Trying T-Mobile, Google Fi and Verizon

Well, we’ve been using Verizon for a while (mainly because coverage in house was just so poor with AT&T). But two years ago, GoogleFi shipped and the ability to pause the service and the roaming with T-Mobile and Sprint actually worked pretty well. And of course the zero roaming charges was really great. It has been our Goto for travel for a while and it does work.

Lately though, along with good reports on T-Mobile standalone from OpenSignal (and a little help from a good buddy there),  I thought it would be a good time to try the service as a daily driver. The new T-Mobile One is pretty impressive. Basically you get $40/month unlimited data, text and talk time with a 28GB/phone limit (!!!). That compares with the Verizon plans which are a little more complicated but basically the lowest cost one I could find is $15/phone but $70 for 10GB of data, so mathematically that’s a pretty good deal.

Even with limited usage, say 5 phones sharing 10GB, this costs $180 or so including all taxes and with a decent discount for being a small business.

So with this new plan the notational five phones would be $160 (without discounts and probably taxes although they say all taxes are included).

The main concerns are:

  1. Coverage
  2. Service

So here’s the adventures with a T-Mobile SIM:

  1. I got a one cent T-Mobile prepaid SIM from Amazon. Hard to beat that price!
  2. When I opened it, it said here’s the activation code when you call. Remember to flip the page and there you will find the phone number.
  3. Then with, at least right now, I had to use Firefox. Safari kept hanging on the pages and Chrome seemed to work better, but the billing system kept showing the bill screen and then went back to main screen.

Anyway that’s all for now, so now I’m doing my own little test! I sure hope it works!

Adding Emojis to Gsuite on the Mac

How maddening is this, with traditional Mac Apps, it is pretty simple. Got to Edit/Emojis & Symbols. Find the arrow or whatever and then double click.

This however does not work with Gsuite at least on Safari:

  1. Google Docs. You cannot double click, you can however drag and drop the symbols
  2. Google Slides, does not double click and when you drag you get a separate text box

Instead, you have to use the Google’s own internal Insert Special Characters does work

Mac DVD VOB files to MKV

I haven’t ripped a DVD in a very long time, but sometimes I see these VOB files. I have used Handbrake in the past to get my old DVDs of the kids over to a modern format, but somehow the latest Handbrake fails me and stops after the first segment. Sigh.

So onto looking for a new tool that works so here’s the alternative path:

  1. MKVTooINixMKVTooINix. This takes the 1G .VOB files and stuffs them into a single MKV container. The Handbrake seems to fail along the VOB boundaries. As a refresher, the original DVD file format had a 1GB per file limit, so movies were split into .VOB files. You have to find the right file names, typically 01_0x.VOB and then open them in this tool. It then produces a single huge Matrovska file. With the MPEG-2 encoding used in DVDs, a 2 hour movie would be about 11GB. A typical DVD would be 720×480
  2. Handbrake to transcode to X.265. Once you have this MKV file, you can use Handbrake to encode it in X.265. This is about 2x better than X.264 which is in turn about 4x better than MPEG-2. Net, net your 11GB file should

Great soundtracks

Wow been binge watching quite a bit and some of these new series have just awesome soundtracks. is wonderful as it is a place where these get aggregated and you can play with Apple Music from there, so some great soundtracks. I wish the thing would just make a playlist for Spotify or Apple Music, so you could play it, but in the mean time, here are some good songs off the top 40:

  1. Shooter. For a series about a sharpshooter on run, really some great alternative tracks.
  2. Lethal Weapon. Anything by McG is going to have style and they have captured the carefree 1970s really well and updated it. Love Riggs! And great use of house music and

Books and things

When you want to read, here are the great sources beside the usual suspects (Amazon Kindle and Audible that is):

  1. Overdrive. They connect to your local library. They have ebooks and audiobooks and the app works well.
  2. This is another great source of hard to find books

Fixing an iMac 2009 with Apple Hardware Tests and Memtest

OK, so I think I’m on the right track. This sudden shutdown is likely due to bad memory. There is nearly 32GB of memory in the iMac 2009 and it is third party, so could be bad. But figuring out how to diagnose it more a riddle. The main problem is that hitting the D key during reboot does not bring up the Diagnostic nor does holding the Option-D key.

The history of this tool is that it sort of works but it doesn’t function properly on older hardware with newer MacOS.

So what’s a person to do, well someone has gone through the trouble of finding the links for all the old AHTs, then you just burn a USB key and it works. Basically what happens is that if you clean install your old computer, the old AHTs are not kept of course, so now you have to download them. Newer Macs will actually download the AHT over the Internet, but the 2009 iMac doesn’t do that.

Note that even if you get this installed, MacRumors says the memory tests are really not that good, so you need to download memtest86. The free version seems right for most uses. That thing isn’t big on documentation, but you get a .tar file that you untarnished and you will see a README and a IMG file, but basically they are to use diskutil list to figure out what the actual disk number of the USB is and then do

diskutil unmountDisk <dev>
sudo dd if=<memtest.img> of=<dev>

Also with Sierra MacOS, you can’t even install them into the operating system (as that’s a security issue), so the preferred way is to now burn a USB key with the proper AHTs. Duplicating the answers, you figure out your actual model with it’s suffix

sysctl hw.model | awk '{ print $2 }'
ioreg -l | awk -F\" '/board-id/ { print $4 }'

Naturally (as luck is going to have it), the precise model I need is iMac11,1-F2268DAE but this doesn’t appear on the list but is in a package called iMac10,1 that tries to install it into the system folder.

First get a USB Key and make sure it uses GUID Partition and OS X Extended file system. Then copy all of the files and sudo bless the USB so it will boot. Assuming your USB key is at /Volumes/USB Key then you would do:

cp -r /Volumes/AHT/System /Volumes/USBstick/
sudo bless --folder /Volumes/USBstick/ --file /Volumes/USBstick/System/Library/CoreServices/.diagnostics/diags.efi --label AHT

The best AI development setup

With prices and hardware changing there are so many different choices for a good developer setup. Here are some of the edges assuming a relatively modest $6k budget:

  1. A monster gaming laptop. Today for $6k Ok got it so that’s a $6k box that weighs 13 pounds. And it sure is powerful. And relatively cheap. Some ones to look at the 13 pound Msi GT83VR with dual gtx 1080s. 

  2. A workstation class laptop If u want 16GB because many machine learning apps need that then u need a p6000 (fwiw Nvidia at least has it families in alphabetical order so it’s Kepler -> maxwell -> pascal). Also the p6000 uses hbm so it has 4x more memory bandwidth between gpu and vram. Does your work load need that and also supports fast fp 16.).

  3. If ur just going from home to work a pair of desktops plus a laptop that’s thin and light are actually cheaper and have more performance. U then have a mini data center at work. Main advantage is u can add up to four cards on either side. When disconnected u use a laptop with Nvidia so u can debug but big workloads are on desktops. And the laptop weighs 3lbs. The razor is a good one.

  4. Youcan run loads in the cloud with the new amazon Tesla p100s. These can be pricey