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John Blossom
United Methodist Church ministries, facilitating vision & execution, with deep experience in media and technology
United Methodist Church ministries, facilitating vision & execution, with deep experience in media and technology


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Apparently for NDGT, "spiritual connection" = being horny. Oh, well.

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+General Motors

Do We Have to Say Farewell to the Chevy Volt?

I am at a loss, GM, as to how to get your attention in a sea of media, so on the odd chance that you still monitor Google+, here's a plea: please don't give up on the Chevy Volt - or, at least, its Voltec power train.

Yes, I am a total Volt phanboi - my newly used 2016 Chevy Volt Premier is a work of art. For 90-plus percent of my driving, I don't have to think about using gasoline. And then, when I have to go to the hinterlands on short notice, I don't have to worry about charging stations.

That still has to fit the profile of a LOT of people. But I guess that marketing both/and cars in the U.S. isn't that easy for an auto company that the average sedan buyer has a hard time trusting.

I get it, at least I hope that I get it. GM has to sell big, honkin' pickups that the rural and wannabe rural set see as their status symbols. Good money in those gas hogs, and they help to fund Electric Vehicle development.

But as much as flashy promos for Tesla and Rivian pickups would have us believing that an all-EV future is going to be a rural reality any day, it ain't. The charging stations are going in first where the traffic is. So, the Voltec power train in the Volt is perfect for folks like me who have to head off to the hinterlands on short notice - or folks who are there to start with.

My guess, and hope, is that with the probable demise of the U.S. federal tax credit for Volts, due to GM reaching its quota of subsidized EV and PHEV cars, GM will allow the Voltec power train to surface in more rural-oriented vehicles. As a sedan kinda guy, that's a sad, but it would at least be a plus for some folks.

We're about five to ten years out from the combination of fast-charging, lighter, less expensive EV batteries and a reasonable presence of truly fast-charging stations in the U.S. (200 miles in 10 minutes or less) making EV travel really realistic for the average driver. Maybe the batteries will come first, and people will make do with home charging and wait for the stations.

In the meantime, GM seems to be hoping to leverage its good creds from the intro of the Chevy Bolt all-EV car to capture the imagination of a new generation of sedan, CRV, and light truck ownders wanting to strut their stuff in new wheels. That's a good goal. But looking at the Hyundai Kona EV's strong intro, they're going to have a lot of competition really soon.

GM, please wrestle some arms in Washington to keep Volt production going via the tax credit, GM, or at least to make the Voltec train available on other vehicles with a credit. Seems to be a strategy that's working for Japanese and Korean auto makers - takes off some of the "weird" that alienates some folks from EVs and PHEVs. If not, at least I can say that I still have a wonderful vehicle, that makes me smile with every mile that doesn't use gas.
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Thoughts on Google+'s Consumer Shutdown

Well, eventually the "ghost town" meme stuck, I guess...

We have to take +Morgan Knutson's Twitter thread on his Google+ experience with a big grain of salt - wasn't there that long, and was as ambitious as any other person on the team looking for the next new-hotness - but he does highlight that a ton of money and executive power was thrown at code to make a product called Google+ that was just a stab in the dark as to what social media could be on Google platforms.

It's not that no one knew what they were doing when they made Google+. Smart people, and mostly good people, were working on it, as Knutson acknowledges. And there are a ton of good features that eventually got refined into a platform good enough to work in enterprise environments - a Sharepoint for virtual intranets.

But the very fact that Google+ lives on in secure enterprise environments with some good degree of success highlights how Google never, ever "got" how Google+ could distinguish itself from other social media platforms through a key ingredient: verifiable identities. On an intranet, physical or virtual, everyone knows who's a dog, and who's a person. And, in general, no dogs are allowed on intranets (sorry, dogs).

Culture wars fueled by online personalities who valued anonymity cowed Google into compromising early on in how they managed identities on Google+. The platform never recovered from this key mistake. in search of rapid scalability - yes, there was that brief moment when maybe, just maybe, they could have made a run at Facebook for scale - Google missed the opportunity to more gently scale based on a combination of managing verified and non-verified identities in distinctly different ways.

Had they had the courage to think this through more carefully, social media would have been in a very, very different place today. Instead of global gang warfare at the hands of 'bots and government/corporate agents with fake credentials being treated the same as real people with skin in the game, we'd have a sane alternative platform, safe for both families and public discussions, where people with real careers and real companies could make a difference.

Never happened, alas. Someone will do it eventually at scale. Google is one of the few who could do it, given their superb security infrastructure. It will take a mindset shift for some, but, for many, the time for that mindset shift on public discussions online is something that they've been waiting for a long, long time.

In the meantime, there remains a huge, huge void in social media that no one is filling, one in which a new platform could take shape. Google+ is dead for consumers. But, perhaps, now that Google has matured a bit, and is more intent on being both user-friendly and less reactive for the sake of reactiveness, there is hope for another chapter in social media sometime again.

I am not holding my breath. I still grieve for Wave, for heaven's sake. But maybe, just maybe, Google will learn how to launch an approach to social media that honors real people, and real relationships, above the blind pursuit of meaningless "scale" based on non-person metrics. We'll see. Or not.
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EMotorWerks App for JuiceBox Pro 40 Lite: Not Quite Plugged In

Driving my new/used 2016 Chevy Volt is a joy in so many ways. My "game" in driving now is not eking out a few more MPG from delicate driving habits. Instead, I get to see how high I can drive my MPGe score. 155? 178? Doable in hilly Connecticut back-road driving.

With the JuiceBox Pro 40 Lite charging station now installed in my garage, I can go from zero all-electric range to full range in about 4-1/2 hours. The Juicebox haa wifi, and so your JuiceBox can "talk" to you as it charges your vehicle. Note that it's a one-way conversation for the most part: you can trigger immediate charging from the app if desired, but other than that the app tries to interpret the charging data to give you an idea of what's happening during the charge.Alerts for starting and stopping charging cycles seems to be random, often, perhaps triggered by current dips that reset the charging process.

For data collection the app is fine - lots of stuff about amper4age, voltage frequency, and so on. However, the rest is not always so useful. The displays are a mixture of real-time and static data, and that can make if confusing and awkward to use the app. For example, the graphing page will not refresh within the app as far as I've been able to figure ou - you have to exit the app and restart it to get a fresh graph.

The estimates of range added are fiction - they don't correlate to much of anything, especially since the 53 miles of range that the estimate for the Volt are completely different once the Volt begins to learn your driving havits. By contrast, the My.Chevrolet app has complete data on range that always corresponds to what the car is "thinking" that you'll be able to do (more on tht app later, perhaps).

The main problem, though, is that the Juicebox is not very accurate in estimating when its charging cycle will complete. Mind you, electrical and climate conditions that affect charging vary, but it seems that the JuiceBox will complete charging 3-4 minutes after the requested completion time.

Generally it appears that the battery "conditioning" time at the end of a charge is not taken into account when the unit is triggered by the Volt to start charging. Since the Volt triggers this event, you can lay it at the feet of Chevy a bit more, perhaps. Chevy doesn't know how close to 240 volts my electrical supply can push electrons, so it's a bit of a "no-man's land" for solving this problem. I've adjusted my departure times back fifteen minutes, so that I won't risk interrupting the conditioning cycle.

So this JuiceBox app isn't very useful, ultimately. It looks flashy, but with the limitations in today's auto industry for communications between charging stations and autos, there's probably just a bit of polishing that they can do to make it a bit better, for now. I had limited expectations for this app, and those expectations have been met, it seems.
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Voltin' - Joining the EV Team

My wife's parents both died earlier this year, which is been a sad thing, but one of the things that has come from it is the opportunity to trade a vehicle to make room for a Chevy Volt. Like my smartphones, I tend to run my technology into the ground, and then take a Great Leap Forward. So, all things being equal, I guess the Volt will be my home on wheels for a long time to come.

We thank Christina Minet at +Healey Chevrolet Buick in Poughkeepsie her being an awesome sales representative, and for taking care of our trade in in the vehicle prep while my wife and I waited over lunch. Awesome team!

I am up to my butt in user manuals, new apps, and training videos, but mostly the learning is behind the wheel. On the way back home from Poughkeepsie, we were blasting the air conditioner stuck in traffic, and having to poke our way through the hilly backroads of Connecticut to make it home in decent time.

Even with all of that, the Volt was an amazing performer. We only got 47 miles of pure electric driving up front, due to the airco and my noobish driving, but over the 109 mile trip, the battery kept on supporting our driving via regenerative braking, and we got a combined 82 miles per gallon for the whole trip. many more adventures to come, as I start to play with the connected technology.
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Facebook: Dead Platform Walking

Facebook: The Yahoo of 2018. It's been a dead platform walking for a long time, and now it's headed towards MySpace legacy status. Mind you, it soared far higher and will glide far longer, so it may yet turn around, but most of its promise has been fluffed up by pseudo-journalists looking for clicks. Design-wise, it has to be one of the most outdated and awkward platforms to use in all of social media. Business-wise, it may not have dropped "Do no evil" as a corporate principle, but, then, again, when it seems that one of your founding principles is, "What's evil, anyway?" then you're likely to foul up your brand eventually.

And that's the key thing. Like MySpace, the platform may be alive, but as a brand, Facebook is dead. Those who still use it do so because they have to, and increasingly, they don't want to.

That's hardly a ringing endorsement of Google+ as an alternative, but at least from an "evil" standpoint, G+ has worked hard to stay in the iight. Within its core, it has a very positive brand. It's just a matter of how Google can extend it. My guess is that they're plenty happy with waiting out this situation, and moving definitively when Facebook reaches a tipping point.
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I took a couple of hours off on an almost day off to catch a matinee of the Han Solo movie. I thought that it was pretty good actually, a lot better than all the negative talk online has been suggesting.

I thought the characters were great, I thought the plot was actually pretty engaging, with a lot of twists that were interesting, which, when you come to think of it, is pretty hard to do when you know that the Kessel Run has been around for 50 years as a piece of movie legend.

I think that a lot of the noise about the movie relates to the hits culture that dominates online culture, which is weird, because in theory online is supposed to be about the long tail, that is, the ability to create value out of any number of niches.

This is one of the reasons that I find the obsession about many Tech products to be kind of silly. Does it really matter if we have the one thing that is a hit, when there are so many good things out there that fill so many needs for so many different people?

I just received two shirts from a friend of mine in Africa, beautifully made, handcrafted all the way. Wouldn't it be nice if we just gave up a little bit of our Obsession about having the one thing it conquers all things, and be grateful for the good things that we have?

Just sayin'.
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Life With the Pixel XL 2: Mostly Good, Often Awesome

After a decade of making smartphones, I am sure that new refinements will be ahead - I am especially waiting for non-lithium batteries to come along - but, overall, it's hard to imagine a phone more refined than what the Pixel XL 2 offers. This is not to say that there aren't other great flagship phones, and yes, the OnePlus series of phones gives you great value. If you doubt this, then check out +Marques Brownlee's recent blind comparison test of leading smartphone cameras - basically a dead-heat finish for all of the leaders, including the Pixel XL 2.

Battery life? Not having "range anxiety" on a daily basis for my phone battery certainly frees up a lot of worry and attention that would otherwise be frittered away on dying battery charging strategies - often with less-than-ideal chargers. Even on a day when I am using media and navigation apps like crazy, I can go sunup to bedtime without a charge, with no problem. That's awesome.

The camera just snaps, instantly, again and again. Period. Quality is indeed excellent, and although I am just beginning to muss with Portrait Mode, it looks like a winning new feature.

The fingerprint sensor is very similar to the Nexus 5X, and it is completely problem free in use so far. Programming in multiple fingers makes an easy grab from pretty much any angle easy-peasy - including in the car.

Night Light is an awesome feature, I've had individal apps with this before, but doing the whole phone in this mode does seem to improve my sleep patterns. Easy on/off from the settings icons, or from Google Assistant.

Squeeze for Google Assistant is great, and saves me the dueling "OK, Google" syndrome when in the room with a Google Home appliance. It's also a bit more socially polite, it seems. With my clamping phone mount in the auto, no problem - squeezing still works once mounted.

The only thing that I am not super-happy with so far are folder icons. Whereas before I was seeing at least one icon in a folder large enough to see it clearly, now you see four tiny icons, so all of the folders at a glance look pretty much the same. Not a painful thing, but annoying.

And Chrome browser icons saved to desktop seem to be sketchy at best in translating to useful icons. Facebook managed this easily enough, but other sites that used to have usable icons have none, so far.

That's pretty much it. Long story short, I look forward to a few years of mostly not thinking about my phone, and just using it. Thanks, Dad - nice graduation gift.
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If true, based on a parts template, then it looks like the Pixel 3 might be going to a dual camera setup. Or something. I think that I will wait until we get a non-lithium ion battery for my next phone, which should be in a few years...
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Google Pixel 2 XL: Meeting Expectations

Nice graduation present, by any measure. With the recent Project Fi OTA update for Android 7.1.1 my Nexus 6 was actually pretty well behaved, but a look at the storage-o-meter told me that this would be short-lived, at best - and many of its downfalls remained unaddressed. So a FedEx box tucked at the end of my driveway with a new Pixel XL 2 was timely, to say the least.

Unboxing was fine, startup was...bumpy. The Project Fi network no longer requires a SIM card for its phones (uses the secure chip to store network ID data), and you'd think that would be easy-peasy, but the directions turned out to be vague just where you wouldn't want them to be. It went fine, soon enough, but it was not frictionless.

Data transfer was also kind of a quandary. The setup prompted me to install the cable with the USB-C adapter to my old phone, but the transfer never worked. Which makes sense, because my data is backed up in Google automatically. Why prompt me, then? The whole sequence was kind of higgledy-jiggledy,

But eventually, my apps downloaded, my data synced, and I was up and running on the 2 XL. First impression: nice. Not like, "Wow, the most amazing phone on the planet" nice, but, then again, that's not why I bought it. I want a phone that has a chance to last me four or five years without a lot of problems or storage issues. So far, I am using only 14 percent of the 128GB of storage available, so I am optimistic that this will work out well, especially with promises of three years of upgrades.

I slapped on a clear Casemate case even before booting up, and it seems to do the job. I think that smart phones in general are not very glamourous looking, but this case at least shows of the panda black-and-white back that has a nice look, FWIW. Access to buttons is unimpeded, and the squeeze functions of the Pixel are not affected by it.

The screen size is similar to the Nexus 6, but a tad taller and narrower - and, with the new Date/Time/Weather banner at the top of the home screen, this means that you lose one row of icons. So, be prepared to jiggle your home screen a bit, especially if you're using widgets. However, the tray now has room for an extra icon, so for my purposes it turned out to be a bit of a wash.

So, after lassoing icons into folders for the better part of an hour, my home screen is fairly comfortable, now. The fingerprint reader instruction were a bit vauge, but on the second try I realized that you just tap, wait, etc., and it is actually an easier and more reliable setup than, way, the Nexus 5x. Easy to set up a second finger, also. Still sorting out security, etc.

Now, for the "awright" things. First, the speakers. They pump much better volume than the Nexus 6 front-shouters,, and the stereo sound has more crispness and depth. Much more listenable, which will be nice for movies, podcasts, and ambient sound. Also on this list: fast up-from-nothing charging. It tops off slowly, to preserve battery life, but getting up to the first 75 percent of charge is quite quick. I am expecting this to be an effortlessly all-day phone.

Also on the "hey yeah" parade is the tap-to-zoom feature, which works on any screen. Love it, and I look forward to it making driving more safe. And the overall performance is fast, silky smooth, and everything that you would expect from a brand-spanking-new premium phone. Yeah, that'll change, but for now, it's nice to be in a mode where phone performance is not messing things up.

And the camera is very, very nice, as advertised, though the motion capture thing is a bit of a mystery to me so far. Some quick snaps of one of our cats was rendered in Google Photos as a mini-movie, but downloads as a still. Zoom quality is decent. Much more experimenting ahead...

Finally, thank goodness for USB-C charging. The connectors will not fall out as old style USB connectors do. As a plus, I noticed that whilst it was docked to try to transfer data from the Nexus 6, the N6 was getting a good charge to boot. Awesome. Knew that this was coming, but it can simplify life when you have an old-skool USB device that needs a quick boost.

So yes, that's it for new-shiny phones for a long time, but I am quite content, and very grateful.

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