequence this time (RTFM!), and charging started. Oddly it stopped about four minutes, no explanation. It could be because I started multiple charging sessions back to back – it told me to move my car each time – and the charger was confused, but I’m not sure.
  • For the first time ever, I was a bit envious of other EVs I saw there that could just plug into these chargers without adaptors.
  • It charged at 42kW. That was giving me about 181 miles of charge per hour, which is 5x more than I can get from my L2 charger at home. Good stuff. That’s far slower than a Tesla Supercharger, but fast enough for reasonable road trip times.
  • After the successful partial charge, I went back to the EVgo charger to see if using the correct sequence would result in it charging. It did. I got 11 minutes of sustained 41kW charge before manually disconnecting. No issues.
  • The next test is to find an L3 CCS charger that puts out more power to see how much power the adaptor can take and if it’s stable (according to LECTRON, it’s limited to 50kW on my M3). That’s my big fear taking this thing on a road trip: that it will just flake out. I’m thinking about paying over market value for the Tesla CHAdeMO adaptor just to have something I *know* will work instead, though I consider it a bit of a waste of money given CCS is the future. I don’t know anyone with the Tesla CHAdeMO adaptor so I can’t borrow one.
  • I’m irked that Tesla doesn’t have a CCS adaptor for us owners and we’re having to use these third party adaptors in the first place. Why aren’t they selling a first-party adaptor in North America?
  • It uses microUSB to charge, which in 2021 for $600 is ridiculous. It should be USB-C. But also it’s one more thing to keep charged, using a deprecated connection standard. I also can’t help but chuckle at the idea of 40kW+ of electricity flowing through this adaptor, but it won’t work unless you plug a tiny microUSB cable with a trickle of electricity to charge it before hand. It’s probably too complex to siphon off the incoming charge to power the adaptor itself, but a guy can dream. 😉

So will I keep this or return it? I want to do more testing. It’s not a great product, that’s for sure, but it may be good enough for what I need.

Is Tesla’s Market Share Limited Due to Competition?

I was having a WhatApp chat with family member about Tesla and competition from other EV makers. I figured it was worth sharing here.

This is a fun topic. 🙂 Globally, EVs as a share of the market is in the low single-digit %. Likely around 1-2% (edit: it’s 3%). Some countries like Norway it’s much more. So as more car makers bring more EVs to the market, it’s not about them competing only with Tesla, it’s about the whole market making the shift. There are going to be billions and billions spent transitioning from gas to EVs in the coming decade: cars, trucks, vans, etc. The weight and cost of batteries has, in the labs, hit a point where battery powered planes are within reach. The single biggest problem every EV maker has is battery supply. So Tesla will be one of many companies with products to take advantage of this buying wave. It’s a BIG pie.

Because the big car makers are so many years behind Tesla, it seems like it’s “Tesla against everyone”, but it’s not – Tesla will be one of many options in the EV market. Just like there’s no expectation that one gas car company would ever be able to have 100% of the market, neither will Tesla. They just control a large % of the EV market as it stands today, but the EV market is so tiny still globally.

Think about Toyota. In 2020 they were about 9% of the US market in sales. You’d never think Toyota was a failure as a car company – you see their cars everywhere – so let’s say Tesla “only” sells 9% of all EVs in the USA. That would still be an incredible business! I personally think they’ll control 2-3x the market share of Toyota if they can keep going.

They’re like Apple from a brand perspective. Few people are buying a Nissan Leaf because they want to; if they could afford a Tesla they probably would buy one. Tesla has never paid a cent in advertising. It’s really hard to overstate how much of an advantage that is. And if they can get a $25K car into the market by 2022-2023, that will open up a new market for them.

Remember Tesla is fundamentally an energy company trying to get the world off fossil fuels and they chose to make cars their first product to show people that battery-powered vehicles could be exciting and efficient.

A grim Thanksgiving weekend reminder about human nature

Over 205,000 people tested positive for covid19 across the USA on Friday, a new record. 13.6 million people have/have had covid19, placing the USA 6th in the world on a per capita basis (interesting that it’s not higher, right?). 272K+ dead, 5th in the world per capita. Who’s #1? Belgium of all places. 🤷‍♂️

We live in society where immediate gratification is the norm, where we want what we want when we want it, and woe be to anyone who gets in our way (Karen would like to speak to your manager now). The idea of us not getting to do what we want, of saying no to ourselves, and of making a sacrifice, is completely alien to many.

That’s why millions of people still travelled on Thanksgiving to be with family, why people still go into restaurants to sit down and eat, and why by the time Christmas comes there will be many more funerals happening over Zoom.

It made us tremendously sad when we made the decision to not travel back to Canada for Christmas, but it’s the only rational option. Not seeing our family for a year is difficult, but far better than perhaps not seeing some of them ever again if we were to accidentally get them sick.

This holiday season, think of others more than yourself. 🙏🏼

Who wants to buy a used cheeseball?

Generally speaking, I’m not much of a trickster. Perhaps it’s the Canadian in me not wanting to have anyone feel hurt by anything I’d do, but last year I couldn’t resist having a bit of harmless fun. I realized a photo of a partially eaten cranberry cheeseball from our Christmas party was just too good of an opportunity to pass up…so I took a photo and posted it to Facebook Marketplace, looking for a buyer. 😜

It all started with, of course, the photo of the cheeseball. There were some leftover cream cheese figs, so I wove them into the story. Text in easier-to-read form below.

The inane, silly, stream-of-consciousness story that evokes Chris (Simpsons Artist).

I wanted to have fun with the responses as well. 😊

It was hard to tell who knew it was a joke and who didn’t. I think Skylar thought I was serious. 😆

I had a five people contacted me about it, and I responded to everyone. 😜

…and then I had a fun interaction with someone who got the joke! 😁

What does it look like when a regular person pays to promote a Tweet?

Anyone who works in social media will be intimately familiar with how Twitter’s paid campaigns work, but despite years of being around people in businesses running social media campaigns, I’ve never spent a single dollar of my business budget on a paid Twitter campaign (I’m all about ‘dem organic Tweets). So on a whim, I decided to give Twitter $50 to promote a single tweet that I thought was mildly clever/amusing in the hopes that it might get some traction:

There’s no CTA; I was looking to see if I’d get any comments/engagement on it – perhaps a new follower or ten? Here’s what my $50 got me:

So that’s a whole lot of…nothing really. One new follower. A few clicks on the hashtag. One organic reply, one reply from the paid promotion. The one paid promotion reply was a now-blocked troll posting a pornographic animated GIF that I can’t un-see. 😳 Twitter really can be a cesspool sometimes. 😩
I’m not sure what “success” looks like on a promoted Tweet – generally a 6.42% engagement rate with any form of paid advertising would be considered strong, but perhaps metrics of success are different on Twitter. If this were a pure brand ad, I might consider 9 cents per engagement to be a success.
$50 to get 8008 impressions works out to a CPM of $6.25. Given the completely un-targeted and generic nature of my tweet, I’d assume little to no competition for it in terms of other paid campaigns, so that does seem high to me. I’m sure an experienced ad buyer could have made the $50 go a bit further – I did everything on the default/automatic settings.

So what did I learn for my $50? That I should have used it for something else (like a few Blu-rays), though my curiosity has been satiated for now.

Understanding Aperture in Photography with Examples

I wrote this email to a friend earlier this year when he asked why, when two people stand together in a photo but one stands further back, is one in focus and one a bit blurry. It’s a classic struggle for photographers who are taking candid photos. I thought the explanation/tutorial was useful enough to share here. I’m only the 28,878th photographer to write a blog post about understanding aperture, but I may be the first to use Dairy Queen Blizzard cups.

Photographers smarter than me have better explanations for how this works, but if you look at all four of these images you’ll see how aperture and distance work. The cups were about four inches apart (different focal planes). Imagine they are people to make this more relevant. 😁 Manually trying to change the focus on any of these only changes the spot the camera is focusing on, it can’t bring both into focus (because physics).

f/1.8
f/1.8 up close: extreme bokeh on the back cup, but even on the back rim of the first cup it’s blurry (and the text at the bottom on the front). This is “wide open” aperture that brings in the most light. ISO only 640, so a nice clean image. Shutter speed 1/30th of a second.

f/16 up close: the front cup is perfectly in focus, the back cup is mostly in focus. But the ISO had to push to 12,800 (so the image is noisy) and the shutter speed dropped to 1/6th of a second (so any movement would make for a blurry photo).

f/1.8 far away: I moved back about five feet. Look at how the blur is much less extreme; the front cup is sharp. ISO is 560 (low noise), 1/30th of a second, so no blur. The red laptop is still blurry.

f/16 far away: both cups are in focus, the laptop is in focus. ISO pushes to 12,800, shutter speed to 1/8th (so blurry photos if there’s movement).

So, basically, when taking photos of groups of people that are not lined up next to each other, you should move back, switch to a higher aperture (f/8, f/12, etc.) and hope there’s enough light to make it all work.

Understanding COVID-19 Risks

I know there are a crushing amount of articles/videos/podcasts to absorb every day, but if you’re going to read ONE thing this week about COVID-19, please let it be this article. 🙏 It’s truly that useful.

This article is one of the most easily understood analysis of how the coronavirus spreads that I’ve read and it’s really shaped my understanding of how the virus is transmitted. I’m not a medical professional but I’ve been doing my best to understand how people are getting infected and what things constitute high-risk behaviour (it’s not always what people think it is). The above article was written by a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology specializing in Immunology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, so not some random person with an opinion and a blog (like me). 😜

Similarly, there’s an increasing number of scientists that are pushing the WHO to declare COVID-19 an airborne virus. The risks of surface contamination appears to be much lower than many first thought.

The most compelling things I’ve read point to airflow as being the single biggest preventative factor in keeping people safe, and anything that can be done to:

  1. Increase the amount of shared air among people (larger rooms, more air, fewer people)
  2. Decrease the viral load in the air (via masks)
  3. Increase the movement of the air (windows open, doors open, fans blowing to move the air out of the room, etc.)
  4. Be outdoors (where the virus disperses with any movement of air and can’t build up over time)

…points towards fewer infections. So I’m less worried about people congregating outside without masks (the protests don’t appear to have caused a spike in infections) than people being in a small room with no airflow and wearing masks.

Do what you can to spread the most factual, useful information you can about understanding the risks of COVID-19. Even if the fatality rate is actually 10x lower in the USA than we thought – as this CDC data seems to indicate – over 132,000 Americans have died from this and there’s every reason to make smart decisions and lower the risks of infection.