Friday, November 11, 2016

Repairability 1/10

Unforeseen consequences of adoption decisions really can reach far into the future. - Tom Hollingsworth
My work computer is a 15” Mid-2012 MacBook Pro Retina display - it was released 4.5 years ago, about one week before I joined my current company. As part of my initial onboarding process they asked me what computer I wanted, and I asked for the brand new MBPr completely maxed out. Now it’s getting close to five years and I am still running the new computer.
When macOS Sierra was released, I was *SUPER* excited that I would be able to unlock my computers with my Apple Watch. I installed the betas, and did the the dance to upgrade from two-step verification to two-factor verification (don’t ask) and then on my person MacBook Air, the “Unlock with Apple Watch” check box appeared, but not so on my work MacBook Pro. Then, there is was on Apple’s website, not supported until the 2013 MBPr.
I waited with patience along with my fellow fanboys to see Apple release new MBPr and they did! That TouchBar looks pretty cool, but worked asked me a hard question - “Do you want this computer? You’re going to be using it for the next five years.” Sadly, there isn’t enough of a jump that I think this is the computer I need for the next five years. I passed.
I was sad that I couldn’t unlock with my watch, but then I read a story that the REASON it doesn’t work is because unlock with Apple Watch requires the 802.11AC so it can use the timestamp field of time of flight calculation. My MBPr only has 802.11 N. But a new Airport Extreme (Broadcomm) chip is like, $35. So what would happen if I upgraded my internal BCM4331 module with a newer BCM4360 that came with the Mid-2015 MBPr?

The answer? Totally worked. Unlocking with Apple Watch!
One of the things I've found interesting as I often read about the lack of upgradability of these computers is that I have done a TON of upgrading of various MacBook laptops owned by myself and family members.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Little Round in the Middle

ChaosServer (not the site, but the home server), sites in a drawer in my office. It's a mid-2012 MacBook Air with OSX Server and it runs hot, because it's spending most of its time transcoding video. I don't really pay attention to it - it does its job amazingly well and keeps chugging along. My theory is that some day it will not be able to install the latest version of macOS and I'll upgrade it to new hardware.
I opened the drawer earlier in the week to do something directly on the box and... hmmm... I noticed the machine was bulging. Well, actually, it sits on a pedestal in the drawer and I thought, "oh many, it's drooping around the edges. Closer inspection shows it was bulging out. Weird.
I made a joke about it on the Facebook, and received a couple people saying, "Hey, you're battery is expanded you should get that serviced immediately before it catches on fire." I also had a few people mention they had the same problem with their MacBook Airs, and Apple replaced it for free for them out of warranty. Pretty groovy.
I went in to my Genius Bar appointment this morning and let them run the diagnostics. That diagnostic program is AMAZING. Is that running System 7? Pinstripes? Maybe it's OSX Panther? I got all green checkboxes the whole way. The genius said, "So, it looks like it's going to be $120 to replace the battery, but the expansion may have done damage to the trackpad, keyboard, screen. It could be up to $500 to get it back to good working order." I asked if they could just remove the hazarded battery, and he said no. They *might* be able to replace it for only $120, but if there was other damage inside that might not be an option. I let them know I basically made the appointment to see if they would be awesome and make my dangerous computer safe - and if they weren't going to do it, I would try and do the repair myself with an iFixit guide. He wished me luck.
I have never had Apple's "be awesome" policy work for me. I've had a few under-warranty fixes, but never had an out-of-warranty fix for free. Mrs.Chaos did get one when she dropped her week-old iPhone 3Gs cracking the screen, and they fixed it for free. But that was it. She's cracked two more screens since then and we've paid for both repairs.
I came home to pull the battery and found out that my iFixit "Essential Repail Kit" does not have the required P5 Pentalobe screwdriver. I guess it's misnamed. I'll pull the battery on Monday when that shows up.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The World is Scary

Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. - Helen Keller
The world is a scary place.  Nana-Chaos received a phone call from her credit card company warning her about suspicious activity on her card and asking her to verify details like her name on card, credit card number, and security code.  Her alertness kicked in just a little too late, but soon enough to call her credit card company and cancel immediately.

Mrs.Chaos was anxious to watch an episode of a new show that wasn't available on Hulu yet and did a quick search to find it.  Sure enough she found a site that had it streaming, but couldn't get it to play. Her alertness kicked in just a little too late when she asked me about it.  "Well, you're on a Mac, you're probably safe as long as you didn't install anything like a 'anti-virus' or Flash Update."  She quickly fessed up to installing a Flash Update... because, that happens ALL THE TIME on Hulu.  Why wouldn't you install a Flash Update.  Damage was minimal.
Such a crazy world these days.  I recently read that the Donald Trump iPhone app downloads all your contacts.  It does warn you it's going to do it, but you know what?  I'm pretty sure my SSN and potentially other information is sitting in my contact card of Papa Chaos' iPhone.  I'm sure the Trump campaign can be trusted.
Stay safe out there, it's a scary world.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Hey Siri, Goodnight..."

We appreciate your understanding as the Internet of Things (IoT) market continues to evolve. - Connected by TCP
A few years ago I really REALLY wanted to be able to turn my bedroom lights off with my phone from my bed. I had a long stare down with Phillips Hue. I knew it would solve my problem, it was the marketer leader, but the price tag was impressive. I waited. and waited. and waited. I was getting ready to buy them, when I heard about TCPi Connect Lightbulbs.

It wasn't that TCP Connect was better, it's that is was cheaper. SO MUCH CHEAPER. It was around $60 to connect my bedroom (rather than the $200 Phillips Hue would be). So I installed it and it was amazing.
Now TCP is a lightbulb company, not a technology company. So they didn't innovate, but their private API was really REALLY easy to reverse engineer so it I made a app for my Pebble Smartwatch. More recently I made a Homebridge (HomeKit) module for it. So while TCPi doesn't really provide support, I've always felt like I've had the latest and greatest technology.
TCPi announced this year they are done being a technology company and go back to being a lightening company.  Future smart bulbs will work with WeMo system and they shutdown their server. In their announcement they mentioned that since there server is shutdown, remote access will no longer work.
Except here is the thing, I have Apple Home which works remotely through my AppleTV. So event though my internet bridge is gone, my lights still work the exact same way they always have for me. It's cool - and I also look forward to buying WeMo smart lights at some point.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Future of Money-Honey

Mini-Chaos has started pretend playing with "money" in a couple of different ways. When we go outside to go on a walk he often says, "oh! I forgot my money" and runs back to the front door for a second to pretend to grab it. He also gets stacks of cards from his games and says, "do you want some money?" I'm not sure where he learned the concept of money like that - because I've been running wallet-zero since before he was born by carrying only my phone with a credit card inside and Mrs.Chaos made the transition to wallet-zero in the past couple of years too. There's this cute little Wheels on the Bus video we watch, and in it the Panda Bear holds his RFID card up to the scanner as he boards - "The money on the bus goes *beep* *beep* *beep*."

We're to give him this little piggy bank with the different sections (spend, save, give) so he might be able to start earning a little bit of money for being extra helpful around the house. But man, we're going to have to go to the bank to withdraw money to pay him with. He is going to have only the vaguest uses of physical money in his life. It's going to be really tough to teach a three year old how to balance his checkbook before he can do math with numbers. Can someone kickstart a little re-loadable charge card with an LCD screen that helps a 3yo to visualize how much money he has on the card? And how many more years until Mini-Chaos gets a wearable on he can use to spend money?

Anyway - we’ll need to start our discussion of money by talking about how NFC payments work from smart watches.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Wearable Year

It’s just one more thing to remember to charge throughout our busy days. - Joseph Volpe
When the Apple Watch pre-order day happened last year, I was in the throws of having a newborn waking me up, I slept through my "wake up to preorder" alarm, and I didn't get my watch for six weeks after it was available. It was horrible! Now I'm somewhere around a year in to owning and wearing my Apple Watch and what's the scoop?  What does it feel like after wearing it a year?

Living outside of the tech bubble bay, the Apple Watch is a rare sight. One my friends-of-friends who works at Apple commented when seeing me, "I think you're the first non-Apple employee I've seen wearing the Apple Watch." Even at my office corporate in San Francisco, I am the only person wearing one. So people still ask me, "Is it cool? What's the coolest thing it does?"
In terms of my wearables, my wedding ring still remains the things that I wear 99% of the time. It comes off briefly under specific "I might lose it" scenarios, but generally, it's on my finger. After that, the next most worn item is my Apple Watch followed by my iPhone. What's the killer feature? Seeing what time it is on my wrist!
What do I actually use my Apple Watch for? Notifications, obviously. I turned off all my work-related notifications (bye-bye Slack, Gmail, etc), so it's really only there to provide me with personal notifications during the work day.  I would like to be able to have work notifications off during the work day (where I am sitting in front of my work computer) and on during the weekend, where I might want to see a quick work email and reply - but since I can't do that? Off all the time.
Up until very recently I used the music controls all the time - the primary way I played music at home was Amazon Prime Music from my phone, through a Bluetooth speaker.  So it was super awesome to be able to adjust volume, pause, skip tracks, using the music player on my wrist. But I recently bought an Amazon Echo, and now that is the way we play music in the house. I find it significantly less convenient and cool to yell out into the air, "Alexa, volume up." "Alexa, skip." "Alexa, pause." than it was to casually do a wrist tap or two.  On the other hand, it's significantly more convenient to have an always-on speaker than to deal with my phone disconnecting when I walk to the far end of the house go outside.
I use Siri to control all of my Internet of Things devices around the house. By using the Homebridge OpenSource server, I've got all my smart devices wired up. The one I use most often is, "Siri, goodnight." That turns off the lights (TCP Connected), turns on the bedroom fan (WeMo Switch), makes sure the garage is closed (Chamberlain MyQ), locks the inside garage door (August Smart Lock).
I also do "use" all of the built-in health tracking features. I put it in quotes, because that one is entirely passive, and I don't do anything with that data, but it's cool to think about the fact that I now have a year worth step counts, standing data, heart rates, etc. I've been using Sleep++ on the watch to track my sleep at night as well.
So that's where I am after a year with this thing. I would probably do a lot more if apps were faster... they are... just... so... slow. I really enjoy BabyConnect to track all the kids activities, but the watch is too painfully slow for me to do it. I cannot wait for The New Apple Watch that speeds all this stuff up a little bit.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Movies

Just follow your heart, and keep smiling. - Kiki’s Delivery Service
When Mini-Chaos turned 2yo, we started to let him watch movies. One of my desires while we get to pick what he watches is to help him watch good movies. I've gone back and watched movies I have found memories of from my childhood, shaken my head, and moved on. Maybe he can go back and watch movies and think, "yeah, my childhood movies were great!"
So far the movies he's watched are: Ponyo, Totoro, Toy Story, Cars, and Rio. His favorite movie is Totoro - just loves it. Who wouldn't? The story about two kids moving to the country and how they perceive the world through their imagination.

One of things I've been struck by watching these movies that has made me love Studio Ghibli even more is the fact that Ghibli movies star characters and stories (though fantastical) that are completely relatable to a 2yo. He knows what it's like to be a little kid, and play, and have kid-friendships, and love to find acorns on the ground, and chase animals, and enjoy boats, and all the stuff that characters of the Ghibli movies do.
The other movies? They are movies about adult characters with adult issues and adult relationships and love interests. They characters might be toys, and cars, and birds, but they are adult cars, and adult toys, and adult birds with adult fights and adult relationships.
As I look forward to the next movies he is going to get to watch as he gets older I'm so excited about Laputa, Kiki's, Cat Returns, and then eventually NausicaƤ, Porco Rosso, Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls.  Stories about kids who are kids, doing kid things with kid interests and kid relationships.
Yes, yes, he'll definitely get to watch the Pixar and Disney catalogues too - but I'm not sure he'll like them as much. We'll see.