Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Upgrading the Apple Watch

While I always think the idea of leasing a car is CRAZY, I realized that I generally lease all of my technical gadgets. I have had awesome luck upgrading devices and then selling the old ones on eBay. I just upgraded my Apple Watch from Series 0 to Series 1 and it was a dream! I bought the Series 1 for $210 on Target’s black Friday sale, and sold my old one on eBay for $180. That’s what I the perfect upgrade price.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ways to Make Coffee

During my annual holiday shopping for friends and family, I always find stuff to put onto my wish list. This year I saw this amazing 2-cup coldbrew bottle over on ThinkGeek and I was so excited it by that I couldn’t wait for someone to buy it for me. I just bought it—also because ThinkGeek sometimes completely sells out of things forever.

All that Mrs.Chaos could say is, “don’t you already have a cold brew system?” Sure, but that is for brewing an entire pitcher of cold brew, this is for brewing 2-cups overnight! “Don’t you have enough ways to make coffee?” I guess the answer is no?

I have the drip brewer, the espresso machine, the cold brew pot, a french press, an Aeropress, and now a cold brew double-cup. I still need a Chemex, eh? I’ve been having stare downs with those.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Light Goes Really Fast

This is a huge moment for home automation. - Tim Cook
My HomeKit setup has been running pretty well these days, but sometimes I think about what is actually happening and it is insane.
I lift up my  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ and say, "Hey Siri, open the garage door." What is actually happening? The  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ is sending that audio through Bluetooth to my iPhone, which sends it up through my AT&T LTE connection to iCloud.  iCloud processes the audio and sends it back down, through my iPhone to my  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ. My  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ will then use handoff to pass the command back over Bluetooth to my iPhone.
Now my iPhone processes the HomeKit command and once again sends the HomeKit request up through AT&T LTE to iCloud.  iCloud is going to send it down through my AT&T U-verse connection, to my Apple Airport Extreme* which passes it via WiFi to my Apple TV which is serving as my HomeKit hub.
AppleTV relays the message over WiFi back through the Airport Extreme's wired ethernet connection to my macOS server which is running Homebridge. Homebridge then uses MyQ Chamberlain APIs to ask the garage to open - so that means a message is sent off the macOS server back out of my home to the MyQ server.
The MyQ server pushes the request back down into my house through the WiFi over the MyQ garage door module which then sends the standard radio waves to my garage door opening and the garage opens.
This amazing process takes about 1 second.  Light goes really fast.

* Technically I have two Airport Extremes to extend the network, so there's yet another handoff going on.

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.