Monday, December 11, 2017

EV Charging - DC Fast Charging Stations... Why People Won't Adopt Electric Cars Soon Enough

I have been driving electric cars for a while. It started with the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid EV, and now my day to day commuting car is a Nissan LEAF SL with Chademo DC quick charge. 

I often encounter confused people at the DC quick charging stations.  It's not their fault, I don't think any of them are dumb people, and I have had my share of frustrations too.  There is a lot of differences from one DC charger to the next. Some only work on a smartphone app that you may or may not be familiar with. Some of those apps use NFC tap, some QR codes, some ask you to punch in a charger ID number, some just ask you to find where you are on a Google map.  Some chargers take credit cards but the process is usually several steps longer than it should be, some require payment to be made at a separate kiosk somewhere nearby. 

Why? I don't know. I guess charger manufacturers have never bought gas before. Someone needs to make one that operates on the same workflow as a standard gas pump (the pay at the pump kind of course).  Just swipe your credit card (or dip the chip and punch in the PIN) add on the option to tap a membership card or NFC phone etc. to get a discount just like with the Esso PayPass and make big f@%king buttons for Chademo and SAE/CCS ala the high and low octane and diesel buttons on a gas pump... basically just clone an Esso pump.

Actually, screw the CHAdeMO and CCS buttons just start negotiation on both cords and power up whichever cord you get a reply back from the car on. The user doesn't need to select that, the machine can figure it out all on it's own. It could be... SHOULD be... easier than pumping gas.

You can still have it send stats to the phone if you tapped for payment and give membership discounts. Other than the live update charging stats Esso and many other gas Co.s already have this down pat. They've already done the 80 years of user interface research so that the EV charger folks don't have to but for some reason every company thinks they need to reinvent the wheel.

EV Charger folks, YOU are the ones who are going to be holding back adoption of electric cars the most. You could make it really simple, but somehow none of you have yet (save Tesla, who only serve Tesla drivers. 

....Psst Tesla, I have an idea for you guys too. Since you seem to be keen on making yourselves into an energy company who just happen to make cars... make a smart adapter to go from Tesla Supercharger to CHAdeMO or CCS combo. When you plug the adapter in have it provide the VIN ID to the Supercharger to set who's account to bill it to, and translate the Tesla negotiation protocol to CHAdeMO or CCS. Sure it'll be an expensive gizmo to have in the trunk of my LEAF, but since no one else is building DCFC stations in some of the places I'd like to have them, I'd gladly pay for that adapter.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Goodbye EMET, dear old friend

Well, I knew this was coming, just not so soon.
Microsoft announced a little while ago that they were going to kill off MS Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)  EMET is supposed to reach end of life on July 31, 2018. but since I am on the Windows Insider track I got an update this week and after the reboot Windows informed me that it had removed EMET as it is no longer compatible.

The good news is that MS has given us a replacement. The new application is called Windows Defender Exploit Guard. It is possible to convert existing EMET configurations from the EMET xml format to the new Defender format, so there is no reason that IT divisions will have to go with out protection as you should be able to install the latest Insider Preview and test the converted ruleset with your applications now, well ahead of the fall update that is expected to roll out this change to the general populace.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Electric cars and their effects on the local economy

I am on my 3rd electric vehicle.
First, when my wife was unemployed and still working on her drivers license I bought an electric bike. Not a motorcycle, that would be cool, but not as practical, but one of the Vespa scooter styled e-bikes. Basically a low powered (32km/h limited) electric moped. This got her to and from appointments and once she was licensed I started leaving my Jeep at home and riding the bike to work. The idea then was to have a cheap ~$1400 mode of transport that filled a need for something better than transit but less effort than a bicycle.

Next up, when she found a job in Toronto and needed a car we got a Chevy Volt. This let us benefit from overnight charging in the garage for pennies but still worked like a normal car for long distance travel. Originally I was going to drive this, so I was looking for something fun and comfortable for me to drive back and forth to work, and she would take the Jeep. She convinced me though that it made more sense for her to take the Volt as a daily commuting car, as she had a longer commute, so she should have the more efficient car. Plus, she had the opportunity to plug in in the staff parking garage at work to charge up for the return trip for free.

Now, this summer the Jeep hit 10 years old, and while I had upgraded the infotainment technology from AM/FM CD player and Aux input jack to an Android based stereo with AM/FM, Every type of Media file, Audio Books, podcasting, and of course GPS, it was time to give the old Jeep a new home and find something newer. I shopped around a bit and found a nice used Nissan LEAF from 2012. At first I was going to wait till next summer and get a Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 or something, but I found that a used LEAF or Mitsubishi iMiEV could be had for a monthly payment of less than the Jeep's gas, so it was kind of a no-brainer to grab one of those as essentially a "free" upgrade to a 5 years newer car rather than continue to maintain the Jeep.

Anyway, on to the point of this whole post. As a new driver of a fully 100% electric car I've become much more of a user of PlugShare, and in thinking about how I might stretch the use of this low range EV to go places that are a little further away, I find that I am starting to feel like one of the early pioneers of automobile travel. You see back in the day when gas powered cars were kind of new, automobile associations popped up and started publishing maps and guides for travel in North America. These maps and guides brought people into small towns that didn't see a lot of outsiders, either for the sights, or for some good food that the travel guides recommended, or for a service station stop. PlugShare (and other similar EV charging map apps) fills the role of the automobile association maps and guides back then, but in a way that we are used to consuming info like that now. I find myself looking at routes to places I like to go that hit locations of Level 3 DC Fast charging stations. Then I find I'll hit Google Maps to zoom into a charging location and see what kind of restaurants and other things are in that area. Often these are areas that I would just drive on past in my previous gas cars, but because I'm a bit more limited in range and because there are not yet charging stations on every corner, it is interesting to see how my travel habits change and how it seems to echo those early days of car travel. Places I never would have thought to stop before are now destinations to explore. This is why small towns looking to boost their economy should invest in a 50KW or better charger or two. More and more people are hopping on the EV bandwagon, and with Tesla's Model 3 starting to come out and the blast of major manufacturers announcements that they are going to move seriously into EVs and plugin hybrids in the upcoming years, getting in on this now makes a lot of sense. The first wave of EV drivers are invariably upper middle class folks with a bit of extra cash to spend. The price of these vehicles has kind of forced that. Having these somewhat wealthy people stop in your town for a half hour or more on their way to somewhere else means that they are going to look around, at least grab a quick bite to eat, maybe explore some of the more unique shops your town has that they would never have noticed otherwise.

Forget the big switch from foreign oil to domestic electricity and how that effects the economy, there is a swing happening in how these new EV drivers think about travel and this more relaxed approach to it. Instead of driving like crazy along the fastest highway and only stopping if you have to at a highway rest stop to fuel up and maybe grab a sandwich, EV drivers are more likely to plan out a route that takes them down back roads and into small towns If you can get them to stop and fill up in your town you win. Unlike a gas station where the driver needs to stand watch over the pump while filling up, EV charging stations need the driver only to start the charge and then walk away and enjoy the sights and probably do some shopping for a while while the car fills itself up with power for the next leg of the journey.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Youtube replaces local TV

Just a quick observation. They have finally done it. I am starting to see the non skippable pre-roll ads on YouTube running the local made for TV ads I remember from my TV watching days. Local businesses that don't have the budget for anything wider than the local TV station and really don't want or need national advertising coverage. Go team Google! I am glad to see that these folks have a place to advertise in the era after the collapse of the news paper industry and soon to be collapse of local TV and perhaps even radio.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Protect yourself against the HEIST + BREACH vulnerability

The new HEIST vulnerability demonstrated at Black Hat this week  makes it possible to use BREACH and/or CRIME vulnerabilities to decode HTTPS traffic (or HTTP/2) without the hacker having a man-in-the-middle position.

[EDIT: Just to be clear, This will not protect against all instances of the HEIST attack, but as it disables BREACH, it protects against the specific technique of combining HEIST and BREACH]

CRIME requires TLS compression which was dropped by most products that supported it in 2012. BREACH requires HTTP compression within the HTTPS session, which they manipulate to determine the plaintext contents of the encrypted message.

Many web site admins have been shutting off HTTP compression on encrypted sites for a while, but you cannot trust that everyone else is as diligent, so a browser based approach is best for protecting your own info.

In order for compression to work the browser and the server both need to support it, so the server relies on a request from the browser.

To prevent Google Chrome from requesting compressed pages it is required to modify the Accept-Encoding request header. There is a plugin for Google Chrome called ModHeader that will allow you to do that. simply install ModHeader and insert an entry for Accept-Encoding with a blank value as shown below:

Inline image 1

You can test this at the following site:

The drawback to turning HTTP compression off is that sites that do use compression (which is still perfectly safe for non-encrypted sites as there are no secrets to be revealed) will load up a little bit more slowly as the GZIP or Deflate compression can decrease size of sites by about 60%

Friday, August 05, 2016

Speeding up Windows 10

Windows 10 can feel a little sluggish if you have been using a fairly peppy system under Win 7 or 8.1

Here are a few things you can do to make it feel less sluggish.

first click on the notifications icon in the taskbar

Now click the "All Settings" button

I know, it's not the most intuitive place to look, but click on "Ease of Access"

Now click "Other Options"

At the top you will see this switch for play animations in Windows... turn it off.
Your start menu will come up as soon as you click it now, instead of feeling like the computer needs to wake up from it's nap first.

Now there is another place where animations that are not really necessary can be switched off. This is pretty much mandatory for old systems that have been upgraded to Win 10.

open up the System Control Panel (from the old control panel, not the new metro/modern system)
Click on "Advanced System Settings"

Click the first "Settings" button under Performance

Uncheck any animation features you don't care about.

Now this one is something I've done for every Windows install for ages, but not everyone knows it:
While you are in here, click the "Advanced" tab and click the "Change" button

Windows by default will have Automatically manage paging file checked, uncheck that box.
Now look at the recommended size near the bottom of this window, that will be different for your computer than it is for mine, but highlight one of your drives and enter the recommended amount of virtual memory (AKA page file, swap) space in both the initial size and maximum size.

Here you can see that I had a largish virtual memory space on my F: drive previously, but I have also added some space in the recommended amount to my C: drive. C: is only a 128GB SSD, so I had put this swap space on F: (a standard laptop HDD) initially, and that was fine, but putting some swap on the SSD really perked it up. I had to move the C:/Windows/Installer folder to one of my other drives to make some room (a lot of room) on C: to make this even possible.

If you have additional tips add them to the comments.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Breaking news: Edward Snowden to Speak at SecTor 2016

Former CIA, NSA, and DIA intelligence agent and famed whistleblower Edward Snowden will be giving a keynote via video link from Russia at SecTor 2016.

The keynote presentation will start at 9am on Tuesday, October 18 in the SecTor Keynote Hall on level 800 of the South Building in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. If you don't already have tickets for the convention get 'em now. 

This will be the Infosec/IT event of the year in Toronto.