Getting Older

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It’s funny how much we dream about growing up as kids, only to then wish we would stop aging as adults. Toys R Us used to tell us that we shouldn’t want to grow up, and the stuck for a little while, but not for long. There are just too many benefits to being an adult! I like to think of cars in the same way. They get older, and show their age, sometimes well and sometimes not. I still remember my ’81 Honda Civic. I’d probably still be driving it I could, probably would have turned it into an electric car!

There’s no need for any electric car conversions anymore, thankfully. I like to refer to them as EVs (electric vehicles). I’ve been driving them for several years now and I’m never going back to gas, at least for my personal car. As amazing as they are, EVs do have potential issues as with any car. The main and most important one is the battery pack, which operates like a gas tank.

Maintenance and refueling is much cheaper in EVs, but if you end up having to replace the battery it can cost several thousands of dollars. Thankfully there are warranties that cover the batteries in case they fail or have unintended problems. But after several years of use, eventually the batteries will need to be replaced and that is going to cost something.

The photo up above is taken from my used 2013 Nissan LEAF, showing my mileage and my battery range. In the photo, my car has 76% charge. This is also expressed on the bars on the right of the photo, the long rectangular bars that hug the range estimator at 52 miles. What’s important for this discussion are the bars on the right of those, what we LEAFers “capacity bars.”

These bars in the Nissan LEAF tell the owner how the battery is aging. The LEAF, as with most EVs, have two batteries. A traditional 12volt battery powers most of the electronics in the car while the traction battery handles the action motion. The traction battery is actually made up of many small batteries similar to AA batteries. As the packs are used and recharged, the life of the traction battery is affected. On my car, you can see from the picture that I have lost one bar. I should have 12 bars total, instead of the 11 I currently have.

This means that I have less range than when the car was brand new. I’d guess at a full charge I have somewhere around 70 miles, down from 84 when the car was new. That’s a significant drop in miles, though should I lose another capacity bar, the range will not drop as much. That’s because the first bar represents much more of the capacity then the other bars.

If you have a new EV or bought a used one recently, here’s a few things you should know:

  • Never leave the battery at 100% for more than 3 hours or so as the battery will degrade faster if it sits at a full charge. Instead, charge to 80% or leave the car at a low-ish charge if you aren’t going to use it for a while.
  • Heat is bad for the battery. Try not to charge the car in extreme temperatures. For the LEAF, don’t charge if the battery temperature indicator is 7 bars.
  • Try to charge before the car gets into a low power state. To be safe, try not to get an EV lower than 20% charge regularly.

Automakers have different ways to deal with heat. For example, Ford uses liquid cooling for their Ford Focus EV. Nissan decided to not use any kind of cooling technology in order to save money. Instead, the automaker has relied on developing heat-resistant batteries.

The current LEAF battery pack is supposed to be very good in hot climates thanks to the chemistry they use. That’s good news for people who live in those areas. However, heating up the battery isn’t great, which is more likely to happen with rapid charging or by leaving the car outside during a hot day for a long time.

The other day, I noticed something surprising, my mom’s LEAF lost a capacity bar! It was surprising to me since she only has about 15k miles on the car and it’s a 2016 model. I think the culprit is bullet point one, leaving the car topped up at 100% for too long.

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When the original 2011 Nissan LEAF became available, Nissan told customers how to charge the car. The basic advice was to only charge to 100% when needed and stick to charge to 80% most of the time. This was believed to help keep the battery healthy and make it last longer. In my car, I can set it to only charge to 80% or to 100% if I want to. However, this feature was eliminated in the 2014 model year in order to boost the EPA estimated range of the car. (A few other small features were removed in the 2013 model year, sadly).

Now most customers are told not to worry about charging to 100% regularly. While the newer batteries in the LEAF can probably be charged to 100% frequently, they shouldn’t stay at that percentage for many hours. It’s a good thing Mom’s LEAF is a leased car, so she probably wont be keeping it at the end of the lease.

Even if you have an EV that doesn’t have an easy option to stop charging, it’s obvious that you can still unplug the car before it reaches a full charge. That might be a pain in the but, but some automakers allow you to stop charging by the push of a button on a smart phone app. And most EVs that I know of have no easy way to tell you how healthy the traction battery is, unlike the LEAF.

Overall, I’m happy with the direction Nissan has gone with EVs. I think it would be great if the automaker put the 80% charge option back into the cars, but it won’t stop me from sticking with Nissan, at least until I can afford a Tesla (though I’ll probably end up with both).

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Hello Scott is Live!

Hello Scott

In case you are wondering, the picture above is showing what the “Hello Scott” app looks like in the Apple App Store. That means it’s now official, my app is now available on iOS! A big thanks to Apple for approving it! Also a big thanks to Todd Perkins for his useful and easy to follow instructional videos on lynda.com (link will take you to his videos).

Last year I began working on creating my own app. I even briefly considered in majoring in Computer Science in order to improve my app building skills, which turned out not to be my thing. However, before that, I was working on the “Hello Scott” app. For those of you who aren’t aware, the idea came from an April Fools joke about two years ago. The What’s Up Scott? App was one of my favorite joke posts, but it did get me thinking. What about an app for my blog?

Apps are a big deal these days and much like websites, everyone seems to have one. Well, at least most commercial institutions seem to have one. It wasn’t sure how hard it would be to create my own app, but why not give it a shot? Thus the idea of “Hello Scott” was born. At first, I thought the best thing to do was to create an app that gave people access to the main content on my blog. I started learning about the basics of Xcode from Todd Perkins’ videos. Some of the videos were slightly outdated, not a surprise since tech companies update their software constantly. Thankfully, I was still able to get through the videos without much trouble.

I learned how to make a calculator app, which was fun and easy. It’s not really something that people would want to download, but it was a good way to start coding. I was able to learn other aspects of Xcode and I even toyed with creating my own video game for iOS. Haha, that’s more complicated. I did start using Unity, which is software for game designers and I tried Game Maker Studio. Unity seems like a better platform.

Sadly, I haven’t stuck with app or software development as of late, but after working on “Hello Scott” for as long as I did, I realized recently that it was pretty much done. I still need to learn about debugging. Xcode kind of does some of that automatically; it tells you if the app can run or not. However, I think I could improve the code and make it faster and use less memory. Let me go over the features real quick:

First, the app begins with a nice loading screen. It’s a photo of me outside, squinting. In just a few seconds, the app loads the main screen.

Main Screen

 

Here we see the first tab. It shows the main page on my blog. From here, you can see all of my most recent posts and by scrolling down with your finger, you can see older ones. It’s essentially just like browsing my blog with an internet browser. In fact, that’s really what my app is, an internet browser, except that you only have access to certain sites.

There are four tabs in total. One for my website, and the others for Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. Each tab is related to me in some way. They are linked to my social media accounts, allowing users to see what I’ve said online. The Twitter and Linkedin pages are my real, personal accounts while the Facebook tab is linked to this website’s page, so not my personal Facebook page.

The app has some functionality. You can easily switch between tabs at the bottom and there’s a navigation bar. On the “Most Recent” tab there are navigation buttons for forward and back. I did have those buttons on the other tabs during the beta test, but I found them unreliable. For some reason, they work fine on the main tab, but when I had them on the other tabs they would not function properly, often times not moving forward or backward. So, for the release version, I removed them. Hopefully I will be able to figure out the issue and update the app in the future.

I think the best feature of “Hello Scott” is that it allows users to log in to their social media accounts right from the app. Tired of using separate apps for Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin? Now you can check your own feeds from one app! I really like being able to check Linkedin without using their app, since it often has pop-ups asking me to find new people, which gets really annoying.

For the Twitter tab, once you log in to your twitter account, you can easily tap the back arrow on the website and see what the latest tweets are from your own feed. And by hitting the home button on the tab, you can go right back to my Twitter feed. Heck, you can even login to your WordPress account and blog from my app!

What’s next? Well I have to update my website to add an Apple Store icon and link to the app. Then I’m going to start working on the Android version of the app. I’ll first start designing the UI and the different tabs. Once I do that, I’ll have to learn how to write the code so the different tabs can work as a “web view.” Hopefully it will be similar to how I did it in Xcode. Once I’ve created the app, I’ll be ready for the beta stage, where I’ll need to test out the app. I’m sure I can get my Android friends to help test it out! But for now, I’m celebrating. 🙂

 

Android and Apple Get Along

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Android phone or iPhone? Many ask themselves that very question. For a little backstory, I had two Android phones before I switched to the iPhone and that was because Sprint didn’t have the iPhone for a long while. I never thought I’d have an android device again, until I got my Kindle Fire HD for Christmas last year.

Recently I found a sweet deal on Amazon for a special edition of the Moto E4, a new version by Motorola (yes that company still exists!). It seemed like a great deal for just $99, as an Amazon Prime member. “But Scott,” you may ask, “don’t you have an iPhone? Why would you want an Android phone?”

It’s been suggested on Reddit that it’s a good idea to have a second phone just for driving with Lyft. And since I tend to get annoying telemarketer calls on my iPhone, which I block, getting a second phone made since. It’s also good for tax purposes. Plus, I wanted to use Android Auto since Lyft uses Google Maps and it would be nice using the Ford Escape’s in-dash screen. It’s possible somehow telemarketers will get my number. I’ve already had a few wrong numbers so far and I’ve only had the phone for a few days lol!

The first phone I was looking at was the LG Tribute from Sprint. At $120, it seemed like a good budge phone. Plus, it would be “free” after a Visa gift card. Then Amazon gave me that great deal, so I thought I’d go for the Moto e4 instead (plus the Moto is a newer phone with more features). So now I have both Android and iOS phones, which means I’m a double agent! But who am I working for? 😉

The main perk of having both an iPhone and Android phone means I can work on my Hello Scott app on both platforms! As I have announced recently on my social media accounts, “Hello Scott” is under review by Apple. It should take a couple of days or so. Hopefully it passes, but if not, they should give me the reasons why and then I can try to fix the app. Now with my new Moto E4, I can start learning how to make an Android version of “Hello Scott.” I’ve taken a tutorial and so far I don’t think its going to be a huge leap to learn how to do it even though I’m more familiar with Xcode.

So far, the Moto feels like a nice phone. It’s light, nice screen (a little larger than my iPhone 7), and the OS seems to be running well (We will see how that goes, cuz in the past Android OS hasn’t’ been the best experience for me). It’s not as fast or as nice as my iPhone, but I think it’s going to work well for what I’ll use it for.  My favorite feature so far is the home button, which works as both a fingerprint scanner and can be used as the three bottom buttons on Android. I can use one finger to go back, see all my open apps, and go home.

The camera’s aren’t bad, I believe its 8mp back and 5mp front camera. Again not as good as the iPhone 7 camera, but the Moto E4 is a budget phone. It can’t do the fun things the Moto Z can, like use the accessories that hook on the back, which I’m a bit disappointing with. But since this is a work phone that’s not much of an issue. I think the main advantage the Moto has over the iPhone is battery life. At a full charge, based on the battery app, the Moto claims to have about a day and twenty hours of battery life (but that’s probably just when it’s idle). I’d guess it will last longer than the iPhone, but I’m not sure by how much.

My version of the Moto requires an account with Amazon and I get little ads on the lock screen. Simluar to what Amazon does with some of their Kindles. Having the ads means paying less for the device. The ads aren’t annoying. Other than that, my google account is also built into the OS. So, most of the Google apps are native to the phone. Kind of like how my Apple ID is built into my iPhone. It’s seamless and works great.

Another neat thing about this version of the Moto E4 is that it comes unlocked. That means I could choose what service provider I wanted. I have Sprint, so I get a special deal for my phone. As in, I don’t have to pay anything for the service! No additional monthly fee on the Sprint bill, I guess because of the family plan I’m on. Getting the phone activated was kind of a pain though, since Sprint is kind of new to SIM cards. It took some time for the guy to find the right SIM card, but thankfully he found one.

So, when I got the phone, all I needed to do was take off the back of the phone and get the SIM card and install the battery. There is a slot near the SIM slot for a micro SD card up to 128gb. The phone comes with internal 16gb which get’s used up fast. In fact, when I set up the phone before getting the SIM card, the phone said I was using just shy of 8gbs. That’s with downloading a few apps. I could free up a lot of that space by deleting some of the apps that come with the phone. Most of the Amazon apps and some Google apps are pre-installed.

For me, 16gbs is plenty of storage, so I won’t be expanding it. However, if you are thinking about buying this phone, you probably want to buy at least a 32gb card or go crazy and get a 128gb card. The Moto E4 is pretty snappy, only laggy with Pokemon Go so far. Most of my favorite apps work on in it too, like the Lyft driver app, the app for my garage door, and my Shell Fuel Rewards app.

The fingerprint scanner seems to work as well as the iPhone 7 and I like having one button access to see my open apps or to “go back.” The volume and lock button is on the right side of the device, the mini-usb port on the bottom, and on the top is a 3.5 headphone jack. It’s also the thinnest phone I’ve ever owned too. So, if you want a cheap phone that doesn’t feel “cheap,” the Moto E4 might be the right phone for you. Uses the latest version of Android and a quad-core processor. Now please excuse me while I annoy my family by saying, “Hello Moto” all the time, lol! 3-22