6 Month Update: Has the Polestar 2 App Improved?

Around 6 months ago I posted about the shortcomings of the Polestar 2 App and what I felt needed to be improved about it. I thought it would be interesting to take another look 6 months later and see what if anything has changed.


I use the app fairly regularly, and I’ve noticed a few improvements! Firstly the reliability of the data updating is way better. Now when I open the app, I can be confident the data will either already be up to date, or update quickly after I open it. That’s a huge improvement compared to where it was six months ago. This was easily my number 1 gripe, and to see them fix it is very reassuring. I do wish what was shown on screen had a “last updated 3m ago” or similar label so I knew it was recent, but it’s still a big win.

Polestar has also removed a lot of the flashing to update behaviour I mentioned in my previous post. Now you get a nice little loading indicator down the bottom to show the app is loading. Some elements still flash or dim while updating, but it’s not nearly as jarring as it was.

There are still a few small bugs/quirks with the app which could be improved though. It’s now very fond of telling you when things have gone wrong with little messages down the bottom, and sometimes a full screen error try again state. As far as I can tell, half of the time these appear to be errors that happened a while ago. The app should really clear these out on it’s own when it becomes active, rather than displaying them to the user as it’s retrying/loading the data anyway. If the app is currently refreshing, I don’t need to see this, but I often do:

A small thing, I know, but these small touches really count when you want your app to be perceived as good and reliable. Seeing constant errors doesn’t inspire confidence, and often the data is up to date and the error is old anyway.


In a fun “how on earth did this pass QA” twist, this button now does, as far as I can tell, nothing:

Well…not quite nothing. It sends changes to the server and to the car, but it no longer has any effect on the amperage being drawn from an AC wall charger. I think this might be a version P2.4 regression because trying to change the charging speed in the car also does nothing. Oh you’d like to charge at 15A? That’s nice, Imma keep going at 30. It’s not very confidence inspiring to see a feature that once worked, just break like that…and I have no idea if/when a fix is coming. I suspect this is a bug in the car itself, not the app, but still, very disappointing.

App Charging Improvements

My biggest 2 feature requests for the app continue to be allowing a user to start/stop a charging session from the app, and also to change the charge limit. Neither of those were in the app 6 months ago, and they still aren’t. 😔

Final Thoughts

Some nice reliability improvements, a regression, and really not much else 6 months later. Not great. Not terrible. At least it’s improving I guess? It’s going to be really interesting to see just how good Polestar is at running a software ecosystem when the new Polestar 3 launches. By all accounts it has updated hardware in it, that runs the new version of Android Automotive. Will Polestar 2 owners get all those updates in future software updates? If this were a Tesla I’d be reasonably confident in saying yes, where the hardware allows it. With Polestar, I don’t feel as confident but I guess we’ll see!

Amber SmartShift – Early Thoughts

For the three of you that read this blog, you’ll know I’ve had an interest in renewable energy for a while now. From setting up solar on my roof, to adding battery storage to switching to an electric car. Each step in that journey I’ve learnt so much and I hope I’ve managed to share some of it here with you all. After adding battery storage to my solar setup, one thing always annoyed me, I had no way to export stored power from my batteries, to the grid. Well all that changed recently, enter a product called “SmartShift” from Australian energy retailer Amber.

The Promise

The promise of SmartShift is simple. You have solar that generates power, you have batteries to store that energy in and they are an energy retailer that lets you buy and sell power at the wholesale market rate. Not just that, but they have an algorithm that can look at the expected power prices for the day, and buy and sell power at all the right times to make you money. Push one button, and away you go:

First Run Experience

After turning SmartShift on, you get access to the “Devices” tab in the Amber app. This lets you see a summary of the stats for today, as well as a page that outlines the “plan” that SmartShift has generated for the day. This shows you an outline of what SmartShift thinks the upcoming power prices will be and what it plans to do and when. It’s slightly confusing because there’s no time shown on the graph, but it seems like it’s for the next 12 hours or so. One the same page are some buttons for manually controlling your battery. All in all it makes a good first impression. The plans it made for the second and third day I had it on looked pretty much exactly like what I would have made myself.

Contact With The Enemy

Unfortunately, like most software developers know, no plan survives contact with the enemy. And in the case of SmartShift it soon became clear that the system could only ever be as good as the forecasts it was working on. The 3 important forecast being:

  • How much solar are you likely to generate today?
  • How much power are you likely to need, and when?
  • What will the price of power be (for exporting and importing) for the next 12 hours?

On all 3 of these, SmartShift falls short. For the first month (or so I’m told by one of the engineers who worked on it) it uses a very crude solar and usage model that seems to be (as far as I can tell) “what happened yesterday”. I watched this backfire rather spectacularly on a day that was forecast for storms all day, and 10-15mm of rain. Anyone reading that forecast would know solar generation would be down for the day. Sadly SmartShift had no idea, so it happily made a plan to buy some power overnight, sell it in the morning, to make way for the incoming solar power. Not only did it end up selling this power at a loss, but when I needed it later in the day I ended up having to buy it back from the grid at even higher prices. Perhaps after the first month when the app is meant to switch to a Machine Learning model that also takes into account forecast data some of this might be solved, but it resulted in the app making a string of really bad decisions I had to keep overriding.

Then there’s the forecast data for pricing. I’m sure that’s a complicated thing to predict but this part is constantly wrong. The best algorithm in the world isn’t going to be very effective with bad forecasting data, and that’s precisely what SmartShift seems to be working with.

I spent a rather frustrating Saturday manually telling it to buy and then hold onto power that I ended up turning it off. Don’t get me wrong, I see the promise, but until the forecasts are better, the algorithm will make constant mistakes. Buying high, selling low, selling when it should be holding, and so on. That it summarises it for you is nice, but watching it buy power at 29c, only to sell it at 18c isn’t fun.


SmartShift from Amber has a lot of promise but it doesn’t, in my opinion and experience yet live up to the way it’s being marketed. I suspect if you turned it on and just never opened the app it would be ok, but if like me you want to check in on it everyday, you’re going to end up constantly disappointed by the decisions it’s making. There is something here though, with better forecast data and more historic data from their user base it will hopefully improve over time. I intend to stick with it to see if it improves, but that’s because I’m really excited about the prospect of it working. If you’re switching to make money, you might end up disappointed.

Finishing Thoughts

My impressions are only a week old, and I can only speak for how this works in South Australia. Each state of Australia has different power pricing and tariffs that might make the calculus there different. For example from what I can see others are posting online it’s far more reliable in Queensland. As a software developer I think I have slightly more insight into this than most, but I might have also made some bad assumptions and judged the system too early. Currently as it stands, I wouldn’t recommend it to other people in South Australia just yet. YMMV in other states.

If the usage and solar forecast model was better and it knew about the weather forecast, that would improve things a lot. If the future price forecast was more accurate, that would also make a huge difference. Those don’t seem like impossible challenges, so they may well end up being things that get improved over time. I know Amber are actively working on both at the moment.

And in case anyone at Amber is reading this, some suggestions on the app itself and things I’d like to see:

  • I’d love to be able to tweak the algorithms plan for the day and maybe even add my own input to it. If it could list in tabular form what it plans to do and let me tweak some of it (don’t buy here, sell here if the price is above $x, etc that would be very interesting. I get this is an advanced use case, and it should be hidden appropriately, but still.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a button to pause SmartShift for a bit, you have to turn the entire thing off. It would great if you could just tell it to chill for an amount of time and have it turn back on automatically after that. Edit: I’m a wally, that’s what the “Consume Battery Energy” button in the manual control section does.
  • When I choose a manual action (like charging my battery) and a timeframe, it would be nice to be able to extend that time if possible. Currently if you choose an hour, it ticks down to the hour and your only option to add time is to cancel that action, and add a new one.
  • There is something off about the usability of the “Live” tab. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the way what’s happening is shown is confusing (a simple animation might make a huge difference there?) and the way you tap on the little coloured boxes and they expand to fill the screen is a bit jarring (again an animation here might help).

The Polestar 2 App Needs Improving

One of the most surprising things to me about owning a modern car with its own cell radio built in, is how this opens up opportunities for useful and interesting things car makers can do in their apps. Where on earth did I park my car? My kid needs to get their jacket from the boot. How fast is my car charging and when will it be done? It’s sooo hot, I should turn on the air con before we head out. It’s sooo cold, I should pre-heat the car before we leave. Did I lock the car?! This is one place the Tesla app really shines. It gives you quick access to controls like lock/unlock, opening the boot, charging info, climate and so much more. The Polestar app on the other hand…well…it needs work. I’m writing this post in the hope that someone at Polestar reads it, and improves it. Or, alternatively make the API open and developers like myself will happily make a better app if the constraints you’re working under don’t allow it.


The Polestar 2 app is very striking in its design language, which I don’t mind. When you open it, you’re presented with something like this:

At first glance you might think that’s amazing! Battery percentage, climate, doors, yay! The issue is you have no idea how old this data is. The app doesn’t tell you. I frequently open it and see 67%, only to have that replaced with 47% at what feels like some arbitrary point in the future. Sometimes it pops up messages to let you know it failed to refresh, other times it starts flashing (changing the alpha value of the displayed content from 100% to about 30% in a rhythmic way) either the whole app, or bits of it. Not knowing how up to date this information is, if it’s loading or not and sometimes just watching the entire app flashing for minutes on end isn’t a great experience. Here’s some quick ways to fix that:

  • Remove the flashing as an indicator the app is refreshing. It’s cute, but as a user it took me ages to figure out that’s what it even means. We have decades of learned experiences about what something that’s updating looks like, no need to re-invent that. Add a simple bit of text “Last updated 4 hours ago” and put a little refresh indicator next to it. That way a person instantly knows how old the data is, and that you’re trying to update it.
  • Fix whatever the issue is that causes the app not to load half the time. It seems like it sometimes tries to refresh in the background, and when that fails you open to an app that’s out of date, full of error messages and you have to kill the app to get it to load.
  • Related to the above, make the app and the back end service it connects to faster and more reliable. I should be able to depend on it working, not vaguely hope it does every time I open it. It’s ok if it takes time to wake the car up and other things like that, I don’t want the laws of physics broken, just make it reliable.


Next up, let’s talk about some of the layout issues the app has:

The four tabs across the bottom are : car info, news, shop and account. To my thinking at least two of these aren’t needed. I already own the Polestar…am I really going to use the app to buy another one?! I’d remove this tab bar entirely and just have the app open to car info. Have the account info and news as buttons in the app somewhere, they don’t need dedicated tabs. Remove the shop entirely, or let people shop for accessories for their car instead of new cars as the default.

Next up when I tap on the already giant “Doors” button in the app, I’m taken to an entire page with an even bigger button. Is that really necessary? The animation for the page opening is nice, but I don’t really need a giant picture of my car with an unlock button, why not just let me do that from the base page? I have very similar thoughts about the climate page, give me a quick way to turn climate on and off, and then also give me a way to get to more detailed settings for it.

Update 17th June 2022: A few people let me know that the little lock and fan icons on the Doors and Climate buttons are actually buttons themselves! This is great, it means there is a quick way to do those actions, but also that means that Polestar has put a button inside a button…which is not great in terms of discoverability or usability.


Next up is something you’re going to be doing a lot with an electric car, charging! I think Tesla (layout and text sizes aside) has really nailed this interface. Let’s look at them side by side (charging at the same time, from two identical side by side chargers):

Let’s break down all the things they show and can do:

Function Tesla Polestar
How long left until the car is charged to the limit I’ve set
How fast the car is charging, in kW as well as information about the amperage and voltage
Start and stop charging
Unlock charge port
Change the charging limit
Change the charging rate
Notification when charging completes
Notification when fast charging is almost complete

I’ve found I’ve used almost all of these at some point during my charging journeys. Let’s talk a bit about the ones the Polestar app is missing:

  • Being able to see how fast the car is charging: you plugged into what you thought was a 12kW 3 phase AC charger and are only getting 4kW…maybe you need to try a different port or adjust something. Or if you’re adjusting the charging rate, you can see the effect that has on the amount of kW the car is charging at. All of this info is available on the driver screen inside the car, but it would be handy to have in the app as well.
  • Start and stop charging: I use this a lot at home when I’m charging off solar. I’ll leave the car plugged in, and then when I see solar generation is really high and my home battery is full, I’ll tap the start charging button. Ditto for stop charging.
  • Unlock charge port: the Polestar has a dedicated button for this next to the charge port, so I don’t particularly need or miss that function in the app. If anything this is a more sensible place to have this feature.
  • Change the charging limit: it’s a bit bizarre the app is missing this. What charge will I end up with? What if I set the limit wrong weeks ago and forgot?
  • Notification when charging completes and when a fast charge is almost done: I’ve never seen either of these (and I don’t think the Polestar app ever asked for notification permission) so I’m 97% sure they aren’t there. These are really handy when you’re at a public charger and need a prod for when it’s time to come back and move your car.

Additionally it’s nice the Polestar app allows you to set a charge rate limit (useful mainly for home charging) but it’s slightly odd that unlike the Tesla app this isn’t shown in context. If you have a 25A capable charger, nothing in the app shows you that while it’s charging. The Tesla app does a better job of putting this in context, as when you dial it back you’ll see something like “20A/25A” which is very useful. You can see the maximum is 25A, and that the car is currently charging at 20A. That kind of context would be really handy in the Polestar app as well. At the moment I can see a lot of people being confused by “Set Amperage Limit” with no other context about what that is or what it might be sensible to set it at.

Final Thoughts

The Polestar app needs work, however it’s great that it exists. When it’s working, being able to find your car, pre-heat or pre-cool it and lock and unlock it are all useful functions. If Polestar can make it connect more reliably that in itself would be a big win. I would really love them to expand and improve the charging screen though, as once you’ve had access to all the features the Tesla app has, it’s hard to go back to something less capable. I suspect all this info is available (or can be made available) via the API, so I hope that’s something that can come in a future app update.

Going Full Electric

Before I start this post, Rusty Junior would like to point out that he grew up in a housing trust house, on school card, barely able to afford shoes from Kmart and regular meals. It’s not relevant to you, per se, but he feels this is required to alleviate the Weird Guilt™ inherent in writing a post like this. Thanks for your time. As you were.

A few weeks ago our family went all electric. My wife sold her 2018 VW Tiguan (for almost what we paid for it, the used car market in Australia is nuts at the moment!) and took delivery of a Polestar 2, long range, single motor in Magnesium. Having had electric cars for 4+ years now, we knew there’d be no issues with road trips or charging or anything most people ask or worry about, not to mention that we were both excited to never go to a petrol station again. As mentioned in my other posts, the solar and battery system at my house can also charge these cars for free quite easily for about 9 months of the year. For the other 3 (which we are currently in) my wife gets free charging at her work, where they have a GIANT solar installation. So it’s renewable, guilt free…and also, well, free!

Meet Dee Dee. I think that’s what we’re calling her? Also yes, we objectify cars. Deal with it 😉

There are of course a million reviews out there for the Polestar 2. Zeus knows we watched a lot of them before buying one! But I’m not a car reviewer and don’t want to bore you trying to become one, so here’s some quick observations:

The delivery process in Adelaide was very smooth. The delivery person turned up at the agreed time to our place, and shortly after a truck arrived with the car on it. Sunny, our delivery person, was super friendly and very eager to show us all the bits of the car. So eager in fact that we just let him do his thing, it was a joy to behold.

Compared to my model 3, some things instantly stood out to me. To my eye, the Polestar 2 is just a nicer looking car inside and out. I prefer the lines, I prefer the more “car type” cabin. It also feels better built in a way that’s hard to describe. More solid. Tighter tolerances. Just…well…better. It does however feel a bit more cramped because all those screens, consoles and padded areas cut down on the overall visibility. The centre console for example feels quite high and imposing. I guess it’s a design feature, but it could have been a bit lower and more subdued. Driving the model 3 feels like you’re in a fish tank. Driving the Polestar feels like…well..driving a car. I’d say overall the model 3 is nicer to sit in and admire, while the Polestar is more practical day to day to actually drive and be a passenger in.

Driving wise, both are very planted to the road thanks to their heavy battery packs. I don’t really have a preference except to say they are both a joy to drive. I’m also not a car reviewer, so for this bit I’m quite happy to offload you to YouTube for their opinions. That said if you have the means (money, a place to charge it, etc) and haven’t gone electric yet…well…you really should! There are a lot more options than there were a few years ago, and for this segment of the market the model 3 and Polestar 2 are my favourites.

Android Automotive (the infotainment system the Polestar runs) is functionally a bit better than Tesla’s system. It’s a bit uglier, but overall you can do more of what you need to get done as well as install third party apps like Pocket Casts, PlugShare and of course, Spotify. Having the ability to install apps from the Google Play store, straight into your car is very handy. The voice assistant is amazing. It can actually understand me properly, and lets you dictate text messages, navigate and change car settings with ease. The addition of a screen in the driver console section is nice as well. It shows you routing info while navigating, and also important things like speed, etc. It’s not a big deal to glance over to my left in the model 3 to see that, but it’s nicer to not have to. Why Google (or Polestar) went with the thin icon style design they did though…is a bit beyond me. I don’t love that look, but functionality wise it’s stellar.

Charging wise the Polestar 2 has the same Type 2 plug almost all cars in Australia have now. With the top bit for AC charging, and a set of DC pins for fast charging. One small pain point: you can charge a Polestar 2 from a gen 3 Tesla wall charger. Some early gen 2 ones also have an internal switch you can flick to do the same. But as you can guess, I had the gen 2 model which they made for about a year that is unable to charge anything that isn’t a Tesla. It has the internal switch, but by all accounts it’s non functional. So I had to pony up for a newer charger. On the plus side the cable is far thinner now and I also got to move it to a more convenient spot where we can charge both cars in the garage.

Finally, let’s talk road trips. If you’re new to electric cars my advice here is to take the “WLTP” number quoted on the car makers site, and shave off 20% for city driving, and 30% for highway (100km/h+ speeds). This will vary a bit based on how hard you drive, but it’s a good conservative figure to give you an idea of “real world” range. So the model 3 long range claims 600kms, in reality you’re going to get 480kms around the city and 420kms at highway speeds. Similarly the Polestar 2 claims 540kms which means 430kms city, 380kms highway. What that means in practice is that there’s more than enough range for almost anyone. Sure you can’t drive 8 hours non stop, but I’m not entirely sure you should ever do that for safety and comfort reasons. Drive for 2-3 hours, take a break, fast charge for 20 minutes, and keep going.

The elephant in the Australian room is that (at the time of writing this post) Tesla’s Supercharging network is much more reliable than other third party systems. That’s changing fast, and Tesla might even open their network up to other cars soon, but for the next year or two this will likely still be a fairly big factor in Tesla’s favour Down Under. We still plan to road trip in the Polestar 2 (1200km+ trips) but it will require slightly more planning and slightly more vigilance before we leave to make sure all the stations are operational and we pick the correct route. Thankfully the early adopter portion of EV ownership, like planning wineries to stop at that have 3 phase power, is a distant memory. We’re in the decent amount of chargers, occasional issues, portion of the adoption curve. I fully expect in 2 years here in Australia those issues will be behind us, so there really has never been a better time to buy an EV…if you can find one shipping here this year. That lack of availability and the price of EVs are two massive issues here in 2022, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Electrons Are Your Friends

I haven’t updated this site in a bit, which I know will greatly upset the 3 people that read it and have just now realised they haven’t seen my posts in a while! Anyway thought I’d try something new and post a few things too small for a blog on Twitter instead. My motivation in doing so was to try and encourage the people who follow me (and have the means) to consider going electric with their next car. I know that in the communities and forums I’m in everything I’m saying is common knowledge, but I wonder if the general public know some of this?

Firstly a thread about going downhill:

Then about the thing people ask about most, charging:

That said I feel like I have to give the people actually reading my blog something a bit extra, so here’s a recent picture I took of my car in the Adelaide Hills. What’s that? You don’t care? How dare you!

Hey, we need to talk

I’ve tweeted quite a bit about Apple’s rejection of a Hey update from their iOS App Store. It was no surprise to me that this story got the attention it did. If there’s one thing a long time Apple Developer knows, it’s how many feelings of anger, confusion and outright disappointment so many of my colleagues in this industry hold towards Apple. You might not be as familiar with them, because for the most part they all hold them extremely close to their chests and share them only in private forums with people they trust. None of them are idiots, they know that if these views were public, it could harm their careers and incomes. They love, hate and fear Apple all at the same time. It’s a wild place to be, believe me.

So if that part didn’t shock me, why am I bothering to write a blog post? It’s because people leapt to the defence of Apple almost as quickly as this news story broke. That’s right, this 1.5 trillion dollar company, the biggest company in the world, has people out there that are more than happy to defend them when they shake much smaller companies down for their protection money.

Now I realise that there’s some historic context here. Apple was once the champion of great design, having a tiny portion of the PC market and fighting for all that was good and right in the world. Reporters and the general public mocked and derided them, predicting their downfall was just around the corner for a long, long time. This led to long time Apple followers developing instinctual reactions around explaining, slowly and calmly to people why Apple wasn’t about to die, and why in fact they were an amazing company that deserves more recognition than they were getting. I think some of these people haven’t yet woken up to the fact that this isn’t the same company anymore. They are now, quite literally, the biggest company in the world. They have hundreds of billions of dollars in cash, just sitting in bank accounts. It’s this company that went to TechCrunch to explain their side of this story. You see they weren’t trying to shake Hey down! They just care about usability! They are just enforcing the rules! People care about rules right?

I could write a book on how that was one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen come out of Apple. Marco Arment sums up my feelings on this pretty aptly here. It makes you wonder whether people like Phil Schiller even know just how much developers are privately seething about their constant abuse at Apple’s hands for over a decade now. Yes a decade. Here’s a fun history lesson for you about something that happened to me a full 10 years ago, on the eve of WWDC.

But instead of writing a book, I’d like to explain rationally and calmly why I, like many developers am so alarmed at the escalation happening here by addressing a few of the common rebuttals and points I’ve seen people make in Apple’s defence.

It’s Apple’s store, they invented the iPhone, they can do what they like! Also retail stores are way worse and 30% is a good deal!

This is such a compelling argument at a surface level. Apple is providing a store experience, putting your product on their shelves, and giving you a generous 70% of all profits. If this were all Apple was doing I’d be in 100% agreement with this take. Heck they could charge 50%, or even 70%, it would be their store, their choice. The issue is, Apple also makes the iPhone, and has mandated that there’s no other way to get software onto an iPhone except through their store. So what you have is the company which has a monopoly on installation of software on the iPhone, mandating that you use their store, and give them 30%. If you don’t like that deal, there’s no alternative available. It’s the definition of anti-competitive monopolistic behaviour: taking the market dominance you’ve created in one market, to give you an unfair advantage in another.

To me this would be more like if Samsung ran a giant supermarket chain, and also made only 1 of 2 fridge’s available worldwide. Then they mandated that only food bought from the Samsung store, could go into the Samsung fridge. Now market forces would thankfully stop that from happening in the retail world, because that’s a deal no one would accept, you’d simply go and buy someone else’s fridge. The issue is, in the smart phone market we now have a duopoly between Apple and Google. There is no other phone that’s any good out there as an alternative. Additionally it’s not customers that are getting screwed over right now, it’s mostly developers. As such this is a problem capitalistic market forces won’t and can’t solve. It’s why anti-trust laws exist, to prevent situations just like this one.

Again, if Apple offered their store as the best place to get iOS software, but gave developers a way to either directly sell apps to consumers, or allowed alternative stores, I think they could set whatever rules they wanted. As it stands they don’t have that luxury, because they have ruled themselves to be the only game in town. Imagine a world where developers wanted to be on their store, instead of being forced to. Imagine a world where Apple had to compete with other distributions methods to be the best one, not just the only one. Is that really a world you want to argue against?

Apple is just trying to cover the fees of running the App Store. How are they going to cover them if no developer is paying them?

Or in the words of Phil Schiller himself: “These apps do not offer in-app purchase — and, consequently, have not contributed any revenue to the App Store over the last eight years.”

This is a wild take. The worlds biggest company, is just trying to pay for their expensive store! Give them a break, they are just trying to make ends meet! A simple thought experiment puts this whole line to sword: imagine a world where Apple pulled all third party apps from their store. No Facebook. No Netflix. No Gmail. No Spotify. Now imagine how many phones they’d sell over the next 2 years, shipping them only with Apple made software. There’s how you more than pay for your store. Just ask Microsoft how well their phone business went without the support of third party developers. I’m also ignoring the $99 we give Apple each and every year, and their search ads business that we’re forced to pay them for just so we appear in search results for our own app names. Because nothing, absolutely nothing is as big as the profit Apple makes selling iPhones, which wouldn’t exist without high quality third party apps.

As a final nail in the coffin: Apple themselves don’t contribute to Google Play revenue to distribute their Android app, Apple Music. Yep, you guessed it, they bypass Google’s 30% cut by using their own payment processing. How is poor Google going to pay for their expensive App Store with companies like Apple not paying their own way 🙃? That’s right kids, do as we say, not as we do.

Apple just cares about usability! It’s not a great experience to install an app then be immediately asked to sign in, with no explanation.

No, no it’s not. It’s also extremely common place on the App Store, as this website shows. Isn’t it odd then that the reason so many of these apps don’t show sign up pages, is because Apple forbids developers from even alluding to their being a way to pay for their service through their own websites? This whole weird install experience is a direct result of Apple’s draconian rules, and them trying to extract a 30% cut from companies big and small.

Consider Netflix, the poster child of weird sign up screens.

They are a big company that doesn’t need my sympathy, but do we really think that when they’ve done all the marketing, all the content deals and all the hard work of acquiring a customer, they should be forced to hand over 30% to Apple merely for being allowed to be installed on an iPhone? It’s extremely unlikely Apple is driving customers their way through being in the App Store. Netflix is doing all the work, and Apple wants to skim a significant amount off the top just because they can. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all, and that’s without considering all the additional hassles that Netflix using Apple’s payment system would introduce for them. They can’t help a customer change billing details, they can’t help them get a refund, they pretty much can’t do anything except ask the customer to contact Apple.

We’re in the situation we are because Apple demands you either use their payment system, or never breathe a word about yours anywhere in the app. That they are now going even further and saying that even that’s not enough, is extremely worrying. I believe they are trying this with smaller companies first, who they hope won’t fight back, before moving on to even bigger companies, with which they will no doubt do back-room deals to negotiate lower fees. They stand to make many billions more if this strategy succeeds, and who is going to stop them when there’s no alternative way to get software installed on an iPhone?

As a developer, who has put up with this for over a decade now, I’m only asking one thing. Please consider how many of us feel this way, and how bad this will be for developers and eventually, customers, if Apple keeps being allowed to move the goal posts further and further without us pushing back. I want to end this with something John Gruber wrote earlier this week:

“To say that “many developers do not want to speak out for fear of falling afoul of Apple” is an understatement. Almost none do. And one thing I’ve learned this week — mostly via private communication, because, again, they fear speaking out publicly — is that there are a lot of them.”

Self Powered Part 2: Amped AF

For those following along at home, in my previous post I talked about getting a second battery and installing more solar on my roof to try and go completely self powered. The core issue is that a 5kW system just wasn’t enough to charge 2 Powerwalls and keep my house completely off grid. It would perform great on sunny days, but throw a few cloudy days in and suddenly I was back to drawing on grid power like some kind of caveman. My goal in putting more solar on my roof was simple: could doubling my solar capacity mean I could go completely off grid?

The conclusion as it turns out is a resounding: YES! Here’s what happens now that I have an 11kW system on a sunny day vs a rainy day:

The above is interesting for a few reasons:

  • Most people don’t realise that you can still generate solar power even when it’s raining. My system pulls down around 2-3kW when it’s bucketing down.
  • With the above in mind, now think about the fact that the sun comes up every day, on a reliable and predictable schedule. You can literally set your watch to it. This means the power is very reliable. The sun isn’t likely to break down anytime soon.
  • A typical house like mine needs around 20kW/h a day to power itself. Obviously this will vary widely per household, but you only need to check your last power bill to see what your daily average is.

Which means that, even on a rainy day, my house can power itself with no issues. Additionally on a sunny day, it can make me money by exporting excess power back into the grid:


The graph above shows power being generated from the sun in yellow, and below the graph you can see the green part is where it’s going into the battery, and once full, the grey is the power being put back into the grid.

There’s one last bit of this experiment I want to share which surprised and delighted me. I have an electric car (you can read more about it here). Prior to installing these panels I was charging my car mainly from the grid. I use an energy provider called Amber, which has 30 minute wholesale based prices, so I would wait til power was cheap to pull down lots of it. This flexibility was nice, but it still meant I was needing to draw on the grid to power my car. On average I use roughly 10kW/h’s a day to drop my kids off at school and go to and from work. While electricity is far cheaper than petrol (and cleaner, especially here in South Australia!), I still was a bit miffed that this was throwing a spanner in my 100% self-powered works. It turns out I needn’t have been, because for the last month, my car has been 100% powered by the panels on my roof as well! I think it’s worth pausing for a moment just to think about that. All the power my house uses (for hot water, cooking, cleaning, washing, heating, cooling, etc) and my entire commute to and from work and other family outings, are now powered by the sun beaming onto my roof every day. Not only does that mean it’s free, but it’s also dependable and convenient. If there’s a shortage of oil/petrol, I’m not bothered. If the power goes out for a day or more, I’m not affected. I’m completely self-sufficient in the best possible way.

So what does a typical 100% off grid day look like? My car (which I plug in when I get home) is scheduled to start charging itself 1 hour 20 minutes before I leave for work. Most mornings there’s 70-80% remaining in my batteries (they have a capacity of roughly 27kW/h), and my car takes about 10kW or so out which is what I’ll use that day. Then the sun comes up, and starts charging the batteries back up. Depending on the weather they are normally full sometime between 12pm and 3. At night we use about 20% cooking, doing the dishes and powering our night-time activities and so we’re back to about 80% by bed time. There are a few weather based variations as well, for example on a really hot day (30 degrees celsius or more) I’ll flick on the air-conditioner remotely at lunch time to cool the house down to 23 degrees using that free excess power. Here’s an example of the day described above in graph form:


The blue spike at the start is my car charging, then you’ll notice another spike when the air conditioner turns on. The green and grey below the graph are power going into the battery, then once full the rest going back into the grid. Maybe I’m a nerd, or perhaps just plain weird, but staring at this image fills me with a weird sense of satisfaction and awe. The electrons and I are no longer enemies, but friends enjoying a journey of energy discovery together.

Self Powered

Quite a few people who read my previous post about having an electric car (https://rustyshelf.org/2019/05/31/australia-meet-wattson/) have been asking me what I think of home battery solutions like the Tesla Powerwall 2 and if I’d ever consider getting one. The answer might surprise you: no, I wouldn’t consider getting one. I would however consider getting two!


I purchased the first one in 2018, and when the South Australian government introduced a home battery rebate (which equated to $6000 towards a home battery) I decided to get a second. The solar inverter you can see in the picture is hooked up to a 5.1kW solar system (soon to be 11kW). I know it sounds like hyperbole but I think this battery might be the single best purchase I’ve made in recent years. The first and most obvious reason is this:


I have solar panels on the roof, generating up to 40kW/h of energy a day…and when I most need it (around 6pm when we’re cooking dinner and then later that evening) the suns not really around anymore to help me out. Additionally here in South Australia we pay on average about 40c per kW/h for power and are given around 10c per kW/h for power fed back to the grid. That means I pay roughly 4 times more for power from the grid than they pay me for power I give back. Something about that always felt wrong to me. I’d invested in power generation that sits right on top of my house, but when I needed them all those electrons were long gone and I had to pay for different, more expensive ones. Not to mention that mine were 100% renewable, who knew what sources these other nasty electrons came from?

So I did some rough maths, decided a home battery was the way to solve this problem and paid my deposit. Tesla being Tesla took their sweet time in fulfilling my order. In total it took around 6 months from when I placed the order to when the battery was installed. After about half a day for installation it was powered on and I immediately installed the app to see what was going on. I was greeted with this fun and rather mesmerising animation:

I’m not kidding when I say my wife and I have wasted many a moment just staring at that animation. It’s a fairly simple thing: there are 4 main items in the coloured circles. You have your solar panels (yellow) and the power grid (grey) which can both supply power. You have your house (blue) which uses power. Lastly you have the battery (green) which is both charged by the solar panels and supplying the power to your entire house until it’s flat. Almost every day after the battery was installed my entire house became self-sufficient. This meant while I wasn’t home the battery was being charged to 100%, and the rest of the remaining power sent back to the grid. When I got home the battery kicked in to power us through the entire night and into the next day. My power bill dropped to almost $0 overnight.

Then something even more interesting happened…


The power went out to our entire neighbourhood for a full 21 hours. The only reason I knew it was out was because I noticed all the lights in my home flickered for a split second. Then I got a notification on my phone from the Tesla app.


I got up off the couch, looked out the back door and our entire suburb was dark…except for our house. We watched TV, we made tea with the kettle, we cooked dinner and left our lights on the whole time. It was such a surreal experience knowing that our house was powered by that one (relatively) small battery in our garage. When we woke up the next morning and found out the power was still out I immediately wondered if the battery would continue to charge without a grid connection. I forgot to ask the installer about this, but sure enough when the sun came up, our battery went straight back to charging itself back up. We were, for the first time ever, completely off the grid.

IMG_1226 (1)

At work that day I got a notification from the Powerwall that the power had come back on. The final kicker was that a month later our power company sent us a cheque for the inconvenience of having been without power for 21 hours and their sincerest apologies. I cashed that cheque grinning like a giddy little school boy knowing that we hadn’t been without power for a single second of that time.

So if life was so amazing with the panels and battery, why did I bother to buy more? Well summer was a rush, no doubt about it with 1MW of power generated by my panels:


Then, in the same disappointing way it finally did to Winterfell, winter came to my place as well.


And it was at that point that I knew if I could find the means I had to do 2 things: double my solar production so I could be self sufficient in winter while also doubling my storage capacity to cover those pesky heavy cloud days. Solar panels had almost halved in price since my original install, so the first part seemed easy. Then the South Australian government introduced a home battery rebate which sealed the second part for me. Even with the price drops and rebates, this second part of my journey became less about return on investment (which I’d calculated to be about 4-6 years) and more about just doing everything in my power to farm my own electrons and use them on my property. I was drunk on the power of, well, making my own power and I wasn’t about to let a stupid season defeat me. The second battery went in last month and the extra panels should go in next month.

When winter comes for me next year, you better be damn sure I’ll be ready for it.


Australia, Meet Wattson

The Tesla Model 3 just went on sale here in Australia. I know some of my crazy tech nerd friends know how much of a big deal this is and have already mashed order (if you haven’t, and you want some free supercharging kms, now’s the time I should nudge you to use my promo code). For those that haven’t and are genuinely wondering what it’s like to own and drive an electric car down under, well, I have a confession to make. Meet Wattson:


Back in September of 2018 he arrived in Adelaide. He and I met in Port Adelaide and every day we travel together, hand in wheel. Creepy friend analogies aside, it’s been an amazing experience. I admit I’ve always been an early adopter and I while I did some research before buying, I still had a tonne of un-answered questions. There aren’t that many Tesla’s around in Australia either, so I’m also used to fielding questions from interested random people I meet on my travels. So I thought what better way to kick off the launch of the Model 3 in Australia than to answer some!


How long does it take to charge?

By far the most common question I get from people. From completely flat to full at a supercharger, about an hour. You rarely if ever do that though. Most times you just plug it in at night just like your phone and top it up with your home charger. Depending on whether you have single phase or 3 phase power your home charging speed will vary from somewhere between 35km/h to 80km/h. If you’re desperate you can also just plug it into a stock standard plug and charge at 10km/h.

Tesla superchargers are located all around the coast of Australia and driving from say Adelaide to Melbourne like I did a few months back was a breeze. Worth noting that the Model 3 is capable of charging faster than that, so expect to see those times at superchargers and other charging stations go down.

What’s the range like? Do you get anxious about running low?

Tesla sell different models with different ranges, my Model S has roughly 500kms of range. I’ve never really been anxious about that because in a typical day I drive at most 50km. Then when I get home every third day or so I might plug it in. You can even schedule charging to be at off-peak times if you get cheaper power at different times. It actually turned out to be quite the opposite of what I expected, charging is really convenient and never having to go to a petrol station again is a huge win!

How do you service it?

Well unlike a traditional car there’s no engine. This means no oil changes, no filters changes, no spark plugs to check, no drive train to maintain, and well, the list goes on. Imagine all the money you spend servicing your car now, and remove every cost except replacing tyre’s and brake pads and you quickly get an idea of what’s involved. Also because when you lift your foot off the accelerator the car regenerative brakes using the electric motors, your brake pads will last far longer than on a normal car. On a typical drive to work I barely use the actual brake pedal at all.

Has Elon turned you into one of those crazy Tesla Zealots?

Ha, no. While it’s an amazing vehicle it does have some downsides and quirks. The auto parking feature is very badly designed. I can’t figure out how to activate it half the time and every time I’ve tried the car has failed to park itself. My 2009 Golf never had a single issue finding or parking in spots by itself. The software in the car while of a high standard, has crashed on me twice in 6 months. The first time it did both screens went black, which is quite a scary thing to see in a car. The driving systems work fine when this happens, but it doesn’t really excuse it. The second time just the autopilot function crashed, beeping loudly at me to take over because it had a brain freeze. Tesla are aggressive about software updates and with that comes occasional quirks.

Autopilot you say, does this thing drive itself?

Yes, but also no. If you’re on a highway you can activate autopilot and the car will steer, accelerate, brake all by itself. I made heavy use of this on my last trip to Melbourne and it was a surreal experience. Imagine you’re in the car with a learner driver and while you have to keep an eye on everything they do, they drive you along the highway quite happily. It was honestly quite refreshing to not have to worry about all the tiny details and just focus on the road and enjoying the trip. Even weirder is if you want to change lanes, the car will happily do that too, just use the indicator and it will change lanes when it sees that it’s safe to do so.

If you believe Elon these things will be fully self-driving anytime now. Don’t believe Elon though, he’s a crazy optimist who is constantly wrong about the timelines on these things. I fully believe Tesla’s will one day drive you door to door, but I have a hard time believing that’s anywhere in the next 5 years or so.

Speaking of smarts, what tech stuff can it do?

A lot as it turns out. Firstly it has its own Internet connection which is really handy. Navigation via Google Maps, Spotify integration and companion app for iOS and Android that can do everything from reverse the car out without you in it, to unlock it, to turn on the climate control. You can even share a location straight out of your favourite maps app to the car via the phone app.


How much does it cost to run?

In a normal car I could tell you how many litres per 100 km’s you’ll get, and you’d know the price of petrol in your area and you’d happily do that maths yourself. In my golf for example there was (and I’m going off memory here) a 55L tank, which would cost about $90 to fill and could do between 800-1000km. The Golf was a small, efficient beast so your mileage may (literally) vary here.

Electric cars are no different. In my case (and lets round the numbers to keep it simple) I can do 500kms with 100kWh. If my power price is 25c per kWh, then it would cost me $25 to “fill up” my car.

Where things get really interesting though, is if like me you have solar panels on your roof and maybe even a home battery as well. In this case you can literally take free power from the sun, and put that straight into your car. I do this regularly in summer when I have way too much power being generated than I need, and in most cases get roughly 200kms of free range straight from the sun every week. Imagine if you could put something on your roof that could literally refine petrol for your car. Insanely cool.

I’ve read a lot about Tesla potentially going under, couldn’t this be a bad investment?

With every car you buy that comes with a warranty, you’re relying on the manufacturer remaining in business to fulfil that warranty. Ditto in general for parts and repairs. Tesla is a much newer, much less established car maker so that might seem like an unsure bet. To me though, I don’t think there’s any actual risk here. The company is selling a lot of cars and while Elon is a volatile influence at the helm, I’m fairly confident that if things go south for them what they’ve built out is valuable enough for another company to buy out and continue running. As I said above I’m not some rabid Tesla fan, they have a lot of faults but I really do think they are a good 5 years ahead of the rest of the automative industry and if you’re already in that space, or a giant tech company that wants to be, Tesla would be the perfect acquisition to take you from nothing, straight to the #1 EV maker position.

What about the battery wearing out?

This was a real concern back when EVs where new. How long would the batteries last, would you have as much range 5 years later as you did on day 1? The good news is that the Model S has been around for long enough for us to know the answer to these questions: and the answer is all good. You’ll lose a few km’s of range over the years but the batteries in cars aren’t built the same way the ones in your phone are, they won’t lose half their capacity in 3 years or anything crazy like that.

Any parting thoughts?

Yes! If you’re on the fence and have the means, just frickin do it! It will be the best damn car you’ve ever owned, I promise you that.

Does Wattson like wine?


How about the beach?


Are you just asking yourself questions to post more photos?

No! How dare you! This definitely isn’t Wattson in Keith porn.


Does Wattson have any relatives?

Yes, Ampy…his umm…great grandfather who started it all, when he drove to my house way back in 2015. I thank and blame Mat Peterson for doing that and sparking my interest. He proved to me in seconds that not only were electric cars good, but superior in almost every way to their petrol ancestors. From that moment on Wattson turning up was a when not an if.


Experiments, I’ve Had A Few

Those that know me even moderately well, know that I love exploring different sides of tech. Back in the early 2000’s I was a Windows user and really happy with my brand new Compaq laptop. It was one of the first to feature a graphics card you could game with and was really light and compact (I resisted the urge to say compaq, you’re welcome). Then someone brought a Mac into the office. A PowerBook. It was shiny. It was different… “Never seen OS X before, is it any good?” I was asking. Oh, UNIX based? Photo management built in? You can edit videos with ease? I’m sure you can see where this is going. The next time I bought a laptop, it was a Mac and I absolutely loved it. The PowerBook G4 was my first experience with OS X and I’ve been a loyal user ever since. Mac Minis, Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, MacBooks, iMacs the list of Macs I’ve bought at home and at work would probably be staggeringly long. And it all started with you little guy:


Over the years that same curiosity has led me to try all sorts of weird and wonderful tech. On the phone front I switched to Android for a few years and thoroughly enjoyed the breath of fresh air that came with trying out things from a different perspective.

Ok, history lesson over. Fast forward to last year and I’m travelling to the states. I brought my 2016 MacBook Pro with me, which I felt had disappointed me in so many ways. High Sierra bugs though mostly minor kept annoying me. The keyboard wasn’t fun to type on and keys kept getting things under them which stopped some keys from clicking down properly. The Touch Bar I’d hoped would be a wonderful revelation in how I used my laptop turned out to be an annoying hindrance. Who knew I pressed ESC so many damn times in a day? Not I apparently. And in my time off between doing work and going to meetings I tried to game on it. The terrible frame rates and a lap that was on fire indicated to me that perhaps the machine wasn’t really comfortable doing what I’d asked of it. The fans concurred. Then, as if it were some kind of scripted event in a game I noticed something while browsing The Verge…it was an ad for something quite different

A graphics card you can actually game on? Top end hardware in an interesting form factor? Full size USB ports? SD card reader? Unlock it with your face? Touch Screen?! That…detaches? What the actual f***? I’m not exactly sure how it happened to this day, but I ended up in a Microsoft Store in San Francisco and somehow this came into my life:


Having impulse bought yet another tech gadget I decided to see what all the fuss was about and attempt to use this as my primary laptop. How long would I last? Probably not long, I thought. Maybe a week? Well over a month later, this is still my primary laptop and my MacBook Pro just looks at me, sadly as it gathers dust. I know, some of you are cheering (I’ve met you Microsoft fans) and some of you are yelling at your screens (I’ve met you too Apple fans). So here are some thoughts about the why and how of it all.

What I love:

  • The GTX 1050 in the 13″ model I bought can handle almost any game on medium to high settings. It’s not the 1080 that’s in my desktop, but it’s decent. I almost bought the 15″ GTX 1060 model but they had none in stock at the time.
  • When doing intense tasks the laptop stays nice and cool. No more feeling of my lap being on fire that my MacBook Pro gave me every damn day. I’m not sure if this is more modern components, better cooling or just the placement of parts in a bigger case, but it’s so good.
  • Touch screen and stylus support. I didn’t think I needed this in my life until I had it. It’s really useful.
  • The pen magnetically attaches to the screen, nice touch Microsoft!
  • The form factor feels great.
  • Windows 10 is so damn stable. I haven’t had to restart it once because things were going wrong…something I find myself doing a lot on the Mac recently.
  • Gaming on Windows is a million times better than macOS. I know all the historic reasons for this, not all of them Apple’s fault, but still, it is. Also unlike under Apple BootCamp, Microsoft is quite happy for you to download the latest Nvidia drivers and install them if you choose.
  • Have I mentioned the hardware? It’s really solid and nice.
  • The keyboard feels like it has more travel and is much nicer to type on.
  • Battery life is solid, I feel like I get roughly double the battery life my MacBook Pro was getting.
  • You can unlock the laptop with your face! It’s basically the same technology Apple uses for iPhone X but done earlier and better by Microsoft. I say better because it is far better at recognising me and if my face is obscured or there’s directly sunlight telling me that and trying again.
  • Physical ESC key. ‘Normal’ USB port. I missed both these things, now I have them again. I like the idea of having an SD Card reader but freely admit to not having used it yet.
  • Surprisingly all my MacBook Pro dongles work. Ethernet, HDMI, etc. I’m sure Microsoft ones are just as overpriced as Apple’s so that was a nice surprise.

Things I have had to find another way to do:

  • I use Terminal on the Mac heavily, having UNIX there ready to go at any time is essential for me. Turns out Windows 10 supports installing a Linux subsystem with minimal effort. You go to the store, download Ubuntu (or your other Linux flavour of choice) and you’re done. There’s no tab support in the Ubuntu window but you can open as many windows as you like, and it’s actually real Ubuntu, no funny business.
  • I really like Tweetbot on the Mac. The official Twitter client for Windows is reasonably good but I don’t love it as much as Tweetbot.
  • Tower (my Git app of choice) is available on Windows. That said, I ended up using SourceTree just because their app felt like a more mature, stable Windows app.
  • Android Studio and Intell-J run pretty much the same as they do on the Mac. That covers my Android and Web development needs.
  • As much as die hard Mac fans laugh at things like Electron, turns out there’s a huge upside for Windows users. Slack, Sublime Text and so many other apps I use all the time work exactly the same way thanks to their cross platform nature.
  • 1Password for Windows is surprisingly good. If they added Windows Hello support it would be perfect.

Things that are worse, or that I don’t care for:

  • Detaching the screen seemed like such a great idea. I tried it a few times and didn’t really have a use for it, so I pretty much use this like a regular laptop. I wonder if that’s a me thing or a universal experience. I’m not embedded enough in the Windows world to know.
  • Running Xcode in VMWare is horrendously slow. I *may* have tried installing macOS directly, but getting the drivers for the graphics working seemed like an uphill battle I just didn’t have time for. This means that I have to do all my home development on my iMac, tethered to a desk. The humanity! In all seriousness if I didn’t have an iMac at work and at home this would be a huge problem. iOS development is an essential part of my job.
  • Windows still has a few dark places you can end up in. There’s still a registry (though it’s buried further down these days) and there’s still Windows 2000 style areas that you need to go to for some things. It’s not as bad as it once was, but the OS still feels a bit underdone in some visual areas.
  • While Microsoft’s ‘Authentically Digital’ design aesthetic is clean, I honestly find it bland and boring. It feels like all the bad things about iOS 7.
  • I’ve never used Siri on the Mac and I see no reason to try Cortana either.
  • Hi DPI support seems much more solid than the last time I tried it, but occasionally you’ll still run into an app that has fuzzy text or image assets because they haven’t updated to support it yet. I feel like on the Mac we passed that point several years ago.
  • The laptop goes into sleep mode when you close the lid, good. It doesn’t wake up when you open it though if it’s been a while since you did it. I suspect it has something to do with the laptop moving from sleep -> hibernate, but it’s mildly annoying.

Is this the greatest laptop ever made? No. Does it blow the MacBook Pro so far out of the water that I’m walking around laughing at people still using Apple laptops? No. But there’s something here, and you can really feel it. Microsoft is getting good at hardware. Windows 10 is improving. They are listening to feedback and making yearly incremental updates based on it. If I were Apple I’d start to worry. Being arrogant and opinionated only works as long as all the decisions you make are right. As soon as they aren’t, the illusion of “it just works” is broken and people will start to look elsewhere. Not all at once, not in some massive exodus, but person by person they will seek out the solutions they feel best for them.