My Kids’ Technology Adventures Began With An Alien Named Cosmic Osmo

When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.

One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.

HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!

Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.

Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:

Alex Begins His Technology Adventure

In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.

By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!

In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.

Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:

We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!

1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.

Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:

2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.

Make Technology Fun

Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!

Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us.  😉

Watch the Net Neutrality Senate Livestream on June 11th

Since I care (as we all should) about privacy, security, government surveillance, third-party trackers, and all the other downsides that have already happened to this thing we love called the internet, WE ALL need to stand up and make our voices heard about the recent bill passage to gut net neutrality. That's why I just donated (and have continued to donate) to the Fight for the Future cause and will be watching the livestream next Tuesday, June 11th, to see what is happening and to leverage social media to bring attention to it.

What’s happening?

One year ago, Big Cable’s dream came true: they killed net neutrality, giving ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we see and do online. Millions of people demanded that Congress restore net neutrality. In response, the House of Representatives passed the landmark Save the Internet Act. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has taken over $1 million in campaign donations from Big Cable — is refusing to allow his branch of Congress to vote on this popular bill. So on June 11th, net neutrality supporters in the Senate will try to force a vote using a procedure called “Unanimous Consent.”

How can you help?

We’re organizing an epic livestream so that millions of everyday people just like you can watch their lawmakers, and hold their lawmakers accountable for their actions … or inaction. Fill out the form above and tell Congress why you support net neutrality. We'll make sure your comment gets hand-delivered to Congress, and we'll be reading our favorite comments during the livestream on June 11th. You can also spread the word on social media to make sure everyone knows what's happening.

Watch the livestream on June 11th

There is a Dangerous Problem with the Honda Clarity

My wife and I had a terrifying loss of power in our new 2019 Honda Clarity yesterday AND we were in rush hour traffic on CA-73 (a toll-road that runs from Newport Beach to I-5 in Laguna Niguel, California) driving along at 70MPH.

Here is what happened and how we discovered afterwards that this is an isolated, but seemingly common, quite dangerous issue with the Honda Clarity PHEV.

LOSS OF POWER IN RUSH-HOUR TRAFFIC

It’s late afternoon yesterday (May 31, 2019) and we are headed home from an appointment up in Huntington Beach, CA. We are driving on CA-73 in the Clarity’s HV Mode. When the battery drops to two bars — the baseline where the car’s computer stops the drainage from the battery to power the car — the engine is supposed to kick-in but it began REVVING and then lost ALL POWER.

Since we were going up a hill, the Clarity immediately dropped from 70mph to 40mph in seconds and kept dropping. Pushing the accelerator to the floor did nothing except redline the engine and it gave NO POWER TO THE WHEELS TO MAKE THE CAR GO.

Due to the rush-hour traffic on all sides (and cars coming up behind us at 70mph or greater), we *barely* are able to make it to the shoulder with cars honking and speeding around us! It was a truly terrifying experience. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the car to power itself. I had to turn the car off, then back on, put it in “Sport” mode, and then we were able to drive it like it should work when the battery is depleted.

Just so you know, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid has 3 modes: ECON, Sport and HV. ECON is battery-only. Sport is what you’d expect: it uses the battery and ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) to power the car simultaneously. HV mode uses the engine and the electric motor to power the Clarity as efficiently as possible in order to achieve the highest possible MPG.

In seconds I was switching between these modes in an attempt to get SOME power to safely get the car to the shoulder. My wife suggested turning on the hazard flashers which I did, and fortunately several cars slowed down so we could coast over to the side of the road and turn the car off.

After the adrenaline rush subsided, I was stumped that the car wasn’t smart enough to either warn me or, more importantly, to simply self-correct and not put us in to such a dangerous situation.

FOUND OUT I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE

Returning home, I find DOZENS of postings showing this is an issue many people have experienced. I concur with most that this is a DANGEROUS situation and HONDA HAS BEEN SILENT on this major issue.

CAR COMPLAINTS
I’ve found about 15 places where people have described the exact issue we experienced, but some also discuss other situations where the car had this revving-no-power problem (revving is also euphemistically called “angry bees”) even without a depleted battery. At CarComplaints.com there are several, including many like these:

January 15, 2019: “3 days after purchase I was driving on an interstate when the car suddenly lost all power. I managed to pull to a slow lane but the lack of power continued for another 5 minutes. It had been running on battery just prior and I had 2 bars of power left. The outside temperature was about 15 degrees. The internal combustion engine began to race but only began to give adequate power to the wheels after 5 minutes. A terrifying experience. Honda checked out the car and said nothing was wrong. I am hearing of other cases being reported like mine.”

Steve Borsch note: This is what happened to us, but the outside temperature was approximately 67 degrees. In the next two CarComplaint’s posts I’ve bolded specific items of note:

January 09, 2019: “Car revs up when driving down the highway but drops speed to 10mph. It has done this 2 times once in town and once on US-23 while driving 70mph. There are several complaints about the car doing the same thing to other Clarity owners and this is a highly dangerous situation that Honda should take care of! Reineke Honda in Findlay Ohio had my car for about 3 weeks and while test driving it the car did the same thing for the service manager Mike Stevens. They took a control box off a brand new Clarity per Honda’s suggestion and I am driving the car and had no new problems so far. They were not sure this would fix the issue but so far it hasn’t happened again. This is a dangerous failure in the car and I am lucky I wasn’t driving in Columbus, Ohio the 2nd time the car did it or I would have been rear ended! Honda needs to make sure this problem is fixed!!!”

February 09, 2019: “On approx 6 occasions, when EV power is used up, the car switches to ICE mode with issues. When traveling up hill, it feels like the transmission is not engaging. The vehicle losses power, and does not accelerate. The ICE revs extremely high without speed gain. Have also experienced a downhill situation with nearly full EV in EV mode. Vehicle feels like it disengages drivetrain. When pressing the accelerator, there was no response. One feels helpless when this occurs. Most of the time, the car had switches from EV to HV automatically, without issue. But, the above phenomena has happened 6 times in the last year this is unsafe. The vehicle was sold as an EV, with a gas engine to take over when EV runs out. At no time was there any explanation regarding potential situations that would cause the vehicle to become unsafe and lose power. One should not have to ensure reserve EV power for potential power loss situations. When these situations have occurred, upon shutting off the car and exiting, there is a strong smell of burning rubber and other material similar to transmission and brakes, or hot metal. Clearly something is overheating, and if the vehicle was not shutdown and allowed to cool, a reasonable person might conclude that significant damage to the engine, electric motors, EV battery, or transmission would take place. I am no longer driving the vehicle as a pure EV for city driving. The fear of power loss without control is extremely upsetting, and consequently, not getting the value of vehicle. My spouse will not drive the vehicle as driver or passenger if the trip is to exceed 20 miles in one direction. My gas savings has dropped considerably as I am unable to risk running out of EV before my trip ends. This vehicle has been taken to the dealer 3 times, and inspected by Honda of America. They deny there is anything wrong with the vehicle.

WHAT’S NEXT, HONDA?

What do I do next? More importantly, what do YOU do next, Honda? Almost all postings I’ve read say that dealer investigations turn up nothing and are a waste of time. I suspect it’s because the fundamental software code is at fault, something a dealer cannot fix.

HONDA: This is clearly a software issue since the switchover from HV Mode’s battery/engine, to only the engine, does not happen correctly. You must fix this before someone (or multiple people) die in a horrific crash and you are found to be at fault for not addressing this issue.

WHERE IT HAPPENED: Here is where it happened to us yesterday — we were headed southbound on CA-73 up a hill and the ‘shoulder’ we had to pull over on was on a bridge over El Toro Road, with cars racing by at top speed:

WHY A TWEET AND THIS POST: The primary reason I tweeted Honda today and am writing this post (and will tweet it too), is to document what happened, where it happened, and to have an audit trail in case something happens to me or my family while driving this car … or Honda does nothing to fix this issue and puts an unknown number of Clarity PHEV owners in continued jeopardy.

ProtonMail Continues To Be The Safest, Most Secure, and Private Email Provider

Last evening I saw this article link from Steiger Legal, on a blog run by Swiss lawyer Martin Steiger, in which he published a damning allegation that my beloved ProtonMail, the end-to-end encrypted email provider, was:

Email service provider ProtonMail, based in Switzerland, offers assistance for real-time surveillance: Voluntarily!

Steiger goes on with writing a factually incorrect article about ProtonMail on his blog, alleging, among other things, that “ProtonMail voluntarily offers assistance for real-time surveillance.

Fortunately ProtonMail responded with, in part, this clear statement:

So that there can be no ambiguity: ProtonMail does not voluntarily offer assistance as alleged. We only do so when ordered by a Swiss court or prosecutor, as we are obligated to follow the law in all criminal cases. Furthermore, ProtonMail’s end-to-end encryption means we cannot be forced by a court to provide unencrypted message contents.

That’s crystal clear in my view. Just to restate that last sentence, even if a prosecutor was able to scrape metadata about which user emailed to another person(s), the contents of the email could not be decrypted by ProtonMail and provided (and a government or intelligence service could not as well without massive computing power and a lot of time!

Unfortunately I had seen this article but not ProtonMail’s rebuttal before emailing their support and tweeting it to @ProtonMail, they responded to my tweet:

Hi Steve, these allegations are false, and have also been refuted by the Swiss public prosecutor earlier this week. We have responded on our blog here with more details: https://t.co/xdz2xfF4pu

— ProtonMail (@ProtonMail) May 31, 2019

I then responded and apologized for being rash and not investigating fully before tweeting:

Thank you for the clarification! Had not yet read the HN thread nor your post. Should have gone there first … apologies for that.

Note: With all the recent breaches and revelations that mobile apps are “phoning home” with metadata, my paranoia is accelerating. https://t.co/7XAkEEKD8B

— Steve Borsch (@sborsch) May 31, 2019

The “recent breaches” and “phoning home” items I referred to in my reply to ProtonMail were:

  • Washington Post article about how their privacy experiment showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled our data — in a single week on the reporter’s iPhone.

Is it no wonder I rushed-to-judgement for a secure email service I rely upon to keep my emails to family and friends — and the PDFs, Word docs, and Excel spreadsheets with vital data in them — secure from prying eyes?

Thank you, ProtonMail team, for helping to keep us safe and secure!

Picked Up My New 2019 Honda Clarity Yesterday. Could This Car Be My Best Purchase Ever?

After coming back from our Memorial Day weekend adventure in Palm Springs yesterday morning, I headed over to Rancho Santa Margarita Honda to check out the colors that the Honda Clarity comes in. Though I’d pretty much decided on the Modern Steel Metallic (a dark gray) they had a silver with black interior and a green with tan interior on the lot.

I bought the green with tan interior, a green they call Moonlit Forest Pearl. “Oh, how romantic,” I thought sarcastically. But it was the color my wife, Michelle Lamb, said she loved weeks ago when we first test-drove a Clarity, but which I rejected because of the tan interior and its tendency to get filthy quickly. Since Michelle does color specification for major companies (including automotive) I trust her judgement. Plus I did love the color too!’

I’ll reiterate what I said in this post 10 days ago about why I made the decision to buy this car and what a great deal I got on it:

  • Honda Clarity EV: This is the car. It is SO much more comfortable than either the Hyundai Kona or Tesla Model 3. We opted for the Touring trim (better sound system; leather seats; etc.). Though the EV range is only 47 miles, that will cover our day-to-day driving. For longer trips the Clarity’s Hybrid Mode — where the battery augments the gas use for longer trips with EPA rating of 110MPGe — means we’ll have 90% of our use on electric, and the rest with excellent gas mileage (when the battery is depleted, the combined city/highway MPG = 42).
    • Sticker price for the Touring trim = $37,520
    • My price after $6,000 Honda discount = $30,861 (offer details)
    • Federal tax rebate = $7,500
    • Effective car cost = $23,361 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)

Of course I drove it around a bunch last evening, came home and sat in the car reading the manual, setting up the Homelink garage door opener, and downloading the HondaLink app and configuring it. Yes, I think this will shape up to be my best purchase ever (well … at least my best car purchase yet!). I’ll post something in a few months after I have more time with the car.

NSA Loses Control of THEIR Hacking Software and Apple’s Tim Cook Was 100% Right

Remember when Apple’s Tim Cook wouldn’t put in a backdoor to iOS so the FBI could gain access to the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone? THIS IS WHY!

If the NSA can’t control software as destructive as this, how can any government guarantee a compromised operating system won’t get in to the wild? (One guess: they cannot and Tim Cook was 100% right).

Read this article in The New York Times as it tells the story of the NSA’s software loss well.

We must have end-to-end encryption on our devices. Period.

Why I Am Buying the Honda Clarity PHEV Instead of a Full Electric Vehicle

After moving to southern California in June of 2018, it became clear that the miles I was driving meant that it was increasingly uncomfortable to spend a lot of time in the white, 2013 Toyota Prius Persona I was driving. This car was one my 100,000+ air miles per year wife was driving up until a couple of years ago, so even after driving out here from Minnesota, the car has just over 32,000 miles on it!

As a not-so-small guy, the Prius was “just OK” as far as comfort was concerned, but not for long distances. Since we’re installing solar — and I did really want to go fully electric with a car — a plugin hybrid vehicle (PHEV) could be an option.

At least a PHEV would work where I live since the distances in California are so vast (just driving up to see our kids in Los Angeles is 59 miles in one direction) that I knew I would need and want range. Especially since electric vehicle (EV) chargers here are almost always full with a waiting line as well so charging for an hour or two is a challenge.

Add to that the “local” trips we have planned:

  • Palm Springs: We have a friend there and at least six or more times per year we’ll be driving out there and it’s 105 miles each way plus driving locally. That means a full charge is needed before driving home.
  • Steve’s Road Trips: I have over 30 spots picked out for my photography hobby, and at least half of them would be in areas without EV chargers close by. Not impossible, just terribly inconvenient and time consuming to charge-up.
  • L.A. Trips: Seeing our son in Santa Monica and daughter in L.A. means driving that 59 miles in one direction. In summer with the heat and air conditioning on in an EV vehicle — and driving around L.A. for a day or two — a 258 mile (or lower) EV range means again, charging is a necessity and L.A. area EV chargers are tough to get and the queues are long.

But to make certain I explored the three vehicles I was interested in buying next, my wife and I drove these three:

  1. Hyundai Kona EV: I loved this small SUV and had a grin on my face the entire time we were driving it. Still, the 258 mile range was limiting.
    • Sticker price for the Ultimate (leather seats; etc.) = $45,500 with no negotiating due to demand.
    • Federal tax rebate = $7,500
    • Effective car cost = $38,000 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
  2. Tesla Model 3: To keep the cost of a Model 3 EV down and in the same ballpark with the Hyundai Kona EV, I was looking at the Standard Range Plus with 240 miles of EV range. Again, having this car would not meet our needs due to limited range, need to charge, and so on.
    • Sticker price for the Standard Range Plus, in white, 19″ wheels, with RWD = $43,000
    • Federal tax rebate = $3,750 (lower since Tesla has used-up their full $7,500 rebate quota)
    • Effective car cost = $39,250 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)
  3. Honda Clarity EV: This is the car. It is SO much more comfortable than either the Kona or Tesla. We opted for the Touring trim (better sound system; leather seats; etc.). Though the EV range is only 47 miles, that will cover our day-to-day driving. For longer trips the Clarity’s Hybrid Mode — where the battery augments the gas use for longer trips with EPA rating of 110MPGe — means we’ll have 90% of our use on electric, and the rest with excellent gas mileage (when the battery is depleted, the combined city/highway MPG = 42).
    • Sticker price for the Touring trim = $37,520
    • My price after Honda discount = $30,861
    • Federal tax rebate = $7,500
    • Effective car cost = $23,361 (plus tax, license, registration, etc.)

Though I’d rather have a full EV (especially since we can charge up using solar when it’s installed next month) the limited range doesn’t make sense for my use, especially here in southern California. Plus the car just feels and looks great. It’s comfortable and the ride is fabulous. Oh … and it has Apple CarPlay which I have wanted in a car for some time.

There are compromises I’ll make with this car (it’s not an SUV or even a hatchback; wood look and faux suede on the dash is offputting; I’d rather not have the fender ‘skirt’) but those are small quibbles. The overall size, ride, comfort (for both front seat and rear seat passengers) make this the perfect next car for us.

Interested in learning more about the Honda Clarity? Check out this short video from Kelley Blue Book’s review:

Kelley Blue Book also gave the car it’s 2019 Best Buy award:

Why We Should Accelerate the Use of Nuclear Power

Yesterday’s post about our solar installation got me to thinking more deeply about the overall problem of renewables and that they are unlikely to be able to keep pace with the accelerating demand for energy.

The only place I differ with many environmentalists is that, while renewables make so much sense and we need to embrace them, I believe we also need to fully utilize nuclear energy. It turns out that there are ‘safe’ alternatives — and emerging innovations — to huge nuclear power plants and the threat of nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Doing so can ensure we have a steady, reliable, demand-meeting, nighttime using, energy grid that doesn’t spew carbon in to the atmosphere.

Heck, even Stewart Brand, a guy who helped shape environmental consciousness back in the 1960s and 1970s, began calling for nuclear energy back in the early 2000s to be rekindled and used once again:

Brand calls for the rapid deployment of a new generation of nuclear power plants to combat global warming, arguing that technological advances have made nuclear energy safer and any potential danger from nuclear waste pales compared to the damage inflicted by burning coal.

“The air pollution from coal burning is estimated to cause 30,000 deaths a year from lung disease in the United States, and 350,000 a year in China,” writes Brand. “A 1-gigawatt coal plant burns three million tons of fuel a year and produces seven million tons of CO2, all of which immediately goes into everyone’s atmosphere, where no one can control it, and no one knows what it’s really up to.”

Co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, has also called for nuclear energy and has helped drive forward the current bipartisan legislation surrounding energy research:

If dollars were votes, newly reintroduced legislation aimed at boosting nuclear energy innovation and advanced reactors would be a winner, thanks to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ strong endorsement today.

The world’s second-richest person is the founder and chairman of Bellevue, Wash.-based TerraPower, a startup that’s working on next-generation nuclear fission reactors. Back in December, Gates listed nuclear energy research as one of his top policy priorities, and he reportedly followed up by promising lawmakers he’d invest $1 billion of his own money and line up another $1 billion in private capital if federal funds were approved for a TerraPower pilot project in the United States.

In the past, Gates has also tweeted this and others that are similar:

“Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.” – Bill Gates on why he believes in the potential of nuclear. https://bit.ly/2DSSXUS

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHY NUCLEAR ENERGY NOW?
Here is a very good overview from Vox media that is worth a few minutes of your time to watch:

We are having solar installed on our new home. In less than five years our cost for electricity will be nearly zero

Solar power generation is awesome … especially when it enables a person’s electricity consumption to become nearly free within a handful of years. Solar is a smart investment for us personally in our new home and could be for you, too.

BUYING A SOLAR INSTALLATION WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR US
When we moved from Minnesota to California in June of 2018, we knew costs for everything would be higher. We expected that any new home we would buy would cost a lot more (our new home cost nearly double the value of the home we sold back in MN), but what we did not  expect was the high cost of electricity!

In Minnesota we had Xcel Energy whose cost for electricity around-the-clock was 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour. Our new home here in southern California happens to be located in San Diego Gas & Electric‘s (SDGE) region, and it turns out that their electricity cost is the highest in the nation!

SDGE’s pricing plans are numerous, but the year-long average per-kilowatt hour cost — which prospective solar install companies used to calculate our solar system size — was going to be roughly 32 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly 3X what energy cost us when we were living in Minnesota.

On almost all of those SDGE plans there are off-peak, super off-peak and on-peak rates (and one plan even has a cheap car-charging rate from midnight to 6am of only $.09 per kilowatt hour). The on-peak rates are in effect during the summer months — which run from June 1 – October 31 during the 4-9pm time-frame — and what stunned us was the rate during those five hours each day can cost up to $.53 cents per kilowatt hour!

Because of that unexpectedly expensive energy, a few weeks after we closed on our new home we immediately set about learning everything we could about solar, what we needed and what it would cost. We then set about finding the four “best” solar install companies and have them propose a solar panel solution. We selected the best installer for our requirements, signed-up, and everything is in motion.

Within the next several weeks our new solar panel installation will be complete on top of our new home and, based on our projected energy use for the year, our break-even on our solar investment is expected to be 4.8 years. After that our only cost for electricity will be approximately $12 per month for the SDGE “interconnect fee,” which covers the electric meter on our house and account management by them.

Energy rates continue to accelerate and I’ve read numerous articles on the projected 20 year rates that SDGE has received agreement on with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). However, this article from less than a month ago said this:

If approved by CPUC commissioners, average electricity rates in SDG&E’s service territory would increase from 26.25 cents a kilowatt-hour this year to 27.4 cents next year, a rise of 4.54 percent. For a typical residential customer living in the company’s inland climate zone and using 500 kilowatt-hours a month, a bill during a summer month would increase $5.59, according to SDG&E estimates.

I’ve seen SDGE’s own projections and 4.5% per year price accelerator is expected. So as each year passes, our investment in solar energy will pay off even faster and continue to look like a very smart move on our part. But solar (or wind) alone will help combat climate change, but even if every one of the 2,500 homes in our development went solar, it wouldn’t make a serious dent in the emission of  greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere.

For our system being installed, our estimated net electricity cost savings over 25 years will be over $82,000 (assuming a 4% per year utility price escalator). That’s why it was a no-brainer for us to get solar!

Obviously our solar generation will go back in to the grid and offset all of our energy use, including at night. In fact, we’ll be adding about 30% more energy back in to the grid than we consume, just in case we end up with two electric cars at some point and need that extra amount to offset an increase in our consumption.

WHAT ABOUT ENERGY STORAGE?
We drive hybrid cars (and I’m getting a plug-in hybrid in two weeks that will cover 90% of our driving needs on electric) since both my wife and I believe in climate change and that the United States must move forward toward a clean energy future and away from carbon emitting fossil fuels. Charging my PHEV from solar will be easy and free in the near-term, but with energy demand increasing monthly in the United States and around the world, we at least considered buying battery storage to run essential systems (e.g., the refrigerator and some lights).

As such, we also looked at the addition of solar energy battery storage in our garage. Unfortunately batteries are far too expensive and not worth the investment currently (e.g., one Tesla PowerWall is $12,000 and we’d need four of them to be completely energy self-contained) so we’re holding off on storage, perhaps permanently.

As part of our analysis and reading, my wife and I also talked about large-scale battery storage, just in case renewable energy creation does reach critical mass here in California and more energy from solar goes back in to the grid. What might happen if SDGE begins to embrace battery storage for solar-produced energy?

The green energy storage problem is too expensive right now, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

TRUMP & THE GOP DENIGRATING RENEWABLES
It pisses me off that the Trump administration continues to try to gut clean energy spending with his proposed budget that does exactly that. It is clear that this current administration, and Republicans who support Trump’s position on clean energy, continue to position climate change as a “hoax” and the oil & gas industry as “the future” of energy.

Remember when one of the key talking points for the GOP (for decades) was toward less dependence on foreign oil? That wasn’t positioning for renewables, that was positioning for more drilling (and now for fracking shale to squeeze out oil and get natural gas).

Do either Trump or the GOP think that all of their own base of supporters and constituents are too stupid to think for themselves? Such idiots that they don’t believe in science? Though I don’t think President Trump is even capable of thinking deeply about any issue, Republicans should at least realize that even corporations are calling for action on climate change and they’d better stop being dumbf*cks, sucking-up to the oil & gas industry.

Also, I’m glad I’m not alone in my outrage and found this hilarious:

Here is what I believe is the *best* backup solution money can buy

It happened again this morning: A friend reached out to tell me their PC’s 1TB hard drive had crashed and could I help? Of course you guessed it, they did not have it backed up, the drive was toast, and they have either lost everything or could pay close to $2,000 to have the drive recovered!

I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for them, especially since he and I have discussed backup numerous times. I’ve always encouraged him to buy one of inexpensive backup drives that exist, which makes backing up so simple that anyone can do it, even him. So I’ll implore you to backup just like I did him but he is serious about it now after it is too late: PLEASE back up all of your systems and, especially, your main PC or Mac. It’s not IF your hard drive will fail, but rather WHEN it will fail.

WHY I DON’T BACKUP TO CHEAP DRIVES
For me, however, a cheap backup drive won’t do it which is why I use the ioSafe G3 drives:

The ioSafe Solo G3 is fireproof and waterproof external hard drive engineered to keep data safe during fires and floods and to protect to from theft. Designed for optimal reliability, the G3 hard drive is the easiest way to protect your photos, videos, documents and other irreplaceable data.

I’ve written about these drives before here and here and I own two of them. My iMac has a 1TB solid state drive in it and I have one external 3TB ioSafe G3 drive which is nearly full of music, photos, and files. Both my iMac’s drive and my external 3TB drive are encrypted with FileVault, so I needed a 4TB external drive to use for a Time Machine backup drive. So I purchased that second ioSafe drive — this time in a 4TB size — to back them both up (and yes, everything is encrypted there too).

In fact, today I ordered another ioSafe G3 drive but this time in a 6TB configuration. Why? Because my Time Machine backups only go back 30 days and I want them to go at least 30 days further back and maybe longer, so an extra 2TBs of storage will enable me to do that (and I’ll wipe my 4TB drive and connect it to my wife’s iMac).

WHY I DON’T BACKUP TO THE CLOUD
Consider me paranoid, but unless I control the private encryption key I don’t feel my data is safe. Anyone with that key can unlock my data and view it (e.g., Dropbox can, in theory, read all of your files).

The only one I would consider is SpiderOak’s personal One backup plan, a solution that encrypts your data before it is backed up and sent to their servers. As good as SpiderOak is, there are a few “fatal flaws” I see with using it (or any cloud service) as my primary backup solution:

  • My data is in the cloud on someone else’s servers.
  • It takes forever to transfer large data files so backing up is time consuming. Moving huge files can also hammer on your internet service provider’s data caps (which are becoming more common now that TV streaming is ubiquitous and used by more people than ever before) so you’ll have to pay more for data.
  • The 5TB service I’d need is $29 per month ($348 per year) which would buy an ioSafe G3 drive itself!

WHY I USE IOSAFE DRIVES & BELIEVE THEY’RE THE BEST

Look … you can go ahead and backup to cheap drives. But lets say your house catches on fire and the fire department arrives to put it out. If the area near your computer burns your PC is melted and so are your backup drives and everything will be lost. Even if it doesn’t burn and melt, the water used to put out the fire will most likely compromise the backup drives and make them unrecoverable.

The features that make it “the best” backup solution money can buy include:

  • The ioSafe drives can withstand temperatures up to 1550°F for 30 minutes per ASTM E119 (PDF).
  • They can be completely submerged in fresh or salt water up to a 10′ depth for 72 hours (which is so much more than a firehose would douse them with in a house fire).
  • The drives can be secured to either the floor or a hard-to-move object to prevent the drive, and the data it holds, from being stolen (I bolted my drives to my desk when our house was up for sale so no one could grab one and run off with it!).
  • These drives are very, very quiet and, with USB 3, they are fast.
  • They are a “set it and forget it” backup solution. If you have a Mac, use Time Machine to back up your computer. If you have a Windows PC, buying an ioSafe drive includes a license to Genie Timeline Professional: easy to use backup software for Windows that can protect your data with military-grade 256-AES encryption.

Living here in southern California makes drives like these even MORE important for my wife and for me. With earthquakes, wildfires, and more humans than most places on earth (so more likelihood of theft), having these drives as my backup solution give me peace of mind.

HOW AND WHERE TO BUY
Though you can buy these drives directly from ioSafe, here are a few places to pick up a 2TB, 3TB or 4TB drive less expensively:

WHATEVER YOU DO … BACK UP!!
Borsch, you’ve told me I need to back up … I get it!” OK, OK … but I thought my buddy didn’t want to hear me pontificate about backing up either and he didn’t … and now he’s lost all his photos, videos, emails and other data.

Don’t be like my buddy … back up now.


Disclaimer: I receive absolutely nothing from ioSafe or anyone else for my enthusiasm for their incredible hard drives. Yes, I do think they’re the best and just want everyone to back up!