Bessie with #CO2Fre

Twice the Electric Car Fun

Today, I attended two, virtual Electric Car events. First, my friend Mark Czajka hosted the first MDVolt virtual meetup. We met Tom Moloughney from InsideEVs. Unfortunately, I was multitasking though this meeting as I also host the Loudoun County Writers Group (LCWG) on Saturday mornings. Normally, I would skip my writing group on Saturdays for one of Mark’s MDVolt events, but this time, I could cheat and attend both, because they were both virtual.

I haven’t spoken much about the Mini-E — so far only in my EVSE installation post — but this car has been on my mind a long, long time.  When the leases were announced for 2009, I jumped on the chance to get one of the 500 East Coast orders.  But alas, my region wasn’t one of the privileged ones, so there was no Mini-E for me.  On the bright side, at least I saved over $800 per month for the last 2 years!

Two Years and 119 Cars! (Today)

I’m so jealous Tom got one of those Mini-Es. I was very desperate to get one back in 2011, when I wrote about it on the Affordable Electric Car Now site, as you can see from the quote above. Tom and I have both been writing about electric cars since 2009 so it’s nice to hear from a kindred spirit. One of these days, I hope he invites me to one of his barbeques.

It was also wonderful seeing my friend dear friend Vanessa Thomas at Mark’s event. She was nice enough to come to my virtual demonstration of #CO2Fre and it was wonderful seeing her here, even if it was hard to see anyone on my tiny phone—LCWG got the computer. Fortunately, Mark uploaded to YouTube, so I could finally the event and focus fully on the content. Check me out in the Pinball video.

Pity I couldn’t show off Bessie with #CO2Fre.

Bessie with #CO2Fre
Picture is #CO2Fre with the Doctor’s car, Bessie © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Mark and I agreed we’d not embed the video here, but if you’d like to watch it, you can find it here.

Electric Car Event Number 2

Then, in the afternoon, my friend Charles Gerena from Drive Electric RVA hosted an event with Phil Englander at Hart Nissan in Mechanicsville. Phil gave a great walk-through of the latest Nissan LEAF. Great presentation, Phil and great seeing you again Vanessa. She and I were the only people to join both events!

Phil Englander at Hart Nissan in Mechanicsville walks us through the newest iteration of the Nissan LEAF, which has been sold globally since 2010.

Posted by Drive Electric RVA on Saturday, May 2, 2020

So nice to talk about electric cars since it’s been far too long for me since I was able to cruise on the cloud.

I Am Irate

Google ate me email

From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.

I Am Irate
Too angry for words!

Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.

I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.

Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.

Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.

Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.

Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.

Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…

As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!

I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.

And that’s where my troubles began.

At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.

It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.

Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.

We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.

Stop
Stop, do not pass Go. You’re done!

That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.

At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.

It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?

It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.

Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.

With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!

Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.

Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.

I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!

Maybe Google was doing me a favor?

In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!

V3 SuperCharging, Kind of…

After Loudoun County Writers Group, I decided to visit the new Tesla V3 SuperChargers that just opened up in the Broadlands, outside of Ashburn, VA, two days ago.

The stations are across from a Harris Teeter.

Harris Teeter, Broadlands
This Harris Teeter is the home to one of the first V3 Tesla SuperChargers. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

I pulled in and all the stalls were opened. Of course, you can see the price of Petrol, but #CO2Fre rides this fuel, free for life!

Broadlands Charging with Gas
8 Stalls at Broadlands, all V3 SuperChargers. Since #CO2Fre has free, unlimited supercharging, what do I care the price of Petrol? © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

I pulled in straight, and plugged right in.

Broadlands Charging
The Broadmands Chargers just opened up two days ago; no-one was there so I had the the V3 SuperChargers all to #CO2Fre. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

The nice thing about the Broadlands SuperChargers, besides being 250kW max, is that it has dedicated, Handicapped parking.

Broadlands Charging for Handicapped
The Broadlands SuperCharger even has parking for Teslas needing Handicapped Parking! © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

I decided to check how far #CO2Fre was charging. Just 20kW, but then, I was almost full when I got there. I’ll have to try again on Wednesday when I drive to work, then Bowie, and back for the Bowie Bevy of Brainy Books when my Charge Level will be much, much lower.

20kW at Broadlands
In theory, these units can go more than 10 times that fast, but since I was almost full, 20kW was the best #CO2Fre could do. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

I wanted to see if I could get a view of #CO2Fre and the Harris Teeter so I stepped behind this car and took this shot.

Broadlands Charging From Behind
This is the back of the Charging Station at Broadlands. You can see Harris Teeter in the background. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

And what do I find, sitting behind one of the trees, but one of my good friend Margie Hunter‘s Tchotchke to promote the Northern Virginia Tesla Owners Group. How Flatulaless!

Margie Scavenger Hunt Broadlands
Margie Hunter is a very creative friend who has hidden a number of Tesla Tchotchkes at area SuperChargers with a QR code for the Northern Virginia Tesla Owners Group. It says Flatulaless! © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Thank you to Lanny Hartmann at Plug-In Sites on twitter for bringing this new station to my attention! Check out his amazing site for all kinds of Electric Car news.

Have an eclectic, electric Day my friends!