Intune – Send Custom Notifications – but not to too many people

I’ve been wrestling back and forth with Microsoft on this for the past few weeks. I’m able to use Intune’s “Send Custom Notifications” feature to send messages to a very small number of people.

But, recently, I wanted to notify just under a couple of hundred of my users that the version of iOS they are running will no longer be supported by my system. I thought this notification feature would be a neat way to reach out directly to them so they knew that I meant *them* specifically and not *them* generically as tends to happen with email communication of this sort.

So I sent my notification to a tiny number of people (me especially) to ensure that the message being sent looks good for the target folks on the mobile platform. Works fine.

Sent the identical message to a single group of 171 people (again, including me) and… nothing.
The next day I sent it again after confirming that, not only did none of my half dozen test mobile devices receive it, but NOBODY received it. And… again… nothing. This time I verified that the resulting Intune notification (bell at the top in Intune) confirmed “Success”.
Sent another notification to just myself and a coworker and…. works just fine.

Well… crap. So I sent off an email instead to the users to give them their warning and opened a ticket with Microsoft regarding this.

Basically Microsoft is telling me that I must have missed the dozen or so notifications across my devices, as did all of my users. They took pains to explain to me how end users sometimes don’t notice notifications when they come up and that must be the situation… on both days.

Long and short it turns out that there is no real auditing or logging of this feature so Microsoft cannot tell the notification disposition beyond the original “Success” which apparently only means Intune has acknowledged that I’ve submitted the request.

I wanted to put this warning out to you. Not only should you not be using this feature for time-sensitive information, but also there appears to be a threshold number of people – certainly in my case – to whom it can be sent before it will give up the ghost and just not do anything.

Be absolutely certain to include yourself and some sympathetic coworkers on ANY Intune Custom notification that you send out if you want to have any assurance that it actually made it to your audience.

In my opinion Microsoft needs to update this feature so it:

  1. Logs all sent messages,
  2. Provides a disposition for the message as to whether or not a device has acknowledged receiving it.

I don’t imagine there is a lot more I could ask for. The end user is welcome to ignore the message after delivery. At that point my goal has been achieved.

I would be interested to know if there are any other folks who have run up against this issue.

So my Tesla Model X has a Little Known Bug

Back in early December (2019) I noticed that the regen on my Tesla was not what it should be.

Basically, after overnighting in my garage on a 63 degree F morning, it would take about 25 minutes of my 40+ minute commute before I had full regeneration restored.

On a cooler 37 degree night, I ended up preheating the car for *54* minutes (miscalculated departure time) and, for that 32 minute drive I NEVER regained my full regen.

I contacted Tesla to have them take a look-see, after all, not a couple of weeks earlier they had replaced my Battery Coolant Heater (coincidence?).

Regardless, in spite of what seems like an obvious connection between a battery coolant heater and my battery heater not activating properly, Tesla came back and initially informed me basically that “battery packs are big and can be slow to warm up” and, when that didn’t work they then let me know that there is a firmware bug that is preventing the battery heater from activating.

Below is the transcript of my conversation with Tesla. I’m still waiting for the “future firmware update”.

Basically I’m seeing that Tesla Model X (Premium car) has now become so niche that it basically is not getting much attention at all. And I frankly believe that Tesla service is so overwhelmed that they can’t spend the time on customers such as myself, the earlier adopters who helped to fund the whole enterprise, to ensure that our vehicles are running correctly.

Color me disappointed. I can’t wait to see where I end up on the list of HW 3 upgrade recipients.

Tesla’s explanation of my Regen issue

UP Express Toronto is Low Key Excellent

I recently had the opportunity to try the UP Express in Toronto.

“UP” stands for “Union (Station) Pearson (International Airport)” and was apparently conceived as a premium service to shuttle people from the airport through the city of Toronto via a couple of stops taking you as far as Union Station in the heart of the city.

Fortunately the “premium“ aspect of pricing this service was recognized to be a bad idea and this service is now premium in every way except for the price which is extraordinarily reasonable.

On a recent visit to Toronto, Michelle and I took the UP Express one way from the airport to the Bloor station at a cost of CAD $5.65 each. The trip from Pearson’s Terminal 1 takes about 17 minutes.

After flying in to Pearson Terminal 3 coming in from the States, it is simply a matter of taking the terminal shuttle train over to Terminal 1 (a single stop, don’t ask about Terminal 2), making the short walk to the UP Express train station, boarding the train, and shortly there after being deposited at the Bloor station.

They have a great little mobile app with which you can sort out purchasing and activating tickets. Basically, you can purchase your tickets ahead of time and, just before boarding the train, activate as many as needed for the trip and, simple as that, you are on your way.

I originally purchased tickets to the wrong station (Weston), don’t ask why I thought I needed to be there instead of Bloor, and had to phone their customer service. This was an unexpectedly pleasant experience where in there was no hassle whatsoever at getting those tickets refunded so that I could purchase the correct ones.

Since I was not intending to rent a car on this trip and was staying with family, this worked out very well for everybody. Saving them a trip to the airport and saving us the hassle and expense of taxi or Uber. From the Bloor station we were picked up by our hosts, but we could just have easily have taken the TTC or GO trains to get where we needed to go.

The UP Express trains were clean, quiet and uncrowded (at least for our visit).

I would easily use this service again. 



Sears Home Services

*Update February 13, 2020*
A representative reached out to me by phone and asked me to send some confirming documentation and she’d get that to the billing folks.
Three days later, she again reached out to me by phone and left a voicemail confirming that the matter had been resolved.
Hearing back from somebody in this day and age AT ALL is unbelievable and I have to give Sears Home Services props for that. I’m adding a “The Good” category to this post for their efforts in resolving this issue with me.
*End Update February 13, 2020*

I was initially pleased as they showed up on time and, even though they couldn’t find a definite source of the issue with my relatively new clothes dryer, they took it apart and put it back together again and, since then the issue I contacted them about has not recurred (was happening daily).

We paid them by credit card when they were here.

A month later I get a bill from them saying they were not able to process our payment (they were, according to my credit card company) and that I needed to remit payment.
My beef with them is that there is no earthly way to reach them for a billing dispute.
They want me to sit down and write them a letter (this is the 21st century isn’t it?) and then maybe they’ll consider if that has merit and let me know.

I need to decide if it’s easier to just dispute the original transaction and then pay them again or to sink into the 18th century and pull out a quill, blotter and wax seal and send them a missive via messenger.

So points for solving my problem. Major demerits for sending me an errant bill and then providing no means by which to follow up with them.

Edit: Finally did manage to reach them via chat (Chat on main page of their website does not work, but after searching for my order, the chat on THAT panel did work). They assured me that I can just ignore the bill.

Here is a chat that I had. If they are true to their word then it does reinstate the faith I had in Sears Home Services. Mind you I could probably do with out the upsell at the end there…

Turns out “Plug In EV” Plan is better for us

If you’ll recall, back in September (2018) I switched us *from* the Plug In EV plan *to* the Smart Usage Plan.

Welp, that was not the way to go. Besides Georgia Power’s ability to charge whatever they like, whenever they like (read the above article), it’s extraordinarily difficult to figure out in advance what your peak usage is going to be. Georgia Power only offers a daily electrical consumption summary if you remain on their hyper costly legacy plan. Despite having the very same smart meter and, ostensibly, the ability to report the total number of kWhs that were consumed over the past 24 hours.
I shouldn’t think it would be terribly difficult to report back to you what consumption was during what time frames (since the charges vary by time of day on the plans in question) and surely the meter can show your peak consumption spike for that period as well. I understand you are charged (penalized really) based on a peak that lasts 30 minutes or more. But I have no way of measuring or monitoring that.

So, for my case, it seems that we have a base load of energy consumption (not unexpected) that would include all the electrical bits and pieces that run constantly throughout the day – furnace fan motor, fridge, lights, computers, etc. – that I have no means to measure. Then, despite my extended efforts to schedule things like pool pumps, car charging, air conditioning, oven / stove use, clothes dryer use, etc. I still managed to hit significant peaks that lead to my bills being far greater than I was/would have been paying under the Plug In EV plan.

Fortunately, to Georgia Power’s credit, it’s not terribly difficult to switch back again which I did after reviewing the past few bills.

My December bill showed as 1,280 kWh consumed with a peak consumption of 13.4 (!) kW for a total of $189.43.
My November bill showed as 1,344 kWh consumed With a peak consumption of 9 kW for a total of $155.78.

Similarly my December bill from LAST year showed as 1,620 kWh consumed (686 kWh Super Off Peak and 0 on peak) for a total of $157.06.
My November bill from last year showed as 1,715 kWh (771 Super Off Peak, 10 kWh On Peak) for a total of $164.25

Part of the lower consumption during the past few months was that I was able to charge my car at work more often recently. Regardless, I had already reduced my car charging consumption to around 3.5 kW. This was done on the car charging page where I can limit the amperage draw. This was part of my strategy to avoid hitting the onerous peak consumption penalty.

Just grossly speaking, it seems that I could take my total consumption for the December and November bills from this year and divide them into the cost to get an average of 13.16 cents a kWh.
Doing likewise for the same months from 2018 yields about 9.63 cents a kWh or about a 40% increase in my per kWh rate.

I understand that this is not super accurate, were I to look at ONLY my November bill the average per kWh rate would be somewhat more reasonable (maybe 20 % more costly).
I guess, at core, my issue is that it is much more impactful on our day-to-day living to try to avoid the Smart Usage peak use penalty and I am chafing because Georgia Power appears to be withholding a very effective tool (daily consumption email) that might make it feasible to try to keep going down this path.

The fact remains that, for me, the increase was significant enough that I decided to fall back to the Plug In EV plan.

YMMV

Clarifying Delta’s “Full Trip” Upgrade

In checking the Delta Airlines app for some details on an upcoming trip I saw that they offered an upgrade to First Class for 7,400 points per person for Full Trip.

After doing a bit of research I saw that others had upgrade offers that specified each segment.

Since both going and return segments were listed on the same page I was not sure if this really was a “Full Trip” upgrade – which could understandably be interpreted to mean the return trip since I have only a single segment each way.

Anyway, to clarify for anybody else also wondering about this, Delta’s use of Full Trip just means all the segments within the one here-to-there trip.

It’s obvious in retrospect, as many things are. But it was ambiguous to me up front.
If you’re reading this, hopefully it’s no longer ambiguous to you.

Not sure why this doesn’t meet Amazon’s Review Guidelines

So I ordered a new Fujutsu ScanSnap ix1500 printer from Amazon a couple of days ago.

I received my delivery the following day and was pretty impressed… until I opened the rather war torn box and saw an obviously used device had been sent to me.

So I posted a quick review on Amazon indicating that I’ll post an update when I get the actual new item and downrating the device in the meantime due to the sloppy mess-up.

Stuff happens, I get it, as long as they work to make it right I’m not going to be a stickler about it.

However, just a few minutes ago I received this notice that my review was rejected. They didn’t say why exactly, only that “Reviews must adhere to the following guidelines”. After which they thoughtfully posted a link which went… well… nowhere.

The new device has already arrived (Kudos to Amazon for the fast turnaround on the replacement) and was brand new and as described. So I was happy and was going to update the review. I guess I don’t have to now. Still, somewhat disappointed at being muzzled. I don’t think the review was all that terrible. Just facts.

The actual text of the review was:

I’ll adjust the rating to represent the actual scanner quality when I receive the new one I paid for.
As it is, I received a torn box with the old shipping labels obviously torn off and new ones with my address slapped on to replace them. Heck, the original recipient’s address was still on one of the labels that were still attached to the box.
Inside, the unit was scuffed and had obviously been used. The plastic and foam protectors were all scrunched down on the bottom. It was obvious that someone had just hurriedly packed the item to send it back to Amazon.

Here is where the link regarding guidelines led:

I don’t like to bash on Amazon because they are a REALLY good company to deal with. But they shouldn’t try to hide this kind of wart.

No Way to Calculate your own Electric Bill in Georgia? And Why I’m switching to the Smart Usage from the Plug-In EV plan

Summary: There is not enough information provided on your electric bill to verify if you are being charged correctly.

Cause: There are two items on the tariff sheets that are not reported and, it appears, there is no way for a normal person to know their costs.

These are:
Demand Side Management Schedule is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Demand Side Management Residential Schedule, including any applicable adjustments”.
and
Fuel Cost Recovery is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Fuel Cost Recovery Schedules in the manner ordered by the Georgia Public Service Commission, including any applicable adjustments”.

This came up when I was reviewing my electric bill to see if the “Plug-in Electric Vehicle” rate, to which I currently subscribe, is the best option for my use patterns.

Georgia Power has 6 rate plans. Two of which (Flat Bill and PrePay) I dismissed immediately as being of no value to me. The remaining ones all had potential so I created a spreadsheet to contrast the amounts I would have paid under those plans compared with what I actually paid.

I took the last 12 months of bills and put them into a spreadsheet. Since I am already on the Plug in EV plan I already had my peak, off peak and super off peak hours broken out for me to simplify the calculations.

I also assumed that the crap fees (Environmental cost recovery, Nuclear boondoggle, Municipal Franchise fee, Tax and the monthly basic service charge) would be about the same regardless of my plan since most of these are based on my energy consumption.

When I first began my calculations I was pretty happy with the results as it looked like there was a tremendous potential for saving money by switching to a different plan. However, to my dismay, I found that the calculations for the rate plan I currently have also gave results that were significantly lower than what I’m actually paying.

I reviewed my formulas a bunch of times and had to conclude that Georgia Power was adding something into the per kilowatt charges that was not obvious on the main part of the bill. Enter the Demand Side Management Schedule and Fuel Cost Recovery items that I finally noticed in the lawyer section of the document.

By my figuring, for the past year, those two items accounted for cost increases on the power portion of the bill of from 21% (last October) up to 59% (last February) over and above the actual published rates.

In real dollars this means I paid $21.40 more on a bill totaling $124.83 up to $58.05 more on a bill totaling $157.06.

Suffice it to say I am not impressed.

So I have no way to really know how much I will pay for electricity under ANY of these plans since it appears Georgia Power can charge pretty much any amount the PSC will let them and I can have no knowledge of that.

The inability to actually calculate the costs of future bills notwithstanding, I can at least get a feel for the *relative* cost differences between the various plans.

Almost universally, the Residential plan is the worst for me.

Likewise Nights & Weekends will not do my wallet any favors although it’s much better than Residential.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. It took me a long time to figure out what the “Smart Usage” plan was doing. The description kept going on about needing to split up your high energy uses so as not to consume a lot of power at once. But the mechanism they were using to determine this wasn’t clear to me.
Then I understood. This section here:

DETERMINATION OF BILLING DEMAND:
Maximum kW: Maximum kW shall be the highest 30-minute kW measurement during the current month.

Means that you are essentially punished for the entire month for your highest amount of consumption at a single point in the month regardless of whether you are using the energy in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, or at 2 in the morning, you will pay a premium of $6.64 per kilowatt for the month for that spike.

I am able to charge my car at work many days but if I choose to charge it at home at the maximum power available to me (50 amp service at 240 volts * .8 (max sustained draw) which is 9.6 kW that means a premium on my bill of $63 even if I do it only once during the month.

But I’m able to lower the rate of consumption through my car’s charging controls. Since most of the time I don’t need the car charged *that* fast, I can simply drop it down to

So theoretically I can charge my 75 kWh battery from absolutely empty, assuming about 85% efficiency, in 18.4 hours rather than 9.2 hours and reduce my hit by about $31 from Georgia Power.
Keep in mind that it’s pretty rare for me to ever get below 45% charge, so those times change from 7.8 hrs and 15.6 hrs at 40 and 20 amps respectively to about 5.2 and 10.4 hours which is very comfortable.

Of course there can be other high consumption appliances running when I’m charging my car, so I just need to set my car schedule to off hours and make sure those items don’t conflict. For me the next biggest consumer of power in the house will be my pool pump. So I will just schedule it outside of the car charging hours. Between that and ensuring that the clothes dryer isn’t running at 3 in the morning should keep things pretty simple.

For reference I include links to the Tariff sheets (plus pdf copies I have in case the links go stale).
Nights & Weekends (Link to permanent PDF)
Plug-in EV (Link to permanent PDF)
Residential (Link to permanent PDF)
Smart Usage (Link to permanent PDF)

Silver Comet Trail Missing .75 miles between Hiram and Rockmart

One of my favorite rides along the Silver Comet Trail (official Site I think) begins at the Hiram Trailhead (mile marker 14.69) and heading toward Rockmart.

Something I’ve known for years is that *somewhere* along the route, nearly 3/4 of a mile disappears. It doesn’t matter what cycle computer or what GPS I’m using by the time I hit the mile markers near the end of my ride I’m always off by that much. 

I leave mile marker 14.69 and the following mile markers hit at (as expected) 1 mile intervals give or take a few hundred feet.

But when I hit mile marker 25 (ostensibly a little over 10 miles into the ride) I find that my various measuring instruments universally agree that I’m really only a bit over 9 1/2 miles along.

The other day I finally decided to take note of where and by how much the variance occurs. My new cycle computer combines both GPS info with the usual magnetic wheel speed sensor and is about as accurate as anything that is going down the trail.

As I mentioned, it’s not unusual for most mile markers to be off by a couple hundredths of a mile either way and it pretty much averages out.

However between mile markers 21 and 22 I have measured the distance to be about .82 miles, between mile markers 22 and 23 the distance is .76 miles, and between mile markers 23 and 24 the distance is about .7 miles.

Altogether these represent about .74 missing miles.

Not a big deal in the scheme of things. 

But if you’re timing your performance against these mile markers, this could explain those spectacular rides / runs between mile markers 21 and 24…

When, oh when will people stop using gift cards?

So, my wife received a $100 gift card a few years ago and decided to hang on to it to perhaps use to give to somebody else as a nice gift later on.

Of course she had no idea that this US Bank backed gift card started ticking down in value at a rate of $2 a month until she mentioned it today and I looked it up.

What started out as perfectly good, American cash was translated into crappy “stored value” and then sucked dry by the bank. As of today that $100 gift card, which had never been used, never been opened is worth a whopping $14.

For those people who think giving cash is crass, I would argue that giving people a gift that loses value for no good reason at all, except that it can help enrich various banking institutions (thank you for 2008 by the way) is a terrible alternative. Either you care enough to buy a thoughtful gift or you don’t, a gift card does not fill that void.

If you want to direct the money, get a nice card and tell them that here is $100 cash from your loving admirer for you to spend on “x”.

Surely you cannot feel good knowing that your recipient does not get the bulk of the gift you had intended for them?