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Know what's no fun? Smartphone failure while travelling.

February 15th, 2017 (03:14 am)

Last week I was in California for a big tech summit my employer throws every 2 years. It’s a pretty big deal, with 3 days of presentations, workshops, tech demos, and interesting keynotes. I had a great time, met many of my coworkers I only know through voices on conference calls, and generally learned a ton.


Thursday night I was in the San Francisco offices, getting ready to head to the airport. I had 4 hours until my flight was scheduled to leave, and while in a meeting, I noticed my Moto X Pure (aka ‘Style’) phone reboots itself. “Okay, no worries, probably an update in progress. NBD.”


I went back to my meeting, and glanced at the phone again 10 minutes later. Looked like it was rebooting again. “Hmmm…. shouldn’t do that, but… okay…”


Half an hour later and continuous reboots, I was beginning to get worried. The pattern was the same. Boot, Optimizing apps, starting apps, reboot. Something was definitely wrong.


A little googling found me an article that describes the Moto X doing this sometimes when either an app gets corrupted, or there’s problems in the cache. Using instructions on the net I reset the cache from the bootloader, and let it try to boot again.


Nope, stuck in the loop again.


I was beginning to get very concerned. Traveling without a working phone, to echo a great movie… “Possible… but not recommended!”


In the end, I had to pull the ripcord, and do a full factory reset. Time until getting on the plane? 3 hours, with a half hour drive to the airport. This is the first time I’ve had to wipe and reload my phone from scratch as far as I can remember (we’re going back to Treo days here), at least where that sort of reload didn’t also involve replacing the phone completely.


In the end, it worked. The unit was able to do a factory reset, came up, did a few updates, and was back online with my normal account. It didn’t automatically reinstall all the apps (which I found a bit odd), so I had to manually tell Play to re-install the critical pieces I needed (including the authentication tool I use for work).


I was able to be on the road and mostly operational inside an hour, and made my flight just fine. I’ll credit my rabid use of 1Password for helping me get all my accounts re-connected.


Naturally, there’s still a few things that are out of whack. I spent a year twiddling that install to make the menus line up nicely, or set my backgrounds just so, etc, so post-reload, it sort of feels like a new phone, but really isn’t.


Now I’m on another trip, this time to Utah, and my phone is happily keeping me company. Alas, I’m finding all the little bits I haven’t reinstalled, such as all my local cached music in Spotify – something that would have been helpful on this flight But, that’s something to set up once I’m back in the hotel.

shiny object detector [userpic]

Internet Addiction is Killing Your Photography

January 26th, 2017 (10:59 pm)

There’s a wonderful post over on Petapixel (What? You’re not following them already? Get on that… seriously, they’re awesome, whether you’re a photographer or not)..Un petit coin de paradis...


Wait, what i was saying? Oh, right, the post. The post is about how internet addiction is destroying creativity. The author talks specifically about how it relates to photography, but the general case is true…


What I’m getting at in the headline is that the Internet is most likely the cause of your impotence when it comes to productivity. How many people pick up their smartphones and check something online or in an app in the morning, instead of picking up a camera and capturing a sunrise?


I bet 99% of us look at a smartphone before anything else in the morning. If only your first thought out of bed was “What photo will I capture today?” think about how much more you would achieve.


And he’s absolutely right.


Over the last couple weeks (and through being sick with a head cold the last 5 days), I’ve found myself almost breathlessly refreshing news.google.com and my Feedly page or whatever just to keep up the constant stream of input. And when I felt like doing something, it would have to compete with the information overload I was getting off the net. How can creativity thrive under this kind of mental onslaught?


I’m going to try and change things up. Move politics out of my “must check once an hour” need. Stop refreshing feedly to get the latest DailyWTF. I’m not a big social media wank, so Facebook, Twitter, etc are not my main distractions, so I can’t really put this under “i’m quitting social media for a while”. It’s more “I need to set priorities a little. This is not healthy for me.”


In the past I’ve done little life adjustments like this, and whether they stick long term or not, they do shift the balance a little, and nudging yourself out of a well worn groove isn’t a bad thing, even if it means things are a little shaky until a new smoother path is found.

shiny object detector [userpic]

Soylent's New Flavors and My Weekend at a Con

January 20th, 2017 (03:02 pm)

This past weekend I made my yearly mecca to Arisia, the big SF / Fantasy convention in Boston. I’ve been going to Arisia for almost 25 years now, sometimes as a staff member, sometimes as a volunteer, but I haven’t missed an event since 1990, so it’s sort of ritual now.


Since making the decision to make Soylent a part of my diet, I’ve waxed and waned on how much I take in. Soylent regularly changes the ‘mix’ in it’s products, so that has impacted this as well.  The original version wasn’t particularly exciting, but did fill my belly.


A few weeks ago, Soylent announced 2 new flavors for their ‘2.0’ premixed drink. I’ve been enjoying the premix bottles for 6 months already, and the opportunity to have some new flavors for Arisia seemed like a great plan.  I’d tried the ‘coffiest’ flavor, but wasn’t impressed (I like my coffee super-sweet, and coffiest was bitterer than I like).


Soylent &quot;ready to drink&quot; food bottles, in all 4 flavors
Soylent “ready to drink” food bottles, in all 4 flavors

I ordered 2 case (one of Cacao and one of Nectar – 12 bottles each), and they arrived in time for the con. My plan was to cover half my food intake for the event just via Soylent.


Here’s my take on the new flavors. Note that nutritionally, these are no different than the stock 2.0 bottles. They’re just flavored.



  • Nectar – A subtle taste change. My partner thinks it tastes like rose water – a slightly sweet, flowery taste. Better than the stock 2.0 flavor (which is somewhat like a think vanilla shake), but not “MMMM, this is GREAT!”.

  • Cacao – This may turn into my new favorite drink. It has a rich chocolate taste – essentially a bottle of thick chocolate milk. I’m still trying to get past feeling guilty about chugging down a small chocolate milkshake, but this is one heck of a lot better for me than a Five Guys shake (and still only 400 calories).  The trick is thinking of these as ‘food’.  So not something I’m going to have WITH a burger, but INSTEAD of a burger.


Traditionally, keeping well fed at a convention is a challenge.  Hotel food tends to be expensive, and taking time out in the middle of an event to go get a meal can be frustrating.  It’s easy to fall back on cheetos and Dr Pepper, which does no one any good.  Having what amounts to the caloric equivalent of a Subway sandwich at hand, and requiring only the time it takes to chug down the bottle (I drink mine all at once) is pretty awesome.


I think the only thing we noticed is that you have to think of the Soylent bottles as food.  NOT drink.  Both of us found we needed lots of water or similar even though we had just downed 12oz of liquid.


Overall though, it was an excellent experience.  We stayed fed, it was tasty, and we didn’t need to spend major bucks on buying food, or making a mess mixing our own powders (like you do with Soylent 1.x). Highly recommended!

shiny object detector [userpic]

What I Did on my Winter Vacation.

December 29th, 2016 (03:56 pm)

My employer does a ‘shutdown’ twice a year; once over Christmas break, and once around July 4th. This year has been great schedule wise because of what days Christmas and New Years fall on, so there’s a lot of free time.


I decided that it was time to move forward on a project I’ve been thinking about for months. Building a workbench in my office. The goal is to be able to work on electronics, drones, and other stuff without crufting up the kitchen table.


I live in a relatively small 2br house. By US standards, it’s very small (about 900sq ft). Since I’m working from home full time, I’ve been using the second bedroom as an office – it had previously been set up as a guest / kid sleeping room with a loft bed that’s out of the way when I’m officing. I decided to use a similar design approach to building out the workbench. The room is only 11’x7′, so fitting in a spare bed, my standup desk, a workbench, bookshelves, and some storage required some creative thinking.

My office before I started work on the new desk.
Office before work started on the new desk.


The first step natch was clearing out my working desk and hardware so I had space to work. Fortunately I keep my bedroom pretty clutter free, so it was just a matter of moving things down the hall. Then construction began.


I used a similar design to the loft bed, just not quite as hefty. On the loft I used 2×6 boards, but for the desk, I just used 2×4’s. Using a magnetic stud locator, I found the wooden studs in the walls, cut the boards to length, and used 3.5″ deck screws to attach the supporting studs to the walls. I guess the best term for these are ledger boards, since they’ll be supporting the ends of the joists. Anyway, the idea is the desk it attached directly to the wall studs, so no legs needed. It’s custom fit to the room.


Once the ledger boards were screwed in place (14 screws went in, and I hit the studs on every try. Booyah), I used aluminum hangers to put the joists in. These attached directly to the ledger boards and gave good support to the 2×4’s under the surface of the desk. I had to be careful about spacing due to where the ledger boards were attached to the studs. I needed at least 2 2×4’s under each ‘slice’ of 18″ plywood to support it cleanly.


Once all the joists and ledger boards were done, I laid down 2 strips of sanded plywood, and screwed them down with normal 2″ drywall screws. These are not load bearing, so using the weaker screws was fine – it was just to keep the boards flat and not move around.

The finished project
The finished project


The last touch was adding a kickboard around the top of the desk so things weren’t banging against the painted walls. I also drilled 3 2″ holes in the back of the surface to allow power cords to come up for equipment.


Heightwise, it’s 29″, which matches the older wooden desk I have. I’ll be able to put a plate in to join the two surfaces (I left a 3″ lip under the front)


Some quick lessons learned…



  • Magnetic Stud Finder – I can’t recommend these things enough. They’re dirt simple, inexpensive, and work great for finding nails in walls. Just a big powerful magnet.
  • LED Worklight – I have a set of old halogen lights roughly the same size. I won’t be using them anymore, as these LED lights are very bright, use much less power, and aren’t nearly as hot / dangerous. Really useful to have around.
  • I still love my Ryobi One+ power tools. They’re aging to be sure, and I’ll be replacing my battery packs from NiCd to Li-Ion shortly. I’ve already upgraded the basic drill/driver from the old yellow tool to the new green one, but I’m still using the older jigsaw and circular saw, which were wonderful for this project.

I’ve already used it to work on some home automation equipment, and it’s the right height, setting, and size to make things totally comfortable and useful. I’m looking forward to ramping my projects up again!

shiny object detector [userpic]

What I'm Doing as the World Changes

November 12th, 2016 (05:17 pm)

Given the inevitable dramatic shift to the right that is about to happen in the US government and the associated chaos in the wider social / political circles, I, like many others, feel helpless and adrift. My vote did not help defeat the self-identified anti-truth bigot now on his way to the white house. Now that the elections are over, there’s little I can do directly to prevent him from taking the most powerful office in the world. But while I can’t take power from him directly, what I can do is throw support to his enemies – the voices of reason, logic, civil liberties, and common sense.


Anil Dash has a great article on this :


“Don’t waste a single moment listening to the hand-wringing of the pundit class about Why This Happened, or people on TV talking about What This Means. The most important thing is that we focus on the work that needs to be done now. While so many have been doing what it takes to protect the marginalized and to make society more just, we must increase our urgency on those efforts, even while we grieve over this formidable defeat.”


I am not one of the fat cats who are overjoyed at this turn of events, though I am better off than many, particularly those who are going to be impacted directly by upcoming policy changes and direct action in the next few years. I’ve chosen to donate heavily… give to support those organizations who will carry the fight forward.


To that end, this is a list of the people I’ve chosen to support. I’ve set up monthly repeating donations – I feel that sort of regular, dependable revenue is important



  • Wikipedia – because accurate, globally available information should be a basic human right.

  • NPR – One of the few reliable, unbiased, professional reporting services left in the world
  • EFF – An effective voice in the digital landscape for digital freedoms
  • ACLU – Don’t really need to give reasons here, do i?
  • FeedingAmerica – A very good organization that supports food banks
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – A voice against racism and hate groups


Are there those I’m missing you think I should support? Please comment and let me know.

shiny object detector [userpic]

Daves Picks : Best Portable Headphones - Brainwavz Delta IEM

November 11th, 2016 (02:42 pm)

I’m going to start sharing some of the things I’ve found on the net that are exceptional finds, buys, whatever. There’s so much crap out there, sometimes it’s hard to find the true gems.


A bit ago I started looking to replace my wired headphones. The requirements were pretty rough:



  • Inexpensive (< $50 would be best)

  • Durable

  • Comfortable

  • Good for long term wear (talking several hours here)

  • Excellent audio range.

  • Doesn’t look like ass


Simple, right? Uh huh.


After going through a couple el cheapo versions (which, I have to admit, told me how BAD headphones could be), and playing with some super-expensive ones (which… were good, but not as comfortable or durable as I had hoped), I started reading reviews for the Brainwavz Delta IEM Noise Isolating Headphones (say that 5 times fast!), and started to get interested.


Brainwavz Delta Red IEM Noise Cancelling Headphones
Brainwavz Delta Red IEM Noise Cancelling Headphones

The price tag certainly is attractive. Brainwavz has ones with remote for $19, but could something that inexpensive really be any good?


I’m here to tell you – they are. Easily ne of the top 5 headphones I’ve ever owned, they’re rock solid in their build, come with a tough zippered carrying case to hold the headphones and the spare silicon earpieces, and sound magnificent. They have excellent range – the highs and lows are crisp and strong across all volumes. The cord is long enough that even plugged into my laptop, it doesn’t get tangled. And they are COMFORTABLE. I can (and have) worn them for 3-4 hours at a stretch and I don’t get sore ear canals or other discomfort. Volume wise, they can keep up with me just fine… I don’t feel like at low levels I have to crank them to hear the full range of what I’m listening to, and when I really want to blast things out, they step up to the task just fine!


So, if you’re looking for affordable, top quality ear buds, I can say with some confidence the Brainwavz Delta IEM headphones will do well by you!

shiny object detector [userpic]

Dashcam Catches Tire Blowout on Mass Pike

November 11th, 2016 (02:42 pm)

(“You won’t believe what happens next!”)


I’ve been interested in getting a dashcam for my car(s) for a while, and when Woot had a had an Armorall Dashcam up for $29, I decided to give it a try. The verdict? This thing is worth about as much as I paid for it. Yes, it records video and audio. Yes it datestamps it. Yes it turns on and off automatically when I start the car, and yes it loops data on the MicroSD card just fine. Other than that, I can’t find a lot to recommend it. The field of view is narrow, the interface is painfully obtuse, and the mirror mount is… weird. Works, but weird.



Anyway. What did happen though was while driving to work this morning, a trailer in front of me had a tire blowout. The sound was funny, a squeaky whoosh (as opposed to a bang), and I missed seeing it happen (it’s at 7:53:17 in the video). I only understood what was going on when I saw smoke and bits of tire flying off the trailer. I backed off and put my my 4-way flashers for folks behind me, and let the guy pull over to the side. The wheel was pretty wrecked, and the sparks and tire debris were pretty dramatic.


If this had actually damaged my car or something more serious had happened, having the recording to show my insurance company and/or police would have been a huge win. But that’s what dashcams are all about, right?


And getting really cool videos like this. 🙂

shiny object detector [userpic]

Test Link from http://planet-geek.com

November 11th, 2016 (02:39 pm)

Test post please ignore

(Sorry folks, my crossposter was broken and I didn't realize it. I'll be catching up some postingst hat have not made it to LJ. Sorry for the spammage).

shiny object detector [userpic]

So, About that Tethered Mode?

August 14th, 2016 (12:54 am)

Litttttle too much Youtube
Litttttle too much Youtube
Remember a couple days ago Iposted about using tethering with my Moto X phone on vacation?  Just a brief reminder that it’s always a good idea to remember you are tethered and “on the meter” when things get rainy and quiet, and you decide to do a little Youtubing.


Just a gentle reminder from someone who cares.

shiny object detector [userpic]

Revisiting Tethering

August 8th, 2016 (02:25 am)

For the longest time I was stuck in a weird no-mans land regarding WiFi Tethering on my cell phone. I’m referring here to the practice of enabling a hot spot on the phone so other devices, such as a laptop, can share the data connection the phone is using. This is super-handy when in an area that either has no Wifi service, or the service is sketchy as hell.


Problem is, I had an Unlimited data plan with AT&T. And with that unlimited plan, hotspot service was not available.


A year or two ago I made the change and moved my data service to a family plan with a shared data pool. 5 gig a month spread over 4 phones. We haven’t come anywhere near that limit, even with some heavy duty usage, so all in all, a good choice. What I forgot though, was that by going to a metered billing structure, I was able to start using tethered mode.


My cell phone is a Moto X, aka a Moto X Pure Style.

Speeds over tethered wifi with my Moto X
Speeds over tethered wifi with my Moto X
I’m deliriously happy with it, so setting it up as a Wifi Hotspot would just bring it to a new level of functionality.


Enabling it was easy. I was initially worried about performance, but after connecting to it with my laptop and running Speedtest, the numbers are pretty good.

Working from my laptop over the tethered connection is just like sitting at home. I’ll need to set up a better “show how much data I’m using” mechanism, but right now, this is pretty cool.

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