Sunday, October 13, 2019


There was a recent article in Quartz about Elon Musk’s quest for “undesign.”
When Elon Musk leads engineering meetings at SpaceX, he says, “the thing I am most impressed with is, what did you undesign?”

Which is to say, what complications did engineers remove? How did they simplify the vehicle?
Without getting sidetracked on Elon Musk, I really like his concept of “undesign.”

For most of my career I have striven for 2 sometimes conflicting objectives: scale and availability.

My experience is that complexity, particularly the associated boundaries, contribute to un-availability.

At first it would seem that even with the compounding of high availability, e.g. 99.999% and 99.999% you would still get 99.998% availability. But that's not the real world. Cobbling together the interconnects (boundaries) you will be lucky to get them to 99.9%. Then do the math. 99.999% x 99.999% x 99.9% gives 99.898%. You've gone from 5 9s to less than 3 9s.

Explain that to your boss.

When I was with a large Memphis-based logistics company, I would always choose simplicity.

That caused us to struggle with scale but that was easier to buy than availability. And the struggle with scale was easier to explain to management.

Take Elon’s advice to heart.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


When Apple announced iOS 13 they also announced iPadOS.

But iOS 13 wouldn't run on my 1st generation iPad Air. And I'd been struggling with only 16GB of storage.

That was enough of an excuse to sell it on and buy a 6th generation iPad.

As soon as I got it I installed iPadOS 13 Beta 4. I followed this all the way through iPadOS 13.1 Beta 4.

And iPadOS promised something that I had always wanted: The ability to easily import files into the iPad without iTunes.

Boy, was I going to be disappointed.

In this Forbes article entitled "Early Thoughts: iPadOS Will Change The Way You Work" said:
#2: A full embrace of external storage devices:
By allowing the iPad's Lightning or USB-C port (depending on what model you have) to be used with adapters to connect to external USB storage devices, consumers can now easily share files utilizing the Files app in iOS and iPadOS. This is not a trivial new feature - it really brings the iPad (and iPhone by extension) significantly closer to the same type of file sharing functionality that has been available in MacOS and Windows for over 20 years.
No, not really. But back to the story.

I even went out and bought a 128GB Lightning/USB-A drive. At least I got a good price on it.

The new feature in iPadOS that is supposed to be "A full embrace of external storage devices" is the Files app.

The Apple fanboys fawned all over this new app. Unfortunately they were victims of Apple's Reality Distortion Field.

ZDNet finally slipped up and admitted what is real on slide 9 of 9:
The Wrap Up
Developers have yet to take full advantage of the new capabilities in the Files app and add-on storage. In particular, including add-on storage as a location apps can import data from. But I'm sure they're working on it.
Does iPadOS make file management as flexible as MacOS or Windows? No..
"But I'm sure they're working on it." GIVE ME A BREAK!

So what does the Files app do?

Not really very much. Basically it provides a separate file store on an iPad or iPadOS device. For the external storage devices that will connect you can move files into and out of this file store.

What you can't do is move these files into and out of native apps' file store. For example, you can't copy a video file from an external drive and have it show up in the TV app. You can't copy an audio file from an external drive and use it as a ringtone. Oh, the Files app may play the video file from the external drive but try to hand that to a 3 year old and have her play it.

While I'm on a roll, the Lightning/USB-A drive I have can't been seen by the Files app. Suggestions from a fanboy were to use an Apple camera dongle. Oh, that doesn't support Lightning input. Further suggestion was to use an external power supply to power the Apple camera dongle. And you need an USB hub for that.

Here's a picture of the recommended configuration:

They fudged by cropping out the external power supplies for the camera adapter and the USB hub.

Here's an excerpt from a RedmondPie article:
Tested & recommended USB flash drive and hubs for iPhone and Lightning-based iPads:
  • Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter: $32 (required for Lightning-based iPhones and iPads for connecting USB-A flash drives to them as well as providing external power as most drives won't work on Lightning based devices until and unless external power is provided to them)
  • SanDisk Ultra CZ48 256GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive: $34
  • Samsung Duo Plus 256GB – 300MB/s USB 3.1 Flash Drive: $54
  • Samsung Duo Plus 128GB USB 3.1 Flash Drive: $30
  • SanDisk 128GB Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C: $22.99
  • SanDisk 256GB Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C: $39
Notice the first item in the list: Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter!

Also, the Files app won't support my Windows 10 SMB share. It will support my Drobo if I connect to it as smb://drobo.local.

In spite of that I love my new iPad. More later.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Photo Storage/Backup

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about "automatically storing images from your smartphone." It's time to revisit this.

I'm going to focus more on the storage of images rather than copying them from your smartphone. I'm still using sweech on Android and Air Transfer on iOS. Both of these copy the images from your smartphone to a PC with no change in file names or file size.

This post isn't about absolute backups. I've covered that here and here.

This post is about storage and sharing of images.

Dropbox has pretty much removed itself from consideration.

Google Photos has tons of bells and whistles for presentation and content but sharing is still a struggle. The most direct way is to create a link per album and share it with and individual via e-mail or text. There is some controversy about privacy but I believe it is overblown. Decide for yourself.

And with Google Photos' "Upload size" set to "High quality" storage is free but the images are significantly resized, around 40%. Setting "Upload size" to "Original" eliminates that but will quickly exhaust your storage limits.

What I found was Shutterfly.

I like the price - free.

The size is unchanged and the meta data is unchanged except for the OS date stamps.

I like it.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Just Use Windows Defender

I'll get on my soap box again. Quit using third-party antivirus tools and use Windows Defender. Why? They are just too risky.

Reason #1: Kaspersky injected a unique identifier into the HTML of every website a user visited. And they had been doing this since 2015.

When called out on this they changed to a constant identifier. They might as well have been waving a red flag that this user is using Kaspersky so the hackers could hit you with a specific attack.

Reason #2: Symantec and Norton's anti-virus products BLOCKED Windows 7 updates. Microsoft has had a well publicized effort underway to move from signing their updates with SHA-1 to SHA-2. The August 2019 updates were the first signed with only SHA-2.

Symantec and Norton blocked the August 2019 updates!

Reason #3: Windows Defender continues to move up the rankings (PCMag, AV-TEST, Tom's Guide).

But you know Microsoft can't leave well enough alone. They are renaming Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Stuff to Test

You'll remember that I'm big on TESTING my data backups.

I had an opportunity recently to TEST another of my backup systems - POWER.

My electricity provider, Entergy, is migrating their customers to their "advanced meters."

Since my utility connection doesn't have a bypass switch, the installer had to disconnect power to the entire house.

I couldn't have asked for better communication from the installer. He knocked on my front door and told me what he wanted to do. He offered me the opportunity to reschedule or do it now.

I was expecting the installation so I asked him for a few minutes to shut down some of my equipment.

I have UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) on my most critical systems but I really never had tested them.

Just to be extra safe I powered down my 2 desktop systems and gave him the thumbs up.

It took him 8 seconds to swap the meter.

My UPSs worked great. I heard a couple of beeps but everything kept working. The Wi-Fi and the WAN never went down. We turned the TV off but the TiVo kept chugging along. The Ring doorbell ran off its internal battery. The Insteon network came back with the house power. The Echos reconnected automatically. I have my Netbox system BIOS set to automatically power on which it did.

Test your UPSs some time.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

SD Card Testing

I heard a discussion recently about how to test SD cards. The speaker mentioned H2testw. I found a guide to using it here.

What H2testw does is write files that contain a test pattern that will fill up any unused space on a disk drive. This means that it will work on SD cards, USB drives, or even hard drives (especially SSDs.). If it writes successfully then it will read the files back and verify the data.

I tried it on an 8GB SanDisk microSD that I had. It tested successfully. The complete test took about  40 minutes.

When the application completes you'll need to delete the .h2w files.

It also reports the writing and reading speeds.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

GRDE Bluetooth Earbud

I wrote about my Bluetooth earbud a while back. That was before I dropped it in the toilet.

Impressively it survived! But the volume kept diminishing on it. That could have something to do with its bath.

Since the GRDE earbud worked so well and lasted through a hard life, when I went to replace it I looked at all of GRDE's Bluetooth earbud products.

This is what I ended up with.
And instead of the proprietary charging cable of the previous model, this one has a wireless magnetic inductive charger that plugs directly into a USB charger.

I hope it is half as good as the first one. And I'll try to be more careful.