Saturday, May 29, 2010

Th!nk Test Drive

From Th!nk Test Drive

I'm in Oslo, Norway at present and got an opportunity to test drive the wonderful Th!nk city car. This car is all electric - not a hybrid, using no fuel of any kind - and produces zero emissions.

Down at the Aker Brygge area - a redeveloped wharf district teaming with locals and tourists, numbers swelled by the Eurovision Song Contest being held here - a number of car vendors had their wares on display.

I spoke to Amelie of Rohneselmer who was standing next to a pair of Th!nk City cars - one red and one black, and was offered the chance for a test drive! Of course I said yes! A work colleague, who luckily knew the streets better than I came along for the ride.

Amelie took me to the nearby park and handed me the keys. Like any modern car, it had a remote for the rear hatch and for the doors. Also on there was a mysterious silver key that I was later to discover to be very useful.

The start sequence got me first time - unlike the Prius where you simply turn it on, the Th!nk has a traditional key-lock, and you turn it like a petrol car to a spring-loaded ignition position, until the car has powered up, then leave the key to return to the drive position.

After that bit of difficulty mastering the powerup sequence, I was off. The wharf area was chock full of twisty streets, cobbles and hazards, crossings and gotchas - the light, nimble Th!nk went exactly where I pointed it, and with no gear shift to worry about I was able to quickly negotiate my way onto some broader streets.

Here the cars pep really showed up the gas guzzlers, leaping away from the lights before the neighbouring BMW's and Vovlo's. Its smaller size meant that gaps were easy to take, plus a great turning circle, and very good visibility out the copious glass made me feel confident around the city streets.

Soon we found our way into a lot of small cobbled streets with sidewalk cafes, and families out enjoying the city. It felt great to roll down the window, and quietly and cleanly roll along with them, while smelly noisy gasoline cars really didn't seem to belong here.

Then out onto the civic streets again - where I wanted to try out charging. The test car only came with one charger - I suspect that any Th!nk owner would have a number. The stock one looks suitable for a garage and has a control unit that allows for stowing the cords around it, plus some controls and indicator lights. It looks as tho' it could either mount on a wall or lay on the floor.

After some early showers the weather had fined up, and the charging set up was quick and painless to set up. If you were going to be parked for some time, then an all weather charger would probably be needed. Other cars seemed to just have a plain cord that ran straight from the charging bollard to the cars socket.

The highway speed was something I did not get to try out, but Amelie tells me its good for highway speeds without any trouble.

The range question was asked. The current model had a sodium based battery, but newer cars are coming out with a Lithium-Ion battery chemistry and a claimed 160km range. These cars are just becoming available and are priced at 244,000KR, around $48,000 Australian dollars. This is the extra cost of the longer range batteries which come fully paid up - not a subscription or lease model of purchase.

However in Norway you have set against that purchase cost, a huge range of incentives thrown in by the local authorities - who despite being an oil producing nation are keen to see their cities clear of pollution.

As the driver of a Th!nk City EV in Oslo you get:
  • free parking in city and other parks
  • free charging at public charge points
  • reduced and free taxes, registration and charges
  • free travel on the ferries
  • toll roads, bridges and so on are free
  • use of bus, taxi and transit lanes
And of course you never have to pay for petrol ever again! Plus you're saving the planet and making the air easier to breathe.

As their logo has it "Green means go!".

I want one - maybe two!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Giant iPhone

The iPad - Apples new giant iPhone - doesn't display Spammy flash websites, and that is a problem, how?

The sheer unadulterated drivel being spruiked about the iPad is unbelievable.

Can I just say - you idiots out there ranting and raving that the iPhone doesn't have flash - here's a word for you guys - STFU.

You other guys calling it a computer - get off my lawn, leave this to the adults.

And others saying Jobs/Apple is saying its a netbook killer - where exactly? Who is saying that because its not in your article anywhere!

The iPad is a mobile device. Its a giant iPhone. It is all about what it does not have.

You hold it in one hand, and read e-books, the web, and your email. Its not a computer. Never was intended to be a computer.

Its just some new gadget that Apple made, and like their other stuff its designed to be simple, easy to use, and to limit its scope so that it performs very well to its price point. End of story. Its not a cancer cure, or a faster-than-light ship.

It comes with cut down versions of Apples office apps, keynote and so on so you can render a powerpoint or an excel file, but you'd be completely insane to try to edit one on the device.

The iPhone doesn't have flash. Ergo, the iPad doesn't have flash.

It was never going to have flash. If you like some other gadget, go and freaking well buy that instead!

Oh wait - that's right no other mobile device actually does flash!

The HP Slate you say? It's not here is it, and when it comes - with its 5 hour battery life, half that of the iPad, it will be dead on arrival. Play flash on that guy and you'll be lucky to get 2 hours out of it. If HP sell one Slate for every 10 iPads I'll be amazed.

Niche devices like Nokias lovely N900 (disclaimer - I work for Nokia) they have loads of power, and can render flash sites in the installed browser. But most of those, like the N900 are not available in all places, and are expensive. The N900 is a phone for geeks, and I'm talking more than being a power user: you need to be a linux geek to use this awesome thing to its full potential.

Android phones fall into the same category as well - many can theoretically render flash, but like the N900 doing so makes battery life pathetically short, and the phones become unresponsive and brittle as glass. Plus these devices have a long long way to go before they're a contender against the iPhone for market share.

So what is it about Flash?

Flash is a nightmare to implement on mobile devices - that is the core business reason why Apple didn't put it on their mobile devices, pure and simple. In webkit every flash item on a page becomes its own top level window, and consumes massive resources. Dropping Flash, and some other "too hard basket" items is why Apple engineers were able to deliver an iPhone that kicked the ass of every other phone vendor.

I work for Nokia, who make great products. They have an incredible coverage of the features required by demanding buyers, for example road-warriors with their voice-dialling and other advanced stuff.

The iPhone came out and had none of this stuff, and yet it went totally viral. Everyone wanted one. Why? Because it was simple and easy to use. The people that needed those advanced features - the tiny fraction of them, went and got those phones - Blackberrys, our high-end Nokias. The rest - basically everyone, since those power-users were a tiny percentage, got iPhones because the smooth easy to use UI made them feel empowered, instead of intimidated like the UI's on the high end business phones.

All those other vendors are scrambling to play catch up right now, and the reason is that stuff that was too hard, that made the device difficult to use, performed badly or was just plain too costly in terms of both development and bill-of-materials to put on the device - guess what - Apple didn't put it on there.

And what's more do people really actually want or need flash? Yes, I hear a lot of journo's and whinging slashdot types harping on about it, but who wants it on a device? I would love to hear what it is that you actually want to use it for.

If I had an iPad and it did have flash, then I would have to go and install a flash blocker. If I ever do buy one, guess what - I don't have to bother. But if it did, I would be wanting more than a blocker - I would be wanting someway to remove all support for flash from the device because its insecure, changes formats & versions every season, and most of all because it sucks the life out of the device.

You can't watch video's on iPhone because "75% of videos are flash"...? Well right on the home screen of the iPhone there's a YouTube icon and I have played a ton of videos using that - guess what it works just fine. People are working around flash, because of all its problems and that 75% or whatever it really is will be trending to zero very fast.

And another thing. The so called "hype" about the iPad.

You guys complaining about flash, you are the same whining tech journo's who were second guessing every last detail of the iPad even before it had a name, and cranking out articles speculating about what its feature list might be; then a week or two later complaining about the "hype of the ipad".

Do you know who hyped the iPad? It was you guys! Apple didn't do anything more than it had ever done - wheel out Steve Jobs and make a couple of press releases and videos. There were no superbowl adverts, no blimps or marching bands, Apple did nothing that qualified as hype in my book.

Hyping the iPad - it was done by the tech press - Apple didn't have to lift a finger!

By the way - I hope you like my bargain basement graphic of the iPad. Its scrawled on a napkin in my hotel room as I travel for work. Home grown right here.

Unlike the idiotic tech press who recycle Apple's own images just as they moan and whinge about Apple. They bitch and complain at the same time as they live and breathe for every next product that Apple makes.

The iPad - its just another crappy Apple device that doesn't do very much at all, but does it so well that everyone will buy it and meanwhile everyone else thinks they have to implement flash as a way to compete.

Here's my tip to you - forget flash if you want to stand any chance against the Apple line up of mobile devices.