Tesla Model 3 Cost of Ownership Slightly Cheaper Than a Camry

We’ve updated our 5-year cost of ownership study comparing a Tesla Model 3 to a Toyota Camry. The comparison gives us a look at how the Model 3 cost compares to a mass-market sedan. The original study from 2017 can be found here.

  • In 2017, our model concluded that while the Model 3 value proposition was weighed down by a 40% sale price premium, it would end up costing 13% more to own and operate over 5 years than a Toyota Camry LE.
  • In 2019, we found the purchase price gap has widened to 59% ($35k Model 3 has not come to fruition), but the cost of ownership gap has also widened to 18% from 13%.
  • Importantly, factoring in the resale value of the two vehicles (benefit of an EV is their ability to retain value), the Model 3 becomes 5% cheaper on a cost per mile basis.
  • The bottom line: Model 3 is a superior car (electric, safer, Autopilot) compared to a Camry, and is slightly cheaper to own and operate over 5 years.
  • Average all-in cost per mile for a Model 3 is $0.46, compared to the Camry LE at $0.49, and Audi A5 at $0.80.

Here are the notable changes from the previous model:

  • The Model 3 purchase price increased. Our previous model anticipated a $35K Model 3 would be in the market, which hasn’t came to fruition. The entry-level Model 3 today is $38,900.
  • The Camry LE price was essentially unchanged.
  • We’re now factoring in resale value in our model.
  • Gas prices increased 16% since our 2017 study. We continue to expect a 5% annual increase.
  • Model 3 insurance is lower by 9%.
  • We are shifting to a finance option. Previously we used a lease option. This slightly and uniformly increased interest payments for each car.

Luxury Status

As the Model 3 is still considered to be a luxury sedan, we compared it to another luxury vehicle of similar cost. When compared to an Audi A5, the Model 3 was 12% cheaper upfront but over 5 years is 32% cheaper to operate (42% cheaper with resale value included). While we still believe the Model 3 has the perks of a luxury vehicle, it’s evident that it can maintain those features at a significantly lower cost.

Cost of Insurance

The cost difference between insuring a Tesla Model 3 and a Camry LE is less than you might think. The average cost per year of insuring a Tesla Model 3 is $1,128 today, while the average cost to insure a Camry LE is $1,212. Research suggests that Tesla Model 3s are categorized by insurance companies as luxury vehicles, while the Camry LE is not. Our estimates show that the first two years of insurance will run you about $100 a month, with the third and fourth year dropping to $90 a month. This price reduction is correlated with Tesla’s rumored internal insurance program which is projected to begin this summer in North America, as it has already launched in both Australia and China. The goal with Tesla’s insurance program is to match rates of the lowest competitor. We predict that the price to insure a Camry over the next 5 years will increase at a rate of 0.5%. Based on our model, we predict the average difference in insurance costs over a 5-year ownership span to be $420 less for a Tesla than a Camry.

The car insurance game itself is a data operation and there just isn’t enough current data on Tesla to justify the low insurance costs they should receive based on their safety ratings. We see this transformation happening in two ways; insurance companies who see the value in Tesla’s safety rating and lower their rate accordingly, and Tesla owners beginning to use Tesla’s branded insurance.

Looking to the Future

We believe that our model is conservative and that there is still room for the Model 3 to become even cheaper to own. We decided not to include the US EV tax credit due to the fact that it will be phased out completely by the end of this year. However, there is an opportunity for new incentives to be introduced. We believe Tesla will shed its status as a premium luxury vehicle that is contributing to higher insurance and financing rates. As EV ownership grows and there is more data on their cost, we expect the long-term value proposition to shine through.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest or may invest: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. From time to time, we may write about companies that are in our portfolio. As managers of the portfolio, we may earn carried interest, management fees or other compensation from such portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making any investment decisions and provided solely for informational purposes. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections and the content on this site should not be relied upon. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Read More

Zeller & Moye designs modular social housing concept Casa Hilo for rural Mexico

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

This proposal for low-cost housing by Mexican studio Zeller & Moye features a simple module, made from concrete and adobe brick, that can be easily expanded according to residents’ needs.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

The studio developed the concept as part of the Infonavit, a housing laboratory located in Hidalgo, Mexico, initiative, which invited architects to create innovative designs that would improve living conditions across the country.

Called Casa Hilo, the residence comprises a 90-metre-square base model made from concrete and earthen brick that hosts two bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area and a single bathroom. Additional blocks can be added to this module, to create multi-level stacks or large single-storey homes that meet the demands of the inhabitants.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

“Based on modules, the house takes form from a single box that can be multiplied and arranged freely according to the site, budget and needs of each family,” Zeller & Moye said.

In the single-storey layout, the rooms create a house that is interwoven with the landscape where each room is accessed off the surrounding garden instead of through a traditional corridor space.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

Each room is contained inside a separate module with an individual entrance and rooftop terrace. A garden space between each room creates designated patio and planting areas where residents can enjoy an escape from the high temperatures.

A simple bathtub, cooking pit and set of dining furnishings, all made with concrete, are located outdoors to keep the housing in line with the outdoor lifestyle of  those living in Coquimatlán, Colima, in Mexico’s countryside.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

A concrete staircase runs along the side of the module to allow residents to access a rooftop terrace, which can be used as a social or commercial space, or higher floors in the stacked version.

Zeller & Moye’s units are framed using concrete, which is intended to bolster the structures against earthquakes. Infills of the framework are constructed from traditional adobe blocks, which are taupe coloured, earthen bricks.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

“The adobe provides a natural climate buffer by absorbing excess humidity and cools the interior with its thermal mass during the day, making Casa Hilo a sustainable example for rural architecture,” said Zeller & Moye.

Other simple materials in the housing include bamboo lattice windows and doors that allow air to constantly circulate inside. The windows swing open and rest on an arm to provide natural ventilation and form a canopy over the outdoor area.

Founded by Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye, the firm was among 32 studios that developed low-cost housing prototypes for the project led by Infonavit, a federal company that develops workers’ housing.

Casa Hilo by Zeller & Moye

The prototypes, which include schemes by Fernanda Canales, Tatiana Bilbao and Frida Escobedo, are currently exhibited as an experimental neighbourhood in Hidalgo.

The long-term intention is that the concepts will be used to develop low-cost workers’ housing that can be rolled out nationwide.

Photography is by Jaime Navarro.

Project credits:

Architects: Zeller & Moye: Ingrid Moye, Christoph Zeller (directors); Florence Bassa, Gian Andrea Diana, Omar G. Muñoz, Eduardo Palomino, Santiago Sitten (team).

Collaborators/Consultants: Structure: Ricardo Camacho; Installations: NLZ Instala S.A de C.V.

Read More

Sources: Apple is developing in-screen fingerprint ID for its iPhones and working on its first low-cost iPhone since iPhone SE, both for as early as 2020 (Bloomberg)


September 5, 2019, 4:50 PM

Top News

Listen to Techmeme’s Podcast:

Techmeme Ride Home: Fri. 09/06 – Sonos Goes Portable and Apple Music Goes To The Web

Subscribe via
Apple Podcasts,
Google Play, or

About This Page

This is a Techmeme archive page.
It shows how the site appeared at 4:50 PM ET, September 5, 2019.

The most current version of the site as always is available at our home page.
To view an earlier snapshot click here
and then modify the date indicated.

From Mediagazer

Carlos Lozada / Washington Post:

Jeffrey M. Jones / Gallup:

Benjamin Mullin / Wall Street Journal:

Read More

The Mysterious Economics of Face Wash

I investigated the origins of my face wash and stumbled into the peculiar world of private-label products.

Joe Pinsker

nimon / Shutterstock / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

My face wash goes by many names. About a decade ago, I started using a product under the brand name Cetaphil because, as best as I can remember, a dermatologist recommended it to me. At some point not too long afterward, I elected to save a couple of bucks by switching to a similar-looking product, one with a CVS logo, that sat next to Cetaphil on the shelf. I’ve stayed more or less loyal to that Cetaphil look-alike ever since, and have grown accustomed to the texture and odor of this particular translucent goop, as well as its price points: $13.49 for Cetaphil and $10.99 for the store brand when I last checked at a CVS.

But recently I came across another Cetaphil clone (this one with the brand name Mountain Falls) on Amazon, listed at the almost unbelievably low price of $4. I soon found another, with four bottles selling for $19.60, from an Amazon-owned brand called Solimo. Here was the off-white bottle and blue cap that had become a fixture in my shower, priced at roughly a third of what I’d been trained as a consumer to expect.

I had questions. How could Mountain Falls and Amazon afford to sell this face wash at such low prices? Are their products worse than Cetaphil? Are they the exact same? Does Cetaphil (or the company that makes it, Galderma Laboratories) know about this? Does it care? How much does my face wash even cost to make? And what have I been paying for all these years? These questions presented a 21st-century skin-care mystery, the pursuit of which led me to two of the most mysterious (to consumers, at least) words in retail: private label.

Private label is a designation that would seem to be reserved for products of true refinement and distinction, but in fact it is what the consumer-product industry calls goods that retailers produce themselves. Private-label products are not a recent innovation—stores have been developing and selling their own products since the 19th century—but their resemblance to various brand-name consumer staples raises the question of what, exactly, is the point of brands. These days, as cheaper substitutes proliferate online and retailers curate their private-label portfolios based on ever more granular sales data, it’s getting harder and harder to tell.

Back when I switched from Cetaphil to CVS’s house brand, I didn’t notice any drop-off in quality. The same was true when I switched from CVS’s house brand to Mountain Falls. I wondered if perhaps I was just not a face-wash connoisseur, but when I consulted half a dozen experts (including chemists and skin-care marketers), I heard basically the same verdict: The face washes aren’t technically identical, but they are very similar—to the degree that, to the typical face, they’re probably indistinguishable.

Most face washes are made in basically the same way, said Mike Wint, a senior principal engineer at the consumer-product marketing company Amway: “You put water in a tank. You stir the stuff in[to] the tank.” Indeed, the list of ingredients on the four bottles I looked at all start with water and end with the preservative methylparaben (except for Solimo’s, which ends in sodium benzoate, also a preservative).

In between are, among other things, surfactants (which get rid of oil on the skin), humectants (which keep skin moist), and “fragrance,” which Wint told me is there to cover up the “objectionable” Crisco-like smell of the fats that soaps and surfactants are derived from.

Chemically speaking, my face wash is a bit boring. “These are very inexpensive ingredients—it doesn’t mean they’re not good, but they’re very inexpensive commodity ingredients,” said Karen Young, the founder and CEO of the Young Group, a beauty-product marketing company. “There’s nothing fancy or sophisticated, which is why people love Cetaphil … and that’s why it is knocked off [so often].”

Just how inexpensive these ingredients are is a little hard to state precisely, because manufacturers can get much better prices if they buy in bulk—and this applies to purchasing bottles and caps as well. With this caveat in mind, the experts I consulted helped me ballpark what it costs to make the plastic bottle and labeling, the plastic pump cap, and, as one consultant put it, “the juice” inside. The bottle, they agreed, was simple and cheap—probably less than 50 cents. Estimates for the cap fell in a similar range. As for the actual face wash, my experts figured that the bill for the ingredients would be about $1 to $1.50 per bottle.

All told, the product I’d been spending $10.99 on likely costs about $2, plus or minus 50 cents, to make. (None of the face-wash brands mentioned in this article would comment on their costs or production methods.) If that’s what it costs to make a bottle of my face wash, I wondered, where had my money been going? Let’s start with Cetaphil. Sixteen ounces of the stuff sells for $13.49 at my local CVS. The marketers I consulted said that margins can vary greatly from product to product, but that a good rough guess is that CVS pays Cetaphil half of the sticker price of each bottle. For simplicity, let’s call that cost $6.50.

This is not a bad deal for Galderma: It made a thing for probably not more than $2.50, and sold the thing for $6.50. And it’s not a bad deal for CVS, either: It bought a thing for $6.50, and sold the thing for twice that. Both companies use that money to cover their many costs—for Cetaphil, that likely includes marketing and research and development, and for CVS, that likely includes rent and labor.

The economics get more interesting with CVS’s private-label face wash. In this scenario, CVS charges customers $2.50 less than it does for Cetaphil, but, because it’s buying from a manufacturer instead of a brand, gets to acquire the product for probably not more than $2.50 (instead of $6.50), so it comes away with a bigger margin.

Christopher Durham, the president of the consultancy My Private Brand, explained the cost of buying a brand-name product this way: “What you’re paying for is science and innovation and marketing and the brand on the front of it and the distribution, and then they have television commercials. There’s a lot more than just the cost of goods.” When a company like CVS orders up a private-label version of a product, Durham told me, it “can get away with reducing all that.”

Amazon contorts these cost structures even further. While it does have some physical stores, it has far fewer than CVS does, so CVS’s costs for rent and labor are likely much higher. Given that, and many other efficiencies working in Amazon’s favor, Amazon can still make money by selling its products at lower prices, even though it has overhead costs of its own, for things like shipping and warehousing. For instance, the per-bottle price of Cetaphil on Amazon right now is about $9.50 (though you have to buy two at a time).

The combination of Amazon and private-label production is what can make the economics of face wash seem truly bonkers. Mountain Falls is a lot like a private-label brand: Its bottles closely resemble Cetaphil’s, and while it isn’t owned by Amazon, it does sell exclusively to Amazon.

Imran Karim, the founder and CEO of Trophy Skin, which sells skin-care tools, said that Amazon, like CVS, might buy health-and-beauty products at a price of about 50 percent of what they sell to customers for. If that’s the case, Amazon pays about $2 for a bottle of Mountain Falls face wash that sells for $4. Its margins are probably much lower than CVS’s, but it and Mountain Falls are likely each coming away making a profit anyway. (Vi-Jon, which manufactures Mountain Falls products, didn’t respond to my requests for comment.)

The Solimo face wash, then, is the final iteration: It’s a private-label version of Cetaphil made by a brand Amazon itself owns. Right now, 16-ounce bottles of it are only available in packs of four, for less than $5 a bottle.

You may be curious at this point, as I was, about how Galderma feels about all this. It spent money developing and advertising a product, and arrived at mutually agreeable deals with CVS and Amazon to sell that product. And then CVS and Amazon started selling obvious imitations of that product alongside it, at lower (sometimes far lower) prices.

“I don’t know for a fact, but I would guess that they are extremely unhappy about that,” Karim said. Most of the other experts I talked with assumed the same; Galderma did not respond to my questions.

Galderma’s feelings, sadly, don’t matter much: Private-label imitations are standard practice in this industry and others, and there’s rarely anything that the original brand can do about them. “I could reverse-engineer a face cream without even needing the formula, just based on industry know-how,” said one consultant who asked not to be named because it might hurt her business. “Getting pretty darn close—there’s nothing wrong with that.”

CVS and Amazon wouldn’t tell me how they decided to produce an imitation of Cetaphil, but Karen Young, the marketer, suspects that at some point, the retailers saw in their own sales data that Cetaphil was selling really well, and realized they could make a lot of money selling their own version. Then they probably asked a manufacturer, either explicitly or implicitly, to produce a nearly identical formulation.

I was delighted to learn that nothing is stopping me from going private-label myself: I could just bring a face wash to a producer, coyly ask it to replicate the stuff, and stick a label on the resulting product bearing the text “Joe’s Face Wash” and a picture of my face. In fact, it would be even easier than that. Karim said that some labs do the work of approximating various products and then actively try to sell those nameless liquids, gels, and creams to existing brands. “Joe’s Face Wash could turn around in a couple weeks,” Karim told me. “They just have it ready to go, and they’re going to print labels and put it on there.” (One expert I talked with even said it’s possible that Vi-Jon, which makes Mountain Falls, might be making face wash for other retailers, such as CVS, too.)

Young told me that brands can’t do much to halt this private-label process. So much of their sales come from retailers like CVS that they can’t just take their business elsewhere. “If I’m Galderma … do I love sitting on the shelf next to the retailer’s private-label version?” Young said. “No, but if I walk around the store, they’re doing it with every other major brand … It’s a fact of life. It’s just that these retailers are so big, and so powerful, that if I want to stay in there, welcome aboard.”

The only public hints of any hard feelings (aside, of course, from lawsuits) are the disclaimers written on the products themselves, which read like passive-aggressive messages from one company’s legal team to another’s. “The makers of Cetaphil do not manufacture store brands,” the Cetaphil label helpfully reminds shoppers. “Compare to Cetaphil,” the front of the bottle of CVS’s face wash mockingly responds, with an asterisk that leads to a back-of-the-bottle clarification that “This product is not manufactured or distributed by Galderma Laboratories, Inc., distributor of Cetaphil.”

Retailers’ aisles have long been stocked with private-label products, but consumers seem particularly open to them now. Various market-research firms have in recent years sketched a picture of what they call “agnostic shoppers”—informed, savvy consumers who are less loyal to specific brands and stores than to getting a good deal, whether that deal is considered good because of low prices, high quality, or both.

Private-label products seem a perfect fit for this trend, being both cheaper than brand-name products and comparable to them in quality. Indeed, a report last year from Gartner, a research and consulting firm, found that roughly half of Millennial shoppers said that they were indifferent to whether a product is brand-name or private-label, and that they would buy more private-label goods if the market provided them.

Retailers like private-label products too—they often have higher profit margins for stores than brand-name goods do. The national grocery chain Kroger has taken a particular liking to them. According to an article from Reuters earlier this year, Kroger has a team of 400 employees who develop its private-label products, poring over sales data to pounce on new trends. Each Kroger store, on average, has more than 15,000 house-brand products, and, the company told me, the sales of these products accounted for about 27 percent of the chain’s grocery sales last year. (CVS, for its part, told me it stocks about 1,500 “national brand equivalent products.”)

Private-label products currently account for much larger shares of sales for brick-and-mortar stores than they do for online retailers. According to the market-research firm Nielsen, $17 out of every $100 spent in American brick-and-mortar stores goes to private-label brands, while online, private-label products make up only 3 percent of sales of packaged goods. But private labels’ share of online spending has been on the rise, more than doubling in the past two years.

A spokesperson for Amazon told me that its private-label products “only account for about 1 percent of our total retail sales.” The company does sell a range of products under Amazon-owned brands, but lately it has been focusing on assembling an arsenal of goods that are made by other companies but can’t be purchased anywhere except on Amazon. “Forming exclusive brand partnerships allows Amazon to add unique products and plug assortment gaps in high-demand categories without having to spend the resources to develop, manufacture and sell them,” observes a Gartner report from this spring. Hence Mountain Falls.

The market-research firm IRI has found that the prices of private-label products are on average 20 percent lower than those of brand-name products, but there’s apparently such a thing as too good of a deal. Christopher Durham, the private-label consultant, told me a story about working with a retailer on a pack of private-label batteries. Their price was about 60 percent cheaper than what the brand-name version was selling for, but even though Durham said they were of comparable quality, sales were “very, very slow on them.” He and his team experimented with different prices, and arrived at a somewhat amazing conclusion: “We could move the price up to about 25 percent less than the national brand, and the [sales] volume went up about seven times. Which is crazy, right? But [the customer was thinking], These are so cheap—I don’t trust them.”

Clearly, the low price of Mountain Falls didn’t deter me. But I still wondered whether I was in any way worse off buying private-label face wash. “Do they do the same thing?” said David Steinberg, the president of Steinberg & Associates, a company that advises clients on the chemistry and regulation of cosmetics and topical pharmaceuticals. “That’s up to you to decide whether they function the same way.” (And it’s not always the case that private-label products are indistinguishable from brand-name ones. Karen Young told me that going with brand-name versions of more sophisticated products with higher-quality ingredients might be wise for skin-care aficionados.)

But was there some downside that was not on the radar of these skin-care experts? Was supporting Amazon somehow worse than supporting CVS?

Stacy Mitchell, who researches corporate concentration at the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, shut down that thought. “I don’t think you should go out of your way and pay more to support CVS,” she wrote to me in an email. “If you were talking about a local store that provides valuable services in your neighborhood—a place that you and your neighbors rely on for certain things, a place that you like going to, that adds life to the neighborhood, that’s owned and run by someone who is part of the community—then yeah, that might well be worth it.”

And what about buying private-label products in general—if my money isn’t going to the R&D departments of big brands, then eventually won’t there be fewer innovative products for private-label makers to knock off in the first place? When I raised this point, Durham noted that retailers are increasingly using private-label products not just to imitate others, but to differentiate themselves, developing their own unique offerings in order to attract and retain shoppers.

Ultimately, I found few good reasons to return to using Cetaphil, and indeed, Young said that brand loyalty is hard to cultivate in her line of work—the consumers she courts are very price-sensitive, and might switch to another brand if an enticing deal comes up. The end result of this, she said, is that brands pour resources into marketing. “The personal-care and beauty industry spends a lot of money trying to hang on to customers,” she said.

So after all my sleuthing, I came to think of some brand-name consumer products as things people pay extra for so the companies that make them can spend that extra money on getting people to buy more of those products in the future. In other words, consumers are picking up the tab for the advertising they themselves get bombarded with. I’ll take the private-label stuff, thanks.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Read More

Deepfake: Boris Johnson sings “Saddy Waddy”

Shardcore (previously), “I made a video for Saddy Waddy by The Private Sector using a new deepfake lipsync method to get Boris Johnson to sing the words.” [Ed: Warning, strobe effects]

Read More

Deal: Get a brand new LG G8 ThinQ for a crazy low price of $375

LG G8 ThinQ eBay Deal September 2019

Though it fell short in some regards, we are still fans of the LG G8 ThinQ. Its beautiful OLED display, decent battery life, unique hand gesture feature, and headphone jack/Quad DAC setup gives competing devices a run for their money. And speaking of money, the device recently received a huge price drop on eBay.

The device can be purchased for less than $375 from Cell Force, a top-rated eBay seller. This sale is for the unlocked GSM variant only, it’s brand new, and only the red model is available.

The device comes with 128GB of storage, 5GB of RAM, a 6.1-inch QHD+ display, and the Snapdragon 855 SoC. That’s a lot of phone for not a lot of money.

Read Also: LG G8X ThinQ hands-on: Is this LG’s answer to the Galaxy Fold and Mate X?

The device has previously received a price drop, bringing it down to about $500 through most vendors. But this $375 price tag makes the price more accessible than ever.

Keep in mind Cell Force doesn’t provide any warranties with their products, but it does offer a 30-day return policy from the purchase date. So, if you are a fan of LG products, you are looking for a DAC in your mobile phone, or you are just ready to upgrade, you should really consider picking up the LG G8 ThinQ.

Read More

California Is Blaming Prison Reform for Incarcerated Fire Fighting Labor Shortage

Inmate firefighters from Oak Glen Conservation Camp clear vegetation that could fuel a wildfire near a road under the authority of Cal Fire.

Inmate firefighters from Oak Glen Conservation Camp clear vegetation that could fuel a wildfire near a road under the authority of Cal Fire.
Photo: Getty

Every time a dangerous wildfire breaks out somewhere in California, fire crews race to battle it. Incarcerated people play a major role in this effort; the state has about 2,600 incarcerated people fighting wildfires under the state’s fire camp program. Over the past four years, the state has had trouble recruiting for this program. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) blame prison “population reduction strategies,” according to a document obtained by Earther through a public records request.

The state has made some slight changes in an attempt to entice more incarcerated people to participate in the Cal Fire program. The state used to pay the workers a meager $2 a day with an additional dollar an hour when the inmates were actively fighting a fire. Since March, incarcerated people performing firefighter duties have earned $5.12 a day as part of the state’s effort to attract more interest in the program, according to the CDCR. Cal Fire didn’t return Earther’s repeated requested for comment.

The gig pays better than other prison jobs. Although $5 an hour is paltry pay for any work, most other prison jobs in California barely pay a dollar an hour, an unacceptable amount by any account, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. And participating in the firefighting program can result in reduced prison sentences. But despite these enticements, the fire camp population has dropped by nearly 1,000 since 2007 to about 3,700 in 2018, which includes those who work at fire camp and perform non-firefighting duties, according to state data Earther received from public records requests.

The graph shows the reduction of the fire camp population since 2007.

The graph shows the reduction of the fire camp population since 2007.
Image: CDCR

Since at least 2015, CDCR and Cal Fire began sounding the alarm internally about this shortage of prison labor. Cal Fire and CDCR lay the blame on prison reform, according to an information sheet released in September 2015 Earther obtained through a California public records request. After 2011, the prison population eligible to join fire camps began to drop due to Assembly Bill 109, which worked to address overpopulation in state prisons. Then in 2014, came Proposition 47, which reclassified some drug and theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, further reducing the number of people in prison.

Under the leadership of Kamala Harristhen California’s attorney general and now Democratic presidential candidate—the attorney general’s office even fought to stop these reforms in order to keep the fire camp program alive. Her office repeatedly intervened in a Supreme Court case that pushed California to reduce its prison populations. On September 2014, the office filed a court motion opposing a motion that would expand two-for-one time credits—which give incarcerated people two days off their sentence for every one day served—to all incarcerated people with minimum-custody classification, the populations that require the least supervision due in part to good behavior, in California prisons, not just fire camp workers.

Harris’ office wrote in the motion:

Extending 2-for-1 credits to all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought. …

The extension of 2-for-1 credits to all [minimum security facility] inmates would likely make fire camp beds even more difficult to fill, as low-level, non-violent inmates would choose to participate in the MSF program rather than endure strenuous physical activities and risk injury in fire camps.

Fighting wildfires isn’t easy work, especially as California’s wildfires grow more extreme in a warming, drying climate. There’s a risk of severe burns, which happened to five incarcerated people while battling the deadly Camp Fire last year. There’s also respiratory risk from breathing all the smoke. Fire season is becoming a year-round occurrence as our climate changes. Add low wages into the mix, and it makes sense why the interest in the program has waned over time.

“It might be that, frankly, the pay is so low, the work is so hard and dangerous, that it could be that people say, ‘This is just too much, too dangerous and difficult and risky kind of work,’” Marc Morjé Howard, the director of Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, told Earther.

Fire season has been quiet so far this year, but last year’s blazes were enough to last a lifetime. It was the state’s “deadliest and most destructive” season on record, per Cal Fire. Nearly 1.7 million acres burned across the state, and incarcerated individuals helped put many of the fires out.

While the state could hire firefighters that aren’t behind bars to take on this gargantuan task, California saves some $100 million a year by relying on prison labor. Instead of hiring more professional firefighters, Cal Fire and CDCR proposed increasing the hourly wage of incarcerated firefighters by a dollar since 2015, according to five internal memos Earther reviewed.

That raise would cost the state an extra $200,000 a year, so it opted for a different kind of raise after years of this same proposal being rejected: increase the amount of money incarcerated firefighters would receive per day. The raise to $5.12 a day more than doubles the daily rate of this work, but CDCR wouldn’t disclose to Earther whether the raise has been successful in increasing the number of people joining the program. It also wouldn’t elaborate on why it chose the daily raise rather than the hourly one.

Increasing the number of fire camp participants is ultimately the goal, as these documents make clear. The state really depends on this workforce to help prevent wildfires from burning out of control. Incarcerated people are stationed in special camps near where fires tend to break out. They have more privileges than your average prisoner, including the ability to walk around, access the outdoors, and even better meals, some incarcerated people have told Earther.

Still, what they earn is next to nothing compared to what they would earn if the state actually employed them. Entry-level firefighters with Cal Fire can make up to nearly $14 an hour, according to the Sacramento Bee. After overtime pay, however, some higher-ranking employees, including fire captains and chiefs, earned more than $200,000 last year. The pay gap is serious.

“I’m not completely opposed to labor in prison,” Howard told Earther. “I think, actually, it’s a very effective way of socializing people, of getting them used to a routine, of preparing them for the labor force. There are all kinds of positives
 that come from prison labor—I just think that there should be fair compensation for work people are doing.

This raise does show some progress, Nicole Porter, the director of advocacy at the Sentencing Project, told Earther, but the wages are “extremely modest” given the risk incarcerated firefighters face in their line of work. She’d rather a system that allows workers to unionize and set the terms of their work and compensation.

Battling wildfires is an especially tough situation for Howard to break down, though. Many of the incarcerated people fighting fires have great pride in their work. Howard called their duties “heroic.” Lives, homes, and entire towns are sometimes at stake when wildfires flare up. But so are the lives of those working to protect others. And some might argue that if these individuals are deemed “safe” enough to perform life-saving labor outside the prison walls, why are they incarcerated at all?

“Incarcerated workers are doing labor for very low wages,” Porter said. “Those are valid concerns, but what’s also valid is the waste of humanity that’s disappeared behind prison walls for very excessive sentences and the reliance of this country on incarceration to begin with.”

To make matters worse, these individuals can rarely land a job in fighting fires once they’re released. The space is competitive, and a criminal record can harm a person’s chances. So the daily raise to $5.12 is great, but access to employment once these incarcerated people are free is essential too, advocates argue.

CDCR noted that it offers all its incarcerated people in their program training at the Ventura Training Center after they finish their sentences, but it’s unclear how much that improves someone’s chance of landing a job as a firefighter. Last year, the state finally passed a bill that allows Cal Fire to certify some incarcerated people as emergency medical technicians, which many weren’t able to do so previously with a criminal record, to make obtaining jobs a little less difficult.

But much work remains, and California’s fire season is about to kick into high gear with the National Interagency Fire Center forecasting an increased risk of “significant” fires through November.

Michael Waters contributed reporting to this story.

If you have any information about California’s fire camps and the state of inmate labor you’d like to share with Gizmodo, email yessenia.funes@earther.com.

Read More

Adding CS Pin to ST7789 1.3″ IPS LCD

Recently I came across a low cost 1.3″ IPS TFT screen. It has very high resolution of 240×240 pixels and very high pixel density due to its small size. It is a IPS panel, IPS stands for InPlane Switching. These are higher end type of LCD screens which have great viewing angles and better color reproduction than traditional TFT+TN/CSTN type LCD’s. Thats why its one of my favorite LCDs.

It uses the SPI Interface to communicate with the microcontroller or a SOC.

Standard SPI uses 4 wires to communicate:

1) MOSI -> Master Out Slave In

2) MISO -> Master In Slave Out

3) SCK -> Serial Clock

4) CS/SS -> Chip Select/Slave Select

The SPI allows multiple devices on the bus and the active device is selected by pulling the chip select line LOW. This display does not have the chip select line broken out to the headers.

You may ask why bother hacking the CS line? Well that depends on application. If you have the display as the only device on the SPI bus then that’s fine. The display will still work, although if you want to use some other device on the SPI bus such as a SD card adapter then you are out of luck as they both require separate CS lines in order to talk to the slave device. That is why we are going to get the CS line out of the module.

This module has total of 7 pins:

1) BLK = Backlight

2) D/C = Data/Command

3) RES = Reset

4) SDA = Serial Data or SPI MOSI

5) SCL = Serial Clock or SPI SCK

(Do not get confused with the I2C pins SDA and SCK, this screen is not I2C.)

6) VCC (3.3V)

7) Ground

By connecting the BLK pin to VCC we can enable the LED backlight of the screen but this pin is useless unless you want to control the backlight by software. But we can use this extra pin as a CS pin by removing the trace from the ribbon of the LCD.


1) Sharp cutter or knife.

2) Soldering Iron

3) Jumper wire or wire wrapping wire (>28AWG)

4) Hot glue gun (Optional)

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?

Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Interrupting First Trace

First get yourself a sharp cutter. Then cut the trace as shown in the picture. Do this carefully as the screen is fragile and do not let the cutter slip and damage the ribbon cable. After interrupting the trace make sure the BLK pin is disconnected from the resistor R2 below this trace with the help of multimeter in continuity mode.

Step 2: Adding Solder Pads

Again with the help of the cutter, carefully scrape away the solder mask in the three places shown in the picture. Be careful not to expose the neighbouring traces, doing so will make the soldering more difficult later. Scrape it until you see the bare copper. It should be big enough to solder the jumper wires which we will solder later.

Then tin these exposed copper pads with some fresh solder.

Step 3: Interrupting Second Trace

I recommend using a temperature controlled iron for the next step. Set the iron to around 350C to avoid breaking small solder pads for the LCD. I am going to use my trusty TS100 for this. Start by adding some fresh solder to the ribbon connecter solder pads. And starting from any one side gently pull the ribbon upwards to remove solder joint one at a time. Be very gentle! This ribbon is very fragile. bending it too much will break the internal traces. Now after removing the ribbon, cut the trace going from the 5th trace from the left side. This is our CS line, permanently tied to GND. Cut along the bottom side of the trace from the ground flood fill. After interrupting make sure this is disconnected from the GND pin.

After it is done, resolder the ribbon to the PCB and check all connections with multimeter.

Step 4: Adding Jumper Wires

Get some fine jumper wires (solid core recommended) and tin the stripped ends. Connect one wire from the BLK Header trace to the CS trace of the ribbon and one wire from VCC to the backlight trace.

This will tie the backlight to VCC and connect the free header to CS.

Add some hot glue on the wires and connections after checking.

Step 5: Test 🙂

Be the First to Share


Read More

The 7 best wireless indoor cameras in the UK

Improving the security of your home has become easier than ever with the help of wireless indoor cameras.

By Team Commerce

Improving the comfort and security of your home has become easier than ever, with the help of wireless indoor cameras. 

These versatile little gadgets can help you keep tabs on who is entering and leaving your property, monitor your kids or pets, and speak to them from wherever you are in the world. You can also keep an eye out for would-be thieves or vandals.

As technology has progressed, the functionality of these devices has improved, but the prices have dipped. You can quite comfortably kit out your entire home with cameras for the same price you would have spent on a single device just two years ago.

The large volume of products available means that choosing the right camera for your home isn’t that easy. You have to wade through complicated jargon, advertising slogans, and loads of overwhelming data. It can be difficult to sort the good from the bad.

We like to help, so we’ve done some homework and picked out the best indoor cameras in the UK. So, if you’re looking to step up your home security game, read on and see which model ticks all your boxes.

These are the best wireless indoor cameras in the UK.

Easy to set up • Reliable motion detection • HD video • Free Cloud storage

No option for range extending

You won’t find any blocky or distorted images with the Arlo Q.

The Arlo Q from Netgear may be small in stature, but it’s packed with features to help you keep an eye on your home and the people (and pets) in it. 

This device is as easy as you like to set up, can be used free-standing or mounted, and Netgear provides a full mounting kit in the box.

Image quality is excellent with the Arlo Q. You won’t find the same blocky and distorted images that some cameras provide, and performance doesn’t suffer in low-light. Motion detection is reliable and the camera is also able to capture high quality HD video with its wide angle lens.

Managing the camera is properly easy, especially with the help of Netgear’s app. The company also provides free Cloud storage, so you can access your images and videos from anywhere without any problems.

HD footage • Two-way radio • Facial recognition • Motion-tracking

Cloud management requires a subscription

One of the best devices around, thanks to quality images, HD video, and a whole lot more.

2. Nest IQ

Communicate with anyone in your home with the help of the two-way radio.

    The Nest Cam IQ is another small but perfectly put together piece of kit. The camera is well-made, and it looks stylish too with clean lines and an inoffensive footprint.

    On the picture front you can rely on the camera to provide excellent quality images and HD video footage, and if you need to communicate with anyone in your home you can do that too, with the help of the device’s clever two-way radio.

    Cloud management is subscription-based with this camera, so if you are hoping to avoid a monthly cost, perhaps consider looking elsewhere. Facial recognition, superb motion-tracking and more are all on offer with this little gadget, and we think it’s one of the best around.

    Stylish and small • Motion detection is reliable • Cheap • Push-to-talk function

    Clear images and solid night vision footage, for a low price.

    3. TP-LINK KC100

    A cheaper option that is more limited than some, but covers all the basics.

      If you’re looking for value for money then the KC100 from TP Link is definitely worth considering. The small and neat looking camera is kind of basic but what it promises to do, it does well. 

      You can expect good, clear images from this device, including solid night vision footage. Motion detection with alerts works reliably too, and the included push-to-talk functionality means you can talk your dog when its misbehaving at home.

      The camera itself is stylishly designed and small, and while it may not be as robust as some of the others on this list, its cheap price helps to soothe any concerns.

      Well-designed app • Motion and noise detection • Free Cloud storage • Cheap

      The joint cheapest device on this list, with a bunch of impressive features to boot.

      4. Neos SmartCam

      Videos are stored for 14 days for free and secured in the cloud via end-to-end encryption.

        Another affordable member of this list is the SmartCam from Neos, that comes in even cheaper than the TP Link KC100.

        For a small outlay, you get a compact camera that’s easy to set up, and provides solid image quality that doesn’t diminish in low light. The device also offers motion and noise detection (with alerts), 14-day cloud storage for free, and two-way communications.

        Another positive is the well-designed app, that makes managing your camera really easy.

        Works well with Alexa • Built-in siren • Excellent image quality • Two-way communications

        Offers strong image quality, accurate motion detection, and a siren for great levels of security.

        5. Somfy One

        HD camera, siren, motion detector, and privacy protection — everything you need to secure your home.

          The Somfy One is a feature-packed device that is less a camera and more an all-in-one internal security system.

          The device offers excellent image quality, accurate motion detection, smoke alarm detection, and a in-built siren to deter any would-be thieves. It’s also equipped with speakers and a microphone for two-way communications.

          The Somfy One is small but a bit chunky. It’s weighty at 260 grams but doesn’t look out of place on a bookshelf or table, thanks to a nondescript design. 

          The device also works well with Alexa and comes with its own app for administration which is quick and easy to use. This makes managing your device as trouble-free as possible.

          App is effective • Night vision • Wide-angle lens

          Internet connection can be spotty

          A well-rounded camera that offers excellent visibility, even in complete darkness.

          6. YI Home

          YI Home camera ensures visibility even in complete darkness.

            The YI Home Camera from YI Technology operates under the watchful eye of its parent organisation, Xiaomi.

            It’s a small and light camera which is very capable, capturing high quality images and video with the help of its wide-angle lens. It can be set to record constantly or be triggered by motion detection, and its two-way speaker and microphone combo make it a great choice for the pet-sitting crowd. The YI 720p IP camera also ensures visibility even in complete darkness.  

            The app makes for easy management of the Home Camera, and with a micro SD card slot you can capture images and video locally, as well as stream it directly to your smartphone or tablet.

            Smart features • Free Cloud storage • Good value • Good audio

            Does not reboot after losing connection

            A range of impressive smart features for a low price.

            7. Wyze Cam Pan

            Excellent range of smart features, including IFTTT integration, Alexa support, facial recognition, and more.

              The Cam Pan may look like an old bottle of milk, but it’s a really useful little device for helping you improve your home security on a budget. 

              For less than £100, you get a camera that will capture high quality images, provide very good quality audio, and offer up a raft of smart features, like IFTTT integration, Alexa support, facial recognition, and smoke alarm alerts.

              The app makes controlling this device easy, with plenty of useful additions such as manual mechanical pan and tilt. You also get free Cloud storage, as well as a micro SD slot for local storage.

              Read More

              Huawei will reportedly release a phone with its own OS this year

              Huawei hasn’t given up on its ambitious homegrown OS project. According to a report by Chinese media site Global Times, the company might release a phone running the HongMeng OS by the end of the year. 

              The report suggests the mid-range device might be priced around 2000 Yuan ($288). Its aim is to attract developers and users to to join the ecosystem, which is being built to rival Google’s Android OS. As such, the goal may not be to initially sell large volumes of this model, but to introduce HongMeng OS in a low-cost package.

              The company is set to host its developer conference in Dongguan, China on August 9; Huawei may take that opportunity to officially announce its new OS then. Chinese tech media outlet 36kr.com noted that the company will also launch Honor-branded smart TV devices running HongMeng.

              Huawei accelerated its efforts towards building its own OS after companies like Google and Qualcomm banned it following US’ executive order in May. While President Trump recently said he’ll allow the Chinese company to resume trade with US companies, there is no clear indication of support from the industry.

              During its earning call last week, Huawei’s chairman, Liang Hua, said while Android is the preferred operating system for the company’s devices, HongMeng OS is part of a “long-term strategy.”

              There’s no indication that Huawei will make HongMeng OS central to all of its devices. But given recent the turn of events, the company will likely be better off with a backup for US-based technologies in the near future.

              For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on
              Twitter and

              Published August 5, 2019 — 06:36 UTC

              Ivan Mehta

              Ivan Mehta

              August 5, 2019 — 06:36 UTC

              Read More