UPS: More Excuses, Less Deliveries

[Updated November 21, 2017; see below]

Back in August 2016 I wrote about UPS and the repeated delivery failures I was seeing. Things have not really improved this year at all. My most recent UPS failure was a tablet ordered for work that we needed quickly, so I paid extra to get 1-day shipping (ordering on a Friday with a delivery expected on Monday).

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Common Networks

Those who have been following along here (or on Twitter) might recall all the strange issues we were having with Comcast’s internet service, specifically abysmal performance during the late evenings. For most of that time, and it was over a year I was trying to get them to fix the issue, they were sadly the only option we had for internet access. They had previously priced our city owned cable TV & ISP out of business, and then bought the customers. While that was happening, AT&T decided to simply drop out of providing internet service to the almost 500 homes in our neighborhood.

Then one day a friend posted information about a new wireless ISP starting up here in Alameda: Common Networks. I signed up to be on their waiting list immediately. Not long afterwards I was surprised by the email requesting information & selection of a date to install. They were still in beta at the time and suggested I keep Comcast as a backup for a little while, but with just one brief outage in the first two months they were easily more reliable than Comcast. Not to mention being faster. Here’s a speed test result from my phone:

Latterly with Comcast I was paying the same as Common charges, but getting max 25Mbps down and 5Mbps up.

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Apple Watch

I’ve had my Apple Watch now for a few months and I’ve become comfortable with it in that time, although there are still things I miss from my Pebble. With the Pebble support waning, and Fitbit not seeming to understand anything about those of us who want a smart watch rather than a fitness tracker, the switch to the Apple Watch came at a good time.

This is a very quick summary of what I like and what I do not like, but I will prefix this by saying overall I am very happy with the Apple Watch experience.

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B Class Electric: Initial Reactions

Since all the electric car options I am considering are at least 18 months out, but my lease was up at the end of August, I needed to pick a replacement car that made sense, but also that didn’t commit me to another 3 year lease. As luck would have it, an off lease 2014 electric Mercedes B Class that was in great shape was listed on my dealer’s website. So, that’s what we did; swapping my fun roadster for an electric 5 seat family car. This is my initial reaction to both the B Class and owning an electric car.

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Mercedes Benz New Lease Return Process

It has been a little while now, but I still feel that the new pre-inspection process that Mercedes Benz Financial Services have imposed at the end of their leases is a huge mis-step. Perhaps other people have had different experiences with lease returns, but mine have always been very smooth & trouble free. This new process changes that, and not positively.

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Thoughts: Internet of Things

Much of the IoT hype is really just the final arrival of the promised connected devices – something that was being touted as imminent while I was at Wind River, but which really needed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to come of age first. Today, connected devices are everywhere. Even cars are connected.

Now we live in a world where devices can be connected to a home or office network without requiring cabling. And we can wear lightweight devices that can take advantage of the more powerful computer in our pockets (aka a smartphone) for Internet connectivity using just low power Bluetooth connections. In some cases, even permanent devices, like smart door locks, can be battery-powered and use Bluetooth to connect to a local "bridge" device.

In addition to that always on connectivity, these devices needed simpler controls. Whether touch screens that can adapt, or, more recently, voice control, without more natural controls, many IoT devices would be too complex.

Finally, the arrival of meaningful AI is helping make many of these devices at least seem smarter, and be easier to interact with. Often with natural language, or by having the device simply observe & learn.

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Electric Car Dilemmas

My current car’s lease comes to an end later this year (August time frame) and while I totally love it, for a number of reasons I am looking to make a big change this time around. For a start, I have pretty much been told that I cannot get away with a two seater again. Secondly, the replacement for my current car has been made somewhat anemic by downgrading it to a smaller, less powerful engine. Thirdly, I am just not driving it much (I have done just over 4000 miles in the last 28 months, thanks to commuting via ferry or bus and my trusty scooter).

And so I started looking at electric options with an eye to perhaps letting my wife drive it on a daily basis around our little island city, keeping the miles off the car she insisted on buying rather than leasing and saving some fuel costs into the bargain. But what are the options…

Currently Available

Obviously, there are the two Tesla models, but both are well outside what I am willing to pay right now for something I don’t drive more than a few miles per week. So, that leaves a pretty short list; in no particular order:

  • Mercedes B-Class
  • BMW i3
  • Nissan Leaf
  • VW eGolf
  • Chevrolet Bolt
  • Ford Focus
  • Fiat 500e
  • Smart ForTwo

There are a few others too, but basically that list is the ones I see on the road regularly. Sadly, none of them jump off the screen as being something I really want to drive/own. They all seem somewhat plain and boring.

Coming Soon

Given the sad state of that list, I started looking into what might be coming soon from folks other than Tesla (the new Model 3 looks pretty good on the outside, but the site is very light on actual specs for the car). Interestingly, it seems as though 2018 through 2020 is going to herald a lot more options for electric cars. I found strong contenders from Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar, albeit essentially all SUVs. Even now, I cannot find any manufacturer planning an electric convertible, which is disappointing for me since I love open top motoring (I even had convertibles when I was living in the UK, so now I’m in California it just makes even more sense to me to drive with the top down).

Mercedes EQC

My current favourite, although not slated to arrive until 2019 at the earliest, is what is currently being called the Mercedes EQC. Much like the Tesla, there is very little information on what this will actually look like, but if the interior is anything like the current show concept vehicle, I want one. This thing resembles a science fiction space ship:

Generation EQ, Interior

The videos released for the concept just add to that image of it being a space craft. I seriously hope that as much of this interior as possible makes it into the production car.

Audi eTron

Not one, but two different cars bearing this tag are coming in the next 12-24 months. The first looks as though it will be a mid-size SUV (between the Q5 and Q7 in size). No idea of final pricing, but if you live in Norway you can pre-order one right now. The exterior looks pretty similar to the new Q5 and Q7, perhaps taking the more angular design of the latest cars a little further. The interior of the concept they’ve been showing also looks more like an evolution of current technology:

The “virtual cockpit” dashboard in there has already made an appearance in the current generation Q7 and Q5 cars (and, based on experiences with our new Q5 so far, it is a gorgeous experience). Clearly, this one has more screens, and less buttons though. All good in my books, but it doesn’t scream space ship at me like the EQC does.

The second car, coming during 2019, is a “sportback”/coupe version of the SUV. Perhaps a better fit for me than a pure SUV, but realistically it still doesn’t excite me as much as a convertible would.

Jaguar I-Pace

This one caught my attention last year, and was a bit of a surprise. I was not expecting the Jaguar brand to be where the first electric vehicle appeared from the Jaguar Land Rover family. Compared to the Merc and the Audi, the I-Pace seems like a strong contender however. Good range, amazing 0-60 time and fairly practical as well. Much like the Audi, this isn’t in the space craft realm for interiors, but it does look like a big evolutionary step from their current cars.

When I was choosing my current car, I test drove the convertible F-type from Jaguar. While the driving experience was fantastic, and nobody can deny that the F-type looks gorgeous, I was disappointed with the details that were missing in a car at its price point. Even more so when compared to the Mercedes SLK and Porsche Boxster. It concerns me that the same may well be the case with the I-Pace.

The Dilemma

The dilemma I now face is that with my lease ending in August this year, and all these new, more exciting electrics arriving late next year or beyond, what do I do to fill the gap?

Right now, I am leaning towards buying a used electric from the boring list earlier. Perhaps the Mercedes B250e. Not ideal but it would be a good fill in for that year or so, and also could be used around our home city to keep the miles down on the Q5.