The Lighting Trinity: 3 Specs You Must Know When Purchasing LED Light Bulbs

3 Bulbs

Shopping for lighting used to be pretty easy. For most bulbs, you only needed to know the physical shape and the wattage. For something more exotic, you could bring your old bulb to the store and match it with something on the shelf.

It’s very easy to purchase the wrong bulb — and end up dissatisfied.

Today, light bulb shopping is a convoluted mess. The wattage is no longer tied to how bright the bulb is. There are a bunch of new terms, like Kelvin, CRI, and lumens. It’s very easy to purchase the wrong bulb — and end up dissatisfied.

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Introducing SimpleBulb: The Easiest Way to Find LED Light Bulbs

I work in lighting. Many people ask me “what LED light bulb should I buy?” Indeed, visiting Home Depot or even Amazon is a recipe for confusion.

I find it frustrating when I see multiple types of bulbs (LED, fluorescent, incandescent) in the same room, especially when they are a different color. I’m sure others are not happy with their lighting purchases.

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Blog Moving to Medium

I’ve been cross-posting on this domain and on Medium for a bit. For blogging, I prefer Medium’s super-clean design, it-just-works writing interface, and social features over WordPress.

I’ve already posted two updates that don’t have a copy here:

See all my posts on Medium.

Book notes, travel, and other projects will remain on this domain.

Soon, I’ll figure out how to seamlessly integrate this site with Medium.

The Mac is Back

For a while, it felt like Apple was neglecting the Mac.

Late last year, the company updated the MacBook Pro, but priced the entry-level model much higher than the outgoing model. It dramatically raised the cost of an adequate computer.

The company has not introduced a compelling high-end desktop in nearly 10 years. The most recent Mac Pro was plagued with thermal issues and has proven difficult to upgrade.

Most major announcements in the past few years have centered around iOS devices.

The Mac is not the company’s cash cow — that would be the iPhone — but it’s the product the core audience cares about most. I’m talking about graphic artists, videographers, software engineers, machine learning experts, game developers, and other power users.

These power users care about specs, but they also care about the intangibles that come along with owning a Mac. It’s about the workflow, the lack of distraction, the perceived reliability, and the fact that just about everything just works. Cutting-edge designs and lighter weight are nice to have as long as they don’t compromise specs and intangibles.

Power users have long been neglected. But things are starting to change.

Earlier this year, Tim Cook stated the company would do more about the Mac lineup for pro users.

At WWDC this week, we saw some exciting new developments.

MacBook 2017 Lineup

A lower-cost MacBook Pro. In other words, the laptop most people are going to buy. The gateway drug for millions of students and other smart creatives into the world of creation, not just consumption.

Incremental performance upgrades across MacBook Pros and iMacs.

The stealthy, crazy-powerful iMac Pro that is ridiculous on its own, but foreshadowing for a revamped Mac Pro tower. Fingers crossed.

iPads getting Mac features, like the Dock, drag-and-drop, and a file browser. Instead of the other way around.

External GPU support. A new file system. Improved Spotlight.

Long live the Mac.

Notes #13: Moonshots

Some fascinating links from the last couple weeks:

  • SpaceX is on a race with NASA to send two people around the moon next year, opening up the door for space tourism.
  • So long, steering wheels. California is proposing rules that would allow for the manufacture, sale, and operation of autonomous vehicles in the very near future.
  • Tesla pledges 100 MWh of battery storage in 100 days to help fix South Australia’s energy supply shortage.
  • Solar now provides twice as many jobs as the coal industry.
  • The Raspberry Pi Zero W is is a $10 computer with WiFi and Bluetooth. Not the first, but we need more cheap, connected computers.
  • Ben Thompson has put out a great read on Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye, an autonomous vehicle and collision avoidance software and hardware company. His analysis of the potential winners (software and components companies, ride sharing networks) and losers (some existing automotive companies) is worth paying attention to.

And check out my most recent blog post: 2017: The Year Electric Cars Go Mainstream.

2017: The Year Electric Cars Go Mainstream

Until now, EVs were either limited in practicality or priced in luxury car territory. Both of those issues will go away this year. The Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 are the first all-electric vehicles for the masses.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

200+ Miles on a Charge

Most of the major auto players have put out compact EVs hovering around 100 miles per charge. The average daily commute is about 37.5 miles, so technically these EVs would work for a lot of people. However, longer trips could get complex,  and I imagine this fact puts off a lot of potential EV buyers.

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With the Model 3 and Bolt, drivers can expect 215 and 238 miles per charge, respectively. This means a day trip is now within reach. Tesla boasts a growing Supercharger network that enables cross-country trips. Chevrolet offers a charging station locator in several apps.

Competitively Priced

The total cost of ownership of these new cars is close to hybrids and not much more than internal combustion engine cars in the compact class. Because electricity is cheaper per mile than gas, the cars have a remarkably similar TCO after 3 years.

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premiummodelstco

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These prices reflect the vehicle MSRP, options prices, delivery charges, cost of gasoline ($2.30 per gallon), cost of electricity ($0.12 per kWh), charging conversion efficiency (90%), tax credits ($7,500 for EVs and the Chevy Volt, $4,500 for the Prius Prime), and any incentive programs available around the time of writing. Insurance, maintenance, and taxes are not considered. My analysis is in this spreadsheet.

Side note: The Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with 25 miles of all-electric range, has a lower TCO than the standard Prius. The non-Prime Prius does not have an EV-only mode. The reason for the lower price on the Prius Prime is a tax credit not available for the standard Prius. Of the cars compared, this is my top pick for those really needing the extra range of a hybrid.

More Where That Came From

Maybe you’re not in the market for a compact. While this top-selling segment is getting a lot of attention right now, we’re sure to see EVs with many more shapes and capabilities in the next few years.

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Tesla Model 3

The Chevy Bolt is already out in limited quantities. I saw a handful on the road during a recent trip to California. The Tesla Model 3 is ramping up for production now, with deliveries slated for midyear.

BOOK by Cadillac: An Early Sign of Car Non-Ownership?

GM, of all companies, announced an innovative car subscription service for its Cadillac brand this week. For $1,500 a month, you can get any car in the lineup delivered to you, and you can switch cars up to 18 times a year. Insurance, registration, and maintenance are all included, and there is no long-term commitment.

Fancy a drive in a CTS-V, but also need an Escalade to haul the kids around? If you live in the NYC metropolitan area, you’ll be able to take advantage of BOOK soon.

Gizmodo quickly criticized the offering as a toy for the rich, but hang on a second. There are a number of situations where such a service could make sense. Let’s ignore the cost for now, but we’ll get back into that.

Car subscriptions could fill an important niche for city dwellers

In the U.S. as of 2012, 92% of households own a car. But the dynamic is different in cities. Take the borough of Manhattan: only 23% of residents own a car [1]. That’s an extreme example, but in New York City overall, 54% of households do not own a car [2]. Other cities aren’t too far off from that.

There are a number of reasons for this. Many city residents commute by walking, biking, taxi/Uber, or public transportation. Parking can be difficult and expensive. Driving in the city sucks. Insurance rates are higher. Owning a car could be an unnecessary expense if not used regularly.

A lot of people want to be able to take a road trip to the beach, the mountain, or wherever else. Maybe they need a car for an occasional business meeting outside the city. Perhaps they visit their parents in the suburbs every so often. I’m willing to bet a significant portion of city residents hold on to a car just for these purposes, despite the disadvantages, because of the kind of access car ownership enables.

The thing about owning a car is you’re stuck with what you’ve got. Which is more fun to drive: a giant SUV or a sports car? Which one is easier to park? Which one hauls more stuff or passengers? Which one is better in inclement weather? The type of car you choose to own defines the type of use and enjoyment you can get out of it.

And what if you’re not going to use the car for a while? You still have to pay for insurance and parking. If you’re on a lease or financing the car, you’re married to it. There’s no cheap or easy way out.

For the somewhat-frequent business traveler, renting a car can add up, especially if the car is needed for a number of days. A BOOK subscriber could land in a new city, have the car delivered, and drive as much as needed without worrying about mileage limitations.

I’m not saying BOOK solves every problem for every person. It doesn’t. You still have to pay for parking while you have the car. But when you know you don’t need the car, there’s a savings. Owning or leasing might be cheaper in the long run, but BOOK gives you the freedom to not even pay in the months you don’t need the car. It’s probably cheaper to rent a car if you only need it sparingly, but some people would need to rent often, which is currently a pain.

The service is for a specific audience, but that niche is probably bigger than you think.

Yeah but fifteen-hundred dollars!

BOOK in this iteration is clearly geared toward wealthy city residents. But it’s highly likely GM is using Lean Startup techniques in validating a larger concept. A small market limits the number of cars Cadillac has to supply to the experiment. Wealth is correlated with education. Both of those attributes are correlated with a lot fewer problems, like accidents, failure to pay, and abuse of the vehicles [3]. With those risks out of the way, GM can study use patterns and demand before scaling up.

Think about Tesla, which started out selling a Ferrari-competitive sports car, then made a cheaper-but-still-expensive luxury car, and is now about to come out with a commodity-priced car. If GM can prove demand and work out the kinks with BOOK, you might see a similar Chevy On Demand offering in the future at a lower price. And surely, countless entrepreneurs are watching BOOK to see what happens.

Let’s not stop there though.

Car subscriptions in the autonomous age

It’s inevitable: cars are going to drive themselves completely in a matter of years. We can argue about the pros (safety, convenience, freed-up time, speed) and cons (short-term job loss, driving can be fun), but the long-term effect is a net positive for society. The transition has already begun with partial autonomy.

There are a few different scenarios for car usage in the future:

In the first scenario, a self-driving version of Uber will be the best option for intra-city trips. UberPOOL, the service that lets riders pay for a single seat in a shared Uber trip, will probably continue to be the lowest-priced option. Those in need of a quicker ride, or those desiring something bigger or more luxurious, will pay more for the various options. In this scenario, the user is paying for the time occupied between points A and B.

A second scenario: longer-distance Uber-style trips are likely to become more common. The rider pays for a seat, or perhaps a whole vehicle, to travel between two cities. He pays for the time in the car. When he gets out, the car disappears to pick up someone else. Or if the user travels to a remote destination, where it is unlikely someone else will request a ride before the return trip, she pays extra.

These first two pay-as-you-go scenarios address multiple inefficiencies, but there are two I want to highlight: the vehicle has a much higher rate of use, and parking is not a concern for the rider. Because of these, savings can be passed on to the end user, and it only makes sense that car ownership will be disincentivized for those who only take short trips and the occasional longer trip.

But what about those who need a car every day to travel long distances, like commuting from the suburbs? No doubt, they are going to be the last group to own cars en masse. But car ownership will be disincentivized for these people too. Constant upgrades that are required by law to enhance overall safety will be coupled with diminished demand for out-of-date used cars. Cars of the future are transportation appliances.

The frequent car user who takes longer trips is ripe for an autonomous car subscription service. This will be a lot like leasing a private car today, albeit with more control by the fleet owner than the lessee. Whenever an upgrade or maintenance is required, the subscriber just gets a new car. And the user will be able to change the vehicle type at will.

The target market for BOOK by Cadillac today (wealthy city dwellers) is not the same as a future subscription market (people needing consistent long-distance car service). But it is GM’s chance to get its foot in the door in a world in transition from products to services. This move only helps prove that GM is committed to staying relevant in the long term.

Sources

[1] New Yorkers and Cars

[2] The Cities Where No One Wants to Drive

[3] The Hidden Inequality of Who Dies in Car Crashes